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Planning a Year

Quilting is in, my friends. I have rearranged the family room to permanently accommodate a miniature studio, I’ve taken up with a guild, I’ve taken a significant commission, and I’ve got several classes scheduled in coming weeks. What a change from a year ago.

I’m on fire.

Not to sing my own accolades, by any means. I’m just little old me. But I’ve been intentional to practice the art that makes my heart sing. And my soul is lit. How fun is that?!

2017 readingThis year I embrace my calling to create. I’m a quilter. It’s what I do. It makes me a better version of myself – my bucket is filled, my energy is renewed, and my mind races with beautiful things yet to be made, rather than trivial worries that used to drive me batty. It’s glorious, actually.

I have a stack of books at the ready. There’s been so much good publishing done in the five years I’ve looked away. Wow! All those yellow “E” stickers at the top of the stack? They’re actually “New” stickers, designating books that have been added to circulation in the last 90 days. Yep, I took them all! I do love my library so I suppose I’ll give them back someday. I can’t wait to get through these books and share the highlights in future posts!

I’m declaring this the year of paper piecing and wonky stars. I’ve dabbled in both so they’re not new techniques, but I am diving in this year, to add depth to my repertoire. I have several project ideas stashed away. I will (WILL!) finish a New York Beauty before too long. Soon, my precious. And all the wonky stars?! Oh yes.

Also, can we talk about Instagram swaps? I think I’ve signed myself up for five in the last few weeks. Somebody stop me! But really2017 goals, how fun is it to be a part of a vibrant community, each of us tackling the challenge of making something for which someone else set the boundaries. And then I get to receive something that was lovingly made according to my own preferences? So fun!

Seriously, if you haven’t joined a swap, you must find join in. It’s like the twenty-first century version of a quilting bee and an important part in the evolution of our common thread.

I’m setting my sites on conferences, maybe Quilt Fest here in Chicago in April, and Sew Pro in the fall? Quilt Con? Sadly it’s too far away and right around the corner, but it’s high on my list for next year! I’m anxious to get out and experience this new, modern quilty community for myself. It’s so different than the one I thought I knew so well.

Goals are good, but life happens. So much life. I hold goals loosely and like to take a broad. Mainly, in the coming year, I’ll be working to deeply inset a daily practice of creativity. It’s more and more obvious as I’ve been working and creating these past months that a creative practice is every bit as critical as daily exercise and brushing teeth. So I’ll add #15minutesofcreative to each day and work on a few neglected skills like free motion quilting, applique, and curves (knowing I won’t likely be able to stop after just 15 minutes!).

Keep me accountable, will you? Another goal I have is to use this site as a weekly record of what I’m learning, what’s working for me, what I’m working on, and maybe if I get my act together I’ll dip my toes into tutorials. I look forward to sharing this adventure!

 

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WIP & What I’m Learning V

And here we are with another installment of the year-long guild project set to simmer. This one was again a challenge to my preferences (not only would I not have chosen it based on the author’s image, but I’m pretty sure I made a sour face when I first saw it). So this one simmered even before I set to sewing. I was determined to finish but had no idea where to start.

I think it was the author’s choice of fabrics that I couldn’t appreciate. They conspired to make the entire pattern scream 1983. Not a bad year, I’m sure, but not a favorite, stylistically. Anyway…what to do about it?

Make a palate.

shnibbles wonkyI was stuck with a project I wanted to see through, but wasn’t feeling. So I set an incremental goal to land on a palate. I went with a forest theme, of sorts. Not necessarily in color, but in subject matter. I didn’t start with a focal print, just curated a dozen or so prints that spoke to my love of nature. I’ve never approached a quilt this way and found the exercise to be very introspective. And I discovered Cotton + Steele, Tula Pink, and Heather Ross (I know, I know…where have I been?! See this post)…oh. my. word!

I chose another grey background, this time I went with a linen which may or may not have been intended for quilting. I still haven’t decided. It’s lovely and I like the texture, but it made for some bulky star points. And oh! the wrinkles! Note: stick with quilting cotton.

wonky starsBut in order to make this palate work, something needed to be done with the pattern (I’m not sure if it’s kosher, but I am intentionally choosing to leave the original pattern off this post, since I didn’t have the greatest experience with it). First up: the nine evening star blocks in the center. What to do.  Of course! Wonky stars! I love wonky stars…and just look at those little star babies!  I messed with the size and placement and points, nothing was safe and I loved the process.

And the geese…let’s make them wavy instead of all straight and boring. In keeping with my wonky theme, I added the border of half-square triangles but made them more random than I should have and am not quite happy with them…but not so unhappywavy geese that I’ll be ripping the stitches. But my favorite part of this adventure is the bit of curve I added to the bottom border. It worked! Who knew? There will be more curves.

I did it my way. Breaking from a pattern so dramatically was new to me, but in banishing all the straight lines, I finally started to feel something for this project! I was excited but nervous to show this one at the guild meeting (note: no one said anything…as with most things we’re worried about people noticing, they’re probably not paying enough attention to you to take note).

