Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Paths, shmaths

I am taking an online crazy-quilt course. I was quite excited about it but seem to have lost steam. After being unhappy with the freehand blocks I made, I made a templated one which I have chosen to embellish.
From a design perspective, I am supposed to be able to see a path/paths in the block and embellish accordingly. It's a little like that book "magic eye" where you look at a page and it's supposed to have a hidden picture in it. I could never find them either.
I think it boils down to those who see the whole picture in advance and those who plod on until it comes together. I am, apparently, one of the latter.
So because I don't see the path/paths, I'm not sure where to and how much to embroider.
When I start doubting me, that's not a good thing. And perhaps that's why I'm not enjoying the class as much as I thought I would. But, forever the optimist, it could just be a temporary doubting.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Productive/non-productive time

Yesterday, I did absolutely nothing. Well, not really. I cleaned two vacuum cleaners and did a load of laundry. I did absolutely nothing creatively. I did not even go into my studio. The muse just wasn't there. And since there are no homework deadlines, I'm not bothered.

Today, I started on the embroidery. On the pink and white square. (Because I don't want to run out to buy supplies and I have stuff which will go with the pink and white.) I did a row of beaded wavy chain stitch and will branch out from there. And I want to do a seam with two rows of feather stitch intertwined, if I can figure it out.

I'm not quite sure where this is going, so perhaps I will wait for the rest of the lessons so I have a clearer picture of how to put it all together.

Someone (Ro) said something about what good is his education -- he hasn't learned anything useful. I think it's more about what you learn about yourself than the content of the lessons.

And on that philosophical note, back to the studio.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Yesterday, I was so excited about the course blocks that I forgot to mention the stuff (professional term) for things my sister gave me. She gave me a belt which had semi-precious stones in greens, blacks, browns and burnt orange hues. The stone were attached to the belt with wires passing through them so I can use them like beads. She also gave me silver, and neon pink and green sequins from ballet costumes she's worn, as well as some red and white synthetic lace-type ribbons and emerald green stoned buttons. And an assortment of pearls from broken bracelets, lost earring pairs, chainless pendants, tie pins, etc. The photo doesn't quite catch the colours and brightness but you get the idea.

And after viewing lesson 2 of the cq class, I mentioned to her that I will "need" threads of varying thicknesses. She's going to check her stash and give me the bits and pieces she can't use. Since she was/is a prolific knitter and needlepointer, I can't wait to see what goodies she brings.

I am embracing the suggestion Sharon B. made of making stitch samplers using varying thicknesses of threads. If I frame the samplers and hang them on the wall in my studio, they will serve both as art and as visual aids.

But after another sleepless night, I'm too tired to stitch anything this evening and will defer active creativity until the weekend.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Course blocks

Last night I decided to revisit my abandonned brown square. I finished it because it looked so forlorn half done. I found some nice black and brownish red lace which I put over another piece of the brownish red duppioni to the "west" of the five-sider. It doesn't show in the photo but it's nice. I still am not happy with the proportions, particularly the orange and brown pieces just "north" of the five-sider, but, self, I said, get over it. Each of the pieces has a texture -- duppioni silks, nubbed linens, brocade, lace, moire, cotton suede -- so the square is interesting as is. I can't wait to start work on it.

Before I finished the brown, I made this whites and pinks using a template. It is special because almost all of the fabrics are from family sources worn at family occasions. I placed the embellishments I mentioned yesterday randomly on the square so you could see what I was talking about. Now to try to post at the on-line classroom... Oh, I also signed up for on-line tatting instructions so I'm hoping I'll have something new to add to my repertoire.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Course cq block

Well, I wish I was a little less anal but I'm not. So I took a cq template and made it. Pinks and whites. I feel comfortable with it and at my age, I try to do what I feel comfortable with.

I did try to design my own square on paper but didn't quite get what I liked. I do not intend to totally abandon the idea of making my own designs or for that matter, assembling blocks freehand. I just have to do it at my own pace. Look at it and think about it until something clicks. Or not.

I am going through a pink and white phase. Mostly because those are the colours of the family fabrics in my stash. I also have embellishments which complement them.

