Abundance, Grace and a long time since the last Post…

While part of me wants to apologize for failing to post in such a long time, I’ve decided to celebrate instead — I want to celebrate the huge amounts of life and creativity and mess and kindness and confusion that I have witnessed over the past few months.

I am the willing recipient of abundance in life — perhaps even an over-abundance! We have had so much rain this Winter…leading now to so much green Spring growth and such healthy “weeds”.  I’ve gratefully received an abundance of love from family and friends (including a ridiculously enthusiastic new puppy dog, and the boy he owns). I’m not sewing enough, but I am sewing and intend to continue for the foreseeable future…  I am humbled, and filled with an abundance of gratitude for my blessings and the bounty I see everywhere around me. I hope I’ve given as well as I’ve been getting.

This is not to overlook the difficulties of life. Our days here are full of stress and busyness and mud and occasional illness — and, there are giant dust bunnies  multiplying all over my house… But, in an Internet based world where bad acts and rumors can be broadcast and debated in real time, all the time — it seems vital to stay attached to the presence of good, so much good in the world if you see it. Look for it! Bad stuff happens, all we really get to choose is how we deal with it. Good stuff, on the other hand, is always within our ability to create.

So. I’ve been busy — no apologies, but I’ll try to do better.

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Update:  The day I wrote this draft I also got news concerning the evident mortality of someone I love (a health issue). It’s not my place to identify the person or the concern, but to appreciate as always the importance of seeing and making as much good as we can, in the time we have — and honoring the good already around us. Shit happens, but plants grow in soil composted with manure….

 

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Observing 746

Here’s a photo from last week’s 746 Observance in my backyard. Missing from the picture are the patient husband, two big dogs, and two very quiet teen-aged boys who got swept up in the positive energy of the day.

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Here is another candid of part of the group, including the husband and at least one of the dogs. Teen-aged boys still well hidden.

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746 is a (small) international movement of support and encouragement for textile arts and would be textile artists, who make a loose commitment to do, discuss or at least think about textile arts of some sort, between the hours of 4-6:00 local time on the 7th of each month.

If that time or date is inconvenient, members “can reschedule, its more than alright” [see “GALAVANT!” S.2, E.9]. Many members  belong to a closed Facebook group, that also serves as an excellent place for “show & tell” and to share hints and encouragement.  For some of us its a little like crowd-sourcing a mom, and proudly, shyly, posting our artwork on her virtual fridge.

746 Observances for August, 2016, will be held on Sunday (the 7th), from 4:00-6:00 (am or pm) local time, wherever you are. Enjoy!

 

 

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An Important Resource for Quilters

It’s been awhile since I posted. Not for bad reasons, it’s just been a busy year, and it gets awkward to just pop up again and carry on, even though I want to…apologies, and here we go:

I want to share with you an important resource I hope you have access to; it’s one I’d under-utilized, or at least under-appreciated, until fairly recently.  That resource is other quilters. Quilting is both solitary and social. I get a lot out of interactions with other quilters — and the expectation that I’ll have those interactions on a regular basis. Quilters, as a group, are especially good at being both honest and tactful about the work of others. We energize each other, we provide each other with alternative solutions to problems, and even occasionally point out to each other that a perceived problem isn’t really a problem.

When I worked in the quilt store there was a steady supply of quilters available, spanning the full gamut of abilities and confidence. In that context it was easy to learn from some and help others learn, too. There are more than a few things I learned by trying to explain them clearly to others, and ideas I got by suggesting them to someone else, for whom they might not have been the answer.

When that adventure ended, I knew I didn’t want to lose contact with other quilters. Over the past couple of years I’ve tried harder to maintain a range of connections with quilters — from membership in a large guild to the commitment to just meet and sew with a couple of friends once or twice a week. With friends, I struggle to nurse a mini-group into a perennial state, and awhile back some of us started a silly Facebook support group for fiber artists called “746” (the Dewey Decimal prefix for textile arts). Hopefully I even get to spend a few days at a retreat with quilt friends again, this Fall.

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Bo’s quilt, which I made last year. It hung in the local guild quilt show last month.

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This is the description for the quilt, which is part of what got me to thinking about quilters as a “resource”.

All this as a way to keep the ideas and energy flowing. All this because, years ago,  I got “too busy” to keep up with quilters for awhile, and ended up without the energy to even sew for a few years. I don’t regret that time, which was wonderful and hectic and full of teenagers and sports and carpools, etc.  BUT — I know that when I started sewing, again, and hanging out with other quilters, a little part of my brain restarted and its the creative, problem-solving, can-do part. For a lot of us family life is a tug-of-war between the urgent and the important. I’m grateful to have friends to remind me to make time for both. I hope I do the same for them.

[I’m also grateful that my first crop of teenagers has become a group of wonderful twenty-somethings, and that the current crop is one, fairly well organized, 14 year-old who really does understand.]

