Sunday, July 29, 2012

Summer On the Mantel

I love to decorate for the holidays, not just Christmas.  I guess it's the former elementary school teacher in me that liked to do bulletin boards.  I decorate the whole house for Christmas, inside and out, but for the other holidays or seasons I'm relegated to the front door and the mantel in my family room.

I've been captivated by the faux coral that is out there now.  I bought a few pieces for my bathroom from Pottery Barn and you'd swear they were real.  Recently I saw more in Home Goods at a very reasonable price so I decided to buy a few more and decorate my mantel with a summer theme with the coral and a quilt of mine from a few years ago called "Ocean Treasures".

If you click on the picture for a bigger view you can see that I've quilted all sorts of sea critters into it, whales, sharks,  shells, pelicans, etc.  It was made of free form curved piecing cut into blocks and set on point.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


I wrote two posts ago that I was finally quilting my big Brown Planet quilt.  I have two Bernina machines, one is the 1230 model that I've had for many years. It died on me a few years ago and in utter frustration I went out and bought a new one, Bernina Virtuosa 153.  I had the older machine serviced, which needed some kind of new motor and it has been fine to use ever since.  It has some feet that the new one doesn't have and it's much better for winding bobbins.  It's a very sturdy machine with much more metal than plastic.

Are you with me so far?  Anyway the newer machine needed service.  It kept seizing up, perhaps because I was using a very heavy thread on my last project. Normally I get my machine back in a week, but the service guy was on vacation (the nerve!) and I wouldn't get it back for two weeks.  I was anxious to get started on BP and decided to use the older Bernina.  My friend, Carolyn, has the same machine and has complained about the tension while free motion quilting. I wanted to use the same thread in the bobbin all the way thru with the bobbin thread matching the backing fabric.  That way if you had tiny flaws in the bobbin, they didn't show. I did my first section that way, gray thread on the top, tan in the bottom.  It looked fine.  On the next section I used dark brown on the top and little peeks of tan poked thru at the corners. Rats!!  So I decided that I had to change the bobbin to match the top each time I changed colors.  Not too much of a big deal, except that now that the bobbin thread did not match the backing fabric, I saw what Carolyn meant about the tension. No matter what I had the tension set on, even on 10, the thread on the back looks like it is just laying there.

I am sooo annoyed.  I feel as though I have already spoiled my chances of ever winning a ribbon with this quilt.  Although I think the front looks good so far, I know that the judges are picky, picky and will look at the back with magnifying-glass eyes and see that less than perfect tension.

I will get my machine back next Thursday and rather than aggravating myself even more, I am going to wait until next week to resume my quilting.  The 1230 Bernina is fine for straight sewing, so I will bring it upstairs to my studio and do some quilt facing and other things that require straight-line stitching. I just wish that I had waited until my other machine was serviced, but who knew that I would have these problems.  I will keep the dining room set up the way it is.  As I've said before it hardly ever gets used anyway and it will be ready when my 153 gets home.

I have a nice long weekend with nothing planned and was anticipating getting a lot of quilting done. So poor Brown Planet gets another set back.  Oh, well it will get finished eventually and this will give me more time to watch the Olympics.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Renga Step 3

I've written before about the Renga challenges that I am involved in.  It's a round robin of sorts that involves surface design.  In this group, FANE, we were sectioned off into groups of four, so that each person would do some sort of surface design, starting with a plain white
 fat-quarter of fabric.

Judy  started this one doing a pale light blue shibori, very subtle.  Then Linda got it and held the fabric vertically and literally poured  paint down one side.  In trying to square up the photo she gave me, I had to lop off a bit of the left side.

I took bubble wrap and cut it into shapes resembling Linda's paint pours and used it to stamp the same colors she had used, first bright blue, then yellow and then soft green.  I also did two layers on one of Linda's paint pours to make it cohesive. My stamping appears brighter and darker in person.

