Saturday, August 30, 2008

There's Always Books, and Books are Always Great

So the weather was crummy. Molly K9 and I had a nice walk on the beach very early; the sky low, no dawn to speak of, and humidity high. I was in a serious sweat after our mile or because I hadn't reckoned on how hard it is to walk in sand wearing sneakers. So I had a getter work out than Molly. I hoped it would clear, and it looked like it might, but it didn't.

I had finished a shortish book by Ian McEwen, Oh Chilsel Beach, yesterday and got well started on the next. I saw, too that the back issues of The New Yorkers weren't going to be enough reading matter. No prob. On Hyannis' main street is Tim's a big, used book store. I had picked out three and was about to pay when I noticed the Pico Iyar book about the Dalai Lama at half price right by the cash register. More about it including title when I read it which will be soon --after the one started last night. Serendipity! Love it!!

So no warm sun and wonderful shade, but the soothing sense of plenty to read. And then I made the de rigeur trip to Joanne's and bought fusing so I can plung into the no sew project I brought along, fancy cutting roosters from a fabric I love to go on a background I put together many months ago. The cutting will be tedious but fine whatever the skies hold tomorrow, at the kitchen table or out on the patio. A UFO on the way to completion, or at least the next step along the way. So, no complaints. The break is going nicely and I am, indeed, not alone. Grandson, Noah is home -- in and out in the way of teens. We're ships that pass in the night. But I'm glad he's here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Inspiration and Quilts to give away

Since I won't be able to upload pictures for several days but may blog in that time, I thought I'd add two today. This is Karen Griska at the June Empire Quilter's Guild meeting at which I bought her book that inspired the selvage quilt. Her website is in the right column for anyone who wants to know how to get the book which is also being distributed by the American Quilters Society. I don't have a picture of Sharon Pederson whose book of double sided quilts inspired the construction method of this quilt. The quilt name will be "Thanks to Karen and Sharon." I had once tried a version of this construction on a log cabin quilt that was sewn in three layers as this one is being sewn. But my construction was less well thought out and proved to be a somewhat lumpy. Sharon's directions work excellently.
This is one of two quilts I'm about to send to an ovarian cancer support/education group who have asked for donations. In the past several months I've made three in this method I call "chopped up nine patch" that I found first online and then, I believe, in an article by Eleanor Burns. Easy and fun. I got curious how it would work with various colors. But heaven knows I didn't need the quilts although I always inaugurate my quilts that are bed size by sleeping under them at least once. This one, as noted a couple of months ago, has barnyard animals fused and appliqued on. It's a pleasure to make quilts ahead and then find places to send them. Not that I wish for anything like cancer to happen to any one. It was satisfying that I had quite a few that I could give to people after the Katrina catastrophe.

One does not need an excuse to make quilts, even when the closets are bursting and you don't need them to sleep under or hang on the walls or warm feet and shins while reading at night, they can be saved for when appeals come in. I read a blog a couple of days ago where the author says in her personal statement that she believes the world would be a little happier if everyone on earth had warm quilt to cuddle under. I agree and how satisfying it is to do my tiny part toward that end.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Anticipation is like the scent of coffee and bacon pulling you out of bed in the morning. I'm thinking of anticipation of a trip -- any trip, really. I love the time when I know I'm going to be going away and my mind drifts over to what shoes I want to take, what book I'll read on the way, and so on and on, all kinds of details which, of course vary with what kind of trip.

The trip I'm anticipating at the moment is small and not exotic but I'm thoroughly happy it's happening -- just a few days on Cape Cod at my daughter's house. The family will be gone, but Molly my doggy friend for many years will be there and so will Dust the cat who is mellowing as she gets older and comes to my lap as she never used to do. There'll be a car to take me to the beach for early morning walks with Molly and to Joanne's to get a few quilting odds and end, and maybe a sale fabric or two or so... and there will be fried clams and there's a great patio where I'll eat meals unless the weather doesn't cooperate. Oh! How lovely to anticipate!!! I'd love it if Rachel and the family were there too but three days alone has it's own pleasures.

