Slow Quilt Monday--Consider Color

If you follow my blog or podcast, you'll know that at the moment I'm not particularly in a slow quilt mode. Several months of no-time-to-quilt makes Sandy a pent-up-quilter-ready-to-explode-with-fabric. I'm compensating for the dry period now by churning out several immediate-gratification projects. I'll get over myself soon enough and return to former ways. But even while I'm spinning through a variety of projects, my brain is actually still in slow quilt mode. I'm still pondering and brewing. I have some mental quilts I've been working on for some time. I believe after the holidays I'll be going back to having things hanging on my design wall that are talking to me.

My Design Study Group is drawing near to the end of the Lorraine Torrance book Fearless Design for Every Quilter that we've been using for the last year or so. Admittedly, we didn't follow the process to the letter. Sometimes we did homework, sometimes we did the homework assignment right in our session together. Sometimes we said we were going to do homework and didn't. You know how that goes. Sometimes we critiqued, most times we just oohed and aahed. And laughed. Always laughed.

The group has said it wants to continue. And as we discussed how we might continue, the overwhelming interest was in working more with color. We're starting to explore what books we might decide to work through next. One of our members showed me a book at our guild meeting this week that I fell in love with. I think it's a definite contender. I also think it must come to live with me. Time to head to Joanns (where she told me she got it) with a coupon to see if I can do better than Amazon pricing.

So for today's Slow Quilt Monday post, I'm thinking color. With the work we've done in the Design Study Group, and with my Total Color Tuesday posts, I have been challenged to look at color combinations I wouldn't normally consider. I want to keep pushing that. So this week, as part of my Slow Quilt Movement process, I'll be paying close attention to color in the world. As our leaves disappear and the usual winter grayness descends on my area, I'll be looking for monochromatic color schemes in my backyard--the play of neutrals as things hunker down for winter. When I go to my stash, I'll continue to pull out the color wheel and play with creating color combinations from my fabric, just to see what it would look like if....

If you're needing a little slow quilting in your life, I encourage you to join me in just paying attention to color this week. Pull out your colored pencils and make some sketches, using colors you wouldn't normally use. Play with your stash. Take pictures of your yard and look at the palettes that appear. When you catch yourself staring off into space at work, let your eyes land on something and consider what color that thing is, and what colors you might put with it. Dream in color.

Slow Quilt Monday--and a Few Other Items

I finally broke down and bought some Bobbin Mates so that I could stop guessing at which bobbin in my little bobbin holder actually matched the thread I wanted to use. They mostly work pretty well--and you'll see in a couple of cases you can pop two bobbins onto it if, like me, you realized that for some unknown reason you never finished one bobbin before loading a second.

The only thread I own that they don't fit well is my Aurifil which, as you know, is a significant proportion of my thread stash. But balancing it on one edge and propping it up on my thread holder on the wall just so actually isn't too bad. I haven't had any fall off yet. Workable, anyway. Now my thread stash feels just a little bit more organized.

In terms of works in progress, now that I finished Joy I'm feeling the need to finish the gift for my pregnant friend and get the baby quilt done this week, if possible. So I've started making all the required half-square triangles.

This is the method I'm using: Cut two squares an inch bigger than desired finished unit; draw quarter inch seam lines on either side of the center line; sew down each drawn line; cut in half. Press the triangles open, square up/trim down to necessary size. Easy schmeasy, and you can easily chain piece a bunch of them. (By the way, I cut my squares 1" larger than my desired finished unit because I wanted some wiggle room. The standard formula is 7/8" larger but, really, who is that 1/8" going to kill? I like nice round numbers in my math whenever possible. My brain hurts less that way.)

This method is even easier when you use a tool like the Fons & Porter Quarter Inch Seam Marker. Yes, I could line up a regular ruler to draw the line on one side and flip it to draw the line on the other, but there's always the chance for variation based on exactly where you line the ruler up along that center line each time. As we all know, 1/16" here and there can make a whole big difference when multiplied by lots of blocks. I prefer to use this ruler. It comes in a package of two sizes for the one price.

