Monday, September 29, 2008


I've realized I must make a choice. I have eight of each set of diamonds: dark blue and deep orange, and green with orange/yellow. The inner set is only 8 but the next row around is 16 -- so which will it be? What arrangement will I use? No design wall and crappy light for photos. But here are the choices.

I think it will be the above with the final row of half-diamonds in a tourquoise-y color. That's how I'm leaning at the moment. Originally I thought it would be exciting to start with a firey center and cooler colors on out toward the edge. That still kind of appeals to me. I'm going to think about this for a couple of days.
The picture that inspired me really used only two color sets, very dark and very light. I liked it but I have a somewhat contrary need to do something different. Lots of people don't like orange and don't collect fabrics in that range. For a long time I didn't like orange or yellow very much but in the last few years I've become fond of both and I really like the contrast with both blue and green. If any readers have thoughts I'd love to hear them. However, as the "fine print" usually says, all rights are reserved [by me] to make my own decision even if it is contrary to every one else's and even if it's the dumbest possible.

I'm trying to keep in mind that there is yet one more color to piece and then the matter of border[s] -- that could make a big difference in the eventual overall appearance. Ah ... choices, choices. Well, one thing at a time.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Our Mother's Daughters

Don't most mothers have irritating ticks or habits that daughters swear they will NEVER have? I'm thinking of a two -- or is it three? -- generational habit. I remember my mother's annoyance when she had given her mother a gift, something gramma needed, say socks or a hat or underwear. But a year later the items were in a drawer unused. I also remember giving my mother things I took trouble to be sure was her kind of thing, a sweater in her favorite color or towels to match the bathroom ... and a year later I found them still unused. I'll never do that, said I. Well I haven't with gifts. Truly I try to use gifts. But my own purchases seem to be an other matter which I've just realized.

The above slippers were purchased by me in a Turkish bazaar, on a trip about 7 or 8 years ago. I loved them when I purchased them but for some reason I did not start wearing them until last winter. Now they're what I slip into when I'm done with the day shoes. Comfortable and they bring back a whole batch of delightful memories about all of that trip to Turkey which was a wonderful country -- and the food! Fantastic! And then there was the hamam... A story of another sort.

Only in the last two or three months have I started wearing the robe below. It was purchased about five years ago in a small town in northern Thailand from a small family industry. I love the memory of watching gramma in a back courtyard stirring fabric in a huge dye pot where she had cooked up the indigo from plants in the garden. The newly died fabric comes out a mossy green and turns indigo as it dries on the lines stretched across the courtyard. Near-by a son was sitting in an open-sided shelter with a pot of melted wax on a warming plate, dipping a stamp into the wax and stamping fabric to be batik dyed. He had shelves of stamps, wooden, hand carved ones, behind him. In the main building the ground floor was for local women who came many hours a day to sew the fabric into garments or table clothes or napkins. And on the floor above, daughter [or daughter-in-law] and granddaughter who was in her teens, ran the shop which sold items to customers like our small group. So that's where and when I purchased this lovely robe.

So why did these nice items sit in the closet unused for several years? Damned if I know but it may be genetic. Feeling something should be saved until it's really needed -- or wanted. Now I'm enjoying both and I'm very happy to have so many good memories.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Paper Piecing Again - 900 pieces

This star is going to take a long time yet -- it was put aside for a couple of months. But I'm back to it and remembering how much I enjoy paper piecing. The diamonds are not sewn together, only pinned. The current arrangement may not be the final one, I have several choices at this early stage. You can see the original that inspired me and if you click the photo, you can see that it says "900 piece quilt" And so it will be in the fullness of time. At some later point I'll put it together in a couple of different ways and perhaps solicit opinions.

