It appears that summer-me was smarter than holiday-season-me. I opened a project bag expecting to find yardage for a donation quilt. Instead, I found a collection of squares and strips. There was a note with the block pattern I intended to use. There weren’t any other instructions, and as I started sewing I thought I had made a mistake cutting the strips. Turns out I was oh-so-efficient and cut them to sew two units at once. Luckily – and this is where the holiday story comes in – I didn’t toss out what I thought were unusable pieces. I was planning to put them in another project but hadn’t gotten around to putting them in a separate place. The holiday pixies must have intervened, so I’ll be making the blocks as I intended when I cut them last summer. I’ll also be reminding myself to include more complete notes the next time I cut units. Memory lapses are never fun, but when they threaten to waste fabric they’re a nightmare!
I was listening to an NPR article on the difficulty in recognizing how we change. Since we are always ourselves in our minds, it’s hard to remember who we once were unless we have letters or journals explaining why we made the decisions we did back in the day. I laughed so hard. Clearly these researchers have never met a quilter. We have all the evidence we need to remind us of who we were in the fabrics that we paid good money for that are now stuffed in corners, or the patterns we had to have that we never even opened, or the tools that gather dust in odd containers. I know who the woman was who bought all that stuff, and definitely recognize how I’ve changed. I bet you do too.
I signed up for an embroidery workshop and later joked with friends that one of the best things I got out of it was tidying up my thread collection. Since the class was on Zoom, I took advantage of any non-instructional time to wrap loose skeins on floss cards and tuck random leftover bits into thread minders. You would think I could manage this tiny chore on my own, but it took a mini-crisis – finding the right threads for the class – to push me into action.
The funny thing is that all my friends have the same experience. I used to think I was just lazy because I rarely took the time to thoroughly tidy up after a project. Now I see that although I may have been a teensy bit lazy, I was also not giving myself permission to organize before starting the next project, or facing the next deadline, or whatever was calling for my attention. In essence, I was not giving myself permission to set boundaries.
What if I reframe my time management decisions? What if I tell myself that while that request for a quilt is important it is no more important than making sure I have the proper working conditions to complete it? Would I actually be able to clean my sewing room? The mind boggles.
This is not the traditional time to be dying Ukrainian Easter eggs. The design of the egg in the picture is not a traditional pattern for them, either. I’ve been a quilter long enough that I’m not even thinking of apologizing for playing with tradition. Respecting the artistry of those who went before me is important, but so is respecting my own vision.
Okay, so maybe vision is too strong a word for this egg. The beginning of the design was a swirl but then a glob of wax fell on the shell. “Self,” I said, “swirls and dots play very nicely together. Go for it.” I also made swirls and dots on the other eggs I dyed, along with a few straight lines when the melted wax cooperated. At the end of the day, I was a happy camper with some new eggs to display next spring. In times like these, I’ll take the win.
Another year is almost over and I still have projects on the sewing room floor. I had hoped that my personal private challenge to finish half of all the projects I could reach would fix that problem. Turns out I have more projects than I thought, and I managed to acquire some others along the way.
My personal private challenge for 2023 is to have all the project bags off the floor. Notice I did not say everything off the floor – I have supplies in boxes that will remain on the floor for some little while. Now, I can hear you laughing already. “Just look at the picture,” you’re saying. “There is too much stuff to get off the floor in one measly year.” This is where the applesauce comes in. I was making applesauce yesterday and although I measured carefully and added the apple chunks into the pot in stages, there was a point I was afraid the whole batch would boil over. I also knew if I tried transferring it to a larger pot I would probably spill everything and burn myself in the process. Instead, I stood at the stove, stirring and poking, poking and stirring. Within a few minutes the apples started to lose their structure as the moisture left the cells. The extra liquid also threatened to boil over, so I reduced the heat. A few minutes after that, I could see the top of the mixture inching down inside the pot. Eventually I ended up with a lovely, thick puree and only a few spots to clean on the stove. “Self,” I said, “maybe if you patiently poke at your projects you can get all the bags off the floor by the end of next year.”
