Friday, December 27, 2013

hidden treasures?

This morning I started going through my mother's (or maybe my grandmother's) sewing basket.  Well, not actually a basket but two tins that probably contained cookies in the 1940's.  Here is what I have not yet thrown out -- I am paralyzed.
OMG - I made that pin cushion when I was in elementary school.  I think it is filled with sand.  My mother actually used it. 

  •  A bag of safety pins, each pinned to the other so you could wear them as a necklace.  Steel - made in USA.  Do I need them?  Nope.  
  • A small bullet with holes through it, made to go on a key chain. I think it was my grandmother's - but where did she get it? Did my uncle bring it home from WWII?
  • A wooden embroidery hoop - sturdy and wonderfully made in USA.
  • Bobbins for an old sewing machine - one still with thread on it.  Anybody want them?
  • Some weird sort of scissors (picture below) does anyone have a clue?  WHAT do I do with these? Sell 'em on ebay? 

Sigh…this is an archeological dig.  Any takers?
  • Simplicity apron pattern from 1968.  
  • Bone rings. BONE? Not plastic?  Curtain rings for cafe curtains, I suppose.
  • My mother's darning egg. I remember this.
  • Needles bought at the Acme supermarket where my mother shopped. I don't think Acme supermarkets exist any more.
  • Unopened package of blue flash cubes. Do you need them?
  • A pair of electric scissors, still in the box.  It was a bad idea in the first place.
  • A couple of mother of pearl belt buckles.  Beautiful, but useless - I think.
  • A lone jack.  Remember Jacks?  If they still make them, you know they are plastic.
  • Rolls of film, undeveloped (I have to admit these are mine) Who develops film now?
  • Untold spools of old thread on wooden spools. Sigh…  
I haven't even dealt with the knitting needles, crochet hooks, stitch holders, and half-finished sweaters (mine).  My daughters do not knit, sew, or do any other handwork.  Back to work.  I thick this is sufficient reporting for now - it has been my morning's work and I am mired in the quicksand of minute, unable to escape.  HELP!! (and stay tuned).

Thursday, December 26, 2013

out it goes

Another day in the house with the luxury of time to work on rearranging my life.  Actually, I did a little dyeing this morning (wearing gloves didn't prevent the stains on my fingers - I can't figure out why not) and paid my end-of-the-year bills.

Hooray!  That left me free to make a small dent in the sewing room detritus so I can call in a space planner.  (Ms. Closet gave up on me a long time ago and anyway, she has relocated so I will have to find someone else to help me)

I know there is some blog tour of real studios, but nobody wants to see anything this real.  
 I need to empty this cabinet, which didn't used to be in this room - it was my old kitchen cabinet and just the right height for cutting/ironing with my old kitchen table butcher block top. BUT it has to go.  Thought it would be great storage but the drawers don't pull out very far and the shelves are shallower than you would think.  1980's builder's kitchen:-(.  

It took me a couple of hours just to empty the one drawer you see pulled out.  Lots of redundant stuff went into the trash: more paper clips than can fit into the little box; pens that don't work and batteries I was delighted to find until I read the 2001 expiration date. 
I found a zillion ballpoint pens that still work, but do I need all of them?  Can I just throw them out? ARGH. Put 'em back in a plastic bag and stuffed them into a different drawer. Not helpful. Tomorrow, I will tackle another drawer.  Maybe.

However, I am making progress on the other side of the room.  This afternoon I moved
my sewing machine from in front of the window to where an annoying table used to be. The table is out in the hall and may go back down to the basement, or to Freecycle. It's only another place for clutter.  I'm sitting in my chair now looking at the mess, but when I look at this, I feel calm and happy.  And exhausted from moving furniture by myself!
I found my old sketchbook from 1999 and looked at it with fresh eyes.  Interesting…I don't know what the genesis of this sketch was.

Paris Métro map as a jumping-off point.  But that's as far as I got.
 And these lines, obviously, took their cue from a scrap of cloth. What was I thinking?

