Thursday, January 31, 2013

January Scrap Challenge Finished

Giant pile o' Scraps on Sewing table

You didn't think I would finish my January Scrap Challenge quilt before February? Au Contraire! One way to finish a task is to tell Mr. Hunting Creek that you have a goal and a deadline. He's a professional Project Manager and a huge nag. Whenever I was doing nothing or just hanging out watching aimless TV he'd say, "Don't you need to work on your quilt? How many blocks did you do today?"
The blocks multiplied like Tribbles with his nagging  expert guidance.

 Even though I've been sewing since I was 8 years old or thereabouts  I learn a few things with every project. On this one I learned that SCRAPS RULE THE WORLD. There is no escaping them! They multiply behind your back!
The pile of scraps you see above (I can't make blogger show the picture the right way, get on that Google.) is part of a giant bag of strips that someone gave me. Have you noticed that non-sewists love to unload sewing stuff on innocent sewists? They act like they are giving you a huge gift! Mr. Hunting Creek looks on this with amazement  "They are giving an avowed addict more of what they're addicted to? Why not find some drug addicts and say, "Here's some Oxycontin I don't need any more, but I know  you can use it." He thinks they are aiding and abetting and he isn't far off: It is well -known that other people scraps are in many ways cooler than your own scraps. You already know your scraps. These unknown scraps are new! Different! Sometimes weird colors! (This is how you end up found years later as a dessicated mummy buried in a tunnel of quilt scraps.)
Yet more scraps!
In the past ten years I would save scraps in a big bin if they were smaller than a fat quarter. If you sew a lot, and make baby quilts and Hawaiian shirts and gifts and bags and all sorts of stuff, over ten years you are going to have a lot of scraps. About in the middle of my scrap quilt I realized that I had more scraps than one lap quilt-worth. So I'll have to do another scrap quilt challenge later this year. At first I sorted them by color and size, but that was a mistake- the best way for me, anyway, was to dump them all out and just grab a color/value I needed and use it. I'm very OCD and I tend to over-think sometimes. This was an exercise in being more relaxed. The strips are all sorts of odd shapes and sizes, but my goal was just make it work. Do you think our fore-mothers worried about matching and silly stuff like colors? They did NOT. I own two quilts made by Mr. Hunting Creek's grandmother, and they are so different from contemporary quilts it's like a breath of fresh air. Run out of red? Use orange! Forget about 1/4 inch seams, use smaller, use larger to make it fit!
While taking a break when Mr. Hunting Creek was otherwise engaged, (so he couldn't make me go back to work) I read on Venus de Hilo's blog about a Kitchen sink quilt. This is a ingenious idea! I found three old blocks that I had made ten years ago and added some more to them and worked them in. "I made SIX blocks today!," I told Mr. Hunting Creek. "Wow, he said, impressed by my diligence.."See how well you do when you're focused? "

Stay tuned for the Big Reveal! (Camera battery charging up.)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Artist at Work

Curse you, Red Baron!

Some people don’t like Sundays; they get melancholy and bummed out. I, however, like Sundays, and wish we could have more of them. The chores of Saturday are done, the house is clean, the groceries are bought, and there is usually no schedule. Mr. Hunting Creek brings in the Sunday New York Times, (a pleasure i did not enjoy until after we moved to the East Coast; the L.A. Times is nothing in comparison.) I get to read the best parts to Mr. Hunting Creek while we listen to the selection of the week on Pandora. What’s not to like?

In the afternoons, I get to sew and work on my current project. This month’s (year’s, lifetime’s)  project is to Use Up Scraps, which are taking over the sewing zone. 

The rules I made for using up scraps are like the Rules for Fight Club. Just kidding... they are pretty simple: if it is in the scrap bin, it is available. Second Rule: No Saving. Third Rule: Have fun trying new color combinations. Last Rule:There are no mistakes.
I’m making all of the blocks slightly larger than 12 ½ inches, then I will square them up when I am done.

