Tag Archives: Try something new

My #The100DayProject

Over the weekend I visited with my sister. She is a quilter, too, and she’s also recently retired. With her newly available time, she’s gone on a creativity tear. She quilts, she paints, she does collage, among other things. I admire how she can juggle all the various parts of her creative life.

But I’m not like that. I can’t seem to manage more than about two things at a time. Other than basic maintenance stuff, I can write, and I can quilt, and when I quilt, I usually work on only one project at a time. That works pretty well for me, but it also frustrates me. It holds me back from spending a lot of time in exploration, because that is one more thing than I can manage.

Recently I wrote this:

I would like to be both more productive and more creative. For me, those two concepts can be in conflict. To be more productive (have more quilts finished,) I could reduce the time I spend on planning and design, and choose options that are easy/quick to execute. Doing that I could finish multiple quilts a week. Some people get great joy from that, but I would not. Or, I could be more “creative,” chewing over lots of possibilities, brainstorming endlessly, drawing and redrawing designs, looking up strategies and techniques, taking classes, endlessly gazing at fabric choices online, searching for inspiration. That would take up a lot of head space and boy howdy, I’d have a lot of creative ideas going. But they wouldn’t get made. Well, that’s no good, either.

It’s the “creative” thing I don’t make time for. In particular, I’ve long wanted to improve at telling stories through my quilts, but I haven’t taken the time to learn strategies for doing so. (I’ll explain more about telling stories in another post.)

In the same post I mentioned The100DayProject. If I consider exploring storytelling as A PROJECT, as one of my two things to do, I can do that for 100 days.

My plan isn’t fully developed, but my intention is to use my Green Man project as a vehicle for learning to tell those stories.

There were so many great suggestions from you for executing the Green Man motif. They included wool appliqué, batik appliqué, raw-edge (non-wool) appliqué, appliqué with and without fusible bond, embroidery, painting, printing using Spoonflower or similar vendor, thread painting, inclusion of atypical fabrics, fabric pens, paper piecing, collage… I’ve also thought of trying crayons, paintsticks, block printing, and embellishing, among other things.

Each day for 100 days (with possible exceptions, which is allowed,) I’ll spend at least 20 minutes trying a new means of creating a Green Man, or perhaps another concept or two I have in mind. In 20 minutes I won’t complete anything in a day, so each trial may take several days. I give myself permission to abandon a process at any time. Some processes may require I buy supplies, but I’ll use what I can from my current inventory. I’ll photograph each day’s work and post on Instagram, so we can all see the progression. I’ll summarize here regularly, and discuss process and how I feel about it.

Tomorrow is Day 1. My plan for tomorrow is to begin with paper and fabric to create a simple collage. Let’s get started!



The Curse of Echo

Long ago in the time of gods and goddesses, there was a mountain nymph named Echo. She lived on Mount Cithaeron with other nymphs. One of their frequent visitors was Zeus, who … ahem … enjoyed the company of the beautiful sprites.

Zeus’s wife, Hera, was a jealous type, and she followed Zeus to the mountain one day. Echo stopped her, talking so much and so fast that Zeus had time to get away. In her anger, Hera cursed Echo. The curse? From then on, Echo could never speak for herself, but could only repeat the last few words spoken to her by someone else.

How awful that curse would be, without ability to speak for herself! Yet many quilters choose just this way, only repeating designs made by others.

I see it in Instagram, under the #medallionquilt hashtag. While there are beautiful medallions of a wide variety shown there, Marcelle medallion, Aviatrix, and others show up time and time again. Some designers even specify every fabric and color, so you can duplicate their work!

And of course, it doesn’t only happen with medallion quilts. It happens with many successful quilt patterns and kits. The designer’s voice may be heard, but the maker is silent, except for an echo.

I struggle with my thoughts on this. On the one hand, it’s fantastic that people want to make. I think most are perfectly happy making something with a recipe or paint-by-number method. They really do want quilt patterns and knitting patterns and counted cross-stitch and woodworking patterns. They will follow those patterns exactly, often in the same colors or materials. They will enjoy the process as long as it works. If they love doing this, and they are putting beauty and good into the world, who am I to criticize?

On the other hand, I want other people to experience themselves more completely, and to feel comfortable sharing expressions from their soul. The quilts I see that are most powerful, that touch me most, are also designed by their maker. And honestly, it doesn’t matter much if they’re technically strong or not. The maker’s voice comes through.

Self-expression is powerful, but it’s also scary. It can leave us open to failure and criticism. It can make us feel like our efforts or resources are wasted if the end product isn’t as we imagined. Why open yourself up to problems like that? It’s safer to do something with a known result.

I know a little bit about risk and reward. My career was in investment management. If you stick with the safe option, you won’t lose much, but there is not much to gain, either. The farther out you go on the risk scale, the more potential there is for loss. But when things go right, the rewards are great.

Believe it or not, I’m pretty risk averse. While I don’t use patterns, I have trouble pushing myself to do brand-new things. Instead, I keep pushing at the edges, so I’m learning new skills and not making the same thing time after time. (That would be an echo, too!) I’ve had to convince myself that any efforts can’t end in complete failure. If nothing else, I’ll have learned an important lesson. That helps me take on “risk” in quilting with a more open attitude. Trying something, not knowing if it will work out, and learning from the experience is exciting, like an adventure!

