Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (Part 2)

Remember Part 1 of this post?   When I talked, at length, about how I came to be a quilter?  And then never finished?   Finally getting back to picking up where I left off.  

What struck me about much of what I read in the diverse blogs was that the emphasis was on the quilter -- what we know, what we try, what we learn.   A good angle to consider, as I did in Part 1, and as many did in the blog comments, particularly Sandi/Piecemeal's and Carrie's.  As I already told Nancy, near Philadelphia, I wish she had not pulled her post and the comments. ( I think being able to see the actual source text is invaluable in a communications medium like the Internet -- prevents misunderstandings and incorrect inferences.) (But not my call.)

My first thought, however, was "but I try to make what the receiver would like."   This may be because, at least so far, most of my quilts were made for other people.   For example, though it does nothing to develop my own skills, I think the right quilt for my second-grade sponsored child was the one that I made with an assortment of novelty fabrics:  simple, bright, and cheery.  (Still needs quilting and red binding before it is sent for her October birthday.)

I've made some variation of this several times.  In some cases, it took me a long time to collect fabrics with the receiver's "favorite things", but the personal touch was far more meaningful than a complex pattern. 


When the son of close friends graduated from high school and went on to Ohio State University, his quilt was, of course, Ohio stars -- in scarlet and gray, OSU colors.  The inner border is white trumpets on black, as he played trumpet in the band in high school.

My "go-to" baby quilt is made of 30's repros and white in a 6" nine-patch, alternating with plain white squares.  Sometimes I piece part of the border from scraps, sometimes I "float" the blocks in a white border.   When the quilt is washed and it puckers up a little, it looks like a family heirloom and I like picturing that.  Even if the parents had a family baby quilt in good condition, they probably wouldn't feel like they could use it.  (Nancy is hand-quilting a more modern version of this quilt, with dazzling brights in the nine-patches and a delightful polka dot print as background.)    It's not the only pattern I've ever used for a baby quilt, but I expect I haven't made my last one. A recent variation used random squares instead of nine-patches, but was assembled similarly.

My pleasure in quilting derives from the designing and piecing of a top, usually with a recipient in mind.  Don't enjoy the quilting itself that much.  I do machine quilt -- mostly straight lines -- baby quilts, but anything else is too large for my pre-carpal tunnel syndrome hands and arms to wrestle around my machine.   I hand-quilted that very first, hand-pieced nine-patch for D#1, though it wasn't finished until years after the top was complete.  The name, therefore, was "The Two-Millennium Quilt" -- pieced in the 1990s, finished in the 2000s.  D#2's has been pin-basted and I will hand quilt that one too, eventually, as "The Two-Millennium Quilt, Part 2".

I still hand-piece these blocks and always have dozens of them set aside, ready to grab and put together as a "quickie" quilt.   Several years back, I set 110 of them into a queen size quilt for myself.

Recently, I pulled a couple dozen out from my "stash" and put them together in a comfort and healing quilt for a cousin who had undergone surgery for uterine cancer.
(Thanks to my work colleague, Tom for being my DQH -- designated quilt holder)

My fabric executor will, no doubt, be dealing with a bunch of hand-sewn nine-patch blocks when the last stitch has been put in my binding. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Reclaiming a favorite place

I woke up this morning, with the startling thought that I'm reclaiming San Francisco for myself.  I'm here alone on business for a few days.   Though I am by no means a world traveler, I have visited a number of cities in the U.S., mostly for work.  San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the country.   As it has worked out, I happen to come here once a decade. 

My first trip was in the late 1980s, before I met x2b.  That was when I fell in love with this place. In fact, when we first met, one of the things he and I discovered we had in common was that we felt the same way about this city.  We had wanted our honeymoon to be spent taking a train cross-country to S.F., but reality set in and no honeymoon ever happened. 

Ten years ago, my job sent me here again.  Our daughters were 9 and 11 and we brought them with us.  They,  too, immediately succumbed to its charm.   While I worked, x2b and our daughters went several places things I'd gone before (boat trip to Alcatraz -- a truly FASCINATING place), and some I hadn't (they walked across the Golden Gate Bridge).  Together, we rode the cable cars, climbed the stairs to Coit Tower, visited the "crookedest street" (complete with spotting a large hairy man dressed as Wonder Woman), and celebrated D#1's "graduation" from grade school and "matriculation" to 7th grade with dinner on Fisherman's Wharf.  One evening we went to a restaurant in Chinatown which did not fit the stereotype of "Chinese restaurant" or look like much from the outside.  We feasted on incredible food.   Nearby was a playground where he and I sat on a park bench, watching them run off some of their pent-up energy. 

