frenchtown fiber

Chris Mundy and Kate House try to make art while navigating the crap life throws at them.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Wisconsin Death Trip

This is the now cult classic book "Wisconsin Death Trip." This book was published in 1973 and compiled by Michael Lesy who put this together for his college Thesis. I discovered it a couple of years after it had first come out. As a young teenager I was seriously creeped out by it, but yet really attracted to the images and stories. I remember forming the thought that rural poverty is arguably way worse than urban poverty. I've gone back to my home town library to find it several times over the years, and finally decided I needed to own my own copy. (That's when I really started appreciating Amazon.) The book is all 'factual' and filled with newspaper clippings of things that happened in Jackson County and other parts of Wisconsin in 1880's into the early 1900's. They come from the local newspaper and are written in a strange matter-of-fact way. Some of the stories are so outrageous, it shakes you out of any kind of idea that things were better in "the good old days."

All photos in the book are by Charles Van Schaick, who was a well-known photograher from Black River Falls, Wisconsin, in the late 1800's to early 1900's. It's hard to say why Michael Lesy chose the photos he did, out of thousands of images. I always wonder if any of the pictures are of the people in the news stories.

Lesy was apparently trying to make the point that this place, Black River Falls, was way weirder than most small towns of that time. If you surf around on the internet, you find a lot of criticism of the book. Whatever the case, it is endlessly fascinating to me. (By the way, there has been a documentary film made based on this book. I was underwhelmed by it. It was OK, but does not have the impact of the book.)

Of all the images in the book, there is one that I really love. It is a woman who's hair is a crazy mess, and the expression on her face is positively other-worldly. (See below.)

I've used her in my art before, but right now she is in a fabric collage I'm working on. The one I have been complaining about. The scanner I used isn't wide enough to include the entire collage, but I think you can see enough of it. I have tried to create a sense of suffocation with all of the lacey bits closing in on her, as if she is being smothered by the late Victorian mores she labors under. I intend to add a lot more embellishments to this piece, but right now I am struggling with quilting her face. First I quilted around the edge of her face, and it popped out like a bubble. I quilted over her features and ended up altering her expression. Then I took all of that out and tried it in black thread. Major mistake. It ended up looking like eye-liner, she seemed glamorous, which was, once again, way wrong. I had to pick all that stitching out again. Now I was in danger of starting to shred the fabric. I quilted again, in white, around her features, and it is better. Still not great, but better.

I'm going to give you some excerpts from the book:
"Mrs. Lizzie Larson,of Merrillan, was adjudged insane and taken to the asylum at Mendota last Friday. Poverty and the loss of her husband were the causes which brought about the sad affliction. She raves about religion and imagines she is going to die. At times she has been so violent that it took 2 men to keep her from injuring herself and others. She has 4 children that are in destitute circumstances."
"Some time ago, the family of Julius Semrow of Freedom, father, mother and 3 choildren, were mysteriously poisoned twice within a week's time. Since that time... Under Sheriff Mitchel went to Freedom and arrested Alma Glimm, 16 years of age who had been an employee at the Semrow household. She was accused of having put 'Rough on Rats' in the food."
"Admitted May 9, 1899, Town of Garden Valley. American. Aged 21. Unmarried. lives at home with parents. First symptoms noted on December 28th, 1898. Religious mania. Thinks she has the power of saving people. Maniacal. Delusions and hallucinations. (Mendota State Mental Asylum record book, patient #8149)
"Aristide Griffel, known as 'Frenchy,' was arrested at La Crosse in the act of firing a barn on the North Side. He confessed to a multiplicity of incendiary fires that have occured in North La Crosse during the past 2 years. At least 50 fires can be laid at his door. Griffel had a mania for excitement, and this kind suited him best. He had always been the first at the fires and took great interest in the work of putting them out. At home he would keep the alarm clock continually ringing."
What the hell...?
One more.
"A woman who gave her name as Wilson died at Chippewa Falls from a criminal operation performed upon herself. Her parents live in Eau Claire... her brother took charge of her remains. The woman was young and pretty and visited every physician in Chippewa Falls to accomplish her object, but without success."
Just sad, sad, sad. I just don't think I can give you the real feel of this book. (And let's face it, most normal people would want to avoid this.) You just have to read it for yourself. When you absorb so many stories like that you get this feeling of compassion for all humans; maybe it is knowing that life is hard no matter when or where you were born and we all go through the same trials, some not so successfully. I also think of all the people who are gone and just fade into obscurity. I have so many photos of people that I bought for a dollar at antique stores. Who are they? Well, we know who 'Frenchy' is, anyway.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Hi. Sorry I got so crazy yesterday. I should not have said that thing about that man's scrotum, you know, nailing it to a post on Wall Street. That was kind of crude. My mother did not raise me that way. Sorry, Mom.

