Saturday, August 25, 2012

Goldilocks in My Project World

I have projects.  Lots and lots of projects, across all manner of arts and crafts--spinning, weaving, knitting, crocheting, bobbin lace, scrapbooking, and especially mini-scrapbooking.  If you are reading this there is a fair chance that you have a wealth of projects, too.

Here are some of my reasons for having so many projects; see if you own any of these, yourself:

 1)  A 2 year old has nothing on me for attention span, and I can't blame the modern, digital, soundbytes world for it.  I know that's the popular theory but I've always had a short attention span.  Apparently, I am not alone in that.

2) One of my great passions is for learning; I just like learning new things.  Once I've learned something, I've been-there-done-that and am ready for the next thing to learn.   I'm not talking about learning the macro, like "quilting" or "spinning" (though I suffer from that, too) but a particular technique, or pattern, or material.

3) I really do start out planning to finish everything but, in spite of all those good intentions I work on something for awhile and then get bored.   And get distracted.  ("Oooo!  Sparkly things!")  I suppose, if you wanted to be unkind, you could call it a lack of focus.

 I know artists who finish a project before they start a new one.  I admire them for that, I am even a tiny bit jealous and I'm happy that that works for them--but I'm afraid it just doesn't work for me. 
There are benefits to having a treasure trove of projects from which to choose--at least for me:

a)  I add to my tool kit of techniques and skills, in a shorter period of time.  Granted, I don't practice most of them enough to reach 100% perfection but, to be honest, I don't need to reach perfection in all of them.  Some of them I learn and practice enough to know how they work, or to know that it isn't a technique I want to continue.

b) Those things that I don't perfect are still tucked away in the back of my creative brain, dormant until some point at which they might raise their hands to be used in a project that hasn't even been conceived yet.  Will some things lie dormant forever?  Probably, but that's OK because the percentage of those that will be used later is much higher.

c) Even if I never use a technique or skills, as is, it's a larger repertoire for adaptation. Just one little change can make it perfect for a new project or idea. And from there, there will likely be another change....or two....  (It may end up looking nothing at all like the original.  But that's OK;  in fact, that's great!)

d) It's all part of letting creativity have its way in my brain, and through my hands.  And that is better than OK, that's what it's all about.  End products are nice, and I will always want to finish some things, but I'm coming to realize that the creative process is at least as important, if not more so, than the end product.   If your livelihood depends on end product you may have to focus more on that but why not have some fun along the way--maybe the stress of production need will be eased a bit if you feed your creative soul all along the way.   If you do need product for your business, what do you think?  How do you feed your creativity?)

e) Multiple projects "feed" off each other in my creativity.  It's true, sometimes I put something aside because it has started to bore me to tears but, even when I do that, it often finds its way back--something for my hands to work on while my creativity plays around in my head, or a different texture or skill is just what the more current project needs, or what I need for a break.

So, is this all just rationalization for a short attention span?  I used to think so, but I don't any longer.  And what about Goldilocks?    The challenge, for me, is to find the right number of projects.

If there are too many I'm in danger of being overwhelmed with all that is waiting, unfinished, for me. I  also have chosen some creative endeavors that are not inexpensive, especially if you want to use good materials.  And you almost have to use good materials because life's too short to spend a long time on a project that isn't going to acceptable in the end, right?  But I don't have an unlimited budget so too many projects means a better chance that really fine materials are languishing in a closet, and that's a shame.  (So, re-purposing of materials is important.)

If there are too few projects everything feels stunted and creative flow is blocked.  I get fidgety.  Last night I finished a knitted lace scarf and already I'm trawling around for another.  Oh, I have plenty of UFOs, of course, but I'm itching--literally (or is it twitching?) for something new.

What is "just right" for the number of projects?  I'm not sure I've found the perfect balance yet for me.  But that's OK.  :-)  I've renamed my UFOs to AFOs (Almost Finished Objects)--no matter how close to, or far from, finished they are.  They're just perfect, wherever they're at in completion terms.

What's right for you?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back in the saddle

Quilting has been on a back burner for me for awhile.  I can't explain the reasons, because I'm not sure, myself.  It's not that I don't have many projects running around in my head, or UFOs ALL OVER my studio, or tops waiting for my longarm--which has been sitting idle for too long now.  Perhaps it's just been a lack of energy overall lately.

(Here's a photo of some of the stacks of tops waiting to meet my longarm.  They take less room as tops than as finished quilts!  That's my story.  Can we call these AFOs--Almost Finished Objects?)

But I'm happy to say that my quilting friends have gotten me back on track. Sewing with friends has re-energized me, and remindws me that our mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, and further back got together regularly for "bees;"  they were social occasions for them, but I think they must have also been energizing and inspiring for them.  There's just something about sharing that quilting and sewing experience.  We still do that today, with guilds and small groups, and certainly with the online social gatherings available to us.   In fact, one of my spinning/knitting tweeps can claim some credit for this re-energzing for quilting, though she isn't a quilter.   She reminded me why I most love quilting--why I MUST do it--because it's creative and, most of all, comforting to myself and (hopefully) to those to whom they are gifted.

