Gridsters · Something to Think About · This-and-That

This and That • May 2021

This has been a busy week, with zooming and teaching at the Orange Grove Quilters Guild, but I’ve managed a few things around the edges.

This was April’s Gridster block, requested by Nancy. She sent out the blue fabric, and we chose the other, with her guidance.

This was May’s Gridsterbee block, chosen from my Sawtoothmania pattern by Allison. She also sent out fabric, but we provided the center color patches.

She had us do a wonky Christmas Tree. Allison asked for the one from another quilter, but I also have a free tutorial sheet on making little Christmas trees, too. Such a clever idea!

My husband brings me flowers every day…well, photos of flowers. This one measures about 1 inch across in real life.

I finished Vesper Flights, and went on to this one: The Midnight Library. I listen to them at the same time my mother does, but this is one I wish I had in print, so I could underline things that caught my heart and imagination. Now I’m deep into Obama’s A Promised Land. It’s moved much faster now he’s been elected, and hearing about the 2008 economic meltdown, as well as the hog-trading of politics has been interesting. I am SURE I never want to be a politician. I’m sticking with quilting.

This is a close-up of one of the panels I used on my Wealth of Days quilt backing. I was stoked that it had our city on it. I tell most people, “we are between Palm Springs and LA,” but here we are!

Fabric receipts? Now the fabric just shows up in my mailbox, like magic, or something.

Occasionally, when writing this blog, or trying to color in a design, I can’t quite make the program give me the color I want (like this background). That’s when I turn to this no-frills site which shows a ton of colors with all their hexadecimal codes. I always start with the Blues page, which is what I’ve linked you to. I just copy the #code, pop it into my software or blogware, and I’m good to go.

I love following people who know what they are doing. I love reading their blog posts, their Instagram posts, and while I’m not a total fangirl of them all, I have several favorites (there are too many to list here; see my list at the bottom of my blog). I appreciate their sharing what they’ve discovered and learned. However, recently a famous maker of absolutely necessary quilting supplies popped the above Instagram ad up on my feed. (I’ve blocked out all the identifying marks to protect the marketing department.) She may be qualified, but is she an expert?

Shouldn’t she be referred to instead, more appropriately, as an Influencer?? I like Aurifil’s word for their influencers: “Ambassadors,” which my macaron-making daughter let me know, is also used in her industry. Rather than the previous ad campaigns of simple extolling of excellence of product, we now use people for that. (In my English classes of yore, this was a type of logical fallacy, using celebrities to sell products; however, we’ve morphed from random celebrities to using established personalities in the field to sell products.) Carolyn, a sewist/sewer who I’ve read for years, knows her stuff and has an excellent post on the rise of Influencers. I love this part of the post:

My criteria is based upon:
– Can they actually sew?
– Are they learning to better their craft?
– Do their garments fit well or are they just photographed well?
– Do they have any actual fabric knowledge or are they just taking stuff because it’s free?
– Do they understand why notions are important and why they’re needed to perform a task?
– Is all of their knowledge YouTube/Internet based or have they actually read a sewing book?  Not all YouTube videos show you the correct techniques.
– Is this just a way to make them Social Media Famous?

A reminder for us creatives from Grant Snider

And lest you think I just sit around, I am working on a scrappy blues quilt, but it’s pretty shy right now and I just can’t coax it out from underneath the bed. I’ve even tried leaving spools of thread and colorful scraps to lure it into the daylight. Maybe later I can get a photo of it.

This is a quilt for a college-girl’s bed. My granddaughter shyly asked me last time I was at her house, “Grandma, will you make me a quilt for college?”

Me, inside:

Me, outside:
“Absolutely!”

We traded designs and pictures back and forth, but I quickly discovered that she is a minimalist, and likes gray. She knows I hate am not a fan of gray (generally), but she told her mother she thought I would come around after working on her quilt.

The red line in the drawing above is to approximate her queen-sized bed. I ordered yards of Painters Palette solids from Pineapple Threads, and they arrived last week. Between the shy scrappy blue quilt hiding out of sight, and this one, I’ll be keeping busy.

I can’t believe I signed up for this, but I swear it was because they come in cute little boxes. I do have some undressed pillow forms around her that need some clothes, and these seemed to call out to me (although if you know me, it won’t surprise you that I’ll be changing up some of the designs…looking at you Miss Christmas). But I’m excited to get a little fun package every month in the mail. (Guess this means I’m in covid-recovery–that I’m actually planning into the future.)

