Insanity by the Numbers

It was a chilly day in the sewing room yesterday. It was possibly the hottest day we've ever seen here in 15 years at the Three Cats Ranch. We're generally 10 degrees cooler here than in the valley, and our thermometers were reading 100°F. That meant the air conditioner was running for most of the day. Although we have the vents closed off in the basement, they still leak some air, and it was like a refrigerator down there. I had to come upstairs about every half hour or so, just to get warmed up.

It was okay though because the chill kept my mind sharp for the scrub jay. All I can say is that I should have enlarged it more so that the little pieces would have been a little larger. Oy. I'm not kidding...those suckers are small!

That picture was taken as I worked on the last and most difficult section for the day. It's probably the most difficult section for the quilt. It's comprised of the pieces that make up the area between the birds legs...not to be pornographic or anything. The bird is fully clothed, after all. I drew it in such a way that it preserved the fringy section there.

It might have been easier just to draw a straight line and call it good. When I took the class from Ann Shaw last time around and drew in my brother's hair, Ann showed me a way to preserve that look.

By making a little zig zag there, it avoids having the hair look more like a cap or a helmet. I decided I could pull it off with the bird too.

Miss Sadie has been my fabric consultant, helping me with fabric choices. She lies on the ones she's rejected, leaving me to choose among the ones that are not weighted down.

You can see that fringy piece at the very bottom. This was where I left it for the day, only...

That bottom section just isn't right. I should have a straight line extending thus:

But I couldn't get the edges to match up there. From experience, I've learned this means that a piece in that section is not oriented correctly. I studied this for a half hour, at least, comparing the shapes and numbers to the original drawing. I simply could not figure it out. If I leave it as is and try to work with it, it's going to haunt me when I try to sew it to the section on the left...and probably when I try to sew the section below. In other words, it will throw off everything around it. 

With the pieces so small, and because I hadn't lost any of them yet, I decided to take them off and start over...just re-cut and re-sew the whole section. Before I start, I'm going to line the pieces up on my work table and highlight the adjacent edges with different colors of highlighter. Then, there will be no question how they are oriented. Perhaps it will go together more smoothly. With that in mind, here's where I left the piece when I walked out of the sewing room for the last time yesterday afternoon.

Sadie helped me to select some fabrics to audition for the small inner border on the left. I'm leaning toward the one on top or else the one on the bottom. The one on the bottom is my current favorite.

If you're wondering about the orange, I'm choosing it because of the orange-ish poppies in my other background, but also because it is the complementary color to blue. I like the greens on the one at the bottom, and I'd probably choose greens for the branch where the bird is perched...just to reuse that color. As I make fabric selections, I continue to ask myself, "What would Ann Shaw choose?" And then I do what she would do. If it ends up looking terrible, I can blame her for the resulting abomination.

Despite the hot day, the evening was lovely. Mike and I took a walk around the garden. Some of the echinacea have finally opened. I'm afraid something has chewed the petals of the one on the right. I'm guessing the squirrels have been after it.

A few of the sunflowers are developing buds.

And some of the hydrangeas are beginning to open.

All of the tomato plants have flowers now. I'll be re-potting them into their largest pots of the season either today or tomorrow.

This morning we're meeting up with Matthew for breakfast in downtown Portland. After breakfast, we'll take a walk along the waterfront. The weather is significantly cooler today, and so it should be a nice morning. I'm hoping to get back to the scrub jay this afternoon if I have some time.


The Cat Days of Summer

When I started this post, I was trying to think of a creative title that would indicate it's been hot here, and of course, the "dog days of summer" came to mind.

Only then...you know how tangential I am...I started wondering about the origin of that phrase, and why it doesn't apply to cats as well. And you also know me well enough to expect that I'm just about to tell you. Well...here you go. According to dictionary.com:

Here's an article from National Geographic about it if you'd like to read more. It's pretty interesting.

