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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Still My "Stuff"

Several weeks ago, my father moved into the Alzhimer's unit of an assisted care facility. My Dad has Alzheimer's. He hasn't recognized me for several years. He isn't my father as much as he is a frail old man whose irrational behavior patterns allow my sisters and I to laugh instead of cry. But this not my father. My father is the man who quit high school to help support his brothers and sisters during the Depression. Because he had to share everything, he began to buy two of everything whenever his budget allowed. (If one is good, two is better - our family mantra.)

My father is the man who gave me a nickname - he called me "Stuff". He never explained where it came from, or gave any of my six siblings nicknames. I wasn't his favorite child - we all agree that my older sister Becky held that position. I just was his "Stuff". He didn't talk about his job, but he went to work every day, without complaint, to support his family. My father was a terrible driver. He turned around to see the person he was talking to in the back seat. He backed up if he missed his freeway exit. My father knew one joke (one of the dumbest jokes in the known universe), and told it over and over. He sang "Bill Grogan's Goat" over and over. He recited one poem (Somebody's Mother by Mary Dow Brine) over and over.

My father was far from perfect as a father and a husband. He was vain about his looks, especially his hair. He wore white socks with a black suit, then crossed his legs so several inches of fish-belly white flesh showed above the socks. He and I drove a full day to buy my first Toggenburg goat. He had a system for everything. I cannot play Chinese Checkers without using his opening ten moves. I refused to play chess with him because he spend hours deliberating each move. He went back to night school and graduated from high school the year before I did.

My first "real" job was as a waitress at the Red Bird Restaurant in Russells Point. During the summer, when Dad picked me up after work, he would ask "Do you want ice cream?" and I would always answer "yes!". We stopped at the ice cream shop (it wasn't a Tastee Freeze or a Dairy Queen)and I would treat - taking pleasure in spending my tip money. Dad and I would have milkshakes and take a hot-fudge sundae home to Mom.

When I moved to Columbus to attend The Ohio State University, he wrote me letters, even though I was less than an hour away. One time, he tucked in a $5 bill, with instructions that I should go have a milkshake. The letter ended "Still my Stuff", and he signed it, as always, W. O. Wickersham. I still have the letter, and when I come across every now and again, it makes me smile.

He was in a car accident in 1997 and suffered a head injury that seemed very minor, but was not. Several months later, the doctors operated to relieve pressure inside his skull. He joked about his brain surgery, claiming it made him a genius. I think the head injury that led to the surgery also jump-started his Alzheimers. And what is left is his handwriting.

His handwriting hasn't changed since 1973. At my parent's house last summer, I found two large boxes of handspun wool yarn. I recognized his handwriting on the labels pinned to each skein. I don't know what Mom & Dad intended to do with the yarn. He just enjoyed spinning it. I'm dyeing some of the yarn, and I will keep a couple of skeins. I'll knit a scarf or two, and remember my father before Alzheimer's took him away.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Too Small To Keep, Too Big To Throw Away (TSTKTBTTA)

After a question about a technique that was sort_of_in_the_neighborhood_ of TSTKTBTTA was posted on QuiltArt today, I thought a quick tutorial might be of interest. I save scraps of my hand dyed fabric (Hey - it's expensive!) and developed this technique to use those scraps, which range in size from 1/2" wide to 5". I have made a number of quilts that use this technique.

Scraps of fabric. Can be irregularly shaped or left-over squares and strips. If a scrap seems too big or isn't the correct shape, I take scissors to it!

Fusible web.

Base - can be batting, Peltex, muslin or other fabric. This is a good place to use those too_thin_really_ugly_outdated_what_was_I_thinking fabrics, since they will be covered. I like my base piece to be slightly larger than the finished dimension. Example: for postcards, start with a 4.5" x 6.5" piece of Peltex.

Apply fusible web to base. OR: Use scraps that already have fusible web on the back.

Arrange scraps on base. Overlap edges slightly (1/4" at most). When you like what you see, fuse them down. In the example shown, which is about 8" wide by 6" high, I think the scrap on the top right is too big.

Optional step: sew down raw edges.

