13 Jul

Kind of a political rant for my own personal edification

So here it is. I had a moment of clarity this morning and finished writing this letter to my representatives in Washington DC. I have been putting it off knowing that any argument I made could so easily be torn apart by lawyers and thus made ineffectual. I have no money to lobby, nor an affiliation with any lobby groups (who I believe are the ones who truly run our country). But I’ve decided to h*ll with it. I’m going to say my piece and if no one listens, at least I’ve done my part and said it. I wish I had something to say about Israel and Palestine, but I just don’t know what position I think the U.S. should take. I just know that the support I felt for Israel in the 80s and 90s has completely faded. And no offense honey, but knowing that you are not here to play devil’s advocate with the points I do or don’t make is probably helping me to actually make this public. I’m posting it here because it is an open letter to my government, and I will be snail-mailing copies to the appropriate state and federal democrats.

“NO WAR, NO BUSH” scream the protest posters in Europe. The Anti Third Term Amendment guarantees the latter, but what are the Democrats willing to do about the former? Election year is fast approaching and I am tempted to make an Independent or Green protest vote because of their parties’ commitment to ending the war/occupation in Iraq. What are you, as a Democrat, willing to do to create a platform that will ensure my Democratic vote? I want my representatives in D.C. to find a workable, reasonable plan to stop the war in Iraq and to work together to prepare a candidate who will work to put that plan into action.

So what are Democratic policy makers going to do about it? Arguing about who did or didn’t lie about the reasons for invading Iraq won’t stop any terrorists or save any soldiers or civilians. Truth is we’ve smashed open the hornet’s nest (like the think-tanks predicted in 2002) and we’re stuck in the resulting quagmire (what do we really know about the needs and desires of that part of the world?). Governance by what we see as religious leaders is the choice of the Iraqi people. Like it or not, this is a predominantly Islamic region, and religion and politics are bound together in Islam. It’s none of our business if we don’t like it and it’s not our place to superficially impose our choices on another country (unless of course, we are an Imperialist occupying force and we view Iraq as our colony…) As we have seen, that merely breeds contempt and hatred and thus, more violence. What I want to see is policy makers, and the lobbyists who support them, tackle the more difficult task of finding a solution to get our selfless men and women out of Iraq. As I see it, the U.S. has already tossed aside it’s historical white hat, lost face, and lost it’s standing as a super power in the eyes of the world. Let’s eat some crow, admit we were wrong (and I mean we because the majority DID vote for George W. Bush in 2004) and cut our losses.

“Our strategy in Iraq is clear,” Bush said. “Our tactics are flexible and dynamic. We have changed them as conditions required and they are bringing us victory against a brutal enemy.” In my opinion, this is as clear as mud. Flexible and dynamic sounds like doublespeak for “we don’t know what we’re doing, so we’ll just keep adapting as we meet new needs.” The current stated end goal is, “a free and peaceful Iraq living in peace with its neighbors and no longer hospitable to terrorists” says Gen. Peter Pace. Again doublespeak. This is an unattainable goal which just gives the U.S. government the loophole to stay in Iraq as long as they want and never actually define any goals. I would like to see the next administration make better, more accurate use of the doctrine Caspar Weinberger set out in 1984. The current goals are lacking in the capacity that Weinberger requests in points #2 and #3 of his doctrine: (2) U.S. troops should only be committed wholeheartedly and with the clear intention of winning. Otherwise, troops should not be committed. (3) U.S. combat troops should be committed only with clearly defined political and military objectives and with the capacity to accomplish those objectives. This war had a beginning, is caught in the middle, but has no clearly defined objectives for defining “winning” or an end-state for the war. If the Democrats can pull together to create a platform with a reasonable and attainable end to the American occupation of Iraq I would willingly vote Democratic.

What else do I, as an American citizen want? I want less money to go to financing the rebuilding of foreign nations so that it may be redirected to the rebuilding of our poverty and disaster-stricken areas here in the United States. I want affordable health care for all citizens, not just the wealthiest. I want our soldiers removed from the stranglehold of the Iraqi occupation so that they may be available to fight more clearly defined battles, should they arise. I want our schools to spend their money and energies teaching facts, not fighting legal battles over faith. I want to be able to bring my children back to a United States of which I can be proud, not embarrassed.

