This is the last week in December and I’m thinking about the new year. Just a few more days until we can kiss (kick) this year goodbye. I find it funny to think that calendars are just human-made ways of tracking time. But, I truly feel like there’s a shift when we move into the next calendar year. Maybe it is just me. I find I like to start tidying things up. I spent the past month sorting through and purging things. I’m also working on pulling together all things I’ll need for taxes and next year’s budgeting. I like to wrap up tasks that have been hanging around nagging me to complete.
The photo is an example of some clean up and “playing” I’ve been doing. I frequently get gifted with vintage sewing supplies. These blue shapes where once old yellowed lace that I didn’t know what to do with. This month I sorted through the stash and created a happy little experiment. I had some Rit fabric dye and decided to see what would happen if I dyed them denim blue. I definitely can envision more uses for the blue than I could with the white and creams.
I’ve also been looking into updating my website. Things have changed a lot since I last updated this site. I know I’ll be happier with some of the newer tools that are available, but it will take some planning and possibly some budgeting too. While, I was investigating my options, I looked back on the history of this site. It is hard for me to believe that I have been writing this blog since 2015. It has only been in the last 3 or so years that my practice has become a regular weekly post. Still, that’s a lot of writing and stories I’ve shared. Its a great honor to know you’re here reading. I love getting your feedback, it keeps me going and I thank you. Here’s cheers to new year and my wish for you:
May your troubles be less and your blessings be more, and nothing but happiness come through your door. ~ Irish Proverb
I personally like to slow down this time of year. I like to watch more movies, stay away from the stores, try to get outside in the sun as much as I can, get caught up with things that need attention, and get back to my “slow motion” activities (e.g., knitting, mindful stitching and reading). With the shorter days, I think of it as nesting weather. It is also a time when I need something to keep my spirits up. These activities help. What about you? Do you have anything you enjoy doing during the dark winter months?
A couple weeks ago, I had to get extra creative about keeping myself occupied when we experienced a 4-day power outage. A number of years ago, I purchased a treadle sewing machine specifically for a time like this. It was about the same time as the TV series “The Walking Dead” started. My purchase was based on a discussion we had with friends about, in the event of an apocalypse, what skill we have that would be considered vital to our society or local tribe.
Although macabre, it is quite interesting to think about, because most of us are dependent on support to get by. We get our groceries from stores. Heat is created from electricity or gas. Most of us travel by automobile that also requires gas or electricity. The outage reminded me of the discussion we had years ago, because local stores, gas stations, medical care and other emergency services where impacted. We also had no forewarning to prepare and when it first happened we had no idea how long we would go without. Thankfully, most of us did ok … issues primarily were financial-based.
This event reminded me of my sewing machine and the discussions with friends. If this was a long-term outage, what skill do I have to help others? Well, I can sew and knit! But, I can only sew if I have power … or wait … I have pedal power. While we were without, I spent some time setting up my treadle machine and sewing with pedal power. This 100 year old machine purred. The stitches were lovely. And I pieced a small quilt. (You can watch the video on my YouTube Channel) I couldn’t use an iron to press the seams, so I used a bone folder tool to press them down (an old school technique). I felt good that I had this machine, because I still have my apocalyptic super power. We were down, but not out.
I’m in a strong habit of writing these blog posts on Wednesday. I do this so those who subscribe get it in their email inbox on Thursday. Last week that didn’t happen. If you watched the news last week, you may have seen how a portion of North Carolina was targeted by vandals (aka domestic terrorists) who shot up two electrical substation. My community was the one hit. The event affected the entire county, with forty-five thousand households without power. I was one of those estimated 100 thousand people. It almost seems like ancient history and I want to show you some of the things that creatively got me through it all. However, right now I really want to share some great news I received right before all this nonsense….
I’VE BEEN PUBLISHED!!
“Stabilizers for Thread Painting”
in Quilting Art Magazine’s Winter 2022/23 edition.
I’m really excited to share this article with you. When I teach thread-painting, I cover a variety of stabilizers (interfacings) you can use to support your stitches. I think students sometimes get stuck when they only know one way. In teaching, I want to open doors to say, there are other ways and you just might find a different way works better for you. There are a variety of different stabilizers. It can be very overwhelming deciding which product to use. In this article, I categorize stabilizers into 4 types, then list the pros and cons of each.
When I started thread painting, I too was confused by all the different materials and it took me a lot of years to understand how to work with them. In the article, I focus on the practical uses for stabilizers when thread painting (aka free-motion machine embroidery). However, the article can also helpful for those doing hand embroidery or other stitching techniques that need extra support.
Recently I was talking to someone who had accomplished a major victory with a personal hobby. I had the privilege to see the work she put into it and knew the event was something she had been training for a long time. She won the event. When I praised for her dedication and accomplishments, she responded with…”yeah, but…” and began listing reasons it could have been better. She was devaluing the fact that she owned the award she received.
