Thursday, December 20, 2007
Two Christmas party/gift cakes: chocolate with coffee syrup, raspberry mousse filling, chocolate ganache icing and chocolate cream cheese piping. One's an 8 inch; the other a 9 inch.
This was our final class cake: white with simple syrup, italian cream filling, swiss buttercream frosting and piping, gold-dusted royal icing snowflakes, and a fondant poinsettia. I had so much fun in the class and now feel super-confident in making cakes that look great and taste delicious. The baker who taught the class has a mantra that the cake comes first, the decorations second--so she uses fondant sparingly and focuses on yummy frostings.
And, of course, the first thing I did after finishing the class was sign up for Weight Watchers . . . seriously. Not because of the class, really, but because I need to shed some "makes me tired" weight. I have pear-shaped genetics, so I'm not kidding myself, these hips aren't going anywhere. But, I can be more mid-sized and energetic.
I've also managed to complete one new quilt top. This one's based on the "baby cakes" quilt in one of the newer jelly roll quilt books (can't remember the title and it's upstairs). I increased the number of blocks and used some extra strips for the border rather than go with the big, single fabric one in the pattern. I simply paired strips and then cut each into 2-4 pieces at random to get a staggered set of seams and some border movement. I used 2 jelly rolls for the quilt--one Shangri-La and one Allspice Tapestry--and have enough strips left for binding and another small project. I really like how the two different fabric lines play off each other; the contrast between the more romantic one and the more stylized one gives the interplay a good energy.
I listened to Steve Martin's "Born Standing Up" while I sewed this quilt. I really recommend it; he reads the book and his voice gives life to the memoir wonderfully.
I have one other quilt to finish this break--a baby quilt. Then, back to my own projects.
Now, off to watch the stunning conclusion of "Clash of the Choirs"--otherwise known as, "What Won't I Watch During the Writers' Strike?" or "Just Give it to Patti LaBelle."
Saturday, November 17, 2007
My children have been sucked into the Webkinz universe, which means I've been spending odd hours playing Quizzy's Word Game so my babies can afford backyards and interactive stoves, refrigerators, and treadmills for their furry obsessions. (Hey, what's so virtual about this place again?) But, one nice quilty outcome is that they want to make quilts for their WKs. Here's the first endeavor:
My daughter (who's 5 and 7/8, just ask her) picked out all the fabrics and then arranged the squares. She wanted a quilt that looked like a rainforest, which is where Pandi the Panda lives. She also pressed the foot pedal on the machine as I sewed and actually picked up speed regulation fairly quickly. I quilted a flower in the middle of each square. Now, I have to make a pirate-themed quilt for Baby Pongo the Dalmation and some pink confection for Ashley the Rainbow Pony.
Here's a quilt I've never shared, but I found it in my closet during a cleaning mania two weeks ago (during a Housewives of Orange County marathon; it makes me feel so much better about my own life):
I made this in 1998 (insert aging cough here) right when Kumiko Sudo's book Fabled Flowers came out. I love hydrangeas and wanted to create a mythical hydrangea plant that could flower in both violet and pink. Over 50 different fabrics make up the origami petals. The background is a fabric that looks like homemade paper with flower petals embedded in the fibers. Here's a closer look at the petals:
I had completely forgotten about this little quilt. I've included it in the three quilts I'll be showing at the college this year. The quilts are shown in the President's Lobby throughout the winter holidays along with trees that student clubs decorate and then donate to families in the community. The whole lobby twinkles, and the display really brings a calming sense to the manic panic of term's end, when nerves of faculty and students alike fray.
My daughter keeps peeking her head around the corner begging to play on Barbie.com, and my son needs a pirate beard and mustache, so I'm off with this request. Consider signing up for the Winter segment of the Four Seasons Quilt Swap (click or see side button). It's great fun!!
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Here's some catch-up . . .
While away on one of my trips, I received this absolutely beautiful quilt from Anne Ida as part of the Four Seasons Quilt Swap.
It came all the way from Norway, with a chocolate bar! She said she envisioned it as a table topper, which is exactly how I'm using it.
This was the trip when I came back to town at night in the middle of a thunderstorm and found that my headlights didn't work. This was one straw too many for this camel, and I immediately (I mean next morning immediately) went looking for a new car. I bought a Camry hybrid within two days and love it. Plus, I feel super virtuous when driving! Oh, and the lights work.
Given all I've been rushing around doing, I haven't had much time for quilting. I did start and finish a baby quilt for a friend, but forgot to take a photo. It was still warm when I dropped it off with someone to deliver to the shower on my way out of town. I actually used a UFO from who-knows-when that was in bright brushed plaids and backed it with a great, bright Amy Butler print in orange, yellow, and purple.
I'm in a finish-it-up-and-get-it-out cycle, I guess, as I also just put borders on another UFO; it has been sitting around for over 5 years! I was also going to quilt it right away, to strike when the iron was still sizzling, only to realize I'm out of batting. So, I ordered a bunch, which will hopefully arrive within a week or so. The quilt came from a pattern out of an old Cabbage Rose book. I can't believe I made all those flying geese. I clearly had too much time on my hands before I had children.
It's hard to tell, but the background for the stars is a novelty print with little salt and pepper shakers. I'm going to call this, "season to taste."
One of my trips took me on a consulting visit to Kentucky. I flew into Nashville and rented a car to drive about an hour into the state, and as I approached the Tennessee/Kentucky border, I got so excited. There was a sign featuring a bunch of quilts that read, "Paducah, exit 4." Of course, as soon as I crossed the border, I realized that I was at exit 89. Oh well, I'll go back one day.
