Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Another beetle and a little tutorial

This is my last little effort for the HFD show. Another beetle—one of the slightly scary-looking horned beetles. After much trial and error I have figured out a way to make a nice, neat zig-zagged edge on these little pieces in lieu of a binding. It worked out so well I thought I'd take some pics and share them.

I start by making the piece larger than it will end up being. For the 8.5 x 11 pieces, I made them approximately 9 x 12. After the piece is quilted I use a ruler and permanent marker to mark the final size on the top of the quilt. Then I lay a piece of perle cotton on the marked line and zigzag over it. By doing this before you cut the edges off, you can get it nice and smooth, with neat corners. I use a narrow zigzag. On my Janome it is 1.5. Don't start and end at a corner. The start and stop are less noticeable along a side.

After stitching the perle cotton down, carefully trim the excess fabric off, as close to the stitched perle cotton as you can get without cutting the stitching.

Now you are going to zigzag over the perle cotton and the edge again, but before you do that, take a needle threaded with a heavy-weight thread. I use buttonhole thread. Just take one stitch through each corner of your piece and cut the thread off, leaving two long tails, about 3" long.

You know how when you zigzag around the edge of something the corners are a mess and sometimes they get caught down in the hole or hang up on the foot? Well, those thread tails you just made are there to alleviate those problems! As you approach a corner, grab the the thread tails and use them to guide the stitching up to the corner. Stop, with your needle down at the corner, pivot and use the thread tails to pull the corner gently toward the back, under the foot, while you smoothly stitch into the next straight side.
When you are finished, you can just pull the thread tails out and discard.

And there's my finished piece with a nice, narrow little zigzagged edge. Isn't that neat?

P.S. A couple of people have asked what size perle cotton I am using. Does it come in different sizes?! The label has a 5 on it—I guess that's the size. It is not nearly as fat as yarn. The finished edge is only about 1/16th of an inch wide. I'm sure you could make it wider if you wanted to use something fatter than the perle cotton.

P.P.S. I am not using a satin stitch on this. The length of the stitch is just the default stitch length. I think the tight satin stitch is often another thing that contributes to bad corners and hangups. The perle cotton fills in under the zigzag stitch so that it covers it pretty well and a satin stitch isn't really needed. I must admit, also, that I have been known to take a permanent pen and touch up spots where the light fabric shows through! If you want more coverage you can stitch around the edge one or two more times.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another little quilt and a baby nap

Here's another 8.5 x 11 piece for the High Fiber Diet show. This just goes to show that one needn't look too far for subject matter. Har har!

Today was a Sofi day. She and I have a little ritual now for her afternoon nap. I put her down in the pack 'n play where she sleeps for about 20 minutes, then she fusses so I pick her up and we finish the nap together in my comfy chair with the ottoman. I can put my feet up and read while she snoozes on my shoulder, then her nice warm little presence and steady breathing lulls me to sleep and I can get a little nap of my own in. There is nothing quite as nice as a sleeping baby softly snoring against your neck.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Productive Sunday

I may have mentioned that High Fiber Diet is having a show of small, journal-size (8.5" x 11") pieces at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship for the month of December. I made a couple that were pretty uninspired. (Here's one of them.) So today I decided to make at least one more. I have made beetles before. I like beetles. Maybe they are trendy. I keep seeing other people's beetles. Jane Davila does great beetles. Anyway, I like this piece better than the others I did. The other two were both abstract. I admire other people's abstract work, but I think I do better when I do representational work, even when it is an un-natural beetle.

I also put the binding on the Good to Be Green piece today. I am losing my binding prowess. The binding is a little wobbly. I need to work on it.

I have been communicating with Sandy Donabed and Rayna Gilman who are both doing kitchen renovations. Well, Sandy's is actually finished and it looks fabulous. Rayna's been pining for a $1000 faucet. Yikes! I had no idea such a thing even existed, but her comments about faucets sent me on a faucet hunt and raised my awareness of what constitutes a good faucet. All this led me to eBay and today I bought a faucet on eBay. I hope it's a good one. I got a great price and it looks awful nice in the picture. Then I went to Lowe's and got the stuff to stain and finish my oak table and oak boards to make a leaf for the table from. I am spending money like I had it.

Now I am going to go fix a tasty dinner which will not contain even a hint of turkey.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thankful for . . .

We asked Sofia what she was thankful for on Thanksgiving Day. She was thankful for toys with chewable tags, her very favorite toy—a plastic water bottle (who knew life could be so simple?), and for her new teeth.

