Building Walls

61-ManVKUiL._AC_SY450_

I know that the topic of building a wall can lead to many different comments, points of view and political commentary.  This post is not about building that type of wall. 

In our backyard, we have a small retaining wall that was built about 19 years ago. Unfortunately, over the years, the east side of the wall was starting to sag significantly.  

 

IMG_4882

For the past couple of years, I had thought about how to go about fixing the wall.  Having built other retaining wall in my yard (no, I did not build this one!), I knew what needed to be done.  I was just concerned that I may not be able to handle all of the lifting.  Each block weighs 60 pounds, and there were 75 blocks that would need to removed and then replaced.  

Since my two sons at home were busy with finals, and I was unable to find anyone else to hire for my manual labor, I decided to tackle the project by myself. 

At first I set up a ramp system to roll a furniture dolly up and use the dolly to roll each block down the ramp.  This worked okay for the first couple of blocks.  However, I needed to dismantle the ramp and move it over for each block I needed to move.  So, instead I decided to see if I could just lift the blocks.  While they were heavy, that turned out to be much easier than constantly having to set up and move a ramp system.  

While taking down the blocks, I discovered two things that the contractor had done that were wrong.  These two “shortcuts” probably contributed to the wall tipping. 

First, the lowest layer of blocks was placed directly onto soil, no class V gravel nor rock base whatsoever.  So, as a went along, I dug out dirt and then added and tamped down a 2″ layer of gravel below the bottom blocks to provide support for the blocks.  

Second, the contractor did not place any landscape fabric behind the blocks.  The landscape fabric is there to help keep the dirt behind the wall intact and less likely to wash away.  Had they done this, it sure would have made restacking the wall a lot easier.  Unfortunately, without the landscape fabric, when I removed the blocks, the wall of dirt behind would crumble. This made the project so much harder.  I ended up having to work in small sections so that the support for the wall was not removed along the entire length.  

IMG_4911

 

Starting by the small staircase and slowly worked my way down to the other end.  Yesterday, I spent 12 hours removing the cap stones and blocks and rebuilding the wall.  I did not put the capstone on yesterday.  At the end of the day, I chiseled off the old block adhesive, power washed to top layer of the wall and the underside of the capstones, and left them to dry overnight.

Today, I spent about another 90 minutes securing the capstones in place with block adhesive , repairing the dirt in front of the wall and repositioning the mulch. What a change.  The distance from the apple tree to the front of the retaining wall is 10″ less than when the wall was sagging.

IMG_4918

 

While I was building the wall, one of my sons came out and spent some time thinking about how much weight I had lifted.  I removed 75 blocks  that were 60# in weight.  These same 75 blocks needed to be reset into the wall.  So the grand total of weight lifted was 9000 pounds.  Surprisingly my back does not hurt today, just a bit of an ache in my butt (yes, I know there is a not so nice way to state that same information that may also relate to how some people would feel about doing a project like this). 

IMG_4920

 

 

Big Improvement! And one major yard project done for the spring. 

The weather this weekend was ideal Minnesota Spring weather.  It’s past the time of spring that my allergies are really bad, the humidity was very low, the temperatures were perfect, and there are no bugs out yet!!

All-in-all it was a great weekend spent outdoors.

 

Split Personality

My favorite way to relax is to work on one of my crafts.  And, yes, I have been doing that a lot.

But, today was a day to do something very different.  With the temperature in the low 70s, low humidity and, most importantly No Bugs, it was a day to work outside.  I was able to crossed something off of my to-do list that has been on the list for a while (okay, so actually a couple years).

img_3697A few years ago, we had three large oak trees taken down by a local arborist (Branch and Bough, if you are in MN, is a great tree service).  These trees were hanging far over our driveway and the concern was that they might fall onto our vehicles. At the time, we had the tree crew take the trees down and then cut them into 1 foot length intending to split the wood to use in our firepit and fireplace.  Since then, these large pieces of wood have been stacked by our driveway.

