Being a quilter has been really hard for me over the past few months. I have been (kind of) sewing, trying to keep up with bee blocks (sometimes more successfully than others) has helped – but for the most part I have lost my sewjo and I am not sure if I want to find it, well not for the kind of quilting I was doing.
There are different “themes” in the quilt world, and I have found being something of a more traditional quilter in a modern world can be a bit of a challenge. For me, quilting isn’t about the fads and trends in fabrics – I have long held the view that if I like a fabric I will buy it and if I don’t I won’t, an approach which has lead to years (yes years) where I have been pottering and sewing and just not buying. During these years my focus has generally been on skill building and trying out new things.
In 2017 I managed to keep up and complete the Down the Rabbit Hole quilt (by Sarah Fielke), I have signed up for the 2018 quilt, and have tried to start it, but I am just not feeling it. But the hand quilting has finally started and I am enjoying playing with the bright colours of the Aurifil 12wt.
Next weekend is the Canberra Quilters Exhibition, and while I don’t have anything in the show this year (working on something for next year), I am looking forward to spending a bit of time with my people and having a bit of a squiz at what is happening. But I am not sure what it is that I am looking for from it.
Perhaps it is time for me to go back to the beginning and do some of the work which I actually really enjoy doing, because somewhere along the way I think I lost what it was that I enjoy about quilting.
At the beginning of 2017 the friendship quilt group I belong to decided to do a challenge quilt for the year… in the theme of Tree of Life… the rules were pretty basic… no larger than 1mt square… didn’t have to be finished… should be at least started…
In all honesty, I had decided to give the challenge a miss. I had spent the year keeping up with a rather epic block of the month and didn’t really have creative capacity – well at least I didn’t think I did. Over the Christmas and New Year period I didn’t do any sewing, and was feeling very meh about the world and everything in it. I had intended that time to be pretty productive, but a bout of vertigo put a cork in that.
The Tuesday before the big reveal on Saturday I was sitting in my sewing space looking for inspiration. I had just finished off my Blossom Heart Quilts Bee Hive blocks, and was confronted with some small triangles of fabric I loved and didn’t want to throw out.
Those triangles became the tops of my trees.
I had intended to stay with the “doesn’t have to be finished” component of the challenge, but then things grew and before I knew it there was a mini-quilt before me. Add some applique and I decided it was done.
I am generally not one for improv.
I don’t consider myself a modern quilter, or a traditional quilter.
I am a quilter.
But improv I did. None of the fabric or bits I used for this mini-quilt were cut new for this. All of the top came from the basket next to my machine – some are cut out bits from behind applique, others are left over binding. The bias tape was in there from another project. I *may* need to cut some new leaves for another project…
My first finish for 2018. May it be the first of many.
Sometimes we have an image in our heads of what something is going to look like and then “design choices” need to be made to sort out another issue – that was the story of my final make for 2017, finishing it just hours before it needed to be gifted.
Originally, I had gone looking for some Harry Potter themed fabric. The recipient is most definitely obsessed with all things Harry Potter, and is looking forward to his 13th birthday so that he can make the (online) trek to Pottermore, and go through the sorting hat (meanwhile there are a few concerns that what are we going to do if he is sorted into Slytherin… I am sure there is a support group for parenting your Slytherin out there somewhere). Unfortunately I had to change my approach when I couldn’t find any Harry Potter themed fabric I liked (I know, it isn’t about me, but honestly).
So a change of fandom.
Originally this pillow was only going to be the soccer/football fabric and the red… but a slight error in judgement when I couldn’t find my Hera marker resulted in something that needed fixing between the quilting and binding/construction part of the process. Enter Star Wars. I am in the midst of making a Steampunk Quilt using lots of different themed fandom fabrics (blogged about it here); I have finished the cutting out bit of it all so I now have a whole lot of fabric which is available to be used in the overall making of things (I have a plan to use much of the leftovers, more on that another time).
Long story short – one of the patches pictured above is for practical reasons, the other is for “balance” 😉
Fabric: Kona Solid (red); Sport themed and Star Wars from stash
I did the finish along in 2016, I intended to do it again in 2017 but that didn’t happen. 2018 is a new year so lets try this again.
My proposed finishes for Q1 are…
All the Fandoms Steampunk Quilt (Jen Kingwell Pattern)- Mostly finished the blocks, need to applique some centre circles and decide on how I am going to put the thing together.
