Saturday, February 26, 2011

Feeling Headless

So I'm in this funny phase.  It's one I go through from time to time.  You'd think I'd figure it out eventually.  But it's about this:  What am I doing with this quilting stuff?  I feel like I am all over the place, doing a bit of everything, without ever focusing on any one technique or style or direction.

Do I have a style?  I can't see that I do, in any definite way.  I so admire some of my friends whose pieces have a strong voice and style and a distinctive cohesion. They do what they do, and they do it beautifully, and they push themselves into new places, but their work looks like it belongs to them.  And it looks like they have a path that they know they are on, and they are moving purposefully on that path.

I don't seem to have a path.  I feel more like Gemma at the dog park, rushing in all directions at once and running in circles until her tongue is hanging out.  And I feel like my work looks like a collection of random stuff.  And I'm often dissatisfied at how stiff it seems to me.  I have this idea of what I WANT my work to be -- looser, freer, more spontaneous and joyful ... but how to get there eludes me.

So, you're thinking: "JUST DO IT."  Yeah, I think that's right.  I need to just let myself play.

One of my favorite artists wrote in a book that she posted a list of seven words on the wall in her studio, to remind her of what she wants her work to be.  She has her list of adjectives, like "serene."  "Clear."  That sort of thing.  And with each piece, she runs down her list to see if she has met each of her seven words, and if not, why not.

It's a great idea, isn't it?  But me, I can't even decide on the seven words.

I think this is the mood that drives me to piecing.  Just letting fabric slide through my fingers, pulled along by the feed dogs, allows me to meditate on all of this.  Piecing, at least what I'm doing these days, requires very little brain power or decision making.  It feels good to assemble pieces of fabric and create blocks of color and pattern.  It makes me feel like I'm DOING something and, in fact, I'm getting things made and finished and that feels good.

So I need to choose a path.  For now, not forever. And maybe think about some adjectives to help me stay on that path.  And I need to give myself time to play.

If you had to pick 5-7 adjectives that describe the work you do, what would your list be?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I'm definitely feeling better...

because I felt the urge to make a batch of gnocci to see if last week's lesson stuck with me:

It's probably uncouth to rest them on foil instead of parchment paper, but I didn't have the parchment.  They do look like little pillows, don't they?


Dinner will be these and a light homemade tomato sauce and some baked zucchini.  Yep, I'm hungry so I must be better.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The brain is willing...

... but my body has the flu.  So I lie in bed, and my mind starts thinking about quilts I want to work on, drawers in the house I could straighten, piles in the garage that need loading to go to the Salvation Army... and then I wear myself out and need to go back to bed.

Maybe I'll just take a little rest and THEN I'll be able to get something done.

Or not.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Workin' on the Ranch

I have just come back from another amazing quilting retreat with friends at the Bishop's Ranch, here in Sonoma County.  Yep, again.  Aren't I lucky?!  I go with a regular large group each April and October.  But this year, the folks at  Bishop's Ranch decided to host an "open" quilting retreat to allow anyone who is interested to join in.  Because it was a new event, there were only seven of us.  But it was an intimate, restful and productive time.  Four of the other women were good friends, and the remaining two are now new friends!  The Bishop's Ranch is a lovely place and makes for a great retreat site.  If you are interested in getting on the Ranch's mailing list to receive information about next February's open retreat (dates are not yet certain but it will be in February and will run from a Sunday evening through Thursday afternoon), email me with your info and I will forward it to the ranch folks.

I got a lot of work done!  I made big progress on the sage/blue/brown 12x12 quilt due March 1. Sorry, can't show you pictures!  But it's almost done so that felt great.  And I took the opportunity to make a dent in the scraps and UFOs taking up room in my closet!

 I made blocks out of a Moda jelly roll that I found for sale at half price after Christmas.  They're Christmasy fabrics but not in-your-face Christmas, with cheery colors.  I think I'm going to sash these blocks with red and white stripes or polka dots and make some sort of couch throw.  Or maybe I'll donate it.  I'm not sure.  But sewing the blocks (using a pattern from the Moda Bake shop called "Whirly Wheels", here) was easy and fast.  They reminded me of wrapped backages with ribbons and pinwheel bows!  I was having so much fun with these that both Karen and Ancella made a set of blocks with fabric they just happened to bring along.

 I made serious progress on a Kaffe Fasset quilt (called Postcard Quilt from his Quilt Road book).  It's a quilt that starts with one center block and then has pieced borders going around it.  It makes for some fussy piecing but I love the richness of it.  This is about 36 inches square right now, and the finished quilt will be 84x84 inches so I have a way to go!

