Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Topped off ...

The Christmas quilt top is done! In record time when I look back on it: Just about 3 weeks. Holy Moly!

I really like how it came out and I had a blast making it. What could indulge the inner child more than thumbing through Christmas print fabrics? The reds and greens! The blues and silvers! The reds and golds! The silver and golds!! What fun!

Oh, happy memory of the red and green crepe paper streamers we used to string criss-cross up on the ceiling at Christmastime. Too much! We'd get up the next morning to find it had sagged almost to the floor! Crepe paper has a ton of elasticity. But the colors, oh my! I learned about complimentary colors very early on... don't really know or recall how I learned it. Must have been from a book. Red/green, yellow/purple, blue/orange. What a delight for the eyes. Much came flooding back while my younger self swam through the ocean of color in these printed fabrics full of Christmas.

The top is now at the local quilt shop getting prepped for the long-arm quilting machine. I'm having it stuffed with wool batting: My favorite. It is, after all, a winter quilt.

I am looking to donate it to charity or a charitable cause, although it may have to be put in storage until next year since time is running out. By the time I get it back from the long-arm (some time next week I expect) and hand-sew a binding on it, it may be too late for this year. But we will see. I would love for nothing more than to see it comfort a young child going through a particularly difficult time at this time of year.

It is 85" x 85" and is seen here on my queen size bed. A good size indeed.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Exhaustion ...

During the fall, winter, and spring months, Wednesdays and Thursdays are out straight for me. We had orchestra rehearsal last night (In Lebanon, NH ~35 miles one-way) so I worked during the day yesterday. Got home a little after 10 p.m. and was in bed around 11-ish. Up at 7:15 this morning to get to Lebanon, NH again for my 8:45 lesson. Lesson was followed by Cello Choir class after which I went to the local super market to pick up fixings to make pumpkin pies--our once-a-month quilter's guild meeting was this evening and I was on the food committee: in charge of dessert.

When I got home this afternoon around 1 pm, I was surprised to find the stove still going! I had not filled it when I got up this morning thinking I'd let it die down so I could empty some ashes. Like I mentioned in the prior post, I wanted to try moving the hot embers to the side and scooping out some of the ashes below. It worked well enough and the remaining embers were plenty hot enough to get the fire going again. The two pies got taken out of the oven this afternoon just in time for me to leave for our meeting. The meeting, which starts at 5pm is usually not very long but tonight was an exception: Meeting and dinner weren't over til 8pm so I decided I'd take a full personal day from work.

I'm exhausted this evening! It's a good exhaustion though: I got a lot done today. I look forward to some quiet time tomorrow perhaps to do some sewing.

My lesson was good. I'm revisiting "thumb positions": Those notes that are played by reaching around with the left hand up beyond the neck of the cello where the notes are high. It's tricky business and seeing how I'm not in my single-digit years any longer, it takes a major bit of work and effort to make it manageable. But! What's happening now is several times better than when I first attempted thumb position several years ago. Several magnitudes better, so I'm pleased about that. It feels within reach. Quite a journey, this cello learning, and I love it thoroughly.

The major piece our orchestra is playing in a few weeks is Vaughn Williams' "Sinfonia Antartica" (yes, the unusual spelling is correct for the title of this piece). It is based on music he wrote for a movie about the ill-fated expedition of Captain Scott. We have some fun and interesting instruments joining us for this performance: A wind machine, a harp, a celeste, an organ, a piano, a soprano and female choir, besides the full orchestra!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

And snow came ...

We had more snow late yesterday into over night resulting in about 2" on the ground--with a crust of ice beneath it. It feels very wintery with the current temperature at 8 degrees F.

I managed to get the deck cleared of furniture yesterday morning, and all the remaining garden ornamentation put away as well. The only outstanding task is getting some protection around the roses. I don't think I'm too late, and if it warms up next weekend--it's suppose to--it seems to me that will be a good time to do it. Feeling a bit relieved that the yard is now winter ready.