The Pollen Basket Bee Quilt (2017 Blossom Heart Quilts Bee Hive) – Blocks done, need to decide on a setting and put it together.
Down the Rabbit Hole, Chased by a Cat (Sarah Fielke 2017 Block of the Month) – second last border needs to have its applique completed, final border needs to be pieced and then there is the quilting…
Tree of Life Quilt (2017 friendship group challenge/own design) – Finishing touches and then quilting.
Kate’s Birthday Animal Quilt (Elizabeth Hartman Pattern) – Needs quite a bit of work, has a deadline of March…
There are deadlines on them, some real, some imagined. But I need to get some finishes going for the year and keep on track with them. Time will tell if this happens – but I should finish one of them… the challenge quilt is due on Saturday, and today is Wednesday…
Welcome to 2018… it is a bit late, but that in-between Christmas and New Year period where you don’t know what day it is or what you are meant to be doing with your life stayed with me for something of an extended period of time. The fog seems to be lifting and I know know it is Sunday, and I really should be writing.
2018 ended up being a bit of a strange year. I seemed to have a bit going on, but I also didn’t. I have managed to keep up with some of the quilting things I had going on (this afternoon I plan to do the last of my Bee Block commitments for 2017); I have also almost finished the top for Sarah Fielke’s Down the Rabbit Hole block of the month (coming soon to a post near you). I have a couple of other things in the works as well, but for the most part – that is it.
I had one last finish for 2017, a large pillow cover for a 12 year old Star Wars/Soccer fanatic in my life, I did some “forced improv” after accidentally putting a hole in it. Post coming soon.
I decided that this year I was going to have something of a focus on my health. In the middle of the year I was diagnosed as Celiac – which has helped me enormously. I am feeling better in many ways and have sorted out many of the physical challenges I had been having (I was also flu free though winter which was something of a minor miracle). The latter stages of the year have also seen me taper off and stop taking my anti-anxiety and depression medication (completely with doctor support; don’t ever do that on your own). My brain is finally settling down, and other than a bit of a challenge trying to rein in my emotions from time to time (who knew advertisements could be so emotionally charged) I am doing okay.
My PhD continues, and I suspect that this year it is going to have to take more of a front seat in my world. I delivered my introductory seminar in September, and am currently trying to get my head in the theory game. I won’t bore you with this here – but it is progressing and I am still enjoying the topic (International Education).
Quilting happened. I have set myself a two year cycle for quilting goals (mostly due to my inability to make anything small). I am at the half way point and am on track. My quilting focus for 2018 is to make some utility quilts – you know, ones which aren’t covered in intricate appliqué that you panic about the cat throwing up on. I would also like to lift my free motion quilting game. The two goals are linked.
I haven’t decided on a 2018 word or focus yet – but I have given myself until Chinese New Year to sort that one out 😉
A few years ago I bought the same style of cup, but in different colours, for a close group of friends. We had been through some ups and downs together – nutty parents, relationship breakdowns, work stresses. But I thought that we would always have tea (or whatever beverage happened to find its way into the cups – gin… vodka… champagne…) and be together, regardless of where we physically were. And then mine made a noise that is quite distinctive, fine bone china hitting a hard floor, a kind of pop and then scatter as the parts of it all went over the sewing space floor. I had moved some border fabric and knocked it off the cutting table. Fortunately at that moment it was empty so there wasn’t also the mess of liquid to deal with.
In the aftermath of this I have been on the search for a new cup. I thought I found the perfect one on the weekend in Sydney, but that cup turned out to be the perfect cup for someone else, not for me. It was a William Morris Strawberry Thief print in red, the perfect cup for my favourite Bear. So I will keep looking for a cup of my own.
What I suppose this lengthy narrative about the cup and the search for its replacement is all about is how we sometimes need to be patient for the right thing to come along for us. I am not getting all mumbo jumbo about ‘putting the request out to the universe and waiting for the response’ (not that kind of girl), but rather not just grabbing the first thing that comes along to replace what it was that I have lost. I do have a gap in my life for an appropriate teacup (very meta), but it is one which will need to take me though hours of reading and writing, planning and drawing, designing and building.
Or it could just be a broken teacup that I need to replace.
