Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I am still working my way through Alison Weir's The Wars of the Roses. I am up to 1461 or so, and I have developed an intense loathing for Margaret of Anjou. I am deliberately not reading ahead or checking Wikipedia or anything, but I hope she comes to a horrible end. I don't often feel this way about characters in books or historical figures, but that woman has really gotten my goat.

I have also been following the blog of a friend of mine who moved to Duluth, Minnesota, some years ago and joined a Benedictine (women's) monastery. She has been with a group traveling in Rome since late May, and her experiences and commentary are well worth the read. Sister Edith is a sociologist by training and has a good eye for detail.

Next up, I am plowing through the stacks of magazines and newspapers in this house, and this past weekend, I read this piece by Joan Chittister, a Benedictine sister out of Erie, Pennsylvania. She has been a strong, prophetic voice in Roman Catholicism and the world for three decades. In her piece she argues for an end to polarization and a recognition that what we have in common is so much greater than what separates us.

Speaking of in common, this great guy actually married me 14 years ago today. He's letting me pick the restaurant for dinner. Of course, I've picked about five places, and he's at the point of saying, "Just let me know the final decision." (The picture is from our visit to the battleship "North Carolina" last summer. There is a picture from the 1960s of him standing next to the same cannon and barely being able to see over the top of it; so, we HAD to take this picture.)

I have set myself up - I have a quilt that HAS to be done by the end of July. I promise to post pictures of my progress this weekend. The Flower Power quilt top is nearly done. My friend and I got the last of the flowers sewn together, and she is putting a border around it now.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Fill Ins

1. I prefer to be home from work by 6:58p.
2. It was the reason, of course, that I cuddled the cat despite her insistence on clawing me.
3. Letting people tell me what to do  is something I no longer feel the need to do.
4. I have another errand to run, then I can get back to reading.
5. Happiness can be found...just go find it
6. What were once vices are now lifestyle choices.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to watching "Monsoon Wedding" on DVD, tomorrow my plans include going to my sister's for a cook-out and Sunday, I want to finish the Flower Power quilt top

BTW, any time I mention websites or commercial products, please note that I do not benefit financially from these. I'm not on anyone's payroll except my large educational institutional employer.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What I'm Reading

This was supposed to be a "What I'm Reading Wednesday," but it's suddenly Thursday. This past week I started reading a new-to-me book, The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir. This concerns, amazingly enough, the Wars of the Roses in the fifteenth century. This book was lent to me by the same friend who led our book club into reading David Starkey's biography, Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne, which I mentioned here a few weeks ago. As I read the Starkey book, I started seeing all sorts of gaps in my knowledge, and my dear friend happened to mention that she had just read Weir's book and was willing to lend it. So, here I am happily trying to keep track of all of these vaguely familiar names. I'm about 100 pages in, and I can hardly WAIT to see what happens next. As a college student studying modern European history, I think I treated the period up to 1500 as just so much prologue to the really interesting stuff - you know, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, the Invincible Armada, etc.

Similarly, my husband has on his shelves a book about King Philip's War, about some pretty serious issues that arose between the colonialists and the native Americans in the 17th century. I think we in the US tend to discount the 17th century as mere prologue, but there was lots of stuff going on that helped shape the country we would become. Similarly, this morning on my walk, I was listening to a couple of podcasts from the history part of "How Stuff Works" about the bombardment of Baltimore and about the great warrior, Tecumseh. Both ended up being about the relations between Canada and the US in the early part of the 19th century. We here in the US tend to focus on "the longest undefended border in the world," but we forget that this was a hard-won peace that we need to keep tending carefully.

Anyway, after all of that deep thinking, how about some pictures? Last week, as part of my vacation, a friend came over and helped me organize the blocks for our guild's 2011 quilt raffle. These were the blocks that came from members of the guild in response to a request for help with this quilt. We are building the quilt in such a way that it'll be right side up from either end. (I have a rather narrow design wall, so we got the middle set, and then I pinned the middle together so that I could work on the outer edges.) This will be a queen-sized quilt when it's done.

Can you see the wonderful variety? I gave people a size, a basic picture, and some rules about relative values. I have been SO thrilled at these blocks.

