Thursday, March 15, 2018

Back from outer space...

It seems like years since I've posted!  Thank you for the emails of concern about where I was...sorry I did not at least post to say I was OK and would be back soon.  

Truth is, every day I thought I would post the next day.  Next thing you know, it is three months later!

I hate posting without something almost interesting to say about quilting or crafting with actual pictures.  There has been little time to sew.  (But there are actual photos depicting evidence of actual sewing in this post!)

The holidays were CRAZY, hectic and exhausting, as I am sure they were for all of you as well, and the new year has brought joys and difficulties.

Family travel the day after Christmas to the Philadelphia area kept us busy until after New Years.  Riley helped me make cookies in preparation for our trip where we saw Steve's ailing Dad and sibs/families.

And then there were the annual "you've got more stuff in your stocking than I do" pictures from Christmas morning.

We've been finding more deer than usual, and in the weirdest places!

When in PA, we played a FANTASTIC game that I highly recommend!  It is called "Watch Yer Mouth."  You play by wearing plastic 'dental/mouth spreaders' (included) and then try to get your partner to understand the phrase you are attempting to read aloud from a drawn card.  We all looked hilarious, sounded even funnier, and were all sore after from all the laughing.  

After Christmas, I realized there were so many things I needed to get accomplished outside on the property WHILE THE SNAKES WERE STILL ASLEEP and temperatures not oppressive.  Winter is so short here, so it can be really a busy time.  

Blueberry bushes, grape arbors, Dogwood trees, flower borders, etc. were suffering from a few years of neglect and were overgrown with the wrong kind of vines (wild grape, honeysuckle and vines with WICKED thorns!  I may shoot myself if we get kudzu on the property...).   

Two long rows of grape arbor had not been cut back in almost 10 years!  I had to cut back to the nub!  No muscadines this year, but hopefully the arbor will be healthier and produce more in the next few years.

A couple hours of hacking didn't make much of a difference only about two feet.

I finally finished them...I had to cut them back to the grapes this year, but they will be productive and pretty next year.

The blueberry bushes (there are over 40 of them) were crazy overgrown and had not been pruned in several years.  Some had "woolly-booger" crowns of grape, honeysuckle, and thorn vines.  I cleaned them out, carefully pruning to preserve as many fruit buds as possible. 



I am still trying to get the pruning piles hauled to the burn pile. There will be a handful of blueberries from each of those tiny flowers...yum.

The forest will overtake property if you let it.  Dad worked so hard to clear areas that were previously heavily covered with trees.  I will keep battling Mother Nature to preserve their efforts.

I've also been systematically trimming lower branches that whack me in the face when I mow. Thank God only about 30 out of 800 acres of our Treasure Forest are somewhat cleared and get mowed!

We got the chipper working so we can dispense with all the neat piles of branches when the saturated ground will support the heavy equipment without making ruts everywhere.

Now I can start another pile of limbs!

It was a weird Alabama winter.  Normally mild weather turned extremely cold too many times, with warmer spurts of super heavy rain between.  It is impossible to think that North Alabama could still be in a drought!  We even got a little snow a few times that hung around due to the low temps.

The ground is spongy, causing water to seep out everywhere when you walk.  Thank God we are at elevation!  A lot of people in Colbert County have been dealing with flooding.  It is hard for the farmers to prepare and plant their fields.

Our catfish pond is just an inch below capacity at the dam.  It freaks me out that the fullness may undermine the earthen structure.

The rain has also caused a new pond to develop in a low place on the way out to the fruit orchard.  I've never seen that happen in that location!

Riley was in a play at U of Alabama..."Vinegar Tom."  Of course we had to drive down to Tuscaloosa and see at least two of the seven performances.

Even with all that, I have managed to do a little quilting.  I got the outer borders on my "Little Treasures" quilt.  It is ready to baste and start the hand quilting.

(none of the pictures in this post are this dark or dull...not sure what is going on)

I was experiencing "design constipation" with the continuation of the diet/food quilt tops (one for me, one for my therapist).  Not only was I not seeing how to complete them, I was having trouble choosing fabrics for sashing, borders, etc.  I have one a little further than the other one.

