Wednesday, August 29, 2012

blogger giving me grief

I'm on vacation this week, but so, apparently is Blogger. It wouldn't let me upload photos and when it finally did, I hit "publish" and it vanished. Trying again. Being on vacation means having someone else do your shopping for you.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Thursday's therapy

Overwhelmed by the neatly stacked baggies of strips, strip sets, sliced & diced blocks, and bits I sewed together for my book, I thought, yesterday, "I need to DO something about all these leftovers.  I am sick of looking at the same old/same old and I'm not in the mood to use them as they are. Quite frankly, I am bored."  Seriously bored.
These are just a few of the random units sitting around.  If the two on the left look familiar, it is because they were part of my post the other day.
Remember that experiment?  I hated them so much that I took my trusty  stitch remover thingie
and took them apart.

On a whim, I decided to use one of those bits as the starting point and just cut it smaller and randomly sewed around it, using the zillion other strips I had lying around, including several that had been pieced together  You can see in this unit there are, besides the red and gray one, five other strips of things that had been previously pieced - used as-is.

Here, I used a beige/purple that had been pieced and cut a slice to put into this one. Using these bits makes me feel so much better -- despite no visible progress in decreasing the amount of STUFF I have.
 Once I started, I spent the entire day doing this and in one afternoon, managed to piece 13 random units.  It's like eating salted nuts or chips - you can't stop and even if you could, you don't want to.

These are mostly Helene's hand-dyes, but I think I will have to play with my stash of other fabrics because so many of my leftovers are a combination of hand-dyes and prints. On verra.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


what am I doing?

In preparation for the North Jersey MQG tomorrow night - since my cohort won't be there to do most of the talking, I figured I might come up with a flexible set of simple units to show, that could be arranged numerous ways. Then people could do whatever they wanted to do with them.  Easier said than done.

Here's the problem: I never know what I'm going to do until I do it. And then I never remember what I did because in most cases, I don't want to repeat anything exactly.  When I wrote my book, I had to work more deliberately and break things down into steps: a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

This was my Lonely Crayon block for the MQG challenge - but I could never replicate it and wouldn't want to. Three colors, one of which had to be white. I used squares and rectangles and have no idea how I got here.
Nonetheless, I started to experiment this morning to see if there were any possibilities working with just squares. And I am taking pictures as I go along, writing(here) as I go so I will (maybe) remember what I have done/am doing.  This is my test case: where better to test things than a place I can look at them in before/during/after sequence.

1. pick 3 fabrics - dark, medium light and cut three 4" squares of each color (12 total) 
2. cut three strips of each color, 1" wide x 4" long
3. lay different color strip roughly in the middle of the square and slice without a ruler along the edge of the strip. 4.  Insert and repeat with all squares and strips.
You will end up with 12 units that look something like this, with 6 pairs of color combinations.
One possible 9 patch layout (boring)
 Another possible layout (predictable)
Since I had cut 12 squares and used only 9, I sliced the extra three crosswise and then strung them together.  As you might imagine, too structured for me - but somebody else might like this arrangement.  (note to self- write instructions for this).
5.  Slice three units crosswise at any point (into any number of strips) and sew together, lining up the center strips as much as possible.
Ok - so now I am going to tackle the rest of the strips to see if I can come up with anything different. Stay tuned.** ** Footnote: I hated this so much that I cut all the pieces to bits and threw them into my box.  Maybe it was the colors, maybe the geometric, structured look - but these pieces will surface in something else more interesting. Whew! What a relief to be done with this.  If anybody wants to use this as a starting point and do something wonderful, be my guest.  But you have to send it to me to post:-).

Monday, August 20, 2012

okay, OKAY - ice cream recipe!

You can google salted caramel ice cream and find dozens of recipes on the Internet.  But the one I use is the one in Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams book.  If you've been to Columbus, OH you have already discovered her fabulous ice cream (which sells for $12/pint).

