Quick Post on a Hot Tuesday

It was hot again today, but not as hot as yesterday. Tomorrow will be cooler and the forecast for the next ten days looks like it will be in the high 70s to mid 80s. Looks like we’ll be able to grab an afternoon walk in the upcoming days. My boys will be happy.

After our walk tonight I had told myself that I would quilt the dark KFC Frankenbag panels I’ve been working on. But that just didn’t happen. With all this heat I felt a little worn out so I turned on the TV and stitched up another hexagon flower.

I think that makes six that I’ve made. It feels like a lot more! They do take a little time to sew up. I’m happy to say that this one is probably the best one I’ve made. My stitches are getting better, less visible and more consistent. And it’s getting easier to make it look nice. So that’s good. Maybe by the time I make 90 of these they will be perfect!

It cooled down really nice for our walk. We headed out at about 8:15 and it was so nice… it felt cool and there was a nice breeze. It always feels wonderful when it cools down nicely after it’s been hot. It’s supposed to get down to 56 tonight so I’m guessing I’ll have my slider open most of the morning while I work, which I love.

Our walk tonight had a theme of water.

There is a park that is about two miles into our regular three mile route. It has a human drinking fountain that has a dog drinking fountain attached at ground level. You push the button and the bowl fills up, and then slowly drains. My boys know it’s there. When we come down the path toward that park they start speeding up and head directly to that drinking fountain. And then they drink and drink and drink before we’re back on our way.

Then, about another half mile into our route, there is a house that keeps a fresh bowl of water at the base of their mail box.

Bender and Rico always express their thanks to these home owners.

Once we get home they take advantage of the large bowl of water I keep at the base of my mail box.

It’s amazing to me how much traffic this water bowl gets. It’s almost always down to about an inch of water by the time the day has gone by. I probably get to see at least a couple of dogs drinking out of it every day. They appear to be very appreciative of a nice drink.

It is also entirely possible that it’s used in the dark of night by coyotes, raccoons and squirrels. And I did see a crow perched on the side of it a few weeks ago.

And this guy, I would like to point out, would pose all day long on anything.

His lower dose of potassium bromide was delivered today from the compound pharmacy. So he had his first dinner with a smaller amount of the drug that’s making him wobbly. Fingers crossed that this decrease will bring him back a little closer to normal.

Oh, and I saw another bee balm plant on our walk. I had never noticed these before. They were so pretty with the daisies.

I’ll wrap up tonight with this obligatory photo of some cute dogs with flowers.

Some Hot Weather and Feeling Lazy

It was a lovely weekend but it’s gotten hot today and will stay hot for a few days. It got up to 96 degrees today! So I’m not feeling particularly motivated to move around a lot.

My boys thought this weather today was bogus and were not at all happy with the lack of action. We went outside and tossed the ball a few times and then cooled off in the wading pool, but we didn’t get an afternoon walk. We did get a walk in tonight starting at about 8:45. It was still over 80 at that hour but without the sun it wasn’t too bad. But I was hot and sweaty when we got home.

On Saturday I loaded up the boys and drove down to Scio, Oregon, which is east of Salem, for a sheep herding trial. The drive is over an hour and I didn’t get there until about 1:00. I sat in the shade and worked on some of my EPP hexagons while I watched the dogs take their turns moving the sheep around the course.

I sat under a nice shade tent working on my hexis, next to a woman who was doing her knitting. I had three people come over and ask me what I was doing. They appeared to be fascinated with the process.

Even this little dog was fascinated. He just jumped right up on my lap like he was sure I was his best friend. All I got was this crappy photo!

Another woman I was sitting by was a woman I had met at a sheep herding training day last fall. She and her dog were entered in the trial and she was telling me all about what the handlers were experiencing, special challenges they were having, and how she was thinking about it all as she prepared for her run. It was really fascinating to hear a handler’s view of all of this as dogs were navigating the course with their sheep.

This photo shows one handler as she uses a whistle to signal her dog what she needs him to do. You can see the sheep at the far right side of the photo. Her dog is way out there with the sheep. I think it’s the tiny dark spec you can see just to the right of the white section of that fence post to the right of the sheep. That shows you how far away from the handler the dog needs to work. Whistles are used to give the dog commands because the whistle carries much farther than a human voice.

