Thursday, September 30, 2010

Art and Me...


OK, so I'm a day early....but today I'm introducing my favorite fabric line for October.  I was going to do something Halloweenie but decided that was way too predictable, and I aim to be unpredictable.

This line is very cute in so many ways.  Retro, yet modern, French, yet American, Fun, yet Traditional, you know, kind of like me!

Anyway, it seems like I opened a can of worms with my last couple of posts.  Thanks to those who commented and emailed, it's certainly a great discussion and one that I believe can result in greater understanding amongst all of us in the quilting world.

"Art" has been a long standing difficult subject for me.  I've actually made my living as an artist, but it could be said that what I've done is more "craft" then "art."  That's what makes this all so difficult, what is the difference?

Art is so subjective that trying to slap a label on something or somebody is difficult.  There are those who do strictly traditional quilts who consider themselves artists and those who do painted pieces and call themselves craftspeople.  Who knows what is which and who's going to decide? 

For me "Artist" always seemed kind of elitist.  It was like "I'm an Artist" with nose upturned and eyes turned downward with disdain.  I suppose attending art classes in college didn't do that impression a lot of favors.  Everyone dressing the same while trying so hard to be different.  It was like, "I'm different, I'm controversial, I'm wearing black clothes.....look at me!"  Mild mannered me, (yes I was mild mannered once!), would sit there in my normal clothes and wonder what the heck I was doing there.  These are not my people, I can't relate to them, and they're exhausting to be around.

Of course, a lot of these people were insecure and put on the mantle of an artist so they'd feel more like one.  But who can say what an artist should look like, or how they should live, or what they should do?

I think so many of our ideas of "artists" come from the bohemian days of Parisian garrets with expatriates hanging out in dark cave like cafes and painting naked "ladies" (with whom they also had interesting relationships).  Some of this was actual eccentricity of real artists, but much of it was people who wanted to be artists and thought that having the outer lifestyle made them closer to their ideal.

The fact is that for many centuries artists were also businessmen, (and women).  They created beautiful works of art, had apprentices whom they trained, chased after commissions, and marketed themselves and their artworks to those who had the cash to pay.  Artists that are now considered "great" were treated like employees by their royal or aristocratic "masters." 

I suspect that it's much the same today.  The true "artist" who only creates what they're driven to create is probably more likely someone who works a day job and does "art" for fun.  They have nothing to prove and no one to prove it to, they just do it!  Artists who are trying to make a living at it are well aware of the temptation of going "commercial."  And why should that be a sin?  We all have to survive somehow.

As far as the whole Art vs Tradtional debate I've realized that what we're talking about is really apples and oranges, both of which can exist on their own, or mixed together to form a very tart pie.  Traditional quilts are mostly craft.  However, there are times when color and design choices can take a tradtional "craft" quilt and turn it into "art."  Art Quilts which may be visually stunning but have little or no "sewing craft" in them are usually considered art.  However, there are Art Quilts where the color and design choices are joined by exquisite quilting technique.  This is where craft and art meld into something marvelous that both sides can agree on.

When we talk about Machine vs. Hand Quilting we're also talking about apples and oranges.  Both quilting styles are valid and beautiful, but they require completely different skill sets.  A fantastic hand quilter might be a horrible machine quilter, and an award winning machine quilter might not be able to do the traditional 10 to an inch quilting stitch.  Does that make one better than the other?  I don't think so, I think they're just different.

I think my main problem with the Art Quilting I've encountered is the same problem I encountered in college.  There's a whole "I'm an Artist and you're not, na, na, na, na, na, na...." that really gets under my skin.  It could be that it's my insecurity showing and that's more likely the case than not.  However, I'm not the only one who feels that way, it's a subject that's sensitive to a lot of quilters.  I think that to many of us who've been around forever we feel much like the early feminists must be feeling.  We did all the work and now you young whippersnappers get to have all the fun. 

And I guess that's what all of this is about anyway!

Happy Stitching!

I'll have more on my applique process tomorrow.

Susan




Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Art vs Traditional

Yesterday I went on a bit of a rampage about the modern era "art quilt."  I have to say that this has been bugging me for a long time and I have to admit that I was even surprised at my rabid reaction.

I know I've written about "rubber glove" quilters and my lack of understanding about what they do.  What's most frustrating from my point of view is that for many years I was the renegade quilter.  The one that thought it was OK to mix cottons and other fabrics, who didn't freak out if something was off grain, and who wasn't overly concerned that my stitches weren't 10 to an inch.  In the early days there were a lot of hardliners and I encountered them at quilt shows.  I think they were afraid that their comfort zone was being threatened and us "darned art quilters" were going to take over and then they were going to be on the outside looking in.

I don't remember ever mocking traditional quilters, even while I was purposely stretching the limits.  I always appreciated their skill and their committment.  Let's face it, if those dear ladies hadn't stuck it out as long as they did to teach a new generation, who knows what would have happened to quilting.  It could have ended up like macrame.

I remember being very frustrated that my skills weren't up to par.  My mother was often critical of my technique and told me that I needed to improve my skill set.  She was right and I was very fortunate that she didn't reflexively praise me, but instead encouraged and inspired me.  I was also fortunate in having a wonderful sewing instructor, LaVina Scott at San Joaquin Delta College.  She had worked in the fashion business in San Francisco for years and knew how to make everything from shoes to hats.  She taught me technique and I leaned how to do things the "right" way.   It was a wonderful gift to be expected to be the best, but the most important thing she did is that she gave me the wings....and then let me fly.  I'll never forget what she said on the last day of our class, she said, "OK Ladies, now you know the rules, go out and break them!"

And so I did!  As often as possible and not always with the best results.  However, through it all I always maintained my admiration for those fine hand quilters out there and their beautiful work.  In the beginning of my quilting journey I was all for machine quilting.  I was young and in a hurry.  Today I've come full circle to the point where I do very few things by machine, and always quilt by hand. 

Now I'm one of those who question the validity of machine quilted quilts.  It's not that I don't like them or that I don't think they're "quilts" I just question judging them side by side with hand quilted work.  I know that quilting by machine is difficult, especially if you are hand guiding the machine, but does it rise to the same level of  hand quilting?  I'm not sure yet, but I do know that it bugs me when an entirely machine made quilt wins first prize at a big show.  I just think the machine quilters have an advantage, and a lot of that is financial.

