Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas 2010: a journal quilt

   Usually a blog posting takes no time at all, and a journal quilt is  easy. However, this Christmas, though the simplest, had so much going on that I could not narrow to a single special idea.
Click to enlarge photos
     First, we put up the trees. We got the biggest and strongest live one for our main tree. Then there were the attic's older, crazier versions: one for the dogs and cats, one for our sons' creations, one for the grandchildren, and two little ones for the toddler to decorate. There was the centerpiece tree and others not pictured. And, besides family, there were the beaders to entertain.

       The Nutcracker theater was a major addition. The technology purchases and their required adjustments, can bury one at this busy time of year. The celebration 18th - 20th was magical and then all heck broke loose with unexpected bugs, lost trips, weather surprises. But we remain grateful for the joy and peace of this time of year. And all those rollicking trees above under netting are beautiful but no more controlled than the days of our future; and I guess that is probably as good an idea as I can come up with today.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Winter Baby Shower

   Dianthe amazes! At the busiest time of the year she hosted a Sunday brunch baby shower, not just for the ladies, but couples. Makes sense! Sometimes new patterns must emerge.

click to enlarge photos
   Since the sex of the baby-to- be is not known, there were both blue and pink flowers and a holiday tree festooned in white. Soft white leather or satin/"fur" baby shoes topped the tree, a symbol of the movement of those in that gene pool, and baby breath flowers floated on branches. White shirts, hats, bibs and other items decorated the tree further. Mimosas, spinach cheese strata, ham in rolls, fruit salad, were some of the foods.The cozy fire and window views added to the family warmth.
It was fun to have the families included, always enriching the conversation!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hanukkuh, Maccabees and Ebelskiver: a journal quilt

     This year Hanukkuh came much earlier than Christmas. A few happenings were special to my memories; thus, this journal quilt.
      First, Max pointed out to me that the historical sources for Hanukkuh are not in the Bible or the Talmud but in the books of Maccabees I and II, which are part of the Christian heritage. "Things are mixed," he said. I loved going to my huge family Bible to find Maccabees I and II in the Apocrypha between the Old and New Testaments, with photos and some illustrations by Dore. I also realized that Maccabees I and II can be found in my wonderful Harper Collins Study Bible, New Revised Standard Version.

Click to enlarge
       Next, I wanted to take my usual Beaders' Christmas exchange presents to a gathering before Christmas and during Hanukkuh so that Linda B could have a bit of celebration with us during her holiday. My gift was an ebelskiver skillet that I found at CVS. I got one for each beader for only $10 much fun, a craftsy challenge. I warned the beaders first to Google how to make ebelskivers (little round puff pancakes that can be so much more) to observe some videos.
       Hooray for light and miracles.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Building Boxwood Trees: a tradition

Click to see Chrissy's tree shape
   Each year Nancy has the Beaders to her home to make boxwood trees for the season. I didn't realize I would blog on this so I don't have a full set of pictures, but I have enough information for you to "take off!"
Note Debbie's joy and Nancy's gold container, oasis, tape and position of boxwood twigs
Nita is making a smaller one for her mother's table, and Linda B. a fuller one

  To build a boxwood tree, soak an oasis in the sink until the green "brick" is filled with water. Place the oasis in a container that can hold water, where the tree can be carved and all secured like wrapping a present w string only with floral tape. The edges of the tree are shaped somewhat like a bloated tree, easily done with a carving knife. Next, the collected boxwood limbs are cut with pruning shears to various lengths and inserted in the oasis. The lower branches angle down, the midway branches go more horizontally and the upper branches shape up to a point at the top of the tree.
Enlarge all photos by clicking on them
   Then the fun continues as you see that everyone's tree already has a different personality. You will add bows and ornaments, even flowers, such as those on the my Costco purchase. I was baby sitting and would not get to make one this year. The ladies saw to it that four-year-old Erika did make a miniature tree in 30 minutes and decorate it before we had to leave to pick up Hannah at school.
     Get some friends to join you in the making and be sure to water your tree daily.  P.S. There are little floral spikes with wire that are handy for adding ornaments and bows....

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pomander Pleasures

   The grandchildren are in our safe keeping for a couple of days. Fortunately smart friends gave me entertaining ideas. I saw Susan making pomanders at our craft group on Monday.  I don't remember making pomanders, but now I am hooked: Get oranges (Susan suggested clementines for softness), a bulk supply of cloves (Costco for me) and thin ribbons if you like. I picked up gold- edged white ribbon at Ben Franklin, a bit of wire in the edges.

