Creating

First Monday Quilt

In December 2019, a few young friends had wanted to learn to quilt, so we met together in a group we called First Monday Sew-days. It was a short-lived enterprise, collapsing into covid in March 2020, but I did make a series of handouts for these beginners, and taught a mini-tutorial about that technique. Above is Square in a Square for April 2020.

The free monthly handouts in downloadable PDF form can be found under the First Monday Sew-days post in the drop-down menu of Past Endeavors (I hide all a lot of my stuff in drop-down menus). I got out these blocks because of this post by ailish on Instagram, where she puts up two wonderful quilts of birds (seen below) and acknowledges that she is stuck. Stuck? Oh, boy, do I know stuck.

She had many great comments, if you want to see what they were. And her feed has many great quilts, but it was the specificity of these quilts at this time that caught my eye.

I’d been browsing Creative Block, a compilation of artist interviews, and found Jessica Bell’s observation: “When I can’t make progress, it is often because I am mentally scattered; this happens when I am overcommitted or have a schedule without any breathing room in it. I have to have a lot of space and quiet in my head to think my best thoughts. An artist I admire told me a few years ago that ‘you can’t make art in the cracks.’ ” from Danielle Krysa’s book of artist compilations, Creative Block

So, I read through all my First Monday Sew-day tipsheets, and then went through my Orphan Blocks bin, looking for all my samples that I’d used in teaching those beginning quilters. When I didn’t find particular blocks in the fabrics above, I made more.

Every block in blue and yellow from my Orphan Bin, plus the ones I made today. The golden yellow with the little suns on it was a once-in-a-lifetime perfect color and print from Sherri and Chelsi, from their fabric line Clover Hollow some months ago. I bought three yards, and have gone through one already. The other blues are a collected bunch, and I use the yardstick of “does it look like blue painters tape?” to gauge the color.

Collection, culled. I have more to make and more to arrange, but I’ll keep trying. Now, back to stuck.

In a special section, Poets and Writers collected new poets giving advice to each other. I read through a lot of what they had to say, and copied it down into a little repeated calendar entry on my iPhone and I like looking at what they have to say, even though the medium in which they create is different. However, we both strive to create. I don’t know if you’ll find this interesting, but I’ve selected a few of their quotes, about dealing with the creative rut:

Tiana Clark: Trust your imagination. Be on your own timetable. Some advice from David Baker: “There is no hurry.” Some advice from my therapist: “Everything you want is not upstream.” Redefine what success means to you.

Jenny Xie: Since I don’t have the inclination to [create] in small bursts, I need to be intentional about setting aside at least a few hours or half a day. This means if I mark off time to write, I can’t go off to run small errands, agree to coffee with friends or acquaintances, sit in front of my phone answering text messages and e-mails, or distract myself by chipping away at random tasks.

Emily Skillings: The painter Jane Freilicher put it best, I think, when she said, “To strain after innovation, to worry about being on ‘the cutting edge’, reflects a concern for a place in history or one’s career rather than the authenticity of one’s painting.” There’s also, I think, a quieter quote somewhere about her letting go of the pressure to be innovative, and that she felt she could really paint after that, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere.

Anthony Cody: [If I am stuck,] I walk away. The internet, the algorithm, and capitalism want us to go as hard as we can until we are spent, only to start over again. If I can’t push a project any further, I change mediums or do something else entirely. I write inside a phone book. I break down cardboard and sketch and build. [Creating] is often more about listening than it is about the act of [creating], so if [it] ceases, I know it is time I stop what I am attempting, listen more, and reimagine the path.

Fatimah Asghar: Writer’s block remedy: I take a break. I think that if you bang your head against the wall trying to create, you’re going to resent the process of creation. Usually when you reach an impasse it’s a signal to move on to another thing. Maybe you haven’t slept in a while. Maybe you need some time to ponder, to just stare at the wall. Maybe you need to live, truly be alive for a little and not near a computer. Maybe you need to read, see, watch—to refill your well.