Picture above was last summer on the beach there, pebbles and seaweed.

Monday, August 25, 2008

About sewing selvages

Stephanie asks if I left a "tag" on the selvages so I could sew them down. The answer is sometimes. I began cutting selvages four or five years ago with the idea of using them some day but didn't actually consider how I would use them. Not until I heard Karen Griska speak, saw her work and her book was I impelled to finally get on with it. I recommend clicking Karen's link to the right of this column and looking at her work. You'll find how to get her book which has instructions and ideas.

But for myself, a confession. I am a "hold your nose and do a cannonball into the pool" type of sewer. So I just started sewing the selvages however wide or narrow, overlapping the finished side against the cut side as I went along. Mostly this was fine, but as I work with the piece I see there are places that pull apart because I did not overlap properly and I have to go back and resew. Which is okay in this case because the thread on the dark side disappears, mostly, as the quilting. This is, I admit, not optimal but the quilt is just for me and I don't mind.

Now there are many more sensible and thoughtful people who think of qusetions like Stephanie's. That's why there are quilting teachers and books -- to answer those quetions in advance and give you a leg up so you don't have to go back and fix your mistakes. So, yes, I think you should leave at least a quarter inch tab and I'll try to do that in the future. I do learn from mistakes. In fact, I'm becoming, slowly, a better quilter having definitely learned to measure and cut carefully and to square up blocks before putting them together.

But we humans have different temperaments. My cardiologist is a type A who pays attention to every detail and I feel secure because of that. I know a type A cook who must measure and time everything on the stove and I have to run out of the kitchen -- and beleive me, my pinch of this, dollop of that method produces excellent results.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Not done but making progress

Yes, I've been working on this reversible quilt with selvages used to make one side. As can be seen, once put together it's already quilted. This is a light/dark quilt. I am just today working out the border design and will start sewing later on and more tomorrow but, like all else, it's labor intensive...but such fun labor!

I like the dark side because it has surprising flashes of color -- and a bunch of designs that would clash horribly anywhere but in a quilt context. The background fabric with batik-y diamonds is a Hoffman fabric that blends very nicely and the batik-bordering fabric is Hoffman also. Hoffman fabrics often seem to me busy and confusing on the bolt but then I find them very useful.

The writing on the selvages always has fascinated me so I'll enjoy looking at that side too. In the past week two wonderful swapping friends have sent me selvages and a third says she's going to do so too. Bonanza! Couldn't be happier.

I'm very fond of these surprising fabrics, with veggies printed on them. A European woman sent me a color-ways set. I did not imagine when I first saw them that they would go into the same quilt but I'm happy with them here. It's not a fabric I would have bought if I found it in a store but I think it's sretching my sense of what works.

As always I have my work cut out for me [in this case literally for I've just cut the pieces of the border] and it will be at least two weeks before I finish this. Final picture in the fullness of time.

I want to thank the two readers who gave me some input about the electronic book I mentioned in the previous post. I am never an early adopter of technology and I DO have a bookcase -- four shelves -- of to-read books but I'm fascinated and just may do further research.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Times They Are A-Changng

Two examples of our changing world: a few days ago when in the ATM vestibule of the bank I found there were no deposit envelopes. The guard said, "No more, you just put the check in the ATM." After a moment of incredulity -- I'm going to put my check in there naked!? You gotta be kidding. I saw the screen messages were new, clearly there was a new program. Okay, I'll try. It showed me the check and asked me to okay that that was the amount to be deposited and it worked. We are moving a little more toward a paperless world. I know I could have direct deposit, except that's not a choice right now. One I did have it until the frequently changing powers-that-be where I work found it unweildy. So much for the world of high finance. [Don't I wish?]