Here are a couple that I made that will be on the upper/lower rows:

The pink one was the one I used as my example back in the winter to get people thinking. The blue one I made this past Sunday.

Finally, I have to draw your attention to the June 15 post here: - about girls and their body images - she's making some really important points.

I also want to draw attention to this post: about a piece that was in the New York Times magazine this past week. I, too, read the article on Sunday and came close to tears. Let it be known that I want NO extraordinary measures at the end of my life. If you are about to put a battery in my body and the battery has a longer life expectancy than I do, STOP. Spend that money on educating poor children, on building houses for the homeless, on making vaccines for the ill - don't spend it on a dying woman.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Finished Objects Friday

Okay, so it's Saturday. Too bad. Here is the one thing I accomplished this week:
I got the wild idea about 4:30p on Wednesday that I'd get this done in time to wear to the NQA show on Thursday. (I had all of the fabric cut out but still had to cut the interfacing.) About 6:30, when I was delaying making dinner because I struggling to attach the collar, I came to my senses and stuffed the thing back in the box. On Friday morning, it took me close to two hours to get the collar attached and topstitched. I also hemmed the shirt during that time. This morning I made the buttonholes and the buttons.

Even though it was my vacation, I ran into town for a meeting at work. A couple of VIPs were giving a presentation about some big changes that are coming; even though the presentation was being videotaped, I thought it was important politically for me to show up. My boss's boss, who is three weeks younger than me, sat down next to me and threw his arm around my shoulders. "It's been so quiet around here this week!" Don't take it wrong: my work group has been together for well over a decade, and we've had regular get-togethers with spouses and kids included. We've attended funerals and weddings in one another's families. I truly love these people, and I feel loved by them. We are all supporting each other during the transitional time that is suddenly affecting our work environment.

Speaking of love: On Monday, I announced a giveaway that I would make to anyone commenting on that post and said that I would make a random number draw, blah, blah, blah. Well, the random number generator burped and came up with the following three numbers: 1, 2, and 3. I'll be in touch with those folks through private e-mail. Thank you for playing along.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I have recently read two books that I would very much like to recommend. One has been out for a couple of years and the other is newer. Both are stories of immigrant experiences, and both expanded my consciousness. I grew up in a small town in the northern part of Michigan's lower peninsula. Because of the nearby airbase, we had folks from all over the country in our midst, but they were seen as "other." Moving to a college town in southeastern Michigan exposed me to people from all over the world and from many cultures in this country. Over the years, I have tried to consciously seek out experiences and books that would help me to see the world in these ways that are different than my own experience. These books are good continuing education.

First up is Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri, stories of Bengali-Americans dealing with issues of modern life. As with most immigrant groups, there is a tension between the culture of origin and the culture around them. The story that I liked best, "Hell-Heaven" was, happily, done as a featured piece on Selected Shorts - a podcast that features contemporary short stories read by actors before a live studio audience. (I listen to a variety of podcasts ranging from "Sticks and String" to the geekfest "Tech Stuff / How Stuff Works" and including the "New Yorker Fiction" podcasts.) Back to the book: The stories are intense, tightly written, and the characters are fully fleshed out. I can't say that "this is a joy to read," because there are some pretty sobering tales here. I will say that by the time I was done, I felt as though I'd been admitted entrance into some very special lives.

Next is the book I practically bullied my book club into reading. A Country Called Amreeka tells the story of the last century of American history through the eyes of Arab-Americans. We see the civil rights movement, the Six-Days' War in 1967, the gay rights movement, the 2000 presidential campaign, and so much else through the lived experiences of real people who were witnesses to or part of the events. The book is well written and reminiscent of Studs Terkel's books. I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book. Drop what you're doing and go get it. Read it. Trust me. You'll start grabbing random friends and shoving this book at them, just I've been doing for the past two weeks.

Finally, just to demonstrate what a dilettante I am, I had a half hour to myself in downtown Ann Arbor yesterday, so I stopped in Busy Hands, with a gift certificate I'd gotten for my birthday. I wandered around, petting yarns, until I got stopped by this little beauty:
50% silk, 50% merino, sock-weight, yummy bright pink - need I say more? Ooohhh!! la la!!

