I thought I'd have two quilt tops to show you last week. But after I wrote about the first one, I decided that that was enough material for one blog post and that I'd leave the second one until today.
You've actually seen this one before in an earlier incarnation. And you've seen other quilts in the series of bright quilts that use half square triangles. Like this one.
And this one.
And perhaps even this one.
All of which started the same way, with little blocks like these.
I wanted to continue to explore the warms and cools with this next quilt in the series, and this is what you last saw.
Then I added a border or two.
But I still didn't think it was finished, and so last weekend I started to audition fabrics for a final outer border.
Those daisies just make my heart happy, so that's what I went with. And here's the quilt top, finished at last.
I don't think this quilt is as successful as the Stripes and Stars quilt I showed you last week: it doesn't have the same punch from contrast of values and hues, and the structure is simpler. Again, though, this one is meant for a child: I presume this is a girl's quilt. If the baby I'm thinking about is female, she'll get this quilt rather than the Stripes and Stars. And like that quilt, it's not meant to be an heirloom or a piece of art: it's meant to be used and loved.
So there's the quilt top. Now for what I made at school.
Here in blogland, I don't talk about my job very often. The main reason is that I work with kids, and I'm aware of the intense need for confidentiality in order to protect them. But every now and again something happens that tempts me to set aside, temporarily, my self-imposed ban on discussing my work life. This is one of those times. It's a happy thing!
I work in a high school, and to my mind one of the best things about high school as a workplace and about my job as an education assistant is that I get to learn alongside the kids. Not that I need more education, one could argue: three university degrees are enough for anyone. But things have changed in the forty years since I was a teenager, and for the past three years I've had the great good fortune to be able to refresh my knowledge and skills in lots of subject areas and to learn entirely new stuff too. It's the entirely new stuff that gets me: I love learning something new.
Here are just a few of the wonderful things I've been exposed to over the past three years of high school life:
❉ trigonometry: I learned trig back in the day but never understood it. This was my third year of review of the concepts and how they can be used and this year I finally, FINALLY, understand where those numbers come from and why they work to solve the kinds of problems they do. It's my new favourite math thing.
❉ Photoshop: I have to admit that after six weeks of this I wasn't a whole lot further ahead than when I'd begun. The teacher laughed and laughed when I told him that I found all this stuff about layers really, really hard. It was a humbling experience. One that I hope I'll get another chance at next year.
❉ woodworking: Power tools have always scared me. I remember my dad's frustration when as a badge-obsessed Girl Guide I tried, with his help, to use his jigsaw to make a puzzle to earn my toymaker's badge. I couldn't help closing my eyes whenever I used the machine. The results were predictably terrible, and I horrified my dad by making an already dangerous activity much more dangerous than it should have been. But after two years of beginner's experience in woodshop, I know my way around a lot of shop tools: planer, bandsaw, chop saw, lathe, drill press, drum sander, spindle sander, I can use them all. Not to mention the smaller handheld tools such as drills and nail guns. Most important, I have the sense that much of the time I'd be able to build a simple project if I can see it in my mind's eye. What a great creative springboard.
❉ compound interest: I've got that formula down pat. And all sorts of other banking concepts, including currency exchange.
❉ sports: Thanks to one great PE teacher in particular, I've been able to learn the skills (not just the general idea) of games like badminton, basketball, volleyball, football, even lacrosse. I'm still not brilliant at any of them, but I'm a lot better than I was and I understand how to get better still.
❉ creating chemical compounds: I loved this part of science when I was a kid, and I still love it now.
❉ cellular biology: I can almost, almost describe mitochondrial DNA to you, thought it's a year since I was immersed in it. I sit there in amazement drinking it all in.
❉ human biology: All my life I've suffered from extreme squeamishness about anything to do with the human body. Even the idea of looking at the veins in my hand and knowing that they have blood running through them has been enough to make me feel quite faint. But in the process of learning about body systems like circulation, respiration, and digestion, I got over it.
❉ measurement conversions: One simple formula courtesy of our sterling math teacher has made all the difference and I can convert practically any measurement to any other unit of measure with ease, even pleasure.
❉ French: I learned a fair bit of French in high school, and even more once it began to be a requirement for my graduate degrees in English. But it was "book" French,with lots of conjugation in obscure verb tenses, combined with a lot of reading and writing. Conversationally, I was hopeless. Even living in Montréal didn't work for improving my spoken French: whenever I began to speak French to a Francophone, that person would speak back to me in English. Hey ho. But when I started working at the high school, I found myself in a French 8 class and lo and behold the French I'd learned decades earlier started coming back to me. And with practice, I began to get the hang of speaking it, slowly and with lots of mistakes, but definitely speaking it and usually being understood. That practice came in enormously useful two summers ago when my niece participated in an exchange with a girl from Normandy. The French girl loved Canada so much that she brought her entire family back, and since they expressed a desire to see our ranch (I think my dh presented a pretty exotic persona to them), we entertained them for a few days. The two girls (now fairly fluent in each other's language) got tired of interpreting all the time, so some of it fell to me. And I did okay! Pretty darn well, in fact.