For the first time in quite a while I had time to stop at my fav Chinese restaurant for lunch. Another eating-alone-woman at the table next to mine was reading a book -- but not the usual book. No holding the page open so it won't close when you pick up a fork of chopstick. Her "book" was about 5x8, which is trade paper back size. Not more than an inch thick, with a small keyboard at the bottom and a button she touched to "turn" the page. I stared shamelessly but she was absorbed. Had she not been I would have talked to her about it. It looked like the print was a comfortably readable size, in fact on the large size. I wanted to ask if she could adjust the print size -- I suspect the answer is yes. I wondered where she got the "books" and how she downloaded them. I wondered if it has rechargable batteries, if the screen lights at night. I realized I could find out all those answers either online or by going to an electronics store.

When she was finished with her lunch, she turned off the picture, I assume saving her place, and closed a thin lid and slipped it into her fairly large purse. It looked very lightweight. I've thought UGH! I want a REAL book to hold in my hand. But after watching even those five or ten minutes I thought the time may come when I'll want one of those "books". And what about paying attention to the food you eat and savoring that experience? I like the theory, but I don't do it very often -- how but at meal times can I get through the papers and magazines since evening reading is for real books?

No, I am neither reading nor eating in the above photo, but actually pausing to enjoy a view of the Great Salt Lake from a small promentory on Antelope Island which is a park in the lake. It was a lovely, lovely day, the start of the vacation I am still savoring in moments of clear and treasured memory.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wish I'd Done That

I was sent this neat quilted version of Modigliani's "Woman in a Black Tie" -- so neat. It has netting over the raw edged applique and the netting give the whole a wonderful sheen. It was made by Elizabeth Mitchell, a swapper from Alaska who clearly put a lot of thought and time and artistic talent into it -- but she didn't put any sort of label on it. I've put a sticky note on the back so I won't forget and have asked her to make a label which I'll sew on the back. She hasn't responded so I don't know if she'll do that or not. I think we should be proud enough of our work to sign it. Others now and in years to come, will want to know at least the bare facts.

Stephanie responded to my previous post about the sensuality of fabric by saying she loves to wash and iron new fabrics for the same reason I love folding them -- I'm a bit lazy about washing until I've decided to use a fabric -- I like the crispness -- but I totally understand what she's saying. Thanks, Stephanie.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Sensuous Fabriholic

We all know some people collect things out of greed [you cannot be too rich] and some people collect from a neurotic impulse [I don't feel safe without an arsenal in my basement]. But most people collect things because they have a sensuous relationship with them [mink and sable and chinchilla are SO soft and warm]. We fabriholics collect out of love and sensuusnss, or I do. Guess I should shift into the first person here.

I've got the usual number of senses and like many people some are more honed than others and some were never very sharp. Much as I love music I do not have a natural ear. My piano tuner tunes entirely by ear. I cannot comprehend what 440 vibrations really are. I only know the piano sounds really nice when he's done. Artists have an eye. I don't know if I might have had some nascent talent once, I enjoyed drawing in high school but we did not have art. I learned the history of art and now I struggle when I quilt to understand the laws of design and color. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes not. As for taste and smell I think I'm average, I know some people who are more sensitive in both areas than I. Touch -- I assume we all have about the same nerve endings but some people CARE about touch and some seem not to.

However I think the sensuality of textiles, and in this case in quilt appropriate fabric, is a combination, partly physical, partly intellectual. Friday the mail brought a wondeful swapped-for box of fabrics -- see above -- and a second package of plains which were part of another swap. I don't know how many yards of fabric arrived color and usefulness.

But the prints - ah! I couldn't wait to look at their variety, their colors, their designs. What a wonderful lot of visual pleasures! This morning I sat down with the pile and a pair of scissors and gleaned selvages for the current and future selvage quilts. Cutting into a beautiful fabric is something difficult, we worry, will we do the design justice as we use it? But cutting off the selvage is simply preparing it for use. How delighted I am! This is beauty that is mine to have and to use as best I can. This is fulfillment and challenge at the same time. It is not static pleasure but dynamic with expectation.

