A whole month of quarantine means a whole lot of reading! I finished 14 books this month and like always, some are winners and some are duds.
I loved both non-fiction books: Capitalism vs Socialism and Cured. In fiction my favorites were The Rosie Project, Cleopatra's Daughter, The Gown and Redemption Point.
Are you also getting in a lot of extra reading these days? What can you recommend to us this month?
The Perfect Alibi
By Phillip Margolin, Read By Therese Plummer
This is the second book in the Robin Lockwood series. I read the first one last month and put this one on hold. The app said I would get it in about 4 weeks and it was available 3 days later! That's one of the downfalls of books from the library, you have to read them when you get them.
Robin Lockwood is not the lead attorney in a prestigious small law firm since the managing partner has taken medical leave for early Alzheimers. Robin is now on her own. In this book she is representing a rape victim in a civil lawsuit and defending another client against a murder charge that should be self-defense. The cases might be linked.
The book is shorter than my usual 10 hour minimum but I'll take that for a Margolin book. The plot seems plausible and the cases are complex. It was a fun read.
I've put the 3rd one on hold with a wait time of 9 weeks. But I'm sure I'll get it sooner since all of us readers are devouring books during our world-wide lockdown.
The Great Courses: Capitalism vs. Socialism
BY Professor Edward Stuart
I love the Great Courses and this one did not disappoint. I starts with good background on the economic philosophers (Adams, Keynes, Marx, Friedman) and then takes you on a tour of world economies that have followed or follows some form of capitalism or socialism and the consequences of each.
It's very interesting and, I believe, the most unbiased presentation of economic theories that we could possibly as for.
By Michelle Moran, Read By Wanda McCaddon
Michelle Moran has a real talent for taking a bare bones structure of events and building it into a complete story. The first book I read of her's was Madame Tussaud and it was outstanding. This one was very good too.
Little is known about the daughter of Cleopatra, Cleopatra Selene, other than she was taken to Rome, raised by Octavia and eventually married to Juba and made Queen of Mauretania. Moran fills in a colorful story of Cleopatra Selene's life. The characters are well developed but it's not suspenseful, it's just the story of a girl's life but I enjoyed it.
A Duty to Defend
By Charles Todd, Read By Rosalyn Landor
This is the 1st book in the Bess Crawford series. It's set in WWI and Bess is a nurse. One of her patients (on his deathbed) asked her to deliver a message to his brother. Shortly after she is on a shop that's sunk by a mine and she has a broken arm. During her recovery she decided to head off to this soldier's home to deliver the message and there the mystery begins.
Todd has another series set in WWI based on an Inspector, Ian Rutledge, who has shell shock. Neither of them are really doing anything for me. This book was good but so much of what she did seemed so way out of character for a woman of that time.
Big Lies in a Small Town
By Diane Chamberlain, Read by Susan Bennett
In 2018, Morgan Christopher is in jail for a crime that she didn't commit. She is surprisingly paroled with an offer to restore an old post office mural in Edenton, NC. The mural was painted by artist, Anna Daly in 1940 who won a national contest to paint the mural. The mural was never hung but a local artist had it his will calls for the mural to be restored by Christopher and completed by a specific date.
The book goes back and forth in time to tell both Anna and Morgan's stories. It's well written and has the expected theme of Southern racism and prejudice against people who are "different" in general.
This is the second book I've read from Chamberlain. She's great at character development and immersing her reader into the story. I find the plots a little predictable (in this one it was a lot predictable) and tired. But I like the characters enough that I'm willing to stick it out with them.
By Jeffrey Rediger, Read by Jeffrey Rediger
I am very interested in some medical topics and especially about the inner-workings of the human body and our ability to heal ourselves. The best book I've read on the topic is Cure by Jo Marchant. It was so good that I read it twice back to back.
This book is, in theory, a great follow up to Cure as it delves deeper into some of the aspects of self-healing that were introduced in Cure. It's full of great information but you are going to have to do some work to get through it.
