Friday, December 19, 2014

Scraps or Crap? A Leftovers Dilemma

Arrgh - can't sleep so I might as well write the blog that's been rolling around my brain all week.  I want to share an idea I have gotten recently about which I am extremely proud and excited not because I'm certain it is so original, but because it is a solution to a problem I've had for a while and I'm excited about it.

You see, there are a couple of things I find challenging about being organized in my studio. One of those things is scraps, which have always been a bit of a thorn in my side.  Scraps have annoyed me because I seem to lose all logic in the face of them - I cannot seem to apply the obvious solutions, which are to donate them or to offer them to the local quilt guild. I'm not sure why these perfectly excellent solutions aren't happening, I can only say that I seem to have an unnatural attachment them and what they MIGHT become while at the same time, I hate how disorganized they are and how much space they take up in my studio most of the time when I'm not using them.  I know that there are many people who really, really use their scraps all the time.  I just don't seem to be one of them.  So there they sit all fat and wrinkled and fat, and yes, I admit, I've actually thrown a bunch on my burn pile once. But the guilt of that decision is still with me, so I won't do it again - I promise.

Then, too there is the defining of scrap - I mean, how small does a scrap have to be before it is time to throw it away?  Or is it wrong to throw any fabric away, no matter how small? And what, size-wise, is a scrap as opposed to a piece of material that should go back into my stash?  I don't want to have to wade through a bunch of small bits of fabric when I need a large one but I don't really have room for a bunch of smaller bins so all my scraps go into the same bag, which makes them messy, wrinkled and irritating...unless I find the perfect scrap when I need it which makes me happy and glad I saved it.   

In my scrap bags there are several different kinds scraps.  There are fabrics I have used in several projects that are still somewhat sizeable - maybe around a fat quarter's worth or bigger.  I don't want to use them again, but I cannot in good conscience throw them away because they are large-ish.  The second kinds of scraps are bits of material that I love so much I that I cannot bear to throw even the tiniest bit of it away because I would like to use it again, but the scraps are really pretty small, so why am I saving them?   Also in there are irregularly shaped pieces that had weird shapes cut out of them, but aren't necessarily small, just misshapen (Aren't all scraps misshapen, you might ask - yeah, but some are more odd than others). Then there's stuff I got for a specific piece that I don't have any further use for at the moment (the moment lasting about four years) but who knows, I may have use for it at a later date (although I doubt it, but still, you never know).

Again let me point out that while I'm aware of them,  I have emotional difficultly applying the obvious solutions, which even in the middle of the night make perfect instead I came up with this idea:

I have decided to cut them all into squares. At least as many of them as I can. When I am cutting for a new project, I am vowing to spend up to half an hour extra cutting the leftovers (unless there is more than a fat quarter) into squares.The squares at this point will range from six inches to one and a half inches.  Why squares, you might say...why not strips? Well, strips may be easier and faster to cut, but strips are difficult to keep from getting messy and wrinkled, whereas squares are much easier to store neatly in baggies.  And squares are very versatile, too.  A larger square can be easily turned into a different shape - a circle, a half-square triangle, a hexagon, etc.  And when I want to do a quick easy project with by nieces or nephew or a charity project, I will have squares at the ready and I/we don't have to spend so much time cutting.  I just really like the idea of having a bunch of cut up squares that I can use - whenever.  I will put them in baggies not according to color, I think, but by size.  It may make sense at a later date to do color, too, but I'll revisit that if I have to.

It will be a discipline, I know, because usually when I am cutting fabrics I am all hot and heavy to get started on the project, but hey, it's good for me to add discipline into my life wherever I can - builds character, right?  But I also think I will be glad I did it.  

Now the big question for me is what do I do with my current scrap bag?  I'm tempted to just dump it at the donation center, but I think instead I am going to go through it, pull out fabrics I like want to save and cut them into squares.  Ambitious - yes I suppose it is, but I can stubborn and single-minded when I want to be.  Whatever is left will be donated,period.  No debating with myself. 

And from now on, a new rule: in order for me to save a piece of fabric, meaning put it back into my bins, it must be at least fat-quarter sized or larger, and I must really, really like it and know that I will use it again.  If there are smallish bits that I like, I will cut it into the largest possible squares.  If I think I won't use it again, no matter how large or how lovely, I will donate it.  And I vow to donate at least every other month, that way I won't have such a large amount of stuff taking up space in my studio. And annoying me. 

While I'm at it, I'm also going to donate a bunch of things my excellent mother, who was gadget-addicted, bought.  I haven't used them in four years, so the odds are that I won't ever.  And someone else might.  It's hard to part with them for the same reason it's hard to part with scraps - you never know when they might come in handy...and, well, my mother bought them and they remind me of her...but the truth is that I like to work in a more organized space than I have at the moment.  Mother, I'm certain, understands this.  

Like I said, I am probably way late to the party - many people may already be doing exactly this, but I'm still excited about it and want to share it in case it helps anyone else who might have my weird scrap issues  (Hey, I may be late, but at least I've finally arrived!)

So I'm curious - what are your scrap solutions -what works for you, because I know everyone is different.  Please share with the group, now - you never know who you might be helping...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Have Been Obsessed!

