Sunday, August 30, 2009

Intersting mail

I love snail mail -- although this month it seemed to have gone from snail-like to downright sluggish. A major reason I enjoy the Swap-bot site is because I can very often go to my mail box and have something interesting and far more cheering than bills and assorted junk advertisements. In the last couple of weeks I've received a pair of unusual postcards that I'm keeping in sight at the moment and will find a permanent place for soon.

The postcard above is a fabric one. It has a feather, as you see, on a batik fabric and there are beads and sequins -- the later did not photograph well. And the new and amazing detail is, it has a large round hole at the base of the feather. The hole is finished like the edges with satin stitch [Machine done] but has a spider-web of woven threads in it and a couple of little sparkling beads. How clever is that! I've never seen anything like it. It arrived in a clear plastic envelop with small bubble wrap over the face of it. The creator is Nancy Thomas of Oakdale, CT.

The postcard below is unusual in that it is square but that's not what I love about it. I think this is the youngest looking self-portrait of Frida Khalo that I have ever seen. She hsa that looking-at-you gaze, and the earring is a hand which she wore in later paintings as well. Her hair is a wonderful combination, braided on the left, free and full on the right. And she has drawn a third-eye/bindi like pattern between the heavy eyebrows. She has also written her name on the broach at her throat. The drawing is full of careful details and promise of the woman she was to paint so many times in her life.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Skill and Craft

Since my hair has been growing out from a disastrous scalping a few months ago, it had reached a shaggy dog condition. I only wanted it trimmed neatly so it could continue growing. Rachel suggested I go to her friend Courtney who is in training at a local hair dressing school. It would not be too challenging for Courtney and inexpensive for me. Both were true plus a challenge -- thinning certain parts that were heavy -- that Courtney had not done so an instructor did it and Courtney observed a new technique -- and I had an expert do that part. This was all good and the price was VERY good. But every step was excruciatingly slow as Courtney wanted to do everything just right. That really wasn't a big problem, only that I had not had dinner before the 5:45 appointment and I was getting hungrier by the minute.

But as I sat waiting and telling myself to be patient I thought of a lecture I heard several years about the quilting academies in Japan. That lecture clarified why the quilts we see by Japanese quilters are examples of consummate skill and design. [the picture above is not even an intricate example although it is beautiful. These quilt academies take the beginner thought a long and rigorous lesson plan with exams and challenges along the way. The doyenes of the academies are not only highly skilled but often in competition with their counterparts all over the country so that the level of skill and design is always being pushed upward and the students are also challenged.

I read a lot of blogs and I know about the accredited courses in England and I know we too have some courses, some online. Nothing here in the US approaches the Japanese methods. I thin that's just fine actually. The Japanese have a different ethos, they invented ikebana and bonzai and the tea ceremony -- we have decided that the work of the Gees Bend women is art. Yes, we have our quilt standards and accredited judges and competitions that quilters striive with gorgeous results to win. But we have a different approach too. For many, probably most, certainly this one specific person, quilt making is a delightful addiction and it is fun. For me fun is seeing results, i.e., a completed quilt, that satisfies me. It doesn't have to meet a judge's standards. It may not satisfy me five years from now when I have moved on to something more skillful or of a different type, but I live in the now My quilts are part of what I do, not all that I do. I am who I am with or without my quilts Not much ego is involved just a very little ego is involved when I play Scrabble or croquet. Win or lose, eh, it's a game, not life itself.

Those perfect quilts whether made painstakingly by a well trained Japanese quilter or an American quilter who has taken classes, read instructions and worked alone are a great pleasure to look at. I hope for the quilter's satisfaction, others appreciate them and give her prizes and I would wish that the public understood and valued her hard work and would pay appropriately for it -- but that's another topic for another time.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The wonderful sea

As I wrote a few days ago, I am only not getting acquainted with the ocean. The picture above was only a brief moment of the wonderful sky we had this morning, which kept changing as Rachel and I and Molly-dog, walked on the beach. [For our main activity see my other blog]. I can understand the impulse of painters and of art quilter to try to recreate the kind of sky/water views we had. I have to admire enormously the few who truly succeed and realize that since I know I would never be able to do it, I can only pay attention and look and enjoy the moment.

Yesterday we went to a nearby beach in the late afternoon when a strong wind was blowing and the sea was rolling in with enormous energy and, it seemed, delight. The waves were rolling up on the shore and crashing in beautiful cascades. I watched a woman holding a kick board who was out just far enough to rock up and down on the incoming waves. I envied her, she was letting the ocean rock and play with her. I made a mental note to get a kickboard for next summer.

