Stash infusion

Mal | Media,Sewing,Simplicity | Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Stacks of scraps

Now, I love my mom. I love her A LOT. So, I want to be careful not to sound judgmental or ungrateful in what I am about to say. In fact, as a licenseable psychotherapist, what I want to do first is sound clinical.

My mom is an obsessive hoarder and a compulsive shopper. I mean this in the most diagnostic and clinical sense. I’m sure that most of the people reading these words could stand up at the microphone and pound at the pulpit and express some level of embarrassment about the state of their “stash.” There’s a reason that groups and projects exist specifically for stash-busting and stash diets and blog giveaways and all sorts of other modes of stash regulation.

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As a family, we’ve had to come together and stage an intervention recently. Mom has been slowly filling up their 8-bedroom home with sacks and sacks of creative potential for years — art supplies, unused paints, pristine stacks of scrapbook paper, and the fabric. Mostly fabric. An estimated $12,000 of fabric.

See? It’s gotten a bit out of hand.

Recently, she’s felt a drive to clean out and simplify her life. Seizing on this opportunity, several of my siblings descended on the house a few weekends ago to help her sort through and purge. My understanding is that they only hit the very tip of the stash iceburg. Between me and my two sisters, we split up the wares. Mom brought the first installment of stash stuff last weekend, and I spent this weekend trying to assimilate it into my small apartment.

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But what a chore! This photo is deceptive because it doesn’t account for the quantity of fleece, felt (Oh, goodness — the felt!), patterns, notions, and kits that accompanied it. This photo only shows the quilters cotton. It doesn’t even show any of the fabrics too ugly to give away. But I loaded up my car and dragged all of these “acceptables” (mixed with many “very, very cutes”) to the laundromat on Saturday for a huge, tri-county pre-washing event.

What you see above are the results of $30 of quarters, 6 laundry carts, and 5 hours of work. The stack closest to the camera — which measures over 13″ high — is comprised entirely of fat quarters, 1/2-yard and 1-yard cuts. With rare exception, these fabrics are pristene — uncut and untouched. The basket contains pieces smaller than a fat quarter, which will all need to be ironed and sorted into scrap bins. Behind them are two stacks of large cuts — one of whites and neutrals, the other of colors — which will also need to be ironed.

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I saved myself the pain of ironing the fat quarters, though, by taking time to right them as they came out of the dryer. I painstakingly smoothed them out into a uniform pile. Some of them came out of the dryer so terribly wrinkled and cinched that I thought they would never untwist. I tried to catch them before they were bone dry, and while still a little warm, and with determined smoothing, tugging, and shaping, they came out nearly as good as new!

Below you see the stack of smoothed-out pieces:

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…and compare them with a few of the sad, wrinkled fat quarters that didn’t make it to the smoothing stack:

Wrinkly fat quarters

I am amazed at how much good that little bit of work really did. It is going to save me so much ironing time.

Someday I will have a house with a yard and a craft room. I’ll have a fabric stash which is accessible and turns over frequently. Shoot, someday I’ll have a washer and dryer of my own and can do this kind of chore in small bursts over a span of time rather than in one explosive flurry under the eyes of curious onlookers.

For now, though, I’ll be grateful to my mom for her generosity (and little bit of craziness) and vow to never, ever buy another piece of fabric again. For as much as I love my mom, I hope I don’t inherit her tendencies along with her cast-offs.

I envision some major giveaways in our future. If you’re not already subscribed, might I recommend you do so? You won’t want to miss it as I slowly give away the spoils of the war we are waging with my mother’s stash.

Do you have thoughts, tips, websites, patterns, or recommendations about stash busting? Please share!

Creating on the go

Mal | Handmade,Quilting,Sewing,Works in Progress | Monday, March 30th, 2009

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I mentioned the other day that I was doing a lot of my hexagon basting while sitting on the subway. With the creative use of some plastic containers, I can cart along everything I need to complete nearly 20 hexes a day, and my commute is only 13 minutes each way. I’ll be honest with you. In the past few weeks I have stitched hexagons while standing in line to have my blood drawn, while waiting for a friend at a restaurant, and while sitting in my car outside a movie theater.

