Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How different the world is with a smart phone.


I have been putting off the smart phone transition everyone else has done for years because of the costs which seemed much higher than a land line and less reliable during emergencies. I recall that during the events of Sept. 11, 2001 here in Washington DC that the news reported that people trying to use their smart cell phones overloaded the system towers and couldn't get through to anyone. I thought that was a great reason not to buy into the expensive programs that I didn't understand. The pushy advertising also turned me off to the trend. Eventually however I got a "pay as you go" phone to carry in an emergency with me in the car or walking around.
Pay Phone on the metro platform 2010. 

It became clear that people no longer would stop on the side of the road if you broke down to offer help or a ride to a pay phone and public pay phones were disappearing or broken everywhere. Since I drive an older car, the thought of being stuck was what got me to buy into the Star Trek style flip phone. With this fairly inexpensive toy-phone I enjoyed having a way to contact people when I was meeting them out in the city and felt confidant I could and did get help from AAA when I needed. Over the years Verizon landline division (they are separate companies now) jacked the price of land line service up higher and higher without adding any new features, only over taxing my meager income, while the Verizon wireless offered so many things including constant access to the Internet and everything that comes with it so the big stumbling block was to take the leap to the new device and to have enough money to buy the first phone. This past Christmas when asked what I wanted I decided it was time to be an iPhone 6 user and asked for that as my favored gift of the season. So the culture shift came for me when the new year began...

I sketch on metro rides to and from downtown and at some point in the last 15 years we began to notice people were using these smart cell phones everywhere all the time. Checking out of the boring ride home or downtown they sit with all their attention directed at the hand held device. They made easy targets for sketches as they didn't move much and they didn't look up at what I was doing. That was kind of fun but often the hands moved a lot making illustrating them more challenging. I still prefer a rider with a book or a newspaper or just sleeping.

 I grew more interested in these smart phones when social media began pulling bloggers away from their blog posts and over to platforms of image sharing that did not admit old fashioned users of desktop or laptop computers to see nor post images. I was stuck writing my blog posts to share stories and images in a more thoughtful way which might be considered literate next to the new ways.
That opened up eventually and now you can look at Instagram images and posts via those vintage household devices but it's not as immediate as having it all in the palm of your hand. Clearly smart phones also have a camera now which makes sharing experiences instantly very simple, almost de rigueur but from the other side of the metro car it isn't clear what all the excitement is about and how it holds on to the rider's interest so completely.




 Sometimes I see people just holding their smart phones not using them for anything but clutching it like a pair of gloves that one doesn't want to misplace when facing cold weather...
 Others zone out while listening to music, pod casts and the new books on "tape" that are read to you out loud by some skilled actor; great for us dyslexics.

 Often people are just flipping through this and that, emails, song choices or even talking to people while they are on the go. This can be very disruptive on a quiet metro car or walking down the street its queer to hear someone talking and not know if they are addressing you or some unseen person over their private airwaves.
 They use them standing up and seated and walking around even while driving cars and buses or in some sad cases we have seen on the news while driving trains... This fellow all suited up held his in his groin covering up his device but equally focused on the text or what ever he was connecting with on his smart cell phone.
Children have them too filling time rather than looking around at the world they daydream in other places. This year research has been presented and more is being done on the impact of so much time looking at a screen and the lack of downtime or what we called being bored. It seems that being bored is a valuable time for your brain to be creative! So the researchers suggested turning those ever present devices of entertainment and distraction off once in a while and just daydreaming the old fashioned way to fill time. 
Anyway Keith and I joined the 21st century now that the cost is less for more but I am trying to be mindful of how I use the new smart phone. Lots of pictures to share and lots of new applications to learn to use and connect up with others. The world is different with all these connections and some are great others like instant news of a beheading and murderous world unrest and misery less so but it's the new world we live in. I suppose if there is a disaster that I can use text messaging to contact my dear ones. Email worked from my desktop in 2001 when the cell telephones did not; we just have to keep a hard wire connection to some communication device at home now to feel safe. 
Now sadly I do less sketching on metro trips but I was brave enough to snap a random person's portrait while riding downtown last week. I adore this lady and her funny hat which was actually about as funny as my own. If I had a sketch book and pen I would have drawn her without a doubt... maybe I still can from the iPhone photograph.  


selfie on the metro platform wearing my funny fur hat and coat. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Saturday Arts field trip to DAR

Saturday I was lucky to be on a DC Modern Quilt Guild field trip with a few of my many quilting friends to the Daughters of the American Revolution or DAR museum. We went to see the current exhibition titled Eye on Elegance Early Quilts of Virginia and Maryland. The weather was perfect for a museum day too gray to feel bad about being inside and just warm and dry enough to make getting out easy. 

