Thursday, August 21, 2014

We are quilters

The AQS  (American Quilt Society) show is in Grand Rapids this week and I went opening day with Friend Marilyn, and will return tomorrow with another friend.  The quilts are beautiful but tastes vary. Marilyn decided there should be a designation between "quilt" and "fiber art."  And we debated whether an art quilt should even be considered "art."  And yes, it should.  Fabric can be a medium just as paints or clay or steel.  It's hard to make some people in the art world understand that.

I don't want to upset my quilt friends by saying that this machine quilting thing has grown beyond what I would consider being able to say of a finished piece, "I made this!"   Not if you have a super duper computerized long arm machine that you program and then walk away from.  And wow, we saw some things that could launch the space shuttle.

My quilting is simple. In the beginning I pieced by hand, cut templates for everything, drew 1/4 inch lines and pinned and stitched where I happened to be. Couch, back porch, etc.  Applique scared me to death till I made a baby quilt for Elizabeth and it was all applique.  After that one, I had enough practice to be comfortable.  But I don't glue, bond, iron on or machine applique.  I do needle turn. I like it. It's soothing.

My little machine is a beginner. One you might buy for your granddaughter when she turns 9 or 10. It has a straight stitch, a zig zag and maybe a buttonhole.  Not sure. I use it to put binding on - which I used to do by hand, also. And if I'm making something simple, triangular, straight, then I give in to the machine.  But the rest is done by hand.

None of this makes me a hero or better quilter than you or you or you.  I am just not comfortable with a machine, sitting at one for a long time makes my neck or back hurt, we don't get along.  And to tell the truth, stitching by hand is relaxing.  

I try not to be judgmental of the machiners but after walking through the vendors yesterday I told Friend Marilyn that the one word that seems to pop out of most stalls was "quick."  Quick cut! Quick sew! Quick applique! Quick quilts!  Glue it down, zigzag it on and send it off to the computer to quilt for you. Yikes.  It made me sad.

I don't put out a lot of quilts because I do quilt by hand, sitting in my comfy big butt chair that lets me fit the lap hoop right onto my lap, pins sticking out of the upholstered arm, Ott light to my left.  The quilts I make will never hang on a wall.  Mine are used on our beds, covering us at night watching a little TV or reading a book. They're dragged out into the yard and used as tents, they're hung over ottomans, chairs and stools as tents, they're dragged through the house and cover little laps with bowls of popcorn tucked in the folds.

And they're soft.

   Like these.

These quilts were part of a featured display of this woman's work. Every stitch of it hand sewn. The quilting stitches are incredibly tiny, even, perfect.  I told FM that I hoped no one ever got their nose to MY quilts counting stitches!

They were beautiful and homey in their simplicity, in their teensy detail, in their scrappyness.

These little hexies were the size of a thumbnail.  Perfect.

OK, so my observation is made, my preferences noted.  That doesn't make me right and a machine piecer and quilter wrong. Fresh in my mind after yesterday's show, it's just a preference.  Like the fork I like to eat with (ask daughter and PH about THAT one!) or liking my Coke out of a fountain instead of a can.  These are thoughts FM and I talked about as we walked around yesterday. We saw everything from the tent makers of Cairo to sparkles to the quilts above.  In the end, whatever else we are, we are quilters.
(Are you still my friends????)

This is the best time of the year to eat!
Heirloom tomatoes, baby potatoes, mushrooms, pearl onions, basil, bacon...and then some chicken legs tucked in and all of it roasted.  Oh, my goodness.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Baa Baa Black Sheep Have You Any Wool

I just came home  from Michigan's FiberFest.  I love going each year...well, most years.  It's such a tactile event.  I walk along running my fingers through fleece still smelling of sheep and lanolin and the field.  Still groaty with dirt and snarls.  but oh, I do stand there and inhale.

