My cousin Niki is one smart cookie. There isn’t a lot that gets her down. Just look at that smile. That’s us at the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative booth last year in Houston.
I was thinking a lot about Niki the last few weeks. I was in need of an attitude adjustment.
Way back, when the AAQI had just started out, Niki was one of our quilt registrars. She had never seen the “back end” of a web page before. That’s the part where all the editing goes on. She quickly learned, as we all have, that one bad keystroke can cause a major problem. Except that Niki doesn’t have “problems.” She has “opportunities.”
Recently I decided to channel Niki. My recent “opportunities” have all been associated with writing and designing the pattern for my new Amazing Puzzle Ball pattern. I won’t bore you with the details as they were all computer and software related issues (er, “opportunities”), except to say that I have learned a bunch of new things. As soon as I started flipping out, I tried to re-frame the problem as an opportunity. It really helped!
Here’s a quilting example. Do you remember the quilt I made for my niece? It was Lesson 4 in Five Things That Will Help You Become A Better Quilter. I had a major “opportunity” with this quilt as I put it in the frame. I didn’t call it that at the time, but looking back, my attitude was in the right place. Had it not been, I don’t know if I would have ever finished the quilt.
I sewed the rip shut, but I needed to hide my mending. I covered it with prairie points.
That created another opportunity: I had four prairie points sitting in a lump on one side of the quilt all by themselves. That looked pretty silly. So I added more prairie points all around the outside edge. That made it look like that was the plan all along. Not only did the prairie points give me a secondary design element, but it suggested a quilting motif too. Win-Win!
Life is full of problems, large and small. ”Opportunities” abound. It’s all in how you look at them.
Diana wrote in after the January 1st newsletter asking about sewing room organization and we got into a nice discussion about fabric storage. Ultimately she was looking for a way to store and USE UP tiny scraps leftover from other projects. It got me thinking.
I suggested that, like some quilters, she sew two quilts at once. The first quilt would be the “real” quilt, and the second would be a scrap buster. It could be a miniature 9-patch cut from leftovers, for example. The idea would be after every seam in the “real” quilt, she’d sew a seam in the stash buster. The second quilt would anchor her threads as she sewed the first, much like a “parker” (photo at left) would. A little more time at the sewing machine, but ultimately another quilt is born.
Then, last week I met Megan Null at the Santa Clarita Valley Quilt Guild. She was in my Twisted Sisters workshop and shared that she had found a way to use up the little scraps going from “chunks” to “wedges.” (Too technical here. Sorry.) These are the narrow triangular scraps I’ve been telling students to just throw away. I know. Feel free to smack me upside the head next time you see me.
Well, Megan got me thinking . (All this thinking!) Back in the 80′s I had made a quilt with my hand-dyed fabric and didn’t want to pitch the scraps. Instead, I crazy patched them together for a border. I also added tubes (empty, stuffed, and elasticized) to add some dimensional interest. Because of the border, I called the quilt “Confetti” (left).
I used the technique again in Picture Play Quilts, calling it O.T.F. Patchwork (Off The Floor Patchwork). See pages 12-13. This time I didn’t want to throw away scraps leftover from fussy cutting conversational fabrics. Click the pictures below.
So, let’s put this all together. Back to Megan! She was kind enough to let me shoot a video of her showing her “Crumb Quilt” strategy. When you watch the video below, note how small her patches are. She also has a plastic box with a lid right by her sewing machine to put the little scraps in until she’s ready for them; it’s to her right and not on camera for very long. Also, be amazed that she wastes nothing! (Check out the pillow!)
And here’s the challenge: Make a Crumb Quilt!
1. It has to be completed by the end of 2014. Send me a photograph so I can share your work online.
2. Crumb pieces can be any size. They can be the focus of the entire quilt, a design element, or part of the back.
3. You have to piece it at the same time as you piece another quilt. (I will never know.)
That’s it. Hit the comment link and let everyone know you accept the challenge. Let’s see where this takes us!
January is always a good time to reflect, take stock, set goals, and look forward. So is October, in case you’re reading this in a month that isn’t January. For traveling quilt teachers, however, January is the beginning of the new teaching season, so I’m taking advantage of the rollover to 2014 to think about my teaching goals.
I’ve been mulling it over and I’ve decided that I basically want to help students, both the ones I meet in person, and the virtual students with whom I interact electronically, to become better quilters. (And coincidentally, that’s what I want for myself, too!) Why better? Because better is more fun.
Doing something well is tremendously satisfying. And fun. Doing something even better than you did it before is even more satisfying, and more fun. Fun is good. Success always feels better than failure. Confidence beats doubt, satisfaction trumps frustration, and in the struggle for good over evil, well, OK I got a little carried away there.
