Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy New Year

I sewed on Joyeux Noel today. Several of the participants have already finished their quilts in the Winter Class - I'm a slow poke. There's still plenty of wintertime left to join in and make a quilt with us.

Joyce came up with fun ways to make snow covered trees. Look at her tutorials here and here.

In addition to sewing, I made a batch of Jewel Brooch Cookies - a sugar cookie with raspberry jam centers. My husband snagged a handful and now I've just finished off the last of them. A whole batch of cookies gone in a day. baaaaad girl. Might just have to blame it on the cats.

My pretty Lily cat. Don't her eyes match that green fabric?

In case I don't get a posting in tomorrow (I have to fight my husband for computer time lately)


Friday, December 28, 2007

This and That

I'm still quilting away at Orphan Train. Hand quilting over all the seams on the log cabin blocks is definitely a pain in the patootie, but I do love how it's looking.

Kitties are doing what kitties do: lots of sleeping. Pokey and Habibi:

My sweetie and I went to the Louvre on 26th December. What a mistake. It was incredibly crowded - as bad as any day in the summertime, possibly worse. It was even crowded over in the Oriental Antiquities area, which is usually pretty quiet except for Egypt.

Here are some pics from a previous visit to Levantine antiquities. From the 9th century B.C. in what is now Syria:

A small sphinx carved from hippo ivory:

Some hippy babes:

Sweetie and I watched Ratatouille about the rat in Paris who loves to cook. I wanted to love it. Paris looks beautiful (and doggy-doo free) and I LOVED the cooking scenes in the kitchen, but the story petered out at the end. The Incredibles was superior. Anyway, I give it 4 out of 5 stars - definitely fun to watch.

We also watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which is always a hoot. I still have huge chunks of the dialogue memorized from repeated viewings while in high school.

The weather is horrible and overcast. I'm using a light visor to fight against my SAD tendencies, but don't think it's really working. When the sun is out, I'm happy and energetic and when it's not all I want to do is sleep on the couch. It's like the sun is my on/off switch. sigh.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

We've had some very lazy days here at our place. Very low key. Went out for lunch a couple of times (hey, that reminds me I have some leftover Indian Butter Chicken and Pilau Rice to eat - mmm) and checked to see if any last minute gifts had arrived in the mail (they hadn't, so my sweetie got an IOU for the new Harry Potter movie).

I was amazed at how empty the Parisian streets were on the 24th of December. Everywhere I've lived in the states the streets and grocery stores would be jam packed with frantic people on that day. Not here. It was lovely and rather deserted on most streets and we even had sunshine. The grocery store was less busy than usual even. How about that.

One of my christmas presents was my husband agreed to play Upwords with me. Woohoo! I love that game, but he doesn't think it's any fun to just play with two of us. I've just discovered that there is a computer version of Upwords, so I know what I'm doing with my gift certificate!

Last night we did our traditional cold cuts and special treats buffet. My sweetie stuffed himself with smoked salmon on blini so I had to help out and eat some of the foi gras on toast. Not as bad as I was afraid it would be - in fact I ate several. Mostly I ate Boursin and smoked turkey on my demi-baguette. mmm. We're definitely not vegetarians. We watched the Grinch - the classic animated version, definitely not the Jim Carrey nightmare - and all the Wallace and Gromit shorts and movie. Check out the W & G official site where you can watch a bunch of shorts.

Ripped open presents this morning and spent much of the day playing with my new camera and looking at my new books while my husband used the cue-cat scanner to load his book inventory into his new LibraryThing account. Now he's watching The Sound of Music. Not the movie for me.

Pokey enjoyed the quilted gift bags for sleeping, but both she and Lily preferred the ribbons and wrapping paper for playing.

Hope you all have had a wonderful day, whether you're celebrating the holiday or not. Take care.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Iranian Items at the Louvre

My sweetie and I spent time at the Louvre yesterday - completely exhausting and we didn't even spend the whole day touristing like folks on holiday do. These are some items from an area in present-day Iran.

A pot with flying geese:

Molded brick wall facings from a temple dedicated to Inshushinak, the god of the city of Susa and protector of the Shutrukides dynasty. Or something like that. 12th century B.C.

This is a dragon head architectural feature. Looks almost Central American.

Cuneiform inscriptions from the temple:

A stele.
Close-ups. I'd love to free-piece one of these, but I keep thinking of horror movies and how you do something stupid like that and free the god (or mummy) to wreak havoc upon the earth.

This is for you, Jen: a hedgehog pull-toy from the temple of Inshushinak.

Baked clay figurines from Susa of nude women. And I think my hips are wide.