Recently we had a chance to escape for a couple of days to a beach not far from our house, and I took this project with me. The surprise gift of this hotel was they had a rooftop deck with glass railings, so when we weren’t walking near the ocean, I could see it as I sat and stitched. I’ve been working on this for some time, but like so many of the poets, I’m content to let it come along at its own pace.

early days, with my granddaughter

I began this almost exactly two years ago, and wrote at the bottom of the post: “see you in two years!”

Now I’m thinking, it might be three, or even four years, and at this point I’m still not sure I like it, but I drag it out every once in a while and add a row or a few red centers. It’s good for taking on car trips and for sitting out on fourth-floor sun decks as I listen to the ocean and feel the cool air. It’s good for reminding me that not everything goes according to plan. But taking some advice from the poet Tiana Clark, above, I remind myself: I’m on my own timetable.

Happy Quilting!

Covid-19 Times · Creating

Renewal

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” TS Eliot, Four Quartets

Where I started this section. The journey for the Leaves Border:

I thought I could appliqué each leaf onto a block, then sew the blocks together. Soon, I realized that sewing them together in a strip, then appliquéing them in a row was more efficient. Note the blue border separating the sections.

I used the draw-shape-on-freezer-paper-then-remove-just-before-the-end approach. I learned this when doing my Elizabeth’s Lollypop Trees, and have kind of kept at it.

When we get into a situation that feels uncertain, most of us will immediately try to get to a place of certainty. Leo Babauta

Beauty Pose in the Garden One Morning

I brought it back in from the garden, but somehow I left my creative brain out there in the weeds. Seriously, this is all I did for a couple of days. Tacked up first one fabric, then another. Not liking much. I tried to write a blog post, but there was nada – zip – zilch. Instead I spent my time converting an old blog of mine to a book (I’ll let you know how it goes–book should be here next week).

I had attended (virtually) the MWEG Conference this past weekend, filled with inspirational women speakers, and this let me leave my self-enforced creative rigors for a while. One speaker mentioned a variation of my oft-quoted line about how perfection is the enemy of the good. She put it this way: “Perfection is the law of diminishing returns.” In thinking about this, I finally just chose the upper right pink fabric, cut it, and sewed it on. At some point I just have to get past the anguish of too many choices, grasping for perfection.

How could there be any perfect to long for, when it hasn’t been created yet and doesn’t know what it is?

I tried out multiple variations of the outside two-triangles block, unpicking them apart, then re-sewing in different combinations. I noticed that this past two months, I had put in online orders a few different times to different online shops, both ETSY and regular places. Most weren’t large orders, but I wondered if my “stuck-ness” both in quilting and the restrictions in life and trying lose some of my Covid-19 pounds caused me expand out this way: retail therapy. (Don’t worry, dear, we haven’t broken the bank.) I think it’s also a reaction to this past year of trying bravely to stay sane, seek new quilty horizons, dodge dysthymia, and to Keep Calm and Carry On.

With Sprinkles on Top, by Alicia Jacobs Dujets

But the funny thing was, in all those incoming fabrics, only one made it into this quilt. All the rest of this is from my stash in before all those packages arrived–a true scrappy quilt that hopefully doesn’t look like all those “scrappy quilts” that I see in the magazines. Hopefully, it looks more coordinated.

So this is where I ended a couple of days ago.

I started working on the outside border.

The entertainment of watching someone else’s ship get stuck proved a great distraction. I am also familiar with the back-up of tasks behind one greatly-stuck task, and thought it was a great metaphor for so much of my designing and quilting. Like the Ever Given, I was also stymied, and thought that maybe that terrific orange border was the final part of the quilt? I don’t really know, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. I made some sample blocks while listening to this book:

I did some quilting (cream-colored thread) on my quilt I Hear America Singing.

After stewing a while, I went to Affinity Designer and re-drew my ideas for that outside border. We’ll see what happens next.

This week is Easter weekend. But before I go there, I want to go back a few days.

Last week, we went to church for the first time in a year. we were all socially distanced, with masks on. Before the meeting started, I went up closer to take a photo of our new organ (not yet quite finished) and to soak up the feeling of being in a familiar place after so long. However, given my year of nearly total confinement, I was a nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof, nodded to people, then skedaddled outside after the service was over. It may take me a few times to acquaint myself with crowds, and places, and more than a few people in my bubble. We are still Zooming our services for those who can’t yet come and participate.

