Friday, June 29, 2007

Pink Cat Finished

I'm done with this. In more ways than one I think. What I learned: no wool on a work-intensive project (my head's all snuffly and my lips are tingly) and beaded pods like this overpower a simple fabric shape (if the cat were all beady as well it might balance). I'm not enjoying this little piece enough to keep playing with it.

Someone asked if I'm allergic to the wool or the lanolin. I assume the wool since my mom knit me some beautiful wool sweaters I can't wear anymore and I've never had a problem with any kind of lanolin-containing skin creme.

Here's a much better picture of a cat, the beautiful Lily:

The weather here has been dismal. More like March than June. Pokey has been very cuddly which is marvelous for reading, but not so good for quilting. A good excuse to crack some books. I finished The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson, an urban fantasy a la Kim Harrison and Laurel Hamilton (the early books, before it was all sex all the time). The premise is too goofy, but I found the writing and characters compelling. I'd give it 3.5 out of 5.

The book that I am completely in love with is A Perfect Red by Amy Butler Greenfield, which her website describes as:

The story of the quest for the perfect color red is an adventure into world history. For those who knew its secrets, red was a source of wealth and power from ancient times onward — especially cochineal, the source of nature's most potent red dye.

There's so much information on textiles and dyeing, and pigments for painting, the symbolism of the color red in life, art, religion and folklore. Truly loving the book, which doesn't feel like I'm reading non-fiction. I keep finding quotes for you all, but there are too many to share. How about this one though:

"Deep, rich reds were also popular among peasants and small farmers, but both legal strictures and the prohibitive cost ensured that they rarely had a chance to wear them. At best, peasants could afford only the cheaper orange-red and russet dyes. Even these, if too bright, could bring them into conflict with sumptuary laws and local customs. Such laws were a sore point, at least in parts of Germany, where during a revolt in 1525 peasants demanded, among many other things, the right to wear red."

Can't even imagine living in a time (or place) when someone else could dictate what colors I'm allowed to wear. Anyway, get the book and try it yourselves. I think my fellow lovers of fabric will love it too.

I read this review (by a chef living in Paris, not a film critic) and this article about the new movie Ratatoiulle and now I'm incredibly excited to see it. The basic premise is this: a rat who wants to be a chef in a 3-star restaurant in Paris. It's by Pixar. Directed by the guy who made the fabulous movie The Incredibles. Apparently the Pixarians worked hard to get the chef/food/restaurant/Paris bits accurate. Wheeee!

Unfortunately the movie doesn't get here for awhile. I did start searching the internet though and I know have a link for finding the English Language movies that are playing in Paris. Woohoo. And I've found out some info about theaters as well. Now we're ready for Harry Potter as well as the rat.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cafe The Chocolate

For several days (I hope it wasn't weeks) after moving here, I thought this sign meant "Cafe: The Chocolat" i.e. a cafe named "The Chocolate."

Then I realized that THE meant "tea" - it just didn't have the accent mark above the E. So okay, it was a cafe that served tea and chocolate. Now a more observant person would have noticed there were no tables or seating, therefore it wasn't a cafe. Not me. Luckily my husband told me that "cafe" means coffee. Which I should have known anyway since I do drink Cafe Au Lait upon occasion. (Which always sounds like a spanish bullfighting drink to me: Cafe Ole!) So the real answer is "Richard's Coffees: coffee, tea, and chocolate." Pretty pathetic when even the easy stuff is hard.

I have been working on my pink cat. A very wonderful person commented on the positive aspects of my design in the last post. Thank you. I hope I didn't ruin it when I went to put my drawing into action. I slanted the cat's head so that the chin wouldn't be on the body. I wanted it to show up more. And when it came time to putting the tree in, I just didn't have enough room to put in four of the dandelions, only three. Believe me, I tried.

I used an Egyptian floss I have to stem stitch the tree. When I was at the little shop, the salesperson kept telling me it was silk. I was smart enough to know it couldn't really be silk, not at that price (a big bunch for less than a dollar). I think it's rayon - it has that glow. I also think it's what they use to embroider shirts, so it IS colorfast - I've got the washed shirts to prove it. Turns out the Egyptians use the word "silk" for cord. Or something like that. You can read how the silk cord is made in this great post by Jenny Bowker.

The cat has a face now. I stem stitched with regular quilting thread. I tried putting in pupils, but didn't like them. Do like the dandelions. They are large opaque beads held on with seed beads. One more to go. Then I'll have to decide if I want to add in more quilting. The initial stitches I did don't do anything for me - I won't be doing that particular method again.

