Recovery and Creativity

Well, here I am, three weeks post-op already! If you want to read more details about my knee replacement surgery, you can check my other blog. I’m writing several posts detailing my experience in case it might be helpful for someone else considering knee replacement surgery. For the most part, it has all been so much better than I had heard from other people, and I am so grateful for that. The doctor did not know before he actually started the surgery, but it turned out that I only needed a partial knee replacement. Such good news for me in the recovery room!

I thought I’d share here about my creativity (or lack of it!) during my recovery time. You might remember that I was all prepared with four neatly arranged projects for me to choose from while I recuperated. Well, it turns out, none of them worked for me. I didn’t like beading in my lap, and I’d take the other projects out of their boxes and just stare at them. It was too hard to make a decision about where to start, or what color thread to use.

My best friend was here, and she tried to encourage me with various ideas. She had brought practically her whole studio with her 🙂  One of the things she brought was her AccuCut machine. She suggested using a charm pack that she had bought (and that I had admired,) and using that along with some of my reproduction fabrics to make a hexagon quilt. It turns out, that was just what I needed. I like sewing those big hexagons together. And of course, I love choosing fabrics for a new quilt.  Choosing which hexagon to sew to the next hexagon didn’t tax my brain too much.

Here’s the beginning of my fabric choices (you can see the charm pack in there–brighter colors than the rest):

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And here it is in progress:

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After a while, the only way I know to figure out how a hexagon quilt is progressing is to lay it out and then sew a chain of hexis in a straight line so you will know where the edge is supposed to be.

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And here, after 2 1/2 weeks of recovery, which included a lot of exercise, a lot of naps, and a lot of sitting, sewing, and TV watching, is the finished quilt top. It measures 50X70 inches. It will be a nice lap quilt for someone.

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This week I have done little bits of sewing on my machine, and even a bit of quilting on the Juki. I still don’t enjoy letting my leg hang down, so have kept those sessions short. I was finally able to start embroidering on one of the projects I had pre-prepared, and soon I will clear off my cutting table/desk and set up a beading station. I am determined to work on my beading!

An Unexpected Finish

As I stitched on various projects in the evening, I started to realize that I was close to finishing one quilt. So I started to concentrate on stitching on that one. Maybe I could finish one more project before surgery!

And sure enough, on Friday evening, I took the last stitch. I don’t usually quilt on Saturday, but I couldn’t resist applying the binding in the morning, and then when I returned from the gym in the afternoon, I set to work hand stitching the binding down. I rarely hand stitch binding any more, but I figured with all the handwork on this quilt, it deserved it. And besides, I really enjoyed working on this quilt, and it just extended the joy for one more day.

Which quilt is it? Its the second Kantha blanket. On this one, because of all the different blocks and seams, I decided to stitch each block, in the hopes of avoiding most of the seams. The pattern is so busy that I don’t think the different stitching makes a  big difference in the  overall appearance of the quilt.

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I used DMC Coton Floche for the stitching, and it was wonderful to stitch with, but a bit more frail than perle cotton, and also I noticed that it pulled more easily when, ahem, little doggies’ toenails got caught in the thread….  I used a nice thin cotton batting, and muslin for the backing, so again, it was extremely pleasant to stitch. I am sure I will do another one of these, perhaps with a less busy pattern, and maybe I can do more variation with the direction of the stitching.

Some close-ups so you can see the different direction of the stitching.

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And this will probably be my last post for a while. I have four project boxes all ready for my post-op period! Hopefully I’ll have plenty to share with you by the time I feel up to blogging again!

Some Different Edge Treatments

Lately I’ve been trying different ways to finish the edges of my quilts. Especially since these two are full of handwork, it seemed fitting to do a more rustic edge. The first you have seen–I named it Worlds Within Worlds. Many years ago I thought about this–how you can live for a long time and never know that there is a whole “world” out there that you never knew existed. Like, for example, the world of angora rabbits and showing angora rabbits. I did that for a while, because I was a spinner/knitter at the time. Did you know this world existed? Heck, I didn’t even know there was a whole world of spinning out there, with conventions and everything, much less the crazy world of English Angora show rabbits!

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A real live English Angora show rabbit!

