Author Archives: Melanie McNeil

About Melanie McNeil

Quilter, Designer, Teacher, Writer

Mess

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. I have lists of things done and lists of things doing and lists of things to do! I have a mess in my studio, the product of having several projects going at the same time. What should I do first? What should I write about first? Perhaps the first quilt I finished this year! Perhaps the one I’m working on right now! Perhaps the one I’ll take up on Monday!

So confusing… But in the interests of some forward movement, I’ll show you some pix of my studio late yesterday.

Now I know, this is not most people’s idea of a mess, but it is for me. That’s one of the reasons I tend to be very linear in my making, with only one or two active projects at a time. I can finish something, CLEAN, and move on to the next thing. With lots of active projects I can’t put things away.

Here is my list, not in priority order:

And here is my “current” project.

I started the center block on Tuesday in a workshop with Toby Lischko. It is a classic New York Beauty, a challenging block to make. But her instruction, tools, and technique made it very easy. I modified the size of the outer background (Moda Grunge in orange) to make it 17″ finish instead of 16″. (Math stuff — I won’t go into the details now but it should set up all the rest of the sizing well.) And I added corners in purple (more math stuff for how I decided the size. Details later.) And I designed the Lone Star-style star point. I need to take it apart and rebuild it so my seam allowances are better, but later I’ll be glad I took the time to do that.

HOWEVER now it’s time to switch gears, so this project, called “Wind River,” will just wait for a few weeks. Instead I have a secret project to do as a wedding present for Son and his bride. Since they get married four weeks from today (HOORAY!!!) I have to get in high gear on that. (And oh yeah, I better make my purse, too!) This is my linearity kicking in. Later I can be messy again. 🙂

 

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Mid-Year Review

It’s a little early for a mid-year review, but I thought it would make an easy way for me to reconnect here. After a ten-day road trip for family celebrations, I’ve lost my habit of reading and posting. (If I’ve missed big milestones in your life or making, feel free to post links in comments so I can catch up with you!)

In fact, it’s not just the last few weeks, but all year I’ve been slack in posting and less present for reading. (Honestly, that’s okay. We all get to be here just as much as works for us, including me.) One of the things that means is that I haven’t shared a lot of the projects I’ve worked on. That makes it harder for me to keep track, too! So I made a list.

Finished:
1. Fierce Little Bear
2. VA hospital quilt
3. VA hospital quilt
4. Charlotte’s Kitty — the only one I’ve shown you completed
5. This Old House
6. Georgia’s graduation quilt
7. Workshop landscape quilt

All but finished:
8. Fiesta! — I’ll get the binding done today

And then there are a number of works in progress, with varying levels of completion:
1. Resist
2. The Green Man
3. Rooster
4. Claddagh Ring
5. Tatters
6. Snowflake concepts

All of my works in progress are part of my “course work” to learn some methods to tell stories with my quilts. Though stories can be told in many ways, all of these projects focus on using words and pictures for that.

There’s been other stuff, too. For instance, early in the year I submitted a couple of designs to magazines to publish as patterns. (They weren’t accepted.) I might do that again; I might not. So I’ve had enough to do. Ultimately, though, I’d like to share a few of the quilts I’ve finished and talk a bit more about process for them. And I want to comment on some of the applique options I’m trying in my art/story quilt work. Now that I’ve broken ice again here (or is it more like clearing the throat?) I can work through some of that.

This is enough for now. I hope you all have a terrific, productive week. Again, please feel free to link some of your cool stuff for me in comments. I’d love to see what you’re working on, too!

Day 32 — Landscape Quilt Workshop with Cathy Geier

Since I posted last, I finished assembling and quilting the graduation gift quilt. That took a lot of pressure off, though it still needs binding, one of today’s tasks.

Besides that, I had a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend with a surprise visit from my son, who lives on the west coast, and the daughter and her children who live near us. While traveling across country on Friday, Son made an unexpected stop near St. Louis. Since he was only a few hours away, he rented a car and drove up. ❤

Monday’s guild meeting checked one more item off my list, leaving more feeling of time and space for the next several days.

And yesterday, I took a workshop, getting back into the stream of trying new ways to tell stories with quilts. Our guild presenter and workshop leader was Cathy Geier, a landscape artist from Wisconsin. This link is for her gallery and this one is to her blog. The work on her gallery page shows a variety of styles and a range of complexity. In her blog she describes process in detail, as in this recent post on a complicated new project.

Her project for the workshop was much simpler, appropriate for beginners in this kind of quilting. We were to create the majority of a woodlands landscape in a whole three hours. She explained how to use her techniques and materials to arrange elements of tree trunks, background shrubbery, and leaves.