So anyway...it's been hot. It's even hotter today. I know some of you are suffering with much worse heat than we have here, but that won't stop me from whining, because I'm an Oregonian! Oregonians hate the weather, no matter what. Didn't I just spend a blog post whining about the rain? And now that the rain is gone, I'm going to whine about how hot and dry it is. Whaaaaaaaaa! Somebody call Whine-one-one!

As for the cat days of summer, here's something: My computer helpfully updated something...who knows what computers do when nobody is watching. No doubt, nudity is involved. And dancing. But anyway...it messed up the way my pictures are imported from my camera, and so I needed the Resident Engineer to fix it for me. And for him to fix it, I needed a picture on the camera to upload. So I turned to the interior of my office and snapped this random photo.

Without even trying, I caught Smitty in an epic yawn and stretch fest. Like I said...The Cat Days of Summer. Just because there's no cat star doesn't mean cats can't get into the act. Oh wait...I created one a while back. Remember Meow Minor?

So how did I spend my hot day? Well, I wasn't in the greenhouse re-potting tomatoes, I can tell you that. Still, it didn't stop me from processing another three pounds of cherries into barbecue sauce.

We probably have a lifetime supply now, but since I give a lot of it away, you can bet I'll be making more eventually. It's so good. If you're not into canning, you could freeze or just refrigerate it and it would last a long time. You can find the recipe right here.

So, you might recall I went off on a wild and crazy bent a day or so ago when I had a brain storm about the background fabric for the scrub jay quilt. I spent some time perusing Ann Shaw's website again, just for courage, and then I decided to go bold and choose a fabric she might choose. After all, just look at her Curious Duck:

Would you ever in a million years choose that background? And yet, it works. She mentioned that the ovals in that fabric suggest eggs, and that makes some sense to my increasingly feeble mind. Also, look at her sunflower:

And again, would you, in your wildest imagination, choose that background fabric? Neither would I, but it works! So then, I was thinking about the fabric I picked up when I was in Fort Bragg last month, and I started thinking it could work. Then I woke up at 4:30 a.m. yesterday morning, wide awake, thinking about it. I could not get back to sleep, and so I pinned it up next to the beginnings of the bird.

The colors will be different enough since the bird is mostly blue. Also, if it's oriented horizontally, the black lines kind of suggest tree branches to me.

So, I took a big bold step, and voila! I think this will work!

And moving along...I added it to the next section and just a smidge on the left.

The second section isn't sewn together yet. As I'm looking at this, I think I need to switch out one section of the bird before I sew it together. You can see in the image below, I've used a fabric that is a little too similar to the background, and I'm afraid it won't look right. Today, I'll switch it out for a different lighter gray before sewing all the pieces together.

I've realized that sewing the pieces together is going to be the only way to go with this quilt. The freezer paper templates are so tiny that they won't adhere to the fabric well, and some are getting lost. I really need them to be able to orient the pieces and match up the seams. It's only fabric right? And this is my first time making one of these without Ann Shaw's guidance. It's a learning experience, and making mistakes is a good way to learn. Just to be perfectly clear, I'm expecting to learn a lot in this process.

Since it's time to link up to

Celtic Thistle Stitches

this seems like a good time to do it. While the technique isn't new to me, doing it on my own definitely is.

Also, it's time to link up to

Slow Sunday Stitching

so it seems like a good time to show you my progress on the sixth block for Wine Country. Just a little more to do on this one. I expect it to be finished in a day or two.

With it being so hot, I'm going to spend my day in the basement sewing room. It's nice and cool down there. I took some time to harvest some lettuce from the greenhouse this morning. This has been washed and spun dry, and it's going to make a nice chicken salad for our lunch today.

We're doing well on our diet, although the weight loss has slowed to a crawl. I don't know about you, but I retain water in hot weather, and so I'm betting that's part of it. (It's the way I stay motivated. I say to myself, "oh yes, it's the weather...that's why I haven't lost any more weight. Yeah...gotta be the weather.") Anyway, today's lunch is a Creamy Chicken Salad. Although the Cooking Light Diet website requires an inexpensive subscription, the magazine has been in publication for around 50 years, and so most of the recipes are already published online. We're really happy with the food. It tastes good, it uses fresh ingredients, and it allows me to feed my passion for cooking and trying new recipes. Also, we have not been hungry, although I'd probably kill for a cookie right now.

