Friday, August 31, 2007

Isn't This Where We Came In?

When I first posted a pic of Blooming Horrors after I started working on it again this year, I ended up with a Pokey. And here she is again on the completed top (by the way, woohoo!). I was trying to take photos and there she was, squirming around wanting belly rubs.

I kept trying to take photos then realized what an idiot I was. Belly? I'm taking photos instead of loving belly? So I did that for awhile and made myself and baby happy.

I've got the three layers of quilt top, batting and backing all together and what appears? More Pokey.

I did my usual lazy method of layering unironed backing fabric (hey, to be fair, I had ironed it after I washed it way back in the 1980's), leftover batting that just fit, and the unironed quilt top.

Does it freak you out to see that? I once had to wadge a bit more batting in at the edge when I got to it - worked out fine. I used to leave a couple of inches of backing and batting all around the edges just like the books said to, but eventually realized that I never had a problem. My quilts never shrink up and it was all wasted. I guess it's helpful when you're using a hoop or frame to have all that extra to hold your sandwich in place, but it's unneccessary for my method.

I got my sandwich all pin basted and I've started on the quilting. There are a few little pleats on the back, but who cares. I don't. I just quilt through the extra here and there and have never had a problem. The back of the quilt goes against the wall (or bed or body), I don't care what it looks like.

The pic of my Blooming Horrors looks dull without Pokey on top of it. I think you're just going to have to wait until the quilt is completed to see the whole thing. But if you're in the mood to see a fun Halloween bouquet, go check out Knit One Quilt Too Kristin's marvelous work. Plus she's got a great way to make skinny bias stems.

Laura at Pine Ridge Quilter is one of my favorite people. She makes fantastic, personal quilts, loves Halloween, and I know there is a list of movies that we could happily sit together and quilt too. She recently completed a marvelous ode to her dog Bullvye AND freehand fan quilted a little liberated Amish bits-of-leftovers quilt. Hoopless, hurrah! Oh, and another thing we share? A goofy love of aliens. Go way back to her January 2006 archives and check it out.

I recently posted pics from my inspiration notebook and one of them was a wonderful, lively quilt by Beth Reisman. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Jan at Be*Mused had been pondering works by the very same quilter. Go look at them, they are fabulous. I see life and humor (more Elvi peeking out)... I don't have the right words. I've looked on the web and the most recent information I can find for Beth is two quilts in the Quilter's Connection 2003 show in Massachussetts. Does anyone out there know more? Send me an email, please.

I was very productive yesterday and it felt good. Finished a quilt top, walked in the sunshine, and hand quilted. You know, I'm watching that Battlestar Galactica just to have something to watch, but gotta say it's not way high up there on my list of favorites. The Dresden Files surprised me - I quite liked it. It was a good idea to have Bob appear human so that Harry has someone to interact with, not just a skull. Darn it, I just looked and the show has been cancelled. I swear, it must be the kiss of death for me to love a show. Not that I loved this one yet, but it could have happened.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Feeling Frisky

We were amazed when we got the bag of Friskies treats how much the pictured cat looked like a mirror image of our Lily. Now that I see them together, I note the differences. Not that it was easy to get the pic - Lily kept looking all around and Habibi and Pokey both moved in when they heard the tell-tale signs of the treat package.

The class is full, but thank you all so much for you interest and supportive words.

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment. Not only do I have a list of things to do for the class and at home, but I got three Netflix DVDs in the mail. I always try to watch them as fast as possible and send them back so I can get more, but three at once is unfair. We started Zodiac last night which I thought was going to be based on the people investigating the serial killer and instead we're also seeing him in action. Don't want to see stabbings. My husband quit, but I wasn't quite ready to yet. Much more of that and I will - yuck. I also have the first disc of Dresden Files and another in the first season of Battlestar Galactica.

It's been chilly, but sunny, so I've been going out for short walks every day. Hope you're having excellent weather wherever you are.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Holy Cow

Can't believe how quickly the class is filling up. I'm extremely amazed and gratified. Thank you.

