In a sense, most days spent quilting are slow quilting days. Quilting is a slow activity. That's why so many magazines and books shout out promises of "quick!," "easy!", and "simple!" from their front covers. Without those promises, lots of people wouldn't bother with quilting at all. And I think that's fine. The people who want the end product right now, people who perhaps have a baby shower or other celebration looming, or a stash of beautiful fabrics but not much time, or who want to spend a little time every now and again on something creative but not have the product take years to finish, can use` the ideas that these books and magazines offer. I may end up being one of those quilters, at least once in a while, some time in the future, but up till now that's not the way I've worked. I tend to drift toward difficult and finickety ways of constructing a quilt, starting with tiny scraps, perhaps, or drafting a paper-pieced pattern with small pieces. I think this is why I rarely finish a quilt all in one go. By the time I've got weeks of work into a specific quilt, I'm usually sick of looking at it, thinking about it, or just having it around. So I carefully bundle all the component parts away and turn to something else. If I'm feeling truly disciplined, what I turn to is a different quilt in progress, hoping that fresh eyes on an older project will make it sing to me again and I can make progress on it, pushing past the feelings of ennui I felt when I was stalled. Who knows? Perhaps I can even FINISH it. (If I'm not feeling disciplined, I plunge with huge enthusiasm into something entirely new.)
This summer, however, I am still working away at the quilt that I started seven weeks ago as soon as the end of the school year released me into summer vacation. The key with this one, I think, is that it's turned out to be a project with distinct phases and sections, quite different from one another, and that's kept the whole thing fresh and intriguing for me. (Of course, it also helps that I've got two other quilts on the go at the same time, both of them a few years in the making. When I get tired of one project I move to one of the other two.) I've already showed you some of the initial stages, including the wrong turn I took last month with pattern drafting. But this was one time when I wasn't discouraged by a dead end, perhaps because I already had a plan B in mind before I discovered Plan A wouldn't work. Since then, things have been moving right along, but as I say, little in quilting moves quickly.
Having made the decision that this quilt would use appliqué rather than piecing, I suddenly found myself with total freedom to design any way I wanted, liberated from the constraints of the inherent limitations of the piecing process. I knew that I wanted these petal shapes to pop out against a strongly contrasting background, and my first thought was to return to the blue striped fabrics I've used in the past for similar reasons, as in my Circus quilt. And it was okay, but it didn't make my heart sing.
So I tried pinning up an assortment of black and white prints scraps instead, to see how a couple of petals would read on that background. Oh, yeah! Now I had something I could work with! (Sorry about the terrible light.)
I pinned more prints, added more petals, and felt convinced that my initial enthusiasm for this combination was well-founded.
And so this week I've been pressing on. All the little bits pinned in place above are now part of a single piece of constructed fabric, and I'm making more in order to have enough area to arrange petals upon. To add more visual energy to the quilt, I'm setting the black and white prints on an angle, thereby creating for myself a big headache in the form of cutting weird angles of fabric on the outer edges in order to try to get all the edges on the straight of grain to avoid distortion. I'll do my best.
I'm having a blast piecing these puzzles together, and i have to say that I love the result so much that I'm sorry that this won't be a quilt in its own right. (Perhaps later . . .) Part of the fun for me is that I've been collecting black and white prints for years but have not yet had the opportunity to use them so lavishly. In the past, I've only used scraps here and there to provide "a place for the eye to rest" in bright log cabin quilts like Joy 2 (after clicking on the link, scroll down a bit to find that quilt).
It was last Thursday, while I was working on this black and white composition, that the calls came in from my dear husband's son J. and our daughter-in-law: a forest fire had blown up very close to their home in Rock Creek, half an hour's drive southwest of us, and they were surrounded by flames. Since then, our household has been increased by the presence of dil and two grandkids and two kittens and a Malamute and five horses. We see J. periodically, when he takes a break from fighting the fire. We're so glad they came to us, and so glad that they're safe AND that their house is, as I write this on Sunday afternoon, still standing, thanks to heroic measures by J. and his friends and dh.
It's been frustrating not to have news: we are relying on what we hear from friends and neighbours because the official news channels don't tell us much, except the estimated size of the fire and the fact that it is considered 0% contained. In other words, it's completely out of control. The fire is now enormous, having grown to more than 2500 hectares (25 square kilometres) by Saturday morning, less than 48 hours after it began (now, Sunday night, it's 3700 ha, according to the BC wildfire website. But it can't really be tracked because it consists mainly of hundreds and hundreds of spot fires spreading out for miles, rather than defined fronts. The smoke has been so thick that aircraft has been grounded at times, so trying to follow the fire's spread by air has been very difficult. The speed with which the fire has spread is sobering. The fire (alas, apparently started by human activity, probably a cigarette butt tossed out of a vehicle on the hairpin corner a few hundred feet directly above J.'s house) started on Highway 3 near Rock Creek. People camped in the Kettle River Provincial Park nearby had to leave everything behind and escape, many in just their bathing suits, across the old trestle bridge over the Kettle River. The campers and local resident evacuees, five hundred people in all, are being housed at the community centre in Midway, waiting for the okay to return for their belongings. Another couple of hundred people have been sent to Kelowna. Police roadblocks have closed the highways to all but fire-fighting equipment and local residents with crucial reasons for needing to get into the fire evacuation zone.
