Thursday, December 29, 2016

My new normal

Where do I start? That's always the problem, isn't it? If I knew where to begin I'd have begun long ago. It's true of so many of the things we want to do. Big deals rarely have obvious starting points. Sometimes there are so many "but firsts" to get in line before actually beginning that finding the beginning is almost impossible.

On the day in early December that I had planned to be attending the annual Bernina Ambassador Reunion I instead found myself being admitted to the hospital. The Reunion is seriously fun. It's two days of learning all sorts of new techniques and features of the newest Bernina sewing machines. It's also two days of networking with other professionals in the quilting industry. It's hard to measure which aspect is more pleasing.

I had been working like a fiend to finish the quilting on Christmas Yet to Come for the Reunion's show and tell. If you don't mind my saying so, it's a spectacular quilt and who doesn't love drawing gasps of delight from an audience? And this audience contains some of the brightest stars of the industry (how I got in I'll never know, but I'm forever grateful for it), we all want to show ourselves at our best.

Meanwhile I've had this thing going on in my chest. You may remember that I had a heart attack last March, the 7th to be exact. (The symptoms started right after the final episode of Downton Abbey aired, feel free to draw your own conclusions.) They put in a stent to open a blocked artery, congratulated me on getting to the hospital so early that no damage was done to the heart muscle and sent me off to have a nice life. Which I happily did, until September.

It started with an occasional, weird thumping heart beat, something I've never experienced before. Nothing dramatic, really, just a "hmm, that's different" sort of thing. With a shrug of my shoulders I remembered that I had a regular check up with the cardiologist coming in a few weeks and it's probably nothing anyway.
The thumping continued, becoming more frequent, and soon came to include some mild versions of the symptoms I felt at the time of the heart attack. So, onto the treadmill for a stress test. Yeah, there's something wrong, but nothing remarkable. New meds. Reaction to new meds. Other new meds.

The morning of the Reunion I awoke with jaw pain. I as I lay in bed I came to terms with missing the Reunion, the two hundred dollar non-refundable hotel room, had a small pity party complete with ugly crying, and then called the cardiologist. By the end of the day I was in the hospital and scheduled for another catheterization. A blood test showed that I wasn't actually having another heart attack, but the cath was the next right step to figure out what was going on with me. The head cardiac care nurse came in to explain the procedure and, in a very round about way, that my tests didn't show any serious problems and this was all probably in my head. I told her I've been in my head and it's not there. I've done anxiety, and this isn't it.

This is what's called burying the lead. I've finally, all these paragraphs later come to the point of the story. There was something wrong with my heart, something very wrong indeed. The stent had closed with scar tissue. I once again had a complete blockage of my right coronary artery, exactly what lead to the heart attack in March.

If you'll forgive my language, this was a serious WTF moment for the doc. My own cardiologist wasn't available to do the cath, so one of his partners did it. They were so surprised by the finding that they called my doc to the operating room, saying that he had to see this!

By all rights, I should have had another heart attack, but it seems that during all those weeks of weird thumping and all, my heart had been busy creating its very own bypass system, growing tiny new arteries in place to compensate for the big one closing. I am absurdly proud of my creative, industrious little heart.

I must give props to my doc, and also to the head cardiac nurse. My own doc took my discomfort very seriously and scheduled the tests. The nurse came in the following day and congratulated me on knowing my own body, acting as my own advocate and insisting on care. I guess this is a pretty rare situation, so, once again I get to serve as a warning to others.

So, to my new normal. I've been adjusting to even more new meds, these are targeted to help the new arteries finish their growth and completely replace the artery lost to the blockage. I'm still living with the thumping, and side symptoms, and while they've only abated a little, they're not so scary. The worst had happened, the artery is closed, and I lived anyway. I have to decide if I can live with this as my new normal or face other, more specialized procedures, possibly, ultimately, bypass surgery. It's been a lot to process. Adapting to new medications is always a challenge for me. A part of my brain seems to be focused on those new arteries, encouraging them in their work, leaving me distracted and turned inwards.

