Thursday, March 30, 2006

I don't get it . . .

Pulled this out for my solitary little dinner tonight and noticed that it is a "sesame chicken vegetarian" rice noodle soup bowl.

Chicken vegetarian?

Isn't it odd how small the word "vegetarian" is?

The photo on the front of the package shows chunks of chicken in there. The list of ingredients lists no chicken, no chicken broth, no chicken anything and reiterates "vegetarian". Also no mention of chicken in the cooking instructions. Hmmm. I looked in the package. No chicken.

I'm adding some chicken.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Springtime on the trail

My friend, Beth, and I walk a section of the Fanno Creek Trail 5 days a week—summer and winter, rain or shine. We just started our fourth year.

About midway on the walk we cross Fanno Creek and we usually pause to watch the creek and see if we can see ducks or geese in the water. Yesterday when we got there, there was a great blue heron standing in the creek. I didn't have my camera with me. We watched him for quite awhile, then he spread his wings and soared away. I knew we wouldn't see him again, but I brought my camera along today anyway, and took this picture that I call "where the heron was yesterday". Squint your eyes and try to imagine it.

There are signs of spring all along the trail. Fruit trees are blooming and everything is covered in brilliant green moss, after the wet winter and spring we have had.

One jarring sight is this razor wire strung along a section of fence where the Portland Golf Club course backs up to the trail. It's a snooty, private golf course. This addition to their fence looks really nasty and is an eyesore along an otherwise beautiful walk.

In a marshy area we stopped to watch two mallard ducks. The female, who is harder to see in the lower right, was finding lots of worms and grubs to eat in the mud, while her mate stood by. He seemed to be guarding her. He just followed her around nervously and once he spotted Beth and me, watching from a little bridge, he seemed really nervous, watching us and flapping around her.

Here's where our walk always ends—the Garden Home Starbucks. Our friendly barristas posed for a picture. I promised them they would be famous when I published it on my blog.

I just looked at my friend Carl Schmidt's blog. Coincidentally, he and Dickie, hundreds of miles away from here, in Northern California, saw a great blue heron on their walk yesterday too. He had his fancy camera with him. Carl takes great pictures.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Where do Panama Hats come from?

This is a trick question. The answer is not Panama. The answer can be found on our Ecuador blog, (now, there's a clue!) where we show you our visit to a Panama hat factory.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


That stands for School and Community Reuse Action Project.

Yesterday I had two big black trash bags full of fabric that I wanted out of my house. I loaded it up and took it over to SCRAP. SCRAP is a great concept—a place where you can donate anything that could be construed as an art or craft material, which they turn around and sell cheap. It's a wonderful resource for artists and students and teachers.

They have moved since I was there before, but they were easy to spot as I drove down the street toward the store in NE Portland. Isn't this storefront a great contrast to that grey, cold Portland sky?

The inside of the store can only be described as "junky", but if you are willing to look closely, there are treasures to be found.

Lots of odds and ends of tiles.

These barrels had all kinds of odd bits that seem to be donations from manufacturers of one thing or another. Those black things are plastic cubes with one open side.

Here is the fabric department. Looks pretty motley, but I found something really good here. (see below)

And, finally, you didn't think I would come home empty-handed did you? Three yards (really wide) of black linen ($3) and 6 of the little tins seen in the barrel above. (2 for .25) They are good—smooth edges, nice fitting lids. I see many possibilities for storing beads or pins; or travel holders for pills or earrings. I hope I got enough. And the fabric and tins don't even look "scrappy" once you get them home—especially if you pose them next to a vase of camellias.

And just for fun—on the subject of recycling/reuse, check out this dress made from umbrella pelts. (Pelts??—that terminology really amused me)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Illustration Friday - "Monster"

Who is this guy?

He's the monster that lives in my head, under my bed, lurking in the dark corners of the parking garage, behind a tree, under the stairs, in the back of the closet. Haven't seen him in years, but this week's Illustration Friday topic, "monster" required a visit. When I was a child he chased me through my dreams with a lawnmower.

