Thursday, December 13, 2012

First Friday favorite photo - December (late and last)

Late, late, late! I missed the first Friday deadline.

Despite plans, these postings haven't forced me to organize my photos. That project was put on the back burner when I switched from a pc to a mac in midyear. Maybe after more training sessions, iPhoto will stop being such a mystery and I'll climb out of that rabbit hole.

Until then, this the last first Friday favorite photo.

Monday, December 3, 2012


Can't believe it is December. Where did the year go?

The Janome 6600 went in for service before Thanksgiving. Just as I was about to pull out my backup machine, the shop called to say it's ready. Great timing!

Not only does the shop provide excellent service, they also sell new machines and sewing & quilting supplies. I test drove two new machines with wider 11" throats - new Janome Horizon MC8200 and a Bernina (sorry didn't note the model). The Janome fmq'd more smoothly.

Tempting as the new machine was, I came home with my 6600. I can't really justify a new machine. Yet. Might change my mind after wrestling with the next quilt beast. In the meantime I'll finish the year with my fmq quest: samples and smaller ufos. Quest to continue in 2013 with larger works.

Meanwhile, Three 1 and Three 2 are part of the Alameda County Arts Commission Exhibition at the Alameda County Administration Building, 1221 Oak St., Oakland, CA. It opens today and runs until 2/21/2013.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Week of many tasks

Away from home without sewing machine and studio space, I did some handwork. Finished binding this one for EBHQ's annual Show and Tell:
mini whole-cloth with trapunto

And after burying threads on this one, I could then say the quilting is done and it's ready for binding or facing.
circles with straight lines, quilted 

I kept busy with other things during the week . . .

. . . pruned in the orchard before the rains:
branches and logs from a felled tree
. . . helped move a very heavy metal desk:
new office, old desk
. . . picked up bags of walnuts:
a dozen old walnut trees line the driveway
. . .  cleaned out the pantry:
vintage finds
For some reason I ended up at the supermarket every day, but stayed out of the malls and big stores on Grey Thursday and Black Friday. 

The barn is now holiday-ready with new l.e.d. mini-lights:
barn with new lights 
A big 8-foot square block just below the prow would be a fabulous addition, don't you think? Something bold and improvisational. Would love to see the neighbors follow suit.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Last post was about the small and medium sized bumps occurring before and during my last trip. The biggest bump happened a week and a half before my trip.

On my way to the gym and only a quarter mile from home, a minivan driver flung open his door just as I drove by. Thankfully no one was hurt.
not pretty
And you should see the other car's crumpled door! The driver won't be doing that again! The insurance company was very prompt and the settlement check was waiting for me when I returned home.

After some research, I opted for a new car instead of repairing this 13-year-old. More research and dealer visits for test drives consumed many days.

New cars have a lot of techno toys, a lot of computerized controls and parts. Hybrids even more so. I test drove four of them then decided they weren't for me despite the good gas mileage.

At the Barn's Sunday night dinner, they always pose a question to each of us. Last time they'd asked: what was your first car? My first car was not so interesting: a Ford sedan retired from the state of California. But my favorite car? One just like the ad below.

Experts say we love listening to oldies but goodies because those tunes have become ingrained in our brain and body. It must be the same for cars. I drove the RX-7 for 21 years. When I got behind the wheel of a new Mazda3, it felt like right - space-wise, transmission-wise, handling-wise. I knew immediately it was the car for me.

Bedtime reading is now the one-inch thick owner's manual. Gosh, the Advanced Keyless Entry and Start System chapter alone is 66 (boring and confusing) pages!

I still have my Jetta to sell or dispose of (any takers?) but I'm ready to zoom zoom zoom back to more routine life and art!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Speed bumps

Okay. I know everyone encounters bumps on the road of life. Maybe it's just me, but my road seems to suddenly add a few extra bumps whenever I am going to a workshop at the Barn. The two weeks before the trip started most inauspicously. Are the gods telling me something?

Half a week before the trip, my cell phone died suddenly and inexplicably. It was only 2.5 years old. So I replaced it with a different model.

I started the trip with a visit to a good friend near Detroit. After deplaning my new cell phone malfunctioned and then totally quit. Not even a week old.

