Monday, May 04, 2015

Sari Bari Quilt auction going on now ...

Click here if you want to bid on Kokata Meets Provence. Let me warn you that when I try to go to that link in Internet Explorer, it doesn't work. Chrome and Firefox seem to be fine, but in Explorer, I get a message that the quilt is unavailable. It is still there, but only til Wednesday. There's just one bid so far, so it's at a very low price for the quality and beauty of the quilt, if I do say so myself.  And forgive me, but I'm afraid I don't think the pictures on the auction site do the quilt justice.

There are many, many other gorgeous quilts being offered. Here's the link for the general auction site. Go buy a beautiful quilt and give hope to women who are being freed from the sex trade in India!

Round 2 of the auction should be online by this evening. Even more beautiful quilts, including Kandyce's.

Lots going on around here these days.  Make Welcome classes, quilt sewing, triathlon training, and a backyard project. More later, friends ...

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

"Kolkata Meets Provence"

It's all done and on its way - this quilt I'm calling "Kolkata Meets Provence." Why the name, you ask? (And even if you aren't asking, I'm going to tell you if you read on)  It was like this ...

The quilt design evolved in the making. I described that process here. One day when the squares were being assembled on my design wall a friend came over. Her immediate comment upon seeing them was, "It looks like French Country."  I hadn't made such a connection but as soon as she said it, I pictured tablecloths I'd seen in specialty shops imported from France, linens and fabrics that evoke a particular place and design style.

I embarked on a little quilt related research project into just what we mean by French Country when we are referring to textiles? What is it about those sari fabrics that call to mind Provence?

First, color. Blues, a certain rich golden yellow, and white. Of course, there are other color combinations in fabrics from Provence, but these are very signature colors.

Second, pattern. Small florals, paisleys, stylized flowers, intricate borders.

Here are some examples from the web:



and these last four from a store right here in North Carolina that I had the pleasure of visiting in my quest to learn more about the fabrics of Provence. French Connections, in Pittsboro, is a delightful shop with a mix of French and African fabrics, African baskets, carvings, antiques, and more. I could have spent much longer there than I did. (I was on my way to Chapel Hill and didn't plan nearly enough time to spend in the shop before I was scheduled to meet Joel). It was a feast for the eyes and also a nostalgic journey, bringing to mind shopping in markets in Cameroon and Kenya. I will definitely be going back and would love to meet the shop owners and learn more about their NC/France/African connections. 
Scroll up and down and then look back at the picture of the quilt. See what I mean about the French country/Provence design colors and motifs? And how they show up in the sari fabrics I received for this year's auction quilt?
But there's more ... there's a history here that is represented by these fabrics and I've started to understand a bit of that, too.  In the pre-industrial era, India was well known for the quality and beauty of its handwoven and hand-dyed and stamped textiles. By the early 17th century, these textiles began arriving in France, via the port of Marseilles. Known as Les Indiennes, they became quite popular among both the common folks and the royal court and a copycat French fabric industry sprang up. The design motifs, Indian in origin, became the signature style of Provence.
You can read more of this history, here and here. I've also read a bit about Indian fabric production and importation into France in a book Coty received for his birthday.


In reading about Indian textile production, my mind has wandered back to the day in the summer of 2009 when we visited a small Indian handloom and hand block-printing fabric factory. If I can find those pictures, I'll post some of them.

So many connections in the making of this quilt, probably much more than you wanted to know, but I have not only enjoyed the process of making this time around, but found the making greatly enriched by the recollections, online and in person fabric design search, and history study its making has prompted.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Just the facts

Well, that was a bit of fun. I fooled at least two of my children and quite a few of you. Thanks for indulging my April Foolery. But now, here are the facts ...

-I do have RA. I do take Enbrel. I am very happy with how I feel since starting this medication last November. It has helped me a great deal. In fact, I feel good enough to train now. I didn't last summer. I was in bad shape, lots of pain, and as my rheumatologist told me, I'd forgotten what it felt like to not hurt all the time. It is a blessing to have my joints back. Whenever I see the ad with Phil, I feel like giving him a high-five. You go, Phil!

-I am training for the Tri Latta sprint triathlon in June. Excited, nervous, working hard to be ready for it. I firmly believe that the training helps my RA. Exercise is one of the best ways to maintain joint mobility. I feel so much better when I move and as the training effect increases, training harder, longer, and faster is also feeling better.

-No sponsorships ... though perhaps I should ask. Maybe Team Estrogen would like to outfit a Boomer athlete.

