This and That • September 2019

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Free Motion Quilting can be one of the main challenges we quilters face after we’ve gotten down the basics of piecing and other construction methods.  Now we want to stitch and shape and sculpt our quilts with thread.  This coming Saturday, September 14th, I’ll be teaching a Free-Motion Quilting workshop in Antelope Valley, and if you are nearby, come on down (up?).  You can find out more at their Quilt Guild Meeting, held Thursday evening, where I’ll present a show titled “An Undercover Traditional Modern Art Quilter.”  I’m bringing two suitcases of quilts, some stories and a sense of humor.  Hope to see you there!

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Simone drew up another one of her fabulous blocks for us in the Gridsters Bee, and I got busy and did six of them.  I just kept wanting to try out different combinations.  More info (and a free download) of this block is available on her website.

Book 15 Gamache

I started a new Inspector Gamache book, #15.  Halfway in, and I can’t wait to get back to listening.

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Over Labor Day weekend, we went to Austin, TX (common abbreviation, I found out, is ATX) to see my son and his family.  Here we are outside Coopers BBQ, where I’m going when I go to QuiltCon in February (well, both places: the BBQ, which is right downtown, and also to see the grandsons).

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I always learn something new when visiting the youngsters: did you know you could charge up your shoes, and when you are at a dance, they will glow different colors?

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When the boys went back to school and their parents went back to their regularly scheduled lives, we did touristing at the State Capitol Building.

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Then up to the University of Texas at Austin, where I visited someting I’d been wanting to see for a very long time: Austin, by Ellsworth Kelley.  Kelley gave the design for this chapel-like space to the Blanton Museum, which had it built.  It’s just over 2700 square feet, so not huge.

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But inside…

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We went in the morning, and then back again after lunch and a walk through the next door Blanton Museum.  I want to come here again, in February, when they say the light comes in the grid over the front door.  Hope it’s not cloudy at QuiltCon!

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Another Ellsworth Kelly.  We call this Couple Self-Portrait in Kelly’s B.  Occasionally if you spend too much time in museums you can get a bit goofy.  We also went to the LBJ Presidential Library after all this.

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But this — a dance of color and light — is what makes my quilty heart sing!

What I’ve Been Doing Lately • May 2019

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Since I hadn’t posted in a couple of weeks, I did want to blog, but felt pretty scattered about what to write.  So here it all is: from finishes to starts, from garden news and quilting to a Trunk Show.

So, to start with, Simone and I got together to make blocks for Rachel‘s Queen Bee turn in our Gridster Bee: Scrap Jar Stars from Gigi’s Thimble.  We’d made them last year for another bee member, so these blocks, in the requested red and green, went together quickly.

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Rachel laid out on her floor the blocks she’d received so far, and this is going to make a terrific quilt.  She blogs at The Life of Riley.

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Something interesting about Rachel is that she raises bees.  This screenshot is from her ETSY shop, where she sells beeswax for hand-sewing.  I’m lucky enough to have one of these!

Shine Blocks in the wild

Imagine waking up one morning to a tag from a friend about this quilt.  I recognized the block immediately, as it was the final block I designed for my Shine: The Circles Quilt.  This man sells a shot cotton (in Australia), and they’d contracted someone to make a quilt showing their fabric line and that person used my quilt design.  After a few back-and-forths, I did get attribution for the design.  Peony_2019

Moving right along, the peony bush in the garden bloomed.  I have two exactly-the-same bushes and they each have a slightly different flower.  Just like people, just like quilters, who can make the same quilt and have it look quite different.

And…after a visit to my doctor and the A-OK from him and from Kris, my physical therapist (above right), I started using the Sweet Sixteen quilting machine again.  This is my first attempt at quilting, so I took it in to show her.  They chart everything you do, asking seemingly innocent questions like, “How are your household chores coming along?”  or “Take any long drives this weekend?” so they can monitor my progress in recovering from rotator cuff surgery in January.  Nearly five months out, I’m in the “danger zone” where most re-tears happen, so I’m very careful not to stress the repair, or mow lawns.  (Kidding.  I never mow the lawn, because my husband does a very fine job and I wouldn’t want to interrupt his successes.)

