Something to Think About · This-and-That

January This-and-That

To start us off right for January, Carol of the Gridster Bee chose Lori Holt’s Tall Pines Quilt Block, part of her Sew Your Stash series, found on YouTube. I lost my mind and my way a couple of times, so made up this diagram to go with her dimensions (screenshot from YouTube).

Click if you need to enlarge

For Carol’s signature block, she requested that we all make her a Teeny Christmas Tree from my free pattern. I updated it for her, so be sure to download the 2021 version.

Oh, and lately, we’ve had some current events. Even on my birthday, which I thought was highly unfortunate, so thank you to all who sent birthday wishes on the last post. On that day, they were much appreciated.

To balance out the above, some good news: The Shine Blocks are starting to return to the website, and they are in a new and improved format. Above are Blocks 1, 2 and 3. I’ll bring back three every month until they have all come home. To access, click on the above tab: Shine the Circles Quilt.

Remember all those memes that used to say that the month of April was like a bajillion days long? I think January 2021 might give April 2020 a run for its money. Several people I’ve chatted with lately have had a bad case of the holiday doldrums, a condition that my 93-year-old mother swears happens every year about the 27th of December and can slide all the way into mid-January. She’s right, you know.

So I’ve saved a great article just for times like this, and the above illustration on the article perfectly depicts how it all feels. It’s titled “Finding Hope When Things Feel Gloomy,” by Jenny Taitz, published way back in November of 2020. Clearly, the doldrums were starting early during the pandemic.

Taitz, a psychologist writing for The New York Times, starts us off with a basic: Control what you can. She writes: “When crises in the world at large feel out of your control, thinking about the various components of your life — and setting small, specific goals to improve them — can help reduce feelings of helplessness.” I think this is something we are all familiar with, as we resort to scrolling on our phones (see below), or looking at our stash of fabric but with no real desire to do anything with it.

Another idea is to “Swap microaggressions for ‘micro-progressions’ ” or instead of trying to take steps forward right now, perhaps try to incorporate “small actions that communicate respect.” It’s hard when facing the same people day after day, no matter how delightful and witty they are, to not to give in irritations about their habits and that noise they make that you can hear from all the way on the other side of the house. Or the neighbor who keeps moving towards you, breaking the social distance guidelines, having just returned from an RV tour of the United States. It’s also often hard to notice the micro-progressions I make in my daily tasks, the fabric all cut out, the blocks completed. I’ve taken to writing down even the littlest thing on my To Do List, just so I have a record of how this time in my life was spent.

There are other tips in the article, but I’ll close with my favorite: “Work on your mental agility.” I have a favorite mental rut I like to travel in when things are hard. It always involves a lot of sighing, many trips to the kitchen for the chocolates leftover from Christmas, maybe even some tears, and yes, doomscrolling. But if I can just step to the side of that rut for a few hours, perhaps vacuum AND dust the sewing room, I find that small actions help me avoid the downward trend into the doldrums. Of course, if you are having serious depression, get some help. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, just call your doctor and get in to see them.

We quilters have been alone a lot lately, with all of our usual venues shut down: no trips to the fabric store with friends (and lunch afterwards), no quilt guilds in person, and no retreats or fun conferences or shows. So find a way to connect, either through Zoom, phone calls, or some creative social distancing, and try to find hope going forward. “Hope is a psychological stabilizer — it protects our well-being from stressful events,” said Mark Manson, an author who writes about hope and happiness. “Even if you feel emotionally depleted now, research suggests that it’s possible to consciously and systematically increase hope.”

Alison Glass’ stack of colors

Holding onto that smallest sliver of hope can be enough to pull us through, and makes an anchor to our souls. Even with all the news lately, find a happy stack of fabric and if you don’t have the energy to cut into it or make it, patting it is perfectly acceptable.

As for me? I’ll be here, in my sewing room, having just set up for my workshop with the Beach Cities Guild this Saturday, where we are making Criss-Cross quilts.

