Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Family Heirloom

When I was 18 years old, I fell in love with Peter.  His mother Carrie was truly a wonderful woman; and after Peter was out of the picture I stayed in communication with his mother for many years. She gave me a start from her large Christmas Cactus plant. It grew into a huge plant that always sat in my parent's living room. 35 years ago, my husband and I moved into our house in Racine; my mother brought  me a slip from that original plant sitting in the living room. It likes our house, and it has become a monster of a plant. The new pot I put it in last summer is so heavy we can't move it without wheels!
My special Christmas Cactus in full bloom 2010

Just look at how gorgeous the plant is today. I learned that using 10-10-10 fertilizer is what it needs, along with a much larger pot and soil especially for cactus. The bag of fertilizer I purchased will last me the rest of my life!

What a show this plant is putting on for me and my family! I'm guessing it will be blooming through Valentine"s Day. This plant, like my creativity, needs to be fed and nurtured from time to time. I see a Christmas Cactus quilt in my future.

Happy New Year to all of you.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Traditions

My wish for all my readers is that you have a wonderful holiday, whether you have traditional celebrations or not!

Back in 1985 my parents took a European tour for musicians; and East Germany was on their itinerary. Having been fascinated by the E. German Christmas Pyramids or Carousels, I asked them if they would purchase one for me. I gave them some money, and they finally agreed to purchase it, even though they really didn't want to haul a big box around as they toured churches and cathedrals across the continent. But they did carry it with them for most of the tour. They had no idea what they were starting for us.

My 2 sons have grown up watching the thing spin as the heat from the candles turns the blades on the top.

I'm not a traditionalist but nothing tickles my fancy more than watching the angels and shepherds go around and around as I eat my holiday cookies for dessert. For me this brings the joy of the season.

And tonight after we had our favorite meal of tacos for Christmas eve I brought out the cookies and lit the carousel.  It was wonderful. The boys were home, conversation was lively, and I was thrilled by the candles and carousel. We have created our own tradition! Not only has this carousel traveled thousands of miles across the ocean, it still puts on the miles, on our dining room table.

May you find joy and love in your holiday.


Monday, December 20, 2010

A Piece of Fine Literature from Racine WI

I'm tired of talking about quilts and design problems.  This post is a change of pace.

From time to time, something tickles my fancy. Being the mother of 2 boys my life involved baseball cards, airplanes, automobiles, hockey and soccer games.  The only thing I had that was feminine was our cat, and the bathroom in my studio was painted pink. The literature I read to my kids involved things like Planes, Trains and Automobiles. There was no Cinderella or Snow White read in this house.

The other day, this little poem was in the newspaper and it made me chuckle.  This is for your holiday enjoyment!  Read on............

Ode to a Car Part
by Michael Burke, Journal Times Business Reporter
December 19, 2010
Published by permission of the author

When the snow is so hard it squeaks under my heel
And the cold is so sharp that my feet I can't feel.
When my car's caked with road salt and looks like a beater,
I climb in and switch on my car-seat heater.

At this time of year it's a butt-saving feature
A great rear-end melter for all living creatures
In no time at all, heat flows up from the chair
Thawing and roasting this boy's derriere.

When temperatures dive, and the air feels like ice
To sit on a bun-warmer is ever so nice
When cars stick in snowdrifts, and people must push
There's nothing like feeling that warmth in the tush.

The computer and asphalt are both great inventions
Likewise the glue stick and ladder extensions
The wheel was a wonder, but to be a repeater,
Can anything top the toasty car-seat heater?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fun with Ginkgoes

It's time to put aside my problems with the Tragedy on Esplanade quilt. It will be finished in 2011. I'd like to tell you about my most recently completed quilt Ginkgoes Galore. It is a quilt with joyous color, ginkgo leaves and a purple vase. Actually its working title was Ginkgo Tea Party.
This is the background for Ginkgoes Galore. It went through many evolutions, this is the final one!

I already had fabricated; cut and fused several large blue to purple ginkgo leaves.  I tried scattering them around the background much like another quilt, Yellow Ginkgoes on Blue and Green. My leaves were huge like the Yellow Ginkgo piece, but that didn't seem to be very successful this time.

Then came that shopping trip to TJ Maxx, where I found a wonderful vase for $4.99. 
Here it is, the wonderful $4.99 purple vase. I love the color, the unsymmetrical shape, somewhat reminiscent of a urinal!
This is just what my quilt needed. Instead of ginkgo leaves floating around, I'd place them in this purple vase.  Now what will is sit on?

A tablecloth would work. I considered a laundry basket full of fabrics before deciding on which would work the best. Quilters that do little actual designing don't realize that there are many options to consider before making the final decision.  I auditioned red fabrics, black and white, white, solid black and purple.  When I do this I wind up with a huge pile of rejected fabrics on the floor of my studio. This process could take as long as a day.  But I decided rather quickly on a black and white print, set it on the diagonal and put the vase on it. There would be plenty of room for a teapot or cups, you'll remember the tea party theme.
Here is the vase sitting on the paper pattern for the tablecloth. The leaves have been fused and assembled on bakers parchment.

Two cups were added and placed on the tablecloth. The piece was quilted and edges finished. Currently it is hanging in my living room. It makes me feel good when I walk past it. I can enjoy a cup of tea while looking at it.
Here is the completed quilt Ginkgoes Galore

You may read more about it on my website and will find a larger image and 3 detail shots of the stitching and leaves.  Enjoy.