Cathy provided a fat quarter of background fabric, and six other fabrics for the remainder of the scene. She showed how to use plain ol’ acrylic white craft paint, the kind that comes in a small plastic bottle, to add “light” to one side of the pale tree trunks, and a silver metallic Sharpie to add shade and contour on the other side. The dark trees used that silver Sharpie to make pale streaks, and brown and black markers to make dark ones, to give bark texture. Shrubs and flowers are cut with “messy cutting,” a way to create unstructured, organic-looking shapes. She reminded us that the back of the fabric sometimes is the better side to use. After basic lessons on foreground/background placement for perspective, those pieces are glued to the background with glue sticks. She brought a big box of various markers she uses to add or subtract color, and a big bag of crayons for same. Leaves are added last, using a leaf print and fusible web.

I don’t have leaves fused in place yet, but you can see a few of them for the effect.

From her samples, it was easy to see that the finishing (borders, quilting,) make a big difference in the final look. In truth, this isn’t a three-hour project. But it is doable by beginners, and it was a fun lesson in this type of appliqué and design.

Expectations and Other Stuff

Here’s the thing: I almost always expect I can do more than I can actually do. And then when I can’t get it all done, at least not in the time I think I should, I get very frustrated. And whiny, and tired and irritable. It’s not fun for me and it’s likely not much fun for Jim, and it doesn’t make anything better or get it done more quickly or easily. After I had a long grumble and whine yesterday, I decided (and already knew this) that the best solution to my problem is simply to change my expectations.

One way to help that is to take a hiatus on the 100 Day Project. While I still think about my project pretty much every day, and I spend time investigating ideas, looking at books and videos, and mulling options. But my EXPECTATION that I actively, physically work on it daily, and post about it regularly, has become a burden for now. Time to drop that expectation.

You can see where I was on day 31, some time last week. The rooster is in parts that are not fused down. Likely the background will change a bit, and his tail might change slightly, too. I have ideas for how to border and finish it. He won’t go anywhere, so for now he just needs to wait.

Expectations:
* get graduation quilt top finished, quilted, and bound before 5/24
* get Fiesta! quilted and bound for friend’s secret present before mid-June
* finish rooster, time indeterminate
* resume 100 Day Project, picking up with day 32, time indeterminate
* publish blog posts about the other four quilts I’ve already finished this year but haven’t shown you, time indeterminate
* resume work on book project, time indeterminate

While this doesn’t change what is on my list, it does moderate my expectations for when it will get done. Hopefully that will increase my enjoyment and lower my stress, letting me enjoy the chattering wren and mewing catbird outside my kitchen, as well as the other pleasures around me all the time.

 

Just Wanna Quilt

Have you heard about Just Wanna Quilt? It is a research project on quilting, with the ultimate focus on copyright and intellectual property issues of the quilting industryElizabeth Townsend Gard, the lead researcher, law professor, and a quilter herself, is going full-immersion into quilting to understand the subject better.

The long-term goal for the project, as summarized by Abby Glassenberg of While She Naps,

is to create two bodies of work about intellectual property as it relates to quilting … The first will be intended for the hobby quilter. It will include “everything you need to know about copyright and intellectual property when it comes to quilting. Just simple. So that we can get everyone on the same page on things they don’t understand.” The other will be a more in-depth work for people in the quilting industry. “Every single person in this field is using materials and you should feel confident in what you do with them so that you don’t get in trouble, or if you get in trouble you do it deliberately,” she says.

In a lot of academic research, the initial stage is a review of the existing literature. In quilting, there is very little formal (academic) research existing, outside of quilting history. Elizabeth’s project includes surveying the whole landscape to create a basis for the research product. To do so, she’s initiated a series of podcasts, interviewing dozens of participants in the quilting industry, from corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, fabric and pattern designers, and hobby quilters.

You can find those interviews here. I’ve barely scratched the surface listening to them — there are dozens, and more being added all the time. Most of them run between about 30 and 60 minutes. They’re the perfect thing to listen to while you’re working on a project. Elizabeth’s interview style is very conversational. She comes across as charming and funny, and the focus is always on the interview subject and their part of the quilting world. It’s so interesting and I’ve already learned so much.

And here is a fun thing — she’s just posted a podcast interviewing ME! Click on this link to find the recording. It’s 52 minutes, on the long side. We talk about how and why I started quilting, what medallion quilts are, how I see green quilting and our responsibility as quilters to make the Earth a better place, and more.

In truth I’m not sure how this helps the research, but I had so much fun sharing my quilting world. 🙂 Thanks in advance if you choose to listen. Either way, check out the long list of podcasts available. If you love quilting, you’re sure to find this fascinating, as I do.