Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Feeling Good

These are fat quarters purchased at an estate sale a couple days for 25 cents each. Being a city person for a long time and now in "the real world" or "the other world" where there are garage sales, yard sales and estate sales, I have pleasures awaiting but only just beginning to be discovered.

The pleasure part of shopping and especially of finding bargains was the subject of an article I read in the paper a couple days ago. Somehow scientists who chose these weird little subjects to explore [they're the people whose articles appear in Psychology Today] have found certain pleasure producing brain cells turn on when we're shopping and axillary cells light up when we get a bargain. These happy brain cells also make us lose track of time so that half an hour in the mall [or bookstore for me] turns into three hours and we're late cooking dinner. Is that surprising? Hardly. They went on to a corollary that is not surprising either: the very same thing happens in the brain when people are working on crafts or arts -- same good feelings. Many crafts and art can be expensive but I'll vote for them ... but I'm not likely to totally give up shopping either.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Love the Design Wall

This is/was a WISP-- Work in SLOWWWW Progress -- the background squares were sewn maybe three years ago. The roosters were ironed onto fusing about that time. One or two got cut out but it was a lot of fancy cutting. So it went into the basket and there it sat. But a couple weeks ago when I made the baby quilt for Cory to give as a shower present, I took advantage of her sense of obligation and asked her to do the fancy cutting. She says she didn't mind and did it quickly. Isn't it nice to have granddaughters!?

Then how to put the quilt together? first I pinned it up in a standard block grid as at the top. Did not fuse the roosters, just pinned them too. A day later I thought of the on-point method and rearranged the ones you see. I like this much better. I've got a lot of other things going on right now including finishing quilting the selvage quilt I put together a couple months ago -- I don't intend for it to become a WISP. I adore having the design wall, and being able to look at these alternate arrangments -- a dream oome true.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Reading the introduction to Quilted Memories by Leslie Riley, a book about making small collage style memory quilts, I read this:

As a reformed perfectionist, I learned a long time ago (with the aid of my six children), that life is more rewarding if you accept the imperfections that come your way. In doing so, I discovered that imperfections add character. It is the act of playing with fabric without worry about rules an dpefect stitches that has allowed me to create with abandon ...

To that I say Hear! Hear! A key word is "playing." Enjoying with a childish glee and concentration in the moment. If you lose that or think that because you are an adult you must be serious and, at all times strive for perfection you will not enjoy what you do and life will become drudgery.

[Butterfly is a detail of a quilt I made - one of 19 monachs on it.]

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Art and technique

[This is a selvage postcard, one of about 50 I made last January. They are nearly half used up. I'll make more one of these days]. It's here mainly because I like to have a photo with a post and it is skunk time in most of the temperate zones.

I received a postcard today with a couple of wonderful quotes about art and craft on it. One is from novelist and poet, Rita Mae Brown: Art is moral passion married to entertainment. Moral passion without entertainment is propaganda. Entertainment without moral passion is television." Amen, Rita, you said it, Girl.

The other is from the late Raymond Chandler [short story writer], "Technique alone is never enough. Technique alone is just an embroidered potholer."

I sometimes rant about the quilt police who produce fear and trembling in the hearts of new quilters who think they must perfect the 1/4 inch seam and every block must turn out exactly square every time and that no quilt can be touched unless one is wearing white gloves. Those are only the first three rule that come to mind but there are about 300 total. Much of this is a power play, an ego trip at the expense of women who admire quilts and would like to make one and haven't the self-confidence to get a book or a CD and learn a few basics on their own. Why don't they have that really minimal amount of confidence? Damned if I know although I could go on and on about what society does to girls in school and what the women's service magazines do. And then there's what men do to women's self-confidence -- no, i won't start on that one.

Let's hear it for culivating some moral passion and looking at what "technique" really is. "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right." Haven't we all heard that? Haven't we told our children that? But how right is right? And what is important enough for that effort? Surely not every egg cooked for breakfast has to be perfect. And not every quilt has to have absolutely exact 90 degree corners. I'm just in a mood today to say, cool it. Relax. Enjoy what you're doing and don't take your hobbies too seriously. You can touch any of my quilts, even if your hands are a little bit grubby. And for heaven sakes don't look too closely at the corners.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Quilties" and "Inchies"

The word "quilties" took me by surprise a year or so ago. It means, no surprise, small quilts. I was then aware of both journal quilts [about 10x12"] and quilt postcards [about 4x6"]. I had, before I heard of either, made a year-long, daily diary of 4x6" quilts -- or perhaps I should now call them "quilties". The size worked to make a small statement meant to capture one feeling about the specific day. It was an enjoyable project that now sits unseen but not forgotten in a few boxes in a closet. I think of these smaller forms of quilts as the equivalent of very short stories compared to a novel, or in the case of my diary pieces as a kind of visual haiku. I made about 350, not quite one for every day, but close to it.

