Category: Hobbies

Changing Gears: Outdoor to Indoor Hobbies

Quilt top before layeringWe are about halfway through the fall season. Much of the time it feels more like winter. However, we still have some afternoons that are enjoyable without jackets. The changing weather means it is time for changing gears with respect to hobbies. The garden has been put to bed and the quilt room is now the focus of activity.

Late last spring I wrote about panel quilts. The Love Quilt was patiently waiting for me to finish piecing. So that is where my time has been spent this week. The strip blocks had been completed. But the four side blocks remained a mystery. So it was time to consult my quilt books. The trick was to find or adapt patterns to fit the 9 inch width I needed to line up with the strip blocks.

This is not an easy task. Instead of focusing on watering schedules and harvesting time tables, my mind is changing gears and contemplating fractions. Two of the blocks are old favorites; the Log Cabin and The Trip around the World. Two were new patterns. All involve math.

The first of the new patterns requires the kaleidoscope tool. This plastic wedge indicates block sizes along the edge. The tool had a 9 inch grid. Thus the decision to include this block.

The last of the blocks involved using a new technique. I cut a 9 inch square and then folded it diagonally. Next, I sewed strips of various widths to half the block in a triangle pattern. The second half was folded back so it would not be caught in the seams. After enough strips were joined, edges were trimmed and the bottom triangle removed.

My reluctance to use this technique stems from a concern of wasting fabric. But I am saving the triangle in one of my scrap boxes which I do dive into often. This way of piecing was much faster. If the extra piece is used in the near future, I will be more likely to repeat the process.

Changing Gears- Indoor Hobbies and Activities

In addition to the extra time spent in the quilt room, my attempts at acrylic painting continue. At the recent book sale I purchased Creative Painting from Photographs by Rudy De Reyna. My hope was to improve my technique.

Inspired by a former colleague’s beautiful aspen paintings I have attempted some of my own. In the picture to the right, I attempt to copy the popular technique seen in many galleries. The second painting (still unfinished) is from a series of photos. I have found De Reyna’s book helpful. Once that painting is finished, I will post it in one of my monthly wrap-up columns.

 

Of course changing weather gives more time for reading. I am into part two of Book One of The Stormlight Archive. This is Brandon Sanderson’s novel The Way of Kings. Quite captivating so far. However, the thousand plus pages will take some time to read.

The holidays are just around the corner. Soon I will add baking into the mix. I may be changing gears from outdoor to indoor, but activity is still at full speed. Retirees can be very busy!

Library Book Sale

A dozen booksMy community holds book sales twice a year. I try not to miss these sales. Each book sale benefits the local library. Naturally the books come from a wide range of sources. Many people buy books and then donate them. Some are even current releases.

A few even come from the library itself. I asked our librarian how they determine which books stay on the shelves and which go into the sale. Her response disclosed quite a bit of thought and planning.

Of course, the library naturally looks at check-out rates. If the book is consistently checked out, it stays on the shelves. But other factors come into play. Even if the check-out rates are not high, some books are kept. For example, if the book is from a local author, it may stay on the shelves a bit longer. Other reasons to keep a book is if it is the seminal book on a particular topic. Or if it is a classic which will most likely come back in demand.

Book Donations

Most of the books at this sale were donated. Sometimes the donations come from estates. But other times homeowners are just making room on their shelves for new books. This recycling of books allows more people access to reading material.
There is a downside for writers. Resell books do not provide royalties.

In defense of both book sales and used book stores, I find many new to me authors from these sources. Then I look for their new works. For example, I bought Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child as a resell. In fact, I enjoyed the book so much that another member of the household was persuaded to read it. A few months later I spotted City of Endless Night which Child recently co-wrote with Douglas Preston. Since I enjoyed Terminal Freeze so much, it was easy to choose that book over another.

An upside to these sales is getting books into households that may not have the ability to buy reading material at retail prices. My county has a low household income average. Reading is a major factor in increasing knowledge. This in turn can increase the standard of living.

Do you have library book sales in your town or county? How do you support these efforts? Which of the above books should I read first?

Tables of Books on Sale

Personal Challenges

Aspen trees leaning
Falling Aspen Trees

Most often personal challenges are discussed at the beginning of the year. Many articles and blogs write about New Year’s resolutions. Sometimes, people discuss challenges during the summer. These tests usually involve athletic feats such as triathlons or Xtreme Hikes.

I heard recently from some of the readers taking the no alcohol challenge. For those who may have missed the original post click here. One of the readers even cited a statistic from the recent WHO report as written about in The Guardian. Deaths linked to alcohol top 5% with the percentage among the younger population numbering in the double digits.

If you are one of the readers still participating in the no alcohol until Halloween pact please let us know how things are going in the comment section below. How are you feeling? Are your activity levels higher? Any unexpected side-effects?

On a personal note, I find it hard to cut out sugar. Chocolate and ice cream are my downfall cravings. I try to limit chocolate to no more than one ounce a day, preferring dark chocolate. However, after participating in the Vail Xtreme Hike, I could not consume enough chocolate for about 30 hours afterwards. I even had two small-sized packages of peanut butter chocolate M&M’s during the hike. I am happy to say the chocolate craving is rapidly diminishing.

