rocket tracking


Monday, December 31, 2012

Linzer Sables, Linzer Augen or Linzer Torte

My neighbor once told me that one of his favorite cookies was what is commonly called "Linzer Torte."  Technically, a Linzer Torte is a cake which originated in Linz, Austria.  It is made of layers of a shortbread with ground nuts (often Hazelnuts, although I've always had them with almonds..probably because they are easier to obtain), layered with red current jam.  When my mom made them, it was always raspberry.....probably because I love raspberry jam or that that's what we made....currents weren't common in our neck of the woods.  The top layer was crisscrossed lattice pieces, then the whole was dusted with powdered sugar.

The cookie version is made of two layers, and while in the U.S. we usually all these Linzer Tortes as well, they are more properly called Linzer Sables, or Linzer Augen (Linzer eyes in German).  They are well known among Hungarian, Austrian, Swiss, German and Tirolean people, but sometimes they are also ascribed, rather inappropriately to "Scandinavians."  I am guessing because according to Wikipedia, Austrian Franz Holzlhuber brought them to Milwaukee in the 1850s where they spread from there.  While Milwaukee is predominantly German, I would hazard that someone probably threw in the Scandinavian angle as well.

At any rate, my daughter and I had a good time making them for our neighbor.  Megs didn't much care for them...I think probably because they aren't terribly sweet and they have more subtle tastes than her tongue is used to.  However, my neighbor, who is herself a fantastic baker and maker of some really killer biscotti said she liked mine best of all the ones she had here. is my recipe:

Linzer Augen/Linzer Sables/Linzer Torte

1 ½ C. unsalted almonds (or hazelnuts)
3 cups sifted flour, divided
1 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. Almond flavoring
2 tsp. Grated lemon zest (about the zest from 2 lemons)
2 eggs
Raspberry jam (apricot, red current, cloudberry or thimbleberry is also great—I usually use seedless as it is prettier, but it doesn’t much matter)
Sifted confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Chop almonds with ½ cup flour until fine (don’t just do the almonds, the flour helps get it the right grind).  In a medium bowl, combine nuts miexture, flour, butter, confectioner’s sugar, lemon zest and eggs. Mix well.  Wrap dough in plastic and chill for a minimum of 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out dough cutting a solid for the base and a patterned one for the top (I don’t have the fancy Linzer tart cookie cutters, so I used my round shaped cutter and cut a small pattern out of the center)—make sure you have it in even sets of tops and bottoms.  Bake for 8 – 10 minutes or until light gold in color.  Cool on a wire rack. Spread a thin layer of jam on the bottom cookie and place a “pierced” top on top.  Dust with sifted confectioner’s sugar.

Friday, December 28, 2012

What makes a Good Challenge?

"Sun Fish", started 2006 completed 2008, Batty Binder's Quilt Guild Challenge, Lisa Broberg Quintana 36" square.
I am preparing to host a challenge for the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge, an online yahoo group I have belonged to for several years.  I struggle with the idea of challenges.

Don't get me wrong.  I have done a lot of challenges.   But I am sometimes beleaguered at present with the thought that perhaps I shouldn't do challenges anymore. You see, sometimes I think you can be wound up in doing challenges that you don't do more significant work, or do pieces which improve your body of work, or at least further it in some what.

In the quilting world, challenges are done among a group of quilters.  A challenge is issued to the group, based on any one or number of things: an idea, a word, a size, a shape,technique,  a particular infinitum.  Then, all the people who participate share their interpretation of the theme.

Challenges are particularly useful if you are having a dry period and can't seem to come up with anything on your own.  It is a great jump-starter.  It is also good if you want to experiment and explore other areas of quilting.  I also enjoy the camaraderie and love to see what others come up with.

Having said that, however, I also often run into challenges which make me balk, snarl and regret that I have ever said I would do it.  Most of the time, this is when you have a challenge which has too many rules.  As an art quilter, I tend to be a free spirit and while a few rules are OK, too many? Well, they're just stifling. Take for instance "Sun Fish."
"Sun Fish" started out as a Guild challenge with the Batty Binders.  The concept was great.  The chairman of the challenge issued us all a fat Quarter of the fabric, this fish print I think was by Hoffman.  Then, we played "Go Fish" to create the rest of the rules.  The rules specified how many borders, how many additional fabrics you could add, that you were supposed to use beads or buttons as an embellishment ...and I think there were a few more.

While I liked the "go fish" concept and thought it played into the theme quite well....I struggled as my stubbornness in people telling me what to do in my quilts just aggravated me.  I did learn on this piece...such as why you should use a foundation if you're making these little needle-like rayed borders (I didn't, they stretch and are easily misshapen!).  I was going to add beads...but when I started sewing them on, I just didn't like the look. So...I broke a rule.

"Scotties" 2008, Lisa Broberg Quintana 

This particular quilt was part of an "ugly fabric" challenge.  We were all given a fat quarter of fabric that the leaders deemed "ugly" and we were to use it in a quilt.  The "ugly" in this was the pink and green diagonally printed plaid fabric.  I saw this and immediately thought of the 1940s/50s scotties.  This, however, was the only rule involved.

The Fast Friday Fabric Challenge is a closed group of fiber artists who receive a challenge on the last Friday of the month and are given a week to complete a small piece based on the challenge. "Challenges will attempt to stretch members in their skills and creativity, encourage thinking outside the box, will teach new techniques and concepts. "

I asked the group, as well as the whole Quilt Art message board, what they thought composed the best challenges.  In the past year, the most popular, as well as the ones cited by members as being the best were ones which were rooted in traditional art--such as Gestalt, chiaroscuro, or J. M. W. Turner's use of light, or pieces which were to convey an emotion.   In general, members were looking for pieces which allowed them to express their own ideas and "excited their creativity."  Like me, they balked at challenges which required you to follow too many rules.  Syd Harper said "I need a challenge which is like a dare.  Something which says 'oh, you know you can't do it."  A number of members indicated that they liked challenges which explored different techniques.  