I don't have to tell you what I'm thankful for.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Who we are now

When Ray and I got married, 37 years ago today, we were not the same people we are now. We have grown into the people we are today together. We've been lucky. Not all couples do. I had my own version of the future back then, but my imagination was not big enough to imagine grown children, who are amazing people in their own right. And a grandchild?—well, 37 years ago grandchildren were not on my radar at all. Would I have guessed we would be living in Portland, Oregon? No, not at all. Would I have envisioned the twists and turns our lives have taken? Nope.

Marriage has to be the greatest leap of faith a person takes. For us that faith has been rewarded with a good life together. We're still the best of friends and still enjoy each others company. We work well together.
When I met Ray I was working as an interior designer and Ray was a high school math teacher. My boss said, very seriously, "don't marry a schoolteacher—you'll never be able to afford a really nice house!" I took my boss's words to heart and knew that I would marry a schoolteacher and I would never fit in a job where having a really nice house was the highest goal to strive for. We both moved on to other jobs and nicer houses, despite that early warning. I probably should thank my silly old boss for helping me know early on that matters of the heart can not be decided on the basis of material values.
Happy Anniversary to us. This has always been "our song."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Like pulling teeth

That seems like what it has been like getting this quilt to this point. I have had more than a year to work on it and now the deadline of December 1 is looming. I am almost finished. The quilting is done. This is what it looks like from the back.

I will put a back on it and bind it. As you can see I have done a lot of quilting on the background, but not much on the figure. This makes the figure stand out a bit and avoids the problem of all those lines in the face.

Here's a little closeup of the front.

Somehow I really think this piece needs a crisp, bold binding. Like this:

I will be so happy to be finished. I am so tired of looking at it that I have lost all perspective. This is the only significant piece I have done this entire year. But, there have been a few distractions . . .

Friday, November 16, 2007


I read a lot, though I have to admit, not as fast as I once did because I fall asleep. But I always have a book going, usually a novel. Recently I've read two non-fiction books and each surprised me in its own way.

Have you read this book? Seems like everyone has and everyone loves it—except me. Ugh. I really disliked this book. It is an account of a young woman's ugly divorce and how she regained her equilibrium and found love by traveling to Italy, where she ate, to India where she learned to pray and Bali where she found love. It's not that I am opposed to finding oneself, journeys of self-discovery—all that, but this felt very contrived and very self-indulgent. For starters, she paid for the travel with the big advance she got on the book, so it was kind of a foregone conclusion that this trip was going to yield amazing insights and colorful characters and the requisite happy ending before it even began.
I was annoyed with the author and her spoiled whining and what seemed to me like a very superficial spirituality. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood. Seems like people I know have problems and setbacks far graver than the author's, and they cope, and they work, and they find strength within themselves, and they learn to forge ahead in ways that don't require taking off for a year and finding a wise old guru to provide their answers. Like I said, Ugh.

I mentioned this book in my post a few months ago about my own gray hair and I was contacted by someone from the publishing company, thanking me for mentioning the book and offering to send me a copy. Well, sure! Why not? I honestly did not expect to like this book very much. I expected it to be pretty superficial and filled with angst about aging and losing one's youthful looks. I was very pleasantly surprised. I found it to be self-deprecating and thoughtful. The author (Anne Kreamer) found that her worst fears were unfounded and that, in fact, in many ways people responded to her more positively once she allowed her hair to gray, even men, when she experimentally signed up for an online dating service. She thought a lot about the value of authenticity and "if you can stop worrying about what others might think of your hair color, and of feeling obliged to wear camouflage, then you free yourself up to think about other things—that by abandoning the small stuff you may make room for the big."
I found her journey much more satisfying than the Eat, Pray, Love journey.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fiber stuff—surprise!

What with remodeling one house, sprucing up another house, babysitting, laundry piling up and the other boring details of ongoing life, I am not finding a lot of time to spend on art these days. But the deadline for Farmer Girl aka It's Good to be Green, aka Green Thumb (which will be the official title I'm thinking) is looming, so I am sneaking in an hour here, an hour there. I am finally quilting. Here's a little peek.

Those lilies still need stamens, but those will come later.

A couple of months ago I joined the Complex Cloth list and so far I just lurk and listen. I'm not much of an original cloth maker, but am kind of fascinated by the processes used. Gerrie is so into making art cloth that I get to live a bit vicariously when she shows us her newest shibori and indigo dying and screen printing. It seems to me that her work just gets better and better, so I keep wondering if I am missing out by not incorporating some of these techniques. I have, I must admit, an aversion to "moosh"—my own term for that indistinct, sometimes muddy smooshiness that results from some of the artcloth techniques, especially dye techniques. I really like crispness. Still. . .

