Saturday, June 28, 2008

Good Book, Good Time for the Mountains

With a title like A Journey to the End of the Millennium, A Novel of the Middle Age, by A. B. Yehoshua, one might surmise it could be a bit ponderous. Yes it was, but it deserved all the pondering and perseverance it asked of the reader. It is set in 999 of the Christian calender. The main character is a Moroccan Jewish merchant, his Muslin partner and his nephew, a partner at first and last but not in the middle. It's a picture of the difference between the sunny and very sophisticated civilization of North Africa and the dark, crabbed, restrictive civilzation of Paris and the Rhineland whence the merchant travels with his two beloved wives. The story is too complex to tell in a short note and it gets ever more complex as it progresses. Yehoshua is an honored novelist in Israel. Knowing something about Jewish rituals and history is helpful to appreciate the story. This is not a new book but worth digging up in a library or Amazon for, in fact, it is a masterpiece and finally totally entrancing.

So -- moving on to lighter matters. There will be a hiatus in blog writing while I do one of those things many American families used to do before theme parks became destinations -- my daughters and I are going to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons to look at a few of America's many wonders and with hopes of seeing quite a few of the big wild animals in those regions. We're multiply celebrating birtdays, mine being the most auspicious but theirs being important, too, of course. There will be animal photo before there are more quilt photos, I think. Do stop in at my other blog and, I hope, read some of it; the entries there are longer and more thoughtful.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Info & tomato sandwich

So, no cows and no horses!

Tomatoes first -- these are four kinds marked "exotic heirloom" tomatoes. They are a little better than the usual tasteless things, some are a fair amount better and taste like -- ta-da! -- tomatoes. That is, not like styrofoam. But I must admit it's a bit strange eating a dark skinned tomato, I sort of expect it to taste like a plum.

I said some this and a bit better on my new blog which now has a new name but which hasn't been around long enough nor had enough hits to register on a Google search. The name is now Big 7-0 [ampersand -- which this blog doesn't allow] More. It needs to be reached by clicking on the "complete profile" line opposite and then going to bottom of screen and clicking the new blog. If you like it enough to think you'll come back, you'll save yourself trouble by making it a "favorite" or "bookmark" or whatever your search program calls the one-click function. Anyone who is a afficinando or masochist can go to bottom of the new blog [this one too for that matter] and get new postings as an email. No more salesmanship, it's never been my metier.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lesson Learned, I hope

This is a confession. In the past I have been an impatient and frequently sloppy quilter. I wanted the finished product and it didn't have to be perfect Well, it's still not perfect but I've been reforming and trying to make myself more of a perfectionist. I now try to really square up my quilts and bind them neatly and see that they hang straight, etc. But old habits are like trying to kill a bat that has got into your house and your only weapon is a broom. [I have had considerably more experience with this than have most people I know]. It's damned hard to beat a bat to death with a broom. Well, it's damned hard to kill a bad habit with good intentions. In both cases it can be done but there are times when you think it's a losing battle.

This the story of this green quilt. It's one of the chopped up nine-patches I've had a spell of doing the past few months. It's okay but far from thrilling. In fact I decided a week ago to finish it and get it out of my sight, somewhere on the highest closet shelf waiting for an opportunity to give it to charity. Some needy person might find it reasonably pretty, if they like green more than I do in these proportions. As I finished quilting it, rather lightly, I tried to talk myself into adding farm animals as I think I wrote a week or so ago. I was growing tired but decided to bind it by turning the backing to the front. Fine, that's easy. Except the backing wasn't even so the amount of turn over visible from the front is uneven. Sloppy! I was tired and grumpy and I just did it. And proceeded to be angry at myself and decided no way do I want to spend any more time on this. No farm animals, no reason to name it the 4-H quilt as I had thought of doing. Because it has some fabric with the 4-H clover logo and because my mother actually started a 4-H club when I was 10 so that someone other than herself would teach me to sew. She knew she was not a good seamstress, she didn't really like sewing. But she was serious about mothering and wanted me to learn the fine points of domesticity. I'm glad she did. I love to sew! [Even if I get sloppy] So I finished off that green schmata Saturday afternoon.

Sunday morning, rested, the Times puzzle finished, I was in a good mood and just couldn't resist looking at the package I purchased maybe 10 years ago of Debora Kochinsky's patterns for farm animals. Did I mention I grew up on a farm? And I did once show a cow as a 4-H project. I like those patterns and I haven't used them in all this time, thought I. Why not add a couple cows? Well, I spent ALL the rest of Sunday adding cows, a pig,a goat and a lamb to the green quilt. As you can see above, especially if you click on the photo and see it enlarged. Don't look too close, I allowed myself a certain amount of sloppiness.

