MVP: Alyssum

My MVP for this year’s garden is 100% the Sweet Alyssum I sowed from last year’s dollar store clearance seeds.

Garage as viewed from upstairs #FireflyCottage #garden

As you can see, it’s filled in a large amount of space around the garage, keeping weeds out for the most part and looking lovely at the same time. And the area on the left, where there isn’t any Alyssum? That’s because I didn’t get that area cleared out until later and didn’t seed any there. And on the right side of the garage it SUPER filled in around the hostas.

Garage surrounding garden

It’s perfect and I really hope to either save some seeds or that it will self-sow and come back next year. I love that it required pretty much zero work from me – I just scattered seeds and then kept it watered, mostly, and it thrived! I’ve struck out so far with finding end of season seeds on clearance this year, but I’m still keeping my eye out. If you see any, let me know what store!

review: Photographs from the Edge

Photographs from the Edge photo photographs from the edge_zpscn9kirew.jpg

Photographs from the Edge: A Master Photographer’s Insights on Capturing an Extraordinary World by Art Wolfe with Rob Sheppard

Each of the photos contained in this book was shot by Wolfe and is described in a few paragraphs. The camera and lens used is also detailed and a photo tip is offered related to the way that shot was taken. Each also includes a sentence or two in a section called the nature of the photo, many of which relate to the specific content of the photo, be it the location, an animal or person featured in the photo, or some other aspect. These are very much the type of photos you’d expect to see in National Geographic magazine and many seek to enlighten the reader about an environmental or other conservation-related issue. When I see photos like this that include people, I always wonder what permission the (Western, white, male) photographer had to be there, to be taking photos, and to publish those photos in a book that they will be making money from. Are the people being exploited? Some photos are taken in what appear to be very remote and in some cases environmentally fragile areas and I wonder what care was taken not to exploit the land. I didn’t find any answers to those questions here. Maybe it’s fine, but it would be nice to see more information about how those arrangements were made, or at least to know what protocols were followed. The book takes a more artistic approach so it’s not surprising that these details aren’t included, and it’s undeniable that the photos are stunning and expertly executed.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

ga-ga-ga-garden

Things are going pretty well in the Firefly Cottage gardens overall. The flowers and ornamentals I sowed and planted are really doing quite well – I’m so happy that so many of the Dollar Store clearance bin seeds from last year germinated.

I haven’t grown Zinnias before and I love them! Pollinators seem to love them, too, and I’m hoping to be able to save seeds for next year.
Gardens at Firefly Cottage
So many of them remind me of ladies’ hats from yore.

The Cosmos have also been growing really exuberantly – some of these are almost as tall as I am!
Gardens at Firefly Cottage

This is Celosia, which I haven’t grown before:
Gardens at Firefly Cottage
I actually think I weeded some of this when it was young because it looked weedy and I couldn’t identify it! D’oh! At this stage, you can so tell it’s related to Amaranth, can’t you?

I also planted a bunch of seeds around the house and the Petunias have been really going to town:
Gardens at Firefly Cottage
I am usually not a huge fan of these annuals – I like perennials since they just keep on going and require so much less from me – BUT I am seeing so many pollinators that I think I may change my attitude.

In the raised bed, I have had a powdery mildew issue. I have been almost entirely ignoring this garden except to pick the occasional cucumber, though, so I guess I can’t complain.
Gardens at Firefly Cottage

I do have two sizeable pumpkins growing, though, so maybe the powdery mildew isn’t such a big deal?
Raised bed garden
I wonder if they’ll turn out okay!

I sowed marigold seeds all around the perimeter of this bed and some of them are huge!
Gardens at Firefly Cottage
This one is easily over four feet tall! Most of the rest are somewhere between one and two feet tall.

Lastly for now, I also threw down some dill seeds on the north side of the garage and there are a few sprouts:
Dill
I just love the smell of dill, don’t you?

Augusta – free pattern!

It’s finally starting to feel like autumn – my favorite season! I was super excited to receive this gorgeous yarn in the mail from Laughing Hens – it’s the perfect fall color and is sooo soft and cozy.

Augusta Cowl by AnneArchy

I like to wear a cowl to work during autumn and winter. A lot of cowls are really big and more appropriate for outside wear, so I wanted to make one that works well indoors. This one is cozy and will keep your neck warm, but isn’t so bulky that it feels weird or too hot inside. It’s also stretchy and will easily fit over your hair without messing it up. 🙂

Thanks again to Laughing Hens for sharing this great yarn with me!

Augusta Cowl by AnneArchy

Find this pattern totally free on Ravelry, Craftsy, and LoveKnitting.

Art Walk Central wrap-up

Modern Venus - on display at Helios Art Gallery

Here’s a much better photo of Modern Venus on display at Helios Art Gallery! I went in with the DSLR and of course managed some higher quality shots.

I am so honored that my art was displayed in this gallery! It made my Art Walk Central experience so much richer this year – big thanks to the folks at Helios for welcoming me, being interested to know more about the piece, and encouraging me in every way during every interaction we had throughout the festival. It was such a pleasure to be involved with such good people.