My August 2005 Journal Quilt - "I Grow Flowers, Not Vegetables" (8.5" x 11") is one of the three quilts in my pattern, Tres Flores. All three quilts use the TSTKTBTTA technique to create the background.

Once I have the base covered and fused, it generally becomes a background. Sometimes I cut it up to create applique pieces, such as the leaf in this piece.

Have fun!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Cleaning, Creative or Both?

I spent most of last Tuesday cleaning my studio. My normal modus operandi is to clean up at the end of any project. Sometime earlier this year, I quit cleaning and started piling. Maybe it is because I haven't finished a lot of projects, maybe it is a lack of time. Maybe I'm lazy, maybe I'm depressed. Whatever the reason, the studio was a mess that I didn't want to work in. Get in, dump whatever I was carrying on the nearest horizontal surface, get out. I knew that I would be unable to be truly productive or creative until I fixed things.

I started cleaning in the corner furthest from the door. Piles were sorted and stacks of fabrics put away. I vacuumed the visible floor. I emptied the vacuum cleaner (LOVE that Dyson!) Several projects got put into their own project boxes, eliminating both haphazard piles of "stuff" and a stack of empty tubs. I updated my fabric inventory and put newly dyed fabrics away. I swapped out my barely working VCR for a newer one. I vacuumed dust bunnies and the line where floor meets wall. I did some minor rearrangement in my boxes of commercial prints, and made shelf space for all the floor clutter. I set aside a large box of fabric to be donated to my guild's charity project. I vacuumed newly visible carpet. I emptied the vacuum cleaner.

I ran out of time before I could finish, but the corner that hasn't been cleaned was the least in need of it. My space is better organized. A never-used sewing machine, several bags of batting scraps, and a big box of fabric are gone, giving me space. Things I don't use often are on the harder-to-reach upper shelves. Those odd items I might use "sometime" are sorted into "Keep or Not Keep", then put away or trashed. Photos and paperwork are filed. New purchases are out of shopping bags. Like things with like - sorted and stored. I made a list of three projects which I want to work on - play with the new dye I bought in Houston, quilt my newest quilt, make fabric beads. I haven't had any time to work in my studio since my cleaning day. But in some weird way, cleaning my workspace felt creative.

Maybe spending my time cleaning felt creative because it freed up space and resources. Maybe I'm confusing productivity with creativity. I need an organized (clean!) environment to be creative. Clutter from one project interupts creativity on another project. So cleaning is necessary for me to be creative.

My three projects are waiting for me.....

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Creating on a Colorful Scale

I find that most of my "creative" time is spent doing something related to business. While dyeing is creative, rewarding and completely enjoyable, more time is spent in marketing, accounting, and other non-fulfilling activities. Let me immediately irritate all those who find accounting fascinating by noting that those individuals whom engineers like myself more or less affectionately refer to as "bean counters" are the ones who coined the oxymoronic phrase "creative accounting".

So it was with great pleasure that I finished updating my business books and found myself with an entire Friday to spend in my studio. I've been designing a floral bouquet to show off the product of my Color Wheel Dyeing class. When I hit a snag in the design, I decided to take a break and make some postcards from the colorful scraps. These small scale creations allow me to a)thriftily use my scraps, b)actually finish a project and c)allow my sub-conscious mind to worry on the larger project's snag while keeping my conscious mind occupied.

I made four postcards. The first two will go to members of The Omaha Postcard Exchange.

Seaweed #1

Fractured Color Wheel #1

Fractured Color Wheel #2

This postcard will go to my sister as a belated birthday card. Happy Birthday, Natalie!

Fractured Color Wheel #3

My husband claimed this one for himself.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Prairie Windflowers

Bragging time! My quilt, Prairie Windflowers won a blue ribbon at the Nebraska State Fair and received the Pride of Nebraska award. The quilt is 33" X 41".

About my quilt:
I do a lot of long-distance driving across Nebraska and the other Plains states. Along with the hawks that sit on both natural and man-made hunting perches, I see windmills. The non-working windmills are harder to spot, with their missing blades and the overgrowth of vines. The working windmills make me think of a single flower, growing high above the other plants, blades turning or not, dependent on the wind “sweeping down the plain”. These are my “windflowers”.

