Friday, November 30, 2007

Gifts and Gift Bags

I've gotten a couple of quilt blocks in the mail. This marvelous block, which my husband says looks like one of these eye tests they give you to see if you have 3-D vision:

Can you read it? It's got a great rhythm to it and it's interesting to see Jen's brights, which are actually more muted and softer than my own.

And here's a block from Quilt Diva Julie. I love that she included the spikey border bit for me and look at that way to do a Q- I bet that's easier than the way I do it!

Both Jen and Julie are in my quilt class. Thank you!!!! I am honored that you'd send me these - I'll have to think of a great quilt for them.

Here are a couple of bags that I've recently finished. I usually put some kind of button or tassel or ribbon to finish these off, but I don't think the chili bag needs it.

Finally using my sewing-themed fabric. I never used it in a quilt because it has beige.

A look at my Christmas decorating. A mix of hand-crafted (wood, pottery, fabric) and plastic Santas, gift bags, phrenology heads and canopic jars. I bet nobody else's place looks like this.

Unfortunately I can't just decorate to make it look nice - I also have to build that kitty barricade in front.

I'm listening to the BBC podcast Newspod. Not quite sure what they were refering to, but I just caught an announcement (from the metro system???): "A reminder to our American friends that you are undoubtedly speaking too loud" or words to that effect. Too true and I know I'm certainly guilty of it. Made me laugh.

I went over to Montmartre checked out the fabric store Reine, which you can spot from the carousel at the bottom of the Sacre Couer Basilica. They do have 100% quilting cotton, but nothing that you can't get elsewhere. Nothing particularly French, at least not where I was looking. So at least for Americans, I'd call it a skip unless you are looking for some other kind of fabric.

I know some of ya'all have been worried about the rioting that is going on here in France. That is all way out in the suburbs, nowhere near where I live. So no worries, we're fine here. Besides, we don't have a car for them to set on fire...

The sun is out, the sun is out! Woohoo! Later, guys.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Christmas Houses 1997

I have shown you this quilt before, but never with the details. Christmas Houses was my first ever liberated project, courtesy of the remarkable "Liberated Quiltmaking" by Gwen Marston. It's such a weird mix of icky ugly Christmas fabrics from the 1980s as well as gorgeous purples and greens that I still love. I've written more about making this quilt way back in this post.

I was so proud of my quilting when I finished this. Now I would do a whole lot more - but I think I've gone overboard with the hand quilting in recent years.

Look at my little misshappen snowman. I could make this so much better now, but he has his charm. I am thrilled that I included the date in my quilting - I know exactly what year I made it just by looking at the front of the quilt.

Speaking of Gwen, her Liberated String Quilts is now out of print. I don't understand that at all, it's such a beautiful book. Great pics of antique string quilts. You can still buy a copy directly from Gwen, which you should consider doing before the price of the used copies shoots way up.

I haven't done any sewing lately, just working on gift bags. I figure I've got to do it while the mood is upon me, otherwise they'll never get finished. Yesterday I watched the first four episodes of the tv series Jericho, about life in a smalltown after a big nuclear attack on the U.S. I keep thinking these people aren't nearly freaked out enough - the world as they know it is gone. But I guess they haven't had enough time to think it through yet. I'm already yelling at them to start rationing batteries, fuel and food. I'm sure they'll get there soon.

On a much happier note, I've put my Christmas music into play, so now I'm grooving to Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Louie Armstrong, Steve Tyrell, the Ventures and the immortal Eartha Kitt's Santa Baby. And of course Elvis, how could I have forgotten to mention him.

I have a bunch of links for you. First off, I received an email from Kris asking me to tell you about a non-profit website called Twirls for Girls, which was set up so that people could download free doll skirt and top patterns to be made and donated to the Marine Toys for Tots foundation this Christmas. When I think of Toys for Tots I always imagined that they just want purchased toys, it's good to know that they value hand-crafted items. And if there's no Toys for Tots in your part of the world, I'm sure there is a child or charity that would love the gift of doll clothes as well.

