Sunday, February 14, 2016

Stringing you along

I didn't think to take a photo of the last quilt I made.  It was a gift for a friend and I was in a hurry to finish it before she had her baby... and that was more than a year ago.  So this is the only image I have:

I really like string quilts, and this pattern in particular.  It is visually complicated, but so easy to make.  I like that it involves very little measuring or precision -- and allows maximum freedom to play with color.

Now I'm working on a version in a completely different colorway. 

Don't look for a finished version anytime soon.  These days, life tends to get in the way of quilting.  The most I can do seems to be handwork while I'm on the train.  I've been working on these little pillows to turn into a journal cover, a la Teesha Moore.  It's nice to find a use for all the fabric I've dyed, printed, doodled, and batiked over the years!

Thank heaven there are a lot of train trips in my future!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


I have been using Pinterest as my cookbook for some time now, and increasingly feel at a loss when a recipe I need is not there.  This is a particular problem during the Christmas season when I'm doing my holiday baking, so I thought I'd share one of my favorite recipes, and pin my post.

Today I made Biscotti, one of my family's favorite things to dunk into hot drinks.  One bite takes us back to our days living in Milan, but I am worried that my recipe may not last forever....literally.  I tore it out of the New York Times shortly after we moved back from Italy -- on 8 January 1992, to be exact.

Our family loves the recipe for Almond Hazelnut Biscotti, but we prefer to use Pistachios instead of Hazelnuts, and we omit the anise extract in favor of doubling the amount of vanilla.  If you can't read the fine print in the photo, here's my version of the New York Times recipe:

5 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
4 large eggs (plus one egg for glaze)
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
2/3 c. almonds (I don't chop the nuts)
2/3 c. pistachios

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
*Mix all liquid ingredients with a stand mixer for about 10 minutes, until mixture forms smooth ribbon when beaters are lifted.  With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients into wet mixture and stir in the nuts.
*Divide into three parts and form flat logs on a baking sheet (I use a silpat lining).
*Beat the extra egg and brush over the three logs.
*Bake 35-40 minutes.
*Cut the logs into 1/4 inch slices and arrange cut side down on baking sheet.  Return to oven for another 20 minutes or until they begin to brown.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Right brain, left brain

I think you might say that I'm coming more into balance these days. Now that my kids have all gone away to college, my left brain is catching up to my right brain and I am spending more time on my family history research (see my other blog: Voices From A Distant Past).

But the right brain still demands its time as well, and here's what I've been up to:

I finished this scarf for my husband, using my own hand-dyed yarns.

Here's a close-up... the colors aren't quite this brown in reality:

After that, I wanted to weave an ikat pattern.  I found surprisingly few examples on the web, so I had to figure it out by myself.  First I measured the warp and dyed it chartreuse, one of my favorite colors.

Next I wrapped sections of about 20 threads in what I hoped would end up as a single organic shape, and overdyed them in cerulean blue (to get a nice chartreuse to green gradation.)

This is a selection of various weights of cotton yarns and fabrics from my dyeing session:

Here's the warp after I untied all the wraps.

And here it is, on the loom and ready to weave.

This is the finished piece.  Hmmmm. I'm not altogether pleased, but I have a better idea of what I should do next time.  I think I should use thickened dyes and paint the colors on rather than wrapping the sections of warp.  I think this would give me the organic shape I was going for.  I ended up with more of a striped effect, because each group of twenty warps had the same wrap.  If I painted the individual threads, the change from one color to the other would have been more gradual.  Oh well, live and learn!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I've been away from blogging for awhile... life does speed up sometime.  I've had a few creative setbacks that have kept me away, too.  If you've seen my blog in the past, you'll know that my camera is happiest when it is overseas -- and 2012 was certainly a banner year for travel!  I had a chance to go to Russia this summer, but returned home only to find that one of my larger memory cards was corrupted.  I lost tons of wonderful pictures.  Right after that trip, I found out that the USPS lost a quilt I was sending out to be quilted.  I had made it for my youngest daughter to take to college, so the loss was especially hard to take -- especially because this was probably the one and only time I did not put a tracking number and insurance on a quilt I sent out!  All that heartache has made it kind of hard to pick up my camera, or set a stitch in a quilt.
Lost by USPS in July, 2012.... Let me know if you ever see it!!
While I've been daunted, I haven't given up.  Creativity just switched gears: I've been putting a lot of energy in my genealogy projects and I have been spending more time lately at Loop of the Loom, enjoying the peace and tranquility of Saori weaving:

my Saori portfolio! 
sideways detail of the first scarf I made (back in April)

I love weaving!  I am fascinated by the textures, and the possibilities for playing with color.
I'm especially interested in the interlock technique, where you hook the weft to a second color thread to get broken strands of color across the width of a piece; I've used it in every piece I've made. 

I like variegated color and couldn't find exactly what I wanted at my local yarn store, so I dyed my own wool:

Scarf in progress -- using my own hand-dyed yarns

I do tend to carry ideas out to their logical conclusion.  If hand-dyed yarn is good, then shouldn't I spin my own hand-dyed yarn?  I have some roving on hand, dyed back in 2009, and I bought an inexpensive drop spindle the other day to give it a go.  Unfortunately, spinning doesn't seem to be a popular activity where I live, so I can't find a class -- but after checking out some youtube videos, I managed to produce some yarn.  A little kinky, a little wobbly, but definitely yarn!  I need another project like I need a hole in the head, but I have to follow my curiosity or I'm not a happy camper.

