Thursday, September 30

EUREKA!


Today it's an email from fabric.com with one of those seductive coupon offers. You know: 15% and free shipping for orders over $35. No harm in just taking a peek, is there? And son of a gun if I didn't find a whole bunch of black and white prints and some red ones, too! Funny how that goes. But not surprising when you consider how I spent time recently cutting out new black/white fans and red corners to replenish my supply. After all, I'm only half way through the 224 needed blocks! So soon, but not soon enough, a squishy package will be arriving!


And yesterday I had the most amazing (and rare) moment of brilliance. As I waited for my dentist to excavate, I calmly stitched one of my fan blocks. As usual, the thread kept catching on the pins which I have always found so annoying and time consuming. Suddenly it hit me: why not move the pins to the BACK of the fabric? Wow!! Has no one ever thought of this before? Am I the first? The only one? Photo above shows an old-fashioned one on the left, a modern, stream-lined one on the right.


Send my name to Oslo! I smell a Nobel! Isn't there a prize for applique?

Friday, September 24

HE'S A LUMBERJACK AND HE'S OKAY

This was the view from my window when I woke up this morning. Prominent is the ailanthus tree that's been growing higher year by year.
Here's another one. I call them weed trees. They were imported from China and thrive on pollution. No wonder they grow like weeds in New York City.

This is the dead ailanthus next to the one growing by my window. Today I realized that someone was back there with a chainsaw. I wasn't surprised that they were taking down the dead tree. What astonished me was that they were taking down the live tree too!
And here's the lumberjack taking down the tree section by section.
Amazing to watch!

So the two trees were both growing in the same backyard and a branch fell down from the dead one and the decision was made to remove them both.
I'm not sorry to see my ailanthus go. I guess I won't see the cardinals so often. But then maybe the squirrels will stay off the fire escape and next year I can have petunias again.
Cutting down trees in such cramped quarters is very different from what lumberjacks do in the woods. And I was very interested to watch it. Will my neighbors on the floors below notice that something's not the way it was this morning? Will they realize the tree is gone?





Thursday, September 23

Wednesday, September 22

OY VEY!!!

If someone says that painting red acrylic onto white organza is easy, I want to smack that person upside the head. It's not!! It's incredibly hard. Even with pencil to guide me. Even with the two new paintbrushes I bought this morning. One is a flat ended one 2 cm wide, same as the letters in BUTTER. The other was the finest tipped brush they had. I used that fine one for the small lettering and the flat one for the BUTTER. As you can see it's a mess! And that's mostly from the bleed through of the paint to the paper towel below then getting back up onto the fabric.

I dug a slightly bigger brush out of my supply and was far more successful with another try on the other side. I may wind up actually getting good at this by the end of the words I have to create.

So here's the good news: I have another piece of organza and I could possibly take what I've learned from this trial run and do a polished version. AND I have discovered that I can undo the mistakes with a moistened Qtip.

Tuesday, September 21

HMMMM....

The wide chisel brush I bought is much too wide! What was I thinking or imagining??

The glue-stiffened organza will work, I think. And I experimented with the lettering, tracing a couple of letters to fill in with marker and with paint. The marker is too faint and the paint is the winner despite being more difficult to do. Luckily I have a narrower brush and will just have to suck it up and manage the lettering as best I can.

The B on the right is the marker on the organza. The one on the left is on the paper towel underneath. The U on the right is in paint. As you can see, the paint is the way to go.

NEXT STEPS...

First attempts at stiffening the organza with cornstarch -- meh! Even a more concentrated version did not produce the desired effect. Worse, there was a lot of shedding of powder. Totally did not work.

I ironed a square of stiffener onto the organza and while it's stiff it's also too opaque. I don't think that's the way to go.

So now I am trying glue + water. And if that doesn't work....Maybe a can of spray starch??

Meanwhile I opened MS Word to create the lettering. Now I happen to be a very good letterer but I am going for near-perfection here. So I printed the words "UNSALTED" and "4 OZ." and "BUTTER" in the font Gill Sans MT in 48, 86 and 156 sizes-- and btw, I made note of the sizes for future reference.

TO FINISH THE COSTUME...

Off to the garment district I went this morning to fetch the things I need to finish Macaroon's stick of butter costume.

First I scored a yard of white organza, half price, good deal! Then I tracked down a notions store where I found yellow poly/cotton double fold cotton bias tape. Since I wasn't sure of the width I would need I bought both.

