Monthly Archives: May 2009

Sage Advice

Recently, IPB Proper was home to some advice columns from some “NHL players”, so I figure why not bring the helpful hints over here to the sister-blog? It’s occurred to me that while I’ve shared all manner of pictures and stories of my crafting, I’ve not imparted the number one most important lesson of handiwork I’ve learned over the years: The Far-Away Test. Gentle Reader, have you ever gotten so sucked into a sampler that all you could see was the one strand of silk that didn’t end up lying quite right? Have you ever had tunnel vision that made it so you could only see the one point on a patchwork star that didn’t lie up perfectly? Have you ever been held hostage by one color that looked right in concept but once you got working with it just seemed wrong, wrong, wrong? In short, have you ever gotten so focused on a project that you could no longer see the forest for the trees? Of course you have! Everyone does! That’s where the Far-Away Test comes in. Have someone else hold you project up for you, or drape it over the other end of the couch. Step back. Admire your fabulous work. Suddenly you can’t even remember where that wayward strand of silk is, the star looks pretty darn pointy, and that weird puke green is showing us as a lovely dark olive. Problem solved!

I bring this up because I was recently in such a funk with “Broken Dishes”, my latest quilt project. I paired up a black and white geometric print with one that was a soft pink. I worked night and day (okay, night and later night) over the long weekend putting each teensy tiny triangle into place. When the block was finished, I made the mistake of mumbling something about how it looked a little ’80s. Schnookie jumped right on that and said, “It is just like Miami Vice! HAHAHAHA!” Well, of course at that point, all I could see was the cover of the Starship cassette that lived in Boomer’s car in the mid-’80s. That’s it! The whole quilt was ruined!

A-ha! Not so fast! A little Far-Away Test could clear that potential disaster up! I laid all the blocks I’d done up to that point out on the floor and stepped back.

Broken Dishes Progress

Nothing about that screams Don Johnson! (Author’s note: If if does, please don’t tell me.) Thanks to the Far-Aawy Test, I could see that stressing the individual fabric pairings is really not that big a deal. The whole thing is going to look scrappy and jumbled (dare I say it, like broken dishes?) anyway! In just one simple step, I was able to refocus on the project and stop stressing about how one little square out of 72 was going to effect the overall look. Thanks, Far-Away Test!

Lately, thanks to quilts being much bigger projects than cross stitching, the Far-Away Test has spawned an off-shoot: The Walk Away Test. Quilts can be a bit overwhelming, what with the balancing color and patterns and having no idea how it’s going to translate from a pile of, say, 2 inch squares into a full queen-sized blanket. When the time came to lay out the hexagons for Merry Go Round, I discovered the only floorspace empty enough for that endeavor was the downstairs “den”. (We use it as a seedling greenhouse, an ironing station, a mail dump, and a supplementary pantry for bulky items that don’t fit in the kitchen.) I carefully put the hexagons in rows and then started to go nuts about color and pattern placement. It was grueling! I was interrupted for dinner, though, and had to leave it out on the floor while I went to go eat. After dinner, I happened to walk past the stairway to the den and could see all my work laid out on the floor looking… well, looking like a blanket! By stepping away and refocusing on something else, I was able to come back at look at the project with fresh eyes! I tried that with Broken Dishes today, and the result was like the Far-Away Test but magnified. I dare you to find the Miami Vice square now!

Walk Away Test

Apologies for the awful photo. The light in that room is tricky!

So when in doubt, try the Far-Away or Walk Away Tests. Break free of the chains of the process for a quick moment, and bask in the gloriousness that is your fabulous project! (I refuse to accept that I have ever worked on a project that was not fabulous.) (At least not since the wizards.) (We shall never speak of the wizards again.)

Posted by Pookie


Filed under Pins and Needles

The State Of Our Garden, Through A Different Lens

Last week we found ourselves outside after work, releasing ladybugs around our apple trees (for aphid control. Who knows how well it works? We’ve seen neither hide nor hair of the ladybugs since. Yeah, we just got played for fools by Big Ladybug, but what gardener hasn’t?), and attempting to document the event with the first camera Pookie grabbed. As it happens, it was the camera with the 50 mm lens on it. The pictures of the ladybugs were uninspiring…

May 15 2009

…but when Pookie took the Fiddy around to the side of the house where the hanging baskets of flowers are, she rediscovered what’s so great about this lens.


Hallmark Card

Even though the Fiddy is our smallest and lightest lens, we tend not to use it in the garden because it doesn’t do wide angles and doesn’t do super-duper, eensy-weensy close-ups like the 100mm, but after seeing those flower pictures, we decided to spend the weekend undertaking a Fiddy Challenge. It was time to document how our garden was coming along while taking baby steps toward mastering that lens.

