Saturday, January 30, 2021


Here's the next "finish" project, the one I alluded to as my next work-on-while-watching-the-news handwork. It was started in a Suzanne Marshall workshop which featured one of the blocks from her award-winning quilt "Rhapsody", probably around 2002. I didn't start blogging until 2006, where I found a post about it when the applique was complete and I was readying it for quilting. In that post, I talk about the value of working from patterns, and as I reread what I said, I find I still feel the same and I think it's worth a read. You'll also find links to both Suzanne's website and a photo of her Rhapsody quilt.

The only other post about it is in 2008, where I was planning to take it along to a retreat since I couldn't take my machine. Apparently, I'd not touched it since the 2006 post when I was marking a feather pattern in the corners. They were so faint that I had to find the pattern for the feather so I could remark it darker.

I vaguely remember quilting on it a bit during the retreat but I think most of my time was spent prepping the applique on sashing for a different quilt. I know I quilted on it after the retreat, getting those corner feathers done and starting the quilting along all those applique pieces, but there's no more mention of it in the blog that I can find, although if I wanted to take the time to leaf through my engagement calendars I could track down my progress and the last time I actually worked on it. What I do know is that it has sat in this hoop-on-a-stand in a part of my livingroom with a sheet thrown over it for protection since I moved into my current rental in 2012 - there was no where else to "store" it. So this UFO is not a case of out of sight, out of mind, as I saw it every day, while sitting on the sofa watching tv, passing by it on my way to the front door or the stairs to the second floor. For whatever reasons, lame or valid, it has awaited my return in a patient daily stare. Wait no more.

It has been so long since I've hand-quilted on anything that I wondered how it would go. Would everything feel foreign and awkward? Would I even be able to track down my tools and thread? Turns out the latter was more difficult than to get back into the rhythm of rocking the needle through the sandwich. Were those first stitches nice and even and not too large? Well, of course not! But not nearly as awful as I expected, and getting better with each session. I've gone around those teardrop shapes above the blossoms and up the left side of the stem and calyx of the central flower. When I make it around all the applique, I believe my intent was to fill the background with a 1/2 inch crosshatch. Lots more to do before it's ready to hang on the wall. 

By the way, I have the patterns for all the other blocks in Suzanne's Rhapsody quilt. We had the opportunity to purchase them individually or as a set and the practical part of me said, "You'll never get around to making any more of these, let alone all of them," while the also somewhat practical part of me said, "But if you don't buy them now, there no doubt there will come a day when you regret it, ready to make more and the patterns no longer available!" And truly, I do think the chance of me making even one more of these gorgeous blocks is pretty slim, yet I don't regret hedging my bets.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

On Being Creative

Just ran across this short clip on being creative from an interview with cartoonist, musician and the first Cartoonist Laureate of Vermont, James Kochalka, and it both makes sense and inspires this person who has such a long creative journey behind her with more yet to come.

And here's a book that might be worth a read: David Epstein’s Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World recommended by my fave, Austin Kleon in this post. I'm drawn to the title because I've always been a generalist, which is often negatively thought of as jack of all trades, master of none. I truly have been proud of all the things I've tried and can sort of to very well do, but sometimes regret the things I did not stick at long enough to truly master (like playing the piano). I realize that my broad scope of skills has stood me in good stead in getting paid jobs when I was still in the work force but a lack of what some might call focus may have kept me from advancing into higher paying ones. At any rate, here is a quotation from the book that Austin pulled out that describes me well:

“[I] realized that I was not the type of person who wanted to spend my entire life learning one or two things new to the world, but rather the type who wanted constantly to learn things new to me and share them.”

And a couple for all of us to ponder and believe in our creative ventures:

“In [Dan] Gilbert’s terms, we are works in progress claiming to be finished…. The precise person you are now is fleeting, just like all the other people you’ve been.”

“One sentence of advice: Don’t feel behind.”

“Compare yourself to yourself yesterday, not to younger people who aren’t you. Everyone progresses at a different rate, so don’t let anyone else make you feel behind. You probably don’t even know where exactly you’re going, so feeling behind doesn’t help.”


Saturday, January 23, 2021

All Wrapped Up

Literally and figuratively. Behold my first finish of the year, the mobius scarf I started knitting on Christmas Day. I found a particular daily program I watch that I could also knit to, and on most days sat down with my needles while I watched/listened. This particular pattern has some rounds that take a lot of counting and concentration so no show prattling on in the background, but the rows in between could be knitted almost without looking. I'm just not as good as I once was at splitting my concentration between what I'm working on with my hands and what my ears are taking in, but this worked well and got me into a routine that got this done. It reminded me of when I was hand quilting Masks while I watched a Saturday morning news program. It's encouraging me to find another project to finish that requires handwork that could just as well be done during this hour-long program. I know just the one . . .


As you can see from the opening photo, this scarf is quite wide and in fact can also be slid over the shoulders like a wrap (thus the literal all wrapped up) as shown in the pattern above. It's very light and stretchy yet for all the laciness quite warm. Wrap it again to encircle the neck twice and it gathers around it and down the front without bulk and should fill the opening of a jacket quite nicely.

I was excited at how many responded to my question of design layout in the last blog post, and pleased that there was mostly consensus on which one might prove the best for my baby quilt project. I particularly appreciated Kathleen's reasonings for her choice (Jan too). I'm that kind of person who might want to go with my gut feelings but feel better about it if I have an explanation to back it up. I also agree with her that, with tweaking to make the first choice wider and thus proportionately better, it would work as well. I also chuckled at her comment about "fewer pieces rather than smaller" being a good idea since I happen to know how many quilts she has made with truly small pieces. And she wasn't the only one to applaud that choice.

