Monday, October 30, 2006

We interrupt this blog... make an important Artful Quilters Blog Ring announcement.

Today, a startled ring user let me know that someone's blog address had somehow been taken over by a very graphic porn site. (No, I'm not going to tell you which one.) Clearly, unbeknownst to the innocent artist whose blog was overtaken, some internet porn pirate planted something on her blog that caused the address to immediately leap to another not-at-all-quilt-related (ahem) site.

I'm letting you know about this because:

1. If you find anything like this on the ring, PLEASE let me know ASAP. We want to recruit new art quilters and art quilt afficianados, but not THAT way, okay? I'd like to move that stuff off of the ring right away if it shows up.

2. I have no idea how this could have happened, and the poor blogger will have to sort out what got added to her blog and how. Just so you know, it was a address. Those of us with addresses will have to keep watch, I guess.

Gee, I'll bet her blog reader stats changed pretty dramatically, eh?!

And now we return to our usual content...

Just another manic Monday

Remember that hokey song? Still, it sort of sums up the way this day has gone.

I had grand plans. I was going to spend a few hours on a research project, the kind I especially like because it involves researching a discrete issue that I can answer with a few hours' work. Then, I had quilting plans.

I'm in the process of doing quilting on this fruit and veggie quilt, and I was hoping to finish.

Yes, this is Fruit and Veggie #2 (ooh, a series!) which is likely to be an auction quilt for Caroline's school, if they end up having an auction. (Here's a funny thing... Knowing that this school has a big spring auction fundraiser and that they have a huge garden in which the kids work throughout the year, I set out in search of gardeny fabric to make a quilt for the auction...Which is how I ended up buying such vast quantities of this Kyle's Marketplace line of fabrics, more than enough to make 3 quilts (at least), thank you very much. And last week someone mentioned that they may not even HAVE the auction this year.)

Anyway. Here's a slightly better view of the quilt, when it is spread on the floor of my office. I've used Mary Mashuta's All Season Garden Quilt pattern (you can see her version here if you go to the Quilt Kits section and choose Quilt Road from the left-hand menu) from Kaffe Fassett's Quilt Road, a book I adore.

Then, assuming that I got THAT done (I do think big), I was gonna get started on quilting this gift quilt for my aunt. Yep, it's bundled up and you can't see what it looks like. Well, it's a gift!

And in case I wasn't in the mood to do that, I was going to play with my "fruit salad" bin of strips...

to make checkerboard sashing for yet another fruit quilt (no veggies, just fruit) made like this one, also from Kaffe Fassett's Quilt Road:

And how much of that did I get done, you ask?

None. At 9am I got a call from Caroline's school that she was feeling very ill. I rushed out and got her home in time to spend the morning doing comforting motherly things while she retched over the toilet. And you really don't want pictures of that.

(Now, at 3:30 pm, she has perked up some and we're contemplating whether some saltines and jello will stay in her stomach. Wish us luck.)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

More from the Junk Drawer

It's been one of those weeks filled with a lot to do and the feeling that I have very little to show for it.

On the one day I could take time for quilts with a clear conscience, I buckled down and faced my least favorite quilting task: piecing the quilt back. I even figured that as long as I was doing one, I'd do another. I had a tolerable time piecing the backs for my newest fruit and veggie quilt and the garden quilt I'm making for a Christmas present, and I got them both fully sandwiched and basted and ready to quilt. I felt very virtuous at the end of that chore!

I've discovered that my library was wireless internet now, which is what is allowing me to post this very entry. I've just dropped Caroline at a birthday party at a nearby park, and I came inside to escape the strange October hot spell and to get a bit done on the computer. I love that I can sit here and have full internet access for free, and all via my powerful green library card.

Speaking of birthday parties, I am frequently puzzled by the etiquette and safety issues these events present. For example, Caroline is at a new school this year and we know very few of the families with kids in her class. This is the second party she has attended which is hosted by people I don't know. Why should I leave my child in the care of people I absolutely do not know? At the last party (a backyard party in a child's heaven of a backyard, complete with swimming pool, trampoline, rope swing dangling over the trampoline, and big jumpy house), I looked around and pretty quickly saw that there were no adults watching the kids in the pool (while they pushed each other in) or on the trampoline. The mom and dad were busy going in and out of the house, fetching food and beverages and generally doing party stuff. So, I hung around and watched the pool, feeling that it simply wasn't safe to leave my child (and the others) unattended around the pool. No other parents seemed the least bit concerned. I guess I'm over-cautious. Today, I introduced myself to the host parents, looked at the park area where the party is taking place, and noted that there are various parents there watching the kids. I've decided to leave for a while, but I'm sure I'll go back before the end-time of 4:30 to see what's going on. Do other parents worry about this sort of thing? What do they do?

