Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out of the Basement to all of You: Happy New Year!

I'm thinking about reorganizing this mess as a New Year's Resolution, but am still at the thinking stage. I actually did do some straightening and sweeping this morning, but still this would qualify as a "before" picture in anyone's book. If there is ever a different "after" look, you'll be the first to know. Actually, although there's lots of stuff, the space is functional, and I do know where everything is.

As for other goals: I don't think I have any clear ones. The ones that do come to mind are rather negative. For example, except for the Hoffman (maybe), I don't intend to enter any challenges unless they let me do something I'd want to do anyway. At my age, time becomes more precious, and I don't want to use it on something that seems pointless to me. I think I challenge myself, and challenges from outside only cause pressure I don't need.

After I finish my current project, I will have satisfied my need to do a complicated traditional pieced project, so maybe I'll go back to something less traditional. Or not. I guess I'm resolving not to resolve, just do what feels right at any given moment. I do think it's necessary to keep working, keep creating, but I just don't want to be too goal oriented.

Of course, like everyone else, I do have a few UFO's, and lots of fabric to use!

I wish everyone reading a happy, healthy, creative new year. Thank you for all the inspiration, support, and enjoyment reading your posts and comments has provided me.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Fiber Gift

My sister Marjorie sent me these wonderful mittens for Christmas. They're felted from old sweaters with vintage button ornaments on the cuff. What I particularly like about these is they way they go together without matching: a truly patchwork look. They're made by baabaaZuzu of Leland, Michigan.

In other news, I have finally finished the red and white stars and am choosing fabrics for the sashing, setting squares, etc. It's so large that it's overflowing my design wall, which makes for a challenge.

As a change if pace, I'm thinking of taking time out to make the Project Linus quilt from the January Quiltmaker magazine. Their projects are always cute, simple, and a way to help a cause. As a bonus, although I haven't liked this magazine recently, I thought there were several pretty and interesting quilts in this issue.

And finally, I'm glad Christmas is over, and I wish everyone reading a wonderful new year!

Friday, December 19, 2008

New Website

QuiltQua is a new quilting website that plans to include a great variety of quilting information. It will include advertising and paid listings, but also includes a free show-and-tell page and a very extensive list of quilt- or fabric-focused blogs, information on shows, guilds, museums, and more. Let's wish them well.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Uncle Sib

Jen Clair of Bayou Quilts is one of several people posting a challenge: Find your fourth roll of photos, find the fourth photo on the roll, post it and write about it. I was curious to see what my fourth was, and when I found it, I had to post.

This is my Uncle Eusibius, known as Sib; it was taken at my mother's 90th birthday brunch in 2004. Sib was a dear, sweet man, but one of those people who seemed to exist to cause hilarity among people who knew him, mostly for his great quantity of misinformation, delivered in a very loud voice. (He was quite hard of hearing in his last years.) One example: at a family reunion one of Sib's many, many grand-, or great-grand-nephews approached and introduced himself: "I'm Davey, Clarence's son." Sib responded (shouted), "No, you ain't! You're John Duncan's boy!" Quite a surprise to Davey, and a lovingly repeated story for everyone else in the family.

Sib had a truly wonderful collection of arrowheads and other Native American artifacts that he loved to take to local schools to share with the students. The arrowheads were interesting, but there were other lesser-known treasures in the collection. For example, there were the roundish stones, easily fitting in the human hand, that Sib insisted were "throwing rocks". Throwing rocks are quite common. More rare were the infamous "sex rocks." Sib: "They had pornography too, you know!" I was never fortunate enough to be shown a "sex rock", so I can't give any details, but the story lives in family folklore. I don't think the school kids ever saw the "sex rocks", either.

In this picture, Sib is proudly showing a privately printed local history brochure whose author used him as a source. "It's true! It's in this book!" If that doesn't make you question the reliability of history, nothing will.

Dear Sib. I miss you.

Anyone else want to post a picture and reminisce?

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Actually Very Pretty

In the middle of the night I had an idea for the Hoffman Challenge. Although I had done some thinking about it, this fabric had left me totally empty of ideas. But in the way that these things work, a variation of a previously rejected idea struck unexpectedly. So maybe after Christmas, if I ever finish stitching stars, I will do some preliminary work on a Hoffman entry for 2009.

