Thinking about Blocks

I love blocks. I have always loved quilt blocks. I love how they can be broken down into component parts and combined with different blocks built of the same component parts to form a whole new look. I love they way they can be combined. I love how you can make the same block from different fabrics and have a completely different look. It seems, though, blocks are not popular now, being deemed old fashioned by the Modern Quilt Guild.

I am in a closed Facebook Group that is talking, in a sort of roundabout way, about blocks. The overall theme is the 1930s, so naturally the block patterns in newspapers came up. I have been interested in block designs since I started quiltmaking. One of the first books I bought was The Quilter’s Album of Blocks and Borders, the precursor to the more complete Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns. Both are written/compiled by Jinny Beyer.

I don’t know the history of blocks, in general, though I have read enough about them. The most famous publisher, probably,  was the Kansas City Star, because they published quilt patterns in their newspaper. The patterns were syndicated across the country. Quilter By Design says that these patterns were published from 1928-1961, first weekly then monthly. I have not checked the veracity of these date. I am fortunate enough to have set of the newspaper clippings reproduced and spiralbound. In this set is a wealth of inspiration. There are amazing blocks and quilts that spurred on the quilt imagination of a generation of quiltmakers.

I have heard that many of the blocks were not designed by quiltmakers, but by journalists and were never made. The Snowball Wreath is one of those blocks and Barbara Brackman does a great job describing it and showing photos on her blog. Apparently few of this particular block pattern were made into quilts. I salute those ladies! I did a search and saw some that had been made recently. I did a project a few years ago to try and make a block. I made it a little differently than the pattern implies, but didn’t want to make myself crazy.

The oldest block design Jinny Beyer found in her research was from the January 1835 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book, a hexagon design. Ladies Art Company published quilt and other needlework designs starting in 1889. Beyer reminds us that many block designs in a publication such as Ladies Art Company were republished later by other companies.

One thing modern quilters have done is revived old blocks using new methods. Paper piecing is a great way to get good results without too many tears. Rotary cutting templates make the cutting of strange shapes easy. Jen Kingwell revived the Circle Within a Circle (Ladies Art Company, 1897. It was also published as Bird’s Eye View by Clara Stone in Practical Needlework, 1906**) block, calling it Steampunk. You can see a version of the current incarnation on the Diary of a Quilter page. My only objection to this revival is the lack of citing sources. I can’t complain much since Clara Stone didn’t cite her Ladies Art Company source.

I would love to make at least one of the all the Kansas City Star blocks. I would also like to make one of all the blocks in Jinny Beyer’s Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns. I don’t think I have enough time left in my life. I also am refusing to let myself think of that as a real, possible project. Perhaps a project for me and 100 of my friends?

One of the things I have is knowledge about blocks. I was taught to make quilts using blocks and in the teaching I learned about grids. Now, for the most part, I can break a quilt down into pieces and have a good idea of how to make the quilt. Sometimes having a pattern is easier, but not having to spend $12 on a pattern I will make once is something to think about. Of course, I support the designers when I think I will make a quilt. Remember Metroscape?

Anyway, I love blocks. What about you?







** This information came from The Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns by Jinny Beyer, ©2009

Net Neutrality Day of Action

Net Neutrality means that everyone receives the same treatment. My content is delivered just as fast as a movie from Comcast. Unless I am doing something illegal, no ISP can slow down what I serve up as content to you. Content providers cannot pay an ISP to provide their content faster than mine.

I am a content provider. While I may not provide content that everyone likes, I am able to provide content.

45’s appointee “Ajit Pai has proposed a reversal of these regulations, which he’s said unfairly burden the ISPs and are archaic for relying on utility-style regulation.”

Allowing ISPs to slow down content will affect public libraries, companies whose product interferes with a product owned by the ISP, schools and more.

Send a comment to the FCC and to your Congress person telling them to protect Net Neutrality. Do it now.

You can find more information on these sites:

This is not a left or right political issue. This is about innovation and fairness. It was a hard won battle to get Net Neutrality. Let’s keep this as a right.

Following up on Ugly Fabrics Post

I was so pleased to get so many comments on my Ugly Fabric post! I really enjoy comments, so keep them coming. 😉

The comments you added were full of great ideas. There was also a string of comments on FB when someone posted a link to this post on a secret quiltmaking group in which I participate.

Jackie said “I’m using my “ugly” (no longer my style) fabrics for testing pattern ideas and donation quilts. I know someone will love them.” I thought this was a great idea, if you can do it. I can’t always work with fabrics I don’t like which is one reason the nieces and nephews don’t get a choice in which quilt design they get for their quilt. I do ask them their favorite color, but they don’t get to choose the shade. If they say something like dusty rose or forest green, they are usually out of luck. I haven’t had a quilt returned, so I guess it is ok.