I had a lovely book club get-together last thursday night. We, the No Guilt Book Club, decided that we were in danger of becoming the No Book Book Club. We're a bunch of working moms, and we love having dinner together and we always intend to discuss what we read. But we don't typically see each other in our day-to-day lives, so we always have a lot to talk about when we meet at our monthly dinners. This time, we read Sister of My Heart by Chitra Divakaruni. And since it was about the intertwined lives of two cousins in India, we met at an Indian restaurant and had a delicious dinner. Next month's book is The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks. I've just grabbed a copy at the library. It doesn't look like the sort of story I'd usually choose, but that's the great thing about the book causes me to read books I wouldn't otherwise pick.

Unfortunately (and maybe coincidentally) I woke up in the middle of the night after that dinner with the worst stomach ache I remember having. I did not feel well AT ALL. I rallied to get out of the house on Friday, but I'm still on the edge of queasy. Saltine crackers are about all I want to eat right now.

On Friday, despite my weird stomach, I met up with my friends Janet, Pat and Pam to celebrate Pat's upcoming birthday and to wander around a few shops. We explored a yarn store (such tempting, lovely yarns!), a bead store (visual candy!), and a few "stuff" know, knick knacks and gifts and home decorating. AND we ventured off to find the new fabric store in our area, The Material Girl. At the moment, the shop is upstairs in a funny little strip mall building, but it is moving soon and the new space (right nearby) is large and well-lighted and looks like it will be great. Despite the tiny site now, we were all impressed with the great and interesting assortment of fabric. Lots of Kaffe Fassett and Amy Butler, a wonderful selection of black and white prints, some interesting vintage pieces of fabric on the bolt... I suspect I will return.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Show and Tell, Part 2

I wish I were quilting, but instead I'm catching up on home-business after my retreat days. So, I'll show you more gorgeous quilts from the retreat's show and tell.

Pam made this huge and colorful quilt:

Here's Kathy S.'s baby quilt:

Diane A. showed off this fun quilt from an Alex Anderson class:

Nancy made a poppy quilt from fabric she bought in France, and her good friend Diane A. liked it so much that Nancy surprised her with one for her, too. What a good friend!

And isn't this a great Halloween quilt by Nancy?

Here's Sydne's faces from a Therese May workshop:

Helen has the patience to do lovely hand-applique.

Tamara showed this chain variation (I forget what it was called) that matched her outfit perfectly!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Show and Tell

At some point during the ranch retreat, we take time to have a group show and tell. It's great fun and we all love seeing what the others have brought. I thought I'd share a few photos from this retreat's show and tell. A disclaimer: we hold show and tell in the ranch's chapel, where the lovely colors and stained glass windows make for unusual lighting. This year, we did this in the early evening, so the light was fading. As a result, the photos are not great (and in some cases really grainy) but you can still see the delightful quilts displayed by these talented women.

Pat D. shares my love of these Kyle's Marketplace fruit and veggie fabrics. She wasn't thrilled with this top but then someone suggested it would make a great tablecloth, so she loves it again.

Here's another beauty by Pat D.:

Eleanor usually works in the ranch kitchen, but this time got to attend the retreat as a guest and relax and sew! She shared this fun quilt.

Here's Kathy S.'s gorgeous poppy:

I love this strippy one by Maurine:

More fun strip work by Jennifer (excuse that elbow in the corner):

And you've got to love these circles by Diane A.:

Nancy shared this great fish quilt.

Look! More strip fun by Helen!

Several women in the group had taken a workshop from Therese May on whimsical portraits. Here's Lesley's, which I think she's making as a Day of the Dead quilt. It has buttons and puffy paint and all sorts of embellishment on it, and she promises more doo dads to come.

Here's something you won't see often: Carolynn holding up a bright quilt! Carolynn usually works in a very soft palette, but last time she and Pat D. challenged each other. Carolynn agreed to make a bright quilt if Pat D. made a brown quilt. Look how thrilled Carolynn looks with hers!

And here's Pat's brown quilt... Still pretty "bright" for a brown quilt, but it fit the bill. There was much hilarity as these two were shown.

Friday, October 20, 2006

My Retreat Results

So, wanna see what I did at the retreat?