So the lesson I hope to have learned as I look at this less than wonderful quilt? I haven't killed off my old habit but maybe this will be one of the final whacks with the broom. The whole thing was a waste of time. I know better. i like green but not in such quantity on a quilt -- a hillside, but not a bed. I didn't even need another quilt this size. Almost every choice I made was suboptimal. I have several times promised myself not to do it again.

But you know the thing about living in a house where you "think" the bats have been banished from the attic is that they sneak back and if they're in the attic sooner or later a confused little beastie will blunder into the house and won't find his way out and you'll have to kill him ... a life lesson to ponder.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Horses Like Lightening

The Rubin Museum did a reading/book launch yesterday for Horses Like Lightening a new book by Sienna Craig. I really had to go to see and briefly meet Sienna because she edited my book about travelers in Tibet, Phantom Voices in Tibet, but our work was by mail and telephone. She was then in California and I here in NYC. She sent some of her writing about the horse culture in Mustang [in Nepal] that had been a part of her thesis. That interested me in Mustang so I soon went there -- one of the high points of my life. Horses were the only non-shanks-mare transporation at that time in Mustang. I walked and loved everything about being in Mustang.

Sienna had ridden as a high school student and loved horses and then came to love Nepal and Mustang as well. Her book is part memoir and part about the importance of horses, their care and role in a society that is rapidly changing as a road is being built. She had many friends and some relatives there so I only introduced myself. We spoke very briefly. But I she played a bigger role in my life than she knows besides helping me finally understand why Tibetan prayer flag picture a horse and are called "Wind horses."

I didn't stay for the signing part. I had been torn, because I wanted to hear the broadcast of the Met. concert in Prospect Park with Angela Georgieu and Roberto Alanya [I may have mangled spelling], a soprano and tenor, married and wonderful singers. When I got home I rushed to the radio and heard the duet from Lucia De Lamamoor which was magnificent, and the last of the first half of the concert, and then I heard the lovely second half. For the midsummer night concert some 50,000 people had gone to Prospect Park. I was glad to combine two events in one full and beautiful evening.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Horses, glass -- scalped

The Museum of Natrual History's big summer exhibit is about horses. I haven't seen it yet but I'll try to go. Meanwhile they entice people with this wonderful mosaic covered horse at the corner of 81st and Columbus. He's quite a beauty. I had to take a picture partly for daughter, Rachel, who has a couple of pieces of mosaic work on exhibit at a First Annual Glass Exhibit in Cotuit, Mass. [on Cape Cod] Patrick, her husband, does "flat" glass, etched and artistic work. He has several pieces well displayed, I'm told. He has some fantastic stuff and you can see it by clicking
here -- I think. I've been having link trouble lately. His work is called Glass Graphics and can be Googled.
I wish I could see the exhibit but I'm not likely to get there.

Anyway, I saw this beauty as I was on the way to have a hair cut at a walk-in salon across the street. My hair grows fast and I don't really like people doing things to me -- I'm not the spa, pampering type, more the do-it-yourself sort except I learned way back in my teens when I had bangs and sometime tried to cut them that self-barbering is generally a disaster.

I got scalped. But it's my own fault. I told the woman "I want it A LOT shorter." She took me at my word [they usually don't] and my hair is now shorter than it's ever been before. It'll be just right in about three weeks so I'm okay with my present boyish [well, if you can call this whole package "boyish" which is quite a leap!] look and it's certainly easy to take care of.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My "druthers, quilting

So here's how my day goes: I have a free day and I know the building is going to shut down th water for repairs from 9:30 to 4:00, therefore I want to be out of the house some of the middle of the day for the very practical reason that I won't be able to flush the toilet all day. So I think, well, there's a film/talk I am interested in and there's that movie, Mongol that I want to see, not because I like war-like saga, or have an interest in Chengghis Kahn [there are 45 to 10 spellings of his name these days] but because Mongolia is a gorgeous country and so are the Mongolian people.

I spent part of the morning tossing a mental coin, which would I do? But first, clean up accumulation on the desk, and chip away at a long term piecing project [drunkar's path, I need 252 pieces] and then iron the stuff that I washed yesterday. By then it's noon and time to decide on my "fun" afternoon. But I have been contemplating that green quilt in the UFO pile ... I could at least decide and sew on a border and then the backing and then layer on the batting and pin together ... Hmm, I DO need to get a UFO or two out o the pile!

