Monday, August 29, 2016

It's Hip to be SQUARE

More lovely signs of fall, although our temperatures remain in the mid-90s.  Cooler mornings.  Earlier sunsets.  More cues from plants, like our alliums, just ready to pop open. 

Our sweet autumn clematis is in full bloom.  It's much more prolific this year because of the additional sunshine it's received since our tree debacle.

Rain is still infrequent, but definitely happens more than it did during our long drought summer.  I love to see mushrooms popping up after a storm.

Our front beds are also beneficiaries of a new pattern of sunlight.  Would you believe that I did not plant ANY of these flowers?

I planted this vinca, an annual, last year.  In one small spot.  It did not thrive because of the shade, but it reseeded nicely and spread down through the beds.  It even jumped across the driveway!

I've just left it alone.  It's welcome to spread where it wants to!

I haven't seen our goz in about a month. 

I tell myself that they're off "training" somewhere else, getting stronger, getting used to flying, and they'll be back in a few weeks.  We always see a lot of geese here, so I'll have to be patient.  Todd did see a turkey yesterday, and I saw a stray cat sleeping on the stairs outside our sun room this morning.  I always see a lot of strays here in the fall.

When I got a little closer, I could see that he was injured on his face and around his neck.  He was a grizzled old fellow!

The Chamberlains were on the cusp of adopting a fourth pet.  I brought him some food and water, which he inhaled greedily.  Then he loped off into the woods.  I remember seeing this little guy last year, too.  He's a die-hard stray.  I'll keep an eye out for him, though, and may start setting out food.

Our lazy cats don't know how lucky they are!

I started my new quilt last week and I am really moving along with it!  I decided to pre-cut my pieces.  Since the quilt is paper-pieced, I didn't need exact measurements, but I eyeballed my triangles and rectangles, mentally added my 1/4" seam allowance, and cut generous-sized pieces.  It only took one evening to cut everything out. 

I employed an assembly line process.  Each block is made up of four smaller squares.  So, I took four pieces of my pre-printed pattern and sewed the first 2 fabric pieces onto each of them, and then piece #3, and so on.

I was able to finish a whole 4-piece square pretty quickly.

The side half stars line up with the same on adjacent squares to form full stars.

I love it!

I got this done in just 3 days!  The blocks aren't sewn together yet because I'm not sure how big it's going to be.  The fabric was pretty expensive so I may just work through what I have and see if I'm satisfied with a comfy couch throw or if I want to go all the way with a quilt for our bed.  Right now I'm thinking couch throw, because I'd want to do something more simple for a bed quilt (two main colors, I think).  But I love making this.  For once, I've done everything in the proper way.  I washed and ironed each fabric.  I iron flat each seam after sewing.  If I'm off, even by a little bit, when joining 2 of the 4 squares together, I take them apart and try again.  I really want to do a good job!  It's a fun fall project.

Have a great week!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Rain on the Brain

More signs of fall!  Some much-needed rain.

My sweet *autumn* clematis has begun to bloom!

Fall-blooming ginger lilies are opening up.

Our Japanese maples are definitely starting to turn.

More liriope, and more evidence of fall-grazing deer nibbles too!

Beautyberries are finally changing colors.

"Stage one" acorns!  My favorite - a lovely green.

A large group of ruby-throated female hummingbirds have swarmed our house this week.  They typically over-winter in South America, so they're working overtime to get enough sustenance for their fall migration.  They're incredibly territorial and have been chasing each other like mad!

Love their beautiful iridescent feathers.  Speaking of iridescent, check out this Chrysis nitidula-complex, or cuckoo wasp!  They get their name from the way they, like the cuckoo bird, lay their eggs in the nests of others.  Then their larvae eat the host larvae and thrive. 

Another cool insect I recently found is the spider wasp.  I was working at my desk and kept seeing a wasp dragging spiders across my window.

I went outside and got a better picture.  These wasps use spiders as hosts for their larvae.  These spiders you see have been given a paralyzing sting, and each will receive a single egg.  As with the cuckoo wasp, the larvae will have a built-in source of food when they hatch.  I think it's so interesting!

