Monday, February 18, 2019

Finished Quilt: Invasive Species

Last week I shared how I got started on my invasive species quilt for the SAQA show Connecting Our Natural Worlds. Click here to read more about it! I got it finished just in time for the show entry deadline, and of course I have no idea whether it will get in, but at least it got entered!

Invasive species are something that have been in the back of my mind for many years.  In middle Tennessee where I went to college kudzu is an obnoxious problem, growing freely and readily over everything in its path.  Similarly, ice plant is an awful problem in many parts of California, especially the Monterey coast where it escapes from gardens and flourishes on the beach dunes, competing out all the dune grasses and native biodiversity.  Alas, neither of those are particularly problematic in the Great Plains, but we have plenty of invasive species of our own. 

The quilt features the following insects, plants, and animals that are considered invasive in the Great Plains: 
eastern red cedar 
European starling 
southern pine beetle
grass carp
red imported fire ant
parrot's feather (an obnoxious aquatic plant)
yellow sweet clover

Invasive Species, c. Shannon Conley 2019 50x31" Photo: Mike Cox

Invasive Species, c. Shannon Conley 2019 50x31" Photo: Mike Cox

Invasive Species, c. Shannon Conley 2019 50x31" Photo: Mike Cox

Invasive Species, c. Shannon Conley 2019 50x31" Photo: Mike Cox

Invasive Species, c. Shannon Conley 2019 50x31" Photo: Mike Cox

And the artist statement:
I live in the southern Great Plains, an ecosystem that stretches throughout the central United States and into Canada. One of the biggest threats to native species and ecosystems in this area is invasive species. They arrive, usually due to human inadvertence, and then flourish, ruining habitat, competing for resources, and damaging native plants and wildlife. As people who love being outdoors, it is our responsibility to take care we are not transferring or enhancing the effects of invasive species. They spread through poorly cleaned watersports equipment, shoes and clothes from hikers, and escape from gardens and yards, among other ways. Educate yourselves on invasive species in your area and what you can do to prevent their spread. 

I hope you enjoyed seeing this piece!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

I Like #102

Welcome to another week of things to like! 

1.  Happy Valentine's day to everyone!  I'm not much of a valentine's day person, but I love making cards for my family.  This year they featured googly eyes and a variety of happy monster people.

2.  Blue and I were out practicing in the backyard when the weekly tornado siren test started.  Blue's usually not much of a barker but he and Bentley both like to yowl at the tornado siren.  And then I snapped a picture of them on the sofa later in the day, so symmetrical!  My friend Tristan said they looked like pillows!

3.  Saturday night my friend Liz hosted a party/fundraiser for an orphanage in Uganda, and we had a lot of fun.  We had a guest musician who had a gorgeous voice.  She played the ukelele and sang, both covers and original songs.  It was lovely.  Unfortunately, all I can remember was that her name was Juniper which is not really helpful.  Then another lady led a Beatles sing-along which was a blast.

4.  On Sunday I took flowers and communion to some people after church and one of the nursing homes I visited had pet birds.  I though this little guy was so cute and colorful!  I'm starting to get a few birds back at my feeders, but they don't sit still to have their pictures taken.

5. It's still grey and chilly here, but one of my houseplants has started making these tiny little yellow flowers!  I'm not sure what it is, but it came from my mom and any patch of  living color makes me happy this time of year!

I hope everyone has a good week!  Click on over to LeeAnna's for more things to like!

Monday, February 11, 2019

New Quilt: Invasive Species

There has been a call for entry from national SAQA called Connecting Our Natural Worlds.  The theme was endangered species, which ones live near you, and how can you protect them.  It premieres next fall at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, a place I've always loved.  Then the fall got away from me, and I didn't really think I'd have time to do anything.  However over the Christmas holiday we were out in Tucson and visited the Desert Museum (for the first time since I moved away from Tucson over 14 years ago), and I fell in love with it all over again.  I decided I had to make a quilt for this show, even if I didn't get in.

I started researching endangered species in the area where I live.  Oklahoma is part of the Great Plains, a huge ecosystem the stretches throughout the center of the US and Canada.  There are several endangered species, including species of bat, fish, and freshwater clam, among others, but none that just jumped out as being something I felt compelled to make a quilt about.  I did notice however, that in many cases, they were endangered because of the onslaught of various invasive species that destroy habitat or out-compete native species.  Aquatic invasive species are particularly problematic; water sports including fishing and boating are very popular here and it's so easy to transfer invasive critters from one body of water to another if you're not careful.