 The quilts are fantastic intricate works of art which retain their vibrant colors in many cases. They are all shown in amazing detail on the web gallery where you can learn lots of details about each quilt and the maker and zoom in to look at the details from the comfort of your home desk or lap top computers. Note you need to let the images load up fully to see the details on your computer screen but it doesn't take long.  


This is a copy that Jane is working on and she brought it along to compare the results of her work to the original. We love the results and are encouraging her to keep going. Only 6 more rows to go it looks like to me to finish the whole top. 

An Ohio Star quilt pattern one of the few quilts that had a design we see still in quilting but this one was remarkable for the fine quilting details. In the top and bottom hourglasses they used a double line of tiny stitches to create that interesting visual texture to contrast the diamonds in the four solid white blocks. Detail shot below.  

This was one that I really got a kick out of and it turns out not only is it made of wools and corduroy but it is made from Men's clothing scraps by the wife of a descendant  German trained tailor using a German technique called inlaid patchwork. No quilting  stitching in this quilt that I could see but the hand stitching of the pieces shows. Some top stitching adding details like hearts and flowers as felt appliqué. 1790-1810 are the dates given so a very old quilt to be made of wool we know that moths love to eat...

This block of fruits and watermelon with a blue knife and birds caught my eye. I love the blues and reds in these quilt blocks from the Album quilts of Maryland. 


Here if you blow it up is a fancy lady riding a white horse lower left of the image and these flowers in the cornucopia vase are embellished with top stitched embroidery. 


This is a screen shot from the museum showing the entire quilt I couldn't get in the museum. White and a rich pink printed fabric and a center medallion appliqued... 
The part that I loved in this quilt was the actual quilting which was very fine shown in my detail shot below. 
 The second screen capture image of this center medallion quilt with the vine and these great applique grass blades surrounding the edges. It also had very fine quilting all over the top.



 After we enjoyed talking about our favorite quilts and investigating them we went to lunch all 18 of us got individual lunch treats at Cozi on 17th St. NW which was about all that is open on Saturdays in that area around the White-house. The usual places there are crowded during the week with government workers so Sat. is a good time to go see the show and metered parking right around the museum was plentiful believe it or not.

I enjoyed this field trip with my quilting friends and I wouldn't mind going back to look again. Maybe I should undertake a copy quilt top like Jane so I have a good reason to keep going back, it's open through September 5th 2015.
More information:
http://www.dar.org/museum 

Saturday Arts day


This week we were excited to go see a free presentation of the Washington Ballet Company introducing their newest ballet based on Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow published in 1820 this short story is one that has been a great halloween scary story for many generations. It has lots of "Dutch" influence and kindled my interest in the Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam as a youth when I was studying ballet myself.
This presentation was inspired in part by the paintings at the Smithsonian American Art Museum which hosted this presentation in their great Kogod courtyard under the fantastic canopy installed a few years ago over the space between the two buildings of SAAM and National Portrait gallery.
The choreographer told us that the costumes for the laundresses were inspired by this painting of a the  Young Moravian Girl circa 1755-60 in the collection which we found later and photographed. 

 What ever the inspiration these dancers were channeling joy and pilgrim charm... they warmed up for us and later danced for us sections of the ballet with introductions about the various sections. They also introduced themselves and I was surprised to discover that one was Japanese, Ukrainian and the third is Brazilian! They are soon discovered and accused of witchcraft.
Ballet is always a drama with tragic undertones and romance currents run a plenty. 
They apparently get the usual Salem treatment for witches and come back in the second act as spirit witches with great white wigs! Ichabod Crane the protagonist in the short story is a fellow who wears yellow knickers in this production and is set upon by these spirits while reading some ancient book on witch craft he found somewhere in sleepy hollow.

The Ballet has a funny side too with a drunken bartender who has a duet with Ichabod which I got a short video recording of here. It's a nice dance for a couple of guys and Ichabod is the sort of sober one trying to keep the bartender on his feet.  video
While we were looking for the two paintings after we saw the show we discovered a few things that brought quilts of old to mind and lo and behold in the next room a Mennonite quilt.




Mennonite Quilt with embroidered flowers about 1880 cotton 
After the ballet and the roaming through the American Art to find these treasures Keith and I enjoyed great gourmet submarine sandwiches at Taylor Gourmet on 400 block of K. St. NW. Another great Saturday of art adventures. 


