Posts tagged ‘psychology’
quilty: quilt-y [kwil-tee] -adjective quilt-i-er, quilt-i-est.
1. Related to, but not specific to the act of, quilting.
2. Characterized by, connected to, or involving quilts.
That’s my made-up word of the day. I’ve been very wrapped up in quilty activities lately, to the point of being too busy to actually quilt! This has happened to me plenty of times before, and I know I’m not the only one: shop owners have frequently spoken to me about how they spend all day surrounded by quilts, thinking about quilts, but not finding time to make quilts. My free time has been consumed by some very quilty adventures, each of which is deserving of its own post, but I wanted to give you an overview:
Sept. 16: PA National Quilt Extravaganza and quilt guild meeting
Sept. 23-25: Quilting with Machines, Huron, OH
Oct. 2: The Airing of the Quilts, Tunkhannock, PA
In between, I’ve been working, traveling, and sometimes doing both simultaneously; I left the day after the PA show to work a weekend military dental event in Edinburgh, Indiana, then left again for Ohio two and a half days after getting home. I’ve also been trying to reorganize the studio, because machine quilting requires lots of space, and little things I hadn’t dealt with were piling up and getting pushed off the edge of the table as I quilted. (At least I didn’t do what I once did, and inadvertently quilted a piece of scrap fabric ONTO THE BACK OF the quilt I was quilting. That was damn unpretty.) I now have new thread racks on the wall, including one for cones, so I don’t have thread stacked precariously on the closet shelf any more.
I have also continued a project I started last spring, tracing my quilting stencil collection out onto paper so I have a hard copy of the designs I already own, without having to pull the big portfolio of stencils out of the closet and rifle through them for ideas.
I like the portfolio for storage (an idea I got from Karen McTavish when I took her wholecloth design class many years ago) but it’s a little unwieldy for casual browsing, and leads too often to my ignoring my stencils when choosing quilting designs.
Now I’m well on my way to having a full-size catalog of my stencils that will be much easier to deal with. I’m also flirting with the idea of photographing all the pages into a notebook on my phone so I have a portable reference for shopping; I have to investigate whether that would be a poor use of phone memory or not.
I’m also trying to get caught up with my magazine filing. [Warning: if descriptions of borderline OCD behavior disturb you, you may not want to read about how I organize my quilting magazines.] For the last approximately six years, I have made an effort to stay on top of my ever-increasing collection of quilting magazines by periodically going through them, tearing out the pertinent articles, photos, and patterns, and placing them in plastic page protectors. I then organize them in binders, with subject tabs separating them first into articles, patterns, and inspirations, then further subdividing the articles into topics such as how-tos, history, and interviews; the patterns into paper piecing, curved piecing, applique, big prints, holiday, etc.; and the inspiration photos just into roughly similar groupings. [Look, I warned you. I also sort my M&Ms by color before eating them, you got a problem with that?]
Every year or so I also purge the existing binders of things that no longer appeal to me or that I have better examples of, but the acquisitions far outweigh the deletions. Suffice to say I currently have four 3″ binders absolutely bursting at the seams. They are extremely useful references, though, and I consult them often. It’s much easier than having to sort through piles or magazine boxes full of intact but unindexed issues; and I’ve resigned myself to the idea that if I missed anything, it surely is counterbalanced by the usefulness of the system. (Not to mention, these days, no information is ever truly lost, even if I recycled the magazine it was in.) But as with so many other ongoing quilty projects, I’d gotten behind with it, and now I’m almost caught up.
And finally, before all this new learning had a chance to get old in my brain, I’ve organized all my handouts and class notes from Quilting with Machines into yet another binder. Once again, I had started this project last year, adding to a kind of half-assed “quilt class notes” binder that I’d started years ago but hadn’t given a good effort to. Now both years’ worth of QwM notes are in one binder, properly organized, to which I’m even adding photos I took of class samples.
So while I still don’t have any completely finished projects to brag about, I’ve been making the most of my last month of permitted travel before “my confinement.” All I mean is that the OB doesn’t want me to be more than an hour from the hospital as of 36 weeks, which falls October 23; I just like phrasing it that way because I sound like a character from Jane Austen or “Gone with the Wind.” And I now have a much better organized sewing space, which will allow me to spend more time quilting and less time trying to move or find things as I deal with significantly curtailed hobby time once the baby comes.
More on the actual shows and events soon! With pictures of quilts instead of binders! I promise!
