Friday, March 25, 2011

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (Part 1)

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven"

A time for squares, a time for QST.
A time for yardage, a time for precuts.
A time for learning, a time for doing.
A time for simple, a time for complex.
A time for craft, a time for art.
A time for every quilter (and quilt) under heaven."

A day or two ago, as is my morning habit, I read Nancy's blog.  She referenced a post on Piecemeal Quilts about the "dumbing down" of quilting, in which Sandi lamented that certain techniques were being called "intermediate or advanced" when, in her opinion, they should be considered basic, beginner skills, e.g. pinwheels.   In a later entry, she added a survey where readers could reply on a variety of subjects from coordination of fabrics (pre- or post-)  (sorry, a library joke) (yes there is such a thing) to techniques used -- even what size quilts you make.  

In Nancy's post (since deleted), she expressed agreement with the "dumbing down" opinion and added a few words about choices sometimes made by quilters.  For example: fabric brand-consciousness (or not), replicating quilts exactly, etc., and, IIRC, seeing the same thing on multiple blogs and musing on possible "product placement" (for want of a better term). 

Apparently that post kicked off a number of comments that resulted in a well-thought out response by  Carrie, and three updates from Nancy, one in which she served herself crow for dinner, another that addressed some of the comments to her blog and acknowledged Carrie's gracious response, and the last  trying to disentangle the two subjects that had become entwined by some readers: the "dumbing down" of quilting and the idea of "quilt blogs as marketing". 

Still with me???  (If I have misrepresented anything it's because of my Swiss cheese memory.   I welcome corrections.)

Wandering from blog to blog over these past few days has been interesting.  I took a couple of side trips to other blogs to explore posts and comments, bookmarked several, but providing me with the gift of a little time to distill my thoughts.

I completely agree with Carrie that  "The thing is, quilting has been dumbed down.  It isn't just quilting either, everything -- including us -- has been 'dumbed down'.  From politics to entertainment, culture to the arts, everything is faster, easier and requires a whole lot less thought."   Emphasis is on being fast, fast, faster, and on producing more, more, and most.  Food must be fast. Gratification must be immediate. Consumption must be constant. Heaven forfend that we not be "busy" day and night, even to the point that sleep deprivation to one degree or another has become the norm. [ /C.O.W. rant about society] [ Back to quilting.]

All my life, I hated sewing.  But I loved color and fabric and pattern, and had the recurring thought that "someday" I'd make a quilt.  (Note the singular "a".)  The idea resurfaced about 12 or 13 years ago and I began exploring books in the library (this was pre-"everything's on the web") (another librarian's joke).  All the quilting books showed complex blocks and said the same thing: start with something small, e.g. a wall hanging.  Well, I didn't WANT to make a wall hanging -- I wanted to make something to sleep under!   Specifically, I wanted to make quilts for my daughters to sleep under.  Quite by accident, my older daughter (then about 8) asked me to teach her to sew.  See first sentence in this paragraph.  Never thinking of "quilting" but not wanting to pass on my dislike to the next generation, I suggested that the next time we visited her grandmother in Kentucky, she ask Grandma.  I knew Grandma could sew because when each of my daughters was born, Grandma had made and sent baby quilts, but I carefully packed them away, never to be used.  If I knew then... 

The next trip, Grandma had cut out (scissors and ruler or template), many small squares of the same size and demonstrated to my daughter how to sew them together to make a 9-patch block.

BINGO!  This was an easy quilt block -- one I could easily learn to do, and, if I simply made a whole bunch of them, I would be able to make something to sleep under.  Not long afterward, I came across photos of beautiful quilts with a variety of colors making each one unique. But the blocks themselves were (or appeared to be) 9-patches!   I remember thinking that, perhaps all my quilts would be 9-patches, but they didn't have to all be the same! Helped and encouraged by two other women in my life -- a neighbor with a mat, rotary cutter, and experience in hand-piecing and quilting, and my younger daughter's Godmother (a hand-quilter par excellence!) -- I designed and pieced (by hand) contrasting but coordinating 9-patch tops for each of my daughters and began hand-quilting the first. 

