Saturday, October 3, 2015

Gift Sewing

 Every year I make some little gifts to put in family and friends' stockings.
This year I've picked these patterns:
Hot holders in cute fabrics
The hot holders are great. I made one for my sister and she loves it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

King George I: Party Planning Visionary

Handel with King George I, on the first occasion of The Water Music
Picture via Wikipedia
Please enjoy my essay on King George I and the Water Music, published today on The Toast.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sewing As Political Protest

"You just can't sew a Russian flag while wearing a prisoner's uniform in the middle of Moscow," the deputy chief of police explained to us when we got to the station. "Our country is not a concentration camp or ghetto, but everything has its limits. Sew at home. Are you even certified to sew a Russian flag? Are you even a qualified seamstress?"
"Actually, yes," I said. "I sewed police uniforms for two years, pants like the ones you're wearing. Comfortable, I hope?"
"The fabric is a little tight," complained the deputy. "Hot."

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Cat Aliases, Or the Science of Cat Naming

Book Cover: Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S.Eliot. His work on the subject of cat naming broke new ground in the field.
  Anyone who has ever known a cat knows that cats don't always come when we call them. We may mistakenly think that our cats are either arrogant or stupid, but the truth may be that they're using, albeit clumsily, B.F. Skinner’s conditioning methods to teach us to stop calling them by dumb people-given names. They might consider names like “Smokey” or “Whiskers” as just their aliases - their nom de la maison, so to speak. They do not recognize these as their “names”. They are like Miranda Priestley, their attitude being: “Bore someone else with your problems, human.”
Korean Painting: Cat with Chrysanthemums (ignoring humans)
  Some might say that cat names and behavior are a frivolous subject, but no less an exalted personage than T.S. Eliot has written extensively the importance of Cat Naming:

 “Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES”

Eliot was a pioneer in the field of cat naming, and his work on this important subject inspired the play Cats, to the delight and/or dismay of many. It’s been a neglected but now newly important issue for modern science and we would do well to give it the heightened scrutiny our modern age requires. 
Cats on the Roof Goya 1786-1787, reenacting a scene from Cats
  I’m not a scientist myself, but I trained to do scientific research in college. But more importantly, my family has always had cats. I come from a long line of cat-loving people, and we always took the business of naming our cats (actually the giving of cat aliases seriously.) No simple “Socks” for us; we had cats named after my brother’s second grade teacher (Mrs. Stewart; both the cat and the woman had eyes of that lovely golden hazel color) and cats named for their specific personality. We had a particularly naughty white cat named “Billy Bother”, which is a name so awesome in retrospect that I think it should be the title of a children’s picture book. My college companion cat was a handsome all black shorthair named Monty Python. We take cat names seriously in my family, as we all should.
Monty Python. 1977-1995 RIP World's Finest Cat
 Science has recently taken up and continued Eliot’s groundbreaking work on cat naming and behavior, showing renewed interest in the subject. These scientists (perhaps dog owning scientists?) have long wondered why dogs, (reliable, affectionate, open–hearted dogs! Sterling pets!) always come when they are called, sometimes even when they aren’t called, anticipating our every dog-related desire like the enablers they are, but cats almost never do. (I like to imagine the cats in this experiment thinking of the dogs as needy, brown-nosing toadies. “You little fools!” thinks Grumpy Cat in her cold, cold voice.)
After the experiment the scientists were able to prove that cats do in fact hear us when we call them by name, and yes, they recognize our voices, but they just don’t care enough to get up and see what we want.

 “These results indicate that cats do not actively respond with communicative behavior to owners who are calling them from out of sight, even though they can distinguish their owners’ voices”, write Saito and Shinozuka. “This cat–owner relationship is in contrast to that with dogs.”
Please note the puzzlement of the researchers. Obviously they are unfamiliar with basic cat etiquette. Cats do not wait breathlessly to fulfill your every cat-related desire. They are not dogs! Page one of Emily Purrst’s Guide to Pet Etiquette clearly states that, “One must not expect doglike behavior from one’s cat, or one will be condemned to eternal disappointment.”