Vail Xtreme Hike

The Vail Xtreme Hike was personally fulfilling. My Gear S2 indicated 22.4 miles were covered. That would include the walk to and from the starting line. But what I gained the most from participating was social. Individual hikers and volunteers all had different stories and motivations. Many, but not all, knew individuals directly affected by Cystic Fibrosis. The fundraising effort is an important part of the event. Even more important is the reason for the funds. I am glad I hiked up, around and down Vail Mountain.

Most would see covering the twenty miles at altitude difficult. The altitude at the bottom was roughly 8500 feet above sea level. Climbers making it to the highest elevation at Buffalo Creek reached an elevation of 11,500 feet.

View of Mountain
Climbing Vail Mountain

However, discussing personal experiences face-to-face was the toughest part for me. I am by nature an introvert. I love participating in online groups and thrived in online classes. But sharing one-on-one is tough. In person, you share not only your words but your body language as well. Unless you are a heavy user of emoticons, the written word can help you hide emotions.

Even though it is only late September, I am giving some thought to next year’s resolutions. So far, I am meeting the ones set for this year. The social aspect has been tough at times but is where I have had the most growth. I still need to pick up two new skills. But, I have a quarter of the year left.

Personal challenges can be physical or mental. Both allow for growth. Feel free to share some of your challenges and accomplishments in the comment section below.

Endurance

Endurance is defined as the ability to withstand hardship or adversity according to Merriam-Webster. The first use of this word traces back to the 15th Century. My belief is the usage at that time revolved around the hardship of living from day-to-day.

At present the word is used as both a noun and an adjective. In some parts of the world endurance references day-to-day survival just as in the 15th Century. However, endurance also connotes the ability to perform certain types of athletic feats. Examples would be marathons (or ultramarathons), triathlons (Iron Man), and mountain climbing (Think Mt. Everest).

Fund Raising

Tests of endurance have become a part of fundraising for various causes. In 2010, I participated in the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM). To gain an entry spot my running partner and I needed to run a qualifying race at Quantico. Since the MCM is affiliated with a government entity, the organization itself does not raise fund for a charity. However, runners are allowed to raise funds in support of an organization of their choice. We raised money for the scholarship fund at our local community college.

Another test of endurance is the Tough Mudder. Not long after the MCM, I witnessed rather than participated in this obstacle course. Crawling through the mud and crossing streams via rope netting were doable but I balked at the idea of running through dangling wires, some with electrical currents. However, I supported my colleagues with my presence and my donation. The team raised funds for The Wounded Warrior Project.

Soon I will participate in an Xtreme Hike to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis. This test of endurance will include hiking 20 miles up and down Vail Mountain in Colorado with an altitude change of 3250 feet. Any sane person will ask, why not just donate? Why push the limits? Endurance is the answer.

Cystic Fibrosis

For the individuals I personally know with Cystic Fibrosis, endurance is needed for day-to-day living. The disease affects the lungs and the pancreas. It is an inherited disease. Thus someone is born with it. At this point in time there is no cure. But research scientists are working hard to develop better treatments as well as to find a cure.

Current treatments include pancreatic enzymes such as Creon taken with each meal and snack, bronchodilators and airway clearance vest machines. (Hopefully insurance companies now cover the airway clearance vests. I fought an insurance company for two years over the necessity of this expensive machine.)These are everyday treatments.

Anytime a CF patient becomes ill, treatments intensify. Courses of antibiotics and additional bronchodilators are added to the daily regimen. More time is spent on airway clearance. Sometimes the airway clearance is measured in hours. Thus, endurance becomes second nature to the patient. And the caregiver.

Endurance

The CF patient raised in my home is now an adult living half a country away. I no longer have the day-to-day responsibility of a caregiver. But endurance is an ingrained fiber of my being. Therefore, I plan to participate in both the fundraising and the hiking. If my offspring can endure in the face of adversity so can I. But sometimes I need to prove this to myself.

Participating in Xtreme Hike Vail is one way to reaffirm my commitment. The physical duress will pale in comparison to the hardship faced by those afflicted with this disease. There is no way to mimic their challenges. But empathy is an important part of human nature. I think the stresses on the lungs of physical activity at ten thousand feet above sea level will simulate the challenge breathing holds for those with Cystic Fibrosis. Just breathing. Something to think about.

So I am adding a link to the hike on the sidebar or you can click here to donate. Those of you who personally know me can find my team. Just scroll down to the Top Teams Box and click on “more.” For everyone else, pick a team, any team. The cause is what is so important. Please consider donating to this worthy cause. Individuals with Cystic Fibrosis are the epitome of endurance.

July 2018 Wrap-Up

July 2018

July has been a whirlwind! So many things to share and I hardly know where to start. So I think I’ll shoot for a mix between chronological and focus events.

Cataracts

The month began with my second cataract surgery. I did not feel outwardly as apprehensive as with the first surgery. But my vital signs contradicted this feeling. My blood pressure was quite high for me. So I think I was given a little more relaxant. I don’t remember nearly as much this time. No visions of pretty colors. Just my husband waving from the viewing room after the surgery.

However, the recovery has been much easier. I experienced some of the same irritations as the first time. But knew those were signs of healing and did not panic. I even managed to give myself the regimen of eye drops during some of the post-surgery days.

Wheat Harvest

Immediately following the surgery, we visited with relatives during the Fourth of July celebration. This is a favorite holiday of mine. I live on the edge of wheat country and our visit was in the heartland. Many years harvest coincides with the nation’s birthday.

