August 12, 2017

Summer fun?

Summertime... and when the weather is nice, I like to be outdoors enjoying it! We certainly had a lot of great weather during July and I played a lot of golf. I keep practicing, eternally optimistic that some day it will all come together in the perfect game.

But I also have been doing some more creative stuff which does eventually reward me with a finished product that I can share with you.

In June I took a workshop with Jane Sassaman learning an appliqué technique she uses on some of her quilted art. It involves fusing fabric onto interfacing, drawing your shapes on the interfacing and then cutting them out. Then you have shapes you can arrange to your liking on your chosen background. Once you've developed your design, then you use decorative stitches to attach the pieces, raw edge, to the backing. As you complete each layer, you cut away the extra fabric behind, so the piece stays supple.

I used the technique to make a 6 1/2 inch "president's block" for our last year's AQG president who requested hearts on a white background. Looking at the back of this simple block you can see that two layers of the red fabric centers were cut out. 

For my class project, I brought this photo of a blue poppy that I took at Butchart Gardens in June.

And came up with this final product which I will bring to the AQG meeting this coming week and donate to the small quilt silent auction at our quilt show. (Proceeds from this silent auction support our guild's community quilt program.)

It was a fun workshop, but to be honest, I'm not thrilled with the technique. I've come to accept and enjoy raw edge fused appliqué, but the fusible interfacing does not seal the edges as well as fusible web, so in my mind, no amount of decorative thread stitching really captures all those frayed edges to my liking.

One of the hand sewing projects I have been enjoying this spring involves sewing coordinated fabrics into strips which I then finish into blocks with my sewing machine. Starting with three charm squares (5 inch squares) which I've cut in quarters and a coordinating solid center 2 1/2 inch square, I make up packets so that I can hand sew the three square strips and the five square strips. Sometimes I hand sew the white triangles on the end, too. But then I machine sew the strips together and add the corner white triangles, since they then need to be cut down a little to measure 8 inches square.
The blocks are fun to make, use up a lot of scraps, and are very easy to transport so I can sew while being a passenger on a road trip, in a hotel room, at my kid's homes, at outdoor concerts, a bee... where ever.
So, I recently finished my first quilt made with these blocks. I arrange each block into what looks most pleasing to me that day and it surprised me when I put them together how the different values make the blocks look different. Some look like "X" and others like lines of diamonds and others you can clearly see the central 9 patch. I think that gives this scrappy quilt top a bit of interest.

I had some coordinated tealish aqua fabrics in my stash that I used for a pieced backing and binding.

I like to "stage" quilt photos over my living room couch.

The couch gets little use, so until I decide where this quilt will ultimately end up, I will enjoy seeing it displayed on my couch. Maybe when my grandkids visit this week, one of them will claim it.

You might remember from an earlier post that my friend Alice and I made "Turning Twenty" quilt tops at our spring retreat from fabric that was gifted to us. This was actually a "Mountain Jam Circle" collaborative project, so the quilt tops went to our friend Cheryl's to be quilted after Alice scrapped together some beautiful backings. A couple weeks ago, I got one of the quilts returned to me so that I could sew on the binding. Ta Da! It's done. Here it is on my couch. Isn't it pretty?

And here is a close up showing some of the fabrics and the nice all over quilt pattern Cheryl chose.

I didn't actually measure it, but I think it's about 70 x 80.  Our hope is that it will go to our local Hospice facility, along with it's partner quilt, to give comfort to someone in need.

And finally...
My friend Sue and I went to a fun event at Blue Ghost Brewery a couple of weeks ago. I think it was called "Blooms and Brews." The event was run by two young women, one was the "flower expert" and the other was the "painting expert." We were given a canvas and a variety of paint materials and some direction for painting the background of our masterpiece. We put those aside to dry.
Then we were given some suggestions for composing flower arrangements and we were let loose to choose our focal flowers, secondary flowers and greenery fill ins from a lovely selection of flowers that were brought in from a local flower farm.
Here is my arrangement which was then used as inspiration for finishing my painting.

And here is my interpretation!

It was a very enjoyable evening!
And it's been a delightful summer!

July 13, 2017

More Pisgah Forest...