Any cat owner in history could have told them this without them going to all the bother of hooking up all of their fancy electronic equipment, but at least now we have Scientific Proof that cats DGAF what we want. To paraphrase a different book: your cat is just not that into you.
Pen and Ink, White Cat Ignoring His Owners calling Him, Even Though He Hears Them
The best part of their study is the wistful tone of their conclusion:

“ although “dogs are perceived by their owners as being more affectionate than cats […] dog owners and cat owners do not differ significantly in their reported attachment level to their pets”. The study concludes by observing that “the behavioural aspect of cats that cause their owners to become attached to them are still undetermined.”

Meaning: We don’t have any rational explanation why people love their cats. Their cats clearly do nothing to encourage them. The applications of this study to human interpersonal relationships are wisely left unsaid.

 Other research by cat behavioral specialists tells us that cats don’t meow to other cats. Cats meow to communicate with humans. Kittens meow to communicate with their mothers, but adult cats only “talk” to humans this way. Cats use other methods to communicate with other cats; including special body language, hissing, and growling, but they only vocalize with us. Maybe this is the reason most cats look patient and sometimes slightly exasperated when dealing with humans: they have to use baby talk to communicate with us and we are so bad at understanding what they are trying to say. Some scientists speculate that our communication problems with cats originate in the fact that humans did not domesticate cats the way that we did dogs. Due to centuries of human domestication and selection, our dogs know us in a way no other species does. Dogs are quite skilled at interpreting human behavior, aware of the meaning of gestures and very willing to please. Cats, opportunistic takers that they are, domesticated themselves to gain access to free food and shelter and obviously feel that they are not obligated to do anything more for these things because they are gracing us with their presence. If we were in a relationship counseling session with our cats, the therapist would ask us why we stayed with a partner who expected us to do all of the work in the relationship, but made no extra effort to please us.

Mme Desroziers with her cat. Please note the annoyed expression on Miette's face.

 After I learned that cats communicate with us in the parent-child context it suddenly made sense why more women than men have an affinity to cats: we’re used to dealing with sullen uncommunicative beings with entitlement issues. But I digress.
Cat With Bird, Painting. Bruno Liljefors, 1883. Domestic and feral cats kill millions of birds every year.
 With the invention of tiny lightweight cameras and GPS trackers, suddenly scientists had the tools they needed to solve the eternal mystery of what the heck cats do all day.
The scientists who did the Surrey study put a little thought into it:

 'GPS uses a lot of power, but we could only use a small battery, so in order to save energy, we used an activity sensor to trigger the GPS only when the cat was moving. This also saved us from collecting a lot of uninteresting data on sleeping cats."
Renoir, Cat Sleeping. Sleeping is their favorite thing to do, followed by ignoring you., destroying flower arrangements, and scratching furniture.
Someone on that team must have cat experience, because what cats do the most of is nothing, and why waste precious battery time on monitoring cats doing nothing?  So far, the Surrey study scientists have learned that cats are unfaithful to their owners, (visiting other houses for food and affection), have distinct habits and territories, and are ruthless, cold-hearted predators at times (which any cat owner could have told them, but they needed to find out officially, for Science.)
 Two House Cats Fighting, J.J. Audubon. Unneutered male cats are known to fight ferociously over territory, and sire thousands of unwanted kittens every year.
 The Cat Tracker Project scientists, not be outdone by a bunch of British scientists, are doing a study of their own. They are enlisting the help of Citizen Science Cats to gather data from a much larger and more diverse sample of cats from a variety of locations. It’s not clear whether or not we’ll learn that American cats are more independent, or have larger territories, but in the end we will probably find out that American cats are the same as British cats, except without their charming accents.
The best part of their study is this phrase, which I have been saying over and over again, because it delights me so:

If you are concerned about your cat's privacy, you can have the data published under a cat alias.