And apropos embellishments, I went to the Corporations Branch for work again today and on the way back passed by this store. I bought three pairs of earrings -- one silver interlinked hearts, one pink sort of sequins with holes at the top of each sequin, and the third pink shells in various shapes and hues. I know that yesterday I said I was going on a stash diet. But I had a craving.

I'll try to post photos.

Monday, February 20, 2006


The baby shower was very nice. It was held in Nafisa's mother's condo. She lives in one of the new condos just north of the 401 and east of Yonge. The building is very impressive. We had a bit of a walk from where we parked to the front door and it was bitterly cold but inside it was lovely. The party room is spacious, elegant and finely appointed. The building has the regular amenities and -- get this -- a four lane bowling alley. I still can't figure out why, but hey, I don't have to pay the condo fees.

When we came home, I decided to give the course cq block another stab. I didn't even finish it because it just didn't look right. I haven't grasped yet the concept of how to estimate what size and shape the pieces should be. I can often figure things out myself but this appears to be beyond my grasp so it's very frustrating.

I didn't sleep well last night. Not because I couldn't figure it out. Menopause, I assume. I was up from about 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. So I was not the happiest camper today.

Nevertheless, I decided that I will piece the cq using a template so at least I know how it will turn out, piecewise. I left my comfort zone to try freehand piecing. Didn't enjoy it so I am now returning to my comfort zone. I am also going to do this block white on white because I have lots of white fabric, I won't feel constricted in my embellishment colour choices and I won't have to make any purchases because I am on a fabric/trim/thread diet for a while.

So on that whiny note, I'm off to watch TV and have an early night.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Not much doing

It's Sunday and I had the whole day to stitch but it's already 2 p.m. and not a stitch. At 4 p.m. we have a baby shower. So I think the day is shot as far as sewing goes. So I'm going surfing instead.

I asked Carmit to 'splain me how to link to sites from within the posts. She emailed me instructions but being written-instruction- challenged, I didn't understand them. But now I see there's a green thingy at the top of this frame which says "link" and lo and behold, it does. Yay!!

So if I find anything interesting, I'll share.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Course Block

The photo of the cq block I'm making for the encrusted cq course I'm taking just disappeared. I hope it returns when I publish this post.

I am not happy with the square. I like the colours. I don't like the shapes and proportions of the pieces. Perhaps I have to make several pieces freehand to understand the process, but I think I prefer making the naked squares using predetermined templates. I feel I have more control that way.

I will try another freehand pieced square using white on white -- the proportions should be less bothersome to my eye. I will also retry the same colour combination in a templated square and see how I feel about that.

I spent the whole day stitching and time just flew. I'll see how much I can get done tomorrow before we go to the baby shower.

Here it is.

So you can see that I used not so many different stitches because I don't know that many and wasn't sure how wide they should be over the seams. I also used quite a bit of crocheted ribbon which turned out nicely. And after a few blocks, I figured out that I could stray from the seams and do curved embellishments. I've had fun so far and that's the main thing. I am hoping that the course I am taking will broaden my repertoire. BTW, I have cut my first piece so I'm well on my way.

Oprah's Debt Diet

I got home yesterday in time to watch Oprah. She is advocating a Debt Diet so people who are snowed under can get out from their debt. I have a hard time sympathising with those "poor" people who earn $80,000 U.S. a year and can't make ends meet. But the reason I'm mentioning this here is because the woman in one of the three couples is a crafts freak and is spending a small fortune on fabrics/beads/yarns.

I can hardly compare myself to her but have recently fought the urge to buy more before I use up what I have. And that's one of the reasons I'm having trouble piecing my course block. I want to use what I have but still have it visually appealing, at least to me.

Can you guess that I'm still procrastinating...

Auf simchas first pass finished!

I put the final stitches on the first pass of Auf Simchas. I have now pinned it to the wall a) to take pictures of and post later on, and b) to see which seams need reinforcement, design-wise, where to put buttons, motifs, etc.