Well, today I finally got around to splitting the wood.

img_3699.jpgWe made a trip to Home Depot last night to rent a log splitter for a day (my husband was kind enough to help with this since I am not confident towing something behind my vehicle).  Then around 7:30 this morning, I started working through the stack of logs.   Eight hours later and I had about a full cord of wood (8 ft x 4 ft by 4 ft) split and stacked.  At the current rate of $550/cord, I’d say it was a productive day.

img_3698img_3696

But, boy am I tired.

I think I’ll go back to my craft room before tackling another task like today.  But, it was certainly nice to get the log splitting off of my to-do list!

 

Fractured Tree

img_2855
“Fractured Tree” wall hanging.

I enjoy reading historical fiction books. When reading, I like to look up information about the events happening at the specific time in history.  This helps me understand the book’s story line better.

I enjoy these books even more when there is a reference to the art of the era.  Having recently I read the latest book by Jennifer Chiaverini, I did some additional reading about the history of quilting.

One of the sources talked about Depression Era quilts.  Many of these quilts were string quilts made of small fabric scraps stitched together to make a piece of fabric large enough to cut a pattern piece. These larger pieces were stitched together to make a quilt block. The quilt blocks were put together to make a quilt top. This method was used during hard times when money and fabric were scarce.  Scraps of all sizes were utilized.

 

Over the past decade, this method has also made a resurgence within the art quilt community.

stringtreeidea

There were several pictures of a string quilts that have caught my attention.

tuxzkrr

One of the quilters that I really liked was Ursula Kern.  Her string quilts are breathtaking.  The illusion of movement and shape that she creates is absolutely amazing.

 

 

 

birchimg_2759

I decided that I wanted to try to make a string quilt wall hanging for my sewing room.  With wall space limited, the only spot I had left to hang something was adjacent to my four seasons landscape quilt.  So, in keeping the the landscape theme, I thought a tree might fit the area well.

 

Looking at tree clipart images, I selected one, traced it out on pellon, and then divided the pellon into a 7×11 grid. Each section of the grid (2″ x 3.75″)  was used as one block of the string quilting.

Since I have a lot a scraps from various other quilts, and not wanting to purchase more fabric right now, I pulled out my scraps, sorted them by color and started creating each of the blocks.

img_2811
Pieced, but not quilted.

 

The seventy seven blocks were sewn together (with numerous changes to match my design better). The illusion is somewhat like a stained glass window – I really like it!

For the quilting, I used one layer of Quilter’s Dream Cotton batting.  To create texture for the tree and shrubs, I placed pieces of Quilter’s Dream Wool batting in these areas between the cotton batting and the pieced top.  The background sky was quilted with straight lines and the tree was loosely quilted to allow the depth of the batting to show.

 

Christmas Treats – a village, some trees, and a whole lot of Grinches.

With Christmas just a few days away, I decided to show some holiday treats I have recently shared with my staff.

Christmas Village

For our December Saturday clinic, the staff enjoyed an eatable village that included:

Pound cake houses (each staff member could have their own house):

  • Pound Cake (recipe found here)
  • Cookie glazing frosting (recipe found here)
  • Mini M&Ms, chocolate chips, colored sugar, almond slivers, Andes candies, lemon wafers, green frosting, and sugar flakes.

Spritz cookie Trees (recipe found here, peppermint extract used instead of fiori di sicilia)

Marshmallow cereal trees (recipe found here, shaped into trees rather than wreaths)

Cream wafer cookies (recipe found here) – these are really good!!

jpeg-imag

 

Meat and Cheese Tree

On another day, a demonstration of a new piece of equipment we are considering, was held over our lunch break. So, I brought in some meat and cheese for the staff to eat.  Keeping with the holiday spirit, these were put together in a decorative fashion.

IMG_2777

 

Grinch Poppers

After seeing the idea in an ADA Morning Huddle email, I also made a tray of fun fruit treats.  These Grinch Poppers (original idea posted here) were enjoyed by everyone.

