Saturday, February 28, 2009

hawaiian quilting

while i was in hawai'i over january i decided i wanted to try my hand at hawaiian quilting. quilting has a rich history in hawai'i, intricately wound up with the social and political forces that have shaped what hawai'i has gone through in the past century. as i understand it, the quilting craft came to hawai'i with the missionaries. prior to the fabric quilt influence, bedspreads in hawai'i were made from kapa - tree bark, beaten and felted together and decorated with inked stamp designs. when hawaiian women picked up the fabric quilting craft, they created a unique quilting technique and design that is readily identifiable as particularly hawaiian.

hawaiian quilt design motifs reflect nature - often plant forms, and they radiate out from the center in a geometric design. this effect is created by folding and cutting fabric like you would a paper snowflake - which unfolds into a multi-faceted design. hawaiian quilts are hand appliqued - meaning you stitch the snowflake design by hand onto a background, and then the quilting is done by hand as well, often echoing the shape of the center pattern, like ripples of water.
because the craft was taking form in hawai'i amidst serious political and social upheaval in the form of first missionary and then capitalist influences, there is an interesting story to be told in the quilts made by hawaiian women.
during the period of the illegal u.s. overthrow of the sovereign hawaiian government, you saw many quilts in hawai'i incorporate the hawaiian flag into their design. because loyalty to the sovereign hawaiian government (and eventually hawaiian culture itself) was forbidden during that period, many of these "beloved flag" quilts were made to be reversible, with the flag motif hidden underneath. the most exciting thing i learned today is that queen lili'uokalani made an incredible quilt during the 10 months she was imprisoned in 'iolani palace, following the u.s. coup that deposed her and her efforts to lead her people to reinstate their sovereign government. in the center of the quilt are the words, "imprisoned at 'iolani palace ... we began the quilt here ..." it's worth clicking to take a closer look at the details, she embroidered dates of the events of the overthrow, her close friends and supporters' names, the hawaiian flag and kalakaua coat of arms. i love acts of creative acts of resistance - and this beautiful work blows my mind in a number of ways.

so i really can't follow that historical legacy with my own modest first attempt at hand quilting, but that is what this blog is about - so here goes.
i chose the lehua pattern for my quilt block. lehua is the red blossom of the ohia lehua tree - which is one of the kinolau, or body forms of the fire goddess pele. the ohia lehua tree is one of the first plants to grow on recent lava flow beds. i wrote my honors thesis about pele and the hawaiian struggle against geothermal energy development, which my mom helped me with editing, and i was making the quilt for her so i figured she's appreciate it.
cutting out the design like a snowflake was really satisfying - an entirely new technique for me. however, i was running late to catch my flight back home when i chose to cut out the design (i know, not the best time to do craft work, especially with a new project - but i really wanted to have some handwork to do on the long plane ride) so i ended up breaking one of the cardinal principles of snowflake cutting - leave the middle corner intact. so when i unfolded my design on the plane i realized my parts were all disconnected since i hadn't placed the middle point on the corner to cut. oops. marty helped me problem-solve that situation by creating the star-shaped space in the middle of the flowers while allowing them to "high five" on the edges.

i actually think this ultimately improved the design, though next time i'll know to take more time with my cutting. the applique piece actually went pretty quickly - i was probably halfway finished with it by the end of the flight, but hand quilting the rest of the piece took me another month. you're supposed to measure a finger's width between your echo lines when you're quilting around your design, but i couldn't seem to keep my lines that far apart, so i ended up doing a whole lot of close together lines, which took a while.

i was also learning to make those tiny tiny stiches by hand. the book i was reading said expert quilters get about 10 stitches in per inch. i definitely was not achieving that level of accuracy, but i did make a lot of stitches.

here's what the underside of the quilt looks like with those stitches.

ultimately i made the quilt square into a pillow, since i wasn't about to hand stitch an entire quilt, and i think pillows are more functional and comforting than wall hangings.
mom got it in the mail this week and was very excited. in fact, my coworkers say they could hear her phone excitement from the other side of the room.

