Monday, May 31, 2010

What I'm Reading about Quilting

I've had 500 Art Quilts: An Inspiring Collection of Contemporary Work, from Lark Books for some time, I went through it systematically once and now keep flipping at random. The subtitle says it all. They are inspiring quilts. I'm happy to have 500 pictures and quibble wishing there were more text, some authors' statements or bios, at least a note on nationality. But to put 500 quits in a fat-ish book that is about 8x8 is quite a feat without editorial. I love looking at the creative work of quilters even though I know I will never make quilts like them.

I recently purchased some quilting tools by mail from Connecting Threads which usually sells quilting books for 40 to 60% off. At that price I cannot resist indulging myself for books that are beautiful, full of good ideas, inspiration and helpful text even though, again, I know I will not be making that sort of quilt. In this case I'm perusing Ruth B. MacDonald's Fabric Journey, and Color and Composition for Creative Quilting by Katie Pasquini Masopust and Brett Barker. Color is one of my chief bugaboos in making my own quilts. In fact, a large part of my pleasure and addiction to quilting is that this is the only visual/color creative area that I "work" in since I am primarily a verbal person and have very little drawing ability. And I am often disappointed with the results of my color choices. I have been working today on a wildly colored quilt that I will photograph in a day or two, so more about that later.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Triple Treat Poetry Night

I heard poetry from 5:00 until about 8:30 last night -- and not all poetry, some singing as well. It began with an annual "coffee house" for Sturgis Charter school students. Bright and shiny young people reading much too softly and shyly, some singing a little. Some of the teachers read poetry, one sang Scottish songs. A small group, including myself, read poems written by a former teacher who started poetry group of which I was a member. She died of cancer last autumn so this was a memorial tribute. She was such a lovely woman and I met her exactly a year ago and hoped it would be a long lasting friendship. Sad.

When the students' portion was over at 7:00 the monthly open mike poetry reading began, some 13 people, mostly regulars of the event read, some well, some not so well, but with assurance the kids didn't have. Then the treat of the evening, a working professional poet, Lisa Starr, poet laureate of Rhode Island read. The progression of assurance, craft, and pleasure was complete. She is a very talented woman, at ease reading her poetry and doing so very well. They were thoughtful, layered but accessible poems, very much a voice of her own, a very likable persona.

Perhaps this was too much poetry in one evening -- it was too much frustration with people not using mikes correctly resulting in missed lines and words and in some cases whole poems. But it was a lovely evening. Someone had added little irises in vases to the table and on a table overladen with brownies and other sweets was a vase of white peonies -- my favorite flower. All full, perfect, lush and with that tangy fresh scent. I buried my face in them and breathed.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bayberry Quilters

To my delight, a long, long time friend who I think I've seen once or twice in thirty years, called this week to invite me to go to a meeting of the Bayberry Quilters of Cape Cod. I had tried to contact them last fall but, like many Cape Cod organizations, they did not respond to the email. And I got busy. I also knew Marylou lives part of the year here but had not called her as I was trying to get my bearings and deal with the culture shock of life on Cape Cod after so many years in NYC. Happily, a mutual friend gave her my phone number and, happily, we went to the meeting yesterday. Renewing an acquaintance was wonderful, and seeing a well run organization was also wonderful.

Plus the speaker of the day was Froncie Quinn a very bouncy and practiced speaker who had a very well planned presentation. Froncie mainly calls herself a pattern writer but she is very much a researcher and historian. She has a book called Enduring Grace, Quilts From the Shelburne Museum. Her talk was about many of these quilts. She had made sample reproductions which were passed around as well as having many laminated printed pictures of details of the actual quilts. She had fascinating information about their making and makers -- some very, very well made, beautiful old quilts were made by very young women, in one case by a girl of 8 and it was her 4th quilt! Although historical quilts interest me less than contemporary and art quilts, Froncie was a very good speaker who made the subject very interesting and her reproductions were shown close up so we could actually marvel at what past quilters were able to do. I'm very sorry I didn't take my camera. I would have liked to share a few of the quilts here. She has written patterns for making many historic quilts with directions both for the old fashioned construction method and for more modern construction.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Journal Quilt for May

My theme for my journal quilts this year is "birds and trees." The first three months I concentrated on trees and only added an incidental bird. Last month the birds were more important but not central. This month I'm thinking of my morning visitors, the Canadian geese who summer in our town as do so many Bostonians and others. The geese arrive on the lawn quite early, 6:00-ish. They graze and poop until mid-morning. I think they eat grass but I think they mostly look for bugs. They're quite regal and well integrated into community life, nothing fazes them. This year I rarely see more than 6 or 8 and often only 2 or 4 a day. Last summer I once counted over 30 all at once.