To bring it closer to home, we all know that the majority of people do not know about the big world of art quilts OR the world of show quilts. When you say you are a quilter, they only see what they know–bed quilts, usually grandma’s flower garden quilts 🙂

Here is the quilt Worlds Within Worlds with a hand-satin stitch edging using #5 perle cotton. I have to laugh at myself when I say I won’t do binding by hand because it takes too long, but I was perfectly willing to sit for several days doing this edging.

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Close-up of the edge:

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The next quilt you have also seen. It just sat sadly on my sewing table for months, waiting to be finished. Truth was, I didn’t know how I wanted to finish it. Then I noticed a small quilt I had done a long time ago, with a fringed edge. That seemed perfect for this very rustic cloth. And since it is all white around the edge, I wanted to make a quilted backing for it. I looked through my blue fabrics, and this bright dark blue was my favorite. I haven’t finished the quilting the blue, but wanted to share with you anyway.

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Here’s how I did the fringed edging. Measure and cut the quilt to the size desired. Sew two lines closely together around the edge (about 1/8 inch apart.)

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Carefully cut out the batting close to your sewn line.

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With little scissors, cut fringe on the bottom layer (for reference, that bottom layer is muslin.)

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Then take your fingernail and run it both ways along that fringed edge to make it fringier 🙂

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Lastly, since this was a homespun type of fabric, I pulled the threads to make the top fringe. If the top had been made of regular fabric, I could have just cut it at the same time I cut the bottom, and done the same with the fingernail.

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As my surgery date approaches I find myself starting new projects and working on finishing old. But I am distracted, so I’m afraid not much will get done in the next week or so. I started a new scarf/shawl, using some of my handspun yarn that is so beautiful–a blend of merino wool, bombyx silk, and cashmere. And I made myself a bead project kit, using Robin Atkin’s excellent book: Heart to Hands Bead Embroidery. I am hoping that it will be a good project for my post-op healing time.

 

Two Finishes

Still working through that box of unfinished quilt tops! Who remembers French Braid quilts?! That was the next top I pulled out. I remember when my friend and I worked on our French Braid quilts together. In my opinion, it is a difficult pattern to follow. I did not enjoy that part of it, but I did enjoy choosing all the beautiful fabrics and arranging them just so. My BF really loved making the French Braid quilt, and she went on to innovate and make a Christmas Tree skirt out of the French Braid pattern–it was included in the second French Braid book!!

I had carefully folded some extra fabric with this top. The top was long and narrow, and I think I had a plan to make side borders. This probably wasn’t my original plan, but it got the job done. After looking at quilting ideas online, I decided that stitch in the ditch was the very best for this quilt–it didn’t detract from the beautiful prints. That made the quilting go very quickly.

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The next was a little 48″ square improv piece that I made to use up a lot of light and dark strips that I had pre-cut for some other project. You can see I used some of my two inch squares, and I also chose a “feature fabric”–that blue with green print. It will make a nice lap or wheelchair quilt for someone. I decided to stitch about 1/4 inch from the edge of each strip. This was also fun and easy to quilt.

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A word about backing choices: for the french braid quilt, I chose three different solid greens to make the back. Many times I will piece a back out of different fabrics, so that doesn’t bother me. But using those solid color fabrics, when my thread was an off-white? Not so much–all my little wobbles and back stitching show up very well. In contrast, I chose a taupe print for the improv piece. It was a very good quality fabric, but not one I particularly liked. And it is a PERFECT backing fabric! Goes well with the neutrals on the front, and the print is just enough that the quilting is not distracting on the back.

Lots of handwork continues in the in-between times. I’ll have more to share next week.

A Mystery

On Sunday I doodled this in my journal:

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Do all of you have a box of two inch squares? I love my box, and it has come in handy so many times. Truth is, I have so many two inch squares, I now have two boxes of them. Whenever I get to the end of a project and there are good scraps left, I cut them into two inch squares. When I cut the excess backing fabric off of a finished quilt, more two inch squares.

Okay, so choosing the path of least resistance (pre-cut pieces, and sitting in my easy chair) I chose to try doing this by hand stitching with the box of two inch squares. Each cross takes 5 two inch squares. I found quickly that the easiest way to keep from being confused was to stitch the crosses, and THEN join them.

