Friday, July 28, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 07/28



My cat knitted knocker still needs a bit
more work to bring it to life. Must be why
Lola is more interested in playing with the
knitting needle.
Tips, Thoughts and Techniques

The most common question I get asked when someone first learns I am an artist, whose medium is quilting, is "How long does it take you to make a quilt?" I've answered that in a previous post. Today, I would like to focus on a typical comment when the topic of my quilting comes up, it is "I've always wanted to make a quilt, but I don't have the time/patience to make one." Does this imply, since I have made several 100 quilts, that I have more time or patience than the person making the comment? Maybe. It certainly has me question whether I have more patience than others. I know I don't have more time. We are all gifted with the same 24 hours a day. The difference is how we choose to use that time. I believe I make the time for two reasons. The first is because I need a creative outlet and have discovered quilting is a natural, essential fit for me. The second is attitude. I am a firm believer in the Tao maxim, "A Journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step." I find if I focus on the first step, and each step to follow as it arrives, I don't get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task before me. 


Picking Up the Pieces #4
The quilting is officially done.
My attitude of taking one step at time has resulted in several milestones being reached this week as you can see:


1) Work on Picking Up the Pieces #4 - Done!

The first milestone was finishing quilting Picking Up the Pieces #4. 

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 and #3 - Not yet, but...

Milestone number 2 is I finally started sewing the facing for Picking Up the Pieces #1.

3) Pot(s) made this week - Done!

Iris Fine Yarns, our local yarn shop in Appleton, Wisconsin, which has partnered with Knitted Knockers of the Fox Cities, is sponsoring a competition for art knockers. These knitted knockers will be put on display throughout the shop as a way to market the project. I'm intimidated by the very idea of making sculpture. I consider myself little more than a beginning knitter. However, I have made enough knitted knockers (pots) by now to have the pattern memorized and understand how the increases, decreases, and iCord come together to create a knocker. All those knockers made gave me the confidence to try my hand at an art knocker. Of course, the artist in me couldn't resist altering the pattern. By judiciously adding extra increase, decrease and iCord rows, I was able to create a neck, body and tail to form a cat knitted knocker. This is milestone number 3, my first self-altered knitting pattern and sculptural piece. 
Picking Up the Pieces #4 detail

4) Free motion quilting practice - Done!

I completed my own thousand mile journey. As of this morning I have biked 1,004 miles in the 2017 National Bike Challenge

Although, I will be taking a two week blog vacation, the journeys won't stop. There will be more quilting, knitting and biking in the weeks to come. Here are a few of the journeys I plan on continuing:


1) Work on Picking Up the Pieces #4

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 and #3

3) Pot(s) made this week

4) Free motion quilting practice


I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 07/21



Tips, Thoughts, and Techniques:

Picking Up the Pieces #4
AFTER I started quilting the border.
Here the border draws the eye in and
allows the pieced portion to appear to float.
It's true, on an organizational spectrum with 0 representing total chaos and 10 standing for nothing ever being out of place, I probably fall between 8 and 9. When my children were teenagers they would have told you I was a 10. Not true. There are always a few things, sometimes more than a few things, strewn across my desk or tools, thread, and fabric scattered through out my studio. The reason items have yet to be returned to their proper location may be because I need them for a current project. However, they are just as likely to be left out, because I haven't found a good place for something new, or more likely I got distracted/excited by something else and then never returned to pick up after myself. 

Why is organization good, but rigidity is to be avoided? In my opinion organization, like working in a series, allows one to notice the nuances, and delightful serendipity that occurs naturally and capitalize on them. It is the unpredictable surprises which keep me hooked on making art. Mickey Lawler, in her interview with Clara Nartey said it so well. Mickey shared, "On my very best days of painting, I only have about 80% control over what happens.  And that’s really a lot. But it’s the 20% I live for."

Picking Up the Pieces #4
BEFORE I started quilting the border.
Here the border pulls the eye out.
My work in the studio, quilting the border for Picking Up the Pieces #4, felt very methodical, most of the time. However, since I control the quilting as I manually maneuver the quilt under the needle, achieving round circles with my pebbles or exact echoes, well they are close, but not nearly as close as using a machine which is preprogrammed. Until I had completed most of three borders, I hadn't realized, just how big an impact the thread and design I chose would radically change the appearance of the piece. Love that 20%!

