Monday, March 31, 2008

Backgrounds and swaps

All week I looked at my Stroop words to see whether I really wanted to change any letters. It's amazing how a little time can make a difference. The orange ceased to bother me at all, and though I still think pink is a bit too dark, I don't think it's so dark I'm going to change it. But the final ple of purple drove me nuts -- my eye kept being drawn right there -- so I changed it. And I did make a new n for green.
If you want to see what they looked like before, there's a photo here.

Today I played with backgrounds. I had always expected I'd put the words on a black ground, and I think it looks fine.
But what a shame not to explore other possibilities. I have a few black/bright prints, and I thought that might be fun -- at least until I saw it!
But this black and white was sitting on the cutting table, so I put it up and I love it!
The problem is that I had only a fat quarter of it, and as you can see, I've cut off a corner and a couple of strips already. It shouldn't be too hard to find more of this, or of something similar, should it? I guess I haven't decided for certain to use this background, but I do like it. Any input -- comments on these or suggestions for other kinds of backgrounds -- gratefully accepted!

By the way, this is why the black and white fabric was at hand:
I made another block like Wanda's using the triangles I had cut facing the opposite direction (I was thinking wrong direction). I have so many other things going on now that I'll put these away for awhile.

Since I last posted, I joined The Quilting Pirate's Miniature Booty Swap! I've never done a swap of a whole quilt before (and it's going to be a miniature quilt, but still), but I can't wait to design a small piece that will be the kind of thing my swap partner will like. There will be a link to the swap in my sidebar soon, I hope, but so far I keep getting crazy messages when I try to put it there.

I also finished all the quilting on my I Spy. I'll post a photo as soon as the binding is on!

And -- last but definitely not least -- today was my LAST DAY OF WORK!!!!! I am officially retired. :-)

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Start with the easy ones, follow the directions. Yes, that's good advice, and No, I didn't take it. But I took the more important advice that seems to be coming at me from all directions: Play! Quiltdivajulie has a wonderful post about about mindful moodling, Lazy Gal Tonya is constantly urging us to more liberated quilting, Wanda plays with color every day, and I -- well, I am starting to get the hang of it. When I saw the blocks Wanda was playing with yesterday I wanted to play with some, too!

Of course, I couldn't try the more straight-forward squares because the pinwheels are so much more whimsical, and I couldn't cut the strips all the same size because it occurred to me it might be fun not to, and I got a little too carefree about cutting the blocks and some of them ended up not playing nicely with the rest. (I'll find some friends for that lonely triangle later).

They say that playing is the work of childhood because it's what children must do to learn about the world. I think that continues to be true for things you learn at whatever age you are.

Other quilty things this week: I smiled whenever I saw my color words on my design wall. I have cut back on the few things I will change about them, and then I'll put the top together!

I also braved the borders of my the I Spy I finished piecing a month or two ago. Putting on borders is my least favorite thing about making a quilt, and this has borders on the front AND on the map on the back. Here it is on the dining room table, getting pinned for quilting!

Friday, March 21, 2008

The new and the old

Drum roll, please! I have made blocks of all my color words.
And let me just say that I love them. I'm going to fiddle with them a bit, but I'm going to live with them for a few days first in case I change my mind. I don't like the n in green, so I haven't attached it in the expectation that I will make another. Actually, I do like the n, just not at the end of this particular word. I think I need a lighter purple to make pink show up better, but I'm not sure I'll change that -- it's such a jaunty word that I'm not sure I can bear to replace it. I'll change the ple at the end of purple because those letters together are too stiff and stodgy (I love the two l's in yellow and want to get purple to have that sort of freedom). And I'm a little bothered that none of the letters in orange takes up the whole space, or that together they don't bounce to all the edges, so I may do something there. BUT, having said that, I do love these!! I do, I do, I do! Thank you, Tonya, for all your wonderful help. You've opened up a new quilting world to me.

Tomorrow I'll play with layouts and snap some photos of what I'm thinking to get everyone's suggestions.

