Thursday, February 28, 2013

Colour of the day: the second selection

red: February 18
orange: February 7
yellow: February 14
green: February 7
blue: February 16
purple: February 17

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Still dyeing after all these weeks

We still have snow. Which makes for wonderful sights.

Somebody treading on water???

Frozen up mill wheel in Würzburg last week

View from my studio two days ago

View through our windshield when we
were returning from a visit to the library
However, people around me are beginning to get impatient. In November everybody (including me) likes to complain that it hasn’t really started snowing yet, and when will winter ever start, this is so unnatural, white Christmas not in sight... By early February, if we had snow at all (we did this year!), lots of people start complaining that it is still cold and why hasn’t spring come, they are craving for colors. In this one, I am not included. I seem to be the only one who says I’d rather have snow than cold rain.
I am still happily dyeing with snow. A little bit every day, it has come to be a routine almost. The results are piling up, and on Tuesday my friend who usually helps me fold the large pieces will come, and we will have a ‘rolling session’, as we call them.

Today I am running an experiment.

I have a small container with dye powder labelled “Maroon”, which I used in one of these two boxes. The other is a mixture of Scarlett and Black – hm, new black? cotton black? can’t remember which – and I am curious to see whether it will be possible to tell a difference in the outcome. Most likely there will be some way to notice. It will just be interesting to see whether I can then distinguish which of the finished pieces was dyed with which of the color mixtures. Because, of course, I have not kept track which dye solution went onto which box...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Café Leisure

I don’t frequently go to a café. First of all, I don’t really like the taste of coffee, and the tea served in cafés comes mostly in tea bags, which is far inferior to the taste of the loose tea I drink at home, so why spend money for that? Secondly, there aren’t many interesting cafés in the town where I live, and I don’t get to the next larger town often, where I would have more choices. This morning, however, I had to go to the doctor to get a shot, and had parked my car next to a bakery with café section, so decided to give me a little treat. After all I deserved it – not only for the shot, but also for the fact that I had finished all my taxes that I had been putting off far too long, and had spent an hour with the tax advisor first thing in the morning, even before going to the doctor. Well worth a little treat, a little bit of leisure and a piece of pastry!
And good that I did go. While stirring my cappucino (yes, although I don’t like the taste of coffee I had ordered a cappucino) I suddenly had a flash of what I could do with that signature. Signature? After Barack Obama’s re-election, when he was beginning to present his new ministers to the public, the newspaper had printed a picture of Jacob J. Lew’s signature (courtesy of the White House), which will soon find its way onto newly printed US-dollar bills:

At that very moment, I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but I took a photo of it nevertheless. Use for silk screen printing – or would that be counted as forgery? Would it fit in with my series Play of Lines? It is not entirely out of the topic, somehow. But this morning I had the beginning of another idea, which I don’t want to talk about too much just right now. Of course, I did not have my little jot-down-notebook with me, so actually had to make sure my brain managed to hold on to that idea until I got home.
Though I have dared to think this a number of times recently, this morning’s flash did give me the feeling that my still ongoing procrastination and fiddling around with this and that seems to be coming to an end, after all. Perhaps the feeling is right this time? Gestation periods just take their time.
In any case, going to a café every now and then obviously is a good thing. Just make sure you have at least a piece of paper in your pocket to jot down ideas that might want to catch you unawares.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


When I wrote about my frustration caused by the bleeding colours which had soiled my quilt Play of Lines XXXII last week, I had not counted on the amount of help and encouragement which I received through comments and private emails within only a few hours. I would like to thank everybody who contributed with helpful advice and encouraging remarks! (A special thanks to Pam from Florida, whose suggestion was the one I actually chose.)
Colour catching devices in the dryer, overpainting, overdyeing, and soaking in synthrapol to get out excess dye were the suggestions.
I didn’t know about these colour catching devices for the dryer and would have had to run up to the drugstore first. I believe I can’t paint, and did not want to start reconvincing myself about this matter on just this piece. Overdyeing seemed a possible and fun solution (thanks, Margaret!), but because I have synthrapol at home, I opted for this as a first try, overdyeing would still be an option if this one failed. Soaking produced a red flow of water and my heart sank when I was rinsing, but off into the washer, hang up to dry after taking it out. The basement is dark and the lights don’t really make it possible to see anything, but the photo with flashlight was promising.

I left for a visit with a friend for three after hanging and tried not to think about it too much while I was away. Upon our return I had to take care of our failing heating system first and get somebody to fix it (on a Sunday) before I could look after the quilt. But then relief: every stain was gone, this quilt would not be transformed into bookcovers, another possible solution I had thought of. And it won't be a UFO.
Monday I spent finishing the quilting of the background. 

Now I have to decide how to the lines.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Berta Hummel

Have you ever seen one of the little Hummel figurines? For a long time, one of Germany’s big-number export items. Very popular with Americans, but not only there. Out of production for a while, but back now.