Kathy Loomis has been doing a series on "The Challenge of Challenges" which was a happy co-incidence to my posing the question.  She has several posts on her blog commencing with 12/3/2012.  If you go to her blog, you can see the other posts and click on the additional "Challenge of Challenges" to see where she goes with it.  One aspect that Kathy does is sort of interesting.  In essence, she sees the call for entries for quilt shows as often being challenges as they state the theme.  I have toyed with this concept and indeed have made pieces specifically to fit a show's theme although I am not sure if that is the best way for me to operate. I think that I would rather do pieces which fill my soul and explore areas I'm working on (that is a series) and if I find a show it fits, then put it in.  Sometimes I think I am spinning my wheels creating works just to go into a show.

"In Orchid Paradise," Lisa Broberg Quintana
A few pieces I have done for other challenges:  "In Orchid Paradise" was a challenge issued by the American Orchid Society in conjunction with a local quilt guild and shop.  I created this piece based on a poster by Alfonse Mucha.  It took a second place prize...the green fabric background, the orchid print (which I cut out and fused down) and a small pink polka-dot fabric were included in the challenge fabric packet.

Hoffman Fabrics issues a challenge every year, and while I entered that one once and created one which I didn't get done in time twice, I have never gotten into the show.  Robert Kaufman fabrics used to issue a challenge and I entered it twice, and got in twice (El Ritmo Flamenco and Tuscan Lady Bellingham both got in).  In addition, I also did another Much based piece and entered in Luanna Ruben/Robert Kaufman's " Life, Love and Hope" exhibition which was selected for the show.

I will probably continue doing challenges...but hopefully, I will be a lot more selective and make sure that they continue pushing me down a path rather than diverting me.

This is my post for Nina Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays."  You can see other participants here.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Digging Out

Yesterday, we got a pretty prodigious snow storm...really, the first appreciable one of the season although we had some scuffling earlier.  In a lull yesterday, I took a shot of one of the little birds sheltering in my lilac bush outside my dining room window.  At first I was excited because I thought it was a Common Redpoll and my mom had just told me she had seen them at her feeder in Cut Bank, Montana--something she didn't expect.

However, I'm pretty sure that it was merely a Purple Finch.  He has a bright red patch on his head and rump streaks on his breast with the red on his breast being lighter than on his head.

Today was brighter and clearer, although the drifting made the roads treacherous, so I spent the day digging out my office (something I was also doing yesterday and I predict for several days into the future) and my husband was digging out the house.

Here's another shot this time of the feeder.  I was waiting for the male cardinal which was on the opposite side of the feeder to come around...but instead I stuck with the finches and the little nuthatch who came to take advantage of the sunflower seeds.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mid-19th Century Doll Quilt

I have a small collection of antique and vintage quilts.  As a former museum curator, I have mixed feelings about it.  Textiles are notoriously difficult to maintain properly.  But, sometimes I come across something that I can't resist.

This little quilt is a wonder.  It measures 10.5" x 11.5".  It is bound on the top edge, and has tiny little prairie points all around the edge.  The dots are carefully hand appliqued on the background cotton and the whole thing is quilted with a simple quilting stitch with a very thin batt.  The red is a turkey red.

Whenever I look at it, I wonder if it was a Christmas present made for a darling niece or granddaughter.  I have no idea of its history because....I bought it with a lot of scrap quilting fabrics on eBay.  I suggest it was made by an aunt or grandmother as I remember my mother saying "oh, mother's rarely had time to make doll clothes and dollie items....those are the area of doting single or older aunts and grandmas!"

So, as my Christmas tree awaits the morrow...I wish you all a good night.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Last Christmas Gift

Once again, I missed the Off-the-Wall Friday blog roll.  In fact, I've missed a lot this week because I have had my head down trying to finish a quilt I undertook for a friend, and to spice things up a little, I had a liver biopsy which sort of threw me off a little.

Last year at this time, my friend Stephanie Ely was spending her last days in hospice.  Stephanie fought pancreatic cancer for a little over two years.  She died on December 26 (even though the Obit. got the date was Monday, Dec. 26) with her parents, two sons, and husband at her side.

I met Stephanie through the Noble Circle Project.  She was an extremely artistic soul, and had once been a photo journalist for Stars and Stripes as well as for the St. Petersburg Times and the Orlando Sentinel.  She asked me if I would teach her how to art quilt....and I said sure...but I never got the chance for just 9 months after I met her, Stephanie succumbed the disease.

Shortly later, her husband Rob asked our little group if we knew anyone who quilted.... I said yes...what did he need? Well, their son Travis was graduating from the Coast Guard Academy and Stephanie (Stevie to those who knew her well) had purchased some fabric intending to make Travis a quilt her other son Will, who is my daughter's age, a tied fleece blanket from the college he was going to.  So...I undertook the task.

I had no idea how much angst this quilt was going to cause me.  First, the panels (the two light houses and the clipper ships) were not printed I had to cover up the warble with trim.  Then, I decided I really needed to use the Coast Guard problem! I thought I have two machine which do embroidery, one a Janome 300e and the embroidery module for the Bernina 440.  Except for one thing....I'm not terribly proficient at it since I rarely use them.  When I tried to use the Janome, the machine told me it was too big for the hoop.  Since the Bernina hoops I had were the same size, I had to borrow a friend's hoop who had the Mega Hoop.  I chickened out and went over to her house to do it on her machine.  When we first tried it, I noticed that the background was stitching out in ....GREEN.  Well, this wasn't what was on the photo, and so I had to do it again.

I used 4 paper pieced mariner's compass stars to fill out part of the pattern...not terribly well done as I don't usually do paper piecing.....and I have terrific trouble with my hands.  But...I got them done.  I decided to spell out Travis' name in marine signal flags...and I had to figure out how I was going to do those little flags with the changes....but they turned out pretty well.  The other images were of Stephanie, Rob and Stephanie, and the Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock which was Travis' training vessel.  All well and good. Top was pieced.

