My Head’s in a Book. . . or Two

I should be annotating the readings I assigned to my students with my brand new colored pencils, but instead my brain’s rebelled.  It is Saturday after all, and I need a break.

Remember the exhibit I was all gaga over at Long Beach?  Well, the twelve-by-twelve group has put out a book, Twelve By Twelve: The International Art Quilt Challenge, and it arrived in my mailbox this week.

There’s so much in here, and I’ve just barely started reading.  They have an overview of each theme, and have featured one quilt from that collection and the artist that created it.  We get to learn about her methods, ways of working, how she approached the idea and how it percolated in her mind.

Some of my favorites from the exhibit are featured, as well as an overview of how they all got together.  The Leader of the Pack found a website where six quilters had embarked on a similar project.  So she then asked twelve quilt artists that she knew to try this themed approach to working.  I’ve been chatting with Rachel and we think we’d like to try, and although we know we are certifiably nuts to add one more thing to our lives, the idea of trying new techniques and ideas in a small space (a quiltlet, if you will) is appealing.

We all have Too Much To Do, for sure, but I keep thinking of that old refrain I have heard more than once–something about the worst thing to live with is regret.  I’ve settled some of my ghosts–doubtful I’ll ever write a novel, or climb Mt. Everest (really doubtful on that one), or go bungee-jumping.  But to pass up on a chance to push the creative edge may be a regret I don’t want hanging around.  I think Rachel and I are still wondering if we want to jump off that Quiltlet Cliff, but if you want to walk to the edge and jump with us, leave me a comment and we’ll start to put together our own group.  You have to agree to a deadline, but it will be well-labeled.

The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking is the second book that came this week (banner week for books, I know!) by Jane Brocket.  Betty, a reader, and I were talking (“emailing”) about a quilt titled the Swimming Pool quilt, shown here on the cover, a lush compilation of Kaffe Fassett fabrics.  The whole book is filled with quilts like this, in moody atmospheric settings.  I mentioned to Betty that sometimes these illustrations drove me nuts as I wanted Full! Color! Pictures! of the quilts so I could really study them.

But the quilts are so beautiful I put up with this inconvenience.  She’s quite descriptive in her ideas, methods and even fabric lines used.

At the end of the book, she includes this visual index of the quilts, but. . . I still wanted them larger, esp. since it’s a hardback book. It’s published by C&T, which publishes most of my favorite quilt books.

And lastly, I have my 100th quilt back from the quilter, and am sewing the binding, sleeve and label on.

More photos when I can get my husband to finish his Donna Leon book–we’re feasting on them currently, our heads always with Detective Guido Brunetti, solving crime in Venice.  My husband is on #12 in the series; I just finished #8 (I’m trying to catch up).  This fall we’re headed to Northern Italy, with a stop in Venice, but in reading these books, I feel like I’m already there.

Back Among the Lollypop Forest: Blocks 5 and 9

I like this part of the Lollypop Tree blocks the best: laying out the color scheme in those great big petals.

The part I like the least, in the cutting and choosing category, is the little circles all around.  I chose Block Five to start back in again, because there only a few circles and they were all jumbo.

Block Ten, as labeled in the pattern, has a few more circles. (I call this my block nine.) But two down, seven to go.  I’ve got to stop now and get the binding on the gingham quilt (which STILL doesn’t have a proper name) in order to tuck away a few loose ends before the arrival of Barbara and grandchildren.  I went to JoAnn’s yesterday and bought two more boxes of applique pins.  Since my goal this summer is to get these blocks all cut and pinned, and it’s taking one box for two blocks, I may be running there again–or else I’ll resort to the wicked long pins which stab you a lot when you’ve got it under the machine–or maybe pin with the stabbers, then change out.  Playing it by ear.

And what book propelled me through these last couple of days?

On Canaan’s Side, by Sebastian Barry.

A lovely quote: “Bill is gone. What is the sound of an eighty-nine-year-old heart breaking? It might not be much more than silence, and certainly a small slight sound.”  Narrated by an elderly woman, it is her story, and the story of the people she loved.  I listened to this intently as not only is the story interesting and well-told, the language and imagery is inventive and descriptive.

I thought of my own mother, and the people she’s said good-bye to.  And her mother, and then her grandmother, who came over from England, leaving that land behind forever.  I guess all of our lives could be an interesting novel, if only the right author told our story.  And this story is told by exactly the right author.