I also used a ton of moisturizer after my shower this morning. I'm a little bit slippery, but I think that might be better than feeling crispy. Now I feel like a dried leaf dipped in olive oil.

Also, I had another look at the quilt collage I am trying to make. It really isn't that bad. I'm just forcing myself to work more loosley but then I am shocked at the result. I think I can see where it is going now. I'm not patient enough.

In my upcoming posts I'm going to be talking about a book called Wisconsin Death Trip. The book is every bit as weird as the title sounds. It came out in the early 70's, and that is around when I discovered it at the Bound Brook Library. (I grew up in Bound Brook, NJ) You can google it if you want, or you can wait for me to prepare my post and show you how this is part of the quilt collage I have been raving about lately.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I'm Frustrated

I just spent an hour hand stitching this little bit of a fabric collage I threw together when I was sick but I hate it and I have to take it all out. I have so little time to sew that any wasted minutes are devastating to me. I should not have even tried to do anything with this paltry amount of time so it was a waste anyway.

 And, I really have to start doing everyone's taxes! (I'm not an accountant, in fact I can barely add, but I'm the only person in this house that will even look at a tax form.)

I'm tired of hearing about the villians of the economy. Who is this Bernie Madoff, and how come his nuts aren't nailed to a post on Wall Street? If a regular person stole this much money they'd be in jail already. And how come if I do a crappy job at work my silly little 3 percent raise shrivels up, but bankers rape the entire system and collectively get billions in bonuses?

And if that isn't bad enough,  my feet are freezing.  I'm itchy. My skin is dry enough that I'm afraid it might catch fire.  When will this winter end?

Good night.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Antiques in Maryland

We found this little Antique shop in frizellburg, MD, and luck would have it that we had a car full of people who were up for some browsing. I found the exact plate that my husband wiped off the wall with his shoulder a while ago. It had been on the wall with two other plates in a doorway from the dining room to the kitchen. The height of it is up to about where my head is, so it never occured to me that it could be a problem. Anyway, I pointed it out to him and he bought it for me.

This place was awash in old textiles, mostly in the way of doll clothes. I bought these little tiny treasures. Of course I never touched a needle all weekend. Someday I will have more time to incorporate all of this stuff into art quilts. Looking forward to that day.

Reflecting Upon the Weekend

We had a fun weekend even though it was so short. We went off the main highway and were on a small road that headed us right for the Shoe in Hellam, PA. We decided to stop for lunch first at this tiny local place. I asked for a BLT. I have a rule about these kinds of places. Don't order anything weird or elaborate. Joe's rule is even more specific. Order a hamburger. Anyway, I realized that they never asked me what kind of bread I wanted. It came on white bread. I don't think I have had white bread since 1983.

We asked the waitress about the shoe and she said that if we went past the big shoe self-storage company, we went too far.

As I mentioned yesterday, the shoe was closed for the season, which really bummed us out because we wanted to get ice cream from the shoe. I guess some other time? No one stopped us from walking around the place, and we got some good pictures. FYI, some guy that owned a chain of shoe stores in the 40's was responsible for this attraction.

On to Maryland. When you cross the state line and into a town called Linesboro, there is a sign telling you that you are also crossing the Mason-Dixon line. It doesn't seem far away from home, but we were definitely down south, people. Confederate flags are hung in the back windows of pick-up trucks and there is biscuits with sausage gravy on the breakfast menus.

We made it to our destination around 3pm. We hung around for a while in front of the fire and then Joe made Manhattans for everyone. Then we went off to dinner. Our friends took us to Butterburg's in Union Township. It is a little mom and pop type place except it was run by 2 gay guys. This place is known for it's home style cooking. I got turkey and gravy over, can you guess? White Bread!

