Saturday, February 27, 2021

Organizing Plan

I ran into a bit of a visualizing problem after I got all the background strips for the Kaffe inspired baby quilt cut and started in on my small stash of teal green fabrics. Apparently, just knowing the total number of 5-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch rectangles needed wasn't enough and after cutting up the first fat quarter and counting up how many I got from it, and starting in on some different sizes of scraps, I found myself a bit at sea, confused, needing to step away until I could get a handle on how to work with the design imbedded in long strips since my design wall has too much on it to make room for this quilt. Very different from working with blocks, and in a midnight muse while trying to get to sleep, I hit upon a plan that got me back on track again. It included utilizing this piece of recycled denim padding that had come as packing in an order as an auditioning space.

I also started stacks for each lozenge and partial lozenge, adding additional fabrics until all the teal was cut. Now I could definitely see that I'd need to add some pink fabrics too.

I've never been any good at random placements. I've always needed to have a plan, lay things out, move things around. Now that I have more than enough rectangles cut, there will be some moving around for sure before I am happy with this. I don't have a proper pink that falls between the light and dark ones you see in this photo (the dark pink is reading more strongly in the photo than in real life but it is still darker in value and standing out more than anything else so not sure if it will be able to stay). I'm thinking that when I am happy with each lozenge's arrangement, I will experiment with sewing it together, first the pieces in each strip and then the strips together leaving the beginning and end unsewn so the rest of each strip can be added above and below. Did that make sense?

Friday, February 19, 2021

How To Be a Good Fool

Little interesting to show on the progress of my sewing project so I share with you a couple of non-textile endeavors, starting with this urban sketch. I spotted this tree house down a side street while pausing at a 4-way stop. I'm constantly on the lookout for interesting buildings to add to my architecture sketchbook but am admittedly slow in returning to any to actually sketch. But I was spurred on by a fellow urban sketcher who lives in the Kansas City area and adds to the Urban Sketchers Facebook page such lovely sketches of homes and buildings that, this time of year, she works on while staying warm and dry in her car. I'd commented that she was making me want to join her on some of her drives, as she always adds commentary about the buildings' style or history and that is right up my alley. But she is too far away. But not far enough away to not have some influence on me as she urged me to quit dreaming about sketching my own buildings and get out in my car to do it! Ok, sounds like a New Year's resolution to me coupled with a bit of outside accountability.

So on a recent bright and sunny but still cold day, I gathered up my supplies and stopped nearby to capture this bit of color in an otherwise plain neighborhood. The other side faces toward the lake and mountains and I couldn't help but wonder what the view was out the ample windows, if indeed one would be high enough to see over the houses and catch sight of a bit of blue water.

The other thing I thought I'd share is from June of last year, a bit of multi-media play I never got around to adding here. And it seemed a perfect example of what Austin Kleon recently shared in a post he titled "Learn to Play the Fool." I'd been working on one of the Sketchbook School Revival classes that called for acrylic paint, and I had paint leftover on my brush and palette that seemed a shame to wash down the drain. Early on in my surface design experiments, I'd learned of expending paint onto a piece of plain fabric designated for this purpose. Eventually, that fabric will be covered in paint of various colors that might just provide an interesting background for something. I knew you could do the same onto paper so I turned to the back of the sketchbook and started dabbing paint in no particular pattern. I soon had a page that was nothing but ugly to my eye, and I couldn't imagine how it would serve as a first layer to anything. Random dabbing wasn't working for me like other artists says it does.

So I tried something different, something more in line with my aesthetics and just painted lines down a new page. Ahhhh, now I was relaxed and soothed and enjoying myself, my imagination seeing ways I could add over the top of these - 5 pages worth until all the acrylic paint was gone.

But there was still that ugly page. I'd been cutting out seahorse designs from catalogs and decided those purple and blue dabs that might peek out beyond my cuttings could read as underwater background. The turtles came from a greeting card and I finished off with bubbles added with pen. A good exercise in collaging and in covering up, although I still see more of the ugly background than I would like. But I think perhaps I decided not to post about it because this whole process and outcome made me feel like a fool. Yes, I really don't like it when I don't know what I'm doing. I don't like playing the fool, unless there's a positive result.


But in reading Austin's post and the people he quoted, I had the sense that the last couple of years when I've stepped away from textiles, I'd been doing just that, playing the fool, and it was a good thing. “It’s simple,” writes George Leonard in the “The Master and the Fool,” the epilogue of his book Mastery, “To be a learner, you’ve got to be willing to be a fool.”