The forest is extremely dry and the winds have at times gusted to 50 km per hour or higher. Also, the wind keeps shifting direction, so that areas that seemed to be safe, the fire having passed through and moved on, are still under threat. Friends of the family who live close to J. were this afternoon battling to save their home and farm, even though the fire passed through on Thursday afternoon. The flames have returned, and are being fanned by the winds that have picked up again. The Kettle River forks at Westbridge, and the fire has split too, moving north up Christian Valley and northwest up the west fork of the river toward Beaverdell. A third part of the fire has spread due west along Highway 3 toward Bridesville and many properties have been affected by the flames there. And in between all these major highways the fire continues to spread through the forest. It's also jumped the river, which means that it is steadily moving eastward, closer to us. Several kilometres still lie between us and the flames, but I have packed up all the things we couldn't bear to lose, my best quilts, our photographs, all that sort of thing, plus passports and important papers. If we have to evacuate, it'll be a logistical puzzle: we have all of J.'s family's irreplaceable belongings to consider as well as our own, and eight horses (J.'s plus our three who are still at home, the rest being on summer pasture, though if we find ourselves in trouble here, the horses on pasture, and all of Greenwood, will probably be in trouble too).
Our front yard was transformed into a firefighting staging area as J. and his friends and my dh spent hours repairing damage to vehicles and assembling more water tanks and pumps and diesel engines and hose. They left early this afternoon to start fighting the fire again and we don't expect to see them until late tonight, if then.
Here are a few snaps that dh managed to shoot when he drove over to Rock Creek on Thursday afternoon for a first look at the fire. The first one is taken on the road outside West Boundary Elementary School, where I worked for a few years, looking toward the settlement of Rock Creek.
These next two show how close the fire was to J.'s house on Thursday afternoon: the house is the long low roof in the bottom centre of the photograph, peeking out above the low hill. The fire came a whole lot closer that night and the next morning. Dh estimates the fire burned to within 40 feet of the house. J. spent a lot of time Friday morning falling all the trees close to the house. You can see why in the second photograph, where a tree is "candling." There are advantages to having experienced loggers in the family.
It's kind of horrible that something so destructive can create something as beautiful as this smoke cloud in the early evening sun.
The next day, things began to look menacing at home. As the afternoon wore on, this solid bank of smoke moved steadily in our direction (I don't know that the studio is going to get its paint job this summer: I'll be happy if it survives the fire).
And to the east, as I stepped closer to the fence, I could see this, another smoke plume to the southeast from a fire burning across the border in Washington State. We're keeping an eye on this one because the wind is pushing it toward dh's woodlot and our second property, the one intended for stepson and family, but for the moment we're not giving it much attention. These are J.'s horses, sleek and unconcerned and thrilled with all the fresh grass that dh had been saving for his own horses. We don't mind sharing.
The silver lining in all this commotion, for dh and me, is that we're spending more time with the grandkids than we ever have before, and the bonds are growing stronger every day. Not every minute is a joy, but the joyous ones far outweigh the difficult ones.
On Friday morning, to give their mum a break, I took the grandkids with the dogs up to the sand pit in the barnyard, where they played for an hour. You can see from their garb how quickly they had had to evacuate the previous day: grand-son is in one of his dad's T-shirts, and grand-daughter is in one of her brother's shirts and at times in my hoodie too. But it was a great way to spend an hour, and like all good country kids the amount of dirt they acquired in the process was in direct proportion to how much fun they had.
This pipe made a super slide.
The dogs had just as much fun. Django had a digging spree, Sass kept a sharp eye out from the top of the sandpit, and Misha the Malamute made herself a comfy burrow.
From the last two photos above you can see how much smoke was in the air. Sass is bathed in the golden light that's typical of a smoke-filled sunny morning, while you can see the smoke pooling in the valley behind Misha. Again, it was strange how beautiful the smoke made our world.
I'm going to stop here, not least because assembling a blog post this weekend is having to get done in the small pockets of time not devoted to childcare, housework, and getting meals on the table for a shifting assortment of family and friends. The whole experience has been both terrifying and gratifying, and it makes me very thoughtful. Normal life has largely disappeared, replaced by something huge we can't control. All we can do is adjust our attitudes toward it and prepare as best we can. I'm sure that many of you have lived through experiences like this, but this is the first real crisis I've ever faced, certainly the first one where so much is at stake for so many people and where the danger continues day after day. I think about my grandparents and their experiences in the Second World War and can hardly imagine how they coped. It's humbling.