I got home from work Tuesday to find two big boxes had arrived from UPS: my quilts are safely home. I can finally exhale that little breath I’ve been holding since I shipped them off nearly a month ago. Even though I saw them, safe and sound and hanging in the quilt show Sunday, it’s still a relief to have them home. Of course, the suspense of whether or not my quilts would return to me unscathed was immediately replaced with the suspense as to what the judges had said about them.
Now, I don’t have a very long history with judges’ comments; this is only the fourth judged show I’ve had quilts in. However, I believe in getting quilts judged, because I really want to get feedback from people who are trained to look at quilts differently and more dispassionately than I do. Having said that, I also know why quilters don’t get their quilts judged. Not quite two years ago, I got a judge’s comment that makes my blood boil to this day. I’m actually impressed that I ever entered a quilt for judging again after that experience. Here’s the quilt:
It’s nothing special, just something fun I did with a stack of nine-patches from a guild block exchange. I’ve always liked the honeybee block, and it was an entertaining challenge to pick fabrics out of my stash for the machine applique that coordinated with the nine-patches made by other guild members. There was a preponderance of blue and yellow in the blocks, so I chose a dilute blue batik with traces of yellow in it as the background.
That, apparently, was my mistake. Because the judge said:
I recognize that part of this is my problem. This was never going to be a ribbon-winning quilt; I mainly wanted some feedback on my machine applique and machine quilting. As someone who recognizes and appreciates life’s little absurdities, I should have laughed at this. Instead, nearly two years later, it still infuriates me. Because how could someone who is trained and paid to know about quilts mistake a commercial fabric for blue washout marker? Besides, I never even touched a blue washout marker to this quilt! Anywhere!! Part of why I was proud of the machine quilting on this quilt was that it was completely no-mark!!!
OK, I’m back. But that’s the history I have when I read judges’ comments, so I thought you should know before I react to the current batch.
What I thought they’d say: I expected to hear about the fact that I didn’t quilt inside the applique, which was a deliberate choice; I wanted the quilting to help create motion but not to blur the graphic strength of the butterflies. I also thought they might criticize my decision to use a narrow zigzag rather than a blind hem stitch in my turned-edge machine applique. There was also some slight show-through of seam allowances in some of the pieced blocks.
What they actually said:
I can’t really argue with any of that, other than the comment about the binding. Libby Lehman says that having judges pick on your binding is good, because it means there weren’t more egregious errors to call you out on. But I also like Ricky Tims‘ perspective on it (he teaches machine binding on his Grand Finale DVD) that they should judge you on how well you executed the technique you chose, rather than criticizing you for choosing that technique. For the record, I used the machine binding technique taught by Suzanne Michelle Hyland, on her DVD “Sew Precise, Sew Fast Machine Binding.” And I think I did a nice job.
What I thought they’d say: I didn’t quilt the two purple sashing borders sufficiently. I quilted a spine in each of them, planning on doing a feather variation or something out of Megan Best’s “Spinal Twist,” and I ran out of time before delivering it to Quilter’s Palette. Then, since it was done in my mind, I never went back to it. I also expected a comment about thread tension in the quilting, and possibly some criticism of my accuracy in quilting in the ditch.
What they actually said:
Again, not much I can dispute here. I know that quilting stitch length consistency remains a challenge for me (after all, they mentioned that twice!) But I also know that I’ve gotten significantly more consistent in recent years, so hopefully I will either continue to improve, or break down and buy a BSR (probably not.) I definitely appreciated their mentioning, for both quilts, my fabric selections; I think that is one of my greatest strengths as a quilter. I also really appreciated their highlighting the binding on this one, because that was a chore, and I obsessed over it.
Additionally, I like when quilt show judges balance their critiques. I’m glad that the QFNJ judges, Gloria Loughman and Lois Smith, both amazing quilters in their own right, made the effort to give positive comments as well as emphasizing the areas that need improvement, and that they gave the criticism constructively. I’m not a delicate flower who can’t be leveled with, but it’s unhelpful for a judge to say, “bad machine quilting,” without clarifying what about it was bad or how the quilter should go about improving it.
So apparently, the judges agree that I’m a promising quilter with room to improve. That’s an assessment I can live with.
But I’m still going to put some of my bindings on by machine. And I can live with that, too.
