29 Apr

My Rooms

You know how you plateau on something and it stagnates for a while, then something happens and it all breaks loose? Getting our house how I want it has been like that. I told myself with this house I wasn’t going to wait to change, acquire, or remove things, since it seems like we always move before I get to any of it. I was stumped by our cuckoo clock though. It’s heavy enough that I didn’t want to hang it just from drywall, but the house has steel framing, so it doesn’t follow the usual 16″ wood stud rules, nor the masonry construction rules I’m used to.

After more than six months of timid knocking and nailing, I finally decided to just suck it up and nail holes until I found the steel stud. I finally did, and after a comical misunderstanding with my trusty drill, I’ve hung the clock. At long last, no more packing box in the living room! (Later, my neighbor told me a super-strong magnet is a great tool for metal stud location. Duh.)

About the same time as my cuckoo triumph, I treated myself to all three issues of Studios magazine. That definitely shook something loose. Though I didn’t actually see an example in any of the issues, they got me all excited to find a drop leaf table for my own studio/guest room and to give up on my leather couch quest (I know what I want, but it’s not on this island and as our current couch is perfectly fine, I don’t really need it anyway) and buy a futon instead of moving the current living room sofa-bed upstairs.

I started an affair with Craig’s List. The perfect table was on Maui, but without the Superferry in operation, it wasn’t exactly practical. Then up popped this craft cabinet for $35. It’s a piece of you-know-what, but for the price, I figured I could paint it, use it, and chuck it in 2 1/2 years. As long as I was painting, I decided I aught to paint the bench I bought off German eBay three years ago and always meant to paint white.

The right futon took a bit longer as there were so many, I actually had to decide exactly what it was I wanted. I was amazed to find it within two weeks.

How about a tour now that things are looking pretty good?

Directly to the left of the door is my “new” sewing cabinet, my famed mushroom collection, and a bookcase I can’t live without.

As long as you don’t look too close, it’s pretty perfect! I’ve been wondering where to put my cubbies of trim since I ran out of wall space.

The futon dominates the room, but at least my guests won’t have to sleep on a twin foam mattress on the floor anymore. My mushroom quilt definitely helps it play nice with the rest of the room! (By the way, the left half of the sewing cabinet folds away so guests have a little more room.)

Looking the other way, is my actual sewing table. There’s a lot of piles around it which wax and wane depending on the state of my projects. The past several weeks have been busy with my new friend Craig, and the Guild Quilt Show, but hopefully I’ll be able to spend more time in this room soon.

The fourth wall is closet. That’s my fabric stash showing, but I can hide it behind the mirror door if I want. The other half of the sliding door is covered with batting and functions as a design wall. If I owned this house I’d fill the closet with sturdy shelves so I could slide all my bins of supplies in and out easily, but it’s not, so I’m content with rearranging small stacks as needed.

Painting the sewing cabinet led to painting the little bench, which lives in my bedroom.

The other side of the bed looks like this:

An aside, next to the window is a small window artwork by Natalya Aikens. She and I had swapped art a little over a year ago, but in an unfortunate turn of events, I lost hers in our move. I held out hope for several months, but I fear that I threw it away thinking that it’s cardboard packing was just another piece of the sea of cardboard trash we were surrounded by. When I told her (just so she’s know the whereabouts, or lack thereof, of her work) she very generously offered to send me another one!!!! I am so pleased to be able to once again, grace my walls with Natalya’s work, and it looks so nice hanging with my other blue art.

The motif on the bench matches this gentleman’s wardrobe, which I love, love, love. The woods didn’t compliment each other though, hence the paint.

The aqua paint (not quite as garish as these photos, but hardly quiet) was inspired by this frame I painted not long after we moved in. My dad had a deer head who’s antlers he hangs his ties on so I find my mini necklace version endlessly amusing.

I love my patchwork bathmat. It pretty much inspired the whole master suite!

This is the third time (in seven dwellings) we’ve had double sinks. I love them. Fewer bathrooms, more sinks — that’s my motto. I also love all the art in our bathroom. It makes mornings beautiful.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour. When I finish my ripple afghan, then I’ll show off the couch and it’s environs.