     After nursery school, four-year-old Erika made a pomander and then another to give away to Nancy and the beaders for helping her make a boxwood tree. I tied the bow on first, as one might wrap a package, secured in one or two places with a short ball-topped straight pin (as in shirt purchases).  I put the clementine on a folded paper towel and handed  Erika a toothpick to make preliminary holes (not needed, I think), cloves in a little saucer. Six-year-old Hannah took up the craft when she got home at three after first grade. You may want to add loops for hanging. Some roll them in spices, let them dry and after they seem no longer useful, boil them in water to make the house smell wonderful.  Google orange and clove balls for more ideas and possibilities. Click to enlarge the photos.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Keys to the City: a journal quilt

   Thanksgiving weekend allowed our household some time in New York City where we have generous hosts. Thoughtful Jim phoned our car speaker from Miami to see if we had the keys to the condo. We have never before forgotten the keys, but this time we did. Just outside New Haven, we didn't panic, for we could have seen the show at the British Museum and returned to Boston. However, perfect son told us exactly where to find another set, and we drove on up to his place where a free parking spot waited to calm us.
   For this journal quilt, I wanted to show the lively NYC fabric I picked up at the wonderful City Quilter on 25th. The keys could have blocked our way but were a gate to a good time for Joe, Farley and myself. Joe and I saw shows at the Morgan, Neue, Guggenheim and MOMA museums. Farley has never met so many dogs to whom he was so polite. And I went to the City Quilter twice. Love that place!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Embroidery for Children: Needling Noah

    Over Thanksgiving we drove to New York City and I embroidered Noah in sunshine and dark in the car, trying to figure out the stitches while listening to a book CD on the life of Henry VIII.
    For Christmas, among other things, I wanted to give the grandchildren sewing kits and "lessons" should they want;  but I thought I better learn how before imparting my wisdom. 
    In the 60's I had embroidered jean fabrics. The colorful floss looks pretty against the rough dark blue. If I find a sample of my work in the attic, I will post later. But this time I was starting with a blank slate. Mother said I could do anything, so I threaded the needle with the included Persian wool and took off deciphering the instructions.
    Embroidery should be easy, and these enchanting books on sewing I got for the children have numerous ideas for using felt and fabric. 
Alice's Noah and animals, almost finished.
a design for Paragon by SHERBY BARBER
    Friend Alice had just completed her recently found, incompleted Noah and animals on the way to the ark (from her efforts in the 70's) and encouraged me to get this kit on Ebay. Bill ordered for me and I am having fun. Embroidery perks up many crafts from simple felt pieces to quilts and clothes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

In the book on the table, Giving Thanks, from Plimoth PlantationDancing Mocassin said, "Wunniook. Be well." Resolved, his six-year-old new friend from England replied,  "Good night. God keep you."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pitiful Portrait: things fall apart

(click to view the melt)
       I read several books and watched DVDs on making fabric portraits. I resisted starting, thinking I didn't have the proper fabrics. But finally I dove in. Do or die. Well, the first and third values, the light and the orange, were off; but I continued. I put netting over the fused fabric and pressed. To my horror, the netting melted and I was left with a deformed piece. What to do. Point out that artists/craftsmen always run into problems. Everyone can be an artist. It is just that artists don't give up. I will no doubt try again, but it is an exhausting pursuit. I will simplify. I don't mind showing the battered 73 year old, mostly at my hand. And I might give up! How could things go so wrong? They always do!!! (Next day:  I can take a paint brush to it!)

        Tomorrow is an early Thanksgiving at our house. I have some Pilgrim hats and some feathers. Hope these excite the children. Another direction for awhile :*

Friday, November 19, 2010

Journal quilt: Book Club tackles Llosa

  This week, Books N Laps met at my house to discuss Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Nobel Prize winner, Mario Vargas Llosa.  There were ten of us in attendance, and my arranging the chairs and the coffee cups in my deep red living room show up in this journal quilt.
   I didn't know where all the red came from except the novel set in Peru was exciting, like red; my living room colors are similar, which I just realized; and the cover of the book sports these exact colors. Granted there was the buzz of organizing the house (crafts people know about clearing paths), the arrival of a lively dog, gathering food and making the pumpkin bars...all added to my having gotten only 5 hours sleep, hoping not to reveal that I had made it only 3/4 the way through the dazzling novel which I plan to finish now.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Portrait Quilt: a tardy journal quilt effort

