Sunday, January 17, 2021

Taming "The Voices"

 I should've known that as soon as I began to talk about "hope" and "comfort" and "purpose", The Voices would show up.

You know what (or who) I mean, don't you?  The natterers -- sometimes referred to as "The Committee" -- that take up space in your brain, disturb your sleep, haunt your dreams and entice you to procrastinate because...well..."Who do you think you are?" and "What makes you think all this quilting has a purpose?"  and "Without in-person shows, what good's making art anyway?" and on and on.

They're hard to ignore.  Sometimes we might even acknowledge they have a point.

But -- STOP!  Just STOP!

Sometimes they shout all the louder, as they have been doing in my head for the past couple of weeks (maybe longer).  What to do?!

Pause; sit quietly with a cuppa; pray.

Go for a walk -- brisk or not.  No ear buds.

Leave the News alone.

Call a friend.

Work with your hands.

I've been trying all of these, and in the case of the last...I've turned full-tilt into sorting, tossing, producing and finishing.

The sorting-and-tossing -- whether into the garbage or into a "give away" box/bag -- has been spurred on by Karen Brown of  Just Get It Done Quilts, who's been hosting a "De-Clutter Challenge".  I've not followed to the letter, but I've definitely got into the spirit of the event, and so got rid of simply-too-small-to-use batting scraps (I don't do post cards or Artists' Trading Cards so...out those bits go, being too small even to sew together into larger pieces).  I've a growing stack of books for our hamlet's lending library -- once its doors re-open, which I hope will be soon! -- and I boxed up and stored away the CDs of family photos, mostly created by my husband, who died in 2006.  I then bagged up a large quantity of other CDs and DVDs and took them over to our local charity thrift store.  The ones left are sorted as to genre of music, plus poetry, and technology -- the ones needed to install my photo, scanner and printer drivers if/when needed.

In the production department, I've upped my game!  I decided to set up a second sewing machine -- my teen-aged Husqvarna Lily 555 -- on the kitchen table, and I'm using it to quilt small charity quilts and to assemble Quilt As You Go (QAYG) blocks.  

I've discovered, though, as I quilted along, that anything much larger than 40" square is cumbersome when you don't have a good working surface that's level with your machine.  I have an old 'extension' from my first Husqvarna (now long gone) that attaches to this one but not well, so it's wobbly.  I think that it'll be fine for QAYG blocks, though.

Here's my Bali Sunrise laid out on my 'design bed' in the guest room.  The first row on the left is now sashed and assembled; the second row in has its sashing pinned to each block, and will be joined up soon at my "new" work station:

"Wait!" (Ican hear you thinking) -- "You're only one person!  Why set up two sewing machines?!"  Well, Gentle Readers, for this simple reason: I want to use particular colours of thread when I quilt, whereas I'll use pretty much any colour for piecing.  Thus...I can do quilting at one machine, and piecing at the other, not having to change thread up top and in the bobbin whenever I want to move from piecing to quilting.

The exception? Larger tops that are still manageable enough to quilt myself*.  Those I'll make time and space for in my studio which has a proper sewing table with the machine lowered into it and extra surrounding table space to hold the weight of the quilt sandwich.

*The full bed quilts still go to my faithful local long-arm quilter.

"Crazy Cats" -- seen in the photo of the quilting station (above) is now quilted and has only 2 sides' worth of binding to hand-sew.  It's a small quilt and will be given away.

Next up is "Bali Sunrise" and then a mini "Easy Breezy" top that I've set up as a QAYG, based on Bonnie Hunter's 2020 Leader/Ender pattern.  Both of those will be given away too.  

Three more are to follow: "Broken Bricks", which is sandwiched and is too large for the kitchen station; "Off the Rails" which awaits sandwiching and might be okay at the kitchen station, and a whole-top QAYG -- a variation on a "jelly roll race" quilt -- that I'm going to call "Any String Goes!".  I've chosen backing and batting for that, but haven't started it yet, as I think it'll need the studio station to do properly.

What about mysteries?  Well, of course!  I'm nearing the finale of Bonnie Hunter's "Frolic!" from 2019, with two of the four saw-tooth borders attached and a third under construction:

As for 2020's "Grassy Creek" mystery, I'm moving right along.  

Clue #5 called for nine-patches and flying geese; here are my 'patches', but yes, my geese are finished too:

I'm currently in the midst of  Clue #6.  It calls for a variety of greys...of which I don't have much.  (I don't want to cut into my selection for landscapes.)  So...I've decided to 'mix it up' with some of the greens that are also used in the quilt.  So far, I've created ten units, shown here under construction, with many more to go!

