Sunday, June 27, 2021

Weekly update: birthday week, ALA, fabric discoveries, a finish, and reading

Extraordinary times

If these were ordinary times I wouldn't be composing a blog post this weekend. I'd  be caught up in the activities of the American Library Association Annual Conference.  Well, I still was, but the event was virtual and I attended from the comfort of home.  I had committee meetings on Thursday, Saturday, and today (Sunday). 

Saturday morning I moderated the Retired Members Round Table program featuring Pamela Bannos, art history/photography professor at Northwestern, whose has done extensive research on Vivian Maier. The book is subtitled, "A photographer's life and after life."  

Dr. Bannos was scheduled to give the program at ALA Annual last year (she and I worked things out in February, 2020) and then -- well, see the illustration on the left!  

However, she was happy to give the program this year.  All who Zoomed in said they enjoyed the presentation thoroughly.  (And if you don't know anything about Vivian Maier, look her up! It's quite a tale.  

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Wednesday was my third "golden birthday." I'll let you do the math. I got cards in the mail and many online greetings. I appreciate all of them.  

I read my horoscope in the morning newspaper every day but by the time breakfast is over I've forgotten what it says.

My husband gave me a very generous gift and I spent some of it later in the week.   

When I walked into Quilt-agious the staff member who greeted me took another look and said, "You write the blog With Strings Attached! I follow your posts. Quilting and books are two of my favorite things."  Thank you, Sue! 

Quilt-agious is a great shop. They have a huge selection of Kaffe Fassett fabrics and many more bright, modern prints. 

Windswept Quilters is a few miles northeast of Quilt-agious in the hamlet of Big Bend.  The stock is an eclectic mix of new releases and older fabrics.  If you're looking for an out-of-print Thimbleberries she may have it! She hosts open-sew weekends and themed sew-ins. 

My purchases:  the blue, green, and gray prints are for the wedding quilt that I need to begin. The others are just because . . . because I liked them!

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I didn't work on the wedding quilt, other than acquire fabric and mull over block patterns. Instead I took out the blue stars flimsy I made earlier in June. I added borders.   I used a thrift-shop sheet as the backing.  Now it's finished! Approx. 72 x 85.

I read about The Violet Protest Project on Facebook.    "The Violet Protest is a public effort to send 50 hand-made textile squares to each and every member of congress in support of these core American values: respect for each other; citizenship; compromise; country over party and corporate influence; courage; candor; compassion; creativity."  

I signed up to make five blocks.  The required colors are blue and red (which will read as violet at a distance and en masse). The required size is 8" finished.  Each is an individual unit, so they're rather like potholders.   I've made four blocks so far. The fifth block and the quilting are on the to-do list this week. 

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The books I read this week are both really, really good.

"I hated my life! I wanted something better; is that so terrible?"
"So then you *make* a better life. You don't *steal* it." (p. 296)

Florence Darrow has spend her life escaping: from growing up in a tiny Florida town to the University of Florida; from the university to a publishing house in Manhattan; from publishing to a seemingly dream job as the assistant to Helen Wilcox, the reclusive author of a wildly successful novel. Helen is under contract and behind schedule for her second book. She takes Florence with her to Morocco for rest and inspiration. A car accident leads to mistaken identity and surprising shifts. Florence is not the only one escaping in plain sight. Helen has been doing that all along.

Florence is a worthy successor to Patricia Highsmith's talented Mr. Ripley.

What is a community? Who makes up a family? How do relationships develop, flourish, and (sometimes) ebb over the years? Katherine Heiny explores all of this in a thoroughly heartwarming book.

Jane met Duncan shortly after she moved to Boyne City to teach second grade. Duncan is a good-natured and generous handyman who loves women. He has loved many women, it turns out, and Jane is the next on his long string. Though he can let go of the sex, he can't let go of the emotional attachment and so he still mows the lawn and does household repairs for his ex-wife Aggie and her totally hapless new husband Gary. Duncan's generosity includes taking care of Jimmy, a disabled man who works in Duncan's shop. Things get complicated when Jimmy's mother dies in a car accident. The  now-married Jane and Duncan feel they have no choice but to have Jimmy live with them. The extended family includes Jane's school colleagues, Jane's overbearing mother, Duncan's hands-off mother, and Jane and Duncan's strong-willed daughters Glenn and Patrice. Everyone has quirks (boy, do they).