Today my plan is to make the Christmas Biscotti recipe I got from Siobhan. Both my husband and I love these. Only I was stupid and didn't read the recipe clearly enough - I don't have baking powder. So I have to hunt for that today - could be scary, I expect the grocery stores to be packed.
You know how I was talking about suzanis the other day in my post about the cool store La Bonne Renommée? [By the way, here's a link to the store.] Well, Maryam has a pic of her suzanis (lucky, lucky girl) in her blog My Marrakech, which you should check out anyway if you like ethnic textiles and decorating because she has fabulous taste. Maryam's suzanis are featured here at Trendbites as well. I love the bright colors in her suzanis - pink and purple, woohoo.
And on the same topic, here's a blog post on suzanis from House Beautiful. The featured works are much more elaborate and quilty looking - check them out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hawks and a Plaid

I've been quilting and quilting on Orphan Train. I started in the lower right corner with my fans and I'm not only quilting to the right, but going upwards as well. I just need two completed fan sets to serve as a base for the one above them.

Hovering Hawks block is finished.

As are some of the flying geese above them. Ooh, and the year '05. I've definitely been working on this quilt a long time. My whole quilting life if you count when I started the blocks.

I can't even remember what I was planning on doing with the geese, but I made a few of them and then never put them together until I made this quilt. I didn't worry about points on these guys. If you look closely you'll notice some of them have been sliced off. Doesn't matter one bit, but I know lots of quilters really stress out about something like that.

See that wild fabric on the goose in the middle? That's a Jinny Beyer fabric that I LOVED when I bought it (in the early 1990's?) and never used very much of because I hated to cut into it. And now I hate the rough texture of the fabric and the colors look too washed out. Use the fabric that you love, while you love it. Don't save it for the perfect quilt.

On the same topic, here is a fabric that I loved when I bought and still do to this day. Wish I had loads more of it. I bought this plaid when I went to Quilt Expo Europa in The Hague, Netherlands, back in 1994. I think it's actually Dutch fabric since I bought it from the Irma's Sampler booth. I think. That was a few years ago... Anyway, it's a thick woven fabric, not one of those gauzy plaids you can find sometimes.

Pokey, utterly wiped out:

We've had sunshine here, which is welcome. Just with the temperature wasn't hovering barely above freezing.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Orphan Train Has Left the Station

I mentioned that I started hand quilting on Orphan Train. (Looking back at that post with the completed top I realized it has been sitting around since June waiting for me to get to work. D'oh.)

I basted the quilt last Sunday and didn't have nearly enough pins to do a proper job of it. I ended up thread basting in this corner. It's about every 3", which is just right for me. It's so much nicer to quilt when I've used thread basting, I just hate how much longer it takes for me to do. For those who are interested, this is Quilter's Dream 100% Cotton Request Batting.

This is the lower right corner. I'm doing freehand fans--no surprise there-- with black quilting thread. I like how the fans unify a work and are just so easy to do. Very low stress. I would definitely be happy with fewer seams to go through, but isn't that always the case.

This Amish looking orphan is from a Hovering Hawks wall hanging I attempted to make in 1989. I was using a book that had you start by sewing bias cut strips together and make them into a checkerboard before slicing them apart and resewing to end up with four Hovering Hawk blocks. Can you imagine me working like that? I actually did pretty well, all things considered.

This was the first and only time I've ever used starch to stiffen the fabric. I hated it. I ended up with shiny places on the fabric and I don't know if that's because of the starch, but it's certainly what I'm blaming.

After I got the wallhanging together my friend noticed that I'd put one of the parts in wrong, so all my hawks weren't hovering properly. I got out the seam ripper and took it apart. And of course never put it back together again. I like to think that I'd just leave it as I'd sewn it if I were making this now, but who knows. I love how these Hawk orphans look in this top, so I'm just as happy to have them here.

Just to clarify the picture - that is one complete Hovering Hawks block, plus an extra couple of triangles from the next block. That's why it's a bit confusing.

One of the things I love about hand quilting is that it really gives you time to look at your fabric choices, color combinations and the blocks themselves. For instance, I love the black and deep blue/purple color combination. I know it's dark and there's not much contrast, but still gorgeous. This black fabric is certainly cheap and too loosely woven - glad I don't use that anymore.

[If you're looking for black fabric, go with Michael Miller's Jet Black Fabric. Absolutely incredible fabric - with a deep rich color. Beats all the other black I've found in recent years by a mile.]

Hand quilting feels like really slow going, but I took these photos on the 12th and just four days later I'm further along.

Lily came out for her photo op on top of the quilt:

And Christmas in the background:

My sweetie and I headed over to Montmartre yesterday for a celebratory lunch at our favorite restaurant. We've been married 15 years this week - pretty amazing. My poor darling has a wisdom tooth coming in which is making his face ache, so that's put a damper on his holiday spirit. Bout time he finally got some wisdom though. heh heh heh.