Then I walked down to 33rd Street in the shadow of the Empire State Building to a wonderful art supply store called Columbia where I bought a tube of very red acrylic paint and a chisel edged brush. And not knowing if that would work on the organza, I also bought two red Sharpies in two sizes. Unfortunately Columbia did not have a chisel point in red. So now I am hoping the paint will work.

Now I have to test my materials. I will first cut a sample swatch to play with and I will starch it with home-made starch (as I did last year with the lettuce fabric) to see what it's like and then I will try to make red marks on it to see what's what. Either the marker or the paint will work, I hope!

Monday, September 20

NEW BLACK & WHITE FABRIC!!

Yay!!! My dear friend Anne has dipped into her stash and pulled out these black & white prints to donate to my black/white/red fan quilts. THANK YOU, ANNE!!!

THE PAT HAT IS DONE!!




Three inches square! That's what I decided would be the perfect size for the pat of butter than I am inflicting on Macaroon. To make it I took a leftover piece of yellow Kona cotton and then I ironed on a larger than 3" square of stiffener. I then snipped 4 vents and cut up some leftover pieces of batting and put it in place, then I folded the excess fabric up to create the butter pat, placing the ends of yellow elastic given to me by Lynne--- THANK YOU, LYNNE!!!--- so that I could stitch them in place. The result: a hat that looks like a pat of butter!!


Friday, September 17

IT'S STARTING TO LOOK LIKE BUTTER!

A few treats and a little cajoling and I got Macaroon to let me fit the jacket that will be the base of the stick of butter costume I am making for him.
I cut and sewed the five sides of the stick.
Then I cut openings fore and aft and ironed in fabric stiffener (which might have been done before sewing-- live and learn.)


Here's the basic costume with the stiffener and with layers of batting up top.
I have figured out my plan! I cut and sewed lower parts of the jacket out of yellow and sewed them on and turned them right side out. The simplest way to make this costume happen is to use white and or yellow bias tape to finish the rough edges. And I need a closure-- probably velcro. I can buy the bias tape next week when I go to the garment district to buy the organza.
This costume is going to rock!!



Thursday, September 16

NEW FABRIC ARRIVES! Yippee!!!!!!!


Up top are new fabrics for the green/tan boxing clever quilt. I think they are lovely!
Across the bottom is the Kona cotton called "buttercup" that I chose for Macaroon's stick of butter costume. I like it and think it will look great under the white organza that will serve as the waxed paper.

QUILTS IN PROGRESS

One hundred black/white/red fans are now done. Good time to lay some out and squint to get a sense of what this quilt's going to look like. Taking a photo is good, too. This is the pattern I'm leaning toward. Gorgeous, huh?
Better Homes & Gardens' Creative American Quilting has this pattern it calls "baby bunting." Hmmm. I think I should try the black/white/red blocks out like this for the fun of it.


And the green/tan quilt continues to grow as I have sewn more blocks. I just love laying them out and having my friend's kittens race through them, scattering them everywhere before I can take the photo!! But my point of taking this photo is to see how I feel about the assortment of greens. Sorta like a tossed salad.

Friday, September 10

DRAW TWICE. CUT ONCE.

The green tan quilt blocks are puzzling me. How did I go wrong??

I put MY boxing clever quilt on my bed and counted the blocks (14 long and 13 wide) and then I measured them. They are 5.5” finished. Which means they were 6” when I sewed them. Two years ago. I made this quilt in the summer of 2008.

And yet, same plan, I sew 2.5” strips into blocks and I come up short. I am mystified. But as long as my blocks are consistent, they will work. But I have to rework the numbers in order to come up with a queen-sized quilt for my niece.

OMG! I just took out the blocks I’ve already made and remeasured them. They are 6.25” Wha??? I’ve lost my mind! Oy!

So these 6.25” unfinished blocks will measure 5.75” finished. And I was thinking 4.75” Yikes! That makes a huge difference.

What this all points up though, is the value of working out one’s quilts ON FREAKING PAPER before cutting, before sewing, before even buying fabric (unless you always buy more than you need.)

I use graph paper and find it enormously helpful although it won’t make you actually measure the block accurately. That requires other equipment and sharp eyesight. I think back to my early days of quilting when my sister was still living up here and we were fabriholics together and helped each other. My sister created an original quilt with a horse theme for her horse-crazy daughter. She cut squares and rectangles willy nilly and then had to work them into a cohesive quilt top—which was NUTS. And the drop was a border of rectangles containing horse figures which she hadn’t calculated at all.