In the meantime, I decorated my Christmas tree. It's odd, I always complain about how much work the tree is, but when it comes down to it, it's actually the only Christmas decoration I really like. I love to sit in the evening and look at the lights, and the ornaments all have a memory associated with them: gifts from friends, the children's projects, travel souvenirs. That's the way a tree should be, I think. All the other Christmas decoration stuff is just--stuff.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Sweet Tip

Last week I had to bake lots of brownies for a Christmas cookie sale. I found a large size recipe, baked them in a baker's half sheet pan (double the size of a 9 x 13 pan), and used my rotary ruler and a big pizza cutter to cut them. Perfect, even, bars! I've never been able to do that before, so I'm passing on the idea to anyone else who can use it in the Christmas baking frenzy.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I have decided on a layout for my red and white star piece. I imagine the plain yellow space filled with a red, vine-like applique and circular shapes in red and white prints. At least that's the current plan. The plain area might need to be wider for bigger visual rest, and I'm also not sure about the red area around the center. I might also go for a pieced, ribbon type border instead of the applique. It's been incredibly difficult to come to this decision, considering how simple it really is. The biggest hurdle seemed to be deciding on a size, meaning how many of those stars do I really want to make! This plan is a smallish queen, bigger than originally intended, but potentially more practical. It has also committed me to hiring a long arm quilter too, I guess.

I have three more of the split Lemoyne stars to do, and twenty (yes twenty!) of the smaller plain ones. They are going faster now, and I have improved; in fact I'm proud of these last two. Pretty nice points if I do say so myself.

And while I'm boasting: My quilt, Ghost Orchids was accepted into this year's Road to California! (Detail shot here.) This was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting a "thanks-but-no-thanks blah, blah, blah" letter.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Quilting in Tough Times

This comic strip says it well, I think. (Sorry, you have to click to enlarge.) How many of us have bought fabric, tools, etc., we don't need? And how many quilting shops are suffering as we don't buy more? In the short run, there are bargains: E-Quilter had 55 % off sale for over a week on a large selection of fabric, one of my LQS's had an equally unsual sale, but in the long run smaller, struggling shops may close, and will the fabric manufacturers themselves cut back? Will we no longer have the huge selection of fabric we've become accustomed too? And how about shows? Reportedly, Mancuso will not hold the November show in Chicago next year because of low attendance and low vendor sales, especially this year. Will other shows fold too? Sobering thoughts.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Little Something

Here are two of a dozen kitchen towels I decorated with Christmas fabric. Obviously these aren't a pair, but I did repeat the designs in twos. I prewashed the fabric so it won't bleed, but I didn't prewash the towels. A little distortion from shrinking should not hurt the appearance too much, I hope. I'm intending to use them as hostess gifts or small gifts for friends.

It was fun to use some of the things I learned at my Janome owner's class last week. I love the heavy topstitch on the right-hand towel, and the stitch-in-the-ditch foot made the piped edging on the other one easy. This whole project is so unlike anything I usually do that I enjoyed it.

Now back to pre-Thanksgiving chores. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The News that Isn't


Rotary cutter wound...


Sorry I don't have a picture of the kitten swinging from the design wall and sending all my star blocks cascading to the floor. That is probably the most exciting thing that's happened since I came home from my family visits. I'm not complaining, mind you. Peace and quiet is a good thing! Tomorrow I will spend several hours at owners' classes for my new Janome, hoping to learn some tricks I don't know. I'll continue my report on this machine afterwards.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Applique on a Sweater

I haven't dropped off the earth, but am visiting family and haven't been doing any sewing or anything that would interest anyone else. I have been thinking of a future project that has been in the back of my mind for a while. I want to applique bits of kimono silk fabric to a sweater, and I wonder what kind of stabilizer would be good. It should be something that can either be removed or if left in, looks ok, since this is a cardigan and stitching will show if the front should roll back a bit. Anyone out there have a suggestion? I'd appreciate it. The sweater is silk and cotton, but if this works, I have thought of buying others and embellishing them for Christmas gifts.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Nothing much quilty to report. I have made more red and white stars and have a bit of an idea for how I might set this quilt up. It's moving slowly, and I haven't touched it for several days. We went to Chicago for the weekend, and are having old friends stay for a few days starting tomorrow. It will be fun to watch election results with them; fortunately we agree politically, and we're hoping for a reason to drink champagne besides just pure sociability. (Nothing wrong with that, of course.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hang It Up!

