Category Archives: Blog

New Work, Subject to Change

The point of blogging and the point of quilting, for me, is enjoyment. And self-expression. And moving things around until I get them “right.” I just finished reading a blog post by Austin Kleon, author/artist/poet who wrote Keep Going, among other books.

In his blog post, Kleon calls blogging a “forgiving medium,” because even after a piece is published, the author can edit easily. Usually no one is the wiser, and if they are, usually they are kind about it.

Quilting is like that, to a point. I’ve changed quilt tops in small ways and large, at all stages of construction. Of course, once quilted, it’s harder to make changes. Even then, though, there are opportunities to embellish, add stitching, or judiciously change colors with markers or paints. My friend Joanna Mack The Snarky Quilter changes finished quilts regularly, to positive effect.

I have a new project, and as with almost every project, it already isn’t what I expected. I started with this:

It’s a basic star-in-a-star featuring a large flower from a showy print. The outer corners, if you aren’t sure, are very dark navy, not black. They do rather disappear into the background. In fact, they disappear so much, they are the first thing I changed, substituting white corner triangles.

After modifying the block, I considered how to frame it. Now imagine me, chin on hand, eyes directed upward, much like a cat that isn’t really looking at anything. (We call that cat “Stuart,” even though he hasn’t lived with us for thirty years.) Pondering, pondering… And it came to me, I should frame it with the same showy print that inspired the center.

The showy print is one I bought, if I remember correctly, in Taos in 2014. And again I don’t know for sure, but it might be an Alexander Henry piece. Long ago and far away… But it’s BIG! and SHOWY! and DIRECTIONAL! And it has one more challenge: I’ve fussy cut chunks out of it a few times.

When I decided to use it, I also decided to set the center block on point. I had enough of the big print for setting triangles, if I cut very carefully.

Yeah, you can guess what happened. I cut two big squares and cut them each on the diagonal to make setting triangles. But because the print is directional, I needed to cut one square from northwest to southeast, and the other from southwest to northeast. And I didn’t. ugh. Luckily I could cut another square almost big enough and piece over a missing section.

It worked. I framed the center block with a very fine yellow line, and then set it in the showy print. Because of the visual weight, I needed to balance that with a weighty border. After rifling through stash, I had a nice array of pinks, oranges, blues, and greens.

Along with white, they became hourglass blocks to surround the magenta spacer strip.

I’m not sure what’s next. That’s okay. I can take my time, ponder the possibilities a la Stuart. I can make and unmake, do surgery to remove or transplant parts. There is nothing precious, even a piece of fabric purchased long ago and far away.

Still a Beginner

Yesterday I spent quite a bit of time writing a blog post that was bad — stupid, indulgent, unpublishable. No, not really all that, but sort of a waste of time, and not good enough to simply revise.

I was indulging myself a bit with how long I’ve been blogging, how many posts I’ve published, how many comments.. yada yada. Who cares, really? It was boring even to me. 🙂 But so you don’t think too poorly of me, I was trying to answer a question posed in one of my Facebook groups recently. One of the members asked bloggers, “How do you find the time or inspiration on what to post about?

The short answer to that question is, sometimes I don’t find the time. And sometimes I do. All kinds of things inspire my writing. I write about what I’m interested in. Sometimes that’s projects I’m working on, sometimes it’s design ideas or tutorials, sometimes it’s current events, sometimes it’s things that light my imagination, like a museum trip. Now and then I just whine about something quilting-related. 🙂 I always always have things to write about. The real issue for me is, if I’m spending my time writing, what am I not doing while keeping the blog up to date? It’s hard to allocate my time well.

I am not worried about growing my audience, because I write primarily for myself. No one is paying me to do this. But there are people out there, (hello, people!) and I enjoy sharing with others. I enjoy teaching and try to craft my posts carefully so they are useful in some way to readers. If I truly were just using it as a personal diary, it wouldn’t be the way it is.

***

Even though I have a few blog posts under my belt, and have made a few quilts, I’m still a beginner at both. There’s still plenty I don’t know how to do, or haven’t done enough to actually get good at it.

For example, I’ve been working on appliqué projects this year, from simple flowers on the ¡Fiesta! quilt, to all the Hands and Hearts, to the more elaborate Rooster,  to the crazy mask. Each one has taught me more about how to envision shapes in space, how to choose colors and fabrics, and how to attach them appropriately for the purpose.

I’m very much a beginner in this area, both from a technical standpoint and a design aspect. It’s a whole new way of using my brain. I want to be really good! but I’m just not yet. And I need to remember:

When learning something new, be patient.
Allow for your work to look like a beginner’s.
Just keep at it and things will improve.

Here’s my new start on an old project.