Since I received some questions about taking this little show on the road, I wanted to show you my setup.

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The largest container is a 4-cup Rubbermaid with a red lid. It holds everything together, including pre-cut cloth hexagons. Then, a small pair of scissors, a spool of thread, and a scrap of fabric for keeping needles are obvious additions. The yellow container is from a set whose lids snap onto the bottom when open. That’s handy so that I don’t have lids flying everywhere. I use the yellow container to hold completed/basted hexagons when they’re done.

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The little red container is my favorite. It’s one of many tiny containers I collected when I was really into creative lunch packing (bento style). It’s super tiny and snaps shut, which makes it perfect for holding my pre-cut hexagon papers. (They are about the size of a USD penny.)

Portable hexagons

Of course, I’m not the only one who crafts or sews on the go. English Paper Pieced hexagon quilts are particularly portable, as you can see from the photo above. But, many others are taking their art with them, too! Recently, MrXstitch has been posting about his experience doing cross stitch on the subway.

Because I am so interested in people’s creative process, I love to see workspaces and projects in progress. We all know that knitting and crocheting are portable — all you need is a ball of yarn and a couple of metal hooks or needles — but, what else are people carting around?

Creating on the go

These are not just photos of manufactured kits or carriers. Lord knows plenty of companies are out there selling systems and caddies and all sorts of other accoutrements to sort and transport your project. Truly, we love our pouches and zippers and we’ll pay good money for them on a whim. But I only included photos in this mosaic that had evidence of actual crafting, and whose portable carriers and containers included space to carry an actual project along.

What about you? Do you take your projects with you on the road? How?

Intermittent Inspiration: French Knots

Mal | Intermittent Inspiration,Stitching | Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Inspiration: French Knots

I finished the french knot section on my band sampler, but have been collecting pictures of french knots for a few weeks.

Some people use french knots as outline, as ”fill stitch” or as a physical construct (i.e. tiny eyeballs or cherries on trees, which look just like french knots). Some are packed together tightly, like a carpet. Others are sprinkled sparsely to good effect. There are french knot hairdos, french knot flowers, french knot bacteria… I mean, really. There are lots of french knots out there. Don’t be scared.

Click the image for more details on the artists of these wonderful creations.

Passing it on

Mal | Media,Sewing,Universal | Friday, March 27th, 2009

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I’ve been teaching my dear friend/ex-boyfriend how to cross-stitch and he’s making good progress with Obama. I’ve photographed it with a US quarter coin to show you scale. This is Aida 11-count fabric, and he is stitching over two squares with double threads of DMC floss to give the largest, boldest effect possible. The finished product, which was originally designed to be about 3″x5″, will be larger than a sheet of typing paper when it’s done. His careful, meticulous nature is yielding wonderful results and I’ll never get enough of that sweet sight — him in horn-rimmed glasses, beanie cap, and Converse  All Stars hunched around an embroidery hoop.

Between this teaching experience and the recent visit with my motherI’ve been thinking a lot about the mentor-ly, multi-generational, tutor-iffic nature of traditional textile arts.

Grandma M. was my dad’s mother, and she taught piano lessons. In addition to teaching me how to play the hymns on piano and organ, she also taught me to crochet and to follow a simple sewing pattern. She taught me how to press clothing and how to piece afghans. The only thing that Grandma M. was unable to successfully teach me was tatting (but we tried — oh, how we tried!).

Granny V., my mother’s mother, was a school teacher and a librarian and she lived on a self-sustaining farm. Granny V. taught me to bake bread, to grow my own food, and to knit. Embroidery, cross stitch, french knots, and needlepoint were activities I also did with Granny V.  She encouraged me by choosing patterns and motifs that she knew I would like. She was patient and understanding of me as a petulant teenager whose whims would change on a dime. She would set up huge quilting frames in her front room and we would stitch together with the aunties for hours on end — cackling about this or that and “solving the world’s problems.”

