Friday, March 30, 2007

Hugs for my Sweetie

I finally sewed today. I've been obsessed with my handquilting but I'm almost finished with Fruit Punch and don't have another project to start handquilting so that was the nudge I needed.

I made loads of Xs. Are Xs hugs in the old hugs and kisses = Xs and Os? I don't actually know. I guess Xs have "arms" and when you hug each other you have four arms involved. And you pucker up and get on O shape when you kiss someone. Works for me. This was my first batch of the day:

See that mismatched X in the bottom right corner? I don't know how, but somehow I misplaced half an X. When I picked up the last two bits I had, I loved how they went together. Might make some intentionally, but not sure yet.

These are all the Xs I made today. Almost all. I tossed a couple aside into the orphan pile.

The second one looks busy. I'm hoping it's because the Os aren't in there yet. The top one looks so peaceful and soothing with the white space. Maybe an idea to consider for another time. There's definitely a difference between the first pic (natural light) and the second (flash) so I think the colors in the top are better.

I couldn't stand all my strips just globbed together. So back into little plastic bags for all the colors I'm working on.

To answer some comments on my last post. Yes, I'll still be blogging. Yes, I'll still be sharing loads of photos of work in progress and tutorials as needed. That's my favorite part of blogging. Some kind of latent teaching instinct or something. I had no idea it was there. The thought of getting up in front of strangers to teach in person makes me want to pass out, but I can babble all day on the blog. All the tutorials will still be available on

I'll still be harassing (and encouraging) some of you quilters out there to try something new and work without patterns or plans.

I'm going to go blogring free for awhile. I don't want to feel guilty that I'm in the embellishment ring, but haven't actually embellished for ages. That I'm in the maverick ring but going off the deep end making quilts out of dental floss and bottle caps... Not that I expect the latter to happen.

Yes, for some years now I've been making non-traditional quilts, but I didn't see them as "art quilt." Not serious enough or something. I'd say not pretentious enough but I don't want to get myself into trouble.

It's always been easier for me to think of my work as folk art because that is inherently naive, imperfect and it doesn't matter how you do it. It's done by just plain folk. I did once look up the definition of "folk art" and it's all about learning the skills from your people and doing things in a traditional way - so when it comes down to it, I'm not actually doing folk art.

I love Outsider Art, but don't think I fit into that category since I'm not institutionalized or incarcerated and God doesn't speak to me. Don't understand the joke? Go to an Outsider Art exhibition sometime and you'll see what I mean.

The problem with thinking Art Quilt is that I freeze up and start overthinking the process, instead of just enjoying myself. Is this Art, how about this? Aiyee, must stop thinking.

Lois, almost all the fabric I've bought has been half yards. I love scrap quilts and fabric rarely goes into just one project. I want leftovers. I did buy a few fat quarters specifically for this project - I didn't like the fabric well enough to buy more than that. And I did go back and buy a couple of yards of previously purchased fabric that was working incredibly well for this and I needed more.

Atet (you are no-reply or I'd have emailed you), my husband has definitely had the experience of the French being polite when he approaches them doing his very best to speak French.

Thank you all for the encouragement and support. I'll still be around and hope you'll continue to visit.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A New Direction

I've been invited to participate in a venture involving art quilters. When first approached I immediately thought "Who me? I'm not an Artist." I don't sell my work or try to get into galleries or shows. I don't take myself seriously and my quilts don't have a message. My artist's statement is likely to read: "I just liked how these colors go together."

But... An art quilter whom I respect told me a while back that I was making art quilts whether I acknowledged it or not. The quilters of Gee's Bend certainly weren't out to make art and yet their quilts are hanging up in art museums.

So I'm going to give it a go. A lot of my work in the last few years has been focused on making quilts for my imaginary book. I'm going to let that go, at least for the next while. What happens if I make a quilt just to please me, not to try and sell a technique? I'm going to take my work seriously, yet still try to hold onto the playful, goofy bits that are me.

For the last couple of years I've been encouraging traditional quilters to try new things, to work without patterns, to improvise. To try something new, even though it scares them. Now I'm following my own advice.

