Tag Archives: Word of the year

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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I’ve seen a lot of great “words of the year” again, ranging from “Originality” to “Less” to “Joy.” Those of us who use this strategy (more than once) find it useful for focusing our attention, or for framing our experiences within a year. In 2017 I chose two words, “Challenge” and “Opportunity” to remind myself that they go hand in hand. (I’m a retired investment manager. Challenge and opportunity go together like risk and return.) While that was a useful exercise, it didn’t affect my choices or even much how I thought about them. For 2018 I will change my approach.

Yesterday I posted an overview of my 2017, primarily in quilting and related activities. Ideally the photos and memories there would spark some deep pleasure, even pride, at my accomplishments. Instead as I built the blog post, I found myself feeling gloomy and frustrated. I felt like something was missing. My quilts were missing something — spontaneity, quirkiness, whimsy. And when I made them, the feeling of enjoyment was too often missing, too. The red and white quilts were made specifically for the guild quilt show, and then the controversy about whether they were red and white enough created bad feelings around them. Dizzy was made specifically as a class sample, and though I like it, the process of making it felt rote and not spontaneous. Union turned out beautifully, but I really had to gut out the design of the last borders, and the quilting process was laborious.

Early in December I folded a piece of paper, drew a few lines, and cut.

When I opened that piece of paper and saw the image above, I literally jumped up and down. I was SO excited! It was SO MUCH FUN!

Of course, part of the fun and excitement was simply because it was a different way to create. I didn’t know what would happen, and there was no risk in finding out. And part of the fun was in the outcome, because the rabbits and squirrels chasing around the cutting are a whimsical image.

Take a look at Quilty Folk, a blog I just stumbled upon. (How did I never see this before?) Her year-end review shows two medallion quilts she worked on in 2017. They are whimsical and fun. Fun to look at, and I will guess fun to make, as well. I want that sense of enjoyment again!

I take my quilting seriously. But it would help my quilts to have a bit more fun, to introduce a playful or fanciful feel to some of them, the kind of feeling that Audrey at Quilty Folk brings to her quilts. Most of all, it would help my quilts, and help me to enjoy myself more. Given that,

my word for 2018 is FUN!

I don’t know what affect that will have on what or how I’ll make. I do believe, if I can keep it in mind, I will make better choices in both. As Groucho Marx said, “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some quilting to do!

The Perfect Set-Up

Remember the fun we have as the year turns, defining our resolutions or choosing a word of the year? For the last few years I’ve tried the “word” game. When it’s working well, I have my word in mind often, and consider how to move my life more in line with the word’s intended values.

This year, I’ll admit, I haven’t thought much about my word. Actually, it’s two three words, “challenge and opportunity.” My intention is to see barriers or obstacles — and problems! — as chances for creativity and growth, and to face opportunities bravely, even when they are hard. But while I haven’t thought much about it, I’ve been living it. My quilty world has been rife with opportunities for growth, for re-engagement with my guild, for creativity in my quilting, and for cultivating speaking and teaching gigs.

One personal challenge I set was to create a special red and white quilt for my guild’s upcoming quilt show. I’ve shown you the unquilted top already.

Creating the top presented challenges of its own, including interpreting the original quilt in a way that would honor it, learning to paper piece those triangle borders, and appliquéing various parts of the motif.

Originally I planned to have it quilted professionally. For various reasons, including encouragement from my brother, I decided to do it myself. As you can see, it is a challenge and an opportunity! 

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on a plan, including both design and implementation. For the stitching design, I’m inspired by Welsh hand-quilting motifs. My draft includes double arches and spirals, among other traditional elements.

Implementation is multi-steps. To start, I’m drafting the design with markers on plexiglass sheets, overlaid on the quilt top. I’ll transfer the design to a product called “Golden Threads” paper, a specialty tissue paper intended for quilting right through, and tearing away. If this works, it will allow me to avoid marking on the quilt top itself. I’d rather not, as I don’t want marking to stain the white fabric.

I’ll test the Golden Threads paper with a first go, which will also allow me to practice the shapes. I have a muslin whole-cloth top the same size as the red and white top. It won’t have the same effect without the piecing, but I’ll be able to tell whether the whole plan will work or not.

