Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Fruits of Denial

So here is this innocent-looking iron.

Hard to believe it could wreak such havoc, although I'm afraid I bear the brunt of the blame. About two weeks ago I pulled out a piece I have been working on for a couple of years in order to quilt a section of it. Since it had been rolled for a while a couple of small wrinkles had grown right in the middle of the piece that a quick ironing would remove. When I turned the iron on I noticed a couple of drops on the ironing board but I had just cleaned it the day before and I thought those drops might be left over from the steaming process it goes through and would be fine when it got up to temperature. Wrong conclusion! The quick swipe with the iron that removed the wrinkles left two small ever so slightly discolored circles of water on the white/light blue fabric.

I ran for a dampened paper towel and began blotting and sighed with relief when I held the piece up to light and the stain seemed to have gone. Two hours later it was almost dry and I was not so happy.  The small circles were no longer there but the stain had migrated to the edges of the larger blotted wet spot so the edges of two beautifully shaped circles were faintly inscribed on the piece about three times as big as the original small stains.

After considering abandoning the project--it is an experiment but I have spent quite a bit of time on it and it could turn out to be something interesting--I decided to try one last thing. I would wet down the whole light blue section, hoping the migrating stain would just migrate right off the edges of the piece. Several hours later I breathed a sigh of relief.  The stain was gone except for one small bit that I must not have thoroughly soaked and that will end up in the top seam allowance.

But I was still in denial about the iron, assuming that the whole incident was related to the cleaning process and moving on to the long list of things that must be done before the holidays.  I had used the iron several times on minor jobs and it did leak a couple of drops as it was heating up but seemed to work okay after that UNTIL my son-in-law came to visit.  He was working on a white worsted wool waistcoat that he was sewing by hand (he is a National Park Service ranger and wears this kind of 18th century stuff on the job) and asked to use my iron. I showed him how to turn it on, waited to let it get up to temperature before he used it and left, only to hear my daughter say, "Oh, no" a few minutes later. And, to my horror, there were two small stains on that beautiful waistcoat.

Our first blotting effort did not even completely remove the stains and migrated part of them to the edges of the blotting circles. Jim was handling this better than I was but we were both upset.  My daughter suggested a little soap on the original stain and I suggested wetting the whole thing down, hoping the wool and the silk lining would handle it okay. By the evening it was looking good and by the next morning it was dry and clear of stains!

And the iron began to regularly leak just a little. So am I ready to swear off this brand forever and write a nasty blog post about the company--or am I ready to swear off steam, as Ricky Tims has done because "all irons become incontinent"?  No to both of those. I still find steam very handy in a number of situations and about eight years ago I did extensive research when an iron failed shortly after I purchased it and I read some words of wisdom from a consumer researcher who said that the average life of any iron, no matter what you pay for it, is 2 1/2 years. His advice was to buy a medium priced iron that does the things you want.  I love the Black & Decker Digital Advantage--it heats quickly and well, has lots of steam, and is a good weight for my hand and shoulder.  And this iron (ordered Oct. 29, 2009) that costs about $44 lasted over four years! I have just ordered another.  Not sure what I can do about my ability to deny reality. . . .

And if you are still with me, thanks for the company!

Saturday, November 9, 2013


My grandson decided he wanted to be a raccoon for Halloween, for reasons that only a four-year-old can appreciate, and my daughter, armed with a vision of the many raccoons she has seen in her life and some fake fur, set to work:

I am proud to say that I taught her how to thread a needle many years ago and supplied her with lots of bits of fabric that were sewed together into innumerable animals, dolls, and elves. She doesn't focus on quilts (although she has made some), but I could be an enthusiastic supporter when she started a small online business several years ago selling clever draft stoppers in the shape of cows, dogs, whales that she had designed and sewn.

Her older sister also has made a small quilted piece or two but her love affair is with 18th century period clothing that she makes for the interpretations she does as part of her job as a national park historian:
That's her husband next to her, who is also a national park ranger and who now, thanks to her influence and instruction, makes most of the clothes he wears on tours he leads.

It is interesting how our passions/obsessions get passed down. The kind of stitching I do is often a solitary venture but it is reassuring to see such strong connections. 

And, if you are still with me, thanks for your company as well!

Monday, November 4, 2013

An Artist

At the invitation of a friend, I spent yesterday afternoon at the Ithaca (NY) Modern Quilt Guild listening to textile artist Hilary Gifford. It was well worth the trip. She has for years made a living selling one-of-a kind scarves created out of bits and pieces of fabric gathered from many sources, but her real love is creating her own fabric by painting with dye on silk, cotton, or whatever strikes her fancy. She then pieces these unique fabrics together into dynamic quilts or joins smaller pieces into framed collages.

Her work was inspiring, but her words connected with my own journey:

     --There must be "discovery in the making" or she loses interest in the piece.

    --"I make the art that I am drawn to make."  It may not be the most beautiful or the most easy to sell, but "it's what I have to make."

Friday, November 1, 2013

Careful what you give up on

Twenty-three years ago we planted a Chinese chestnut tree to shade our walk from the driveway to the house. But raking up those chestnuts that it bears each fall is literally a pain:

and I grumble that this was not the best decision we ever made.

This morning--a gray, blustery day when my energy level kept registering empty-- the tree redeemed itself.
I sat down for breakfast and realized the kitchen was glowing gold. There was the chestnut tree outside the window:
Almost all the color on our hills has become brown mulch, but the chestnut with its prickly personality decided not to follow the crowd and instead put on a show when it was ready. It has my gratitude.