Friday, December 31, 2010

On New Year's Eve

The One Minute Writer which I often go to in the morning and write something if the prompt speaks to me, does Friday Fiction and suggests taking longer to write something. I am not a fan of short, short stories but one came to me today. I could offer many caveats but I will write it here simply because it is New Year's eve.

Eve was sitting on the dusty plain piling up twigs. Beyond the thorn bushes she could see Abel guarding his flock of sheep. Adam and Cain had gone off hunting for something for them to eat when it got dark. Eve was patiently rubbing two stones together trying to make sparks so they could have a fire. They needed it to cook whatever food was found and because the nights had lately been getting very cold.

When the guys gathered around, Eve had a nice fire going and there was meat roasting. "I have been watching the stars," Adam said in that lecturing voice he had. "So...?" the boys shrugged. "So I've noticed that some stars move around the sky and that they're all back to where they were when I first began to pay attention. "Big deal," Cain said in his cocky voice. Adam gave him The Stare. "I still have the power to name things," Adam said. "The angel didn't take that away from me. So I'm going to say that we have Time and that when the stars are back like they were we have a New Year." The boys scowled and gnawed on rabbit backbones.

"That's very nice, Dear," Eve said. She had been super sweet to Adam ever since the day the angry angel chased them into the desert. "You're a very, very smart man." Adam heard real sincerity in Eve's voice, not just the wifely rote. He looked at Eve. He had loved her once and maybe he still did. "And I'll call the night the stars get back to their places Eve's New Year." "Thank you, darling," Eve said and kissed him. He kissed her back.

"They're just mushy old so-and-sos," the boys said.

"We'll start all over again," Adam ssid. So they had a happy Eve's New Year around the fire, their stomachs full, their bodies warm. Never mind what troubles might yet befall this small family of man.

And I wish anyone who reads this a happy new year. May you find moments of peace and contentment despite whatever might befall this much enlarged family of man in the coming year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Didn't Happen Here

When something doesn't happen it can be very nice indeed! That is a stock snow image, not one outside my house. Unfortunately it did happen to a lot of people all over the Eastern seaboard. Somehow I seem to be living in a warm bubble. Lots of wind, sometime there's been white stuff in it but we had no accumulation at all. That is definitely not a complaint.

I read, and perhaps not everyone else did, so I'll repeat it, that this very cold and snowy winter in the northern US and northern Europe is actually a global warming effect. That sounds counter-intuitive. But only a few people have the education and tools to take a truly big picture view of what's happening. This cold winter is an effect of the high altitude winds and what happens as they make a kind of wave effect flowing over the giant mountains in central Asia having gathered more moisture than would have formerly been the case. But now, due to the warming of the Arctic during the summer that moisture has kind of been waiting to come dumping down as blizzards throughout the usually more temperate part of the northern hemisphere.

As you can tell this is a murky layman's way of explaining something infinitely more complex. I am sorry for people stranded on highways and in airports and others at home without electricity and the many other problems these blizzards cause. Just now I am counting my lucky stars and am well aware that the winter has only begun. That picture could become a reality outside my window too.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gifts given

Post-Christmas photos with my quilting and its new owners. Cory and Rachel in their sweatshirt jackets. Now I feel jealous enough of them to think I will make myself one in the near future.
And Finn at his first Christmas with the bear claw quilt -- it was prescient of him to wear a matching shirt for the occasion. As one can see, he's learning mobility.

It's nice when Christmas comes on a Saturday because Sunday really seems like a needed day of rest. it was a relaxed day full of family, food, fun and lots of laughter -- what more can anyone want?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Day Before Christmas

Tis the day before Christmas
and all through the house
not much is happening.
I'm quiet as a mouse
quilting and net-surfing --
because, you see, the fuss and flurry
has moved a generation down from me.
I'm done with my part of the panic
and also given up rhyming this ditty.

How relaxed I am! The sun is shining, the snow is only patchy but that's okay. I started a paper pieced block yesterday that may be the first of a dozen or twenty to make into a quilt, using Carol Doak's mariner's compass star book. I'm mulling a selvage quilt -- my bag of selvages is sizable. I have some writing projects in mind. I will not be bored, plus I have book case of to-read books.

So happy holidays to any regular readers - I know some of you are out there and quietly lurk without leaving notes. That's okay, come back often. And if you're quilters, I hope you'll have a sew-nice year ahead. [yeah, I know, puns are the lowest form of wit]
This quilt is named "Christmas Cactus". It was a long term UFO but finished sometime in the last year or 18 months. It's currently a table covering. I do not "do" Christmas trees. My small poinsettia joins the considerable amount of red in my living room looking as holiday-ish as I need.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Great-grand's first Christmas quilt

Inspired by the dark chocolate colored teddy bear, and pushed a bit quicker than anticipated - I was thinking of first birthday, not first Christmas but Finn's mama has a fuzzy memory that says she received plenteous quilts from her Grandmother [c'est moi] and hoped Finn would also, soon! Actually I didn't make THAT many quilts for her. But I just finished this bear claw quilt -- mentioned in a post a couple weeks ago. As obviously it's decorated with silhouetted bears, these from Deborah Kamensky whose "Forest Animals" designs I've had for years and used here and there.

