Friday, May 30, 2008

The Bar Scene

What's this about "the bar scene"? This is a picture to conjure: a warm, beautiful early summer evening. A roof top bar where it's possible to have a drink and smoke without being made to feel a pariah [the woman I was with knows what she's doing and has decided to continue smoking. I am not bothered by smoke but am bothered by the no-smoking "police"]. The bar abuts the NY Public Library and looks out on Bryant Park. This is quintessential New York and it's lovely with big trees, a sizable rectangle of green grass and much, much bigger buildings around the park.

Two white haired ladies, quietly sitting on bar stools, having summery drinks and a light supper. Four bartenders working their trim butts off keeping up with the ever faster and more frantic orders as the crowd grows denser. The crowd is almost entirely 30- and 40-something "suit" types, far more men than women. Upon our arrival the crowd was sparse and not loud, within 40 minutes it had grown dense -- 4 or 5 deep and necessarily loud because that many people don't need to be rowdy to become loud, they simply have to make themselves heard.

A younger version of myself would have been extremely self-conscious as one of those two "older ladies". The current version of myself barely paid attention to all those guys except to notice that it was a Thursday night -- not even Friday, and the guys were apparently not there to pick up women, they were just drinking and chatting. We might have been more comfortable at a table in the smoking discouraged portion of the rooftop but I share Ellen's principles if not habits and believe people should be able to enjoy legal substances if they so desire. Just now Ellen is not living in NYC and I almost never am a part of this kind of scene [nor is she] but we did not feel unwelcome and enjoyed the evening. We both remember the slogan "Baby, you've dome a long way." We are where we are and that is good.

NOTE: Friends, I DO know that the flowers above are purple irises. I also have a photo of yelow irises but I don't like the photo much.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

UFOs and Plans

In a week the last Empire Guild meeting of the year will take place. I look forward to the annual member's sale because a couple of menbers have access to some quite wonderful fabrics and sell them at astonishingly low prices. Heaven knows I need more fabrics like I need a case of leprosy; but I'm already looking forward to finding some irresistable bargains.

Meanwhile I'm sitting here in sight of the UFO pile which is [except for the ancient UFOs that are well hidden] amassing in their own zippered plastic bags beside my sewing table. Some are PUFOs, which is to say "Planned Unfinished Objects", some with one or more of their future fabrics chosen. There are half a dozen. Plus I've just made my first "I Spy" quilt for a child, i.e., for the charity project of my guild, except it needs a final border, backing and quilting I'm about 70% sure I have fabric that will be appropriate but am not sure what part of the stash it might be in.

I have a variation of a Drunkards Path begun and will plod along with it [I need over 200 of the basic 3-1/2 blocks]. Meanwhile in the newest Quilters Newsletter there's an article by Barbara Barber [who spoke at our guild only three weeks ago] with an easier method of making Drunkards Path blocks. No, I'm not chucking what I have done so far although I considered it for some hours. I'll add Barbara's article to my pile of PUFOs because it'll have to stand in line behind the plans for a reversible quilt as I learned about the month before from Sharon Peterson. So it goes. PLUS I have two ambitious projects that are too pie-in-the-sky right now to even put in writing, each has A LOT of pieces.

The brain is racing/revving and about to go in orbit. I am almost never at a loss for ideas. I'm a loss or sheer time. It's a good state to be in.

The above flowers were also at the Conservatory garden. I'm not asking what they are but if anyone wants to tell me I'd not mind. Many thanks to Sue who's been identifying flowers And thanks, too, to Jane, who told me that another name for the allium is "Persian Stars." I've seen the decoration on some beautiful mosques in Turkey, Egypt and Morocco -- not Persia [now Iraq]. Their use of blue abstract designs is magnificent and that flower echos that beauty.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial [Decoration] Day

Today is Memorial Day. The media was full of the usual militaristic platitudes. As I was going down the elevator this morning one of the older residents got in with a younger man who was probably a nephew, I heard the older man say as they were entering "we called it decoration day."

