Whimsical and Homespun Art Creations with a Little Rural Living Thrown In

Friday, September 30, 2011

Harvesting Sweet Corn & Felting Sweaters

In the midst of my commission work posted on my "Sketches" blog, I am late blogging about some of the happenings from September and hope to get them caught up this week.  One of my first endeavors came from the cornfield during the first weekend of September... courtesy of my son. 

My little farmer boy planted a field of sweet corn on a vacant lot that we own in town.  (He has the best luck for not getting any hungry critters invading and stealing the harvest.)  To my surprise, he called me on my way home from the Edgerton Thresheree (promise to get those pics up this week) and told me that he was picking all the sweet corn.  Aaaaagh!  So, I put aside my afternoon work and began to shuck some corn.  Thirty-seven quarts later... I decided to throw in the towel.  After all, there is only three of us in the household.  And although we love corn, that figures to approximately 3 quarts a month.  I packed the quarts for freezing and can get two days worth of veggies from each one... plenty for our family!  After gifting a couple of grocery bags full to friends, setting some aside for the week, and coaxing the hutch bunny to eat a few small ears (how desperate it that?! LOL), we were still left with a third of the ears still in the trailer.  Thank heavens for the neighbors!  Farmer boy told them of his harvest, and they came over the next afternoon and carried them off to put up for the winter.   We fed the remnants to neighboring farm animals, so there wasn't waste. Yay!  It went so smoothly that one would have thought it was carefully planned. ;) LOL    

Winter sweaters from the thrift store... Yay!!   Along with wool clothing and jackets, wool sweaters are on my list.  Here are some of the sweaters (already felted) that I have accumulated this month.  They are felted in a hot wash and dried on high heat.  I try to wait until there are enough similar colors before doing a day of felting.    It is so cool to witness the transformation!  Trust me, it is a very addictive hobby.

I spent yesterday morning starting to organize part of my stash from the bins and mix in the new haul.  For easier storage, I decided to cut off the arms and wide waist bands, since those parts are used for different projects.   The sleeves even got a stapled label of what kind of animal fibers that they are composed of.  How's that for organization?  Wish I would have thought of that when I started building my stash last fall!  Aaaahhh... better late than never...

I have been so excited to have the opportunity in September to create some pieces that will be listed in my Etsy store for fall and winter.  Tomorrow's post will show how I encorporated a few of these upcycled sweaters into embellishing a new project. 

This is the first year that I will be able to spend the fall and winter creating upcycled and fiber art, along with my graphite work.  My list of projects and sketch books are full of ideas that have my mind spinning, but I think that I finally have a pretty good schedule going.  It is a crazy balancing act with all the different medias... just the way this multi tasker likes it!! :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thrifty Finds ~ Back to Thrift Shopping!

Fall is the time when garage sales and flea markets come to an end for another year.  So what is a girl to do with all of her hunting energy?  Why... go thrift shopping of course!  In all honesty, my thrift shopping slows during the summer months due to the lack of winter clothes that are pulled from the shelves.  My main objective in the clothing outlets has been the hunt for wool items to felt and full for various winter projects.  Although my plastic tubs are becoming rather full, the search goes on! ;)  

Below is my last summer trip to the thrift shop.  As you can see fabric is always a great find and a new quilting book. :) 

A few weeks ago, one of the stores switched over to fall/winter clothing.  I bought quite a few wool sweaters for felting that I will get some pics of after washing.  As you can see, they are getting in some nice fabric... hard to pass up at a $1.00 a yard.  Plus, it goes to a good cause.  I call that a "win, win" situation.  I also picked up another quilting book. How can you beat 50 cents for an evening of reading? 

I was surprised to find a white chenille bedspread cut and labeled for crafting.  Bought a few bags of floss to add to my stash, some Christmas fabric, and a wool blend sweater that will be perfect for outdoor winter chores...  Brrrrr!!

I found these wool blankets hanging in the bedding area.  The top one is huge and such a tight weave!  It is a twin size.  Not really sure what to use it for... Hmmm... The bottom is a wool army blanket.  It is a looser weave than the top blanket and would work well for the lining in  a quilt.

Now that fall is here, I will be checking into the shops every few weeks as long as the roads stay clear.  Can you believe that snow will be flying in a few months??? 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

365 Vintage Hummingbirds for a Quilt ~ With The Help of Barbara Brackman

I have to share with you a treasured item that my younger sister recently picked up for me at my Grandma's sale.   She found this box amongst the various items and opened it up.  To her surprise there was a note written in our Great Grandmother's hand that read, "365 Hummingbirds in this box - July 4th, 1940".  She knew that these were something that would be of interest to me, so she purchased them.  I cannot express in words the excitement that I felt being the recipient of these hand sewn treasures.  They are approximately 4 1/4 inches long from point to point and are made from various prints of that time period.  Just breath taking!

