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Out of Virginia and Into Africa

Visit the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage
Visit the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

Many of you may not know that in the early years of our married life my husband, John, and I spent several years living outside the United States. First it was Sarawak (a part of the Federation of Malaysia) on the island of Borneo, then Colombia in South America, next Nepal and finally India.

it-africa-022015 copyWhen we left India to return back to the U.S., we decided to take a side trip to Kenya to see some of the game reserves and visit that beautiful country. By then we had three children, ages 8, 6 and 2. This was in 1972 and there were not a lot of restrictions when traveling to the game parks.  Back then we rented a Volkswagen Beetle, loaded it with our family of five, and toured the game parks on our own. We saw incredible wildlife, were chased by a rogue elephant, stayed in humble accommodations, and had quite some adventures.

Kiss a giraffe or (not)!
Kiss a giraffe (or not!)

I’m so excited that I will return to Kenya in February for the first time since 1972. I will be going on another Sew Many Places Adventure with Jim West. This time there will be luxury accommodations along with trips to the parks very well supervised by an expert guide for every four-person safari vehicle. In addition to all the wildlife we will see, other highlights of the trip  include a visit to the Kazuri Bead factory, Karen Blixen’s home from Out of Africa fame, an elephant orphanage, a Samburu village and a giraffe sanctuary. It will be fun to revisit my first trip and share new experiences with people on the tour.

One of my favorite YouTube videos is this one. Watch the whole thing…..it is pretty amazing and has a surprise (and happy) ending. We may not quite experience this kind of sight……but you never know.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU8DDYz68kM

The Safari Expedition takes you to the heart of a game reserve
The Safari Expedition takes you to the heart of a game reserve

There are still a few places left on the expedition. Jim West always does a wonderful job with his tours and I feel comfortable knowing I am safe with everything is taken care of from start to finish. I hope some of you will be inspired to join me and Jim on this once in a lifetime experience (fortunately for me, I get two chances.)

Explore the African plains
Explore the African plains

Thank you to Jim West for allowing us to use his beautiful photographs.

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Washington DC Folklife Festival

festival-home-photo-generalLiving in the Washington D.C. area certainly has its advantages. There are so many cultural opportunities available. An annual event that occurs for two weeks every summer on the National Mall is the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The festival celebrates several US and foreign cultures each year with music, crafts, food and demonstrations. This year Kenya and China were the featured nations.

Last Thursday, Jin Yuanshan, a patchwork artist and one of the participants in the Festival, visited our shop hoping to have the chance to meet me. Unfortunately, I was out of town but she delighted the entire staff and shared some of her beautiful creations. When I returned, I learned that she would be demonstrating at the Festival on Saturday, July 5th.  So I went into Washington with Barb Hollinger, one of our Studio staff members.

ms jin with barb and jinny
Staffer Barb, Jin Yuanshan, and myself

Jin Yuanshan had so many of her beautiful creations with her and was sharing her techniques. I am so pleased that I had the chance to meet this truly inspirational and prolific artist.

Ms. Jin's Pieces

Ms. Jin works almost entirely in silk and does all of her work by hand (a woman after my own heart). I would describe many of her pieces as organized crazy patch. She never throws any scraps away but just makes smaller pieces with the leftovers. The pieces are joined together with silk thread with an over-cast stitch similar to the stitch used to connect English paper piecing.

Staffer Diane with Jin
Ms. Jin with staffer Diane

She also does dimensional pieces where she rolls or folds scraps of silk to create beautiful layered medallions.  She carries small squares with her everywhere she goes and in spare moments folds them, runs a needle through them and strings them for use later.

folklife festival_edited-1zuchinisAnd back here in Great Falls…..The reason I wasn’t here when Ms Jin stopped by the Studio was that we were visiting our grandchildren (and their parents). We were only gone four days. I swear that before I left I picked every single zucchini on the plants in our garden (except for the ones that were only two inches long). I came home to this. Thank goodness there are several women in my husband’s office who love giant zucchini. Five of them were very happy.

Oh, I noticed that I am wearing my “Nats” shirt…….In case you didn’t know, I am a huge baseball fan….and either go to, watch, or listen to every Washington Nationals game that I can.