It may sound like I've dredged up some horrifying memory, but, in fact, my imaginary monster was always a little deliciously, shivery, scary, but ultimately easy enough to fool. To keep him from grabbing my ankle as I got into bed I simply had to jump up onto my sister's bed and leap the three feet to my own. Get a running start on the stairs, and I was up them before he had a chance to reach around and grab me. In fact, I believe he was more afraid of me than I of him. One had only to confront him in the dark corners and he would quickly melt away into nothing. You may have met him—he gets around.

To see more monsters, visit the Illustration Friday web site.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The kind of day we all need (and deserve)

Yesterday was a very indulgent day and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Fellow art quilt blogger, Gerrie Congdon, just moved to Portland and I have been looking forward to meeting her. I picked her up at her new house and we went down to Portland's Pearl District to meet up with one of my favorite people, June Underwood. We decided to start with lunch at Andina, a Peruvian restaurant that has gotten rave reviews in the local paper. It is a beautiful space and the food was very good, and something new to try.

I should have taken this picture before we dug into the food, but we kind of fell on it like hungry wolves when it arrived at the table. We shared 4 plates of tapa-like dishes. There was potato omelette, quinoa-crusted prawns with dipping sauce, avocados stuffed with shrimp and crab and little red peppers stuffed with ham and quinoa. (are your mouths watering yet?) We also had desserts. Mine was chocolate sorbet with just a hint of chili pepper. Oooooooo.

After lunch we strolled around the area and visited several art galleries. At the PDX Gallery we saw work by Bean Finneran that was quite fascinating. They were constructions made entirely from curved ceramic rods. They were quite similar, though not identical to these.

Here are Gerrie (front) and June carefully considering a piece of art at the Lawrence Gallery. At the Lawrence Gallery there were two obnoxiously yippy, barky little dogs chasing each other through the gallery—wierd. And annoying.

When we took June home, she invited us in for tea and showed the stacks (literally) of artwork she has been working on recently. June is incredibly productive. You can see some of the work in progress that we saw yesterday on her website.

After delivering Gerrie home, I headed right back downtown to meet my other friend, Jeri. (It was a Gerrie-Jerry-Jeri day—including a brief visit with June's husband, Jerry Underwood) Jeri F. had invited me to meet her for dinner downtown then see "Cats". We decided on the ArtBar at the Performing Arts Center where we could sit and visit over a nice glass of wine and graze our way through appetizers and a bowl of soup.

By the time we got to the theater, the wine and a long day had taken its toll. I had a hard time staying awake. I loved "Cats" when I saw it in New York many years ago. Last night's performance was good, but the sound was mushy and the actress playing Grizzabella couldn't hold a candle to Betty Buckley, the original Grizzabella. (It took me all night to remember Betty Buckley's name)

What a great day. Good food, good art, good musical theatre and, best of all, a new friend and two old friends. Does life get any better than this?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Oleg Cassini

The death of fashion designer, Oleg Cassini, was barely noted this week. Most reports said he was 92, one said he was 93. He was Jacqueline Kennedy's favorite designer and designed her inaugural gown as well as the peach silk dress, at left, that she wore on a trip to India. I wore a nearly identical dress, only amethyst, in my cousin's wedding. When I was in High School I had a pink, silk suit that was a copy of one of Cassini's Jackie K. designs. The clothes were so pretty, without being frilly and fussy. So simple and innocent. Another icon of my youth is gone.

About comments . . .
I love and appreciate getting comments, and I love leaving comments on the blogs I read. I notice that some bloggers acknowledge every comment with an email. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. If there was a question asked, I try to answer it. The etiquette seems hazy.

