‘Don’t think too much’ is a pretty good philosophy.
Just finished “The Art of Fielding” where the story follows an incredibly gifted athlete who learns the hard way about how thinking too much can intercept and poison talent. Thought can interfere with one’s craft as well. Studying, plodding along, reworking, while essential components of completing work, are often not enough to resolve a project in a satisfactory way.
Which is why I pin works-in-progress to quilts that are already on the wall — so that I can look at them while doing the dishes, or talking on the phone, or while exiting the house in a mad dash. You get different ideas and solutions at those times, and they seem to come without trying.
This woven cloth is going to become an apron. Why? Because last night, after pausing in my stitching, I laid it in my lap. K. and I were watching a VERY long movie (“Henry Fool”), waiting for it to end, honestly, and I noticed that I really liked having the cloth there. In my lap. It seemed to belong there.
So, even though I never would have set out to turn this rectangle of linen into an apron HAD I THOUGHT ABOUT IT, I think it’ll be a really nice one. And a keeper.
Have you made any surprise decisions with a work-in-progress lately?
P.S. “Don’t think too much” happens to be a good mantra for the days following dropping a first born at college! In service of not thinking too much, my house is probably going to get pretty clean this week. A tiny compensation for C’s absence.
When I hung this (nearly) finished quilt top on the line, a whole new quilt emerged.
This quilt has been in the works for a long time.
As some of you know, when I began this quilt, I was thinking a lot about how physical trauma changes us. In 2010, my younger son broke his left arm twice, shattering more than just bone. My first impulse was to create a kind of postcard of cheer, which I later called “Happy Hut”. It used bright colors, and sunflowers, and pieces of some plaid flannel pj’s that I had made him one Christmas.
You can see most of “Happy Hut”, as well as a comparison of some of the bleached fabrics, here.
The next impulse was to describe the trauma. I bleached a bunch of the fabrics and started including blue tie dyes that looked like Xrays and made a pale version of the same house motif. The quilt, now dubbed “Ghost House”, grew and shrank, went away for some periods, grew and shrank some more and finally, just last week, when one corner went rogue (here), arrived at its final dimension.
Once I let that corner have its say, the rest of the quilt quickly and easily fell into place. It became, now, about the size of “Happy Hut”, which pleased me, given that they are companion pieces. And, it turned into a quilt that was going to be finished, which pleased me even more.
But here’s the thing. In between the beginning of this quilt and now, life has changed. A lot. I am NOT thinking about physical trauma these days, and thankfully, neither is my younger son. Part of the struggle to finish the quilt top had to do with this very fact, the fact of life moving along, rendering the theme of the thing not only less compelling, but even a little off-putting. I didn’t want to keep dwelling there.
So, when I hung it on the line and the light streamed through and totally transformed its pallid surface into something gleaming and popping with color, I just said, “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” (to quote a fellow blogger). Here is TODAY’s quilt – something that more nearly matches how the world looks to me this day, of this month, of this year.
I have not yet decided, but I don’t think I will back this quilt top. I want it to be able to catch the sun and have these two very different moods.
It’s still not done, actually… have to trim that strip of shibori (mine!) off the left edge.
To achieve the pale palette, I bleached some fabrics, but for many rectangles I just used the ‘wrong’ side. When the sun shines through, the more intense colors of the ‘right’ side of the fabric come through… especially the flannel sunflowers of the sky.
Here’s the final seam.
And just so you don’t have to follow the links to see the non-illuminated difference, check it out:
This picture also shows the piece that went rogue. The nice thing is, there’s another piece, roughly the same size, that I came away with. They will be a pair, I think.
Quilting affords opportunities, over and over again, to pull pieces together, and to fragment them. Every morning lately, I work on ‘Ghost House’. If I think about it, I would get overwhelmed. But if I look at one little strip and piece it, I make progress.
For a sense of scale, the felt-covered pin board is just over six feet tall.
Yesterday, I pieced up the house, in order to help me finish the edges. Sometimes you have to work in the center in order to figure out the edges.
When I pieced the house, which was mostly done, I made the decision to piece the window into the body of the house (previously, I had thought I would applique it). And now, it does not look like a window at all. Changes such as these force either acceptance or re-working. I often accept, and not just out of laziness.
