Monday, June 27, 2011

From My Baby to Yours

Back from some additional travels—we went East to watch my nephew Karl receive his diploma in Virginia. It was a great family gathering that included my parents, sisters, bro-in-law, and even my daughter Rebecca, who flew from NY.

Rebecca's been working in NY for nearly a year now and she's had a fantastic boss who's been a real mentor. She has made it possible for Rebecca to stretch herself, taking on substantive work beyond her role as administrative assistant. She's also a caring person with a good sense of humor (I've actually never met her, but know these things from Rebecca). So when I heard that she was having a baby, I decided that the perfect thing would be to offer Rebecca a quilt to give her. As my sister so aptly said I should write in a card "I hope someday someone is a kind and caring to your baby as you've been to mine."

Rebecca picked this scrappy triangles quilt from my stash of tops and it provided a great excuse to finish it. I quilted it myself and while I did a reasonable job, I can't say that I really enjoyed it. Even when I start out intending to make big loops, my quilting gets smaller and smaller and takes forever. When I got to the borders I decided a series of parallel lines would be fine, and I think in the end, they are.

The piece is a true stash-buster: the only fabric I purchased for it was the graphic red and yellow dots (Beetle Boy by Ellen Crimini-Trent for Clothworks) for the inner border and binding and I am really happy with the way it picks up the colors and extends the wonky center's playfulness. Place a baby on his tummy on this quilt and he'll have lots to look at.

I was madly sewing on binding on the plane and at my sister's house, so that I could send it back to NY with Rebecca. Finally got it finished, and yes, that is a Great Dane (my sister's dog Danish) snoozing under the quilt. But no need to worry—the quilt was thoroughly washed and de-dogified before it was given.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Seed Savers

In my previous post I mentioned a three-hour drive to Decorah, and it was to visit Seed Savers for today's post on Etsy. I'd been to Seed Savers once before, but it was autumn and after a hard frost. It was lovely, but not quite like going this time of year, when the urge to garden is strong (in late October, my gardening instincts are usually ready to be rested and revived by several months indoors).

At any rate, my friend Anne (see post below) and I thoroughly enjoyed our time in Decorah and especially appreciated John Torgrimson, the Seed Saver executive director who showed us around. The work they're doing there is nothing short of amazing. If you haven't read the Etsy story, please do, because it explains some of what Seed Savers is about. If you're really interested, make sure to visit their extensive website, because I could only fit so much into an 800-word post.

One of my favorite facts that didn't make it into the story is that while at the grocery store you might be able to buy 4 kinds of potatoes, Seed Savers has 800 kinds. And they have more than 4,500 varieties of tomato seeds! Their seeds are available online and at 500 seed racks around the country. And if you're in Iowa, make sure and plan an afternoon at Seed Savers—nearly 900 acres, with hiking trails and gardens.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Egg and I

Earlier this month I headed three hours north for an Etsy story and my friend Anne agreed to accompany me. Anne and her husband live on a farm close to town and there's always much to anticipate as I drive down the road to their house. There's a guaranteed welcome by Penny the dog and the sensory delights of checking to see what's blooming along the path to her front door. (This time—roses. See below.)

Anne and her husband have an incredible amount of energy, and along with the flowers and pets, there's usually something new to admire. Each year they plant an enormous vegetable garden and her friends (me included) wait for the inevitable email saying they have way too much asparagus or rhubarb and we're welcome to stop out any time and get some.

This summer, they've added six chickens to their farm. Years ago they had chickens they butchered, but it's been a long time and these six are likely to be egg-layers only...Anne says she just can't imagine eating them this time around.

Before we left on our road trip, she took me out to the lovely little outbuilding they'd cleaned up for a coop, and we gathered eggs. The chickens pecked at my painted toenails while I shot photos, then escaped out the coop door. We rounded them up without too much trouble and then marveled at the eggs they'd laid—they've been producing an egg apiece daily, and Anne (a former caterer and fantastic cook*) has been making all manner of egg dishes.

When I dropped her off that evening she bequeathed to me a dozen brown eggs and all week I ate omelettes and scrambled eggs with toast. I'd forgotten how simple and good eggs can be, and these were so fresh and the yolks so firm and golden.

Summer really is my favorite time in Iowa for so many reasons—the Farmers' Market and friends like Anne are definitely at the top of the list.

 *An example of Anne's cooking: The lunch she fixed for our road trip—wraps stuffed with a chicken she'd smoked, along with asparagus and lettuce from her garden, and for dessert, vanilla Greek yogurt topped with sliced strawberries, also from her garden. My MO had been to grab grapes, granola bars, and bottled water. Thank goodness for friends like Anne!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Textile treachery

Like many a textile-lover, I'm fond of fibers of any ilk and can't stay true to just one. I love to sew, I love to quilt, I love to needle felt, and I love to knit (crocheting is still beyond me, but on my radar of things to try). This past winter, while it seemed that I wasn't sewing much, I was still knitting. Winter is the only time I get really into watching TV, and knitting is the perfect way to make me feel slightly less guilty about it. So I spent some winter knits curled up with needles, yarn, and Law and Order.

I've always been intimidated by a lot of knitting because it seems so numbers-oriented. But enough people convinced me that even I, a math-phobic, could handle cables. So I gave it a try, joined Ravelry, and made the Gretel beret by Ysolda Teague. And what did I discover? Knitting cables is the most freakin' fun I've had in ages! I loved this pattern because every row was different, but not too long, and I had that incredible feeling of satisfaction from learning to do something that's scared me.

I knit it in a washable wool (I think it was Cascade 220 Superwash) in an orange that I thought would look good with my big ol' brown down coat.

The only problem is that it is huge. The pattern has three sizes and I wanted a bit of the snood look. I started knitting the snoodiest of the three sizes and realized that would be enormous, so ripped it back significantly and went for the medium size. Even then, as my husband said, to make this hat fit I need to grow dreadlocks. I really did swatch it beforehand, but somehow it didn't work out.

Pearl supervised my photo shoot. Sorry I didn't get a picture of it on someone, but I was trying to save myself the humiliation of being laughed at, which is what even my dearest friends have done (they try to be supportive and say it's just fine and then they see it drooping to my shoulder blades and crack up). 

I'd still really love a snood with cables. Does anyone have a pattern they've tried that they'd recommend?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

And now for something completely different...

Iowa is the land of cicadas. There are some nights in mid-summer when their drone nearly drowns out conversation. Their carcasses litter sidewalks and lawns and remind me of the feather-weight husks of tomatillos. These signs signal the warm nights of July and August, but they don't exactly make cicadas endearing. Still, when I saw this short about a film being made about cicadas, I was intrigued.

Check out this short feature about Cicada Princess from Kickstarter. (If you're not familiar with Kickstarter, be prepared to spend some time wandering through the amazing projects. It's where the idea came from for the Etsy post about artist Julia Sherman's project with the nun doll museum.