I recall measuring the rectangles and figuring out how she could make them work by cheating the sashing between them. The eye can be deceived, remember! And I got her borders to work that way. Although I was stunned to learn that she hadn’t worked it all out on paper beforehand.

And on this subject, I have to say that one of the quilting books I have most used and still use is TAKING THE MATH OUT OF MAKING PATCHWORK QUILTS by Bonnie Leman and Judy Martin. For which I paid $4.95 at a store on Third Avenue which went out of business ages ago. I see amazon.com is selling it new for $60!! But they have used copies much cheaper. I also know that there are quilt calculators on the web. That’s great but I still love this paperbook. It’s incredibly useful.

I have refigured my green/tan dimensions. I need to make 272 blocks for a quilt that’s 16 blocks wide and 17 long. That’s 4 strips that are 4 blocks wide and 17 long (68 blocks.)

Thursday, September 9

NEW FABRICS!!!


A first batch of new fabric arrived yesterday! These are from Hancock's of Paducah and were ordered with the gift certificate I won. Five other fabrics are backordered and arriving eventually.

Above is a blue/white print to go into my blue/white and yellow quilt I've begun to collect fabric for. To the right you will see the start of my green/purple quilt.


Greens for the greens/pinks quilt I've been planning and the bottom one is a Kaffe Fassett I just loved - on sale - meant for this bright quilt. And the background will inspire the framing fabric, a blue-ish gray that will contain the brights and cool them down.

On top I have added the three black & white prints I'm adding to my black/white/red fan applique quilt. Aren't they cute? Spiders, ads and dogs!!

I'm kinda glad some of the fabrics were back-ordered because I still have them to look forward to!

Wednesday, September 8

MAD MEN "The Suitcase" episode 7

Peggy’s 26th birthday was the one from hell. She should be on top of the world what with a career and her boyfriend. But it doesn’t work out that way. Don makes her stay to work on a Samsonite ad, keeping her from her romantic dinner with that little twerp Mark who takes her apology phone call at a table at the Forum of the Twelve Caesars. Later phone calls reveal that this little tryst also includes her mother, sister, brother-in-law and roommate. Roommate? Don’t we know her only from a disparaging remark by Peggy? This little surprise would have been a nasty one. Especially when she was anticipating candlelight.

Peggy winds up spending the entire night with Don—at a Greek diner, at a bar and back in the office where a very drunk Duck surfaces. Wow! I asked what happened to him and their relationship way back at the beginning of this season and now we know. We briefly saw Duck, again drunk, at the Clios. And then in this ep when Peggy opens his gift: a box of business cards for the “Phillips-Olson Ad Agency.” Wha? Not the “Olson Phillips”?? He pleads with her but she rebuffs him with a reference to his drinking.

And now in the middle of the night he appears and is intent on befouling shall we say Don’s office. Peggy stops him. This is Roger’s! Suddenly the two are in a drunken brawl echoing the Liston-Clay prizefight which marks this ep in time. Both short. Don says “uncle.” Literally. Men can be such asshats. Drunks almost always are.

Don is trying to stave off the inevitable moment which he knows is coming. Earlier there was an urgent message from Stephanie in California and he dreads the news he knows he will hear. He’s had a vision of Anna, suitcase in hand, walking into his office. I think he’s imagining her saying goodbye. And when it’s official and he is told she is gone, he finally lets go and sobs. Peggy is there and they bond in a way that they hadn’t ever despite or maybe because of their history.

Don tells her that “the only person who knew me” has died. Peggy tells him that that can’t be true. Peggy imagines she knows him, I guess. But she doesn't. She also tells him that everyone thinks she slept with him to get her job.

And Don asks her about the baby she gave up to adoption, does she think about it? It comes back unexpectedly, she says. He asks if she knows who the father was. “Of course.” I can’t believe Don imagines the truth, that she and Pete had a fling.

And speaking of Pete, we briefly see Trudy in maternity clothes sharing a moment in the bathroom with Peggy. Trudy is one of the most likable characters of Mad Men. Ah, but what she doesn’t know!

