Saturday, February 27, 2016

Wabi-Sabi 2016

Each year, or at least for the past several in which I have been quilt making, I tinker with a design element, or a design theme. I like to, if possible use it frequently and in different situations. I have toyed with metallic threads, inset seams, nano particle fabric and doing important things to binding. Sometimes juggling all design concepts in a single composition.
inset seaming with nano particle material
Metallic thread used for some quilting
retroreflective insert extends into binding

I confess to having picked-out stitching, redone piecing and ripped out and replaced whole portions of quilts to make them "perfect" (to me).

hand quilted binding (Dark Shadows)

Metallic thread quilted double-sided binding (Binary)
 But after a series of rather revealing life events centering around homeownership, cars and health, teenagers and older parents, I have learned a few new things about myself (old horse, new tricks).

Most importantly, there are just some things I can do NOTHING about. I cannot repair the roof on my house, or the dent in my car. We all age, despite the media hype that 50 is the new 30. Most of us become empty nesters, at least for a while and if we are lucky to have had parents in our lives for all of our lives, then they do get old and eventually need our help. When all of these things happen at about the same time it's overwhelming. Having coping skills that involve creating is imperative.

To kick off the new year,   I got a book by Marie Kondo. "The life-changing magic of tidying up". And since I did need a little magic in my life, I read her book, cover to cover. I will confess to not dealing with every stitch of clothing in one event, but I have made at least 6 trips to Goodwill with carfuls of stuff. It feels good. I found some things that I had thought lost. One of her essential tenants is holding each item you own and deciding if it brings you joy. Answer Yes and you keep the item, anything else goes. A bit drastic I know, but for me, it was a journey with another profound discovery.

Wabi-Sabi: "the art of finding beauty in imperfection…to see the singular beauty in something that at first does not appear obviously beautiful. Bringing wabi-sabi into ones life doesn't require money or even special skills. It takes a mind quiet enough to appreciate muted beauty, courage not to fear bareness, willingness to accept things as they are. It depends on the ability to slow down, shifting balance from doing to being, to appreciating rather than perfecting".

"Once quiet you can appreciate the minute detail that gives something character, you have permission to look but also touch. And in the process of connection, you don't have to understand why you are drawn to something, but you do have to accept it as it is. Wabi-Sabi is a state of mind and a way of being. It is the subtle art of being at peace with yourself and your surroundings".

I'm still in the process of sorting and de-cluttering, general tidying-up and most importantly, being at peace,  but I'm moving forward. I have brought some of this centering into my creating too. I have expanded my creative space to include virtual inspiration from many friends and acquaintances on social media. My 2016 already includes collaborative work and trades with several friends. I will continue to ask and accept creative comments via social media and from my guild. I'm teaching 12 college engineers/scientists to be quilters. We have met twice already and cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have new quilters in the making and in my life.

 I will, in the spirit of life-changing events and collaboration, gift several projects this year. If I can keep myself organized I will tag these collaborative endeavors as #colabquiltproject.  I have already begun by sending a small mini quilt to a thoughtful IG follower.

Mini quilt- Gifted
Black batting accentuates the seaming which is a nod shadowing. It happens and I'm OK with it.
Machine and hand quilted
Back, pieced

 I will have a larger quilt to give away at years end. It's all good, really good. Most of my day to day ramblings and posting occur over on Instagram. I hail by the same name, spontaneousthreads.

This year it's all about the process. A hands-on, celebration of  letting go. About making mistakes and accepting them for what they really are, growth, discovery and sometimes if I'm lucky, hidden beauty……….. and realizing at the end of the day, I am OK with all of that.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Something more, nothing less

The last of 2015 and a great way say goodbye and thanks.

This is the 5th quilt of this year that was made entirely from scraps. While the other 4 were solids only projects, smaller in scale, this, the largest of the projects, is made entirely from prints. Since I sew less frequently with prints these days, it's taken a few years to accumulate the raw material. The prints scraps drawer was large and I sorted (mostly strips and variations of rectangles) into ROYGBIV piles. The whites/grays and blacks were reserved for the negative space.

I posted while I made and reflected too. I hatched 2 plans. One to make a quit from the scraps and, then to share whatever was left over with whomever would take them.

I started piecing the week before the terrible events in Paris.  By the time I got to purple I was struggling with the color and the piecing, because my "selection" was limited in both volume and variety. Then, Paris happened and I just couldn't begin to understand that level of hatred and violence so I gave my pain to the purple and joined the sorrow of the  greater world as we all searched  for the over reaching question of Why? Right them and there, in the midst of literally picking up the pieces and trying to put something together,  I knew what had to happen.