Of course, there's always both the "production" and "finishing" category.  My January socks are just over 1/2-finished:

Pattern: "Woodland Walk";
Designer: This Handmade Life
Yarn: Patons Kroy 3-ply in #390 - "Taupe"

I've resumed work on my Glasgow Rose Stole which, given that I've not enough yarn to make it full length, will be more like a scarf than a wrap, but I don't mind.  It's pretty and the silk is lovely...but it's not mindless!  It's made in 2 halves -- I'm nearly finished the first -- and then surrounded by a border.  I'll have to do the border in off-white as I've not enough pink variegate to do it all:

Yarn: fyberspates 2 ply lace weight silk

And I've finished my Tegna cropped top!  I made it longer than called for, but it's still pretty short (i.e. to my waist, rather than tunic-length) but I like it, and will enjoy it come summer, I think:

Designer: Caitlin Hunter
Yarn: Country Silk
from Fiddlesticks Knitting
Colour: "Berry"

If all that's not enough to tame The Voices, I've added a bit of meditative cross-stitch, making a small gift for a friend with a February birthday:

It's an old pattern -- discontinued now, I think -- from Thea Dueck of The Victoria Sampler -- meant to be a needle roll, but could become a small framed piece instead.  I'm undecided on that point, and will see what it wants when I've finished it.  I enjoy working on it while listening to a bit of Bach, or to Dean Robert Willis of Canterbury Cathedral, reading one of his stories (currently, The Wind in the Willows).

All of this seems to be working for the moment, anyway, but it's a daily rhythm that needs to be maintained, lest The Voices take advantage!

I'll close with a bit of news on the Art front:  first, tentative plans for an in-person, protocols-followed Lacombe Art Show & Sale are underway, with options should COVID require.  Possibly in late May, with hopes that warmer weather will make in-person events more likely; and second, I'm in an online Art Exhibit!  Former Alberta Premier and current Opposition Leader, Rachel Notley, hosts "Art from the Unknown" on an annual basis.  This year it's on line (of course!) and I am one of thirty-two Alberta artists selected to be featured!  You can see my entry, and that of all the others HERE.

Now...linking up with Nina Marie over at Off the Wall Friday, where she's also working out goals and hoping for future in-person creative opportunities!  😊

Be well...stay safe...take care to shut out those Voices that seek to haunt you.  'Til we meet again, let's listen to these voices instead...

The Phoenix Chamber Choir (Vancouver, B.C.)

The Canadian Physicians Choir


special guest, Alan Doyle

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Comfort on Purpose

 Happy New Year, Gentle Readers!  😊

Last year, I chose the word "hope" as my guiding principle/word for 2020; little did I know how much it would be needed -- and not just by me!  With all of that year's challenges, there was a global clinging to hope in the face of danger from disease, illness, death, sloppy government leadership, racial brutality, greed, and self-interest to the exclusion of others -- both from corporations and individuals.

But HOPE persisted -- and was shown every day by the heroism of health care and other front-line workers, as well as in the incredible work to discover a vaccine against the terribly contagious COVID-19.

In November, a new word came to my mind -- a word to add to "hope" for 2021, rather than replace it, and that word was "comfort".  Back then I wrote, "It's what I'm acknowledging I need in my life right now, and what I want all of my somewhat frenetic making to be about: bringing comfort."  

Then just before Christmas, I wrote about "the importance of purpose"Little did I know that shortly thereafter I'd see a post on Facebook about an advertisement -- for what I still have no idea! -- that would address this very thing: the need for a sense of purpose, which becomes crystallized in an objective that motivates, energizes and, when realized, rewards with what money cannot buy: faith, hope, love and comfort:

There are days when I, too, look in the mirror and sigh at what I see: more grey hair; sometimes more pronounced "worry" lines on my forehead; periodically blotchy complexion (I never had blemishes in my teens; perhaps it's my turn now?!)...A thickening waistline, age spots, prominent veins in my hands...

The caption at the end of the video reads, "So you can take care of what matters in life".  It was produced by a company called "Doc Morris".  I have no idea what that company is or that it recognizes that people need a sense of purpose to motivate them to do just that: 'take care of what matters'.

For me, right now, having amassed more original art than I know what to do with at the moment -- because my choice is in-person vending (I'm waffling about an online shopping presence) -- I am focusing on my purpose: to provide hope through comfort.

Quilting Detail
To this end I finished the wee pink tummy time blanket for the new granddaughter of my friends in Montreal -- and sent it off to her and her parents in Florida on Dec. 31. Photo at right shows it quilted but not bound; the one on the left is a detail of the quilting.
I've sandwiched and pinned a top I finished following a class on grids with Joe Cunningham a few months ago (I call it "Crazy Cats").  I'm thinking about quilting it with the same sort of 'random squares' as I did the pink quiltlets.

And I've finally finished a strip/string Quilt-As-You-Go (QAYG) top I started in Calgary in 2008 (yes, you read that correctly; it was before I moved here to my wee hamlet!)   It was a pattern and class/demo from Freckles Quilt Shoppe which, alas, hasn't existed for several years now.  It's called "Bali Sunrise" and is made with 6" blocks and sashing.  Returning to it on and off over the years (mainly off) I finally decided to a) make it smaller (54 blocks rather than 120!) and b) to ignore the lay-out of the strips as to colour and do what pleases me now. 😊

Here it is as of this afternoon -- all 54 blocks done and laid out in the way I want to join them (please don't be distracted by the quilt underneath; the blocks are laid out on the "design bed" in my guest room! 😉)  

I've no real plans for this one.  It'll measure about 40" x 56" when it's finished (maybe smaller) so I expect it will join the wee pink top and the "Crazy Cats" as a give-away to a local program for new moms.

