Davos Trip Report

I attended the World Economics Forum in Davos, Switzerland with a group of faculty from Carnegie Mellon. We were there to be the entertainment — we had earned our (otherwise very expensive) Davos badge by agreeing to present a panel session. I brought my camera (Fujifilm X-T1 with 18 mm lens) and took lots of photos. Here is a selection of photos and some thoughts on the whole Davos experience.

We arrived in Zurich and took the bus (provided by WEF) to Davos. It was about a 2.5 hour drive and the scenery got progressively snowier and more beautiful as we went along. We started meeting our fellow attendees on the bus, including McGill University principal, Suzanne Fortier, who was staying at our hotel, and later invited us to Montreal after return flights to the US were being cancelled.

landing in Zurich, hardly any snow at the airport World Economic Forum Davos bus arriving at the registration center in Davos

We stayed at Club Hotel, a comfortable ski hotel (at high-end luxury hotel prices) at the far end of Davos from the Congress Center. This was the hotel that many of the academic speakers had been assigned to stay at. Across the street was a building with a big sign that said “Bernina.” As an owner of a Bernina sewing machine, I got very excited when I saw it, but it was just an apartment building… no sign of sewing machines. There was a shuttle stop on the corner across from the hotel, and shuttles came by frequently. However, at least once each day I did the 20-minute walk between the Congress Center and the hotel. Most of the daytime events were in and around the Congress Center, but some were in surrounding buildings, and most of the evening events were at hotels around the city.

Club Hotel Davos at Night, WEF 2016DSCF5451Walk the talk sign at WEF 2016

The walk between the hotel and Congress Center took us past the storefronts and fancy hotels on the Promenade. Many companies (and even UC Berkeley) had rented out store fronts for the week. Some had been turned into Cafes where participants could stop in for a free lunch. Facebook had setup a house with a mini-museum that explained that it takes more energy to make a latte than it does to power one person’s Facebook usage for a year. There were police and security guards everywhere, but none seemed to be able to give directions. The best way to navigate was with Google maps, or looking for signposts along the way indicating the direction and walking distance between conference venues.

The Promenade at night, WEF 2016Berkeley storefront on Promenade, WEF 2016Facebook house at night, WEF 2016Facebook house, WEF 2016Signpost outside of the Loft, WEF 2016

The weather was fairly pleasant, all considering. The temperature stayed around the high twenties with no wind. It snowed about every other day. My tall, waterproof leather boots (ECCO Babett 45 GTX) were perfect for the snowy weather, and I could wear them inside all day and was able to avoid carrying shoes around to change into. I was glad I brought a long down coat. With insulated tights, I was able to wear dresses comfortably all week without freezing when I went outside. Inside most buildings it was quite warm. We quickly got used to the process of arriving at a building (on foot or by shuttle); having our badges inspected by armed (but very friendly) guards; loading our bags, laptops, and coats onto the conveyor belt for screening; walking through the metal detector; collecting our bags; sometimes heading outside and then back into another building; scanning our badges; checking our coats (or holding on to them to save time); and finally getting to our destination.

Congress Centre - transportation hub, WEF 2016Lorrie with boots and long coat at transportation hub, WEF 2016Davos WEF middle entryMiddle Entry, WEF 2016Inflated Tunnel into Congress Center Middle Entry, WEF 2016Middle Entry cloak room, WEF 2016Congress Centre with fresh snow, WEF 2016Lorrie at Congress Centre main entrance, WEF 2016

On the first evening I attended the opening ceremony with awards presentations and a concert by Yo-yo Ma and a multi-cultural ensemble. Will.I.Am talked about education and Leonardo DiCaprio discussed global climate change While not exactly an expert in climate change, DiCaprio has apparently contributed a lot of money to the cause, and encouraged others to do likewise. I was surprised to see DiCaprio read his remarks, rarely looking up at the audience (the photo here is the only one I took where he is looking at the audience). Yo-Yo Ma’s performance was amazing, and worth sitting through the speeches to hear.

Hilde Schwab presents Crystal Award to Will.I.Am at WEF 2016 Hilde Schwab presents Crystal Award to Leonardo DiCaprio at WEF 2016 Yo-yo Ma and ensemble performing at WEF 2016 opening session

Following the opening session I found the shuttle to the InterContinental Hotel for the expert reception. Having just arrived, I was still wearing jeans and suddenly felt under dressed. I did not wear jeans again until I left for the airport to go home. Besides learning about Davos fashion, the expert reception was also a good introduction to eating at Davos, where sit down meals are few and far between for those of us not on the VIP lists. Coffee and alcoholic beverages were plentiful, but food required some foraging. We all got very good at spotting and making a bee line for waiters passing tasty, but small, snacks in the Congress Center or at whatever receptions we were attending.

I joined my colleagues, who were talking to John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, and his wife. When I arrived they were having an entertaining conversation about educational videos and it took a while for me to catch on and figure out who he was. John posted a brief video about his Davos experience after he got home.

I spent much of the next day practicing for and being nervous about my own talk. Three colleagues and I had been invited to Davos to do an “Ideas Lab” session, which uses the fun-to-watch but awful to prepare for Pecha Kucha format. We each had five minutes to give a talk with 15 slides (all images, no words), which advanced automatically every 20 seconds. We wrote out scripts weeks in advance and spent hours memorizing the scripts and checking the timing. I give talks and teach classes all the time, so public speaking comes pretty easily to me, but I don’t think I have memorized anything word-for-word since high school. Even the TEDx talk on passwords I gave a couple of years ago was easier to prepare. For my Davos, I made notecards, recorded myself reading my script and listened to myself over and over again, and practiced my talk repeatedly on the plane. The group of us did three rehearsals together before finally doing our session at Davos on Thursday, and again on Saturday. Our session was the Promise and Perils of the Connected Sensors. Two of my colleagues presented upbeat promise talks, one introduced security perils, and I finished out the panel with privacy perils. The talks were recorded and available here. (As you may notice in the video, I had two wireless mics attached to my sleeveless dress. The AV crew was used to putting mics on guys wearing suits, and wasn’t really sure how to attach the mics to me. They didn’t have surgical tape to tape the transmitter to my back so you’ll see one of the transmitters attached to the back of my dress with an antenna sticking up. The other one is in my boot with the wire running up my leg and under my dress.) There was also a scribe who made cool drawings while we talked.

The Ideas Lab session went very well, and we received a lot of positive feedback from attendees. Attendees at our session included a nobel laureate, a Microsoft executive, and Kofi Annan (yes, that’s him in the bottom right photo below). Connected sensors and the Internet of Things were topics that seemed to resonate with a lot of Davos people. Indeed, the toilets near the plenary hall in the Congress Center featured water sprays and dryers that could be controlled wirelessly through tablets mounted on the wall of each stall.

Amy and Lorrie at CMU ideas Lab, WEF 2016Scribe's board at CMU ideas lab, WEF 2016 CMU Ideas Lab session in the Loft, World Economic Forum, Davos 2016 CMU Ideas Lab session in the Loft, World Economic Forum, Davos 2016 CMU Ideas Lab session in the Loft, World Economic Forum, Davos 2016 DSCF5719Congress Centre toilet with remote control, WEF 2016

The CMU President, Subra Suresh, introduced our panel, and the dean of our School of Computer Science, Andrew Moore, participated in another Ideas Lab session that was moderated by NPR correspondent, Joe Palca. Some of our colleagues, including Justine Cassell, got to speak on the big stage in the plenary hall.

Andrew Moore at Nature Ideas Lab session, World Economic Forum, Davos 2016 Andrew Moore at Nature Ideas Lab session, World Economic Forum, Davos 2016Justine, Anthony, Lorrie Amy, Chris, and Andrew after CMU Ideas Lab, WEF 2016Justine Cassell on Staying Human panel at WEF 2016

I attended a lot of sessions in the plenary hall of the Congress Center. This is where most of the heads of state spoke. In four days I saw the following government leaders speak: the Presidents of Switzerland, Cyprus and Mexico; Prime Ministers of Turkey, UK, Israel, and Canada; as well as John Kerry and Joe Biden (who was interesting, but went on much too long). UK Prime Minister David Cameron was the only head of state I saw speak standing in the middle of the stage with no notes, podium, or teleprompter. Benjamin Netanyahu had the funniest comments when he talked about Israel innovation and explained that Jewish Israeli cows make more milk per cow than any other cows and “every moo is computerized.”