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Pictures and Palettes and Pixels – Oh My!

Back in April, I wrote a blog post on the inspiration from all of the spring colors I found on my walk.  I also passed along a tip on how to create a beautiful palette from a photograph using Photoshop.  Here in the Studio, we’ve been playing around with some favorite photographs to see what we come up with.  We also got a “pingback” from another blog on how to take this a step further. Let’s take a look.

Nancy found this pile of shells on the beach after a storm. She was so taken by the many colors of the broken shells that she had to snap this photo. Never, though, would she have guessed that you could come up with 99 different colors!

Nancy photo

Studio manager Jane has always been taken with the brilliant colors of the early blooming flowering quince.  Yes, we all see the gorgeous apricot color of the flowers along with the green leaves and grayish-brown stems, but would you ever expect all of this?

Jane photo

I recently returned from visiting my younger son and his wife in their new home in California. The view from their house is amazing. One night, there was a spectacular sunset which just seemed to get better and better. Look at how the colors change.

sunsets copyWhy, you may wonder, are we revisiting this topic? A blogger for the group called, “Pixeladies” (I love the play on words) read my blog and took this a step further with instructions on how to change Photoshop’s default swatches with those you have created from your photograph.

Sunset color palette

Once your change to the swatches has been made, how do you take that palette and put it to good use? How about filling a quilt block with your new favorite colors?

Here’s how:
1. Open your unfilled quilt block in Photoshop.  This can be any quilt block line drawing- jpeg, png, tiff or pdf)
2. With the magic wand tool, click the area in which you would like to fill with your first color.  If you want to choose more than one area, hold the shift key and select as many areas as you would like.  The “dancing ants” will outline the area chosen.
3. Choose the color from your new palette that you would like to fill the area with in the block.
4. Next, select the paint bucket tool and drop the color into the selected areas.
5. Now, have fun filling and creating! You can always Edit-Undo if you don’t like your selection or fill over top with a different color.

Sunset filled blockTake that antique quilt from your grandmother that you love so much and recreate it with a new, fresher look or design a quilt from scratch like I did with my Argyll quilt.

Argyll1

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Special Occasion Quilts

The story I have to tell today is one to which I’m sure many of you can relate. (Please tell me I’m not alone in this.) You’ve been rushing and rushing to get a quilt done for a special occasion and run out of time. You “give” the quilt anyway, but say you need to finish it. Somehow, once the cat is out of the bag there isn’t quite the urgency to keep hurrying to completion.

This, unfortunately, has happened to me too often. Years ago, I made a quilt for my husband’s parents to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. I had the top done and only part of the quilting when their anniversary arrived. I showed it to them and they were very excited.

Anniversay Quilt2

Anniversay QuiltWell, it just seemed to take forever to finish the quilting. Every phone call, my mother-in-law would ask if I had finished the quilt yet and I would answer that doing all the quilting by hand just took a long time. Finally, on their 41st anniversary when we called to give them our best, my mother-in-law sounded very frail. She asked if I had finished the quilt. I told her no, but it was coming along.  She sighed and said, “Well, I hope we both get to enjoy it together.” That guilt trip got me going again and I had it finished within a couple of months. They enjoyed it together for many years.

I tell this story because I am now in the process of finishing yet another special occasion quilt. My son and daughter-in-law were married in September of 2005. For a “guest book” I made a quilt top and at the reception all of the guests signed the quilt with a permanent marker. My intention was to do the hand quilting and present them with the finished quilt on their 1st anniversary.

Wedding Quilt

Well, life got in the way, I got involved writing my book, “The Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns,” and did no sewing for the five years I devoted to the book. Then other “stuff” happened and I never finished it.

Now nine years later, they have just moved to a new house and my husband and I are flying to California tomorrow to visit them. About three months ago, knowing we would see them, I vowed to finish the quilt and give it to them for their new home.

Wedding Quilt QuiltingI took the last stitches this morning, cut the strips for the binding and have the material for a sleeve in case they want to hang it. I’ll start the binding tonight while I watch the “Nats” (my beloved Washington Nationals) play baseball and finish it on the plane. Watch Facebook for a photo of them with the quilt.

