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.