Saturday, September 29, 2007

Rachael's Crusty Halloween

Today I'm posting some pics from my very talented friend Rachael, who remains determinedly blogless. I've posted three of these before, but that was almost two years ago. Back in 2003, Rachael saw me working on a crusty at guild so I showed her the basics (and the tutorial by Susan Shie) and she was off and running.

This first one shows the star-crossed love between a witch and vampire, with the lyrics of That Old Black Magic running in the background. I absolutely LOVE the faces Rachael makes - they have so much character.

This devil is creepier. The stitching is fabulous:

A Merry Hallowe'en to you:

I love That Old Black Magic, I do, but I think this one is my favorite. Happy Boo Day:

Clowns ARE scary. I love the teeth - Rachael broke up an old piece of jewelry to get the beads.
I have been in a funk lately. Just unable to focus or work on anything. I did a few minutes on three different projects yesterday and of course got nothing much accomplished. Yesterday was rain rain rain and I was so cold. And whiny.
Today has been much better. I got a new Feel Bright Light visor that is supposed to help with the depression that comes with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder, which I definitely have). Very weird shooting blue light into my eyes.
So today I started with bright light, plus we've had peeks of sunshine and not had rain. My sweetie and I took a metro ride out to a mall in the 'burbs to buy a space heater. Darty (the closest equivalent I can think of is Best Buy) had an array of them on display, but when my husband approached a salesperson he was told they are not selling them now. What???? At least today is warmer and the radiators will be turned on soon(ish).
While we were at the hypermarche I meant to look and see if I could find any kale, collard or swiss chard. I have been unable to find any near me at the street market, supermarket or the frozen food store. All that is available is many varieties of lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and even bok choy. No dark leafy greens for soup. Do the french not eat them?
Your Halloween link for the day: Kathy York's marvelous quilt Martha's Pumpkin Men.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Dishwasher Salt

Sorry, but it is freaking cold (currently 50 degrees/10 celcius) and damp in Paris this morning and I am feeling very cranky. My joints are aching like crazy. We have hot water radiators in our apartment and the building's boiler hasn't been turned on yet. I've got my fingers crossed that we just have to wait until 1 October and not sometime later.

Our apartment building is from the 1880's, based on the dates on neighboring buildings. They are beautiful, but the french windows are single paned and really leaky around the edges.

I've never lived in a place where I couldn't control the heat. That's something new, as is the need to put salt into the dishwasher. The water in Paris is extremely hard and the dishwashers are built with a container in the bottom that has to be refilled periodically with salt. Not ordinary table salt, but this stuff:

And don't ask me how the salt works. I have no idea, I just do as I'm told.

The door on the front loading washing machine has to be left open, as does the drawer the soap tablets goes into, or else it molds. I have to put anti-calcium tabs in with the soap when I do a load.

The dryer has a reservoir that the water from the clothes goes into. It has to be emptied out as does the usual lint trap, plus there is a big "lint" catching gizmo at the bottom that I have to remember to clean wet disgustingness out of as well. I wouldn't have thought that standard appliances could have so many variations.

The cats were so sweet last night, but they were driving me nuts. Lily sleeps with us every night, with my husband when he's home and she tortures me when he isn't. My husband can sleep without moving, but I just can't stand having my tossing and turning hampered. Anyway, last night Pokey and Habibi joined us as well. Agh. Bibi makes all sorts of noise and fuss with his grooming, plus he wanted lovings. So he was walking on me and purring. Nineteen pounds of cat on you is not conducive to sleep.

Pokey in a box and Lily on top:

A couple of my orphan blocks:

All the better to say "boo" back to Kathy DB, who's in my class and working on a very fun Halloween project. She's a hoot, go check out her new blog, especially if you know the word "booger" in another language. (Huh? go read her recent post, and you'll get it.)

I've put a new section in my sidebar, linking to the first Lazy Gal Quilting Class students. Let me know if there are any broken or missing links.