Those who can't afford the expensive quilting machines are left out of the mix, and I think that's a crime.  I look back to my early days when if I had 10 bucks to spend on fabric that was a lot.  I wonder how many young quilters are discouraged when they find out how much a decent machine costs?  Are we helping or hurting the next generation of quilters by emphasizing a style of work not affordable to everyone?

As to the new breed of  "Art Quilters," well, I'm not sure about them either.  A lot of them are coming out of art schools where they are trained to be "Textile Artists."  They dye, stamp, shred, staple, pummel, and generally abuse fabric and call it "art."  I have seen some of these pieces that I do like a lot.  Some of them have been quilted and are beautiful.  I would be happy to include them in our world.

However, a lot of what is produced under the current "Art Quilt" label aren't quilts or art.  They have a tendency to look the same, as if they all learned the same techniques and are reproducing the same ideas over and over and over again.  I suspect that some of these artists will move on to other mediums and some may even embrace aspects of more traditional quilting.  I hope both of these things happen because there are some artists suited to our medium and others that really should move on.  I'd love to see more "Art/Traditional Quilt" hybrids, where all sides can get together and enjoy what's been created.

Isn't it interesting that some of the same struggles that existed within the quilting community in the 1970s are still with us?  Will there always be this pull between traditional and non-traditional quilters?  I think it's eased a bit on the traditional end.  Different fabrics and color combinations are more widely accepted, and the ease with which machine quilting is accepted is a new thing too.  I wonder what things will look like 20, even 10 years from now?

Oh well, in the meantime, I'd better get some quilting done!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quilt TV

Last night I had the opportunity to watch a few of my DVR'd Quilting Programs. The ones I had recorded were a couple of Quilting Arts and Fons & Porter programs.

Talk about two entirely different experiences! The only thing the two programs had in common is that they were both using fabric. They showcased two entirely different and polar opposite sides of the quilting world.

First of all Quilting Arts had absolutely no sewing in it at all. This really surprised me but I suppose that it shouldn't have. I have had a kind of love/hate relationship with Quilting Arts Magazine for years. When it first came out I was a huge fan, and was even in their 2003 Calendar. Since then I've seen a steady and accelerating move away from "quilting" into textile art, which as far as I'm concerned are entirely different things. When you can have an entire "Quilting" program with no sewing, then basically you aren't "quilting" anymore.

Definitions of "Quilt"

quilt - stitch or sew together; "quilt the skirt"
quilt - create by stitching together
quilt - bedding made of two layers of cloth filled with stuffing and stitched together

Frankly, a lot of the stuff in "Quilting Arts" and on their TV show have no sewing in them at all. It seems to be all about surface decoration and I'm not talking about beading or stitching. The program I saw featured an artist making flour paste resist. Sorry, but I just don't get it! The finished piece they were ooohing and ahhing over was really hideous. My son could have made something better when he was three.

I just wish that Quilting Arts would take away the "Quilting" part of their name and just call themselves "Textile Arts" because that's really what they have become. I'm not adverse to what these folks are doing if that's what they want to do, but don't call it "quilting" if there aren't any stitches in it! As someone whose quilts were early on derided as too "artsy" I can relate to outsider status. However, I feel like these rubber glove wearing art school grads are stealing our thunder and turning our art form into something it isn't.

These "artists" make me want to scream! I want to reach through the TV and ask them point blank if they've ever matched points or know how to turn bias binding and miter corners. Or, if they even know how to do a proper quilting stitch, do needle turn applique, or even cut a piece of fabric on grain. Frankly, in about 80% of the cases I suspect not. But they are so smug and self satisfied. I just want to tell them to call a spade a spade and stop calling their art "quilts" when they are not!

Those of us who have been out here for years stretching the boundaries of traditional quilting are proud of our technique and feel mocked when someone calls a piece of painted fabric a "quilt." It is not and it never will be. If you want to call your "art" a quilt, then quilt it! Take some classes and learn about sewing techniques, learn to do all of those things that have made quilts the precious artform that we've inherited from all the women who've come before us. Appreciate technique and recognize it's value.

OK, now I've gotten that out of my system.....

Fons & Porter. Another world! Their magazine and TV show are geared towards a more traditional quilter. I find them more soothing and informative as far as the craft of quilting. Although their projects are much more traditional than I am, I can watch their program without my head exploding which is positive. If I knew someone who wanted to get into quilting I would want them to watch this program because they do give good instruction on technique and you can learn something.

As far as the quilts go, I think they're kind of boring. But then I got off the traditional style of quilting years ago. However, I think I appreciate them a lot more than the art quilts because I know how much work and how many years of practice it takes to make a quality traditional quilt. It's not an easy process and I respect those who do it. Sometimes I wish I could but it's just not who I am.

So, I guess if there were a "Smackdown" I'd have to give the Fons & Porter duo the crown. I believe that they are advancing the art and craft of quilting and passing along techniques and skills that quilters need. My main problem with "Quilting Arts" is that I don't think that's what they're about anymore so it's really deceptive of them to present themselves that way.

I know that the quilting world is a big tent and I'd like it to be as inclusive as it can be. However, I do draw the line on calling unquilted art "quilts." Let's have more truth in advertising!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Quilter's Home Mojo Ribbon

Isn't this fabulous!  This is the ribbon I received for my Mojo Doll.  It was designed and made by Melissa Thompson Maher, one of the editors of Quilter's Home.  I wanted to photograph and post it before I put it in the shadowbox frame I purchased this morning.  If you're part of a guild or are putting on a quilt show, what a fun project this would be!  I'm sure someone has an embroidery machine, and just think of the fun you could have making ribbons for different categories.

Thanks Melissa for a distinctive and fun ribbon!  I have others but none as special as this one.  I'd also like to thank Jake Finch for the certificate she sent me.  It was very clever and fun, and unfortunately is already framed so I can't post it here.  (I should have scanned it first!).

I received my winnings from the Mojo Doll contest.  What a bunch of fun stuff! 

