Cotton — Weaving Fabric

Melanie McNeil:

Another post in the series on manufacturing fabric.

Originally posted on Catbird Quilt Studio:

Earlier this month I began a series of posts on where our quilting fabric comes from. There are so many steps in the process, from growing the cotton, cleaning and spinning it, weaving it, and then making it beautiful. Agricultural workers, biologists, engineers, designers, textile laborers, and more, all contribute to creating the raw materials of our craft. When I consider all the moving parts, I give thanks to all those who help make my projects possible.

The first post looked primarily at planting and harvesting cotton. Next came cleaning and spinning the cotton into yarn. Now we’ll look at weaving.

After creating yarn (threads,) the yarn is woven into fabric. In the most basic weaving process, there are warp yarns, which run lengthwise away from the front of the loom. These are the yarns that are pre-strung. Weft yarns (or filling yarns) are interlaced at a right angle through them using a shuttle or other mechanism such…

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Bathroom Observations from the Road

Today I drove from Chicagoland to home in Iowa. It’s more than 200 miles of driving, giving me plenty of time to ponder. And the need to stop a couple of times. Here are a few of the things I thought about:

• It’s good to have a full gas tank and an empty bladder.
• Universal Technical Institute’s website is They should have thought about that before naming the school. It just sounds uncomfortable.
• Gas station bathrooms, in general, are much better than they used to be. Entering through the store instead of a side door is one improvement. The fact that women often work there and expect regular bathroom cleaning is a help, too.
• Porta-potties, too, are nowhere near as gross as they used to be. But they’re still gross.
• One of the creepiest bathrooms I’ve been in was in a donut shop in Ponca City, OK. I had to cross a dark room with a conduit pipe bracketed to the floor, find the doorway to the bathroom, reach into the increasing blackness to fumble for the light switch. And once the light was on, I kinda wished it wasn’t.
• I don’t understand talking on the phone while in the bathroom. I really don’t understand talking on the phone while in a public bathroom. My level of bafflement hit “10” on Thursday when I realized we were all on speakerphone. Call me shy…
• How does a woman get pee on the seat? If she is sitting, her thighs are covering the seat, and in general the stream of pee would go down, not somehow spray between her legs and the seat. So is she standing to pee? Soooooo awkward…
• Why do public toilets have seats that aren’t bolted down snugly? They shift unexpectedly at inconvenient times. And how about that hotel bathroom from a couple of weeks ago? It wasn’t bolted down at all. The woman at the front desk said it was so the cleaning staff can clean more easily. huh…
• Overheard in a Yellowstone public bathroom: an older woman muttering to herself, “I’m glad you’re dead. You always were a bitch.”
• Is there any particular reason some people don’t flush in public bathrooms?
• And the reason for not washing is…?
• Who thinks it’s a good idea to put paper towel holders above shoulder height? Tall men? When I reach for the towel, water runs up my arms.

It’s good to be home.

Rhubarb | First Shoots Are Up

I’ve been keeping a close eye on the garden for the first signs of life. We have a winner! Rhubarb is sending up shoots of tightly curled leaves. Those other leaves are some sort of weed. They are suffering the effect of temperatures in the mid-20s last night. The rhubarb was not harmed.


I also defrosted the extra freezer downstairs this week. There were three containers of frozen rhubarb pieces from the crop last year. Looks like I need to make another pie. Last weekend I made a pie from some of last year’s frozen rhubarb. I added blueberries, red raspberries, and blackberries.

Angie at Fiesta Friday found out and wondered why I didn’t share it with the others at her blog. “Too busy”, I told her. Lucky for me, I took a picture of it. My cousin said it looked very patriotic with the red, white, and blue colors. Those stripes were from the leftover dough trimmed off the rim of the baking dish. It wouldn’t win any prizes at the state fair for looks. But, it tasted marvelous. It only took Melanie and I three days to eat it.


If you are curious about my techniques for harvesting, cutting, freezing, and ultimately, what recipe I use, go to this previous post. All the details are there. Here is the printable recipe form.

Gramma Brown's Rhubarb Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: Less than 1 hr
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


  • 3 C of cleaned and sliced rhubarb. Add some berries if you wish.
  • 1.5  C of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 T of flour
  • 1 pie dough pre-made from store or make your own


Preheat oven to 425˚ and line a pie pan with dough.

Cover the rhubarb and berries with 1/2 C of sugar and set the bowl aside.

In another bowl, combine the remaining sugar, flour, and eggs. Stir to mix.

Combine the two bowls of ingredients and stir to mix.

Pour into the prepared pie pan.

Bake for 30 minutes on center rack.

Let cool completely before serving to let it firm up.

On the Radio: Iowa stays ahead in wind generation

Jim in IA:

This is good news for the state and the planet.