Blocks I don’t like can be turned into pot holders or cut up and added to a different block. I set all of the blocks aside until the end and then decide what I like and don't like.

Some notes on works in progress: I know from teaching and from my experience painting that it’s unwise to judge a finished work from the incomplete parts. A a good method is to withhold judgement on the separate pieces until you see them all together in context.
Also, never show your work in progress to someone who doesn't understand sewing/quilting/painting/writing. They are not going to understand what they are seeing and thus cannot offer intelligent and useful criticism. Speaking of quilts specifically, seasoned sewists and quilters know that unfinished blocks look...well, unfinished. Lonely and out of context. Experienced quilters can mentally fill in the blanks and envision the entire quilt.

Sarai asked an interesting question on her blog today about how we engage in the world as artists. You’re saying to yourself right now, “But I’m not an artist!”” I can hear you from here. If you make things, you’re an artist. You might be a beginner, or you might be an expert, but either way, you are an artist, and you need to own that. Once you respect that, you will open your eyes to new ways of seeing. Some people would see my bin of scraps, and they would think: trash. An artist teaches herself/himself to see possibilities in mundane things.. Like scraps...or found objects...or marble...or old pictures, or....

Do you think of yourself as an artist? If no, why not?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Old Addiction

This stuff is like heroin to me

When I read the words "Italian Silk-Cotton Blend", I was filled with that acquisitive desire known to fellow fabric... enthusiasts.
Like an AA member who still walks by liquor stores, I regularly look at fabric  I read about sewing and quilting. Occasionally, I even sew things. But my main passion is collecting fabric  That I have many lovely pieces already is not the point. I am always interested in having more. I have tried to be rational about this. But as any addict/collector/hoarder knows, these things are not rational.
I went for a four year period in which I did not buy ANY fabric at all. Last year, I bought some lovely pieces on my birthday. Of course I have not made anything out of them yet...they're Too Nice.
When my daughter asked me what my New Year's resolutions were, I told her I'd have to think about it. Then when I was working on a fabric banner for our Christmas Party, the Resolution presented itself to me, as J.K. Rowling says, "with the force of a stampeding troll": No Saving
I was selecting the background fabric from my Christmas Fabric Collection. I found the perfect one - white with silver stars. I am ashamed to admit that I then thought, "this is too nice, I'd better save it." and then my rational brain spoke up and said, actually yelled: SAVE IT FOR WHAT!!! 
Yes, reader, I used it. What was I saving it for, but to use for our family celebrations? Then I realized: THAT was my resolution: NO SAVING. Don't I deserve to use all of my nice things? My daughter doesn't sew. When I am gone, this stuff I have "Saved" will all be donated to a worthy cause (I hope) so I'd better enjoy it now.
I couldn't decide what lovely piece I wanted to sacrifice on the altar of No Saving, so I decided to use up all my my small scraps in a scrap quilt. Part of my Saving Problem is that I will save Scraps Too Small To Be Saved. And I noticed yesterday that giving up "saving" isn't going to be easy. I'm happily taking sewing breaks, making little scrappy log cabins and courthouse steps blocks, and I caught myself thinking, "This scrap is too pretty to use now, I'll save it for something else". I made myself use it.
What are your sewing resolutions? I'm NOT Saving. I am recklessly using the good stuff, and trying to UN-hoard. It's a constant battle, because my first impulse is to save. But I guess all resolutions are like that, amirite?

p.s. My collecting habit isn't just manifested in humans. My little cat, Miss Etta, has a collection too. Every day, she drags these three things out from my sewing room into a special spot in the living room. When Mr. Hunting Creek puts them back, she fetches them again.

I snapped a quick picture on my iPhone: they are a little lambswool duster that I use to clean computer screens, a bag of wool felt scraps, and a package of Angelina Fibers.The bag of wool felt scraps is bigger than she is, but she loves it and drags it back every day. It's pretty bad when your cats start hoarding too.