I love this quilt! I made it several years ago, using an Alex Anderson design. There's not a shred of originality to it, but it was fun to make and put together, and I'm pleased with the blend of colors. The reason for the post however, is to show that I FINALLY was able to hang it where I want to, and to put in a plug for the Hang Ups Company. This is their No See Um hanger; the reason for the name should be clear. I like the way nothing shows but the quilt, but they do make a hanger with a visible wooden hook if that's the look you like. There's a bracket that fastens to the wall by adhesive or screws, and a slotted rod goes into the sleeve of the quilt and hooks onto the bracket through the fabric. The rod telescopes to various lengths. The hanger comes with clear instructions and a little level to make it easier to hang straight, and there's a demo video on the web site. A great product, made in the USA too.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Weekend Retreat

I spent the weekend at a retreat at a lake south of here. There was lots of chatter, food (both nutritious and not-so-nutritious), fabric shopping at all the nearby shops, and sewing. This area of north central Indiana is rich in fabric shops, including some small Amish ones that don't even have electric light. This made seeing fabric tricky on a gloomy fall day. There's beautiful new fabric out there, and even some of the older fabric is new to me, since I've been resisting shopping recently, and am trying to use my stash.

I made some red and white stars, and to continue my traditional phase, worked on a pile of green stem units for this basket block. Talk about Slow Cloth! Still, it was an enjoyable weekend with pleasant companionship, even though not terribly exciting. Now to unpack.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Take It Further in Houston

I donated my January Take It Further Challenge piece to Ami Simms' Alzheimer Quilt Initiative, and it will be one of the 1,000 small (approximately 9 x 12") quilts she is hoping to sell at the Houston International Quilt Festival to raise money for Alzheimer's research. Several well known quilters will be sitting at the booth and helping to display the quilts. You can read about it and see the quilts on this page of the Alzheimer Initiative website. I'm so pleased about this; it's one way to have a quilt at Houston!

Ami's project is such a great cause. I hope everyone fortunate enough to go to the Houston show will stop by the exhibit, look at the donated quilts, and even buy one!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Thoughts on Sarah Palin and Sexism

Relax. This isn't really political, except in the broadest sense.

Lots of ugly sexism out there. I've heard about the insulting T-shirts, but my focus is different.

I think it's fascinating the subtle, or not too subtle forms, that sexism can take, even from Gov. Palin's supporters. This stuff didn't happen to Hilary Clinton. Perhaps Sarah Palin attracts it because she's young and very pretty. Here's what I've noticed.

1. At the debate, when asked about his running mate, Senator McCain said he was proud of her. A little paternalistic, maybe?

2. Last week there was a flap about the un-retouched cover photo on Newsweek, which was supposedly evidence of the magazine's partisanship. (Never mind that the text of one of the articles clearly stated a point of view. Words are too difficult to read, perhaps.) Is Gov. Palin running for Vice-President or for Ms. America? Calling attention to the supposedly unflattering photo as though it were important is the insulting thing, not the photo itself.

3. And finally the most important thing: If, as seems likely now, Obama wins, Sarah Palin will sink into obscurity outside of Alaska. She's clearly an attractive, even charismatic figure to those who like her ideas, and she's done some good things as governor. But by pulling her into the national spotlight before she's ready to handle it, John McCain hasn't done her a favor. Quite the opposite, I would guess. What he has done is use her for his own purposes, apparently to "energize the base" and enliven his campaign. By doing so, he has made her such a target of ridicule from the left and an object of scorn for "intellectual" Republicans, many of whom will blame her for McCain's defeat, that any chance at a national political future is unlikely. So a man takes advantage of a woman. It's a new twist on an old story.

Maybe events will prove me wrong on this, but that's the role of the pundit, right?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Perfecting the Product

One thing I don't like about making these stars is using a template. You can rotary cut diamonds ordinarily, but to make the stripes or plaids chevron into the center you have to use a template. I started by tracing around the template, but even though I cut inside the line, it still wasn't totally accurate, and some of the stars have these little bumps.

Then I checked my copy of Sally Collins' book Mastering Precision Piecing, and tried her technique of cutting around the template with a small rotary cutter. She says the secret of not shaving the template is to keep the cutter on the fabric until the cut is complete, not lifting it. This seems to work. I bought a small rotary cutting board for this process, and the price was worth it.

Here's a better looking star I made with the new cutting technique.