IMG_2778.jpg

 

Merry Christmas to everyone who reads my blog!!

Fall in Minnesota

img_3654

What a difference a week makes!

Last Sunday, I was in Arizona visiting my parents.  With a high temperature was 102 degrees, I was wearing a skort, sleeveless shirt and sandals.

Today, back in Minnesota, the temperature is 51 degrees.  I am wearing a sleeveless shirt this week, it’s just accompanied by a sweater, slacks and warm socks.

My week off of work started by spending a few days with my parents.  Having recently relocated to a new retirement community, I went to Arizona to see how they were doing.  Glencroft Retirement has many nice features – fountains, library, exercise room, etc.

 

And entertainment!

IMG_2527

After spending a few days with my parents, I returned midweek to Minnesota.

The later part of my week was spent on fall yard projects.  After picking apples, I spent countless hours making applesauce and dehydrated apple slices – 36 cups of apple chips and 39 pints of applesauce!

IMG_0953

 

I also cleaned up some of my flower beds and planted about 400 bulbs for spring flowers.  It will be nice to see how things grow!

I guess it’s back to work tomorrow 😒.

 

The Minnesota Great Get-Together

img_2410.jpgThe Minnesota State Fair is currently taking place.  If you are not from MN, you may not realize how big our state fair is.  While MN only ranks 12th in size and 21st in population, it ranks second in state fair attendance, with over 2 million people attending each year.  This is just behind Texas at 2.25 million visitors.  However, Texas is second in land mass, second in population, and their state fair runs for 24 days (twice the length of the MN fair).  Thus, I would say that the Minnesota State Fair outranks even Texas.

The fair is so popular that, even on a rainy morning like today, there were lots of people in attendance.  What do people like to do at the fair?  When I asked some of my friends, they replied: eat the food, attend a concert, eat the food, see the animals, eat the food….

I think you get the picture – there is lots of food to eat if that is what you are interested in.

For me, the State Fair is a place to go to see the craftsmanship and creativity in the Arts and Crafts Building. Today was no exception.  After getting very wet walking from the transit center to the A&C building, I spent a couple hours walking around taking pictures.

Here are my quilts:

img_2420
Me (with my wet hair) in front of “Burst Doll Quilt”, which received a first place in the child quilt category.

img_2418
“Burst” bed quilt received a second place in the pieced bed quilt category.

20180824_
My reversible tree quilt “Childhood Memories” received a second place in the mixed techniques category.  Unfortunately, you can only see one side of the quilt and none of the shadow painting.  

img_2425.jpg
“Window on My World” placed fourth in the wall quilt category.  I re-entered it this year because I was surprised that it did not place last year and knew that there was a different judge this year. 

Some of the other quilting highlights:

img_2412.jpg
Sweepstakes winner – Mary Alsop

 

IMG_2413
Best Hand Applique – Terri White

IMG_2414
Best Machine Quilting – Marilla Schmitt

IMG_2432
Knit & Bolt Award – Susan Nevling

 

Some other crafts that caught my eye:

 

“Childhood Memories” – finished quilt

 

When designing a quilt, I like to plan the quilting at the same time as the piecing.  This allows me to think about adding something unique to each quilt.  My recent project for the two sided tree quilt was no exception.

The quilting of the tree, leaves and background would be fairly straightforward.  Wanting to add something special to the quilt, I thought about what I could add to the tree.  One idea was to place flowers or shrubs at the base of the tree.  Another was to add some animals.

My final idea, and the one I actually used, came while reviewing some photos from my childhood.  These photos brought back memories of things growing up.  I decided to add theses memories to the quilt.

I needed to invoke the idea of a memory without overwhelming the quilt.  To do that, I planned to used only thread to make the images appear very faint.  After stitching, I realized  that the images were there but extremely hard to see.  Having recently purchase some textile medium (InFusion Textile Medium) that was very lightweight (did not stiffen the fabric) and shiny, I decided to use this to enhance the visual effect of the memories.