A required Home Economics class in Junior High did me little good, as I had already learned to construct basic clothing and household items from my mother. Mom understands the basics of fitting clothing and working with utilitarian fabrics, but she is also a gifted quilter. When I take the time to

In a recent bestowal of good fortune (that is, in a box of discards from mom’s craftroom), I found this book:

 I bring it up here because of its dedication page:

She nods to the artists of the past and passes her knowledge along to us, the artists of future generations. Later, I’ll explore a little bit more about this mentorship, multi-generational thing and why it may be so unique to textile arts.

What about you? Who taught you? Whom have you taught?

Laying out the hexagons

Mal | Handmade,Media,Quilting,Sewing,Universal,Works in Progress | Thursday, March 26th, 2009

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Now that the french knots are temporarily put to rest, I am back to the hexagons. Last night, I pulled out the box of basted hexes and laid them out randomly, testing out color combinations and feeling very satisfied with the results.

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This project definitely does chew up a lot of time. But, I find the stitching so meditative and a little bit sweet, so I don’ tmind it at all. Because the hexes are so small, it’s a breeze to do this work during my subway commute. I’ve got my supplies packed in a small plastic container and as long as I’ve got a seat, I can stitch about 10 hexes before I get to work and another 10 on the way home.

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Band Sampler: French Knot

Mal | Band Sampler,Media,Resources,Sewing,Stitching,Tutorials | Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Band Sampler: French Knot

I completed the French Knot portion of my band sampler last week.

 

 

 

 One of the things I do with my clients a lot is give them a little distance from their artwork. I hold up a painting far from their face, which provides a new perspective and sometimes facilitates insight.

Band Sampler: French Knot (closeup)

Looking at these photos of the section (a form of distance) lends itself to some funny realizations. For instance, I see how some of my confusion and consternation from last week may have seeped into the work.

I had originally intended to do some sort of starburst or circular pattern with the knots, but this image kept coming back to me. Almost like molecules or birds rushing toward some intended end but running into an invisible barrier. Ideas and thoughts and scenarios getting backed up — stopped up and hung up — to impede any progress at all. People rushing for an exit, in danger of being trampled. Something that seriously needs to get unstuck.

If you’re interested in trying your hand at french knot, here are some tutorials:

Stitching with Mom

Mal | Here and Now,Media,Quilting,Sewing,Works in Progress | Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Binding a quilt

My parents were visiting for the weekend, which means that I didn’t get any of my chores done (laundry? food? shopping, anyone?) but I did get to spend three days stitching, designing, and laughing.

My mom is a very talented seamstress who spent the last 30 years raising her 7 children. In the past few years, as the last of us have finally moved into adulthood, she has made more free time for sewing, and gravitated toward quilting specifically. Every Tuesday night, she and two of her neighbor friends move into a large sewing room that one of them owns. It has a design wall, a television set, a mini refrigerator — you get the idea. Basically, it’s a needle-and-thread bomb shelter from the rest of the world. Mom calls Tuesday her “sanity day” and on particularly tough non-Tuesdays, she’ll sneak over there by herself to work. It’s kind of inspiring how she uses her chosen medium to regulate emotions and frustrations, connect with others, and find an inner center.

My mom also buys lots of books, takes lots of classes, and meets lots of other quilters. I, for my part, am a child of the Digital Age and because my mom lives far, the nearest thing I have had to a quilting tutor is the internet with its crackling circuits and bytes. It’s not exactly the most nurturing of teachers, but in this day and age it will have to do.

Binding stitch

Mom wanted to see what I’ve been working on, so I showed her some of my recent successes — the doll quilt on the wall (I’m sorry! I just think it’s cute!), the Obama cross stitch (with some trepidation, as our politics are quite different), and the next installation of my band sampler (stay tuned for photos).

