From the Arts and Culture Desk

>> Wednesday, July 29, 2009

When it's not raining, there is a ton of stuff to do outside and for free in New York. And when it's raining, as it has been for most of the afternoon and apparently will continue to do for the next week, there's still a ton of (different, sometimes free, sometimes not stuff) to do in New York.

Tucked into a small space adjacent to its monumental MoMA neighbor, the American Folk Art Museum is well worth a stop. Current displays include an exhibit of Paula Nadelstern's Kaleidoscope Quilts. Free Fridays start at 5.30 pm and include a free concert. To be honest, the music was the least impressive part of my visit, but perhaps you'll encounter a more calming sound accompaniment. The quilts are truly incredible -- from the tiny piecing only visible up close to the mirage of kaleidoscopes from afar.

If you want to see an excellent piece of theater, head over to the Manhattan Theatre Club to watch the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner, Ruined. Set in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ruined takes rape and recovery seriously. Though intense, the play is not without its humorous moments. The cast is incredible and wrestles with moral ambiguity throughout the performance, aided by several actors who play multiple conflicting roles. Student tickets are 1/3 the price of regular ones and well worth every penny.

And on a lighter note, there is of course food. I haven't eaten in House of Vegetarian (in chinatown) but I love the prevalence of vegetarian restaurants around me. Buddha Bodai brings together a cultural melange of patrons -- with monks, financial district kashrut adherents, vegetarian hipsters, and an occasional dash of Yiddish students sharing space and big tables. The food is delicious and while I've never had real shrimp, it was fun to order and eat fake shrimp (and be assured there was no fish in it as most fake shellfish contains other fish). The fake chicken is some of the best I've eaten and the meat-eaters at my table felt it was good too (having not eaten meat in 17 years, I'm not exactly qualified to render an opinion on its meatiness). The fake crab meat was disappointing, but that was the only less than stellar item. I would happily eat there frequently, especially because the prices are reasonable and the food filling.


A Prime Number

>> Monday, July 27, 2009

I turn 29 today. I'm not really sure what chronological age means these days, seeing as my friends are a range of ages and at all different stages of life -- something my brain still has trouble comprehending. Nevertheless, birthdays still bring out the 10-year-old in me: I'd like someone else to plan a celebration and I enjoy opening presents far more than adults are supposed to (but, then again, who wrote those rules?). Unlike most 10 year-olds, I don't care (much) about what's inside the wrapping paper; I just like pretty packaging, not knowing what I'm going to find, and (gently) ripping off paper and ribbons.

Indeed, the name of this blog comes in part from a birthday gift my dad gave me 10 or so years ago. My parents asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and my only request was that it was something I could open. I like gifts of money as much as the next person, but I really like wrapped gifts, even if there's just a token gift inside. My dad went off to the Torpedo Factory and bought 2 handcrafted hippo sculptures. The box was heavy, wrapped, and I had no idea what I would find. It was a total surprise, and I don't think I would have ever bought the sculptures for myself (he liked them because I have a stuffed hippo I won on the boardwalk when I was 10 that I never named but my dad dubbed "happy hippo").

A few weeks ago I received a package in the mail from my cousins, a brown-paper wrapped rectangle that I knew was a birthday present. Every summer, without fail, a package arrives in mid-July and I debate whether or not to open it or wait. Most summers I succeed in waiting, and it's always fun to see what Vivian and Bob have picked out. Delayed gratification won out this year, and I'll open it today. They always get me something I like and it's rarely something I would have bought for myself, which makes it even more special.

Speaking of that which I bought for myself...

I picked up my new bag yesterday. It's the Everyday Tote from Jiji's shop. Jenny is great to work with and will customize bags for no extra charge (I added a keyring-loop-thing to mine). Many of you recommended I choose the gray fabric, but in the end I went with my gut and selected the yellow (it's a creamy, buttery yellow) because I like color and I especially like color when the weather is dreary, and I therefore decided that this would be more of a pick-me-up on gray winter (or summer, it's been a gray & rainy NY summer) days.

