Really? It’s Wednesday?

I’m not yet “jammified” (in my p.j.’s) but I could be, for how energetic I (don’t) feel.  Bob Hope noted that “You never get tired unless you stop and take time for it.”  So I’ve taken some time for it this week, after my Ta DA! post of earlier.  I also heard Joyce Carol Oates once talk about how, after a novel was newly finished, she took her time to coming back from working–she read poetry until she felt sufficiently ready to start work again.

I was asked to teach a class on the Lollypop Tree quilt, as I’ve noted before, I made up my own pattern, and thought I should get going on the class sample.  It was intended to be a Kaffe-fabricked Christmasy design on Kona red.  What it ended up becoming was a whimsical Kaffe-fabricked design on aqua polkadots.  The red one is still in my future. . . perhaps tomorrow, after I grade some of the late essays and finish up prep for class.

Leaf Progression LollypopI became stuck on this one leaf.  You can see the progression, of trying desperately to become unstuck, and I just noticed I put two of the same in the photo.  Ignore that.

Lollypop Tree Wallhanging ESE

I finally got to this point, and although I’m still not happy with parts of it, most of it is coming together.

Eric Maisel said that “If, because of anxiety and self-doubt, you procrastinate and only think about working, you’ll feel more exhausted than if you’d created for hours.” I certainly had a lot of that going on today, but I think it was also because I was listening to the end of a Graham Greene novel, which was driving me a bit batty.  Then I switched to This American Life and listened to the two-part episode about Harper High School, which starts *here* and ends *here,* which I’m still thinking about, and which should be required listening for every American, no matter where you stand on the gun-control debate.  It was sad, frustrating, illuminating and it got me working through my puny problems of how different pinks should go where.  Perspective is always a valuable thing.

Then I went downstairs to the kitchen and made two dinners: tonight’s and tomorrow’s, as I don’t get home from class until later and my husband and I just aren’t up for cooking, or for going out.

Leon Golden Egg

After dishes, I finished off a good book–the latest Guido Brunetti mystery–and then traced off and cut out another Lollypop Tree, ESE-style, to begin again tomorrow with a red background, for my  shop sample for the class.

I was talking to a biologist friend once, describing how sometimes I felt as there was nothing creative coming forward (this was when I was an undergrad in Creative Writing) and yet the deadlines didn’t seem to go away.  “Ah,” she said.  “You’re in lag phase.”  I didn’t know exactly what it meant, but the gist of it was that while I felt like I was doing nothing, my ideas were percolating, growing, or “metabolically active” as a biologist would say, before I entered a time of real growth (log phase, if you must know).  I’ve experienced this more than once.  During that time, I feel unfocused, blasé, wiped out, or just plain stupid, if you must know the truth.  I ingest vast amounts of silly internet videos, or lollygag through quilt images online, or read blogs without commenting.  Then slowly, something shifts, I become truly bored with being bored and I get back to work.

“If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch on to things.” –Sister Corita Kent

WIP new button

 

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.

Creativity and the Web

I’m thinking about all those affected by the horrific storm on the East Coast.  I have several quilty/blogger friends, as well as quite a few family members who have been affected and hope that they and their families are through the worst of it.  I’ve been on a blogging break this week from the computer (I wrote this post earlier) but I just wanted to jump in and send my thoughts to those who are dealing with this “Frankenstorm” and its aftermath.  Take care, everyone.

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In my class at school, we just completed a unit that was based on this book by Nicholas Carr, titled, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing To Our Brains.  We had our Discussion Panels last Wednesday, and it was fascinating that the students were fairly perceptive and able to discuss how the Internet has impacted their lives, for better or for worse.  One young man is fairly sanguine about the whole thing, saying, “Well, it’s here.  We just have to deal.”  Another pair of young women took opposite positions on the question of whether print was dead.  The internet’s main impact, that of re-wiring our brains due to neuroplasticity, was skirted around, but acknowledged when they all complained of the inability to finish a book before distractedly checking their phones for texts or messages.

And I think it’s rewired my brain as well.  Carr goes through the history of civilization’s adding of new technologies, from writing to moveable print to the typewriter and onward to clocks and the internet.  I was interested in his discussion on tools: “The tight bonds we form with our tools go both ways.  Even as our technologies become extensions of ourselves, we become extensions of our technologies.”