Last week I started a new piece, and I have literally been obsessed with it for seven days and nights.   I'm not exaggerating - I actually woke up in the middle of the night Sunday and couldn't sleep for thinking about it, so I got up and worked on it for three hours.  Last night I planned to go to bed early because I was so exhausted, but I went back to my studio after dinner at around 7:30 instead, thinking I just had two more rows to sew and then I  could rest happy in the knowledge that I had finished and I would still get to bed early.  I think I got it together by 8:30 or so - great!  I was still on track to go to bed early EXCEPT....I wasn't happy with the offset effect (unfortunately I was too delirious, so I didn't think to take a picture) but instead of a half-frame, which was what I wanted, I had a cross in the corner, which I didn't care for at all.  I asked my husband to come up and look at it, and expressed my dissatisfaction.  He said "I like it the way it is," but let's face it, he was lying because he just wanted me to GET OVER IT!  But I couldn't.  It just wasn't right.  So at 9:00, after getting prepped for bed, I went back into my studio.  I decided to just rip off the bottom rows (two of them), flip them and then I was certain I could relax and go to sleep.

But once I got there I couldn't stop  - I was too hyped up - I just knew I wouldn't be able to sleep if I went to bed then, I needed to see what it was going to look like...I decided to only figure out the changes I needed to make - what squares I needed to add or take off, etc.  Naturally, because I am spatially challenged, it took me over an hour. All that was left was to sew it all together.  I really, really wanted to, but it was 11:30 and I was cross-eyed tired and making pretty much a mistake every two minutes, so I grudgingly went to bed.  I was able to fall asleep serenely knowing that it was all laid out and all I had to do was put it together.

Of course I woke up in the middle of the night and guess what I couldn't stop thinking about?  I tried counting sheep, but they turned into rainbow colored squares!  I was awake at least two hours, during which time I really really wanted to get up and finish, but I didn't because I knew I was too tired to do a good job sewing.

At 6:00 am this morning, however, I popped up to pee, and the squares danced in my head, so I gave in and finally, finally got the thing put together.  Hooray.  I love it now and

I can't wait to start quilting it....

Friday, December 12, 2014

These are not my pillows....

But I wish they were....

They were made to go with a wall hanging and the bed runner that is behind them in the photo.  

I am not a pillow maker - especially round pillows. So when someone asked me to make round pillows with piping, I almost said no.  But I'm so glad I didn't, because I learned a lot, and I enjoyed making them, and they turned out great.  

It just goes to show, one should try new things sometimes. Because you never know what you can do until you try it. .

However, sometimes one should know when to quit!

This morning, I set a goal for myself.  Finish the fourth pillow (it didn't make the picture), exercise, go to town and run errands, complete five more rows on my current project and write at least one of the blogs that has been running around in my head all week before we go to a play tonight. (At the time, it seemed pretty doable).

It started out to be a great day.  I was humming along, making great progress.  Then I hit a little snag... I really, really lost my cool. Again.

 I won't go into my ridiculous behavior, but allow me to set the table:  I've been quite excited to get going on this piece.  I finally got all the pieces organized and was ready to start sewing on Thursday.  I had a few little hitches, and I was a little crabby, but I was able to calm down, figure it out, and get five whole rows done.  And I loved it - it was looking so fabulous!  I decided because it is kind of an intense project that I would only sew five rows a day together (there are 21 rows in all).  That way I would not get bored or frustrated.  

Today, after finishing the pillow, I could hardly wait to get started on my five more rows.  The first three rows went together like a dream.  I was really enjoying myself, and I really thought I had gotten the hang of the pattern.  So much so, that when I got to the fourth row, I didn't really look at my sketch, I just pulled the squares and started sewing. What a disaster.  I had sewn them all backwards (or so I thought). 

Looking at my phone and seeing time was running out and I hadn't met my five-row goal, I got pretty annoyed and started muttering (and let's be honest, cursing) and berating myself. I should have stopped sewing right then. I thought about it, but I didn't.  I tried to calm myself down while I ripped every single one apart, but I was getting more and more annoyed.  Still, I kept on sewing,making more mistakes, getting more and more upset.  In the back of my head I kept saying,"Just stop, just stop - so what if you don't meet your goal," but I didn't stop.  

Finally I was able to get the whole fourth row completed.  Hooray - I was going to make my goal after all!  Happy and calm again, I carefully matched up the seams and sewed it to my already completed three rows.   And yep, I had sewed it completely upside down!  All the squares I thought I had sewn wrong in the first place were actually right. I hadn't consulted my sketch and so I did it all wrong.  Needless to say, I was not a picture of calm happy quilter at this moment.  (I forgot my husband was downstairs, so please don't ask him what i said - PLEASE!)  Suddenly I realized how ridiculous I was being and I started to laugh.  Who cares if I don't meet my goal, really nothing matters that much.  In the calm after my storm I made myself take it all apart, and then I ironed the squares and put them on my machine for next time.

I admit, I feel pretty discouraged that I still lose my cool like that.  I have been striving and striving to NOT do it - meditating, praying, exercising but I still do, and it makes me feel so - deflated.  Maybe that's why I feel compelled to confess it so publicly on this blog.  I know no one is perfect, and believe me, I'm not striving for perfection.  I just want to NOT lose my temper.  I want to listen to the voice in the back of my head when it waves it arms and screams "WARNING! WARNING!"  

Alas, today's experience tells me I still have a quite far to go before I reach that goal.  If I ever do.  But I'm going to forgive myself; I'm not going to use the fact that I feel like I'm never going to be the way I want to be as an excuse to stop trying, even in the face of extreme frustration. I'm going to try again and again and again...and again, if I have to.  

Because I forgot for a few moments that it's all about the journey, not the destination. (Guess the universe thought I needed some reminding.)   

I heard this quote by Ariana Huffington.  She said "Mistakes are not the opposite of success. They are just steps along the way."  

