Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's eve

Back in the supposedly bucolic '50s, when I was a girl living on a Midwestern farm, the only way to learn about pop culture -- or any culture, really -- was the radio. Somewhere TV had been invented but it hadn't reach our part of the country. I discovered the Hit Parade, Sinatra, Como, The Andrews Sisters, Rosemary Clooney and then there was Elvis! I discovered the Hit Parade and listened religiously, as I listened to the Saturday Metropolitan Opera broadasts.

This came back to me today as I listen, as I have for some years, to NY's classical music radio station, WQXR, which each year does a "classical count down" of the top pieces as voted by their listeners. All warhorses of course. Beethoven is the heavy weight winner and his 9th Symphony is always number one, usually played around about midnight on New Year's Eve. The choices change position a little year to year but it's predictable -- except this year there's no Schubert Trout Quintet and I'm very deeply disappointed.

Celebration -- as in partying -- is something I have almost never done on New Year's Eve. Sometimes I'm a bit sad that that's how my life has turned out. Mostly I am content to listen to music I love, write a summary in my diary, perhaps write some resolutions in a new diary, throw the coins for an I Ching reading -- no. I swear to you, I do not think of it as predictive. I've been throwing the I Ching for years and am convinced it is pure chance, but it is always wise. Always worth contemplating. I've read it so long, [at least 30 years] I'm deeply influenced by the Confucian translation and the philosophy of moderation I find there. I have trouble empathizing with the many people who write at length about their "quests" and "spiritual journeys". It all seems so self-agrandizing. A balanced view of the world was defined by Lao Tzu and commented on my Confucius hundreds of years ago. We don't need to reinvent the wheel; we only need to keep our eyes and minds open so we are abreast of how civilization is progressing, or more often, spinning its wheels in a mire of ignorance, greed and selfish misery.

So that is my ritual, some introspection about my own progress through life, a few moments of thinking about something wiser than I am, and much very beautiful music ... a pleasant dinner, a little Scotch and the prennial resolution to try to read 100 books this year [I'm a slow reader and don't usually make it past 70]. And the recognition that in fact this is a totally arbitrary milestone, a social construct that I can chose to imbue with meaning or not since various peoples recognize various new year's dates and in fact there is no such thing, there is just a method of counting the days. We so often forget that the days we can count will be numbered and we know now what that number will be. I think of poet Mary Olvier's live, "what will you do with your one wild and wondrous life?"

Monday, December 29, 2008

Tortoise-like Progress

Sewing, sewing, sewing -- one triangle after another -- each with nine pieces ... won't I ever be done? Just to see what the thing will look like with it's borders, I put together the strips that will be two sides. Obviously they are not yet attached to the main section nor are the corner triangles sew together or to the side strips. Nothing has been properly ironed. Visually the idea is there. The little red triangles will be less prominent because they will be sewn on and literally will be smaller.

I WILL have the border on by the first of the new year! I promise myself!! I've got to stop having so much fun with the little postcards and keep my nose to the grindstone. But really, for psychological balance, I need the immediate satisfaction of the postcards too. So I'll balance the two and keep at it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

More Postcards

Quilt postcards have been around quite a while. I think it was three years ago I had an earlier fit of postcard making and made 50 mostly with intricate butterflies. My current spasm of card making is more efficient and I'm zipping right along. This spell directly relates to the selvage quilt postcard I received two or three weeks ago from Sam Furman from Perth, Australia. She used all Kaffee Fasset selvages and it was wonderfully complex. So I started with postcards made entirely of selvage also.

First I decided to try weaving the polka dot selvages. Then I made the other two just by overlapping selvage to cover cut edges but chose the print carefully. Now I'm using a small picture from a print fabric in the center and framing it variously with selvages -- more pictures another day. All these are going quickly depending on how long I take auditioning various selvages to get colors that satisfy me. That is my favorite part of all scrap quilting. I'm not a plan ahead type, I love the spontaneity.

Four or five books have been written about how to make quilt postcards and I'm sure all are good. There are also sites that have tutorials. But the method I've used the last couple days is so simply I'll just list the steps.
1- I cut a couple of rectangles of light weight interfacing about 5x7.
2- I use an old post card that is 4x6 and mark on one piece of interfacing as in the picture.
3- I chose the pieces of selvage and/or fabric, sometimes I chose all before I start to sew and sometimes I chose as I go. The selvages completely cover the interfacing..
4- I sew the selvage edge quite close to its outside covering the raw edge of the strip it overlaps, so the finished front will have no raw edges.
4. When all are sewn on, I chose a backing fabric [the write-on piece] which has a small light colored design or no design. I cut it 5x7 and lay it face down on the face of the postcard.
5- then I lay the second piece of interfacing on that. Now I have four layers.
6- The fastidious might want to pin it all together at this point. I don't bother. I turn it over so I can see the original mark on the interfacing that was sewn upon. I use this mark as a sewing line. I sew the two longer sides and one other, leaving one side [end] open.
7- I then trim the sewn sides to less than 1/4 inch and clip across the two sewn corners fairly close to stitching.
8- Then I turn it right side out. I work out the two sewn corners -- I use a chop stick to help poke it square. A knitting needle works well but I don't have any
9- I insert a piece of Christmas card cut to a little less than 4x6, between the two layers of interfacing.
10- I carefully turn in the open end and then whip stick it closed using tiny and nearly invisible stitches.
11- Then I iron the whole thing.
12- Finally I turn it over, write with a Pigma pen or a permanent fine Sharpie, the name I give the post card and my name and the date of construction. Draw a little square in the corner where the stamp can go. Viola!!! Done.
Twelve steps really isn't much; I've broken it down to tiny steps.

This could be done using a great piece of fabric, maybe with a scenic design. It could be bordered just once with fabric or ribbon. It could be embellished with button or beads but that would ideally be best done after turning it and before whip stitching it shut. There are endless other possibilities == and quite a few websites one can go to for inspiration and ideas. I'm having fun. I tend to go on little binges like this with relatively simply projects. The very quick reward of a finished product is very satisfying.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Frugulista - scrap/selvage quilting

I've been on a roll all day long making selvage postcard quilts. No photos yet as I didn't want to stop and do the whip stitching to finish the pillowcase backing and then to iron them. I made eight postcards today not only using the selvages -- many sent to me by dear friends on Swap-bot who I've never met but who are kind and send me envelopes of selvages every so often. I'm using not-"new" fabric - well actually it's all new and not been used before but it was not purchased specifically for this project. Like all scrap quilts -- which are my favorite kind -- I'm using what I have in my stash.

This is frugal in several ways. I'm sewing onto a backing of iron on interfacing that I purchased, actually by mistake, quite a while ago. Not only do I have the strips of selvage sent to me, I realized that many of the strips of fabric in my large "scrap bag" are selvage cuttings. So I went through the whole thing and took out the selvages -- also neatened a bit!... How righteous I feel!