If I am just commenting to say that I love seeing what someone has done, or I agree with a comment they made, I really don't expect a reply. I am thinking of marking such comments "NRN" or "No reply necessary". Feel free to adopt this practice if you think it's a good one. I don't want anyone feeling guilty that they haven't acknowledged a comment I left.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Play day

I belong to a fiber art group called High Fiber Diet and every so often we set aside a Saturday to get together and dye stuff. Today we met at the Mill End Store here in Portland, mixed up a bunch of dye and tried out several techniques. Karen Miller showed us some new ideas for silk screening with thickened dyes. We used a blank screen and tried several different techniques, using cut stencils, torn paper and finally my favorite, drawing directly on the screen, letting the dye dry, then screening another color through the screen.

Here are the pieces I did today. Nothing too earth shattering, but all probably usable for something and definitely some new ideas.

Here's my favorite. I used thickened dark blue dye in a little bottle with a fine tip to draw a swirly design all over the screen. I let the dye dry. Then I used a combination of gold-y and green-y mustard dyes (thickened) to print. In the first print, the dried dye functioned mainly as a resist, though some of the dark blue released. The second print released the blue dye and the design printed mostly dark blue. I did a third print, which printed a much faded and ghostlier blue design.

Here is the first print after it was washed and ironed. The white streaks were wrinkles in the fabric—oops.

Here is the second print. I am exhausted, but I'm pretty pleased with some of the things I did today.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The company of women

I belong to two guilds here in Portland and I've blown off the last meeting of each one. No particular reason. I planned to go and then when the day arrived I just wasn't in the mood. I'm not mad and I'm not finished, but I think I am tired.

I have friends who never join women's groups and seem to take pride in saying "I'm not a joiner." I guess I am a joiner of women's organizations. Started with the Brownies and from there on I just kept joining—Job's Daughters, Pep Club, sorority, YWCA, PEO, and a whole variety of quilting and stitchery guilds. For the most part I have really enjoyed all these associations and I have made some really good friends along the way. It has always seemed to me that you can accomplish so much as a group that one person alone seldom can.

One of the things about quilt guilds that is discouraging to me is how rapidly things become "the way we've always done it" and then making a change is just really hard. One of the guilds I belong to is one I helped to start about 6 years ago. Already there is a lot of stuff that is "the way we've always done it" and it's hard to move beyond. Last year I was on the Quilt Show committee and I must say we had a great, renegade committee and a really good, and pretty darn classy, show, but we fought for every little bit of originality that made it so. (you can see pictures here.) And I'm convinced there were one or two members who were gleefully hoping the whole thing would be a disaster just to prove that you don't need to "fix what ain't broke" or "reinvent the wheel". (Thought I'd gag if I heard those two cliches one more time.)

Sadly, it is also the case that sometimes one nasty or negative or overbearing person can sour a whole group, and just dealing with that negativity is immensely tiring. (You all know someone like that, don't you?) So I think I feel tired. And maybe too busy with other things. And maybe I'd rather hang out at home with my husband than venture out in the cold and wet and dark. And maybe I'd rather make my own quilts in what little spare time I have, than go look at other people's quilts.

I'll probably feel completely different in a month. I'll probably want to see everyone and find out what's new and what they've been stitching on. I'm pretty sure I will.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Making small work look like something

I have really liked doing small pieces, but I have to admit that when you bind them and go to hang them, they tend to look like hotpads or placemats. I have been finishing some small pieces over the last couple of days and decided to experiment a little with ways of giving them some significance.

You have seen this piece in its unfinished form. I did minimal quilting, then sewed some strips of black canvas to the edges and stretched the whole piece on wooden canvas stretcher bars. The image is about 11" square. With the canvas and stretched it is 16" square.

I quilted this piece a little more heavily and then bound it with black binding. Then I stretched black canvas on stretcher bars and mounted the piece on that by stitching through the canvas on the back side to tack the piece to the canvas. The stitching does not show on the front. (Sorry this image is a little blurry)

This last piece uses a silkscreen I did of pine. I put a backing on it with no binding, then mounted it on a piece of black canvas with fabric glue. I cut a piece of bamboo to the right length and stitched the top edge of the canvas to the bamboo. This piece will go in the Japanese Garden Show this summer. I have finished other pieces this way for that show. You can see examples here and here. It works well to give the work for that show an Asian feel.