I guess I should be grateful for what happened today - is was an opportunity.  I missed it, but thanks anyway, universe!  Hopefully I won't miss it next time...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hey Jude - Let it Be!

Have no fear of'll never reach it. 
                                                                     Salvador Dali

Just reading a blog by Amy Garro at 13 Spools talking about a mistake in a quilt.  It made me think,,,I don't believe there is a piece I've ever made that doesn't have a flaw in it somewhere! 

Not that I'm bragging, of course.  

My goal, absolutely, is perfection.  But so far, I've never been able to attain it.  And somewhere along the line I realized I would have to settle for the aspiration of perfection, but the reality of not-so perfect.

For example, yesterday I was finishing a commissioned piece that so far had gone really well.  I literally was putting the final touches on the quilting, and I could not get the thread to cooperate (metallic thread, enough said).  It didn't look horrible, but it wasn't - well, perfect.   After pulling out the stitching three times in one area, it was becoming clear to me that perhaps I was setting my standard too high.  I took a few deep breaths and decided that if the next time, if it was good enough, I would just leave it.  Unable to resist trying to fix it, I tweaked** it one more time, but (this is the key, here) I had already accepted that it wasn't going to be exactly the way I wanted it to be... as you may have guessed, this time, it worked just fine and it looked exactly the way I wanted! 

Wish I could say this happens all the time, but nope, it doesn't.  Sometimes, I really do have to live with imperfections in my work  -  because, Man! these things are handmade.  Most of the time I'm flying blind, I have an idea and a sketch and if there's a pattern I made it myself and well - I'm not a machine, I'm a person, and boy oh boy am I imperfect!

Don't get me wrong I still (desperately, intensely) want to make my quilts perfectly!  I mean, everyone else seems to, why can't I?  The answer, silly me, is that everyone else doesn't!  I just don't see their mistakes the way I see mine.  Or sometimes I do see mistakes, but it doesn't negate the beauty of the piece or even really impact it at all - they're just there. Or maybe they have made mistakes but have been able to "fix" them so they aren't noticeable. (I was absolutely liberated one time by my friend Karen Kemp telling me about some class she took where the lady, a reknowned artist, actually said she uses SHARPIE markers to correct mistakes.  Yep, your eyes are not deceiving you, I said SHARPIE!)  

Of course, my favorite mistakes are the ones that actually enhance the beauty, as in "Oops - I accidentally made this piece even better!"    It does happen on occasion, you know, what a boon!  That's one we pretend we did on purpose. ( wink, wink) "I meant to do that!". 

Having said this, I think everyone has a certain line of what is acceptable and what isn't. After re-doing the binding on one of my favorite pieces recently I somehow ended up with a bare spot where the batting wasn't covered on the back!  EEKS!  This is completely unacceptable.  I had to take the entire area of binding off (again) and add a piece of fabric to cover it.  Excellently, I don't think one could tell at all now where that happened, and I'm sure not telling, but the point is, it had to be fixed.  On a different piece, there is some very small quilting that didn't turn out quite the way I wanted it to, but I left it in.   It's white on white, and really not all that noticeable and it would damage the fabric to try to pull it out and I just don't want to, either.   Does it irk me?  I would be lying if I said it didn't, a little.  But the goal is to Let. It. Be.

I have a pact with myself that I will do everything I can possibly do to make my work as perfect as I possibly can. If there is something I think I can fix, I will try to do so. And - here's the challenge for me - I strive to be calm and positive while I do it, too, while I do it. It takes a lot of self talk sometimes.  It goes something like  this:

"OH &^#($@!  What the *&##%!?  How did that happen?"

"Remember Carrie, you are trying to do the best you can do - it's worth it to try to figure this out, now DON'T GET FRUSTRATED CARRIE!   If you are getting mad you have to stop NOW!"  

"But," whines my mind's I,  "I don't waaanna to stop!"

"Okay, then you will CALM DOWN!" (deep breath, deep breath) 

"Alright I'm calm, let's do this, bi-atch!"

As I've said before, I want to create with a happy, positive vibe with my art, and I believe that comes not just from the design, but from the attitude of the creator, too - to bring joy, it must be created with joy.  And that includes when something goes wrong, too.  (Which happens to me pretty much daily.)

So not only is my art a daily practice for being present, it's also a daily practice in tolerance. Because sometimes we can fix mistakes, sometimes we can cover them up and sometimes...well, sometimes, we just have to --


Here is a photo of the one with the bald spot - close up, even.  I think it's fine, except for the stuff sticking to the back of the quilt - need to get out my lint brush, methinks!

**I had been using clear monofilament as the bobbin thread, thinking it was the same consistency as the metallic, but I switched back to quilting thread and Viola!  Perfect stitches!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Schizophrenic Quilter?

Sometimes I wonder if I have a split personality.  If I look at my work, it doesn't seem to follow any sort of style at all.  For example, I just finished this quilt top:

It was inspired by a mid-century modern design I saw.  I used brighter modern fabrics, but interestingly, the result still fits in with the overall feel of the era.  I’m really crazy about mid-century art – there’s something about the colors and shapes and sensibility that really appeals to me.  They are optimistic, I think, and kind of space age-y too. 

Then there’s this piece, Aurora Borealis:

This piece has a completely different feel, to me.  It’s far less fussy.  But I love it too.  I blogged about it last week – it was inspired by some photos I saw of the Northern Lights in Iceland. 

