2020 has a lot of bad karma, primarily as the Year of Covid. But, for me, it's also the Year of Books and that's a really good thing. I'm running through books at a really fast pace. Books are the perfect escape from everything that's going on now. Chris and I go days without turning on the TV. In the evenings we like to just sit and read (and crochet or quilt).
Before I get into the books I read this month I'll quickly tell you about two books that I couldn't be bothered to finish:
Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds: This should have been right up my alley but this author could not have made it more boring and his narration made it even worse.
The Real Watergate Scandal: Watergate was the first political event that I remember being engaged with as a young person. I thought it would be interested to revisit it 40+ years later from another perspective. I think he has some good information and points but the presentation is painfully rambling.
What have you read (that you liked) this month? I need a continual supply of recommendations!
By Lalita Tademy, Read By Bahni Turpin
Tademy is a brilliant writer and storyteller. Her books are fiction but they are based on her own ancestry and the intense genealogy she has done on her family. I read her first book, Citizen Creek, a few years ago and absolutely loved it.
This one tells the story of the post- Civil War reconstruction in Louisiana and starts with the Colfax Riot of Easter Sunday in 1873. The book tells the story of the Tademy's and Smith's as they try to build better lives for themselves and their families in the generations to follow.
Bahni Turpin could narrate a biology textbook and I'd listen to it.
My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She's Sorry
By Fredrik Backman, Read By Juan Walker
I'll admit that I only got this book because it was free from the library and I wanted to see if I'd like it better than A Man Called Ove.
I think that Backman struggles with making his lead character consistently true to their age. Ove was only 57 but if you didn't know that you would swear that he was 85. In this book the main character, Elsa, is 7. Sometimes she behaves like a 4 years old and other times she's allowed the independence of a teenager. If you liked Ove, you will love this because I think it's better. But, for me, it was still tedious and plodding.
By Kathleen Tessaro, Read By Susan Bennett
I read another of Tessaro's book in January, The Perfume Collector, and I loved it.
Rare Objects is set in depressio-era Boston. Maeve Fanning is a poor 1st generation Irish immigrant. She's a bit on the wild side and loves fast men and lots of gin. She ends up in a psychiatric hospital after having an abortion. There she meets Diana van der Laar. She doesn't realize who Diana is until a few years later, while working in a antique store, she delivers some items to the van der Laar family. She and Diana re-connect and Maeve becomes entwined with the family and Diana's handsome brother.
It was a good read, although most of the characters are quite unlikable for most of the book. But they do grow and develop....mostly.
By Michael Connelly, Read By Peter Giles and Zach Villa
First off, I want to mention that Zach Villa narrates the part of the villain and he sounds a lot like Jon Hamm - he was hard to hate.
This is the third in a series focused on a reporter named Jack McEvoy. The first 2 books were published several years ago (1996 and 2009) so maybe as the Bosch novels fade he's focusing more on this storyline and the Mickey Haller books. If so, I'm cool with that. Bosch is getting a little stale.
In this one McEvoy is now working with in digital media at a website, FairWarning (which happens to be real), writing about consumer protection topics. One day he is stopped by police to be questioned over the death of a woman that he met at a bar a year ago. He hasn't seen her since. But as he's drawn into the case he discovers other similar murders and a link to a DNA processing website.
I enjoyed it and it was a refreshing break from Bosch. I think it's very current in the way it brings up risks with DNA processing sites just as those sites have been selling massive DNA databases to commercial companies and government entities.
The Book of Longings
By Sue Monk Kidd, Read By Mozhan Marno
The Secret Life of Bees is one of my all-time favorite books but I haven't red any more of Kidd's books since the huge disappointment of The Mermaid's Chair. Some authors only have one good book in them and that's what I felt about Kidd.
Recently I've been seeing this book on a lot of recommended lists so I decided to give it a try and I'm glad I did.
In this book Kidd imagines that Jesus had a wife. Her name is Ana and she is raised with wealth as the daughter of the head scribe to the ruler of Galilee. Judas is her adopted brother. Her father allows her to learn to read and write and she begins to document the lives of important women. Her ambition and knowledge, however, is her downfall when she is betrothed to an older widower at the age of 14. It's during this time that she first meets Jesus. She marries him and settles with him and his family in Nazareth. With Jesus finding his faith and following John the Baptist their lives grow more complex and tumultuous.
First, as a book, it's really compelling story with well-developed characters and perfect narration. I did find Ana with a few too many of our modern feminist traits but it wasn't "in your face" and every culture and society does have it's outliers. The hang up for many people will be the proposal that Jesus was married. The Bible doesn't say he was or wasn't but it's assumed that he wasn't. Kidd is simply imagining that he might have been. If it's something you think you would have problems with I'd suggest listening to her afterward first where she explains the genesis of the book. I think the whole story was very respectfully done.