(click to enlarge)
    Learning about portrait quilts has occupied my attention since a workshop with Esterita Austin a few weeks ago, so a journal quilt should mark that weekend. I wish I could have a new portrait that would put together my new wisdom, but I am still learning and not sure what directions to take.
    Today I watched Making Faces, a DVD by Maria Elkins, who presented several approaches to convince those who think they can't draw a portrait to try. I know I won't want to stitch on the faces as much, but this is a very informative DVD.  Portrait Quilts: Painted Faces You Can Do by Bonnie Lyn McCaffery also arrived in the mail yesterday and I have not had time to read it. It may be more about painting than I want to do, but I will learn about textile paints and presenting unstitched faces. Portraits for Fabric Lovers by the lucid teacher Marilyn Belford is extremely helpful re computer aides as is Photo-inspired Art Quilts by Leni Levenson Wiener which comes with a DVD. I also plan to check out Patt Blair and her husband's book. They work with computers and ink.
     I decided not to waste the inspirational workshop effort, but to turn my effort into a journal quilt. For the first time I used invisible thread on top (Sulky worked fine); and I used the unfinished piece as it was. I did not plan to complete the class assignment at home. I cut some maroon tulle to go over the slightly loose pieces, not entirely secured by MistyFuse, and quilted with the invisible thread over all. I free-motion quilted the text...suggesting I may not know where I am going now, but I will try try again.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fabric Portrait Quilts: some references and ideas

     I wrote on October 26, about a portrait fabric workshop I took with Esterita Austin. I thought I would pass on some book titles I have found since then that might be helpful using fabric and soft textile paint (So Soft, Jacquard).
     In the past, when painting oil portraits, if something did not look right, and I had a photo, I would scan it into the computer and use a filter in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements to get a fresh look at what was wrong. The Cut-Out filter or the Posterizing filter were amazingly helpful to find the needed emphasis.
     Now I am thinking about making a small wall portrait quilt for someone's gift from fabric rather than oil paint. One idea is to take a photo, remove the color and use a filter. You would outline the shapes on freezer paper, cut out each shape as a template for fabric, cut fabric in one of the 5 values from white to grays to black, fuse each piece w an iron to a background fabric and layer the finished piece to batting and a backside fabric...finishing the edges and quilting as inspired. Susan suggested I use this photo of Beth and the girls. Click to enlarge.
cut-out filter

color removed

Photo-Inspired Art Quilts: From Composition to Finished Piece by Leni Levenson Wiener
Portraits for Fabric Lovers by Marilyn Belford
Work in Fabric & Thread by Deidre Scherer
Portrait Quilts: Painted Faces You Can Do by Bonnie Lyn McCaffery 
and thanks to Sharon (in comments): Quilting Arts Workshop Making Faces: Beginning and Advanced Portraits  (DVD) by Maria Elkins

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Midterm Madness:, a Journal Quilt

    The lack of eloquence during the the 2010 midterm election was mad, maddening and disheartening.
     Elections have always been rough and tumble, but I have never had to turn off the television so regularly as during the last one.  This journal quilt is filled with signs and language leading up to the November 2, 2010 election.

     Joe and I a great time at Patricia and Diego's fabulous art-filled home in downtown Boston last night. I will mail this fabric postcard tomorrow.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Head of Charles/losing ours: a journal quilt

     Angela in London e-mailed that she was taking a class at Harvard called Immunity to Change. I snagged her for one evening since we were for once organized to do so. I drove down the Charles River to Logan Airport, doing a dry run so I would pick her up with no misses the next day. Back and forth I drove on the Charles, always seeing more rowers than ever before. I didn't realize people were practicing for the Head of the Charles!
(click to enlarge)
     The last time Angela came was when her son rowed for his school in England. We had the family for dinner and then enjoyed one of those 50 year floods. This time, we wanted to take Angela out to eat and she chose Helmand's from our list, an Afghan restaurant owned by the brothers of the President of Afghanistan. The rack of lamb is wonderful, but we always order several hors d'oeuvres for a unique evening. When the beautiful rack of lamb was brought out so quickly our chins were on the floor...Where were the hors d'oeuvres? Men from the kitchen held the dishes in shock until the waiter politely told us we didn't remember to order them, which we, embarrassed, realized. Still, after plenty to eat, it was back home again, down the Charles.
      The next morning Joe carried Angela's bags to my car so that she would not need to tote them around at school. I would pick her up at the end of the day to take her to a friend's where she was staying, again along the river.  Joe dropped Angela off at her class on the way to his work and soon realized he had left his briefcase at home. It was back again, along the Charles. To England, Afghanistan and home, more memorable and amusing events caught and saved on an 8" square journal quilt sketch.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fabric workshop, new/old directions

     Over the weekend I took a portrait fabric workshop through Quilters' Connection, a fabulous guild of original thinkers. I love their meetings and energy.
     Esterita Austin led this group to show how to cut out parts of a face, adhere to a background and paint if you like. I would have preferred to work on my own subjects, but this was efficient in passing on the techniques. I am only putting this unfinished project up because I am due a blog and with Joe's birthday today and other events, I am behind.
(click to enlarge)
Thirty-third Anniversary
     I quickly slopped on a little paint to insert eyes on the face (the brushes were too stiff and time was out); but whereas I won't finish this face, I do think I will enjoy this fusing technique with portraiture and other paintings for more dimension. I remember watching people at my art show mid-90s running their fingers over cut-outs of a quilt that I painted over.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Organizing October: a Halloween activity

