Tag Archives: Fun

The Key to Happiness

Some people say that the key to happiness is having lower expectations. Yesterday I had incredibly low expectations for myself and managed to beat them, which made me happy. So I guess it’s true!

Beyond going to the gym and doing a small amount of housework (emphasis on “small,”) I also learned a new skill that will help with an upcoming project.

My project will use an airplane in the center block. For a long time I figured to appliqué something, but recently I decided I’d rather piece it for better durability and so there isn’t the stiffness or chemicals of fusible web in the quilt. Hmm, piecing an airplane? That sounds like a job for paper piecing!

I have done paper piecing, and I’ve drawn my own papers for it, but they were quite simple. An airplane is more complex that a border of triangles. A search for available patterns didn’t coming up with the specific airplane I want, and I figured I’d need to draw my own. My next search was for tips on designing your own foundation patterns. Low and behold, I found the video at this link. It shows the steps to use in EQ7 for creating a paper-piecing pattern. (It couldn’t be embedded, so if you want to see it, you need to click the link.)

I have EQ8 software, but was able to “translate” the instructions to the current version. It helps to both slow down the speed of play and stop it regularly, to catch up to directions. I learned how to import an image into the block design worktable, and then use the drawing tool to simplify the image as a pieced block. The video then showed how to prepare the pattern for printing. It was so much easier than I could have imagined!

Here is my block, colored as if it were in fabric.

And here it is with the seam lines drawn in.

The software then separates and numbers the patches for the pattern. It is SO COOL.

Can I manage to keep my expectations or ambitions in check? Maybe not. Here is a list of things I have queued up:
* Finish quilting the rooster collage applique; bind and label it.
* Make the back for my Wind River Beauty project; load it, quilt it, bind and label it.
* Make and attach a label for a neighbor’s baby quilt, now that the baby has been born and has a name.
* Try creating the airplane block as above. If it works, move the rest of the project along.

I always think I can achieve more in any time frame than I really can. That might be optimism, and I haven’t unlearned it after all these years. It can make me feel a little disappointed and stressed when things don’t go as planned. But deliberately setting low expectations for a few days gives me permission to take my time, recapture pleasure, and look forward to the next steps. That’s the key…

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Just Wanna Have Fun…

Count on me to overanalyze, right? What is “fun,” and how can we have more of it? As a noun, the Google dictionary says that “fun” is “enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure.” Ah, the lighthearted pleasure. That’s what I want! I want to quilt for fun.

Other sources give lists of ways to increase that pleasure. (Google “how to have more fun in art” for links.) They include things like creating the right environment (light, music, beautiful things surrounding you, the right amount of neatness for your comfort); sharing the process with others, or keeping it private so critics won’t disturb you; trying new things; finding inspiration in travel, museums, nature; quieting your inner critic; and on they go. We’ve talked about all these things before.

For me, the keys are fairly simple: make to please myself, even if the project is for someone else; and don’t over-plan, but allow for spontaneity and serendipity.

Making for obligations can kill fun, don’t you think? If you’re making because someone else has expectations, you’re working to please them. That can be deeply satisfying, but maybe not fun. And those expectations can kill spontaneity, or the sense of play, too.

Just this morning I happened to read Amanda Jean Nyberg’s latest blog post. She’s famous for the blog Crazy Mom Quilts and the book Sunday Morning Quilts. Her designs are cheery, scrappy, and mostly simple. I don’t follow her blog and it was a fluke that I dropped in. The thing is, it isn’t just her latest post, it is her LAST blog post. She is retiring. Why? Because she’s spent the last 12 years quilting and writing and designing and teaching to make other people happy, to meet obligations. When she announced the decision in December, she said, “I am certainly looking forward to quilting and sewing, but doing it for FUN rather than with obligation.”

See? for FUN rather than with obligation.

Over the years, I’ve come a long way in quilting for fun. In the first part of my quilting life (2003-2013,) I gave away almost everything I made. Though I enjoyed the process, I was creating to please other people. In the middle of 2013 I made the first quilt for myself, and it was a breakthrough for me. You can see in the caption that I even named it “My Medallion Quilt.”

My Medallion Quilt. 2013. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

After that, fewer of my quilts were made for specific people, reducing my sense of obligation there. However, I created a whole new obligation on the blog! I used it specifically as a teaching tool, both for myself and my readers. I’m proud of the work I did, and you can find a lot of the fruits of it under the Medallion Lessons link. Between that and my writing for a book on medallion quilts, a lot of time was spent on serious effort, not lighthearted pleasure.

