Sunday, April 25, 2010

sewing box

I went back to John Wilson's Home Shop this weekend and built the sewing box. It measures about 9" tall, about 10" across and is 15" long. The sides and bottom are made of cherry, the top is bird's eye maple, and the inside tray is birch and cherry. I put one coat of Watco Danish Oil on it this afternoon. It has been rainy all day and is very cloudy and almost getting dark outside so the lighting isn't perfect for photography, but the cherry and maple are beautiful. Again I made mistakes, most of them on the tray this time. The dividers are supposed to be entirely pegged into the tray, but I was getting tired by Sat afternoon and didn't do a great job. I ended up using some glue and in retrospect I should have just left the dividers out completely and it would have looked better. The picture below is of the veneer and wood stock that I purchased to make 6 very small boxes. I plan to construct a set of 2 for myself, two for Chris and an extra set in case I get into trouble. This would complete the smaller diameter of our nesting boxes. The smallest box is just 1"x3" and the other is just a little bigger. They both fit into the smallest box of the nesting
set that we made last week. I added the pencil for scale. Not only are the boxes small, but the veneer is thin because it has to be bent very tightly to construct such a small box. These boxes are glued instead of pegged and purely decorative, but I thought that it would be fun to complete the set. Of course, there are bigger boxes, the sewing box is a #8 and our nested sets only have up to a #5. There is also prepared stock for box #9-16, but judging by the difficulty of construction for the #8 box, these might be very tough to put together. My basket group still wants to go back next year, so they may be in my future yet.
We are off to Maryland on Thursday night this week to visit family and friends and go to the Maryland Fiber Festival at the Howard County Fairground on Saturday. I have been wanting to go to this fiber festival for a couple years now, so I am excited that I am going to be able to go this year. P has a friend who has a booth and so we will visit her and see beautiful wool, yarn, roving, and spinning wheels. Of course, there will be a sheep to shawl competition and sheep shearing going on, as well as rabbits, maybe llamas, and other animals that have fur that can be spun into yarn (pretty much anything if one was desperate). I am excited and want to see everything. I certainly don't really need anything of course, but just the tactile sensory overload is worth going to Maryland. And I get to see K and E, L, D and P. It will be a good time.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

finished boxes

These are the finished boxes, 3 coats of Watco Danish Oil and sanding with 440 grit between each coat and they are beautiful, not perfect mind you, but good for a first try. They look nice on the cherry dresser in my bedroom. Now to just get that batik quilt behind the bed... The little one in front is the music box. Below is the newly weeded annual garden that is ready to plant on Mother's Day weekend, weather permitting. I snapped the photo and then trimmed the roses so they are done too, it just doesn't look like it. The former rose bed at the end of the drive is being turned back into lawn as soon as everything in it is grubbed out and the soil is raked and seeded. It's the rough patch at the end of the drive. I also put the otter in the pond, trimmed back the curly willow, and swept some of the dead leaves from the deck tonight. I'm getting there, but it is a bit slow. The weather is perfect, beautiful sunshine and 70-75 degrees, and I don't want to complain, but where are the April showers? I was hoeing in the flower bed and the top couple inches are completely dry. It's way to early to water roses, but I know I wouldn't be able to seed grass without
watering too. The perennial bed is a mess of feverfew, coneflowers, perennial sunflower, black eyed susans, and oregano. The peonies are up and budded out. It seems early. We drove by a lilac that was in full bloom last night at the corner of Linden and Lennon Road. The leaves are starting to come out on mine, but the buds are still really tight. However, if this weather keeps up, the pink dogwood will be out by the weekend. And if it gets any warmer, the spring flowers will be gone soon. Maggie walked across in front of the camera just as I snapped the picture, another 2 seconds and it would have been Einstein since he was right behind Maggie. They played outdoors while I was gardening today. Of course, there are sticks all over the front yard.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

shaker boxes

I'm going to post a few more photos from this last weekend. The box on the left is a swing handled carrier. I hope to make one of these this next weekend. The photo below is of cherry veneer. I was impressed by how big in diameter the tree must have been to get that size piece of veneer. I used the extension cord for scale. It was a big extension cord.

