Go with the Flow

I’ve been thinking about what it takes to keep me interested in what I’m doing, and better yet, to find that creative task, that, when I check the time, I realize I’ve been absorbed in this task for hours, not minutes. When I used to manage the black-and-white photo lab at my local university, students could stay in there for hours, developing their prints, discussing them, claiming they were in the “zone” and didn’t want to leave it.

I’ve been on a pretty intense creative output flow, and I can feel myself wanting to wind down, and take a breath.  So I thought I’d look into this idea–of being in the “zone” or “flow” and see how it would apply to us quilters.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book,  Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience has much to say about the idea of “flow” or “being in the zone.”  He stipulates certain conditions present during flow:

(1) engagement in an activity that is both challenging and attainable

Flow_2.jpg

 

 

 

If you ask me to make simple HST quilts forever, I’ll be incredibly bored, as my skill levels have gone beyond that.  It was fun for a day, though, in Jenny Doan’s class at Road to California this past January.

Flow_2a.jpg

 

 

 

On the other hand, if you ask me to talk at QuiltCon 2018 in front of a crowd of eighty quilters with a big screen behind me, I’ll be incredibly anxious. I made it through, thanks to kind quilters.Flow chart.png

The left to upper left shows what happens if your skill level is low, but the challenges are too high.  The bottom to lower right is when the abilities are high,  and the challenges are too easy.  Of course, we should all try to shoot on a diagonal path from low to high, to get to the flow, but often we are stuck with patterns that don’t work, or run out of fabric, or can’t figure something out, or feel frozen in our progress.

(2) the ability to keep concentration focused on the activity, and
(3) sense of control over your own actions

I lumped these two together, although they really are separate ideas.  For me, these can sometimes be hard to attain, especially if you have young children, or fighting health issues, or don’t have the right physical set-up that allows easy access to your tools/fabric/machine.  I also love seeing blank calendar days, without the distraction of appointments or errands.  I can stay in the zone for hours on those days.

(4) clearly defined goals that are within the individual’s control

Writing down a goal that says something like winning “Best of Show at Paducah” is not something within our control, because we can’t award that ribbon.  Perhaps that why we see a proliferation of techniques Finish-A-Longs, or goal-setting posts, to help us identify our goals.  I’ve found this helpful, but more often than not, it leads to a list of tasks — which we call UFOs — rather than list of goals.

(5) immediate feedback

According to the book, our psychic energy tends to atrophy without some verification we’re on the right track.  I think that’s also why Guilds and Quilt Groups are so valuable, but often we resort to snapping a photo and texting it to a friend.  However, I might argue that too much immediate feedback, such as our faces glued to our tiny screens checking our Instagram likes, being fixated on the number of likes can pull us out of the flow.

Flow_1.jpg

(6) deep, effortless involvement in the activity which removes from our awareness the worries/frustrations of everyday life.

I love it when I can forget what’s going on out in the world, listen to a book, and just sew and sew.  Or it’s like when we have to glue fabric on 500 one-inch hexies for our quilting booth at an upcoming Heritage Day Festival, and I took this task to my quilt group and we had a great time eating fresh strawberries, chocolate treats, and solving all the world’s problems. (We did get a little goofy, I must say.)

(7) non-self-conscious individualism, or you lose yourself in what you are doing and eliminate all self-criticism. His book states that “loss of self-consciousness does not involve a loss of the self, and certainly not a loss of consciousness, but rather, only a loss of consciousness OF the self.”

Maybe it’s not best to continually evaluate ourselves as we work, given the rhythm of this chart:

creative-process.jpg
Finally, (8) some alteration of time (either “hours feel like minutes” or vice versa)

Being IN the flow, is definitely not the same ask GOING WITH the flow.  But to be truthful, I mostly feel like Sarah Cannell, when she said: “I’m either hurtling down the track not noticing the passing countryside, or standing on the platform having missed the train… The two extremes seem to smoothly flow into each other.”