It will be interesting to see what the fourth and final person does to it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Finally Quilting It

The piecing on this has been finished for awhile, but I put off the quilting for several reasons. I had some small projects with deadlines, I've been busy socially and most of all I was terrified to start it.  I've never quilted such a big piece, except for a queen sized bed quilt, in one piece. Usually I piece the quilt top in manageable sections that allow me to do the intense free-motion quilting that I love and then I piece those quilted sections together.  I've done this many times, have been accepted into many shows and even won some ribbons with them. But this piece, 90" x 45" did not lend itself to that technique.  Then I thought I was going to cut it into three pieces after it was pieced and make it a triptych. I had howls of protest when I put that on my blog, so I decided to bite the bullet and quilt it in one piece. 

First I dyed six yards of cotton a soft mottled brown for the background.  I may be obsessive, but I like my backs to coordinate with the fronts.  I was going to go to a friend's house to spray baste it on her ping pong table, but then realized that it would fit on my dining room table if I put in both leaves and the table pads. That worked just fine.  And then I thought, why not do the quilting there too?  My dining room is rarely used, such a waste of space, and the big table would give me lots of support for the big heavy quilt. 

I turned the chairs around on the other side of the table to form a wall for the quilt so that it wouldn't fall off the edge of the table and cause drag while quilting.

My studio is upstairs and is the hottest room in the house in the summer and I have to crank up the AC to be comfortable. but yesterday was a beautiful summer day, not too hot, low humidity and lovely breezes.  I opened the two windows in the dining room and the sliding doors in the kitchen/family room and the breeze blowing thru was delicious.  I almost felt like I was plein air quilting.

I'm doing a lot of free-motion "doodling" in the big spaces. The fact that there are no seams makes it a lot easier.  I'm matching the thread to the fabric; that is gray on the gray and I will do small doodling in the whitish strips.  So far so good! It's a big quilt for me, but not nearly as intimidating as I thought.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Photo Inspired

A few weeks ago I wrote about a challenge for one of my fiber art groups.  We are  to make a piece inspired by a photo, preferably taken by the artist.  When I was in Istanbul a few years ago I took a picture of this spice stall in the Grand Bazaar.  I absolutely loved the colors and hoped that it would be a quilt some day. I also took a photo of one of the minarets of the famous Blue Mosque.  It's not blue outside, but inside it is covered with magnificent blue tiles.  In Photoshop Elements I superimposed the minaret on top of the spice stall.

I used Dopioni silk for the very abstracted spice market.  I ignored all the extraneous items in the photo and just concentrated on the colors.  I quilted it with straight line quilting in triangles to mimic the piles of spices.  For the minaret I fused gray sheer polyester organza and quilted it, free-motion and straight line with a heavy royal blue Jeans Stitch thread. I also simplified the minaret a bit.  It measures about 19"  x 33".  I'm calling it "Impressions of Istanbul"

Please click on the picture for a bigger view and let me know what you think.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Big 5-0

That's what we'd been calling it in the big lead-up to the event.  Yes, our 50th college reunion was this past weekend.  It's hard to believe that it's been that long. 

The six sorority roommates of Senior year.
L to R Lydia, Kathy, Marlene, Susan, Ellen and me

I went to SUNY at Cortland, known as Cortland State Teacher's College when I was there.  It was a very small school of 2,500 and tuition free for instate.  Now it is about 7,500 and has a very low tuition of $5,000 for instate.  Most students were there because they wanted to be a teacher and /or because of the no tuition. Hardly anyone had any money, but we managed to have a lot of fun and get a good education at the same time. School systems came to the college recruiting and everyone had a job when they graduated. Imagine that in today's economy!

As at most college reunions the milestone years are honored, with the 50th being the biggie.  At Cortland there were 8 sororities and 3 fraternities (notice the slightly unbalanced  ratio of girls to boys) and at each reunion one sorority and one fraternity is honored. It was just lucky that it was our sorority, Alpha Sigma, that was honored this year. so we had double celebrations. Friday night was a dinner for the Class of '62 and Saturday was one for the Alpha Sigs from all years.