Wheat harvest is a bustle of activity for the farm communities. This year was no exception. Custom harvesters work alongside the resident farmers. Many custom cutters follow the harvest from South to North. These travelling harvesters fill the hotels and restaurants adding economically to the small towns. Of course there is outflow money too. Payments vary from flat rates to percentages.

This year I watched from inside the vehicle. As is typical for that part of the country, the wind was blowing. I did not want any wheat chaff to blow into my eyes. So no combine ride for me. Maybe next year I can visit and capture the view. For now I can only share a photo of the grain transfer.

Grain cart dumping wheat into truck.
Grain falling into truck.

Des Moines

Immediately following the July 4th visit to the wheat fields, I journeyed to Des Moines. This beautiful city deserved a post all its own. If you missed it click on Destination Des Moines. I consider this state capitol a hidden jewel. Maybe you can visit sometime.

Econogal’s Garden

Returning from Des Moines, I could devote time to my garden. The production continues to amaze me. I easily doubled the amount of produce from June. By the end of July, most of my salad greens bolted. I am letting a few plants go to seed. Each year I try to learn more about saving seed.

However, the Swiss chard is coming into its own and we are using this green along with beet leaves in our smoothies and salads. Other fruits and vegetables harvested in July include tomatoes, peppers, acorn squash, zucchini, yellow squash, peas, green beans, peaches, green grapes, eggplant, beets, cucumbers, cantaloupe, and tomatillo. We also continue to enjoy our many herbs. Because of a week-long visit to Orlando, I do not have an exact amount on the harvest weight.

Orlando

My trips to Central Florida are frequent. I have family there. My Mom is in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s. She receives good care at a nursing home. But best of all for her, she has my Dad visit every day for hours at a time. So sometimes he needs a respite. That is where I come in. I am her other security blanket.

Many of you know someone who is affected by some form of dementia. Brain disease is at the forefront of scientific study because of the growing numbers impacted. I write often about brain health. If you use the search bar at the top of this blog for brain, numerous posts will pop up. Now you know why I have such a personal interest. I intend to keep my brain as healthy as possible for as long as possible. One way is by Maintaining Physical Health. So I jumped at the chance to sponsor a triathlon.

Rocky Ford Melon-Man Triathlon 2018

Saturday August 4th is the date for this year’s triathlon in Rocky Ford. Proceeds from the event are used to support the town’s swimming pool. I love fundraising linked to improved infrastructure as much as I do those events that raise money for research. So Econogal is proud to be a sponsor for this event.

A triathlon is a competition involving three sporting events; swimming, biking and running. The Rocky Ford Melon-Man Triathlon is designed for both individuals and teams. For example, if you are a runner who hates to swim, you can partner with a swimmer who can’t stand running.

The distances are doable. The swim is 250 meters, the bike ride is 10 miles and the run is a 5 K. So if you are in driving distance of Rocky Ford, Colorado consider entering the triathlon this weekend. Click here for a link to the registration. If you can’t compete this year please share this post so the word can spread and consider entering next year!

Daniels’ Running Formula Book Review

Of the many training books I own, Daniels’ Running Formula is one of my favorites. I have the original edition. But you can find copies of the 3rd edition online through the major booksellers. I used this book to train for a marathon. But other distances are covered too. Indeed, Daniels has a formula for all distances and all types of runners.

Four Keys to Success

Jack Daniels states there are four keys to successful running. First is inherent ability. Even though runners come in various shapes and sizes, certain body types lend to more success. This was important during my competitive running days. But I find I still enjoy running even with a bit of a middle age spread. However, even if I no longer strive to cross the line first, I believe proper training is essential to avoid injury. Thus Daniels’ Running Formula is still consulted.

The other keys are motivation, opportunity and direction. In discussing each, Daniels focus is on competitive running as is much of the book. His discussion of each of the four keys leads into the three parts comprising the body of the work. I believe these ten pages are worth reading. However they contain philosophy as opposed to the more scientific approach used in the remainder of the book.

Program Planning

Part I of the book is composed of three chapters. Daniels uses graphs to illustrate increase of training stress to optimize the level of competitiveness. Naturally, I appreciated the fact that he included a diagram illustrating diminishing returns. The author uses these early chapters to introduce some important biological concepts. A thorough discussion of the cardiovascular system is covered by Daniels.

For the serious runner, there are detailed instructions to create and utilize aerobic profiles. Various charts and illustrations in Daniels’ Running Formula aid in the understanding of the shared concepts. The reader is forewarned; quite a bit of this first section is tough to comprehend. But I believe it is the most important part of the book for competitive runners.

Formula for Training

The second section and bulk of the writing concentrates on training. This part starts with a section on building base. A base level of fitness will vary by individual. Couch potatoes will need to start from scratch. Daniels discusses how to build your fitness level even if you are a less experienced runner.

He also makes clear that slower speeds end up stressing a body more than a quicker tempo. Thus, someone running ten minute miles will work harder than a six-minute miler. Therefore, in the beginning, time measurement of running is as important as distance.

The training section is easier to understand in general. Although you will still have charts requiring knowledge of maximum aerobic capacity. Daniels guides the runner through the set-up of a training program. Explanations of various training techniques are covered. Interval running, marathon pace, fartlek, easy runs and hard runs are all discussed. He includes everything.