Nonnie commented “I have a ton of fabrics that may or may not be ugly but definitely fall into the WHAT WAS I THINKING category. I have been dividing my stash into two sections. …. LOVE THE FABRIC, use for family quilts and WHAT WAS I THINKING, use in experiments and donation quilts. I often trial a block or technique in a quilt I later donate to various charities or organizations. I work hard to make them beautiful and desirable but I am happy to know … I WILL NEVER HAVE TO LOOK AT THEM AGAIN. ” (Nonnie likes her capitals 😉   ). I guess a ‘what was I thinking category’ could be added to my list of fabric categories as well. I do pick up fabrics from the depths of my fabric closet and really wonder what I was thinking when I bought it. Often these are fabrics with some kind of strange dot or bold pattern choice. I have taken to pinning a note on new fabrics when I have an idea for them. I have so many ideas flitting through my mind that they don’t stick unless I make a note somewhere.

The other thing I noted was that was that fabrics that look great in a shop don’t always look great in my house. I have figured out that this is for a lot of reasons:

  • I like colors that I never use
  • The other fabrics in the line don’t always come home with me.
  • The light in the shop made the colors look different than they do in my workroom
  • etc.

I have really begun to look at fabrics I am considering buying in order to think about how I would use them. I have thought about this with regard to Tula Pink fabrics.

TFQ asked “Now the question is, are you going to get rid of those napkins so you don’t have to risk having an ugly fabric reaction every time you see them?” This is a good question that cycles through my head as I unearth fabric. I have been picking out pieces and giving them to BAM when I don’t think I will use them anymore. The Charity girls cut the fabrics up into 2.5″ squares and my uglies, which may not be someone else’s uglies, get lost in the 16 patch blocks.

Napkins are another story. Despite the poor fabric choice, the napkins are actually really nice. They are thick and do a good job cleaning faces while hiding stains. My SIL volunteered to take them off my hands as the dusty pink goes with her Desert Rose china. We’ll see.

Peg commented “Why should spend my money or my time on something I do not like. But, we may not agree on “ugly.” ” Peg is a new quiltmaker, though an expert knitter so knows her way around textiles. She reiterated what I thought, which is don’t listen to those who say to add some ugly fabric to make your pretties stand out. My Scrapitude Carnivale quilt is all pretties and that is a gorgeous quilt, if I do say so myself.

Of course, we cannot agree on ugly. I like pink, but not dusty pink. I like bright clear colors which may come from living in an environment that has bright, bright sunlight alternated with grey foggy days. Both of these weather phenomenon require colors that can stand up to those kinds of light. I find that bright, clear colors do that. I would be interested to hear what colors you find you use a lot and why you think that is.

Ugly Fabrics

Women's Work Valentine's Day Napkin
Women’s Work Valentine’s Day Napkin

After putting the used napkins from last week in the wash I pulled out new ones. I had rearranged the napkin drawer in order to circulate in some that hadn’t been used in awhile. One was folded back to front and I immediately had an ugly fabric reaction. It really isn’t hideous fabric, but not my colors. The print is interesting. It is a classic design. I don’t think this particular shade of pink has really ever been my color, but I bought it at some point in the past so I must have liked it or had a use for it.

This napkin brought out a whole slew of ugly fabric feelings and thoughts. I was especially reminded of things I had heard I must do.

-Buy a little ugly fabric.

-Put a piece of ugly fabric in your quilts so your nice fabrics will look better.

-Sew ugly fabrics as backs.

You know how well musts work with most people.

I went through about 5 seconds of buying ugly fabric. Then I decided that, for me, that is a seriously dumb idea. I am not spending my hard earned money on ugly fabric when there is so much great fabric out there. I don’t have enough money to buy the fabric I love (bolts of Philip Jacobs prints, please). I also don’t want to devote precious space to ugly fabrics.

The other thing is that ‘ugly’ is relative. My ugly fabric might be your favorite color. I am not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t like. Ugly for me will be different than your ugly. Buy your favorites.

Also, what I think is ugly today might not have been ugly to me 10 years ago. Tastes evolve. Also, as a new quiltmaker, you might be trying out different styles to find what suits you. You might also mix what you like. I don’t buy many repro prints, even the cheerful 1930s prints. They just aren’t for me. However, there is a blue in the Civil War arena that I love and periodically I will buy an FQ of one print. I am careful, though to make sure it is more blue than beige.