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This past month I also proved to myself, once again, that texting can be a horrible way to convey complicated information, given the strange timing you get in texting (answering one text while that person is answering your text, creating an asyncronous conversation).  Because of this, I was unsuccessful in communicating with a new quilter I’d previously tried.  She was frustrated. And I was BEYOND frustrated.  (One unsolved topic: using vertical seams in your backing.) And yes, she only uses texts, so we parted ways.

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I bundled up my three quilts and their backs and took them to my regular quilter, Cathy of CJ Designs.  I asked her about vertical seams on the back, and she said she had no problem with them.  And her costs were more reasonable. So what felt like a set-back  really turned out okay in the end.

Merrion Square2

Over the last few weeks, I have sewn three of these mini quilt tops.  At the Meet the Teacher event I recently went to, I signed eight contracts for teaching, and many of the guilds chose this as their workshop.  And everyone likes samples to be sent.  This is the second one I’ve quilted, and it made me feel more at home on the machine.  I still have to take frequent breaks and can’t go too long in any one session, but I’m making progress.

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I think the backing fabric is awesome.

I’ve also been sewing up some of my new designs, working out the bugs and kinks of the patterns, but am not ready to launch them yet.

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Finally, when I was sorting out my contracts, I developed a form to help me keep track of critical information, which was missing from several of the contracts I signed.  Only one Guild so far (I’ve gone through about half my contracts) had everything I needed to know.  I realize that if I flew into a city, the Guild Minders would take me around, so I wouldn’t need all this info.  But since I drive to all my gigs, it’s critical to know.  If you would like an editable MSWord version of this for your own personal use (the above is only a screenshot), I’ll be happy to send it to you. Just leave me a comment on this post, or email me.

Organizing Blog Content

And even more interestingly, I couldn’t find a lot of relevant information on Guild Websites.  So, if you are a guild board member, please make sure that people (strangers) can easily find the time and date and place of your monthly meeting, and the same for your workshops.

I know how this happens, as I’m guilty of it here sometimes: you just start throwing up blogposts, forgetting that some visitors come for specific information.  I’ve revised the organization and wording of this blog mulitple times, always trying to make it easier for people to find my quilts (links and titles) as well as other info.  It’s a never-ending task: like trying to keep the junk drawer in the kitchen cleaned out.

Best Wishes on Trunk Show

My husband left this sign for me on the kitchen counter while I was at PT.

I’m looking forward to a lot of fun teaching and meeting people, beginning with tonight, at the Valley of the Mist Quilters Guild in Temecula California.  I’ll be teaching a Merrion Square Workshop for them on Saturday.  Please contact them if you are interested in coming.

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April’s Temperature Quilt Blocks are all done…moving into May!

Home-Keeping Hearts

Home-keeping Hearts

Home-keeping Hearts, top only
44 1/2″ wide x 51″ tall

I finished my most recent Merrion Square variation, a grouping of houses made by friends and Gridster beemates, plus a few more from my own workshop.  This would be a terrific signature quilt for an out-going president, or a friend who is moving away, with everyone signing their names on the doors.

I call it Home-keeping Hearts, taken from a verse by Longfellow:

Stay, stay at home, my heart and rest;
Home-keeping hearts are happiest,
For those that wander they know not where
Are full of trouble and full of care;
To stay at home is best.

Merrion Square Pattern_opquilt_illustration

To make this quilt, use the basic home unit from my Merrion Square pattern.  I originally had all my beemates put the lower sidewalks/treetrunks piece on, but when I was assembling them, I could see that only the lower row needed them, so I removed the others.

I originally tried out some dark 4″ borders, you know–to frame the piece, but when I held up the yellow-green floral from Kaffe Fassett, it just seemed to be the whimsical field of flowers I needed for my houses.  I did do an inner border of 3/4″ inch, as I love this print (it is in several of the houses I made).