Of course, I alter the recipe a tiny bit - I don't add corn syrup and I use kosher salt because it is finer than the sea salt I have. I also use lactose-free 2% milk - great if you are lactose intolerant and love ice cream but it doesn't love you.

By the time you have read this far, I have already consumed the ice cream in he picture and honestly, I could eat the whole quart in one sitting (but I won't).  Below, Jeni's recipe for Salted Caramel with my ed. comments in blue.

Makes about 1 quart
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Danger! This is the dry-burn technique. I don't add water to the sugar before putting it on the heat, as some chefs do. Caramelizing sugar dry means it goes faster, but you have to watch it more closely and be ready with your cream. (some people add a little water and nothing says you' can't add a Tablespoon or two of water if you feel better about it)

 Here is an overview of what you are going to do:
Stand over the pan of sugar with a heatproof spatula ready, but do not touch the sugar until there is a full layer of melted and browning liquid sugar on the bottom with a smaller layer of unmelted white sugar on the top. When the edges of the melted sugar begin to darken, use the spatula to bring them into the center to help melt the unmelted sugar. Continue stirring and pushing the sugar around until it is all melted and evenly amber in color — like an old penny. When little bubbles begin to explode with dark smoke, give the sugar another moment and then remove from the heat. Immediately but slowly pour about 1/4 cup of the cream and corn syrup mixture into the burning-hot sugar. Be careful! It will pop and spit! Stir until it is incorporated, then add a bit more cream and stir, then continue until it is all in.
Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.
Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.
Mix the cream with the corn syrup in a measuring cup with a spout.
Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
Heat the sugar in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat until it is melted and golden amber in color (see note above). Remove from the heat and, stirring constantly, slowly add a bit of the cream and corn syrup mixture to the caramel: It will fizzle, pop, and spurt. Stir until well combined, then add a little more and stir. Keep adding the cream a little at a time until all of it is incorporated.
Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the milk. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
Bring back to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. If any caramel flecks remain, pour the mixture through a sieve. (I don't bother)
Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and whisk. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.
Pour into frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy.
Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid.
Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.(ha ha - who can wait that long?)

Honestly, it is easier than it looks and absolutely worth it.

That's it for tonight, people. You'll probably want the book. I have about 4 ice cream books and this is my hands-down favorite when I'm in the mood for a strange flavor. Celery ice cream, anyone?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

this is why I started blogging in 2005

It was a place I could look at all the permutations of pieces I was working on, in one place - at the same time instead of in sequence.  So I'm going back to my roots with this post and it has already helped me make up my mind - or at least eliminate two of the versions from consideration.

 Are you sick of looking at these yet?  I am.  So I am going to read for the rest of this evening - or at least till the salted caramel ice cream mixture is cold enough to put into the ice cream maker. What else is new?  Check out Nina-Marie's blog, where I'm putting a link to this post on Off the Wall Friday!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Saturday stuff + on the wall part 2

First of all, I have to thank Kim in ND for calling my attention to the identity of the polka dot woman in Vuitton's window.

 She is the Japanese artist,Yayoi Kusama who is having a retrospective exhibit, as we speak, at the Whitney Museum. Of course, Vuitton is underwriting the exhibit as a tie-in to their polka dot offerings.  Guess I'll have to get to the Whitney to see the show one of these days.

Went to Brooklyn and back today to see Emma and her parents. Fun, fun, fun!  Got home late afternoon and tonight I am in my sewing room.  My piece got more and more confusing as I moved pieces around, added, subtracted, and revised. Nothing was working.

 I needed to go back to basics, so in the end I took everything extraneous off the wall.  Here is where I started. Simple.

 And here is the piece I made from the original blocks, to which I may add the elements on the right.  I am contemplating. In the meantime, it will sit here in its simplicity and tomorrow, when I am less tired, we will have a conversation.