Quilts this size go through so many phases. Sometimes, a section will assert its independence. I call these ‘rogues’. This can be out of frustration — one way to create a finished product from an endlessly unfinished piece — or, it can be the fabric telling you something.
I don’t need to decide anything about this square today. It works on its own. And, when it’s on its own, the indigo strip that I dipped (on the right) assumes a little more importance.
My hunch is that I’m not going to let this rogue get away!
Then there are ‘spin off quilts’ – little assemblages made from scraps lying around. Not rogues. More like ‘issue’. They are generally characterized by an effortlessness that is in striking contrast to the larger piece. Yesterday, a little spin off arranged itself (nearly) on the worktable. I have my recently dipped indigo scraps to draw from as well.
In other news, the heat continues here without respite. I am spending money to keep various sections of the yard wet and cool for the birds. We are supposed to get thunderstorms later, so I will run my errands early.
This is Ark Redux. Neither the buyer nor I could stand the gloom of round one. Now, the silk chiffon ‘rain’ is limited by the insertion of a brighter, focus panel behind the ark. I didn’t double the chiffon this time, so it’s a paler shade of grey. And, there will be a dove.
Smaller dimensions were also requested – which is a boon to the process of lap quilting! Some folds and junctures between fabrics are left ‘open’ during basting, in order to allow the insertion of paler fabrics.
I was thoughtful enough to stitch the windows onto the ark prior to assemblage. Why? Because a needle stitching in that area will now be passing through three or four layers of top fabric (and one of them batik) plus backing and batting.
The yellow silk version was rejected after my husband in passing asked, “Is that supposed to be the sun?” Well, no, but thank you for letting me know that the yellow isn’t working!
For my next commission — a wall quilt featuring Noah’s Ark — I purchased some stormy, raining fabric. It’s a beautiful silk chiffon, and I will double it to make the rain going in two directions, and to make the greys tend toward black.
I don’t often specifically buy fabric with a project in mind, but this time, I did. I think it will take a needle nicely, even doubled, so I look forward to quilting this. I will use the technique taught by Jude to secure the layers first — what she calls an ‘invisible baste’. I have learned that securing the layers as an initial matter makes the difference between enjoying all subsequent hand stitching, and not. I have an old plastic place mat from when the boys were little to put under the piece while I baste — this prevents stitching the quilt to one’s skirt and helps steady the layers until they are secured with thread. With hand-stitching in mind, I selected a high quality quilting cotton for the back. Maybe it’s the heat. Maybe it’s growing older (not wanting to stress already achy-thumbs). Maybe it’s a growing appreciation for the ENERGY of a thing. Whatever the reason, I find myself refusing to work with fabric that is icky in any way (I used to stockpile icky (free) fabric for the backs of quilts…). Almost anything that I have purchased at JoAnn’s is going into my give-away bin. The stuff they sell is crap. What do you think of, visually, when you think of Noah’s Ark? I think we tend to see the boat up on stilts, being built, or to imagine the procession of animals, marching two-by-two into the boat. I decided to depict the middle of the storm – think: Day 20 or 22 of the forty days and nights of rain. No cute beasts marching up a plank. No hopeful dove with a sprig of greenery in her beak. Initially, I wanted to surround the ocean/boat scene with animal prints, but no matter how I laid them out, they looked dopey. So I found a woven rectangle with watery colors, split it up and laid it out, and then wove another section to fill in the remaining areas. I am stitching this newly woven section this afternoon, and will cut it up later. I like how the woven sections add depth and complexity – very comparable to how certain spices or oils create depth of flavor in a stew. These sections take a considerable amount of time, but they have a defined beginning, middle, and end, which keeps them from becoming oppressive. And since I am planning this quilt out, no woven section will be laid on top of a section that is already three or four layers thick. Again, my goal is for the hand stitching to be easeful. I will lay some of the sheer silk chiffon on the ocean fabrics, to create a feeling of light or foam.
My hope is to ‘whip this up’ in such a way that I feel good about what I can charge for it. Price can never be the sole consideration, mind you, but it would be nice (for a change) if my aim to pursue an efficient design and construction actually panned out.