But it's a pleasantly temporate day, although threatening brief storms. And I DO need some exercise. So I decided to compromise. A two mile walk, checking out the abundant flourishing of the community flower garden in Riverside Park, the picture above doesn't being to suggest the exuberance in that garden! then Fairway for some fruit and cheese, then my fav Chinese lunch spot. And home -- and I did get the green quilt ready to quilt, I even thought of a name and decided I have to add animals to it -- it's an abstract picure of farm fields. So I'm giving myself another 6 or 8 hours of work! Fun work! This quilting business is a most peculilar kind of addition, a sort of sweet torture. No picture for some time, certainly. Clearly, given my druthers, both movies and lectures come in second to making an unneeded quilt.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Books! My favorite objects in the whole world. Can't resist! At the quilt show Saturday I purchased two new ones. To my delight there's a new book of Carol Doak paper-pieced stars -- if anything, these 24 stars are more complex than the 50 in her former book. To me the first and hardest challenge is the fabric choice. But that's also a pure delight because it sends me to my stash where I can contemplate tones and shades and hues as well as patterns. I have a lot of small pieces which is fine for many parts of these complex stars. I often make mistakes and after a quarter of a star have to rethink and make other choices. It's an exercise I really enjoy. Then the sewing which may be time consuming and a little challenging since I don't follow her choices and then have to remember what my choices are as I go along. But then I have that moment at the end when it all comes together and, mostly, I'm delighted with the results. So I look forward to these stars ... in the fullness of time. I do have the discipline to finish at lesat some of what's already started before plunging into a new endeavor.

The second book I purchased is Martha Siegleman's [she was editor] hefty but compact book Art Quilt Masters. It's BEUATIFUL! The artists span the world and they are, indeed, all masters, well recognized in the world of art quilters. There are several examples of each artist's work and it is beautifully printed. The text is sparse but there is enough to be helpful and give the viewer/reader a sense of the artist's purpose and personality. I'm going through it slowly, savoring, like a wonderful, many course meal.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

New Jersey Quilt Convention

I went with a bus load of others from the Empire Quilt Guild to the New Jersey Quilt Convention in Raritan, New Jersey yesterday. The show was a large one, the quilts were largely contemporary-traditional, not really art quilts, though a few that could be considered art quilts were amongst them. The quality of the work, the choices and the innovative variation of traditional designs was all excellent. It was a fine show and there was a very good collection of venders with booths full of tempting fabrics, notions and miscellaneous wonders. The only crummy thing was the quality of the available lunch foods and their marked up prices.

The picture above is not my favorite quilt, I don't know that I had a favorite -- I was very drawn to a couple of 'Stack and Whack" ones, because that technique totally fascinates me and at least one of them stays in my head so that I'm going to try to do one with the same layout -- which will be entirely different simply by virtue of whatever fabric I choose. I am drawn to how one can manipulate design in a way that is essentially random and come up with patterns that are strong but unplanned -- the suprise factor that I'm so fond of.

Anyway, this picture illustrates the brighter color choices which, I'm happy to say were abundant because they are so lively and visually exciting, but which did not overwhelm the show because there were many much quieter, more traditional color combinations. Which is why I took the second picture although photographically it's quite awkward -- to show that usually the curators of the show balanced restrained and bright quilts in way that made viewing the show comfortable and comprehensible. Although lighting in very large exhibition halls is never ideal for viewing quilts [the halls are multi-purpose after all] the light there was not bad.

The show was not as well attended as most of us expected. This made viewing more comfortable than if it had been more crowded. But one of our experienced and astute women said that she sees the quilting trend/fad being replaced by knitting in terms of placement of books in bookstores, and popularity in the general press. I think she is right, which pains me as I find knitting boring and graceless.

It's hardly an astute observation on the subject but when I think of someone knitting rather than doing hand sewing I think of Ibsen's having given Torvald Helmer a line to his "doll" Nora [in A Doll's House] about how much more graceful the motion of sewing and pulling the thread through is than the busy clacking chatter of knitting needles at work. Of course, Nora wanted nothing to do with either and we all cheer her for that. But I digress. We quilters are an addicted lot and we'll keep right on making our creations even when our closets are stuffed with more quilts than we'll need in our lifetimes and when our stashes are taking over the rest of the closet space. For me a day spent looking at quilts is a very good day indeed.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Leora Rankin, South African embroidery

The speaker at our Guild meeting was Leora Rankin from Capetown, South Africa who brought two delights -- her lovely accent and lively speaking style as well as a bunch of very colorful, fun -- she says easily made -- embroideries. Here are two. To me they seem to have something in common with the work of Central and South American women. Nothing was said about mutual influences, and it's a little hard to imagine there is -- perhaps the bright colors are a matter of being a tropical climate, which seems to inspire bright colors, plus there might be similar plants from which dyes were made. I'm always curious about such cross cultural matters and wish I had been told more -- if anything is known. Perhaps no one asked those questions before --which seems unlikely since I can't be the only curious person looking at them. Anyway, the talk was engaging and concise and just long enough.