Actually I don't know quite how I'm going to fit it into my already crammed shelves but where there's a will ... How, how I wish I could add an extra six or so hours to each day so I could make some of the quilts that I thought about as I unfolded and refolded these fabrics! I'm smiling and feeling wonderful just thinking about sorting the fabrics by colors and fitting them into the appropriate collections. Smile! Sigh!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Adding stuff

The above quilt is an old one. It's just that I prefer posts that have something to look at. As can be seen I'm playing with the side bars and adding stuff. I don't enjoy doing this; to me it's kind of like doing dishes - one of my least favorite chores. I know people who really like computers enjoy such things. Yeah? Well, I've heard of one or two odd human beings who enjoy doing dishes too. Somehow I got to another list of quilters' blogs and added my name and have added their logo which is clickable. It's fun to explore what others are doing although I limit the time spent. I have just a few blogs I read regularly and they are listed in the side bar now, too. It's an eclectic list and only Karen and Helen are quilters. Helen writes a great blog. Some others do too but at the moment I don't have the links.

The Wish logo is from a group on Swap-bot -- they are blowing my mind. I've lately beceome a little familiar with the concept of social networking -- oh, I know about Facebook and You Tube but to a "third ager" like me, they're about as appealing as teen movies. No thanks. But Swap-bot is a different kind of social network which is largely based on the premise that people love to get things by snail mail and enjoy sharing small things with others, say postcards, and small crafts like artitst's trading cards and letters on specific topics. It's a worldwide, rather larger site and all swaps [be they postcards or items of some worth] are honor system. Within that group is a subgroup of wish-listers who simply post a wish list each month and others choose to fulfill some of those wishes, usually for strangers, not expecting repayment but assuming that perhaps one of more of their wishes will be fulfilled, probably by a stranger. I find this mind blowing. The sender most go to some effort and usually some expense [certainly postage] simply for the sake of giving someone else a gift. Anyone can join swapbot, within the group there are some rules, nothing onerous. In this new world of social networking this seems a positive note about the basic kindness and generousity of at least one group [self-selected]

Some three or four years ago before I even got an email address or a computer capable of making an internet connection, I would never have foreseen I'd find myself checking my email a couple or three times a day, let alone have two blogs and find myself very interested in what people in England, Mongolia and Japan as well as the US say on their blogs. Hello - it's the 21st century and I've joined.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer is on the wane

A time comes in August when you say, ah, and oh dear, summer is about to end. Ah because it's heaven to sleep under a quilt again instead of just a sheet or not even a sheet -- waking under a quilt is SO delicious. Maybe the only thing better is to wake under one of those real, down filled, old fashioned duvets I've found on beds from Germany eastward in Europe. But then I say oh dear to summer's hinted end -- it will be warm at least through September -- because as one gets older the end of every season is poignant and a little bit painful. This summer began in a blaze the first week of June and since then has been a fit of good days mixed with stormy days. It's had a personality all its own.

The warm sun, the nice breeze keeps me on my feet after work, walking some portion of my journey home. Then I get into things that need doing and the quilting waits. The reversible quilt, slightly more than half the central part, is across the room on my "design sofa" where I can admire the progress so far -- I get up and turn it over now and then since it's reversible. I'm thinking that maybe another selvage quilt will be done in such a way that I can use plain strips and write a poem on them which will be semi-hidden within the other markings on the selvages. I need to write an appropriate poem ... the idea is percolating. There's plenty of time since I certainly won't get to a second selvage quilt for more than two months.

I've joined another quilters' blog list and I'm adding logos in the sidebar, of it and of swap-bot that I will write about shortly. The new quilt listing site is in blue,click it or click the logo, assuming my computer savvy extends to actually adding it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Just Wondering ...

Last week, when I was listening to a panel of women executives they were asked what good advice had they received that made a difference? The most successful of the bunch said, "My father told me that I have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion." I'm wondering ... would he have offered those words of wisdom to a son?

Oh, I understand, of course, about the idea that you won't learn anything if you're always talking and not listening and it's good advice. As a woman turned on by Betty Fridan, Gloria Stseinam, et al, I cannot help having this reaction. But I have an answer that doesn't necessarily apply to women in business. It is that I also have ten fingers and was advised to learn to type long, long ago That skill made rapid self-expression possible, with or without thinking things through before the keyborad gets tickled.

