Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Found Garden

My Dad came up to visit this weekend. After a family party on Saturday, we went to spend some time on the National Mall on Sunday morning. Tucked away near the Hirshhorn, there's a small garden pass-through with lovely brick walks. The small space is stuffed to the gills with native-type shade plants and ground covers. That's where we found this coxcomb-- the biggest and heaviest one I've ever seen. It was beautiful, but also sort of creepy, hanging out all fleshy and thick amongst the leaves. Still, this little garden was probably my favorite of all the 'exhibits' we saw all day.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Warming Up the Living Room

Our living room was made for fall and winter. It's a cozy space with a small fireplace, decorated in shades of red and green. Probably a little passe, as modern decorating goes, but very comfortable. We spend the most time here on the weekends, lingering over baked goods and the Sunday paper, the dog wedged between us on the couch.

When I was in Raleigh a couple of weekends ago, my mom gave me these lovely cathedral window pillows, made by her grandmother Mimi (did I spell that right, Mom?). Mimi instilled in my mother the same creative, make-your-own spirit that my mom passed on to me. Although they need some tacking down in a couple of places, I love these pillows (and all the vintage fabrics!) and the way that they make the living room even cozier, just in time for the cooler months.
This batch is double-sided-- just look at all the cool fabrics on this side alone!

On another textile note, while I was in NC, my mom and I visited Thimble Pleasures in nearby Carrboro. As I was flitting around the very nice store, a silver-haired man wearing a neon purple polo shirt came in and started pulling bolts of large scale realistic fruit and vegetable prints. Bright red watermelons and tomatoes, shocking green peas and hot pink blooms. I did a double-take-- turns out it was Kaffe Fassett, in town to teach a seminar in the shop. I get a little overwhelmed when I run into famous people, no matter who they are, but this chance encounter was pretty cool. I didn't introduce myself or anything, but it was interesting seeing him select fabric, pulling bolt after bolt from the shelf. The energy in his quilts definitely seems to be a reflection of himself.

Top two revelations from this trip to the quilt store: 1) Man, the good thread makes a difference, both in the machine (so smooth!) and when quilting by hand; and 2) Good marking tools actually do exist.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Finally Fall!

Grady's Halloween portrait this year had to be a mosaic because he refused to sit still. Too much excitement now that there's finally a chill in the air. And look! Leaves on the ground and rain on our poor tired old stoop. The small pumpkin is from our farm share and the larger one with the warts from the Safeway in Leesburg. I love the warts, and both pumpkins' gnarled stems.

I also have a new Dear Jane block to share. This is A-11, Pebble's Protest, and contains my first set-in seams. I'm pretty happy with how the block turned out. Unfortunately, the photo of the block did not turn out as well due to the rainy day. But don't get me wrong, I am very very happy with the rain. Very happy.
Tomorrow, I hope to show you some hand-piecing from the past, but it depends on the weather.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A-9 Cabin Fever

Another Dear Jane block. This one has about a million pieces, but it came out well. I'm getting there on the A row, have it almost completed.

And just for good measure, here's another postage stamp block:

Monday, October 22, 2007

Our State Fair Is A Great State Fair

This weekend I visited my parents in Raleigh, and got to go to the NC State Fair. It's the only state fair that I've ever visited, but I think it's a pretty good one. I love the colors in the photo above, of the entrance to Kiddieland. Kiddieland itself was a little frightening and led to a discussion of how many fair attendees actually ride the scary-looking rides there, but let's just focus on the pretty colors, and the pretty photos that those scary-looking rides make. And isn't the sky always just perfect in October?

This is the winning cake-decorating design in the non-wedding category. Every decoration on that thing seemed to be made of fondant and/or icing except for the measuring tape around the base-- this includes the embroidery thread and regular thread and all the fabric and notions. Very impressive in person.
I also really liked this cascading cake. What fun-- so free, unlike most of the cakes there! You can't really see the silver dragees on the end of each pendant in this photo, but it was really a magical cake. Too bad fondant tastes so bad. The crafty entries (cakes, garment sewing, quilts, crochet) are some of my favorite parts of the fair, along with the animals and the (terrible but wonderful!) food.

The Mt. Olive Pickle people set up shop in the same group of buildings as the crafts, and we always enjoy a 50 cent kosher dill. After the yummy dill there was a pulled pork barbeque sandwich at one of the church booths and ice cream churned by John Deere motors near the Village of Yesteryear.

That Village is great fun. It's a group of "traditional" crafters supported by the NC Department of Agriculture for over 50 years. The members wear pioneer-type clothing and demonstrate and display their old-timey crafts like woodcarving, soap-making, furniture making, weaving. This guy's realistic decoys went for $7000 apiece-- so beautiful. Plus, he probably makes enough money at the fair to take it easy for awhile. I'm so sorry I missed out on the hand-braided rugs made by Virginia Boone-- they were all sold (well, except for an ugly purple one) when we got there. She had a beautiful gold and tan one with brown tweeds and red that I would have loved to bring home for my craft area. I hope she'll still be alive next year. And the animals. We saw bunnies and some amazing geese and turkeys, ducks and chickens (such plumage!), cows with their sprayed-up mohawks and goats playing king of the mountain on piles of straw. My one regret is that since this was the last weekend of the fair the pigs had all gone home. Too bad-- their beady little eyes always seem to be trying to tell me something important.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Foxhunt Friday: Cubbing from Oakland Green

After the meet: I guess it's about time to clip. Also, I think he's a little tired. In this photo, he's making sure that no hounds followed us home. Josh gets very excited when he gets to go hunting.