Plato said, "Know thyself." I have been trying, with limited success most of my life. As I returned to paper piecing this afternoon I wondered why does someone like "Moi" who really doesn't like fussy quilts so much enjoy these paper piecesd ones -- this and all the Carol Doak stars I've done and ones I hope yet to do [I have her latest set of Mariner's stars]? I had no startling insights except that, as the much fussier quilters know, there's a wonderful sense of accomplishment when the points are crisp and the seams meet as they should. On this one I can use a great variety of fabrics, at this point I've used 34 different ones and will use at least another ten or twelve

So now I've shown a picture of what I'm doing and said it will take a long time yet, so this won't reappear for quite some time but I will be working on it. And may work on another concurrently. Being a Gemini it is impossible to be truly single minded, which is why I'm usually reading three to five books at any one time. This habit of juggling many balls in the air at one time may be why I can barely remember being bored except for brief periods when my work my be boring for a day or two.

P.S. I really don't believe in astrology. But I think something happens when we are fairly young and read that we are a certain type, as I did about being a Gemini. It sounded pretty good and so I chose to believe it and live up to it. Don't most of us pick up those definitions of ourselves from whatever source ["just like her father."]? I tried to explain once that it in the Tibetan system or reincarnation, it doesn't matter whether outsiders believe in reincarnated teachers and high lamas, they are told that from early childhood and that's what they are. So the Dalai Lama IS the Dalai Lama. And I am a Gemini. What are you? And who told you so?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wal-Mart Fabric, quilting notions

I've just read that Wal-Mart is phasing out it's fabric and qulting notions departments, starting, apparently in the South but planning to stop carrying them everywhere. Why should I care? There's no Wal-Mart in Manhattan and none within my usual sphere of travel. But there's a big one near my family in Indiana and it's always a destination when I visit there [once a year or so]. I know their fabric wasn't top quality but then I'm happy enough with non=top quality fabric either for backing of charity quilts or for small amounts in other quilts. And I am far from a batting snob tho' I like 70% cotton for nice quilts rather than polyester.

It's just that I feel discriminated against by some "power-that-decides" out there in the retail realms. I had he same feeling when Woolworths folded, not just fabric but entirely. And even earlier -- maybe few people remember this -- but when the big department stores stopped carrying fabrics and then Sears followed. As quilters we are in the millions. Yes, the fine fabrics at good quilt shops are gorgeous and probably worth the $8 to $15 a yard being asked. But I'm a stingy one who has always preferred true scrap quilts to well planned, color coordinated ones.

And while I'm groaning and moaning I discovered some months ago that Barnes & Noble which for years had a couple of shelves of quilting books has reduced the size of their selections drastically and seem to have replaced them with knitting books. I feel betrayed. It's like the big world out there has thumbed its nose at my favorite passtime. Well, I might just have to thumb my nose back at them.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

40 lashes with a wet noodle

I spent several hours this morning sewing and mentally lashing myself at least 40 times with a wet noodle. My contemporaries might remember advice columnist Ann Landers who decreed that punishment for egregious stupidity. I was quilting this child's I Spy quilt. It's the only I Spy quilt I've made because my first mistake some months ago was agreeing to a swap of 6x6" squares for such a quilt. I'm a stodgy old fuddy-duddy who doesn't like most cartoon characters. A few of these 24 squares are whimsical and attractive. Most are awful. But I'm thrifty, if it's "perfectly good" I think it should be used. That comes from my childhood. As poet John Ashbury famously wrote "Your mom and dad, they fuck you up." Mostly I think they did a decent job but this thrift thing ... well, it can be extreme and egregiously stupid at times.

The squares arrived and I sewed them together. Mistake #2: I assume they were all properly 6x6, but a few weren't which I didn't notice until it was being put together. Mistake #3, I went ahead and put them together. I didn't like how it looked so it went into the UFO pile. In time I found a blue and white calico for backing. Yesterday I found that calico was six inches too short. I pinned it together with batting and decided to do it today, adding whatever I could find to piece the back, which I didn't really want to do. The front was bad enough, why make the back a hodge-podge too? Then I remembered another piece of fabric that was languishing -- no, stash doesn't languish, it awaits it's moment to step forward and save the day.