Onward into this year!

Covid-19 Times · Shine: The Circles Quilt · Something to Think About

Christmasy Shine Blocks • Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

The sign on the door of my sewing room as I sew a special gift for my husband.

Okay, you just have to see the creativity of my friend who pattern-tested all the later Shine blocks — the last few I’ve been talking about. The originals, you are familiar with. Now I’m doing them in Red, White and Blue. But my friend Linda, of @lkhomework (she used to teach school before she retired), did them all in Christmas fabrics, and she has graciously allowed me to share them with you.

Such wonderful eye candy, perfect for Christmastime and to help get us in the mood for this very different season in 2020.

As you can see, she plans a diagonal set for her blocks.

Yes, I realize I should have imprinted the number of the block before I posted them, but I didn’t. Here’s an index of them all, in mix of the original colors, illustrations and RWB:

Block #1, which is based on a traditional pattern, morphed into Block #7. Linda used both of these variants to great success. I think her quilt is going to be just fabulous!

And today the December QuiltMania newsletter was published, and with this, their series of my SHINE: The Circle Quilt blocks ends. The first 12 blocks can be downloaded by subscribing to their free newsletter; they will send you the link (details here). They will live at QuiltMania until early 2021, when they will come back home here to stay. I’ve enjoyed sharing them with QuiltMania, and feel like those scary disorienting days of covid are behind us, when I first made the offer to QM for them to use my patterns, in order to do my own little part to help keep interest in their excellent publications.

More than other years, I find this Christmas to be such a mix. I wrote on Instagram about seeing someone contemplating a jump from a freeway overpass. I had just come from visiting a friend who had successfully completed her initial phases of a stem cell transplant, the cells giving her another chance at life, and I’ve thought about these two contrasting experiences for days.

She, working so incredibly hard to keep life, to beat her disease, putting up with all manner of incredibly painful and difficult treatments and procedures. And then to see this young man who appeared to have cut open the chain mesh fence that shields our overpasses from just such desperate decisions. Our traffic was slowed, and as my car neared the bridge, I could see the man clutching the fence, holding on, having given himself a second chance as the fireman secured a belt around him, preserving his life. It was a different kind of second chance than my friend fighting cancer. Hers, a grueling year-long journey. His, a reconsidering of a tragic decision in a split second.

And so our year continues with such contrasts: thousands of people dying from the pandemic, while we turn inward to try and find the joy and the happiness, aware that just around the corner, ennui and disease and depression await. It’s a dance in the best of times, but made so much more complicated this year with its seemingly endless conveyor belt of tragedy. With hearts so tender, Christmas sewing is a tonic: the snowmen and Santa, the holly and ivy, the red and green, patchwork and stockings and gifts and delights.

And so I rejoice in Christmas.

I light the candles on our kitchen table and set out the soup. Over dinner, my husband and I (a covid-bubble of two) talk over the news, before moving on to the detritus of our day. I relish the lights, delight in the sight of our miniature tree and my husband’s nutcrackers, all anchoring symbols of familiarity, grounding us and keeping us tethered.

I rejoice in carols: a favorite song can move me to tears, so close to the surface are the emotions of this season. I might post again before the year is out, but you may be too busy to respond; it’s less than two weeks until we close out the official holiday of lights and gifts and slide on into the new year. To wish you all the best as you make your way to 2021, I leave you with one of my favorite songs of Christmas (click on the link to listen). Sing along and enjoy!

Free Quilt Pattern · Something to Think About · Tiny Quilts

Weary | Hopeful

Blog-writing for other organizations can sometimes make me weary. I’ve been the blog-writer for a local guild here, and the other day — Blog Writing Day, as I like to call it, when everything stops and I won’t do one more thing before writing out the news and stuff for the organizaion — I sat at the computer, my mind blank. I wrote the usual paragraphs, then wondered if I should delete some of it, as I am turning everything over to a new person in a month, and would she want to have to write this in her tenure? It all became very complicated, trying to write what’s in someone else’s head, in someone else’s world.