Lastly, I listened to/watched this show about the writer Amy Tan, called “Unintended Memoir.” It gave me so much to think about as I worked on the shy scrappy quilt, and now I want to go back and read her books again from her first, Joy Luck Club. She speaks movingly about her mother, and Tan chronicles their relationship as well as the writing of her novels. It lasts about 90 minutes; I recommend it.

Happy Quilting!

Guild Visits · Something to Think About

Who Gets to Make Art?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our world of quilts, and by that I don’t mean the larger world–just our own little world. I’ve made some hideous quilts, some use-up-this-fabric quilts (above), some quilts I consider my best masterpieces. Our own little world is echoed out into our guilds, our social media, our quilt shows, publications and then it echoes back to us in terms of the materials we can use. It’s a cycle, a circle, but at the nub of it is that one quilter looking at her one stack of fabrics, or the sketch she made while waiting at the doctor’s office and seeing the print on the back of the chairs. It could be she was messing around with a traditional block, or created one of her own. And from that nub, that spark, hopefully art begins.

from here

I’ve been thinking about this because of an article by Guy Trebay (found while cleaning out) where he asks straight off, “Who gets to make art?” Written about the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, it is an interesting overview of this age-old question.

from here

Do you get to create art? Do I? Or is it only relegated to that famous quilter that is all over Instagram? The lady who has her face on the ads of the sewing machine you like? Does more fame equal more entitlement to call it art? And then there is the pressure from the outside world, debating forever and ever if making a quilt is a craft or an art?

from here

Trebay attributes this question to Luke Syson, and says that “In asking [this question], Mr. Syson was adding his voice to a growing chorus of museum professionals who are challenging traditional hierarchies of art production. He was talking, in this instance, about the obscure craft of scrimshaw, subject of a fine study show at the Fitzwilliam, but more broadly about the importance of recognizing and celebrating those gifted artists whose work is so often relegated to the stepchild status of crafts.”

from here

Luke Syson, now the director of the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge (Britain), shares his experience of having to address some of his biases about what iconic art is in his TEDTalk, which he titled “How I learned to stop worrying and love “useless” art.” It’s worth a listen, if you have a few minutes. In that afore-mentioned Instagram post about scrimshaw art, he asks “Who gets to be an artist?” In the text he writes ” I thought about the scrimshanders then – working class, almost entirely anonymous, using their time to making things that were beautiful and that documented their lives. Amateurs, yet completely excluded from the world of leisure that this word implies. But I’m guessing there was a collectors market for these objects early on – that these were a sideline rather than simply the making of personal souvenirs.”

Which leads me to think about the anonymity of women, making their art for years and years, hidden in plain sight. They were making that which was beautiful to them, and which represented their lives. And yes, amateurs, all. We’ll leave this discussion here, with a quote from Trevor Bell:

“Art condenses the experience we all have as human beings, and, by forming it, makes it significant. We all have an in-built need for harmony and the structures that create harmony. Basically, art is an affirmation of life.”

Today is Mother’s Day. My mother is on the left (c. 1948), my daughter (named after her) is shown in the center in a photo from high school (c. 1998). (I sent this photo to her when she complained about one of her children being always on her phone.) I’m on the right (c. 1972).

My mother made art: seven of us. She never quilted. She read. She never painted, as did my father. She did do dishes, laundry, dressed elegantly, organized us, kept us going. I owe her everything, and as she approaches her 93rd birthday, this Mother’s Day I celebrate her as a different kind of unsung, ungalleried, un-media-ed, unknown sort of artist, but she was significant and affirmed us all.

I’ll be in my happy place this week, hanging out with the Orange Grove Quilters. We’re making Merrion Square in our Workshop. If you want to hear my program of Abecedary of Quilts or participate in a live/online workshop, please contact Pat (the Workshop Chairman) at workshops@orangegrovequiltersguild.com or drop me a note (and I’ll check with Pat). I love teaching this little quilt, as there are as many different quilts and there are quilters. Each one makes this little village their own.

And as life moves on, it seems this will probably be the last time I teach this class. Let me know if you are interested.

Happy Quilting! (turn the sound on)

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!