Of course, my favorites were the half yards of beautiful batiks!  I love these, especially since I don't have any of them already.  Also included was a selection of Riley Blake's Velvet Rickrack, (very cool), a funky polymer clay covered needle case, (love that), a great little magnetic bookmark, (which I will use), several DVDs and books, and a Simplicity Deluxe Sidewinder.  I don't do a lot of machine work but this gadget is great.  I'd actually started using prefilled bobbins because I hated the hassle of winding them on my machine.  No more!  I have a lot of empty bobbins that I will start winding with my almost empty thread spools.  I love to have filled bobbins handy and usually I don't care too much what color they are, (since I do so much "scrap" piecing I can't match the thread anyway!).

There was one duplicate in the box and I will be offering it up as a giveaway in the next few days.  In the meantime, I'm going to take the opportunity to get some actual sewing done.  Hope you can do the same!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mark Lipinski's Fabric Trends

While at Barnes & Noble today I was thrilled to see Mark Lipinski's newest magazine, ""Fabric Trends" finally on the racks.  Of course I had to pick it up, read it, and review it here.

First of all, I want to say that I love Mark and what he's done to make quilting a lot more fun for us non-traditional types.  He's a breath of fresh air, having no qualms about telling it like it is and not going along just to get along.

That said, I have to say I was disappointed with this magazine.  I suspect part of it has to do with the fact that Mark's voice is here, but not predominant.  I also didn't care for the overall look of the magazine.  It's a quality publication, (no stingy thin paper here), but the pages weren't particularly lively, it read more informational than inspirational. 

I've never been a huge fan of Fabric Trends, mainly because they always seemed to be a bit behind the times.  I saw fabrics in the magazine that I'd already checked off as must haves in my Hancocks of Paducah catalog.  I suspect that Mark felt the same as he's made a real effort to feature upcoming fabric lines.  This is great because if you see a pattern you want to make you can still get the fabric.  The one downer is that the quilt patterns and fabric swatches are digital, not the "real" fabrics.  It definitely gives you a very good idea of what the quilts will look like but I love the actual look of real fabric and real finished quilts.  Of course, I don't know how else you can do what he wants to do.  If the fabrics aren't in the stores they couldn't be available for someone to cut, piece, and quilt a sample. I understand why it's the way it is, I just can't get used to it.

Also, as I said, it reads really informational.  Different Designers are featured and interviewed, and new fabric lines are shown.  There are also patterns for each designer, so this magazine should make the folks who didn't think "Quilter's Home" had enough patterns very happy indeed.  If you're really interested in fabric and fabric designers you will find tons of information here.  The magazine is content heavy, which is good if you're looking for something you can take your time over.  As an artist myself I found the articles about the different designers interesting, but I couldn't quite get over the "advertising" aspect.  Sometimes I thought I was reading press releases.


One thing that was cool is that the magazine has two sides.  "The Fabric Gallery" was my favorite part, just pages of fabric designs.  I loved salivating over some of the new fabrics and have already selected a few must haves.

The price of the magazine is $6.99 which is reasonable considering how big it is.  And as I said, the quality of the paper and printing is first rate.  There's a pattern pullout and lots of detailed instructions for the featured quilts.

If you are really into fabric and want to learn more about it, or if you love tons of patterns using new fabric lines I think this magazine will be worth your while.  If you're a Mark Lipinski fan you can get a fix here, but it's not a particularly satisfying one.

However, a first issue is always a hard thing and I'm sure Mark will amp it up the next time around.  I will definitely purchase the next copy of "Fabric Trends" just to see what he's up to, and because I love fabric!

I'd love to hear your impressions as well,

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Realistic Applique

I've been working away on my Joann's quilt and I thought this would be a good time to share my technique for "realistic" applique. 

I sometimes will draw out my designs, but more often than not if it's an item that I want to make sure I get "right" I'll turn to the internet for a photo to kickstart me.  In this case I wanted a picture of a comfortable chair.  So, I went to Google Images and searched for chairs.  I tried several searches until I found this chair.  I'ts actually pretty hideous pattern wise, (not my style), but I liked the fluffiness of it.

The other thing to look for when pulling images off the computer is to find something with defined lines.  This has all of the lines of the chair clearly delineated and it's facing the way I wanted it to.  So, it looks like I've found a winner.

If you don't know how to pull an image off the computer it's easy.  Just click on the image, then click on "See Full Size."  It should come up on a separate screen.  Then right click on the image and click on "Save Picture As."  Make sure you save the photo as a Bitmap image, not a GIF, it's easier to deal with a bitmap image.

Also, make sure you follow copyright restrictions.  If you are using something for your own use it's usually not a problem but if you are entering it in a contest or putting it up for sale, be careful.  In this case I'm not going to be using the actual image so I should be OK.  I just want it as a starting point for layout purposes.

Now that I have the image I'm going to pull it up in my photo imaging software.  I usually convert it to black and white first.  Then I create a page with the background size I want and add the image.  I then adjust the image to the size I want within the proper sized background.    Once this is done I color the background very pale grey and print.  If you don't have photo imaging software you'll have to print the image as is and draw it out by hand or trace it.  It's more tedious and if you're going to be doing a lot of applique the software isn't very expensive.  I use Photoshop Elements 5, you may be able to find older versions for about $30  that will do the job just as well.

Here's the chair, printed on the right sized background.  The next step is to create your pattern pieces.  I use a black marker to outline the pieces.  In this case I wanted the chair without the pillow so I drew in the chair detail behind the pillow image.  (I also kept the pillow just in case I decide to add one later).

As you can tell I numbered each piece and put an "F" on some of them.  I really want my chair to have some dimension so I've decided that I'm going to fuse some lightweight batting to some of the pieces.  That way I can add quilting stitches to make the chair seem more real.  I'm going to be adding batting to all of the pieces except 2 and 7.  #2 because it's on the side and that part of a chair is usually not too padded, and I want it to appear more indented.  By not padding the side the arm and rest will have more dimension.  The same goes for #7, the top of the cushion.  I want everything around it to have more dimension so I won't pad that piece either.

Now that I have my pattern at the right size and printed on the right size background I'll trace it onto vellum, making sure to transfer all of the marks.  Then I can cut and fuse my pieces for my next stop.