We met yesterday morning at Oakland Green, just up the road from the farm, and so I got to hack to the meet. Usually hacking to the meet is beneficial since it uses up most of the horse's nervous energy, but with Josh it's a little tricky because he's so spooky. Nevertheless, we made it to the meet in the mist in time for the 8 o'clock start. Unfortunately, Oakland Green's spring recently ran dry (Rain! Come on!), and so we met across the road from the house in a nice open cow field.

Since this meet is so close to our farm, I'm pretty familiar with this territory, which really opens up past Brown's bottom toward Lincoln. The huntsman cast down the hill toward the bottom, and (after a small delay while we waited for a friend to take a bathroom break in his trailer, and another, scarier delay when a deer bounding out of the woods just next to us misjudged the wire fence and jumped right into it, scaring all of the horses) we were off through the woods. In a flash we came out on the road behind the meet and joined up with Lincoln Road, where we had a full view of the fox, and then of the hounds doing some really good work to get on the scent on the Marshall place.

One neighbor and his horse were so winded after this first twenty-minute run that he and his daughter hacked in for the day (which I think she only agreed to do since she'll be out with Blue Ridge on Saturday). What a way to start the morning!

This great first run was followed by a few shorter gallops through the old Askari place, up and down a couple of doozie hills. Josh always does the same thing when we gallop through Askari's fields. Some old-timers say that certain horses can sense holes in the ground, whether by scent or change of moisture in the air. If this is true, then Josh is certainly one of those horses. Even when I avoid a real ankle-breaker of a hole with plenty of room, Josh will still jump over the place where a straight line from the hole would meet our path. Big, bouncy jumps-- I guess he thinks he's keeping us safe. No matter how many times we went through Askari's place in the same direction this morning (four), Josh jumped in the same spots, "avoiding" the same holes. He's crazy, but at least he's predictable.

Since it was so hot and my horse has yet to be clipped (a project for next week), we came in after about 90 minutes of hunting, and we hacked home. Still spooking all the way.

I'm off to visit my parents and their new dog this weekend, and hopefully to fit in a trip to the North Carolina State Fair. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


This is a cropped view of the progress on my very first quilt. I've made 51 blocks, but according to my calculations I need 80. Sigh. I started this quilt in 2001.

I was in my last year of college, and had had a bad fall off a lesson horse on the day of our sorority's pumpkin-picking/hay-ride date event. I wasn't much of a sorority person (or a college social person, really, but that's another story), and this was the only event all year that I actually looked forward to. We got to wear jeans and sit around campfires, no formal wear necessary. My boyfriend (now my husband, yay) had come into town to squire me to this function and then I couldn't walk, much less hay ride, and we spent the evening in the emergency room instead.

I was on crutches for at least a month after that, and couldn't drive, so I was stuck in my off-campus apartment a lot. My roommate and I were no longer getting along, and she had this horrible boyfriend who was always drunk and screaming and over at the apartment.

One afternoon while the roommate and her boyfriend were both in class, my mom drove over to the apartment with her little vintage Singer Featherweight and showed me how to make a log cabin block. We tore strips of lights and darks and mediums and sorted the groups into grocery bags, to be pulled at random as I sewed. I still remember which block I made first. I had used my mom's sewing machine before, to make little holiday gifts and pillowcases, and to repair my childhood security blanket. But this was the first time that I used sewing and quilting as meditation. What a calming thing (and what a gift). To see those perfect little off-white stitches line up, so straight and so strong.

My husband is going through a stressful time at work, spending a lot of time at the office, and so the pup and I have the evenings to ourselves these days. I'd really like to finish this quilt this fall, to translate the blocks' calming energy into something useful. A quilt to keep us warm and safe this winter. A soft calm to tuck into.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Postage Stamp Block #2

Similar in feeling to the previous one. I guess I use the same types of fabrics pretty regularly. All scraps. Also, happy birthday to my Aunt Anne (I don't think she reads this, but who knows?)!

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's the Birthday Pig!

I always have the best of intentions in sending people cards for their birthdays, but since I value the homemade birthday card, *and* I am a huge procrastinator, I never get around to it on time, and end up sending something on the day of their actual factual (is 'actual factual' like 'roti toati', as in slang that's only used in my family?-- anyway, it means on the big day itself-- use it in a sentence? hmm... "During her school years, Greta used to have her birthday party with friends on her half-birthday in January since her actual factual was in July."-- back to what was already a mess of a post) that doesn't get to them until a couple of days after their birthday.

