Ralli Quilts and Conversations

Ralli_1 Ralli_2 Ralli_2a Ralli_3

I was fascinated by all the comments left on my last post about whether to not you choose to answer every comment on your blogs.  The trigger, of course, was a couple of articles from 99U which is a site geared toward business types.  In talking about this with Cindy, of Live a Coloful Life, we both remember the early days of blogging, where reply comments were not the norm, but instead of replying to a comment, you’d head over to their blog and leave a comment.  A couple of comments referred to this, such as this one from Barb: “I also would rather someone comment on my blog rather than spending time replaying to my comment on theirs. That would be a great agreement; instead of replaying, comment more on others blogs.”

Ralli_4 Ralli_4a

Some of you came up with your own name for those snippets of comments. I liked Susan’s observation: “‘Nice Quilt’ is what I would consider a conversation ender. If someone says something like “that’s a really nice quilt, I like the blah feature” then I consider that a conversation opener.”

Ralli_5 Ralli_5a

Nancy echoed many comments when she wrote “I like the interaction between people, albeit virtual, through blogs. I have made some blogging friendships of which I am truly glad. I leave comments about blogs that have given me inspiration, a lesson, beauty, a smile, or something to think about–the start of maybe a brief conversation.  I think of blogging as a way to interact with others of like interests. In my smaller physical community, it is difficult to find the more artistic quilters or those who self-design, so I turn to blogs.”

Ralli_6Bed

I’ll leave the final word to Claire about our blog reading, as she describes exactly how I feel: “All this assumes a normal day with a leisurely coffee break while I read email and blogs. Other days I skim and probably miss wonders.”

Well said, Claire.

Ralli_7Bling Ralli_8stitching

All of these quilts are from an exhibit I recently saw in Utah at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art.  They are known as Ralli Quilts, and are from Pakistan and India (see map at end of post). I was amazed at all the stitching, the detail, and the colors (like the quilt above–I couldn’t get my camera to adjust to the deep reds).

Ralli_8stitchinga Ralli_9 Ralli_10

These were all found by Dr. Patricia Stoddard, a friend of my sister Susan (who tipped me off to this exhibit).  The website about these quilts is found *here* and is interesting reading. Her book, a veritable catalogue of the quilts, can be obtained *here.*

Ralli_11 Ralli_11a

I loved the contemporary look of these quilts, many made in the 1970s.  There are several sites that sell newer ralli quilts and can be found by a search on Google.

Ralli_12 Ralli_13 Ralli_14

This reminded me of the Trip Around the World Quilts, a sensation on Instagram last year.

Ralli_14a Ralli_15wholeclothimprov

Improv piecing anyone?  Often the women saved time by piecing printed textiles together, rather than doing their appliqué.

Ralli_16 Ralli_16a Ralli_17

One of my favorites; I put the closeup on Instagram.  It was a good afternoon there at the museum, looking at quilts that are out of our quilting mainstream, a good antidote to the quilt market frenzy on social media.  Their vivid colors and patterns reminded me that time spent with patchwork and colors can bring a quiet satisfaction and an entry into the wider world of quilting.

Ralli_17a

Map

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

4-in-art_3

Our Four-in-Art quilt group will be revealing their final challenge of this year on November 1st.  Occasionally we have an opening for someone who wants to play along.  No shipping required, just a willingness to engage in new ideas, new techniques of your own choosing.  Leave a comment and your blog address if you are interested.

Circles EPP Button

And then a couple of days after that, I’ll have my November Circle Block ready to show you, plus a variation that may interest you for the holidays!

Thinking about our Dialogue: Comments


E-Mail Concept
(illustration from *here*)

Okay, quilters, fess up.  How many of you feel compelled to answer back every comment that shows up on your blog, whether it needs an answer or not?  Those comments land on our blogs, our IG feeds, and sometimes Flickr posts, then often make our way to our email boxes.  Do you need to respond to them?  Should you respond to them?

According to the 99U article on being efficient with our time, we should not respond unless there is a question.  Yet Seth Godin observes that “many people do, because there doesn’t seem to be a great alternative. It’s asymmetrical, and productivity loses to politeness.”