Then too, there is this:

This one is an improvised piece that I call “Stones From the River. To me, it is completely different from the others in sensibility, color – it has a natural kind of feel to it.  I absolutely love it, and actually made it for myself – I’m nuts about that fabric that is in the border – wish I’d bought an entire bolt of it. 
Here’s yet another organic-type of piece:

They are inspired by Andy Goldsworthy’s art.  I guess these are similar, now that I look at them. 

Here’s one that has a different feel..  It’s called Glacier:

Finally, here are a couple that are sort of graphic:


One thing you might notice is that there are very few quilts (actually none in this gallery, come to think of it)  that have repeated blocks.  I’ve made a number of those, I must say - mostly other people’s patterns.  It’s not that I’m against them, but when I get inspired, it just doesn’t seem to come in blocks.  So be it.

This is a small sample of my work, of course. There are many more around including several that use African fabrics which I can't get to the pictures of at the moment (dead computer) but I think these illustrate my point.  I'd tell you to go check out my webpage, but I still don't have a web page complete (STILL!  And yes I still hate computer stuff and I just can’t figure out my site on  I’m seriously considering just scrapping it and finding something a little more user-friendly…)  Once I do, I am hoping to have a photo of every piece I've ever made to look at, just for fun and to see if there is any progression at all.  I don't think there is, but maybe I just can't see it.

I designed and made them all, really I did.  But they all seem so very different from each other to me.  I have to wonder if a person would be able to tell, looking at my work, that it is mine.  If I didn't know they were made my one person, I don't know if I would believe it.  Not that I care, really.  It’s just interesting to explore.  I mean – who the hell am I?  I don’t know if you could tell by looking at my art – it seems to me like it’s all over the place.  One might think I’m a little nutty…but it’s like I said – I just like a lot of different stuff!  Surely that’s a good thing…and I don’t really mind that I don’t have a signature style, not where art is concerned.  I just sort of go with the flow.  So far I've really enjoyed where it takes me, so why not?   

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It's Simple, Really

Things are a little more back to normal around here, and I have finally gotten back to work. Last week I created a piece I'm calling Aurora Borealis. 

It's a ridiculously simple piece, inspired by some pictures of the Northern Lights in Iceland. Even though it isn't technically complicated, I feel like there is still a strong visual impact with the different shades of blue against the gray and the quilted wavy lines which represent the "bent" light. 

I really like it (although it isn't completed yet - I ran out of the gray so I'm waiting to get some more for the binding).  I could easily see this hanging in someone's office, kitchen, dining room, bedroom....for me it evokes a certain feeling - peaceful yet energized - that I like.  There's also, to me, a kind of "hip" vibe I get from it, which I also like.  But I must admit I feel a little defensive about it, because it is so simple.  I feel like I have to defend it, to point out that it is worthwhile, even though it wasn't difficult to construct, to justify its creation, as it were.

All of which makes me wonder a little bit.  What is it about art that makes it "good" art?  Is it the idea, the feelings or vibe it brings out or projects, or the technical skill behind the making?  I've been looking in different places for inspiration lately, and something I have noticed is that when something appeals to me, it isn't necessarily because I realize it was obviously a time-consuming, skill-developing, painstaking something to make (although I can certainly appreciate that about something).  It may be that I have a strong visceral response to it, or I can see the thought process that's behind it, or maybe it's the use of color, or a graphic element I appreciate.  Sometimes, there's just an elegance or simplicity to which I respond in it.  Or it's just, plain, beautiful!  To me, there are so many ways that not just a piece of art, but anything - even a beautiful line on a pot, or the movement of water as it flows from my refrigerator into my glass, or words strung together on a page can be breathtaking. mesmerizing...inspiring.  

Take Alexander Calder, for example.  He's definitely one of my favorite artists.  I pretty much love everything I see of his - paintings, wire art, sculpture...there's something about his sensibility that really speaks to me. Just looking at his mobiles makes me catch my breath with joy. But most of it is visually simple, really.  I'm not saying it was technically easy to make; I wouldn't know or presume, but there is a simple elegance about it - yes it makes a statement, but it's not yelling at you, it's dancing...whispering... singing...flying...ahhh - I'm swooning just thinking about it!

Here are some of my favorites for you to enjoy, too!

People have all sorts of reasons for creating art, I know - sometimes it's a social or cultural statement, sometimes the purpose is to expel personal demons, to wake people up, to express anger and frustration, to effect change, or just to document the beauty they see. Well, I know my purpose.  My art is created with breathless joy, excitement and anticipation which hopefully spills over into the creation itself and into everyone who sees it. At least, that's my goal.**

I know, it sounds almost putridly goody-goody, but I don't care!  I really want my art to spread joy to the people who see it.  I want them to get a positive, peaceful, happy, exhuberant or "cool" feeling whenever they look at it.  I want them to swoon with joy, too.  

Which leads me to this thought about myself as an artist:  While I like to push myself, skill-wise, (which I constantly do because I'm mostly self-taught and I don't know any of the shortcuts or simple ways to do things), I also sometimes just have a feeling I want to express, or colors I want to use together, or something really graphic I want to create just because it makes me happy to look at it.  It may not end up being a challenge to make, skill-wise, but still, it was my idea (in that it came from the universe through me), I  took the time to create it from my vision, and well, isn't that enough to make it worthy or "good?"

I realize that there are as many different ways to respond to creativity as there are people on the planet, and I'm not only cool with that, I think it's wonderful, fantastic, lovely. But -  I'm going to try not to feel like I have to justify my creations anymore, be they simple or nail-bitingly complicated.  They come to me from the creative universe, and I'm lucky enough to have the (overwhelming, really) urge and ability to turn them into something others can see and enjoy and respond to as well. I hope with all my being that's the result. It's that simple. Really.  