A South Carolina mantis sits on a zinnia blossom, waiting for its next meal.  They're so small compared with the Chinese mantises in Indiana!

Doesn't he look a little grumpy?  I left him alone so he could get back to hunting.

Lots of tiger swallowtail butterflies around...

...but many of them are looking a little ratty, like the one below.  They only have a one-month life span and they can get a little tattered by the end! 

When not outside prowling around for seasonal clues or working, I'm spending time on my sewing.  I made two 10-inch paper pieced quilt squares this weekend.  Both are the same pattern, but have a look at the one on the right.

I chose the colors and put it together, only to realize that the diamond sides and half of the star points faded into the background.  I studied the example and saw that the author chose dark complementary colors for the stars and tips.  My second attempt (on the left) has much more "pop" than the first one!  I finally felt confident enough to make a large online fabric order for my first "no more practice" quilt!  I chose more contemporary colors and designs (snails!!) than I have traditionally used, but the patterns really spoke to me and I just decided to go for it!  I can't wait until it comes.

Have a great week! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Craft Attack

Work has slowed down a little, and it's been hot/humid, so I've spent a lot of time inside, working on craft projects.

I traced the image of a marigold from an art book and hand embroidered it.  I'm really pleased with how it turned out and now it's framed in my office!  Marigolds are one of my favorite flowers.

I finished knitting myself a pair of vintage-style Scandinavian mittens.

I have small hands, but these mittens are still very slim-fitting.  I really like this traditional feather-and-fan pattern.

I've been trying to practice both precision and color-matching in sewing, so I tried this sample block.  The blue is a little bright, but it exactly matches the flecks of blue in the white fabric.  There's still room for improvement, but with practice comes more precise points! 

I bought a new dress pattern that's modeled on traditional German dirndls, with a laced-up midsection.

Here's a sketch showing more detail:

Really looking forward to making this!  Speaking of garment making, I had a real breakthrough this week.  I'd picked up a pattern on clearance, forgetting that pattern dress sizes have no relation to actual clothing size.  So, the size 6 - 14 pattern I bought actually went no larger than 28" for the waist. 

I studied the schematic and figured that I could measure the space between sizes and increase it until I found my own size.  I used a big roll of thrift store paper tablecloth to trace on...

...and then made my toile, or practice garment, out of some old sheets. 

It's just pinned or basted together with large stitches, but it seemed to fit well enough.  I used my enlarged pattern pieces and cut my fabric...

It all came together in one rushed afternoon and IT FIT PERFECTLY!

I learned so much by making this.  More practice at putting in zippers, and my first time doing gathers (those tiny pleated folds beneath the waistband).  First time making a toile and enlarging a pattern, too.  I also learned to pay attention to fabric type:  I dutifully cut, sewed, and hemmed a wide piece of fabric on the bottom, but since it doesn't contrast with the original fabric, it's not even noticeable on the skirt. 

I love the fabric and the skirt looks pretty, but I won't be wearing it.  Another great learning experience:  learning what does and does not work for my body type.  This design is just not a flattering fit.  The wide top panel accentuates the waist and stomach, and a set of gathers starts just above the widest part of the hips, accentuating THAT part too.  So I'll just chalk this up to a great learning experience, recycle the fabric, and try again! 

I finished a baby cardigan for a friend.

It's really more like a little coat, and the first time I've put a lining in a knitted garment.

I was torn over which fabric to use...

...but in the end, I went with the plaid.  It was so easy.  I just cut a big rectangle out of an old plaid shirt of Todd's (cut on the bias, or diagonal, to give more stretch), pinned it into the proper shape, and whip-stitched the edges.  It didn't take any time at all!

I will definitely be lining more cardigans!  It was good to get my rubber stamps out again, too.  I've been feeling a little guilty for my vast supply of card-making tools that I haven't used lately.

Tabitha was a huge help, as usual!

I can always count on her to lend a helping hand or "supervise" the job.

Hope you've had some time to craft lately...have a good week!