Then as I worked I had a frugalista brain storm -- I could stiffen the post cards by inserting between backing and front, pieces of the many Christmas cards that would otherwise go into the garbage. How perfect is that!? They are a nice light weight but with enough stiffness to give the postcards the necessary oomph to withstand the P.O.'s carelessness ... I hope.

I'm really on a roll and hope to make, perhaps as many as 20 in the next week. I'll do photographs when they are finished. Meanwhile the starburst quilt is coming along -- a friend saw it yesterday and pointed out that it is a mandala and the colors are "Tibetan" -- both true. The influence of my long time interest is so much a part of me I hadn't even thought about it. How wonderful and helpful to have a fresh set of eyes.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas day

No, this plate is not traditional Christmas fare. But I don't "do" Christmas. Yesterday, assessing my refrigerator I decided I wanted a nice avocado to make a salad with some tomatoes that promised they might have some tomato flavor. So I went to the local store that is a small produce store grown to almost full supermarket, and, indeed found the avocado that seemed perfect. Of course they were well stocked for the holiday and I couldn't resist the lovely pears and the cherries -- whatever south of the equator country they are from, they are really wonderful. Last week I had Queen Anne cherries that were great, these Bing cherries are perhaps a little better. And not that pricey! So for the sake of festivity I thought I'd put the bottle of wine in the photo, it's been around a while but won't be much longer, having been 1/3 emptied already.

I was deep into hermit-like quilting and straightening and dropped the idea I'd had of going to a movie in the afternoon. But I finally tore myself away and went for a walk in the sunny afternoon. The sky was a perfect, cloudless blue. I did a quick trot around the Great Lawn in Central Park -- despite the snow a few days ago, now gone, the grass is as emerald green as on a beautiful spring day, even though the temperature was only upper 30s. I'm glad I pushed myself out -- walking felt great. The park was full of people of all ages, from babies in cariages to elders in riding scooters and behind walkers. Groups strolling along, speaking all kinds of languages -- always good for my mood.

Then back to consider what to do about a quilt experiment that didn't work out as hoped -- lessons learned, time not wasted but frustration anyway. However, the straightening fit produced order out of chaos and the day was far from wasted. Also, I had a real dinner, good, healthy food. With the radio on most of the day I've had noels up the gazoo and will be glad to get back to normal classical music tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Growing/getting there

Th stack of triangles for the border of my Starburst quilt is growing. In fact this photo was taken a couple days ago and I am now within sight of THE END -- then I will calculate the total number of pieces. I have enough together to have laid out one edge, without sewing it, to see how it will go. I need 15 triangles on each side and then will need two additional ones for each corner. It's pure labor intensive, repetitious sewing. My idea -- fools run in where the cautious know not to tread. As I watch the stack of triangles grow I can meditate on the progress of my four "Paper White" narcissus bulbs. Most years I get some bulbs, usually amaryllis for gifts and send them early enough to hope friends will have flowers for Christmas. But they are usually slow. These I kept for myself and for a while thought the two shorter ones were not going to grow at all. Now that all four are shooting up I'm glad two were slower than the other two because I should have flowers for a longer time. That will be nice, especially if they have the scent I think they will. Taking a break from triangle construction I made this little raccoon from Margaret Rothe's Going Wild quilt design book that I've had for years -- and I made some raccoons before, as well as several other birds and animals from the book. They are paper pieced but are not as well planned as later books. This is for a swap and was enlarge to be a nine inch block, plus quarter inch seam allowance.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hansel and Gretel

We all know the Grimm version of the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel -- why we call most Grimm tales "fairy" tales is beyond me, very few have fairies. This one has a witch and the opera has angels, well, there's the Sandman and the Dew Fairy but those were not in the Grimm version. I'm cogitating on that because I saw the Humperdinck opera on film as it was done at Glynebourne last summer. And believe me it didn't look anything like the drawing pictured here.

I had in mind to go to a film of The Nutcracker from the Kirov Ballet at 3:00 in the afternoon, but then I was sewing and listening to a Messiah performance on the radio and suddenly I realized it was five of three. Not to worry, thought I, they're showing it next Sunday also. So I went to the grocery store and passed Symphony Space which is the venue and saw that they were showing the Hansel and Gretel in the evening. I think I've seen it once and heard it a jillion times. So why not see what they did at Glynebourne?

It was wonderful in a thoroughly modern-fun way. Firstly the voices were superb, especially the two leads who blended their sopranos magically over and over again. Everyone else was very fine also. The woman who sang Hansel was brilliantly made up as a boy and had all the right body language. The brilliant Gretel was the most incredible huge eyes, as well as a hyperkinetic manner that was delightful. Although one thinks of opera singers as being people of considerable ego, the "adults" were caricatures,looking anything but attractive. The Mother was a large, slovenly lady in a thoroughly unbecoming house dress and slacks; father a bit of a drunken sot looking disheveled and unshaven. But the witch! Oh my goodness! At first appearance a big, big man doing drag that would outdo Hairspray on B'way, and on second appearance he shed is pink wig and dress and flounced about in huge bra, low slung half slip below a very masculine and somewhat hairy beer belly, plus an open wrapper. No traditional witch there; one of the most amazing displays I've ever seen in opera.

It was a fortuitous choice, thoroughly entertaining and fun. A little girl, with her grandfather, perhaps 10 or 11, who had never seen an opera before was entranced even though she complained during the intermission that she was hungry and granddad offered to leave and take her for something to eat. She chose to stay and said she was glad she did. Opera on film will never be as wonderful as live -- but it is being filmed with great skill now and shown fairly widely and will make opera available to a new generation probably in very much the same way the Met Saturday broadcasts of the 1950s made it available to this once-upon-a-time little girl on a farm in Indiana.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow day

Snow is falling as it's been doing since about ten. "THEY" say it's going to turn to sleet/rain for a while and then snow more overnight. I've been reading of other parts of the US getting blizzards and having deep cold. Well, it's not so cold but it is a day to sit in front of a fireplace and read a book -- except I don't have a fireplace. Ah, well ... I can get on with quilting. And I am.

I'm sewing the triangles that will become the border of the starburst quilt. I've done a dozen -- they take at least 20 minutes each! -- and have to do 40 total plus figure out just how to do the corners which is tricky. So this is not going to be a snap and I am already getting a bit bored and thinking what other quilt to work on now and then to break the sameness, I've got three in some form of UFO-ness. Also I have plenty of books to read and sufficient food in the house that if I don't feel like braving the wet, cold, icy, blustery whatever outside I don't have to and probably won't. Seems only right we get a taste of the bad weather others are getting.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Stress Buster

Just a quick note about one of my next steps in making this Sunburst quilt. I have now 900 pieces of paper to tear off. They are easy-tear, I don't have to worry a lot about pulling and weakening stitches as with some papers. This is mindless work -- like popping bubble wrap bubbles. Which is a known stress reliever.

