Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Cross-stitch For Those Who Can’t Count

June 28, 2017

I love cross-stitch, but I have the worst time following a pattern. Despite having a decent education, I can’t count with thread in my hands. I have the same problem with knitting and crochet, but since I have friends and family who knit and crochet beautifully I don’t mind not mastering those arts. Cross-stitch is different. I refuse to be beaten, even though I often am.

This pattern is beautiful, and as it happened I had floss in the appropriate colors. Don’t ask where it came from. One day I rummaged through my floss box and found several lengths of pink, green and brown tied together. Last week, I decided to give following a pattern another try.

Things started out well enough. I told myself this time would be different, this time I would get to the end of the project and every stitch would be in place.

Oh, how the universe laughed.

By the time I realized how far off the mark I had gone, I was too invested in the project to abandon it. That’s when I had an epiphany – the reason I love cross-stitch is that the pattern can be altered on the fly if one has the courage to seize the needle. So that’s what I did. I soldiered on, inserting colors where I wanted them, adding a leaf, adjusting the shape of the stalk. By the time I finished I almost regretted doing this project on a scrap of aida cloth with a nasty stain and a line of embroidery that refuses to reveal why it is there. Almost, but not entirely. I’ll cut around the design, maybe fill in the background with a cream or very pale green. It might end up on a card, in an art quilt, or on a tote bag. Wherever it goes, it will remind me that even for those who can’t count, cross-stitch can be fun.

Luck and wisdom!

When a Start = Success

June 14, 2017

I took a moment to celebrate Chocolate Ice Cream Day last week, hoping to calm my brain enough to do something creative. It worked. The next day, I had ideas for two small pieces. Yes, it’s only a start, but I’m counting it as a success.

I’ve been experimenting with sewing squares on acrylic felt, then melting the felt. This time, I thought I would lay down a grid of thread first, and put something on top of that. The dragon applique was just sitting there, so I stitched it over the grid.

This yellow fabric was on top of the scrap basket. I cut circles from it, and scattered them over the surface. There weren’t enough. “Self,” I said, “why not see if a circle of thread will work just as well as a circle of fabric.”

The next step was melting the felt with my craft heat gun. The dragon didn’t mind at all.

The yellow circles weren’t quite as pleased. I added a bead to make them feel better.

Here is the little circle of thread. It isn’t as noticeable as I expected. If I try this again, I’ll make the circle from parallel lines instead of one big meandering line.

Luck and wisdom!

Chocolate Ice Cream Day and Creativity

June 7, 2017

According to my made-up food holiday calendar, today is Chocolate Ice Cream Day. As it happens, my favorite ice cream is spumoni, which is a combination of chocolate, pistachio and cherry – a most creative combination.

I mention all this because my creativity has been missing lately. Aside from a few cross-stitch projects, I haven’t been able to get past the (relatively) clean cutting board syndrome, also known as blank page jitters. “Self,” I said, “just go in and cut a strip of fabric. Inspiration will come.” I went into the sewing room, stared at the stacks, and left.

“Self,” I said, “perhaps you are overwhelmed with deadlines. Do something about that, and inspiration will come.” I trotted out my favorite time-management scheme – making lists – and got to work. Most of my deadlines were met, so I went into the sewing room, stared at the stacks, and left.

That’s when I noticed my food holiday calendar, and had a minor epiphany. Yes, beginning a new project always gives me the jitters, yes, I’ve volunteered for another group and I have more deadlines, but my biggest problem was my attitude. I had become obsessed with being efficient, and wasn’t factoring in time to savor relaxation. Even the reading time I allowed myself was tense, because book club night is coming up and I’m not finished with this month’s assignment.

I decided to relish the celebration of Chocolate Ice Cream Day. I will scoop the spumoni into a bowl with the chocolate part on top. I might even add some hot fudge sauce. Then I will stand in front of a decorative magnet I bought long ago, and hope I remember its wisdom. After that, when I am well and truly relaxed, I’ll hit the sewing room again.


Luck and wisdom!

Rusty Skills and How To Fix Them

October 26, 2016

Norma from She Sews You Know asked her readers what they did to repurpose old clothes. Since I repurpose old clothes to the Goodwill Store if they’re usable, and the scrap or rag bag if they’re not (the scrap bag being the one I save for quilt projects and the rag bag being the one I save for cleaning projects), I had to admit my sewing skills have become rusty. Then I saw an ad from C&T press.

Lani Longshore sewing book

Making clothes was never a joy for me, but I’ve accepted that there aren’t many designers focusing on my specific demographic. I also know that I am adventurous in my art quilts, not so much with the colors and prints I put on my body. So, I’m going to start polishing those sewing skills and see where it leads me. I’ve already taken a few baby steps toward that goal.

Lani Longshore cosmetics bag

I took one of my inherited zippers and some pink scraps and made myself a new cosmetic/travel bag. It’s small – 8 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ x 3″ – but that’s more than enough room. My beauty supplies are limited to hand cream and a couple of lipsticks. I save the big bags for my quilting projects.