-The first and last paragraphs were true. I am 57 and training is not a walk in the park, but it is worth every. single. minute of gasping for breath on a long uphill, sporting sweaty, helmet head hair after a bike ride, and going into the grocery store looking like a raccoon with goggle impression lines on my face for an hour or so after a long swim. Worth it all. And, my friends, everything I said about Coty is absolutely true. He helps me keep going in so many ways. His encouragement and training wisdom are invaluable to me. I am incredibly thankful for this man.

Oh, and I do drink turmeric tea and massage arnica cream into my joints. Even though I take meds, deep down I'll always be crunchy, granola.

See you back here again soon.


Breaking the silence ...

Well, it’s been mighty quiet here on the blog for a while, but it doesn’t mean that nothing’s been happening. Quite the contrary.  As you faithful blog readers know, I am training for another triathlon, this time a true sprint tri with a 750 yard open water swim, a 17 mile bike ride, and a 5k run. For a 57 year old woman with rheumatoid arthritis, training is not a walk in the park. 

This time around though, I’ve got major help and the main reason the blog’s been so quiet of late is that I haven’t trusted myself not to spill the beans before the time was right. But I’ve been given the go ahead and so today, I can make a pretty exciting announcement!!!

As you know, being a triathlete isn’t cheap. Of course, it’s not quite as expensive as horse racing – my bike doesn’t require daily feeding or vet care – but it does require special triathlon tires. And, the bike, to begin with, is a big investment. No clunky mountain bike or fitness hybrid for the serious triathlete. No, you’ve got to have a lightweight carbon or titatium frame, aerobars for helping to maintain the maximum wind resistant, anti-drag posture, and of course, clip in pedals and speed Velcro triathlon cycling shoes. It adds up, folks. Fast! But I am pleased to be able to announce today that I am being sponsored by the good folks at Bike Nashbar, who are supplying me with their top of the line triathlon racing bike, fitted out with all the fancy jazz an aspiring triathlete could wish for. In addition, the leading company in women's triathlon apparel, Team Estrogen, is outfitting me! I know, they could've come up with a better name, but woohooo! No dowdy racing duds for me, baby. The smart women designers at TE are coming out with a special Boomer line for women in their 50’s and are providing me with both training and racing gear. The icing on the cake with this deal is that they will send a photographer to the TriLatta race in June and yours truly will be appearing in their late summer catalog. Crazy, right?!!!! I, of course, will break the glass ceiling, not of gender, but of age, when I appear as the oldest model athlete they’ve featured to date! Yay for Boomer athletes.

That’s the bike portion. For my swim, I’ll be sporting the latest in gps technology for open water swimming. You know that in a pool swim, you swim straight because you can see the lines at the bottom of your lane. In open water swimming, however, you’re swimming blind. Lake water ain’t clear and their sure aren’t any lane lines. So, Iolite has come up with a nifty devise that clips right onto your swim goggles. It has a gps tracker and little LED lights to tell you when you’re veering off course.  This is such a great advance in open water swimming. No more sticking your head up to sight the buoys, no more awkward zigzag swimming. Iolite is, of course, also interested in Boomer athletes and particularly women. We seem to be hot demographic for marketing these days. I’ll sport a little Iolite logo sticker on  my swim cap and who knows, if I win my age group because of an awesome swim time, maybe I’ll even tattoo their logo on my shoulder before the next tri.   

Finally, to sponsor the running portion, and indeed providing the bulk of my training sponsorship, I am super, super excited to be teaming up with Phil. Yes, if you clicked that link, you may be stunned, but yes, it’s THAT Phil. 3 time Masters champion, amiable, sorta pudgy, good-guy Phil Mickelson. If you watch Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune, where the ads are aimed at the aging population, or if you watch the golf channel, you’ve seen the ads and you know that Phil suffers from psoriatic arthritis. But if you’ve seen the ads, you also know that, like me, Phil uses Enbrel. Well, sometime last year when I saw that ad, I got to thinking ... maybe Enbrel would like to support a little no-name person like me. I mean, Phil’s great, but he’s a pro golfer and not everybody can be a pro golfer. But what if Enbrel sponsored a little person, a Boomer woman trying her best to stay in shape and not let the ravages of RA stop her. Indeed, why not sponsor this person in her athletic endeavors and encourage others to pursue active lifestyles as an important part of their arthritis management.