Of course, it’s not finished yet…not quilted or bound.  I’m just about at Week 9 of rotator-cuff recovery, and using my quilting machine is a good three months down the road.  But that gives me lots of time to think about how I’ll quilt it up.  Thanks to all my beemates and friends who made and sent houses.  I think this is the fastest I’ve made up a bee quilt, ever!

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Continuing on:

Design Wall

Somedays it’s fun to just look at my design wall, even though a lot of it is “in-process.”  I put my house blocks up there as they came in from all over the world.

Mind Internet Sign

Saw this recently in my Instagram browsing.

March 2019 Gridster Block

I finished up my Gridster Bee blocks for Marsha.  She’d asked for blocks that resemble a circle of geese, but instead, they meander; the pattern is a free download.  You can find all our blocks on Instagram at #gridsterbee.  We’re going on our third year, and have a wide range of blocks up there, if you need ideas for a Block Lotto, or something fun for your next quilt.

What kept me absorbed throughout all this stitching?  Jane Harper’s novels. I finished up The Lost Man, and can highly recommend it.  I’m in the middle of the The Dry; I’ll let you know how that turns out.

 

Temperature Quilt Key

I’ve been thinking hard about how I want to record the colors I used in my Temperature quilt.  I’ve seen lots of different kinds (on Instagram use the hashtag #tempquilt, or some variation of it, to see more), so it directed my thinking.

I wanted one that showed all the colors and left me places where I could embroider or write on it what that color meant, in terms of the temperature scale.

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I decided on this: Kelly Liddle’s Goosed Up pattern, now on PayHip. I only have 23 colors in play, but I’ll figure out that last color, plus there’s lot of room to mark it up somehow.

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I colored in the triangles and labeled them to make construction easier.  I also pulled out my thin LED light box, which helps in placing the fabrics. Temp Quilt_key2

Three more sections to go.

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My little houses are coming in from the Gridsters already, and I’ve lined them up like the Victorian Ladies on San Francisco street. I plan to make this into a pattern; I’ll let you know when it’s up online.

I’ve finished January! Now to wait for some days to pile up so I can start on February.

Fun with Other Quilters at Valley Modern Quilt Guild

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Last week I had the chance to head over to Los Angeles, and speak at the Valley Modern Quilt Guild, held at HighTech LA, a very cool building (with great gates).

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They had these signs all over the school, which I think is a good motto for retreats and workshops, right?

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The place we met was one of those classrooms that can be changed around to suit the needs of those using it, and it was a good space for giving a talk: well lit, comfortable with a good microphone.  I stayed until the end of their Guild, as I was curious to see what they were working on.  I especially liked their Challenge for that month: Curves.

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Saturday, I headed back to teach a workshop for them at a local high school; the workshop was held in the costume department of the high school, and the teacher worked on costumes for an upcoming production while we used her room.

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First up, a little show and tell.  The woman holding the quilt is the principal of the school, and I’m happy to be in her company, along with the other fine members of this guild.

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It’s always fun to see what gadgets people bring, and I loved this one: a veritable traveling trunk of supplies, that you just unzip and Voila! it is available.  No more packing up and forgetting something.  (I don’t have anymore information on it, but I know she purchased it online.)

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As soon as we finished the center block, it was photo time.  I love how some centers come forward and some recede.  Such a creative group!  I didn’t do a very good job on taking a picture of the group, but there might be more on their Guild Website.  They decided on the Two-For-One class: a quilt in the morning, and free-motion quilting in the afternoon.

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Thank you, Valley Modern Quilt Guild–I had a great time!

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And in other news…  It is the ONLY reason I did an update on my iPhone this early.  Usually I wait a while until they get the bugs out, but I couldn’t resist.  They also have a ball of yarn, if you are interested in that.

Gridsters 2018_November blocks

And I finished my November Gridsters Bee blocks early this month and am sending them off to Allison of Quilt Studio 62, who is our Queen Bee this month.