27 Apr

Hawai’i Quilt Guild

I’ve been remiss. I’ve forgotten to mention that the Hawai’i Quilt Guild (of which I am a member) is having their 25th Anniversary quilt show this week! I helped to hang the show last Monday and completely forgot to bring my camera. There’s a small write-up in the Honolulu Star bulletin here. Be sure to click on “view more photos” below the picture as there are eight more quilts.

The opening was last Thursday. The space (the Linekona building at the Honolulu Art Academy) is lovely — nice high ceilings, movable walls and lots of light. The building also has an expansive entrance porch (or lanai) which was decked out with scrumptious food by several Guild members. This was definitely a well attended event and for good reason. Great food outside, and lots of colorful quilts inside.

When hanging the show, I had my “gallery” head on and kept trying to give things space and interesting vignettes. Stacy, the organizer, kept telling me, “no, hang it higher so we can fit more in, add this, do that, don’t forget that one over there…” I was doubtful early on, but she knew what we had to deal with and had the vision, and once it was all done, it really did come together wonderfully. It is a non-juried show and highlights well the variety of talents and interests of the guild members. In toto, the high walls covered with quilts plus more hanging from the ceiling, and many flowers, made for a sensory riot of color and pattern. You have to smile when you walk in.

So, if you happen to be in Honolulu this week, please make time to stop by the Linekona on Victoria Street (mauka of the Blaisedell Center).

Since I forgot my camera, the photo above is of the blossoms my daughter’s hula teacher showed me how to put together for the girls to wear in their hair for their end-of-session performance. We have a great park next to the kids’ school that offers VERY affordable programs. I support it as much as possible.

19 Apr

Still Scattered, But Slightly More Content About It

You guys are right. I can’t separate it all. Although my head says that showing the public a focused side of me where they can predict what I’ll produce (be it art quilts, craft ideas, a lifestyle type blog…) my heart knows that it’s just not me. What I really have to come to terms with is that to be the better person I want to be, I need to let go of the expectations or conventions of others. I need to stop comparing what I’m doing to what others are doing, and I need to define success for me only.

This post is evidence of that inability to separate that which excites me. I had what I thought was three separate posts swimming around in my head, but they kept converging. Bear with me as I just throw it all out at once.

I think it begins with the Ripple Afghan which is coming along nicely. I ripped it out and started over when I decided that I wanted more white. I contemplated leaving out a few colors, but once I added the white and toned down the orange with a half row of red, everything decided to play together well. I had originally imagined the color scheme as a beach wedding with red coral accents, but my daughter pointed out that it looked like lava to her and I love the way that tied my greyer colors in conceptually. So now, it’s a beach on a volcanic island (which I guess I really was from the start anyway).

As I’m rippling away, I’m watching the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival. I’ve decided that I really like the ancient chanting dances known as Kahiko Hula. It’s very different from the Don Ho hotel show style that usually comes to mind, and it’s not the coconut bra, wild hips of Tahitian dance either. I highly recommend going here to KITV’s Merrie Monarch page and look for the column of videos. Under “Watch Hula Kahiko Hälau Performances” are videos that will probably challenge your ideas of what Hula is. Check out the Hälau Hula O Kahikilaulani under Wahine Kahiko. I love the way their grass skirts move! Hälau Ka Liko Pua O performed a chant from the coronation of King Kalakaua (you may remember him from one of my 12 x 12 chair quilts). Kane are men, and you might want to check them out too — there’s more than a few bare chests.

(via the Polynesian Cultural Center)

Under the same general list of videos, Cherissa Käne, Kaholo Panui, and Pohaikau’ilani Ann Nu’uhiwa show a nice variety of costume and style within the chant category. I found myself fascinated not only by the rhythm of the chants but also by the outfits. The sheer yardage amazes me — just think that all woven cotton fabric would have been imported by ship in the days after “contact.” Before that, when these story-telling Kahiko were at their peak, I’m pretty sure the dancers would have been wearing Kapa cloth meticulously pounded from tree bark and then patterned using small bamboo stamps. I can’t imagine pounding or purchasing enough cloth for the full Pau skirts. I believe the puffy hip wraps I saw on both men and women were meant to represent kapa cloth, which would probably tend to puff rather than drape. Even with those, there was a variety of ways they were fastened. And the tops were fascinating to. At first I thought they were all variations on the tube top, but I realized that the tight fitting ones were actually ingeniously wrapped around the womens’ torsos. Again, they looked like they’d need lots of yardage. The men wore all kinds of loin cloths or skirts over pants. Again, the fastening of all the fabric intrigued me. There were dry grass and fresh Ti leaf skirts too. Amazing.