 The sweet dear Cat Trackers are concerned about my cat’s privacy! If we consider the actual level of cat caringness about issues of personal privacy and recall that all cats are already living under an alias, we’ll understand this is a completely unnecessary precaution for cat feelings. Yes, cats have names that we give them, but we don’t know their real cat names (if in fact cats have names for themselves at all. Cats might not even have names as we know them, but instead identify each other by their individual smell. These aren’t dolphins we’re dealing with, people.)
  We are right back to T.S. Eliot again, with his secret cat names. If we think about this rationally, and we should, since this is for Science, what difference would it make if the study were published listing your cat under her common name “Tiger” versus her alias “Madam Meow”? Cats don’t read. They won’t be talking amongst themselves about what Mr. Pickles was up to last weekend. What we are really worried about is our privacy. Cats, as always, Do Not Care.
  The Cat Tracker statement inspired me to invent some possible Cat Aliases, which I present to fellow Citizen Science Cats for their use, if they desire to protect their Cat Privacy.

Ming the Merciless (After the evil emperor in the Flash Gordon serial)

Benedict Cumbercat (this name should require no explanation)

Shere Khan (The tiger in The Jungle Book)

Harry Longpaw (Harry Longpaw is a punning name for Harry Longabaugh, the actual name of the Sundance Kid. My own ginger cat is named Harry Longpaw because he looks like Robert Redford. No, really, he does. See for yourself. The resemblance is uncanny.)

 Harry Longpaw. Harry did not pose for this picture. He was staring at a giant killer wasp which was, unbeknownst to me, right behind me as I took this picture.
Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid, Harry Longabaugh. Photo courtesy World Biography
Eartha Kitten (Eartha Kitt played the Catwoman on the Adam West Batman series, and she was also a wonderful jazz singer.)

Cat Power (The actual name of a singer-songwriter)

Andrew Lloyd Webber (He was just asking to be a Cat Alias by writing Cats)

Sergeant Tibbs (He was the cat who helped save the puppies from Cruella DeVille in One Hundred and One Dalmatians.)

Abelard (He was the ginger cat in I Capture the Castle)

Minerva McGonagall (She was an Animagus who transformed into a lovely silver tabby in Harry Potter I-VII)

Calvin Coolidge (The President reportedly used to hide his two cats in various locations in the White House for his wife to find. What a practical joker! Knowing this Cat Fact about Coolidge has upgraded my estimation of him several points ahead of Franklin Pierce, whose cat preferences are unknown.)
Calvin Coolidge with a cat that wants to get away
Judge Posner (The Judge is a huge cat person, and he speaks highly of his Maine Coon named Pixie. He would probably be flattered if his name were used as a cat alias.)
Pixie, Judge Posner's Maine Coon Cat. Picture by Judge Posner. Pixie is holding down the NY Times. Courtesy
  After you have enrolled your Citizen Science Cat in the project under a suitable alias, being as considerate of your cat’s privacy as a decent cat guardian should be, you can be assured that the ensuing fame that any cat citizen might gain from participating in this experiment will not change your cat in any way. Because what we have learned from multiple studies and anecdotal experience is that our cats Do Not Care. They don’t care about us as people, however affectionate they seem. It would be much shorter to list what they do care about: themselves. Cats are the uber-takers, and Ayn Rand would be proud of their self-interestedness. (She was also a cat fancier, as a self-respecting Randite would be.)
  It’s clear now to both science and the general public that cats hold all the power in our codependent relationships, while we have only the Friskies on our side to bind them to us. This kind of power imbalance should be of great interest to science, and maybe one day we will discover how to make them love us as much as we love them. The whole situation sounds like it should be in a letter to Dear Prudie: “How can I tell if my cat cares?” Answer: He doesn’t.

T.S. Eliot, The Naming of Cats,

A portion of this essay was previously published here

Friday, May 15, 2015

Are We All Still "Beginners"?

Me at 17, wearing a top and jeans I made myself

  Some of us have been sewing a long time, but still think of ourselves as beginners, or maybe just intermediate level sewists. But I've been thinking maybe we do ourselves a disservice. Sewing involves so many skills, there's no way if asked that I would call myself "advanced", yet this picture shows that at age 17 I felt confident enough to sew jeans with a fly and a waistband (pretty good fit too, if I say so myself), a fitted empire waist top with set in sleeves, and a button in back with a hand made loop. Not too shabby at 17. But I didn't know that these things were considered difficult, I just sewed the things I liked and kept learning as I went along.
In yellow crepe formal