I understand a Japanese gadget maker has a device that can fit on a keychain which simulates the bubble bursting and immediately reconstitutes itself so you have endless bubbles to pop. Can a gadget be as pleasing as the real stuff? I also understand that at the Enclosed Air Company -- where bubble wrap is manufactured -- employees get little sheets of bubble wrap the way many peoplein other offices get memo pads at their desks. It's not available for sale .. but it ought to be.

When I think about the fascination of bubble bursting I remember a movie I saw about ten years ago set in Mongolia called East of Eden. The steppe dweller left his ger to go to town, which was a 3 or 4 day journey. He had a number ofctricity from a wind or solar generator. He left behind his wife, two children and old granny. When he returned with the TV, wife and kids were fascinated by the shows but Granny took the bubble wrap and went to sit on the step outside the ger to pop the bubbles.

NOTE: "Ger" is the round felt hut of the nomads, that is their word. "Yurt" is a word the Russians used when they controlled Mongolia. It is not used by Mongolians today.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Making Progress

I was home all day, except for a quick trip to the Post Office for some Christmas mailing. I was determined to get this central part [the 900 pieces] of the sunburst quilt together. It literally took all day but I'm feeling pleased.

I added the narrow deep orange border and an equally narrow dark green. This will be the dividing section. There will be a border [another 400 pieces] of triangles from the same pattern as the inside of the quilt -- the size of the deep blue triangles in the center, all the way around. I think I need about forty. I've had an internal argument most of the day saying, I could just add a 3 or 4 inch fabric border. But I immediately say, no, no, no. That wouldn't feel right. It will get made in the next few weeks I hope. And then, of course, it'll need to be quilted -- simply in the ditch. That makes me tired thinking about it. BUT it's not hard, just time consuming.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas and the Economy

Before our quilt guild meeting yesterday I was part of a big round table -- women, all at or near retirement age -- and someone moaned, "I'm really being careful with spending this year for Christmas gifts". Everyone nodded. The conversation went on in this vein. One woman said she retired five years ago and felt good about being able to pay her expenses and have a couple of hundred dollars "to play with." But that's not true any more and she's beginning to look around for a part time job. Others, including moi, said they planned to work as long as possible.

Said one woman, "I've been never in a group like this and talked about these things before -- sometimes with family but for this to be true for all of us ..." Yes, the headlines are very close to home these days.

There was a general disconnect as the meeting's main activity was an auction to raise money. I have in the past skipped the December meeting because it is always a fund raiser in some way and I think that is extremely bad timing. We enjoy the guild, we want to help it continue it's very good meetings [the venue is quite expensive, as would be any in NYC large enough for us] and the upcoming show is very expensive to mount although we hope to make some money from it. Still I feel December is not a time when I want to be cajoled into purchasing items for myself -- oh, all right, I did buy a coupe pieces of fabric. Still the auction was a bit forced although the donated items were very attractive and some sold for very good prices. Somehow it seems to belay the holiday spirit.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lap Quilt

When I measured the quilt with the disappearing parrots on it I discovered it was larger than I thought -- so large that it would be difficult to keep it safe from becoming tangled with wheelchair wheels. So I sent this quilt or Lisa who is shown here in front of a newly decorated Christmas tree in the residence where she lives. I also sent a second one that is a bit smaller which is a picture window design with African animals in the "windows.

I add ties of grosgrain ribbon that I had that actually matched the binding fairly closely. And on the top back made a couple of loops of the same ribbon through which the long tie ends could be threaded and tied in the middle to be out of the way when the quilt is not being used with a wheelchair [ties are tied behind wheelchair when in use so the quilt stays in place] Leslie sent me this photo - which is nice. I don't have pictures of other quilts being used by their recipients.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Oldie, but ...

"In the dark, all cats are black." We've all heard that. It's also the name of this quilt which I re-discovered in my weekend of closet sorting and quilt discovery. Of course I remember making this quilt and I liked it back then. I had just found out about strip piecing, which I did on the background of this quilt. I had a batch of patterns for appliqued cats which I had used somewhere else and liked. So this was the result, there are 7 or 8 cats total on this quilt. They are not meant to be immediately visible although they have noticeable eyes that draw one in embroidered in gold, green, or yellow.

I had not forgotten that I made this quilt. I took it out of the batch and put it on the bed. I think I'll live with it for a while but I might also decided to send it to Leslie who is a "cat person." She called delighted a couple days ago to say she was cat/house sitting for a week -- Okay. Those of you with dirty minds -- notice the slash there, I did not write cat house -- PUL-EZ!1 Get your mind out of the gutter.

I cannot think how to make this idea work better. Whatever design the background might be, the cats must recede into the darkness and not be noticeable except upon careful scrutiny. Anyway, the cats and I are sleeping together for the time being. It's good to review one's accumulation. I have given away quantities of what I've made and will continue to give away or swap or, perchance, once in a while, maybe sell what I quilt. Still, for me the pleasure is in the idea and then making it. And sometimes in sleeping under it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

I have learned a thing or two


I have [or had] quilts stashed on top shelves of closets that I had not seen for ten or more years. During the last two days I've been pulling down bags of quilts, taking them out, photographing and measuring. A couple of quilts surfaced that I haven't seen in a VERY long time and only dimly remember making. A couple were downright embarrassing. I made THAT! Oh, good heavens! There was a reversible Amish-style center diamond, hand quilted quilt -- so bad, even beginning Amish children surely would have made it better. I must say my photograph makes it look better than it really does -- which is the opposite of what usually happens with my photography.

The heartening side is that I have learned a lot about quilt making through reading and through the doing and through thinking seriously about what I was doing. But some of the newest remind me that I have not mastered corners of the binding. My Achilles heel, along with various other weaknesses. It's been an enlightening experience. A quilt I knew was there somewhere appeared and is now the wall quilt in the living room -- not "pretty" just squares but each hand quilted in a different geometric pattern. The arrangement of colors of the squares a close approximation of an Ellsworth Kelly painting. I don't understand why a fine artist chose that arrangement [and now why the original sold for thousands of dollars]. So I'm going to give it some attention for a few weeks and see what is satisfying about these colors in a pattern I never would have, with my less sophisticated artistic eye, arranged this way. NOTE: I have been trying to move the image down to here but it's stuck at the beginning of this post. Sorry about that. At least you can see what I'm writing about.

At the same time, I've tackled the rest of the contents of the closets and now have my mailing envelopes neatly arranged by size which they weren't before. And I can actually see a portion of the floor of my coat closet for the first time in aeons [I use the old fashioned spelling to show how long it's really been].

I wouldn't call the bottom of that closet chaos but it certainly was a very haphazard collection of stuff and now makes sense and is far neater. Such order making is good for the mind, body and even soul, I think.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Finding a home for a quilt -- or two

Finding homes for my quilts is as satisfying as finding homes for a litter of puppies that you know you can't keep but they're all darling and you want them to be loved. Leslie called last evening and said one of her handicapped clients is in need of a quilt. The client is wheelchair bond and was looking shivery and chilly yesterday.