Last night I finished quilting Blooming Horrors. Woohoo. My husband said "now you just have to bind it." Living with a quilter for 15 years, he's picked up a thing or two.

I bought a wide muslin fabric to use for backing on my Orphan Train quilt. I just need to get it washed and then I can get to work basting it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


What's the difference between a crusty and a thready? Holly asked me ages ago and I've been waiting for a day with enough sunlight to get some decent pics.

A thready is a piece of fabric or canvas that I completely (or almost completely) cover in threads of some kind. This is Halloween Thready. I finished it right as we were packing up our belongings to leave Cairo almost exactly a year ago. It measures 5.25" x 6"

I started with a piece of this printed fabric. I used it as a guide to keep areas of light and of dark. I've made some threadies that look so cool close up but when you get back from them a couple of feet they just blur into a big mess. This fabric doesn't look much like the final thready, but sometimes they do.

A close up. I began by couched all the yarn and then and stitched with embroidery floss and thick rayon thread to fill in all the gaps until the entire base fabric was covered.

The back of the piece. If I hadn't done so much couching there would be even more thread here. I don't use any knots, just thread the ends through the stitching.

A thready only has one layer of fabric which is then covered. It's an embroidery (I guess), not a quilt.

Now here's a crusty I made ages ago in 2002. It was the third or fourth one I made. This is Danger. It measures 11" x 12" at its widest points.

It's a typical crusty [the technique is based on the methods of Susan Shie - there's a link in the sidebar] which consists of a backing fabric, batting and a top fabric (a real quilt sandwich) which is first bound, then appliqued, stitched and embellished. Lots of encrustation = crusty.

Here's a closeup. You can see the holes I cut through all three layers, used floss stitches to "bind" the three layers again, and then added a Halloween spider web organza behind them. I added plastic spiders as well and that's a glow-in-the-dark ant caught in the web.

A view of the back:

The terms threadies and crusties are mine (as is beadies). 3 Jacks was a true mutant creation in that it was threaded like crazy, but onto a crusty quilt sandwich, and then embellished. More of a threcrusty. Cruthready? Neither term sounds attractive.

I make threadies differently every time I do them. So the only "rules" as far as I'm concerned is that it has a fabric base and is covered with lots and lots of thread. There can even be some snippets of fabric too.

On a danger theme, I just had to include these Parisian photos from the rail station:

I have really been struggling with the overcast weather. It rained a bunch yesterday and I even went out for a bit anyway, but then we were lucky enough to have an hour of sun.

I'm slowly working on another tutorial but all the photos I took yesterday turned out abysmally. I may end up using the diagrams I did on the computer when I first started working on "the book" several years ago.

I've been making steady progress on Blooming Horrors while listening to podcasts and watching Rescue Me Season 3 (watched Zombie last night - what an excellent episode with an homage to Shaun of the Dead) and rewatching the first season of Bones. I tried - twice - to watch the Sandra Bullock movie Premonition, but gack. Dull. I'm gonna skip it.

And now some links:

Tanya is in my class and is working on a quilt about Home. She improvisationally pieced the words for cat and dog - in Japanese. They are remarkable. And her blog is always marvelous about her life in Japan, go visit if you haven't before.

ComicBookLady is also in my class and free-pieced not only letters but black cats. She made it extra complicated with the tails forming parts of the letters. Very fun quilt in progress and I love looking at the fabrics she's used. Black cats to make black cats and eyeballs staring out.

The Halloween link is for ceramicist Sharon Bloom. I love the black cats and jack'o'lanterns, the candy corn and skull flowers. Wonderful. I get all sorts of inspiration looking at her pieces.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fountain at the Place de la Concorde

I'm trying to get my photos sorted (somewhat) on Picasa, and decided one of my problems is all the older photos that I haven't posted to my blog yet. So here we go back in time to the first of June with glorious sunshine. This is the fountain at the Place de la Concorde, very close to Cleopatra's Needle.

