The Last Generation to Remember . . .

September 20, 2017

I heard a speaker lament that people his age would be the last generation to remember the world before the internet. More important to me as a quilter is that I am part of the last generation to remember the world before rotary cutters.

The tools that changed my quilting life

When I first started quilting, scissors ruled. I cut every piece one at a time. I drew cutting and sewing lines by hand. I pinned the living daylights out of every unit I sewed because they were all so dang small. Then my quilting teacher introduced me to rotary cutters. Life as I knew it changed forever.

More useful tools

Well, sort of. At the time I had very little disposable income, and getting a cutter and blades and rulers and a mat was outside the range of my budget. Soon after my first quilting class was over, however, I had squirreled away enough money for a small mat, one ruler, and a decent cutter. I never looked back.

Well, almost never.

Still useful, but not my go-to tool

Scissors still have a place in my sewing room, especially pretty ones. I like hand work, and having the right scissors for the right application makes the project even more pleasant. The important thing is it’s now my choice when to go old-school.

I’m not great with change. I didn’t get a cell phone until public phone boxes disappeared, and computer upgrades send me screaming into the night. With the example of the rotary cutter, however, I have the assurance that sometimes the end of the world as you know it isn’t such a bad thing.

Luck and wisdom!

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Fighting Procrastination

September 13, 2017

I’ve known for ages that I’m pathetic without a deadline. No matter how good my intentions, if there isn’t a date circled on the calendar the project may not get started (much less finished). This year I took a position on the board of my quilt guild, so I’m using that to fight procrastination – and use some of the fabric in my stash – by declaring my intention to make at least two quilts for the guild’s charity drive at Christmas.

Cut patches, ready to sew

I found these cowgirls and some blue squares in a plastic bag on the shelf.

Cut squares, sewn in pairs, multiplying before my eyes

Who knows where they came from, or what I intended to do with them. All I know is that I looked at the bag and said, “Self, you can let these go. Someone else will be much happier with the quilt than you could ever be.” I started with the dimensions the charities prefer and worked backwards. This is the quilt-in-progress.

Cowgirl quilt in progress

I have a gazillion collections of fabric that still appeal to me, but not as much as when I bought them. Having it all languish on my shelf makes no sense when there are plenty of organizations in my community that want quilts. Turning these collections into charity quilts gives me the pleasure of using the fabric without the burden of figuring out what to do with it. I’m also training myself to fight procrastination – a lesson that I need to relearn on a regular basis.

Luck and wisdom!

Heat: A Whine

September 6, 2017

We had ourselves a doozy of a heat wave last weekend. We were hosting visitors, and we knew that the forecast high at our house was 114 degrees. We decided to go into San Francisco, where the high was supposed to be 88. The forecasters were wrong. The all-time city record was broken as temperatures downtown reached 106.

We melted along with the city, then melted a little more when we arrived home and discovered the forecasters were all too accurate in their estimation of the heat in our area. Unfortunately, they were also accurate in the forecast for the rest of the weekend. Oh, yes, the heat abated degree by degree. On the day our company left it was a relatively mild 97.

I made us all badges to celebrate surviving the Great Heat Wave of 2017.

The sun’s flames felt a little too close

Luck and wisdom!

Gifts of the Sun (sort of)

August 30, 2017

The Great American Eclipse didn’t go over my house. We had 75% coverage, which was enough for the sky to darken a little and beautiful crescent suns to appear on the patio under the leaf-covered pergola. I wanted to make an art quilt to commemorate this gift from the sun (and moon), and used the American Quilter’s Society free pattern “Luna” as a starting point. The pattern represents a lunar eclipse. I turned my version into a solar eclipse with embroidery and a well-placed button.

The eclipse in felt and thread

The base is a piece of hand-dyed wool felt that fiber artist Gail Sims made. She used leaves she collected from her yard. I liked the idea of showing the progress of the eclipse on the ground, which is the way I watched it.

The well-placed button

The next gifts come from a land of midnight sun. My friend and sister quilter Margaret Misegades was on a cruise to Norway. Knowing my fondness for antlered animals, she found something reindeer at each port of call.

This is adorable

I plan to use my little pitcher for cream once the temperature drops enough that I can drink hot tea again.

Such a grand addition to my fridge magnet collection

The reindeer magnet is remarkably strong as well as just so darn cute. Even my grocery coupons look cool underneath it.

These pencils are wonderful, and I still use pencils a lot, but to be honest I’m thinking about using them as part of a table display for Christmas with flowers – fresh or silk – and maybe one of my birds.

Luck and wisdom!

Thread Brain: A Story

August 23, 2017

I was in the midst of creating small projects with odd scraps of aida cloth and embroidery floss when I was inspired by an article about the human brain. There was a simple line drawing of the brain in the magazine. “Self,” I said, “that would go well as a cross-stitch.” I charted a design on graph paper, then did the stitching, which was a first for me. There was room left on the scrap of aida cloth, so I stitched in the words Thread Brain. There was still room, so I added another line: A Story.