The colors and designs aren't the generally expected so-sweet, so-cute kinds of baby patterns popular in the current books. I don't like cute and prefer traditional, so it's traditional muted New England-y colors. We ARE in New England, after all and this is a very traditional place. I am happy enough to bow to Cory's requests but she has to live with my taste too. For his part, great-grand-Finn, at 7 months doesn't care. He probably won't even be interested in the teddy bear. That's okay, he can get away with total indifference even to the point of spitting up on his quilt, or more serious misdemeanors, because he's a baby. So tomorrow it gets wrapped and goes under the tree at grandmother's house. I have other projects on the back burner which will keep me occupied if tomorrow is another snowy day as today was. Gee, I wish I still lived in a house with a fireplace.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December journal quilt

This is my last journal quilt for the year. My theme was trees and birds. This is a fantasy forest which I did partly because I've been nuts about the background fabric ever since I purchased it a couple of years ago. I didn't cut into it because it felt too pretty. After a certainly period that attitude about various fabrics wears off and so this is about half the FQ I had.

As you see it has a trimmed evergreen appliqued to the center and the fantasy goes into high gear with a couple of peacocks guarding the tree. There are stars and snow flakes added. So ends the year's journal quilt project. It started out seeming like a great idea but, frankly, I got bored and did not put the effort into the later ones that I had anticipated when I began. It's unlikely I will do another. I'm not a block of the month type although I'm still enchanted with Carol Doak's book of mariner's stars and might decide to make one a month for the year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Nutty bread recipe

Women's magazines seem to employ hordes of subeditors to fill several pages per issue with recipes. They also employ photographers to make the products of those recipes look delicious -- and they use many a trick I've been told, lighting, coloring, glazes, every so carefully arranged garnishes. I have long suspected these people are paid a pittance and that they mainly scavange recipes from existing or older magazines or newspapers, change an ingredient or two and present it as the latest discovery. Long, long ago I stopped reading these recipes although I enjoy the eye-candy of beautifully arranged plates of food.

All these thoughts have been twittering through my slightly addled brain [I have a cold and am spending much too much time blowing my nose and coughing] because I was at a small gathering last night when a woman presented each person present a baggie with a since of her latest quick bread. Said she, "the recipe was in a magazines and it only calls for two ingredients. Flour, I guess? Yes, self-rising flour a cup and a half. The other ingredient is a pint of maple walnut ice cream.

I sampled my slice this morning. It was horrible! Horrible!!! I thought of all the list of preservatives and junk that goes into ice cream. Why would I ever want to put all those chemicals into a homemade quick bread? The novelty factor appealed to the cook. But surely a little thought could have told her it was a bad idea. I suspect she tasted a slice and decided to cut up the rest, package it up and spread around the agony.

More and more I hear my contemporaries saying "I don't cook any more." So many prepared foods come microwave ready I think most of them don't even fresh salads for themselves. So is eating large amounts of chemicals, and especially salt which is not good for the many with high blood pressure, now our final capstone of the American dream these mostly retired women enjoy? Do they enjoy it? When I say I don't cook, it mean, I don't cook meat very often. I have many vegetarian meals -- fresh vegetables, often briefly steamed or broiled and dressed only with a small bit of butter and maybe a shake of some spice. I do cook fish, usually briefly sauted and eaten with lemon juice or a dab of wasabi dressing -- I really love wasabi!

And I've been a baker all most life. I rarely make quick breads but when I do they are from scratch. They're called quick, and in fact they are. That's what happens when I have bought too many bananas or zucchinis and they're threatening to go bad. I could go on but I've got get another cough drop.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shopping, no crowds!

Are there reports of brisk holiday sales this year? From here it seems unlikely. Yesterday afternoon [Saturday, a prime shopping time, one assumes] Rachel told me she had just come back from the mall and it was not very busy. My own plan was to go there this morning while many people would be in church. There were very few people about, I did not have to wait in line to check out, the parking lot was not packed. This experience may be atypical but it seems few people are frantically shopping.

Happily I had time and space to wander and, as always I shopped with an open mind, not a firmly defined list in my head. I had some basic ideas and thought it would be unlikely I'd finish my shopping. But I did! In about an hour and a half and then I went to the Starbucks in the Barnes & Noble where I got a remarkably fresh cranberry-orange scone with their Christmas special coffee. I enjoyed my snack while I looked through a Quilting Arts Magazine thinking I would find it as pretty as usual but, as usual, not offering many ideas I would be likely to use. Actually, it seemed to have a different, more useful slant this issue so I bought in order to read thoroughly and keep it on hand for reference. It was a most satisfactory morning even though rain was splattering down.

I'll have the mail-away gifts in the postal system's hands in a day or two. What a satisfying feeling! I have a couple of quilting projects to finish but I've got two weeks to do it. No prob'. Ho, ho, ho ... I'm holiday-ready.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Another sweatshirt jacket

Another sweatshirt jacket, this one a speedy one using larger pieces of fabric. It's meant to be brighter, more "fun" in the sense of lighthearted fabric designs like the bands of frogs on the bottom and on the sleeves, the big benign lizard at the top of the back and the bright colored strips elsewhere. Front is shown above and back below.

