Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holiday Cheer, 2

Wanting a blog "greeting card" like last year (here), but on a sketchbook page, I revisited the rabbit, and with a pile of fancy fabrics and snippets, I enjoyed myself. Good way to finish the old and begin the new. 

And May You Have a Very Happy New Year ! ! !

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Holiday Cheer, 1

This pomegranate branch looks appropriate for the season with its reds and greens. This is just one small branch of my pomegranate tree quilt, which sits on my sewing table in segments. Can't even call them blocks. Hand stitching will be added to the background eventually. Ten more branches to go.   

And may you have a Bear-y Happy Holiday Season with your loved ones!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Further Confusion

Here we go again. Surprising things can be found in the garden, surprising because they are quite out of season. For example, baby pears
and apples.
And the roses have something say.
Admittedly, I have been craving pink, so this rose pleases me so much in a very green landscape.
Consequently, the roses made it into my sketchbook this week. I sketched with a white colored pencil then machine sewed the design.
Then I pinned fabrics and sewed them down. I added a tile background to the right, very murky.
The dark fabrics add such drama but proved difficult to photograph. 
For a few of the leaves, I found a piece of green lacy cotton in my stash. 
For an exciting Saturday evening, I machine stitched the words free hand for the first time. What an adrenalin rush! The snippets of pink fell into place. 
Now this page has the gaiety of a party, yet the message is sobering. 
[More process photos over at MulticoloredSnippetsJust scroll back.]

And wildflowers have begun blooming. 
Fortunately temperatures have dropped and I had to get out my wool coat. 
Maybe things will get back to normal.
Gently, gently, documenting the decline. 

IMPORTANT UPDATE about Picasa (see previous post for background info): Picasa has just increased size allowances for photos. They went from around 1 G. to 5 G. I had managed to get my photos sized down to take up 40% of the space and then suddenly I had only 9% used up. Wow!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Mount Everest.

Blogging may be considered an extreme sport. After struggling, climbing up, scrambling over rocky spots, huffing and puffing, and investing more time than I really wanted, I now feel like I have conquered Mount Everest, that is, the Mount Everest of blogging. If your worldly knowledge includes how to resize photos for your blog or you don't have a blog, then, skip to the News Update.
         This all began when seven blogging friends received messages that they could no longer upload photos to their blogs because they had used up the space. Does this seem sneeky to anybody? Lure you in, then grab you by the throat? Admittedly, a blog is free (at first), however, most of us have learned our way around blogland by trial and error and have missed the fine print that explains space limits, if it exists. 
         Therefore, I would like to explain how I dealt with this problem in case any readers need help or are just at the beginning of blogging and have no idea. You also might want to visit Carole Reid's discussion on the subject as well. Her solution was to eliminate the first 200 posts because she had put them into a book. Other bloggers pay a small fee for more space. I haven't gotten the message yet and I like the status quo, however I found that I had used up 98% of my space, so I decided to take action. My résumé of the situation follows:

The first thing they don't tell you: you need to resize photos before uploading them to your blog. Already, I had set my digital camera (Canon powershot) on a lower number of pixels ("M3" for those who have this type of camera,) to 1600x1200  pixels. However, pixel size can be further reduced without affecting the image (as far as I can tell). A photo may be reduced from around 700K (or more) to around 150K--a rather substantial reduction.

Question 1: How do you resize? Much scratching of head, here, and fiddling around. I have a Mac, so I concluded that the easiest way for me to resize is to send a photo from iPhoto (click on "Share" in the top bar) to my email. It automatically asks how I want the photo resized--I usually choose "medium". 
            Then I go over to my email, and save the photo to my Desktop. I immediately put "resized" in the title of the photo so I don't confuse myself. Then I can upload it to my blog. And if there is an easier way, please feel free to leave a comment. I would be curious, because this does create a couple of extra steps.