Jane's reactions to every incident are described in detail that might be annoying -- but with Heiny's deft touch the detail is perfect. Of course that's how she'd react, we say. And we laugh, and laugh again.

Wildflowers and other greenery in the ravine at the end of our block.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Weekly update: estate sale, a finish, and reading

 But first, a few wildflowers at Camp Logan/Illinois Beach (June 15).  The wild flag iris is still in bloom (but about over now). Also: hedge bindweed aka "bell bind"; flowering spurge; rudbeckia aka Blackeyed Susan; green bulrush; bird's-foot trefoil; spiderwort aka Bluejacket or Widow's Tears; oxeye daisy.

On Friday I picked up Erika and we drove to Nordstrom's at Woodfield Mall to have lunch with six other AAUW friends from the northern suburbs.  It was SO wonderful to see everyone in person!!   (We've met at Nordstrom's cafe a couple of times before. I don't ordinarily think of a department store as a luncheon venue, though of course in years past women who spent a day shopping would do that at Marshall Field's and other stores.)

I went to an estate sale Saturday afternoon. They were winding down and there wasn’t much left. I chose a couple of pieces of fabric. “Oh, we had much more earlier,” the woman said. (Keep me from temptation….) When I went to check out she added to my stack. “This is Thai silk,” she said, “and I think you will appreciate it.” The sticker said $10 and she charged me $1. She added the Easter egg print for free. (30 years ago I made eight napkins from that Cranston print. I still have them. A friend made Easter outfits for her five children from that print. Another friend made a table topper that she still uses....did YOU buy that print? What did you make out of it?)

The red-and-bronze Thai silk is 4 metres. The blue is hemmed as a scarf. Here is the backstory about the silk company.

I'm sure both the yardage and the scarf were souvenirs. I have no plans to make anything out of either one, but I will give them a good home in my Exotic Fabrics Stash. (That sounds much nicer than "why in the world did I buy this and why do I still have it?")

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In the studio: I am stuck on the Positivity Plaids. I ran out of the two subtle homespun backgrounds. The less subtle backgrounds don't go with them. I went to both Joann's and Hobby Lobby but neither had very light tan-on-neutral check. I'll put the blocks aside and hope that an alternative presents itself.

Meanwhile, I quilted the batik Snaps that I made several weeks ago. The back is a wonderful Marimekko print (thrift shop purchase, 3 yards for $3.99 in 2018). It's 58" wide so I didn't have to piece it.

I hope to finish sewing the binding during Sunday PBS-time.

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The Sunflower Sisters

Martha Hall Kelly blends historical personages with fictional characters in her third novel about the women of the Ferriday/Woolsey family. 

When the Civil War breaks out Georganna "Georgy" Woolsey is among the first women to sign up for nurses' training. She was posted to a hospital ship and later served in New York City. Her family--widowed mother, six sisters, and a brother--were staunch abolitionists.

In sharp contrast, Louisiana-born Anne-May Watson is living miserably on the Maryland tobacco plantation she inherited from her aunt. She is spoiled and petulant and can't stand her husband (a mild-mannered amateur scientist who enlists in the Union Army). Anne-May regularly abuses her house slave Jemma.
Jemma is smart and literate -- she acts as a scribe to Anne-May. Her parents work the tobacco fields. Her sister lives on an adjoining plantation. They are all desperate to escape. Jemma succeeds and is taken in by the Woolseys -- but in 1864 Anne-May travels to New York to reclaim her property.

I very much wanted to "really like" this book. I enjoyed its predecessors (Lilac Girls--WWII and Lost Roses--WWI/Russian Revolution) and the Ferriday/Woolsey family story. But I got the impression that the author had so much to say (interesting and true) but only so much space in which to say it, so that there seems to be a lot of coincidence.  Helpful details are missing. [Example: how could a slaveowner reclaim a slave in New York City in 1864? Why would Yankee Pinkerton agents side with the slaveowner? That may be true but why make the reader go look it up?]

The Liar's Dictionary 
The fictional Swansby's Encyclopaedic Dictionary, begun at the end of the 19th century, was the greatest dictionary that never happened. When this charming novel begins in the 21st century Swansby's is known as the incomplete oddity, a quirk of scholarship.  There are still two people toiling on the upper floors of Swansby House (lower floors available for conferences, receptions, and parties). Elegant, eccentric David Swansby hired Mallory on an internship (now into a third year) to assist in preparation for a digitized, online version of the Dictionary. But first Mallory must review and verify the authenticity of every single entry -- thousands and thousands of handwritten index cards.