I sandwiched it and quilted it.....only.....two problems.  My hands are so numb that my quilting wasn't very good.  On top of it, I have a Bernina 440 whose tension seems to be demonic. In fact, I am fairly certain it is a lemon. After struggling and quilting the whole thing, including a rope border...I looked at it...and decided I had to rip the whole thing out as it was terrible...both from the bad tension and from my icky hand situation.
So...for the last week and a half, I have been practicing free-motion quilting feathers....and spend this last week quilting it. I quilted it on my cheap little Janome...a $500 machine instead of my $2,800 Bernina...and although I didn't have problems with the tension on the Janome, I did have a problem with the needle falling out as I wasn't able to finger tightening it tight enough given the numbness of my hands.  I took this photo before blocking it...which it needed because of the distortion from ripping out all the quilting and re-quilting.

 I finished the quilt tonight...So tomorrow, I will put on the label and a hanging sleeve so that Rob and Will can pick it up on the way to visit Travis in Michigan.

 It isn't the best of jobs...but it is done.  I'm just hoping that no one looks too carefully at the quilting...or the mariner's stars....I wanted to do this for Stephanie and for Travis.  I hope that it will somehow help them that Stephanie's wishes for Christmas gifts are finally being realized on this anniversary of her death...which was unfortunately at a time which is usually happy for most families.

This is Rob and Stephanie in May, 2011 on board the Hollyhock.
The Hollyhock at the Blue Water Bridge, Port Huron, MI.

Stephanie James Ely, 1953-2011.

So, Steph, sorry it took me a while..and it isn't quite what I used to be able to do....but I'm glad I at least got the chance to quilt with you....even if you weren't here physically.

Nina-Marie re-opened the Off-the-Wall-Fridays so I could get this in as this stupid computer took too long to open for me to write it and post before midnight. up for other creative posts here.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

UFOs from Others

I have been practicing quilting for the last two days....trying to make my hands re-learn how to free-motion machine quilt, working hard to get around the fact that I can't feel my fingertips and thus have less control over what I quilt.

Hopefully, I will be able to get the KenQuilt 622 set up soon.  I have to move a ton of stuff so that we can tear off paneling so that my husband can access the wiring to re-wire it so I can have the sewing side of the basement lighted independently of the other side....and so that he can put a new light fixture in the ceiling and put an outlet in the ceiling to plug the machine into.

In the mean time, I have been watching eBay to pick up some other people's UFOs to practice on.  This one intrigued me.  In the eBay shot, it didn't look this pink.  This is an interesting, if rather unsuccessful quilt, for  a couple of reasons.  The quilter chose red and blue bandanna prints to mix with solids to make this Ohio Star.  It was set without sashing so that one piece bleeds into the other. Because the bandanna prints have large areas of lighter print mixed in with darker, the star doesn't hold its edges well.  The white is set in the center and on all four corner.  I'm not much of a one for pink and red together.

This is a huge quilt, almost king size.  This is the best I could do to show you what it looks like, hung over the  Bannister of the second floor landing.

Although the seller sold it "new, without any problems," this was not the case.  The quilter wasn't careful to make sure she had adequate seam allowances.  My guess is that she didn't pin anything or really watch what she was doing.  I have several areas which I am going to have to re-sew.  In reality, I should rip out the row and re-sew it...but I won't, I will just go back in and close up the hole with the appropriate seam allowance which will probably mean that there will be a pucker.  Since this isn't a good design to begin with, I don't mind.  Once I finish it, I'll probably donate it to a shelter, or to the Red Cross to give to family's who have suffered a fire.  But the best part is that it will give me a chance to practice and whatever comes of it will be fine.

This piece probably dates to the mid-1970s.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Fiber Christmas Card

I have a very talented quilting friend whose work you have seen here many times before.  Joan Sterr has a wonderful habit of sending me hand-made fiber Christmas cards.  This one is a felt snowman mounted on a silver sparkly denim.  The selvedge at the bottom makes it look like grass, and the buttons/eyes and stars are all sequins.  Way fun...

I envy her as she must start very early to get them made and out...even if she does home made ones for a select few...and I'm honored I get them.  Rest assured, I save them all and I am getting quite a cool collection of cards that people have sent me or that I have purchased at various fund raising auctions.

This is short and sweet as I MUST get back to working on some quilts and I am going to be out of commission tomorrow as I have some tests done. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Twelve Twelve Twelve a mixed bag of things

I have been behind and dragging a little.  Not surprising, but none the less. I did this little piece to participate in Karen Musgrave's call to do 12" square pieces in honor of 12/12/12.  I got mine done except for the quilting (why is it that we think it is done if it isn't quilted? It's only halfway done!!!).

My piece is painted on canvas.  It has the sun in the center as supposedly 26,000 years ago, the sun aligned in the center of the galaxy, which it does again in December 2012.  All the wording around the piece is the word "twelve" in various languages.  I machine quilted it with swirly patterns and zigzagged in a limey green around the edge.

I have been trying to follow through with quilty things I say I am going to do.  One of the things which I signed up with and did not do well in following through is the Free Motion Quilting challenge.  That's OK as I am playing catch up now, and it doesn't matter if I qualify for the prizes as the whole point of it for me is to re-learn free-motion quilting with my hands which don't want to work or feel and my funky eyesight.

So, here is the piece which I was supposed to do in January...that is if I had known about it in January.  I didn't sign up for the project until March.  I learned something very useful in doing this 8" piece....I have a tendency to go very very fast and I actually quilt better now if I take it slow.  I also noticed on the 12-12-12 piece that I forget what I am doing.

I'm a frantic to practice my quilting as I have a quilt I am working on for a deceased friend..I've taken far too long on it.  I quilted it, and realized that my tension was off and I was generally unhappy with the I kissed my seam ripper and ripped ALL the quilting out of it and I need to get started and get it I want to give it to her husband to give to their son for Christmas...and it is particularly important as she died December 26 last year.  Stitch rippers, or seam rippers, or the unsewing tool is my beloved friend as it gives us a second (or third) chance to "get it right."

Now, for the last little bit, here is my collection of  netsukes...or at least part of my collection as I have I think four more.  I meant to put this up on my 12-12-12 face book page...but didn't get to it.  Netsukes are miniature carvings which were originally made to secure bags or boxes to the obi or sashes of Japanese men's garments.