It's important that once you have this original image you don't cut into it.  Always trace or make copies, you want to have this as a reference for layout once you're ready to applique onto your background square.

Next I'll show you how to cut out your pieces, fuse the batting, and prepare them for final applique.

In the meantime,

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Friday, September 24, 2010

Check Out All the Quilter's Home Mojo Dolls


Quilter's Home magazine has posted all of the mojo dolls they received on their website.  The link is:


They did a fabulous job of photographing and writing about each one.  It must have taken a long time!

Anyway, enjoy!  I'm off to work on my Joann's quilt, and to do some clean up around the house.  I will try to post later today or tomorrow.

Happy Stitching and have a great weekend!

Susan

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Getting Older....and Wiser?

I just love "Maxine."  She says the things I'm thinking, but probably wouldn't say....well, maybe sometimes I would.  A lot depends on who I'm saying it too!

This week I had two experiences that made me wonder.  First of all, I was at a store on Tuesday that has a "Senior Discount Day" and I was offered the discount.  I should have just said, "sure, I'll take that 10% off!"  But, no, my stupid vanity took over and I said that "although I'm sure that considering the day I am having I might look like a senior, I can assure you that I'm not one yet."  Then there was the visit to get new glasses when I was told that although my prescription was only 8 months old, because I was "older" I should probably get my eyes checked again because "at my age" my vision deteriorates more rapidly.  (Yeah, tell me something I don't know already!)

Now, I'm still considered a youngster by those in their 70s and age is relative.  I know I must be absolutely ancient to my son and his friends, but to their moms, well, not so much.  It's amazing how old 30 seems until you're 50 and you realize how truly young 30 is!

It's not all terrible, getting older.  I like to think that with age comes wisdom, and for some people that's the case.  I think, however, that for most people it's not that we're wiser, we've just figured out which things are worth getting our knickers in a twist over, and which things aren't. 

It's liberating to reach the age when you don't care so much what other people think of you.  It's like, I am who I am, and I'm not so bad, so just deal with it!  It's also kind of nice to be able to look at all of the younger people doing the same stupid things I did and realizing that I wasn't really "stupid" I was just young.  Those were the days when I thought I knew everything.  Now I know I didn't then, I don't now, and I probably never will.....and that's OK!

It's the same with my quilting.  I've been doing this for so long that I can't remember not doing it.  I heard Alex Anderson speak once about the early days of the new quilting renaissance and I remember it well.  She lives not far from me and I used to travel to the shops she talks about and remember what a revelation it was that quilts could be considered to be more than bed coverings.  I was there for the beginning of this new quilt revolution and have been riding the wave ever since.

I guess that makes me a "Senior" in the quilting world, (although I must keep saying, I started verrrrrrry young!).  It's given me a different perspective on the art and the industry.  It's exciting to see how things have changed, how we quilters have managed to create and support a huge industry, and have brought about changes in the way long standing businesses operate. 

Because of our insatiable desire for the next best thing, fabric manufacturers are looking outside of their usual designer pool, and creating more new lines each year than ever before. Craft stores are full of new products and a whole new generation is discovering the joy of making something themselves.  Now we see different crafts intersecting in unusual ways and artists coming out of the craft world that are finally being accepted as "fine artists."   

Just look at the magazine section in your local bookstore.  The number of titles of craft related publications have soared.  I remember years ago that the only quilting magazines were "Quilter's Newsletter" and "McCall's Needlework and Craft" (which sometimes had quilts in it and sometimes not).  Now we have a huge selection from lifestyle oriented magazines to pattern magazines, not to mention the publications from England, Ireland, Japan, France, and Australia.  We are truly spoiled!

Sometimes I think back to the old days when finding quilt related stuff was a real treasure hunt.  It was exciting to find something new.  Now, there's so much new stuff that it can feel overwhelming.  The last big show I was at had my head spinning for days.

It's kind of the same with quilting as it is with the rest of my life.  Getting older has made me a bit wiser; I know what's worth getting upset about and what isn't, and I know what I've got to have and what I can do without.  My only regret is that I didn't figure this out when I was younger.  Oh well!

Happy Stitching!

Susan


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Quilting is a Love/Hate Relationship


I have a confession to make.  Sometimes I hate quilting.

OK, I know that in some circles that's blasphemy, but it isn't that kind of "hate." 

Now, we may be getting into semantics here, but there are different kinds of hate.  I can say I hate cilantro, (which I do), but it isn't some horrible thing, I just don't like the stuff.  Of course, there's the kind of hate that sends people into rages and causes all kinds of chaos and heartache, but that's not what I'm talking about either.

What I am talking about is the kind of "hate" teenagers feel for their parents.  Let's face it, sometimes they don't like us very much.  Usually it has something to do with us raining on their parade in some way.  "No, you can't wear that, no, you can't go there, no, you can't play any more video games"....you know what I mean.  For a teenager, these obstructions to their "freedom" bring them to the "I hate you" place.

As far as quilting goes for me, I have such a passion for it that sometimes it gets turned on it's head.  I love it like crazy, but there are times when I get so frustrated that I want to scream "I hate you" and run into my room, slam the door, and crank up my tunes. 

I don't know about you but sometimes I work very hard on something only to realize that it isn't what I thought it would be.  I think about all the time I spent on it and it gets me wound up.  I keep telling myself what I know is true; that there is no wasted time because every project, no matter how nasty, is a learning experience. However, it's still discouraging and often brings on my grown up hissy fit.

I have gone through long periods of my life when I haven't sewn at all.  There was a freedom about that time that I liked, but I also felt deprived.  I've written before about my passion for quilting, and it's so true.  I can deny it, but it's always there, taunting me, whispering to me from the mounds of fabric....."you know you want me, you know you can't help yourself, you know that no matter how hard it can be that I'm the passion for you....."

And so, like a recalcitrant teen, I turn off my tunes, come out of my room and head down to dinner....as if nothing ever happened.  I might have said "I hate you" but I don't, not really...

Of course I don't really hate quilting.  It's just that it's one of those things in my life that I can't get away from.  It's always there in the back of my head, and sometimes I wish it would go away for a while and leave me in peace.

But I know that it won't, it can't, it's too much a part of who I am as a person.  I can take a break, but it always calls me back.  Besides, that dinner smells pretty good.....