This photo is of the veneer storage. The smell was wonderful. He had some of the most beautifully grained wood that I have ever seen. Walnut, gorgeous pieces of curly and bird's eye maple, ash, and tons of cherry. He said that he had to get small producers to take on the work because he had very specific specifications and the big producers didn't want to mess with it. He had used lots of sawmills over the years because they kept going out of business. By the way, he was also a boatbuilder and had several classic wooden boats hung from the ceiling over the veneer storage.
The next photo is of the tack machines. He bought the machines, manufactured in the late 1890s, from a company that was going out of business. He makes 9 sizes of copper tacks used to put the sides of the box together. The machines worked well and made tacks, though the machines looked a little like Civil War era gatling guns.

This photo is of my boxes when they were just sides on Friday night. They have pieces of wood called shapers in them. He had prepared the strips of veneer with the fingers already cut and the holes pre-drilled. I recut the fingers, shaping them and giving them the characteristic 10 degree bevel, and feathered the inside edge of the wood to form the overlap. We left the strips of wood in a hot water bath (over 180 degrees to melt the lignin in the wood) for about 20 minutes and then bent them around a wooden form to make each size box and top. Then we tacked them, put the shapers in them and left them to dry overnight with a fan on them. On Sat morning, we shaped the top and bottom with the belt sanders. This was a much more difficult job than making the sides, because they had to fit so exactly. There isn't any glue used in the construction of Shaker boxes. The tops and bottoms are pegged together with wooden toothpicks. I learned several lessons...the overlaps have to fit exactly, otherwise there is a space when you fit the bottom into the band (and you should use carpenter's glue to fill the gap), the pegs should be evenly spaced and match between the tops and bottoms, you have to support the fingers all the time while you are tacking, and most problematically, you have to get a snug, rounded fit (but not too tight) on the top and bottom boards.

This is Chris on Sat morning. She isn't tired now and looks much happier with her work product than she was on Friday night. She has just sanded the top and bottoms of these boxes and fit them together. Now she will drill the holes for the pegs, peg each together, break off the extra, and sand it even with the box. I have started to finish mine today. I sanded with 220 sand paper, then wiped on one thin coat of Watco Danish Oil and let it dry. I resanded with 400 grit tonight and will put on another thin coat tomorrow. They are looking pretty good. Chris will get hers done this weekend when she has time off from school.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

April weekend

I have been blessed with 4 days of extremely fun things to do. Thursday morning was a quilting workshop with R, Thursday evening was fabric art guild with J and friends, Friday morning was quilt guild, and Friday evening and all day on Sat, C and I made Shaker boxes. Sat evening was D's Glee Club concert and gardening today. I have to retire so I can do this every week! There was a little cooking, cleaning, and laundry thrown in, but mostly it was just fun stuff.

Isn't this a gorgeous quilt? It is applique and traditional blocks all done in bright clear batik fabrics. The picture doesn't do it justice, it really just glows with color. It was a raffle quilt done by an Oakland County quilt guild and one of the members of my guild won it and shared it at show and tell this week. I think it is just stunning and how absolutely cool it would look in my yellow bedroom, behind the bed of course, so the dogs didn't lay on it. I have a couple (or 3 or 4) other quilting projects going right now or I would have already started on one similar to it, but alas, there are only so many damn hours in a day and there is never enough time for everything. The next picture is a close-up of the quilting done on the corner applique block. It was machine quilted and it really adds to the overall effect. I forgot to find out who did the quilting, (note to self...always take a picture of the label on the back, duh), but I am going to have to ask next month. She said that I could come visit the quilt anytime that I liked (I might take her up on it).