Giveaway Thanks

Thank you for all your comments on the Giveaway for the Northern Star curated stack of fabrics.

I used two different Random Number Generators (actually, three, if you count when I asked my husband to pick two numbers randomly, and interestingly, one of his was nearly the same as one of these) to pick our two winners:

Giveaway Numbers 4_18

Jamie was #7: “I have not seen the Northern Lights. However if I win, I could make your quilt (you’re writing a pattern for us to buy right?) and then have my husband hold it above me so I can see it in the night sky. Pretty clever eh? hahahaha”

(I laughed out loud)

and Joan was #71: “Oh, yes, I have seen them and should do so more often, but I’m usually asleep in the middle of the winter nights when they are most visible, and I just can’t drag myself out of my nice warm bed to stand in the frigid nighttime air to watch! Summertime viewing would be perfect, but it’s just too light outside to see the aurora even at 2:00am!”

(I’m going to visit you, Joan, and really soon.  Joan?  That okay?)

Northern Lights_pix

I did love these reminiscences:

The first one is from Barb: “I grew up in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada and my parents home backed onto a field so there was no obstruction of view. We could watch the Northern Lights dance across the sky many nights from our kitchen window. I didn’t realize what a special experience that was until we moved to a large city where the only thing I can see in the sky is the Moon and a few bright stars and planets!”

Another one from Edith: “I used to be able to see the Northern Lights in my hometown of Medicine Hat, Alberta when I was a young girl. I used to sit on the park swing and be able to see them over the hill in front of me, but since the city grew and more lights were added, I must say I have’t seen them in a long time.”

And last one, from Holley: “I have seen the Northern Lights many times starting as a child growing up in Iowa. We didn’t see them often but we did see them from time to time. I lived in northern Minnesota after college. This was at the time of missel silos and ICBMs so when the northern lights looked like rockets shooting across the sky it was unnerving. When I lived in Wisconsin near Chippewa reservations I was told the lights were the old people dancing and that was the way they looked. I’ve seen lights in Alaska was I was babysitting grandchildren and in the Scottish Highlands when we lived near Glasgow. I have a quilt started that I call Northern lights that I hope to finish one day soon. The colors and patterns vary depending on location and weather but they are all wonderful. Thanks for sharing yours.”

Ladies, you are living our dream.  Thank you all, again.  Guess what?  Another giveaway is coming on Wednesday, when I show you some secret sewing I’ve been doing for Simone.  See you then!

OYM Blog Hop Buttons-01

Mad for Solids Wrap-up 2018 and Giveaway

Giveaway Thanks

I’m sure you have seen a version of this photo before, as I participated in the Mad for Solids 2018 for Painer’s Palette Solids.  Paintbrush Studios, the people who manufacture this line of solids first contacted me about four years ago, asking me to make them a quilt for Quilt Market.  Paintbrush who? was my first response.  But I jumped in and made them a medallion sort of design.  I was paid for this effort.  But simply being paid doesn’t keep me coming back.  I have also sewn for “free” for them.

Paint Chips Painter's Palette Solids

Why do I keep agreeing to do this?  When they do send me fat quarters/half yards of a variety of colors — whatever they are setting up as their parameters —  it challenges me to design a quilt using just those fabrics, and I use it as a design challenge.  (Of course, if any of you have participated in any of the MQG challenges, you know that even if you get 3 fat quarters for free, you end up buying about more on your own.  Typical, right?)

Paintbrush Studios Colors_chart

When I first was considering designing/sewing for them, I asked, “Is your fabric of a good quality?”  Painter’s Palette was a new line, made with a bit tighter weave and finer threads, and while the first launch had 80 colors, they now have many more than that (latest card is above).  I don’t need 500 colors to be happy; I need enough to make the designs I want to.  My favorite part about this fabric is how it feels in the hand–almost silky, but with a good weight. I also like that if I have to “un-sew,” this fabric will hold up to the repeated picking out and re-stitching.  It also steams into place well, if the block needs to be flat, or seams eased in.  I’m not the only one who is in love with this fabric.

