Quilt Gallery

Friday, October 5, 2018

Fall Fun in Central Texas

Now that I've been home in Austin for a bit I've had a chance to attend a couple of big local events with my mother, who is new to Texas. It's been a fun way to spend time together, and a great a way to show her some of what Texas has to offer. Last Friday we attended the Austin Area Quilt Guild show and today we went to the Round Top Antiques Fair.

The Austin Area Quilt Guild puts on their show every other year, displaying quilts made by their own guild members. There was something for everyone: pieced quilts and appliqué quilts, large quilts and small quilts, those made by professionals and those made by novices. Overall they fell more to the traditional end of the spectrum than to the modern end. (We'll get to see a lot of the latter in 2020 when QuiltCon returns to Austin!) And quite a few of them were made from either kits or from purchased patterns. Here are a few that caught my eye. This star quilt, called "While the Mice are Away, the Cats Will Play," was paper-pieced by Susan LaCroix from a kit by Tula Pink. I like it for its unrestrained use of color, and of course the cats in it are cute, though they are too small to see in this photo.

"Jack's Woodland" by Kitty Miller, though made in a very traditional design, has a simple, modern sensibility. I also like the unusual palette of greens and browns.

Finally, "Winding Ways" by Laura Espenschield stood out for its beautiful muted fabrics, which she purchased in Tokyo.

I love how the pattern seems to have so much motion in it. And look at how precise the piecing it! With curves, no less! A beautiful design, beautifully executed.

In addition to the quilts on display, the quilt show has a large vendor area where I chatted with a couple local quilters/fabric dyers including Malka Dubrawsky of A Stitch in Dye and purchased some of their amazing hand dyed fabrics to add to my collection. 

After seeing so many completed quilts at the show, I was eager to make some progress on my own quilts and headed straight to my sewing room when I got home. I've completed the third row of Sea Days and have only four left to complete the entire top. The "love" fabric in the bottom right is one I bought from Malka at the last quilt show.

I've also sewn up a stack of big blocks using little nine patch blocks I hand pieced during my travels this year.  

I said that the quilt show was a big event. Well, the Round Top Antiques Fair is enormous. Actually, it's more than just Round Top these days, and it is more than just antiques. There are miles of tents, barns, sheds and meadows along Route 237 from Warrenton to Round Top to Carmine brimming with antiques, vintage wares, things pretending to be antiques, and brand new merchandise. 

I wasn't shopping for anything in particular, but couldn't resist this tiny chest, in which I plan to store spools of thread and lots of the little things that never seem to have a proper home in my sewing room. 

I also picked up the little chair that my grandmother's doll is sitting on. My grandmother was born in 1900, so my best guess is that the doll dates from about 1905.

Rolling green hills and majestic live oaks along Route 237 make for a beautiful setting. It's worth stopping to enjoy the scenery, especially in those few spots untouched by the shopping frenzy, including St. Martins, which claims to be the worlds smallest Catholic church.

Tips for Travelers to Round Top:

Some venues charge admission, others don't. The ones that do tend to have high quality antiques, so they are definitely worth visiting.

Go to the largely un-airconditioned Marburger Farms first, when it is cooler. Then go to The Big Red Barn (site of The Original Round Top Antiques Fair) and enjoy their cool air no matter how hot it is outside.

Talk to people. Everyone, buyers and sellers alike, is happy to be there and loves to share what they know.

The fried pies at Farmhouse Cafe and Bakery are really good! But certainly big enough to share 
among two or three people.

Wear comfortable shoes and bring a hat. 

Read this article in Texas Monthly for more info on the scene along Route 237.

If you miss the event this weekend, you'll have another chance again in the spring. Also, more and more shops are open year round so you can enjoy the scenery and at least some of the shopping without the crowds.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Great White Sharks at Guadalupe Island

Spontaneous decisions sometimes turn into the most thrilling of adventures. Several weeks ago I was presented with a last minute chance to visit the great white sharks of Guadalupe Island, Mexico, and after hesitating for a couple of days, jumped at the opportunity. Wow! Guadalupe Island lived up to its reputation as the world's best spot for observing these amazing creatures.

We boarded the Nautilus Explorer in Ensenada, Mexico, in the evening and spent the night and most of the following day heading south. The Explorer, a purpose-built dive boat, was our home for five nights,

offering excellent dive facilities,

comfortable beds, delicious and plentiful food, and spacious common areas for sharing our daily shark tales.

Once at Guadalupe Island, we were so eager to see sharks that many of us were on deck before sunup as the crew prepared cages for us and tuna for the sharks.

My excitement rose along with the sun.

After squirming into my wetsuit, getting fitted with over 30 pounds of weights, and adjusting my mask and regulator, I slipped into one of the surface cages. It didn't take long for the first shark to appear. Though they came close to the cages,

they were far more interested in the tuna then in us.

They weren't interested in mackerel either, though you might not guess it from some of the mackerels' expressions. We all got a laugh out of these.