Putting this into the context of my theme of the year (nurture), I am finding that I am being a bit more deliberate with what I am doing. I am heading back to planning my week, identifying what needs to be done now and what I have coming up. I am planning my holidays, I am planning to take about six weeks off from the paid job, but then spend some time doing things for the paid job. Such is the life of an academic. Fortunately I am coming to really enjoy the research component of my job, I always seem to be learning something new.
Quilting is also something of a priority. The shop is almost ready to launch (yay!) and I am feeling more confident that I am going to be able to fit all the different elements of my world together in such a way that it isn’t going to kill me/burn me out. I almost need the different elements of my world (quilting, research, writing, planning and creating) as they have something of a symbiotic relationship with each other.
We all have those precious fabrics which we aren’t sure we should ever cut into. For me the holiest of the holy fabrics has been my very small collection of Hello Kitty Liberty of London prints. Collected from an Etsy shop in South Korea, I went in search of them after the death of my bestest of friends died. She loved Hello Kitty, absolutely adored her (I am reliably informed that she had a Christmas tree which was completely Hello Kitty themed). When I travelled overseas and came across a Hello Kitty shop in Hawaii – I think I finally understood the fascination she had with the small and happy Kitty.
This year has seen me embark on a new block of the month program with Sarah Fielke, her Down the Rabbit Hole quilt. Those following along on Instagram would have seen my progress. The goal for this quilt has been to use all of the whimsical fabrics I have collected over the years – the Heather Ross, the Cinderberries, the Hello Kitty Liberty – and make something that is bright and welcoming. It will eventually have its place on my bed, but I am also thinking that it will be the first quilt I may enter in a show. We will have to see how it all ends up.
Travelling along with this quilt has been my struggle to stay happy and positive. I am physically better than I have been in a long while (thanks to the diagnosis of Celiac Disease and the resulting dietary change), and I have managed to – so far – avoid the flu which has been doing the rounds this year, something which I consider a minor miracle to be honest. While on the surface things seem to be going well, underneath I am kind of struggling. But I will be okay. As ever the rabbit is being chased, this time by the cat.
Using the bright and sunshine colours has been going along with this quilt, but I have also made the conscious effort to include some of the grey and dark along with it – when the whole things is revealed it will be a mixture of things. The light, the dark, and the grey. Because the world is this mixture. We can’t have light all the time, you need something to show its highlight; to contrast. The trick is having the right balance of colours to make the quilt work as a whole.
It is midwinter in my little corner of the world, and this coming weekend we are taking the younglings to the snow.
Being in Australia doesn’t make you immune from the popular imagery of different times of the year, and how things should be. Take winter for example. The youngest of the younglings wants to make a snowman this weekend – so we need a carrot and some stones. It is, finally, the time of year that some of the Christmas carols make sense (or they would if it were Christmas – don’t think we are doing Christmas in July this year). Although I really could get behind snow and cold during our Christmas celebrations which happen in the middle of the Australian summer (not fun for me). There is a part of me which wonders what it would be like to have snow on the ground, and be snowed in and not be able to go anywhere… we had a day like that once. A “black snow” day where we had to stay home because there had been a fire at a chemical plant and there was toxic smoke near where I worked and the kids went to school. But it wasn’t really the same to be honest.
Now this is a (sometimes) quilting blog, and sometimes I really do quilt. Like the past few days I have been actually sewing, keeping up with the bee blocks, working on the Steam Punk quilt and a few other things… actually I think it may be time for a bit of a “what am I working on now” roundup and posting.
You may have noticed that I have given up putting the month in the title of the post – I am doing this for strategic and I don’t want to feel guilty about it reasons. I had managed to keep things going for the start of the month post, recapping on what had happened in the month previously. But when I didn’t meet this goal, I felt like I was something like a failure – and honestly there are other things I can be feeling like I am a failure about which would be more productive than that. So I am giving myself a break.
The year long mission to look after myself a bit better is stumbling along. I mentioned in the post about the Sydney quilt show (thanks to those who reached out after that, I too was glad – yet disappointed – that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way)… I mentioned that I had been diagnosed as Celiac (hello to my sister who I forgot to call and tell who read it on my blog… sorry), well I have been “clean” for about two weeks now and there are some changes. It is actually a bit easier to be gluten free when you just can’t have it. It isn’t a lifestyle choice or a preference, it is my reality. I just hope that I can continue to have milk as well because it may actually kill me to give up milk and cheese.
Having said that – I am not a fan of GF bread. Not. At. All.