I think that Dr. Rediger is a control freak because he desperately needed to turn this book over to a professional editor and professional narrator. His narration and the production quality is awful. Th ebook is a little choppy and there are probably too many personal anecdotes.
All that said, it was full of really valuable information and planted some ideas to explore. It was worth tolerating the performance to get the information.
By Dervla McTiernan,Read By Aoife McMahon
This sis the second book in the Cormac Reilly series. I read the first one, The Ruin, last month and this one became available at the library pretty quickly. In this one Reilly's girlfriend, Emma, is a researcher at Galway University and discovers the body of a dead girl near campus. Reilly winds up on the case simply because Emma called him first. He's still personal non grata in his squad. The girl carries the ID of Carline Darcy, the granddaughter of Darcy Therapeutics and the sponsor of Emma's research.
Like the first novel, I have mixed feelings. It's a good plot but everyone has a side grievance or secret story and it gets difficult to track. But I loved listening to the Irish lilt of the narrator.
The Rosie Project
By Graeme Simsion, Read By Dan O'Grady
As the quarantine was starting and friend and I exchanged book recommendations. She recommended this one and a book called Year Zero by Rob Reid. I got about 2 hours into Year Zero and I just couldn't take it anymore. There was nothing funny about it. I texted her to give her a hard time about it and she said that she had given up on the book too. After listening to The Rosie Project I've reinstated her book recommendation rights. What a cute and funny book.
Don Tillman is a professor of genetics who can easily be imagined at Sheldon Cooper. He had very bad luck with dating and has decided to set out to find a mate with some very rigid criteria and so begins The Wife Project. Rosie Jarman is a smoker and bartender and is always late for everything. She's not wife material but he agrees to help her with The Father Project. You can guess how it ends. It's enjoyable and funny. I'm not inclined to read any of the other books int he series because I don't see these 2 characters making a sequel not that I know their personalities. It's easy enough to see how it would play out.
By Jennifer Robson, Read By Marisa Calin
In 1947 in London the designer Norman Hartnell was commissioned to make Princess Elizabeth's wedding gown. This story uses that as a backdrop for the story of the embroiders who worked on the gown. It follows them through that year and then 40 years later when one of the women dies in Toronto and her granddaughter finds some lace samples.
It's a really nice story with very well developed characters. The pace was good and the transition between times was handled very well. I will definitely look for other books by Robson.
By Linwood Barclay, Read By Quincy Dunn Baker and Brian O'Neil
This is the first book in a trilogy set in the town of Promise Falls, NY. It's supposed to be a mystery. David Harwood and his 11 year old son ahve moved back into his parent's home in PF. One day his cousin Marla is found to have a baby and there's a spot of blood on the front door of Marla's house. Instead of calling the police he gets Marla in the car to find the baby's home (from a convenient piece of paper in the baby's stroller with the address). At the home they discover the mother dead in the house.
I like Barclay's books but I did not get this one. The hapless characters were so absurd and cliche (police detective is obsessed with donuts, super sleezy politician, hard ass bitchy female hospital administrator) that it felt more like a Carl Hiassen book than a serious mystery, except that Hiassen is a better writer. The mystery was really easy to figure out so the rest of the book was just hopping around several unrelated and unresolved story lines that are lead ins to the second and third books. It's been a long time since I've rolled my eyes as much as I did while listening to this book.
By Candace Fox, Read By Euan Morton
This is the second in the Crimson Point series set in Australia. You have to read this series in order so read Crimson Point first where Ted Concaffee and Amanda Pharrell are first introduced. Ted is a former police officer who was wrongly convicted of abducting and raping a young girl. He's out of prison and trying to get his life back together. Amanda is a convicted murderer from when she was in school. They are both trying to get their lives back together and their shared attorney put them together to do private investigations. In this book they are continuing to investigate the crime Ted was accused of but they have also been hired to investigate 2 murders at a local bar.