Friday, October 10, 2008

More Stars, and Organization Tool

I've made a couple more stars, the plain ones because I need practice before tackling those split ones. It's fascinating to see the effect of different stripes, and of course the same stripes going around the star instead of vertically look different still. The possible variations help to make something that goes quite slowly interesting.

And here's a free, recycled organization tool. These are the plastic boxes that salad greens come in. I've found them wonderful for sorting different cut-out pieces, threads, or other parts of the work-in-progress mess. They stack, and so don't take up much room, and the items are easily found. I don't save the covers to use because stacking provides built-in dust protection. And of course using the containers like this helps me feel less guilty for buying expensive, wastefully packaged stuff! Also, the soup kitchen where I volunteer gets lots of donated cakes, and the plastic lids from those make good larger bins for storing pieces of fabric I've pulled for future projects.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Wheel Spinning Continues...

Another project idea that I've had for a while is a Lemoyne Star quilt using red and white striped fabrics, sort of a peppermint effect. I don't know whether I would go with the split star, or the plain one, or both. The split is really pushing the envelope of my piecing skill; I've done it, but the results are far from perfect, as this one shows. The irregular stripe makes it look worse that it is. Striking block though, isn't it? I don't have a plan for how to set them either. My inclination at the moment is to go ahead and make a bunch of blocks and see what happens.

If anyone has any tips for pressing these blocks, I'd appreciate hearing them. I used Alex Anderson's instructions, and she presses the center seams open. That seems very bulky, but perhaps bulk is unavoidable.

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Week without Sewing

Instead of sewing, I've been to a family wedding, driving 1,000 miles; I've cleaned the house; I've been watching the news, reading political and economic blogs instead of quilting ones; and yesterday, because it's fall, I made Barbara's delicious lentil soup AND a pumpkin pie. And tomorrow we're meeting some old friends in Chicago for a brief get together.

Today I hope to pull some fabrics and decide on my next project. As I drove through Illinois and Missouri last week, I was struck by the beauty of the soybean fields, a mix of dull golds, bright yellows, and dozens of shades of green. A beautiful color plan, I think. I was originally going to use some blue fabric I bought several years ago, but I may change my mind. Whatever I do, it will probably be a traditional pieced quilt. I'm not feeling very arty at the moment.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Happy Birthday, A & C!

When you've never seen a cake, it takes a while to catch on--

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Quick Quilt, and Janome Report

I pieced this baby quilt a while back as a break from the triangles, and quilted it Saturday to see how the new Janome works. I like the quilt: the colors, and the cheerfulness, and the simple block, which I saw somewhere and copied. I had a bunch of fat quarters in these stripes and polka dots, some designer and some JoAnn cheapies, but they have all gone together for a guild charity quilt.

I'm also happy with the meander with starburst quilting design from Machine Quilting by Sue Nickels. The starburst gives you opportunities to turn and move around the quilt smoothly. It also hides starts and stops well.

And the Janome report so far:

1. Free motion quilting: A The few extra inches under the arm make a world of difference, as does the large table I got as part of a promotion. And the little feature that brings up the bobbin thread with two clicks of a button is almost worth the price of the machine! I'm still not a great free motion quilter, but this was not only much easier, but also produced better results.

2. Straight quilting with the Accufeed foot and Accufeed Stitch-in-the-Ditch foot: B I couldn't see that it was better than a walking foot, and since the Accufeed thing has to be attached if you haven't been using it, it isn't any easier. To be fair though, I think I skimped a bit on the pin basting, and that may have been the problem.

3. Accufeed 1/4 Inch foot for sewing on binding: C- A mess. The flange doesn't make a clear guide, the design of the foot makes it hard to see the edge of the quilt, so my binding was actually less straight than usual, even with the wonderful Elmer's glue technique. Not only that, this foot requires a special needle plate, a real pain. I'm glad I found this out before I tried to bind an important quilt. I guess the regular foot might work better. I hope so.

(Added later) I owe the machine an apology. Turns out you have to move the needle to 5.5 to get the 1/4 foot to work right. I you do that, it's fine, a B+ at least.

4. Accufeed Stitch in the Ditch foot for second binding stitching: A Great! The little guide stays right in the ditch, and the stitching was fast and very accurate on the front. On the back where the less-than-perfect first line of stitching caused the binding to be an uneven width, the results aren't as good.

