Sunday, December 30, 2007

In the Dark

The days are so dark and wet that I feel like I should be hibernating. Plus I'm on vacation, so I've reached the point of any good vacation where I'm not quite sure what day of the week it is. This deep part of the winter can be a little disorienting.

I was feeding Michael's cats while he went out of town for a few days. Next to his mailbox, there is a forest of toadstools. Some things thrive in dark wet days.
Michael's babies, Bob and Violet, are little furry rays of sunshine. They're happy to see me when I come to fill up their bowls.
Christmas lights and a fire are also important to ward off the darkness. This is the illusive Wee, our number one cat. We've had her the longest, and she was an only cat for many years. She's camera shy and more than a bit crabby. The other cats have chipped away at her status as number one, but she still gets the best place by the fire.

But even these dark days have been productive. Here are a couple of last minute gifts I made. Allie wanted a sleeve for her laptop. This one is flannel.
Michael got an apron made from a fabric printed with Hawaiian shirts.

I also finished a baby quilt for a student who is a new mom. I made a bunch of these blocks awhile back, and they've come in handy.
This quilt
has been successfully made larger. It's in the closet now at the head on the line to be pin based and quilted.
Yes, it's dark and wet and cold, but I look around me and my world is filled with light and bright colors. I hope you fill these dark days with your own brilliant lights.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas at My House and Doll Resources

On Christmas Eve we had our Christmas dinner, gifts, and general celebration. Alex got a flashlight for his truck.
Here I am with Michael, still wearing my cooking apron.
It's rare that I get a picture with the kids where they're not making goofy faces.
Allie's boyfriend Roger joined us. They're all about the hats, as you can see.
And we had a few cats join in the festivities. I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season.

Now that I'm on vacation from school and have a bit more time, I'll be planning my next projects. Here are some doll sites for eye candy and general doll inspiration. Later I'll be launching a new doll project, and these artists have given me some great ideas.

Martha Stewart has a good basic doll tutorial and pattern on her site. Under "crafts" on her site, search for "Making Dolls" and you'll find it. Sorry, but the address was too long to make a link.
Jennifer Gould has a site with a great gallery and she sells patterns for her dolls.
Cozbi inc. has a beautiful site with inspiring dolls for sale and other items. Check on the "muñecas" link to see the dolls.
The Doll Loft has a site that sells patterns and other supplies. I want to try their fine felted wool for doll bodies. The proprietor, Ellen Lumpkin Brown, has two excellent doll making videos on Quilter's TV.

Two great doll making blogs are Mimi Kirchner's Doll
and Deborah Grayson Bailey's Urban Wild Flower Dolls.

Enjoy their work. In the future I'll post about some of the books on doll making that I've found.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Doll is Born

On Friday Michael and I went to see Julie & Julia, a truly delightful movie in which Meryl Streep plays Julia Child. The movie has a heart warming portrayal of love between mature people: Julia and her husband Paul, and it's also about friendship between women, and blogging! Plus there's food! Who could ask for more?

I was inspired to re-post this blog from 2007, when I finished making my Julia Child doll, which was my response to reading her wonderful book My Life in France.

Here are some final clues to the identity of my doll:

I hope these ring some bells for you. I explained to my daughter that I had made a doll of Julia Child, and she said, "Oh yeah, Rachel Ray talks about her!"

So here's my homage to dear Julia Child. She was an influential presence in my life: my whole family watched her throughout the 60s and the 70s, and a lot of these memories came back when I read her memoir My Life in France. One passage in particular captures my impression of her from her early TV days:

"On the evening of July 26, we ate a big steak dinner at home and, at eight-thirty, pulled our ugly little television out of hiding and switched on Channel 2. There I was, in black and white, a large woman sloshing eggs to quickly here, too slowly there, gasping, looking at the wrong camera while talking too loudly, and so on. Paul [her husband] said I looked and sounded just like myself, but it was hard for me to be objective. I saw plenty of room for improvement, and figured that I might begin to have an inkling of what I was supposed to do after I'd shot twenty more TV shows. But it had been fun."