Maryland has so many farms and the landscape is so beautiful. The small towns are full of pretty little houses. We found a good little antique store. (See tomorrow's post) Our friends, Walter and Donna, bought a small farm mainly for her horses, but she still commutes all the way to Washington DC and doesn't seem to ride her horses any more than she used to. I have never been one of those girls who worships horses. I want goats, and the neighbors have them! Fainting goats, no less. Donna and Walter have chickens, and I liked them a lot. If I had chickens I would want to make sure they were the kind that cluck a lot. I love the sound. I fed the chickens some white bread, and the Bantam rooster did such a curious thing. He would pick up pieces of bread and throw them towards the female chickens, clucking in a special way. He would not start to eat until later.

When ever we visit, I get this idea that I want to have farm. Too bad about the confederate flags. But at least I could have people send me care packages with whole wheat bread.

The next morning we went for a drive and then to Brauger's for breakfast. This restaurant is connected to a big orchard and it is a fruit stand in the summer. I was happy to be able to take a picture of the Brauger's Apple Man.

Joe and I decided to hit Roadside America on the way home. We pass it when we visit my brother and we always wanted to go. It's far enough away that it would not be worth a separate trip and it seemed to suit the theme of this trip pretty well. Joe says he remembers going as a boy, and by the looks of the outside we figured it hadn't changed that much.

The best way I can describe this to you is that 80 years ago a man went crazy with his basement train set. I think this display has gone from fantastic, to cheesy as hell, back around to a very cool piece of old- fashioned America. Laurence Gieringer started whittling wood into little houses for a village for his train sets. By the time he died in 1963 he had roadside America. Imagine a train set the size of a supermarket. Farms, towns, a circus, ski resort, indian village with teepees, airport, coal mine, wild west town, all made with thos antique lead figures, old trains and hand made buildings. Most of them were lit up inside and all around the perimeter there were buttons you could push to operate different things. The circus parade, a trolley, a train, a cattle drive, a grain elevator. Every half hour they have what they call the "Night Pageant." The lights in the place slowly go down and the ceiling is covered in "stars." As the national anthem is played, slides of Jesus and angels are projected onto the walls with a prayer asking Jesus to help America. Well worth the $6 admission.

Giant fiberglass Amish outside RSA.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Live from Maryland

I don't want to be rude, so I can't spend a lot of time here. We did make it to the Shoe House, but it was closed for the season! Bummer. We wanted to get ice cream from the shoe. Here is a picture, though. That's my husband Joe sitting on the bench next to the shoe.

More when I get home.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Going Mobile

Kate is all packed up and pacing the house while we get ready. She is going on a cruise with the ARC for 7 days to the Bahamas. Nice, eh?  After we drop her off, Joe and I are heading to Maryland to visit friends. We will take a little detour in Pennsylvania to see the Giant Shoe!  I am very excited about this. I will take pictures!

I may be able to post from MD, we'll see how that goes. The friends we are visiting are Walter, an excellent photographer, and Donna, who makes wonderful sculptures. They both have their own web sites, I'll link to that when I get a minute.  Until then....

Friday, February 20, 2009

Back in Action

I'm feeling better. I went back to work yesterday. Work has become a very tense place. I feel like I could devote an entire blog to complaining about work. All I can tell you is that I work for a big corporation, and it is plain to see that eventually there will be 10 people that actually work for the company and everyone else will be contracted. I know the day is coming when I will have to reapply for my own job, most likely with less pay and benefits. I can't believe I've managed to last this long.

I finally finished a piece I have been working on for a little while. I didn't know what to call it. It dawned on my at one point that I was just winging it with this quilt the entire time. I had no idea where it was going next. I'd just stare at it and then an idea would flash into my brain. Nothing amazing or terribly original, but that's how it went with this little quilt. And it came out alright. I figure it's a good metaphor for everyone's life right now. If we work at it and try to be creative, it will come out alright. I called the piece "Anticipation." All we can do is anticipate the future.