This one was how I felt about being in the sandwich generation and I wrote something to go along with it.  Thank goodness that's over!

I fell into the chair exhausted earlier tonight and didn't think I could move again.  But I finally got up, made a good cup of coffee, took a couple of cookies I had baked the other day and some home made ginger pistachio ice cream and it perked me right up, as you can imagine.  Now I think it is time to crash so I can do a little more in here tomorrow, before the weekend starts.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Merry & retro quilts

I spent Christmas eve cleaning up my sewing room and am making progress.  I've begun sorting out family photos, papers, and other ephemera that have been taking up floor space and the boxes are stacked relatively neatly on one end of the room.  Phew! By the time 2014 rears its head I should have cleared the decks on my cutting/ironing table.  

Cleaning up has yielded a few treasures I had forgotten about; among them, one of the first books I purchased (used) back in the 1970's. Bonnie Lehman's book was published in 1972 and I started quilting in 1974. It was a classic and I suppose it still is. It certainly influenced me.
I fell in love with this pattern and the quilt I made when  I took my first (and only) quilt- making class, was a spiderweb.

1974 - I was a young woman with 3 little kids.

Then, of course, having leftover strips, I moved on to string quilts - also first encountered in this book.

I still make string quilts - this was on my bulletin board a couple of weeks ago.  

In 1974 there were only a few books: REALLY!  Ruby McKim's 101 Patchwork Patterns, The Standard Book of Quiltmaking & Collecting, Beth Gutcheon's A Perfect Patchwork Primer, and Quick & Easy Quilting.  Bonnie Lehman also published Quilter's Newsletter and the first issue I bought was in September 1973, before I ever found a quilting class! (Oh, good grief - this is turning into a "remember when?" thing that old people do. Sorry 'bout that - LOL).
This seems to be Bonnie Lehman's son on the cover.

 The back cover was full of classified ads.  For example…

100% COTTON FABRICS, especially selected for quilts.
 Over 20 tiny prints plus 20 shades of plain colors. 
 36" widths, $1.10 per yd; 45" widths, $1.95 per yd.

OMG - where are those prices now??? OTOH - do we really still want tiny prints?  Mine are in my UFO box, waiting to be reinvented. 

BUT I have digressed. Back to Quick and Easy Quilting.  Here was something that, while I did not make anything like it then, there is a shock of recognition as I look Bonnie's variation III - "a new interpretation of the String Quilt idea. Of course, it was made of bonded woolens & knits (this was the 70's, remember??) in several shades of purple and lavender, with white for contrast. Uh huh.

The wonderful part is that it is completely random -- no pattern, no worries about matching seams or cutting anything the identical size and shape. Hmmm…sound familiar?
This also reminded me of something I own.

I have a very old quilt top that is in the same vein, which my husband fell in love with years ago at an antique show.  Me, too:-). Some years later I showed it to Raymond Dobard, an authority on African American quilts and he agreed with my instinct that it is indeed an African American top, probably late 19th century or somewhere around 1900-1910 at latest.

I never quilted it because I felt it would ruin the value and authenticity. Isn't it wonderful??  Here is a closer look at some of those fabrics.
If you were to turn it over, you would see that the strips were attached (by hand) to a foundation, unlike the way most of us strip-piece today.
And I have the distinct feeling that this may have been made by more than one pair of hands, since some blocks are hand-pieced (left) and others are machine pieced (right). 

Sigh…I keep it in the closet because the brown fabrics from those early days are so prone to fading and shredding, but it makes me sad to do so because it is such a visual treat.
What would you do??

Well, enough memory lane stuff. I have the day to myself and need to get back to culling the overwhelming load of stuff in this room so I can actually sew.  I am resisting the temptation to sit here and read through every Quilter's Newsletter I have from 1973-1984. Maybe I should think about getting rid of those, too.