This morning I returned from what has become the annual pilgrimage to Sydney to the NSW Quilt Show. This year held back in the middle of Sydney at the newly reopened International Convention Centre. My feeling about the show are mixed. While I mostly enjoyed the day, there were a few things which I really didn’t like, and one thing in particular which has left me with a bit of an odd feeling about it all.
The quilts. Awesome work from the quilters, the best in show was a favourite (and for the first time ever I saw them before the judging and liked the best in show before knowing it was). I have to note that I didn’t get a chance to look around them all and take photos of the ones I wanted to see again and up close (more on that in a moment).
The range of make and take classes, particularly for beginners. While I have to admit to not partaking in them this year – half of the party I was with did. Both beginners in the overall scheme of things, there was a range of things which were really well suited to them and they both enjoyed having the opportunity to participate in something that they wouldn’t always have the opportunity to do.
The friends. It was a great day out with those near and quilty. Many laughs were had, and we are – even though there is bad and ugly – planning on making the trip again next year.
The lighting in the quilt show. Really, for something that is so visual there needed to be more done to improve the lighting on the quilts. This was particularly obvious as the lighting at last year’s venue on Glebe Island was so good and allowed for better viewing of the quilts. I do understand that this isn’t always as easily said than done, but I wasn’t the only one commenting about this, and it is something that is actually able to be fixed.
The overall feel of the venue. This is a hard one to explain. The shopping side of things seemed to be very cramped. I was there on Thursday, and I hate to think what it was like on the weekend.
The food options… I was diagnosed as celiac on Wednesday morning (it has been quite a week), so I was taking close notice of these things. There were an extremely limited number of options for me (well for future me, tomorrow is the big day).
When it comes to this bit, this is what has left me feeling a little odd about the quilt fair. I have not really engaged with the whole gender in quilting debate – not because I don’t have an opinion, but more because me getting all ranty about the role of men in quilting or the “place” of men in quilting isn’t really something I have ever wanted to do. I have always been more interested in the tension within the quilting movement about the “modern” v “traditional” quilters (having decided I don’t really belong in either and prefer to label myself a quilter). Gender bias in quilting has raised its sometimes ugly head and I never thought I would see the day where I would see the need to say what I am about to say. But apparently I now have something to say about it. I have tried to be fair about the behaviour and have asked another who was there to read the below to make sure I was fair in my description, but I have been around some quilters to be a bit more cranky about what happened than he was.
Attending this show, his first, was my partner. He decided to do a class, to learn something new and start on his own creative path – I think the end goal is to create clothing and costumes for cosplay. He wasn’t expecting there to be other men, he was very prepared for that and didn’t see it as an issue.
So if perchance you are one of the women who were, I hope, trying to be welcoming to him by going into the class area and patting him on the shoulder saying “well done you”; or one of the ladies very loudly pointing to him and saying “look, it’s a man”… your (I hope) well meaning commentary and support didn’t really help. You have all been beginners before, and those breaks in concentration did not help at all (particularly as he had also forgotten his glasses).
I also hope that the “it’s a man” commentary isn’t the same sentiment as I have heard in quilt shops when a man enters and the women ask him to leave. Because that is not okay and I think we are a bit beyond that now. As someone who is in the beginning stages of opening my own quilt store, I really hope that this sentiment is something that doesn’t make an appearance – because that is an attitude that needs to be relegated to the past.
Kids are funny little creatures… take the Youngling, a small red-headed child who loves tomatoes and strawberries. We went on an adventure so that he could climb into a helicopter and pretend to be flying through the jungle (something he really seemed to enjoy), and along the way I picked up an acorn. I was assured by the Youngling that I needed to be careful, because if I had an acorn then it would attract squirrels, and that was something to be avoided.
It didn’t seem to matter that we don’t have squirrels here in Australia, well not in the same way that he has seen them on television, because he was sure that if I bought the acorn home we would be overrun with the little creatures. Of course the cat would love that for slightly different reasons. I am pretty sure that he has decided that I am not a human and just terrible at being a cat.
The last month I have continued to do my 100 days of crafting, although I am not posting it on Instagram as much as I possibly should. I don’t think I have sewn this much in a long time – not just quilts (I am working on a new one for me) – but also my own designs, something I have been wanting to do for a very long time.
It seems like everything is coming together in a way that I have been working for it to. Funny how that happens.