Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Sewing Room

After five days of hard work, we have a cozy new reading room (that at one point last evening held three cats!) and a mostly organized sewing room. Now, when you walk up the stairs in our house, you don't see Liz' messy sewing room, you see a peaceful room filled with books and places to snooze.
When you look off to the side, you see the sewing room.
I have identified the fabrics that will get turned into curtains, but I ran out of steam before I could get them made. The table off to the left holds boxes for each of the workshops I'm taking this weekend. As I sorted and organized fabric (pulling fabric out of all sorts of boxes and bags and shelves), I also pulled together the stuff I need for the workshops. I discovered that I have twice as much green fabric as I do any other color. See those two shelves full of fabric? The shelf below it (behind the pull-down counter) is equally full, as are the top sections of the cabinet next to it.

When Hubby Dearest saw all of this at the end of the day, he asked, "Why didn't we do this four years ago when we moved in? It makes so much more sense!" Of course the answer was that neither of us wanted to do the work of painting over the red room, so we made do.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ann Art Fair 2011 and Image33 Photography

We had the Ann Arbor Art Fairs this past week. Since I work in a building half a block from an edge of the fairs, I was able to see some of the fairs despite the really hot weather. On Wednesday evening, the first evening, I made my big purchase of the year - the piece that will always say "Art Fair 2011" to me. I got this from Christine Green. It is about 18" tall and utterly beautiful. This is it:
Okay, it is not really wonky; just the photography is. Oh.... that sounds like a segue! 

I have to tell you about a photographer who has recently set up an actual business, and I am utterly blown away by her work. Quick, go take a look at her work. Isn't that amazing? I know that I would think so even if the photographer were not my sister. You know how when you're growing up with siblings, each of you gets a "tag"? Healthy people learn to pull in other aspects of life as they grow, but we each have a strength that keeps us going. Well, in our family, I was the smart sister, our middle sister was the pretty sister, and this sister was the nice one. As I look at Mary's photos, what strikes me is how heart-centered they are. You really see the people in their nicest, happiest, fullest versions of themselves. That's the work of a truly nice person who really likes people and sees them in their best light. The only payment I'm getting from this commercial is yummy veggies and dip at the next family gathering.

Back to the Art Fairs: I loved the papercraft at the Metzgers' booth. I had such a nice conversation with the fellow in that booth even though I couldn't afford any of their pieces. I told him that I saw future quilts in his booth, and he gave me permission to play with his images that way. 

I stopped by the Ann Arbor Fiber Arts Guild booth and got some handmade paper and some pretty tangerine roving with Angelina fibers in it. Picture.... hmm.... sorry. I forgot to take some pictures there. 

You see, I have another project going. When we totted up the bill for this project, I turned to my husband and said, "think of it, this is our vacation budget, and is this not a cheap vacation?" You see, my sewing room currently looks like this:
and this:
Right next door is a room that is at least half again as big but is red.....
Well, Saturday morning, I packed the books into three stacks: Books I haven't yet read but fully plan to soon, books that should leave the house, and books we are keeping. I filled an entire paperbox (the kind that holds 10 reams of paper) with the first stack (with a few left over), another box plus three paper shopping bags with books for the second stack, and then several boxes with the final category. I hauled the giveaway books to the AAUW book sale sorting place on the west side of Ann Arbor. It felt so good to clear out so many books. It was a little sobering to see how many books are in the to-read list. So many books, so little time!

Anyway, this afternoon, the red room looked like this:
Right now, the first layer of primer is drying. The sewing room looks like this:
Of course, the cats are a bit upset, except for BabyBoy who likes to snooze on the kitties quilt:
Isn't it great that the orange cat snoozes on the blue kitties - how complementary of him! I'll post more pictures of the room switcheroo later in the week.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bye-Bye, Borders

There's a death in my family. If family is defined as those to whom you are linked by a special bond, with whom you spend a lot of time, on whom you lavish money, whose mistakes you mutter about, and whose triumphs you cheer, then Borders Books is part of my family.