I am really happy how they turned out.  If you look closely at the images, you will see a boy leaning against the tree reading a book, a girl on a tree swing, and their faithful dog laying on the ground near them.

Painting

 

Here are the full images of the quilt front and back:

IMG_2708IMG_2710

Hand applique and embroidery

How do you applique a two sided quilt?

You think, think, plan, think some more, plan again and then finally jump in and do it.  That kinda describes the process I went through when contemplating the idea of embroidering an identical tree on both sides of a quilt.

Idea #1

  •  adhere light weight fabric adhesive to the back of two pieces of fabric for the tree trunks
  • draw the tree trunk onto the fabric and cut out two identical trees
  • adhere the tree to one side of the quilt and baste in place
  • adhere the tree on other side and then machine embroidery through all layers of the quilt and tree
  • machine quilt the details onto the tree
  • Concern – machine quilting will cause the quilt to be “flattened” and lining up the edges of the tree on each both sides of the quilt would be difficult

Idea #2

  • baste stitch the outline of the tree onto the quilt
  • cut out fabric to match the tree
  • use needle turn embroidery to stitch the tree onto each side of the quilt
  • machine quilt  the details onto the tree
  • Concern – it might be difficult to control the amount of fabric involved while doing hand embroidery

Idea #3

  • pin large pieces of the tree fabric to both sides of the quilt
  • machine quilt the tree details onto the tree
  • trim the fabric approximately 5/8″ – 3/4″ away from quilting details
  • use needle turn embroidery to stitch the fabric to the quilt
  • This was ultimately the idea I decided to use for the trees, sun and moon

DayNightTree

Daytime detail:

I decided to hand applique leaves onto the daytime side of the quilt.  To do this, I pinned pieces of green fabric onto the quilted tree.  Then I machine quilted the outline and veins of a leaf onto each piece of fabric.  After cutting around each stitched leaf, I used needle turn embroidery to secure the edges of the fabric.

Nighttime detail:

I did not want to use the same technique on the nighttime side of the quilt. So, after completing the daytime side, I used the quilting lines as a guide to paint faint green fabric dye onto the leaves and then hand embroidered outlines around the leaves.

DayNightLeaves

img_1202

Unfortunately while quilting the leaves onto the daytime side, my long arm machine handles fell off the machine while I was working on a leaf.  When this happened, the needle broke and the broken needle tore the fabric through all layers of the quilt.  This picture shows that even on the backside of the quilt, the broken needle tore the fabric. I was really bummed!

To fix the tear, I could applique a leaf onto the daytime side.  But, how do I fix the tear on the nighttime side.  I could applique leaves on this side as well.  However, that was more applique then I really wanted to do.  And, I had really wanted the two sides of the quilt to use different techniques.  This was really frustrating.

Ultimately, I decided to add a bit more detail to the quilt.  By appliqueing an owl on the nighttime side and a cardinal to the daytime side, I was able to repair the quilt and no one can even tell that the quilt was torn.

BirdOwl

A good repair and some nice details for the quilt! I have added more details to the quilt that were really fun to do.  I will post about those soon.

A two sided quilt – sounds easy, right?

You have probably seen adult coloring books in stores over the past few years.  Meant as a way to unwind from daily stress, these books can take an adult back to their childhood days of coloring.

Since my crafts are my way to relax at the end of a day, I have not purchased any of these coloring books.  I have however, looked at the books in stores.  The pictures are complex and do provide great inspiration for quilting patterns and applique designs.

Last summer, I paged through one of these coloring books with trees.  Each design featured a tree with unique patterns.  Some of the designs had animals in the trees – owls, birds and even cats. One day I may make one of these, perhaps a tree with many different owls appliqued on the branches.

