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Twelve Tricks

While doing this quarantine thing, I have been spending a great deal of time with Vivian.

Not to worry, though. Vivian is a Vision 2.0 Gammill quilting machine named after my grandmother. She and I have been working together for a couple of years now and I have learned a lot and picked up a few ideas along the way.

Most of what I am doing now would be classified as utilitarian in nature and mostly pantographs (quilting patterns), I also will do some basting–no more bending over the dining room table or crawling around on the floor; and a few art quilts.

  1. Stencil Brush and regular paint brush. I use the stencil brush to clean the lint from the bobbin carrier; the regular paint brush to clean the rollers and the track (although the air compressor my sweet husband bought me works better and faster except for the bobbin carrier–too hard to hold onto it in that blast of air)stencil20brush-m
  2. a white index card or a sheet of typing paper folded in fourths held behind the needle is helpful in threading dark thread against a dark quiltwhite20paper-m
  3. I pin to the top roller, roll slowly and carefully while standing in the middle of the bar and straightening the wrinkles as I go. I then roll slowly back onto the bottom bar. I was taught to pin to bottom, roll up on bottom, then pin to top but I ended up rolling it back and forth several times to be sure it was wrinkle free. This method works much better.
  4. I leave the backing under tension; drape the batting over the backing along with the top all over night. This takes a bit more time but I have not had any wrinkles in the backing using this method. And I am not ironing a backing that might have a few wrinkles in it from being folded.batting20draped20over20backing20and20top-m
  5. I make a small clip in the backing’s mid points to assist in pinning to the leaders. In the past I used a pin but then had to figure out what to do with that small sewing pin–the ones used to pin to the leaders would fall out.
  6. I measure each top and pin the measurements to the top; I can measure my pieces of backing and know which piece I can use and how to orient the top on the frame.
  7. I leave a four to five inch length of top thread when I invariably run out of bobbin thread in the middle or worse–only three inches away from the end of a row. That thread is easier to find when restarting.
  8. I mark the end of the pantograph with a piece of white plastic–it could be a piece of paper; I use a long straight edge to mark the top of the pantograph when filling in a partial row at the end of the quilt—that long straight edge is the top covering for window blinds but a regular yardstick would also work.end20of20pantograph-m
  9. Vivian does not mind jogging in place or even just standing still while I figure out where I am in the pantograph; she is incredibly patient.
  10. It is okay to write notes on the pantograph–some do not have top of the pattern marked, some start in odd places. That pattern is a piece of paper—write on it!
  11. Practice good posture while working; stand up straight; take breaks–Vivian will wait for you—and still smile at you when you come back.
  12. Don’t step on the electrical cord; it’s like putting your foot on the brake while revving the engine (if that can be done). you are just not going any where.

That’s all I can think of right now. Like a lot of things, there are things you do automatically and don’t even consider but make your tasks much easier.

I have been steadily whittling down the backload of quilt tops while under quarantine. I work on quilting nearly every day; while I am mostly doing pantographs, I think any time spent with a tool to be totally comfortable with its use makes future projects easier. While I have completed some art pieces with Vivian, the majority have been bed covers—but that is okay. I am having fun—my only limitation was backing and batting—but thanks to my wonderful long arm shop, I got in two cases of batting—….it’s easier for me to manage pieces of batting instead of cutting off hunks from a huge roll…yes, I know it is more expensive but I save on frustration and not crawling on the floor to cut off a piece.

If those of you who have long arms and more experience than me—are there things you do that improve your work or make things easier? I’d enjoy hearing!

And here is yesterday’s completed quilt—ready to join the binding queue.


yes, nearly all music themed fabrics; about 74 by 86 with a black backing covered with white musical notes.

Yellow flowers and Tomatoes

yellow20flower-mWe live in an old house that is now over 100 years old. It was built to withstand hurricanes and so far with the exception of a few roof tiles being blown off, has done just fine. It was also the home of a gardener.

There were the remains of a green house built onto the side of the garage but the grounds are filled with jonquils and snowdrops and crepe myrtles.

Then there are these little yellow trumpet flowers. They litter the front sidewalk like petals strewn in front of a bride—now days that is Dora happily doing her daily job of fetching the newspaper. We always looked to see where those flowers came from.

Now we have found another location for those flowers–the backyard where the vine has taken over one crepe myrtle and is vying for space with the wisteria.wisteria-m

And in other news, I ventured out …cautiously….to Tractor Supply to get some tomato plants and one bell pepper plant. Hopefully the plants are what the outside sign said they were, people tend to pick up things and put them back in the closest spot rather than the proper one—but they are indeed tomato and pepper plants—and if successful we’ll be quite happy.

No photo of them–they are hiding on the front porch in the shade awaiting transplant later today.



