Sunday, September 27, 2015

Monarch Butterfly Migration

v2-6182v2-6149I feel so very fortunate to be able to see thousands of Monarch butterflies resting overnight on the trees in our windbreak on their migration to the south.  I did some mowing late afternoon and noticed many Monarch butterflies as I mowed and was fascinated just watching them flit from one place to another but a lot were landing and sitting along the edges of a mud puddle out by our barn. I presume they were stopping to get a drink.  As it was nearing sunset my husband, John and I started walking around looking for where they were going to rest for the night and discovered several places on the west side of the cedar trees west of our house.  I have never, ever seen this many Monarch butterflies before and it is magnificent to see so many of the beautiful insects clustered on the cedar trees.  John was lucky to see a display like this a few years ago down at one of our pastures.  He said the trees were just alive with the thousands of butterflies.  Not sure how many are here but I would guess 100s and maybe even up to 1000 and they were still arriving when I finally went into the house at 7 pm.  I went out again this morning and got more photos and at 7 am they were mostly all hanging upside down with their wings closed.  If I wouldn’t have know they were butterflies at first glance they looked like dead leaves just hanging on the branches which is probably how they avoid getting eaten by the birds.v2-6172v2-6155None of the bunches of butterflies were hanging low so used my zoom lens to try and get close up shots of them.  My zoom lens did a pretty god job though.v2-6140
v2-6180v2-6183From what I have read the Monarch butterflies that are here in Nebraska and other places east will migrate clear down to Mexico but the butterflies found west of the Rocky Mountains migrate to southern California.  It is hard to imagine the delicate looking butterflies flying that far.  Here are a couple of websites that tell about the migration.
USDA Forest Service Monarch Butterfly Migration

This is an experience I will never forget and the photos I have posted just don’t give the total feeling of awe I felt watching them. 

Until Later
Lynn Greer

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thistles and Feathers–Miniature Quilt

IMG_5452This is just a teaser photo of the whole cloth brown silk miniature I made that I call Thistles and Feathers.  You can see from the photo and the bobbin sitting on the quilt the size of motifs I worked with on this quilt.  Read on for more and to see the finished quilt in it’s entirety.   IMG_5015Time to make another whole cloth silk miniature and here is how I start.  I love to draw my designs by hand but this time I used my recently purchased The Ultimate Stencil by Cindy Needham to shorten the design time.  I purchased  the set of stencils and downloaded the free paper master grid originals and made copies to help draw the designs for this quilt.  Cindy offers the free downloads to anyone so check it out.  With a little math and geometry anyone can draw the designs but I found this to be a real time savor for me since all I had to do was print the grids out and start sketching.  I do plan to use the grid stencils to help plan and draw quilting lines in the future.IMG_5132After many revisions, tweaks and corrections my design is ready to trace onto the silk.  I take my sewing machine out of my sewing table, lay a piece of Plexiglas over the opening and slide a flat bar light onto the shelf that holds my machine and turn it on.  I tape the design over the Plexiglas as I will have to move both it and the fabric that is taped over it to be able to see the entire design for tracing.  This makes such an easy and cheap light box so give it a try.  If you don’t have a large piece of Plexiglas you can always take out one of the storm door windows from a outside door, clean it up and lay it over an opening.  I will caution you though if you do this that the glass can break and it will break into a million pieces.  You might ask how I know but as you can guess I have had the lovely experience so please get the Plexiglass or some stiff plastic if you can.  You might look for a poster frame in a hobby store as a source of Plexiglass/plastic as they use it to cover the poster.IMG_5134As you can see my silk is brown and you can see the design  lines through it very well.  I use a white chalk pencil to trace the lines, turning off the light every once in a while to check for missing lines.IMG_5136After the design is all traced I layered it with the wool batting and silk fabric backing and pin it together with straight pins.  A new way I am basting the quilt and have found works very well is using Vanish Lite thread from Superior Threads.  It is a water soluble thread so I use it in the top and bobbin for my basting. 
IMG_5146I basted a grid, starting in the middle going each way so as not to stretch the top or backing.  I did use the walking foot to do this basting.  As you can see, for this small 13x13” square my basting lines are no wider than 1 1/2” apart one way and a bit farther the other.  After quilting the vertical lines first I decided it didn’t need so many going the other direction.  This held everything together so well and I could snip the thread if it was in the way or leave it to be rinsed out later since it dissolves in water.  I think this will be my preferred method of basting from now on.IMG_5158I used 50 wt. silk thread to machine quilt the design areas first.  As you can see I snipped out the basting lines in the middle but not in other areas.  It just depended if the basting thread was in the way so I couldn’t see my lines.  One change I did make on my design was to change the thistle blossom.  My original design had several rows of zig-zag lines of quilting curved over the top to form the flower.  I stitched one first on a practice sandwich and found I could not stitch that small of zig-zag so changed the flower to radiating lines.