Directly next to the display of coloring books, was a different display featuring paper craft ideas. One idea showed strips of wrapping paper cut and glued horizontally in the background, and featured cutouts of black or white paper animals, flowers or trees as the main object.  Sorry, but I did not think to take a picture of the display. But, it was a really nice idea.

This idea stuck with me, and besides thinking about making some greeting cards with the idea, I realized that a quilt could be made with a similar design.  At the time I first saw the display, my paper craft supplies were buried in the back of my craft storage closet, so the cards would need to wait.  But, I did have lots of fabric that I could utilize for a quilt.

So, I set out to work on my new design.  Many of my batik scraps were blue and green, which would work well for the background of a tree.

Sorting through the fabrics, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted a the colors to depict a tree during the daytime, the nighttime, or an unsorted scrappy look.  After playing around with a graphic program, I ruled out the scrappy look because it was too chaotic for my liking.  But, I simply just couldn’t decide which of the other two I preferred.  So, I thought I would try something new and make a two sided quilt – one side with bright daytime colors, the other side with darker nighttime colors.  After cutting 2 1/2″ strips, the fabrics were sewn together with some shorter pieces inserted periodically to add some variation to the background.

Since I had decided to try to make the applique exactly reversible, the quilting the front and back together would need to be done next.  When loading the pieced backgrounds onto my long arm machine, I realized that making a completely reversible quilt was going to be rather difficult.

This year, in particular, my ideas for quilts have been easy in the planning stages, but more challenging when actually sewing.  This quilt was no exception.  On paper, it looked straightforward – sew the strips, load it on my quilting frame and quilt away.  Right!  Actually, wrong.  Lining up so many seams on the front and the back of the quilt prior to machine quilting was definitely not easy.  I discovered that even though my piecing was exact, the number and location of the seams impacted the stretch and movement of the two pieces of fabric.  I ended up having to pin along each seam of the layers to try to get my quilting to look right on both the front and the back of the quilt. IMG_1042

Backgrounds

Once the backgrounds was quilted, I decided to get my least favorite part of any quilt (the binding) done before I  would start work on the appliqued tree.  More on that in my next posting.

Since moving into my newer sewing room, my paper craft supplies are now accessible, so cards can once again be made.  That project will be included in a future post as well.

Glass Votive Candle Holders

Now that Christmas and a few January birthday gifts have been given, I can post some recent projects.  Today, I am showing some votive candles that I made for two in my extended family.

In November, I completed a four panel fused glass project for my sister-in-law.  After making this four seasons picture, I decided to make a matching votive candle that had the four seasons depicted on sides of the glass.

First, I fused together two pieces of clear glass to form the main part of the votive. Next, was to add the trees.  Since the votive candle was small, the trees would need to be made from something other than traditional fused glass – that glass would be too thick.

Option 1. Bend brown stringer to look like a tree.  I tried this but never could get two trees to look alike.

Option 2. Draw trees with Glassline paint  I thought about it and wanted to try something that would look better than hand drawn.

Option 3.  Cut trees out of fusible transfer paper.

IMG_1731

This is the option I decided to go with. A few years ago, I had used transfer paper to make a sign for another sister-in-law’s kitchen.  While printed black, the iron oxide in the toner fuses to the glass with a nice sepia tone.  This brown color should work nicely for trees.

Using an older model black laser printer (the toner cartridge needs to have a high iron content), I printed a black square on the Photo Transfer Paper.

Then, I used a paper punch in the shape of a tree to make four tree shaped transfers.  Each punched image was then transferred to the four corners of the glass and allowed to dry.

Using medium and fine frit in various colors, the ground and leaves were added to the trees.

IMG_1186

Around the same time, I decided to make a votive to match the “Cook’s Kitchen” sign.  For this I made grape vines using the tree punch but cutting off some of the branches and turning the direction of the tree.  Green confetti glass was used for the leaves and medium weight purple frit was used for the grapes.

IMG_1265

The glass was then contour fused and slumped over a metal mold.

IMG_1268

 

 

Pretty gifts to give to a couple special ladies.