I'll say this. It was a nice escape from the craziness that's going on outside right now.
The Last Trial
By Scott Turow, Read By John Bedford Lloyd
I haven't read a Turow book in a bout 20 years. It was book 3 in the Kindle County series and featured the attorney Sandy Stern. This one is book 11 and it's Sandy's last trial before he retires.He's 85 and his last case will be the defense of his friend, Kiril Pafko. Pafko is a Nobel Prize winner and accused of fraud, insider trading and murder (from side effect of his new cancer drug).
I haven't spent any time in courtrooms but I do expect that the tedious courtroom scenes in this book are true to form. The whole book is kind of pointless. There's not much personal conflict, no romance, no real character development or revelations. the whole thing wraps up making me believe that justice is completely pointless.
The Giver of Stars
By Jojo Moyes, Read by Julia Whalen
It was fun to be listening to this book while we were hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains, in the Southern region of the Appalachian Mountains. The book tells a story of the real packhorse libraries of Kentucky
By Stephen Fry, Read By Stephen Fry
In this case the author narrating the book was perfect! Of course, he's an actor so he would make a great narrator.
I love the Greek myths and Fry's telling of them is the best presentation I've read so far. For some reason I was able to (finally) follow the stories and Gods from Chaos to the Premordials to the Titans and then the Olympians. He's a great storyteller and I look forward to reading Heroes, the second book that covers the Olympians and the mortal heroes. If you like the Greek myths you will enjoy this book. If you think you might want to learn about the Greek myths this is a great place to start.
By Esi Edugyan, Read By Dion Graham
This is the fictional story of George Washington Black (Wash). Wash was born a slave on a sugar plantation in Barbados. We meet him at the age of 10 when he is put in the path of the brother of the plantation manager, Christopher Wilde (Titch). The timeframe is 1840's - 1850's and it's not about American slavery. Titch takes Wash to be his manservant and assistant in building a hot air balloon. Titch teaches Wash to read and write and discovers that he has great artistic talent and capacity for learning.
Wash's life goes from Barbados to Virginia to the Artic to Nova Scotia to London to Morocco. It ends in an African dessert where he is reunited with his benefactor.
While I love Din Graham I felt htat his voice was too mature and deep for a 10 year old boy growing into a young man. There were many times during the book that I had to remind myself of Wash's age because the narration made me think he was a mature man.
I'm not quite sure what to say about this book. It has universal rave reviews and I was really into it for the first half but I started losing interest near the end. His story, to me, was told as a series of stops on a train and in the end I was just in a hurry to get to the end.
Before we jump into today's fabric news I just want to note that orders placed between now and Thursday will be shipped Friday morning. I'm off for a couple of days to help a friend with a mosaic project. I'm so happy to make a mosaic mess at someone else's house for a change!
Shibori week in the studio is always fun. These fabrics are really labor intensive but I'm totally mesmerized by the beautiful textures that only come from pole-wrapped shibori. I'm especially pleased by the results of last week's session. There's a bit of everything from moon reflections on water to a wispy moon texture. The Stash Packs (8 fat eighths) sell fast so of you want one get it soon! There are only 4 Packs available. Check out all of the Shibori in the shop.
Fabric of the Week
Since Shibori is so often used in art quilts for sea and sky elements I wanted to offer another option for those elements as the fabric of the week. Sea and Sky Gradient is 20% off through Sunday!
Sharon Schutt used the Sea and Sky Gradient for the octopus element of her ocean themed quilt.
A good weekend
Virginia heat and humidity are here for the summer and that means a lot of staying in the rest of the summer. I don't garden (indoor or out) so I can focus my time on sewing, quilting, crochet and glass. this weekend was sewing and quilting-centric with a little side trip to visit my brother. It sure is nice having he and my SIL closer so that I can make quick afternoon visits. I also got to visit my friend, Marcy, to pretend like I was helping her upgrade the tensioner on her longarm. Really, we just visited and chatted because she had it all done already.
While there Marcy pulled out a box of (mostly) acrylic yarn. I brought it home to see if there was any that I could use. I'll box up the rest and take it back to her. She uses it when she teaches knitting. I don't really want to build a yarn stash but a few extra skeins will be OK, right?
I got this veterans quilt to together. This is the last of the Paula Nadelstern scrap fabrics for now. The next one is another Blockade with hand dyes and Kaffe shot cotton.