Wishing you all a happy holiday and a wonderful, creative year ahead.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

anatomy of a piece

Happily snowed in today, I spent some time stitching away.  I have challenged myself to work with the dreaded color pink and believe me, it is not easy.

Anyway, with the luxury of time to play tonight I have sewn and sewn, adding to the strips I showed you the other night. Remember these?
But enough!  I am up late throwing strips at the wall. This is what I call Ad Hoc Design. Once I put up that bunch you see above, I realized that the light purple wasn't working for me and needed to be removed. So I spent some time (a lot) with my seam ripper, taking out that strip and went back to throwing them at the wall. (At home, "the wall" is a bulletin board with batting on it, leaning against a pile of STuFF.)

Of course, I always take pictures as I go along and I strongly recommend you do the same when you work.  Here is version #1 - thrown at the wall ad hoc.  I like it but of course, I had to see what other possibilities there were.  That takes me into the Slow Design phase.

Here is version #2, which I decided was not working at all.
So it was back to the drawing board, so to speak.  There were myriad "what ifs," during which I moved things around, sewed, added, deleted, and otherwise potchked * for quite a while.
* Yiddish for to fuss, or mess around.

I will spare you all the other versions (mostly because they weren't worth photographing) till I got to #3.

It took me several hours to see that #1 and #3 have possibilities (see what I mean about slow design?  It's  s-l-o-w but oh, so worth it) which have to be followed up - but not tonight.
The forecast is for sun tomorrow so I'll be in the studio working on some other things.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

back in the studio

Well, that was yesterday.  Today it is snowing again and I am staying in, planning to sew for the afternoon.  I am finally motivated and yesterday I was playing around with some background choices for a bunch of strips I had lying around.  I took photos of two choices and then turned them into black and white.

Here are the two pictures in color.

I was somewhat bemused to find that when I turned them into black and white…

the values of the backgrounds were not all that different.  

The search will continue into January, when I am in Paducah and have access to Helene Davis' amazing hand-dyes.  Of course, if I don't find anything that works for me, those strips will become something else.  In the meantime, I am happily snowbound today and will go back to my therapy sewing without worrying about backgrounds, foregrounds, composition, or anything else. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

a quickie post for the weekend

Major snow day yesterday - we didn't leave the house and I won't bore you with more pictures -- you know what the white stuff looks like!  Last night we were plowed out and we're warding off cabin fever with a trip to the movies.  Last week we saw "Nebraska" and if you haven't seen it - you MUST!   I could see it again (but not today).

I lifted this from Todd Gillman's Facebook page.  Here he is at a Christmas party with my granddaughter Abigail and the hosts.

That's all, folks!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Remember when you were a kid and you had a snow day? Remember how you felt?!  That's how I felt on Tuesday of this past week, as I watched the big, wet flakes come down like crazy.  Ahhh….vacation. I was planning to spend my snow day sewing but instead, I spent it organizing files and making big pots of soup, which I have been eating all week. Pea soup, bean soup, chicken soup. Comfort food.  Tomorrow, lentil soup. I can't get enough of soup.

Don't ask me where the last two weeks have gone since Thanksgiving, because I can't tell you. Twice I was at my mother's apartment supervising moving men while my kids took what she had promised to them. There is still more to do there.

Last week I spent multiple days cleaning out the closet I have not been ready to deal with until now.  Even after 2-½ years it was difficult -- but I donated 7 bags of clothes and shoes, and there are still many beautiful, expensive suits and sport jackets on hangers (wooden ones - remember those?) that I am going to take to Goodwill so they stay local.  They don't pick up clothing:-(.  I haven't been able to part with some of the sweaters; they are huge on me, but I take comfort in wearing them.  I am glad this is mostly behind me.

For the last at least six months I have been too busy, too exhausted, or just plain not in the mood to do anything creative.  But last night, I finally sat down to sew some therapy strips.  And for the first time in eons I worked till midnight.

What do I have to show for it?  Uh - not a whole lot. Where is it going? Who knows and who cares?  I am sewing.  