Don't ask me why, but I do seem to take a lot of lamppost pics. This one is certainly all dolled up:

Personally, I prefer this plainer lamppost which shows its age.

I had a great day today. Crafty Rachel came over to play and we almost got the baby quilt she's working on finished. And that was despite Pokey's rolling around on the quilt for attention. By the way, Rachel does great blog posts on historical aspects of Paris, with some wonderful photos and pictures.

Dawn at Quilts and Pieces is doing her own version of a halloween bouquet and it's marvelous fun.

The Halloween link for today is another papier mache artist, Jorge de Rojas of HoHoHalloween. Just on that opening page I love the black cat with a top hat and monocle. And take a look at the teapots - very inventive.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Don't sweat the small stuff. Sorry if that's an overused phrase that gets your hackles up, but they are words I try to live by in both life and quilting.

Jude recently made an improvised horse and was saying "oops" because she forgot the ear. It's a marvelous horse, you can tell exactly what it is, so what does an ear matter? The trick is to get enough details to get your point across, you don't have to have them all.

See if you can identify the next three Halloween images. The third one is tricky, but I think it's doable if you keep my entertainment choices in mind.

So first off is the witch. She's got the requisite pointy hat and black dress with Wizard of Oz witch striped stockings and admittedly clown-sized ruby slippers. Witch also has a black cat. Back when I made this quilt I was experimenting with different ways to piece improvisationally. The technique I used on cat (layering two fabrics together, slicing the outlines and then making two blocks with reverse-color images) didn't work very well and I've pretty much given up on it. Can you read what the words say around the witch?

Another Wizard of Oz reference: I'll get you my pretty. These words are difficult to read because I used such a busy print for the letters, something I avoid these days.

Dracula is pretty easy with his big fangs and dramatic cape. I like the widow's peak as well. You'll notice lots of things are missing: eyes, nose, lips, ears, hands and feet. Does it matter? He vants to drink your blood.

Here's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, here to save the day. (I know that's Underdog's motto, but I thought it applied.) I gave Buffy her blonde (okay, orange) hair, a tank top and a raised stake.

These are all blocks from my Happy Howloween quilt. I posted a very lousy pic of it years ago, but don't bother to go back and look for it. I'll post a good one once I'm allowed to hang the quilt up on the wall. I made it way back in 2001, one of my early letter/improvisation quilts. One thing I notice is the the way I made my Y's with a slant, rather than the way I do it now (upside down h with an additional bit).

Book recommendation: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. It's a fantasy, magical heist novel. It's about a great con, ala The Sting and Inside Man, as well as a story of loss, revenge, and death. I want to call it light-hearted fun, but it is quite serious as well. Check out the author's site to see other recommendations and read a sample. 5 out of 5.

DVD recommendation: Heroes Season One. Woohoo I finally got to watch it all. You know I love superheroes, stories with intricate plots, and time travel, so this show was right down my alley. I loved the ruminations on what it means to be a hero and how it's not about having super powers but how you behave and Is there such a thing as destiny and can the future be changed? Some of the characters are very ambigous - are they good or evil or just misguided.

My favorite character was far and away Hiro, who turns away from a traditional homogeneous Japanese life to do something remarkable. I loved his "sidekick" Ando as well. He definitely had the Xander job - the superhero's heart. And Hiro's father? Excellent casting.

My favorite episode was "Five Years Gone" when we get a grim peek into what the future will be like if the explosion in NYC can't be prevented. Reminded me of my favorite X-Men storyline where Phoenix Rachel went into the future to see how the mutants have been hunted down. (Was that called Days of Future Past or is that just a Moody Blues song?) Yes my inner geek is showing.

[added later: How geeky exactly am I? I just looked up Days of Future Past and X-men and found an entry for it on Wikipedia. It was Kitty that went into the future, not Rachel. How could I have made that error? Well, it was back in 1981 so guess it's been awhile.]