Here are the quilts I’ve made with Painter’s Palette Solids:
Starry Compass Rose
Cinque Terra Tiles
Northern Star (in progress)
Annularity

RedWhiteBlueStar_final1
Red, White, and Blue Star (free pattern)

Sky Rocket Variant

Guccilicious Block, above, and here too
(Note to self: I need to finish my ideas on this one)
Electra Magnetic

six-ways-to-blue_front
Six Ways to Blue (above)
Rose Window

focus_front

And this little one, Focus, made for their first booth at QuiltCon 2017 from scraps from the first quilt I made for them.

Mad4Solids2018votesign

I make these little pictures on my phone, using the app Snapseed. Easy-peasy.

Thank you all for your votes and support in the Mad for Solids 2018.  I really owe you all a quilt or something, but I decided instead to have a little giveaway of Painter’s Palette fabrics, in the exact colors I used for my Northern Star (which is still in process), so you can try them for yourself.

giveaway-banner

I ordered these from Pineapple Fabrics, which is where — until I can persuade my local shop to carry them– I purchase my Painter’s Palette Solids.

I have two stacks of 8 fat quarters, which I’ll give away to two people.  I will announce this on Instagram and on my blog, but only comments on my blog will count. (I will ship internationally as well as domestic, for those of you overseas who are wondering about that.) If you are a follower of this blog, leave an extra comment to double your chances (and thank you for reading!).  I’ll let this run for a couple of days, and then draw a winner, who I will notify by email.

To enter the giveaway, please leave me a comment telling me if you’ve ever seen the Northern Lights in the night sky.

Giveaway now closed.  Thank you for entering!

March Madness 2018

March Madness 2018 FB HeaderMM Bracket 2018-round 1.jpg

For the last couple of years, the fine people at Paintbrush Studios have hosted a Mad for Solids Competition, where quilters create a stack of colors, give them a name & describe their inspiration, and they go up against each other.  (Why should basketball fans have all the fun?  Quilters need some play time, too!)

Above is the bracket where many beautiful colors of Painter’s Palette Solid fabrics will vie to reach the championship match-up.  The first “game” is already up online, and it features two different stacks of fabrics (seen below).  I hope you’ll take time to vote for your favorite each day.

Here are the links:

•  Paintbrush Studios Blog: Introductory Post, where you can see all the 16 bundles and read about each quilter and their inspiration
•  Paintbrush Studios on Instagram
•  Paintbrush Studios on Facebook

You Can Be A Winner

You can also win free fabric by voting.  They will randomly select four voters from the championship game to win fat quarter bundles of the winning palette.  To make sure your favorite bundle is the winner, vote for the one you like best to get it to the championship game.

My game day is this Friday, March 23rd.

Please sure to check back here for info on how you can vote for me, and to see why I chose the grouping that I did.

But for today, head over to Paintbrush Studios to start your voting with two beautiful different stacks.  You’ll only have one day to get your vote in, a 24-hour period from 6 p.m. on the day announced, when a new round will take its place.

March Madness18 Game 1 stacks.png

Have fun!!

Zipperstop Zippers Giveaway!

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18″ Zippers from Zipperstop

That’s all–a giveaway of zippers from Zipperstop, USA recipients only, no international. I’ll choose two winners, one from this blog and one from Instagram, so leave a comment in both places to get two chances.

[Backstory: I had a change-up of an order from my regular zipper people: Zipperstop.  I have been doing business with them for years, and love dealing with them, not only for their prices, but also to call and hear the essence of New York City on the phone. (I especially like their YKK #3 assortment, and you can specify the colors.)

So, instead of returning the zippers to them they said I could do a giveaway, so here it is–these are perfect for those Christmas projects you are starting to crank out. These are all 18″ YKK zippers.]

Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing.  I’ll close this on Thursday morning, November 30th; I’ll choose the group for you.