I am at the computer briefly because I was looking for a felt finger puppet pattern. We have a baby shower tomorrow for our next door neighbours to whom I already gave the baby fish quilt, but not wanting to go empty-handed, I thought of quickly making finger puppets. My kids used to love the eye doctor's finger puppets. I still don't know how to link in the blog itself to other sites so I'll just tell you that I found a pattern at www.geocities.com/mystorytime/chickenpuppet.htm which I hope to make a little later on today.

I also am tackling the ironing. You know, the men's shirts which have been unironed for months. I tell myself I am doing this because it's time to get the house in order, when in fact, I know that I am stalling on starting the course crazy square.

I am trying to go outside my comfort zone so far as colour choice is concerned. Also, doing the piecing free-hand instead of with a pattern template is outside my comfort zone. And I tend to work as I go along and the course instructions require me to sort of plan and design ahead. So I am stalling. I have cut out the muslin foundations piece and cut, not seriously, my finger on the rotary blade -- not while rolling it but while wiping off the fluff. Note to self -- use a brush to remove the fluff.

Ok. Off to iron. And hopefully piece the course block.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sorry, no time to chat, gotta study...

I started my cq class today.

Initially, when I downloaded lesson 1 (41 pages), I was somewhat dismayed. I'm not very good at following written instructions -- too impatient. Just show me how. But the browsing looks promising so I will start reading shortly. It looks like an interesting group -- about 50 participants from all over the world!

I still have two cq squares to finish on Auf Simchas and I want to get a little bit done this evening so I'll have more time to work on the lesson project on the weekend.

Got an email from Kate that she got my breast cancer block and funds (there's a nominal fee which goes towards the cost of assembling the quilts, etc.). Since I didn't have exact change,
she's going to give me raffle tickets for a finished quilt. So, not only do I feel good about doing good, I may get something out of it.

I am thinking about making a small cq piece to donate for a fundraiser that my nieces' and nephews' school is having. Maybe actually using the lesson project for that.

Last night at the Pomegranate Guild we made beaded bookmarks. I wasn't crazy about the colour choice of materials, but I have my own bead stash and think I will make a few.

OK. Final note. My daughter, Inbal, took part in a charity cycling event last year to benefit the Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem. This facility deals in rehabilitation for children with physical challenges. She is planning to participate in the next ride in October 2006 and I hope to be able to support her efforts (each rider is required to raise a minimum of $2,000 US to participate) by making and selling textile works. So if you want or need anything that I can make, let me know.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Only three cq squares left!

Before I tell you what I did today, let me start by telling you that Carmit turned 31 today. Although I no longer think I'm 18, it's still hard to believe that she's 31. And she's the middle child...

I got a lot done today. Finished a few more squares, repaired a few and now have only three left!! Hopefully with a little stitching each morning and a little each evening I'll be finished by the end of the week. Or at least finished the first pass. Afterwards, I have buttons, silk ribbon embroidery and perhaps motifs to add. I say perhaps motifs because I'm not overly enamoured with the ready-made lace type motifs I have, I'm not overly impressed with the quality of the crochet motifs I've been attempting to make and I kind of like the way the exposed fabric looks. And I don't have to "fill the whole page" if I decide not to. (When we lived on kibbutz, I was an ECE assistant to the main metapelet [ECE teacher]. She used to give the kids paper to draw on or glue stuff onto. One girl took a gum wrapper and stuck it on the paper and said she was finished. The metapelet said "fill the whole page". Since then, "fill the whole page" has become a catch phrase Menachem and I use for overdoing things.)

Menachem finished another wall of the bathtub tiling. The room already looks better. Hopefully tomorrow he'll make headway on the final wall -- the one with the taps and shower thing, the one where cutouts have to be made in the tiles and it takes longer. Also, the bottom rows of tiles he has to do kneeling and with his bad knees it's difficult. So he isn't pushing it and contrary to what he says, I'm not pushing him either. At least not in that regard... Once the tiling is done, we'll have to rethink the medicine chest. Actually, I've already rethought it. It's old, the silver of the mirror edges is flaking and the chrome hinges are rusting. We have new mirror tiles, Carmit's detritis... I think, with a nicer light fixture, it will give the bathroom a new lease on life. I know he's not enamoured of the idea of putting up drywall and plastering over it, but if we're already fixing, we might as well go all the way, no?