I worked on a quilt called Thoughts on Dots when I was having a big, fat creative block. This quilt was so painful to make, because I was forcing myself to sew. I was forcing myself to work through the creative block.I had a small child who was going through some stuff. DH was going through some stuff. It was a tough time. I moved around 6.5″ squares for weeks. I finished the quilt top and decided to use some ugly fabric for the back. To be thrifty, I decided to use fabric I wasn’t going to use for a front. The ‘ugly’ fabric isn’t hideously ugly, though it is beige. I interspersed the beige with leftover squares, so the back isn’t completely beige and hideous.

We act like we will never see the back so backs can be a dumping ground for ugly fabrics. Thoughts on Dots is on our bed, so I do see the back pretty often and I sincerely dislike it every time I see it. This is why I have used small pieces of beige for donation blocks. I don’t want beige in my fabric closet. This quilt is nearly the sole reason I use a lot of Philip Jacobs prints for my backs. I have decided I want to enjoy backs as much as my fronts. It doesn’t mean that I buy special fabric for the backs. It means I use fabrics I like from my fabric closet. Those Philip Jacobs prints are so well displayed on a back that I can’t possibly NOT use them now.

I also should have realized that being thrifty didn’t mean I had to use that beige fabric. It isn’t as though there has been a shortage of fabric at my house in a while.

My final thought is that everyone should just use the good stuff immediately. Don’t buy it and save it for some other day. That day is today and you will love whatever you make even more if you can see your new favorite fabric immediately.

Following up on Grace

The other day I wrote about grace. The part that has been on my mind, some from Carrie Bloomston’s book, The Little Spark, “I am still trying to get a firm image of grace in my mind. Bloomston provides several metaphors which inch me closer. “Grace is the hinge between effort and effortless. There is a moment in our creative flow in which we are utterly absorbed, content, focused, and present with the moment and everything in it” (pg.42). This is the place I strive for. I do think, however, that we can get snatches of it within each project when the stars align, but that actions we take outside of each project, though including each project help make those moments more and more frequent. For example, how we tidy up, where we find that one scrap we need, etc.”

The main part that has been on my mind is the last couple of sentences – how we prepare for grace. For me, organization is key. I don’t feel that my workroom is optimally organized, but I always work on it. I was on the phone with a friend yesterday and filed random papers and sorted scraps while we spoke. These types of things make way for the creativity. If I don’t have to worry about where something is hiding or where I put that certain piece of fabric, I have more space for creativity and, perhaps, grace.

Part of that is space. I need more space, but have a lot and am concerned that if I get more I will just fill it up. Thus, I am clearing out fabrics I won’t use and trying to keep projects from stacking up. This isn’t always easy as I have to balance having enough to work with having too much spilling over into my workspace.

I’d like to have an organizer come in and make a plan for more shelving and cupboards and a better organization system in the Fabric closet. That expense will have to wait until the YM is finished with college or I win the lottery.

I don’t let this discourage me. You can see the work that I do by reading the blog. Culling fabric also helps even if it is a little at a time. One yard gone is one yard less taking up space. I appreciate the incremental progress. This is my process. This works for me. It might not work for you. Don’t wear my coat. It probably won’t fit.

The Morass

Lately I have been feeling like I am in a quiltmaking morass. I tell myself that at least I am working and making some progress. The problem is that the progress is slow and doesn’t feel real. Morass is a word with a real negative connotation. I couldn’t think of a more positive word. I don’t feel negative, just a bit…..morassy. Finally, I had to sit down and face reality.

As you know,  I make regular lists of my projects to try and keep the UFO list low. I have gotten pretty good at finishing things I start. After reading Friend Julie’s post about balance, I think the problem is that I am working on too much at once. As a result, I can only make incremental progress on any one project. This is the down side of leaders and enders.

Leaders and enders is not bad. It is a fantastic technique and I get so much done when I use the leaders and enders method. Remember Fresh Fruit? I just reached the point where I expected too much out of it.

Right now I am working on the Peacock, Yellow Donation quilt #2, the En Provence Mystery quilt primarily. Primarily is the key word. I also started making some gift bags. I needed a finish, plain and simple.

The problem is that all of these projects are a different stages. Some need cutting, some need color choices. Others, especially The Peacock, need lots of thinking. The Yellow Donation Quilt #2 is the easiest to deal with. It is true leaders and enders. I can just stick the pieces under my needle without much drama. The thing about leaders and enders is that it works best for me if I have one thinking project and one mindless project. Three projects is too much.

