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.
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.
I have been spinning my wheels for some time now. I’ve been sorting and wondering why I am stuck in this rut. Then it dawned on me. Although for most I may not appear to be organized — but an organized person is one who can find what they need when they need it. That was me until we emptied my studio to put down new flooring — which I do love.
Fabric was brought back into the workspace and just put helter-skelter on the shelves. It would make for interesting work if that were the way I worked. I have been lost and instead of making new work I am looking at UFOs (unfinished work) and trying to get my head around finishing them. That just isn’t possible when I can’t find what I need.
There was a time when I put all my WIP (works in progress) in shiny silver boxes supplied by a lovely local department store and labeled them. Even then when I open the box I find I am one fabric short, the dye-lots don’t even come close to the colors created today, which is a hazard of having projects that date back into the last century. Wow that sounds old and it is. But they are still worth finishing when I find the fabric in my many piles.
So I asked a trusted art buddy, Kim Burke, in Los Angeles to give me her opinion. She suggested putting the old projects aside and “MOVE ON.” I knawed on it for all of about 15 minutes and decided that was a worthy opinion and advice.
I put what I was working on into a shoe box and pulled out a different shoe box of 1 1/2 inch cut strips. This is not what I had in mind, it isn’t arty nor is it flamboyant, it is sweet. So this is March 11, 2016 and I am looking at my breakfast smoothie of banana, mandarin oranges and mango —
DAY ONE: Aunty Grace fabric and it looks like I will be making a baby quilt, smoothie in hand.
My father used to say if there was a flat surface I would find something to put on it. At the time I rejected that thought and those words, but it proved to be prophetic. I am a piler.
I just cleared off my worktable yet again. I purchased fabric last week certainly not because I needed it but because I wanted it. I bought 25% off Christmas fabrics. That was fortunate because I needed reds in more of a variety and Christmas is all about reds. I also bought solids. I think that I don’t sew with solid colored fabrics but when I am looking for them they are gone — must be Gremlins.
So I bought fabric. It took three loads to wash it all. I couldn’t wash the reds with the blues, I might end up with a shade of purple or something motley that I didn’t want like the time my mother forgot my new royal blue slacks were in the washing machine and she threw bleach and her whites on top of them. This was long before tie dye or I could have been a trendsetter.
I stuck with clearing off my work table much as I hate that job. I moved this from here to there, and that from there to here. I opened drawers and tucked angel’s wings (organdy) inside. I needed a plastic bin, but they were all full. Which one has the least? I opened it to find several unfinished projects — more WIPs. Do I finish them or find them a new home? I got to the stack of washed fabric? Do I iron it now, or wait until I use it in a project? If I iron it now I will never finish here. I had just emptied a laundry basket. I folded all the fabrics and gave them to the laundry basket.
I remember when Fat Quarters first appeared in a small basket in the corner of the fabric bolts. I eyed these with great intrepidation — what do you do with those? I promised myself I would not buy these — all my resistance broke down when I needed a certain fabric that I found had been cut into Fat Quarters. The good thing about Fat Quarters is the immediate variety available for only a few dollars.
I’m still working on reorganizing the space. Some things do not change though. When I was a kid I fell in love with pegboard. So it was only logical that one of the few walls in my workroom would be a pegboard.
This is also where I keep my embroidery – quilting frames. I still love hand-quilting some of my quilts. I also hang scissors and cutting grids here. When I do that I know I will be able to find them later.
I wanted open shelves to hold fabric. I didn’t want this many. Husband got out his calculator and measure the fabric measuring all the stacks. He informed me I would fill them and maybe more. Notice Riley really enjoyed them immediately.
There is a difference between being blocked and being in a rut. When I’m blocked I have no momentum, I flat out lack desire am just not interested or motivated. Is there a way to get beyond this? To solve this I go and sit at my work table in front of my sewing machine and be here for 15 minutes. I tell myself it will just be for 15 minutes. Since I am staring at my machine, I think I will wind some bobbins. I can always use bobbins in neutral colors.
So I begin pulling empty bobbins which I buy at least 20 at a time. It starts ecru, tan, light gray and dark gray threads I by on large spools. If I am not making clothes or doing top stitching I use basic colors. I’ll wind about four of each. It is such a pain to have to stop in the middle of a project to wind bobbins when you run out. Or if you are machine quilting it is a bigger pain.
Once the bobbins are wound I am ready for something else. Once you begin, the flow has started. If bobbins aren’t enough to get the juices flowing I like to fold fabric. The colors inspire me to start mixing and matching fabrics.
Come back we’ll talk about fabric tomorrow.
Years ago I sat at the Old Town Mexican café with Libby Leman talking about making quilts. She said so many times we thing we are really “in the groove” we are making quilts and having a good time. But are we in a groove or are we in a rut? There is a tendency when we are artists to make the same thing over and over, perhaps it’s a Log Cabin quilt. Years pass and we are still making the same quilt, just in a different color. Are we moving forward, or are we standing still?
I’ve found myself sorting and organizing but not doing much else. My motor is running and my wheels are spinning but I am getting no where fast. I tell myself, “Today I am going to . . . .” and I start shuffling fabric from here to there and there is no action behind my movements. At the end of the day all I have is a bigger pile and nothing accomplished.
I did make a list of all the work I have “in progress” truth is, seeing that on paper was very impressive. I have managed to finish a few of the smaller works, but not the quilts. It’s a rut when you find yourself annoying friends and frustrating yourself. The challenge isn’t there. You feel that the world is moving past you. You aren’t excited about getting up in the morning and working in your studio.
Did you start this project with all the best intentions and somewhere it lost its steam? Was it a bad idea to start to begin with? Maybe the timing was bad, you didn’t allow enough time to meet the deadline? Are circumstances conspiring against you? Maybe the rut is caused by being too technical, what you thought was a good idea and now it isn’t. This can happen in a lot of areas of our lives, not just with our artwork.
Maybe what you liked last year, five years ago, or more is not you today. Your color preferences are different. It’s time to change it up, go on a creative date with yours. Go to a botanical park, an art gallery, even a movie or buy some upbeat music. Buy a new box of 64 crayons. You may not be as prolific as you were 10 years ago and that is bothering you. Stamina does diminish. Try getting together with younger people, buy some blank paper and share your crayons. Don’t over analyze, don’t question your inability to get out of the rut. If you are in a rut question everything but the rut.
Best to you,