Racing

The final section is geared toward racing. Many think of racing in terms of high school and college students. Or they conjure up memories of Olympians. But racing is a positive for all runners. Even my small town of 7500 has multiple running events each year. I have even travelled to a town of under 500 for a road race.

In Daniels’ Running Formula, the racing section first covers the basics. This includes topics such as clothing, shoes, sleep and stretching. The first chapter also discusses how to pick the races and has some psychological pep talk as well.

The next three chapters are focused on race distance. The author breaks the distances into what I would call short (or even very short) medium and long. Chapter 12 is 1500-3000 meter racing. Then, Chapter 13 is 5-15K distance. Chapter 14 covers half and full marathons.

Since high school I have raced only once at the 1500 meter distance. My marathon training partner talked me into the race. It started 30 minutes after we completed the qualifying 10K. Needless to say, my race time was not impressive. But I digress.

Daniels includes a race strategy for each distance. He also provides a training calendar with workout descriptions. Runners who are already conditioned can consult these last chapters repeatedly.

Throughout the book, Daniels spotlights some top individuals in the sport. It was fun to read about Jack Bachelor (I lived in Gainesville when he did and loved spotting him on his runs) and Joan Benoit Samuelson (an all-time favorite.) Read the book to find out if your all-time favorite runner is highlighted.

I recommend buying this book if you are serious about your running. You will improve your performance. If you are not a runner but have one in the family, Daniels’ Running Formula makes a great gift.

June 2018 Wrap-Up

Purple and green basil.
Oven Dried Basil
Cherries pitted and in baking dish.
June cherries for a crisp.
First harvest of Beets

This year continues to fly by! Now that June has run its course we are officially half-way through the year. Here in the Northern Hemisphere we are now experiencing days shortening. However, summer still has many hours of sunlight ahead.

June Garden Update

My part of the United States has already experienced multiple days of triple digit heat. So many in fact that I have lost count. However, the garden continues to produce. During the month of June almost 50 pounds of produce was harvested. The edibles included various greens, root vegetables, squash, peas and the first of the cucumbers and tomatoes. Also included in the harvest;cherries and gooseberries. I did lose the broccoli crop to the flea beetles and the pesky pests shortened the harvest of the kale.

Planting seeds continues as spots come open. I even plopped some old seed into the ground and will report on whether or not the seed is still good at a later date. My potato bag experiment may be headed for a second year of failure. One plant did not withstand the 1.1 inches of rain we had one night. Roots did not drain well.

Cataract Surgery

The first of the eye surgeries is behind me. The clarity now that the cataract is removed is unbelievable. I am still anxious about the next surgery but hope the outcome is just as good. My reading remains a bit behind my usual pace. Since my regular glasses no longer work on one eye, I limit reading time to an hour at a time. (Computer time follows the same limit.) This helps eliminate headaches from eye strain.

Travel included trips to two Garden Cities. Please visit the post on Summer Street Fairs from Garden City, New York. The other Garden City served as the location for my cataract surgery. Both cities are thriving.

Reading Materials

Due to the eye surgery, I have focused on reading newspaper articles and blog posts. The Wall Street Journal continues to serve as my go to newspaper source. There was a very interesting article on the equality of the bottom three quintiles. The article posited this emerging equality as the reason President Trump won the 2016 election. Very interesting.
Blogs are some of my favorite reading sources. I especially enjoy those that discuss books or gardening (or both.) One blog I like for the honest reviews is Life of Chaz. Another post which I loved paired wine and summer books, you can click here for that post. I do miss reading my mysteries and all the new books at my library. Thus, I am looking forward to getting my eyes back to normal.

June 2018 has come and gone. My month was super productive. What about yours?

Quilt in a Day: Log Cabin Quilt Book Review

Eleanor Burns’ Quilt in a Day log cabin pattern was the first how-to quilt book I ever purchased. I still use it over thirty years later. Burns is very straightforward with her directions. She begins the book with a brief history of the log cabin pattern. Then the detailed instruction begins.

Charts

Burns provides multiple charts to aid the planning of a log cabin quilt. First are worksheets to pin fabric swatches on. These sheets keep the sewing order on track. Also included are yardage charts. Each of the charts indicate the application of block arrangements. This is useful because only the Field and Furrow arrangement can always work. The many other arrangements require specific numbers of blocks. So if you want a Barn Raising Log Cabin quilt, you must make sure to use the correct block arrangement.

The yardage charts also provide the accurate amount of fabric to buy. The yardage varies by the size of the log cabin quilt and the placement of the fabric within the quilt design. I have made many quilts using these charts and I have yet to be short or overly long on fabric.

Log Cabin quilts key on color contrasts. Burns breaks up the charts between lights and darks. However, contrast can be between colors opposite each other on the color wheel. An example is using red and green in a Christmas themed log cabin design. In such a scenario, just assign one of the colors to the light chart and the other to the dark side.

Burns labels the next chart the tearing chart. She is big proponent of this technique. However, I am a rotary cutter fan. The tearing charts still apply. Preparing the strips all at once is key to this method of quilting.

Log Cabin Block Assembly

After all the fabric is in strips, the blocks are ready to sew. Burns provides the illustration in assembling the quilt. For a first time quilter, these diagrams are extremely helpful.

Once the blocks are made they can be previewed in the various log cabin variations. Burns includes diagrams indicating block arrangement for each log cabin variation. The book is a fantastic guide for the many designs.

