Monday, July 28, 2014

Sewing with the one who taught me

I spent a few days visiting my folks in southern California. One of the more fun things I did was to sew with my mom. She's in her mid-80s and has Parkinson's, but she's determined to keep stitching.
She does seem to have a knack, however, for picking complicated projects. When I got there she had been working on a bag that had some really bad instructions and was feeling frustrated. I helped her finish it (and could certainly understand her frustration when I read the methods used in making the bag). Fortunately, she was happy with the end result (below).
Another afternoon went to a quilt shop we'd visited previously in Orange, the Orange Quilt Bee. They have a great selection of fabrics and patterns and I wanted to find some patterns to try that with more clearcut instructions. We also got fabric to make pillowcases. Here's the one she made while I was visiting, and when I called tonight she said she's been making more.
We also stitched up an iPad cover, the Pocket Portfolio by Swirly Girls from some wonderful, traditional blues and were delighted with the pattern instructions and the result. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of the finished piece.
I liked the fabric she picked for her pillowcase so much that I'm planning to make Cindy Taylor Oate's Sit and Stitch Pincushion from the same combination—when I left, my mom hadn't started this yet. I'm hoping to make mine while we're on vacation in a couple of weeks. It was fun to sew with the one who taught me. Wish we lived closer so we could do it more often.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

String Piecing

Back in March I decided to try some string piecing. Not sure just what got me going, but I was having a good time of it. Over the next few weeks I plugged away, and wound up with 16 blocks. It got put on the back burner for awhile as writing projects intervened, but yesterday I got back at it and did another 8 blocks. (I must have done a few more in there somewhere because I have 43 blocks total.)

While I'm using true scraps—and having so much fun remembering just which projects the strips originally appeared in—I'm trying for a little consistency by including red and/or turquoise and/or black in every block. I'm piecing on newsprint, with a white strip diagonally centered on each square.
I'm using a 9.5 inch square ruler, so my blocks will finish at 9 (it's the biggest one I have) and I'm trying to decide how big to make it. If I make it 7 blocks both ways, I'll wind up with a 63" square, but I might go with 8 blocks one way to make it long enough for a tall guy (like the one I'm married to) to cover up comfortably. I'm not even sure I'll be keeping it though. 
Do you have a favorite/most useful size that you tend to make?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Back at It and a Slovenian Round-up

Yes, I am actually back at work and have been for awhile. Book edits occupied some of my time, and a birthday party for me (yay!) took up another chunk. We also had my aunt visiting from Minnesota and enjoyed touring Amish country with her.

My vacation to Slovenia (to visit our daughter) and Spain (where my husband had a meeting and my daughter and I tagged along) was grand. I honestly don't believe I've been to a country with more natural beauty than Slovenia. The Alps, the Adriatic Sea, forests, caves, rivers—it's all there.

Piran
Lake Bled
On the hike to SLAP (waterfall)
Slovenian wine country
Wildflowers in the Alps
Bobbin lacemaking in Idria
Kamnik
Ljubljana at night
Up and over the Julien Alps, heading down into Italy
I've been itching to sew, but it hasn't happened in quite some time. I'm wearing my Sorbetto tops again, now that the weather's warm, and really want to make more. I work Wednesdays at Home Ec Workshop and for the past two weeks the workshop has been filled with sewists working on the Oliver + S Weekend Getaway Blouse and I've got my eye on that one, too. And then there's that quilt that's partially done in my sewing room...hoping maybe this weekend to do a bit of stitching. Is that on your calendar for the 4th of July (along with fireworks, of course)?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Time for a Deep Breath!

I'm sure to readers of Pearl the Squirrel, it appears that all I've been doing is breathing deeply...quietly...far away from my computer. Actually, it's been just the opposite. I've spent so much time bent over the keyboard that I've had to go to physical therapy for my neck! But a break is in sight, because Sunday I turned in the manuscript for Art Quilts of the Midwest, the book I've been working on for the University of Iowa Press.