I'm really enjoying this series and I liked the second book even better than the first. The bonus to this is the lovely Aussie narration by Euan Morton. I'm looking forward to the 3rd book in the series.
By Jacqueline Winspear, Read By Rita Barrington
This is the 1st book in the Maisie Dobbs detective series. The story is set before, during and after WWI. At 13 Maisie get a job in service at a manor house. She gets up early in the morning to sneak into the library to study the books. One day the mistress of the house finds her studying Latin with a private tutor. The book actually opens 10 years later, in 1929, when she is starting her own detective agency and getting her first case.
It's an interesting story but I hated the way it was told. About 1/3 through the book the investigation story ends abruptly and we are transported to 1910 when she gets that job and we then follow her through the war for about another 3rd of the book and just as suddenly we are back on the investigation. It's seriously like 2 shorter stories smashed together in one book. Maybe that transition works better in print but I found it all too jarring. The mystery isn't much of a mystery but it's an interesting perspective on the ravages of war. I doubt I'll read any more in this series.
A Week In Winter
By Maeve Binchy, Read By Rosalyn Landor
I can't remember how I came across this book but I'm thinking that it might have been one of your blogs. I like finding new books from other's book reviews.
This story is set in the west of Ireland on the coast. Chicky Starr has returned from America to remodel an old dilapidated mansion into a B&B. The story is focused on each character that works at the B&B and the guests that arrive for the opening week: a week in winter. It comes across more as a group of short stories. Each character's life is told in turns and we find out what bad decisions/luck/events have brought them to Stone House. Each character's story ends just after they arrive at Stone House and their personal dilemma is resolved. So it's really not about the week at all. While the characters interact, it's not a story about that week, the house or the local area. It's 80% about the background of each of these characters.
It's an light and easy read. Not a lot of pain or drama. It actually reminded me of that old TV show, Fantasy Island. Take Fantasy Island and put it on the Hallmark Channel and you have this book.
By Brina Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, Read By Ray Porter
This is the 5th book in the Tier One series. Ember is like a secret version of the Navy SEALs and John Dempsey is the mission leader. They vanquished their Islamic enemies in the last book so this time they are focused squarely on Russia and the Russian equivalent of Ember, called Zeta.
There's a lot of tough talk, secret nicknames, magical technology and killing. Everyone has personal demons that they manage by getting themselves into impossible situations. Lots of action, adventure and blood. My one complaint is that there seems to be more and more macho conversation and magical survival and less and less actual strategy and zero questioning of collateral damage. The books are getting a little too formulaic for me.
That sums up everything I did yesterday. It was time to get all the cat scraps off the cutting table and make some veterans quilt "kits".
I decided to make this one a little less scrappy and pulled only the cool colors. I even found a blue for the binding. Kit #1 done!
Then I wanted to do something different with the third Blockade set. I found this fabric (also by Paula Nadestern from an older collection). It's the fabric that I used for the background of my Pleiades quilt. I had exactly enough for the blocks and binding. See that little scrap on the right? That's all that was left from this piece of fabric. Clearly I'm living right!
Kit #2 done.
Next up were the 2.5" squares. I'll do a simple double 4-patch. The dotty fabric is from a project that I had planned a long time ago and eventually lost interest. I cut the binding from the dots also. I have TONS black. It's Paula's Marbella black and it's one of the best black fabrics that I've ever seen. I stocked up when it came out.
This is basically how it's going to look and I'm happy enough with it. I have a lot more 2.5" squares so if I like this maybe I'll make another....or not. I'll deal with that later.
Kit #3 done.
While I had everything out I figured I might as well deal with this. I did a very simple design in EQ and adjusted it so that I wouldn't have to cut any more of the pinwheel pieces out.
The background is the purple version of the same fabric that I used in kit #2. I have at least 3 yards of this fabric left.
Kit #4 is done!
I still have lots more 2.5" squares, a stack of 3.5" squares and scraps for crumb blocks but at this point I'm sick of cutting things out and I have a total of 8 veterans quilt kits cut out so I put all that away for later. I'm sure I'll find it in 5 years and wonder what I was thinking keeping all those bits and pieces!
