Thursday, September 26, 2013

Not-So-Scary Spirits

Last Friday evening, as the sun was setting on a beautiful late summer day in the city of Syracuse, New York, Dave and I were headed to the Onondaga Historical Association for their Fall Historic Ghostwalk. Okay, so they weren't REAL ghosts, but actors depicting historical figures from Syracuse's fascinating history. Columbus Circle (below) in downtown Syracuse is picturesque any time of year.

These days, Syracuse seems to make the national headlines when lake effect snows create record annual snowfall totals or the Syracuse University Orangemen make the cut for the NCAA basketball tournament. But once upon a time, particularly during the 19th century, Syracuse was known as the 'Salt City' and the Erie Canal brought commerce right through the city center.

The Onondaga Historical Association Museum just steps away from Columbus Circle has a fabulous display of this city's treasures. The Onondaga Nation is one of six members of the Iroquois Confederacy, an alliance established hundreds of years ago. Syracuse is situated in Onondaga County, named after this Native American group.

Out front, a banner announces the Spirit Walk!

Inside, familiar objects from distant and not-so-distant past are on display. Anybody who grew up in Syracuse in the 50s and 60s knows the Heaphy's Hardware man. He stood in front of the store of the same name in every season. With just a few bumps and rust spots, he still looks pretty good for his age!

For 60 years, salt production was the most important industry for this area, sealing Syracuse's claim to the title "the Salt City." Salt produced in this area became America's primary source for the mineral in the mid 1800s. Salt was used as a food preservative and in the tanning and pottery industries.

 . . . and, of course, it's a key ingredient in Salt Potatoes! If you aren't from around here, you probably don't even know what those are. And if that's the case, I'm so very sorry for you. You simply can't enjoy a summer picnic or clambake without them! And if you don't dribble melted butter on your chin while you're eating them, well, you just aren't doing it right!

Does this look familiar? The Brannock Device used to measure shoe size is a Syracuse original! Invented right here!

Back to the ghosts. Our little walking tour set out from the museum, stopping at nearby buildings for a chance 'spirit' encounter. Each 'ghost' in their day, made his or her mark on Syracuse's history. Our first encounter was with Chloe Merrick and Caroline Loguen, abolitionists. Next we met Fire Captain Philip Eckel (pictured below). He was our first fire chief.

 . . . then David Hotchkiss, an inventor and benefactor.

A portrait of Mr. Hotchkiss in his 'former' less phantasmal state . . .

And Mary Elizabeth Evans Sharp, her 'spirit' pictured below, who at age 14 started a chocolate business based right here. By her early 20s' she was considered the youngest businesswoman in the United States, managing several popular restaurants, including one in New York City. While food was being rationed during the first World War, she adapted her recipes to support the war effort replacing rationed ingredients with non-rationed substitutes. She died at age 100, a philanthropist, and her then-famous chocolate recipe is still being produced today!

And, of course, like any good tour, this one ended right back at the museum gift store, where Mary Elizabeth chocolates, among other things, might be purchased to commemorate a memorable evening. By the way, our fearless tour leader was my hubby, Dave.

Sometimes you only have to look right under your own nose to find some of the most interesting experiences! Don't you agree?

Happy Stitching!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

North TO the Border

Here in central New York, you can tell what month it is by the plants growing at the side of the road. In May, big red poppies seem to spring up everywhere. June brings big patches of pink sweet pea blooms and fresh white daisies. In July, it's bright yellow and orange day lilies everywhere you look. The corn fields reach their highest highs in August.

And in September patches of purple New York aster announce summer's swan song.

Throw in tall clumps of goldenrod and thorny thistles to add to the roadside picture for September.

It's so good to enjoy these last bits of summer before cold weather sets in and a wintery white landscape replaces the full-spectrum color. These photos were snapped in Ogdensburg, NY where I was guest speaker and workshop leader at the Borderline Quilters annual quilt camp this past weekend.

Wadhams Hall is a former seminary, but the huge campus, including lots of wide open outdoor and indoor spaces is used today for a variety of retreats, including crafting and quilting retreats.

The format is familiar.

There's show-and-tell . . .

And quilt workshops, where discussing strategy is key . . .

And a few smiles and laughs . . .

And celebrations for a long day of stitchy lessons and successes. . . This workshop attendee got a bit of a head-start!

Someone stayed up late and completed their Stained Glass quilt block . . . Nice!