This was a terrific episode full of surprise and very satisfying. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

Tuesday, September 7

I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S NOT BUTTER

All morning I’ve been thinking about Macaroon’s stick of butter costume and how I’m going to make it. He’ll loathe the whole process but that’s why treats were created—as bribes. And while he’ll hate the costume and wearing it, he will adore the attention. So it’s all a trade off. Once a year I torture him. He has a fabulous life so he’ll have to dog up.

Now to the costume. Proportions are key, I think. So I purchased a pound of butter and photographed a stick both closed and open. And I measured it. A stick of butter is 1.25” square and 4.5” long. If I make the quarter inches into units, it’s 5 units square and 18 units long. I measured Macaroon (and after many treats and asking him to stand up while he kept sitting) I finally determined that 5” wide would be excellent on him and length? 16” would be ideal for his body length but out of proportion for the butter. It should be 18". However, if he were an already opened stick of butter, I could make the costume 16” and use the organza well to create the illusion of length. Besides, I’ve planned all along to make a pat of butter hat, so of course the stick has been opened and sliced.


I am thinking that proportionately these dimensions should work. And I will help the illusion along by the placement of the printing on the sides. One side has the overlap of the wax paper and no lettering. Two sides say “butter” and 4 oz. and the USDA seal, while the last one has the hash marks indicating measurements. My plan is to hand paint whatever I decide to include on the organza.

But how to organize the sides and coordinate them with the organza as waxed paper? There is reality and what reads best. I will try to create reality by selecting what reads best. As you can see, authenticity calls for the lettering to be oriented in the same direction but that would mean it’s upside down on the side.

I will first make a basic muslin coat on which the butter stick will be built. I want it to be as comfortable as an annoying costume can be and so I will make it soft. Perhaps with fabric stiffener and in pieces with seams and then stuffed with polyfill. The organza will be painted and then sewn on. The pat hat is problematic. It should be 5” square but that is too big for his little head. It would be better 3.5” square. The question will be: does that smaller pat look odd or will it just be accepted? Also since I intend to attach elastic to it for holding it on him, I want the pat not to droop but remain firm as a good pat of butter should.

Lynne has succumbed and agreed to make Gidget into this. I think this will be a fantastic costume! With our skills and Macaroon’s schmoozing, we have a winning team!

THE MATTER OF LETTUCE ON THE TACO

When I made the taco costume I was not entirely satisfied with its look despite my photographing Macaroon in it and his sombrero. The problem was the lettuce. It was limp!

I had cut long jagged strips of two shades of green fabric, the same fabric in different shades. I ran thread through the length of them and gathered them slightly then hot glued them to the taco base. But -- limp! So I cut them out of the costume.

The solution was starch!! Online I found a recipe for homemade starch and starched some new shards of greens. You can see them in the photo of Macaroon on the bench at the event. See how there's much more lettuce in his taco?

I forgot to mention other ingredients and how I made them: the beans were dry red beans I just glued on. The onions were small squares of a shiny cheap fabric I found in Spanish Harlem. The tomatoes were painstakingly created-- tiny bits of solid red cotton wrapped around pills of poly stuffing and then sewn and glued on. The cheese was yellow rickrack.

Monday, September 6

HALLOWEEN IS COMING!


Halloween is not that many weeks away. Time to come up with a costume for my dog Macaroon.

Let’s review. His first holiday with me I created a caterpillar get up and paired it with a butterfly costume for his friend, the late great Dudley. We competed in the Carl Schurz Park annual contest as a duo. Macaroon gave a huge shake just as we approached the judges’ table and one of his antennae flew off into the helpful crowd. “A wardrobe malfunction!” I laughed. Of course we did not win. One friend is convinced this contest is rigged.

But that year a very talented photographer smartly set up at various dog costume events and wound up with models for her fabulous book Indognito. Ironically, Dudley the butterfly made it into the book. Macaroon did not. The caption for Dudley was the icing on the cake: “The caterpillar does all the work. The butterfly gets all the publicity.” So true. And triply ironic since I am a volunteer butterfly docent at the American Museum of Natural History. Tee hee.


The next Halloween Macaroon went solo as a Frenchman. I added the baquette with fabric from my stash, appliquéing a second, solid, fabric on top of the print which was a nice realistic touch I thought. Again we lost.









Last year I joined forces with my friend Lynne, an FIT grad and amazing costume creator. She has a Brussels Griffon named Gidget who is a pip and her muse. Gidget and Lynne’s costumes are prominently featured in Indognito and I always bow to Lynne’s greater skills. She suggested that Macaroon would make a good taco. And so I found the materials and whipped up a taco suit for him. Lynne lent me the tiny sombrero which totally made the outfit.