After today's tiling, we were going to visit my mother who we haven't seen for a few weeks because she was in Florida and only got back Wednesday. We were going to go yesterday but Bat & Sandy were there so we figured we'd go today, spread out the visits. I called her but there was no answer from noon on. I called Yunkie to check if he knew where she was and he said something about her going to a concert.

So when Alissa invited us over for coffee and a shmooze, and she still wasn't answering, we went. Menachem tried to help Matty with a computer problem, unfortunately unsuccessfully. And then Alissa, Mel and we had our shmooze. I called my mom from there too and still no answer. I wasn't worried because my mother has a busy social life.

When we got home, there was a phone call. Turns out my mom took Ethel to a mandolin concert and then had a visit at Ethel's with Shloimeh and Zena. She got home five minutes before we did. So we'll try to get together during the week one day after work. Maybe Wednesday because I have a Pomegranate Guild meeting near her house anyways.

And that's about all for today.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Cutting Down on TV Time

One of the positive effects of my stitching is that there is no TV in my studio. (We have two pairs of eyes, but 5 TV sets...) I have put a radio in my studio/sanctuary where I stitch to a background of classical music. I used to listen mainly to 96.3FM which plays classical but includes the theme song from Star Wars in its repertoire.

Last week I switched to the CBC (Canadian Broadcast Company) for the Mozart extravaganzas. I was not disappointed. But I also discovered and rediscovered a few other programs on the CBC. Stuart McLean's "Vinyl Cafe" is wonderful. I had read one of his books, compliments of Carmit, our family bookworm. To hear him read his stories and intersperse it with live music is great. Then there was a program today about a musician/songwriter who received (posthumously) a grammy award for his blues music. Can't remember the person's name and can't find it online right now but he had a profound influence on many musician/songwriters after him. There was an hour (I think, because time flies when I'm busy stitching) of his original recordings and recordings of his music that others have done over the years. A thoroughly enlightening and enjoyable program.

And then Saturday afternoons is "Live from the Met" and today was "La Traviatta", one of my most favourite operas. I stitched and cried, partly because the opera is so emotional and partly because it reminded me of my Aunt Elsie who used to listen to Live from the Met.

And between acts, there is such interesting behind the scenes opera tidbits. It was lovely. Next week is "Aida". I am looking forward to it.

And I got quite a bit done on Auf Simchas today. May still do another seam before I go to bed this evening.

And a final postscript. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had started stair climbing at work. I haven't mentioned it since and I didn't want anyone to think that I had given it up. I haven't. Five days a week, up the twenty-odd storeys and back down again to the ground floor. I didn't say I enjoy it but I'm toughing it out and hoping for nicer weather so I can expand my repertoire of activities.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cancer Research Block Mailed Out

Last night, after agonizing attempt after attempt, embroidery, beads, straight stitching, to sign my block, I gave up. Put a little flower in the gap near the bottom and called it a day. If anyone's really curious whose block it is, they'll ask.
Today I got it out in the mail. Hopefully, it will arrive unharmed in due course.
This morning, before work, I did a little stitching on Auf Simchas which I immediately ripped because I had done it without using a hoop and the fabric scrunched up too much.
This evening, I guess I will be redoing the embroidery...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Cancer Research Block

So I finished the block. I like it and hope it fits in with the other blocks. I usually don't like anything too busy and my colour choices are definitely conservative. I tried crocheting flowers -- didn't like how they turned out. So this evening, I'm going to embroider initials and get it ready to send out. Tomorrow back to Auf Simchas.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Breast Cancer Block

Got off to a rocky start. Experienced cq'ers know how to piece. I piece the same as for machine sane quilting. I copy the design onto freezer paper, cut out the pattern pieces, iron onto the fabric, then cut out adding quarter inch seam allowances. I sew together pieces 1,2, & 3 before I remember that it's not sane and I should be using the muslim foundation. So I carefully mark the back of the muslin foundation, machine flip and sew and -- absolutely no correlation between the foundation and the top.

