Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Best of Both

Frank and I share a love of color and design. I've been making patchwork and quilted things for 24 years, he's been practicing photography for more years than that.

With the introduction of a computer in our lives, our different creative pursuits have come together in one place. I create the quilts, Frank photographs them and puts them in virtual environments.

Villa Quilt
Castle Keep

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Weekend Draws to a Close

We went to the Lake this morning and walked the west end trail. It was a beautiful morning and the stillness was audible, the Memorial Day boat people hadn't discovered it was going to be a great day yet, so it was deliciously quiet. It didn't take long for the hike to bring heat to my face and I was glad for the cooling breezes. We hiked across the dam, through the scrub oak, to the point. There we stopped and sat, talked and looked at the clouds. The coming work week felt far away at that moment.

After a snack of crisp fuji apples and chunks of smoked Gouda, we headed back. The wildflowers were so fun! Dabs of color on both sides of the trail, unexpected beauty among the Poison Oak. I made the requests, Frank took the pictures. You get to enjoy the results

By the time we got back to the dam, there was practically a crowd coming down the trail as we were going up. The jet skiers and motor boats were roaring from one end of the inlet to the other and the holiday was in full swing. People observe their days off in many different ways. I sure enjoyed our peaceful version.

A Pause Before the Day

Spring has taken it's sweet time coming to our valley. Even now on Memorial Day weekend, the official kick-off of Summer, the house is cold in the morning and a bit of a fire would be welcome in the evening.

Sitting at the morning table over waffle and a mug of hot milk this is the view out my back window. I love the way the morning light accentuates and illuminates the details of the scene. Each leaf, every pine needle can almost be seen. A single humming bird came and went among the honeysuckle and I thought how sweet his breakfast must have been. Honeysuckle nectar is a joy. Have you ever pinched off a blossom at the base and sucked the drop of sweetness from inside? I knew what he was drinking as he fluttered and darted among the flowers.

I have taken a break from the Double Four-Patch. I wrestled with it Friday in an attempt to cut out the background set triangles. But wouldn't you know? The fabric I had in mind was a one- way directional. I carefully planned the cutting of the squares so the pretty oak leaf outlines would all go up and down. I had to ignore where that put the bias. I couldn't cut out squares going across the width of the fabric. I cut several test squares from scrap fabric in an effort to decide on the best layout without wasting the background fabric. But in the end, it couldn't be done. I needed twice the yardage I had on hand to cut the number of triangles I needed. I /did/ go into town and I /did/ eventually find another suitable background fabric, brought it home and got it prewashed and pressed. But there it sits. The wind has gone out of this project's sails for awhile. I can't believe how something that was going to be so simple has gone so awry. I know there's a great lesson in that somewhere. But right now I'm too put out with myself about it to look. Quilting is my respite from all the other stressors in my life. when my respite gives me fits, who wants to deal?? Not me.

So today is a national holiday and I'm enjoying some time at home. I don't have any plans. The sun is shining and there isn't that blustery breeze we've been having everyday for a week -YET.
Maybe I'll potter in the yard. I can't seem to bring myself to go into the sewing room.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Blissful four day weekend. Don't you just love holidays?? Ohh...
Making slow headway on the Double Four-patch, having backtracked as I told you. Now that I knew what to look for in the DFP block assembly, I don't want to TELL you how many times I almost put them together wrong again. What is the matter with me?! It occured to me that if I was hand piecing this quilt I'd have lots of time to discover I was sewing them together backwards. Handsewing takes time and that has it's avantages. Once during mini-group a friend of mine appliqued her block to her skirt. (!) But she didn't get very far before she discovered her mistake.

