January ufo finished!

I managed to finish it with just one day to spare!

I am actually quite pleased with it. The colors turned out great.  I added the red ties because I thought it would be difficult to quilt.  It turned out not to be, but I love the effect.  It has a really homemade old-fashioned look. I will post more photos in a few days. 

Meanwhile, check this out.  I believe I caught a real ufo in my photo of my ufo. 

Freaky, huh?  A real ufo right in my kids’ bedroom.

January Friday night sew-in update

I had a great night sewing!  I finished my book on cd so I will have to order another from the library.  I worked on three ufos and made a little progress on all of them.

First, I worked on the red and green corduroy quilt.  I put the black frame on.  I was about to put the red frame on when Steve interrupted. He felt like the red frame would be too intense.  I had planned to put a narrow red frame and then second wider black frame. He felt like a gold frame would be better.  He had the idea for the blue which I have to admit really makes the quilt sing. So today I am off to the fabric store.  I plan to get the back fabric, also, so if I have time to put the quilt together this week I can.

Next I worked on the Valentine’s quilt.  I attached what I believe is the last frame.  I was attempting to make this quilt a twin size quilt but, as all my quilts, it ends up being the size it is.  It ended up being more square than I intended but I like the proportions so I probably won’t change it.

Lastly, I worked on my second tiny angel quilt.  I had bought some metallic iridescent variegated thread at the fabric store.  I double threaded my machine with it and a plain purple polyester thread.  I did some machine quilting with that double thread.  It worked ok, but the effect is not really that striking. I will try it alone at some point and hopefully get a more intense result.  At this point, it hardly looks like anything but I will post the image anyway.

I had a great time sewing!  I usually do a little bit of sewing on Friday night anyway, but it was more fun to be the part of a group.  Thank you  Handmade by Heidi for the idea and thanks to Deanna where I heard about it.

10,000 hours

“The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert-in anything. In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again.  Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or twenty hours a week, of practice over ten years… no one has yet found a case in which world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.”

This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel Levitin.

I just read this quote and it got me thinking:  I’ve lived 42 years now. What have I practiced for 10,000 hours?

Of course, there is my job. I have easily worked 10,000 hours. So there you have it: customer service. I have worked in customer service for 21 years, maybe more. I am a world-class customer service representative. I could customer service anyone right under the table. Too bad there is no Olympic event.

But seriously, I have gained a lot from that skill. People rarely get mad at me (teenage sons don’t count). I have an ability to calm people who are upset. I also can talk to anyone in a genuine and easy way. I can make conversation about anything and nothing and yet never be offensive. I also have job security. I know no matter what happens, I will always have a job, even if I am asking, “Would you like some fries with that?”

My second world-class event is reading. I have been reading since I was five. That is over thirty-five years. It is a rare week that I haven’t read a book, most of the time two a week, and more times than I can count more than two. I can’t even imagine how much time that is or how many books that is. 

So what have I gained from all that reading?  Well, knowledge. Mostly the kind that helps you make inoffensive conversation or play trivia.  Although I can’t yet beat my dad and my husband in trivia, I can make them say, “I’m surprised she knew that.” When my husband and were talking about this, he said, “Well, isn’t reading the inverse of writing?”  There is some truth to that.  By exposing myself to different kinds of writing over the years, I probably have become a better writer.

While there is something to gain from being well read, I am not a great writer. I know I do not have 10,000 hours of writing experience. Writing is hard work. It is painful work that requires thought, research and time.  It can be soul-cleansing, but never is it easy. It is also rarely fun. However, it is rewarding and it is a skill I want to improve on.

Now what about art making in general?  Now, art-making is fun to me. I have been a quilter for over twenty years.  I have made many quilts, but I doubt I have made more than one hundred.  When I include craft projects in general I have completed more projects than I can count. However, with the exception of my time in design college, where things are by necessity sped up, I probably only spend 3-4 hours a week on craft or sewing projects.  There are times when I have spent more, and many times when children and work needs interceded: none. Yet at the same time, my art-making is improving. I have always been able to make interesting objects, but I feel like my techniques are starting to reach the quality I want them to have. I am able to think of my idea, and successfully execute it at the level I want. I see that most clearly in the first angel quilt which is the culmination of ideas I had in my head for years and years, but couldn’t fully execute until this year.