I remembered this quilt which I made last spring. I like the colors, but as I wrote back then, when I decided to jazz it up a bit with a number of fused parrots along the top, I chose ones that were too near the same colors. As a wall quilt the parrots disappear from a dozen feet away. However, it's large enough to be tuck-able around the client's legs and if the parrots are in her lap. they well be close up and personal. So as soon as I find out which blanket bag it's stacshed in, I can mail it As I told Leslie, maybe I will also discover some other quilt I have forgotten and send it along too. [Click photo, it will enlarge and you can see the parrots]

Leslie requested I add "apron strings" to the top corners -- that is pieces of binding, or maybe ribbon long enough to tie at the back of the wheelchair -- her clients are both physically and mentally handicapped so they need as much help as they can get. I think I will see if I can figure out a method with snaps so the ties can be attached to the back to avoid dangling and tangling when not in use. The idea in my mind will be worked out when I get the quilt in hand.

How satisfying to know that a quilt made just because I wanted to see how the colors and patterns would work will find a good home. Certainly I have more than enough wall quilts and plenty of lap quilts as well.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Beautiful light

Lo, many, many a year ago, when I was a high schooler who found a book or two in the local library about great artists I became interested in their miracles of perception and representation. But educating myself was difficult; there were very few books and no art museums to go to, and SOOO much to learn. Gradually I began to learn. I was about 20 when I first was able to spend an afternoon in the museum in Chicago. But even later when I had seen many of the great museums of Europe in a kind of whirlwind honeymoon/grand tour, I found I did not understand why artists seemed to make such a fuss about "light." Not just enough light but certain light. I couldn't see a difference.

Not until I went to Greece 15 or so years later did I realize you don't see light until you really SEE it. The light in Greece was different. I saw for the first time what happens when the sky reflects the blue of the sea. I was astonished. Ever since I've been looking at light. Here in NYC we have a very special and wonderful light in the autumn and winter which is especially beautiful about 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. I think the word for it is "lambent." It turns gray and beige stone facings on building various shapes of pink. The above photo is not a wonderful skyline -- it's just what was visible from the third floor of the Apple Store at 9th Ave. and 14th St. It IS that afternoon light and when I see it I am enchanted.

This is a different kind of ocean light. It is early morning on Cape Cod facing the ocean. The grand house, one of many along that stretch probably from the early 20th century when there were big families with lots of servants, faces a channel or inlet and then the spit of beach on which I was walking and behind me, not very far, is the ocean. It was a calm morning, the sun had a new, just risen feeling, the light seemed to have some of the crisp air's coolness but there was a clarity that was astonishing. I truly hope the people who live in those big old houses and the one who live in a batch of much newer McMansions appreciate that they not only own prime real estate but are treated every sunny day to light many an artist has come to Cape Cod to revel in.

And, not to do with this light in particular, but the day before when Rachel and I went to the Cape Cod Cinema in Dennis where she had not yet been, we discovered that the barrel ceiling had been painted with sun, moon, stars and many Greek gods by Rockwell Kent [and apprentices]. A landmark that the Town of Dennis surely appreciates and that all theatre goer can also appreciate for while waiting for the movie to start. What a nice discovery!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A bit about Thanksgiving part 2

Thanksgiving has always seemed the bleakest of holidays, a time when I don't like to travel, a time when being indoors with the smell of roasting turkey and the incredibly tempting sight of a pecan pie is about all that can redeem the feeling that all those wonderful, warm days are gone for many months, and the knowledge that the early darkness is going to become yet more and more oppressive for a month. I used to especially hate driving anywhere at Thanksgiving time when I lived upstate in New York because that week was the opening of deer hunting season and many cars would have a tawny body roped to the roof with a graceful head, and maybe a rack of antlers hanging sadly down over the rear window.
Both my bus rides to and from Cape Cod were under mostly sunny skies, which is a special pleasure this time of year, especially when traveling along the coast where the reflection of the ocean makes the light lambent and gently glow-y.

Also Rachel and I had a couple of very nice early morning walks with the dog. Once around a graceful little pond and then along a beach where the beach grass (above) was graceful under frost and the fallen oak leaves were outlined by Jack Frost with a thin line of ice. Even the wooden railing beside the wooden walkways had a coat of frost that actually looked furry -- a wonder of nature. So my usual feeling of heaviness at this holiday was well offset with these natural delights.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A bit about Thanksgiving part 1

I especially wanted to go visit Rachel on Cape Cod to see her growing family before they go their adult ways as they have already begun to do. A natural progress that she is pleased to see, as am I; it changes the family dynamic. Here are my two grandsons arranging crudites as hor d'ouvers for the Thanksgiving feast which was at the home of friends of Rachel's. The hostess is a woman who loves to cook and had cooked until she threw her back out but the food was abundant and traditional -- exactly what Thanksgiving is supposed to be. I had an opportunity to be a part of a typical American feast day -- which is something I mostly avoid. [Who NEEDS three or four ymmmy deserts after a well heaped plate of turkey, ham, yams, cranberry relish, dressing, four veggies, etc.

I like the feeling of joining in a centuries old celebration of harvest abundance, although I may have been the only one consciously thinking about that. It was a gathering with full spectrum of generations, from infants to teens to 40-ish to three grandmothers, of which I was the oldest. Women busily working in the kitchen, since the hostess was, by then, seriously in pain, men standing about or going out to play on the ATVs while teen boys played video games and teen girls disappeared into their own cliques, probably talking clothes and boys. I couldn't help thinking similar scees were playing out in millions of American homes from there on Capd Cod - sticking out into the Atantic to California, from Florida to Alaska.
Across the USA a few moms of pretty little girl children had dressed their children like little princesses. This is Sophia in what should become an heirloom dress, hand smocked by mother Allison [wife of my daughter's brother-in-law], who has made other equally beautiful garments for Sophia. A kind of hand work relatively few undertake -- very wonderful -- and completed only av a couple of hours earlier.

I know a great many crafts are being pursued by suburban [and some city] women but I think few are are as deserving of heirloom status as such a smocked baby dress. And pretty little Sophia elated her mother with her first unassisted steps across the living room floor, a toddling little miracle, which has happened to all of us -- but only once did any of us take those first determined steps ignoring audience, just finding the best way to get from one place to another.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Making Progress

So I'm moving along and getting myself psyched about this quilt. I have about two-thirds of the center star pieced. Since I have the bright diamonds for the center all done, and the diamonds with the bright and dark green more than half done -- but the half diamonds for the outer part are only a quarter done -- I decided to put a quarter section together. And here it is. Ta-da! [below]

I think I can begin to see the whole thing in my imagination. That will be the "900 pieces" of the title of the design I'm using. But I'm feeling so enthused right now, I think I will do a very narrow border in two of the brights and then piece the half-diamonds, as many as needed, for a serious border. That may bring the count to about 1200 pieces. Am I insane? Probably. However I really enjoy paper piecing and I'm just delighted that this quarter is lying flat and the diamonds meet neatly where they're supposed to. Why not go all out?

