It’s too hot to think, but here’s a fun sketch from a traditional block, originally called Boise (Brackman 2306). The periodical, Hearth and Home, which published this block, was in operation from 1885 to the 1930s.
The block, exploded.
The 7″ block, set on alternating verticals. All of these can be found in BlockBase+ which is software that is basically the Brackman Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. I modified this in my design software, Affinity Designer by Serif, a reasonable cost design software (NO, you don’t have to buy Illustrator. YES you should buy BlockBase+.)
And I think we should give the quilt a name. I know it’s the capitol of the state of Idaho, but I’d like to give it a more contemporary name: Blockchain. What does that mean? Since I just donated to Wikipedia (you should too), here’s their definition:
A blockchain is a type of Digital Ledger Technology (DLT) that consists of growing list of records, called blocks, that are securely linked together using cryptography.
So couldn’t we define a quilt as “a growing list of blocks that are securely linked together with thread”? I think so. I was amused to see that a lot of the images used to depict the idea of blockchain are some of our traditional quilt blocks, like baby’s tumbling block, among others.
If you’d like the 8-inch version, I’ve got that for you here, as a free download. I didn’t monkey around with it too much, so it’s rather a no-frills set of templates (remember, it’s too hot), but you can see how nicely the templates are generated for you by Blockbase+. [Okay, I did do a bit of monkeying…]
Here’s the 12-inch version, which finishes at 52″ square, with those 2″ borders and cornerstones. To get this layout, I did four columns of the Blockchain block, doing half-blocks at the top and bottom of columns 2 and 4. I’m sorry I didn’t include the 12″ size block, but it’s hot, and we are about to head to our traditional Labor Day Cookout: a trip to In and Out Burger, where they do the grilling for me.
Decided to pick this one up again. I don’t know why my mind will flit to an once-begun-left-unfinished quilt, but at least I am well ahead of Christmas.
I chose the red Sassaman print for the centers, and for the background, I knew I wanted to use the white-with-gold Heavy Metal fabric, so last time I was rummaging around in ETSY, I purchased a bit extra (it has disappeared from the marketplace).
My first block. The center was a challenge, so I kept trying. I had another reject, but then figured out three more that would work.
It’s a dot-to-dot sort of construction among the angles.
I press toward the colorful fabrics.
This photo is before I stitched in the white triangles in between everything.
In chatting on IG with Marla (@mingamonga on Instagram), she alerted me to the other name of this block.
I went over to the Quilt Index, and these were the two earliest quilts listed under Jack’s Chain. This block, shown below, had a Barbara Brackman number of 430, and was first published in late 1939 as Rosalia Flower Garden.
It’s drawn a bit wonky; the center is a true hexagon. But in the newest variation, the rings are pulled apart, set next to each other. That’s what allows that secondary pattern to emerge that we all love.
I did put this up on Instagram today (sorry for the redundancy) but still continue my plea for quilters to acknowledge the deep heritage they have from other quilters. I love stories where “old” blocks are given new life, but let’s not make their works anonymous.
After figuring this all out, my husband Dave took me down to the Beignet Spot, where we shared some small beignets and a Cajun Chicken sandwich. I like those kind of dinners. The temperatures are supposed to soar up into the 100+ next week, so since it was a mild evening, we opened all the windows to enjoy the fresh air. Then we promptly closed them again: smoke from a nearby fire was wafting into the house. One.More.Month. Hopefully by the end of September, we’ll be through the worst of it.
I can recommend this Cold Soup with Noodles & Tomatoes for supper, if you are having the same issues. We used somen noodles and added some poached shrimp. It was also great as leftovers.
And now for a giant leap from Jack’s Chain to AI, aka Artificial Intelligence:
I’ve become most interested in the part of AI that is text-to-image.
DALLE-E was the first one I’d read about, and I think it is one of the original AI text-to-image generators. The operator would type in something like “Teddy bears working on new AI research underwater with 1990s technology” and a the computer would scan gazillions of images, and generate a new image, using the parameters given:
It can generate different types of styles, and while I don’t know where this will eventually lead, neither did I understand where the iPod would go, or how it would be combined with the portable telephone. And so, ever since I read about the ability of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to be used with images, I’ve kind of kept my antenna up when I scroll Instagram. I’m going to throw in a bunch of links here, and just briefly mention some places where you might want to explore, then head back to quilting.
