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.