Boy did I love this story that came in from the Washington Post Instagram Account. This is La Verne Ford Wimberly of Tulsa, who has been going to church virtually. The “82-year-old retired educator decks herself out head to toe every Sunday, then — to the delight of fellow parishioners at Metropolitan Baptist Church — posts a selfie on Facebook after the service. Since March 29, 2020, she has taken photos of herself from her living room in 53 different color-coordinated outfits. She hasn’t decided what she’ll be wearing this Easter Sunday, but those who know Wimberly said the odds are good that she’ll make a big splash.”

UPDATE: In the video the local TV station made about her, it shows many of her photos, with all her wonderful hats.

I love these Star of Bethlehem succulent plants; this is my Easter blossom for you.

Remember the reason why there is Easter, pause for a moment, and come back to the tasks of life, renewed.

Happy Easter.

Behind the Curtain

Thieves Meet Old Woman

At least that’s what Google Translate said it meant, when I typed in…

…which is the newest song for the newest dance craze, introduced to me by my daughter on Instagram as well as other celebrities (make sure you turn on the sound):

And this led me to a whole rabbit hole of watching lots of people dance in 7 second spurts (mostly young ones, hence the title of this post makes sense), the thieves being whoever stole all those years from me when I was busy raising children, schlepping groceries and making an occasional quilt.

Which led me to an article in the New York Times that found a correlative link between creativity and exercise:

“If you often exercise, there’s a good chance you also tend to be more creative, according to an interesting new study of the links between physical activity and imagination. It finds that active people come up with more and better ideas during tests of their inventiveness than people who are relatively sedentary.”

There is no hard and fast connection, but maybe all these dancers are on to something. And yes, I downloaded the song to listen to while on my walks, but you can forget me trying to do that dance.

My burst of enthusiasm for the Triple Sunflower took several hits this week, as I tried to figure out where this quilt is leading me. Here’s the progression in two montages, Progression Forward and then, Progression Backward:

Too blah, too pastel, and as my husband pointed out, the flowers and stems in the center were bolder than the borders. The quilt was headed to a pastoral landscape, but I was thinking more Paul Gauguin or Wolf Kahn, with more saturated color. And I noticed the slight curve on the right border and worried it was going to amplify onwards, outward through all the rest of the construction. It was at this point that I emailed The Medallion Quilt Queen, Melanie of Catbird Quilt Studio, who knows everything about medallion quilts. She talked me down off the proverbial ledge, and got me re-oriented towards making progress:

Yes, progress meant I ripped off all the previous borders and then, in between watching young people dance on Instagram, doing all the laundry and shuffling nearly every fabric in my stash from the ironing board to the design wall and back again, I finally added the medium-dark blue border. I am also auditioning some brighter fabrics for the next one. Which I will probably change again.

The happy dance this week was having Kelley, my quilter, stop by and show me some new samples she’d stitched out, and we auditioned them for my Wealth of Days quilt. Can’t wait to see it finished.

I’ll give social media the last word:

Software

Thoughts on Constructing a Quilt Block

Recently I had a chance to do some beta-testing on BlockBase+, which is a revised version of Electric Quilt’s original software. I will write about the sofware next month when I host a giveaway for this software, but this post is about the process of making. In our beta-testing, we were asked to make test quilt blocks, check for spelling issues, functionality, etc. so I thought I would try out a new-to-me quilt block.

Every block in BlockBase+ has a name and a number, based as it is on the Barbara Brackman Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. I thought this looked cute, so I went for it.

I printed out the templates, labeled them as to the color I wanted, then got to work.

This whole thing was a little tricky, trying to get the petals seamed around the blocks and little triangles. But I really really liked the design I had cooked up (coming soon), so I persisted.

You can see the finished quilt block above, but all I could think was, how did this quilter in the early part of the 20th century put this thing together? But some early quilters did, as I found in a search online:

The blurb describing it says: “Antique Vintage Triple Sunflower Quilt Top in 1930’s prints beautifully hand and machine stitched.  This measures about 33 x 47.5 inches and is in very good as found vintage condition with 8 places that need to be resown.” NOTE: It sold for $26 this past September 2020.