So, I will still be learning new things, enjoying new arts/crafts, and finding some comfort and peace in them, but quilting is still a part of the heart of me.   I don't think I could get away from it, even if I wanted to.  I'll be reporting here on all things fiber in my life--quilting, spinning, weaving, knitting, crocheting, and whatever else I might take up.

Now, down to pull 16 yards of fabric for quilt backings out of the dryer...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A "good enough" learning experience

I'm very new to dyeing fiber, and was very lucky to really like my first endeavor.  (All of which is good, because had I not liked it I might have parted company with dyeing.   By this point in a person's life you'd think a person would have learned that it isn't possible to do everything perfectly the first time out of the gate but, no.)

The dyeing sessions after the first have been reasonably successful, aside from occasionally managing to do a tiny bit of felting in the process; the colors were good, anyway.  Until a recent experiment, in which I just mixed some colors without much of a plan.  Some of it was OK, some of it not so much.  I saturated parts of the fiber too much, and the dye ran during steaming, creating some....what would you call it, yellow-ish, green-ish,....? 

Deciding that maybe I would like it better spun than I liked the fiber, I spun and plied it and, thankfully, I like it better than I liked the fiber.  I don't LOVE it, but I don't hate it, and I can see which colors I like in the combination and which I don't especially like in the mix.

So, now I know, and that's the point of it all, right?

And at some point I'm going to have to figure out what to do with this yarn I'm spinning.

Meanwhile, back to quilting and some projects that have been sitting on the shelf.  Ideas for art quilts are springing up all over my brain.  I'm going to have to do something about that.  Soon.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bead stash

Who knew that my past obsession with beads would serve me well now?  I needed some stitch markers, so decided to make some.  I need 24--halfway there!

They wouldn't win any ribbons for good wire wrap work, but they'll work and shouldn't catch on the yarn.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Joining up!

Thinking that it's high time I learn to "join as you go" when crocheting motifs, I have taken up "Jubilee" shawl, from Amanda Perkins.  I love the design and, really, how hard could joining as you go be?

I'm sure that it's a piece of cake for many crocheters.  I am not one of them, but I'm determined to power through it!  :-)   It's not that it's that difficult, it's just that I've been resistant to reading crochet charts.  I recently conceded, you may remember, to the value of reading knitting charts, instead of written instructions.  I was going to hold out on the crochet chart thing, though.  I gave it my best shot, I patted my self on the back when I finished the first row of 10 motifs, all joined together.

The problem is, I was looking at the general diagram for how the hexagons were arranged, not the chart, so I joined at only half the points that I should have.  Oops!

Only when I had to join a neckline, sort of half, motif did I realize that I had missed some (ok, a lot of) points on the first row.    And I might have been able to continue to do it without the chart had I not had to work in those doggone neckline motifs, but the stitches on it were different enough from the full motifs that I couldn't quite "read" and match them as the join points aren't written into the instructions.

It took me more than an hour, and a couple of false starts but I figured it--read the chart and worked the joins.  I am going to fake it on the first row (I'm a quilter; I can fake it...)

It pains me to say it, but not as much as it did to try to do it without reading the chart--I really needed to learn to read crochet charts.

Oh, dear; does this mean I am growing up in my knitting and crocheting?  Horrors!  Next they'll make me gauge....

Friday, August 3, 2012

More Lace--with Irish Eyes

Some time ago, while working on a crazy quilted vest I found a strip of thick lace in my stash.  I don't remember buying the lace myself, so it must have come from my Mom's stash of embellishments.  Only later, as I began to look into learning Irish crocheted lace did I realize that it probably was made by someone in Dad's family, who came from Ireland.  It is now a pretty precious piece of lace!

Irish lace, I discovered, is quite different from other lace, as it is usually worked around a foundation cord--hence the thickness of the lace. 

I am beginning again to delve into Irish lace, and ready to learn.  My first foray (aside from a shamrock--what else could I start with?) is actually a rose and leaves motif pattern for a pincushion.  Traditionally, the motifs and the background "lattice" would be worked separately but for this pattern the background is worked out from the rose motif, and the leaves added later.    It is also not worked around a foundation cord, but it is in the style of Irish lace.   The edging IS worked around a foundation, and added later.

Here's the rose motif for the center:

And here it is, with the lattice background. 

I have completed leaves (I like the way they're done, though it took me a couple of tries to get them to look as I wanted), and will attach them when I have blocked the main piece and tacked it to the linen pincushion form.

As I recall, when I first started working on Irish lace, working around a foundation cord is cumbersome, and is going to require some practice.   But while I'm working on it I can think about my trip to Ireland, meeting my third cousin, visiting the family's old homestead property, and seeing my great great grandfather's grave.   It's one more connection to that side of my family.