Sunday, January 20, 2013

Illustrator Image Trace

So, I work a lot in Illustrator. Back in the day, when I was working, I practically lived, breathed, slept and ate in it.

It is still the program I feel most comfortable in. It is just *so* familiar. (I used to feel that way about FreeHand. Remember when Adobe still had some competition? Those were the days. . . .)

Anyway, earlier today, my daughter updated her profile picture on Facebook. I think she has used this one before, and I kind of like it.

But when I saw it today, again, I thought, What would the new-and-improved Image Trace feature in Illustrator CS6 do with this?

Here's what it came up with:

The last one looks very close to the actual photograph, at least at smaller size and lower res. You can even identify the background as a stucco wall. I also like the definition in her hand. I find hands very intriguing and interesting, from an artist's POV. They are not easy to draw.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Maple Leaf Blocks

Last night I went to a sew-in with the Seattle Modern Quilt Guild at the Quilting Loft, and got started on the large version of Falling Leaves. I got there a little after 5 p.m. and left around 9:00.

I had done all my cutting over the Christmas holidays, but when I sat down to start sewing I had a little trouble remembering exactly how I intended to use the pieces I had cut. (Some of the squares were cut larger to be sewn diagonally and cut to make the half-square triangle leaf point.) I messed up on the first couple of blocks, but then got it figured out.

The quilt will have Maple Leaf blocks in four different sizes — 3", 4-1/2", 6" and 9". I got all the two smaller sizes done.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

In Progress

 At any one time, I  am working on several projects. I'm like that in most areas of my life — I usually have at least two books that I'm reading, if not three or four; at work, I used to have several projects on my desk at various stages of completion. That works for me; sometimes I'm in the mood for knitting, sometimes for quilting, sometimes for embroidery. Sometimes I want to work on something that requires more attention, sometimes I want something that I can do automatically without thinking about it too much.

Here are my current projects.

A few days ago, I finished sewing on the binding for this little wall hanging. It is the same pattern as this one, but in a different colorway.

This is my latest hand pillow. I finished appliquéing the hands last night. This afternoon I will fuse on the hearts.

Out in my studio, I have one waiting to be assembled into a pillow, and I already have one waiting in the wings.

My silk sock is coming along nicely. Only ten or fifteen rounds remain on the leg; then I can get started on the heel flap.

Over Christmas break, I cut the pieces for the blocks for a quilt that I hope to make available at my Craftsy store. It is based on this quilt, but will be larger and have Maple Leaf blocks in four sizes.

And last, but not least, there's this little quilt that I just felt like doing.

The red hearts still need their blanket stitch appliqué. I don't know what its eventual destiny will be, but it was fun to mix and match all the red and white fabrics.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Corn Muffins

I can't remember exactly when this happened. but at some point in time after I graduated from high school and left home, my mother gave me a small binder with some typewritten family recipes. These were recipes that had been handed down from her mother or grandmother, or were family favorites that she had picked up along the way.

I have made a number of them over the years, but one that I make on a regular basis is Pyle's Corn Meal Muffins. The "Pyle" referred to in the recipe name is a grandmotherly woman who was the favorite babysitter of me and my sisters when we were kids. Her name was Edith Pyle, and in the way of children, we shortened "Mrs. Pyle" to simply "Pyle." The two things I remember most about her were playing Hide the Kleenex (a variation of the game Hot and Cold) and her letting us comb out her long hair.

She was a really sweet lady.

The recipe as written calls for  2 tablespoons of shortening (bacon fat). Back in the day (the 1960s), my mother would collect bacon grease in an old marmalade jar on the stove. She would then use this to fry eggs or pancakes.

For a number of years, I would substitute margarine or butter in this recipe, but the muffins always turned out too crumbly. Then (I can't remember exactly when) I decided to try actual bacon grease.

OMG, it made all the difference! Now, I don't/won't use anything else.

In the interest of full disclosure: I am an unabashed, unapologetic carnivore. I like meat, and I like bacon. The only exception was when I was pregnant, but that is another story for another time.

Anyway, when my husband and I fry up bacon, we often save the grease in a jar for storage on the refrigerator and for me to use in when I make corn muffins. I try to have 1 or 2 glass containers stored away.

To my mind, there are few foodstuffs as toothsome as a corn muffin fresh out of the oven. With butter. And honey. . . .

So without further ado, I present: PYLE'S CORN MEAL MUFFINS

Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1cup corn meal and 4 tablespoons bacon fat. Let stand 1 hour.

Sift and add: 1 cup flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt

Add 2 beaten eggs and 1 cup buttermill.

Pour batter into greased muffin tins (12 total).

Bake 25 minutes at 425 degrees.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Aunt Esther's Quilt

I have had this quilt since I was a teenager. I don't know how or why I happened to be the lucky person to end up with it.

It hasn't been on a bed in years; these days, it pretty much is kept stored away.

For all that it's probably 70 or 80 years old, it's in pretty good shape. The colors are still pretty vibrant — not noticeably faded at all.

When I compare the fabrics in this quilt to the '30s reproduction fabrics I see in the shops, I like the ones in this quilt much more. The color palette is so much more varied; the reproduction fabrics often appear to be more limited in the number of colors in any given print, if not monochromatic. There's just so much more variety and visual interest in genuine '30s prints.

This quilt was made by a younger sister of my paternal grandmother. Esther never married, never had children. I know my family visited her on our trips back to Iowa to visit my dad's side of the family. She lived in a nursing home, and she had bad arthritis in her hands. I remember how her fingers angled to the side. She was a very nice, sweet lady.

She lived a quiet, unassuming life. But as long as this quilt is around, people will know that she once lived.