The muslin backing is loaded on the longarm frame, and I have batting the right size, as well as the top. Within a few days I’ll start quilting it. I’ll do the borders at each end (top and bottom,) and stabilize it through the middle with basting. Then I’ll take the whole thing off the frame and turn it 90°, reload it, quilt the other borders, and quilt the middle. IF it all works okay (learning as I go, I’m sure,) I’ll use the same process on the real deal.

Wow. This is the perfect set-up for challenge and opportunity. Wish me luck.

A Challenge and an Opportunity

“Think of it as a challenge and an opportunity.” A wise, gentle boss would suggest this, when I balked at tasks I didn’t relish. It’s taken me more than thirty years to fully appreciate these words, and I still don’t do them justice.

As a noun, “challenge” has multiple meanings. A challenge is a stimulating task or problem, an invitation to compete in a contest, or a command to prove identity, among other things. As a verb, it can mean to confront or resist, or to dispute something as being unjust or invalid, or to create a contest or difficulty.

It can be easy to identify challenges. Anything that creates a barrier is a challenge, whether it is difficult dealings with other people, a job interview or art show jury, or a fear of flying when you need to cross the country quickly.

This is where opportunity comes in. The root of “opportunity” is “port.” Some etymologists use the notion of “ob portus” or heading toward port in a storm, sailing away from danger. Other words derived from port are portal and porch, perhaps giving welcome refuge from our challenges. More current usage of “opportunity” refers to a chance, or a favorable time or condition for achieving success or attaining a goal.

If we recognize a circumstance as a challenge and an opportunity, we recognize there is both a barrier and a way through it.

To practice this concept, I’ve chosen CHALLENGE and OPPORTUNITY as my words of the year for 2017.

As I look into 2017, I foresee many challenges. Some are personal and others are societal. For societal ones, I intend to offer the challenge of resistance and questioning. These give me the opportunity for expression and the potential to affect change. I’ll need to think creatively, exercise my patience and tact muscles, and work for equality and justice.

Personal challenges can come from anywhere, anytime. Disagreements, slow check-out lines, misplaced paperwork, and much more extreme difficulties, can cause stress and irritation. Again, patience and tact go a long way toward moving through them gracefully. These are skills I continue to practice.

My quilting challenges are of a different nature. Here I’m usually on the receiving end of challenges, mostly self-imposed. I challenge myself to try new things, or to do more or better at familiar things. On reviewing my last few years with their sources of satisfactions and frustrations, I found that most are related to teaching or learning. Here are a few.

Challenge: Teaching in person is a prime source of gratification, and I want to do more. My favorite local quilt shop, which had great classroom space, closed its doors last week.
Opportunities: Another nearby quilt shop just moved into new space, and they do have a classroom now. I’ll check to see if my classes suit their needs. I’ll refresh my list of quilt guilds to contact for presentation and workshop possibilities, and follow through with contacting them. I’ll consider options for teaching about quilt history in non-quilting venues, such as historical societies.

Challenge: It is hard to obtain high-quality feedback on my projects as I develop them.
Opportunities: My medallion class, at its best, provides good feedback for me and the students. Re-establishing a schedule of classes would help me as I help others. Beyond this, I’m not sure how to get regular feedback and would welcome ideas. 

Challenge: While I want to continue making medallion quilts, it’s important to me that each is unique, not simply a rehash of things I’ve previously done.
Opportunities: This week I’m beginning a new class at the community college on linoleum block printing. In February I’ll take a second class on printing on fabrics. I’ll look for more workshops and classes through the year to refresh my work. Any other thoughts on this?

Challenge: A specific intention is to create story quilts. I have a number of ideas to present this way but am unsure of how to go forward. I’d really like someone to help pull me through the process, at least for the first one.
Opportunities: Honestly I don’t know where to go on this one. If you have ideas, please share.

Other challenges come to mind, and more will arise through the year. However, these currently are my highest priorities. Any ideas and advice you have of how to create or expand opportunities is welcome!