So, it's been a slow morning, and if I'm going to get any sewing done, I'd better move along. I hope you have an easy Sunday planned for yourself as well.


Relaxing Afternoon

It seems I wasn't just kidding around when I said I was going to take the afternoon off yesterday. I ended up taking a nap and generally loafing for the rest of the day. It was a refreshing change of pace from the business of the past couple of weeks. Today I'm ready to get back at it with some barbecue sauce. If I have time, I'll re-pot the tomatoes today.

Backing up to what was accomplished yesterday, I sewed the first section of the scrub jay together. Now I can see what I'm doing. Only...after looking at this

and comparing it to the original photos, I realized I had a background piece where the beak should actually be. There's some glare on the top of the black beak in the original photo that makes it hard to accurately visualize the colors in the beak.

So I switched in a black piece where I had background. The pieces to the right of it (not yet completed) will finish off the beak. The image below shows where I left it yesterday.

Since walking away yesterday, I've suddenly had a big brain storm (beware of smoke and burning embers) about the background. Today I'll do a little experimentation and I might decide to do something really wild and crazy. I'll say more with pictures later.

So what drew me away from my bird in progress? Okay...so I have a small confession to make. Remember when I talked about the Sketchbook Project? As I mentioned, I ordered a sketchbook with the idea of taking photographs of our upcoming trip and including those in the book along with some brief captions about what we were seeing in the photo. Pretty much the instant I clicked on the "finalize purchase" button, I realized the fatal flaw in my plan: I have no way to print pictures when we're traveling. Doh!

So, enter my favorite shopping mall...Amazon...and I was pretty sure there were some little mini printers on the market that would meet my picture-printing needs. And, bonus, they are small enough to store in the seat bottoms of our RV dining room chairs. As it turns out, they aren't even terribly expensive, and so I purchased one. This is the Canon Selphy CP1200. You can get either black or white. I clicked on the white to see what it looked like and discovered it was $10 cheaper. Really? 

So anyway...it arrived yesterday. What a cool little machine! It's about the size of a small clock-radio. The screen tilts down flat, and the paper cartridge is removable so that it all folds into a tidy little box. It requires special paper (of course). Here's the explanation from the Amazon website of how this works:

"This printer is a dye transfer printer. The dye is on plastic sheets. Special paper is required. A print is made by the 'printing head' heating a spot on the plastic sheet and therefore transferring the dye to the receiving paper. The roll of dye sheets has sheets of 3 colors, cyan, magenta, and yellow. The printer also has a fourth clear sheet which it uses to cover the print after the dyes have been printed." 

Mike tells me that "dye transfer" is a good choice because the resulting pictures will resist fading. I've ordered paper and print cartridges and those will come separately, but the printer came with a print cartridge and eight sheets of photo paper. So we gave it a try. Each sheet passes through the printer four times. It happens automatically...it travels back and forth. After it's made four passes, it spits out a finished print.

The two photos above were printed directly from the camera's memory card. The white edges of the paper are serrated and tear off so that you end up with a 4 x 6-inch print. Cool! Then we tried the wireless function. The image below was printed from my iPhone photo album.

Ha! I love it when a plan comes together...and where technology is concerned...when it actually works like it's supposed to! So...that was kind of a fun diversion. Now I'm set for the sketchbook project, but I'll also be able to print my own picture postcards while we're traveling.

Speaking of fun diversions, Smitty caught a mouse yesterday, and then brought it to the door to show it to Sadie. It's good to have a friend, isn't it? Sadly for the mouse, this game was a lot more fun for the kitties. The mouse quilt playing fairly early on.

And that's about all that happened yesterday. I told you I was lazy. This morning I have a set of clean jars, and I'll get to work making another batch of barbecue sauce. While I was drinking my coffee, I noticed the morning sun was shining on the needles of our fir tree out front, turning them red. I've never noticed this before.