Now I'm back, by myself once more.  I flew in early on Wednesday, so I would have the whole day to explore and I'm taking a red-eye out on Saturday night to give myself some free time when the conference ends.   After I checked in to my hotel on Union Square, I took BART to Berkeley (never been there) to a quilt shop that had been recommended.   On my way to the station, I took a picture of a cable car with my phone and sent it to each of my daughters with a single word:  Here!   D#1 replied that she was jealous, ordered me to eat some sourdough bread for her, and, of course, told me to have a good time.  I responded telling her where I was and where I was going, and she texted back that that was right up my alley!  (Yes, my daughter knows me fairly well...) 

I had hoped that in this S.E.X.(Stash Enhancement eXpedition) I would find some fabric specifically related to the Bay area, but no luck.  It did yield a cut of fabric with California sights and a few assorted FQs.  There was a lot of stock there different from the shops I frequent at home, but nothing that tempted me strongly -- except for the yardage of the entire William Morris Tapestry line!  However, I held back, as I already have way too much WM until I use up .... oh about... mumblety-mumble yards of what I own. 

Yesterday, D#2 sent a text asking me if I was going to eat in the Chinese place we'd been -- and I assured her that it was in my plans.  After the conference ended yesterday, I changed clothes, unwound for a little while, and headed off on foot to Chinatown -- more than around the corner but less than a trek.  By chance, I passed the playground and took a picture for the daughters.

Waited in line at the restaurant (as I expected to do) and was seated with a Spanish-speaking mother and daughter. It's that kind of place -- a single and a pair at a table for 4.  As we ate, my tablemates and I chatted a little. While the mother appeared to know no English, the daughter, in her early 20s, spoke it well.  They were from Mexico City, and spending a week vacationing together.  I told them a little about my last trip with my daughters and how they'd gone from playing-on-the-monkey-bars age to just-into-college and graduating-from-college ages.   

As expected, the food was delicious.  I had an appetizer of shrimp and green onion packets in peanut sauce, and an entree of sesame chicken with sweet potatoes in honey sauce.  This was the first -- and only -- Chinese restaurant where I'd ever had sweet potatoes, and I remembered them well from that 10-years-ago dinner.   We all had "blossoming flower tea".  The tea was served in a clear mug, with a floating rough-textured, walnut-sized ball that looked like dried moss.  Over about ten minutes, it sank to the bottom and opened up like a flower.

A little later, I noticed a light yellowish "stalk" rising from the base of the mug, waving gracefully with each movement of the mug.

Enjoying the mild evening air, I walked back to my hotel with another wonderful memory of this unique city.  The sidewalks sparkled with something in the concrete reflecting the streetlight, and I seemed to be walking on a path strewn with diamond dust. 

Tonight I'm taking the cable car to the Fisherman's Wharf area -- maybe Ghiardelli Square too.  (I will skip the ice cream place where the 4 of us shared a gargantuan ice cream treat designed for a family -- something like 10 scoops, with multiple toppings!)   I will eat seafood, buy trinkets for the daughters, maybe some chocolate for others.   And, like last night, I'll remember wistfully the wonderful family time we had back then, while making a new memory for myself -- coming full circle to spending time in a beloved place again, without an intense longing for what was, but with a satisfaction for what is right now.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Progress report: month 9 (March 2011)

Not much completed this month, but continued progress on several fronts.

85. Donate minimum of $xxx to church in honor of Y.Z. before 4/12/11.
     (done 3/23)

In process:
48. Watched 5 movies/tv shows: (74/125)
      Last tango in Paris (Brando was phenomenal)
      Big Bang theory, season 1 (a comedy about physicists!)
      Big Bang theory, season 2 (more phun with geeky physicists)
      Pirate radio (great 60s music!)
      Dark City (very stylized sci-fi film -- almost German expressionistic)
49. Read 3 books: (23/60, 18/30, 3/10)
      Sunshine and shadows (Earlene Fowler)
      The Way the crow flies (Anne-Marie MacDonald)
      The Making of "Quantum Leap" (Hal Schuster)
90. Read the Bible daily during Lent.  (Began on Ash Wednesday with I Samuel.)

29. Steps toward divorce. (Received and acknowledged service of papers;
      met with my lawyer)
69. Added borders to quilt for C.  Going to quilter this week.
(Almost finished the two extra quilts:  Nine-patch for my cousin only needs a label and I can send it to her; I'm currently hand-sewing the binding on William Morris birthday quilt. Party is April 10.)
84. Extra contribution to Church World Service for Blanket Sunday.
99. Updated blog with progress report (9 for 9)
101. Four additional blog posts: "Making a list" and "What I've been working on" (3/8), "Quilt retreat" (3/18), and "Ecclesiastes 3:1 (Part 1)" (3/25).    

Priorities in April:
  6. Get back to working in basement.
12. Work on more small things around house.
17. Begin to plan plantings in front and back yards.
69. Get C's quilt quilted, bound, labeled, photographed and shipped.
81. Start quilt for Godson's graduation at end of May.
90. Continue Lenten Bible reading until Easter on April 24.