Practical Applications of Quilting

Whenever my husband and I clean out the garage and are trying to put everything back, I can see where boxes will fit. . . and where they will not.  My husband is a brain, really smart, but I think that my years of working with pieces of fabric, shapes, sizes, corners — all that quilty stuff — allows my eye to notice how things fit together.

Another time, when I was a long-term sub, the 9th grade students needed some help with basic math and geometry.  Since by this time the lesson plans had long run out from the regular teacher, I developed a series of lesson plans that were ordered around quilt patterns.  I gave a lesson on a few shapes, then turned them loose with their pencils, rulers, colored paper and one piece of black paper to use as their foundation.  The results were dramatic and wonderful; I found out later these “quilt blocks” were left up all year long, even after my sub job ended.  I chalked it up to the enduring power of quilts.

So I was thrilled to receive a flyer from a biologist friend of mine, touting a lecture given at the University of Alberta, Canada: “Quilts as Mathematical Objects.”  The above quilt was on the flyer, and was made by Gerda de Vries. She describes herself this way: “I work as Professor in the Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at the University of Alberta.  I am an applied mathematician, specializing in mathematical biology.  I am interested in understanding and explaining physiological processes through the development and analysis of mathematical models.”  So she invents a rule, applies it to her quilt design and carries it through.

This one’s titled “Cyclic Permutations (Study in Red, Black and White #1).”  The rule on this one that each triangle has a certain number of pieces, with the colors laid out in a particular order.  If you study it you can start to see the “rules” she applies.  I started listening to her lecture, “Quilts as Mathematical Objects” available on iTunes, via iTunes U (type in the title in your iTunes–she gave it at McGill University) and can hardly wait to finish.  I only wish I could have been there to see the visuals–which is what matters to us quilters.

She also does traditional quilting, as evidenced by this beautiful example.  She writes on her website that “I have a soft spot for ethnic fabrics.  This quilt highlights my collection of fabrics from the Netherlands.  Most are reproduction fabrics purchased at specialty stores; others were donated by relatives.  Traditionally, these fabrics were used in costumes (shirts, aprons), as well as home furnishings (bed sheets, mattress covers, curtains).  Also featured are a variety of so-called farmers’ handkerchiefs with traditional patters, purchased at town markets throughout the country.  I took particular delight in the construction of this quilt by fussy-cutting most of the fabric pieces.”

I think sometimes we operate in an insular world, in our own little quilty bubble, or at least I do, so it’s interesting for me to think about practical applications of our skills as quilters.  Perhaps if we relish in the color of quilts, we extrapolate that to our clothing, or our home dec.  Perhaps if we like the intricacies of quilting–matching up corners/seams/pieces just right, we will have perfectly ordered drawers and cupboards.  Or perhaps, as in the example of Ms. de Vries, we make our vocation (the thing that pays the bills) coordinate with our avocation (what we love to do) in creating beautiful and interesting quilts.


New Year, New Look

I played around with some changes to the blog this morning, including a new header.  I like it.  Jump out of your readers to take a look.  I looked at a lot of my quilts trying to decide which to use in the header, and trended toward the ones I’d had a major hand in designing.  There are still some from other people’s visions that I love, like Come A-Round with its dots and circles.  I try to jump out of my reader a lot to look at your blogs as it’s like visiting someone’s home–seeing how they decorate and how they arrange the furniture.  And of course, seeing what kind of chocolate they stock in the private stash!  My current favorites:


Suite 88’s dark chocolate with ginger.  Alas, I’m on my last squares and you can only buy it in Montreal!

I had wanted to create a new look for the blog–left it for the Christmas break–and am finally glad I feel like doing something creative.  It’s hard not feeling like yourself.  When I was reading blogs last night from Lee’s WIP, one quilter wrote that it was “her turn to get sick” and she’d posted a photo of herself in her bathrobe, stitching on some applique.  It’s been a bad year for sick–bring on the chocolate–bar, or all frothed up in a steamy mug of liquid deliciousness.  It’s also a strange year for weather–no snow yet in most places in the US.  And down here in OPQland, that is Southern California, we’ve been having spring since Christmas (guess that means we’ll have a scorcher of a summer).