As it happens, today is my birthday and this is my 200th blog post. I missed my one-year blogiversary (wow, that's apparently a word as blogger has not underlined it in red!) a few weeks ago, and the birthday/blog birthday combo gives me a chance to reflect on the past year. I can say with certainty that I've learned a tremendous amount about quilting, fabric, and the amazing crafty-blog community over the past 12 months, and for that, I am very grateful. In thinking about the past 365 days, I've also realized that I'm not sure I do enough for myself (in a variety of facets of my life, but I'll stick to the crafty angle here). I've given away every quilt and almost every other crafty thing I've made in the past decade, and I'm going to try and make a few things for myself in the coming year. I won't stop giving to others, as I thoroughly enjoy making things for other people, but I think I need to make some things for myself as well.

Lest I sound totally whiny and self-centered, I plan to do a birthday/blogiversary giveaway, but I'm going to delay it until August when I return to my more permanent lodging and life.


bike haikus from pdx

>> Saturday, July 25, 2009

As you may have noticed, I like bikes and I like Portland, Oregon...a lot. This card from Red Bat Press combines both with a lovely sentiment. Find it here.


Blog = Post-It Note?

>> Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I blog for many reasons, but occasionally I post something primarily as a reminder to myself. This is one of those moments.

Among the other projects I'll be working on in August is a chuppah for my friends' November wedding. The bride and groom requested that the chuppah echo/correspond to the ketubah design they've chose ("Love's Mosaic" by Robert Saslow, available here if you're looking). I've been working out the chuppah design and sketching out some color variations. I'm posting the ketubah image here so I can easily access it wherever I am (which these days is frequently not near my computer) and get a little done in the odd moments I have.

[Sneak-peeks of the chuppah will depend on how much the couple wants to see ahead of time, so no guarantees...]



It suddenly dawned on me that even without a free-motion foot, one can easily quilt stars. Why it took so long for me to have this epiphany, I don't know. But semi-connected stars seemed like a neat way to jazz up this strip-y quilt. Occasionally I found myself getting a little lost as I made the stars (it was all unplanned, no pre-sewing marked lines or any other guide). A couple of the first batch were a little rough, but once I got the hang of it, the rest proceeded smoothly.

I started noticing stripe/strippy quilts this spring. They're really easy to make, and I expect to make more. They're a great way to showcase fabric and are easily manipulatable.

Following the lead of Ashley at Film in the Fridge, I mixed and matched the fabrics, sometimes within the row, sometimes not. I really like the larger monkeys peeking out of a few rows.

I pieced the back of this one as well. I'm loving pieced backs with chunks of fabric plus scrappy rows (or columns, in this case). I used a novelty fabric (frogs) as a binding fabric for the first time and like the effect. I was unsure about how it would turn out, but the royal blue background color helped bring all the other fabrics together, and I decided to go for it. Luckily, I'm pleased with the result.

After I sewed all the rows together, I trimmed the quilt to a pleasing size (I don't remember the measurements off hand, but something Fibonacci-ratio-ish, like 28-30" x 40-42"). This one is off to a recent summer baby, but it's a pattern I'll definitely make again. I'm thinking it would make a great picnic quilt (bigger, of course), and I might have to make one for myself.

I've been lucky enough to enjoy multiple picnics in various parks around NYC this summer, and it would be nice to have a dedicated quilt -- or, really, a dedicated anything -- to bring with me. Perhaps next summer...

* * *
Another thank you to those who have or are sending me scraps for the Craft Hope/Miracle Foundation wall quilts. Between your scraps and mine, it looks like I'll have enough for at least 2 quilts. I'm thinking one log cabin and one other one, pattern to be revealed (currently percolating in my mind).


Pretty Things

>> Monday, July 13, 2009

Without a sewing machine and my stash, I'm hard-pressed to make things. But this doesn't stop me from finding beautiful things. I've been on a bird kick lately (see Joel Dewberry fabric from earlier!), which makes these bird prints from Beethings stand out (hat tip, Design*Sponge).

Orioles (and I'm not even a Baltimore fan, sorry B'more friends, but my brother might have an issue with that one):


Another recent D*S find -- no birds, but luscious, rich city and alphabet prints from JHill Design. It looks like Bostonians can see the prints in person at the South End Open Market.

