Sunday, January 30, 2011

Surprisingly Cute

Cute is not my thing. But this picture is unbelievably cute -- the creatures are baby bats. They were rescued from the floods in Queensland and are being cared for at Brisbane clinic -- animal clinic, I assume.

To tell the truth this is photo snatching twice removed. I just saw this on Ronni Barrett's blog, Time Goes By, and she had "snatched it", said she, from a blog called Creatures Great and Small.

Honestly -- did you every think you'd call a bat cute?ba

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pondering Poetry and Poets

I have been thinking about selvages. I have used them in quilting since I heard Karen Griska [see side bar, Selvage Blog] talk about using them. She showed some wonderful quilts and, at that time, had just written her book.

I hate to throw things away. I generally used selvages if I could in quilting [though hidden in a seam usually. Selvages are marginal by definition. I've always read poetry and think a great deal about women poets, many of whom have been, in the past and still are, marginalized. How many American women poets can most people name? Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou and ... how many more? There are MANY. Many of their books are on my book shelves. I recently found out about Kay Ryan who was U.S. poet laureate 2009-2010. I had never heard of her but now I am reading a collection of her work and loving it. I discovered Jane Hirschfield this fall and she's one of my new favorites.

Being a combiner -- aren't nearly all quilters combiners? -- I began to think of marginalized poets and selvages and decided to maybe do a series of little quilts for marginalized women poets. So here is a first pass with Kay Ryan. I will turn the photograph into a fabric one and sew it onto the square. I have written in my not very pretty long hand one of her short intense poems -- I think I need to go over it again with the black Sharpie marker -- or maybe I need to make another square and try writing bigger and neater.

I'm also wondering whether to add that multicolored selvage as a binding. I don't need to because the square has been backed pillowcase style. The theoretical me says I shouldn't border it, I should leave the poetry bare, out there, as the poet does, not prettied and framed. But I want my effort to be noticeable. So I'm pondering. I have a list of poets, I could be at this project for some time. I'd love some opinions from others.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Couldn't Resist

Yesterday's Bayberry Quilters' meeting did not have a speaker because of her illness. But they did have a members'flea market. Also the "free table" was especially laden. I took a couple of bags of stuff I knew I would no longer use. Many others did too. I came back with almost as much as I took, but I think I'll use ... well some, if not all, of it. Among the things I picked up were two packages of prestamped fabric "paper" piecing type patterns for a log cabin variation.

I'm a major fan of paper piecing and have seen these printed foundation fabrics but never purchased or use one. So almost as soon as I got home I had to try it. I decided to make a dent in my blue scraps. Here is what I did. Obviously I haven't trimmed the squares at all. You can see some of the foundation fabric behind. It's by Benetrex and very nice muslin. I like this! It feels good and I don't enjoy tearing the paper off my blocks. So I'll continue. Possibly some of the blocks will be another color for more punch and interest in the final quilt.

Also I couldn't resist, since so many blogs I read have done this: a snow picture -- this is what's immediately outside my sewing room window this morning.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ten new selvage post card

An hour the day before yesterday and an hour yesterday and I have ten 4x6 postcards almost done. I like to use a small print as the focal point in the center, in this case, as you see, birds. It's a great way to use up some of the shorter cuts of selvages.
The ends where I turned in the backing need to be hand stitched, so if you click to enlarge the pictures you'll see pins. That's nice handwork I can do while chatting with the ladies who gather on Thursday nights in the community room of the apartment complex to talk about or do needlework. One of these ladies is 92, in generally good health and making another - many have preceded it -- spectacular cathedral windows quilt. She uses a snowy white and add, in the "windows," very bright modern fabrics. She tired to teach me and I do understand the technique but I don't want to spend so much time hand quilting. I prefer a project like these post cards than can be accomplished quickly.