Tomorrow, Thursday, I'm driving to Columbus, Ohio, with a couple of friends, and we're going to the National Quilting Association show. I promise I'll take pictures!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dyeing Fun, Part 4 - and Giveaway!

Okay, so my first experience with flour paste resist was a complete bummer. All that anticipation, and I hate the fabrics that came out at the end. That's the price of experimentation.

I think the flour paste was too thick, and the dye/alginate mix was too thin. I didn't crack the crust enough, etc. etc. etc. Maybe I'll try this again, maybe I won't, but at least I gave it a good try.

On the other hand, several of the pieces for which I had high hopes on Saturday came out very well:
Look at that GREAT blue on the bottom! It's variegated and interesting, and it's going to be a great background for my next big quilt. I am SO pleased with it.

Next, check out these greens:
The one on the bottom is a cotton/bamboo mix, and I'm looking forward to turning it into a summer dress. Similarly, I'm looking forward to making a dress from the bottom pink (the one on the far left) in this picture as well:
The purples were basically an accident; I had some blue, some red, and some black left over at the end of the day, and I threw it together and dumped it over a bunch of random fabrics.
Finally, I think this shade of orange is annoying, and I have about four or five yards of it (the bottom piece); I have no idea what I'll ever do with it, but I'm sure I can come up with something fun - maybe as the background for a fall-themed quilt? The second fabric from the bottom is an orangy-red color - not as pink as it looks.
The title of this post includes the word "giveaway." Next Saturday, June 19, I will do a random drawing from all of the commenters on this post. The winner will get to select up to a half yard of any of the fabrics posted here other than the bottom pieces in the blue, green, and pink piles. I will contact you privately and put the fabric in the mail to you.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dyeing Fun, Part 3

We had FABulous weather for dyeing. The weather was warm, the skies ranged from a little cloudy to overcast most of the day, and we had no rain.

Before we left the house, I soaked my fabrics in soda ash water and spun them in the washer:

After we gathered and got the third tent put up (my friend and her husband had put up the two awnings a couple of us had delivered earlier in the week), I took my board of flour-pasted fabric and started cracking the crust:
Then, I applied a thickened black dye over the assemblage:
I can hardly wait to see how this turns out!

Then, I laid out a painter's drop cloth and set out a four-yard length of fabric, letting it crinkle and scrunch a little in places, but mostly being flat. I mixed up three different shades of blue, each in a different jar. Then, I took each of the jars over to the fabric and, with a paint brush, flicked and dribbled dye all over the fabric, walking around and around it. A couple of the spatters ended up on my face, causing my friends to hand me some scrubbing lotion and send me into the house to clean up! Here's what the fabric looked like right after my ministrations:
I then went on to set out other large yardages with smaller pieces of plastic underneath, necessitating more scrunching, and some manipulation of fabric after I had applied the dye so as to get the dye evenly distributed. I also took some of the smaller pieces of fabric I had (fat quarter size and smaller) and tucked them into folds and under the larger piece. Here's a beauty shot for you:

Those pieces are large enough to possibly become dresses! One of my pals didn't want to dye today, so she had brought a sewing project; however, she had a couple of items she wanted to get dyed. I told her to pick out any color she liked. This is the color she picked:
Isn't that luscious? I SO wanted an orange Creamsicle after this! By the end of the day, we noticed that the blue dye in the large piece had done some migrating, and the tones didn't seem quite as starkly different. I hope you can see that in this long view.
The friend who wanted the orange fabric asked what she could do in return, and I told her to take my picture. The apron was a Christmas present from two of three greatest nieces in the world. Isn't it great?
At last, I got home, and spread out the fabrics in the condo's courtyard to dry in the sun. I have found this gets stronger, richer colors.
I'll do the washout either Sunday or Monday and post pictures after that.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dyeing Fun, Part 2

Just a quick note to show off the washed fabrics from the other evening. When last we saw the fabrics, they were sitting in little tubs with red splashed on them. Now, here they are, washed out:

Then, the next evening, I mixed up a flour and water paste and glopped it all over them:

I have PLANS for these, heh, heh, heh!

