Tuesday, January 31, 2006

As a break from quilting, I'll try my hand as a movie critic. I have been enjoying DVD's since I'm alone this week. Have seen Wedding Crashers, Cinderella Man, June Bug, and Downfall.
Acually, I only watched about 20 -30 minutes of Wedding Crashers. I've heard it described as crude but funny. I don't find nudity and mild sex scenes shockingly crude, but I didn't find it funny either. I guess I'm too old for movies about immature men trying to find themselves.

Cinderella Man is a good film, although it could be summed up as Seabiscuit in boxing gloves. Terrible title, too; it gives away the plot and theme. That said, it's an upbeat story of a come back boxer struggling to support his family during the Great Depression, with fine performance by Russell Crowe, who looks surprisingly different after losing weight and darkening his hair. The fairly brutal boxing scenes might bother some, but for me they kept this movie from being a little too sweet. I also liked the look of the film, darkened almost sepia colors to add to the 30's look.

June Bug tells the story of a Chicago art gallery owner who uses a visit to an outsider artist in rural North Carolina as the opportunity to visit her new in laws. This is a very realistic picture of differing backgrounds and family dynamics. There's not much plot, or much resolution, but terrific acting, and the most believable characters in any film I've seen for ages. One of my favorite scenes is when the gallery owner gives a silver baby spoon as a shower gift for her new sister-in-law's baby shower. The way the other women manage to convey that they find it a ridiculously inappropriate gift while at the same time praising it sincerely is a marvel of acting.

Finally, Downfall. This is a German film about the last days of Hitler, mostly what happens inside his bunker as the Russians move into Berlin. I remember that this was controversial last year because some thought it made Hitler too sympathetic. I can't see that at all. Although we don't see Hitler actually causing the death of millions, he refers proudly to the destruction of the Jews, and he is clearly portrayed as a madman who last mad, evil act is to cause even more unnecessary death and suffering for the defeated German people because he refuses to surrender. He feels that Germans have shown themselves weak by being defeated and so deserve death. In spite of the grim subject, this is not a horrifying film; it's fairly understated, showing most violence in an indirect almost old-fashioned way. Fascinating and excellent.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Parrot Fever

Have been considering parrot layouts until I am cross eyed and braindead. I have no idea what to do at this point, and am frustrated that all the options I have considered are very similar to my original idea, which must indicate a lack of ability to think outside the box or something. First idea was the big star, which seemed too dark and stood out too much. Then I tried a fussy cut big print to add interest, but that seems too busy, Then I considered the green star. And finally a combination. I'm leaning to that one because it seems to have a bit of a transparency effect, and picks up the parrot colors without overwhelming them.

Today I think I will let this project chill and do something else, and perhaps inspiration will strike or at least I can make a decision and move on.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Ambitious plans for the week. This is the week that my husband goes to his annual Metals in Biology meeting in California, which relieves pressue for stuff like cooking dinner, and should allow more quilt time. What I hope to do:

l. finish parrots, decide on setting, and if setting is simple, finish the top

2. Either finish dark 9 patches for the scrap quilt border OR make a charity quilt based on these dorky little pastel 9 patches that I found stashed away. I plan to make a strip set with a white? setting triangles set off with strips of a blue depression style print I found with little scotty dogs. ( Cute, if you like that stuff.) Border I don't know yet, but will find something in the stash that will work. This will not be beautious, but will get fabric out of stash, and give me a chance to practice machine quilting, AND be useful for someone.

3. Also, I was thinking about what to do with these fabric I bought in Australia 2 1/2 years ago. I want to do something with circles to pick up the circle motif in the aboriginal designs--either a variation on drunkards patch or maybe follow ideas in Circle Play. I won't get to this project this week, but it is in the back of the mind.

Now we'll see how the week works out.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Two more parrots down!!! They do look more precise than the first one, and I am also feeling better about my original setting idea now that I see more of the complete picture. I think I've earned the right to watch Wedding Crashers.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bird 2 completed at last, and I will now try to make the rest with a bit more speed. Have a new idea for the setting that would allow me to work in an applique on the alternate blocks which might jazz up this rather dull design. My new Quilt Pro 5 doesn't allow me to play around with this as well as the older version would. Very annoying.

Enjoyed quickly browsing through Quilter's Newsletter this morning after coming back from grocery. A cat quilt I liked, and a rather intimidating designer's notebook which produced a wonderful prize winning quilt. If only--

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

1 1/2 parrots!

Dratted bird! Second one should be easier, right? Ha! Have unsewn at least six times on blasted little triangle squares, simply because I am so directionally challenged, and also because the little things shift under the needle. Anyway, almost 90 minutes, and haven't even come to the dreaded HEAD yet! Time for coffee, chocolate, or something.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

One Parrot

Pieced the first parrot this afternoon. A bit rough, but it's kind of a test run. The changes I made to the block to make this more parrot-like made it harder to piece. I had to figure out how to paper piece the head, and don't like the way it looks. I did it in two parts which gave opportunity for a bad join, and I think now I can do it in one piece. Should be more accurate. Or of course, if that doesn't work I could just have a flat headed, mutant parrot. Will play around with different fabrics in the same color to make a bit of variety too.

