My Small World 2019, sections 1 and 2 finished

Cartoon_playwith the puppy

In my Instagram search box, sometimes the bots throw interesting things up there for me to see — like this cartoon of the sad, then very happy dog, courtesy of a little tender care from a young child.  Coming into the year 2019, I had three quilts who were like the dog in the first frame of the cartoon: miserable, the quilts quite possibly headed for the dustbin to be put out their misery.  But like the young child who was “on it,” the first (Plitvice) has been completed, the second (Sing for Joy) is finished and awaiting photography and a blog post.  The third…well, here’s the first frame photo of it, when I left it several years ago:

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First, a detour.

Intrigued by what qualities would most accurately predict outstanding achievement, Harvard researcher Angela Duckworth isolated two qualities:

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So what does it take for a quilter to look at a seemingly failed project, and decide to figure out how to redeem it, to re-work it, to finish it up.  Sometimes I don’t have a clue why we finish some quilts.  I’ve seen a lot that might have better been abandoned, mine own included.  But perhaps the idea of “grit,” which Duckworth articulated so well in her TED talk, might have something to do with it.  For what we do in our workrooms is somewhat about thread and cloth, but other times, it’s a microcosm of the world outside our sewing room doors.  Okay, back to gritting my teeth and tearing apart a half-built, unhappy quilt.

Moving On...Part I

The first step is to balance the value of the buildings.  If you see the first example, they are all about the same value (light-to-dark) grey fabric, even though they are different prints.  And too many different windows!!  In the new version, I used the same fabric for the bulk of my windows (excepting the “apartment” on the lower left), cutting from different places in the fabric to get a different look.  I’m much happier with this.

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I found some pictures of Small Worlds I liked on the web and on Instagram, and pinned them up in the corner for inspiration, as I worked through the next section.  I took apart my existing under-the-building-shapes and re-used some of them, yet adding others.  I also moved around the shapes to suit what I liked, deviating from the Jenn Kingwell pattern.

mysmallworld2019_5 DUOThen there was this choice: in the lower left, which little large-door shed should it be?

UPDATE: I should also note that I find the My Small World Templates from Sarah Bailey to very helpful.  If you head to Sew What Sherlock? you’ll find instructions on how to obtain them.  I printed them out on my favorite vellum paper, but also printed them on cardstock, for tracing in some sections. 

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Finally I declared it finished, posted it up on IG to check in with the organizers of the My Small World.  I passed.

Moving On...Part II

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The before of Section Two.  Ugh.  Too much of everything.  It’s like I opened the doors to my cupboard and tried to put one of every color, every value and every fabric in this thing.

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Auditioning–trying to keep it to a limited palette of colors, trying to repeat fabrics or mimic them in other sections, all the while listening to this:

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I’m learning a lot about grit from the four presidents discussed in her latest book.

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The little record was from a Polaroid swap some time ago: I took apart the Polaroid block and inserted it.

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I wanted the Art Gallery Maker fabric in this section, but it was too blah next to the pinwheel underneath.  So I bordered it with a bit of blue.mysmallworld2019_8

Section Two: Finished!

I sewed the two sections together, and am now back where I started long ago.  But I like it much better.  I really like the small pinwheels section, the same print in different colors (from a purchased charm square pack) used with the same background print.  I studied many peoples’ Small Worlds to see how they were harmonizing, and where it was okay to throw a ton of stuff at the quilt to see if it stuck.  The hashtags #mysmallworldsewcial and #mysmallworld have been really helpful.  (The first one is the current one; the second from long ago.)  And the two leaders, Nicola and Paula have been great, too: it’s always fun to see their comments on my posts, encouraging me on.

Gridster October 2019

As my buddy Linda noted, once you get going on Small World, it’s hard to do anything else, but I did get my Gridster block made for Lisa and sent off.  She’d met Jenn Kingwell (there seems to be a theme, here) and Jenn had given her permission to send patterns out for our group make Steampunk blocks, for her turn at Queen Bee of the Gridsters. Lisa also sent us some of Jenn’s fabric, asking us to go wild.

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Here’s the first batch of blocks to reach her.  They do play well together.

Lastly, I had a nice time visiting the Inland Empire Modern Quilt Guild.

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Simone (on left), helped me set up.  This is before it started.

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Some scenes of the Guild Meeting.  They are a small (50 person) guild, but have such lovely people.

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I’m headed here this week with Leisa–can’t wait!