In the window of our local pawn shop: Hummel figurines

Before we moved to the little town where we live now, I knew very little about Berta Hummel, except for that she had designed these figurines. Having outgrown the age when I liked them, I was surprised to see a sign for a “Berta Hummelmuseum” in an even smaller town about 15 miles down the highway. Not a museum I would ever be going to, I thought.
Imagine my surprise when, a couple of years later, a full-page article in “Die Zeit”, a renowned German weekly praised Berta Hummel and her artistic talents, including a large scale version of the following picture:

"Lady in Red" by Berta Hummel,
photo taken from postcard
bought at the museum
I was stunned. Then I “met” her again when I happened to be near Sießen in Allgäu, where they told us that she had lived there in the convent, and died there just after World War II, and eventually went to see the museum, and started doing a bit of research. I found it hard to understand how somebody with so much talent would take a decision to enter the convent.

On interlibrary loan I took out this bilingual book on her life, which also features a lot of pictures.

Berta Hummel was born in Massing, grew up as one of six siblings, and must have been a really wild one during her childhood. 

Berta Hummel as a child, picture taken from the book

She went to school in a Catholic boarding school, where her artistic talent, which had been obvious early on, was recognized and supported. But her lack of conduct was repeatedly mentioned in reports home. And then she went to study at the Munich Academy for the Applied Arts – certainly not a ‘usual’ path to follow for a girl from the country in those times.

Berta Hummel's graduation piece:
a textile wall hanging depicting her home town Massing
(picutre taken from postcard)
Not much is known about her time in Munich, but she did meet two nuns who had come back to the academy to continue their studies, they became friends, she moved in with them in their boarding house, and eventually Berta Hummel decided to take the veil. Her professors were surprised and disappointed, would have wanted her to continue her promising art career. She did follow her art in the convent, working in the workshop for church decorations.
After only a few years at the convent, even before she had taken the final vows, her drawings of little children were discovered by a Munich art publisher, first printed as little cards to give away, then published in a book. 

Berta Hummel in habit with children at the pre-school where she worked,
picture taken from the book

Berta Hummel's drawing of "Christchild with angels", taken
from the book
Big rage, very successful. And then the porcelain company jumped onto the wagon, started making figurines, which brought in a lot of money for the convent. The publisher and the porcelain company kept pressing her for more and more pictures, even started fighting over the first rights to these pictures.
The Nazis didn’t like the figurines, but let them be sold to foreign contries to bring in revenues. And after the war, American soldiers bought them and brought them back to the States.
They couldn’t save Berta, though, who had fallen ill during the war, when the convent had been expelled from their buildings, caught tuberculosis, and died in November 1946, just a few months before penicillin became so widely available that it perhaps might have saved her life.

I still don’t understand how a talented woman – who used to be a ‘wild girl’! – would decide to take the veil, subjecting herself to the severe rules of a convent, and her artistic talent to thematic restrictions. Perhaps eighty years in history just bar the understanding of thought processes that would lead one such a way. 
Germany was going through very hard times after the war, but it is mentioned in the book that Berta once told her visiting sister “They are letting me die here all by myself!”, thus indicating that she did not receive proper attention during her long sickness. Later on, she was admitted to specialist clinics, but it was too late. That’s what I understand least of all – why would they let her die so miserably like that instead of making sure she received all proper and possible treatment, after she had brought in so much revenue for the convent?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The importance of washing in earnest...

A couple of weeks ago, when the students in my beginners class were learning to calculate seam allowances and co-ordinate block components by combining their knowledge on four patches and diagonally split squares into the pattern “Underground Railroad”, I had brought my own UFO and got to work on it a little bit. Unfortunately, the very effective steam iron in the sewing room where the class takes place, caused some bleeding in a red fabric.

This is a hand-dyed fabric I had bought somewhere before I had taken up serious hand-dyeing myself. However, I had not washed it after I bought it, figuring that a hand-dyed fabric had to have been washed sufficiently... Luckily, this case of bleeding could be repaired. And I went back and checked all the other blocks I had prepared for this project, removing a few other triangles I had cut from this fabric.

A few days ago, I finally had pulled myself together and started quilting another Play of Lines which had been sitting on my table, waiting to be quilted, for several weeks. 

Some difficulties with tension, getting re-acquainted with the machine and machine quilting as such, forced me to take out a few sections.

Now of course there were holes that needed to be dealt with.

So I applied “Krauseminzewasser”, which is supposed to easily close holes. It does – but, again with a red fabric I had bought somewhere and used in this quilt side by side with mine – a case of bleeding happened when ironing the piece.

