Gingham

I'm often reluctant to work with a curated selection of fabrics. I'm not sure why, but the thought of being limited to a specific collection, no matter how extensive, causes me anxiety. It doesn't matter who the designer is; it could even be me, but my first reaction is an inner clenching.

I was a bit surprised when Vicki from The Fabric Society contacted me to discuss a promotional post for some of their fabrics and I  enthusiastically agreed to participate. 

Though I'm usually a believer in the ideal of sticking with plan A, I also see the value in pushing beyond my comfort zone and that, oftentimes that leads to new discoveries.

It certainly did this time.

I didn't really have a design in mind when I chose a variety of colors from their collection of Fresh Solids. Frankly I was hoping that something would come to me.

I lived with the fabrics for a bit, mostly because I was in the midst of QuiltCon prep when they arrived, until I came up with this simple and graphic design.

After a bit of play with concept as well as pairing colors, I was ready to piece the top together, a super-quick process.

Then this little top was off to the long armer, bound and ready for it's close-up. The whole 40" x 40" quilt took about a week from design to finished product.

When I look at this design my head fills with other possibilities and variations, many of which you will be seeing in the weeks to come. None of it, however, would have been possible if I hadn't ignored my instinct to fear the limitations of working with a set group of fabrics and embraced the opportunity to create in a new way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep your eyes open when you're driving along.

Those were the words of advice Aunt Rena imparted to me after I told her about this:

This is a Vintage 15-91 Singer sewing machine complete with cabinet.

We found it on the side of the road.

The other day, my boyfriend went for a run in our neighborhood and came home to report that there was a sewing machine in a cabinet about 1 mile away perched on the edge of a curb outside someone's house. 

"Do you want to go check it out?" he asked.

What do you think I said?

We drove over and found the cabinet on the curb, obviously discarded by someone. I opened the cabinet to reveal what I instantly recognized as a vintage Singer. The drawers still contained several machine feet, bobbins, as well as the owner's manual.

He asked me if I wanted to take it home.

What do you think I said?

Yesterday I plugged it in and discovered it still works. 

Today I called the local Singer servicing center and asked if they worked on vintage Singers?

What do you think they said?

I'm taking it in on Monday and, if all goes well would like to refurbish the cabinet as well as the machine, though that's not a must.

Mostly, I want to sew something on this machine. We were fated to be together. So many other folks could have found this machine, though they might not have been folks who sewed. They might have brought it home to admire and display it for all its vintagey coolness and that's not a bad thing. I, however, want to do more than just bring it home. I want to give this old and sadly discarded machine a new life and new work. I want to make a modern quilt or an indie garment pattern using this machine. 

And, when I do I'll think about all the other people that might have used this machine in the past. Maybe it helped a newlywed make curtains for her first home or a mom sew a much-desired halloween costume for her son or a special quilt for an elderly friend. Who knows what this machine crafted in the past, but, hopefully, we will be crafting together in the future.

A few years ago my uncle gave me my grandmother's Shabbat candlesticks. They had been gathering dust in a box set off in some long-forgotten corner. The sale of his apartment prompted him to sort through the box and there they were. 

I never knew my grandmother. She died when my dad was 18, but I'm her namesake and have always had a certain curiosity about her.

The first time I lit candles using those candlesticks I thought about how she had been the last person to use them and how amazing it was that we two, who shared not only a genetic connection but the exact same name (both first and last), were connected over time by these candle sticks. 

That's sort of how I feel about this sewing machine. I don't know and will never know who used it before and what they made, but me and my creations will be connected to them in a roundabout way.

If that doesn't put a smile on your face, I don't know what will.

I'll keep you posted about the machine as it is brought back to life.

Too Tired to Tinkle

That title is a reference to Gillian Flynn's novel, Gone Girl. Let me know if you get the reference.

I was listening to On Writing by Stephen King today. I almost always listen to an audio book or podcast while I'm working. Sometimes I do so furtively because I secretly don't think I should when my assistant is around, but I love the way being told a story gets me into the flow of working. 

Anyway Stephen noted that his most productive working time is in the morning and I have to agree. If I had written this post this morning it would be chock full of insight and pithy phrases. if I had written this post this morning I would effortlessly transition from one topic to the next and find a way to connect them all. 

But, I didn't write it this morning or even this afternoon. 

It is 8:39 CST and I'm putting fingers to keyboard after a full day of crafting and dyeing and erranding and teaching. So, I'll just post a pretty picture and say goodnight, Gracie. (Please, please, please tell me you remember George Burns).

Picked up this quilt, the first of my Gingham Quilts, from the longarmer today. Straight line quilting is so perfect for this design.

Picked up this quilt, the first of my Gingham Quilts, from the longarmer today. Straight line quilting is so perfect for this design.

Creating and Letting Go

A few years ago I was teaching a dye workshop to the members of the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild when one of the students told me that she suspected that I had coined the phrase/design concept of working with "low volume" fabrics. I responded that I had and that I was happy to see how interested folks were in this idea. If you're curious about the original article, check out Quilting Arts magazine issue #38 dated to April/May 2009. 