  If you don't know something is supposed to be difficult, or you have crazy teenage confidence, you'll try new things all the time. I made several formals when I was in high school and college, and never thought twice about how they might be more difficult than just sewing a dress, because my mother said,"oh they are just longer dresses". This one is crepe, with a high collar that rolled over (I forget the name) empire waist ( that was the style then) back zipper, long sleeves gathered into cuffs and a full lining. I hand-hemmed the bottom, and I recall it took a long time because the skirt was full and I was taking care that the stitches didn't show, and I had to hem both the lining and the outside.
 Those set in sleeves look smooth and unpuckered , and the fit looks good. Well done, 17 year old me.
   But on a survey the other day, the question was, "what level sewist are you?" and I thought "Advanced Beginner, or Intermediate" when clearly that's not exactly true. But most sewists would say the same, because the more we know, the more we know what we don't know. Sewing has so many levels, there is no way to know everything. I'd never tell anyone I was "advanced" because in my mind that would mean I could do tailoring, or make a suit, and I've never done those things before even though, with the right instructions, I think I could. Would that make me "advanced"? No, then I'd think about how I don't know how to do smocking or heirloom sewing or whatever challenge I'd never done before.

  Maybe I still think of myself as an advanced beginner because I still make mistakes (even though no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes.) Just this last year I've made the following bone-headed errors:

  1. set in a sleeve backwards
  2. sewed the wrong sides together on pants (both front side seams to each other-oops)
  3. Put in a zipper upside down
  4. sewed the bottom of the skirt to the bodice, instead of the top. (in my defense, they both looked almost the same, but still, label your pieces, people. Learn from my mistakes.)

Although upon further reflection, I see that these are not errors in which I lack skills so much as I get distracted and lack mindfulness. Perhaps my weakness is a lack of concentration, or perhaps sewing hubris? (As in, this is EASY, I've done this before, no need to focus here?)

On Colette's blog this morning, she wrote about the difficulty in rating patterns, which made me think, What level am I really?  Compared to a real beginner, I'm an advanced sewist. I could probably sew a boned ball gown or a tailored jacket if I were so inclined. (Maybe we should rank ourselves not by beginner, intermediate or advanced, but instead by hubris levels? Like instead of those labels we use:

Instead of Beginner, Timid = I'm scared, hold my hand.
Instead of Advanced Beginner, Overconfident = I'm not afraid to make a huge mistake.
Instead of Intermediate, Seasoned = I know enough to know where my weaknesses are.
Instead of Advanced, Patient = I pay attention to what I'm doing and am a more mindful sewist.

  What about you? Do you still think of yourself as a beginner? Would you ever say you had advanced skills? What new definitions would you use?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Lucia

Here is picture of my great grandmother Lucy, (her full name was Lucia, a common name in Sicily), taken around 1904-1906. Grandma Lucy had emigrated to the US from Sicily around 1900, in the great wave of Sicilians leaving poverty and lack of opportunity to come to America.

I met her once when I was about nine; she was learning then how to write in English well enough so she could finally take her US Citizenship test. She had been too busy raising my grandmother and her six other children to take it when she was younger.

I love her sensible shoes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Weekly Reader

Picture from the National Gallery of Art Exhibit

I loved this walk through of the Matisse exhibit.

"Surgery had left Matisse debilitated, basically chair- and bed-bound. Painting and sculpture had become difficult. His solution was almost child-simple. He picked up more manageable materials and tools: sheets of paper paint-washed by assistants, sturdy scissors and plain tailor pins"

Proof that you have to make your art with the tools you have, to paraphrase a famous musician.

Men care more about out fancy kitchens than women do.

Well of course they do. In this survey, they asked single women and single men. My guess would be single men would see a fancy kitchen as a trophy, and women would see it as a workspace,
Just a theory. Women don't dream of kitchens, sexist researcher people. Kitchens =work to most women. We've been stuck in there for centuries. We'd like to spend less time there, on the whole.
Just sayin'

The story behind Irving Berlin's "Always" is even more romantic than I imagined.