Where is my slow quilting this week in all my talk about chain piecing and efficiency-building rulers? It's in my head. While I'm going through the rater mundane, rote motions of drawing lines and cutting in half, I'm designing my next quilt in my head. I'm also finding that my Total Color Tuesdays are already influencing what my plans are for that next project. (Be sure to check out the linkies on those posts! Folks are playing along!)

Also, this weekend my husband and I went hiking. How can one not be inspired to quilt?

(Taughannock Falls State Park, near Ithaca, New York.)

Slow Quilt Monday--The Word

For some of us, of course, the phrase "The Word" has distinctly religious connotations. For others of us who make our livings by the written or spoken word, it may also have slightly spiritual connotations. For me, language is fascinating and irritating at the same time. So many nuances...and yet, like cable channels, still there are times when despite the myriad choices we can't find the word to express exactly what we are thinking or experiencing.

Still n' all, we may not particularly equate words with quilting. In fact, I've often stated that for me, quilting is a great relief after spending an entire day in the world of words. Instead, I get to play with color, shape, line, and all those other non-verbal things.

But lately I've been giving a lot of thought to using words to inspire design. I mentioned this in passing in the podcast episode that just went live on Sunday--how the word "Joy" came to be the guiding principle in the work I just finished, and how I'm already working on another piece inspired by a single word. Our Design Study Group just completed a session on using words as inspiration from the Lorraine Torrence book as well.

When you look at a quilt you're working on, do you find that there's a word that becomes your guiding principle, your theme, the touchstone you keep going back to? "Does this color match my word? Would this piece better exemplify my word?"

If not, is that something you'd like to play with?

Sometimes slow quilting is simply playing with ideas in your head. Choose a word that would have meaning to you, and then imagine what kind of quilt you might design that would express that word in some way to others. What colors would you use? What shapes would appear? What kind of borders might best carry the word through to the outermost edges? You can just play in your head, or with colored pencils, or your fingertip and a touchscreen tablet...whatever way you like to doodle.

You may never make any of the quilts that you play with in your head or on paper, but each one still influences whatever you do actually make later!

Randomness and a Finish

1. My friend Lori from guild took my left-over baby receiving blanket flannel scraps and turned them into adorable stuffed bunnies. Bunny is now a spring decoration in my home. He makes me smile.

2. I need a pedicure. Not at all related to #1.

3. It's officially summer by my clock. I got in the pool for the first time today. Hence noticing #2.

 4. Stonyfield Organic Low-Fat Vanilla Yogurt, frozen pineapple chunks, frozen mango chunks, a fresh banana, and a splash of orange juice make for a wonderful, vacation-y-feeling breakfast smoothie. A little beach time without the beach. Or the time. But we'll take what we can get. Puts me in the mood for #3 and, by extension, #2. Maybe I'll bring #1 with me to cuddle too.

5. I finally finished "Joy"! It started out just playing with shapes, but that word kept coming to me and became the guiding principle.

5a. It's the joy that I've witnessed in the lives of so many women. Women who have been through Some Stuff. And yet, joy abounds.

5b. I learned how to let go.

5c. I discovered the fun of just cutting shapes and seeing what happens.

5d. I learned to be okay with the fact that a fern suddenly looked a whole lot more like a big speckled bird. Conversation piece.

5e. I listened when my quilt told me it needed another fern peeking out from the side, behind the border. "Okay. Whatever you say. You're the boss."

5f. I took my time, redoing a figure several times over until I got one that was more or less the shape I was going for. I found fascination in noticing the slight changes in line that could create a whole different sense of movement.

5g. I had fun using some great fat quarters I've had kicking around for awhile and never quite knew how to use.

5h. Some pieces are just too dang small. Even for fusible, raw-edge applique. I'll cuff myself upside the head next time I start doing little bitty feet or arms. (Note the woman bending over in the back of the top picture. Her appendages gave me fits.)

5h. I learned when to say "enough is enough," let a project call itself done, and get ready to move onto the next in the series.