 I thought about how quilting has changed from the time when I used to trace a pattern onto cardboard, carefully cut it out and tape the edges for stability.  Then I’d trace it about a bazillion times in order to make a quilt, following along the pencil line for the seam.  I did use a machine for piecing, but hand-quilting was the only way to finish a quilt.  That’s why my list of 100 Quilts took so long to grow: our tools were more primitive before the advent of rulers and rotary cutters.

He also references Frederick Taylor’s Time-Motion studies and how it has changed how workers do their jobs (above: a golfer takes a swing).  Before Taylor came along, “the individual laborer, drawaing on his training, knowledge and experience, would make his own decisions about how he did his work.  He would write his own script” (218).

I think of us at work.  Some of us spread all our fabric out into a lovely mess (like mine, above).  Others fold and organize continually throughout the day.  I like to doodle around with my computer when thinking up a new quilt. Some like to start cutting, throwing the cloth up on the pin wall to see what’s going on.  Carr notes that with Taylor’s regimentation of industry’s messiness, something was lost.  “What was lost along with the messiness was personal initiative, creativity, and whim.  Conscious craft turned into unconscious routine.”

I hope I never become such a slave to a pattern or a ruler or a system of making a quilt that I can’t make  a creative and conscious detour into creativity.  But sometimes I wonder when I make a copy of another’s quilt, using one line of fabric if I’m not caught in a type of quilt-machine using Taylor’s demands for proscribed motion.   Is this creativity?  Am I being creative, or just following someone else’s script and benefitting from their decisions?

And like many of you, I’ve been following #quiltmarket on Instagram.  Carr said more than once, and I’m paraphrasing here, that trying to control the flow of information from the internet is like trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant at full blast.  The internet caters to the new! unique! amazing! as we all know.

I also have Pinterest boards full of ideas, most are quilts which I’ll never make, but pin them up there nonetheless.   Can we be creative 24/7, or is that too exhausting?  Has the Internet made better quilting possible?  More interesting quilting?  Given us an access to a wider range of styles and types?

I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I only know that sometimes the Internet affects us quilters, too.

So my question now, is how has the Internet affected you?  And has it been for better. . . or for worse?

Polaroid Blocks

Woo-hoo!  All the little Polaroid blocks arrived from the Polaroid Block Swap.  I laid them out and looked at them all, and really thought some lovely quilters somewhere had done a fine job making little bits of fabric in a frame.

On the left is one of my favorites, a series of matryoshka dolls (Russian nesting dolls) of which I have a small collection, and the small bit of cloth that Debbie sent along with the batch of blocks: a Polaroid image on a 2″ square, which can be either a label on the back, or made into a block to go with the others.  I had a great time participating in this and appreciate Debbie’s efforts.

And from those pictures, to another kind — the old-fashioned kind — taken at local quilt shows.  I used to take a few rolls of film (remember film?) in my bag along with my camera, come home and get them developed, then put them into little photo books to look at in between shows.  At one time, we traded photos, made our own little books, bought magazines in order to get our ideas for quilts.

This is my friend’s quilt, hanging in Road to California, with another friend standing beside it.  These are all in the pre-internet days, but even so, it’s kind of hard to remember what we did before we could just pop onto a series of blogs, or to Pinterest, or even Instagram.

I have six of these little books, tucked away.  On the left in that picture are Dave and I standing by my quilt that was hanging in Road to California (a different year than Lisa’s quilt).  And yes, I’m wearing a quilted jacket.  (Boy, do I look like an early quilter.)  Even though quilt styles change and the modern quilt movement has influenced a lot of our designs, I still like looking through these when I come across them occasionally.

Last book-y thing: I shopped C & T’s clearance sale and came up with these fun books.  While not all the books are new, and even some are sort of “vintage” it is enjoyable to browse through them when you’ve only paid a pittance for them.  You really should get on C & T’s mailing list, if you aren’t already.

So, now I’m off to sew sew sew before reality will hit and I’ll have to grade the Argument Terms Test that I gave in class on Wednesday.

You can bet that I’m putting off reality as long as I can.

Scrappy Stars!

Scrappy Stars, full view

I can finally write this post, as I caught Dave before he picked up his latest Donna Leon book (see the picture at the end for my stack).  I used to have this perfect photography studio, but then we had to replace our garage doors and I can’t staple a white sheet onto it any more.  So, I have Dave hold up the quilt for me in the back yard.