Wedding Quilt4

As quilters, we show we care by making quilts for others. We mark births, graduations, weddings and other special occasions with our quilts and don’t mind (much) that some of the recipients will never know the amount of time which goes into its creation. Making a quilt with signatures is a nice way to capture the sentiments of people who participated in a special event. Some quilters add photographs with photo transfer or fabrics from clothing. There is so much we can do to make our gift of a quilt extra special.

Editor’s note: If you have made a quilt for a special occasion using Jinny’s fabrics or patterns, we would love to see a picture and hear the story behind it. Please send them to studio@jinnybeyer.com

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Potatoes!

You are probably now checking to see if you clicked on the wrong thing because you were expecting something about quilting. I’ve been writing about somewhat technical topics lately and thought you might enjoy a break. There is, however, a tie to quilting if you just read on.

potatoes and onions in gardenThis time a year my vegetable garden is in its fledgling stage. I am harvesting the winter onions and some salad greens and radishes, but the tomato and pepper plants are still spindly. The herb, corn, beans, cucumber, beets, and squash seeds have just sprouted and mostly I’m still seeing a lot of dirt.

potato leaves

But it is the potatoes that make the garden look legitimate.  I plant the seed potatoes in mid March and by now they are full bushes at least 18″ high. Every time I walk in I think “Wow! It looks like a garden! If you have never planted potatoes you should give it a go next year. Many years ago when someone suggested to me that I should plant potatoes, I wondered why would I do that. A potato is a potato, something you can just get at the store. How wrong I was!

IMG_0464

Not only is it one of the first vegetables to harvest, but home grown potatoes are delicious. I plant the various varieties in the order in which I harvest them. I have experimented with lots of different kinds and now have my favorites. I start with early red Caribe potatoes, which I will start harvesting in a couple of weeks, as soon as the flowers start dropping. Then along come my favorite, Yukon Gold, and finally the storing potatoes. This year I have Kennebec.

From the first little new potatoes steamed and then tossed in chopped parsley and garlic infused olive oil, to the July 4th potato salad, roasted potatoes, baked potatoes and so much more, I love the potatoes and know that they are organically grown. Below is one of my favorite recipes and I think this is best with Yukon Golds.

So how does all this relate to quilting?

I’ve been eyeing the potato leaves as a possible fabric design.

fabric leaves
I manipulated the photo in Photoshop to come up with an image that would be able to be printed in fabric.

PS. Did you know that many leaves have golden ratio proportions? If the narrow opening of the Golden Gauge Calipers is placed on the widest part of the potato leaf, the wider opening of the calipers is the height of the leaf.

calipers and leaves

Smashed Potatoes Recipe

One potato per serving (Yukon Gold are the best for this recipe)

olive oil, salt and pepper

1. Wash the potatoes and wrap each in aluminum foil.

2. Bake at 350 for one hour

3. Remove the foil and place the potatoes on a cookie sheet that has been rubbed with olive oil. Leave plenty of space between potatoes.

4. Rub the bottom of a small skillet (I use a cast iron skillet for the weight) with olive oil and then place it on top of a potato and press down until it squashes to a shape of a thick hamburger patty.

5. Brush the top of each potato with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

6. Bake in a 500 degree oven for about 15 minutes then turn each potato and bake another 15 minutes or so until the potatoes are brown and crispy.

These have the taste of french fries without all the calories.

IMG_0463

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Fibonacci and the Golden Ratio

A few blog posts ago, when I talked about the Golden Ratio, (1 to 1.618 or .618 to 1) there were several questions about how the golden ratio relates to the Fibonacci number sequence.

Leonardo Fibonacci was an Italian mathematician (c. 1170-1250) who devised a number sequence where the relationship of one number to the next or previous one provided perfect proportions. Mathematicians and artisans have been using this number sequence ever since. Some quilters use these numbers to plan proportion for their designs.

Da Vinci - the strips and the interior as well as the borders follow the Golden Ratio proportions
Da Vinci – the strips and the interior as well as the borders follow the Golden Ratio proportions

Fibonacci’s number sequence goes like this:

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, etc.

Can you see how the numbers are determined? Here’s how the sequence works. Start by adding our first two numbers: 0+1=1. Go to the second and third numbers, 1+1=2, then 1+2=3 and so on. Each successive number is the sum of the previous two numbers.  You can select any number in the sequence. It is always the sum of the previous two numbers.  For example 21 is obtained by adding 8 and 13.

