In the studio: September 2020

Tree quilt

I have a ton of beading supplies that have been sitting in a tub for longer than I care to admit. After buying a beaded necklace that I love from the Candy Dance festival in Genoa (yes, that’s a real event and sadly, canceled this year, like so many events), I wanted to make more. I bought the supplies for about 20 necklaces, eventually learned the basics from a friend, made my first necklace, and stopped there. (Insert forehead slap here.)  I’m not proud of this, my friends. It’s a terrible display of lack of grit. Time went by, and I just psyched myself out. I found it impossible to get started.  A couple of months ago, I took an online jewelry class and that planted the seed to try again.

So, I decided to make a beaded hanger for a quilt, this tree quilt that I finished back in January

It turned out so great! I can’t believe I made it! This small success has unleashed my inner beader, and I have completed two quilt hangers and two necklaces this month! Beading is incredibly relaxing, and I use a KLACK serving tray (IKEA) and a flocked bead design board from Michaels to bead in bed. It’s become a regular part of my nighttime routine. 

If you would like to give beading a trying, head over to YouTube University and start your beading adventure today. 

Some tools that I am glad I bought:

  • Wire
  • A basic jewelry making toolset
  • Jump rings in different sizes 
  • Clasps
  • An interesting selection of beads, small and large
  • Sorting trays (but if I need more, I’m going to check out these from Harbor Freight)

Practical quilts and weaving (!)

Small strip quilt used for a drying mat.

In the past month, I worked on several projects, including a long-planned pair of quilts for our kitchenette. We have two bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, and one has a kitchenette. I decided to upgrade the microfiber drying mat to a quilted version and made a companion quilt to go under the countertop water dispenser. I used varying strip widths on these, something I don’t typically do. I love how they turned out.

I also designed a woven wall hanging! Last month I finished my first weaving via a class through The Crafter’s Box taught by Erin Barrett, owner of Sunwoven. Now that I have a loom, I thought “What else can I make?” Using Mandala Ombré Yarn from Lion as my inspiration, I created a design using Adobe InDesign and pretty much finished in a week doing a little bit after work every day. I am light years away from Erin in terms of ability (follow her on Instagram!), but I had fun, and I learned a lot. 

In My Wake(let)

Boat with a wake. Photo by Shaah Shahidh on Unsplash

Website projects. I love them, and I hate them. The holy grail has always been an easy-to-use platform that delivers good-looking sites. WordPress was a huge step in that direction. Templates and plug-ins make it so much easier to provide a website that looks good and meets project objectives. But, there’s still a steep learning curve for most people.

Enter Wakelet. Wakelet is a tool geared toward the K-12 audience for teaching, portfolios, and team projects. It has a beautiful interface with built-in tools and a searchable Unsplash library of photos, and you can upload videos, PDFs, text, websites. You can arrange curated lists in several ways. Resource lists vault past the text-only link lists that we are used to seeing and creating. 

Because it’s geared toward kids, Wakelet offers user management and access without requiring accounts and logins. It’s genius. Read more

Here’s my Wakelet:

I’ve all but abandoned browser bookmarks in favor of Wakelet boards and bookmarks. 
If you want to try it out, check out their how-to guide:

Photo by Shaah Shahidh on Unsplash

Quilt heroes

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

My first quilt was a trip around the world lap quilt. I was asked to fill in as an instructor for a class and thought I should make the quilt before attempting to teach others. Why me? I do not know. Desperation, maybe. I was a long-time sewer at that point, but I had never made a quilt. I was probably a lousy teacher, but I hope that my enthusiasm and encouragement made up for my complete lack of knowledge. My second quilt was also a trip around the world quilt for my boyfriend. It was queen-sized, and I appliqued his name into the border. I went all out for quilt number two, and he was suitably impressed. Looking back, I see it was a turning point in my life as a sewist. Quilts became my primary focus and have been for a long time. I’ve taken many classes and tried all kinds of techniques making many traditional and non-traditional quilt patterns. 