The next section gives instruction on piecing the blocks together. Burns discusses the practice of butting the pieces together. This allows continuous sewing and saves time. Also, the technique avoids wasting thread.

The author does an excellent job of walking the beginning quilter through the entire process. The log cabin quilt is one of my favorites. I love the contrasts of both color and hue. Values of color really show off the different arrangements. If you are interested in learning to quilt, I highly recommend this book.

Econogal’s Redecorating Tips

Redecorating either a residential property or a business office offers many challenges. Color schemes, style, textures, form and function, and cost all play a role. Interior decorators make these decisions for a living. But if you have an eye for color, a flair for combining things and can stick to a budget, you can meet the challenge yourself.

Budgeting

The first step is the budgeting. Know how much you are willing to spend. My personal preference is to save up for a project. But sometimes repairs or updating necessitate borrowing to complete the project. Of course an important part of the process is knowing how much things cost before you start.

Therefore, I spend a lot of time before I begin a project both online and in stores to determine an average cost. Individuals living in metropolitan areas are fortunate to have competition keep prices down. Rural areas often pay higher prices or have to go out-of-town. Of course this creates an economic leakage from those communities. But I digress.

My rule of thumb on buying is to buy local as often as I can. This might mean paying as much as 15% more. Above that point are some gray areas until you reach the 40% point. I am unwilling to give this much of a premium to a business just because of locale.

Redecorating with Color

After the budget is determined and the funds obtained the fun begins. I start all redecorating projects with a color scheme. The basics of the color wheel are discussed in an earlier blog post Color Wheel Use in Art and Life. Redecorating does add a challenge in the use of color that building from scratch does not have.

This challenge comes in the form of existing components. For example, one project I am currently working on is an office building with beautiful woodwork, red brick and brushed nickel in the interior. The woman’s bathroom is baby pink and the men’s baby blue. The exterior has greened copper roofing, brown and pink paint. All date from about forty years ago.
A similarly aged structure in a nearby town was gutted and rebuilt from the shell, but the cost involved in this type of rebuild are huge. Furthermore, an ongoing business does not have the luxury of shutting down the workflow just to make improvements. Therefore, incorporating the old into the new is imperative.

Fresh paint alone can perk up a space. The trick is finding the right color. The type of company may influence the color choice as can the personalities of not just the employees but also the customers. In some cases an off white or neutral makes sense. Other times call for bold, striking color combinations.

The biggest tip I can give you is to not rely on either paint chips or computer simulations. Find a small piece of drywall and paint it. Then take this sample into the room or building you are redecorating. A two foot square sample is the minimum size I would use.

Sample Size

Carpet, tile, laminate and solid surface large size samples.
Large size samples needed when redecorating.

The same applies to other samples. Once you have narrowed down your selection of carpet, laminate, or solid surface, ask for a larger sample. The tiny chips are tough to read. This holds true for tile as well.

A further step is needed. Go online and search for examples of the product in use. You do not want any surprises. A case in point involves the current tile samples I am considering from Shaw Floors. Shown are samples of the Shaw Marvelous Mix Stainless in 350 Fossil Rock (lower left) and 770 Woodland Park (upper right). Online applications show key differences from the tile samples I have. The Fossil Rock has a very dark tile and the Woodland Park has quite a bit of blue. Yet the samples I have do not show either. The dark tile will blend in with the other materials I am using.  But, the blue would stick out like a sore thumb. In this particular case the decision between the two is easy because of the color not seen on the samples.

Textures Revolutionizing Redecorating

Fortunately, for the above project, metals are making a comeback. The brushed nickel look can blend with either silver or tin. The style you are trying to achieve will determine which you want to use. Tin tends to lend a country look, while silver gives a more formal presentation.

Interior wall with lower quarter stone and remainder raised wood.
Combination of stone and wood wall. Both are three-dimensional.

The metals add texture. But other treatments can extend this three-dimensional look. Stone in particular is making a comeback. One can see applications of stone both on the exterior and the interior. The stone can be combined with other finishes. I like a two item approach because I believe stone can be overpowering. You may not be able to see from the photo but the wood in this picture has varying thicknesses as well as differing widths. I love the combination of stone and wood especially because both are multi-dimensional.

Finally, a balance between form and function is important. An office or home needs to operate, not just look good. But in many cases a utilitarian look that is highly functional can be off-putting to customers. Additionally, a home that looks nice and functions is a home not a showcase. Perhaps in another life I will want a showcase. But for now I need a dual purpose place to live. My redecorating will reflect this balance.

Color Wheel Use in Art and Life

Color Wheel 

My elementary school had an art teacher. Each week the class went to the art room twice for an hour at a time. The art teacher taught us many basic principles. We learned about dimension, texture, line of sight, shading and shadowing, balance and proportion along with many other art elements. But most important, in my opinion, we mastered the color wheel.

Mastery of the concepts put forth by the color wheel is important both in artwork and everyday life. Think about how toddlers dress themselves. Most mix and match with abandon. As adults few can get away with clashing outfits. Homes and workplaces are more pleasant if colors are coordinated. Use of the color wheel can create harmony in our lives.

Basics of the Color Wheel

The primary colors of the color wheel are red, blue and yellow. These three colors combine with each other or with neutral colors to make all known colors. Secondary colors are blends of two of the three colors. These colors are green (yellow and blue) orange (yellow and red) and violet (red and blue.) As kids we used the term purple for violet. The three secondary colors have an equal amount of each pigment.

