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…
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.
This particular finish has been done for a while – but now is the time for me to actually talk about it.
When we start a quilt, we generally start out with a reason or purpose. I started this quilt at a time that I had a bit of stress going on, and I wanted to see some actual progress with something. Also, because of the nature of this particular quilt, I knew it would be a challenge. The design is by Crystal over at Raspberry Spool, and it challenged every fibre of my OCD being.
There are two perfect points in the quilt, and only I know where they are, I had to challenge myself to make the rest perfectly imperfect. I completed the top as part of a quilt-a-long and then slowly set about the task of hand quilting it.
I used pearl 8 cotton, in my usual style of large stitch quilting. A method I like as it hides my tired stitches and happens rather quickly.
The binding was the only fabric purchase I made for the quilt, using all of the precious fabrics I had in the stash, and batting I had bought years ago in thoughts of making a king sized quilt (who was I kidding), so I have cut into it as well.
So there we are. An actual finish. Something that is big enough to snuggle under – just in time for winter.
2017 – at this early stage – holds promise. New job, new outlook and the beginning of something approaching normality. My PhD is progressing (slowly), I am back to designing some blocks for English Paper Piecing and applique, and I have something of a renewed interest in getting healthy.
I have finally realised that if I want to be able to do “all the things” then I am going to need to be a bit more selective in my approach to food and exercise. A few years ago I was diagnosed with the early stages of Hashimotos Disease, so my thyroid has gone on strike indefinitely. I have had some success with a gluten free approach, but I find it so hard to maintain – even though I do feel so much better when I don’t have it. But now I am faced with a choice. I can’t continue to do all the things I want to do, and continue down the path I am on. Things have to change, it is as simple as that.
I need to remember that trying to do your PhD with a foggy brain isn’t fun. Forgetting things isn’t charming all the time, it is annoying and frustrating. Not being able to walk properly because your hips are sore (something that happens if I eat gluten), only gets in the way of being able to get up and move about. If I want to be able to enjoy my life in the longer term, then there needs to be some changes, and they need to happen now.
Which brings me to my theme for the year.
In the past I have looked at different foci for the year – the year of less drama and the year of getting shit done were highlights. Last year was all about taking back some sense of control for myself – which I think I largely accomplished. This year is all about looking after myself.
I thought about different words or themes which would assist with this…
Deliberate in terms of being more thoughtful in my approach to things and thinking before acting – particularly with the little things – which then led me to mindful, which I then promptly abandoned because of reasons.
In the end I have decided on nurture– because really, that is what I need to do for myself. I need to nurture my health, my creativity, my research, my family and my community.
I think the signs for this have been there for a while. My garden has been cleared up and things have been planted (some of them have even survived the snails). I am being more thoughtful in my quilting, I am not longer signing up for things on a whim and then being cranky at myself for not keeping up, participating or adding to the whole.
My quilting goals are now being set for a two year period…
To do something specifically to enter in a show, and
To make a quilt which is challenging, yet “fun”, and completely for me.
I have other quilting goals, but for the moment this will do.