Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dream a Little Quilty Dream....

Every time I read my favourite Quilt magazine, I take an extra-long look at the end of the featured patterns, where they show how the quilt would look in a completely different colour combination. I stop, I linger, and I drool. Laura Boehnke earns her living, feeds her family, and keeps the wolf from the door by testing new patterns for the magazine and working them up in various colour combinations.

"She tests every pattern we publish to make sure the instructions are accurate. Her ability to see optional colourways for a pattern makes Laura's work popular with our readers."

Yes. They PAY her to do that!

What I want to know is---Where was I when they were handing out jobs like that? Was I pre-occupied with trying to coax extremely-bored-with-P.E. teenage girls into some semblance of physical exertion? Or helping enthusiastic young mothers teach their howling babies to swim? Or maybe those jobs were on offer while I was busy wiping--- bottoms-noses-tears? Another case of life getting in the way.........

So, since I'm not racing off every morning to my high powered magazine job, I content myself with..........volunteering to select the block for our quilt guild's Block of the Month. Churn dash and nine patches and log cabins and stars are nice classic blocks, but the block of the month is a chance to try something different, something more challenging, something you might balk at making thirty six of, but ONE? Come on, it won't take long, and I promise to give very clear instructions! You pay fifty cents for the instructions and hand in the finished block at the next month's meeting for a chance to win ALL of them. If you win you have the makings of a quilt---and you only had to sew ONE block. Sweet deal, no?

But many of the ladies are elderly. Some have weak hearts. They don't want excitement, and they know what they like. And what they like is "quick and easy."
High-falutin' ideas from whippersnappers are not always greeted with wild enthusiasm.

Hence my dilemma.

Since what I like is adventure, challenge and excitement.[Don't forget, we're talking quilting here.]
I thought about socking them with this,

but didn't want to be beaten about the head and neck.....which the combination of hand work AND circular piecing might incite some of our members to....

This seemed like an unusual little gem,

until I found out [personal experience!] how easy it was to sew together ass-backwards.......

Then I found this, similar but simpler, version.

And liked it so much I made three.

When I ran it by She-who-must-approve, however, she thought it too small at 7" square, and could I make it larger, say 12"or 14"?

So, back to the drawing board, where, having no luck finding a compass, high or low, I nearly strangled myself trying to draw arcs of circles with a primitive contraption contrived from a pin and a pencil and enough thread to hang myself. Don't ask.
Enough to say my strengths don't lie in drafting.

But even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, and soon I devised a cunning plan. I would take the triangular template from the 7" version and extend the two long sides.... It worked.....I went from feeling very frustrated to smugly patting myself on the back.

Passed it out at the guild meeting last week with the advice to stitch at least the middle by hand. Fingers crossed I won't get any irate phone calls.....

I'd still love that job! Eventually Ms. Boehnke will want to retire to the country to raise rabbits and string beans, won't she? If I send in my resume now, they'll have it in hand when she steps down ....and I can step up..... to dreamland!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nothing Exploded.......

I slept soundly last night and dreamt that He who barfs on quilts had snagged a smelly, mangy looking rodent, and it was being dragged behind him everywhere he went because it was, literally, hooked onto his claw and he couldn’t shake it off! Except for when he takes it into his head to barf on a quilt, he is a very fastidious creature, so where that weird dream came from is one for Freud-for-Felines.


You want to know, don’t you, did I open The Box?

I did.

At first light.

And peeked in at the sleekness of that shiny new machine.

And called for The Bean to come and help, or offer moral support at least, but, only if he could do it without yelling.

Don’t get me wrong. We are fairly civilized around here. But the male contingent, in its various manifestations, is singularly impatient [and therefore predisposed to yelling] when faced with stupid questions and asinine assumptions, those being particular talents of mine, at least in realms technological.

He was like a lamb.

Something happens in the male brain, I am convinced, when a man is faced with a box of plugs and wires and new fangled gadgets. Something loosely equivalent to what happens to me when I see a tiny, innocent, newborn baby…….His eyes shine brighter, his cheeks flush, his pulse quickens, and he will suppress his natural aversion to fools and even his instinct to yell at them, if said fools will only let him be the one to figure out all the mysteries.

I know they’re not really mysteries, but I’d be a big fat liar if I pretended to be interested in the mechanics of it all. I just want it to work. Kind of like cars. Very handy for getting around. I’ve been under hoods. I’ve heard men jabbering on, about how all those pistons, and these fuel lines, and that battery, and those gauges make the car go. And it all makes my eyes turn dull and glassy, my skin turn grey and my hair fall out. And they begin to sound like the droning voice of the teacher on Charlie Brown. Then weeks later they’ll remind me that it had all been explained to me in excruciating, mind-numbing detail, and don’t I remember for pity’s sake?? You mean my efforts to look interested and intelligent were so successful you actually thought I was listening??

And you all, with your encouraging words, were right.

Just plug it in, you said.
So we did.

And nothing exploded.

One significant thing at a time, the wise Tanya advised---God, how I wish she lived next door! And one has to have virus protection, and internet security---are they one and the same? You see what we’re dealing with here?