Thanks to push button technology, who memorizes phone numbers anymore? I panicked before remembering my printed itinerary with phone numbers. And the airport had pay phones. Old fashion technology saved the day. The area's T-mobile store graciously replaced the phone.

A week later, passing through Chicago airport on the way to the Barn, Southwest Airlines lost my luggage. Not the suitcase full of personal stuff but the big duffel bag with quilts and most workshop supplies. Chicago airport is notorious for losing luggage.

Once again, the printed itinerary came in handy: Southwest wanted an address and phone number for delivery - should the duffel be found. It was still missing Monday morning. Southwest's standard reply: they're actively looking for it.

Due to the generosity of the other workshop participants - special thanks to Meredith - I was able to work on the first exercise. All whilst imagining the worst about my missing luggage. If it's really lost, I would be out many many hours of work. Enough to make any grown woman cry.

Then early afternoon I got a message: duffel found and on its way to Columbus. Who knows where it had been. I was just immensely relieved when Bill Morgan delivered it to the Barn before dinner.

For the return trip home, I split up my precious cargo. I would've done that even if I weren't going through Chicago. Lesson learned: halve the valuables, halve the worries, halve the loss.

Those were the medium bumps.

Partly because I'm an unseasoned traveller, partly because I'm a techno-dolt - I encountered a few small bumps too. My cell phone wasn't usable at all in Toronto even though I got a message about roaming charges when I first crossed the border. My iPad got no AT&T cellular data service in Canada nor at the Barn. Service was sketchy the whole trip. I managed anyway without these tech toys. And credit card charges in Canada were denied until I called them - at least they're looking out for me.

Next time I'll tell you about the big bump that occurred a couple weeks before the trip and resonated afterwards.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

Quilt as desired

Are you someone who can be ready for a trip at the drop of a hat? Then return home and jump right back into your routine without much jet lag? I am envious because that's certainly not true for me. Out of state trips always knocks me out for a week.

This two-week trip was wonderful despite a couple of hiccups. I re-connected with a long time (not old) good friend near Detroit. Together we took a short trip to Toronto. Then I'm at the Crow Timber Barn for a workshop - Machine Quilting: Inspiration, Design, Critique with Sandra Ciolino. I'll save the hiccups for another time and get down to what you really want to know about - the workshop.

iso right thread color & weight for Golden Sol
Sandy, our fearless leader (she prefers facilitator), not only quilts beautifully, she's a great teacher! Communicative, structured, generous, caring, attentive, open, non-threatening, organized and more. The qualities you wished all your teachers had. She deserves lots of credit for setting up an environment for everyone to thrive. What a difference five days made!

We were a small group of seven with not a bad apple in the bunch! Couldn't ask for a better group of people!

Machine quilting wise, each of us started in a different place - from little to some experience. But that was okay. Sandy gave each individual plenty of attention and guidance from wherever we were. Nudged and nursed us along until we were quilting with confidence.

We were also diverse stylistically. I expected more Nancy Crow students since it was at the Barn. Instead three had never taken any workshop with her and two had taken only one workshop. So we had a diverse range of quilt tops to critique.

The critiques were a fabulous learning experience. These were not a show-and-tell what's-good-what's-not likes-dislikes kind of free-for-all. Sandy provided a timed 5-step structure adapted and revised from Art + Quilt: Design Principles and Creativity Exercises by Lyric Kinard. Of course everyone wanted to know how to quilt their tops - our reason for being there.

The critique structure really worked and we really got into the swing of it. Sandy even joked she'll packaged us up and take us on the road! I got some helpful feedback and am no longer stymied by my larger tops.

The very first exercise was another fabulous learning experience. It made us take the plunge. Jump off the cliff. But in a non-threatening way. It opened up options. Very freeing. We learned there are no rules for thread color, thread weight and stitch lines. Sure, fiddle with the thread tension until that works. Otherwise, quilt as desired! 

I've heard that many times but was clueless as to what that meant. Now I know. There is no one way, no perfect way. Explore, experiment, play. Trust your instincts as an artist and quilt as desired.