Probably because of all the mesmerizing drums of the Kahiko I’m feeling the urge to work on my tropical fabric designs (I realize that even if that’s a go-nowhere direction for me, I still have the urge to pursue it).

I’ve been working on other fabric-y art quilt stuff too. Earlier in the week, I decided to play with my Setacolor light sensitive paints. I wasn’t too happy with the results, which I attribute to my using a loosely woven, re-purposed duvet cover and cardboard stencils. Today, I tried again, with finer PFD fabric, plus I found some eight year old cyanotype fabric I had forgotten I had. I cut shapes out of fun foam, and it worked a treat. I don’t have photos of today’s work, but here’s my secret project from November. I wrote a proposal for my Süße Sac shoulder bag pattern using various types of complex cloth one might have around after trying the many techniques found in Quilting Arts Magazine. They rejected it, but now you get to see my summery, tropical (the convergence part) version made with sun printed fabric!


16 Apr

So Many Paths

What to do, what to do? I’ve been thinking a lot in recent months about what I want to do with my art, or even if I want to do anything. I’ve whined before about watching my peers seemingly pass me by, but then done little about it. Well, little tangible. I’ve been thinking about options — and there are so many.

I could focus on art quilts. Enter more shows. Focus on marketing that side of me. (I might need to cut back on the public handbag-making, knitting, and kid-art crafting though.) To that end I’ve entered four shows this year and submitted two project proposals to a magazine. The results to date are three rejections, one still-waiting, and one acceptance. Yay! I’ll post more closer to the date, but my latest “Rooted” quilt will travel the US with the “Tactile Architecture” show.

I could pursue fabric design. I’ve got some ideas, but I’m not really sure where to go next, or if this is even an avenue I want to commit to. To that end, I’m happily drawing away on my computer here and there, slowly building a collection of patterns for a rainy day.

I could succumb to my crafty side and grow the blog with more tutorials, swaps, community building, and reproducible inspiration. I could submit more proposals to magazines and crafty web sites. Maybe this is where my kid-inspired art takes the lead. This area is already chock full of more qualified people than I though, and actually the least enticing direction. But I have to admit that I do tend to post a lot of projects that would be just as happy on a dedicated “craft blog” as here.

I could focus on writing that parent/child picture-book-with-project based on our butterfly adventure. To that end, I’ve considered a few illustration styles and made a short list of possible publishers, but then lost it.

I could just do what I enjoy doing each day, and try not to worry about it. This is what I’ve been doing lately, and although it feels right, it also feels like it may just be the path of least resistance.

When my dad was here, we talked about defining individual success and priorities. How important is tangible success like a booming Etsy shop, or published articles? What would it take to make those goals a reality? Would those steps fulfill me? There is a certain honesty in being my multi-faceted self even if it means I’d be sabotaging myself by muddling the definitions (artist, crafter, designer, writer) that make us “marketable.” Embracing that self and accepting that that person will probably never be outwardly successful is definitely a goal of mine. However, speaking of sabotage, I still want the outward validation. I’m in the enviable position of not having to support myself or my family with my art, so why DO I want to be successful or marketable? Do I even feel comfortable selling things or ideas? Why is it necessary (for any reason other than to place value on the work itself) since I don’t need the income? Besides, I’ve always had a problem with convincing others to buy things they don’t really need (the advertising world and the design world overlap and I was always aware of that grey area I didn’t want to cross).

So, if I don’t need the income, and I’m not much of a marketer; if I like my hand in many pots; if I can wrap my head around not needing outside validation, then perhaps my path is not the one of least resistance, but the one of self discovery. My mom suggested I just keep doing what I’m doing and throwing the ideas out there in hopes that one may take hold and show me the way. And that does seem to be the direction (if one can call it a direction) right now. Underneath this hodge-podge of a blog about art quilts, ripple blankets, sewing, backyard bugs, motherhood, military life, travel and cultural exchange, there is but one journey.