When I moved to "near Philadelphia", I found a community of quilters at my church and extending into the community.  And I discovered the joys (and efficiency) of machine-piecing.  Since then, with the help of that community, a lot of practice and, yes, the internet (what an amazing and endless resource!), I long ago discarded the idea that all my quilts would be 9-patches and have made dozens of quilts "large enough to sleep under," in a variety of fabrics, patterns, and degrees of difficulty.  Thanks to Sandi's survey I realized that I do pinwheels, HST, QST, flying geese, and a lot of traditional blocks -- mostly with ease.  I've made all-one-block quilts, sampler quilts, scrap quilts, a bargello quilt.  I've designed (simple, but my own) a setting, re-drafted blocks to a different size, done some paper-piecing. Haven't made a wall-hanging, done partial seams, nor tackled applique. Generally I don't "do" tiny blocks or those with dozens of pieces. Still, I consider myself firmly in the ranks of an intermediate quilter.

Not bad for someone who once thought she could happily make 9-patches for the rest of her life. 

This is getting to be WAY too, long so: To Be Continued

Friday, March 18, 2011

Quilt retreat: March 2011

As usual, an excellent summary of the retreat was posted promptly by Nancy,  before I even had a chance to put my projects and machine back into the sewing room.   But, as soon as I arrived home, D#2 and I jumped into "Violet" (my purple/aubergine/plum) PT Cruiser to take her back to college, a drive of about an hour each way.  By the time I got home to stay,  I was so tired -- time change weekend is always a PITA for me -- that I didn't move a thing until Monday! 

Bobbi brought this sweet finished top along for show-and-tell.  IIRC, it was meant to be an auction quilt for her church, but that was changed by later developments.

You see, my esteemed roomie (and partner in traveling and shopping),  Pat is also a collector of gizmos and gadgets.  Very generously, she brought along her "Go! Fabric Cutter"  in case anyone wanted to try it out.  Naturally everyone wanted to play with it.   A couple of us, including Bobbi, were so taken with it that new projects were begun on the spot!

Bobbi started a bright, cheery new top using the die that cuts tumbler shaped pieces.

[photo borrowed from Nancy's blog, since I forgot to take a picture]

Though I'd brought three projects to work on (ambitious, much?), I only got to work on one, but it was my top priority.  I started with these 12 blocks and an assortment of William Morris fabrics:

By Sunday, it was complete, except for top and bottom borders, which I'd cut but didn't have time to attach.

In the photo, it's laid out with the unsewn borders beside the almost completed top.  I attached the last border strips this week and hope to take it to the quilter this weekend.   It's a birthday gift and the party is April 10, so I need to get it finished ASAP!

Pat's birthday was this Wednesday and we surprised her by an impromptu (early) celebration when we returned from Saturday evening dinner.  Nancy brought a chocolate-lover's chocolate cake; Pat cut; we all enjoyed!

I had previously finished all the extra blocks for my Rubik's Rings, but didn't have time to work on it.  Did take a picture though.

I'm in no great hurry to get this quilted (though I'd love to get the top completed), as I think it's going to be mine. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What I've been working on

Been avoiding housework lately (nothing new about that...) and taking refuge in my sewing room.  I now have three tops ready to go to the longarmer for quilting.

First up, though last to be made.  My cousin, just three months younger than I, recently had surgery for uterine cancer.  She and I were very close as children and teenagers, but not so much as adults.  But I want to let her know I am thinking of her and praying for her.   I whipped together this quilt out of the stash of hand-sewn nine-patches I have made over several years.  Many of them were made when I traveled, as a small box with pre-cut squares, a needle and thread is easy to transport.   For this quilt, I pulled 24 blocks with asian/metallic fabrics.

This goes to the quilter first so I can mail it out to my cousin.

Next, I finished a top that was started at the July White Oak "bonus" retreat: a bordello bargello for my German daughter.  She picked out the majority of the fabrics on a trip to Lancaster County before she went home.  Her birthday is in late April and she graduates from high school this year, so it's a joint-occasion gift. 
After the William Morris tesselated stars has been quilted, this one is next.

Finally, another project begun at an earlier retreat.  I sponsor a little girl on the Lakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota.  She is in 2nd grade right now.
As it is a gift for her October birthday, I have a few months to have it quilted, and bind it in red.

After retreat weekend, I have to do taxes and housecleaning, but I've enjoyed indulging myself for the past few weeks.

Making a list

Checking it twice, three times constantly. 

Quilt retreat at White Oak is this coming weekend!   I'm riding to Strasberg with Pat so I can leave my car for D#2 who is home for spring break.  And because it would be hard to find better company (much less a better roomie) than Pat!

Time to make my list of projects for the weekend!