DSCF5268 Joe Biden speaking t WEF 2016 DSCF5346 DSCF5349 David Cameron, UK Prime Minister, WEF 2016 DSCF5412 John Kerry, WEF 2016 Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico, WEF 2016

Most thrilling, perhaps, was attending an interactive lunch with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several members of his cabinet. You could sign-up online for interactive lunches and dinners, but many of these events were full by the time academic attendees were allowed to sign up. After seeing that the lunch session I wanted to attend was full I noticed that the Canada lunch still had room so I signed myself up. Lunch was setup at banquet tables for a total of about 60 guests. A member of the cabinet was assigned to each table. When I came into the room I spotted a table that nobody was sitting at, with the name card Trudeau, so I sat down. Prime Minister Trudeau arrived late and when he came in he shook hands with  Naheed Nenshi, the Mayor of Calgary, who was also seated at my table, and then took the microphone and began speaking. Trudeau gave his whole speech standing next to where I was sitting at the table. I snapped several good photos of him against the hotel’s butterfly wallpaper from where I was sitting 2 feet away. He finished his speech and left before I could get a selfie. (I did manage to get a selfie with Nenshi the next day when I ran into him at the Congress Center.) Nenshi was quite entertaining as he MCed the event, inviting the other cabinet members to make brief remarks and asking some pointed questions. I was quite impressed with Trudeau and the other cabinet members, who exhibited an energy and youthfulness that you usually don’t see in American politics. And they are incredibly diverse. Other than Trudeau, the cabinet members joked, they hadn’t brought with them any straight white guys.

DSCF5485 DSCF5497 Lorrie with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi at WEF 2016

My favorite session all week was a panel on “Progress towards Parity” with Melinda Gates,  Sheryl Sandberg, and Justin Trudeau, along with SOHO CEO Zhang Xin and ManpowerGroup CEO Jonas Prising, When asked whether it was difficult to find enough qualified women to make his cabinet 50% women, Trudeau said the only thing difficult was choosing among all the great qualified candidates.

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Other highlights included hearing US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker talk about Safe Harbor on a panel with Microsoft President Brad Smith and others, watching Harvard Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain moderate a panel on the digital economy, and an interactive dinner for women in science. I took some pictures during Zittrain’s session and went up to talk with him afterwards. One of his panelists, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, was eager to get a photo of herself on the WEF stage, so I told her I would send her the photos I had just taken. At the dinner I chatted with Joe Palca and his wife NIH Deputy Director Kathy Hudson, along with danah boyd.

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There was a lot of discussion of refugees at Davos, and I attended an interesting simulation session called “A day in the life of a refugee.” As we entered the room, women were handed headscarves and we were told that for the next half an hour we were to obey the guards. A sound track of machine gun fire played, the lights went out, and we were eventually ushered into small, crowded tents. As we lined up for bread and water, guards took our jewelry and cell phones. It was an interesting simulation, but I think some of the power of the experience was lost as I was crawling around in tents with business executives wearing expensive suits. After the simulation concluded, we heard personal stories  from people who had been refugees themselves or had worked at refugee camps. I found that to be the most compelling part of the session. As they returned our phones and jewelry. the session leader handed us postcards for feedback and asked us to list actions we could take to address the refugee problem. However, there had not been much discussion about what we could actually do.

A Day in the Life of a Refugee, WEF 2016A Day in the Life of aRefugee, WEF 2016 - refugee speaking

I was interviewed for the Swiss public radio in a studio in the local public library, which had been turned into a media house.

Reuters house takes over the Davos library + police stand, WEF 2016  Inside Reuters House (Davos Library), WEF 2016DSCF5333

There were not a lot of sessions related to my research interests. I attended an interactive session in which they talked about the growing number of people who were using ad blockers online. They broke us up into small groups, and I joined the group on “trust and user empowerment.” I was amused at this because I was giving talks on this topic as far back as 1997. When the moderator asked us what companies should do to build trust I suggested that companies should actually be trustworthy and actually empower users. This comment did not go over well with the corporate participates in my group. Later I attended a session on privacy that included a lively discussion by panelists who had  somewhat limited expertise in privacy. A number of questions came up that the panelists didn’t have good answers for. During the audience Q&A I answered some of these questions and received a more positive reception. One of the panelists remarked that I should have been on the panel. I noted that most sessions seemed to follow an unwritten rule that there could be at most one woman or one academic on any panel, so this session was already at quota.

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Between sessions we explored the Congress Center and the nearby Promenade. We discovered that the Microsoft Cafe served lunch. The lounges were good places for people watching, but it was sometimes difficult to find a seat. A few times I went into the plenary hall just so I could sit down and check my email. You never knew who you would run into in the Congress Center. If there were a lot of people with cameras, there was probably someone famous. Following the cameras led me to the Prime Minister of France, and IMF director Christine Lagarde.

Congress Centre with fresh snow, WEF 2016Anthony having lunch at Microsoft Lounge, WEF 2016Central Lounge, WEF 2016IMG_20160121_082519View of the Congress Centre Plenary Bar and Earth Space, WEF 2016  media scrum surrounding Manuel Valls, Prime Minister of France, WEF 2016

The most unexpected celebrity encounter was meeting Yo-Yo Ma and his wife in the hallway of the Congress Center. I was introduced to them, shook hands, and mumbled something about being a computer science professor and having enjoyed his concert. Maybe I pointed to my password dress and said something about passwords. I only regret that I didn’t tell him I co-founded a company called Wombat Security and ask him about the time he was photographed on the floor with a wombat. Yo-Yo Ma was super friendly, and seemed to actually enjoy meeting all the people who were eager to shake his hand.

Mary Suresh with Yo-yo Ma and his wife in Congress Centre, WEF 2016

No Davos experience would be complete without Bono. I didn’t get to meet him, but I did see him on stage from the third row when he appeared briefly to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the (RED) campaign.

Bono  at 10th Anniversary of (RED) campaign, WEF 2016 Bono  at 10th Anniversary of (RED) campaign, WEF 2016

Davos is not a great place for eating or sleeping. Before we arrived we had already received dozens of invitations to evening receptions at hotels around Davos. However, once we arrived we realized that our invitations were to only a small fraction of the parties that were taking place. We were able to talk our way into some of these parties, but many had fairly tight security. There were some interesting breakfast events every day but neither I nor any of my colleagues were able to get up early enough to attend them. CMU sponsored a small party at a local chocolate shop, but big companies and even countries sponsored enormous parties with open bars, food, swag, live music, and robots serving beer. Some hotels had so many parties going on that they posted electronic directories to help people find the parties they were looking for.  Friday night I skipped most of the partying to attend the annual (and somewhat hard to get an invite to) Davos shabbat dinner. Sadly, the celebrities were no shows this year, but I did have an enjoyable evening.

Anthony watching beer robot at Infosys reception, WEF 2016 Chris at PWC party in Belvedere hotel, WEF 2016 Indonesia night, WEF 2016 DSCF5439 DSCF5434 directions to lounges at Belvedere hotel, WEF 2016 KPMG reception, WEF 2016 Shabbat dinner, WEF 2016

The last evening in Davos was a formal soiree with music, a large buffet, and lots of swiss cheese. I wore a floor-length gown and 3-inch heels because I don’t have too many excuses to dress up, and how often do you get to wear a ball gown and pose with two St. Bernards? Unfortunately, we had to leave the ball early to rebook our cancelled flights due to East Coast US snow storm.

Davos Soirée: Jazz and African Rhythms at the InterContinental, WEF 2016 Davos Soirée: Jazz and African Rhythms at the InterContinental, WEF 2016 DSCF5813 BKKL5532

So how was Davos? The event is crazy and amazing, and not like anything I have ever been to before. The closest comparison I can make is South By Southwest. Only Davos is colder and had fewer artists, musicians, hipsters, and free tee shirts. And Southby is a festival and Davos is a place where heads of state go to talk to each other and everyone seems to have an agenda. I didn’t go with an agenda, other than to make it through my talk, take it all in, and help promote Carnegie Mellon. I met some interesting people, heard some interesting talks, saw lots of celebrities, and made a few contacts that may be useful for my research or my career.

Scarves, scarves, and more scarves

DSCF7849Last summer I took photos of a bunch of my favorite paintings by Grandma Gladys (see also this article about her and this TV interview), and then turned them into fabric designs on spoonflower.com. I then turned a couple of my favorite designs into infinity scarves, and when I told Grandma about it, she requested one of each. It has taken me a while to make this happen, but with the help of Jen Primack of Upcycled Designs, I now have a big stack of infinity scarves ready to ship to Grandma. These were all printed by Spoonflower on performance polyester. They each use a half yard of fabric (so you get 2 out of a 1-yard cut). Fabric is folded the long way, sewn in a tube inside out, joined at the ends with a small opening, turned right side out, and the opening stitched closed.

I setup a tripod and took a lot of selfies so you could see all the scarves. Since I had enough fabric for 2 of each, I’m keeping the duplicates of some of my favorites for myself… but so hard to decide!

Tartan Tango, now in scarf form

Lorrie modeling Tartan Tango infinity scarf

A few months ago I got a request from the powers that be at CMU to design a scarf based on my Tartan Tango quilt design that they had commissioned when I was on sabbatical back in 2013. I was happy to oblige. I dusted off my Interleave quilt design software and produced a fabric design based on the quilt. After experimenting with the design in both a large and small size, we settled on the smaller version.