Observing the usual decorum [which I might not do if it were someone I wanted to get into a conversation with but I'm happy ignoring this guy] I didn't say what I thought which was "that's what we called it too." When I was small this was the day we drove to the cemetery in Dry Ridge, Kentucky where my father's parents and four brothers who died young [too young for the military] had been buried. If the peonies had come into bloom we took a bunch with us. The cemetery was beside a small church. My parents took clippers and cut the grass around the graves and "decorated" them with the peonies, or maybe with whatever was blooming. After some years, I suppose when the deaths had become older memories, we stopped going.

We were not a family that told stories. I know Uncle Shorty died in his twenties of TB, the three who died younger I suppose died in a flu epidemic but I don't really know. My father's parents couldn't have been over 60 when they died, both before I started grade school. [Dad was second oldest in the family of seven] I don't think they died in accidents, it must have been disease. I suppose their graves are never "decorated" anymore. I'm sure my own parents graves which are quite close to where my brother lives are not "decorated." It has become a meaningless holiday for all of us. The flowers above were at the Conservatory garden, they were familiar although I don't know their name either. I'm limited to roses, lilies, tulips, daisies and other truly common flowers.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

red/black/white quilt

I was asked to make a red and black quilt with white for friends to sign names on. Great! Red and black are wonderfully dramatic. The idea is a very traditional one, signatures of friends. But I was stumped, not being artistically trained, about how to balance three strong colors pleasingly. Various ideas flitted through my fevered brain and I began leafing throuhg my shelf of books and my box of archives magazines ... when in utter doubt copy someone else's good idea. Seems a good maxim to me. Though I would attribute it if the picture had had an attribution to pass on.

Thus I arrived at a wonderful picture of a "hole in the barn door" or sometimes called "churn dash" pattern just like in this picture. I loved it, it felt right in all respects. Better yet, I had a black with a tiny white vine pattern on it that greys it down enough to make it subtle and I had a delicious cerise -- yes, truly cherry red, probably my favorite shade of red -- and I had a slightly ecru extra wide with truly ecru little leaves on it. So nothing is the harsh solid that I often dislike using.

Some portions could be strip pieced for speed, relatively speaking, especially the little four-patch squares and part of the churn dash pattern. But really, most of the piecing was sweat shop work which I have spent the week doing and am glad to have finished. I am not going to do the quilting, it will be sent to a long arm quilter. So this is a picture of the top spread out on my bed. I think it will have a wonderful traditional quality when it is all quilted and even more when there are signatures in the white spaces. This is the best kind of UFO, one that will get finished without my further work. Like many productions, it was a lot time chaos of imagination and then not so long in the making.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I'm no botanist

I went over to the Conservatory Garden this morning because we've had a week of "won't spring ever come?" weather. The sun was wonderful. The garden, unfortunately was being prepared for a new planting but it still had it's beautiful parts. So I spent a wonderful hour there partly working on the Times Sunday crossword puzzle and wondering if they're going through an especially hard phase or I'm entering an especially dumb phase ... although I've got to say a lot of clues have to do with both pop music and James Bond movies and I'm a fan of neither therefore 90% ignorant [the 10 percent I've sort of picked up from ambient ads and such].

Anyway, I saw this flower there, probably a year ago, and here it is again -- unlike any flower whose name I know or that is at all familiar to me. From the stem lots of little stem-lets [pardon my unscientific description] radiate into a ball shape, each with a star-like flower on it, It looks like a globe of stars. It's amazing. There was no sign with a name as sometimes there is. If any of my handful of readers knows what this is, I hope you'll leave a comment and tell me. If you click the picture it will enlarge considerably.