**In the spirit of full disclosure (especially for the people who live with me or know me well) - sometimes I find myself frustrated and cursing, etc. (as I've shared before) when I'm creating, but I truly strive to keep it to a minimum because I figure that negativity may creep its way into my art.  In fact, I've begun a little discipline with myself; if I'm feeling negative and frustrated I will tell myself I have to walk away right now or let go of it, because I will not create in a negative space.  Usually all I have to do is remind myself of this, because I don't really want to stop working, I just want what I'm doing to work, dammit!  And once I realize this and take a few deep breaths, I can go back to creating with the correct mindset.  If not - well - it's time to do the laundry or clean out the car or exercise or do something infinitely less appealing than creating art.)

Friday, October 31, 2014

One More for the Blogger's Quilt Festival...

Okay, I've been working a lot lately, so I have a number of finished pieces to share.  I'm going to add one more to the Blogger's Quilt Festival sponsored by Amy's Creative Side, just because...

This quilt is called "Read Between the Lines" and it is, as I'm sure many of you will recognize, made with Carrie Bloomston's amazing collection of fabrics called Collage.   I'm so crazy about these fabrics!  I think I could have designed ten (or more) quilts for them  - they are that cool!  The colors, the design - all fabulous!

This is a design I had a sketch of for a while - I'm entering it in the original design category.   
I really love it but warning - it involved a lot of math to figure out!   Luckily I figured it out so others don't have to.  Originally I wanted the lines to be longer/shorter, but the piece would have ended up being really, really long - about ten feet!  As it is, it's pretty large - about 68 (w) x 70 (l), so could be a throw, a bed coverlet or a wall hanging, depending on how one sees/needs it. 

Here is a close-up - love that newspaper fabric!

Stay tuned,  I think I'm going to do a tutorial on it  pretty soon.  It's deceptively simple looking... 

So excited to go look at the other entries now.   this is so exciting - I love seeing all the creativity.  And finding more blogs to follow.  And looking at all the sponsors' sites...Can't think of a downside to this unless it's too much time on my Big Ass Chair...too bad!  I've had strep this week and this is my compensation for not being able to attend the Houston Quilt Festival as planned.  Big butt be damned!  I'll exercise when I feel better...

Thanks Amy for your awesome idea and all your work.

                                                         Blogger's Quilt Festival -

Post Script on Disaster Quilt

I don't know if I shared the final product of my almost-disaster quilt. It truly was one of those transformational moments.  I was sure it was just too wonky to save, and I now love it so much I'm entering it in the Blogger's Quilt Fesitval from Amy's Creative Side.

I'm calling it "Earth"  for perhaps obvious reasons:


I washed it (per the amazing Weeks Ringle's advice - not to me personally, but she does it and she is, well - amazing!)  and now it is all crinkly and even more earthy and I love it. 

What saved it was, I think, two things - first, trimming the heck out of the incredibly wonky blocks, and two, the sashing.  I'm not normally a sashing kind of girl, but I must admit I like not only that it saved the quilt - I think it adds something, too.

When I started this piece I admit I was a little arrogant because I figured I had done similar techniques and it would not be difficult.  Let me just say how wrong I was - it kicked my butt! But I'm so glad I persevered because these fabrics are so delicious - I think I want more!  

I'm entering this one in the art quilt category.  Even though it is throw or even bed-sized, it's pretty arty, I think.  I would probably hang it up on the wall because I love looking at it, but like I said, it could be a throw or even go on a bed - that's one of the really great things about quilts - they have so many functions!

Thanks Amy for the festival - it's sew fun and inspiring!

                                                          Blogger's Quilt Festival - 

An End (or is it a beginning?) to the Blues...

So happy to find out I didn't miss the deadline for Amy's Creative Side's Blogger's Quilt Festival!  I have been so busy with my son's fall activities, visiting family, etc. I saw the email but just didn't even have time to process it.

  Of course, I am supposed to be at the Houston Quilt Festival this week, but got sick and had to cancel - didn't care at first because I was so ill, but today I'm feeling better but am now bummed to be here and not there.  Woe is me...the quilts...the fabric...the fun...the fabric...the inspiration....the fabric I am missing - it's just so so tragic. 

Luckily the Blogger's quilt festival is an awesome way to distract myself from what I am missing.  Loads and loads of amazing, creative and beautiful quilts to be inspired blogs to add to my already pretty long list of blogs...shops to peruse from the comfort of my Big Ass chair....something I can do without expending too much energy (although I must say I do LOVE antibiotics - they are quite miraculous, aren't they? I'm feeling much more like myself...) 

The first quilt I am showing is my quilt called Constellation.  It is a modern quilt (says Mrs. Obvious); my own design.  I had this one in my head for a while before I made it - never even made a sketch, just started cutting and sewing and Viola! Here she is.

 I think I may be going through a Blue period - I almost never used blue before but lately it keeps inspiring me...Made with the amazing Cherrywood fabrics - I love them so much.  

At first I didn't want to quilt it - I loved how clean it looked, but I knew I must so I just did lines and really, I'm so glad I did - far from taking away from the piece, it really added depth. 

So thanks so much to Amy for this chance to be at a quilt festival after all.  Can't wait to dive in!