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Football & Quilting

It's that time of year again, football season!

OK, I suspect that there are a lot of you out there that either hate football, or ignore it completely.  I happen to be one of those people who absorbed it slowly over many years.  My father is what we call a "49er Faithful" who had season tickets and went to the games with a group of friends for many years.  I was a total football fanatic in high school, cheering on our undefeated squad.  Nothing like Friday Night Lights!

My son is now playing the sport and it's been an eye opener.  I've never considered myself an overly protective mother, (I always teased my Mom who used to yell at my brother's hockey games, "Don't shoot the puck at my son!"....and he was the goalie....kinda the point Mom!), but I tell you if I could have I would have gone out on the field and kicked some kid's rear end last night.

I know it's an intense game but it's hard for a mother to watch her son get headbutted and then watch his head jerk back in a very scary way.  Then there was the offensive lineman who pushed, shoved, pummelled, spit on, and essentially tried every trick in the book to take my kid down.  I guess he'd never had to tell him that it was time to turn off the PS3....stubborn is his middle name.

The only good thing about the experience is that because of this same player's unsportsmanlike conduct, (when he shoved my son from behind after he was annoyed that his holding wasn't working), cost his team a touchdown and gave our boys the momentum.

Just goes to show you that bad behavior might get you a little yardage, heck, it might win you a game now and then, but it won't make you a winner.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately.  It's the time in my son's life where all the lessons we've taught him are coming home to roost.  Will he be polite when he's cranky, will he be kind to someone even when he's angry at them, can he turn the other cheek when necessary, and kick the crap out of the bad guys when the time comes?

I don't know yet, there are so many positive signs, and yet, he is only 12 so he's still a kid in many ways. Football has been a great teacher for him, more than we'd ever expected.

He's played team sports since he was 6 years old, but there's a team aspect to football that doesn't exist in most of the others.  In basketball everyone can score a point, same in baseball, everyone gets their turn at bat...but in football, if you're a defensive lineman, (or nose guard in his case), it's unlikely you'll ever make a touchdown.  However, if you don't stop the other team from scoring, your team could lose.  The offensive guys may get the glory, but if it wasn't for the defense their points are wasted.  If the other team keeps scoring when you do, your chances of winning get slimmer and slimmer.

The other big lesson is that actions have consequences.  Now, you see that in other sports as well, but there's nothing more humiliating than your team having to walk back 15 yards because you made a stupid mistake, or lose possession because you fumbled the ball.  The worst are the "Personal Fouls" mainly because they have to do with a defect in character.  Because you couldn't keep your cool and control your impulses your whole team suffers.

Isn't that just like life?  When my son complains that the whole team has to run an extra lap because a few players goofed off I just tell him, welcome to the world!  Groceries and other items are more expensive for all of us because of shoplifters, we wouldn't need to spend a fortune on insurance if people were safer drivers, we'd all pay lower taxes if our tax dollars were spent wisely,  and we'd all be healthier if people who were sick stayed home from school.

We are all interdependent on each other, so it's important to remember that what each of us does affects someone else.  It's to our benefit long term if we remind ourselves of that simple fact more often.

Now, how does this apply to quilting?  Well, just think of the quilt meanies you know.  They go around committing "Personal Fouls" and displaying "Unsportsmanlike Conduct "and too often get away with it.  Why? Because there aren't any referrees to call them on it.  That's why it's so important for the rest of us to stand up to these people.  To say, hey, that was "Intentional Grounding" and "Illegal Procedure."  They might claim that we're "Offside" but we can get our "Backfield in Motion" and make some heavy duty "Encroachment" on their attitude.  This is one time where "Too Many (Wo)Men on the Field" is a good thing!

We can also approach what we do with the attitude that we are a group of people who like to do the same thing.  Maybe we'll be the pass receiver who catches the game winning pass this week, and the defensive lineman who stops the encroachment of a quilt meanie next week.  The point is that we're all playing the same game, we may be at different levels, (you bet my son's Varsity squad would cream the cute little "Starters"), but we're still enjoying the same game and enjoying it together.

So today I say, "Are you ready for some football, (Quilting)!

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dollar Daze

Wow, I was finally able to find the time to post!  It's been crazy, and will get a little more crazy before it calms down, but it won't be long and then I can relax.  Yeah, really!

I've been meaning to post about this for a couple of weeks but am only now getting around to it.  Above are some bandanas that I picked up at the Dollar Store.  They were sold in packs of 2, and for a buck I thought they were a pretty good deal.  I love the patterns, so fresh and fun, and the fabric quality wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, so I'm happy with that as well.  Besides, it's better than I expected for 50 cents apiece.

I bought these with the intention of using them for my C&T Publishing sample, but ended up using batiks instead.  I still think they're a good candidate for painting and embellishing so I may tackle that soon.  The quality isn't what I'd use for a larger quilt, but since I cut everything up into tiny pieces, I think I will get some use out of them. 
I did finally finish my sample!  Talk about taking it down to the wire, I was at the post office yesterday at 1:00 deciding if I should spend the $18 to make sure it got there today, or opt for the $5.50 which "should" get there today.  C&T is only about 30 miles from here so I took my chances.  I'm glad I paid for the delivery confirmation service because I just checked and it was delivered this morning....just making the September 17th deadline.  I hate it when I do this to myself!  Too much stress over something so small!

Well, that's all for now.  I have some things I have to get done before our houseguests arrive tomorrow, so I'll have to call it a post.  Hope you all have a great weekend and also that I'll have more time to chat next week.  I've been mulling a few things around in my head but if I wait too long those thoughts will disappear like my glasses always seem to!

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why I'm a Cranky Quilter

Well, I finally got around to showing you my unfinished sample for C&T Publishing.  I struggled with this for so long and I'm so happy that I'm nearly done!  Woo Hoo!!!

It's really hard to see the shimmer in the photographs.  It's so subtle, but the Liquitex Acrylic Iridescent Medium gave the batik fabrics an increased depth of color and I love the way the quilting looks. The stitches are more textured and they really stand out.  It's a slow slog though because the painted fabric is so thick that you can't take more than one quilting stitch at a time, I was thinking this morning that it reminds me of needlepoint or cross stitch.  Of course I had to add beads!  I thought of using more embellishments but I think the beads add a little texture and shimmer, and I didn't want the piece to get too complicated.

