Quilt Gallery

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Skiing In The New Year

We are taking advantage of the girls being in Vermont for pre-season nordic and alpine ski camps to do a bit of skiing ourselves.  We spent a few hours this afternoon at Middlebury College's Rikert Nordic Center and are hoping for some snow overnight to improve the conditions for downhill skiing tomorrow.  It's a great way to greet the new year.

This winter visit to Vermont reminds me of my college years spent in upstate New York where I always admired the colors of the landscape.  On overcast days it is painted in shades of white and steel grey and silver, except for the distant tree-covered hillsides which under thick low clouds look almost purple.

Post-skiing, I have found a nice seat by the inn's fire where I can enjoy a glass of wine and work on my little Antarctic-inspired quilt.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Warm Welcome Home

This post is dreadfully late, but at least it is appropriate to the season.  When we returned home from our sojourn to Antarctica last winter I was greeted with an unexpected, but most welcome, package from my aunt.

I delight in the sentiment itself and in its simple, elegant presentation.  In a minimum of words it conveys so much.  If all you had to go on was the piece itself you would know the maker's age and her name and, more importantly, you would know of the existence of a warm relationship between an aunt and her niece or nephew.  You would also be able to guess that the maker possesses vigor, given the energy it takes to stitch such a piece, and that she has a fine sense of humor, because she has included her age as though in a wink to the girls, some as young as five, in centuries past who stitched their ages into the designs of their samplers.

I have now hung this sampler in my little hallway gallery of cherished cross stitch samplers, a fitting place since it is now a neighbor of my own first sampler, which I completed as a girl in 1975 from a kit that Auntie Lu gave to me as a Christmas gift.

These two pieces together illustrate to me how lives are intertwined and how our actions can be sources of unexpected inspiration.  When Auntie Lu gave me that little kit so many Christmases ago she couldn't know that it would lead to many hours of creative pleasure and to my ongoing and wide-ranging interest in textiles and needlework.  Likewise, I doubt that she realized that this new sampler would go beyond bringing "peace to this house," but would be a constant reminder to me to act with thoughtfulness and kindness because it does make a difference, if not today, then surely another day.  

Thank you, dear Auntie Lu, for all of your gifts.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Thanksgiving in the Texas Hill Country

It's not a long trip from Austin to our little weekend house on the north shore of Lake Travis - less than an hour's drive - but it seems a world away:  big skies, long views, and oak woods interspersed with open fields which are filled with wildflowers in the spring and summer.

Springtime flowers

Lake Travis sunset

We spend most of our time there outdoors, walking, running, biking, swimming, bird-watching, and clearing the land of all the spiny and prickly plants that took hold in the years when the native grasses were depleted by over-grazing.  Our work boots get a lot of wear!

We also frequently cook and sleep outdoors, the latter either on the sleeping porch or in a screened cabin, and this Thanksgiving was no exception.  As usual, we put the turkey - plus a  brisket and some sausages for good measure - on the smoker.  That yielded a deliciously smoky flavored turkey and left the oven available for all the yummy side dishes.

In spite of the generally mild central Texas climate, it can get quite chilly sleeping outside, and a good pile of warm bedding is called for.  Right now we rely on a rather rag-tag collection of blankets and old sleeping bags so I am working, slowly, on making quilts for each of the beds.  Here is one I just finished hand-quilting for Cabin II.  The wool batting I used to make it extra cozy shrunk quite a bit in the wash so the overall texture is very crinkly, but I think will age nicely.

Steve's mother, Winifred, hand-stitched the flowered whole-cloth quilt at the bottom of the bed.  I am guessing it is from some time during the 1960s.

This little butterfly kept Steve and me company while we were clearing some brush the other day and is a perfect color match for the new quilt.  Maybe someone can help me to identify it.  A clouded sulphur, perhaps?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Back to New England

Last weekend I made another trip to New England to visit the girls at school.  It was still fall-like in Connecticut with lots of brilliantly colored trees, but bare trees and snow flurries made New Hampshire and Vermont feel like winter.

In need of new quilting needles, I stopped at Pickering Farm Quilt Shop, housed in a restored 18th century barn in Richmond, New Hampshire.

It is right next to a lovely little apple orchard.

Their wonderful collection of traditional and reproduction fabrics were just too temptingly displayed for me to resist picking out some things for my stash.

The girls had classes on Monday so I ventured down the road to Turners Falls where I caught a stunning sunrise at the Gill-Montague Bridge along the Connecticut River.  Turners Falls, developed as a planned industrial community in the 1800s, retains many of its original brick structures which can be seen by strolling through town and along the canal's pedestrian and bike path.

Below the Gill-Montague Bridge

In the afternoon, frustratingly side-lined by a nagging injury, I watched, rather than ran, the Bemis-Forslund Pie Race and had to enjoy the fresh-baked apple pie prizes vicariously.

