31 Jul

City progress and tattoos

Ta-da! I have quilted the first few houses on the City quilt (which needs a name, BTW). If I keep up my pace of a few houses a night, I should have this done in the next two months. I have not actually counted the houses, though, as that would only depress me. But, I have quilted five in the last two nights and hope to finish at least one tonight (I’m also antsy to work on a birthday gift).

First two houses quilted!

I’m looking for a name like “Anytown, USA,” but of course, in German (like Michael Musterman on application samples).

In other news, Katja drew this tattoo on me this morning:

Zopf Herz

She calls it a Zopf Herz, which translates to Ponytail Heart. Obviously. She gave herself one too so we could match. A while ago she “tattooed” another creature on me, which she could only say had eyes on top.  I’m definitely seeing a quilt based on these drawings in my future. (So much so, that I have already purchased a few flesh colored fabrics.)

Tattoo creature with eyes on top

28 Jul

Redemption, of sorts

In my own odd little way, I have redeemed myself for making the 80s dress. The elestic on the jersey microfiber sheet on my son’s bed gave up, but the fabric was still nice; and a nice burnt orange color. So, rather than throw out all that good fabric (or replace the elastic — boooooooring), I decided to try making another dress. This time it was inspired by a friend’s shirt. I decided to make it longer because I needed a dress more than I needed a top.

Dress I like a bit better

It looks a little like a nightdress, but it’s oh so comfortable! I’m pretending it’s more of a “godess” look. I think this godess could use to put on a little lipstick, though. And since I didn’t spend any money on this one, it balances out the euros spent on the linen for the 80s dress (or that’s what I’m telling myself). I’d like a little more twist in the shoulders, but I cut the fabric a little too short. I think I might just sew the twists down invisibly, or add a little flower to hold what twist I have in place.

On the quilt front, I have been basting the city quilt. I decided to baste it by hand so that I don’t have to worry about pins tearing or stressing the fabric when I put the quilt in my frame. Yes, quilt frame: I am going to hand quilt this one. My floor frame will keep the quilt off my lap, which is a good thing. The basting took about four nights though, because I was so sweaty that the needle changed colors and squeeked going through the fabric. I could only stand to do a few rows at a time before I needed to stand in front of a fan. Besides, basting is boring too.

Basting tools

It’s done now, except for the edge I had to rip out because I had basted it to the rug fringe 😉 Next stop is to get some quilting thread as I have none in taupe or off-white.

26 Jul

Freibad (because my Tech Support says this needs a title)

One of the things I’m really going to miss about Germany when we finally leave will be the Schwimmbaden. I grew up in Southern California and I guess since so many houses and apartments have pools, public pools are pretty simple (or at least they were 25 years ago). If you wanted more than a lap pool with a diving board you had to go to a water park and pay the big bucks. Not so in Germany. Most towns have a Hallenbad (indoor pool) which is really a complex usually including a kiddie pool, lap pool and whirlpool, plus saunas and tanning, and maybe even a waterslide. Often the Hallenbad is combined with a Freibad (outdoor) for warm weather use. The Freibad will certainly have diving and a slide, and of course, a large lawn for sunbathing and a playground. You bring your own food, and there is usually a restaurant or kiosk on site with fries and ice cream. All of this for about $5 for four hours, less if you are between 7 and 18 years old, and free if you are under 7.

Interesting side note. At about 7, one seems to go through a sort of rite of passage. This is the age the kids start first grade, and it is a big deal here. At the end of the last Kindergarten year, the Schulanfanger (kids who will start school in the Fall) get to have a sleep-over at Kindergarten. They also get big cardboard cones filled with goodies for school and some candy too. The family might even have a professional photo taken of the kid with his or her Schultüte. The week before First Grade starts the kids and their parents go to an Einschulung, where the kids are treated to a performance by the second graders, a little party, and an hour of “class” in their soon to be school. And, now that the kids are in school, they must pay for things like bus tickets, museum entrance and Schwimmbad use. Modern life needs more rites of passage.

But I digress. We are lucky to have several Schwimmbaden nearby to choose from. Our favorite winter-time Hallenbad, Bella Mar, has an indoor/outdoor slide and a grotto with a current around it and a slide on top of it. We now have a new summer-time favorite, the Waldfreibad in Walldorf. In addition to a baby pool with pirate themed playground nearby, water works playground, main play pool with slide and lap pool, it has a forest and a lake (where we spent most of our time today).

Freibad lake

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the kids collecting rocks, searching for fish, making sand castles, or generally horsing around in the water here. But I did get a few from the main play pool. This one is only 3 or 4 feet deep, so even those who can’t swim well can enjoy it.