But they wanted 50 of them ASAP, which is well beyond what I could possibly sew in a week (or even a year given my current schedule). So I ordered a huge bolt of fabric from Spoonflower and subcontracted the sewing to Jen Primack of Upcycled Designs.  Jen cut the fabric and sewed it on her serger, and was able to deliver the first half of the order within a few days, and the second half not long after.

I also learned a bit about scarf packaging, and acquired suitable glossy white boxes and gold “stretch loops” for a finishing touch (yes, that is the proper term for those gold elastic cords, tied in a bow, that decorate small packages… I just learned that).

I have another slightly smaller project in the works that Jen is helping me with, and will sew a few more scarves myself with fabric I designed from Grandma Glady’s paintings.

25 Tartan Tango infinity scarves

25 Tartan Tango infinity scarves on my kitchen table

Password fashion and home decor roundup

Bad password fabric

I’ve been collecting images of all the cool things that I and others have made with my bad password fabric. The fabric is available from Spoonflower in three size and both with and without the naughty words. It has a purple background and includes 501 passwords. Spoonflower offers a variety of different kinds of fabrics, including a performance knit, basic cotton, and faux suede. They also will print this design on wrapping paper and wall paper.

Bad passwords dress (Security Blanket quilt in background)

Recapping for those who are just seeing this, I designed a series of bad password fabrics based on the most popular passwords stolen in a Rockyou.com data breach. First I made a “Security Blanket” quilt printed on basic cotton fabric in pastel colors. This quilt appeared in Science Magazine and was on display at the residence of the Carnegie Mellon University president for most of last year. Then I designed a purple version of the fabric and made a password dress with performance knit fabric. The dress has gotten some nice press on CNET, the Trib, and the Women you should know blog.

Then my friends started requesting other password apparel. Mary Ellen Zurko commissioned my friend Jen Primack of Upcycled Designs to make her a t-shirt from cotton knit fabric. Then Jeremy Epstein asked for ties, and we found Jen Knickerbocker of LoveCrushDresses and got her to offer regular ties and bow ties in her Etsy shop. The ties are made from cotton sateen.

Bad passwords t-shirtbad passwords tiesbad password bow ties (two)

Then Jen Primack bought an old chair and reupholstered it with my passwords fabric in heavy cotton twill. Doesn’t it look great in my living room?

password chair upholstered by Jen Primack password chair upholstered by Jen Primack

Kristin Briney emailed me to tell me she had made a password dress from cotton poplin. And I just made a password infinity scarf from silky faille (a woven polyester).

Kristin Briney's bad password dresspassword infinity scarf

Password baby quilts and couch throws made out of kona cotton are coming soon….

In the mean time, I’ve gotten many requests to wear the password dress to events. I wore it to give an invited talk at the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (where I was referred to as a “password researcher and fashion idol“). I also wore it to a couple of briefings I gave to Congressional staff on Capitol Hill.

Lorrie speaking about passwords at Grace Hopper Celebration Lorrie with Jeremy Epstein wearing password apparel Susie, Lorrie, and Roxana at NSF Congressional briefing

And for those wondering about the different types of fabric. The polyester fabrics are much brighter than the cottons. They are all fairly consistently bright with nice saturated colors. My favorite is the performance polyester, which doesn’t wrinkle and has a little bit of stretch and a nice drape. But it’s not really what you want to use for a quilt or a tie. The kona cotton is a little disappointing because the colors print a little dull. The basic cotton (which is similar to the kona but slightly lighter weight and less expensive), cotton sateen, and the heavy cotton twill produce brighter colors. They aren’t as bright as the polyester, but they are noticeably brighter than the kona cotton. The cotton silk also does not produce bright colors. I think the polyester silky faille might work well for ties and some other applications where you might otherwise use a woven cotton but want brighter colors. It’s a little slippery and harder to work with than cotton though. I got samples of the polyester faux suede and polyester eco canvas. They are both lovely bright fabrics, but I haven’t made anything out of them yet.

1/22/15 update: Von Welch, Director of the Center for Applied Cyber Security at Indiana University Bloomington wore his Password tie for a local TV interview. The reporters loved the tie and commented on it at the end of the interview.

2/6/15 update: Baby quilt in kona cotton finished!

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7/16/15 update: I made a password bolster pillow for the CMU ECE department head’s conference room.

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Interleave quilts from all around

I haven’t had time to quilt in way too long, but I have been enjoying the photos of other people’s interleave quilts, based on my instructions.

First Monica emailed me to tell me she was experimenting with interleave quilts. She made some small ones that were lovely. Then she made a gorgeous interleave bed quilt using tartan fabric as a gift for her daughter, who graduated from CMU in May. She even taught a class on interleave quilts for a local quilt store.

Monika’s interleave bed quilt

Then Melissa emailed me a pointer to photos of her beautiful quilts including an interleave quilt in blue, black, and purple. Melissa says, “I decided to use stabilizer to draw the lines on. It worked really well and I didn’t find it took long at all.”

Melissa's interleave quilt

Melissa’s interleave quilt

I wish I had more time to make more quilts myself. But the next best thing is looking at other peoples’ wonderful quilts! Thanks for sharing!

July 2015 update: Julie from South Australia emailed me, “A huge thankyou for your online tutorial on making an interleave quilt. I found your page today, and produced this small quilt, even finishing the binding!”

Interleave Quilt by Julie

Julie’s interleave quilt

August 2015 update: Sandie emailed me: “I recently took a class on interleaves and got hooked experimenting in black and white with a slight touch of color.  It’s been interesting.” Sadie said she took the class from Mel Beach in a group with the Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association.

3 & 4 crop 1&2 crop

WWW Oatmeal Honey and Pumpernickel Breads

I have two more white whole wheat bread machine recipes to share today: a brown bread and a white bread.

DSCF0439The brown bread is a pumpernickel bread based on one I found on the back of a bag of Arrowhead Mills Organic Rye Flour. The brown color comes from using cocoa powder. Most of us in my house liked the original recipe pretty well, with it’s nice tangy flavor. But some in my house are partial to sweeter breads, and liked it better when I used honey instead of molasses. One lone holdout does not like caraway seeds at all and would not eat it until I made the recipe with flax seeds instead of caraway. Sesame seeds would probably be nice too, or you could leave out all the seeds. Download the recipe for Whole Wheat Pumpernickel Bread here.

Whole Wheat Honey Oatmeal BreadThe white bread is an oatmeal honey bread. This is a basic bread that is simple, but really tasty. I add dry milk for some extra protein and a slightly softer texture, but you can omit the dry milk for a non-dairy version that isn’t much different. Download the recipe for Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread here.

White whole wheat ricotta bread machine goodness

White whole wheat flour has all the health benefits of regular whole wheat flour, but it is made from a different kind of wheat that is softer and has a milder taste. While regular white flour has little nutritional value, white whole wheat flour is actually good for you!

Shane with his muffin project Shane's science fair projectWhen white whole wheat flour started showing up in stores about 10 years ago, I was intrigued. I followed everyone’s advice and started swapping out a third or a half the white flour for white whole wheat to add whole grains to my baked goods. Nobody in my house seemed to notice. Tentatively, I started increasing the whole grain to white flour ratio, and nobody seemed to notice. Thanks to my son’s award-winning sixth grade science fair project I gathered conclusive, scientific evidence that swapping out all the white flour for whole wheat in chocolate chip cookies and in blueberry muffins makes no difference to a classroom full of hungry sixth graders.

In January I decided to replace my family’s still functional, 20-year-old bread machine with a more modern model. It turns out that the era of bread machine baking has come and gone, and most bread machine manufacturers have not come out with any new models in years. So the Panasonic SD-YD250 we bought is actually the top model of the last decade, but it remains the #1 top seller on Amazon.com. And the new machine turns out to be a big step up from the machine it replaced because it has a bigger pan, warms the ingredients, and doesn’t add the yeast until it is time.

Panasonic bread machine, top view Since acquiring the new machine, I have baked bread 2 or 3 times a week, every week. And I have baked only 100% whole grain bread. Baking whole grain bread is trickier than swapping out the white flour in cookies and muffins, because whole grain flour has less gluten than bread flower, and this affects how much the bread will rise. If you are not careful, breads made with whole grain flour can end up pretty dense. There also aren’t that many bread machine recipes that have been tested with white whole wheat flour, because white whole wheat flour was not widely available back when new bread machine cookbooks were actually being published.

Chuck removing the Whole Wheat Ricotta bread from the bread machineI’ve tried some of the whole wheat recipes in the cookbook that came with my bread machine. We’ve enjoyed the 100% Whole Wheat, Honey Walnut, Whole Wheat Yogurt, and Seven Grain bread recipes from that cookbook. I have followed those recipes as written, except for using white whole wheat flour instead of regular whole wheat, and flax seeds instead of sesame seeds in the yogurt bread. I’ve also tried the 100% whole wheat with honey instead of molasses for a sweeter bread. So far I’ve found that any whole wheat bread recipe can be made with white whole wheat flour and the results are excellent.