I'm looking forward to seeing what other tricks this machine can do, and I'm sure that practice and familiarity will smooth out some of the problems I've had.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


About a week ago I decided that maybe the broken dishes quilt I'd been dawdling over since June could make a wedding present for my nephew who is getting married the end of September. This gave me a real incentive to push to finish the piecing to get it to the long arm quilter by today so I can then bind it and take it to the wedding. I just finished last night, and here it is. A bit aggressive, isn't it? We'll hope they like it. The registry stuff wasn't too out of line with this look; they don't seem to be the ivory brocade place mat and crystal candle sticks type of people, or Pottery Barn minimalists--more the folk art and pottery look.

So this quilt, hurricane watching, and horrified fascination with the political scene have kept me busy; no posts, and very little blog reading. I hope to be back in gear soon.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Saturday I drove up to Saugatauk, Michigan to meet Nellie Durand, of Nellie's Needles, who was showing her work and doing a demonstration at Good Goods gallery there. I've enjoyed Nellie's blog and admired her beautiful work for several years, so it was delightful to meet her. Here Nellie is constructing one of her lake series and in the other picture you can see another of her quilts. She works in several styles, all fascinating. If you're not familiar with Nellie, be sure to visit her blog for more examples, and to read some of her tutorials.

Nellie suggested I check out the Petter Gallery in nearby Douglas, and I was so glad I did, and had a chance to see the work of Sue Holdaway-Heys. Her fabric work is striking, combining quilting and painting to produce beautiful landscapes and floral studies. Take a look at more of her work here.

I've also been getting acquainted with the new Janome. Last Thursday, during Al Gore's speech (about ten minutes), I made this pile of triangle squares on the new machine. It is fast! It's also very accurate. The quarter inch foot has a little flange that guides the fabric very securely, making a nice straight seam.

So I'm pleased. Of course this morning I spent 15 minutes trying to figure out why I had a thread jam. I think the machine wasn't threaded right, but I'm still not sure. This learning the ropes is normal, I guess, at least for me. Mechanical I'm not.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New Stuff

I bought the Janome 6600! It hasn't been unpacked and fired up yet, because I first had to put away my old Viking and organize my old, old Singer to give away. I feel sad about the Singer; we made many interesting things together. But for the Viking, I have no regrets. I'll report on how the new machine is going in a day or two.

In the meantime, we have a new family member: Florabelle. When I was at the farm a couple of weeks ago, I brought her home with me. Here she is in her former home with her mother and a sibling,

and here she is in one of her favorite spots, the top of the piano.

She's sweet and well-behaved (translate that as litter trained), although not a real people cat yet. She likes me, and since I'm the one who kidnapped her and put her in a cat carrier for a day and a half, that seems odd. An example of Stockholm syndrome, I guess.

Many people would say she's come to a much better life, but it has to be lonely without her family, and who wouldn't miss that beautifully peaceful and pastoral setting.

Monday, August 25, 2008

New Machine, Part 2

Thanks for all the helpful comments about the Janome machines. I also found this discussion on Quilting About which was highly favorable. I drove down to one regional dealer today and tried out the 6600. She does not have the 6500 because she says the improved new acufeed (the only real difference) doesn't add enough to the price to make the lower price for the other model that attractive. Maybe. I thought the acufeed made changing feet a bit awkward because it's bulky and in the way. The Quilting About discussion mentioned this too, but apparently you get used to it. Other than that I liked the machine, and the lady was extremely helpful, and had a good price package, including a table.

She also showed me a Baby Lock Espire, which has some interesting features, but seems to violate the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). It has a jillion stitches because if they make a minuscule change to a stitch, like whether it locks at the beginning, they call it a new stitch. But the way it goes sideways and on the diagonal allowing lots of large decorative stitches is pretty tempting. As the saleslady pointed out, you could actually quilt a border design using one stitch, or combining it with others. Would I do this? I'm always bored watching the machine do something slowly like that.

