Quilt Gallery

Monday, August 31, 2015

Summer in Central Texas

It's the last day of August and though school is back in session here in Central Texas, summer is not yet over. High temperatures continue to hover in the mid-nineties (Fahrenheit), the sun shines relentlessly, and extended outdoor activity must be planned carefully. 

For me, that means running before the sun comes up. On the days I don't manage to get going early, anything beyond three miles becomes an unpleasant slog. Much better suited to summer is taking a dip in Barton Springs Pool

Its three acres of 68 to 70 degree, spring-fed water will cool you off on even the hottest of days.

Barton Springs Pool

Another quintessential summertime Texas activity is the rodeo. Just as the sun is going down and the stands are cooling off, things really heat up inside the arena. We enjoyed last month's Marble Falls Rodeo as much for its small-town ambience as its excitement. Of course, they start with the national anthem and a display of the flag.

It's hard to beat the colorful and heart-stopping bareback bronc riding.

Wranglers are always ready to assist and ensure the rider's safety. Watching how they work and the rapport they have with their horses is as interesting as the main events.

So, if the beginnings and ends of the days are the best times to be outside, what, you may ask, do you do in the middle of the day? Mostly, at least in August, I retreat to the air-conditioned indoors. This year I used that time to do a lot of sewing.

I finished this pillow cover, for which I used some of the pre-cut two inch squares that were in this year's QuiltCon goodie bag,

Pillow top, hand pieced and hand quilted
have almost completed a second one,

and made two queen-sized bed quilts. I pieced and quilted the pillows entirely by hand. Except for the bindings, I did the bed quilts entirely by machine

My production line for making Ohio Star blocks

Both of these are gifts so I can only give you a sneak peak until they have made their way to their recipients.

Saturday, August 8, 2015


Although the focus of my recent trip to Svalbard was wildlife, Longyearbyen, the town where we boarded our ship, is interesting and colorful enough to warrant its own post. Longyearbyen is situated at 78 degrees latitude, in the middle of Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago, nearly 1,000 kilometers from the Norwegian mainland. It spills down the Longyeardalen valley to the shores of Adventfjorden, an embayment in the much larger Isfjorden. 

The upper part of town
The most striking feature of Longyearbyen is its colorful buildings, painted following a color scheme designed by Bergen National Academy of Arts under commission from Store Norske, the current coal mine operators.  With four months of 24 hour darkness, and a blanket of snow from horizon to horizon for even longer, the color must be invigorating to inhabitants.  In the sun the buildings are brilliant.

Less obvious, at least initially, though just as ubiquitous, are the old aerial cables and cable cars, once used to carry coal from mines to port, but now reminders of the Longyearbyen's coal mining heritage. In fact, Longyearbyen is named after John Longyear, the American whose Arctic Coal Company began mining operations there in 1906.

Look closely, just below the lower cliffs, to see remains of mining operation

Longyearbyen claims a number of the world northernmosts, as in the world's northernmost seed storage facility, the world's northernmost university, and the world's northernmost church.

Svalbard Church

In spite of cessation of most mining, Longyearbyen retains an industrial appearance. Without trees - none grow anywhere in Svalbard - everything is laid bare to be seen year round. Fortunately, all is kept tidy and clean and freshly painted, which makes Longyearbyen a pleasant town.

I found the accommodations comfortable, the food tasty, and the people kind. Based on the number of shops heavily stocked with all kinds of expedition gear, it is clearly a jumping off point for many kinds of outdoor adventures. As you might expect from such a remote spot the prices are not cheap. Except, that is, for yarn. We found yarn in a coffee shop, the grocery store, and in a clothing shop, all reasonably priced. One could do a lot of knitting during the long winter night in Longyearbyen. My daughter bought yarn for three different projects and I picked up this Arne and Carlos book of patterns for felted slippers. 

The slippers would be perfect in Longyearbyen where it is customary to remove shoes before entering a building, restaurants, hotels, and museum included. After practicing Fair Isle knitting this summer I should have no trouble with the patterns. Once I have figured out the Norwegian, that is.