On the comment subject, I want to tell God's Rock Angel, who I know is a considerate and interesting young woman from England with whom I've corresponded, that I appreciate her comments and couldn't find a way to respond to her directly [via email] as I wanted. She's not a Mozart fan, as her moniker would suggest. I'm sure the music she likes has good qualities but I hope if she ever breaks a bone or needs hospital care, that she'll try out some Mozart while recovering. There are specific qualities to his music, says, the good doctor in the Times article, that spur the healing hormones' development. The doctor says that he listens to Mozart when he's operating [he's a brain surgeon, I believe] because it makes him calm; but at other times he listens to more contemporary music.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Another quiltie

A few days ago I showed my "Coq au Vin" quiltie with the receipe written in the backgruound and two plumb cocks standing unsuspectingly in the foreground. This is an example of my occasionally mordant sense of humor. But the quiltie wasn't for me it was for a swap partner. I read her profile and she's a shining example of the kind of green, aware, caring sort of person we need to multiply by the thousands. She doesn't say she's a vegetarian but I began to think she might not at all like the implications so I decided to make another quiltie -- having found some samples of the chicken fabric in different color ways.

So I made this which is called "Big Red Take the Speckled Lady to a Wine Tasting." I think it's definitely kinder and gentler ... and certainly we need more kindess and gentleness in life. I've sent both to the woman actually. I still am not comfy with the small size but I have found that one can have fun even when working 5x5 inches.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mozart Effect Redux

Just a week ago I heard a talk by a brain scientist debunking the "Mozart effect" that excited parents of babies a few years ago. It said that playing Mozart to your baby, even prenatally, and during first few years would make the child smarter. So all kinds of people jumped on the bandwagon, including nursery schools. Now they say, No! One small misunderstood study was never replicated and your kids aren't smarter.

BUT - ah-ha! Now a German neurosurgeon who is also a classically trained pianist and has a Ph.D. in Philosophy as well as medicine and music [Something made him smart!] has shown that Mozart's music, in particular, aids healing after surgery, lowers the pain pereption and calms people. He's even found the mechanism which is a certain growth hormone. I love it!! Maybe music isn't magic but it certainly is marvelous. Mozart is very marvelous, so are Beethoven, Schubert, and so on and on and on ... something really marvelous could happen if some of those kids with the primitive, pounding beats blasting through their gray matter from the IPod buttons in their ears, were replaced by a bit of Mozart. I think they would at least SEEM smarter and surely calmer and more peaceful. Wouldn't that be marvelous?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Blocks for Breast Cancer Research Project

A woman on the Swap-bot site suggested making blocks for the ongoing project of quilts using the specially designed pink ribbon fabric. Her nearest quilt shop supplies the fabric in fat quarters and then gathers the finished blocks and puts them together into quilts, backs and quilts them and then they are auctioned with money going to breast cancer research.

When I received the fabric I envisioned doing two of Carol Doak's wonderful paper piced stars with the pink ribbon background fabric. So I made the first one. But realized there wasn't going to be enough pink ribbon fabric for a second background so made the second block which is a bit dark but the fabric was used and I hope it will be okay. I do greatly enjoy making these stars. From Carol Doak's Fifty Fabulous Paper Pieced Stars there are still 15 or more that I haven't made -- guess I need another project.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Test your tongue

I've had a fun day doing some quilting that I'll have a pix of tomorrow. But for a break I've been Googling and surfing because I'm on the brink of starting a new blog that will be about NOT being over the hill but having gone over the mountain to see what I can see from the other side of the mountain -- if you're old enough to remember this little ditty, good, watch for a blog called The Other Side of the Mountain which I'll get started in a week or two. Meanwhile I came upon a fun lady whose blog you can click here She had a little mind game which I've plagerized. See if you can read aloud the following sequence of semi-nonsense sentences at a glance without stumbling:

This is this cat.

This is is cat.

This is how cat.

This is to cat.

This is keep cat.

This is an cat.

This is old cat.

This is fart cat.

This is busy cat.

This is for cat.

