Friday, May 29, 2015

a day full of sunshine

Literally and figuratively--a joyful day in NY.  No rain!! I met my friend Carolyn at City Quilter; Carolyn and her husband Bruce are here from England, spending  a few weeks in and around Manhattan, visiting friends.  Luckily for me, the friends had other plans today, so Carolyn and I had a chance to browse around the shop and then go for lunch till Bruce met up with us. 

Ahem. After declaring that I never buy fabric, I managed to make a liar of myself with these two fabrics I couldn't resist.  (Especially since they were on sale).  They don't look like me, do they? 

 Love those cocktail glasses with the striped stems (the fabric designer seemed to think they were posies - but what does she know?) and the color combination makes me smile.  Ditto those big circles.  They are so whimsical that they are inspiring me (to do what?). Washed and ironed, they are smiling at me while I finish making those string blocks.  Four more to go and then the real work begins.

I just made a small pot of coffee so I could stay up and sew. There is something lovely
about being able to make coffee at 10:pm and stay up as late as I want to because I don't have to be anywhere else tomorrow. I love my little French Press that theoretically makes 3 cups, but it really makes only one.

On the counter is a strainer with yogurt that will be labneh (Lebanese yogurt cheese) by morning. I have been reading cookbooks for recreation, which is not such a great idea when I am trying to lose weight.  But I walked 4.5 mi. today so I figure it evens out.  Before leaving the city, I stopped at the International Foods shop on 9th Ave and 40th St. to stock up on feta, spanikopita, kalamata olives, halvah, taziki, and taramasalata (their taziki and tarama are the best anywhere, hands down). Oh, and Lebanese pita which is thinner than Greek pita.  Tomorrow, I will have a Lebanese breakfast.  But tonight, back to the sewing room for a little while, at least.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

rain, rain, go away...

I shouldn't complain, based on what is going on in the rest of the country.  Hope all of you in Texas and Oklahoma are safe.  But I'm going into the City tomorrow and would prefer not to use my umbrella. 

Today, I did not put one toe out of the house  aifter I retrieved the newspapers from the driveway.  I sewed.  

String squares: the original paper piecing.
A friend of my mother's showed me how to sew strings to newspaper squares a full decade before I made my first quilt. She was not a quilter - just had a lot of sraps and was making summer coverlets. I thought it was fun, but I was newly married and forgot about string quilts  for about 40 years.  Then I discovered that they made fun baby quilts -- and made some for gifts. Then, forgot about them again when my kids' friends took a break from having babies.

 A week or two ago, too tired to think, but needing to sew, I cut a bunch of squares from a junk mail prospectus (phone books or newspapers are good, too), threw a pile of strips into a trash basket, and went to work. These were single strips of all lengths and widths.
But I also have a ton of already-sewn-together leftover free-form therapy strips.
I set my machine stitch at 1.5 because it's easier to rip the paper off when you have small stitches.  I assume that every quilter on the planet has made a string quilt at some point because they are so basic.  But just in case you haven't, here's my process.

1.  Lay two strips down and sew them to the paper.

 2. Flip the top one so it's face-up.  Then flip down the rest of the triangle so it is out of the way.
 3.  This is what it looks like on the back with the corner flipped out of the way.  Now just ignore it and keep adding strips to the strips.

4. Add a few more and flipped the triangle back up for a minute, just to see what length the next strip needs to be. They get shorter as you go along -- no need to waste long ones as you get closer to the top of the triangle!
 5. Almost there - then do the same on the other side. The center strip is anchored, so you can flip back the paper and just add strips.  Saves a lot of grief when its time to take the paper off.
6.  This is what it looks like when the whole square is covered.
 7.Now turn it over and trim off the overhanging pieces, using the paper as your template.
 See? This has only one or two seam lines going through the paper, so it's easy to remove.
 Because the stitches are so small, it rips away easily.
Done!  Now, on to the next one.
I have four more string squares to make and then I can cut them all to the same (more or less) size, put 'em together and go from there.  But I'm done for tonight, so these four will have to wait till I get back from the city tomorrow.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

a lazy week

I just haven't felt like myself or been in the mood to do anything but work on the string baby quilt I'm making.  Yesterday, I finally went to my studio and puttered around -- but after a couple of hours, came home. I have been reading.

Finally, today, I was forced into doing something creative.  I've been working on this little piece all afternoon, and amazingly, it has come together.  All done but the edges.  Hooray!  I have had these units sitting around for four or five years and have had them on-and-off the wall a dozen times.  I was trying to make a bigger piece that did not want to be bigger than 8-½" x 11". Ha!  Done.  The orientation will be up to the future owner.

Has this encouraged me or motivated me to do more small pieces? Hmmm...maybe.  It's a start, anyway.