This was on nice Gap pull over, that was really not a sweatshirt, it has a bit more body and structure. It's hard to find such good bases for this kind of jacket in thrift shops, but now that I've made this one, I'm going to keep my eyes open for others. In fact, It thought of putting a zipper up the front but got lazy about that. I'd like to take something with a firm knit like this and do a selvage jacket, maybe one with rickrack as I've just seen on the Selvage Blog several examples of rickrack used with selvages. Well that's in the future. I've got that bear claw quilt to finish at this point.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Old Pattern, old mistakes

The Bear Claw pattern is not the simplest of traditional quilt patterns, but it is certainly not very complicated. In the very early 1970s when I had been sewing dresses for my daughters and curtains for a new house, I decided to make my first quilt. It was a bear claw design which I found in a magazine. I used blue and white print left over from kitchen curtains and white muslin. I make templates from the cardboard of cereal boxes and figured out on my own how to sew it all together. I made quite a few mistakes until I understood the half-square triangles and got the points headed in the proper directions. That was my first and, as the cliche goes, the rest is history.

In all these years I've made, literally, hundreds of quilts, big and small but not another bear claw design. Today I began a bear claw quilt because I have a request for a Christmas quilt for my great-grandson and I happen to have a sweet little stuffed teddy bear to give him. I fiddled around for some hours trying to make a paper piecing pattern but I had trouble with the math. I love paper piecing and would love to have nice sharp pointy "claws". But I got tired of wasting my time and finally decided to sew it the old fashioned way. Which I did -- and I made the very same, old fashioned mistakes I know I made on that first quilt -- not that I specifically remember but I know my own style and method, which is not very methodological. I wound up in the first block [four bear claws as in the picture] with three of the paws, with claws pointing the wrong direction. I reached for the trusty [but not beloved] seam ripper muttering about old dogs never really learning much at all. Impetuosity is not a good trait when sewing small pieces together. Patience and careful consideration of what is needed is much more necessary. So the second patch is much better -- albeit with blunted claws because of my hasty math and sewing.

I hope to get the next patches done and done more precisely in the next few days. The quilt will also feature some paper pieced bears that more or less match the toy that will accompany the quilt. They will grace the border. Photo in a week or so. Meanwhile I'm feasting on humble pie.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

What's a Doctor to do?

Most internists, family practitioners and so on went into their fields wanting to help ordinary people with ordinary problems. So what's a doctor to do faced with a 70+ patient during an annual physical with no complaints, blood pressure under control, and all the stats on a blood test well within the target numbers? The patient is reassured that nothing has gone out of whack over the past year and has no complaints to ask about -- well, there's a bit of wax in the ears. That could be taken care of. And a couple of cholesterol stats have moved a couple of points in the wrong direction [but still are in the good range].

Truly I felt sorry for my perky new internist when I had my physical the other morning. She couldn't get any warm fuzzies from giving me good advice [get the ear wax taken out]. She is not a naturally chatty or particularly personable person in her professional milieu [I've never met her socially] so she was left with the usual, "a little more exercise." I vowed I wished I could, if the weather would cooperate. "Try the track at the community sports center. Try mall walking," said she. I was sorry to rain on her parade but I don't do boring [track], I don't do geriatric [mall walking]. I do beach and woods, natural places with natural sounds and quiet enough to think my own thoughts. If worst comes to worst, I'll walk around the neighborhood but I don't like the company of cars and trucks. Perhaps I'm a difficult patient. For my part, I'd wish many more patients were like me but I don't have any secrets to share.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Getting Exercise in the Winter

Pushing a sewing machine pedal is not exercise. Walking two steps from sewing machine to ironing board is not exercise. Sometimes sitting on the floor sandwiching backing, batting and quilt is a bit of a stretching exercise, but not much. How to get exercise in the gloomy, chilly, too often windy winter months? I'm walking in the woods -- but not often enough. I'd continue my walks by the seashore except for the wind which makes chilly positively cold. Some people think exercise should hurt. They are mostly young and foolish or badly deceived by nasty coaches or sports writers.

I believe exercise should be so positive that doing it is a pleasure. Science has actually shown that for the non-athlete, i.e., the normal person who just hopes to stay healthy and reasonably physically fit, walking is an excellent exercise. It is the one I choose. No, I cannot imagine myself EVER being one of those geriatric [yeah, I know how old I am, I'm not in denial] shufflers walking up and down the mall. Malls are, to me, ugly places pushing cheap, ugly clothes to people who are so young and attractive they can wear them without looking entirely ridiculous. They are also places with dreadful music droning in my ears and the scent of pizza and various other fast food trying to entice me to ignore any fitness I get from walking.

No, if the seashore is too cold for me, even when well bundled in down and wool, I'll walk in the woods. Which I did a couple or three times this week. Right now the path is covered with leaves, which hide nasty roots waiting to trip one. The leaves will become slippery when wet or in later stages of decay. But I have my dearly loved trekking pole to support me if I stumble or slide a bit. Best of all I have the peace and quiet of the trees and small lake. I was nearly alone the whole time on each walk lately. The happy bounding of a big white dog, followed some distance behind by his human is a friendly interruption to the mental meanderings which are usual when my feet are in motion. If snow come - and of course it will come -- I'll be forced to walk on sidewalks -- my last resort and not one I welcome -- especially as this town is skimpy with its sidewalks, often being only on one side of a residential street. Maybe it makes some kind of municipal budgetary sense but to a New Yorker it is disconcerting. I'll adjust, the walking needs to happen and I enjoy it. I don't "multi-task" although I would enjoy listening to music. The brain needs down time too, and not just when asleep.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Better Late than Never