So according to Godin we choose being polite vs. being productive.  You should know that I am the Thank-You-Note Queen of the Universe, taught well by my mother.  I try to write a thank you to every gift, or acknowledge some kind gesture.  I believe in thank you notes.  But the digital universe is not the same thing as the real world.  I say, if the the comment requires some response or has a question, I try to answer them. However, I don’t write back to every comment on my blog because some are of the “drive-by” quality: “nice quilt,” or “great colors” or “Awesome!” I’ve left a few “drive-by comments” myself and I’m just acknowledging the blog post or the blogger’s work or the subject, and I certainly don’t expect a response.

In a related article, Elizabeth Saunders recommends that “Before you send a reply, ask yourself: are you responding just to reply, to show you’re paying attention, or just to say “thanks?” If so, you’re typically wasting time that could be spent producing something of value and only encouraging people to respond, thus adding more email to your inbox.”

She has a great point, but some of my treasured long-distance friendships have come about because of the correspondence that developed from their first comment, and I’m loathe to pass up a gold– or a silver — friend.  As Scott Belsky says, “My thinking: email may drive us crazy, but it is still a form of communication with people, and communication helps build relationships.”  It’s a balance. Often comments springboard me to a new post, as engaged readers have interesting things to bring to the conversation.  I often view this whole process as a dialogue, reading each comment carefully, weighing and considering what was written, enjoying our discussion.

What do you do?  Do those comments in your inbox nag you until you answer them all?  Or do you use Saunder’s advice, responding when needed?

To Reply, or Not to Reply? Blogging Buzz

I guess the first thing to get out of the way is to ask one of the big questions:

Question1

No, that’s not it.

The big question is: why do you blog?

And if you are like most of the blogs I see in Blogland, the answer falls into these categories:

  • making a living at quilting
  • want to make a living at quilting
  • will never make a living, but still have hope
  • pleasure of sharing my quilts
  • love to write and would write about making tires, if necessary

And then the next question:

Another question

Wrong.

Here it is: What do you expect of the people who visit your blog?

Should they leave a comment? Visit only? Not steal your content (it happens)? Not copy your ideas without attribution (it happens)?  Which leads us to the really big question:

JosephCampbellBigQuestion(from *here*)

When I first started my blogging adventure, in September 2006, I didn’t even enable comments, coming as I was from the “pure” experience of a Creative Writing degree where it was always expected that you would write from within yourself.  Soon after that, the digital world exploded and during grad school a few years later, even though we were still yearning for that isolated writing experience, the reality of the market now loomed large, and we had classes on marketing, selling your novel, pitching stories, being aware of What’s Out There.

And that now is the world in which we quilt bloggers find ourselves, I think, which means that the pure excitement of sharing our quilts, our ideas and just chatting up the room seems to be slowly sinking into the swamp of Making Connections, Pitching My Stuff, Pick Me! Pick Me!, and so on.  I think I participate in all of everything, as do most of us.  But I was quite struck by the thoughts on Carrie Nelson’s blog, LaVieEnRosie, about how so much of blogging has become about advertising.  Carrie is one of my heroes in the way she blogs truthfully about her life, so I really perked up when she next said:

With blogs, I’m also betwixt and between about responding to comments.  I feel horribly – terribly! – guilty when I don’t answer each and every comment with an e-mail but since I can’t bring myself to send just a quick “thank you for commenting” – I think we all know I’m a bit chattier than that – do I answer just some?  And if I don’t get to it right away, is it awful to respond a week or ten days later?  That might be worse than not answering it at all.  So I stick my head in the sand and hope the e-mails answer themselves.

Sometimes I think that comments are just comments–not requiring a reply.  When I leave a comment like “Great quilt!” I don’t really expect a reply at all.  But other times I’ve been pleasantly surprised when a reply has come, and over time it has deepened to a correspondence of some sort.  However (and she peers over the top of glasses), I know several bloggers who feel so swamped by their own success, of the imperative to thank everyone who comes by, that they withdraw from blogland, retreating back to their studios to Make Stuff, which is — if you think about it — the main reason to have a blog.  And I also cringe a little when I happen on a blog where they cheerfully say “I want to grow my blog!” as we are expected to carry away a task from that honest goal, and as I slink away I feel guilty, because certainly one of the true pleasures of blogging is building a community of like-minded folks.

So, does this strange cultural custom of expected replies to comments enhance your appreciation for a blog?  Do you leave comments regardless of whether the blogger will answer you back? And if you blog yourself, do you feel compelled (and I chose that word purposefully) to answer back all your commenters?