Remember those 4 inch and 2 1/2 inch strips I'd cut out of leftovers from another quilt?  I never did figure out what I'd cut them for -- so they have become large diamonds, like so:

And I assembled a One Block Wonder quilt that I cut and started a few years ago when some friends and I were enthralled with the one block wonder magic: 

I say it every time, but I'll say it again:  There is nothing like spending time with wonderful friends doing what you love to do.  I'm eagerly looking forward to the April retreat.  But before then, I'd better get to work to get these projects finished!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ever notes, ever more

It's amazing what you can learn from reading blogs.

Most recently, I was reading through my list of favorite blogs, and someone mentioned a free software application they have used to collect knitting or stitching patterns they've found online, called Evernote.  Since I'm always finding things online and (despite the endless list of bookmarks I have) losing them again, I figured this  could come in handy.  So I downloaded it and have been giving it a try.

Oh my, it is quite wonderful.  Basically, it allows you to capture a web page or image or make a note, and then tag your captures and organize them.  So later when you're looking for that GREAT THING you found a few days ago, or was it weeks ago, you'll have the ability to retrieve it.

When the program installs, it allows you to put a button on your web browser menu bar, so when you're actually at a webpage and want to save something, you just click the button.  It asks you to tag it, and voila.

I'm quite pleased.  Perhaps in the future I'll be able to find whatever it was I cut fabric for.  (And I'm giving up on the mysterious quilt I cut those 2 1/2 and 4 inch strips for.  I think I found what it was, maybe, and I'm not crazy about it now.  So, those strips will go right into a different project (which I wrote down and pinned to the strips themselves. Just in case.)

I'm not related to Evernote at all.  But I'm a happy new user.  You might want to check it out.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Help! I've cut strips and I can't get up!

Okay, this is driving me crazy.

About a year ago, I cut fabric for a particular project.  And while I was cutting, I cut strips for a second project out of those same fabrics.  I now have a lovely box of 2 1/2" and 4" strips.  For a particular purpose ... WHICH I CANNOT REMEMBER.

I have been through my binders of patterns, looking for anything that would have caused me to choose those strip cuts.  I have looked through my Kaffe Fassett books, knowing I always love making those quilts and maybe my strip cutting was aimed at one of those.  I've hunted around the internet, looking for strip quilts that might have appealed to me at some point.

I can't find anything that jogs the least tiny corner of a memory.  And the really annoying thing is that as soon as I give up the search and decide to do something else with them, I'll come across the original thing and know that THAT was what I wanted to do and I'll wish I'd waited.


So I'm appealing to you, quilting friends..  Do you happen to know of some quilt that requires 2 1/2 inch and 4 inch strips?  What the HECK was I thinking?

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Blooming and Growing

A friend called me the other day to ask if I was okay, because I've been so quiet here.  Rest assured that I am fine -- I have just been immersed in daily life and family stuff.  Which, I'm afraid, does not make for interesting blog content.  You don't really want to hear how I struggle with removing stains from clothing and what I made for dinner, do you?

We did have two birthdays in the past week, mine and Miss C's.  Thank you to all who sent birthday wishes -- I had a lovely day and my birthday gift will be to spend a few quilting retreat days at my favorite retreat site, Bishop's Ranch, next week.  And Miss C turned 15, which has us in shock.  But we had an action-packed weekend with birthday events, seeing friends and family and celebrating with lemon cake AND chocolate cupcakes.  Guess which ones were for me!

And I fell down a big homeschooling hole this past week, as Miss C and I worked on adjusting the new biology and world history curricula to make them more fun and interesting.  I am pleased -- you have no idea how pleased I am -- to report that we have settled on an online Biology curriculum that is not only interesting but wildly entertaining, and that I'm finding great history resources to liven things up along the way.  I have discovered that Miss C is a visual/auditory learner so I've had fun hunting down videos from the library and Netflix and other places to keep us stimulated.  I get so excited when I start cruising the websites at the History Channel and the Biography Channel and -- there are wonderful, wonderful educational tools out there to make things interesting.  For the current ancient China unit, for example, along with textbook reading and some written projects, we'll watch "In the Footsteps of Marco Polo," and another video that tours the inside of the Forbidden City and another video about the emperor who had the terra cotta warriors and the great wall made.   I can hardly wait, actually.

So, nothing dire here going on, just school and paperwork and laundry and grocery shopping and all that sort of thing... not to mention the occasional bit of time outside, as it has been in the 70's here and everything in the yard is starting to bloom.

Happy February!