Andrew Kudless (@matstydesign) has some explorations in this text-to-image process, and this post and this post have quite the discussion. MidJourney is an AI Art Generator, and you can read more about it here. The Instagram hashtag #midjourney is also interesting, but I find that the heavy dependence on dystopian, creepy, and frankly evil-looking images get in my way. (Maybe that is the true hidden character of computers? Just Kidding.) If you have access to this software, and make something cool with this new medium, send me an image.
But mostly I’m interested in thinking about how quilters might use AI with say nine-patch blocks, or Jack’s Chain, given that AI imagery can think up this for a house:
But maybe it’s not possible to break out of our grid. Maybe we as quilters are doomed to forever lifting patterns from those who have gone before, or subject the people in our IG feed to endless demonstrations of our improv or block-making techniques. [I could apologize, but it’s probably not going to stop.] However fascinating the exploration of improv, or AI, or geometric iterations may be to us, maybe we have to acknowledge that there might be an end point, although I won’t venture to say where that is. In looking at bunches of AI images for this post, I found they can sort of run together in concept, even if they are somewhat singular in design.
I’ve seen some pushing outward, some new quilting ideas, like we are all taking baby steps towards a new language of our own making. But we aren’t there, at least not yet. But it is this sort of challenge: beginning with hundreds of blocks, a full range of values and colors, and multiples of shapes, all being input into our brains as we try to become our own AI machines, combining and recombining. We are forever hoping from this process that a new quilt idea will burble up from the primordial ooze* of our sewing studios/rooms/spaces, and emerge into a full-blown fabulous new quilt. Aren’t we?
No answers from me about this. I imagine us exploring together, pushing outward here, and combining it with a new technique there and using yet-undiscovered tools to create new quilts. Maybe it’s all a bit too Brave New World-ish for you. Maybe for me, too. I love the grid, and I love standing on the shoulders of the women who have come before. I just don’t want to let them down, nor rob our evolving quilt world of potential new and exciting iterations.
*I was kidding about primordial muck on our sewing room floors. Sort of.
If you use an image from the Quilt Index, they like you to include the following info:
So as I served up the bibimbap with bolgigi the other day, placing the bowl on the impossibly old placemats, I thought: it’s time for new placemats. When I went out looking, they either had newer versions of my impossibly old placemats, or versions that looked like they’d been made with fabric from France.
Hey! I have fabric from France. Like from about 20 years ago.
Yes, it is also impossibly old, but it should do. So in the late afternoon sun (important for a plot twist later on) I folded down this fabric that was made for napkins, attempting to herd it into in a size like the impossibly old placemats.
I glued down the fold, stitched it, backed it with some batting and more impossibly old fabric, turned it inside out, poked out the corners and stitched the opening closed. I went on an adventure with quilting, moving from WhatWasIThinking to ILikeThisPrettyWell.
Then as I was finishing up today, I noticed that hmmmm. The fabric is darker on one edge — or faded on the other (however you want to think about it). I guess laying out that fabric in the late afternoon sun on the first day complicated my laser-like color vision. (lol)
Four placemats finished.
And when I went to make the napkin, yep. I can really see the fade. I used this tutorial.
I have more unfaded sections to make into napkins…and some faded sections, too.
Remember this quote from a couple of posts back? I may have this etched in my brain, because it applies to this, too:
This was my 2021-22 year-long making of pillows to go on the bed, shown from January (upper left, snowflake) to November (middle bottom row, lilies). I kept thinking I needed to get December’s made. But that idea — that some things end because we are finished with them — rang in my head. I’ve made a new Christmas Quilt for the bed, and don’t know if my idea will “go” with it, plus Evergreen, EverLife has a lot going on. It probably doesn’t need a pillow. So I’m finished with this. Pillows-of-the-Month are done.
Lastly, thank you for your observations and responses on my last post, Age of Subtraction. A lot of what you wrote has reverberated out into my life, into conversations with my family, and given me a lot of think about. I appreciate your taking the time to write and be a part of this conversation.
Many years ago, bricks used to be completely solid. Houses and buildings went up with solid bricks. But in 1927, Anna Wagner Keichline patented a brick known as the K-brick, which was hollow and could be filled with “soundproofing or insulating materials, making it versatile and efficient. The K Brick led to the development of today’s concrete block.” She subtracted something in order to make it better. I heard about her from the Hidden Brain podcast, in an episode titled “Do Less.” Shankar Vedantam, the host, featured Engineer Leidy Klotz and so much of what he said intrigued me: “We pile on ‘to-dos’ but don’t consider ‘stop-doings.’ We collect new-and-improved ideas, but don’t prune the outdated ones. Every day, across challenges big and small…we don’t subtract.”
