Digital/Virtual World · Guild Visits · Something to Think About · Zoom

To follow the notes of a disappearing bird

I work upstairs in a bedroom at the end of the house in what used to be my daughter’s room, before this penultimate child burst out into the world, leaving home at twenty, coming back only for visits — an ending I didn’t see coming, for sure. In that room, my sewing machine sits on a desk that runs underneath a double-wide window, and my view is visually sheltered there by the boughs of a silk oak tree, like a frame.

Just below the window, and sometimes climbing up the screen, is an enormous wisteria vine — no it’s really two vines — stuck in the earth some thirty years ago when we moved to this house. In the spring it’s an uncontrolled explosion of heavy blossoms, followed quickly by incessant leaves and sinewy vines and tendrils, climbing, growing, spreading, taking over the old arbor full of termites and carpenter bee holes, and reaching over the pathway to the silk oak.

Two days ago I was startled by a squirrel that leapt from the roof of our house onto the silk oak limb, and as the wisteria has its tendrils wrapped around that one, too, the whole green carpet above and just below my window was set into motion with the squirrel’s landing, a rustling that kept me watching until everything stilled and the squirrel descended down the trunk and onto to other things.

I took a leap of sorts last year when I figured out how to do everything Guild-related from this desk in front of this window: videos, Zoom lectures, demos with two cameras on camera stands that I always have to wrestle into submission for at the time, I was unaware of the fancy ones that moved at the touch of a finger. I loved the Zoom teaching, especially.

I loved all the students in their places and their spaces, their fabrics right at hand, the mess underfoot, the walking back and forth from cutting station to ironing board to sewing machine. It was a rich, varied tapestry of individuals all honing their craft, this pattern they’d chosen, and we worked together as a very long-distance team. Most of the time.

I had a few failures, when I couldn’t reach through this digital space to show them how I trimmed, or to look at the blocks arranged on a wall that was in the hallway just around the corner, with no way to show me. I’ve had classes where it was deathly silent, everyone on Mute, watching my class videos or just being extra-respectful to not bother everyone with their usual noises: phone calls to friends, TV on for company, or the singing along to the radio. I could see them having a life, but there I was at the desk, sipping my water: the girl in the digital box.

Concentrating on getting the talk set up

I loved the Guild Presentations, too: the rows and rows of shining-faced quilters, and before I start, we are all expectant, all of them present in their easy chairs, propped up against their pillow towers on their beds, or the living rooms where husbands/friends/children/dogs wander through, and at the kitchen tables, all of us beaming at each other.

As you know, I recently taught a second class for the Santa Clarita Quilt Guild and my husband asked me if I had any repeats from the first time. I hadn’t looked up the previous class, but when I saw one student’s beautiful wall, I knew she had taken from me before. The space was familiar, for, in a way, I’d spent several hours there last year.

I now have two lectures, four online classes, but almost no gigs lined up. Is this an ending? I love teaching, but maybe it’s time to take longer to watch that squirrel with her descent or
“To follow the notes of a disappearing bird
out into the trees, up and out along the farthest / branch…”

I don’t know. Maybe it’s not?

I pinned all the Blossom quilts on the design wall before class.

I recognized an ending last time I came to this familiar junction. And I recognized when I had written everything I needed to say at another place in time. But this is all sort of unfamiliar to me now, for I don’t think I’m done, but yet somehow it feels like it might be that way. Or, it might not.

I gave the final scheduled lecture for 2021 last week. It was a hybrid: with a small cohort in their Guild’s usual meeting place at the Fellowship Hall, and the rest of us on Zoom. It was an interesting push-pull, a tension between the recent months of Covid and our isolation and this guild meeting was kind of at the reverse place — wanting to get out, but also wanting to stay in.

I recognized the impulse. Here in California we are all feeling sort of safe with masking in place, numbers down, vaccines in arms, and so we are venturing out to normalcy. However, I figured out some time ago that I would never visit a Guild in person again to teach or give a talk, much preferring the Zoom format. So perhaps this hybrid meeting was the opening of that proverbial door, the notes of that disappearing song beckoning me to the edge of a different wood, in a different territory.

Perhaps.