Meanwhile DH is off as well, working on a project of his own. He asked me if I had any heavy fabric, like canvas, that he could use for his lounge repair. I have very little fabric in my baskets and bins that doesn't qualify as quilting fabric, but I do have some. So I went into the old storage dresser in the garage to look. This dresser stores a variety of velvets for the day when my desire to make a crazy quilt strikes , a LARGE chunk of teal chamois fabric for a shirtdress I was going to make about a bizillion years ago, and my vintage muslins. This is what I found when I opened one of the drawers.
Now this isn't the first time that mouskiwitz has made a home in this drawer, but since we got a cat seven years ago, the drawer hasn't seen many mousy visitors of late. I couldn't remember the last time I was in this dresser, so he (or she?) had had a good long time to shred all that yummy vintage cotton and make a nest. And the bird seed? I'd wondered why the two bags of seed I'd bought last summer had emptied so fast.

So instead of being able to work on the DFP quilt blocks, I cleaned out the mess. It was vile. The best cottons were full of holes and soaked with urine, there were droppings throughout and the whole thing smelled like a hamster cage. I considered throwing the entire mess away but I just couldn't bring myself to toss those vintage fabrics.

This piece is a fun print circa 1950 that has small black and red and gray polka dots all over it. It's a perfectly good four yard chunk of 36 inch wide fabric; expect for the regular holes chewed in the fold!

Over an hour later they were all on the line blowing in the breeze. Maybe I'll permanently install a mousetrap in that dresser.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

New Old Quilts

I didn't need another project, my stack of tops and my list of UnFinishedObjects (UFOs) just keeps growing! But the picture of the Double Four-patch just appealed to me. It had that old tyme look that speaks of women sitting by lamp light, piecing in their lap after the day's work is done. For me it looked like a wonderful 'no think um' sewing project. Easy-peasy. 'Cause when I get home from work, I don't want to have to fight with my patching.

This was the photo that inspired. Not my usual color pallet at all. But then why have I been collecting brick, burgundy, maroon, garnet and cherry colored cotton for so long? Time to use some of those...

This is the fabric pallet for the Four-patches.

The quilt in the photo used 70 blocks, I had about 55-60 fabric pulled out of the stash and spread all over the floor so I decided to stop.

Here's the pre-piecing line up. I call them "Four-patch puppies". They look so nice, waiting for me to come in from my day and zip them up on my machine. Easy, no think um sewing.

Here's a sample of the brown Four-patches. They're not stunning, but they seem to be the right shades of brown for 'that look' I want.

This is a picture of the Double Four-patch set blocks. I mean, if I'm finally going to make a red and brown quilt, I don't want to repeat fabrics if I don't have to! I think I like the stash diving, fabric selection and cutting phase almost as much as the assembly. Because it's at this step that the quilt is conceived. Do I want the browns to include mustard tones? No, too yellow. Do I want the reds to include rust? No, I recently used rust in a red, brown and green quilt, which turned out nice and Autumnal; but let's not repeat that in this quilt.

So far I hadn't spent more than a few nights and a short afternoon working on this. At the rate I was going the top was going to be done in a week! I was so excited. So pleased with the calm it was bringing me, so grateful for the ease of assembly. But when I sewed all the Four-patches into Double Four-patches I sewed 68 out of 70 backwards. *groan* I put the DFPs on the design wall and went Ohhh-nooo... instead of a dark chain of squares moving up and down through the quilt, I had a light chain of squares and the dark Four-patch set squares were lost against the DFP set squares.

So for the last four or five nights I've been ripping, lint picking the seams, pressing and reassembling the blocks. Live and learn. Yes, it's an easy pattern with no points to match, no set in seams and no bias edges to worry about. But thinking is required at some level. Guess I was over confident.

I think I'll start a baby quilt in pastels this weekend.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Signs of Spring

When I walk each day I get a chance to see what local flowers are blooming. The California Poppy starts growing in February, as far as I can tell. During gray days when it's still winter, I see the distinct greenery pushing up above the wet ground. But then one day the flowers bursts out into bloom and suddenly you see them everywhere.

The California Poppy is the state flower. It's also really easy to grow and very prolific. Well, at least in California. My mother has taken seeds back to New England and tried to grow them there and they just fizzled. Must be too wet.
But I wonder what criteria is used in choosing a state flower? Is the state flower protected? California Poppies grow like WEEDS. You can see them everywhere. Yet when California Conservation Corp crews weed whack along the highways and around off ramps, they cut around the clusters of flowers. It's a funny sight to see a newly trimmed field where waist high weeds used to grow with tuffs of poppies 'popping' up from among the chaff.