I don't know how well this is going to work out and admit I'm scared spitless. I'm scared about moving to Paris too (that not speaking French thing is a stumbling block) but I'm going anyway.

I don't want to give you details yet about this new thing yet. It's still too shiny and uncertain. One change I have made though is to drop out of the Quilt Mavericks blogring. I just don't think it's a good fit for the direction I'm going.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tentmaker Applique in France

As you can see, I successfully bought a few more fabrics for the new quilt. Within seconds Lily was ready for her close-up.

I've learned about two quilt shows that will be coming up in France this year (thanks for the info, Marion). One in Lyon in June and the other in the Alsace region in September. I don't know about the first, but Clare and I are hopefully going to the second one. Woohoo. Glad she wants to go to, because the thought of trying to make it on my own was more than intimidating.

The Carrefour European Patchwork Exhibition will be 13-16 September. I was excited to see that Jenny Bowker is bringing Egyptian Tentmaker Appliques to the show. Jenny's write up about Tentmaker Street and the appliques is incredible. And while I was searching for more info, I found this post written by one of the tentmakers himself.

So if you've been intrigued by my posts about tentmaker applique, this is your chance to see them without travelling all the way to Egypt. Of course you'll have to travel to France (oh, the hardship).

There will also be Turkmen patchworks from Afghanistan which sound intriguing. New (to me) ethnic textiles - gotta see that.

I've decided it's time to update the blog, including a new pic. So that's why this is here. A friend commented ages ago that the self-portrait I was using didn't look like me because I wasn't smiling. Hopefully this is better.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Blue, Green and a Bitty Bit of Purple

What Tonya should be doing today: cleaning (yet again - why does it never just stay clean?) and making a phone call (I HATE making phone calls). Has Tonya accomplished those things? No, instead it's much better to play with fabric and then go on a fabric shopping expedition (yet again - woohoo!) so as to not see the filth and the phone.

I am really missing my sweetie. It's been more than 3 months since I've seen him and I know people go much longer than that separated from their loved one, but it's still hard. He should be arriving here in Florida in less than a month. He'll get some beach time and then all of us will be off to Paris. (No, I am not taking 4 cats to the vet myself and then getting them overseas.) Not that any plane reservations have been made yet, so the dates are still up in the air.

So here I am missing my sweetie and wanting to avoid housework. Time to make another X and O (hugs and kisses) quilt. Or maybe L-O-V-E or maybe all of that combined. Choosing boy colors, not that he'd actually like these colors: too bright. Still, he won't hate these colors like he does the reds, pinks, oranges and yellows my last three quilts used.

These are the fabrics I already have. Wish I had more cyan/turquoise/blue (you've heard me whine about the desperate shortage of blues before) and I'm almost out of one of these fabrics so just gotta go and get more of it. Hopefully.

I know I sometimes make quilts with too little contrast, so I used my beloved Picasa (fabulous free photo software - go download it from Google) to check what these look like in black and white.

Works for me. I'm loving how these colors look together. In color, not black and white.

I had three wonderful phone calls this morning before a dreaded telemarketer made an appearance. The good ones were from my husband and dad (all doing well) and my wonderful friend Bonnie who is coming down for another sewing retreat next month. Woooooohooo!!!!!

Before I sign out, a quick reminder to everyone who switched to the new Blogger: if you haven't changed your email preference in your profile you're coming up as "no reply" in your comments. Everything else worked so smoothly I didn't realize there was a problem until someone let me know. So there you go.

Finally, some Smallville Season 5 geek talk. Lauri Ann (you are no-reply), yes Lana bores me too. Be interesting to see if she turns out-and-out evil. I'm still adoring Chloe and I'm glad they gave her more to do this season. I like Lois much better than I expected to but hate all this political stuff they did in the show this season. Like it's not bad enough with politics in the real world with their never-ending campaigns.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Does This Really Matter?

Recently I came across a blog entry in which a new quilter asked what she should do about a seam that had flipped while she was sewing it down. Should she rip the seam out and do it over again? I wasn't kidding when I commented that this kind of thing happens to me all the time. Here's an example from the Crumby Retreat quilt:

Go back and fix it? Hardly. I just can't see that it matters. So what if the seams are screwy. This quilt was made by a human. I am not a machine. To me, quilts made according to the Quilt Police rules have a horrible tendency to be sterile. They might be lovely to look at, but where's the heart, where's the soul? I think that's why I seem to be gravitating more to string and utility quilts from many years ago - they're anything but sterile.