I had not seen those antique quilts when I started this block. So on the second round, I decided to try using English Paper Piecing in putting it together. Many sections went together more easily, like the petals: crisp and sharp.

This long stem was less fun.

The back. I think it’s always fun to look at the reverse side of EPP.

Done. This took me about two days of pretty constant piecing, but I did get to watch a few episodes of Ted Lasso on Apple TV (colorful language alert).

Side by side, back and front.

What was the clue I garnered from the antique blocks?

Okey-dokey. This would have made things so much faster and easier. There is also a lot of variety on the stems and leaves, all hand-appliquéd after the four blocks were assembled. And I was able to really enlarge the green-bordered block to see the grain of the background pieces: the grain is not all straight of grain, so while I don’t know if they did a lot of EPP at that time, they might have. Or they might have used odd bits from their scrap bags.
(I don’t know about you, but I wish some fabric designer would do a replica of the lower right petals of the blue sunflower block at the bottom, with those cool alternating blue-white half circles.)

Overall: putting in a seam on the rectangles and the center squares would make it easier to construct. However, I do like the long stem in one piece…pieced-in, rather than appliqued.

Regarding the giveaway for the Walk book: the Husband Random Number Generator picked a winner, and I’ve notified the winner by email. Thank you to all who wrote. I had the best time reading all your springtime descriptions, and felt like I was visiting different areas of the country and world. I laughed at many, and got warm feelings on others. You are all amazing writers and quilters. Thank you for reading.
Happy Quilting!

P.S. Happy Pi Day. Since I’m not making a pie, enjoy these random pie charts from The Internets.

Hotel California Pie Chart
Books · Giveaway

Book Reviews & Giveaway

The linking went like this: teaching at Surfside Guild –> looking at their website to get to know them –> finding their Block of the Month page –> jumping up and down because now I could make a Freddy Moran quilter lady block –> to making one –> hunting down a couple of Freddy Moran books (one in the bookcase in the family room, and the other one online).

This has a lot of Freddy’s style in it, from bright intense color to more bright intense color and how to play in that paintbox. I really enjoyed it.

I’m not finished reading this, but right off the bat, I have to tell you it’s like getting two books for the price of one, because it has both Freddy Moran’s and Gwen Marston’s philosophies, which make you wish you’d could have been a part of the conversation they are having in this collaboration book. I had to hunt for this online, but am so glad I did.

Seeing these guidelines was worth the price of the book. It answered for me that question I always had when I see a perfectly produced and designed quilt in a quilt show, but for some reason I just walk on to the one that is less perfect, but way more interesting (see #3, above).

I used to have this book, but I lent it out somewhere. I watched her lecture at QuiltConTogether and once again recognized what a genius she was in her designs and vision for our humble walking foot. So I bought another one.

And I purchased this one, which I hadn’t had before. The review on both of these books: a good idea to have in your bookcase. I have probably purchased way too many books over the years, but I tend to like books that can spark new ideas for me, or give me a new technique or vision on using tools or fabrics that I already have. So yes-absolutely to the collaborative Gwen/Freddy book. And yes-absolutely to both to Jacquie Gering’s books.

I like my books unsigned (it’s a Creative Writing thing–you don’t want to know) but one of my books arrived signed. I contacted Jacquie and she immediately sent out a new one, and said I could do a giveaway on this signed book. So….if you don’t mind having an “Elizabeth” in the front of your book, and you’d really like to have a Walk book (her first one), I’ll use the Random Husband Number Generator to choose someone.

Leave a comment telling me what your favorite part of Spring is: the flowers? the rain? the weather warming up? the promise of summer? the mud? the shifting to daylight savings time? (If you say this, I won’t pick you because I hate Daylight Savings Time: you’ve been warned.) Easter candy? Eating chocolate bunny ears? Easter? Easter dresses? (I think I’m in a rut here.) Mother’s Day? Your birthday?

[For those who need a definition: Spring begins sometime after Valentine’s Day, and ends when the hot days of summer blow in and school gets out.]

Okay, that’s enough blathering–time to go. Or, as Jacquie says, “Walk on!”