I think it's coming out well and if I don't fall asleep on the job I'll have it finished tomorrow.

Speaking of which, I'm so tired!!!  I don't know what it is other than my life is just too crazy right now.  We've been installing wood floors throughout the downstairs of our house so the place is pretty wrecked.  I've cleaned up a few times but have come to realize that it's a useless endeavour.  As long as there aren't any bugs or rodents, (not too much chance of that with our rat terrier in the house!), I'm just keeping the stacks of crap organized so they can be put back where they belong.  One section of my dining room looks like something out of "Hoarders"!  Of course, it's all the odds and ends of 4 rooms so it's not that bad, but I hate all this chaos.  It's really pooping me out!

Then, of course, I need to finish this quilt, I have a client who needs some stuff from me, my son and I both need our glasses updated, and I need to have a yearly exam.  My husband is crazy busy with work and wood floors, and my son is doing football five days a week and baseball one.  Last night I fell asleep sitting upright in a chair in the family room.  Something I NEVER do. The last time I did that was after my son was born 12 years ago.

I'd like there to be some easy solution like, "Just go to bed already!" but I don't have the time.  It's making me crazy that I can't see a morning I'll be able to sleep past 7:30 am until the 27th of September, when my son goes on fall break.  I can't wait!

I was telling my Mother the other day that sometimes I wish life was like a bus, where you could pull the cord and it would just stop for a while.  As an artist it's important to have some down time to recharge the batteries and open up that cobweb filled brain. It's hard to be creative when you're tired and cranky, and it doesn't do a heck of a lot for your wifely and motherly skills either.  My son was one of the easiest kids ever, but let him get too tired.....not a smart move!  Even now I have to shut off his lights early so he can get the sleep he needs.  We aim for at least 9 hours a night and mostly make it for him.  But for me it isn't until he falls asleep that I can get some of my stuff done.

I hate when life is so hectic that I have no time to even notice the roses, let alone smell them.  I don't think it's any way to live.  I decided this morning that I was going to get this sample done tomorrow, finish up my other work on Wednesday, and then take Thursday off.  Friday I need to clean up what I can before my brother and sister-in-law come out on Saturday.  Thank God it's them, they're young enough to leap over floor gaps and steer clear of hoarder stacks.  Besides, we'll eat good, then go to a night football game.  It's actually the one thing I'm looking forward to most, and maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to sleep till 8am on Sunday....

Ahhhh.....

Happy Stitching, (and sleeping you lucky ones!),

Susan

Friday, September 10, 2010

When Pigs Fly!

Isn't this flying pig cute?  Her name is Wanda and I created her for my initial Gillygaloofus website.  For those of you who don't know, I'm also a graphic designer and my company is called Gillygaloofus, (such a cheerful name, don't you think?).

Anyway, when I started my company I was pretty down about myself.  I'd been working for a company for 7 years and they suddenly let me go due to economic issues.  I hadn't done anything wrong, my work was great, but I was still out of a job and feeling a bit lost.  It was a huge loss to me because my job was very creative, and I was constantly having to come up with designs and ideas for all different kinds of things.  It was the job of a lifetime because it offered me so much scope.  I realize now that it was a blessing to be let go because I probably would have spent the rest of my career working for someone else and watching them take the credit for my creativity.  Now, I'm not saying that my boss stole my work or anything, it's more like you're the invisible person in the background and the company gets the credit, not the artist.  It's just the way things are in the business world.

So, when I started my own company I wanted a mascot that made me feel like I could do what seemed impossible to me at the time, be my own person.  Hence Wanda was born!  Pigs flying is one of those impossible things, and kind of ranks up there with "when Hell freezes over."   The thought that I could run my own business and be successful seemed to me as likely as pigs flying and hell freezing. 

Well, I haven't been particularly successful.  I have had work off and on, but the unfortunate thing is that what I do is something people can do without, and in this economy....well, they're doing without it.  However, I'm not discouraged.  I realize now that what I was trying to do was replace my old job, when what I needed to do was make my own way.

I'm still working on growing the graphic design end, but the quilting end seems to be taking over.  Isn't that interesting? 

Now, you're probably wondering why I'm posting about all of this.  It has become increasingly plain to me that my life and career are heading in a different direction.  It was always a dream to make quilting my focus, but it was a pig flying dream so I never paid it much attention.  Now, I'm looking at opportunities presenting themselves to me that I'd never thought I'd have.

I've spent a lot of my life devaluing who I am and what I can do.  I don't blame anyone for that, I think it's a personality trait that I struggle with.  I also know that there are a lot of you out there who struggle with the same thing.

Now that I've gotten older I've begun to realize that I spent way too much time worrying about what other people thought and what other people said to me and what other people thught I should do.  NO MORE!  I need to make my own decisions and do what I think is right for me, and if I make a mistake, hey, I'm a big girl, I can handle it.

The point I want to make to all of you out there who are struggling with feelings of inadequacy at anything you do, whether it's your cooking or your quilting, let it go!  If you enjoy what you are doing and you aren't hurting anyone else, then go for it.  Don't let the Quilt Meanies get you down, ignore those family members and so called friends that put you down, and surround yourself with people who are nuturing and supportive, people that you can nurture and support in return.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the state of our country and the world and it's occurred to me that there seem to be more "takers" than "givers."  If you only ever take, then you're missing the other part of the equation, the giving part.  That makes you only half the person you should be.  Those of us who try to give and take in more equal measure live happier lives and are better adjusted.  Taking without giving leaves an emptiness in the soul.  And those who only give and never take also have to make an adjustment.  If you never let others give to you, you deny them the pleasure of giving.  It's the cycle of give-and-take that makes relationships work.

I think that's a lot of what this blog is about.  I give you my experience and share my thoughts and feelings, and you do the same for me.  In that way we nurture and support each other in our quest to be better quilters, and people.

Thanks for giving me so much,

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Oh, and I hope to have pictures of my painted fabric sample tomorrow.  I didn't get as much done as I'd hoped, (that darn life keeps rearing it's ugly head!).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

No Rubber Gloves!

