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Take a ride in the mystery machine….

The Mystery Machine is on the prowl again with the next clue in the Macaron Mystery from Meadow Mist Designs.

This is our first month of sewing and, like many mystery quilts, it starts with half-square triangles!!

While doing last year’s mystery, I learned the trick of ironing the half-square triangles before they are cut apart. I first wrote about it in this post.

The problem that I have had with this technique is that when I start to cut the triangles apart, the folded fabric gets in the way…..

When Cheryl was showing the technique again, she made a simple comment to TURN THE BLOCK OVER and make the cut…..

Oh….that makes more sense!!

But you say “what if the fabric gets folded under”?

IT GETS CUT!!!

Okay….new plan….. turn it upside down, run my fingers down the center of the two seams to make sure that the fabrics are laying flat…..

NOW I can safely make the cut!!!

I used the “Bloc-Loc” ruler to square up the blocks, leaving a small pile of snippet cuttings….

Now came the fun part….. laying out the blocks and trying to IMAGINE how they might go together….

I love how these look, especially the swirls that show up at various points…..

So it is back in the box to wait for another month and another clue……

I can’t wait to use that peppermint-colored fabric!!!

Do you fudge or measure?

It is a simple question….when you are quilting, do you fudge or do you measure? My answer is a resounding BOTH!!

I was struck by the question when I watched two quilting demonstrations back to back. The first was with Angela Walters who advocates a bit of fudging to make things fit properly. The second was by Kate Quinn of FabriKated Quilts. She is a certified demonstrator for Westalee Rulers., and Westalee runs to the “measure it” side of quilting!!!

As I thought about it, I realized that there is a place for BOTH ways of thinking and then, as the afternoon progressed, I found myself with an opportunity to do both!!

I was continuing to work on the Angela Walters Ruler FMQ Challenge, trying to get the hang of using wavy rulers. The problem that I have is when I quilt using a longer ruler, it often slips slightly as I quilt meaning that it doesn’t line up well when I am ready to do the echo lines.

If the echoes are 1/4-inch, I find it easier to free-hand them, but this time I wanted to make a 1/2-inch echo and I knew that I needed to use the ruler. As I cast my mind back to the Westalee demonstration, I remembered them showing this funky little tool……

I had always wondered what it was used for and was excited to learn that it can be used to measure the distances between the ruler and the previous stitching line. I was going to need a 3/4-inch measurement so I added the three 1/4-inch marks to the 1-inch side.

I put the 3/4-inch mark on the line that I had just quilted and bumped the ruler up against the tool’s edge

Now, when I quilted against the ruler edge, I ended up with a 1/2-inch echo.

I stopped at the top/bottom of each arc to measure the next arc that I would quilt.

That way I knew that I was staying the correct distance apart and proving that the “measure” method worked!!

I quilted several lines using this technique and then went back to 1/4-inch lines using the “fudge” method!!

Hmmm…..it seems that you can intermix them easily and effectively….

….and the end result can be amazing!!!

On the other side of the table!!

As I mentioned on the weekend, I spent 2 days helping to judge the quilts at the Georgia National Fair.

There were 6 judges…..

…and it quickly became obvious that we had our work cut out for us!!!

We first judged a practice quilt and were put into teams based on the scores that we came up with. This was one of the hardest things to do because we three new judges really had no idea what we were doing!!!

I was teamed with my friend Deb which was just fine with me!! I knew that she and I would work well together!! Each team was sent to their table which held approximately 85 quilts that we were to judge!!

It was a slow start, but I finally got the hang of how to judge the quilt and assign the score. After that happened, I started to enjoy myself!!!

It was fun to see the quilts “up close and personal” and to see the amazing creativity that exists in the quilting world.

It was also eye-opening to view the quilts from the “other side of the table”…..ie from the judge’s viewpoint, and I learned SO many things that I need to watch for in my quilts!!

First of all, when I sew those long lines of blocks together or attach them to a sashing, it is so important that the seam be straight!! This can be done with accurate piecing and especially with a good ironing technique.

Next, I am bad about piecing with whatever thread is on my machine but it makes a huge difference if the thread matches the fabrics (or at least splits the difference with two contrasting fabrics). Note to self…..change the thread!!!

I also need to watch for dark fabrics shadowing thru light fabrics and showing on the top. This was particularly distracting!!

The one thing that was hard for me was to see the number of quilts that were quilted with an all-over pattern that didn’t particularly enhance the piecing. It re-invigorated my desire to encourage others to do their own custom quilting!!

I also realized how important good tension is when machine quilting. I tend to “not worry about it”, but that is going to change now!!

Finally, I realize that it is important to apply the binding straight so that the sides of the quilt don’t wave!!

Once we had all finished, it was time to select the superlative awards for the show…..

This was the first time that we had seen many of the quilts and it was fun to listen to why each team had awarded their particular score. A consensus was quickly attained and it was time to attach the ribbons…..

I did find a minute to snap a photo or two along the way…..

And the quilting on this one was amazing…..

A big SHOUT OUT needs to be given to the volunteers who helped during this entire process. They were taking in quilts and laying them out until 10pm the night before, but were back and smiling happily at 9:00am on the next two days. When we finished, we left the building and headed home but they were all still working hard getting all of the quilts stored until the hanging days.