This is forty cat.

This is seconds cat.

So -- how many stumbles? I'll admit to one. Take that however you like. Now, read down the column but read only the third word in each line.

Tomorrow we get serious again.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Dangerous Earth

Spring is playing peek-a-boo -- a nice day or two and then damp, gray, weather like yesterday and today an the threatened weekend. But this is time to get some small quilting done - One more quiltie, with picture to follow tomorrow, and a couple of quilted postcards and then I will make one, and possibly two blocks (12x12) for the Breast Cancer project. At my request I was sent some of the pink ribbon fabric which will be used with other fabrics -- another Carol Doak star -- or two. Time consuming but satisfying. Along with a great many more blocks,quilts will be made and auctioned for research.

While sewing there is plenty of thought time and what I've been thinking about as I wake mornings hearing news is of the general fierceness of this earth we live on. Yes, I feel quite save (although I've heard of a fault line that runs under the Con Ed plant just across the river in Queens -- a scary thought when hearing people in Illinois who never felt a earthquake before speak of their homes shaking.

But that's nothing compared, of course, to what happens in countries where few buildings are at all earthquake proof -- as in central China. The tolls are astonishing, 50 thousand there, 100 thousand killed by a cyclone in Myanmar and aid to the victims so badly -- stupidly -- handled. And then there are the tornados all over the central part of the US -- in Florida too and the auxillary problems that appear -- like the toxic waste strewn about so one of the towns is un-rebuildable. It just keeps adding up -- a volcano exploding in Chile ...These things are probably not global warming but the usual convulsions of the earth that have gone on since the beginning. It is a dangerous planet. Once in a while we need to have a thought to the big, big picture and then withdrawn snail-like to our little selves and consider our good fortune and the every present possibility of disaster. Then find a balance -- if you can.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Two days, two quilties, too small

As the title says, I've made two quilties in the last two days, each took over an hour from picking out fabic to putting on fusable web to completion. I'm far from overwhelmed with either their appearance or my feeling about making them. The first one, the Coq au Vin has nothing going for it but a slightly macabre sense of humor -- the recipe calling for two three-pound chikens cut in pieces and the two very proud looking birds never suspecting they might become coq au vin for a dinner party. Such is man's inhumanity to chickens. Alas! The piece is a simple bit of fabric collage with the beginning of the recipe penned on the background with permanent Sharpie.

The second is also a simple fabric collage, I received many quite interesting cuts of fabric from an Australia woman yesterday. Of them a bubble gum pink piece with black and white skulls and these too pretty women with Medusa style hair-dos of snakes was the only one that I thought pretty horrible. Rather than throw it away, I decided to do something with the Medusa, so here she is, on a different background, quilted in a random way and surrounded by a black print border and by some of the black, red and green string with which the bundle of fabrics was tied.

What I have learned in this small experiment with quilties is that my imagination doesn't go much beyond quite simple-minded fabric collage. I kind of enjoy it putting together - but enjoy more so in a larger format where I have the space to do more with both pattern and embellishment, at least 12x12 or larger. These may become my total output in the world of quilties. No great loss any way you look at it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Quilties, Inchies and other wee wonders

I'm a bit of a word watcher, a touch of the Lynn Truss sydrome [you know, Eats, Shoots and Leaves] I've lately seen a bunch of words turned "cutesy". I am now acquainted with "envies and addies" which are envelopes and addresses. I was truly befuddled about "inchies" -- one inch finished mini fabric art. Quilt Arts actually had an article on them. Why? I wonder, unless it's to be maybe jewelry, a pin or hanging on a necklace -- how about a necklace of inchie charms? Umm. I feel no appeal just as I've so far felt no urge to do ATCs [Artist's Trading Cards] which are about 2x3 and have become hugely popular among "artsy" types.