So I remind myself to breathe, and if all else fails, go stitch a bit.

And remember to clip the cat’s claws………..

Monday, June 23, 2008

Will It Explode If I Touch It?

I had just put the coffee on this morning and was doing a little stitching---I’m in maniacal stitching mode these days---when the doorbell rang. Which necessitated a mad gallop to the bedroom, shedding sleeping garments en route and leaping into shorts and shirt, before opening the door, with my best, unruffled “Oh-I’ve-been-dressed-for-HOURS” air and accepting THIS

from the delivery man .

Have a good look.

Can you guess what’s inside?

I recently had a birthday. A big one. The kind that moves you out of one decade and into another. To mark the occasion the OC gave me a heart attack. Well, almost, when I came out of the den on the morning of my birthday, determined not to mope, and ran right into his smiling face and the bunch of roses he was clutching, in the living room. Which wouldn’t, under normal circumstances, be grounds for heart failure, except that I thought he was thousands of miles away in the frozen north! It was a very pleasant heart attack.

And my sister got me that brown box up there.

Have you guessed yet? Doesn’t take a rocket scientist……Even I know what it is.

He-who-barfs-on-quilts gave the box a thorough inspection. From every possible angle. Just to be sure no mice were being smuggled into his domain, don’t you know. Having satisfied himself that the box was rodent-free, he returned to the arduous tasks of washing himself, and quilt supervision.

And then it was my turn to cautiously circle The Box. I thought I might poke it experimentally from a safe distance with a broom handle……Then I thought I’d better hide it, in case The Bean saw it and tried to pressure me into opening it before I was good and ready. So, at the moment, it is safe in my closet.


Can you believe my sister? She got tired of hearing me moan about our current, almost dead dinosaur, and disagreed with the OC, who can’t imagine what I could possibly want with a computer of my own. He might have a point. The world would be a safer place if I stuck to pen and paper.

The truth is I’m terrified of that box. Just knowing Rise’d do something like that for me is present enough……..What I need is a crew of Rise, Lily and myself. We could do it together. Without any yelling. I keep telling myself that dumber people than me have figured out how to set up a computer. But I do wish it was as straightforward as, a toaster, say, or a sewing machine, or a mixer, or an electric toothbrush. If there was just one plug I’d be all set.

If you could look under the desk here, you’d understand my terror. There’s a thingamajig with GO written on it. It has a small wire plugged in one end of it and a thicker wire in the other end, and a blue light glowing to let the world know it’s doing whatever it is it’s supposed to be doing. Then there’s the long yoke that says PANAMAX, that has six, I kid you not--SIX more wires of various thicknesses plugged into it, and not one, but two little green lights glowing……And I have not the foggiest notion what any of those wires are for, or why, for heaven’s sake, there are so many of them!

I think I’ll go to sleep now. Sometimes I dream my way out of problems. And even if I don’t, maybe I’ll summon the gumption to at least open The Box in the morning!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Little Blister

Anything more than fifty years ago sounds like a L-O-N-G time ago. And yet I can remember June 21st.1954 with amazing clarity. At least part of it. The part where I had the temerity to leave my desk in Miss McCarthy's Senior Infants class and walk, unbidden, to the teacher's desk. Because I had very exciting news to impart.

"Miss McCarthy," I said, "I have a new baby sister!"

I obviously thought that a person with such stupendous news would be excused for breaking the rule against leaving her desk without permission.
As it turned out, I was wrong.

"Molly Bawn," said my teacher crisply, "Go back to your desk at once!"

I must have stood there, stupidly, stammering, and blushing with shame, as I tried to absorb the fact that a new baby sister, while earth shaking and life changing for me, was of no interest to Miss McCarthy.

Maybe she was having a bad day.

Or maybe she'd had a fight with her boyfriend.

Or maybe she'd slept through the Be Nice To Little Children 101 class in teacher training college.

Or maybe she was the incarnation of the devil.

Whatever she was, I got through the remainder of Senior Infants--it was late June so summer holidays were at hand, and in September I'd be in First Class, one of the Big Kids up in the Primary School,leaving the likes of Miss McCarthy and ear-pulling, cheek-pinching Sister Mary Gillen to traumatise a new batch of Babies and Senior Infants!

Since then I have often been wrong, but I don't think being wrong has ever been so devastating as in that moment in Senior Infants when I was just six years old.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I don't remember any more about the incident. I was a shy child. The incident did not make me any less so, of that I am sure. I had proof positive that my life was of no consequence to someone who loomed as large in my life as the teacher I spent my days with.

I would have been interested to meet Miss McCarthy as a grownup. Would I have liked her? I think not. Little incidents reveal a person's character, and even if it were not me she'd been so mean to, I would despise a person who could stomp all over the trust of a child, and then grind her heel in it!

Miss McCarthy's reaction to my news could not diminish my delight in having a baby sister for long though. I already had a baby brother. Boring. I was ready for someone like me. I needed reinforcements. Every afternoon mum bundled her up in the pram and put her out in the garden for her daily dose of sunshine, or at least fresh air. My friends and I could peek in at her and coo at her, but were given dire warnings about what would happen to us if any harm came to her due to high jinks on our part.