One late night in some hotel room, I was checking email and found a message saying that I've been dropped by the Quilting for Pleasure blog ring because I hadn't posted in a month. The message caught me by surprise and seemed to undercut a bit the jolly tone of the blog ring title. There was something about the email that really irked me--especially given how many folks in the ring barely post about quilting at all--so I think I'll take this as a message from the powers that be to go quietly into the Q4P night and drop the button from the sidebar without a fuss.
I start a cake decorating class in a couple of weeks. Not one of those frothy Wilton things, but a class with the top cake-maker in town. I'm really excited! So, if my work turns out presentable, I'll post some photos down the road. The good thing is that even if the cakes are messy, they'll still be super yummy!
Monday, September 03, 2007
I really liked how this turned out. When I showed it to my daughter, she asked if this was a competition we could win (she likes winning), so I think she liked it, too. I've offered to accept a commission from my husband to make his. We'll see.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
And, here's the quilting--swirling loops with the word "fall" secretly included:
I had fun on this little project. I've been listening to Antonia Fraser's Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King, which is fairly engrossing, while working on the quilt. I think most of the appeal has been to secret myself away in a world where I get to sew and everyone speaks in a plummy brit-accent. What a perfect world! Now, off to work on my next BOAF block.
This is turning into a dream weekend. I finished a co-authored article on Friday before I left work--freeing my weekend for a rainy, sewy, laundry-y, movie-y, reading-y time with the family. Plus, we had Mole at our fav Mexican restaurant on Friday and now Tikka Masala from our fav Indian restaurant tonight. And the US Open is on. Yee-haw!! Life is good! Enjoy your labor day.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
I abandoned the border, as it seems I can neither read directions nor measure correctly (which may come from working on projects at 4 am), and my quilt was too big. But, luckily, I realized this after adding the borders (sigh) and found my seam ripper right where I left it--on the floor near the pile of fabric I keep meaning to put back into my stash. (I am so far from being the queen of organization that I have no idea how I accomplish anything.) I went light with the leaves so that they'd show. I was too lazy to find a leaf pattern in a book, since I was so happy to just be sitting in air conditioning after a 3 hour outdoor birthday party in the heat and humidity, so I drew these free-hand. I really liked the results. They aren't as light as this photo suggests, as I'm still learning the iMac photo editing program. They're more golden with a darker gold, tan, and purple leaf pattern, which will be accented with the blanket-stitch that's coming next. I'm thinking of quilting it with the word "fall" as the repeating pattern. Now, on to a whirlwind of cleaning in prep for the "lemonade tea party" coming in a few hours.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Here's a quickie of the fall swap quilt I'm arranging/rearranging. I finished grading some essays and can't find my outline for the chapter I'm writing (and conveniently left my laptop at work on Friday), so I decided to start cutting. The quilt has 64 different 2 1/2 squares (2 inch finished) and will have a cabbage leaf Kaffe Fassett border that's also 2 inch finished. Perfect for a table-topper or the like. This isn't the final layout; those two plaids (one real, one faux) in the lower right are too close for me, as are some of the reds. I will likely use the pieced center as a backdrop for some appliqued falling leaves.
Totally different topic: We do a real Sunday dinner each week. Tonight, I made the Meatballs and Macaroni soup from Rachel Ray's 2nd 30 Minute Cookbook--extra easy and a very big hit. Here's an odd thing about Ms. Ray. I dropped a reference to her in my freshman comp class then apologized, thinking that a class of 60% male 18-20 year olds wouldn't get it. They all watch her show. Who'd a thunk it? So, I'd recommend this as an ideal fall soup (even though it's about 190 degrees here and we still ate it).
I really am thinking of calling this quilt--now finished--Monkey Pox because of all the little dots. Although it looked a bit wonky pre-quilting, it actually finished up delightfully flat. I quilted it in a bright variegated cotton thread with big looping swirls. You can see those more closely here:
I had just enough of the Funky Monkey stripe left from my monkey-stash to do a kicky binding alternating the blue focus stripe with the orange focus stripe. All-in-all, I like it very much and think my little great nephew will, as well.
I mentioned before that I'm doing the 4 Seasons swap. Well, a few days ago, my sister stopped by to raid my stash for solidy-tone-on-tones. I pulled all my fabric bins out, and we found all the fabric she needed. So, yesterday morning, before I sat down to quilt Monkey Pox, I decided to grab "some" fall tones before boxing the mess back up. Well, I pulled over 60! fabrics without even breaking a sweat. This should be interesting.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Okay, here are the fabrics I pulled pre-lockdown retreat (see previous post) for my daughter's All About Me quilt. It's an Atkinson pattern, which means a ridiculous amount of cutting but fairly straightforward sewing. When I got to the retreat, I realized I seriously underestimated the border fabric required. So, I did buy another white ground fun print.
Here is the resulting quilt, with lil' miss skinny legs in the background. (Seriously, I think someone slipped me a DNA cocktail when I was pregnant with her, as she's such a little slip of a thing.) The actual pattern asks for solids in the borders, but I wanted to brighten it up and had yards of the two white grounds in the picture above, so I thought, "what the heck." I think it worked nicely. This is a full-size quilt top. I'll be outsourcing the quilting on this one.