With inadequate choice of threads, I didn't get far on the circle with straight lines shown at the top. So I started on these two small black and white compositions in the workshop:
geometric stitches with white, variegated white, variegated gray and black
organic stitches with contrasting variegated thread
A lot of intensive quilting. Geometric stitches requires focus whereas organic stitches flow more. By late morning Friday, I could only doodle:
stitcher doodles 
more stitcher doodles
Many thanks to Nancy Crow for going forth with the workshop despite our small group. Without your faith, this enriching experience would not have happened. When she offers this workshop again, go for it! You won't find a better teacher than Sandy nor a better facility than the Barn.

Apropos, Perfect Happiness was the title of Robert Genn's Tuesday Twice-Weekly Letter, which led with this quote from Winston Churchill: "The way to be happy is to find something that requires the kind of perfection that's impossible to achieve and spend the rest of your life trying to achieve it." Read the rest of it here

Friday, October 5, 2012

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sequel to dyeing

How two days turned into two weeks - the final stretch of the dyeing saga. The dyeing part is easy compared to what happens after batching.

Wednesday, day six: final rinses. I slaved between the sink, the hot stove, and the washer and dryer. I filled, heated, stirred and empty the stock pot at least eight times.
taking the water temperature
stirring the pot
For simpler time keeping, I allowed half an hour for each final rinse. I really must get a small top loader. At least I got all 21 cloths into the dryer.

Thursday: other plans so no dyeing. But I contemplated the mottled cloths and the missing half of the first set. Then made plans for more dyeing.

Friday: dyed the missing five of the first set and overdyed the highly mottled four of the second set. Lesson learned: measuring smaller quantities of dye solution is very persnickety!

Saturday: washout and final rinse of Friday's dyeing. I was physically tired and moving more slowly. Lesson learned: dyeing is very physical! Be less ambitious. Dye less cloth with more time!

Sunday: To redo another nine, I had to make more dye solution and used up all the dye. No more dyeing! Yay!

Monday: washout and final rinse of Sunday's dyeing. Last rinse! Yay!

Tuesday: r&r! A hike in Tennessee Valley and an exploration of downtown Mill Valley.
a foggy day in Tennessee Valley 
Wednesday: boring stuff like ironing & record keeping.
new hand dyes fan deck
Thursday: laundry room cleanup.
gloves washed and drying
The end result: solids stash before and after.

detail of most affected hues
Due to the yellow and red I used, most ended up between magenta and green. I'll try for yellow to red neutrals in the next dyeing session.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Planned dyeing unplanned

The previous post describes the three days before the two-day dyeing session with Pat. This is a continuation of how dyeing went from two days to two weeks.

Neither of us are experienced dyers but Monday started out well with set up, making dye and soda ash solutions and mixing our first set of colors.

The first set of five should have been a set of ten but we forgot to split up the solutions to get two values. Oh well. Lesson learned. So we ended up with five rich deep colors.

We didn't forget to split the second set. But we soon realized the solution alone was inadequate to wet the cloth. After this second lesson, we were sailing until the folding table suddenly collapsed! No spilled dye though.  Whew! Containers were all capped. Just some spilled soda ash solution. We were dyeing outside on Pat's deck so no real harm done. Lesson no. 3: lock those table legs!

By the time we finished the second set, it was late afternoon. We left the cloths to batch and called it quits for the day.

Tuesday we were to finish up with the third set and proceed with wash out and christen Pat's new cute washer. Unfortunately, Pat caught a viral infection that knocked her off her feet. So I trudged on in my laundry room.

While the first two sets were soaking in cold water, I prepared the third set. After it started batching, I took a break and dropped by my neighbors with some lemons. I walked right into a medical emergency. I drove one to the emergency room where the paramedics took the other one.

You know there's no such thing as a short visit to the emergency room. Much later, I smoosh the batching cloths anyway before going to bed. The end of day five. What will be will be.
36 dyed yards after two weeks

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dyeing prequel

The two-day dyeing session turned into two weeks. After standing on a concrete floor playing with cloth and water, I was too exhausted for any fmq'ing. Yep - dyeing broke my fmq obsession.

This is what happened. Started three days earlier when I did some studio cleanup to prepare my fabric. I sorted through the eleven varieties of dyeable cloths, scoured them all and set aside 26 one-yard pieces for 13 neutrals in two dark values.