What I most wanted to do, though, was share my recent frustrations and failures. I knew she would have fixes and solutions for me. I, as a visual learner, would benefit from her wisdom as she sat next to me, demonstrated with her able fingers, and brought clarity to my confusion. A few times, I asked her questions whose answers I already knew. I enjoyed making her feel wise and important and smart. I wanted to soak in the look on her face and savor the moment.

As we sat there together, chattering away, needles in our hands, I felt something deep and primal and wonderful at work. We were taking our part in the cycle of textile arts — one generation learning from another. For various reasons, I have more memories of that experience with my grandmothers than with my mother, so it was nice to close the gap a little bit. Plus, she taught me the neatest binding stitch I’ve ever seen. Armed with this little finishing gem, I think I am going to quilt like crazy, now.

What about you? Who is your best teacher? Do you teach yourself? Have you had a generational moment like this?

Intermittent Inspiration: Quilts with Circles

Mal | Intermittent Inspiration,Quilting,Resources | Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Inspiration: Quilts with Circles

The thing that appeals to me about quilts with circles is that the process of quilting lends itself so well to straight lines, angles, squares, triangles and the like. Circles, for all of their difficulties, are a welcome sight amidst all of those straight stitching lines. We impose their soft, curved sweetness onto all of that gridded order and it makes me feel both complicated and simple. I sort of love that.

(Click the image to learn more about the artists of these beautiful quilts.)

Guest Post: Creativity and Repair

Mal | Guest Posts,Universal | Thursday, March 19th, 2009

This is the first in a series of guest posts written by fellow bloggers. I’m so pleased to introduce this series by featuring Emma, whose blog furrybees includes thoughtful, well-written posts about her experiments with embroidery, crochet, clay, poetry, and other creative media. If you’d like to write a guest entry about your creative process, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

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Thanks to Mal* for giving me this opportunity to reflect on meaning and creativity.  Her blog is a welcome dose of thoughtful reflection on the creative process.

I credit creativity with great powers of restoration.  (I also sometimes credit it with great powers of anxiety-making, but that’s another story.)  This story is about the intimate connection between identity and creativity and how one lost, academically-minded woman found her way slowly back to herself, or one part of her self, through crochet, embroidery and the vagaries of an old Rolls sewing machine she inherited from her grandmother.  As with most stories, there are many ways of telling it and many ways of making sense of it.  Here is one.

I began a PhD in feminist theory and applied ethics in February of 2001.  “What’s that!?”, I hear you ask.  Well, I thought it would be a good idea to try and write a long treatise on the different ways women can feel both powerful and powerless (for don’t we, at some point, feel both as we go about our days?) and how that affects the way we see others, how we treat them, and, more importantly, how we should respond to them. 

I felt a tentative enthusiasm for my new life at first, and had a thinly sketched idea of what kind of a person I thought I should be as an academic.  I would be brilliant (making immediate and spontaneously fabulous connections between ideas), a quick reader of complex academic writing, and an inspired and prolific writer.  I imagined that I would find joy in books and ideas, relish in the mystery and detective work of research, and flourish in the quiet solitude of the contemplative academic life.  And, in many ways, I did.  Or, I tried hard to, at least.  However, just as virtues can swing to vices, my vision of who, and how, I was supposed to be began to distort. 

Over time, I wondered if I would drown in the books and ideas, if the mystery of my research would ever resolve itself, and if the isolation I felt – alone in my cubicle and alone in my academic field – would ever abate into a quiet, enjoyable solitude.  Needless to say, I felt adrift in this new life and my sense of self — my sense of knowing with any certainty who I was and what I was capable of — began to erode.

However, sometimes the universe intervenes and saves you from yourself. 

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Two things happened almost simultaneously.  Firstly, after one of our many chats full of existential angst, a good friend and I decided we needed to pursue activities that would keep us “in the moment” and give our minds a break from the constant self-analysis that could leave us tied in complex knots.  So, she began to knit and I, spontaneously, bought and began a small cross-stitch bookmark that came in kit form from the local supermarket (of all places) — something I’d never previously contemplated and probably associated it unfairly, and in a dreadfully ageist way, with “granny” and her projects for idle entertainment.  I finished it quickly and was surprised by the strange, glowing satisfaction that followed.

