Thursday, December 29, 2005

Various goings on

Santa actually visited us, had to deliver a few presents that had gotten misplaced somewhere on his sled. This was quite an event for the grandchildren. Will (almost 5) knows who Santa is but is pretty hesitant to get close; he overcomes his shyness to get his present and have a picture. Rebecca (almost 3) doesn't quite understand Santa, but does understand presents, and is cautious but daring. Audrey (27 months) is having nothing to do with this guy and actually ran out of the room as he entered. No Santa! No Santa! She finally let her Daddy carry her close enough to get her present, but no picture, no way. Santa didn't have a present for me, but I still got a picture.

I finished the green thing and here it is. Rayna says she never would have guessed that I had made it. Not my usual color scheme, definitely not my usual style. I think it's pretty far off my beaten track and I am undecided as to whether I'm going to continue down this path, abandon it, or bring a few of these techniques into what I already do.

Here is a closeup of the stitching. I love this stitching and similar dense free motion zigzag stitching may show up in other pieces.

This last piece is small, 8x10, and is a sample for a proposal for a commission. The theme behind this piece is that data/information is important in management skills. I've made some thermofax screens using images of the stock listings, names of business management magazines, and some other stuff. I put this little piece together to show an example of the kinds of fabrics and stitching that would comprise the finished piece.

Next task is to look at the list of upcoming show entry deadlines and figure out what I have available to enter and what shows I want to submit them to. And write checks. In 2005 I have already shelled out $360 in entry fees. Yikes.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve Eve

Yesterday just after sunset, 4 deer walked through my back yard. Deer around here are fairly common but it is unusual to actually see them in the yard. My neighborhood is composed of houses with lots around 1/3 to 1/2 acre, but there are lots of trees and we're not far from a heavily wooded area and some parkland. A lot of people consider deer to be pests because they eat the shrubbery and destroy a lot of landscaping, but they don't do that in my yard, so I can enjoy seeing them. Some other wildlife that I've seen around my house are red foxes and barred owls and hummingbirds; some wildlife that has invited itself into my house include mice and squirrels.

Last night for dinner we had Malnotti's Deep Dish Chicago pizza. This is a special treat since it has to be shipped from Chicago packed in dry ice via next day air. I think the shipping costs more than the pizza. Before my husband and I were married and we lived near Chicago, we would go to Pizzeria Uno's for their deep dish pizza. This was long before Uno's became a national chain; the restaurant was a cramped little bar/restaurant where patrons could write on the walls. But I digress. Lou Malnotti was a chef at Uno's who left and started his own place and somewhere along the line figured out that displaced Chicagoans would pay dearly to have their favorite pizza shipped to them. He was right.

We also have been known to bring back pizza in our suitcases when we visit family in Chicago. We actually have a special soft sided suitcase that can be folded up empty, stuffed into another suitcase, and then filled with pizza to take home.

So last night we ate two of the pizzas, and there are two more in the freezer waiting for a special moment.

All my shopping is complete so I don't have to go anywhere today and I will be making bread pudding with caramel sauce. The bread pudding is good, but the caramel sauce is fabulous. It could make cardboard taste good. Tomorrow I'll be making turkey with stuffing, cranberry-orange relish, mashed potatoes, gravy, and a token green vegetable which nobody but me will eat. Just the basics, no fancy stuff. And no deviations from the standard menu either.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Cookies etc.

Last night I made my last 2 batches of Christmas cookies using my tried and true recipe for spritz. Unfortunately, I managed to get the scraper wedged between the beaters and now the beaters are severely bent up. Went online to see if I could find somewhere to purchase new beaters and lo and behold I discovered that not only is this mixer not manufactured anymore, its manufacturers have gone out of business and the mixer is now described on eBay as Vintage, probably manufactured in the 50's. It originally belonged to my husband's grandmother, so it has had a long and useful life. Here it is:

The charming little piece of masking tape is there to keep the speed control low. The head vibrates and that causes the speed control to slowly work its way from Speed 1 (Adding Ingredients, Stirring, Folding) up to Speed 10 (Juicing, Power Drive Attachements) and it sounds like it's about ready to lift off. The beaters are still useable but maybe it's time I bought myself a new mixer.

So now the cookie dough is ready to go through the cookie press. I pull out my Vintage Miro Alumilite Cookie Press, which has a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval dated from 1926. I don't know if this one is quite that old, I sort of doubt it, but maybe it's from the 40's or 50's - it belonged to my Mother. It cost $2.50 new. Two fifty in 1940 dollars is $31.80 today; $2.50 in 1950 dollars is $17.76 today. Scary.

There is also a little recipe booklet of fancy cookies along with the instructions on how to use this thing. Believe me, it takes alot more than that delicate little twisting motion to push the cookie dough out.