As can be seen a fair amount will be trimmed off, the plastic rulers are lying where the cutting will happen. All in all it's not a lot of fabric waste although it's probably a few hours of sewing. I suppose I could figure out how to do just what's needed but I think that would be more harrowing than just sewing it as the pattern suggests which is what I've done so far. It's still going to take a good bit of time to complete but will be done, I think by the new year -- at least pieced. Quilted? Well ... it will be simple in-the-ditch but that will take plenty of time too.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Winter is a-coming in

From upper 60s on Saturday, this week has descended into the 20s. People are bundling into down, tying scarves around their necks. pulling woolen caps down to their eyebrows and putting on gloves, some are wearing fashionable but somewhat ridiculous looking furry boots -- ridiculous because those boots are more appropriate to piles of snow and icy streets.

We've had extremely variable weather for the last two months so I'm hoping for more variability and a warming for next week so that Thanksgiving weekend will not be truly cold -- seasonably chilly is okay but I'm far from happy about the shock of rounding a street corner and being slapped hard by a very cold bluster of wind. I think November is the most difficult month for adjustments. After many pleasant days of autumn, suddenly the grayness, the cold are especially unwelcome. A sudden early snowstorm would be an easier adjustment. It would be pretty and the cold would almost be ;ersonalified. Well, I'm not actually wishing for snow, I'm wishing for 50 degree days and let it get cold at night but let's have sun during the day. Not that my wishes have any effect on anything.

Heaven knows with this ridiculous habit we have of changing our clock settings twice a year we are now in a season when darkness begins much too early in the evening. I remember at least 50 years ago listening to my Republican mother cursing Roosevelt for the insanity of day light saving time. We were the farmers those clock swings were supposed to help. She did not think so. I was usually on my father's Democrat side but I did pick up that dislike of time manipulation from her ... heaven knows there is much, much else I know I got from her too and the older I get the more obvious some of it becomes.

When I get home at 4:00 and find it's already getting dark, I tend to think of fixing an early dinner after reading the mail and not doing any quilting because my windows look out in to the darkness of early evening. If it were smmer I would be inspired to sit down and sew in the late light which would last untl after 7:00. Another reason to curse the swinging pendulum of day light swavings... But it does induce reading and I have been enjoying the books I'm digging into.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Small quilts

This is the 12x12 inch little quilt that I made yesterday for a woman who likes birds. I think she'll like it. It's from a book by the Australian quilter, Margaret Rolfe, and was a very early paper pieced series of animal designs. The directions for the paper piecing were not very clear and when I first used the book maybe 12 or 15 years ago I didn't know what I was doing and finally got frustrated and gave up. Now that I've done a lot of paper piecing this was relatively easy and turned out satisfyingly. I think the woman it was intended for will like it it.

Now here are three of my kennel quilts. They too are small. The largest, not shown was about 16x20. I have also not shown the one I liked best as it was mailed away last week and has been received and I'm told was a hit. It was somewhat like the orangy/African-ish pone. These were a pleasure to make, as was the cardinal.
I must now find the address to which to deliver these kennel quilts so the doggies can have them, and will be happy and tail-waggy and appealing to potential adopters. This has been a distraction that I have enjoyed even though I am in the midst of making a very time consuming large star quilt and have two others started -- make that three. Well, I will NOT get bored and that is a lovely thing in itself.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Just tops

At the members' flea market at the Empire Quilt Guild meeting last weekend, one of the older members, who is a very prolific quilter [and quite good] of mostly traditional quilts offered for sale over 20 tops she has made. They were all lovely and all well deserving of being finished and used. But she has found her pleasure in making the tops and goes from one to another. She also makes a lot of quilted tote bags.

I've been thinking about that. I'm not as old as she is but if I get into her habit in the near future I would probably have an accumulation like that in another ten years. For now I try to finish whatever I start -- sometimes it takes quite a while but I feel a guilty if I don't finish something. There's a tug of war going on with my Midwestern values and the [not entirely] nascent self-indulgence that not finishing quilt tops would represent to me.

I feel something like sinfulness [waste not, want not?] if I don't finish something I've started. That used to be true of books. I literally felt guilty about 20 years for not finishing Pollyanna Grows Up when I was ten or so. Finally I realized that it reflected a basic good sense and good taste and started being proud of not finishing it. Still, I rarely start a book and not finish -- only if I find the author very, very dull or his story, fiction or nonfiction, untrue or too superficial to waste my time reading.

I will keep on thinking about going from one finished quilt top to another -- at the moment I have four tops in the process of being made. I know I will finish two of them and think I'm likely to finish all four. Often, I've found, another person's example is the PING that rings through out old habits and taken-for-granted truisms to makes us realize our set ways of doing things just might not be any better than doing the exact opposite. At the least that's a good reason not to become a hermit and to be a bit introspective about things that catch our attention.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More Kennel Quilts

I've made five more kennel quilts, that's a total of ten in two weeks. The word for sitting and putting together scraps into patchwork miniatures -- average size is about 16x20 inches though each varies a bit from others in size -- anyway the word is GLEE. That captures the sense of fun of abutting fabrics from various scrap bags [divided by color, smaller bags zipped into a larger one] and putting patterns besides patterns I'd never chose otherwise but seeing that they like to be beside each other. Adding strips for size. What fun! I suppose this is what art quilters feel too when things are really working for them -- except they have the deep assurance that they know what they're doing and I have the slightly giddy feeling that I don't know the rules but I'm having fun with color sometimes in unlikely combinations.

The backing is easy, the use of a terry towel for a filler is satisfying when I think of dogs using the quilts and that washability is important. The quilting is minimal and in straight lines. Then viola!! Another kennel quilt joins the pile. What a good morning it was.

Below is a beautiful quilt by Empire Quilt member, Mary Cargill, on left. A long project, by hand. It was SO awesome, I can hardly wait for our guild show so I can take my time and really admire it. We have loads of good quilters but once in a while something strikes as very special and this is one of those times.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Golden Autumn

Walking the street this is what I see underfoot -- a path of golden leaves as fine to me as is a bridal aisle strewn with rose petals, perhaps finer because this is natural, there for all to enjoy if they take the time to think about it ... I wonder how many notice. What are they thinking of that is more important than the gold laid down by Boreas, the north wind, to soften their steps wherever they are going? Mindfulness ... who has it? What would it cost? A few minutes of attention taking away from what? A cell phone conversation that is just filling time? The mental static we mostly live with as we walk somewhere, random thoughts that are almost immediately forgotten. Why not notice where we are and what we are doing?