When I was growing up in Massachusetts I thought the state flower was the Pink Lady Slipper. This made sense to me, at the time- because the Pink Lady Slipper is hard to grow, difficult to transplant, rare as a result and come to find out, endangered in some places. Read more. When I walked in the pine forests near our home I'd be elated if I saw four or five while on a woodland ramble. I remember during one particular spring I proudly announced having counted ten during my usual walk

And they're so strange looking. They don't look like any flower I know. No petals, no center giving off a fragrance. You're not supposed to pick them, it's practically forbidden. They're in the orchid family, maybe that explains it.

But since my girlhood in New England I've discovered that the state flower of Massachusetts is the Mayflower. Now isn't that quaint? It's a ground laurel. But I have no memory of it. It isn't bizarre, it didn't catch my wondering eye as an adolescent and make me say, "What is THAT?"

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Time Does Fly

And here I thought I might actually write something on my blog more than twice a month! Once a week would be a good goal, huh??

Life has gotten out of hand. I wanted to post pictures of quilt projects in progress, but then I got so I wanted to wait till some of them are finished to put them here. Well that's just plain silly! If I wait for that, we'll be here till Kingdom Come!

That said... two weeks ago the Grapevine guild had a demo night. I spent a lot of time at the Fabric Postcard table, (Deb Richardson's terrific tutorial) talking to the presenter (thank you Virginia!), fingering the samples and dreaming. I loved how fanciful the PC's she'd made were, how easily you could make a fun scene or statement. And according to Virginia, how fast. That sounded really appealing. So that Saturday I went into my sewing room to play and create one, no agenda.
Two hours later, this is what I made:
I added the dime to give you perspective. It's not actually part of the quilt. But you knew that, didn't you? :D
So I admit... it took a LOT longer than I wanted it to take. And it's pieced, it's not glued or fused. And quite honestly, it's far to nice to use as a postcard.
Why do I do this sort of thing to myself? I can't seem to 'cut loose' (no pun intended) and just make something quick, simple and uncomplicated. I LIKED the samples that featured raw edge applique with free-form machine quilting in varigated colors. But when I go to create something similar?? No can do.
Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong age. I'm surrounded by bold, bright, beautiful prints available at the store by the yard. But I prefer to make quilts from collected scraps and cut aways in Cadet Blue and Black. Or my current project, a Double Four-Patch in turn of the last century reds and browns. I admire my quilty friends that can jump into their stash and come up with an eye popping wall hanging of lime green and fushia. (See Su's Basket Full o' Challenge ). But that just doesn't seem to be in me, it's not a part of my inner fiber (pun intended).
As Popeye says, "I yam what I yam."

Friday, May 12, 2006

Six Degrees Among Quilters

So while I'm thinking about this six degrees of separation concept, let me share a fun quilt story with you. Only the heroine's name has been changed, to protect the obvious. :D

Julia had been a quilter for 23 years. She could always easily remember the number because she began when she was 2 months pregnant with her second child. Funny how people use life’s events to help keep track of such things. In all that time she’d never once come across an antique treasure of blocks or a top that needed rescuing - that is - that was within her price range. She heard others tell tales of finding this incredible 1930’s Wedding Ring top at a barn sale while vacationing in Iowa; or these appliqu├ęd fan blocks that were bought from a friend of a friend’s retired sister-in-law for a song. But in all her years as a quilter, she’d never found what she was looking for.

She went to collectible shops on a regular basis, looked among the tired linens, table cloths and old doll blankets, remnants of another woman’s domestic life. But all she found, all she ever found were has-beens, cast offs, blocks so badly pieced a blind man would cringe, or tops so loud and ugly it made you wonder how all those fabrics could live together in one scrap bag, let alone co-exist in a top? Had all the nice blocks and tops disappeared? Probably they’d been snatched up by other hands than hers.