This has been a long week, so I am turning in early tonight.  Company tomorrow.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Another day in NY

So I met my friend Pam and her daughter Orah in Manhattan yesterday. They are from Montreal but Orah is in college in NY City.  We had a wonderful NY day, although I have to admit that the exhibits at MOMA were the worst I have ever seen. Conceptual, odd, depressing, obsessive - you name it.  Where was the ART??? No pix allowed and just as well, trust me.

When I taught in Canada in 2010, Pam took two workshops with me and I stayed with her and her family.  Yesterday, she brought with her (all the way from Montreal) the quilt she had made for Orah as a result of one of my classes, and at lunch, she brought it out to show me.
She brought another quilt with her, too, but since it is part of her reveal on the website Twelve by the Dozen, I promised not to post it till she had done so.

We walked and walked and walked and walked all over Manhattan and loved the store windows on 5th Avenue.  Louis Vuitton was the winner with this one. don'tcha just love it?  Everybody was taking pictures and she looked so real that we thought it was one of those people who stand still for a living. But she didn't blink so we figured out she had to have been a mannequin. You can't believe how real she looked.

 They had decorated the exterior of the building in stick-on polka dots to draw attention to this event. Can you see the hordes of camera-toting people out front? I took this from across the street. Great marketing!
After a wonderful couple of hours in Bloomingdale's gorgeous flagship store, where Pam found the shoes she had been looking for in Canada for 7 months, we parted company.  Here are some of the photos I took on my trek back to the Port Authority bus terminal at dusk.

The Times Tower from a distance.
Shubert Alley and the (pink) Shubert Theatre
Broadway at night
needs no attribution
 Tired but happy, as always when I have spent a day in the city.  Tomorrow, Brooklyn! NY three times in less than a week. I think I need a half-price metro card for the subway.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

inspiration vs. intent - let's talk

There's been quite a discussion on one of the lists about inspiration vs. intent aka improvisation vs. planning -- or what I call Ad Hoc design© vs. Slow Design©. Of course, despite what the planners-ahead really believe, there is no right or wrong way.  So I thought I'd share my ad hoc-slow design process with you as I work.

I've had some pieces on my sewing room design wall that have been sitting for a week (which is why you haven't heard from me). The pink traditional block was one of four originals. Two were redone for the book and that left me with two whole blocks and an unused bit (the light pink in the middle).
This is how it looked until last night, when I started to move things around. 
 I separated the units and what started as Ad Hoc Design moved into the Slow Design stage. (which is not to say I'm not still working at hoc - lol).  Everything but the little squares on the right were left over from something else and were in my box.  I had started with these two,which really didn't "go together."(ad hoc)

 I made the strip of squares on the right out of strips I had lying around.  And I added black and white to the pink and yellow horizontal strip you see below. (slow)

After trying them in a few different orders (slow) I moved them together and added another leftover strip at the bottom to see if it would work (ad hoc).

Then I decided I really needed some of that light pink/purple/turq from the original blocks, so I gritted my teeth and cut into one of them, to which I added strips(very slow).  Now I'm auditioning arrangements but chances are that neither of these will work in the end. This is why I take pictures.
 From looking at the photo I see what I couldn't see up close and I know what doesn't work and why.
But since I'm off to New York in a little while to meet my friend Pam, who is here from Montreal, visiting her daughter, I won't be doing any more of this today.  In fact, even if I weren't going to NY,
I have other things to do and can't work on one thing incessantly or I bore myself to death.
Nonetheless, I can't imagine working any other way.

What's your process? Do you start with a plan or an inspiration and fiddle with it as you go along? Or do you start without a plan and - uh - fiddle with it as you go along?  I'd really like to know - so please leave comments and let's talk.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

working the UFO circuit

Since I've sent most of my before/after UFOs off to Richmond, VA as samples for one of the classes I will be teaching in October at the wonderful shop, Quilting Adventures, I need to replenish my stock. More to the point, I just need to work on something small, since I have not been in the studio (too hot) and my bulletin board design wall isn't large.

