How’s Your Art?

I’m pretty much a by-the-book traditional quilter.  I don’t mind applique, I don’t mind having fun with various embroidery techniques and I’ve even been known to throw a few buttons or decorative pipe cleaners into my designs.  But, if you gave me a choice of what I’d like to piece, it’s gonna be a simple nine-patch or some other basic quilt block, with a little Tammy twist thrown in for good measure.

But, I don’t feel as if I’m an artist….not based on the defenition that I’ve always held art up to.

My daughter?  Oh, she’s definitely an artist.  That girl can paint and draw things that I’ve only imagined.  She recently received watercolors for Christmas, and the day after she got her gifts, she was outside with her drawings, creating a lovely little postcard with a drawing of the end of our house…complete with the scrub brush that rolls around in the winter time.

And then there’s Maggie.  She’s an artist.  She is a lovely lady who occasionally comes to our little quilt group (she lives farther away than most, so it’s really not convenient for her all the time) to share with us her creations.  She likes to do postcards and business cards and all sorts of adventuresome art-quilty things…

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In this photo above, she’s been preparing some 5×5 items for a recycling challenge….and she used things in her project that would amaze you — such as crawfish antenae and the plastic from sanitary products!  Any woman who can come up with a secondary use for things like that deserves a great big attaboygirl!

Maggie says she has a lot of quilt UFO’s because she starts projects, but loses interest or forgets what she’s supposed to do to finish, and then sets it down and goes onto something else.  Boy, do I know that feeling!  I don’t know if it’s the same for Maggie, but I get so very bored with things like 20 of the same blocks, out of the same colors in a quilt.  She goes on to be artsy and I go on to find a better way to slay the quilt dragon!

Last week, Maggie brought us some beading that she’s been learning lately:

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Isn’t that just gorgeous?!  Again, this is artsy … compared to my personal quilt defenition.  I’ve seen quilters and designers who like to embellish their projects with beads, I just don’t think it’s practical unless it’s a wall hanging or some other decorative piece.  I can’t imagine sniggling up with a warm quilt, only to find that my big toe caught the string holding some beads and then I’d have little tiny beads falling all over the place!

Yeah, that’d probably only happen to me … because, I’m so, errrrr, graceful.

But when I see things like what Maggie puts together, I am truly inspired.  Inspired to design quilt patterns that people CAN embellish, if they want to.  Inspired to grow beyond traditional quilting, if only for a little bit, to bring more spice into life.  I’m inspired to look beyond my blinders, to find beauty in things that I normally wouldn’t see beauty in … and to share the love of all handiwork with others. 

Because art is created out of a vision … the eye of the creator and the eye of the beholder.  And it’s created at a single point in time, with passion. 

Well gee, if I put it that way – what I do with my quilts IS art!

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    Flat Stanley Goes Quilting!

    It was time.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  I had to throw out the Halloween and Christmas candy, to make room for the Valentine’s candy. 

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    Although one or two of my children would eat candy as a meal, if I’d let them … the kids really don’t ask for it very often.  We do allow a treat or two after they eat a good meal, but it’s sure evident, after about a month, what they like (chocolate) and don’t like (suckers)!

    We received a Flat Stanley in the mail this week – have you heard of him?  Oh wow, has he lived a life of adventure!  You can read about this project at the following places:

    OUR Flat Stanley came from my niece in Nebraska, and our four youngins are just tickled as can be to take him around and give him a truly Texas vacation!  DD #1 took him to first grade yesterday.  Unfortunately, her teacher knows little or nothing about the project, so I’ll be going to town early today, to buy a Flat Stanley book to donate to the class, so they can learn about him…and write up a diary of all of the things that Flat Stanley did, while joining them in their classroom.  Tomorrow, DD #2 is in charge of showing Flat Stanley a good time here at home.  On Sunday, the son-man will take Flat Stanley to church with him, and he’ll be performing a song in sign language in front of our whole congregation!  Then on Monday, Flat Stanley gets to go to seventh grade, with DD #1!  Finally, on Tuesday, Flat Stanley and I will be buds, and I’ll show him some quilting tips … and I may even make him his very own Flat Stanley quilt!  I’m afraid he won’t get to spend much time with the dad-person … or with the Phydeaux-dog.  There’s only so much time to play in a week!  I have to get him back into his envelope on Wednesday, so he can make it back to Kindergarten and tell all of his friends in Nebraska about the fun he had in Texas.  hmmm, think I’d better find a big ole’ Texas Longhorn to pose him with, too — just because that’s what folks think of, when they think of Texas!

