From Winter to Spring

We have gone from winter to spring since I last posted a note. The recent winter weather created a little more ‘to do’ around here. Due to a roaming dog issue, the cats were moved to the back deck, but their food was subject to the weather. We moved the cat house over so they had a warm place to sleep… but the food was a bit of work to keep dry and replenished.

Just too cold!

We suffered bitter cold winter weather for 2 weeks in February plus all the other countrywide weather issues just sucked all the good vibes away. Climate change is real. I do not record actual data, but I do a mental comparison year to year wherever I live. It is part of my mental note-taking about where I live. I cannot tell you year to year what I pay for milk or bread, but I can give a snapshot of the seasons and the norms.

Snow on the cracked ice
The pond with snow and ice

It was a cold as it looks

Those cold winter days in February proved to be a little more work around here. The water froze at the barn. Last year we did not have any animals in the barn to feed or care for so we didn’t know it froze in the winter and we did not think prepare and winterizing it, (we will going forward animals or not). The temperature dropped to 26°F/-3C and stayed below that for 2 weeks. In those 2 weeks, we also saw a low of 0F/-17C! So for those 2 weeks to had to port water down to the cows twice a day from the house and break up inches of ice in the trough, several times some days.

Ice storm one
This part of the chicken yard is under a tree, so the ice is not as thick as other areas.

There Were Blankets…

Not only was it cold, but we had stuff falling from the sky in more solid forms… along with some cold rain, we had an ice storm, snow, a sleet storm, another snow event. Most of the days if nothing was falling out of the sky was filled with a thick blanket of clouds to keep any vestiges of sunlight from even trying to brighten up the cold. We were fortunate that we did not suffer any power outages from the ice. A quarter to half-inch of ice accumulated and a total of 5″ of snow with an inch of frozen sleet between the 2 snowstorms. We did suffer a power outage the first day of sunshine for about an hour and a half. It was nice that the generator was ready to take over and that it did not happen in the dead of cold.

Cooped Up and Bored

Chicken in the snow
One of the chickens outside after more than a week of being cooped up

After being “cooped” up for all the weather issues the chickens were happy to get outside for a few minutes. I discovered that chickens like to eat snow. Whenever I would venture into the coop with snow on my boots they all gathered around my feet to peck the snow off. We have the coop set up will a big water bucket, a self feeder and a hot light and plenty of straw for them to bed down in. The light kept the water liquid and enough heat to keep the birds happily producing eggs!

A Little Fun to Pass the Time

I have been a ‘little’ bit creative… Christmas of 2020 brought me a Cricut Maker. However, with all the things going on in the house, remodel construction and the mess, painting and cleaning said mess… I did not have time to explore the Maker. Then came spring and summer and fall, chickens, pigs and cows and… otherwise distracted. I had a sheet of bright orange vinyl and put whatever struck my fancy… and allowed me to play on the design space. It took a little of the winter gray away.

Cricut Maker Play
Created a whole sheet of things

These machines and components are complicated!!! I think I could make a quilt in the time it takes to make and print/cut anything using the Cricut. Mostly because of the software. Nuff said.

And Soon SPRING!

The first flowers of spring
The daffs will be blooming soon.

So, speaking of spring… I see signs. Lots of signs besides warming temperatures, lots of birds and trees starting to swell with leaf buds. I actually see flowers preparing to show. Can we say goodbye to winter?

Today there is sunshine and low humidity and ‘a wildfire warning’ from one extreme to the other. Did you have a spell of awful weather? How did you cope?

More later… Beth

Creative Recipes

Creative Recipes do you have any? I was going to start this post by saying that the Creative Department was idle. But that is not quite true. I think we are mostly unaware of the ‘creating’ we do in our daily life.

Where am I when I am not in the Creative Space

I spend much of my time in the kitchen -making something. We eat very little food that comes in a package, so I spend quite a bit of time… making something, dinner, breakfast, dessert, or the components of meals. Most of what we eat started with a recipe or flavor profile. We have tweaked or changed it to suit our tastes. That is creativity!