Hope your small worlds are harmonizing, your colors singing together, and that your sewing places are fun and cozy places to be!

A Piece of Her Mind: DAR Exhibit 2019

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When my husband and I traveled to Washington, D.C. recently, we took in an exhibit at the DAR Museum titled, A Piece of Her Mind.  It had a focus on how technology — in an historical sense — affected quilters at an earlier time, just as much as it affects us today.  I thought you’d like to see some of the quilts, so here we go.

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I actually have to give a lecture in 2020 about the impact of technology, and all that was swirling around in my mind were topics such as social media, rotary cutters, our fancy high-speed sewing machines.  But this showed me that technology’s impact is not just a recent phenomena.

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An example of a table-top sewing machine with foot pedals was in front of a beautiful quilt of basket blocks.

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The blocks were appliqued (interesting to note her use of black thread, no matter what color the fruit), and from the appearance of it, stuffed (trapunto?).  It also looks like she quilted the “plain” blocks first, then sewed the basket blocks in between the quilted blocks — a really unusual way to construct a quilt.

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The Red and Green Bethlehem Star Quilt (1840-1860) benefitted from the relatively new ‘Turkey red’ dyes.  According the title card, previous to this invention, “dying cloth this color of red was a complicated dye process. [In addition] [g]reen had to be dyed in two steps (yellow, then blue) until late in the 1800s, but a more reliable option called ‘chrome green’ provided the leafy and emeral hues seen in mid-century quilts.”  This cotton quilt was made by Sarah Hall Gwyer (1819-1882) in North Carolina, or Omaha, Nebraska.

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I loved this broderie perse (or appliquéd chintz panel) quilt from the 1820s not only because of the design, but because of those stitches!  Seeing evidence of another woman’s handwork always makes a quilt more personal for me.

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This Baltimore Album Quilt is from about 1850, and is made by a member of the Hayden family from Baltimore, Marlyand.  It’s cotton, with wool embroidery.

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This appliqué quilt was made by Mary Swearingen King (1811-1902) in Findlay, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.  I loved the applique birds:

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They look almost pre-historic, here, feeding berries to their young.

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Beyond the technology-oriented quilts, there was a section on quilts that were affected by the culture of the day.  I was drawn to the red, white and blue quilts.  That center block is the flag from Cuba, explained below:

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I zoomed way in (the ropes around the quilts didn’t permit close inspection) so the picture is a bit globby, but you can see the Clay ribbon in the outside border.

The exhibit also had a series of crazy quilts, some quilts made with toile prints, and quilts inspired by popular fictional characters.

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Afterwards we went to the library–quite stunning in a panoramic view.

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There was also a quilt of another kind in the Renwick Gallery, just up the street, made out of snippets of movie film.  The title of this is “Fibers and Civilization (1959)” and was made in 2009, using 16 mm film and polyamide thread.  This piece of art is from Sabrina Gshwandtner, and I’d seen some of her work before at LACMA.

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Then we hopped on the Metro and went over to the National Museum of American History.  Can you tell I looked up on the internet where all the quilt exhibits were?

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Unfortunately, this spectacular quilt was behind a piece of highly reflective glass, so the only way I could get a photo was to gently lean my photo lens on the glass to cut the glare.  This means that I couldn’t get a photo of the complete quilt, but here are some segments.

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In another small exhibit, they had a lot of crazy quilts.

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I was quite interested in what this title card (above) said about the advent of patterns for crazy patchwork.

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In between all this, we stopped for some lobster rolls at Luke’s Lobster shop, meandered around the Mall, and hung out together.  We really like DC, as you probably know.  More photos can be found on Instagram.

DCDAR_pressclub.jpgFall Cookies 2019

Later that week we had a gathering at the The National Press Club in D.C., where they host the White House Correspondent Dinners, and we had a spread of yummy desserts to choose from.  I chose one of these (it’s the color, naturally!) after I’d had the requisite chocolate treat.

So, here’s your spot of fall color–happy quilting!

 

Halloween Banner

My niece-by-marriage, Stephanie, has decked out her house with spiders everywhere, along with Halloween decor.  She is a young mother with small children.  I, however, drape one thing around the house and call it done.  I am an old mother whose children have grown and gone, and there are no grandchildren around to witness my pathetic Halloween decorationing.

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I started this in August, hoping to have it finished by October 1st.  I finished it last Monday, so just barely by the beginning of Halloween Month.