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When I have done single motif hand stitched quilts in the past (hexagons and diamonds) I have always joined a certain amount and then started another piece, simply because it was easier to handle smaller pieces of fabric. So that’s what I did here.

And I found that there is NO WAY to join these pieces without leaving one or two block empty spots. There’s got to be some mathematical reason for this…

Now you can see in my doodles, that I actually drew the crosses with spaces in between them. I also took some graph paper last night and tried to figure out what the problem is. It is actually hard to DRAW the crosses without leaving empty spaces between them. It is not hard to sew them together without empty spaces.

For now, it is an experiment (albeit an experiment that I have spent a good part of the week on.) I could choose to leave spaces on purpose (that I could easily fill in with more two inch squares.) Or I can just work on joining them together into one continuous quilt. I do like them joined the way I have them now. If any of you want to try this, I can tell you that it seems that to be joined without “spaces,” you either need to join 3 or 6 sides, if that makes sense.

 

Something Old, Something New

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Something old: I washed an older quilt and put it on my bed to fold it up, and thought I would share it with you. I call this quilt “I Live in Pine Grove.” I do live in Pine Grove, and at the time I made this quilt there was a lot of different fabric with pine trees and pine branches and pine needles on it. I had so much fun collecting all the different pine fabrics. I had just a few fabrics with birds on them, and I made all the blocks and then had fun fitting them together. I hand quilted it. And it is still a quilt that I like very much.

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A new finish: After agonizing over each area–should I add more stitching here? What about this area? How should I do the background? I finally just took the plunge, and finished all the stitching on this quilt. My BF was here for a one day visit, and she asked if I had considered turning it sideways. I hadn’t, but the more I looked at it that way, the more I thought that was the way it should be!

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I wanted to wash it before I blocked it and finished the edge, so I zigzagged around the edge and washed it very gently. And then blocked it on my design wall. I thought about how I wanted to finish the edge, and I decided that I want to do a hand-finished edge. I will do a satin stitch with perle cotton all around the edge. I am going to use the ecru thread that I used for the background. It is busy enough–no need to add any more color to it.

After I cut the edges to their final size, I stitched very carefully around the edge, just to keep it nice and neat while I hand stitch the edge.

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I did enjoy using chain stitch to color in some of the solid areas. Close-up of stitching:

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Something new: And then I wanted to play and make another small quilt to embroider. I LOVE the piece that I used for the What They Said series:

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And so I chose some new fabrics, and made the same block, only larger. Starting with one background fabric, you cut and insert strips and then a circle and then more strips, etc. Very fun to do. I want to explore this more!

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Of course now that I’ve got it done and the sandwich made and basted and all, its like I get all shy, and I don’t know how I want to stitch it! But I’ll just think about it for a bit. That’s part of the fun, isn’t it?

 

 

 

Another Finish

This is just another quilt in my big box of unfinished quilt tops. This one took quite a while to get quilted. Not only did I do a lot of quilting on it, but I put it aside while I worked on “My Flower Garden.”

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I put a lot of thought into how I would quilt this. I did a camellia-type flower in the center of each block, and then surrounded that with some straight line quilting.

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I did this pattern of swirls and hearts over all the rest of the center of the quilt.

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And finally finished the border with feathers. I LOVE the fabric in this border.

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I used muslin for the back. You can see the quilting pattern a lot better on it.

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But the thing I learned (again) is that when a quilt top is so full of busy prints, it doesn’t really matter how you quilt it–it just looks like generalized quilting after you wash it! (all these pictures were taken pre-washing.)

My Flower Garden

Remember this quilt? That’s the one I made in class with Katie Pasquini Masopust. I pre-cut a few too many strips for that quilt.

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So I used the leftovers to make this simple quilt. I didn’t really enjoy making this quilt. But it will be a nice baby quilt for someone.

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I thought I had used up all the leftover strips with that quilt. One day I went out to clean up the studio a bit and opened a plastic bin. What??? More leftover strips? Well, I finally remembered that they were the smaller  strips (1 1/4 inch) and I had planned to put them in a ziplock bag to give to whomever wanted them.

I looked at them for a few minutes and thought–why not play around with them and see what I come up with.