I started working on En Provence, because I really wanted to try and work along as the clues were released. It didn’t work, but it was on my mind and I was trying. Now that the reveal has happened, I still like the design and since I started, I am loathe not to work on it. It might be easier if I paused working on this until I was done with the Peacock and then got back to it. I have blocks of time that are good for cutting, though, and En Provence needs the type of cutting I can do with these blocks of time.

The Peacock is actually coming along well. I have struggled along and am finally turning a corner. More on that soon.

Still, the projects feel like they are going slowly. I feel like I am slogging through ankle deep mud, but without the dirt and negativity. I blame the Peacock. I don’t know if it is just a difficult project. Or if I have lost interest and, thus, motivation or if the problem is something entirely different. I think I will be glad when it is done.

I did make some progress over the weekend and I feel like I am getting through the morass.

Kindness in Light of Theft

Theft. Stealing. Transgressors. Swipe. Ugly words.

After my post of this morning, I have received help in numerous ways. I am really gratified, because I thought I would get bombarded with messages about how I wasn’t in compliance with the sharing spirit of the quilting world. I really have received nothing but support.

Image used for group stolen from my FB page
Image used for group stolen from my FB page

One person contacted the admin of an FB group using my image for me when she did not reply to my FB Messenger message. It appears that the original image was taken from my FB page and annotated with the words. Because FB has a limit to the size of cover page images, the copyright notice was cut off. That was my fault. I have added the copyright notice front and center and replaced the non-compliant image. Of course, it means there is a &^%$# copyright notice right in the middle of the image. C’est la vie. I suppose I will get lazy again in a few years and trust people again.

FB Stealing Apology
FB Stealing Apology

The admin of the FB group wanted to continue to use my image, but I said no. While I could get some publicity, I don’t want it. I don’t want people thinking they can use my image and I will be ok with it. My standard response is “please remove the image; you do not have permission to use it.” She posted an apology in the group, which was nice. One commenter pointed out that she should change the project, which I appreciated. I have a spy in the group, so I hope will know if the image is used again.

FB Stealing -2016 Time Capsule
FB Stealing -2016 Time Capsule

The admin said she had seen the time capsule post in a 2016 version. My watermark is still there (see that arrow?), but I can’t imagine why someone would assume they could use it for a 2017 project. I haven’t been able to track down the originator of the above post, so let me know if you know who it is.

I am part of some secret groups and I have posted the link to my post there. One person said I should report any transgressions to FB and IG, that they are pretty militant about taking posts, profiles and groups down when something is reported. I will do that as a last resort.

Pinterest Sharing of FOTY
Pinterest Sharing of FOTY

KR mentioned a couple of shares and a Pinterest pin to me. I found out that you can tell how many times an image has been shared and where it has been shared. The share shown above is actually FOTY 2012 and has been shared 1500 times. It is from Flickr, so I went and posted a link to the FOTY Page on all of the FOTY images on Flickr.

KO sent me a new IG post where the person blatantly admitted to ‘swiping’ the photo from another feed. Was her comment meant to be funny? Am I the only one who doesn’t think this is funny?

I am taking screenshots of all the posts, so I can post here and have evidence, if I need it. I have also talked to a friend who is looking into an IP lawyer who will work pro bono.

In some ways, I feel like I should feel flattered at the attention and should support these projects. On the other hand, my deepest heart of hearts thinks I should do what I am doing and continue on. I am not sure there is a right answer.

While I may feel *itchy and cranky about this, I am gratified that people have taken my side and are helping me to track down these images. I am also happy that the transgressors have removed my image with little to no fuss. I know this morning’s post was not as well written as it could have been, though it has done its job. The word is out; the *itch is back and looking out for her image.

Stealing and Posting

Stealing is a distasteful subject. I suppose we all do it to some degree or another. Pens and Post-it notes which are accidentally tossed in bags at the office and left at home, for example. I am shocked by the premise often espoused in the quilt world that every quiltmaker is nice. Quiltmakers are people who are part of the world just like sanitation engineers, app developers, salespeople and receptionists. We all like to think that our little subculture is different. I have found out recently that quiltmakers can be just as mean and just as likely to appropriate what is not theirs as shoplifters.

Fortunately, there was no meanness or malice intended as far as I can tell.

FB Stealing
FB Stealing

You might think stealing is a harsh word, but that is immediately what I thought when I saw the image above. Someone took my image of FOTY 2015 and created this project on FB. I only saw it because TFQ pointed it out to me from a post she saw on Instagram.

I have a small brand, but the goodwill and brand identity I have built I would like to keep.

