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?