Several also noted that thing about where inspiration and solutions come from. Vivian noted that hers often come when she first awakes while mine often come as I'm trying to fall asleep. Jan hit it on the nose, that subconscious of ours that works away while our active brains are taking care of life in general. I love how the Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain school describes it, that the left side thinks it knows everything and is easily bored while the right side is open to all possibilities and doesn't need the left side's input. It's liberated when the left side is busy with, say, keeping track of where you are going when you are out for a walk. Indeed, a lot of my problem solving happens when I take a break and get out walking. It clears the cobwebs in more ways than one!

Friday, January 15, 2021

A Project To Finish

My goddaughter had her baby the day after Christmas so now I feel free to really get going on a quilt for the little boy named Jesse Charm (yes, I'm somewhat superstitious about making a quilt before a baby actually arrives). This isn't starting a new project, in case you might think I'm deviating from my resolution word "finish"), since I'd chosen a design and started working out the size of its pieces a few months ago. I'd not wanted to make my version as large as the Kaffe Strip quilt that had caught my eye, but as I sized it down, the rectangles went from 2 inches plus seam allowance wide to 1-3/4 and then 1-1/2 plus seam allowance wide. Oh how I just wanted to cut 2-1/2" wide strips and subcut to various lengths, remembering how fussy the cutting of the narrow pieces for this baby's sibling's quilt was and how long it took to sew them all together. I was losing my enthusiasm for sure. And then not long ago I had a thought, could see it in my head. What if I didn't make the pieces smaller, just used fewer of them resulting in the same basic design? You can see what I mean looking at the picture above, the dark line outlining one configuration that would give a quilt measuring approximately 30 x 49.

But I think I like this one better and by moving the side lines out a bit, it gives me a better width at 38 inches. Actually I could do the same thing on the first one. It just seems to give a better balance as well as a better width. I could also eliminate the partial blocks and replace those areas with more background fabric. All while giving myself fewer pieces to cut and sew. What always amazes me though is how long I have to let things sit and my mind aimlessly mull things over to, out of the blue, come up with what suddenly seem obvious answers that will make my life easier.

Which version do you prefer? I'm leaning toward green(s) for the background and whatever from my stash looks good with it/them. I still have some cutting dimensions to work out and a design wall with no room to work on, so there's still time for mulling.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

What's The Word?


When I took a late stroll on New Year's eve, this quite amazing snowman was guarding the mail locker. What a fun surprise to end the year with. And now, here we are in a new year. But in our hearts we know not much will change just because we've put up a new calendar. Many of the same challenges, inconveniences and true hardships from 2020 will still be with us for many more months. But there does appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel and at least for me, much that can be done to keep one occupied (and perhaps distracted?) while we wait this pandemic out.

Yes, lots on my plate if I wish it, and I settled on my resolution word of the year weeks ago. While last year the word was "GO!", chosen to inspire me to just get into the studio and do something, anything, rather than pass by the door with a sigh. However, I'd say maybe a third of the way into the year, my get up and go got up and went (as my mother used to say). So all those things on my optimistic to do list more or less stayed undone. Yes, I did learn some bookbinding stitches and techniques early on, and participated again in both Sketchbook Revival and Inktober, but there are days and days in my engagement calendar where I keep a record of progress on my arty endeavors that are blank. I don't blame the pandemic at all for this. I just slumped into a long stretch of auto-immune syndrome energy sapping and muscle pains. Sometimes there's no point in fighting back and better to find what you can manage until you have a day when you realize you have energy to spare and/or little pain hampering you.

So with stacks of ideas in the beginning stages, bookbinding lessons to catch up on and UFO's all around me (and several very old ones that insistently called to me from the closet throughout last year), to name just a few things I can be spending my time on, I've chosen "FINISH" as my resolution word of 2021. Wouldn't that be nice to see what clutters my worktable and floor and even design wall morph into things that are done? Wouldn't it be nice to have handmade items ready to give away and art quilts complete in case I decide to exhibit again this year? Wouldn't it be satisfying to be productive again, with that fresh engagement calendar recording near daily progress on my many creative interests? Yes it would! And I've already begun, knitting a little nearly every day on my mobius scarf.
I love the "wave" pattern which is easy to do
I'd like to end with a sentiment from Michelle GD that came in her New Year's Day note which seemed an affirmation of my chosen resolution word:

"I’ve been thinking about fresh starts being a continuation of something already underway. With this kind of fresh start, there’s no drama, no buildup or let down. Just a carrying-on. I find this comforting."
Yes, I find it comforting too. She goes on to talk about the other kind of fresh start, the wiping the slate clean and starting over kind which can be necessary, exciting, but daunting as well. "They can feel like insurmountable hills that you’re too tired to climb," she says, and boy, does that speak to my struggles with my auto-immune syndrome. But the "just a  carrying-on" kinds can be "quiet and soft. Unassuming. Not earth-shattering in their existence or in their beginning." That's for me, I think.
At the end of this letter (which is worth reading in full here), she included a more complete version of a quotation which I had run across awhile ago and really spoke to where I'd let myself go and desperately needed to come back from. I wish it for you, my readers, as you face 2021 with renewed hope:
"Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place."
~ Kurt Vonnegut ~
Previous resolution words:
2008 - Freedom
2009 - Calm
2010 - Focus
2011 - Refocus
2013 - Perseverance
2014 - Explore
2015 - Fearless
2016 - Light
2017 - Endure 
2018 - Refresh
2019 - Wing It! 
2020 - Go!