29 December 2013

A Book To Consider "World Enough an Time On Creativity and Slowing Down" by Christian McEwen

My book reviews are generally posted on my book blog, Books By The Willow Tree, but I really thought that this particular book deserved to be mentioned here.

My dear friend, Janet, gifted me with this book for the holiday. She could not have chosen a more perfect gift! I began to read it as soon as I opened it and, having the luxury of time alone this Christmas, I spent the best part of the day reading it. It's been an inspiration for me, and I think that many of you might also benefit from reading it. 

Most of the creative people that I know experience times when the muse flees the mental coop, leaving us  brooding  about "what now"?  We wonder if this will be a short hiatus from our internal creative dialog or if, a paralyzing thought, the muse has left us on a more permanent basis? Who are we if not one with our muse? I have personally found that more I give in to these thoughts, the more ludicrous and self-perpetuating these ill-boding fantasies become. I have learned to accept, as benevolently as possible, these fallow times as a gift. A pause, if you will, in my internal need for accomplishment. 

This is an important book! Important for all human beings - not just those of us who aspire to create.

This is a book in which author, poet, teacher, Christian McEwen applauds the pauses, the fallow times, the quiet, and the stillness. The book hails the mindfulness of those who take note of the world around them, who can open their eyes and absorb the sounds that exist even in 'silence'. It gives a nod to slowness and reflection, it provides a relief filled bow to an appreciation for the stillness that can lead us to lead a more healthy, fulfilled life. Indeed, it is these slow times that can leave us more inspired rather than less so. For expressives it goes a long way to clarify why these untilled periods that we all experience in our creative lives, when the muse seems to have taken flight, are actually opportunities to dwell within and reflect, to recharge and to slow down and appreciate what 'is'. 

I had been feeling that I was not producing enough art work and that I should be working faster and more efficiently. In short, I felt that I was floundering just a bit. In the back of my mind I also acknowledged that I seem to be uniquely suited to retirement. I treasure my first morning hours now when I sit and read, taking the time to 'really' read, to makes notes, to study the history books that I enjoy so much. Also, I have a lot of interests and my days are almost never dull. I just kept feeling that I needed to go faster, even though I really did not want to! 

In retrospect I think that those weeks of slight worry were symptomatic of my "monkey mind" at work and also, possibly, a part of the whole internal process of retiring. I do believe that there are stages that one goes through when you leave your work of many years and bid adieu to your 'work family'. It's a loss in a way, and because of that perhaps a bit of mourning comes into play. I was giddy for the first couple of months, giggling to myself over the wee bit of luscious lazy that I continue to luxuriate in each morning as I read away an hour or two. Occasionally, truth be told, I do experience a sporadic bit of fear over the future of my finances, and for me, the occasional, yet insistent thought that I must put forth some additional effort into being more social. Yes, I have to admit that human contact is a necessary thing. Hitherto, my 'work family' filled that social need for me, but now I will have search for that connection a bit further afield. As a true introvert this is not really much an issue for me most of the time.

"World Enough & Time" has become a powerful ally for me. It gives credence to my inner beliefs that 'slow' = 'good', rather than slothfulness. I am savoring my slowness to it's fullest at this point in time. I am at peace with my life as it is and my 'word' for 2014 is going to be 'savor', or if I were to choose a New Year's phrase it might be "savor life in the slow lane".

" World Enough and Time" is available on Amazon, as a book or e-book and, as always, your Indie bookstore would, I am sure, be most happy to provide you with a copy!

28 December 2013

Vintage Gems

A Quick Note:
Due to a huge increase in spam comments (like 50 a day) I had to make a bit of a change. I am not a fan of 'captcha', although I  understand why it must be used.

Before I have to go  the 'captcha' route I am going to try something else first. I will not accept comments from anyone who chooses to be 'anonymous '. Thus far, this has completely eliminated the raft of spam comments, but I hope that it will not deter any of you from leaving a note. 

Comments about this are welcomed!

This post is really about some wonderful little vintage gems that recently came my way.....
36 lovely six inch vintage quilt blocks
I have a continuing love affinity for vintage fabrics and quilt blocks, although in recent years I have not purchased any new ones for my small collection. When I saw this little group of thirty-six six inch squares on Ebay about a month ago though, I simply had to make a bid.... and, as luck would it,  they came to my house.

These blocks are all hand sewn, and I believe that the fabrics, which are in excellent shape, are from the late 30's and early 40's. What I had not anticipated was quite how yellowed with age they were - even though the colors were still vibrant the whites were really yellow, and the hand was almost 'crisp' with age.  I washed them, and although I am sure they were cleaner they were no less yellow and they would have been unusable in that condition. 

