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?

Digital Images-NYPL

While I do think that the internet sucks up my time and not always in a good way, occasionally there are places that are interesting to visit, to gain inspiration.  The above image is from the New York Public Library’s Digital Gallery.

These two prints are by Maurice Pillard Verneuil from 1869.  More are found *here.*

I went into their Printing and Graphics section from the main page, then randomly clicked on the list as I didn’t want to wade through all the images.  Here’s another:

It’s harder to see this one, but the catalog indicates it has plant forms, peacocks, and a waterscape.

And this one could provide ideas for machine quilting when the quilt is done.

Applique, anyone?

So how does this relate to quilting?  By encouraging me to see new shapes and new relationships between shapes.  I sketched up a block, taken from some of the ideas in the first one, then played with it in my quilt program (flipping and twisting the block), gaining the slightly weird, but somewhat intriguing design below.  While I have to work mainly in solids on the computer, I could see this in rich florals, or another type of print where the edges blur from the colors overlapping from one square to another.

The idea, at least for me, is not necessarily to have a quilt to bang out in one week, but perhaps to tuck these doodlings away in a sketchbook, whether it be the digital or colored-paper-and-pencil kind.  The idea is to make new connections.  The idea is to have an idea.

Where do you get your ideas?  Other blogs? Flickr groups?  (You’ve already seen my take on Portuguese Tiles.) Nature? Quilt shows? Something a friend has done? All of the above?

Four-in-Art Quilt Group

When I was in Long Beach at the quilt show, I fell in love with the Twelve-by-Twelve art quilts that graced one area of the exhibit hall.  I wrote about them *here,* and wondered on my blog if anyone wanted to join me in a new group?  Three other quilters did, and we came up with a name and a logo.  Four-in-art, a play on “foreign” and the four of us, was dreamed up by Betty, and we were launched.  Some of the Twelve’s work is below:

While Betty doesn’t have a blog or a Flickr page, the other two do.  They are Leanne of SheCanQuilt and Rachel of The Life of Riley.  We set up some rules, using a lot of the guidelines from Twelve by Twelve: roughly two months in between quilts with an extra month over the holidays, size about 12″ by 12,” any medium is okay but it has to be a “quilt” with a front, middle, back.  All kinds of techniques are encouraged and are possible.

For me, it was a bit scary.  My father and my sister Christine are artists, both with dedicated studios.  My father does painting, and my sister does that as well as mixed media.  But all of my family exhibits creativity in one way or another, from the way they arrange their desk (really, it’s quite artful) to their gardens to the choice of art that is hung on their walls.  But I’ve always been a quilter/photographer and only occasionally, a digital artist.  So to jump into the idea of making art quilts, well, really I just swallowed hard and did it.

The four of us chatted via email and Flickr and came up with a theme for the first series: Nature.  And then Rachel selected our first art quilt theme of Queen Anne’s lace, a flower that can grow wild.

That last photo is from Leanne’s garden, the first is from some random grab off of Google Images.  It’s helpful to think about the meaning of the flower as well, trying to draw out ideas, so we have posted ideas and insights on our Flickr.

One of the artists in Twelve by Twelve confesses that she loves commercially printed fabrics and while she’ll make some changes here and there, it’s always her starting point.  Since I’ve never taken a dying class or tried it myself (although in the Hippie-Dippy 1970s, I once tie-dyed everything in my camp suitcase while up at a church girls camp), so I knew I’d be starting with commercially available fabrics, too.

Our first reveal date is coming up on November 1st.  Check back then for my art quilt, but for now, here’s a sneak peak:

Here’s another version of our logo:

Snapshot: Putting the Quilt Top Together

Here’s my Snapshot Quilt, in the requisite rustic pose drooping over a gate with rusty wheelbarrow.  Go yard work for great props.

This is the third and final post in my tutorial of how to make the Snapshot Quilt, constructed from lots of Polaroid blocks.  And at the end, my little giveaway.  I have three sets of 10 blocks each to giveaway, but hey! you must be a serious Polaroid-er to get them.  Leave me a comment telling me what you’ll do with them–have you started your collection?  Do you have a few and want more?  Do you have plans for them?  And for fun, tell me about your favorite vacation photo, since this quilt is, after all, a tribute to vacation photos everywhere.

Here’s a close-up of some of the Polaroids.  I received the truck Polaroid in the swap.  Love it!

And that German-looking couple on the right was cut from my Barbie-doll dress.

Now back to work.  I have made a PDF to help guide you with cutting, and it includes the basic bones of the quilt.  Download it: PolaroidQuilt

Start throwing up blocks onto your pin wall.  This was my first attempt. I knew I wanted a stacked coins effect, but was playing around with inserting blocks into the middle of the stacks.  Meh.

Second try.  I like this one better, but not keen about the four blue blocks across the top, so I switched them around.  Check the previous post for the doctors-office-view of the quilt, which shows how I ended up arranging all my blocks.  I also checked to make sure that there wasn’t a glob of orangey-red blocks, or too many of one type or color.