Julia Child was America's first celebrity TV chef, but she began her career by authoring Mastering the Art of French Cooking, (1961) which she wrote with her French co-authors Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, after an extensive recipe testing process than took ten years. The patch Julia wore on her early TV shows, which prior to my research for the doll, I thought was a Cordon Bleu patch (since Julia graduated from that cooking school) was actually a patch her husband Paul designed for Julia and her two French collaborators. In 1952 the three friends started a cooking school in Paris, L' Ecole Des Trois Gourmandes, which Julia translated as the School of Three Hearty Eaters. She wore this patch on her blouse through the early TV shows.

There is a wonderful website at the Smithsonian Museum, where Julia's kitchen from her days in Boston has been recreated with all of its original tools and appliances. She popularized the wire wisk in the U.S., which I included as an accessory for my doll. She also closed all her TV shows with her signature phrase "Bon Appetit!" which I machine embroidered on her dish cloth.

I wrote the following poem a few years ago, calling up some of my youthful memories of Julia. I hope the doll captures some of her hearty and creative spirit.

Dinner With Julia

We’re lined up on the cracked vinyl couch
waiting like soup kitchen diners
for Julia Child to light up
our living room
with her mannish hands,
her schoolgirl squeals.

We’re waiting to see Julia cleave
knives to slabs of meat
and dump the scraps on the floor.
She always sticks her fingers in the food
and then puts them in her mouth.
She’s sweaty and dishevelled as a saint
before a vision of God.
We’re waiting to witness her rapture.

Today Julia pulls bolts of tripe
in ascending sizes from off-camera.
White fields of fat and muscle,
blankets of honeycombs,
only Julia would bring out these pieces
huge like winding sheets for the dead.

We’ve never seen a woman
handle so much meat
and as off-handedly as if she were
unfurling towels for the clothes line.

And menudo, of all things,
a la francaise, who was to know
that anyone but us Mexicans
crave tripe, which when cooked,
fogs the house with its sweaty smell for days.

My mother clucks her tongue.
La Julia is carving the tripe
into squares big as hands.

My father howls through his
tumbler of red wine, says
she must be drunk, tossing those dirty plates
off-screen without a thought.

But we all love Julia,
wait weekly to see her,
a broad-shouldered
square-bodied woman
who cooks with both hands
up to her elbows in the food
and opens her mouth all the way
to laugh.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I got tagged by JoWynn at Parkview 616

Stop by and say hello to her, and check out her link to the work of dollmaker and embrioderer Kay Susan Warner. It's an inspiring must-see.

So here's the MeMe:

1. Jobs I've had:
elementary school teacher's aide, donations sorter at the Salvation Army, waitress, college professor.

2. Films I can watch over and over:
Moonstruck, Coal Miner's Daughter, the British tv series Absolutely Fabulous (it's like The Devil Wears Prada, but in bad taste).

3. TV shows I watch: Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Sopranos, The Hills, whatever my nineteen year old daughter exposes me to.

4. Places I have lived: San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego County. I've spent my whole life in California.

5. Favorite foods: Dungeness crab, (the season just openend), salmon, winter squash, chocolate cake.

6. Favorite colors: barn red, lime green, orangey-gold.

7. Places I would love to be right now: I'm not a fan of hot weather, but today's a cold wet day here in the northwest. I'd sit on the beach in Zihuatanejo and drink a beer. Here I am last January doing just that:

8. Names I love but would not use on my children: I love names that would fit opera singers: Solange, Monserrat, Rosario.

Who wants to do this meme and hasn't already? Consider youself challenged.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Just Hanging Around

The doll is now fully clothed, and yes, she's pinned to the design wall to have her photo taken. I made her a skirt from a piece of recycled wool. It's a tube with darts and a waistband, very simple, but I feel clever for having lined up the lower edge with the existing hem tape.
Here she is with the book I used for the body pattern. It was published by Dover in the 70s and I picked it up at a thrift store. I found a pattern for her shoes in the book: some lovely, practical flats. Then it will be time for accessories.