In 1899 Peter Winceworth is one of dozens of lexicographers at Swansby's. He is bullied by the others but he persists. His contribution is a rebellion: he creates dozens of "mountweazels," words that don't actually exist --each with its own handwritten index card.

Mallory finds one mountweazel, then another, then another. These singular neologisms (=new words) are intriguing. Intriguing but more scary are the phone calls she fields daily from an unknown person threatening to blow up Swansby House to end the digitization project.

"Discovery" is the key: not only lexicographical but also personal, as Mallory and Peter come to terms with their identities.

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Linking up with Oh Scrap! Monday Making Design Wall Monday

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Midweek: Positivity Plaid!

 When Preeti announced the Positivity Quiltalong I thought, "I can do this!" but I confess I forgot about that pledge until one of the other bloggers posted her initial PQAL blocks.  I quickly went to Preeti's blog and copied all the relevant information.  (If you've missed the details, start here and follow the tagged posts.)

The block construction is simple.  Preeti's blog shows some variations (triangle corners, square corners) and layout ideas.  The fabric choices are the challenge.  Miscellaneous scrappy? Rainbow? Floral? A genre -- but which one? (Aussie, Kaffe, batik, Civil War, 30's....)

I went with homespun plaid.  I did not have enough of any one light homespun to make backgrounds for a set of 48 blocks.  I'm trying several different lights. They blend better in the photo than in reality.  Here's what I have, so far.  The blocks are 10-1/2 x 10-1/2 unfinished.  

I'm already contemplating making a set in batik.  And trying an 8" version.  

Positivity provides positively plentiful possibilities! 

Linking up with Midweek Makers  

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Weekly update: the garden, a new flimsy, and reading

 Illinois officially opened up on Friday with fewer Covid restrictions in place.  My P.E.O. chapter met for lunch on Saturday (we brought our own) -- the first in-person gathering since August.  Church services on Sunday were mask-optional.  There were twice as many people as we've had over the spring.  

A light fog over the lake on Thursday was not a harbinger of rain, unfortunately.  We are in a moderate-to-severe drought.  On Saturday we saw the clouds that brought 1" to the suburbs just south of us but not a drop fell here.

I have been watering the vegetable garden and the recent plantings (three lilacs in the back yard and a maple in the front yard, all of which replaced spruce trees that had to be taken down).  Our village gets water from Lake Michigan, so we don't have to worry about a well going dry the way that people just a few miles west do. 

We have three roses that were here when we moved in (2003).  I've tried to plant others but they haven't succeeded. These three are hardy.  One doesn't bloom every year.  The pink one used to have fancy pink blossoms but at one point it was overzealously pruned to below the graft.  Now it's more of a generic rugosa.  (The closeup is of the rugosa.) 

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A long time ago I printed the tutorial for Growing Up Odd.  I came across it earlier this year and pulled out the shoebox of 2" squares.   Over several months I pieced  and pieced and pieced until I had 800 three-patches.  (That's 2400 squares.) I had to augment the contents of the shoebox by cutting 2" strips into squares.  I pieced those into nine-patches, 21-patches (seven rows of three) and 49-patches (two sets of seven rows of three plus a strip of seven squares).   

The quilt as patterned is 90 x 90 which would make a very large donation quilt (which is its probable destination).  

I downsized and assembled 16 blocks.  With the sashing the flimsy is 75-1/2".   (7 yards by weight.)

I have the fixin's to make 9 more blocks for a smaller quilter -- or the ingredients for something completely different. 

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I read two good books this week!

The Mystic's Accomplice 
1924, Chicago.  Maddie Pastore is eight-and-a-half months pregnant when her husband Tommy is killed by a rival Chicago gang. She finds out that he never divorced his first wife so she is left homeless and penniless. She seeks advice and shelter at Hull-House, the renowned settlement agency founded by Jane Addams. After baby Tommy is born she meets a former neighbor who is going into business as a medium to help clients communicate with their dead relatives. Maddie goes to work for Madam Carlotta as a background-checker, digging up details about the clients to make Carlotta's "spirit connections" seem more realistic. When Maddie discovers that one client's husband may have been murdered she is determined to find out the truth, even if she has to ask a favor from Tommy's boss in The Outfit.

Snappy dialog, a plucky heroine, and historical accuracy add up to a satisfying first entry in a new series.  (And I must add that I've known Mary Miley since we were in fifth grade. This is the fourth mystery she's written.) 