Shortly thereafter, another close friend announced she was pregnant (the first to start the inexorable tide of pregnant friends that were to gradually follow).  In imagining which gift would be appropriate for her and her new one, I remembered how she’d laboured over a crocheted baby’s blanket for another friend’s first baby.  I had watched as, with each stitch, she hoped her friend would cherish this blanket and see it as the lovingly created heirloom that it was intended to be.  I knew I wanted to give the same to her. 

Except for one small matter – I didn’t know how to crochet.

Enter Google and exit, at least for a small part of every day, my PhD project.  Before long, my isolated cubicle was filled with the vibrant energy of a new research project that tugged at my attention and constantly tempted me away from more scholarly pursuits.  Within a short time I had taught myself to crochet and after much thought given to style (interesting but not too “interesting”), colours (no pastels!) and textures (definitely soft and snugly) I made a small white woollen baby’s blanket, in a repeated shell pattern, with a navy blue shell border.

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Those humble beginnings created a kind of urgency in me to keep making things, as well as an insatiable desire to find out about different textile-related arts and crafts.  I quickly picked up embroidery and then sewing things of my own design on an ancient, one-stitch sewing machine gifted to me by my mother’s mother before she died.  With each new skill revealed, with each thrifted piece of fabric transformed, and with each project worked I felt excitement, satisfaction, and accomplishment.  And I felt a kind of existential relief.

It’s only recently, with time and distance (figurative and literal – I moved from Australia to Canada in 2007) that I have been able to reflect on these happenings and how they served to create the woman I am today.  My academic life, then, was a world where I felt lost – adrift in a sea of ideas and competing claims to the “truth” – and where I felt powerless, alone and strangely unskilled at being able to find The Answer to my research questions.  To make matters worse, the academic identity I had tried to fashion to help me with this task was uncomfortable, difficult and ill-fitted to me.  In hindsight, it is no surprise that the methodical learning, grasping and practising of different creative techniques would help to mend the frayed edges of self left by the uncertainties and difficulties of my scholarly life. 

Seeking solace in creativity taught me new lessons about my self.  The gentle, achievable goal of taking stitches, one at a time, of learning new skills, one step at a time, and the act of holding and working with the tactile pleasures of fabric, thread, buttons and beads enabled me to witness a different Emma emerge – someone who was competent, creative, inspired and capable of beginning and finishing projects both big and small.  It is no wonder that I often struggled at that time to choose between the mesmerising meditation of crochet and the tumult of working with complex feminist ethical theory. 

So, I credit my creative life with both restoring a sense of my self to me and with providing the space to begin to imagine a new sense of who I am and who I might become.  Some days as I dream up new ideas in my workspace, or sew up a new creation for another new being fresh to our world, I am aware that there is a dual process of creation going on: one with thread and needle, fabric and hoop; and one with me and my ever evolving sense of my self.

Emma Woodley aspires to be a creator of beautiful, meaningful, useful things.  She is currently trying on the identity of “textile artist” for size. You can follow her adventures in being Creative and Courageous (New Year’s resolutions that delight her on some days and haunt her on others) on her blog furrybees.

Think less. Do more.

Mal | Here and Now,Media,Works in Progress | Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

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A recent idea for a project was going to require some problem-solving.

Things in my life this week feel extraordinarily complicated. Craziness is firing on all cylinders, and much of my free time has been drowned away in worry and doubt.

Resolving the project was going to push me beyond my current skill set. It was going to lead me out of my comfort zone and force me to take a hard look at my mistakes.

Originally, I tried to solve the problem the way I always do — by thinking, plotting, and obsessing over it.

Obsessing over problem

Obsessing, though it is my preferred mode, is not always the best way to solve problems. Even cognitive ones.

Sometimes, taking a breath and getting to work is the only thing to do.