On Thursday, R and I went to a guild quilting worshop with Elsie Vredenburg of Tustin, MI. She calls the class "Stone Soup" and you bring in your odd quilt blocks from different projects and she helps you to put them together in a satisfying, though eclectic, manner. I took extra blocks from K's wedding quilt, D's apple quilt, strips from E's and C's quilts, and and blocks from a couple other workshops. Fortunately for all of us, she provided 3" 9 patch squares in a multitude of colors and several other small blocks for us to combine with our blocks. R's quilt top was the best. She had several extra blocks and fabrics from a quilt that she just finished for a church raffle (that sold for $280, it was beautiful and worth much more), so she actually had a theme going, unlike me. While looking at mine, Elsie mentioned that this method didn't usually add up to a competition quality quilt top, but it was alot of fun anyway. The very best thing about workshops is that you get to spend 6 hours with your friends, everybody doing something fun, talking, comparing notes, trading fabric, eating, and since you took the day off to do it, and paid for the class, you don't have to feel guilty about not doing anything else. A perfect day even with a less than perfect quality quilt top. My contribution, also displayed at show and tell on Fri morning, was only half of a quilt top because I only finished part of it in class and haven't had time to even think about it since. Elsie also did a lecture at guild on Friday about the healing qualities of working on, and receiving, handmade quilts. Certainly in my case, quilting and fabric art for my peeps is a way of expressing love when you live far away and can't be there everyday. And since the kids have grown and have lives of their own, it's one way of keeping me sane and giving me a community.

Thurs night was fabric art guild and we poured plastic resin into bottle caps to make little charms. And yes, L, stunningly, it was the same 2 step process that we did with dad and mom in the 1960s. You poured hardener into the resin, stirred a bit and poured it into the cap and let it sit until it dried. It was even purchased at Rio Grande, which was one of the mail order craft companies that mom got stuff from later. Mom and dad were definitely way ahead of the curve on this craft. To prepare, I wrote words using a variety of small fonts and tore them out as needed to add to my bottle caps. I also had gorgeous blue and green colored papers from an old National Geographic and a little sand, so I did "to" "the" "beautiful" "sea" in 4 of them. The resin darkened the colors, but the word is clearly visible as the white paper became invisible in the resin, so my charms look pretty much as I intended. This would be a really fun craft to do at the beach if anyone is interested, with cheap charm bracelets or anklets. People put all kinds of things in the caps, watch parts, beads, even little shells. Dad would be approving of all of this. I was the only one with words.

These photos are from the Shaker Box workshop in Charlotte on Fri and Sat. John Wilson is a retired Lansing Comm College woodshop instructor and has done this for many years. He travels all over the world teaching various wood classes, but the Shaker boxes are his most popular. He has been written up in Fine Woodworking, Popular Woodworking and several other magazines. He has also built gorgeous wooden boats. He and C had quite the discussion about the boats. He isn't teaching the class anymore, but offered to sell her the boat plans. My basket guild went to a workshop last fall, but I didn't go because we were in Munising. They want to go back and do the next 4 sizes up and I had to go get caught up with them.

We got there at 6 Friday evening and stayed at the shop until 11pm. He spent a couple hours explaining the history and process of the boxes. He is all about sharing the knowledge. There were people there from all over the country and a woman was supposed to be there from England, but because of the Iceland volcano, couldn't get a flight out of Europe. There were several older men, mostly woodworkers, furniture and jewelry box makers, a woman sculptor, and two couples. We shaped and tacked the veneer sides on Friday night. C and I were pretty fast and made all of our box sides on Fri night, so he let make the next size up and I also made a small music box. So C and I both have a stack of 6 nesting cherry boxes and I also have a small cherry music box with a birdseye maple top. It plays, appropriately enough, the Shaker hymn, "Simple Gifts". It took until 3 on Sat to finish the tops and bottoms of the boxes. Some were still working when we left, but we needed to get to get back to Flint so we could get the sawdust off of us before D's concert on Sat night. So we drove home and then went back to Lansing with H to see D. It was a long day filled with lots of concentration, and the smell of sawdust and the veneer storage brought back memories of Michigan Lumber with Gramps when I was little. I have more photos and will bring them to Md to show. I sanded mine today and will try to get them finished this week. C was at school today, but hopefully she will have time to get hers done this week too. We were going to drive home on Fri night, but he has a little guesthouse that we stayed in instead of driving, since we started at 8am on Sat. He built his guesthouse himself and it has a gorgeous birdseye maple banister on the ladder steps going up to the sleeping loft. The guest house was fun with it's little wood stove and big sheets of slate anchored to the walls as fire protection. The picture of the big box with the maple top and inset is a sewing box. The class next Sat was full, but he told me that I could join them, so I'm thinking that I could use a new sewing box. We had a blast and I think everyone should make a few Shaker boxes in their lifetime. Gramps would be very proud of C. She did beautifully.
The last photo is of the last song of D's concert on Sat and of course, from 3/4 of the way back in the concert hall, so the photo is not great. They are singing the MSU song, "On the Banks of the Red Cedar" their traditional closing. We heard both the Women's and Men's Glee Clubs and they were both very good. I always prefer the men's voices and they did a processional as the first piece, an African song with drums, that was stunning. They are also usually more entertaining then the women. I suspect the director's styles are different. The men sing lots of sacred music too, but also spirituals and funny pieces. And of course, the men are better, that's where D is. I'm so glad he has taken advantage of the opportunity to sing with a group like this. He seems happy when talking about the Glee Club and we love to hear him sing.