Mother Land 

Getting married requires adjustments. Rachel Meyer considers herself up to the task and ready for the adventure when she and her Indian husband Dhruv move from Brooklyn to Mumbai. What a glorious city for a food writer to be! Soon after they settle in to their apartment Dhruv's mother Swati arrives from Kolkata, clear across the country. She's decided to leave her husband Vinod (Dhruv's father). Vinod hasn't been abusive; he's just been blind to Swati as a person with interests and opinions of her own. Despite her daring, very untraditional act, Swati fully expects to impose traditional order on Rachel and Dhruv's household. She hires a maid (Rachel can clean). She hires a cook (Rachel IS a cook). Dhruv takes on a long-term assignment back home in Kolkata leaving Rachel and Swati to work things out. 

The story alternates between Rachel and Swati. Rachel finds a job dubbing a Romanian-produced soap opera into English, getting out of the apartment and earning her own money. Swati deals with her Kolkata friends who are appalled at her action and contemplates what she's going to do with the rest of her life.

Rachel's view of Mumbai and Indian culture change. "Everything she knew about the country had been cultivated by watching Indian Summers and reading New York Times articles that distributed pats on the head and admonishments in equal supply....she had thought of India from a singularly white perspective....How could she separate what she thought from how she experienced it?" (p. 188.) "The city's normal was her strange, but her mistake had been in seeing it as *wrong,* not different. She had been seeing everything the wrong way round, she knew...She wanted life to be different but she hadn't defined what different meant."

This odd couple come to terms with their choices and, as the book ends, are about to embark on totally difference courses than they intended.

Linking up with  Oh Scrap!   Monday Making    Design Wall Monday 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Weekly update: a few wildflowers, convention and scrappy multitasking, and reading

 Each year I search for flags -- wild iris. This afternoon I found them everywhere I looked. I think that's because it's been so very, very dry (as in ZERO rainfall) that the other vegetation is not as lush as usual.  Even so I'm surprised that the iris are blooming in such profusion. The wild ones like wet feet. This year they're high and dry.  

See the exposed roots?  (Yellow are invasive; blue are native.)

I found another patch of hybrid iris. (Last week I posted a photo of the clump that comes back annually.)  

Daisies are abundant in early June -- very appropriate since the P.E.O. Illinois state convention is always the first weekend.  Ordinarily I'd have snapped a photo as I drove to the convention but this year, of course, was different -- it was held as a Zoom webinar.  

The registrar reported 548 people in attendance (chapter delegates, past state presidents, committee members) but we only saw the people speaking and the slide shows with convention business and videos with committee reports.  

It was very efficient. All the business was finished in an hour and the mandatory program videos took less than an hour on Saturday.   The time of inspiration, time of remembrance (necrology), and honoring 50-year members were by video, all nicely-done.   The keynote address and officer installation on Sunday (webinar format) went smoothly. 

 What was missing, of course, was the camaraderie and excitement of an in-person assembly. 

I attended as both my chapter delegate and as a committee chair, though I had only one vote.

I sat in the comfort of my studio.   Yes, I multi-tasked -- and I didn't miss a thing! 

Here's what I got done.  I showed a photo of the Ohio Stars last week.  I thought about setting them side-by-side. I thought about one-fabric sashing but the blocks have a huge array of blues.  I went completely scrappy and added a few pops of red. It's 63 x 75. 

# # # # # # Browsing is back at the library -- the reading rooms reopened to the public Hooray!

The Souvenir Museum 
        One of the disadvantages to today's instantly-shared digital photographs is that we no longer have the tactile memory of printed photos -- when we made extra prints and sent them to friends ("We took this one on our vacation this summer!") The short stories in this collection are like a stack of those photos. Each one sparks a reminiscence and, in this case, an entire self-contained gem of a story. Five "photos" are from Sadie and Jack's lives -- the time they went to Ireland for his sister's wedding; when Jack was a teenager and apprenticed himself to a puppeteer in London; Sadie's mother and father; and finally when Sadie and Jack went to Amsterdam. Interspersed are "photos" with stories of other people (one related to jack; the others aren't connected, but they might be). Were these strung chronologically they would be very intense and rather depressing; instead, told episodically, the characters are quirky and interesting.