When I used to teach longarm quilting I spent a lot of time trying to help people get over their anxiety about starting a quilt. I had a few points that I wanted to make:
- remember, it's just a quilt, you aren't going to kill it
- if it's a bed quilt, it's more important to get it done than that it have the most absolutely perfect design
- save your anxiety for show quilts
I had to coach myself through this one. I had to remind myself that it isn't a show quilt. In fact, it's not really a quilt that I like all that much. I hate pink. I made this to occupy myself while watching football and traveling. It will most likely be gifted.
With that little pep talk I reminded myself that I like 2 kinds of quilting: ruler work and dense fills. So I just started and I got 2 corner and 1 border done. Those empty triangles will have the same fill patterns that I put behind the flower blocks. The empty diamonds will have 1/2" cross-hatching. I'm trying not to quilt too densely even though my tendency would be 1/4" lines.
I'm happy to be moving along on it and now I look forward to time at the machine. No more stress!
I won't be quilting a lot this week because I'm going to do some mosaic! My friend build a pizza oven and we are going to mosaic it this week. I should be able to post our daily progress but if not, you'll hear from me Friday when I return.
Customer Gems - Patricia Caldwell
This week's inspiration comes from Patricia Caldwell. Joy Emerging is a vibrant art quilt that a lot of hand dyed and batik fabrics. I know I recognize Sundance Gradient and Black Shades. The quilt features dense quilting and yarn couching.
For sharing, Patricia 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.
A little progress
Yesterday morning I had a lesson and then was out running errands for a couple of house so I didn't get settled into doing things until late afternoon. But I made a little bit of progress and set myself up for the weekend.
I drew more designs on my quilt but at least committed to a structure so I got that quilted and the basting removed. Today I WILL quilt something in some of these spaces! I don't know why I get so worked up about quilt, it's going to be a bed quilt after all. I don't really know what I'm going to do with it because pink isn't my color but I will find a good home for it.
Thank goodness I decided to sample the border that I picked out for this blanket! It's the one in the left and it's horrible. Don't pay attention to the base single crochet row, I was just trying to do a quick start for this sample.
The second idea isn't really any better. I think this busy blanket needs a simpler border. I'll get that figured out this weekend for sure.
I'll also get the veterans quilt top together.
I hope you have a great weekend. Get out and get some sun and soak up some vitamin D to help you fend off any and all viruses.
Nothing much happened yesterday except dyeing. Chris and I did his 5.6 mile walking route in the morning and then I dyed shibori all afternoon up until dinner. It takes a long time and I don't really make money from it but I love doing it. Plus every time I dye a half yard for the shop I add a fat eighth for my own stash. Now I have a hefty bin of shibori goodness to work with and by Monday I'll have 11 more pieces! But by the end of the day I was beat and only had energy for a bit of crochet!
The center of the blanket is done! It is square although it looks like I dropped and added stitches on the right. the edge is tucked under a bit. I had to be real careful with this one to make sure each row ended with 126 stitches. The nice thing is that it is now pretty much perfectly square. That should make it easy to add a border by also making 126 stitches on each side, that's 14 stitches for each section.
The original pattern had this border but since the directions for the body of the blanket couldn't have been right I'm not willing to fiddle with the pattern instructions for the border.
Instead I went to this book that I bought a couple of months ago. It has dozens of borders, many are very fancy and complex but the instructions are really clear so I think I could do any of them. I picked the border on the right because the stitches in purple are the same cross stitches that are in the blanket. I will use gray where the dark purple is, yellow for the light purple and white in the middle. I may try a small section on one edge just to see how I like it. I've got tons of leftover yarn that I can experiment with. This will be a weekend project.
I also got the Blockade blocks out of the floor so that the carpet could be vacuumed. Piecing this might be my afternoon project.
I haven't put a stitch in it yet
but I'm getting close.
Honestly, my primary accomplishment the past 2 days was getting a homeowners claim made for some chimney repair on the woodstove chimney. We get it cleaned and inspected ever year because you never know when something is going to happen. This is the "something" year and the something is a cracked liner. I have to say that I've never had an easier claim! USAA is THE BEST insurance company. The chimney people had supplied me with great documentation and from filing to check issuance took less than 2 hours. I once got mad at USAA when we first started doing Airbnb and I tried to get quotes from other companies to switch carriers. Not one other company would even give me a quote. Most wouldn't even return my calls. Now I know why. They have always been great with auto claims but this was our first homeowners claim. It's nice to know they will be there if we ever need them for a serious (expensive) claim.
I've been doing a bunch of other house administrative things too but I think I have those distractions covered for a while and it's back to quilting and other pursuits.