Then, while at the retreat, I also partially cut this Cheese and Crackers (another Atkinson pattern) quilt from Funky Monkey fats and some Funky Monkey dotted white. I had actually purchased a bunch of this when it came out, and this is the second quilt I've made from this massive purchase. So, here's the original fabric set:
And here's the oddly oversaturated picture of the quilt top. What's nice is that the photo calls attention to the stretching I had to do to make the pieced borders work (insert sarcasm here). I'm still looking for the iPhoto feature that can auto-correct this both virtually and actually. This is a lap size, I'll be quilting it, and I'll quilt out the poochiness--which I doubt my 1 month old great nephew will mind much :)
Finally, this is my latest BOAF block. I still need to take the massive seven block photo.
So, that's what I've been doing for the past month.
We've been switching over computers--got a new iMac, so sleek--so I should get some photos up later because I actually have been sewing. I went on a cool quilt shop lock-in retreat with some ladies from my guild. We got to sew on our own projects for three days (Fri-Sun), while the wonderful shop owner gave us meals, snacks, and company. It was ridiculously fun to have the run of a closed quilt shop. I felt like Corduroy in the department store.
While there, I cut and pieced a full-size quilt for my daughter and began a lap quilt for my new great-nephew in New Zealand. Those are the photos I'll get up later. While sewing these, I've been listening to Tina Brown's The Diana Chronicles, unabridged. The story of this sad, petulant princess really makes engaging soap opera.
I've also signed up for the Four Season's Swap (see badge on the right). This looks to be great fun, so if you're not over-swapped right now, think about joining!
I'll post pictures this afternoon of all my quilty endeavors once I improve my Mac-literacy.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
I definitely have a nostalgic streak (sometimes even just for last week!), but even with that, I don't tend to romanticize the past unconditionally. Back in the day, my major field of study was the English Early Modern period (c. 1485-1800), and--if you're not looking through the lens of Barbara Cartland--it's difficult to romanticize the lives folks lived then. They were rough and dangerous and arbitrary. And, I'm not saying that trendiness is new. Back in the Early Modern, trendiness was certainly a la mode as was anxiety of about the ideological import of trends (as when the middle class began to dress too ostentatiously, leading to great fears of class confusion). I could go on for a bit about this and move it up through the current quilting era (dropping in references to the 1971 Whitney show, Walker's "Everyday Use," and more), but it would likely interest just me.
On to the present . . . I did finish the 24! stars and bottom border of the Harvest Moon quilt. My fingers hurt!
I love stars. A couple months back, I was in Chicago for a meeting and zipped over to the Institute, which I also love. I stumbled into an exhibit on Ambroise Vollard, who was the first French art dealer apparently. The works they gathered together were grand, but even more impressive was the design of the exhibit. It was set in such a way that every painting popped. In one corner, I came across a Van Gogh that was new to me. I have seen the famous starry painting several times in various exhibitions and museums, but this one, Starry Night Over the Rhone, took me by complete surprise. It was displayed in a darkened room and lit to perfection. Each star twinkled and the river rippled. I could feel the slight breeze as it bent the light of the stars through the atmosphere. I was captivated by how the painting made one feel the night--the kind of night when the stars don't illuminate the night sky as much as let you know that it's a very dark world up there.
I'm no Van Gogh (which is not altogether a bad thing), but in selecting fabrics for this quilt, I wanted my mix of blacks and golds/oranges to generate some movement in the quilt's "sky," and the background I selected for the larger applique piece has a bit of white in it to do the same. More on the center later; now I'm off to make breakfast and read the Times.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Reading this piece made me revisit a train of thought that's been moving at a slow rumble through my head for a while . . I think ever since I read a piece on QuiltersBuzz (a buzz marketing blog) about how all the new fabric lines all-in-the-mode-of-AmyButler have made quilting fresh and new again.
In a nutshell, here it is . . . on a very real level, I don't want quilting to be hip. One of the things that drew me to quilting in the first place is that it wasn't edgy. In other parts of my life, I love the new and the hip. I get Cookie, Lucky, and Domino. I have a spanking new BlackBerry. I listen to self-burned CDs on which Tony Bennett fades into Ghostface Killah fades into Deerhoof fades into Hem. But, quilting has always been that Milk and Cookies Yankee Candle-scented part of my life that's been a sovereign nation free from detachment, irony, and kitsch.
If you've read my blog for a while, you know that I was asked to enter a few quilts in a gallery show at my college around the holidays last year. So, since I'm still stitching away on my next 10 stars for the Harvest Moon quilt and have no new photos, I thought I'd finally share what I wrote for my artist's statement:
I became a quilter for comfort. I was seeking a respite from graduate studies and wanted something that was not postmodern, did not involve footnotes, and would not try to out clever my already too clever rhetoric. I wanted a billowing bolt of nostalgia on which to rest my weary head.
To this day, I find every aspect of quilting comforting. The hand, weave, texture, tone, shade, pattern of the fabric. The deceptive depth of even the thinnest batting. The moments alone in my quilting garret pondering projects. The thumping sound of the machine as it brings together disparate elements whose only similarity may be that they all once came from a seedy cotton ball. The meditative aspect of machine quilting as I wind first this way, then that, either assuring that the lines do or do not touch in just the right way. The accidental interplay between colors and shapes that surprises at last--no matter how well planned I think the project is.
I once read that women on the prairie would piece an entire quilt top, then painstakingly take it apart, and begin anew to create another, and another. They did so to stave off the madness of long days and longer nights in the oppressive heat and numbing cold. A window opens with each piece of fabric in these quilts; the life revealed in the faded prints, dropped stitches, and hard-earned stains. There are days in each of our lives when we inhabit this prairie. And, like all art, quilts are there to comfort and sustain us, to challenge and push us forward, to make us see life anew.