No longer UFO

Got a quilt back from the long arm quilter that was supposed to be done before Christmas (my fault, not hers). I started this about two years ago with the idea that I was trying to capture the effect of pink, burgundy petunias in masses of leaves like the planters on my deck. I soon realized that this was not going to work, put it aside, came back, still didn't like it, but decided to finish it as a bed size quilt that would at least be useful. This meant that I ran out of good greens and put in anything I had to make up the size. It was what they call a stash buster, which is good. So here it is, along with the original inspiration. It's just one of those things that didn't quite work out as an artistic attempt, but should be functional.

Friday, January 20, 2006


I'm working on the Hoffman Challenge again this year. Last year was my first entry, and I was thrilled to be chosen for the traveling exhibit. Because my husband and I were traveling from January to June, I didn't have a sewing machine. So I did an English paper piecing project, which seemed like a good idea at the time. I hated it; it was boring, made my carpal tunnel problems flare up again, I had trouble seeing the black (so there were some ugly stitches!), and I was totally sick of the colors by the end. But I kept at it, and it did fill some empty times. Having it chosen for the exhibit gave me a big head, let me tell you! Here's a picture. Imagine it as straight, and without the carpet showing :)

This year I'm trying again, but haven't gotten too far. Just narrowed down the colors I want to use, and am thinking of a parrot design of some kind, since that's what the fabric suggests to me for some reason.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Marking time

No fun stuff at all yesterday. I spent the day painting part of the master bedroom so that when workmen come to finish the floor and put the furniture back, the heavy furniture will be in front of new paint. Tomorrow I will finish the other walls, and then maybe (if I'm not too sore to move) start returning belongings to their place. What a mess. I love the new paint color though. For a quilter, seeing all those beautiful paint chips is almost as much fun as a trip to the fabric store. If I didn't hate painting and the associated mess so much, I too could have beautiful rooms!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My Favorite Quilting Books

1. Color Confidence for Quilters by Ginny Beyer--This was the first book I read, and though I don't like her color "look" any longer, her ideas were an eye opener. I still remember her "dark dark" and "bright accent" ideas.

2. Anything by Alex Anderson. Her designs are the only ones I have followed completely. I love the simple blocks and the scrappy fabric look. Fabric Shopping with AA gave me great ideas on combining fabric and color, and Simply Stars has excellent, clear instructions on piecing. I've attached my version of her basket quilt.

3. Joen Wolfram's books Color Play and The Visual Dance. Stretches the mind for color and design ideas.

4. Sharyn Craig Great Sets and Setting Solutions. A great inspiration for creativity in putting blocks together. I like her approach of giving "roadmaps" instead of cut and paste patterns.

5. Mary Lou Weidman, A Quilted Memory (?) This inspired me to try some folk art, picture quilts.

6. Diane Gaudynski, A Guide to Machine Quilting. I just read this, and it was incredibly helpful, although my free motion quilting still has a long way to go.

Any book or magazine with pictures of Japanese quilts. The workmanship and design is constantly inspiring. Their quilts look so different from ours that it is refreshing to see them. I can look at them endlessly and still find something new.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

city quilter

Just returned from a weekend in New York City and I managed to find The City Quilter, a shop I had read about in one of the magazines. It was worth the brief subway ride and walk in the rain. A bright, new shop with lots of lovely contemporary fabrics (no Thimbleberries in sight!), batiks, and some interesting Japanese fabrics including the taupe and beige ones. In spite of all the great stuff, all I bought was a piece of pink that I hope will work as background for my Hoffman Challenge piece. I probably could have found that in Shipshewanna. But I am having guilt at the huge amounts of fabric that is building up here, and exercised self control.

Later found a shop (MJ Trim on sixth avenue) selling buttons, trim, and all sorts of findings, and bought a purse handle to use for one piece of fabric I have been saving. The fad for funky cloth purses almost makes me wish I were selling them still. I clearly was ahead of the curve. :)

Can't do anything in the way of sewing until I finish painting the bedroom and the floor has been done--ugh. Time to work

Friday, January 13, 2006


I will begin by describing what I'm working on now, since that is easy to do, and then talk about past projects or new ones.

About two years ago I took a class from Mary Ellen Hopkins, and she described a "lifetime" scrap project. Basically, you cut your scraps into small squares (I used 2.5 inches, her maximum size!), arrange them in lights and darks, put them in a box, and whenever you are bored with current project that requires thought, you pull them out and make a block. The block is a split 9 patch which can be set in any log cabin setting. I am using a very unusual setting, and since I only had a partical picture of it, figuring out how to do it was a challenge. I currently have enough of the split blocks for a queen size quilt (I think) and am working on dark ones for a border. Since there are men hammering upstairs, I can't go out to buy fabric for my current "real" project and the scrap quilt is perfect.