Wednesday, February 27, 2013

They're cloning in the closet

I know, we quilters say it all the time (at least once  year, but most of us more often than that), "I'm going to finish projects that I have started before I start anything new."  I've been quilting for nearly 40 years so ... we can do that math.

But now I'm serious.  Really.   I won't pretend that I won't start new projects but I'm at least going to start doing something about all those scraps that are cloning in the closet.   I can say that with some confidence because I have actually started doing it, and I have made a commitment to myself to do a presentation/trunk show on making quilts from those scraps:  "They're Cloning in the Closet!"

I do like the look of scrap quilts, and the satisfaction of using some of those scraps--even with more tubs full of scraps staring me in the face.   I might even have to create some scraps, if I didn't already have sufficient scraps to keep every quilter in the world busy for the rest of our lives--and then some.

There is still a lot of fussing and futzing ahead for me, but it will be a pleasure.  Because what's the point of quilting if it isn't fun?

Happy quilting!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Where do ideas come from?

As I was preparing my "Why Quilts Matter" presentation, and thinking about questions that quilters and non-quilters might ask, I remember a question that I heard with some frequency when I was working and teaching in a quilt shop:  "Where do your ideas for design come from?"  

The lazy, flip answer is "I don't know, they just come to me," but that's not very fair--to the person asking the question or to myself and the "creative process."  So I've spent some time thinking about an honorable answer.  I think I'm able to organize it into 3--maybe 4--categories.  Two of them are old standbys for me, as the sources and methods I've used for a long time.

One of them is newer, trying to design a visual representation of a concept.  (This one has grown out of my attempt to develop a creative habit, a la Twyla Tharp, in her "The Creative Habit.)  As I mentioned in an earlier post, when I awaken in the morning I come up with a design idea for a quilt.  (As you might expect, some are better than others.)  It may be something that came to me in a dream, or something I see in the room, but sometimes it's more about a concept or non-visual idea.  One morning, for example, the first thing I heard when I woke up was the train whistle that is there every morning, but which I too often don't really hear.    How could I visually represent that sound, and perhaps even the Doppler Effect of it.

I don't think I'm ready to talk about the fourth one yet--I'm just starting to explore it and its future as an inspiration for quilt design is uncertain.  But I'm excited to give it a try!

One thing I have observed, through all of this, is that I'm observing more.  :-)  Noticing the sounds of the train and then asking the simple question, "What would a quilt of that sound look like," are stretching my creative muscles, and there isn't anything much better than that--even chocolate!

What about you--where do YOUR creative ideas come from?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Irish Lace revisited

My passion for fiber arts plus my half-Irish heritage equals Irish crocheted lace for me, and I have recently taken up learning and practicing more on the lace.   I have crocheted for many year, though I can't claim any great proficiency, and that makes it easier to make a start.  Irish lace uses packing cord, or padding, and managing that cord as you crochet around it is, I'm finding, not as easy as it might seem.   In addition, the free-form nature of connecting motifs can be a challenge but these two characteristics are what make it Irish lace.

A padded ring, or "buttony" as Maire Treanor calls them, is made by winding thread around a knitting needle, crochet hook, or (as one of Ms. Treanor's students suggested) a drinking straw, and crocheting around the cord.  Easy, you might think, if you crochet.   Not so much, I discovered. (The straw suggestion is brilliant, however; I'm not sure I would have completed one yet without it!)  My second was definitely better than the first.   (Note that, in all the following photos, I am doing my practice crocheting with size 12 thread; in the end I'll be using 20-50, with packing cord in size 10 or 20.  I'm waiting for delivery of smaller crochet hooks.)

 The wild rose is a good motif to start with, as it uses most of the stitches and techniques used throughout Irish lace.  I'm working on my first wild rose here, and getting better with each petal. (I'm sure you're all too kind to count, but the first petal doesn't have enough loops--mistakes are important to learning right?)

The packing cord is used when you crochet around all the petals, giving more body to the edging.
Did I mention that this is going to take some practice?

There are so many beautiful Irish lace antique pieces out there, and new ones being designed now.  Check out the Sheelin Irish Lace Museum for a look at some antique pieces.  And a search on "Irish lace" on Pinterest yields some beautiful examples.

Traditionally Irish lace was used for dresses, and for lace curtains and linens.  Since I'm a quilter, first and foremost, I'm thinking about it for crazy quilting; I have been seeing some motifs that would be beautiful as lace embellishments.  Some of the collars and jackets and tops are tempting though; I wonder how long it would take me to crochet a jacket....?

The finer thread has arrived from Heirloom Crochet, and the finer hooks are on their way from Earth Faire.  Then we'll see how I do with finer work. Stay tuned.