It was a pretty perfect day to be outdoors. And the drive home was so beautiful. I took the back roads rather than the interstate and I’m glad I did. The skies were so amazing.

I loved this view as I was driving home.

And as I came around one corner I saw the most amazing streak of purple in a field. I have no idea what is was… likely some kind of bloom.

When I got home I took a few minutes and planted the star jasmine that I bought a couple weeks ago. It was about time I got it in the ground.

It’s about two feet tall. It should grab onto that fence and start climbing any time now. The guy at the garden center said it could grow 6 feet this summer! It already smells so amazing!

On Sunday I joined some friends for pickleball. I intended to ease in slowly because I wanted to see how I felt after my fall. And the good news is that I didn’t feel my ribs or knee at all as I was playing. Since my friends and I only did some drills, when they left I went to another park and joined some open play so I could actually play a few games. And I had a blast!!! It felt really good to get out on the court again. I forced myself to stop after three games. I didn’t want to push myself too far. But I feel great today.

I was pretty much a slug the remainder of the day, except that I did get the boys out for a four mile evening walk since they stayed home while I played pickleball.

I now have five hexagon flowers done. I have enough hexagons basted to make at least another five or six flowers. They are very happy little things.

I did get a little spurt of productivity this evening as we were waiting for it to cool down so we could walk. I got the quilt sandwiches for the bag I’m working on all done. I may quilt them tomorrow night. I also decided on what I’m going to use for the lining. I don’t have very many pieces of the KFC black fabrics left. I’m going to need to replenish my stash.

That gorgeous spiral shells fabric is the perfect choice for the lining.

I have a few Frankenbags made by blog readers to share with you tonight. First up is this one made by my quilting and dog training friend Karin Haderly. This is the second bag she’s made. I’m not sure she enjoyed making it, but I think the experience was less miserable than the first bag she made. I love it! I love that diagonal block. I love all those tiny squares. and I love the wavy piecing on the back. And I love her photos!

Karin is the person who taught me how to paper piece.

This next bag was made by Rose Lochrie. She made this bag for a friend’s daughter who loves green. I love the way she combined the KFC fabrics with other fabrics for a very cool and watery feel. And the addition of the zebra fabric is so fun.

This last bag tonight was made by Marion Wolf. This is the second bag she’s made. I just love the fall feel of this bag. Those deep oranges, blacks and browns with the occasional pops of color are just so yummy!

Another hot day on tap tomorrow and then we’re back into the low 80s and high 70s.

Hexagons Heading Into the Weekend

It’s Friday night and after a short work week I’m really happy the weekend is here.

Not much to talk about tonight. I did whip out one hexagon flower at the end of the work day. I worked for 1.5 hours on my personal day off on June 30, so I cut out of work early today to make up for it.

Here’s today’s flower.

This one went together really quickly and my stitches are looking better on a whole. All the tips I’ve gotten from blog readers have really helped!

I’ve almost gone through all the hexagons I have already basted, so before dinner I hit my sewing room, dug into some impressive bins of scraps, and cut 40 more hexagons.

So far every hexagon I’ve cut is from a different fabric, with just a couple exceptions where different places on the fabric are completely different. So I’ve been digging through a lot of scraps.

Since I see myself making more of these little sets of hexagons to keep myself sane during long and frequent meetings, I’ve been giving a little thought to what I might do with all of these little beauties. So I pulled out some of my low volume black and white fabrics to see how they would work with the hexagons.

First I thought maybe one piece of black and white fabric with a hexi appliqued onto it.

Someone suggested (sorry can’t remember who it was or if it was on Instagram, an email, or a comment) that four patches out of low volume fabrics would make a fun background for these hexagons.

I actually like this approach quite a bit. It’s amazing how just adding some variation with multiple black and white fabrics in each background makes such a difference. I bought a bunch of these fabrics a couple years ago and haven’t used more than a piece or two. It might be time to cut some up!

I’ll still have time to decide, but I’m thinking this might be the direction I go. . . if I don’t completely lose interest in hexagons. I hope I don’t because I just ordered 200 more papers!!!

And now I’m sitting on the sofa at the end of the evening glue basting 40 hexagons and watching pickleball on YouTube. I know. You’re very envious of my life about now!