I really didn't know what to expect of the reunion. Would we recognize anyone?  Would we have anything to talk about after all those years?  I had only kept in contact with a couple of the girls.  I needn't have worried.  It was amazing how little most people had changed and we couldn't stop talking.  I came home with a sore throat from so much gabbing.  We sang the old sorority songs, reminisced, laughed and even cried a little.  Sisters came from all over the country, including two from California. I had to be talked into going, but I'm so glad I did.  It was a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pot Luck Dinner and a Great New Summer Soup

 I belong to two book clubs, one of them consisting of people in my condo community.  We read a wide variety of books, best sellers, classics (occasionally), books recommended by others, but NOT "Fifty Shades of Gray".  Three years ago we started the tradition of reading a memoir for the June meeting that had recipes included and then having a potluck dinner at my house using recipes from the book. That first book was Linda Ellerbee's "Take Big Bites" about her travels alone through the world and her love of cooking and trying new recipes.  We all loved the book.  It was very witty, fun to read and the recipes were very doable.  I made her Tomato/Watermelon cold soup that year and it was a big hit.  So this year, even though it wasn't in our current book, I made it again.

It was a perfect weather day, although they said we might have spot showers in the evening.  Our meeting was at 6PM.  I crossed my fingers and held off putting the tablecloths on until 5, but the weather held and it was delightful the whole evening, not too hot, not too humid, a very slight breeze.

Even the flowers cooperated.  This has been a good year for annuals and I have several groupings around the deck.  Those pretty blue flowers at the back are Scaevola

I used to put begonias in my strawberry jar, but decided to do succulents instead this year and I love it. 

So here's the soup.  Don't be put off by the seemingly strange combination of ingredients.  Trust me, it's delicious and I have nine other people to back me up.  It's not as easy as the Cucumber/Avocado/Yogurt Soup I showed you the other day, but it's worth the extra effort.  I changed the recipe slightly to make it more heart healthy.

Cold Cream of Tomato/Watermelon Soup

2 (28 oz) cans of whole Italian tomatoes 
1 1/2 T brown sugar                                         
4 T butter
4 large shallots, chopped                                   
1 T tomato paste
2 T flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated skim milk
1 quart chopped seedless watermelon

1. Spread the tomatoes on a cookie sheet, reserving the liquid, sprinkle with the brown sugar and put in    450 oven.  Bake for 20 min then set aside in a bowl. This makes a mess of your cookie sheet, so be sure to line it with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

2.  Heat the butter in a saucepan on low.  Add shallots and tomato paste, cover and cook until shallots are soft, stirring occasionally. Add the flour and whisk until all is combined. Whisk in the chicken broth, the juice from the tomato cans and the roasted tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Use your immersion blender stick (or do in batches in regular blender) to puree, then stir in evaporated milk.  Let cool to room temperature and chill in refrigerator, preferably overnight. 

3.  The next day add the watermelon chunks and puree again.  Serve it ice cold.

This year's June book was "The Sharper the Knife, the Less You Cry" by Kathleen Flinn.  It is her memoir of her time spent at the Cordon Bleu in Paris. There is a recipe at each chapter's end, but they were all very complicated and several pages long. We decided that people should just make whatever they wanted and we did have a lovely feast.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Renga Round Two

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Renga surface desing project that I am doing with two of the fiber arts group to which I belong.  You can read about it here. We have completed the second round.

This is what Linda's from the FANE group looked like when I got it.

I used a rubbing plate and metallic gold Shiva Paint Stick in an all-over design.  I chose this repeating round fan shape because I thought it echoed the round sun shape. I am pleased with the results.

This is Barbara's from the Scraps group. She had arishi tea dyed it and it was very delicate looking.


It took me a long time to decide what to do, but I went with the Shiva Paint Sticks again using a different rubbing plate.  I wanted to use gold again, but didn't have enough left for the whole sheet, so I used silver and then brushed over the top very lightly here and there with the gold.  I think it looks like a Batik. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Another Show

I'm pleased to announce that I have work in this show at The Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, CO. Although I didn't make the cover this time, I am in very good company as you can see from the names on the back. I don't live close enough to see the exhibit, but perhaps you do.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Super Summer Soup

I was a guest at a fabulous Country Club while in Florida this past March and had this delicious soup as a first course.  I thought I could duplicate it at home and I did.  It really hits the spot on one of these scorching summer days we've been having.

Cucumber/Avocado/ Yogurt Soup

1 14 oz. can of low fat, low sodium chicken broth
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and sliced thick
I ripe avocado
about 1/2 cup fat free Greek yogurt, I don't measure
2 T fresh dill, chopped

Put all in blender and puree, then chill to serve cold

Garnish with a few squares of seeded tomato and a sprig of dill