I am blaming the added time in the kitchen on the recent acquisition of a dehydrator. I have discovered that it is so much fun to dry foods. We of course make the usual Sliced Cinnamon Apples and Jerky. For the apples, the preparation is less than an hour and finished in the machine by dinner. Jerky not so much. I can’t leave it alone so I have stopped making it! I have experimented with drying tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, onions, broccoli, beets, citrus, and mushrooms. The powders allow for adding to recipes and opening a world of flavor and fun. Once the dehydrated veggies dry, I grind them into a powder for adding here and there to the foods. What a great way to feed the family more veggies! Even better is that most of the time they don’t even taste them!!!

A couple of trays of beets in the dehydrator

We do not waste any food these days. Of the parts we don’t use, some goes out to the cows, (yes that is now a plural), and when we have pigs, some goes there, (more pigs will be arriving in the spring), the chickens get the bits they like and the rest to the compost bin. Meat is the only thing that ends up in the actual trash. I could make a vegetable broth from the produce bits, but nah… you have to draw the line somewhere!!!

How is the kitchen similar to sewing?

So where or how does the above tie into Creativity? A recipe is a pattern, with ingredients and amounts just like a pattern for making something, like a quilt or a bag or a dress. We can make it exactly like the pattern or modify it on the fly or after making the first draft. You can change it in so many ways to give it your own twist. The colors, the size, the number of borders, pockets, ruffles, trims, or the arrangement of the blocks or other main elements. A pattern is just the starting point to make it your own!!!

Making up a ‘Table’ recipe

For the Creative Space, I made my tabletop. I am not quite happy with it and may get a new sheet of melamine. The finish was in worse shape than I thought. I was able to inspect it more closely once I got it home from the store. I will live with it for a few weeks/months and make a decision… about replacing it. After working on a 36″ x 45″ table it feels great to spread out! I started with an 8′ sheet and ended up cutting it down to 7 feet long, so the overall size is 48″x84″. The current top is not permanently attached. I have it cleated in place just in case I decide that the top is too rough to stay.

The new big table top

My Letter “Z”

One of the other things I worked on while determining the allocation of the space and workflow was this little Letter! It began as a sample stitch out and left unfinished as a visual. The overall size is about 9 inches square. So far, most of the letters I’ve made use a similar recipe to create. All of the stitching on this little piece is free-motion. I stitched the letter with a green variegated King Tut, a trilobal Rainbows, and a sparkly metallic green and did the free-motion quilting with a solid green cotton thread, (although in the picture it appears variegated).

Do your modify a pattern to make it your own? All the time? Just once? Never?

More Later…. Beth

Workflow and Space Evaluation & Another Finish!

My Creative Space has been under a workflow evaluation. So not much happened during the month of December. I spent a lot of time moving things about. I have one finish from a bit earlier in 2020, while I was testing out how well the working triangle was arranged.

What does ‘Workflow’ mean?

Testing as in how well does the ‘workflow’ work. Is it awkward to move around the “working triangle”? Just like the kitchen our creative spaces often have a triangle. In the kitchen, the main triangle is the sink, stove, and refrigerator. For sewing, it is usually direct access to and from; the cutting/work table – sewing machine – the ironing station or design area, in any combination. Just as in a kitchen the triangle has supporting elements, such as counter space, storage, and ingredients. The same is true in your working space, you need, fabric, thread, tools, and places to keep tools conveniently at hand.

Where do I Start?

I was recently online in a Facebook Group, ‘Just Wanna Quilt’, a group with more than 3500 members. A quilter shared a picture of her soon to be sewing room and asked ‘Where do I Begin’? There was a photo of a large space, sort of finished (similar to mine). The photograph showed her supplies haphazardly about the room in boxes and piles. There were many comments about what would be nice. But not too many outlining a plan of attack, which is what she was asking for. Something along the lines of- “I have this huge space and I don’t know where to begin.”

