Quilting System

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Some time ago, Oliver Burkeman, writing in the Guardian newspaper, discussed the idea of implementing “systems” rather than using goals when we are striving toward a new frontier, whether it be in quilting, or better exercise.  He starts by quoting the Dilbert creator, Scott Adams:

“when you’re trying to get better at something – a creative skill, such as cartooning, or a habit, such as regular exercise – think in terms of systems, not goals” for “when you approach life as a sequence of milestones to be achieved, you exist “in a state of near-continuous failure.” Almost all the time, by definition, you’re not at the place you’ve defined as embodying accomplishment or success. And should you get there, you’ll find you’ve lost the very thing that gave you a sense of purpose – so you’ll formulate a new goal and start again.”

Systems ideas mean that if you are a person who walks in the morning, you’ll strive to change one small thing about your stride, or improve your time slightly, and incorporate that into your exercise.  The trick is to keep it simple and small, much like the kaizen idea formulated in Japan, which means continuous change for the better.

Adams notes that working in a system is “something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run,” regardless of immediate outcome. Burkeman goes on to say that “drawing one cartoon a day is a system; so is resolving to take some kind of exercise daily – rather than setting a goal, like being able to run a marathon in four hours. One system that’s currently popular online goes by the name “No Zero Days”: the idea is simply not to let a single day pass without doing something, however tiny, towards some important project.”

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So how does this apply to quilting?

If you think of all our words for unfinished goals (e.g.: WIP, UFO, etc.) and look at the number of online “finishing” blogs that give away prizes if you finish quilts on your list, you can see that we in the quilting world might need the idea of a system.

What IF you approached it as having no zero days…or…continuously making one small change for the better (kaizen) by sewing for small increments at a regular basis, rather than trying to do a blitz over a weekend?  Certainly how your time is managed for you has an impact, for I recognize that small children, spouses, bosses and health issues can indeed interrupt the time available to you.  But what if you had a idea of doing a small part of your project, but doing it daily? Soon your system would bring you to a completed quilt project.

goals

from Here

It’s hard to grasp the idea of process, especially if you’ve spent your life thinking in terms of product. We’re very good at beating ourselves up over our procrastination or lack of motivation or our inability to get that quilt done.   But I like the idea of leaving behind a “state of near-continuous failure,” exchanging that instead for a series of small, manageable tasks that become a part of my day.

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I leave with you a little saying on my bookshelf from a past leader in my church, which, when I’ve overwhelmed myself, helps keeps me centered:

The Grid, the Gridsters (and a wee bit of news)

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When I say the grid, you probably think of something like the image above: a rendition of the electrical grid in the United States.

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Or you might think of a street grid, or the computer grid, or any other type of connected web.

Is it This? Or That?

I also think of the grid we use in making our quilts.  Above is my example of a regular grid, using a 9-patch variant.  This style of quilt — that of using repeated blocks set in a grid — didn’t become popular until the 1840s, as earlier quilts were more whole-cloth, medallion, or broderie perse styles.

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The name of our Gridster Bee is a nod to the idea of the grid, and since I’ve had some non-sewing time, I did some research about the grid, finding its origin in the way that text was laid out on the printed page.  (Note: Where the quotes are unattributed, I could find no source for them.)

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This method of intersecting lines and angles, known as the Van de Graaf canon and used medievally, was popularized by Jan Tschichold in his books discussing classical book design, and became the standard for book layout.  You can see the proportions at work in the magazine layout (above) on the right.

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Some myths about the grid:

  • Grids are a design trend
  • Grids impede creativity
  • Grids are confining, and can only be used for certain designs
  • The grid is a static, even, regular subdivision of the surface both vertically and horizontally

types-of-grids

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There are all types of recognizable grids, such as those above, and in the images below:

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Patricia Walker Rusk’s Sunset Gardens

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pencil cubbies in a shop in Switzerland

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Bullseye by Vicki Ruebel

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Upward Modbility by Stephanie Ruyle

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Christa Watson’s Square in a Square

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Lisbon Subway Tiles

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Cindy Wiens’ Delta Breeze

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Three versions of my Neighborhood Quilt, by my students

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(more designs from Spain and Lisbon)

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Velda Bowen’s Fractured Rainbow

(circular grid used, both above and in combo with a regular grid, just below)

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Shine: The Circles Quilt

golden-spiral(Golden Spiral • from here)

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(A diagonal grid, both in Shutty’s and Van Orman’s quilts) )

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Tesselation by Jenn Van Orman

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Stephanie Ruyle’s Embers

I love the grid, as ultimately, the function of the grid is to help determine and define proportion, such as the last two quilts, which seem to have some unseen glue holding them together. That’s why some quilts that seem to use no grid at all can either make us shake our heads in confusion, or can capture our gaze.

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And that’s why we’re the Gridsters — not just those in the bee — but all of us in the quilt world.

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And a little bit of news.

I wake up everyday and see this:

sweetsixteen-in-hiatusOn some of my harder days, it has crossed my mind that I won’t ever sit there again, happily stitching away, and I feel so far away from the quilting world that I love.  Cue the tears and the Sturm und Drang.  And then I received this:

quilt-entry-announce2017Pineapples and Crowns_front iphoneGuess the universe doesn’t want me to give up yet.  (If you’ll be there at Quilt Festival-Chicago, please take a photo of my quilt, and tag me on IG [occasionalpiecequilt].) And I was also asked by our guild, The Raincross Quilt Guild, to present a Trunk Show on May 16th.  I’m pretty excited about this, and have been working on my program notes.