If you are interested in dyeing fabrics, yarns, etc. I just discovered this wonderful site this week, filled with FAQs, advice columns, etc. I know I'll be consulting it over time.

I have been doing a lot of reading lately, and I'm hoping to get a book post up soon. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dyeing Fun, Part 1

I LOVE to dye fabrics. I took my first workshop nearly seven years ago; and several friends (some who'd taken the workshop, others who wished they had) got together, and we've been dyeing together and separately ever since. I wish I sewed fast enough to keep up with my output, but I give away a lot of what I dye.

Here are some initial pix of my supplies:
The white plastic bag has soda ash and urea in it. (I am of two minds regarding urea. My fave, Melody Johnson, says she doesn't use it; and sometimes I use it and sometimes I don't.) I want to play with salt this weekend because it produces interesting effects on newly dyed fabric, so I have two kinds of salts. The plastic trays are dental trays that were being discarded at work. They are good portable workspaces.

These are the totally glamorous buckets in which I store my bowls, jars, gloves, measuring utensils, etc. We no longer buy our kitty litter in buckets, but I'm glad I've got these.

Here is a shot of the fabric I dyed on Sunday while soaking:
Then washed out (that's cotton chenille yarn):

Then, this morning,  I splashed some red dye on the fabric:

 This is going somewhere, I promise.

Finally, as I was typing this, I had a buddy, the baby brat cat.
Could YOU resist that face?

Sewing Room and Dyeing

There is a quilting group at the large institution at which I work that includes people who work in many different buildings - sort of a one person runs into another and invites her sort of group. Anyway, an e-mail went out on Friday morning that someone was having a moving sale and had sewing room furniture to sell. I contacted the seller and here are pictures of my sewing table before (my mother's old sewing machine cabinet - please notice slanting sides, etc.):

and after (please notice the large surface on which I can put the acrylic extension and not have items flopping around when I'm trying to sew on them):
She was also selling those large plastic bins, so I'll be able to stash WIPs under the table, close at hand, and not on top of the cutting table where I have to cover them with a blanket to keep away the cat hair.

Here is the view out of my sewing room (it was a rainy Sunday afternoon when I took this picture).
My dyeing group is getting together this coming Saturday, and I'm getting a jump with some preparatory steps, including gathering the fabrics I'm going to take:
Yes, three boxes' worth. I think I'm nuts.

When I was organizing the dyeing supplies, I came across this note, and I'll leave this blog for now and try to post later today with pictures of actual colored fabric, etc.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Spinning - At Last!

I have wanted to spin yarn since I was about 10 or 11. It's one of those things that has been in the back of my mind all of these years, but I never actually saw a working spinning wheel in someone's home until I was 30. That was a situation where it wasn't appropriate to ask personal questions, so I held back. When I started stumbling across knitting blogs a few years ago, I realized that spinning was modern! Wow! A year ago in February, three of us went to the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival and there was a booth for the Williamsburg Spinners and Weavers Guild. They were giving lessons to all comers. I was hooked. I went to a booth that was selling roving and purchased a bag containing a silk and wool blend, got home, and got busy with other stuff. In May of last year, I separated the roving and started predrafting, basically, pulling the fibers to their longest and skinniest. The book Spin to Knit was very helpful.

In June, I went to a meeting of the Spinners' Flock - about a 45-minute drive away. There I got another lesson and finally got the idea of the "waterfall" and the "triangle." I was diligent for a couple of weeks, and, combined with a "sewing day" at a friend's house in November, produced all of this:
On Memorial Day, after going to the parade and the wreath laying at the local cemetery, I came home and spun:

Each time I do this, the yarn gets better, and I get more confident. I still have half the roving to spin that I bought over a year ago:
In order to spin, though, I have to disturb the "cat's bed" behind a chair in the living room:
I am looking forward to actually creating something with the yarn I'm spinning. Did I mention that I went to a fiber festival in October and bought another bag of roving? I'm also getting on Etsy and lusting after spinning wheels. Hubby Dearest and I were talking about the books in our queue, and lamenting that we each probably have longer reading and project lists than we're likely to accomplish, but it's not about the product, it's about the process, right?