Leave a comment!

UPDATE: Comments closed now. The next post will update you on the giveaway.

Covid-19 Times · Quilt Finish

Memorium: Speech Acts for a Dying World

Speech Acts for a Dying World
19″ high by 20″ wide

I thought a long time about whether to alter this quilt’s perfect original symmetry of twenty inches square. The design, by Yvonne Fuchs, called out for such a premise: neat, ordered, tidy, structurally sound. Even-keeled, if you will. But with the advent of 500,000 dead Americans from the covid-19 pandemic, our world was none of the above. We were not even-keeled, neat, ordered, or even structurally sound, given the riots in the Capitol in January over the continuing big lie of the election. I feel this keenly.

When our guild proposed a challenge, calling it Sounds and Voices, I was all ready with a design in my head of a vision of people beating pots and pans in solidarity with the essential workers in New York City, a rite that has its origins in the protests in Chile years ago: women in the streets beating pots and pans, protesting in what was known as a cacerolazo. These sounds and voices of a cacerolazo have spread to Spain, to Mexico, to many other cities around the world, but coming home to America as show of strength for those in the early days of this pandemic. Knowing now the roots of this sound, I wonder if it wasn’t also in protest: protest against our inability to take our American-made gumption and beat this thing soundly. But the virus is boss, no matter what we think, no matter how many pots we bang.

After too many weeks inside and of not traveling more than five miles from our home, I got up from the computer where I’d just seen the image above, and said, “We have to go to the beach. Today.” My husband and I had tossed the idea back and forth many times, but all of a sudden we just had to go.

We took some photos of a grandson’s quilt, had a burger at a local shop and even grabbed a few groceries at a new-to-us store: in other words, we refreshed, just for a few hours. Back home, in looking at my ideas for the challenge quilt, they too, had to change.

Less than two weeks after our trip to the beach, this awful number came into the news around me. You all know the statistics: how many more dead than our wars or combined wars, how many families with that proverbial empty seat at the table, how this number will not stop here, but keep going. And now I realized that I would change the quilt’s dimensions and purpose, making it 19″ high (for Covid-19) and 20″ wide, for the year 2020, when our pandemic started.

I started quilting while watching QuiltCon lectures.

This quadrant is about the noise: sounds, voices, getting larger and more obstructive. It’s the daily statistics, the numbers, the news, the anxious waiting for vaccines.

This quadrant has the wind, clearing my mind, corralling the noise and sounds into a restricted space, even though they try to expand. The starfish is on the beach, a transition between the offshore refreshing winds, and the ocean calling out a rhymthic hushing of the clenched ennui in our world.

Beach at the top, descending into the sea, with lots of shells, some of which I brought home with me.

I thought I was done at this point, but I kept thinking about all the references to hand-work and stitching at QuiltCon this year and last. How do I stitch a shell? A starfish? Questions with no answers are my needle and thread.

This quilt is in memorium to those who have died, and the title is taken from a poem by Peter Gizzi. I spent a long time with this poem, using all my rusty creative writing/reading skills to tease out the meanings from his words. This section shown is the final set of stanzas. It references voice with its “whole unholy grain” and I took grain to mean the quality of it, the chorusing of voice, but then he cuts to an allusion of paradise, that place where the dead will congregate after death. Grizzi carefully charts the passing of time with his naming the constellations in the sky: a hunter, a bear, all undergirded by the “sound of names,” calling out for the dying, the naming of those who are sick, or gone, or merely absent in a rest home or a hospital.

He ends the poem with the line “the parade of names,” a bell-like tolling, a constant recitation in our obituaries and our news stories, a clear marking of those leaving this world for the next. It’s this era’s verion of John McCrae’s classic poem In Flanders Fields, a short poem about the dialogue between the dead and the living, a reminder of those buried there, keeping watch yet battling onwards, wanting us to

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep.

While their enemy was about territories, and the next war’s was a horrific grinding of ideals and democracies under the hand of one small man, we must catch the torch, and not break the faith, no matter what our foe. Death is death. Those who are gone can never come back, yet are alive in memory and stories, fragments of lives told with the sound of our voices.