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Saturday out for arts

 A trip to the movies with my partner Keith Stanley weekend before last was to a great Artist film about an artist I didn't care much about but was curious to learn more. It was to see Mr. Turner and the friends who said it's a must see were right it was full of stuff I love, drama, costumes, historic settings and in this case the story of a painter who had a big impact on artists who have followed him.  It's nominated for Oscars and even without that was an educational experience full of beautiful cinematography.

After the movie we went for lunch at our favorite downtown tea house called Teaism where they serve all sorts of teas and Asian influenced foods. We both enjoyed a heaping plate of Korean Beef Barbecue with brown rice and a Chinese Cabbage salad followed by a Salty chocolate pecan oatmeal cookie! Too good so it's a good thing we walked six miles over 12,000 steps around downtown before the movie and after lunch. 

Teaism has great big Koi fish in a pond at the base of the lower level stairs that always want to come greet anyone who comes near their home. After we said hello I suggested we continue down the block and go see some real Turner paintings at National Gallery of Art just a couple blocks away. My favorite Turner in the collection of about six is this one of a moon lit night showing a pier and port where coal ships delivered coal from the mines of United Kingdom to London. 



detail of the lower right corner of the full painting above. 
If you get a chance to see it in a theater it's going to be better than on a small screen with all the spectacular Turner like skies...

Monday, January 5, 2015

zipper bags (with an update 2015)


Finally I had guts and time to try my first zipper and bag this past weekend while nursing my nasty head cold with antibiotics and mourning my broken molar tooth. Regrets to the Christmas caroling party I missed while I got completely caught up in the excitement of making something new with new tools and techniques home, all alone.
It began months ago with a inspiring blog post that made me think it might be simple, on Linda Fasules "I Finally Have Time" blog.
I bought a zipper foot for my antique Singer Featherweight machine and some zippers with thread to match some of my fabrics. Then they all sat in the bag for many weeks as I learned more about what I needed. I had collected some of the wrong materials which I discovered in emails with Linda. In any case the right stuff was collected several times over until it was just a matter of getting the time and intestinal fortitude to try inserting a zipper. My mom says they are not easy for her but "you should be able to do it with your skills" implying I am a better sewist than her. I wasn't so sure but eventually I dove into research on Google and YouTube and found out how to use the zipper foot and how to sew in a zipper.  Keith got off on his holiday travels and I set to work. I followed the free pattern on Noodlehead  to build the whole pouch, piece by piece while learning a few things about zippers as I went along. In the end I was pretty happy with my first zipper installation and the resulting bag that I am using right now to store a big fist full of loose charging wires and cables as well as mini speakers and my old iPod.





Now that my illness is past and the holidays are too and I have given away one bag as Christmas gift. I can share the whole story as it has developed into more of a rainbow of fun bags than when I sat down to write this post back on the weekend before Christmas.
I was home alone some of that week before Christmas sick but slowly recovering and I had a collection of zippers and lots of fabrics to choose from to make more zipper bags. I tested out shifts in details of how the batting went in with the zippers and the length of the "tab" on the end of the loose zipper eventually adding a folded loop to use as a handle or hook to hang the bag up. This feature of the zipper hanging out rather than embedded in the walls of the bag allows the top to fully open in a way the other bags do not . I finished up one amethyst Downton Abbey bag using the fabric line designed to show elements of Edwardian to Deco fabric designs inspired by the popular PBS Masterpiece series we watch. I wanted this bag to be special and to incorporate four fabrics from the Andover's Women's Downton Abbey line so I made half-square-triangles to run on the top side of the bag and used the dark art deco black with gray fan print for the bottom. Inside is a black feather print on creamy white for the lining.

Then I took off in a more colorful direction and added some Kaffe Fassett Studio blues and turquoise solid to go with the peacock blue-green zipper! Followed fast on by a very pretty big print Toile de Jouy fabric I found and fell in love with a while back. That got a blue bottom and has a castle on one side with a tree that meets the same tree on the other side where a boy stands with a fish trap he has just pulled from the passing river... It's got a white print on creamy lining which Linda schooled me makes it easier to find things inside your bag if the lining is a light color. 



Next another blue Kaffe Fassett bag this time with bright blue, a black zipper and a gray modern brushed printed lining fabric. 


Last, but not the least, as I think they just keep getting better as I make them. Last came Coral with the special fabrics from Finch Sewing Studio in Leesburg, VA I got last summer in Coral red and pinks. I  find that the last one I made is always my favorite one. Do you have that experience when you make things?