Monday, March 30, 2009

City and Guilds, Vicariously

I don't know how many people in the US are familiar with the City and Guilds certificate program, operated in the UK. Linda Kemshall, who contributes to Quilting Arts Magazine offers on-line courses connected with City and Guilds. This seems to be a serious, in-depth program of skill building in all areas of needle arts. There's a series of assignments to be completed, each of which is evaluated by instructors; the course culminates in a final project, also evaluated. I have been interested in this program since first reading about it, so it was exciting to discover that Helen Conway is documenting her class work in a blog dedicated to this subject. She also includes links to some other blogs about City and Guilds. Her class is just getting underway but I think it's going to be fascinating to look over her shoulder while she works. Helen's other blogs, From Down the Well, and the humorous Quiltland Chronicle are well worth reading too. Take a look.

I enjoyed the comments on my triangle misadventures. It's heartening to know that other people do this sort of thing too; when I've watched others at guild sewing days, everyone seems to have their pieces perfectly organized. The block is one of Judy Martin's, from an old Quilters' Newsletter. It's called Carolina Basket. I started cutting it last summer, put it aside and came back in November, and then again last week. The big time-lag is part of the problem, although I'm not making excuses.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Vanishing Triangles, or Why You Shouldn't Shoot Your Mouth Off about Quilters and Math

OK, here's today's word problem, boys and girls. If you are going to make 13 of these blocks in yellow and 12 in pink, how many of the tiny quarter square triangles do you need? Let's just figure out the colored ones first and save the blue ones till later.

I made the pink ones already, so I need the yellow ones. Each block has three flowers and each flower takes two of the itty-bitties, so that's 13(2x3) = 78, right? Hold your applause. If I can figure that out, WHY do I continue to have to cut more? Having to go back to the cutting board repeatedly is making this sloow block even slooower.

I guess I can calculate but not count. Or maybe the whole formula is wrong. If so, someone set me straight, please. There's also the part that trips me up every time, which is: How many squares do you need to cut if you cut each square into four triangles? May that's the problem. There's also the fact that I should write this down when I figure it out, but I didn't. So back to the rotary cutter!

And I have no idea if I have enough blue triangles cut.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lots of Work?

Does it annoy you when someone looks at something you've made and says, "That's a lot of work!"? Another kind of startling comment is the type of thing a friend said recently: "That's a lot of thread." (She's a woodworker and should know better; I wouldn't look at something she made and say, "That's a lot of varnish.")

Comments like this are intended as praise, at least I think so. I find them hurtful though, because they miss the point so completely. Cleaning the bathroom is hard work. Making a quilt may be time consuming and have tedious stretches, but it satisfies the creative spirit before, during, and after the process. There are constant challenges to overcome, new fabrics and colors and stitches to try. That's not "hard work."

However, quilters can sometimes contribute to the quantitative approach to quilt appreciation. Not too long ago I read the "Artist's Statement" of a big prize winner who proudly reported how many yards of thread she used in her masterpiece. Sometimes too, we value handwork more than machine work, even if the handwork is poor, apparently because handwork is "harder."

It is true that difficulty and quality often go hand in hand. Detail and intricacy add to the enjoyment of viewing a quilt and help make the difference between an ordinary quilt and an outstanding one. I know when I look at the work of Japanese quilters I'm stunned by the beauty and intricacy of the design and the unexpected color harmonies, but part of me is thinking, "How long did that take?"

Still, I don't want "That's a lot of work" to be the reaction to one of my quilts.

I'd really like to hear opinions about this. Have you had this reaction to your work? How do you feel about it?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kale and Red Stars

Karen posted about her love of kale, and I offered a salad recipe. Since I got another request for this, I'll post it. Spare me the "Yucks". I was told it was rude to discuss your food. :) As I told my kids, "Just say 'No, thank you.'"

Kale Salad 6 servings

2 bunches kale, stems removed
2 T lemon juice
3/4 t salt
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup raisins
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Stack kale leaves, fold in half lengthwise, then roll tightly like a cigar. Slice crosswise into thin strips. Chop the kale strips crosswise a few times, so they aren't too long.

Place the kale in a mixing bowl along with the olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Toss well with your hands, massaging the dressing into the greens, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the red bell pepper, pine nuts, and raisins, and toss gently, Season to taste with black pepper. This will keep for three days in a sealed container in the frig. (I didn't try this, so can't vouch for it.) Serve at room temperature.

This is surprisingly good. The very tart dressing and the raisins cut the strong taste of the kale, and pine nuts are always a great addition! The red pepper mostly just adds color, and vitamins of course.

And in quilt news, Deb Geyer is working on the quilting for my red stars quilt. Isn't this exciting! I'm going to be so glad to see it again after she's done her magic.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who wished me well when I was sick. It's amazingly comforting to have so much good will. I am finally feeling better, but still taking it easy.

The one thing I have done is change the header on the blog. The old one was driving me crazy, but I couldn't get rid of it, and then when I finally did, I couldn't replace the picture. Something was wrong with the template HTML that wouldn't allow an image in the header even though it appeared in the pop-ups. Thanks to a blog called The Blog Doctor,I solved the problem. The new picture isn't great, but at least it's a change. Now that I can easily change the header, I hope to improve it. But that's it for the day!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Little Pity Party

We're having record temperatures, 70 degrees and sunny, the first nice weather of the year. I have a record cold; spent yesterday lying on the sofa under a quilt, and have only a little more energy today. Thank you, bloggers, for something to occupy my dead brain. I know I could find a book, but that takes energy, and the laptop is handy. I hope to be back in gear tomorrow. I know on a global, or even local, scale a cold is trivial. But complaining can be fun, can't it?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Little Crazy

Debra sent me this beaded sun motif from one of her thrift shop purchases. I've used it as the focus of a little crazy block forthe Alzheimer's Quilt Initiative. I used some scraps of silk and kimono fabric and some of my huge stash of old buttons. That was fun, but otherwise, this was way out of my comfort zone. I made a value plan first because I wanted to get that right, and cut the pieces with freezer templates instead of just doing flip and sew because I was using small scraps. I was going to plan the embellishment stitches too, but that turned out to be unnecessary since my repertoire of embroidery stitches is so small. I kept it simple. I could say this was to keep the emphasis on the sun, which would be true, but mostly it was because I'm so rusty at embroidery that anything more is beyond me. Wouldn't an embroidered motif have been lovely in the orange piece on the right? Maybe next time. Thanks, Debra, and thanks Allie for your tutorials about backing and finishing a crazy piece.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Lost Day

"I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again."

Oscar Wilde
Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet (1854 - 1900)

I had that kind of day, not because of neurotic genius, but because of disorganization, indecision, general confusion. I had hoped to make a little quilt for Alzheimer's Quilts using some motifs and fabrics from last year's Hoffman challenge. Should have been easy, but it wasn't. Maybe tomorrow.

What did I do when I wasn't staring at the fabric? Had eyebrows waxed, prepared discussion questions for book group, did laundry, sent some business-type e-mails, mopped the floor, cooked dinner. I don't know what Oscar Wilde's story was, but that's mine.

This weekend is the Indiana Heritage Quilt Show in Bloomington. I always enjoy this fairly small, but high quality show, and am taking a class from Wendy Butler Berns called Out of the Blocks Quilt Design. As I understand it, we will design a block and make a model, not by sewing but apparently as a paste-up. I chose the workshop because it was one of the only ones that wasn't project oriented or teaching a technique I don't/can't do. Not having to drag along a sewing machine is a plus too. So another thing to do tomorrow is organize class supplies, if I can remember where I put the list.