There has been talk lately on the Complex Cloth list of resist dyeing using school glue as a resist. Hmmm, I have an old bottle of that blue, gel-ish glue and some very cool carved wood stamps. So I cut a square of fabric late last night and stamped some glue all over it. This morning I painted over it (no, I was not up for mixing dyes and all that entails), let it dry, then stamped some more and painted some more. Here is the result. Not sure what I will do with it, but I think it's kind of pretty!

Batik-ish, but without the gacky wax. (I made a lot of batik in my distant youth and have had my fill of that kind of messiness) Only a little bit mooshy.

Here are the stamps I used.

They are really very cool. I have had them for so long I can't even remember where I got them. They are wood and are from India I think. Their original use was for batik, for stamping wax. I've used them in several ways, including directly inking them and stamping.

So, now I feel like an artist again. Back to the dishes and laundry and floorplans—

Saturday, November 10, 2007

¡Feliz cumpleaños! a Cayo

Today we celebrated my son-in-law, Cayo's, birthday. Actual birthday was Thursday. Emily had a brunch at her house and invited her friends and their babies and children. What a happy day. And what an international group. Spanish and English were spoken and maybe just a little Portugese, as well as plenty of babytalk.

Sofia sweetly held court on the family room floor and was attended by lovely Lily the 7 year old and adorable Magdalena the 6 year old. The boys ended up kicking a soccer ball around the backyard and smilin' Max, the other 7-month-old, crawled circles around Sofia, while the adults all marveled at his physical strength and coordination, and traded stories of crawling babies and those who wouldn't and finally did, and babies who sleep and those who won't, and pondered the relative merits of disposable or cloth. Gallons of coffee, bacon, pumpkin bread, fruit and eggs. Cheese and bread. Juice and apples. Lots of laughing. "Happy Birthday" sung three times in three languages.

It was a pleasure to be in the company of such charming young families and dedicated parents and parents to be. Emily and Cayo have a nice group of friends.

Happy Birthday, Cayo! We are so glad you are here and part of our family.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Putting the electric into eclectic

Years ago when I worked in a furniture store a young woman came into the store and asked if we had any "electric furniture". She said she had been reading some decorating magazines and had read that the electric style was very popular. She meant, of course, eclectic.
My taste is nothing if not eclectic. There are too many beautiful things from so many different cultures that I refuse to limit myself, which has led to a house that looks like a secondhand store. I often think I have become that dotty old lady with all the tacky stuff that I used to roll my eyes at.
I am choosing things for the remodel of the kitchen at the new house and I wonder if I have crossed a taste line, though "tasteful" is not something I particularly aspire to!

Several years ago I bought a ceramic light fixture in Ecuador. We had discovered the Artesa store in Cuenca and loved everything we saw. When I found out it would cost more to ship it than the thing cost, I had them wrap it well and I schlepped it home as one of my carry-ons.

I plan to hang it over the sink in the new kitchen. So from there, I am thinking about the rest of the kitchen. I like the look of terra cotta tile, but the real thing is pretty hard to find around here and it has to be sealed and all. I found this porcelain tile that looks very much like the terra cotta. That rug will be in the adjoining dining room, where the tile will also go.

Another thing I have always wanted in my kitchen is Mexican tile. I am in love with Talavera tile patterns. I found one on the internet that I can order, so I am thinking of putting it on the backsplash. I have been playing around with configurations in Photoshop. Here are some ideas I've come up with:

Note that the brown at the top represents the dark oak cabinets, the green at the bottom represents a Corian countertop.

The tiles make a great secondary pattern when you can put four or more together. Rusty red—yum, yum. One of my favorite colors. But—it's all pretty dark. Here's another try with a light tile:
Nice, but I miss the red.
One row of the Talavera—hmm, interesting. I kind of like the zigzag that makes.

Oh man, I'm so confused! Has this become a jumble of too many patterns? Is it all going to look like a Mexican restaurant? And that Middle Eastern rug—how's that going to work? And I haven't even gotten to my greatgrandmother's antique china cabinet and my mother-in-law's old oak table and my sort of Queen Anne-ish chairs.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pieces and Parts

I have been working on the "Good to be Green" quilt in sections. These are the last. I am about ready to start assembling and see if the pieces fit together.

Life seems to be "pieces and parts" these days. I go from one project to another and back again and babysit Sofia inbetween. This morning I am working on the "green" quilt pieces between applying layers of paint on the basement stairs. This is in anticipation of trying to sell our house. You know those things you always planned to do when you moved into a new house, but never got around to? This is one of them. The grimy, neglected stairway to the basement has been ignored for 14 years now. I am finally painting it for someone else to enjoy. Oh well. That's the house selling game isn't it? Meanwhile I am working out details for the new house kitchen.

For the last two days I have had Sofia all to myself and she showed off her new teeth and new skills. She's a crawler and a sitter now. Such a big girl!