For all of its challenges, 2016 will go down as the year I lived anyway, twice. It seems clear to me that there is something yet that I'm meant to do, and I'm hoping and praying that I don't figure it out anytime soon. For the past couple of years life has been something that's happened to me, I've been pretty content with rolling with the punches and waiting to see how it all works out. Lately, though, I've been thinking it might be time to pick a direction and get going. I mean, seriously, if you don't know where you're going, how can you tell if you're making good time?

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Craftsy Challenge

Who doesn't like a challenge from time to time? A few weeks ago, Craftsy (my favorite place to find online classes on all things crafty) sent out a challenge. They had a handful of these t-shirts in size ginormous left over from an event. What to do with them? They challenged us, a group of Craftsy teachers to find a creative use for them. They sent me two, but I greedily set one aside for a sleep shirt, and set out to turn the other into something interesting.

I spent a long time thinking about how to use the fabric, but what I kept coming back to was how stretchy it was. I also wondered how creative it would be to use fabric as fabric, not so impressive, eh? The more I looked at it the more it looked like yarn to me.

So I cut it into noodles. Oodles of noodles. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) I let that stew for a while. (See what I did there?) I was extra careful to cut the fabric in a spiral so I'd end up with one long strand.
Then I stretched the strand into worms. In the process all of the seams let loose. So much for one long strand! What surprised me was how stretchy the worms remained. I had thought that the worms would become stable lengths, but no, they still stretched like crazy.
My first thought was to knit them. I cut the strands as narrow as I dared thinking I might turn them into fingerless mitts. It quickly became clear that I wouldn't have enough to knit up much, especially while hanging on to the second shirt. (If I had come up with an idea that was super cool and needed the other shirt, you bet I would have cut it up.) The strands were also knitting up very densely and still super stretchy. Hmm.
Perhaps I could weave the strands. This was interesting too, but also very stretchy. I kept thinking that it would be silly to make something that didn't take advantage of the stretch. And then I remembered that I know how to crochet.
It's a market bag! The strands had to be knotted together so I decided all the ends would be a design element. I used the collar for the strap. It doesn't look like much lying there.
But does it ever expand! This is a fraction of what it will hold. Honestly, I don't think I have the strength to carry it filled. I like how it sort of cradles the contents which will make it easier to manage bulky items. I think it will be terrific when farmers' markets come back around. It will hold produce nicely, and it's machine washable! So, tell me, what would you do with t-shirt?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

First Love

One of my earliest memories is learning to embroider. That little hoop immediately felt at home in my hand. French knots, stem stitch and lazy daisies seemed like little acts of magic. I might have been the only kindergartner with a thread stash. (That's my name tag for the embroidery guild above.)

Since then I've spent a life time exploring other fiber techniques, anything involving a needle and thread. But embroidery has always called to me.
It's been rather a joy to have time to revisit my first love. Designing and stitching this little pillow had me giggling for days. (Easily amused, but then never lacking for entertainment.) For so many years I've been all about machine work (not that there's anything wrong with that!) Hand embroidery seem like a distraction.

The local embroidery guild has been a wonderful discovery. We're working on a crazy quilt as our fundraiser for next year.

My style tends to be more clean, less fussy than the exuberant excess of traditional crazy quilt design, so it's been a challenge for me to up my game. This block is my first, made as part of a workshop for the quilt guild back in March. I can see now, looking at it here, that it's not quite as done as I thought. That "B" looks awfully lonely over there, perhaps I could add some beads in the background.

This is my block for the embroidery guild raffle quilt. I'm just getting started, but loving the process. I do love swirly, curly things. There will be a button bouquet in the center. I like the green rick rack, but the black embroidery has to go, not enough contrast with the busy fabric in the lower right corner.

Turns out embroidery is playing a role in the new applique book I'm considering. The Wash Away Applique sheets threw open the doors to all sorts of easy, elegant, effusive embellishment. (How's that for a book subtitle?) But there are decisions to be made before I can really go forward. More on that in the next post. Meanwhile, I'm off to stitch with the crazy quilters.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Going up?

