Friday, August 27, 2010

Women's Suffrage and Leaf Quilt

I decided early on to not talk about politics on this blog. We are in an election year, however, and I have my opinions. In my life, I have voted for the Republican for governor four times and the Democrat four times. This year, I'll be voting for the Republican. For Congress, I'll either vote for the Green party candidate or I'll write in the name of the person who I think should hold the seat. My problem is that my local congressman has held the seat since the mid-1950s, and he got it from his daddy, who held it for 20 years before that. I have never voted for a Republican for President, but I didn't vote for the Democrat in 2000 (I am proud to have voted for the Green Party candidate that year).

 (I got the photo from the Library of Congress website. To see more photos, please go to that site.)

One hundred years ago, a woman my age would not have been able to make the kinds of statements I just made. There was a long, hard battle to win women the right to vote in this country, and if you are not familiar with that history, I suggest you check this website as a good starting point. For ninety years, women all across this country have had the right to vote in every election. With the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, this franchise was emphatically extended for all women. This summer, we've had primaries across this country in which the turnout has been around 20-30 percent. The primaries are where the parties sort out their contenders and pick those who will be on the November ballot. These small turnouts don't make sense to me and have never made sense to me. So many of our ancestors longed to have the right to choose their leaders; we have that right, and we don't always exercise it. Whatever your political persuasion, please learn about the candidates in your area and get out and vote. If you think I'm wrong, vote against me. That's what it means to be an adult in a democracy. So there.

On the general theme of women's roles in the world, you really must read The Yarn Harlot's posting of August 25. She's talking about getting our priorities and our language straight, both in the home and in the world.

Now, for some craft news. Sarah had asked if the leaf quilt were appliqué, and it is. We were experimenting with different stitches and different settings of those stitches on our machines. By the way, this was in a class taught by the wonderful Jane Sassaman, who got stuck with a student like me who doesn't like to follow directions. Here is a close-up of the quilt where you can see the stitch variations on the leaves, sort of.
Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ten Things Tuesday

I was going to make this a to-do list, but that sounded depressing. Here, in no particular order, is a list of ten things I'm thinking about.

1. This past weekend was the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival, and one of the booths every year is a pottery booth where bowls have been donated by local potters with all proceeds going to a local charity. This year, the charity was SOS Community Services, an agency dear to my heart, and this was the bowl I got:
Isn't it pretty? It's just the right size to put your hands around and hold.

2. Sunday, I went on the historic home tour offered by the Ypsilanti Heritage Foundation. There were recently renovated downtown loft apartments, a community health center, and some houses along what had been a post road in the first half of the 1800s. It was all really interesting. It was worth not getting in the sewing room for (well, sort of).

3. I finished Wolf Hall. It was so interesting and so well written that I took advantage of my employment at a large research university and went to the graduate library yesterday and checked out a proper biography of Thomas Cromwell. I haven't been this interested in the 16th century since my college days! How fun!

4. Next up (before I get to the biography) is Guy Consolmagno's God's Mechanics. Hubby Dearest is reading it right now, and we've promised it to someone in our post-Mass brunch bunch this coming Sunday. I'll have to read fast.

5. I made this small quilted wallhanging a few years ago, basically by taking a class and not following the teacher's instructions (because I thought her idea sounded boring). I have always been glad I did it this way and not two rows of identically-sized leaves.
It's about 18" by 36" and hangs right inside our front door. It makes me happy every time I walk by it.

6. I am deep into the cuffs of the Helix socks. I'm starting to think I might actually finish them soon.

7. I have decided I want to finish spinning the pink roving soon as well because if I have all of the roving in the house spun and plied by the time of the Fiber Expo, I can buy more, right?

8. I deactivated my Facebook account this morning, and I've been feeling free all day. I figure that the people who really want to be in touch with me will find other ways. I was feeling really uncomfortable about handing that much privacy to a company run by a smart-aleck kid. I'd been considering doing this for a while, and my friend's blog post a couple of days ago pushed me over the edge.