When I contacted the person via Instagram, she apologized profusely and immediately removed the post. I would have loved that to be the end, but she said she was just sharing it from a post she saw on Facebook. Sigh. She kindly sent me the link and I tracked down the image above. [Nota bene: I have removed the name and image so the person can remain anonymous.]

This all took place on Christmas Day. I didn’t have to deal with it then, of course. However, with the ease of sharing on social media, I felt that I needed to get to the heart of it as soon as possible. I contacted the second person, knowing that she did not want to hear from me on Christmas. I received an answer yesterday. She, though I don’t know why she thought she had the right, gave me three options: attribute, add the copyright or remove the post. I suppose she wanted to keep the project in play. Mean as I felt, I chose remove. It is my image and while I might like the attention, I didn’t like the tone of the email. She removed it and sent the following response to my comment about removing the copyright “I added the text to the top of the image. Not sure where I found the image, but I don’t remove watermarks or links unless they go to a scraper site, so I assume it was a direct upload to Pinterest or Facebook by someone.” While not out of the realm of possibility I find this hard to believe. As far as I know I only posted the piece once without a copyright and that image is angled differently than the one above. What I don’t find hard to believe is that someone else took the image and this is just a digital reprint of part of the quilt.

I found it shocking that someone would take a random image and create a project like this out of it. I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked and should blame how easy it is to do without thinking.

Awhile ago someone posted my image on Instagram as “time capsule” quilt. I am looking for that image and will tell them to remove it, if I haven’t already. I haven’t been able to find it thus far, so I hope I already did. I have started to search Pinterest to find the origin, if the origin is there. I have searched Google Images to see if it posted anywhere I didn’t authorize and I have done some searching on FB. It is a genie out of the bottle situation, however, and I don’t expect to be able to contain it. I am not sure how I would feel if the image had had the copyright attached and my name had been mentioned. I suppose if I had been contacted in advance, I might have collaborated with the person. To discover that my image was being used out of the blue, however, was a shock. I was in no way inclined to allow the project to continue. Of course, again, the genie is out of the bottle (see Instagram photo), so there isn’t much more I can do other than pointing people to my link to the FOTY quilts.

Screw you, Mercury in Retrograde! You will not defeat me.

Be kind. We need kindness in the world and you can be a part of that.


Artist Statements

At the EBHQ Show the other day, I noticed a lot of quilts that were made because the artist had something in his/her fabric stash already. There was a lot of “I made this quilt because these blues had been in the drawer for awhile” type of descriptions.

So, you made the quilt because you had some fabric laying around?

You didn’t like the pattern you selected?

There was no challenge in the technique?

You weren’t inspired by the blue of the sky and sea and picked appropriate fabric that you already had?

I don’t think it is wrong to use fabric in your fabric closet. I don’t think it is wrong to be inspired by a fabric line. If I did think that you would all call me out and you should!

Often, I am in the process of making a quilt and not at all inclined to go out, buy some fabric, wash and iron it before being able to finish. By that time it is time to cook dinner or someone needs my attention and the quilt will languish. I like having fabrics on hand with which I can work.

I do wonder why anyone would make a quilt solely because they had certain fabrics? Where is the fun in that? Quilts require a lot of effort so to have one aspect be the sole reason you make one seems a little odd to me.

I applaud using what you have, but let’s think about the whole process and not make the process solely about destashing. Process is really important to me. Some questions that float around in my head are:

  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • What am I learning?
  • What do I have that is appropriate to use to make progress?
    • Why or why not is it working?
  • What do I need to change to make the piece work?
  • Where am I, after making some progress, based on what I started out to achieve?

Quiltmaking is not a life or death situation and if people want to make a blue quilt because they have blues in their stash, at least more quilts are being made. I hope that quiltmaking will keep my brain pliable and active as I age. I hope that all the different aspects of quiltmaking will provide a variety of opportunities to continue learning and growing.

Why do you make quilts?

What About 2016?

I was sitting at the dentist the other day thinking about my quiltmaking. I was actually feeling quite depressed about it. For a couple of different reasons I feel like 2015 was filled with quiltmaking anxiety. I know I got a lot done. The 2015 Year in Review post tells me that. None of it felt significant, though. None of it felt important. A lot of it felt like I was marking time in front of my machine.

I had a lot of ‘must dos’ and that was part of it. Also, I felt like no project I did was exceptional* at all. I just felt dissatisfied and somewhat unhappy with my work. The good part is that I kept working and didn’t get discouraged. Any work is better than nothing.

I don’t want 2016 to feel anxious and not worthwhile. Yes, I have projects to finish, but I don’t want 2016 to feel anxiety ridden. For example, I don’t want 2016 to be all about UFOs though I still want to finish some up some things on my list. Finishing things cannot be the whole idea, however. I have to enjoy the process as well. I want my quiltmaking to be joyful. I have to figure out how to do that.