I have also framed very small pieces. How do you quilt artists out there finish your small pieces?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Serendipity strikes again

Yesterday I posted my Illustration Friday response to this week's theme "Tattoo" and stated that if I ever were to get a tattoo it would be paisley. It was frivolous—I don't want any kind of tattoo really.

Today I went over to Columbia Art Supply to pick up some stretcher bars and other things and as I was paying, on the counter I spotted a display of little Dover books, including this one! Whaaaaaa—I thought I made that up, just yesterday. It was a whim and yet, here were actual paisley tattoos. Of course I had to buy it. And of course I had to come home and apply one of them to the very hand that was my model yesterday.

It's temporary, but I think I like it. Do the real ones hurt? A lot?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Illustration Friday - "Tattoo"

If I ever were to get a tattoo, it would be paisley.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Last night, late, I was checking the doors before going off to bed and I discovered that it was snowing. Big, beautiful, fluffy flakes, falling silently outside my back door. I turned on the outside lights and turned off the inside lights and stood and just watched the snow for awhile. So peaceful. So beautiful. This is the first snow we have had all winter.

It snowed through most of the morning and early afternoon today—a day to stay inside and drink coffee with lots of milk and cancel appointments and stand at the window and watch the snow. It is nearly gone now. By tomorrow there will be nothing left and spring can proceed on schedule.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


I still remember first seeing this premiere issue of Threads magazine in a bookstore. It was 1985. I was a working mother of small children, and I was in love with fiber and fabric and threads. The mysterious cover image of a weaver seen through the warp of a tapestry in progress just pulled me in. At that moment a 21-year long relationship began.

In that first issue, besides the article on tapestry weaving, I saw beautiful images of resist dyeing and I learned how to attach shisha mirrors and embroider around them.

I subscribed right away and when my new issue arrived at my mailbox I couldn't wait to curl up with it and discover what treasures it contained. Over the years I learned about all kinds of weaving, stitching, quilting and dressmaking.

In 1994, I thought this vest, woven with folded fabric and embroidery floss was smashing. I still want to try that.

In Threads' pages I first met Kaffe Fassett, Nancy Crow, Adriene Cruz, Ruth McDowell and many, many others.

I was never a knitter, but oh how inspiring the knitting was! Needlepoint, cross-stitch and fiber art of all kinds — more beautiful and artful than I saw in any other magazine—ever.

As the years went by I began to notice fewer articles about weaving. Then the knitting and crochet disappeared. Embroidery became machine embroidery to decorate clothing and home dec items. Then the home dec went away and more and more articles about tailoring and dressmaking showed up. Finally quilting was gone and in its place, articles about sewing your own bras and how to choose interfacings and different styles of buttonholes. Slowly and subtly my wonderful fiber art magazine had morphed into Home Ec Geek Journal.

About two years ago this issue featuring white top-stitching on the world's homeliest navy raincoat, came wrapped in a cover that invited me to "Tell us what you think" and pointed me to their web site. I went to the web site and told them how much I missed the old Threads with the beautiful work and wonderful artists and inspiring photos. They responded, a little defensively I thought, that their market research had told them their subscribers were really only interested in making clothing. So, really, I guess they didn't want me to tell them what I thought. The Home Ec Geeks have prevailed and I'm sad.

The only reason Threads still comes to my house is that my sweet husband, remembering how much I loved my Threads magazines, re-subscribed for me. I still have a year left on my subscription. I have every issue since #1 — all 124 of them and I love to get the old ones out and look at them again and again. But when my subscription runs out I am finished with Threads.

I will leave you with this sample of what may be found in the latest issue. "How to Pin." How. To. Pin.