this is the card i sent with the package. thanks to hannah for the fabric.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

love day cooking

valentines day was a week ago, but if you're like me you're always looking for ideas to store away for next valentines day, so i thought i'd share the menu from our meal. we decided to stay in and cook at home this year - i think the hype around going out to dinner for valentines is crazy and i wanted no part of that. but i did want to celebrate the day by trying out some new recipes.

oven grilled flank steak - recipe from nytimes food blog bitten. this is a great and easy way to get the outsides of your steak nice and singed on the stove and then cooked in the oven. plus i always like a dish in a cast iron pan that doesn't need to dirty extra dishes. i especially like the part of the recipe that says, "when the smoke becomes intolerable, take it off the stove" that didn't happen, but i prepped myself to detach the smoke alarm in case it did.

here are the steaks smothered in carmelized shallots.

and we made a trip over to the fish market in rockridge to buy fresh scallops, which i marinaded for a moment in a passionfruit, lavender, maple, sesame oil sauce and then seared on the stove.

sauteed broccoli & collards with bacon.

smashed potatoes - of all the things on the table that night, these definitely were the most discussed, as in "i only want to eat potatoes like this for the rest of my life." more on that later.

and finally, i attempted a molten chocolate souffle, recipe from bitten again. i was skeptical of the short baking time, so i left them in there a little longer which kind of ruined the molten effect, but they were still tasty. especially with homemade whipped cream. and i'm a fan of anything you can make in a rammekin.

so the "smashed potatoes" recipe comes from pioneer woman, via veganyumyum. they call them "crash potatoes," but i like my name better - i think it's more accurate and it's a reference to a phrase i used to say as a child every time i came to the top of an escalator. not sure what that was about... ah, kids.
they are really everything that's good about potatoes: they have the crispiness of homefries, the tenderness of mashed potatoes, and the nutrious skins still on like baked potatoes. plus they're way healthier than the way i make mashed potatoes because they only have olive oil and spices drizzled on them. fabulous.

so the idea is: you boil the potatoes whole (i used the pressure cooker for the first time with potatoes and it worked great in 10 mins), then you lay them on a baking sheet and cut a little "x" on the top of them to help them smash more gracefully. then you take your potato masher (or a fork) and smash them. then drizzle them with olive oil and spices - in this case i used rosemary, salt, a little lavendar,black pepper, and a little crushed red pepper - just because it was valentines day and i felt like we should have the color. then you bake them in a hot oven (450 degrees) for about 20 mins or as long as they are still getting crispy and not burnt.

here's my little romantic decorative craft project, thanks to mayamade for the inspiration. i cut out heart shapes from brown paper bags and then sewed them into strings using a running basting stitch on the sewing machine, which was really fun.

thanks to sele for the food photo documentation.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

updates: cleaners and clementines

i recently started a full time job with breast cancer action, which is great and i'll have more to say on that later. for now i have a couple of quick updates on recent posts. for one, i saw this recipe for candied whole clementines, which i think may be even better than the citrus peels i have been making recently.

second, i was on a conference call last week convened by women's voices for the earth, in which we were discussing the facts and myths of disinfectants. from that call i got a lot of good information, and they provide some great resources about making your own cleaners - as well as information about what's toxic about commercial disinfectants.
in fact, they have everything you need to host a "green cleaning party", including recipes for all your basic household cleaners. so i had to post this update to my last post with those links, because it improves the quality of my information significantly. for instance, they answer the question: how well do they work?
as well as provide information that i realized i was a little foggy on about household cleaners' effects on human health. one of the things i learned recently that really stands out in my mind is that chemical limit standards are set by what supposedly won't harm an adult male - but the effects on children (and pregnant people, elderly, etc) are entirely different - especially if we're talking about exposure to chemicals during critical windows of development, so what we should be doing is setting limits based on the most vulnerable populations. here's some further info on institutional cleaners and children's health, and tips on sanitizing safely for children.
and because i believe in taking action on things that are important, here's an opportunity to sign the petition for safe cleaning products - calling on Proctor and Gamble, Clorox and others to disclose what chemicals are in their cleaning products.
i read this morning that earthjustice is bringing a lawsuit against Proctor and Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and other companies in new york for the same purpose - to disclose the chemicals in their products, so stay tuned on that front.
as you might expect, the working life is leaving me less time for blogging, but i've still been crafting, so check back for updates.