Saturday, June 30, 2007

Education in a Fruit Basket

Well, it's CLE time again. That's "Continuing Legal Education" time. Lawyers in every jurisdiction have to complete a designated number of hours of CLE to keep their bar memberships active. Seeing as how I'm in California while an active member of the New Hampshire bar association, I complete my CLE requirements by watching online video programs.

Some of you regular readers will remember that around this time last year I discovered the joy of listening to online CLEs while sitting nearby at my sewing machine. And yes, you'll remember that I used part of my seemingly endless stash of Kyle's Marketplace fabrics to make a vegetable themed quilt.

So, it seemed only fitting that I got moving on another UFO in the pile to complete an all-fruit themed quilt top while listening to a program on Electronic Evidence and Digital Discovery. (Egad -- I had no idea how totally RECOVERABLE basically everything on every computer is. Did you know your text messages are saved by the phone companies? And can be produced BY THEM if necessary in litigation?) Anyway. My good friend Beth and I have a very long-standing joke about "fresh summer fruit," based on a summer long ago when Albertson's was running a commercial with a jingle that we simply couldn't get out of our heads. And because I'm trying to get rid of these dang fabrics (I swear they're re-seeding in my drawer) I decided to make her a fruit quilt.

I tell you, it's a great way to do this CLE thing.

And I am especially happy today as I woke up to Scott Simon's voice on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday. I LOVE Scott Simon and have missed him while he has been away in China adopting his second daughter! You can listen to his sweet essay about welcoming her to the family here. Congratulations to Scott and family and welcome, Lina!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Circle Keeps Growing

Wow -- our blog ring continues to grow in amazing ways.

Last night I waded through blogs on the "waiting applicant" list ... which means sorting through tons and tons of junk applicants. (I obviously still haven't figured out how to screen them out.) The evening's amusement was that I got applications from the likes of Madonna, the Beatles, Nora Jones, The Arctic Monkeys, and Tony Bennett. We are so cutting edge here that we are ahead of the celebrities, you see. I am still keeping out those wimpy drug users such as "Cheap Cialis" and "Easy Xanax" as well.

But we have some lovely new members, including nationally known quilters and teachers Therese May, Jan Bode Smiley, and Ellen Guerrant. So be sure to visit the new blogs on the ring and say hi. You can find them easiest by starting from my blog and clicking "previous" to work backward through the ring. (The newest blog is always the one previous to mine.)

Monday, June 25, 2007


After getting home from Tahoe late on Saturday and doing some quick unpacking, I turned my attention to preparing for my monthly Practical Design workshop on Sunday. I really look forward to this class each month, as I get such inspiration from my classmates and I always come away with a lot to think about in terms of my work.

This time, we talked about abstraction. I understand the idea, but I have a surprisingly difficult time achieving something that is truly abstract. Even when I start fiddling with random shapes and colors, my brain immediately wants to turn it into something. I guess it's that rational right brain trying to overcome the creative, visual left brain! Our discussion of abstraction reminded me that work doesn't have to be totally divorced from any specific idea to be "abstract". Even the most traditional quilt blocks are abstractions of images... think log cabin, flying geese, etc.

Anyway, after we talked about these concepts, we played with small collages. Here's what I achieved that afternoon.

Marilyn (our workshop teacher) suggested that we start with SOME basic concept... a shape, an image, a color, an idea...and go from there. I decided to play with line. I started composing this horizontally, but when I started to channel Liz Berg (whose work I adore) I turned it vertical to get my head away from her wonderful fences. I'm not sure where it will go. But I like what's there so far. Our challenge for the month is to do something with what we started in class.

I also just got some photos from my friend Carol T. who was in the Color Mixing for Dyers workshop. She shared what she washed out after class, and her results are FABULOUS!

Look at these -- don't these just make you gasp with delight?

Carol Soderlund had demonstrated a "rose window" type fold and demonstrated dye application to achieve a stained glass look, and Carol really managed to get stunning results.

I've got to give this a try!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I haven't been here

... because I've been HERE! This is Lake Tahoe, and we've just returned from a lovely vacation week there. Luckily for us. Roger's sister has a house there which is available to various family members. We hadn't really planned on going up this month, but we learned that the house was going to be sitting there empty, and Caroline just got out of school, and Roger just finished a work project, so what the heck...we packed up and away we went.

There is nothing like the smell of the piney, sun-warmed air in Tahoe. It induces instant well-being and relaxation. If I could bottle and sell it, I'd make a fortune. So I spent a lot of time just inhaling it and smiling and feeling good.

I brought my sewing machine and a mindless project, but the machine never came out of the case. I was too busy reading and playing "Animal Crossing" with Caroline on dueling Nintendo's, and floating in the lake. And, amazingly, I think I did pretty well on my diet healthy eating plan, aside from a few gin-and-tonics and my share of a rather HUMONGOUS piece of Hula Pie at our favorite restaurant, Sunnyside.

See? You'd have splurged for some bites of that too, wouldn't you?