Don’t be like Echo. Use your own voice to tell your own story. What’s the worst that could happen?




A New Shirt

Despite the fact my mother could sew anything, I am not a “seamstress.” Garment-making has never been an interest of mine, and I could likely count on two hands the number of garments I’ve made.

However, a couple of years ago I bought a shirt I love wearing. It is flat in construction, with incredibly minor detailing at the cap-sleeve edges and at the neckline. The rayon feels soft and smooth and has a lovely drape. I wanted MORE, in more fabrics, more colors! Last year I bought two pieces (maybe three!) of fabric just to make more versions of the same shirt.

Finally, in this weird interlude of summer, after some things and before others, I made one. The cotton is a high-quality quilting fabric, with a slightly napped texture and sturdy feel. It doesn’t drape like the rayon. But I set the front on the bias, which helps soften it. I omitted the cuff detail on the sleeve edge. Instead of finishing the neckline with binding and a small keyhole at the back of the neck, I simply turned it under twice with top stitching. It fits well and comfortably. I love the fabric (by Stephanie Brandenburg of Frond Design Studio) and am happy with how it turned out.

Genes and A Cute Top

for my friend Laurie.

Laurie. She and I met in fourth grade. Her long hair, a soft brown, usually was in braids. Back then we wore dresses to school most days, and I remember her in layers of ruffles. I don’t know if that was her taste or her mother’s, but she still chooses a feminine appearance. Her long, soft brown hair spills over her shoulders. She doesn’t wear fluffy dresses anymore, though. A few years ago I fussed to her about not knowing what to wear for some occasion. Laurie reminded me that for most occasions, women can wear jeans and a cute top.

Since our grade school days, she has become a gifted scientist and professor, as well as devoted wife and mother. Both smart and wise, her academic focus is in biology, and specifically on the immune response of infants.

When I decided to make a quilt for Laurie, I’d recently seen a blog with some science-themed quilts. (I’m sorry I don’t remember what it was.) But it inspired me to consider what I could do for her. My first thought was of DNA.

I almost always design my own quilts, but I’m quite open to inspiration from others. So I googled images of DNA quilts. There is a surprisingly good variety out there. The one that caught my eye was a modern take of plus signs. It was designed by Richard of Richard and Tanya Quilts. I liked it so much, I wanted to use the design just as it was.

While I’ve long bought magazines and books containing patterns, I never bought a separate pattern before this one. (You can see on the blog that, at least for a time, Richard was offering it free. I got it very cheap, well worth the money I spent.)

My sister and I brain-stormed how to use the pattern, and she suggested a rainbow array of colors. I created a grid in EQ7 and painstakingly plopped in color after color until I was happy with the spectrum. I don’t know what scale Richard used. Mine uses a 2.5″ grid, so the quilt is 45″ x 60″.

I knew the fabrics in my stash wouldn’t match up exactly. But I counted the numbers of each “plus” color, and I pulled fabrics from stash to go with those.

The only hitch was the background color. Blue, dark blue, navy blue… I bought a beautiful shot cotton, but it didn’t seem quite right. And then I was shopping at Connecting Threads and found Quilter’s Candy Mirage Denim Blue. It created just the right backdrop to make the rainbow colors sparkle.

The denim blue, blue-jeans blue… Jeans and a cute top. DNA, spiraling, spinning like a top. Genes and a cute top. The quilt was named.

For the colors, I cut finished sizes of 2.5″ squares and 2.5″ x 7.5″ bars. For the background I cut strips to length, minimizing the seaming. Construction was very easy.

Like every quilt, it also needed a back. For most of the colors I’d cut strips, and then subcut my short and long segments. This gave me leftover strips lengths. From all the remainders I cut more short and long pieces until the strips were depleted. I pieced them together to cover the long direction (60″ plus the needed extra). They made a segment four strips wide, which was 10″. For the rest of the back, I used larger chunks of color. One piece of mid-blue needed to be wider and so received a strip in the middle. The strip needed to be longer, so it received two more small squares…

Top and back constructed, the last big decision was quilting. A friend had shown a quilting design she’d used several times. It consisted of a large meander across the width of fabric. Once reaching the other side, she doubled back, weaving a new line through the first one. It gives the effect of a ribbon, twisting and curling across the cloth. The same type of twist would give the impression of a double helix DNA strand.

There are four letters we use to designate DNA’s code, G, A, C, T. These are also the abbreviation for Genes and A Cute Top. Truth: I’m no scientist. I don’t understand this stuff. But Laurie does.

Winding and twisting, this explanation of how I designed Laurie’s quilt has gone on long enough. Here are pictures of the finished quilt.

Genes and A Cute Top. 45″ x 60″. Finished May 2014.

Back of quilt. Label is tipped green square in lower left.

Double-helix quilting meander.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know this quilt is far outside the style I’m used to. Even the pieced back is outside my comfort zone. It’s worth trying something new to create a special gift for a friend.