Slow Going

It’s slow going on putting together the arcs.

And slow going on ripping the paper off the arcs.  But the book was right: using parchment paper makes it really much easier–much faster than other paper-pieced projects I’ve done.  Consider it your newest tip.

Since I know we all like to see completed quilts, and now that the semester’s started my sewing life will be abbreviated, here’s the quilt I have hanging in the hallway: Winter’s Branches.

I started this a long time ago–the summer before my husband and I went on sabbatical to Washington DC.  I rolled up the quilt on pin-wall fabric, toted it East.  After finishing it, I had no idea how to quilt it, but at that point, winter came to that part of the country.  I would take photo after photo of the graceful array of leaf-less branches against the winter sky.

I used a variegated rayon thread to stitch tree branches into the blocks.

The label.  I used to make quite elaborate labels and still do for my more artsy quilts.  But for baby quilts, or bed quilts, I now take a fine-tipped marker and write directly on the back somewhere.


More Dotty Quilt

These two pictures were taken by someone who attended a lecture by Becky Goldsmith, the creator and originator of the dotty circle quilt I’m working on.  What I found interesting is her choice of fabrics.  As we quilters in the universe work, we’re always comparing our efforts and choices by the photograph we have either from their website or in the pattern or book.  And certainly that’s hardly accurate.  I was quite interested in her range of fabrics here, how the the jumps between the corner pieces are more pronounced that they show in the photograph that I was working from.  See this allowed me to open up my choices, and be a bit more adventurous.

I’m not as adventurous as the Australian quilters shown in on the Material Obsession website, but I could certainly stand with some loosening up, I think. These photos, and the ladies at Material Obsession are good examples for me.

Creating · Quilts

Come A-Round Quilt

I’m getting there, piece by piece.

Two quotes from Sister Corita, a famous art teacher.  These are from the book Learning by Heart–Teachings to free the creative spirit, written by Corita Kent and Jan Steward:

When you are not separate from the creative process, time ceases to exist.  You might start to feel tired and suddenly realize that much time has passed.  It isn’t necessarily a happy time–and may be very difficult to start if it is a job or an obligation.  But if you start with all the concrete needs and proceed in a thorough way–the creative process will take over and you will forget whether it is work or play. (page 111)

I have an idea for making something or I have a commission to do something or I have a deadline. . . and I always have a kind of natural resistance to getting down to it.  Somehow I feel that this kind of natural resistance is quite healthy–because all the information, sources, and ideas need cooking before they can be served.  So I go on living and I go on doing what might seem to be very uncreative things like shopping or cooking or washing the dishes or answering the phone or writing letters–and sometimes the data comes out and asserts itself into my consciousness, and I live with it awhile.

Artists, poets–whatever you want to call those people whose job is ‘making’–take in the commonplace and are forever recognizing it as worthwhile. (page 99)

I’ve been stewing over a title for a while.  I think we quilters could use some help on naming our pieces, so I try to be thoughtful, and like Sister Corita, let things stew awhile before deciding.  The quilt title comes from that aphorism “What goes around, comes around,” and we all know what that means.  At the age I am, I see this now more than ever.  If I send out kindness, and good will I tend to get this returned to me from my husband, children, family and friends.  When I am critical, snarky, grumpy–you can bet this comes back too.  And as I sewed these circles and listened to the national debate on whether what was said in angry tones during the fall election had come back around to hurt Gabby Giffords in the Tucson shootings, that piece of information stewed awhile inside as well.

Our quilts are representative of where we are, both in our personal lives and our culture and our nation.  This quilt might be called something else in another place or another time.  I also wanted to play up the idea of circles, so I hyphenated the second word to suggest children’s play, perhaps of coming round to play with a friend, or twirling around on a sunny happy day.


Too Many Variations!

This was my Monday.

Each of these little pictures shows a different variation of those corners around the crop circles.

Do you ever have days like this the more you try to get ahead the further behind you are?  So, no sewing.  Just cutting.  And one tiny trip to our local fabric store just to see what her section of Kaffe Fassetts had to offer.  That’s how I got the green gradation in the upper left corner to smooth out (thank you Martha Negley!).  Still not happy with the lower right corner, but I’m going to start sewing SOMETHING.

School starts tomorrow, and one reason why today went so slowly was not only because I was working on getting ready for the first day of class, but also because I wasn’t in The Zone.  I used to teach in the Black and White Photo Lab at our local university, and I had this one student who would sometimes stay in the lab for hours, working on his photographs.  Then there were other days, when he’d get all his equipment out, get set up, print for a short time then leave.  “Not in the Zone,” he’d say.  As a creative writing major, I could relate.  There were some days the words would get all twisted up in my head, and the characters would say wooden lines–like they were in some dorky sitcom or something.  Then there were other days, yep–I’d be in The Zone and when I’d finally take a break, three hours would have gone by.

Lately, my life resembles a mosaic of tiny pieces of time, bits and shards and corners where I try to cram in the creativity.  While mosaics are lovely (and certainly one might argue that I am making a fabric mosaic), there are days when I want plates of time.  Whole huge platters of time.

Creating · Quilts

Crop Circles

All day long, when I show up for meals, or to change the laundry, my husband would ask what I was doing.

“Making crop circles,” I would say.

Crop circles–you know, when the-aliens-have-landed-and-want-to-eat-your-brain kind of crop circles.

I’m going downstairs to make dinner, and change the laundry and try to escape the aliens that are eating my brain.

Now having finished the billions of pieces in the center circles, I’m adding the outer edges.  And thinking that in spite of yards and yards and yards of fabric in my house, I still don’t have the exact right piece.  But I think it’s coming along.  I’m hoping to finish this inner section before school starts on Tuesday.  Think I’ll make it?

And maybe it should be considered that that my brain was pretty far gone before the aliens landed with their crop circles, because there are only NINE circles I had to make.  In spite of what I’ve written earlier.  Off to the laundry.



No, not six quilts.  That wouldn’t be normal, would it.

Six dotty circles!!

I was kind of commenting on how many pieces it takes to my quilty pal, Rhonda, who lives on the Other Coast.

Three arcs per 1/4 block.  Eleven pieces on the larger outside arc, eleven pieces (smaller) on the second arc, and 4 on the center quarter-circle arc. One hundred and four pieces per block.  I haven’t even put the four pieces on the outside of the circles to square it up.  And this is only the center section.

Well, the truth is I was kind of moaning a wee bit to Rhonda, as it seems to go sooo slowly.  But she noted that “It’s also theraputic, isn’t it?”  She’s right.  I can listen to the radio, to podcasts, to novels (my mother and I are listening to Things Fall Apart), and just let my mind wander and stitch.  She called me this morning to tell me she’d dragged her dotty circles quilt pieces out of the closet and had started to work on them again.  I loved the coincidence that I was working on something that she’d already started–great serendipity.

The repetitive motion allows me to think about Gabby Giffords, the tragedy there, the speeches, and how I fit into the equation of more civil conversation.  I don’t really traffic in the political sphere, so it doesn’t affect me directly, but I can practice not rolling my eyes when someone I’m not crazy about is speaking on the TV, or listen more carefully, expanding my “moral imaginations” as President Obama suggested.  I should do these things not just because it’s a good idea, but also because as these dotty circles suggest, what goes around, comes around.  And I want good things to come back around to me.