So my grandchildren will be eating cookies made by their grandmother using their great-grandmother's cookie press and their great-great-grandmother's mixer. However, the ingredients were fresh...

And just to keep some fiber stuff in here, here's a picture of what I'm working on. I put aside the previous piece; I tried some changes and nothing pleased me, so that one is still fermenting. This new one (of which this is only a detail) is smaller, about 18 x 24, and this size is working better for me. Once you start heavily stitching, you are more or less committed to doing that throughout, otherwise you end up with flat spots surrounded by mountains. This has alot of stitching and I like the effect, so far.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Decorating the tree

I read Lisa's blog about what she accomplished yesterday and the goals she has set for just the next week. Makes me feel like a lazy slug. Here's what I did yesterday: went grocery shopping, read email, baked a batch of cookies, read email, ate lunch, took a short nap, read email, went to the grocery store again to get some stuff for dinner because we're decorating the tree and the kids and grandkids are coming over, read email, ate dinner, baked another batch of cookies, decorated the tree, read email, went to bed. I think I need a plan.

So anyhow, this year the grandkids did the tree decorations. Here is the tree:

There are lights on it but it's too bright to see them. Notice the distribution of the ornaments, this is what you get when the decorators are all under 3 feet tall.

And none of this 'one ornament to a branch' rule. More is better, obviously. I laugh everytime I walk by the tree.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Big One

For the past few days I've been down with a cold and have not had the energy to do much more than lie around and read and nap. And whine. The only one around here during the day to listen to my whining is Chuck.

And you can see what an impression I'm making on him. So today I decided to at least pretend I felt well enough to do something. Went back into the studio determined to at least get some fabric composed into something that more or less looks like art. Decided to not even try matching my cartoon by making templates and just put the fabric down and cut it sort of following my design lines. I still needed to sketch some lines and that was difficult and rather than bore you to death with the exact procedure, it's enough to say that it was not a good plan, and the engineering still needs more work.

This is it, size is about 24" x 36". I'm letting it ferment for a while so I can think about what more it needs. Stitching, obviously. But maybe also more pieces of fabric to introduce close-up interest. And I'm not sure I'm going to keep those two pieces of greeny yellow fabric on the top right of the yellow swath. I don't like those shapes very much. Comments?

I've added one of those notification thingies that lets you know when there is a new post. It's from FeedBlitz and it's over in the right hand column below the Archives and above the Cool Places to Visit.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Why make postcards?

Annabel wants to know what these fabric postcards are, why everybody is doing them, are they frustrating because they're so small, and what does one do with all these postcards anyhow?

These little postcards are bits of fiber art that can actually be sent through the US Mail as is (after adding a stamp, of course.) The Art2Mail website has lots of information starting with how the Postcard Project got started, how people are making them, and some of the uses for the postcards. Virginia Spiegel's FiberArt for a Cause has raised more than $33,000 for The American Cancer Society through the sale of postcards both from the website and also at the International Quilt Festival. Other uses? Anything you can think of - collecting, trading, selling, whatever.

I feel that the size is a challenge because it's difficult to make a good composition in such a small space. On the other hand, it doesn't take a big time committment to do something that is only 4" x 6", so if one turns out less than spectacular, well, it's easy to just move on to the next one.

The ones that I have been working on are small studies and I've started on a larger (about 24" x 36") piece. I haven't solved all my construction challenges yet, and translating from small to large is not as easy as one would hope. I put a lot of stitching on the postcards, and I like the effect. Will I be putting that much stitching on the large piece? Haven't answered that yet.

I still am hung up on the template thing because I don't want to use them (i.e. I'm lazy). Maybe I will try just cutting big pieces of fabric and putting them together and fill in the holes as needed. Stay tuned...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Six from One

More postcards. Taking a tip from a friend, I started with a piece slightly larger than 12" x 12" and did all the stitching at that size. Much more efficient use of time and didn't have to change threads after only a few stitches. This is the whole:

And these are the parts:

I did attempt to lay out the fabric with the final postcards in mind so I could have the lighter colored strips down the center area. I think it worked pretty well for the most part. For the kind of stitching I'm doing here, free motion zig zag, I don't think I can make the piece any bigger because the timtex is so stiff. I wouldn't be able to move it around under the needle and I want to get the zig zags going in different directions.

My episode is coming up on Simply Quilts this week: Wednesday, 8:30AM Eastern/7:30AM Central. First five minutes, so don't blink.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Yesterday we woke up to several inches of heavy, wet snow, the kind that brings branches crashing down. The kind that needs to be shoveled off the driveway before it can freeze because my driveway is a hill. Not real long, but definitely up.