One of the crazy things about our backyard is there is no easy way to get to the top. It's a fairly steep hill, with a four foot high retaining wall. It's wonderfully private. There's a nice flat spot near the top that will make a lovely spot for reading or coffee, but only if you have billy goat in your ancestry.

Last summer we still owned the house in Saginaw, so our budget for improvements was pretty limited. This summer we had a little more to play with, so the first thing we did was cut a staircase into the wall. Of course, I'm using the royal "we" here. I think up these crazy things and Kent is a willing participant.
Aren't they wonderful? It was decided that the new railroad ties needed to be stained to match the existing ones and Kent set out to accomplish that one morning while I was out. He said he knew pretty much at the first brush that the color was wrong. But the color had looked right in the store, so maybe he needed to do more just to be sure. After a while, even though he was convinced that the color was wrong, he had already done so much that he decided he might as well finish. Luckily he ran out of stain.

I had to laugh. We've all done it, haven't we? We push on, even though our gut is telling us we're on the wrong path. The rationale can be so silly: we bought a whole gallon of the paint, the store for replacement is closed, it will quilt out. Pretty soon we're so far in that going back seems impossible. So instead of trusting ourselves enough to quit at a false start, we plow on until there's no way to redeem the project. Not only is the project spoiled, but we had a miserable time doing it!

We don't know what to do next, it's a good quality stain, even sand blasting hardly made a dent. I'm hoping that a little weathering will do the trick. Because I'm an incorrigible optimist I'm hoping that an answer will present itself next spring when the snow thaws. Keen eyes will notice the stone stairs going in at the top of the hill. There are a few more steps to go, but by next summer we'll be able to easily get around in this crazy, vertical garden.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Fall in Love

This is my latest quilting project, I'm calling it Fall in Love. It will be a small wall hanging, about 18" square, I think, The background hasn't been decided yet, so that may change.

Choosing fabrics and color theory seems to be something that either terrifies or mystifies many quilters.  I know I can over think myself right into paralysis. Any time I try to study color I'm stumped by the terminology. I'm a scientist, not an artist. Color theory seems like alchemy to me.
But then there's tenacity I've mentioned. My response to the question "can I?" has always been "how badly do you want it?" So, I've been working out a system to make color (fabric) choices easier. Using just five values (Light, Light Medium, Medium, Dark Medium and Dark), I've marked up my templates in preparation for fabric selection.
The entire piece is considered when making the value choices. The decisions about where the shadows and highlight fall are all made before I start cutting the individual shapes apart. This means that I can work on one leaf at a time, working out the fabric choices for each segment of a leaf without worrying about any other piece in the quilt. This is so much more manageable, don't you think?
Having sexy batiks like this is my stash means that I really only needed two different fabrics to make this green leaf. The templates were already marked for their values, (light, medium, dark), so I just needed to find those values on the fabric.
Notice how the left side of the applique is lighter, brighter, while the right side becomes darker? It's a simple matter of using value to guide my fabric choices. Value does all the work while color gets all the credit. Next I'll share some tips on machine stitching the piece and adding even more dimension.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Well, hello!

They say that good friends can be apart for ages and just pick up where they left off when they finally get together again. I've found it to be true. So, my good friends, it's lovely to see you again!

I've been quiet these past months for several reasons. It's been a time of reflection, of where I've been, where I am and where I want to go. I'm still struggling with the idea of retirement. I desperately miss teaching. But I've also come to enjoy the luxury of doing what ever I please instead of chasing the next deadline.

It's been a time of exploration. Green Bay has so much to offer. I've become a serial joiner. I'm like the proverbial bad penny, showing up at any fiber related group that will have me. What a joy it's been to commune with spinners, weavers, knitters, embroiderers and lots of quilters. I've been playing with some of the artsy-fartsy stuff I've been collecting over the years, saved for the day when I had more time.