How do you like my quilting on Fruit Punch so far?

Look closer. In just this one photo, I can see where a seam flipped in four different places.

Does it matter? Does it change your opinion of the quilt or the quilter? Stop stressing about making your quilts perfect and just enjoy yourself.

And of course whenever a quilt comes out for photography, one of my little ones just has to come pose. [Dawn, don't be fooled. Lily might look sweet and ladylike but she's the mischevious troublemaker, I assure you. Also my darling sweetie who sleeps in my arms, so there's no way I'm letting her go!]

I just finished Smallville Season 5. Holy Cow, it took me by surprise. Pa Kent? Really? Now I just want to devour the next season, but it's not available yet. Aaagh.

I've unfortunately discovered a new treat. Planters dark chocolate covered almonds. They are incredibly yummy and wouldn't be that bad for me if I could just limit myself to the serving size.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Palm Tree

I guess it was inevitable that I'd end up with a kitty in the laundry basket I use for my fabric strips. This would be Lily the imp. What's actually surprising is that I've never had any of the cats sit in baskets full of clothes and linens. My childhood cat loved warm, clean laundry.

When I first started cutting these strips I put them in plastic bags to keep like with like. I hate sorting through the mess when I want a different width of a particular fabric. Anyway, I decided to be more Bonnie and just throw them all in there willy-nilly and even let them get folded and twisty (eek).

I did a wee bit of sewing the other day. Found I just wasn't in the right frame of mind to piece. I'm totally enamored with hand quilting right now, so I guess I'll just keep at that.

In my last post I included a picture of an Egyptian date palm. Well here is a Florida palm tree with a completely different kind of fruit. I have no idea what it is.
My knowledge of palm trees generally runs to "ooh, pretty." I only knew those were dates in Egypt because our first week in country we visited the pyramids at Saqqara which were surrounded by palm trees and we were surrounded by locals trying to sell handfuls of dates.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre

The Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre is located not too far from the great pyramids of Giza in Egypt. It was founded in 1952 to teach young children to weave tapestries. I can't even begin to do justice to the story of the school -- which I visited in mid-September, shortly before departing Egypt -- but I love this quote by Ramses Wissa Wassef:

"I had this vague conviction that every human being was born an artist, but that his or her gifts could be brought out only if artistic activity was encouraged from early childhood by way of practising a craft... The creative energy of the average person is being sapped by a conformist system of education and the extension of industrial technology to every sphere of modern life."

Wissa Wassef was an architect and he designed the school. These domes are done in the Nubian style of Upper Egypt. Can you imagine working in a gorgeous place like this?

The weavers (adults now) use these large looms to create the wool tapestries. They can work either horizontally or vertically, and as they go the work is rolled onto the lower bar, so they never see the entire work until it is finished. They never use any cartoon or drawing, but instead improvise as they go along. You read that correctly - this work is improvised, even though they can only see the small section that they are working on, which may even be sideways, such as the one in the next picture.

The weavers can work on each image independently.

This was my absolute favorite tapestry. It's called Wool Dying and was made by Rada Mohammed. All the wool used in the tapestries is dyed by vegetables that are grown at the school. This tapestry depicts each step in the process of growing the vegetables, harvesting them, dying the wool in the vats and then hanging the wool to dry.
See the women carrying baskets and bales balanced on their heads? It's still quite common to see that in Egypt, particularly the rural areas.

This tapestry depicts a camel market.

And this final one was a huge landscape, obviously done by a very experienced weaver. If I remember correctly, it took the artist a year and a half to create.

My favorite part of it was the men climbing the palm trees to get the dates.

And here is a date palm right outside in the garden. Compare the two photos and see how fabulously the weaver depicted the trunk of the palm and the fruit.

And a final picture of the backsides of some cotton weaving. I was fascinated by all the threads hanging out. I suspect they will be woven in with a needle to finish them up.