Unfortunately, yesterday was also moving day at my husband's office and I had volunteered to help (what was I thinking?). My job ended up being moving patient files (there had to be at least a million) off the shelves and into boxes and then moving the boxes. I estimate that I loaded and moved 75 boxes, each weighing about 25 pounds (although they seemed to get heavier as the day went on). Good thing I do those workouts at the gym.

Anyhow, I come home, it's after dark, and the temperature has dropped. I park the car at the top of the driveway where the hill is steepest, go down to the street to get the mail, and as I'm coming back up the driveway, the car begins to slide down. This could be a really bad situation, I tell myself. But it stops sliding after about a foot. Got back in and moved it down to a flatter spot. No more sliding.

But because I didn't shovel yesterday and we drove up and down on the slushy snow, there are now tracks of ice 2" thick with frozen snow on either side. So I've pretty much spent today shoveling and spreading salt and I'm down to bare pavement except for where the ice was the thickest. Maybe the sun will take care of that.

Now, before you ask why my husband isn't out there shoveling, he does have the legitimate excuse of having had surgery 3 weeks ago and isn't allowed to pick up heavy things yet. So between yesterday's and today's efforts, he owes me big time. :)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A little bigger

Two posts in one day, how productive of me! Here it is, size is 7" x 10".

Haven't made up my mind yet. I think I don't like the white shape coming up from the lower left, needs to be longer or something. Changing thread so much is tiresome but it won't be so often when the whole piece gets bigger. I enjoy using the thread so get more shading but I've realized that if I use dark fabric I don't have much leeway in thread choices except to go lighter.


Last night we had the first significant snow of the season. There is about 4" accumulated on the grassy areas, but the pavements are clear. They were out salting but also it's not been cold enough for the snow to stick to the roads. Anyhow, around here, all we need to have is a forecast of snow for everybody to go into panic mode. People run to the grocery store to hoard white stuff: bread, milk, and toilet paper. I can sort of understand bread and milk, but toilet paper? Doesn't one usually have more than a few days supply of toilet paper??? So yesterday the schools all closed early and today they started 2 hours late, so they still had the opportunity to close if they thought it necessary (i.e. a slick spot on a road somewhere). I grew up in Chicago and we never got off from school because of snow.

This is the view from the picture windows in my living room. As you can see, it's not very much snow, but it's pretty on the trees and bushes.

Another view. By this afternoon it will mostly be gone from the bushes and melted away.

I've enlarged one of the slot canyon views to 8" x 10" and have cut templates and put the fabrics together. Today I plan to put stitching on it. I don't like doing templates but I can't see any way around it if I want to get the effect I'm aiming for. Time to get back to work.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Back to red

I tried doing this one in neutrals, tans, and browns, but it just didn't do anything for me. There was a little pile of reds left over, so I decided to use those again.

Next I'm going to work a little bigger, about 8 x 10. I did a little more filtering in Photoshop and made a cartoon. My friend Elizabeth Poole makes fabulous quilts using photographs from which she makes templates. If you have the latest issue of Quilting Arts, check out her self portrait in red, a full page picture. I've watched her construct her quilts and it's very precise, just like Elizabeth. I don't think that method will work for me, but maybe I can modify it a little so it's not quite so painstaking. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

More postcards

It's always easy for me to work in red. So I decided to try a different colorway. So here we have a canyon view in green.

And a second interpretation also in green.

Five more things about me:

11. My favorite class in high school was algebra. It was like doing puzzles all the time. I would save my algebra homework for last, like dessert. Of course, these were pre-calculator days and so we did everything manually. Anybody else remember using a book of tables to do logarithms?

12. I mark my official entry into Art Quilts as June, 1993, when I attended my first Quilt Surface Design Symposium in Columbus, Ohio. At that time there were very few conferences that concentrated on art quilts and had multi-day classes. I took a 5 day class with Joy Saville on "A Problem Solving Approach to Design". On our materials list it said to bring 5 one yard pieces of fabrics that we found difficult to work with or that we thought were ugly. So that's all the fabric I brought. Everybody else in the class had suitcases full of fabric. I was way out of my comfort zone for sure.

13. I wish I were better at self-promotion.

14. Although I technically not overweight, I wish I there were about 10 pounds less of me. Ten pounds doesn't sound like a lot to lose, but the older one gets, the more entrenched that flesh becomes. I have a difficult time just maintaining my current weight. Losing 10 pounds means serious starvation, and once it's lost, eternal vigilance (and more starvation). I've surrendered to middle age and like Alice in Wonderland, am running as fast as I can just to stay in place.

15. I never read autobiographies. My typical non-fiction genres are crime, suspense, and thriller. Strangely enough, these types of books tend to have black covers.