This week was a continuation of the past few weeks - one primary focus as follows:

1) Work on Picking Up the Pieces #4 - Done!

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 and #3 - Not yet

3) Pot(s) made this week - Done!

Detail from Picking Up the Pieces #4
Each pebble is approximately 3/16"
I really, really struggle making round pebbles as a filler motif when free motion quilting. This week I must have quilted 100's if not 1,000s of pebbles. There were some which looked perfectly round. Most don't. I am getting more comfortable in switching from clockwise to counter-clockwise and back, as needed. That's progress.

4) Free motion quilting practice - Done!

I plan to do more free motion quilting next week. I also want to finish up the hand sewing required complete quilts 99% done in my Picking Up the Pieces series. I'm eager to move on to the next idea currently in percolating mode. That will have to wait at least one more week, if I stay true to the following plan:

1) Work on Picking Up the Pieces #4

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 and #3

3) Pot(s) made this week

4) Free motion quilting practice

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 07/14


Picking Up the Pieces #4
Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

The more chaotic, demanding, and overfull my life feels, the more I crave, but eschew studio time. Then something snaps or perhaps clicks and I settle into my studio. Why, oh why, did I deprive myself of this experience when I need it the most? Not yesterday. Lola, my studio companion and I spent a delightful three hours enjoying monitoring the wildlife (mostly her) and finishing up the free motion quilting in the green sections of Picking up the Pieces 4 (me while she supervised). 

Here we are, me behind the camera and Lola stealing the limelight:



Hopefully, you will be able to watch this 15 second video. It shows off the free motion quilting texture better than any photograph. 

Here is what we, I mean I, turned my attention to this week:

1) Work on Picking Up the Pieces #4 - Done!

Everything but the border has been free motion quilted. Boy were there a lot of threads to bury. Thank goodness for self threading needles. :)

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 and #3 - Not yet!

3) Pot(s) made this week - Done!


Detail from Picking Up the Pieces #4
If burying thread tails count.I must have buried close to 100 thread tails this week. Perhaps the next great add on to a sewing machine will be automatic thread tail burying. 

4) Free motion quilting practice - Done!

When I first started quilting and had school aged children, my personal mantra was "quilting first, the rest will follow". I've been reflecting back on that mantra more and more. I plan to put it back in practice next week. When I do, here is what I will focus on.

1) Work on Picking Up the Pieces #4

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 and #3

3) Pot(s) made this week

4) Free motion quilting practice

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 07/07



Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

Picking Up the Pieces #4
When I was in mid 20's, married, a working mother, and completing my degree at nights, I motivated myself through the grueling, no time for myself period with thoughts of the life I would be living now, 40 years later.  What I imagined was lots, and lots, and lots of free time to use as I chose. In some ways that is precisely what I have. The rub comes with how I choose to use that time. Somehow in my imaginings what I did would feel less jammed packed and more relaxing than how things felt in my 20s. The reality is life is short and there are so many wonderful ways to spend it. Seems I can never resist getting involved in just one more thing. This year it is Knitted Knockers

I'm pleased to say Knitted Knockers of the Fox Cities has officially launched. I have been working with several other women to get a branch of Knitted Knockers going in our area. This has required setting up a Facebook/web page, working with the Volunteer Center of E. Central Wisconsin and their group of knitters for charity, and partnering with Iris Fine Yarns to be an official drop off point for knockers, donations and carrier of the approved yarns. Last Friday, I delivered 26 pairs of knockers to the Fox Valley Hematology and Oncology Center. Manuela Lornson brought the marketing material. We were filmed by NBCTV 26 for one of their community caring features. The program aired during three different news slots. You can see the three minute feature here. In less than 24 hours from the original airing we have received several requests for knockers which have already been filled.