I’ve also found some bread machine recipes online, and adapted some bread-flour recipes from some other cookbooks to work with white whole wheat, reduce the amount of fat, and work with my bread machine. In general, bread flour recipes seem to work with white whole wheat if you add gluten or if the recipe includes dairy products (yogurt, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, or milk). I’ve also successfully removed the butter and oil in a number or recipes and replaced it with apple sauce. As I perfect these recipes, I will share them here.

The first recipe I would like to share is a recipe for Whole Wheat Ricotta Bread that my family loves. Even when I bake the extra large size, it rarely lasts it more than 24 hours in my house. I baked this bread four times in the past couple of weeks to tweak the amount of liquid and experiment with two different kinds of ricotta cheese. Each time it disappeared very fast.

DSCF0210The key to this bread is the ricotta cheese, which makes this bread moist, slightly sweet, and very rich tasting. Use part-skim or low fat ricotta to cut the calories and fat considerably. In my experiments, I found that the part-skim ricotta I used causes the bread to rise a bit more than the low-fat ricotta (that contained less fat). But it is good either way. I haven’t been able to find fat-free ricotta at any of the stores I shop at. I’m guessing that will work well too, but might result in a little bit of a denser loaf. I also made this bread with non-fat greek yogurt instead of ricotta. This was also a lovely bread, but it was not as moist, and did not have the richness or flavor of ricotta bread.

You can download my recipe for Whole Wheat Ricotta Bread here.

Whole Wheat Ricotta Bread, size XL (made with part-skim ricotta)

My quilt in Science magazine

IMG_6002I’m really excited that my Security Blanket quilt won honorable mention in the International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge and is featured in an article in the February 7 issue of Science magazine. No, they don’t have a category for quilts, but that didn’t stop me from entering (and winning).

The quilt is currently on loan to Carnegie Mellon University, and is being displayed in the home of our university president. My daughters and I stopped by a couple of weeks ago to check it out.

Science also did a little profile of me in their Career Magazine.

badpasswordAnd for those of you who want to make your own security blankets, pillow, ties, curtains, or dresses, I now have a few different versions of purple “bad password” fabric available by the yard at Spoonflower.com (update: you can get ties made from this fabric too!). You can order it on wrapping paper or wall paper too. I have small and large versions of the print, with and without the naughty words. (The quilt includes all the naughty words for authenticity.)

Security Blanket, machine quilted, digitally printed cotton fabric, 63.5"x39"

Security Blanket, machine quilted, digitally printed cotton fabric, 63.5″x39″

 

How to make an Interleave quilt

My Interleave quilts are pieced using a quilt-as-you-go technique in which thin strips of fabric are sewn to batting and backing. The interleave design results from cutting these strips from two panels of fabric and piecing alternate strips from each panel. In my quilts, some of the panels are pieced and some are photos printed on fabric. For added interest, I often shift my strips in a wave pattern. The result of this process is a complex-looking quilt that can be pieced quickly from thin strips sewn in straight lines.

Here is a quick tutorial on how I make a small Interleave quilt. I put this together for a 1-day workshop. We will be making a roughly 18 inch square interleave quilt with .5-inch stripes that can be used as a wall hanging, placemat, or pillow top. You can make a smaller sample if you prefer, but I would not suggest going any larger for the class project.

Materials

  • 5 fat quarters (or larger) of cotton quilting fabric – Select 4 fabrics that go well together for the top, and 1 backing fabric that can be whatever you want. There should be some contrast between the 4 top fabrics – if they all blend together too much the interleave design won’t stand out. You should have enough left over from the top fabric fat quarters to make a binding. But you are welcome to provide extra fabric for a binding or to turn the finished quilt into a pillow. You will probably be doing the binding at home after the workshop.
  • Gridded cutting mat, at least 18 inches long
  • Ruler, at least 18 inches long (you need a ruler that will allow you to easily cut 18-in long and 1-in wide strips)
  • Rotary cutter
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Ironing pad or towel
  • Sewing machine and needles with a ¼ in. foot (if you have a ¼ in foot with a guide, even better!)
  • Neutral cotton piecing thread (I recommend Aurifil 50/2 in grey, but whatever you like to piece with is fine)
  • Pencil and pen
  • Pins
  • Fat quarter of cotton/polyester fusible batting
  • Fat quarter of quarter-inch grid cotton fabric —  available at http://www.spoonflower.com/fabric/2046219
  • Instructions and templates

Instructions

Select four fat quarters of four fabrics for the quilt top. They should be fabrics that go well together, but have some contrast between them.

Select four fat quarters of four fabrics for the quilt top. They should be fabrics that go well together, but have some contrast between them.

Interleave - straight

Next elect the style of interleave you want to try. The most basic shape would be straight, with no shifting. If you follow the instructions below and do not shift your fabrics, the result will be something like what you see here to the right. If you want to try this, just join your pairs of fabric on one edge rather than making tubes and skip the part about templates and cutting open the tube.

Interleave - vaseIn the instructions below I used a vase shape (shown here on the left) to shift my interleave design, but there are lots of other designs you might choose.

Below are example of the following shapes: sine wave, mirrored sine wave, skewed sine wave, hour glass, helix, and marquise. These shapes are all based on sine waves of differing frequencies and amplitudes. I generated them all using a computer program that I wrote. But once you have a feel for how this process works you can adapt these designs yourself without the aid of a computer.

Interleave - sine wavesInterleave - mirrored sine wavesInterleave - DNA Interleave - hourglass Interleave - DNA Interleave - marquise

Once you select the shape you want to use, you will need to create a paper template. I have prepared templates for the designs you see here. You can enlarge, reduce, or adapt them to suit your needs. This template is a PDF file designed to print on 11×17 paper.

The next step is to prepare the foundation for your quilt. Since this is a quilt-as-you-go technique, we will be layering the batting with a backing and a foundation. I like to use a fusible batt so I don’t have to baste it. I also find it makes things easier if you mark your foundation fabric with parallel lines. After marking several foundations by hand with pencil, I designed a grid fabric and had it printed at spoonflower.com on basic combed cotton. I know it is a little pricey for fabric you will never see in the finished piece, but it does save a lot of time and effort. If you would prefer, you can use any white or light-colored fabric and mark it with parallel lines, .5-inch apart.

Layer backing, fusible batting, and grid fabric and fuse together.

Layer backing, fusible batting, and grid fabric and fuse together.

After your foundation is prepared, follow the instructions below to cut your fabric and assemble your quilt.

Cut a 18x9.5 inch strip from each fat quarter.

Cut a 18×9.5 inch strip from each fat quarter.

Decide how to pair your strips; I suggest pairing them so the strips with highest contrast are paired together. Place a pair of strips right sides together, and sew along both long edges with a 1/4-inch seam allowance to form a tube (leave the short edges open). Repeat for the other pair of strips.

Decide how to pair your strips; I suggest pairing them so the strips with highest contrast are paired together. Place a pair of strips right sides together, and sew along both long edges with a 1/4-inch seam allowance to form a tube (leave the short edges open). Repeat for the other pair of strips.

Cut out a paper template with shape you will use to shift your strips.

Cut out a paper template with shape you will use to shift your strips.

Lay the paper template on one of the fabric tubes and trace along the edge with a dark pen. Flip the template over and repeat on the other tube.

Lay the paper template on one of the fabric tubes and trace along the edge with a dark pen. Flip the template over and repeat on the other tube.

Cut both tubes open along the lines you just traced.

Cut both tubes open along the lines you just traced.

Press all the seams to one side. You should now have two panels that are cut to match the curves in your design. To make it easier to keep track of your panels, place a piece of tape on each panel and label them "1" and "2."

Press all the seams to one side. You should now have two panels that are cut to match the curves in your design. To make it easier to keep track of your panels, place a piece of tape on each panel and label them “1” and “2.”

Using your dark pen, draw a line down the left edge of the front side of each panel. Remember "the Line is on the Left" so that you know how to orient your panels and strips when you sew them together.

Using your dark pen, draw a line down the left edge of the front side of each panel. Remember “the Line is on the Left” so that you know how to orient your panels and strips when you sew them together.

Starting at the bottom of each panel, use your ruler and rotary cutter to slice a 1-inch strip. You may want to slice several strips at a time, but if you do, I suggest numbering them along the edge so you can keep track of what order they are in.

Starting at the bottom of each panel, use your ruler and rotary cutter to slice a 1-inch strip. You may want to slice several strips at a time, but if you do, I suggest numbering them along the edge so you can keep track of what order they are in.

Line up the bottom strip from panel 2 on the bottom edge of your grid fabric, aligning with the line 1-inch from the bottom edge. The strip should be face up with the edge where you marked the line on the left side. Since the edges of the strip are not perpendicular the alignment with the left and right edges will be approximate.

