Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Book Tuesday!

A long, looong time ago, back when I was barely 30 and had a brand spanking new sewing machine sitting on my dining room table, I decided to learn how to quilt.

I don't know where this thought emerged from, or why. Suffice it to say that back then I lived in the Bronx, within walking distance of a New York Public Library (be still my heart). I took out just about every book I could find on the subject, and thereby taught myself to quilt.

On the way to my first ever quilt - and by the way, it was a trip-around-the-world though I didn't know it yet, and the batting didn't reach all the way to the edges - I accidentally got a book out of the library that had every appearance of being helpful, but it wasn't, in any practical sense. It was called "Quilting Lessons".

I loved this book the first time I read it, and I have read it more times than I care to admit since then, and I'm still not bored.

Janet Berlo was, at the time of writing this book, a 40-something art historian who fell into a deep depression. As she entered her depression, she left her academic world - which had already become alien and threatening to her - and emmersed herself almost obsessively into the world of quilting. Over time, the quilting became a therapeutic tool for her emotional healing, providing the title of this book, her quilting lessons.

Well, Berlo is a writer by profession, so her brief essays are beautifully composed and tightly edited. My only critique is that she is a teeny tiny bit self-absorbed? A true mark of depression, as we know, but it can still be a bit wearying to wade through.

However, this is a true telling of healing from mental anguish, from her terse early words: "I was piecing for cover. I was quilting to save my life." to the final, healthier, pages of her book "...remembering always to make time to smell the sage or to bring groceries to the old ladies and talk with them quietly for a half hour. These acts of grace are fundamental to life's educational process too."

But this short book doesn't simply chart a journey through depression. Berlo explores the vital place of creative work in women's lives, the power of sisterhood, the process of creativity, and tells us many stories along the way about her travels, her family, her work - in other words, her life.

On a scale of 1 - 5 yards*, I give this book a 4 YARD RATING.

This is a great book if you're in the right mood: a blend of academic analysis and engaging story-telling is used to describe one woman's trip to hell and back via handwork. If you've read it before, or if you pick it up soon, tell us what you thought!

*Of course yards. I'm a quilter. How else would I measure anything?

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Log Cabins; and, Am I Crazy?

But not in that order.

Firstly, let's explore the craziness.
What was the most insane sewing project you undertook? I mean, most-hours-invested-on-most-fruitless-project?

Here's mine.

In over a decade of sewing, I have not spent so much time on a project more likely to be lost, broken or forgotten. Because this was made for a 12 year old who is apt, well, let's just say, who is apt to lose, break and forget things. In fact, for your average 12 year old - or at least, for mine - if it is no longer actually in front of one's eyes at this very minute, it doesn't necessarily exist.

However. He very much loved this project, and bugged me to very much stop in the middle so he could very much have and hold it right this very second, until death (or simple forgetfulness) do them part. Naturally I ignored him. I finished the beading,

and then made the boy a pencil case he can be proud of. Until he forgets it exists.

Now, a log cabin update, for those dedicated readers who are waiting with bated breath...

I included the rulers in case you thought the wonkiness was due to odd camera angles. Not so. They are due to odd sewing angles.
And in honour of the whole process thing, some honest deconstructive happenings:

Also, some process-y thoughts: now that I have had a 24 hour break since I took these photos, I see them more clearly. 
They are dull as rocks. (Oops - did I say that out loud?) 
I LOVE them dearly, of course. They are my babies, after all. But I definitely need to inject some light into them. That single orange strip made the block glow a little. I have to find some more ways to achieve that.
I would like to pick your considerable brains: I plan on a great deal of negative space, and think a "natural" background would be best - I'm thinking something linenny? (Yes, it is a word. So there.) 
Wise readers, pray tell, what would make an awesome background to these blocks? What fabric have you used that had a textured look (like muslin or linen), felt soft and delicious, and was easy to sew and quilt through? Does such a thing even exist? Thank you in advance for your words of genius. I appreciate them muchly.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Book Tuesday!

Welcome to my first ever Book Tuesday! I am somewhat addicted to books, possibly as addicted to books as to fabric (don't tell my fabric, it could start a civil war.) So, starting today, Tuesdays will be my day to discuss books.

I bought this book because I liked the theme: two teenagers with cancer fall in love. I cannot pass up a good book about suffering and redemption (redemption being the key here, I hope you know that about me.) (You knew that, right?), and I LOVE good young adult fiction. And someone put them together into this neat little package for me; thank you, John Green!

Good young adult fiction is fantastic because:
1. the author has to be a great writer, otherwise said teenager will (rightly) give up on the book in about 30 seconds or less;

2. the themes tend to run along interesting, big picture issues, because that's what teenagers love to think about and discuss ad nauseam, if I remember correctly; and

3. I am a tired mother of several who also has a job outside of the home, and I appreciate a book that is a quick read. Generally speaking, no matter how complex a linguistic tone the young adult fiction writer sets, I won't have to squint to concentrate. Right?