So, as a teacher, how can I help you become a better quilter? It’s a five-part plan:
1. Practice Makes Perfect. We’ve all heard that old chestnut, usually from our parents in reference to piano lessons we weren’t all that thrilled about taking. Repetition can enhance muscle memory and will certainly make you feel more comfortable with the process. Familiarity with the basics of quilting, through practice, can build a secure foundation for learning more complex skills. Yada-yada-yada.
Practice is good, and you should practice with sufficient frequency that you can actually call yourself a quilter, but you need more. You need…
2. Feedback. Sounds like you have to hook your brain up to electrodes and hang around with somebody in a white coat all day long. Not at all. Feedback requires evaluation of some sort, either by you or by a knowledgeable bystander. Feedback at the basic level is comparing the quilt you’re making now to the one you just finished. Does it look better to you? Worse? How so?
Feedback can be looking at the diagram in Step #4 of the pattern and checking to make sure yours looks like theirs. (And trying it again if it doesn’t.) That redo often involves doing something differently. If you are tweaking the process, feedback is examining the outcome to see if there is a difference and if that difference is positive or negative.
Feedback at the highest level is putting your work in the hands of a quilt judge who will evaluate your quilt against quilts made by your peers and against an established standard.
Think of feedback as an awareness of where you are in relation to where you want to go.
So where do you want to go? What would help you become a better quilter?
3. Define Better. You can’t get better if you don’t know what better looks like. When I first began quilting nearly 40 years ago, I hadn’t seen very many quilts. I had no idea what the standard was for traditional patchwork. I thought if I shook my quilt top and nothing fell off, I was doing OK. I didn’t know what a good binding looked like either. Now I do. (The list of things I didn’t know when I first started quilting could fill a book. Oh wait! It DID! I’ll even autograph it for you!)
You need to go out there and look at quilts! Find quilts (or parts of quilts) that inspire you. Recognize them as examples of excellent craftsmanship or design or whatever it is that floats your boat. If they are worthy of your emulation, then you have just defined “better.” Now you have something to aim for.
Just keep in mind that getting there is a journey over time. You can’t fix everything at once. More importantly, it’s a journey that requires change.
4. Embrace Change. I know there is comfort in doing things the same way we have always done them. But, make quilts the same way, over and over again, and it is unlikely you will become a better quilter. (That fun quotient goes way down when you realize you’re not getting closer to your goals.) Growth and learning require change, and change is risky.
Try a different color combination; attempt a new technique; experiment with a tool you’ve never tried before. It could be wonderful, or horrible, or somewhere in between. The quilt could turn out less than you hoped for or better than you ever expected. Sometimes you just don’t know until you try it. So, try!
If the fear of failure is overwhelming, lower your expectations. Instead of making a prizewinner, make a baby quilt. Knowing the finished quilt will be barfed on might make it easier for you to risk experimenting with design, construction, color, or technique.
I made this quilt (right) for my niece Shana. I had never made an asymmetrical quilt before. I wasn’t sure if I would like it. (Turns out I liked it a lot!) So, step out of your comfort zone and give yourself permission to experiment.
5. Be Gentle With Yourself. Never before have quilters had so many opportunities to become better at their craft, nor more people telling them how to do it! Magazines, books, guilds, quilt shops, blogs, videos, quilt shows, workshops, television shows, list serves, newsletters, smart phone apps, webinars, and radio shows all tempt us with beautiful quilts, tools and techniques, patterns and advice. Take advantage of what is available, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Seek advice, but pick your own path. And remember, it’s nearly impossible to go from quilts you let the cat have her kittens on to Best of Show without experiencing a learning curve of some kind.
Set reasonable goals and, above all, be gentle with yourself. Make sure your inner voice speaks to you with the same patience and compassion you would speak aloud to a young child learning the same skill. You don’t want to be your own worst enemy. After all, becoming a better quilter is supposed to be as much fun as being a better quilter. Rock it!
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Your comments about this blog are encouraged!
1. Flashing Light
You probably know how to assign ringtones and get your phone to vibrate, but did you know you can make it flash a bright light with every incoming call too? Go to Settings –> General –> Accessibility, and then scroll down to HEARING. Turn on LED Flash for Alerts.
In the video below you’ll hear my phone barking (that’s my “normal” ringtone) and you’ll see it flashing too. Fun, huh?
As far as I can tell it only flashes for incoming calls and alarms I set through the Clock feature. (That flash is pretty bright in a dark room. That’ll get you up in the morning!)
2. Silence Telemarketers
Yes, by all means call the “Do Not Call Registry” from your cell phone (888-382-1222). For those calls that get through, however, I created a contact called Dirty Filthy Telemarketers. Next, I created a SILENT ringtone using and a Ringtone Recorder. I put the volume all the way down and let it record NOTHING for 30 seconds. Then, following the prompts from the app, I downloaded the ringtone and emailed it to myself. On my desktop computer I opened the email and downloaded the attachment. To apply the ringtone I had to drag it into iTunes (I’d rather rip a 3 foot seam), click the Ringtones Tab, select “Sync ringtones,” and then click “Synch/Apply.”