I highly recommend the article Threads of Life: A Journey in Creativity to learn more about the school's founding and how these works of art are created. There's also excellent info in this article here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Gray Day

I woke up to rain this morning and the sky has been nothing but gray. Bleah. This kind of weather makes me sleepy and depressed. One of the many reasons cats and I are here instead of overseas with my sweetie (where this weather is standard right now). I'll be happy to get my blue skies back, but in the meantime, I do still have a bit of sunshine here:

I'm realizing this pic looks a bit odd. The quilt is thrown on a chair which is draped in a white sheet (makes it easier to clean up kitty hair) and the wall is white too. Lily is up on the top of the chair - not hovering in midair. I like to drape my quilts across the room so that I can get a better perspective on how the quilting looks.

I've been doing more hand quilting, a bit of rotary cutting, and too much Sudoku. Really missing my sweetie, but it actually won't be that long til I see him - approx 3 weeks.

Monday, March 19, 2007


I had an excellent, tho far too brief visit with my friend M this weekend. We did a bit of sightseeing. Walked on practically deserted beaches (okay, it was about to rain) and collected some seashells. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera that day. Suckered her into buying a bunch of fabric to sew baby quilts. Oh, the lure of the fabric.

Here are a couple of scenic pics for you. I adore these pelicans:

We watched "The Holiday" which was merely okay. It won't kill you, wasn't horribly boring, just incredibly predictable and not all that interesting. I wanted so much more from this cast, especially Jack Black, who was way too low-key.

Now life is back to the usual. I finally figured out exactly how to quilt Fruit Punch. I tried echoing the shape of the X into the background, but it just didn't work. Instead I'm going to echo quilt the shape of the unit. So it will look like the Xs have Os in the background. If that makes sense.

I think the Os will have Xs in the center, rather like I did them in Hot Crazy Love. Haven't done one yet.

One quick link before I go. If you haven't seen Joyce's free-pieced chicken flock, head over to J's Quilting Blog. They are fabulous.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Long Weekend

A 9 March pic of Lily. She does so love to get right up there on the cutting table, which is so not good. Haven't cut her or anything bad like that, she just slows the process down as I have to shoo her out of the way. I don't shoo flies, I shoo kitties. Anyone ever seen a Shoo Kitty block?

A good friend arrives tomorrow for a long weekend. We don't have much planned, just relaxation, a walk on the beach, a walk to Starbucks and some good food. I'm leaving all of my sewing stuff in the usual disarray but I WILL clean before she gets here.

And before anyone says, "She's coming to see you, not the house, you don't need to clean,"this is what I need to beg of ya'all: never ever tell me not to clean. That is my natural inclination, believe me. I use friends' visits as motivation to get done what NEEDS to be done. So if you are ever coming to visit, never say "oh, you don't need to clean." Please, please say "get cleaning." Ya'all don't want me to get buried beneath the cat hair do you?

By the way, have been getting quilting done on Fruit Punch. Didn't take long for me to give up on quilting in 1/16" from the edge of the letter. I've done that before on my letters using a bigger needle and perle cotton, but I want to use quilting thread. So I've switched to orange (red was too visible on the yellow) and am now quilting in ditches. I want the letters to really stand out, not the quilting.

If you haven't already checked out this month's edition of The Bent Needle, I highly recommend you do so, since the topic is scraps. Right down my crumby alley...

I'm outta here. Won't be logging in til next week sometime. Ya'all take care.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Look At All the Stripes

Because you can never have enough cat pictures in your blog: I present Pokey with yet more fabric.
Monday I hit two different quilt shops and bought fabric (with apologies to my sweetie). Bright fabrics with white, plus a new blue that hadn't been there before (but I am still cursing the fabric manufacturers for such a poor representation of that color in their fabrics this year and the fact that I have TONS of blues but they are all far away with the rest of my stash) and the black fabric with buttons because darnit I guess there are going to be novelty prints in there after all and at least it's quilting related fabric, sorta.

Look at all the striped fabric. Rather unbelievable and that's several different manufacturers represented there. I'll cut them all with the stripe, rather than against. Some of these are more pastel than I'd usually go for, but what the heck. I just really like that darn brassiere fabric in the bottom center of the pic - I think it's a hoot.