So, this one simmers because I’m not quite sure that it’s done. Scratch that…it’s not done. There’s more to be said for this one and I’m just waiting for the words to come. It’s got a bit of a medallion swagger so more borders are in order. Stay tuned!

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Building Creative Muscles

In order to grow and improve in skill and creative flow, practice is critical. This we know. But practice is hard, my friends. We’re all busy. Dang, the suburbs are crazy with the busy-ness they conjure. Life in the twenty-first century is a lot of things, and topping the list is busy. Can I get an amen?

There are a thousand things conspiring to keep us from practicing that thing which keeps our soul alight. Work. School. Family. Volunteering. Commuting. Sleeping. Being busy is exhausting.

So, then how do we practice?

Since my return to quilting a few months ago, I’ve loosely held a goal of sitting down just a few minutes every day. I used to think that quilting was something to be done in large blocks of time, a luxury not experienced in my new season of motherhood. My days of uninterrupted solitude had passed, and so I thought my quilting days were gone as well. But when I realized how important quilting and creating is to my soul, I also realized it only takes a few minutes to make an impact. “Just do something” I tell myself. You don’t have to finish anything, or even make any real progress. Just practice. This is tops for my list of new habits to embrace in 2017. #15minutesaday.

When we decided, rather spontaneously, to spend several weeks this fall, driving to Arizona and back, I worried about keeping up my creative practice. A sewing machine and stack of fabric isn’t exactly RV friendly. At least it didn’t fit well into our little RV with our two little kids.

So I improvised.

sketchingQuilting is a multi-faceted art form. It can be done quickly, with the main goal being simply to finish. That’s fine, I worked that way for a while when I started quilting. But that’s not where my heart has been this time around. This time, I can’t seem to leave a pattern well enough alone as I incorporate tweaks and edits to make the thing my own. Where I was once content to run a quick meander and call a project finished, now I’m much more interested in letting a top breathe and finding just the right motif to complement the piecing. But this motif-style quilting isn’t something I have much experience working in, so I’ve been reading and sketching and studying different styles. This is how I kept my flow going while we drove.

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Across the plains, from sea to shining sea (just kidding, we didn’t actually make it to the ocean, but I’m pretty sure we saw all the plains), I sketched and traced and read tips from the pros. All in the name of muscle memory and training my eyes, hands, and brain to see and feel a new set of motions. I have visions of wildly quilting my future projects, but when it comes to laying thread to fabric…call me chicken.

Practice can take many forms.

My friends, it’s working! I have miles to go, I suppose I’ll never be an Angela Walters, but compared to the lazy stipple routine I had been comfortable with for so long, I’ve come a long way, baby! By hyper-focusing on the shapes and rhythms of this particular facet, I’ve gained new confidence and forward momentum. So there you go…just practice.

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I’m a Quilter

We’ve been driving for days. And there are days still to go. This, our first road trip of any consequence…oh. my.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a wonky sense of scale for the contiguous 48 states. I’ll own it. I grew up in Alaska, ask me about the last great frontier. But please don’t look to me to tell you where Pennsylvania is in relation to the rest of the north east. It’s over there somewhere. And so, here we are, somewhere between Illinois and Arizona. They’re a lot farther apart than I thought they’d be.red rock

With all this drive time, I’ve been thinking a lot about my journey as a quilter. That’s what I am, at heart, even though I’m just now putting words to it. I’ve been practicing over half my life, I’m not sure why it just now occurs to me to own it, but here I am. A quilter.

Quilter 1.0

We’ll call the first part of my quilting journey 1.0. Call it the project manager in me. It’s the first version, perfectly useful but bursting with potential. I practiced all the techniques, played with fabric and pattern combinations, and poured love into every piece. I consumed all of quilting that I could find.

But I didn’t recognize or embrace the central role the practice had in the wellness of my soul. It was just something I did.

Creating and making is important, no matter the form it takes. So it’s with caution that I have been trying to distinguish the difference between how I created then and how I’ve been creating lately. The bit I missed back then was the focus on creativity. I was more focused on productivity than pouring myself into my pieces. Both ways are fine and produce beautiful things. Right now what my soul needs is the tender, generous care that only a creative practice can give.

Quilter 2.0

In this new season of my quilty journey, I have shifted. More than just getting a project done, it’s a multi-sensory experience that lights my soul and renews an dull senses. Picasso said, “art washes away from the soul the dust of every day life.” And that’s exactly the experience I’ve had this time. Most of my quilting happens late at night, after everyone goes to bed, when the house is quiet, when nobody needs me. I get lost. Stop watching the time. Flow.

When the bustling of a day settles, it’s just me in this space where there was once so many little feet bouncing, running, playing, messing. It’s just me in the quietness, left to think, breathe, make. I can see, feel, hear, even smell quilting. And my heart is full of peaceful gratitude.

I sit. Breathe. Wait. Thankful.