It's been a time of frustration. While I refuse to allow this blog to be political, I am passionate about the direction our country is going. I hate the name calling, the haughtiness, and general disrespect people have for folks of the opposing point of view. How will we ever be E Pluribus Unum if we can't even speak civilly to one another?

I'm frustrated with the constant "look at me, look at me!!!" that the quilting industry has embraced. The marketing part of my job has never been comfortable for me. I've always wanted my work to be my voice, not my ability to garner a zillion likes on Facebook.

I've been reminded lately, of how very contrary I am. I almost named my business "The Contrary Quilter". The more I am told that I must, I should, I can't, the more I respond with I won't, you can't make me, and just watch me prove you wrong. On the one hand, tenacity has brought me the success I've enjoyed. But stubbornness is its evil twin and can get me into all sorts of trouble.

It's been a time of growth. I've been making things. Over the summer I've dyed things, pounded flowers into fabric, strung up a few beads, colored on paper and fabric, just to name a few. It's crazy exhilarating to spend an afternoon exploring a new technique and then be able to carelessly toss the results away, making it all about the process. But most importantly, I've made some friends.

In my next post (which I am writing in this same sitting, not in another three month), I'll show you my progress on the autumn quilt shown above. It's part of the direction I'm exploring for my next big thing.

Thanks for waiting for me, I've missed you.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The day I came back to life

We all have those pivotal moments in our lives that we can look back on and see exactly where our path changed. I had a moment like that back in the fall of 1993, as clear as the ringing of a bell. I was working on a quilt, using a crappy sewing machine that fought me on every stitch. Quilting was my haven from the hectic life of raising four rambunctious boys, it was the only thing I did that stayed done. I loved everything about quilting, especially the math-yness, the puzzling out the numbers of yardage, pieces to cut, the order of construction. Kent found me sobbing in frustration as I ripped out again, a seam that my machine couldn't manage. Somehow, in that moment, I knew that quilting was "my thing", it was going to be "my thing". Because he believes in me more than I can ever understand, we figured out how to get me the machine I needed (a used Bernina 1530), and, well, here I am today.

For twenty years I knew who I was and where I was going, and I was making good time. The boys were growing up into fine young men (much to my relief) and my career in quilting was successful beyond my wildest dreams. Opportunities weren't just knocking on my door, they were pounding and I said yes, come in, have a seat, make yourself at home. It was exciting, fulfilling, challenging and meaningful.

And then the wheels came off in a slow motion crash and burn. There wasn't any bright moment of enlightenment, but a slow dawning that I was tired and unhappy. I felt pigeon-holed, trapped by my own success, and that I had used up all of my smart words. So I stopped saying yes to everything, and finally stopped saying yes to anything. This was supposed to make me happy.

Instead, I found myself in this weird sort of limbo. Having this luxury of time, but without focus, feels rather self-indulgent and wasteful. Don't get me wrong, I've been having all sorts of fun being off task. There are knitting groups, embroidery guilds, fiber artisan groups, spinning groups, and quilting guilds galore. I've joined them all, met some really terrific people and learned some wonderful stuff.

At the same time I've come to see that this life of going with the flow doesn't really suit me. I'm just too young to be this old. I've realized that I have a few words left that someone might yet like to hear. I've remembered that I get to be in charge of who I am and where I go, and I have mad skills!

When I look back on this time, twenty years from now, I want to see this as the day I came back to my life. I'll see all of the growth that came in my time off, even the time that felt wasted because it taught me what feels restful. I'll see that the path wasn't straight, that I often didn't even know where it was going, but I still went, and darned if I didn't make good time.

Maybe it's silly to think I can look back from the future, but I'm going to go with it. How else do we find purpose and direction for our lives? All I know is that I've flunked retirement. Watch out world, I have no idea what comes next, any more than I did in ninety-three, but I just know it's going to be awesome.

Monday, March 28, 2016

About the yellow

There was no doubt that the applique needed some yellow. It was always just a matter of how the yellow would get there. Originally I had intended to embroider simple flowers, just lazy daisies, in several shades of yellow pearl cotton. I even stitched a few in place. But it just didn't work for me.