When I write for this blog, on the other hand, I try to find some space and some quiet — a recent challenge during covid-time and we’re all shut in our houses together.

The conditions of these two aforementioned things may explain why you haven’t see a post from me in some time. But here goes.

Part of the title of this post, weary, might describe us all at this time. We’ve been covid-ing since March (wearying), made it mostly through an election (wearying), our energy levels are low, and now we are all putting up our Christmas lights early, trying to bring in some light into this weary world of ours. Ours went up last Saturday, and since we celebrated Thanksgiving early — a social distanced, outside on our patio, meal with local family this past Sunday — all our Christmas decor is creeping in to the house, well before the end of Thanksgiving Day.

It feels right. We need something to celebrate, to rejoice in, and I am looking to the familiar warm-hearted feelings that the Christmas season can bring, and if that means early tinsel and lights and nutcrackers, bring it on. If that means putting out the Christmas quilts, and pillows and table runners, I’m in. Christmas tunes? Now on the playlist.

I was trying to think of ways to help lift the weary and wondered if you were interested in a quilty make to up the holiday cheer. If so, here are two possible ways:

This is a teeny little quilt (4″ x 6″) that can be slipped over a frame. These make cute gifts for friends, for shut-ins, for people you visit but who are still fretting about their gain of the Covid-fifteen-so-no-more-chocolates-please. Directions are found *here.*

This is my field of Christmas trees, made so long ago from *this free tutorial* and which needs to be finished. What always stops me in a project is that I get plans which then complicates everything to that something perfect in my mind, which then shifts me to never-getting-it-finished. Keep in mind that just participating in the act of creation (like our quilts and blocks –and even wooden blocks on barns), can help us feel better about life.

Example of Complicated (work in progress):

Second Iteration

Example of Uncomplicated:

Pumpkins quilt top, finished Tuesday night

Maybe December 2020 is the season for simple, for easy, for uncomplicated. Maybe it’s the time for bringing light, for sharing our lives, for writing holiday cards, letting people know we are still here. And next year, when we’re all vaccinated (my Christmas 2021 wish) and we’re out and about and full of vim and vigor and excitement, and even in spite of all the recovery work that will be around us, we’ll not be weary.

We’ll be hopeful.

from here

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Something to Think About

Creatives Talk

Iris van Herpen designs

Somewhere between the shock of a pandemic shutting the entire world down and its ripple effects, and this month’s realization that this quarantine stuff — if everyone plays nice — will probably go on for another year, I found an article where two creative forces, the designer Iris van Herpen and the choreographer Damien Jalet had a conversation.

It was May 2020, and after holding our breath since mid-March, we slowly began to exhale, wondering how we were going to get through this, would we ever get through this, and how to pick up the pieces of lives, covid-style. And then this article came into view (one in a series from The Big Ideas in the New York Times).

As you can see from van Herpen’s designs, she is not your average fashion designer. So this excerpt surprised me (Damien Jalet, asking the question):

Stanley Kubrick said that some of the artistic failures of the 20th century came from an obsession with total originality, and that innovation didn’t happen through abandoning the classical art form of your own discipline. . . Does the question “Is what I’m doing original?” ever come up in your creative process?

cotton quilt blocks from 1890, from here

At one point in our quilting world, we quilters spent a lot of time and spilled a lot of ink (figuratively speaking) over this issue. We were rabid with the question of who came up with this idea first? Who was the first one on the planet to draw a particular block, make a particular quilt, yada yada yada.