While I still have "Broken Bricks" to sandwich and quilt, and I have 3 (!) in various stages of hand-quilting, I continue to plug away at Bonnie Hunter's 2020/21 Mystery quilt, "Grassy Creek".  I'm making progress on Clue #4 (of 6 so far):

Clue #3 Units photographed outside in sunshine
in the hopes of showing red vs red-orange!

Clue 4 units in process

On the knitting front, I've not quite abandoned the socks-in-a-less-than-favourable-colour-way that I began for the December challenge in the "Socks from Stash" Ravelry group -- but I am slowing down.  The pattern is great but the 2.25 mm needles and the yarn in question are making this project less than fun.  I'll be giving these away!

 The above photo is of the first leg of "Berkshires" in Zwerger-Garn Opal yarn, colour-way, "Cameleon".  I've long finished the first sock though, and the second is approaching the same length as that shown in the photo.  

While I try to knit a bit each day on the above, a new pattern has stolen my heart for the group's January 2021 challenge:

The yarn is a rather bland colour -- #309, aka "Taupe" -- in Patons Kroy 3-ply wool/nylon fingering.  I was given this or found it in a donated batch; no one else wanted it so I took it.  I tried it out in another pattern -- since frogged -- before I discovered the "Woodland Walk" pattern from This Handmade Life on Ravelry.  It's far more suited to this yarn and I'm enjoying this knit immensely.  

Ahhhhhh...the comfort of having a lovely pair of socks on the needles!  😉  Though I don't wear any sort of 'brown', I also don't have many plain (solid-colour) socks, so I'll probably keep these ones.

And so it goes, my friends.  Likely many of you will think, "Same old, same old" but for this place, and this time, in a province pretty tightly locked down for another week or more -- pending review of the stats -- it's where I am.  Where many of us are.

And so I leave you with a link to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday, and till we "meet" again, wishes of comfort and joy...


Monday, December 21, 2020

The Importance of Purpose

 Since my post a week ago, I've been pondering something I think might contribute to mental, emotional and creative "fraying": whether or not one senses that what one is doing, how one is being in the world, has purpose.

It's not just that having something that gets us out of bed in the morning can bring us happiness; it's also good for our mental health.  

For happiness, Nancy Kirk-Gettridge writes that having a sense of purpose (why one exists) needs to be combined with a set of values, an ability to realize act according to those values to achieve an objective (realize one's purpose) and finally, the confidence -- strong enough self-worth -- to go forward in action.     According to some research, a sense of purpose, the pursuit of happiness through purpose, and a human's social nature can be seen even at a physiological level.  Without a sense of purpose, humans become "...vulnerable to boredom, anxiety and depression", wrote Dr. Steve Taylor several years ago in Psychology Today

Achieving "happiness", according to some, is based on having one's needs satisfied; this can be a very short-lived sensation indeed!  For "happiness" to be long-lived -- to become what I'd call joy -- there needs to be something more, and that 'something' is meaning or purpose.  That's the power of purpose.

When COVID-19 hit, many of us in Western culture (and likely elsewhere too!) lost our footing.  Many lost their employment, which for some was the main -- or perhaps the sole -- driver of meaning in their lives.  Some were forced into retirement, because they became ill or because whatever they were working at would never be the same once all this was over.  In a culture highly motivated by personal satisfaction via consumption, many of us began to question the value of this approach to life...and how to manage our lives differently.

I come from a long line of practical people.  People who, bless 'em, enjoyed music and a bit of art, but never encouraged creativity that didn't have a utilitarian nature.  A long line of farmers, gardeners, makers through sewing, knitting and quilting.  I trained as a nurse, and later moved into the business and financial world to make my living; my "work" in textiles was both utilitarian and a bit of a hobby.

Even though it's been almost a decade since I began to think of myself as an artist, I've never thought I could make a living at it.  It wasn't a hobby; it wasn't how I was spending my "retirement" -- something that captures one's thoughts and imagination for almost every waking hour of every day isn't either of those things.  

"Broken Bricks" - for charity
But...when the major art events in which I was participating this year got cancelled, and the inventory had nowhere to go during the uncertainty of the pandemic and the ensuing lock-down(s)...I turned to utilitarian works: quilts for gifts and charity.  If they couldn't be given away right away, that wasn't a problem; they'd find a home eventually because they were items that were useful.  

And with a lock-down in March has come a bit of a "Baby Boom" in December and January!  Friends and relatives are becoming grand-parents or great-aunts -- some for the first time!  Nothing says "HOPE" like new life -- and so I've been busy knitting and quilting.

Cousins from across the country called yesterday.  They're expecting their eighth grand-baby in February -- a cause for celebration.  We talked about what I could make, now that "Grandma" has taken up quilting; we agreed that a baby born in February in Quebec should have a hat and socks, and so s/he shall.

When I told them of all the baby socks etc. I've been making, "Grandma" commented, "Gosh, you're busy!"  I explained to her that it kept me going, filled the long days and provided a purpose -- a reason to use up my generous stash of fabric and yarn.  

