Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Pointless Comments

Yesterday, my art quilt group "The Pointless Sisters" met for our monthly meeting. Virginia had us laughing when she told us that as she said goodbye to her husband on her way out the door, he said "So, you're off to the Hopeless Sisters?"

Hey. We may be pointless, but we're always hopeful.

There is nothing like gathering of women with quilt art in common. We represent a pretty wide variety of ages, life experiences, quilting and art interests, and artistic goals. Still, it's always interesting when we get together to show each other our latest work and discoveries.

That's a bolt of muslin. And it's there because our current challenge is "Muslin." The idea is to make any art quilt using JUST MUSLIN as the fabric. We can paint it, dye it, embellish or treat it in any way...but the only fabric in the quilt must have started as muslin. The results of this challenge are due next month, and I'm very eager to see what comes in. Two members have shared their Muslin Challenge pieces already, and you'd never know that they started with muslin for their colorful pieces. (I'll take photos at the official "reveal" meeting next time.)

Meanwhile, mine is not quite done but well underway. It's a big departure from my usual stuff. I've opted to keep a fair amount of the muslin plain, unbleached, with threadwork providing much of the design. I'm not sure yet how successful it is, but it's been a fun experiment.

I respond well to challenges. Apparently I'm sufficiently pointless on my own so that it motivates me to have a specific task and deadline to meet. I'm already working on ideas for our next Pointless Challenge.

Which leads me to these questions: what challenge would you like to do? What challenges have you done that you found really fun or thought provoking?

Just for fun, I searched "pointless" under Google Images. I learned that there is pointless music...even a place to buy "pointless but cool" items.

Randomly trawling through Google images? Now, that's pointless.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Your Body of Work

One of the neat things happening in my design class these days is that each month, a member brings in as many of her quilts as she can gather to hang a one-woman show. We spend time looking at the artist's quilts and talking about them. I'm new to this group, so it's a wonderful way to get to know these new friends. Only two women in the group are professionals (they teach in local shops) and I don't think anyone has ever had the opportunity to see all of their quilts hanging in one place. It's a wonderful and satisfying experience. So far, each quilter has expressed anxiety ahead of her show that she won't have enough to show, and then as the walls are covered and there are quilts to spare, draped over tables and chairs, we all marvel at how much beautiful work the quilter has accomplished. It's a powerful experience, I think, to see the result of such effort over time.

It's been very interesting, too, to see definite themes in each quilter's work that the quilter herself didn't recognize.

Our discussion yesterday led our teacher Marilyn to ask whether we'd kept a specific list of every quilt we'd ever made, including the very first one, and where it is (or where it went). None of us had such a list.

So, this morning I sat down at my computer to try to piece together such a list. The more I thought, the more quilts I remembered. My goal is to track down as many as I can to get photographs, if I don't already haved them. To my great surprise, I've come up with a list of over 50 quilts, most of which have been made since 1999.

So--I challenge you today: Make a list of EVERY QUILT YOU HAVE EVER MADE. And go ahead, count the quilt tops that you've not quilted yet. They're part of your body of work, too. I bet you'll be surprised at how much you've accomplished!

On a tastier note, Judy asked me to share the "Enchilada in a Blender" soup recipe that is a favorite in my house. So, here it is:

Sedona White Corn Tortilla Soup
aka "Enchilada in a Blender"

3 Tb. Olive oil
2 seven inch corn tortillas, cut into 1 inch squares
1 ½ Tb. Minced garlic
2 Tb. Minced onion
1 ½ tsp. Minced jalapeno pepper
1 pound white corn kernels (I’ve used regular frozen yellow corn)
1 ½ pounds chopped ripe red tomatoes (I’ve used canned chopped tomato)
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 Tb. Salt
1/8 tsp. ground pepper
½ tsp. Chili powder
1½ cups water
1 quart chicken stock
24 blue corn tortilla chips (optional garnish)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (optional garnish)
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional garnish)

1. Over medium high heat, fry tortilla squares in olive oil until they begin to crisp and turn golden yellow. Add garlic, onion and jalapeno; cook 1 to 2 minutes, until onion becomes translucent.

2. Add half of the corn along with all other ingredients (except garnishes), reserving other half of corn to be added at the end. Bring soup to a low, even boil. Boil for 5 minutes.