Actually, this picture represents what I've done at the last THREE retreats. I started this Cinco de Mayo quilt in a workshop with Karen K. Stone in July, 2005, and that was all I worked on at the Oct. '05 and April '06 ranch retreats. I arrived at the retreat with 13 blocks, and as I dug in to sew some more, I realized I wasn't having fun with them any more. I just couldn't fathom doing 25 of them. As I sewed my second one, it occurred to me that 4 x 4 blocks would make a decent composition, and as I'd just completed #15, that meant that suddenly there was light at the end of the tunnel! I excitedly assembled the last block (which took the rest of the afternoon...these things go pretty slowly, with all those pieces) and then got them together.

I spent some time auditioning borders, and enjoyed shocking several more traditional quilters in the room with the things I'd try. At one point, I borrowed a pieced zig-zag border (in lime green and black) from another woman who was making it for her own quilt, and I laughed at the gasps of horror in the back of the room! It was clear that those zig-zags weren't right for this, but I kept them pinned up for a bit just for the shock value. I have some ideas of what I'll do, but for this week was content to get the blocks assembled.

Meanwhile, at the next table I watched Pat assemble a gorgeous Bento Box quilt. Pat has a wonderful sense of color, and I was envious of her soft, subtle palette in this one.

So, I pulled out the packet of fat quarters I'd just bought at Pacific Interntional Quilt Festival, and whipped up one of my own.

I tell you, after those Cinco de Mayo blocks, all these straight lines made for very relaxing and easy sewing.

These fabrics are from Jennifer Sampou's Color Beat collection. I just love the geometric shapes in them. This isn't exactly soft and subtle (no matter how often I aim in that direction, I just don't go there) but I like the unusual colors.

Oh, and see that black and white border fabric? The one that sort of looks like random sticks? It's a batik that I bought SOMEWHERE along the way and I used every bit of it for this border. I'd love to find more, but my computer searching didn't turn anything like it up. If you know what this is or where I can find more, please let me know!

I also started another quilt with those ever-popular Kyle's Marketplace fruit and vegetable fabrics, but no photos yet.

It just occurred to me...I didn't actually FINISH anything, but I guess I made the UFO's into bigger pieces. I think I have some serious quilting ahead.

Blog Ring Newsflash!

We have NOOBLES on the blog ring! Check them out and make them welcome! You can get to the newest blogs fastest by hitting "previous" on my ring code box (and hitting "previous" from there to back through the ring, newest to oldest).

Thursday, October 19, 2006

October at the Ranch

I've just returned from my semi-annual quilt retreat at the Bishop's Ranch. I managed to unload the car (which was full of fabric and sewing machine and lights and notions and various other necessary supplies) and lug it all upstairs, but there is quite a pile of stuff yet to be put away. As Scarlet would say, I'll worry about that tomorrow.

I've talked about this great retreat before here. The Bishop's Ranch is a gorgeous retreat center right here in Healdsburg, just 15 minutes from my house. It's close, but I feel like I'm in another world when I'm up there. Here's a shot of the main ranch house from one of the many lovely walking paths. It looks so serene, doesn't it?

You'd never suspect that inside that sedate and dignified building is a roomful of women and their fleet of sewing machines, all hard at work.

In the October retreat, we actually disperse to three different buildings on the premises. I spent my days in St. John's House with nine other hard-at-work quilters. Here's my good friend Pat, cutting out fabric for a Halloween project. (Note the sophisticated cross-hand rotary cutting position. This is for experienced rotary users only!)

On my right side sat my friend Ann. She was working on Tracey Brookshier's Shoji pattern in the most gorgeous japanese fabrics. Ann's a very attractive woman, but I'pm forced to post this not-entirely-flattering picture of her (sorry, Ann!) because it's the only one I got of her at the retreat. And besides, how many of us sew with a similar intense expression on our faces?

We had several first-time retreat attendees in our room, which was fun. Here's Justine, hard at work making signature blocks out of her vast assortment of 1930's fabrics. Justine was ecstatic at getting to fondle her fabrics after having them in storage for months while she and her family moved house.

Here's Cris, who sat calmly working on a hand-applique project for much of the time. That woman has patience!

I didn't manage to get pictures of Joanie and another Pat...I think it was because they were in such a whirlwind of quilting activity the whole time. They stayed up late (1, 2, or 3 am) every night and had stacks of things finished. I also didn't get a shot of my dear friend Rita, who tends to vanish into thin air when cameras appear.

I just love the visual and audio chaos of these quilting retreats. So many women, so much gorgeous fabric, so many interesting projects in the works....not to mention so much electrical equipment that it's a wonder we don't blow fuses on a regular basis. Here are Eleanor and Carolyn having a chat amidst it all.