❉ Euclidean geometry, especially the Pythagorean theorem, which I use all the time for quilting.
❉ calculating area and volume: I haven't memorized all the formulas, but I know where to find them. And I use area calculations all the time when I'm quilting, usually to figure out whether I have enough fabric for a border or a binding, but also to write out patterns.
❉ polynomials, exponents, graphing linear equations, algebra: Love it all. Loved it when I was a teenager and love it just as much now.
But now, today, I want to show you the products of two of my latest loves.
The first is my one and only completed project in metal shop. In February, when I started metal shop for the first time ever (girls didn't do metal shop when I was in high school), one of my biggest hopes was that I would learn to weld. My dh has an arc welder and he uses it a fair bit, mainly to build stuff for his truck or to make smaller projects such as a set of stairs for the camper. But the welder is rather old and decrepit (I mean the machine, not the husband) and it gives my dh fits because we can't quite get the amperage he needs from our house wiring. We have an arc welder at school too, but we also have a Mig welder, which is tons easier to use. Instead of welding rod, it uses copper wire plus electricity and gas to create the welds. Even so, the machine scares me. It spits and makes sparks and bits of metal fly off and land wherever (on top of my head, yesterday), it's bright like any other welder and one has to wear a welding mask when using it to prevent blinding by arc flash. I circled around this machine for months, until finally one of the kids, tired of my excuses after he'd offered and offered to teach me, decided that the time had come. I got myself all rigged out in monkey suit, heavy gloves, and welding mask, and we set to. It was another humbling experience: I was exultant when I finally produced a recognizable and apparently permanent weld and went to show it off to the shop teacher, who congratulated me. It wasn't pretty, that weld, it must be admitted. The student's remark? "Well, Anne, I know you can do better." I laughed and laughed. What a great moment, the tables being turned so comprehensively, student becoming teacher and vice versa. It's always good for an adult to receive an appropriate remark of the kind that we plague students with all the time.
After that first lesson, it took me another month or two to get up the courage to tackle that welder on my own. But I did it. I even had one day when I found myself in the flow, with everything working exactly right. I felt my confidence blossom and my tense shoulders suddenly relax. This was fun! I haven't found that point of balance again, but at least now I know it's possible.
The whole point of learning to weld, for me, was to have the ability to make metal sculpture, especially sculpture made from scrap, discarded metal. I've long admired garden sculptures of this kind and it seemed to me a crime not to find a use for all the old engine parts, offcuts from others' projects, nuts, bolts, washers, and other detritus lying around every metal shop (including my dh's). And so, here's what I made. Ready? Ta da!!
I call it a duck robot. You can call it whatever you like. I think it fits in very well with our motley collection of pots beside the porch. (The straw is there as mulch to prevent stray plants from overspilling the pots, taking root on the ground, and causing something of an infestation. This happened two years ago and we're still trying to eradicate the interloper.) My dear husband's reaction? He laughed and laughed when he saw it, loving the idea and the reuse of scrap bits and pieces. It was he who put it here in pride of place at the entrance to the house. But he did say, "Those are some really ugly welds." I agree: they're not pretty. But they're real, actual welds, something that I never thought I'd be able to do. I'm stoked.
And here's the other thing that I made. The last subject we've been covering in Math 9 this semester is circle geometry, which I have to say is about the most mind-blowingly beautiful math I've ever encountered. The teacher loves it too. We were talking about it last week, and I said to her, "It's enough to make one wonder whether we, ingenious and order-loving beings that humans are, impose our own desire for order on the world around us, or whether it's inherent." She replied, "It's definitely there. We just recognize it when we find it." Wonder.
Anyway, as we were playing around with our compasses, I started to remember something about making a circle and then, keeping the protractor at the same angle, placing the point of the compass on the line of the circle and drawing arcs that cross the circle, moving to the next point where the arc crosses the circle and making more arcs. Did you know this? That if one does this all around the circle, one will have divided it into six perfectly equal portions of 60 degrees? I kept playing, adding more lines, keeping the same angle on the compass most of the time, then choosing a second, smaller angle for some embellishments. Then I took my pencil and began shading in parts of the pattern I'd created. Here's where I ended up:
Is this not an amazing thing to be able to create with just a pencil and a compass? I know it's not very complex, and that my shading isn't perfect, but I can see that infinite variations on this idea are possible, and that one could keep increasing the size of the pattern infinitely. No, I'm not going to make a quilt using this principle, because it would require more precision in cutting and sewing than I'm usually capable of and certainly don't find fun. The drawing is enough.
I hope you understand that I learn all of these things because much of my time at work is spent helping the kids who are having trouble grasping what's being taught. Unless I learn it too, I can't help them learn it. It's just my great good fortune that I enjoy the learning and the teaching alike. Today was the last day of the school year for me, so that thought is a lovely note on which to end. For the next couple of months, I'll be focussed on other things, and I hope to come back refreshed and eager to start again in September.
Schoooooooool's out! for! the summer!!!
Here's someone who needs no lessons in posing for the camera.