I already started this ‘project’ (or idea) after Christmas. I wanted to make another Sew Together Bag and I needed some downtime after a busy few days of holidays and the prep beforehand. I felt like it was the right time to make it (photos soon!). I put all other projects aside and worked on the second Sew Together Bag. It went a lot more quickly, I guess, since I knew what to expect. Also, I enjoyed the process more because I was doing just want I wanted not what I felt like I had to do.

Yesterday, as a follow-up, I worked through some things on the list and did some cutting of fabric that had been ironed. A couple of the items on the list were the Thanksgiving table runners (look for a post soon) I bought in Oregon. I put them together and prepared them to be quilted. I plan to quilt them myself at the CQFA Retreat in January. I also got back in the groove of working on donation blocks. That feels good and I now have 3 of the 8 (a la Mrs. K) I want to make in order to make a quilt I can finish with the Cutting Corners Ruler. They are nice looking as well. Mostly I am using blues and purples.

I think I need to stay away from making things as gifts in 2016. Not completely, but I mean on the scale of the Christmas Pillowcase project. I think I also need to work on some projects that have been in my head and may take some time. I guess we’ll see how it goes, won’t we?








*I don’t think my projects are generally exceptional and feel that if I come up with an exceptional project it is a gift. I am happy with the work I do and the quality of that work.

Don’t Should on Yourself

During the storm last week I should have sewn more.

Over the weekend I should have made progress on the Field Day Zipper.

When I have a spare moment, I should be working on the Teenaged Boy Black & Grey Donation Quilt.

I should be farther along sewing triangles to the leftover octagons.

These are words going through my head recently. Finally, I sat myself down and we talked.

I DO want to sew. Really. There is no reason I shouldn’t be sewing. I feel like I want to work on a project about which I am really excited. The problem is that I have a couple of other projects I also really want to get done, mostly to get the off my plate. I am not excited about them, so creative things kind of bog down.

I have to figure out what will get me out of this mood. Am I in a rut? Did I should badly on some projects that are not exciting me? Are projects not moving off my design wall fast enough? I don’t know.

My mom always says I shouldn’t ‘should’ on myself. I do a lot and I get stuff done. beating myself up about sewing is stupid. Yes, I want to finish projects, but clearly there is something else going on. Life is taking up space in my head and that is a thing that sometimes happens. Other stuff I enjoy is getting shoved aside for a lot of things I feel I ‘should’ do.

How UFOs are Born

I was talking to a friend the other day. She makes sculpture out of the stuff she finds in her recycle bin. She makes about one piece a year. It was so fascinating to hear about her process and how she gets her ideas. Somehow we got on the topic of process and she said ‘sometimes, you have to put a piece aside and let it be for awhile.’

I froze, mentally, at least.

Have you ever had a moment happen where you think 10 minutes have gone by, but only seconds passed and you are able to pick up thread of the conversation with nobody the wiser that you just checked out? That happened to me at this moment. A movie started playing in my head of all of the UFOs that I had dredged out of the darkness of the fabric closet and finished in the past couple of years.Then the voice inside my head started screaming NOOOOOOOOO!

I pulled myself together and my friend was still happily chattering on about process.

This one comment made me think about how perfectly good projects become UFOs.

You start out happily working on a project. You are excited, love the fabrics and are already imagining it on your bed or wall or being opened by a lucky recipient at the next holiday.

The first blocks are challenging and you feel excited as you see them come together. The more blocks you make the more mundane and rote the sewing becomes. Boring follows close behind. Still, you think about other things, plan your grocery list and cross things off your mental to do list as you push fabric and thread under the needle of your machine. The charm and allure of the project hasn’t dimmed completely.

You are in the home stretch as you begin to piece the border. Then the process all goes horribly wrong. Your math is off. There is an extra inch where you don’t need it and the fabulously pieced border won’t fit.

Suddenly, you feel tired. The excitement of the project is gone and it is just a big pain in the neck.

You wander off, work on something else, add new deadline. A month passes and the project is taking up space on your design wall and you need the space to finish your donation quilt. You take the project off the design wall just for a small rest, put all the parts in a box and put it front and center on a shelf. Months pass and the space on the shelf is needed so into the closet, near the front, the project box goes.

More months pass. The box gets moved to the back of the closet as some rearrange new fabric.