Gardening today, H mowed lawn and I planted bulbs and watered my little bitty marigolds and tomatoes. H is talking about yards and yards of soil and mulch so I suspect we'll soon be really busy. This is where he stops at the neighbor's house and collects the kids to work for the afternoon. Fortunately for me...they do.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Flowers and the Sea

These are my clivia. They have been blooming for about a month now. Each individual blossom is about 1 1/2" across and at peak, there were 23 blossoms on it. Unfortunately they are starting to go now, and falling off every day. I'll be really sorry to see it finish blooming. This is only one of the clivia around the house, there are 5 in this pot and at least 3 other pots of clivia, but this is the only one with blossoms. I have had some of these plants since 1998 and I've had about 4 sets of blossoms. They are spectacular when they bloom, and I'm hoping as the plants get older and more crowded in the pot, they will bloom oftener.

One of the real luxuries of this house is that there is enough room to start seeds indoors a few weeks before the soil is warm enough to plant them outdoors. These are the 2 2x4' tubs that are filled with flats and big pots sitting on the floor of the florida room. Last weekend, I started a flat with 2 types of heirloom tomatoes, Sudduths Brandywine and German Pink, a flat of Straight Eight cucumbers, a flat of Cempoalxochitl marigold, and a flat of Burpeeana Giant Mix zinnias and Spider Flower Mix for the annual garden. 3 of the pots have dahlias, and 3 have cannas started, also for the annual bed. On the other side of the room are the 4 pink dahlias from the MSU extension that I started 2 weeks ago and they have sprouted. I can't seem to find a tall snapdragon to start so I guess I will have to buy those, and I will buy the dark rose colored petunias for the border too. I love the spider flowers (cleome) because gram and gramps always had them in the back of their big border flower beds when I was young. I know they get spindly later in the summer but I'm hoping to fill in their feet with big marigolds, snaps, and zinnias. This bed should be very colorful and make a big statement, since the bed is also pretty big, about 8' wide and 50' feet long. Thanks to D and C. Right now, I have 7 roses planted in the back of it and a few daffodils, hyacinths, and grape hyacinths in the front. It will look better in a few weeks.

I took this picture because I love the wildness and color of the curly willow starting to leaf out. D cut the willow for me last spring from a small tree in a drainage ditch in the field behind the local big box stores. I brought it home and stuck it in the pond on the deck where it happily leafed out and grew huge roots last summer. I wasn't sure that it would overwinter, but it clearly has. There is some dead stuff in it that I will prune, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. The dark lime green foliage and bright lime green stems look great from the family room on the other side of the windows. There is a wet boggy part of the pond in the corner behind the willow. I'm going to put a couple 6' tall green leaved, red flowered cannas in there for the summer and leave the willow. I'll put the otter fountain in the area to the right side of the willow and call it good. Running water, lots of willow, and a bit of color. Not the most formal small space, but I think it is perfect. I went to a quilt gathering last Tuesday evening. I haven't been before, but evidently someone demonstrates a specific technique and they all do their rendition of it that evening. The group was doing a type of quilting called Accidental Landscapes, where you put fabric together and then decide what kind of landscape you want to make. In honor of the upcoming beach vacation, I decided to do a seascape, or maybe really just a beach. And of course, I found my box of natural stuff and embellished it because I don't seem able to not embellish. I used shells, stones, a little sand dollar and fabric rocks on the bottom and in the center of the piece. There are also beaded starfish and glass beads on the green fabric. The fence is raw edge applique with a small piece of driftwood that I had in my box. I used raw edge applique for the birds (hard to see in the photo, but there are 3 "gulls" in the sky on the left hand side) and fish, except for the bottom fish which is a shell that looked like a fish so there it went. I used the sewing machine to write "To the Sea, To the Sea, To the Beautiful Sea"and signed and dated it in the bottom right corner. I am going to hang it in my bathroom, where it will remind me of the salty water, sand and bits of shells, and the family that make it all worthwhile.