Six years is a gaping gap. She wasn't quite ready that summer to ride bicycles with me, or toss a rubber ball endlessly off the kitchen wall, or go exploring down Barry's field, or play jump rope with me. We tolerated each other and co-existed more or less peacefully throughout our childhood. In our teens she became the bane of my life. If I had a nice piece of clothing she would inevitably borrow it and incur my wrath, which didn't scare her in the least.

But the full import of that day in June, back in the fifties, has only become obvious in the last decade or so. It was the day my best friend was born.

Happy Birthday, Rise!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Foto Friday

I wasn't alone down by the river...............

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Down By The River Side

If you’re going to sew anyway, where would you rather do it?---at home with the cat, in the cool shade of the house? Or down by the river, in the shade of a tree? If you grew up in Ireland, where the slightest glimmer of sunshine or the merest hint of warm weather cause the natives to kick up their heels, down tools and go cavorting gleefully into the great outdoors, the decision is simple.

I’ve been working on some hand piecing since I finished the star quilt. I hadn’t exactly planned on starting a new project. But the universe decided I needed to make it, so without asking my brain for permission, my hands started cutting and stitching. If consulted, my brain would have had to say

“No. Have you looked at the pile of unfinished symphonies in the closet? No, no, NO!”

But since the brain was left out of the decision making process, all that negativity was avoided.

The hands have been busy. A little every day. I’d forgotten how much I love “handwerk.” Just me and the needle, the thread and the fabric……And my mind wide open for traipsing across the plains and plateaus of LIFE.

You look at a woman sitting by the river, stitching. And you think you’re seeing a woman sitting by the river, stitching.

But you’re not.

You’re seeing a woman on a journey, a journey through the “caverns of her mind.” A woman tentatively picking her way through a minefield of intimate relationships, stepping gingerly lest she cause an explosion, and, at times, casting caution to the winds and speaking her mind---a dangerous habit. A woman trying to understand why, when all the players speak the same language, it is SO difficult to communicate.

Because egos are involved.
Expectations are involved.
Personalities are involved.
And dreams.

And each player’s personality, each player’s expectations, and each player’s dreams are different. Oy.

Suddenly that stitcher by the river, that dreamer, that luster after peace and harmony….. leaps from her reverie in the grass back to the real, sun-dappled world of the river bank.

With a loud, indignant yelp.

Feeling a sharp sting on her sandalled foot, she looked down and discovered she was sitting in the middle of basic training for an army of ants.

Nevertheless, progress has been made, the state of the world has been pondered. Conclusions have been drawn, that we’re a lot like the ants, running in circles, wringing our hands, agonizing over the twists and turns of our petty, insignificant lives, when Life, in his big, agricultural, hob-nailed boots can stomp all over us at any moment and obliterate us. I’m just hoping he lets me linger by the river ‘til I’m finished my stitching.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Running Away To Join The Circus....Or Somesuch

To have and to hold,
For better or for worse,
For richer or for poorer,
In sickness and in health......Got it. No problem.

I know it was thirty seven years ago and I know my memory ain't what it used to be BUT---

I don't remember ANYTHING being mentioned on that fateful, long ago day about lawn mower maintenance,
or greasy spark plugs buried in tractor bowels and covered in black, oily gunk,
or fuel filters,
or "How many cylinders?" [How the hell would I know?]

Isn't that one of the reasons we promise to love and cherish, 'til death do us part, a person with a beard, who belches with impunity, thinks flatulence is funny, possibly even snores? Specifically so we won't have to deal with that crap?

I thought I was marrying a man; that I would be his cherished helpmate, his confidante, his friend........It all started out so romantically......with candlelight and wine, laughter and soft music, and the whole spark plug and mower maintenance issue was cleverly airbrushed in the folds of the magic.

But then, with frightening speed, you find yourself having the birthday that starts with a Six and ends with an Oh---Oh my! Harsh reality sets in. And you realise that you are actually married to The Man's house, and to The Man's big garden, and to The Man's garage---full of tools, many of which have not had their protective dust coat disturbed in decades.

You become the scary lady before whom spiders and daddy-long-legs flee in terror when she ventures into their elaborate web cities in the dark, infrequently visited corners of that same garage, in search of some tool she knows The Man owns but damned if she knows where he keeps it.

I had an epiphany today when I came inside, dripping sweat and smudged with spark-plug-grease and tears.

I don't want to be a house-sitter;
an inept and grease smeared changer of spark plugs;
for a lawn mower that sputters and inexplicably dies;
Don't want to be the wielder of wrenches,
the fretter over pool chemicals,
the glassy eyed wanderer of Home Depot aisles, searching searching for fuel filters and spark plugs, and oh! don't forget the replacement sprinkler head!
Don't want to be the administrator of last rites to terminally ill computers.

If The Man is never here.

I want my man back, and if he's too busy to return soon I may have to pack my toothbrush and my sewing projects in my backpack and hitch hike out of here to parts unknown.