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.