About a year ago I was in a quiltie swaps and so made a couple with subjects based on interests of the person they were to be sent to. It was an interesting exercise that required far more inspiration time than making time. I've just completed another swap of quilties. The top picture is the one I made which was inspired by the poem that is on it -- a poem in the form of a short note from Delilah to Samson. This is largish for a quiltie at about 10x14". When I finally found a "Delilah" to copy onto fabric, to color and fuse to the background, she was a good 7 or 8 inches and needed space on the fabric. So this is what I made.

I received what I believe is a "quiltie-r" piece, the one here which is a more distinct violet and pink than this photo suggests. It has delicate embroidery and lovely lacy border plus a small butterfly atop the printed butterfly. In many ways a better quiltie than mine.

I don't especially like doing quilties. I can imagine doing a series of smallish quilts based on/incorporating poems or bits of poems. I've thought of doing it but probably won't. It seems to me such projects require display as a whole. And display of what are essentially art quilts is an iffy matter in most communities. I greatly admire serious art quilters who enter contests, seek display in galleries and spend time marketing their work. These women and men are artists and endure the hard but emotionally rewarding lifework of artists. I am not among them.

I have heard of and seen pictures of little constructions called "inchies". They are, as the word suggests, inch square constructions with a few tiny additions, buttons, embroidery, beads, tiny shapes. To me these are less than haiku, they are doodles. I am happy making wall quilts in the 30x30" size range, but smaller pieces mostly seem like a cramped canvas. Oh, I know about miniature quilts and drop my jaw in amazement at what some quilters accomplish. I don't understand the impulse except in a competitive way that some people will always try to do something amazing -- smaller, more pieces, larger, made of matchsticks, made of marshmallows, a great flower bed laid out like a Mariner's compass quilt design. It's like people who write entire novels never using the letter "e" -- someone did that! Who cares? The person might as well walk the Appalachian Trail on his hands. Enough of that rant.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I walked on the beach early yesterday and today and hope to do so often in the next couple of months. The dunes area has been closed to people for a couple of weeks so that shore birds could have a second go at reproducing since a serious storm apparently swept away nests and newborns about three weeks ago. The area is still marked off -- with a thin piece of red twine.

Yesterday I saw a couple of adult sandpipers but today I saw a couple of mothers with babies. Full grown sandpipers are small birds, one could easily nest in my palm. The babies -- one had one, another had two -- were the wee-est birds I've ever seen. They were only a little over an inch long. But they were perfect! They dashed about at the water's edge just the way mama did although her dashes tended to be about 15 to 18 inches long and theirs more like 8 to 12 inches at a time. Their tiny legs churned them along so fast they became a mere blur. Mama called often. She seemed to be looking for edibles, babies seemed simply to be practicing their dashes. Mama flew a bit now and then but babies did not attempt flight.

How tiny the eggs must have been! And how very tiny the hatchlings, perhaps only a week or so ago. How miraculous those tiny birds seemed. I just stood and watched until they progressed down the shore in the dirction I had come and became invisible and I preceded on my walk toward the end of the spit of land which is Long Beach - actually a nature reserve although there is a long sandy beach where the ocean was gently lapping, sometimes wetting my feet, usually washing away my footprints. This is a beautiful, peaceful way to begin a day. Between 7:15 and 8:30 I saw no more than eight other people. Far more gulls than people.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Quilting Finished

This one is finished. The top corner is turned down to show the backing which is the same as the pink part of the border. Light is lousy as always. It's a charity quilt. I hope to make another from the same pattern but use different colors in a different way so it will look quit different. It's fairly clear in my mind.

Meanwhile I have so many projects in progress -- although today I finished a small quilt that I'll have a photo of in a day or two. I'm sewing together the hexagons for the abstract quilt and I am making squares for another shirting/strip quilt. I have my latest selvage quilt ready to be quilted -- all the sandwich is together, I just need to DO IT - easier said than done since everything takes longer than one imagines. But it will all get done. I see as I work that the hexagon quilt will be quilted in the ditch as it's got plenty of design already and doesn't need more but it will need a border or two and I don't know quite how that is going to work out.

Shopping about ten days ago Rachel convinced me to buy an Amy Butler fabric for the next hexagon quilt. I'm very curious how that will work but restraining myself from beginning to cut and sew until some of the above mentioned projects are complete. Patience is not an easy lesson but I'm working on it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Baby Quilt

Yes, I have been quilting, just not finishing anything until today. The picture above is a baby quilt that I've been working on in consultation with Cori who wants it for a baby shower she will attend shortly. I had the alphabet fabric. Together we went through the stash and picked out the gingham and the other pieces. Rachel has added her artistic opinion as well. A family effort. The parents don't know if it will be a girl or boy so Cori wanted a quilt that was neither pink nor blue.

There were finally four blank squares. So she chose two motifs from the quilt to repeat by fusing them to blank squares. The other squares will be used after the birth for writing in the baby's name and date of birth, perhaps other data.