I moved the bird feeders closer to the side door this week. I recall the hassle of having to clear a path all the way around the deck just to fill them last year. I'm learning. They're only a few steps from the side door now. I could watch the hungry visitors this afternoon from this desk I'm currently typing at. A heartening sight.

I have to figure out now, when to empty the stove of ashes. Since it is still burning well enough when I alight from my slumber in the morning, I am able to simply throw a few more logs in with maybe a stick or two of kindling to wake it up as well. But the ashes are piling up and I guess I'm going to have to let it go out in order to clear the ashes. Hm. Perhaps I can push the hot embers to the side and scoop out some of what's underneath? Perhaps. I'll certainly try it. The soap stone lining in the stove is wonderful, indeed! It does take a little time to get it up to temperature, but then it retains the heat very well and seems to throw it out into the room in a most gentle manner. I'm sitting at the other end of the house from the stove--and there are walls in between--yet it is 69 F right here, and the amazing thing is the living room, where the stove is located, is not uncomfortably hot. Most pleased with this stove so far.

I think I am going to try to make my own lye from the ashes taken from the stove. It seems a simple enough process: Run rain water (I imagine melted snow will work as well) through the ashes and collect the liquid. It would be exciting to make soap from lye that was leached from ashes that came from my own wood stove.

It's hard to believe that the land is pulling up the blankets already and tucking itself in for another winter. Sheesh, golly, and wow! Summer seems to have camouflaged itself this year, I don't recall seeing it. But I know it happened, there were some hot, sweaty days.

On a positive note, the days will start getting longer starting next month.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Switching gears ...

Well this is a very unusual situation for me: I'm switching gears right in the middle of a quilt! I've had it in mind to make a Christmas quilt and it started sinking in that there's not a whole lot of time left. So I have set aside my current quilt project for a few weeks while I work on something for Christmas.

There are several more rounds to go, but I’m liking it so far. I started with half a printed panel 22.5" square (I’ll use the other half to make a matching pillow). I’m adapting a pattern from Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting, July/August 2013, called “Colonial Medallion”.

I'm sewing the whole thing on my 1875 (yes, it turns out my estimate of 1878 was off by 3 years) Wheeler & Wilson. So much fun.

We had our first snow last evening and today. Well needless to say, I wasn't ready. There are still some garden ornaments and furniture to put inside, and the roses need protection. Looks like it will be a busy weekend!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Constructing a block

We lost power the other day during the high winds. I had only 2" left on a seam to finish a block for my quilt, alas it would have to wait for the power to come back. But I wanted to continue sewing so I switched over to my 1878 Wheeler and Wilson treadle machine. I had forgotten how enjoyable it is to sew on, so I have decided to make the remainder of my quilt on it.

This evening I made a video of me constructing one block so you can see it in action. Ciello makes an appearance at about 1:45 mark, as does the sound. Otherwise the sound is off as the bird room door was open and quite noisy. Ciello makes another cameo nearer the end.


Monday, October 28, 2019

The projects at hand ...

Two more hats are near completion. The gold one needs ends woven in and a pompom; the red/green one needs to be blocked, ends sewn in and a pompom. This hat design is from the 1700s and is called a Voyager Cap. I don't think I'll be making any more; three should do me for quite a while.

Next on the needles will be a sweater. I purchased the yarn a few weeks ago and I've found the pattern I want to make: Afmaeli. I had better get going on it if I'm going to wear it this winter!

The first of the quilts is under way. I spent a rainy Saturday cutting squares, some of which will become triangles for a pattern called "Match-a-Patch Stars" ... interesting name! But it's pretty, a picture of the pattern can be seen here. Since last evening, I've made 5 of block A (50 will be needed) in the tidbits of time here and there throughout the day. If I could keep up this pace it would only take 10 days to make all 50. But it will be impossible to match today's productivity every day: Wednesday are full because of orchestra rehearsal, and Thursdays are full because of my lesson and cello choir class. When all of block A are made I'll need to make 49 of block B. If I push it, it could theoretically be finished by end of November. We'll see won't we?

