Monday, July 31, 2006

I wish you could smell these

The big white lilies are blooming. We usually don't bring them into the house because they are so wonderful out in the yard, but this bunch toppled over and the stem was bent beyond repair, so Ray cut it and brought it in. They are huge. The only vase I own that is tall enough is this tall (at least 18") Japanese vase. It was a wedding gift from the owner of the furniture store where I worked at the time. I have always loved it. Two of my mother's mud men seem to belong to the scene. the scent is wafting through the entire house.

I have finally gotten free of my accounting/bookkeeping job—just yesterday. It is a feeling of freedom and relief. I lay awake last night planning the quilts I am going to make. You may see some fabric here in the near future!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Last Thursday on Alberta Street

There are two art gallery districts in Portland. The Pearl District has lately become the trendy, hot spot in town. That's where the upscale galleries are. The First Thursday of every month the galleries are open in the evening, many serve wine and cheese and it is a "strolling from gallery to gallery" event.

Alberta Street is across the river in a less affluent, but up and coming, neighborhood, of funkier galleries and restaurants. Their art walk event is on the Last Thursday of the month. Last night we decided to check it out. It was a wild and crazy street fair!

There were hoards of people roaming the streets, and along with the open galleries, artists had set up their paintings and other wares all along the sidewalks. Some of the art was very good, some was very bad and there was a lot that fell somewhere inbetween. A sidewalk display of alpaca wool featured two live alpacas.

Along with the art, there were street performers and musicians and these two cute girls were selling their artfully decorated cupcakes. We bought several.

One of our favorite galleries on Alberta is Onda Arte Latina. My daughter, Emily's, friend Cristobal Gonzalez Guzman, who lives in Quito, is going to have a show there in September.

Below my daughter, son-in-law and husband are checking out the art at Onda. My son-in-law discovered some pieces by an artist from the same city in Ecuador that he is from.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Stash Management—the Dishpan Method

On the Quilt Art list they have been discussing ways of storing your fabric "stash". Most quilters/fabric artists keep a large supply on hand and it is a dilemma. You want to keep it somewhat organized, yet easily accessible. You don't want things buried and out of sight or you forget what is there. I've tried stacking neatly folded lengths of fabric, arranged by color, on shelves as I have seen in photos of wonderful artist's studios. This looks good and organized for about as long as you don't need to use it. Then it becomes a jumble. (At least for me)

Several people have been talking about wrapping their fabric around 1) hanging file folders, 2) the cardboard bolt cores that fabric is wrapped around in fabric stores or 3) pieces of cardboard cut to size for this purpose. This all sounds like a lot of work to maintain in my opinion.

So far, the best system I have come up with uses small plastic dishpans from the Dollar Store. They measure about 11" x 14" and I buy a few every time I hit the store. I fold my fabric (not very neatly—I'm just not that compulsive about it) and stand it up in the dishpan so that when the tub is full I can see the top edge of every fabric in it sticking out of the top.

I sort, mainly, by color and have multiple tubs of some colors. For convenience I also have a separate tub for Japanese fabrics, one for African fabrics and other specific categories of fabrics.

Here is a section of the shelving where I store the tubs. I love that I can pull out a whole tub of reds, paw through it, choose what I need, then put the rest back on the shelf. It is really quite easy to refold and poke the fabric back into the tub when I am finished with it.

Works for me.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

June's fabric give-away

My friend, June Underwood, decided she was never again going to piece quilts, using commercial fabrics, so, in a bold move, decided to put all her unneeded fabric out on her porch this morning and invite local quilt artists to come and take what they wanted. She did have a smaller table of more desireable pieces that she was selling, as well.

The small table in the front holds the pieces she had put aside thinking they might be of special interest to me. I made a few selections from that offering, then I got into the next table of prints where I found some interesting pieces. The back table were all wools, which held no interest for me.

Here, June is ironing fabric at the far end of the porch. No wrinkled old rags—presentation is everything. As she was ironing this beautiful piece of dyed silk, she was saying, "maybe I ought to keep this one..." Ironing always makes it look better.

This kind of fabric sale or give-away seems to occur fairly frequently as fiber artists become enamored of producing their own fabrics and no longer find the commercial prints appealing. Fortunately for me I still like using commercial prints, so I have been the recipient of several nice fabric windfalls. I showed, I think, remarkable restraint and only took what most appealed to me. I kept thinking about the huge bag of fabric from my stash that recently went to S.C.R.A.P.

Here's what I brought home. What is that lavender piece doing in there? What was I thinking?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Mom's sewing machine

I have an obscene number of sewing machines, most of which are not really functional, but I like the looks of old sewing machines. They really seem to have a lot more character than my newer machines. This one was my Mom's machine. It sits on the landing partway up my stairs with a bunch of other old sewing stuff. I like the way it looks there, but its real function is to give us something to stub our toes on in the dark.