The second thing they don't tell you: you need to get into Picasa and delete your original photo. Surprise to me, Blogger automatically sets up a Picasa album for your blog. If you don't delete the heavy photo from there, then it's still weighing down your blog, even if you removed the photo from your blog. In addition, I discovered a quantity of photos that I had uploaded and then hadn't used.

UPDATE: Debbie at Stitchin' Therapy kindly pointed me in the right direction and has just posted about the Picasa web albums. She advised: 
"Don't delete them from the albums and loose them from your blog. It takes a bit of time, but you can resize them in the album. When you call up the web album, select a photo---you can see the pixels size on the right hand side of the page--- click on action. Select to edit on line in Creative Kit. It will load your photo and you can resize to 800 pixels and replace it in your album. I have reduced my usage by 50% this way." 
Yes! This works, I tried it. So resize directly on the Picasa Web Album. When you resize in Picasa, it's automatically done in the blog too--I double checked. Thanks, Debbie!

Question 2: How do you find the Picasa web album for your blog? More scratching of head and fiddling around. I would be embarrassed to say how long it took me to figure this out. I have a Picasa application on my computer, however, I couldn't figure out how to get to the web albums. Easiest thing: Do a google search for "Picasa Web Albums" and click the "Sign in". If you don't have a Picasa account, you'll have to figure that one out and probably just create an account. Once I finally found my Picasa "home" with the blog albums, I bookmarked it so I wouldn't lose it.

Problem: Be careful. If you delete photos from the Picasa web album, then you lose them from your blog. So you need to have them backed up someplace, such as on iPhoto or in a separate folder on your computer. I'm resizing slowly, post by post, so that I don't do something irreversible that I'll regret. I also back up to a Lacie external hard drive.

Whew! Now you understand why I feel triumphant. If you should have any enlightening information on this subject, please add a comment.

IMPORTANT UPDATE about Picasa: Picasa has just increased size allowances for photos. They went from around 1 G. to 5 G. I had managed to get my photos sized down to take up 40% of the space and then suddenly I had only 9% used up. Wow!

News Update: No feelings of triumph here. It isn't a rocky road for Tunisia anymore, as I suggested a year ago (here). The chaotic situation of last December grows worse and now we stare up at a Tunisian Mount Everest with a long, weary trek ahead and the possibility of falling into a ravine at every twist of the path. The government goes from scandal to scandal and government administrations remain paralyzed--nobody dares to do anything. The government, that is, the ruling religious party, controls the Ministry of Justice, and abuses are flagrant and far too frequent. The foul habits of a dictatorial regime die slowly.
          On December 4th, during preparations for the annual celebration of the 1952 assassination of Farhat Hachad (an internationally known Union leader who helped negotiate the fusion of the American AFL and CIO), fighting broke out when Union (UGTT) members were attacked by extreme right militiamen. The son of Farhat Hachad received information about the militia's plans the evening before. Despite the fact that the authorities had been alerted to the possibility of conflict by Mr. Hachad the previous evening, and despite the desperate phone calls of UGTT members under attack, the police arrived two hours after the violence began. They are located less than a kilometer away--traffic must have been very heavy...The foul habits of a dictatorial regime die slowly.         
          It would appear that the militia wanted to physically oust Union directors and replace them with those faithful to the ruling party. Fortunately, they failed, however, the ruling party continues to defend the militia while all other parties are calling for its dissolution. Since the 4th, the Union has called for grève générale (general strikes, meaning everything closes) in four cities. The Union called for a grève générale for all of Tunisia including Tunis, the capital, for December 13th after the president of the ruling party made statements showing he approved of the December 4th violence. The ruling party, which lost its legitimacy as of October 23rd when its one-year mandate ended, does not appear to want to negotiate or back off. At Friday religious services in Sfax (3 hours from Tunis), an extreme right imam called for civil war--and the congregation cheered. What???? I argue that Islam is a religion of moderation and that all this has nothing to do with religion, but with economic and political factors. A disadvantaged group grabs power because they want a piece of the tasty pie. Why wasn't that imam arrested for something like treason or sedition? One can feel palpable violence in the air. The foul habits of a dictatorial regime die slowly.
          In the meantime, Egypt is also on the brink of civil war, which affects Tunisia indirectly as the problems are similar. Tunisians and Egyptians watch each other's leaders and opposition closely. Morsi, the Egyptian president elected for 5 years (unfortunately for Egyptians) and also belonging to a ruling religious party, has grabbed all power including the judiciary branch, which he incapacitated recently by his own proclamation. Courageously, Egyptians took to the streets and have been demonstrating by the tens of thousands for several weeks in many cities. Protesting crowds surround the presidential palace although Morsi ran away. From a distance, he announced that he stands by his actions. Another incompetent idiot who doesn't know how to negotiate and doesn't care about the well-being of his country. As many Egyptians and Tunisians have said, "You can't do anything you want just because we voted for you." The foul habits of a dictatorial regime die slowly.
          Unfortunately, after the Libyan mess, extreme groups can acquire all kinds of weapons in both Egypt and Tunisia, while responsible citizens search for solutions through peaceful negotiations and political processes that include free and untainted elections. When the end justifies the means, then "Might is Right" takes the upper hand. Now who wouldn't predict a gloomy outcome?
Indeed, Mount Everest looms in front of us 
because the foul habits of a dictatorial regime die slowly.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Stitching the Land