I decided to just stumble ahead and hope that an idea would present itself, and it finally did. I've been trying to be less literal in my applique design. I think my science background just hungers for accuracy. But my flower garden isn't a faithful rendition of any real flowers. I could call them zinnias, or cottage roses and you'd probably go along. And all those circles I like to toss in, what are those supposed to be in real life?

It occurred to me that if random circles are okay, perhaps commas could work. It's a shape that I like a lot. It's the shape of a single feather in traditional quilting. It's a paisley, or a petal. They have a bit of motion, with that little curve by the point.

So, out came a scrap of Wash Away Sheets.

I used a pencil to sketch out the shapes, using the original placement lines for the embroidery flowers to suggest the size. (I've traced over them with sharpie here so they are easier to see.)

Working with the same fabrics from the yellow pieced block, I made up a few, just to test out the idea, and I liked it!

Since I figured I'd roughly need about six thousand templates (slight exaggeration, it's actually closer to a hundred), I recreated the shapes using my Silhouette and let the machine do the cutting.

Yeah, that's a little bit of yellow there. I didn't plan, just made an assortment using three different yellow fabrics and three different sizes of commas.

So, I'm busy stitching down commas. My literal brain really wants to add a couple of green lazy daisies to the base of each comma, just to give them a place to grow from, you know? But I'm resisting. At this point it's hard to tell if what I'm adding is improving the design or just a ploy to prevent me from finishing.

Thanks so much for all your kind comments and concern. I'm feeling terrific. I've worked through the shock of having a heart attack, which is something that happens to other people, and celebrating the extra time I have been given.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Happy to still be here

There is no other way to say it than to just say it. In the early hours of March 7, 2016 I had a heart attack. I'm fine. Honestly. Because I knew the early warning signs, which are very different in women, I got to the hospital in plenty of time to avoid permanent damage to my heart.

I won't go into all the gory details, just suffice it to say that the monstrous heart burn and jaw pain were enough early warning to have me concerned. The nausea and lightheadedness that followed sealed the deal.

The five minute drive to the hospital gave me just enough time to consider my mortality and be grateful for matching (and clean) underwear (not that anyone besides me noticed). Just mention chest pain and you won't be wearing much very quickly.

The first blood test was inconclusive, the second blood test changed all that, and the third blood test had me bundled off to the cath lab for some quality time with a balloon and a stent to repair a completely blocked right artery.

Within 36 hours my blood enzyme levels had returned to normal levels and I was sent home to start my new life as a heart attack survivor. Because we got there so early in the attack I have nearly no damage to my heart. It's funny, on one hand I don't feel any different at all. I'm still me, and yet everything has changed. I'm shopping for stylish medical alert bracelets and nitro pill holders.

The hardest part was telling my family. To be honest, I felt pretty ashamed, certain that I had brought this on myself. The marvelous cardiac care nurses assured me that being embarrassed was a waste of good energy. I don't have any underlying conditions, despite being overweight, my blood pressure and cholesterol are just fine. Let's face it: my sole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others. If just one woman's heart is also spared because of what happened to me then I've done my job.

I made sure to call my sons myself. I didn't want them to have even a moment's panic while Kent got from "Mom had a heart attack" to "but she's okay". I figured if they heard my voice they would already be reassured. My youngest son assured me that I couldn't die, I didn't have the most fabric yet. (Yeah, he's a keeper.)

I'll be on special meds for at least a year while my body gets comfortable with the stent. It will take a little while to get all of my energy back and to get past that feeling of fragility that comes when a crucial body part misbehaves.

It seems that having such a great outcome means there must be something left for me to do in this world, hopefully still a long way off. What ever it might be, I'm already back to putting the finishing touches on A Fine Romance. I think I can be forgiven for missing the Tuesday deadline for basting the thing. I was in the hospital with a heart attack after all. (I plan to claim "heart attack" now anytime I feel the need to princess out, I'm going to milk it for all its worth.)