#1 -- Top priority is to finish a tesselated stars begun at my very first White Oak retreat (2002 or 2003).  When I started it, the plan was to make a queen-size bed quilt for myself.  I set it aside in favor of other projects and it became one of my (now three) true UFOs.*  I have re-thought it in a smaller size (generous throw) as a birthday gift for one of my oldest friends.  Like all of us, he's getting even older -- his surprise 60th birthday party is in April.  The fabrics are William Morris repros, chosen originally because I love all things "Bill", but also perfect for "old friend", who is deeply enamoured of the Arts & Crafts style.  He and his partner live in a 20's bungalow with gorgeous custom built oak bookcases and furniture, including a gas fireplace with special order A&C-style tiles, and a cabinet with unique stained glass doors.  Scrumptious!  Have about half the blocks done already. Gotta finish the top so I can scoot it right off to long-armer and get it back, bound and photographed before party! 

#2 -- Next I need to set my set of "Almost Amish" swap blocks into a top as a wedding gift for the daughter of a work colleague.  I work in a small office with just six employees, and, while we do not constitute a social group, this colleague has been a blessing to me in a number of ways, especially since I've been on my own.   He helps me take the seats in and out of my car when I have to haul "stuff" to and from colleges, and is my ride when I need to leave my car at the garage for any reason.   I attended the wedding of his older daughter several years ago and made a quilt for a wedding gift.   This daughter will be married in Virginia, so I do not expect to be invited, nor can I attend, but I can send a gift.  Don't know much about their taste, but this should be a classic looking quilt so I'm hoping it will suit.

#3 -- If I can get to it, I want to finish my Rubik's Rings -- another UFO.  I'd pulled it out a couple of years ago (fall '08, if memory serves) -- long enough to determine that all my work setting it on point was useless because the blocks were totally symmetrical and the "frame" they really need can't happen if they're on point.

So I took it apart -- down to rows -- and have made enough more blocks for a queen-size quilt!   If  I get to work on it.  Fingers crossed...

*UFO = UnFinished Object   My personal definition is something started and set aside for a long time.  Last remaining UFO is the t-shirt quilt that was supposed to be a high school graduation gift for D#1 who graduates from college in May.  Projects that were never started don't qualify, no matter how long they've been on my "to do" list.  Nor do sets of swap blocks, whatever the length of time they've been waiting to be put together.  YMMV. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Progress report: month 8 (February 2011)

February is my least-favorite month of the year, as it marks the birthdates and deathdates of several loved ones, not to mention over-hyped "Valentine's Day".   Thankfully, it is also the shortest month of the year!   On top of that, February 2010 was the worst month for snow last winter.  I was afraid of a 2011 repeat, following a January in which we were clobbered every few days.  Fortunately, my fears were for naught.  

27.  Enter checking account data, balance account.  (done 2/28/11)
88.  Do something pro-active for eating disorders awareness.
      (Washington DC NEDA walk on 2/20; raised over $450)

In process:
48. Watched 8 movies (69/125):
      The Truth about cats and dogs    
      Strictly ballroom (LOVED it!)          
     A Single man (Colin Firth = Excellent)          
     The Bucket list (Morgan Freeman ++)          
     It’s complicated           
     La Vie en rose (in French; English subtitles)           
     The Woodsman (disturbing subject but great performance by Kevin Bacon)
 49. Read 3 books (20/60, 16/30, 3/10):
     Seven sisters (Earlene Fowler)
     Arkansas traveler (Earlene Fowler)
     This is not chick lit (Elizabeth Merrick, ed.)
89. Gave blood  (1/3)

29. Steps toward divorce. (still waiting...)
36. Get back to taking vitamins daily.
54. Go to NYC [or Philadelphia] for play or musical once a year.
      (Lantern Theatre Company in Philly for "A Skull in Connemara")
84. Extra contribution to F.E.A.S.T.
99. Updated blog with progress report (8/8)
101. Wrote two additional blog posts: Egypt (2/6) and NEDA walk (2/14)

Priorities in March:
  6. Get back to working in basement.
12. Work on more small things around house.
17. Begin to plan plantings in front and back yards.
69. Quilt for CB: add borders and get ready for quilting
(Two other quilts that weren't on my list have been added and their completion has taken priority over #74.  One is for a relative who has had surgery for uterine cancer.  The other is destined for a friend with a special birthday in April.  Serious illness has also struck that family.)  
93. Start volunteer project.

In March, I am looking forward to having my daughters home for spring break followed by a White Oak quilt retreat!