Tuesday, May 23, 2023

An Episode of My Big Wild Life in Alaska

 May is one of my favorite months…nonstop action.

 The last of the snow is melting, plants wake up and start turning green…

and the bears wake up.

I got a text from my neighbor at 10 p.m., “Bear in your yard.” I looked out the window and sure enough…walking right by my garden is this big dude.

The next window had a screen in it…but he was making a nice tour of my front yard and the picture looks pretty clear.

At this point I ran for my air horn as my neighbor has chickens and her electric fence was not up yet.
 She got it up the next day.

So happy to see him leaving my yard and headed away from our street.

This bear continues to visit our neighborhood regularly. 
I think he’s the biggest black bear I have seen here.

That night, I made sure my bear gun was in the holster I wear while walking the dogs or working in the yard. I've had plenty of bear encounters but thankfully, no aggressive charges. I've had a momma black bear stand her ground while I drug my dogs away from her treed cubs. 

So...the start of bear visiting season is not all fun...

but May is also the start of gardening!!!

I have two wonderful nurseries where I purchase the bulk of my veggies and flowers.

The plants need to be hardened off for a couple of weeks before they get planted into the ground. I have the perfect corner on my deck to do this process which only gets late afternoon and evening sun plus it is protected from the wind, which pretty consistently blows in the afternoons. 

The plants not only need to be protected from the cool temperatures but also the extreme hours of sunlight. They get sunburned if they aren’t eased into our long summer days.

With 18 hours of sunlight, I find myself still outside at 9:30 p.m. The photo taken below was one of those times I looked at my watch and thought…wow…it’s almost my bedtime.

The other part of my life in Alaska involves travel in little planes. Anchorage is pilot base for several airlines, Fed Ex, UPS, Atlas Air and Alaska Airlines plus there is also an Air Force base. And because of the vastness of the state…tons of private pilots with little planes. I am not a pilot but I am surrounded by them. The majority of our acquaintances are pilots. 

My husband has an airplane hangar where he stores two little airplanes, a Piper Super Cub which seats two, and a Cessna 185 which seats six. Since the weather was mild,  Hubby asked me out on a lunch date to Talkeetna, a 20-30 minute ride depending on the direction of the wind.

We took the 185, landing at the Talkeetna airport which is about a quarter-mile walk from the town.

The first shop on the right walking into town is The Patchwork Moose, one of my favorite quilt shops. 

It’s one of those shops that has so much eye candy…I feel a little overwhelmed. 
If I owned a quilt shop…I would want it to look just like this!

I wandered and wandered…so much to look at.

A cute niche for showing off some Alaskan-themed quilts.

Check out this Gardening Gnome with his wheel barrow of batik fabrics.

And his quilted coat!!! I want one!

I had such a hard time deciding what I would purchase when I spotted a kit on a little table. I had never seen this fabric or the pattern and it screamed, “ALASKA.”

Kit purchase made, I was ready to wander through the rest of Talkeetna. There are several gift shops and restaurants in this tiny town. My favorite lunch spot is, “Mountain High Pizza Pie.” 

It is celebrating its 20th year in business this summer and I think that’s how long I have been eating there on trips to Talkeetna. We used to have a boat and would spend a night or two in town as this is a major boat launching site for king salmon fishing.

You can order pizza by the slice, with your custom toppings. You can also order half-sandwiches. 

Hubby got a slice of pizza with anchovies and jalapeños. I got half of a focaccia grilled sandwich with veggies. A pretty generous sized pizza slice and half sandwich. 

I was back home with time left in the day to get some work done in the yard. It was about 8:30 p.m. when I called it a day and headed inside.

One last little look at happenings in May.
 It’s calving season for moose. 
Hubby saw this cow with her calf yesterday morning. 
This calf was just hours old.

After a long, cold and dark winter...my heart fills up with many of the reasons we love living here.

Monday, May 22, 2023

May Hand Stitching Update

 You know me…always busy but not very good at timely blog posting. I’m hoping to do three posts the next few days to catch up on my progress in all areas. 

We spent the last week of April in Texas to attend a wedding and visit with family. I am a jeans and sweatshirt kind of gal and never wear makeup so I was a little stressed about looking appropriate for all of the events. After we arrived at the wedding I realized I had forgotten to put on my pearls. Such a bummer as it has been years since I have worn them. 

I always take perforated paper cross stitch projects to work on when traveling. I finished a little ornament on the trip, one in a series of Gnome Santa ornaments from Mill Hill.

I now have three of the six done and started playing with a new way to finish them. There is a wonderful gal on YouTube with a series of videos on how to finish cross stitch projects, Vonna Pfeiffer.  She takes three layers of backing board for mounting artwork, cut in the shape of the finished ornament and glues them together to make a sturdy piece that is almost a quarter-of-an-inch thick.