Now in the interruption-studied 21st century, I quilt for quite the opposite reason than did my prairie ancestors. I long to finish. My heart races as a stack of pieces joins into pairs, sets, blocks, a top, a layered sandwich, and then a finished piece. As I turn the corner on the last bit of whip-stitching on each binding, I can barely contain my excitement. Done! This progression convinces me that some things actually do end—and that this end is frequently both lovely and useful.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
In the actual pattern, the side block is a Drunkard's Path. But, I don't do curves. I learned this after a couple Karen Stone classes. I'm a straight-line girl. So, I changed Block B to accommodate my quilting disability.
Thanks to a post by Tonya, I learned about Picasa and edited my photo this time using this super-cool free program. I think my photo is a bit sharper than the previous ones. My whole world is a bit blurrier now. While I was at the beach, I was working on my Harvest Moon stars whilst watching The Starter Wife--not as good as the book, but still great fun--and I noticed that my eyes just don't seem to be bouncing back from near to far as they used to. I've worn glasses since I was 7 (and I'm a bit older than that now) and have been dreading the day I need to move to bifocals. I'm afraid that when I see the eye doctor this week, that's exactly what I'll hear. Sigh.
My other new discovery since my last post is Audible.com. I'm a total multi-tasker. I don't watch tv without cleaning or folding laundry. I don't cook without catching up on Fresh Air or Diane Rehm. And, pre-children, I used to listen to books on tape while quilting. Well, it turns out the library doesn't keep my current quilting hours (after 10 pm, before 6 am), so I never have an audiobook around. Then, I got to thinking that there has to be something online. Lo and behold, Audible.com. I have to pay (unlike the library), but I get the book I want on demand (unlike the library). I'm currently listening to Smile When You're Feeling Blue, which is a classic made-for-miniseries novel by Elizabeth Berg that fits perfectly with my quilting spurts.
I went through out half that book finishing my last Lucky Star quilt. My former AVP loved it and teared up when she got it. It's such a nice feeling when you give a quilt to someone who will treasure it!
Saturday, June 02, 2007
While there, I managed to complete the first 14 stars of the Harvest Moon small project from the Yahoo-PrimFolkApplique2 group. I can't remember the last time I did needle-turn, so I'm really happy with the results. I'm completely old school when it comes to needle turn--no glue, no freezer paper, no prebasting. Just trace, cut, pin in place and we're off.
It's amazing how satisfying it can be to turn each little corner and fold under each ragged seam. Such a sense of completion!
If you're interested, I've added a set to my flickr page that shows just the BOAF blocks, so I can watch this quilt grow block by block.
Oh, and someone asked about the quilt shown in the last post. This is a pattern, Lucky Star, by Teri Atkinson. It's a wonderful card to have in your deck. It takes forever to cut, but always seems to turn out beautifully and it accommodates any type of fabric theme--from juvenile to batik.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
I've made this quilt at least four times, each in different moods, and it always works. It's neat seeing how the quilt takes on the flavor of the fabric.
I was driving my daughter to a playdate this afternoon, and on the way there, I realized that I passed the back of our house. Of course, it wasn't our house, but it was the same model in a different subdivision. So, after dropping her off, I doubled back to see how they had painted my house--just to get an idea. It looked nice, but I like our scheme better. (I also now know how to fit a pool on the back without losing all the wonderful light we get from our 2nd story windows. Just in case.)
So, it's the same with this quilt. It's always but never the same. I'll make time to quilt it next weekend, well in advance of her goodbye party. The rest of this week I've got to get motoring on the rest of my hand applique'd stars. Why am I doing this by hand again? Think, think . . .
Oh, and I probably need to start counting to 100 when the urge to buy fabric comes on. I broke down and bought a Moda jellyroll of the Sanctuary line. It was a difficult day, and in the end, I thought the Moda version of the roll was better for me than the bakery version. Tough call, though.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
This is my fifth BOAF block--freshly finished this afternoon. It plays nicely with the others, and I really like the blue of the bell flowers and the illuminated look of the vase. I've pulled the fabrics for the next block, too, but I'm spending the rest of the month finishing the appliqued stars for the Harvest Moon quilt. I need 14 by June1. I have 5, so I should get there. My mother's day gift was the right to sew all day if I wanted. I sewed and cut part of the day but also baked, cleaned, read the NYT, visited my own mom, caught up on my blogging, and cooked. If my luck holds, I'll get to watch Entourage and walk on the treadmill before the night ends. It's been a good day!
I thought I'd have done more quilting since graduating, but I've had what I'd characterize as a post-book, post-PhD attack of the vapors. I was just so darn tired (and resentful, actually) of running ragged that I took a couple weeks off. I read a novel and lots of magazines, caught up on a couple Netflix movies that have literally been sitting around since February (so that's how they make money!), started walking on my treadmill again, and just hung out with my family. Now, of course, guilt is setting in, and I feel like a laze-about, so I'm kicking it in gear to avoid any onset of type-A anxiety attacks.
So, here's my first new project. Of course, the week after I walked, one of my assoc vp's (and, of course, my best avp) got offered her own vp at another institution--much deserved. So, while I'm scrambling to fill this position, I thought I'd make her a congrats/good-bye/good luck quilt. I pulled my favorite, minimal-effort-with-maximum-results pattern from the shelf: Atkinson's Lucky Star. Here are the fabrics:
I always forget how much (MUCH) cutting is involved in this quilt (though once you plunk down in front of the machine it sails through). I listened to two full hours of the Diane Rehm show online and roasted a lemon/garlic/rosemary chicken while cutting this baby. I want the finished quilt to fill the spectrum from medium to minimal contrast so that it looks faded and soft. I think these fabrics will do the trick.