Do I let this discourage me? No. I simply mark another piece of muslim and pin the block, with the off kilter foundation to the new piece of muslim. So I have finished, more or less all the seams. Compared to other blocks I have seen, I am the queen of conservative. The pieces are all white and off-white (all but one from my sisters', my cousin's and my wedding dresses). The embellishment colours are greens, purples, mauves and pinks. I think it looks sort of nice but I'll defer judgment until I finish it. I'd like to try some crocheted motifs, probably flowers, but I'm not sure yet. And I have to figure out how to sign it.

So, being totally absorbed in that today, I didn't touch Auf Simchas. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm now off to read a bit.

Progress Report

The weather here is strange. It has been such a mild winter. The weather report called for a huge snowstorm. It started snowing late afternoon Saturday. But it was very wet rain. When I went to visit my neighbour Rachel for coffee, there was about an inch of slush on the sidewalk and roads. Then the snowstorm was "downgraded" to heavy rain. With temperatures hovering at the zero mark overnight, who knows if we'll find everything covered in a sheet of ice in the morning or just water?
So with weather that miserable, we nest. Stay home, read, watch TV or in my case, stitch. Auf simchas is coming along nicely. I am using the new beads and trying out new stitches and the results, for the most part are pleasing to me.

I got started on my breast cancer block last night mostly by figuring out the size instructions. I have an aversion to reading instructions -- don't know why. But these instructions were very clear. I mapped them out on paper first so I'd have a better idea about what size the block should be. This morning, I will piece it and then figure out how to embellish. I may even take it to the office to work on since there's a bit of a lull there at the moment. It's just that shlepping so many embroidery flosses, ribbons, beads, etc. takes away from the pleasure of doing. I'll have to see.

No great plans for today, Sunday. More stitching, listening to the radio and reading. If the blogger is up (I was unable to blog last night), I'll try to provide another progress report.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Beads and buttons and books, oh my

I haven't done much creatively in the past few days. Not sleeping well at night, too tired to stitch. I make a point, however, of going into the studio and either looking at books, sorting beads and ribbon and keeping in touch with my stuff.

Today I had to go downtown for work. I rarely go downtown in the winter unless absolutely necessary, partly because I had my fill of winter-time public transit or rather standing at bus stops in 20 below temperatures during the eight years I took night classes at U of T (Toronto) to get my BA. Also, when you're bundled up for the 20 below and then go into a heated store, then out again to the cold, back into the heat -- you sweat, then freeze. And with menopause upon me, who needs the added hot-cold routine?

So after I finished with work, I headed out to Queen Street West, one of the new hip areas of Toronto. I wasn't looking for hip, just the bead store, button store, ribbon store and fabric stores. I started in the bead store and bought about twelve different colours and sizes/shapes, mostly in purples, mauves and pinks. I went into the button store to breath in inspiration and they do have lovely stuff but I'm trying to use what I have and find cheaper sources for buttons (i.e. garage sales, thrift stores). The ribbon store I went into was more along the lines of sewing ribbons for lining clothes type stuff. There is a fantastic ribbon store, Mokuba, on Queen Street somewhere but they've moved since the last time I was there and the hot/cold was starting to irk me and I was really only looking for silk ribbon for silk ribbon embroidery so I passed and headed back to the burbs. But on the way, I stopped off at the library, took out "Little Earthquakes" by Jennifer Weiner, the "new" Work of Our Hands and an embroidery stitch book -- the authors' names escape me at the moment and I'm too lazy to go look at the books right now.

While I was standing at the streetcar stop, I had a thought how to use the beads on some of my embroidered already seams so tomorrow morning, I shall hopefully be more in a creative mode.

Did I mention that I am making a cq square for the Crazy Quilt Benevolent Society? The squares are then made into quilts for breast cancer research/awareness fundraising and/or scholarships for the cq society classes.

Anywho, off to watch Sex and the City and Coronation Street.

About Me

I am in my mid 50's, have been married (happily) for 38 years, have 3 adult children who live an ocean away... By day I am a legal secretary. The rest of the time I play with fabric but I still won't run with scissors...