I grew up in a home that didn't have much money, but there was always money for books. My mother would scrimp on the groceries so that she could stop and buy books. In the eighth grade my Sunday School teacher asked us to list all of the magazines and newspapers we got at our homes - and to note which ones were Catholic (he had a point to this exercise), and I got to 30 publications we regularly received, with about 10 of them Catholic. Of course this was something like three times as many as any of the other kids' lists. We had Newsweek, Life, Popular Mechanics, Our Sunday Visitor, Good Housekeeping, Mad Magazine, Ranger Rick, and on and on. My parents were voracious readers. My father had to drop out of high school after he ran away from an abusive home, and he had educated himself in a variety of fields. When I was in the fourth grade, I walked around with him at the school's open house, and he was able to engage the various teachers in informed conversation about their areas of interest. I knew that when I grew up, I wanted to be able to talk to people that way. We had science fiction novels, biographies, histories, short story collections, books about science and mechanics, art books, etc. My mother loved history, politics, and theology, and she read widely in those fields.

When I moved to Ann Arbor in the early 1980s and discovered the marvelous place called "Borders Books" on State Street, I thought I had found heaven on earth. That store had a couple of levels, narrow aisles, high stacks needing step stools. When I got my first job at the University, making $5 an hour, any cash I had left over after rent, utilities, groceries, and savings, got spent at Borders. I would save up for specific books, and I would haunt the sales tables. Once, a supervisor gave all of the secretaries in my office large bonuses at Christmas. I spent most of that bonus at Borders. That was during the early part of the expansion era when the company turned its focus from being a place to find really cool books to buying large chunks of real estate. The company stopped being my favorite haunt in the odd space near a college campus and started being a big chain. I remember holding my breath and hoping that it would work.

When a department store went out of business a couple of blocks away from the original location and the flagship store moved there and suddenly looked more like a department store, it was lovely having the wide aisles and the easier wayfinding. The computerized catalog was terrific; the fact that I no longer had to check my bag at the door was nice (but I worried about shoplifters). Then, a few years ago, the business started going bad. The changes in the store were subtle at first, but there seemed to be greater and greater emphasis on bestsellers and less emphasis on interesting finds. A friend's husband lost his job a year and a half ago during a downsizing; a neighbor of mine (we are fellow cat moms in the condo complex) still works for the company and has had health issues for months.

Last evening, I took my last coupon into the store and discovered that Maeve Binchy has a new novel out (long-time readers of this blog will know that MB is just about my favorite writer). I also got a short story collection by Susan Vreeland. Then, I shuffled out of there, sad, lonely, knowing that I had just made perhaps a final visit to a dying friend. This friend had provided birthday and Christmas presents over the years - when my nieces and nephews were young, I would go in on an evening and carefully select books for each of them; more recently I bought gift cards there for the kids. For nearly 30 years I have indulged the love of books that I learned in my home. Now, it's time to say good-bye, and I feel as though a part of me is dying. Bye-bye Borders. I miss you already.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dyeing Day 2011 - pictures!

Well, dum-dum me forgot to take a camera to dyeing day. That's okay because the day was really full. The temp was in the high 80s/low 90s, but we had awnings to stand under. For lunch we seven piled into two cars and drove up the road a piece to a nice diner where they were kind to a half dozen middle-aged ladies (and a kid in her 20s) who had odd colors on their skin and clothes - thank heavens for vinyl seat covers! When we were mostly done and deep into the clean up, our hostess brought out home made strawberry gelato!! Wow!!

The day started off with me crawling around on the ground (these 50+ year-old knees do not like the ground!) painting dye onto the folded-over backing for the Cone Nebula quilt. Within a few minutes, I was seriously considering just scrunching the whole thing and pouring dyes on to it every which way; but I persisted and ended up with something I'm not terribly wild about.
I think it's a little bright and a little wild - very much primary colors - but when I showed it to Hubby Dearest and said that I was thinking about overdyeing it with aquamarine (figuring that would tone down the yellow a bit and brighten the blue and do who-knows-what to the red), he said he rather liked these colors and that I should keep this as is. Okay!