I always write the words "post card" on the back because some post office employees don't otherwise know what they're dealing with even when the address and stamp should make it obvious. These must be hand canceled so they need a 44 cent stamp instead of the post card 28 cent stamp. You can see I used lavender backing for some, and a light green print for others. Most ballpoint pens are okay to use but I like to use permanent ink Sharpies, a fat tip for the "Post card" and fine tip for other writing.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Unless It Moves the Human Heart

Wonderful title for Roger Rosenblatt's book with the subtitle, The Craft and Art of Writing. This is a slender book which follows a single class taught by Roger Rosenblatt in the MFA Writing program at SUNY-Stony Brook on Long Island. The twelve class members ranged in age from 20 to over 60. The book contains some good pointers about writing, some good quotes to remember and pass on. That includes the title which say the only reason to write a short story or poem is to "move the human heart." For Rosenblatt, I think that is the only reason to teach also.

I loved Rosenblatt and his students and I felt profoundly envious and sad. In college I took writing courses, of course, and later was in playwrighting classes in NYC non-academic venues. In the latter situation there were sometimes the friendships and cares among students and teacher that I find in Rosenblatt's class. But in college no, none of that. Absolutely nothing helpful that I can remember, nothing that touched me, nothing that inspired me to write. I continued writing because I wanted to, needed to, never thought of ceasing to write. But I learned nothing. How wonderful a class like Rosenblatt's would have ben! Not one professor/teacher with personality, with a desire to inspire students back then -- lo, fifty years ago! I hope there are many other Rosenblatts out there today.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Twenty stars

This is all twenty paper pieced stars. Done! Except for fixing a couple of mistakes that are easily fixable. They will have stripping between them so they won't be so on top of each other as they are here pinned to my design wall. This part was exciting and challenging. Putting them together and quilting is boring but I'll do it slowly, bit by bit. These will not reappear in this blog for quite a few months.
I have another quilt in my head that excites me as much as the stars do so I may sew that entire top before I start quilting this. We'll see how disciplined I feel like being.

The book here provided all the star patterns. As you can see at a glance I did not follow Carol Doak's color schemes -- except there is one -- on the lower right of the book that has a near equivalent in the quilt. I feel I have learned by trial and error, changing my mind after making color choices, somethings throwing out the first couple of sections when I saw how they looked. But I feel rewarded and even excited. Sometimes I just turn on the light in the sewing room [studio?], stand in the door way so I have perspective and study these stars from a distance. Then I go up closer and look at the various fabrics I've used - some fabrics repeatedly, others only once or twice.

This was a real stash celebration. I used only stash fabrics. When I bought the background fabric, which is a deep purple with a deep olive green floral design, I knew I would use it for the background for something colorful. That was all I knew at the time. I wish there were enough to do all the stripping between stars but there isn't. I'll find something else.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Break from color, briefly

Challenged to make a "quiltie" for a swap I decided to trying something I've never done before. This little 7x7 inch piece was make using a technique in the latest Quilting Arts Magazine. First I quilted the piece in a squared spiral using thin cotton batting under a tightly woven pine and white striped decorator fabric. Then I finished it with a pillow case type backing so it would not need a binding. Then I painted it lightly with white acrylic letting the pink stripes show through. Then I added the pears using a photo I had taken of a couple of pears that were almost too pretty to eat [but eat them I did] and drew on the quiltie with thin and fat Sharpies.

Of course one cannot blend with Sharpies but I feel I have control and I have absolutely no experience with paints and am anything but secure in my drawing ability. I was pleased that they look like pears and having discovered I actually can draw a recognizable facsimile I may use the technique again for my next quiltie in what may become a year-long series -- I'll tackle some other edible.

Thinking about doing it took quite a bit of time but the actual doing didn't take long at all. And so then it was back to my stars. There will be twenty. I have three and a half to do. I feel I am learning about color, value, and so on. It's wonderful to find myself actually accomplishing something I never felt comfortable with before.

Monday, January 17, 2011

More stars

I'm on a roll with these paper pieced mariner's stars designed by Carol Doak. This is twelve, I'm planning definitely sixteen and, if I have enough of the background fabric, I will go for 20. There are 24 designs in Carol's book, Mariner's Stars. The blocks are 8x8. I think I want stripping of the background fabric between -- there's the problem. This was an end-of-roll fabric a number of months ago when it was on sale. I don't think I can get more and I won't go to the trouble of a complex search. So what I can do with the blocks is limited.