It was an amazing experience and I hope that I get to go back again!!!

Now I can head to the studio to go make BETTER quilts!!!!

School Days

As part of our inquiry into the working of Zambeze Delta Safaris in the Sena village, we had the opportunity to visit the school and meet the teachers.

The school was built in 2012, again using funding from the hunters who enjoy their sport at Zambeze Delta Safaris……

There are three teachers…..

…. who alternate teaching times in the three-room schoolhouse. In the mornings, there are three classes of younger children ages 6 to 8 and then three classes of older children, ages 9 to 12, in the afternoon. In total there are about 100 children.

The split by age is casual and the children are often split by size as much as age.

They teach a basic curriculum including Math, Science, English, and Portuguese. Interestingly, they are taught geography, but not history. Their books are provided by the government. When I asked what the kid’s favorite subject was, they immediately answered Portuguese!!

You may wonder why African’s are speaking Portuguese, but you have to remember that Mozambique was settled by the Portuguese, so it is still the over-arching language. There are over twenty dialects in Mozambique and these children belong to the Sena tribe and speak the Sena dialect. Portuguese is the main language in suburban areas so the children are taught to speak it so that they won’t be at a disadvantage if they move away from the village. In this way, they are hoping the give the children the opportunity for a better life.

The teachers rotate thru the school with each teacher staying a minimum of 2 years before returning to the urban areas. They have the option of staying longer if they want.

When I asked Dylan to inquire as to what they needed, he laughed and said that it might be a long conversation. So, I changed the question to ask their three biggest needs. The first answer was a solar panel so that they can have electricity and light in the classrooms. The second were supplies for the school and the third was a new well because the current well wasn’t clean. Dylan commented that you get a different answer almost every time. He said that there is a fine line between giving them everything that they want because then the government then assumes that they don’t need anything and won’t provide for them.

ZDS also encourages them to educate the children in the conservation and protection of the local wildlife populations.

The teachers are paid primarily by the government but the Foundation also provides some funding for them. Part of the school property also includes houses for them to live in……

As we talked, the children started arriving and all stood around, listening to the conversation…..

I loved this group of young men….

All at once, a bunch of kids came running in from one of the paths…..

It was as if a school bus had pulled up, but of course, there is no bus!!!

It was fun to see the children hurrying into the school grounds with their books in tow….

…..many of them heading into their classroom to drop off their books….

…and then join the growing group of listeners…..

The classroom is very basic…..

….and the children quickly found their seats…..

….in spite of the white-woman in the back corner!!!

In a typical fashion, the teacher had to “manually” place a few students in their spots!!!

As we drove out, these two young women, provided my favorite photo of the morning…..

The children were well-behaved and seemed happy to be at school and we were certainly happy to visit with them!!!

Cat in the Tree…..

One of the conservation efforts that was happening during this trip was the collaring of a female leopard and Michael was commissioned to write an article about the event.

The leopard would be tracked at night, with dogs, and once they had treed the animal and determined that it was a female, they would call for Michael to join them for the actual collaring.

As Michael talked with the dog handler, he realized that he could write a good article with this information, BUT, in order to write a GREAT article, he needed to accompany the dogs as they were looking for the leopard.  So, off he went at 10 pm, ready to spend the night in the Mozambique bush.

The dogs were carried in the back of a truck…..

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….and the tracker sat in the hot seat on the front of the truck…..

I call it a HOT seat, but I am sure that he was freezing out there!!!

They searched for most of the night, looking for leopard tracks across the road and, at 4:00am had finally given up and headed back to camp.

There were several vehicles on the search, and they were retracing the same tracks that they had driven on previously.  Suddenly one of the drivers (Poen) radioed that he had found a leopard track on top of their earlier tire tracks.  That meant that the leopard had only crossed the road a short while ago and would be in the vicinity…..

Michael and Coenraad Scheepers (the dog handler) raced to the spot and the dogs were set off on the leopard hunt.  Coenraad kept track of the dogs using a GPS system…..

They treed them several times and on one occasion, the leopard charged Michael and the others, but one of the dogs turned it at about 10 feet by nipping at it.   Michael was thankful for the dogs!!!

Once the cat was finally treed, they called the camp for the other players to come.   This included the veterinarian who would dart the cat, Dan Cabela (who was funding the collar), many guys who would help with the capture, and a film crew. 

When I woke up that morning, Michael’s bed was still unslept in, and I was hoping that he was having a wonderful time.  I dressed and made my way to the pavilion area.  I was enjoying my morning tea and thinking to myself that the camp was quiet this morning and the call came in “CAT IN THE TREE”!!  

Immediately the entire camp went into action.  One person was putting together snacks and coffee for those who were heading out without breakfast and for those who had been out all night. 

Another was running to the various tents and telling people to get up and get ready to leave in 10 minutes!!

There were trucks moved from the garage to the parking area and everybody piled in and headed to the treed cat!!

The collaring was successful…..

…and Michael returned to camp extremely tired but exceedingly excited by what he got to do, and naturally, he immediately started writing the article!!

I would have loved to be on this adventure too, but after I saw the scratches on his arms and heard the story of how his glasses were lost somewhere in the dense brush, I was perfectly happy to have slept thru the whole thing!!