When I went in, walking gingerly over the strip of stones and shells just beyond the shoreline, reaching the sandy bottomed shallow and feeling the sand beneath my feet sculpted in the same wave pattern, I jumped into an oncoming wave, and it knocked me down. Although it was very shallow and Rachel offered a helping hand, every time I started to get back on my feet another wave pushed me back down and toward the shore, into the stony part I had just walked over. "Stop it! Enough! Give me a break!" I told the ocean. Ha! the ocean said. Ha-ha-ha! and slapped me in the face. Finally I got up and stood long enough to show old Poseidon that I would not stay down and be shoved around.

On this morning's walk [see my other blog for our main activity], we found interesting debris all long the tide line including several horseshoe crab shells and some beautiful scallop and conch shells and, as below, these crab claws. I have heard of blue crabs but never seen any, certainly couldn't have imagined they were SO blue -- and these are only the pinchers. What a beautiful color! What a wonder is the ocean.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Late but Lovely

This is a quilt I made several years ago -- and about the last photo of me in a bathing suit I'm about to show anyone. [OMG, I'm looking at this picture and realize that's the bathing suit I had on yesterday, so that's good news in the weight department, right? And what a frugalista I am! I do have a newer bathing suit but I still like this one best.]

This is the only appropriate photo I have. We are now at the very last of "summer" -- only two more weeks of August -- and finally it is summer. Hot, humid, but turning pleasantly cool in the evening -- actually I find I have chosen a very lucky place to live. I've been told about the 3 o'clock cool sea breeze phenomenon and it seems to be true. Yesterday Rachel and I went to the beach for an hour about 4:00, it was breezy and beautiful. She even enticed me into the water which was refreshing and delightful. That means it IS summer!

A sign of our times: Very near where we sat on the sand was a family with five boy children, all apparently under 6 [maybe some were nephews? or maybe there was a set or two of twins] plus the father was carrying around a little girl who was no more than six months. Whatever the relationships that woman has spent a lot of time pregnant in the last few years. That is not what I'm writing about. She had a digital camera and at one point decided to photograph each kid. As the boys were playing in the sand -- very amiably, mostly ignoring one another -- she positioned herself with the camera and then spoke the boy's name. He briefly stopped what he was doing, gave her a smile, she took the photo and moved to the next. They were clearly well trained to pose upon request. She even got into position and snapped the baby as the father tilted the child's face toward the camera. I have never seen kids so nonchalantly just take a second at a parent's bidding to post for a picture.

This nice weather might well last into September, I hope so. And, after Labor Day I will have a choice of when to take my walk on the beach. For now I try to be out of the parking lot not long after 9:00 since I do not have a beach parking sticker. But it won't be required in three weeks so if I decide to write early in the morning and then walk -- which may well become the rhythm -- I won't be in danger of getting a fine. Early morning is peaceful but I then usually have a sedentary day. A mid-day walk is good.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A slow start

A month or six weeks ago I wrote that I wanted to make another quilt using the same vintage 1930s "chain" pattern but I wanted to make it look very different just by fabric choice. The above is the beginning of the new quilt, only six of 40 blocks done so far. As you see the blue batik makes dramatic stars and the scrap "chain" pieces tend to outline the stars and enlarge them. Below is the first quilt using all white background so there are no dramatic stars at all. I am always interested in how one pattern can make many different quilts.

This is going to go slowly, in fact IS going slowly, because I am engaged in a writing project and have an interested agent but he's a show-me sort of person who wants to know that I can listen to advice and improve what I've done before he commits to my project So I've been rewriting and rewriting and rethinking and so on. I very much want this writing project to come to fruition, I've only been researching for about 15 years. All the material is in my head but putting it on paper is at least as complicated at digging into my stash for just the right fabrics, and then going through all the steps to turn them into a really nice big quilt. It's more time consuming and I have more emotionally at stake so if quilting gets set aside or I only do one block a day for a while, I still love it. Just won't have as much to blog about.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Peach Jam

Lots of things mean summer -- watermelon, ice cream cones, the beach, ripe tomatoes, backyard barbecues -- today I'm thinking of peaches. Summer has so much abundance and we each have our personal favorites. Peaches are among mine -- I mean truly ripe peaches with thin skin that peels easily off, and flesh soft and juicy -- so juicy one eats with care so as not to have a sticky chin, drips on clothes and an messy hands. Such peaches are hard to find as are all truly ripe, actually natural fruit and veggies. We are at a sad moment in history when some of us know what is being lost and others -- the younger ones -- haven't a clue what they're missing. What you don't know one existed, you will never miss. The young geneartio have much, but they have not idea what they don't have. It has NOT ever been so, things have change much more slowly in the past.