I try to go every year.  One year I hobbled along on a broken foot wearing that big boot,  some years it's oppressingly hot,  some years PH even accompanies me holding my purchases and following along behind me as I search.  Each year I have a mission, something I know should be there and I need to find.  Roving for my daughter or the yard art in the front of the house.  Felt balls.  Last year it was the French knitting spool.  Each year I get an idea about something and file it away in my brain till mid August when I can go to FiberFest and look and ask.  This year is was information on dyeing with indigo. I did find people to talk to and came home with information.  And a skein of yarn.  Just one.  I want to see if this works before I invest in more yarn.  My main project will be fabric but that's cotton.  I wanted to see what wool would do.  One plant, one animal.
Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?  Yes, sir, Yes, sir, three bags full.

The animals were not all in yet but they were arriving and some sheep and goats were having lunch as  I wandered through the animal barns.
 Wool on the hoof. Isn't this gorgeous?
 Wool off the hoof
 And transformed into all the colors you can think of.   There was a lot of information on dyeing with Kool-aid.  I'm too much of a purist for that.  I want to do it the hard way.

 This will be a beautiful shawl when it's finished.
 Don't you love these baskets from Ghana?  I'm a sucker for them. I now have three.
 Oops.  Four.
 But the one I bought today was just a little one so it doesn't count, right?
 Bangs must be in right now.

Yesterday when the girls were here we went to the orchard to pick peaches.  It's tough picking peaches and apples because we're just getting into the fun of it when the basket is full.

 I asked Adelaide to count the ones she was putting into my basket.  I told her to put them in gently like eggs and she counted - starting from 1  with each new one she added.  Atta girl!
 They filled mommy's basket in record time and didn't want to leave.  Peaches come ripe all at once and you have to get creative about using them  up.  Pies, juicy chins, my daughter heard of a process where you make a simple syrup, put the peaches into a zip bag, pour in some syrup and freeze them.  We're both going to try it.
There is nothing  like the peach you picked yourself.   I think I said that about strawberries and cherries and blueberries and raspberries.   We're picking our way through summer.  But it's been such a cool summer things are ripening later.  Tomatoes are still not ready, not even close.  Early apples aren't ready yet. U-pick places aren't opening during the week, saving the ripening fruit for the tourists on weekends. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Illusion of Separateness

As we go through life we are bound to people in ways we can’t imagine.  We make a mark on the lives of others that we will never know about. And in our times of sadness and aloneness if we could only remember that.  This story tells the interwoven stories of six people and the connections they have to each other, unknown to themselves.  But one small act of kindness or selflessness changes everything.

I can’t remember when I read a book, came to the last page and immediately returned to the first page and read it straight through again in one sitting.  Can’t believe I’ve ever done that.  But I did with this one.  And if there weren’t dozens of books sitting on my shelf waiting their turn, I’d turn to page one and give it another go right now. 

How many books can you say that about? How much better can it be?

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Today our Ceci turned four and we just returned from her birthday party.  The theme was "Olaf in Summer"  because every little girl in the world is into "Frozen." right now.  Olaf in summer seemed the perfect way to go on an August afternoon.

 I don't know where the time goes but for sure it goes a whole lot faster when you're counting your grandchildren's years.

Because the theme was from Frozen the music was playing in the background of pool party fun.
 And then Let It Go came on.  Does that song play in your head as you try to go to sleep?  Does your husband know the words?  Well, Adelaide and Ceci would drop what they were doing to sing the song.  Adelaide studied the movements of Elsa in the movie and gets right into it.  Very into it.
But then, so does Ceci.  And the two of them were singing along all afternoon.

Happy Birthday, Dollycake.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Raising readers

    Elizabeth reached a reading level at the end of first grade this year to where she can read "chapter books."  And now it's hard to remember the color of her eyes.  She reads in bed with a flashlight, she sleeps with a book in case she wakes up earlier than Adelaide (at my house they share a bed.) She reads during Adelaide's nap time.  She reads in the car. 

We went to St. Joe for our annual carousel ride, look at the street art (this year it's lighthouses) and a stop in the bookstore.  They each found three books.

 Elizabeth literally had to be steered as she walked down the street.  A tap on the shoulder moved her in the right direction if she veered.
 Adelaide isn't reading yet, she starts Kindergarten in the fall, but that doesn't mean a thing when it comes to a good book.
She had Amelia Bedelia goes to the Doctor and she thought this page hilarious.  Amelia was cooking an egg on a hot car.It just tickled her funny bone. 