Slow Quilt Monday--The Quilt Whisperer

Are you a Quilt Whisperer? 

Do you let your quilts talk to you? Let you know what they want? What they need?

Do you let them just hang out with you for awhile? Lounging on your cutting table? Leaning casually on your design wall, watching you as you go about your day? Do you hear them occasionally trying to get your attention?

"Hey. Have you thought about pink? I'm sorta in the mood for some pink. Right here, halfway down my right side. I don't see pink on anything else that you've made lately. Might make me different. I like being different."

"Could you put down that rotary cutter for a minute and come here? We need to talk. I'm just not feeling this border. Makes me look fat."

And what about...

"Hey. Over here. No. Inside here. I'm that quilt in your brain. I'm the one that woke you up yesterday--remember? I came to you in a dream--really, I did! You woke up and were sort of excited about me, and then your kid needed your help figuring out what to wear to school and then you needed to get your coffee because we all know what you're like before caffeine and then you decided you'd really better get a load of wash in before getting ready for work then you had two back-to-back meetings right away and thousands of emails and phone calls and by the time you got home your kid needed help with her homework and you can't really remember seventh grade math very well anymore and trying to do that while getting dinner ready was a real trial and by the time you--or she--was done with her homework you crashed on the couch in front of bad sitcoms then dragged yourself up to bed sort of forgot all about me. But I'm still here. Waiting. See that sketchpad over there? Why don't you at least make some notes about me before you forget me again. I might start taking it personally."

Quilts can actually be quite entertaining company if we just take the time to get to know them. 

Excellent senses of humor.

Very understanding and patient.

But, like petulant teenagers, they can
get very pouty and annoying if we ignore what they're trying to say to us.

I've had quilts work my very last nerve. 
But that's usually because I wasn't listening in the first place.

Slow Quilt Monday--The Crappy First Draft

I took a rather unintentional hiatus from my blog schedule of Slow Quilt Monday, Donation Quilt Wednesdays, and Food Fridays because I needed some time to regroup after getting back into my workaday schedule. However, that hiatus also gave me some time to ponder and process, so it turned out to be a good thing!

One of the things I worked on mentally while I was on sabbatical was, with credit to Anne Lamott for the wording, the concept of the "crappy first draft." (I apologize to any for whom that may be a distasteful word, but it's the best one to really describe the concept!) Lamott's book about writing, Bird by Bird, can apply to our entire creative lives, really. She talks about how our first responsibility is to get the story on the page, let the characters tell us who they want to be, and let the plot reveal itself to us--no matter how messy it is to start. That when we start worrying about who will want to read it, or whether it'll ever get published, we stymie ourselves and the creative spirit within us. First things first. Just write that crappy first draft, and worry about everything else later.

That really spoke to me.

I do have perfectionist tendencies but, then, I think most of us do. We don't like to start something unless we're pretty sure it'll turn out well in the end. When it comes to making quilts, we convince ourselves that fabric is too expensive to waste, so we shouldn't cut into it unless we know the color combination is just right, or the design will have exactly the impact we want, or whatever. And so, there are a lot of quilts in our heads that never come into being because we don't have enough faith in ourselves that they'll actually work.

I have since developed a remarkably devil-may-care attitude towards my fabric.

I have come to the following understandings of my quilting:
  • There are a lot of projects that will hit the trash can. I'm okay with that, because they will have been valuable learning tools. (General wisdom always says those projects should be saved into a book with copious notes about what worked and what didn't. But I have limited space, so probably not.)
  • There are a lot of projects I'll make that I'll really like but no one else will "get." I'm okay with that too. If I enjoy it, that's the main thing. As for everything else, see next items.
  • I'm not making projects to get applause at my guild's show n' tell. (Although I'll get that applause--they're very kind that way, fortunately. Everyone gets cheered on. Love my quilt peeps.)
  • I'm not making projects to put in a show. I might decide to do that later, but that's not why I set out to make them in the first place.
  • I'm not making projects to turn out a masterpiece. One might become that eventually. But I don't need that pressure in my head.
  • I'm making projects to have fun. I'm making projects to play with a new technique, color combination, design principle, or whatever. (Note the very intentional use of the word "play.")
  • I'm also a storyteller. I want my quilts, more than anything, to tell a story. Or convey a mood or a concept.
  • And, yes, my quilts will be made slowly.
Awhile back, there was some conversation that floated around between a few of our quilty podcasts (mine and others) about the difference between product and process in the quilting world, and whether or not you're a product or process quilter. I'm definitely in the process camp now.

