February was great month for listening to books. Since we've essentially turned off the news, and the rest of the TV programming for that matter, I've had lots of reading time. The more I read the more productive I am and that's all good. As I look back on the list my 2 least favorites were Truevine and On The Couch. Once you read those reviews you will see that I didn't hate either of them. I'd give both a solid C.
Paper and Instanbul were both very good non-fiction books. Truevine is also non-fiction but you'll see that I really didn't love it. All of the fiction books are by authors that I've read before and several are series so I know they would all be good. The best surprise is that Hachette Audio has stopped adding the annoying sound effects to Baldacci's Puller series.
What good books have you read this month? I'm always looking for more books to add to my Audible Wish List. You are also invited to add your opinions about any of these books especially if your opinion is different from mine! When I'm deciding on books I always look at the review and check both the 5-star and the 1-star reviews so I can get a broader perspective. I always invite you do do the same here.
by Beth Macy
I reviewed Beth Macy's first book, The Factory Man, in 2014. When I saw that she had a new book set in the area where I grew up I knew I wanted to read it. This one is a story about George and Willie Muse, two black brothers with albinism born to a sharecropper family. In 1899 they were "captured" by the circus and spent the majority of the rest of their lives performing in freak shows with the circus. They traveled the world. But it's not a wine and caviar life. Their mother spent years looking for them and they were not treated well the first 14 years that they performed...they were basically slave labor.
I love the story of this book and have a deep admiration for the work and years it must have taken to dig out the details of what happened to the Muse brothers. Given that the story begins around 1900 in the poor South, that was a daunting task. My problem with the book is the amount of other information and tedious detail added. The brother's story alone wasn't enough for a book so there's every detail about circus life, the KKK of Roanoke, sharecropper life, the railroad, you name it.
I'm glad I read it because it's a bit of history about the area where I grew up that I didn't know, but I think I would have preferred a magazine article to the rehashing of the racial history, railroad history and development history of the area. In the end I'm not really sure what her underlying objective was in writing the book. Was it to tell the Muse brother's story and everything else was filler or was it a racial history with the Muse brothers as exhibit A. Either way, it was kind of a slog to get through.
No Man's Land
by David Baldacci
This is the 4th book in the John Puller series and my favorite so far. In this book we find out what happened to John Puller's mother 30 years before when she disappeared. It ties in to DARPA research.
This book was so refreshing after the work I had to put into listening to Truevine. This time I could just sit back and enjoy the ride. Even though it's part of a series I think that Baldacci does a good job of making each novel able to stand alone. There's reference to previous books to give foundation to parts of the storyline.
I liked the narrators fine. Orlaugh Cassidy does the female voices (one of which is annoyingly childish) and Kyf Brewer does the male voices. He's good but I don't think his voice is quite tough enough for the Puller character. But they both do a good job of being consistent with each character's voice. The best part about this recording is that there are no sound effects! I hope that's a new trend with Hachette books.
Lying on the Couch
by Irvin D. Yalom
This one should be called "Therapists are people too".
I'm not sure what to say about this book and even less sure why I bought it in the first place. It's a novel set around three therapists and their patients and gives you the thoughts of both parties during therapy sessions. It's more than that but I think the purpose was to show that therapy isn't a one-way street and that sometimes, therapists need therapy too.
I almost gave up early on because I just couldn't get the point of it. I went to Amazon and read some reviews and saw that a lot of the reviewers had to read this as part of their studies to become therapists. That didn't encourage me but I stuck with it and, end the end, it was a pretty good book. I think in the end that it's about the fact that we all need therapy of some kind at some point in our lives and sometimes it's formal and sometimes it's simply a form of meditation.
Blood on the Water
by Anne Perry
When I review books here I review them in the order that I read them and I write the review almost immediately after I finish the book. After a challenging book I always look for something reliable and Anne Perry's William Monk series is reliable.
This is #20 in the series and the investigation is about a pleasure boat that is blown up on the Thames killing over 200 people. Love the characters, love the narration by David Colacci and I love Anne Perry's stories.
Paper: Paging Through History
by Mark Kurlansky
In December I reviewed the book Salt, also by David Kurlansky. I enjoyed that so much that I decided to get this one. Many years ago I took a paper making class and enjoyed it. For a couple of years I made handmade paper note cards and Christmas cards. I still have all of the supplies. That's good because this book got me interested again. This book covers the very earliest paper making to present day electronic replacements for paper. There's also some great information about the history of printing and ink development. If you like history but want it a little on the lighter side you will enjoy this. If you have ever made paper or collect different kinds of paper, you will love this book.