I spent a few days on the couch sewing on beads and watching old movies. I caught 2 Artist movies. Lust for Life, which was Kirk Douglas playing Vincent Van Gogh, and Moulin Rouge, with Jose Ferrar playing Toulouse Lautrec. I'd rather have spent my time watching real documentaries, but it was fun to watch these dramatizations. I was kind of weirded out by how bright the costumes were in Moulin Rouge. I know that most of the scenes took place in a night club, but still, did they even have dyes that bright in the 1890's? (I'm such a stickler for historical accuracy.) At the end of the movie I was informed that the costume designer did that on purpose in response to the palette that Toulouse Lautrec used. Silly me, it all made perfect sense once I was aware of that.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sick Again

I have been so sick. It's discouraging, because usually I don't get very ill, but this is the second bad cold in 2 months. I've taken a total of 6 sick days this year. I've been at my current place of employment for over 11 years and I have never taken so much time in a year, ever. I wonder if I need a doctors note? I went to the doctor on Friday. The new cold was just beginning, but it came on so suddenly and the coughing was so bad, I thought I must have something more serious. But, no. Just a cold. The doctor did offer to prescribe the cough medicine that actually works. The stuff with codeine. He said I would not be able to go to work while taking it because I would be so drowsy. I refused this medicine. By Sunday I was regretting that decision, and I had them call it in to the pharmacy. My whole body hurt from coughing.

WOW, does it work! I slept for 12 hours straight and never coughed once. My husband has declared it a miracle, because it is so hard to get me to rest. I looked TUSSIONEX SUSP up on the internet. It hits the part of your brain that makes you cough and shuts it down, and it is a decongestant. I said I slept for 12 hours, but that is not exactly right. I woke up a few times during the night with a mouth that was so dry, I could not swallow. But after a sip of water I passed right out again.

On the internet, I ran into a discussion of people who are addicted to this stuff. What? are they addicted to sleeping? I feel like a nap and it's only 9:22 am. Maybe I will post again later.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Party Time! Excellent!

Unfortunately, I have another cold. This one feels way worse that the last one, and that's almost alarming to me.  Joe suggested that we just scrap the whole party thing, but I felt that it was too late. Remember, this was to be a double party. Kate's friends were coming from 4 to 7 pm, and our friends were coming from 7 until ? Obviously only a crazy person would have back to back parties, I admit that. I've seen the error in my ways and I will not be repeating this. But it did work out. I just wish I wasn't sick!

We spent the day cleaning and cooking. It was about 3:30, 
all was well, so I thought I would sit down with a cup of tea. I went into the bathroom first. I set my tea down on the window sill. (This is a very small half bath that someone made by taking a slice out of the dining room in a house that originally had no bathrooms at all when it was built) I tugged on the mini blind cord, you know, to get some privacy. The entire blind broke and crashed down. When I opened my eyes, I had the mini blind sideways into my cup of tea. It's kind of amazing that the cup did not crash to the tile floor, but I did have tea EVERYWHERE. I was soaked, the walls the floor. And now we had no blind on the window. After cleaning it all up, we began to try to figure out a way to cover the window without making it look like the horse's ass. Quilt to the rescue! And, with a vaguely valentine theme.

For those who don't know, my daughter is developmentally disabled, and naturally, so are her friends. I've noticed that many of the parties Kate attends at other people's homes involves putting on a video. Kate reports that they don't really watch it anyway. The other thing is that these people rarely are involved in an activity that isn't structured. I like to just get them together and let them hang out, the way 20-something people might if they didn't need their parents to drive them everywhere. What I did do this time is cover the dining room table with a sheet of paper and a couple of buckets of markers and a bowl of snacks and let them go at it. I figured this might keep them occupied for an hour. At 5:00 I asked them if they wanted dinner. Not interested, everyone wanted to keep drawing! Finally at 5:45 I convinced them to stop. After eating baked ziti, they listened to music and just socialized. I think it went well. 

Party part 2 also went well. We've developed some friendships with a variety of like-minded people in Frenchtown and we really have a good time when we get together. 