I’m still playing with the technique. I need to experiment with adding a ribbon for the hanger loop at the top. I haven’t glued the finished ornaments to the backing boards…making sure I like it all before I take that final step.

 I cut the board with scissors which was pretty easy, then glued the three pieces together. Of course all three layers were not perfectly matching…sanding fixed that problem. I painted the stack with a color that matched the perforated paper. It makes it look like a piece of wood which I like.  

Then…I thought to myself…why haven’t you worked on getting your other finished cross stitch pieces mounted and hung up for display? I have that fun series of laundry room pieces done which would hang up all year.

I started by mounting the individual pieces. This time I used double sided archival tape. 

I think lacing would have been better and I have a feeling I will redo this.

My main obstacle to finishing was finding a frame. Amazingly….I found one I love in my local store, Fred Meyer, in the frame section…a frame to display three 5x7 photos together.

Now I am waiting on a piece of sticky board to arrive that is large enough to mount all three on one backing board. The dark gray fabric behind all the pieces will be what I use to cover the backing board.

My last cross stitch piece to share is part of the 12 Days of Christmas series I plan to finish this year, 9 Ladies Dancing. Just three more to stitch.

My other nightly hand stitching pursuit, Bucilla felt kits, has been getting most of my attention. I had to finish the bag of toys to get my 3D Santa done. 

Pretty easy stitching except for the tricky doll. Her hair was so difficult when I made the stocking version so I dreaded this piece the most.

I'm pretty sure I added more strands of floss than the instructions called for but I really wanted to get good coverage on top and a little on the backside of her head. Making those tiny braids nice and even was not easy. I had her pinned to a project board but she still was a little wonky to handle.

I remember how messy the backside of the doll's head looked on the stocking kit and after years of pondering a better outcome....

the simplest solution came to mind, sew a piece of felt over it.

I'm very happy with her hairdo.

My Bucilla Patchwork Santa is now patiently awaiting the arrival of the Christmas season.

So...did I start one of my hundreds of vintage Bucilla kits? Nope!
I bought the new felt kit from Merry Stockings. They came up with a stand-up mantel village and I just had to start it.

Such a simple concept! No stuffing of individual pieces, just one piece of quilt batting between the front and back pieces with a cardboard piece also sandwiched in the layers.

The magic solution is so wonderfully simple. Wooden dowels that sit on buttons. You do not sew the bottom edge of the felt sections...this is key because I initially had it all stitched closed and it fell over. I went back and READ the directions, unstitched the area between the dowels and it then sat up straight.

Those folks at Merry Stockings released a second mantel series kit. Yes...I promptly purchased it.

The instructions are published in a color booklet format. Very Nice.

I really need to get off this computer...the sun is shining!
But I will leave you with a photo taken on May 8th. Notice this bull's antlers starting to poke out just below his ears. 

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Quilts and Bucilla’s Patchwork Santa

 Two quilts to share.

A bit of an ongoing issue with the first. Below is my first version of a kit I bought in Fredericksburg, Texas last fall. I put it together at my February retreat.

I just did not like the charm squares the kit provided...no bright Christmas colors. 
So...I went online and found a layer cake of the line, Tinsel Town, on sale. I also found yardage for an added border at another online site. 

Below is my second version...so much better...but I still didn't love it.

I swapped out eight of the darkest charms.

Much better. 

Still don't love it. I think what I want is a thin inner border around the panel.
The pattern is one of those super simple, Villa Rosa postcards, Hillside Charm

This project reminded me why I rarely buy kits...I usually make changes. 

As you all know...sometimes you make quilts you don't love...it happens. My husband said, "Looks like a great quilt to gift." Yes! The perfect response...gotta love it!

Okay...the next quilt project is turning out soooo fun! I went down the Lori Holt rabbit hole...or maybe I should say into the chicken coop. She hosted a Sew Along last February for her Chicken Salad quilt pattern. 

The pattern is free on the Riley Blake website but you need the template set to make the chickens which was just under $30.

Also free, is Lori's YouTube video on how to make the first chicken block. She has her own line of interfacing to create the ready-to-applique shapes. I bought that too. Lori is quite a genius at marketing her products!

After setting aside a box full of tropical-themed fabrics that had acquired a nice layer of dust...somehow I became compelled to actually start this project. I was able to prep all the fabrics for the blocks.

Yesterday I sewed two of the applique sets together with the interfacing.

The seam allowance on the shapes gets trimmed pretty tiny. You cut a slit in the interfacing which allows you to turn the piece right side out.

Here's the first block I put together. So far...love the ease of this technique.