Thank you for your service to our Republic.

Sincerely,

Kristin La Flamme

11 Jul

Look Dad, No Stützräder!

I can’t believe I forgot to include this. After a few rough starts and about a month coasting around on the pedal-less bike at Kindergarten, Katja got on her bike yesterday and rode with minimal help from mommy. I hold the back of the seat as she gets started and off she goes. By today she was starting all by herself. Stopping needs some help still.

Woo hooo!

11 Jul

Kids artsy-farting around

For the next five months I’m anticipating that there will be more kid shenanigans here (and possibly less quilt content) as I’ll be using the blog to keep TS&WGH updated while he’s away (presumably) studying hard. I suspect that the grandmothers will appreciate it as well 😉

Two nights ago, the kids built Höhlen (caves) in the living room. (Yes, that’s the way we talk around here. Mostly English with some German words thrown in when we learned them first.) They were so inspired that they spent the night in the caves as well.

Katja's Höhle

Zavi's Höhle

Today, Katja had a girlfriend over to play. We tried out my new Setacolor Transparent paints. I washed some white fabric beforehand and put fat quarters on plastic covered cardboard. I gathered up brushes and goodies to mask the fabric with.

Sun Printing Prep

The girls had a great time painting with all the colors and then adding all the goodies on top.

Miriam's sun print in progress

I got in on the act too. Hey, they were MY paints! Actually, I thought it might be a fun way to make a field of Raps (Rape seed flowers that canola oil is made from). The bright yellow of Raps is stunning when paired with a red train and a blue or grey sky.

Sun prints basking

While the fabric dried, the girls treated me to a puppet show in yet another Höhle. (Look Erin, the wonky felted monster puppets we all made actually do get some use, occasionally.)
Monster Masterpiece Theater

Here are the girls showing off their creations. They got rave reviews from the moms in the row.

Sunny Girls

I was really pleased at how well the paints worked. The plastic dress-up necklace worked great and produced wonderful shadows. The stars are the glow-in-the-dark kind which are falling off our walls and ceiling one at a time. They were obviously easy enough for kids to use as well.
Sun print Raps

Grown-ups can get good results too. (Yes, Kathy, the yellow and green match the hand-dyed fabric I bought in Lyon perfectly!) We did find though, that the Hallmark or American Greetings tissue paper from the PX did not bleed nicely like the samples in Quilting Arts magazine. Wouldn’t you know it, when you need the cheap product, the PX, for once, supplies the quality one! And I’m obviously going to have to cut the fabric off at the annoying lines from the fold in the plastic bag (I thought I had smoothed it out). At least they are parallel.
Sunny Raps detail

And finally, I got my new dyes yesterday (yes honey, I WAS able to open the P.O. box myself on the first try!) and used this morning to dye a few bags and overdye my less successful fabrics from last time. I know they’re pretty humble, but I’m very pleased with these:

Dyed bags

The green makes me very happy. The last pink is a bit brighter than anyone’s actual house here, but I think it will play nicely in the town and cheer up the crappier colors. We’ll see. But probably not tomorow. The fridge is empty and I really need to get the car registration renewed.
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09 Jul

City growing pains

I worked on the city some more today. I’m still waiting on dyes to make a different shade of pink, but I got some more shopping bags from neighbors. I am really loving that I can connect each bag to someone I know. There had been a few houses that were not made from shopping bags, but rather, with fabrics in the appropriate colors. I decided to remove these and make all the houses primarily with the bags to keep the concept clear. I also have been messing around with discharge thinking that if I could add color to the bags, I could remove it as well.

