Monday, November 30, 2015

Jolie laide

Another finish! And though I use an exclamation point at the end of that short sentence, as if I feel triumphant, I am in fact ambivalent about this quilt. This is one of those "almost" quilts - it's almost what I wanted it to be, it's almost good, I almost like it. Which makes me feel a little sad for it. Maybe it will grow on me. There are definitely aspects of it that I feel good about, and certainly I learned new things working on it, so there is that. But still. I guess it's particularly apt, the name I've been calling it as I work on it—Jolie laide. Such a great phrase. Beautiful ugly. I guess it is properly only feminine, but I can certainly think of any number of men who could be described the same way: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Abraham Lincoln, that actor on Girls with the wonderful torso and enormous ears, what's his name? Adam Driver.

The bits I am digging are: the long vertical strips of that old Amy Butler print, the way the big flowers are fractured in places with other pieces of fabric. The yellow and pink combination. The fact that I was able to use all those half-square triangles originally created for a different quilt. The kinda vintage-y feel it has, overall.

The bits that bug me: somehow, the dimensions are wrong, it should be a rectangular quilt instead of a square one. It should also be bigger, with maybe another sort of block introduced to mess it all up a bit more. I quite consciously put on that red binding, thinking I'd like that bit of clash, but now it reads more McDonaldland palette to me. I wonder if I wash it, if I'll like it better? More wrinkly? I might try it.

Anyway, in other news, I have loaded some yardage and scrap bags in my Etsy shop, if anyone is interested in taking a look. I have a lot of fabric to re-home before we leave in January, so if you're in the market, please check it out. I feel a little weird doing this bit of promotion, but it's GOT TO GO.

Friday, November 20, 2015


I've named this quilt Gertrude. After a painting by Ferdinand Hodler (Swiss!).
Gertrude the quilt.
Gertrud Müller the painting.
I've Americanized the spelling of Gertrud for my own purposes. Is titling or naming quilts hopelessly pretentious? I am inclined to think so, but after enough quilts you've got to have some way to differentiate them, yeah? But also, apt! Look at that dress she's got on, those marvelous pinks! And bits of orange and purple! I kinda think it's a perfect name/reference for that quilt. Anyway.

I started this quilt, when did I start this quilt? It was back in September (?) of 2014. I originally started it with the idea of doing a tutorial (of sorts). As suggested by Melody A. I thought I'd sort of remake this quilt*, taking snapshots along the way and then write it up in a how-to sort of thing. But that was about the time that my camera seemed to stop focusing properly. So I took pics with my phone, but they looked like crap so I could never get myself to really execute the whole thing. But I did finish the quilt eventually, so there's that.

In truth, there isn't that much to convey in terms of how-to. It's sort of a matter of: 1) Gather a bunch of similarly colored fabric scraps together. 2) Sew like-sized pieces together, trimming as you go, until you get a bunch of blocks. 3) Sew all those blocks together and voila! A quilt. Okay, here are some crappy in progress photos for anyone interested:


I love the fabric for the back for this quilt. Kaffe Fasset, bought on super sale from Hancock's of Paducah. Is there anything sweeter than the finding the perfect fabric at 40% off? NO. 

*That quilt has been eyeballed 9,392 times according to flickr, "favorited" 104 times. It enjoys a healthy pin-life on Pinterest, too. I have no idea why. I've come to think of it as the hot blonde cheerleader of my quilts.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What's Next

These 2 photos depict pretty much everything I knew about Switzerland at the start of the summer. Also banks. And chocolate.
There is nothing like the prospect of moving to make you reevaluate your relationship to things. I think, on the whole, we own less stuff than the average American couple. We have a small apartment by most American standards, though a fairly roomy one by NYC standards. We shed a lot of stuff when we relocated to Brooklyn from Chicago six years ago. But we were still obliged to leave a few sizeable piles of stuff on the curb outside our old Chicago apartment the morning we packed the moving truck. It just would not all fit.

We now have another move on the horizon. An even bigger move than our last one to New York. We are relocating to Zurich, Switzerland by the end of this year. I know! Who'd have thought it? But an interesting job prospect was presented to my husband and now this is what's next. So: Exciting! But also: Terrifying! Terrifying insofar as we've decided to chuck almost everything we own. This will be my primary occupation over the next 2 months. Sorting, selling, donating, or tossing almost all of our worldly goods.

Getting rid of stuff is not a major personal strength. Growing up with my mother, a benign hoarder, influenced the subsequent habits of my sister, brother, and me in different ways. My sister is happiest in a supremely pared down space. She readily throws things away. The very few objects she has of sentimental value she has had for years and I can count on one hand. My brother, a much more ready consumer of stuff than either my sister or me, has zero tolerance for shabbiness or wear. He and his family, though they've moved multiple times over the past decade, have only ever lived in brand new houses. The thought of moving into a space that has been lived in by someone else previously makes him shudder. He, too, has the ability to discard stuff with remarkable ease.

Me? Not so much. Paper is my biggest weakness. Books, magazines, letters, photos, drawings, and so on are incredibly difficult for me to get rid of. I still have the essays I wrote in grad school in 1992. It wasn't until a couple years ago that I finally recycled my undergrad drawings (and only after first photographing them digitally). I've kept every letter I've received since 1983. I have accumulated a not inconsiderable archive. And it's gotta go. But first I have to look at it all again. I really don't have time to look at every scrap of paper I've filed away and carted around for twenty years, but I can't NOT. I keep sorting books into piles and shuffling them around our apartment. THEY HAVE TO GO BUT IT IS KILLING ME A LITTLE. I am feeling smothered at this point and exhausted by making decisions. I hate stuff! I've actually had an itch for the past year to strip away as much stuff as possible, so why is this so hard? Partly, I know, it's because I feel the need to dispose of it all in as responsible way as possible. To redistribute it consciously, being aware that there is no "away" in throwing something away. There was a great Roz Chast cartoon I ran across lately that was perfect to me. Here's a screenshot:
I suppose the immediate anxiety of disposing of all our stuff is good insofar as it keeps me from ruminating on the fears I have about this move. For instance: I do not speak anything but English. Zurich is going to be very small in comparison to NYC and I don't know anyone in the entire country. How will I make friends? And so on. I am doing my best to repress this for the moment, and trying to concentrate on the adventure part, instead. I'll turn 50 on a whole different continent! Change is good!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The $500 dollar pillow. Or: money, money money.