And in case you were wondering, I don't think I will ever lose my love of quilting.  I had been working on this one off and on for a few years, but decided to finish it after I made my daughter's quilt (but before it was lost).  This one made it back safely through the mail, so here it is, for the record.

I've even made something new (albeit much smaller): a table runner for my quilt guild's Christmas gift exchange:

As for photography..... yes, I've had lots of opportunities to take more shots after losing so many this summer. I'm learning Lightroom, too.  It isn't huge learning curve, but I have lots of work to catalog everything, so it might be awhile before I start sharing again!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

I am lucky enough to have a wonderful Dad, who taught us all a very important concept:

"the Daddy tax"

Expo '70 in Osaka, Japan
This time-honored tradition of arbitrary taxation has been carried on to the next generation --  my husband embraced it with gusto, and I'm sure our kids will pass it down to their families, too.  (Just kidding, Dad!  I love you!)

Just a quick check-in to wish all the fathers out there a very happy Father's Day!  I'm taking a short blogging break to focus on my family... my older daughter is home from college, my younger daughter is graduating from high school, and my son's health is going downhill again.  Creativity sort of slows down when life heats up, I've found.  I know it's only temporary, so I hope to be back soon!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Thirty years

My husband and I took a quick trip to Italy and Holland early this month, but so much "housekeeping" stuff has come up since our return that I have barely had time to look at my photos, let alone post any.  These are my favorites, taken in Zaanse Schans, a wonderful re-created historical village outside of Amsterdam, and textured with Kim Klassen's "oh my":

linking with Texture Tuesday

We enjoyed visiting friends in Amsterdam, but our heart is in Italy.  My husband and I lived in Milan for the first four years we were married, so Italian habits and preferences have been part of our lives ever since.  We have an academic connection to the city of Bologna, though, and return most every year for meetings, but we also take the time to slow down and absorb just being in Italy.  Bologna is a very special place - known as a major center of intellectual thought, it is home to the first European university (predating Oxford).  Like other Italian cities, it is full of gorgeous art and architecture, exquisite museums, unbelievably wonderful food... but relatively few tourists.  
textured with Kim Klassen's "grunged up"

textured with Kim Klassen's "oh my"

textured with Kim Klassen's "charmed"

Bologna is particularly known for the porticos covering most sidewalks in the city.  It makes getting around in the rain or the summer's heat pretty easy! 
Thirty years ago this week, I met my husband.  I was a first-year graduate student and he was a few weeks away from graduation.  He had spent a transformative academic year in Bologna, and over the years since, this expanded into so many Italian-focused experiences that it really shaped us as a family.  
The only thing is, it just seems like yesterday.  How can time go by so fast?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ah, Providence!

I am gearing up for the vicarious thrill of my artistic life.... my youngest daughter will be a freshman next year at the Rhode Island School of Design. We drove to Providence on Friday to attend an open house for accepted students, and I am smitten.
textured with two layers of Kim Klassen's "grunged up" (multiply @ 47% and color burn @ 71%)
As a current student wrote recently on the class of 2016 facebook page, RISD is the Hogwarts of art schools. This school is more than just an art school; it is a dynamic community of creative thinkers who happen to express their ideas visually.

Now I know that if you really want to become better at taking pictures, you must bring your camera everywhere. But this weekend was for my daughter -- and while she is usually fairly tolerant of my photographic vanities, she was horrified that I would embarrass her in this setting.... so I left the DSLR at home and used my iphone instead. In the end, though, I couldn't capture any of it because they asked that we not take photos of the students at work. It was OK to photograph inside the nature lab:
textured with Kim Klassen's "Little things" (overlay @56%)
Imagine a huge hall, filled with cabinet after cabinet of natural curiosities, from stuffed animals to specimens of all kinds of plants. It felt like a magnificent Victorian museum glorifying the great explorers of that era.
textured with three layers of Kim Klassen's "Happy heart" (soft light @100%, multiply @100%, and color burn @100% 
Providence has so many historic buildings and architectural gems, and I am looking forward to getting better acquainted with the city over the next four years. One such treasure was the Providence Athenaeum, the fourth oldest public library in America. Established in 1753, the present building dates back to 1838. I loved the fact that visitors are welcome to come in and browse, and I especially loved the mixture of old and new books on the shelves, which makes it a living neighborhood resource with the stately feel of another era. I can see myself heading there next time I'm in town, just to read the newspaper in the armchairs next to the portrait of George Washington.
textured with Kim Klassen's "little things" (overlay @56%)
textured with Kim Klassen's "little things" (soft light @50%)
And of course, no visit is ever complete without good food. I love the internet -- I found Nick's on Broadway by trolling the foodie forums for Providence. We had a spectacular brunch there, all based on  the best locally-sourced ingredients. I had feathery-light poached eggs on a polenta base that was more a lemony-herbal souffle than any polenta I've ever eaten before.... delicious!
no textures here.... pure food, served to you in a straightforward manner!
And here is the neighborhood cat -- I had to take this picture because it reminds me of long ago (way before kids). Back then, I had three cats who knew exactly when to jump up into the window and wait for me to come home from work: 
textured with Kim Klassen's "little things" (multiply @100%)
Linking with Texture Tuesday