5 YEARS LATER (+12 other completed projects)

A fabri-lanche hits your fabric closet. You decide this is a good time to take inventory and clean out. Everything comes out of the closet and you go through it before you put it back in. You find the project about which you had totally forgotten. The fabric is old looking and no longer interests you. You throw it into the guild charity bag and know that someone will do something gorgeous with it.

Thinking About Bags

You might have read my final analysis on making the second Petrillo Bag.  I carried that bag around for several days and doing so made me think about making bags to actually carry around.

You have probably noticed that I make a lot of bags. Mostly I give them away. There are only a few (Springy bag, Jane Market totes) that I actually carry around. Part of that is that I am one person and one person only needs so many bags. Still, I do like to make them.

As I have said in the past, I carry a bunch of stuff with me to work in a bag on public transport. The bags have to be sturdy, have lots of pockets, be on the large side and relatively stain resistant. The bags I carry to work have been Timbuktu bags for the past several years. They work but they aren’t perfect. They are large enough, have enough pockets, but they look like everyone else’s bag.  Also, I am kind of over the backpack thing with my work clothes.

When I made the Petrillo Bag, I did so because I liked the shape, mostly.

In the case of making the bag, I don’t have control over the finish, but I can choose the colors and pattern. I probably have an equal, if different, amount of control over color the as I do if I bought a bag in the store.

Using the ShapeFlex plus layers of fabric plus interfacing. That is a lot of layers to go through and my backup machine wasn’t happy. I could make a better, sturdier bag if I had a tougher machine, perhaps an industrial machine or pseudo industrial machine. There is no way I am even going to consider buying an industrial machine, but I still want to make bags. I may never do it, but there is a place where you can go and rent table saws and welding things…Tech something. They have industrial machines there. Perhaps I will go and see if I can use theirs.

I worry most about setting the bag in something and not being able to get the stain out or having the stain leak through the bag. I like my bags nice and when you take public transport, it is hard to keep things nice. This is why Sheldon has ‘bus pants.’ I tried using the fusible laminating stuff on the Scrap Lab Backpack and that worked OK. It isn’t like using regular oilcloth. I suppose I could just make a new bag if the old one got stained or boring…

Do you use bags you make?

Do you worry about staining them or ruining them?

What do you carry to work?


What Works

I mentioned the Stitched in Color blog the other day. After I looked at the ticker tape information, I browsed around recent posts and found a post called ‘Dare.’

Both Pam and Katie have mentioned recently feeling anxious, not feeling like sewing, etc. I have been feeling old. I am not old, though I am older than both Katie, Pam and some of the other podcasters. I never felt my age before and I don’t know if I really am older now, but I just feel old. It could be that the Young Man is talking seriously about colleges and we have gone to speak to some people about a university he might want to attend. I was never really a gooey mother and all of a sudden I feel gooey thinking about sending my “baby” off to college. Perhaps gooey goes with feeling old?

Also, I have been working on small projects. Small projects are like eating M&Ms. You eat a thousand of them and still don’t feel full. I am glad to be plowing through some yardage on napkins, receiving blankets and gift bags. However, the small projects seem insubstantial, unsatisfying and I don’t feel like I am accomplishing anything.


So, somehow all of the above made a connection in my mind to the Stitched in Color blog.  Reading Stitched in Color’s blog post reminded me that I don’t have to do what everyone else does to be successful at quiltmaking. She writes:

“*you don’t have to keep a fabric stash”

  • to which I add: It is also ok if you do, or if you keep a few pieces of fabric by your bed to pet. Remember: fabric is a cheap alternative to drugs and therapy.

“*you don’t have to buy designer fabrics”

  • to which I add: buy fabric you like. If you like to work with velvet and quiana, go for it! Just go and make stuff and make yourself happy. Banish the quilt police from your mind.

“*you don’t have to hand sew bindings”

  • to which I add: when sewing machines became popular household items it was a sign of wealth to machine quilt and machine bind. Quilts from the end of the 19th century have been found with machine bindings. Sewing machines were seen as timesavers. *I* enjoy hand sewing the backs of bindings onto my quilts, but I would love to learn to do a really nice looking machine binding. Do what you like. If hand binding is a terrific trial, don’t do it. Whatever you do, focus on having fun and having good technique. Practice.

“*you don’t have to press seams open or even to the side”

  • to which I add: Press in a manner that is best for the piece. You may press to the side and open in the same quilt. The seams will be on the inside of the quilt and nobody will see them once you put the back on. Just make sure you don’t have lumps of seams (like the center of an 8 pointed star) that can be felt when your quilt is used.