Yes, I'm making art again, here and there; I've been taking workshops online and playing with samples and new techniques.  I've even managed to sell a few pieces that I've posted online, and I've participated in a local Christmas Market -- also online.  

Don't get me wrong; I love to make art.  I love the challenge it gives me, as I am a Very Left-Brained Person.  And yes, I believe that there is a purpose for art in everyone's life -- whether it's visual art, performance (music, song, dance, theatre) or the written word.  It fulfills a need deep within me and, I suspect, in most if not all of us.

Baby quilt under construction

But there is a tension in my life when it comes to my making -- a vibration between the world of art for art's self, and the world of art that meets a need beyond the cerebral, the visual, or the auditory.  Not all that is utilitarian is art-ful, but in finding my feet again in these challenging times, I've discovered that -- in this 'right now' -- when I make something functional in a way that's also appealing to the eye, my sense of purpose is heightened.  

Although I may be fraying, knowing this keeps me from falling apart at the seams.

Mending a Broken-hearted World
-- a work in progress

Linking this to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday and with WIP Wednesday over on The Needle and Thread Network.   I wish you all, Gentle Readers, a glimpse of the light and hope entering our world.  Blessings for Christmas to those who celebrate, and to all, wishes for wholeness, purpose and joy in the year to come.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Coping with Chaos Series: Frayed

 The last few days have been cold and damp-ish, with deep wind chill factors, keeping me from enjoying a good walk outside.  Those walk-at-home videos get me moving, but they don't include fresh air, the crunch of gravel or snow underfoot, and chickadees at the bird feeder.

I need to force myself outdoors when the weather's like this, but I'm finding it harder to do the older I get.  I spend time in my sewdio, and I knit.  I listen to music, and to the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral reading The Wind in the Willows, but it's not enough.  In this COVID time, though I've been trying to manage my news intake, there's added anxiety hovering about.  In my dreams, mainly unremembered, the people are wearing masks.

You may recall that in the first few months of this time, I couldn't make an original piece of work.  My first one showed up, at last, in June.  Then all of the piecing I'd been doing, and the playing with crumbs, resulted in two more pieces...

I continued to make crumb blocks with the idea of making a set built to 8" square, and assembling them into a top, probably with sashing, to give away.

Then I spilled my coffee.

It was on and under the cutting mat on my cutting table, dripped a bit onto a basket of yardage (from my "inheritance") that was sitting below the table, and was absorbed, at least in part, by a stack of these squares.

With less than charitable language, I cleaned up the mess -- all the while thankful that I drink my coffee black, so there was no sticky sugar or milk to worry about, and thankful, too, for that box of yardage, because nothing landed on the carpet!

I bundled the yardage into the washer, along with some other clothes that needed washing, and added the 8" blocks, stuffed into a net lingerie bag.  

All the fabric came out rumpled, of course, but otherwise none the worse for wear.  

I gave the blocks a quick iron and put them to the side again, resuming work on the other projects at hand -- the mystery quilts and the Christmas knitting etc.

But yesterday, in between assembling the "Frolic!" quilt (Bonnie Hunter's 2019 Mystery) and units for Clue #2 of "Grassy Creek" (the 2020 Mystery), the 8" blocks began to call my name.  "Do something with US!"

There were 17 of them.  I took four and assembled them into a four-patch.  I did the same with another four, and another, and another.  I was about to put all four four-patches (!) together, when during pressing, I noticed the back of one of them.  The washing had resulted in significant fraying of many of the fabrics -- not really surprising, as these were crumbs and scraps, small enough to fray easily.

I liked the look.  It expressed how I'd been feeling lately -- especially as the days are getting ever shorter here in the Northern Hemisphere, and ever colder, and as our Province's mandated health measures took a deep dive into increased isolation as of the end of last week.

Frayed.  As went the fabric, so have my emotions.  Grief is a very close companion, and my coping skills are being severely tested.

On Thursday afternoon I listened to the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, in conversation via video with Shawn Branch of the Diocese of Fredericton.  Somewhere in there, as she was talking about coping with these COVID-time experiences and feelings, she said something like, "Watch out for the 'strong ones'; they need support too."

Well.  I come from a long line of folks brought up to be "strong" in the face of adversity -- and they lived through much: the Great War (my father was born in 1904; my step-father, in 1914, and my mother in 1916); the Great Depression, WWII, racial and linguistic and other unrest in the nineteen sixties.  

Family deaths, miscarriages, financial worries.  They were of the "Keep Calm and Carry On" generations: practical, nose-to-grindstone, "mustn't grumble" people.  

And for a very long time, I was one of their ranks.  In the last years of my husband's life, my strong demeanour was beginning to crack, and immediately after his death, I was a mess for some years -- but now, 14 years on, I thought I was getting stronger.  Regaining my intestinal fortitude.  Being strong for friends and neighbours and my kids during this time of challenge.

But...yesterday, as I looked at those blocks, I had to admit that I wasn't as strong as I might appear.  So I put them together to show the forces wrestling within me.  There's the Strong, Competent, Can-do Person who feels good, stays fit, shovels her own snow, cleans her own eavestroughs, makes lists and crosses them off, makes do and mends, puts forth her creativity and enjoys making gifts for others out of fabric and yarn.