It is a Montgomery Ward brand, purchased, I suppose, in the early '50s. I don't remember when Mom didn't have it. She used it for years, until she inherited my grandmother's much more modern Singer Touch 'n Sew. She sewed a lot of curtains and dresses for my sister and me and I sewed all my 4-H outfits on it. Mom never wanted a newer, better machine, because she swore she didn't like to sew, although she did a lot of it and was very good at it. It is a simple machine, with only a straight stitch. And it weighs a ton.

And, see that little pinkish thing on the far right side? That's a piece of a bandage. It's been stuck there as long as I can remember. I don't know why.

Compared to some of my other old machines—Singers with gilded decals and embossed designs on the metal plates—this one is a real plain jane. But it has such a sturdy, little no-nonsense look to it that I feel a real fondness for it. It would probably still sew if I plugged it in.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Fabric stamp experiment

This odd looking thing is a stamp that I carved from a piece of rubber carving block. (similar to this stuff) That's a 1" grid behind it for scale. My idea was to produce a visual texture on fabric using a pretty much random pattern.

I started by rolling out some fabric paint on a piece of acrylic with a rubber brayer, then using the stamp to stamp it onto the fabric. I started with a dark purple. From there I added layers of different shades, getting gradually lighter, until the piece was pretty well covered and covered again.

I use mostly commercially printed fabrics, but I have always liked the idea of, and the process of printing my own fabrics. I like the depth of this piece. I had no particular purpose in mind for this little piece. I was just experimenting, but now I think I need to find something to do with it.

After I wrote the first part of this entry I was looking at some other blogs and came across fabrics others have been painting and dying. Boy, am I boring! This looks very dull compared to some of the wild and extravagant painted fabrics I have seen. But it is the kind of thing I will use.

If you want to see some really great painted fabrics, check out some of these:

Deb Lacativa at

Dijanne Cevaal at

Marion Barnett at

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Reasons not to blog

I have been ignoring my blog this week. I've had better things to do.

This picture is my daughter, Emily, and my son-in-law Carlos, (we call him "Cayo") taken at lunch in the backyard just a little while ago. They arrived from Quito, Ecuador this past Tuesday night and we have been just enjoying their company. They will be with us until they find a place to live in Portland.

I think one of the most gratifying things in life is getting to know your children as adults and discovering that they are great people—people you want as friends. And equally gratifying when they choose to marry people about whom you feel the same. We are lucky people.

They went out for the afternoon, so I can talk about them behind their backs.

Emily is responsible and hardworking and funny and fun to be with. She hit the ground running and is checking things off her list. She lived and taught in Ecuador for 4 years and we visited often. I knew she was as safe as one can be there, but I feel a sense of relief that she is here now, and will be for the foreseeable future.

Have you ever seen the place you live through the eyes of someone from a different country and culture? This is Cayo's first time in the United States. He has, this week, tasted his first Starbucks and been both amazed, and then amused, at the fact that they are EVERYWHERE you turn in this city. Raccoons in our backyard were an exotic wildlife experience. A trip through the U-Scan lane at the grocery store last night turned into a fiasco with both Emily and Cayo baffled by the confusing directions and beeping technology. It ended badly with an officious, ass of a clerk barking at Cayo, "take your hands off the bag and step away from the machine!!" I think we're laughing about it today. Overall, I am impressed with Cayo's good humor and easygoing acceptance of a whole new way of life.

I'm so happy they are here.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Our yard is really beautiful this year. I'd love to make you think that I am out there making it all happen, but the truth is that I barely lift a finger in the gardening arena. This is all Ray's doing. (Oh, I have been known to offer advice...)

When we redid the yard 3 years ago, Ray and I built this little arbor to go over the entry into the side yard. It was built specifically to support a clematis vine. (side note: I had always pronounced this clem-AAA-tis, but the folks in the know about such things insist it is CLEM-uh-tus. I'm retraining myself.)

We have become big, big fans of this blowsy extravagant flowering vine. We now have several growing around the yard, wherever there is something for them to climb on. They come in lots of great colors. In the photo you can actually see two clematis vines—the deep purple on the arbor and a magenta on the fence behind, and mixed into both is an ornamental grape vine.

Here's a closeup. Isn't that just a great graphic shape? I think there is a quilt design based on this percolating. Hmmmmmm....

Friday, July 07, 2006

Road trip — the flea market

Before heading down to the Lake on Monday, several of us decided to check out the Cascade Flea Market. It was a beautiful day and I'm a sucker for an outdoor market. It was pretty festive with flags flying and all vendors promised special prices just for the holiday weekend, although the well-established look of that 50% off sign would make you wonder if anything ever sells for the full price.