While windmills are typically solitary figures on the landscape I’m passing at 60 MPH, there are also windmills near my house in Omaha. I am intrigued by this juxtaposition of urban and rural within the largest city in Nebraska.

One windmill is alongside the trail I walk almost every day. The trail winds along the outer edge of an urban neighborhood less than ten years old. I photograph another windmill in a park while my kids play just a few feet away on bright plastic modern playground equipment. These and other urban windmills remind us “city slickers” that Nebraska is more a land of wide-open space than suburbia.

This quilt combines a solitary rural Nebraska windmill with a splash of urban Omaha flowerbed. The background fabric was created using a can of rusty nails taken from an old barn on a farm handed down through at least three generations of Nebraskans. (A farm with a non-working windmill.) The windmill is some distance from the viewer, as are most that we see. The flowers, on the other hand, are seen at close range, perfect for viewing the subtle variations in color and shape.

Look for both windmills and flowers on your next drive!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Kool Aid, Kool Aid!

While visiting my parents, my Mom and I decided to Kool Aid dye a skein of handspun yarn (100% wool). Our yarn is heavy with lanolin. I wonder how much that will affect the color? Mom was sure she had a bunch of Kool Aid packets in the house, but we couldn't find them. When facing the decision to buy .20 Kool Aid or .10 WalMart brand, I decided an experiment to compare them was in order. I bought six packets of each, Grape flavor.

We divided the skein roughly in half. Each half was put into a glass baking pan, covered with warm water and left to soak for 45 minutes. This was an arbitrary length of time - having the wool saturated is the goal. After the excess water was gently squeezed out, the yarn was dyed using 6 packets of "dye", two glugs of white vinegar and enough water to cover.

After each dish went through a "microwave for 2 minutes, wait, microwave for 2 minutes" cycle, the WalMart brand dye had mostly absorbed into the yarn. The water in the yarn with the Kool Aid dye was still very dark. It was almost 10 pm, so we left the yarn/water to cool overnight.

The next morning, I squeezed out the excess water. I had to rinse the yarn quite a bit, which I hadn't expected. (After doing additional Kool Aid dyeing, I realize I should repeat microwave/cool cycles until the dye is absorbed into the yarn. With the heavy lanolin, that would never have happened.) I hung the skeins of yarn off the side of the deck to dry.

This picture shows the yarn after dyeing with a skein of the original color. The color was much weaker than I expected, which I attributed to the lanolin. There was no noticeable difference in color when I compared the Kool Aid dyed yarn to the WalMart brand dyed yarn (no picture)

When I got home, I scoured the dyed yarn. I redyed one of the skeins using two packets of Grape flavor Kool Aid. (Mom found her Kool Aid stash & sent it home with me.) I did the heat/wait cycle until the water was clear - really a light blue rather than clear. No rinsing was necessary. This picture shows (L-R) original yarn, heavy lanolin content dyed yarn, and scoured, re-dyed yarn.

No grapes were hurt during these dye sessions.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Cincinnati, Pigs, and Ice Cream

Last weekend, I was in Cincinnati, Ohio for the Zonta Quilts For Change show. I won't bore you with details about the low attendance. Instead, I'll bore you with details of the evening I spent with other vendors. I had met Roni (Sunny Bunny Designs) on-line on QuiltArt and we planned to meet in person at this show. We met during setup and made plans to go out to dinner the next night. I invited the vendors from the booth next to mine (Yoder's) and we took two vehicles to Hyde Park Square.

I rode with Roni, who never uses her turn signal and knows the back way to get around rush hour traffic! We ate at an Italian place called Indigo. I had a veggie eggplant lasagne that was wonderful! We wandered around after eating to see and be seen. We would have blended right in, except that we didn't have a dog with us, and we were talking and laughing quite loudly. I didn't see anyone else wearing Crocs either. Maybe we weren't blending as well as we thought!

We window-shopped at the boutiques around the square. We went into one shop, but after seeing the price on their $245 jeans, I didn't bother asking about the multi-stranded black pearl necklace or the green leather bag. I wanted them both. Pout.