City as of 9 July

I’m feeling crappy about this now. It has no focal point, which I don’t think is a big problem, as part of being a quilt can be repetitive patterning. But it has also lost the movement that it has previously. I had grouped the buildings by color and I felt that the eye was starting to move across the quilt in nice waves. I was going for the faded, slightly dingy colors of the houses here, plus the graphics on the bags, but now it’s lost something. Now it just looks busy, busy, busy, and too dingy. I realized this as I was tring to squeeze in some time while the kids were entertaining each other with friends. That quickly morphed into several groups going back and forth between the houses and finally ended up with all 9 kids in our postage stamp sized back yard with the squirt guns and in the wading pool. Way too much chaos for any type of work other than the most mindless. I will reasses the city after bed time tonight. I will probably remove more houses and try again after the next dye day. In the mean time I’m down on this project.

09 Jul

Go Owlz!

Yippee! I just recieved notification that Katja’s Owlz has been accepted into AQS Nashville! I am gobsmacked (to use a phrase from a Brit friend)! I entered quilts in a bunch of shows this year with the thinking that most shows might reject my quilts but another may like one or two. I also had a few quilts in a few different styles. I was trawling and covering bases. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that almost all the quilts entered would be accepted! I am sure glad I took inspiration from Lisa Call and made a spreadsheet of what quilts were entered into which shows and their status.

Katja's Owlz

08 Jul

Say what you will

Say what you will about sports, but they do have a knack for bringing communities together. I spent the late evening watching the penultimate game of the World Cup with our neighbors and realized that normally, military wife that I am, I am ready to try living in a new place at the two year mark. September will be two years for us in this house, and I am nowhere near ready to leave. I love our neighbors and our neighborhood, and even without WM I’m not ready to give up this community. Oh, and THANKS to the “boys” for as fabulous try — you are the “champions of our hearts!” Maybe that’s the Sekt (German champagne) talking, but I doubt it.

08 Jul

You Asked For It

Bag Series # 8 tutorial Square Bag

Ok, Deborah and Diane asked for it, but I bet there’s some lurkers out there that want this info too. I am justifying taking the time to make another Square Bag as I have run out of shopping bags for the city quilt and must make a trip downtown to search out more. So, I couldn’t work on the city yesterday if I wanted to. I whipped this bag (#8 in the series if you’re counting) up while the kids were in school and it is the classic example of “do as I say, not as I do.”

Savvy crafters will skip to step 6 and make this with two plain pieces of fabric!

I wanted to try making my own fabric for this bag with scraps and water soluble stabilizer. While it looks good, depending on the size of your stabilizer, it can be difficult to make a large enough square, and the layers of scraps make the “fabric” a bit thick for this bag, especially if it’s small. If you want to try anyways, here’s the steps I took:

Lay out scraps on stabilizer

1. Lay scraps out on a layer of water soluble stabilizer. Pin several pieces together if you need to make a bigger square. I used Sulky Solvy because it’s what I had at home. I’ve also seen Aqua Magic which is woven and therefore more stable. I think it would be easier to use.

Cover the scraps

2. Cover the scraps with another layer of water soluble stabilizer and secure with some pins. You can do this without the top layer, but the scraps have an annoying tendency to get caught up in the darning foot of the sewing machine and this step keeps everything under wraps.

Free motion over the sandwich

3. Drop the feed dogs on your machine, use the darning foot, thread some pretty thread in the machine (I used a variegated rayon), and practice your mad free-motion skills. The quilt police will not be inspecting this, so don’t sweat it. Most important is that you stitch over everything enough to hold all the scraps together.

This step is just too over the top!

4. A sane woman would have stopped at step three, but I decided that it would be fun to couch some of the silk sari yarn I have over the top. It looks lovely with the batik scraps and bright colors, but for this little bag, it was just too much. I broke several needles sewing through all the thicknesses in later steps, so save this embellishment for another project.

Wash the stabilizer off

5. Put your new “fabric” in the sink and wash the stabilizer off. A couple of rinses, and maybe some laundry detergent, will get rid of any gooeyness.

Cut two squares

6. Here’s where we actually get to start making the Square Bag. You need two squares of coordinating fabric. Here’s my scrap fabric and a silky lining. For the Bag Series #6, Patchwork Square Bag I made a 24″ square out of pieced 2″ squares and lined it with polka dotted cotton. For this bag (#8) I had to use a 17″ square due to the size of the stabilizer. The optimum size for your squares would be between 20″ and 25.”