"By fool, to be clear, I don’t mean a stupid, unthinking person, but one with the spirit of the medieval fool, the court jester, the carefree fool in the tarot deck who bears the awesome number zero, signifying the fertile void from which all creation springs, the state of emptiness that allows new things to come into being."

And here's how the playwright George Bernard Shaw encouraged an aspiring writer to “resolutely” make a fool of himself: 

"You say you are scarcely competent to write books just yet. That is just why I recommend you to learn. If I advised you to learn to skate, you would not reply that your balance was scarcely good enough yet. A man learns to skate by staggering about and making a fool of himself. Indeed he progresses in all things by resolutely making a fool of himself. You will never write a good book until you have written some bad ones."

Well said. Indeed, how many people decide not to sign up for a class because they don't know enough about the subject and don't want to look stupid (raising my hand here). 

And Austin himself gave me my answer to why I've been so doggedly trying different things, not really understanding why.

"In Show Your Work I also wrote that mastery isn’t enough for the searching life of the artist. “You can’t be content with mastery; you have to push yourself to become a student again.” (In some cases, literally: I’m thinking of Erik Satie, going back to the academy after he was already known as a composer.) And this starting over, or beginning again, learning something new, requires a willingness to look like a fool, or a “curious idiot.” "

Friday, February 12, 2021

And So It Begins

You have an idea, you pick out a pattern, but the making of a quilt doesn't truly begin until you start pulling and auditioning fabric. And while I'd been going about my business, I realized that in the back of my mind, I was sorting through my stash, trying out different fabrics from different collections (yes, I have what I consider collections that are other than the usual commercial prints, batiks and hand-dyes I've put in a centralized storage system, sorted by color). Not getting in the studio and actually looking at fabrics, but working from memory in my head! Well, time to start pulling for real.

Once I'd charted the design and worked out dimensions of individual pieces, I could quickly figure how much background fabric I'd need, which in turn would determine what colors and kinds of fabrics I might use for the rest. I've been trying to figure out a home for that floral fabric underneath all the rest ever since I finished a commissioned quilt for my niece-in-law's baby back in 2014. It was the lone colorful thing about the quilt, used for the backing and binding, and as it had been hard to track down, I just took what was left on the bolt, leaving a good yard extra when I was done. To be honest,  it's not very me, not a print I would normally gravitate to even though it has colors that I really like, so it's been hard to convince myself to use it in anything. But suddenly, seeing it in a stack on the floor, I realized that if there was enough, this might be the best way to use it up. There is ample, and it may be the case that once cut into strips, I will be just fine with it. That's been the age old wisdom of quilt teachers - if you find a fabric ugly (or not to your liking) just cut it up (preferably small) and work it in with the rest. Well, these won't be small pieces, but they will be pieces all the same and the print has given me a palette to work with. I don't have as many teal green fabrics as I thought but plenty of the orangy and pink ones. I'll have to get cutting so I can experiment with mixing the two together in a lozenge or making each lozenge a single color. Fun soon to commence.

Because that green is perhaps my favorite color, even my signature color as it were, I tend to put these fabrics back in the stash when looking for candidates. You know, "saving" them for something special or just right. I had that slight stutter when I pulled them out, then carried on. I've had these for so long, I'm making fewer quilts than ever these days, and I felt that feeling of their preciousness fall away. For Pete's sake, what's more precious than this new baby, and why shouldn't his quilt have my most precious fabric in it?

Saturday, February 06, 2021


The hand quilting continues at a slow but steady pace in a nothing-to-see-here fashion. I did finish quilting around motifs in the hooped area and shifted the block to an unquilted area, which let me see just how much was already quilted. I wasn't sure how far I had gotten so was pleased to find only about a third left to go (plus around those blue swirls around the outside). In the meantime, the mind keeps playing with the baby quilt configuration and what colors I might choose. Most of all, I felt I needed to pin down the size of the individual pieces, both to double check the finished quilt size and to get a sense of how much of each fabric I might need. I know a lot of quilters might turn to a software program to help them out with this, and I used to too. But sometimes it's just quicker to get out the graph paper and chart things out. So that is what I did this week. Did you know you could download PDFs off the internet for printing your own custom graph paper? Lined paper too.

Having this visual is helping me consider whether or not to shorten and/or widen the quilt. And mapping it out using paper and pencil helped me see the rhythm of the design, the relationship between the pieces. Where for awhile I was letting this idea for a quilt intimidate me, now I have all the information pinned down in a way that shows me it's not intimidating at all.