Line up the bottom strip from panel 2 on the bottom edge of your grid fabric, aligning with the line 1-inch from the bottom edge. The strip should be face up with the edge where you marked the line on the left side. Since the edges of the strip are not perpendicular the alignment with the left and right edges will be approximate.

Line up the bottom strip from panel 1 face down on top of the strip from panel 2. Pin in place.

Line up the bottom strip from panel 1 face down on top of the strip from panel 2. Pin in place.

Using a 1/4-in foot sew along the top edge of your strips. A foot with a 1/4-in guide can make this easier. You may prefer to use a walking foot,

Using a 1/4-in foot sew along the top edge of your strips. A foot with a 1/4-in guide can make this easier. You may prefer to use a walking foot,

Press open your strips. Then cut another strip from the bottom of panel 2 and layer it face down on top of the previous strip you sewed. Sew the next strip in place.

Press open your strips. Then cut another strip from the bottom of panel 2 and layer it face down on top of the previous strip you sewed. Sew the next strip in place.

If your strips are not precisely 1-inch thick, don't worry. You should line up the top of each new strip with the next grid line, even if the previous strip falls a little short of that line. In the even you have a strip that goes over the line, you may want to trim it so you can see the line or use a ruler to help with alignment. You can use pins to hold the strips in place, but you may find that after some practice they are not necessary.

If your strips are not precisely 1-inch thick, don’t worry. You should line up the top of each new strip with the next grid line, even if the previous strip falls a little short of that line. In the even you have a strip that goes over the line, you may want to trim it so you can see the line or use a ruler to help with alignment. You can use pins to hold the strips in place, but you may find that after some practice they are not necessary.

Continue alternating between panel 1 and panel 2 strips until you cover the grid. You may have a couple extra strips left over. (To avoid leftover strips, your grid fabric should be at least .5-inch taller than your fabric tubes.)

Continue alternating between panel 1 and panel 2 strips until you cover the grid. You may have a couple extra strips left over. (To avoid leftover strips, your grid fabric should be at least .5-inch taller than your fabric tubes.)

Once all your strips have been sewn down, your quilt is not only pieced, but also quilted.

Once all your strips have been sewn down, your quilt is not only pieced, but also quilted.

For a little extra pizzaz you may want to do some free motion quilting  or other embellishments.

For a little extra pizzazz you may want to do some free motion quilting or other embellishments.

Variations

You can achieve some interesting effects by starting with fabric panels that include interesting shapes. For example, you might cut your fabric into right triangles instead of strips, and interleave them without shifting.

Right triangles Right trianglesInterleaved right triangles

You could use the same panels shown above, form them into tubes, cut them open on a curve, and produce one of the designs below, depending on the shape of the curve you use.

Interleaved and shifted right triangles Interleaved and shifted right triangles

You might also start with panels that have three or more shapes and interleave them as shown on the right below.

side triangles side trianglesinterleaved side triangles

I used this approach to make Interleave #1.

four colored panels, sliced and sewn back together four colored panels, sliced and sewn back togetherIMG_2531

For Interleave #2 I assembled five diagonal strips on each panel. Instead of cutting 1-inch strips for interleaving, I used 1.5-inch strips so that they would end up 1-inch after accounting for seam allowances. In order to keep everything lined up nicely with proper spacing, I had to cut a .5-inch strip after cutting every 1.5-inch strip. These narrow strips are not actually used in the quilt, but they do make for some colorful ribbons. This approach requires more cutting, but a lot less sewing, so the quilt assembly goes faster.

Panels ready to interleave for Interleave#2: Sunset over water Panels ready to interleave for Interleave#2: Sunset over water  Interleave#2: Sunset over water, 24x24" machine pieced and quilted

Finally, interleaving large prints or photos printed on fabric, results in all sorts of interesting possibilities. Below are examples of using wavy striped fabric in Interleave #4, plaid fabric in Interleave #5,  and photos printed on fabric in Interleave #6.

IMG_3421IMG_3527 IMG_4313

Have fun, and let me know how you use this technique!

February 17, 2014 Update!

I’ve been so excited to see the quilts created by some of my workshop participants as well as by a quilter in the San Francisco area, Monica Tong, who found my blog post and followed the instructions to make two quilts. Monica adapted the instructions to use three fabrics in each panel instead of two — which is exactly the idea.

 

Quilt lecture and Interleave workshop

I will be giving a lecture and teaching a workshop for the Pittsburgh-area “Quilt Company East Guild” later this month. If you are interested in attending either of these events, please contact Sally Janis <SallyJanisQCE@verizon.net>.

Info on both events below from the QCE newsletter.

QCE Guild Meeting 
Monday, January 20, at 7:00 pm, Beulah Presbyterian Church
Lorrie Faith Cranor 
Engineering with Fabric

Question: What happens when you combine the mind of an engineer with the soul of an artist and turn them loose on fabric?

Answer: Magic!

Quilt artist Lorrie Faith Cranor has been exploring design, form, and color since she taught herself quilting as a distraction from her engineering and policy graduate studies in the mid-1990s. Her work is a treat for both the eye and the brain.

She is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University where she is director of the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory (CUPS). During the 2012-2013 academic year she spent her sabbatical as a fellow in the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University where she worked on fiber arts projects that combined her interests in privacy and security, quilting, computers, and technology.

Lorrie has won a number of awards in local and national quilt competitions. Several of her quilts have been featured on the covers of books and journals. She had a solo exhibit at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum in the Summer of 2013.

Interleave#2: Sunset over water, 24x24" machine pieced and quiltedInterleave#2: Sunset over water - detail

January Workshop 
Interleave Technique
Tuesday, January 21, 9:30—2:00, First Baptist Church in Monroeville 

Here’s a chance to learn Lorrie Cranor’s original Interleave technique. Lorrie’s Interleave quilts are pieced using a quilt-as-you-go technique in which thin strips of fabric are sewn to batting and backing. The images above show one of her finished quilts (left) as well as a close-up (right). The interleave design results from cutting these strips from two panels of fabric and piecing alternate strips from each panel. In Lorrie’s quilts, some of the panels are pieced and some are photos printed on fabric. For added interest, Lorrie shifts her strips in a wave pattern. The result of this process is a complex-looking quilt that can be pieced quickly from thin strips sewn in straight lines. In this workshop, Lorrie will break down her process into easy steps. Participants will create their own unique interleave wall hanging.

Non-member Workshop fee is $30 payable to QCE. There is also a $12 materials fee.

class-sample

Here is a sample of a project for the Interleave workshop

For more information on Interleave quilts see the blog posts on Interleave 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

To infinity… and beyond!

While I often imagine myself making homemade gifts for everyone on my list, that doesn’t actually ever happen. This year I got a fun idea for one special gift, and liked it so much that I decided to make several more on a similar theme. This year was the year of the infinity scarf (a scarf with the ends sewn together in a loop). But not just any old infinity scarf…. this year I designed three original fabrics, had them digitally printed at spoonflower.com, and turned them into infinity scarves.

The first scarf was inspired by a colorful painting that my grandmother made earlier this year in her art class. The painting is framed and on display on a shelf in my kitchen. I love the bright-colored swirls and spirals, reminiscent of my own doodles, and thought it would look lovely on a scarf. I took a digital photo of the painting and loaded it into Photoshop. I played with it a bit and realized that all I needed to do was tile it in a mirror-image pattern to create an absolutely stunning design. The shapes in the painting combined with their mirror images to form new shapes and an intriguing pattern.

Painting by Gladys Lipton 2013   gladys-668x900    gladys-tile1

 

I uploaded the design to spoonflower and ordered two yards of performance knit fabric, a washable polyester knit. Then I waited about a week for my custom fabric to arrive in the mail (the worst part of using spoonflower is the wait!).

IMG_5589

Two yards is enough fabric to make three infinity scarves using the free pattern from Sewn Studio’s Jersey Infinity Scarf Tutorial. The tutorial was super easy to follow. The hardest part is cutting two yards of this slippery fabric into three 24-inch pieces. I made my first scarf in less than an hour and was quite pleased with the results. The scarf can be worn long, or looped around twice. It can also be knotted in various ways for a different sort of look – although one of the great features of infinity scarves is that you don’t have to mess around with tying them. I made three scarves – one for Grandma Gladys, one for my mother, and one I kept for myself.

output_19_45_15

I decided to try my hand at some more fabric design. I went back to the Processing computer program I had used to design my Interleave quilts and adapt it for fabric design. My first design is based on my Interleave #3 quilt. I used the same pattern and color scheme, but added gradients so each bar is a lightly different color. The addition of the gradients adds dimension to an otherwise flat design, and makes it almost appear to glow.