Did I mention that they are all from my stash--even the two yards of background. When did I buy all this stuff?? These are all from a Fig Tree line (Day in the Country) that I clearly loved--or got as a gift. I seriously cannot remember. This is why I have a no new fabric in 2007 pledge. Though, I've really been tempted by those Moda Jelly Rolls . . . such a clever idea! But, then I look at my vault of fabric and count to ten--or twenty.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Saturday, April 14, 2007
It took a while for everything to sink in--and it's still sinking. The honest-to-goodness page proofs for the first two chapters of my co-authored textbook arrived via FedEx yesterday, and it's an odd experience to see the words that flowed from my weary brain at all odd hours while I worked on this project made manifest in oh-so-professional form.
So, I've cleared the decks for new adventures. And, in one, I returned to the local quilting guild. Years ago I was guild vp and workshop chair, but I grew tired of herding the cats at both work and play . . . so I left. This time I've returned to be "just a member" and was delighted to find a few of the women I so admired still keeping time with the group. This should be fun. One thing I did at the meeting was applique--by hand!!--the first two stars of my online group's next small project quilt, Harvest Moon by Blackbird Designs:
It was actually very, very fun to make these stars, which is probably a good thing since I'll need 29 (!!) of them. It's my own peculiarity that I love seeing the raw edges become closed and smooth. I have the same feeling when I sew pieces together and bind a quilt. Closure! It's such a rare commodity everywhere else in my life.
I also ran around the blog-ring to catch up on everyone's work and was surprised to see that one of the group has dropped out. In her goodbye message, she wrote about the realm of art quilts and becoming a quilt artist. Her work is fantastic, creative, original, and wonderful, and she is without doubt an artist. But, aren't we all in some way? I am always a bit saddened and even a little angered when "art" becomes a divisor and when our creativity becomes tangled up in a reinscription of the high/low dichotomy that has historically kept women (among others) on the outside looking in.
My artistic tastes are quite catholic. I could sit for hours in front of a Holbein, de la Tour, Chagal, Matisse, Sargent, Kahlo, Rivero, Twombly, Bearden, Motherwell, Nevelson, Neel, and so, so many others. I grew up as an English grad student in the days when theory ruled the roost, so I cut my teeth on the intersection of aesthetics, textuality, and ideology, and can cleverly discourse on Kruger, Baquiat, and Holzer with the best of them. But, I've never been as gobsmacked by a work of art as I was when I stumbled on Liza Lou's shining force of fury and celebration, Kitchen, one day in Minneapolis or rounded the corner one rainy afternoon in DC and came across James Hampton's magisterial and poignant The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly. These are works that were most decidedly walled out of "art." Long before she was awarded the McArthur genius grant, Lou was essentially kicked out of the art academy for working with beads. And, the thought of Hampton working in unacknowledged quiet passionate reverence in his small garage on The Throne brings me to tears every time.
When the art/not art question raises its head, I always think back to these less-famous lines from Robert Frost's "Mending Wall":
"Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence."
I love the pun in that last line. I'm happy to stay on the side of the fence where my 29 hand applique'd stars sparkle with a comforting and joyful low art glow.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
My son has a thing for pirates. When I say "a thing," what I mean is that he has memorized entire sections of dialog from Pirates of the Caribbean 1 & 2 and can deliver them in a mean Jack Sparrow imitation; he has enough swords to merit an official "sword basket"; he regularly wears a belt and shoulder belt, bandanna with pirate dreds, and pirate hat; he has a bathtub-ready Playmobil pirate ship fully manned by an odd hybrid family of Playmobil and POTC pirates that is regularly attacked by a tiny octopus "Kraken"; he intends, one day, to marry Captain Jack Sparrow and have a pirate baby (look, I'm there with him on the last one). Perhaps we are enablers, but he's so darn cute, especially when I draw on a little mustache and beard. Plus, I'll take a pirate over a power ranger any day. So, I tracked down some POTC fabric and made him this quickie quilt and will make him a new nap quilt with the same fabric, too. What we won't do for our children!
I've also managed to pull together the do-not-attach-until-later row that goes with the fourth Birds of a Feather block:
I am so liking this quilt! The more fabrics I put in the happier I am.
I had off this week and thought I'd do more sewing but came back from a conference last week with the flucold and was sick for about five days straight, so I did more reading and tv watching than sewing. I watched everything from a fascinating documentary about Lew Wasserman to the new PussyCat Dolls reality show to all my TIVO'd Heroes that I missed while working on my dissertation (this is my new Buffy/Angel). Then, when I felt better, I only wanted to clean the house and catch up on work. Maybe I'll get more quilting done after I defend my diss in a couple weeks. Here's hoping!!
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Well, I've finished copy editing the last textbook chapter and wrote a quick preface for instructors, which is the only remaining element for our developmental editor to review. Done, done, done!!
Then, I spent a long, long, long four day weekend working and reworking my dissertation results chapter until I finally received an email from my committee chair with four magic words: "Chapter Four is fine." Then, quickly revised the last chapter to fit with all the new stats in four. And, with a very quickly beating heart and a full-on belief that I would be hit by a truck or struck by lightning or taken up by aliens at the very moment I crossed the threshold of the graduate school, I dropped off my dissertation for editorial review. Now, all that's left is the defense in late March, and I'm done, done, done!!
