Sunday, October 26, 2008

I Thought I Had The Answer


On Oct. 13 I drove to Portland and dropped my computer off at the new Apple store for a repair. I went ten days without the internet before getting my iMac back. What a change in my routine that turned out to be! My usual habit is to read my emails and check out various blogs first thing in the morning with my cup of coffee.

For the past ten days instead, I enjoyed my cup of coffee and read Mason Dixon knitting, the first book, not their newest. What a pleasure that was and it turns out there is life without the internet, afterall! It seems life doesn't stop if I can not read my favorite blogs and keep up with the latest on CNN. It was somewhat surprising, though, how many times I thought, well, I'll just look that up on the internet (and couldn't).

I know a woman who gives the World Almanac to her family every Christmas. They like to have it to refer to when family arguments arise. Well, the internet is my World Almanac, and I use it for everything from downloading free hat patterns at 10pm to finding out what that bug in my garden is. And, of course, you know how much fun it is to shop for fabric online. Have you been to

But there is nothing on the internet that I have found to remedy my machine quilting woes. Everytime I have tried to machine quilt for the last few months has been disaster. I tried to machine quilt Holiday Chorus and it is a mess. It will stitch fine for awhile, then the thread frays and breaks. There will also be skipped stitches, something that has never happened before.

I've taken my machine to two different repair people, and I am now convinced it is not the machine. Last Saturday I attended a quilt workshop that Back Road Quilters put on with Sarah Ann Smith teaching Hawaiian machine applique, more about that in a bit. In the course of the day Sarah mentioned using topstitching needles for quilting and I thought, yes! that is the solution.

Sarah laid out her topstitching needle next to my needles and showed me that the larger eye of the topstitching needle is what I need, and that the smaller eye is causing the fraying of my thread. Well, I eagerly brought home some new needles today and, sadly, it made not a bit of difference. If anyone knows how to help, I am open for suggestions. I think it may be either straight line quilting for me or credit card quilting. (I don't think it is my technique, either)

On to happier topics!

This is the pineapple block I worked on at the Hawaiian applique workshop. I used a tone on tone blue reproduction fabric and white muslin for the background. The piece was fused to the white fabric, then satin stitched around. We had a choice of a small six inch block or a choice of several designs for the larger block. I have done enough fusible applique that I wanted to try the larger block.

What a difference putting this block on point makes, don't you think? Straight on, the leaves almost look like a spider, don't they? On point, the pineapples have more emphasis. Interesting.
I don't know which I like better. This will probably be a UFO, as I don't really know what to do with it. I really enjoyed the class and learned more about fusible webs. I used Wonder Under for this and it gunked up some. Sarah had some samples done with Misty Fuse and I really want to try that. It has a very light hand when applied. You can get it on, have not seen it locally.

It is always inspiring to see what everyone else is doing in class. A couple of people used batiks, which were gorgeous. I may not do any more Hawaiian applique, but the tips I learned about fusibles and auditioning different color threads for the satin stitch will come in handy.

I've been happily making these little 5 inch blocks after seeing Ricky Tims demonstrate them on The Quilt Show. What fun they are to make and a good stash buster. If you haven't tried them before, just cut a five inch foundation and lots of strips of fabric. I cut my strips about an inch and one half wide, but some were wider, some narrower. Lay one strip diagonally from one corner to another, face up. Lay another strip on top and sew the seam. Continue laying strips down, sew and flip until you get to the corner, then sew from the center to the opposite corner. I just finger pressed until the block was done.

As Ricky pointed out, the diagonal line allows you to make some interesting arrangements. I used the same center fabric for each set of four blocks. I think the black works particularly well.
The foundation piece is 5 inches square, but you cut the final block 5 and one half inches so you don't have the bulk of the foundation in the seam. I have not sewn any blocks togther yet. This may be a Christmas present for my brother. Flannel backing would be nice and I will use quilt batt, too. And straight machine quilting, for sure!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Great Salt Bay

Sunday was a beautiful fall day here in Maine. DH and I went for a hike in Newcastle/Damariscotta. We hiked on the Salt Bay heritage trail. Here is the description from the New England Trailhead website:

The Salt Bay Heritage Trail is a 3 mile pedestrian trail that passes through the Damariscotta River Associations Salt Bay Preserve. The preserve contains many varied habitats including a woods pond, freshwater and tidal wetlands, mixed mature and new growth forest, and the Salt Bay shoreline. It also contains an important archeological site - Glidden Point's ancient indian shell heaps.

The oyster shell heaps at Glidden Point are estimated to be 2,400 years old. They are the left over shells from Native American feasts over an estimated period of 1,500 years. There are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and are protected. It is unlawful to remove shells or disturb the heaps.
Around the bay and over the bridge and into the woods...
We saw quite a few horseshoe crab shells. The bay is very shallow and either the horseshoe crabs like that or it may be that because it is shallow they are visible. Aren't horeshoe crabs prehistoric? This one was in two pieces with its long tail missing.

Here I am among the moss hanging from the trees. The moss is very threadlike; what an organism! Lovely light green color.
We found a geocache under a boulder, quite by accident. It was filled with little trinkets. I wanted to take the little Strawberry Shortcake doll, but was good and left it in the ammo box. I wrote a message in the notebook. I've always wanted to do Letterboxing, which is a similar game without the GPS and uses homemade rubber stamps to log in.

The trail runs along the bay for a ways, then goes into the woods until you reach the sheep tunnel which goes right under Route 1! There was some water in the tunnel but there were stepping stones that helped keep the feet mostly dry.
The oyster midden is awesome. All the white in the photo above is crushed oyster shells left over from the days (starting around 450 BCE) when the Indians fished and ate oysters here. There are, of course, trees growing up from much of the mound, but along the shore you can see whole shells in the exposed area under the tree roots.

Oysters, anyone?

The trail down to the shore is all white oyster shells, too. I don't think there are any oysters left in the bay now, and there haven't been any for many, many years from what I gather.
So much for the traveloge! DH and I love going for hikes and being out in nature. I think that connection with the natural world is very important and it certainly washes away the stress of work and the news. Which is more real? To me, it is the natural world, but I have to live in the man-made world, too.

Lots of color inspiration on this hike: the pale green of the moss, the whites and grays of the shells, and the blue blue sky and red, yellow, and golden leaves.

Last weekend I got about half of Holiday Chorus machine quilted, but stopped because the thread kept fraying and breaking. Very frustrating, but I am beginning to wonder if it is my sewing technique not the machine. Will try again next weekend.

In the meantime, I have been sewing little five and one half inch blocks using the strip piecing method on a muslin foundation. Very easy and so satisfying!

I'm taking my iMac in for repairs today, so I will be out of touch for awhile. Two vertical lines have appeared on the monitor. Wish I could just wave my magic wand, but I seem to have misplaced it!