I’ll still be quilting, I’ll still be writing here on this website. I have a thousand-and-one projects lined up, and I may yet figure out how to schedule my own classes, turning students loose in my videos and handouts and structure. And I know Santa Clarita wants me to come back, too.

Stay tuned.


“Some Ants for Henry,” by Ralph Black
[….]
To begin each day among the weeds, crouched
   and hungry for a sign of complete desire, this
is my small prayer. To pull a blade of grass and watch
   a single globe of dew fade and blink out.
To follow the notes of a disappearing bird
   out into the trees, up and out along the farthest
branch, laying my fingers against the pulse
   of that blue-fletched, warbling throat.
Such moments can kill a man, or startle him back
   to his senses. [….]
(from here)

Digital/Virtual World · Shine: The Circles Quilt · This-and-That

Abecedary • Late June 2021

A is for Abecedary, or a way of organizing this post.

It’s also the name of my Lecture I present to Guilds, and I’m coming up on my last Abecedary of Quilts lecture next month (a milestone). And by the way, today I might skip a few letters. Subtitle: This and That • June 2021.

B is for bibimbap

which is a favorite summer dish, shown here on my placemat made out of Simone’s fabric, back when we supported her in her fabric launch. In the Before Times.

B is for Bunny ears.

C is for Criss-Cross. Fun to see Kathy’s finished quilt on the Glendale Quilt guild’s IG account.

E is for exclamation points, for which I often use too many and always have to edit them out.

F is for feet on Instagram, specifically feet on quilts. Seems there are strong feelings about this.

I is for new ironing board cover.

1. I always leave lots of padding, but maybe shuffle them around. This is multiple year stack-up of padding.
2. My pattern has me lay the ironing board down on some fabric then draw an outline about 3″ away from the edge. No precision needed. I then make a separate “hood” for the top, by duplicating the upper portion. No reason. It’s just the way my most favorite commercial ironing board cover was made, way back in the day, and I’ve just continued it. I sew it on the top part, RST, then flip it. It’s tricky to get the casing around those edges, and I always find myself unpicking bits here and there to get the drawstring through. Don’t judge me by my underneath-the-ironing-board-cover business.
3. I slap an interfaced square on the lower edge and put in two buttonholes (for drawstrings), making sure they are closer to the raw edge. Make a hem of about an inch of fabric all the way around and stitch it down, doing your best. No, I don’t finish the raw edge. Why should I? After that, slide through some sort of long string-y thing (not yarn or string). The best one I’ve found is to use two packages of seam tape, seamed together and overstitched. I’ve re-used it over and over.
4. The underneath, after I’ve pulled it all up into place, and tucked in the strings.
5. My newest gig is to sew on a giant rectangle, right in the middle (pink arrows). I just tuck the edges under after pinning, and topstitch it down. Yes, I fit the board with this after laying the cover on, but before drawing up the string. Why this? When it gets grunge-y after constant use, I unpick the stitches and yippee! Fresh and clean ironing board surface.

K is for Kitchen Sink Cookies.

You can find this recipe on my daughter’s new website, Sweet Mac Shop, made and launched this last month for her macaron-baking efforts.

L is for Leisa.

She’s coming up on the one year anniversary of her stem cell transplant and we are celebrating by taping up a quilt (left side of the photo) for her niece. She had this little quilt of mine out on her antique sewing machine, so I took some time to re-acquainted with an artifact from an early day.

This was one of my earlier attempts at Home, Sweet Home, using a Lemoyne Star in the center, which is a juggling act all the way around (my pattern has an easier method).

It’s like old home week, visiting these fabrics once again.

L is also for Link Tree.

This is what people see when you set up a space to list a series of links off of Instagram. Typically you put it where your ONE available link address is, thereby giving you way more links. Michelle, a brand stategist, often has little tips in her stories about how to make our online life easier, and more clever. One day she had a tip about creating a Link Tree in Canva, a website that will assist you in design tasks.

But then I got to thinking: can’t I do this on my own, using a page from my own website? Since I know her IRL, I asked her and she said “Yep, you can.”

I use WordPress for my blogging software, and they use Blocks for text, images and anything on the page, I colored my Blocks in different colors, wrote my text, and since I didn’t give the page a title, it has a naturally short web address.

Voilá! My very own Link Tree that I can change at a moment’s notice.