It's nice when the R is something other than a rat or a rabbit:

So many cool city prints; I've never been to Papeete, but this image makes me want to hop on a plane and go.

How often is Prairie City, Iowa pictured? And is it ever as evocative as this?

Finally, Andalucia beckons in via cards in several colors.


Decisions, decisions

Thank you for all of your suggestions for bags to consider making and/or purchasing. I'm going to look into buying some of the patterns you suggested and amplify my bag-making skills. In the meantime, I've decided to buy myself a school/work/professional bag. As a vegetarian, I try to avoid leather, and as a connoisseur of handmade, I try and support other artisans/craftspeople. As it turns out, there's a great bag-maker, Jenny, not too far from where I'm living in Brooklyn this summer. You can check out her neat shop here.

I was trying to decide between the Carry-All Tote

and the Everyday Tote,

and Jenny was kind enough to let me stop by her studio to check out the prototypes. In the end, I decided that the shape of the Everyday Tote, along with the zipper, make it the better option for me.

But there's another decision to make: what fabric? Jenny takes custom orders at no extra charge, and I'm torn between the Joel Dewberry Ivory Orchid shown above and the Joel Dewberry Stone Wildflower as the exterior,

with a Mulberry Orchid interior:

I'm getting the bag as a birthday present for myself, paid for with money from some freelance editing projects, and I want it to last. I want it a somewhat neutral but not boring exterior that I can wear with all my clothes -- and I wear a lot of black, brown, white, blue, and red (though rarely altogether!). My nice winter coat is purple,

and I'd like the bag exterior to work with it as well as with my lighter jackets, which are blue and black. I *think* either the cream or grey will do that. At the moment I'm assuming Jenny can procure either fabric combination, and I don't think that's unrealistic.

I think I know which way I'm leaning, but I'm going to sleep on it and hopefully make a decision tomorrow. In the meantime, I'd love your input -- do you Ivory Orchid or Stone Wildflowers? Questions I should ask myself before deciding? Methods of decision-making?

* * *
Thanks to all of you who volunteered to send me scraps for the wall-art quilt for the Indian orphanage. Although I'm not home to check the mail, my sources tell me at least one envelope has arrived. If you have any warm (red/pink/orange/yellow) scraps and don't know what to do with them, be in touch! While I'm itching to craft in NY, I have no fabric and no sewing machine until I head home, so I'm collecting scraps through the beginning of August. Thanks again to those of you who have responded; what a wonderful network the blogworld has created.


Making friends with chartreuse

>> Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Favorites. We all have them. Toss me blues and reds and I'm set. These days deep oranges are close to my heart. Green and I have a more mixed relationship. Forest green works for me. Lime green not so much. Chartreuse and I are just not friends. I was therefore a little disappointed to see that the "Sprout" colorway in Sanae's Arcadia (Moda Fabrics) and the "Pistachio" colorway in Momo's Wonderland (also Moda) flirted with the edges of the chartreuse area of the green spectrum. After receiving charm packs of each design collection, I immediately sorted out these less desirable squares and wondered what I could possibly make out of them that I would like.

While I do not harbor newfound love for either sprout or pistachio, it turns out that the colors against which they sit make a big difference. Next to tomato-y reds and sky-like blues they don't look pretty (to me). Next to rich oranges and velvety purples, the yellowy greens can't compete. But next to turquoise they look pretty darn cool.

A friend gave me a couple yards of fabric that had been passed down to her. Suddenly sprout and pistachio turned a corner, they looked fun, they stood out in a good way. Their strengths revealed, it was time to fashion a quilt.

I was pretty sure I wanted to use this design -- I had recently seen it on a blog that I thought I had bookmarked but can't seem to find at the moment. Just in case, I started with half-square triangles and then tested out a couple other layouts, but this version won out. And I like it. It's part of my gender-neutral baby quilt stash that will be depleted over the course of the summer...