9. While taking pictures of the bowl for this posting, I realized that I could probably get a decent picture of that cup I bought at Art Fair last month. Here it is.
Can you see why I couldn't just pass it by? Yes, I like pottery. No, I do not want to make it.

10. The noises upstairs are saying that dinner is ready. See ya later!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I have two books to talk about today. The first is the book I read on my summer vacation. Actually, I read it all in one day and then proceeded to have horrible nightmares that night and lesser nightmares two or three more nights. In other words, it's a REALLY good book!

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay is set in two time periods, mostly in Paris: the summer of 1942 and the early 2000s. I am really afraid to say much about this book beyond the summary given on the back cover, so I'll at least tell you that much. July 16, 1942, French police went through the city of Paris, rounded up Jewish families, and put them in a sports stadium for several days with minimal food and an inadequate sewage system. One little girl, Sarah, tried to protect her brother by locking him in a secret cupboard in their apartment, promising him she'd let him out as soon as they got back. In the present day, an American journalist with deep ties to Paris is assigned to write a story on the 60th anniversary of the roundup. As she moves deeper into the story, she begins to discover personal connections to this distant historical event.

It is well written with fully-fleshed characters and an excellent sense of time and place in both eras. The writer gives us an intensely lived experience for both of her stories, and the transitions between them are clear and easy to follow. If you liked these books, then you will assuredly like this one: Jenna Blum's Those Who Save Us, Tracy Chevalier's The Virgin Blue, Jonathan Hull's Losing Julia. (That last one I recommend you not read if you have serious obligations and/or a customer service job. I was an emotional wreck at work for about a week while in the grip of that novel.) I really do recommend all of these books, but please be forewarned that if you are a highly emotional person who gets absorbed into stories, these will each suck you in.

Right now, speaking of being sucked in, I am reading Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. From the moment I heard the story on NPR about this book winning the Man Booker prize and heard the synopsis, I knew I wanted to read this. Thomas Cromwell, Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn - told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell. You will revisit A Man for All Seasons with fresh eyes. I will say that at this point, if you are totally confused and wondering what I am talking about, this book is not for you. The book presumes a familiarity with the outlines of the story of Henry VIII, the marriage crisis, the taking of the Church of England out of the Church of Rome, the dissolution of the monasteries, etc. It is written as a personal drama from the point of view of a man of the world who is caught between the old established world in which he has learned to function well and the new world that is being born. I am only about a quarter of the way in, and well, why am I here when I could be reading?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Peppermint Candy

I went into the sewing room on Saturday with no particular project in mind other than trying to bring order out of chaos; since early May, I've had multiple projects going on with attendant deadlines, and messes had gotten out of hand. I made some serious headway in rearranging piles and doing some serious thinking about projects. Wanting to do something fun, I pulled out a bag of scraps from the bureau. This bag was given me back at the March quilt guild meeting by a friend I will simply call "Enabler." Enabler is the person currently in charge of trying to get people to take piles of donated fabrics home and bring back at least finished quilt tops, if not completely done quilts. Well, at the meeting in question, Enabler came up to me with a grin on her face. "I have some scraps that are right up your alley, Liz! They're leftovers from a project I just got done. I KNOW you can do something with these." Here they are:
Okay. I was sunk. I took them home and put them in the aforementioned drawer. It seems that there were several blocks in this bag; blocks that looked like these:

There was also one that looked like this:
When I got this one on the wall and measured it against the other blocks, I added that last round - the one with the ferny fabric on one side and the deep magenta on the other side. After moving the blocks around a bit, I hit on this general plan:
I didn't take pictures of the yellow/green blocks, but there were also several blocks with white centers and yellow/green surrounds. When I got this up, I realized that I had a really fun layout, and I also realized that I needed to make a lot more blocks. I started ransacking the stash for super-pale yellows and greens so that I could make more of those blocks. I also made up a bunch more green and pink blocks. Here is the current layout:
I really like the way this looks. I'm going to have to trim a half inch off each side of the log cabin block in order to make it fit right. By my math, once I sew these blocks together, I'll have a top that is roughly 40" x 50". I may have to dye up some super pale greenish yellow fabric in order to make more rows or I could just use the pale olive green with some pale yellow I have in the "to-be-dyed" pile. I want to think about this a bit more.