This time, repair is not possible. The quilt has been quilted two-thirds, there is no possibility to take out and exchange the pieces. It is ruined, might only serve as practice material for exercises in machine quilting.
I am rather frustrated, as I had wanted to enter this quilt for Quilt Nihon. The only consolation I can find in this is the fact that my own red fabrics did not bleed. Gives me hope that my customers will be spared this kind of frustrating experience when using my hand-dyed fabrics. And I now - again! - know why I wash my fabrics so frequently. Steam ironing might already cause the damage, it does not even have to be a full-blown washing of the quilt.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Thirty years after

On Friday late afternoon they arrived and stayed until Sunday: I had four dear visitors from my year as an exchange student in Charlotte, North Carolina during the high school year of 1982/83. The five of us constituted almost 50% of the entire group which had taken part in the Charlotte Exchange Student Program. (Which, unfortunately, has discontinued by now.)
Admittedly, of these five, one had hardly any contact to the other four, and none after the first few years. The other four, however, had somehow been in touch, visited each other, and all four had met three times before for various anniversaries. Two had met by sheer chance at a party in a town where neither of them lived.
Thanks to facebook and our Swiss computer wizard’s insistence and competence we have recovered the addresses of another three members of the group, and it was through facebook that we had made arrangements for a meeting on this particular weekend. All in less than four weeks...
Such a meeting is part reminiscences and looking at pictures, talking about „do you remember?“ and „are you in touch with...?“ But a lot more is there: a large part of the conversations dealt with current themes, basic stuff, politics, opinions, filling in on life experiences. We were touched to realize how such a year spent together as members of an exchange group is a sound foundation for a long-enduring friendship. Which can be reconnected to after thirty years even.
All of us agreed that this year had been one of the most important ones in our entire lives, influencing our current lives still. All of us appreciate the openness towards other cultures and opinions which we met and learned during this year. All of us came out of this year with a strong internation orientation, which has been influential in choice of vocation and partners (all of us have at least tried a relationship with a partner from another country, three of us are currently in a relationship with these ‚international’ partners). All of us have been abroad for longer periods after that particular year, either traveling or living in another country for an extended period, although all of us are currently living in their countries of origin (one just returned from six years in China a few months ago). All of us could imagine packing up and moving to another country again. And it wouldn’t even really matter, which country, because you can learn a language, and it is always an enrichment to get to know cultural differences between one’s own and the host country’s habits and manners.
Conclusion thirty years after? Send your kids abroad, if they want to and are ready for it, for a whole year if possilbe. They won’t like every single experience which they will make during this year, but it will be a wonderful experience as a total year!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Excitement is rising...

Please, don't expect any new quilting-related posts before Monday or Tuesday. I am expecting five friends from my year as an exchange student in Charlotte, NC, from thirty years ago (Yes.) this weekend, and that gives me enough to do just right now.
But to give you all a glimpse about it all: this is the picture I found in my scrap-book yesterday. High-School graduation, North Mecklenburg High School, Class of '83.
Fake only because upon my return to Germany I had to go to High School there for another two years, which was rather frustrating after this.

Monday, February 4, 2013


I always thought I am a steady worker, and I always thought that it did not really make much of a difference whether I was working under a deadline or not. In terms of efficiency and dedication, I mean – it certainly does make a difference in terms of feeling pressured and comfortable. Which is to say: I prefer working without the pressure. (Well, who doesn't.)
But I have to adjust my self-image about the efficiency. Without the real pressure of facing a deadline that calls for ‘only new quilts’ (and close to 30 m...) I am still fumbling about, doodling along. Free flow of creativity is still at a low tide point and right now I don’t see any signs that the tide is actually turning. So I am planning next weekend, when friends from my year as an exchange student will be coming to visit and celebrate our thirty-year-reunion (ugh - we're growing old), am selling my husband’s sorted out books on ebay and doing this and that. Hibernating?
I have been working on commissions which I will talk about later, when they are all finished, but apart from that...

I started teaching another beginners class at the local community college in Landshut earlier this month, and on the third evening of the class the agenda called for diagonally split squares. I usually tell the students about three different techniques for making these squares – starting from squares as such, from long strips, and what I have got to know as “fast and easy triangles”. But as I found out over several instances of demonstrating this technique, I only accumulate a certain number of these triangles without ever doing anything with them. First, because they are never enough, and secondly because I keep demonstrating with different sizes, so they don’t even match. This time, I decided that I would not fall into this trap again.

I took along my own sewing machine to class so I would be working with my own seam allowance, and not get stuck with samples from the machines in the classroom, which my come with another seam allowance.
Heavily packed - glad for the wheels under the
case for the sewing machine, though they are
only partially helpful in snow and on

And when I got home, I quickly started making a few more of the same size triangles that had been the result of the demonstration in class.

And more.

Started another UFO?
Yesterday I realized that this was a good way to tie me over, fill the need to handle fabric and hear the sound of the sewing machine, and mindlessly kept producting more and more right-angled triangle squares.
By now I have made enough squares to complete a blanket-sized quilt. All I need to do is sew them together.
Who knows what this procrastination is good for...