The following folks are officially in the class: Tracey B in CT, Bronwen D, Keryn, Mereth, Ms Jan, Kathy DB, Cheri S, Mary Jo, Marge F, Donna R, Carol V, Julie S, Tiffany, Wendy in CO, Jude, Hedgehog Jen, Tanya W. Stacy is a possible. If your name is on that list but you haven't received an invitation - uh oh. email me. If you emailed me, and haven't heard back, then email me again.

That's 18 folks in less than 24 hours. I'm stunned. There are two places left in the class. Please email me before making the donation, unless you want to make the donation to MS anyway. It's a very good cause. For those who don't make it into the class this time I will put your name on the list to contact for the next one. Assuming this goes well and there is a next one. We'll have to see what my test subjects think.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The First Ever Lazy Gal Quilting Class

Okay, I'm ready to start enrollments in the online informal Lazy Gal Free-Piecing Class.

We will be making Happy Love Quilts. That sounds kinda silly, but I'm terrible at names. The goal is for you to make a quilt that reflects YOU, what you love and what makes you happy. I'm hoping by doing that you will find your own sense of style or at least start you on your way. Perfectionism, stressing out, matchy-matchiness, and EQ software will all be seriously frowned upon. We will play and explore and have a good time.

But just because we're playing doesn't mean there won't be exercises to do and blocks to complete. I'm a big believer in practising. You may end up with several blocks that don't make it into your quilt, but instead can be set aside for the next quilt, used in an orphan or utility quilt.

I don't want to give too much away. The one thing you will be sewing is free-pieced letters. Where it goes from there is up to you.

I have structured the class so that everyone can participate, from "experienced beginners" to those who've been quilting for far longer. Class will be limited to 20 people. Does that sound too big?

For this class, you will need a sewing machine - this isn't a technique that works for hand-piecing. You'll also need a rotary cutter, ruler (the standard 6" x 24" will work fine although 6" to 8" squares are wonderful to have as well) and a mat. And fabric, but we'll talk about that in class. You'll need to be able to share pictures of your work on the web so yes, you either need to own or borrow a digital camera or else be really creative.

To sign up for the class, please email me and tell me you are signing up. After hearing back from me, please go here and donate a minimum of $50 to sponsor Quiltville Bonnie's husband in the MS Bike Ride. This will work until 15 September and after that we'll figure another method of donation. If you don't have a credit card and can't donate this way, email me. This is on the honor system - I trust you. Besides, how could you work on a Happy Love Quilt knowing that you had cheated? I couldn't.

After you've made the donation, let me know. I will then invite you to the Blogger classroom. If you don't have a Blogger account, go ahead and set one up, you will need it. Picasa (or some other photo editing tool such as Adobe Photoshop) would be helpful. It's fairly easy to use and it's wonderful.

There will be several thinking/writing exercises for you to do before we start playing with fabric and sewing. I have the first one already posted. You may do this at your own pace, but I think it's fair to give you a deadline, say the end of the year. That's four months, which should be plenty of time to have a quilt top finished and the quilting started.

A couple of you have worried that I should get paid for teaching this class, but you don't need to. I look around the web and see some incredibly generous quilters donating quilts to all sorts of charities. I do very little of that myself, so this is a way for me to give back something.

Any questions or concerns, just ask.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sea King

Even the most mundane objects in Paris, such as streetlamps, can be absolutely gorgeous. This streetlamp is on a bridge over the Seine. Different faces of a sea king, with shells in his beard:

I took those photos a couple of weeks ago, back during a glorious day of sunshine. We've had so much rain since then it's hard to remember. The sun is back out again and I'm torn between wanting to take a walk and see some sights and doing some sewing, which I've been neglecting for ages.

I am, however, almost finished with the applique on my current project. I've done all the flowers now and some of the leaves. This is a picture of the underneath. I cut away the backing fabric because I can't stand to waste big chunks of fabric AND I hate hand quilting through any extra layer. I didn't cut any sewing machine seams though - I'm not sure what that would do, but I expect it wouldn't be good.