Well, that book is never going to be published. Its window of opportunity has come and gone. And I’m done creating for the purpose of writing tutorials. If you have questions or need help, please do ask. I’m still happy to answer questions as I can.

I’m also done worrying about what picture to use, or the quality of photos, or the hashtags silliness in Instagram. If people find my stuff, that’s great. If not, I’ll still be making stuff, and at least for now, still sharing it here.

This afternoon a package came. It holds a set of longarm quilting rulers. One of them is perfect to help me finish the quilt I currently have on the frame. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go have some fun!

 

 

If You’re Not Having Fun…

Groucho Marx said, “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.”

For several years I’ve chosen a “word of the year,” intending to use the word to focus my attention, or at least frame my experiences. In 2018 I chose the word “FUN!” My hope was to add more whimsy, more play into my making.

Did I succeed? Sure, probably. Somewhat, at least! I made a bunch of quilts, some that inspired and delighted me, and others that felt less engaging. I’ve already showed you pix of three for which I enjoyed both process and outcome, and I’ll add in the table runner I finished early this month. Click any photo to open the gallery and see more detail.

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Making A Mask

I wrote recently about masks and other faces in the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. Depictions of faces are one of the most common types of visual art, because we humans find faces fascinating. They are so interesting that we often perceive faces in almost any combination of shapes, in any media. And I do mean any media, including Swiss cheese, bowling balls, and on bug bodies! This article in Mental Floss magazine says the phenomenon of seeing faces everywhere is called “pareidolia,” and it is a function of a healthy brain.

Human brains are exquisitely attuned to perceiving faces—in fact, there’s an entire region of the brain called the fusiform gyrus that is dedicated to it. Its functions are evident even from early childhood: Studies have shown that shortly after birth, babies display more interest in cartoon faces with properly placed features than in similar images where the features are scrambled.

The “face neurons” in people with healthy brains are so overactive that they scream FACE! in many situations where there are no actual faces to be found. Those sophisticated face-detection skills, combined with our brain’s compulsion to extract meaning from the sensory chaos that surrounds us, is why we see faces where there aren’t any. Typically these sightings are nothing more than our mind’s interpretation of visual data …

Well, fortunately I have a healthy brain and see faces in all kinds of things. One sighting was in a paper cutting I did late last year. While playing with the classic, six-sided snowflake method of cutting, I quickly drew and cut this:

Well, no, that’s not a face. (I’ll bet I could find one if I look.) But I did several more cuttings, and this simpler cut-out shouted FACE! to me.

For months this piece of paper has been floating around my studio, sometimes “put away” and sometimes in a stack of other paper cuttings on my counter. For months I’ve wanted to create a mask from it, but until recently I wasn’t really sure how to do that.

If you have spent time around children, you might know that both toddlers and teens can be cross a lot of the time. My theory is that it has a lot to do with them being ready in some ways for the things they want to do, but not fully capable in other ways. They get frustrated in their desires, which makes them cross. Though I haven’t been particularly cross about it, my desire to make a mask from the paper cutting didn’t match up with my skills. Now it does. 

I chose fabrics first and ended up with a completely different color set than I’d expected. That’s okay, right? With a background of brilliant gold-yellow, I chose a deep burgundy to provide the framing. I adhered Wonder-Under fusible web to the burgundy (and no, I don’t use affiliate links or payments, so this isn’t an ad.) Next I traced the shape on the web paper in pencil, and carefully cut it out with small, sharp, scissors. Click either picture to see detail better. 

As I chose the features for the mask — eyes, nose, teeth — I added them one at a time, using parchment paper as my pressing sheet. I pulled the paper away from the fusible on the burgundy mask framing, just for the part I was about to adhere. While fusing shapes together, I left as much of the fusible paper on the framing as I could, to maintain the stability of the shape and avoid damaging the fabric. With the paper removed from the feature (eyeball, for instance,) I placed it behind the framing and ON TOP of the pressing sheet, and pressed the edges together. After the fused pieces were cool, I could peel them away from the pressing sheet as one unit.

I continued to build the face, adding more features as I went, and then adhered the whole thing to the gold background fabric.

Now the features are adhered under the frame and the whole thing is pressed to the gold background. The background isn’t attached to the batik print around the edge.

In the last photo you see it lying on top of a piece of batik. I might frame it with that, or I might choose a different border arrangement. Those are decisions I haven’t made yet.

If you’d like to try six-pointed paper cut-outs, whether to make snowflakes or to make a mask, this is a reasonably good video of the process.

