Thursday, August 19, 2010

My creative space...taking shape.

It feels like I've been doing a refresher in primary school geometry in my creative space recently. 

This week I've completed the piecing of these half-square-triangles for a small lap quilt on its way to a sick friend. 
So far, my short patchwork career has consisted of the scrappy, the imprecise and the mismatched. I like it like that. Nonetheless I'm really digging this classical approach to piecing, using a charm pack of French General Rural Jardin fabric and some hankie linen. Matching fabrics - gasp! I even toyed with a symmetrical design, but that was all a bit staid so I've come up with this asymmetrical suggestion-of-concentric-square thing.

Alongside the triangles-in-squares, my circles-in-hexagons are coming along:

I'm half-way through the hand quilting of my ugly hexagons and enjoying the process a whole lot more since I switched my thread from sashiko thread to Perle 8 cotton, which is gliding through the layers far more easily. Thanks go especially to Mary for the helpful suggestions on how to mark the design and reduce thread friction.

Tune in next week for rhomboids, isosceles triangles and dodecahedrons.

What's shaping up in your creative space?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Finding peace in the piecework.

I started a new quilt top on the weekend. 

This one will be for a friend who has a long six months of chemotherapy ahead of her. I hope that a small lap quilt, while not the most practical offering, is something that will bring a bit of comfort, beauty and a reminder that she is loved and prayed for.

I've wanted to try playing with triangles since the first issue of Fat Quarterly came out. So this weekend I chose the fabric from my stash and made a stack of half-square triangles. I decided to cut first, design later. It's just how I roll.

I surprised myself by enjoying the process. Usually my head is racing ahead to the next step and the next, impatiently wishing I was done with the 'preliminary' steps, wanting to see the whole thing come together. Instead, I got into the rhythm of cutting, marking, pinning, sewing, pressing. Perhaps the spirit of monotasking is really beginning to sink in.
I especially loved the pressing. I must have spent an hour last night lovingly ironing imperfectly-aligned points into the appearance of almost-perfection. It was weird. And then I spent a good while gazing affectionately at my little stack of raw-edged half-square triangles. As though they were my children.

Hmmm. It could be the monotasking. It could be the frontal lobotomy. You decide.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Check out my muff!

Now for those of you snickering into your cup of tea, I'll remind you that the word 'muff' remains the term for a handwarmer or hand cosy, whatever other tawdry meanings it may have acquired in modern usage. Thank you very much.

A few weeks ago I received the best request ever. A dear friend of mine, Melski, owner of cold hands and warm heart, asked if I'd make her a muff.

As soon as it was requested, I knew in my minds' eye just what I wanted my hand cosy to look like. There is in fact a patchwork muff project in the book Denyse Schmidt Quilts,which I own and love. I followed  the pattern, which gave clear dimensions and construction tips, but encouraged a very free and approximate approach to laying out the fabrics and designing the outer layer.

Just my type of project.

It was a joy to riffle through my fabrics and find what I was looking for. The bulk of the fabrics are kimono offcuts, which I offset with scraps of brown linen and suiting fabrics. I played a bit with layout and then foundation-pieced the strips onto some muslin - a useful new technique to learn.

I went for a lining of red fleece and four layers of wadding, which hopefully will keep dear Melski's hands just that bit more snug.

Of course it wouldn't be a handmade gift without the label hand-stitched on as an afterthought!

Dear Melski, who said bad circulation couldn't be stylish?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Slow Project: monotasking

{Credit where it is due - I'm hijacking Ellie of petalplum and her Slow Project here}

When I wrote about my attraction to the Slow Food movement a few weeks ago, I came away with a sense of cognitive dissonance.  

I pay plenty of lip service to the slow life -  slow foodslow cloth,  slow fashion,  slow transport. I have chosen to be 'slow' at this stage of life by refusing to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities with the main gig - parenting.

But I'm still an adrenaline junkie, and I love to multitask.

I guess the adrenaline habit is hard to kick. Particularly because our mainstream culture is all about thriving on adrenaline. We're addicted to:

 instant gratification

I feel that I ought to be 'using my time well' (which means doing more than one thing at a time). I parent, cook, craft, ride the bike, have 'me time', socialise and blog with a sense of urgency, as though I'm lagging behind somehow or going to miss a deadline. I try to do them all simultaneously. I'm always looking for ways to get a bit of blog-post-reading done whilst paying bills via iPhone whilst pushing the boys on the swings whilst chatting to my mother whilst jotting down the shopping list and designing the next quilt. WHY?

There is. No. Deadline.