It was interesting researching invasive species, trying to find thorough records was more challenging than I thought.  While some species are ones everyone would agree are invasive (I'm looking at you pine beetles,white nose-bat fungus, and nasty giant fire ants) others are things that many people love to use as ground cover or in gardens.  All the same, when they escape, they can cause substantial damage to the surrounding ecosystem!  I chose several different species and designed a simplified Mandala style quilt, similar to these I have done before.

My background fabric was a pale ivory polyester satin, and I made all my animals out of other interesting fabrics, velvet, faux suede, and other shiny fabrics.   Of course I was working on a January 31st deadline, and then both my good sewing machines broke so I had to borrow a sewing machine from my friend Melody (thanks Melody!!!).    Here are a few in process pictures!

Piles of cut out pieces!

I quilted it with 100 weight silk thread, and the shiny surface of the fabric means there's lots of visible texture.

Check back next week to see the finished quilt!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

I Like #101

It's Thursday again which means another week of things to like.  It's been grey and overcast (and today very very cold an icy), but I did get to spend all day Saturday outside which was a real treat.    So a few things to like:

1.  I like cleaning up and out!  This time of year lots of people get on this bandwagon, and I've been doing some cleaning out at home, but mostly this weekend my friend and I did it at church.  We have one large dedicated closet for youth group supplies, 12th night costumes and Christmas pageant costumes and it has been bursting at the seams for the past several years with so much junk that no one could even find all the things we had for those events.  I think part of the reason junk accumulates so much there is because everyone thinks the stuff might belong to one of the other groups, but so much of it doesn't!  This past Sunday my friend Elizabeth and I bit the bullet and cleaned out the closet.  We filled my car up twice with garbage and now the closet is really delightful.  Things don't fall on you when you open the door and everything is easy to see and find.  So gratifying. 

2. I like my plants!  This weekend planted some horseshoe cactus seeds harvested from some cactus fruit my dad picked up in the desert in January, and I hope it sprouts!  I've never grown cactus from seed so we'll see if I'm successful.  Nothing is blooming right now, but many of my indoor plants are flourishing including this one at work that my friend gave me when she moved.  Hooray for greenery and photosynthesis.

3.  I like unexpected projects!  I'm participating in the cotton robin swap again this year, and I thought I'd dig out some old experiment to make my center block.  In digging through old drawers I found a bunch of six inch blocks I'd cyanotyped several years ago.  You can read all about it here. Anyway,  the process was fun but I never did anything with any of the blocks except one which I turned into my SAQA donation quilt for 2013.  So when I found the remaining blocks (there were six or seven), I thought one would make a great center for my cotton robin block.  So I pieced this up, but then decided I liked it so much that I wanted to do something with all the blocks, so I just kept piecing. Here are a few in progress shots but I now have a whole small wall quilt pieced and ready to quilt!  It was a fun an unexpected project and I'm so happy to be using these printed blocks!  I should do some more of these, it's a fun way to use photos from trips. 

4. And speaking of SAQA donation quilts, this week I blogged about my 2019 donation quilt.  We had to submit them early because our kind regional SAQA reps have organized shows for them prior to shipping them off to SAQA.  Here's a sneak peek, for more, click over to this post!

5.  Of course I love my pups!  They're doing fine, loving the snuggles and ball playing.

I hope everyone had a good week!  Click on over to LeeAnna who keeps us all going!

Friday, February 1, 2019

2019 12x12 donation quilt

Every year I make a 12"x12" quilt to donate to the SAQA auction.  It's a great fundraiser and always fun to make something a little bit fun and different.  The auction isn't until September but the quilts are due in the early summer, and recently our SAQA region has been organizing exhibitions of these small quilts before their submitted to SAQA.  It's a wonderful thing since it means they get to be seen some before being purchased in the auction.  Since we're having these early exhibitions though, we had to send our pieces to the regional rep by the middle of January, so this year's 12x12 turned out to be the first quilt of the year for me.