Tomorrow I will go to another nearby shop and see if they have the Janome 6500 just to make a comparison, but I'm pretty sold, and this is a shop that many quilting friends highly recommend.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Janome MC6600P

I just read a review of this machine in Quiltmaker, and it sounds like something I would like. It has the features I want (large space, fast stitching, needle up and down, adjustable speeds, etc.) and doesn't have a jillion stitches ("only" 163). It's also in my price range. Does anyone know anything about it? I just read one discussion forum that made it sound good, although most of the posters had the older model. I am oh-so-sick of my Viking! I haven't been to look at one yet; before I commit to that much time, I'd like to know a little more. Shopping for a machine is as difficult as shopping for a car. Why should that be? But the pricing policies and unhelpful salespeople are a rant for another day, I guess.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Good News

"It's a Ming Thing" 36" x 36"
Trunk E
Hoffman Challenge 2008

I'm very pleased about this. And I'm also pleased that the quilts of my on-line friends Debra Spincic and Laura Krasinski were chosen for the traveling collection, and that Liz from Kansas was a prize winner for her wonderful doll.

And--the green spots on the granite are gone, thanks to another application of stain-removing poultice! The poultice is actually lye, according to the family chemists, and the stone shop manager thought the green was copper that somehow came out in the stone after sealer was applied.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I want to stay home--

I'm back from eight days at my sister's so my mother wouldn't be alone. It's a long, not too interesting story. I haven't done any sewing in the entire time, or looked at many blogs. I did drive a truck and trailer with six hay bales, which was a first for me, for sure. Unfortunately no camera, or I would definitely share that.

It will take me a while to catch up with everyone, after I clean the counters so that the green marks can be bleached again, go to the grocery, etc. After that, I hope to sit down and stitch up some Broken Dishes blocks while listening to the end of my Amelia Peabody book on tape. For those of you who listen to books while you sew, I highly recommend this series about the totally improbable adventures of 19th century Egyptologist Amelia Peabody and her irrasible but sexy husband Radcliffe. Written by Elizabeth Peters and read by Barbara Rosenblat, who can do dozens of voices and accents, they make me laugh out loud. The early ones are better than the most recent ones, and I hit the jackpot by discovering one of the earlier ones, The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog, that I hadn't heard before. What a treat!

I saw the Hoffman Challenge winners posted Saturday, but now that's gone from the website and they're back to a June post. What's with that? Catch you later everyone.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Broken Dishes and Counter Rings

You've heard of crop circles? Well, how about mysterious green rings on a brand new granite counter top? The first rings (actually a vaguely rectangular outline) appeared about a week after the counter was installed. I worried that I had made these rings somehow even though I don't have anything that shape, size, or bright green color. But even if I had, the granite is sealed with a 15 year guarantee, so it shouldn't have happened.

The installers came, looked, said they'd never seen anything like that, and came back two weeks later with a poultice which sat on the counter for 24 hours. We were in Russia during this time, and our son reported that the rings were fainter, but still there. I reported this, but no action has been taken.

Then yesterday, I moved the phone books, day planner, and junk mail from the counter on a small side cabinet. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I haven't done a thorough cleaning in that area since the counter was installed--been gone a lot, remember? :) Anyway, there they are--more bright green marks! Since this area hasn't seen light of day since right after installation, to me this is proof that no one in our house made these marks; they must have been caused by something placed on the granite before it was installed that didn't appear immediately. Weird, right? So I've back on the phone to the granite people. Still no scheduled return for more of the poultice. Fortunately all these marks are in inconspicuous places, but still. That's a lot of money for something that is flawed from the beginning.

As for broken dishes, I've been making slow progress on these blocks.

I like this, I think. There will be more gold and green ones, but the rust will predominate. Still wondering about the sashing.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Intuition, Inspiration, the Muse--Whatever

All of us want more of those brilliant ideas that lead to interesting new projects, yes? But how to get them.

The July 28 issue of The New Yorker has in interesting article on this topic. Using brain imaging technology, scientists now think that these flashes of insight occur in an area of the right hemisphere of the brain called the anterior superior temporal gyrus (aSTG). I'm simplifying, because before the insight, other areas of the brain try to gather data, shut out sensory input which can interfere, and search frantically for answers to the problem, and then suddenly, the insight happens, shown by a burst of electricity in the aSTG. Then somehow the brain reorders information, and we can never go back to seeing things the way we did before.

Apparently insight is more apt to occur when we are relaxed, after the necessary information has been gathered. This is why many people get their best ideas in the shower or early in the morning when they're half awake, or in my case, as I'm falling asleep.