Both Sue in Western WA and Catherine posted in the comments that they thought she was a self-portrait doll. That was one of my original ideas, to make a Lady Professor doll, but I decided to make Lady X, whose identity is almost complete, instead. I will definitely make a self-portrait doll in the future.
Drum roll please. Here's the drawing of November commenters for a goody bag to celebrate my 100th post. ...And the winner is...
Whoo-who! I'll send you an email Susan, or you can send me one through my blog. Goodies are coming!

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Valley of the Doll

I began my doll project by studying various patterns and books. My doll is made from a basic body pattern I found in an old Dover book. She has yarn looped hair, which was very tedious to make until I went and got large utility needles. Other than needles, I haven't needed a lot of new supplies.

Her face is embroidered and is a variation on the pattern's doll face. I think in the future I'll go for smaller eyes. These are a bit scary. I'm starting to keep a sketch book of face drawings, and I now look at fashion magazines with new eyes. Certain combinations of hairdos and clothes can call up very specific characters.
Because I want to make my doll an adult, I amended the body by giving her some boobs. I have some old doll clothes patterns that I edited to make her a blouse. Because of those boobs, that blouse is going to need darts. (That blur in the photo is my cat design consultant Bunny)
I found the perfect color for her blouse. One cool thing about making dolls is that you can get a blouse out of a fat quarter.
This blue blouse is an important part of her character. Stay tuned to see how she comes along.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

100th post!

I missed my two-year blogaversary last month, but I did notice that this is my 100th post. Blogging has been a very useful way for me to keep in touch with old and new fiber friends. I do enjoy the on-going exchange with all of you, I just wish I had time to post more frequently. But for the sake of celebrating this milestone, I'm going to have a drawing. I'll put the names of any commenters to this month's posts in a hat and I'll send the winner a goodie bag. Make sure to comment!

These before and after images show what I did with a quilt top that was hanging in my closet unfinished. I originally planned for it to be a table cloth, but on second thought I decided to expand it into a throw. It went from about 50x50 to about 60x70. I plan to give it to a niece for her birthday next year.
I've got similar plans for this quilt top:
Once finished, it will be a throw for my other niece's birthday. I love the cheerful polka dots in these fabrics.

After mulling it over, I've decided to make a few dolls. It's a different process from quilt making, for me anyway. I like to improvise a lot when designing quilts, but I find that I need to settle on a concept before beginning a doll.

I've been collecting patterns and books, so I'm getting a feel for some of the alternative styles of doll bodies that can be made from fabric. The materials themselves are, of course, the same as for quilting, and hence, very familiar. This particular doll will be an adult, and not a child, so I may tweak this body a bit. Other than that, her character is going to be mostly rendered through her clothes. Check back and see who surfaces.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Caprice (50x50)

I finished my little quilt from the rummage sale box, and I found its title, Caprice, by scanning the titles of Doris Day movies. This wasn't one of her better known flicks, but the era, the late 60s, was what I was looking for, and the name fits. I like the whimsical quality of this quilt. Just what I need for a grey fall day.
Allie Aller was brave and posted pics of her studio space mid-project. It's interesting the controlled chaos that is required to produce art. I'm only showing my space because I just gave it a thorough cleaning, so it's presentable for company.

