26 November, 2010

The Modern Quilt Workshop


Even though I've quilted for over a decade, it wasn't until about four years ago that I would say I became focused and intentional with my quilting. Before that it was a creative hobby that helped me destress, but that's about it. I was on mat leave with The Monster and started to spend a lot of time online. (That girl could sleep!)

One day I very distinctly remember typing in "Modern Quilts" on a Google search. I knew what I was creating wasn't conventional, but I felt very alone among the quilters I knew. Such a simple term and it opened up a new world. I do recall that the first blog I came across was Samantha's and that led me to The Modern Quilt Workshop. Now this was more like it!

The quilts in The Modern Quilt Workshop are creative, bold, sometimes simple, and all very refreshing from the calico world I was used to.

Now, I didn't run out and buy the book then, and even after hearing Bill Kerr speak earlier this year I didn't. That has more to do with me not being a pattern follower. When I saw it at the library the other week, however, I picked it up.

Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr put together a truly inspiring book. It is still essentially a book of patterns, but they add in a lot to encourage the quilter to make each quilt their own. They provide alternate colourways for projects. And there is a section on design essentials which would be good for someone just branching out into design.

My biggest complaint about the book is that while it is incredibly precise and the attention to detail is impeccable, the personality I saw in Bill is somewhat absent. Yes, he is a designer by nature and self admits to being precise and anal, but he is far from dry. The book is kind of dry as a read. Yes, I read these books from cover to cover. It's a small complaint and maybe no one else cares.

As far as the patterns go, one great feature is that they also share options for making the quilts in alternate sizes. This is fantastic. They aren't encouraging you to remake their quilt, they want you to make your quilt. Now that is inspirational.

23 November, 2010

Calming the Waves

Sometimes when you dream you wake up and wonder WTF was that? Or you laugh because it is was just plain silly. You could be my daughter who woke up the other day after a good dream about a friend from school saying, "It was a good dream, I'm going to keep it."

The other night I had a dream that was terrifying and made me not want to go back to sleep. As scary as it was to my unconscious, it was frighteningly clear to my conscious self. There is no hidden symbolism in a dream where you are moving to higher ground in a constant effort to escape tidal waves.

When I get overwhelmed by tasks and life it is my tendency to revert to list making. It seems scary at first, to put down everything that needs to be done, but it is incredibly satisfying to cross things off the list. Even the act of making the list serves to put perspective on all that seems overwhelming.

When I couldn't sleep after the tidal wave dream I woke up and immediately starting making lists. House stuff, articles, quilts on the go, deadlines, Christmas presents, and more. Then Hubby offered to take the girls with him on an out of town errand (he's home for a week!). I decided to put all the must do items aside and tackle something that a) would make me happy to work on and b) would be quick to finish. Conveniently, I'd basted two quilts at our Modern Quilt Guild sew night on the weekend.

So I turned on the stereo, made a cup of hot cocoa, and in between loads of laundry (a good break for the shoulders) got 3/4 of my Values Quilt quilted. The snow was falling, my Cuban music blaring, and I felt myself get calmer with every stitch. There will be no tidal waves for a few days at least.

19 November, 2010

Chaos

Wrapped in a quilt I sit here, wanting to share, to talk, to open some discussions about books. I just can't do it. On my own again this week and I'm dealing with a cold and the stomach flu (me), getting over both (the girls), teething, bad news from family members, a leaking roof plus dishwasher, and winter storms. Frankly, I'm done. I have nothing witty to say, nothing interesting or quilty to share. Please forgive my bit of whining.

Seriously, how do single parents do this all the time?

My whining done, I actually do have something to share. This was the tablecloth I made for Thanksgiving back in October. The rooster fabric is from Alexander Henry. Purchased at Quilt Canada this year its been sitting around and waiting for Thanksgiving. In honour of American Thanksgiving next week I thought I would share it with you. It makes me smile to look at it. Smiles are good things when ginger ale is the only thing on the menu.