So what does this all mean to me? It means that even though I am 42 years old, I have a long way to go to achieve a high level of excellence I want for myself. I don’t expect to become world-class at writing and art-making, but I am constantly trying to improve. If all it takes is 9000 more hours of practice, well, here I go!

ufo update

corduroy quilt

I’m slowly making progress. This picture is from last week when I had all of the squares done. I doubt I will be done by the end of this month, but it is much farther along, and I have a clear intention for finishing it.  I picked up some lavender, black and red flannel.  I didn’t really like the lavender when I got it home so I dyed it a lovely blue.  The thing I discovered is that flannel sucks up dye like nobody’s business.  I  did a low water immersion process and when I put it in it turned immediately very dark.  I pulled it out quickly and squeezed out a good portion of the dye.  I put it in a plastic bag over night instead of doing the regular hour.  It turned out the perfect color.  The only thing I am struggling with (as usual) is getting things straight.  The corduroy is shifting and stretching as I sew.  I straightened the columns as I went but nothing is matching up well.  I have to finish the blue and then add three more borders, black, red, black.

Due to the heaviness of all that corduroy, I am planning on putting polar fleece on the back.  Then I can do minimal quilting, just around the shadow shapes. I need to go to the fabric store this weekend to get the polar fleece, some more flannel, and tying yarn.

Winter song

I still believe in summer days

The seasons always change

And love will find a way

-Winter Song by Sara Bareilles

I got tired of the cheerful tulips heading.  I changed my heading to a more wintry theme in honor of the real winter we are having: huge piles of snow, a serious ice storm and coming in later this week for a replay, bitter cold.  I feel like I am having a flashback to my childhood when winter seemed to just go on forever. I am not as content as I was then to just curl up with a book and let it pass me by.  Instead, I am keeping myself going with projects and even went for a foray into my unheated sewing room yesterday to clean up a little.  But I miss long walks that don’t take my breath away and warm feet. (That part you can sing to the tune of My Favorite Things.) 

This time of year always makes me a little claustrophobic. We don’t have access to our three season porch and my sewing room. We all get a little bit on each others’ nerves.

What’s funny is my older boy is loving this winter.  He is walking or biking everywhere in the city and bundling up really heavily. He’s shrugged off the teenage bravado of “no coat, no gloves, I’m not cold” (his brother is in this stage now), in favor of exploring his space with his friends. It’s completely unexpected that he would do this.  I am completely amazed by him. I am not a winter person, and his dad, although he somehow never cold, is from southern California.  My husband just looks at weather, any weather, as an enormous, completely unexpected surprise.  I do my best to ignore the weather unless I am making small talk.  My son is embracing it, or at least facing it without complaint.

It’s a day to count blessings. Healthy family and a warm house. A car that starts even at 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stay warm…

angel quilt- Winter

I just finished this quilt over Christmas.  I have been playing around with transparency for a while with greeting cards I have been making.  I used a sheet that is nearly worn through, a curtain that faded beautifully and shredded over time due to stress from hanging and some new patterned curtain fabric.  I used a stencil I made years ago to make the angel on the worn sheet.  The fabric is so sheer that you can see little sparkles from the silver fabric shining through.

I have for years wanted to make a purple quilt called Purple Rain.  You can guess exactly how old I am from that statement.  Anyway, this quilt is the tiny, successful version of that imaginary quilt. The other major influence is Jude Hill of Spirit Cloth, of course.

I enjoyed making this quilt so much I have plans to make two more.  This first one is called Winter.  The second one is Star, and the third is Dawn. I’ve already started Star, in fact, I counted it as one of my UFOs for 2011.

ufo update

The first number that Judy over at Patchwork Times drew is 6.  This is for me the black, green, and red corduroy quilt.  I have been working on this quilt at least since 1997.  I know this because I turned the top in for a surface design class I was taking at the University of Minnesota and I graduated in 1997.  This makes it older than my younger son who is 12 years old now!

Anyway, the instructor had us do a bleach resist process.  We clamped black fabric between two wooden cutouts and then dipped them in bleach.  Since I was a student at the time, I didn’t have much funds for fabric. I went through my stash and found a little regular cotton fabric, and a pair of black corduroy pants. I do like the way the resist appears on the corduroy.  I pulled this out with the idea that I would give it as a gift a couple of years ago.  There were worn areas where the top had been folded.  I cut it apart and then began to reframe it with black fabric again, this time black flannel.  Then, I gave up because I decided that it was too dark of a quilt for a wedding gift.  I just gave them cash instead.  Less personal, but just as useful, and a lot less stressful for me. 

So here is a picture of it in its current state:

It appears that I did some more framing since I took the last photo for the blog. I measured the squares and a few are cut to 15 inches squares so I cut some fabric to bring the others up to that size. I cut some corduroy squares over Christmas vacation.  I thought they were their own quilt, but now I wonder if they are part of this quilt.

Anyway, I am off and running.  It feels like this is a hard quilt to start with because it is so old, but as this year is full of endings and beginnings, it will feel good to be in charge of one ending.