I still don't have my two pieces of design wall mounted...very hard to take good pictures with them leaning and flopping.

Having finally decided upon some hopefully-clever-phrases to put on the next border, I prepped letters for the first quilt and have finished the hand stitching of them.  

I find there are a couple of empty spaces between the phrases.  I have been thinking of additional treats that I can "kill off" without repeating any of the methods already depicted.  It is a little more challenging, as the width of the border is only 4 inches.

You can tell from the following sketch that I have been WAAAAY too bummed out, worried and frustrated by the news and the state of things.  Here I am, killing off "Ronald McDonald," "Wendy," and the "Burger King" by hanging.  WAAAY to grim and evil for a quilt border...I will NOT be using this one!

I have a better, cuter idea without picking on these fast food icons.

Meanwhile, my "Contentment" quilt has been on vacation visiting two AQS Quilt Shows, Daytona Beach, Florida and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  I am not sure how I feel about my quilt getting to go to the beach and Amish country without taking me...sigh.  It won a third place ribbon in Florida and the Pennsylvania show starts next week.

I finally decided to finish my version of "Rabbits Prefer Chocolate" (Anne Sutton) and got the outer borders done and backing chosen and prepared.  It was hand appliqued years ago before I started my current method.  

Of course I changed the outer border...

There are very few smooth curves on those bunnies, chicks and eggs!

And, I am still slowly losing weight...a little over 50 pounds since Feb 2017.  I am also still trying to get situated on the right combination of "happy drugs."  I feel so much better and more energetic with the medications and I think I have been making up for the first two years here when I was too sad to do anything.  

There is nothing wrong with getting a little help, especially after the last four years.

Oh, and my computer hard drive died and decided to take all my files...documents, blog and Internet store stuff, and PHOTOS...with it!  

I nearly had a stroke.  Steve was finally able to recover my data off the old hard drive.  

I had to get a new computer with, of course, all new updated programs to learn.  Steve loaded my old stuff on the new machine and I am slowly finding stuff.  I was without a computer for a while...agony.

Whew!  There they are...all my excuses.  I really didn't think it had been so long since I had posted (until I saw email from some of you, asking about me - thank you!).  

I think being so isolated out here "on the mountain" I lose track of all time.  I should probably go to town more often.  I knew I wasn't sewing much, but I was so focused on outside tasks (I REALLY DO hate snakes...).  There were days I was even working outside in the lighter rain!

I am driving to Huntsville tonight for Quilt Guild, so I will see people...a 3-hour round trip.

Totally worth it!

In stitches,
Teresa   :o)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A labor of Christmas love...

I have been working on a labor of love.  Christmas love.

My step-mother made an incredible set of ornaments in the late 1960's, right before her first two daughters were born.  They were most likely from a kit sold at the time.

When my step-mother came into my life in 1973, I was twelve years old.  She definitely saved me and my little brother (and my Dad), in so many ways.  My Mom had mental illness and was abusive and things had been hard for a while.  I saw these ornaments the first Christmas I spent with her and my Dad and my brothers and step-sisters.

(I really beached the color out of this picture trying to lighten it up on my computer...the colors are beautiful and really saturated.  This is "5 golden rings" and I sent both of them to my sisters, so no picture on the tree...)

It was magical.  She made Christmas and birthdays special.  There was a simple tree and these ornaments were on it.  They were amazing...I couldn't take my eyes off of them...the way the sequins glittered in the tree lights.  Then the ornaments disappeared through three major moves my parents made over the next 20+ years.  I thought they were gone forever.

Fast forward to when they moved to this property in Alabama in the mid-1990's.  Most all belongings were moved into a new metal Qnonset hut on the property while they cleared some of the land, built a cottage and subsequent large home over the next seven years, all while practicing medicine.  I am not sure how they did all this!

