Monday, October 20, 2014

A Day at the Wisconsin Quilt Museum

On a bright and breezy autumn day in early October, Norm and I took a little road trip to the Wisconsin Quilt Museum.  I wanted to catch the "Trends and Traditions" exhibit before it was due to close the following week.  

It included a number of beautiful quilts by Victoria Findlay Wolfe, and I didn't want to miss the chance to get up close and personal with her colorful and inspirational work.

Right off the bat, as we came through the main door of the quilt museum, these bright star quilts were there to greet us.

Summer of Stars by Victoria Findlay Wolfe
They were breathtaking!

True North by Victoria Findlay Wolfe
Close-up of quilting (by Shannon Baker) on True North by Victoria Findlay Wolfe
Quilters Play Manhattan by Victoria Findlay Wolfe
In the main part of the quilt museum were the remainder of the quilts for "Trends and Traditions."  These included awe-inspiring double wedding ring variation quilts by Victoria Findlay Wolfe, as well as traditional quilts by Mary McElwain, an important Walworth, Wisconsin quilt designer and quilt store owner from the early part of the twentieth century.  I'll cover those quilts in a separate post.  I loved that exhibit as well, and did equal ooh-ing and aah-ing over both the "trends" and "traditions" genres.

Double-Edged Love by Victoria Findlay Wolfe
Close-up of quilting (by Lisa Sipes) on Double-Edged Love
There were so many unique iterations of these quilts!

A Summer's Day by Victoria Findlay Wolfe
I loved this one (below) named Farm Girl.  The quilting on it, by Karen McTavish, was exquisite.

Farm Girl by Victoria Findlay Wolfe

Close-ups of quilting (by Karen McTavish) on Farm Girl by Victoria Findlay Wolfe
Iris By Night by Victoria Findlay Wolfe
A smaller quilt based on the same pattern, the name of which I forgot to note:

By Victoria Findlay Wolfe
A quilting closeup of another striking DWR quilt:

By Victoria Findlay Wolfe
The polyester quilt (below) pays homage to her grandmother Elda Wolfe's influence.  There were several of Elda's quilts on display as well, which illustrated the connection Victoria has to her quilting roots.

Retro Poly Mod by Victoria Findlay Wolfe
Who knew there could be so many interesting variations on a theme!

Leona by Victoria Findlay Wolfe
I really enjoyed this exhibit.  You can appreciate a quilt on a blog or in a book, but to see the colors and details in person is a wonderful experience. 

By Victoria Findlay Wolfe
As I mentioned, the traditional quilts on display were every bit as captivating! Stay tuned for those in part two of A Day at the Wisconsin Quilt Museum.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Drunkard's Path Quilt Along - Week 2

My progress on the Dad's Plaids quilt this week included getting what I thought were all the curved pieces cut.  Somehow while laying it out, however, I came up short.

(Ha-ha!  The people who know me in real life are thinking that's a first.  It's land of the giants up in here.  This one can't count.)

Besides making more strip strata to address said deficit, I also decided I needed a design wall.  One that is perpendicular to the floor, that is.  I have, up until now, laid all my quilts out on the living room floor.  I did make myself a small portable flannel board (out of a foam-backed Marjolein Bastin print and a flannel sheet from Goodwill, if you're wondering), which I can prop up here or there in the sewing room and fit a couple of blocks on at a time, but it's pretty small.  Not a wall, in any case.

So I cleared a wall in the laundry room, which is around the corner from the sewing room.  The lighting isn't great, but it'll have to do because it's basically the only option available. 
I bought a couple yards of flannel-backed tablecloth vinyl from Jo-Ann with a 50% off coupon ($6 total) and a package of push-pins.  This is probably a temporary thing until I can do a proper job of covering a couple large pieces of insulation foam with batting and Velcro that system to the wall.  Also, I should repaint the wall.  As well as I procrastinate, you should look for that in, oh, 2016.  Maybe.

Here are some of the DP pieces laid out on the wall.  With all the variety of color and light/dark stuff going on, I knew I'd have to play around before I sewed anything together.  In general, though, I like where it's going!

I have to modify a few pieces where there's a light or dark strip in a particular spot where there should be the opposite (see circled areas below, for example).  

I knew they were there when I cut the pieces out, but I wasn't thinking it'd be a big deal and would add interest.  Turns out some are a little too interesting and my eye is drawn to those areas.  So a little seam ripping and resewing is in order.  No biggie.

I have around 18 DP blocks sewn together so far.  You know what?  I love sewing curves!

Cross the Drunkard’s Path Quilt Along

Thursday, October 16, 2014


So I just spent the last half hour staring at the screen wondering where to start with a blog post. Granted, the screen alternately said Blogger, Pinterest, and Feedly, but I digress.