While I was chatting on the phone with Mom I got a quarter of the blocks in kit 1 put together.
I'm really at a stand still on other quilt projects at the moment. There isn't anything that I'm particularly inspired to do. I want to focus on longarm quilting as soon as the mosaic wall (which is in next to the longarm) stops off gassing. I think I'll focus on longarm quilting for the next few weeks and piece these quilts during my break times. Maybe I'll come up with an idea for a new quilt in the mean time.
For now I'm just glad to have a reasonably clean cutting table.
I wish I was one of those people who can write fun stories to go along with their newsletters. I'm particularly thinking of the creative people who write recipe blogs. They have paragraph after paragraph telling the story of the experiments and inspiration for the recipe. I'll be honest, I never read that stuff. I scroll right to the bottom to get the the recipe. But I do admire their writing creativity.
I'm not a storyteller. I'm a facts person and the fact is that I got to have some fun last week making some new Shibori fabrics using some new colors. That's it, there's no other story! But before we get to that I have a gradient as the fabric of the week.
Fabric of the Week - Apple Cider
Apple Cider is the fabric of the week this week and it's 20% off through Sunday. I love the deep, rich autumnal colors in this gradient. You could get a lot of different leaves from this one fabric. It could also be a bold sunset background. It's all up to your imagination!
I've been itching to dye more Shibori for a couple of months but there's always been some other priority. I finally couldn't wait any longer and set aside the day for Shibori dyeing last week. I had a fun time playing around with some new non-traditional colors. Each of these pieces is 1/2 yard.
If you prefer variety instead of large individual pieces there are these 4 Stash Packs. Each Stash Pack contains 8 fat eighths of Shibori. Each has a nice variety of color combinations. Marcy George used a Stash Pack of Shibori for her art quilt shield.
Check out all of the Shibori fabrics in the shop.
...because there isn't anything else to do!
The first thing that happened is that I got this veterans quilt top together Friday night and cleared off the cutting table so I could cut the background pieces for the cat quilt. I have print fabrics cut for 2 more quilts like this and just need to cut the alternating solid fabrics. I need to decide if I'm going to do them multicolored fabrics like this or one color or some sort of pattern. I'm still pondering that.
Saturday morning I got up and tackled the mosaic wall first thing. Of course it took most of the day and I was exhausted when I was done. Grouting is a beastly job and I have to do it in a respirator because I'm so allergic to the off gassed VOCs. I don't have a photo yet because there are fans set up in front of the wall and windows open to deal with the off gassing as it cures. I'll have an official photo in a couple of days.
I did some crochet Friday and Saturday nights and got through the second skein of this yarn. I have one skein left and it's not going to be enough. I should have made the blanket narrower but it's too late for that now. I don't like this yarn enough to rip it out and start over. I ordered another skein (plus some other yarn, of course). By the time I get through the third one the new one should be here and I can get this one wrapped up. While I don't care for the patterning in the yarn it sure does make a very soft blanket.
Meanwhile my SIL picked her 2 least favorite cats so I could get started on sewing the cat quilt together!
I cut all the sashing and borders.
Got the rows together.
By dinnertime Sunday I had the center of the quilt together. I LOVE it! There will be 2 borders: a 2.5" print border and a 4" blue border. I had a fabric all picked out for the print but when Chris and I saw a sample pinned on the wall we hated it.
I could do a scrappy border of a variety of prints but I really want the border to have symmetry too. We decided on this fabric and of course I didn't have enough. I found it at an Etsy seller and I've already received the shipping notice.
Until that comes in I'll go back to working on the veterans quilts that I cut from the scraps. One day this week I will clean out the basement now that my mosaic endeavors are over. That's going to clear a bunch of crap out of the basement and I can now get back to playing with glass instead.