There's no big artistic statement here, but it sure felt good to be moving blocks around on a wall again.

Finally, there's some nonsense going on in my world right now, and I've been reciting portions of this piece to myself over and over as a way of keeping sane.  I first discovered this when I was a teenager and remember using a long bus ride as an opportunity to memorize it. It has been a comfort and aid to me in a great many circumstances.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Inspirations and Updates

First off, I would like to thank The Student Knitter for the pretty niddy-noddy she made and I won in her recent giveaway. I've skeined up the spinning from my first bag of roving!
Thanks to this wonderful tool, I now know that I have about 290 yards of yarn - any suggestions for patterns I could make from this?

I haven't shown the Helix socks in a while. I was so thrilled when I got to the heels in mid-July, thinking I'd be able to work the legs during the quilt show. No, the heels took longer than expected, and then when I started working the second heel, I realized that I had not understood the instructions on the first heel and had screwed them up. All through the second heel, I kept telling myself it wasn't that big a deal. When I got the second heel done, and it was SO much better than the first heel, I knew what I needed to do. So, I slid the second heel over to the inactive side of the needles and spent the quilt show unpicking the entire first heel. Mid-Sunday afternoon, I was finally at the point where I could restart it. People kept asking during the show, "What are you making? That looks really interesting." Well, actually, I'm unmaking.... Then, we had lots of sun on our vacation (I am NOT complaining!!) and my prescription sunglasses are only good for distance viewing, so I really couldn't knit in the car. So, with all of that, here's the current picture:
On the road, we listened to an audio version of Robert Merry's A Country of Vast Design, about the presidency of James K. Polk. It was an utterly fascinating window into American politics in the first half of the 19th century. So many people seemed to spring out of the pages and into real life. John C. Calhoun, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay all come alive in this book; however, the most vivid character is James Buchanan, the clever conniving political hack who served as Polk's secretary of state and went on to become one of the two worst presidents in our nation's history. If you have a chance to listen to or read this book, do so.

Also, I wanted to show a couple of pictures I thought I would be able to use for future quilts. The first is a detail from buildings I saw at both Fort Michilimackinac and Fort Wilkins.
I loved the way those triangles fit together.

The other picture is from a staircase leading to a lighthouse tower at Whitefish Point. We weren't allowed to go into the tower, but I was able to take this picture.
Wouldn't that be an INTERESTING quilt - I'm thinking complementary colors - orange and blue, magenta and forest green..... mmmmm!!!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Quilt Show and Upper Peninsula, Part 2

I promised some pictures of the purchases I made on my recent vacation. First off, from the Fat Quarter Factory booth at the show, I got a rag rug making frame:
I went back to their booth on Sunday and saw these fabrics (modeling in this post provided by Baby Boy), and proceeded to have the kind of reaction that caused one of my friends to say, "If you drool on it, Liz, they expect you to buy it."
I also made a stop at the booth that a Hmong group had. I simply could not resist this dragon (the purse is nice, too, large enough for two small or one large paperback).
Having been thoroughly influenced recently by Vicki Pignatelli, I went hunting for dark fabrics. Of course, I couldn't resist the Japanese flowers....
As we were cleaning up the show, packing up and clearing out, I saw these bolt boards in the trash. I claimed them - perfect for wrapping large pieces of fabric and storing in the sewing room!
When we went to Sault Ste. Marie, we went to Gloria's Happy Hooker, a needlework store I'd seen mentioned on Ravelry. She's got a broad selection of quilting fabrics, notions, and patterns; she also has a very nice selection of yarns, yarncraft notions, patterns, etc.; she also has wool fabric and lots of kits and patterns for making rugs, placemats, etc. I was poking around and not feeling totally inspired (this was, after all, just two days after the quilt show!) when Hubby Dearest said, "Did you see this room full of flannels?" We went in there, and we both exclaimed over the wide variety of patterns and colors. Of course, we pulled some off the shelf that we thought would work well together in a quilt:
Actually, it was the one in the middle, with the leaves, that caught our eye first. Then, we built from there.