Well, more accurately, the $525 dollar pillow. It is rather large, 35" in length. Though the back is a plain fabric. I'll admit, my eyes bugged a bit at the price (and sold out, too!), which is telling given where I live (land of over-priced everything). Not that I begrudge the artist a penny. Which will be 50% of that number, most likely. And I understand that people will charge whatever the market will bear, etc. etc. But. Still. Holy Cow.

Friday, May 29, 2015

pattern follow-up

Okay, so those InDesign docs to .png files look a little cruddy. So here are the .pngs of just the patterns.

So, I took a couple skillshare classes

in pattern design. By which I mean I actually did the assignment (more or less) and posted it for comments/review. I have mixed feelings about these online courses. On the one hand, they are an awesome way to develop new skills on your own time and at your own pace. On the other, they seem to promote a sort of cloning of the teacher's design aesthetic. I like Elizabeth Olwen's work, I think much of the stuff she does is lovely. Her style seems a little narrow at first glance, but I continue to be surprised by how much variety she can generate out of a very specific visual vocabulary.

I think it is hard to resist copying it as a student. There isn't much encouragement to take the information she provides and expand it into your own aesthetic. But maybe that expectation is beyond the scope of the class, or unrealistic for new designers. I don't know. I know I found myself drawing more flower designs than I ever intended. But I am also aware that flowers are so fundamental a part of fabric design they are almost a neutral (so to speak).

So, I'm going to post a project here that I did for a class taught by Bonnie Christine. I'd be interested in anyone's (gentle, considered) critical feedback. I am of two minds, myself. On the one hand, I like them. They are, I think, (more or less) good solutions to the class assignment. On the other, I have a hard time thinking of them in terms of fabric. I think they are nice patterns. I am not sure I would buy them if presented to myself as fabric. But I am also too far inside at this point to have an objective view, perhaps. So. Here goes. Anybody? (Click to see larger).

Saturday, May 23, 2015

repair and mend

So I finally got around to taking my camera into the repair shop for a look-see. Very nice camera dude aimed it at some big poster on the wall to check the focus, messed around with the settings, and handed it back to me.

Him: "There's nothing wrong with it."
Me: "Really? Are you sure? Cause the focus seemed really off to me."
Him: "You had some weird settings. I reset them."
Me: "Uh, okay, great. Does it seem really dirty to you? Does it need to be cleaned?"
Him: "No. It seems fine."

Hmm. I thought to myself leaving the shop. I'll take some pictures and see for myself. So I did.

And, as it turns out, it's now working just fine! Thanks, camera dude! For making it better, and for not ripping me off when you totally could have. You are an upstanding New Yorker.
Magical focus poster thing at camera repair joint.
All better! So happy.

Monday, April 20, 2015

springtime flu

Is there much worse than being stuck in bed with the flu on the first nice weekend in what seems like forever? (Well, yes, there are many worse things, but this is my worst thing for right now).

So I missed out on all the joy that is to be found in a NYC beautiful spring weekend (the cherry trees are in bloom!) but at least I made it up to the Bronx on Friday to see an exhibit of Gee's Bend quilts before I was so cruelly laid low.

It's been some time since I've seen a GB quilt in the flesh (so to speak). This was a small show—only 14 quilts, but had some real beauties in it. I was struck, yet again, by how some of the most beautiful quilts can be constructed of the most dubious materials. One of my favorites was this one with the pink center. It's made of what have to be mostly polyester corduroys. But that mix of color is somehow just right.
I took these with my iphone. Not too terrible, considering the crazy mixed light sources, but still. Need to fix (hopefully) or replace (sigh, hopefully not) my digital camera soon. As soon as I can get out of bed.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


I heart moths.

I think of butterflies as the sunny blonde cheerleaders of the bug world, and moths as their sort of punk-goth younger sisters. You know, given to hanging out in dark corners wearing too much eyeliner. Kinda awkward. Whacking themselves senseless against bright light bulbs? Just moth mosh pits.

There is a scene in the movie Angels and Insects (good book, bad movie) where the main dude, a naturalist with a special interest in bugs, tries to woo his insipid love interest by surrounding her in a cloud of beautiful butterflies. Naturally, she is charmed. Not content with this success, however, he brings her back to the greenhouse again that evening to duplicate the earlier event, but this time with moths. Girlfriend is horrified and freaks out. Has a total meltdown. And you know right away that that romance will never work.

They are so creepy and beautiful, I think. And their colors and patterns more interesting than that of butterflies—they're less eager to please. They are also destructive as hell, of course.

The summer I spent at Skowhegan, there was an artist whose studio porch light was particularly attractive to moths. They would go crashing into it, then thud to the ground, stunned. He kept a hotplate full of melted beeswax by his studio door, and, upon hearing a telltale thud, would put down his paint brush, nip outside and grab the still stunned moth gently by the wings. He'd then quickly dip the moth's body into the hot wax, killing it and preserving it all in one gesture. By the end of the summer, he had a shelf of these moth "trophies"—all lined up, one after the other. They were beautiful. But it was a terrible thing to do.

Thank heavens for Pinterest. So much more humane.