Slow quilting doesn't necessarily mean you can't get a project done because you're really busy--although if that's the case with you, cut yourself some slack. Who's got a timer on you, anyway? We create within ourselves a sense of obligation because we think people expect things of us (that perhaps they're not really expecting), or we can't say no. That's a topic for another blog.

Slow quilting, rather, means allowing a quilt time to breathe, time to reveal itself to you.

It means making thirty-five sketches of something before one jumps out at you and you get that little tingle down the back of your neck: "Me! I'm the one you need to make! Make me me me me!"

It means having fabrics laying on your cutting table or design wall for several days in a row as you audition one to another, collecting, editing, collecting again, until a particular combination reveals itself as the one.

It means buying a lot of fabric. You need a lot of options for all that, don't you?

I've been working on a project for the last five months. I started out one night just cutting shapes out of fabric and laying them down to see what they'd turn into. It has become a quilt that tells a story. It does have several problems with it. Awhile back, I'd have set it aside--or thrown it aside in frustration--because it wasn't "good enough." Now, rather than seeing it as the enemy, I'm looking at it as a friend who is encouraging me to move forward, to experiment, to have faith in myself. I'm still working away at it, looking at it as a chance to continue learning, to continue trying new things, to continue to experiment with techniques or methods to see how they turn out. The end result may still end up hitting the trash can, but it may not. It might work itself out. In either case, it's a slow process but an extremely valuable one. That quilt has told me, every step of the way, what I needed to do next. I still don't entirely know what the end product will look like. And that's the fun of it.

Would it help you in your quiltmaking if you could accept the concept of "the crappy first draft?" Can you be okay with something that doesn't turn out perfectly but helped you learn along the way? Is there a project in your head that you've been afraid to start because, frankly, you're afraid you'll screw it up? Could you use a little slow quilting in your life?

Slow Quilt Monday--Oh, the Possibilities

I don't have many words of wisdom today because I'm deep in the midst of finishing a UFO (which has developed a real back-story, by the way, but more about that later in the week when it's actually done). So I haven't been practicing "slow quilting" these last couple of days so much as "get 'er done quilting." There are seasons for both of those in our quilting lives, to be sure.

However, I started out this morning in an endeavor that might indeed fit well under the slow quilting rubric, as it's all about imagining the possibilities.

You see, I've developed a thing for Shiva paint sticks. I picked up a few at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival and have been playing with them here and there. A couple of weeks ago I brought them with me when I made a quick drop-by to our guild's March Sew-Days. I knew my buddy Lori would appreciate them--I didn't realize the number of other folks who would fall in love with them too. Soon enough I had a crowd around me as we played with rubbing plates, sketching, and blending. Lori, Florence, and I decided a short shop-hop to an art supply store was in order. So, this morning we met in a grocery store parking lot, hopped into Lori's car, and did some financial damage in a short amount of time!

Today's purchases:
More paint sticks, of course; a few pigma pens, some stencil brushes and a couple of small stencils, some regular paint brushes of three different shape/sizes, and brush cleaner. And then a random bag of little bitty hair scrunchies to keep my bobbins in control, because they've started to bug me of late ($1 for a bag of 300 at Family Dollar, if you're interested).

Florence and Lori also picked up a few paint sticks and some other accoutrements. I'll let Lori blog about hers. Florence doesn't blog, so her quilting life will just need to remain a mystery to you all. Let me just say, though, Florence is a seriously prolific quilter. It's a rare guild show n' tell that she doesn't have at least three finishes to show, and often more. And she does tremendous charity quilting. We love Florence. She da woman.