I was quite fascinated by this large display of herbs and remedies.

Closer inspection of those tubs revealed such potions as "wolf spirit," "Egyptian Goddess," and "Patchouli Opium"—really?

There were a lot of dangerous looking weapons for sale—swords and rather gruesome-looking knives. When I first saw this display I thought these brightly-colored objects were some kind of musical instrument. Wrong. They are blow guns, whatever those are.

These velvet purses looked really pretty spread out across a table, but I wasn't tempted to buy one. A little too Janis Joplin for me.

Lots of yard ornaments, most were pretty cheap and gaudy, but these metal pieces were nice.

So, what did I buy? Two packages of beads and a pair of silver earrings with reddish stones (50% off, of course) and a package of crunchy dried corn snacks, which were very tasty with a cold beer down at the lake later that day. The beads were a very spontaneous purchase. The dark, ethnic-looking ones are all different and quite interesting. There is even a wee elephant in there. I don't tend to sew beads on my quilts, so maybe they will end up together as some kind of crazy necklace. Or maaaaaaaybeee I'll sew them on a quilt.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Road trip

Our destination was Cascade Lake north of Boise, Idaho in the mountains, where the state starts to funnel in toward the narrow panhandle at the top. Ray's cousin, Sue, lives near the lake and invited us all for a Grant family reunion.

It was an 8+ hour drive for us and we arrived tired, but happy to see everyone and just in time for dinner.

Most of the families had trailers that they parked on Sue's expansive acreage. We are the city slicker cousins who don't own a trailer or camper or even any camping equipment, so we opted for the Ashley Inn, which turned out to be very Victorian and frilly, with rose-themed wallpaper, potpourri and schmalzy muzak throughout. Somehow, in the wilds of Idaho, I had expected rustic, lodge-y accommodations. Go figure.

Family reunions are interesting affairs. Some of the family members are people we see frequently, others we see every few years at funerals or reunions and a few are people we have never met—mostly children and/or grandchildren of cousins. How strange it must be for a child to take in all these strangers, who are now "family".

As new arrivees drift in there are hugs all around and lots of back slapping and explanations of just how we are connected—"I'm Ray's wife."—"Jerry's daughter."—"You must be Jim's son-in-law."—"this is our granddaughter."

And then catching up with parents and siblings and anyone else not present. Who had surgery? Who is retiring? Who just went to Italy? Who needs another cold beer??

We gather in a big circle of lawn chairs and visit as the pine trees rustle and the mosquitos buzz and the sun slips behind the mountains. Then Sue, our hostess, hustles everyone up out of chairs and instructs us to grab sweaters and lawnchairs. We are caravanning to the perfect spot to watch the fireworks where we set up our chairs and hunker down to wait for the big show. The kids are impatient. The adults keep promising that it will be worth the wait. Then the show begins and it IS worth the wait! We hear the first high-pitched whistle of a rocket spiralling upward and the sky explodes with color and suddenly the the squirmy, whiny children are enthralled.

We ooh and we ahhh and when it is finally finished with a dramatic flourish of bursting stars and rockets and twinkling showers of sparks, we realize how tired we are and gather up children and blankets and chairs and say our "good nights". Today was a long day. Tomorrow we go to the lake.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

July, already. I guess summer is really here.

I decided I wanted to make a few more small pieces for the Japanese Garden Show. These are the latest. Plums and apricot and ginger jar. The fabric part is about 5" square, then I have mounted them on 8" square pieces of colored mat board. For the sale I will wrap in cellophane and they will go in a display bin with other small pieces like the postcards some of the other artists are doing for the sale.

My workspace is upstairs under the roof and it gets hot up there in this hot weather. (I think calling a spare bedroom jam-packed with fabric and sewing machines and quilts a "studio" sounds a little pretentious . . .) So I have the window open and then little bits of fabric blow around when a breeze comes by. The iron makes it even hotter and even the sewing machine seems to be throwing off heat. Maybe that is why so many of my fellow Northern Hemisphere bloggers seem to be in the summer doldrums and not producing much. I'm about ready to adopt that "fiddle-dee-dee" attitude and be done with this last minute stuff and on to a summer laden with promise.

We're heading to the mountains and a family reunion for a few days. When I get back we'll hang the Japanese Garden Show. My daughter and son-in-law will arrive from Ecuador in 11 days to live in Portland. We will welcome them with such excitement and then we will have a big party! The job I am so very tired of doing will be passed off to someone else before the summer ends and I will have the gift of time to do more satisfying things.

Good things are on their way. I am ready.