This is a spare bedroom in my house. The wall where the sewing machine is separates the sewing room from my daughter's bedroom, so I usually don't run the machine if she's asleep. Otherwise, this is the perfect space. I've got my sewing machine on an old desk+dresser combo that I bought used (of course). The drawers are not very sturdy, but it's fine for holding fabric. The work table is in a new position after the room overhaul. I like this spot by the window, and if I'm not too rushed in the morning, I'll sit here and drink my coffee and look at what's on the design wall in front of me. The big dresser is a recent addition. I needed more storage and this allowed me to organize my supplies better.
When I finish this quilt I'm going to re-position my design wall by moving it out from behind the dresser. My design wall is a flannel sheet that's been upholstery tacked to the top of the wall for years now. It's worked great. This quilt is one of a group of projects I made awhile back, but haven't finished. Many of these need final borders and I'm trying to finish as many of these as possible. This one's being given extra blocks and a more definitive border.
Behind the ironing board is the closet which was my original sewing room. When I first moved into this house, this was the kids' t.v. room, and I had a table in this closet with my one sewing machine and all my supplies for quilting. Needless to say, this whole operation has expanded quite a bit.
I finally pulled the table out of there and installed shelves for various WIPs and supplies. That sack of rice is not a spillover from the kitchen, but I use it to make neck warmers.
On the other side of the closet I hang my UQOs (unquilted objects) many of which are waiting for final border decisions. I've got at least 3 bed-sized quilts that have their backings sewn and are ready to be pin basted. I keep larger pieces of yardage up top, and some of my remaining magazine stash. When I cleaned out this room, I got rid of several boxes of old magazines that I just don't have room for anymore.

Finally graduated from the almost-done closet is my Japanese Ladies quilt.
After Debra and I worked out a swap, it has gone to live at her house after a long limbo hanging with the almost-finished quilts. Life is more adventurous for all of us when we expand ourselves and leave the closet.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Rummage Sale Two

I've been designing another quilt from the box of scraps that I got at the Methodist church rummage sale awhile back. The colors of the vintage 60s and 70s fabrics in the box remind me of earlier times and styles. Aqua was pretty popular in the 60s, and now you don't see it very much. I remember when I was a kid my mother made matching a-line polyester dresses for me and my sister one year. When I was in high school in the early 70s, the choir I was in wore identical long aqua polyester dresses. There must've been 25 or 30 of us, so you can imagine how it looked. The justification for the color choice was that this color looks good on everyone. I wonder how true that is.
I cut up some of these old fabrics and they decided they wanted to be paired with pink. Most of the center fabrics are from the rummage box, and I pulled some others from my stash that seemed to play well. I also threw in a bit of lime green for accent.
I'll have to think of a cool 60s movie name for this quilt. Any suggestions? Maybe something with Doris Day.

I guess the aqua vibe is in the air.
I got this beautiful necklace from Debra
as part of a swap. I just love the colors, and of course the little Virgin Mary beads are a reminder of our quilt series on the Madonna.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Finishing Up

When I finished this little quilt, "Asiatic Lilies," Allie left me a comment asking if I was planning to quilt the background. This struck a cord, because although I wanted to be done, I did have this nagging feeling that something was missing. So I hand quilted the background and scattered some tiny glass beads. I also embroidered over more of the leaves and stems printed on the fabric. Now it feels complete. Thanks Allie!
I'm on a campaign to finish up some UFOs. For a long time it hasn't bothered me to have multiple projects going (or not) at the same time, but now the backlog feels distracting. I finished this little piece, which is about 8 x 10 inches. When I first began to work with photo transfers I transferred this image of a painting by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. This is a painting she made after she cut her hair in response to her husband's infidelity.
I made this for Leslie my hairdresser. She is an accomplished painter and she likes Frida Kahlo, and especially this painting. She also has a faux-vintage sign in her shop, "We Repair Homemade Haircuts," so I combined that caption with the image of the painting. I hope she likes it.
I machine quilted this recent scrap quilt. The center blocks got spirals and I made these eucalyptus leaves in the border. I realize that there is nothing between me and acceptable machine quilting but practice. I'm slowly layering my finished UFOs and lining them up for practice.
I may even have some finished quilts for Christmas gifts when all is said and done. Oh my, did I mention Christmas in October? Sorry!!!

Sweater Genesis

  A few years ago I learned to harvest yarn from old wool sweaters.  I don't do it so much anymore, with the exception of if I find...