The paper pieced pattern I used is from Margaret Rolfe, an Australian quilter whose book of paper pieced American birds [mostly] and animals was the first paper piecing book I ever bought. It did not have very good or extensive directions for the piecing and my first attempts were pretty awkward. This was probably 12, maybe more like 15 years ago. I've made a number of her designs and, of course, gone on to love paper piecing, especially stars [as in the black and pink quilt a couple of posts ago.

In this quilt the trees are simply the upper strip of fabric which indicates the trees across the way that are a kind of background for my avian friends. My only quilting on this journal piece is outlining the goose. Unusually, I used fluffy batting so that makes the goose more three dimensional than usual. S/he has a button for an eye.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Summer - Strawberry-Rhubarb pie

Only as spring turns to summer -- the rhubarb stalks grow tall and it's time for a strawberry rhubarb pie. I was given rhubarb a couple days ago and here is my celebration of late spring -- shared with family this afternoon, all but baby Finn enjoyed it. Even the dog and cat got tiny tastes. Above are the basic ingredients, nothing complex, nothing fancy. The pie shell gets filled with chopped rhubarb and cut strawberries. These berries from the store were gigantic, the one on top of the pies is not the largest -- the largest ones I cut into eighths! I cut the rhubarb into one inch pieces and the strawberries as I said. Dumped a little over a cup of sugar over them -- this was for two pies, added a couple of tablespoons of corn starch to thicken the juice [could have used another tablespoon -- but we ate it warm and corn starch thickens as the juice cools]. Dumped it all in the pie shells, added the lattice on the top. Some juice had accumulated in the bowl of fruit so i drizzled it over the lattice which helped it become a nice brown.

I baked it at 375 for about 40 minutes and was sure to spread aluminum foil on the cookie sheet the pies sat on in order to catch overflowing juice and not mess up the oven. The results are here -- we added vanilla ice cream! Yum! Summer is a comin' in, loudly shout Hurray! [to grossly misquote Ezra Pound]

P.S. We decided rhubarb must actually be a vegetable since it doesn't seem to be a fruit. Now I'm going to Google it and see if we were right.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Finished at last!

Finished is a small exaggeration. I haven't clipped odd ends of thread and have to do the label but, yes, I've finally got this quilted and bound. Phew! Seemed like a long haul for a throw size quilt.

I honestly don't understand why I don't get true color with my camera. This was outdoors on the lawn in nice sunlight but the pink is all washed out, it's really a very vivid pink. I think I need a new camera. ... some day.

So tomorrow I'd do the last bit of cosmetic surgery on this. Then I have my May journal quilt to do. It took me a long time to decide what to do but now I know and can get it done fairly soon. And I have small things that I guess are properly called "quilties" to make. They'll be pretty quick too. Then I can go on with a paper pieced quilt I've had on my "Unstarted UFO list" And I have other ideas rolling around in the old cranium too. Always fells great to finish something.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Never enough hours

I AM working on a quilt -- two in fact -- thought I'd finish the paper pieced star quilt today. No. I was going great guns but it got to be dinner time before I knew it. I WILL finish tomorrow. And I'll take a photo and post it.

Things come up, of course, the novel I'm working on get precedence and THAT is just as time consuming in its way. Then walking on these good sunny days, we seem to be a bit ahead, maybe three sunny to two rainy ones. But enough rain so I always think I must get in the exercise on the sunny ones. Then there's that nasty little business of housekeeping, laundry and cooking. Well, it's not all nasty. I was just given some rhubarb which, of course, is seasonal. So making a rhubarb and strawberry pie is on the immediate agenda. No complaint there, I love it and think I've got enough to make two pies so they can be shared.