N is for Northern Star Quilters’ Guild.

I just finished teaching Criss-Cross and presenting my Abecedary of Quilts lecture to a wonderful group of quilters all the way across the country in New York state. What wonders of our era, to be in California and NY at the same time.

O is for Obama.

I’m almost done listening to the first part of his memoirs, and boy, have I learned a lot about government. A brilliant writer, with an easy-going style. His strong character traits, as well as some of his flaws, do come out in this book, but what I’ve appreciated learning is the bits of history he builds in to each international incident: it gives me a fuller appreciation for the difficulties of managing the expectations of the presidency in both foreign affairs and domestic. Love him or hate him, a lot can be learned by listening to, or reading this book. You’ll learn more about how bills are passed — and blocked — by taking the time to hear from a former president.

P is for pre-wash your red fabrics.

After they come out damp from the dryer, I press them and let them dry on the guestroom bed. This was in preparation for my Summer Snowcone Quilt. I don’t always pre-wash all my fabrics, but I ALWAYS pre-wash the reds.

S is for Shine, the red, white and blue version.

My goal is to get this done by the end of next week, in preparation for the Fourth of July. I have now finished most of the white thread, most of the red thread, most of the blue thread. Next up is light-blue thread, and then going back for borders and finishing touches.

W is for Writing Patterns.

Next up is Azulejos, a pattern to be made from a quilt finished in the Before Times. This pattern is almost done. I use Affinity Software (Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo and Affinity Publisher) and for the last while they’ve been offering a smoking hot deal at 50% off. (Hooray! No more chained-to-Adobe-subscription prices, although they do have excellent software.)

Well, that is ending soon, on the 30th of June. If you have a hankering to design, or to tweak your photos, or other creative uses, head to Affinity by Serif and pick up your copies before it goes off sale. I’ve written about this before and I will again. It’s a great set of software apps for creatives Creative Peoples Creative People and Quilters. It will take you some time to get to know it, I won’t lie, especially if you have no Adobe experience. I had never used Illustrator by Adobe, but I purchased Affinity’s Designer. I had to do a bit of research here and there, but they have a great series of tutorials (I went through them all and Took Notes), a hefty online design community, a comprehensive online manual and even a hardcover book, that walks you through lessons on how to use it. I was up and running fairly quickly, and continue to learn new things.

Speaking of sales, get this, too. QuiltFolk. Ending Soon, and all that stuff.

V is for a sad move for Viking Sewing Machines.

Somehow I never think it is a good sign when equity firms own our sewing machines. We recently lost one good tool when QuiltPro, a favorite design software (it used vectors, not lines) was purchased by a corporation, and let it slide into nothingness. Admittedly, it is still around and functioning for Windows machines, just not on Macs. Superior Threads was also sold, and I miss talking to my favorite help person on the line, although the threads themselves are still the high quality threads I know and love. And now these three sewing firms. I’m somewhat encouraged by the last line of the announcement, but not much.

Z is for Zee End.
Happy Beginning of Summer!

300 Quilts · Classes · Digital/Virtual World · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt

Criss-Cross Color

Criss-Cross Color • Quilt [Top] No. 233
49″ wide by 68″ high

It has been a good month, a month of Criss-Crossing with the Criss-Cross Quilt pattern.

Criss-Cross Autumn • Quilt No. 232
35″ square

After getting over my terror of Zooming, and finding I really quite liked it a LOT, I jumped in with both feet to prepare for the class that the Glendale Quilt Guild had chosen. To teach, I had to make some new samples — not to be sent around this time, but for short videos for their class.

So, these two quilts came from those endeavors.

Okay, I take it back. Maybe Criss-Cross Color started here, when a series of photos showed up on my Instagram. I pulled colors of Painters Palette Solids to mimic what I saw. (Yes, I’ve had this series of photos for over a year. Sometimes quilts take a while to percolate up to the top.)

This is what was on my design wall when I started my Workshop with the quilters from Glendale last Saturday:

This group is on fire! They were engaged, enthusiastic and even the most beginner of the bunch dived in and got to work on their quilts. This morning we had a follow-up session, where they showed off what they’d sewn and talked about their quilts.