My second design was based on my Interleave #4 quilt. Here I completely changed the colors and used gradients to not only add dimension, but also to introduce more colors. I love the way the colored stripes mix to produce the illusion of additional colors. Here you can see the fabric pattern, as well as the scarf being modeled by me as well as by my mother-in-law.

output_20_22_17  Lorrie with interleave infinity scarf 

The infinity scarves were big hits. Here you can see them modeled by my grandmothers and by my mother. Grandma Gladys, second from the left below, made the painting that is featured on the fabric. (Did you guess that we all like purple?)

Gertie, Gladys, Judy, and Lorrie

These fabrics are all available for sale from my shop at spoonflower. You can have them printed on your choice of fabrics (or even wallpaper or gift wrap).

 

Password dress

IMG_5014This is old news, but just now getting around to posting it. I made a password dress to go with the password quilt. I wore it to the opening of the Computers, Quilts & Privacy show and to give my artist’s talk.  I also wore it to a faculty meeting and disrupted the meeting.

As with the Security Blanket quilt, I generated a Wordle from the RockYou password set, and then edited it in Adobe Illustrator. I selected brighter colors for the dress and had it printed at spoonflower.com on performance knit polyester fabric (UPDATE: You can purchase similar fabric on spoon flower that I created and ties made from this fabric on Etsy.) I made my own pattern by tracing a store-bought dress I own that fits me well. It is just two pieces of fabric. The only tricky part was finishing the neckline and arm holes. I bought a double needle and used it to do the hem. This was my first foray into sewing with knit fabric.

And here are some more photos from the Computers, Quilts & Privacy show at the Frame. There is also a video of my talk that I will post after it is edited.

Computers, Quilts & Privacy

Quilts from my staybatical will be on exhibit at the Frame Gallery on the Carnegie Mellon campus October 24-November 3, 2013. The Frame Gallery is at 5200 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213, on the corner of Forbes and Margaret Morrison.

Artist’s talk
Friday, November 1, 12:30-1:30 pm
STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, College of Fine Arts Room 111
Lunch provided, please RSVP to studio-info@andrew.cmu.edu.

Join us for a talk by quilt artist Lorrie Faith Cranor. Lorrie is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University where she is director of the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory (CUPS) and co-director of the MSIT-Privacy Engineering masters program. During the 2012-2013 academic year she spent her sabbatical as a fellow in the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at CMU where she worked on fiber arts projects that combine her interests in privacy and security, quilting, and computers. In this talk she will discuss these interests and how she combined them during her sabbatical. For directions or more information contact Marge Myers at 412-268-3451.

Opening Reception
Friday, October 25, 2-5:30 pm

Gallery Hours
Thursdays: Oct. 24 + 31, 5-9 pm
Fridays: Oct. 25 + Nov. 1, 2-7 pm
Saturdays: Oct. 26 + Nov. 2, Noon to 5 pm
Sundays: Oct. 27 + Nov. 3, Noon to 5 pm

Exhibit flier
Exhibit poster

Security Blanket

As I’ve been thinking about quilt ideas related to security and privacy during my staybatical at the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry all year, the title for this quilt was obvious: Security Blanket. Less obvious was the design of a quilt that would fit this title. Ultimately, I took inspiration from the research on the security and usability of text passwords that I’ve been working on with my students and colleagues. While this quilt started out as an art project inspired by my research, what I learned from creating it will likely influence my future password research.

Security Blanket, machine quilted, digitally printed cotton fabric, 63.5″x39″

Our research group has collected tens of thousands of passwords created under controlled conditions as part of our research. Among other things, we have compared these passwords with the archives of stolen passwords that have been made public over the past few years. Perhaps the largest such archive consists of 32 million passwords stolen from social gaming website RockYou and made public in December 2009. These passwords are notably weak, having been created without the requirement to include digits or symbols or even avoid dictionary words. Security firm Imperva published an analysis of these passwords. More recent analyses of stolen passwords have found that passwords stolen in 2012 are pretty similar to those stolen in 2009.

The media had fun publishing the most common passwords from the RockYou breach. As with other breaches, password and 123456 figured prominently. But after you get past the obvious lazy choices, I find it fascinating to see what else people choose as passwords. These stolen passwords, personal secrets, offer glimpses into the collective consciousness of Internet users.

I asked my students to extract the 1000 most popular passwords from the RockYou data set and provide a list to me with frequency counts.  I then went through the list and sorted them into a number of thematic groups. I assigned a color to each group and entered the passwords with weights and colors into the Wordle online word cloud generator. I then saved the output as a PDF and edited it in Adobe Illustrator to rearrange them in a shape that I liked, with some pairs of words purposefully place in close proximity. I designed a border, and had the whole thing printed on one large sheet of fabric by Spoonflower. When the fabric arrived, I layered it with batting and quilted it. I bound it with matching fabric from Spoonflower that I designed.

Sorting 1000 passwords into thematic categories took a while. While a number of themes quickly emerged, many passwords could plausibly fall into multiple categories. I tried to put myself in the mindset of a RockYou user and imagine why they selected a password. Is justin the name of the user? Their significant other? Their son? Or are they a Justin Bieber fan? Is princess a nickname for their spouse or daughter? The name of their cat? Their dog? (It shows up frequently on lists of popular pet names and a recent surveyfound that the most common way of selecting a passord is using the name of a pet.) Is sexygirl self referential? What about daddysgirl? dreamergenius?

When I didn’t recognize a password I Googled it. Most of these unknown passwords turned out to be ways to express your love in different languages. For example, I learned that mahalkita means I love you in Tagalong. Love was a strong theme in any language; there seems to be something about creating a password that inspires people to declare their love.

Not surprisingly, the top 1000 passwords list includes a fair share of swear words, insults, and adult language. However, impolite passwords are much less prevalent than the more tender love-related words, appropriate for all audiences.

There are a couple dozen food-related words in the top 1000 passwords. The most popular is chocolate and most of the others are also sweets (and potentially nicknames for a significant other), but a few fruits and vegetables, and even chicken make their way to the top as well. Among fruits, banana appears in both singular and plural.

Animals are also popular. While felines appear on the password list in a number of forms and languages, monkey is by far the most popular animal, and the fourteenth most popular password. I can’t quite figure out why, and I don’t know whether or not this is related to the popularity of “banana.”

Fictional characters are also popular, especially cartoon characters. The twenty-fifth most popular password is tigger (which might also be on the list because it is a popular name for a cat). A number of super heroes and Disney princesses also make the list, as well as another cartoon cat, hellokitty. Real life celebrities also make the list, including several actors and singers. While at first I thought booboo might refer to the reality TV star Honey Boo Boo, I realized that the date of the password breach predates the launch of that TV show.

A number of passwords relate to the names of sports, sports teams, or athletes. Soccer-related passwords are particularly popular. There are several cities on the list that I’m guessing were selected as passwords because of their sports teams, especially soccer teams.

Besides the obvious lazy password password, and also PASSWORD, password1, and password2, some more clever (but nonetheless unoriginal) variations included secret and letmein. And I love that the 84th most popular password is whatever.

Some passwords puzzled me. Why would anyone select “lipgloss” as their password. Why not “lipstick” or “mascara”? Perhaps it refers to a 2007 song by Lil Mamma?  Why “moomoo”? Why “freedom”?

Even more popular than the word password were the numbers 123456, 12345, 123456789. Other numbers and keyboard patterns also appear frequently. When I laid out the 1000 passwords on the quilt, I scaled them all according to their popularity. The most popular number sequence was chosen by more than three times as many people as the next most common password and was so large that I decided to place it in the background behind the other passwords so that it wouldn’t overwhelm the composition.

I made a few mistakes when designing the quilt that I didn’t notice until I was quilting it (quilting this quilt provided an opportunity to reflect on all the passwords yet again as I stitched past them). One problem was that when I transferred the top 1000 password list to Microsoft Excel while categorizing the passwords, the spreadsheet program removed all the zeros at the beginning of passwords. As a result there are three passwords that are actually strings of zeros (5, 6, and 8 zeros) that are printed simply as 0. In addition there are three number strings that start with a 0 followed by other digits are printed without the leading 0. Another problem was that the color I selected for jesus, christian, angel, and a number of other religious words blended in with the background numbers when printed on fabric, making those words almost invisible (even though they showed up fine on my computer screen). I had carefully checked most of the colors I used against a Spoonflower color guide printed on fabric, but had inadvertently forgotten to check this particular color. I reprinted about half a dozen of these words in a darker color and sewed them onto the quilt like patches that one might add to repair a well-worn spot.

There are also some passwords that I colored according to one category, and upon further reflection I am convinced more likely were selected for a different reason and should be in a different category, but we’ll never know for sure. I invite viewers to discover the common themes represented by my color-coded categories and to speculate themselves about what users were thinking when they created these passwords. Zoom in on the thumbnail images above to see all of the smaller passwords in detail.