Caroline was the only one of the three of us brave enough to plunge her full body into the 58-degree lake water. She spent a lot of time diving under this dock looking for crawdads, coming to shore now and again to sit in the sun and warm up.

My best friend Beth joined us for a day and an overnight, and we had such fun just sitting in the sun and laughing at everything and nothing. She is just the BEST best friend. And she's so great that Roger and Caroline adore her as much as I do.

I think I discovered a cure for my menopausal insomnia and night-time overheating. I slept outside on the deck at Tahoe, perfectly comfortable on a futon and snuggled cozily under a down comforter. It was down in the 50's at night but I was extremely comfy and loved falling asleep gazing up at trees and stars. I haven't slept that well in weeks! Hmmmm...maybe I'll have to try sleeping outside at home on our patio lounge chairs.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Enhance your Art Quilting

I have learned of a new art quilting movement, and I thought I would share this important news with you all.

There are, apparently, art quilters who vehemently believe that art quilting can enhance your sex life, enlarge certain sexual organs, make you last in bed longer, and can provide a natural alternative to viagra.

Who knew?

I have learned this through the many, many, MANY applications I am getting to the Artful Quilters Blog Ring from such folks these days. Clearly, they are eager to join our circle and share their secrets with us.

I figure the reason that I have not met these quilters at guilds or quilt shows is that they are too busy at home doing, well, other things. In fact, they're apparently so busy with their other activities that, from what I can tell, they don't make quilts.

Ah, well. I'm getting scads of these applications every day, so if you're inclined to explore, feel free to go to the Artful Quilters Blog Ring queue and check them out... before I delete them.

And as for all you other art quilters, I'm sorry if it's taking me a long time to get new blogs onto the ring. It's not easy wading through the -- ahem -- junk.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Midnight Cactus

Every once in a while, I stumble onto a novel that unexpectedly connects with real life for me in a significant way

Well, I’ve just finished one of those novels, Midnight Cactus by Bella Pollen. A few months ago, I encountered a Bella Pollen novel called Hunting Unicorns. I’d never heard of it or the author, but from the cover flap the story sounded interesting, so I dove in. And I loved it. That novel told the story of an American journalist trying to research a story on the demise of the upper classes in Britain. It was well-written and charming and funny in a poignant sort of way.

So, based on that, I got online and put a hold on the other Bella Pollen novel my library had. And that’s how Midnight Cactus ended up in my library basket this week.

In this novel, Pollen tells the story of a woman escaping the despair of an unhappy marriage by moving to the Arizona desert. Gradually, she starts to see the complexity of border life – the Mexicans desperate to cross the border and earn money to send home, the Americans who want to keep them out. Themes of escape and hope and human suffering are explored so delicately in this book.

Timing wise, I’ve been reading this while hearing and reading so much news about the Immigration Reform bill that is heating up Congress these days. This novel puts some of the issues into a very human perspective, and I'm very glad I read it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Up and Running

Well, finally, I got all the components of the Hinterberg frame set up and working right, and got my Juki set up on it, ready to go.

I loaded up a length of muslin, threaded on some dark thread to see what I'm doing, and I started stitching. Loading the front, back and batting on the frame was pretty easy, really, better than I thought it would be.

And it's dang fun! I'm still adjusting tension and getting used to how the frame adjusts when you roll fabric forward, etc., but it's going pretty smoothly. (Um, did I just jinx myself?!)

I figure I'll fiddle with this length of muslin, then put on some lengths of cotton prints I bought for a dollar a yard so my practice quilts can be bound and donated to the animal shelter for dog and cat beds or something. So I'm zipping along, having fun!

And I guess I'd better get some of those donation quilt tops ready to quilt

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sunday Miscellanea

I'm having a good, puttery Sunday.

Although I had intended to get some fabric installed on the Hinterberg frame to try it all out, I got sidetracked reading and writing email...which led me to get further sidetracked trying to install a "tag cloud" on my sidebar.

You'll notice I achieved it, after more time than I'd like to admit I spent on it. You can steer through these directions on how to get one of these in a Blogger template, by the way. (They are clear enough that a total html novice like me was eventually able to get it accomplished, so that's saying something.) And that meant that I had to start going back through my blog entries to afix labels, which is actually sort of fun.

When that strenuous task was finished, I met my friend Laura for side-by-side pedicures! We are good friends but life has been such for each of us that we've not managed to get together lately. Talk about a fun way to catch up! We had a relaxing hour to chat and we came away with lovely feet. Perfect. We'll definitely have to do that again.

So now, I guess I'm gonna go try to get fabric on the frame. It's 4pm and I'm just now getting to my first task of the day.

But I guess that's what Sundays are for, yes?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

What's a Henway?**

I'm quite excited-- my new dye scale arrived today! No, this isn't it...but I haven't had the opportunity to take it out and photograph it with dye in place.