Quilties are a little more appealing and I'm about to make one and see how it feels. They are 5x5, finished. Partly their in-utility puts me off. What do you DO with little pieces, even if they are art and I believe some surely are [tho' mine aren't likely to be]. But the overall area is similar to quilted post cards which I have enjoyed making I plan to make more in the near future. And I think I'll have a go at a quiltie very shortly, like right after I have a big of supper, I have an idea ... We'll see, maybe I can post a picture of a quiltie tomorrow.

By the way, my Lynn Truss type peeve is "their" which I find used even in the New York Times and in books from major publishers as a singular or all purpose pronoun. I shudder every time I see it used that way - it's plural. Period. It refers to more than one person and almost all the dreadful sentences in which it is used incorrectly could be very simply restated so the writer or speaker wouldn't need a pronoun at all. End of mini-rant.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Empire Guild meeting

Our Empire Guild meeting today was, as always, a chance to see a lot of interesting quilts and get some inspiration -- and another frustration at winning nothing in the raffle! Ah, well.

The speaker was Barbara Barber from the U.K who had her CATS quilts which is a true tour de force of appleque -- eight extremely complex cats, and some 600 small, probably no two alike flowers around the cats. The amount of work that went into that quilt is so staggering I cannot imagine it. This picture is of an earlier quilt which has a somewhat similar format. It is part of a permanent collection at [I think I'm correct] the American Quilt Society Museum in Padukah, KY. Imagine these animals all being cats, each different, each a true to life portrait, but surrounded by a field of flowers. Barbara was called one of the 30 best living quilters by a Japanese group -- and the Japanese are consummate quilt craftswomen so to give someone else that designation is a great honor! Barbara showed us several other quilts; I did not see a personal style or statement in her work but I did see amazing passion for doing the best she could on every project she makes. Our own Quilter of the Month was Sandra Samaniegro. I've enjoyed her many quilts at show & tell - also enjoy her person style which is usually wonderful bright and complex jackets. She makes wall quilts, not bed quilts, and uses all kinds of techniques. For her quilting is clearly a playful and joyous creative outlet -- no deep angst about making things perfect, she makes things because they are fun and fulfilling. In truth, I prefer her style to Barbara's but that is because her approach is so much more like my own.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

One More time

Here I go again; the nine-patch that will be cut up and rearranged. While no two nine-patch blocks are alike, becaues the squares on the four corners are somewhat random -- well, that's being disingenous because actually I gave a fair amount of thought to what I was doing even though I realized I didn't know how it would turn out. But all blocks have a square in the middle with a white background so the final quilt will have pairs of white background popping out. And the "cross bars" i.e., blocks 2,4, 6 and 8 have a tonal consistency, light or dark so when it is cut up I'll have a rhythm of rectangles that are either light or dark. This is a different tonal pattern than I used in previous ones of this design, kind of an experiment to see how it will finally look.
Currently I'm sleeping under the first one that I made which is blues with oranges. It was 4x5 blocks and it is a little too short. So this one will be 4x6 and then long enough counting whatever border I put on. Live and learn, right? Except, even when I lay out four sewn together blocks, I don't have a full perception of how it's going to look. But that's fine with me. Much of what I like about doing purely patchwork quilts is the surprise of the finished product. As I make the bed each morning and pause a moment to study the first one of this small series I discover new things about the rhythms of the colors. All unintentional and probably someone with art school training would find many faults. I'm trying to train my eye and sensiblity but I will never look at a quilt, or other piece of craft or even at fine art, with anything like the discernment I think I bring to the books I read. Some geniuses have been true polymaths, but I'm not a genius and there's no hope of being a polymath, even a very limited one, at my age. So I look at these creations, finished or in the process and try to approach them with a sense of play. I am certainly not going to beat myself up for not having color theory inbedded in my intellect. I'm eager to see what this one will finally look like and if, when the blocks are together I decide that some addition is needed. I wonder already what it could be.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

No Sewing, New Reading

I've been busy all weekend, although some of that busyness included a lot of news reading -- and gee wilikers, I haven't begun the NYTimes Sunday crossword puzzle that I usually do on Saturday night. So I admit, I've not only been reading papers, I'm reading a novel by Paul Auster, The Book of Illusions -- Auster has been recommended to me by a couple of friends and I've resisted him. Still doing some fault finding as I read but curious enough about how he'll resolve the double story he tells in this book, so that I actually forgot about my usual crossword habit last night.

