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Thursday
Nov152018

The Harder I Work

I started the 2019 Ritzville quilt yesterday. I am using a pattern from the book Scrappy Fat Quarter Quilts: Favorite Projects from Fons & Porter. The block is a basic pinwheel star that looks like this:

The setting, however, is on point—this block is tilted 45 degrees and the rows are arranged diagonally. I am not usually a fan of quilt blocks set on point. They require setting triangles at the sides and corners to make the quilt edges even, which involves a lot of bias edges with the potential to stretch out. I am willing to put up with that for this quilt because setting these blocks on point results in the emergence of some very cool secondary patterns. The quilt in the book was done with a variety of fat quarters in cream/white for the background and browns for the darker sections. I've decided to do it in creams and blues. Each block requires 32 half-square triangles (HSTs). I pulled a stack of blues and a stack of cream/white fabrics from my stash and started cutting yesterday. The instructions given in the book are for making the HSTs out of strip sets. I've chosen to make them using the Magic 8 method, instead. I find that method easier and more accurate. I've also gone off script (shocking, I know) and upsized the block a bit. The original block finished at 8" and the quilt at 45" x 57". My HSTs will finish at 2-1/2" instead of 2", which results in a 10" block and a bigger quilt. I haven't done the math yet to determine how big the finished quilt will be or how many extra blocks I'll have to make, but I am aiming for at least queen size. 

After cutting a few fabrics, I mixed and matched a half dozen cream/white prints to half a dozen blue prints and started making the HSTs. I want this to be scrappy, so I need to have a good supply of HST combinations before I start assembling any blocks. A nice feature of the Magic 8 method is that I can make the HSTs a bit bigger and trim them down for accuracy. There will be no cut-off points in my quilt blocks. 

I've also finished quilting the subway blocks quilt. I need to make binding for it (Kona, of course) and attach it so I can sew it down in the evenings. That ended up being a surprisingly fast project. 

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I am reveling in all this sewing time, yes, but I have also made it a goal to submit at least one resume or online application (very few places want an actual resume anymore) every day. I get annoyed with people who say they wish their lives could be different in some way—finding a partner or getting a new job, for example—but who make absolutely no effort to move in that direction. You can sit around and wait for life to happen to you or you can go out and make life happen for you. I prefer the latter approach.  The July 2018 issue of American Quilter magazine featured a great interview with Jane Sassaman, who is one of my favorite fabric designers. The piece was entitled "The Harder I Work, the Luckier I Get." That seems so obvious to me, but I am continually amazed by all the people who complain that they don't have the life they want but aren't willing to put in some effort to make it happen. 

One of the benefits of filling out these applications is that I get to be creative about how I present myself. I said to the husband that after filling one out the other day, I looked at everything I have done in my life and my constellation of skills and I thought to myself, "I would SO hire me!" (He thinks I am probably overqualified for most jobs, but he is biased.) 

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I am hoping that we can have date night this weekend. I would really like to go see Bohemian Rhapsody, the biopic about Freddie Mercury. I started listening to Queen in sixth grade, when two of my friends, Darren and Alan, brought their Queen records to school. We were allowed to go to the library during study hall and sit in one of the listening rooms and listen to the records with headphones on. (Ah, the dark ages. They were so much fun.) The husband has been working so hard that we have hardly had more than a few minutes together each day when we're both awake. At least he doesn't have to traipse out to the piggy pasture on these cold and dark mornings to haul water for the pigs anymore. 

Cathy has to take one of her cows to the processor in a couple of weeks (she uses the same one up near the Canadian border that we do), so I told her that I would ride along if she wanted company. Not having a full-time job right now has some benefits. 

Tuesday
Nov132018

Now You See It, Now You Don't

It's the magic disappearing job!

I was getting ready to start work yesterday morning when the phone rang. It was the supervisor I had spoken to last week who had put me on the ortho account. She sounded upset and she was. Apparently the orthopedics clinic had just notified the transcription company of its intent to move to an EMR system after the first of the year. The job I thought I had was going away again. She asked if I wanted to continue and I said no, that I thought it was time to give up on medical transcription altogether. They want to keep me as an active MT, though, just in case anything comes up and to be available as backup for the oncology account I used to work on. I said that would be fine. I am not holding my breath for additional work, though. 

This doesn't just affect me. This was the transcription company's largest account. Losing it to an EMR system means the company may very well go out of business, too. 

I spent the morning working on getting the subway blocks quilt quilted on the Janome. It's about half done now. I had an appointment with my naturopath right after lunch (I am fine), and on my way home, I stopped at Cathy's house to tour her new barn. It's stunning. I should have taken some pictures. We also went out to the pasture and petted the cows. That's very relaxing. 