I can imagine how wonderful it would be to create a quilt that will be a culmination of Great Grandma's and my handiwork.  The process being more than 70 years in the making!  The only problem with this dream is my lack of quilting knowledge.    I didn't relish the idea of a long search with no results, so I jumped immediately to a quilt historian and author that I have admired for years... Barbara Brackman.  I have been a follower of both her blogs for quite some time now.  You can find them listed under fiber artists on my side bar entitled:  Barbara Brackman Material Culture and her newest blog Civil War Quilts or just click on their names in this post.   She is currently posting the instructions for Civil War Era blocks that I intend to make into a quilt someday with her fabric line inspired from that time period.  I highly recommend reading her blogs even if you are not a quilter.  The history revealed in her posts is some of the best reading around!

So for those that were as intrigued as myself by the little Hummingbirds, the following in quotes is the info that Barbara Brackman was kind enough to send to me in an email...

"You have a common example of an unfinished Hummingbird quilt.  It's a beautiful box."

"Here is what the finished quilt is suppose to look like.  Some people finished out the birds into a block."

"Either on the diagonal or north/south axis."

"Others set the birds together with an octagon shape."

"That may be the case above.  I think that is why there are so many unfinished examples in boxes.  Fitting the birds into the octagons was no easy task."

"Don't forget you can make a mini quilt and frame a picture of your Great Grandma with the unfinished blocks."

I am grateful for all of Barbara's help and direction on these quilt pieces.  I am anxious to contribute my part to the production of this quilt but will definitely work on perfecting my skills first.  My Great Grandma passed away not long after completing these blocks, and I want to do my absolute best for my part in this family heirloom.  I am honored to be leaving my mark in our family history.

I thought that I would end this post with a photo from our travels on the 127 Yardsale.  You might need to click on the pic to see this one clear.  These are old sewing machines that were stacked up and waiting for an upcycler to make them into new treasures.  I couldn't help looking at them and imagining all of the hands throughout the years that created garments and quilts on these wonderful machines.  Can you imagine the excitement that must have been felt on the day these brilliant little gems were purchased?  Quite the investment!  The freedom it must have gave to the hand piecing seamstress.  Ahhh... If only they could tell their stories... *sigh*

Friday, September 9, 2011

Trio of Vintage Minneapolis Moline Tractors ~ Park Days Vintage Tractor Pull

I feel as though I should grab one of my pitchforks and start singing, "Green Acres is the place for me..."  My son and now hubby's obsession with pulling vintage Minneapolis Molines has reached a high, and I fear is going to go higher.  As you all know, my son purchased a Minni Z that started this antique tractor hobby rolling.  Then my hubby found a Minneapolis U that worked on LP that has some serious pulling power.  That is when I felt the need to step in and remind the two of them that these tractors make for some large yard ornaments.  But they were happy with their two Minnis and assured me that their dreams of two pullers were complete.  Now here is a game reminiscent of Sesame Street ... look at the pic below, how many Minneapolis Molines do you see??  I know... I think that they must have found a way to multiply, since heaven knows, my two guys assured me that their world was complete with their two golden nuggets!!

Apparently all is well in their world NOW that they have the three tractors, or so they pleaded their case to me.  Since the other tractors were pullers, my son evidently needed a regular tractor to pull his carts and do the small plowing and grating on our empty lots.  Hmmmm.  Are you all buying into this line? ;)  So, here are the two caught in action when they brought home the gas driven Minneapolis U. 

As we were driving behind this tractor coming home, I could not help but wonder where I had lost control of this situation. ;)   I was so thrilled when my hubby freed up space in my back yard by selling his extra bucket truck from the tree business.    And I know how driven he can be about a competition of any kind, so I have to keep him in check, or I'll lose my whole back yard to this new found passion.  There is a thread of truth albeit a very thin thread of truth to their argument, so... I caved and welcomed it home to become part of a trio.  At least my hubby's parents are thrilled, since something in the Minni Z runs on the frequency of their cable and knocks out their TV interception whenever my son drives it past their house! LOL

On the tractor pull front:  We had Park Days here in our small town, and our volunteer fire department hosted a vintage tractor and truck pull.  Here is my son hooking up with his Minni Z.  Until there is a larger trailer purchased, this pull and the one in a neighboring town will be the only two pulls for the Z this year.