Lani Longshore carryall

This is the latest bag for take-along projects. Sally Kimball gave me the pattern and inserts. This project taught me the value of really reading the directions, not sorta kinda maybe reading them as you are going along. While I managed to make everything fit together, it was often an exercise in humility.

Lani Longshore carryall interior

Luck and wisdom!

That Aha Moment

October 19, 2016

Two small solutions came to me in one of those lovely “aha!” moments. The first solution was for a Progressive Party project. The theme this round is movie quilts. It’s my turn to work on The Wizard of Oz quilt, and Jeanne Brophy suggested I do the scene with the house on the Wicked Witch of the East. I figured out how to make clapboard siding, but how to create the ruby slippers? Then I noticed I have crescent sequins. Red crescent sequins.

Check out those pointy toes

Check out those pointy toes

The second solution was for my map quilt. It needed more. I added more. It still needed more, especially around the edge. I explored my bead collection, and discovered I have plenty that work with this piece.

Lani Longshore map quilt

I even have beads of similar size but different colors for different sections of the edge.

Variation on a border

Variation on a border

Sometimes, solving one small problem is enough to make the whole day better. Solving two gives me a boost for a week. Being able to put out another Halloween decoration? Priceless.

Glitter and polka dots - heaven

Glitter and polka dots – heaven

Luck and wisdom!

Finding Focus

October 12, 2016

I’m building two quilts from the base up, letting the fabric tell me what it wants next. Turns out the fabrics I chose all have different plans, and while they are quite willing to sit next to each other they can’t agree on the direction the quilt should take. They have no focus.

Lani Longshore cityscape

This is my cityscape, which started when I made a mistake measuring. I found some other architectural fabric that I like. There is room in the white rectangles to create a focal point. I will be extremely happy when I know what that focal point should be.

Lani Longshore map quilt

This is my map quilt, which looks very different up close while beading than it does in a picture. I can see that I need to do something around the edges to tell the viewer “stop here.” I wanted the eye to travel easily over the surface, so there are several interest points. I’m not sure that qualifies as focus.

Lani Longshore beading detail

My go-to technique is always beading. There is room to add larger beads, or even make bead clusters, as soon as the piece starts talking to me.

Lani Longhore embroidery detail

My second favorite technique is embroidery. These trees reinforce the idea that this fabric represents hills. Perhaps the threads are too subtle if I feel the need to explain the image.

Lani Longshore map detail

Writing on quilts is a new technique for me. This compass is also subtle, perhaps even delicate. Perhaps too cautious?

The great thing about art quilts is that there is always room to try one more thing. These quilts may be in progress for some little while, but I’m learning as I go, and that’s good news.

Luck and wisdom!

Managing Days Like These

September 28, 2016

I’m not sure whether my guardian angels are asleep, the household gods are otherwise occupied, or the pixies under the stairs are bored, but for some reason things have been going wrong. Not wrong in the “ohmygod the sky is falling” sense, just “well, that’s something I’d prefer not dealing with at the moment.” For instance, I was making what I thought was great progress on a quilt top when I discovered I hadn’t measured correctly. The good news is I have more fabric for the original project, because the bad news is no amount of reverse engineering will make the units fit. Oh, and now I have a new project (and I’m not certain if that is good news or bad).

Perhaps I can start my architectural series with this mistake

Perhaps I can start my architectural series with this mistake

The other thing that went wrong is really my own fault. I’ve been doing beading on the couch. This is my “set-up.”

Perhaps I should write a book about the lazy woman's guide to beading

Perhaps I should write a book about the lazy woman’s guide to beading

You can see immediately that this is neither a smart nor safe way to keep beads. As often happens, the top came off one of the tubes. The truly amazing news is that the spill was localized, and I rescued at least 99% of the little darlings.

So, what does one do on Days Like These? After I finished pouting, I remembered the mantra of a former boss: “If there are no dead bodies to hide, the problem can be managed.” That’s when I decided to take some time to enjoy the garden.

A lily in the sun

A lily in the sun

This is part of our lily collection. They sit in their beds and bloom their little hearts out.

Beautiful and bizarre, yes?

Beautiful and bizarre, yes?

This is a new plant. We bought it because of the flower, and the vine has rewarded us for our choice.

Just keep growing

Just keep growing

The morning glory is a tough little plant. It simply grows over any obstacles. If I am clever, I will take a lesson from the morning glory, and manage Days Like These by growing, not pouting. Wish me –

Luck and wisdom!

The Apple Tree and Sergeant Brice

September 14, 2016

We decided to cut down the apple tree this year. Processing fruit was becoming a burden and my husband has different plans for the back yard, so it had to go. It deserved better, but there it is. That got me thinking about people who deserved better, which led me to Lee Miller, an actor who never quite got his place in the sun (although he was in the movie by that name).