Follow-up Workshop

I like to do a follow-up Zoom one week later, as it’s close enough to the time of the Workshop that the event doesn’t drag on and on, yet gives a few days to cut and sew. And these ladies did just that. Here are the quilts from the slide show I put together for them (they all gave me permission to share them). From the top, the owner/makers are: Cindy, Joyce, Flo, Annie, Nancy, Caren, Beth, Kathy, Rebecca, and Mary.

Some of these are under construction, some are completed tops, and one is all quilted, finished and bound! It was a most lovely follow-up session, and they had great insights about the quilt, working with pattern, finding ways to make this idea their own. I’ve been floating all day.

Thank you to the fine quilters of Glendale Quilt Guild for a wonderful time!

Digital/Virtual World · Live-Online Classes

Zooming a Live-Online Class

Having run through the vocabalary of descriptors for what happened this week, I think calling this a Live-Online Class is the best term. This wasn’t an Online Class, where you pay your money to a website and download a video. This wasn’t a live class, where you haul your machine and the contents of your stash closet to a class, where you might get something done. This was a hybrid, the best of both worlds!

Truth be told, all these lovely women of the North Cities Quilt Guild (above) could be called pioneers, for when I sent a survey afterwards, the majority response was that this was the first Zoom Quilting Live-Online class they’d taken. They were so fun to spend the day with in this new form of a quilting class. We’d also shared a Zoom Guild Evening Program the night before, and that, too, went very well, as they had two moderators manning the technical side of things.

Note: I’m putting up another post after this one, describing in more clinical/technical details the things I did to make my Live-Online Class run smoothly, having done gobs of research. I will update this post to link to that one, when completed.

Our day together began at 9:00 a.m. In truth, my day began a bit earlier, when waking out of a dead sleep at 6:30 a.m. I realized I hadn’t written down my lesson plan. I bolted from bed and wrote it on a giant sticky note and slapped it up on the calendar next to my cutting table.

I also realized that when we had painted, we’d taken down the curtain hiding all the mess in my sewing room closet. A quick fix with a tensioner closet rod and a quilt quickly fixed that. I spent the next couple of hours doing last minute prep, printing off the Secret Code to admit them into the Secret Room of my blog, getting ready (including mascara, ahem). Then I settled into my chair at 8:45 to welcome them to class.

We started pretty much on time, and I had a Moderator, who helped people get started and ran things smoothly. There was some awkwardness at first, as we worked through some technology hiccups (but nothing serious–Zoom does make it easy to click-and-go).

More about setting this up on the other post

After I introduced them to their Secret Site, and we squared away the password entries, they were able to access the videos and other materials I’d put there for their class. Pretty soon, they had all settled into sewing. One quilter had her computer in one room and her sewing in another; we solved that by having her log onto her phone, so she could have it next to her for comradery while she stitched. I saw her walk back and forth between the two rooms when she needed to watch a video.

The Merrion Square Conga Line

A few were able to use their computers to “show” me what they were working on, and we chatted about color and value choices and ways to make it all come together.

The class followed the outlined schedule, and when I returned from lunch break, I noticed a distinct shift. They had ceased being a bunch of screens, and now were a happy classroom of busy quilters. The change was welcome, as there is always this place where technology can get in the way of the humans. And these wonderful pioneers figured out how to get the humanity back into this distancing situation.

from the after-class survey

The afternoon was a series of lovely moments, as they held up their successes to the camera, showing off what they’d accomplished, bit by bit, section by section. I told the class that if they sent me decent photographs of what they’d been working on, I’d put them into a slide show for them to see when we all got back together a week later, in our planned Wrap Up Class.

from the after-class survey

Before we parted, we talked about the pros and cons of this situation (and they agreed to fill out a survey after the fact). One comment was that they didn’t have to lug their sewing machine down the stairs to their car. Another quilter mentioned that she had been able to pivot quickly when it was apparent that the choice of fabrics she’d laid out weren’t working: all her fabric was right there around her. I also love what this anonymous quilter from our class wrote in her survey: “Learn Zoom–it’s a wonderful tool.”

I was about to sign off, but a couple of women asked if the class could go longer, so I set extended it so they could keep sewing, which made me feel like this had been a great experience for them.

Can’t wait to see them all again!