A lot of ink has been spilled about mega-storm Sandy, so I’ll follow suit and spill just a little more. The terrible blast of nature’s anger, for which we are at least indirectly responsible as individuals and directly responsible as humanity, left a swath of destruction requiring gigantic repairs and clean-up. Mending. And so my thoughts turn to mending the land, stitching the land for my Wings Cloth.

This stitching creates the bird’s eye view that we see from an airplane. Mountains, fields, forests, roads, rivers.

The brown bands are made of tea-dyed scraps of white cotton machine-pieced together. 
They have become the frame for the Wings Cloth.

This is a work in progress. If you are wondering what will go in the middle...I'm wondering, too. For the moment, I'm simply stitching the land and contemplating what the future may hold for our exhausted planet.

And yet, nature's sense of humor seems indomitable. While taking a walk, I met a lemon who sported a tomahawk, oops, I mean, mohawk haircut. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Extreme Needleturn, Part 3

Put on your helmets and buckle your seat belts for this is the extreme of extreme needleturn appliqué! These are the labyrinths in which I lose myself. As usual, the fabrics come from flea market clothing.

Improvisation V, 48x45”/122cmx114cm, May 2000, hand appliquéd (labyrinth), machine pieced and quilted.
This piece was worked from the bottom up and the needleturn took about three years. 
Nine colors entwine around a light source.
Stitching proceeded inch by inch because sometimes five colors come together. 
Revolution 2011: Order and Disorder (41.5"x46", 105cmx117cm) was shown here.
I carried around this labyrinth for about ten years, working on it periodically. Yet the colors made it agreeable to work on.

A garment serves as the canvas for a current project. This labyrinth is somewhat easier because there are fewer colors, four fabrics plus the circle fabric.

I added a pocket from another shirt.

It occurs to me that this post contains a lot of labyrinths--I'm lost...