This photo of me with the glamorous Jan was just received from Roy who we went to Newport, Rhode Island to meet when his cruise ship arrived. He promised us photos of polar bears when he returned home and we were eager to get them. When his cruise ship left him in NYC he was flying to Churchill in Canada [Ontario?] to see the polar bears in their natural habitat. He wrote that it was an amazing adventure ... but didn't send any pictures. However, I like this photo and am happy to have it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thinking Christmas

At a gathering of quilters a couple of weeks ago one of the women spoke of making sweatshirt jackets by raw edge appliqueing more or less random pieces of fabric to the sweatshirt, after a front opening has been cut and the whole side and underarm seams also cut open. The hostess of the gathering went to her closet and modeled her version which was very handsome. I've done two and am on the third as of this morning. I have a large stash so one was made of only batiks and this one of blue/lavender fabrics, it doesn't need big pieces so I can't call it a stash buster. My favorite thing about quilting has always been making seat-of-the-pants decisions about which fabrics to put next to each other. I had so much fun with this particular jacket that I began appliqueing a second fabric on top of the first. I'm getting a lot of loose threads so I'll wash it before I give it away and hope to dislodge the really loose threads. But if it has a slightly "hairy" appearance, that's okay with me.

The jackets are meant to be worn casually with jeans, not seriously out of the house. I had thought the first one which is on a fleece sweat-style top, would become a bed jacket for myself as I love reading in bed, especially winter nights. But I decided it was just the right thing for my niece so I may have to make another for myself. I'm really enjoying the project. A baby quilt has been requested so I have to leave myself time for that, too.
Speaking of babies, little Sophia here is no longer the baby of the family [she is my son-in-law's niece]. Whenever she visits, as Thanksgiving day, my daughter's house her first stop is the Buddha board where she can paint with water as she is doing here. I've written about the Buddha board before -- that is a trade marked name and can be found by Googling it and can be ordered if anyone wishes. [I am not a salesman.] Our family have several, I had a tiny one. The board part has a surface that dries gradually after a picture is painted -- it is a meditation device. You can see the potential if, for instance, you write your name or draw a self-portrait and mediate as it gradually fades away. I use that exercise also as a timer for how long to sit and meditate. Sophia tends to slather on a lot of water and doesn't particularly want it to dry -- but is then pleased if she goes away to do something else and comes back and finds a clean board to draw on all over again.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Turkeys and other wild life

The local newspapers have received a number of photos of wild turkeys from local residents. I have seen them rarely but I rejoice that they are around. I'm also happy there are deer and coyotes and beavers reclaiming the land, I used to visit the Catskills frequently and keep looking for the little black bears others reported seeing. Some romantic part of me wants the land to be as abundant and varied as it reportedly was when first settled by the Pilgrims. I know that is impossible, I know the chestnuts and elms are gone, I know the frogs and honeybees are disappearing in many places, various kinds of birds are gone forever. Like many people who notice what's going on, my environmentalism is really a romantic impulse. I try to be informed, but I'm not an activist, only an observer and not a very active one.

When I eat turkey at Thanksgiving, I know the bird was factory raised and factory killed. I know the flavor is not from the bird itself but from the skill of the cook and the way the stuffing's spices and flavors has added taste to the meat. I enjoyed the meal but it was not the protein part I loved. Like so many others [at our table and across the country] it was the carbohydrates, the fats and sugars that I enjoyed most. I haven't stepped on the bathroom scale this morning and it's a gray and damp day which does not encourage restorative walking. I'll avoid the greedy scenes at the mall and do some home sewing of Christmas presents.

My thoughts are scattered, as you see, this morning. Perhaps that's a carb hangover. Happily my refrigerator is full of fruits and vegetables and most of the leftovers were left elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thinking aka meditating

I just found an aphorism on Marian Van Eyk's Elderwoman blog that resonates with what other blogs have said on the blogs I have been browsing this evening:

They say the unexamined life is not worth living, however the unlived life is not worth examining.

Most people I know are indeed living their lives quite fully -- which is not the same as constant multitasking. But every now and then I run into someone either in person or through their writing, sometimes on blogs, sometimes in other venues, who seem to have done relatively little living and certainly little self-examination. That is very sad.

Monday, November 22, 2010

MackIntosh Inspired Wall Hanging

I've finally finished this wall hanging inspired by the Scottish architect/designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It has not been hanging long enough to straighten out and I should have waited to photograph it. The design as a quilt was done by Claudia Clark Myers for her book A Passion for Piecing.
It is perhaps the simplest in the book and one of the most dramatic. There is another quilt or two in the book that I'd love to make. I have to have the time and the nerve to spend as long piecing as they would demand.

I enjoyed pulling out all my reds and working with my daughter, Rachel to chose the ones to go into this quilt. Since my living room is full of red and black this is a perfect addition.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nice to Know I'm Not the Only One

It may take a bit of looking but that photo is my foot, garbed in a sock, on the pedal of my sewing machine. I very rarely sew with shoes on -- or at last not on my right foot which I use on the pedal of the machine, when the weather is reasonably warm, I'm like likely to be barefooted.