Then there's the Frayed, Grief-haunted Soul who gets achey and tires easily, hates fighting the wind chill to take a walk outdoors, is easily irritated and short with others -- and knocks  her coffee cup over on whatever flat surface it's resting.

The latest in my COVID & Chaos series:

Frayed: Watch Over the Strong Ones
- Side I

Frayed... - Side II

Frayed...Side I - Detail

It won't be quilted.  It may or may not end up with a sleeve -- or sleeves -- as I want it to hang so that both sides can be seen.  I may use clips, or add tabs; I'm undecided as yet.

Today, I'm allowing my frayed edges to breathe a bit.  I'm determined to walk to the Post Office, if not farther, and to get back into the sewdio.  A dear friend and his wife have just become grandparents for the second time -- and it's a girl!  A baby sister for a big brother.  Because her Baba knits, I'll make a tummy time blanket.  Baby is only 12 weeks old right now, so there's a bit of time to do so.  "What colours?" I enquired..."Oh", her Baba replied promptly, "She's a pink girl!"  I have just the right fabric -- in cotton -- from the "inherited" stash.  I'm on it.  

It's just the tonic to enable me to Keep Calm and Carry On.

And because I still can, I'm linking this post -- as I did the last one -- to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday. -- and to WIP Wednesday for Dec. 16, over at the Needle and Thread Network. 

Til next we 'meet', may you be well, stay safe...and do what you need to do to keep from fraying at your edges. 

Friday, December 11, 2020

I Thought It Was Only Two Weeks...

 But aaack!  It's been almost a month since my last post!  

How'd that happen?

Actually, I know how.  I've been caught up in a market, a coupla mysteries and Xmas making, that's how!

First, about the Market: the Second (Annual?) Lacombe Under $100 Art Market was to be in person in a huge ballroom space in downtown Lacombe, with all the art and fine craft put out on display in advance -- no booths.  It was to be held over November 26 and 27, from late afternoon into the evening on the Thursday and from 10 a.m. to late afternoon on the Friday.  Strict traffic control.  Masks mandatory. Entrance at one end; exit at the other.  Hand sanitizer everywhere.

And on November 24th the province's COVID report was abysmal, and stricter health measures came into force.  So...the market was cancelled.  Cue the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.  

And then...Lacombe Regional Tourism came to the rescue!  On Dec. 1 we got word we could join the Town of Bentley's Online Christmas Market and Craft Sale...and so several of us did.

"Mug Shots I"

I filled out my online application, attached photos of seven small artworks, and e-mailed it off.  Then I posted the link to the market (which didn't have our contributions yet) on my FB pages -- and was promptly contacted by a friend in Calgary.  She was interested in one of the pieces. Details please!  

"Mug Shots I" was one of four in a series -- all of which I'd listed in my application for the Market.

Here's where it got a bit tricky.  The deal with the Market was that it was a local event, so the pieces had to be picked up or delivered within a week of purchase -- and mailing/shipping was not on.

Meanwhile, my friend had expressed an interest in the other 3 pieces and yes, please, she wanted all four of them!

Well!  I dashed off an e-mail to the coordinator, pulled the 4 pieces from my submission, sent an invoice and was paid by e-transfer, then boxed them up and sent them off to Calgary.   It happened so fast it's a wonder my head isn't still spinning!

Meanwhile, the other three pieces are still available in the online Market...till December 19, when it closes.  I'd post the link, but most of you, Gentle Readers, don't live within driving!

Also meanwhile, Bonnie Hunter's 2020 Mystery has begun -- on the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, per usual.  This year it's entitled "Grassy Creek" and is inspired by the landscape around Bonnie's cabin and retreat house in Virginia.  (Full info HERE.)  

I decided it would be a good opportunity to use up some of my recent "inheritance" and if all goes well, I'll give the resulting quilt to the daughter of my benefactor, as she doesn't quilt or knit or any of that sort of thing.  I've decided, too, to make it about 2/3 the estimated finished size, so I can manage to quilt it myself.

That said, I haven't yet finished the 2019 Mystery, "Frolic!"  I'm at the stage of assembly, and have the first half put together now.  In order to ensure I get t the second half assembled correctly, I've actually laid the components on top of  those in the first half, and so far it's working well.  I've got the "kitty corner" blocks plus the next row of three all together with sashing; I've assembled the next row of five, and laid them out, ready to join up with those.  Onward!

First half of "Frolic!" laid out with the corner against the wall.

To ensure I don't get too far behind on "Grassy Creek", I've been constructing the units required as "leaders and enders" to the "Frolic!" project.  So far I've finished Clue 1 (except for trimming) and I've completed three sets of units for Clue 2.  Clue 3 came out today, so I'd best get a bit of a move on!

Clue 1 units all in a row!

Clue 2 units under construction

I have a terrible habit of reversing things, meaning that I can often assemble the sections of these sorts of units backwards, so they don't match up when I come to put the entire unit together.  The only remedy is to take my time and to put a pin in the side of the section down which I'm going to sew.  Saves me a lot of 'reverse sewing'!