She remembered a time at Quilt guild when a long time member stood up and showed top after gorgeous top, all to be sold that weekend at the Respite workers Fund Raiser. They were AMAZING examples of needle art, the 1930’s colors clear and bright despite their age. The patterns were finely worked: Grandmother’s Fan, Wedding Ring and Dresden Plate. All three were favorites of hers, but they were patterns she knew she’d never manage to create in her life time. The guild member said the prices would be reasonable. The owner had donated them and didn’t care what they sold for.


She got up early the morning of the sale, borrowed the car from her husband, tucked her carefully counted dollars in her coin purse and was at the door of the Respite Fund Raiser when they opened the doors. But to her disappointment and dismay the only quilt tops for sale that day were uglies; a poorly pieced Flying Geese in drab colors and a skewed crib sized quilt, badly worn. Where were the promised tops? They had been sold after the guild meeting in a clandestine way to a woman who apparently couldn’t wait for the Respite Fund Raiser. Awww. It was always the same story.

The years went by and Julia continued to make quilts, buy fabric when it was on sale and browse the collectible shops when she could. She bought some ‘cutter’ tops and carefully took them apart, re-cut the pieces and made small vintage replicas. It was satisfying to her sense of quilt history on the one hand, but in her heart she was still waiting for that set of orphan blocks that one day she would find, purchase and bring home to call her own.

Time passed. The computer age came into Julia’s life and computer use gradually crept into her quilt top and block hunting experience. Now she could surf national shops and sites, seeing tops and blocks of ALL colors, piecing quality and prices. She browsed e-bay from time to time and bid on sets of orphan blocks, but she was always out bid.

One day she found a set of Flying Swallow blocks from the 1930’s advertised on e-bay. Nineteen blocks with an opening bid of $3.25. Was it possible? The seller said they were yellowed and stained, but hand stitched and otherwise in good condition. Two days and two bids later, Julia was the proud owner of these blocks, for $10.50. Go e-bay!

When the blocks arrived she wasn’t surprised to see how stained the muslin was. Several of the blocks were unfinished, but there were enough to set together with lattice strips and make a quilt. A six hour soak in Biz removed even the worst stains and revealed that the background fabric wasn’t unbleached muslin at all, but white. She was elated.

She started corresponding with the seller of the blocks, gently inquiring after the name of the maker, the region they were from or any other information that could be gleaned.

“Every quilt has a story and I bet these blocks have one of their own to tell”, she wrote, “Would you be willing to write and tell me where these blocks were made? I’d like to include it on a label I’ll put on the quilt when it’s done.”

The seller lived in San Luis Obispo and wrote, “The maker is my friends’ Aunt. She lived all her married life in Northern California.”

“I live in Northern California!”, Julia wrote by return e-mail. “In Redwood Valley, fifteen miles outside of Ukiah. Maybe these blocks are coming home. Do you know the name of the town?”

The Internet is a funny environment. You can write to people you’ve never met and never will meet and start a correspondence. But after a few days had gone by without a reply, Julia wasn’t sure if the seller was getting tired of her queries. Finally she received a reply and she couldn’t believe what the message said, “The maker of those blocks is named Derhonda Burkett. She lived in Ukiah for 35 years.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
For the last few weeks Julia’s been working on turning the Flying Swallow blocks into a quilt top. After the careful presoak and hand washing, she squared them, pressed the many, many seams that make up the Flying Swallow’s block and has planned a layout. Her heart is full and happy as she works. She thinks about Derhonda, whom she was told is almost ninety and lives in a nursing home somewhere in southern California, and she feels proud to be making something special out of an unfinished project that belonged to another quilter. A quilter that had lived all her married life in the same valley as she lives now.

While laying out the blocks she discovers that five of the Flying Swallow blocks were pieced with the swallows flying clockwise and fourteen of the blocks were pieced with the swallows flying counter clockwise. She wonders if perhaps THIS is why the quilt maker abandoned the blocks. If symmetry and uniformity were important to Derhonda, this mistake would be unbearable.