The linen wasn't easy to applique - stiff and it frayed easily. Is that because I haven't washed it? (How unlike me, I know. It's just the cotton that I've pre-washed) I used running stitch applique which I suppose made it more difficult than it needed to be, but I like how it looks.

This little piece will be done soon. Then I'll go on to another little study. I still want to try appliqueing the silk (also unwashed) and playing with velvet.

And just to cover all the bases with this post, a kitty picture. Beautiful Lily.

My friend Will brought a quilting friend over to visit today. Unfortunately Joelle doesn't live in Paris, because she is a treat. She loves Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran, but just hasn't made that leap to liberation yet.

My sweet husband got an I-Pod for me. Partly because he loves me and partly to keep me entertained so I won't be bored and whine. Now I can sit on the sofa and quilt. I have one day's worth of podcats, so I'd better get listening.

Monday, June 25, 2007


I've been drawing some quilt/embroidery idea sketches inspired by Jivya Soma Mashe. Each time I do one I realize I need to make it simpler. Critters and a dandelion tree. I know this doesn't show up very well. I draw in pencil and then go back over in pen. Sometimes. Too many little dots to redo this one.

How about a 6" square? And rather than a critter, make it a cat. And a simpler dandelion tree.

I've started my little piece. Black wool suiting. I made a traditional sandwich with a thin batting. I'm intruigued by Jude (see yesterday's post) using gauze for her "batting" but I don't have any lying around. Decided it's better to get started rather than make excuses about why I can't.
I've done dark blue quilting dots throughout the base. I'll applique my pieces on top of that. The cat is going to be made out of pink linen fabric and I'll embroider the legs and tail so that I can make them thinner. The tree will be couched yarn and the pods will either be French Knots or beads. Not sure since I'm not there yet.
I'm allergic to wool, but I'm determined to use it anyway. I'm going to (try to) be smart and only work on this for short amounts of time.
I sliced into one of my Egyptian scarves this morning - my least favorite. Tried washing it in hot water with mild detergent. woah, teal color all over the sink and me. Tried cold water and the same thing happened again. The blue is just now coming off my fingers. The washed ravelly bits lost an amazing amount of color and sheen. What remains is kind of interesting, but I wouldn't trust it in the least. So at least for now the scarves will be pretty to look at, but not for use. I can't believe I believed the person (a fellow American -not the merchant) who told me the color wouldn't bleed. I must be an idiot. Cheap scarves for tourists - practically made to disintegrate.
French tv showed the movie Quigley Down Under. Dubbed. Tom Selleck with the wrong, rather high-pitched voice? ugh. A Western movie in French? All wrong on so many levels. And on another channel, Pitch Black without Vin Diesel's rumbly voice? Aiyee.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Spirit Cloth

I have gotten totally swept up in the blog Spirit Cloth by Jude Hill. It's not your typical blog, but rather an ongoing poem about fabric, thread and stitching. I've been reading bits and pieces for awhile, but I've gone back to the beginning and I'm working my way to now. The main focus of the blog is Jude's work on the quilt Listen to the River but there are all sorts of diversions and playing with techniques along the way. She mixes velvets and linens, quilting and embroidery stitches. Amazing, truly amazing.

Some of Jude's play pieces remind me of Janet Bolton. (Holy cow, glad I bought her book years ago, it's now way expensive.) I love the look of different fabrics together, although I've never gone so far myself.

Jude inspired me to get out all the non-cotton play fabric that I've been buying for years just to have. No project in mind, just like/love them. I used the excuse of cleaning up my sewing room (still not organized - but better) to play.

My silks and some linens I bought in 2003.

Some odd sparkly fabric and a few scraps of something like damask.

These are my prized scarves from Egypt. Plus a curious Lily cat. I have been told these are made of flax and that they wash up beautifully and hold their shimmer, but I havent tried it out yet. A woman I knew in Cairo stabilized these and used them for patchwork. I was really taken with the look of it, thus this collection.

A close-up of my favorite. These are loosely woven and I do worry what will happen when I cut into them.

I also have some black wool suiting that I bought for making Halloween cats and gorgeous velvets that didn't photograph well. I do have quite a bit to play with when I gather them all together.

But I need stabilizer for the Egyptian scarves and the silk. Anyone had any experience with Sulky Cut Away Soft n Sheer? That is what I'm thinking of using. Maybe silk doesn't have to be fused, I could just Fray Check the edges? All I know is that I have silk threads all over the place. I would hate to see the silks all unravel.