Recently Karen who write the Selvage Blog, which is in the sidebar here, said in a post that she usually sews barefooted and asked her readers what they did. The last time I looked over 30 had said they sew bare or sock-footed, and none were advocates for shoes. I feel I have much more control especially about the speed when I can feel the pedal right there under the sole of my foot. Naturally I know that when I drive a car, I am also controlling the speed with my foot, but that seems a very different matter. I do not drive barefooted and it's my understanding that most insurance companies insist the driver have on shoes -- which I think is pretty ridiculous.

To digress from sewing matters, I have long been aware that the reason we have the seat belt laws is because of serious lobbying on the part of insurance companies, not because legislators cared about saving our lives. The insurance companies didn't like the thousands and thousands of dollars it cost when an accident victim went through the windshield -- the injuries were horrible, if not fatal and the consequences often lifelong disabilities.

Well, I haven't heard of any disabilities from controlling sewing machines with the unshod foot and plan to continue sewing this was for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

November Journal Quilt

The theme of my year of journal quilts is trees and birds. For November the title is "The Ones Who Winter Over". I've added four birds to the leafless trees which represent the birds that I still see at the feeders -- or at least I hope these are the right birds. I'm not a bird identifier and I only watch them at feeders and to me the majority are LBBs -- which is "Little Brown/Black birds." I'm happy people feed them and later in the winter I wonder how the tiny little things manage to stay alive in blizzards. Nature's wonders.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nashua, NH show purchase

This is Bernina's lightweight portable sewing machine, the Bernette. It seems almost a toy. Compared to my ancient Riccar [the saleswoman said it had been made by Bernina .. circa 1960] which had only two plastic parts and has, in its old age developed rheumatism, siatica, wheezing, and probably cardiac occlusion, this is a healthy, happy child who has acquired very few skills or competencies but has endless energy and charms me. It was on sale at the Quilters Gathering in Nashua, N.H. at about half price, I was able to bring it home -- a carrying case came with it and it would be ungracious of me to complain that it's kind of an ugly brocade-y fabric.

I walked around the quilt show for about an hour asking myself if I wanted this machine. I have been sorry I didn't have a portable for taking to classes or sew-ins. And I have hesitated for some years about purchasing a new electronic, digitalized machine that does everything except select the fabric colors for you. I keep asking myself what kind of quilter am I? The answer is that I'm happy to be an amateur, am not ambitious to win prizes, don't care about many new techniques -- I don't want to thread paint or embroider or do very fancy quilting. I want to be able to do rather modest things but some complex paper piecing -- but paper piecing is only straight sewing. So obviously I decided I would buy this machine. So far it's easy to use, purrs far more quietly than the growling Riccar. So I am happy.

The Work in Progess that is partially visible in the photo will be finished by dinner time today and, if I can find the hanging rod I think I've stashed somewhere, it will be hanging and I can take a photo later on which I'll post in a day or two

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Oldest Twins in the World

This article with the wonderful photo is from The Elderwoman Newsletter They live in Powys in Wales -- don't we all wish to look so happy and vibrant at 100? And how wonderful is it to still be able to live in your own house?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Geese left behind

No quilting is getting done, a batch of other things need doing but I'll get back to my nearly done quilt soon. Meanwhile here is my paper pieced Canadian goose. I've shown it before, he's an illustration for the poem I felt inspired to write this week.

Going South?

Only two now, out there,
Early morning on the lawn,
Mates, if one believes the romance
About geese mating for life.
They arrive early and quietly now
As if they’re a little embarrassed
That they’ve dawdled here
When their companions left two weeks ago.

During the summer more than thirty
Arrived each morning whooping
Like a Comanche raid war party.
Most stalked the grass, some took turns
Scouting, heads erect, eyes brightly watching.
Only mildly perturbed if Joe rushed
Flapping a towel or clapping hands
-- a single settler against the tribe.
He hates the landmines they lay,
Sticky worms of poop
Fouling [fowling too] and fertilizing the lawn.
Some squawk indignantly and waddle away
Like broad beamed matrons leaving a quilting bee.

Next door Ed and Margie dawdle like the goose pair.
They can’t decide when to leave for Florida this year.
Ed keeps tinkering with the car,
Margie makes soup and zucchini bread.
They like the crisp days of autumn.
Perhaps they ought to coop up those geese
And deliver them to a Delaware corn field.
Old people and old geese cling to the familiar,
Need a nudge to do what’s good for them.

Friday, November 05, 2010

A Quilt Gathering, Nashua, NH

Rhonda Beyer made this grand prize winning quilt which had the place of honor at the show in Nashua, NH that I went to yesterday with the Bayberry Quilt group. It was a beautiful combination of taupe and black. That it was expertly sewn goes almost without saying. The feathered stars were perfectly made, which is why I include the detail below. In the full size picture you can see that there are designs in black around the inside border -- these were all machine embroidered and each was different.
This quilt is truly a combination of traditional piecing [although probably the feathered stars were paper pieced] along with the technology of what today's expensive sewing machines can do. Add to that the current interest in taupe -- a "fad" imported from Japan where taupe has been very popular for the last 3 or 4 years. It has not been a big hit with American quilters but here it was extremely effective. I totally agreed with the judges that this was the most outstanding quilt in the show.
Otherwise I was under-whelmed by the show. Many traditional designs, mostly using very modern fabrics were well made but very little was unique or able to hold my attention very long. There were only a small handful of what I would call art quilts, of which this is the most unique and interesting one. It was badly displayed at about knee level -- an indication of the quilt show curators of their interest in art quilts.