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In the other post, you can read about how I put the striped fabric on the edges.  To finish it off, I cut five  1-1/2″ WOF strips of spooky fabric, and used a bias seam to join them all together.  Then I arranged my pennants how I liked the order, and sewed the binding right-sides-together, overlapping the corners of the pennants slightly, and sewed it on.

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I decided to slip in some really narrow cording (used for pulling up blinds; you can find it at your local all-purpose fabric store) in the black binding, in order to strengthen it and so it wouldn’t stretch out.

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I folded the binding up and over the pennants, and pinned the edge.  It gaped slightly, so I used a stiletto to help coax the folded edge over.

Really, it’s a clay MudTool, specifically a Mudshark.  I saw it last week when we were in DC at Michael Sherrill’s exhibit.  I like how the needle tool folds up into the Mudshark: no stiletto caps to lose. Who says museum gift shops don’t have items for quilters?  You just have to think creatively.

P.S. I decided to mail it home via USPS because I didn’t know if it would clear airport security.

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You can see the backing fabric here, also by J. Wecker Frisch.  I left a tail of about 14″ and also added a loop of fabric (cut 5″ long) so I could tie it up somewhere, and call our house decorated.

If I can find the box in the garage, I also have some spooky crows that will work with this scene (more importantly:  IF I feel like getting it all out). Maybe if I stocked in the Halloween Candy early, I’d get into the season?

Maybe.

Below is a link to a video clip of Michael Sherrill talking about his work.  I found all the videos in the exhibit fascinating, as he is an artist who is also articulate, and can talk about the creative process.

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Link to video.

 

Revisiting the Red and White Pinwheel

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Interestingly, I get a lot of mail about this quilt.  It must be on a boatload of Pinterest boards, but the pattern for this quilt has gone missing.  It was originally published in a national magazine, but in searching for it (my old link to the pattern is kaput), it seems to have disappeared.  The original was in a lot of different colors, but my friend Rhonda chose to make it in red and white for a class she was teaching seven years ago. I liked hers so well, I made one of my own.  The original pattern was an 8″ block, but I made the pattern to finish at 7 1/2″ (mostly so I could get it all on one page).

Since it’s not my pattern, and it’s disappeared and I get a lot of mail about it, I decided to draw it up in my QuiltPro software, rework it in Affinity Publisher software, and have it here for you for download:

Red & White Pinwheel_OPQuilt

It’s not really a pattern, but more a loose set of instructions.  It’s meant to be a scrappy quilt, but I did include a yardage chart if you are using three reds, and a white.

You can read more about it here and here.

So you don’t go away empty-handed, if you’re not interested in a two-color quilt, here’s a chart that came to me in a Guild newsletter.  It shows how much yardage is in a particular precut, and what that costs per yard.

Precut Yardage Chart

Happy Quilting!

Do You Tweet?

Tweet Ladybird

Tweet ShineTweet Crossroads

Perhaps the UCR Science News was looking for something other than Nobel-prize generating stories or research about saving the world from cancer, but I’m happy that the editor liked my quilts, sent to him by my favorite guy (my husband).  The quilts were displayed around University of California’s campus near some of the science buildings (and in the Botannic Garden).  Thank you!

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In other news, we visited the (tiny) exhibit at the DAR museum this past week (their library, above) in Washington, DC.

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More on the exhibit in another post, but I met three quilters while I was there:

From the top left: Beth, a long-time friend (we always meet together at this particular science meeting of our husbands), Rhonda (who I met when I lived in D.C at the local quilt guild), and Bette (who I met online and since have become good friend with via correspondence and phone calls and occasional meetings). But that’s not all the news.

National Press Club

I spoke at the National Press Club, after I was proclaimed Queen of England.
Full story, below.

Headline Queen Elizabeth

Kidding, of course.  I merely posed, and the other photo is a leather-embossed rendition of a famous headline, one in a row of famous headlines.

Climate Change Protest

We’d done most of the museums in December when we last visited, and I was wondering what to do one day when the Climate Change Activists staged one of their protests right outside my hotel.  I threw on my clothes and went down to watch.  I remember how the police used to break up other protests long ago, with tear gas and heavy-handedness.  This experience was more like a garden party, as slowly, they encircled the boat parked in the middle of 16th and K. While the activists moved on to march around D.C. the police cut the handcuffs and tethers of those who remained, then towed away the boat.  I was quite impressed with the whole experience, both of those who felt strongly about making a statement, and the police officers taking good care of those who they serve.  Another reason why I love D.C.