The little Minni Z pulled its way to a  First Place win in the 5250 pound antique farm and two - Second Place wins in the 4500 and 5000 pound antique farm.  In one pull, he came in second by 7 inches!  It was an exciting day of pulling for the Z in front of the hometown crowd.  Very respectable finishes for the little tractor.

Then it was time to bring out the big bad U.   It won First Place in the 7000 and 7500 pound classes.  I know my son would like to give it a paint restoration, but money has to be saved up for that first.  I always quote one of his fellow pullers that always tells my son, "A fancy paint job won't make it pull any farther!"  ;)

One more pull and their tractor pulling fun is over for the year.  My son and hubby were sitting last night in the living room.  I overheard something about my son locating another  Minni Z and possibly making a modified tractor.  Aaaaagh!  I reminded my hubby that they already have two pullers.  Then he told me how it would be a great project for him and our son to be able to build a custom puller.  He also started listing a few things that they were willing to sell in order to work on the project.  Another words, setting me up for a trade off.   Well... I suppose there are worse things that the two of them could be up to!! ;) 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Thrifty Finds ~ Beeswax Candle Supplies & Vintage CO OP Feedsacks

At the Baraboo Show in the Women's Center, there was a wonderful lady dressed in period clothing that set up her Beeswax Wares.  Don't you just love the candles? :)  We had quite the discussion about how beeswax candles are made.  She was such a world of information on a subject that I have always wondered about.  The pic below shows some examples of her creations.  The baskets held all of the candles that were for sale.  Her 6 inch tapers (when lit indoors out of the wind) will burn for 6 hours.  All of the candles were made of pure beeswax. 

She also created brown primitive style beeswax candles.  I asked her if their was a historical origin of the now popular "grunge" style candles.  She explained that back in the pioneer days settlers raised bees in hay hives.  (And I am sure found them in a few local trees!)  The newer honey was a beautiful yellow comb and the older honey combs were dark and dirty in color.  When liquefying the beeswax, the clean beeswax would float on the top and the older dirty beeswax would sink to the bottom.  Back then the motto was "Waste not Want not", so nothing was thrown away.  And with all the other duties on the prairie, cleaning the beeswax was not top priority to a candle that's sole purpose was simply meant for light.  So as the candles were made, they got dirtier and dirtier in appearance.   This flaw in appearance did not effect the performance of the candle, so all were used on the homestead.  Also, the cleanliness of hands due to the lack of indoor plumbing was not up to our current standards, and this also caused varying amounts of dirt to be transferred to the newly created candles.  As you can see in the photo, she had many candles made with beeswax of varying ages.  (She also had two displays of honey combs to show the aged versus the new.)  It was absolutely fascinating!

So after chatting with her for quite a while (and loving every minute of it!), I noticed that she had a candle mold for sale with wicks already threaded.   It would create 8 six inch tapers.  I have always wanted to try my hand at making candles, and it was so closely related to working with ceramic molds that I decided to take a stab at it!  So, the candle mold and a lump of her stamped beeswax ended up in my possession. 

As I went back to visit with some friends of ours that were set up in the flea market area, I noticed that the vendor next to them was a local apiary.  They were selling a variety of soaps and some large amounts of wax.  Yep, beeswax!  So over at their tent, I purchased a lump of beeswax at bulk price to create my candles.  I think that I will save my pretty stamped block to display with my candle maker.  When it is not in use of course!

I cannot wait to get caught up with my art commission and give this new venture a try.  You should have seen the fear on my hubby's face, when he heard there was another hobby entering the household. LOL  He knows that I run in all directions with my current ones, and I assured him that this was one would only be occasional.  I mean... how many candles can one person burn?? ;) 

My other big purchase was CO OP feedsacks.  Some of the older ones still had the instructions on them for laundering off the ink.  I found a lady that had oodles of these at her booth.  My hubby (who encourages my current hobbies but fears me adding any more!) told me to ask for a price for the whole lot.  Yikes!  This lady had a lot of sacks... even for my hoarding tendencies.  So, I purchased 10 sacks to use in the creation of some primitive designs that I have been working on. 

As we walked around the flea market, my hubby kept wondering if I should have taken the time to get more.  They get used up fast in creations and are so much harder to find at an affordable price (I refuse to cut up any feedsack that is displayable or unique).  After walking a few rows, I went back to the feedsack booth, pointed to her largest stack, and started to deal.  What you see below is the pile I hauled back to the Jeep.  Plenty for all of my crafting needs.  There was still quite a few left at the booth, and she had those sold by the afternoon!