And yes, I'm playing with fabric even though I have another (okay, many other) projects going on. In fact, here's my long languishing One Patch sitting by the sewing machine waiting for its binding. I'm hoping Pokey doesn't get stuck by a pin. I can tell my babies aren't kittens any longer. Used to be I couldn't leave something like this out or else Lily would be running off with the pins - a favorite game of hers.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

More Sphinx

The problem with blogs (for me, sometimes) is that I write them so quickly and then post, without realizing how words and images might be interpreted. Sorry.

No, the Louvre doesn't cost $51 to enter. Sorry to scare you. We have a yearlong family pass and I have made two visits, therefore the high cost per visit.

Here is another photo of the chair in yesterday's post. No, this isn't a griffin. Griffins do have the body of a lion but they have the head and wings of an eagle. This is a classical Greek Sphinx with the body of a lion, the head of a woman, and wings. I found one reference that said this is also called a Gynosphinx but that sounds vaguely anatomical and off-putting.

Sorry Gypsy Quilter, I didn't get any more information on this than I already provided. I promise in future to do a better job. I could have at least gotten the year - that's the same in French as it is in English.

There was a companion chair across the hall, also made for/in the Vatican. Body of a lion, head of a lion, but a ram's horns and wings. I'm stumped on what mythological entity this might be.

Yesterday I got caught in quite the downpour without my umbrella. I hauled it around today and of course didn't need it. I learned my lesson tho and tote it I shall.

I'm lucky it didn't rain since I took a chance and sat outside at that restaurant I love so much (the one where I had the raclette) for lunch. I had the most marvelous salad of mixed greens, tuna (the kind that has been packed in olive oil and is so delicious), tomatoes both sun-dried and fresh, and roasted bell peppers and aubergine (that's eggplant for you yanks - I'm blending in) and black olives. The odd touch was melon (cantelope) but it worked. Heavenly. {agh, I'm adding this the next day--always have to forget something: there was also feta cheese. Very unusual mix of ingredients but it really did work.}

The waitress was sweet and after I asked if I could have my dessert "a emporter" (to go, which I had to attempt to pronounce a couple of times) she switched to English to converse with me. I had the Tarte with Clementines with my tea this afternoon.

I have to admit that a long-held stereotype has been completely shattered. The French people that I have dealt with on an individual level: the bakers, waiters, the local five-and-dime owner, have all been incredibly sweet and helpful. I have not had one French person be rude to me.

I was told, it turns out correctly, that the first thing you must always do is greet a Frenchman or Frenchwoman. Say "bon jour" and smile. Try to communicate with whatever pathetic bit of french you have (even if it's only "parlay voo onglaze") and do your best. Works wonders.

The only unhelpful Frenchwoman we've encountered was the one at France Telecomm. Several ticks against her: she worked for customer service, a big company, a big company that is essentially owned by the government.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Greek Sphinx

I forced myself out of the apartment this morning. It is far too easy for me to be a hermit. I visited the Louvre, but probably shouldn't have. The poor labeling and signposting just irritated the heck out of me today. Cost for my trips to the Louvre: $51 each.

I will spare you my lousy photos of the Venus de Milo and Winged Victory of Samothrace. I already deleted them.

According to the Wikipedia, a "Sphinx is an image of a recumbent lion with the head of a ram, of a falcon or of a person, invented by the Egyptians of the Old Kingdom, but a cultural import in Greek mythology." The classical Greek sphinx has wings and the head of a woman. Why am I telling you this? Because I was geeky enough to come home and start looking through online bestiaries trying to name these chicks:

This is a chair from the Vatican that is on display at the Louvre.

And a picture of my Mad Eye Lily. That's her nickname (one of them) because she often sleeps with one eye partially open. creepy. And no, she wasn't sleeping when I took this photo.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Paris Souvenirs

The poster for "Boulevard de la Mort" the new film by Quentin Tarantino. I guess they decided not to show the whole Grindhouse experience here.

Boulevard of Death. Rather appropriate for Paris. I can't believe some of the driving and street crossing I've seen here. Oh, the little person is red - that must mean it's time to cross the street with small child in tow. Reminds me of being back in Cairo except that motorcyclists here wear helmets as they drive down the sidewalk and they're riding alone - no families. Actually that's not fair. I never saw a motorcycle on an Egyptian sidewalk, which are generally knee high probably for that very reason.

Who would have thought that right across from the Louvre are treasure troves of kitsch and tacky souvenirs. Paris panties anyone?

All the stalls set up (and usually jammed with tourists) remind me of the souq in Cairo.

How about an Eiffel Tower keychain?

These are photos from my 3 June trip.