The amazing Bonnie has been incredibly busy (I know, when isn't she). First off, she has kindly added my free-piecing Basics tutorial to Quiltville so you can now print it off much easier over there rather than from my blog. She's also come up with a fun Crumb Tutorial that hopefully will give ya'all a better idea of how those little blocks are made up. She included pics from our Crumby Retreat that made me I wish I could be there in Florida sewing with her now. Last but not least, she has added directions for making String Stars.

Cascade Lily free-pieced a teapot and it looks excellent. She drew it out first to get an idea of how it would go together and then just pieced it. Looks marvelous. She's been quilting freehand fans too, so go check out the other fun quilts on her blog.

Kimberly M at Loco Quilter is a hoot. She made wonderful free-pieced Halloween blocks and now she's working on Christmas. you can check out her blog to see her charming Santa. She's also a member of the Winter Class where there is some great work being posted.

Deputy's Wife just tried the free-pieced letters. She was very brave, just dove right in and didn't even practise with the simple ones first. Her work in progress can be seen on her 26 Nov post. She found making the letters easy and fun. Always wonderful to get feedback like that.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Turkey Dish

Pictures of dishware from the Musee de Arts Decoratif, which is housed in the same building as the Louvre. Most of the items in this display (sorry I don't know anything about it) seemed to be decorative rather than functional. Or at least I couldn't figure out how you'd use them. Rather an odd assortment of items.

I think this turkey is hideously ugly and not in a good way:

The turtles are fun. I'm assuming the artichoke slices are decorative.

I think the snake opens up to put something inside and the radishes(?) are decorative.

A big cabbage. I couldn't tell if this was a tureen or not.

This wasn't in the same display case. But just in case you want a platter that has a permanent seafood dinner, here you go. I wouldn't want this looking at me.

For early christmas presents, my parents got French mustards, chocolates and loads of empty gift bags. Kinda cheesy to send just the bags but my stepmom loves them. Plus my folks can be hard to buy for. I found a great place to order specialty pistachios, like garlic- and chili pepper-flavored, but now my Dad just orders them for himself. Bother. (By the way, I highly recommend the Atomic Hot Chili Pistachio Brittle.)

Anyway, these are a couple of the new gift bags I made using classy Hoffman batiks:

Thanksgiving wasn't a big deal here. My husband and I went out to lunch for Lebanese food, which was good but nearly as good as Tabboule in Cairo. And then for dinner I just walked a couple of buildings over to get some yummy takeout Penne Risi et Bisi and Tiramisu for dessert.

Thanksgiving can be a hard holiday for me. My mom was such a fantastic cook and she always outdid herself for the holidays. I just know how excited she would have been for me to be living in Europe. And I'm feeling awfully far away from my family and friends. A bit maudlin at the moment, but that will pass quickly.

We did watch Bell, Book, and Candle with Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. Love that movie, although I hate how boring Gillian is at the end - the primitive art is incredibly cool. This movie counts as a holiday movie since it begins on Christmas Eve. And since it's about witches, I thought it was fitting for the last day of my Halloween decor. It's a very groovy movie with bongo drums and Jack Lemmon. And a much better movie with Stewart and Novak than is Vertigo although I'm sure many would disagree with me.

Yesterday I trashed the apartment taking down Halloween and putting up Christmas. Still have boxes piled up all over the place. What a mess. The sun is making a return visit, so I need to go out and soak it up. I can tidy up another day. I have several links for you and other things I wanted to mention, but that will wait too. Enjoy your weekends.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

I've got my trees made, the words "Joyeux Noel" (including the umlaut over the e - that is what those dots are called, right?), and a sample set of piano keys (which may be for a border or sashing here or there between the trees). Now I just have to decide on the setting. This is how I had it yesterday:

And then I thought today that maybe I should have the words in the middle with a row of trees to the top and bottom:

I like the first pic better, but haven't made any firm decision yet. I'm trying to keep this quilt smallish.