This week HGTV aired a rerun of a Simply Quilts episode featuring Christine Porter, who wrote Quilt Designs from Decorative Floor Tiles. I bought this book right after I started quilting and couldn't wait to make one of the quilts -- but they were beyond my skills. I tried anyway. This was two years ago, and I took one of the easiest patterns in the book and reduced it to quarter size and made it for my husband's birthday. Unfortunately, I had loads of trouble piecing the triangles for the zig zags and so the quilt is a little wavy and puckery. I was disheartened and put the top away. (I also had no idea how to quilt it.) The recent rerun, along with the fact that it's my husband's birthday again in a week, inspired me to revisit the quilt.
I remembered it this way except with a much lighter and brighter and turquoise. I am so disappointed at the muddied values! Just doesn't show off the design enough. Live and learn.

And I revisited the past as I looked around my office this week. I retire April 1 and will miss this quilt I have in my office -- it's perfect for my food-oriented job, but I have no where to put it at home. The third or fourth quilt I ever made, it is from a pattern in Sharon Pederson's More Reversible Quilts. I love the rainbow colors of peppers, carrots, lemons, cabbage and plums -- I call it Fruit Basket Upset.
And just for fun, you might enjoy these. I have a calendar by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers called Fast Food (each month is a mode of transportation rendered with food). You should check out their books (the first is Play with Your Food). I forget the official title of the leek photo, but I call it Bad Hair Day!

I'd like to reply to you, but ...

I was on blogger for about a year before I learned that my settings were "no-reply." At one point I left a comment on a blog (a rarity for me in those days) and the blogger went to all sorts of lengths to figure out how to contact me. What a sweetie she was! And she told me how to change my settings to make it easy for her to reply.

Lately I've wanted to reply to people who left comments with specific questions, or just to respond in general, but was unable to because the comments were left by people who were anonymous with no email or who had their blog settings at no-reply. For those of you who don't know what your settings are but have noticed no one ever replies to you, you can easily change your set-up. Recently Paula the Quilter posted instructions on how to fix your settings to enable replies (and thanks, Quilting Pirate, for finding that link for me!).

For those of you who hesitate to comment, please don't! I feel like I missed out on quite a bit by lurking all that time. There's a wonderful online community waiting for you to join!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Yesterday the dam broke, or someone flipped a switch, or ... something dramatic, because suddenly I could just make letters. Not that I couldn't make them before, but I had to psych myself up and I was very critical of every little thing. I finished orange and giddily went on to green, which took next to no time. Definitely, something clicked. I did not look at Tonya's great tutorial even once (I used to check it constantly), I had finally internalized the process and JUST DID IT.

I did suffer a bit from the Stroop effect when I moved to the orange fabric and started making the word orange, but fortunately I caught myself before I got too far. When I finished, I laid all the letters out on the grid of my ironing surface to figure out what height to use for the finished words. My letters vary a good bit, but not as much as they appear to in this photo, which was taken at an angle. I decided on 5" and set to work forming blocks of each color word.
I may have to futz with a few letters, but I'll take that as it comes. Once I get the word blocks formed, I'll figure out how to fit them together. Suddenly it's doable. :)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Exuberant Color

Wanda at Exuberant Color has an amazing blog! I have learned a lot about color and value from her quilts and posts. Such creativity, such exuberant use of color (such an aptly named blog!), such fun! It's uplifting to visit. Today she posted a string pieced block with a layout I wouldn't have thought of. Since I just took a class about color and string piecing, it was the perfect post for me. Take a look!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Quilt class

My guild invited Kay Capps Cross of Cross Cuts quilting to make a presentation and teach a couple classes. I like her stuff but almost didn't take her Slaphappy class because I already know how to piece string blocks. Fortunately someone told me the class was much more about color than about piecing, and they were right. It was a great class!

During her lecture, Kay showed two versions each of about 8 quilts -- one version was made with color and one with black, white and one zinger color. Then she talked about the different effects of the quilts and the things to consider when making each version. On her color quilts, I especially liked her "flowing borders" as she called them (sorry, I don't have a photo), where the color/texture change is small but very effective -- it gives a sense of both boundary and background. For blacks and whites, she talked about scale of print, how a mixed black/white fabric reads, and what happens with grey. Translating a color quilt to black and white is not simply a matter of replacing value for value. I learned so much! Here are two blocks I made in the class -- fun, easy, and I loved playing with the fabrics (there were lots of us and we shared). In the blocks below there's a fabric full of 3 Stooges quotes and one with gentle sayings like "If all else fails, pet the cat."