I just love the colors in these feedsacks with the red, muslin color, and blue.  And for my purposes, I did not have to go through my haul at the time of purchase to look for pristine ones.  They were all in great shape and did not smell musty.  Big plus!  They are feedsacks of different feeds: chick feed, poultry concentrate, hog enhancer etc...  There are little chicks, pigs, and cows incorporated into the design.  Plus, they are 100 pound bags.  Translation: loads of workable fabric!!

I will be adding a few of these to my selling blog.  So if you are interested, click on the header above this post for the Pumpkin Hollow Flea Market.  I will be loading more vintage items on there after I finish my drawing commission this week! :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

SBS ~ Flying Geese Blocks 8 and 9

Here are the last two blocks completed for the Skill Builder Sampler Challenge.  Number 8  "Break Out" gave me quite a time.  I had to do a second attempt on this one.   The instructions for the HST's (half square triangles) were using a magic method that was suppose to save time.  Don't ask me why, but mine was a mess.  I think one quarter of the block turned out to specs.  The other quarters were all over the place in dimensions.  For some reason, anything that requires the seam to be created left of the feed dogs is not a good thing for me and my machine.  My seams came out exactly a 1/4 of an inch, but my triangles didn't measure out.  Aaargh!

Attempt number two stitched together with a lot less trouble.  I used the exact piece method.  My Kenmore, which I lovingly refer to as Kenzie, does NOT like triangles much .  But, she tolerated them enough to put this one together.  Although the final dimensions were not perfect (ultra picky here!), we created a pretty accurately pieced block.  Could always be better... and that is why this block has been marked to be repeated later on down the road.   Not that I am blaming Kenzie for any errors, but I would like to try this with a newer machine.  (Does Santa read blogs I wonder??)   Kenzie tends to like thicker fabrics.  She rocks with wool! ;) 

Block # 9 "Double Star"  went smoothly.  I could see a lot of possibilities with this block.  I used the exact piecing method on this one and was very happy with the results.  The structure to these star blocks is wonderful to piece together.  The points are so clean and make for such a bold pattern.  The Arizona Star and this Double Star are definitely my faves so far. 

We will be changing to a new technique this Friday.  Although I will be practicing this skill more to perfect my accuracy, I am excited at the new challenge and a little happy to take a break from the Flying Geese!  

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hummingbird Rescue

Have you ever noticed how territorial Hummingbirds can be with each other in regards to outside feeders?  Mine can be simply brutal to each other.  This little girl was chased into our picture window on our front porch as my hubby sat lounging on our swing.  He came to get me, and we found her laying on her back with wings out-stretched.  We were almost certain that she was dead.  My hubby picked her up (wings still stiff and out-stretched) and placed her in the palm of his hand.  I softly petted her wings with slight pressure and got them to go back to the sides of her body.  Her eyes were half open, and she shifted her wee little feet under the weight of her body which I took as a good sign of no paralysis.   Other than that, she didn't seem to have much life to her. 

After about 10 minutes of hubby holding her and covering her to keep her warm,  I ran to make up a box with some towels to settle her into.  I tried to get her to perk up with some Hosta flowers, but she wouldn't even  move.  So we sat her into a nest of towels and made a tent over her to shelter her from  the rainy cool temps.  As I sat contemplating her eminent fate, I decided to mix up some sugar water and try to get her to eat.  Using a measuring teaspoon, I put the mix against the end of her beak.  She rested her beak on the water and kept her eyes shut.  (Did I ever tell you that I do not take failure well when trying to save an animal.  And trust me, I have been through this many times with the tree business.  Ugh!) 

My son arrived  home and didn't have much confidence in my attempts.   I'll admit that I had my doubts.  Then as her beak bobbed on top of the rim of sugar water, I saw the tiniest little tongue that I have ever seen in my life.  It shot out of that long beak... Maybe only a 1/4 of an inch out... But it kept coming out taking in the water.  How amazing is that??   After about 15 minutes of constant feeding, her eyes were wide open, and she would look at me and turn her head slightly to look at my hubby.   She must have ate constantly for about a half an hour or more, and then she began to act drowsy.  As we sat there wondering about her fate, she started to shutter.  I think that we all held our breath.  Then she took one last look at us all and flew away into a nearby tree.  What a relief!  We were all thrilled.  She even jetted back to check the feeder out before buzzing off into the distance. 

All evening we have had little hummingbirds at the feeder, and we wonder which one is our little crash victim.   There is nothing like the feeling of being able to lend a hand to another little being.  They are the most wondrous birds.  Their size and energy captivates me and my family.  Isn't the World Just Awesome!  :)