 

 

 

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Part 4: Simple Piecing that looks Harder

As promised, the final, brief, installment of “What I did on my Summer Vacation”.  Playing with piecing that was easier than it looked. Some of these pictures have been used before, and some of the projects may be from before the Summer. In Berkeley it’s hard to remember when Summer starts and ends….

I got to make circles from “tumbler” shapes in a couple of different sizes, and use the Six-Minute Circles method to make them into square blocks. I learned about this method from Dale Fleming’s book, but there are countless links on the Internet you can check out as well. Simple, but not for the purist as it involves the use of both freezer paper and washable fabric glue. I am not a purist.

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These “peppermints” also have the set-in centers, but were cut in a more traditional, rotary cutter/template method.

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This is the template I used for the wedges, using a red/white striped fabric alternating with white-on-white. Alternate the direction of the template on the striped fabric — just be sure the skinny ends of each wedge line up on the edge of a red stripe, if you want the stripes to match up.

The last items for this post were these four, all experiments, as my projects always are. The picture on the left is an assignment from a book called 15 Minutes of Play: Improvisational Quilts, by Victoria Findley Wolfe. This particular assignment. like some others in the book, is a good warm up or a project to keep on hand when you “gotta have something and it’s gotta be sweet and it’s gotta be a lot and you gotta have it now?” [see: Crackerjack for this definition and others.]

The middle two pictures are shapes that often occur in “charm” quilts (where every fabric appears only once). These were cut with the aforementioned Accuquilt GO! Baby, are both quite striking and cheerful. The major difference between the “tumbler” and “spool” shapes is the curved seam on the “spool”. For a minor effect, it makes a huge difference. Curves are harder than straight lines! I liked doing both pieces, but the spool quilt will never be bigger than crib size. A fun experiment, anyway, and it will be a fun baby quilt, the solid colors are Kona cottons, but the “grey” is seersucker. I’m thinking of ways to add more textures to it…

The last picture is of a quilt I call “Burano”, made with a simple block called “Hugs and Kisses” that Angie Woolman showed us at the Albany Library quilt drop in awhile back. She had another name for the block, that referred to happy rabbits, because this quilt pattern tends to multiple and spread… Indeed, several of us made tops using the block, and showing them off was a delight — unlike rabbits, every one was completely different. Mine is very special to me, as an experiment I think worked, and as a memento.

But… that is a story for another day. For now, wishing you all a blessed Thanksgiving next week. Hope you are warm, well, and with at least some of those you love What’s not to like about a four-day weekend that reverts to leftovers for the last three days? It’s the scrap quilt of holidays!

 

 

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Part Three: Delia’s Birthday Book

First, a little background:

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Easter, 1969. Mom sewed for three of us, Anne made her outfit. And John… was John. Photo by Marshall C. Smith.

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Lois & Clark. Making it look easy most of the time. Photo by Marshall C. Smith.

I was blessed with older siblings for many years before I realized what a blessing it was to have them. As the youngest of five, born in the first 7 years of the 1950s –  I took a lot for granted. I did not grasp until later that my parents had a super power that let them not only raise and love 5 children but to enjoy doing it, or that my siblings were much more patient than I gave them credit for, and I was lucky to make it to the show (it really was quite a show, at times!).

All that said, 50+ years later my sisters and I are what remain of the original traveling troupe, and we are more than halfway into our shared dotage. We live in three different states and two non adjacent time-zones, and have 4 husbands and 8 children between us. Two of us are grandmothers, and three have passed 60.

Which leads me to the birthday books:  When the first sister was about to slip into her 60s, we wanted to make her a memento. A memory quilt would have been the perfect choice but for my stipulation that “a gift that can’t be either displayed OR folded up in a drawer is more of an obligation.” So Hallie got a folding, fabric-based book of sweet birthday wishes from her own family, and her sisters  families;  14 months later Anne’s was based on pictures and anagrams of her name and other phrases. Which brings us to this year. Delia’s book contains puzzles, puns, song lyrics, anagrams, etc. as suits her personality. Where Hallie’s book was almost all sewn, drawn or appliqued, by now almost every page was printed on fabric from files emailed to me. The pages are the size of record albums (you can look that up, kids) and each has a piece of stiff interfacing that allows the pages to turn like a book. The two rows of pages fold back-to-back and then the book accordion folds. I tried hard to find framing fabrics that coordinate with the images, and have pictures of a couple of pages in progress:

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Thanksgiving 1957 at the Green Forest.

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Photo of a final slide from an MCS slideshow.

Delia's book, having traveled from California in a carry on bag...

Delia’s book, having traveled from California in a carry on bag… These wrinkles may fade. Photo by Marshall C. Smith

Each time there is a refinement in the construction process — but it’s still just a labor of love, a puzzle to solve, and a lot of fun. I am so grateful to have the chance to celebrate my siblings!

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Part Two: Playing with Surface Design

2015 was the Summer of playing with stuff, and that included some “low impact” surface design. Because of travel and other things that were going on, I did just enough of my dyeing and surface design stuff to be happy.  The goal was to be cheerful, and come up with something “delicious”.  I’m pretty sure this is the textile equivalent to cooking with chocolate. It’s good to start with, so you just try not to mess it up.

