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Initials as a Design Feature

I’ve joined a small group, Rippin Robins, of my local quilt guild. This year’s project is a block swap. There are 6-8 of us and we’ll be making three blocks for each member. We’ll submit the block we want to make next meeting–have to have a back-up option in case two people choose the same block. I’ve chosen Dutchman’s Puzzle, Jacob’s Ladder, and London Roads; the latter is less common, so it is my insurance against others having chosen my choice. I’m guessing you are familiar with the first two; here is London Roads.

I love the humor of the block, but sometimes fear others will see it as carelessness.

We’ll circulate our bags with fabric and instructions once a month. Including fabric is optional. I think I want the backgrounds all to be the same so I’ll include that, plus a piece of the other two colors for people to use if they don’t have something similar in their stash and don’t want to buy fabric.

The challenge is the colors. They are to be selected based on our initials. Mine are C L A.

I started out listing colors as I thought of them, then asked friends for help and was directed to this link. I had fun browsing it for a while; then when that got cumbersome, I pulled out my Paintbox Studio Solids swatch card and looked for colors with the right starting letter. There were lots of Cs and As but very few Ls. Next I tried to find combinations I liked. The problem there was that I’d like a combination that had two Cs or two As, and that wouldn’t do. It was also difficult to get three values. But I managed.

My first choice was (L to R) Canyon, Lemon Ice, Abyss.

I like this combination, but in real life the Lemon Ice pops even more than it does in the photo. It seemed to me to be too bright for a background color, and the light would end up being the background for many blocks. So I had a back up: Canyon, Linen, Abyss. This is the one I think I’ll use.

I had another back up, Android, in case the blue turned out quite different from the swatch. (I’d had that happen once before when ordering online.)

I rather like these colors, but fear the Canyon and Android are too close in value. I like Abyss with Android, but 2 As are a no-no. Actually choosing colors by initials has been more fun than I’d expected it to be.

We aren’t limited to our initials for the setting fabric, so I’ll let my imagination wander. Just now I’m thinking of framing each block in Lemon Ice with a 1/8- to 1/2-inch frame. I’m planning ahead that all blocks might not be sized exactly, and that small bit of the brighter color will enliven the whole. As to the setting, I’ll wait till I see the blocks together to decide.

The goal is to have a finished quilt for next year’s quilt show and show them together.



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Birds and Neanderthals

The Smart Neanderthal: Cave Art, Bird Catching, and the Cognitive Revolution by Clive Finlayson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Actually there was more about birds than I was interested in, but the intersection of bird study with Neanderthal study was fascinating. Description of birding expeditions was more interesting than the lists of birds here and there; description of excavation strategies was extremely helpful in understanding better how the process is done.

Finlayson has a thesis that has become more common these days: Neanderthals were more cognitively able than they have been given credit for being. He approaches it through studying the birds found in the Neanderthal caves, their habitats and their behavior. He challenges the then current view that our earliest ancestors could capture and eat only slow moving animals while more advanced ancestors could develop the skills to hunt faster animals like birds and rabbits. The presence of bird remains in the Neanderthal caves is one argument. The behavior of birds that count on camouflage, so freeze rather than flee, is another. The behavior of nesting birds yet another, showing a need for Neanderthals to observe, remember, and plan the timing of their hunts rather than mere chance at capturing whatever animal came by.

He also explores ornamentation and symbolic behaviors. With the help of other experts, bones are studied. Bones are distinguished between those introduced by human action (a high percent) and those by animal action. Marks showing cooking and use of tools are explored. Some birds are shown to have marks on wing bones only, suggesting their value was feathers for decoration rather than meat–decoration being another feature reserved for early modern humans, not Neanderthals, at the time.

There are listings at the end of species mentioned through the book; it would have been more useful as an index with pages listed so that the interested could refer back to the references. An index would also have been helpful to identify the many mentioned people who worked on various aspects of the studies to aid someone interested in specific scientists. But of greater weight than the absences is the scale of data elevating the reputation of Neanderthals.

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SAHRR 5, 6 in Progress

Well I had hoped to have prompts 5 and 6 finished, but got only so far as cutting pieces and making four pinwheels. Prompt 5 and its linky is here and prompt 6 here.