C's bag

C with the bag that she made. She picked out the pattern, the fabric, did the quilting and finished the bag. Pretty cool, huh. I'm very proud of her, she has never used the sewing machine before and not only did she do the seams, she machine quilted the circles in the bottom too.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter 2010

A lovely holiday weekend. On Saturday, breakfast with C and H in Davison and then the Ann Arbor market and Whole Foods with H and the dogs. I bought MORE seeds and dahlias and cannas to start for the annual bed and we had good coffee all day. And of course, bought organic peanut butter buddies for the spoiled dogs. On Easter, C was here and D and E came over in the morning. It was very cool to have E, it was her first visit and she was wonderful (she even ate a pickled egg). We ate brunch of grilled shrimp and asparagus and crepes with strawberry/blueberry/raspberry sauce and whipped cream on the deck. We played with the dogs, dyed Easter eggs, sat and talked, took pictures of D's quilt, and played scrabble and then more food; fried chicken, mashed potatoes, milk gravy, fresh green beans, a tomato, fresh mozzarella, and basil salad, and biscuits. H picked out the menu and it was very good. We had E's lovely strawberry angel food cake dish and lemon meringue pie for dessert. E and K called so we got to talk with them. I really missed having the big kids here, but K is starting her next to last 30 day rotation and is very happy to be almost done, and E said the weather in Maryland was gorgeous and they had had a good brunch. P and T were in the UP at T's parent's house. They are supposed to visit next weekend. Here, the kids found their baskets and seemed very happy with their stuff. I was very excited that H got a new pair of Felcos for me. I have misplaced mine that I have had for years and I had been really missing them this spring, you can't prune without the proper tools... The dogs were exhausted. It was a beautiful day. This is the table Easter morning. I used the new tablerunner that I just took off the loom a couple weeks ago. I dyed the cotton rug warp and muslin with Rit navy dye. I wadded the fabric and thread up and put rubber bands around them so I got color variation in them. I also overdyed the denim jean strips that I used as an accent in the runner. The muslin fabric is done up with a tabby weave and the jean strips have a monk's belt tie-up, giving them floats on top of the muslin and making the runner a bit knobby in places. I like the texture of using the jean strips on the smooth tabby weave. And though I used navy dye in the washing machine, I like this color better, it is almost periwinkle blue, very spring-like. The multi colored batting is dyed with easter egg dye from the kit. I'm not sure what I will use it for, but the colors of dye were so beautiful, it seemed a shame to not dye something that D wasn't going to eat. I still have strips of batting in the dye tonight, I am going to take them out tomorrow and let them dry. I am hoping the colors will be more intense. This photo was taken in the florida room tonight and that is definitely not the best lighting. It is too yellow and some things look really washed out. The last photo is D's quilt. I had him bring it home for the day so I could take a photo outdoors. The quilts look so much better in the sunlight and yesterday cooperated beautifully. These are the apple fabrics that just looked like D in the store. And then when I got the center finished, it looked pretty plain, and so as D is always telling me to "Eat Michigan Apples", this saying seemed appropriate for the border. I just free pieced the letters, but they turned out well so I guess I really don't need a pattern for everything...

The pattern for the center is just squares with alternating flying geese. It wasn't difficult to do, but it seemed to fit these fabrics well because I wanted to have large enough squares to see the patterns in the fabric. The brown has apples and apple blossoms, the tan has apples, and the dark gold has the names of apples printed on it, Jonathon, Delicious, Golden, Spy, and others. The plaid goes well and the red is plain, the better to see the long arm quilting. He quilted a really cool apple pattern over the whole quilt. The apples are about 2 1/2 " across, so the quilt is not too stiff with thread. The quilting really shows up well on the red fabric. I backed the quilt with the dark gold and labeled it for D. A wonderful weekend, thanks to all of you. We are so blessed and I am grateful.