                                                     Blogger's Quilt Festival -

Thursday, October 16, 2014


The nature of creativity is so fascinating.  I, for example, love to create – just about anything.  When I’m in a meeting with a piece of paper, I doodle.  If one of my nieces or nephews is playing with Playdoh or Legos I happily join in.  I like to paint – well, anything, really.   I love origami and have made hundreds of paper airplanes with my son (and students) over the years.  I love to cook and bake fancy food for my friends…Then there are the things I’ve thought over the years I would like to learn – to weld, for example (so I can make metal sculptures), how to cut and style hair, woodworking….they all seem interesting and full of possibility.  Oh – and I love to write, too. 

But I’m not serious about any of it.

Right now I’m mostly focused on my textile art and writing, because the reality is, one can only do so much, and I would rather be excellent at a couple of things than be constantly flitting from one thing to another even though they are all so tempting.  And excellence is elusive.  It takes lots and lots of practice.  I want my art to be as good as I can make it, and I’m willing to spend a great deal of time and energy to make it so.

But I’m not serious about it.

So why is it, if the theme of my life seems to be that I’m driven to create, that I don’t consider myself to be a serious creator?  Mostly fear, I suppose.  I don't want to be serious about it because I want it to continue to be completely joy-filled and endlessly amusing, the way it is now. I’m scared that if I take it too seriously all this incredible exhuberance and enthusiasm will go away.   

Too, I’ve rarely been able to force creativity to hit me with an idea on demand.  Instead I just let it happen when it happens, and so far, it’s been working.  I'm a seat-of-the-pants creator; I never know when inspiration is going to hit. Sometimes I’m struck by a bunch of (seemingly unrelated) ideas at once, and I have a marathon “creation” session where I wear all my colored pencils to a nub and use reams and reams of paper and sketch till my fingers ache.  Other times everything I see seems to have the kernel of an idea in it, and I walk around with a sketchbook jotting down sketches and talking to myself like a nutter.  It always seems to just occur. Except when I try to make it happen.  Then, it seems I'm completely pant-less. 

But I admit I’m a little leery of my kind of creating – what if the well runs dry?    I know there are infinite ideas out there, but what if I suddenly lose my ability to channel them?  Is it even possible to dial up an idea on demand?  

Often I’ve read about or heard writers talking about how they force themselves to write every day – whether they feel particularly inspired or not.  It’s the disciplined, serious part of the equation – they aren’t necessarily going to use everything they write, some days the river flows, some days it doesn’t.  But it forces them to at least open up to the creative muse on a daily basis and I’m guessing that just the action of sitting down to the pencil and paper (or whatever tool) can trigger a creative response often enough to keep them pretty rigorous about it.   But can it work with other types of creativity? 

It would seem so.

Recently I discovered a really cool Facebook page developed by brilliant creator Anne Sullivan called “Quilt Design a Day.”  Each day there’s a photo with all its colors separated out - a seed of inspiration.  I love it because it provides regular opportunities to create.   Naturally, not all pictures or colors are going to speak to everyone, and some days you might be too tired or distracted or busy or crabby, and nothing comes or you hate what does, but that’s okay, of course.  The goal isn’t necessarily to actually design something you want to or will make necessarily – it’s just to flex (or develop) your creative muscles.  Another really excellent benefit of this type of forum is that you get to see other people’s creative takes on the design seed, too, which of course can provide further inspiration – a creative Lallapalooza – LOVE it! It seems creativity actually feeds on itself  - the more opportunities it has to express itself, the more it creates!

What this does for me is help me realize now that one doesn’t have to sit (or wander around) waiting to be lit up by a bolt of inspiration; ideas can (and do) come in a more routine, disciplined way, too.  Yeah, they most likely will continue to come at strange and sometimes inopportune moments, too, but I don't have to be afraid to be a little more disciplined in my approach to creating - it's okay to be serious about it - it won't go away or suddenly become UN-fun if I work at it, it actually can and will develop even more - hooray!

That’s what I mean about creativity being so fascinating – not only are its possibilities endless, it can occur in literally infinite ways!  How very wonderful, exciting, lovely and of course, seriously creative.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Does It Really Matter THAT Much?

Just realized I haven't written in a couple of weeks - been too busy working on projects and doing other stuff - you know, life.  I've also been struggling a little with a dilemma; it's rather a good problem to have, but still, there's a decision required at some point soon... and I just haven't been able to make a choice.

Here's the issue: I decided to enter a fabric challenge for Quiltcon 2015, and I have too many ideas!  What I mean is, (and it's a little difficult to admit to this) I'm sort of caught up in the "Which one is most likely to be chosen for the show?" thing.  I've already made one piece and am working on a second, and I even have a third idea I like, but that seems like overkill, doesn't it?   

I don't think it is so good to be fussing over this decision - it's giving it too much importance and focusing too much on the outcome rather than the doing.  In fact, as I write I'm getting the little niggling reminder in my head that nothing matters that much, and I should just make whatever comes to mind and whatever I have time for, and go with my gut and definitely not create with those thoughts in my mind.  In fact, I should be thrilled to have such a boatload of inspiration - it shouldn't be turned into a problem!    (Thanks for that little insight, universe - dilemma dissolved!  Another reason I love writing this blog, I almost always end up with some little kernel of wisdom that has been eluding me.)