I never have enough time on the computer these days - I just seem to be taking a holiday from it I guess. I have loads of links to give you, but that will have to wait for another post, or else Pokey is going to nip me again. She's very insistent these days, not to mention fussy. She's gotten tired of the treats she was eating and now wants something new. What baby wants, baby gets.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Fruit Punch Revised

Ya'll may remember this quilt top. Fruit Punch. I worked on it ages ago and went through agony settling on a border fabric after the original one I envisioned didn't work. This is what I decided on last year.

But then I get here and buy all this new fabric with the same colors. So last month I started playing around with using a new border. I didn't have lots of yardage, which is why there is nothing pictured going all the way around. I'm only including a couple of samples from the many I tried. By the way, none of these pics is color accurate -they all look a little washed out. Yes, this quilt truly is bright.

The black with the flowers didn't work - made the eye go right to the border. Now if there had been some black in the middle, that would have been a different story.

I tried folding back all that original border too, to see if the fabrics would work with just a hint of that reddy pink. The pink and yellow flowered fabric was too bold. I liked the purple a lot, but it just seemed to make the quilt look way too much like Hot Crazy Love (which I finished quilting yesterday - woohoo!). But something in this version did catch my eye.

No border.

This is what Fruit Punch will look like with binding. I love it. The hugs and kisses (Xs and Os) were getting lost in the border no matter what I tried. So I unzipped the border. Got it basted today and think I'm going to quilt it in regular red quilting thread. Probably make myself crazy and (at least attempt to) quilt the letters 1/16" in from the seamline. I love how that looks but going through all the seams makes me so nuts. I'll decide after I take a stab at it. (heh heh heh)

Pokey is starting to nip at me for attention and treats. Time to log off. Take care.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bright Colors with White

I have almost all of my fabrics in bits and strips now. This is Pokey modeling before cutting began.

When I say I have all my fabrics cut, I should say: Except for the fabrics I haven't bought yet. I really do think I need to add white. Look what I bought today at an art festival. It's called Rita's Garden by Rita Van Gorder. She does beautiful silk paintings, but this is just a print. I love the intense colors.

The kitties like it too.

Anyway, there isn't actually that much white in the picture - it's pretty much just the railing and clouds. But that mat really makes it lovely. I always use black to make my colors pop, but you definitely end up with a different, brighter mood with white.

Yup, need to go for it and buy more fabric - it's a hard job but someone's got to do it.

I'm almost finished with my hand quilting project. Just a wee bit more. I finished up Season 4 of Smallville and am anxiously waiting to start Season 5. I've so been rooting for Lex to somehow overcome his future evil but "I'm the villain of this story" was certainly an ominous sign of things to come. Watched "Hollywoodland" which was okay. I wanted to love it, but just didn't care for the whole parallel stories thing and wish they'd just stuck with George Reeves. Ben Afleck is great at being a classic movie star.

Top Design sucked this week. Remodelling a garage? Just call this a car commercial and be done with it. So don't care and didn't even finish watching it. The first episode of Top Design had a great challenge but the rest - bleah. C'mon, give them all a piece of funky folk art and tell them it has to go in a classical Louis XIV style room. (I actually read an article about Joan Rivers collecting folk art paintings by a Southern artist that her decorator refuses to put in Joan's classical apartment.) That would be interesting. Make it work, as Tim Gunn would say.

I'm doing well. For the fellow thyroid sufferers amongst you: went to the endocrinologist on Wednesday and my TSH was at 1.4. Furthermore, the endo wants it even lower so he upped me to 137 mcg of Synthroid. I've actually lost a couple of pounds since my first visit to this doctor back in December and that includes all that time I was off my meds and sluggish beyond belief. Woohoo, work, metabolism, work.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Souvenir Pyramids

Here's a good picture of the three souvenir pyramids that you could see buried beneath the crumbs in my last post. Those are scarabs there in front of them (a previous post on scarabs can be found here).

