Friday, April 10, 2015

The glorious ah-ha moment

Arrival is barely controlled chaos.  I'm not sure of total person counts, but eleven classes-worth of students have had their final class sessions this Friday morning. They've checked out of their hotel rooms and packed their fabrics and projects and sewing machines in their cars, or turned in rental machines and loaded up their suitcases for transportation to airports or trains. And maybe, because it's included, have stayed for their final lunch in the dining hall.

We, the next session, are arriving Friday afternoon.  We can check into the hotel at three, and pick up our class information at 3:30. Our class unpacking and first class meetings run from four to 5:30. Dinner is at six.

My room is not ready at three. I can't get my room card until dinner time.

I'm at Session IV of Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar Conference Grounds. It's 5-day Quiltmaking Workshops at the conference grounds' "Refuge by the Sea" in Pacific Grove, California.
That circled paragraph below in Jenny Bowker's Shimmering Triangles class beckoned me. I  have a huge stash of fabric collections, including Kaffe Fassetts, with big beautiful prints that I've never figured out how to use. Even though the tiny photo of one of Jenny's quilts looked looks like bright solid colors, I cross my fingers and pack the boxes with the Kaffe Fassets and other large prints and bright colors.

Four big boxes of fabric and two sewing machines and I discover I've only brought three days worth of clothes. I receive helpful suggestions that I can sew up some clothes from my fabrics. Surely you jest!? 

When I get ready to cut some fabrics, I also discover I left behind my cutting mat and cutting rulers. I visualize exactly where I left the cardboard sleeve with the rulers and mat in it: leaning against a kitchen counter.

Fortunately, a quilt store sets up shop on premises to provide us with necessities and temptations. Here are my new mat and rulers. There is a strange learning curve to these rulers.

Jenny begins with showing us what we will be doing in our second project. This is a Shimmering Triangles quilt. Indeed, it is made with large Kaffe Fasset prints.

Here is a close-up of some of her quilting, done on a household model Bernina, which she uses for all her quilting.

Seen from the back side . . .

One of Jenny's tile quilts, which she taught in Session III.

Another of her tile quilts. She gives our class a mini lesson on tile quilt making.

Here is a sample of what will be our third project, a quick and easy small quilt.

Finally, after class set up, I get to look for my room. It turns out to be as far as possible from my sewing room. (I timed my back shots exactly for all this anticipated hiking!)  I have a good underground parking place but no direct access to the building I'm staying in. I must pull my luggage train out the entrance ramp, then walk around to the entrance to my building. King size bed, roomy room, simple amenities (i.e., no phones or TV . . . but there is wi-fi).

I hike back to the dining hall for dinner, then to Merrill Hall for the evening program. Each night, students do show and tell, then several instructors talk about their courses, with various types of demonstrations. It gives a chance to see what kind of work every class is doing. This first presentation is a collection of antique quilts.

And then I get totally lost trying to find my way back to my hotel room in the dark. It's a long, cold walk, but I finally find my way to my toasty home-away-from-home. My suitcase and rolling backpack sit unopened in the middle of the room. Typical of me not to unpack in the room until the last instant.

The next morning I pay particular attention how to get back to the dining hall and the sewing room. I do not deviate from that path going to and from my room, even though there might be other scenic routes.

Project one begins on our first full day. We learn a simple method to make eight half-square triangles out of two pieces of fabric, and how to calculate the size of the pieces of fabric for any size half square triangle we need. This technique will be at the basis of our projects in this class.

I sew the blocks for project number one, but I don't finish on time to make a plan for joining them. They will wait for an opportunity.

Lunch break. After I eat, I take in a little air. The wind is too brisk to walk down to the beach but I walk around closer in to the dining hall and work room.

People having picnics

The seagull is on the post before I take the shot, then flies away.
I believe I've missed it altogether and only discover it when I look through my photos.

Jenny shows several different layouts that can be made from the blocks she's made from the half-square triangles.

Blocks need not be made of bright colors as JoAnn's piece demonstrates.

More of Jenny's quilting

Our first lesson on how to do shimmering triangles . . .

A peek at the ocean . . .

We start our own shimmering quilts by choosing focus blocks. Here I dig into my Kaffe Fasset daisies in different colorways. It's a start . . . .

Somone is way ahead of me. (I'm slow but steady, I tell Jenny.)

I've added a couple of blender blocks here.

Shelly is ahead of everyone, but I think she cut her fabric before she came. If you look closely, you can see she has two Singer Featherweights on her table. No wonder she can sew twice as fast. The shimmering between the blocks is apparent now.

Some shimmering is beginning to show up in my quilt. I have the ah-ha moment when I understand what the correct placement of the blocks is. Jenny comments, "I see you got it." "Slow but sure."