3. Remove soup from heat. Use a hand held propeller blade processor, food processor, or blender to process in batches to the consistency of a course puree.

4. Remove to heat and add reserved corn. Bring soup to a boil again, being very careful to avoid scorching or burning.

5. Serve, garnished with blue corn tortilla chips, cilantro, and grated cheese.

From California Pizza Kitchen Cookbook

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Venturing out

Thank you all for the nice comments about my most recent quilt! This has been a real voyage for me, so I appreciate the positive feedback.

In my design workshop, we were asked to choose a picture off of a table that was spread with postcards and photos from magazines. We were told to choose quickly, instinctively, and based solely on the color palette. As I'm trying to get away from my usual brights, I selected this picture:

Although I didn't realized it when I grabbed the photo, once I took a close look at it I learned that it was an image of a quilt by Karin Lusnak, taken out of Quilters Newsletter magazine (Oct. 2003). The golds and rusts and browns just aren't in my usual palette at all, so I figured this would be a challenge for me.

Then, we were challenged to work from our chosen picture to interpret our own way. Although I hadn't realized it at first, the picture I'd chosen was really a simple nine-patch quilt, with alternating nine patch blocks and plain blocks! Not obvious at first, huh?

Well, I turned to my Electric Quilt software, which is perfect for this sort of design. I was able to scan my fabrics in and design with the actual fabrics I intended to sew with. How cool is that? (I recently upgraded to EQ6 and it makes scanning fabrics and creating one's own fabric library really easy.)

I decided to work with a modified 9-patch block alternating with half-square triangles to see where that got me. I had such fun trying different variations on that incredibly simple theme! I think I ended up with over 40 variations. For a while, I fiddled with the idea of extending the square-lines into the border, like this.

Then I decided it was stronger and bolder without that border fussiness, and I went back to one of the first designs:

So, that was my roadmap for sewing. I've never done that before, designed something so fully before cutting a single bit of fabric. Not surprisingly, things changed with the look of the real fabric and the large scale (the final quilt is 60 by 60 inches), and as I just saw what needed something different as it went up on the design wall.

And that brought me to this.

I've yet to bind it, but it's done enough to show to my design class tomorrow. I'm really pleased with it, as it did take me somewhere I wouldn't have gone on my own.

I've not settled on a name for it yet. Maybe "out of the box," because it is, for me. Maybe Desert Twlight, because that's what it makes me think of. I'm not sure.

One Important Cookie

A while ago, I wrote about how Roger's Human Sexuality textbook was finally finished and back from the printers and ready for sale to college students. The publication of of this book is a Very Big Deal to us, and we're pleased to find that it's apparently a Very Big Deal for his publisher, Prentice Hall, too.

My Very Famous Author husband was invited to the publisher's big sales meeting, to talk about the book for the sales reps who would be sent out to colleges to persuade professors to adopt the book for their classes. He came home very impressed and pleased at how P-H is so diligently and creatively publicizing his book.

Well, imagine our amusement last week when THIS arrived in the mail:

It's the rather huge poster from one of the sales meeting events (an outdoor barbecue dinner "under the stars") where Roger talked. At that meeting, they were serving cocktails chosen for each of the books they were promoting. Notice that Roger's book's "signature drink" was "Sex on the Beach"!!

That poster has provided plenty of amusement around here, especially as Willow, one of our two cats, gets totally freaked and totally puffs out her fur every time she sees Roger's picture on the poster.

But then this week, another package arrived from a bakery back east. We couldn't figure who sent it or what it might be... And it turned out to be this:

It's a Valentine's Day tin of cookies from Prentice Hall! Look at that! And yep, you're right... half of the cookies are frosted with the cover of Roger's Human Sexuality textbook!

Is this funny or what? We've not tasted them yet (I insisted that we wait until I had time to photograph them) but the box says they're "as delicious as they are pretty." We'll soon see. I'm thinking I'll heavily shellac one as an amusing keepsake (A Christmas ornament, maybe?!)...unless they're especially delicious and we can't help ourselves from eating all of them. And I guess we'll wash them down with some "Sex on the Beach." To drink, I mean.

Friday, February 23, 2007


I'm blocking my quilt today. I learned this method from Kathy Sandbach, machine quilter extraordinaire. Here's how I do it.