Fast forward about five years, and I started making the quilts that I think of as my quilts. Pieced strip quilts combined with black sashing. The first quilts used every color. Then I did color themes, like blue and green and red and green. Fast forward again, and now my quilts don’t always have black sashing–and sometimes I forego the sashing altogether, especially in my small quilts. I have been experimenting with a close-to-zero waste strategy, sewing tiny bits together to make strips. 

This use-what-you-have strategy connects me to generations of quilters who created quilts for warmth out of what they had. Many quilts are utilitarian, but an extraordinary number of quilts are also works of art. Needle arts were one of the few creative outlets for generations of women, and quilting is now an art form dominated by women.

Last year, I read about an incredible bequest of 3,000+ quilts from the estate of quilt collector Eli Leon. Honestly, I tried to picture having a 3,000 quilt collection in my home. I told my husband I was willing to try it. 😉 Leon built a temperature-controlled addition to house much of his collection. He studied and collected quilts made by African American quilters, and supported and championed the work of quilters like Rosie Lee Tompkins.

Rosie Lee Tompkins is a pseudonym for Effie May Howard. Howard was an extremely private person and sought to remain unknown. Eli Leon suggested that Howard use the name Rosie Lee Tomkins when exhibiting her work. 

Leon donated his quilt collection, the largest private collection of African American quilts, to the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA).

Rosie Lee Tompkins: A Retrospective is currently on exhibit at BAMPFA. Covid-19 has closed down museums worldwide, but the shutdown has inspired many great online museum tours like this one, led by Chief Curator Larry Rinder. 

Tompkins quilts have power and movement, bold colors, whimsical motifs, and unexpected fabrics. She could transform a controlled geometric pattern into something organic, transforming traditional designs and techniques into modern art. Her color combinations glow and pulse. I’ve been thinking about what she might have wanted people to feel when they saw her work: Joy. Energy. Power. Faith. Happiness. 
Read more about the exhibition in this review by Roberta Smith in the New York Times.

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

Hair DIY

Hair scissors on pink background. Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

After a series of haircuts that were not quite me, I realized the importance of finding a hairstylist who could work with why I have: fine, straight hair and lots of it. I learned why it’s worth it to pay someone who is well trained. My last haircut was in early February. One of my last pre-Covid-19 outings, I remember that it was pouring rain and cold and that I left the salon with a cute but expensive haircut. I went on a business trip through the Seattle airport, which made me nervous as I read reports of a virus that was sweeping through China. Within a month, my home state was hammered by the virus, and we were acclimating to a new stay-at-home reality. 

I really understand the “I need a haircut bad” feeling. But I also know I’m not willing to die for a haircut. Even with short hair, I can make a haircut last about 12 weeks. Mid-May, I was shaggy. I trimmed my bangs, and that helped. My computer headset camouflages a lot, and it helps that no one can see the back of my head on Zoom calls. But by July, it was out of control. So I enlisted my husband for a full haircut. It took two rounds of cutting and a YouTube video, but we accomplished a good-ish haircut. 

He’s very experienced with clipper cuts, having cut his own hair since college. (Yep, he even cuts the back.) I cut the hair in front, channeling the best stylists that I’ve had. The first go-around, my hair was still too long in the back. My husband, like so many stylists I’ve had, was really reluctant to cut it short. I found a video showing a clipper cut on a woman, and that gave him the confidence to go for it. 

Two things that I wish I had: hair clips (we used chip clips) and texturizing scissors. Next month’s goal: get some tools and learn to do a fade with the clippers.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Quilted Joy

Small red strip quilt

I was in the sewing room trying to find a project that I could work on and finish–I needed a win–and came across some red strips from another project. A long time ago, I took a quilting class called “All Reds Go Together (ARGT),” and this is an ode to that class. That take-home message has stuck with me all these years.

I usually set pieced strips against black borders but I went all in with ARGT for this mini quilt. It feels like quilted joy.