Somehow in there I also threw an unbirthday party for my daughter and 12 other screaming 5 year old girls, complete with a tower of Little Mermaid wave-frosted cupcakes and a sand castle bundt cake filled with strawberries.
So, after this crest of anxiety-inducing deadline crunchwork, I finally get to quilt again. Yee-haw! I'm even thinking up new projects (like a pirate quilt, aargh).
Oh, and the picture that's below is a response to questions I've had about how I'm applique-ing the BOAF quilt: machine blanket/button-hole stitch. I'm using a color called "milk chocolate" on all because I decided that switching for every color would make me loonier than I already am. You should be able to see the stitching especially on the pink and red trumpet flowers.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Here's where I will interject something about the forests in my half of our state. Think back to grade school, when you did Venn diagrams. Now, take a piece of paper and draw four circles. Label these four circles "recently released felons," "folks cooking meth," "white supremacists," and "survivalists," and have them intersect in various ways. Then, overlay this with a clear sheet labeled, "folks possessing automatic weapons." You would have a fairly accurate population map of our Northern forests. I'm sure there are regular ol' campers in there, too, but they seem to get shot and/or disappeared with surprising regularity by one of the folks in the other four circles. So, when the light went on, I thought, "Um, yeah, I'll keep driving till I hit an exit."
When I got to the exit, which was entirely populated by one run-down gas-n-sip, I first called my husband to scream about how much I hated my car (a VW 1.8T Passat, a model with remarkably common and documented oil sludge problems), then called AAA. AAA said they'd be out in about an hour. So, I sat in my car; charged my phone; watched birds (very helpful for my BOAF project); became fairly certain a guy in a flannel shirt lived in the brush behind the gas-n-sip; refused to get out of my car to talk to an odd guy drinking Red Bull (who seemed to be trying out very lame, proto-serial killer excuses to get me to engage with him--example, could I walk to the end of the gas-n-sip to show him which way was West on the Interstate--yeah, nice try); listened to a young guy lie to his boss on his cell phone about where he was; and, in general, felt more and more depressed about the likelihood I would not be going to my retreat.
A little over an hour later, the tow guy came. I've taken to calling him Detroit Rock City (DRC), which was blaring at full steam out of his truck when he pulled up. We both first had a conversation with an older man whose car had also broken down and who seemed to be attempting to jack my tow truck. Not happening. Then, while working his chaw, DRC hoisted my car on the flat bed and gallantly opened the door for me to climb the four feet up into his truck, which I gamely did--even in three inch heels.
He then turned to me and, still working his dip and his cup, said, "So, you want to go to Bob Smith's?" "Is that a service station?" I asked. He half nodded. I then just threw it all out there for him: I'm from a city in a different part of the state, I'm going from meeting to meeting, I have no idea where I am, I just need the red oil light to go away, and I have no idea who can do that for me. "Well, I don't know if that's Bob Smith's place," he said. "Is is kinda close?" I asked. When the answer was yes, I said, "Well, let's give it a go." So, he then hauls off down the county road going fast enough that--in a flat bed tow truck with a Passat wagon in the back--we are passing people . . . frequently. We chat about the ashes flying around us--somebody's burning something somewhere, we observe. And, I wonder how quickly one dies when in a tow truck crash. Then, boom, he pulls off to the opposite side of the road at Bob Smith's . . . which doesn't look promising.
We both get out of the truck--me a bit more slowly, since I am wearing heels and getting out on the side of oncoming traffic. By the time I get in to talk to Bob Smith, it's clear this is a non-starter. Bob says to DRC, "I haven't worked on a car in over 5 years. Why do they send people here?" Bob is watching Fox News with three other guys, all leaning back in a way that is so typical of small town life in my state. Except the story is about Anna Nicole Smith's death, which makes it all even odder than it already is. "I got another idea," says DRC. So, I follow him back to the tow truck.
"I'll take you to Another Auto Shop (AAS). It's just up in town. I take my cars there. Only place I'll go," says DRC. "Sounds great to me!" I say with enthusiasm. "Where is 'town'?" "Just a few miles up the road. They don't rip you off. Plus AAS has its own part shop." "Fantastic!" I say with overdetermined glee. I buckle up, and we're off. DRC and I share laughs about others' driving abilities. Apparently, "half the people get their driver's licenses from Sears Roebuck and the other half from a box of Cracker Jacks," an observation with which I agree--while secretly deciding that if this whole thing suddenly goes bad, I will be forced to seek common ground with DRC by admitting I was once a member of the KISS Army. But, it doesn't go bad at all. We pull into town, head to AAS, and DRC introduces me to his friend and mechanic: Tommy.
At that point, Tommy is standing around with a couple friends--or fellow workers, it's hard to tell--poking at a car engine with, I kid you not, a knife. So, standing in a dirt-sandy lot filled with a surprising number of trucks and cars that will likely never see the open road again, and being snowed on by ashes from some fire somewhere, I tell Tommy my story. He pops the hood and makes a snide remark about my car's plastic dipstick. He's a bit shorter than I am, but I manage to look him in the eye and say, basically, "Look, I know this car is a trendy piece of junk. I completely share your disdain for my vehicle and the hipper-than-thou parent lifestyle that it represents. But, I bought it, and I'm driving it, and I just want to get home. Can you help me do this? Please." All is now right with the world. Tommy and I bond over our mutual distaste for VW products; he shares that he had to replace the motor in a Beetle last week and it was the worst day of his life. So, he adds a little oil to my sludge-mobile, describes how the oil filter works, tells me what to do if the light goes on again, gives me directions for the quickest way to get to my home city, invites me into his inner circle to laugh at some guy whose PT Cruiser needs a fuel pump (apparently there are cars held in even lower esteem), and charges me . . . $2! I give him $3, which makes him happy, and head off to find something to eat, as it's now about 4:00 pm, and I haven't eaten since the meeting's continental breakfast.
