Roxanne O'Connell

Writer, Textile Artist, Plantswoman

Update: Traveler ‘Round the World

I spent my quilting time this week getting this project done—just the top and the back prepped for staging on the frame. I think I will need to get batting and I wouldn’t just order that online without actually seeing it and feeling it. A poor quality batting will take all the pleasure out of finishing the project. Staging it will wait until the nights come earlier in the evening—sometime in September, fitted in between the harvesting and  winter planting.

Robbie loves this quilt and wants it for his study so the pleasure of quilting it is doubled. I’ve always felt like that about finishing my projects. It’s as if making the patchwork top is an exciting creative puzzle. The magic happens on the ironing board as I press the seams of the fabrics I have just sewn together creating a new and different patterned fabric. I’ve been known to stay up late into the wee hours of the morning working on putting blocks together, watching the magic happen at the ironing board—the kaleidoscope of color and shape changing under my hands as each block and row come together. It’s a bit like gardening, putting flowers and plants together in colorful combinations that, thanks to mother nature, are not the same as any other garden bed in the world. But patchwork is so much quicker!!

But putting the whole thing together and finishing it requires the intentionality of “gift” for energy—who is it FOR. If there’s no one, the project tends to languish in the UFO box… Un-Finished Objects.

I’m going to use the same Traveler ‘Round the World method to do a quilt I promised to my grandniece Ella two years ago when I was quilting a baby quilt for my neighbors’ new baby, Emma. I’ve been thinking about it a good deal and even ordered a couple of yards of fabric that might complement what I already have. It will be a smaller quilt — a bed topper or something to wrap up in while reading a book or watching TV. I’ll start that in a couple of weeks.

For now, I’m going to use the strips of fabric I have left from this quilt top to make a table runner. I’ve been musing about it all along… and I can use some scrap batting for it. I’m excited about it and will have itchy fingers unwilling to wait for a rainy day to work on it. I might even start today!

Traveler ‘Round the World in COVID Time

At the same time as folks have been making 9-Patch quilt blocks and reusable face coverings, I’ve also been messing with the mountain of fabric scraps and remnants I have, putting together a fun scrap quilt based on the Traveler Round the World pattern. Instead of using the same eight fabrics throughout, I based the fabric choices on the shades, from light to dark, of basic colors (black, blue, violet, brown, red, orange, yellow, white). The piece didn’t need t be all of that color, but rather contain something of that color in the fabric — and maybe a little of its contiguous colors. The result has been startling and quite harmonious. I’m nearly done the blocks and am trying to decide how the layout from the central diamond will go. Leaning toward “barn raising”.

Here’s what that would look like (based on tessellating an image of one block)

Problem is I only planned for 32 blocks — don’t know why. So now I have to go back through the scraps and find four more blocks worth of strips. Happy days!

Garden Update: First week of June

June is, indeed, busting out all over… although these last couple of days have been more early April than June. The tomato plants in the green house are flowering… as are the five tomatoes planted outside, although those are slower in growing taller. My guess is overall production might be less with the outside tomatoes — but maybe more flavorful for having been grown out in the ground.

I also planted out Cape Gooseberries in three different locations to see which would work best. You’ve probably seen these as garnish in a trendy restaurant. They are also called ground cherries. I have a few more plants I hope to give to some friends to try. I decided to transplant the one rhubarb plant that seemed to be floundering. I reckoned I was going to lose it anyway so I may as well try it in a different spot. I cut away any of the big floppy looking stems, gave it a big drink of water and mulched with composted horse manure. In a day it put up new shoots and it looks like it will pull through. Yay!

I have some video of the garden as of 8 pm on June 1…
The Garden and Greenhouse on June 1, 2020

We have since mulched all of the garden (except the strawberry-herb garden which will get done today) and we’ve got all the garden beds planted up. So, apart from watering, weeding and feeding, things should progress from here.

This being the first year, I don’t have expectations of berries or fruit—however, the tomatoes, potatoes and peas are definitely coming along and we should get plenty of veg in about a month’s time. I’ll post a video every week so we can see the progress.

We had a gorgeous double rainbow on Friday—it was one of those days when the sun and the rain played tag all day long. And our first dahlia, Bishop of Llandalf bloomed—a stunning red in the afternoon glow. And the days are still dry enough for haymaking. This will be the first week when people can go anywhere in their home county and, to other counties, 20 km from their home base. And we can have a small group (4-6) people over if we can maintain appropriate social distancing. That shouldn’t be a problem in our garden.