This week I focused on the yellow squares,
filling them with a motif I am calling Rain Clouds.
One thing that hasn't changed over the past 40 years is my ability to find ways to get my art fix no matter how busy I am. In my 20's I subscribed to several magazines. I would look longly at the various projects thinking about the time when I could actually try one. American Quilter and Quilter's Newsletter were two I subscribed to once a became a stay at home mother. Oh the joy of finding one of those in my mailbox! Now I get my art fix from www.artdaily.com. It is a great way to start my morning. 

I still manage to head to the studio for a few hours work several days a week. Here is what I accomplished this week:

1) Work on Picking Up the Pieces #4 - Done!

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 and #3 - Not yet.

3) Pot(s) made this week - Done!

I use a refillable pencil to mark
some of the trickier quilting motifs. 
I just finished a size F knocker in breast cancer pink. I've lost track of how many knockers I have made, but I'm sure I'm in the double digits by this time. What I am noticing is I no longer need to check the pattern, and the joins between the double pointed needles are getting tighter. I love how doing something repetitively, it becomes second nature and the overall quality improves.

4) Free motion quilting practice - Done!

I had fun trying out a new free motion quilting motif on Picking Up the Pieces #4. It is in the yellow squares. It reminds of rain clouds in the distance.

When I am not checking out ArtDaily or attending meetings next week, I will turn my attention to:

1) Work on Picking Up the Pieces #4

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 and #3

3) Pot(s) made this week

4) Free motion quilting practice

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 06/30




Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

Remember The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey? Can you develop habits to a point where you would be considered a "highly effective person"? I won't try to answer that here. However, I do believe that good habits pay dividends. An obvious example is good dental hygiene improves your chances of maintaining your own teeth. 

Look who I spied when I looked up
from my free motion quilting. I
mentioned last week how much I
enjoy watching our local turtles
lay their eggs. This one is right below
our bird feeder outside my
studio window.
The hardest part for me, especially one I am trying to introduce into my life is not skipping it when life insists on intervening. Instead I figure out a way to adjust, adapt, do whatever it takes to keep my commitment to myself. Why? Because I find the excuses to skip just this once may be rational, even reasonable in the beginning, but soon become just that - excuses. Take bike season. If I skip riding because there is heavy rain when I would normally head out and bike, then soon, my excuses will get lamer and lamer. Instead, I will check the weather to see if the weather will clear later in the day, or I might walk on my treadmill, or even dress in rain gear and go out and walk.  There is always a work around, it is just a matter of being creative. 

The advantage of pushing through adversity to a solution, is this also becomes a habit. There are two benefits. You become a great problem solver, for one. What I was reminded of today, is when you don't have to muscle through adversity you learn to really appreciate the glory days. This morning's bike ride was pure joy. The sunrise over Lake Winnebago was so spectacular, we did the loop mid ride and during our return. I found this short video taken during the winter of a more subtle sunrise taken at Kimberly Point Light House, part of our Lake Winnebago sunrise route. Everything came together this morning, the sunrise, the weather, and my body. We powered through the workout setting this season's personal best pace.

Also, just outside my studio are these
stunning purple flowers. Most years the
rabbits eat them before they can bloom.
This year we got smart and surrounded
them with chicken wire. The rabbits had
to look elsewhere.
No surprise, studio work is a habit worth sticking with. It is easy to rationalize not heading into the studio. Most of the work is mundane, can be grueling, and often requires problem solving. So, why bother? Because those days when everything comes together you soar. The other days? Well, most of them are pleasant and relaxing.

Nothing earth shattering has been happening in the studio, but I have enjoyed sticking with my current project. Here is what I accomplished this week:

1) Work on Picking Up the Pieces #4 - Done!

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 and #3 - Not yet.

3) Pot(s) made this week - Done!

I have been doing some very detailed, free motion quilting work. It has required repeating the same motif over and over and over again. The image of the crescent moon and star came to me while riding my bike. We often begin our ride in the dark. Last week the moon was just a sliver, there were no stars, but Jupiter was visible, looking very much like a large star.

4) Free motion quilting practice - Done!