When I saw this painted pig, I insisted that a passerby take our picture with the pig.
Here we are: Jeannette, Olga, Roni, Julia, and Alice. Now, how often do you picture an Olga wearing a traditional sari? She always does!

Afterward, we had Really Great Ice Cream at Graeter's. I rode with Olga back to the Cinta Center. Roni doesn't use her turn signals!

Friday, July 28, 2006

New Tricks

A first this morning. I couldn't figure out how to turn on the shower in my room at the Holiday Inn in Kearny, Nebraska. My C.V.: I've stayed in a lot of hotel rooms, overnighted with family & friends, had quite a few of my own addresses in seven states. Never have I been unable to make a shower work. (Regulating water temperature can be trickier & will not be addressed here.) I've got an engineering degree and made a career working in situations where the unknown had to be examined to correct a problem. (Said problems usually involved human input from someone who insisted in the face of hard evidence to the contrary that they had followed directions EXACTLY!) By most standards, I am qualified to turn on showers worldwide.

A call to the front desk brought several suggestions from Ty, all involving buttons and levers that didn't exsist. He offered to come up to show me, but since I was puffy-eyed with morning breath & bed hair, wearing only my birthday suit, I declined. Bad move, as it only delayed the inevitable. I dressed hastily in a combination of yesterday's rumpled clothing and pajamas, not bothering with toothpaste or comb. Ty politely ignored my personal appearance. The shower baffled him as well, making me feel better.

The solution involved pulling down on a ring on the spigot. New one, which I have added to my repertoire. One shower and a Diet Pepsi later, I am more amused. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sleight of Hand

There has been a discussion on QuiltArt recently about the cost of hand-dyed fabric. DebbieHomeDyer did some math and came up with $4.50 out-of-pocket cost for 1 yd of hand-dyed fabric. (30 yd bolt of PFD at ~3.95/yd, 3.95 for 2 oz dye - enough to dye 8 yds, pennies for soda ash.)

I think she did a sort of mathmatical sleight of hand.

First, while the cost of soda ash needed to dye a yard of fabric is just pennies, you still have to buy at least a pound (Dharma has 1 lb for $1.69). Ignoring shipping charges, your out-of-pocket cost is $1.69, not just the $.40 worth actually used to dye those 8 yds. I could also argue that the cost of the 22 yds you haven't dyed must also be included in your out-of-pocket cost. I bet you bought a full bolt to get a lower price per yard. What about synthrapol? $4.09 for 16 oz.

What are you going to dye in? Baggies, tubs, buckets, measuring spoons, jars - they all have a cost. Maybe if you are dyeing a few yards every once in a while for your own use, you can use "stuff that was sitting around the house", but by the time you finish dyeing that 30-yd bolt, you'll have made at least one trip to the dollar store to buy a measuring cup with readable lettering, a set of spoons so you can measure 1/2 TBL instead of eyeballing "something close" with the 1 TBL measuring spoon you have. You'll have bought more dixie cups to replace those you took out of the bathroom. And you have replaced the kitchen towels that don't match the kitchen color scheme anymore, thanks to dye mop-ups.

FYI: Both DebbieHomeDyer and I completely ignored the cost of rinsing, washing, drying, and ironing this fabric.

If you got the color/shade you wanted in the 8 yds you dyed, hooray! Give yourself a pat on the back. More likely, you'll end up dyeing a few more yards trying to get that certain color. Sidebar: I have 10-20 shades of green in stock at any given time. And I STILL have customers who can't find the green they want/need.

Anyway, my point is that you can't dye a few yards of fabric for $5 a yard. Not having done any calculations, just making a guess, I would say that you might have to dye about 100 yards to get into that cost range. So, when your out-of-pocket expense is in the neighborhood of $500, does my $18 and $20/yd fabric seem so expensive?

Speaking of sleight of hand, I noticed something strange this past weekend. Quilters were watching a demonstration of a quilting system that uses your home machine & has a frame to support the quilt. No one asked for the dimensions of the machine cart so they could check to see if their machine would fit. They weren't thinking about how different a real quilt would behave compared to the demonstrator 45" wide fabric sandwich, pre-basted in a 1" diagonal grid. (I've seen a lot of quilts that were more lightly quilted than this basting!) No one wondered aloud about how the thin stick support would handle the bulk of a king-size quilt.