One more thing, look at this cool decoration my husband made. We bought this heart at TJ Max a while ago, with the intention of doing something cool with it. Joe drilled holes in it and put a light behind it and hung it up near our front door. This picture does not do it justice because the flash went off, but I think you get the idea. I like it so much I want to leave it up all the time.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Thursday, February 12, 2009

I've Been Busy

Work is very busy and so is life right now. Kate just had some kind of an activity she needed to be driven to every night this week. I'm getting a bit of a break now. My husband is driving her to social group. Now, instead of driving all the way home to pick her up and driving right back again in the same direction, I can drive to the supermarket to do party shopping and then pick her up from there. (She'll be done around 9 pm) We are having a double party this weekend. Kate's friends from 4-7 and our friends from 7 til ? I don't know what I was thinking when I decided to do it this way. The next day, Sunday, I need to go into the dreaded attic and help Kate find her warm weather clothes. She's going on a cruise with the ARC next weekend. After I drop her off on Saturday we are going away for that weekend. What this means is that there will not be much sewing happening. That bums me out.

But enough about that. Let's look at another interesting artist! Robert Rauschenburg! I know that BED is kind of disturbing. He screwed up that nice quilt! But what about MONOGRAM? I like goats, so I like Monogram. I want to raise dairy goats and make a living by selling my artisanal cheese to fine restaurants. I read a book about it and I realize this is a fantasy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Butter Krak

The weirdest little things amuse me. When Joe and I were out and about on Sunday, we decided we were thirsty, so we stopped on the way home at a convenience store in Point Pleasant, PA. It's been in business for so long that even though it functions as a convenience store it looks like a general store from 1920. We got a couple of bottles of ice tea, and as we were standing at the counter to pay, I saw this candy. There were several flavors of these little chocolate Easter eggs, but I don't remember what they were. My eyes were fixed on the Butter Krak. "We've got to buy this!" I said. (Insert joke comparing chocolate to crack) The man who was ringing us up told us that this is the best candy in the universe and he ordered it for the store so he could make sure he had it for himself. We went out to the porch to sit and shared the Butter Krak. It's a coconut cream egg, simple as that. I don't know what the hell Butter Krak means, but I love the name. You think Smuckers is bad, how about Zitners? They do not appear to have a web site, but there are plenty of people touting them on the internet:
"Zitners Chocolate Covered Easter Eggs have been made in Philadelphia since the 1920s and are renown for their great taste. Butter cream, double cocoanut and more. Made in a 1-ounce size for a quick snack or decorated in quarter-, half- and 1-pound sizes. The company's 1-ounce Butterkrak egg is still the most popular, a cream center covered with toasted cocoanut and chocolate."
Last night I went to the attic and emptied a bin. One bag of garbage contained cassette tapes, little Homey figures, school papers, some photos, and other sundry crap. I found slides of my art from 10 years ago. Slides! Not sure what I should do with those. They are currently put aside for further review. I did find some photos that can be put in the same place as all the other photos we want to save, and I found some fabulous little tidbits for fiber art. Lace and a big roll of cotton tape.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Comments on the Attic Project

I've had two lengthy posts in regard to this. Two very helpful posts I might add. Thanks to my pal Janine at Quiltplay for letting me know I'm not the only one. And thanks to Susan at Art in Stitches for the fire story. The thing about a fire is it relieves you of any decision making. The stuff is burned to a crisp, what can you do about it now? Here is another twist on that. I was reading an essay a few months back written by a person who lives in California and had to evacuate due to wildfires. So here is a situation where you KNOW there is a fire coming. What do you take? I wish I could find this essay so you could read it for yourself, it was in the New York Times, probably this past fall. The author admitted to taking weird things; some clothes, some photos, a random selection of sentimental items. Part of her problem was panic, but also she had a hard time figuring out what was really important. When she was allowed back home, she started questioning all of her possesions.

We have made jokes around my house about just setting a fire, but really, we should be able to do this without the help of a major disaster. I feel a little better about the whole thing now. One thing I am good at is breaking jobs up into managable parts. If I hit one bin per night, I can have that attic in shape in two or three years! OK, I kid, but I think that is the way to go. I'll let you know if I find anything cool, and what it felt like to throw it away.