Unfortunately the Carl Schurz Park show wound up conflicting with the larger show in Tompkins Square Park down in the East Village and so we headed south, opting for the better show.

To my disbelief and delight, the taco won our group. Lynne’s fantastic mermaid costume for Gidget came in sixth! Although ironically we both won the same prize: dog beds that were half the size of my apartment. We both got the offering petshop to swap them out for beautiful leashes and we were very happy.

I know that Lynne’s mermaid was more worthy than my taco, proven by the results of the Huffington Post poll of dog costumes. The mermaid won and the taco didn’t even break the top ten! What accounts for this disparity? Macaroon’s schmoozing skills. He started down the line of five female judges, standing on his hind legs and pledging love to each with his eyes. Gidget, in contrast, has far too much dignity to work any onlookers. It’s a matter of style over substance.

So this year I suggested to Lynne that we try to come up with coordinating costumes so we can compete as a duo, or maybe even a group with our friend Terri and her Griff, Roxy. For the past couple of weeks we’ve been tossing around ideas and having the fun of debating them.

The winner for Macaroon regardless of what Lynne decides: (drum roll, please) He will be a stick of butter!! I have already ordered a yard of Kona cotton from Paducah. Online anyway the solid named “butter” looked too light yellow to read as butter. I come from a Madison Avenue background and authenticity is not always everything. How it reads is key. Especially because the butter stick has to be covered with white organza. (Hmmm. A trip to the garment district is in order here.) And that will make it seem lighter still. So I opted for a shade called “buttercup” which I hope will work.

I have no idea how I am going to fashion this thing to make it look square. Just that it’s a good idea. And I hope that Lynne does opt for making Gidget into popcorn—one of those red & white striped boxes. Won’t that be cute? Gidget with a kernel on her head and Macaroon with a “pat hat”?


Sunday, September 5

SLIVERS OF FABRIC...

I finished sewing 72 blocks. (That’s one strip plus 16 blocks.) But I’ve determined that I ought to sew all 224 before I create the four strips. Of course the sewed blocks needed trimming, a step I didn’t take when I first began quilting, I’m embarrassed now to say.

Here's the pile of fabric slivers.

My finished blocks should be 6.5” square but thanks to my less-than-perfect seam allowances, I am guessing, the blocks are all a tiny bit shy. Their being uniform is more important than their being exactly 6.5” so I trimmed them to 6.25” Okay, so they’re a quarter inch off. That means 3.5” of length missing and 4 inches shy in the width. I’ll have to ponder that.

Friday, September 3

THE GREENS ARE GROWING ON ME!

The greens are growing on me! Think of the natural world: different shades of green abound and they don’t clash. So I’ve decided to proceed and not worry. Meanwhile, more fabrics have arrived and I love them! Especially the Robert Kaufman Chirp! ones on the right. So whimsical and fun!.

At heart I am a scrap quilter and my philosophy is: More is better! I love a huge array of fabrics and wonderful surprises to greet the eye. What's more fun than looking at a scrap quilt and noticing some unexpected fabric?

But I also appreciate the order and harmony of a designed quilt. So what I like to do is combine them with a wide selection of fabrics (more! more! more!) within a harmonious color palette. And that's what I seek to achieve with my niece's green/tan quilt.

Yesterday I sewed the first 20 Boxing Clever blocks. Only 204 to go! I also worked out the math. The 224 blocks will be assembled in 4 strips that are 4 blocks wide (16 blocks across) and 14 blocks long. Each strip will contain 56 blocks (times 4 = 224 total.) I laid the first blocks out randomly so that I could take photo and see what it looks like. What do you think?


If I whip up 36 more today, I'll have the first of the four strips done. And by the way, I plan to get myself some white flannel which makes a wonderful batting. Has anyone else tried it? It's thin but warm, affordable and comes in yardage, suitable for strip quilting.

And speaking of more, I’m very excited to report, there are more fabrics on their way! The other day I got an email from Hancock’s of Paducah informing me that I was one of the lucky eleven randomly chosen from the thousands on Facebook who “liked” them. This is a promotion I entered and then deliberately forgot about. So what a delightful surprise!

I had so much fun selecting purple and lime fabrics for a quilt to be made one day—more collecting in the meantime.