Saturday, June 12, 2021

Blogger makes itself more difficult -- again

Those of you who write blogs as well as read them have probably shared my frustration with the "new improved" Blogger interface.  For the last year or so, since their last "improvement," it has taken twice as many clicks, or maybe more, to do things that we used to be able to do much more efficiently.  For instance, when I am told on my Reading List page that Uta Lenk has a new blog post, and I click on it, I no longer am taken to her blog.  Instead, I get a message that says: 

What is this nanny warning supposed to save me from?  Would it be so awful if I clicked on Uta's blog when I didn't really mean to?  And then when I got there and realized I didn't want to be there, I could hit the back button?  Why require two clicks when one used to do the trick? 

I have to wonder whether Google has decided that blogs are obsolete, and therefore not worth supporting in the style that we have become accustomed to.   (Blogger is still a pretty decent platform, but it used to be much better, for most of the 12 years I have had my blog.)  I might even think that they're trying to get us to abandon our blogs and switch over to Instagram -- except that Instagram is owned by Facebook. 

So here's the latest development:  Google is discontinuing the Feedburner feature that allows readers to get blogs delivered straight to their email rather than navigating to the internet page.  I think that a lot more of my readers use email delivery than do it the old-fashioned way, so this is a problem.  I would be upset, and I hope you might be too, if suddenly you simply didn't receive your blog and didn't know how to remedy the situation.

I wonder whether other blog owners have made a decision about how to replace Feedburner.  I've received solicitations from an outfit called, but wonder if there's another alternative that might be better.  Rather than go down the frustrating rabbit hole of internet research, which will certainly reveal that every conceivable competitor is FABULOUS, I will call for help and see if any of you have experience and advice in this area.  Thank you!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The next Ansel Adams?

Several weeks ago I saw a notice from our library about a kids' photo contest and thought maybe Isaac, age ten, would like to participate.  The theme is "water," and we've been out three times to various places by the river and a pond in the park.  He got to use my Nikon, and I tagged along using my cellphone.

We didn't have particularly good luck with the weather on the days when we did get out, and for one reason or another we weren't able to do as many expeditions as I would have liked, but we hung in there and today went through all the photos and chose the one that he would submit.

I was pleased with what he came up with.  Some of the shots had good composition and had the sun been shining more brightly, would have been spectacular:

Some would have been spectacular if the river hadn't been full of mud, as happens when it's been raining a lot:

Some were quite lovely except there was no water in the frame:

Some were particularly nice because they had people:

Unfortunately the rules of the contest called for submitting just one photo.  I thought it would be much better to choose three, but of course that would take much longer to judge.  Here's my favorite: 

And here's Isaac's:

The contraption shown here involves a big green bucket at the top, which slowly fills with water.  When it gets full, it tips over and dumps the water onto the big turquoise plate, which tips and lets the water slide out in a huge splash.  I tried to take some photos of the same thing, but I think all my shots were a second too early or a second too late.  I was so impressed that Isaac managed to get not one, not two but three money shots.  

Now we have to wait a week and a half to find out if he's a winner.  But I think he already is!

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

No-pressure quilting

Since I started posting daily to Instagram at the start of the year, I have been looking at a lot of posts by other quilters, because the Instagram algorithm is so great at identifying what you're interested in.  And while I have seen a whole lot of wonderful work, I've also seen a lot of photos that make me cringe. 

If you would like to cringe for yourself, go to instagram and search on #improvquilt or #improvquilting.  (The links also work if you're on a computer, not your phone.)

Specifically, photos where people have apparently lost the use of their irons.  It's obvious that if there was any pressing at all during construction of the blocks, it was slapdash.  I can imagine what these quilts are going to look like after quilting and finishing, and the picture isn't pretty.