I was amused to see that most people watching the demo were looking at the quilting being done, rather than evaluating the system. I know it is a natural reaction to watch something in motion and that is exactly what happened! For the record, I don't think the designer/salesman was intentionally trying to pull a fast one. He just used an optimum set-up for his demo. And it sold them!

What sleight of hand can I use to get people to buy my fabric?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Artist Walk

I set out yesterday with Casey and camera, having decided to play with the macro feature on the camera. It was surprising how many things I noticed when I quit looking at The Big Picture and began to study the details. After detouring around the sidewalks splattered with mulberries, I stopped to take a picture of berries still on the tree. (I also ate a couple, but they don't taste as yummy as they did when I was a carefree child in Ohio.) The black walnut trees have a bumper crop. I believe my first dyeing experience was accidently-on-purpose coloring my hands with the hulls!

My next photography attempt was of a new (to me) flower that was in the landscaped areas where trail meets neighborhood. After a dozen attempts, this was the best shot. I was trying for a clear shot of the stamens, thinking ahead to a combination of applique and beading. The stem is a stylized pineapple, flat & symmetrical. If anyone knows what this flower is, please leave a comment!

Wild grapevines caught my attention and I was very pleased with this shot of a bunch in various stages of ripening.

I batted about .500 with good/not-good macro shots. Raindrops on pine needles, tiny yellow balls of petals, and a carpet of black walnut hulls under the tree where we took shelter from a light rain were all not good enough to make the cut. Casey's whiskers and interesting leaf shapes were were better.

And saving my favorite for last, I loved the way the light came through the leaves when I ducked under this tree. I used a flash for the first shot and it looks VERY flat. The 2nd show, sans flash, is what I saw. Wonderful shades of color interplaying with light! In addition, these leaves look like the star leaves that the dinosaurs were hunting in one of The Land Before Time movies.

On the way home, I found a tiny bird egg (bluebird, I think) beside the trail. I picked up a small piece of blue glass with writing (names of cities, which will go into my collection of found objects for a quilt about places. I picked up and discarded a piece of plastic with a Nissan logo. My favorite tree on the trail, which has HUGE leaves, also has seed pods - 2 feet long & skinny & round. Such a wonderful contrast to the leaves in shape, while maintaining scale. My right knee hurt, so I was walking slowly. Rain was threatening, so I didn't stop to take any pictures.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Why Use One Fabric When You Have Twenty?

When I make quilts, I like to work with many fabrics, rather than a few. Making these "scrap" quilts always generates SCRAPS! I saved the long skinny ones for string piecing. Most of the chunky scraps I threw away. But my hand-dyed fabric scraps were too precious to discard. When the scrap collection outgrew the first three storage boxes, each larger than the one before, I decided I had to start using them. I call the technique I've been exploring for about a year "Too Small To Keep - Too Big To Throw Away" (TSTK-TBTTA). These scraps fall into the 2-4" range. Bigger scraps are big enough to do something with, smaller scraps are a PITA to work with.

And yet, I found myself fusing these teeny scraps to a 4" x 6" Peltex postcard base. Scraps with fusible web on them, trimmed off a TSTK-TBTTA scrap. Scraps that are smaller than PITA-size scraps. Scraps so small that I normally don't even hesitate before tossing them into the trash. Scraps so small that they don't deserve to be called scraps! And I was using them.

My placement technique was simple - the scrap should cover Peltex, not other scraps. When I had the entire base covered with a jarring collection of color and shape, I "quilted" by sewing many straight lines at odd angles across the scraps.

Leftover from June's Journal Quilt were quite a few sort-of/almost triangular pieces of pink fabrics. These became the petals of my FireWorks Flower. I like how the flower quiets the explosion of color of the background. I'm not crazy about the dark gray chunks near the edges of the postcard, but I decided to think of them as the paper housing which gets blown away unnoticed when fireworks are set off.

This postcard will be mailed to the next person (Betty H) on my Omaha Postcard Exchange List.

