Thursday, January 22, 2015

Feeling Goosey

My friend Jenny and I were talking quilts the other day, and she was trying to decide on what to do for a wedding quilt she wants to make. "I'm thinking about flying geese," she said, "Have you ever done one?"  

Hah.  As a matter of fact, most of the quilts I've made in the last year or two have involved flying geese.  And Jenny's comments made me get them out and get photos of them -- which was no small feat as they are big quilts and I don't have a great way to photograph such large quilts.  But with some ribbon and pins and command hooks, I rigged something and here you go.  Please take my word for it that these all have straight edges and square corners -- really, they do! 

So here's my "Christmas Geese," one I finished in December after having the geese units floating around my sewing room for a year or two.  Most of the fabrics were from a bundle of geometric prints I fell in love with somewhere along the way -- if you recognize the collection of fabric, do let me know in the comments because I sure don't remember!  It's a fun Christmas quilt.  It's quilted with an overall swirly design.
And then there's the Polka dotted Geese quilt I made a year or so ago, which I mentioned here.  At a quilt show a few years ago, I'd bought a luscious bundle of polka dotted fabric, which I'd had out on a shelf in my sewing room because they looks so happy together.  And during my one and only trip to Festival of Quilts in the UK a few years ago, I bought a bundle of assorted Oakshott cottons which I also had out because the colors were so beautiful.  I was rummaging through my shelves, looking for a particular book, when I happened to put the Oakshott bundle next to the polka dot fabric bundle.  And suddenly they needed to be geese.  I loved making this quilt!  (And truly, the edges are straight!)

The quilt that marked the start of my obsession with fly geese is this huge red and white geese quilt.  I have a TON of red fabric in my stash, a lot of which I collected when I was working on red and white house blocks for another massive quilt.  I started making geese with red scraps and solid white fabric, and I just kept going.  And going.  And this resulted.  I love it, and it lives on the back of the red couch in the family room where it looks happy and is great for movie-time snuggling.

This is a bit fuzzy, but you can get a sense of all of the different prints.  I arranged the geese into blocks of pairs, and was pleased when a secondary star pattern emerged.

I just put a flying geese border on my current project -- and I'm not tired of making them yet!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Book Review: Deep, Down, Dark

One of my goals this year is to add some non-fiction to my reading.  I tend to read fiction almost exclusively, and somewhere along the way I realized that I'm probably missing out on some good reading -- and learning.  I'm trying to broaden my reading horizons a bit this year.  So I've set myself the goal of reading a nonfiction book each month, roughly.

And then at some point recently I heard Ann Patchett interviewed on National Public Radio.  NPR's Morning Edition has started its own book club, in which they plan to have a well-known writer choose a book he or she loved.  Ann Patchett's pick for January is Deep Down Dark The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle that Set Them Free, by Hector Tobar.

I should probably add that I'm a wimp when it comes to reading about certain difficult things.  (I avoid things about the Holocaust and incest like the plague, for example.)  And reading about miners and mining, let alone miners trapped underground for weeks, is hardly something I'd normally choose.  But as I listened to Ann Patchett's interview (you can hear it here), I was reminded of how enthralled I was watching news footage as the miners emerged, one by one, from the mine.

On that day in October, 2010, I was at the quilt retreat I often attend.  One friend had her Ipad sitting on her table, streaming the live coverage of the rescue.  We gathered around as the "Fenix" rescue pod brought each man up to the surface, and we cheered and hugged.  There we were, miles and miles away, a group of financially secure, middle-aged white woman, cheering and wiping tears from our eyes as men whose lives we couldn't even imagine were rescued from an ordeal we had even less ability to conceive of.  Over the course of that night, we continued to watch and cheer and feel such joy as each man emerged from the mine. It was a funny sort of bonding experience, but I think it made each of us feel connected to the events unfolding in Chile in an unusual way.

When I started the book, to my surprise I found that it was hard to put down.  This book is one of the few inside accounts of those 69 days in the mine, because the miners banded together and agreed that they'd tell their story together.  Tobar's writing is very good, and he personalizes it all by telling each man's individual story.  You get a sense of each man's life and personality, both before the mine collapse and as the story unfolds. There's a bit of history about the area in Chile, about the mining company that owned the mine and the mine operations.  There are stories about the miner's families, how the rescue operations unfolded, and how politics and egos affected things.  All of the pieces are woven together skillfully to tell an amazing story.  Gripping, I'd even say.  I had a hard time putting this book down.

