PatternLite · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Something to Think About

Autumn Leaves • PatternLite

Confession: I got caught up in Fall Color. A few particular trees in Southern California and even the leaves on my wisteria arbor are turning yellow, getting ready to drop. In addition, we put together another round of Gridster Bee, and those of us who were experienced thought we should get sample blocks up on the spreadsheet as an example.

I have been hanging on to this screenshot (see how old those IG icons are?) for some time, as I’ve always wanted to do it in a bee. The pattern is a variation of Maple Leaf:

To be precise, it’s Maple Leaf–Brackman #1740, which originally debuted in Aunt Martha’s booklets in the 1930s. Like the Flickr group, above, I changed out the stem so it could be pieced. And is my wont, I wondered if anyone else was interested in this block. I certainly I had a few words to say about how to make up a leaf in autumn colors, so I put it all into a PatternLite, and then up in my PayHip Shop. I also included how to make a Four-at-a-Time Flying Geese block, giving away the secret formula, freeing you from charts forever.

PatternLite Patterns, if you are new here, are not-quite-all-of-a-pattern, for not-quite-all-of-the-price. They are less than a fancy pink drink at Starbucks. They are cheaper than a slice of pizza from that place around the corner from you. They are for those quilters who can see a block and take off with it in their own way, and don’t need comprehensive instructions on construction. But I did do up a couple of sketches for what can be done with this block:

How about a table runner for your holiday table?

Or a quilt? It’s there now in the shop, if you want to grab it.

I had some other ideas, but I will let time work them out for me, or sleep as John Steinbeck noted:

“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”

This may take me more than a few nights, I think.

And then there’s this, that’s been rattling around in my head:

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.” (Steve Jobs)

Lately, I’ve been concerned with sameness, or the inability to make connections between two different things, because so much is all the same.

an “un-same” landscape

If we are mostly in our houses, with our same stashes, in the same room, making those same projects we dreamed up some time ago, where are the differences that allow us to make connections? I think many of us get it through social media, but beware:

from a recent Honors symposium my friend attended

I had been sort of dependent on my Instagram feed for variety and for seeing new things, until I realized that over time the random things I had selected had become more of “the same”–repeating back to me the images I had selected precisely because they were new and different. What with the algorithm changing how we interacted with that media, and the selectivity with which it feeds us our friends’ posts on our feed, what had once fed my need for new and novel things just came unraveled.

When you are traveling in a new space, trying to juggle all that’s coming at you, you make new connections. Perhaps you discover a different way to think about a dilemma, or even how to navigate physical space:

I did eventually make it to TechnoPark-ro, and enjoyed all that I saw. This has been on my mind because of what I’ve noticed in my correspondence, that there’s been a refrain of not feeling enthusiastic about what you used to do. Some describe it in that time-honored way of “lost my sewjo.” I could also describe it as longing for the thunderbolt of a new idea, one that just grabs you and has you on the run to try to express it.

Because I feel like drowning in sameness is a situation to escape, my tactic of late has been to look for old quilt blocks to explore in new ways (hence, Autumn Leaves). I also like seeing new fabrics, other than the same three designers carried by my quilt shop, so recently I went to Fat Quarter Shop to their pre-cuts and read ALL 38 pages of it, learning about what’s coming. I vary my walks around my neighborhood, cook new recipes:

What I call Sushi in a Bowl: sushi rice, salmon, cucumbers, slaw, avocado and dressing

Three reasons why people are motivated to be creative: 1) need for novel, varied, and complex stimulation; 2) need to communicate ideas and values and 3) need to solve problems. A scholarly listing of thoughts about creativity can be read here.

Right brain? Left Brain? Anna Abraham begs to differ: “The brain’s right hemisphere is not a separate organ whose workings can be regarded in isolation from that of the left hemisphere in most human beings. It is also incorrect to conclude that the left brain is uncreative. In fact even the earliest scholars who explored the brain lateralization in relation to creativity emphasized the importance of both hemispheres.” A high level Q & A with her is here.