I prepare the area by clearing a large space on the rug in the bedroom and spreading out an old flannel sheet. The carpeting works because I can pin down into the carpet pad, and I use the bedroom because I can close the door and prevent the cats from strolling around on the quilt while it's being blocked.
The sheet helps to protect the rug from getting wet, although the quilt never gets wet enough to soak through to the flannel anyway. (Plus this way I can save my favorite old sheet with the little sheep on it.)

I also assemble various straight edge tools and my biggest square cutting ruler for squaring the corners, a tape measure, a box of T-pins (I've used the larger glass-head pins too... but fine ones with thin shafts aren't strong enough), and a spray bottle full of water set to mist.

Here's how bad and warped this thing looked before blocking. Usually my quilts aren't THIS distorted, but the linear pattern I used seem to really distort things badly. Never fear. It'll fix right up.

Basically, I spray the whole quilt liberally and then start smushing it around (that's the technical term), pinning, straightening, pulling, spraying more, smushing more, pinning more, spreading, unpinnining, spreading, smushing, and pinning. You crawl around on the damp quilt a lot so you end up with damp knees. You get the idea. Smush, pin, measure, unpin, smush, pin... until it's the way you want it. It usually takes me pinning one side, straightening up from there, then working across the quilt to smush things in line several times before it's the way I want it.

Here's a not-quite done look:

Much better, huh? When I have it the way I want it, I give it all one last spray, then I walk away and close the door and let it dry ALL THE WAY.

You do have to be careful about this if you've not preshrunk your fabrics and think something might bleed, by the way. Also, I'm told that this doesn't work as well if the batting is 100% poly, as that won't give the way cotton does. I always use cotton batting (actually, the 80/20 Hobbs Heirloom) so I've never had any problem.

Now, you can sit and have another cup of coffee and gaze proudly at your quilt. That's what I'm going to do.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Quilting in progress today. I'm putting on my headphones, cranking up the ipod, and flooring the pedal.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

24 Pictures

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what's the value of a constantly changing wall of 24 pictures?

Check out Blogline's ever-evolving Wall of Images.

It's mesmerizing.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Living Artfully

A few weeks ago, I had some time kill before an appointment and I spent it wandering around a bookstore. I stumbled on this book, "Living Artfully" by Sandra Magsamen, and ended up leaving the store with it. It's fabulous, and I've been dipping into it frequently since I brought it home.
The book is all about why creativity is important in everyday life. Many of us know that already, of course, and need outlets for creative expression as much as we need food and sleep and oxygen. But more important for me these days is how this book reminds me that creativity has all sorts of applications. It's not all about painting or collaging or quilting...creativity occurs in the way you set a table, the way you arrange the items on the table as you tidy your home, the way you tuck a fun note into your child's lunchbox.
One of the book reviews says this: "Living artfully is expressing who you are through the moments that you create. Living Artfully reminds us to explore and experience life with more heart, meaning, purpose, and joy. It asks us to imagine, to dream big, to believe in ourselves, to celebrate the people in our lives, make each day count, dance when the spirit moves us, laugh out loud, and let our voices be heard."
Like many of other quilters and artists, my life is not about doing this quilt art as a career. It's something that I tuck into the gaps between my professional work, my family time, my household jobs, and other obligations and interests. It's vital to me, but it's not all that I do nor is it the most important work I do. At times many days can pass before I do anything at my studio table at all. So, this book has been so important in reminding me that even the most mundane of chores can be done creatively, with imagination and flair and joy.
Coincidentally, I recently discovered a podcast called "Craftcast" by Alison Lee. In her weekly podcast (which you can listen to at the site or subscribe to and download through Itunes), Alison interviews craftspeople from all different arenas. I've been poking around the archived podcasts, and stumbled onto an interview with the author of Living Artfully, Sandra Magsamen. You can find that particular podcast episode here.
Now, I'm off to do some housework -- artfully, of course --before getting back to the current quilt project.
Here's wishing you a creative day!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Perfect Saturday

What a great day I had yesterday.

First, I headed off in the morning for a reunion visit and lunch with friend and fellow AQ blogger Gerrie, who was visiting from her new home in Portland. Gerrie, Pat, and I met at Janet's house, and we planned a pot-luck lunch to allow for maximum talk and laughter. I brought my "enchilada in a blender" soup (which was a big hit, I'm glad to say) and we shared our favorite Oakville Grocery sandwiches too. Pat brought a lovely lemon cake, so we were well fed while we caught up on what's been happening since Gerrie moved away. I love hearing that Gerrie's quilting and art life enabled her to make so many new friends and find immediate connections in a new city. Sorry, no pictures...we were too busy talking! We did see Gerrie's newest piece, "Fragments," which is really luminous in person.