Ann Fahl

Monday, December 13, 2010

Troubling Quilt part 4

The quilt has been quilted, blocked, trimmed and ready for binding.  I'm just not sure. So.....the quilt is resting; I'm not looking at it; it's covered up; and I'm working on Christmas stuff.  More later.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

More Troubling Quilt--part 3

I actually started to quilt this piece last week. Yet something was still troubling me about my composition.  I decided that there was nothing "exciting" about this dark little scene.  So I decided to add one more large pink coneflower to add a little visual interest to the setting. Using a paper pattern, I determined the size it should be when curved out of the frame appearing closer to the viewer.
I don't like designing after fact--after the piece has been basted together with the batting and backing, but the addition of the new flower definitely adds something to the piece. 

Now, the shoreline placed in the middle of the quilt has been bothering me too. So I cut random really dark prints to suggest the houses and trees.  Some of the scraps were purple, brown, green and dark gray, I liked this alot.  The gray print I originally chose worked OK, but not well, on its own.  I just had to help it a little.
Above is a detail of some of the quilting over the gray print and add-ons.  Using a flash on my camera really makes it appear much lighter than it is in "real life" but you can get the idea.

At last the quilt is coming together, I'm ready to quilt the areas in the foreground, then I know I will feel more confident in my finished product.
Here is what it looks like at this point.  It is becoming more exciting as the quilting is progressing well.  I have further removed lots more tulle from the central reflection (which doesn't show in the above pic), so I feel soooooo much better about everything. You'll have to wait for more pics.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Troubling Quilt--part 2

Somewhere along the way, I must have stopped taking pictures. Because you can see the quilt has many more elements. The hammock eventually became red.  I put in a stump on the left, in place of the grass.  I was troubled by an empty middle, so I added a dark gray print that becomes the opposite shoreline.  I slashed into the fabric to create some texture, and I don't particularly like that!

Meanwhile, the entire quilt is troubling me. I kept asking myself why am I making this quilt?  During this time, I kept moving things around until I achieved some kind of interesting composition, up until now, the quilt  wasn't working on an artistic level.

So you can see now, there are ginkgo leaves on the tree. This softens the moonlight and the severe righthand edge to some extent.

As I thought about the scene of the accident, which I was able to walk past about 3 weeks following the terrible event, there were flowers still laying on the edge of the lake. Then I thought, of course, I need to put my flowers at the scene.  I set to work cutting out little black eyed susans because they bloom in profusion in the area.  Then I cut the long stemmed pink cone flowers and laid them on the ground below the remaining tree and hammock. Finally I felt that the quilt might be coming together.  So I began embroidering and appliqueing the elements.

Thursday in a bold move, I basted the thing together and started quilting.  Before I could do anything else, I needed to cut away the reflection in the lake, the white blob of tulle was so visually distracting to me. So I began quilting the center section and spent the evening trimming away the white tulle. is getting there. Somehow I feel I must modify the shape of the reflection, it seems too small.

I will spend the afternoon working on what I have, and see what I can do to make the piece visually more interesting.   There will be more.  Please add your comments, I find them helpful.


Friday, December 3, 2010

A Troubling Quilt

There was an accident that occurred in Winona Lake IN, this past September. A 19 year old girl was killed.  She and her boyfriend were sitting in a hammock overlooking sunset point, when one of the trees holding the hammock fell over. Here is a link to one of the many news stories about it. The tree killed the young woman and severely injured the young man.

For the families, this must be an unspeakably horrible time for them. For me it is a tragedy for several reasons. This happened just one block away from the family cottage which is my most favorite place in the world. It is where I spent every summer, played with cousins and had idyllic summers. And of course Winona was where I got my first kiss. Since I married and had 2 children, I have taken them to visit every summer too. I have had a full life, Winona Lake was such an important part of it.  This young woman will never have the experiences I have had at Winona, nor will she have a full life. Since September I've wrestled with needing to do something about this awful accident. So in October I began making a quilt.

This quilt should include the name of the street, "Esplanade"; include a hammock, show the lake and moonlight, and what about the tree that fell over? There should be stars in the sky.  I have worked and worked, and struggled with this piece.  I am thinking that perhaps it shouldn't be finished.
Above is the hand dyed fabric I am using for the background--no piecing. There is the street sign showing the name of the street is Esplanade.  Many times I make patterns for elements out of newsprint and pin them in place to see how the shape and size work.

I'm not pleased with how the street sign looks, so I made it bigger, smaller, taller etc. and nothing seemed to please me.  So I removed it and started on something that I knew would work:  a tree that also created the right hand border.
The strip of light blue fabric on upper left is hand painted was made for stars that lighted the sky.
The addition of the tree was easy.  The moon behind it, (the accident was at midnight) is created with layers of white tulle.  There is the beginnings of a hammock, that will be tied to the tree. The actual hammock was one of those knotted rope things, I didn't think that was going to work.  The moon's reflection in the water is tulle, that will be cut away after the quilting. Something else is needed so I made some tall grass, which is actually growing at the point. 

I'm not happy with the hammock. How should it be pictured?  In a wad on the ground, like a real hammock, or something else?
I spent hours on creating a hammock. I kept thinking that one end should be attached to a tree, the other end in a puddle or in disarray. I made them in several colors, one was too small, I tried creating a black hammock and embroidering the knotted ropes on top, but nothing is working.   So I put it away.

More to come............................................................