I started with a piece of black velvet, did some shiva paintsticks and painting to add color, and then some bright thread free-motion quilting.  It's called Winter 2019 and is balloons or abstract flowers or something joyful.  I was feeling oddly motivated and hopeful about 2019 when I made it so for me it's a happy project!  The edge is finished with couched rainbow yarn which saved me the dreaded facing.  I've found that it's hard to get facing corners to come out square when the quilt uses bulky fabrics like velvet, and abnormalities in the corners are much magnified when the whole quilt is only 12 inches square, so it's nice to have an alternative finishing method.

It was fun to do something a bit different and smaller scale.  The piece is hanging at the Stiles Gallery in Westwood Kansas for the month of February, so if you happen to be in the area, go by and check out all the great small works!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

I Like #100

It's been a fairly quiet week here which is good.  Pretty chilly, but not nearly as cold as people are having in the northern part of the midwest so I feel pretty lucky!

It was another week where I didn't take many pictures, but there are plenty of things to like anyway.

1.  I love bag making.  You'd think I'd have enough bags by now (and who are we kidding, I probably do), but I wanted a medium size bag with a pocket but not too stiff and bulky for my current knitting project.  I pulled out this home-dec weight pink fabric with sailboats and lined it with some leftover pretty vinyl.  I wanted something from which my yarn would pull easily, and something with a large pocket so that all the miscellany (scissors, needles, etc.) wouldn't be stuck with the yarn.  It was a fun quick make.

2.  I love my pups!  They've mostly been snuggling with me on the sofa, though Blue and I are still practicing our obedience tasks.  He's a big dork.  Unfortunately Bentley had another one of his neurological episodes this morning which is always scare for him and me, but he was better by the time I left for work.  It's been several months since he had one though, so that's good.

3.  I love going to the symphony!  My friend Melody and I went this weekend, and it was lovely.  A really nice mix of old and newer music.  I especially enjoyed a very atmospheric Brian Eno piece and watching the orchestra members play Mozart's Jupiter Symphony.  For that piece, they had no chairs (except the cellists), and it was quite different to watch them all play the whole thing standing up.  Their movements were quite interesting.  The conductor didn't have any music  or music stand for that piece and a couple times I thought he was going to whack into the cellists.

Just a short list for this week, but I hope all is well and everyone is staying warm!  Click on over to LeeAnna's to see everyone else's lists!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

I Like #99

Welcome to another week of I likes!

There were several good things this week to celebrate.

1.  Getting to spend a good amount of time quilting!!  This was really exciting for me.  I spent all of December knitting and then the holidays traveling, so it was wonderful to get back in my studio and quilt.  Of course it was for a January 31st deadline, and of course both my main sewing machines broke, but I borrowed two sewing machines from a friend (thanks Melody!) that were also Janome's so I was able to quilt and use my same feet and bobbins and everything.  Here's a sneak peak of what I've been working on.  It's a quilt about invasive species and their dastardly effects on our native habitats.  More on it to come!

2. Getting a bit caught up on blogging!  I got to blog about two projects I finished late last year, one was a mini-quilt that was a gift for a cousin and one was the knitted shawl I made for Becky for Christmas.  I think they both turned out nice, so check out those posts!

3.  Working with Blue!  We had our first dog training lesson and it went great.  Unfortunately for us, the instructor had a baby earlier this week so we won't have any more lessons for a little while, but we've been practicing.  It's been fun working with him, especially now that we sometimes have a little light in the morning.

4. I don't usually talk about things from work here, but we had a really cool thing this week.  We've been working for over a year to get some modifications done to our microscope to enable us to image the blood vessels inside the living mouse brain and we finally got it done this week.  One of the things my lab studies is how changes in blood vessels contribute to cognitive decline and mobility defects in the elderly, and it's been really important to get this technology in place so we can study how the vessels are changing in real-time.  This picture shows blood vessels in the brain of one of our anesthetized study animals.  This one was a control, but now we can start studying the mice that model human aging.  I'm super excited.

5.  Reusing things I already had!  I didn't used to sit in this part of the living room (it was where Mike usually sat), but over the fall, I sat there quite a bit to knit.  Unfortunately it was really really dark and I kept thinking I needed to buy a floor lamp since there's no room for an end table.  But the area is really congested already and I hated to buy something new, so my sister just suggested I reorganize and put a regular lamp there instead in the built-in.  I did that right after the break (just took out a shelf and moved it to the other bookcase) and it's so much better!  I can't believe it took this many years to think to do that!  I'm not much of a house re-organizer, so this felt like a big yet stupidly simple change.