After getting the blocks the way you like them, sew them together.  My row tags, made from embroidery holders, indicate which row it is, and which is the top. I pinned them all together in a row, then stitched them.

Cutting the white internal strips and borders:
Internal rows are 4 x 52″ (w/o s.a.) so cut three strips that are 4-1/2″ by 52-1/2″.  I’d STRONGLY advise cutting them on grain, that is, cut them parallel to the selvages of your white fabric.  All these double-Polaroid blocks are slightly on the bias, so they need the strong stable edges of an on-grain piece of fabric.

Borders (seam allowance included):
Border #1, top/bottom: cut two pieces 2-1/2″ x 40-1/2″; for the sides, cut two pieces 2-1/2″ x 56-1/2″” long
Border #2 (print), top/bottom: cut  two pieces 2-1/2″ x 44-1/2″; for the sides: cut two pieces 2-1/2″ x 60-1/2″” long
Border #3, top/bottom: cut two pieces 2-1/2″ x 48-1/2″; for the sides, cut two pieces 2-1/2″ x 64-1/2″” long
NOTE: I’d cut the border pieces slightly longer, to give allowance here and there for ease needed when sewing on borders.

Matching centers and edges, ease the stacked quilt blocks onto the white on-grain strip of white fabric.  Repeat until four rows of stacked quilt blocks and three strips of white fabric are sewn together.  I sewed the seam with the quilt blocks to the throat plate of my sewing machine, allowing the motion of the feed dogs to help ease in any extra fabric.

Sew on the first top border, then the bottom.  Then, matching centers and edges, sew on the side borders as you did above, keeping the white strip UP and the quilt block stack to the feed dogs.  Press seams toward quilt blocks.

Attach the print borders next in this order: top, bottom, side, side.  I was exacting on the lengths and matching edges and centers, but I should have given a little more ease to the side borders.  It’s a challenge sometimes, as you don’t want to get the borders too small so that the quilt “bows” with a curved edge, but you also don’t want it so loosey-goosey that it ripples.  Pin and check, is my advice.  Then press the seams toward the print fabric.

Lastly, attach the last white borders in the same order: top, bottom, side, side.  Press toward the second (print) border.

You’re done!

How do I plan to quilt this?  I’m thinking I’d first stabilize those long stacks with either stitching in the ditch white white thread, or a quarter-inch away into the white.  I’d like to outline along the Polaroids to make them pop.  The white sections call out for some sort of overall pattern, like this pattern from Leah Day of Free-Motion Quilting, Bow-tie Parade:

Go and visit Leah’s site for lots of ideas and a stimulating blog.  I love reading her posts.  I do plan to bind this with more of that print shown in my border.

Now! Leave a message if you are interested in scooping up some of my Polaroid blocks, and mention what you’ll do with them–have you started your collection?  Do you have a few and want more?  Do you have plans for them?  And for fun, tell me about your favorite vacation photo, since this quilt is, after all, a tribute to vacation photos everywhere.

Mine favorite vacation photo is from when Dave and I were newly married (under a year) and we took all the kids to Zion National Park.  We are standing there in the middle of red rock country in our slightly dirty T-shirts, a group of 2 adults and 4 children who were on their way to becoming a family. Now let me hear about yours.

 

UPDATE:  Congrats to the winners of the Polaroid Blocks: Mary, Cindy and Marilyn.  I’ll look forward to seeing what they do with their blocks, so send those photos over to my email when that future finish day arrives.

Snapshot: Constructing the Double Polaroid Blocks

First, let me say a thank you to Lee of Freshly Pieced Fabrics, who is hosting WIP Wednesday for us.  Click *here* to return to her blog and see other fabulous Works-in-Progress.

If you missed yesterday’s post about Snapshot, my latest quilt (above), scroll down as there is information for fabric requirements and a basic How-To for Polaroid Blocks.

The first picture (top) is Snapshot in a beauty pose.  This one (above) is the one where she’s in under the fluorescent lights in her doctor’s office, wearing only a flimsy gown that opens in the back.  You know the feeling.  But we need to examine the quilt to see how it’s put together, so I thought you needed a clinical kind of picture. Here you can see some of the variety in the tilting, and in stacking the blocks.  I had some scraps of fabric at the end and late one night made the one at the bottom left into two colors. (I should go to bed earlier, I think.)

I did these in sets.  You’ll end up making about 4 sets, alternating the blue fabric with the green fabric (only use one color at a time), as each stack is made up of 13 blocks.  However, I made a few more of each color, because I doubled up on some colors for variety (you can see it above where there are two blue blocks together).  So make 4 1/2 sets.
For each set of 13 double blocks, you’ll need:
8 strips of either blue or green (don’t mix), cut  1 and 1/2″ wide
2 strips of either blue of green (don’t mix), cut 1 and 1/4″ wide
26 Polaroid blocks, in pairs of two (take some time to match up the ones you want together)

Start by sewing the Polaroid blocks to to the wider  (1 and 1/2″) strip, placing Polaroids face down.  You are sewing this to the TOP of the blocks.