Tertiary colors are a blend of a primary color with a secondary color. The six colors are yellow-orange, yellow-green, red-orange, red-violet, blue-green and blue-violet. The tertiary colors are placed adjacent to the primary colors on the color wheel.

Values of colors

Value refers to the amount of lightness (or darkness) a color has. This concept is tricky because a color’s surroundings impact its value. The exercise often used in art classes is to use two squares the same color and size surrounded by vastly different colors. The neighboring colors make the squares appear dissimilar. The pictures below illustrate the difference. The orange blocks in the middle are all the same size.

Contrasting three same size orange blocks on black, white and yellow sheets.
The center orange blocks are all the same size.
Orange squares of same size on black and white sheets.
The orange squares appear to be dissimilar in size.
Orange diamonds on black and yellow backgrounds,
Even using to bold backgrounds still creates a difference.

A contrast of color can be achieved by using different values instead of different colors. Thus a monochromatic color scheme (using just one color) can create depth and contrast. One of my favorite artist’s is Quang Ho. In his painting Harmony in Whites, he creates a beautiful stallion. Although there are a few bits of color in the horse tack and some shadowing, the overall impression is one of a white stallion in a white background. Thus a monochromatic color scheme. Yet the horse pops out of the painting as if he is in the room. Both depth and contrast are evident as you can see in the photo.

Warm and Cool Colors

The color wheel divides into warm and cool colors. Yellow and violet are the dividers. The reds stretching from red-violet to yellow-orange are the warm colors. The cool colors are opposite on the wheel and are found from yellow-green to blue-violet. The acrylic painting depicted below is one of cool blue tones with a splash of red for contrast. The warmth of the red adds a spark to the artwork. In the quilt Sophie the Cat is admiring, the overall tone is warm. Again there is some contrast provided with the addition of a cool color.

An abstract painting in blues with a splash of red accent.
Cool colors
A striped cat with a quilt featuring warm orange tones.
Sophie the Cat with a warm quilt.

Color Schemes

In both cases, the tone of the contrasting color was important. This is where the color wheel becomes so useful. Knowledge of how the colors combine is critical. Colors directly opposite one another on the wheel are considered complementary colors even though they are contrasting. For example red and green are complementary; think Christmas. The contrasting colors harmonize. However, in some applications complementary colors are difficult for the eye to process. You would not want books of blue pages and orange ink, even if you are a Florida Gator fan.

Analogous colors are colors that are adjacent on the color wheel. Yellow-orange, orange and red-orange are analogous. This blending of colors can be very soothing to the eye but care must be taken so the result is not boring. On the other hand, contrasting between two sets of analogous colors can be quite pleasing to the eye.

Monochromatic schemes are based on one color altered by tints or shades. Tints are created by adding varying amounts of white. Shades are achieved by adding differing quantities of black. Greying occurs by mixing two contrasting colors together. Thus Easter eggs dipped in all the colors becomes a muddied grey/brown depending on the dye colors.

Resources of Color Theory

Unfortunately, many schools today no longer have art teachers and so the task of teaching art falls on the classroom teacher. Time spent on art is also limited so that often the time spent on art is geared toward creativity. Kids need to have creative expression. However, the time constraint can mean art theory is not covered as thoroughly as in the past. Thus, only students who pursue an art education may fully understand the many nuances of the color wheel.

Fortunately there are many sources available for the motivated self-learner. One of my favorite books is a color workbook for quilters. Color and Cloth by Mary Coyne Penders does go beyond the color wheel to include textures and scales. But there is an abundance of color theory. This is a great book for quilters even if they are confident in there color selection.

Another book I own is Color: A Stroke of Brilliance by Leslie Harrington with Joan Mackie. This paperback published by Benjamin Moore Paints is geared toward use of color for interior designs. This has the basics of color wheel theory and has many sections of questions and answers. I refer to this book frequently when working on interiors in commercial locations as well as in my own home.

Finally, in this age of internet, I like several websites. For color theory, visit Tigercolor which does a nice job covering the basics with an option of purchasing ColorImpact. Another site I like and use is Benjamin Moore. I use their Personal Color Viewer when I am working on projects. Simply upload a photo of the room and then follow the instructions to see how color changes the look.

Color theory is ingrained in my being. I love color in nature, in the home and in my work. Please feel free to share how you use color every day.

 

 

Designing Panel Quilts

4 patch quiltI am currently working with  panels designed to be made into a table runner but I plan to turn the material into a crib or lap quilt. Panel Quilts allow my creative juices to flow. But I don’t make them often and have only turned one into a kit. Sometimes panel quilts can be difficult to work with.

 

School Quilt

Many years ago we had a quilt store in our little town. The owner was a neighbor who has since moved up the valley. I designed a quilt using a panel and coordinating fabrics from her store and she sold a few kits from the design. There were two panels of equal size. I turned it into a fancy four-patch. The two panels are on a diagonal. For the other two squares I used a rail fence design and yet another four patch based pattern of which I have forgotten the name. If someone recognizes it please let me know in the comment section. The rail fence fit the block size perfectly, really just a matter of division. But the four patch split a row at the top and bottom. I honestly can’t remember why the design is like that.