While I make it sound like a slog, it's actually been such an interesting process, and one that's enabled me to do that thing I so love—interview creative people and find out what they do and why. Each of the 20 artists' works will be accompanied by a brief bio that came out of our hour-long conversations. Always a challenge to describe people like these in so few words, but also a privilege.

The book will be out in spring, 2015, and I'll certainly mention more as the time draws nigh.  I can't wait to share with you the work of these artists, brought together by their Midwestern influences.

But for now, I'm going to go on a vacation (and I'm taking my knitting with me)!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sleepless Nights

Last night I went to bed late. I'd gotten up early and been at physical therapy (bunged my knee) at 7:40 a.m. I'd done an hour-and-a-half phone interview, written a bit, then worked at Home Ec for five hours, most of that spent on my feet. I knocked off a little early, at 7 p.m., so I could attend a knitting class to learn to knit Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket.

I've been knitting a lot this winter, and most of it has been pretty basic. I did do a lace knit hat, which was new to me, but otherwise nothing required a lot of attention. Which is just how I like it—I love knitting while watching TV or on a car or plane trip. But this jacket was so adorable and I decided I was up for the challenge.

Our teacher, Greg, is an incredible knitter and has knitted at least 30 of these jackets. Once the knitted piece is folded and sewn, it's an adorable and completely recognizable sweater. But before being stitched up it looks, as a member of the class said, like some kind of weird woodland fungus. Just getting my mind around how it would work out was a challenge. And then Greg said we'd be happiest if we did a provisional cast on. It took me about half the class to figure out how to make my fingers accomplish that, and another bunch of time to count the darned wonky stitches. And then there are the knitting acronyms I wasn't familiar with, and the fact that they could be done multiple ways for different effects (three methods for a double decrease).
White shape is the knitted shape before folding and stitching together: finished, striped sweater at the bottom
I decided to come home immediately and knit a bunch of rows so I wouldn't forget what we were supposed to do. So I sat up until nearly 11 and lo and behold, I seemed to be doing it right. It took a lot of concentration, but I had it!

Then I went to bed and tossed and turned for nearly two hours. The only thing I can imagine that kept me up was the sheer stimulation of learning all that stuff. My brain hurt. I was so excited about what I did that I didn't think I could do (provisional casting on—too hard!) and those double decreases via a second method. Turns out that just like they say about exercising or using your computer too close to bedtime, crafting late doesn't make for much shut eye. Years ago I interviewed Heather Bailey and I remember her telling me that she couldn't think about fabric designs too late at night or design ideas would flash through her head like a slide show, one after the other. No doubt about it: creating is exciting.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

EEEEP! Finally Giving EPP a Try

I am heading down to the wire on my book, but that doesn't mean I am not doing any handwork. I CAN'T not do handwork. I pass no judgement on those who can either focus or zone out appropriately, but I can't comfortably watch TV or go for a long car ride or play Scrabble with friends if I don't have something I'm doing with my hands. (Can you guess that I've never been able to stick with meditation? But that's another story.)

I've long been interested in English paper piecing (EPP). Its portability appeals to me, as does its flexibility and the variety of things people do with the finished hexies. But what's never appealed to me is the cutting out part. And the sheer number of methods overwhelmed me. People seem so opinionated about this way or that being the best (and only) way. So when I spied Tula Pink's cute little EPP kits, with their pre-cut fabric squares, I decided it was time to give it a try. (I chose the Acacia fabric in blues and greens.)

Here's a bit of what I accomplished last night (after watching and reading 4200 online tutorials, because there are at least that many ways to do EPP). I've settled on the basting with thread (vs. glue) method, using a paperclip to hold the fabric to the Paper Pieces templates, and on not stitching through the paper. I may add a punched hole to the cardboards to make them easier to pop out with the tip of a scissor. I also think I'll iron them before I remove the cardboard.