So…guess I’ll be a good girl and keep all my Physical Therapy appointments so I can get back to quilting.

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About the Refugees

I don’t ordinarily post on this site news of a controversial nature, so if you don’t want see this, please click on by.  This video was produced by my church and is about the least political statement I could find regarding why the world’s refugee crisis is something that affects us all.

Regular quilting content comes again on Wednesday, with the Four-in-Art Challenge Reveals, but I felt my blog would be a superficial place to visit if you did not know of how the events of this week’s news has affected me as a quilter, as a human.  My husband and I have donated to a couple of places; International Rescue is one.  Many of you are already helping in so many ways: I honor you as you all make this world a better, a more loving place to live.

Getting a Perspective on a New Year • 2017

 

My friend Leslie sent me this knitting gnome (so I had to share it with you), and although the holidays are past and gone, I think many of us have been as busy as this little guy, creating and sending them out our quilts and things with a heart full of love.

Here is a composite of What I Did Over the Holidays:

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I made bread from a bunch of gifted persimmons, hugged a sleepy elf (and his brothers) in my kitchen, enjoyed watching my oldest son Chad and my youngest son Peter make home-made pasta for our Christmas Eve dinner, pieced a quilt with Sarah Jane fabrics (always lovely), shopped for a new car (but I didn’t like any of them better than the one I have, so I came home without one), and cleaned up my sewing room (always an event).en-provence_purple-four-patch

I jumped into the En Provence Mystery Quilt, hosted by Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville and had fun trying to find the color periwinkle in my stash and in shops, as I decided to slant it that way, instead of the straight purple.en-provence-quilt_bonnie-hunter

Here’s a picture of HER finished quilt–mine is still three clues behind and mostly in pieces.  If you ever needed a good blog post to encourage you to save your scraps, *here* it is, courtesy of Bonnie.halloween-1904_front

But I do have one finish I can share.  I finished up the binding (my quilter did the quilting) on my Halloween quilt.  I’ll be updating the final post of the Quilt-A-Long on this pattern to include these two photos (front is above and back is below), but I wanted to say…halloween-1904_back

…Happy Halloween to you all!

But wait.  Isn’t it January?  Full of snow and storm and putting away the holiday boxes?  Watch this:

If you can’t see the video, it’s the Selective Attention Test; you can watch it on my blog.

This is how I feel when I’m working on something not in the season it’s intended for.  I’m am distracted/entranced by the cues all around me. In July, I see red, white, blue, stars, stripes, but not green pointy growing things called Christmas trees.  In April, it is flowers flowers flowers and complete absorption into planting my summer garden.  It is nearly impossible for me to focus on turkeys and fall decor.  Or snow.  As a result of this focus, I rarely see the proverbial gorilla among the basketball players.

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Perspective, exhibit A

Yet so many of us work “out of season” in planning, buying and creating that I thought I’d look into it.  The 99U article (where the video is found) noted that “We see the world, and our work, through countless lenses of assumption and habit—fixed ways of thinking, seeing and acting, of which we’re usually unconscious.”  The author, columnist Oliver Burkeman (a personal favorite of mine), observes that “This urge toward making things unconscious is a blessing if you want to do the same thing, over and over, ever more efficiently. But it becomes a problem when we’re called upon to do things differently—when you hit a roadblock in creative work, or in life, and the old approaches no longer seem to work.”  He suggests using physical or temporal distance to get perspective, to get past that creative block.

When you use physical distance, you institute physical distance from your creative problem, such as when you take a break from piecing or quilting to look at Instagram, or take time to research, perhaps see something in a quilt book.  Or you might take a trip and get your best flash of insight while flying over the country.  Research has been done that shows that for many people implementing creative ideas begins with recognizing creative ideas.  While this sounds circular, it’s fairly common: how many times have you read a magazine and decide to add two new quilts to your List of Quilts To Make? You recognize the creative in others, and choose to implement it for yourself.

To proximate temporal distance, Burkeman suggests that we can “externalize our thoughts by writing them down in a journal. The point isn’t necessarily that you’ll have an instant breakthrough, but that by relating to your thinking in this ‘third-person’ way, you’ll loosen the grip of the old assumptions, seeing your thoughts afresh, and creating potential for new insights.”  Sounds like an argument to begin a creative journal to me.

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Perspective, Exhibit B

The title of his article is “You Don’t Need New Ideas, You Need A New Perspective,” and I thought it fitting to start out the new year with this creative idea of perspective.  Now that all our holiday boxes are up in the rafters, the tinsel and glitter and ornaments and the fall boxes with autumn colors are all put away, the minimalist environment we live in come January can provide a clean slate — and a new perspective — for our creative work.

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A Little Christmas Tune: The Wexford Carol

Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma perform “The Wexford Carol”

I always try to put this up each Christmas season, as The Wexford Carol is one of my favorite Christmas carols, and I love this arrangement by Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma.

I also think…that with a week left to go until the Christmas…we kind of need a moment to pause to remember why we do all this.

Enjoy!

wexford-carol

(click to enlarge)

 

tiny nine patches

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