My friend Rachel's pink and purple and turquoise blocks have been redone, except for the one I am keeping as my "before."  But I have one leftover piece that I did not use, so I started with that one and am into my baggies to see if something I already have lying around will work with it. And then, of course, I am modifying as I go along.

This is what my nice, clean design wall looked like late last night. The original block is on the right (or is that stating the obvious?)
Maybe tonight, after I get back from my afternoon in New York, I'll play around a little bit more. Work in progress.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

does neatness count?

Not for me.  It is well known that my report card from the counselor at Girl Scout camp, when I was 7 and in BrownieLand, said "Rayna keeps a messy cubby."  I am not sure whether that was a self-fulfilling prophecy or whether I was already ME at that age.  

Amazingly, it's Tuesday and the room is still tidy. My bulletin board cum portable home design wall has come in from the front hall and leans happily against the bookcase. 

My Neatness Consultant, Ms. Closet, will be happy to know that I have used masking tape wrapped around my hand to get rid of all those pesky threads on the now-neatly trimmed batting.
As I neatened, I came across one of the pieces I created for my book (where are the other two?????) and threw it at the wall.  It looks better trimmed see below) but the question is "now what??" Does it want to be bigger or will it be a 12"x12" or some such size? Maybe if I find the other two I will have a series - LOL. I gave up trying to decide and took it down from the wall again. 
Before I forget, I was happy to see a package arrive from Quilting Arts TV the other day. It was the series that just finished and includes the program I taped in March.  I have not watched it yet. But I'll get around to it eventually. You may want to do the same - the DVD is now available on Quilting Arts website and has lots of great stuff on it.  I don't know about you, but we don't get QATV in this part of the country so the only way I can see these programs is on the DVD.
Going through the overfilled bookcase, I came across a real treasure that was ahead of the Gee's Bend curve: Signs and Symbols African Images in African-American QuiltsI am thrilled and I am working my way through the fascinating text, which I don't think I ever read thoroughly when I bought the book almost 20 years ago.  It is drop-dead gorgeous.
With hindsight, I see that Maude Southwell Wahlman has interviews with (and pictures of quilts made by) Martha Jane Pettway from Gee's Bend Alabama; Joanna Pettway and Leola Pettway from Boykin, AL, and other artists including Elizabeth and Joyce Scott.  The book was out of print for years but has been reissued (different cover, different layout and i'm not sure whether all 160 photos are still there).
But you might want to add it to your collection if you didn't buy it in 1993.

Finally, this afternoon I finished sewing down the facing on the quilt I finished most recently. Perhaps tomorrow, when the light is good, I can get an accurate photo of the color.  

breathing room

Where to start?

Friday night, gallery hopping (well, not literally) - preceded by a fabulous dinner at a Colombian restaurant.  Ordered a dish made with tilapia, which has never been my favorite fish.  Imagine my
surprise when this gorgeous fish appeared in all its glory, surrounded by plaintains and potatoes.
It didn't resemble any tilapia I had ever come across:It was moist and flavorful and absolutely delicious.

Saturday dawned too hot and humid to go out. So I decided to take advantage of the air conditioned quiet to  try and find the horizontal surface of my cutting table.

That meant organizing all the bits and strips thrown into, and overflowing from, my (by now, well-known) plastic box(es). Back in the plastic box, they are all in baggies, labeled "bits," "strip sets,"
"sliced and diced," and so on.  Very nice and neat -- for the time being.

Need I tell you that what began as a simple sorting task Saturday morning, took on a life of its own and turned into a three-day marathon of emptying shelves, moving furniture, and filling trash bags? ARGH -
I am too tired to blog any more tonight: to be continued.

soup weather in June and a little more

DISCLAIMER: Blogger is giving me grief tonight, which you will see by the varying sizes of the type. Ye p, soup weather and it's ...