Gonna toss the dogs in the car and head out to watch a sheep herding trial tomorrow. That sounds to me like a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. And I just occurred to me that I should take some hexagons with me!!!

Oh, I just remembered… I got a phone call from Bender’s neurologist this afternoon. She had received his most recent blood test to check his potassium bromide levels. That’s the anti epilepsy drug she increased after his seizures in January. I told her that he had been seizure free since the increase but that he was still really wobbly and falls down quite a bit while running and playing. So she is going to decrease the dosage to see if it helps. His levels are pretty high, so she feels confident that we have some room to adjust his dosage and still keep his seizures at bay.

Fingers crossed that it helps with his drunken tendencies.

Implementing Suggestions

In reading comments on my blog earlier today I made note of a couple suggestions I wanted to try in sewing my EPP pieces together.

The first suggestion…

Use a headlamp to light your work. I knew I had an unopened package of headlamps I bought at Costco a couple years ago. And I have to say, this was a brilliant (get it? Brilliant!) suggestion! I mean look at this illumination!

This made a HUGE difference in how easy it was to sew these pieces together.

The other suggestion was that I use the ladder stitch rather than a whip stitch. So I went onto YouTube and found a couple videos demonstrating how to do this stitch in EPP. I chose the one I liked the best and got my materials together for a 1.5 hour zoom meeting I had this afternoon.

I got a good portion of this piece sewn in that meeting and was actually participating in the meeting. And my stitches are looking much better. Some sections are virtually invisible. Other sections look like I was a drunken sailor on a ship in the middle of a hurricane. But I am getting better overall.

And I’m realizing that I might have to do a larger project with these because I’ve almost gotten through all the pieces I basted and I have an entire year of project meetings coming up. I might have to do something more complicated than big old hexis.

There were also several people who recommended needles to use. I’ve ordered some needles that should be here tomorrow so I might be able to try them out tomorrow night.

Before dinner tonight I went out and took a walk around my yard to see how things are doing. My apples are really going gangbusters! These usually ripen around the end of July and I’ll be doing a dehydrator full every night. I usually also make a few batches of applesauce if there are enough apples.

Bender thinks they’re ready to eat now, but they seem a little green to me still.

Bender eats a lot of apples when they fall ripe from this tree.

I’ve shared a lot of photos of roses from around my neighborhood, so I thought I’d share some of my own roses.

Those are some determined roses. I basically completely ignore them.

Oh! Take a look at what I ran across on our walk this evening…

There were some really amazing skies here today. This one was from our afternoon walk as we made our way through the park that’s a couple blocks from my house.

This photo was from our evening walk.

Thanks to everyone who commented on my app’s ability to accurately identify plants. And here I was thinking it was really keeping me on top of things. That’s the last time I’ll tell anyone how accurate it is!

One more day and then a weekend! I’m planning on heading down to Scio, OR, to watch a sheep herding trial. Other than that my weekend is free. I think it’s gonna be a hot one.

More Hexis and Some Flower Identification

One of the reasons I wanted to try English paper piecing is because we have a huge year-long database conversion project starting at work and it will include a lot of long Zoom meetings where my mind can tend to wander and I can get antsy.

When we had a similar project a few years ago our project manager brought us things to keep our hands occupied while our brains were busy. Pipe cleaners, adult coloring books, Playdough, and other things. I started taking my knitting projects in so that I could actually make my hands be productive, rather than just noodling around.

And that’s why I thought of trying EPP hexis. I tried them out in my first meeting today. It’s simple and repetitive enough that I was able to stay focused on the conversation, and the hand activity kept me from getting antsy.

I made good progress on this piece during that one meeting, and finished it up easily after our walk this evening.

My stitches are pretty inconsistent. I think it’s due to two things. First, I’m having a hard time seeing what I’m doing. It might be time to get some stronger reading glasses to make this close work easier. Second, it’s likely I’m not using the right needle. So I ordered some needles that people on Instagram recommended when I asked for advice. I also just took a break and ordered some stronger glasses.

I love looking at the back of these EPP pieces. It’s so intricate and regular.

I’ve already selected the next set of pieces to sew together. I’ll keep this on my desk in preparation for tomorrow’s meetings.