You should note, though, that my “snowflake” has six SIDES, while the video shows how to make a six-POINTED snowflake, with twelve sides. Here is my mask paper-cutting refolded into sixths, not twelfths as their snowflake is. 

The difference in construction is that they’ve folded the paper an extra time. While it allows a more intricate pattern, it’s also substantially harder to cut cleanly. Try playing with some plain copy paper to see what pleases you more.

¡Fiesta!

This has been an oddly low-stress year, from the standpoint of deadlines. Other than Georgia’s graduation quilt, all my finishes have been on my own timeline. Even so, I’ve been pretty productive and have been learning and practicing new skills.

I have a lot of experiments and works in process, too, but here’s where we are so far with finishes for the year:
1. Fierce Little Bear
2. VA hospital quilt
3. VA hospital quilt
4. Charlotte’s Kitty
5. The Old School House
6. Georgia’s graduation quilt
7. Where Are the Birds? (landscape tree quilt)
8. ¡Fiesta!
9. Hands and Hearts
10. Shirt (YES! I made a shirt! See below for a tiny bit more info.)

Today I’m going to show you ¡Fiesta! It’s a quilt given to a friend who retired recently. And yes, that is Spanish punctuation with the inverted exclamation mark at the beginning of the word.

¡Fiesta! 62″ x 62″. Finished June 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush

I started this quilt after visiting my sister Cathie at the end of March. Cathie was preparing for a gallery exhibit of her quilts, and in an extraordinary burst of energy and creativity, she made several smaller pieces in a few weeks. One captured my interest from its very simplicity. She had a pieced center, set on point and surrounded by a piano key border. That structure was set on point again.

Inspired, I chose an orphan block made in a workshop last year.  I liked the block, but not enough to make several more for a block quilt. I didn’t put it on point as Cathie arranged her center block, because I didn’t like the strong “cross” or “plus” impression it makes that way. I framed it with a line of red, and then strong corners to give an on-point look. Next came the same piano key border idea. The piano key patches are from my scrap drawer.

Since I was designing as I went, the next task was to choose something from my stash to create corners. To offset the relatively dark values in the piano keys, I chose a light/medium gold print. It includes red and white in the floral design, tying back to the colors already used. To return the center to an “X” arrangement instead of “+” I turned it a second time with the green.

But wowee, that’s a lotta green! And I didn’t want it to look like a baseball field. I’ve been experimenting with appliqué this year to ramp up my skills. This was the perfect occasion to add appliqué.

I tried different stitch styles and zigzag widths, as well as various types of thread, and methods for fusing. Though far from expertly done, it adds a little whimsy and breaks up those large fields of green.

The narrow outer border contributes more fun and repeats the striping provided by the piano keys. And as always, the binding, in red with musical instruments on it, gives the final border touch.

I quilted it with a light celery green. Actually, that was where the only tough going came on this project. I actually started quilting it with red. I got through one pass and knew I hated it. It was too strong, showed up too much. UGH. After removing the quilt from the frame, I “skinned” it, took a blade (Exacto style) and pulled the backing fabric away from the batting, and cut the threads. Though it was still a slow process, it was so much faster and easier than using a seam ripper to slice one thread at a time. After that was done and we got back from our Maryland jaunt, I put the parts back on the frame and started again. It was well worth the effort.

The quilt was a gift for Lisa, a friend Jim and I met when traveling to Cuba in 2015. ¡Fiesta! is a great name for it for three reasons. First, the feel is fun and festive, nothing very serious about it. Second, the strong, clear colors remind me of Fiestaware dishes. And third, being with Lisa is always like being at a party. She is just fun to be with. When Jim and I gave her the quilt, she told us she didn’t have any other quilts except a vintage, family one, so this is extra special for her. 🙂

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Number 10 on the list above is a shirt. I’ll show you more after I have a photo. For now I’ll tell you, making clothing is not my thing. However, I had a purchased shirt I loved, and last year I used it as the model to make a similar top. That inspiration shirt is made of rayon, and recently it went through the wash and dryer. You may know, rayon feels luxurious, but it can shrink if machine dried. 😦 It’s all okay — I’ve worn it so much it was looking a bit shabby anyway. So I used the home-made shirt as a model for a new one. The new one has a V-neck (with facing!) and French seams. Go ahead, ask me how many times I’ve used French seams before. Yeah. NEVER. And it was splendid. I LOVE this new shirt, and it fits perfectly. And it is prewashed quilting cotton, not rayon, so should hold up to the occasional tumble through the dryer.