So, I contacted Enbrel, and after a month or so of emails back and forth, phone calls, and a skype interview, they decided to sponsor me. Can you believe it??? Me and Phil. Phil and me. Now, don’t get too excited. I don’t think they’re planning any major advertising campaign with us together, but hey, I do get to wear their hat and a nice little sponsorship armband when I run. And they, too, are coming to the race to do a little filming and will be working up one of those “Patient Perspective” videos for their website. Pretty cool, huh.
It is also a little weird, because I never, ever, ever, ever in a million years thought I’d be advertising for a DRUG company, of all things. Me, the person who doesn’t like to go to the doctor or take medicine. Me, the hippy, granola, crunchy girl who drinks turmeric tea and massages arnica cream into sore joints. Oh, well, you never know what surprises life will throw at you. Getting RA was a bad surprise, but this Enbrel sponsorship gig is a pretty sweet, totally unanticipated surprise that makes it possible for me to train at the highest level.

I have, of course, saved the best shout out to last. I wouldn’t be doing any of this if it wasn’t for the unfailing, unflagging, constant, continual support and encouragement of Coty. (How'd you like that alliteration?!) He helps me all the time with training plans; he encouraged me through the winter to get out on my bike; he takes me to to the park and makes me do sprint workouts (I don’t like him so much when he's shouting at me to get my knees higher and run, faster, faster, faster ... but I so appreciate the coaching!); we go on long bike rides together and I ride behind him, encouraged on by his cycling shirt that says “Enjoy the Ride” on the back; he gave me a super nice bike for Christmas and he keeps it adjusted, oiled, and tuned and he always checks my tire pressure : )  His own discipline and determination in staying fit as a baby boomer with two knee surgeries in the past and the aches and pains that come with a life of athletic endeavors is a model for me. I aspire to be so disciplined.  So, the biggest, loudest, most enthusiastic, most loving shout out goes to Coty. And that, my friends, unlike all the preceding paragraphs, is no April Fools! Wink, wink.

Just reviving the tradition of years past ... here and here.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sari quilt process

I am endlessly fascinated by the process of making quilts. This latest quilt for the upcoming Sari Bari 2015 Quilt Auction is no exception. I received my saris in the mail and was less than impressed with the selection of recycled saris that had come my way. They were dark, mostly navy and white plus two that were mustard orange yellow. The prints were mostly large, except for one small floral print. The only thing I could think to do was ditch the yellows and go with blue and white. Like Delft.  Like my lovely blue and white plates, collected over time and hung on the wall in our big room. Surely, with perhaps a tone on tone white fabric and the blues, I could make a go of it. Perhaps, but I felt a bit skeptical.

Thankfully, the Sari Bari Quilt Auction quilters are a generous lot. On our facebook group, several women offered me saris in different colors and then to my great delight, I found out that three other women from my quilt guild, The Charlotte Modern Quilt Guild, were also making sari quilts this year. We arranged to bring our fabrics to the guild meeting and we made some trades. I ended up with some lighter blues as well as some smaller florals and interesting designs.

My idea began to change. I started seeing photos on said facebook group page of some of the quilt blocks that were being made. I was inspired by the ways in which women were highlighting the design elements of the saris by isolating them with fancy cutting and surrounding them with border fabrics. Hmmm???

Next, I started thinking about plates. As I said, I have a small collection of blue and white plates. Some of them have borders around the edges. The saris have borders around the edges. Hmmmm? Another design option. Highlight the sari borders by using them around central squares.

I started cutting. Fancy cutting interesting shapes within the saris and strip cutting borders. I cut out a couple of larger design elements and framed them in white. And then the quilt started to take shape.

The quilt now has a central medallion which was one of the larger shapes that I cut and framed. I started placing my "plates," some with plain centers and interesting borders, others with white borders and interesting centers, around the medallion. My friend, Amber, came over and helped me move blocks around. We turned them on point. We played with color and design arrangement. And I kept making blocks.

In the process, I posted some pictures and asked about setting the blocks on point around the center medallion. I was beginning to think this was the way to go. I've never done anything on point, so I had to learn. I read some tutorials, watched some videos, and learned about the math of side and corner setting triangles. This, my friends, is truly amazing. Anyone who knows me knows that I am NOT a math person. But dabbling in the math of the quilt was fun. Hypotenuses, formulas to determine triangle sizes, and the like.

At one point, I pulled out graph paper and colored pencils. Drawing a picture helped me get a better handle on what I wanted to do. It also helped me understand the math. And coloring. Who doesn't like coloring. It's been far too long since I've done any coloring and it was fun.

I am closing in on finishing the quilt now. I have decided on block arrangement. I've cut and interfaced and starched. I've stitched and trimmed and pressed. I have one more row of blocks to complete so that the center medallion isn't exactly center from top to bottom. That way, as it drapes on a bed, it can hang a little below the edge. You know what I mean, right?