The marigolds are all still just wee seedlings, with funky textures abounding when seen through the Fiddy:

Marigold Seedlings

The garlic is bustin’ out all over, and we’ve been harvesting it to make into green garlic pesto, which is crazy delicious:

Dreamy Garlic

The onions finally look like bona fide plants instead of scraggly little green strings:

Dreamy Onions

The peppers are ever so close to being planted in their forever beds:

Pepper Seedlings on May 16

The tomatoes are in the ground and growing away:

Mixed Bed

And the potatoes are, once again, trying to be the plants that ate Maple Hoo:

Potatoes May 16

May 16 Potato Overhead

Also, our overwintered pots of sage are bolting:

Sage in May

Sage Flower

And we’re completely indifferent to the encroaching weeds creeping in through the fence:

Caged Dandelion

Dandelion 3

Dandelion 2

Of course, just as I was falling deeply and irrevocably in love with the Fiddy, Pookie went and took this picture with the 100, with all the awesome fuschia bokeh. Oh, macro lenses — how can we choose which one we love best?

Fuschia Bokeh

[Posted by Schnookie]


Filed under 5. May, Garden, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

Merry Go Round

Ever since Boomer and I gave Schnookie her 30’s scrap quilt for her birthday, she’s been raving about what a fabulous blanket it is. Cool in the summer and warm in the winter, always perfectly in tune with the other blankets on the bed, and forever in a state of “Bert and Ernie Bed” (that being when a bed feels as comfortable as Bert and Ernie’s beds always looked on Sesame Street). I’d look at my lame-o woven cotton blanket and whimper. I’d look at the quilt Boomer had promised to make for me (which for six years was stalled at “one half of one squares finished” and now is steadily progressing at a rate that suggests the quilt will be finished in about three years) and sob. Clearly, I needed a quilt, and clearly I had to be the one to make it. I chose a pattern — “Merry Go Round” by American Jane” — and fabric — “Look and Learn”, also by American Jane — and got to work. All I could think of while working on it was that each stitch was taking me closer to having a quilt for my bed. When I’d walk into my bedroom and dream of having a riot of adorable hexagons all over the bed. I’d lie in bed on chilly Sunday mornings and wonder just how much longer until the quilter would call to say it was finished.

Merry Go Round 1

Finally, on April 11th, I got the quilt sandwich back from Mary, the Long-Arm Quilter. Sadly, it still needed 2 weeks worth of work to get the binding finished (note to self: no more bindings with 60 degree angles). But then came the triumphant evening when I stuck the last stitch in the binding and cut the last thread on the quilt. It was 11:45 on a work night with two periods to go in a Ducks-Sharks playoff game. “Hm,” I thought, “The quilt needs 45 minutes in the washing machine and then probably 60 or 70 or so in the dryer… Works for me!” I tossed it in the wash and it was fluffy and dry and wrinkly and fabulous before the last whistle of the game. It was close to 2 a.m. when I yanked the nasty cotton blanket off the bed and unfurled “Merry Go Round” in its place. Cue “Rocky” music.

MGR Binding and Backing

It looked wonderful. Just fabulous. I had worried the color balance would be off with too much bright orange near the bottom, but once it was on the bed, no one color dominated. The trouble spent on the hexagonal binding paid off, as the edges looked so darling hanging over the side of the bed. And my fretting about it puckering thanks to my learning how to correctly cut equilateral triangles after I had my cutting done was all for naught. The one problem — the one problem — with my first ever bed-sized quilt was that… well, it’s not quite bed-sized. It’s about eight inches too short, and could stand another eight inches on the width, too. But you know what? I don’t care! Why? Because it’s the most fabulous blanket ever. Cool in on the hot nights, warm on the cool ones, perfectly in tune with my duvet, and forever (so far) in a state of “Bert and Ernie Bed”. I don’t know how I managed without a handmade quilt before and hope never ever to go without one again.

MGR Folded

Of course, now I’m greedy. Clearly I need more quilts! And clearly I need to make them!

In my last quilting update I was working on “Darla”, a massive Irish Chain monster of one inch strips that need constant pressing. Not cool. I’ll finish it someday, but it’s just not speaking to me now. I finished the top for “Prairie Gothic”, and discovered it has the opposite problem as “Merry Go Round” and is much larger than the throw I was counting on. Of course, it’s still only twin sized.

Prairie Gothic Quilt Top 1

I put together a few more squares of “Magic Carpet” and strung together a bunch of strips for a coin quilt using a jelly roll of “Neptune”, but both of those projects were going too quickly. I learned with “Prairie Gothic” that if a quilt takes too little time to make it’s just not that satisfying. I needed a quilt that would be big enough for my bed and which would take a nice long time to make. The perfect project presented itself in the form of “Broken Dishes” from Kaffe Fassett’s “Kaleidoscope of Quilts” book. I’m looking at hand piecing a few thousand teensy-weensy little triangles. Woo-hoo! That is exactly what I need!

Broken Dishes Border Square 1

That’s one border block. The main blocks are pieced the same way, but with four times as many triangles, which are in turn, half as big. There’s no way I finish this puppy any time soon. I’ll probably spend more time cutting it than I spent sewing on “Prairie Gothic”. I’m so excited to sink my teeth in this project, especially knowing that months and months and months and thousands of triangles later, I’ll have another perfect blanket for my bed!


Filed under Pins and Needles, Quilting