I've done as much as I can get done on my UFO for the day--waiting for a shipment of remaining parts. :-) So now it's time to cover a work surface and get down to some serious play. I love me some paint sticks. Playing is a big part of slow quilting--you need to mess with something to get a feel for what it will let you do.

So, go mess with something. And have fun!

Slow Quilt Monday--I Think I Can

When my son was about going on 3 years old, we went through an entire summer of reading The Little Engine that Could every single night--sometimes two or three times a night. He had it memorized within the first couple of nights. Even though he couldn't read yet, he knew when we tried to speed things up on the umpteenth time through the story by skipping words here and there. He'd call us on it. "No, mommy, you missed a part!" (Sigh. Flip back a page, start again.)

At 21, he's now a very confident guy who thinks he can do pretty much anything he can set his mind to. Can I attribute my son's confidence to his early passion for Watty Piper's story of the little train engine that believed itself up the steep hill? Probably not entirely. But something in his little 30-month-old brain recognized that there was something to that story that he could relate to. Or that there was something to that story that he needed to remember for later life.

I've been reading a lot about creativity these last few weeks, and really, it all boils down to one salient point: If you think you can, you will. Yes, you may need to learn a new technique to be able to adequately execute that vision in your head. But there's nothing keeping you from learning that technique. Yes, you may have a few disastrous starts to a project before ending up with something at least closely approximating what's in your head. But who cares? It's only fabric. I've been reading about a number of great artists and novelists who were all angsty with fear every time they started out creating, and who were positive that what they were creating was just every sort of wrong through the whole process. But they kept thinking they could. And so they did.

What's the difference between me and the man or woman who created that gorgeous quilt I'm admiring in the show? Simply this: They thought they could. So they did.

This week, I think you should find a copy of The Little Engine that Could. Remember what it feels like to think you can.

Slow Quilt Monday--A Spring in My Step

I heard the birds singing this morning.

OK, so, yes--I've been hearing certain intrepid birds sing right along even in the darkest days of winter. Our yard backs up to woods so we're never entirely without birds even on the coldest days. A peep here, a cheep there. Not much, but a reminder that they're around. On the other hand, this winter has been so mild that the robins I've been seeing over the last few weeks are positively pudgy--they've not had a problem finding things to eat this year.

But this morning, there was a slightly different quality to the song. It seems to me, anyway, in my just-emerging-from-my-February-funk-self, that it's happier. More hopeful. Warmer.

Today is our second day in a row of mid-60s weather, after a weekend of snow and freezing rain. I'm just starting to see some buds starting to appear on trees and shrubs (pictured is one of my dwarf Japanese maples). I was checking out my forsythia yesterday. No yellow yet, but a few more days of this--which we're supposed to have--and I'm sure I'll start seeing a little extra color there too.

It'll break our Western New York hearts just a little bit when it snows again, because I'm sure it will. It's not unusual for us to get snow on Mother's Day, frankly, although you get past March and snow doesn't stick around for long. We may whine when we see it, but ultimately it just makes spring all that much more welcome. So I'm definitely a little perkier today--a little giddy, in fact. I can smell spring in the air!

When it comes to slow quilting, I've been poking away at a project I started, by surprise, last week.

I had a whole week to myself last week--sort of a personal retreat. The kids were still away at college, and my husband was out of town on business for the entire week. I missed them all terribly, of course, but it allowed me to set a rhythm for my week that worked for me. Well, me and the dogs. Somehow they wanted to keep being fed and getting to go outside--go figure. In any case, mostly I realized how little TV I watch when left to my own devices. I finished more "Great Courses" lectures, did a lot of reading, and got some more work done on quilt projects. I got just enough social life out of my volunteer commitments and was happy to spend the rest of the week pretty much solo.

