Saturday, April 28, 2012

Coming Back

I have to apologize for my blog absence.  Since January, I've been in a very contemplative place, and not a particularly bloggy-chatty mood.  I've been doing lots of inner work and personal journalling and goal setting, and while that's been very good for me, it's made me rather absent and boring around here. 

But there is nothing that can shake me out of myself like the twice-yearly retreat I attend up at Bishop's Ranch here in Healdsburg.  I've written about it lots of times, but basically I fling my sewing supplies into the car, drive the 15 minutes from my home through vineyard-covered hills to the ranch, and I feel like I leave the world behind.  I get to hang out with 50 interesting, vibrant, and creative women and spend all day (and some late nights) sewing and chatting and nibbling on snacks. It was a very fun time.

The shot above is a view from a patio area near the building in which we gather.  (I realize, seeing the photo now, that I have some work to do learning about depth of field camera settings in order for it not to look like there's a  flat scenery backdrop beyond those benches.  Doesn't that look weirdly flat?  But it's a real scene, I promise you.)

My first ranch project was to make something for the April challenge.  A few years ago we started handing out a piece or two of fabric, and who ever wanted to play would return the following April with something made that included the challenge fabric.  You might recall some of my past challenge responses: my David quilt, and my toilet paper quilt "Over or Under?", and my "Tex Goes to the Quilt Show" quilt.  But this year I just wasn't inspired. I liked the fabric, a rather charming print with whimsical birds, but between life stuff and lack of ideas, I just didn't do anything.  The guilt of not participating in the challenge caused me to make this tote bag at the very last minute.

So while it wasn't clever or artistic, I found that once it was together I quite like it and suspect I'll use it a lot. (FYI, it's about 18 inches wide and 16 inches tall.)  After the excitement of the challenge reveal, we received our 2013 challenge fabric -- red and white with cows all over it, which is suitable as the ranch is next to a dairy farm and we get regular -- um, shall we say olfactory REMINDERS of the ladies' presence.  Stay tuned for cows in April, 2013. 

When I was doing the last seams to put the bag together, I had to sew over some very thick layers and I got the dreaded THUNK-pop sound of a needle breaking.  I had no difficulty finishing the bag, but when I went to move on to the next project, I discovered that the needle bar had been whacked off center, so that the needle wasn't aligning properly and stitching was going to be a problem.  Ah, time for a trip to the repairman for the old Juki!  Luckily, as I was commuting to and from home during the retreat, I knew I could just bring my Bernina in the next morning.  But an afternoon with no working machine -- what to do?

Well, it just so happened that I'd brought along my watercolor paints, thinking I might have time to do a pod for two for the week's assignment in the Designs from Life online class I've been taking from Jane LaFazio.  Because we were supposed to paint "something from the mountains," I'd brought along a pod from a magnolia tree I'd found last time I was at the dentist.  So, instead of sewing, I spent a nice bit of time drawing and painting and making this sketchbook page:

I returned the next morning with my little Bernina 153 and I was back in business.  To sew, I'd brought bags of scraps, sorted by color.  Two friends and I are planning to collaborate on some scrappy quilts, inspired by Freddy Moran and Gwen Marston, so I figured I'd sew a bunch of "art parts" with my scraps.  But you know what?  I discovered that sewing block after block without a specific purpose becomes somewhat boring after 50 blocks or so.  It was fun for a while, and I was feeling virtuous about using my scraps -- although I had a moment of dismay when I realized that I wasn't really getting RID of the scraps, I was just changing the SHAPE of the scraps before I took everything back home again.

As luck would have it, my friend and ranch-next-door-neighbor Eleanor saved the day by pulling out a book she'd just gotten:

It's called Sunday Morning Quilts by Amanda Jean Nyberg and Cheryl Arkison, and it's full of simple but stunning modern scrappy quilts.  My scrappy sewing was reinvigorated, and by wednesday evening, I had these n the design wall:

So that's what I've been up to.  Now I'm home and getting ready for more fun ahead over the next week -- some travels, a visit with my favorite Auntie Carole, a chorus concert... it'll be busy.  But I'm determined to show up here more often.

Happy end-of-April to you, and may you find May flowers on your path!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

May the Rabbit of Easter bring you much of the chocolate

This is one of the funniest Easter stories I've ever heard. It's a little ritual to listen to it together every year.

Thanks to David Sedaris and This American Life for bringing it to us, and Happy Easter to you!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Texts from Hillary

Have you seen the tumblr series of photos based on the picture of Hillary Clinton using her smart phone?  A press photographer captured her picture, and it's become a funny trend of matching it with another picture to add what Hillary's text would be.   It's a riot.   You can check them out here

I just love Hillary.