Her response reminded me that I have done this too. I know I lot of people, especially women, who seem to be uncomfortable holding space with their accomplishments. The word for it is, “self-deprecation.” Yes, there’s always room for improvement. Yes, sometimes things seem easier than they should, sometimes they are harder than expected, and there’s always something not “perfect” about the outcome. Always…something…to lessen the pride we should have.
Maybe it is how we were raised, because I remember being told “don’t be too full of yourself.” This in-grained thinking makes it challenging to be truly proud of our accomplishments. I personally have learned to hold the space. When something I’ve done is praised, I know the only thing I need to say is “thank you!” When I hold that space it is powerful!
Prior to this realization in myself, I was always the first to point out how my art could be better. I’d point out the flaws, even though no one else saw them. It always seemed easier to do that, then say “thank you.” The reality is, if we look, we’ll see flaws in everything. It takes courage to try and strength to grow. So be proud of what you do and enjoy the praise! You deserve it.
The cold weather and holiday season are upon us. Although, I’d rather be out in the sunshine, I’m happy to hunker down this time of year. There’s not enough daylight hours, so finding projects to do inside helps pass the time when darkness settles in. I am motivated with my inside projects, because there are fewer external activities to grab my attention (e.g., yard work). One project I’m working on involves quilted leftovers.
When I create my quilts, I start them larger than I need. Shrinkage happens as you stitch a quilt. Making them larger, makes it easy to cut them to an exact finished size. Sometimes when I start a project I don’t know what size the finished design will be. By starting larger, I can let the finished composition determine the dimensions I need to trim. I save all these trimmings as “leftovers.”
This year I gathered a few larger completed projects that weren’t working for me. These quilts have also been delegated to my sacrificial pile of leftovers.
I trim the scraps and sew them together in a serendipitous process. I then cut them into 4″ x 6″ pieces to use as the background for my fabric postcards. With the addition of the larger quilted pieces, this year I have more (and larger) assemblages. As I’ve been working with the scraps, I’m thinking of other things I can do with some of these random compositions. I have an idea (or two), but I need to play with the concepts a little (hint: imagine some surface design experiments). With or without sunshine, this winter I’m ready to play. This should be fun.
I am reminded of when I made this piece in the early part of 2019. I created it for an art exhibit called Eye Contact which was developed by the Sacred Threads leadership team as a bonus to their biennial exhibit that year.
Participants were asked to make a rectangular panel showing just a person’s eyes. In her inspiration statement, the curator, Barbara Hollinger, wrote “We walk through the world with our heads down and our attention focused on daily tasks and distractions.” read more
The irony of this exhibit was that a year after we created our pieces, the world shut down. We were all encouraged to mask our faces which left only our eyes showing. We had to re-learn how to interpret the people we met. No longer could you see their smile or read their lips. We discovered that our eyes have much more expression than we imagined. Our eyes are “the window to our soul.” Sadness and worry lingers there. Happiness and laughter sparkles there.
This small quilt traveled far during the last 3 years and is finally home with me. I wish I could peer back through it and see the faces that looked into my fabric eyes. While the quilt traveled the last few years, I’ve learned that looking at someone’s eyes and smiling makes them smile in return. And, as Barbara noted, “That momentary connection when eyes meet reignites the spark of humanity that connects us all.”
I was up early yesterday and was able to see the blood moon eclipse. I don’t take enough time to watch the sky, but I love it when I do. To me, the moon usually looks like a flat disc. However, during the eclipse it looked like a pink marble I could pluck from the sky. I’ve tried many times to capture the brilliance of the night sky with my camera. I always seem to just get a round white blurry spot for the moon.
It frustrates me that as much as I try I always seem to get the same results. And then, on the socials, there’s someone I know who’s captured the same scene and it is perfectly brilliant. I realize it is the cell phone I’m using. I’ve always been an Android user (well , at least since my short Blackberry stage) and I’ve found my friends are using I-phones. At times like these I debate, “do I switch?” The expense stops me…cell phones aren’t cheap. The learning curve stops me too. Twenty-plus years of using a cell phone, it isn’t going to be easy to change. Is it really worth it for the quality of photography it produces? I have a good DSLR camera I could use. Ahh… the internal debate. The envy of what other’s have and I don’t.
I think our society raises us to compare. Who got the gold star on their homework? Who ran the fastest in gym? Who drives the fancier car? Who got into the better college? Social media with all the “influencers” seem to thrive on who got the most “likes.”
I’ve thought about this a lot. Comparison seems hard to ignore when it comes to art. Yet, comparing can make us think…am I good enough? But…what are we really asking? Are we good enough for what? I’ve met many people who said I’m not an artist because I’m not “good enough.”