One evening I decided to test my need for control. I decided to just start snipping fabric into shapes and fuse it down, not really planning ahead too much. I ended up having a ball with it. It's been fun to watch this project evolve. This picture was taken after the first night. I've now added a lot more flora to it in various places and will keep working on it later today as well, although I've got the borders for my Medallion Challenge project for guild to work on--I want to catch up by tomorrow night's guild meeting.

My daughter got home from college for her spring break on Friday afternoon, and my husband got home Friday night. And I've not made a lick of progress on my quilt projects since. But today is another day and my daughter has a friend coming over, so they will actually prefer if I stay holed up in my sewing room. So I'm trying to get back into a rhythm today that works around other people.

But it doesn't matter. I can smell spring in the air. I'm good.

Slow Quilt Monday--Art

As I mentioned in a recent podcast, one of my sabbatical objectives is to watch several of the Great Courses lecture DVDs I've had stacked up in my house for a bit, as part of the course-swap with my sisters. (We all own different titles and a couple of years ago I swapped some with one sister, and am just now getting to watching them.)

The set I started out with is Museum Masterpieces: The Louvre, a 12-lecture series highlighting some of the artists and periods represented in the Louvre. I'll never remember the detail of which artist created which work and how they compare with other artists of the period, but what definitely sticks with me is the concept of light, color, motion, balance...all those design principles that Jaye and I are talking about and that I'm studying in my quilt design study group.

I'm also working my way through The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron, which is a 12 week series of readings and activities meant to unlock one's creativity. In the first week, she describes "artist dates," a period of time you're to spend by yourself doing a variety of things that will lead to an expanding of your creativity. One of her first suggestions is to visit a museum by yourself. (She emphasizes "by yourself" because then you're free to ponder what you need to ponder and you're not being rushed through or distracted by others' needs or interests.)

I find myself going back again and again to thoughts about light. Some paintings in the DVD series had particular qualities of light, particular uses of light for emphasis and mood, that simply intrigue me. I've seen quilts that seem luminous in their use of color and value to portray light. I'm finding myself inspired to explore that further.

So for today's Slow Quilt Monday thoughts, I'd like to encourage you to find a way to look at some art from another media this week--paintings, sculptures, whatever, anything that doesn't use fabric--to explore what you can carry away from that work to your own.

Slow Quilt Monday: Scrap Zen

I missed posting last week due to a combination of business travel and an insanely busy couple of weeks. So I wasn't exactly doing the slow quilting thing. Actually, I was doing the "no quilting" thing.

That, combined with my usual seasonal affective stuff going on, has led to a very low-key approach to quiltmaking of late. As of Friday Feb 10th, after I finished the last task of the workday, I entered my sabbatical. That means 12 weeks of a very different schedule with a slightly different focus (although not entirely). Frankly, part of my sabbatical is the slow quilting focus.

On Sunday I ended up with an unexpected day at home. We'd originally had things scheduled one end to another, but due to a snow-storm everything got cancelled. I spent a fair amount of time doing cyber-housekeeping (cleaning out email files, catching up with blogs, planning future posts and newsletters, etc.), but then I really wanted to get my hands on fabric. I was still not feeling up to tackling a quilting project but wanted to get myself ready for today--the first "real day" of my sabbatical (read: the first day I would realize I didn't have to be at work). Today will be the inaugural day of my new schedule, a day that includes professional study and growth as well as exploring how to express myself more effectively through textiles. Today includes copious sewing time.

So I spent a few minutes yesterday organizing my fabrics and tools and thoughts for today, then I decided to take a page out of listener Holly U's book and spend some time cutting scraps. And therein I discovered some zen.

There's something to be said for standing for a period of time simply cutting fabrics into pieces with no plan in mind. What size can I get out of this piece? 2 1/2" squares? Then I'll cut 2 1/2" squares. So let it be done. And what size here? A 5" square and then a couple of 2"-ies of out of the remainder? Then that's what I'll cut. So let it be done. On the one hand, I could feed my need for productivity and accomplishment by seeing the pile of random scrap fabrics diminished and the pile of neatly cut pieces of usable sizes increase. On the other hand, rather than keeping count and worrying about having the right proportion of values, I could simply enjoy the possibilities represented by the plastic baggie of squares on the cutting table in front of me.