The Attic Project

When my husband and I were married in 2005, we combined 2 lifetimes of stuff. It was very challenging. Neither of us are the sort to go buy furniture at a store. For the most part, we had collected this furniture over the years, flea market finds or hand-me-downs that were repaired or painted to look cool and turned out to be a great deal. Joe, who is a plumber, is always in people's basements and will notice orphaned furniture. "Excuse me," he will say. "Do you want that lamp? How about that old fan?" Half the time they will flat out give it to him, other times some small price will be agreed upon.(You should see his collection of antique fans) The point I'm making is that our things almost seem like prizes, hunted down. How clever we are to get such excellent things for almost nothing! But the inevitable question had to arise: "Who's living room furniture was more worthy?" Some of my living room furniture ended up in the porch. Joe had an art deco cocktail table with a blue mirror top and a James Bond-style secret door that swung out to reaveal a place for a bottle and glasses. That definitely trumped anything I owned. His living room chairs and couch ended up in the porch, because it actually was porch furniture.
It went on like that, and between us we used the best of everything we had. We love our house and everyone thinks it looks great. But lurking below the creatively appointed surface is a terrible secret. The attic. We are both pack rats. In the panic of moving, you realize that you cannot keep the u-haul for another day and tons of stuff just gets chucked into the attic. Over the months you make your living space attractive and organized while piles of junk fester up there.
I could blog for a week about the psychic pain this causes us. First of all the pain of going into the attic to find something. You can barely step around, and you become angry at yourself, and everyone else for having so much stuff. How come I have to deal with it? My daughter has stuffed animals that can illustrate any and all events in her life. I have surrepticiously made a lot of this disappear. Like, how many little stuffed owls wearing mortar boards does one really need when they graduate high school? How about 5 years later? We did all of this moving while my son was in the Marines, so I felt that I could make no decisions for him. Every time he was home on leave I would ask him if he would take a look at his things and decide if he could live without some of it. He has now been discharged for over a year. He has not only not looked at that stuff, he has added 4 seabags full of uniforms and various other bits and pieces of military stuff. He is still in the active reserves, so, it's too early to get rid of it, but I've noticed there are shirts with other guy's names on them. What the...?

When I do decide to do something about all this, at least organize it, the fact that it is either freezing or broiling up there would be enough to discourage me. I am also confronted with the evidence of various failures in my life. All of the clothes from the last time I lost weight. I pretty much know the way it goes now. I arrive at some weight that could almost be called thin, stay there for one season, and then slowly climb back up. The cycle takes around 8-10 years, so I know that the clothes in these bins will be largely out of style by the time I cycle down again.

Oh, and the photographs! Joe has been searching for his slides from England, and instead has found pictures chronicalling all of his failed relationships along with other landscapes and people that no longer mean anything. And he got doubles of every single picture! He thinks maybe he left a box behind in one of his moves with books and the slides. He remarks that he really could have lost the slides during any one of a dozen or so moves over the past 20 years, but has blissfully thought they were in there amongst the crap he no longer wants but yet has been moving from place to place.

I had a photography class in college in 1997. I really enjoyed it and imagined that I was pretty good. I came across them yesterday and realized that I was, in fact pretty mediocre. I also have a lot of collages up there that I have to admit are pretty bad. But is that just the head I'm in right now? Should I throw this stuff out? Will I be sorry later?

This is why there is an entire industry built around clutter and organization. All this does have a connection to my art, or whatever you want to call that crap I make. (kidding) It took up so much time this weekend that I did very little sewing. But, If I can really clean the place out, I can use half of it as a studio. We are determined that now is the time to let go of major amounts of STUFF.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


I've been seeing a lot of UFOs in people's posts lately. My husband has been trying to find the slides from his trip to England in 1985. (FYI, we did not get married until 2005, although I have known him since I was 13.) No luck yet, but he did dig up a UFO I had forgotten all about. I'm pretty sure this is the last fragment of a conventional quilt I ever worked on. I can't see finishing it, not really big enough to be anything, but  I can imagine using it in some other quilt. I guess it will just go into the collection, waiting for some inspiration.

It was a pretty nice day here in New Jersey. After weeks of 20 degree weather, it was in the 40's today, which felt spring-like to us. Joe and I went out to breakfast, and then went over to Lambertville. It's the premier charming river town in NJ (Frenchtown is one of the other ones) but I think the place has turned the corner and is now a tourist trap. We went to an antique mall we've been going to forever, and realized it is now a bit upscale for us. You know of my fondness for old and weird textiles. Well, the "Housewife Craving a Cocktail" tea towel cost $8 and I winced when I paid it. Today I could find no towel under $20. I just wasn't into it. I saw what looked to me like a rag made of velvet. Had some interesting flowers on it. I'm looking to try to get away from using only cotton in my work, so I thought this might be cool. Turns out it wasn't a rag, it was a "tapestry" and cost $45. I did find some nice embroidery and an interesting silk handkerchief. 