The main color blocks are arranged more or less in a rainbow spectrum, discreet and isolated,  I'm sure the in-your-face symbolism is lost on no one.  The improv pieced negative space starts with dominant whites in the upper left (yes, more symbolism) and descends to black in the lower left (I know, I know). Some asked and the answer to why black and purple… it's because that is what it felt like when I was piecing purple… I was struggling and the world around me was dark and sad,  looking for answers and finding none.

Despite current events,  there is a bright side to the quilt as well, all those pieces have memories attached to them, memories that I got to revisit when making this quilt. Family quilts, graduation gifts, celebrations of babies and birthdays. A few pieces are from quilts that have hung in Houston and at QuiltCon. A piece or 2 from quilts that have won ribbons. The oldest piece is from a  quilt that my son (now 21) and I made together when he was in kindergarden.

I also learned something more about myself. Most of my "precious" fabric scraps were all orange, and what I deem precious may not be what everyone else holds dear.  No surprise there. I had more blues than any other color,  My greens were mostly yellow-green, bright green and an occasional blue-green. I include pink in the rainbow because  like it.  I had the least amount of purple.  I deliberately chose to piece the background negative space from light to dark because that's what made the most sense while I was making this quilt. I almost  had enough scraps to make that happen, but was a bit shy of my mark in the print selection of medium to dark grays. I did have enough scraps, just not enough variety of scraps.  It didn't stop me from cutting a few additional strips of gray prints from my stash to complete the quilt top.  Those extra scraps will now go to good homes.

The back is scrappy pieced from large stash pieces that have sat on my shelves for a time (OK, years). I learned something here too. I had in my possession large floral and floral/damask like prints in all the colors that I needed ( I wonder why?). I must at some time have desired to own these, and I have used them in projects past because they were all odd shapes (i.e.: not standard cuts). I think it funny that they are nearly all by different designers (yet all floral/damask), and I had just enough to piece this back. Coincidence? Maybe…… maybe not. I also pieced the back keeping the prints directional. Once done, I realized that the direction was not the way I intended. But I also let that go. I didn't have other fabric to use and those were the pieces that made the back. It is what it is and I am OK with that.

Besides the greater metaphorical putting together the pieces while making this quilt, I  literally picked up the pieces in its making. Pulled them off the floor where they had been sorted into piles by color. I know some people save precious fabric for a dream project, but the other thing I learned is those "precious" scraps are just a piece of fabric. Taken by themselves, they can't keep you warm, offer you comfort or even fill your belly if you're hungry. (I guess if they are precious enough, you could sell them piece by piece), but if you take all those pieces and make them into a quilt you can do all three of those things. You will have created something greater that can give comfort, can keep you warm and in the most desperate times could be sold or traded for food. Something to think on. Something that I won't forget.

Maybe this quilt was destined to happen, maybe I just had to wait long enough for all the pieces to fall into place.

74 x 86"
original design, improv pieced
made entirely from curated print scraps of various ages and makers. Nearly all 100% cotton, a few, cotton/linen blend.
Batting: 100% wool Quilters Dream
Thread: (piecing) Aurifil 50 wt 100% cotton in #2021
             (quilting) Aurifil 40 wt 100% cotton #  bobbin and top thread
Quilting: Bernina modified #4 stitch, stretched 4x, Bernina domestic machine 820.
Binding: scrappy color graded to match negative space, 2" SOG

Monday, February 1, 2016

Flight Path

First finish of 2016.

Flight path
42.5 x 40.5 "
A gift for a sweet baby boy and his mama

Kona cotton solids in (background blues): evening, prussian, navy
                                  (center whites/grays): white, shale, steel
                                  (perimeter): snow, shadow, shale and charcoal

Backing fabric: a single unpieced map print by Jim Holtz for Eclectic Elements: Expedition

The quilting (  completely by accident)  makes a pattern similar to the flight paths of planes. The recipients mom is a big fan of globes and this is a nod to her.

Thread: Aurifil 50 wt top color matched: 2021, 2526, 1158, 6720 and 2780. Bobbin 2021

Quilting: a superb collaboration with stellar suggestions form Christine Perrigo (@ccpquilts) and Shelby Skumanich (@godshomemovies). Curved and straight line, some free hand some drawn, which was a first for me.
quilting extends into borders

curved intersections

Batting: recycled 100% cotton

Binding: Jennifer Sampou "Shimmer" for Robert Kaufman. 2" straight of grain.