I pull into a Wendy's, call to vent at my husband, head in, sit in the bathroom stall, look at my filthy pumps and my dirty, grease-stained legs, and just start bawling. Two minutes later, I feel much better, wash my face, and commiserate with the counter girl whose co-workers are having a screaming drag out in back. I take my disgusting cheesy-bacon-mushroom burger and caffeine-rich diet coke to my car. Promptly drop a plop of cheese goo on my dress, sigh, and head off for home. Tommy's way out is perfect, and even driving slightly slower per his instructions, I'm back in my town within 75 minutes.
I then chat with my mechanic who notes that my husband informed him that I don't like my car. "No," I say, "I hate it, actually. But, whatever." I then pop the hatch and sit in the back of the wagon--next to my sewing machine--in the quiet close of the day waiting for my husband and kids to arrive. I call my sister, who's at the retreat, and we swap stories of hated automobiles. She notes that it was probably lucky that I was wearing a suit and heels since it likely made them all feel sorry for me. Looking at my completely dusty and scuffed pumps and my cheese-stained suit, I agree. Then my family pulls up, and I head home.
That's how I never got to the quilt retreat. But, I still got to sew, and watch Star Wars movies with my kids, and snuggle with my husband while watching some TIVO, and sleep in my own bed. And, I got to learn that some people are still nice and helpful. So, it wasn't terrible after all.
And, the Grammys are on tonight. I'll bet DRC is watching!
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Here's the last BOAF block I'll layer before I leave for a statewide meeting followed by my quilt retreat. I'm hoping to get all four stitched down while I'm away. Then, I can meet all the online group deadlines that will pop-up while I'm finishing and defending my dissertation and finalizing all the substitutions for denied permissions for my textbook. It will beyond-wonderful to have both of those off my plate . . . forever!!!
If you have the BOAF book or patterns, you'll notice that I skipped the legs on these birds, and if you read the last post, you'll know that I did the same on the last block. I've decided that they add an unnecessary aspect of reality to the block that just creeps me out--stumpy bird legs. I like my birds free-floating :) I've been using up a bunch of my Baltimore applique-type fabrics in this project; all the gradients and washes. They're adding a nice sense of light and shadow. Below, you'll see all four blocks together, along with my dog's errant paw. She just loves fabric!
My next block background is a homespun plaid that will bring in the light/dark alternation of the zig-zag but in a very different fabric type. I've really enjoyed digging through my stash for this quilt and am so glad I didn't do a block of the month. It's been a nice stretch for the other side of my brain that's been languishing lately in favor of SPSS. I'm also trying to figure out how to explain all the blue I'm pulling. I'm not a blue person (in mood or color palette), but from the first block, I've been attracted to it for this project as a kicky accent. Intriguing.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
This is the third Birds of a Feather block. I changed mine a bit from the pattern--subtracting a couple leaves and adding a center circle to the vines. My bird's tail also crosses over one of the vines, and I took away the bird's legs, because I found them a little creepy. This may sound a bit weird, but I think the bird looks kind of noble :) It's funny how easy it is to anthropomorphize almost anything, including a purple piece of fabric. I guess that's our constant push to make meaning and tell stories. I had a discussion with a couple friends this week who name their cars. One was recently in a crash, and his son had become so attached to the car (which was totaled) that he wept when they couldn't get it back and wanted to go say goodbye to it. My friend is avoiding naming their new car just so they can avoid the issue in the future. I've never named a car--though I have cursed mine once or twice and pleaded with it a few times.
Here's what all three blocks look like together so far:
Obviously, they aren't really arranged this way in the quilt, but I like the way the colors are coming together. If I have time, I'll also pull together block four before I leave for a quilt retreat next weekend. Then I can blanket stitch them when I'm not in class. Okay, now on to clean the kitchen!
Friday, February 02, 2007
My life is busy. That's not a complaint, just an observation. Here's what I've done this week . . .
Presented at a local day long meeting full of state legislators and staff and then met with a US Senator later that same day for a meet and greet. (He has super staffers who actually remember you from meeting to meeting!), then . . .
Attended a funeral for an extraordinary retired faculty member, then . . .
Wrote a state grant concept paper, then . . .
Revised my data set just one more time, ran and double-ran my research correlations and regressions, then . . .
Met with my dissertation chair about finishing my dissertation. My advisor again changed my dependent variable (to a different DV which, thank goodness, I had already calculated just in case), knocked out three of my independent variables, made me identify two new IVs . . . but still blessed my regressions and results. (Yay!!) And offered to co-author a chapter with me in a new book. And offered me adjunct teaching post-PhD. (All big yays!!), then . . .
Worked on copyediting my textbook and stressed out because our instructor's manual author backed out, then . . .
Attended another funeral for a staff member (this one from my immediate office), then . . .
Called to get permission to fax in my graduation application since I got caught by two calls on my way out of the office and wouldn't get to DoubleSportChamp U before the registrar closed, then . . .
Finalized the agenda, rooms, speakers, food, technology, etc. for a statewide meeting (because the outgoing chair was distracted by his own move and let things slip a bit, sigh), then . . .
