Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Inspiration and Frustration

I'm really busy these days. I'm still remodeling a house, and even though I'm not doing much of the physical labor, it's still nearly a full-time job (it's fun, though--better than a dollhouse!). I'm still working on my jeans circle quilt (a bit more than one-third done with the main stitching now). And I'm doing the mom thing (dropping off, picking up, helping with homework, volunteering at the schools...). Some days I'm lucky just to get a shower!

Today was a little different. I took a carload of kids on a shopping/exploring field trip up to Japantown in San Francisco.

We hit the Pika Pika photo shop, where the kids all crammed into a single photo booth for a goofy group picture, Kinokuniya Stationery and Gift, where I got some cool origami paper (but not as much as I wanted!), and Ichiban Kan, where I got some small plastic boxes and sticky notes, and most of the kids got various trinkets. We also went to the Soko Hardware store across the street, where I got a single-burner electric stove (doesn't everyone need one of those for heating batik wax?), and some of the kids got things like ceramics and paper lanterns. But my best treasures came from the Kinokuniya Bookstore, where I found two gorgeous shibori books for my reference collection.

I got Shibori for Textile Artists by Janice Gunner and Shibori by Yoshiko Wada. I had previously checked out the hardback copy of the Wada book from my local library (multiple times!), so I know it's good, and getting it in paperback was an easy choice. I hadn't seen the Gunner book before, but it looked interesting, so I got it. I looked at it later after I got home, and it's even nicer than I had thought initially.

So now I've got lots of fresh inspiration in my hot little hands, and not much time right now to go act on it! Shibori can be quite time consuming, too, especially for the stitch resist type (the simple shirt below took me a few hours to stitch).

Ah, such sweet frustration!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sewing Circles

Yet another update on my jeans circle quilt:

I'm now about one-sixth of the way through sewing the main zigzag stitching that holds the tie-dye fabric and the batting and the circles all together.

I'm finding that it's pretty much impossible for me to sew the arcs smoothly as I try to muscle all the fabric through my little sewing machine. I'm using a zigzag stitch length that is spaced a little apart (that is, not a satin stitch). Partly, I prefer the look, and partly I want to speed up the sewing just a bit over the nearly-infinite time it would take for nearly zero-length stitches! But that carefully-chosen stitch length is meaningless. The feed dogs (those toothy things underneath the needle) are nearly useless for pulling the heavy quilt through and I can't keep an even feeding tension myself with the big pieces rolled up in my lap or spread out on the kitchen table.

I mentioned the sheer magnitude of the pinning for this quilt in a previous post, but now that I'm actually doing it, I'm finding that it's even worse: as I'm forcing the quilt around and through the sewing machine, I keep impaling myself on them! I have prick marks all the way up to my elbows. "Suffering for beauty", indeed!

But here is how it looks so far.

Here is how the back looks:

For those of you who might be curious, here is what I chose to do for the batting. I have two different types of polyester batting, with one layer of each. Why make more work for myself? By the time I had decided I didn't like the single layer of the first one, I had already bought a whole quilt's worth of it, so I figured I may as well use it and just add more. Compared to everything else, the difference in work required was pretty small, fortunately.

Well, back to work!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Just White, Please

I'm deep in the middle of a house remodel. Once again I'm awestruck by the myriad of big and little choices one makes even for a "minor" change.

For example, I'm replacing the handles on the kitchen cabinets. Happily, the size of the handle is fixed, since the existing handles have screw holes 3 inches apart (the centers). Phew, one big decision out of the way! But now, do I want the chrome, bronze, stainless, brushed nickel, wrought iron, or plastic finish? Modern, traditional, funky? What design out of hundreds, even thousands of possibilities? How much do I want to pay? And how many stores do I visit to find just the right ones? And will they have enough of the prized handles of choice in stock, or will I have to order them and wait?

The whole house is ripe with promise and infinite possibilities. We're doing two bathrooms and three bedrooms, along with "minor" changes such as new carpeting throughout the rest of the house. Some of those possibilities can be reined in a bit by a few factors. Money is always the biggest factor, of course. Existing architecture plays a part, since the house is a "Mid-Century Modern" house lovingly known as an "Eichler" (the developer's name was Joseph Eichler). It's got post-and-beam construction and floor-to-ceiling glass. This is the San Francisco Bay area, and the house was built to luxuriate in warm California weather well before the energy crisis. It's got straight clean lines, not suited to Victorian frippery or Colonial whatsits. Let's just say that a Mondrian painting would look right at home here, or maybe a minimalist Zen garden. Anyway, that cuts out a lot of choices right there--unfortunately many of the choices currently in style for bathroom vanities!

But what I've really been thinking about is color. I'm in love with color, and lots of it (yes, the tie-dye obsession is kind of a hint). But when it comes to a house interior, well, I tend to gravitate towards white. White walls, maybe with a darker carpet that won't show so much of the dirt (gotta be practical, after all). White walls make a wonderful backdrop for the adornments of color that I put up on those walls.

I have friends who have a house they have painted all sorts of wonderful rich luscious colors, and I love it, but I can't do it myself. For one thing, while I know it doesn't have to be, I tend to view paint as permanent, rather than something I can change when the whim takes me (mostly because it would be yet another project I'd never finish). For me, paint is a commitment. Also, if I give in to painting different rooms different colors, it opens up an even bigger infinity of choices to make, and I become paralyzed and unable to choose anything. And what if I choose and I'm wrong? I'm committed to that color for life. Actually, my friends painted their livingroom a color that turned out to be more of a butter yellow than they had expected. They decided they hated it, and then they painted it again to a more pleasing gold color. I'm in awe that they could do that--I can't.

So I choose white. The contractor asks what color I want the windows: white. Well, actually it's almond. The sink? White. Well, actually it's biscuit. The bathtub? White. Well, actually it's... oh, Kohler says the tub is white. But their white looks a little more blue than the white of the white vanity top I see. And paint? Kelly-Moore alone has an entire brochure just of their "white" paint colors, and it only includes their "popular" whites! Do I want warm whites? Cool whites? Neutral whites? Bright whites? Dark whites?

Maybe I should head for bed and dream of a world that comes in just black and white. But would that be midnight black? Stormy black? Black hole black? Black black? "We're not kidding, we really mean it, this is black" black?

Ooooh, my head hurts.