Right now it's pushing 7:00 p.m. and we have that beautiful dusky-watery light. I wish a poem were coming to me but it's not -- poems come quite rarely actually and of those very few are worth sharing. Enough in the excuse department for not posting any quilts lately. Soon, I promise ... er, I hope.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Babies, the film

"font-w The documentary, Babies, has no narrative at all; there is barely audible background music and the sounds babies make, some random speech by mothers or fathers, but very little. A montage of shots, some very short, of four babies as they progress through the first 18 months of their lives.

The fascination is partly the rapid growth from newborn to toddlers with definite characters already displayed in their interactions with their surroundings. Equally fascinating is how four different societies treat childhood: Singapore, San Francisco, Namibia [a two or three hut village] and Mongolia [a single nomad's ger on the steppes]. I wish a somewhat less affluent place than Singapore had been shown like a smaller village in Southeast Asia in Indonesia oR India.

The film wss made up of wonderful vignettes, some so short they were just glimpses. In both the Mongolian and Namibian families we saw sibling interactions which were fairly benign even when rivalry was clear. In these two we also saw the children interacting with all sorts of animals whereas the other two children had only cats -- all the cats were wonderfully patient and serene. Fathers [except in Namibia] were occasionally present. All the families seemed comfortable in a "middle class" sense. Without narrative of any kind we were left to reach our own conclusions. I have been to all these places and bring a slightly different perspective than will most viewers.

Having a brand new baby in our family, Rachel and I brought that perspective also -- as she mentioned on the drive there, seeing little Finn change almost daily brings back her memories of being a new mother, and I can say the same. The Namibian mother lived near another woman with several small children so they were an intertwined group. The Mongolian woman was often absent, doing outdoors chores like milking, the other two mothers were part of young parents' groups with more involved husbands. The thoughts keep ticking away -- we don't need to have been told what to think ... it's good to have the thinking prompted in this way.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Little by little

Like the well known journey of 1,000 miles every quilt can be finished one step after another. So I am working on two, one that has been patiently waiting for me to finish others [the Carol Doak stars that I showed in the winter] and a new wall or throw size paper pieced quilt that I had been meaning to make for a long time.

Now that I am not involved in the adult learning -- until next September -- I am allotting my days to things I can do one step at a time. The star quilt is getting quilted, one star at a time, and then there will be the stripping to quilt and borders. Slowly it will get finished. The new one is being made two paper pieced blocks a day. These two quilts, of course, do not at all take up my day. But I have promised myself piano playing time -- piano was tuned. It sounds fine, now to make myself sound fine. Practice, practice, practice will not get ME to Carnegie hall but it will give me much pleasure [and perhaps give some neighbors agony]. Then there is writing and walking and the usual household chores and reading. That is a full day! Oh, I throw in a bit of computer time and the occasional bookstore or thrift store visit, maybe there will be some movies or other entertainments. And so my summer days are planned. Before the middle of June the two mentioned quilts will be finished and probably another couple started. My projects are so many inch worms slowly making their way along the route. My life if full of serene, slow accomplishment ... a gift of being older than many and retired.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother's Day

Holidays invented as commercial ventures are not my favorite -- but even those that have real meaning behind them have become commercial ventures [think Christmas, Halloween,etc]. Nevertheless, this was an unusual Mother's day in our family. Cori's first mother's day -- with little Phineas two and a half weeks old -- decked out in impossibly darling outfits. [And we were so busy admiring we didn't think to take a picture.] That meant it was Rachel's first year as a grandmother and my first year as a great-grandmother. Oh, my!

I should have also photographed the unusual brunch salad, a recipe Rachel got from her father who got it from unknown sources. Very simple but unusual. A combination of flavors that work unexpectedly well together. A mixture of chunked watermelon, thinly sliced red onion, sliced black olives, cooked medium sized shrimp and a dressing of pureed avocado mixed with sour cream and lemon. An amazing visual and taste combination.

Above picture is about 70 years old; it is my mother with me and brother J.B. ... we were all so young once upon a time, as Cori is today.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Unsewn UFOs

There are UFOs, like all those flying saucers seen in the 1950s -- where have they all gone? Did the aliens give up on us earthlings? And there are quilters' UFOs. Most quilters have one or one dozen or more --projects started and put aside, maybe to be taken up and finished "when I get a round tuit." Round tuits can be hard to come by.