I learned the phrase in the title of this post from my father, who says that a certain time in our lives we enter the Age of Subtraction. To him, this meant less energy, weaker eyesight, feeble knees, and a general inability to go and do like when he was a younger man. Coming from a different generation, one that had not yet been inundated with ads, consumer spending, The Great Garbage Patch, Climate Change or other such beauties of late 20th century life, the concept of addition was full steam ahead.
These two supposedly opposing ideas intrigued me. Why do we resist subtraction? Why are we all about addition?
For quilters and creatives, it manifests itself in adding to our Works in Progress lists. We grab at the next line of fabric, knowing the last line of fabric is at home. While this idea might certainly have at its root the dopamine ping of a new idea, or a few likes on our work on social media, or a brilliant new color (whether in a paint tube or in cloth). But maybe at its root is also a bit of anxiety. We used to be able to buy a fabric line for months, as it was in our shops. Now fabric lines come-and-go at a fast clip. If you don’t buy it now, it will sell out.
The same with ideas: everyone’s making a quilted jacket, so we’d better get going. There are supply chain line interruptions, so for a while, bakers couldn’t get vanilla except at exorbitant prices. Uncertainty is everywhere, so we buy faster, we make faster, our list of things to make never stops. And all the while, we feel the tick of time like my father, worrying about getting it all done.
In his book, Four Thousand Weeks, by Oliver Burkeman brings forward the idea that if you live to be 80 years old, that’s four-thousand weeks of life. He writes about this idea of trying to get it all done:
[T]he core challenge of managing our limited time isn’t about how to get everything done—that’s never going to happen—but how to decide most wisely what not to do, and how to feel at peace about not doing it.
Burkeman, Oliver. Four Thousand Weeks (p. 71). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.
And there’s that subtraction thing again: “decide most wisely what not to do.” Can subtraction be a new way to operate? I’ve been a time efficiency wonk for years, always trying to find a better way to add things in, organize them. Burkeman called himself a “productivity obsessive.” In this book he takes aim at that familiar time management trope of the rocks, pebbles, sand and water all piled into a jar in order, showing so-called good time management. But he notes, that object lesson is rigged, because the person demonstrating it isn’t going to bring bigger rocks, or more rocks and pebbles than can fit in the jar. (What a relief!) Yet, I still wondered about how to handle my Works-in-Progress projects that pile up. I still couldn’t get to subtraction:
[One] approach is to fix a hard upper limit on the number of things that you allow yourself to work on at any given time. In their book Personal Kanban, which explores this strategy in detail, the management experts Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry suggest no more than three items. Once you’ve selected those tasks, all other incoming demands on your time must wait until one of the three items has been completed, thereby freeing up a slot. (It’s also permissible to free up a slot by abandoning a project altogether if it isn’t working out. The point isn’t to force yourself to finish absolutely everything you start, but rather to banish the bad habit of keeping an ever-proliferating number of half-finished projects on the back burner.)
Burkeman found that:
Making this rather modest change to my working practices produced a startlingly large effect. It was no longer possible for me to ignore the fact that my capacity for work was strictly finite—because each time I selected a new task from my to-do list, as one of my three work-in-progress items, I was obliged to contemplate all those I’d inevitably be neglecting in order to focus on it. And yet precisely because I was being forced to confront reality in this way—to see that I was always neglecting most tasks, in order to work on anything at all, and that working on everything at once simply wasn’t an option—the result was a powerful sense of undistracted calm, and a lot more productivity than in my days as a productivity obsessive (ibid.,75-76).
So maybe my idea of brain-dumping everything that I think I want to do isn’t so helpful after all. And maybe setting quarterly goals, while perhaps a good idea to guide me, isn’t really helpful on a weekly basis? Being introduced to this idea of subtraction, coupled with reading about my finite life in Burkeman’s book reminds me of that old line: Saying yes to one thing means saying no to other things.