But to Julia’s eye as she lays them out, interspersing the ‘rogue’ blocks with the others, she likes the spirit it gives to the overall appearance of the quilt-to-be.

After all, she’s waited a long time to find and adopt a set of quilt blocks. And she has fallen in love with these.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Less Than Six Degrees

So I wrote to Diane from Healdsburg - as I was calling her - and introduced myself. I told her I really related to her post about Ten Things She Likes About Her Hometown and how I bet we probably knew a bunch of the same quilter ladies. Quilters are generally such friendly people, don't you find? And being a Blogger, I figured she'd be open to my writing to her.

I received a delightful reply and 'Yes', she belongs to the Santa Rosa Quilt Guild. She even knew where Redwood Valley is. Now THAT'S rare. Usually anyone outside of Ukiah Valley sort of glazes over and looks at you funny when you tell them you live in Redwood Valley. "Where's that?" they'll ask. "North of Ukiah and south of Willits". At that point if they still give you the glassy eye you know you'd be wasting your time to try and elucidate.

But Diane from Healdsburg did me one better. She said, "My husband works at Mendocino College, so he commutes up your way every day." *going* Her last name was in the e-mail address. I used to work at Mendocino college . I couldn't believe it. "Roger H***?? I know him!" :D

Years ago I watched that Will Smith and Stockard Channing movie... I pretty much don't remember anything about the plot except that he insinuates himself into their lives and then at one point launches into this theory he has that everyone, everywhere knows each other through "Six Degrees of Separation". You know the thing... Your friend will be telling you a story from her life and she'll mention someone in passing and you say, "Who?" and she says, "You know, Bobby... from last winter? He's my sister's roommate's boyfriend's brother's guitar teacher." Or... "She came to the meeting last week. Turns out she knows Betsy from Lakeport, who you told me you met when you went to that retreat two years ago."

How did I come across Diane from Healdsburg's blog in the first place? I'd attended a meeting of the Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild, of which I'm a member, and they talked about a Guest Speaker coming up. Not knowing anything about that Quilt Speaker, I Googled her, wish I could remember her name now, and found a blog about her on Diane's page, Going to Pieces. Who knew that the writer of that blog would be the wife of a former co-worker at the college??

*Run sound track*
It's a small world after all. It's a small world after all. It's a small world after all...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

To Blog or Not to Blog

Really enjoyed Diane from Healdsburg’s blog recently; why she loves her hometown. It included a photo of the green hills of Sonoma County (looking east?) and 10 reasons why she loves living there. I could echo almost all of her sentiments; the small town sense of being known when you go into the credit union and shops, a library that has a county wide (or two) catalog of books at your request, the beauty of the area.

Here is my photo: Green Acres
This was taken from our front yard looking northwest, April 28th after weeks of rain.
Frank entitled it Green Acres, after the name of the road that runs in the foreground, but it couldn’t be more appropriately named.

Diane’s blog is not just about her life as a quilter, though there are plenty of entries that share ideas and news of what she’s currently working on. I enjoy reading them, whether she’s testing out a new idea on her design wall, or taking a family retreat to the snow. I feel like I know her, she lives in my former county, talks about areas and activities I know, shares my love of color, design, experimentation. I bet she’s a member of the Santa Rosa Quilt Guild. I bet she and I know a lot of the same quilter ladies. Maybe I'll write and ask. I want to respond to her blog. I want to start my own as a result of the enjoyment I receive when reading hers. Do I have time in my life for that sort of thing?

Su and I e-mail quilt ideas, share life’s happenings and send photos daily. She is a short drive away from my house across the overpass, but we stay close via e-mail and digital photos. Our own two-person blog. I could turn the news and photos I send to her into a blog… but she and I are always catching each other on the fly, it’s not a scheduled, daily entry.

Maybe the fact that someone said Blogs are written by self-absorbed people who think others care about what they have to say is blocking my energy. Those that say that don’t read blogs on topics they enjoy. They don’t read blogs period. What they think and do doesn't have to be what I think and do.