I have a book recommendation for you all. Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay. It's not just a book about colorful pigments and dyes (which would be fabulous enough) but also about travelling, history and art. Ms. Finlay is incredibly adventurous, going into Taliban-controlled Afghanistan on the hunt for lapis lazuli for example. She actually saw the large Buddhas of Bamiyan before they were destroyed. I love this: "The peaks in that area were like children's drawings of mountains. Or perhaps they were even more basic than that--scribbles made on paper to check that a pen works; impossible jagged crags glowering over the horizon."

And this bit is a hoot: "In the eighteenth century the main source of urine for the whole of the English dyeing industry was in the North. History has rather generously rewritten the story of Newcastle upon Tyne, and credits the city for exporting coal and beer. But two hundred years ago its citizens peed for England. It seems extraordinary now to imagine first that London could not provide its own natural resource, and second that Newcastle should have organized an efficient system whereby its people would have been--presumably--paid pennies while spending them, and where pots of urine were transported around the courntry by ship."

You can read an excerpt from the book and an interview with the author here. I give the book 4.5 out of 5. Remember how I read the book A Perfect Red not too long ago? If you haven't read it yet (and you really should), I'd read it AFTER reading Color. I was a bit bored in the red chapter and I'm sure that's why. And if you have read either of these books, how did you like them?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Chartreuse and Red Trees

I finally got some sewing done - woohoo. I'm playing with a color combination that I NEVER would have imagined myself liking just a few years ago. But here it is, chartreuse and red.

I blame Siobhan, who made a fun 12 days of christmas appliqued quilt in these colors a few years ago. Of course I can't find a picture of it on her blog. But believe me, it's fun and bright. But I still never thought that *I* would use these colors. And then of course Sio gave me the striped chartreuse and red fabric a couple of years ago. So I've finally lost my struggle against these happy colors.

I had fun playing with the trees, making different sized blocks. I'm trying to really work on my value - I usually use way too many dark dark fabrics and not enough light. I'm going to make a few more trees and may do some words as well. This will be a wallhanging.

Pokey, of course.
My sweetie and I watched While You Were Sleeping. Just love that movie. Great chemistry between Bill Pullman and Sandra Bullock. I worked on yet more gift bags while we watched. I'm determined to have a big stockpile of them by the end of the year.

The transit strike continues here, but so far no real effect on us. I'm not venturing far from our apartment though. I don't want to get stuck far from home in the inevitable rain. According to the news, the whole strike mess is bound to get worse this week with all sorts of other public sector workers going out. Gee, thanks.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

French Sphinx Tomb

More pictures from my visit to Montmartre Cemetery on Halloween. I love looking for the egyptian influences on french design. This is the Laver-Frantz tomb. I don't know when it was actually constructed, but the earliest death date is 1839.
An owl. Okay, that bit isn't Egyptian.

But the sphinx definitely are, even if they are far more french than egyptian.
These are the longest legged sphinxes I've ever seen.
They have wings - a very unusual feature.
Each sphinx has two snakes wound around her head and draped down to her neck. I love the scarab necklace.
Another angle to see the snakes. What an amazing amount of detail.

I ended up skipping the walk yesterday so that I could spend more time with my sweetie. Retrospectively - what a mistake. Yesterday was glorious and today the forecast is 100% chance of rain. At least I made Chili with Beer yesterday, so that will help us warm up.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

More Gift Bags

Yes it's easier to make a gift bag once you know what size the contents are going to be. My husband will tell me that I don't get any prezzies unless I make a bag of such and such proportions. Of course I jump to and make the bags.

At this point I have a stash of many sizes. Not so many small ones, because little items often end up in stockings.

This kind of enclosure (frog? Chinese button?) is really classy looking and so easy to attach with glue. I utility quilted each little snowflake dot on this bag.

This is the bag I just finished yesterday, again quilting just the snowflake dots. I made little tiny crosses with white perle cotton thread.