The possibilities included the Wisconsin Quilt Museum trip last week, the story about a couple of quilts I saw for the first time last week, made in the 1940s by my paternal great-grandmother, and my progress on the Dad's Plaids quilt. Then there was a passel of other random subjects swirling around in my head, including the fact that I have been smelling my wrist every five minutes because I'm wearing a vintage perfume I used to love, and still do.

Tired of my indecision and general stuck-ness, I scribbled the aforementioned subjects on strips of scrap paper, folded them up and had Norm pick one, eyes closed.  I dubbed him The Decider.

Of course I tossed in the random thing about the vintage perfume, just to throw a wild card into the mix.

Guess which one he picked?
Perfume Nose-talgia!  I have no idea how this is going to go, but let's get the ramble started.

About a year ago (or maybe longer), something got me thinking about the perfume I used to wear in the late 1970s and early 1980s—Aviance by Prince Matchabelli.  I LOVED that stuff.  I wore it all through college, pretty much every day/night.

Oh, wait!  I just remembered why I was thinking about it!  I had read an article in Men's Journal about a guy who discovers the world of scents and perfume.  (I gave Norm a subscription to Men's Journal, but it's a great mag and I think I read more of the articles than he does.)  Anyway, this particular article totally cracked me up, but more importantly it also revealed a world of perfumery that I had no idea existed.  I just looked it up and found the article, "Who Am I and What Should I Smell Like?" and you can read it HERE.  

So I guess it was after that that I was thinking about the scent that defined my young adult years.  If ever I had a signature scent (albeit one shared with millions of others), it was Aviance. It was one of the first "grown-up" perfumes I bought that wasn't Avon and didn't smell like baby powder or bug spray.  My sister liked Charlie.  I loved Aviance.

Do they even make Aviance anymore? I wondered. Not the Aviance Night Musk that came out later, which I didn't like, but just plain Aviance.  So I Googled (as one does) and found that it was apparently discontinued long ago.  All good things come to an end. 

But that wasn't quite the end of the story.  In my search, I found out there are people who review perfume, specifically vintage perfume, and write fascinating stuff about it.  What were people who knew perfume saying about my beloved Aviance?  I found THIS review by Barbara Herman, author of Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume.  She said:

The idea that pheromones could be bottled up and put in perfume so that people would inexplicably lust after you was pretty big in the 70s. Aviance by Prince Matchabelli missed an opportunity to make that dubious claim, because it certainly has had, for me, the Pheromone Effect. For several days now, I've been having a straight-up, punch-drunk mad affair with this beauty. I didn’t know what Huffing was until I met Aviance.

YES!  This woman understood!  She went on:

It is so beautiful, so weird, and so right, I can't believe there’s hardly any information out there on it. Part of this makes me worry that perhaps it’s just a really cruddy perfume I happen to like. (We know there’s at least one in a perfumaniac’s perfume wardrobe!) If that’s the case, I’ll let it be Aviance. But I doubt it; I think this one’s an overlooked beauty.
Too bad my virtual trip down memory lane couldn't end at the corner drug store to buy it anymore.  But what about online?  After all, where did vintage perfume reviewers get their stash?  A few clickety-clicks later and I had purchased a big old bottle of Aviance "new in box, unopened" from eBay.

Whee!  I could not wait to revisit this scent!

When it arrived, I uncapped the bottle (which was pristine...not at all like it had been hanging out in the back of the linen closet accumulating 30 years worth of dust).

You know how a smell memory can take you back in time?  The first whiff shot me straight back to a rowdy dorm room at UW-W, getting ready for a big Thursday night of dime taps at a local watering hole, preparing to clomp downtown with friends in my brown Bastad clogs, striped cowl neck, and boot-cut Levis.  Ready to dance to Brick House under the disco ball, get sweaty and cigarette saturated, and hobble home in the wee hours, but not before standing in line for a slice of Chicago-style pizza to soak things up along the way.

I'm gonna have an Aviance night...  That was the tagline for a very dumb commercial, and yet what do I recall?  All those Aviance nights.  Good times and guy friends who told you you smelled great.  Also quiet times studying calculus and behavioral psychology and reading Carlos Castaneda for States of Consciousness class. Hey, it was a real class—it was the '70s—and if my professor's bloodshot eyes were any indication, he was well-versed in the subject.  

If there was such a thing as a smell-track to a time in your life, Aviance was it for 1978-1982.  Probably a while after that too, until the bottle ran dry.

The thing is, all these years later, I don't wear perfume very often.  The man I married prefers soap and water clean to anything in a bottle, and I can't really argue with that.  So when I do wear a scent, on special occasions (or when I feel a little nostalgic), it's purely because I like it.  Today was one of those days.