Cathy is a physician—although she's not actively practicing at the moment—so we drank some tea and talked for a bit about how EMR systems are so awful at painting a good overall clinical picture, but hospitals love them because they increase reimbursements by allowing ailments to be reduced to a billable diagnosis. Then I noticed that this was sitting on her coffee table:

I asked her half-jokingly if she were planning to do some shape-note singing. Cathy comes from a Southern Baptist background and she also plays the piano. As it turns out, she is related to John Gordon McCurry, the man responsible for assembling the collection of songs in the Social Harp. If I have this correct, he was her great-great-grandmother's brother. The Social Harp isn't quite as well known as the Sacred Harp, which is the more popular book for shape-note singing groups. (A few of the references I found said that only one singing uses the Social Harp; all other singings use the Sacred Harp.) I have a copy of the Sacred Harp (and the Southern Harmony and the Missouri Harmony and the Harmonia Sacra) and I am going to order myself a copy of this one to add to my collection of hymnals. There is a shape-note singing group in Missoula. They don't meet often but I have been to one of their singings. Most of the big cities have groups that meet regularly. 

What is shape-note singing? From Britannica.com:

Shape-note singing, a musical practice and tradition of social singing from music books printed in shape notes. Shape notes are a variant system of Western musical notation whereby the note heads are printed in distinct shapes to indicate their scale degree and solmization syllable (fa, sol, la, etc.). Since 1801 shape notes have been associated with American sacred music, specifically with singing schools, with musical conventions, and with all-day gatherings known as “singings.” Denounced by critics as uncouth, the simplified notation has persisted in the rural South, where it continues to form the basis of strong traditions of church and community singing.

The Mennonites are quite familiar with shaped notes; the Harmonia Sacra is a Mennonite production and their hymnals, up until the most recent one printed about 20 years ago, were all in shaped notes because so much of their music was sung a capella. As a pianist, I am not terribly fond of shaped notation. Singers only have to read and decipher one line of shapes. I have to do that with four lines and it can make my eyes cross. We do have one "red hymnal" (the version before the "blue hymnal") that has regular notation, so when I have to play something out of the red hymnal, I use that one. 

As far as work goes, I am back to being unemployed, so I am going to run with it for now. I will not feel guilty about spending time at my sewing machine. I will continue to put irons in various fires to see what happens, but this is a gift and I intend to treat it as such. I even settled on a pattern for a quilt for next year's Ritzville sale and pulled the fabrics from my stash. 

I know a lot of people don't like winter in Montana, but the mountains are so beautiful dressed up in their winter finery:

They are especially pretty in the late afternoon with the alpenglow. I took this at about 4:30 yesterday afternoon. The photo doesn't really do it justice. 

Monday
Nov122018

Marshmallow-Finished Pork

The pigs are scheduled to go to the processor tomorrow. A few days ago, the husband backed the stock trailer up to the gate to the piggy pasture and put their food and water inside so they would get used to going in and out. We have learned that this is the easiest way to load them for the trip. The first year, we tried to do it the night before the scheduled processing date and we were out there well past dark. 

Thanks to the late-lamented Chicken Thistle Farm podcast (still one of the best podcasts ever, in my opinion), we know that pigs love marshmallows. We use them to entice the pigs into the trailer. The husband asked me yesterday morning if we had some, which we did not, so I ran into town after church for a resupply. I came home with six bags. (He said, "The pigs will die of diabetic shock before we ever get them to the processor.") I wanted to make sure we had enough. I half expected the cashier to ask me what in the world I needed six bags of marshmallows for. It occurred to me that some farmers claim that their product is "grass finished" or—in the case of that really fancy expensive pork—"acorn finished." If anyone asks, we can say that our pork is marshmallow finished. 

As it turned out, getting this group into the trailer was relatively easy. That may be because there are only four of them instead of six. The husband is going to call the processor this morning and see if he can take them up today instead of tomorrow as they are already in the trailer thanks to half a bag of marshmallows. They did turn out nicely. We raised three males and one female and the female, interestingly, is the largest of all of them. Not by much, but I always expect the males to be larger. 

I know the husband will be glad to have the pigs gone. It got cold sooner than expected and he had to turn the water lines off to the piggy palace so they wouldn't freeze. That means he has had to haul water for them. It's why we don't keep pigs over the winter; we just don't have a good setup. And I think we have decided, officially, to skip pigs next season. I'd really like to devote more time to the garden. It has been running on inertia for the past couple of seasons. Plants grow without much help from us, but they would do better with some regular attention. 