The 4.3 mile cross-country race is claimed to be the oldest foot race in the country, older even than the Boston Marathon. This year's winner, Mohamed Hussein, bested the previous course record by nine seconds -- two days after having won the New England prep school cross-country championship in a record-setting time.  Clearly  he is a runner to watch. 

Mohamed Hussein

Just as the last runners were finishing, the previously solid grey sky gave way to a bit of sun and a dramatic sunset.  A nice way to end the day.

Memorial Chapel

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Joys of Fall

I love fall!  It is a feast of color and scent.  We were lucky to be in New England in early October and were treated to some brilliant displays of color, first under crisp cerulean skies then in mist and rain and fog.

Into the woods at Northfield Mount Hermon
We took advantage of the girls' long weekend to make a trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire for some hiking.  We chose the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail with hopes of reaching the summit of Mt. Washington. By the time we emerged from the protection of trees we were all soaked with sweat and so ducked into the emergency shelter at the Lakes of the Clouds hut to change out of our wet clothes and get fully suited up in our rain gear.  Though we were not in an emergency situation at that point, we would have been had we not changed our clothing.  The bad weather for which these mountains are so famous was in full force:  powerful winds, heavy rain, dropping temperatures and very limited visibility.

Steve and Isabel preparing to brave the weather
Once back on the trail I was really glad to have on dry clothes - and a new rain jacket.  I kept thinking that I could hear jets flying overhead, but no, it was just the wind screaming past the summit. I was blown right off of the trail a couple of times and sometimes had to use all fours to make any forward progress.  This photo gives an idea of how soupy it was.  You can just see Steve and the girls at the trail junction discussing whether to make the final push to the summit or to head back down. We played it safe and headed back down, thankful for the the cairns marking the trail.

Three tenths of a mile from the summit
Compared to the rocky upper elevations, the valley is remarkably lush and mossy and made me think of Hobbits. And the rich scent of pine was heavenly.

Along the Jewell Trail
When I came home I made a couple of pine sachets to remind me of our walk.

Bitten by the bug of fall colors, I took a day to drive around the Texas hill country west of Austin. Texas has its share of color, though it is more subtle than in New England, with the colors generally much deeper.  Bald cypress turn a lovely rusty brown, cedar elms a muted yellow and red oaks become a rich burgundy.  I don't have any photos of red oaks, though, because they won't be at their peak until the end of November or early December.  How lucky am I to experience such an extended fall?!
Bald cypress along the Blanco River
Bald cypress along the Guadalupe River
Sisterdale barn

Friday, October 18, 2013

Antarctic Wildlife: Whales and Seals

For most people thoughts of Antarctica first bring to mind penguins.  Not surprising since they are found exclusively in the southern latitudes.  Yet, Antarctica is also rich with marine mammals: seals, dolphins, and whales. Our trip last January gave us opportunities to observe all of these up close.  Perhaps, in some cases, too close.

On South Georgia Island the high density of seals made walking difficult in some places.  Fur seals, of which we saw thousands, can be very aggressive and have a nasty, bacteria-laden bite so we were particularly wary near them and carried ski poles to fend off ones that were nipping at our legs.

Steve and fur seals, South Georgia Island

Still, the pups are adorable, especially the rare white ones.

White fur seal pup, South Georgia Island

Elephant seals like to lie close to each other, like so many sausages in a too-small pan, and have remarkably expressive faces and mannerisms.

Elephant seals, South Georgia Island

Weddell seals' enormous eyes give them sweet-looking faces.

Weddell Seal, Neko Harbor

Leopard seals are the the most aggressive and scariest-looking of all.  We were definitely too close to this one!

Leopard seal, Port Charcot, Booth Island

Interesting as the seals are, whales seemed to be the real favorites among passengers, perhaps because they are more rarely sighted, because of their sheer size, because fleeting glimpses of a back or a tail make them so mysterious, or maybe even because of how they conjure images of Moby Dick, Ishmael and Captain Ahab.  The announcement of a whale-sighting was always the quickest way to get passengers scurrying out of their cabins onto the decks or up to the bridge for a better view, binoculars and cameras in hand.  Even better were the Zodiac cruises where we could maneuver for close-up views and photos.

Humpback Whale,  Neko Harbor

Tail-throwing humpback whale
Zipping around Antarctic waters in a Zodiac can be very cold, so proper clothing is key to staying comfortable.  I wore as many layers as would fit under my rain jacket and pants and then added gloves, hat and neck warmer.  The latter was one I had made on the journey from home to the Falklands Islands where we met our ship.  Unfortunately, I chose a pattern for a rather floppy garment that didn't stay snug around my neck and didn't add much to my comfort.