*It occurred to me after writing this that part of why I keep coming back to this need to define success and to decide whether I need it or not is a cultural predisposition to need to always be growing and moving forward.  Perhaps I need to get out of my American head and look for other perspectives.

14 Apr

Good News, Bad News

First, the good news: I think I’ve found the perfect Flammkuchen recipe!! Flammkuchen is Weinfest (Wine Festival) food. It’s for hot September evenings at the Biergarten. It’s for when you want something simple and honest, and NOT fast food. It is one of my very favorite foods. It’s also one of my bacon-loving son’s favorites too. I hope that the one tarte will be enough to feed both of us. Luckily my daughter won’t eat it (obviously she may not really be my daughter). Because of it’s summery-ness, a Flammkuchen recipe needs to be simple — and this one is just that. The major win here is the crust. I’ve been making do with pizza dough recipes and they’re just too thick (though I think I need a pizza stone as my Silpat mat seems to inhibit browning).

Now, the bad news: this Flammkuchen REALLY NEEDS to be enjoyed with wine or beer. And I have neither in the house. Sure, I could close up shop, pack the kids in the car and go get a bottle, but that’s a lot of work mid-dinner making. I could leave the kids in charge and go the whopping one mile myself; maybe with a soup that needed occasional stirring, but not with bacon in the pan. No, what I really need is for Mr. Incredible to be here so that I can send him out for the necessities while not losing my own cooking momentum.

This situation is one of those annoying deployment things that doesn’t make the papers. It’s not heart wrenching or heroic. However, I think it’s the kind of thing that wears on a person. All those little things that would just be so much simpler, or pleasant (like sipping a nice white wine with my delicious Flammkuchen) with the other person around — but they’re not around. I can understand why some couples kind of give up on the relationship — because the longer or more frequent the deployment, the less like a partnership it seems. Obviously it will take more than the lack of proper beverage accompaniment to break up this marriage, but as long as I’m sharing deployment related anecdotes, it’s food for thought.

12 Apr

On Creativity, Productivity and a Ripple Afghan

I like to have several projects going at once. Preferably, different types of projects: something on the sewing machine, something to do by hand, something that requires deep thought, something totally brainless. I can’t move linearly from start to finish on one thing and then go to the next. I suspect most people are like this. That way, I have something creative to do no matter what the circumstances. That’s also why I don’t feel too bad when I drop one thing to pick up something new and shiny.

My mom was just here for a visit, and to help me out, and my dad spent time with us during the winter break. I did not do any art quilting during either of their visits. I did very little crafting as well. My head just wasn’t into it. That’s not to say that it wasn’t worth having them here to “help me out.” Other things get done. My dad fixed a furniture problem that I though was going to be big, but he made it small. He fixed a broken sprinkler too. Those count for peace of mind. My mom was in my corner versus the kids. I hadn’t really realized how nice it is to have someone on my side when it comes to chores and homework, but it makes a huge difference.

So, with Spring Break, my mom’s visit, and a long weekend, there hasn’t been much deep thinking art around here. No worries — the kids will be back in school Monday and I will have lots of alone time. Meanwhile, the Ripple Afghan is the perfect mindless thing to work on with kids and guests around. In fact, it’s downright addictive. As soon as I’m done with this post, Ripple and I are going out to the lanai.

Some Ripple details:

Jan pointed me to Attic24’s perfectly timed Neat Ripple Pattern. It is exactly the waves I wanted, and it comes with great step by step photos, perfect for people like me who haven’t picked up a crochet hook in 30 years! My specific yarn needs were that it come in lots of browns and a good orangey orange, that it be washable, and that it be cheap. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the Baby Cashmerino yarn that seems so popular for this project on sale and I wasn’t prepared to pay full price.