Gods of Guilt
by Michael Connelly
If you have seen the Lincoln Lawyer movie then you are familiar with the basic story line of the Lincoln Lawyer series. Michael Connelly has 2 series. The first is Harry Bosch, a LAPD Detective. In one of those books Mickey Haller, a defense attorney, is introduced as his half brother. I enjoy both series but I've always thought that the Lincoln Lawyer series was the weaker of the two. With this book Connelly has finally brought this series up to match the Bosch series. It's a fun legal thriller with good characters and a fast pace. I was glued to my headphones with this one.
by Thomas Madden
Before reading this book the extent of my knowledge of Isanbul was that it was once called Constantinople. Seriously, that was all I knew about one of the most important cities in history. It covers everything from ancient times forward and it is fascinating.
If you like history you will enjoy this book. It's well written and the narration is good.
The One Man
by Andrew Gross
You have to have a strong stomach for this one but if you do it's worth the ride. The story revolved around rescuing a noted physicist from Auschwitz in WWII. There's one man, who speaks fluent German and Polish who might be able to accomplish it.
This book is intense and there are a couple of times where time is if the essence and we are dragged through a long conversation or thought sequence that just doesn't seem to fit. But that's a small complaint.
I didn't realize until I was writing this that the narrator for this book is the same as Istanbul. It shows his versatility that he can adapt his voice to the story at hand.
The Jury Master
by Robert Dugoni
This is the same author that writes the Tracey Crosswhite series. In The Jury Master he introduces David Sloane, a San Francisco trial lawyer. He's very successful but has recurring nightmares about his childhood that he can't remember. After close friend of the President dies Sloan received a package that starts to unravel his past. It's a very good plot and moves at a fast pace. My only complaint is that Dugoni likes to jump back and forth between scenes right in the middle of the action. Otherwise it's a good book that's very fast paced and lots of death and destruction.
Eye For An Eye
by Ben Coes
I followed one thriller by another. This one brings back one of my favorite covert operatives, Dewey Andreas. In this one some early events in the book prompt China's head of State Security to place a kill order on Dewey. From the first scene to the last the drama doesn't end.
These books are very fast paced with lots of intrigue and violence. Just the kind of book I like to relax with.
I'm mentally ready and anxious to load some of my own quilts so I spent the weekend finishing off some veterans quilts. I'm caught up with them, for now, so I won't feel any pressure to quilt more for a couple of months. The two I'm sharing today are the last 2 of the 4 that Patty The Quilt Lady sent me.
On one of them I quilted my "Chain of Diamonds" pattern. This is a motif that I teach new longarm owners. When you start longarm quilting it's really important to learn step by step. I encourage them to quilt their first quilt with straight lines so that they have time to get familiar with the feel and sounds of the machine and adjusting tension. Straight line quilting looks great and they get a quilt done instead of a bunch of dog beds from practice pieces.
After straight lines I recommend adding motifs to the lines to start practicing starts and stops, points and pattern development. Chain of Diamonds is one of the linear motifs that I recommend.
It's a great motif for a second quilt. It's also great for the 200th quilt!
When you are longarm quilting you try to load the quilt along the longest edge. This quilt was perfect for a linear based design like Chain of Diamonds because I was able to use the strips as guidelines.
In this quilt the diamonds are spaced out in a random order. I think it's a cool effect.
The second quilt was pieced horizontally and for this one I quilted it with straight lines using my channel locks.
It might be simple quilting but I love the effect. The secret to making straight lines easy is to make the distance between lines random. Otherwise you will wind up doing a lot of measuring which will double the time it will take to quilt it.
Yesterday we made our annual day-trip to Hampton for the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival. Some years the exhibits are better than others, depending on the entries they received, but all years are fun. I didn't take many quilt photos but if I have any worth sharing I'll edit and post them later this week.
I was well restrained with my shopping and came home with only a small bag of items. Unfortunately the car discussion has me dreaming of a new sewing machine and I'm going to try to talk myself out of that. I just bought a new machine 2 years ago and, aside from it's hatred of metallic thread, it's otherwise a wonderful machine.
I plan to spend the rest of the weekend hanging out with FloMo. We are going to finish this veterans quilt and hopefully 2 more. Then I want to get the Rainbow Quilt loaded and started. We'll see how it goes.