This shark CAN swim

And it has a twisty water slide. That’s my boy splashing out the end (did you know that pre-teen and teenage boys slide faster when they pull down their shorts and slide on bare bottoms?).

Love this water slide

Despite overwhelming odds against us (two adults to seven kids) we had a great time. My neighbor chased after her toddler while I kept an eye on five 7-8 year old boys (one hers, one mine, one neighbor, one best friend, plus later, one friend from school who found us there) and the two girls (mine and hers). It’s much easier when they can all swim at least a little. We escaped the scorching heat this afternoon, along with everyone else in a five-city radius, and I think the kids will be sleeping very soundly tonight.

26 Jul

Why I Buy off the Rack

I loved this dress in a window in France. But alas, the store was closed. I eyed some other summer dresses as well, but once in the store, I just lost interest in trying on anything (I’m a lousy shopper).

I like this dress

However, while shopping for handles for Bag #7, I found a lovely linen with little brown flowers embroidered all over it. I found a pattern with similar shapes and stayed up late two nights ago and the night before making this dress. Somehow, my version looks too 80s though. I liked the fluttery sleeves in the pattern, but with the yoke, they got too stiff and lost their flutter. I thought that the embroidered fabric would make up for the patchwork in the original, but I guess not. I had the asymetrical underskirt, but there were just too many gathers and it looked silly, so it got reworked into a contrasting band.

Dress detail

I played with my fancy stitches on the machine and even did some bobbin work with perl cotton and I really like how that turned out. The dress fits OK and is well made with nice finished seams, but I just can’t get past how 80s it looks. If I tried it on in a store and wasn’t pleased, I’d just put it back on the rack. Now I’m out money and time. Bummer.

I don't like this dress so much

23 Jul

All Done Sewing Houses!

I was very productive this morning while the kids were away at a sleep-over and I sewed together the last of the houses! Then I just couldn’t stay away and I added the border throughout the day as the kids came and went. I feel a great sense of relief that I can move on to the next stage on this. It also means that I can change thread on the machine and sew together some fleece for a background so that I can photograph my quilts myself. I have a Birthday gift or two I should make as well, but I had been putting them off because I wanted/needed to focus on the city. Big project: little stuff: serious art: crafty fun…

The city has moved to the floor:

City Quilt laying on the floor

I Photoshopped together two halves so you you could see it better, but holding the camera over my head made a blurry picture. Maybe next time.

Blurry, patched together city

Now I need to decide if I’m going to hand quilt it, or use the machine. Either way, it will be pretty simple, geometric lines. I like the idea of hand quilting as this quilt is all about the human element, but I can only give it a few months time, so I just don’t know. It would be a nice hand work in front of the TV project, but then again, it’s still awefully hot here to have a Queen sized quilt on one’s lap.

22 Jul

Call Me Lunar

For the past week I have been crabby and not in the mood to do any sort of work. I blamed the heat. Then last night I got the urge to sew together some houses. This morning I willingly vacuumed and did a cursory cleaning of the bathrooms. It didn’t hurt that friends were coming over for craft day, but it was still stinking hot here. Then it dawned on me that it was that time of the month. I was lazy and crabby because I was PMSy. It got me thinking about cycles in general; which got me to thinking about harnessing the energy of high and low points. What if you could figure out what tasks you performed best at what points in your cycle and plan your month based on that information? At the begining of the cycle, when one might be in a nesting state of mind, one could focus on housekeeping matters such as cleaning, bills, organizing, etc. Mid-cycle might be the best time for longer term efforts or physical activities: tackling that big project or joining the kids’ class for a field trip to the woods. PMS time is the time for the introverted deep thinking, or just allowing yourself a break, because, hey, you’ve been maximizing the last three weeks! Yea, I know, nuts. But this is what occurred to me as I was vacuuming. It probably also goes a long way to explaining the New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream and Babylon 5 DVD that I occupied myself with last week.

19 Jul

No progress to share yet

My mommy/artist friends can probably relate to this. I had a great sewing day yesterday. I chose not to run errands or clean house while the kids were at school, so I worked for 3 hours in the morning, and then both kids were out of the house for a few more hours after lunch. I sewed together about 2/3 of the houses in my city quilt!

Of course, all good things must come to an end because my son thought he had a short day at school today, but when I went to pick him up, he didn’t. But I had already stopped what I was working on, so I ran errands instead (not horrible — now I have batting and backing for the city). Then I had six kids here for about 5 hours this afternoon. Did I mention that it’s been too hot to even play outside? I tried tempting them with a sprinkler flower thing, but it is broken and they all decided that our wading pool is just too small. My American family and readers may not realize it, but Europe doesn’t do air conditioning in most buildings, except department stores, high rise office buildings and grocery stores. That’s why everyone is outside in the biergartens and cafés. It was 110° F on our balcony today, so the only thing to do was to hide inside in the dark in front of a fan. All 7 of us. Playing Uno. Fun, but no houses got sewn today.