So, I was supposed to leave for Rhode Island tonight after work, to attend TempleCon (a gaming/science fiction/steampunk convention) and to visit my sister and her family nearby. However, this happened:
It’s supposed to snow through the night and well into tomorrow, accumulating up to 20 inches. So even if I could have gotten on the road before the storm started in earnest, the catsitter wouldn’t have been able to get here to give our oldest cat his Xanax (oh how I wish that were a joke.) My husband rode up with a friend on Thursday, so I find myself 1) alone, 2) unable to go anywhere, 3) with a full pantry, and 4) with a whole lot of UFOs.
What’s that spell? SEWING DAY!!!
I would have started tonight, except I also woke up this morning with a very sore throat. It didn’t keep me from going to work, but I did stop at Walgreens on the way home, and I think I sort of panicked in the Cough & Cold aisle:
Judicious dosing and a cat on my lap while I watched RuPaul’s Drag Race (love that show!) seems to have perked me right up, so tomorrow and Sunday will be all about the quilting. Now to decide what to work on…
I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about how I should go about prioritizing the UFOs, and in keeping with today’s snow theme, I want to introduce Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball plan. Basically, he advocates listing all your debts smallest to largest, then paying as much as you can every billing cycle on the smallest debt, while only paying minimum payments on the rest, so that you get small debts paid off quickly and you build momentum for eliminating debt. While I can’t completely endorse all Mr. Ramsey’s personal finance advice, I think it has potential if applied to other areas of life. In a quilting version of this method, I would work on the quilt that has the least to be done before it’s finished, in order to be able to get measurable success faster and get me motivated to work on the bigger, more time-consuming projects.
I’ll post again tomorrow as to the identity of the lucky quilt! And good news in the mailbox today, both “Blue Butterfly Day” and “Kyoto Ink” were accepted by Quilt Fest of New Jersey. It’s a nice show, and they hang all the ribbon-winning quilts from Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival. If Somerset, NJ is closer to home than Hampden, VA, it’s worth the trip.
In July 2006, I helped the guests at my niece’s birthday party to tie-dye T-shirts. This represented my first foray into working with Procion dyes; more on that in later posts. Naturally, it seemed a waste to only dye shirts; I had to dye some fabric as well. One piece looked like a good candidate with which to try Ricky Tims’ convergence technique:
The technique starts with an oversized four-patch, either from one extremely varied fabric, or from two, three, or four different ones. The four-patch is then sliced, diced, resewn, resliced, and ultimately transformed, as you see. To two squares of my tie-dyed fabric I added a purple mottled print and a yellow batik that picked up the fuchsia/purple and yellow accents in the predominantly green-dyed fabric. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy much of either one. Generally, I see it as a good thing that I very rarely buy any more than a half yard of a given fabric, unless I know I’m using it for a border. However, in this case, my fabric-buying sobriety backfired. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
This project really was more about the process than it was about the end product; I had bought Ricky’s Convergence Quilts book, ate up the pictures and the description of the technique, but wanted to try it for myself, and this tie-dyed fabric offered the perfect opportunity. If it hadn’t worked, I would have just put it aside. But it did work. In fact, my husband, who is normally very supportive of, but pleasantly detached from, my quiltmaking, was quite taken with this one while it was in pieces on the design wall.
But here’s where we get into the obstacles again. The first obstacle was just logistical, a fabric emergency: I wanted to put a border on it, and as I didn’t have enough of the fabrics I had converged, I needed to choose something else. In general, I see that as more of an opportunity than a roadblock; to quote Paula Nadelstern again, “when it comes to fabric, ‘more is more.’” In this situation, though, I had an extremely difficult-to-match fuchsia/purple color AND an extremely difficult-to-match green. Suffice to say, I am unlikely to find a batik or a large-scale print that contains both. I did drag the top to a couple of quilt shows, but I never found anything I particularly liked, and by that point I had lost momentum.
Lost momentum is a majorly recurring theme in my UFOs. I definitely have some personality traits of obsessive-compulsive disorder, albeit fortunately not ones that negatively impact my life in any significant way (although I have been known to put the toilet paper roll on the holder the right way in bathrooms not my own.) In many ways these personality traits have been assets: I can become extremely focused on a task until it’s complete, I am a scrupulously thorough researcher with a Boy Scout-like conviction to be prepared, and I always have clean hands. The downside is that once a particular obsession has run its course, it’s difficult to kindle up enthusiasm for it again. I can eat, sleep, and breathe a project for a while, but if I get distracted (ooh, shiny!) or derailed (no border fabric!) the project loses its Most Favored status, and if there’s no deadline for it, off to the UFO cabinet it goes.