Friday, February 6, 2009

Ancient Egyptian Fabric

Here is the Egyptian fabric that I am going to play with this weekend. I was looking at some books with Egyptian art, and I found an image I hadn't seen before. Apparently this one Pharaoh, Akhenaten, decided that instead of a lot of different Gods, now there would be only one. This God was called Aten, and it was a sun disk with many rays coming out. At the end of each ray is an Egyptian-style hand. The hands are always touching Akhenaten and his wife, Nefertiti, or handing them something. I really like that image and somehow I'm going to have it in my quilt. Those little hands are going to be tricky, though.

I have some heiroglyphic rubber stamps that might work. I'm amost positive that there is a little Egyptian hand in the set. Oh Joy!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Natural Dyeing: Not Gonna Happen

I picked up the book about Natural Plant Dyeing from the Library. Guess I won't be doing any of that. I once saw a video demonstration of someone dyeing cloth with onion skins. Looked easy and fun. Get yourself a big bowl of onion skins and boil some cloth with it. Bing! you are done. Interesting color. This book is maybe a bit more serious. One recipe calls for a peck of butternut hulls. Where am I getting a peck of butternut hulls? What is a peck anyway? A lot, right? All this to come out with tan fabric?

I just looked up "peck." A peck = 8 quarts and 4 pecks = a bushel. I thought several bushels = a peck, but that is wrong. So it isn't as many butternut hulls as I had first imagined. Still, it's plenty. And where does one get butternuts? There were some recipes with less exotic ingredients. Such as tulip tree leaves. I know where there are tulip trees right in town. But the dye doesn't work on cotton. Coffee doesn't work either. Of course you and I know that coffee definitely changes the color of cotton. My husband immediately pointed out that he has had more than one cotton shirt permanently dyed with coffee stains. But they say it doesn't work. Maybe they are looking for some kind of permanent non-blotchy standard?Most of the dyes in this book only worked on wool and silk.

I have an idea for a natural dye. Spaghetti sauce. Or wine. I should try it

Vivid Dreams

I was in my boss 's office. It had a lot of different rooms, and wasn't really like her office at all. There were some people in one of the rooms acting suspiciously, doing something with a flat screen TV, so I decided to leave. When I went to grab the door knob, It was covered with a loaf of white bread, as if someone cut a door-knob-sized hole through a loaf and fitted it over the knob. I could feel a key inside the soft white sandwich-style loaf. I took the key and put it in my pocket.

When I left the room, I came out into what looked like a mall. In the mall was a large display of fiber art, mostly colorful fabric on a clothes line. I was looking at it, and a woman with a British accent came up next to me and started touching the cloth. All of the color came off on her hands. She said, 'Look, it's lipstick."

I then went to a room that had all of the people I work with in it. They were dismantling a large chocolate Victorian dollhouse. It was supposed to have been for a co-worker's partner, for his 60th Birthday. (I don't think the guy is anywhere near 60.) I started to help, and ate a piece, then discovered that it was to be reassembled later.

This is a small part of the dreams I had just last night. This kind of profuse and vivid dreaming has been going on for a few days, and I'm not sleeping well because of it. I had decided to limit the scope of this blog to my art experiences and keep the general life-whining to a minimum. We all have a lot of the same maliase going on, I think, why dwell on it? But today, I am sorely tempted.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More of This

I have finished quilting and binding this thing. Most of my quilts have an obvious title (at least to me) but not yet this one. As I was photographing it this morning suddenly it became glaringly obvious that one edge isn't straight. Why didn't I notice it before? This happens to me all of the time. I've never been a perfectionist, and my head is in a place now when I can barely be bothered to even measure anything. I can live with flaws just fine most of the time, but this is annoying me too much. I will have to fix it.

I've decided that I do not want to make traditional quilts, but I find I cling to many of the conventions, mainly setting up a rectangle with a sewn on binding. I've been thinking about and gathering images for my next quilt, which will be something about Egyptian art. That could be a good place to try an unfinished edge, as if it were a fragment.