And I cannot stop smelling my wrist.  There is something about Aviance that changes from light, floral and herbal to its deeper, musky base notes over the course of the day.  And there are all these interesting phases in between.  Tomorrow morning when I wake up, it will smell even better.  "So beautiful, so weird, and so right."  Amen.

A couple other Aviance perfume reviewers said things better than I could, and if you like that sort of thing, see HERE and HERE.  I just nod my head when I read these.  Aw, yeah.

Do you have a perfume or a smell memory that takes you way back?  Back to where?

Now that I've broken the ice, blogging wise, I'll be back again with a quiltier post in a day or two. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Drunkard's Path Quilt Along - Week 1

Cross the Drunkard's Path Quilt Along is being hosted by Vicki Welsh at Field Trips in Fiber.
Cross the Drunkard’s Path Quilt Along
This is my progress post for the Dad's Plaids quilt I'm making.  This is a pattern by Elsie Campbell in her book String Quilts, using thrifted shirts for the fabrics.

I finished sewing the shirt strip strata (plural, as there are several couple-yard-long pieces), with each strip about 22 inches long and between 1.75 and 2.5 inches wide, alternating dark areas and light about every 10 inches or so in the strata.

Then I starched the strata.  I'm not a big spray starch user normally, but with these shirt fabrics of various weights and flimsiness, I understand the importance of starching for this quilt.

I used a tip about covering your ironing board with freezer paper if you don't want to mess it up with loads of starch, and I did that.  Worked great!  You lightly press the freezer paper on and the heat melts the wax on the back of the paper just enough to stick it to the ironing board so it stays put.  I also put an old sheet down under my ironing board to protect the carpeting from any over spray.  It's enough I have to vacuum once in a while, you know?

Then I made freezer paper templates for the Drunkard's Path block.  It sounds like it'd be a fiddly thing to do but, conveniently, a sheet of freezer paper is 18 inches wide, so you can cut two 9-inch squares from the width of a sheet, then trace an arc 6 inches from the corner along one right angle.  You cut these pieces out and position them on the strata, allowing for a 1/4-inch seam allowance all the way around.  Press them down and then cut out the pieces.

It's not a fast process, but I like taking my time with positioning and cutting. 

So far I've got—well, I don't actually know how many—cut out.  Quite a few, but not all, probably not even half.  The freezer paper templates are reusable several times before you have to make new ones.

This is how four blocks will go together for this quilt.  I don't have a whole lot of variety in this sample because I haven't cut out all the pieces yet.

Once they're all cut, I'll lay out the quilt on the design wall (or floor, as the case may be) before sewing it together.  But just to get an idea of how it is going to go, with all those many seams in the strata, I sewed two block.  I pinned in a couple places and took my time, using the flat edge of my seam ripper as a stiletto when necessary to keep the edges together as it went under the presser foot, and they turned out fine.

Which way do you press your DP curve?  This pattern suggests pressing it toward the smaller curved piece.  I wonder if that will cause any grief when sewing the blocks together (since they won't butt together if they're all pressed the same direction).  Guess I'll find out!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Sundry 10-5-14

Here a job, there a job, everywhere a job-job.

One thing leads to another around here lately.  I start to paint, and I notice a lot of old paint and stain that needs to be disposed of.

The old paint that needs to be disposed of is located in a very messy workshop that needs cleaning and organizing.

The workshop that needs cleaning and organizing is also where my treadmill is.

The treadmill needs using again because it's getting too cool (and dark earlier) to walk outside.

I need a distraction while on the treadmill, so the television needs moving from the sewing room to the workshop.

The workshop needs cleaning before the TV is moved.

And so it goes, around and around and doubling back on itself.  This leads to that, and that leads to another thing.  Stuff is getting done, though, including some long-procrastinated-on, time-sucking, dumb jobs. There is also a growing donation pile.  I did a big purge about two years ago in the fall.  Something about this time of year gets me wanting to clear out.

Finishing the table was not a dumb job.  I put the last coat of polyacrylic on it this morning.

I learn, and relearn, as I go with table painting.  Overall, it has come out fine, but mistakes were made.  If you ever come to my house and volunteer to do laundry, I will be happy to point them out to you.

(The lighting makes it look more orange sherbet-y than it really is.)
One job was not even on my radar until my daughter, while helping me get started on cleaning the workshop, found an old broken putty knife, which she (quite reasonably) wanted to throw away.  I stopped her from doing that, however, because...well, because Pinterest.

(Image Source)
I'd seen this image on Pinterest, some cool art made with old putty/spackling knives and photo images.  This seems a doable craft, given that I have a couple old putty knives (albeit broken) and a ton of old photographs.