There is nothing on any of my looms at the moment--they are all naked! I have a project for the 8-shaft in the kitchen, though. A Spring table scarf. I'm going to weave one and my neighbor is going to weave one. I have all the cotton, we simply need to start winding the warp and dressing the loom. Now that summer is over, it will be easier to find time for this. It looks like this:

This brings to mind a point about having time. I'm often asked where I find the time to do everything. It's not that complicated, really. The important thing--really important thing, is preparation and starting. For instance the quilt: I spent some hours Saturday cutting squares. Now that they are cut they welcome me to sit at the sewing machine in any spare moments I have to start or finish a block, maybe make a whole one. This couldn't happen if I didn't take the time to prepare the squares. Same with the weaving: If I can discipline myself to dress the loom, then it sits there beckoning me to throw the shuttle for 15 minutes or more whenever the time avails. Once I've cast on for the sweater, it will be the same situation: I may find myself with a spare half hour and can simply pick up the knitting and work away. It helps that I don't watch television. But that doesn't mean I don't get my fill of audio/visual entertainment. These days, I have a whole list of YouTube subscriptions which I check up on daily. Mostly gardening channels, orchid channels, and a few cooking channels. But they are not as time consuming or as passive as sitting on a couch with the remote. But bottom line is: Get the project started! I'm so greatful I have multiple projects I can turn to for my free time. One last thing: No UFOs! I just don't have any "unfinished objects". If I start a quilt, I finish it before starting another. Ditto in knitting and weaving, and all. I would not enjoy my time if I had 3 or 4 unfinished quilts going all at the same time. I think it would drive me crazy. Well, that's my method anyway and once the prep work is done, one doesn't need tons of time. Just a little bit, frequently.

On a different subject, I got the new wood stove going yesterday as it was below 40 degrees out of doors. I'm very pleased I managed to do so without filling the house with smoke. That's what happened the two times previous to now that I lit it, to "burn it in". They were both exercises in frustration. Couldn't keep the fire going but managed to make a lot of smoke which had no problem filling the house. But not yesterday, it lit well and quickly. In fact, it was too warm in here last night. The soapstone really absorbs and projects the heat for a long time. It was still going well enough when I got up this morning that I didn't have to re-light it; I just put a few more smaller logs in. I didn't burn it as hot today and it's been very comfortable all day long. It's a good stove and I'm quite pleased with it so far.

Back to projects. I still have a few yard projects to attend to before it snows; I guess I'd better get to it. All the furniture needs to be brought under cover, the dead vegetable plants pulled up and thrown on the compost heap. The deck needs to be cleared: I don't want a repeat of last winter when I tried to shovel around a bench and table. No, no, no. It will go much easier if the deck is completely cleared before snowfall. My snowblower and lawn mower are at the small engine repair guy's shop. I have him put the one to bed for the winter and prep the other to run well over the winter. I'm just not very well versed in maintaining small engine equipment and he's not too expensive. I feel better knowing they are being well maintained.

I just finished the poster (well, it's technically still a draft but I don't anticipate big changes, maybe a few tweaks here and there to clean it up a bit) for our upcoming concert on Nov. 24. I sent it off this evening to the conductor for his approval, as well as the administrative assistant at the music school. Sneak preview here!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Summer's over ...

Well then, that was fast. From beautifully fresh Spring greens to the rusty reds and yellows of mid-Autumn in one fell swoop! There comes a burst--nay explosion--of summer, then it starts to fade. It seems to me the Springs and Autumns in NYC have more summer in them than up here. Here they have more of the cold in them, making the summer seem shorter. At any rate, it was a good summer--quite spectacular in the perennial flower department. Gosh, the beds were pretty this year. I hope they do as well next year.

I dug a new flower bed last month; several new plants needed space. I suspect it won't be the end of my perennial bed digging ventures. I have big plans. I have enormous plans. Unfortunately I don't have enormous funds to bring them to fruition. Ha! But what I wouldn't do with $50k!! It's good to dream. A heated greenhouse, a porch on the back of the house, retaining walls in the field above, a big round raised garden assembled from rocks, a water feature to occupy the water that needs to be directed away from the house! And more!! Yes, I like to dream.