The 2nd postcard is Blue Daisy. I finished the postcard, signed it, wrote the date as 2005 not once, but THREE times. Twice on the front, once on the back. If not for a daughter who pointed it out, I might never have caught my error. After four days of agonizing over my error, I mailed it to my June Postcard recipient without correction. My first ever late mailing :(

Sunday, June 25, 2006

More Thoughts From the Ballgame

Championship Game 1 of the College World Series. It was a good game, but what I enjoyed more than the baseball was the rain delay. We sat dry under our rain ponchos (ponchoes?), watching the tarp get pulled out, laughing as the slow exodus to the exits turned frantic when the rain changed from a light sprinkle to a cold downpour.

Best of all was the rainbow that formed to the east of the stadium. It started as part of an arc and grew until it formed a complete semicircular stripe of color.

A 2nd rainbow seemed to be a reflection of the first. I've never seen the colors mirror-imaged like they were on these two.

Best Shout From the Stands: Still the trading of insults between the right field and left field bleachers - "Left/Right Field Sucks!"

Best T-shirt: You can't fix stupid.

And the Wave - that unique American institution which unites everyone at the ballpark, regardless of race, religion, color, sex, or team affliation, into a single organism enjoying the moment. Carpe Diem!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Random Thoughts from the College World Series

After 10 years on the waiting list, I was able to buy season tickets this year! Great location on the 3rd base side, so the sun never shines directly into our faces. The CWS started last Friday (Happy Birthday Kyra!) and the two-game-per-day pace is catching up with me. I don't feel much of an allegiance to any of the teams playing, so I can just enjoy good baseball.

Best T-shirt seen so far: "Don't Run Over the Parking Lot Guy"
Best name: Yonder Alonso of the Miami Hurricanes.
Shortest Rain Delay: 4 minutes. The rain started hard, the tarp was rolled onto the field, the rain stopped. Tarp unfolding halted, meetings were held. Tarp rolled off the field, game restarted.
Worst Almost-No-Hitter: Rice pitcher Eddie Degerman had a no-hitter going into the 7th inning vs Georgia. His 8 walks (including walking the bases loaded early in the game) overshadowed the no-hit bid.
Most Annoying Traffic Control: Traffic control which doesn't allow right turns off the 13th Street exit, which meant that even though I had less than a 100 yard drive to my permit parking area, I was forced to drive a looping path through the neighborhoods for 20 minutes in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Someone has an inane theory that slow-moving traffic is better than getting a vehicle off the street & parked. I'm guessing this traffic pattern designer owns a gas station or two. Same guy must be the one who decided to have the signs that list what you cannot bring into the ballpark where you don't see them until AFTER you've gone through the inspection of carry-in stuff. I've pointed it out every time I've walked into the ballpark, but no one seems to notice the irony but me.
Best Food: $1/slice Freschetta pizza stand directly across 13th St from the Stadium. Second place (because of the $4 ballpark price tag) goes to the frozen lemonade which is heaven on earth on a 90 deg day.
Best Shout From the Stands: "Right Field Sucks" from the 10 people in the left-field bleachers after a long rain delay. (Right Field Bleachers have a answering shout, but couldn't get the job done this time.)

There is no where like Rosenblatt Stadium during the College World Series. See you there at 4 pm today!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Kudos to Alltel!

First - a word from our sponsor with my Experiment Results.

Which were mixed. I dyed two pieces of fabric with the identical dye in different amounts of water. The results didn't support my hypothesis. The length of fabric dyed with more water had more texture than the other piece. Why doesn't more liquid = more even color? Hmmm. I'm surprised. I'll have to repeat the experiment before I accept these results.

Kudos to Alltel!
After using the modern day equivalent of chewing gum & baling wire (hot glue) to "fix" my phone, I wasn't really optimistic about using it. The flip phone was glued in the open position, which made it impossible to fit in my pocket, my purse, or anywhere else. So I was pleased to get both an email and a phone call from Alltel after I contacted Scott Ford & a couple other Alltel Big Guns. The end result was exactly what I wanted - I got a replacement phone. I was willing to pay for a new phone, but got a freebie. A used freebie, but hey - my sad sack broken phone is permanently retired.