The NJ weather has been depressing. If this were February, it would be a heat wave; if it were October, it would be lovely and mild.  But it's damn near June and it has been windy, in the low 60's, and cloudy/drizzly. BLEH!  Memorial day is forecast to be more of same, which is a bummer because our condo's pool opens this weekend. (Not that I EVER go in the water, but it would be nice to sit in the nice weather and read or schmooze). Sigh...I won't even begin to tell you about the pollen "tsunami" that the papers are writing about.  I have not stopped sneezing and I wish I could blame it on fabric dust.

So now you know my whole story. Now, I have to go clean up the mess I made while I worked on the above piece. Aren't you glad you tuned in?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

home again

It is Thursday, May 14.  I got home last Saturday from a three-states-in ten days- whirlwind of teaching and am just about recovered.  Mother's Day was pretty restful: I told my kids that if they wanted to see me, they had to come here.  So my daughters came, brought tulips, and put out a lovely spread for Sunday brunch,chez moi.

All week I have alternated between crashing on the sofa and walking a couple of miles a day in this New Jersey windy, October-like weather, to get rid of the extra lbs. I gained while I was away.  This happens every time: I am well-fed and there is no time or place for exercise.

Mostly, my brain has been on the back burner (without a pilot light) for the past several days.  It's a luxury, I must admit, to do nothing.  But it is time to start doing something.

Finally, after four hours of therapy sewing tonight, the beginnings of a string quilt on the wall, for a nw baby. I throw them up as I finish them and will worry about placement when I have enough to play with. Trying to get rid of all he strips but of course, haven't made a dent.  Nonetheless, this mindless sewing has been just what I needed. It is a start.

This is the latest I have been up all week, and I think it is time to end my day. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

a winding career path

In a little while I will be on my way to Seneca, South Carolina.  Admittedly, I am geographically challenged when it comes to anything outside of the northeast of the country, but it's about a two hour drive from Atlanta. Don't ask me in what direction...but when tomorrow comes and I'm in the classroom, I'll be happy to be there.  Those of you who teach know what I mean.  This was the Strips and Squares class.
                                         working on the wall
                                       doing a little design feedback

I feel so lucky to be in this profession.  I've had many careers, all using the same underlying skills. I've been a writer (always) and a teacher/coach/consultant/counselor in a variety of industries and guises. Have loved them all (except for the boss from hell) but what I am doing now is the BEST!  

Started  life as a French teacher and later taught writing skills to executives, scientists, and other corporate types who wrote in long, convoluted sentences of pure gobbledygook. More or less, government speak -- you know the type.  I had a career as a corporate image consultant (though you wouldn't know it to look at me now - LOL) and communication skills coach - great fun!  Among my clients, Citibank, Chase Bank, and the Chicago Tribune. I spent two years a marketing consultant for law firms.  Finally, a decade doing one-on-one outplacement counseling, helping with interview skills, networking, resumes;and giving workshops to people who had been fired/downsized. 

When I discovered 15 years ago that life was too short, I left the outplacement business and worked at my art full time -- never thinking that I'd end up as an author and international teacher, having the most fun ever! It is such joy to help people unleash their creativity!  Just a few happy artists...
Life is an adventure and you never know where the path leads till you get there.  Mine has led to a very special place.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

finally, time for a short post

With a few minutes to go till I get picked up from my hotel to go to the classroom, I am checking in.
Better late than never? Maybe.  LOL.  (omg, somebody's phone her just quacked like a duck).

I landed in Atlanta on Tuesday and my cousin Reba picked me up at the airport so I could stay with her for a few days and we could try to figure out how we are actually related.  Spent time with geneaology research and are still missing a link, but it has to be there somewhere. We'll get it eventually.  Or we won't.  Meanwhile, we had fun together. 

On Wednesday, I had lunch with some lovely and talented artists, including my old friend Barbara who moved from West Orange to Atlanta a number of years ago.  We were so happy to see each other!
Barbara photographs unusual signs and while she hasn't posted this one for fear of offending anybody, I have no such inhibitions.  I suspect this is responsible for our hysterics.
The last couple of weeks at home I started playing around with improv units, using neutrals and one color.  An experiment I don't have pictures of and hope to continue at some point when I am home near a sewing machine for a few days.    

Meantime, I am happy to be away from the weather in NJ that is 30 degrees with a freeze warning and snow flurries in some places. Here in Atlanta, it is pouring rain -- but at least it is not freezing cold. 

Oops - time to get ready for today's class.  More when I have a bit of time.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

studio time:-))

Finally!!  It's been so long since I have been there that I had forgotten what chaos lives in the storage bins.  Lots of ideas going through my head, but unless I actually try them, I won't know what works.
Of course, before I can do anything, I have to sort.

The benefit of sorting is that you find things you had forgotten you had.  So this gave me the chance to look with fresh eyes at a few pieces of fabric I unearthed.  I found three of these butt-ugly nine patches
just in time to redo one and bring the other two originals to my upcoming UFO class.  What was I thinking??