9 Patch Update

I cannot believe I haven’t created a post in over two weeks! Where has the time gone? What on earth have I been doing? Well, gardening for sure—and making cotton masks, lots of them over 120 so far. And continuing to learn about the nature of sourdough (the gluten variety). It’s been a difficult journey, largely because I cannot eat the stuff, as much as I would love to. So why do I torture myself with this one thing? Because it’s a puzzle to solve and, if I can figure out how to make it with gluten, I might be better at making it gluten free. And because it gives such gustatorial pleasure to my husband as the aroma of home baking permeates the house.

Enough. While I have been busy in these pursuits, those of you in and around Clashmore have been providing finished blocks for our Tidy Towns 9 Patch quilt. Here is a gallery, set almost as a quilt if you can imagine the navy blue sashing between the blocks.

Garden Notes: Mother’s Day

There’s a rose flowering outside my studio door! It’s not a great looking rose—I think those that are still buds right now will be nicer. But still—there’s a rose outside my door!

So I’m posting a “Status Update” garden gallery here having gone around the back garden with my phone taking pictures so we can compare them to what we will see a month from now. Working on the reusable masks has taken up quite a bit of time—I try to keep that project to days when it’s gray and cloudy but that doesn’t always work out. Yesterday, I went into the greenhouse and did some pricking out and potting on, especially the Cape Gooseberries. Twelve seedlings came up and they were just at the point where the roots might get hopelessly entangled. I also pricked out the rest of the basil. I already gave four away small pots away to a neighbor who has a poly tunnel and will really enjoy planting them with her tomatoes.

I’ve never successfully raised tomato plants from seed before. I would either forget watering them or have them on a windowsill, all spindly craning toward the sun. I generally ended up getting plants from the garden centre and growing from there.

This year is different. I have three varieties that I’ve pricked out into pots and, much to my surprise, they are magnificent! I’m going to wait until Memorial Day weekend (May 25) and put the best into large pots to grown in the green house. I’ll try a couple outside as well in the front garden where there is sun all day. And I might try Gardener’s Delight in hanging baskets outside the kitchen door.

Another surprise is that the summer fruiting raspberries are setting blossoms. Not all the canes, but a few are showing signs of flower buds. We didn’t expect to see any fruit on those until next year. The blueberries also have little bell like flowers on them. I doubt we’ll have many fruits to pick because the birds will get to them first. But maybe that will convince Robbie that we need to build a couple of berry cages.

All the potato bags and drills have sprouted and we are only a day or so away from hilling up with more compost or straw. Robbie’s watercress has really taken off and is growing madly down our little brook to the pond.

My last garden task yesterday evening was planting out the sweet peas all around the Bird tree. It’s really a tall stump of a tree that died some time ago — long before we got here. It is the perfect edifice for the bird feeders and also is the anchor for our clothes line. All around the bottom we’ve planted primroses and laid rocks to keep the grass and weeds somewhat under control. I didn’t have much luck with sweet peas last year but I’m willing to try again. I’ve ringed the Bird tree with bamboo cane to give the peas something to climb on. Another experiment.

Here’s the Gallery of photos taken on May 9.

9-Patch Quilt Challenge update

I’ve had a few quilt blocks submitted and it looks like those participating are enjoying making these blocks. I have created pages for a list of blocks now with links to tutorials and assembly diagrams. There are more to come but they will have to be squeezed in between the garden and the face “masks” — really reusable cotton face coverings.

Here are the blocks that can be found under the Challenge drop down menu:

Nine blocks make a baby sized quilt or wall hanging. Also makes a nice table cover.
Twelve blocks will give you a Single sized quilt.
Sixteen blocks will make a Double (Full) sized quilt.

Usually, I write something about the past week… but, as this is Beáltine, I thought I would give us 30 seconds of being sonically surrounded by Nature.

Garden Update: last week of April

I’ve splurged on gardening—plants, compost, manure and, now, window boxes.

Back in 2017, I bought a few blue plastic window boxes and filled them with red geraniums and all manner of small plants to set those off. Last year I planted, in those same boxes now faded to gray, pink geraniums with lobelia. The flowers were lovely but the containers were really showing signs of wear—some had cracks in them and wouldn’t hold water.

This week, Magda at my local garden centre suggested these lovely wicker containers that were lined with plastic and, if I remembered to bring them in to the toolshed and store them over the winter, should last me years and years. They certainly cost more, but the difference in how they look and how well they suit our old cottage, they are definitely worth every penny.

I’m posting an image of the way they look today, freshly planted. And then I will add another image in a few weeks and at the end of May, so you can see for yourselves… sometimes you just need to splurge!

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