“As strange as it sounds, creativity can become a habit,” says creativity researcher Jonathan Plucker, PhD, a psychology professor at Indiana University. “Making it one helps you become more productive.” Read about it here.

A quote from an article from my favorite resource, 99U: “Creativity is a skill that allows you to draw understanding of the world around you, connect those observations to your existing knowledge reservoirs, and imagine new applications of your knowledge on the world.” Read it here.

Keep at it, find the new and novel, and keep quilting!

(More info on this one, coming soon!)

Sewing · Something to Think About

Little Bits

#1

“Human beings are creatures made for joy. Against all evidence, we tell ourselves that grief and loneliness and despair are tragedies, unwelcome variations from the pleasure and calm and safety that in the right way of the world would form the firm ground of our being. In the fairy tale we tell ourselves, darkness holds nothing resembling a gift.
“What we feel always contains its own truth, but it is not the only truth, and darkness almost always harbors some bit of goodness tucked out of sight, waiting for an unexpected light to shine, to reveal it in its deepest hiding place.”
by Margaret Renkl, from her book, Late Migrations

#2

I have spent the better part of the last two weeks working with my daughter on her Fall 2021 Lookbook on packaging for mac makers, published Tuesday. She purchased Affinity Publisher and took a stab at working in it, her first time using some sort of design software. (Good for her.) We used all her photos of all her macs (she had over 400, but we winnowed it down to about 70); however, I was quite entranced with Page 19 of her book: it was about little bits, and how these ends of ribbon bolts or tiny clips, or shaped pieces of paper could embellish a package.

#3

The artists above (L) Alayne Spafford and (R) Anna Mac are making art with a gallery of tiny things.

All my life I’ve been enamored of little things. As a child, I once shaved the wood off the tips of 7 colored pencils with my father’s discarded razor blade, broke off the tips, and made a teeny set of colored pencils, complete with their own paper case (also handmade). I have collections of tiny things, in jars, in boxes, in drawers. Obviously I was drawn to the sewing world, with all of its collections of tiny bits (thimbles, needles, wee scissors and of course, scraps).

So when our Inland Modern Quilt Guild decided to host Berene Campbell, showing her idea of a Mini-mod Block Swap (they are all 1 1/2″ finished), I was all in. Earlier this year, I helped make advertisements for the guild’s blog, and I put together all those shapes using Affinity Designer. (Again, I mention this software so you know you can buy an excellent digital design software for about $55. That’s $55 once, not a monthly fee.)

She uses this concept–of going around and talking to Guilds as a charity fundraiser, but the guilds will sort out how to set up the swap, and she gives good support. Her series of YouTube videos help anyone make tiny bits of a block.

Three of my four batches of bitty blocks (2″ unfinished) have arrived.

All arrayed in rows.

I made a bunch to send out but I got confused and made too many. They joined what I had received.

An afternoon of playing with solid scraps yielded this bundle of wee blocks.

The challenge from our Guild is to make something for our December meeting from all our blocks. I have an idea, but it’s a bit of one, so I’m holding onto it and letting it grow. I did pretty well in the last challenge, winning the vote at the Guild Meeting. That made me more than a bit happy. Thank you, Guild Members.

#4

I read many bits of happiness when I read all your comments on your Happy Days. From start to finish, they were all wonderful, inspiring. I loved how often they included family and friends, fall traditions, and near misses with disaster. My husband and I read them together, commenting on how often you epitomized the Renkle quote from above, finding how “darkness almost always harbors some bit of goodness tucked out of sight” and I love that you shared them with me, with others.

I did choose a recipient (Pat A.), and have sent her a note to arrange the mailing of the jelly roll. Thank you again to Sherri McConnell for donating this so I could host the giveaway.

But most of all, thank you for sharing your Little Bits (and some Big Bits) of Happy Days. It was a treasure.

Fall leaves, Alexandria, Virginia: I lived there for a year and ended up scanning so many leaves on my flatbed scanner, as I loved them all and wanted to capture them forever!

