Saturday, May 30, 2009

Brag Time

Thursday I drove up to Evanston to see my son awarded a major teaching award by Northwestern University. I'm so proud of him. He's always been a terrific speaker, and I can vouch for his teaching ability, since he has patiently helped me develop the computer skills I have.

Anyway, I enjoyed myself tremendously, even though the awards ceremony was not quite as expected. The twins came along, probably not the best idea. Aidan is a wanderer, so I spent the entire ceremony outside with him exploring things like dandelion puffs and the man in a panda suit across the street advertising something. We had a wonderful time, although I would have liked to see the speeches. Conor wouldn't come out with me, and because he expresses himself LOUDLY, even when he's just happily pointing out "Da-da", his mother had to stand with him in the hallway outside the room. We all enjoyed the refreshments afterwards though. The twins loved the fruit, cheese, and crackers, while the adults were certainly ready for a glass of wine.

Here's a picture of the award winner and family that expresses the general flavor of the day: parents trying to look proud and professional while the children have other ideas.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Playing with Paisley and Paint

I spent yesterday afternoon moving little paisley motifs from the Hoffman Challenge fabric around trying to get a look I liked. That was not fun, as my son used to say. I think I finally solved the problem though, (solution not shown) and now will have to buckle down to the applique.

To have some fun, I stamped a little bit of fabric with a stamp cut from foam core. It's intended to be a lilac leaf, and I'll use it as background for a small piece or a couple of postcards with a stylized lilac blossom and leaf appliqued on top. Foam core makes a fairly mediocre stamp. It's so thin that it's hard not to get smears around the edge, and it only holds enough paint for one dark stamp so that's why I have a mixture of dark and light shapes. That effect seems pleasing to me, but I'm not sure about the smudges and the brush strokes that show. I'm sure I've read about other materials that make good, quick, easy, and cheap stamps, but I can't remember what they are now. If anyone knows, I'd appreciate a comment.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Scrap Quilts

Michelle at With Heart and Hands has asked people to post about scrap quilts on Memorial Day Weekend. A good idea, I think. The list of links on her blog is worth looking at.

I love scrap quilts, especially real scrap quilts, not the ones where you buy new fabric and cut it up into nickel squares or 2 1/2 strips for a scrappy look. :) A real scrap is a piece of fabric left over from another project, or from old clothes, although I'm not that much of a purist. I just use "new" leftovers.

Scrap quilts are good for guild service projects. They fulfill two needs: making good use of something that might be wasted otherwise, and providing something warm for a child who needs it. Here are two I've made. One is string pieced squares cut diagonally and put together with a solid to make the star pattern.

This one is all novelty prints. I made various kinds of four patch blocks 6 inches in size and used the yellow sash. Isn't yellow a great neutral? It tones down the busyness but still looks bright and cheerful.

The quilt on the bed at beginning of the post is one I made based on Mary Ellen Hopkins' idea. It's supposed to be an on-going project, and it sure can be. It took me about two years to make mine. The block is made out of 2 1/2 inch squares. You cut your scraps into squares, separate the lights and darks, make a bunch of the diagonal half light, half dark units, sort the pieces into piles in a large flat box, and whenever you're stuck w/o something creative, you can just make a few of these blocks. They're a split 9-patch that can go together in any log-cabin type of setting. This setting is called Woven Ribbons, I believe. I saw a picture of it without any explanation, so my husband and I worked out how to do it. It's easy (sort of) once you know how. I posted on this earlier if you want a close up of one of the blocks.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Inspiration Everywhere

Traveling is like a long-running Artist's Date, as described by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way. You get to feast your inner artist on beautiful things, coming away refreshed and inspired, full of ideas. This past trip I was less tuned in to my Inner Artist than usual for some reason, but here are several things that struck me.