We are all amused by the way her hair is growing. She has that long section of hair in front that forms a point. Her Daddy says she looks like a baby Dracula. I am reminded of Squiggy from LaVerne and Shirley, as well as Eddie Munster. Awww—did I just compare my granddaughter to Squiggy and Eddie Munster? She's much cuter!

Art Exhibit in Ecuador

(click to view larger)
I received this invitation by email today, from our friend Cristóbal González Guzmán. I thought I would pass the information along in the event that any of you are planning to be in Quito, Ecuador this month. You can see the exhibit of his work here.
Cristóbal is a dear person, actually a very good friend of Emily's. He taught with her at Colegio Americano in Ecuador and they rode the bus together every morning. I wrote about him and his work when he had a show here in Portland, and I also wrote about visiting his home in Quito on our Ecuador blog.
I hope his show goes very well. He is so talented!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Rice Bowl and Bird

I had a message on my voice mail when I got home this afternoon. It was from the Old Forge Art Center in Old Forge, New York. They sold my small quilt called "Rice Bowl and Bird". I have such mixed feelings! I do make these things with the intention that I will sell them, but some become more special to me than others. "Rice Bowl and Bird" has been traveling for nearly two years with "Fine Focus" a juried exhibit of small format art quilts. I was so delighted to have it chosen for Fine Focus and even more so when I saw it hanging with the rest of the show in Coos Bay last December. It was such a good show. It was really an honor to be part of it.

I hope my little bird has found a happy home. I was looking forward to seeing him again, soon. Sigh.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Cinema Paradiso

Do you love movies? I really do. Last night we watched an old favorite, Cinema Paradiso.

It's an Italian film, made in 1989, but timeless really. It's about the movie theater in a small town in Sicily just after the war, and a little boy in love with the movies. I adore this movie and the characters of the town, like the town priest who screens the movies before they are offered to the public and demands that all kissing scenes be cut out of the film first. Toto, the little boy, of course, pockets as many of those snipped bits of film as he is able to get past Alfredo, the projectionist who befriends Toto.

The sweetness of this movie always makes me cry as I did, once again last night. It made me think about the old Chief Theater in Pocatello, where I grew up. I saw so many movies there as a child, including National Velvet and The Red Shoes, which was my favorite movie for so long. (So romantic—so tragic!) As a teenager everyone went to the Chief on Friday night and heaven help any adults who made the mistake of trying to see a movie on a Friday night. It was date night for those with dates and hangin' out night for everyone else, and frequently social pandemonium. One Friday night as I was watching a movie at the Chief, a pair of Levis was thrown from the balcony and landed on my head.

It was a magnificent theater, built in the late '30s, with murals of Indian villages and Indians in full regalia painted on the walls and soaring ceiling; and big carved oak doors, rustic chandeliers and red velvet curtains. When it was upgraded in the '60s my Dad was able to buy a set of the carved doors that they were replacing with modern glass doors. The "Chief" doors are still in use at the cabin. In the early '90s, during yet another renovation, the roof caught fire and the theater burned to the ground. My heart broke just a little bit when I heard the news. All that remains is the mosaic that is still in the sidewalk where the theater entrance used to be.

Did you ever love a movie theater for the big world it brought to your humble life or for sharing popcorn in the dark or necking in the balcony or seeing Dr. Zhivago or Gone with the Wind or The Wizard of Oz or The Graduate on that magical big screen for the first time? If you can relate, then I highly recommend that you rent Cinema Paradiso. Bring tissues.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Journal Quilt

Now that the Houston Quilt Festival has opened, those of us participating in the final Journal Quilt project are finally allowed to publish photos of our quilts. The quote on the quilt reads:

"The intention is to move as if everything is transition. As if nothing ends."

Here is my statement that went with the quilt:

A Page from My Book:
Journal Quilts 2007 - Journal Quilt Project

Terry Grant
Portland, Oregon

Everything is Transition
Creative Quilting techniques used: Pigma pen writing on quilt (p. 134); stamping on fabric (p. 84); silk screen on fabric (p. 75); bleach discharging (p. 67)

In addition to the techniques I used from Creative Quilting, I used an idea from Anne Copeland (p. 51) for randomly selecting a theme for the quilt. This involved opening a book to page 125 and selecting the third sentence on that page. The quote on my quilt is from the book, Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos.

Since most of my quilts are made from commercially printed fabrics, my challenge for this final Journal Quilt was to create my own fabric prints and gave me the opportunity to try several techniques for creating pattern on plain fabrics. I believe this has opened up new possibilities for me and I was particularly pleased to discover a way to manipulate a pattern to work very specifically for my design, as I did when I created the curved checkerboard motif used to frame the piece.