Then when we look up this is the scene, the gingko trees shedding their leaves, displaying their awkward limbs growing this way and that ... we accept them. That's their nature; it is not graceful and beautiful ... nor are most inhabitants of the world, ourselves included. So -- beautiful is a nice thing but if we don't have it in the shape of our limbs or our physical shape, so what? we can still rejoice in the beautiful we chance upon. Like the fan shape of th gingko leaves which is so much more beautiful than the tree's limbs. Our words, acts, daily life, productivity can be beautiful no matter whether we are or not. Not a far fetched moral to draw from the analogy.

Crisp and sunny days are a joy; a little taste of winter but not yet. True autumn this week and it's lovely.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Phillipa Naylor, quilter

The guest speaker at the Empire Guild meeting on Sunday was Phillipa Naylor who is from England and who has won prizes for her work at the big Houston quilt show -- and deservedly so. She was able to bring only a few quilts including an amazing white whole cloth one that was machine quilted and trapunto-ed. And the only one I could get a partial photo of was the one below which I thought captured a spring-like loveliness.

I don't want to write about her quilting so much as her talk which I enjoyed very, very much although I suspect the serious quilters in the group may have been a bit P.O-ed because they couldn't see much of her work. But first a couple words of praise for Phillipa's style. I found her very chic. I'm sorry I didn't also get a portrait photo for I was intrigued with her skirt which has a bustle -- can you see? If not click on the photo and it will enlarge. Plus she had really neat shows and then the matching top and stockings and combine that with a British accent that we Yankees go ga-ga for -- I thought she was super.

Her slide slow was more travelogue than quilt talk, that's why I think some might have been disappointed. As a serious traveler with insatiable curiousity, I loved it. She showed photos of the family's move/drive from Saudi Arabia home to England -- she said they decided it was time to leave when a friend, a Christian aid worker, stopped at a stop sign and a crazed Muslin fundamentalist emptied a kalashnikove into his head. Yes, I'd decide to leave too.

Her travel pictures show how arid the Arabian dessert is, but also included ruined cities, then got in Jordan and Syria it turned greener and the wonderful Roman ruins appeared. Then there was Turkey with pictures of places I've been and so on then acoss Europe, not making a straight line but taking time to show the two sons a lot of important cities and historic sites.

Finally to England where she and her husband worked hard to fix up a house and garden, finally quite beautiful with a sewing studio to die for. Clearly she wasn't always chic, not while laying tiles on the floor or re-pointing the chimney. I found her a wonderfully real person who seems to have her life all together and who somehd swiftly she had a good sense of timing, and I enjoyed the whole presentation very much. I don't necessarily go to be inspired to quilt better but to know something about people who are producing wonderful craft and certainly she is. Plus I loved the trip and, as I've heard before, both Jordon and Syria seem like fascinating countries to visit.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Scrap quilts

It's embarrassing to admit I was ever so naive as to actually think those gorgeous scrap quilts in magazines and booke were the result of a quilter just dumping her scape bag out and setting to work sewing -- or cutting strips, squares or triangles. I've tried that and I find it satisfying as I use up scraps and ultimately seriously disppointing because the results are always more chaotic than I like. This is on my mind because I recently unearthed a bunch of square-in-square squares plus strips I'd cut to sew between them. Then I remembered it became a UFO because the squares were a chaotic mess and I also had started to hate the dusty rose stripping fabric.

This was brought more to mind when closet cleaning. I came upon the similar quilt I made after putting away the UFO -- not SOOO very different but much more thought out, more consistent. The top photo is the planned one -- all center squares are 2x2 and all are plains; the strips around them were from the scrap bag but carefully chosen; I'd decided on a dark/light rhythm and that was reversed with the fabrics I chose for the outside strips, one a light pink reads-as pattern and the other a deep eggplant. So this quilt has consistent pattern and the center squares are different colors which I find adds spice. I like this quilt but now, living with it for three or four weeks, I'm starting to think it's a little static. What a fickle eye I have. But one learns by actually thinking about things and asking oneself how it "feels" because individual taste arises from individual temperament
This is the former UFO, very higgley-piggley fabrics and widths of the strips and the inside squares and only consistent because that dusty rose that I still don't like much puts a kind of damper on all the chaos. I'm beginning to think I like the greater feeling of spontaneity here although I don't like some specific blocks. The UFO got lightly quilted yesterday and today will be bound and finished. It is only lap size. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it, probably give it away eventually.

I suppose if I were a different temperament I would take art and design classes and work at this color/pattern understanding in some structured way with teachers who know the accepted theories. But I've got a do-it-yourself attitude and actually am having fun looking at and comparing my own work and stumbling impulses. Also this is decidely a hobby, my ego isn't bound up in the results. I don't expect to be judged by the artfulness or quality of my quilts; it's pure fun -- but learning and improving is also fun. I wish children were taught that and did not have to become my age to feel it's truth in their very bones. [By the way, these photos can be clicked for enlarged view]

Friday, November 07, 2008

Five Kennel Quilts done

I had a free day and made the best of it I could -- it being gray and sprinkly outside. Laundry, some straightening, and quilting -- these five kennel quilts are finished. Four tops were sewn together but the plaid I did from scratch. They're only about 16x20 although, as you see, the actual sizes vary. The two more complex looking ones were from a UFO so the square-in-square blocks were made already.

They are "stuffed" with used rather thick terry towels, as I said I would. And I think it was a good choice. Of course, they're totally washable; the terry gives the quilts a sturdy feeling and with minimal quilting it will stay in place and not bunch up. They are each backed with a "ugly" or at least a fabric I was tired of and didn't want to use in a regular quilt. The backing was applied "pillow case" fashion with the open end through which I turned it right side out, then sewn down as I sewed around the entire outside. It was so easy and so satisfying to finish several little quilts quickly that I just might make two or three more tomorrow. ... or maybe not, since I've got a charity quilt in process from that aforementioned UFO.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Making Kennel Quilts

I really can't resist the ease and endless possibilities of this kennel quilt idea. I've made three little tops with backs to match, only need to iron and add filling [cut up terry towel] then I will add the backing "pillow case" case style and quilt lightly. I'll probably make at least three more. So quick and easy and such a nice thought - how easy to please a little dog! No worry if a line of quilting isn't quite straight, no embarrassment if part of me thinks the print combination isn't really pretty. These are also called "cage comforts" -- but the word cage is discomforting, so I prefer kennel quilts ... words are important, you know.