I needed this reminder — to stand still and tackle one hurdle at a time. To slow down and peacefully experiment. To stop rushing and obsessing and pushing. To take action, but calmly. To give myself permission to fail, but insist on trying anyway.

Think less. Do more.

Intermittent Inspiration: Back Stitch

Mal | Intermittent Inspiration,Resources,Stitching | Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Inspiration: Back Stitch

I posted the back stitch section of my band sampler (with links to tutorials) a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I’ve collected some happy examples of back stitch created by other people to show you. (Click on the image above to learn more about the artists.)

Back stitch is a very simple outline stitch, and you can see from these examples that it is one of the easiest (and most popular) ways to convert a simple line drawing to cloth. Because of that, you’ll see back stitch used by lots of illustrators as it is the nearest thing to drawing with a pen.

What about you? Have you ever used simple stitches to convert a drawing to embroidery?

Growth is coming

Mal | Art Journal,Here and Now,Prosaic | Monday, March 16th, 2009

Growth is Coming

I’ve had trees and buds and blossoms on my mind a lot this week. I suppose most of the world is sitting up to take notice of nature’s cues as spring marches toward us. But, since I live in Southern California, the differences between the seasons outside are much more subtle and apparently I was making art about buds and new growth last fall.

I’ve grown increasingly tuned into my internal seasons. I feel like this image is related to Friday’s post in a way that is both obvious and subtle. It’s more about holding on and less about letting go. It’s more about hope and less about acceptance. Both are important processes in growth.

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Here’s a final little image I found in my journals this weekend. I have to say that I did not feel this way about the world when I woke up this morning. But, I’m grateful for my journal because it reminds me of the wide range (and transitory, temporary nature) of my feelings. Yes, my mood was a bit foul this morning, but sometimes I do wake up feeling joyful!

What about you? Do you keep a journal, or do you wish you did? Have you gained emotional insight from your journals or sketchbooks? Please share!

Roundup: Good News Edition

Mal | Roundup | Saturday, March 14th, 2009

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Many thanks to Sue at mousenotebook who posted about a very inviting giveaway a few weeks ago. I didn’t win the first prize (300+ hexagons already basted to paper backing!) but Sue very generously expanded the giveaway and I won the privilege of choosing something from her shop

Well, it was easy enough for me to choose the green market bag, as I’ve been trying to stock up on cloth shopping bags yet find them a bit unwieldy in practice. The little matching case for this works out perfectly! It arrived yesterday. Thanks, Sue!

There’s other good news in our little community this week, too. Be sure to swing by and congratulate:

What about you? Did you have good news this week or do you know of someone who did?

What to do: Cultivate potential

Mal | Here and Now,Prosaic | Friday, March 13th, 2009

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One of the small citrus trees outside my front door is suddenly covered in buds.

I mean, this tree has virtually exploded with potential. Its branches are alive with a snowstorm of possibility — the hope of new life. 

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There are many more buds on the tree than the tree could ever support eventual fruit. Hundreds more flowers than could ever be pollinated, plucked, and eaten.

And you can already see evidence of it — little white dots are beginning to blanket the ground underneath. Some of the buds drop off naturally, I assume. Maybe they are too weak, or too crowded, or too tenuously attached. Some of them are knocked loose in the wind or get jostled loose by dogs playing beneath the tree and kids kicking their soccer ball around it. Others cling tightly to their stem, but soon there will be more buds on the ground than there are blossoms on the tree.

See the cast-offs there on the bricks already?

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For me, the buds seem to represent ideas, dreams, intentions, wishes. They represent potential results. Some of the wishes are good — strong and healthy and plump — and will withstand a little wind to become fruit. But, it’s important to understand which of the ideas are fruitful and which are better left to decompose underneath the tree and fertilize next year’s crop. It’s important for me to identify which of my potential projects has “staying power” and which is born only to die.