It snowed six inches last night, which is small potatoes compared to New England, but is a state of emergency for Virginia. Stay warm!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Proof of Time Travel

Cora Brown-Potter was a famous beauty, admired by the Prince of Wales

She looks a lot like me:

The pictures on the right are Cora. The pictures on the left are of me. These were taken almost 100 years apart.

Other evidence:

She lived in Tuxedo Park, NY. I have been to a wedding in Tuxedo Park.

She was admired by the Prince of Wales. A former president's son once flirted with me. And several Congressmen (but for this, I admit, the bar is low.) Also the Dalai Lama (although he may just have been really sweet. It's hard to tell.)

She became an actress in London. I was once asked to pose by a photographer from a famous men's magazine. (I declined. My father had, shall we say, objections.) 

She had a daughter. I have a daughter.

Her husband popularized the Tuxedo. My husband looks great in a Tuxedo.
It was in summer 1886 that James Brown Potter, a Tuxedo Park resident, and his beautiful wife, Cora Potter, a Southerner, went to England to meet the Prince of Wales. The prince, indifferent to American social climbers but fond of pretty women, invited the Potters to spend the weekend at Sandringham. Dress-code quandaries are nothing new, and when Mr. Potter asked about what to wear for a country dinner at the 20,000-acre Norfolk estate belonging to the royal family, the prince dispatched him to his London tailor, Henry Poole & Co.
Potter returned to Tuxedo Park wearing the new truncated version of the once-requisite tailcoats, which was quickly taken up by other members of the club for informal dinners. Eventually, the new suit went into wider circulation and came to be known as the style that gents preferred nowadays for dinner “up in Tuxedo.” And in the mystifying organic way neologisms have of entering the language, the coinage stuck
Winston Churchill had a Ginger Cat named Jock. I have a Ginger Cat named Harry. 
Harry and Etta in a box because boxes are the coolest

I am a Time Lord

Thursday, February 12, 2015

An Under-Appreciated Resource: Dr. Rose Frisch

Picture of Dr Rose Frisch from the New York Times

Henry Frisch, a physicist, said his mother also benefited from that environment, because, not expecting to receive tenure or equal treatment, she and other women were “free to follow paths that weren’t conventional.”Still, she was paid so little that her son said the National Institutes of Health once called to say that a grant application she submitted should list her annual salary, not her monthly salary. “That is my annual salary,” she replied.
Please read Dr. Frisch's obituary, and see if you aren't overcome with frustration at how such a brilliant scientist had to work three times as hard as a man to get the support she needed to continue her work. How many talented women scientists, researchers, professors and others have to leave their work because of lack of financial support, flexible jobs, and tenure?
If we want more young people to choose careers in the sciences, stories like hers will hardly encourage them, because associates of mine who are scientists say it is still pretty sexist out there.
We can do better.

Friday, January 30, 2015

My Weekly Reader

Picture from Public Domain Review

What I've been reading this week:

Make your own yoga bag from Spoonflower (I know someone who might like one of these. Maybe you do too?)

Interesting article about the history of chocolate.

An amusing article about poor, disadvantaged men who quilt, struggling to have their artistic voices heard. "Luke Haynes, pictured, says there is no gender bias in his quiltmaking."  
This article is a little bit clueless: men have been sewing for centuries; men sewing and doing art is nothing new. There have always been men who sew, design clothes, quilts, and are textile artists. Do men really need more attention when they do art? Are they really oppressed? 
 As opposed to our culture's long bias toward disrespecting and ignoring the domestic arts of women, who have been making something out of nothing for centuries, with little or no acclaim? Just sayin'.

Relatedly, here's a controversy about the value (or undervaluing) of handmade art quilts (or any women's art).

Oh wait, the artist undervalued the work herself!   Many of us undervalue our work. This is a common mistake. I read an interview once where someone asked Caryl Bryer Fallert how long it had taken her to make a prize winning quilt. She laughed and said she was asked that all the time and her answer always was however many hours/days it took to sew it, plus twenty years of learning how.
The artist above should read Caryl's statement on pricing your work. "You are so right, too many people undercharge and give their work away." Yes, they do.

I've had people ask me, when they see a baby quilt I had made as a gift, how much I would charge them to make one for them. I would always say that they could not afford that, I would have to charge them $1000 or more.  This has happened several times; the coworker is always shocked and says something like, "But I can get one at Target for $30!" 
Then do that, I'd tell them.