I added a counter on the side showing the days until Road to California.  That counter may appear and disappear, depending on my mood.

Creating · Quilts

Quilt Ideas

Over at Stitched in Color, Rachel has declared a scrap manifesto: Use Them!

I think that’s a brilliant idea; she’s culled a lot of ideas using scraps to make quilts and has a challenge going to use up our scraps (see her website for more details).  I think the idea, really, is to stash-bust, using up all those bits of fabrics leftover from our projects (or a too-ambitious buying spree).  I’ve been looking for a few of my own ideas on how to use up the stash.  Here’s one, a free pattern from Lila Ashberry, titled Summer House, and you can find the download *here.*

I’m looking for patterns that have a complexity to them, and will use lots of fabric and be quickly put together.

Or how about Mayra Dubrawky’s Sticks and Bricks pattern?  There would be a LOT less angles/triangles in this one, although it doesn’t have that complexity of the other.

Here’s one idea I’ve had in my files for a long time: a scrappy log cabin.

Join Rachel’s “Festival of Scrappiness.” Your finished quilt top is due by the end of March.


I Am A Work in Progress

I hardly know how to pick up a rotary cutter, let alone sew a seam, and find the new thing that I am capable of creating.

I am a work in progress this year.

I just had cancer surgery, a sure-fire way to whack me upside the head and force a look at the musty, over-stuffed closet of a life I’d been leading.  Too much shoved in, with the door slammed shut. A veritable chifforobe of clutter.

I had a birthday–Happy #58 to me, and also to Krista, my microbiologist blog-buddy (although I don’t know how old she is).

While trying to locate the surface of my ironing board today, I found detritus from two recent trips: Montreal in October and New York City in November.

I fell in love with Julia Ritson’s blog, a habit I could indulge while haunting my bed while in recovery, and especially this recent collage she made of a city (I asked for permission to post it here).  I think I could never make something this intriguing with hidden layers, ideas, textures.  I sometimes feel like I’ll never make anything else again. When I feel like this, it’s just empty inside.

My mother consoles me by saying it’s an after-effect of anesthesia (yet I’m ready to be back who I was).  I can feel the pull to colors, shapes, cutting, cloth, but resist.  It takes too much energy, and there was that syllabus I had to write.  Luckily my husband gave me Ringle and Kerr’s latest quilt book, so I consoled myself with their transparency brilliance.

I’m a crazy quilt, a wonky log cabin, a beginner’s Shoo-fly block with points cut off.

Talking exhausts me.

Writing feeds me, but I don’t spend enough time doing that because I’m talking.

A day of quiet restores me.  I hope this quirk doesn’t persist much longer because most everyone I love lives at the other end of the phone line, and talking is the only way we have to keep in touch.

I haven’t bought this year’s diary and my days are slipping away.  I didn’t realize it was Wednesday until I saw Cindy’s post about her fabulous quilt.  (Can I use her Work in Progress for Lee’s blog?  Didn’t think so.)

I’m in pretty good spirits today as I went to Target for a shower cap, Michael’s for medium treat bags, and Costco for dinner rolls.  They didn’t have the rolls done yet (“40 more minutes”) and I suddenly realized that I was crashing into a wall of tired, so pushed my empty cart back out into the parking lot, drove home and took a nap.  Even though I feel like a pathetic dishrag at times, I am making progress in recovery not only from the cancer blippiness but also from the bronchitis and double ear infections.  “Sick, sick no more” should be a slogan on my T-shirt.

I’m a riddle, a collection of wishes, a basket of fears, and a quilt without her borders.

Things I’m Working On (Quilt-wise):
(I would have photos, but the camera batteries died.  In all three cameras.)
Getting the borders on the autumn quilt
Deciding whether or not to take all the Christmas quilt squares off the wall, or to try to sew them up.
Figuring out how I want to spend my Fat Quarter gift card from my son
Lollypop Trees
Friendship Quilt

Getting the stitches out of ME–this Friday.  The margins are clear.  All is well.  Now to find the brain cells.

And that beginner’s block?  It was my mother’s, when she was a girl and it’s about 75 years old.  It’s one of my treasures.

Many thanks to Lee, who threw me this lifeline of a deadline today.  Check out her lovely bee block!