One thing humans love so much about dogs is their unconditional acceptance of kindness. They'll wag their tails and lick our hands and if they're adopted and cared for, they'll love us regardless of who we are or what we look like or what we believe -- as long as we believe in taking care of them. Simple quid pro quo. I find myself leaning kind of strongly toward getting a dog. We will see, it won't be soon.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Jacket Finished

Finished!! Sigh. I'm really pleased with how the stripes, so random and yet satisfying, have turned out. I especially have to thank some dear Swap-bot friends whom I've never met but love all the same for sending me wonderful selvages cut very generously so I have much of the included, and especially kind Evelyn from Oregon. I'm such a parsimonious miser I usually cut off a minimal selvage. I really appreciate the generosity

This is a front and back view. I've learned a lesson -- this was a "fashion" sweat shirt with a rather low neck - not the high crew neck on men's sweatshirts or the on the kind you purchase as souveniers when visiting vacation-ly places. I should-a bought one of Chuffy's on Main St. in Hyannis where I always stop when visiting there. Anyway, the neckline, after I cut off the ribbing, is really too low to be comfortable outdoors on chilly days. Therefore, this has been designated my read in bed jacket -- and will, in fact, get more use that way than if it were for outside wear. As of mid-October, through early May, I generally spend the last hour of my evening sitting in bed reading, with something around my shoulders keeping me warm and making me sleepy while I read some poetry and sometimes some other book that I have beside the bed.

I'm happy to have another project finished. But I WILL purchase a high necked sweatshirt and make another selvage jacket -- perhaps that won't happen until next spring. The projects are piling up ... oh, and then there's "real" life to live also. So, how do I cram another 3 or 4 hours into the usual 24?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rolling Right Into a Ditch

Sometimes when you're on a roll, as I was with the selvage jacket, you suddenly roll right into a ditch and - phfft! - dead stop. That's what's happened this week. Long days at work, so that I get home later than I like and am always hungry, because I don't really eat lunch -- a 90 calorie container of yogurt is NOT sustenance, it's just a gesture to recognize the tum-tum has its needs too. So I eat when I get home and, feeling a big tired, I give myself time to read quite a lot and sip a slow cup of tea at the end. Then it's DARK! We're two whole months away from the winter solstice but it's getting dark earlier and earlier -- I know the time will change but that doesn't make much difference in these dark days when there's very likely to be cloud covers.

Well, being a farm girl, born and bred, when it's dark the chickens go to roost and the day is essentially over -- you know, we get older and return to the roots of our earliest training, extraneous layers tend to peel away and we get down to the essence. If you don't believe me, you're under 65 and haven't carefully observed those who are in the over 65 category. Not that we don't learn a lot by living our lives, but it's the paint on the canvas. Without the canvas it would be so many flakes of pigment scattering away in the wind. ... Hmm, I've got this far with this metaphor and haven't thought it through further. It's best to stop -- perhaps this should have been a post on my other blog. But then I have a different subject for it this evening. Come check it out too.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Too much sewing

May I indulge for just a little bit about this wonderful batch of fat quarters (and some larger piees) from a private swap. It's just wonderful! I love having so many great new fabrics to add to my stash. The other half of the swap says she's pleased too; I hope so. It makes me very happy! It doesn't exactly make me a "cheap date" but I really don't need to win mega-millions to be very happy.

As a cautionary note, let me explain why I have been limping all day. In my job I use a foot pedal constantly to listen to the stuff I'm transcribing. The pedals are similar to piano pedals. Yesteray while working on that selvage jacket I spent 4 to 5 straight hours at my sewing machine using the pedal which is a different sort of pedal. I prefer to sew barefoot. I only work at transcribing barefoot a few really miserable days of the summer. It took only a little reflelction to realize that the serious aching in the ball of my right foot today when I walk is from a protesting set of muscles that was sadly and relentlessly overused yesterday. It triggered a memory and I realized this had happened at least once before. From now on I'll try to remember to keep my shoes on when I'm sewing for lonvg unbroken periods of time.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Selvage jacket

The kennel quilts will have to wait probably until next weekend. In my cleaning spassm, putting away summer, getting out winter clothes, I came upon a sweatshirt purchased early last summer for the specific purpose of turning it into a quilted light weight jacket. About 18 months ago at a quilt show I met a group of women from a Connecticut quilt guild who all were wearing quilted jackets. Each was different but all had been made from the same basic pattern, or non-pattern. in fact One took the time to explain how easy it was. I have kept her words in mind for all this time and now I'm borrowing her directions, which she said where not original to her group but was unsure where they had originated. Start with a over size sweatshirt. It has to be at least somewhat over size because it gets smaller in the making. Thus I had purchased a large sweatshirt. When I found it folded with other things I tried it on and, indeed, it was large enough to be uncomfortably sloppy worn as is. Then a coupled days ago I had the ah-ha! eureka! moment. It can be a selvage jacket. I have lots of selvages because 3 or 4 wonderful women, whom I've never met in person, have sent me bags of selvages.

Here are the steps accomplished so far today -- and it took a good part of the day.
1. cut off the bottom ribbing.
2. cut off the cuff ribbing on the sleeves.
3. cut off the neck ribbing
4. find the exact center front and cut straight up
5. cut up each side at the seam and continue cutting the sleeve seam
6. open out the sweatshirt. [This is the feeling of skinning an animal for its pelt, but is a lot less bloody and requires no killing [obviously] Much better of the soul and the karma.
7. Then sew chosen design onto the sweatshirt. I started with a sleeve as you can see. I continued until I had sewn selvages all over the sweatshirt, and then I sewed extra pieces along the shoulder seams and on the inset seams of the sleeves. And now, I have turned the sweatshirt with the inside out and will prepare to put it back together along the side nad sleeve seams, as soon as I trim them neatly and pin them careful in place.

After that I will take a 1/2 yard piece of fabric, I haven't decided what color to use yet but it may be a black print because I wear a lot of black pants once summer is over. I will make bias strips and bind all around the outside, including, of course, the sleeve edges. Then I will probably make tabs for buttons [because I really don't want to make button holes] and will sew on four [probably] largish buttons.

Oh, and before that I'll add some of the bias to the inside shoulder and side seams and enclose them so that the inside has a nice neat look too. I've been thinking about pockets because I really like jackets with pockets. Haven't made up my mind, but I might make selvage covered patch pockets for both sides of the front -- we'll see. Probably 3 or 4 more hours and I'll be done.

Of course it didn't HAVE to be selvages, it could have been random patches, crazy quilt style or anything a quilter's fertile imagination could dream up. As "they" say, the possibilities are endless.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Kennel Quilts

Never heard of kennel quilts? Or maybe your dog has one, but by default -- some worn out rag of a quilt [one of those cheap Chinese Smithsonian Collection rip-offs that are still in all the big box stores?] I think I will make a couple or few kennel quilts this weekend. In my quilt guild newsletter was a note from a woman whose belonged canine companion has got to dog heaven. She is volunteering at a shelter as a foster care taker and says that she would like donations of kennel quilts, approximately 14x18 for the floor of a kennel cage. She says having quilts makes the doggies more adoptable. I wonder about that but it surely makes them happier to have something softish to lie down on. And their lives are not full of joy in a kennel.