But what comes through is how these ordinary men coped in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.  They weren't perfect -- they struggled.  They felt and expressed fear and anger.  I found it especially interesting to hear how the men have fared since their rescue. Hailed as heroes, they were thrust into a spotlight that was freakishly strange to all of them.

Watching each man emerge from the mine back in October, 2010 made me feel a bit connected to the experience, but reading this book showed me so much more about each of those men, and about the human spirit.  I'm really glad I read it, and I'd recommend it.

I think my nonfiction reading plan is off to a very good start.   

Friday, January 16, 2015

Saying Goodbye

Gemma was just the cutest pup in the world. 

 She loved adventure -- a good run, a lot of sniffing. 

She was always up for a trip to the dog park.


She loved having friends over

And of course she loved a good game of "lick the kid"

She made us laugh.

She wasn't afraid to be silly, and she loved a good party.

 But she had her quiet, dignified moments too.
 She was a sweet, constant, loving companion.

It's so hard to let a beloved companion go. 

But it was time, and it's what we have to do when we take on the responsibility 
of having animals in our lives.

But all that love?  It's still here.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Welcome, 2015!

Happy New Year to you!

This year, I seem to be sliding into the new year while it feels like I'm still emerging from Christmas, and with the sense that January has come around unexpectedly quickly.  Having a succession of out-of-town guests explains that a bit, I guess -- plus the fact that the holiday decorations are still around (I haven't had a chance to sit and sketch them yet!) and I feel like I'm still pulling holiday leftovers out of the freezer to turn into different dinners.

And it feels like I spent an awful lot of 2014 living in my head -- thinking, reflecting, analyzing, planning, reminiscing.  I've experienced a lot of rather huge transitions over the past two years, and I'm finding that even while events have passed, the ripples of them continue to affect me. 2014 was a good year, all in all, but it's been an internal sort of one.  I've gotten a lot of new understanding and perspective, and that's good.

But as I was thinking about the past year, and feeling like I didn't accomplish that much, I sat down and made a list.  And I was pleased to discover that it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought -- in fact, I did a lot of wonderful things.

I finished 3 quilts and at least 4 quilt tops... and started a few new projects, too.

I did a fair amount of sketching, completed 3 6-week Sketchbook Skool courses, and went on a lot of sketch outings with my local Urban Sketchers.

I saw my daughter successfully re-enter the world of school at the community college, and helped her navigate some new anxieties and experiences -- and was happy to see her come out with flying colors.

I started making books again, and made a whole bunch of creative "jumbly journals" that were a total blast.

I did a lot of hours of legal work.

I sang in two seasons' worth of chorus concerts, sat on the chorus board for the year, and helped the chorus redesign its logo and website.

I got some long overdue maintenance stuff done at home, including new flooring downstairs and big improvements to the house gutters. Exciting, eh?

I went to three fun and productive quilting retreats, and I've added a monthly sewing group to the schedule that makes me very happy.

Thanks to Goodreads, I know that I read 112 novels last year.  Strangely, that's the exact same number I read in 2013.

I took some fun trips -- to the Seattle area and to the California gold country.

The area in which I've had the biggest developments, oddly enough, is with friendships.  Through all of the turmoil over the last few years, I've been so grateful for amazing friends. During this past year, I've struggled with really difficult challenges involving two close friends.  I've made some delightful new friendships that surprise and enrich me.  And I've had several long-time friendships emerge with new importance as my life has changed. I'm reminded that my friends keep me sane, make me laugh, tell me the truth, and enrich my life so much.  You know who you are -- and thank you!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Colorplay Quilts Come Home

My Twelve by Twelve Colorplay quilts arrived home this week, after a long period of traveling the world without me.  Most of you will remember that the Colorplay quilts were made as the second phase of the Twelve by Twelve art quilt challenge which started back in late 2007, when I and 11 other quilt artists decided to challenge each other with bi-monthly assigned topics, for which we'd each make a 12x12 inch art quilt.  After two years of the first round, we embarked on a second series of challenges where the themes were colors or color palettes.  The resulting 144 quilts have been off touring at various international quilt exhibits, and do they have stories to tell!

Gemma, the "Labikeet" quilt made for the "lorikeet color" challenge chosen by Brenda Smith, loved being on display in Belgium this past October.  Apparently the quilters in Belgium are not used to seeing such vividly colored dogs and were highly amused. 