If you're a woman, or love a woman, please make sure you understand what a heart attack looks like so you can have the same great outcome as I have. Just google it and read several articles. It might just save your life too.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Making Progress

I hoped that laying out the finished parts of A Fine Romance would light a fire under me, and it has, sort of. You can see that all that remains to be appliqued is half of one border, and some parts in the corners where the seams come together. Nothing much, really, compared to the work done so far.

It hasn't taken much to stall the project and I'm trying to figure out why. I've always thought that projects become UFOs for good reason. Often it's because we are unsure of the next step, or we lose faith in the outcome. I realized that I was going to be short of leaves and the burden of making more leaves was almost crushing. Honestly. I didn't count when I started making the leaves. We were holed up in the extended stay hotel when I was working on them and we were so stressed that even counting leaves was iffy. Turns out I only needed leaves that tip to the left, I still have a big old pile of leaves that tip to the right.

Being a few leaves short of a border (a teacup short of a place setting, a sandwich short of a picnic) I figured this would be a great time to put that Silhouette back to work.  After just a little experimentation the trusty machine was spitting out lovely, perfect templates for the needed leaves. In the end it took less than two hours to make 25 more leaves. (It would have been less time but I was binging on old Downton Abbey episodes and one must look up to ogle the dresses.)

So, the last half of the border is now pinned in place and I'm stitching away. Quilt guild meeting is next Tuesday and I have a half-hearted goal of having the top together so I can use the church tables to baste the quilt. There, I've said it, it's out in the universe, perhaps that will shame me into getting it done.

On the personal front, we have finally accepted an offer on the Saginaw house. Yay! We have every digit crossed that all the dotting of the Is and crossing of the Ts will go smoothly. That wonderful old house needs to be loved and it sounds like the buyers are just the right folks to do it.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Testing, testing, 1-2-3

When I first learned to applique (way back in the dark ages), there was a lot about the process I didn't like. There seemed to be a lot of extra steps, making extra work without extra value. I think in another life time I might have been an efficiency engineer. I love the idea of doing my best work with the least amount of effort. Streamlining the process is what has lead me to the technique I call "Hand Applique by Machine" (or, as Craftsy prefers "Machine Finished Hand Applique").

Instead of sewing everything twice (basting), I glue baste, for example. And to avoid the step of removing the freezer paper, I developed Wash Away Applique Sheets.

Another tedious, but vital, step in the process is cutting out the templates. I tried to make it quicker by stapling and cutting multiple layers of templates, and that works just fine. But what if we could just send a little file to a machine and hey, presto! perfect templates? It's just as easy as sending a document to the printer, but this machine spits out applique!
I've considered all sorts of die cutting options. The problem with die cutting machines is that the sizes are set, a die for a rose will only ever make a rose that size. But a file for an electronic cutter can be scaled to any size! Look at all those perfect templates, cut from my WAAS.
I've been playing with my Silhouette Cameo. I'm learning how to use the design tools, which are really pretty simple.

I love that I can make perforated lines for the internal shapes, which will make it very easy to keep the parts of a motif together. There is also a process for writing on the shapes, which will help in organizing the shapes for a large project. I'll be playing with that next.
I'm not completely happy with this project yet. I really don't like my fabric choices, so I'll be reworking it and making it again. But I am thrilled with the possibilities of easily cutting my applique templates, just look at those perfect circles, imagine being able to make them in any size! I wonder, though, is this a gadget that applique quilters could love? Would you be tempted by a pattern that included a file for an electronic die cutter?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Because I am a clutz

I really should know better than to leave a cup of coffee near anything I value. This time it was just a few splatters on the unsewn end of one of the applique borders. It would have been luckier if it had been on the border that isn't sewn yet, but I don't know anyone who plans on being a dork.
Most of the coffee washed out, what remains will just add to the subtle variations already in the fabric. Despite my best efforts, washing out the coffee also meant getting part of the applique wet. This half of the center rose was left unstitched, waiting for the remaining applique shapes to be pinned in place.