Click on the image to see it enlarged.
The crescent moons should be obvious.
One thing about habits, it means I know what I will be doing next week:

1) Work on Picking Up the Pieces #4

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 and #3

3) Pot(s) made this week

4) Free motion quilting practice

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 06/23

Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

LeeAnna Paylor, whose blog is Not Afraid of Color, suggested I try my hand at writing an "I Like" post. After the initial knee jerk reaction (more work; no way) I have decided to give it a go this week. Why the change of heart? It's simple really, I begin each morning by sitting at my desk and writing two pages in my gratitude journal. Much of what I am grateful for are things that I like. So, it isn't a big stretch to share some of the things I like wit you. 


Picking Up the Pieces #4,
my current in work in progress.
1) I like routine. The very fact that I start my day by writing in my gratitude journal means I don't have to wonder how to start my day.

2) I've been keeping a gratitude journal without missing a single day for approximately 20 years. I like to write with a Uniball Vision Elite Micro pen in a spiral lined notebook, preferably college ruled. The pen is vital. I like the way it glides over the paper. I'm left handed and writing with ink, especially using a ball point pen, results in blobs on the paper and ink smears on my hand. The ruled paper helps me with alignment.

3) I like getting my exercise in next. What I do varies with the weather and the day of the week. What rarely varies is getting my exercise in before the "work" of the day begins. This also means I only have to change from pajamas, to exercise clothes, to daily clothes, and back to pajamas most days. I also don't have to stop what I am doing, breaking the flow of concentration to get out and exercise. 

4) I like fruit in my cereal and since discovering almond coconut milk, that is my preferred cereal milk. Yum.  I am lactose sensitive and avoiding cow's milk makes me feel much better. I like feeling comfortable after eating. 

5) I like having a designated, always set up, studio space to create fiber art in. When I began quilting 30 years ago I used our dining room. Eventually, I took over a spare bedroom. It was cramped, but functional. Our move, seven years ago, gave me an actual studio, with room to spare. It's heaven. Although, I may procrastinate walking into the studio, I find when I do, it is easy to get work. I am like one of Pavlov's dogs. I may not salivate when I enter my studio, but I naturally start working with very little thought.

Here is what I have been working on this week: 

A detail from Picking Up the Pieces #4. Right
click on the image for a better view of the
feathers I quilted in the pink sections.
1) Work on Picking Up the Pieces #4 - Done!

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 and #3 - Not yet.

3) Pot(s) made this week - Done!

I have been practicing filling space with feathers while doing the free motion quilting on Picking Up the Pieces #4. I had lots of practice this week. The more I did the better I got at the logic of where to start, where to go next, and how to fill the odd spaces, while making it look like what is there was my intention all along.

4) Free motion quilting practice - Done!

Next week will be more of the same. Perhaps that should be less of the same. I have various commitments which will reduce, but not eliminate my studio time. I look forward to spending what time I do have on the following:

1) Work on Picking Up the Pieces #4

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 and #3

3) Pot(s) made this week

4) Free motion quilting practice


I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 06/16



Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

We often see herons
fly over the lake, or
catch glimpses of them
between the cattails,
since they tend to nest
or fish right at the shore's
edge. This week we were
treated to one far enough
from shore, perching on
branch so we could
observe it from our condo.
I'm thinking this has
potential to be the incentive
for Reflection #3.
The National Bike Challenge has begun in earnest for me. I've lost track of how many years my husband and I have been participants. I believe this may be our fifth year. Personally, I find it a great motivator to get out and ride. The challenge began as health challenge for employees of the Kimberly Clark Corporation. If you live in Appleton, WI, as I do, home to Kimberly Clark, it is known as KC and it is one of the largest employers in town. What makes this competition stellar for me, is that it is designed to encourage regularly riding versus weekend warriors. It does this by giving you 20 points for every day you ride and an additional point per mile. Therefore, if you ride as little as 1 mile a day, you automatically get 147 points for the week. If you rode one 50 mile bike ride on Saturday, it is just 70 points. I'm a natural "regular" rider and endurance versus sprinting is my strength. It is as though the National Bike Challenge was designed with me in mind. :)

We have two primary routes we ride depending on the day. When you ride the same route every day it is like making pots. The more times you ride it, the better you get at avoiding that pot hole which is tricky to see, divining the perfect spot to cross the railroad tracks, and even how to ride beside the tractor trailer trucks entering and leaving Great Northern. Once the basics become second nature it leaves the mind open to free association and/or problem solving. When scenery is no longer novel, you begin to notice the slight variations. For example the warmer than normal day when we spotted multiple turtles laying eggs. And oh, the sunrises! They range from subtle to spectacular. 