Our lives are often quantified by how money we make, or how many followers we have, or by what we produce. But always when I step back from that race, I have to include satisfaction of the process. To this day, my 96-year-old Dad has a paintbrush in his hand, working on a new painting. I want to be found at 96 (if I’m still around), with a needle in my hand, or typing at the computer writing my history, corresponding with people I love. By subtracting out things I don’t think are important, I hope to do things that I enjoy and that sustain me.
What a leafy wonderland! The small leaves at the top are their signature blocks.
I’m leaving Gridster Bee, my creation of five years-going-on-six at the end of this year. I don’t know what Patti will do with the bee after that, but you can contact her directly if you would like to check if there are any slots available.
This worked out for many years and they are still a great group, which you can see by clicking on the Instagram hashtag #gridsterbee.
I did finish the Gridster Bee block for August already. Robin asked us to use colorful, bright, kids-oriented fabrics, of which I’m sad to report I only had a few. How my stash has changed! It was a fun block, and on the signature block, we were to write our favorite (children’s) book:
This was mine. I once raised an “Alexander” and today he is a fabulous father, friend and son. Who would have thought we’d make it through those years in such fine form?
Becky Goldsmith, a favorite, has put up a video on how to change up our EPP stitches. Take a look.
I’m writing this next tip here, and not on IG because I don’t want Them to Find Out.
Although Instagram seems to be behaving a *touch* better these days, I’ve taken to reading Instagram on my home computer, through the browser (like Safari or Firefox, not the IG app). It’s like the Old Days! I only see the people I follow, and I can comment on their posts without the annoying deluge of suggested posts and ads. Try it, before They take it away.
Trip to Utah Last Month was Busy…But Never Fear!
I managed a mini Shop Hop while I was there. In spurts. Like 10 minutes at a time over several days. But it’s always nice to see fabric where it lives on shelves in fabric stores, and Utah has some mighty nice shops. Here’s a link to their website, where it lists some of the shops I was able to hit. However, I missed our Southern California Shop Hop while I was gone. And yes, the yellow fabric from Mother Superior’s Fab! Fabrics (lower right) was used in the making of my Sunflower! block.
I came home with a horrid case of asthma (I am making progress, having finished with two of the four medications–hooray) but at night, when I think the pollution has cleared out, I’ll go outside in our side garden and enjoy the sky (an old photo, above). We also saw some stellar skies one morning near Beaver, Utah, when an amazing sunrise opened up our travels home that day. So many people around me have had extraordinarily difficult challenges – from devastating health diagnoses to broken hearts — and so I welcome these small colorful blessings, helping me keep my balance.
Circling back around to Mother Superior’s Fab Fabric Shop from my Utah Shop-hop, that store was the brainchild of Heather Purcell, who with her husband Bob, started and ran Superior Threads. Yesterday was her funeral, as she died of cancer too early. Mourning her, I clicked in to watch it on Zoom, but was cheered by the view of so many of her quilts, displayed at the front of the church. I listened to her first son, and recognized so many of her sayings and inflections. Her sister spoke, and again, I heard Heather. I went in and out of tears during the 90-minute service — especially during Bob’s talk — and at the end, everyone paused as the choir sang “Aloha ʻOe” (Farewell to Thee), before the family filed out behind her. Aloha, Heather. We will miss you.
Photo of Heather and I in front of one of her quilts, 2012.
Speaking of 2012, this was my summer To-Do List from a decade ago.
And to wind this up this This & That post, I noticed that Laundry Basket Quilts has restocked their Tannenbaum quilt. I’m happy to report that I finished mine up in April of this year. I’m calling it early. The inner panel is from Laundry Basket Quilts with some changes in the background fabric. I added the outer borders, and yes, the pattern is in my PayHip shop (link on upper right).
Having Christmas lights in our bushes year-round makes me happy.
What is it about Kaffe Fassett fabrics that pulls us in? The rich hues and full range of shades? The interesting patterns, many from old wallpapers and fabrics? I have a couple of stacks of his fabrics and it’s always a delight when I can pull them out from my shelves and start playing.
Secret Garden, quilt number 235, is the original size of my Triad Harmony pattern, measuring 28 1/2″ by 31 1/2″ and was made for a class sample, since my friend Susan loved Kaffe fabrics. She was the program chair and had me teach this class for their Guild.
After several weeks of lallygagging around — or so it felt — this week I put on the binding and the label:
The quilting goes fast with this size! (Click any image to enlarge.)
It also helped to get back into a Guido Brunetti Mystery, after a long time away.