Mine are all modern and probably all made in China.  I am not even sure if they are all hand carved anymore, but they are finely carved and I delight in their images and the way the wood feels in my hand. Several of these pieces, particularly the rodents are for prosperity,  several such as the old man and the dragon turtle are symbols of longevity...but mostly I choose them because of their shape or carvings.  The deer in the back was just gorgeous.  The horse in the front (the darker one) was graceful.  The funky one in the front row laying on its back is a bat, which is a good luck symbol in Japan.  The sheep? Well, I have a thing for sheep as we used to raise them.

Sadly, I meant this to be in the Off-The-Wall Friday linky, but I discovered that I had lost track of time up quilting...and oops...the linky closed!  Better luck next week. :)

Now...I'm putting up another you can see just how important quilting is to adding to the piece...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Black Friday

Today I spent the day with my 19 year old daughter, shopping for clothes for her as she is giving up hoodies and sweatpants for clothing more suitable for a young woman in business.  I had intended to come home and write a blog post about the 12-12-12 quilt I did and some other fibery things.  But, some how that doesn't seem appropriate.

This morning, I first got word of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school from a Facebook Post by Jane D'Avila.  I cringed....but I didn't know the severity of it, nor the fact that it was an elementary school until I got home. 

I thought back to my days at Wethersfield Historical Society where my job as curator and educator de facto brought me to many elementary schools throughout Connecticut as Wethersfield Historical Society has a program to go along with Elizabeth Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond.  Speare lived in Newtown,  and I remember giving a school program to a school there.  You can't help but think about connections to things like this....

When my daughter was in Kindergarten, I volunteered in her classroom helping the teacher, reading to the children and working with the children who didn't have the skills that is expected of of children entering kindergarten.  I remember thinking that kindergartners are really babies, and even first and second graders are still sweet and innocent.  I know that no one is exempt from evil, but it seems particularly heinous that these babies lost their lives.  To think that they were probably thinking about how many days it was until Christmas, their Holiday programs, and general excitement and in a moment it was gone.  The children who survived will forever have this in their conscious a black pall over a season which is often full of hope, wonder and love. 

I also thought about the amount of help that these families and children are going to have to have.  Unfortunately, counseling costs money and in the United States, even co-pays can be out of reach.  At least Newtown is a prosperous community and most will probably be able to handle this, but I know that not all will be able to. 

This area is also one which had many people who were lost in the 9-11 attacks, or they knew people who lost their lives....another burden to carry.  The neighbor in Conneticut who now has a three year old of her own asked tonight  "Does the NRA have a pamphlet to explain this to my three year old?"

People are asking "Why?"  My question is "How can we stop this from happening?"  I think we need to get beyond the people who keep on pointing at the 2nd amendment, and who keep on stating the mantra "Guns don't kill people, people do" and to actually sit down and discuss what can be done to try to prevent this.   Surely there should be discussion of what CAN be done  instead of knee jerk reaction.  I don't think outlawing guns entirely is an answer, but I'll be darned to think what would be the best thing, and I also know that there is a lot about how guns are bought and sold which I don't know about.

I keep on thinking about an anthem by Evrett Titcomb that we used to sing at St. Andrews.  "I will not leave you Comfortless" which is based on John 14: 16-19.  "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.  Yet a little while, the world will see me no more, but you see me,: because I live, you will live also."


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ginger People

"Ginger People" made by Marcia Switzer, quilted by Chris Landis
Isn't this a fun quilt? I saw this at the Champaign/Urbana (Ohio) quilt guild's show in October.  Marcia Switzer is an amazing applique artist...her stitching is perfect and it is only enhanced by my friend Chris Landis' fantastic machine quilting.

My only regret was that I couldn't get back far enough to shoot the whole quilt. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Misreads and development of a quilt

A while ago, I made the quilt "View from the Abyss," as my entry into Quilt National.  As expected, it didn't get in, but I was encouraged by several people to try it in another show.  SAQA's show "Deux" seemed like a logical attempt, for those people who had never made it into a SAQA show.  I have had pieces in  regional shows, but as a relatively new member to SAQA, I've never gotten into one of the bigger ones.   I read the initial prospectus....but something didn't click.   I reworked "Abyss" so that it was 30" (actually, 32") so it would qualify.  And then I didn't think too much about it...untill I clicked on the entry form just after Thanksgiving....OOOOPS! When I re-read it, I suddently realized WHY they called it Deux.  I thought initially that Deux just referred to a second chance.....but NOOOOOOO....I don't know if it was just my wrong thinking or as a side effect of chemo.  "Deux" is a CONVERSATION between two quilts....and you had to enter at least two quilts.  Well,...ooops.  Quick! Grab your needle and thread and let's roll!

"Abyss" was originally conceived as a representation of depression.  Yes, I entered it into the SAQA exhibition "I'm Not Crazy" but I realized that it probably wouldn't be accepted for a variety of reasons, one being that it was grey and black...and monochromatic quilts often don't make it into shows as ones with brilliant use of color attract more attention....Yes, this is an oversimplification, but it does have a part.  The other aspect is that when the extended description came out, I knew that my quilt was a tad too subtle for this.  "Abyss" was to represent looking up from the dark hole, seeing some hope, and figuring out a way to pull oneself up.  I don't suffer from depression, other than the teenaged angst, except for one time. After I finished my treatment for breast cancer in 1994, I slid into depression and didn't realize it until I recognized that having a Christmas tree up in my living room for a week and not hanging any ornaments on it even though I had a 2 1/2 year old...was probably a good indication that I needed a prod into the right direction.  I had no idea that I was depressed until I saw what I was doing.  This quilt was my representation of what I remembered it feeling like. Veiled...deep...

So...I thought my "conversation" between the pieces would also include "Reaction" --how I have been dealing with my stage IV diagnosis this time around.  I knew that I wanted to have lots of loose threads, coming unraveled as it were.  I knew I wanted it to be on a quilted white background representing the happiness and fluffy life that most people experience.  I wanted to have a sliver of shiny gold representing my life, getting progressively narrow as my time runs out.  A red line would run through the gold and it would be on a black background.  But...what black?
I went to JoAnn's and bought several possibilities which I tried out.  This one was a linen suiting.  The threads unraveled nicely and it had a rather smooth background to contrast with the white panne velvet I was using for the body of the quilt.