The Lost Apothecary   was an enjoyable historical mystery about a 21st-century scholar who discovers the secrets of an 18th-century woman apothecary whose compounds helped other women in oppressive relationships.  The narration goes from Nella and Eliza in 1791 London to present-day Caroline.   Though things threatened to go terribly wrong in both eras, there's a twist!

I have nearly all of Kaffe Fassett's books and I had to add this to the collection.  It's part biography, part design philosophy, and part studio tour with a couple of quilts, needlepoint designs, and knitting patterns -- and a whole lot of fabulous color.   Absolutely delicious!    

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Linking up with Oh Scrap!  Monday Making  Design Wall Monday

Friday, June 4, 2021

Friday check in: a quilt show.....and the most beautiful fabric in the world (again)

Yesterday I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to go to the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo at the Schaumburg convention center.  The Expo has been held in the Chicago area many times. I've only been once before (when the Quilt Festival was not at Rosemont). The last time I attended an event at this venue was  in 2016.  

It appeared that for most of the attendees this was among the first major outings in our vaccinated world. Some people wore masks, some didn't. (I went back and forth.)  

The exhibits weren't extensive.  That had the benefit of not being overwhelming.  

The Upcycle piece on the upper left, "Net Worth," is by Pat Kroth, a Wisconsin textile artist. I have one of her silk-screened scarves and get compliments every time I wear it.  (This particular piece features plastic-mesh produce bags and other recycled stuff.)   

The convention show floor was large enough to give wide aisles. There were just 48 vendors -- the emphasis seemed to be on machines (sewing, embroidery, long arm) and furniture.  

There wasn't much fabric but some of it came home with me.

One-yard pieces, $6 each.  The man said they used to have a second shop in Cocoa, FL, but closed it to focus on the Orlando shop.  15,000 bolts. That is a LOT of fabric. 

I thought I'd discovered The Most Beautiful Fabric in the World here  (Lida Enche prints by In The Beginning).  Now I have found a new line of TMBFITW.   P. Carter Carpin said she designs the fabric, has it printed, and sells it herself (not in shops).  She has 15+ new prints coming out this fall.  I will monitor her Etsy site! 

I bought a FQ bundle and three one-yard cuts.  I will admire these luscious prints for a while before I decide what to make. 

I was home by 1 p.m. I had time to take my husband to the barber shop and bake a pie (rhubarb/strawberry) before going to Highland Park to meet my friend and double-sister Sue (P.E.O./Alpha Gam) for a catch-up and some committee business.  (I got back too late to cook dinner so we went out for Chinese. We had the pie for dessert.)

This weekend I'll be sewing while Zooming at the Illinois P.E.O. Convention. I'm a delegate so I have to pay attention but that doesn't mean I have to be glued to the computer screen.  

Linking up with Finished or Not Friday and Whoop Whoop

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Midweek: Stash report, RSC, OMG


I woke up at 4:00 this morning, muttered "Rabbit, rabbit," and woke up again at 6:00.  Here is why.  (I first learned about RR in a Trixie Belden book I read when I was 11.  Only in more recent years have I said it each month. Maybe I need good luck more these days?)

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The stash report for May:

Fabric IN:  19-1/2 yards, $57                                Fabric OUT: 34-3/4                                              Fabric IN YTD: 99-5/8, $158.50 (average $1.59/yd) Fabric OUT YTD: 217-3/8                                                                                                                           Net  reduction:  117-3/4

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The Rainbow Scrap Challenge color for June is purple.  This year I'm making 16 framed four-patches each month and two scrappy potholders for Joy's Table Scraps challenge.  (I figure the 20 potholders I'll have by year-end will be handy for gifts.)  

The blocks are 5-1/2" unf and the potholders are  6" finished.  

My One Monthly Goal for June is to begin the quilt for our granddaughter Rachel's wedding at the end of October. She said they like blue and green, a combination I can easily work with.  Barb-the-quilter has me on the calendar for early September. What I need to do is select the block and/or pattern, pull fabric from my stash, and do a little stash enhancement! 

But, meanwhile, I pulled out some blues and then pulled out more blues and here is another "just because" quilt in progress.  The Ohio Stars are 9-1/2" unf. 

(No, these blocks aren't for the wedding quilt.)

Linking up with   OMG and  Midweek Makers

P.S.  Cue Miss Rumphius !  Lupine at Illinois Beach State Park on Memorial Day.   While I explored a new-to-me trail Stevens enjoyed sitting in the shelter at Sand Pond while I explore....sort of like looking out on a pond in Maine.