Today I went to my new doctor. Hurrah, she turned out to be English. I didn't know that ahead of time. That's one big step taken. I think the next is the post office and then getting a haircut.

I saw a strange sight today. A swarm of teenage girls armed with cameras swooning in front of a cafe, or maybe it was a hotel. Not quite sure what was going on, but looked like a boy band was in town.

In excellent news, my little girl cats were sweet together last night - lots of grooming and then they cuddled up together. That's a huge relief.

Got the third disc of Freaks and Geeks in the mail today. Woohoo, excellent television to quilt to.

I've got a couple of links for you to check out. First, Margaret has antique quilts made by author Lucy Boston shown in a post here. I think the Moon and Stars quilt is incredible. Most of the quilts are on display at Boston's house in Cambridgeshire, England - looks like another spot that needs to be added to the travelling quilter's itinerary.

Katie at Mismatched Quilter has been making some awesome free-pieced letters. She added her own touches - rounding off corners and starting her Os with pentagons. She's also playing with orphans. Lots of fun, go take a look.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Another Stab at It

Here's a darker border. I tried several and this was my favorite.

I like this quilt better in the picture than I do in person. I probably will set it aside for awhile. Yes, that is a deliberate choice with the incomplete purple inner border since my rows were different lengths. I think it adds character.

This is what I am working on. Think I'm calling it Stars on Blue. I can never remember what I've named quilts, so it could change several times. I started out with regular quilting thread, but then decided to use white perle cotton size 8 instead.

It's always difficult transitioning from the small stitches that I used on my last project to the larger that I use with this thicker thread. The stitches are loosening up as I go along.

I've discovered the joy of free podcasts on iTunes. Woohoo. This is the first time I've had access to a fast enough internet connection. I tried a quilting podcast, but was bored. Instead I'm loading up on NPR and some geeky things (Buffy episode discussions...). I'm listening at the computer and while it's not ideal, I am quilting.

I have a nasty headache, but at least it drove me to make an appointment with the doctor. I'm going tomorrow, so fingers crossed I get fixed up. Hopefully before I take the power drill to my head in an attempt to relieve the pressure.

I ordered some Feliway today to see if that helps the kitties. My thanks to those of you who recommended it and to PetCo for shipping to an APO.

I changed my display name, thanks everybody for letting me know how to do it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wow,What a Difference

Both Kim and Diane (not CA girl in Oz Diane, but another) suggested that I try a printed fabric border. What do you think of this?

I like it. May still play around with other prints in my stash (sorry, no Kaffe Fasset fabric here) to see if I find something I like even better. This isn't the best picture because it was taken with a flash.

I was trying out very subtle tone-on-tones and batiks when auditioning borders. Nothing busy. I wanted to make the center stand out the way it does in an Amish quilt. But that just didn't work like I wanted it to. This is a fabric that I bought a bunch of many years ago (maybe 10) because I loved it. Now it seems way too formal and rigid to me so I don't mind using it here. My fabric tastes have definitely changed over the years.

Pokey in a scrap basket. By the way, that's my sewing machine covered in a batik cloth a friend brought me from Bali. I cover the machine so kitties don't play with the thread and to theoretically protect the machine from dust.

My baby has a scratch on her nose and she's not quite as well-groomed as she should be. She and Lily used to be so sweet together, with the cuddling and grooming, but it just isn't happening here in Paris. I'm still hoping that works itself out.

Kristin (not Kristin L - the other one), I've really enjoyed getting your comments. I'd love to see what you've been working on. I highly encourage you to start a blog so we can interact even better.

Blogging has certainly caught on since I first started my own two years ago. I'm thinking we're at the point of needing longer nicknames for our comments. Like I should be Lazy Gal Tonya R. I'm not sure where I would change that. Anyone know?

For those interested in quilt restoration, Sassenach Kim has posted an excellent tutorial for replacing a patch.

I'm going to whine a tiny bit now. Allergies are killing me and I'm too whimpy to call a doctor. aaagh. Anyone want to come be my personal assistant and take care of details like that? You can live in a cupboard and I'll toss in a baguette every once in a while. Heh heh heh.

Speaking of baguettes, I'm trying to go without for a couple of weeks. I knew I was getting out of control when I ate an entire loaf by myself at one sitting.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Patriotic Quilt Tops

I got two quilt tops pieced today and a third ready for the border. hurray. Of course it helps when your quilts are small and either consist of a center with borders or orphans. Still counts as progress and I'm thrilled to have more projects lined up to quilt on. Not that I've been doing any hand quilting, but that's about to change.