Anyway, Heroes gets 5 out of 5 in my book. I'm going to make my husband try it and I'm really looking forward to seeing it again, knowing what I know now. I'm still not sure all the little plot points hang together, but as I said earlier, don't sweat the small stuff. Just enjoy the show.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cross-Eyed Spider

Here's an older crusty of mine called Cross-Eyed Spider. I don't know the exact size of the piece, but it's probably about 6". The little spiders are all plastic and if I were making this today I would bead all of the interior of the spider, not just the hourglass.

Speaking of spiders, I'm having a hard time knowing when to quit on Blooming Horrors. I'm making the spiders with perle cotton size 8, using a stem stitch through all the layers of the quilt. It's embroidery and quilting all at one go.

ooh, a quilt is out, must be time to pose for the camera. The regal Lily:

This is the enamel sign I bought the other day. I like its goofy humor, plus I was pretty sure how to translated it:

Toilets. Usage limited to 5 minutes. Reading is tolerated.

That was one of the reasons for taking the picture of all the signs. Didn't know what they said, but sitting at home with my dictionary I can get a better idea if my chat is lunatique, bizarre, gourmand, or mechant. Does mechant really mean nasty or wicked? Or is it the more playful naughty?

Got bunches of links for you all. More of my fabulous students' work can be found here, here, and here. And wait, here and while you're visiting Hedgehog, look at this wonderful Vote quilt she made.

Meanwhile, friend Finn also has spiders on her mind.

I've recently discovered the blog of Ming, who is Taiwanese (blogging in both Chinese and English), living in Australia, and a wonderfully gifted quilter. The Chinese zodiac quilt she is working on right now is incredible and I love the freehand quilting she's doing.

A while back I received an email from Lori, asking about the fabric stores there in Montmartre since she would be visiting Paris. We struck up a correspondence and Lori and her mother came over to the apartment on Friday so that I could bore them silly with quilts. I had a wonderful time chatting with them. Lori primarily uses her sewing machine to make clothes, but I'm hoping to coerce, uh, convince her to make more quilts. Isn't it wonderful how blogs can bring us closer together?

The weather forecast for today is 77 degrees, but unfortunately cloudy. Still, gotta soak in the heat while I can. Cheers.

Friday, September 14, 2007


I've been really busy the last few days, we've had marvelous sunshine and life is great. Unfortunately I've gotten behind on the computer and blogs. I just wanted to pop-in and show you a hint of Blooming Horrors. This is the first quilt where I've combined quilting with regular thread, quilting with perle cotton, stem stich and embroidery. I love how it looks and now I'll just have to be careful not to overdo it. I love how the rat turned out with his nasty red eye and little claws. I have no idea what a rat's legs are supposed to look like, but these will do:

I bought myself one of these enameled signs. I think they are a hoot and meet my primary requirement for items bought in France: french words. I suspect a few more of these will be coming home with me.

Halloween link for the day: Janell Berryman of Pumpkinseeds Originals, marvelous papier mache folk art.

I'll write a longer post soon. See you.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A View from the Bridge

More pictures from my walk the other day. These were all taken on or in the vicinity of the Pont Alexander III which spans the Seine. A view of the itty bitty Eiffel Tower:

Ya'll enjoyed the pics of lampposts the other day so I thought I'd show you these, which are far more elaborate:

Le Coq:

Double-headed eagle:

The sign says Pont Alexandre III, 1897-1900:

This statue of a ship's bow coming out of the monument isn't nearly as elaborate as those I saw over by the Louvre and unfortunately it appears to be deteriorating:

A lion and cherub:
I spent the day doing mandatory grocery shopping (so boring, but starvation would be even worse) and watching season 2 of Veronica Mars. The season definitely wasn't as good as the first one (two very skippable episodes) but I still love it and am eagerly awaiting season 3.