This is, apparently, an eternal lesson for me - I definitely enjoy the entire process of creating but near the end of a project I tend to make more stupid mistakes (which makes me irritable) because I'm so anxious to see the finished product.  For example, yesterday I was sewing the binding on a piece and I was so excited to see what it looked like I did a terrible job and ended up having to resew practically the entire thing!   With that in mind I've recently made a little rule for myself that if I am getting crabby I have to walk away because I don't want negative energy to flow into my work - only positive, happy me can work in the studio. It might seem a little woo woo (to quote Carrie Bloomston), but I have seen how one person's negative energy can affect an entire room full of people, and I really want my art to bring joy and pleasure to people.  I think that anger, frustration, and anxiety can literally be transferred to the finished product if the creator is in a bad space.  And I know I don't want anything with that kind of bad juju hanging on the walls of my house or covering my bed - sounds a bit ominous, doesn't it?  

So when I feel this annoyance coming on I start with the self talk: "Okay, Carrie, if you can't enjoy this, just stop right now and go do something else," or "Is it really important to finish this right now?"  or "STOP! NOW."  If that doesn't work, I leave and come back later.  That's what I did yesterday with the binding - I made myself stop even though I really didn't want to, and I came back later and did it calmly and with joy and it was fun and I am really pleased with the outcome.  

Here's what I am thinking: Since creativity is basically a gift, it shouldn't be forced or have too much stress associated with it. That's not to say there are deadlines or other people to please, but they shouldn't cause anxiety and negativity.  Challenges are a part of life, period. They are never going to go away, no matter how good we have it.   It's the attitude with which we approach them - acceptance, calm, even the joy of being alive and having the problem - that's what matters.  I guess I just needed a little reminder of that. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Improv Fun!

Just finished a piece that's been inside my head for a while.  This one I never even sketched, but have seen in in my mind's eye for a while and decided to go for it!   I'm super pleased with how it turned out.   What I like about this piece is that although it is simple, it's also versatile.  I think it would be really fun to make in lots of different ways with different colors and even some prints.  I also like the graphic nature of it - it has sort of a cartoon quality with the skinny black strips that I really like.    

Original design by the zen quilter

Also I love the blue fabrics (from Cherrywood, of course) - they are so rich in color! 

 Now for the hard part - I have no idea how I'm going to quilt it!   It's kind of stark, I think, so I don't want to add to much of anything.  Oh well, kind of a fun dilemma to have!  I'm calling it "Blue Modern" for now.  It took about three days to make the top, which is also fun.  The only difficult part was figuring out how to cut the angles, but I overcame that, too, math genius that I am not!  Will share how I did it later, no time today, just excited and wanted to share...I might try to enter this one in Quiltcon, I like it so much. 

TTFN  and enjoy your weekend!   

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

From EPIC FAIL to Can This Be Saved?

Two or three months ago I bought some really gorgeous, earthy toned fabrics that I loved at first sight. I didn't need them, but couldn't resist and bought them anyway.  I loved them so much I pinned them up on the wall so I could stare at them.  They hung for weeks, and I loved looking at them, but I was working on other things and couldn't get to them. 

One day as I was perusing one of my favorite blogs, The Quilting Edge, I saw a place for tutorials.  Wondering why I hadn't looked there before I, I saw one in particular that caught my eye.  One she calls, Wonky Circles. That was it - the "design" for the earth fabrics.  The instructions were clear and there were excellent pictures.  I knew the basic idea and was certain I could do it. I was so excited I dropped everything else and began pulling fabrics to coordinate.  

At the end of the first day I noticed the thing was a mess! I wasn't sure whether the fabric combinations were working out, I had not planned any placement of the squares at all and didn't really know where I was going, I couldn't seem to get the right rhythm for sewing the concentric circles. I was feeding the fabric in wrong ( I guess!) and my squares were anything but square!  They poofed out in the middle, they had lots of other pooches - frankly, they were crap! That day I was undaunted - if the squares were wonky that was fine, I was going to press them with steam and starch, and trim them down quite a bit anyway. Besides, I would get better by the second day, I was certain.   So I just forged ahead and did a lot of seam ripping, and re-sewing, but with joy, with excitement. It would come together, I was certain.  I had faith.  

However, by the end of the second day I told my husband I was considering throwing all that beautiful fabric in the trash - it stunk.  Late in the evening, I began to trim the squares (perhaps I should have waited until the next day?) and they still sucked.  I had to trim the things three times to be able to have a uniform size.  Then, even though I they looked more like water pouches than quilt squares and despite utter exhaustion, I insisted on pressing, pulling and starching the buggers; after that I still could not stop and I kept trying to arrange the voluminous squares to a pleasing state. And no, I was not zen - there was a lot of banging, pulling and cursing, although I did bring myself back to presence again and again....and again and again. And again.

Finally I forced myself to go to bed at 12:30.  As I did, I noticed all the squares being blown off the design wall by my ceiling fan.  I did not care, because I had decided to trash the entire thing.  I was just accepting what was.  And what was was that it was not.  Working out, that is.

Otherwise occupied so I couldn't work the next day, and having decided to chuck it all anyway, I was serene.  Oh well, it has to happen sometime - not everything works out, I figured. I was sad about the waste of those delicious fabrics but "OH WELL,"  I was letting go.   Still, I could not resist checking one last time on The Quilting Edge just to see if there was something I had missed.  As I sighed and stared at the perfection of Marianne's work, I noticed she had put sashing on her piece.  I am normally not a fan of sashing, but the thought crept into my brain that sashing might be a way to save the quilt.  Just MIGHT be, no guarantee.  

So I decided to try it - give it one more chance - what the heck - I really adored the colors and fabrics.  I had even (surprisingly) cleverly taken a photo of the arrangement I sort of liked with my iphone.  With the promise to myself of remaining calm and present no matter what, I  began to add sashing, cutting the sashing exactly to the correct lengths and making it fit.  And to my surprise - it began to come together!  By the end of the day, I had most of it done and OMG!  It looked good.  And even, dare I say - SQUARE!