This is a quilt I made a long time ago, and I really like it. It was the inspiration for how I decided to use these small strips, and how to construct the top.

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As I went along, I decided it would be like my own flower garden, that was constructed a bit at a time, fitting things together as we went along.

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I didn’t add any more strips to what I already had. I chose a few flower and leaf prints to add to the “garden.”

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When I quilted it, I used straight lines and pebbles for the “paths” in my garden. I just outlined the flower and leaf prints.

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This is my favorite of all three quilts that I made from those strips.

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What Makes an Artist?

Last week, as I reluctantly drove to my artist’s reception at Oak Hills church, I heard the news about one of the highest selling artworks at auction–a painting that sold for $110 MILLION DOLLARS. Unbelievably, the artist was only 21 years old when he painted it, and he died when he was 27 from a heroin overdose. As the newscaster described it, I was pretty sure that I would NOT like this piece of art. Primary colors, and a skull. Yuck. How does an artist become so famous? Is it just on the whim of another person, who likes the painting? Did the artist promote the daylights out of himself? Was he really talented? How does it happen?

At the reception, I enjoyed talking to my friend Teresa. I discussed how much I DON’T enjoy promoting myself. I did not want to “bother” anyone by asking them to come to the reception. Teresa said she had read a book that said most artists have to spend 50% of their time on promotion! (By the way, in the end, I very much enjoyed the artist’s reception. Not a lot of people came, but it was so fun to interact with people and hear what their reactions were to my quilts.)

When I got home I looked up the artist and the painting. Sure enough, I don’t like it. However, I do like the layers that are in it, and the complexity of it. And it was very interesting to read about the artist’s history–he was encouraged artistically from a very young age. He was always heavily involved in “the art scene.” It seems like his talent was noticed and appreciated from a very young age.

In general, I am more attracted to textile art. But even there, I don’t like all textile art. Here is a quilt that won $100,000 in Australia. I don’t like it either.

I know that I am attracted to certain colors and color combinations that I consider pretty. I appreciate handwork. I like circles and spirals. I like geometric compositions. There are lots of things I do like 🙂

I want to make it clear that just because I don’t like something, I am not denying its artistry. I am just musing over WHAT MAKES AN ARTIST? Its not always classical training, although that seems to help. I don’t think its always promotion, although for sure that helps. One thing that seems consistent for “successful” artists is that they are passionate about what they do, and they spend a great deal of their time working on their art.

In the end, I don’t think it will work to try to make art that you think is “artistic.” You have to make work that you yourself love, and that makes you happy. Why would you try to do otherwise?

P.S. Here are a few of the textile artists whose work I love:

The Memory Quilt

I finished piecing all the blocks for the memory quilt. I mis-calculated, so there are 12 repeat blocks. Otherwise, all of the blocks are made of a different center square. There are 156 blocks. The finished quilt will be 90″ X 97.5″. That is the biggest quilt I have made in a long time.

I sewed the blocks into panels either 4X4 or 3X4, and made them into quilt sandwiches. The idea is that it will be easier to embroider around each block in this smaller size. I steamed the layers together and then actually quilted at the seam lines and basted around the outer edge. And then I will sew them together into one big quilt–that quilt-as-you-go thing. I have never done this, but Katie PM does it quite often and demonstrated it at the class I took from her. It looked easy.

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I finished the embroidery on one panel. Only 144 blocks to go 🙂 It takes quite a bit of time to embroider around one block–usually an evening. This quilt might take a LONG time to completely finish!

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One of the ideas I had was that these would be good projects to work on after I have my knee surgery in July. So I’m happy to have all 12 of these mini-quilts ready to go, waiting in my closet.

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I still love store-bought fabrics. Its just fabulous to find fabric that someone else designed, but that has your own color and design aesthetic all ready for you to use. Elephants were my favorite wild animal as a kid, and after I went to Africa, I collected quite a few elephant fabrics.

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You can see I am still using my same simple stitches in various combinations.

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So far this has been a completely enjoyable project. I loved going through my stash and cutting out squares of all the fabrics that I liked, and so many that held special memories for me.

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Of course, this is not the only project I am working on. I will try to catch you up on some of the other projects in the next week or two.