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      Crazy Quilted Heart Instructions

      My very dear Gramma from Tramma passed away when I was about 20 years old (ahem, a few years ago).  I treasured that woman, from as far back as I can remember.  If it weren’t for her love, I can honestly say I would not be where I am today.  She was nothing special to most others, but she was the very epitome of unconditional love, to me.

      After her passing, I received a sympathy card from her best friend, Polly.  Mind you, I hadn’t seen Polly in years, but she and Grandma were best buds for a very long time.  When I was old enough to drive, I’d drop Grandma off at her favorite bar … and I’d always have to go inside, to visit with Polly before I left.  Oh my, was it a sight to see two old ladies, knocking off beers in a bar!  And after Grandma’s death, it was ever-so special for Polly to send me a note, as she truly knew how close Grandma and I were.  Inside the card that Polly sent to me was a crocheted red heart.  It’s still a treasured item of mine.  The sentiment was straight-forward … Polly told me if I ever needed to remember Grandma, all I needed to do was to hold the heart in my hand – because it was a part of Polly … and Polly was a part of Grandma’s life … and I was a part of all of it.

      When we received word a couple of weeks ago that a dear friend was diagnosed with cancer, we were in shock.  This is a young woman, about my age, who is as humble and precious as they come.  She’s never been in a category that you’d ever think would get cancer, she’s just too wonderful for that.  She doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, never chewed tobacco … yet, the doctors found cancer under her tongue.  My goodness, the woman doesn’t even cuss – and that in itself is amazing, to me (of course, my excuse is that I was raised with it, so it’s just another word to me)!

      When we heard about our friend, I had to do something.  We aren’t close in miles, but we are all close in hearts.  So, I whipped up the Crazy Quilted Heart that I showed you previously.

      And now, I ask you to print out the instructions and make your own.  We received an email from our friends, and found out that she held onto the heart that I made, as she was wheeled into surgery.  It brought her the same comfort that Polly’s heart brought to me — and I bet, if you know someone who needs a little uplift, it’d help them, too.

      1)  With scraps of fabric, just start sewing them together, with straight seams.  I used six fabric colors because there are six in our family.

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      2)  With a piece of Peltex, cardboard or something else that’s stiff enough to be traced around a number of times, draw a heart and cut it out.

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      3)  Next, trace the heart onto your fabrics with a pencil or disappearing ink pen and trim your stitched fabric piece so you’re about 1″ from the traced heart.

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      4)  Next, create your quilt sandwich with a small piece of thin, cotton batting and the background fabrics.

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      5)  Then, using some embroidery stitches with your sewing machine (or by hand), stitch on top of each seam that you have on the heart front, making sure that you stop at the edge of the heart template lines.

      6)  Finally, using a tight zig-zag stitch, stitch all around your heart, ON the template line that you drew.  Then, cut away the excess around the outer edge.

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      If you’re interested, this is what I wrote (edited to protect the privacy of those involved) on the card that we sent the heart with:

      We offer you our quilted heart, to have and to hold.  It is made with six fabrics, representing the six members of our family.  The pattern is known as a “crazy quilt” pattern – I think that’s pretty fitting.  It also has an unfinished edge, which will unravel as time goes on…much as we find our own hearts doing, like with the news we received about you.