I decided to order some "Restoration" fabric soak from Engleside Products.  I have known about this product for many years, but had never found the need to buy it. In my utter haste to try it I neglected to take any "before" photos. Duh! How foolish of me! This stuff is an absolute miracle, and I will be using it for the vintage pillowcases that I use daily as well as for any other vintage cottons that I use. It's astounding what it did for these blocks. They went from very yellow to pristine white in 8 hours with a hand that is now as soft as it once was.
As always with reds - some the color crocked into the white. 
I love collecting vintage fabrics because they are like a library to me. Maybe that's one reason that I tend to love scrap quilts too. They become fabric libraries of the future. I have always been a feed sack fan. I love the cheerful simplicity of the fabrics, and I love the idea that these handy bags were used to bring home products that were always in use. I wish we could still go this route, but I suspect that lawyers and insurance companies would now have a field day with the potential for harm. How did we all mange to survive before the advent of plastics?!
The next three images are of the same block. I was, at first, a bit puzzled at the blue color that I saw in the white square - until I turned the block over and noticed that the maker had changed from white thread to a very dark blue thread! My! How thread manufacturing has improved over the years!
Close up of the white and dark blue thread that caused the color run on the top
This dark fabric, and it is only one block worth of it, is probably my favorite of the bunch although I also think that it is one of the more modern fabrics in the blocks. There was no color running, and it looks so crisp and lovely!

Isn't this a cheerful print?! I have two of these little gems
This block is such a perfect example of the era.
Cheerful, colorful, simple! It IS a bit whiter than image 
Vintage stripes anyone?!
This is another of my favorite blocks.
Again, I think that it is one of the more modern fabrics in the lot, but it makes me happy.
I wish I had more of this fabric. It's cheerful, colorful and redolent of the times!
I have no immediate plans for using these thirty-six blocks. They have been washed, and trimmed and they will be safely stored until I have a bigger vision for them. I think that they might work well with some of my hoard of vintage Dresden Plates perhaps. Now, we'll see if I can continue to stay away from EBay! Now that I have discovered the wonders of Engleside Restoration soak I may well be tempted by some things that in the past I might have overlooked!
Small, pretty stitches all in a row
that have survived all of these years.

20 December 2013

Cloth Paper Scissors Submission Printed

I am trying to become better at "tooting my own horn". It does not come easily to me. 

My FaceBook friends have seen this already, but I wanted to share this news here too.  This is a teeny tiny accomplishment in the general scheme of things in life, but it does encourage me to keep 'putting my work 'out there' (wherever 'there' really is). 

Some time ago I took heart in hand and entered a six inch Mixed Media Square to Cloth Paper Scissors for consideration. They had me send the piece in to them for further consideration, but that was the last I had heard. Until today when I got the Current issue in the mail! Right there on page 73! I am continually astounded at the creativity level of people in these challenges, and I am honored to have been chosen as well.

In the past, I have been blessed to have quilts included at Houston Quilt Festival Special Exhibits, and I was thrilled to be published in the Journal Quilt Project Book, but this is the first mixed media piece that I have 'adventured' into submitting anywhere. Just when I am considering not doing much mixed media any more!

I needed a wee lift today, and I sure got it. Thank you Cloth Paper Scissors!

15 December 2013

Threads and Fibers

I keep noticing that many people are posting self portraits, either to FaceBook, Twitter or on their blogs. I truly dislike looking at photos of myself, and yet I also see the benefit of having some idea of what a person likes like - especially if you are  kind enough to be following their blog or posts. So I took heart in hand and took a 'selfie' yesterday, without realizing that 1) I had not combed my hair and 2) I had no make up on. So this is a real WYSIWYG. It gives you an idea complete with wrinkles, or as friends on Facebook put it, laugh lines!

My days have been spent with some quilting, and that feels mighty fine! The quilt above is coming along well, although I don't do too much on it in any day. I am trying to go slowly. You may remember this from September when I started making the blacks from 5" sample square of batiks that I had collected over the years and could not bear to part with during my fabric purge. Each block uses two squares; one for the cross and one for the body. I really did have a lot of these squares! I like the 1/4" border a lot, but it definitely shows each and every wrong stitch and mismatched seam! Because the border is so small I still have to be careful to line up the crosses just right, or the quilt would  look even extra, wonky. I had started it on one machine that I needed to calibrate a true 1/4" seam with and then switched to a different machine that has a programmed perfect 1/4 inch seam setting. The first section of the quilt is most imperfect, but I simply cannot bear to rip it all out!  I am hoping that by the time it is all together, with most of it being quite right, and it is quilted the mistakes will not prove to be as obvious. It is, after all, just a smaller, "feel good" quilt, but I really like it a lot!
The quilts that I like to sleep under are very different than the art quilts that I make. I tend to like to sleep under traditional quilts made with reproduction fabrics. I find them to be very calming and comfortable.

These 25 patch blocks were to be the beginning of a very traditional quilt called Amelies's Story, Many Blessings by Darlene Zimmerman. I had posted about this quilt last April when I was working on it at quilt camp on Vashon Island. I ended up finding that I really was tired of making 25 patch blocks. They had to line up, be cut and pieced perfectly etc etc. I tend to like a bit more freedom. The Pixi of Imperfetion bit me !
Lest you think that there is no Pixie of Imperfection here she is all of her glory!
 I made her as testament to the benefits on imperfection!