Giveaway is now closed.

Congratulations to Susan S.!  I’ll be in touch to get those mailed out to you.

creative block

(Yes.  Lower case title, just to reclaim some of my quirkiness.)

I recently posted about taking a break from the creative world, from the quilty world, from whatever and while I was gone, I had some to time to think about how I’d gotten to that non-creative place.

irons in a fire

I’d say, for me it was a factor of four: Time, Health, and Mental/Physical Fatigue, as well as a Too Much to Do.  My Dad used to say “Too many irons in the fire put out the flame.”  While a reference to the bars of iron that blacksmiths use, I did have too much going on.

creative block_99U

from here

I was intrigued with the idea of Creative Block, and one article “7 Types of Creative Block and What to Do About Them,” from my favorite place online (99U) discussed this issue, that apparently is a very-much-real thing.  In that piece, I liked the sub-topic of  Work habits that don’t work, as I have been struggling to (re)learn three new computer programs: EQ7 (I learn it, then forget it, and there’s so many hurdles with the design of this software…but then that’s another post), Affinity Photo (to replace Photoshop) and Affinity Designer (to replace Illustrator).  Three more irons in that proverbial fire.

99U’s advice to “[s]tep back and take a good look at how you’re working, and where the pain points are….If you don’t have enough energy, are you working at the right time of day? If you feel paralyzed by freedom, introduce more structure and order into your day. If you feel constrained by routine, find room for improvisation” felt like it was just for me.

I always love the Brain Pickings articles, and the review on a book from Danielle Krysa (Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas. Advice & Projects from 50 Successful Artists) seems to hit some of those stuck spots:

Creative Block_Alex Cornell

Jessica Bell noted that “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.” Carving out a block of time devoted to nothing else but the pursuit of new work has never steered me wrong.”

So,  Miss Gasoline Station stepped aside and made space for some creative time.  I’ll be posting a few projects in the next post, but since it’s summer and it’s time to play, it’s good to keep a balance between working and quilting and cooking and playing and family and friends…

Family Reunion_stone house

Eastmond Family Reunion, atop Brian Head Peak (11,000+ feet)

Thanks to all of you who wrote and left comments on my last post.  We headed out that day for a family reunion and I left the keyboard behind, but I read them all and appreciated your encouragement.  I’m slipping back into the creative life, one stitch at a time.

7 Magic MountainsThe block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping stone in the pathway of the strong. –Thomas Carlyle

Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass and a book of rules;
And each must make, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.

–R. L. Sharpe

Giveaway Banner

Because who knows what might spur your creativity, I’ve got some books to give away.  If what I’m giving away (this will go on, erratically, for several posts) tickles your fancy or appeals to you in some way, if you leave a comment, please let me know you’d like to enter the giveaway.  Some of the books are ones I’ve purchased and read, and no longer need; others were publisher giveaways at Quilt Market, and it’s time to pass them on.

Grifka Book1

The first one is Lines by Design by Debbie Grifka, a lovely book on how to make elegant modern quilts.  Good luck!  Giveaway will close in a few days and I’ll contact the winner by email and get it sent out.

 

Red, White, and Blue Star

Welcome to Day 4 of the Patriotic Palette Blog Hop, hosted by Paintbrush Studios and Painter’s Palette Solids!

Red, White, and Blue Star • Quilt #183
25″ square, made from Painter’s Palette Solids

A couple of weeks ago, the fine people who make Painter’s Palette Solids sent me some fabric and asked if I would make something. At the end of this post, there is a giveaway so you can win your own stack of red, white and blue fabrics.

I’m part of a series of posts showing items you can make with just three reds, three blues and some white.  Here is the complete list and the days that they are presenting:

6/23: Jayne of TwiggyandOpal (@twiggyandopal)
6/26: Elizabeth of OPQuilt (@occasionalpiecequilt)
6/30: Cindy Wiens of Live a Colorful Life (@liveacolorfullife)
7/3: Stephanie of Peas in a Pod (@stephiepeterson)

The project I chose was a quick and easy mini-quilt, which finishes at 25″ square, and is perfect for a table top when you want to give a little patriotic flare to the kitchen.  I’ve written up a free pattern, available in my Craftsy shop for download (see button to the right), but the instructions are here if you need any tips and help with construction.