Scrappy Stars, from here

Ms. van Herpen replies:

Nothing comes out of nothing, so the craftsmanship that we master we can attribute to a long evolution of craftsmanship and innovation combined throughout so many centuries. And we are looking at that constantly. So in that sense, I don’t believe at all in originality. But at the same time we are combining it with technologies of today and newer techniques… Without the knowledge of the traditional craftsmanship, we would not be able to integrate these new techniques at all. So they really need each other.

Nothing comes out of nothing. This implies that we quilters, without the history of what has come before us, would not be able to create our designs and our quilts. In her words, “we really need each other.”

Log Cabin quilt, 1870

Back to Kubrick’s idea. I remember in my earlier days striving mightily to create something totally my own, something that had no origin from anything that we were familiar with. Anywhere. My early attempts were, as he says, “failures” as they “came from an obsession with total originality.”

D.C. Dots & Dithers, from here

Slowly I began to remember that when I was in college, in photography class, one of my professors noted that we don’t have to be original, that most of the best ideas are really only 10% new — anything more and they would be too far out of the mainstream to be accepted or enjoyed. An article on The Next Web reiterates this:

There is no such thing as a new idea. One of the most beautiful things about humanity is our ability to build on each other’s ideas, making small tweaks and giant leaps into new innovations. That doesn’t mean your ideas aren’t potentially interesting and even important — just don’t ever call them “original.”

The idea, that I don’t have to be original or new or startling or gee-whiz-bang, and that I can just make a solid quilt with good color choices and a somewhat fresh take, is a relief.

Criss-Cross Color

from Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Quilt patterns: a four-patch block known as a Lattice block

from here

This month’s Gridster Bee Block, chosen by Bette has its origins in a Churn Dash variation, known as Puss in the Corner, from Nancy Page in the 1920s:

I admit, sometimes I doodle around and then hit Barbara Brackman’s book to see what our early quilters did, and often what I think is something I’ve discovered, is actually on the pages of the Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. There’s a whimsical sort of — well, of course — that goes on, but also another link from me to those women long ago. I honor this connection to our “classical art form of [our] own discipline.”

Happy Stitching!

Covid-19 Times · Something to Think About

Some Thoughts on Our Nation’s Milestone

COVID-19 Map_ May 24_2020

For several months, I’ve awoken every morning, and looked at this map.  I remember when not every state had COVID-19, I remember when New York started spiking, I remember when we started our stay-at-home time some two months ago.

I was aware that we were coming closer to the milestone of 100,000 deaths during this pandemic, and I thought about all I’d read about the Spanish Flu when I was in graduate school and wrote a short story about a dancer and her young soldier who went off to war and never came home, felled by the influenza that ravaged the world in 1918.

But how would I choose to depict our losses in our pandemic?

Kentucky Death Quilt
from here

I’d seen death quilts, with little coffins neatly stitched, tucked away in their little graveyard or around the edges of quilt.  Or would I want to depict them as Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae did, in his poem Flanders Fields?In Flanders fields the poppies

 

But this past Sunday morning, I saw this:

COVID-19_NYTimes1

I read the article online, scrolling through the humanizing choice that this paper had made, to give a person’s name and a salient, interesting fact about them from their published obituary.

COVID-19_NYTimes2COVID-19_NYTimes3COVID-19_NYTimes4

At first it was just numbing, then I noticed this: a quilter.  I began to look for other quilters.

COVID-19_NYTimes5

I found several.

COVID-19_NYTimes6

And on one page, I found not only a quilter, but a “collector of people, laughter and good stories.”  It made me wonder: what one line would I want people to remember about me?  I found several intriguing qualities, and I reflected briefly on that person, especially the one who was “Faithful in corresponding through cards and handwritten notes.”  A woman after my own heart.

COVID-19_NYTimes7COVID-19_NYTimes8COVID-19_NYTimes9COVID-19_NYTimes9b

I loved Patricia Yanni’s quality: “Wasn’t afraid to try new things.”  So often we look to people’s achievements, that they were this important person, or grandmother to twenty-five, or CEO of a Big Corporation, but wouldn’t you rather be known as someone who wasn’t afraid to try new things?  I would.

