Category Archives: color pattern love

Too big a wobble

Do you see the big wobble on the right? It got me thinking
about the improv method of quilting.

If you are not a pattern follower, chances are you’re in possession of a certain amount of ruthless decisiveness. Ruthlessness is not, as I may have previously thought, a virtue — something akin to bravery.  It’s more of a necessity.  With the improv method, you simply have to be willing to cut, re-order and switch out sections, live with uneven edges, and throw shit out.


It can be frustrating — abiding by the tweaking redo’s that don’t work, the major botches that can’t be saved. There is frequently the feeling of running in place, or worse, traveling backwards. Photo-documentation, while a boon for recording the process & sharing online, has the unfortunate capacity to reveal that previous iterations of your quilt were better (sometimes, way better) than what your repeated tinkering’s produced.

If you work this way, there’s no point in getting too hung up on these frustrations because the alternative is too awful to bear (i.e. following a pattern (even your own), upholding precision as a goal, suppressing ideas along the way). Plus, for some, it’s simply impossible to do it any other way*.

Have you worked on a quilt for two months and suddenly need to see how it takes to the indigo vat? Hold your breath and dunk! Fed up with the progress on a large pieced Global Warming wall quilt, perhaps also two months in the making? Cut the fucker up! Can’t sort the edge of a composition? Walk away and work on something else for a while.

Cutting off worked sections of cloth to true up an edge is routine and I generally do it without much more than a twinge of regret. This week, however, the idea of removing an inch of edging along half the quilt’s length feels like sacrifice. Sacrifice.I’m left wondering what to do.

Have I changed? Has my cloth-making changed?

I can pinpoint two material reasons for my hesitation. One, I am piecing smaller bits of pattern together these days. A corrective slice now potentially subtracts an entire little world of color and geometry! Ouch!

Two, I now apply hand-stitching to pieced sections as I go, meaning that a long cut-away would cut through rows of stitching, with unknown result. Anchor later? With what effectiveness?  It’s a quandary.

I’ve slid two pieced sections under the edge to see if I could avoid the cut. One section came off the top of the quilt and the other came off the bottom, so the cloth is consonant with the rest (there’ve been times when I’ve had to use poorly matching fabrics to fudge something). But, even well-matched, it looks like shit.

 Is there any way to tinker with a long stretch of raw edge applique on a quilt that is otherwise pieced so that it doesn’t look like a botch job? Any ideas? The moon is the only other appliqué. 

*This is actually, for me anyway, an oversimplification. Even as I’m finishing this piece, I’m drawing on a photo that may become a pattern.

Insect wings : a meditation on scale and mothers

Image result for art insect wings

I dream about making furniture out of insect wings. Tiny, sheer, delicate and for whom?

Upon rising, I think about size in creative endeavor. How scale matters. I wonder: am I working too small — somehow limiting the scope of my work — or perhaps, the opposite — making life difficult by bucking a natural inclination to work small?

A large wall quilt. A goddamned novel.

And then out of nowhere, I remember something my mother said to me when I was seventeen or eighteen: “You may very well be a miniaturist.” Her tone was curious detachment as if still considering the idea, not at all one of her emphatic pronouncements.

Hmmm.

For reasons both complicated and pragmatic, I spent my senior year at the school where my mother’d been teaching for almost a decade. For a span of nine months, then, she was both mother and art teacher to me and for nine months, I was her daughter and her student (and the ‘art teacher’s daughter’).

That year, I was perpetually embarrassed by my mother — what 17 year old isn’t? Her clothes. Her laugh. Her opinions. I still remember how cringe-worthy her repeated mispronunciation of the late Baroque period was — making it sound less like a hot beverage and more like a porn star’s screen name — Ro-COCK-oh. Again, Mom? Really?

But, overall it was good. For one thing, seeing her in her element enlarged my view of her. In particular, it lent credence to an assertion she’d been making for years about having this respected competence elsewhere (as opposed to the beleaguered and disputed competence at home). But more importantly, I was the beneficiary of her considerable skill as a teacher. Of course, she dispensed observations and enthusiasms throughout my childhood, but as her student, the feedback was sustained and structured and something a little different could unfold.

Even now, it’s hard to square my mother’s capacity to run rough shod over people with her perceptive skill in the art room. Imagine a woman walking into the teachers’ lounge of a small school where she’s disliked by a majority of her peers — a place where her chain smoking and a tendency toward dismissive, smug bombast put people off.

Now picture that same person entering her classroom and coming alive with the give and take with her students. Watch that same forceful delivery of opinion turn a shy student into an aspiring artist. Yes! That quiet student who formerly floated from class to class in ghost-like invisibility has become a person determined to make something beautiful and certain she can do it — because of my mother.

You know how teachers talk about ‘that one student’ that made their entire teaching career worthwhile? My mother sometimes had two a year.

My mother taught her students that they had something to say and that how they said it was both unique and discover-able.

Teenagers who’d convinced themselves by the ripe old age of 15 that they were ordinary or ‘just jocks’ found out otherwise in her classroom. For the wild kids (called ‘juvenile delinquents’ back then), she’d harness their misspent leadership energies without judgment, instilling no end of appreciation. “Give ’em a job,” she’d cackle.