Thank you all for being so supportive about a class. I'm refining my idea so that it's workable and both experienced and beginning quilters can participate. I have decided to focus on free-piecing though - not applique.
Now when I say beginning though, I don't mean this would be your very first project and you've never used a sewing machine. No, that would be too hard on all of us. You need to have an idea of how quilts are constructed, can use a rotary cutter, sew a straight seam, and press blocks flat without stretching them way out of shape. The best way to know if you are ready for the class is to take a look at my letters tutorial on Quiltville. If that's overwhelming, then maybe this class won't be for you. If you think, "hey, I can do that and if my initial experiments don't turn out but I'll keep working at it," then you'd do great. Yes, I'll be available to answer questions and do my utmost to help, but we're still going to be constrained by the fact that I'm here and you're there.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Inspiration Notebook

A while back I was searching the internet for bloggers who mentioned quilts and Paris. That is actually a real pain in the patootie, with all sorts of bogus advertising blogs showing up. Anyway, I found Crafty Rachel, an American living in Paris, working on her dissertation, taking gorgeous photos and sharing recipes. Her sister in the States had helped her start a quilt, but she was planning on hand piecing the rest of it here. aiyee. I invited her over and we had a great time yesterday finishing up the top. She sewed and I pinned and ironed. At least, I had a great time, hope she did too.

It was great to work with someone who didn't care about the rules, just wanted a homemade quilt to give as a present to a new baby. No stress, lots of fun. If it were always this easy, I could see myself teaching beginning quilters. Hmm the backing fabric is too narrow by an inch, well, just whack the sides of the quilt down a little bit.... My kinda quilter.

The movers were back early yesterday morning to take care of our upstairs neighbors. It was bucketing down rain and I felt so sorry for all of them having to work in that weather. Hope their boxes weren't going into storage with all that dampness. It was waaaay too horrible outside to take pics out there, but here's the lifter rail thingie outside our window:

and the empty platform whizzing by:
The cats ignored the whole thing the second day.
I really appreciate your comments about my progress on Blooming Horrors. It means a lot to me and I'm glad that you are enjoying seeing each stage of the work.

Marge asked about my idea notebooks. I have about eight of them, full of home decorating, holiday decorating, antique quilts, folk art, beading, and just about anything that catches my eye. Most magazines only have one or two articles or pictures in them that are interesting and I find it much more invigorating to look at the exciting bits all together, rather than surrounded by fluff and advertising. One thing that you won't find in my notebooks is patterns.

Here are a few bits from my applique notebook. Beth Reisman described making her quilt Elvis in Baltimore in the AQS Summer 2000 issue. It's a playful asymmetrical quilt and I love how Elvis's face appears in a flower:

Next is a feature on the Allegheny Avenue Album quilt by Katherine McKearn from AQS Fall 1994. This is a fabulous and personal quilt. Each block tells a different story about Katherine and her family's life. There are bees, poison ivy, the giant dirt pile, family pets... It's incredible and I love the way it isn't straight. The blocks are different sizes, the sashing goes this way and that. The zigzags add zing and there is gorgeous quilting all over.

At the top of this page is The Late Show by Dianne Rode Schneck. Isn't it an absolute hoot? A flying saucer, a giant eyeball monster, a rocket ship. The bottom quilt is another personal album quilt by Katherine McKearn.

And here's another folk art applique quilt by Gwen Marson in LCPQ magazine.

I loved how these articles by Gwen were a description of how she made each quilt. What inspired her to make it, how she cut directly into the fabric by hand, why she chose particular colors. Okay, there were also templates for those too nervous to just try it out themselves, but there was always an option. I can't think of any "patterns" that are written this way in magazines anymore. Very unfortunate. I find it much more inspiring than just a picture, templates and straight old directions.

I believe that Gwen Marston's Lively Little Folk Art Quilts has some of the little LCPQ quilts in it, though I believe it's written as a pattern book, not as a series of stories. I've heard varying reviews of this one, so look it over before buying it.

