29 May


180° across the quilting circle from a cathartic protest art piece is a utilitarian quilt for the couch.

I love simple, repetitive blocks transformed by color, technique, or composition, into fresh or unexpected quilts.

Our local guild offered a “One Block Wonder” class last weekend, and being intrigued by the construction of a kaleidoscopic quilt from a single fabric (plus the opportunity to get out of the house and play with friends), I signed up.

In class, we prepared and cut the fabric. Donna, our teacher had a few helpful tips not in the book, such as a nice chain piecing technique.

With the bonus of having my husband home on “vacation,” I just kept the momentum going and have been sewing at home every day.

It’s so much fun to see how different the fabric looks once cut up and rearranged. It’s much more about favorite colors than the fabric design itself.

Now I have tops for two lap quilts.

I think the one above might need a large embroidery over it…

This one will eventually join the Ripple Afghan (a bit stalled out as it’s getting too warm here to enjoy much crocheting) on the couch.

20 May

War Sucks…

I finished it (not in time to enter it in Houston as Deborah asked — although, even if I had I don’t think I would have). And although I am very pleased with how it turned out and happy to share it here, I won’t hold anything against anyone who clicks away to another site if it’s not their cup of tea.

I wasn’t completely sure where I was going with this one as I worked on it. I had more of a mood or feeling in mind than any specific pattern or construction method.

As I photographed it, I enjoyed finding interesting compositions with the larger composition.

The fractured aspect of crazy quilting made sense for the background, as did the hint of stitching the seams back together. Pretty silk flower stitches were obviously out, but more utilitarian ones like blanket, cretan, and plain old straight stitches were in.

I allowed for raw edges (war is nothing if not raw) and stitched on jumbles of knotted threads ripped from my fabrics after the wash. The red words are raw edge appliquéd with intentionally messy lines, but without fusible, so that their edges will deteriorate with each wash or handling.

I used stencilled, splattered, scribbled, new commercial, re-purposed, discharged, uniform, and dyed fabrics. I worked the fabrics both before and after piecing them. I experimented with using thickened Procion dyes because I like the hand they leave (or more like don’t leave) on the fabric, but am learning through trial and error that my manner of working lends itself better to paints.

The quilt is backed with an old woolen blend army blanket and I left the edges open and stuffed them with fabrics and yarns that could allude to bandages and guts. The intent is more gruesome than the look, but it works for me. The overall quilting is intersecting straight lines that could be tracer fire or bullet trajectories.

“War Sucks”      83.5″x53″    Kristin La Flamme, 2009

20 May

…But R&R is Pretty Great!

When I tell people my husband is deployed, one of the first questions is if he will be able to come home for a visit. On previos six month deployments to Bosnia and Kosovo, and the many four month TDYs (temporary duty assignments) the answer was always no. But for his current 12 month deployment to Iraq, he can come home. Soldiers deployed for 12 or more months get two weeks of R&R (rest and recuperation). We were planning on Art’s being in August.

He’s into surprises though. Many may remember how I was the last to know that we were moving to Hawai’i last year. With several our friends’ husbands coming home for R&R in the past few weeks, I actually had a dream that Art came striding unannounced across our back yard and into the house. Funny because to stride across our yard takes about two steps depth-wise, and with walls on three sides there’s no place to stride from.

He rang the front doorbell at 10:00pm Friday night though. Scared the you-know-what out of me, but in the end, should have been expected. It was a good surprise. The kids were incredulous the next morning.

In case anyone is wondering what it takes to get a soldier from Iraq  or Afghanistan to the US for R&R, Mr. Incredible has a few blog posts on the adventure. With a two day delay on the front end, it took 65 hours and 13 time zones. I think he’s posted a cool map on his Facebook account  (I don’t know since I don’t Facebook, which is part of how he surprised me). He took planes, buses and automobiles, both military and commercial and stopped in several countries along the way. It’s quite the dance they choreograph adding and dropping off soldiers as they criss cross their way over the globe. Along the way, my soldier and his fellow travelers met generous people who made their way a little easier, not because anyone said they had to, but because they were happy to.

If you meet, in your travels, a service member returning from deployment, or for R&R, consider the many hours and myriad modes of transportation they’ve been navigating, and the beacon of home at the other end, and maybe buy them a drink or a sandwich, let them cut in line, scootch over so they can lay down on the chairs, give them a smile and wish them pleasant travels.

Meanwhile, we’ll be making the most of our two weeks together, being, as my daughter pointed out this morning, four people again.

11 May

The Uncomfortable Zone

The quilt I’m working on right now has got me out of my comfort zone, and not in a way I expected. The long story:

In 2003 (or maybe early ’04) when my hubby returned from war, we marked the event by getting tattoos. Cliché yes, but we did it. His is army related, mine’s just pretty. Knowing he’d eventually deploy again, I naturally wondered if we’d get more tattoos. I figured that I’d go more literal the next time and get a simple “War Sucks.” Straightforward and pretty much applies to all wars, and to all sides.