As for the back, I pieced together some of the green from the front and a cream & navy piece I had in my stash. I wanted to break up the green, and I think these simple stripes accomplish that. The above picture gives a sense of the quilting -- straight lines around the full diamonds on the front and "fake stippling" in each of the corners. By "fake stippling," I mean that I didn't yet own a darning foot and tried to make big stippling-esque loops with a regular 1/4-inch presser foot. It worked as well as it could have and until I did some real stippling a couple weeks later, I didn't realize how much easier making curves could be. Live and learn.

Originally I thought about binding the quilt in orange as I thought it would make the colors pop some more, but I found that cream looked much better. I'm not sure that I will ever go out and buy chartreuse-esque fabric, but this was a good experiment and I like the results.


Ich voyn een new york

>> Monday, July 6, 2009

After 6 days of Yiddish classes, I can muster ich voyn een new york -- I live in New York. Truth be told, I can come up with a few variations -- so long as they are in the present tense and use a very limited vocabulary and do not need to indicate anything conditional. But it's progress. And it's been fun using the language-learning part of my brain, which has been dormant since furiously studying for (other) language exams almost 2 years ago.

And the living in New York element has proven quite fun. The side-by-side cosmopolitanism and parochialism provides endless fascination. Just the other day I passed the Cuban-Chinese Benevolent Association as well as a Japanese-Peruvian restaurant. I can walk down the street to about 6 Thai places, and try out their Panang Curries (my favorite Thai dish) through the $6, that's right, $6 lunch specials (includes an appetizer too! what's not to like). I've found the best Panang curry I've tasted since leaving Krung Siam in California at this hole-in-the-wall.

Then there's the New-York-centrism which is a special breed unto itself. Witness, for example, the following conversation:
A: "So you went to school here. Did you like it?"
B: "I loved it, and so many people stay in the city after college. It's great. I bet people stayed in Philly [A's college location] too."
A: "Hmm, not really. People who are from Philly stay there, but most others leave. They go back to New York."
B: "Oh, weird. I mean it's not like Philly is Madison or anything."

At which point I had to interject and note that there are far worse places to live than Madison and there are, in fact, people who gravitate toward it, even if it's not New York.

But there really was a rainbow visible over the Brooklyn/Manhattan bridges last week (Thursday) in between the rain. The reprieve from rain this weekend and today was lovely. Alas I think more droplets are in my future.

Finally, this dress is awesome.

My friends made me buy it, and I resisted. But it is truly a wonder. Comfortable and cute, with pockets no less. I recommend it. It'll probably go on sale soon, being from Target and all.

And craftiness will soon as I take a picture of the buttercup bag. Or maybe I'll post one of the quilts I made before venturing to New York. To be continued...


A Market Bag for Rachel

>> Wednesday, July 1, 2009

While I'm in New York and not making anything new, I'm going to post about some projects I finished in the spring and saved pictures and stories for the summer.

I made this bag for Rachel as part of a Facebook craft exchange. I used this tutorial from Lula Louise for her market/shoulder bag. I didn't have 54" fabric, so I followed the instructions for 44" fabric that require sewing the handle together. Overall, the pattern was pretty easy for a beginner bag-maker. I had a few moments of confusion, but stopping to reread the pattern, look at the pictures, and think about how the bag should look in the end generally resolved my questions. This isn't to say I never had to rip out any seams and start again -- I did -- and I did manage to twist the handle while sewing it, but in the end the bag turned out like a bag.

It is reversible, though I think the large pattern fabric looks better. Also, the bottom oval seam on the small patterned side isn't as smooth, but so it goes. Finally, I used regular fabric, though I think heavier weight fabric would, as the pattern suggests, ultimately be more durable. However, the regular fabric one is fine for most needs. Maybe it won't stand up to months of farmer's market wear, but it should hold a wallet, book, bottle of water, and keys for a while.

It took me forever, like months, to actually get it to Rachel (and it's not like we live so far apart). She was pleased with it, which is what matters most. And she and Moshe are getting married this weekend. Mazel Tov in advance!

p.s. If you're looking for another shoulder bag option, check out tiny happy's free pattern/tutorial here. It's on my "to-make" list as well.


  © Blogger template Autumn Leaves by 2008

Back to TOP