Bender thinks this whole EPP thing is a total snooze.

A couple of months ago I downloaded an app to my phone called Seek. It’s made to identify plants and other things. It’s been really fun to ID some of the trees, flowers and shrubs I see on my walks. It does a really good job with flowers and bushes. It’s more challenged with trees and isn’t as successful as returning a definite identification.

I used it on our walks today to ID some flowers I saw. First was this scarlet bee balm. I had never seen this plant before. The blooms are pretty crazy and were the most incredible shade of deep red.

The app also keeps track of the species I’ve identified. So I can go back and find other plants that I’ve identified in the past.

Here’s another plant from today. I remember this bloomer from last year. It’s quite different from all the other hydrangeas we have around here. It has those larger four-petal flowers along with the more fuzzy clusters of smaller blooms. It’s really a cool plant.

Here’s another one we identified today. It was the most amazing color of deep and bright fuchsia on light silvery gray foliage. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the name “rose campion” before.

I also saw this plant and didn’t ID it because I don’t need to. It’s one of my favorite summer bloomers: crocosmia. I picked up a clump of these free in the neighborhood a couple of months ago and planted two large pots on my patio. They are the most amazing color of bright deep orange on delicate grass stems. The plants are about four feet high and move gently on the breeze. I had never seen them until I moved to Portland 12 years ago.

On our walk tonight Rico was very concerned about this sign that was out in the street. He noticed it from a block away! It took some convincing to get him to approach it to check it out.

In that last photo you can see that his posture is allowing him to bolt at the first sign of danger!!! He’s so sensitive for such a big beefcake!

I noticed again today how much better my ribs feel! It’s so nice to see such improvement every day! I’m definitely on the mend.

Big news. I made some home made ice tonight! I’m pretty proud of myself!

And Now For Something Completely Different

I’ve wanted to try some English paper piecing (EPP) for some time. So last week I ordered some hexagon papers and a glue pen. The pen arrived this afternoon so on my afternoon break I started cutting some scraps.

I got 25 of them cut pretty quickly. One of the benefits of having a little organization to your scraps.

After asking a few people I know who do EPP the best basting method, I decided to go with the glue method. So after work I hit my sewing room and glued up the 25 hexis I had cut earlier. It all went pretty quickly.

After our walk I cut 20 more hexis from scraps, for a total of 45. Then I sat down on the sofa and glued up these 20 as I watched some pickleball.

Here’s the second set of 20 that I got all glue basted.

And here’s all 45 on my cutting table… all glue basted and ready to start sewing.

And here they are in a stack because they’re so pretty.

So I selected seven hexagons to sew….

And took these hexis, my thread, needle and scissors out to the living room, moved a nice bright lamp next to the sofa and started sewing.

I don’t love hand sewing, but this is relatively easy. One person did say that the glue basting can make the hand sewing more difficult than thread basting. And I think they’re right. It was a bit of work to get the needle through the edge of those hexagons without going right through the paper. I will definitely try the thread basting method at some time in the future.

So, the hand sewing went pretty well until… well shit…

It was bound to happen.

I did eventually get it sewn together successfully. Not bad for my very first one.

I’m not sure what I’ll make out of these hexagons when done. Maybe a pillow. Or maybe I’ll cut it all up and make it into a pouch.

We’ve been having some really lovely summer weather the last week or so. Today was a little cloudy and it even rained a little tonight. We had some sprinkles through most of our walk.

I noticed on our walk that the daisies are in bloom. Here’s a couple pretty varieties.

The past couple of days Bender has decided that sleeping under a hammock dog bed on the patio is the best thing! I’ve gone out a couple of times and can’t see Bender anywhere, and when I call his name he stands up and up-ends the bed!

I caught him yesterday laying on the bed like this after he had up-ended it.

And this was the spin he put on it today.

He is such a goober!

Agilejack’s Crumb Block Tutorial

Here it is! The long-awaited crumb piecing tutorial. There are some preliminary things I’ll cover here in this post, and then there’s a looong video, included below, to give you a look inside my crumb piecing brain.

I absolutely love crumb piecing. I find it almost meditative… sitting at my machine, matching small pieces of fabric to other small pieces of fabric, taking joy in lovely fabric combos in tiny pieces. It’s free form. It’s easy. There’s something about the quiet repetitiveness of it that is very calming for me. And after a few minutes at my sewing machine, I’ve created some really fun blocks or even a piece of fabric I can use to make something wonderful.