View of second panel in School quilt

Sunflower Quilt

The easiest designs for panel quilts use the panel as the center block. Then you build the design out from there. I used this approach in the Sunflower Quilt. The center panel showcasing a sunflower arrangement has a row of three Ohio Stars on each side. To create interest, I tilted the stars. Solid yellow stripes separate the panel from the two side pieces and form a top and bottom border. The side borders are pieced squares turned on point. Hand quilting highlights the stars. The quilting of the panel is more free form.

View of sunflower quiltQuilt panel with 3 Ohio Star Blocks

The Love Quilt

Currently I am in the process of designing and making what I call the Love Quilt. I bought a kit at a discount. The panel pieces and the template for the table runner don’t match so I have decided to make a small quilt instead. Panel quilts often come in kits. I failed to check the package to verify the panels exactly. However, I am happy to make a small quilt.

The process starts by decided the size of the finished quilt. The backing I want to use is 45 inches wide and 63 inches long. So I need to make sure my quilt top will fit inside these measurements. Since I want borders on the quilt, I subtract six inches from both dimensions. This means a border of three inches all the way around. I must add seam allowances to all pieces, so I will actually cut strips three and one half inches wide for the border.

Panel pieces in rough layout for quilt
Block layout

Designing Panel Quilts

Next is the creative part. The two panels that came in the kit were not the same size. Therefore, the quilt cannot be symmetrical like the School Quilt. Therefore, I think I will take an approach similar to the Sunflower Quilt and center the larger of the two panels. I call this the Love Panel. It is 20 ¾ by 14 ¾ and I will add an inner border to the top and bottom to reach a 24 ½ inch height.  On each side of the Love Panel will be two twelve inch blocks (not counting the seam allowances.) So the center of the quilt will measure 24 ½ by 38 ¾ including seam allowances. I do not know which block designs I will use yet.

Panel with word love in center of heart
Love Panel

The smaller panel, dubbed the Always Panel will have top and bottom borders as well as side borders.

Heart with word Always in the middle
Always Panel

The side borders will have die cut hearts. This bordered panel will be between two rectangular blocks of stripes.

For balance, an equal sized section will be below the Love Panel. The center of this piece will be an applique block utilizing more die cut hearts arranged in a flower pattern. This is based on a pattern in one of the many quilting books in my library. Again, the rectangular stripes will frame the center of the block.

Measuring Panel Quilts

I take an outside-in approach to the measurements. The finished size is determined first. Then I decide what type and how wide my borders will be. Then the math takes over. I add up the lengths and widths of the set pieces and make sure the measurements will fit within the allotted space. Inner borders help fill gaps. It is important to remember the seam allowances. They are an an essential part of the equation.

Graph paper with diagram of quilt blocks
Diagram with measurements

I am looking forward to completing the top. Once it is done I will work it into a follow-up post. Let me know if you have any questions! Panel Quilts take some work but are fun!

 

 

Crazy Quilt Christmas Tree Skirt

One of the quilt projects I am currently working on is a Crazy Quilt Christmas Tree Skirt. This type of quilting is unique in that there are few patterns. Furthermore a crazy quilt uses embroidery, decorative stitches to stitch the odd-shaped pieces together. One can embellish the quilt even more with lace, ribbon, buttons and beads if desired.

Since this is a Christmas tree skirt, I am adding quite a bit of sparkle along with the embroidery. However, if I were making a quilt for a bed or lap I would stick to stitches. Also, I do not have any little ones around so I do not need to worry about any choking hazards.

The only crazy quilt I own I bought in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in the late 1980’s. The quilt dates from 1909 with the initials LHS and is not in the best of conditions. However, the crazy quilt has always called to me. So, I decided a smaller project would be good to start with.

Crazy Quilting

Crazy Quilting by Christine Dabbs is the book I bought to serve as my guide in this experience. I highly recommend the book. (I know I should review Crazy Quilting, it is on a list.) The book is divided into three sections. The first section depicts noted quilts, many dating to the late 1800’s. The second part I found very helpful. Here, complete instructions are given for the construction of a crazy quilt. In addition to information on selecting fabrics and foundations, the book gives detailed directions for embroidery stitching. Thus this is great for anyone who is not experienced in handiwork. Finally, the third section has a crazy quilt design to copy if one desires.

Diana Marcum Fabric Design

This Crazy Quilt Christmas Tree Skirt is two-sided or reversible. One side is a pre-printed machine quilted design of the Holy Family. Unfortunately, I do not remember where I bought the fabric or if my Mom found it. I have a companion fabric which indicates the designer is Diana Marcum and the manufacturer is Marcus Brothers Textiles, Inc. This is the fabric that made me decide to make my first crazy quilt. In some of the close up photos you can see the “stitching” printed around the blocks.

Crazy Quilt

The reverse side is the crazy quilt. Creativity is key in the design. I blended colors to reflect both the Christmas tree decorations and my living room decor. Also, scraps from the first side are used on the crazy quilt side to tie things together.

The different types of fabrics is the biggest challenge. I am conditioned to use all cotton. A traditional crazy quilt tends to have fabric’s of wool, velvet, silk and satin. The textures are quite different. The result is a lot of slipping and sliding. My greatest advice is to pin, pin, and pin some more. At times when the two fabrics did not cooperate, I used ribbon to seam them together instead of stitching.