I always hope that people will notice that the card was postmarked on their birthday, but I'm sure they don't.

So, long way around, but here's a new birthday card (one that I will have to tuck in with my mom's gift when I actually get it to her-- hint, her birthday was last month-- I'm terrible). I printed it up on the Gocco, but I messed up the master, so I'll need to photocopy the drawing and try again sometime soon. Until then, it looks better in this kind of far away, kind of noisy image than it does in real life.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Three Little Brown Blocks

L-4 St. George's Cross

A-8 Florence Nightingale

A-6 Uncle Homer
They're like the three little bears, but not one of them is "just right".

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Friday, October 5, 2007

Foxhunt Friday: Cubbing from Burnleigh

I keep forgetting to tuck my tiny camera into my hunt coat, so you continue to get static photos like the one above. But look at that stone! This is one wall of the old barn at the farm.

It was another 7:30 am meet yesterday morning from Burnleigh, a beautiful farm just past Foxcroft School on (surprise!) Foxcroft Road. The day's hunting is probably best described in a couple of vignettes:

Vignette 1, entitled, 'The drought is bad'. The ground was really hard with a very slick top layer of dry dust. My farrier put studs on Joshua's hind feet earlier this week to try to give him some more traction, even though studs are usually reserved for snow and ice. Yesterday, we had moved through a dry valley that's usually marshy bottomland, and the huntsman moved out across a wide creek. Our master rode down into the creek, and we rode downstream through the sandy earth that's usually under the water. It wasn't until we had ridden well down this 'sandbar' in the middle of the creek bed that I realized that we were in the same part of the creek where we had been forced to ford with our stirrups crossed over withers and our feet on the horses' shoulders last year around Christmas! So, the drought is bad. On the (very small) upside, the sandy soil in the bed of the creek was the best footing that we saw all day.

Vignette 2, entitled, 'Mr. Turkey'. About an hour after we set out, we came upon the cutest little farm setup that I've seen in a long while. A yellow stucco main house facing a small yard with mature trees and a small barn and tenant house. Old stone pillars were scattered in the yard and a couple of ponies watched the proceedings with guarded eyes from a paddock just behind the barn. We walked quietly between house and barn, listening with our field master for hound voices. Just as we snuck around the end of the barn, we heard a loud, "Gobgobblegobble!" (say it as fast as you can, and he was faster), and the most beautiful 25-pound turkey you've ever seen (just like this one) came out to let us know who was master of this barnyard. One of the ladies riding with us lives on this little farm and told us that this fine bird is bound for the Thanksgiving table. Our kennelman said, "We'll see what he has to say about that!" And we all laughed, but it really did seem as though the turkey might give his axman a run for his money. As we walked away from the barnyard, still straining to hear hounds, we heard the occasional "Gobgobblegobble," a good-riddance from our turkey friend.

All in all, not a terribly exciting day, but each and every person with whom we hunted yesterday was just delightful, and it was great fun to be outside in the air and the country. And one thing you can say about starting your day at 4 am is that it sure makes bedtime feel good.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

M-7 Junko's Rose Garden

Keep in mind that these are only 4 1/2 " square. Still working on my applique, obviously. This one, a combo of reverse applique (which actually went quite well) and straight-up regular applique (not as well) is kind of rough. But it does look better in person, and I'm still plugging away. Inordinately tired today-- until tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Poetry Tuesday: Autumn Grasses

Autumn Grasses in Moonlight, Shibata Zeshin (Japanese, 1807–1891) Two-panel folding screen; ink, lacquer, and silver leaf on paper
Autumn Grasses
Copyright Margaret Gibson, 2003

In fields of bush clover and hay-scent grass
the autumn moon takes refuge
The cricket's song is gold

Zeshin's loneliness taught him this

Who is coming?
What will come to pass, and pass?

Neither bruise nor sweetness nor cool air
knows the way

And the moon?
Who among us does not wander, and flare
and bow to the ground?

Who does not savor, and stand open
if only in secret

taking heart in the ripening of the moon?

I don't know a lot about poet Margaret Gibson, but I chose this poem today because its tones (and the mysterious tones of the painting from which it draws inspiration) so perfectly convey the way that I feel as we slip into autumn, with winter just ahead.

On Saturday morning around 5 am as I was getting ready for hunting, the moon was so bright and near-full here that I didn't need a flashlight. But it also held that secret, slightly frightening edge, "ripening" in the autumn sky.

Somehow in the spring the moon seems soft and not as present. In the summer and fall we have the harvest moon, sometimes romantic, but warm and welcoming. In the winter, though, that moon takes on a different cast. Bright and grey behind clouds, the moon can be downright eerie shining on a winter landscape of sparkling fields of ice. In the winter the moon is lonely and cold and perfectly at home. The ice queen surveying (and shaping) her slick kingdom.

We're not quite there yet, but soon the end of autumn will come and the cricket's gold song will set and we will watch the cold silver moon of winter rise.

Monday, October 1, 2007


Postage stamp block 1: from scraps. Or, as my husband said, "That's 49 pieces of fabric... Are you crazy?"