The second thought was black burlap as I thought the contrast would be even greater and it would show nicely.  However, the open weave of the burlap caused it to "read" grey, not black and it was a little too much.

The third choice was a polyester black "oriental" brocade.  I thought it would be good because of the play with the quilting I had in mind for the background, although the raveling on this one would be a bit fuzzy. As much as I liked the chrysanthemum mon idea, I didn't think it worked as well as the smooth, plain field of the linen.

I quilted the background with interweaving lines of gold thread.  I was snarling greatly at my Bernina because it has a habit of having too tight a tension just before you hit the needle....not the upper tension, but inside.  In addition, the large cone of thread constantly had the bottom whipping around the core and catching, causing the thread to break.  Not fun. always takes me a long time, especially with metallic as you need to keep your speed a little slower than if I was quilting with cotton threads.

So here's the finished version.  I have been on chemo since November of 2010, with a couple of short breaks.  I just had  a P.E.T. scan on Wednesday last, and I am pretty sure that the cryptic message my oncologist left telling me he would call me today (Monday) because he needed to talk to me about the PET becaue "It was complicated"  doesn't bode well. I feel like my options for life are getting smaller and smaller, just as the gold narrows on the quilt.  The raveling of the black and on the gold represent my life falling apart.

I don't know if this is enough "conversation" between the two pieces or not, but it does fit into my series on my journey with breast cancer....I regret it has become so much a part of my life-I was first diagnosed at age 34; the initial stage IV diagnosis was in December, 1997 and I know I have lived longer than most, but I'm not too thrilled with the fact that I've failed on three protocols so far with this recurrence...four if you count the Zometa/Faslodex shot.

I feel like I really have to put it in high gear to make quilts, use up some of my stash and to get some of the stuff out of the way so my husband and daughter don't have to deal with it...I suppose it seems pretty silly.  But then...I'm often pretty silly!

Here's what the "View from the Abyss" looks like now that it is 32" wide rather than the 27 it started out as.

Here it is now.  Below, you can see again what it started out as.  Which do you like better?  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Santa Claus

Today, December 6, is the feast of St. Nicholas, a Turkish Bishop who became the patron saint of children, Bankers, Sailors...and prostitutes (St. Nicholas supposedly saved some girls from becoming prostitutes when their parents impoverished state had slated them for this profession as they didn't have doweries.)

In several European countries, particularly the Netherlands, Sinter Claus comes visiting and leaves toys and sweets for the good girls and boys and punishment with switches for the bad boys and girls.

This custom led to the American adaptation of Santa Claus which was furthered by writings of members of the old Knickerbocker Club and of course, Clement Moore's "Twas the Night before Christmas."  I recommend Stephen Nissenbaum's "The Battle For Christmas" as a fascinating and well written history of the origins of Christmas observances in America.

I have a collection of Santa Claus figures...started when I was about 3 years old with the gift of a neighbor.  I added to it in the 1990s.  This particular one was given to me by my friend Martha.  This santa's robes were made with a section of crazy quilt trimmed with ostrich feathers.  I used to struggle with the cutting up of old quilts, but I came to understand that sometimes this was the only way that any of them would be saved.  I suppose in some ways it is just the continuance of an element of quilting, taking old worn out things or scraps from garment constrution and giving them a new life.

At any rate, this Santa Claus is now one of my treasured pieces.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Today was the Batty Binder's Holiday gathering...and as usual with Batty Binders, we always bring in food, enough, as President Teresa Brown says, to feed a small country.  For several days, I've been thinking about the cookies you see at left...home-made gingersnaps from an old recipe my family has made since at least the 1950s.  We called them "ginger crinkles" .  Many people make them...a molasses spice cookie, chilled, then rolled into balls and rolled in sugar.  Very simple..a little time consuming only because you have to refrigerate for at least an hour and roll all the balls.  But yummy.  One of my favorites, and as I found tonight, a favorite of others.  I made a double batch as I know they are one of Lynn Mosher's favorites as well, and we all bring something to share for our Thursday stitch ins.

It's been a while since I made these...and I remember the hand printed recipe card I made out when I was in high school, but I was pretty sure that the recipe was also included in the First Congregational Church in Athens, Michigan's book my mom compiled in 1978/1979.  I love this cook book, not only because it has most of my family favorites in there, but because it has recipes from my friends and their families as well.  Looking through the book as to who submitted the recipe brings to mind all of the people, many of whom were old when I knew them and are long dead now.  Who can forget Zepha Spencer, or Ethel Reebs who was the choir mistress of the all men choir?  Little white haired ladies who put in recipes calling for a "quick" oven or for pinches of salt? Some of the recipes can be submitted as just a list of are supposed to know the method and I do as I grew up in the kitchen watching, then later working with my mom.  I don't know if my own daughter would be able to do it...her interests growing up were not in the kitchen, although she did have an interest in cake baking, frosting and brownies...and she got sort of a reputation as being a great baker of those items...and I'm happy to say that I convinced her that home-made frosting and brownies rather than mixes were the way to go.

I think the best recipe books and the best recipes can be determined by the number of splotches on the pages.  A good recipe, and a good cookbook, has lots of them as it shows use.

This was my first cookbook.  My mom gave it to me as a Christmas present in about 1976 or so....the same year she gave it to my sister who was just starting her life as a married woman.  It was also the book we used when I was in Mrs. Beck's Home-Ec. class.  You can see the amount of wear on the edges.  I still use it...even if it does have a habit of calling for too much salt and too much baking soda...but if you know the recipes and know the usual proportions, you can tell if it is too much out of whack.

A great cookbook I discovered this summer was one my niece Katie gave to her newly married sister Beth, Michael Ruhlman's Ratio:  The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of  Everyday Cooking. It is a great book and gives you a lot of information on method as well....and it gave me the code for making the best light and fluffy baking powder biscuits....

So...I suppose you're wondering about the cookie recipe.