Monday, November 19, 2012


Warm weather in November has caused confusion in the garden because we live in the Northern Hemisphere and winter should be approaching.  The pear and apple trees blossomed in all their glory.
Other trees and plants are making a comeback after the huge hailstorm in mid-October. However, they seem confused about the season because of the balmy weather. New leaves and flowers grace the cumquat tree, whose large leaves (about 10" long) are mostly shredded. 
The problem : our climate is off-kilter and after the Sandy mega-storm most people appear to understand that—finally.
         A number of years ago an advice column caught my eye. A young marine biologist complained of unhappiness and depression stemming mostly from her job. She felt that the biologist’s job had been reduced to "documenting the decline." The advice dished out cavalierly ?  Change jobs.
Excuse me ?! It seems to me that we are beyond that option. Climate change and the decline of the planet must be faced by everyone or else. Given the greed of the multinationals and the industrial/military complex, the or else may be inevitable. True, humanity has been on the edge of extinction for most of its existence, and every generation faces horrendous events. My father fought in WWII, my grandfather in WWI, and an ancestor fought in the American Revolution. I never heard my father or grandfather speak of these nightmares. They preferred to hide their memories and try to live "normal" lives, I suppose.
Not only does terrible violence face us (the evening news is just a small sampling), but nature’s backlash reminds us that we’ve really made a mess of things. And yet, in an attempt to survive, we may find kindness, compassion, and beauty around us.
It seemed appropriate, then, that the apple blossoms appear in my sketchbook/ journal as an unusual event. Lovely in their light pinks surrounded by the spring green of new leaves, they would normally represent hope and renewal. However, these blossoms are doomed and so I chose a dark background fabric suggested by one of the photos I took. (It was about to rain, so plein air sketching was out of the question. I had to sketch from the photo, which I would usually consider cheating).
The background presented technical problems. I sketched in white pencil, which tended to erase. So I stitched the design first.
I snipped pieces of fabric to fit within the lines, allowing the dark background to show. It gives sort of a cloisonné or mosaic effect.
Then, the free motion stitching.
And so, I will gently "document the decline" while giving thanks for all the blessings. And wishing all those who celebrate Thanksgiving this week a wonderful holiday.

By the way. After much reflection, I decided to start a new blog of tiny bits, MulticoloredSnippets, that serves as a sort of daily journal in which I keep track of my work/play. Possibly of no interest to anybody but myself, more photos than text, unpolished.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

When Life Hands You a Lemon, Part 2

"...Make Lemonade" follows. This is a simple recipe that I just learned from my daughter, fortunately, considering the amount of lemons I have. It is soooooo refreshing on a hot day. Other recipes exist--this just happens to be my favorite. Tried and true.

Real Lemonade
Wash 10-12 lemons (quantity depends on the size of lemons) and cut them up into eigths—enough to fill a blender about ¾.  
Put them in blender and fill the blender ¾ full of water.
Add 2 c. sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla. If you like a tart lemonade, add less sugar.
Blend until you have a pulp. (I have to take my time on this step in order not to burn out the blender motor.)
Pour into a large pot, add 4 c. water, and let sit for an hour or two.
Put a filter (the kind you use for tea) over a pitcher and filter out the pulp so that only the liquid remains (I press the pulp in the filter with a spoon). Toss out the pulp.

Taste the resulting liquid. If concentrated, add water. If still bitter, add more sugar, then refrigerate.

Obviously, shelf life is relatively short since there are no additives. Use within several days.
Or the lemonade can be put in plastic bottles and frozen. Once thawed, use it within several days.
This technique works for limes as well. For an elegant drink, you can add a couple of limes with the lemons when blending for lemonade (my favorite).

Unbelievably, I have had a request for another recipe, which is also extremely simple.

Limoun (lee-moon') or Pickled Lemons 
Wash 3-4 large yellow lemons (yes, there are green lemons; it is the thick skin that counts here).
Cut into the skin from stem to navel, but not clear through.
In the meantime, prepare the brine in a bottle (mason jar, for example) large enough to hold the lemons. 
Fill the bottle about half full of water. 
Add enough salt to float an egg. I find it helps to heat the water so the salt will absorb faster and then put it in the bottle when cool.
Add 2-3 T. vinegar. 
Put the lemons in the brine. Add water if they are not entirely covered.

It takes about 6 weeks for the lemons to pickle and they last for a l-o-n-g time. My bottle of limoun is about a year old and the lemons are still good. Limoun can be used in salads and North African main dishes. I chop up a small amount in very small pieces and put in potato salad, for example. 