This week's inspiration comes from Rachel Derstine. Looking Beyond is an art quilt featuring the Red Sunset Gradient with other hand dyed and commercial fabrics. You can see much more of Rachel's work on her website where she also has some of her work for sale.
For sharing, Rachel received a 20% coupon for the shop that's good for 3 months! If you have made anything with my hand dyed fabric I hope you will consider sharing it in the Customer Gallery. The only rule is that projects have to be complete. It doesn't have to be made totally from hand dyed fabric, just include a recognizable amount.
Yesterday was a day without any distractions so I got to spend a good 5 hours or more in the sewing room with my audiobook on. The scrap bin is almost empty! There are at least 3 veterans quilts in here. I'll need to cut some other fabrics to go with but I have drawers and drawers of hand dyed fabrics for that.
After I got tired of cutting I sat down to some sewing. I cut these blocks out while I was cutting the cats and there are enough blocks here for a veterans quilt. I'll start sewing this quilt together tomorrow.
I will also start cutting the cat background fabrics and, hopefully, start sewing it together this weekend. If the weather allows I want to grout my mosaic wall Sunday. Fingers crossed!
I hope you have a great weekend. I find my days are really nice when I stay off any news sites on the internet.
Yesterday was dyeing day so I was busy most of the day dyeing some new shibori and some of the tea towels. In the evening I finished off the next 4 shibori postcards and cut some more scraps.
The postcards are so much fun to play with and I like all 4 of the ones in this set. I think I have 8 more to do and I've already started stitching one of them.
At the end of the day I spent a few minutes with the scrap bin. I cut up enough pieces for 10 more Blockade blocks and more 2.5 and 3.5 squares. I can really see the difference in the bin now.
This is the funniest piece in there. Most people would have thrown this out. There are actually a lot of good repeats left and I could have left it in the fabric cabinet but I cut it up and salvaged a lot of pieces from it. I would probably have never pulled this out to use in a symmetry project.
I also found a nice surprise in the box!
These are painted silk fabrics that I bought at a quilt show (probably Houston) ages ago. I did buy them to use in symmetry projects but they just didn't work well for that. Now they are going in the Drawer of Magical Things for future postcards. I'm already getting some ideas. They might make beautiful ornaments on Christmas cards. Finding them was like getting something cool for free because I had completely forgotten about them.
I wonder how much cool stuff we all have that we have forgotten about!
The last of the cats are done! I even made 2 spares and have asked my SIL to pick her 2 least favorites for eviction to the local animal shelter (scrap bin). This last group really cracks me up. There are 2 means one, one that thinks it's a pig, a grandpa with whiskers, one on drugs and a raccoon.
Here's the whole group. If you were evicting 2 of them which would you choose? I hope to start putting the quilt top together tomorrow or Friday, as soon as I hear back from JJ on her choices. These blocks have been so much fun to make. I'm going to miss working on them!
I also spent a good bit of time the past 2 days preparing and dyeing more tea towels. That's going to be a continuing theme for a few weeks I think.
After the cats were done I wasn't in the mood to do anything new so I started cutting up fabrics in the scrap bin. Some of the fabrics in there crack me up, like this one.
I think you can see from the before bin photo above that I've made some pretty good progress. I'm cutting as many Blockade blocks as I can and with what's left I'm cutting 3.5 and 2.5" squares. Other chunks are going into the blue basket for possible crumb blocks. I'm not really committed to the crumb blocks yet but the other pieces will eventually become veterans quilts. It will probably take me a week to slowly work my way through this bin of scraps.
In the evenings there's crochet. This color palette is quite beachy and this is 1 skein of the Ice Cream yarn. I'm doing a simple blanket stitch because it's wonderfully mindless. I bought 3 skeins of this yarn but I'm not convinced that it's going to be enough. I'm going to get the second skein done and then decide if I need to find one more.
Today is dyeing day and I'm feeling like maybe some shibori.