Concurrently, I've managed to finish all but one of my hand-made Christmas gifts now -- and that last one requires only a dozen rounds of knitting, before it's washed, blocked and wrapped.  All the ones for out of town have been mailed!

The last of the knits was a pair of  "reading mitts" for my nephew's lady-love.  It's the first time I've made something for her, and I've never met her, so I can only hope she likes them:

Pattern: Susie Roger's Reading Mitts 
Designer (you guessed it!): Susie Rogers
Yarn: KnitPicks "City Tweed DK" from my stash
Colour-way: "Romance" -- fitting, don't you think? 😉

I made them a bit longer than the pattern called for, so they're really more like "reading gauntlets".  I think that adds an extra measure of elegance to them, don't you?

This week I took "Man Cave" to the framer.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo taken once it was finished -- after all the ##@@!!** outlining was done.  I guess I was just eager to get it out of the house!   I should have it back next week, and will try to remember to photograph it, framed and in its glory!

All that finishing has given me time not only to work on the mysteries but also to play with art work.
December 3-5 I "went" to Houston -- to the Virtual Internatonal Quilt Festival!  I don't think I'll ever go to the in person version of this huge event -- too big, too many people! -- but to do so online, well!  I checked out the instructors and speakers and found that for less than $100 CAD I could enjoy several -- taught by stars in the art quilting world and elsewhere, and so I did.

I signed up for a short class with Katie Pasquini Masopust, a lecture from Cindy Grisdela and one from Susie Monday, and the Mixed Media Forum with several surface design practitioners -- and enjoyed the Friday evening 'keynote' from my friend, Jenny Lyon.  

Katie PM's topic was "Composition with Line", and included a bit of colour theory as well.  Now, I've studied both of these things before -- more than once -- but she was using them as a way to "jump-start your creativity".  When you're stuck, just start playing.  While she spoke she worked on samples using 12" square backgrounds that she'd constructed in log-cabin formation -- in monochromatic colours. She showed a horizontal orientation of lines, a vanishing perspective, radiating lines and spirals.  She illustrated a symmetrical and an asymmetrical orientation -- all this in 90 minutes, with questions.

In advance I found a pdf handout was provided and thought I actually needed to prepare.  I found out later that that wasn't really necessary, but by then I'd cut 4 twelve-inch square pieces of muslin, and applied fusible web to several shades of two complementary colours: yellow and purple.  So...while she talked I started cutting strips and laying them out in a horizontal orientation.  By the end of her talk, I realized I didn't like it much, and added vertical strips to make a grid (one of the compositions not really referenced in the talk but on the hand-out).  After the session ended, I put it up on the design wall and decided it needed something more.  I found a lovely piece of fabric -- mainly purple -- that I'd purchased some years ago, just as inspiration.  I put one on top of the other and there they sit for now:

Playing with Katie PM

My thought: to quilt the small piece and the background separately, and apply one to the other, and prepare for hanging.

Cindy Grisdela is another artist I've never met, but I "know" her online from SAQA; we're colleagues and acquaintances on Facebook.  In my never-ending quest to "loosen up" enough to move more into abstraction, her work is a shining light. She had no hand-out for her 50-minute lecture, but I took notes and these are the things that struck a chord with me (some of which you and I have heard before from her and from others, but which bear repeating):
  • Ask "what if?"
  • Use multiples of three;
  • Use coping strips (I have);
  • Slice if needed;
  • Be willing to give [a piece] time;
  • Listen to your instincts.
Thanks, Cindy.  😊

The two-hour "Mixed Media Forum" on the Friday was jam-packed and moved along quickly.  There were topics I noted but for which I have very little interest (using shibori when ice/snow dyeing; soy wax batik -- or any kind of batik; I'll buy mine already done, thanks!; playing with Tyvek and/or Angelina fibre; monoprinting with stamps and stencils).  That said, I learned a tidbit from pretty much every speaker.

The one of the five whose work really intrigued me was Esterita Austin and her work with paint and layers of sheers -- mainly organza.  I'm not a talented painter, but I think I could cotton on to this looser, freer style that's a bit like the water-colour technique I learned years ago from my friend and former teacher, Sharon Lynn Williams of Calgary, Alberta (some of you NetFlix fans might know of her son, actor Evan Williams...who has a romantic Xmas movie out just now... 😉).  I think I'm going to play with Esterita's technique for a very impressionistic sort of way...

The last session I took was with Susie Monday, a long-time artist with whom I've only recently become acquainted through SAQA.  On the Saturday, she gave a lecture on "The Sensory Alphabet" -- taken from her work with Susan Marcus and Dr. Cynthia Herbert in the book, The Missing Alphabet: A Parent's Guide to Raising Creative Kids.  Alas, this came too late for me...but my DH and I had two very creative kids -- now 40 and 35 respectively. I've shared and written about my daughter's work as a photographer, how she shares her work with me for textile art pieces I've made inspired by her photos.  My son is an actor, a comedian, a self-taught musician and a video-game programmer/designer.