About fifteen years ago, I was helping my Dad as he started sorting through boxes in the Quonset hut (unfortunately there are still some boxes to go through...sigh).  Most stuff was kept, some stuff donated, and some things thrown away.  I found a hastily-packed, crude small, corrugated cardboard box containing these ornaments!

Happy dance!!

The box had not been properly sealed and they were not in great shape.  Some had been nibbled on by the point where they could not be saved.  They smelled mousy.  All the plastic stars to which the motifs were glued had become brittle and broken.  Only one ornament's star was still in tact, and that was one where the felt part was heavily chewed.

I think those mice were probably crapping sequins...

I was sad about their condition, but asked to hold onto them, hoping I could bring them back to life.  Lee told me I should just throw them away.  They have been sitting in one of my closets ever since, rediscovered when I was packing for our recent move.

The theme was the 12 Days of Christmas, and there had originally been two sets.  Only eighteen survived.  

For years, I have been looking for replacement plastic stars and a method to perk them up and restore them.  I was also looking for the confidence and courage to touch them.

I have done a lot of different crafts and ornaments, but never any stuffed, embellished felt work...with sequins and/or beads...especially from a kit.

Every now and then, I would look on the Internet to try and find replacement stars.  A couple of months ago I found the exact star online, but they encased in glitter...ouch!  

There were no "crystalline star" version anywhere on the Internet that I could find.  Of course they were an imported item and it was hard to tell much about their quality from the sketchy descriptive photos provided.

So I ordered the stars and while waiting for delivery (and confidence and courage) and started replacing sequins, doing a little reparative stitching, and some spot cleaning.

It took a while for the stars to I know the meaning of "a slow boat to China..."

The worst part was picking the remaining pieces of brittle plastic and glue from the backs.  The felt used from the kit was of poor quality.

Everyone uses too much glue.  

Sometimes the glue removal was "surgical" as I would have to trim the felt bulk a little to cut it loose.

I have chosen some ornaments for me and chosen some for my sisters, which I am going to mail this week with the new ornaments I made for them.

It was worth the effort.  I love them!  They are kind of retro and I think it is interesting to see them with the other homemade and various ornaments on my tree.

Stopped and waiting for a long train two weeks ago, I was looking through Pinterest on my phone.  I saw a picture of one of these ornaments!  The link went to Ebay and of course the item was no longer available.

I started to get curious about whether or not an intact kit for the same ornaments could be found on Ebay.  You can find freakin' ANYTHING on Ebay.  I mean, there will be quilt kits in my stuff when I am dead and gone, so why not?!?

I took a guess that the Bucilla Company produced and sold the kit.  I found a lot of vintage (and new!!) Bucilla kits on Ebay, but not this one.

I almost gave up, but finally found one!  It was made by the Lee Ward Company.  Anyone ever do a project produced by them??

I ordered it.

It came yesterday.  It is definitely vintage.  The single sheet of instructions has browned, there is a musty smell, and the pre-stamped felt is the same crappy quality...but I love it!

I will most likely replace the felt with good quality wool felt.  I can trace the stamped patterns on the crappy felt...maybe some time when I am stopped by another long train.  LOL.

It also came with a product flyer for their monthly ornament club...charming.

And tacky glue is looks like it has separated, LOL!

And look!  A tree skirt can be made from the motifs!  Interesting...could be applique with fabric.  Interesting...could be enlarged slightly.  Hmmm...

But what is really interesting and confusing is that I think the kit makes 24 motifs but there are only 12 stars.  They are supposed to be glued together with the star between them!  I wondered why the second set of Lee's was a mirror image!

I will enjoy my selection of ornaments on my tree for now and properly store my "new" kit until I have time to figure out what I want to do.

Oh, and the hilarious thing?  Bucilla STILL makes kits and sells them.  They have stockings, ornaments, wall hangings and even some stuff for Halloween, etc.

Very kitschy and very retro!

Again, like all those years ago, I will sit in my great room only illuminated by my Christmas tree and enjoy how the sequins glimmer in the tree lights.  I will remember happy Christmases from the past and the new memories we are making now.

In stitches,
Teresa   :o)