My "Wistful Wisteria" quilt (made when Gerrie Congdon chose chartreuse as her color challenge)  had tales of the oohs and ahs it overheard while on display in Alsace, France this past September.  I also got a long, involved story Kiluea overheard about a scandal involving a french quilter, her new sewing machine, and the rabidly jealous old machine who was intent on sabotaging things in the studio. Those French sewing machines are hot-blooded, I guess.

The "Kiluea" quilt (made for the Kiluea-inspired challenge that Kristin LaFlamme chose when she was living in Hawaii) enjoyed seeing Michigan, Portland, Oregon, and Iowa back in the summer and fall of 2013.  Kiluea claims that she didn't find many volcanic friends in those areas but was surprised that Michigan in August was hotter than she expected. 

The "Birds Flying High" (made in response to Francoise Jamart's blue and white challenge) quilt loved seeing Australia and New Zealand in early 2013 and truly felt that they'd flown far, far from home.  Those birds continue to chatter among themselves in their newly-adopted Australian accents.  You'd think they'd have brought me a souvenir or two, wouldn't you?  But no.

My #2 Pencils (made in response to the "purple and yellow" challenge chosen by Karen Rips) are still blushing and swooning about meeting Chris Howell of Midsomer Quilting in Chilcompton, England. Chris is quite the charmer and his enthusiastic love of the 12x12 quilts has made him a favorite among my quilts.  I think a few of them wanted to stay there with him and his many quilting fans.  I expect they'll be sending off pining love letters now.

The "John Lennon's Spectacles" quilt (made for the "orange" challenge selected by Terry Grant), is most sentimental about its time touring the International Quilt Festival shows in Houston, TX, Cincinnati, OH, and Long Beach, CA.  It reports that it felt like a real star with the flocks of admiring quilters touring the full 12x12 exhibit of all 288 quilts, and was glad to have sunglasses with all of the paparazzi taking photos.  I think returning to my quiet house is going to be quite the let-down for this spoiled celebrity quilt.

And the others? They're not talking. 

Maybe they're tired and jetlagged. 

Or they're sulking about having to leave their Colorplay friends.

The "Spices" quilt seems to be in a particularly dark mood.

Perhaps it's depression, given that the bright lights of their glory days have come to an end.

You never know, I tell them.  And besides, I remind them of what amazing doors they opened for me and my dear 12x12 compatriots.  What a wonderful, wonderful life they've had.  Now, I think I need to find a place in my home where we can get reacquainted, just me and them.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Giving Thanks, and coffee

A few weeks ago, my friend Loretta (aka Mrs. Pom of Pomegranates and Paper) and I launched a new project that we call Drawing Together Coast to Coast.  We've been talking about how to spur ourselves to paint more regularly, and we decided that if we were doing it together, and publicly, we'd be motivated.  We're taking turns choosing themes and posting our sketches every Sunday.

This past week's theme, chosen by Loretta, was "giving thanks."  And as I seem to have become obsessed with Starbucks' Thanksgiving Blend coffee (I've been on the hunt for another box or two of the K-cups before they are gone), that's what popped into my mind.  And although it may seem like a strange representation of "giving thanks," it makes sense to me.  Because it's not really about the coffee.  It's about the pleasure I take, and the gratitude I feel, for the little rituals of every day that make me happy.

It's coming downstairs in the morning and having the coffee maker on and ready, thanks to the handy timer.  It's popping a little pod in and having good coffee with the push of a single button.  It's the insulated mug that I've used every morning for years now, because I love how it keeps coffee hot for so long and I can linger and sip without the coffee going tepid. It's sitting in the living room and reading email and blogs while I wake up.  It's my sweet dog Gemma at my feet, gnawing on her morning chewy.  It's how good it feels to connect with friends (even if it's via email or blogs or facebook) and see what everyone is up to.

I could go on and on.  But you get the idea.  I'm sure you have your own morning rituals that help you start the day with pops of pleasure.  Wanna share what yours are?  Do tell in a comment!

And if you want to follow my bicoastal sketching adventure with Loretta (she's in New York, I'm in California) pop on over to the page.  You can "like" it and even follow so you are notified when new posts are added.  

Friday, November 21, 2014


It's been raining!   After our long drought here in Northern California, the rain is so welcome!  Yesterday I was waiting in the car before C finished her class, and I was enjoying the patter of rain on the car so much. I had the perfect cozy time, reading and watching the rain.  Here's hoping we get more today!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

An Autumn Mood

I can't remember where I came across the concept of "mood boards."  I'm not sure where the name comes from, but the concept of collages of images to portray a feeling or a look or a color palette isn't new.  Professional artists, designers, and decorators have been using them forever.