This is sooo much fun. Visions of boxes of fabrics being turned into shimmering quilts begin to dance in my head.

Let me tell you now about the fabulous Jenny.  First we notice the accent. What is it?  Aussie. She wants to explain her hair, which she seems somewhat self-conscious about. Recently completed her breast cancer treatment and it's growing back.
Abu Aziz, Damascus, Mended stools.
The Bedouin woman & her oranges. Making a quilt for her house Hija'a
The Shipwreck Coast on the South Coast of Victoria
Looking Back at Science, Earthskin Quilts
Quilts for tACTile, First Exhibition Pathways

Jenny gives instructions one morning for project three and a lot of people make two to three hour quilt tops. I don't listen to the lesson. Old slow-but-sure is working on her shimmers, but I have the written instructions for project. I suspect this is made with larger half-square triangles.

Jenny demonstrates how she does free motion quilting on the Bernina. She does this on her king-sized quilts the same way, "slowly," as she describes it.

Shelley's shimmering triangles are nearly filled in,

I love this subtle shimmering quilt.

From Jenny Bowker's book, "Pack and Follow." © 2011 Jenny Bowker  Book created and designed by Andrew Boyer, using Blurb creative service. Blurb-provided layout designs and graphic elements are copyright Blurb Inc., 2011.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

They're asking if we're "Thelma and Louise"

It's been quite awhile. Part of it has been lack of time. Part has been travel. The rest has been daytime Internet outages as the cable system adds new capacity. Two blogs have been underway, including this one, practically since the last blog . . .

Have you looked lately at an online map to get an overview of somewhere you intend to go? I know, you've got your GPS, but I can tell you, sometimes it can send you astray. Take, for example, my house. Without supplemental information, it would be a major fail. It's no help that GPS coordinates aren't where my address is, neither is there access at all by the road they direct you on.

In our part of the country, there are options for the routes anywhere that GPS routing doesn't offer for your perusal, should you like an alternate.

Two or three months ago I'm browsing -- probably Google maps -- to check on something north of here. There are no straight lines, either in distance or elevation on our maps. I zoom in so close on the map that the screen fills with only wiggling single lines. No name visible. I follow the line, trying to find out where it touches known territory. Sheep Ranch Road. Hah! An intriguing name. I continue to follow. Is Sheep Ranch Road endless? Eventually, it hits Railroad Flat Road. Railroad Flat Road goes on and on.

I never reach a connection point on the map to anything familiar, but think it would be fun to follow it for real sometime. Pipe dreams.

*     *     *     *     *

I had a "medical procedure" on the Friday, I need these periodically for back pain. I'm new at the trifecta (3 shot) procedure, so I'm too chicken to have it done without sedation. Sedation means you're not allowed to drive yourself home afterward. It seemed like a good time to try out a recently organized volunteer service in Our Little Town that gives rides to the Little City Down the Hill for those who cannot drive themselves. After cadging lifts from friends a few times, I felt better about taking a ride from a bonafide volunteer. A glitch turned up at the last minute. The volunteer drivers aren't permitted to sign for and take responsibility for a post-procedure patient who has had sedation. So a volunteer drove me to the surgery center and Sister was able to come up from her Bay Area home in time for my release and to take me to her Mountain House for the requisite observation time.

The surgical center staff told me it would take two to four days for the shots to take effect, but I was feeling pretty darned good by the time Sister took me home later that evening. While we wiled away my "waiting" time that evening at her house, I'd volunteered to go with her on Saturday to a British car group outing. She'd never driven the Morgan without having Brother-in-Law along and was a little hesitant to do so alone. Getting in and out of the car is daunting, in that it takes lowering and lifting one's bottom from somewhere down near the road, an agility challenge to a bad back. My post procedure instructions forbade my driving within 24 hours, but no one said I couldn't go for a ride.

We'll be meeting the sports car group in the Little City Down the Hill so we zing down the Grade, whiz across the bridge over the lake so fast I barely get the camera out for a drive-by shot.

Here I am at the rendezvous point. Our first destination is the casino at the Indian reservation where we'll have the buffet brunch.

And Sister, our driver.

(Picture I wish I had taken:  A FULL VIEW OF THE MORGAN AERO)


I think the count is nine cars. Saddle up (that comes from the olden days when I used to ride horses), and caravan through Downtown and out onto the highway.

Buttons and lights in the cockpit. Three wipers on the tiny windshield.

(Pictures I wish I had taken:  AN EXTERIOR VIEW OF THE CASINO 

The check-in line to get in is not long, but we wait a short time for two large tables to be readied for us. My first task is to review the entire buffet, before I choose anything, so I do a walkaround.  I choose Asian for my main dish. If I'm going to eat too much, it will be too much dessert.

Oh, the desserts. . .