Then I have those side and corner setting triangles to do, but they will not be as hard as I thought. So, I'm closing in on finishing the top. And then there are the backing fabric and quilting decisions to be made. The process continues ...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Just the stats ... and a little more

This wasn't my best workout week of the month. I got busy and lazy on Thursday and Friday (excuses, not reasons) and I didn't make it to the pool at all. Again, just couldn't muster the umph to get there. But, it was my longest distance week, since I went on two longer rides - 17.67 and 18.65. Don't you like the tenths and hundredths of miles. That's what happens when you record workouts on a phone app with gps mileage calculations. Right down to the hundredths. They add up.

Anyway, here's the lowdown on tri-training for the month of January. I'm happiest with the cycling. I went twice a week for three of the four weeks this month and starting increasing my mileage. I didn't think I'd be able to ride this much in January, but we've had plenty of high 40, 50 degree, sunny days and I've managed to get out on my bike. Yay! My goal for February: at least one 25 mile ride and two rides a week, weather permitting!

I need to swim more. My goal for February: swimming twice a week and adding open water swim drills each workout.

Walking/running was fine. I'm still on track with my Couch to 5K program and fairly happy with the progress. My new running shoes should come in this week and that will undoubtedly make me run faster, jump higher ... all that good stuff. My goal for February: stay on track with the C to 5K; do a hill workout once a week. (I hate hills, this will be good for me, right?!)

So, here are the stats for January:

Swimming: 4 swims, 3.63 miles (256 laps)
Cycling: 7 rides, 111.63 miles
Walking/running: 14 workouts, 41.19 miles

For a grand total in January of 25 workouts and 156.45 miles.

Not a bad start to the year. Hoping to up those numbers in February.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Riding, riding

We have had two absolutely gorgeous January days with afternoon temps in the 60's. Oh, I do love North Carolina. Snow is wonderful, for sure, and I hope we get a big snowstorm that sends everyone scurrying to the grocery store for milk and bread and closes everything down for a couple of days. I'd be just fine with that. But, goodness, what is not to love about these sunny, blue sky, warm-ish days right at the beginning of the year. Especially this year, when I am trying hard to bike through the winter. Sure has been easy this week.

I did a hill workout yesterday. We found brand new road only a mile away. It supposedly goes through a business park, but there are only a couple of businesses there yet, so very little traffic. Mostly, it is bordered by woods and a cow pasture. Along a one mile stretch of the road, there are a couple of substantial hills so it is the perfect place for a shorter, intense hill workout. That's what I did yesterday.

Today, Coty and I went on a longer ride. Well, longer for me. It was an easy ride for him. 19 miles on the country roads near us. We wore shorts. Horses in their pastures along the way seemed happy to be out in the sun. The chorus frogs were singing. Very little traffic. Coty wears a cycling shirt that says "enjoy the ride" on the back. It's nice to pedal hard behind him and see that shirt. I certainly did enjoy my ride today.

I'm getting used to my new bike. It is so much lighter and feels more responsive. I think it needs a few minor adjustments, but it's a real improvement over the Trek fitness bike that I started riding on in 2012.

I am beginning to feel a little more confident about the Tri Latta race in June. The swim should be fine. The bike portion longer than other sprint tri's I considered, but it will be OK. It's that run that has me scared. My couch to 5K program is moving along fine, but I'm still wondering how I'm going to run a 5k after cycling 17 miles. Training. It's all about training. Consistent plugging away at it in these next few months. Not hard at all on a day like today!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sewing, sewing, sewing ...

(sorry, fuzzy)

My machine's been humming away.

A few weeks ago, I decided to put together a quilt for Levi's birthday. I've been collecting cowboy fabrics for a while so when I got going, it came together pretty fast.

I started with a center medallion of fancy cut cowboy patches with blue sashing and a braided rope fabric frame. Then the flying geese, which I love, and a plaid from my stash ... and it just kept growing from there. I'm hand quilting it now. That's a new skill for me, but since I got a free quilting frame that was being given away at my last guild meeting, I figured it was time to learn.

The Cowboy quilt was "unwrapped" over skype on Levi's birthday on Monday. A bit more quilting to do and it will be on the way to that sweet grandboy.

Next up. Rice bag play.

I am experimenting with rice bags for the next season of Make Welcome sewing. Tote bags. Wrist clutches. It's been fun and I'm learning as I go. You'll probably be seeing more rice bags in the months to come. Our Burmese students eat a lot of rice and they bring their rice bags to class. So far, we've upcycled them into pillows and a few tote bags. We've only used the burlap ones so far but today I played with the plastic fiber bags. Ironing is tricky.  Too hot and it melts. We'll see.

Tomorrow I get to go and talk to a local quilt group about Make Welcome. What a privilege!