Speaking of clutter, I've got fabric to put away. More pictures tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Junk Drawer #1

I'm adapting Deb R's all-too-appropriate description of my mind these days to post this collection of random snippits of information:

1. The Bathroom Wall

You know those projects that seem so easy and then get way out of hand? The towel rack in the master bathroom was loose so I decided to replace it with some stunning and elegant hooks. This meant removing the rack hooks and patching the dry wall...which meant applying the wall stucco texture stuff to match the rest of the wall. Hah! Harder than you'd think, and since it's the wall you face walking in, it's pretty noticeable. It's taken me all week and various light applications of texturey stuff to get it right. I only started this a week ago and only tonight am I painting over those patch areas. Stay tuned for installation of new hooks tomorrow!

2. The good news and minor bad news

I am very happily driving my new MDX. It's wonderful, and I love blaring the stereo to take advantage of the great sound system. It went back to the dealer for 24 hours for installation of a roof rack (got to tie the Christmas tree somewhere) and an Acura approved Ipod Music link, and I excitedly rushed out to the car yesterday when it came home to plug in the Ipod and try it out. But this music link system is -- well, HORRIBLE. The sound quality is wonderful, which is nice, but you cannot access any sort of selection system on the Ipod so you either have to be happy with random songs or driven crazy trying to find music you KNOW is on there but can't get to through the system's very limited interface. Who would have figured this accessory would be so LAME? I've discovered online that pretty much everyone who's tried this feels the same way. Darn, wish I'd read that BEFORE we added this option. I've already contacted Acura about getting it uninstalled and getting a refund. (I swear, this vandalism episode has put me in a major "No More Ms. Nice Guy" sort of mood.) But there is hope. There are apparently various after-market systems that you can have installed to run the ipod through the stereo system but still use the Ipod's wonderful music selection interface. So that's where I'll go.

3. PIQF, here I come!

I'm leaving tomorrow afternoon to drive down to the bay area, where I'll stay with my parents in the evenings and attend the Pacific International Quilt Festival on Friday and Saturday. I'm really looking forward to it. (ooh, gotta remember to bring VERY comfy walking shoes...)

4. And wait...there's more fun ahead!

I get back from PIQF on Sunday morning, then pack up my stuff and head out to my semi-annual quilt retreat at the Bishop's Ranch late sunday afternoon. It's right here in my own town so I don't sleep over ... I come home to my own comfy bed and husband and daughter and can send everyone off to school in the morning with home-packed lunches and warm hugs, then I rush back and have more quilting fun. I'm still plugging away on my wild Cinco de Mayo quilt blocks, which seem to be what I do at this retreat since they're complicated and better to work on when I have big chunks of sewing time.

5. I love you, Aaron Sorkin!

I have been so happy to watch Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip every Monday night. Thank goodness that Aaron Sorkin is writing smart, snappy dialog and engrossing stories for tv again! And aren't Matthew Perry and Brad Whitford perfect together?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Still Crazy After All These Years

You all remember Simon and Garfunkel, right?

Strangely enough, they're now middle-aged men.

Roger and I got to see them in concert a few years ago for their amazing "Old Friends" reunion concert tour. They sounded great and if they looked --ahem-- a bit older, well, so did we all.

Last night, Roger and I saw Paul Simon in his new "Surprise" tour. Paul Simon is up there in Roger's top 3 all-time favorite musical artists and it was a huge deal for Roger to get to see him performing live and solo. I like him a lot, too, but it was a special thrill for Roger.

Anyway, we headed off to Berkeley. We had dinner at a lovely restaurant at the Berkeley Marina, "Skates on the Bay," so we could eat delicious food while gazing across the bay at the San Francisco skyline and the end of the Golden Gate Bridge. (I had a wonderful piece of prime rib, mashed pototoes, perfectly accompanied by a glass of Penfold's Shiraz...Roger had a pepper-crusted salmon dish, and we shared a great salad with field greens, pear slices, pecans, blue cheese, and maple vinaigrette.)

Then, off to the Greek Theatre on the UC Berkeley campus. Having been there just a year ago for another middle-aged-people-nostalgia concert, we remembered that a) it's outdoors so b) we'd need to dress warmly and c) we'd be sitting on concrete benches so d) we'd need to bring cushions. We were happy to have our various items of padding, and were quite comfy.