Since then I have made another one with a ribbed neck which I think will keep me much warmer.  It is basically the neck portion of a turtleneck sweater, but with a nice leaf design.  I knit it, with a silk and merino blend that is comfortable against bare skin, using a pattern purchased at Northampton Wools.  So, now I am all set for another Antarctic trip...

Lace Edge Neck Warmer

On a sad note, fifty years after the end of Antarctic whaling there are still many visible remains of that industry. There is, of course, simply the small number of whales, whose populations still have not bounced back to pre-whaling levels.  Then there are the whale bones, some of which have been gathered together and formed into facsimiles of whole whales.

Re-assembled whale skeleton near Brazil's Ferraz Station, Admiralty Bay, King George Island

Finally, there are the piles of whale bones and remains of old whale boats, as at Deception Island, 

Whalebones and "water boat" at Whaler's Bay, Deception Island

and entire whaling stations, such as at Stromness and Grytviken on South Georgia Island, which show the industrial scale on which whaling was conducted.

Grytviken, South Georgia Island

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Geology Fieldwork in the Scottish Highlands

As a child my favorite issues of National Geographic (like so many families, we had a shelf full of every issue since my parents began a subscription) were the ones that showed the inexorable movement of Earth's crust in the form of flowing Hawaiian volcanoes and the enormous 1964 Easter earthquake in Alaska.  As a college student geology appealed to me because it was like putting together a puzzle with a bunch of the pieces missing and because geologists get to go to some of the most fascinating and beautiful places on the planet.  Although I am no longer working as a geoscientist, I have been able to help organize and participate in some cool trips, most recently to the northwest highlands of Scotland, which even after centuries of study by hundreds of geologists, offer opportunities for new geologic discoveries.

Steve has been studying fractures in the Torridonian, mostly in an area referred to as "The Great Wilderness," for about a decade and this trip was made to confirm several items for a paper he is working on.  I went along as field assistant and photographer.  I was prepared with a field notebook for which I made a cover out of some scraps of leather - not waterproof, but water resistant.

Comparator (on top of notebook) from Ortega, et al, 2006* is for measuring fracture widths

Aside from having extensive and well-exposed outcrops, The Great Wilderness is home to big peaks, including An Teallach and Slioch, and countless inland lochs, of which the largest is Loch Maree.  As the name implies, however, there are no paved roads so sturdy waterproof boots and gaiters are required to navigate through the mostly open, but boggy countryside.

Torridonian sandstone and Eriboll quartzite

Slioch, on the north eastern shore of Loch Maree, offers views of Ben Eighe to the southwest and of Skye and the Hebrides to the west.

Ben Eighe
Ben Eighe and Loch Maree
Atop Slioch
Along the ridge of Slioch

Past Gairloch and Melvaig, where the road becomes a winding single track, you will find the Rua Reidh Lighthouse.  We were greeted with an array of rainbows along the way.

As well as abandoned but scenic old houses.

Once at the lighthouse you may see seals, whales, sea otters, and a variety of sea birds.  You can wander around on the Torridonian sandstone adjacent to the lighthouse.  Notable features include cross-beds, ripple marks, multiple fracture sets, and filled fractures.  You can also walk for miles along the top of the cliff and even make your way down to a protected beach.  In addition to its function as a navigation aid, the lighthouse now operates as a guest house. 

Rua Reidh Lighthouse
Torridonian crossbeds
Small scale ripple marks superimposed on large scale ripple marks

The scenery seems to change as quickly as the weather in Scotland.  With every bend in the road there is something new to delight the eye.

Gruinard Bay

We spent the latter part of our trip farther north, in Rhiconich, at the head of Loch Inchard.  Here is the view to which we awoke the day we planned to hike to the top of Foinaven.

As we prepared to step out of the hotel it became a bit more promising.

It continued to be promising as we hiked towards the base of the mountain.

But no luck.  The closer we got to the mountain, the harder the rain fell and the stronger the winds blew.  My rain jacket, which seemed to work so well in Antarctica, was no match for Scotland.  Cold, soaked to the skin and unable to use my hands and arms, we turned back.  It was a hard decision to make since we had heard that by 2:30 it was supposed to be clear.  Well, the forecast was not quite right.  It didn't clear until 2:40!  By about 3:30 this is what it looked like.

Foinaven and Arkle

With all this hiking I didn't have time for needlework, but the trip reminded me of shawls I knit using yarn purchased years ago from a lady near Loch Torridon.  Funny that I hadn't previously realized that the green is the color of gorse and the purple is the color of heather.

Muir Woods shawl pattern by Rosemary Hill;  highland wool

Shetland Triangle pattern by Evelyn A. Clark**; angora 

*Ortega, O. J., Marrett, R., and Laubach, S. E., 2006, A scale-independent approach to fracture intensity and average fracture spacing: AAPG Bulletin, v. 90, no. 2 (Feb. 2006), 193-208
*In Allen, P. and Budd, A., 2005, Wrap Style, Interweave Press