The two photos below show the same area of the quilt with my first attempt at doing some background quilting with black thread and the second one with the dark green background thread.  If you look closely at the one with the black thread I crossed over lines and kind of had a mish-mash of lines.  Why you ask, well the problem was that after I stitched a line with the black thread I could no longer see it well and therefor crossed over my lines.  I was using the magnifying lens attached to my machine and very bright lights from all angles but just couldn’t see it very well.  After spending parts of 2 days ripping out the 100 wt. black thread I changed to the dark green thread and got along fine.  I kept the thread dark so it would recede into the background but light enough for me to see when I was stitching.  In real life it isn’t quite a bright as it shows up in the photo though.IMG_5170
IMG_5462Thistles and Feathers – 13”x13”

Blocked and bound and ready to enjoy. 

Until Later,

PS Sorry about the color variations of the photos.  The true color is closest to the finished quilt photo that is the last one on this post.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Walk Through My Flower Garden

Yesterday was such a beautiful day and a good day to spend with my camera outside.  I have not taken time to get any photos this summer of my beautiful flower beds and yesterday I tried to get some close up shots of a few.IMG_6006Probably one of the last roses this summer, and this one has such a lovely scent too.IMG_5991IMG_5980IMG_6057The bumble bees, flies, wasps and other insects really like the sedum flowers.  They leave you alone if you leave them alone and believe me I do not want to make a bumble bee mad.  I used my  zoom lens and cropped the photos to get the close views of them.  Don’t their wings look like plastic? IMG_5952Lantana is one of my favorite flowers as it grows so easily and this variety is such fun with the multicolored flowers.IMG_5965Even a dandelion seed head can be beautiful but I sure snapped it off and disposed of it after taking it’s photo! IMG_5967Grasshoppers are such voracious plant eaters but luckily I didn’t have too many munching on my garden this summer.  IMG_6018The fall mums are just starting to bloom so will have bursts of color until we have our first freeze.