When I first started out I was cautious with what fabric I used for the inside. Just trying to use up stash didn't work well for me. It has to "go" or else it draws attention to itself. Anyway, I now often use a bright contrasting fabric:

For the edge, I stitch up the inside fabric, rather than the outside fabric so there's a nice contrasting "racing stripe"

I have some poly-fil polyester batting that I've been using up. The real advantage is that it doesn't need any quilting to hold its shape, so you can make the bags faster. I think this little bag actually looks kinda classy. It has bright red fabric inside.

Oh my oh my, bright gorgeous sunshine out there in the world. Who cares that it's only 42 degrees (not celsius of course!). I'm actually going to be smart and wear a coat out there instead of the thin sweater I've been using recently.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Quilted Gift Bags

I have been working on gift bags. My husband hates wrapping presents. (I'm the complete opposite - I love it.) So a few years back I decided to use some of that fabric I've got to make gift bags. The first ones were just bags - not even drawstring bags because that was too hard. Pretty ironic given how much time I spend on them now.

I didn't like just having one layer of fabric around the gifts - way too easy to figure out what was in the bag. So I've turned to making quilted gift bags. There's a tutorial here I wrote two years ago for anyone who is interested.

I love using up all the extra bits of batting that are too fiddly to whipstitch together to make a bigger batt. It's also fun to find the perfect fabric to just make bags out of as well, like this one:

The quilting on this one actually looks like the snowflakes I sewed this week:

I love buttons:

I put a perle cotton tie through every dot on this fabric:

I sew safety pins onto the back of the nametags so that I can move them from one bag to another. But this roller coaster bag is all mine. I sewed the ribbon on through all three layers of the sandwich.

Kind of ridiculous to spend this much time on bags. But I love that they are reusable and we're not throwing out all that wrapping paper. Plus it's cozy, like a little quilt snuggling up the gift.

I've had a hard time actually using these on presents leaving the house. I get too attached and just want to keep them here. I'm hoping the more I make the easier it will be to let some go. And it's not like they're going to "waste" here. I stuff things in them and use them to decorate. They look lovely under the tree and who actually needs presents?

By the way, I've posted pics of all of these bags before. I'll show the newer ones another day.

It was a crisp fall day today. Took a walk along the Champs d'Elysees with a friend. Hope the weather is lovely where ya'all are too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Who Does Your Building Look Like?

Remember how I walked all the way home from the Marais the other day? It took me well over an hour and was a bit miserable there at the end. Well we'll all be walking everywhere in Paris if this transportation strike continues. I can tell there are more cars on the street than normal just by the increase in honking outside. Anyway, good thing my husband just has a 25 minute walk to work. And today we had sunshine.

These are pictures I took on that walk home I was telling you about. Of course I have no idea what street this was and why this building is an art project, unless someone is having fun before demolition begins?

I love this face:

And there are some paintings as well.

I love the colors painted on the door.

That sign does say demolition, although I find it hard to believe they are actually knocking it down. Maybe just a serious renovation?

Finally, a picture for my uncle of St Eustache, which had to have been the only church he didn't manage to photograph while he was visiting. No gargoyles but there are flying buttresses.

I am very whiny today. Big allergies, headache, and my bad knee is acting up. sigh. Aiyee.

Meanwhile, I am really enjoying the Winter Class. Folks have already made progress. Lots of fun so come check it out and you can still join up if you'd like to.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

More Pont Neuf Trolls

I took a long walk yesterday with my quilter friend Will. We actually had sun, it was gorgeous and we strolled along the southern bank of the Seine, which I hadn't done before. I can never remember if that's the left bank or the right bank.

I didn't take any photos, but here are some Pont Neuf trolls by my uncle Morey. (see my post here for the trolls on the other side of the bridge). These are the ones Will and I saw yesterday.

The trees have all lost their leaves now, but this is what Paris looked like back in October:

I have to make this a quick post today - there is a box that HAS to go in the mail today and I'm not done creating the contents yet.

Finally, a link to Ms Glaze, who made me laugh with her post on the perils of learning to swear in a Michelin-starred French restaurant. Very funny. Go read it here.