There are, however, more pressing needs. The oil furnace is on it's last legs and will need to be replaced. I am told it is original to the house: 1974. It looks it. That's some workhorse of a furnace if it's true. Since it's viable days are numbered I decided to buy a wood stove late this summer figuring it can supplement and take over for the oil burner after it has vaporized it's last drop of oil. It's also insurance against power outages. For sure, I've been pretty nervous these past 4 or so years since I got rid of the old wood stove.

It was late when I went in search of seasoned firewood and consider myself pretty lucky to have found some in a neighboring town. It was $300/cord delivered which isn't a bad price compared to going rates. I bought 3 cord and hope they will last till at least February. I bought 4 cords of green wood from my neighbor, $225/cord delivered and will use some of that late this winter if I need to. But I hope most of it will be able to sit out all year for the following winter. I do hope the oil furnace will last all winter, it's nice to get the chill out quickly, early in the day, but I don't want to go through any more than one tank the whole winter. When it goes kaput, I'll have it replaced.

The 3 cords of seasoned wood was dumped in the middle of my lawn, right on top of the walkway. I got one cord stacked on a Saturday then 2 wonderful ladies from the quilting guild showed up to help me stack the rest of it on a Tuesday. How very kind of them. We got it all stacked that day then went in for some lovely bean soup.

On the subject of home improvement, I'm chuffed with myself for replacing the pressure switch on my water pressure tank down stairs. The water pressure started waning last week so I went down to have a look and it appeared the switch was at fault. I could get the well pump to come on if I took a wooden dowel and gave some good taps to the side of the switch. Having removed the cover to the switch, I could see blue sparks when I did this and noticed that the contacts were almost completely corroded. I finally found a plumbing outfit in Plymouth that could replace the switch for me but it would have cost over $400!!!! Can you believe it!? To replace a $32 switch!

I watched some videos on YouTube, went down to the hardware store and bought a switch, a new wrench, and a volt meter. It all looked logical enough on the videos. As long as I didn't electrocute myself, I figured it should go ok. Hence the volt meter. I knew which fuse turned off power to the pump, and there is also a breaker above the switch but I wanted to be extra sure the power was no where near that switch when I started poking a screwdriver among it's screws. It went pretty well; it took me 40 minutes but I took my time and thought it all through as I went along. So my water is under pressure again, but the pressure tank itself needs replacing, I think it is what they call "waterlogged". When the pressure goes down, it starts and stop the pump every few seconds. Not good for the well pump I'm told. I don't think I have the confidence to replace that myself and will ask around for a plumber... with reasonable fees.

The harpsichord has found a new home with a local chamber group. I had the piano moved to the living room and my dining area--which used to be at one end of the living room is now in my old music room. It's nice to have a proper dining room, and now I have more room around the piano for parties and much more room to practice cello. It's all worked out very nicely.

I've been knitting some hats. Currently finishing up the 3rd one... all the same pattern. The first one I made with my own handspun wool in shades of purple and orange, the 2nd is golden colors, and the current one is red and green stripes. The current one will be for around the yard, snowblowing and all that.

I finished another wool applique piece this summer. A wall hanging. I saw a picture of it in a magazine and could not resist. All the applique is hand sewn, I don't care for machine applique too much.

Also on the finished pile is the table runner I was weaving in "shadow weave". It came out nice and I quite like it. A little scare one day when I went up to work on it: I noticed a bit of fray at one location along the edge. Some critter (a mouse) wanted some of my new weaving to start a nest! Luckily, it wasn't anything that damaged the integrity of the cloth but I was somewhat fuming about it.

I made a couple new shopping bags. One is made from a bird seed bag; I've started keeping them instead of throwing them away and the bags are ever so easy to sew up. The other is a bit more involved sewing wise, but the results are worth it. A very sturdy, strong bag with pockets on both sides.

I have noticed that up-close work has become a bit more strained for my eyes as of late so I picked up a pair of rather trendy magnifying glasses for those times when I absolutely must see what I'm doing.

I am just about ready to embark on another quilt--two quilts. They will be my winter projects.