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Am I off the roller coaster yet?

A whirlwind two weeks of houseguests, celebrations, and losses. 

My cousin from Florida arrived the day after I got home from a teaching trip and it was a joy to spend so much time with her.  We spent her birthday shopping (what better activity??), followed by a fabulous meal out in the evening. The rest of the week was a whirlwind of shopping and pie-baking (three varieties) leading up to Thanksgivingkuh, when Emma and her parents arrived to spend the weekend.
We went to Jeremy and Anne Marie's to celebrate the dual holiday and the grandkids got their gifts: the boys, their "gelt" and Emma, a tea set. Here is Emma with her cousins David and Jake.

On Saturday we all went to Ben's bar mitzvah and the entire family (and friends) celebrated after the service.  We were so proud of him! Here he is with his mother.
Later, at the party --  a rare picture of my three kids all together!  

It is the very wee hours of the morning.  For three days I have been clearing closets and files and have hauled out bags of trash and shredded paper for tomorrow's garbage pickup.  I don't have to get up for anything important, so maybe I can sleep a little late.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

the two-day post

 morning, Sept 20

Hotel coffee is not normally the best, especially in a styrofoam cup.  But this morning's is just hitting the spot. I need it, too, as I am trying to put some order into the class I just finished teaching.  Twenty-two students of all varieties, from a total newbie who had never stitched two pieces together to a prize-winning quilter; from art quilters to dyed-in-the wool traditionalists.    
Some students had already played around with my book and had found their own path.  Marlene brought in a quilt she had made. The added black and yellow strips pull it together and just make it sing, don't they?

Some of the students brought in leftover pieces from other projects that they wanted to get rid of. These triangle pieces fell into that category.  Jean combined them with strips, some green fabric, and then auditioned them on a maroon background. Uh - no. 
What if we put them together without the background?  Aha - now she was getting somewhere - but they needed space and Jean needed to make some more blocks.  Her dilemma was that she didn't have any more of the triangle motifs.

"Fudge it," I said.   And she figured out how to make it work with a couple of trimmed-off bits and the extra green background fabric. This is how Jean's piece looked when she was done. :-)

I was really happy to see that the students were working with my process but making it part of their own aesthetic.  Thea brought in a piece she had printed, with the goal of using it as the centerpiece (so to speak) of a quilt. This was in the works as we finished up and almost done.

 Eleny got to work almost immediately and created this free-form landscape.

late night, Sept 21

Oh, dear - 24 hours later and I am finally finished with the post I started yesterday morning. Well, better late than never.  Quilt Company East Guild - thanks for the fun!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Blogger has been quirky on my iPad, so catching up.  On Sunday, my brother and I headed to the Warhol Museum, which is quite a place.  Pittsburgh is a city of bridges and this is one of the twins we crossed en route. I think it Is elegant.

The Warhol takes up seven floors of this building and there are no photos allowed inside, except on the first floor, where there are no exhibits;the gift shop and the art workshop downstairs. 

Here, people have a chance to silkscreen at shirt so they can get a feel for the process.
You can also do a blotted line drawing, which Andy did in early years.  There is lots to see and learn on the museum website  The man was unbelievably talented and I gained new respect for his diverse body of work.  Here is a guy demonstrating the blotted line technique.
Now, back to class.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

off again

Leaving for Pittsburgh shortly, to teach …and incidentally to visit with my brother Jon, who lives there.  

I'm teaching Strips and Squares: endless design variations, so I decided yesterday to play a little with - yep, strips and - ok, rectangles (which could end up as squares or not).    Didn't get beyond this small pile of rectangles with strips inserted, but maybe something will come of it later this coming week.  

Or maybe you'd like to play around with these rather simple pieces to see what you can come up with.  I'm working in solids (well, hand-dyes which are about as solid as I have) so I can see what I am doing. 