So, there he was, with his ever-present baseball cap. Paul Simon isn't a warm guy (at least publicly) and he doesn't talk much (if at all) during concerts. He barely smiles. Still, he sounds great, and we were reminded of why this guy is a music legend.

Just think of the music he's made. He's written so many songs that capture the feeling of the 60's: Sound of Silence, Bridge over Troubled Water, The Boxer, Mrs. Robinson. When he went solo, he came out with Kodachrome, 50 Ways to Leave your Lover, and Still Crazy after all these Years. He virtually changed the landscape of pop music by incorporating music from other cultures into his, with the strong African rhythms and chants of Graceland and the Braxilian and Cajun influences in his Rythm of the Saints.

Pretty darned impressive.

So, last night was wonderful. He sang a bunch of old favorites. I was especially happy to hear "Mrs. Robinson" and "Still Crazy" and a few favorites from the Graceland album. He did some of his newer songs, too, which were lovely. As an encore, he sang Bridge over Troubled Water and a newer song called "Wartime Prayers" that was simple and touching.

Roger and I had a good laugh, gazing around at all the "older folks" in the audience. Clearly, they were far older than we are!

We were also amused watching Simon's movements. Some years ago (pre-Caroline) we saw Art Garfunkel performing solo in Boston. He's a wonderful singer, but he stands somewhat awkardly when he sings, barely swaying. When we saw Simon and Garfunkel together in 2003, Garfunkel seemed more relaxed and actually almost danced...well, he bounced and tapped and swayed with more vigor, anyway. Simon was busy with his guitar so that was plenty of movement.

Well, last night we saw Simon doing his funny dance version. He'd bend his legs into strange positions (say, standing with his legs bent and apart as if he was getting ready to do a karate punch) and move his arms in weird, wavy ways. His fingers fluttered strangely, too... like he was playing an invisible piano or fingering an invisible guitar? It was odd. Maybe Garfunkel's choice to just stand there and tap his foot and sway was a better choice.

Anyway, I think I"ll be listening to Paul Simon this week. He's produced quite a body of wonderful music. Hmmm, I think I'll go add a bunch to my Ipod...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Feeling ruffly

Today is the first grey, rainy day of Northern California's fall season, and after I waved Caroline and Roger off to school, I decided to pour myself an extra cup of coffee and treat myself to an episode of Monarch of the Glen. (Thanks to Netflix, I can indulge my enjoyment of BBC television series I didn't see when they aired here by starting with Episode 1 and working my way through. I'm still in the first season of Monarch of the Glen but I adore it.)

And because it was so cozy, with the rain pattering outside and Gemma snoring at my feet, I pulled out my knitting basket and resumed work on a project I started last spring. It's a simple scarf, just rows of stockinette stitch, with a diagonal ruffle at one end.

I don't know what it is about knitted ruffles that appeal to me. I'm not a ruffly sort of person, otherwise, but knitted ruffles are so soft and unexpected that I'm entranced by them.

And apparently I'm not the only one. There's a lot of great ruffly knitted items to be found on the internet.

Look at this beautiful edge! Wouldn't this be great on any sweater? Here's how to do it.

I'm quite enamored of this ruffly spiral scarf, too, and will have to try it one of these days, too.

I saw this "tuxedo pillow" shown on Knitty Gritty (a DIY network show) and am thinking this could look good (in brown and turquoise) on the new brown suedey-looking couch we've ordered. Plus, it just looks fun and easy to knit (and no worries about fitting problems)!

And if you want to keep knitting ruffles? Well, there's this wrap:

And this very ruffly scarf:

And who could resist this hat? I don't know anyone (kids included) who'd wear this right now, but it's so dang cute! Maybe it'd be worth knitting for the fun of it, and then I'm ready to go if a baby girl needs a present?

But that's not all. I found some patterns for bags with ruffled edges here and here.

Of course, now I have to get back to business and get some laundry in and make a bunch of phone calls and then do some actual work.

But you all? Let the ruffling begin.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Log Cabin Knitting

About a week ago, this book showed up in the library with my name on it. I'd apparently put a request in for it some months ago, but I couldn't remember why. I took it home, and only recently got a chance to sit down and look through it.

I had a great time reading these goofy women's take on knitting and seeing their terrific fun projects. And then I found a page that made me say "Ah ha! So THIS is why I wanted to see this book!"

There's a whole section on Log Cabin Knitting. They show how to knit log cabin squares the way you piece them, starting in the center and adding strip by strip around each side. You can make squares and join them, or just keep going and going for one large log cabin throw.

What a great idea, huh? And another use for all those yarn left overs, too.