We are all readers so they have good role models.  Seeing someone in this family with a nose in a book is their normal and so they follow suit.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Friends indeed

Most of us have different friends for different parts of our lives. I have a good friend who has many friends and one day I commented to her that she has someone to do something with no matter what she is going to do.  Concert? She knows someone who loves them.  Antique  shop hopping?
She has someone who loves to do that.  Going for a walk on a nature trail?  She has a walking friend. Berry picking?  There's a friend for that. I always envied that in her. Her friends weren't upset if they weren't asked to go along on a certain excursion. She just knew walking friend couldn't sit still for a concert and walking friend knew it, too. I was her "living across the street keeping an eye on her (because she's 20 years older than me) and getting her into trouble friend."  Then we moved. I miss the everyday-ness of her.

Making new friends can be hard.  Starting over IS hard. But sometimes you luck out. Sometimes you make casual connections that take root and grow because you have something in common.

Like quilting.  These are my quilting friends.  The happenstance of our meeting is varied and grew in strange ways.  But now they are just in the column marked FRIEND, with no disclaimer of being a quilter or a berry picker or reader or anything else.

Last year I asked if anyone was interested in doing a round robin quilt project with a group of women in Germany.  I have a quilting friend, Elke, in Germany.  We were first connected in a strange way but we've been corresponding for a few years.  I asked if she would consider gathering seven friends and doing a round robin with seven of my friends.  They agreed and we were off and running.

Last January we mailed to each other a box with 8 quilt squares measuring 12.5 inches.  It didn't matter that they measure in centimeters and we in inches.  The squares were just measured and we worked from there. No problem. Quilters know how to do anything!

On our side, when the box from Germany arrived, Friend Marilyn and little Adelaide and I drew names and distributed a center to a waiting quilter.  We divided into two groups of four or the end quilt would be huge and the center medallion lost in the 8 borders. So each 12.5 inch square has four borders.  We had a list of who to send to after each of us finished our round.  We had 6 week deadlines to keep things moving.

And now we are finished!  Last night we wrapped it up with a dinner, a reveal of our work and a toast to an amazing experience.  What fun!  I am completely amazed at what was done to each quilt and you will be, too, once I show them to you.  I can't do that till they've been returned to the quilters in Germany.  It wouldn't be fair for them to see their surprises online.

In the meantime, I'd like to introduce you to my quilting friends.  I shouldn't say that.  They are in the FRIEND column.   Unfortunately, one of them couldn't be with us last night.  Janet is vacationing, but no less a part of us.

 This is Sally.  I've shown you her work before.  She does impeccable work and loves doing the teensy weensy piecing.  Sally stepped in when we lost Karen to cancer at the very beginning of this project. We all would have stepped up and taken over for Karen's rounds, but we were delighted Sally joined us.  Friend Marilyn and I met Sally about 15 years ago at a quilt retreat.
 This is Ines.  She is from Peru and does beautiful colorful work. Ines is part of our retreat in the fall.
 This is Friend Marilyn.  My daughter is married to her son and we became friends at first because of the kids then just on our own ever since my daughter was 14.  That makes.....24 years!  Whoa! Doing the math is always scary!
 This is Barb.  I know I've shown you her work before.  She's an incredibly talented artist.  And very funny.
 This is Dodie.  She is a friend/neighbor but for six months she lives in Florida. She doesn't do snow.  Dodie loves the modern quilt and does intricate little pieces I don't have the patience for.  Thank goodness she does!  I love seeing her creations. And I love when it's spring and she and Bob come back from Florida.
 This is Jan.  She is my niece's mother-in-law.  She does beautiful work, she loves applique and embroidery and the things she did to her rounds for these quilts always blew me away.  She notices things.  She will see a detail no one else did. She always went the extra mile.
And me. 

See what I mean?  We all met in varied ways but managed to connect through needles and threads and scraps of fabric.  Last night was the first time Dodie and Jan met the rest of the group, and the first time in this project we were all together. I'm very lucky to have met these women and connected with them.
 After show and tell and exclamations and congratulations and explanations of our decisions on our borders, we toasted the project and Elke and her friends.
 I made a paella for dinner
with homemade blueberry ice cream for dessert.

Thanks again, friends indeed.