Okay, I promise more serious quilty stuff soon.  I’m coming home tonight from my niece’s wedding in the Bay Area, hoping to dive into what I’ve left undone while traveling.  Before I left, I did get one quilt to the quilter’s, after auditioning, digitally, many different designs for quilting.

North Country Sept 2019I also cut more pieces to keep going on my North Country Patchwork Quilt, eeking this one out, bit by bit (photo of what I have so far, above).

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I did get caught up with my temperature quilt, which is turning out to be very different colors than what I expected.  I find it’s easier to do a whole month at a time, than piece-mealing it, day by day.

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Lastly, this coming Saturday, October 5th, I’ll be presenting a (mostly) modern quilt program at the Inland Empire Modern Quilt Guild in Riverside, California.  They are a small modern guild, with a whole group of interested, dedicated quilters. Maybe you’ll be there?

Maintain vs. Innovate

I’ve been reading a series of articles by Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel, two academics who have noted that we tend to focus on innovation and ignore maintaining.  Maintain?  Innovate?  When I insert this into the quilting world, some thoughtful parallels arise.

LIghtbulb moment

some images cheerfully swiped from the internet; find them using a Google image search.

First, some background.  In an article on Aeon, Russell and Vinsel observed that our love affair with the new and the untried has obscured our reliance on, and the need for, the “old things,” those items like the electric fan that have been unchanged for a century or more.  And by letting the new obscure our vision of the old, it has also blocked our view of the humans who do “the work that goes into keeping the entire world going….from laundry and trash removal to janitorial work and food preparation.”  And to no one’s surprise, it’s “women — disproportionately — [who do the work] to keep life on track.”  Russell and Vinsel argue that it is time to bring the work of maintainers into clearer focus.

EPP Stitching

When I first heard this interview on the radio, I let it sink to the background while I worked in my sewing room that morning. But something in me wondered if this idea also applies to quilters.  To see it, come at the idea from a different direction:  Say you have nineteen bins of fabric at home, a list of at least twelve quilts to be made from the above-mentioned bins, yet when you are on Instagram and you see the latest quilt that EVERYONE is doing, you click through to get their suggested fat quarter bundle because that is the most awesome thing ever.  Sound familiar?

To borrow Russell and Vinsel’s terminology, I would suggest this is a classic case of quilter Maintenance vs. Innovation.  We don’t want to do the hard work of re-imagining why we stashed that fabric, purchased that pattern in the first place, preferring instead the WOW feeling (and let’s face it: the easiness) of contemplating sewing up something fresh and interesting.

Fabric Stash

I believe in innovation.
I do like the feeling of a few fresh cuts into the fabric with a new pattern by my side.  And full disclosure: I’m not a “sew-from-my-stash” only sort of quilter, believing instead that occasionally everyone’s stash needs a punch up of energy with a few fat quarters of current fabrics with their current color palettes.

Plitvice Quilt_unquilted

I believe in maintenance.
Having recently I’ve slogged through a few really old UFOs I found out that there is happiness and satisfaction in working through those projects, yet often it didn’t come until that last stitch on the last inch of binding.

Tesla Roadster

Some fall into the trap that Elon Musk did recently, when he outlined a tunnel transportation system in Los Angeles demonstrating that he believed “that the best path forward is to scrap existing reality and start over from scratch.”  Yet, as Russell and Vinsel note, “a clean slate is rarely a realistic option.  We need to figure out better ways of preserving, improving and caring for what we have.”  Although tempting, we can’t torch our fabric stash in order to begin fresh and new and wonderful and exciting.

But the mental tussle between finishing up those UFOs vs. buying new fabric perhaps goes deeper, as Russell and Vinsel describe in their article, “Let’s Get Excited about Maintenance,” when they say that often we “fetishize innovation as a kind of art, [which] demeans upkeep as mere drudgery.”

Innovation=Art?  Upkeep=Drudgery?

  • If I’m buying new, I’m making art?
  • Sewing up my old half-finished projects is drudgery?

The answer might be yes to both questions, but it’s more like often or sometimes, but not always.

EPP 4 cutting pieces

We need innovation.  I can’t imagine making a quilt today without my rotary cutter, mat or ruler.  But we also need maintenance to help us keep our lives in balance and on track.  Make that new quilt, buy that new fabric, but don’t think of it as better than pulling out the quilt you started last year.  Likewise, finishing up a painfully old UFO that would have been better donated to the scrap bag isn’t necessarily more noble, either.

Innovate? Maintain?

We need both.