Happily those ten fingers also learned how to sew. That too has brought me an avenue for self-expression few of the other gender enjoy. That's today's bit of contemplation.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Trade offs, so no whining

As I struggled a little bit putting together more of the reversible quilt this afternoon, I realized I was whiny yesterday about my tiny space. Nobody ever promisd me I could have it all. But I read quilters' magazine and quilters' blogs and look at their fantastic studios or work spaces and the blue eyes turn green and I start muttering, woe is me! Alas, I lack -- yes. I do. 'nuf said. I'm embarrassed and ashamed of whining about it for two reasons.

#1. Paula Nadelson. I don't know Paula Nadelson but I do know her magnificent kalidoscope quilts and I've heard her speak. She said -- this was many years ago, I don't know if it's still true but it may be -- that she lives in an apartment in the Bronx with her family and has so little space for her quilting that boxes of fabric are stacked under the dining table and when she works on top of the dining table people have to eat elsewhere. I promised myself when I heard that to always think of what wonders she creates under those conditions and never, never feel sorry for myself. At least I live alone and inconvenience no one but myself and most of my fabric is stashed away in a closet. I have yet to make even one quilt as complex and totally creative as the many for which she has become famous. I tried to find a website so I could put a link here but Google let me down.

#2. When I think about those lucky women out there is the land of individual houses, however suburban or rural, I have to think, too, this is well considered trade off . They do not have some dozen fresh fruit and vegetable venders within walking distance, they do not have excellent bakeries on that same walk. They do not have the Metropolitan Museum with its astonishing treasury of art also within walking distance, nor Central Park, the Museum of Natural History and Lincoln Center, never mind, a ton of movie theatres and the most fascinating street life in America. They do not have New York bagels!

So, I'll stop whining and figure out how to cope. The quilt is coming together and I'm liking it a lot, what more should I want?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Reversible Quilt making progress

Update on the progress of the reversible quilt mentioned a week or ten days ago: I've finished the 6" squares which will be the main part of the quilt. But I've decided I want to make another set of squares to become a border, possibly using triangles for a saw-tooth look. Anyway, I couldn't wait to see how it would go together. But first I read Sharon Pederson's book carefully, espcially the discussion of the binding for the squares.

Sharon wrote of auditioning fabrics for the binding. Studying her quilts I see she used wonderful taste; her bindings all add design and color beautifully. I pulled out a bunch of fabrics and contemplated them with the squares -- no design wall, just my small work space. The selvage side presented special problems, I didn't want to use the darker fabric from the other side because it's too different, but I wanted something that would connect the two. Or alternately I looked at various black/white prints. No, no, no. Finally I went to our wonderful City Quilter shop and studied fabrics a while and purchased the aqua print, after nearly choosing 3 other ones. [The choices were so many it's hard not to become paralyzed.] I had great hesitation but it's so pretty that if I got home and decided it was all wrong, I'd find a use eventually.

Then there was this dark batik that I've had a while and really didn't like very much, multicolors on purple. It seemed all wrong and yet when I laid it out, it seemed fine In fact, I now like it very much. And, as I've been sewing I like the aqua too, it may become triangles on the border of the selvage side.

So here they are together. Not too bad. I only have four rows together so far. Everything takes longer than you think it will, of course. I spent a lot of time this afternoon and that's how far I've got. The binding is tricky -- not really difficult but requires care and attention.

And here's a sample of how it's coming along. I love that it's quilted, so even though putting it together is going to take more time than I have tomorrow -- and then there'll still be the border blocks to sew and add ... we're looking at September now. When it's done, it will be done. No need to think about how to quilt it.

At this point, I like this quilt. I can tell that as it gets bigger it will be a little bit stiff and will fight me in my cramped sewing space. Ah, well, the dubious joys of being an apartment dweller.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Bad Wasp, Good Penny?