Which makes this the cookbook I should have been following:

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And this is a sample mixing bowl:

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I kept a bucket of soda ash solution sitting by my work sink most of the Summer, so I got to dye fabric a few times without much fuss. These are the pieces that came out of the “mixing bowl” above:

I got to dump and combine leftover dye solutions, and dye some nice, light and bright fabrics to use in piecing, and for making many, many, more Kanzashi blossoms:

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I also got to tie-dye with crafty girls, even though I had to borrow the girls. They made tee-shirts, their mom did amazing pieces that looked like indigo work (I’ll look for pictures. The only sample I have from that day is:

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A cotton + spandex bookcover made with an inexpensive white “blank” from Dharma Trading. Yes, I still love Dharma. The tie-dye part worked really poorly… too much white space, colors that looked like old bruises and dried blood… so after it was dry I re-soaked it in the soda ash solution, and dyed it robin’s egg blue. Delightful way to deal with failure.

Since we talked about sun-prints before, I offer these without further comment, but with great joy….

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…the last technique for now is one you can read about all over the Internet. If you have white fabric, or a tee-shirt, or white sneakers… and Sharpies, and some rubbing alcohol and an eye dropper, you have the ability to play with color and fabric in very portable way. We tried this at family camp, and then I did some at home later on, when I just needed a quick shot of color. Google “Sharpie Tie-Dye” and commit to playing with markers and fabric for awhile, without worrying about how it comes out.

IMG_0358This sample started with designs in all the colors available in my multi-pack of fat tip Sharpies. Once I had a variety of shapes and colors, I dropped alcohol in the middle of the shapes, let it flow and dry, and then (in this case) went back and added the black lines. If you like to do fine line work, you have the option of stabilizing the fabric with freezer paper.

The entire process is to apply Sharpie to dry fabric, and than drip or spray rubbing alcohol (a solvent) on it and watch it flow. The only caveat is that you may want to open a window while you work. Once dry it should be fairly permanent. Again, this is your chance to experiment…  It’s JUST FUN!

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Piecing with Accuquilt GO Baby

The most important thing about acquiring a GO Baby is that you should check out videos of people using them before you even pull the Baby out of the box. If your results or amount of effort expended differ from what you see in the how-to videos on the Accuquilt site or YouTube… you have a broken or defective machine.

Part of the joy of the stupid little GO Baby is that it is dead simple to use; it really does only one thing. It does that one thing very well, though (unless it’s broken). I bought one off eBay for what would have been a good deal, if it had worked right, and then I compounded my own mistake by trying to make it work, futzing and trying to fix it.  Once I watched the boilerplate video on using the GO Baby, I returned it to the seller, who graciously refunded every penny I spent, if not all the hours. I ended up with the best deal I could find on line. I think it was list, but with free shipping.

Which leads to the second most important thing — the GO Baby is rarely offered at a discount equal to the time you’ll spend hunting for one.  You can sometimes save a little on the over-priced dies and cutting boards. I acquired some of mine from good eBay deals, and bought one at JoAnn’s because I needed it right away. However you acquire the dies, its important to follow the directions for using and maintaining them. The cutting edge is set into hard foam. If random threads get caught between the “blade” and the foam, they will keep the cut from being perfect until you pick them out. Cutting shouldn’t be more complicated than that — if it is…you may have a defective die, and will have to talk to Accuquilt or your vendor. This hasn’t happened to me.

The third thing is that GO Baby, and presumably the bigger cutters, are wonderful if you happen to need hundreds of a simple shape that is available (3 1/2″ squares, for instance) or merely dozens of a more complex shape. The stranger the shape, the more of an advantage the die.

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While the “half-hex” was the first die I lusted after, having hand cut so many of them for a wall-hanging mentioned in an earlier post, and the apple core is a delightful problem in curved seams… the one I’ve used most so far is the tumbler. No words describe the happiness and novelty of easily, consistently cutting shapes — it’s like a cookie cutter.  Some shapes have “dog ears” to aid in alignment. Of these three shapes, the tumbler is the easiest to piece once cut — 12 tumblers make a circle… pairs lead to strips. No Y seams. Several more possible sets. Can’t wait.

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Bottom line: Should you have a GO Baby? Maybe, if you love gadgets, or need hundreds and hundreds of uniform shapes, but don’t need dies wider than 6″.  If you need the bigger shapes you can look at the Baby’s GO siblings. If you have hand issues, there is one electric model… If uniform shapes come easily to you, or the very idea of uniformity causes you to break out in hives — than no, you don’t need a GO.

And, if you have a friend like me who already owns one (or your quilt guild or minigroup does) you can probably share, because the percentage of time you will spend cutting your “cookies” is going to be low.  If you know me and want to share mine, bring coffee — or maybe real cookies, made with or without cutters.

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