Have a great. (or should I say Super?) weekend.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Eat Your Books

The upstairs books ready to be added to the new database

  I read about this new database today in the Los Angeles Times called Eat Your Books and immediately wanted to sign up.

  "Fast forward to yesterday when I decided to go to a site I'd discovered weeks before, but never really examined closely. It's called  Eat Your Books and is billed as a search engine for your cookbooks. 
Sounds too easy: add titles of cookbooks to your “library” and you can search for recipes in any of the books therein. You get to add up to five books for free, which would be fine if that’s all I had. Then again if I only had five cookbooks, I wouldn't need this site at all.
But after inputting five books and running a quick search, I quickly saw how easy and useful having all of my considerable collection in the database would be."
   Earlier this week I wanted to make that old-fashioned chocolate cake that has the chocolate pudding sauce on the bottom, but I couldn't remember the name of the recipe or which cookbook it was in. I had made it before, but I have hundreds of cookbooks (not an exaggeration) and I wasn't sure which one it was lurking in. I must have looked in five or six cookbooks until I found it. But, if I had had the Eat Your Books database, I could have found where it was in under a minute.
  It also searches blogs. This might be the best invention ever.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

We're Going to Need a Bigger Wall

What former Biology major is going to make life size stuffed shark trophy fish and hang them in her office and studio? If that includes you, here you go

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Spring Pattern Fever

Vogue 9096

Is this a great Lab coat or what? I'm so happy Vogue is filling the fashion needs of lab techs everywhere.
Vogue 9089
Mr Hunting Creek says it looks like a maternity top. Not that there is anything wrong with that
Vogue 9097 -useful if you are sewing for James Bond
I'm happy that Vogue is featuring a pattern for men, but hell will freeze over before I make semi  formal men's jackets. Just sayin'
Perhaps next time we could see an interesting shirt or pants or non-dinner jacket?

Vogue 9087
This one has some interesting seaming details.
But if they tell me to finish the neckline of a silk crepe top with store bought bias tape I'm not doing it.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

String Theory Explained

String Pieced Spider Web block

Several people asked what a string quilt was. String quilting is a very old method where strings or strips and other small pieces are added to a foundation fabric to make quilt blocks.
Here is a tutorial on Craftsy to get you started. Here is a blog post about using this method of piecing to put your scraps to use. Here is a free pattern. for inspiration.

 I learned this technique from Gwen Marston's Liberated String  Quilts.  
Gwen's methods appeal to my no rules, no mistakes sensibilities.
If you'd like to see more string quilts, this Pinterest Board has some lovely examples.
  Our sewing grandmothers didn't waste a single scrap of fabric. Unlike now when we can easily buy whatever fabric we want, it wasn't that long ago when fabric was relatively expensive and hard to get. Our sewing foremothers were very clever at using every bit of what they had to make even utility quilts works of art. Making something pretty out of waste is a very green attitude. We don't give our foremothers enough credit for how they made useful things beautiful, just for the pleasure of it.(One more example of how "women's work" is demeaned throughout history).
  I like making a string quilt using the same methods as our sewing great-grandmothers. They didn't have rotary cutters! No long clear rulers! No computers and printers to print any pattern they might like. No access to millions of fabrics, threads and inspirational pictures. I sometimes wonder what they would think of my pretty room full of fabric and patterns and tools. A whole room dedicated to sewing! I'm sure they would be amazed at how easy we have it now. I try to appreciate what I have, in their memory.