I am pleased! I can return to bragging about my wireless phone service, which works when Verizon & my On-Star phone don't. I can carry my phone in my pocket! Thank you Alltel! And thanks to Peggy Seals, Executive Customer Relations, whose efforts made it happen.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dyeing Experiment du Jour

I dyed gradations today. Boring work. Not only do I dye the same color over & over again, but instead of getting the multiple shades and the wonderful textures that make hand dyed fabric so... well, so wonderful(!), I have to work to keep each length of fabric mostly the same shade. I know that beautiful quilts have been made using gradations. Quilts that are stunning & eye-catching. And those designs appeal to a huge group of quilters who want those gradations.

Personally, I would rather use two oranges and a yellow than a gradation. Or five different pinks plus a couple more pinks with hints of yellow & orange. But, since I'm dyeing this fabric to sell, I need to dye what my customers want, so I'm dyeing gradations. (FYI: I also dye & sell "for me" fabrics!)

I experimented with purple today. I *think* that it is going to be fabulous. It looks that way in the dye bath. I'm hoping the color holds through rinsing and drying, since both processes lighten the color. Fingers are crossed! That, however, was not my Experiment du Jour.

My experiment was done with the leftover purple dye. I've been wondering how the amount of water used affects the color, so today, I decided to find out. I measured two identical amounts of dye stock (3 T each). To one, I added water to get a very generous almost 2 cups of liquid. To the 2nd dye stock, I added water to give me a very scant 1 cup of liquid. I dyed two 1-yd lengths of Kona cotton. I added the dye to the fabric and manipulated both pieces quite a bit. I wanted to eliminate some of the shading & texture so I could see just color. My hypothesis is that I will get the same color in both lengths, but the fabric with more liquid will have more even color over the entire 1-yd length.

Tune in tomorrow for the results!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

SSDD at Alltel

All this because I wanted to be a safe driver. Heading out to a friend's house, I knew I would be driving through the Dodge-144th St Construction Zone. My cell phone was in the pocket of my shorts. I *knew* I would get a call just as I got to 132nd Street. And I also *knew* that I would never be able to get the phone out of my pocket and answer it, while simultaneously checking out construction progress, keeping under the 35 mph speed limit, and staying safely within the confines of the one-weavy-open-eastbound lane. So before I got into my truck, I took the phone OUT of my pocket to put it with my purse on the passenger seat. It slipped out of my hand, but was not able to stick the landing on the concrete garage floor. A small bounce and small pieces sailed off. My phone was now in two pieces held together by the connecting wires, instead of the usual hinges.

No really big deal, I thought. I'll go down to Alltel tomorrow & pick up a new phone. Maybe a Blackberry, or a Palm Treo, or even better, a RAZR just to irritate my teenager. But no!

Now, I've been an Alltel wireless customer since 1995, before they were Alltel. And every time I want to upgrade a phone or my calling plan, I have (with only minor complaints to the salesperson) signed a new contract. BTW, that would be a take-it-or-leave-it contract, not open for negotiation. Today, when I went in with my sad story and my broken phone, I got this BS: "You are not eligible for any of our phone specials because your current contract doesn't expire until October." I'm willing to sign a new contract, I just don't want to pay their inflated "retail" price for a phone!

I'm going to try either the hot glue gun or super-glue to make my phone somewhat usable while I figure out a way around Alltel's STUPID & INFLEXIBLE policies. Anyone know Scott Ford's (Alltel Prez & CEO) email or phone number?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Pink! Orange! Yellow! and always - Black!

A beautiful day! I went shopping for something to wear to Caitlin's Confirmation. I absolutely LOVE Coldwater Creek. Having a brick & mortar store is so much more fun than catalog shopping! I bought a pink silk jacket (lined in a soft orange) that has wonderful (!!) threadwork in matching pink thread. I wish I could tell people I made this jacket. Throw in a black w/bright flowers skirt & a black tee & I'm set. I bought a second tee & a purse too. The pink purse called my name, but when it didn't match my awesome jacket, I went with my favorite - black.

I'm rinsing fabric that I dyed earlier this week today. Wonderful reds, rich oranges and strong yellows. Yummy!