And, of course, I also did my day-to-day meeting-to-meeting job--which was surprisingly full of mop-up activities this week; played with my liddle kiddles and finally just gave up the ghost and let them sleep in the same bed if they were very, very good; filled out unbirthday party invites for my daughter while making rice pudding (ah, comfort food); made sure my son had his drawn on pirate moustache and beard as needed; researched 529 plans with my husband and made summer vacation plans; found out we might have a slab leak; stressed about not exercising after my co-worker died of a heart attack on Monday and got my booty back on the treadmill (to work off the comfort food); blah, blah, blah.
So, I'm thinking this is why my quilts tend to be busy. One day, maybe my life will grow subdued, but I doubt it :) (As Jay-Z says, "You wuz who you wuz when you got here.") I'm drawn to busy-ness, to the rush of plaid against floral next to dots by the stripes. I like it when some things aren't distinct enough, when the lines aren't clear enough, because that's a depiction of my life: a blurry rush where meaning comes from the mixed up blend not the separate ingredients. We are what we sew and we sew what we are, I guess.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
I really like the way the zig-zaggy background worked here. I also discovered that fusible cut on the bias works just like any other bias, so I was able to whirl my vine around just fine. I'll now be able to take both blocks to my quilt retreat early next month to blanket stitch them. Here's how the two blocks look together--they won't be sewn in this order at all (and, in fact, go in different sections of the quilt), but it gives a nice idea of how the fabrics are playing off each other:
I'm happy I took on this project. It's pushing me to look at my fabrics in different ways and take some risks with patterns and colors.
Also, many thanks to everyone who wrote nice things about my dog--who's a girl, actually. I'd like to put in a plug for adopting rescued animals, especially adult ones. We adopted her about six months ago from a rescue group and couldn't ask for a more wonderful pet. She tolerates us all: kids, grown-ups, and cats.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Because I don't have enough to do :), I recently signed up for a Yahoo group on Primitive Folk Applique. Prior to my joining, the group had decided to do Blackbird Design's "Birds of a Feather" as a year project. Well, of course, I was several weeks behind, so I immediately ordered the book from Amazon and downloaded the first block from the KCStar website. I rewarded myself for finally whipping all my dissertation raw data into meaningful variables and finding that several of my independent variables are statistically significant (YES!!), and spent my Grey's Anatomy time tracing out all the Block 1 pieces. This morning, I set my daughter up on Stardoll and my son in front of Pirates of the Caribbean II--with the scary bits redacted by me during the watching--and got to work. By the time my husband woke up, I was done with this part:
I took a quick break to run to the grocery store, eat lunch, get the kids down for nap, and throw the roast together in the slow cooker. Then, managed to do this:
I'm doing it with fusible and blanket stitch, so now I have just the latter to complete. And, it's all from my stash! The only thing that I'm uncomfortable with is the brighter yellow/green on the big leaves, but I'll work it and the same tone into other blocks so that it stands out less. It also brings some light into the quilt to give it movement. Plus, it's from my stash (did I say that already?).
Saturday, January 13, 2007
I was reading around the ring the other night and found a post on someone's blog (I forget where, it was late) about having too much fabric. I immediately felt the shame of recognition! This is the fabric I pulled from my stash for a project at an upcoming quilt retreat. See how it all falls together (sort of, I'm still on the fence about that Fassett)--quite a coincidence :) Clearly, I bought most of this at some point for some project that I can no longer recall. And, it has been sitting, for who knows how long, in a plastic bin just waiting to be used. When I was finishing up the Welcome quilt (shown in a previous post), I pulled out a fabric that was marked 1997 on the selvedge. So, it had likely been been sitting around for 10 years! Good gravy! So, one of my resolutions for this year is NOT to buy any more fabric--or books--or patterns. I need to show some love to all of the glorious fabric that I just-had-to-have last month, or last year, or last decade. And, unlike my eternal promise NOT to buy any more shoes, I really mean this one. (Seriously, who can resist the allure of Piperlime, with the individually wrapped shoe boxes and the cute notes and the awesome clearance prices?)
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Yay! It's done--and boo! I once again put the hangars in direct line with the white hanging hooks, making the top all wavy. But, it's already after 11, and I'm ready to crawl into bed to read and watch SNL with guest host the remarkable 2nd-act-er Alec Baldwin and the remarkable all-act-er Tony Bennett. So, I'm thinking it's fine for tonight. I really liked the way the border turned out. I had to think it through a bit to get the L's to align as I wanted, and I love the way these two burgun-reds play off each other. I also managed to take a photo of one corner (without flash-blinding it) to show the quilting.
I did simple echo channel quilting every 1/2 inch around the square, but it's been so long since I've done straight lines in my borders that I was quite proud of it. All in all, a perfectly satisfying small project that now serves as a lovely greeting for all who stop by (including my postperson, who leaves me extra JoAnn's flyers with nice notes about how she likes my quilts!).
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
This is my latest work in progress. I packed away "The Merriest" until next Christmas season, and wanted to put together something new--quickly--for the new year. I plopped down on the floor of my quilt room to run through patterns and found a long-ago purchased one from Little Quilts with a bunch of letters. I thought about spelling out "Welcome" but didn't want a longish banner. Then, I realized I could arrange the letters in a folky nine-patch with some fillers. By the way, the four patch fillers you see here aren't yet sewn, so don't fret about my seam matching ability. I just laid the whole thing out to see if the colors worked. I tried out about 10 different borders before deciding to split the difference and will go with "L"s of the two I liked the most. I really do like the way this is turning out; it looks just odd enough to have character. Currently, it's only arranged on my ironing board, and I hope to have it all finished by the weekend. Welcome, new year . . . just two days in, I'm already too busy for you but am willing to give it a go if you are :)