But isn't that in keeping with what quilting was traditionally about? Earlier quilters used what they had and if they ran out they had to make do or find a substitute. I am more of that mindset than the modern one that says we should have exactly what we want at all times. That has never been the way of my life -- in any respect -- and I don't expect it ever will be. I don't feel cheated or irritated that that's the case. I suppose that attitude is somewhat unAmerican today. But my parents were depression era people who passed on the "make do" attitude to me. I can see no reason to change that attitude.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A private swap

I've just finished these three little selvage quilts -- 9x9 with alphabet centers for three children of a young mom in Canada who liked my selvage postcards. They are for our three kids, Anna, Mary and Jonah. In return she is knitting me a pair of mittens. a very nice swap from my point of view as I had fun making the mini-quilts -- some people call them "quilties" although I'm not very much into using cute diminutive even when it's fairly appropriate as in this case.

I feel a major selvage quilt at the edge of my mind, but more about that in the fairly distant future. I'm working on my star project and will have a picture of it's progress soon.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cashmere - love it

Yesterday, browsing the bargains, I bought three pairs of cashmere socks. Not 100% cashmere but 60%. I have three pairs I bought last winter at a similar sale. They are soft and warm and very nice designs, excellent for wearing with slacks or jeans. I suspect they sell slowly because people are afraid to spend the money - but I bought 2 pair for $5 and one pair for $3 yesterday - for something they think will probably shrink to toddler size with one washing. Or that they must be carefully and delicately handwash with special soap. Not so. I put my already used socks in the laundry with the colored clothes in warm, not hot, water. I take them out and do not dry them in the drier but over a rack in the bathroom. Heat, not water, shrinks cashmere and wood. My used socks are perfect and have worn well. The temperature out is in the 20s, cashmere socks are wonderful under boots or with shoes.

Cashmere [from a goat, not a sheep] is a natural fiber, as is wool, silk and cotton, linen. I enjoy all of them and do not send any of the unstructured garments to a dry cleaner and almost never do hand washing. Problems arise with synthetics added as trim or lining. What was once considered a luxury fiber/fabric only the rich could wear is available to all of us today. Many of my sweaters are cashmere and my winter scarves also. I credit, or blame, the Chinese for flooding the American markets. I began noticing this several years ago with prices for sweaters dropping from three figures into lower and lower two figures. If one has the patience to wait for late in the season sales and pursue the diligent search that I and other bargain hunters like me truly enjoy the way some people enjoy searching for mushrooms in the forest one can accumulate a nice wardrobe of cashmere items and enjoy the softness and warmth all winter. We bargain hunters soon learn the technicalities: the thin one-ply, the satisfactory two-ply, the cushy three-ply knits. Cashmere is not often combined with synthetics. [To tell the truth, I have read so much about the Chinese way of knocking off American brands with inferior products that I suspect some "100% cashmere" may have a large amount of acrylic added in.]

I have not read an article in a fashion magazine which I don't look at them regularly but I suspect that cashmere [or Kashmir, from the high Himalayan valley originally] goats are grown and sheared in large numbers on China and the fiber made into the sweaters and other garments that flood the market -- quite a few are under large department stores' private labels but many carry 7th Avenue designer labels. Wearing something wonderfully soft, like cashmere, satisfyingly smooth like silk and delightfully crisp like cotton brings a feeling of luxury into the plainest life.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Strip pieced squares

I've been making strip pieced 6-1/2 inch squares which will sew up as 6 inch squares, of course. It is for a swap-bot swap. Last year I did a couple of such swaps and got briefly addicted to making these squares. I used up quite a bit of my strips stash but now I find I have a stuffed bag and these ten squares hardly made a dent so maybe it's time for a couple more strip pieced quilts. Below is one of last year's quilts. I find I don't like large solid expanses of the strips. I like them broken up with wider stripping in between. The one below is actually reversible to assorted six inch squares which used up more of the scraps stash. I may do that again also.

Stash using is a very satisfying exercise especially when the January sales are beginning in the fabric stores and the urge to buy more fabric is strong. However the frugalista persona is saying but, but, but ...