Ginger Crinkles

1/2 c. shortening (I usually use butter or margarine or a combination of the two.  When I was a kid, we used Crisco, and I think if you used butter flavored margarine that would be fine too.)
2 c. brown sugar (packed)
2 eggs
1/2 c. molasses (I prefer Grandma's which is a light molasses, but as a kid, we used B'rer Rabbit light molasses but sometimes Black Strap molasses which gives a stronger flavor and a bit of a tang from the sulfur).
4 1/2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking soda (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon if you want to go faster)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger (I like using fresh grated ginger.  I keep a hunk of root in the freezer and grate it as I need is much fresher than using ground).
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
granulated sugar....It's prettiest if you use a coarse ground sugar, but I only had the regular table sugar so the grains are less noticeable on this batch).

Cream shortening and sugar.  Add in egg and molasses.  Blend in remaining ingredients except granulated sugar. Cover the bowl and chill a minimum of one hour (making it the day before and stuffing it in the fridge overnight works well).

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Shape dough into rounded balls, about 1"- 1.5" in diameter (or a little bigger, but not tooo big).  Roll the ball in granulated sugar nad put on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake 10 -12 minutes or just until set.  I usually set the timer for 11 minutes.  Immediately removed from baking sheet to cool.

These make a ginger cookie which is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.  You can leave it for a tad longer to make it crunchy throughout.  This is actually the recipe for a double batch because they aren't that much trouble to double it and the recipe halved is for 4 dozen cookies....if you make them small...I made about 6 dozen using the doubled batch and that will give me enough to take to tomorrow gathering as well as tonight's.  Plus a couple to eat myself.  These freeze very well.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Ear Worms

No...not real worms...a tune you get stuck in your head and you can't get it out.  For the last three days, I've been thinking of Saint Saen's Saen's Symphony 3 in C minor...sometimes referred to as the Organ Symphony...but more familiar to most people as "the Theme from Babe."  I love to sing....and I don't do it much anymore...but this is a piece which cries to have you dancing and singing...even if you're just mimicking the instruments.

It is a gorgeous piece of music...and when you hear it, especially in person, it is extremely moving.  It is a piece of great power and the organ's ability to send the music reverberating through your chest emphasizes it.   Jonathan Hodges wrote lyrics which are beautiful, even if most of the time people truncate it.  Yvonne Keely and Scott Fizgerald brought it out in 1977, basing the music on a section from the second movement.

Keali'i Reichel had a go of it in reggae style....and it actually works. You can hear it on this site AND read the gorgeous poetry of the words...the whole deal, not the short version which is extremely repetitious.

However, the most beautiful rendition of this section is a Gloria which was fitted to it and sung by Libera.
I encourage you to check out the symphony here, but the Libera version is a must listen...and you'll share the same ear worm as I.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Working on Design

Recently, a lot of chatter has been going on over at the Quiltart message list about technique and design.  I feel that quite often, it is easy for quilters to be seduced by techniques and to ignore learning the elements of good design...or to explore other areas of the quilting world for that matter.

You see, techniques are fun.  Learning the elements of design and finding your voice....well, that's more work.  I own several books on design, and have thumbed through most swearing I was going to take the time to work through them....even buying a bajillion erasers to carve into stamps as suggested by one of the books.  Good books on design include Lyric Kinard's Art + Quilt; Jane Dunnewold, Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan's Finding Your Own Visual LanguageAnn Johnston's The Quilter's Book of Design; and Joen Wolfrom's Adventures in Design.

The Miami Valley Art Quilt Network is hosting workshops.  In the past, they had one group which met in the evening in Centerville...which usually takes me about 45 minutes to get to.  Therefore....I often didn't go.  Sue DeSantis and I often grumbled about starting a new group on the north side of Dayton...particularly this fall when the night-time group changed their meeting place to Yellow Springs, which is even farther away for us.  So, Sue set up a meeting held the last Friday of the month on the Northwest side of Dayton.  Five of us have been meeting following the same lessons and format that the south group is doing...The two people who are leading the southern group, including one who has taught elements of art before, hand over the assignments and exercises to Sue, and she leads our group.

We are working through Joen Wolfrom's book.  Carroll Schleppi and Marilyn Doyle set up what we are supposed to do.  So far, we have been reading through the book and doing a couple of the exercises here and there, usually with some more restrictions thrown in by Marilyn.  I admit...sometimes I feel like I am a petulant child.  Especially with this last exercise.  Marilyn gave us the pile of color chips and we were supposed to pick one of our least favorite colors...I chose the dusty pink...which I don't particularly like...and think of as puke pink.  We were then supposed to add up to 7 colors to go with it.  This was my color chip line.  Then we were to make a quilt based on one of the exercises.  To be fair, the size requirement was 8 1/2" x 11"  I initially wanted to do them 12" x 12" as I thought that it might be easier for my hands to handle.  I was thinking, though, I prefer a rectangular format for the most part and the other aspect of  Carroll and Marilyn's madness is that we are going to put an exhibition up in one of the church galleries once we have finished.  Therefore, I thought better of my larger size and thought for the sake of looking well when they hung the show, I would do the recommended size.

The next part came a lot of thinking.  One of the options was to do a designed based on the Fibonacci sequence or Clifford Circles.  I researched it and my head was swirling with the math....Nope.  The colors reminded me of the organic patterns from the 1950s.  I remember in particular a set of end tables my mom had in black, pink, gold, white and sagey pink with shapes reminiscent of protezoa.  So....I did a sketch...and this is what I came up with.  I kind of liked this time, I was right up against the deadline.  It was Thursday evening...and the class was the next morning.  So...I thought this would take me too long...especially if I wanted to do a good job on it.  I also thought that once again, I was over-thinking this.  So....I just decided I would dive in and just do it.

So, this is what I came up with.  I am not quite done with it, as I wanted to put a series of gold beads down the diagonal running left to right with the batik piece in the middle...only the house seemed to have eaten the beads I had in mind.  While looking for them, I did find some others that I want to put on as a fringe...and I also wanted to add some hand stitching with perle cotton.