In addition, I’ve had a question or two about what paper I use in the foundation paper piecing I did for the recent Crazy Cushion Class. I recently purchased a ream of paper from them (after 10 years of using the first one), so I took some photos in the store.

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It’s a vellum from Neenah.  I updated this post, where you can find more information.

Don’t know what to do with all those real “decorator” pumpkins you buy for fall? A recipe for Stuffed Pumpkin is a good way to enjoy them one more time.

Fall Leaves

The year we lived in Alexandria, Virginia I brought home handfuls of leaves from my walks and scanned them for the future.  I love looking at them at this time of year, as we here in Southern California don’t have fall color like this.

Happy November!

Getting the Work Done: Artist vs. Addict

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A recent reviewer of Steven Pressman’s book Turning Pro, pointed out that:
“What is distraction, if not self-sabotage, sabotage of one’s future self?”   Pressman, who wrote the War of Art, a must-read for creatives,  writes about about the difference between being an artist and being an addict, about the difference between being a professional (focused on the work) and an amateur (talking about the work, but not really doing it).

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Pressman has written three books, and as another reviewer described them:

The War of Art discusses the decision to start, while [his second book] Do the Work takes on the concept of sustaining the discipline it takes to finish a piece of work. Turning Pro takes things up a notch by insisting the artist must establish a rigid discipline and trust the Muse.”

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It’s easy to forget why we work at something.  There we are, putting our focus on our machines and in our sewing spaces, cutting and sewing, and all of a sudden, it’s oh wait a minute, let me check what my friends on Instagram are doing.

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According to Pressman, that doesn’t get the work done.  What it does do instead, is turn our work, our lives, our posts into an endless loop of sort of getting things done, but not really forging ahead into new places.

As Jocelyn K. Glei put it, “I was particularly struck by his distinction between “the artist” and “the addict,” wherein the former is living out a productive, creative career, while the latter is caught in an endless loop of aspiration and yearning that never gets backed up with meaningful action. Glei also noted that: “The amateur is an egotist. He takes the material of his personal pain and uses it to draw attention to himself. He creates a “life,” a “character,” a “personality.”  Using the term “shadow novel,” he draws out the life of a person is sort of working towards something, but not really.  Like I was after grad school: wanting to be an author, but not writing a word.

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I soon figured out that being a fiction writer was not the direction I was doing to go. I was able, however, to take my MFA training and love of the written word, combine it with sewing, in order to write about quilting — a completely unplanned, but incredibly satisfying endeavor.

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Frivols #7, in process

Cindy and I have talked more than once about the world of social media (namely Instagram) and how it sometimes interferes with getting the work done.  I love a good stroll through the posts as much as anyone, and I love to read blogs and see what creative juice is running through my community.

I recently watched the entire launch video of IGTV, that futzy little button in the top right of your screen.  As they went through all the scenes of creators (our new name, I guess), I realized that they were all barely older than my grandchildren…and with that realization came the understanding that IG “allowed” me to have my community, but what they were really about was the selling of “new media,” geared to “young influencers” gaining followers, gaining media attention and earning money.  Hence, the screwed up IG feed for the rest of us.

Chronology is out.  Connectiveness is in (which is different from “connections”).  Process is out.  Profits are in, including the data mining of all our click and taps and touches.

July 2018 Gridsters _ Leisa

Gridsters Bee Block for Leisa–July 2018

What does this have to do with artist/professional vs. addict/amateur?

As Pressman states, “The artist and the professional, on the other hand, have turned a corner in their minds. They have grown so bored with themselves…What were once their shadow symphonies become real symphonies. The color and drama that were once outside now move inside….When we [choose being an Artist], the energy that once went into the Shadow Novel goes into the real novel. What we once thought was real – “the world,” including its epicenter, ourselves – turns out to be only a shadow. And what had seemed to be only a dream, now, the reality of our lives.

It’s all about where you focus, where you put your attention.  Make use of the tools that help you, but don’t let them dominate allotted time, or dilute creative energy.