I also took several turns in the submersible cages. These swing out from the ship and are lowered 25 or 30 feet, 

giving divers a different perspective on the action. Rather than lunging for food, as at the surface, at this depth the sharks serenely glided by. 

A few people had underwater housings for DSLRs and took some truly stunning photos. 

Not willing to make the investment myself, I used a GoPro for video (from which I can capture still images),

and the little Fujifilm point and shoot I bought earlier in the summer for my climb up the Grand Teton. They didn't give me the control or the crispness of images I am accustomed to with my DSLR, but I'm still happy with the results. One advantage of using these simple cameras is that I didn't spend time fiddling with settings.

Watching sharks from the boat deck was every bit as exciting as seeing them from the water. (I used my DSLR for these photos). Sometimes they skimmed close enough to the surface that their dorsal and caudal fins ominously sliced through the water.

Sometimes they grabbed for tuna at the last moment.

And sometimes they would shoot up from the depths, launching themselves almost entirely out of the water.

After watching the sharks for a while I became more aware of them as individuals, taking note of distinctive  markings and scars to distinguish one from the next. By comparing photos to a printed catalog of known sharks, I was able to put names to at least a few. This male with the rope around his torso was easy. He is Ropey.

We think this male is Rhett.

There were lots of interesting characters aboard the ship too. From our captain, TJ, who is an excellent wrangler,

to Hector, my favorite "Blueberry" dive master.

They and the rest of the crew of the Nautilus were wonderful hosts, keeping us safe, well entertained and well fed.

I must say that I also enjoyed the quiet, contemplative sea days getting to and from Guadalupe Island.

Sparkling blue waters reminded me of the quilt that I began work on many months ago.

Now I know what to call it: Sea Days. And having finally worked out an efficient procedure to cut and assemble the blocks, I hope to complete the remaining five rows reasonably quickly.

Tips for travelers
  • You don't need to be a certified diver to enjoy this trip. Anyone who is comfortable in the water  and breathing through a regulator can go in the surface cages, which is where you'll see the most action anyway.
  • The water is cold. Choose a 7mm wet suit, plus booties and hood.
  • Despite being billed as waterproof, my GoPro had some hiccups underwater, especially at depths below 10 or 15 feet. Once it stopped working altogether and I couldn't unfreeze it until I took out and replaced the battery. Another time I was able to reset it while underwater by turning it off and then on again.
  • Be prepared for rough water between Ensenada and Guadalupe Island.
  • I booked this trip through Cheeseman's Ecology Safaris. They helped with some of the logistics for me and as they always do, provided a great trip. They won't be doing this again for a couple of years, but you can book directly with Nautilus

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Further Adventures in the Tetons, Part II

When last you heard from this intrepid hiker and knitter, I was with a group of geologists in the upper part of Teton Canyon. After two nights at beautiful Basin Lakes, we packed up camp and moved on, heading north on the Teton Crest Trail. After a short climb, we rested at Sunset Lake,

before continuing on through magnificent flower filled meadows

towards Hurricane Pass. Here the Grand Teton is just coming into view.

From Hurricane Pass we took in stunning views of South Cascade Canyon and the Grand, Middle, and South Tetons. On the righthand side of the photo you can see Schoolroom glacier and its moraines and stream outlet. I'm not sure it is actually even still a glacier, but may simply be a permanent snow field.

We continued on,

down into lush Cascade Canyon, heading for Avalanche Divide, the rightmost saddle in this image.

I stopped countless times to snap photos, running afterwards to catch up with the group.

From Avalanche Divide we looked down at Kit Lake,

in which a few of our party cooled off after a hot day of hiking, 

and adjacent to which we set up camp.

In the morning we had time for a geology lesson in front of "The Wall",

admiring more wildflowers,

and a last look at Kit Lake,

before climbing back over Avalanche Divide.

The windswept beauty of the divide

quickly gave way to the gurgling streams and green meadows of South Cascade Canyon.

As we continued down, those in turn gave way to dense stands of evergreens. Avalanche debris from this past winter meant a bit of scrambling around and over logs and branches. In the process we nearly ran into this bull moose.

We ended our hike at the Jenny Lake west boat dock and took the fast and comfortable way across the lake.

Though one could do this hike in two or three days, I'm glad I had four days to savor the beauty of the high country, visit some new places, and to truly be away from it all.

Travelers tips:

Here is a map, courtesy of Steve, showing our route.

Be sure to get a permit if you will be camping within Grand Teton National Park. It gives you an extra measure of security because park rangers will know your intended route and destination. Also, they do check permits and can fine you if you don't have one.

In my last post I promised to show progress on my sweater, which I thought was almost finished. Turns out I made a mistake in shaping the front pieces and have had a lot of un-knitting to do. And nobody needs to see pictures of that! But the fact that I haven't just abandoned the whole project makes me feel like an intrepid knitter indeed. Maybe next time it will be far enough along for me not to be embarrassed to show photos.