While I was working on this project, our hostess was giving basic dyeing lessons to the three newbies in our midst - all of whom were also working on their own projects. When I got done with the backing, I set up bowls on a table so that I could do five-step value runs of each of three colors (I go into these days with such specific goals, really, I do!). I pulled a bench over and set on it the tub with the 120 or so bandanas. One by one, each of the newbies got interested in the project.

Basically, we picked up a folded bandana, dipped corners or ends or sides or whatever into one, two, three, or more colors, snipped the binding threads open, unfolded the cloth to see what we had, and laid it on the grass to dry. In some cases where there were large white areas, we consulted with one another about adding color or not. We used paint brushes, plastic syringes, and our gloved hands to apply color. We had some plastic trays on the table that served as wringing areas - one that was for mostly purple, one for mostly green, and one for mostly orange - and when a tray would get enough liquid, someone would put an undyed bandana on the tray and turn it over, making sure that all of the dye had been absorbed. It was SO much fun, and we all enjoyed just playing. Here's what we got from all of our play:

Do you want to see some closeups? Of course you do!
I had each of the gals pick out her favorite piece to take home, and those aren't shown here. I haven't yet picked my favorite - okay, I have, but I'm not telling.

So, there you go, another dyeing day in the books.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Prelude to a Dyeing Day

I apologize for the long silence on this blog.

Since I last posted, I spent a weekend doing what I call "scut sewing" for the quilt guild. There were some items that will be given away at the guild's biennial weekend of workshops, and I offered to sew some of them. It was boring, tedious, and soul-sucking (yes, I know that I promised that I wouldn't do any more soul-sucking projects, but I felt sorry for the gal who is organizing the giveaways, etc.). I simply could not bring myself to take any pictures that weekend.

The following weekend (last weekend), I spent on retreat at Our Lady of the Pines Retreat Center in Fremont, Ohio. It is a wonderful facility, just south of Fremont, high up on a hill in the midst of a piney woods. The facility has walking paths, a brick labyrinth based on the one in the Chartres cathedral, comfortable rooms, and a pretty decent cafeteria. There were ten of us on an art retreat, and another ten or so in another part of the building on a quilting retreat. Of course, there was a lot of socializing between the two groups, and I came home with a bunch of free fabric (most of which will be donated to the guild's stash of fabric for SAFE House quilts). I had a lot of space in which to reflect and regenerate.

Anyway, this weekend, I did some organizing in preparation for a dyeing day with some friends next weekend. I decided to work off Mark Sherman's instructions in the July issue of American Quilter magazine. Be sure to check out Mark's incredible quilts while you're on his website. I had the privilege of seeing his butterfly quilt "live" at the National Quilting Association show in Columbus, Ohio, last summer, and I was truly amazed at his workmanship.

Here is the backing for the Cone Nebula quilt, scoured, soaked in soda ash solution, and ready for next weekend:
(The orange color is from the lid of the box in which it's resting this week.) Next, we have bandanas that I folded, loosely stitched, soaked, and dried. I figured it's easier to do the fancy folding in the evenings the week before than when I'm standing under an awning on a hot day fighting fatigue and heat exhaustion. The bandanas are thank-you gifts to folks who volunteer during the workshop weekend.
Finally, I soaked and dried some random bits of fabric just in case I get done with the rest of these early and still have energy. (cue maniacal laughter)
So, these are the "before" pictures, and I'll post "after" pictures early next week. I probably won't have anything else about the Cone Nebula quilt until some time in August. My other big July project is that we will be moving my sewing room from the smallest bedroom to the medium-sized bedroom. That room is currently a deep red (which is why the sewing room is not already there). I'll show pictures of that project as I go along.