The colors, size, and format of this quilt were designed to be reminiscent of a baby quilt, which I imagine might become a security blanket. Like the passwords included in this piece, a security blanket offers comfort, but ultimately no real security.

Inspired!

I’m excited to finally reveal Interleave #6: Porto, which was presented to Ed Frank and Sarah Ratchye at a reception before the Grand Finale dinner of the Carnegie Mellon Inspire Innovation! fundraising campaign last night. I was commissioned to make this quilt to thank Ed for serving as chair of the Inspire Innovation! campaign. (The campaign was incredibly successful, raising well over the $1 billion goal. As a faculty member at a terrific university that has a much smaller endowment than most of our peer institutions, I really appreciate how this infusion of funds will benefit the university.)

I felt truly honored to be asked to make this gift, and somewhat nervous about whether I could produce something that would live up to expectations. Ed and Sarah are art collectors, and Sarah is herself an accomplished artist. The folks who approached me about making the gift were hoping for a piece that would represent the interplay of art and technology, consistent with the mission of the STUDIO. Having spent a good part of the past year working in the STUDIO, I am personally grateful to Ed and Sarah for their financial support of the STUDIO as well.

I did not have a lot of time to produce this quilt, and it involved a number of new techniques I hasn’t tried before. It all came together fairly well until the end. Last weekend I finished the binding, and when I put it up on my design wall for a photograph I realized the corners were not square. Really not square. It was a lovely rhomboid parallelogram. Because I have different prescriptions in each lens of my glasses, when I take my glasses off the world looks a bit un-square (which drives my OCD side nuts). But my glasses were on.  I checked the quilt corners against the grid on my cutting mat, and there was no denying it. The quilt was not square. This was the widest Interleave quilt in the series and I realized that the longer the strips, the more room there is for the fabric to stretch as I sew – and I hadn’t noticed until that point that there was actually quite a bit of skew. I pondered the problem over night and the next day ended up removing the binding and vertical borders so I could square it up. Fortunately, I had used Aurifil 50 weight thread for piecing, which made the un-piecing a snap (my new favorite (un)piecing thread – really nice thin thread with low lint that doesn’t break while sewing but so easy to rip out without tearing your fabric when the situation calls for it). I reattached the borders and the binding and finally could declare it finished.

I already wrote up a little artist’s statement, which the CMU advancement folks had a designer incorporate into a little booklet to accompany the quilt. I will just include the statement here for those of you who want to learn more about the quilt. I’ve also included some bonus images  so you can see how it was made.

Artist’s Statement

At first glance the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University appears like a good place for a computer science professor, but an odd place for a quilter. I am both a quilter and a CMU computer science and engineering professor who is spending my sabbatical as a fellow at the STUDIO.

While other faculty and students in the STUDIO spend the day creating new concepts from behind computer screens, I set up shop with an old sewing machine, an ironing blanket, a cutting mat and a huge pile of colorful fabric.  At the beginning of my fellowship, I smiled politely every time someone suggested ways of attaching the old sewing machine to a robotic arm, and spent days with needle and thread hand quilting colorful lines.

Hand quilting is a process that offers one a lot of time to think, and I did spend a lot of time thinking about the art and craft of quilting, and how I might use technology in my work. For most of my piecing and quilting, I use a sewing machine, which was fairly sophisticated technology when it was invented about 200 years ago. My most recently purchased sewing machine is actually called a “sewing computer” by its manufacturer, and it has some innovative features such as a sensor that can detect the speed at which the operator is moving a piece of fabric so that the machine can automatically adjust the speed at which the needle goes up and down.

I appreciate the added value that technology can bring to my art, enabling me to create in ways that would be difficult or impossible for me unassisted. But it is not my goal to use technology to eliminate the need for me to participate in the fabrication process. Part of my attraction to quilting and fiber arts is the tactile nature of the medium. For me, part of the fun is manipulating fabric and thread with my hands. I want to use technology to enhance my skills – let me sew straighter, faster, better – or, better yet, to let me create in ways I otherwise could not.

STUDIO director Golan Levin suggested the use of digital technology that was necessary for me to create this quilt. When I started my Interleave series of quilts, I sketched the quilt designs in pencil and did some design experimentation with scissors and paper. As I started to design the third quilt in the series, I began using Microsoft PowerPoint to sketch out some ideas involving sine waves. It was a tedious process as PowerPoint was really not the right tool for the job.

Golan saw what I was doing and suggested I write a program using an arts engineering toolkit called Processing to draw my design. As a computer scientist, I wasn’t previously familiar with Processing, which was developed by artists, for artists, and is taught in CMU’s undergraduate art classes. The program I wrote allowed me to generate the sorts of designs I had been struggling with, and it included sliders to allow me to experiment with sine waves of different frequencies and amplitudes. Using this program, I was able to rapidly iterate through large numbers of design possibilities before selecting one to actually fabricate. I did some engineering to figure out how to actually construct the quilt I designed, and then adapted my program to produce full-scale templates that I could print on paper and use to cut out my fabric.

Each quilt in the Interleave series uses a variation on the technique I described, but each includes a new twist on the approach. For Interleave #6, the new twist was the inclusion of a photograph digitally printed on fabric. After considering a variety of photo ideas, I chose a photo I took in Porto, Portugal in 2009 while on a short trip with some of my colleagues to attend a meeting for the Carnegie Mellon Portugal program. Although I was there for less than three days, I managed to meet the Prime Minister José Sócrates as well as experience the city’s São João festival. Walking around the city, I took lots of pictures with my DSLR camera.

Porto is a wonderfully photogenic city, full of hundreds-of-years-old apartments with bright red-orange roofs. The city also has amazing staircases, some of which appear on maps as roads. The Duoro River runs through the city, with tall bridges stretching across it. The view of the Ribeira district from across the river is particularly spectacular, and affords a view of layer upon layer of buildings built into the steep hillside. It is a photo of this view that I selected for the Interleave #6 quilt.

Full-scale paper prototype to check that everything was in order before printing the fabric.

Before printing the photo on fabric, I manipulated it in several ways, including increasing the color vibrancy and saturation. Additionally, I created three versions of the photo at varying degrees of pixilation. Then I used my Processing program to interleave the three versions in a sine wave formation and to leave space for splicing in batik fabrics. Next, I adjusted the end result so it could be printed on fabric complete with guides for cutting and splicing. Since I wasn’t entirely sure I had calculated everything properly, before having the fabric printed at spoonflower.com, I did a trial run with paper to reassure myself that it would work as I envisioned. When the fabric finally arrived in the mail I cut it up and sewed it back together, layered with a foundation grid, batting and backing fabric. The final touch was some hand embroidery for added texture and emphasis.

This was one of the two fabric panels I had printed to make this quilt. I removed the wide yellow and blue stripes and replaced them with batik fabric before making one-inch slices along the white lines.

The quilt is designed to show a view of Porto at various levels of focus, granularity, and abstraction. If you look at the quilt up close the pixelated sections appear mostly as abstract regions of color. On the other hand, you can see the un-pixelated sections most clearly, although they are rippled, as if reflected off water. The ripples are both a design choice, and an artifact of the medium – fabric stretches as it is sewn, so perfect alignment is difficult to achieve.

Step back from the quilt until you are too far away to see the un-pixelated sections clearly, and now the pixelated sections start coming into focus. Step back further and the larger pixelated sections convey meaning. The batik fabric sections appear as regions of color taken from the scene: the most abstract representation, color without meaningful shape. I began playing with pixelated images in my earlier quilts as I explored visual representations of privacy, and have continued to use this technique, even when privacy is not the main focus of a piece.

Interleave #6: Porto
25.5″x31.5″ digitally printed cotton and commercial batik fabric, machine pieced and quilted, hand embroidered with pearl cotton

 

Five-Four

I’ve got a thing going with these Interleave quilts, and now I even have a source of fabric with (almost) precise quarter-inch grid lines for easy foundation piecing of long thin strips. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to find commercial fabric with precise quarter-inch or half-inch stripes or checks, I gave up and created my own on spoonflower.com. You can buy it too. At $17.50/yard for basic combed cotton it is a bit pricey for fabric you will never see in your finished quilt. But if you want to piece narrow strips, this will save you hours of time. Full disclosure: if you buy it I get some royalties. All proceeds will go to support my spoonflower habit. You can see how I used the grid fabric as I pieced the quilt in the photo below. The orange fabric at the bottom is the backing fabric. It was one of the striped fabrics I auditioned and rejected for being too far off from quarter-inch stripes.

For those of you who are wondering why I care so much about precise quarter-inch stripes, quilters tend to piece their quilts with quarter-inch seam allowances. That means the stitching is always a quarter inch from the edge of the fabric. I have a special foot for my sewing machine with a guide that makes easier to do. So if you cut one-inch strips of fabric and piece them with a quarter-inch seam allowance on each side, you get a precise half-inch strip of fabric showing on the front of the quilt. This turns out to work out really well for the Interleave series because the alternating strips occupy the space of the turned under seam allowance of the adjacent strips. You can do this piecing without a foundation and just line up each strip by aligning it with the previous strip. However, I find that cutting long thin strips with perfect precision is difficult, so I am much better off if I align the strips to a pre-marked grid.