I thought that the Catawba Rhododendrons deserved their own post, but there is always much to see and do in the Pisgah Forest. It's a real treasure.

Last Sunday we went to an outdoor concert at the Cradle of Forestry which is several miles into the forest park. The C of F, which is a national historic site, is the location of the first school of forestry which grew out of G. W. Vanderbilt's love of nature. The property was originally used by the Vanderbilt's for hunting parties from the Biltmore Estate which is quite a few miles away. The Vanderbilt's originally owned all the land between the two properties, and amazing piece of real estate!

Our first stop yesterday was at the Fish Hatchery. The parking lot was teeming with hiking parties, camp groups, and families out for their day of adventure. There is an interpretive building on site and we looked at the aquaria which showcased the water creatures of the area... snakes, toads, salamanders, a hell bender, and of course, trout.

It's always fascinating to walk along the concrete pools outdoors where the trout are raised to maturity. It's a little difficult to capture them in a photograph, but here's a try.

For a quarter you can purchase a handful of fish food and when you throw it in a pool it creates quite a frenzy!

We took some time to walk one of the trails adjacent to the fish hatchery that wove through a pollinator garden and over several little bridges.

I'm sure you recognize these common butterfly and bee attractors, but I wasn't sure what tree produced these interesting white puffs. I'll have to do some research unless you can tell me. They are cool, though, aren't they?

And then we drove the short distance to Looking Glass Falls... and descended the 100 or so steps to bottom where there were lots of bathers on this warm day!

It is a pretty spot and attracts a lot of visitors because of it's proximity to the road. We had planned to do a short hike into another waterfall just a mile or so beyond Looking Glass, but as soon as we got to our car, the heavens opened and it started to rain! Brevard is practically a rain forest and so this kind of quick onset shower is never surprising, but it did discourage us from pursuing our hike yesterday.

Pink Catawba Rhododendrons!

Yesterday we took a ride to the Pisgah Forest to gather some photos of the Catawba Rhododendrons in bloom.

Rhodies grow wild along many of the mountain roads and when we moved here 12 years ago, I expected we would see them blooming everywhere. Surprisingly many of those roadside plants don't seem to have that many noticeable flowers. Several times we have driven to Roan Mountain to see the dark pink rhododendrons and flame azaleas in bloom at high elevations toward the middle and end of June. It's a long drive, not far from Mt. Mitchell and at a fairly high elevation, but well worth the effort.

Pisgah Forest is a mere half hour away, so I was delighted to find the pale pink Catawba Rhododendrons in full bloom this late in the summer. I guess it must be at a higher elevation than it seems and to see the most profusion right now you have to drive into the park several miles, just past Looking Glass Falls.

It's hard to capture from a distance, but the photo below shows some bushes on the other side of the stream to give you an idea of the profusion of plants and blossoms.

The thickets of plants are years old and they rise in the air probably 20 or more feet to catch the sun among the canopy of other trees. Their branches create a tangle of growth to negotiate on the trails. This photo of Russ ducking under the growth gives you a little idea of how they create tunnels over the trails.

So, here are some close up photos of some of the flowers. You can see the buds are a darker pink and the flowers themselves are so pale that many appear to be almost white.

And finally a lone plant in bloom near Looking Glass Falls.

It's really a spectacular display and we were lucky to witness it this year!

May 4, 2017

Ta Da!!!

I have a couple of reveals for you today.

First is the "Shindig Quilt" for this year. 

Just a reminder that three of us have collaborated for several years to make a quilt to donate to the Folk Heritage Committee to use for fundraising during the summer outdoor traditional music and dance series known as "Shindig on the Green." This free series takes place most Saturday evenings during the summer right in Asheville's downtown Pack Place Park on the Bascom LaMar Lunsford Stage. We call our collaboration "Mountain Jam Circle," and I'm proud to be one of the members of this group supporting this wonderful local event series. 

This year's quilt features a design by our master machine quilter, Cheryl, and she actually did the bulk of the "work" on this quilt, since she created the center Carolina Lily medallion and then Alice and I put together the remaining blocks in four large sections that Cheryl put together to frame the lily.

I should have measured it so I could give you precise dimensions, but it is about a twin size quilt.

