We all run into bumps in the road. I feel I fell into a ditch and have had a time getting out of it. I think it started with a Mercury Retrograde. For those of you who don’t know what that is — it is very similar to Murphy’s Law: what can go wrong — will go wrong.
Usually it has to do with Mercury the Messenger in Astrology. This condition occurs four times throughout the year. I always mark my calendar in January so I know when it will occur. If you start a project during this time you can be pretty certain you won’t finish it.
It seems I started organizing my workroom space during a Mercury Retrograde. It has also occurred to me that is the only time I get back to working on organizing it.
Last organizational spurt a small piece of fabric (10″ x 20″) turned up on my work table. I kept shifting fabrics around still there it was. It kept coming up to the surface. So I thought there must be a message here — guess I am just a little slow sometimes. So I measured it and I could cut it into 4 1/2 inch squares. I thought it would be perfect in the center of some Sawtooth stars. It was one of the first patterns I fell in love with so many years ago.
I made TWO stars. It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon and just about dinner time. There is not need to rush this.
My TWO STARS:
It’s a beginning.
I had an idea back in the 1980s to make quilts using ideas from Tarot cards. I was in a study group with two astrologers, Charley King and Kym Dickey, at the time. There is something about a connection with the Universe when you are in a group of like minds. It was esoteric. Everyone has their own individual Tarot Card. I had drawn my card earlier but when Charley asked who I was and I told him, he said let’s see. I thought this was a test and a challenge. I shuffled the deck and fanned it out — 72 cards, 22 of the Major Arcana. I put my energy into the cards. I was sure who I was but would the cards agree. I picked a card and turned it over — there I was, the exact card I told Charley that I was.
I was also taking college classes with a teacher learning Egyptology, and the history of the Tarot, ancient Assyrians, and the destruction of libraries and it all came together. At the time I also took a quilt class from David Walker, who was also designing his own Deck of Cards. David said something, I wasn’t happy about. Apparently his words had to do with me not wanting my work to be on open display when there was an open walk-though during the conference. Too often had I seen people taking pictures of work then copying the work and getting it published.
So I made my first Tarot Card. Then I came home and made two more.
The days are cooling down, it is hard to tell though because one day it is hot and the next it’s cool, then it’s hot and believe it or not it actually rained. I was even able to pull our feral cat from her windowsill perch into the house and put her in a kennel in the garage.
There she stayed very content for two days. I left the cage door open yesterday. I think she looked out and decided it was much too wet to go outside. Today I repeated the process and after her lunch she ventured out. Not sure what she got next was what she expected. This week at the Marine Air Station about four miles from the house there will be a big air show this weekend. The Blue Angels are practicing and the airplane noise is very loud and frightening. She went and hid. I hope tonight I can catch her again. For the poor animals it is like firecrackers going off.
Even though it was a pretty mild summer not much quilting happened. More than anything I had a lot of false starts. I have a lot of orphan blocks in wild colors without a home. My studio is upstairs and it can get too hot during the summer to work there.
Most of my time was spent getting ready for a late summer wedding. A beautiful bride Linda with her father.
Announcing Mr. and Mrs. — so happy and thrilled to be finally joined in their journey.
I had little to do with the planning of the wedding. I shopped for a dress and shoes, made travel arrangements and enjoyed the beauty of the event. The beautiful Linda did an amazing job of organizing everything.
I attended the Bridal shower in Montreal where there were games
I also got to do a little touring while I was there — the Lavender Flower Fields. Rain poured down and I stood on the outside porch and I totally enjoyed that too since we had very little rain last year.
It was long awaited wedding and we are very happy that they are so very happy.
Now back to work.
My first quilt class was with Ann Albertson. I saw her work in the San Diego magazine and thought it was beautiful. She rarely taught. Ten years after I started making quilts as baby gifts at Christmas I signed up for a class at the local quilt shop with Ann. It was a scrap quilt class. I walked in with an armload of fabrics. She took one look at me and said, “this is a scrap quilt class.” I set my fabric down on the table and said — “these will be scraps soon.”
The first class was explaining what a quilt was and what a scrap quilt was. She also gave many ideas for a scrappy quilt: Friendship Stars, Nine Patches, Puss in the Corner. I wanted to make a quilt with the pattern I had seen in the magazine. Challenging for someone who had never used templates.
The next class would be in two weeks. So I had time to make blocks. I fell in love with the picture of the quilt in the magazine. It was a Star within a Star block. I could only manage to make one quilt block a day. I had a toddler at home. I was very used to making freeform quilts and using templates was beyond me. Getting those points pointy was a struggle. I decided not to rush it because for the most part it was all new to me.
I decided to go back to the beginning and remember what beginning quilting was like. One major problem was lack of cotton fabrics for the longest time. Diana Leone wrote a Sampler Quilt book and I used polyester fabrics. Polyester fabrics were not stable and would shift when you sewed them.
The quilt above quilt is one I took it to a conference I took with Nancy Crow. It was machine pieced. And I machine and hand-quilted it.
To be continued
I started buying the Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine when it came out printed on a mimeograph machine. I collected them even though I was not a quilter. I was a seamstress, I made clothing, including wedding apparel. When we moved from the East Coast to San Jose a group of the ladies in the neighborhood, all from New York, formed a Tuesday night group. We brought whatever handy work we were doing at the time. I did Needlepoint, my own designs inspired by a picture I might see in a magazine. Sometimes it was from a kit, but kits were expensive. I designed an occasional canvas that my friend Sharon Maher would buy from me.