And here is another of Karen Griska's quilts [see previous post below], before her selvage work -- this she called a "Beaded Log Cabin." And beaded it is! It's rather large, heavily embroidered and beaded -- what a lot of hours! Very beautiful work!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Selvage quilts

The quilter of the month at our final Empire Quilters meeting of the '07-'08 year was Karen Griska who has just published a book with C&T Publications called Quilts from the Selvage. The picture above is Karen with one of her selvage quilts. Below is a closer view of another of her quilts.

Karen is a warm, practical person and gives very clear, easy directions for quilts made from the selvage which is usually cut off and discarded from the fabrics quilters use. I've actually though about making a selvage quilt for a long time -- since I saw one at a Quilt National about six years ago I began saving selvages, when I thought of it, which was not all the time -- and I do not always cut off the selvages either. But seeing her several designs makes me eager to use the selvages I've saved.

Since I'm also eager to make a double sided quilt inspired by another speaker, Sharon Peterson, I am thinking of combining the two inspirations into one quilt. I have a notion that the summer is not going to be long enough for the projects I want to finish and work on. Ah, well ... never bored, certainly.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Old and the New

On the Swap-bot forum for sewers, I mentioned that I've probably sewn a million miles of seams on my trusty sewing machine. I really don't think that's a gross exaggeration. Someone asked what kind of machine so I think this a good opportunity to praise one of the few machines in my life that has been highly trustworthy [as contrasted with most electronics of the past several years] I also have found irons to be dependable and long lasting appliances.

This one is a Riccar, a Japanese brand. It was purchased somewhat over 40 years ago. It is supposed to be portable, has a carrying case, but it weighs at least 30 pounds because it has only a couple of plastic parts -- the stitch length dial and a little thing-y that attaches the lever that lifts the presser foot -- the latter is the only piece that has ever broken. It's had to be cleaned and tuned -- but only a few times.

When that plastic part broke, only 4 or 5 years ago, I assumed I'd never find a replacement. The yellow pages offered up a repairman who was only a few blocks from my house. He said, yes, he was a certified Riccar repairperson! Furthermore he came to my house within hours and picked it up and within the week returned it to me all fixed, oiled and tuned. And he did not charge an exorbitant price! I couldn't have been happier. I've had to replace the foot pedal wire because they got dangerously frayed, otherwise it's been the most dependable of friends and has aided me in hours and hours of happy creation. I've had a couple of good old typewriters but this sewing machine is a real mensch of a friend. [Perhaps I will add a photo of my good old friend tomorrow.]

So what's new? I've started a new blog. Just a couple of posts so far, and those are introductory. You can go to it by clicking here I hope this works. But if it doesn't go to my profile, at the bottom of which it's listed and definitely clickable. I'm saying nothing more about it here. But this blog will continue just as I certainly will continue quilting and will add the non-quilting observations as I've been doing, although it may be less frequent if I find the other calling.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Anther UFO on the Pile

But first one of the phenomena of the city landscape -- the way the glass towers reflect their neighbors always fascinates me. They change hour by hour. I wish my apartment had a nice view but, alas ... However occasions arise when I can enjoy a view like this -- that's Bryant Park in the low foreground, all in shadow while the buildings around held the sun and the images of others. It was a wonderful blue-sky day one of those "what is so rare as" -- although it was May 30, it might as well have been a day in June.

Here is my first I Spy quilt -- a border fabric was found but a backing one has not surfaced from the stash as yet so it gets added to the UFO pile until such time... For whatever readers aren't quilters, an "I Spy" quilt is usually made up of blocks of novelty fabrics with designs to appeal to children, The idea is that Mama can say to bored kid, "I spy a doggie, can you find a doggie?" Or whatever, of course. It's a teaching tool and a game. Siblings can play, anyone can play. I have enough 6 inch blocks of novelty fabrics to make another but that will wait.

I started a paper pieced wall quilt today from a pattern that said "900 pieces" -- small pieces, a sort of variation on a lone star quilt. I like this kind of challenge and it was fun going to my stash picking out the fabrics. I'll otherwise stay mum on this project for some weeks until it takes more shape but I think I'm going to really enjoy this, more than some of the other projects I've promisd myself I'll finish. Isn't it a sign of being a responsible adult that you eventually finish what you start? Lots of we quilters have difficulty with that concept when there are so many new, exciting patterns to start on.