So that’s my plan – poke at the bags. Maybe that means cutting strips and squares for the project in odd moments when I don’t have the brain power to be more creative. Cut fabric takes up less room, and I might be able to fit a few bags on the shelf as other shelf projects are completed. Maybe that means re-evaluating whether the project needs to be done at all and finding someone who will love the fabric more than I do. Maybe that means making more donation quilts with simpler patterns than art quilts, especially if the original idea no longer interests me. Even if I don’t entirely succeed, I’ll take the win for whatever projects I do finish.
I bought a new sewing machine this summer, my first non-Viking in thirty years. While most quilters would be dancing in the streets, I’m quaking in my boots. Everything is a little different, and that is dragging me out of my comfort zone. I am now able to thread the needle without having the manual in front of me, but I still consult it when I wind a bobbin.
When I was younger (like, in my 40s), I thought becoming an adult would mean I was no longer afraid. Oh, stop laughing. Of course I recognized that people are afraid of all sorts of things at every age. I still had it in my head that grown-ups were always fearless. It is a bitter thing to realize that you are indeed a grown-up and still afraid. “Self,” I said, “get used to it.” Self doesn’t like to hear things like that, which is why there is a stash of chocolate in the house at all times.
Sadly, bribery doesn’t take away the necessity to leave my comfort zone. I have projects to finish, and I must learn how to tame my new sewing machine beast so it will do what I ask. And don’t tell me it isn’t a thinking creature – that only makes the machines mad.
The Challenge Group project is on the theme of omens and talismans. I decided to do a talisman from found objects. Yes, only one object – the twig – was found outside. I will wrap it with the tail of the gold cord holding the other items.
Usually when people think of found art they imagine the entire piece is made from stuff scavenged from the street. Trust me, if you took a look in my studio you would understand why I consider all of my art quilts to be found art. Trying to unearth any given item is a miracle. I take what I can see and go from there. That’s going to be my personal definition from now on. If it works for you, great. Maybe we can start a new art movement – The School of Hoarding Quilters.
I took a workshop recently not for the technique but for the kit. It was worth every penny. The project, an iris created collage-style from organza, isn’t anything that fits into my current list of projects but I loved the effect. I also loved not having to source organza. We’ve got some good fabric stores nearby but they rarely carry plain organza. That means I would be trapped in the glittery, shimmery aisle and my willpower would crumble. I’d come home with 7 yards of laces, and sheers with lace, and sheers with sequins, and still not the right fabric for the flower. So, I signed up for a class that I sorta kinda maybe knew how to do and bought the kit. As I said, it was worth every penny, especially when I realized I had cut my first collage pieces too large, but since I knew the basics already I could finish it quickly and do a second piece that I liked better. The moral of the story is that quilters are only here for the fabric. Admit it, sign up for the class, and buy the kit. You’ll thank me later.
I use greens as neutrals, and thought I could make all greens blend. I was wrong. Greens can be persnickety. The photo above is proof (and those are all greens – the one that looks blue is actually more of a greeny-teal in person). The green laces and beads I chose for my kudzu piece are another proof, but the results so far are so hideous I don’t even want to show it. I won’t give up on the idea, but it needs a rethink.
While I am not pleased with this lack of success, I won’t let it beat me. I’ve put the kudzu piece aside, and am returning to other projects that have deadlines and places to go. Perhaps by clearing some of the clutter when these projects are sent off, I’ll be able to hear what the laces and beads want me to do with them.
I finally had an idea for a kudzu-inspired art piece using stuff I’ve saved and stuff I was given. The base for this piece is a cardboard packing insert that I thought looked like a mask. However, when covered with batting and fabric it turns into something entirely different. The green fabric was given to me by Rebecca Buzsaki, who has even more glittery stuff than I do thanks to her years of making dance costumes. I was hoping to use some of the wrapped floral wire that I bought for COVID masks (the wire is too heavy for that use), but of course I put the wire in a very safe place. While looking for it, I discovered some stiff paper that I used for making hat bands, and some stiffer paper that claims to be for making waists in dresses neat and tidy. Since my own waist is neither of those things, I have no problems using the paper tape to hold the lace I’m using for kudzu leaves – unless and until I find the floral wire.
There’s no pattern for this piece, which means it may languish for weeks until the various bits tell me where they want to go. I’ve never done anything remotely similar, so every technique will have its own learning curve. And I have no place whatsoever to display it. Why am I doing it? It’s art, sweetie. I’m making art.