All photos from other people's
Instagram posts

When I teach quilting I give my signature spiel in which I say I don't care about almost all of the quilt police rules.  Don't care if your seam allowances are 1/4 inch.  Don't care if your points match at the seamlines.  Don't care if your blocks are exactly square, or if your seamlines are exactly straight, or your quilting stitches are all the same length.  But there is one thing that I REALLY care about, enough to make up for all those that I don't bother with.  I care that you press obsessively and thoroughly, that you press every seam open before you cross it with another seam. that you press every block perfectly before you trim it to size and join it to others.

It's particularly important with curved seams; even if the two pieces don't match exactly you can usually coax them into perfect alignment with a spritz of water and a hot iron to urge the bias threads into obedience.  

What disturbs me even more about these unpressed blocks and entire tops that people are so proud of that they post them to instagram is that many of them have made their pieces in workshops with (presumably) qualified teachers.  

I don't know how online quilt instruction works, but I would hope that teachers are asking their students to send photos, and that they are pointing out pluses and minuses of the work.  And how could teachers possibly overlook the glaring lack of pressing?????

I would hate to think that the teachers don't notice, or that they notice but don't care.  In my opinion any teacher who approves of work like these examples should lose her teaching license.  Oh wait, you don't need a license to be a quilt teacher, anybody who stays one block ahead of the rest of the class can promote herself as a guru and apparently attract lots of people willing to pay to "learn" from her.

I just read an instagram post, complete with photo of unpressed blocks, in which the author adorably tells us "Okay here's all the secrets to making an improv quilt."

Secret #5 reads: "Iron the seams once in a while but only when your butt starts falling asleep and you have to stand up."  

I know this is meant to be charming and humorous, not really serious, but it helps spread the idea that pressing is optional, that improvisational quilting = sloppy quilting.  And that makes me crabby.  Way more than crabby, if you must know.

Want to learn how to press your quilts in progress?  Check out my tutorial here, and then read on for curved seams.  Take my word for it, if you learn to press properly, and more important, if you make yourself do it all the time, your quilts will look vastly better and it will be vastly easier to work with them.  

Now to figure out how to get the word out to all those people on instagram!


Monday, May 24, 2021

A present arrives

I received a wonderful present today from Paula Kovarik, a great quilter whose work I admired even before we got to meet and become friends,  It's a small quilt, densely stitched, of course, since that's her modus operandi, but a bit different from her signature quilting in that it has no funny creatures, just straight lines.  In fact, the quilt is called "Sightlines," which I'll explain in a minute. 

I couldn't wait till I find a place to hang it, so Ken obligingly modeled the quilt right out of the box.

This quilt is special not just because I get to have another Kovarik original in my collection -- which is special enough right there -- but for how it came to be mine.  Paula has written a book about her quilting process, and I had the privilege of editing and proofreading it for her.  "Sightlines" is my pay for the job.  

Having read every word of this book four or five times, I am uniquely qualified to tell you that it's a fine piece of work.  It has several kinds of text: detailed stories about how she came to make some quilts, tutorials and exercises on how to emulate her style of drawing-through-stitch, thoughts on her creative process and why she works in this medium.  It will even tell you how to (gasp!) cut up and reconfigure quilts that you're bored or dissatisfied with.  (Paula even did this with a Quilt National piece after it came home from touring.)

The book is called "At Play in the Garden of Stitch: thoughts that come while eyeing the needle" and it should be ready to purchase very soon.  (One advantage of self-publishing, which I shared with Paula while she was still in the planning stages of this book, is that you don't have to wait for months and months for a publisher to slot you into a huge schedule.)   I'll let you know when that happens.

But back to my new quilt.  Paula pieced the quilt from her scrap bag, and when it came time to quilt it, decided to not just stitch on all the pieced lines, but to extend those lines all the way to the edges of the quilt.  That led to a very dense network of lines, which made a web of interesting shapes, especially in the large black and white areas of the quilt.  Wherever she saw a triangle, she filled it in with dense stitching in gold.  