RedWhiteBlueStar_9

RedWhiteBlueStar_2

I was sent fat quarters in three shades of red, three shades of blue and a fat quarter of white.  The white needs special cutting: cut the long borders first (see chart on pattern), then the squares for the half-square triangles.  You may have enough the other way, but do it this way to be safe.  I also was tight on the medium blue, as I used it for the binding, too.  You’ll need to provide your own backing (about 3/4 yard, or pieced scraps).

RedWhiteBlueStar_3

I basically constructed this as a nine-patch, a favorite thing of mine to do with minis. I started by sewing four bright red triangles on the edges of the blue square, then pressed them all away from the center.  I squared this unit to 7 1/2″.  (This quilt is forgiving if yours is slightly smaller.)  I squared all my nine units to the same 7 1/2″ as then I wouldn’t have to square up (or true up, depending on how you refer to it) the finished quilt top.RedWhiteBlueStar_2a

Next was the construction on this corner, sewing the medium and dark red triangles together to make a square, then sewing on the dark blue triangles to make a larger triangle.

RedWhiteBlueStar_2a1

Sew on the medium blue triangle to make it a square; true it up to 7-1/2″ inches.RedWhiteBlueStar_2b

Now make the rest of the blocks: sew the triangles together as shown, then seam those together to make a square.  I always press to the side, if you are wondering.  Only rarely do I press open, so avoid that.

Lay out all your squares (as shown above, left), then sew them together like a nine-patch (upper right).  Measure the square; the sides should measure 21-1/2″.  Trim your long white border rectangles to measure.  Sew the darkest red blocks on each of two of the white rectangle borders.

Sew two white borders: one on top of the quilt and one of the bottom.  Press.  Then sew on the borders with the squares attached; press.  Admire your quilt top.

Let’s get quilting!

Here’s a picture of the quilt in the sunshine, showing my quilting stitches.  I always have the hardest time coming up with what to quilt where; yours may vary.  The “bandstand swag” arcs on the outside were a happy accident.

RedWhiteBlueStar_6

This was all done on my Sweet Sixteen machine, but that functions like a domestic sewing machine. I did do ruler work (which is probably easier on my machine than a domestic) but it can be done on your regular sewing machine.  Just make sure you have a thick enough hopping foot and thick rulers designed for this task (not your cutting rulers!); put grippy stuff on the bottom of your rulers, as you’ll use them to help you move the fabric under your needle.

Happy Fourth of July!

If you haven’t heard me tell you about Painter’s Palette Solids, made by Paintbrush Studio, you must be a new reader.  It is my FAVORITE solid: it’s easy to work with, has a nice hand, deals well when I need to unpick and re-stitch (I had to do that with the quilting, but you can’t see it, right?).  It’s a fairly new fabric to the market, but many brick-and-mortar shops, as well as online shops, are starting to carry it.

Giveaway Banner

Patriotic Bundle June 2017

from here

As is my custom when sewing for Painter’s Palette, I give away my scraps when I finish a project, so that some fortunate quilter can give this fabric a try.  BUT!  Paintbrush Studios has generously offered up a stack of the fabrics I used in this quilt — seven fat quarters — so you can make your own (giveaway is for domestic/US only).

To enter, leave me a comment telling me if you like fireworks, and why (or your most memorable).  I’m not talking the little things that are lit up down on street level, but those glorious bursting displays of color and light.  It will get us all in the mood for Independence Day.

Giveaway picking a winnerI’ll activate the Husband Random Number Generator and pick a winner, to be contacted by email.

Giveaway closed.  
Winner has been notified and will be announced in next post.  Thank you all!

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