Saturday, December 15, 2018

It started as a challenge

I love a good challenge. Working within limits can really bust us out of our comfort zone, but this one was kicking my butt. One of my fiber groups issued a challenge. The project was to be architectural, something man made like a building, it must include a square, circle, triangle and rectangle. And, finally, it needed to be attached to a 12" square framed canvas.

So, okay, that's not too hard, except for the architectural part. I don't do buildings. I don't like straight lines! But okay, maybe I can do a fence or a bird house on a post and build a garden around it. That could work.

At the same time, our guild, The Evergreen Quilters Guild of Green Bay, was hosting Kim Lapacek for a lecture and workshop. I'm now the program chair for the guild, so I'm automatically first in line for the workshops. Kim is a delightful speaker, we all enjoyed her wonderful sense of humor and her unique perspective in her quilts. For her workshop we chose her adorable Dresden Neighborhood. I swiped this photo from her web page. Google Dresden Neighborhood to see all of the fantastic variations on her design. (Kim is not only an excellent speaker, her workshop was one of the best we've had this year. Hire her, right away, do it.)

But here's the rub. I have always struggled mightily with copying, even when I'm supposed to copy so I can learn a technique. There's something in my nature that just recoils at the idea of repeating something that has already been done. So, as much as I looked forward to the workshop, I had a real battle going on in my head. I just didn't want to do what every one else was doing. (Now here's where I tell you how dumb that is, because every student's neighborhood was as individual and creative as its maker and we all had a blast.)

And then it occurred to me that I might be able to bend that Dresden Neighborhood into my challenge quilt. It's buildings, right? Maybe I'd just do a quarter of the circle. Maybe I could do larger wedges. Perhaps leave blank spaces for trees, or a garden or something. All the while, I'm concerned that I might become *that* student, the one that sucks up all of the teacher's time, is completely off task and becomes a problem child. No teacher wants to do that to another teacher.

When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. My hammer is applique, I love to applique. Love it. So I tossed a package of Wash Away Applique Sheets, a glue stick and a magic wand in with the rest of my class supplies and went off to class without a real plan.

Not every teacher would be a gracious as Kim was about my deviation from the topic of the day, but she was almost as excited as I was to see how it would all shake out.

I kept the Dresden wedge shape and angles for the house and out house. I used the Dresden ruler to draw the basic shapes onto my template paper, keeping the wonky, stretched perspective of the wedge. The smoke is made up of circles, the top of the chimney is a rectangle. The roof lines form triangles. Because of the distortion of the shapes, I didn't have a true square anywhere, so I added in the square/triangle bead "flowers" on the out house hill. Adding hand embroidery to my machine applique technique is giving me so much joy. The hardest part was knowing when to stop.

I'm even happy with the back. I didn't want raw edges showing, even on the back, so I cut the backing fabric a bit bigger than the front, folded it over to encase the raw edge and finished with a top stitch. It gave a perfect, secure edge for stapling. I haven't decided yet if it needs a frame or will hang as is.

Being stretched and challenged can be uncomfortable, but, just like growing pains, it's worth the effort. My next challenge is designing a new block of the month for 2019. I'm still considering the possible themes, but I'm thinking winter, I have all of the other seasons covered and I'd love to do a two color quilt. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Hello Friends

I'm hoping this will be like a long overdue conversation with a good friend. While there's catching up to do, it's a comfortable conversation because we both know the other wasn't really far from mind.

It's been an interesting year, interesting in the way of the Chinese curse of "may you have an interesting life". There have been some very good days, and some very difficult. But most of the days have been just the kind of comfortable ordinary we all hope for.

Shortly after my last post, my parents fell very ill. We nearly lost my mom first, and just when it was clear that she would survive, my dad became desperately ill and was hospitalized. He was soon diagnosed with metastasized lung cancer and he was gone by the beginning of July. My sisters and I didn't handle this well and we are still trying to find our way back.

I have incredible respect for the rights of others to believe differently from me. I have my own perspective on politics, as do you, and that's not what this blog is about. But I have to tell you, there are days that I am physically heartsick over the way we speak to each other. I am constantly torn between standing up to the bullying and standing back from the fray. All too often I am struck dumb by the hatefulness spewed in the name of love. This has kept me silent, hoping for the ugliness to pass and fearful that it may never.

After struggling mightily with the idea of retirement, in the end, I have found that I have finally settled into a comfortable place. At last I had the time to make the messes, mistakes and discoveries I had avoided while rushing to make deadlines. I still have moments of guilt at not being "productive" for the first time in my life, but they are fleeting and quickly forgotten as I practice a new embroidery stitch or take a stab at dyeing my own thread.

For the first time in a very long time, I have friends I can hang out with, and make stuff with, although I still struggle with the concept that the phone dials out. I am content in my studio with all my toys close at hand. What a joy to simply create for my own pleasure, with no thought to how to teach it, or sell it or if anyone else will like it.

But the teacher in me is restless. It's never been enough for me to learn something new. I've always felt that it's not really mine until I can give it away. I get such joy in sharing what I've learned.

And I've started this great big new project and I'm learning so much in the process. I keep thinking of how much I'd like to share it and then remember that the blog has fallen silent and awkward and stale. So, hello once more, my friend. Shall we begin again?