This morning I unpinned the calico and pinned the new backing, a strip that strangely does seem to work okay and I even had about 10 inches extra. What I SHOULD have done, though, is look seriously at the top and admit to myself that I don't like it. Really just don't like it. So why should I spend time and effort, backing and batting on it?
I SHOULD have just folded it nicely and added it to the Goodwill bag. They could, possibly sell it to someone who likes kiddie cartoons and doesn't mind that some squares are only about 5-1/2 square. Or they could have used it to lay on a table and put contributed dishes on top, or just use it to wrap donated T-shirts in.

But No. I'm thrifty - and wasted a few hours this morning sewing and lashing myself mentally for wasting a beautiful midday on something I did not like and did not enjoy and thus also doing a lousy job quilting. Finally I was so irritated at myself I left it in need of simple quilting on the border and binding -- the backing will be turned to the front. It'll take maybe a couple hours tomorrow and I'll still probably give it to Goodwill because I would be embarrassed to give it to my guild's charity committee -- they know lousy work when they see it and many people in the world do not. Now that's a disgustingly smug and condescending attitude -- forty more lashes have already been applied I assure you. I'm going to try, try, try very hard to remember that I don't have time to waste and when something is going badly, I should just get rid of it. It's only fabric and not very much of it really. [I have finally learned to throw pencils in the garbage when they get shorter than three inches -- an advance in the fight against needless thrift].

So I finally quit because we're having incredibly lovely weather. It was NOT a waste of time, after I did the errands I needed to do, to sit in the Shakespeare Garden in Central Park and read the new issue of Quilters Newsletter Magazine. Here's a lovely flower that was among the many in the late season abundance of growth, some of which looked like weeds to me but everything there was mentioned by the Bard and is therefore cherished by the gardeners. I have to keep my priorities in line. Habit gets in the way but a 72 degree autumn day with a cobalt sky demands to be enjoyed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blogs to Enjoy

Surfing blogs where I "lurk" [that is usually read but seldom if ever leave comments] because I'm feeling a bit lazy for the couple of hours I have before I go out this evening. I read the blog in the side bar called American Living in Japan -- a comment on the good ole boys of Wall Street scratching each other's backs as they bail one another out. I like his note that an expenditure larger than the annual budgets of some countries as just happened with absolutely no Congressional oversight. Think about that! Read it and lurk too.

On a cheerier side is the wonderful blog by the American Monk in Mongolia who is actually in Maryland USA at the moment, writing about rescued parrots with neat photos.

And for the quilters, go to Helen Conway who is always entertaining and read her last two or three blog posts about focusing. I don't know if she's a Gemini, but as a Gemini myself the only way I can approach anything like focus is to deny myself many things that interest me. No knitting or ATCs, no tai chi or reading genre writing. 'taint easy narrowing the time consuming wanna-dos. Helen has a great quote about focusing. So click, click is my advice for the day.

Reversible Quilt fnished!

The reversilbe, selvage quilt is finally finished! I estimated two more hours -- make that nearly three But it's done! And I like it. If I didn't have three, make that four, UFOs "in progress" -- make that 'waiting in their plastic bags -- I would immediately begin another.
The next one will, I think, be a log cabin arrangement of the selvages and probably red on the back as I have a couple of pieces of red I'm nuts about and want to use in the near future. But as things are going, I REALLY want to get on with two of the UFOs in particular possibly for the spring show of the Empire Guild. [And entre nous, I have another idea in mind but haven't even started.]

Anyway, this is done -- okay, so I still have to write on the label, but it's sewn in place and writing will take only a couple of minutes. The name of the quilt, by the way is "Thanks to Karen and Sharon" which refers to Karen Griska who wrote the book about selvages quilting and Sharon Pederson who wrote a book about double sided quilts with the kind of stripping between squares you see here. I followed Sharon's directions, not quite as precisely as I should have, but next time I will. This is a "test case".
I'm all set for the next selvage quilt because some wonderful people I do not know personally have sent me envelopes of selvages. I am itching to use them but as I said, I do have some discipline and will finish at least two UFOs and probably two or three charity quilts which I want to contribute to the guild's charity project before Christmas because they go to very needy, usually homeless children living in shelters.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

People are more important than hobbies

I haven't QUITE finished the reversible/selvage quilt -- I thought it would be done today but I'm pooping out with one border and the binding to do. That's two hours and I've made an "executive decision" -- since I'm the CEO of my time -- that I will have a long sweetly scented bath and read the rest of the evening instead of spending those couple of hours finishing the quilt.