Then, I raced home, changed clothes, and Roger and I headed to San Francisco for a very fun evening. Ever heard of Trader Vic's? It's a San Francisco institution, and the place where they invented the Mai Tai! It's an upscale, polynesian themed restaurant, fun and sorta funky but in a mostly quiet way. Having planned for a lot of traffic, we got there pretty early, so we had time to linger over drinks and crab rangoon hors d'oeuvres in the bar.

Looks delicious, doesn't it?! I had a "pogo stick," which was a concoction of gin, pineapple juice and grapefruit juice. Yummy. Our dinner was fabulous. I had Bongo Bongo Soup, which I ordered solely because of the name. I mean, who WOULDN'T want to eat something called "Bongo Bongo?!" It was a creamy spinach and oyster soup, which sounds odd but it was smooth and really delicious. And it was served in a seashell bowl... quite exciting.

See? Fun, huh? (I'm thinking I'm going to start inventing exotic sounding names for my dinners. You know, Pika Pika pasta. Zulu chicken. Just because it's more fun to eat when it has a fun name.) My entree was aromatic, crispy duck which was shredded from the duck bones by the waitress next to the table, then served with makings for mu shu duck rolls. Totally yummy and fun. Roger had the classic San Francisco dinner of Petrale Sole, which he declared to be equally delicious.

From there, we went on to the Orpheum Theatre to see James Taylor in his One Man Band Concert.

It was a terrific concert, a much more intimate show than he's done in past concert tours. He sang solo, playing his guitar accompanied by just one pianist. He showed slides and talked a lot about what spurred him to write certain songs. (You can read a great article about this tour in the Boston Globe, here.) The music was fantastic, and JT sounded better than ever. We were delighted to get a special encore from him...he gave a "practice," first time performance of the song he'll sing tonight at the Academy Awards ceremony, "Our Town," from the movie "Cars."

So, today I'm puttering with James Taylor music playing on the Ipod. We're looking forward to our annual champagne-and-nibbles dinner in front of the Oscars tonight.


Oops, just realized that the Academy Awards are NEXT Sunday. Ah well. Wonder if the smoked trout pate will last until then?!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Inactive but productive

After going about my usual business for a few days, I realized that my back was not improving and trotted myself off to the doctor...who advised me to give it some serious rest for a few days. That meant NO bending. No bending to empty the lower drawer of the dishwasher. No bending to empty the drier. No bending to pick up little kid socks on the floor. And, as for some reason sitting in front of the computer seems to add to the strain (do I perch, and not lean back?) I have spent almost no time in front of the computer. Amazing the time I've gained.

As a result, I have spent the last two days being ....well, unbending. Fortunately, sitting in front of the tv feels quite comfy. The Project Linus blankie pile has grown as I made my way to the end of season 6 of the Gilmore Girls.

I've planned out a new project in response to my design class, where the assignment was to choose a atypical palette and work with it. Here's my palette. Notice the total lack of pure, bright color. Eek!

And here's a hint of things to come...

I'm a bit more mobile today but still being careful. Have to be in good shape for our trip to see James Taylor in concert in San Francisco tomorrow night!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Quilting is strenuous business

Yep. I'm doing a lot of "still" today.

My back (wrenched during the strenous task of pulling laundry out of the drier) was improving, until I got careless while tidying my studio. My portable Juki machine is rather heavy (have you ever considered the idea that ANYthing is "portable" if you're strong enough to lift it?) and I discovered that lifting it to turn it over and eventually put it in its handy case was perhaps a bit much.

But the activities resulting in the need to turn the Juki upside down were interesting. Inexplicably, while doing the last free-motion quilting on a comfort quilt, the needle broke and I was unable to find the end of the needle. Hmmm. I pulled the bobbin out and undid all the screws to open the throat plate and dusted and even used the miracle magnet wand thingy that I love, but no needle-end appeared. I felt carefully around the quilt in case it was embedded, but no, it wasn't there.