I’m in a phase of abundance right now. I have lots of ideas and creative energy. I have lots of things that I want to do and see and experience. My “ideal self” is peeking out at me from every imaginary corner. You know the one — she wakes early and writes in her journal, takes the dogs for a brisk walk, does yoga, and eats a balanced breakfast before arriving to work on time. She never runs out of gas, receives a late bill notice, or leaves trash in her car overnight. This ideal person never forgets to take her vitamins, eats fast food, or gets to bed late. She makes her own clothes and gives only handmade gifts and produces and produces and produces.

But I am faced, every day, with the realities of life’s limitations. I don’t have enough hours in the day. I must sleep and eat and pay bills and clean. I try to cultivate a social life and am actively searching for a romantic partner. Yet my current fascination with stitching, my art journals, and even this blog are brimming with potential ideas. It’s a blessing to be cursed with abundance. I’m so grateful to have too many ideas.

I take deep breaths and allow the natural process of pruning take place. I try not to stand in its way. I follow the growth wherever it leads and I feel grateful, today, for what I have.

What about you? Are you in a phase of too much or not enough?

Return of the machine

Mal | Embellishment,Finished Projects,Media,Sewing,Simplicity | Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Sewing Machine

“…the evil of machinery is largely a question of whether machinery will use men or men shall use machinery.” (Ernest Batchelder)

It was nice to have a reprieve from making things by machine for the past few weeks, but I pulled out the ol’ Husqvarna Viking last night to finish a gift for a friend.

Fixed tea wallet

She has been giving up coffee and trying to drink more tea. When I found the tutorial for a tea wallet over on Christy’s Creations, I knew it would be perfect for her.

Even though she is one of my best friends, assembly of her gift came at the end of my great and grand handmade holiday list last year, and so it had some problems that were created by rush, short-cuts, and sloppiness. Sure, it has a snap, but not even my obsession with snaps can override the gross errors in this piece.

Teatime

In fact, I think it was my precious love for snaps that made this project go wrong. I wanted it to be in just the right place, but didnt plan correctly for it. So, here’s how I spent time the other night — re-doing, slicing, and fixing a previous work. In spite of what I may have said yesterday about proudly being an imperfectionist, I feel strangely satisfied.

Perfectionists and imperfectionists

Mal | Stitching,Works in Progress | Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Hope in progress

For reasons which will be incomprehensible to many people who read this entry (but are nonetheless real), I have been broken up with my ex-boyfriend since June of last year.

I mention this in part because of how grateful I am that we have remained friends; we see each other often, and have a deep caring and concern for one another. When I ended up hospitalized after my “same-day surgery” debacle and needed someone to not only take emergency custody of my dogs but also to speed over and hold my hand, he was the first person I called. When I’m having a bad day, have a ridiculous idea, or need someone to geek out with, I reach out to this wonderful person and he is there. I love him.

When he saw me working on my cross-stitch Obama a few weeks ago, he got so excited that he wanted to make one, too. I was happy to oblige by teaching him how, but he had some special requests.

First, he wanted the final product to be big. I mean, he wanted it to be big. He also wanted even fields of color, with no white spots peeking through. I explained to him that the pattern was created for a small end product and that the nature of cross stitch was for some of the fabric to show through the stitching. Still, we employed some tricks in the service of his vision:

  • We bought 11-count Aida cloth.
  • He is stitching over two squares for each X, which makes it essentially 5.5-count Aida cloth.
  • He is using two full threads of DMC floss in every needle, for a total of 12 strands in every stitch.

The end result will be a piece of about 8″ by 13″, with a deep pile and a rich texture. Dear Manbroidery, I think you may have a new brother. (MrXStitch, you certainly have a new fan.)

You have to imagine this punk-rock, bespectacled, Converse-wearing Mexicano stitching up his Obama with rapt attention. It is pretty much the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Since this is his first experience with handcrafting of any kind, he has understandably encountered some frustrations. But, for the most part he is enjoying the process and I think will be very pleased with the outcome. When we sit together, stitching, he calls me “Mother” and insists that I call him “Father.”