I admit, I was being pushed by a comment that either Kathy Loomis or Karen Musgrave made a week or so ago...about people who signed up to do things...then didn't.  I admit, I am way behind in doing the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge, the Sketchbook Project and Sew Cal Gal's Free Motion Challenge.  But..I have resolved that I am going to really try harder at doing this.  Even though I balk, it is only through doing the work that you will get better...So, there you have it!

Once again, I am participating in the Off-the-Wall Friday's quilt posts on Nina-Marie's website.  If you follow this link, then you'll be able to see others who are posting on fiber arts as well!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: More Late Fall Color

Geranium "Roxanne" NOT color enhanced.

Oakleaf Hydrangea "Annabelle"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Art Quilting and Ohio

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be able to go to the Ohio Regional meeting of Studio Art Quilt Associates which was held at Nancy Crow's Barn (her classroom facility) in Baltimore, Ohio.  Nancy graciously opened her barn for about 20 members of SAQA to come and listen to her speak on the evolution of her property and her journey with art quilts as well as the opportunity for us to share our work, each a pot-luck lunch together and listen to Lisa Teufel of Dragon Threads Publishing talk about the jurying process at Quilt National.

Nancy's talk reminded me of this wonderful book by Gayle A. Pritchard, Uncommon Threads, Ohio's Art Quilt Revolution (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2006.  ISBN-13: 978-0-8214-1706-5  or ISBN-10: 0-8214-1706-1).  Gayle Pritchard did a wonderful job in this book reviewing the early art quilt movement  and what made the heart of it really start here in Ohio.  Well written and heavily illustrated with photographs from the artists themselves in the early years (1970s) as well as bringing it right up unto the publication date with the avant guard pieces and where Pritchard sees the art quilt movement going.   No one artist dominates the book and illustration.  It is thoughtful, even-handed and absolutely exciting.  It is still available on Amazon (and I'm sure many other book sellers as well) for $22.95, but like many art quilt books, you can pick it up used for a song (new from Amazon associates for $4 or less than $4 used plus shipping).  If you are interested in art quilts, I highly recommend it.

I would also recommend Studio Art Quilt Associates...the opportunity to meet with so many talented fiber artists, talk with them, see their work and listen to the programs offered through the regional meetings is just great.  I was fortunate enough to go to Philadelphia this last year to the annual conference which made me want to go to the one coming up in March in Santa Fe in 2013...although I doubt I will be able to make it.  SAQA's membership is open to all who are interested in fiber art, whether as artists, supporters, collectors, or institutional members.  They host a number of juried exhibitions each year and have a really  nice journal which comes out quarterly.  In my case, the Ohio group is very active with members hosting meetings around the state.  I held one here last January....and might consider hosting another one soon.  You can find membership information here.  The SAQA website also has many illustrations of Professional Member's work in their gallery.

Friday, November 23, 2012

November Squash

Thanksgiving ushers in the mad tumble toward the end of the year.  Sort of odd when you think about it....I mean, here's the holiday where we are supposed to pause and give thanks...and then it roars into all the ridiculousness of "Black Friday" which is only "Black Friday" because of all the deals merchants offer to get people to spend...often on things we really don't need.

I admit, I have a lot to get done before the end of the year....and while I was going to work on some things in my studio today, it was thwarted because one of my daughter's friends came over to help decorate the Christmas tree.  I don't usually put up a Christmas tree THIS early...but since I can't handle going up into the attic well, it was best that Meg help out while she's home....and since I grudgingly got an artificial Christmas tree the second year we were here when Carlos was working in California until Dec. 22, and I couldn't handle loading and setting up a real tree myself...and we ended up having to borrow a Christmas tree because the last one I could find which wasn't ridiculous in price...was a pre-lighted one which lighted at the top, and at the bottom...leaving a black expanse.

So..the tree is up...and some of my fancy Santas are deployed....but other things will wait until I  am able to get some other things done....Where did the year go? So...before it is no longer the time to think of bounty...I'm posting this photograph of some lovely squash and gourds from a local nursery.  Love the texture....and of course, I love orange and yellow in all it's manifestations.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Day

"Domestic Turkey", Lisa Broberg Quintana, 11" x 8.25"
I admit....I love Thanksgiving, and I really don't like the term "Turkeyday."  But, for the most part, I do think it is pretty cool that on this one day of the year, most American's celebrate by making meals which, with some variation, are pretty much consumed by all, regardless of religion.  I also like it that ostensibly, we set aside one day for giving thanks...which again, regardless of your religious beliefs, or lack thereof, we can all observe.  I realize that for many, it can seem hard to find things to be thankful many have hardships of all shapes, sizes and origin.  But I do believe that if we look closely enough, there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for and quite often the practice of observing and being grateful and thankful for even those small things will bring a positive change in one's circumstances even if it is only in our well being.

OK...done with my soapbox for the day.  I did think, however, that it would be appropriate to share this small quilt today.  I did this in January, 2010 to submit to the Quilting Art's "Inner Animal" challenge.  I thought that no one would do a turkey other than me (and I was right) and I admit to having a fascination with the differing colors, textures and plumage of poultry.  I love going to the poultry and rabbit barns at the fair just to see what is there.

Turkeys are ugly least their heads are, but the colors and textures are intriguing.  I used various sheers to make the feathers and individually put the plumage from the tail/back area on one "feather" at ta time.  The body was made from two different types of   white damask polyester blends.  The wattle and eye area was made from distressed painted Tyvek.  The eye is a hematite bead, and the head area was done by free-motion embroidery with one of the decorative stitches on my Bernina 440.
Domestic Turkey, detail. 

I thought it turned out pretty cool....and like many art quilters, I admit to being a domestic turkey.  While I love to cook, I do find that taking care of the mountains of paper which come into this house, dusting, vacuuming, etc..well....they just aren't my cup of tea. I am always running off to things higgledy-piggeldy because I take on lots of things and when asked to do, work, or whatever..I am apt to join in.  Dust will be there tomorrow...and the next day.....and the next.

Needless to say, it didn't get in.   Who wants to look at a turkey anyway? Silly creatures....not the greatest to look at, certainly not the smartest...but, I do think they are tasty.