COVID-19_NYTimes9c

I’d like to be known as someone who gets things done.

COVID-19_NYTimes10a

Someone who had a life-long passion for learning.

I circled the second one (in red) because now this was in my hometown, a hospital where I had gone for a surgery several years ago.  Rosa could have been someone who cleaned my room, made my bed.  I will think this week on all those lives that have been taken too soon.

COVID-19_NYTimes10b

COVID-19_NYTimes11

I will remember the quilters.

Sawtoothmania2

Covid-19 Times · Something to Think About

Returned Samples

Samples Returned

I didn’t want to open the envelope when these teaching samples came back, even though I’d been expecting them.  The Guild Program Chair wrote me a lovely note telling me they’d never had to cancel a speaker before, and they were sorry.

I cried.

outer shell virus trojan horse

How do I write a blog post about what’s going on under the surface for those of us who love going out and teaching and meeting new groups (groups of 50+!) and hanging out with quilters and celebrating what they make in their classes?

When Bill Kerr and Weeks Ringle of Modern Quilt Studio, in a newsletter, said that they’d canceled all classes and Guild visits until there is a vaccine, I knew that what I initially thought of a just-a-few-weeks experience was now going to be at least a year, if not two or three.

I think it’s been slowly dawning on most of us — as we stay carefully put, doing our “i-sew-lation” sewing, doing our best to be cheerful — that a creeping sadness is all around us.  It’s not only the horrific amount of deaths from Coivd-19 or the stories of those on the front lines in the hospitals or that we share memes incessantly, trying hard not to be sucked under. That creeping sadness some call grief (and that may be what it is), interrupts creativity, joy, connection, and a host of other daily living patterns.

Urge to create is gone cartoon

One morning’s walk this week, I dissolved in tears as my husband discussed all the formal steps we would have to take for possible retirement: forms to be signed, Zoom calls, separation from his job and mountains of research and careful planning. It wasn’t that we aren’t prepared or ready for this new shift in our lives.  I was just jealous that he had forms to be signed, Zoom calls and mountains of careful planning.

I cried because all of sudden, doing what I loved was gone, and for the foreseeable future–it would remain out of reach.  There were no forms to be signed.  Just a lonely envelope in the mail from a most kind fellow quilter.

So many tears for such a little crisis, I thought.  I immediately shifted into Counting the Blessings Mode, as that’s my usual.  I have a wonderful home to shelter in, a sufficiently stocked sewing room, a kind and loving husband who works hard to understand me, sufficient steady income, a large family of brothers and sisters and parents and children and grandchildren and a wide expanse of friends, both in person and digital.

But it’s just hard to retire when you weren’t expecting to, when you’d found what you really loved to do.  I don’t know how long it will be until I can greet quilting friends again in person.  No one knows. But we’ll all just keep going, keep trying to count our blessings, keep working to bridge that not-in-person gap that we all face.  Some days I do fine at this.

And other days an envelope makes me stop and have a good cry.

Happy Box.jpg

I’ll be in my Sewing Room — my particular version of a Happy Box — if you need me.

tiny nine patches

QuiltCon 2021.png

This came in my emailbox yesterday.  Given what I wrote about above, I’m not surprised.  I’m glad that the Modern Quilt Guild is being proactive on solving the problems that might exist in our new covid-centric world.

And as far as my teaching goes, I am in contact with my future quilt guild gigs, seeing what their plans are, if they will be holding events.  If you have questions, and have already booked with me, please get in contact to discuss.  Things change quickly.

tiny nine patches

The illlustration of the virus above is:

“A rendering of the outer shell of an adeno-associated virus with the exterior partially removed. The shell is used as a Trojan horse to deliver a genetic component of the coronavirus to raise an immune response. Credit: Eric Zinn and Luk H. Vandenberghe”

I thought the illustration beautiful.