The farther along in a medallion, the longer the rows. I am always lulled into thinking a project is going speedily on the early borders. And it was even more lulling this time to be piecing only partial, rows, but the square-in-a-square border will be pieced all the way around (60squares and 248 triangles plus the pinwheels). It also takes longer to cut from scraps than from yardage. (The pathos of many excuses, LOL)

The sixth prompt was pinwheels. And I decided they would be perfect to transition the design from the swirling motion to being contained, so each side will have one square that is a pinwheel. Though I didn’t have time to sew a strip, I had to lay it out for a preview. I doubt I’d have even thought of transitioning without the prompt, so I’m very glad for it.

I think it will work. In the week of 3/13 the linky will be open for us to show completed tops or quilts. I’ll have 5 and 6 completed, but probably not the whole top since I’ll need 20 more inches (10 more inches of border) to get to a usable size. Once I abandoned 40 inches, I gave no attention to finished size. Just made rows the size needed. We’ll see how far I get–I do have a plan.


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Everybody Reads, 2023

This book has been chosen as the Everybody Reads by the county library this year. Because so much time has passed since I read this the first two times, I’m rereading it so the details will be fresh for group discussions coming up. While I could have integrated the notes into one, I’m going the lazy route and just including all three. Besides the time benefit for me, you can see where I change my mind. 🙂

Also, I see the spoilers can’t be hidden in the transfer from Goodreads, so I’ll label them and maybe you can avoid them.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After the third reading (2023).
And I’m glad that I have read it again. I see more connections with each reading. This time I was struck by the parallel between Ruth, who was experiencing writers’ block in trying to write her mother’s story, and Nao, who intended to write Jiko’s story but kept writing her own. (Of course we did get a picture of Jiko, but it wasn’t her full story.)

And because one Everybody Reads gathering focused on the Buddhist elements in the novel, I realized more was Buddhist than I’d realized on the first two readings. And on this reading, the Buddhism, as such, and climate science felt wholly integral to the storyline and characters.

This time I saw that Ruth had translated the journal rather than that Nao had written it in English. I don’t think I’d paid much attention to the footnotes on the first two readings; this time I noticed where Ruth said she had made notes when translating, so I read them. Most were useful, and they serves as a reminder that it had been written in Japanese.

After the second reading (2015)
One of the pleasures of a second reading is that no longer needing to find out “what happens next?” frees one to enjoy other features. And to revise previous opinions. Or to see that the wrong questions were asked. I started reading with a focus on Ruth, as planned. The more I read the more I realized that it was not really two stories alternated, but one continuous narrative, that Ruth’s portions could not be separated from Nao’s . SPOILER: There was so much preparation for Ruth’s dream encounter with Nao’s father, Haruki, that it wasn’t deus ex machina at all. Early on Ruth had two dreams of Jiko. There was the time discussion where Oliver reminds Ruth of the ten years that had passed from the writing of the journal to the present. There were the statements of Jiko involving apparent contradictions being equally true and the flow of identity and time. It is “background” until the disappearance of words in the journal. END SPOILER

I still feel the philosophy was mostly well integrated. Possibly more actual Buddhist early on and more new age when it gets heavier at the end.

I could pause and savor the many puns on “time being,” such as “Mind and words are time being. Arriving and not-arriving are time being” (347). Also enjoyable were the meditations on moments and on “now/Nao.”

While I had intended a second reading eventually, I am glad for my book group selecting the book to prompt me to do it.

After the first reading (2014)
One of my favorite narrative structures is one that combines a past (through letters or journals) and a present story. And that is the basic structure of this novel. Ruth in the Pacific Northwest on a remote island finds a packet containing a journal and other objects washed up on shore, possibly from the earthquake and tsunami a couple years before, . The chapters alternate between Ruth, the finder and Nao, the writer. At first I wondered why Nao would have written a journal in English–it became clear when she revealed that she had spent her early life in California.

The pacing is interesting. Instead of racing through the journal, Ruth paces herself slowly to reflect the pace it was written. In addition there is a French journal and some letters in old Japanese–these do not get translated immediately, but add essential information when they do.

The characters are well drawn, sometimes interesting, sometimes ordinary. Sometimes likable sometimes less so–but as more is revealed, the major characters become more likable. The minor ones, the school contemporaries, not so much. At one point in the middle I found myself wondering about Ruth’s chapters. Would her story be worth a novel without having found the journal? What were the parallels that were going to pull the two narratives together? I may reread it and focus more on Ruth, though the natural focus is Nao.

