Friday, August 28, 2009

Where Has All the Summer Gone?

Happy New Year! Being the child of teachers, I have always thought more in terms of academic years than calendar ones. The start of the new (school) year means the end of summer, which makes me more than a bit wistful. While I fully accomplished one of my summer goals, getting my yellow belt in Myo Sim karate, I have somewhat failed on the others.

I do have four or five boxes packed with things--mostly clothes--to donate, and older son has done some significant work on the junk room over the garage, but my goal to declutter and downsize a bit remains largely unmet. I tell myself that it may be easier to accomplish this, especially in terms of the garage, when the weather cools off, but that may be just another excuse.

I did do some smashing and shaping of some of the rogue spoons and forks I have laying around, and I actually planned a bit on making a bird out of various and sundry items. I also sorted the masses of paper brought back from the Grand Adventure and purchased boxes on which to create collages of that paper. I tell myself that I shall set aside the upcoming Labor Day as the time in which to complete one or more of these enterprises. If I can manage that, that will take care of that summer goal. If I collage a box, I can even count that toward The Fifty, and consider the remaining summer goal to be at least partially met.

All that considered, I guess it hasn't been that bad a summer, except that it has been. I spent much of June and July in something resembling a state of suspended animation, unmotivated. I would start a single game of Spider Solitaire or regular Solitaire to pass the time while something printed and, hours later, still be playing. It did not help that I had little work-for-pay to occupy the time and that the hard disc on Mr. Mac crashed, meaning that the book proposal I should have been working on was unreachable. I know some of the reasons I felt the crappy way I did, and while those reasons still exist and probably will for a while, I'm doing my best to beat the crappy feelings. I haven't played a computer game since July 26, and I've managed to fill in the time with productive endeavors rather than reading blogs or otherwise killing time on the Interwebs. But what might I have accomplished had June and July not been wasted?

Enough idle speculation. Work continues on the cabin quilt I have been documenting. I shall soon finish the 64 6-inch squares I need to put two "borders" around the image as last shown here. I hope any readers aren't offended that I haven't shown you the process of making those squares. It's exactly the same as the process for making the 4-inch squares that I already described, so you aren't missing anything by not seeing it. I'll post another photo when I've added the 6-inch squares. After that, there will be two more borders. One will be a 3-inch strip of black all around. Outside that, I plan to put another 3-inch border made of random strips of the same batiks and hand-dyes that I've used in the squares.

And now I return to the previously scheduled morning, working on the book proposal and awaiting the arrival of FedEx with Snow Leopard for Mr. Mac. Eighty-five days and counting until the 2009 Myo Sim Black Belt Test, but that's fodder for another post.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Happy Feet

I just mentioned driving 55 miles (one way) today to shop for shoes. Lest you think me related to Imelda Marcos, I should explain. On Saturday, the husband drove to Lancaster, PA, to retrieve younger son from his summer job. On the way back, they stopped in Harrisonburg, VA so that younger son could look at a kind of shoe he had heard about. He came home wearing a pair and raved about their comfort level. Older son, who claims to have been the one who told younger son about the shoe, wanted to get his own pair, so off we went to Harrisonburg today. Turns out that they didn't have the right color and size combination that older son wanted, so he has to wait a week for them to be ordered and shipped to him. They did, however, have a pair in a not too outlandish color that fit me, and after trying them on, I couldn't resist. Wondering what this is all about? Well, here, take a look. Those are my feet, very happy in a pair of Vibram FiveFingers(R). I admit to being skeptical, thinking it would be uncomfortable to have something between my toes. (Someone reminded me tonight that they actually sell things to separate your toes to help them relax; this is probably very similar.) It took a few minutes to get used to it, but after that I have to say that my feet have rarely been happier. I wore these all afternoon and occasionally actually forgot I had shoes on. I usually remove my shoes when I sew, the better to use the pedal, but I didn't today.

I showed these to a friend, and together we decided that these are the Honda Element of shoes: pretty darn ugly when you first look at them, but extremely comfortable and fun to drive or walk in. Will I be able to wear them to work or when professional attire is required? No, I'll likely have to stick to my Earth shoes then, but for daily wear, I'll be sticking to these for a while. A couple of folks have asked me how long these might last. I told them I'd let them know. I'll let any readers here know, too. In the meantime, I have very, very happy feet, which is making me very, very happy. :-)