I'm not sure how this information helps when you're trying to think of solutions except to reinforce what we know already: things like come back to the problem later, sleep on it, etc. (A glass of wine might help, or a cookie, although the scientists didn't mention that.) Fascinating though, isn't it? Now to wait for a moment of intuition...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Half-Square Triangles Galore

I've been working on my quilt based on the arrowhead picture. I visualize it as Broken Dishes blocks set together with narrow sashing (fabric to be chosen). I've spent several days making the half-square triangle pieces to set together and then putting trial blocks on the design wall to see if my original idea of making each block one color, but several fabrics would work. I was concerned about not having too big a value difference between blocks so that the whole thing would flow. I think it will work, but the sashing fabric choice will be important.

It's also important to have precise piecing on this since the black makes the points stand out so prominently. Different quilters have their own ideas about the best method for making half square triangles. I have a real problem with the idea of Thangles (sorry Thangles fans out there); they seem to me a waste of money and materials. And as for the pencil line method, I can sew more accurately than I can draw a pencil line. For a long time I was a purist: If you want to piece accurately, just practice until you can. But I've given up the idea of practice making perfect, at least for me, and now I cut the square a bit larger than necessary and trim it down after the triangles are sewn together. For a 3 inch finished square, I cut 4 inch squares, cut them in half diagonally, sew the triangles together, and then trim the pieced square down to 3 1/2 inches. The trimming is a bit of a pain, especially when there are so many blocks, but the results are perfectly accurate.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Floor Patterns

I always take pictures of floors when I travel, thinking they would make wonderful quilt designs. I have yet to make one. Here are two parquet designs from a palace outside Moscow. Aren't they wonderful? I particularly like the second one with the Mariner's Compass-like pattern because of the secondary designs it creates. I took many pictures, hoping to figure out how it was done; it's hard to see the outline of the block, but I think I get it. Piecing it would be another matter! The other one is simpler, but uses hexagon blocks. Either one cries out for paper piecing, or English paper piecing in the case of the first one. So looks like these will be just another picture for my "If I Could" collection.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Sights of Moscow

Having sounded a bit negative yesterday perhaps, I wanted to talk about some wonderful things to see and do in Moscow. First, you can eat. There's lots of delicious food--Russian things like borsch and caviar and blinis (crepes) with various fillings, good salmon. We also ate at a couple of restaurants serving non-Russian food, one Italian and one Mediterranean. Both were wonderful, as elegant and as expensive as anywhere we'd go in Chicago or New York.

Then there are the sights. Unfortunately I don't have good pictures because a) my camera sucks, and b) pictures were prohibited many places or could be taken only by paying an extra fee. I took two from this site to round out mine. Can you tell which are which? :)

This is a view of the Kremlin. I've heard that phrase all my life, but never really understood what it is. It's a fortress, the historic beginning of Moscow and inside its walls are palaces, cathedrals, gardens, monuments, and museums. The red brick is the wall of course, studded with towers, and the large yellow building is the presidents state residence. He doesn't live there, but uses it for state receptions and like occasions. It's apparently incredibly splendid, but isn't open to general public.

The interior of one of the cathedrals. Pictures are forbidden, and when I was there, it was jammed with tourists. They don't sell postcards either, so I was glad to find this picture.

One of the highlights of the Kremlin is the Armoury, a palace converted into a museum housing "the treasures of the Tsars." It's an incredible display of armour, crowns, icons, silverware, Faberge eggs, coronation robes, carriages, all covered with gold and gems. Truly breath taking; it's not just the splendor but the wonderful craftsmanship of these treasure that is stunning. Unfortunately, the visits only last two hours, and then everyone is shooed out, and it closes and opens again. Don't ask me why; I don't break my brain.

Here, outside the wall of the Kremlin is the tomb of the unknown soldier. Russian brides and grooms come here to place flowers. I like that tradition. Actually brides and grooms and wedding parties are visible at all the major sites of the city, posing for pictures, making toasts, getting their clothes dirty, getting wet in the rain. When someone wondered why the brides weren't offered an umbrella, Irena remarked, "They're getting ready for their hard life. Russian men are not kind to their wives." Ouch. The voice of experience, I'm afraid.

On one side of the Kremlin is Red Square, and one feature of that is Lenin's mausoleum. Yes, he's still in there, but only visible at certain times after a long time standing in line. I skipped this.

And finally, St. Basil's Cathedral, perhaps one of the most famous sights in Moscow. Amazing, like a child's toy with the bright colors and many textures. Inside it's a maze of small rooms, no large space at all.

This is just a taste. I'm so glad I took this trip in spite of the culture shock. Take time to look at some of the wonderful pictures on the web site above.