Then, all I had to do was edit the Dirty Filthy Telemarketer contact on my iPhone and select my silent ringer under Ringtone. Whenever a telemarketer gets through, I add their phone number to the Dirty Filthy Telemarketer contact. When they call again (and they will) I hear total silence. My light might go off, and my phone might vibrate, but I know a silent ringer and the words Dirty Filthy Telemarketer on my welcome screen means it’s someone I don’t want to talk to. At last count I have 60 numbers under that contact.
3. Auto-text (Keyboard Shortcuts)
At any one time there can be four volunteers working on the AAQI website. Before anyone publishes the site we have to ask everyone else if it’s OK to publish. It’s no fun getting dumped off the page (and losing your work) during a page publish. So we text. It gets pretty annoying to type, “OK to publish now?” to three people several times a day. I did discover Group Texting. (Start with New Message and hit the + sign for all the people you want to receive the text.) “Auto-text” is even more fun! Yup, you can set up keyboard shortcuts. Now when I type PTP, my iPhone offers, “OK to publish now?” If I want to indeed type that, I hit the space bar and there it is. Poof! Send. Done.
To set up all your favorite phrases like “Are you bringing home dinner tonight?” go to Settings –> Keyboard and click Shortcuts. Then click the + sign in the upper right corner and type in the phrase you want a shortcut for. Hint: You should pick a Shortcut (a name for the phrase). It’s marked as optional. Pick a sequence of letters you don’t ordinarily type, otherwise you’ll get that particular phrase a bit more often than you might want.
Try this: Set up a few auto-text phrases on someone else’s phone. Every time Steve types “Ami,” the phone completes the phrase with “the woman I love and adore.” I wonder how that happened…
4. Take Charge of UFO’s
There’s an app for that! Seriously, you can spin the wheel to decide which UFO (Un-Finished Object) you should sew. The app is called Decide Now! and the paid version lets you input the names of all your unfinished quilts. Or a good number of them at least. I didn’t put in too many for fear of overloading my iPhone’s memory.
5. Other Uses for Earbuds
Ever want to take a picture of your hand doing something? It’s pretty hard. Sure you can hold the iPhone and press the up or down volume button to take the picture with your left thumb, but here’s another way.
Plug in your earbuds and hold the volume up/down bar between your lips. When you’re ready to snap the shutter press either end with your lips. Click! (Try not to drool.)
If all your pictures are blurry because tapping the screen to take the picture makes it move, you could also just use your free hand to push the volume up/down on the earbuds. It also works to turn video on and off.
6. Screen Shots
Wonder how I took the pictures in tip #2, #3, and #4? The pictures show exactly what was on my iPhone screen. Simple. I took a screen shot by holding down the Home Button at the bottom of the phone and clicking the on/off button on top of the phone. Click! What you see is what you get.
7. Decorate Your iPhone
My iPhone is wearing a “skin.” It’s a plastic stick-on image I created by uploading one of my pictures. There are also stock photos available, but wouldn’t your phone, tablet, laptop look terrific wearing a quilt? Check out Skinit.com or Schtickers.com for all sorts of fun.
SOMETHING TO WIN
Keep Your Cords Sew Organized!
Aren’t these adorable? The manufacturer gave me 12 soft silicone spools to give away! (Earbuds not included.)
Comment on this blog post and tell me why you would like to be be wound for sound. I will pick the winners from among those who comment. This is limited to people with a shipping address in the USA. One comment per person, please. Keep in mind that I have to moderate your comments before they appear here. Deadline is 9pm Wednesday, October 23 (Eastern time). I was going to say midnight, but I can’t stay up that late.
If you’re not a winner or the deadline has passed; don’t despair, you can buy them online.
First I discovered my new favorite chocolate. It was part of a goodie bag prepared for me by the Program Chair at the East Cobb Quilting Guild in Marietta, GA two weeks ago. Hotel Snackage. It was so delicious I took a picture of the wrapper, the chocolate having been most enthusiastically consumed earlier. Rapidly consumed. All in one sitting.
I love dark chocolate. Ghirardelli Intense Dark (Twilight Delight) is delicious. That dark chocolate might even be good for me is an added bonus. It’s loaded with antioxidants, improves blood flow, is high in vitamins and minerals, and might even harden my tooth enamel! That’s pretty wonderful, isn’t it? I feel healthier and so much less guilty already.