Finally, when we were over in the Keweenaw Peninsula, we stopped in Lake Linden at a store called Yarns and Threads. The store owner kept her store open a little late so that we could browse, except that the minute I walked in and saw roving, I really didn't look much farther; it became a question of which colors to choose.
The berry (on the left) is actually darker than it looks in this picture. Nancy has a really broad and deep selection of yarns, patterns, and notions for all things yarny. She also has some sewing notions and some fabrics (I spotted some hand-dyed fabrics). We had a really nice conversation about life in the Keweenaw; unfortunately, because the bridge between the northern and southern parts of the peninsula was due to be shut down for servicing early in the evening, we had to cut the conversation short and scamper back south.

Finally, I could not resist including this shot of the guys on the cat quilt.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Quilt Show and Upper Peninsula

Just a quick note that the quilt show was two days of concentrated concern about who was where doing what - the life of a volunteer co-ordinator; on the other hand, I had a co-coordinator, and she brought along her husband. The three of us made a great team - spelling each other for breaks, filling in where needed, chatting with each other and anyone else who came along. It was a lot of fun. There were SO many wonderful quilts in the show that it was hard to pick ONE for "Viewer's Choice." I picked this one because every time I walked past it, I felt really happy.
I helped with the teardown of the show, and I was one of the people who hauled stuff to the guild's storage unit after that. I was SO tired by the time I staggered home Sunday evening!

We left on our trip the morning after the show. Our first stop was the dentist so that Hubby Dearest could keep his appointment. (We had figured this was easier than rescheduling.) While we were there, I realized I had forgotten to pack a camera; if we had gone back for it, we would have added at least 45 minutes to our trip. So, we had to rely on cameras built into the phones. Such is modern technology!! Once we got on the road, Hubby asked, "Where did you pack the maps and atlas?" Hmm.... I'd spent the previous week thinking quilt show thoughts, not trip thoughts..... I had printed off maps of areas right around places we wanted to see - do I get points for that? This was where I pointed out that gas stations sell maps, and that would be our back-up plan. It worked very well.

We stopped at Fort Michilimackinac before we got on The Bridge. If you are asking "which bridge" at this point, then you are not from Michigan. Centuries from now, when the auto industry is a distant memory, the people of the state of Michigan will continue to carry in our marrow pride in our single greatest accomplishment - the Mackinac Bridge. The Bridge spans five miles of the turbulent strait where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet. It connects the upper and lower peninsulas of our state together with a ribbon of iron and concrete. It is a marvel to behold, and when we finished touring the fort, I stood out on a promontory and heard the final words from the movie "A Very Long Engagement" echoing in my head, "le regarde et le regarde et le regarde" (waaaay too many years since my one semester of French, so I'm guessing at the spelling there) - "she gazed upon [it] and gazed upon [it] and gazed upon [it]" - what a wonderful moment! Then, of course, we had to drive over it, and my terror of bridges kicked in.

We went to Sault Ste. Marie where we watched ships being raised and lowered. (Lake Superior is about 20 feet higher than Lake Huron, and the locks are easier to navigate than the rapids in the middle of the St. Mary River.) Here is a picture I took of a boat in transit.
It was really interesting and fun to see the process - especially the ore carriers that were over a thousand feet long - you could see them rising up or sinking down. We ended up sitting on a park bench with sodas and books watching boats come and go. (Mr. and Mrs. Excitement, we are.)

We went to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and then to Houghton in the Keweenaw Peninsula. We spent a couple of days there happily looking at Lake Superior:
and going down into old copper mines that have been opened for tourists:
and learning cool facts:
(A "stope" is an inclined area within the mine from which rock was extracted - think of a hillside and put it underground.)

We also indulged my fiber fever, but that will be a post for another day. I will leave you with this sign that was on a store near our motel. It amused me mainly because I didn't see the "1/2" at first, so my mind was reeling at the possibilities.