The gold areas jitter, giving excitement to the plain white foreground and making the black "sky" alive with sparks or fireworks or maybe auroras.  I can't wait to get this quilt into a permanent place so I can see it every day. 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Girls' week out

The last time I saw my sister was in September 2019.  It was not a particularly good time for either of us.  She had just lost her husband a month earlier.  I had a brief visit for the funeral and promised to come back soon, but before that could happen I fell and broke my ankle.  So between grief and hobbling around in an orthopedic boot, we were not at our best.  We vowed that when we did this again, we would both be in better shape.

Then came coronavirus and lockdown, and a year and a half passed, and now finally we have managed our visit, this time accompanied by my niece, who needed a vacation from pandemic childcare.  We chose scenic South Bend Indiana, perhaps not your first choice for exotic travel, but it's exactly halfway between our homes so we each made a half-day trip instead of somebody making an all-day slog.

Our rented place had a huge long table where we spent all day together reading, working, talking.  A walk every day, in glorious sunshiny weather.  I brought along a big crate of art stuff and we made little "sampler" books, trying out different tools and mediums.

We found a restaurant that served wonderful red-sauce Italian, which reminded all three of us of our upstate New York youth.  I have lived in Kentucky for more than 50 years and my regrets in leaving New York include brilliant fall foliage and red-sauce Italian food.  

Yes, there are Italian restaurants in Kentucky, and some of them are even pretty good, but you can't match the Sicilian edge that I treasured from long ago.  Every time I visit the Rust Belt I seek out Italian restaurants, preferably those with the authentic vibe of the 60s that I remember so fondly.

This one, Carmela's, was a little more upscale than my fantasy dive, but the food was perfect.  We came back on Thursday night and ordered the same eggplant parmesan that we'd had on Tuesday.  Make sure you patronize this place if you find yourself in South Bend!

My father was a graduate of Michigan State and a football fan, and I was raised to look upon Notre Dame as the archfoe, both in football and religion (we were Lutherans and thus kind of suspicious of Catholics).  So I was a bit wary to be entering enemy territory when we strolled around the Notre Dame campus.  Fortunately I escaped unscathed, and was totally charmed by the beauty of the place, indoors and out.

So, a great trip.  We've resolved to do this every year, and expand it next year to include the daughters-in-law.  I'm already planning what our craft projects will be.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Lots of boxes 1

My new show consists of several "collections" of collage and assemblage, fancy words for putting a variety of miscellaneous junk together and calling it art.   I've been drawn to this form of art for a long time; maybe it started as a way to rationalize keeping boxes and boxes and piles and piles of miscellaneous junk instead of throwing it out.  But I have learned that miscellaneous stuff, no matter how appealing each piece may be when scrutinized closely, doesn't become art until you have a good way to fasten it together forever.

And for me, the go-to answer has always been to put the disparate parts into boxes.  

I have been doing this for several years, mostly using pre-made new wood boxes that you get at the craft store, and several of those boxes made it into my gallery show.  But the project got turbocharged when Pamela Mattei, a long-time fiber pal, was seized by the desire to clean out her garage and basement during early pandemic lockdown.  Early last summer she gave me five huge cartons of old cigar boxes, which I immediately started filling up for art.

Some of the boxes had slide-off lids, which I slid off to use for other purposes, leaving me with six-inch cubes to wallpaper with maps, photos, book pages, sheet music, fabric or other flat stuff.  Then I populated the boxes with things that wanted to be together.

Here are some of the cigar-box cubes that made it into the show:

Pink Specs Box

Bingo Berry Box

Some of the cigar boxes were hinged, and I took them apart to give more five-sided "rooms."

Trio Box

I'll show you more of my boxes in other posts.  Meanwhile, if you're near Louisville, I hope you can drop in and see my show at PYRO Gallery, 1006 E. Washington St.  Gallery hours are noon to 6 Fridays and Saturdays, 1-4 Sundays through the end of May, and by private appointment.