Lay out the strip of blocks and cut the blocks apart.  With scissors.  Remember those?  We finished up our discussion of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Your Brains in class, and the last section talked about tools; when we adapt and adopt a tool, it become an extension of us and we may leave older tools behind if the new one suits us better.  So if you feel like the rotary cutter is an extension of your hand, you may need to practice using scissors again.  Kidding.

Press the fabric away from the block, like this:

Now sew another wide strip on the bottom of your Polaroids.

Here’s four blocks, with the top and bottom borders sewn.  Again, you are using the 1 and 1/2″ width fabric.

Lay out a strip of the narrower fabric (1 and 1/4″) and place your blocks side by side, matching up your pairs.  Separate them by about 1/4″ at the bottom.   I pinned them so it would be easier to transfer to the sewing machine.  Sew the first set (one side) onto the center strip. You should be able to get about 7 Polaroids per strip.

As you sew on the first set, pay attention matching the edge of the Polaroid block to the edge of the center strip, letting those little bits of borders stick out.  You can cut them off in an earlier stage if you need to, but I did mine after sewing them.

NOW trim off the little edges if they bug you.  For sure, trim off the big overhangs!  Just lay out the strip as shown, and cut the overhangs off, even with the long strip.  DO NOT CUT THEM APART!!!   Let me repeat.  DO NOT CUT THEM APART!!

Now, take your “right leaning” and “left leaning” PDF printouts from the last post, and set one of them at a time on the table while you do the next step.  I made all the greens to lean to the LEFT. All my blues lean to the RIGHT.  It feels backwards, but here we go.  I used the picture to get in my mind which Polaroid should be 1/4″ up and which one should be 1/4″ (or the width of that top border) down as I’m lining them up along that center strip.

Notice in this high-quality illustration that the blocks lean to the right.  To accomplish this, you have to offset them when you sew them to the center strip.  The left block is “lower” on the strip, and the block on the right side is “higher.”  This is why I used two colors: to keep things straight.

But my greens tilt the OTHER way, so I used the “left leaning” diagram to help me.

(Diagram in action!)

Again, to get the tilt, you need to jog the one on the top down about one-fourth inch.  What I did was line up the edge of the green border  with the top of my center picture in my Polaroid block.  (I know this sounds confusing, so just look at the pictures.) This will give you that offset you need in order to tilt your block.  Do this with the remainder of your pairs.  Pin, then stitch.

When working with the blue, I reversed the sewing, stitching the blocks on the right-hand side of the center strip first, then the left.

Here it is sewn.  You can really see the slipped alignment here.  Press this seam toward the center strip.  See two steps down, for the why of pressing.

Cut these blocks apart now; the cut will be angled to fit the skewed alignment.

Here’s one that’s been cut apart after sewing.  Here you can see the shift.

And in comparing these two blocks (the one directly above and the one below), you can see the difference the pressing makes.  The pressed edges can either make a block look like it’s resting on the top or like it’s “sunken” into the strips surrounding it.  I wanted my Polaroids to have that look of being bordered by strips, not the strips “supporting” and “lifting” up the Polaroids.  So that’s why all the pressing directions indicate which way to press the seams.

Here you can see the different pressing.  All right Goldilocks, you are through the deep scary forest and just about to claim that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Using the wider (1 1/4″) strip again, sew the outer borders onto both sides of your block assemblage. Cut apart.

You should have 13 blocks that look like this.  Now comes more fun, more forest.

Get out that PDF picture again.  Lay it at the top while you trim your blocks.  The size you want to trim to is 4 1/2″ by 7 1/2″.

You need to tilt your ruler a bit, making sure you leave at least 1/2″ space between the edge of your white Polaroid interior block and the planned cutting line on the outside edge of your ruler.  (This is why you make extra blocks, if you get my drift.)  I tried to vary my cuts, because I think one of the charm of these Polaroid blocks is their wonkiness when set into their frames, much like a child would paste vacation photos into an album.  So sometimes I was just over 1/2″ from that edge, and other times I was closer to 3/4″.

Keep at eye on that 4 1/2 line, as well as the 7 1/2″ line.  Be a juggler, keeping all these things in mind as you go for your first cut, slicing off the top of the block.  Then flip it around, putting the cut edge at the bottom.

Lay the 4 1/2″ line of your ruler at the bottom, lining up your freshly cut edge.  Check your measurements.  You want the bottom lined up, but you also have to check that the block is centered so when you cut off that right side, you’ll have an evenly centered  7 1/2″ block.  If you are good to go, slice off that right-hand side.

At first, I flipped it around again, as I’d only have to pay attention to one last side (shown above).  But after a while I became confident enough to slice off the top, >flip<, slice off the right and top edges again, then >flip< cut the last edge off.  Which is what I’m doing in the picture above.

I took this photo mid-cutting to show you how the block can feel skitty-wampus when you look at the first two cuts.  But then you slice off the two side edges and you are Through The Forest Again!  In the arrangement of my quilt, I used 28 blue double-Polaroid blocks and 24 green.  Make enough that you have some to play around with, and if you like decorations on the back of your quilts, include some for that too.

NEXT POST:  Putting the quilt top together, and one day closer to my surprise giveaway.