Originally posted on Iowa Environmental Focus:

An Iowa wind farm (Brian Hoffman / Flickr) An Iowa wind farm (Brian Hoffman / Flickr)

March 23, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at an assessment of Iowa’s wind energy industry that shows the state still leads the nation in percentage of wind energy production. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Iowa Wind

With over 3,400 turbines, Iowa maintained its third-place ranking in wind energy generation last year.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The American Wind Energy Association recently released fact sheets for each state,
showing that Iowa sits behind only Texas and California in wind projects added as of last year. Iowa still leads the nation in energy percentage from wind, with 27 percent,
resulting in a wind capacity of over 5,000 megawatts. Thatʼs enough to power nearly 1.5
million homes.

Even with those gains, the Association estimates wind power could meet
the stateʼs electricity needs…

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Dead Trees | Stump Removal

In October 2014, we had two large dead elm trees removed. A large crane was needed since there was little room between our house and the neighbor. Here is the post about that impressive removal job.

In March 2015, the tree stumps were ground out to complete the job. Here are a few pictures and video.

Stumps right after the trees were removed in October 2014.

This overall view of the grinding machine shows the operator at the side, steerable rear wheels, and the articulated front end. At the front is a spinning disc with teeth that cut into the stump. It is moved left and right and is lowered to several inches below ground level. The heavy machine is sitting on a 1″ thick piece of plywood to prevent damage to the lawn. It took about 30 minutes to finish grinding the stump. Grinding bits were scattered along the trail in the woods behind the house.


Overall view of the grinder.

Closeup of the grinder disc in action.

Closeup of the spinning grinder disc in action.

This 30 second video shows how the operator moved the grinder to remove the layers of wood.

Show me more…

Hiking with Ben on Paris Mountain, S. Carolina

by Melanie and Jim

A third of a century, ten days, 1977 miles, nine states. Lots of numbers but how do they add up? The first number is how long we’ve been married. Yep, in February we celebrated 33 and a third years of wedded bliss. The other three numbers describe the trip we took in honor of that occasion. We have family in South Carolina, people we love and don’t get to spend enough time with. We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to visit them.

(On the way down we stopped at Metropolis, IL and took these pictures with Superman.)

Our family members live east of Greenville, SC. By coincidence, our friend Ben is in Greenville. Since we were going to be in the area, we arranged to meet Ben for dinner one evening and a hike the next morning.

Ben is a bicyclist and hiker, so he’s in great shape and was eager to lead our hike. He also … crashes, or at least has in the past. A few years ago while riding, he took a nasty fall that did a lot of damage. We saw the X-rays and let me just say they were spectacular. And last summer he told me about a fall on a trail in North Carolina. After tumbling several feet down the mountain, over rocks and between trees, he finally stopped unhurt. When Jim and I hiked in New Mexico in September, the trail edged along cliffs, and we joked that we didn’t want to “do a Ben.”

We agreed to hike at Paris Mountain State Park, just north of Greenville. Paris Mountain is a monadnock, or a mountain that stands alone. Its highest elevation is above 2,000 feet. There are a number of trails of varying lengths. We chose a loop trail that is about 4.5 miles.

The uphill slope had a gradual rise and a number of switchbacks to keep it that way. Though there are plenty of rocks and roots, its relatively smooth surface and slope make it an attractive run for mountain bikers as well as hikers. Here is a picture of Ben and me on our way up. This picture and all others were taken by Jim.


Another look at the footing on the way up — not always smooth.


In contrast to the winter we left in Iowa, South Carolina and the park were green. Rhododendrons and holly are evergreen, in fact.



When we reached the top of our trail and headed back downhill, the characteristics changed dramatically. The slope was much steeper, the trail narrower and with more difficult footing. Several places offered great opportunities to bash your head on the rocks. At one point I wondered how Ben and Jim would carry me out, if I “did a Ben” and slipped on the slick rocks.

The downhill trail followed a small stream for much of the way. Though we couldn’t always see the water, we could hear it. Near the bottom the stream widened and calmed some. Jim caught this turtle sunning itself on a log.


It is about 6″ wide.

Thanks for the hike, Ben, and thanks to Ben and Kathy and Lucy, for the good company at dinner. If you are ever in Iowa, we hope you stop to visit us.


Power Builders 03.13.15

Melanie McNeil:

This week I feature some great free resources, including publications from the J. Paul Getty Trust and the American Folk Art Museum. Also, you can have access to public domain art from the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Take a look at these wonderful links.

Originally posted on Catbird Quilt Studio:

This is Week #6 of my Power Builders creative links. If you’d like to see last week’s, you can find it here.

I call this series “Power Builders” because that’s what these little items do for me. They make me more powerful in my art and in my life. I hope they do the same for you. Some of the links will be about how other creative people use their time, structure their work, find inspiration. Some may be videos, music, or podcasts to inspire you. Some of it will be directly quilt-related but much of it will not. What you see in Power Builders will depend on what I find. Feel free to link great things in comments, too.

Last week I gave you the link to J.J. Audubon’s free, high-quality downloadable art. This week there’s even more free stuff! Via Quilter’s Newsletter, here are links giving free access to some amazing…

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