Here’s the requisite languid beauty shot: Quilt Draped Over Something.

The back.  You know that fabric you have that you love love love and it’s been sitting sitting sitting on your shelf for too long?

This was mine, so I put it to good use on the back of this very red quilt.

My quilter, Cathy of CJ Designs, did a meander over the star points and a star on a rolling wavy line in the borders. I had wanted to quilt this myself and imagined some glorious feat like Angela Walters accomplishes–all detail and punch and wonderfulness.  But in the end, I traded “Done” for “Glory,” as the pragmatic side of me realized that summer was o-v-e-r and if this quilt was to be enjoyed, I needed help on the quilting.

The label:  Scrappy Stars • No one sees what is before his feet: we all gaze at the stars.  -  Cicero

This is my number 100 of 100 quilts.  Now I’m starting on my second batch of one-hundred quilts.

I’ve arranged this stack of Donna Leon books I’ve finished in order of publication, with Death at La Fenice the very first one she published.  Notice how we get the paperbacks from used books stores (via Amazon and Abe Books online).  ( That second one is titled Death in a Strange Country.) There’s a lot of her books out there. So far, Acqua Alta is my most favorite, but I do like her subplots and characters. I’ve made a note to buy little almond cakes while we’re there, as they only appear around the first part of November — a piece of trivia gleaned from one of the novels.  At any rate, I look forward to reading more of these as soon as I can.

FSF Friday–Back Among the Lollypop Forest

I like this part of the Lollypop Tree blocks the best: laying out the color scheme in those great big petals.

The part I like the least, in the cutting and choosing category, is the little circles all around.  I chose Block Five to start back in again, because there only a few circles and they were all jumbo.

Block Ten has a few more circles.  But two down, seven to go.  I’ve got to stop now and get the binding on the gingham quilt (which STILL doesn’t have a proper name) in order to tuck away a few loose ends before the arrival of Barbara and grandchildren.  I went to JoAnn’s yesterday and bought two more boxes of applique pins.  Since my goal this summer is to get these blocks all cut and pinned, and it’s taking one box for two blocks, I may be running there again–or else I’ll resort to the wicked long pins which stab you a lot when you’ve got it under the machine–or maybe pin with the stabbers, then change out.  Playing it by ear.

And what book propelled me through these last couple of days?

On Canaan’s Side, by Sebastian Barry.

A lovely quote: “Bill is gone. What is the sound of an eighty-nine-year-old heart breaking? It might not be much more than silence, and certainly a small slight sound.”  Narrated by an elderly woman, it is her story, and the story of the people she loved.  I listened to this intently as not only is the story interesting and well-told, the language and imagery is inventive and descriptive.

I thought of my own mother, and the people she’s said good-bye to.  And her mother, and then her grandmother, who came over from England, leaving that land behind forever.  I guess all of our lives could be an interesting novel, if only the right author told our story.  And this story is told by exactly the right author.

I loved listening to it, as the narrator gave shade and color to the characters, perfectly intoning the Irish inflection, as well as the Greek shopkeeper in the later section.  It’s not a long novel to listen to–only 7+ hours–a relief after the last one I listened to, which was fifteen-plus hours (with irritating piano music off and on).

At the End of a Day

Sometimes at the end of a day, I like nothing to crawl in bed with a quilt book, and relax and think about different aspects of quilting.  One that I’m working through now is  Masters Art Quilts, Volume 2.  Here are some snapshots of what I have been interested by, followed by something grabbed from the web.  (And yes, that is still my red mess of a cutting table–sorry, I’ve been grading!)

I’m in love with quilts by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade, with their combination of photo-realism with quilt symbols such as lines and the grid.  Here’s a picture I found on Google Images:

Another artist which I’d never heard of before, but who I find to be very interesting, is Jan Myers Newbury.  She dyes her own fabrics and uses the tonality of these to build her compositions, of which many elements are seen in some of the Modern Quilt Guild artists working today, with their dependence on blocks of color.

This one is titled Ode to Albers, and it led me to a search for that artist’s name.  Josef Albers liked to place colors against each other to watch how they behaved.  Again–do you recognize this motif of a block within a block? To me a good book makes you want to head to another book, to find out more.  To search.

Beatrice Lanter uses small pieces of colors, working both in harmonies and dissonances to shape her quilts.