Peas and Lettuce and a Lemon Tree

Being of Midwestern stock and of the rural variety, a garden was a regular part of life. Each January the seed catalogs would appear, brightening up the dull gray, white and black of the outdoors to visions of summer with outdoor activities not associated with loads of extra clothing. We tended to forget the mud season otherwise known as mud season and of seasonal floods with wagers about whether or not Stark’s Sporting store would flood again this year.

Everyone planned their garden about the same way, a row of zinnias (they grew fast) and marigolds (to keep away the rabbits and deer) and then tomatoes and carrots and lettuce and peas and sweet corn and green beans and squash or pumpkins. Maybe one or two experimental vegetables that looked so fun in the catalog

Now on the Gulf Coast of Texas it has taken me awhile to adjust to our four season gardening. Lettuce was planted in December and was slow to sprout but now I have it in abundance. lettuce-m

Peas were planted in January–had to plant twice, the seeds kept coming to the top of the soil. There isn’t enough to make a meal but as garnishes and as dippers for the spinach dip I made the other day, perfect


And then there is the lemon tree


This little tree produced a dozen lemons the first year and we were delighted; the next year triple that and since then so many lemons.


The blossoms this year are plentiful and fill the air with a delightful scent—the bees are working that tree along with the clover—plenty of honey to process in the near future.


Cherries and a Pear

Two months ago (seems like a lifetime ago) I did some monoprinting with paint to make several small pieces of cherries and pears. I embellished these pieces with embroidery and applique. They are now all mounted, photographed, and ready for purchase. I was thrilled to sell one of the pears at the recent quilt show.

So here they are. If you are interested–these are in a 10 by 12 mat in a cellophane sleeve. (I took them out of the sleeve to avoid glare)

It was a fun project and a technique I’d like to re-visit.


Resilience otherwise known as Best Shot

Sylvia Weir Week 12 ResilienceI’m enrolled in a photography challenge with weekly challenges. I read them all but some of them involve a lot of fancy photoshop techniques…..not something I really enjoy doing. But other challenges are fun exercises as each of us tries to figure out something that no-one else has done. I don’t look at the photos until after I post mine but too frequently the week gets away with me and I haven’t posted anything at all.

During the first real week of quarantine/pandemic and cancellations of various gatherings, the challenge was resilience. The next week’s challenge..Best Shot..was posted underneath the Week 11 challenge.. I posted Week 11 Resilience under Week 12 Best Shot—



But I think we can all give ourselves a bit of grace here for mistakes like this.


Stars of Yellow

Like one of two of you, I have been checking social media on a too frequent basis. What is real and what is rumor? Angry comments are mis-directed fear–fear of the unknown and panic has spread from official to official to regular persons who are spending far too much time on social media.

I have been taking advantage of this time to work on some projects. I will admit to no social distancing from Vivian—but Vivian has never been to Walmart, the dog park, Krogers, or church—she just waits patiently for me in the back room of what my husband calls my play-house.

The play-house is a 100 year plus old rice farmer cottage with the dog-run center wide hallway and two rooms on either side plus and upstairs of three rooms. Vivian lives in the back room where I can see a few of my beehives, a good view of the water tanks filled now with lettuce and English peas. The grounds are covered with blooming white clover and the bees are busily working that clover.

We monitor those hives as this is swarming season; Toby and Dora were thrilled to visit and wander around and inspect the sugar cane we planted about two weeks ago—yes there are a few sprouts so we will be able to harvest our own sugar cane in about two years and then I will have to figure out how to make sugar from that cane (maybe I’m kidding here)

Back to Vivian. Vivian was my grandmother’s name and I gave it to my Gammill quilting machine. We have become good friends and like my grandmother, she works hard.

This quilt was made from some stars my mother hand-pieced–eye-balling the 1/4 inch seams which means no two were identical and some green and white triangles my dad cut out for her when her hands could no longer function due to neuropathy from chemo. They weren’t perfectly cut either—and I could have recut everything but just wanted it to be what it was—a joint project between my dad, my mom, my grandmother’s name-sake and me.

it’s all done except for the binding and the words for the label.


Zooming In

After taking Plaquenil for about six months, I began to notice some really strange visual things—sparkly colors, reversing colors of images. After reporting this to my ophthalmologist, I was scheduled to see a retinal specialist. He did some sort of fancy scans and it was determined I was one of the unlucky few to have Plaquenil deposits around both macula–the site of our most acute vision. Plaquenil was immediately stopped and very slowly some of my vision has returned. However, not enough to use that tiny little view finder on my camera.

I could be frustrated with having to use the pull-out window on my Canon SX 50 but sometimes the results are rather amusing particularly with the zoom feature.

One of our favorite spots is the tertiary treating area at Tyrell Park here in Beaumont. There are long walkways around each containment area, the occasional alligator can be spotted along with hundreds of birds.