Picking Up the Pieces #4 went from
most of the blocks were nearly finished,
to settling on a design, seaming the blocks,
preparing the quilt sandwich, and finally
beginning the quilting.
What does participating in the National Bike Challenge have to do with making fiber art? Repetition. The more fiber art you make, the more you note what was difficult when you were first starting out has become second nature now. This leaves room to enjoy the nuances. Enjoy them I did, this week as I have been working on a piece which is technically easy for me, but only because I have 30 years of making quilts and art quilts behind me. 

Here is how the week went:

1) Work on Picking Up the Pieces #4 - Done!

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 and #3 - Not Yet.

3) Pot(s) made this week - Done!

We biked every single day this week. In fact, we have biked 19 days in a row. 

4) Free motion quilting practice - Done!

When I'm not pedaling down the road, this is my plan on how best to use my studio time next week:

My quilting goal for Picking Up the Pieces #4
is to bring in a lot of texture while not distracting
from the Mondrian-esque piecing.
1) Work on Picking Up the Pieces #4

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 and #3

3) Pot(s) made this week

4) Free motion quilting practice



I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 06/09


Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

Multitasking is a myth. What you are really doing is alternating tasks rapidly or as Dave Crenshaw has defined it, you are Switch Tasking. If you think you are the maven of multitasking, I highly encourage you to go to the this link Crenshaw's exercise and take the test. When I did this years ago it changed how I managed my time. 


One of my tasks is co-managing
Knitted Knockers of the Fox Cities.
These are knitted and crocheted breast
prosthetics. They are more comfortable to
wear than the standard plastic prosthetic.
We will be delivering our first set of 

twenty-five pairs of knockers to the 
Fox Valley Hematology and Oncology 
Center shortly. There are a group
of us to knit knockers. Mine recent
pair is the beige set lower left. 

I am often asked how I find the time to do all that I do. Like most people I find there is never enough time to do all I wish to do. Still, I find by compartmentalizing my time I get more done than if I bounce back and forth. I still struggle with ignoring checking my email, but for the most part, I read and respond to email three designated times a day. I assign Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday as my studio days. I will not schedule appointments or visit with others during these days unless there are no other options. On Wednesday I take care of the business of being a professional fiber artist. Fridays are set aside to write my blog, do the laundry and pay the bills. Saturday my husband and I look forward to running household errands together and treating ourselves to lunch out. 

What I have learned doesn't work for getting into the studio is clearing away business, emails, household chores and other tasks first, then hoping there is time to work in the studio. If I do all that I believe must get done before I give myself permission to head to the studio, I am guaranteed never to see my studio again. 

Yes, I did manage to spend time in my studio on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday this week. Not as much time as I might have liked due to inbox overflow for my volunteer work, but enough time to make progress on the following:

1) Work on Picking Up the Pieces #4 - Done!

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 and #3 - Not yet.

3) Pot(s) made this week - Done!
Four of the sixteen blocks needed for
Picking Up the Pieces #4 in a
pleasing arrangement.

I've been paper piecing the same block over and over again. Last week I said I would make six blocks in total. What can I say? I laid out the first five blocks and decided the piece would look better with sixteen blocks. Although each block looks the same, I can attest to the fact that I am learning, or relearning the nuances of paper piecing which work best for me.

4) Free motion quilting practice - Didn't get to it.

I am combing FaceBook, Leah Day's Newsletter and Pinterest for free motion quilting motif ideas for when it comes time to quilt Picking Up the Pieces #4

It hasn't taken me long to get back into the flow of my compartmentalized life since I returned from my travels. It feels as if I never left, which for me is a good thing. It means I have a natural rhythm going, allowing me studio time to attend to the following next week:

1) Work on Picking Up the Pieces #4

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 and #3

3) Pot(s) made this week

4) Free motion quilting practice


I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.