An advantage to keeping notebooks is that you can see all the quilts (or whatever) you love together. For instance, you can tell from just these examples that I love quilts that are very personal, colorful and goofy. The applique is imprecise, irregular, and some of the pieces are quite chunky. Not much symmetry going on.

Would anyone be interested in taking a class with me? I've been thinking about teaching and how I might actually enjoy doing it. The question is, would anyone want to be a student. I don't know the details yet, but it would be along the lines of helping everyone develop a very personal quilt of their own, either doing free-piecing or applique or both. I get too many comments that say "I could never do that, I'm not creative" but you are and you can. You really can. And that's what we'd explore.

I'm thinking of wall-hangings/doll-quilt size quilts but you can do whatever you'd like. I'm willing to coach you through the hand quilting as well, for anyone who wants to try something new there.

We'd have a Blogger classroom. Start a blog and all the class members could post to it. You wouldn't have to have a blog of your own, just a Blogger account, which isn't hard and I'll walk you through every step of the way, if you need it. I'd post the exercises etc and you all could post what you're working on. But everyone could do it at their own pace.

The class admission would be a donation to the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Say, a minimum of 45 dollars. [Hey, even if you don't want to take a class, but have enjoyed some of my tutorials on Quiltville, please consider making a donation through Bonnie. See her post here.]

If you guys are paying to take a class, you are likely to actually do the exercises and make a quilt. Plus you'd be donating to a worthy cause. That's assuming anyone is actually interested. I'm thinking of starting mid-September.

I'd love to hear any thoughts or concerns or questions you might have about this possible class. Feel free to comment or send it in an email. No worries, if this isn't your thing. I don't like taking classes myself, so no one will hurt my feelings if they're not interested.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Skeleton Flower

I'm still plugging away, bit by bit, on Blooming Horrors. The ghost head and the apple green skeleton flower haven't been appliqued on yet. Those pieces are still safety pinned on and I'm using long silk pins to hold down the edge I'm working on. Yes, I still use long pins. I tried some of those itty bitty sequin pins and couldn't stand them -- too small for my stubby fingers.

The little ogre head wasn't a part of the original plan, but I needed more light colors on the left side. He looks like he belongs where the wild things are. The heads are all from that Nancy Wolff fabric that I made Halloween Faces from.

The round flower will probably end up with another circle on top.

I got the idea for the skeleton flowers by looking through my inspiration folder and finding this great little piece by Gwen Marston called Two Birds. Gwen used to have a folk art applique quilt in every issue of Ladies Circle Patchwork and Quilting. I saved all of them.

We had all sorts of commotion at our apartment building this morning. Our upstairs neighbors are either moving out or moving a lot of belongings. One of the multi-story box lifters was right outside our window and the cats were mesmerized and a bit skittish, what with that platform whizzing up and down and the slamming and banging upstairs. I intended to go out and take photos but they surprised me by finishing up by 10 am.

We finished House Season 2 and started on season 3 last night. I have a love/hate relationship with that show. Love Hugh Laurie immensely and he's a stitch, even if House is a true jackass. I watch it for him and that character. The baby doctors still annoy the hell out of me and even Cutty and Wilson are getting obnoxious. House saves someone every single week and yet they still doubt him and have to carry on and fight so hard every time? And he's always right? Always. This show needs to change it up some.

Gotta go out into the world now and buy some bread. The boulangerie on our block is still closed for the summer holiday so I have to hike a bit further to get to the Paul's down in the market. I like their bread, even if the shop is the French equivalent of McDonald's. (The food is better, but it's franchising all over the place, including the states.) I was a baaad girl yesterday and scarfed the entire loaf down all by myself. Have to make it up to my hubby today and make sure he has his bread. That whole not-eating-bread thing of mine sure didn't last long.

p.s. Anonymous, it was great to get your comment. Don't let the Quilt Police get you down. Keep on making quilts to make you happy, not them. Quilts do not have to be square, they do not have to be perfect, they just have to be made with love.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


The absolute best, coolest, Goreyest tomb at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery is that of Etienne-Gaspard Robertson.