As the title suggests, I got side tracked, which is just fine. A friend was here the last couple days. I truly believe people come before hobbies. Actually I hate the word "hobby" but I've finally admitted that quilting IS a hobby. It is a delightful, even obsessive aside in my life. People and writing come first -- although I use the quilting to procrastinate about a major writing project that is to me so major it's terrifying because it's an important story I may not have the skill to tell. But I'll never know if I don't do my best and suceed or fail.

But I digress. As said repeatedly, everything in quilting takes longer than you think. I had a nice clear three hours this afternoon and thought that would be enough time to finish the quilt. No. I worked steadily and can foresee two more hours. I'm tired because I've worked the last two days AND stayed up a couple hours later than usual chattering my head off -- and listening too, because my visitor is a smart, very thoughtful woman and we see each other seldom. And I think I'm becoming more garrulous as I get older -- well, what the hell? I've got more life under my belt and more information and a whole truck load of opinions and it's great to talk with someone with the same credentials and her own specialties because of course, we've lived different lives in different places. Actually people have always come before most other things; maybe it's lucky there are not so very many people in my life. I AM able to carve out self-time as well. As of now, that's the nice hot bath.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Empire Quilters, speaker, Helen Squire

For many years I've been reading, or often skipping, Helen Squire's articles in American Quilter Magazine about quilting -- I don't mean generic quilting -- I mean the actual work that quilts the three layers together. She prints very attractive patterns; she has quite a number of books of quilt patterns and about quilting. I understand that she's a well recognized expert. But to tell the truth I was not excited about hearing her at the first meeting of the Empire Quilters this afternoon.

Why not? Because I know myself to be a somewhat sloppy quilter who doesn't much like rules and I knew she has a lot of thou shalt nots and thou must dos. And she did. But she is a very accomplished speaker and she brought a collection of mostly antique quilts some of which were truly stunning. Some had the amazing stories, like the cheddar gold one that dates to 1830 and appears to be in beautiful shape although she says the farbic has many small round holes in it. And the final piece de resistance which was from the 19th century, made of satin collected from a factory that made men's top hats and lined them with brilliant satins. The eye popping colors were stunning. Perhaps some will be posted on the Empire Quilters website in the next week or ten days -- I don't know if Helen has rules about what can be published. She has a lot of rules, she's a definite type A, but I suggest checking the website which is in the sidebar.

In about the same amount of time the many show and tell quilts will be posted also and are really beautiful. So many people were busy photographing them and standing in my line of sight that I am eager to see them posted so I can look at them in peace -- since the small photos are clickable and they enlarge -- it will be a really nice quilt show. I had hoped to finish my reversible quilt but that old rule, "everything takes longer than you think" was in force. I have a very real hope of finishing it tomorrow.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reminders of 9/11

The monarch butterfly on the previous post, and less so, the many other butterflies I've quilted, mostly on postcards, are very private reminders of this anniversary. We all, New Yorkers and the rest of the country, dealt with the trauma of that day in personal ways. Mine was to write a long private poem adding onto it for ten days, and naming it simply enough "Ten Days in September". On the tenth day I was walking in Riverside Park with a friend when we noticed that the late rose bushes were full of monarch butterflies. We spoke about their migration to Mexico and the amazement we felt that these delicate creatures could accomplish such a feat. They became for me an example of the persistence of life force and made up the conclusion of my poem.