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The exterior of the Caravan Tote is assembled:

Putting those snaps on the pocket flap took me a good hour because I was working slowly and deliberately. I didn't want to mess anything up. All that remains is making the lining and sewing the lining to the tote (with the straps in place). I am going off-script for the lining, so I need to think a bit about what I want.  

Overall, I like it. I am happy that I was able to repurpose that print fabric. Substituting fleece for the Decor-Bond called for in the pattern definitely changed the feel of the bag. It's pretty substantial, but that's not a bad feature in a tote. 

I also got the subway blocks quilt pin-basted and started quilting it. Amazingly, I was able to find yardage at Jo-Anns in the same print as one of the fabrics in the blocks. It's Tim Holtz fabric, according to what is printed on the selvage, but it was the only print from that line and the end of the bolt was marked differently than it used to be. I am still so annoyed at Jo-Anns for changing their lines of quilting fabric. Why carry only ONE print from that line of fabrics? I hope other people have complained about the change, too. I don't think it was an improvement. 

For the quilting, I am using an Aurifil 50wt thread in a dark beige in the bobbin. It blends in nicely with the background color of the backing fabric. Choosing a top thread was a bit trickier as there are so many colors in the blocks and such contrast—some are really light and some are really dark. I narrowed it down to a light gray or a light beige, and finally settled on Signature 40wt in a light beige. It blends in everywhere except the very darkest blocks. I am doing my favorite loopy quilting pattern. When the piecing is so geometric, I like the contrast of a more flowing quilt design. 

A quilt idea for next fall's Ritzville sale is percolating in my brain. When we were at Seattle Mennonite Church last week, I had a lovely chat with the woman who runs the quilt auction portion of the Ritzville sale. (She said to tell you hello, Margaret.) I really want to contribute to the sale and making a quilt is a great way to do that. The issue is getting the top quilted. They take machine-quilted quilts but the hand-quilted ones sell better. I think the ladies from church would quilt a top for the sale if I made one. Or maybe Margaret and I can work something out and do a long-distance quilt. We'll see. 

Sunday
Nov112018

Not Retired Yet

I think I have managed to regain some equilibrium. I was a bit blindsided by how sad it made me not to be working. Most people dream of the day when they can retire and spend their free time doing what they want to. I had free time and wanted to be working. I am still mourning the loss of that oncology account. That was my MT specialty for eight years and it's something with which I have a personal connection. Ortho is not quite as interesting, but I am happy to working as an MT in any capacity again. And maybe this will give me the best of both worlds: meaningful paid work with a bit more time to fit in all the other stuff I like to do. As much as I enjoy my domestic goddess activities, I totally get why my mother chose a job over washing out wastebaskets. This must be genetic. 

I had to run some errands in town on Friday and was on my way home when I heard a warning chime. I looked down at the dash to see BRAKE in big red letters with an exclamation point and the admonition to "drive moderately." I called the husband and let him know; he was pretty sure I wasn't in any imminent danger of brake failure. A few moments later, the message popped up on the navigation screen that the brake pads needed to be replaced. Apparently—as we discovered that night while looking at the service manual—there is a sensor that trips when the brake pads are down to 6 mm thickness and again when they are down to 4 mm thickness. He ordered new brake pads and will replace them some time this week. The car is due for an oil change, too. I am so grateful to be married to someone who knows his way around vehicles. He has replaced engines, worked on transmissions, and done all the standard maintenance on our cars and trucks. It saves us a lot of money. 

As if that weren't enough excitement for one day, I went out to feed the chickens later that afternoon and got locked out of the chicken coop. There is a hook and eye on the inside of the door, put there so that if someone goes in to collect eggs, the door can be latched to prevent any chickens from making a run for it. Every so often (I think it's happened twice in the past eight years), the door closes in such a way that the hook drops into the eye and the door locks from the inside. There I was, standing outside with a bucket of scratch grains, unable to get back into the coop. I couldn't crawl through a window because they are all covered with electrified chicken wire. All I could think was, "I don't need this right now," so I backed up, kicked my right foot into the door, and got it to open. The hook was a bit deformed as a result, but I think the husband was able to bend it back into shape. I made him laugh when I told him the story. 

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I was watching "Love of Quilting" on PBS Thursday night while sewing subway blocks together. The featured quilt was American Pie, a quilt designed by Marianne Fons based on an antique quilt from about 1875. (You'll have to click on the link to look at the quilt; I don't want to include a picture here because I don't want to run afoul of any copyright issues and the media conglomerate that owns the Fons & Porter brand is known for being difficult about that kind of stuff.) Marianne Fons found a picture of the original quilt, deconstructed it, and figured out how to recreate it. It's an amazing quilt design, made even more amazing by the fact that the quilter designed it in 1875. Marianne Fons had the assistance of a computer program to figure it out; the original quilter came up with it out of her head. It's a series of narrow strips sewn into bands from which wedges were cut and then arranged in a bulls-eye pattern. 