Maybe you want to be an influencer or maybe you dream of having your art hanging in a National gallery. Well…yes, there are standards you’ll have to rise to. But, I don’t think most people create to reach these high levels of achievement. Most of us create, because we love to create. There is joy in the creative process and if we only want to create, then why must we compare? Why can’t we accept and embrace who we are and what we make?
So back to my moon shot… I can’t capture it with the tools I have on hand. If I want better, I know I have ways to change things. However, until then I’m ok accepting what I have. Either way the image is still etched on my brain.
This week, I’m still playing with wool. It’s crazy because all it is, is fluff. When I open the storage totes it is like opening Pandora’s box. The contents explode with colorful bits of fibers. I’m having plenty of “ah-ha” moments. I’m learning how various fibers behave. I’m learning which colors work best together. I’m also taking a simple technique that I’ve used many times and re-inventing the process.
The good thing about all of this is that it is fun for me; it is play time. Don’t worry, I’m not giving up on my art quilting, I’m just exploring. My brain is actively processing how I can incorporate this felting process into 2-D wall art. I’m learning how colors play together. There are some palettes that I love. There are some that don’t seem to do anything for me. There are others that seem like duds but crave something else to give them a pop. I’m engaging my brain in a very active way.
I realize from all this that I was needing to explore something new. Each day, I’m excited to go play. The good thing about the process is I can create in small increments of time. I use it as a break period during the day. I make a bowl, then go back to other tasks. I will eventually have to put all this wool and silk away. There are other projects that need my attention and the space I’m using.
I just want you to know…it is ok to try something new. It is ok to make things even if it may not make sense to other people. It is ok to explore. Remember that your muse can be like a small child demanding your attention. There’s a reason for that ….because it does need your attention.
My blog post last week had me thinking that I’m in need of some creative play. I’ve been doing a lot of techie stuff the last few months and I really needed to get back to my art. I’ve been feeling a bit stuck. I think it is mostly because of the “have to do” attitude I have about many of my projects. Some of the things I “should” do and some I “have to,” but what about the “want to” projects?
I was thinking about when I started on this journey in the late 1990’s. I’ve always created (learned to sew and crochet when I was 10). I loved art and my mom encouraged me. She loved creating too, so I think maybe she found a kindred soul in me. Anyway in the 90’s, I finished grad school and started working. I had plenty of free time outside of my work hours. So I really picked up on my “crafts.” Sewing, knitting, crocheting…I was prolific. Then, I was introduced to traditional quilting in 2001 and I went bonkers with it. Whatever I wanted to make, I made. I was like an addict with a “give me more” desire. I wanted to learn more. During this time I took a class to learn needle felting by machine. Super fun and yes! I acquired all the supplies … including the felting machine.
Now, with the direction I’ve taken the last few years, time seems more limited. There are plenty of have to and shoulds. I love doing what I do, but I wasn’t exploring as much. I wasn’t pushing the envelope of “what if…”
So with a little bit of down time this week, I decided to pull out my wool supplies and play. I started making bowls and small wallets last year, but I never really gave myself permission to play with the materials. This week, I’m playing with the fibers. What happens when I use different types or colors of wool? What happens if I add other bits of material (yarn, silk, cheesecloth, etc) into the felting process? What else can I do with the felted wool? My brain is happily engaged and I’m greatly inspired to create. Since everything is set up, I can pop-in during the day and play for a little while, then go back to the have to do lists. Creative play is important, so I’m giving you the nudge… What creative project do you “want” to do?
I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend. She and I were talking about “playing.” You remember how you use to play as an 8 year old? There was reckless abandon in our actions. Who cared if we made things up? Did we notice that our clothes got messy? In the moment, we weren’t worried about what others would think about our behavior? At 8, I don’t think we cared. Mostly, we were focused on having fun.
Of course, as adults, we now know that someone might get upset if we make a mess. If we appear too silly another person might call us odd. We understand that there are rules to be followed. And, sometimes there are consequences.
But, the question is, do we need to be this uptight when it comes to our art? What will happen if we “break the rules?” Will we be OK if our artwork gets “messy?” Does it really matter? What’s the worse that can happen? Maybe we won’t like what we created. So what? Can we just play and accept it as a learning process?
On the other hand, our worst fears may not come true. There’s this potential that our play time creates something new and exciting. And, there’s a possibility that we will find renewed excitement in our art.
I admit, I don’t play with my art supplies as often as I’d like to. There’s always something else that needs attention. Maybe even another project that needs to be completed. So many UFOs (UnFinished Objects) in my closet, do I really need to start something new? The answer is YES! Creative play is important. It breaks the cycle and adds renewed energy to our art practice. Give it a try, because when was the last time you played?