After washing I tossed the border into the dryer. I certainly didn't want to leave it sitting wet, a sure invitation to any colors that might feel like a jog into the background fabric. I had to leave the house, and I didn't want to leave the border all jumbled up in the dryer, especially if it didn't get entirely dry. So I spread the border out on the cutting table and slipped a ruler under the applique to protect the background from the slightly damp fabric.

The piece got wet enough to release some of the glue basted edges. Some of the Wash Away Applique Sheet templates also started to disintegrate, but a little quality time with a glue stick will fix this right up. Disaster averted this time, but somehow I doubt that I've actually learned my lesson.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A silk painted rose

This little rose was my first attempt at painting on silk. I was hooked from the start. I have signed up for two more classes and set up a nice little space in the basement for the delightfully messy stuff. On this piece, I've used clear gutta to define the shapes. Gutta is a resist to contain the flow of the paint to specific areas, acting like a sort of dam to hold back the paint.

After the gutta was washed out I found that I lost some of the paint with it, especially in the center. I also ended up with white silk showing where the stems were meant to go, which I liked because it just begs for embellishment.
Silk is very slippery and thin, so I ironed a hunk of Wash Away Applique Sheet to the wrong side as a stabilizer, and hauled out my box of silk embroidery floss. My first thought was to replace the missing paint in the center with embroidery stitches.
Nope. The blending of shades of pink didn't work as hoped. The stitching just looked clunky and forced, so it got picked away. The nice thing about silk is that it's pretty tough and the holes just closed right in.
What it needed was a more refined hand. I started in the center of the rose, outlining each petal, using the stitches to replace the lines that the gutta had left. As I worked, though, I felt that perhaps, once again, I was being to literal. As I got to the buds I decided to let the lines be a little more abstract, unfinished, more sketched in than actual outlines.
By the time I got to the last leaves I realized that thinner lines would be even better, so I used just two strands of the six stranded floss here. If I were starting over, I think I'd go even finer, something to try next time.
Here it is. I love how the leaves look. Best of all, this little slip of a project (it's just about 4 by 6 inches) has left me thinking about how I would do the next one differently. I won't try to fix this any further, I think I've learned all it has to tell me.

What a luxury for me, creating these little cast-offs, just little bits of this or that I can use for trying out new ideas. It seems like forever since I've had the time to "waste" on things that may not turn out. Deadlines can do that to you. It's taken me a long time to unwind from the deadline rat race too, to leave behind that feeling that every moment must be productive or I will fail, disappoint or come up short. A feeling that's left me entirely unproductive, paralyzed, feeling guilty and a little lost. Finally I am looking forward to not getting it right the first time. I have entered the joyful land of the do-over.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Back to work

I love everything about winter except for the short days. Well, I love everything about winter that can be enjoyed from the inside looking out. Since my inner child has been playing with matches for years, the colder weather suits me just fine. But the short, dark days take their toll and by Christmas I'm ready to hibernate. While it feels like I can sense every minute of daylight added to the days in January, it takes until the middle of February for me to be convinced that spring truly will come again. And then I begin to come back to life.

Stitching the long borders on A Fine Romance can be tricky. With dozens and dozens of pins holding the applique shapes in place it can be downright painful to do all the twisting and turning needed to stitch down the curvy shapes.

After cursing (and bleeding) my way through the side borders I decided to pin just half of the longer top and bottom border shapes in place. The empty end of the border can be folded up and pinned together to help reduce the bulk. The pinned end (you can see it behind the sewing machine) is rolled up too. It does make it easier to turn the border fabric, but it also stands some of the pins straight up. Ouch. A good book on my iPod helps to pass the time.
The diagram for the top and bottom borders seems to trail half way across the studio floor, the remaining motifs are spread out on the shorter table. I suspect that I will run out of leaves, I lost count somewhere along the way, and I may need to make a little more bias strips to finish up the vines. But I've pinned one end of the two remaining borders, and one of those has been stitched down. I've been listening to Alex Berenson's John Wells spy series. I have three more books in the series to go. I wonder if that will be enough to finish the borders.