To get started, the first thing I did was dig into my big bucket of scraps and sort out some Kaffe Fassett Collective scraps that are perfect for crumb piecing.

 I decided to go with all KFC fabric scraps, but I’ve done crumb piecing before with only batik scraps. You can use any fabrics you like and mix and match any way you like. You could select fabrics from all one color family (like all reds, or all blues, etc…), you could do all black and white, or you could do all one color family with an occasional pop of a contrasting color thrown in.  

I pulled out some smaller pieces, anywhere from about 1.5×2 inches all the way up to 2.5 x 3 inches or so. Squares, rectangles, triangles, irregular shapes, they all work. I also pulled out some strips.

The video will show some good images of the type of pieces I’m using and how I piece them.

Once I had my pieces selected, I pressed them all and sorted them according to size and shape: larger pieces, smaller pieces, irregular pieces. Then I sat down at the sewing machine and got started.

Before you dive into the video, the one thing I want you to remember is that there are no rules in crumb piecing. Nothing has to line up, no seams have to match, no shapes have to be a particular shape. So relax, have some fun, sew some fabric together, and dive in!

Ok, I promised you that I’d show you some things that can be made with crumb piecing. So here we go.

This quilt is probably my favorite of all I’ve ever made. I haven’t had it quilted yet, but it will stay with me when it’s done. I made crumb blocks and squared them up to 8 inches and then added borders and sashing.

You can also use crumb piecing to make a bag. Either make the bag out of entirely crumb pieced fabric like this one…

Or use various sized crumb blocks like in these Frankenbags.

Here’s a deconstructed look at how you can incorporate crumb blocks in a bag:

I made this batik wall hanging out of crumb blocks.

I later cut this wall hanging into four pieces and made two Frankenbags. Here’s one of them.

I hope the video is clear. Let me know if you have any questions or need clarifications.

A Good Weekend So Far

I’ve had a good weekend with one more day to go. I haven’t done any sewing until I did a little tonight as I started working on my crumb piecing tutorial. I may never make it through this big bucket of small scraps.

I keep that big fabric basket right next to my cutting table and just drop the smaller fabric pieces and strips in there as I’m cutting. Then occasionally I’ll dump it all out and sort it. That’s not my favorite thing to do.

I took Rico for his weekly sheep herding lesson yesterday morning. We worked on driving, which is having dog drive the sheep away from you. Their natural tendency is to want to bring the sheep to the handler. It takes some training to get the dog to push the sheep away. We basically spent an hour just pushing the sheep around a big field.

Rico was a good boy. It wasn’t a ton of physical work but it WAS a lot of brain work.

After our weekly lesson we hightailed it down to Mollala, OR, for a herding lesson with another trainer who comes to town every few weeks. We had another good lesson and then went for a nice forest walk. Here’s a Five Minute Artsy Forest Walk video I made.

And a few photos… Some daisies and blackberry blooms.

And there was lots and lots of foxglove.

And it looks like some robins hatched in the last few days.

And some of my favorite… the trees.

And more trees.

And, of course, some dogs in there.

I took the boys for a nice walk this morning, then came home and planned what I was going to make for a potluck with friends tonight. I decided a chickpea salad with lots of fresh veggies and fresh herbs sounded good. Here’s the ingredients.

You can find the full recipe on Pinterest.

My house smelled so good with all those fresh herbs in the air! It was a really good salad and I’ll definitely make it again.

It was nice to spend a few hours with friends and good food. And my boys got to run free in the yard with my friend’s dogs as we talked and ate. Rico, again, fell in love with my friend’s pug. He licked and licked that poor pug.

When I left I bent down to give that pug a pat and his ears were soaking wet!

Here’s Bender wondering where all the food is.

I’ve gotten some Frankenbag photos from blog readers over the last week. Let’s get started. This first bag was made by Marion Wolf who lives in Franken, Germany! She made this bag from scraps leftover from a quilting project and she made so many crumb blocks she has enough to make another bag, which she’s already started on. She did some fun decorative stitches on the handles.