Skulls with wings, angels, and I think those are burning candles. It looks like a bathtub up at the top but I expect that's meant to be a coffin.

A close-up of the image on this side of the monument. Grim Reapers and their pet on the left, a winged skeleton blowing a trumpet at the top and horrified Victorians on the right side.

An even closer close-up of the Grims:

This is the other side of the monument.

This panel features a balloon sailing away.

Etienne-Gaspard Robertson was a physicist, balloonist and a stage magician who used "phantasmagoria," a display of optical effects and illusions, to perform ghost stories. He was definitely a showman.

My sweetie and I tried out our neighborhood Indian restaurant for lunch today. Mmmm excellent garlic naan and tandoori chicken. Later.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Père-Lachaise Cemetery

I took advantage of the sun today and visited the Père-Lachaise Cemetery. I didn't have any strong desire to go there, but that's the first page my guidebook opened up to so what the heck. I have to admit it wasn't what I was expecting at all. Lots of family crypts built on a hill rather than the bumpy lawns with boring tombstones of the U.S. There are so many trees that this cemetary stayed quite dark and gloomy in many spots. I could envision Edward Gorey characters here. Cue the music and credits for MYSTERY!

It wasn't hard to find one of the most famous occupants of the cemetery. Look at the crowd:

surrounding Jim Morrison's grave. Rather disappointing. For all the hubbub I thought it would be cooler than this.

Anyway. I'm saving the pics of my favorite tomb for another day. I need to get something done around here besides play on the computer.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Spikey Spider Flower

I've made a bit of progress on Blooming Horrors, despite spending so much time reading instead of appliqueing. I hate this part of doing a bouquet where I need to start getting the stems layed in. Stems are boring. I'm not putting one in for the hand - I don't mind if it hovers.

None of my flower shapes are precise -- instead they are bumpy here and flat there. For the Devil's Head and the Eyeball, I just drew the shapes freehand with my chalk directly onto the fabric and then added the 1/4" seam allowance as I cut them out.

For this Spikey Spider Flower, I drew a design onto paper, then cut the shapes out and used those as my templates.

I took my inspiration for this flower from the quilt shown in this picture in my idea notebook.

My version came out partly upside down (my spikes go around the top, the ones in the pic go around the bottom). I cut out the pieces almost two years ago and didn't even really think about if there was a right way or a wrong way to put them on.

If you are at all interested in designing your own flower baskets, I highly recommend Gwen Marston's Four Block Applique Quilts book. Unlike most of the books I recommend, this one is still in print. Her quilts are traditional, but she gives you all the tools and techniques you need to play.

The kitties have been really sweet lately. The more I lay around, the more they lay around on me. It's a vicious circle of love.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Gargoyle Blues and Lots of Books

A couple of photos of the Notre Dame Cathedral, from a walk on 4 August. Look at that blue sky and sunshine.

I love these gargoyles. One of these days I'm going to climb up all the stairs so that I can get a lot closer to some of these guys, but it has to be after the tourist hordes have died down.

I'm feeling blurgy with the PMS blues. That's PMT for the Brits out there, not quite sure what it would be called (other than misery) in other parts of the world. I'll really be whining once the cramps hit in a couple of days. Think I need to make some chocolatey treats to prepare.

I'm on a reading tear these days. I'm terrible, once I get into a book I don't want to do anything else but read that book. And then another book and another one. Arg. Not that I get any less discriminating. I started (but didn't finish) Carved in Bone by Jefferson Bass, a forensic pathology mystery co-written by the doctor who founded The Body Farm. Interesting stuff in there, but I'll read the non-fiction book rather than get endless stories being told by one of the characters to other poorly drawn characters while waiting for some convincing action to happen. And that kiss between the geezer and the grad student? icky icky icky. Skip it.

Martin Cruz Smith's Wolves Eat Dogs was excellent, tho depressing. It's an Arkady Renko police procedural, this time taking place mostly near Chernobyl. I hate to think how much in this novel is true. 4 out of 5 stars.