Digital/Virtual World · Guild Visits · Trunk Show

Zooming into 2020

By now we all know what a Zoom conference is, we know not to angle the phone so people see up our noses, we know not to have a crunchy three-course meal on the Zoom chat, and we have learned the importance of the Mute button. That’s the participant side. This month I’ve been trying to learn what to do on the presenter’s side, getting ready to take my regular In Real Life (IRL) program to Virtual.

First up, gather a bazillion pictures of quilts and plop them into a PowerPoint slide program.

Secondly, do you-don’t-know-what and lose the last half of the slide program.

Third, re-construct what had been started and save it in TWO different places this time. It’s all a big fat learning curve. I did watch several different groups of people talking about going Virtual, and one common theme was the idea that when invited, they said “Of course, that sounds great! It’s very do-able!” Then the admission to those of us watching, was that they really had no idea what to do.

I can relate.

Here are some of the things I’ve been doing the past two weeks:
PowerPoint Slide program — luckily a lot of the graphic arts skills I’d picked up this past year while learning Affinity Photo/Designer/Publisher carried across onto this platform.

Buy a ring light and tripod. Figure it out. That’s me trying out light levels and light settings: White, Warm Yellow, Warm White. Or as I like to say, Death, Near-Death and Jaundiced.

In this view, there is a green border around the slide.

You can find that in the Advanced section of the Slide Share tools in Zoom. What that does is put a border around what the people on the other side of the screen can see when the desktop is shared. You can keep all your notes in a Word Doc if you want (see below).

Write notes for the program and rehearse. I did that last night, ring light on, running through the program, recording myself. With the ring light on, practicing looking at the camera, and trying not to freak out, I have to say I did okay. My husband is continually encouraging me onward; he used to coax his grad students through this ordeal. And by the way, the recording will be deleted, never to be seen again, but I’m glad we purchased a Zoom Pro account, so I can rehearse. I’ll make another one tonight, just to keep practicing.

Last tip: I set up another screen right in front of me when I was rehearsing (an iPad will do) so I could see what others could see. I doubt I’ll do that when presenting (I want to focus on looking at the camera), but it was helpful when figuring out how all the parts go together.

If you are a Guild, there are an equal number of tasks for you, too. In working with the current guild, the Program Chair has been terrific, as we worked to move this forward. Not only do they have to worry about getting the Speaker situated with Zoom codes, timing, technology, they also can’t just hand them a check when it’s over; payment has to be worked out as well, and not everyone has a PayPal or Venmo account.

And getting the patterns to them is also a challenge, because of that “not everyone has a PayPal account” thing. My patterns are digital downloads from PayHip, which requires either a PayPal or Slice Account, which has been a trouble for some of their members. So we worked out that the member would give a check to the Guild, the Guild would alert me and give me the guild member’s email address, and then I would send them a “how-to” PDF document and a code to enter to get their pattern. I plan not to do this again, if I can help it.

The contracts have to be re-written, or an addendum provided. I ended up scanning in the originals, adding the addendum and emailing them over. Some of the language I used in the addendum is in the “Zoom Explained” document below, available for download.

All of this post is to say, that we are headed over a cliff into the digitalized 21st Century, and we have to be our own superhero and figure it out ourselves. I plan to do that Lecture next week, the Workshop the next day (more on that, later), and keep going. I plan on my vehicle sprouting wings so I can zoom out over the landscape, and enjoy the view.

Nuts and Bolts of Presenting

After reading extensively, I wrote up a document outlining how I wanted to work my virtual teaching and presenting. You can download it below.

There are plenty of sources out there for the physical space you’ll need to set up. At the very least, invest in a ring light so it will throw an even cast of light across your face. Others have fancier set-ups. Try not to be overwhelmed.

In working with my fantastic Program Chair for the upcoming Guild, I thought it might be helpful if they had a checklist they could consult to make they had all their ducks in a row. You can download it below.

I have so much to learn, as do we all. But I’m actually pretty excited to go forward. In putting together my presentation I could include lots of views of my quilts in the slide show, things I normally wouldn’t be able to show them (like mood boards, quilts in settings, interim steps). There will be good and hard things about our quilting lives in the next two years. Let’s make getting together one of the more lovely things!