But in actual fact, this is virtually the same as the Golden Ratio.  As the numbers get higher the relationship between two adjacent ones approximates the golden ratio.  In fact from the 10th number on, you will get a value of almost 1.618 or .618 every time!

The rectangles and spirals shown here, illustrate exactly how the Golden Ratio relates to the Fibonacci sequence of numbers.

fibonacci golden ratio comparison both

Fibonacci Spiral:
Fibonacci begins with two squares, (1,1,) another is added the size of the width of the two (2) and another is added the width of the 1 and 2 (3). As more squares are added the ratio of the last two comes closer each time to the Golden Proportion (1.618 or .618). Put quarter circles in each of the squares to get the Fibonacci Spiral.

Golden Spiral:
The Golden Spiral begins with a square and a rectangle is added whose width is .618 of the first square. Another square is added that is the width of the first square and rectangle (1.618) This proportion continues so that all the relationships are either .618 or 1.618. Once again the spiral is achieved when quarter circles are drawn in each of the squares.

Comparison of the two spirals:
An overlay of the two spirals shows that at the beginning they do not match up but as Fibonacci’s numbers grow the two spirals are virtually the same. The Golden Gauge Calipers show that the spiral is in perfect Golden Ratio proportions, 1 to 1.618!

fibonacci golden ratio comparison1

All of this fascinates me. And I discovered that you can do the same type of number sequence starting with a different number. For example, we can call this one “Jinny’s Sequence”.

3, 3, 6, 9, 15, 24, 39, 63, 102, 165, etc.

Once again, by the time you get to the 10th number, and divide the 10th by the 9th you get very close to the Golden Ratio….1.6176

It seems to come out this way no matter which number you start with. So you may be asking yourself, do quilters really use this? My quilt, DaVinci was something of an ode to the proportion with the strip widths determined by this mathematical ratio.  I am a huge fan of the work of Caryl Bryer Fallert, who has created an entire Fibonacci series of quilts. Why don’t you give it a try?

If you find all this fascinating check out the previous blog posts on the Golden Ratio.

Fibonacci12_246k

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Quilter’s Design Board

design board blocksHow many of you have never played around with our Design Board? Did you know that there are 223 free patterns in three different sizes (6, 10 and 12 inches) and that a new pattern is added each month?

The blocks are grouped by how they are drafted such as 4-patch, 5-patch, 8-pointed star, etc. First, choose a block. You can print out templates for three different block sizes along with a template guide. Then the blocks can be put into a quilt and borders can be changed. There is a yardage calculator that gives the style numbers of the fabrics used in the block and also will determine how much fabric you need based on how many and what size blocks you want to use. It will even give you an estimate of the cost and put your fabrics directly into your shopping cart.

You can view the design in color or by the line drawing.  You can also change the border selection.
You can view the design in color or by the line drawing. You can also change the border selection.

 

This months’ block is Golden Tile. First and foremost, the block gets its name because it contains the Golden Proportions as was explained in a recent blog post. If the Golden Gauge Calipers are opened so that the smaller space fits on the shorter segment of the design, the larger opening fits on the longer segment.

calipers on Golden Tile 2 The design board is limited and is not meant to take the place of your graphics program but serves as a jumping off point. There are some wonderful software programs available which provide you amazing design possibilities. For blocks such as Golden Tile which are directional, you do not get the chance in the design board to see some of the other possible layout variations. If you have a graphics program that allows you to tile, rotate and flip blocks, experiment with different layouts. Here are some variations.

All blocks are oriented the same way.
All blocks are oriented the same way.
Four blocks are pinwheeled and that unit repeats.
Four blocks are pinwheeled and that unit repeats.
In any four block unit, opposite blocks are reversed.
In any four block unit, opposite blocks are reversed.

I hope you take the chance to play around with our Quilter’s Design Board and don’t forget to send us pictures of the quilts you make from it.

P.S. Golden Ratio by accident or design?