Traitor to the Blood by Barb and J.C. Hendee is the fourth book in their noble dead series. It's a swords and sorceries fantasy with vampires. Gotta say it's getting really old. Yes, things did change in the book, characters deepened, but I still feel like it's going nowhere. I liked the initial concept, but bored now. I won't be buying any more, but when I'm back in the land of libraries I may get it. 2.5 out of 5.

Unshapely Things by Mark Del Franko reminded me of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. That's a series I kinda like but kinda don't. I find Dresden irritating. I never buy the novels but if I come across them in the library I read them. Unshapely Things is an urban fantasy with a druid--who's lost most of his powers--investigating supernatural crimes that may be leading up to something bigger. Enjoyable and I'm going to get the sequel. 3.75 out of 5. You can read the first chapter at the author's website.

[Angie, the book takes place in Boston so at least the author isn't doing horrible things to Chicago. I think you'd like this one. And the next one, maybe.]

Now the book that I completely and totally loved is Already Dead by Charlie Huston. Reading the reviews, you see lots of references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler and Quentin Tarantino. Not far off the mark. Of course it would have to be Phillip Marlow playing both Buffy AND Angel (the hero is a vampire) combined into one and there wouldn't be any Scoobie Gang. You got vampires and zombies and a beaten down investigator just trying to solve the case, save the girl, and survive. Not necessarily in that order. Highly recommended. 5 out of 5.

By the way, this is the first book in a projected series of five. You can read an excerpt of the novel at the author's website.

It helps that Already Dead combines my two favorite genres, but it's also very well written and paced. In my mind anyway. I was reading a blog post the other day in which someone wrote about how much she hated Harry Potter. She found the writing itself terrible and the whole thing very sexist. (Harry Potter, not Hermione Potter). Anyway, the reviewer was reading a work of real literature at the time (Viginia Woolf). Everybody has got different taste, that's for sure. I bet she'd hate all the books that I love and I know I wouldn't read Virginia Woolf unless locked in an empty room with nothing else to do for a month.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

French Sphinx in the Marais

Pictures from last week's walk in the Marais. I found a gorgeous courtyard:

With a pair of French sphinx. The only similarity to Egyptian sphinx is in the lion's body. An Egyptian sphinx would never have breasts and all the ones I've seen are looking straight ahead very serenely or majestically.

This one is missing her nose. These faces almost look like they're in pain to me. I suppose I'd be in pain if my nose had fallen off too.

Another detail in the courtyard:

I enjoyed your comments on my last post, which is not to say that I don't always enjoy them - I do. I had not thought about how machine quilters so often work without any marking at all and yet here are hand quilters being told they need to buy templates and stencils. harumph.

Too much of the quilting industry is based on making quilters feel inferior, that they have to buy this book to perfect their quilting stitch, and that book to learn the technique to make those seams match, have to buy the templates because you aren't good enough to do it yourself. You're a bad quilter but you'll be great if you'll just buy more stuff.

Most of the shows are just as terrible, choosing soulless technique and symmetry over wobbley joyful works. I look at the quilts and find nothing appealing in them at all.

To completely change tacks, now I have some links to share with you.

Julie used my freepiecing method to make words for this marvelous quilt. There are lots of detail shot of the quilt as well as pics of some other fun quilts.

Mismatched Quilter Katie is making the most amazing freepieced letters I've ever seen. She's completely blowing me away. She's come up with her own "handwriting" style and it's fabulous. Start with her August 6th entry showing the completed Space quilt and then work backwards to see the quilt in progress. She's also put in detailed pics of how she makes the letters, and she's teaching me a few things.

Quilting Rush Laurie Ann is making a great improvised homage to Elvis as well as keepsake name quilts for visiting Japanese students. All marvelous.

And last, but by no means least, Rantala Rags Dot is making a great appliqued Halloween bouquet. I love how she's used her fabric to make ghost and boo flowers. I'm pleased to have inspired her and in turn am getting great ideas from her. Anyone else want to join in?