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)

Something to Think About · This-and-That

This and That • August 2021

Oh my goodness. The brain is fried, the eyeballs are smarting because of smoke in the air and it’s too hot to move or do anything which explains my SECOND round of August This and Thats. What can I say?

I have finally OD-ed on podcasts (more on that later) and found myself a good book: another Maisie Dobbs novel. I have three hours left to go.

What I mean is, it’s the first one done of four I have to do for the first-of-nine giant Bear Paw’s Ruler-free block. I’m playing along in the FingerPaintsQAL on IG and had the opportunity to take a class with Laura yesterday morning (I scribbled on the pattern above to hide her work). It was fun to see people I recognized! Above this block are scenes from class: the fabric key at the ready, the stack of fabric (I took her advice and cut 5″ strips of fabric from all the colors: saved me a lot of time) and ruler-free cutting in process.

Like the lady says, it’s not a race.

Did I mention that California is having a gubnatorial recall? Like either of these goofballs will win my vote, but check out Mr. Drake. Wouldn’t it be cool to tell your kids that one time you ran for governor of California? Or drop that bit on a first date?

Just want you to know I still have a few things on my To Do List from March 2000. This is because we chatted about To Do Lists in the last post.

Occasionally I fall down the rabbit hole of art galleries on Instagram. Jim Isermann turned up. Quilters, start your engines:

I think this is a quilt…

We’ve had more than a few fires in our state this summer, but I loved the write-up about grabbing a quilt.

Generally, the news has been weighty and ponderous and horrifically sad, with covid, airlifts, fires, babies in hospitals, angry young men (and some angry old men), divisiveness, coupled with more suffering and death in country far far from here. I realize that this post could be construed as lightweight and frivolous. But all this news reminds me of old news: the fall of Saigon long ago, my father’s bout with polio and stories my mother told me of getting her first vaccines for Whooping Cough because her baby sister had died of that disease. That is why I have avoided podcasts: they are wearying. Add in the sorrows I read daily on Instagram in all your lives, the divisiveness in our families over vaccines and masks (and yes, I’m making more masks this weekend) and it’s no wonder I’m grabbing bits and pieces, sewing and quilting, poking fun at candidates for California’s governor when inside I’m weeping a bit that it has all ended up in a Big Fight All The Time.

Our individualism has run rough-shod over our ability to come together as a community and do what’s best, what helps those babies and children have a better world. And then I see little toddlers held tight in Afghan arms as they walk into the belly of a very big plane with no seat belts and no snacks and somehow they all don’t need to be ducktaped to their seats (what seats?) for their 3 hour flight to freedom, to what we have and what we fight over but somehow don’t understand how fragile it is. They leave everything behind: little treasures in their bottom drawer, ties to their communities, friends and that bowl that Grandma always had on the top shelf, and I snip off a piece of this hope, tuck it into my heart and keep going.

The other night I found a photo of the first sewing machine I ever owned: The Genie, by Singer. My parents gave it to me for Christmas when I was a Freshman in college, majoring in Clothing and Textiles. I sewed on it forever, then passed it on down to my daughter. I have a lot of memories like this that are easily recalled when I see photos. I’m thinking on what I have that I could give up…give up to the refugees that are certainly coming our way. And to end this post on a better note (I’m not really going to jump out the window, I promise), I want to give something away to you.

I finally got all the bits from the last two giveaways mailed out, so before summer disappears, Shelley of Nanakaboodle (ETSY) and I are doing a teeny giveaway of Cluck, Cluck Sew’s Diagonal Seam Tape. I’ve ordered multiple times from Nanakaboodle and she always has really prompt shipping and a cheerful customer service.

UPDATE: Giveaway is closed, but thanks for reading!

To win this roll of seam tape, leave me a comment below telling me about your first sewing machine.

Think Good Thoughts & Let’s Share Joy and I don’t know what else, but you do.
Happy Quilting!

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)