We've watched a couple more of our Christmas movies. Catch Me If You Can, which isn't particularly Christmasy but key events do take place on that date, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which is most definitely Christmasy. We also watched The Incredibles, which has nothing to do with the holiday season other than the fact I gave my sweetie the DVD for Christmas 2005. Like Catch Me, it has awesome credits and I love the music.

Kimberly asked the other day if I had a stash of fabrics that I've bought in cool places that I've lived. Nope, unfortunately not. Egypt exports its cotton and there's little there in the way of quilters' cotton fabric. Loosely-woven solids are available for the tentmaker applique artists, but that's about it. I'd have had a much better time if I were looking for linen, which I wasn't then but might now. I have other great textiles from that country though.

And buying quilters' cotton in Paris. Ha! I don't think so. With the current exchange rate, that would be about $26 dollars for a meter of fabric (a bit more than a yard). They don't have anything I want to pay that much for and most of it is the same fabric that's already available in the states. I have however bought silk, which I have yet to wash. Another thing on my to-do list.

Have you all seen Quilt Diva Julie's vowel quilt And Sometimes Y? I'd like to buy a vowel please. Hee hee hee. She made the quilt in my first online class. Here is her post about the quilt (and a hint to go and check out the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative project) and you can see a lot more pics over here.

We're having fun in the Winter Class. Wonderful projects have already been completed and there's still plenty of time to join up. Winter hasn't even begun yet - you've got time (next year). Go check out the blog here.

Other folks have been making quilted gift bags. Check out Kimberly's, Lynda's, and KOQT Kristin's here and here (where the bag is the gift, at least in part).

Finally, art quilter Susie Monday asked me to let you know about the workshop she's teaching in Tuscany, Italy, in March 2008. A quilt retreat in Italy, doesn't that sound heavenly?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A la Bonne Renommée

I went for a walk in the Marais the other day and took pictures of one of my favorite shops, A la Bonne Renommée, which I can highly recommend for anyone who loves ethnic textiles. It's a fabulous store, very inspirational. I'm going to include it on my list of places for quilters to visit in Paris.

Just look at the window display. Ethnic jewelry, beautiful ikat, and a suzani. Swoon.
Beautiful pillow made of ikat fabric (at least I assume that's ikat, somebody correct me if I'm wrong).
And a close-up of the little silver pitcher with fabric tassels. So simple, yet so lovely. Gives me decorating ideas.
I love these embroidered slippers.

A lovely jacket. I did a terrible job of getting the labels photographed, so I'm afraid I don't know the details of this piece.
A shisha'd jacket from Gujarat in northern India.

I so wanted to take good pictures of the suzanis, but always caught lots of window reflection. Suzanis are embroidered wallhangings made in Central Asia in countried such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. From this picture you might believe this is an appliqued quilt.
Look at the hat - the christmas lights at the top are a festive touch. The wooden object in the lower right appears to be a pin cushion - at the very least it has pins sticking out of it, and more of those wonderful fabric tassels.
Another suzani.
A close-up. I'll talk more about the book later in the post.
I went into the store for the first time and worked up the nerve to ask permission to take photos. They agreed - woohoo.
These pointy hats are such a hoot.
I love the embroidery on the scarf.
More suzanis and an embroidered pillow:

Suzanis and patchwork pillows:

This outfit is so cute. I'm sure I couldn't carry it off (aka wear it successfully) but I do adore it. This just reinforces my desire to buy a sewing dressform so that I can display clothing as art.

My favorite hat and look at that beautiful bag, another embroidered piece from Gujarat:

The store info for anyone coming to visit:

I came home and immediately checked amazon for information on this book Textiles & vêtements du monde : Carnet de voyage d'une styliste by Catherine Legrand. The link will take you to the French site, because the book is newly published in this France, but doesn't appear to have been translated into English. Hope it will be someday.

If you read French and are interested in ethnic textiles and clothes, I suggest you check out the book - I know the pictures are wonderful. The author is a "styliste" at this store. My french dictionary translates that as a coutour designer.
On a completely different subject, my husband took the day off yesterday and we visited the Louvre. Wow, there are so many fewer visitors on a weekday in the winter - we're going to have to do this more often. We then went to Angelina's to have their famous old fashioned French hot chocolate. More like a liquified candy bar - very thick and rich. Delicious but almost too much. Okay, that also might be due to the fact that I ordered a pain au chocolate with it...
I got a great email from someone who told me that I needed to try Strasbourg for Christmas decorations and ornaments. I'm ashamed to say that I can't find that email now in my account, not in any of the folders including the deleted folder. aiyeee. Can you write to me again? Would love to correspond.