Other things making me smile:
... playing my own little game of I Spy with this quilt around my arms
... the chaos of pompoms, pencil crayons, and blocks all over the floor
... my four year old's constant desire to wear her clothes backwards
... the two year old saying to me after playing in the snow, "Mama, let's go inside and have hot cocoa to make our feelings better."
... the cast of sunshine on the foot of fresh snow

Okay, so I guess there isn't that much to whine about.

16 November, 2010

Round Robin - Start

Just a simple block. In the next 4 months it should turn into something pretty cool.

You see, I do belong to a traditional guild as well as our Calgary Modern Quilt Guild (Sew Night on this Saturday!). In an effort to push myself outside of my little box of creating, I decided to join this year's round robin. It is really pushing me out of my box as most of these ladies are quite traditional quilters. Amazing work and a very fun group of women, but still quite traditional in quilting style.

This block, mine, will get added to by three others. I gave them free reign on colours and design. Maybe my simplicity and improv block will challenge them too? You know how I love to push people.

I would show you the block I received - lots of triangles in red, beige, and hunter greens - but its in the car. Yup, I'm lazy this morning. First winter storm combined with kids barfing all night and me with a cold. I am not leaving my house today. More time for sewing, painting, and stories.

Oh, and bear with me as I make some changes on the blog. I'm testing some new designs.

12 November, 2010

Book Review - Freddy and Gwen Collaborate Again

This is the first week of a new series here at Naptime Quilter. I've been reading a lot of books, some old and some new, and I wanted to share them with you. There is a wealth of information in quilt books. Some are definitely better than others as well. These reviews are my opinion only. And if a book was given to me or I was invited on a blog tour I will certainly let you know. Otherwise I'm reviewing books I've either purchased, borrowed, or checked out from the library.

Up first is Freddy and Gwen Collaborate Again, by Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran. Published by Lark Books in 2009.

I'll admit that I've not read their first book, but I will be searching it out again. There is an energy to this book and their work that I've not read anywhere. It isn't just the incredibly bright and bold quilts. The sense of collaboration really comes through in the projects. They refer to it throughout the book and each have had a hand in writing chapters.

One of my favourite parts of the book is that there aren't actually any quilt patterns. Rather, they go over specific techniques or blocks in a section they call The Parts Department. Then, when they profile the quilts they reference which parts they used. They also discuss where the design came from and how they came to certain decisions.

Another interesting tidbit to each quilt discussion is a note about a traditional influence or similarity. That is definitely a nice touch to a book that is quite modern. It is fitting considering the subtitle is Freewheeling Twists on Traditional Quilt Designs.

My guess is that this is not a book for a beginner quilter. If you are just starting out the designs and concepts are certainly inspirational. But if you are still used to precise instructions and nervous about breaking out your own it might be tough to read. If all you want is to make "that quilt" specifically then you will have a hard time with this book. If you want, however, to take in some inspiration from both new and traditional quilts this is a fantastic book.

Two of my favourite quilts from the book:

Liberated Wedding Ring

Spikes

Are there any books you can recommend or would like me to review?

09 November, 2010

Love Bird

A little birdy told me that the next issue of Fat Quarterly is out. And guess who has a tiny project in it?

This is a sneak peak of a fussy cutting Design Challenge I participated in for the November issue. Take a favourite fabric from stash and create a block showcasing some fussy cutting. I then turned mine into a little wall hanging. The block, however, could work really well on a large scale as a quilt.

Go here to buy an issue, if you aren't already a subscriber.

05 November, 2010

Dedication

Full disclosure: this is not my quilt. In fact, I've had no hand in making it at all. I did make one suggestion, but it was shot down.

My SIL is making this for her son. In fact, she is making quilts for all her kids for Christmas. Well, in the interest of full disclosure, my brother is helping too. Very dedicated. Her fussy cutting is also dedicated. As is her construction technique - one square, one row at a time.