Another poem had to follow months later because that was the year of the killing frost in the Mexican forest where the monarchs congregate by the millions. And they died by the millions. That renewed the sadness I felt about the loss in September. The butterflies have recovered and still return to Mexico and finally new buildings are going up downtown, but today New Yorkers and millions of people around the world remain sad. I have other thoughts that are more appropriate for my other blog that will be written later today.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The "Too Much Crap" syndrome

Evelyn wrote a very thoughtful comment on my post of two days ago. She apologized for giving me a case of angst and then wrote about the angst my angst inspired in her. I think an occasional fit of angst is a good thing, especially when it pushes us to self-examination. She used the term we've all used -- usually when cleaning closets -- "too much crap."

I know this is not a purely American syndrome but I think there's a lot of it in a very large majority of American households, even in many where the income is quite low. We are conditioned day after day to want stuff. Lots of stuff. New stuff. And it piles up. We may love it or we may not. I think of a coworker saying to me a long time ago, a man, because I think women would not be perplexed as he was, "How many shoes DO you have?" More than I need, always is the answer. But never as many as I kind of want.

My complaints here are usually about lack of sewing space and my studio envy. I admit to it but when I have those moments of angst I know it's a knee jerk and unnecessary complaint as I've also written. I choose to live in a NYC apartment. I could choose to live in a house somewhere else or a larger apartment (but not in NYC). The space I have all to myself is generous and more than adequate when I think of homes I have been in in other countries -- a Mongolian ger, a single round room for a family of 5 or 6. A stone farmhouse which was really one room in Tibet for a family of four plus the wife's sister, a tent in the Sahara for a widow and three children, with barely enough room to stand up. They did not have accumulations of crap. They did not have overflowing bookshelves, or fifteen or more bottles of spice and many extra wine glasses, let alone three raincoats. Not to mention a stash of fabric and I do not even know how many completed quilts.

I am trying to clear out the excess but I am Scottish by background so I can't throw useful stuff in the garbage. I haul bags of stuff to thrift shops, to Goodwill. Still there's too much crap. And every time I open a shelter magazine I see beautiful things and think it's good we are not all rich. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would give into impulse buying if there were places to store the stuff. This is, I suppose why so many of we Americans are getting obese -- there is just so much stuff to eat! We seem to have mostly bought Gordon Gecko's mantra, "Greed is good." I wonder if ministers ever preach against accumulating too many shoes or to many bath towels or too many toys for our babies. Does anyone speak of frugality as a good? It was one a Yankee trait, I believe.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A Walking Quilt

I got into an elevator this afternoon and saw a young woman who lives in this building, but who is very quiet and never speaks, so, with the New York etiquette, I don't speak to her either. She was wearing a skirt that was a gorgeous quilt. Actually had there not been three or four other people in the elevator I would not have been able to remain quiet. It was extremely simple, but the colors were strong and the visual statement strong. I really wanted to come home and make several of the simple blocks which were held together with bold navy stripping. I'm so haunted by it, I think I may have to make at least a crib sized quilt like it -- I won't use navy for a crib quilt! maybe bright blue or turquoise instead. Seeing a pattern that is utterly simple and yet visually so strong is a kind of wake up signal. "Forget about all this complexity. Do the in-your-face stuff." When I get some put together, I'll take a photo and refer back to this post -- I can't draw it and show you since my scanner doesn't agree with the program on this computer. More anon --

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Taming the Green Eyed Monster

I received a wonderful mailing bag of selvages for my project yesterday from a thoughtful and very kind woman in Washington state. She included a letter relating a garage sale-ing experience when she and a friend, also a quilter, were able to purchase something like 300 yar of good quality quilt fabric from an older woman who was giving up sewing. The woman was a big difficult to work with and may have been in early stages of dementia but, the two friends shared their purchase and now have magnificent stashes. Reading the story made me so envious I could felt myself getting irrational as I imagined myself like a greedy miser in some fairy tale stacking up gold coins and chucking, "he-he-he"... sorting fabric instead and "he-he-he-"ing with glee, as demented as the wicked witch thinking of eating Hansel and Gretl.