What are your plans for the weekend? I hope it's something fun.
Customer Work - Patricia Caldwell
Patricia Caldwell is one of the most prolific and successful fiber artists that I know and I am so grateful that she uses so much of my fabric for her art pieces. She sees things in the fabric that even I don't see. While I am away today at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival getting some inspiration for myself I'll leave you with Patricia's latest pieces for your own mini quilt show today. You can follow Patricia and see how she develops her pieces on her Facebook page. If you want some of her work you will want to speak up quickly, they sell fast!
Arizona Copper and Sunrise on Doe Mountain are made with Crystals mandalas.
Raven's Sun uses the Gray Skies Gradient.
Vibrational Symmetry uses the Nightfall Gradient.
The Feather Circle uses a custom dyed mandala in the colors of the Beach Walk Gradient.
Lip Balm and Lotion Bars
Yesterday was dyeing day but at the end of the day I had some spare time and decided to use it to restock my personal supply of lotion bars and lip balm. It took me all of 30 minutes to get out the supplies, make both batches and clean everything up. It's that easy.
Lotion bars are great if you have any very dry skin areas. For me, it's my feet. I use a lotion bar every night and sleep with socks on so I don't mess up the sheets. Plain lotion just wasn't enough so I keep a supply of lotion bars in a bag in the fridge and one on my nightstand. It works great.
It couldn't be easier to make.
First find a mold. I use my small soap molds but you could pour all of this into a plastic container and once it sets up just cut it into palm sized bars. Ice cube trays would work great too.
In a microwave safe container (I use a Pyrex measuring cup) mix together equal parts of:
Melt all that in the microwave. If you have Vitamin E on hand you break open some capsules and add some to the melted oils. That's a very messy affair so I usually leave it out.
Pour the liquid in your molds and waif for it to set up. You don't need to store it in the fridge but I find that's a safe place to keep it so I don't confuse it with my soap bars. This amount will last me and my friend, Cheryl, a year.
I primarily make lip balm for my Mom and friend, Becky. I rarely use it but I keep a couple of them around just in case. Making it is just as simple as the lotion bar from the perspective of mixing the oil but you do have to buy the tubes or pots. If you use the tubes you will want one of these tube trays. Where I buy my supplies the tubes are about a quarter a piece and the tops are a dime. Making this is a little messier and the recipe I use has more ingredients but I have them on hand already for my soap and lotion making. Given how cheap lip balm is, I don't think it would be cost effective to just make lip balm because the minimum quantities for the supplies would be way too big. But if you are already making soap you might want to give lip balm and lotion bars a try. Aside from the tubes and beeswax you probably already have everything on hand.
If you are interested there are tons of recipes on the web and the one I use is here.
One of my quilt club friends rents time on the longarm at The Longarm Network. She volunteered to come quilt some veterans quilts to get more practice. Usually I wouldn't do this because it would normally take me more time to do that than to quilt them myself. But in this case I knew that Marcy had been trained on the Innova and just wanted practice. While she quilted I worked on the last 2 sections of my wall.
These are 2 of the 4 quilt tops that my friend, Patty The Quilt Lady, sent me recently. We used gray thread so that it would blend and she would be more comfortable not worrying about any mistakes.
Patty is a very prolific quilter and we were thrilled to get 4 more tops for our veterans! I'm working on the other 2 now. I had to load one last night so that I would get away from the vicinity of the brownie plate in the kitchen. The distance and my headphones finally drowned out the "Eat me!" screams.
The back on these 2 is a pretty hand dyed turquoise. That gives me 6 of my 40 veterans quilts quilted for the year.
I've had lots of custom dyeing to do the past few weeks so haven't done a lot of new stuff. I am mostly keeping up with the popular gradients and have 4 back in stock today. The first one is Thrive and I have a new customer quilt to share.
Donaleen Kohn is a customer and blog friend and she loves the Thrive gradient and any other with a combination of green and yellow. She loves working with raw edges and hand quilting big stitch style. In this quilt she combined Thrive, Abundance Meadow Sunrise and some other gradients with hand dyed red. I just love the play of the cool colors with the red.
Another popular gradient that's back in stock is Gray Skies. Just as I was preparing this post I got a nice surprise in my email box.
Betsy Hughes made this art quilt using the top half of the Gray Skies gradient.This is exactly the kind of piece I imagined when I first developed this gradient.
The Black Gradient is also back in stock and it coordinates with Gray Skies. The darkest part of Gray Skies is the middle part of Black.