     October is beautiful with the orange, red, yellow and maroon electric colors. Last Saturday I drove to the Lexington quilt show and found new Sew Fresh Fabrics in castle prints and other  got-a-have's for grandchildren.  I drove among stunning trees to the Watertown big bead show via Wilson Farms where I picked up caramel apples on a stick, small hot sugared donuts and fresh cider. The bead show had stunning originals for grown-ups, but I opted for some Halloween glass beads for the children to make bracelets.
three ghosts, a pumpkin and a cat
(click to enlarge photos)
a stretchy ring and button bracelet 

      Tonight we joined the family for supper. I took the books I picked up at the Belmont library book sale that fall day mentioned above, and materials to craft either a stretchy bracelet or one with clasps. Both girls wanted to make clasp bracelets first. Hannah chose a peace clasp and Erika wanted the dolphin clasp. There were not enough decorative beads for two wrist bracelets, so the girls used glass seed beads to fill the gaps on the bead stringing wire. Hannah went on to make a stretch-y ring, knotting it with square knots before the dinner bell. I put the clasps on the bracelets, using an extra bead with the crimps while the two went on to more creative endeavors.   

Friday, October 15, 2010

Unexpected Guests/Additions: A Journal Quilt

(Click to enlarge)
   This past weekend we drove to Maine to visit friends and stopped off in Bath for lunch at the Kennebec Tavern and to visit the Maine Maritime Museum where US Navy ships are built. (They have a lovely website with photos and commentary.) Happily we came upon a fabulous quilt shop a block away that had fabrics, including moose, that I had never seen.

(Original draft :*)
   Last week, Nita*, a beader, was taking an early morning walk in our suburb and found on her aunt's grounds, a 10-point moose.They just stared at each other in admiration. Makes you wonder why some want to shoot. With a camera, yes! Later, I understand a bear was spotted in a tree nearby. We are talking about 1/4 mi from the center of town. Given Nita's excitement, this had to be a journal quilt. Long live the gifts of nature.

*Click on Nita's name in Labels below, to go to a special necklace she created in an earlier posting, June 10, 2010!

Correction: Nita phoned to say it was a DEER. Live and learn or listen better :*) Corrected journal quilt at top of page.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Catch-up Cards: more fabric postcards

    After making pumpkin muffins for the grandchildren who dropped off grand dog for boarding, I pulled out my fabrics to catch-up on some surprise correspondence. I wanted to send Charlie Brown raking leaves to the relatives to remind them they left here too soon. The leaves are finally turning colors and dropping. (We sometimes feel like Charlie in that all the leaves on the block blow to our house.)

Fronts, backs and batting or felt are cut to 4 1/2" x 6 1/2."
      While I had the stash out, I wanted to thank our hostess for our Maine send-off dinner. A second lobster fabric card would go to old Maine friends who hosted us there 40 years ago whom I thought we might have bumped into at the Owl's Head Museum auto show.
Finished postcards are 4" x 6." (Click to enlarge)

     After I have surprised everyone I know with a single fabric postcard, I am going to have to learn some new tricks or come up with more amazing cards! I was humbled in this task when I realized you could Google any subject and add "blog" as in "fabric postcard blog" or "quilted postcard blog"  to turn up astonishing viewings and tutorials. I also learned that there are sites to have a blog critiqued.

    Now to address, write (with gel pen) and take to the PO to be hand-cancelled.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fabricating Felt Fleurs: a relaxing stylish craft

   When our beading group, the Beadsprouts, travel for a few days to the Vineyard, we each take a craft. Chrissy researched felt flowers this year since they were in so many fashion magazines and pointed us to HiP: Felt Flower Tutorial. To prepare to write this blog I Googled "tutorial felt flower" and found many more videos. Whatever, it seems these are so easy to create by all ages. I plan to make some to cluster with granddaughters 4 and 6 years.
My two flower pins are about 2 1/2" diameter. Click to enlarge. 
    Get or make your felt (there are all qualities of felt: from the wool sweaters you shrink with soap and hot water to the squares or rolls you can buy at a craft or fabric store.) Cut out shapes of flowers with scissors or with Sissix shape cutters (I do not have or need Sissix, but could enjoy).  You can make a pattern by circling a glass, and cutting out different sizes and flower shapes. You can cut individual petals or stack shapes of one piece, different edges. You will invent other solutions such as folding strips of felt and cutting in a bit. A glue gun or needle and thread with button can hold them together. The stitching with embroidery thread or beading on the  petals adds so much ooomph! Loving care always does that.
Nancy made a giant flower and wore it to the museum!
Click to see better.