The three of us made a shopping excursion to select fabric and then last week Alice and I machine and hand sewed on the binding at our quilt retreat.

Here's a closer view of the medallion.

 And a couple of close ups to show you some of Cheryl's wonderful custom quilting.

We try to come up with a quilt that will show well from the stage and it's nice, too, when we can incorporate something traditional like the "Carolina Lily" motif which reflects the local area.

Anyone who buys a raffle ticket during the season has a chance to win this and the proceeds of the raffle help the FHC to pay for the expenses of setting up the sound system, renting porta-potties, and all the other costs that allow this to remain a popular free summer activity for locals and tourists.

I think this looks pretty good draped over my living room sofa, but alas, I can't keep it.

This final shot just shows our label, the coordinating backing fabric, and the striped binding that mimics the shading in the border poppies.

The second reveal is my annual submission the Quilt Alliance contest. Proceeds of this competition help support the QA mission of promoting, preserving and documenting quilts. This year's theme is "Voices."

I decided to make my 16 inch square quilt reflect the memories that speak to all of us when we come across ephemera we've saved... things like newspaper clippings, old photos, things in familiar handwriting, ticket stubs, journal entries, memorial cards, postcards, and even a grandmother's handkerchief.

It's machine quilted and embellished with rick-rack, yo-yos, buttons and inkjet printed ephemera.

Though the items were from my personal collection, I tried to choose things that were generic enough to "speak" to everyone who reminisces about people and events that brought joy to their lives.

And, of course, all quilts need to be labeled.

April 29, 2017

Annual Quilt Retreat

This past Monday through Thursday I was on a quilt retreat. 

The retreat, which is now organized by several of the Asheville Quilt Guild members, actually happens twice a year, but for the last several years my friend Alice and I have only been attending the spring retreat. 

Formerly the retreat was held at Lake Logan, about an hour's drive from my house, in a rather remote Episcopal center which is on the site of a former logging camp. So think of lakeside housing and a large sewing/eating space with a fireplace and a rustic feel. 

This year we moved to Bonclarken, also an historic religious retreat, but closer to "civilization." It is a half hour drive from my house, very close to the golf course I often play at in Flat Rock, just outside of Hendersonville. There is a nice quilt shop just a couple miles down the road, and the center of Flat Rock Village which has a nice bakery/coffee shop is about a 3/4 mile walk away.

The move was motivated by a cost increase at Lake Logan, but all the 30 attendees seemed to be happier with the Bonclarken accommodations and agreed to return there in the fall.

We were housed in a newish facility that had the layout and feel of a three story chain motel/hotel and on the other side of the "lobby" was a huge, well lit, windowed room where we sewed. There was a full kitchen adjacent to the sewing space and a small gathering spot with a gas fireplace and a TV that was never turned on. We had a short walk past a couple of buildings and through a parking lot to get to the dining facility which was an add-on to the historic hotel on the property which dates back to the 1860's.

Here is a photo of my corner of the main sewing room.

And outside there is a patio with rocking chairs. The hotel rooms are above the patio and our sewing space is in the peaked portion of the building visible to the right.

After a few hours of sewing, I was ready for a walk, and just a short walk away was their lake which has a nice walking trail circling it.

The campus is quite large and includes several large meeting halls and many types of accommodations ranging from buildings that look like old fashioned strip motels, to larger boarding houses, to cabins, to year round homes. In addition to their own lake, some of the homes overlook neighboring Highland Lake.

I brought several projects to work on. I was happy to finally put together the rest of my scrap mystery quilt top from last year. It was a treat to have the floor space to lay it all out.

Alice and I also divided up some fabric that was donated to us and we each made a "Turning Twenty" quilt top.  Once the quilts are finished they will likely be given to Hospice.

We also hand sewed the binding on this year's Shindig quilt. I guess I didn't include a picture of that in this posting, but likely you will see it in a subsequent posting.

I am including some photos of other people's projects in progress so you can get an idea of the things people were working on and so I can remember some of them, too.

This annual retreat is a nice get-away. 

It's a treat to not have to meal plan and to be able to focus solely on a hobby we share with others. We enjoy the the fellowship, make new friends, get our creativity sparked, learn from each other, share resources and recipes... and so much more!