Tag Archives: Beginner’s mind

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. ūüôā 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. ūüôā 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 appliqu√© 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.


And this is what I said about it at the time: “I’m planning to do old-fashioned needle-turn appliqu√©, 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 appliqu√©, 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!

It’s Time to PLAY!

People who know me know I tend to be very serious. Though I laugh easily and often, I seem to hold all the characteristics of a “Serious Person” except the first one below:

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 7.50.42 AM

(Of course, I may be flattering myself with this description, too.)

My personality also runs through my approach to quilting. I am pretty intentional in my art, and when a piece is done, I analyze what worked and what didn’t. Intention and analysis have helped me become a better quilter.

For more than two years, that intention and process have led me to study design principles, considering especially how they¬†apply to medallion quilts. I’ve also developed strong understanding of construction techniques, since medallions do have some quirks that can create challenges.

And for the last two years, I’ve been guided by my “word of the year,” EXPERIMENT! For me, that has meant that in quilting and other parts of my life, I would try things without expectations about¬†the outcome. My intention to experiment has been a success, leading me to do things I might not have tried otherwise.¬†Some of my adventures? Submitting items¬†for publication, trying¬†new uses of space and color and pattern in my quilts, hiking¬†at 11,000 feet, snowshoeing, traveling to Cuba and blogging on it.

But you can see, can’t you, how deliberate this has been also? I wouldn’t give up any of these experiences. But now it’s time to try a different approach. It’s time to PLAY.

“Play” might sound the same as “experiment.” Both are means of learning that require openness and flexibility. But experimenting is methodical, and typically takes a process from beginning to end, including appropriate analysis. Playing is not necessarily methodical and it doesn’t require completion to end. How many messes have you seen in living rooms and playrooms and classrooms, as children abandon their play to do something else? Playing is no less important than experimenting, but it is approached less seriously.

In 2016, I will try to guide my quilting and other parts of my life with PLAY. I will try to take a light-hearted and compassionate approach, for my quilts, my relationships, and myself. I want to be unafraid of abandoning things that don’t interest me. I want to learn to tell stories in a playful way. I want to read with more pleasure and less feeling of obligation. I’ll try to see and hear with a¬†beginner’s mind, open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.

Yes, it’s time to PLAY. Would you like to play with me?



Power Builders 04.17.15

This is Week #11 of my Power Builders creative links. If you’d like to see last week’s, you can find it here.

I call this series “Power Builders” because that’s what these little items do for me. They make me more powerful in my art and in my life. I hope they do the same for you. Some of the links will be¬†about how other creative people use their time, structure their work, find inspiration. Some may be¬†videos, music, or podcasts to inspire you.¬†Some of it will be directly quilt-related but much of it will not. What you see in Power Builders¬†will depend on what I find. Feel free to link great things in comments, too.

When you are stuck in your art, do you ask “can I do this hard thing?” Or do you ask, “HOW can I do this hard thing? Here are a couple of items on the HOW¬†of art.

1) I can’t help but put this first. John Bramblitt is a painter. As a younger man he lost his sight to epilepsy. As he puts it, his eyes work fine, but his vision processing center does not. After adjusting to his new world, he asked “how?”¬†That simple question led to amazing art. Please watch this video, and check his site linked with his name. There are more videos under the site link for them.

2) Here’s a wonderful story through Huffington Post on an exhibition in San Francisco. The artists collaborated in pairs at Creativity Explored, a “nonprofit art center and gallery where artists with developmental disabilities create, exhibit and sell art.” The art, processes, and friendships developed are worth your attention.

3) A term used in the item linked above is “outsider art.” This refers to art created by those who are self-taught and working outside of the “artistic establishment.” Another who fits this description is quilter Diane Rose. She has made more than 900 quilts, all while totally blind. Enjoy this interview with her.

4) Think you’re having trouble with “how?” I stumbled on this post on breaking creative¬†blocks with a beginner’s mind. With some description of how we learn and problem-solve, the essay continues with some suggestions for rethinking the problem, including “approaching tasks with an attitude of openness, eagerness, and a lack of preconceptions, even if you‚Äôre already an ‚Äėexpert‚Äô at it. It‚Äôs the ultimate way to give yourself a fresh perspective.” I especially like the tip on practicing at being a beginner: “Action: Think like a beginner and act¬†deliberately: try, fail/succeed, and then try again. Ultimately you‚Äôll discover things you might have missed originally.”¬†For me, using this approach purposefully has allowed me a greater range of solutions for any given problem.

What has inspired you this week? Let us know in comments.