I loved listening to it, as the narrator gave shade and color to the characters, perfectly intoning the Irish inflection, as well as the Greek shopkeeper in the later section.  It’s not a long novel to listen to–only 7+ hours–a relief after the last one I listened to, which was fifteen-plus hours (with irritating piano music off and on).

Friday Finishing School–This and That

I’m almost done with the quilt blocks I’m not yet revealing, keeping it under wraps for a variety of reasons.  Soon, soon. I have this tiny little window of quilting before the research papers hit (I know I keep talking about them–all English teachers dread this particular paper because they are so time-consuming to grade).  So count this for my Friday Finishing School, a project I take up now and again.

American cover on the left; British cover on the right

While I cut and sewed, I listened to The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes, a British author who has written twelve previous novels.  This is another gift from my mother–she decided to start listening to audiobooks, and I signed us up for an Audible account.  She chooses the books, and when I was there last weekend, we downloaded four new ones, The Sense of an Ending being one of them.  I liked this book because it’s written from the viewpoint of an older man, reviewing his life.  While I listened, I could see some of myself in the portrayal, then some of my father, who is 86 and still painting up a storm.  But at the end, I only saw the character and the sense of his ending–the life he is left with after decades of choosing to be “peaceable.”  Note: the younger self of the main character in the novel seems obsessed with sex when he’s at college, if that sort of thing makes you squirm.  But it does all fit into the picture expertly drawn by Julian Barnes, who won the Man Booker Prize for this novel last year–equivalent to our National Book Award.

My mother and I have also listened to Penelope Lively’s novel, How It All Began, about an older woman (do you see a theme here?) who is injured in a mugging (that occurs offstage and is not violent–a purse-snatching).  The novel examines how many lives are affected by this act, and Lively draws an entertaining group that react to the “Butterfly Effect” of the main character’s injury and recovery.  I remember in grad school how I read umpteen books about young people’s coming of age, that shifting tectonic plate between leaving home and settling into a life.  I got soooo tired of all the sexual angst–not that it wasn’t real, but a steady diet of one facet of life’s prism can be wearying.  As an older student I often wondered where the novel was that spoke to my life, the novel that I could emulate?  I seem to have found the mature, nuanced view in several British novels, and I’ve enjoyed them immensely.

A quilt cartoon for you.  I smiled when I saw the cartoonist’s version of a quilt.

More This and That: This is the shot of a bolt end of Thermolam Plus–the stuff I have up on my pin wall.  It looks like quilt batting, but it’s not.  A friend was asking me about how I built my pin wall: 2 sheets of 1/2″ foam core art board taped side by side, covered with gridded flannel (I wrapped this to the back and stapled in place using really short staples, then covered that with tape.  I then affixed it to my wall by using door jamb covers–long rounded metallic bars, each about six feet in length.  I used four: two for each side, top and bottom).  Over that, I layered this Thermolam Plus, using straight pins to anchor it into place.  The fabric really sticks to it–like magic, and when it gets all thready, use one of those sticky roller things that is used to clean off clothes.

Anyone interested in my scraps from Scrappy Stars?  They are not really big pieces–mostly 8″ or less in odd shapes, but they are a range of reds, with some coordinating accents.  They’ll fit neatly into an envelope and I can mail them off to you.  Let me know in the comments.

And if you are interested in making the Scrappy Stars, I have about twelve of the vellum sheets with the diamond paper-piecing pattern on it.  I can mail those to you, too.  I was going to just file away the sheets, but I noticed that a couple of you are going to try making this quilt, and I thought you might like these.  Again, leave a comment and I’ll be in touch.  You’ll need six sheets for every star, so this stack will make two stars.  I guess you could just make the front and back of a pillow; the star finishes at about 16-20,” depending on which way you orient it.  They are Big and Bold–lots of fun to make.  And use a fabric that reads “solid” for the setting diamonds–save yourself some quilting angst!

Today I’m going to finish up the quilt top mentioned at the beginning, because I want to get it over to my quilter.  Since I don’t want to start another book (which will leave me wondering what’s happening and I have to grade *those* papers), I’ll listen to This American Life or RadioLab podcasts, brushing up on either quirky stories about people, or interesting science-based tales. If I get bored with that, there’s always the NPR on the radio.

What do you like to listen to when you create?