Rachel brought peaches back from upstate New York and today was jam making da. We peeled, diced, let marinate with sugar and lemon juice -- played a totally lackluster Scrabble game while waiting -- and then boiled, simmered and canned. Smell was magnificent. We have high hopes for yummy toast slathered in true peach flavor.

So I'm not getting any quilting done -- but peaches will be available like this only this once until next year. If there is one thing to recognize it's the importance of doing what will not wait -- saying yes to the immediate opportunity. As the saying it, "It was a peach of an afternoon."

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Poem in time for Back to School Shopping

Another picture of the shell tree that I've written about, for no reason other than that I like it. I haven't got any quilting done lately but I have been swapping poetry. Today I received the Tony Hoagland poem below which I had never read before:

At the Galleria Shopping Mall

Just past the bin of pastel baby socks and underwear,
there are some 49 dollar Chinese made TVs;

one of them singing news about a far off war,
the other comparing the breast size of an actress from Hollywood

to the breast size of an actress from Bollywod.
And here is my niece Lucinda,

who is nine and a true daughter of Texas,
who has developed the flounce of a pedigreed blond

and declares that her favorite sport is shopping.
Today is the day she embarks upon her journey,

swinging a credit card like a scythe
through the meadows of golden merchandise,

Today is the day she stops looking at faces,
and starts assessing the labels of purses;

so let it begin. Let her be dipped in the dazzling bounty
and raised and wrung out again and again.

And let us watch.
As the gos in olden stories

turned mortals into laurel trees an crows
to teach them some kind of lesson.

so we were turned into Americans
to learn something about loneliness.

I think I should develop the motto: when you have nothing to say, quote a poem. This one says a lot of different things, as good poems do.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Not really quilting

I haven't managed much quilting this week and I have a batch of things to finish. But I've mostly been writing and reading research material for that writing and waking at 2:30 and plotting how to start the next segment when I get up in the morning and turn on the laptop. I like doing this, I'm not complaining. To me it's exciting and delightful. So is quilting but on a scale of 1 to 10 the writing is at 10 and the quitling is 8 or 8.5. So there's a frustration factor in that no day has enough hours.

I'e spent an extra hour all week walking Molly-dog who belongs to my daughter who, with her family is vacations. I say "extra" hour because we spend an hour morning and lat afternoon but I would spend an hour anyway. I don't at all mind the extra hour, it's good for me and enjoyable -- except that this afternoon she was very interested in a patch of bushes. Suddenly she made a mad rush through them, pulling the leash tight as a formerly sleeping cat dashed for the porch of the house where I presume she lives. The leash was hopelessly tangled and I had to unhook the dog, hod hold her by the collar with one hand as I untangled th leash with the other. Could have been worse -- could have been a thorny bush an the can could have been a skunk.

Picture above is a few of the crop of rose hips in a tangled patch on th beach. They begin sort of golden but gradually turn Christmas tree ball red which is gorgeous. Below is a bit of the beach Molly and I walk. Early in the morning, our walk time, dozens of littl carbs have dug holes with little piles of sand at their entryways. Once in a while one sees on at the entrance. I know next to nothing about the precarious live of those little things -- seems to me they must be very vulnerable to all kinds of birds. So much about nature that is a mystery.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Trying to Finish Selvage Quilt

I am trying to finish this selvage quilt -- a picture of the entire top is back about a month. Above the top is barely turned over but mainly shows the back which is made of two pieces of sarong fabric from Indonesia, actually purchased in Thailand.
The top has two kinds of squares ones with the selvage making and on-point square surrounded by triangles of various dark fabric. I love looking at the manufacturers' and designers' names and at the color circles. Can't explain why something that's purely functional like that is so pleasing to me.
The other squares have small selvage on-point squares in the middle so that they seem to be framed by the various dark print fabrics. For these I used selvages that had darker colors -- while most are white, no matter the color of pattern of the fabric, not all are. Thus I think the smaller center selvage squares are gem like -== a word Karen Griska used also in her book about Selvage Quilting.
The weather has been so humid that the quilt felt almost damp and I haven't been able to bear working on it in this humidity. However the whole center has now been simply quilted and I want to do something a little fancier on the border probably a Greek key pattern of quilting ... if ever we have some hot, fairly dry summer weather. I despair and think it just might e the summer that forgot about Cape Cod. I'm sure many a tourist is ever sadder about that than am I for I am able to enjoy the few hours a lovely sun whenever it might happen rare though that has been.
I have other projects awaiting completion. Meanswhile I have a large writing project that puts quilting into the category of what to do while I have to have some thinking time Thinking time is also walking time which means the quilting gets a smaller percentage of time. It's all a balancing act.