Mommy/artists can probably also relate to the fact that I think I had something deep and meaningful about my art making process to comment on yesterday, but I didn’t want to stop my sewing to write it down (our time is precious you know), and by the time the kids were in bed at night I had completely forgotten what it was that I wanted to say. Speaking about deep and meaningful, I used to be able to make all that art school babble about proportion and balance and energy and synthesis, but now it’s all I can do to finish a complete sentence, let alone make it erudite. I say this because, somewhere in my head is a well thought out, deep concept for my city quilt, but when it comes time to express it, all that I can say is “shopping bags humanity organic growth of old cities HEY STOP TORMENTING YOUR BROTHER!”

I have been going through the usual phases on the quilt. I was completely frustrated with it. Then I replaced some of the dingier bags with the more cheerful colors from my second dyeing attempt and replaced the non-bag fabrics with bags, and whenever I needed to fill a space I used white. It’s not quite the “resting place” Deborah suggested, but I think it helped. I also moved the reds around a bit per Gerrie’s comment. I was more concerned with keeping the high rises on their side of the quilt though, and red definitely went only with the high rises. Sydney was right on the mark regarding thinkning about it too much. I tried and tried to think deep thoughts and justify the placement of each and every house. Then my brain just hurt too much and said “to hell with it, let’s just get to the sewing part and see what happens, becaus ethat’s what we like doing the most.” So I left things where they were after adding the white, and replacing other colors. I slept on it and it still looked OK in the morning. No great changes from when I was frustrated, but now it didn’t look bad. (What an amazing effect one’s mood can have on all manner of things.) I decided to just start sewing, and now I’m really liking the quilt. I think that the red roofs and green bits connecting everything are balancing out the red buildings, and now there are some triangular roofs that really add a nice bit of dimension. Then I think, “oh no, I’m just sewing.” Where’s the line between naïve for effect and naïve because I can’t do any better? Again, too much brain, so I’ll just keep sewing. Since I’m so close, I’m not going to post a picture until I get all the houses sewn together at least.

It may be a while though, because tomorow IS a short school day (Hitzefrei: they go home early because the school has no air conditioning and it’s just too darn hot to learn anything) and we have music classes in the afternoon, and Katja has no Kindergarten on Friday because the Vorschulkinder (kids starting 1st grade in the fall) are having their end-of-Kindergarten sleepover. I’m guessing we’ll be going to the pool or lake.

15 Jul

Backyard antics

I was actually excited to get back to the City quilt today as Dorothee sent me three shopping bags. Thanks Dorothee! But alas, life got in the way. I cleaned up the garden this morning because it desperately needed it and I wanted to work on it while it was still cool outside. I had hoped to lure the kids outside as well, but had no luck. Then it was time for lunch (al fresco), and I managed to clean some floors and the glass door which has suffered dearly between our hard water and the kids’ squirt guns.

I banned the kids from TV, computer or Xbox for the rest of the day since I’ve realized that my son was using his hour of screen time here, then going to the neighbor’s house to play some more with him (mostly at the neighbor’s insistence), and, if he’s lucky, he’d get invited to another friend’s house for more screen time. I was sensing more grouchiness than before the new neighbors, and the best friend’s aquisition of a few new games. Needless to say, I’m being the “bad” mom and insisting that the kids play over here so I can monitor my kids’ screen time, or play outside. (I figure my son can play at the neighbor’s when he’s NOT already used his screen time already, and if the neighbor wants more computer/game time he can go home without my son.)

Down side is that I can’t work on anything that needs any concentration. I’ve cut out a summer dress, so maybe I’ll work on that.

Up side is that, when forced, the kids can and will find creative ways to play. (As opposed to letting a black box entertain them.) The boys suggested a fort in the back yard and I felt I had to comply:

Boy Fort

The girls wanted in on the action, so I rigged up a tablecloth between our fence and the picnic table on our patio:

Girl Fort

They’ve had ice cream in the forts and are now devising sign-in sheets and secret passwords. One would think I could go sew now, but I keep getting requests for supplies, drinks, repairs, etc. At least I can feel good about my parenting today.

Our back yard with forts

Oh, and honey, this is the “square ball” Katja was talking about. The cheese lady at Edeka loves my kids :-)

Katja and the square ball (before the forts)