At the moment I don't have any UFOs, except a crib bumper that won't be needed tomorrow as the baby is less than two weeks old and still in his bassinette. But I have a bunch of unsewn UFOs. Maybe other people have them too. For some people they may be kits purchased but not yet made. I don't have any kits but I have a folder of pictures and ideas for when I get a round tuit. I've just started one of those today. It's a paper pieced throw size quilt [unless it grows]. The book with the basic design -- from which I diverge as I usually do, came into my possessions, I know not how long ago. Today I pulled out the fabrics [it's a true stash buster] and made the first block. There are many to go but they are relatively simple. It shouldn't take too long -- but then as I keep bemoaning and never really deep down learning, quilts always taker longer than you think they are going to take.

I have round tuits that already have the fabrics chosen. They are packaged with the idea and maybe a pattern in plastic bags. I will make them some day ... one by one. I hope. With me it's not very different from cooking dinner. All impulse. What do I feel like eating that's already in the fridge? What do I feel like sewing that's at least partly picked out and been waiting a good long while? It's a passion, it's a hobby, it's not a job. I can work on impulse. Aren't I lucky?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Recent finds at thrift shops: brand new navy Dockers slacks, tags still on for 9.99, even better, new Geoxx moccasins, 6.49 [these cost over $100 in the store], Naturalizer sandals, lightly used, 6.99. And below my two favorite fly away scarves, one in pink and one in blue stripe, silk, from Eddie Bauer, 1.99 each. "How do you do it?" someone asked me a couple days ago. Here are some of my how-tos.

First, get to know the thrift shops in areas you are likely to pass near in your usual daily life. I'm lucky because there is a very large Goodwill store near me that is almost entirely clothing [some housewares and linens, no furniture). There are a couple of church run thrift shops near=by, one with rock bottom prices and nice quality stuff, the other with almost nothing worth looking at. And there is a hospital auxilary run thrift shop of medium size and not many finds.

Second, shop often. I love to browse. I love fabrics and styles and just seeing what's around is helpful. Always be prepared to grab the extraordinary if it's there. Because it won't be three tomorrow if it's really extraordinary.

Watch catalogs and advertisements and get to know brands and their prices. Also know fabrics by feel -- tee shirts come in many different knits and weights. Some are so shoddy they almost never get into thrift shops because they just don't last. Others are everything from so-so to very high quality, meant to last.

Know what you will wear or use. A $100 cashmere sweater for $15 is a great bargain but not if it's a color or style that you aren't going to wear. [I've made some of those mistakes and learned my lesson].

Find out what you can about who donates to that shop. The hospital auxillary shop probably gets a lot of donations from doctor's wives. These ladies tend to buy quality and treat their clothes well. They're likely to be rather conservative in style, but I occassionally find someone who likes Chicos clothing, though it runs more to Talbots.

Buy out of season. When others are looking for bathing suits, a thrift shop may want to get those space taking winter coats out of the way and sell them at rock bottom prices. [This rule applies in department stores too].

Always carry an inventory of what you'd like to find in your mind. I've needed navy slacks for months, when I found the Dockers recently I knew I had been right to keep on looking and not go to a department store to buy them. Likewise much of last year I kept thinking, I need to find some white sandals because I didn't have any.

Those are some of my methods. I have always been drawn to basic clothing with just a bit of edge -- the edge may be provided by a floaty scarf [I actually have a ton of scarves]. I tend to grab a decent pair of black pants, whatever their weight/season when I find them because there are weeks I wear them like a uniform. The same goes for black or gray sweaters. Mainly you have to like to shop and enjoy serendipity -- the surprising goody! Many more come your way when your eyes are open and you aren't hurrying past. Like all the good things in life, you have to know it when you find it, and you're more likely to find it when you've got your eyes and mind open.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Sumer's coming!

Feet don't have to be glamorous, or even embellished with nail polish, to be happy that it feels like early summer and the sand on the beach is warm enough for walking barefoot. That was yesterday which was sunnier. Today is not so sunny so the breeze feels cooler but a first barefoot walk is a mark of the season. Tonight those toe nails will get a coat of polish and, I hope, over the next few weeks those winter pale feet an legs will get a little tanned. And I know I will log a nice number of miles walking the sand.