Cutting scraps with no immediate plan clearly fits into Slow Quilting, in my mind. It's taking steps to a quilt without rushing; it's allowing possibilities to unfold; it's allowing the fabric to speak for itself. "What size do you want to be? So let it be done."

Maybe this week you'll take 10 minutes, or an hour, to simply cut some scraps without worrying for the moment what they'll become. Just enjoy the fabric, and the possibilities.

**After writing this post, I came down with a stomach virus. Go figure. Day 1 of sabbatical has now been reconfigured to sleeping, sipping water, watching TV, maybe some reading. Serious doubts I'll be able to stand at my cutting table. Had to see that coming.

Slow Quilt Monday--The Wisdom of Winnie the Pooh

"Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them."

And more thoughts from A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh, my favorite sage, for you to ponder this week:

"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day."

"Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you."

"It's the best way to write poetry, letting things come."

(Where Pooh may be talking about poetry and hums, we can think quilts. And weeds? Well, I'll let you interpret that in your own life.)

Slow Quilt Monday--What If?

It's time to play "What If?"

One of my favorite activities to do when I'm working with small groups is playing "What if?" In my line of work, the "what if" factors tend to be things like, "what if you had more money than you needed," or "what if the building burned down and you had to plan an event somewhere else," or "what if you had 15 more volunteers show up tomorrow?" What if...what if...what if.... Trying to loosen our minds from their usual knee-jerk restrictions: not enough money, not enough people, not enough space, not enough time... or just doing the same ol' same ol' because we're trapped in habits of behavior and attitude.

Quiltmaking isn't all that different from your average not-for-profit small group. Too often we can get stuck in rather comfortable, albeit pretty, ruts. We like certain color schemes that we find ourselves repeating. We are comfortable with certain styles so we keep going back to that well. We get really good at a particular technique so we find ourselves slipping it into as many projects as possible. None of that is bad, of course. We get very nice and enjoyable results from it. But a rut by any other name is still a rut.

And often ruts come from a need for speed. When I'm driving in snow, I find myself choosing those lanes or roads that are already well-traveled because I can go faster driving in other people's ruts. I know it's safe. I won't get stuck. But I'm also not breaking any new ground. And I'm likely to eventually get bored from seeing the same route over and over and over again, as fast and easy as it may be.

What If is actually a big part of slow quilting. It's taking the time to imagine "what if I put these two colors together," or "what if I took this block and flipped this one unit the other way," or "what if I did a quilt in a different shape?" It's taking time with a sketchbook or computer program to just mess around for fun. It's looking at a pattern in a book and imagining it with different colors or different borders or a different setting. It's leaving your blocks on your design wall for just another few days to allow your brain to play with a few more What If scenarios.

It's also, occasionally, "What if I actually did have X skill, or knew Y technique? What could I do?"

In small groups, when we play What If?, we end up with newsprint hung all over walls with multi-colored lists of possible scenarios, arrows pointing this-a-way and that-a-way, lines criss-crossing connecting one idea with another, stars or dots next to some, lines through others. You see, not every What If response will actually work. But some of them do. Some of them lead to new ideas. Some of them inspire entirely new directions. Some of them become catalysts for significant change. If you never play What If, you never find those gems hidden in multicolored lists on newsprint.

This week, I want to play What If? Will you join me?

We can play this in any number of ways--play it however you think you most need to. In future SQM posts, I may come back to playing What If and give a little more direction about particular things to What If about. But for now, I'd rather leave it open-ended for you to think about how it applies to you specifically. The best way to know what kind of What If you need to play is to think about what habits of thought or behavior you've gotten into, or what areas of your quilting life you may tend to focus more on the "don't haves" rather than the "do haves."

For now, just make the What If lists (newsprint and smelly markers optional). Don't worry so much about choosing which ones may actually be worth following. There's plenty of time for that. We're doing this slow, after all, remember?