Rinder by Franz Marc, in the Pinoteca Moderne in Munich. Doesn't this make you think of a quilt? I should even be able to say whose style is is, but I can't; maybe someone else can. Does comparing this painting to a quilt belittle Marc, a painter I like very much? According to the museum information card, he was killed at the battle of Verdun in 1916; what a tragedy.

The palette of neutrals in these paintings by Murillo is stunning!

This is a major department store in Munich. Wonderful patchwork design, isn't it? I like the silhouettes too.

I'm always fascinated by the patterns on inlaid wood floors. This one, in the Prince Archbishops' Residence in Salzburg, is an interesting variation on the six or eight pointed star you often see.

The shapes and colors of these buildings beside the river in Innsbruck make a wonderful silhouette against the mountain. I found a postcard featuring a painting of a similar view, so I'm not the only one who liked it.

Something about the shapes of these arches as they change with the curve of the porch struck me as beautiful, especially with the lines of the palace in the background. (My husband thought I wanted his photo; I didn't disillusion him.)

A little stream is in the English Garden in Munich. I tried using the cut out filter in Photoshop to simplify it, as described in Elizabeth Barton's blog, and that worked really well. It would be fun to do something from this photograph someday.

But first I have to finish the Hoffman Challenge!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Travelogue Lite

Germany and Austria were beautiful,

the beer delicious,

the buildings historic,

the people friendly,

the museums fascinating.

(I even enjoyed the Deutsche Museum, full of science and technology exhibits.)

And my packing plan worked perfectly!

It's good to be home, however. I spent yesterday unpacking and doing laundry. I thought about doing something in the sewing room in the afternoon, but didn't. In a Munich shop window, I saw this carpet that made me think of my Hoffman.
Maybe I'll get to that today. It was fun to catch up with everyone's news although I haven't commented much. That's something else to do today.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Hills are Alive...

Sunday we are leaving for 6 days in Innsbruck, Austria, followed by a weekend in Munich. Munich was a sweetener for me, since I didn't have any interest in Innsbruck when my husband was asked to speak there, but I've always wanted to go to Munich. I've since found out that Innsbruck is in Eastern Austria, in a valley surrounded by the Tyrolean Alps. Think Sound of Music, everyone. So this should be fun. I'm certainly expecting good, fattening pastries and sausages, washed down with coffee and beer, but maybe I can hike it off. Or not.

So I've been doing the things you have to do to get ready for a trip. Organizing stuff, running errands, etc. I can't work up any interest in German for some reason, so I hope for friendly, English-speaking people. I finally forced myself to dig out the phrase book this morning, much too late to learn anything.

The part I love is packing. It's such a challenge. I think I mentioned once before my fascination with this web site: One Bag. It's got everything you need to know about traveling light. I'll never be as light as the author, but I try. It doesn't matter how much junk you have for some kinds of trips, but if you've tried to get a suitcase on or off a European train while a bunch of men sit and look at you as though you had two heads, you learn to pare down!

Ironically, since men are supposedly better at traveling light, it's my husband who has all the luggage. He's always weighted down with things he thinks he'll "work on", but of course never touches. He also has to be forced to give up the heavy cotton underwear, socks, and shirts which take up half a suitcase, and never dry, so have to go to hotel laundry. We've made progress though. This time we're checking one full size bag (his) and one smaller one (mine). But then there's his backpack and his briefcase...
We look like one of these pictures, but in reverse.

Of course, probably anyone watching will think Herr Professor Doktor is chivalrously carrying his wife's overload.

In quilting news, I've also been working on the Hoffman Challenge, and have made some progress. I got through the part that seemed tedious or tense, and now have to make some design decisions. But I may wait on that till I come back.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Tantalizing Glimpses?

I'm working on the Hoffman Challenge. It's past the point of being fun, and has become a list of steps to finish, including a few questions about exactly the best way to do some of them. I feel like I did in grad school when I could see the answer of the essay exam before me, but was totally bored with writing it. There's something wrong with that.

Fortunately, it's a beautiful day here, so I think I'll go for a walk or plant something. Everyone have a good weekend!