Sew squares together

7. With right sides together, sew the squares together around the perimeter, leaving an opening to turn it right sides out. I used a 1/4″ seam allowance. (For the patchwork bag I also inserted rick rack into the seam.) Turn right sides out and press smooth.

Top stitch square

8.Top stitch the perimeter of the square. This step will sew the opening closed as well as giving the piece a nice, finished look.

Fold into thirds

9. Fold the square into thirds with lining side up. Sew an on-point square in the center where all three layers overlap. This will create little triangle shaped pockets on the inside of the bag.

Sew up the sides

10. Fold the bag in half, lining side out. Sew up the sides, close to the edge. Stop 1/4″ to 1/2″ from the top and backstitch to lock. In the photo, the left side is not yet sewn, but the right side is. This is also where I started to regret the thickness of my scrap fabric and wished I had just pulled two nice fabrics from my stash.

Sew across corners

11. Squash the two bottom corners flat and sew across them. I broke several needles and lots of thread on this step. Note to self: Rayon thread is pretty for decorative stitching, but doesn’t hold up well for utility sewing like this. Now I am completely regretting the thick fabric choice, but hey, the bag is almost done and I have a half an hour before I need to pick the kids up, so I’m not turning back.
It should look something like this

12. It should now look something like this.

Turn inside out

13. Turn it inside out and it will look like this. See the little pockets?

Another view

Here’s another view where you can see the way the bottom is flatter now after sewing across the corners.

Cut casings

14. Cut two casings from lining fabric. They should be about 1 1/2″ inches wide and about the same length as the width of your bag. Press under 1/4″ on each of the long sides of the casings. Press under 1/4″ on the short ends and then turn them under again. Stitch down to finish the ends.

Sew in the casings

15. Position the casings as low down into the bag as you can. Ideally, the casings will line up with the open tops of the side seams. (Mine are a little high here due to the tiny size of the bag and the fact taht I was not paying as much attention as I should have. Sew the casings in place along the long sides. Back stitch at the ends to lock.

Thread cording into casings

15. Cut two lengths of cording each 20″ to 35″ long, depending on the size of your purse. Thread one through one casing and then across the seam and back through the opposite casing. Tie the ends together.

Thread the next cord in the opposite direction

16. Thread the other length of cording in the opposite direction so the ends are on the other side of the bag. Tie the ends together and you are DONE! Mine could be a cute little jewelry bag, but I think it’s destined to go to a certain little girl in the house. The patchwork one is large enough to use as an everyday purse.

08 Jul

Cleaning Up

What do you do with all those narrow pieces of batting left over after making a quilt? I stole this idea from Denise at the Arts & Crafts Center on post, and made bunnies.

Batting Bunnies

Or are they teeth?

Batting Teeth

Taking advantage of TS&WGH being home for a few days, I continued “cleaning up” by tackling another in-progress pile. Yup, another bag. I think I’m going to call this a series, as I’m sure they will become an important body of work — ha! Counting four Süße Sacs, Kaffe Goes to Bolivia for the Weekend, and the patchwork Square Bag, this one is #7 in the “series.”

Bag Series #7, Owl Bag

The owl fabric on this side is a lined pocket in three sections (divided by the handles); good for having your bus tickets or a map handy.

Bag Series #7, Owl Bag other side

The owl fabric on this side is purely decorative, but the jeans pocket is functional.

Bag Series #7, Owl Bag interior

Although the original pattern (the Donna Bag from Carry With Style; thanks Katrin) was pretty easy and straightforward, the raw edges showed on the inside. I altered the pattern to cover the seams and unfortunately, that tweeked the bottom of the purse so the corners are not as elegant as I would have liked. It does pass the three-foot rule, so just don’t get into my personal space when you see me with this. I am pleased with my addition of the little pockets inside for a pen and handy. Oh, and don’t laugh at my ancient handy. It was top of the line when my SIL used it at the turn of the millenium and who can argue with a free hand-me-down?

Bag Series #7, Owl Bag the zipper pull

And here’s fancy little bell flowers on the zipper pull. I must STEP AWAY from the Japanese craft magazine!