Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Then I ripped out all yesterday's work, hours and hours' worth.
It was frustrating, but it had to be done. The work was too messy. True, I was the only person who would ever notice. But workmanship has become a bit of a sensitive point with me since my first quilt ever was accepted to a juried show this past spring. After the show, the quilt was returned to me with a pointed statement about poor workmanship from one of the judges. Until then, I'd known some of the work needed improvement, but that judge's acknowledgment of it carried a sting that I still feel.
After using a seam ripper to remove yesterday's wobbly uneven stitches, I was fortunate to have my neighbor Edith, an experienced hand quilter, swing by and show me how to hand quilt in the places where my sloppy free-motion quilting had been. So here I am, baby, hand quilting, thimble and all:
I like to listen to a book on tape while I work. Right now I'm listening to Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Today, I faced it. I did it. And I produced some of the poorest looking work I've done for a long time.
I may get an A for courage, but a C- for workmanship.
This is not going to be an inspiring story of triumph over adversity. Instead, the experience reminded me of what a vacuum cleaner does. You know.
|To do free-motion quilting, you need a spring-driven jobby like this, called a darning foot. No problem.|
The PROBLEM was this marvel of Swedish engineering, this piece of clear plastic from hell:
The Husqvarna Viking quilting table is supposed to help by 1) spreading the weight of the quilt around, and 2) making the quilt easier to maneuver by elevating the work to the level of the sewing machine bed.
But the Husqvarna Viking quilting table does not help.
It skootches around as the quilt moves, causing my hands on the quilt to skootch around with it, making big loose sloppy stitches in places where I did not want them. Sometimes it even gets under the needle and breaks the needle.
The result was some of the sloppiest free-motion quilting I've ever done. It looks so bad, I'm not even going to show you.
I'm reminded of Thoreau's statement: "We are become the tools of our tools." It's true. But it's no consolation.
I faced my fear, and the result was a mess.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
If I let the fact that I don't know what I'm doing get in my way, I wouldn't have spent the past few hours sitting on the sandy path down to the bay in a rickety rocking chair with my pastels on a milk crate beside me, applying color to paper, messing up my shirt, and expressing myself about this extraordinary place as best I can.
I had to save this view of this place, and I wanted to do it badly enough that, every time I messed up, like the time I blew the pastel dust away so hard it baptized the paper, I kept going. I figured out how to cover up my mistakes and go on. I learned, for example, that an exacto knife can double as an eraser in removing unwanted pigment from textured pastel paper.
Keep going even though you know the results might make Grandma Moses look like Albert Bierstadt. That's my artist mantra for today. If there's one insight I internalized after six years of following Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, it would be that.
I'll never be a great artist, but when I'm before a sight that resonates within me, I want to say, "I was here. This is what I saw."
|I was here. This is what I saw.|
My excellent pastels teacher, Kristine Sullivan, would not approve of the attention I paid to the weathered wood of this staircase. Kris, I had to do it. Something inside told me it was important to record the splintery wood as truly to its splinters as I could.
As I was sketching, the dogs sensed the presence of a nearby canine and shot down the stairs, barking. They made friends with a golden retriever passing on the beach, did a few play bows, and came back when I called them. As they parted, the golden retriever saw fit to mark the post at the bottom of the stairs.
This image, and the memory of having created it, have to get me through the winter.
Can you hear the water? Can you feel the heat of the sun?
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Our family has been using this recipe since I first saw it in the Washington Post in the 70s, when I was a law student. The cake recipe was from the Post; the frosting recipe was from my mother, who ticked it off the top of her head without consulting a written word:
Chocolate Cake with Mocha Frosting
- A couple of hours before you make this cake, take refrigerated ingredients out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature
- About half an hour before you begin, melt the unsweetened chocolate and let it cool.
- Line the bottoms of two round 9” by 1 ½” cake pans with wax paper. Butter paper.
- Into the large bowl of an electric mixer, turn all ingredients in order given. At low speed beat ½ minute; at medium speed 3 minutes.
- Turn into prepared pans. Bake in preheated 350 oven 30 to 35 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Let stand on wire racks 10 minutes. Turn out on racks and remove paper. Fill and frost as desired.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
I'm stitching in the ditch, which means I'm sewing the three layers together by laying down a line of stitching in the "ditch" or the tiny declivity of the seam where two pieces of fabric come together. Here, I'm stitching in the ditch to make a little frame around Marc's name and date of birth.
I couldn't do any of this quilting if I didn't have a walking foot. That feeds all three layers of the quilt sandwich evenly. Without it, the backing and the top move at different rates. I learned that one the hard way. "Walking foot? Who needs a walking foot?" Right. Next thing I knew I had the seam ripper in my hand and I was ripping out lines of quilting four feet long. The things I learned the hard way are the lessons that make the most painful and lasting impressions.
Next I'm just putting some straight lines of stitching into some of the spaces to hold the whole thing together. Adhering to the KISS rule here.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
I guess with quilting, like with anything else, you take the drudgery for the sake of the glory. I hope I feel some glory when I see my work held aloft on the huppah poles at Temple Habonim, Barrington, R.I.
Next task: cutting the batting to the same size as the backing. What was I thinking when I bought this much batting?
Fastening the quilt sandwich together with a tool called a Quiltak:
Sunday, September 19, 2010
|Temple Adas Israel, Sag Harbor, Long Island|
|The Susan Anne, out of New London, CT|
|Mashomack, the North Ferry, out of Shelter Island Heights, L.I.|
|Sunrise, the South Ferry, out of Shelter Island, L.I.|
Could I do that?
He was a human being like everyone else--I'm paraphrasing Teacher, Companion, Guide: Rediscovering Jesus in a Secular World by Erik Walker Wikstrom--
but also not like everyone else in this way: his faith, belief, and trust in God were deeper, his relationship with the divine more intimate, his awareness clearer. He was so in touch with the sacred as to be one with it.
In that spirit, I've been able to put my arms around Jesus and Yom Kippur, both, this year. Not only that, but I didn't fast (unlike poor Julia, who couldn't even drink water). And after a marathon of two hours of Kol Nidre service on Friday night, and three-plus hours of morning services on Saturday, we went to the beach.
|Rae and Margie, Sag Main Beach|
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
I planted Grandpa Ott morning glories in my raised bed so long ago that I don't remember when I originally did it. I've long since turned my raised bed into a silver garden (only plants with silvery foliage or silvery flowers), with no place for Grandpa Ott. But he still comes back to greet me in the late summer, every year! With no encouragement from me. The flowers are so richly purple, I can't bear to pull Grandpa and his vines out of my raised bed, even though he's clambering on the Russian sage and the santolina.
|Here's Julia wearing the tallis I made for her. Check out the tsit tsit (fringes)--making them, and making them right, was the hardest part.|
Sunday, September 12, 2010
First I tried reproducing them in satin stitch. After two tries, I got a decent, if somewhat wobbly, Marc Katz. Thank God for short names.
Solution: Put the letters onto the fabric with Sharpie marker, using sandpaper underneath to keep the fabric from wiggling. Questions: How long do Sharpie letters last on fabric? Does it matter that the fabric will cease being a huppah and become part of a baby blanket for Julia and Marc's children?
As with everything else, I'm learning as I go here. Do any of you sewing experts know better ways to get letters onto fabric?