So the thing worked after all.  I won't say it is perfect, because it ain't.  But it is - well, I'll let you judge for yourself:

I deliberately put in a large photo so as not to hide the imperfections - they exist, but I think they actually go well with the overall feel of the thing!

For me, the answer is YES!  It could be saved.  And I am so very


Thursday, September 4, 2014

If It Ain't Broke, Take Care of It...So it Don't

Kind of scattered today; have a bad tooth that needs fixing and I think it is making me a little tired. (I have a dentist appointment on Monday, but I think I waited a little too long to address it - may end up losing the tooth - glad it is a back one!)  This morning I was thinking about how expensive it is to go to the dentist - I mean,  I've already spent a thousand dollars on this tooth, and now I have to spend more. I was quite annoyed about it, really, when I made a realization.  I have no trouble spending money on art supplies, face creams, clothes, entertainment - things I enjoy, but I don't like to spend money on my health.  Why is that?

I realized there are two reasons -one of them is because of the obscene cost of any kind of  health care, no matter how simple, even with insurance (which I  don't consider even remotely useful - it's a just-in-case thing - we have yet to meet our deductible, ever).  The other reason is because I take my good health for granted.  I expect to be healthy. I mean, the main reason we never meet our deductible is because we don't need to go to the doctor very often.  So maybe I shouldn't complain when I do. In fact, I think I should be downright grateful about it.  And - I shouldn't take good health for granted.  I mean, I do try to eat pretty healthfully most of the time and traditionally I have exercised regularly (I do sometimes go through sporadic bouts of laziness, but I always come back to exercising because frankly, I feel better and am happier when I do) but I'm going to add my good health to my gratitude list more often.

Speaking of good health, since I "retired," I realize that it is more important than ever to exercise every day, especially since I now spend so much time at my sewing machine.  Being a teacher, I walked and was on my feet at least eight hours every day, and now I spend a lot more time sitting, and as I've mentioned before, sewing can be hazardous to one's health.  I have packed on a few very unwelcome pounds in the last eight months, so in my dorkiness, I have come up with ways to counteract the perils of sitting.  (Huh! Those office people with their walking machines and standing desks have nothing on me.)   Here are a few of the sitting-related issues I've noticed and the stuff I am doing to counteract them.

First I noticed  that I am losing muscle in my stomach from hunching forward which also, by the way, leads to a sore back and rounded shoulders, which I do not like at all.  Besides doing some heinous pilates, I am trying to address this issue while I work as well.  I make a conscious effort to sit up straight and hold my stomach in when I am sewing. I constantly roll my shoulders back, too.  I even switch feet on the presser pedal because I figure that it works the lower abs just a little if I am holding them tightly and pressing on the pedal at the same time.   Sometimes I crack myself up just a little, thinking I'm so EFFICIENT and PRESENT and all, doing these silly little things, but hey, it can't hurt, can it?

Second, I stand up whenever I can. There are a lot of opportunities to stand when quilting - one can spend hours cutting, for example.  Or pulling fabrics for the next project, arranging pieces on the design wall, that's great, but I try to find other ways to get off my duff, even for a few moments - if I need to pull stitches out, I stand up.  If I cut something, I stand.  If I need to look at a sketch, I stand.  If the phone rings, or I need to check something on the internet, I stand.  I don't know if it makes any difference, really, but I still do it

Third, I make sure that I get up every hour and do something active for at least 15 minutes, too.   Everything counts, from doing laundry to watering the yard to getting dinner started.  This has the added benefit of my actually getting some household chores done, too - I can still spend lots of time sewing and can eliminate any guilt I might possibly feel for ignoring what I admit I consider to be my responsibilities...killing two birds, you know.

I keep water by my side all day, too.  Because water is important for so many reasons.  I stretch and sometimes I even take a break and do some stupid little isometric exercises, just whenever I think about it.
These are the things I am trying to do to countermand my suddenly much more sedentary life, which I really am enjoying enormously (except for the poochy stomach, which I really believe I CAN conquer; I don't care if I am middle-aged - stomach fat is not a given, just a tendency).

In short, understanding how important it is to be active, I'm trying to fit activity in while still doing the things I really love and want to do.  As nerdy as it may sound, I think it is making a difference.   If anyone else has any ideas or tricks they do, please share - if it's not too insane, I'll probably be willing to try it.   And I'll let you know when the pooch is gone.

WIP Report

I  finished my ode to Andy Goldsworthy triptych.  I really love them, too.  Right now they are hanging over my bed.  I've been trying to come up with something for years!  They are perfect for the spot, and Paul (hubby) loves them, too.

I also finished a summer project for my brother and his family - also three pieces, but very large (seven feet by twenty-four inches each) and designed specifically for their house.  I am super pleased with them and luckily so is Katherine (sis-in-law). I will take a photo as soon as she gets them installed.

I started a project yesterday that I am so into, I only have eight more pieces to make (out of twenty) that's how motivated I am.  It's not my original design idea,  I got it from The Quilting Edge, my favorite blog.  It kind of reminds me of Chagall's circle painting but I have these gorgeous earthy fabrics and I thought the design would work well. Not an easy sew, however; much cursing and bringing myself back to presence throughout the day occured. It's going to be worth it though, I think...Next time, however, I am going to use a different technique - this one was not fun enough to repeat.  Still,  I can see many different iterations on the theme - I just want to find a less annoying (to me, anyway) way to do it!