Now on to more interesting things: my sketchbook page with fabrics laid down.
   The final version.
And I found that working with yellow, which I seem to avoid, pushed me into a cheerful composition that happily illustrates the old saying under discussion.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

When Life Hands You a Lemon, Part 1

Maybe you’ve heard this one before. "When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade." Having taken a road less traveled (how many Americans do you know living on farms in Tunisia ?), this motto comes frequently to mind—I probably drove my kids nuts with it. Lately, it’s become literal. Here’s my lemon crop.

Fortunately, I learned a simple lemonade recipe last summer. Now, I’m not one to give out recipes and I would not presume to tell people how to cook. I’m a Happy Eater surrounded by Finicky Eaters. That is to say, I don’t mind fast food hamburger joints (to please the grandkids) and if someone takes the time to cook a meal and put it in front of me, I’ll eat it no matter what. It’s the thought and work that count. On the other hand, I can recognize fine cuisine and resent going to an expensive restaurant and getting mediocre food (happens frequently). My own cooking is simple and done from scratch with fresh produce and some of my own spices.
I have rosemary,

and thyme,

and sage, which intends to take over the garden, 

and bay leaves (would that be a bay tree?).

After this digression, the lemonade recipe will have to wait, because my sketchbook/journal takes precedence. Although I know how to draw, it doesn't interest me that much because I'd rather spend my time stitching a labyrinth. However, I've been experimenting with sketching on fabric, which began here. And that, my friends, might be the best of both worlds. Of course, this is not an original idea--take a look around the internet--but, I'm re-inventing the wheel for myself.
It occurred to me that I could sew a piece of fabric to a page in my loose-leaf sketchbook/journal (loose-leaf so that the pages can be removed to work upon).

I chose a quiet piece of fabric from a 
men's shirt, then went out to find a couple of scarce lemons left on a tree.
I added more fabrics, and traced over the drawing with a black permanent pen (like a sharpie).
Then began the fun part of free motion sewing. I went several times around each form with black thread to suggest a sketch-y look, after which I wrote the words with pen and sewed over them.

                            So maybe I could reconcile myself to the idea 
                    of keeping a sketchbook/journal on a more regular basis. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Containing Things--Mosaics and Otherwise

Since summer heat was not conducive to mosaicking (no air conditioner by my work table), it was time to finish a few plant containers. Here are two pots made from 3-liter olive oil cans.

The sides of the container on the right have wing motifs suggested by broken tiles and in line with the wing theme inspiring two stitching projects on which I'm currently working. 

They will sit in the wall spaces around the patios.

An aside. A fair number of rocks and stones can be found out in the fields so I collect the bigger rocks into piles and my husband occasionally remembers to bring them home on the tractor. Recently, he said peevishly, "I see you haven’t used the rocks I brought you."  Ok,  ok. 
I now have a rock pile sculpture on the kitchen veranda, unscathed by the big hailstorm. And two new containers grace the stairs to the roof. The lineup:
              The first one sports a band of circles and a top border of tiny pieces.
The design for the next container started as (wild) flying geese, however, the wing theme inspired me to add extra triangles to create a flurry of wings. 
A flying geese design in light green echoes the white wings. At least the mosaic containers stood up to the hailstorm and I suppose my poor ragged plants will manage to revive with the pleasant autumn weather. Now I better get to planting the new additions.

And Best Wishes to all celebrating Aïd.

News Update: The Tunisian government is now officially in limbo although it continues to function. The Constitutional Assembly's mandate ended on October 22. They had one year to write a constitution (which they could have accomplished in four to six months), but, they have as yet to produce a final document. It appears they appreciate their hefty salaries. The ruling religious party claims legitimacy because they were elected. Voters say they voted for a group of people to write a constitution within a year. Elections have been proposed for June 2013, however, who will organize (and control) that process remains unclear. So far protests and demonstrations have been peaceful, with the exception of the lynching of the leader of the Tataouine Nida Tounes Party (an opposition party) on October 18th by ruling party demonstrators. An unheard of horror that provoked anger among Tunisians, especially since nobody has been arrested despite a large number of witnesses. In any case, nobody wants a vacuum in power, which could lead to a civil war. And so the lid remains on and things are contained...for the moment.