It’s always interesting to teach and observe someone else in a skill that you have employed for a long time. He is so careful in his stitching — he wants the back of his stitchery to look immaculate. He is very interested in the idea of embroidery contests and judging (such as when my brother-in-law and nephew enter their cross-stitched pieces in the county fair) and wants to be sure he is doing everything right. I try to explain that “there is no right” (and especially not on a first-time project!), but he’ll tear out rows of stitches if he feels that one is a little too loose or too tight.

For my part, I am much more interested in the process than the product. If you look closely at my Obama, you’ll see gross errors in counting, alternating, and snipping. I try to make the back of the piece tidy, but sometimes I run out of steam for starting-stopping and will skip around a bit. Still, the overall effect is pretty good and it suits my purposes well enough.

But no — oh no — no such flojera will be brooked with that guy. He is precise and careful and determined. The back of his piece is so beautiful it would make both of my grandmothers proud. Incidentally (and, this will probably not come as a surprise to you), describing these differences in our stitching style encapsulates some of the main differences between us as people.

What about you? Are you more likely to obsess over the process or the product? Are you a perfectionist or an imperfectionist? Do share.

Calling guest authors!

Mal | Universal | Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Your turn to preach!

Would you like to be a guest author on turning*turning.com? I’m especially interested in reading about your creative process and the emotions that are related to art-making. Could you share about a project that you found particularly meaningful? Does making art help you to cope in some way? Do you have associations with certain colors, media, or motifs? Check out the guidelines and then please contact me! (photo by joehardy)

Pushing toward hexagons

Mal | Quilting,Resources,Sewing,Tutorials,Works in Progress | Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Pink hexagons

Yup. I’ve started on a hexagon project of my own.

When I posted inspirational mages of hexagon quilts last week, Christine asked:

Hi, I’m planning to do a part-hexagon quilt soon. I was hoping to be able to do it by machine, but if it needs to be by hand, so be it. In your searching, did you come across any instructions/tips and tricks for hexagon quilts?

I’ve had a few other emails about it, so I thought I’d post some of the great tutorials I’ve found to get me going.

While I’m at it, here is one more mosaic of inspirational hexagon projects I’ve found since my original posting. Click through for more info on the artists.

More hexagon inspiration

Dismantling the Wreath

Mal | Art Therapy,Media,Works in Progress | Monday, March 9th, 2009

Yo-yo Wreath close-up

I blogged a little bit before about what stitching has meant to me, emotionally, over the past few months. In November, I had a simple surgery which was complicated by surgeon’s error and has led to a long and drawn out recovery.

Yo yo wreath

This wreath made of yo-yo’s was the first of the stitching projects I started after I returned home from the hospital and has hung on my front door long past its season.

Yo-yo Wreath

The other night, I took it down and started disassembling it, making way for a new wreath project to take its place. I was pleased by the meticulous, careful detail of these handsewn circles, and the foresight I had to assemble the wreath entirely with straight pins. I guess I made it with the intention of disassembling it at some point, because it has all come apart with its pieces intact, and could be re-assembled at any point.

Yo-yo Wreath: blurry!

In some ways, I think that the trauma and anxiety of the surgery aftermath is a big part of what has been holding me back recently. Something about disassembling this project has been therapeutic — an un-doing of what has been done. A preparation for moving on to the next thing. Maybe it will help me break up the muddle I’ve been feeling. If nothing else, it will make way for a new season — for spring — with its longer days and new growth.

What about you? What are you doing to get ready for spring? How do you become un-stuck?

Intermittent Inspiration: Running Stitch

Mal | Intermittent Inspiration,Resources,Stitching | Sunday, March 8th, 2009

My creation

Since I completed the running stitch section on my band sampler, I have been tuned into examples of running stitch all over the place. If you’re wondering how this stitch can be put into practice, there are some wonderful examples above. Click the image to learn more about the artists who made these wonderful creations.

I’ve especially been inspired by the way this stitch can become so textural. I always considered it an outline stitch, but when used as a texture, it’s really interesting. Also, you can see running stitch on lots of applique and 3d projects, too, which is something to consider next time you feel layer-y or sculptural.

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