Need I say more?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Illustration Friday - "Insect"

Right on the heels of my first Illustration Friday entry, here is my second. This week's subject is "insect". I have had the thought of a beetle in my mind for awhile, so this was the impetus. The beetle is based on a photo of the real thing to get the anatomy right, but the colors are pure fantasy. I have always loved those Egyptian scarabs—beetles made from gold and precious stones.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Illustration Friday - "Tea"

I am fascinated with the "Illustration Friday" website where people post links to illustrations that they have created for a theme, posted each Friday. I signed up to get the assigned theme for the week and last Friday it was announced that "tea" was the theme. It has been a busy week, I didn't get around to creating something. Then I realized, today, that I have a piece that qualifies. So very late in the week (the next theme comes out tomorrow!) here is "tea".

The Weaver, part 3

First, a little bit about the fabric I used. I had experimented with doing some monoprinting of textures on solid colored fabrics. These ended up working quite well for most of the piece.

For the face I made another monoprint. I put a big sheet of glass over my cartoon face and painted on the glass just shadows and some texture to indicate the face, then printed that onto a tan fabric.

Once I had fused the figure and the main weaving, I decided adding the other weavings would be too much. I took a photo of the piece and tried some possibilities in Photoshop.

The first used one of my mono print fabrics. I loved the texture, which reminded me of stucco walls, but the color was really dead. The warmer brown in the second one was better colorwise, but too smooth and characterless.

The solution was to overpaint the textured fabric with transparent Setacolor fabric paint.

I also realized that the blue in the weaving was too light, too bright. So it got a wash of darker blue as well.

As the piece got fused, I also did quite a bit of painting and adding color with pastel pencil. I looked at that white blouse for a long time and pondered whether to add the typical lace and embroidery and whether to add modeling and shading to it and decided, ultimately, to leave it very plain and flat, despite the fact that the rest of the clothing is shaded and modeled. I liked the flat graphic quality of that blouse in contrast to the color, texture and dimensionality of the rest of the piece. Some detail would be added with the quilting.

When I started quilting, I started with the background. The weaving was quilted with horizontal lines which suggested, to me, the texture of the weaving. The quilting in the rest of the background followed the texture. When I started on the face, it was with great trepidation. I felt I could easily ruin the face if not quilted correctly. I chose to quilt only the receding and shadowy areas, using a purple thread. I think it worked out just "OK". I am not altogether satisfied with what the quilting has done for the face. It has, as I feared, created more texture, more light and shadow than I really wanted. This is something I think I will be working on again and experimenting more. Perhaps I should have used Wonder Under and really fused that face flat and firm and fairly stiff. Something to try . . .

The final decision was whether to bind it or not. I did not and I am happy with the clean edge finish. For better or worse it is finished. I am very tired of looking at it and have lost all perspective, so I will put it away for awhile and move on to the next thing.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Weaver, part 2

Yesterday I talked about the ideas and initial sketches for the Ecuadorean weaver quilt. Once I had an idea of where I was headed with it, it was time to start planning how to actually construct the piece.
Using the magic of Photoshop, I merged my two sketches into one.

Then I opened the sketch in Illustrator and traced it to create a simplified line drawing.

My original idea for the background was for it to be several weavings, as they hang side by side and overlapping in the market.

For the main weaving I used the design of one that I actually purchased in Otavalo. The others came from photographs we took.

I enlarged the line drawing and printed it to full size on regular sheets of paper that I taped together to make it full size. This got taped to a large window and I traced it onto a large sheet of paper with a thick black marker. This became the actual size "cartoon" that I worked from.

My way of working is to lay the cartoon on my light box and trace the individual pieces onto fabric a section at a time. I am tracing just inside the marker lines, then I cut and fuse the cut pieces to a larger piece of dark fabric, so the dark fabric shows up as lines between the fused sections. I use a product called "Liquifuse" for fusing rather than web type products (Wonder Under, etc.). It allows me to fuse only the edges, leaving most of the fabric soft. It also seals the edges nicely, so I don't get much fraying.

In this picture you can see the face that I have fused to black background, and the cartoon that I worked from.

Tomorrow: Decisions along the way and finishing the piece.