On the other hand, I also came across some printed pieces I had forgotten about. Maybe I should think about doing something with them?  Quite a variety -- and this is the tip of the iceberg
This was deconstructed screen printing.
Clamped shibori.
Have no idea, but think this might have been soy wax batik that I then discharged and screeenprinted on.  It's a mystery to me.
Oh, yes. This was a demo piece from a class I did eons ago on screenprinting with freezer paper stencils and who knows what else.  

Another piece of shibori.
Maybe it will work with this fabric. Or not.  I really like this piece of cloth - screenprinted with thickened dyes using tape and then thermofax.  Since I never write down my process, I can never remember what I did.  But I see some discharge here.

It the meantime, I have my sorting/ironing/organizing work cut out for me.  And it's the best way for me to become inspired.  Today was a start.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

New York, NY.

Here's what my camera managed to capture as I walked up Broadway on Tuesday.
I wasn't quite sure what the outfit was supposed to be, but it certainly was interesting.
This scene was repeated in a few places around town.  No idea who or what is letting off steam.
We are pretending that Spring is here, although it is chilly and drizzly.  I actually turned on the heat when I got home at the end of the day. Bah!
Shopping for bags that literally fell of the back of a truck.
Gotta love this truck!  It was a different one from the one at the bag market.
Finally, public art on Broadway.  


That's the end of today's 25 cent tour.

Back to Blogville

In the 10 days since I got home I have been catching up on the usual stuff: bills, laundry, and taxes, which I have to get to my accountant by the end of the week. Hahahaha.

On the other hand, I've scheduled some social activities for myself: Monday, lunch with my art group. Wednesday, a friend over for drinks and dinner.  Thursday, hopefully to the studio then to another friend's for dinner and to see the paintings she did while I was away.  

Today was a special treat: a day in New York with fellow blogger, Gunilla Borjesson from Sweden who is in New York with her two lovely daughters, seeing the sights.  We met, of course, at City Quilter, and I was astounded at how Gunilla managed to restrain herself and not buy out the whole store.  Here we are, waiting for the store to open.
I had fun looking at all the new fabrics but I, too, resisted.  I can't use what I already have:-(.  There were a couple that caught my eye, though.  Everything old is new again - this one is so mid-century modern that I expected it to be bark cloth.  Of course, there is nothing mid-century about the colors.

Here is a quilt Gunilla made recently.  I hope she won't mind if I post it here. I love the rhythm of the colors.
Afterwards, we had a delicious lunch at East of Eighth while Gunilla interviewed me for a beautiful Swedish quilt magazine.  We did quite a bit of walking and then she went to meet up with her daughters, as I headed for the bus terminal.  It was so much fun to meet Gunilla after having corresponded by email!  

On the way back to the bus, I snapped a few NY photos but they will have to wait for tomorrow.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

a day or two late and a dollar or two short:-)

In lieu of sewing, I am sorting my scraps and strips and putting them into bags to take home with me, in the hope that I will get back into my studio and do something with them. Hope springs eternal. Not sure whether it is the sunny, warm climate or the fact that I just need a rest, but I have not been in the mood.  Instead, I have continued to binge-read mindless mysteries: this time around, Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series (preferably in order). 

And I have been making soup.  Last week, I took one look at the crisper drawer and knew it was time to use up the past-their-eat-by veggies.  I do miss my pressure cooker, which allows me to make soup in 20 minutes or so -- but in desperation, I did it the old fashioned way: a couple of hours in a pot.
Cabbage, onions, green beans, a half of a turnip, three sad carrots, and an onion or two. And maybe a pathetic half tomato, about to go soft.
Always reminds me of the book, Stone Soup, which I used to read to my kids.  To the veggies I added some dried lentils, a couple of bay leaves, and what looks like oregano, thyme, basil, and who knows what.
Thought some tomato flavor would be good, so threw in some tomato paste.
About an hour into the cooking, it was starting to look like soup.  Threw in the rest of the can of  tomato paste, a potato turning green, and some dried mushrooms.
 Aha!  Cooked down for another hour, it looked ready to eat.  And it was delicious. I ate it all week.

Of course, eating soup did not take up my entire week; I took my sewing machine in to be fixed and the fixer called me to tell me he couldn't figure out how to attach the foot so he could sew with it. Hmmm...very odd, since I had no trouble sewing with it last week. I just didn't like the way the stitches looked and thought it needed a bit of tuning up.  Needless to say, I am going to bring the machine home tomorrow to see what is going on. Time for a new (used) machine for my Florida digs.

I have also continued to audition backsplash tile. Maybe I should just paint it ((next winter) and then see.  The holes in the wall left by the electrician will not be fixed till 2016, since I am going back to NJ in less than two weeks.  Mixed feelings about that. Sigh...

Went to the movies to see The Second Best Marigold Hotel, which, while not as fabulous as the first one (sequels never are), it was nevertheless a pleasant and charming way to spend a couple of hours.  I mean, what could be bad with Maggie Smith and Judi Dench? The only quibble I had was that you had to have seen the First Best Marigold Hotel to keep the relationships straight.  It should have been a series on public television. 

Ok - back to the next Maisie Dobbs book.