Yo! More art, less media consumption

Yo sculpture, Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Unless it’s multimedia! The news takes me to a dark place and I have decided that I need to spend more time creating and less time ruminating. Saturdays have come studio days plus any other time I can eke out here and there throughout the week. I’m working on a yo-yo quilt. Yo-yos are circles of fabric gathered up to make a shape that’s reminiscent of a yo-yo and then sewn together on the edges to make a quilt. 

I fell in love with yo-yo quilts after staging a rescue. On one moveout day in an apartment long ago, I found a quilt folded neatly on top of old blankets in the dumpster. It’s a queen-size quilt made entirely of yo-yos – thousands of them! My guess is circa 1930? Someone’s grandma worked hard on that quilt! It’s in beautiful shape and only a few of the yo-yos are separated. 

I’ve probably had the quilt now for 30 years. It’s now time to honor its maker with a quilt of my own. 

Stay tuned!

(Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash)

Creating Together Online

Get your hands dirty - create something today

Unusual times demand unusual measures

We find ourselves in a time where face-to-face meetups are off the table, and our virtual meetups are running the risk of mimicking the worst of our in-person meetings. I’ve been fortunate to be part of two online classes over the past year. I was using Zoom several times a week before most of the world knew what it was. And I was making meaningful connections with others. I knew what was possible. 

I recently organized a circle on creativity. Four of us came together for weekly discussions in building and nurturing a creative life. Although each of us has a different creative life, we used a wide range of readings, prompts, and questions to guide the discussion. Like everyone else, we have been meeting virtually. But even if we wanted to, regular face-to-face meetings would be impossible as our little group is spread across two continents. 

Pushing virtual boundaries

In our most recent circle, I wanted to push the boundaries of our virtual meeting. We use the circle way guidelines, so our meetings already have some of the elements familiar to an in-person gathering. But creative pursuits are inherently hands-on, often resulting in a product–a photo, a painting, a story, a quilt. Could we do a hands-on activity in a virtual space? 

Inspired by the online tool Wakelet, I encouraged the group to use this online platform to create a collage. Wakelet allows users to create curated collections of content including links, text, images, and videos (including user-produced videos). It’s like having an ability to create and share a website almost instantly. I created a collection and invited the group to contribute. Wakelet is geared toward K-12 audiences. I love its intuitive interface that’s easy to use without training. You and your collaborators can access Wakelet with a simple link–no accounts or logins required. 

We spent part of our 75-minute session contributing to a shared Wakelet board, and then we spent about 20 minutes working individually on our own collage projects. Before the meeting, I invited the group to collect physical or electronic objects for their collages. We spent about 20 minutes of our Zoom session working independently. Two of us created physical collages, and two created electronic collages using Wakelet. Mine was a paper collage. I have always been drawn to collage as an art form, but I had only created one collage that I remembered clearly (and still have). Despite having an impressive stockpile of collage materials and tools, I could never bring myself to start. Given the space and time and the support of a group similarly engaged, my collage came together quickly. Time stood still for me, and I think the whole group entered that enviable state of being known as flow, a theory developed by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

One participant said “the time flew by” because the process was so engaging. “The format of the circle allowed us to take creative action and make a thing, not just talk about or think about being creative, but to actually create art.”

If you had told me that it was possible to achieve a flow state in a Zoom call, I’m not sure I would have believed it. I didn’t think we would all make significant progress in 20 minutes either–I was hoping to push us all to start something. But we all made considerable progress and I am already looking forward to our next working session. 

Want to give online creativity activities a try?

Here’s the format that we used:

  1. Before the meeting, I shared a link to Wakelet and set up a collection. I invited others to be contributors to the collection. I also asked everyone to come to the meeting with physical or electronic collage elements.
  2. We rang a bell to start the circle. 
  3. I shared a reading on creativity.
  4. Each person shared how they were arriving
  5. We explored Wakelet for about 20 minutes. 
  6. We took about 20 minutes to create a physical or electronic collage.
  7. We shared our experience and each person had the option to share what they worked on using the share screen feature in Zoom.
  8. We closed with another reading and rang the bell to end the circle.

Learn more:

Circle Way Guidelines (free; available in multiple languages)

Wakelet (free)

Photo by Amaury Salas on Unsplash