Saturday Morning Bits and Pieces, But the Rain Gauge Is Back in Place (With Even Some Rain in It)

Another magnificent jungle cactus bloom--just the thing to spark up a drab July.

Here we are at the end of July, and this is only my second post of the month.  Blame it on the heat.  (“Don’t blame it on the bossa nova.“)  It’s been that kind of month; one that has seemed to drag on, maybe because it has days in six different weeks.

Our temps here in the Houston area haven’t been so far out of range, like in some places.  However, they have been about 5-6 degrees hotter on most days than the low 90s that we usually have most summer days.  Also, the spring and summer have been very dry this year.  Now, though, the spotty, summertime showers that come in from the gulf seem to have returned.  Here at my house, there has been some sort of shower each of the last four days.  How much Tropical Storm Don has played in this, I don’t know, for, in general, that storm has been pretty much of a bust.

Because of these recent showers, I finally remembered to replace my rain gauge.  The previous one fit into that category:  “they don’t make’m like they used to.”  With the new glass tube in place, I can report that here near Huffmeister and 529, we had .20 of an inch of rain early this morning.

Obviously, the plants respond to the rainwater much better than that out of the hose.  However, I’ve kept the tomato plants alive, and if August doesn’t burn them up, they might produce some fall fruit.  The plants in the flower beds and pots are holding their own for the most part.  The July highlight was the second bloom ever on one of the jungles cactuses (epiphyllum).  This time I saw the bud the evening before.  I looked before I went to bed, but it still had not opened, but there in the morning, when Annie and I went out to the yard just before daybreak, there it was, fully opened.  At that early hour, this bloom was still pristine, unlike the first one in June that was starting to wilt, as it was already becoming light when I discovered it.  It’s such a pity that the life of these beautiful blooms is so fleeting.

With all this heat, stay inside with the A.C. is about all one wants to do.  It’s kind of like what winter forces upon people in some places.  Anyway, it’s gotten me in the mood to start a new quilt, something I haven’t done in a long time.  I’m piecing it by hand.  I’ll do a bit of “show and tell” as it gets a bit further along.

Looking out further afield, I’m happy that the certification of the lifting of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been done, pleased that marriage equality has come to New York (now to overturn DOMA), and dismayed that all those people who got elected to congress to help improve the jobs situation are so stubborn (no, “stubborn” is too mild of a word) that they would send the county on its way to ruin, rather than move one inch to compromise.  (They should have a lit M-80 stuck in their pieholes.  No, sorry, wrong hole.)

It’s Saturday morning.  The coffee in the cup is cold now.  Annie is happily chewing on a sparerib bone.  It’s not even nine quite yet.  Still a lot of the day to look forward to (Sometimes only fragments will do.)

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Preview Night at the Houston International Quilt Festival

An exhibit of "tree" quilts from Germany at the Houston International Quilt Festival

An exhibit of "tree" quilts from Germany at the Houston International Quilt Festival

Today was a crazy day, but I had already made plans to go to Preview Night at the Houston International Quilt Festival with my niece, and my sister, who is in town this week especially to attend the event.  I hadn’t been for two years, and it felt like it was time to go again.   I’m hoping to get some new ideas and new inspiration.

A close-up of applique work and quilting on one of my favorites of the show.

A close-up of applique work and quilting on one of my favorites of the show.

The fact is all three of us didn’t have much stamina tonight and about an hour browsing through the main quilt exhibit area and a run through a couple of rows of the merchants’ booths was enough.  All three of us complained that our “dogs were barking” after walking around on the hard floors of the George R. Brown Convention Center.

A quilt from the exhibit from Russia.

A quilt from the exhibit from Russia.

It’s really a great show, especially for first-timers, and there are people who come from everywhere.  There were lots of quilts from Japan and other countries.  This year there was even a special section of quilts from Russia.

Because Preview Night only lasts three hours, when I bought my ticket, I got a free one for another day.  I hope I can go back, but the rest of this week probably will probably prove to be no less hectic than the first three days, so if I have the time, I’ll try to go back.  The show runs through Sunday, October 18th.

Funeral for a Pine

Dead PineI’m not religious and I don’t mind admitting it.  I’ve never had any meaningful conversations with god or felt any kind of emotion enveloping me when I enter any kind of church, temple, or mosque, be they a small roadside chapel or a huge medieval cathedral.

On the other hand, I can feel a spirit in trees.  I can’t say whether it’s anything really spiritual emanating from a tree or just the incredible ornateness that I see in their trunks, limbs, and leaves.  I think I’ve felt a kinship with trees ever since I was a boy climbing up into their boughs or walking among the ones that grew alongside the banks of the Smoky Hill River near our farm.  With my siblings older and basically out of my everyday life, I often played or just spent time watching the quiet world with trees around me, mostly elms and oaks.

There’s a wonderful grove of live oak and other trees in the triangle near the swimming pool, which I always feel a connection with each time Annie and I walk by.  I have the idea of making a quilt that would be a representation of those trees, but how I can transform pieces of fabric into the spirit of these tress just hasn’t come to me yet.

A couple of these trees were damaged last year by Hurricane Ike, and a great many more wered downed by the strong winds of the storm thoughout the park.  People who live near the park have told me of the loud booms that exploded from a number of huge pine trees when their trunks cracked and broke, finally falling onto the ground.

In our small, Camp Logan Park, which is only a short, couple of blocks from Memorial Park, the trees withstood Ike’s torment, but most of them, for a long time, appeared to be in a kind of shock.  Of course, some had lost branches and had their leaves battered, but they seemed to be reviving during last winter.  Then came the long dry spell this spring.  Several months back, it was obvious that a couple of the smaller trees were dead, maples, I think.  But the other trees seemed to have deep roots, and even though, the grass in the park became dry and brittle, the bigger trees appeared to be doing OK.

