March Holidays

March 1, 2021

Today is St. David’s Day, the time to haul out your dragons (red, if you’ve got them, for Wales) and feast on leek-and-potato soup. In a couple of weeks it will be Pi Day (3/14). We’ll have rhubarb or chocolate pie, depending on whether the first rhubarb crop has arrived. Later in the week is St. Patrick’s Day, and I’ll be making Irish soda bread. Just because there aren’t any federal holidays in March doesn’t mean you can’t have a rollicking good time. I may not get much writing done, but after a year of missed celebrations I’m ready to do something festive.

Luck and wisdom!

Gems of Wisdom From Scraps of Fabric

February 24, 2021

I finished the top that will fill the requirements of two art group assignments. Once it’s quilted it will be folded into Amador Valley Quilters’ donations. That makes it a three-fer from the start, but I’ve also received two other gems of wisdom from this project.

First, I learned why I can never make yardage out of my scraps. I’ve done it in workshops and found it fun and useful. Back in my studio, not so much. Now I know why. I only have fun sewing scraps together if I know what I’m going to do with them. It’s the same reason I don’t enjoy cutting small squares from my stash for some future project – I need to know what I’ll do before I cut. Making two inner borders from my beige scraps was a delight, but I could never have pieced a long strip just to have on hand. Now that I know this about my approach to design, I’ll make a point of pulling out my scrap bags when I get to the borders of future projects. Who knows, I might even pull them out from the beginning.

The second benefit is I cut into my tree fabric stash but still have some pieces left. They aren’t big enough to delude myself that I’ll use them as borders, but they are perfect for art quilts and technique experiments. They are in that sweet spot – too big to throw away, not big enough that I feel I’m squandering them if the piece doesn’t work out. Now that I know this about my design process, I might revisit my scrap bags for other hidden beauties.

Luck and wisdom!

Thanking My Teachers

February 22, 2021

I’m reading Dana Gioia’s memoir about the poets who influenced him, Studying With Miss Bishop. It’s a gentle, revealing book that reminded me how much I owe the people who have mentored me. Some were official teachers, some were peers. All of them showed me more generosity than I probably understood or merited at the time. I can’t go back to most of them, so I hope they understood at the time that I appreciated their efforts. In their honor, I will try harder to show the same generosity when it is my turn to share what I know. I will also make a point of thanking my teachers now, starting with Mr. Gioia for writing such a fabulous book. Even if I don’t fully appreciate all the wisdom his words contain, if I’m very lucky, I’ll understand more later.

Luck and wisdom!

Triple Product Project

February 17, 2021

I love taking classes to learn new techniques. I love doing small exercises with friends to explore design elements. I don’t mind having the little projects sit there with no clear purpose other than learning. However, I have the dickens of a time pulling out yardage and giving myself permission to explore art on my own. If I don’t have a purpose for the end result, I can’t quite make that first cut into the fabric. I need any large-scale project to have a reason for being. It’s silly, but I keep hearing a voice saying, “You have too much on your to-do list to indulge yourself with this.” Every so often the universe takes pity on me and that inner voice. Now is such a time. Two of my art-oriented quilting groups came up with projects that I could use for a donation quilt – a triple product project!

One group is working on re-interpreting wedges into a modern quilt. I don’t have a wedge ruler, so I thought I would try making isosceles triangles and slicing them into a wedge and smaller triangle. Since I made the triangles out of green and beige scraps, I wound up with a tree. As it happens, another group is working on finding a theme to use for a series of quilts, and I decided on trees. Then I discovered a bunch of tree fabric scraps that I planned to make into a donation quilt. All at once my little experiments had a purpose, and I have a triple product project. Time for me to do my happy dance.

Luck and wisdom!

Mistakes Are Never Gone

February 15, 2021

In case one of your critique buddies questions the logic of having a long-ago mistake on the part of your protagonist come back to haunt her, here is the proof that mistakes are never gone (even without the internet). My husband discovered a 102-year old multiplication error, in another language, in a notebook that somehow managed to survive despite having no cash value. If you look at the fifth line with numbers, you’ll find someone multiplied $276 by 1.00 and got $176. Since the notebook comes from my family, I’m assuming this is evidence that my ability to mess up even the simplest arithmetic is a genetic trait and my get-out-of-jail-free card should anyone ask me to volunteer to be Treasurer. Mistakes may never quite be forgotten, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful.