Me?  The one with the powerful left brain, who has a science degree (in nursing), and worked for decades in the business of number-crunching, credit/collections and financial planning?  Late to the party, I continue to explore the other side of me...the more free-form, creative side.  

Susie gave me (us) some things to think about, questions to ask ourselves:
  • What do you notice when you walk into a room (enter a space in nature)?
  • What do yTou remember from childhood -- favourite activities?
  • What sparked your impulse to create?
  • You feed your imagination with observation; take time to sit/imagine/dream/hope.
  • Pay attention!
  • Honour both the process and the product.
She walked us throught that 'sensory alphabet'.  She asked us to play, to explore various media*.  A process, she said, is "a particular way of thinking" that "turns imagination into creation".  Oh...there is much to mine from that rich vein.  Thank you, Susie!

And so...I continue to explore and play.  I've been constructing "Fence? What Fence?" and have discovered that four rows of five blocks isn't quite right:

So there will be a fifth row and...perhaps...something else to take it from "somewhat utilitarian" to "art".  Stay tuned...

In addition, tomorrow morning (10 a.m. Mountain Time) I'm "going to" another Quilt Freedom Workshop, (online) entitled "Motifs in Motion"with the wonderful Joe Cunningham -- the seventh in his series.  Yesterday, I was delighted to catch -- quite by surprise -- his live stream 'trunk show' and interview through Handi-quilter (he uses one of their machines in his work), but tomorrow (Dec. 12), he'll be in his own studio.  Joe takes his inspiration from vintage/antique quilts, and puts his own spin on them, which completely enthralls me.

And goes.  Making, giving, learning.  Hoping that in that giving there is comfort. And hope.  And maybe joy.

Blessings to you all for the week ahead, Gentle Readers.  

Especially right now, blessings to those who are celebrating Hanukkah...and those who observe Advent, waiting for the Incarnation.  My husband was Jewish, as is most of his family.  We celebrated both holidays...because Jesus, being a Jew (not a Christian) did so too.  

Back in the day, it was called "The Feast of the Dedication" or the "Feast of the Macabees" -- referring to the dedication of the new temple, restoring the one reconsecrated in 165 B.C. by Judas Maccabeus, after it had been desecrated by Antiochus and his followers in 168 B.C.  

My creche at the lighting of the first candle last night,
 celebrated by Mary, Joseph and a shepherd, 
all of whom -- to my knowledge -- were Jews who so observed that Feast,
 which we now call Hanukkah...
even as there were other mysteries about to happen...

I leave you with a link to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday and wish you a quiet, safe, healthy, creative, loving weekend. 

May the Light bring you Life and Joy in these challenging times!

*Note: The singular is "medium"; the plural is "media".  "Mediums" is not a word. 😉

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Down the Rabbit Hole with Joe...


I spent a good part of last Saturday with Joe.  Joe Cunningham, quilt artist, that is.  Those of you who follow my ramblings likely know how much I enjoy his work and his teaching.  I own his Craftsy class -- which I can access once more because the new owners got their act together! -- and I've watched his appearances on The Quilt Show several times.  Since May, when he began to teach workshops online monthly, I've participated in nearly every one.  On Monday afternoon, when he did a live-online "chat" with Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts, I watched that too.  And as it was recorded, I watched it again yesterday afternoon as I was hand-stitching the binding on my daughter's Turning 40 quilt.

Yep.  I think he's great: funny, inspiring, interesting and with a quirky turn of mind that I find fascinating.  I don't understand how he thinks or sees the world, which he interprets in his art, but I remain intrigued -- so I've gone down the rabbit hole to try and find out more.

Which End is Up?
(C) 2020
In each workshop, Joe has us make at least one item, or sample.  Sometimes they're even useful!  😉  In September I managed to make a couple such items: a small top that will become a 'tummy time' blanket, and a cushion cover.  In August, I what I think is my favourite piece thus far -- and I've just spliced a couple of batting pieces so I can quilt it.  

On Saturday, the purpose of the workshop was to explore the work of an artist -- not necessarily in the textile medium -- and, drawing inspiration from that work, to make something using similar principles.  In this case, the artist was painter Stuart Davis.  Joe showed several examples of his work in a book, and landed on one -- entitled Cliche -- that we were to use for the workshop.  I confess, I preferred some of the other examples, but a class is a class...

So off we went!  

I'd picked two contrasting pieces of yardage from my "inheritance": a piece of deep navy and another of white.  Both have starry motifs printed on them in metallic gold.  I had no idea what I'd use them for, so they were perfect for playing in the workshop.  😊

The idea was to cut one fabric into 1 1/2" strips, and the other into random "chunks", much like we'd done in the very first workshop in May.  Then we were to reassemble the strips and chunks with one caveat: you couldn't have two strips or two chunks butting up against each other.  That lead to all sorts of adventures with angles and inset seams (or not).  Not being partial to fussing, I chose the 'slice it off' method for dealing with those!  

I didn't get the piece finished in the workshop time, but I pressed on, and worked on it again on Sunday, ending up with this:

Or maybe...this...