Of course, she celebrated talent — what teacher doesn’t? For those students, her unique skill seemed to be in knowing when to gush effusively (but sincerely!) and when to step back and let them struggle. She ushered one outstanding student after another into their talent.

“You just might be a miniaturist.”

Is the observation as straight forward as it sounds — as in, ‘work small’? Given that my mother was right about an obnoxious number of things, I’m willing to consider this anew, but not exactly sure how to.When I removed a small section of a semi-large quilt to work on separately, I considered letting the fragment stand alone. I do this all the time.



(The fragment has been returned to the whole). Sometimes, when the prospect of finishing a first draft overwhelms, I get energized at the idea of trying to get excerpts published (and then, ironically, I can get back at it).Is scale of work as innate as our preference for certain palettes? And if it is, is it useful to step outside of that preference now and again and see what happens? What results if we don’t discover or honor our basic preference regarding scale — does it add pitch to the learning curve in a distressing manner, building in frustration that could be avoided? Or is this something else?

Before I go, I have to tell you we’ve had a string of truly beautiful summer days here. The weather was especially nice for a small birthday gathering for K yesterday — very Napa-valley with the tables in the yard and flowers cut from the garden. Of course, our new fire table was a big hit!

 

Insect drawing from RoyalSocietyPublishing.org.

Misbehaving silk and designing cloth 

For weeks, the top half of this little piece has been pinned to the design board. I eyed it now and then. Was it done? If not, do I have more fabric in that spooky palette? Yesterday, while listening to Weasel Sessions, I started attaching the lower section.

Two challenges arose: 1) that goddamned silk on the lower right. It will not behave! The buckling, sliding resistance to my organizing stitch may be more than I can stand this week. Then, 2) there’s that disruptive brown strip in the mid-section. It’s so distracting, it cannot stand — so integrate or undo?

Sometimes these challenges ask to be met. And maybe I did myself and the little quilt a disservice working on it with the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on. That’s its own kind of problem.

But really, I think the spooky, little horizontal beginning might be trying to tell me something, like ‘leave me alone’. Maybe it is already a piece unto itself?

Back to the board for consideration! As Jude recently said, “cloth needs to rest, too”. Actually, maybe this isn’t the cloth resting so much as the design-process resting.

In the meantime, behold my first spoonflower experiments.

When ordering both swaths, I significantly tweaked the repeat into a smaller scale, but that somehow didn’t get transmitted. So disappointing, but definitely worth another go.

The heat has broken. Windows are flung open and the fan whirs fresh air into the house. Thank god! 

My sister is doing much, much better but her heart is beating too fast. I just talked to her and she reported pain from last night. The 15 people rushing in. All the machines she’s plugged into. They may do an ablation today. Must google and pray. 

Out and about

A trip to upstate New York. Hours spent in the rehab wing of a nursing home to visit my father in law. Thoughts about care: his, my sister’s. Unavoidably depressing.


The weekend also featured a 60th bday concert (for my brother in law, who’s in the band). Pretty amazing to get out on a Sat. night and well worth the effort. It was really fun.

More generally, drab weather has conspired with the news in maintaining a grim outlook. Day after grey day of clouds and rain and cold. Day after day of astonishingly bad news.

But! While sweeping out leaves and dirt from the garage on Sunday (because making decisions about STUFF was beyond me and because I needed a job with tangible results), I listened to a freakonomics podcast about the psychology of gratitude. Take away: we tend to notice headwinds more often and more readily than we notice tailwinds. So, notice the tailwinds. Interestingly enough, it’s not the same as cataloging things one is grateful for. Try it. The practice dovetails with attending to white privilege, if that’s something you’re thinking about.

And there was this, too: sitting next to my father in law in his wheel chair, watching the AHCA go down in flames (yeah!), knowing he hates Trump as much as I do (yeah!). And yesterday, there was the morale-boosting weekly teleconference call with my small Indivisible group. We offer each other accountability and support.

The free form appliqué experiment (“keeping to the original idea”) has turned surprisingly disappointing. Turning over the question, ‘why?’

I pinned up two little house quilts last night that may be reactionary. They offer straight lines and recognizable forms — pleasing, even if trite and familiar (or maybe because they’re trite, familiar?).

It’s all a process. I’m curious and engaged.

Could really use a day of sun.

Wedge of orange

It repeatedly amazes me how much a micro-change can impact overall design — as in ruin it. Quilters know this because it happens all the time.

Challenge: stick to an original design as much as possible (using photo on left as reference). I am allowing the inclusion of the inadvertently captured small wedge of orange (at bottom), but no other departures!

That means cultivating an openness to novel construction techniques while simultaneously casting aside a long-standing flexible approach to accidents and mistakes. ‘Oh look, I put this section back upside-down — is it possible I like it better this way?’

(Mercurial adaptability often employed in service of laziness — but never mind!)

Even as I stitched the dotted red floral rayon onto the lower edge, I knew it’d have to go: it’s not a small wedge of orange at all! I couldn’t let myself fall down on this challenge so early on.

Other sections are coming along.


Shadows on snow

Maybe to blog more often is to give myself permission to matter on some.

(Ha — Autocorrect wisdom? I meant to say “natter on some”).

Just wore Finn out so I can happily leave him while I go to writing class. The striping shadows of trees pleased me to a ridiculous degree. Look at the colors! Purple, plumbago blue, lavender, and grey. A regular festival for the eyes. And the soul.