Overall my experience this year was a bit of an up-and-down. I had received a call from ArtReach informing me that my piece was in the judges’ top ten and I was both stunned and elated! But then when we attended the judges’ round table discussing their top picks, mine was not among them. I felt so embarrassed in that moment, even though as far as I know, K and I were the only ones expecting to see mine in the slide show. I am pretty sure that someone confused my name with the other art quilter from Mount Pleasant (named Ann, oddly enough) on their contact list and called me by mistake. The folks at ArtReach were extremely apologetic about it and really did everything they could to make things right, so I have no ill feelings on that front, just a little residual disappointment and embarrassment that I had to then tell everyone that my big happy announcement was the result of an error.

Listening to the judges discuss their top picks was extremely enlightening. It’s clear that they both appreciate fiber art, which is awesome (the top 10 had two art quilts, which seems unlikely to happen very often). They both also spoke a lot about political art and how much they value pieces that address specific current events (#blacklivesmatter and the Flint water crisis in particular featured in several of the top ten). For me as an artist, I think I’m less likely to address a specific event – I think that my work, so far at least, is less likely to be so direct and specific. I would rather address a theme or idea in less literal ways, I guess. I wonder if this is a current movement among art critics or in the art world in general? Or maybe it’s always a preference some folks have? I should ask the Art Assignment! It was also interesting to note that the judges seemed to be very in sync with one another – I don’t think I heard either of them express an opinion that the other didn’t echo. I wonder if it’s a challenge, when working in that capacity, to keep one’s own voice strong and distinct. It could be that they were just that in tune with each other.

I also quite enjoyed the artist talks that I got to attend. I could have signed up to do one myself, but I was so intimidated that I didn’t. Having seen some others now, I think that I could manage it, though I’m sure I’d still be quite nervous. It was reassuring/notable to me that the artists I heard all took somewhat different approaches to the talk – and all seemed to be equally acceptable. That gives me a bit more confidence for the future as well.

For now, I’m still working on the planning stages of my next piece, so I need to get to the drawing board for that. Once again, big thanks to everyone I worked with this year and big congrats to all the other artists!

Aurora

Professor Aurora Sinistra is one of the lesser-known members of faculty at Hogwarts. She appears a few times in passing but does not take a super active role. One of the things we know about her, though, is that she teaches astronomy in the tallest tower at Hogwarts, which led me to believe that she would be a fan of a big, cozy cardigan. It must get chilly on top of that tower!

Aurora Sweater for Blythe by AnneArchy

This cardigan is so big and cozy that it might also be used as a coat! Especially if you use a looser-knitting yarn like the Classic Elite Yarns Bam Boo that I used to make the blue one pictured here.

Aurora Sweater for Blythe by AnneArchy

Cozy up to the astronomy tower with this pattern available at LoveKnitting, Craftsy, Etsy, and Ravelry.

Middie dreaming

So I’ve been considering getting another Blythe at some point for quite awhile, but I still haven’t decided which one I’d like. And lately, I’ve been noticing that it would be nice to have a second Middie so I could have two in the same photograph at the same time. I’m not sure which one I’d want yet, but the three that have risen to the top of my interest are:

Yellow Marshmallow
Yellow Marshmallow

I like her bobbed hair – one of the shortest hairstyles of any stock Middie, I think, possibly with the exception of Jackie Ramone, who I already have.

Little Lily Brown
Little Lily Brown

Guess what? I’m also drawn to this doll’s shorter hairstyle. I’m just not feeling the knee- or floor-length hair right now.

and lastly, Lena Elena
Lena Elena

Her hair is on the longer side but there’s something about her that I like.

So, which one is your favorite? Anyone have one or more of these and care to share an opinion?

Lovely Rita

More dreams of autumn happening here…

Rita Sweater for Blythe by AnneArchy

How cozy is this sweater?! SO COZY. I would love to wear this one myself. Add a pair of fun leggings and that might just be my autumn uniform. The bonus of this pattern is that, being for Blythe rather than a human, it only takes a matter of minutes to knit it up! The worsted weight yarn and larger needles means that it is a breeze and I am all about instant gratification.

Rita Sweater for Blythe by AnneArchy

Snap this up on LoveKnitting, Craftsy, Etsy, and Ravelry.

review: Natural Color

Natural Color

Natural Color: Vibrant Plant Dye Projects for Your Home and Wardrobe by Sasha Duerr

The concept of making one’s own dyes from plants is as appealing as ever (at least to those so inclined) and Duerr likens the process to the slow food movement – she gathers dye sources seasonally as they’re available and finds comfort in the changing palette throughout the year (of course, she lives in California where plants are more plentiful/alive during the winter months). As such, the book is organized by season with projects and recipes that utilize commonly available plants (again, at least commonly available in some places). A section on mordants and other modifiers (some plants will produce different colors if another element is added) is followed by a guide to the techniques used in the recipes. Most of the recipes seem pretty doable, though collecting the proper equipment might take a while (you need to use stainless steel vessels to avoid any interactions with the vessel material itself) and I definitely wouldn’t be able to find some of the plant ingredients locally at any time of year. It is a gorgeous book, though, and just looking through it is inspirational even if not wholly achievable.

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books