This bright pineapple quilt was probably the one that will inspire me to make something along the same lines. There was also a Chinese coin quilt that did not photograph very well because what I liked about it was that the fabrics chosen were so well blended they created another fabric. This seems a bit too "sweet" but I could imagine it in other colors working with much more pizzazz.

I was only able to credit the prize winner because it was easy to find her in the show booklet. When I had taken a picture of another I was told by the quilt police [a "white glove volunteer] that I couldn't use my pen to jot down in a tiny notebook which quilts I took pictures of. For some reason that is unfathomable to me, pens and pencils were forbidden on the show floor. Other rules that appalled me were that the volunteers were not allowed to turn over the quilt so a viewer could see the back [which is the usual job of the white glove ladies] and that absolutely no food or drink was allowed on the floor including water. I have never heard anything more ridiculous at a quilt show. No food makes sense the rest is another example of the rampant paranoia that is affecting American society today. We are making ourselves into a self-policed state with ridiculous rules and fears that "something could happens". I for one don't want to live in a society where nothing ever happens.

The show's special attraction was a collection of Amish quilts, many large ones -- but all recent, i.e., from the '50s onward when most of the skill and color sense had been lost, alas, yes, even the Amish are Americanized! They had begun making quilts quickly for sale using pattterns that would sell. Sad. I've seen true antique ones and thought that was what I would be seeing. A nice collection of miniature Amish quilts were older and some really wonderful with startlingly small pieces. Of course all photography was forbidden -- more quilt police, although in this case, they are able to make a reasonable argument for damage being possible from the light although, actually, I don't buy it.

I was not in a good mood most of the day -- the vender section was far larger than the show and they were so crowded movement was almost impossible - plus many women were walking about with huge tote bags bumping and thumping one another. And to add insult to injury the Raddison Hotel which has surely hosted many other large events in those rooms was unable to keep up with the line of people waiting for lunch and not replenishing food quickly. Of course it was over priced but one expects that. I had one positive about the day but I will write about that another time.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

End of Autumn

For about ten days I've been saying to myself, This is the peak! There were eye popping displays of orange, red, gold. I was driving, I didn't have my camera. I looked hard and I remember them. That was the best I could do. Couldn't have stopped on a busy highway or street to jump out of car so I just memorized. There were sudden strokes of color -- no wide vistas because wide vistas exist here only as seascapes, we are relatively flat, there are no long views. Today I went for a walk and I'm satisfied that I got this picture of red and yellow. It was windy, other shots were blurry because I could not find a quiet moment when leaves weren't in motion. Of course many are falling, tops of trees, especially are denuded. Soon the entire tree will be and we will have winter's landscape.
I don't know what this grassy plant is called, it's an ornamental grass as tall as I am. Parts of it's fronds are going to a star shaped seed head, other parts haven't matured that much yet. It is very graceful, especially in the wind.
This was dawn this morning with Xes in the sky. I glanced out just before the horizontal line got it's shot of pink. By the time I could find where I put the camera, it had gone from seashell pink to almost shocking pink. And soon it was gone -- in the time it took to pour coffee from the pot into the cup and go back to the table by the sliding glass door. Everything is rushing to disappear, to remind us that growing things are emphemeral.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hazzards of Quilting

It's not nice of me, but then I'm old enough to have outgrown the need to always be a "nice girl" although there are residues, like a twinge of guilt at posting this picture although I took it with the thought of posting it.

I do not know any of the women in this picture. They are all quilters who are examining a table full of art quilts that Louisa Smith talked about. At the Empire Quilters Guild, and now at the Bayberry Quilters Guild I am comforted, in a selfish way, because so many of the women are weighty -- and it shows up most obviously across the broad beam as in this picture. Quilting is definitely not aerobic exercise. It is sedentary and the sitting body, especially after the mid-40s begins to spread. Some of us spread mostly across the butt and others mostly in front. I'm a front loader myself and it distresses me. I haven't worn a tucked in blouse in ages and I wish I could.

I'm sure the girth wherever it accumulates is more complex than merely having to do with quilting. Of course, some women are slender, a lot is genetic and comes from individual metabolisms. Nevertheless, being among women who have substantial bodies comforts me in a purely selfish way. I compare my relative slenderness with such as these women and go home feeling a little lighter on my feet -- an illusion that fades rapidly. So I make a real effort to take my walks and keep my calories reasonable. It certainly won't make me a better quilter but it may help me to be able to quilt for more years of my life.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Louisa L. Smith, "stripper" quilter

Anyone who still harbors the notion that quilts are demure little old lady things should go to a quilt show today or look at the work of the many teaching art quilters. Louisa L. Smith spoke and did a trunk show at the Bayberry Quilters' meeting yesterday with her jaw dropping, brilliant quilts. As Louisa announced immediately, "I'm a stripper." And she is teaching others to be strippers too with several book and many teaching gigs, usually at big quilt shows.