As I told you in previous posts I'm creating a sample for C&T Publishing using a product I've never used before.  It's called Acrylic Iridescent Medium and it's made by Liquitex. What it does is when you mix it with acrylic paint it gives your fabric a shimmer.

I've had some experience with painting, having studied art in college, so the mechanics of it were fine.  I did some test runs and found that if I didn't do at least a 50/50 split of the medium and the paint that I wasn't getting the iridescence I wanted.

Now, I'm one of these people who's incapable of subtlety.  I do use some quieter techniques and embellishments, but it's only because I want to emphasize something bolder.  I'm very much a "let's hit people in the head with it so they get the point . . . or at least if they don't we have the satisfaction of hitting them on the head for not getting it" kinda gal. 

The effect of this product is very subtle, so although I had some fun with it, I'm not sure if it's something I'd use very often.  I just can't get into the old "slash, burn, dye, paint, stamp, shred, essentially destroy" style of quilting.  I didn't need rubber gloves for this one, but it was more "work" to me and not as much fun as the old needle and thread. 

When I first received the product I was pretty intimidated and started thinking about all kinds of things I could do with it.  I even started a couple of projects before I realized that they weren't going to work.

So, I decided to go with my old tried and true and do a simple  12" square made up of 2" squares of an assortment of batiks.  The batiks held the paint well because they are so tightly wovern and I was even able to use metallic and other markers on them. I have to admit that at times it was kind of fun, but I just didn't get the same thrill up my leg as I get from more traditional quilting.

Of course, it isn't finished yet, I still have to do some quilting stitches and embellishments.  I'll take a photo tomorrow so you can see what I ended up doing.  At this point I'm kinda liking it, but it's not love.

Oh well, there's no harm in stepping out of your comfort zone now and then.  If I hadn't I probably would have given up quilting years ago from sheer boredom.

However, even if I end up liking this "new way" I'm still going to stick to my cardinal quilting rule. 

No Rubber Gloves, Ever!!!! 

Happy Stitching!  (with ungloved hands)

Susan


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mojo Marge is Living Large

The October/November issue of Quilter's Home is now available in stores.  If you get the chance, check out the Mojo Dolls.  There are some really great ones, with great stories as well.  Of course the magazine is chock full of other articles, especially one about the Quilt Police, (who are a lot like Quilt Meanies, if you ask me!).

I'd like to give a special thanks to Jake and Melissa and the wonderful folks at QH for their blurb about me and Mojo Marge.  There's something so special about this magazine coming out this month, when my doll's inspiration, my grandmother, would have been 100 years old.  Makes you wonder....

Anyway, the dolls aren't up on the website yet.  As soon as they show up I'll let you know and provide a link. My prize package is also not here yet, so as soon as I get it I'll let you know what's in it. I can't wait.

Also, a call out to Louise, who won 2nd place.  What a sweet woman she is to get in touch with me and give me her congratulations.  She's had her share of sorrow, but what a sweetheart she is.  Congratulations to you too Louise!  It was great to see your family of Mojo dolls, so much work and heart put into each one.

Well, that's it for me tonight.  I'm still working on my sample for CT Publishing's Creative Troupe.  I'll give you an update tomorrow.  I'm heading a little into that "rubber glove" world, although I still refuse to wear them!  I don't think what I'm working with is toxic, so my fingers will just get dirty.  It has been interesting though and as an experience is worth at least one post, maybe two if my frustration continues.

In the meantime, 

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Monday, September 6, 2010

Are You Entering Joann's Quilting Contest?

Are any of you planning on entering Joann's quilting contest?

I made it a rule a while ago that I wasn't going to waste any more of my time entering contests that did not give prizes.  If I'm going to take the time and spend the money to create an entry, I'd like to have the chance to bring home some cash, or at least some decent prizes.

Now, I have made an exception now and then, most recently with the Quilter's Home Mojo Doll Challenge.  But, because it started out as a challenge and ended up a contest I ended up doing OK after all.  I've also been known to show my quilts at various guild and other shows, just for the exposure.  So, $ isn't the only reason to enter a competition, but heck, it doesn't hurt!

So, in case you were wondering, yes, I do intend to enter the Joann contest.  The prizes are just too good to not give it a shot, and besides, think of the exposure a winning quilt would get?  It would be ginormus!

Of course, a contest like this will bring out a lot of experienced and talented quilters.  Because of the prizes and the possible exposure, it will be competitive.  It will be interesting for me because so many quilters I know don't buy fabric at Joann's, but prefer their LQS.  Some of those may still have their noses up in the air but I suspect you'll see quite a few LQS shoppers skulking around Joann's at odd hours so they won't be spotted buying the evil goods.

This is actually a brilliant marketing ploy by Joann's.  For a few thousand dollars worth of cash and prizes they'll get LQS shoppers into their stores to check out their upgraded premium quilter's fabrics.  I've actually posted before about how impressed I've been with some of their new fabric lines.  They still don't have the selection of high quality goods of a LQS but there are enough that it's worth bringing out a 40% off coupon to snatch up a piece.

I hit the jackpot this week with their 50% off clearance.  I bought about 10 pieces of the Legacy Studios premium cotton that regularly retailed for $8.99 for $1.50 a yard.  Now, that's a deal!  I think I got lucky as I met a woman in line at another Joann's yesterday and she checked out the sale a day later than me and came home with very little.  Probably my fault, I think I pretty much wiped them out of anything I didn't have already....sorry.....

Since I am going to be entering and I'm sure that some of you will be too I decided to honor my pledge to myself that I would share my experience and expertise with my readers, even if one of them might beat me out of a big prize.  So, here go my tips on being successful entering quilting contests.

1) Follow the directions!  Make sure that you read everything that applies to the contest. Here's the link to the Joann info: http://joannfabricandcraftstores.blogspot.com/

This contest is like a fabric manufacturer's contest, (like the old Kaufman Quilt Quest), in that they have specific requirements about what you can and can't use.  Read the rules and regulations carefully and make sure that you will be able to meet their requirements.  There's no point in making a beautiful quilt and disqualifying yourself by not following directions.