Don't forget the group shot! Say CHEEEEEESE!

And time for a breath of fresh air and a relaxing walk to the St. Lawrence Seaway, just across the street from Wadhams Hall, minutes away. At this point, the river looks a lot like a narrow lake.

The sun was about to set on a beautiful late summer day. Straight ahead in the photo is Lake Ontario, and far off behind the camera's lens is the Atlantic Ocean.

Directly across the river is Ontario, Canada. . . Just a stone's throw away.

But you'd better have a really good arm!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ridgefield Revisited

For most of the week, I was in Connecticut working on a big project with my friends at The Taunton Press. We worked pretty hard during the day, so when an opportunity presented itself to relax with a nice dinner with my friend and editor, Shawna in Ridgefield, I couldn't resist.

Quite a few years back in my pre-quilting life, I had a corporate job at GE Capital in Stamford, Connecticut. I lived in Ridgefield for a couple of years, which is a 30-40 minute drive north of Stamford.

Ridgefield is one of those classic New England towns that has huge Victorian-style houses, rugged stone churches, and a tree-lined main street with tempting boutique store fronts.

Since I lived in a condominium complex just off the main road, I recall taking many a leisurely stroll along Main Street in all seasons. This time of year, late summer blooms create a pleasant atmosphere--a real treat at the end of a busy day.

Oooh. This is new. Glad they were closed, or I might have been tempted!

Bistros spill onto the sidewalk on this late summer early evening. An hour or so after this picture was taken, the seats were taken, creating a relaxed atmosphere for stress-free conversation and fellowship.

A display in the Chamber of Commerce window. . . .Yes, indeed . . .

It's so nice to visit places from my past. They are familiar and new all at once and bring back such nice memories.

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

'Puter Sleeve

This past summer, my computer hard drive crashed. All my files were backed up, so I didn't lose a thing, except maybe a little time traveling back and forth to the computer doctor to get things back in tip-top shape. That crash got me thinking that it was time to invest in a new laptop.

And so I did. Shiny and new. Super thin with all the bells and whistles! But if this little machine is going to travel with me it needed a cushy travel sleeve. With the Labor Day holiday, I made myself take a few hours to make a super-simple little treat. Here's what I did.

First, I took some measurements. The laptop is about 8-1/2" by 12", and not even 1" thick. My goal is to to make simple sleeve, no pockets or straps, just something I can slip my laptop into so I can slide it into another bag and not worry about scratching anything. So I want the computer to fit comfortably, not overly snug.

So, I cut three strips, one 6-1/2" wide, one 1-1/2" wide and one 3-1/2" wide, then sewed them together and pressed the seams. Maybe you can't tell from the photo, but the 6-1/2" strip has hummingbirds in the batik print! I love it! (It's from Hoffman!)

That gave me a 10-1/2" wide pieced strip. Just right for the laptop height, so now I need to trim the width. Since, eventually, I'll fold the strip in half, I want the strip to be twice the width of the computer (about 12" x 2 = 24" plus about 2" for seam allowances and wiggle room), so I trimmed the strip to 10-1/2" x 28"). Then I cut a piece of lining fabric, a little larger than the pieced exterior, in the 12x28" neighborhood. I pressed all the fabrics nice and smooth.

Next, layer batting (I have lots of extra wool batting pieces, so I used that), lining right side up, and the pieced strips, right side down, on my work table. And pinned with straight pins--at the edges, especially, and in several spots all over the middle. Just enough to keep the layers stable through the next step.

I sewed 1/4" away from the edge of the pieced top, all the way around, leaving about 6" unsewn on the bottom edge for turning. Removed all the pins, trimmed the lining and batting even with the top. And clipped the corners to reduce bulk.

Then I turned the whole schmear inside-out through the opening. Then pinned the opening, and edge-stitched it. A few more pins to prep for quilting . . . this time safety pins!

. . . and quilt.

Fold the quilted rectangle in half, right sides together--in other words, the lining (also pretty Hoffman fabrics) facing out. Because the recharge plug is on the side of the laptop, I want the sleeve to have a little opening at the top edge, so I can have the computer in its comfy sleeve while it's charging. I pinned along the bottom and most of the side, except for maybe that last inch from the top edge.

I folded the top edge back, at a slight angle and tacked the flap, so it doesn't flop around too much and look weird.

Turn the sleeve right side out. . . Ta-done!

Happy Stitching!