But a few years back I came across the Moodboard app for the Ipad, and I've had fun creating digital mood boards.  I create them for various reasons -- to get myself psyched for something, to try to hone down on a look or a feeling I want from something I'm working on -- or for no reason at all, just because it's fun to put images together.  It's like putting things up on a digital bulletin board to get a look that makes me happy.

(My sister just emailed to tell me that she likes an app called Moldiv better than Moodboard.  I've not tried it yet but I'm going to.)

But only recently did I think about using Photoshop to make them.  I can see it's another one of those addictive things.  Like Pinterest, making mood boards allows you to assemble images that just make you happy.  I love that.

Here's my latest, celebrating things I like in autumn.

If you're interested in playing with making digital mood boards yourself, here are a few resources:

And you can see all different ones by searching "mood board" (or "moodboard", people seem to spell it both ways) on Pinterest.

Are you in the mood to try one now?  Har har.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

An Occidental Saturday

This morning I headed out to the small town of Occidental, which is a little funky Sonoma County town.  Its main street is about 2 blocks long, and densely forested hills rise up on either side so the town feels like it's nestled into a cozy little valley. It's famous for two old Italian restaurants, which sprang up to feed the many Italian immigrants from SF and the bay area who came up to fish in the Russian River and hunt. I was there to meet up with the North Bay Urban Sketchers, and we had a perfect day for sketching outside -- it was warm and sunny with a bit of fall in the air.

You can see that I settled down to sketch a beautiful old church, up against the hillside.  But before I selected my sketching subject, I walked around for a bit with my camera, so here are some other scenes from my Occidental day:


Thursday, October 23, 2014

The ideal sewing machine

     I've been participating in Danny Gregory's online "Sketchbook Skool" over the last year or so, as a way of learning more about sketching, trying new things, and keeping myself sketching.  (I highly recommend it -- the inspiration is fabulous!  You can check it out here.)  This week's lessons are taught by Mattias Adolfsson, a Swedish illustrator whose drawings come largely from his imagination and are filled with whimsy.  One of our assignments for the week was to draw something that "enhanced reality" -- took something from the world around it and let our imaginations run wild.

   Well, I started thinking about my sewing machine.  I have a great one.  (Actually, I have several but let's just skip over that, shall we?)  And I started thinking about what I wish it did, and I was off an running.  Although I had other things I should have been doing (um, work?!) I had to stop and get this sketch down.

  So here you have it.  And if a sewing machine company comes out with a machine with an extending and collapsing throat (would that be perfect?) remember -- you saw it here first.

  You can click on the image to see my "wish" items which I've installed on this machine.  I'll leave it to the engineers to figure out how to do it.  The hard part is coming up with the idea, right?
        *   An expanding throat size to accommodate quilting massive quilts
        *   No bobbin; load a spool of thread for the lower thread instead (this doesn't seem like it'd be that hard to design, does it?
        *   Beverage dispenser (don't bother me with the pesky facts like this would need a water line, how would you clean it, etc.)  I'm telling you, my ideal machine would dispense iced tea in the summer, pumpkin spiced lattes in the fall, eggnog lattes in December... Basically, a direct line to Starbucks.
       *   Neck and shoulder massages while you sew
       *   A friendly lint bunny inside to eat all of the lint and fuzz so the inside never needs cleaning.  Hm, maybe there should be an Oil bunny, too.
       *   A device on the machine that will press/steam the seam as it leaves the foot so you don' have to press.  And as long as we're imagining, let's imagine that it presses it as you desire, automatically.  IT JUST KNOWS.  Open seam?  Pressed to the dark fabric?  Whatever.  It'll just do it.
      * And while we're talking steam, how about having some of it waft toward you for automatic facials?  Sew and reduce wrinkles at the same time.

      And then the buttons to configure -- A few of the ones I'd have on my ideal machine:
       * Prepare meals for you
       * Allow you to dictate, send and receive emails and text messages.  Or not, if you want to be left alone.
       * Play your audio of choice -- music from XM radio, your Itunes library, audio books, podcasts...
I've added more.  And I left one button blank.  What would you add?  My friend Sarah suggested "clean house" which I think would be perfect.  Or perhaps a button for instant fabric delivery?