Now I have a title and cover art, but what comes after that? Since I have yet to come up with a story in words, I decided to continue a story in thread. I have lots of leftover floss, so I made a multi-colored field and stitched an outline of a brain.

There is room on this scrap of aida cloth, so I’m making another image, this time of the two hemispheres of the brain.

I have no idea where this will lead, but I’m keeping my fingers occupied and using up the odd bits and pieces that clutter my sewing room. That’s good enough for now.

Luck and wisdom!

The Felt-Melt Project: Before and After

August 16, 2017

The Progressive Party decided to play with felt melting after I showed them what I learned at Art Quilt Santa Fe. We all came with pieces ready to melt. Here are before shots of mine:

For these pieces, I sewed the patches on the felt with my quilting foot. That helped keep square patches square and round patches round. It also helped me with curved quilting grids.

The Dahlek patch on this piece comes from B. Coole Designs. She comes to the Caledonian Club of San Francisco Scottish Games every year, and every year I buy a handful of patches. Many of them are still in my “I’m going to use you someday, I promise” box. It seemed appropriate to use a Dahlek on a project that was going to be tormented.

This is the first piece where the felt to be melted was first attached to a small whole-cloth underquilt.

Now for the after photos:

You can see the lace-like effect of melting the felt when you hold this piece up to the light. I might hang it in a window, or attach it to a light fabric.

Just like a Dahlek, this piece was bound and determined to dominate me. I may leave it curled and crinkled, or I may try to include it in a different, non-quilted piece of art.

The felt took longer to melt, but the underquilt escaped without a single scorch mark. I attached eye-stems on the bottom for beading. I haven’t decided which beads I’ll use, so for the moment I’m enjoying being psuedo-steampunk with my metal fringe.

Luck and wisdom!

Additions to the Moose Collection

August 9, 2017

The family had a reunion in Montana this summer, and I found some nifty additions for my moose collection.

I found this cool moose ornament at the gift shop at Glacier National Park. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were designed by a quilter.

These socks were in the same gift shop. While it is far too hot to actually wear them, I can admire them. Now you can, too.

Luck and wisdom!

Embracing Mindlessness

August 2, 2017

Getting back into a creative groove after even a short interruption can be discouraging. While trying to get into a mindful frame, in my head I told myself to be mindless. Yeah, I was that tired. Still, it did lead to an epiphany: if you can’t be creative, you can be tidy. So I embraced my mindlessness and sewed binding on three quilts.

This is the quilt with the coppery binding. Here is a detail.

This is another baby quilt using the same pattern, Twist and Turn.

It goes together quickly, uses up scraps, and has no corners to match. The perfect pattern.

This baby quilt used some orphaned blocks and a novelty print of sea otters. I had to redo some of the quilting because the tension was off, but as it happens picking out stitching is an ideal task when your brain isn’t working well anyway.

Luck and wisdom!

Quiet-time Activities

July 26, 2017

I’ve had a quiet week, not entirely by choice. I’m still fighting off some bug or other, and my creative energy level has suffered. Even reading was more of a chore than I wanted most days, so I pulled out my travel kits and did some cross-stitch. I’ve shown you this square:

Oriented to be Christmas ornaments

You may recall I couldn’t decide if this depicts Christmas ornaments or shooting stars. I decided to explore stars and came up with this:

A star chart, grid-style

The grid reminded me of plaid, so I made this:

Stars on point

After all that, I decided I liked the Christmas ornament idea, and made this:

Strings of lights

Keeping my hands busy helped me accept the fact that I need to rest until I’m entirely well. I can’t guarantee I won’t go stir-crazy if I don’t start feeling better soon, but for the moment I’m content to be creative with quiet-time activities.

Luck and wisdom!

Forward and Back

July 19, 2017

The family had a lovely reunion a couple of weeks ago. Knowing that the first week back from vacation is never entirely productive, I’ve made a habit of getting a project prepared before I leave so I’ll have something easy to work on when I return. That planning turned out to be more of a blessing than I expected, because I started feeling under the weather shortly after I returned home. The universe sometimes does that – the two steps forward, one step back thing – so I’m not going to complain (much) that my usual week of less-than-stellar productivity is stretching into two, maybe three.

Luckily for me, my back-from-vacation project was a baby quilt that has been languishing for about a year. Life got in the way when the top was pieced and the quilting part never happened. Now it has. Rather than anguish over a quilting pattern, I let the fabric tell me what it wanted. I also lucked out in finding a new spool of coppery thread that matched nothing but blended with everything. Then the universe really gave me a break and let me unearth a coppery fabric for the binding.

I think this will look great even cut into strips

This fabric has been hiding in the drawer for a long time, waiting for the perfect project. It isn’t alone. I have many fabrics, threads, and embellishments biding their time. While searching through my collections, I unearthed a doily that might go well with a fat quarter a friend gave me.

There isn’t enough contrast between the doily and the light fabric, I know, but I’ll solve that another day. For the moment, I’m going to accept that life, especially the creative life, is all about moving forward and rolling back. There are lessons to be learned in both directions.

Luck and wisdom!