Back to the thing, everything was OK with my sewing machine, so now this piece is ready for hand work. I was thinking I wanted to have some hand work ready for when I take my machine in to be serviced. Who knows how long it will take. I've gone from a person who did everything by hand to a person who does almost nothing by hand. It's too bad, because I like doing hand work, and I love how hand stitches look. Check out a blog called Spirit Cloth, she does hand work in a reverential way. Good photos as well.

I also have a very large art quilt half finished. I started it before I got my new sewing machine. It is all by hand, and I don't want to switch in the middle, so progress is very slow. I could decide to devote some block of time to it.

At the same time as the large art quilt, Kate and I started working on a quilt of denim scraps. We left seams and pockets in the patches we cut, and we like it. The top is done but we have gone no farther. I remember now, she wants to add embroidered patches to it, but it is really difficult for her sew through all that. I'm not exactly thrilled about it myself. As I write about this, I realize that I have been putting the Etsy site before all else. None of the unfinished quilts I just spoke of will be for sale, so they have not been a priority. See what commerce does? My shop is pretty slow, and has enough stock, so maybe it is time to let that hang for a while. Which reminds me, in an earlier post I mentioned selling a quilt called Egg Mash. Well, it has not arrived at its destination. It's been just about 2 weeks. I had it insured, but I hate to think it is stolen or lost. I'm afraid I might be about to find out what it is like to make a claim.

Monday, February 2, 2009

This Thing was Moving Right Along, Until...

This piece has been up a few times now. I had company coming Saturday, so I really needed to be getting ready for that, but when I woke up, all by myself in the early morning, I went down to the art cellar to work. I started filling in around the main quilting I had already finished. I was doing contour lines, which is very relaxing to me. I was in the zone, moving along nicely and BAM!! The needle broke!

I was stupified for a minute. God, I hate breaking a needle. It's so violent. I've done it a few times in my life. Always when I had hit a pin. But, there were no pins.

I have had this sewing machine for about a year now. I bought it at a quilt show, from a store in NJ that had a booth there. I was definitely ready for a new machine, and I spoke to a sales person, who had me sitting trying out this amazing machine... and I had just gotten a big bonus at work... It was so different from my old machine, which was a high school graduation gift in 1978. I was literally afraid of it for a while. It did things and made noises that I could not understand. Once I had to take it in for service because it would not sew. The thread kept getting jacked-up in the bobbin area. The nice man at the store informed me that I had it threaded wrong. Like, duh. How could that possibly be? I've come along way with the thing, but this new needle breaking development really stumped me. I took the bent and busted needle off and went to the trouble-shooting section of the book. There were a number of reasons why a needle might break, but none that would apply to this case. I had a special free-motion plate on, and to me, it always looked like the needle was too close to the edge of the hole. But, as I mentioned, I had been sewing with it just about a year. I put in a new needle and looked down from the top of the machine to get a better idea of the needle's position, and it didn't look as bad as I thought. Still not in the middle of the hole, but not as close to the edge as it had appeared. Still, I could not bring myself to sew any longer. I was afraid of it again.

I will go at it again soon, most likely tonight. I am very close to finishing the work I want to do with the machine on this piece, and start on some hand work. My machine, by the way, is a Janome 6600.
Anybody have one?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Look at This Fabric

This is a scan from one of my library books, "Dating Fabrics, a Color Guide, 1800 - 1960," by Eileen Jahnke Trestain. As you can see, this was a page about fabrics from before 1830. That little brown print, top middle, really does not look very old fashioned. Looks like something out of the 50's. I want this fabric.

The next 2 fabrics are from a book called "America's Printed Fabrics, 1770 - 1890, " by Barbara Brackman. It was hard to pick out these few fabrics to show, because I am drooling over so many of them.  This book talks about the different manufacturing innovations and then shows examples of the fabrics that resulted. The author then put reproduction fabrics on the facing pages and talked about what was different. Often the pattern was scaled down, but some of them are exact copies.

My final example today is from a book called "Textiles of the Arts and Crafts Movement" by Linda Parry. This book focuses a lot on the designers of that time, sort of the Art Nouveau Amy Butlers and Kaffe Fassetts of their day.