This first quilt has been percolating for quite a while, which is silly considering how simple it is. Lucy recently posted a pic that has been blogged about before, that shows a wall of doll/mini quilts. It is marvelous. Go look, because her little poison green stars are marvelous too. Anyway, there is an American patriotic quilt with a starred blue center and red and white stripes on either side. I LOVE that quilt and it inspired me to make this:

No need to adjust your set, yes the top border is skinnier than the bottom.

I decided that since it's almost July it might just be time to play with my patriotic orphans. Turns out I've never taken a picture of all of them. Whoops. Anyway. I had already cut out the flaglike bit of fabric and it fit well with the word America so I chose to sew them together and then add a border. I like it. Don't love it, but like it. Will look better quilted, but isn't that (almost) always the case.

And this is the project that has been making me pull my hair out. I got out my orphan Indian Orange Peel arcs to show Finn and I was just hit with the urge to destroy them, uh, make them work. I played with different kinds of crumbs, before settling on cutting each arc into a rectangle 2.25" x 4.5" and sewing them into strips. I was thinking about some kind of Amish-inspired bars, but didn't like how they looked, so the rows ended up getting all whomped together. What a nightmare of seams, all sorts of extra fabric. It was the ugliest sewing job I've ever had.

I've tried all sorts of fabric for the border, including some warm brights from the other side of the colorwheel. The only thing that seems to work in my mind is this turqoise. I need to let this top rest for awhile and see if I fall in love with it. I hate to waste the border fabric, because that I do love.

Kinda boring. Maybe that's why I'm having fun with the red, white, and blue. That is one of the punchiest color combinations out there.

In other news, I broke down and baked the other day. Trying not to, since I think that's why I managed to keep the weight off that I lost after the thyroidectomy. Made a shortbread base with chocolate, toffee bits and pecans. Does it count as fattening if you eat it as your entire meal? I had it for dinner and then breakfast. Baaaad girl.

You know how tv obsessed I am. Well I was channel suring up into the high reaches and discovered a number of movie channels. I found a cheesy vampire movie being shown in English with French subtitles. Woohoo. Unfortunately that's not always the case and the movie selection is sometimes to be desired. I sewed to Predator today, which has surprisingly little dialogue. (Whoever would have that two future U.S. governors would appear in a movie that silly?)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Jivya Soma Mashe

Will and I saw the works of Jivya Soma Mashe displayed along with those of Nek Chand at the Max Fourny museum of Naive Art in Montmartre. This is the post I've been promising since then. I was completely captivated by his paintings, seeing applique, quilting and embroidery designs everywhere. You should be able to double click on many of these pics for larger views.

You can read more about the artist at the above link. To see great photos of the exhibition, which is on until 26 August, go here. It's really marvelous to see the paintings and statuary together and if you have the chance to go see them in person, do it.

A whole painting. Three different types of trees, along with critters:

A closer view of the spiders and insects caught in the web:

Another close-up. The leaves looks like hearts:

A detail from another painting. I like this dandelion tree. And the branches of the tree on the right look like peacock feathers. You can also details of village life: cooking dinner, carrying water, mending a roof.

The paintings that had spirals were amazing to look at from across the room. Very eye-catching.

The women in this painting were a bit different from those in the others. They have long wild hair. Looks like planting going on down at the bottom.

A detail from the above painting of fun critters:

Detail from a different painting. "Dandelions" and hearts together.

And another detail of a dandelion-like tree, with a beautiful peacock in the branches:I was fascinated by this painting, which seems very celebratory:

A detail of the spiral, made up of a conga-line of people. The person in the middle appears to be blowing a horn.

Before reading more about the Warli tribe who do not follow Hinduism, I thought that this was Ganesh, the elephant-headed god. Maybe a similar diety?

Another detail of the same painting:

Musicians and the elephant-headed deity (?):

More musicians and a view of the river:

Another tree detail:

Another painting which fascinated me. Loot at the night sky above and the river down below:

A detail of a man (could he be a king with a crown on his head?) holding a scimitar or scythe and riding a peacock, followed by a swarm of insects.

Hmm, okay these giant birds aren't peacocks. Peacocks aren't carnivorous. The babies are getting a bull for dinner.

A novel way to gather fruit:

A night sky from a different painting:

There were no explanations of the paintings, so I enjoyed making up stories for them. Do wish there was better documentation at the exhibit though. I found it fascinating that these tribal paintings used to be the sole province of the women of the Warli tribe and were done on the walls of huts. Not anymore.

I love the mix of the phantastical along with images of daily life.