Until later,

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Family Tree Quilt

IMG_2194-2My mother Leta, holding one of the two family tree wall hangings I made this past spring.  My plan was to make one for the auction for the family reunion we have of my mother’s family every two years - this was the summer for that reunion.  She was one of 6 siblings and the second child.  Her oldest sister has passed away and my mother is 94 and was unable to attend the reunion this year due to health concerns so I decided I would make one wall hanging for the reunion and one for her.  By the way her other siblings are 92, 91, 89, and 80 and were all able to make it to the reunion plus lots of my cousins.  My mother comes from a long lived family as her parents lived to 90 and 95 years.IMG_4874Here is my design reversed as I planned to fuse the tree and we all know that the pattern will be flipped after fusing.  Each branch represented one of my mother’s siblings and the smaller branches represent their children and the leaves represent their grandchildren.  I decided to stop there as I wasn’t sure how many of the next generation there were and would have hated to miss someone.  Funny thing about the tree design is that I drew and refined my design and was about to trace it on the fusible when I looked at it carefully and I only had 5 major branches instead of 6 so had to redraw it with the correct number.IMG_4877This is a strange looking photo of the two trees but I have this great piece of batik that is variegated blue and light brown and I wanted to have the top of the trees covering a blue area and the base on the brown.  I moved them around until I found an area I liked and then cut the background squares from my perfect spots. IMG_4879Here is the pallet of the batik fabrics I pulled to use in these quilts.  You can see the background fabric behind all the colors and the brown fabric in front that will be the trunk.  The rest were all used for leaves.  IMG_4881Here the trunks are cut out and all the leaves.  Since they were so small I positioned the trunk and fused it then used tweezers to place the leaves.  I had to refer to my pattern to make sure I had the correct number of leaves on each small branch before I touched the iron to them.  I did check several times to make sure I was correct before fusing.  IMG_4889All fused and bordered, ready to quilt.  I used small sections of all the leaf colors for the one narrow boarder and I like how it brings all the colors out one more time.  You really can’t tell but the brown border has some reds, golds and blues in it so was a perfect choice for this quilt.IMG_4917I machine quilted a wavy design as the base of the design then I quilted more lines in each of those sections. The close up photos really show the bobbles and inconsistencies but like the old saying goes I don't think you can see it on a galloping horse!IMG_4976My mother’s maiden name was Burbank so quilted that into the area below the base of the treeIMG_4974Curlicues quilted in the sky and outline the leaves.  I did quilt some texture to the trunk of the tree too.  Have any of you noticed the birds?  There is no reason they are there but to fill in and add to the design.  The branches with no leaves mean that person didn’t have any children.IMG_4975
IMG_4977IMG_4973The outside border is quilted with a sort of wood grain look.  IMG_4981Before showing my final photo of the finished quilt I wanted to show you my label.  I put the sibling names on the branches and my grandparents names but didn’t add the rest of the names.  The tree reads from left to right from oldest to youngest so I am the second branch up on the left side of the Leta branch.  I used Bubble Jet Set to make the ink be permanent on the fabric before printing it.  After scanning the tree drawing I typed in the information then printed it on the treated fabric that is ironed to a piece of freezer paper.  I do most of my quilt labels this way and can add photos or drawings and can type out my words and know how everything will look on the finished label.  With hand written labels I have misspelled words as I am carefully drawing out the letters so this solves that problem.IMG_5588
IMG_4980Ta Da….all done.  This is just a photo of one but believe me I got them both done and they look like a pair of twins.  One of my aunts won the bid to take the other one home to Iowa from the reunion but my mother can enjoy seeing hers too.  She was surprised when I gave it to her as she knew I was making one for the reunion auction but not the second one for her.  I got to her before the reunion in western Nebraska at Fort Robinson as her siblings all stopped to see and visit with her before and right after the reunion so she didn’t feel like she missed seeing them and she could show off her quilt too. 

Until Later,

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thunderstorms on the Plains of Nebraska

IMG_5573No rain from this storm for us but I think the clouds are beautiful with the late afternoon sun shining on them or behind them.  However, we did get some rain this week so our irrigating is done for this year.  Up until the latest rain we were watering the soybean fields one more time.  Before we know it we will be in the midst of harvest.

Until Later,

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Summer Visitor

John called me one day as I was busy working on a quilting project in the house and told me to come outside and look at what he found.  Yes, it is a large, and I do mean large praying mantis.  He says they don’t bite but you wouldn’t catch me getting one to crawl up on my hand.  You can see by the size compared to his hand how big it was – probably around 5” long.  We see smaller ones quite frequently during the summer, especially around the house on my flowers.  This one was in the middle of the driveway and John stopped to guide it onto his hand so it would not get run over.IMG_5430IMG_5438I loved watching the insect watch me.  I don’t know if there are any other insects that can turn their heads but Praying Mantis can.  I really wonder what it was thinking of me as it followed me with it's head/eyes.  They use their front legs like arms too.

Another observation or supposition I have made is that I think when the first people were drawing what we all think an extraterrestrial looks like now must have modeled them after this insect.  I think the little green men look a lot like this.

After we admired it for a while  and I took a bunch of photos John slowly walked across to my garden to set it on one of the sunflowers growing there.  I haven’t seen this one again but did see another large one come scooting out from a plant I was watering a couple of days ago. 

By the way I love the photos of my hard working farmer husband in these photos who stopped in the middle of the day to rescue this insect.

Until later,


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