The Creative Process, VIII

I had a bit of time free today in between a shoe shopping trip to Harrisonburg, 55 or so miles away, and kendo, so I ran downstairs and stitched up the row of squares for the bottom of the cabin unit. Here's what it looks like now, graciously held by elder son. The next step is to make enough 6.5 inch squares to go all around this unit, then repeat that step one more time. It was easier to include some of the detail on the cabin by making it large; at the same time, though, I don't want the cabin to be the only thing in the quilt, so I have to make the finished quilt a bit bigger than I might otherwise have done. Will it be done in time to mail it across the pond for Christmas? I hope so!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Creative Process, VII

I actually did what I'm about to describe over a week ago, on July 30. I put the photos on my netbook and had good intentions of getting something posted while I was in Washington, DC for the Joint Statistical Meetings August 1-5, but between not being able to access blogspot from the hotel and being on the go every day between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. or so, well, it never got done. Better late (now) than never.

After several seconds of deep thought, I abandoned all notions of measuring my cabin rectangle and then making blocks all the same size so that they would fit evenly. This is liberated quiltmaking, right? I figured that 4.5-inch blocks (which become 4-inch blocks in the finished quilt thanks to what's taken up in the seams) would come close enough. I'd just make one of the end ones a bit wider or narrower as need be, and it would work.

How to make those blocks? If you're not a quilter, pay attention, because I'm only gonna explain this once. This is liberated quiltmaking, so the first thing I did was go through my drawer of batik and hand-dyed fabric and tore strips off each and every kind of fabric contained therein. I tore one strip off some, two off others, basically going by how long the strips were. This is the pile of strips I ended up with, along with the CD case of the morning's soundtrack. It might be enough for the whole quilt; it might not be. I can always tear off more.

The next step was to take two pieces of farbric and sew them together. This would give me the center of a liberated log cabin block. Here are the four I started with. I cut these in half to get two centers from each piece. I took a center, then pulled a random strip out of my pile. My only requirement here is that if I pull out a strip that's already in the block I'm working on, I put it back. Otherwise, that's the one I use. Forced randomosity. To make sewing things together easier, I cut the strip to be the same length as the piece to which I'll be sewing it. Sew the two pieces together and press the seam, and I get something looking like this. I don't have a photo of it, but the next step is to trim the side to which I'll sew the next piece of fabric. You can see that here, with the next fabric. Sew the new piece on, press, (photo above) and trim the proper side (photo below). Then I'm ready to repeat the process and add the next piece. Cool, eh? Just keep adding pieces to the sides until the block is a suitable size.

Of course, even when it gets to be an appropriate size (photo above), it might look better if you add more and re-center how you cut the final block.

Look at the photo above. Before, I didn't have any leeway over where I cut my final block. Now I do; I can move the 4.5-inch template around and cut the block however I want to. Now is probably a good time to mention that I don't make one block at a time. You saw above that I started with eight centers. I chain piece, which means that I add a piece to the side of the first center, then the second, then the third, and so on. I end up with short bits of thread between the connected blocks. I snip these to separate the blocks, then press, trim, and do it all again. I took the photos above to show how I put together one specific block. If I did each block by itself, it would take a long time to make the eight blocks around the bits with which I started. Eight blocks which, when sewn together and laid out, look like this. The carpet might make it hard to see, but the strip of eight blocks needs another in order to come close to matching the cabin unit. After I make that block and sew it onto the end of the strip but before I attach the strip to the cabin unit, it's clear that I'll have to do some trimming. I'm not going to do the trimming, though, until the strip is sewn on. You get a much nicer, neater trim once it's sewn and pressed. Here's what the finished piece looks like. To take this photo, I taped the unit to the back of my sewing room/office door. I don't have a huge area in which to work, which is one of the main reasons I don't do more of this.

The next step, which might not be taken until next weekend, is to do another strip to put below the cabin unit. Then, I'll make slightly larger blocks--six inches or so--to go around the unit with the cabin and top/bottom strips. My plan, which is subject to change at a moment's notice, is to put two sets of blocks around the unit, then a single border strip of fabric, probably black, and then an outer border of random stripes. If I end up doing as I just described, the finished quilt will be about 72 inches square, which I think will be a good size to leave out on a couch for decoration at the same time it's a good size to stretch out under while reading, relaxing, or whatever. I'll take some photos each work session, but since all the other liberated log cabin blocks will be done just as the one I showed here, I'll dispense with the gory detail.

I also took the first step on a new project today by cutting up some fabric I dyed. Sounds sort of normal, right? Not! The fabric was ten terrycloth hand towels, each dyed to a differect color. Terrycloth may turn out to be a real bear to work with, but I have my reasons for wanting to do so. I don't expect to start sewing on that one until I'm done with this one, but having done the dyeing, I figured I should at least get the cutting done.