I did get all the Blockade blocks pressed and trimmed and I'm ready to put this together. The cleaner comes today so I need to get it off the floor before she arrives.
I have gotten the purple air erasable pen out and have started working on some ideas for the flower quilt. I know what I'm doing in the blocks and I have the thread picked for that. It's the borders that I need to figure out. They are 13" wide so there needs to be something big in there. I don't know what that is yet but I feel like the idea is starting to gel.
Today is dyeing day though and I'm off to do some new shibori!
One of my first gradients was called Meadow Sunrise. It was very popular but I felt that it was just a little too dark. I've re-worked it into this new gradient called Frolic. The day I was editing the photos I saw some deer on the hill outside my sewing room window. It was a beautiful bright day and evoked exactly what I meant from this fabric. So in homage to the deer that have very happy lives here I named this one Frolic.
Here's an art quilt that Candace West made with the original Meadow Sunrise. I think the new version will also create a great background for a vibrant garden.
Fabric of the Week - Rose Petals
To help your art garden grow, I'm featuring the Rose Petal Shades Pack this week. Rose Petal is a pretty deep pink that will make beautiful flowers for your next floral-inspired project.
Rose Petals is 20% off through Sunday.
We had a fabulous time in the Great Smoky Mountains last week. We did some really nice hikes and took a day to drive out to Cades Cove to see the old settlement. It was in Cades Cove that we spotted our first 2 bears. Every time you get in a big traffic jam in the park you can be sure that there's a bear somewhere nearby! The first one was in a field but the second one (above) was along the side of the road. You should be able to tell from the poor quality photo that I was a distance off and using zoom. I made sure I was behind 2 other people in case she decided we might look tasty. As we were passing a stupid teenager got out of her car and got entirely too close. People (not her parents) tried to tell her to back off but she wanted her photo. Luckily it turned out fine but it was still really stupid as this bear had 2 cubs with her.
Out last bear sighting was the morning we left. Chris was inside about 4 feet from the door when he saw a bear come up on the deck. It looked around a bit but didn't find anything interesting and then left. I expect that it still smelled the remnants of the chicken on the grill. But it was fun to see it so close up.
I'm a pretty horrible passenger so I've learned to keep myself busy on car rides and this is the project that I worked on this time. This one is really easy and this yarn is almost bulky so I use a larger hook. Both of those things make it good for a car project. I used a skein in each direction. I'll use most of the 3rd skein to finish it and then I'll use the rest with some white for a border but, for now, this one is getting put away until I finish the Crow blanket.
Speaking of the car ride, we found a fun podcast to listen to called No Such Thing as a Fish.
It's called the Crow blanket because that will be the baby's last name. I worked on this one in the cabin in the evenings. It can't be a car project because it requires a lot of counting to keep the rows even. But I made great progress at the cabin and only have one block of yellow left to do. The yarn is Stylecraft Special DK and I really love working with it. After the last yellow bar it will be about square and then will get several borders. The pattern is a popular one (on Instagram) called Hugs and Kisses. It's usually done as a chevron but I wanted straight stripes. It's possible that this gets done in the next couple of weeks.
By the time I got home I was tired of crochet and wanted to sew. I had quilted this veterans quilt before I left so I got the binding put on this pretty quickly.
These are blocks that I was going to make into a wall hanging a couple of years ago but I lost interested. I'm happy that I could salvage those blocks into a veterans quilt. The batting was a freebie too. A few months ago we got a deceased quilter's stash. She had a design wall made from quilt batting. I hate to throw out good batting so I washed it. It was still covered in threads but it was clean and it was perfect for a dark quilt with a black backing! You can't imagine how many threads are trapped between those layers! Recycle and reuse.....
After that was finished I started making blocks for the last of the precut kits made from the Paula Nadelstern scraps. I still have a bin of scraps that I can sew together into crumb blocks if I want but I also have 3 more veterans quilt kits cut out so I have plenty to keep my busy for a while.
I'm still pondering my next big project but until something inspires me I'll continue making veterans quilts. I know how much they are loved and wanted by "our" department at the VA and I sure have plenty of fabric!
This week I will get one of the vintage flower quilts loaded and make myself start quilting. I've got to stop being paralyzed by how to quilt my quilts. I'm just going to load it and start doing something. I have no plan.
Customer Gems - Rachel Derstine
This week's inspiration comes from Rachel Derstine. Green is My Garden includes some shibori pieces and a retired gradient. It's pretty much a perfect representation of the summer view outside my window!
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.
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In Bloglovin you need to search "Colorways By Vicki Welsh" to find the blog.
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.