In the first pic you can kind of get an idea of how it used to be and the second one is the new illuminated version!  Still not super bright, but enough light over the chair to knit!

Hope you're all having a great week!  Click on over to LeeAnna's to see more things to like!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Knitted Shawl

I started the Butterfly Papillon Shawl on our Thanksgiving trip to Florida, and it was fairly slow going at first.  My mom and I were working on it together but even though it was garter stitch, the pattern is created using short rows which I'd never done before.  We both ripped out a lot before I finally figured out how the pattern was supposed to fit together.  The pattern is really well written,  all difficulties were just due to my inexperience as a knitter, and I'd definitely recommend it.

It was to be a Christmas gift for my sister and after spending two full days on the way to Florida knitting in the car (this pic was after the first day of knitting) I realized I'd have to step it up a bit if I was to finish in time for Christmas.

I spent most of December knitting feverishly, and of course the rows got faster as I figured out what I was doing then slowed way back down as the whole thing got very large.  I did finish, almost at the last minute, and my kind friend Melody lent me her blocking mats and nice blocking wires so none of my stitches got spread out.  

It was a bit dark here because it was still wet.  It finished 72 inches wide by about 40 inches long.

I think it turned out beautifully, I had Mike take some pictures of me in it before I wrapped it up for Becky.  And then she got to wear it sooner than we thought when a New Year's Eve wedding in Tucson turned cold and rainy.  She said it was very warm (the yarn is superwash wool) and it draped beautifully.  I loved knitting it, and may make another one for me, but I'm taking a bit of a break from knitting for a little while I think!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

I Like #98

Welcome to another list of positive things to like!

1.  I like wrapping up Christmas!  I got all the decorations down inside and boxed up, but I'll probably leave the outside lights up until the end of the month (I love them so much)! And I did one last easy Christmas craft;  This clear Mickey Mouse ornament came with Mickey Mouse socks in it as a Christmas present, and I added a picture from this year's sledding and ribbon before packing it away with the rest of the christmas decorations.

2. Whole coconuts!  I don't particularly like these, but a week or so ago I was desperately looking for whole brown coconuts.  There were some Monty Python jokes in our 12th Night Feast skits that required the pages to come in on "horses" clopping coconuts a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  I searched everywhere for coconuts or even pretend coconuts or coconut bikini tops anything to have something for them to use as props.  I went to party stores, halloween costume stores, and grocery stores.  Then I started calling grocery stores, walmarts, crests, organic grocery stores like sprouts and whole foods, trader joes, I even called the Vietnamese grocery store.  No one had whole brown coconuts.  The one place I didn't even think of calling?  The Mexican grocery store.  So of course when I went in there to get hominy last week (after the 12th night feast)- what did I see?  Whole coconuts of course.... 

3.  Pretty pink sunrises in the backyard!

4. The monsters being sweet and weird!  Blue and I had our first obedience training class last night.  It was fun and we have lots of homework to practice.  The teacher is having a baby imminently, so I'm not sure when the next one will be, but we had a good first lesson.

5.  Musicals!  I haven't seen the new Mary Poppins yet but I hope to soon, my mom really enjoyed it.  But I came across this fabulous video of Emily Blunt, Lin Manuel Miranda and James Corden doing 22 musicals in 12 minutes.  It was super fun, definitely worth the watch if you like musicals!  If the video didn't embed right you can see it here.

I hope there have been positive things for you this week!  Check out everybody's posts over at LeeAnna's!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Last Quilt Finish of 2018

This December one of my cousins (here using cousin in the sense of someone-related-to-you-by-a-mechanism-too-complicated-to-explain) celebrated her 80th birthday.  They had a big party for her in New Mexico, but since we were going out for Christmas just a couple weeks later, I couldn't make it for the party too.  She's a quilter and someone interested in native plants, so I thought I'd make her this little mini-quilt to have as a wall-hanging or table mat.  It was a fun weekend project and gave me a short break from all my knitting!

Happy Birthday Helgi!  May you have many wonderful years of quilting ahead!