Do Tell.

On Blogging, Part 3 (final)

Now about this wonderful monstrous hydra we’ve created: blogging.  If not conquered, or at least managed, it will sink us all.  First some thoughts from others.

Rachel of Stitched in Color writes a fine post aimed at new bloggers, with her own list of Readers’ Pet Peeves.  I laughed when I saw two of mine on there: “blurry photos” and “people’s feet” (I get tired of seeing pedicured toes, so thought it amusing that others have the same reaction).

Ez of Creature Comforts gives her advice for blogging:

“Be passionate. Blog about something that truly matters to you. Believe in yourself and be an active and friendly member of the blogging community. Oh, and have patience! It might take a while before anyone knows you exist, but keep at it and never be afraid to ask for help when it is needed.”

Here’s mine:

No guilt.  No apologies if you don’t blog, but do give us an explanation if you’ve been away for an interesting reason, like you went to Australia, or had a class in color theory, or just spent time walking the beach with your children.  We do want to know how you recharge your batteries, and we might follow your lead.  I always love those posts about trips, esp. to New York’s fabric district!

Decide whether you are a “commercial” quilt blogger, or a “personal” quilt blogger.  While we’re happy to have both, it’s sometime irritating to have a personal quilt blogger suddenly start pitching a product or an online fabric shop in that “advertising” way.  I’m always happy to learn about new products from the bloggy world, but we readers recognize that those who take money from their enterprises have an obligation to sell.  And you know quilters: we love to buy, but hate to be sold. (And this includes Too Many Giveaways!!)

Blog only when you want to. While they say the muse inspiring writing only comes if you apply your backside to a chair, sometimes it’s better wait a day or two for an interesting idea than to force your blogging to a schedule.  Caveat: if you are blogging as a line of work, then you have to treat it like work.  You know, show up with interesting content, a new idea.  It’s about the showing up part that’s important (but be aware of the previous idea of commercial vs. personal). Which leads me to my last idea:

Avoid too much secondary content on your quilt blog.  This falls into two categories:
1) personal stuff that overwhelms the quilting stuff. Moderation in all things–open another blog for yourself if you find that most of your posts are about your cat.  Or kids.  Or whatever; and,
2) importing from others to fill your own blog space.  While those who run design blogs do this quite frequently (you can only redo your own house so many times), I think that we as quilters have many things we can write about as we sew.  And while a nod to inspiration is good, I like seeing all topics of the sewing universe on quilt blogs, from the new trend of sewing clothing (all things Old are New again) to how you like to put on your binding.  There’s also the technical aspect: too many videos is a drag on our bandwidth.  Again, moderation in all things other than quilting.

Be a blog reader and commenter.  We can’t read all the blogs all the time.  Choose a few of your favorites and read fairly regularly. I’ve made some great friends by doing this, and they have widened my circle as well.  Think of it as the new pen-pal system.  Follow some links occasionally to gain new inspiration.  But perhaps a time limit for  computer viewing is a good idea, as we all know we have quilting to do!

Forgiveness and Fun.  I’ve tresspassed just about all of the above listed pieces of advice at one time or another, and we should have a bit of forgiveness tucked away for bloggers, just like we do for when we stitch in a tuck and hope no one notices.  And FUN!  Yes, hopefully blogging is enjoyable.

Above all, write what interests you.  Be yourself.  Share with us your struggles.  Avoid cattiness, but healthy dose of snark can be fun.

Be true to yourself.  E. B. White, a famous essayist, noted that “Your whole duty as a writer is to please and satisfy yourself . . . the true writer always plays to an audience of one.”  But if you write it, we’ll read it!

˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙

Coming Wednesday!

Project Gingham Reveal!

On Blogging, Part 2

Recently on Creature Comforts, Ez wrote “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You,” a discussion about life behind the blogging curtain.  Leave yourself some time, if you want to hop over there and read. One salient quote:

“However as time has gone on, and with the ever-expanding roster of blogs that are out there showcasing pretty thing after pretty thing, I’ve come to realize that all this beauty can actually have the opposite effect. The always-nice that we see on constant display everywhere we look (from blogs to magazines, etc) becomes frustrating because it doesn’t really look like how our life looks, right? Instead of visiting a blog and feeling inspired, we quite often leave feeling less than, and like our life can never really match up to what we see.