This project also reeks of Quilt Guilt. I’d had pretensions of finishing this quilt to take to the Ricky Tims Super Seminar last May to have Ricky himself autograph the label. Didn’t happen. I even feel guilty about the fact that this was one of the few quilt projects my husband really took an unsolicited interest in the mechanics of, and I didn’t get it finished so he could enjoy it. This is something I need to work through and just get over; once again, this seems like a “Hoarders” impulse, attaching unwarranted emotional weight to an object. It’s not the quilt’s fault I didn’t get it finished; I shouldn’t wrap all those negative emotions up in it.
I just read a New Yorker article about a form of nightmare therapy in which sufferers of recurrent nightmares are encouraged to spend daytime hours visualizing the upsetting scenes from their nightmares and reimagining them to be less upsetting; one example given was of a woman reimagining the sharks circling above her as she tried to swim to the surface of the ocean to breathe, as a circle of friendly dolphins. Perhaps I can visualize making all the negatives, all the “should-haves”, into tangible, squishy objects. I can visualize myself placing them into the Convergence quilt top center, then gathering up the corners like a hobo sack. I can visualize myself carrying that sack full of gelatinous, drippy, toxic emotions down the upstairs hall to the back bedroom and out the door to the balcony. It’s a bright sunny day, and I can just let the edges of the Convergence quilt top fly, waving like a beautiful, colorful flag in the breeze while those lumpen blobs of guilt tumble forth — and are gone.
I’ll report back when I get that border on.
I want to be a finisher.
I have been very fortunate in the past six months to be privileged to hear both Bonnie Hunter http://www.quiltville.com and Gyleen Fitzgerald http://www.colourfulstitches.com speak at guild meetings. Both of these ladies make fabulous quilts and are wonderful motivators, cheerleaders for the hobby. Most importantly, though, they are FINISHERS, and they want the rest of us to be finishers, too. Getting to hear both of them speak was the extra push I needed to declare 2010 to be my Year of the UFO, and to start this blog as a way to both work through the process myself in a (semi-)organized fashion, and to have some accountability for it as well.
I’m a fantastic starter. I love to start projects. That’s an intoxicating, fascinating stage, like falling in love. Choosing the fabrics, puzzling through the design decisions, imagining the finished product — this to me is what it’s all about. I’ve long said that if all the quilts I’ve made in my mind somehow popped into being, my house wouldn’t be big enough for all of them. Unfortunately, my house is starting to appear to not be big enough for my unfinished projects.
Almost every quilter I know has UFOs — the dreaded UnFinished Object. The few quilters I know who DON’T have UFOs tend to be the hyper-organized, one-at-a-time type that I can’t relate my personality to, and I don’t necessarily want to emulate. Quilting is my hobby, my playtime; when it becomes too achievement-focused I lose the happiness behind it, and then what’s the point? I like being able to switch projects when something’s not working, when I need inspiration, or just when a project isn’t speaking to me any more. I never want to be so rigid in my quiltmaking discipline that I can’t make that wedding, baby, or prayer quilt because it’s not on the schedule. If I see a new idea or technique in a magazine, at a meeting, or on a show, I want to feel free to play with it while it’s fresh and compelling rather than waiting until the current project is cleared. Worst of all, from past experience I know that when I’m forcing myself to work on just one project and it’s not going well, I just stay away from quilting entirely rather than work on a project I’m not feeling passionate about.
The problem arises when the set-aside projects never make it back to center stage. Instead, they stay in limbo, becoming the source of my Quilt Guilt. It’s a lot easier to start something new, with exciting new fabric and new ideas, than to pull out an old project and attempt to get myself back in that frame of mind. Why did I abandon this piece? Did I run out of fabric? Did something not work? Is there something actually wrong with it? Or did it just get “bumped” for a gift or a deadline?
I hope, through this blog project, to go through my backlog of UFOs and try to identify the reasons they ended up in a cabinet or closet instead of on a bed. In the process, I hope to learn more about myself as a quilter and as a person, and hopefully keep from building up such a collection again. I also hope I manage to entertain those of you who choose to read this, and perhaps inspire a few more Finishers.
The title of this post comes, of course, from the classic David Mamet movie, “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Early in the scene, Alec Baldwin (so young! so thin!) as the nightmare consultant to an office of down-on-their-luck real estate agents, tells Jack Lemmon, “Put down the coffee. Coffee is for closers.” While I certainly don’t want Alec Baldwin’s character’s style of motivation (Tim Gunn would be far more helpful), that speech was the first thing that popped into my head when I said I wanted to be a finisher.
Enjoy! (Language alert, it’s Mamet.)