When I set out weeks ago, to create a little baby gift, I didn’t expect the visceral connection that happened when I felt the familiar softness of the fabric and heard the comforting hum of my old sewing machine. Home sweet home.

The connection to my art has been undeniable. While I’ve dabbled in many forms, even investing in all the pottery equipment any ceramicist could want. But nothing resonated. Nothing changed me like my quilting. Like a heart song. I would be remiss to neglect the practice of the one thing that fills an emptiness.

So friends, if you’ve not had your own encounter with creativity, you can borrow mine. Make something. Practice. Close your eyes and breathe with gratitude.

 

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WIP & What I’m Learning IV

shnibbles-IVCatchy titles be damned. Here is the next installment of the monthly guild project. It’s simmering. Like the others. But this one isn’t waiting to be quilted; although the top is complete according to the assigned pattern, I’m not satisfied with it yet. So it simmers.

I used a precious charm pack on this project. I regret that. I had hunted and hunted for a bundle of Kate Spain’s Cuzco line. It released while I was taking my (not so) little quilt hiatus. I haven’t been able to get it out of my creative processing since I stumbled across it and apparently I’m in good company because it turns out this is an insanely hard to find bundle of fabrics. So I bought the first charm pack I found…for almost twenty dollars. I know, shame on me.

I thought by adding some solids I could stretch a respectable  distance. There’s a devil on my shoulder telling me this was not the right project for that precious charm pack. Argh. Anyway, here it is, simmering above my desk while I brew various border options. A medallion, maybe? We shall see.

This was my first encounter with 60 degree triangles. Tricky little buggers with all their stretchy angles and whatnot. I’d do it again. But there’s certainly a better way to achieve a cute little hexie.

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WIP & What I’m Learning III

Yay! Back for round three of my guild’s year-long project to experience a wide range of our annual key note speaker next spring. One of these months I will hang my project for a proper picture. On the other hand, my toes can be kind of cute when paired with a pretty quilt top.

This is, once again, a pattern I wouldn’t have chosen so I appreciated the challenge to make it my own. It’s a lovely, classic block, but just not my style. I had great fun pulling together a palate, but nevertheless I am sadly not feeling a connection with this one. I tried incorporating randomness via sashing placement and block orientation and fabric choice, but I think I failed with the yellow background. It was a cute french street sketch that I couldn’t resist, but I think I need to face the truth that it’s not right in this quilt. Le sigh…schnibbles-III

I rushed to finish this larger project in time to show at guild, but didn’t make it. There’s still a couple rows of blocks to sash and add to this bit that’s together. I ran out of steam trying to meet an arbitrary deadline. I think that is partly to blame for the lack of connection that I feel with this project. I failed to take the time to savor and enjoy the process. I was driven by the project and the need to show up at the guild meeting with a top to share. I forgot to meet with gratitude and joy while I was busy matching seams.

Don’t forget to meet gratitude when you create. It’s very important.

I’m not so much afraid to finish this one, as I continue to be with the first two. With those others I’m feeling the weight of “don’t mess up” but with this one there’s a disappointment getting in the way of forward momentum. I console myself with the idea that when I do figure out how to quilt the other two I will use this one as a practice canvas first. Winning!

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WIP & What I’m Learning II

Back again with the next in the series of monthly guild projects.

shnibbles-IIThis is another pattern I wouldn’t have chosen but did, in fact, enjoy making. I adjusted the pattern to be quite a bit bigger than originally written ( and in retrospect I wish I’d gone even bigger) and again used a low-volume grey background which I am still enjoying. This is the first time I took a gradient approach in my fabric choices and it was so fun! I don’t have a design wall, so it was relegated to laying on the floor after everyone had gone to bed. It only took a couple times through the laying out and picking up process to motivate me to get ‘er done! I worked through the night in my eagerness to get this top put together.

I have some ideas for finishing this one, but haven’t quite decided on the quilting. And so it simmers. This project came along at an important time in my quilt-maker journey. I found a new stride, worked with new fabrics and took approaches I’d never explored before and experienced a freeing joy I hadn’t encountered in all my previous quilting years.

This is my quilt. But I think I’m afraid to finish it. I have a back picked out and folded neatly under the top next to a stack of fabric. But it needs to simmer.

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WIP & What I’m Learning

There is a lot to be said for quick, small projects!shnibbles-I

This one may not be finished, but golly I sure do like looking at it. This was the first in a series of projects for a year-long guild initiative where we’re working through several patterns from a designer who will be keynoting our banquet next spring. This was also the first project I’ve picked fabric for in a long, long time. Oh, how I’ve missed fondling fabrics and pondering the endless combinations.

Though this isn’t a pattern I would’ve chosen if left to my own devices, I jumped in and thoroughly enjoyed the make. In faith I chose a grey low volume as my background and couldn’t be happier with it. So long, boring white!

I haven’t decided how to quilt this one. I am resisting the urge to follow the gridlines, something is begging for curvy randomness. In truth, I’m probably afraid to step out and put thread to fabric and commit to a motif. Stay tuned…