This next bag was made by Kellie Maurer Smith. This is Kellie’s fourth Frankenbag and it’s for her to keep. She’s already planning another one and will put a zipper in the next one. I love her casual and quick approach to her bags. They look like they would go really well with blue jeans and a white t-shirt.

Next is this bag made by Karen Jane Quick. She used some extra batting on this bag and I like the effect that give the quilting. I love the piecing and she added that sweet little embroidered pocket. I love it when people customize their bags!

These next two bags were made by Cindy Jahn Thomas. She said, “I finally made time to make one using a couple pinwheel orphan blocks. I didn’t especially like the completed bag initially but it has grown on me. Learned a few things—inside pocket placement (too high for my liking on this bag) an” d to not place a focus block or design element too low on the panel.” I just love that each project can be an opportunity to learn! I love all those little pinwheels and stars! Looking forward to what Cindy makes next

Next is this bag from Lesley Nammar. Here’s what Lesley said about her bag:

“I used  Gondwana by Oasis fabric designs and Grunge for Moda. I did fussy cut because I love the Australian  animals and wanted to show case them. Also my 1st time to applique – hearts. This bag goes to my fabulous  step daughter who loves anything quilted and animals of all kinds.” What a great gift for someone special! She did a great on on her aplique and her quilting is really fun.

And finally, this bag made by Sara Rajagopalan. She went all out and made a curve pieced block for one side of her bag. And look how she quilted it! it’s so perfect with that curved block. She’s used some really fun fabrics and she’s done a really nice job making it, including two roomy zipper pocket on the inside and a zipper placket.

Thanks to everyone who sent photos.

Force Myself Friday

I really had to force myself to hit my sewing room after our walk tonight. I made the mistake of sitting down on the patio with some iced tea to cool down and it was so nice I didn’t want to come inside.

I just love these long summer evenings. And the weather was pretty much perfect today.

I did eventually force myself to trudge down the hall and started looking at my crumb blocks and the fabric I had pulled the other night and then started cutting. I managed to finish two bag panels tonight.

Here’s one finished and one showing the different elements of the bag panel.

If you look very closely at my bags, they all have the same three elements:

  1. A larger block element in the upper left.
  2. A vertical element on the right
  3. A filler block at the bottom left

These elements differ a little in size and design from bag to bag, but they’re almost always the same. Occasionally I do mix them up.

Here’s a close up of each panel. I just love these dark fabrics. And I have to confess, this first panel is really wonky! I made the mistake of not straightening the cut edge on the blue shirt stripes fabric before I cut the strips from it. I think the wonkiness will be hidden once it’s quilted.

Oof! So wavy and wonky!

Here’s the other panel. It’s much more straight.

It’s a good thing I don’t let a little wonkiness bother me!

Here’s the two finished panels side by side.

I’m pretty happy that I finished these panels and I actually enjoyed working on them. Interesting since I really had to force myself.

I took a close look at my tomatoes today and found these cuties.

They’re pretty tiny! It will still be awhile before I get to enjoy my first home grown tomatoes.

But look what I get to enjoy for my breakfast! I picked these tonight. I did cheat and eat the biggest, reddest one

That’s a full pint container! Definitely the best strawberry harvest I’ve ever had. I just love going into my back yard and gathering delicious food!

Found another lily that popped open in one of the pots my neighbor gave me. This one seemed to come out of nowhere.

I’m happy to report that the porta potty at the end of my driveway was removed yesterday! And now I wonder what all the lawn maintenance people in the neighborhood are going to do…

I’ve continued to be pretty sore after my pickleball fall two weeks ago. My knee is doing pretty well but my ribs have been hurting. But today I feel so much better! I’m confident that I’m on the mend.

And a Bender update: He continues to be seizure-free since his meds were increased. I had another blood test last week and his levels of potassium bromide are the same as they were two months ago. I’m going to put a call into his neurologist and see if we should decrease the dose. He is really weak on his rear end. He has a hard time getting up and falls down pretty often when we’re playing ball or frisbee in the back yard. I think we can probably safely decrease the dose.

Rico has two sheep herding lessons tomorrow — his regular lesson up in Battle Ground, WA, and then another one down in Molalla, OR, in the afternoon. We’ll get a chance to take a forest hike while we’re down in Molalla.