I started with 4 colors, cutting 4" wide strips of each color and trimming a 1" piece off of each so I ended up with a 3" x 6" strip and a 1" x 6" strip of each length of color.  Then I sliced pretty much down the middle and inserted the 1" strips into the 3" strips.  I have 12 of these units all together but if they work out, I'll make more and see where it goes.

I've already sliced and sewed together a couple of these units but can't tell what I will end up with.

In any case, if you feel like experimenting  with 3" strips and 1" strips and you come up with an interesting little piece, let me know.  In the meantime, I am off to the airport.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

working backwards from mid-week

Wednesday -- a leisurely day, at last.  Why does it seem that way?  I was home all day and since soup weather began yesterday, I made soup. Just a dusting, but enough to send me into the kitchen today.

I made three varieties (sorry, no pictures): split pea, just in time for lunch; potato leek & parsnip (a new one for me, but it tasted pretty good), and the requisite chicken soup, which is in a big pot in the fridge.

The only problem is that since I don't like chicken, I have to figure out what to do with the bird once I remove it from the soup. I mean, how much chicken salad can a person eat?? Especially this person.

Yesterday I spent all day in my mother's apartment, selling off all the lovely antique furniture that my children don't want and then part of the lovely and not-so-lovely collection of smaller items my antique-collecting mother had.  I unpacked a stack of plates hidden away, still wrapped in the 1992 newspaper she had used to wrap them in when she moved.  Then I remained to vacuum, tidy up, and do a little staging.  Spent from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, came home and collapsed.

Moving back to Monday -- went into NY to Cécile Trentini's opening at the Art Quilt Gallery. (Here we are at dinner after the opening)

So busy chatting (surprise) that I took only a couple of pictures.  Well, ok - three.  I only had my iPhone with me, so couldn't get a great photo of these - but they are mono prints sliced up and re-ordered and each is different from the others.

Here is her famous "Daily Beauty," which is the piece on which she based her book by the same name.  It is gorgeous in person! 

Cécile's motifs are squares and circles, handled in a variety of ways.  When we went to dinner after the opening we walked past a donut shop and I had to take this photo -- it fit right into the evening's visuals.

I started to pack for my Saturday trip to Pittsburgh but gave up after I started reading Tracy Chevalier's latest book, The Last Runaway.  I guess I am back to my normal schedule because I have stayed up late to finish the book and it is almost 2:am EST.  But aha - I have no obligations tomorrow and I can sleep late.  Will I figure out what to do with that soup chicken?  Maybe.  But I will also have to finish packing supplies.  See 'ya.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

end of week 1 at home

First of all -- I can't thank you enough for all the birthday wishes - they brightened my day immeasurably -- as did these birthday flowers on my kitchen table.

 The rest of the week was less bright: by Wednesday night, my left knee was aching and by Thursday, I had decided it was bursitis brought on by all the traipsing around London and Paris for two weeks. (ok, no wise cracks, dear readers).

The doctor confirmed it was an inflammation of the bursa and sent me home with instructions to rest my leg, ice my knee, and take a prescription anti-inflammatory each day.  Oh, great. 

Friday, I wrapped an ace bandage around my knee and went to Brooklyn to see an old friend, followed by an evening with Emma and her parents.  I managed, although going down the subway stairs was a bit dicey.

I think the drugs are making me tired because I never left the house on Saturday and have been sleeping the weekend away and trying to remember to ice my knee.  It is much better.

While the trees are past their sell-by date, my woods are still a bit colorful, even as they lose their leaves.  If this were a painting, I would think it was trite.  

I have been attempting to sort through the zillion photos my mother left behind -- but I have neither time nor patience.  This will be a busy week.  Monday, Nov 11 I am going to Cécile Trentini's opening at The Art Quilt Gallery in NY from 6-7:30 pm and am looking forward to it!  If you're in the NY Metro area, drop in to see the exhibit.  She has come all the way from Zurich for the opening.

Off to ice my knee again so I can walk in NY again tomorrow, and then again on Friday when I go in again for a belated birthday lunch.  Never too late:-)).  

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 ...