Friday, January 16, 2015

No Mistakes or, Nobody is Perfect

String panels waiting for final press before assembly
  One thing I've learned the hard way is that there are really no mistakes in doing art, only "design opportunities". Many people are reluctant to learn new things because they are worried that they won't be good at them. They see pictures of perfect cakes, cookies, quilts, decorated homes...and feel like they can never measure up. What we don't see, of course, is all of the work, the screw-ups, the side tracks and "mistakes" behind the scenes. We all like to put our best face forward, after all. In a way we do our fellow artists a disservice by trying to be so perfect all of the time.
  I try to make a scrap quilt every year, since I seem to have an infinite amount of self-replicating scraps. I make a few baby quilts and gift quilts every year, and if  we multiply that by how long I've been sewing times my incapability of throwing out a piece of fabric larger than a postage stamp, you can understand why there are a few scraps lurking around. The strips above are all leftover from various baby quilts, wall hangings, pajamas, Hawaiian shirts and other projects from the past few years.
  I thought it would be fun this time to make a string quilt, since I had lots of leftover strips. I never use a formal pattern because I like to make up my own, so I always end up with a few leftover strips.
I decided to pretend that I had no rotary cutter and no ruler when I made the strings -so in the interest of Art I decided to try being Imperfect. Being imperfect meant that I would cut with scissors. The strings didn't have to be straight.
  Sometimes our desire to be perfect holds us back, artistically. At least, it does for me. I try to make everything "perfect" and of course it can never live up to the image in my head.
Just messing around in the studio sometimes leads me to better art than what I had planned

  Once we visited the Chimayo weavers in New Mexico. The tour guide told us that the custom there was to put a mistake in every weaving on purpose, "because humans are imperfect, and only God is perfect." I wondered, what if I started to put a mistake in everything on purpose?
Would that not be freeing?  Would it help me to do better work, because I would accept that mistakes were human, so it is futile to attempt perfection? The goal should only be to do my best work, over and over again.
  My mom used to nag me when I would fuss endlessly when working on a project, saying there were times to be meticulous, and other times to get 'er done "quick and dirty". Everything is a rough draft, she'd say. Some rougher than others, but an excellent philosophy. If we then accept that everything we do is just an attempt, a "rough draft", then what happens in fact is that we become better artists, writers, cooks, etc, because we are making more of our art and getting better all the time. We make fewer mistakes if we stop trying to never make mistakes. That's very Zen, don't you think? (This has also been shown in many experiments. See Stumbling on Happiness.)
  My strips are string pieced on a fabric foundation six inches wide by 45 inches long. I have five done. My only rule was not to repeat a fabric in each column. which made for very lively combinations.  I didn't try to make them straight. Some were slanted to start with. That's ok. Now I need to decide, do I want more columns? Do I want borders? It is more fun to decide as I go along. I will use a ruler to square my string columns, and to cut my borders, if I have them, because I'm not capable of cutting a straight line that long. The pieces all have to fit together, after all. My goal is to be finished by the end of the month.
  It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be done by January 31.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Scary Patterns: Cosplay Edition

  While adding new patterns to the What's New section, I found this one in the latest batch.
I see a Saucy Musketeer, a Naughty Admiral, Racy Zorro, and I'm not sure what those last two are.
Robin Hood? A Gambler?
This is a little racier than the usual Simplicity. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My Twelve Tasks, or 15 Minutes a Day

Vogue 1415
  It's always inspiring to see what other people want to make. I always get ideas and change my wish list accordingly. so I thought I would share my list. This will also remind me what I wanted to do.
I can't be the only person who finally gets an hour of unscheduled time and can't remember what it was that they wanted to do. Lists are helpful that way.
I had very good results when I made a 12 part list of monthly goals. I didn't do it last year and didn't get much done.

Twelve Ideas, to be chosen at random every month:

Sew a scrap quilt - in progress
Make something out of silk
Use a  border print
Sew a Hawaiian shirt (Mr. Hunting Creek is very happy about this!)
Make pajamas Make T shirts
Make a Wall hanging or other Art

Make some potholders and pillow covers
Finish something (plenty of unfinished projects to choose from)
Use a Vintage pattern
Use a new pattern

Make a Holiday decoration

Patterns I want to make:
Vogue 1415
This is the prettiest blouse and I have added it to my list to remind me to make it. Both views appeal.
I'd like to make a leopard print tee shirt. I haven't picked a pattern yet.
I'd like to make some silk drawstring pants.
That's a manageable enough list, I think.

I've already got 1/5 of my scrap quilt done. Yet the tub of scraps looks the same! Scraps defy the laws of physics. No matter how many I use, there are always more.
I'm allocating 15 minutes a day to just hang out in the studio and do just one thing. Surely I can do that.