My friend and co-worker Marilyn is not a big fan of blacks and whites, so she decided to make the block with her colors -- creams and tans with yellow and orange zingers. Even though those are not my colors, I think her group of 4 blocks is just wonderful!

It's a constant wonder to me how different we all are in our response to color and design. While I can appreciate and like -- even really like -- lots of things, I would just never want to spend much time working with certain colors or styles that others can't get enough of. Keeps life interesting!

Here's a block I made this week that is definitely not my colors. I often participate in the guild's block lotto for the practice of making different blocks, and it's fun to do. They always provide the background fabric, and it's almost always a tan or cream. As often as not, I don't have much in my stash to put with it. I had to work hard to find fabrics that fit what was asked in this one, but I like the block pattern.

Other quilting things I did this week -- I cut batting for these 3 Linus quilts. Someone donated a bunch of flannel cut into various sizes and I stitched them into tops. It was amazing that we had this piece of batting that just fit them!

And Val was home for a long weekend! She volunteered to make dinner one night (look at how fast that hand is tossing the pasta!). She lives in a coop at school and says it's such a pleasure to cook at home where no one has taken the food you need and all the utensils are put away in the right places!

I kept checking in with her while she cooked to see if I could help, and she kept saying no. I knew she didn't need my assistance, I just liked being told I didn't have to make dinner! And it was a yummy dinner indeed.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Darjeeling Limited

I have some photos to post but haven't had the chance to transfer them to the computer (still dealing with a slow system), and my daughter Val is home for a visit, so this will be brief.

We just watched The Darjeeling Limited/Hotel Chevalier. Bizarre, very bizarre. But the soundtrack is great and the photography is fabulous! It's worth seeing the movie to take in the colors and the beautiful photo styling. Absolutely gorgeous! It's drenched with light and color, and has a look that I don't know how to describe. Most scenes would work as still photos. The film has a crisp, clear quality. Visually, it was a real treat and I just wanted to alert all of you who love saturated color and clean design.

You can see a trailer here, but it doesn't really capture what entranced me about the look of the film.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Why is this woman smiling?

Lots of reasons!

First and foremost, I QUIT MY JOB! And what's even better is that I didn't actually quit, I am retiring! I was shocked when I learned that I was eligible, but when we moved here in 1982 I taught European history at the high school on campus, and most of my jobs since then have also been at the University of Illinois. That means they all contributed towards the same retirement program. Suddenly I wouldn't be walking away but would be moving on. I will miss seeing some of my good friends at work, but I plan to keep in touch. Otherwise, it is time for me to go. Does anyone remember "Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now?" by Dr. Seuss? It ends, "The time had come, so Marvin went." On April 1, the time will come and I will go.

Second, my guild had an auction Thursday. On the premise that one quilter's trash is another quilter's treasure, everyone donated the quilting stuff they didn't want anymore so that others could bid on it. There was a huge pile of quilting magazines and I despaired of trying to flip through to choose those I might want. I picked one up at random and it fell open to this article by Chris Kleppe (American Quilter, Winter 2003):
I love, I am completely fascinated by mosaics and Moorish architecture. I have often wondered how I could make one of those tracery designs into a quilt, but the answer always came up applique, and I am a piecer. Here Kleppe explains how to determine whether a particular design could be pieced using her method. Of the quilts shown in the article, this design is my favorite (there's another quilt overlapping in the upper right):

Third, I am grateful to so many quilters for their help and advice. Yesterday brought another example. A good friend and quilter stopped by yesterday afternoon just as I was finishing laying out AGAIN the quilt that had fallen off my design wall last May.
I love the look and feel of these rich batik flannels, but I didn't have as many blocks as I want and I couldn't find any more fabric. She had some in her stash and drove them over and gave them to me later in the day. How amazingly sweet, I am so very grateful. This is easy piecing, so I will make more blocks and then have something simple to stitch together in odd moments.

And fourth, after a brief shower this morning, the sun is out and our snow is melting! We might reach 50 degrees today and I can't stop smiling as I watch the mountain of dirty snow in our front yard dissolve into beautiful, non-frozen, totally splashable puddles.