These souvenir pyramids are quite common in Egypt. Cheap but very heavy to stuff in your suitcase (thank goodness for wheeled luggage). I have no idea if the heiroglyphics actually mean something, or the carvers just went for pretty images - personally I'm a big fan of the bee. There's a great bee on the leftside of the middle pyramid.

Vera, yes, I would recommend a trip to Egypt. A lot, and I do mean a LOT of tourists come to Egypt regularly with no problems. Hate to say it, far more have been killed in bus crashes and car accidents than by bombs. (Don't travel outside a major city at night and certainly never ever never rent a car and drive yourself.)

If you want to read up on the threat level you can read the U.S. State Dept's assessment here. I safely lived in Egypt for three years and no one I knew was ever in any bad situation, and believe me we were going to the pyramids, the Khan al Khalili market and especially Tentmaker Street (a destination every quilter in Egypt needs to get to), and all over. I was going to add more links, but I got tired... You get the picture.

Speaking of Tentmaker Applique, a friend sent me a link to pics of an exhibition of these works down in Australia. Lovely.

I've gotten more crumbs done. Just working on this a little at a time.

I'm thrilled to almost be done quilting HCL's upper border and then I'll hit the homestretch. Fingers crossed the next disc of The Wire is out in my mailbox so I have something entertaining to watch.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Faking Crumbs

A picture of my current sewing project. I'll get back to this later.

My visit with my friend went really well yesterday, with the exception of getting to the quilt shop too late. We could only stand at the windows and press our noses against the glass. Darn those shop people for having personal lives. Since I was thinking about spending, I saved a buncho money.

I explained ages ago about "my" colors. This was a very limited palette that I loved (and still do) and I ONLY bought fabric in those colors. (A quick recap: only colors of the cool side of the spectrum and black. Period.) Then I started playing with orange and lime green for Halloween and all was lost. Eventually I started making quilts that used all sorts of colors so long as they were bright. Still no white though.

But playing with Bonnie in January on the crumb quilts I had fun using those shirting fabrics. Now I'm thinking, maybe I need to add some white to my current project. And some black and white. Oh nooooo. I hold the line tho. There will be no neutrals, no beiges, taupes or any color of that ilk.

So if the store had been open, I would have bought some bright and white fabrics. Maybe. Mighta. Now we'll never now.

Meanwhile, the pic up top shows you some of the bits I've been cutting. I want to make another crumb quilt, but I got no crumbs. So it's a fake crummy. I want this quilt to have lots of triangles in it (love those kaleidescopes etc that Bonnie pieced) and some nine-patches and maybe two-patches and definitely some piano keys. So I've been cutting triangles, squares and rectangles out of the strips to save time when I start piecing. Not going for accuracy, just speed.

My piles of fakes are higher than in the pic (but still the same colors as shown - no white). I even cut some today until resurgent allergies made me realize it's not time yet for that.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

I Don't Wanna Clean

I was trying to take yet another photo of Lily sitting on fabric when she decided to leap off the table instead. Made for an interesting picture, as she's about to spring into action.

Speaking of springing into action, turns out a long-time quilting friend is coming to visit today. I'm really excited to see her, it's been far too long, but I just can't get myself moving this morning to start cleaning. (I have admitted how incredibly slovenly I am, right?) Fairly soon the clock will tick down and that will panic me into action, but at the moment, here I sit.

Other than the impending visit, no news from here. Life has been wonderfully unexciting.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


I wasn't paying enough attention to my quilting and moved over to start the new set of fans too soon. I didn't realize until I'd already done the first three arcs of the new batch and there was no way I was going back, so I just kept working as usual and imbedded the short stack.I'm halfway done quilting the border and a lot farther than half in quilting the whole thing. I just love quilting here - there is so much natural light coming in the windows. Yesterday I did go out and buy a little Ott light so now I can quilt at night as well.

I'm rather boring since that's my big news. All I've been doing is quilting in front of the boob tube. Just started the third season of The Wire, which is pretty intense as usual. From watching this (and Homicide - which I never have) you would think that Baltimore is just one giant crime zone. I guess the same could be true of New York City what with all the Law and Orders and CSI, but you don't get the same sense of despair from those shows.

And on that cheery note, I am out of here. Ya'all take care.