Many years ago I pursued a self-study program in color theory. I got completely obsessed about it, studying several textbooks, taking classes and even consulting with a local art professor about my thoughts on different systems. In the end I felt that the Munsell system was the most appropriate for use in design work. Most other systems are based on the colors that we mix, whether it's printer ink, dye or paint. Conversely the Munsell system is based on how we perceive color. It doesn't matter how the color is created. Instead it about how we uses the colors that we create (or buy). It just made sense to me and that's the system that I used to create my Color Wheel fabrics.
Color Wheel Basics
The Color Wheel Fabrics are a set of 10 fabrics based on the Munsell Color System and these fabrics are on sale every day for 20% off! There are fat eighth stash packs of light, medium and dark plus fat quarter and half yard sets of the dark sets. I can dye the fabrics for you in any size and the discount always applies.
In the Munsell system there are 5 primary colors (Red, Yellow, Green, Blue and Purple) and 5 secondary colors. I've created Shades Packs of each of the 10 color and these are also always 20% off!
Here are 2 quilts that have been made with the Color Wheel fabrics.
Stars at Sea is a quilt that I made using the Stars at Sea pattern by Swirly Girl. I believe I used one set of Fat Quarters for the stars and border on this quilt and, yes, it's been washed and the colors didn't bleed.
This beautiful quilt was made by Pat Ferguson using the Color Wheel palette with a deep dark purple for sashing.
The Color Wheel fabrics are a great way to introduce someone (or yourself) to the joys of using hand dyed fabrics.
Does anyone know what day it is?
Every morning when I wake up I spent the first 5 minutes trying to figure out what day it is. I don't mean the date, I've completely lost track of that, but the DAY. I swear I thought it was Thursday for most of yesterday. I really can't complain that all my days seem the same because I'm spending most of them doing things I enjoy. But I would like to have my Mom come over for dinner or just to hang out and to go have drinks in a real bar with friends.
I did actually get to catch up with a few friends in person this weekend. A couple came by to pick up tea towels (those things are selling like hot cakes!) and then another group of friends came over Sunday to visit. Everyone brought their own chairs and we sat outside in our big driveway keeping appropriate distance. We all needed it. All meetings were done recognizing the proper distance requirements.
I thought I was going to have all of the cats done this weekend but I have one more set to sew. I did get them cut out so I'm really close.
I had to get them finished because THIS was driving me nuts. I have to have all the fabric out in the floor when I work on these because I need to be able to see the patterns and colors in all the fabrics but after 2 weeks I'd had enough.
There we go. I feel much better. I have breathing room again.
As I was cutting the cats I've also been cutting pieces to finish up this Blockade quilt to use as a veterans quilt. The pieces are cut from fabrics that have been cut up so much that there are either chunks about to fall off the main piece or the fabric has so many holes that there isn't much symmetry left in it.
This is a bin of scraps that I've collected over the years that might be reasonable size chunks or who knows what. I'll go through it over time and either cut more Blockade blocks or squares or decide to make crumb blocks or something. The point is that I'm not going to just shove it back in the cabinet. I'm going to actually make a decision to do something with it even if that decision involves a trash can. You know me, it's unlikely to see the trash.
I've also made a decision about this. I just don't like it anymore for the original idea that I had for it. I'm not going to toss the pieces out. I will rearrange them and make another veterans quilt from them. Veterans quilts are my current go-to solution for all kinds of things I'm creatively done with.
I also screen printed a bunch of tea towels that I'll dye this coming week and there was some crochet happening in the evenings. I like working with this Lion Brand Ice Cream yarn. I'm not loving as much the patterning of this colorway but it's making a really soft blanket and works up very fast. This is most of 1 skein. I have 3 skeins but I think I'm going to want 4. I'll see where I am after the 2nd one before I order more yarn because there's no going to the store to find more locally!
This week Chris says that I might be able to grout that last mosaic wall Thursday! That would be a nice project to have on my April finishes list. I'll also get the last of the cat blocks done so I can start putting this quilt together. I have 10 days so I could get this quilt finished for April too!
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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.