Mr Green is a great writer, and his characters are believable and lovable and smart. Did I say smart? Green's 17 year olds have a more extensive vocabulary than, well... than anyone I know. And to be honest, I know quite a few people, and many of them went to Ivy League colleges. But for some reason, I found that our characters' super-stylised, uber-genius patterns of speech were delightful and not annoying. These teens are smart and funny; who doesn't want to read that? On account of having dealt with their own cancer for at least a year, they are also cool with the whole suffering and death thing, an interesting turnaround on the usual teen angst.

There is a plot line that runs along the lines of boy-meets-girl, but way, way better. It's not really "two teenagers with cancer fall in love," it's more, "two brilliant, sassy, funny, insightful, wise teenagers with cancer fall in love and teach us all how to live in an imperfect world with a great attitude." There are moments of pure beauty, and great disappointments, glimpses into suffering both through illness and out of it, and lots of eyerolling, too. (Theirs, not mine.)

On a scale of 1 - 5 yards*, I give this book a 5 YARD RATING.

Which means: compulsory viewing. Find it at your local bookstore, library or friend's bookcase. Beg, borrow or steal it. Whatever it takes. And tell me what you thought, especially if you disagree with me. I love me a good book debate.

*Of course yards. I'm a quilter. How else would I measure anything?

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Improv! Plaid! Log Cabins!

A project I've been thinking about for a while has finally reached a Washed-And-Ironed status. A Ready-to-Roll moment. A Be-Still-My-Heart pile.

Of course I now have to introduce my friends the fabrics to each and every one of you...

First, we have..... the PLAIDS! (And the crowd went wild!)

I hand-picked these (hand-clicked? online shopping poses some linguistic issues here) for this very project. This quilt is for a special and plaid-y kinda guy. I'm not sure about the lowest one, it's a bit brown. But keeping my mind open.

Neeeext... the STASHLETS!

Some flannel from another project (Woolies, the best and thickest and yummiest flannel ever,) and this gorgeous blue cotton whose beauty defies being captured on camera, with fine, barely-there, fractured lines, mmmm.

Finally, the one, the only.... the UPCYCLEDS!

Yup, these were each once part of a garment... dark and light jeans (to go with the plaid, duh,) some soft, light linen from a shirt, and some wine-colour velvet, unexpectedly flowy.

And here they are, visiting with each other, becoming a family.

I am in love. Big love.
Gonna make me some bad log cabins. Watch this space.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A little bit of this and that...

I was in London last week. Did I mention that? I went to visit my family, and to drape my bear's paw quilt on my father's lap. And so I did.

I also made Dad a tallit bag (a tallit is a prayer shawl, which is typically stored in a zippy bag) to replace the super-duper ombre one I made that was - sniff sniff - lost.

The Ex-Tallit Bag

The NEW Tallit Bag!

Also, the process of going to London included getting to London. So I figured I'd better carry some hand stitching with me to pass the time. (Try not to laugh so hard, your computer screen can't take the coffee. I'm sure the mothers of some families who travel overseas wind up needing a hand-project.)

Deco Delight by Fabric Freedom
I received this gorgeous, but totally-not-my-speed, fabric as a gift, and wanted to put it to good use. I put together a teeny sandwich just minutes before we left for the airport, and made a project bag: thread, seed beads, beading needles, baby nail clippers.

An aside for thread-cutting travelers: baby nail clippers seem to be acceptably non-threatening to security staff. My child's plastic-handled, round tipped scissors were deemed desperately dangerous, however, and were confiscated, and are presumably now in scissor heaven.

These before-and-after pictures show the sum total amount of beading I achieved in a week of travel. I hope you are impressed.

Two days after our return home, I couldn't help but notice it was my son's birthday. There it was. Big as day. Behold, the prodigal son is 12.

I have beading on the brain, and I happen to know that he lurves the feeling of a seed beads, so, zippy-bag-number-gizbillion, Come On Down!

My favourite part of this project so far, is that this morning my dh asked "So, what are you working on these days?" and I said "I'm doing some white beading to spell the word Giants." and he said "No, really."

Linking up with Live a Colorful Life and Confessions of a Fabric Addict - go check 'em out!

Monday, 1 April 2013

A Find

I live in a small town in Israel, and every so often, we enjoy a visit in the Old City of Jerusalem.

A small, ancient city that is accessible only by foot, it contains four distinct communities (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Armenian,) and carries huge cultural and religious history inside its walls. The Old City consists of a maze of pedestrian alleyways that open onto squares paved in light-coloured slabs of stone; on either side of the pathways are often apartments, two- or three-storeys high, old enough that they seem to lean over the alleyway along with the arches that are part of the ancient architecture.

It is possible to see much of the Old City by stepping across the rooftops, which are mostly flat or domed, and look down at the streams of people, living, working, shopping and visiting, in the streets below. The shuk with its myriads of little stalls, is filled with the noise and energy of any marketplace, but is somehow brighter and more colourful, trailing down wide, shallow steps.

On our most recent visit, I stumbled across this beautiful sight: a loom, minding its own business outside a artisanal shop. The weaver was evidently taking a stroll through the sunny streets, allowing me an ogling opportunity that I took full advantage of. Enjoy.