Back to my dilemma of 25 patch malaise!  DH mentioned that a friend of his was retiring in March and, shall I say, strongly, hinted that he would like to give him a quilt in honor of the occasion. That's easy for him to want of course, another matter for me to make! I suggested a nice sized sofa quilt. In reply I received a vigorous head shake (indicating an equally vigorous negative) in response. A bed quilt was what he was asking me to do. Just ask me if I felt enthusiastic over it! I wanted to begin an ART quilt series that I had recently been inspired to begin - not a bed sized quilt. 
Of course, I was raised to do "guilt" quite well. It's been one of the banes of my existence for as long as I can remember. As I pondered how I would convince DH that a sofa quilt really could be used on a bed, I started to think about those blasted 25 patch blocks. The question was what could I do to use what I had already made and make something that would look good too.

 I considered a truly wonky block, but somehow that just was not the right path to take with these oh! so traditional blacks. There was, however, another way to proceed and that's what I am doing. The blocks will be set on point. I'll be adding sashing and cornerstones. Quilting will add a lot of dimension to the open spaces that setting blocks will leave in their wake, and I think that I have enough 25 patch blocks already done to make it work out quite painlessly. At worst I may have to make another 5 blocks or so. Not bad. I'll be making DH happy, saving a lot of work on blocks that would never have been used otherwise. I should be able to start working on my art quilts soon then too!
Auditioning possible backgrounds
Of course, there is always something on my needles too. Since I discovered knitting I have never turned back.  This is a 'challenge' shawl, made using only Sunshine brand yarn, it needs to be done by the 25th. I had the yarn for the body of the shawl (First Light) on hand, but I did have to beg and buy some more of the charcoal color which will be lace a deep lace edge that i am finally beginning now. I'll actually make the deadline for it too. 
This pattern is called Xenia by Vanessa Smith and it offers a unique - at least to me - way of making a stripe. The stripe turns it to be more textural than separate stripe. You add a stitch to each knit stitch on one row and then knit two together through the back on the next row - it results is a great slant-wise stripe that looks as good on the back as it does on the front.

This week I am wrapping and mailing off gifts. What's on your holiday to do list?
Be well and spread joy!

05 December 2013

Sifting, Sewing and Knitting

I have been spending this pre holiday season sewing and knitting. It has been delightful! I feel as though another circle is turning. My love of things sewing and quilts seems to have returned to me in spades, and it feels darn good! I'm never quite sure why my attentions turns one way, or another, but I do know that I seem to follow in circles. Pendulums always swing, I just never know when they will
This is a FO (finished object). I had been [lanning to make this for about a year, and I am thrilled that it is done, looks divine and that I learned something from the pattern. The pattern is called Autumn Blush and it is designed by Joji Locatelli. AS I think I mentioned in an earlier post the yarn is from Sundara and is 50%silk and 50% merino. Lush and soft!

I have been sewing a lot. These are a few of the pouches that I've made for gifts. Simple, easy and, I think, they look good too. I had so much fun making such a simple thing! Plus, I did not have to buy anything! I've made a lot of other things too and will post some images before they are shipped off. 
 I've been working on the quilt that I began in September, and have made a couple of small felted bags too. Two lager quilt projects are in the mental works and I feel all set to sew, and then sew more. Hooray for cycles!

My friend, Karen Musgrave, recently wrote a post about the 'weeding' that she has been doing. Of course, it got me to thinking. I did such a vast amount of sifting, sorting and divesting this summer that I had not given it too much thought, but I too have been doing another sort of 'divesting' (or as Karen calls it 'weeding'). I find that my time is too precious to waste and so I have had really had to think long and hard about where I want to expend my energy. My answer to self is:  sewing, reading and knitting. Mixed media is a part of me and is something that I will never give up thoroughly, but it will take a back seat to sewing and knitting. With huge binders filled to over-flowing with ATC's and Post Cards I do not plan to do many exchanges any more. They were taking up a lot of time. I still plan to do a few small art exchanges, but not to the extent that I was. 
For the upcoming year I hope to spend more time doing things that I enjoy with friends. Now that I am not working I really do find that I need at least SOME contact with people. I always feel much better after an afternoon spent with gal pals.

Another place that I will be not be spending as much time as I had been is on the computer. I simply cannot believe how much time I end up being online. You know how one things always leads to another - and another from there. Hours can literally fly by without one realizing that the time has slipped by. I can never say "no!", but I am going to try to limit the amount of time I spend on my "magic boxes". I truly do believe in the "everything in moderation" philosophy, and that's the balance that I hope to find in the coming comes.

What about you? Have you done any of your sifting, sorting or weeding this year? Do you find that your interests run in cycles? Do you have plans to divest anything in the coming year? How to manage to "do it all" and still have enough time? Tell me ! I need all of the hints I can get!