So, armed with a couple of yards of “quarter-inch-grid” fabric, I made another Interleave quilt last week. Unlike the other quilts in this series, for this one I made two panels with different numbers of vertical fabric strips. For example, Interleave #4 and Interleave #5 both started with four vertical strips in each panel, while Interleave #3 started with five. Using the same number of strips as well as the same amplitude and frequency for the sine wave shift provides a nice, regular pattern. For Interleave #7, I went for a more chaotic approach and used five strips in one panel and four in the other. There is still an illusion of curved shapes, but these shapes are all different sizes and an interesting five-four rhythm.

This quilt is made entirely from commercial batik fabrics. These are all multi-colored pinks, yellows, and oranges, which provide a rich texture. Two of the fabrics are cool ombre gradient fabrics that change color intensity from top to bottom (look for the yellow wave on the left that starts medium yellow, shifts to pale lemon, and then to cheddar; to the right is a pink wave that starts out cherry red near the top and fades to pale pink).

With the exception of Interleave #2, I did not add any quilting beyond the quilt-as-you-go quilting that is part of the piecing process (since I piece these quilts by sewing the strips directly to a foundation fabric layered over batting, layered over backing fabric). But this time around I decided to add free motion machine quilting as well as a bit of hand embroidered stipples and french knots. The quilting ads some additional depth and also highlights some of the shapes that emerge from the chaos. Click on the photo to the left to see the quilting up close.

Some of you may have observed that I haven’t said anything about Interleave #6. Quite true! Interleave #6 is still a work in progress. I started working on #7 while waiting for some Spoonflower fabric to arrive for #6. Also, #6 was commissioned as a gift, so I won’t be blogging about it until after it is presented to the recipient later this month.

Interleave #7: Five-Four, 25.75″x33″ machine pieced and quilted commercial batik cotton fabric

Tartan Tango

Some time in April a VIP visitor came to the STUDIO to talk with Golan, accompanied by an entourage of folks from CMU public relations and our central administration. While Golan entertained the visitor, members of the entourage wandered around the STUDIO, where they happened to find me surrounded by bright colorful things, working on Interleave #4. I introduced myself and showed them what I was doing. They were intrigued by the Processing program I was using to generate quilt designs, as well as the dozen or so colorful printouts of candidate quilt designs scattered on my desk. They started asking questions. Could I design a quilt like this with a CMU theme? I assured them I could come up with something. They told me they might be interested in commissioning such a quilt and would get back to me. A couple weeks later they sent me email, and asked me to describe a CMU themed quilt I might design with the Processing program. Then they asked for a mockup. They liked what they saw and I got the commission – with a very tight deadline. I got to work right away.

I had promised an Interleave quilt that would represent art and technology being woven together into the fabric of Carnegie Mellon. My design featured sine waves and CMU’s tartan fabric, which appears on graduation hoods and all sorts of official university paraphernalia. Plaid is a tricky fabric to work with, and many a hideous design has been created with CMU’s tartan plaid. I was determined to conquer the plaid. I headed to the campus store to purchase some. It turns out they sell both wool and flannel versions by the yard. I bought a yard of each. I could always make a kilt or pajamas out of whichever fabric I don’t use for the quilt.

I assembled panels of tartan and “solid” batiks and prepared to construct the quilt. From the previous Interleave quilts, I had learned that it really helps to to draw half-inch lines on a foundation fabric and line the strips up with the fabric for quilting. But it is difficult and tedious to draw so many parallel lines on fabric, so I tried to find striped fabric with half-inch or quarter-inch spacing. I asked for advice from some of my favorite online fabric stores but ultimately came up empty handed. I’m sure such a fabric is out there somewhere, but I have been unable to find it (but stay tuned….). So I marked the foundation by hand, and layered it over a sheet of batting and a cute apple print fabric I had in my stash.

The quilt construction proceeded similarly to the previous Interleave quilts. I decided to give this one a border, like a picture frame. I added a half-inch black border and a 1.5-inch tartan border. The tartan border was overwhelming so I trimmed it back to an inch for a much more pleasing effect.

After completing the quilt I photographed it. Fran Flaherty in the CMU Digital Arts Studio made 50 prints of the digital image on 11×14 archival paper.  Perry Beck at the CMU art store cut 50 mats. And I hand numbered and signed 50 prints. And then Fran made 50 certificates of authenticity and I signed those too.

This past weekend the quilt was presented to Maureen Cohon, wife of the outgoing CMU president. Mrs. Cohon gave the matted prints to the partners of the board of trustee members who participated in her “partners program.”

Interleave #5: Tartan Tango
25.5×33.5″ machine pieced and quilted commercial batik cotton fabric and wool tartan fabric

After I finished this project (a few days early even), I took some of the scraps from the tartan quilt and some other recent projects and improv pieced a couple of small quilts for my two graduating PhD students.

Children’s Museum Exhibit

I have a solo exhibit of six quilts hanging at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, on the yellow wall opposite the “Garage” room. These quilts include:  Lying on the Floor of the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum Looking At the Ceiling, De-identification
,  Self PortraitInterleave #1: Venetian LinesInterleave #3: WaveformsInterleave #4: Sine of Spring. (Yes, I finished Interleave #4 last week, just in time to send it over to the museum.) The exhibit should be up for about a month, but I don’t have an exact end date yet. I love the Children’s Museum and am really excited to have an exhibit there.

The exhibit came about after the director of the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum attended a meeting at the STUDIO and saw some of my quilts, including a quilt I made based on a photo I took at the museum. The museum has an art installation called “More Light” by Dick Esterle in their great dome (which used to be a post office). 840 pink and orange streamers are suspended on threads. They are hanging in a grid, so in reality they are parallel. But if you lie on the floor in the very center of the dome and look up the streamers, they appear to radiate out from the center. I snapped some photos with my cell phone while my kids were working on art projects at the museum. As soon as I saw the streamers from that perspective I knew I wanted to make a quilt of that image. The radiating lines in the dome ceiling and the large dark circles are pieced. The lighter circles in the dome and the streamers are all fused on and stitched.

I was speaking at an event in downtown Pittsburgh today so I decided to skip lunch and take a walk across the river to the Children’s Museum to see my quilt exhibit. It was a lovely day for a walk — beautiful weather and blue skies. It was fun to see my quilts on the wall of the museum.
On my way back I stopped to take some photos of Cloud Arbor across the street from the museum. A little girl ran up to me and suggested that I get a little closer to the fountain so that I could get wet. As we were talking, the cloud generator turned on and the girl rushed into the fountain to get wet. If I had not been dressed up and scheduled to speak to a room full of lawyers an hour later, I probably would have followed her.

Sine of Spring

I was so pleased with the results of Interleave #3, that I decided to continue the series and see what else I could do to facilitate my quilt design with Processing. This time I started with some of the fabrics I wanted to use — a wonderful, colorful wavy batik fabric seemed perfect for a sine wave quilt. I matched the colors in this fabric with other fabrics in my collection, and not finding exactly the right shades, it was a good excuse to go fabric shopping.  I worked on the quilt design in Processing, but couldn’t figure out how to represent the multi-colored wavy fabric in a single hue. So I enhanced my Processing program so that I could input digital images and use them to create my interleaved designs. I took digital photographs of a bunch of my fabrics with a ruler next to them (for scale). I then experimented with using these digital images in my computer-generated designs.

The addition of digital images of fabric made my computer-generated interleave designs much more vibrant, and also allowed me to visualize the placement of fabric patterns. I had lots of fun playing with different designs.

I eventually selected a design and began the process of rendering it in fabric. I used a very similar approach as I used in Interleave #3, except this time I drew 64 pencil lines spaced a half-inch apart on a piece of white fabric and layered that foundation fabric over the batting. I then sewed the colored strips to the sandwich of white fabric, batting, and backing, aligning each strip to a pencil line. I was able to use just one pin as I positioned each strip. Not having to line up each strip with a ruler and pin it in place along the whole length of the strip saved a lot of time. By the time I finished this quilt I was able to position, piece, and press each strip within about four minutes. I did run into a few problems with some of my pencil lines that were not completely straight — the fabric stretches a bit when you draw on it with a pencil if you are not careful, causing some of the lines to curve. This inspired a not-yet-successful mission to find a commercial cotton fabric with precise half-inch or quarter-inch stripes that I could use as the foundation.

I enjoyed watching the pattern unfold as I worked on this quilt, and I love these colors, which remind me of spring flowers. This quilt celebrates Spring, which after several false starts, seems finally to have come to Pittsburgh.

Interleave #4: Sine of Spring
24″x31″ machine pieced and quilted commercial batik cotton fabric