I visited one yarn store on the island, but they just didn’t have the selection I needed. In the end, I ordered online from Kaleidescope Yarns and was very happy with their customer service. This will probably make yarn purists cringe, but I ended up buying Plymouth Yarns’ Encore, a worsted weight 75% Acrylic/25% wool blend. It came in a good range of colors, is washable, and costs half as much as the other yarns I was looking at. I chose worsted weight over DK because I hoped it’s thickness would make the project go faster (not having crocheted in 30 years, I wasn’t sure how committed I’d be). I may regret this heavier yarn when the blanket is done, but as Gerrie said, I’ll have the blanket much longer than I expect to be living in Hawai’i. Funny thing is, the cream color is back ordered, but as I’ve been working away, I feel like I need to add cream and soon. I checked Plymouth Yarns’ site to see if there were any local retailers and sure enough, the other yarn shop on the island carries it. Should have gone there first. I can’t go until Tuesday though, so I’ll have to pace my crocheting until then.

I didn’t really believe other Ripple bloggers when they said they just couldn’t stop, but it’s true! You just have to keep going to see what the next stripe will add. One hiccup was a crisis of confidence last night. The blanket was looking more 70s and less contemporary and I suspect it’s because some of my yarns are a little heathered (or maybe it’s all the brown). I considered removing the heathered yarns, and making all my lights the cream, but then I thought about all the blankets in the Flickr pool that I like and I definitely think more color is better. So, I’ll keep going. If I get to the cream and it doesn’t help, then I’m prepared to rip out lots of stripes. This afghan really does go easily enough that I don’t think I’ll mind.

09 Apr

Another Pattern Review

Just to add another dimension to my already schizophrenic blog, I seem to be on a roll with commercial patterns and I think the best way to share them is to do a review. So here’s another pattern review:

Like the Heather Bailey apron, I saw a peek of the Anna Maria Horner’s Multi Tasker Tote and knew I wanted it — but had to wait for it to be published. Luckily the wait this time was less than a year. Kathy of Pink Chalk Fabrics was potentially first in line to stock the patterns and I think I was first in her line to order one. She ships fast and I was off and sewing right away.

A roomy tote bag with integrated outer side pockets. The bag’s big side panels are perfect for bold prints as shown on the pattern, but also leave room for adaptations like mine. I love the side pockets as an opportunity for coordinating fabric (the more fabrics, the better in my book).

The instructions are very complete with lots of diagrams. At first glance some steps might look a little weird, but as soon as you have the actual pieces in front of you it all makes sense. I spotted two typos and noticed that although the pattern piece for the strap says to cut two out of interfacing as well as your fabric, the outer panel pattern piece does not (even though you DO need to cut two out of interfacing). Luckily, the written instructions are very clear about what you need to cut out of what and the typos are inconsequential.

Degree of Difficulty:
Although this is not a difficult pattern, there are some steps that may be a bit tricky for an absolute beginner — mostly in terms of wrestling odd shapes under one’s sewing machine foot. It should be a piece of cake for an intermediate sewer though. Sometimes I see something and I can figure out how to make it myself, but this one has a bit of ingenious construction, so I’m glad I bought the pattern and learned a new trick or two to add to my toolbox of sewing skills.

It’s probably obvious that I modified my tote a bit. I deconstructed one of Mr. Incredible‘s old uniforms for my outer panel fabric. The side in the first picture is the back of the uniform “blouse” with the nice big side pocket from his pants. I added a name tape and branch insignia in totally non-official places. I used the cinch-y thing from the pants and a cuff from the blouse for quasi-usable decoration. The other side is essentially the front of the blouse with the two lower pockets, and including the button placket, although it opens to nothing (if I were really high-speed I would have sewn an inner lining behind the button placket so there’d be a hidden Napoleon-style side entry pocket). Another cinch-y thing, jump wings, insignia from another branch, and a tape you can’t see that says US Army dress it up a bit. On the inside  I used the upper pocket from the uniform blouse because it has an awesome inner pocket for a pen (photo above). The other side of the interior has the pocket included in the pattern, although I used the ribbon that cinches up the bottom of the uniform pants instead of the fabric loop from the instructions (photo below). The shoulder straps are from the length of the pants and include a bit of the double layered sections that reinforce the knee and inner thighs (adds nothing to the functionality of the straps, just a couple of decorative seams).

I’m very pleased with the pattern and the finished product. I appreciate when something looks equally handsome in real life as it does in the photos on the package. I would definitely recommend this pattern. I give it 12 muffins too (though not literally this time).