I've hit a groove with Horrors. I've added some embroidery and I'm quite pleased with it. Pics another day. I'm also working on another tutorial.

Some of my students' (ooh, I like how that sounds!) handiwork is showing up here and here and there... I'm thoroughly enjoying the class.

Your Halloween link for today is Cuddly Rigor Mortis to see handmade cute-scary dolls. I'm personally fond of the Frankenstein monster and the mummy.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Adorable Pokey

I've been playing with the video function on my camera. This is my sweet baby kitty Pokey being a good girl and using her scratching board. By the way, turn on the audio and you'll hear her talking at the end.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Take Me to Your Leader

Today was a most glorious day. Incredible sunshine. I went out and walked for two hours pausing only to take photographs. Most of those will wait for another day, but I wanted to show you this beautiful apartment building. It has such character.

This top bit looks like an observatory to me. I bet that room would be so cool on the inside.

I watched Scream this afternoon, quilted the boring bits in the vase on Blooming Horrors, and experimented with throwing chopped up Heath Bars into my Oatmeal Cookies. When I first tasted the dough I thought I was a genius, but after eating several spoonfuls raw decided, eh, not so much. They're fine, which is good since I'm taking them to a "dessert party" and I wouldn't want to completely embarrass myself.

Cheri asked if I kept a quilting journal. I used to. I was really good about writing down all my ideas, favorite quotes that would be great on a quilt, how much time I spent on each task of a quilt, how I could improve my techniques... I filled that notebook and then never started another. Idiot. Of course I do have my blog, but it's not nearly as detailed.

Here's a page for 2001:

See how good I used to be at writing down everything? I love that sketch for a little alien. I was working on a big Halloween sampler at the time. This is the block that I ended up making from that idea:

This little guy is an orphan. Sort of. He will have a home, I just haven't come up with it yet. All of my quilts are made in fits and starts. One of these days I'll have enough bits of Halloween that it'll all come together into a quilt.

I reread Collaborative Quilting yesterday. Freddy Moran and Gwen Marston talk about having a Parts Department. Making up all sorts of fun bits without having any idea of what the final quilt will be. That's pretty much how I've been working for the last 10 years. I definitely don't love or even like all the quilts in the book, but I'm a huge fan of their improvisational way of working. Unfortunately the directions in the book aren't that great, and on one page definitely wrong, but you can still get a lot from reading it and looking at Gwen's quilts in particular.

Here are a few of Gwen's guidelines:

Trust yourself. Your chances of making a remarkably good quilt are increased when you take chances. Make what you want to make, and make it the way you want to make it.

Friday, September 07, 2007


This is my quilts Spiders. [Or is it Spider? I can never remember what I've named my quilts.] I began piecing it on 15 November 2001 and put the binding on 6 July 2002, all while living in Georgia. It measures 40" x 46.5"

I just played with making spiders, starting out with different sizes of squares and rectangles. I used 1" thick strips to make the legs.

I heavily quilted with regular black quilting thread. I used my ruler to draw relatively straight lines, but otherwise drew spiderwebs freehand with my chalk, just marking a bit in advance of my quilting.

I used black fabric for all of the letters and changed the background for each letter. The background of the free-pieced letters somewhat mimics the piano key borders.

I wasn't in the mood to sew spiders, but this is how you make them. They are based on asterisks, using 1" strips for the legs.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Can you believe it, Finn, yet another Halloween quilt I've never shown you. This quilt was in storage while I was living in Cairo and I just didn't want to post a lousy pic without any detail shots.

I lugged 40 pounds of cat food home today. Okay, I had a wheelie thing, but that's still a lot. Next time I'm making my husband do it.

I finished rewatching the first season of Veronica Mars. I love that show. I hate the fact that it's been cancelled, although I admittedly have not watched the third season, so maybe it was a good thing to put it out of its misery (like they should have done several years sooner to The X-Files.