Science, philosophy and religion were woven into the novel, generally not too heavily, though heavier at the end. The novel is a kind of exploration of time, of existences, of influence. How seriously are we to take the question of who is creating whom? I was intrigued by the moments of magical realism, though I have not yet decided if they were integral or an easy solutions to narrative problems. SPOILER:Was the happy ending believable? Contrived? I realize “happy” may be a stretch since the father and daughter may have perished in the tsunami–this possibility leads to calling it ironic rather than happy; however, the question remains about Ruth’s intervention in the father’s intended suicide. END SPOILER And did I learn about Buddhism or New Age cooptations of Buddhism? I will ponder these when I reread also.

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Starting Another Medallion

A while back I enjoyed a local guild project where we made our own medallion quilt by using (or modifying) one of two suggestions for each row (here). I hang my head to admit it is yet unfinished–one small final plain 2-inch border to go, then quilting. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start another. I learned of Quilting Gail’s Stay At Home Round Robin project (from Susan I think) and thought to try it. It will move a little faster–a suggestion a week instead of every two months! We’ll see how long I keep up.

At any rate, I had an orphan block (12 1/2″ x 12 1/2″) to start with from back when I was doing block swaps. I’d made a couple small quilts from my blocks received, and still had a couple waiting for a project.

This one should make a good center block and I have fabric that coordinates with it–buried too deeply to show now, but you’ll see them in time.

Visit Quilting Gail to see other starting centers and instructions in case you care to join.


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Still Reading–This Time a Nobel Prize Winner

As Covid-19 restrictions are lightened, I’m getting out and about more. But I still have time to read. I’m halfway through my goal of 75 for this year, a fitting place to be in June. Here’s the most recent.

Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Postcolonial” is not quite the right category; it is written by a postcolonial writer but its setting is colonization time. If I were keeping up my “Around the World” list, this would be my first book about Tanzania/Zanzibar. It is the first of Gurnah’s books I’ve read since hearing of his Nobel prize in literature, the first African writer since Wole Soyinka, (Toni Morrison, the African American winner coming between). This is one of three listed as his better novels, and it lives up being excellent. Since I have yet to read the others, I cannot yet corroborate the comparative claim.

The plot starts out episodically as Yosuf goes with his “Uncle” in payment for a debt of his father, works in his shop, then accompanies him on a trade expedition. Through all this are hints of upcomng doom, personal and at the hands of the German colonists. Then the plot tightens into conflict and resolution in the latter portion. The pacing is handled adroitly, and bits of personal history and German occupation gradually emerge.

The harshness of the setting is palpable in the description. Allusions to the story of Joseph in the Koran (and also in the Hebrew Scriptures, though Koran is relevant to the Muslim culture of many of the characters) are cleverly woven in–it might have taken me longer to notice them had they not been remarked in a blurb on the cover, but at some point I would have. There are cultural references that I am sure would be richer to someone in the know. That layer will have to wait till I have done more reading.

The characters were likeable, though for me that is not an essential so long as they are well developed. It was easy to identify with Yosuf and his dreams and quandries; Kahlil, though seeming unfriendly at first becomes more sympathetic as we learn more about his background. The same can be said of other characters who have overseer positions. The “uncle,” though pompous, has some redeeming features as well.

I look forward to reading more of Gurnah’s work. I’ll be waiting a long time for By the Sea since I started as the number 157 hold request on one copy–let’s hope the library purchases more. It was listed as another of the three best.

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The Black Jacobins by CLR James

Now that I have my computer working again and have explored the new editor a little, I have found out how to share my Goodreads reviews like I used to. That might prompt me to write better reviews. 🙂

The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo RevolutionThe Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution by C.L.R. James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very readable history, clearly organized. Even the final chapter which narrates the final struggle for independence battle by battle and intrigue by intrigue is clear and interesting. The inclusion of reports back to France enhance that section. Though there are many actors, there are not too many to follow—even as some switch sides.

Toussaint is the main character for much of the book. At first it seemed almost a hagiography, it was so positive. And yet footnotes show this is a correction to some earlier texts. And there is considerable critique in the final section.

Even the Appendix, which explores literary and political West Indian figures from the date of the original (1938) to that of this edition(1960s) is interesting and gave me books to add to my to-read list.