When I wrote the piece I never suspected that this technique would become as ubiquitous as it has, spawning numerous other articles, online and in-person workshops focused on the process as well as books. While I'm happy that people enjoy exploring these fabrics and crafting with them, I'm rarely mentioned as the originator of the concept as it applies to modern quilting.

Mostly, I don't mind...at least I don't think I mind...because I've always believed that an idea can be copied, but my creativity is unique to me. I'm relatively confident I'll come up with something new. Also, I know that I riff off of other people's work as well. For instance, I've designed several improvisational quilts, both for my books and for articles and even for an online class, yet I did not invent the concept of improvisation. I discovered it in books and magazines like everyone else. 

I've just started working on a quilt design,

 influenced by the amazing art quilts of Eleanor McCain (I've mentioned her a couple of times in my weekly newsletter), that I'm calling Gingham, a title I didn't even come up with but was penned by a follower on Instagram. 

So, the cross pollination might just be as ubiquitous as the term "low volume". 

Yet, despite being aware of both generating and receiving influence, I look over my shoulder, not because I worry about being copied, but because I worry about copying. Sometimes I take sabbaticals from looking through books, magazines, and the internet, but other times I intentionally immerse myself in other people's images and ideas. 

And then, sometimes this happens:

If you're scratching your head and wondering what the hell "THIS" is, let me explain.

Last night I was drawing in my sketchbook, fleshing out old ideas and exploring new ones, when I had a thought, rather I posed a question, " What would a quilt look like if the image was a black and white outline of a block rather the block itself?" Believe it or not, that drawing is me jotting this idea down with the intention of returning to this concept soon or at least soon-ish. 

Then I woke up this morning, checked my instagram feed and saw this.

Don't get me wrong, I love this design. It's clean and modern and very clever, but, it also reminds me of what I was sketching last night. And, while I understand that it's plausible, even probable, that many folks might come to a similar concept independent of each other, I still felt the wind go out of my sails just a bit. 

Will I still pursue this idea? Probably. I think there are many ways to interpret the concept and I recognize that my first drawing and my final design may be only distantly related to each other. But, I will look over my shoulder more vigilantly with this idea than I otherwise would. Is that legitimate or even necessary? I don't know, but I know I will be extra-aware because I want to protect my own creativity. I want to ensure, at least for myself, that my designs are the product of my explorations within what I have deemed acceptable parameters of influence. Maybe those parameters are too loose or stringent for someone else, but they're mine and I know where the boundaries exist.

Which circles back to why I'm not bothered by my designs, concepts, or techniques having lives of their own that don't necessarily include me anymore. My creativity spawned something, others brought their creativity to it and made it their own. The something, whether it was conceived back in 2009 or yesterday, is not what is precious. What's precious is the creativity behind that something. 

 

 

 

 

Setting my Intention

 I can't possibly begin this post without noting my more than 30 day absence from this space. I'm still sewing and dyeing and teaching and, hopefully, selling, but I'm not writing as much as I should. Why? There's inevitably a multitude of reasons, but, if I look at it honestly I see that it comes down to two things: good quality pictures and prioritizing writing.

I can't always take the kind of beautifully styled pictures I want and, unlike an operation that has an in-house photographer, I can't assign that task to someone else. But, I can prioritize writing as a daily practice ( I do a lot of yoga and that phrase, daily practice, is so typical yoga-speak). Yet, despite its potential new age bent , I'm drawn to that word. It implies that perfection is not only unattainable, but undesirable. The point, the goal, is to keep trying, to stay curious about the possibilities, and keep practicing, all the time knowing that you'll never be done and don't really want to be. Isn't that the way we should approach making if not life in general? 

Another oft-repeated yoga term is "setting an intention". It refers to a goal, sometimes small like remaining present in the moment, sometimes more lofty as in cultivating joy, but always simple and clear. I enjoy beginning my yoga practice with an intention and I'd like to do that for my writing practice as well. 

So, here it is: 7 days of blog posts. I should say 7 consecutive days of blog posts.

My dad, a retired doctor, often recommended as he prescribed a medicine that his patients take an initial double dose to kick-start the healing process. In that spirit I'm starting my practice with a similar immersion. Starting today.

I can't guarantee pictures. I can't guarantee great prose, but what I will guarantee is I will appear in this space everyday between today, March 27, through Saturday, April 3.

What will I write about? What pictures will I post. I don't know...exactly. But, I do have a new quilt slated to be finished by Wednesday and I'm always making fabric and I'm in the midst of adding paper patterns to my store and considering what workshops to offer in my studio(feel free to chime in on this). I also have questions and concerns about how much time servicing social media takes up daily (especially ironic considering my just-stated intention) and maybe a few interesting and craft-related stories. Also, I've still to write about my experience vending at QuiltCon last month. In other words, if I take the time, if I prioritize writing the way I do making, I have plenty to say.