The red at the back of this photo is my DyeCloth for that day. I threw the leftover dye on a cloth that was all kinds of "ugly" and got a yard of this wonderful red with very dark places fabric. A beautiful day!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

We All Have Faults - These Are Mine!

I ignore superstitions and many holidays. I cannot remember the last time I played an April Fools joke on someone. Or intentionally wore green on St. Patrick's Day. I've never worried about the negative effects of doing laundry on New Year's Day and I've gone to bed angry more than once. I haven't cooked a turkey or a whole chicken in years, so I haven't been able to break a wishbone with anyone. I occasionally cross against the light and I use language in front of my friends that my kids and my mother have never heard come out of my mouth. I always look up into the night sky and wish on any & all stars that I can see. I cross my fingers when I make a promise that isn't sincere. I really believe the Reds have a chance to win this year. I can only remember a few jokes - most of them involve engineering humor and are not always funny to non-engineers. I don't understand why people don't like math.

I think my kids & my pets are smarter and prettier than anyone else's. I'm very cynical, but I wake up every morning thinking it is going to be a great day. I hold grudges. I hate to cook, but will cheerfully clean up after anyone who cooks for me. Every spring, my flower garden starts out pruned and weeded and beautiful. I vow it will stay that way all year. By mid-summer, there are dead leaves which should be removed, thin spots where annuals have wasted away from too little water, drooping plants which should have been staked long ago and roses perpetually in need of dead-heading. I store away the seeds I intended to plant and promise I will be different NEXT year.

I'm impatient. I get irritated at people who don't seem efficient. Especially when they don't CARE! While I didn't invent multi-tasking, I have taken it to an art form.

I wonder why everyone doesn't recycle. I hate to shop for clothes. I get cranky when I'm tired. When a project is going well, I don't want to stop for anything. I hate rap-crap. I don't exercise enough. I don't believe in horoscopes, but my biorhythm is always on-target.

OK, I lied. These aren't all my faults, just those I'm willing to share.

Did you hear about the atom who went into the bar muttering to himself? The bartender asked him what was wrong. The atom replied, "I've lost an electron."
Bartender: "Are you sure?"
Atom: "Yes, I'm positive!"

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Rain! Snow!

I was in Dallas at the Dallas Quilt Celebration last weekend. I like to drive around a little when I'm in a new place - get a feel for where I am. I was near the American Airlines (?) Center where the NCAA tournaments were being played. On Saturday morning, I ate breakfast with Arkansas Razorback fans, many of us in sweats & tees (mine said Cincinnati Reds). On Sunday, I was the lone sweatpant/tee-shirt wearer in the midst of a Mary Kay convention. Need I say that I had on the LEAST amount of makeup? Not one to let lack of makeup or matching outfit hold me back, I shared a breakfast table and conversation with some of the MK reps. And a good time was had by all.

It rained on Saturday and and again Sunday, when street flooding was a problem. Not for me - I was inside, watching the lookers. Sundays are typically slow sales days at shows. Lots of "Lookers", few "Buyers". Lookers cruise past my booth, never straying from the aisle. Sometimes they call the attention of a companion to something in my booth, a quilt or fabric which has caught their eye. Both admire it from their aisle location before moving on. The occasional looker who breaks ranks and actually ventures into my booth will typically admire whatever has caught her eye, compliment me on the beautiful colors, and move back into the aisle with the [small] crowd. Sound whiny? Perhaps it is. So, if you are one of the Sunday "lookers" at a quilt show, for God's sake, step into a booth and TOUCH something!

I drove out of Dallas on Sunday night in the rain. Drove very slowly out of Dallas in the rain. Traffic was a mess, with flooded streets and high water in all sorts of inconvenient places. I had planned to drive to Wichita or Topeka or wherever the rain turned to snow, find a motel, and wait out the winter storm. But it just kept raining. So I kept driving. On Monday, somewhere north of Kansas City, the rain turned to snow. Light snow, blowing around more than anything. I didn't see any accumulation until I got into Omaha. I got home, unloaded the trailer, got it stored, and watched the snow begin to fall in earnest. I think we got 8-12 inches on Monday night, on top of the 6 inches which had fallen on Sunday night. I took this picture of Alyssa with the snowman she and Elizabeth built.