My design wall is 48" wide x 24" long, so you can see that this thing fills up a good bit of that space.  If you look closely, you'll see one tiny spot where the background (white) of one piece butts up against the background of another, but I don't care.  It is what it is.

And that's as far as I've got with it.  Working title?  Asteroid.  I know what I want to do to finish it, but I haven't come across the right fabric for a background to the shape.  I also know how I want to quilt it, but it'll have to wait till I find that fabric.  No matter; it was just another adventure down the rabbit hole with Joe!

I like these workshops because they've helped me loosen up a bit as an artist.  Someone who "sees" so differently, and is able to get his or her ideas across with humour and an easy-going style is someone whose teaching is hard to resist.

I find myself being more willing to experiment.  At the same time, I'm looking at my stash of materials differently, because I'm called on to play with them differently...and that has translated itself into new work.

I was particularly thrilled on Saturday when Joe and his colleague, Julie Silber, showed a quilt done decades ago by a quilter named Anna Williams.  Joe prefers to work with large chunks of fabric, and admitted that he tosses his tiny scraps but, Gentle Readers, I happen to love small bits, crumbs -- as you may well know.  Anna, apparently, loved crumbs too!

A couple of years ago I played with crumbs to create four "road-themed" pieces, the first of my "crumbpilations" series.

(L) Crossroads; (R) Take the Back Roads

(L) You Can't Get There From Here
(R) Never the Twain Shall Meet

Each of this quartet is 12" square, and is now mounted on stretched canvas and framed.  

Around that same time I made this piece for SAQA's Global Exhibit, "Season After Season"; entitled Incarnation to Resurrection: Reflections on the Colours of the Church Year, it's completely string-pieced from scraps:

That was a time of exploration, but in this chaotic COVID time, I've also found comfort in the practice of simply sewing together bits or strings of fabric, cutting and piecing and trimming -- and piecing some more.  That same comfort was what got me started quilting decades ago, when the stress of my husband's advancing illness was increasing, and two good friends who were quilting recommended it because, they opined, "knitting isn't enough".  (And they were right!)

This summer, I made two new art pieces from crumbs, and mounted them on large stretched canvases -- 12" W x 30" L.  (I have yet to pick them up from my framer.)

I've followed these with a couple of pieces that are going to be "soft" -- not on canvas, but hung with a sleeve and dowel.  

The working title of this one is "Chaos Can Be Colourful", measuring 24" W x 33" L.  I've yet to quilt it, but I expect I'll do it as I've done the others, with straight lines close together, and I expect I'll put a facing on it rather than a binding:

Another piece underway -- a glimpse of which I showed you a few days ago -- is on my design wall, blocks ready to be sewn together.  In the end it'll measure about 25" W x 20" L (before quilting):

Fence? What Fence? -- plus 2 random blocks...

Those two blocks on the right will end up somewhere else; I think the piece on the left is just the right size.  Again, it will likely be quilted with straight lines, faced, and provided with a hanging sleeve and dowel.

At the same time, I've been creating some crumb blocks that I expect will end up in a utilitarian quilt -- with sashing and borders; the stack of 8" square blocks numbers 17 right now, and there are more under construction:

In her interview/chat with Joe on Monday, Patricia Belyea noted that Joe once referred to himself as 'a quilt maker' but more recently, has begun to call himself an 'artist' or 'quilt artist'.  Thus ensued a conversation that really struck a chord with me.  

Just two days before, during the workshop, Joe and  his guest Julie Silber had had a similar bit of conversation about quilts and art.  Julie opined that "not all quilts are art; not all photographs are art -- and not all painting is art".  So...when a similar conversation happened in the Monday interview, I was excited.  Joe said his "aha" came when he realized that all of the quilts he'd made over the years were really "art projects".  That's when he also moved from copying the work of the quilters of yore that he admired, into creating quilts from his own unique and original ideas about art and the world around him.  He was particularly inspired by this quote from artist William T. Wiley:

I think art should be more and more amoral, a realm of exploration. Especially in school, if you could just get that idea across to people, it just means a whole threshold of getting into art, or the aesthetic experience, or awareness. Just give people a chance to go into it and really flesh out a lot of things and feel themselves in it. -- from Richardson, Brenda, "I Am My Own Enigma", published in Wizdum, University Art Museum, Berkeley, CA, 1971, p. 10.

I continue to chew on this thought.  Note: the word Wiley uses is not "immoral"; it's "amoral", which means 'not concerned with the morality of a thing' -- which in this context I interpret as "being completely objective", giving one the freedom to explore an idea or concept in an original way as one works it out in art, music, writing...etc.

My chaos pieces are just such an exploration, using the arrangement of shapes and colours of fabric in a way that attempts, for me, to bring order to the chaotic circumstances in which I find myself both in my small corner, and in the wider world around me.

I told you Joe had taken me down a rabbit hole!  😉  

What are you exploring in your work, as you make choices about colour and shape, quilting design, threads, embellishments and pattern?

I'll leave you with that question, and links to both WIP Wednesday over at The Needle and Thread Network and to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday.

Whatever you're creating, whatever you're pondering, Gentle Readers, thanks for stopping by -- and may you stay safe and well!  😊