Ya gotta love a warm summer morning. Time to get going on the barbecue sauce before the house gets too hot.


Sunny Morning Walk

Sue and I got together for our regular Friday morning walk. The last time we walked was back in April. We've both been off gallivanting the countryside, although I've been at home for ages, just waiting for her to get back. We had breakfast at the South Store Cafe, and then made our usual loop around Lower McCormick Hill Road. It was warm and sunny with a nice breeze.

The wheat fields are heading up.

There were plenty of blooming things along the way.

Sue brought me some blooming things from her garden. These were a belated birthday present. Thank you, m'dear!

When I got home, I had in mind to start processing another batch of barbecue sauce, but then I decided to give myself the afternoon off. I use the sanitize cycle on the dishwasher to wash the jars. Upon realizing that I was going to need to run a nearly-empty dishwasher, it was easy to talk myself into taking the afternoon off for sewing. It's been busy since we've been home, and I'll admit that an afternoon to relax sounds great. The barbecue sauce can wait until tomorrow.

Backing up to yesterday, I caught up on the quilt-along at the Inbox Jaunt. The first motif was pretty easy. I like this one, and I want to keep it in mind for future use.

As I sat looking at my quilt, something seemed a little off. I measured the aqua strips. The two on the middle and left side of the quilt were approximately 2-1/2 inches.

But look at the one on the right...just about 3 inches!

Then I flipped the quilt around and measured the other end...2 1/2 inches! WTF?

Well, I think it's pretty obvious that I got my ruler off kilter when I cut this strip and ended up with one that isn't precisely straight. Why I didn't notice it before this is a mystery to me...actually, there's no mystery. I'm claiming old age responsible for this one. As I've said before, I'm too old for math. Apparently I've lost the ability to measure correctly as well.

So anyway...no biggy. This is a learning project. Have I learned anything? Probably nothing I didn't already know: Measure twice, cut once, and then force that sucker to fit. On with the quilting. This next motif was more difficult than it looked. I had trouble getting the loops uniform in size and evenly spaced. Also, I realized as I went along that the curvy line was a little too close to the edge of the strip, which meant making the loops super tiny in spots.

The second strip went a little better, but it was still more difficult than it looks.

I was congratulating myself for doing a better job on the second try when I flipped the quilt to the back and realized I'd caught the quilt back in the stitching. Doh!

Fortunately, it was a small area, and easily fixed. Here's how it's looking from the back.

And now I'm caught up with everything. Yay! 

It was time to start the scrub jay quilt. (You thought I'd never get there, didn't you?) So here are all the fabrics I've accumulated for this quilt. That oughta do it, don't you think?

And then I cut apart the pieces for the head section of the bird. They are super tiny...really...they look a lot tinier now that I've cut them apart.

It's easy to lose these, and so I decided to cover them with a ruler to keep them from blowing away or getting knocked to the floor where four-legged critters roam.

Speaking of critters...Sadie showed up about that time to roll around in the fabric. Sadie loves fabric as much as I do.

And despite her help, I managed to get all the pieces cut for the head. It's quite a mess because of the many small pieces. In a class with Ann Shaw, she would want me to choose all the fabrics for the entire bird before sewing anything together. But now I'm in my own sewing room, and I'm going to sew each section together as I go. I can't really see anything in this mess.

It's easy enough to understand Ann's thinking. She wants us to stand back and look and be sure we're happy with all the pieces. Once sewn together, it's hard to take anything apart with so many seams coming together. Nevertheless, in my sewing room, I go by my own rules. I did change the one piece I've indicated above with the pink arrow. The piece seemed too blue and so I picked something more on the teal end of the spectrum. And, hard as it is to tell anything from this mess, I think that's a better choice.

So when I get into the sewing room today, I'm going to sew all these pieces together before moving on to the next section. If I get tired of working on it, I'll start quilting this Little Bunnies table runner from last spring.

I had in mind to do this while we were traveling, but just never got around to it. It's a small quilt, and I'm going to do a simple diagonal grid. It shouldn't take too long.

So there's my afternoon in a nutshell. Time to get at it.