I did, however, find a PIN sewn INTO the quilt, which I've never, ever done. That I know of. See? There's a reason not to pin seams.

So, after the long process of pin-extraction, and a bit of sewing to repair the hole I made to extract the pin, I gave up hunting for the needle end and figured it'd been disposed of in a ball of lint.

I proceeded to make the binding...but when I went to sew the binding on the now pin-free quilt, I found that the lever for raising the feed dogs back up was STUCK. Unmovable. Hmm, maybe that's where that needle end went?

With a bit of internet research, I discovered that the sticking-of-the-feed-dog-lever is is not an uncommon problem on certain machines. I found photos showing how to remove the bottom of my machine and shift the lever-part back into place so it'd work.

Which explains why I was hefting the machine upside down.

I unscrewed the various screws holding the bottom in place, and found the needle end rattling harmlessly around under the machine. Phew. And, gingerly removing one more screw, I was able to fix the machine lever thingie.

Using tools and fixing stuff is so empowering. I am woman, hear me roar. From a sitting position, that is.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Birthday Season

It is Birthday Season at our house.

Caroline turned 11 on January 29, celebrating the same birth date as my friend Annie of Quilting Stash podcast fame (and Oprah Winfrey, too). Clearly, creative and influential women are born on this day! We celebrated with a dinner out at Caroline's favorite Chinese restaurant, and last Sunday found us and 10 kids ice skating happily at Snoopy's Home Ice (the ice arena started by Charles Schultz next door to the wonderful Charles Schultz museum).

And I celebrated my birthday on January 31, which was very fun. (I won't tell you my age, but Caroline pointed out that I have lived the same number of years as there are states in the US. How's that for diplomatic?!) On that day, I picked our favorite sushi restaurant for dinner...and continued the celebration by a lovely dinner out at John Ash & Co. on Saturday night with our friends Beth, Laura and Matt, and Ann and Walt. We consumed champagne, wine, and wonderful food and laughed a lot. It was a lovely celebration with good friends.

Now, we are gearing up for Roger's birthday this Saturday, Feb. 9. I will probably grill something special and make Roger's favorite strawberry shortcake for dessert, if I can find decently ripe early strawberries. And we will celebrate his birthday a bit later as well by going to see James Taylor in concert in San Francisco. That'll be a fun evening, I know.

Meanwhile, between celebrations I am plugging away at life stuff. I am onto the quilting stage of a fun snuggle quilt for Sean in his healing process (he is home and doing great, by the way). I've got an original design for an art quilt in the works, to follow when it's taken shape. (Finally! The fun of creative inspiration!)

And if we don't already know that housework can be harmful to one's health, on Tuesday I managed to wrench my back somehow while bending to pull clothes out of the I am feeling sore and having to move a bit carefully right now. Today I laid around a lot with the heating pad against my back, reading an engrossing novel of small town life and relationships called "The End of California" by Steve Yarborough. Ah, Beth (who is older than I am, I am quick to point out) said after the ice skating birthday party, at least I managed to skate for the afternoon and didn't break my hip!

Friday, February 02, 2007


It’s February 2nd.... 2/2, that here’s a meme of two's (because it's been 2 long here without one, harhar) :

Two names you go by:
Diane diane

Two parts of your heritage:

Two things that scare you:
The Bush Administration
The reptile/insect house at the zoo

Two things that make you really happy:
Reading in bed on Sunday morning
Watching Gemma chase her tail

Two everyday essentials:
Kenya coffee
My Sonicare toothbrush

Two things you are wearing right now:
My Mary Poppins watch
Pink Ugg boots

Two of your favourite current bands/artists:
Neil Finn
James Taylor

Two things you want in a relationship (other than love):
(and I can' t leave out honesty)

Two truths:
I dated a Disneyland Eyeore
I can’t eat just one Hershey’s chocolate nugget

Two favorite hobbies:

Two things you have to do this week:
Assemble goodie bags for Caroline’s birthday party
Finish the quilt for Sean

Two stores you shop at:
Oakville Grocery

Two shows you like to watch:
Brothers and Sisters
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Two things you'd buy if money were no object:
A house on Nantucket
An AQS longarm quilting machine

Two wishes for 2007:
Lots of time with good friends
Ongoing creative inspiration

Go ahead, list your "2's" on your blog and link in the comments so I can see what you're up 2!