The kits are lovely, though I would love to have a few more squares with the fox's face. I'll combine the pieces with some solids and do something or other with the hexies...for now, I'm thoroughly enjoying the fabrics and the satisfaction of watching those finished pieces pile up. Though a kit is obviously unnecessary, it was just what I needed to get me started. And I'm thrilled to have another way to use the packets of 2.5" fabric squares I've accumulated.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

More Oaxaca, More Color

More shots from our February trip—our great escape into a world of color.
Colander garlands
A quilt-like textile made of embroidered squares
One of the Santiago brothers in La Union
La Union guard turkeys. Seriously loud and scary.
Then sacred and the profane at a ceramics shop
Ocotlan Market wares
Oaxacan fabric store zippers


Friday, March 21, 2014

February in Oaxaca: Colors

I was lucky to escape the Polar Vortex this winter for 8 days and nights, and to once again visit Oaxaca. While the food, friends, and temperatures were a highlight, it was being in a landscape that wasn't monochromatic that did me as much good as anything. This was a winter that left so many of us feeling trapped, physically and mentally. And I also felt trapped visually. Being in a place where color was so enmeshed in the everyday did my soul a lot of good.

Here's some of what we saw. There will be more to come.
Market crochet samples
Carvings in La Union
La Union brickyard
Oaxacan embroidered shirt 
Sweet baby of a bookmark vendor
Young plants in a greenhouse
No explanation needed
Al fresco chess tournament on Oaxaca's zocolo



Monday, March 17, 2014

Tiny Bits

I've decided that while I'm finishing up my book (see previous post, numeral 1), the only way Pearl the Squirrel posts will exist is if they're short and sweet. So here starts the beginning of a photo, a phrase, or a project per post. My expectations need to be low if I'm going to continue. (Yours probably already are, given the delinquency of this blog.)
So today, for your viewing pleasure, a baby blanket I knitted for my friend's sweet baby girl. The only good thing about the very cool spring we're having is that she'll get to use it a little before it gets very warm, since though we had her baby shower in December, I didn't manage to get this to her until last week. (It's also got grey on the sides, which you can't see in the photos. It's knit with Classic Elite Yarns Toboggan.)
Sweet dreams!

Friday, January 10, 2014

What's keeping me BUSY

Poor, neglected blog. If there are any readers left out there, I certainly appreciate you! Here's what's been keeping me busy:

1. I'm working on a book with the tentative title of Art Quilts of the Midwest: publication date is March, 2015. I'm interviewing and writing a bio of each of the 20 artists whose work will be included—there were close to 100 entries—and have yet to talk with one who hasn't taught me something new, provided an interesting perspective on art and place, and been kind and lovely to "meet."

2. The spring issue of Stitch includes a couple pieces I wrote: an article on cross-stitch (loved learning that history) and a back-page essay about sewing the same pattern multiple times.

3. Posts I'm working on for Moda's Cutting Table blog continue to enable me to talk to some talented designers...I've got an interview this afternoon set up to "meet" one of their newest (you can find the story on Monday on The Cutting Table).

4. I've been working at Home Ec on Thursdays. The sock monkeys at the top of the page were tucked into my bag yesterday in preparation for the class I'm teaching on Sunday at Home Ec—it'd been so long since I made a monkey that I stitched the one on the left as a refresher....and I must say its cheery outlook during these dreary, cold days was my reward. (Sock monkey history here.)

5. And I've been putting Pearl's booties on nearly every time we head out into the Polar Vortex (we refer to this as Pearl's booty call). She hates them, and stands on three legs, holding the offending bootie up until I force her to put a leg down so I can put on the next one. This continues until all four are on, her leash is hooked to her collar, and she trots out of the house and down the sidewalk.

6. I made mitered-corner napkins for Maggie for Christmas out of Minick and Simpson's fantastic woven Midwinter Reds.

7. I finished binding the quilt I started last summer based on the workshop I took with Bill Kerr of Modern Quilt Studios. Linda Duncan quilted it, along with two others you'll soon see, and I really love it.

8. I've been knitting, but both projects are gifts, so their unveiling will have to wait.

So that's what's up with me...how about you?