But this particular post is not about doing something artsy with Mod Podge, sorry.  Besides, I threw that old jar away in the workshop cleanup.

So I'm standing there in the basement handling this broken putty knife and I notice that broken edge is pointy and sharp and thin, and—hey, Macarena!—maybe it could scrape off something super stuck on, like the ancient stuff adhered to (and seemingly one with the very molecules of) the basement window casings.  Are they called casings?  It's the metal part that sits in the concrete and holds the window.

The old basement windows had been leaky, so the previous owners, about 20 years ago, had used an airtight window sealing film over them.  We had the windows replaced probably six or seven years ago.  The strip of adhesive left after the film was removed turned out to be extremely tenacious.  A regular putty knife didn't budge it and I gave up trying years ago.  Yep, years.  I am the Queen of Procrastination, especially when it comes to dumb jobs like that.

But when the universe finally hands you the right tool for the job...

I was almost giddy, actually, at how well it worked.  That sharp pointy edge got right up under the sticky strip and cut through the gunk that had melded it to the underlying surface.

There was still ample elbow grease involved, as well as some Goo Gone once the majority of the adhesive was removed with my special tool.

But over the course of a couple days, the removal work was done on all the windows.  Now I just have to paint the casings with some Rustoleum and that job will be history.

In With the New
I took advantage of a 50% sale off already marked down fabric at the hometown Jo-Ann store recently.

They had a pretty nice selection so I loaded up the cart.  The stash had been lacking in the blues and low volume department, in particular. 

I picked up a couple black and white pieces as well, including six yards of the Alexander Henry one in the background here with the large scale print.  That will make a nice backing for something down the road.

Between other things, I sewed more plaid shirt strips.  I think I have enough strata made to start cutting the pieces. 

Since the Dad's Plaids quilt I'm planning uses a drunkard's path block, I'm going to join the Cross the Drunkard's Path Quilt-Along at Field Trips in Fiber.  I need all the motivation I can get these days, and it should be fun!

Cross the Drunkard’s Path Quilt Along

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Little by Little

There are a couple things in the works here, said work happening in fits and starts.  If I put off posting until either of them is done, we'd be waiting a while, so let's just talk progress, shall we?

A couple weeks ago, I sanded the mid-century end table in preparation for painting it.  Then we had a cool and damp spell and I was suddenly stricken with the urge to hibernate, or at least kvetch about the weather.

I'm curious as to who made the table.  All I could find was this pencil mark on the underside that says "32 Table."

Norm said he remembered the table in his house growing up, and when he moved into his first bachelor pad, he took it along from out of his parents' basement.  Sometime we'll have to dig out his old family photo albums and see if we can find it in a picture from back in the late '50s or early '60s.

I wondered if his dad or one of his dad's friends might have made the table.  Norm didn't know but said it was possible.  His dad worked for a suitcase company in Milwaukee and a few years later started his own woodworking company with a couple friends.  This was back when console televisions, stereo speakers, amplifiers, and stage monitors had covered wood cabinets, and that's what the company manufactured.

The lower shelf is plywood.  Not sure what kind of wood comprises the rest of it.  It's lightweight yet sturdily made and doesn't wobble even after 50-something years.  Kinda like me.  Except the lightweight part.  ;)

Here it is primed.

And with the first coat of paint, below.

There's at least one more coat of paint to go, plus probably one or two coats of clear poly.  It's eventually going back to its humble digs in the laundry room, but at least it'll have a colorful change of clothes.  I'm liking the color, Tropical Coral from Glidden.  I think the primer coat really helped the color stay true.

The other thing I'm working on is making a strata for the plaid quilt.  Eventually the drunkard's path templates will be cut from these strip sets.

The pattern says to sew together dark strips then light strips, alternating from light to dark about every 10 inches.

The strips are about 22 inches long, which seems to be about the width of the average men's plaid shirt back.  This piece measures about 2 yards in length now, but I need to make another 7 yards worth of strips.  No worries about my stash running low.  I thought I had them all corralled on the cutting table the other day, but more kept turning up, having been tucked here or there throughout the sewing room.  The other day I lifted the cover of my sewing machine from the top of a rolling cart, and underneath it there were two more bags of shirts!

I heard two tunes this past week that I thought were particularly good.  Meaning that I have now listened an embarrassing number of times to each of them.  First, Paolo Nutini (which sounds like something one should slather on bread...I said bread not bed, get your mind out of the gutter...okay fine, he is cute...).

And then there's this by Postmodern Jukebox.  Love it.  I hadn't heard the Maroon 5 song they're covering, but this vintage soul version sounds like it was meant to be.  Wait for the vocals at about 2:50 for some goosebumps. 

Happy Wednesday!