What bothered me about this—and what I found so very sad—is that this quilt design is attributed to Mrs. Thomas Mercer. That is how the maker of this quilt will forever be known—not by her own name, but by the name of some man who likely had nothing to do with the creation of this quilt. Who was she? What was her first name? What was her maiden name? I understand that this was the convention of the time. The husband pointed out that referring to her as Mrs. Name of Some Man was probably not done maliciously, but even things done without malice can be damaging. I can't think of anything worse than having one's identity completely lost or subsumed under the identity of another human being. She should be celebrated for her accomplishments as her own person. She was someone with worth beyond being some man's wife.

I am no fan of modern feminism (that's a complicated discussion for another time), but there is a lot of patriarchal stuff out there that does deserve to be dismantled. I doubt any men would put up with their work being known by someone else's name. Why should it be any different for women? 

I ran across this YouTube video a few weeks ago. It was put together by the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. A group of male pastors was asked to read things that had been said to female pastors. They didn't have any advance warning about what they were reading. What was most surprising was their surprise that people would make these comments to female pastors. It underscores the fact that just because you personally may not experience sexism, racism, or some other kind of -ism, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. 

It's only a 10-minute video and it's worth watching even if you don't attend a church. 

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I am kicking around the idea of migrating my blog to an updated version of the hosting platform starting in January. It means that this version of the blog—and all the posts for the past seven years—will go away. It would be too big a job to migrate everything over to the new version, and I don't want to pay twice as much to keep two versions alive on the web, although I might do that for a few months just to make sure the bugs all get worked out. This version is okay; the new version would give me capabilities that I don't currently have. 

Friday
Nov092018

Flashback to Fourth Grade

My mother made a lot of our clothes when we were kids. She was an excellent seamstress and we had some great outfits. One of my favorites was a pair of overalls made from sky blue pinwale corduroy. I loved those overalls and probably would have worn them long past their expiration date if one of the boys in my fourth grade class, who took particular joy in tormenting me that year, hadn't chased me and grabbed me by the shoulder strap of those overalls and ripped it beyond repair. I'm still mad about that. 

But look! Corduroy overalls are back in style!

This popped up on the Fabric.com website the other day and it just made me giggle. I don't think I could rock a pair of corduroy overalls now (nor do I think my mother would make me any) but it's fun to imagine. 

I'll be glad when skinny leg pants go out of style, because I just don't think they are that flattering unless you are DD#2, who can wear anything and make it look fantastic. Honestly, these overalls look like they are too small for this model. (The person who made these did say that she tapered the legs—significantly—from the original pattern.) And while I am kvetching, don't you think that if you're going to create a tutorial for a website that is going to be seen by a lot of people, you could make sure that your cutting and sewing are on point? One of the pictures accompanying this piece shows an interfaced piece of corduroy where the interfacing looks like it was cut out by a kindergartener with a pair of blunt scissors. Maybe that is me being picky, but stuff like that tends to promote the idea that handmade = homemade. That's right up there with tutorials featuring fabric that has never met an iron or steam press.

[It has been a rough couple of weeks and I am just not fit to be around other human beings right now. Truly. Interaction with other people is bordering on being mentally excruciating. I don't get to this point often, but when I do, I just need to hole up and not talk to anyone except the husband. I just want a few days where no one needs anything from me, and that includes my participation in face-to-face conversation.]

The husband went to fire training last night, so I sewed the rows together on the Tim Holtz subway blocks quilt. I needed some quality time with Vittorio, my Necchi BF. Silly me, though, I thought that subway blocks would be easy. They aren't—not really. It would have helped if the person who had cut the fabric (that would be me) hadn't cut some of the blocks at 9" wide instead of 8-1/2". I suspect I cut those one evening after dinner, which reminds me why I shouldn't cut fabric late in the day. I didn't discover that little mistake until I had sewn several blocks together. It took me a few minutes (and a ruler) to figure out why the rows were wonky. I fixed them and the rows looked better, but I've removed subway block quilts from my list of quilts that would be good for beginners. There are no seams to match up, true, but subway blocks don't lend themselves well to chain piecing and it can be tricky to sew long rows together without some easing in. They were, however, the right choice for these large prints. 

And now that top is done. I just need to peruse the stash for a suitable backing, piece together some leftover pieces of batting, and get this one basted and ready to quilt. 

I will give a job update when I've got my feet back under me. 

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