“As a long-time contributor to this trend of pretty-everything I should know better, but even I get sucked up in feeling like other bloggers are more successful, have better wardrobes, perfectly behaved children, gourmet meals pre-made weeks in advance…they host fabulous parties with every last detail glittered and festooned to perfection, take lavish vacations, sign book deals in their sleep and pose for photo shoots in their immaculately clean designer-decorated homes. Please can I at least get a raised hand if you’re feeling me on this.”

I’ve heard too many blogging friends say that they recently have come to a point where they hate blogging, that they just want to sew and walk away from the other part of having to put up photos and commentary on what they do at the sewing machine.

I graduated with an MFA in Writing, and this idea, that our private selves–or what we do when we create and spend time thinking about while move around our bits of cloth–can be in opposition to our public self, is not a new one.  Cezanne was famous for this, often packing up his paints and easel and leaving if he thought someone was watching him.  But even he participated in gallery shows, presenting his work for his audiences when he was finished with it.  The difference between us and Cezanne, is that blogs are DAILY (or at least WEEKLY) and are giant content sucking machines.  And usually that content comes from us.

And we all know you have to have generate content to blog.  And if you don’t have content, you have nothing to write.  And if you don’t write, then you don’t have a blog, which many quilters use as a tool to decrease the isolation as well as foster a conversation of sharing.

Bridging this innate tension between wanting to create privately, with sharing what you are doing with the public, is a constant.

I have one more post about this.

˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙

On Blogging

Do you like to blog?  The previous post discussed audience, and how we find our audience for our quilting and our art through some linky parties.  But this one is more about the blogging–the writing, the putting down of our thoughts and our ideas, the putting down of ourselves for others to see and (hopefully) comment on.

When I sit and read through lots of blog posts, like on a Linky Day, I am overwhelmed by how underwhelming my work is. I feel like I produce nothing, while all of you are out there with Bigger!  Better!  More Colorful! and looking like Jennifer Lopez or Jackie Kennedy (pick your icon) and I’m just sitting at my sewing machine/computer with unwashed hair in my slouchy pajamas.

I believe one place this feeling of inadequacy comes from is the deluge of interesting projects and quilts that I click through in short order.  It’s like going to a quilt show, with multiple projects all out there for you to see.  However, when we are in a giant hall, with loads of hanging quilts all around us, we recognize that we are at a quilt show and are there to gather ideas and inspiration.  But when we’re home breezing through blogs, we think we are looking at someone’s real life–that they are endlessly pulling quilt rabbits out of hats and never have a bad day, or one that they’ll write about.  I’ve been reading in Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, and he notes that when we gorge on internet reading, we become “mindless consumers of data.”   He continues, “Our ability to learn suffers, and our understanding remains shallow. . . we’re unable to retain the information or to draw connections.”

Perhaps at this point, we need to push back from the computer and realize we aren’t looking at quilts. We’re looking at a “blog”– a constructed persona, full of sunshine, happiness and perfectly pieced points.  I love the following quote on how we portray ourselves on Web 2.0, the internet:

“That kind of thinking is precisely what I’m talking about, what lies behind the bland, inoffensive, smile-and-a-shoeshine personality — the stay-positive, other-directed, I’ll-be-whoever-you-want-me-to-be personality — that everybody has today. Yes, we’re vicious, anonymously, on the comment threads of public Web sites [I think of the recent brouhaha between Kate Spain and Emily Cier], but when we speak in our own names, on Facebook and so forth, we’re strenuously cheerful, conciliatory, well-groomed. (In fact, one of the reasons we’re so vicious, I’m convinced, is to relieve the psychic pressure of all that affability.) . . .

“Well, we’re all in showbiz now, walking on eggshells, relentlessly tending our customer base. We’re all selling something today, because even if we aren’t literally selling something (though thanks to the Internet as well as the entrepreneurial ideal, more and more of us are), we’re always selling ourselves. We use social media to create a product — to create a brand — and the product is us. We treat ourselves like little businesses, something to be managed and promoted.

“The self today is an entrepreneurial self, a self that’s packaged to be sold.”

Do you ever feel like this–that we package ourselves to “sell?”  More on this in next post.