Then I starting thinking. You know, I should dye a small set to make a value gradation. And, you know, might as well do two sets - bleached and unbleached - in the same batch for comparison.
10 step gradation, unbleached & bleached
The unbleached muslin influenced the color more as the value gets lighter. Note that for both sets, values 9 and 10 are practically the same. The unbleached is Aurora muslin and the bleached is Dyers' Cloth.

Since I have eleven varieties of dyeable cloth, you know, I'd like to compare their dye-ability. So eleven 3x3-inch pieces went into the same bath with enough leftover dye for the darkest values.
compare 11 dye cloths
The six on the left did not get as dark: Aurora muslin, bamboo-cotton from Roc-Lon (no longer available), Dyers' Cloth, Muslin pfd, Roc-Lon muslin, and Sew Essentials muslin. Now you know why the values 9 and 10 are nearly identical in the value gradation - these will not accept more dye. The bamboo seems just a bit brighter or more saturated than the others.

The five on the right absorbed dye well: Moda Bella pfd, Cotton Print Cloth, Kona pfd, Legacy muslin,  and Pimatex pfd. For a softer hand, go for the Moda Bella or Kona. For a crisper feel, go for the Cotton Print Cloth, Legacy or Pimatex.

Since we're on the subject, here's another comparison done at the end of the two weeks with another batch of leftover dye.
compare test fabrics with kona
The two Test Fabric samples were thrown in with a yard of Kona. Surprise! Darkest to lightest: Test 400M, Kona, then Test 419, which is a tighter weave similar to Pimatex.

After this little bit of dyeing, I thought, you know, I'd purchased this stainless steel stock pot several months ago for the final hot rinse and I should use it instead of just piling all my surface designed cloths in it. It took several baths, but now they're ready to use.
surface design fabrics ready to use
So that was the three-day prequel to the two-day dyeing session. Stay tuned. I'll tell you about the actual dyeing session.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Maturing twins and other things

I've finished quilting the challenging twins and intend to have it squared, faced & sleeved by next Wednesday's mini-group meeting. Then they'd be ready to hang at the next EBHQ community show. I've learned a lot from this project. More about that later.

No more quilting projects before my October trip. But I intend to continue with fmq each day by quilting more little 4x4 samples of Leah Day's beginner-intermediate designs.

In the meantime, I'm preparing for a two-day dyeing feast with my friend Pat. We'll combine a couple of exercises from True Colors with Carol Soderlund, to dye neutrals in dark and medium-dark values. All one yard pieces - at least 26 yards total. A real dyeing experience (as opposed to little sixteenths last year (here and here).

I'd rather be in the studio (or the garden) but I'm actually doing some housekeeping. It's starting to look presentable for my critique group which will be meeting here next week. I clean for a reason!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Challenge of twins

I've been spending time with the twins.  In a recent post I described the birth of non-identical twins in response to a group challenge. Now they've been pieced:
non-identical twins pieced
And I'm in the middle of quilting it. Of course I am fmq'ing as part of my quest.

I started by quilting along lines of the bolder prints: 
follow the print lines 1
follow the print lines 2
Then mimicked other prints:
pebbles on dots
double e's on ribbons
Those were the obvious ones. Remaining prints are more subtle and I stretched to come up with a quilting motifs:
roses on floral print
Then quilted their polar twins in a similar fashion:
extended print lines
Or close cousins:
wiggly grid lines
Or distant cousins:
flowers on a string
With three more sets of twins to quilt, I have a week and a half to finish before my mini-group meeting.

Because these filler designs are so varied, I have doubts about this approach. The quilting will not make it more cohesive. What the hey! - it's a worthwhile experiment and experience. It will be perfectly okay when it's done. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Something to hoot about

Showing in the New Quilts of Northern California exhibit at Pacific International Quilt Festival (PIQF) which runs October 11-14 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.

Spin in Brown 
Spin in Brown, detail
It's the second time I've been juried into this exhibit. Orange Rhyme made it in last year. Woot! 

I won't be able to see it there, but I hope you can. Instead I'll be having fun in Ohio at the Crow Timber Barn for a machine quilting workshop with Sandy Ciolino. Woot!

Friday, September 7, 2012