This was an avocet on an overcast day and my attempts to get some good closeups. That camera can take photos of the water droplets on a duck from a considerable distance but that doesn’t mean it can tell I want the whole bird in the photo, not just its legs.

Tell me what you think!

Here is my subject.


First attempt with actual bird parts visualized. I omitted the ones of the just the water.


And another try.


so I back up the zoom and find that silly bird again.


my best effort—and I decided it was going to have be good enough.


Staying Busy

fallen20blossoms-mWhile some people are parked in front of their computers doing virtual tours of museums and dairy farms and checking out books from the New York Public Library, I’ve worked on our taxes (not done yet), cleaned floors ( a never ending project with two dogs), gone to work (careful to stay the required 6 foot distance), canceled airline flights and conference attendance (internet access is not reliable enough to do much of anything consistently ), re-glued up some wall paper, matted some prints, took apart a beehive( with husband) and made three splits–we’re both crossing our fingers hoping they will queen themselves, and now back to working on those UFO quilting projects.

Tired of being mostly indoors—I worked some on the never ending vines that creep up along the house and smother the azaleas—-and took a nice leisurely walk around the neighborhood to capture some flower photos. I live in an old neighborhood so there are also some wonderful old houses to photo..they all smiled for their picture. And then there are the odd bits of things I find interesting–the texture of rusting metal on the side of what used to be an ice house.

Here is the link for the photos—there are previous years photos as well—so for those of you who are looking at snow–please don’t be too envious. It will soon be baking hot here.





weirbees20booth-mIn the midst of all the chaos surrounding corona virus, the local quilt guild had its planned biennial quilt show. At the last minute–well–really about a month ago, I decided to be a vendor at this event.

I had a lot of honey and the bees were ramping up for another productive year. And I had a lot of postcards and covered books  and had enjoyed making Teddy Bears and of course had plenty of smallish and not so smallish fiber art pieces. I thought it would be a good practice run to see if I liked this kind of thing and would care to repeat it elsewhere.

Setting up is a lot of work; lots of trips from the truck to the designated booth. I reviewed some hints as to setting up a booth–open to the front; offer something free. I had planned to offer tastings of my honey but not with the corona virus doings. So I opted for a free not so fancy completed postcard–I had lots of those.

The first day (Friday) we had half the usual crowd; the second day very few. However, I did well. I sold out of jar honey, sold half of my whipped and comb honey along with some art pieces and a lot of post cards. The guild did a great job in organizing the vendor spaces, looking after us with treat/sustenance bags and a fantastic peanut butter chocolate chip cookie around 2:30 on Saturday afternoon.

My husband came to help to disassemble the booth; it goes faster with two. And we discovered the wagon I use to work the bees had four very flat tires–and pulled a lot easier once we filled its tires back at its home garage.

I had planned to have a SQUARE to take credit cards but could not make it work…its hard to figure out things when pressed for time and a busy booth and being solo.

Would I do it again?

Yes, I’m already looking at some display framework. It was fun talking to everyone a d I was happy to see some Teddy Bears go home to new homes.

Sculpting over a lifetime

Taking the time to see an art exhibit is always fun and adds to the creative juices. Just a few blocks away is the home and studio of David Cargill, a sculptor. I first became familiar with his work as a piece in the front entrance of the private high school attended by my three sons. It was a bronze trio of Mary and Joseph with Jesus as an adolescent. Mary was reaching out trying to hold Jesus back; Joseph was holding her shoulders comforting her—as if saying, our boy is growing up. Whenever I felt overwhelmed by parenting teenagers, I would stand in front of that sculpture—.

Another one of his sculptures is in his front yard—Jesus is lying back on his hands behind him, laughing at the children who are climing on his knees. New Testament and Sunday School lessons and sermons from the pulpit feature Jesus as always serious and intent—but he must have laughed, played with the other children in the neighborhood as a boy–he was fully human.

So after those two sculptures I was eager to see the exhibit at the Dishman here in Beaumont. It’s last day was Saturday but in April 2021 there will be a retrospective of his work at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas. I don’t have the dates yet—but it is a definite item on my calendar.

The pieces in this exhibit were early pieces but they capture people in every day life and with a bit of humor. I was reminded of Degas’ paintings of real people who were not posed specifically for the artwork. I took photos of most of them—and I’ll include the link here.

If asked to pick my favorite—it would be hard—

The man seated on the back of a giant fish who is trying to reel that fish in..dc3-m

The graceful girl offering a piece of fruit to a camel while perched on its back…dc2-m

the nude who was playing with her feet—bored? or maybe they fell asleep…dc8-m

and then in the upstairs gallery was a selection of 3D printed objects from Poland. If I could read Polish, I might have understood more about each piece but this one doesn’t need a lot of words.