I choose this for dessert. The lovely looking pastry with the fruit on top is a big disappointment, but the other things are exactly as anticipated.

The buffet brunch is not the end of the adventure. Next on the itinerary is Daffodil Hill. For years, Husband and I camped relatively near Daffodil Hill, but often, not at the time of year that daffodils are in bloom. I think I remember our driving up there one time on a drizzly spring day and finding it closed. It's a pretty good trek up there in any weather, but it was an even more rustic journey way back when.  If there were any daffodils blooming, I don't remember them.

Sister and I study the map in the parking garage at the casino before heading out. There are several possible routes and no way to know which is best. Sister asks one of our group. "I have a GPS," he says. "Can we follow?" Okay. It's a good idea, because without him, we'd still be driving around the casino and rancheria parking structure and grounds.

However, once on the road, he leaves us in the dust. As nearly as we can tell, we're in a 35 mph zone and he's out of sight. We're back with our map.

(Picture I wish I had taken:  PASSING THROUGH VOLCANO)

I've always thought of Volcano as a remote, impoverished mountain town. It's transformed into a little tourist stopping point. The main street takes two sharp turns through town. Buildings are brightly painted, the street is lined with parked cars and strolling pedestrians, and we are propelled through in a line of traffic in a blink of an eye.

(Another picture I wish I had taken: THE ENTRANCE TO DAFFODIL HILL)

We know we're nearing Daffodil Hill from the traffic jam and the highway patrolman controlling the pedestrians crossing the road to and from the parking lot and directing cars into it. It's a dirt lot, very hilly and dusty. One of the many Daffodil Hill parking staff directs us to a shaded spot not far from where he can keep an eye on our fancy car. We enter the farm through an old-fashioned ranch gate. There is no admission, but the are strategically located donation pots.

Here are some of the sights we see in our stroll through the grounds.

Someone takes our picture.

We bid our goodbyes to Daffodil Hill. The weather has been  perfect, the daffodils put on a display, although not lavish, still very satisfying. While the formalities of the auto run are over, we have another mission. We'll take more mountain roads to Ironstone Winery in Murphys to pick up Sister and BIL's selection of wines at Ironstone from some kind of wine tasting group they belong to there.

We get out the map again to plot our course.  I'm tickled to see that we get to take the road to Black Chasm. I'd seen the sign on the way in. Excitingly sinister. I expect dark and creepy places. We head back through Volcano. Even knowing it's coming didn't give me time to whip my camera out to catch any pictures of the town, and we come shortly to Black Chasm.  It's not a big road, and an even smaller road leads off to the left for the actual black chasm. We do not take that road.

I google later and find this by way of explanation.

We drive through neighborhoods of upscale rural homes and ranches and more modest communities of houses in deep woods that seem so frighteningly vulnerable to fire. They are towns I've heard of on weather reports and other news for years, but have never been here.

At some point we find ourselves on the way to Railroad Flat -- on Railroad Flat Road. Here we are, on that road I'd traced on my computer screen not all that long ago. It seems so improbable that a railroad can be anywhere nearby, as the roads and the terrain are anything but flat. We eventually pass some meadows, but still hard to imagine a railroad has ever been here.

We make a few false turns and have to retrace our course back to Railroad Flat Road. We've both long since finished our bottles of water and we eventually come to a little crossroads with a store that might supply refreshment. I stay to guard the Aero, parked in front of the loo. We're both too dry to need to use it.

Across the street I take my final photo. My cell phone has run out of battery power and turned really hot so I switch it off

We eventually come to the place where we make a turn onto Sheep Ranch Road. My Sheep Ranch Road.  Living the dream!  It takes a steep downturn in road surface quality. We can deal easily with winding roads and hills and valleys, but the road has narrowed considerably and features potholes and rough surfaces, interspersed with occasional not-as-rough pavement. Sister declares it not recommended for a sports car run.  Her hands take a beating from the vibration.

(Picture I wish I had taken: SHEEP RANCH ROAD)

Finally we approach Murphys, from an unfamiliar direction. Sister hopes she'll recognize the road into Ironstone Winery. We turn left. We turn left again. And again. We're back on the road we came in on. We make several more false starts and finally a corner rings a bell with Sister. We head down the road to Ironstone Winery.

(Picture I wish I had taken: CLOSED GATE AT IRONSTONE  WINERY)

Sister thought they close at six. It closes at five. It's five-0-five.

We started at the tail at the bottom and traveled clockwise along
 the yellow line, returning to the tail and then on home.

I'm higher than a kite, completely stoked from the trip and from the fabulous freedom from pain from the cortisone. It was sooo much fun. Because it involves being in the sun, it's not something I'll take up. I'm not happy in the sun. But this was an experience. People asked if we were playing Thelma and Louise.

We had a happier ending.