Dead Pine TrunkThen about a month and a half ago, the biggest and probably oldest tree in the park began showing brown needles on some of its branches, and little by little the entire tree turned brown, still with hundreds of dry cones attached.  I’m not a dendrologist, so I have no idea why this majestic pine tree died, maybe the dry weather, maybe because of the hurricane, or perhaps some kind of disease.

All I know is an orange X recently appeared on its thick truck, a sure sign that the city soon will come to cut it down.  I know too that the living spirit that breathes out of other trees no longer comes from this glorious ghost.

Post Mortem

It was lucky that I took the pictures of the tree when I did; the tree was cut down the next day (yesterday).  I don’t know what happened to the main trunk but a lot of large branches and limbs are still laying in the ditch awaiting pick up.

Today (October 15th), I counted the rings as best I could and aproximated 100; another park-goer said he had counted 95.  That means that this tree was here when the Camp Logan Riots took place and before this was a residential area.

Even though the tree was big, many of the rings were very narrow.  I took my measuring tape and the diameter of the stump is 4 feet 8 inches at the widest point.  Here, two of the neighborhood Westies, Luke and Lexy, are sniffing out the edges of the stump, which obviously had absorbed a lot of varying types of moisture over the years.Luke and Lexy at the stump

Magnolia Trees–Quilt

I made this quilt a couple of years ago, and I still am pretty proud of it. The design, though, is not exactly original. I had seen a quilt that I really liked at the Houston Quilt Festival (Link here) in an exhibit area in which photos aren’t allowed, so I made a quick sketch on a piece of paper. Later, I made a drawing for my own quilt from the sketch. To me, the flowers represent magnolia blossoms, and, hence, the quilt is magnolia trees. The end result is quite a bit different than the one I saw, especially, in terms of the colors.

I hand-dyed all the cotton fabric myself, using big, Jack-in-the-Box plastic cups, and small pieces of fabric, a cup or two at a time. Then I reverse-appliqued (by hand) the flowers for the top section. After I had made all of the flower pieces. I started machine-piecing the trunk panels, but I was also still dyeing some of the fabric at the same time. I sewed all of the flower panels together to determine the exact width of the quilt, then I made root blocks to go with trunk panel. I adjusted the width of each of the longer panels, sewed all of those together, and finally sewed that large piece to the top flower strip. I also hand-dyed the backing piece and the binding.

I hand-quilted it using outline stitching in a variety of variegated threads.

Here you can see echo-effect outline quilting around the appliqued flowers.

What I really like about this quilt is the abstract nature of it all, and the strong colors, which, I think show the strength of the trees themselves. I also really liked doing the whole process of this piece from beginning to end, and doing the hand-dying of the fabric as I went along. It’s definitely one of the quilts that I have done that a lot of my own self went into.

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Here are a couple more of my quilts if you’re interested.

More Quilts

On a cool day,I sometimes pull this quilt from the stair railing for a snuggly nap on the couch.

On a cool day,I sometimes pull this quilt from the stair railing for a snuggly nap on the couch.

I thought I’d put in a couple more of my quilts. The “Flying Geese” is the only quilt that I actually use, except for the wall-hangings. I have another top of exactly the same pattern in greens that I’ve made and need to layer it and pin it together so that I can quilt it. I machine-quilted this one on my Brother 1500S. It was all straight lines, stitch-in-the-ditch, but now that I’ve used it for awhile, it has all fluffed up and feels just as good as a hand-quilted one.

I still love the look of this little purple basket quilt, which measures 23" X 30".  The design for this little quilt comes from Gai Perry's book, "Color from the Heart," one of my favorite quilting books, one which I have used and reused over the years.

I still love the look of this little purple basket quilt, which measures 23″ X 30″. The design for this little quilt comes from Gai Perry’s book, “Color from the Heart,” one of my favorite quilting books, one which I have used and reused over the years.

The smaller one (sorry about the definition of the photo) I made for a colleague for her to put up in her newly remodeled bathroom. It was a fun little quilt to do, all hand-quilted.

I’ve made some kind of quilt, mostly wall-hanging type, for quite a few of the people at work–all women. Most all of them would have trouble even threading a sewing machine. I guess even back in the day, city girls didn’t have much to do with Home Ec. 🙂

(This post was updated March 10, 2013.)

A Couple of My Quilts

Quilt on My Wall

Quilt on My Wall

Quilt I Made for my Sister-in-Law

Quilt I Made for my Sister-in-Law

Dog? Quilt? Dog? Quilt? Since I got Annie, my quilting has basically been on hiatus. Dropped pins and pieces of fabric on the floor just don’t work very well with a small puppy. Now that she is older, she doesn’t really bother with much except for her own toys and chewies, so I need to start back. Maybe the creative juices will reappear soon. The bright one hangs on the wall behind me in my computer slash music slash sewing room. I’ve always liked to work with the brigher greens and reds. The other was a gift for my sister-in-law’s birthday. She had given me some fat quarters for Christmas, and I rushed to get it done for her birthday in January, and I made it, mailed it, and she had it for her birthday. It’s a take on the Drunkard’s Path pattern. Actually the bright one is a bit smaller than the other–it’s about 22″X26″ and the other is around 30″x30″. Both of them are hand-quilted; I’m not bad when I get into the rhythm of it.  I think a quilt that is hand-quilted has a nicer feel to it, but a very light batting is really the only way to go!

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If you’re interested, here’s another of my quilts, my favorite, actually.

Annie

This is my dog, Annie, a 5-pound (mas o menos), 2-year-old Papillon, who at this very moment has forced me into a game of fetch (she’s fetching–not me). She’s probably one of the best dogs that anyone could meet. And, by theway, I made the quilt that she is lying on.