Furthermore, it seems that multitasking may well be a flawed concept altogether. I like this quote from Carl Honore, author of In Praise Of Slow:

"The latest neuro-scientific research suggests what most of us already suspect: that the human brain is not very good at multitasking. Sure there are a few simple or routine tasks we can perform at the same time, but as soon as you have to engage the brain, you really need to focus on one activity at a time. Much of what passes for multitasking is nothing of the sort: it is sequential toggling between activities.  
Changing attitudes is hard because our culture is marinated in the notion that doing more things at once is somehow deeply modern, efficient and fulfilling. But change is possible."

Anyway, I'm taking action. Well, inaction, more precisely. For the past few weeks I've been monotasking. 

I've stopped checking the phone incessantly. I've stopped switching the TV on for the kids so I can 'get something done', and trying to either get them involved or accept the fact that it is just not going to get done right now (and does it really matter?). I've opted to either read, OR blog, OR sew of an evening, instead of trying to do all three in front of the telly. In fact, it has taken ten days to write this blog post, because I've let myself be interrupted and let go of the artificial, self-imposed deadlines. Does anyone care? No. I'm attempting to redefine my ideas of a successful day... did we get some sun and air? Get appropriately fed and watered? Do something creative? Hang out with some other people? Have a good cuddle? Relate well or at least give it a red-hot go?

That might all sound a bit sickly-sweet and like I should go and polish my earth-mother halo (in a mindful, meditative, living-in-the-present, enjoying-the-journey kind of way).

And frankly, I'm feeling so darned good right now, I just might.

(Insert gratuitous shots of kidlets in 'Hudson', wearing their Dillpickle Beanies)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My creative space... circling.

It has begun. The quilting of the ugly hexes.

I've opted for hand quilting, and decided on a simple design of intersecting circles. 

Simple in theory, anyway. I'm finding it slow going, but not really in that pleasant, lulling, meditative way I had hoped. It's taking a while to get a hang of lots of things: marking out my design; burying knots; holding an unwieldy quilt on my lap; working the needle through those layers.

And then there is the stitching itself. I started out quilting with thin cotton quilting thread and trying to do small, even stitches. After realising that I wasn't catching the backing with stitches smaller than, oh, about a metre, I decided to embrace the large stitch and go for more of a sashiko look. This looks much better to my eye, and doing a better job of actually quilting the layers together. 

But boy, am I finding it hard work. Physically hard. There is a large amount of friction going on. There must be something weird going on with my particular concoction of fabrics, batting (can't remember what sort) and sashiko thread. The three circles I've completed in sashiko-style took around half an hour each! 
Thoughts? Suggestions? Is this just part-and-parcel of doing something new?

Anyway, with all the effort being expended, I've decided I need to keep the energy levels up. This morning I made a rather large batch of cinnamon scrolls, using brioche dough from my no-knead artisan bread book.

Heavenly. What do you think - do I get one for every sashiko circle-of-pain I complete?

More creative spaces to be seen at Kirsty's place.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

When is a quilt not a quilt?

No, it's not a riddle. I'm just curious. Precisely how many lines must you sew through layers of fabric in order to call something a quilt rather than, say, a several-layered blanket? And how big should it be?

Crucial questions I know, and one I've been pondering with my delightful new friend* Clementine as she's watched me sewing this weekend.

I decided to make a little bunting quilt this weekend, guided by the simple tutorial at a pretty cool life which I checked out after being inspired by Caroline last week.

There are approximately seventeen million and three newborn babies due to land in my immediate vicinity by mid-October (all via different wombs, I'm pleased to report). I have grand, if stupid, intentions of making a little something for each of them. Now that I'm a quilting wannabe, the first idea that pops into my mind is to make a wee little baby quilt for each. This is of course a ludicrous idea. Nonetheless, when I saw this tutorial I thought I may as well knock one down: 

I haven't done much appliqué, but I really enjoyed doing this (all without any fancy-pants fixatives). The little bunting flags will fray a bit once washed which I think will look sweet. 

I backed mine with flannel, so it's soft, warm and not so precious that it can't be chucked on the floor as a play rug.

Actually, mine has three layers of flannel. One in the middle, one on the outside, quilted together... and then another one on the outside when I decided that I didn't want to bind the quilt, and instead used the 'pillowcase' method of bagging, turning and top-stitching to finish.

This is why I don't think it's a legitimate quilt. The top and bottom layers are not sewn together at all through the middle - gasp! - but merely around the edge. And there is no patchwork. Maybe it's a SHAM!

Whatever. It works. The whole project was quick, fun and very much repeatable. Clementine has given it a 5-carrot rating.

One down, seventeen million and two to go...

*Clementine is, of course, a Dandelion creation, lovingly made (replete with apron!) by Beck.