Also, make sure that the deadlines work for you.  In this contest there's a 5 day window where you have to get back in touch with Joann's about receiving your prizes.  If you're going to be on a cruise that week, or somewhere in the wild where you can't be reached you may want to pass on this contest.  Wouldn't it be horrible to be a winner and then be disqualified because they don't hear from you?

2) Keep track of your documents!  Whenever I'm entering a contest I start a binder with all of the contest info.  This means copies of all the rules and regulations, as well as a calendar to track my progress. 

In this contest it's particularly important that you include an envelope so you can keep track of your receipts.  One of the requirements is that all fabrics used in the construction came from Joann's and you have to document it by receipts.  How this is going to work with fat quarters I don't know, but I'm assuming they'll have that figured out.  So, make sure you have a way to keep all of your receipts in one place.  I'm in the habit of doing this for business purposes, so I was able to find receipts for a lot of fabric I want to use in my quilt that I already had on hand.  I  have a box on my desk that I throw my receipts into so it was easy for me to find them.  If you haven't kept yours you'll have to make fresh purchases, which could get pricy. 

Oh, and don't think that since you did buy that fabric at Joann's they'll let it pass without a receipt.  I would bet you that they won't, it's an easy way for them to narrow their choices if they have a reason to disqualify someone.  Besides, it wouldn't be fair to all of those who did follow the rules if you think you can "squeak something by."

3) Swatch your fabrics!  In this case I made a few swatch sheets for my binder and as I've acquired fabrics I've glued 1.5" squares onto the sheets.  I make sure that every swatch is accounted for by a receipt so I won't be tempted or make the mistake of using a fabric that might get me disqualified.  Before I cut any fabric I can cross reference and make sure it's on one of my swatch sheets.  This also helps design wise because since I have a limited palette I can spread out my swatch sheets and make selections for various parts of my design.

4) Read between the lines and take everything seriously!  I made a big mistake the first year I entered the Kaufman Quilt Quest.  I saw that they were promoting a particular line but the rules didn't say that I had to use "that" fabric, only fabric by Robert Kaufman.  So, I made a beautiful handbag with a bevy of lovely Robert Kaufman fabrics.....and came in second.  The winner?  Someone who used the fabrics from the line they were promoting.  I learned my lesson and the next year not only used the featured fabric, but emphasized it.  What happened?  I won first place.

In this case they're promoting their "Premium" lines of quilting fabric.  So, I'm going to use mostly those fabrics.  They've also made a big point about "workmanship," "originality," and "attention to detail."  All things that make me think that shortcuts are probably not a good idea, those kinds of things will be noticed.  If any of you have ever gotten judging notes you know what I mean.  Everything gets noticed, even things that aren't there.....

5) Have fun!  OK, that sounds kind of Pollyanish after all my warnings above, but it's very true.  If you aren't having fun making your piece the odds are that it won't be your best work.  So, if you find yourself trying to force square "you" into round hole "wonderful quilt idea that's going to win me the big prize", then you might as well forget it because you won't be successful.  I've started a few contest quilts before realizing that it wasn't going to work for me.  I was trying to give them what I thought they wanted, instead of what I was good at.  The trick is to use what you're good at to give them what they want.  No point in wasting your time trying to become someone you aren't. 

If there's no flow, there's no go!

I hope these tips help.

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mojo Marge Is A Winner!

OK, I've known about this for a while now, but I was sworn to secrecy until September 1st.  The big news is that Mojo Marge has won first place in the Quilter's Home Magazine Quilter's Mojo Doll Contest!   I got a call from Jake and Melissa in July, it turns out that they had so many entries and everyone seemed so excited about it that they decided to have a contest and pick winners.  So, it turns out that Mojo Marge's journey was a successful one as she now wears the Mojo crown, (and ribbon), go Marge!!!

This is also particularly sweet for me because the 3rd of September would have been my grandmother's 100th birthday.  Her name was Marjorie, but she was universally known and loved as Marge.  Along with the rest of my family she was one of my biggest fans and supporters.  She always encouraged me and it was in her honor that I named my Mojo Doll Marge.  Happy 100th Birthday Grandma!  We miss you down here!
The winner's dolls will be featured in the next issue of Quilter's Home which is due in stores in mid September.  They're going to publish a ton of pictures, and the dolls that don't make it into the magazine due to lack of space will be available to be viewed on their website.  I'm supposed to be receiving a link I can post, when I receive it you'll be able to link from my blog to the site.

Congratulations to all of the winners!  We've sure got our MOJO on!!!
PLACE WINNERS

FIRST PLACE: Susan Gannon O’Connell, Brentwood, CA: Mojo Marge

SECOND PLACE: Louise Tiemann, Vestal, NY: Family Yoyo Mojos

THIRD PLACE: Laurie Sonntag, East China, MI: Rose Amanda

FOURTH PLACE: Jennifer Vaughn, Castle Rock, CO: My Quilting Self

FIFTH PLACE: Carmen Czachor, Port Angeles, WA: Small Stuff

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Kathy Arcadi, Fair Haven, NY: Momma and Nick

Susan Brooks, Morris, MN: Abigail

Sue Clayton, Manorville, NY: Chocoholic Mojo

Shera Eckles, Reno, NV: Tallulah and Archimedes

Jamie Eggleston, Osceola, IN: My Sassy Voodoo Weapon Against the Enemies of Creativity

Molly Elgin, Bloomdale, OH: Mojohowitz (Molly’s lifelong nickname is Mojo.)

Jean Gerow, Newfield, NY: Maria

Jenice Grimes, Chandler, AZ: Priscilla

Ria Hawkins, Melbourne, FL: Sparkie Lee

Carol Wanke, Yakima, WA: Bonnie Bling

I'm supposed to be receiving a prize package soon, it's going to be a bunch of stuff worth about $300.  I can't wait to get it and when I do I'll let you know what's in it.  It's kind of fun not knowing as it will be a great surprise.  My son has made me promise not to open it unless he and his Dad are with me.  They want to share in the fun.

I'm still working away on a variety of projects.  A little graphic design work kept me busy last week and I've got a little more on tap this week so the quilting is going to have to take a backseat.  Besides, I need to clear out all this clutter before I can even get to my quilting projects.  Yikes!

Happy Stitching!

Susan