“*you don’t have to care when your points don’t match”

  • to which I add: I try my best to get the points to match. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. If I have ripped out a seam more than once, then I try to let it go. I try for good technique, but am not perfect. If I can live with the boo-boo, I move on. None of my quilts are perfect, but neither do the errors take away from the overall effect. The goal is to not have the errors be so obvious that they are all the viewer sees. Reach a happy medium

“*you don’t have to have a tidy or pretty sewing space”

  • to which I add: I like a tidy sewing space, but the reality is that I don’t have enough horizontal space or storage space, or the right kind of horizontal and storage space. I make due and dream about the future studio that is perfect. Try not to compare your space to others. What matters is what comes out of your sewing space.

“*you don’t have to make anything “original””

  • to which I add that there are plenty of fabulous patterns out there. I recently followed a pattern, including the fabric, exactly. What I found was that I could see a method to the “madness” of the pattern designer that was more than just “use this pattern and fabric to make this quilt”. By doing an exact replica, I could see her vision. This has made me think about using the same concept myself later. It also make me think of how different fabrics would look using the same pattern. You can copy everything in a pattern exactly and just use the process as meditation. You can also use a pattern, change the fabric and the construction and make the piece your own. There are a multitude of levels between the two as well. We all need something different from our quiltmaking at different times. Do what works for you.

“*you don’t have to blog, Tweet or Instagram”

  • to which I add: no, you don’t. If you just want to sit in front of your sewing machine by yourself and sew, do it. Tweeting and blogging are fun, but they are not sewing.

“*and you definitely don’t have to have a fancy sewing machine to turn out really great quilts”

  • to which I confess that my machine is nearing 17 years old. Would I love a new machine? Of course, but don’t let having a very basic machine stop you. I make great things with my machine. We are pals and I know him/her well. Keeping this machine is also saving me the time it would take to shop for a new machine. Use what you have and go make stuff!
Punk Rock Quilt
Punk Rock Quilt

The blog post also reminded me that I don’t always do what others do. When was the last time you used pink as a neutral?

What works for you? Do THAT!
















***all of the quotes are from a post called ‘Dare‘ from the Stitched in Color blog written by Rachel.

Thinking about Process

Earlier in the year, while working on the Star Sampler project, I wrote: “Still I didn’t want to work on any Sawtooth Stars at the moment, even the new patterns. I just left these on the design wall and pretended I wasn’t behind again. This is an interesting exercise in working on one project almost exclusively. It is difficult for me to dedicate so much time to one project, I am finding. This makes me think more about my process.”

I didn’t go back after the above musing and put pen to paper (or keyboard to blogsite as the case may be) about my thoughts on process. I do think that the Star Sampler has given me some insight into working on a semi-complex, long term project. Whether or not I have said it, I have been thinking about trying to mostly stick to one project at a time. And, whether or not I have realized it or planned it, the Star Sampler project was a test of that thought.

We were about two months into the Sawtooth Star project when I wrote the above.  I found my eyes wandering. The Star Sampler turned out to be a special project, because it required so many blocks,  and, in turn, so much dedication. The blocks weren’t all difficult and there were some similarities, such as dozens and dozens of Flying Geese, but there was figuring out and puzzling out to be done throughout the project. The small 4″ stars were especially challenging, but mostly because of the size and the quantities required. The quilt, and the exercise might not have been a good test, but it was a test.

I have spent time thinking about this and I found that, after a few months of no longer working on the Star Sampler, the project sticks in my head. I feel like I have a relationship with Sawtooth Stars and I think about how much work and time the project took.

I think I have learned something about process from this project. Working on a large project that requires dedication has value. Speeding through projects doesn’t allow them to lodge in my brain. The Star Sampler is in my brain. I keep thinking about it. I think I need to consider other projects with the difficulty and depth of projects in the future.

Do I want to work on all projects that take 4 months to piece? Probably not, but I also don’t want to churn through projects every weekend. I want to remember the projects that I have made. I feel really bad about Fresh Fruit. Fresh Fruit, as you know was a leaders and enders project. Because the pieces were so large, I had the major pieces for the quilt top done before I really realized it. It didn’t require much dedicated time on my part. I kind of slid it between whatever else I was working on. It is definitely not lodged in my brain.

I don’t think it is sheer time that makes a quilt top lodge in my brain. I think there has to be a little drama, like the green border for the T-Shirt quilt. Not a lot of drama, but a little. Perhaps drama isn’t the right word? Perhaps the right word is process. I have to work through the process in order to get the quilt to stick in my mind. If there is no process, no puzzling out piecing tricks, no quandries, then the quilt just doesn’t stick in my mind. It is kind of sad to make a quilt and then not even remember making it.