Why would I even want a scale, you ask? Well, in last week's workshop with Carol Soderlund I learned why dyeing with dye measured out by teaspoons and tablespoons yields such wildly unpredictable results (and usually paler than I wanted). It's not, as I had thought, that the measuring is so imprecise (which of course it can be). Instead (or maybe besides) it's the fact that dye manufacturers add diluents to the powdered pigment, and depending on what batch you have and which diluent substances were cheapest at that moment, dye mixed with different diluents has different volume. So, one cannister of dye powder can yield one particular depth of shade when measured by teaspoon, while another cannister of the very same company's dye powder in the very same color can contain a different amount of pigment in the very same teaspoon.

And since the dye manufacturers carefully adjust the dye pigment so the weight is consistent for the amount of pigment, weighing the dye will get you relatively consistent results. Measuring by volume will not.

Hearing this explanation caused a big lightbulb to go on for me. I ventured over to and ordered my scale, and I'm getting ready for a dyeing session this week.

Now that I've had lots and lots of sleep (thank you, Dr. Tooth Extractor, for the great sedation) I'm feeling more energetic than I've felt in weeks. I'm putting binding on a quilt today, doing laundry, and finishing making the leaders so I can get my Juki on the new quilting frame and try it all out!

** Ah, c'mon, you know that old joke... "About 5 pounds."

Friday, June 08, 2007


When I was in law school, my hardest course was Federal Income Tax. And I still vividly remember the nightmare I had the night before the Income Tax final exam: I dreamed that the exam was the teeth chart above, and I was supposed to label each tooth with its official name. My two biggest fears: Federal Income Tax and the dentist. That nightmare pretty much summed it all up. (I eventually made it through the tax course with a B, to my utter amazement.)

Which gives you some idea of the dental phobia I've also had for much of my life. I chalk this up to a truly horrible and creepy childhood dentist and multiple experiences where he started to drill without the novocaine having taken effect. My sister, who of course went to that same dentist, has similar dental anxiety, and we've had many conversations comparing our memories of that weird guy. As kids, of course, we didn't know going to the dentist should be any different, and those were the days when moms didn't come into the room. She had her own childhood bad dental experiences, so she probably thought this guy was normal, too.

Anyway, I'm much better now, thanks to my current wonder-dentist. He's gentle and kind and careful and ALL ABOUT making sure I'm sufficiently drugged so as to be anxiety-free. Nowadays, I sail into his office, settle into the dentist chair with my Ipod and I'm good to go.

And it's a mark of how far I've come that I was totally relaxed and unconcerned about having two teeth extracted this week. It's just another step on my long road to making sure I have my very own natural teeth when I'm 90 years old, and part of the orthodontic treatment I've been getting to straighten my teeth and align my bite. (Ironically, I had straight teeth before I went to law school, and I think that the stress-related teeth grinding and jaw clenching I did in my full-time litigator years are what set my teeth to moving around so drastically. Good thing I didn't practice tax law, eh? I probably wouldn't have any teeth left.)

So, all went well. I listened -- through a sedated haze -- to This American Life on my Ipod during the procedure, then came home and crawled into bed and slept for probably 18 hours, interrupted by Roger from time to time to hand me a pain pill and change the ice packs. It's the best sleep I've had in months.

The dentist tells me I will have a few more days of pain (pain gets more intense as healing progresses, he tells me) and if Advil and Tylenol don't do the trick, I'm armed with some pain medication for some sleepy relief. I guess I won't be operating any heavy equipment in the next day or two. Meanwhile, I'll keep reading my lovely Marcia Willett novel (I do love British novels) and playing Pokemon with Caroline (the ideal mindless game) and planning the fabric I'll dye when I have a full sunny day.

And as a side note to all of this, those Slimfast milkshakes are pretty ideal meals for my current situation. On my new healthy diet regime, I've lost 11 pounds in the past month!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Dye Results

I am mostly recovered from 5 straight information-packed days of fabric dyeing, and I thought I'd show you what I did. In the piece above, we were to choose a color, aim for a particular color (which I achieved) and I experimented with a scrunchy-fold pattern I really like. We were using only pure yellow, red, and blue dyes, by the way.

In this shot I tried another scrunch pattern.

This orange one is an experiment scrunching fabric into a small cottage cheese container. I like the yellow effect but the lack of contrast is all my colors didn't have enough contrast and all bled together... so it has less variation than I wanted but it's a gorgeous, vibrant orange.

Here's a blue/fuschia/purple one. Pretty, huh?

And this is an experiment with folding and multiple colors. At this point I was just using leftover dye. Talk about a flash-back to the 60's, eh?! But it's fun and I think I'm doing to treat it as a whole cloth thing and just quilt on it.
On another note, I wanted to thank you all for the commiserating emails and helpful suggestions for my sleep issues! Actually, at the suggestion of a friend I saw a doctor who specializes in Chinese medical treatments and for the last week I have been taking an herb concoction that seems to have done the trick. She tells me that under the theory of Chinese medicine, insomnia and menopausal things are caused by imbalance among bodily organs, and herbs are used to get things back in balance. So, it's not about taking herbs to's about using these substances to get my body back in balance so I am sleeping naturally. And you know, I think it's worked. I now am getting into bed and actually falling asleep! It's lovely.