Ending on a bright note, Blue Sky is also back in stock this week. While I love the bright colors, my next quilt is planned to have the Black Gradient as it's background.
A weekend of wrapping up
Working in the corner like this is really difficult and hard on every joint in my body. In other words, I'm not 17 anymore and had to finish this off in 3 sessions. But I got it done and now the last 3rd of the wall is ready for grouting. Technically I have until the end of the year but I'm anxious to get started on the next wall so I want this grouted soon. Maybe next week.
I either did mosaic in between dot making sessions or I made dots in between mosaic sessions. Whichever it was, I eventually finished both! All of the flower centers are made and basted to the borders near the corresponding blossom. Every where I had pins in the applique I replaced it with a little basting stitch. Who knows how long this is going to take and I don't want to risk pins rusting....although I'm not sure they do rust anymore.Regardless, I won't stick myself and bleed on the fabric either.
All of the leftover blocks, blossoms, lose petals and my drawings are packed up in this bin to be stored away until I get tired of seeing the bin and finally give the rest of this project away. I'm not ready to let go yet. Those blue blossoms are kind of calling me...because I'm borderline insane. As if the wall wasn't evidence enough of that.
The quilt top is safely stored in a cabinet but everything else I need for this project is in this bin. It has the binding fabric, 3 of the borders to be appliqued, the corners and extra floss.
As I work on a border I fold up the edges and safety pin them together and leave only the section I'm working on now. The pins won't hurt anything because I left some extra width that will be trimmed off when I put the quilt together. I cut floss into 3 lengths. Early on I measured how long pieces need to be for full petals, partial petals and centers. I have a ribbon length for each and can quickly precut a skein of floss into the right lengths. Looking at this photo I need to cut a skein of partial petals before I get back to stitching. All I need to carry with me are the thread reels, extra floss, little needle book an scissors. I wonder if I can get these scissors on a plane? Anyone know the answer to that?
This purple plastic folder has been my carrying case for this project from the very first petal. Hopefully it can hold together for the 4 borders.
The cutting table is clear and I'm ready to start a new project but it's a beautiful day today so Chris and I are going to take the day off and go for a little hike.
Time to make dots
because the border vines and blossoms are all glue basted!
I got these finished last night! There are no duplicate fabrics in the blocks in the center of the quilt and no duplicates in these 4 borders. The woman who made these had an incredible fabric collection. Once I clean up the cutting table this morning I will start making the dots for the centers. All those little solid square are the centers for each flower. I'm quite excited to have gotten this far and see wrapping up all the prep work this weekend.
But there are leftovers and you won't believe how many!
I have 10 embroidered blocks that might go into a small quilt so that I can practice some quilting ideas. Or not.
There are still 30 basted flower blossoms, some partial blossoms and HUNDREDS of basted petals.
But that's still not all!
There are FIFTY FIVE basted blossoms in blue and not one duplicate fabric in the bunch. Amazing. What in the world was this lady planning with all of these?
But I can't think about these right now. The will be packed away for another time. I'm going to focus on the project at hand and hope that I don't leave it as a UFO for someone else some day.
The last clamshell
Yesterday a friend came over to quilt a couple of veterans quilts. She has been through longarm training so it wasn't like I had to train a newbie. She just needed some practice and I was happy to oblige. I wanted to be nearby in case she needed something so I worked on the wall and finished the last full section.
It's the perfect ending to the best project I've ever done! I struggled for weeks to think of a good motif to finish off the wall and what could be better than a Featherweight? The sewing machine needle is a glass rod and once it's grouted it will be just a fine black line.
Filling in the backgrounds on the signature blocks is the last thing I have to do until I grout this side of the wall. I have to wait for a couple of warm days so that I can open all of the windows but will grout it as soon as I can. The background for the 17 block is dark blue and I think the background for the initials block will be olive green. I needed dark colors to contrast with the letters and numbers and those are the only 2 colors that I have enough materials to finish the blocks. That's as good a reason as any!
To answer your next question, yes, I'm going to keep going. I'm going to turn right at this corner and I have a plan for the next 5 feet of wall space. It doesn't involve clamshells or any symbolic imagery. I"m over all that. I have something planned that will use up a lot of cups of leftover pottery bits. I'll unveil that plan a little later. I think it's going to look pretty cool.
Today it's back to the applique. I need to get all the stuff off the cutting table so I can trim the newest veterans quilts to show you.
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I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.