Happy Day! I found the very same chocolate at my grocery store when I got back home. I wolfed down another whole bar in one sitting. I can feel my tooth enamel getting as hard as concrete. I think my quarter inch seams are looking straighter too…
But wait. I just got back from Rite-Aid. I was shopping for knee-high’s and little bottles of hair spray for my upcoming trip to visit with the Cabin Fever Quilters’ Guild in Fairbanks (still a few spaces in the workshops). Rite Aid moved the little bottles of overpriced travel cosmetics again and as I wandered around looking for them (their plan all along) I bumped into the Ghirardelli chocolate section!
They had bars and individually wrapped squares of my Twilight Delight right there on the shelf! And the individually wrapped squares were ON SALE! I snagged two bags for $6.00 (the sign told me to) which was actually less per ounce than the big bar! (I did the math.) My thought here was that if I got the individually wrapped squares not only would it be less expensive, but it might slow down my rate of chocolate consumption. I would be spending several extra seconds opening up the little wrappers. (That was before I thought of opening them up with my applique scissors.)
Hang on. It gets even better. When I paid I used my Wellness Card (Rite-Aid’s loyalty program) and I got $2 for buying the knee-high’s (no idea why) and another $2 for the buying the chocolate (no idea why). So, what does this mean? The chocolate will still be on sale until the end of the month and I’ve got $4 in free money. I can get two more bags of Twilight Delight tomorrow for only $2. At that price I might even be willing so share. Would anyone like some knee-high’s? Hair spray?
Chocolate? What chocolate? I don’t see any chocolate.
Mom’s packing for her trip to Atlanta so I have a few minutes.
I just became an uncle. My sister Jennie (head cut off in photo) and her husband have a new dog named Maizie. They live in Ann Arbor so she’s named after University of Michigan colors, but she is not any of those colors. She is the same color as me. Must be a people thing.
Maizie is part chihuahua and part German shepherd and lots of other parts. She likes to run very fast and dig holes. Not at the same time.
She was afraid of me at first, but then she showed me who is the boss. Maizie is the boss. Here is a movie of Maizie and me.
But more about me. Remember how I like small places, like behind the toilet? My other favorite spot to relax is in the living room behind the couch. I like to squeaze in there while nobody is looking and then I watch TV with Mom and Dad from the opening underneath. I can only get to the behind the couch place by going around behind Mom’s chair. The other side is blocked off with a big stereo speaker.
I don’t like to back up because it’s hard for me to see around my large behind. So I have figured out my own unique way to exit the couch area.
Mom’s cousin Niki, who you know from buying quilts in the AAQI booth at International Quilt Festival in Houston, has a dog and a bird and two cats. (She told me to tell you that if you want to help in the booth this year, you should sign up here. Otherwise she’ll scratch you behind the ears if you just want to come and buy a quilt. Wait, that last part about the ear-scratching was for me.)
Anyway, one of Niki’s cats is named Beijing and he is starring in a TV commercial with someone called Robert Downey Jr. I’ve watched it several times and I don’t know what they are selling, but in the Hold That Cat part, the cat is Beijing. You should watch it and hit paws so you can see the cat part better.
I hope you have a nice day tomorrow. I will be moping by the door waiting for Mom to come home.
Faithfully yours (with tail wags),
Here are three opportunities to do a “good thing.”
1. As you may have heard, Libby Lehman suffered a ruptured aneurysm on April 30th. Following surgery to repair the aneurysm, she had a stroke. She is improving, but this will be a very long recovery. Follow her recovery at CaringBridge where her family is journaling her progress.
There will be a benefit auction for Libby Lehman on Friday, August 16th at the AQS Show in Grand Rapids, MI. If you can’t attend but would like to help, send Libby a card:
Houston, TX 77002
If you want to do a little more, please enclose a check with your card made out to “Libby Lehman Medical Fund.” Any amount will be appreciated even a few dollars. Or, click on the Guestbook at CaringBridge to leave an encouraging comment. Libby has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative. She has a very long road ahead of her.
2. John Flynn is the patron saint of the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative. He has supported us financially at International Quit Festival for the last 8 years and he has participated as a celebrity quiltmaker since the beginning of our November auctions.
John is biking to fight MS this Saturday.
John is the kind of guy who will give you the shirt off his back. Literally. He sent me his shirt! (I asked for it because I had this great idea of making a Priority: Alzheimer’s Quilt out of it.) Embarrassingly, I ran out of time.
If you donate to John’s cause your name will go into a hat for a chance to win a quilt by John Flynn. After John pulls the ticket for the quilt, he’ll pick the lucky winner who gets the shirt of his back.
Go John, GO!
3. The Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative is gearing up for Houston and it’s time to ask for volunteers to work the booth. We need six people for each time slot and more “in reserve” on our Text Brigade when we get slammed with customers. If you can help, read more on the AAQI Update Blog.