My model for this piece was the turkey I photographed in the Poultry Barn at the 2008 Miami County Fair here in Troy.  Turkeys have the obnoxious habit of constantly flipping their wattles around...and jerking their heads, which don't make for good photographs in spots of low light.  I didn't want to use a flash because I didn't want to scare the the photograph is out of focus...but I think you can see the resemblance.

So..I hope your day was a good one...and that you can find something to be thankful for.  I am thankful for your reading this and for all the wonderful people I have met on-line and sometimes have met later in person.  

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Surprises in the Fall Garden

I've been trying hard to work in the garden for about an hour or so everyday.   Anymore, and I will pay for it the next day by my hands being sore, feet being awful, or my hip hurting...It is hard to rein oneself in.  Most of my work is to cut back some of my perennials.  While most of my neighbors cut everything down, I don't.  I leave my grasses and many of my perennials stalks, particularly rudebeckia (black eyed Susan) and echinacea (coneflower) as their seeds are relished by the birds and the seed heads, or what it left of them, provide interest in in the winter months.  My garden, even in the dead of winter, teams with all manner of birds....although I think I will ask for a heated bird bath for Christmas as since I had to cover my goldfish pond with a net to prevent any more of my fish becoming raccoon relish, the small birds are not able to drink there anymore.

Most people think that gardens this time of year are done, and not worth looking at.  I try to plan my beds for year round interest.  But, I always find surprises when I go to haul garden ornaments away to the shed for the winter, or work at pulling up Japanese honeysuckle and Bradford pear seedlings.  This oak seedling is only about 4" tall....but the leaf is just dumbfoundingly beautiful. I'm pretty sure it is a black oak, but it may be a burr oak....

This red maple seedling is also pretty spectacular for a plant so small.  I think I may move the oak seedling....but I probably will pull this one up.  Red maples have a tendency to suffer once they get to about 12 feet tall here...they exhaust the readily available nutrients and are not as good at getting the rest of the trace minerals out of my alkaline and heavily clay soil.  The soil is rich, but the plants have to be adapted to it.  Unfortunately, red maples are planted heavily here as a landscape tree....everyone wants the red color, and it isn't the best choice for this soil type.  A better choice might be a sugar maple...but those aren't found so much in the nurseries here.

I was startled to find this little nest in my lilac bush which is at the end of the deck.  I guess it just goes to show how little we used our deck this summer...most of the time it was just too hot, and since it faces south, the sun broils you no matter what the general temperature is.

The nest is tiny and made rather loosely of the previous season's daylily leaves.  For that reason, I suspect it is a Carolina wren nest.  House wrens tend to be "pocket nesters" looking for nooks and crannies to build their nests...whereas the Carolina will often build nests in tree branches...but I might be wrong.  Another odd habit of the wren is that the male  builds several nests and the female chooses which one she prefers.

About 100 feet away, outside the fenced in area, I found yet another small nest in my Trident maple.  Again, I think this is a wren nest, as hummingbirds build much more tidy and compact nests.  I have both wrens and hummers in my garden....but I think the hummingbirds prefer nesting in the mature spruce on the edge of the property.  The wrens run along my fence, but I am never really sure where they nest.  I'll just have to wait until Mark sees this and he can tell us what kind of nests these are.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Stitch Like an Egyptian

"Stitch Like and Egyptian" Demo, AQS Grand Rapids MI show 2012
The internet is a wonderful thing...but sometimes it makes me whistful.  Almost a year ago, Jenny Bowker posted that she was curating an exhibition of fiber art from Egypt at the Festival of Quilts in the U.K.   Jenny has lived in the Near East and several Islamic countries for about 15 years as a result of her husband's position.  While in Cairo, she met Egyptian tent makers who made incredible appliqued work on canvas.

Like many, I've long been enamored of Eqyptian art and I would have loved to have gone to the show. I thought I would have to be content viewing it on the internet until I discovered this summer that Jenny had signed a contract with the American Quilter's Society and was going to have the exhibition at the show in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

What luck!  I went to see the show and it was mobbed.  If you have been following my blog, you know that I had one post which I pulled the photos down from when I realized that AQS not only wanted you to have permission from the artist, but also from AQS.  So....I dutifully sent an email to AQS.  and.....never heard back.  However, Jenny graciously said yes, and I decided that I would post this anyway....with the effort I usually take to properly attribute things.

"Stitch Like an Egyptian" was every bit as good as I thought it would be.  I actually had to wait for this picture to get some of the essence of the quilts in...most of the time it was difficult to take a long shot because there were so many people.

Some of the pieces are based on Arabic calligraphy  others like the one on the left here resemble tile work.  Others remind one of the wall of the ancient Egyptian tombs.  Men make these wonderful applique pieces which are often used on the walls of tents at funerals and for other occasions.  AQS alluded to this with the "tent" you see in the first photo.  Unfortunately, this is a dying art as the people are giving up their nomadic life and decorated tents as part of their culture.  Two of the tent makers , Tarek and Hossam came over and demonstrated...using large scissors and with hands that seem too big to make the fine stitches and work that they did.

Here you can see Hossam Mohamed working away at a piece inspired by lotus blossoms.  The woman in the background is Jenny.
The tent makers struggle to provide for their families. I am happy to report that although I was there on the first full day the show was open, many if not most of the pieces offered already had "sold" stickers on them.  I was even tempted to take one home...but I thought better of it as I wasn't sure how I would explain that one to my I had told him "Don't worry, I'm not going to be buying anything" as I left.

I did, however, buy the catalog that AQS produced...and I was even able to get my membership discount!  It is a wonderful book and well work the purchase price.  I didn't buy the DVD, but it includes the entire show as well as interviews with Jenny, Terek and Hossam.  You can guy it with the book, or separately.

The best part? I discovered that the exhibition will be at Quiltweek in Lancaster, PA, March 13-16, 2013 as well as at the Paducah show, April 24-27 in Paducah, KY.  So...if you are going to either show, make sure you allow enough time to take everything in.

And Jenny? I'm really thankful for the work you put in to make this possible.  It was a real treat to be able to see these wonderful pieces.

Once again, I am participating in Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays" fiber art blog if you want to see more fiberlicious blogs, just go here and link up!