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“Do the Work” Really Finished

And I can do real celebration now, as the final details are finished. I always forget how long it takes to stitch down the facing, sew the hanging sleeve, and add the labels. And my labels are quite simple and as small as I can make them. One of my friends makes counted-cross-stitch labels on special quilts. I should consider that. The light on today’s photo is only a tad bit better than last night’s.

The shine is closer to the actual look, but the colors are still too light. You can almost see the red big stitch in the lower left. The next photo shows the value and shine closer to the in person look.

I guess when the camera focuses on the light, the dark comes out right. If I knew how to do the manual settings, I could probably have outsmarted the automatic settings–actually I think I can view the settings on a photo and then I could duplicate them. . . . But the quilt is boxed up so it is too late to try that approach. The 8 x 8 block needed some quilting, but I didn’t want much and I didn’t want to distract from the print. This mix of fabrics will never be laundered, so minimal quilting was enough.

And here is a view of all three rows of big stitch. I kinda see the flight of a bee (doing its work) in the big stitch. Do you? Or is it my imagination only?

As I said before, my daughter sent me the vintage kimono fabric when she lived in Japan. I made two small quilts from it right after she sent it. They are dated 2007–didn’t seem that long ago.

Japan I: Torii; Japan II” Mt Fuji

These are 10″ x 10″. Someday I’ll make something big enough that I can give a better sense of the whole fabric design. When I first got the fabric, I thought, ‘Silk=crazy quilt’ and started to gather fabrics. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the embroidery of a crazy quilt would detract from the print. So it sat waiting for another idea. I’m still thinking toward the big one.

Quilt History:

First sketch November 2021

Stitching the top January 2022

In Progress January


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“Do The Work” Almost Finished

All that is left to do is a little more embroidery on the big block and to attach a hanging sleeve. And maybe get a photo in better light. We’ll see if the sun cooperates tomorrow. But I couldn’t wait. 🙂 (Premature celebration.)

The dark colors are much darker than the flash allowed them to be. I tried a photo without flash, but it was as much too dark as this is too light. I used a walking foot to do the grid quilting. There are three curves rows of big stitch–a red on each side of the peach.. I’d wanted the red to be subtle, but I did want it to show more than it does. Here is a detailed views that shows one side a bit better.

History of the quilt starts here


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From One Rabbit Hole to Another

It’s been a bookish time.

The books in front are books I own. They get neglected because they don’t have due dates. You can’t quite see the two stacks of library books behind them. Some due dates don’t matter because the library automatically renews them ten times; others do when other patrons put a hold on the books. Not a bad set up.

The rabbit hole started with an interview that led to a book about four women spies during the civil war (Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy), which led to a book about women who dressed as men to fight in the civil war (They Fought Like Demons), which led to a memoir of one of them, Francis Thompson. Then an interview with Elizabeth Becker, author of You Don’t Belong Here (about three women who broke the barrier for women war reporting during the Vietnam war) fit nicely into the women-in-war theme and started a new rabbit hole.

Each of the three women Becker had written about had a book to her credit, and my library has all but one. (Inter-library loan is still not functioning; hasn’t been restarted since other Covid cancellations. Sigh.) Plus Becker has a brief section in her book about her own time reporting in Cambodia, and she has written another book, When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution. So far I’ve read (and viewed) two. First, photographer Catherine Leroy’s collection of Vietnam war photos wherein she selected from many photographers, not just her own, and submitted the photos to writers for comment. Some comments reflected on the photo itself, others on the writers’ experiences. And because I never did understand the Cambodia/Vietnam connection, I chose Becker’s book next. As she unpacks the gruesome complexity, I see why I didn’t understand it in the day.

Then there are the unrelated rabbit holes. My young grandson was into the Percy Jackson variations on Greek and Roman mythology, so I thought I’d read a couple so as to be more conversant with him. I got hooked enough to read 8. Then Susan of DesertSky blog introduced me to Kate O’Hearn’s Pegasus series, also related to the Olympians. They are quite a different tone and seem more independent of the myths which mostly form a backdrop. And in between various mysteries that I’d been waiting for forever (sometimes being #350 on the wait list) would become available at random times. Ya gotta have some light reading!

I love being retired. My time is mostly my own. One of my friends passed on her mother’s advice: don’t make too many commitments too fast. I didn’t.


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