To her "stripper" means she sews strips of fabric together and thus makes a "new" fabric from which she cuts the shapes, often curvy, that she then sews into these stunningly colorful and intricate quilts. She not only sews the basic quilt but then embellishes and appliques extensively to get even more complexity. We've all heard the comment from nonquilters [usually attributed to befuddled husbands] about buying perfectly good fabric, then cutting it into little pieces and sewing it together again -- which sounds to many people like the epitome of pointlessness. But we know that if you want to make art of that fabric [which may in its own right already be graphic art of a high degree], it has to be cut up and reassembled. Which is just what Louisa does. I loved seeing her quilts although I was distressed at her penchant for using [as she admitted] cheap plaid fabrics for the backs of many. I deeply understand using cheap fabric for the backs [I always do] but the plaid contrasted with the wonderful top work just didn't work for me.
Louisa is a practiced and good speaker with a slide show of reasonable length and a trunk show of some of her very many quilts which have been shown all over the US, some have traveled for years. I'm sorry this photo of Louisa speaking is dark, I was too far back in a big room with my inadequate camera. The quilt that is being held up as she speaks would have made anyone proud but it was one of the simplest that she showed, as can be seen by comparing it to the others here.
This picture with lighting bad because of my camera angle, nevertheless shows the brilliance of the color which here, as in some others of her quilts is attained by using dupioni silk, one of the most lustrous materials to be found, not easy to work with, but obviously, Louisa handles it expertly.

I have seen jackets made using this piecing technique, in fact the guild president wore a jacket she had make this way and it was lovely. That tempts me somewhat more than a full size quilt. I do like bright colors but I have seen so many quilts lately that virtually vibrate with color and design that I feel more like retreating to something a little less "in your face."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Louise Bourgeois, The Fabric Works

Louise Bourgeois, the artist who died early this year at the age of 98, was mainly a sculptor. Her work is in many major museums in the US and Europe. Currently a posthumous show in Paris displays "The Fabric Works" which appeals to me as a quilter and as someone who has enjoyed her work for many years.
Ms. Bourgeois saved clothing, linens, table clothes, and other such fabrics that interested her and used them to make art probably through the last quarter of her life. She did not make quilts, they seemed not to be on her radar, but the large piece at the top of this post is very, very quilt-like in design. A great many of her pieces, like the other two here are suggestive of spider webs. For those who are interested you can Google Louise Bourgeois Fabric Works and reach several site with pictures and essays. She was a fascinating artist.
The spider web motif fits right in with a fascination she had for spiders in her sculpture, sometimes making very huge, black ironwork spiders to stand scarily in public places. One of the most effective I've seen is a spider maybe 3 or 4 feet tall which is displayed at the Dia-Beacon [New York] Gallery. This is a big display in a converted Nabisco cracker/cookie factory that I recommend to anyone who is interested in contemporary art. It is in the Hudson River town of Beacon about 60 miles north of NYC. The topmost gallery which is a bit like an attic room is the home to one of her menacing spiders. It rocks one a bit after the huge Richard Serra sculptures on the lowest level and the chrome sculptures, the all white paintings, the string sculptures and Richard Chamberlin's crushed auto parts sculptures. Bourgeois is an artist those who are interested in fiber art and quilts should read about.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dawn Clouds, Day Clouds

Summer was so very beautiful this year, I miss it like an enchanting house guest who had to leave and who I know I won't see again for many months. The sun is shining but chilly, gusty breezes are scattering autumn leaves. I have to change my daily habits as I change my wardrobe. I do not dislike autumn or winter but I don't want them to visit me yet. I do not believe I have ever so consciously enjoyed summer as I did this year, that is part of my feeling, it was an active enjoyment. I think in other years I have more passively accepted the sunny days, the hot days, the nights when the windows are open and I'm happy for the breezes that blow in.

It is time for a mental adjustment to enjoy putting on jackets, wrapping my neck in a scarf, pulling on gloves. I like dressing that way. I like the times that are foggy even if they are chill and damp. I like snow too, more than many people do. Perhaps my intensity of feeling this year has a deeper more metaphorical meaning although I am healthy and do not feel at all slowed by age. In fact, over the last few weeks I've met many other women 'round about my age who are vibrant and interesting and I enjoy the times we share at a class or having lunch. A couple of them have such very beautiful smiles. Perhaps it's just an awareness of change.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

October journal quilt

For October I did a very simple journal quilt. Although trees and birds are my theme for the years, the birds this month are confined to a beige-on-white print that is the back of this quilt, the birds are beige silhouetes. Their role is merely token.

The tree fabric is one I've had a long time and love. I outline quilted all the major tree trunks and then I fancy cut and fused on the falling leaves. We will suspend disbelief for the time being since we have birch trees and the leaves are from maples and oaks -- I'll assume they are near-by and a breeze has wafted them here. Perhaps I was a bit lazy but I enjoy this simple little quilt.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Overlapping Worlds

Most of us live in several worlds at once; fortunately, most of us can partition them off and keep in touch with the one we recognize as "reality". I was thinking about that at breakfast as I contemplated yesterday's alternate worlds. Most people, I think, have televisions and often live in the world of their favorite shows, but only for a brief while and frequently interrupted by both advertisements and "reality" of phone calls or family. I do not have a TV so I live in the somewhat more intense world of books, music and occasional movies all of which I think are more involving than the taken-for-granted TV. [That is a conjecture and may not be true for some people.]