Dana, our staffer who did the layout for the blog sent it to me for approval. As soon as I saw her layout, I couldn’t help myself. I had to get out the calipers. So often when we are doing design or layout work, we select the proportions that are most pleasing to us and so many times it seems to fit the proportions of the golden ratio!

golden ratio by accident or design

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Make Way For Goslings

Luke & Gus on a rainy day
Luke & Gus on a rainy day with me in my office

Well, we almost had a disaster at the Beyers Monday morning. We have a pond on our property and every morning when I let out Gus and Luke (our two labs), we walk around the pond together. As we were coming along the dam, two adult geese suddenly flew from the sky, dive-bombed the dogs, then landed in the pond. Seconds later, another pair streaked up the dam and flew into the pond, all of them honking furiously. The dogs, of course, thought this great fun and went in after them.

Then, out of the corner of my eye,  I caught sight of a group of five precious little goslings on the slope of the dam. I knew if the dogs saw them the goslings would be completely vulnerable.  I yelled at Gus and Luke that it was time to eat and started running to the house. That got their attention and they jumped from the pond to follow me. (Well, they are labs, you know, and when you mention food…)

A few minutes later when I went to get the newspaper, I met my neighbor, Kim, who was carrying a camera with a huge lens. She said she was on her way to photograph some baby foxes she had seen. (Is my neighborhood starting to sound like that old TV show, “Wild Kingdom”?) I told her of the near miss with the goslings and invited her to come take a look. We could check to see if all the geese were okay.

goslings

When we arrived back at the pond, there were the goslings swimming along with their parents. Kim got some great photos and when I saw them, I couldn’t help thinking about the blog post two weeks ago which explained how to get colors out of a photograph. I couldn’t resist so here they are.

gosling colors
Colors drawn from gosling photo in Photoshop

The colors immediately reminded me of the version of Crayon Box that is made with the “tropical” set of Palette Pixie Strips. The only thing missing is the blue sky which was there but just didn’t make the photo.

crayon box_edited-1

I suppose I just can’t help myself from seeing color palettes, fabric designs and quilt possibilities all around me. I hope you are letting your world inspire you too.

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Spring is Here With Design Inspiration!

Luke, 3 months and Gus, 8 years
Luke, 3 months and Gus, 8 years

Spring is in full swing here in northern Virginia. How do I know this? Well, it could be the warmer temperatures or cherry blossoms blooming. But it’s not. For me, I know it’s spring because my 14-month-old dog, Luke, has been trying desperately to catch a frog since they have reemerged with the nicer weather.

We have always had dogs. I like having two. The older dog teaches the younger one and they keep each other company. Luke is our newest puppy. He came to cheer Gus up after we lost our Swissy, Gretchen. I have to say that Luke is one of the funniest dogs we have ever had. I will not be able to resist periodically sharing some of his and Gus’s antics.

However, for most of you, spring is about warmer temperatures and whatever it is you have blooming around you. I’m very fortunate that I live close to the Potomac River. I walk along the river three or four times a week. Monday of this week had to be the most gorgeous day of the year. Greeting me was a spectacular array of native flowers—bloodroot, toadshade, Dutchman’s breeches, toothwort.

wild flowers sm
Bloodroot, Toadshade, Dutchman’s breeches

The most amazing, though, were the Virginia bluebells which were at their peak. There was a carpet of bluebells stretching into the woods as far as one could see and reaching in the other direction to the banks of the river.

Bluebells woods and river smI came back fully inspired.

I often take colors from nature and use them in my quilt and fabric designing. Here are the colors of the Virginia bluebells.

colors of Virginia bluebells sm

I think these colors make a beautiful palette for a quilt. How did I get them from the image? It’s pretty simple if you have Photoshop.

  1. Open the image in Photoshop.
  2. Go to the top menu bar to Image/Mode/Indexed Color. Select the number of colors you want to see from the pop-up menu. You can go up to 250.
  3. Next go to Image/Mode/Color table. The chart with all the colors will come up.

bluebells in palette colors

Once you can clearly see the colors in the image, it is easy figure out your fabrics. I’ve used my Portable Palette which has swatches of all 150 of my Palette fabrics.

So take a walk and get inspired. Oh, and Luke? He’s still out there trying to catch a frog.

I know I could catch that frog if he'd just sit still!
I know I could catch that frog if he’d just sit still!