As you can see...I'm not using Lori's fabrics but of course batiks. And since we have spent a lot of time on Kauai...which has a lot of roaming chickens, this quilt is going to be a homage to them.

I not sure how I will applique the pieces...hand stitch or use the sewing machine. Today, I'm leaning toward hand stitching. I still need to glue the shapes in place no matter which method I use. I am also thinking I will trim away some of the interfacing on the backside.

Now I'm going to spend a lot time and space on details for the Bucilla Patchwork Santa I've been tackling.

He is super cute but 3D kits are a major challenge. There are never enough instructions

The first paragraph says to add a dowel to the middle. No further details like the recommended width or length. I found a package of four dowels at Michaels that were 12-inches long and 1/2 or 3/8-inch in diameter. 

A nice detail of the dowel in the middle of the body. I used quilt clips to hold the edges of the sides and bottom together while I stitched them.

The bottom of the body has a layer of cardboard between two pieces of felt. 

The boots also have a layer of felt with a bit of fiberfill on the top side. It was very tricky to stitch the shoes with cardboard to the base with cardboard.

Then the quilting part of this project...making Santa's patchwork coat.

It took me about 10 evenings to get all the embroidery done on this coat.

Once the coat was made, the instructions call for putting the coat onto the body form. It was a very snug fit with lots of pulling into place. 

Then the instructions have you make the white trim separately and sew into place while the coat is on the body form. Nope...that sounded unnecessarily difficult! I pulled the coat off the form and also decided to adjust the front bottom edge so the curve of the white trim would look better...no patchwork sticking beyond the curve of the white trim. I simply unstitched about 1/2-inch of the front seam and folded the edge up and tacked in place on the backside.

Next the white trim got stitched in place...a little tricky to work around sharp pins...ouch!

Then the back piece of trim was added. Lots of easing in of the bottom coat edge so both sides of the trim could meet and be sewn together. 

The coat them went nicely onto the body form.  I added a little extra stuffing around the upper portion of the body between the red felt of the body and the coat. The instructions called for sewing the bottom edge of the coat to the body form. I never did that...I didn't find it necessary at all. The fit is so tight the coat is very secure.

I then made the arms...

cape and started the hat.

I did not sew the arms or cape in place until I got the head in place. I was worried about placement of all the parts.

The head it attached to the body through a slit made in the felt on the backside of the head.  This part went together very easily. The top of the 12-inch tall dowel fits to the top of Santa's head.

I sewed on the arms...pinned them in place first and checked how the cape would fit. The arms are about 2-inches from the top edge of the coat.

The cape is only tacked together at the center front.

Then Santa's beard was added. Before I sewed it in place I checked the location for the mustache.

The mustache is only stitched to the head along the center of the mustache piece. I used a long doll needle to secure the stitching of the mustache on the backside of Santa's head.

The hat was another tricky area. The instructions were lacking. Again...you make the white trim separate and add the red hat portion. The trim is actually one piece that has a sculpted edge on the top and bottom that is folded and you insert the red hat. It was an extremely tight fit and thank goodness the felt was pretty thick and sturdy because it got stretched to make it all work.

I stitched the sides of Santa's beard and hair to make it look perfect. Lots of tugging to get the sides to meet.

More tugging to get the hat just right.

All that is left is to make the toys that go into Santa's bag which he will hold in his hands when done.

This kit is from 2010. I bought my kit on eBay a couple of years ago. These kits are difficult to find. 
I added all the details to this post so I have a place to send people when I get questions about this kit. I've shared my progress on Facebook and Instagram. I love all the great comments I get. One gal mentioned I should give this Santa a prominent place for my Christmas decorations...definitely! He is going to stay out all year long in my studio. 

Finally...I do love to end with a critter photo. Eli won the spotlight this morning. I wanted to get a shot of the fabric chaos so common when putting together an applique project. This pile is for the tropical chicken blocks. I rarely see him on my cutting table...his hair always betrays his visits...but this time he flaunted his perch in the middle of my mess.  Notice the lint roller in the background...I have several sitting around my house.

He has been so nice and healthy this past year. He takes a daily dose of cyclosporine to control his previous mysterious allergic reactions. I also found a cat groomer whom we call our own Cat Whisperer. She is amazing! He visits her about four times a year and has not had any hairballs since seeing her. Maine Coons have a downy undercoat to keep them nice and warm but all the extra hair makes them prone to hairball issues. He gets bathed, blown dry, his nails trimmed and has lots of combing with a little bit of trimming in tricky areas. I've watched her work and Eli is a total sweetheart the whole time. So amazing. Of course he barely tolerates a quick combing from me. I'm so relieved the cone of shame is not getting any use.