I don't read Time Magazine, but saw on a blog that in their 100 Most Influential People issue they call the Dalai Lama the MOST influential person in the world ... So if anyone dares tell a couple of Chinese Big Men about that they may have a bit more irritation to set their stomachs churning. I may have to buy this issue of Time, it seems many of the influential people have been asked to write essays about others of the group - an interesting twist that could make some unexpected little essays. I think i'll finish off just a couple of other things and do the crossword puzzle.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Starting another quilt, poem

Today's photos are from a day when spring really was here. Today is gray, damp and chilly but I know it IS spring. [A blog from Mongolia that I read reports a full scale blizzard in Ulan Bator - I guess that makes today balmy].

No photo yet worth posting but I started yet another nine-patch quilt to be chopped up and put back together -- this really is becoming a series. I had an idea very clearly in mind before I went to my stash and pulled out the bag of greens [I store fabrics by color in the zipped plastic bags that comforters or sheet sets come in] The more squares I cut the more I realized my mental idea wasn't going to work, the fabric patterns are too various. As I've been puttin together the 9 patch squares today I realize my visual imagination is simply not up to visualizing how this is going to look when cut up and sewn back together. It's a humbling thought but not a new one. There's a flip side [glass half full!] which is that I will be free to decide if it needs additions as the previous one did the parrots. Don't know yet.

Poetry month is over but I really didn't do a good job of posting poems during April. Another comes my way from daughter Rachel who heard it read yesterday, she thought I would know it and only gave me the title. I didn't know it but found not one, but two versions with a Google search. It's The Piano by D.H. Lawrence - interesting to click on this
link and read both versions. Rachel says it reminds her of being a little girl and hearing me playing the piano in the living room while she danced in the kitchen -- I didn't know she was in there dancing but I'm glad she was.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


This has been bothering me for a couple of days. Like most people I read the awful story of the Austrian who kept his daughter locked up for 24 years. A day or two later I read the AOL blog listing -- bloggers who reacted to the news. I think there were 17 listed and more but I couldn't bear to go on. Nearly all the bloggers showed their righteous indignation and holier than thou emotions by calling for horrible punishments. Thee was so much cumulative violence in the blogs it was almost as sickening as the man's evil. I very recently read Gandhi's comment that if we practice and eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth we will soon live in a world of blind, toothless people. How easy it is to call for death sentences ano but any kind of vio ence only perpetuates more violence.

In the history of civilization, societies have, so far as I know, always had methods of dealing with deviants, people whose actions were understood to be unacceptable to the society. Often it was exile which, during primatie times was s de facto death sentene. But that was within the rules of the society. These bloggers seen not to understand that Austria, like the United States, is a country that believes in the rule of law. The crime has been discovered, the man arrested, the victims are being cared for, society is dealing with this sick and horrible man. I will not say the bloggers should practice compassion -- they seem incapable of that and if they protest it would be wrong, I understand. But they should consider their own knee-jerk rsactions which were inherently violent and their public stances. Have they made themselvs happier or improved the world in any way with their vicious anger? Can their condemnation help the victims? Can such calls for violence perpetuate a better world?

I will add that one blogger's ugly anti-Semitic post was quickly denounced by others as was appropriate. But, like this ignoramous, many of the other bloggers were ill or incompletely informed; they simply tapped out their anger before they knew quite what they were talking about. I've waited a couple days and it has continued to bother me. Have people forgotten entirely about Plato's "Know thyself?"