I had not embroidered much in recent years. However, as a teenager I enjoyed learning handiwork from my maternal grandmother. The forgotten stitches came back quickly with the great illustrations employed by Christine Dobbs. Look closely at the photos and you will see French knots, Chain stitch, Chevron stitch, Herringbone stitch and Feather stitch alone and combined to create the many designs. All of these stitches serve a duo purpose. They are both functional and decorative.

Christmas is just around the corner. So I hope to have the Crazy Quilt Christmas Tree Skirt finished. If I don’t finish in time, there is always next year.

Refinishing Wood Garage Doors

Refinishing Wood Garage Doors

One of my big fall tasks this year is refinishing my wood garage doors. I really like the doors because they reduce the sound from the street. Since they face southwest the finish absorbs a lot of heat. In previous years I have just added a coat of varnish but it is time to start anew.

Refinish safely
Protect yourself

As you can see from the pictures, peeling of the varnish is occurring. The bottom of the panels are taking the brunt of the heat. I hope the stripping and refinishing will improve the look of the doors.

Refinishing wood garage doors
Peeling Varnish

Stripping

The first step in refinishing wood garage doors is stripping the finish. It is important to use correct safety equipment in the stripping process. I am using a Safety Works Half Mask Respirator and chemical grade gloves made by Magid Glove & Safety. The stripping gel is Citri-strip. Other tools are a step-ladder, plastic scraper and a natural bristle brush.

Stripping works best when the temperature stays between 65 and 85 degrees. Therefore, fall is the perfect time for this type of work. Forecast temperatures for this week are within this range. Since this is a lengthy project I need more than just one day of ideal conditions.

Refinishing wood garage doors takes elbow grease. My first task was taping around the glass windows and the rubber seals. I am unsure of the potency of the chemical agent in the stripper. While it may only etch the glass it could eat away at the rubber door seals.

The stripping gel will take off layers, but I have many layers so it is taking more than one coat of gel. The minimum time suggested for leaving the gel on is 30 minutes and the maximum is 24 hours. As the temperature warms, the time needed decreased for me.

Yesterday,I spent about 5 hours on the single door. As you can see by the picture I have a way to go. If the weather cooperates, I hope to have this door completed in 3-4 days. The double door will take more time. I plan to have after pictures and a full report in a few weeks.

Quilt Passions

Three fabrics with a Hawaiian ThemeOne of my favorite things to do when travelling is to visit local quilt shops. Recently, I stopped by Quilt Passions in Kailua-Kona on The Big Island of Hawaii. The store was very busy and I had less than an hour to browse since I was island hopping and had a flight scheduled. As soon as I entered the store I was wishing my plans were not already set. The store was offering a full day quilt class for the next day and a week-long summer camp was also on their schedule. My travelling companions gave me a rolled eyes look and checked their smart phones for the time silently indicating I needed to get with it.

 

Hawaiian Fabrics

I like to find fabrics that are representative of the region I am exploring. I hit the jackpot at Quilt Passions. Somehow, I limited myself to just three prints. All were exclusive to the store. The first, a water background print is a discontinued print of Robert Kaufman. The fabric is still obtainable through Quilt Passions both online and in the store.

The second fabric is a batik print featuring sea turtles which was designed by Quilt Passions. I love using batik’s in my quilts and find them to be great blenders. However, they are hard to find where I live.

The last print is called The Big Island. This fabric is manufactured by Hoffman California but was designed by Quilt Passions and M.M-Cox. I can’t wait to use this particular print because I fell in love with the Big Island, especially the areas off the beaten path.

Quilt Retreats

If you are a serious quilter, this is a place to keep in mind when planning your next quilt retreat. The place was very busy, but staffed well. So no delay for someone with a limited amount of time, along with plenty of attentive help for those in need and not in a hurry. While the footprint is small, the fabrics are well-organized. Furthermore, for those who prefer yarn, the store has a separate room just for you. Registrations were available near the check-out counter for a variety of classes. For those of you that shop online, you can scope out Quilt Passions at by clicking here.

I believe you may find something you like. If you happen to live on or visit the Big Island of Hawaii, the store is located at 75-5626 Kuakini Highway Ste 4, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96740 and the best part of the location is the off street parking lot.

TRIP Around The WORLD

Quilting is one of my favorite hobbies. I began quilting in the mid 1980s just as the art was experiencing a comeback. I was living in Houston at the time and was fortunate to have a quilt shop just a few miles from where I lived. While I have kept a few, most have been given away.

The quilt in the photo above is the pattern Trip Around the World. I made it for a young lady who was a frequent visitor to our house. She choose a wide variety of colors and prints which made the design process a bit difficult.

The squares are 2 inches finished and I did not add a border on this particular quilt. The hot center is balanced by the gray greens. I was fortunate enough to find a nice Bali print in my stash to use as a transition from the bright pinks and reds to the cooler tones.

Planning is key when making this pattern. I use graph paper to plot out the fabrics. The chart becomes my guide when I begin piecing. Care is needed in order to keep the pattern aligned. If you have a lot of prints as in this example, it helps to snip small pieces of each fabric and either tape or glue onto the chart in the proper order. In this case I simply described each fabric on the chart.

I wanted this quilt to be a square but you could create a rectangular bed spread by adding boarders with differing widths. I like to add my side borders first and then the top and bottom. This particular quilt took me a month to piece and hand quilt.