Fast forward to a few months ago, when a quilted version of the statement came to me (probably in the shower — it’s where I get most of my ideas. I am a walking cliché.). I started piecing bits and scraps together . When my mom came to visit, she asked about the depressing, fractured, army -related bits in progress on the design wall door. When I explained my concept she confirmed that she was getting exactly that vibe from my preliminary patches.

This week I was working on the words. I used my computer to “set type” and create templates for each letter. At the same time I was packing up a care package for Mr. Incredible. My daughter asked if she could make something for daddy on the computer using words and “paint.” Sure. I got her started in Photoshop and showed her the text tool (she’s already pretty proficient with the paintbrush, lasso, and eraser tools) and left her to her own devices while I continued my momentum on the quilt. When I returned to check on her, she’d written “war sucks” in some nice typefaces and bold colors. I gently told her that the quilt I was working on was for me, so I only needed to worry about what I thought of it, but if she was making a picture for daddy she needed to think about how he’d feel and he probably didn’t want the message “war sucks” while he’s sitting in the middle of it. She was understandably upset and ultimately lost interest in the project all together. In retrospect, I realized that she was picking up on my playing with typography and I probably should have stopped what I was doing and sat down with her to find more appropriate words to use so she could enjoy the process as well.

The episode got me thinking. Should I be working on art like this with impressionable kids around? Should I not deal with sensitive issues at this point in my journey? Should I sequester the art so the kids don’t see it? Should I let them see it and just use it as a talking point? (They’ve already seen boobies and a vagina in my 12×12 pieces, and either didn’t get it [the latter], or didn’t care [the former].) I also realized at that point that I would not be taking this quilt to “Show and Tell” at the Hawai’i Quilt Guild. It would fall under the umbrella of dinner party subjects not to be brought up in polite company.

These are concerns I have never had to worry about with my pretty little houses and German landscapes. I’ve never been much of a “statement” person. While I have very strong opinions, I generally keep them to myself and a small group of friends and family (and kick myself on the occasions when I’ve let someone push my buttons at a party or other gathering). In general my public voice and my art hope to be more diplomatic and universal, or at least more subtle in their subversity. I wonder if people who regularly make bold statements with their art have moved beyond the squirmy phase I’m feeling now, or if part of the excitement of making the art is knowing it will bring viewers’ reactions to the surface. I don’t know if I’ll be making more protest quilts or not, but right now, I’m actually looking forward to returning to the nice acceptable roots and houses in my queue.

05 May

A New Resource

I’ve forgotten if I posted this swatch before or not.

There’s been a lot of buzz about print on demand fabrics lately. I think Spoonflower was the first, and right now, they are definitely the best known place for printing fabric with your own design. I heard about it when they were in Beta phase, but didn’t really know what I would need my own fabric for since I am already a huge fan of new and re-purposed commercial fabric and all the connotations and stories they hold. There  are so very many colors and patterns out there already, how could I possibly be lacking?

Completely unrelated, I’ve had a drawing my daughter did a few years ago that looked to me like it needed to be an embroidered patch. A patch, of course, needs something to go on, so I’ve had in my mind to make a messenger bag. Recently I found a pattern for just the bag I want to make, and decided that the original drawing, plus more would make a perfect lining for my bag. Back to Spoonflower — here’s the perfect way to incorporate the kids’ drawings.

I ordered the swatch, then adjusted the colors, and now I have my own fabric! I messed up a few of the repeats (scatter designs can be tricky when you need a portion of something on one side of your repeat to match up exactly with the rest of the image on the other side), but it wasn’t due to any defect on Spoonflower’s end. For my purposes here, I doubt anyone but me will notice anyway. I’m excited to make the bag and my own patches, but I’ve got a few other things in the works I’m excited about too, so it may take a while.

03 May

Just Another Day on Oahu

Our downstairs neighbor from six years ago and half a world away was in town last week for a conference on post. We were able to take him out on the town his last afternoon/evening here.

First we got delicious ice cream from Lappert‘s at the Hilton Hawaiian Village — for sustenance, of course.

Then walked along the beach…

and climbed a tree..

We visited Duke and the Wizard Stones

and worked our way to Kapiolani Park, though we missed the Lei Day festivities.

We’ll definitely have come back to this next year to see the lei competition.

After the park, we did a little shopping for trinkets to bring home, and the kids got sucked in by the Pick a Pearl ladies. We showed them though, and they kids picked an oyster with TWO pearls! It also ended up that one of the ladies’ daughters is a soldier and was in our friend’s unit a few years ago. Small world!

Dinner was at California Pizza Kitchen, which are nation wide, but does yours have outdoor dining with tiki torches?

Finally, we ended up in the Storyteller’s lap and then returned home. Definitely a good way to spend a Friday evening.

02 May

Hawaii Quilt Guild 25th Anniversary Show

I returned to the Linekona on Friday morning to be a quilt sitter (or docent, as I prefer) at the Quilt Guild show — and this time I remembered my camera!

None of my quilts are visible in these shots as they were on the fringe, but the photos do give a very good feeling for the space and the look of the show as a whole.