I awoke this morning with an ah-ha PING in the brain. I have a UFO that surfaced in housecleaning a couple weekends ago. I've put a little time into it but not worked up any enthusiasm. It was an idea that just didn't work out. BUT I could take some of the squares and some pieces of older ugly fabric -- I've been trying to get rid of what once was appealing but with time has become ugly. What to use for batting? The note writer suggested an old comforter but I don't have anything to sleep under in my house except quilts. While the brain was buzzing I realized that I have a couple of terry towels, one has turned ugly in my eyes and another turned spotty in the washing machine with bleach added at the wrong time. They can be cut up and become filling. So I shall tackle that idea this weekend and come up with a few kennel quilts and my ever thrifty tendencies will be satisfied that the UFO can be put to some use. Pictures anon.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Raising the Bar - or following fads

November Issue of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine arrive some days ago and I delved into while I was eating dinner. I don't usually read editorial comments which usually just preview articles. But Jan Magee, the editor, says, "A swing toward intricate quilting and elaborate embellishment is raising the bar for those quilt makers who wish to enter contests and win." I totally agree. I have no ambitions to enter contests and win, though I like praise as much as the next person.

I am both bothered and perplexed about this trend in the quilt world which I have been a part of and watching since the 1970s. Even with long arm quilting -- which is mostly done as a paying service by the owners of the machines and usually is not done by the maker of the quilt top -- the making of an especially notable quilt has become a very, very labor intensive creative endeavor. And if one does the quilting, on home machine or by hand plus the embellishment a quilt can account for vsst numbers of hours. It can also be quite expensive. Who are the women with the time and money for this craft? I know quite a few of the well known names are indeed professional quilters who create and teach, sometimes design fabric lines, write books - it is their life. Okay, I understand that and I enjoy watching their work change and develop for many of them are truly artists or certainly highly admirable craftspeople.

But what of the aspiring ones? Where do they find the time? Are most stay-at-home women/wifes/mothers who have the time and the expensive machines and use the expensive fabrics - or dye their own -- and buy the expensive notions? This is a kind of "monied leisure class" [although I understand they're working hard] that is unknown to the majority of American women who must live in two-income families or if not married must work at full time jobs. Can those working women hope to accomplish the kind of quilt Magee means? Maybe if that's all they do in their spare time for a couple of years.

But what about all that quilting and embellishment? I also read Quilting Arts Magazine and I am often aghast at all the stuff it takes to embellish even small "art" quilts. Also I'm also aware of the popularity of many other kinds of crafts, most especially scrap-booking and the renewal of interest in knitting and various kinds of beading. All this creativity is a necessary outlet for women with imagination who otherwise feel trapped in a world of things -- all the junk at malls, all the gadgets, all the prepared foods so that even cooking is not a creative outlet unless one makes a conscious effort to make it so. Isn't all that embellishment and even all the fussy quilting essentially a fad? A make-work way for commerce to sell more stuff? More beads, more special threads, more special fabrics, more notions, more expensive machines? There was a fad of sergers a while ago, now it's felting machines and there are other things at the periphery of my attention. And the expensive long arm quilting machines!!

Aren't we women, as always, treated like by commercial like dupes? "They" think we'll buy every kind of cream to make our skins look young, every kind of diet pill, every new fashion fad, every new kitchen gadget, every new sewing/quilting gadget. Are our quilts more beautiful, truly more creative, more expressive of ourselves because we've added a bunch of beads, because we stipple quilted the thing until it stands alone instead of lying nice and soft and fluffy on our beds to keep us or our children and grandchildren warm?

Frankly, I'm tired of going to quilt shows and looking at unnessarily heavy quilting, looking a beads in the center of every flower, and all sort of stuff bonded on. Let's hear it for self-expression but let's look at who's telling us what's "in", who's influencing our choices. And let's think about what we really LIKE to make and have in our homes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The O.P. Mother-in-law phenomenon

O.P. stands for "Other People's" because this is about lovely things that have come to me in part because they once belonged to someone's mother-in-law. Saturday the mail brought a package from a penpal, who I've never met in person, but a correspondence compadre who sent me this silk scarf and another beautiful one that I was less successful photographing. They, along with others, had belonged to her mother-in-law, deceased for some time. We've been writing long enough that she intuited that I like scarves - I have a whole bureau drawer full, all divided by color into plastic bags so I can find what I want. I was surprised and delighted and began thinking of other O.P. mother-in-law possessions.

These two bracelets belonged to women who had died before I ever heard of them. The art deco bracelet with a filigree bell which I think is the wonderful, walked into my house over 40 years ago. A friend had been with her husband cleaning out the husband's mother's home. "Do you like this?" she asked. "I hate it." It really wasn't her style. "I love it," I said. "It's yours," she said. I've loved it all these years.

The other bracelet was a trade. I had a few quilt hanging on a clothes line when I was having a moving sale before coming to NYC. A couple in a very loaded van stopped. The wife wanted one of the quilts. "But we've just spend our cash on gas," the husband said. They explained they'd cleaned out his mother's house in Michigan and were taking all their van would hold home. "I know," said the wife. She disappeared into the van and came back after a while with this bracelet. "It's good silver. Would you trade the quilt for the bracelet?" I did. And I've worn it with pleasure for about 25 years.
junkjunkjunl This last silver bracelet I add although it never belonged to a mother-in-law; it was a bit of the spoils when I was helping clean out another deceased woman's belongings. It is Mexican from the era -- art deco again -- when William Spratling was reviving the Mexican silver industry in Taxco. It is not his design, it has a different name stamped on the back. I do not wear it as often, only because it just fits my wrist and has a clasp I cannot explain but which is difficult to undo because of how snugly it fits. I think it's an amazing bit of silversmithing.

When Helen Squires spoke at the Empire Quilt Guild she showed a very beautiful quilt and told the story of acquiring it: She had a quilt shop in northern New Jersey. One day a man came in and said, "I have a quilt I want you to buy." He produced this astonishing quilt. "How much do you want for it?" she asked. He said something incredibly low. She bought it. Why was he so willing to part with it? He was married to a second wife and, said Helen, "Did you ever hear someone say, 'If she made it, it goes out'?" So it's not only mothers-in-laws, loved or not.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Selvage quilt once more

I really do like this selvage quilt and I'm restraining myself -- with some difficulty -- about starting another. So much else to do first!!! So this is the last time I'll post this -- the photo was taken by a good photographer with a good camera at our show and tell last week. She even manages to flatter me.

Cindy Russell is both photographer and web master for the Empire Quuilers Guild - anyone interested in quilt resources should click the link to the right. The site is not only guild info but a resource center and SO easy to navigate. Cindy is half of Hamlin Rose Photography with her husband. They produced both a CD and a book of Urban Inspirations, out guild show two years ago -- excellent work. I'm really quite proud to be a part of the both. And that is why I must not make another selvage quilt until I finish my 900 piece star quilt. Another guild show is coming up in March and I want that to be a worthy addition.