Sanity is returning. I'm trying to get some distance from that initial, immediate reaction and saying to myself, "Hey shape up." I've got a great stash of fabrics, mostly chosen by myself because they are in colors and patterns that I like and think I am apt to use. I don't have room for a greater stash and I can't live long enough to use what I have. Because, let's not kid anyone, I won't stop purchasing fabric when I find things I really, really like.

Where does this greediness come from? The three year old who wants all the toys and doesn't want to share. I think I'm a wee bit too old for that sort of thing. Oh, I can say it's a mature appreciation for the design skill and the wonderful colors which, in and of themselves, are beautiful in the way that music is beautiful in and of itself. True, but still ... I don't sit around staring at it. Yes, every so often I think of a reason to go though some or most of the stash, sorting or rearranging and that does give me sensual pleasure. So, finally, I am happy for the woman in Washington as I am happy for lottery or raffle winners. And I am -- yes, really, truly -- would I tell a lie? -- content with my own stash. Of course windfalls are always welcome.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Beautiful Windows

Some years ago Rachel and Patrick bought a fixer-upper house in Hyannis and they've been working steadily on the fixing part ever since. It's showing many signs of both time and effort and their artistic talents. They have done wonders with a neglected lawn with patience, they have added Patrick's studio -- he is a glass artisan -- and they've made lovely spots in the house with artifacts from the area and with Patrick's work, both in mosaic, in the kitchen, with mirrors and Klimpt-ish work in stained glass and in these two beautiful windows.

Patrick has a wonderful portfolio of his work on his website which I think you can click and go to, but in case I'm my usually inept self here is the name as well, and I'm adding it in the right column [if not today, tomorrow]. It was impossible to get a picture of the above window with having the sun shining in only one part because of the trees outside. Who wouldn't like such a window in her home?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

So red, so round, so summer!

Two or three summers during my adolescence, my father decided to grow a couple of acres of tomatoes to sell to a ketchup factory in a nearby town. It was backbreaking work and I suspect didn't pay enough to be worth the effort because it wasn't a long term project. However, I think I know a few things about how tomatoes smell and taste -- real ones, good ones. I know too that taste depends on the soil and the sun and all those natural factors. And that even the expensive "heirloom" tomatoes in our markets don't have the sweet "real" tomato taste that I am now looking for.

It's been a long time since I actually picked a tomato off a vine, rinsed it, cut it up and ate it. But I did this past weekend. Above is a hearty big tomato plant in Rachel's backyard with ripe tomatoes pictured here and many more green or turning reddish that aren't seen.
PLUS -- ta-da -- basil was growing around the mailbox so I brought in a few leaves, snipped them in pieces over the sliced tomato. Viola! All ones needs as a side dish for a nice bowl of New England clam chowder. Ah, yes, it was a lovely weekend.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Refreshd and relaxed

I always appreciate a respite from the usual. I had three days of lovely almost aloneness. Noah, my 17 year old grandson was home -- sort of, the way 17 year olds pop in to sleep and shower and offer a few polite words and go about their lives. But Molly, looking unusually pensive, was my companion on many walks. I watched as her superior nose lead her back and forth, exploring wonders I couldn't even guess. But Molly ignored the vistas along our walk on Long Beach, which, I guess is called an estuary, a long spit of sand, dune, thick patches of beach roses, knee deep dune grass, with an inlet on one side and the ocean on the other. Across the channel were wonderful houses, some very grand, some reasonably modest, all with enviable balconies looking out at the beach and beyond to the ocean. The name is appropriate for it is a long beach, about a mile long and separated from the busy Craigville beach, but it is public, just little known, a treasure, most of all at 7:30 in the morning with only four or six other people around. May I be forgiven if I mention a "cute kid" story. Eons ago our family flew from upstate to LaGuardia, my daughters were small and had never been in an airplane before. As we circled before landing, making a long sweep eastward over Long Island, Leslie, watching the scene below piped up, "What a long island." Seems a long time ago.
It is getting late so no more tonight, except this picture of the last of the beach roses. The low bushes are adorned as if Christmas were coming tomorrow with big fat red rose hips.