Luck and wisdom!

Crabwalk

February 10, 2021

Although the International Sisters tops still need to be quilted, I decided to do a top for me. I got a Quilt Hop row kit for Christmas, and I knew where my other crustacean fabric lived, so that was a simple decision. Coming up with a design, not so much. Then I saw the bag of crab pre-fused appliques that I bought years ago, and the quilt sewed itself. The center four blocks are the pattern I received, the first border extends the white trail and turns the crab half-square triangle into a square on point, and the other borders are just because I had the fabric and wanted to use it. I may add more crab appliques to the front, or maybe the back. I have plenty.

Just in case you wonder, I am not from a fishing family. I don’t eat crab (I’m a vegetarian), and my pets of choice are dogs. Always dogs. So why do I have a collection of crab fabric? I don’t know. I also have a collection of lobster fabric, and I used to have a collection of fish fabric but I’ve used almost all of it. I don’t know why I bought that fabric either. What I do know is that quilt stores love me, because I’m the one who will take that bizarre novelty fabric off their hands.

Luck and wisdom!

Cooking and the Arts

February 8, 2021

I had an epiphany the other day, a reason why I am not and can never be a plotter. I approach writing – and all my artistic endeavors – as if I were cooking. I’m always asking myself what I’m going to get from my ingredients. Having an outline of a recipe is fine, but how I measure and what I substitute (out of necessity or curiosity) open the possibility of surprise. Artists love the great “what if” questions. Those are the questions that allow us to grow, to explore, to change. Sometimes the results aren’t pleasant, but that gives us another tool. Writing by the seat of my pants, letting the characters have some power over the story – that’s where the fun is.

Luck and wisdom!

A Color Wheel By Any Other Name

February 3, 2021

The Challenge Group project to create a color wheel inspired me to think about non-circular formats. My first plan was to make a series of two-sided mini-quilts using my scraps to show a range of colors within any given family. I would put complementary colors together and end up with three finished quilts. Then I thought, “Self, why not add a line of the complementary color in each piece and have it continue on the other side?” As you can see from the photo above, my plan actually worked.

Unfortunately, I have more yellow and purple scraps than any other colors. When I did the red and green set, I simply didn’t have enough fabric that played together nicely to make something the same size as my yellow-purple set. Ditto for the blue and orange.

Now I am trying to come up with another plan. I’ve considered making a two-sided wall-hanging, with the mini-quilts bound and connected on a chain so they can rotate. I’ve also considered sewing the complementary sets side by side to showcase the continuing line, binding each set and connecting them with ribbons. What will most likely happen is the sets will sit in a pile for a bit and be resurrected in a different project altogether.

Luck and wisdom!

Lovely Sentences

February 1, 2021

I’m always in search of lovely sentences. Sometimes I search in the recesses of my brain so I can put them down on paper. Other times I search in the novel or short story at hand so I can read them aloud. Here is a selection from Suzanne Palmer’s “Table Etiquette for Diplomatic Personnel, In Seventeen Scenes,” which appears in the January/February 2021 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction: “The human was screaming. Qasi thought that was very unpleasant of him, considering he had started all the trouble in the first place, and would very much like to have said so except it was hard to speak when she had her fangs deeply embedded in his shoulder.”

Even out of context, this sentence tells me all I need to know about Qasi. In context, it is hysterical. Check out the rest of the story, and read Palmer’s sentences aloud. You’ll thank me later, especially if you take the time, as I intend to do, to study and learn from her style.

Luck and wisdom!

Another Collection Finished

January 27, 2021

I finished the third top from my International Sisters collection. None of the three had any fancy piecing in the borders or separator blocks. I let the fabric do all the work for me. The good news is I used some lovely scraps that weren’t large enough for a quilt on their own. The bad news is I’ve done three tops with simple piecing and now have to come up with something a bit more involved for my next project. The little gray cells are not leaping up with joy and ideas. There are lots more fabric collections that I want to clear out of my stash, but I think I’m going to need a little time to find inspiration. Of course, that’s been the problem all along, or I would have made quilts from those collections ages ago. At least I can get to more of the collections now, so perhaps something from the dim mists of my early quilting years will tell me what it wants to become.

Luck and wisdom!