At the End of a Day

Sometimes at the end of a day, I like nothing to crawl in bed with a quilt book, and relax and think about different aspects of quilting.  One that I’m working through now is  Masters Art Quilts, Volume 2.  Here are some snapshots of what I have been interested by, followed by something grabbed from the web.  (And yes, that is still my red mess of a cutting table–sorry, I’ve been grading!)

I’m in love with quilts by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade, with their combination of photo-realism with quilt symbols such as lines and the grid.  Here’s a picture I found on Google Images:

Another artist which I’d never heard of before, but who I find to be very interesting, is Jan Myers Newbury.  She dyes her own fabrics and uses the tonality of these to build her compositions, of which many elements are seen in some of the Modern Quilt Guild artists working today, with their dependence on blocks of color.

This one is titled Ode to Albers, and it led me to a search for that artist’s name.  Josef Albers liked to place colors against each other to watch how they behaved.  Again–do you recognize this motif of a block within a block? To me a good book makes you want to head to another book, to find out more.  To search.

Beatrice Lanter uses small pieces of colors, working both in harmonies and dissonances to shape her quilts.

Vergngt is the name of this piece, and it’s approximately 43 inches square.  That’s another thing that struck me about many of the quilts I read about in this book was their smaller size.  This isn’t even a lap quilt in size, yet you could get lost in the design.

So when my husband and I are out today on an errand for my grandson (long story) I see this billboard sign, all fractured and shredded by months of painted produce advertisements, ripped off around their staples.  Before I would have just slid past it and into the store, but now I stopped and studied, as it reminds me that inspiration can be anywhere.  Isn’t this a version of a modern mola quilt?  With the top layers cut to reveal the lower layers?  And here’s another shot of what we did today (but don’t tell the grandson–it’s a surprise).

Yes, these are giant dinosaurs.  And yes, PeeWee Herman visited these in his movie.  They’re about 35 minutes from my house.  How random is this, in a quilt blog?

So, I’ve already placed the first of the Masters quilt book in my Amazon cart, and will order that one in as well.  Sometimes my big wish is to really break away from what I’ve done all my life, from the traditional blocks and triangles and just cut, stitch, deconstruct, and find a new way to a quilt.  But do I have the energy?  The vision?  The courage?  I sometimes wonder if I stay on the same track not only because I love it (and I do), but also because I am used to it.

And changing to a new track takes more ardor and zeal that I think I currently have.  But what then, this quote from Leonardi Da Vinci:  “Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.”  And my father’s favorite quote, which became the title of his memoirs, written a few years ago (he’s 86 now):  The place that seems most dangerous is exactly where safety lies.

Quilting Organically

Not quilting with organic fabric.  I was thinking more along the lines of a quilt that just sort of evolves from one stage to the next, getting stalled, then moving forward again.  But Quilting Evolutionarily (is that a word?) just sounded like it was heading somewhere different.  Often I feel the pressure to rush things–you know, to Get-It-Done so I can have something to show off to everyone in the blogosphere.  Because why would anyone want to read about my humdrum, inch-by-inch progress in my projects?  Only because that’s probably how things are going for many of us, especially at the holidays, when we are pulled too many directions.

So, after I put the blue borders on my wonky log cabin, it sat.  Then after finishing the grading, the finals, I actually had a night when I was waiting for my husband to come home from a trip back East, and I wanted to stay up and I had a good novel going, so I was ready to sew.

Forgive the blurry picture–it was at night.  I sewed white strips onto the blue borders.  I also had a stack of “middles” without the blue borders (I’d run out of fabric).  I added red strips to those, and then green.

And then I alternated them up on the pinwall. And there they’ve been for a few days now, while I try to figure out the next step.  They are all different sizes, so I’m trying to decide which ones to cut down, and to which ones I should add a deep blue strip or two in order to get them to become roughly the same size.

The novel I’m listening to is Moon Over Manifest and it’s written for a bit younger crowd; I’m still really enjoying it as it combines two periods of history in the story of the twelve-year-old protagonist.  I’m considering it for my English class next semester: since the main character is 12, I don’t have to worry about inappropriate romantic entanglements that I’d have to deal with in class discussions.  I’m teaching a developmental class (one below Freshman Comp) so this level might be appropriate to most of their reading skills.

So, not that anyone’s reading with a week left until Christmas, and Hanukkah just beginning, and the general rush rush of buying gifts and decorating and baking, but I am making progress on this quilt.  It’s interesting to sew without a plan.  I’m sewing just for the pleasure of it, just to discover what will unfold — the kind of sewing I need right now.