I actually started this two-and-a-half years ago, which for me is a really long time. I began it with a sketch, created by drawing and cutting shapes, and then tracing around the shapes to establish approximate position.

20160126_124416_resized

And this is what I said about it at the time: “I’m planning to do old-fashioned needle-turn appliqué, without all the glueing and pressing and fusing and fussing that some of the other techniques use. This will be relatively primitive, both due to my skills and my intention. The colors I’m choosing are joyful, not stuffy. I’ll show you progress as I make it.”

HAHAHA! Yeah, the intention was to use needle-turn appliqué, but then I realized I don’t really enjoy it, and the project would never get done. Not only did I change applique methods, I also changed fabrics for everything but the stems and the paler leaves, which were already stitched down. The first ones I chose were too muted, not strong enough to stand up to their background. The more saturated colors work better than the ones discarded.

The next modification to it will be the addition of a bird in the lower right corner.

***

And speaking of beginning, a different member of that same Facebook group asked today about a “scant” quarter-inch seam allowance. A variety of responses were given, from “it doesn’t matter as long as your seam allowance is consistent” to “it DOES matter if you want things to fit.” The best answer included a link to this video, which explains exactly why a good seam allowance matters.

Some other good tips for beginning quilters are here, including in the comments.

As always, thanks for reading!

Follow-Up: I Love Blogs That

I’m still digging through all the great recommendations in comments from my last post! It’s fun to see what you’re interested in, and how these blogs are quite like some of my favorites. After all, they

* tell stories
* tell about process, if the blog is about making
* use words thoughtfully
* inspire the reader
* show the writer cares about the reader.

Also, several of you commented about preferring blogs that don’t emphasize sales, and those that are (at least mostly!) grammatically correct. I AGREE with both of these points!! It is hard to read posts that haven’t been edited. And while I cheer for those who can make a living with their quilting and writing, their blog pages are often messy with advertising and affiliate links, or their posts are too centered on advertising and products.

I’m on the road AGAIN, so will leave it here for now. Thanks again for all the great ideas. Feel free to leave more, here or on the prior post.

I Love Blogs That

* tell stories
* tell about process, if the blog is about making
* use words thoughtfully
* inspire the reader
* show the writer cares about the reader.

These are blogs I follow, and this is the kind of blog I want to create.

I’ve been blogging at WordPress for more than four years. And I’ve enjoyed reading here for just as long. However, many of the bloggers I used to follow have dropped out of the process. They no longer write, or at least, not using the same url. I’d love to find a few more blogs, thoughtfully written, to follow.

Do you have favorite blogs to recommend? What do you look for in blogs you follow? They can be WordPress blogs or anyone’s!  They can be quilting blogs or any kind! Please tell us in comments. ALSO please stop back through, comment on other comments, add more as you think of them! Let’s have a conversation about great blogs we enjoy. I’ll look forward to your thoughts.

Twenty and Done

Today is day 20 of my 30-day blogging challenge. If you weren’t in on the beginning of it, I challenged myself to publishing a blog post every day for 30 days. My intention was to recommit to writing, and to interacting here, because my sense of engagement had slipped and my interest was low.

It was a great experiment for me, and I’ve enjoyed it. But I’m done.

Oh, I can find plenty of things to write about. I’ve appreciated your thoughtful comments. And even though I try not to worry about stats, it’s been fun to see the increase in views here over the last weeks.

Mark Lipinski wrote about making for obligation in Quilting Arts Magazine, June/July 2015 issue. While choosing quilts for a trunk show, he realized that the stacks of quilts had been made for “fast magazine turnarounds and book deadlines, hasty class samples, or as fabric company showpieces for trade shows.” He felt they were well designed but devoid of his personality. They didn’t represent what he wanted his quilting legacy to be. In response, he initiated what he calls “The Slow Stitching Movement,” to share a newfound commitment to create wonderful, meaningful quilts.

Quilting for obligations and deadlines was not satisfying enough for him. He needed to change his approach to creating.

I can find plenty of topics to write about, just as I can find plenty of quilts to make. In truth, though, quilting and writing for obligations and deadlines is not satisfying enough for me. Writing every day for a challenge such as this creates an artificial goal. The goal, and of course I defined it for myself, is to write and publish. The goal is not to write and publish something meaningful to both me and those who might read it. In school we called that “busy work.”

Writing for the 30-day challenge has been useful. It does remind me of the pleasures of writing. But that achieved, it’s time to withdraw from the challenge, and to commit instead to creating something wonderful and meaningful. Next time I post, it will be because I have something I’m excited to share. That’s not to say all the things I post will be legacy pieces, but it won’t be busy work.

Thanks as always for reading. Happy Thanksgiving. 🙂