The remains of the tree

The remains of the tree

Lee Miller was in a boatload of movies, mostly uncredited. He also played Sergeant Brice on Perry Mason. He did receive credit for that, but his name was mostly last on the list. Even if it did move up a notch, it was generally behind such vital characters as “policeman #3” or “attendant.” It just doesn’t seem fair. Like my apple tree, Miller produced good work.

Part of the produce, dried and ready to eat

Part of the produce, dried and ready to eat

There are lots of Lee Millers in the world. I know many art quilters and writers who probably won’t get the recognition they deserve. Shameless self-promotion alert: my friend Ann Anastasio and I have published two delightful sci fi novels (Death By Chenille and When Chenille Is Not Enough) that would make excellent SyFy original movies, but have they come calling? Of course not. They’ll probably ignore our next one, too (The Chenille Ultimatum, coming soon).

But that is the way of life. To mangle Gilbert and Sullivan, there are many “wretched, meritorious B” folks out there. So, for all those who labor on, creating and producing and generally making life worth living – good on you, mate.

Luck and wisdom!

Art Lessons

July 6, 2016

I think I’ve mentioned that the art quilt critique group I belong to has decided to give ourselves art lessons. Specifically, we’re going to explore elements of design in a semi-structured way. None of us are in a position to enroll in a formal art program, so we’re going the do-it-yourself route. In the past, I’ve incorporated our assignments into a project I wanted to do anyway. I planned to treat our latest assignment, exploring negative space, the same way. Then I changed my mind.

The tree wants to disappear

The tree wants to disappear

This is not the start to the project I need to get finished. It is, however, a good piece to explore negative space. The fabric for the tree limbs seems to drop away from view. That’s partly because it is a delicately grayed green, and grayed colors retreat. The background contributes to the effect, because it is so exuberantly busy.

The grapevine wants to show off

The grapevine wants to show off

This is the project I need to get finished for a challenge on the theme Colors of The Vineyard. You can see that both projects use the same background fabric. I originally planned to use the yellow and green fabrics on the same piece, but a little voice said, “Think before you cut.”

So I thought, and realized that I had the opportunity to do something new in my art quilting. I could use a project as an art journal page, in effect giving myself permission to abandon a piece if it didn’t work. I fused the green branches onto a small bit of the background and immediately realized the fabric wouldn’t do at all for my challenge piece.

I will show the green piece at the next art quilt critique meeting, and ask the other members what they would do if it were their quilt. If I like their ideas, the project may evolve, but if not it has a place in my art journal. I’m already beading the yellow piece for the challenge. And I’m very excited to be taking baby steps toward becoming a more dedicated art student.

Luck and wisdom!

Design by the Seat of Your Pants

June 15, 2016

In the writing world, there are plotters and pantsers. Plotters know where they’re going at every step of the way. Sometimes their plot outlines are so detailed they basically just have to add a few “ands” and “buts” and the story is done. Pantsers, not so much. They start writing and see where the words take them. I am a pantser, not only in my writing but also in my quilting.

A footed flower vase and falling petals

A footed flower vase and falling petals

The gray top is one that the Progressive Party made for me to embellish. The rose petals and leaves were made by someone else, too – Bella Nonna. They’re silk, but feel like a thick, handmade paper. I won the package at a silent auction (don’t ask why I put a bid on them, I’ve long since forgotten). The bag with the rose petals was on the ironing board, which reminded me of my collection of red beads, and then I started working.

Without a plan.

That happens a lot in my studio. There’s no better feeling in the world when things go well and the project tells me what it wants. Nevertheless, to make a quilt one actually has to sew the top to a batting and backing, and that’s when things get dicey.

Handquilting with beads

Handquilting with beads

Forget the trouble with sewing the quilting lines after you’ve done the embellishment. Just marking those lines is a pain in the . . . pants. You’d think I would learn my lesson and consider the end at the beginning, but it doesn’t always work. In my writing, sometimes the end is as much a surprise to me as it is to my readers – so also in my quilting.

The good news is, my idea for quilting continues to develop. I decided to start with diagonal lines and scattered beads. I like the look, but will have horizontal lines along the bottom and vertical lines on the remaining side. Today I thought, “Self, bind it in red and add more rose petals to extend the flowers beyond the edge.” We’ll see what ideas I have tomorrow.

Beaded centers

Beaded centers

The beading may evolve, too. I thought adding a few beads to the flower centers would look nice. It does. I may add beads to all the petals. Heaven knows I have enough to encrust those things.

With any luck, the creativity inspired by this project will spill over to The Chenille Ultimatum. I’m working on the last chapters now, and the characters have been better at telling me what they want. Every so often, however, one of them throws a tantrum and decides something else is needed. Just like my quilts.

By the way, today is a palindrome for those of us who write the date month-day-year – 6/15/16. Sounds like a reason for a cake.

Luck and wisdom!