I'm sharing this (with her permission) to remind us that we all put things together differently. I know how I would make this quilt, but her approach is totally different. When we sew together I'm constantly trying to get her to loosen up and let things happen, and she forces me to to stop and reflect on some of the decisions to make. Her approach works for her. And that's what ultimately matters - in the process she is content and is happier still with the end result.

What do you do when faced with a pile of 3'' squares in blue and white with a snowy/Christmas theme to the piece?

02 November, 2010

Stand Back


These are the pumpkins we carved on the weekend. And the costumes. The inherent laziness of my efforts at costumes for the kids aside, I'm here today to talk about something important. So begins my rant against helicopter parenting and nearly as bad, helicopter crafting.

I want to start my clarifying I am not a helicopter parent. My kids run wild at the park, too wild for many, many parents who either feel free to admonish me with looks or not so gentle reminders that my tiny 2 year old is hanging from the monkey bars or standing 20 feet up at the playground. My kids are allowed to scream, run, and explore without me following behind. My kids are encouraged and even pushed to try new things, ask questions, and challenge (even when that creates a challenge for us). My kids are learning that if they want something they have to work for it, or if they ask that they answer is quite possibly no and that is okay. My kids do get punished when they break rules, and yes, there are a number of basic rules to follow. Most importantly, my kids are allowed to be kids.

We all have our parenting styles/philosophies. I have friends who are close to being helicopter parents and they are still very good parents. I have friends even more lax than us, or more strict. I'm not judging anyone.

But this weekend I had to stand back and judge myself. We were carving pumpkins and making the girls' costumes. The Monster decided that she was going as a traffic light and her sister would be the car she would make stop. (Oh, that is definite fodder for therapy later in life.) Up first was the pumpkins.


First, there was the insistence on 5 pumpkins and no less. They were cheap and really they are the only decorations I do for Halloween, so I let her get that one. Next we had to decide what kid of face each one would have. The first one was for a surprised face. No problem. I carved an O for a mouth, eyebrows, and rather bad eyes. After that I surveyed the girls for their direction on the second one.

(See what I'm doing there? Giving them choices on things I don't give a damn about but will matter to them. All part of my parenting philosophy so I can hold that against them when it comes to a choice I actually care about.)

So there I am carving a mean face on pumpkin number 2 when The Monster discovers the Sharpie. She quickly proceeds to draw all over the pumpkin. Hair, another set of eyebrows, freckles, words, and random shapes. My instinct was to snap and give her hell for wrecking the pumpkin. In only a few seconds though, I realized that I was about to lose it over a pumpkin. A pumpkin with a life span of a few days on my front steps.

Why shouldn't she colour it with a Sharpie? Why shouldn't it take on its own life in her hands? She isn't allowed to use the knife, so what else is there for her in pumpkin carving other than facial directions?

Another Sharpie later, a very serious discussion about what can and cannot be coloured with said Sharpie, and I let them go to town on the pumpkins. And we were all happier when I stood back.

By the time we came to costumes I was feeling strong. No problem, I can stand back and let them decorate things. Yeah, not so easy. I fought every instinct to step in and help them paint Smilosaurus' car. Doesn't it need windows? Or complete coverage in one colour? So many times my hands reached out to take a brush. In the end I resorted to sitting on them when not adding paint to the palette. Was I happy with the car? It certainly wasn't what I wanted or expected, but they were happy in the process of creating and the little one was ecstatic to wear it. That makes me happy.



One final challenge came with the traffic light costume. Just felt glued, then sewn, to a yellow t-shirt. Nothing fancy, until the addition of LED lights. And, according to the Monster, not quite finished until she added some completely random marks with a black pen. I'll admit, there was a very sharp name-calling and a lot of internal frustration. Then she said she loved it and thought it was perfect now. Who am I to argue with that?

As parents we need to stand back some time to let our kids be kids, let the mess or the tantrum happen, or let them dress themselves even when they look like a hot mess. As crafters and artists we need to stand back some times to let the piece be or speak. As teachers we need to stand back and let the students' voices ring through. And some times we need to stand back and shut the hell up.