I Need Some Help
A plea by a quilter getting ready for a new space

I commented:

” Looks like you have some great space to fill! You may be better served to take your set up a bit slower. You need to consider all kinds of things before you move stuff around 8 times!!! As suggested drawing a floor plan to-scale; with fixtures, sewing machines, shelves, cutting table, etc, proportions for testing ideas is a good way to go! Some questions, do you create well in chaos, or do you do better in a neater space? Do you have “HSS” (horizontal surface syndrome), if it’s flat and unused do you stack on it? Those cheap plastic shelves are not a good idea for fabric. They will be too wide and too deep to make good use of the space. The fabric will get messed up way too fast and the stacks will tip/fall over. In the end, they will frustrate you. Is your fabric all quilting cotton or are there other types in the mix? And how large are the cuts? 1/2 to 2 yards or larger cuts of 3 to 10 yards. They will take up a different amount of space when folded. The shelf depth shouldn’t really be more than 10″. You might also want to look at your creative working triangle and the workflow; sewing machine(s), cutting table, an ironing station. Also, your design wall needs to allow you to get far enough back to take in the whole thing. Also determine, which items need to face the TV from the sewing machine and ironing board, cutting table, desk, or computer? Not everything can face the TV, although in a corner is a good place! You may also want to consider creating a closed/hidden storage area. All the little stuff can be unsightly. Or you may want to use some cabinets with doors…

What I didn’t like about my ‘working triangle’

In my space, I discovered while working on the UFO’s, the workflow was not flowing. I determined that the physical “working triangle” was okay, but the twists and turns from station to station were strange. The TV was also in a very odd place. For me, while the major work stations were close together they wasted too much space.

The old room arrangement
This arrangement was not working.

I reassessed the space. I have a few limitations in the space; a water main that needs to have access and is also a hazard; 2 walkways to the other side of the basement, and cabinets that need to be set along walls. I mentioned in the last post, I had planned on sliding design walls. I have a new solution for them, but it will wait a bit. So I need wall space for the design walls too. The last issue is, of course, the all-important electrical outlets. As I suggested above, I drew up a diagram with real measurements. Marked the important features, (outlets, windows, water main, and doorways). Cut the important piece shapes from cardstock to scale; of the sewing machine(s), tables, and cabinets. I then arranged them on the diagram… and I rearranged them…. A working triangle may look good on paper, but in real life, it may not work well.

What Seems to be a better ‘workflow’

To address the water main, I put a piece of clear vinyl up to direct any leak to the floor. The floor is concrete with a drain so nothing to really worry about there. This allowed me to relocate the TV to a better corner, (near the water main), where it would not block or hinder the hall to the other side of the basement.

The new arrangement of the space
The new arrangement feels lighter and less crowded

Originally the plan had the sewing machines set up as an island at one end of the space well away from the walls. The same with the cutting/work table. Two islands in the center of the room was an awkward arrangement and wasted valuable space and did not facilitate the workflow. So I moved the sewing island up against a wall which helped with moving around and the triangle. The sewing machine I use the most and the cutting/work table face the TV. The cutting table has not moved, I have plans to enlarge it. I still use an ironing board and can move the ironing station, if I need to. Otherwise, it resides over by the closet. There are several smaller pieces that fit along the walls and under tables.

Test and Test Again

Every time I work in my “Creative Space” I find that I enjoy the new set up more and more. Sometimes it is the smallest things that make the biggest impact. This was one of the pieces I worked on while testing the workflow and allowed me to see how well things didn’t work.

A New Hibiscus Quilt
Another Hibiscus Free-motion flower

I have made several of these hibiscus flowers and once again, I should have taken a moment to assess what really needed doing before diving in. This one also started as a sample and as a value-step exercise, which almost succeeds. The flower had most of the stitching done when I picked it up again. I just added a bit more in places.

A New Hibisucs detail
Some detail of the free-motion stitching, quilting, and beading

Put a back on it and quilted it on the domestic in Free-motion. I had fun doing a modified feather, the only kind I can do.

A New Hibiscus Flower quilting
Showing a little of the free-motion quilting.

The finishing and binding was another poor choice. A small square of the fabric of the top was missing in one of the corners. I opted to add some curves. I also think it was a fail. Maybe one corner yes, but not two. The last step was adding some beads to the stamen. I was a little reserved with the beads and sparkly threads on this one.

What is your space like?

Is your creative space under constant review and rearrangement. Mine has been 9 months in the works… here. At some point, I will have to call it done and start making a creative mess!!! One of the reasons it is in the basement. The MESS! Next up, the new table I hope. I forgot to buy the edge moldings in town this week so it will have to wait until I go back to Etown… 10 days or so.

What is your biggest issue with your creative space or conversely what makes it your favorite space? Tell us in the comments, someone may learn something from your experience.