Don't forget to download Squim the Slow Quilt Movement Snail and put him on your blog!

Slow Quilt Monday--Fabric, and a New Friend

 Remember this guy?

Well, Pam of "Hip to Be a Square" turned him into this guy.

Want to put him on your own blog to remind yourself...and tell your bloggie followers...about slow quilting? Just go here to grab him! When you do, post a blog note about the Slow Quilt Movement! If you'd like, you can link to my original post about it as well.

Thanks, Pam! And we shall call him, "Squim." Squim the Slow Quilt Movement Snail. 

And now, onto today's Slow Quilting. 

I've been thinking a lot about fabric lately. Not so much in regards to colors or prints but, rather, in regards to feel. I'm in the process of picking out fabrics for a small project and find myself moving the fabrics I'm auditioning back and forth, back and forth. First I pile them up this way, then I pile them up this other way; then I lay them out side-by-side, then in pairs.... Certainly, some of that is because I'm considering color and value. But if truth be told, it's mostly because I love the way they feel. I can't keep my hands off them.

When I'm auditioning fabrics, they live on my cutting table. I have to walk by my cutting table in order to get to my desk where I work. I walk by that cutting table many times a day. When there's fabric sitting out on it, I find myself reach out, touching, brushing my fingers over it as I walk by. 

When I'm under stress, what am I likely to do? Walk to my shelves of fabric and pet the stacks of half yards and yards. Just run my hands over them. Quilting is very tactile. But sometimes in our concern for color and value and matching points, I think we may occasionally forget about just how wonderful it feels. 

Part of my intensely negative reaction to those donation quilts I was working on was because they just didn't feel pretty. The textures were off. There was uncomfortable roughness, or creepy slipperiness. 

Here's what I think we all ought to do this week: Pull three fabrics at random out of your stash, and sit down with them on your lap. Close your eyes and just feel each of the fabrics. Do they feel different? Could you tell which one was which if someone mixed them up and handed them back to you while your eyes were still closed? Which one would you most love to use in a quilt, simply judging by the way it feels?

Think about your favorite quilts--those you had when you were little, or those you have been given more recently, or those you have made yourself. Close your eyes again and imagine yourself touching that quilt. Do you remember what it feels like? What fabrics do you own today that would evoke that same sense of touch?

Next time you're working on a quilt, just stop for a moment and lay hands on it, as it were. Close your eyes and feel the quilt. With your eyes closed, you can't see where the points don't quite come together, or your quilting line skipped over a couple of threads, or that color you've never been entirely convinced actually works. Nope--you can just feel. What do your hands tell you about your quilt? 


Slow Quilt Monday: Finding Color

Slow Quilt Movement Tenet #1: It takes time to really see.

Where I live, we're in the depths of winter. Haven't had much snow yet, surprisingly, so there's still a fair amount of color out there. But when we're in our normal midst of snow and ice, at a glance the landscape can look pretty monochrome. White, maybe some gray, a little brown....

But there is color if you know where to look. And I don't mean the evergreens.

Slow Quilting is about taking the time to look. So this week, consider trying this: Practicing the idea that it takes time to really see, find a place that at first glance seems colorless. (If you live in the tropics or if you're in the opposite hemisphere from me where it's summer by now, you may need to use a photo for this. For others, you may need to just look out your back window.) Breathe, close your eyes, then open them again and really see. What colors do you see? After you've seen the first things that jump out at you, drop your eyes just a smidge to the left or right. Do you see something different? Notice shadows, notice the underside of branches. Notice what the side of the neighbor's house looks like on the closest side to you, versus several feet further away along the same side.

If you've got the time, use colored pencils to capture the colors you see on paper--don't worry about drawing, necessarily; just create a color story on a page. Scribbles of color are sufficient unto this task.

How is this slow quilting? It's just taking the time to train yourself a little differently, without immediately thinking, "How can I put this into a quilt?" Of course, it may end up in a quilt. I'm not stopping you! But don't think that way to start. Just breathe. And look. And see.