One of the ladies in the group who kept the shell of an old VW bug in her backyard decided that she alone would bring a renaissance of quilting. I admired that. I thought someday I might be a quilter. With two toddlers I was sure it wouldn’t be anytime soon. I couldn’t even afford to buy a quilt at a flea market. If one was on the side of the road, I might stop for it, but that would be the only way I would own one.
I did love fabric and occasionally for an outing as a family we would ride the train into San Mateo. There was a mall there and in one of the stores they had a bin with scraps of fabrics leftover from silk ties. I learned to make men’s ties. My mother made the boys cute little short sets out of seersucker to wear so any sewing I did was usually for myself.
When we moved from San Jose to San Diego it was small and quiet. There wasn’t much to do and I didn’t know anyone. It was a young neighborhood with a lot of young children. Cheryl Herr lived down the street and in her living room sat a quilting frame. She could make a whole cloth quilt in a week completely hand quilted. She’d shop at K-Mart and buy two twin-sized sheets and a roll of polyester batting. All the furniture would be pushed to the side until she finished the quilt. I was inspired. I was not interested in a quilt made from sheets although her quilts were beautiful. She told me I could do it. Funny thing, I believed her. You have to believe you can do something or it will never happen.
The only place to buy fabric was at Sears. We had two and neither one was close, both were approximately the same distance in opposite directions. One day I was out with my next door neighbor and shopping buddy Barbara Johnson. She acted as my welcome wagon. She would drive me around and show me how to get places. One day we ended up in Escondido at Sears approximately 20 miles north of us. There was a needlework shop to buy threads for my needlepoint and Sears. I had scrap fabrics and an idea. My first quilt almost became my last quilt. When you say, how hard could this be, you then find out. Putting the top together was not as difficult as sitting and hand quilting the top. It was summer and it was hot. I had a large embroidery hoop on a frame. I would quilt during the day in the sunlight while the boys napped. My quilting time could be very limited.
I limited my pallet which simplified the design process.
I still like this quilt, which belongs to my oldest son.
Ever ask yourself about your quilting goals? What do you think you want to accomplish? There are so many different answers possible here. Are you a project person or a process person. Do you want to sell your quilts? Do you want to keep your quilts or give them away?
A project person has a distinct goal in mind — a finished quilt. There is usually a beginning and of course an end. You have a pattern, you have colors in mind, maybe you even have a location designated for it.
I am a process person. I may have a stack of fabrics and an idea but I have no general purpose except to create. I may not create a quilt — I may create pieces or parts and then decide where to go from there. Or I may lay them aside and move on to something else until I decide what to do next. This often gets me in trouble.
My friend Stephanie is a project person. She is always making something with fabric to use in her décor. One year it was a quilt for her daughter’s room. Since I didn’t have a daughter I thought I would make the same blocks for fun and sometime in the future I may need a quilt for a little girl.
I made these Bow Blocks. Definitely for a girl. I made blocks until I got tired and them put them in a box, labeled it and set them aside. Then one year, many years later, I needed a Christmas present. It was late October. I don’t know about you but once it is October time flies that much faster to the holidays. It is not just normal life events but also all the unexpected happenings. I turned things upside down looking for the box of blocks — then how to set them, What colors to use? With little Abi being the predictable little girl that she was pink and purple were the perfect choices.
Being a process person who plans less with a project you may find yourself in a pickle. You may not have enough of what you need. You used fabric saved for this project on a different project. You have no clue what or where you put the pattern if you want to make more pieces. You have to be much more creative and open to new ideas and a change your plans.
What I have learned from times like this: Set up a box with all the supplies together. Keep them there until the project is completed. Keep the book or make a copy of the pattern and keep it in the box as well.
Are there days you find yourself circling looking for something you want?
I wrote on my morning pages all the things I could do today. My list involved things I could do in my workroom. Clear out empty boxes that are taking up space. I checked that off. Then my stair stepper was in the way. I always kept it under the sofa in the living room should the urge to exercise strike. When we put down a new rug in the living room the stair step was moved to my workroom — yeah like I am going to exercise there? It went back downstairs to live under the sofa again. I need all the floor space in my workroom. Moving the stair stepper opened up enough space to set up my ladder to put yarn bins back on the shelf.
If you have followed what I’ve written you may remember I started sorting, and then I sorted some more, and then more. It was like an obsession. I am not an obsessive person. I just got to a point where I couldn’t find what I wanted when I wanted it. It happened again.
Since I have been going around in circles I thought it might be better to stop making new work and go back to working in a series which is what I like to do. I have to follow my instinct and my intuition. I wanted to find the last piece of art that was almost finished, but where did I put it? I am to the point where I can find everything. I have separated my finished works from my unfinished works and labeled it all.
I looked everywhere that I thought it could be for three days. Then I told myself, it will turn up I am certain. I was lost for what I may have done with it. Where did I remember having it last? The living room next to my favorite chair where I do my hand quilting, yes I still hand quilt special pieces which will probably never know a washing machine. One morning I thought of the most obscure place I might put it. I was knitting pet blankets in December, but then company was coming, so I fast gathered. Under the stairs there was a basket with bulky yarn. On top of the basket was the lid to a box I was using to put donation books into. I lifted the lid covering the yarn. Almost completely covered by the yarn was a corner of the quilt — hiding. I found you, my Very Colorful Quilt, a reason to celebrate.