I was talking to Leslie yesterday evening [afternoon in the Bay Area] when she said, "Ow! That little bastard!" "What happened?" said I. "Wasp stung me." "Put a penny on it." I had read this bit of folklore a few months ago and told her about it. "Let's see," she said. "Does it have to be shiny?" "I don't think so." "Oh, it stings." "Maybe that means it's working. You need to keep it in place at least 20 minutes. Got a Band-Aid?" "No." "A handkerchief?" "Are you kidding?" Well, a scarf." After a bit, "I've got a fabric belt." And we went on to talk about weightier matters than wasp stings. Except a few minutes later when she asked rhetorically "Why'd he have to sting me" "He's a mean, nasty critter who hates you." "I hate him too." I asked for an update and hoped for an email today. Nothing.

I've forgotten the source of this bright idea but now I'm curious about it. I'll update when I get more info. There's also the paste of baking soda for wasp and bee stings too, part of a whole list of wonders baking soda performs. We'll see.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Stash and UFOs and LOQ #1 and 2

I've been pulling out portions of my stash to cut of selvages -- go back two posts, you'll see why. Every quilt project is bigger than you think it's going to be -- LOQ #1 and LOQ #2, every project will be more labor intensive than you expected. Obviously that stands for Law of Quilting. Others may be added in due time.

I saw that I have a lot of smallish pieces in some favorite colors which are kind of cluttering up the collection. This suggests loud and clear I need to make a scrap quilt, or two ... or three. In fact, I have in my To-do pile a neat scrap quilt design that can be paper pieced with ease and I just found a variation of the beloved Log Cabin that would also be a great way to attack those scraps. So I dreamed of plunging into one or both projects as I'm snipped away.

Whoa! Wait one doggone minute there! What about the three active projects in hand? Well, the selvage one is holding so much of my attention I expect to finish it definitely within the mont. The complex diamond/star? I'm chugging away. And then there's the drunkard's path I don't write about because I'm not enjoying sewing the pieces but I DO spend an hour on it now and then. That's three pots, one boiling rapidly, one simmering, and the other more like a crockpot with an hour long stew in it. Then there's a couple of UFOs. So I promise myself I'll do the one that's a child size I Spy quilt. It only needs to be quilted and bound, not a big job. The other -- well, it's over a year old and the less said the better but it nags like a too tight shoe that will be fine if I just manager to wear it a few times.

Let's add LOQ #3: Handling one's stash produces profoundly conflicted feelings. Love it, feel guilty about it, get a kick out of it's possibilities and the fun that's promised. Isn't creating things fun?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Dog Days of August

It's hot. And humid. It's been hot and humid for three weeks. I think it's going to be hot and humid until well into September Not one month of the dog days of August but two and a half. I can't prove it, but I think this is what global warming means here on the Atlantic seaboard -- hot and humid interspersed with occasional thunderstorms, sometime violent. UGH!

These are what I all three-shower days. If it's really humid in the morning I work up a sweat brushing my teeth. Then I need a quick shower so I can put clothes on a non-sweaty body. The shower can be as short as a minute. When I'm out during the day if I've had to deal with either the subway or a walk of more than a couple of blocks, I'm sweaty when I come in -- another shower. Come time for bed, I want to feel nice when I put on my pajamas - another shower. I don't waste much water. One of those showers, maybe more, will include soap and maybe shampoo. But their real purpose is just to make the skin cool and that only takes a minute or so.

It could be worse and is worse a lot of places -- the places that are having wild fires, the places that were submerged in horrid floods earlier, the places where the storms are really fierce. When one is mopping the brow and cursing the late subway train, trying to walk in the shade and wishing for a breeze, it's hard to think about places that you are glad you don't live.

End of complaint -- it's a time to truly enjoy cold water, iced tea, lemonade, watermelon, gazpacho, crisp chef's salads and simply washing the hands under cold running water. I haven't forgotten about all the iced coffee drinkers but I'm not one. But I did forget briefly about sherbet which is much more cooling than ice creams ... and then there's lakes and oceans and rivers. I promise I will not complain about the weather again ... in the near future.