Yesterday I discovered an opera by Franz Schubert, Alfonso and Estrella. I hadn't known Schubert whose music I love. The opera was never performed in Schubert's brief lifetime. [He died a 31] and for good reason. It has a stiff and silly fairy tale and, unlike most serious operas, ends with rivals acting nobly and everyone happy whereas most such operas would have one being killed and a long death scene. The production done at the time of Schubert's 300th anniversary celebrations in Vienna has perhaps the most awkward stage direction I've seen outside of high school auditoriums. However the music was mostly Schubertian lieder with Thomas Hampson in magnificent voice. For 2 hours in the afternoon I was in a strange world of enjoyment and intellectual befuddlement.

In a totally different place and time, I spent the evening reading the last 100 pages of a novel called The Raven by Peter Landesmann set on the Maine coast in the world of lobstermen. The time was mainly 1941 -- an insular and difficult world of watery death. The Raven was a pleasure ship that went down with 41 people aboard [based on fact] and no explanation for what happened. The book gives us many of the people and solves, eventually, most of the riddle [fictionally only]. Intensely written and engrossing.

I marvel how easy it is to move between a silly story of warring kings and young lovers to the dour, fog shrouded Atlantic and all the while go about the odds and ends of daily life. It's certainly an interesting life. Later today I will contemplate my to-read shelf and begin another adventure into some other world, meanwhile, in a couple of hours I will sit in a room with 25 or so contemporaries and talk about Mark Doty who has created a world in poetry I partly know but look forward to knowing through his eyes. At a later point today, I will go into a world of my own making as I work on what I am writing. As Kurt Vonnegut said, "and so it goes."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is Autumn Peaking?

My understanding is that Cape Cod, because of its geography and the lack of large stands of deciduous trees, doesn't have the grand autumn color for which much of New England is famous. Usually the Columbus Day week-end is prime leaf-peeping tourist time. I'm told that this past weekend wasn't jaw droppingly beautiful as sometimes happens. The weather is always the if-fy factor. I tend to appreciate what I get. The drive to Newport Wednesday was along highways lined with soft gold and slightly orangy trees, subdued color but subtle and lovely on a blue sky day. That is most of the autumn color I'm going to have to enjoy this year, I think. The photo above is from my walk last weekend with the dog around a little pond, really just this one tree was bright -- all the lovelier for being the one beauty at the ball.
This photo is the marsh grasses turning gold, an old gold similar to ripe wheat. Eventually it will weaken and be beaten down by storm winds. Last night some of those winds howled as rain slapped at the windows. Either the rain, or perhaps some hail it carried with it, beat fiercely enough to set off a car alarm with it's flashing lights and beeping sound [thank heavens not the horn honking of some alarms]. I was awake a while after it subsided -- I enjoy a rain storm when I'm warm and comfy in bed. I carried an umbrella around with me today but didn't need to open it although the sky remained gray and a gentler, but somewhat chilly wind continued. The season is changing, the sky is full of flying clouds. I have no complainta; the summer was wonderful, and I know that lovely Indian summer days will probably come along before winter gets a toe hold.

Years ago a playwright colleague in a group I belonged to wrote a highly neurotic character who complained about everything and made life hell for her spouse who explained her problems as "Lillian doesn't like weather." No one else seemed to find that line as funny as I did. To hate weather seemed to me to hate the world we all live in, it's like hating air or water or sky or nature. Absurd. I love weather.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Moth quilt

"Moths on the Screen" is what I've called this from the first idea. I wanted to give the sense one gets sometimes of a summer evening when it seems a flock of moths are trying to come in to the lighted interior. There are 15 moths [one is repeated]. They now hang in the living room above my spinet piano. They've come inside and found their alcove. This includes several new to me quilting techniques
The squares that make up the background were placed on gridded [2 inch square] fusable backing and then sewn. I like this backing very much since I'd never manage to get my squares so regular if sewing in rows or segments. I used a full 42x42 inch section of the gridded interfacing. When sewn it's much closer to 36x36, because the seams, of course, made the squares 1-1/2 inch. Obviously, I have used many different dark fabrics, blacks, browns, blues, greens, purples. The gray with gold border is a piece of West African fabric I purchased some years ago.
I wanted the moths to be three dimensional. They are but that is not obvious in the photos. I fused the fabric on which I had traced the moths to heavy weight interfacing, then backed it with a medium weight polyester batting and a black backing. I sewed the wing lines and other lines from the pattern defining the bodies and wing folds and gained dimension from the batting. Then I drew, colored and even finger painted [with stamp pad ink] for the designs. The designs were only suggested in the pattern I had so I looked most of the moths up in the Internet and colored them with some approximation of their actual coloring. The large moths were cut out of various off white and beige color-on-color fabrics. I dyed a couple of them lighter ones with coffee. The smaller moths are cut out of more colorful batiks. If I were doing it again, I think I would use more batiks. When I attached them to the background I sewed only along one of the inside, upper wing lines. They are stiff enough to stand away from the background a bit.

I don't repeat myself so I won't do it again but I may make a bright one with butterflies and a color-wash of floral patterns for the background ... "may" being the important word. I have other projects started already and a couple UFOs need to be finished. So another insect-y quilt won't be in the works anytime soon.