I have trouble throwing away anything larger than 2x2 inches. I've been looking at Nelly Duran's lovely little art quilts with small pieces of bright fabrics on a dark ground and some of her excess yarn and thinking that might be a good way to shrink my bag of the smaller piece that won't work in a strip pieced quilt. Click the listing in the sidebar to the right for Nellie's Needles. She is a very talented and imaginative art quilter. Her blog is inspirational to me.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

A Raccoon

This little guy is from the first paper pieced book I ever purchased and used -- all without any instructions how to do paper piecing and with only minimal instructions how to divide up the pieces and put them back together to make it all work. That was more or less in the plieoscene era of paper piecing -- I think it was at least twenty years ago. The book was called "Wild Animals". They were animals of North America -- although the author of the book was a talented quilt artist named Margaret Roth who is an Australian.

There are times when I feel like I"m the personal repository of the very dynamic changing face of American quilting, having lived through such a great variety of styles and techniques. In fact the techniques have been rolling into the magazines and quilt guilds and shows faster and faster and I absolutely am not keeping up with them now. And don't want to. I've found several techniques that I enjoy and I'm open to others but I've also learned that I do not enjoy several other techniques, most especially complex curved seam work and any kind of hand applique.

Anyway, this little raccoon was made as a swap-gift for someone who loves raccoons. I sent it along to her with a wonderful poem called "Raccoon Journal" by the late Stanley Kunitz. He was an interested but not enchanted observer of the raccoons that, according to him, invade the streets of Provincetown, Massachusetts on summer nights inspecting -- and turning over -- garbage cans and digging bone meal out of gardens where it has been used as fertilizer. He says it's "raccoon angel dust." I have not had personal acquaintance with raccoons and in my naivete find them delightful looking and amusing in nature videos.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Working on Color Again

More paper pieced stars designed by Carol Doak. Sometime last summer I promised myself I would work through most of the stars in her Mariner Stars book. The time is now.

I am still, and probably always will be, uncertain about my color sense. I read books on color but when it comes to hands on, in the eye of this beholder, I am uncertain. I've thrown away a few half stars that were awful. The upper left star is going to go out too. Slowly I'm learn a little. I'll make at least twelve for a quilt, if the interest holds it will be twenty. Every one will be different color combinations but I will use the same background and I want a coherence in value. Learning to combine colors is not easy for me but I think I'm gradually getting better.

Of course these are just squares on the design wall. A final arrangement of stars will probably take great pondering - but that's maybe two months away. This is not the only quilting project going on right now, several smaller projects are in hand.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A Beautifulf Window

This beautiful stained glass window was a part of the Christmas school break home improvements [always ongoing] at my daughter's house. Her husband, Patrick, is a glass artisan with a studio steps away from the house. Quite a few windows in the house are special. This one is in the kitchen and gets early morning sun so that they have the glowing colors round about breakfast time. The photo was taken in the afternoon -- the neighbor's fence is visible beyond the clear part of the window.

You can see Patrick's Etsy offerings and find a link to his web site here I recommend taking a look -- the pieces are truly beautiful.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Great Day for a Walk in the Woods

Hard to believe yesterday and today were in the 50s. A great opportunity to use the local area trail maps that I picked up at the dump's "Free Shop". Rachel and I found a conservation area just a little further away than the pond we often walk around. The wooded area was as hilly as it gets on Cape Cod [gentle!]. Last week's snow was not gone but most of the trail area was clear. Thanks to winter's barrenness we had vistas through the trees we would never see in spring or summer. Only Rachel and I and Molly, the aging dog who seems not really aged at all when in the woods free of a leash, were there. We were delighted to find this area which has longer trails than the one we spent an hour walking. We'll go back together I'm sure and I know I will go alone sometimes when then next season makes walking especially inviting.

AS the picture shows I walked with my trekking pole. Love that little aid. Not that I actually needed it but I've enjoyed walked with a pole or cane of some kind ever since I've discovered the joy of being in the woods, alone or with someone. The pole was invaluable when actually trekking in the Himalayas where the downhill sections were hard on the knees. I keep it in my car with the snow brush waiting for whatever small adventure I can find. It's hard to believe that densely populated Cape Cod indeed has these wild areas. This one, the guide said, is 180 acres, a nice size for walkikng trails.