Vergngt is the name of this piece, and it’s approximately 43 inches square.  That’s another thing that struck me about many of the quilts I read about in this book was their smaller size.  This isn’t even a lap quilt in size, yet you could get lost in the design.

So when my husband and I are out today on an errand for my grandson (long story) I see this billboard sign, all fractured and shredded by months of painted produce advertisements, ripped off around their staples.  Before I would have just slid past it and into the store, but now I stopped and studied, as it reminds me that inspiration can be anywhere.  Isn’t this a version of a modern mola quilt?  With the top layers cut to reveal the lower layers?  And here’s another shot of what we did today (but don’t tell the grandson–it’s a surprise).

Yes, these are giant dinosaurs.  And yes, PeeWee Herman visited these in his movie.  They’re about 35 minutes from my house.  How random is this, in a quilt blog?

So, I’ve already placed the first of the Masters quilt book in my Amazon cart, and will order that one in as well.  Sometimes my big wish is to really break away from what I’ve done all my life, from the traditional blocks and triangles and just cut, stitch, deconstruct, and find a new way to a quilt.  But do I have the energy?  The vision?  The courage?  I sometimes wonder if I stay on the same track not only because I love it (and I do), but also because I am used to it.

And changing to a new track takes more ardor and zeal that I think I currently have.  But what then, this quote from Leonardi Da Vinci:  “Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.”  And my father’s favorite quote, which became the title of his memoirs, written a few years ago (he’s 86 now):  The place that seems most dangerous is exactly where safety lies.

Quilting Organically

Not quilting with organic fabric.  I was thinking more along the lines of a quilt that just sort of evolves from one stage to the next, getting stalled, then moving forward again.  But Quilting Evolutionarily (is that a word?) just sounded like it was heading somewhere different.  Often I feel the pressure to rush things–you know, to Get-It-Done so I can have something to show off to everyone in the blogosphere.  Because why would anyone want to read about my humdrum, inch-by-inch progress in my projects?  Only because that’s probably how things are going for many of us, especially at the holidays, when we are pulled too many directions.

So, after I put the blue borders on my wonky log cabin, it sat.  Then after finishing the grading, the finals, I actually had a night when I was waiting for my husband to come home from a trip back East, and I wanted to stay up and I had a good novel going, so I was ready to sew.

Forgive the blurry picture–it was at night.  I sewed white strips onto the blue borders.  I also had a stack of “middles” without the blue borders (I’d run out of fabric).  I added red strips to those, and then green.

And then I alternated them up on the pinwall. And there they’ve been for a few days now, while I try to figure out the next step.  They are all different sizes, so I’m trying to decide which ones to cut down, and to which ones I should add a deep blue strip or two in order to get them to become roughly the same size.

The novel I’m listening to is Moon Over Manifest and it’s written for a bit younger crowd; I’m still really enjoying it as it combines two periods of history in the story of the twelve-year-old protagonist.  I’m considering it for my English class next semester: since the main character is 12, I don’t have to worry about inappropriate romantic entanglements that I’d have to deal with in class discussions.  I’m teaching a developmental class (one below Freshman Comp) so this level might be appropriate to most of their reading skills.

So, not that anyone’s reading with a week left until Christmas, and Hanukkah just beginning, and the general rush rush of buying gifts and decorating and baking, but I am making progress on this quilt.  It’s interesting to sew without a plan.  I’m sewing just for the pleasure of it, just to discover what will unfold — the kind of sewing I need right now.

A Little Reading, A Little Traveling

I ordered several books off of Amazon, and have been enjoying them a little each night.  Here’s my latest two.  I’m still paying homage to them for my Come A-Round quilt, which was their design.

Tomorrow, I’m headed here with my only daughter, Barbara (I wrote about her here, which also shows the quilt I made her).  We have to get up an the unearthly hour of 3:30 in the morning, out the door by 4:00 a.m. in order to drive to our hub airport some distance away for our 7:00 a.m. flight to The Big Apple.  We’ve been making lists of things to see, to shop for (City Quilter? Purl Soho?), to look at (Ground Zero), to watch (a Broadway Show with Daniel Radcliffe) and we’ll get together with my son who is there that week for business.

Our Google Map is studded with push pins in four different colors: yellow for shops, green for sightseeing, blue for our transit/hotels, and pink for places to eat (macarons anyone?).  We’re excited to go and make some memories — enough memories to last a lifetime.