As of this morning I finished the quilting and photographed it, still rather badly but this is it with an edge not showing. [I MUST get a different camera some day[. Since Cori is a good photographer I'll have to ask her to photograph this and perhaps replace this photo with a better one if a few days.
My latest selvage quilt is ready to be quilted and the one of hexagons is ready to be sewn together. Both those jobs will take a fair amount of time. Meanwhile I am going to make a small "quiltie" which shouldn't take awfully long. I have the idea, just have to gather materials.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Sky Too Beautiful to Paint

I am looking out the window at a sky that is mauve and soft blue -- the colors are the sort one doesn't trust in water colors and absolutely cannot accept in oils. They are too beautiful to be true. But there they are framed by my windows and fading as I write. There are low diagonal stripes of what is now becoming lilac instead of mauve against what is now becoming gray-blue. All above the green-black rounded tops of trees that define the horizon.

I know those day lilies in the photo have nothing to do with this sky. But they were in Wellfleet the other day and they were beautiful with their maroon hearts which I don't think I had seen before. They are another beautiful thing. All year round beautiful things abound to notice but in summer the abundance seems greater because of all the flowers. As I write the color is fading from the sky. I wrote in my other blog Big 7-0 And More [go to the profile link in sidebar and to bottom of that page to access it quickly] about my Buddha Board on which one draws with water and then watches the image fade. That is not very different from what I've just seen in the sky beyond my window -- everything changes. A fact of life the ancient Chinese knew when they composed the I Ching, the Book of Changes. It is my favorite wisdom book. Understanding it one can feel in harmony with natural forces, one gains an equanimity, even with weird weather patterns such as we've had this summer.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A day in Wellfleet

Rachel and I had a nature and art day. On the way to the lovely, gallery filled town of Wellfleet, we stopped at this beautiful site -- the name of which has gone out of my head -- a former estate that was about to be cut up into residential development when, the story is, JFK was being flown along the shores and decided to purchase the whole estate and give it to Massachusetts as a preserve. It has short trails through a cedar forest with boardwalks over marshy areas and beautiful vistas of inlets and salt marsh. Several people were kayaking. It also has ticks, which R. knew about so we wore light colored long pants and brushed off the few that that seemed to think we looked like yummy bufets.

Wellfleet has maintained it's traditional look with many galleries, stores with crafts, hand made jewelry and quite lovely, poetic type of clothing. We wandered around a couple of hours. The gray clouds blew in just when we wanted to find a nice place for a picnic. Instead we picniced in the car but at the harbor watching fishing and pleasure boats returning before the possible storm arrived. Although the lovely warmth fled before chilly ocean winds, we got only sprinkles. After eating we stopped to visit another three galleries. Among the crafts we enjoyed were some ceramic plates with leaf decoration -- this in fact is not the one I liked best but it gives an idea. I felt shy about taking a lot of photos but the morning was a feast for the senses and a chance to truly enjoy artist's talents and cleverness and to wish we had a bottomless bank account to purchae art and romantic clothing and jewelry.

In the middle of town is an old church which is no longer used. It's a big white rectangular building surrounded by a sunken garden. The billboard says the town is trying to raise money to make it a community center. Meanwhile it's bell tower sits on the ground looking a bit like a gazebo, and one of the benches is on the hill, precariously tilted -- R. is mugging in the picture.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Breakfast Outdoors

I walked to the post office a while ago and passed an outdoor restaurant, The Egg and I, on Main Street. Lots of people were having breakfast reminding me that that is one of my favorite things about traveling -- breakfast is probably my favorite meal, especially if it includes bacon -- and eating breakfast outdoors is a happy treat, especially when someone else has prepared it and comes by often to refill the coffee. I didn't have my camera so this is a photo from a year ago at Grand Tetons park, a great outdoor meal.

I can have breakfast on my little patio and have done so a few times but the non-summer we're having has made that far less frequent than I envisioned. My cholesterol counting habit won't let me keep bacon around on a regular basis. Of course if there's to be a coffee refill I have to do it. I must say I briefly envied those tourists, for I think they mostly were, sitting at the restaurant, mostly, it seemed as I glanced, eating pancakes -- another breakfast treat that is rarely made at home.

These self-deprivations have been worth it. My last cholesterol reading was quite good and I see as of this morning that I've lost six pounds since moving here. No strict dieting although constant awareness of calories. I attribute it to having walked a great deal. And I attribute to walking a healthy feeling of tiredness leading to good nights' sleep. Now, if the stubborn sun would shine ... Tomorrow is the 4th of July but the weather is late May.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Batik Quilt Finished

Pieced -- very simply -- quilted [simply again], bound, labeled -- Finished! The simplicity of the slightly rectangular pieces with simple stripping seemed enough for the bold batiks in the center of this quilt. The ends are pieced with other somewhat less exuberant batiks. The binding is another batik. It's a big splash of color -- in the picture part in sun, part in shadow -- because the weather is so undependable here I decided to take the picture while I had some sun.

As you can see in the photo below, in which the back in folded over at the top, the backing is also batik but contrasts with the deep colors of the front. The whole thing satisfies me and I plan to use it as a winter spread on the bed. So it will rest for a few weeks -- at the rate we're going summer isn't happening this year and winter will be here before we know it.