      After the quilted heart was finished, my husband said a blessing for you over it.  Then each of us took it into our hands, touching the fabrics, and sending up individual, silent prayers for you.

      Remove the heart from this card.  Hold it and touch it … and feel the love that we send to you through it.  You are loved.  Please know that you have our constant prayers, and that we’re here if ya’ll need *anything* at all.

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        Heart-to-Heart Scrap Quilts

        First, I designed another quilt this past weekend.  I was a bit frustrated with myself that I wasn’t able to piece the entire quilt, but the payoff for that meant that I spent a lot of quality time with my family.  I’m sure they appreciated it. 

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        Although this photo doesn’t show the true colors of the fabric (I ran a script on the photo, because I have fun with a lot of different creative things besides just quilting), it does show the details of the quilt square for the quilt that I designed.  Just have 2 more 18″ blocks left to make and then a fun border!

        Last night at quilt group, the topic was changing the look of a fabric, through cutting it and making scrappy squares with it.  To me, it’s a simple thing … but, to a handful in our quilt group, they were perplexed.  And really?  I think it has more to do with abandoning all principals than anything else.  One member had some southwest-style fabric that she purchased, but the style is long out-of-date.  She still wanted to use it, but she wanted to reduce the “southwest” feel of the fabric, in whatever she made with it.

        So, we cut the fabric into 2 1/2″ strips, and started sewing the strips together with other coordinating (but not necessary complimentary) fabrics.  And none of the strip blocks were to match.  In order to pull one’s eye away from the offending fabric, you need to use other fabrics – not necessarily bigger and bolder ones, but fabrics that are pleasing to the over-all desired feel of the finished quilt.  This is the original fabric:

        And this is a stack of the fabrics that we used in our strip blocks:

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        After we completed sewing our strips into blocks, then we put them together to make half-square trianges out of pairs of blocks.  We ended our short demonstration with 4 new strip blocks, ready to be put into a quilt.

        Then the question of sashing and borders was raised.  As we discussed how to handle such, we laid out more fabrics, to see what would and wouldn’t work with our scrap blocks.  Again, the goal was to minimize the pattern in the offending fabric — and it was fun to see what would and wouldn’t work, as far as borders, with the new blocks.

        I think it was a great learning experience for everyone involved – including me!  It’s so easy to hide away in my sewing room and design and sew.  It’s a whole ‘nuther experience, to have a half-dozen others in front of you, looking upon you for your expertise, and trying to articulate things that you normally don’t say aloud.

        Quilt design is a process, just as most anything else is.  We teach others by sharing this process with them.  It’s old hat to me, when I’m having an intimate experience with my fabric and sewing machine … but, it’s also enjoyable to share the many years of quilt experience that I’ve accumulated and watching how the lights turn on in others’ eyes when they learn the same tips and tricks.

        And really?  There is no “wrong” in quilting.  Some like one thing, some like something else.  And as I told the ladies last night, it’s all handmade and you can take as much poetic license as you want to, with your quilting. 

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          The Holiday that Keeps on Giving

          In our family, we try to draw out our holidays so they just keep on giving.  Birthday celebrations usually last a month … and national holidays last at least a week!

          Valentine’s Day may be a distant memory for some, but we continue to celebrate the love.

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          Friday nights have been duped “Family Movie Nights” in our house.  The kids eat popcorn salad for dinner and sit in front of a movie.  You ever try that?  Corn is a vegetable, right?  Then we add things to it like M & M’s (made from the cacao bean – there’s a legume, right?), marshmallows are white, so they’re the dairy portion of the salad and then Goldfish crackers.  If you get the colored crackers, you’re really piling on the veggies, because they come in red and green!  My husband always said that every meal has to have something green on the plate, to give vegetables their due.  So, green Goldfish it is!  Wow, what a healthy salad for my kids!  And they LOVE it!

          That also means that the mom and dad in the house can have a relatively quiet dinner.

          Last night, we celebrated our Valentine’s dinner, sans the candlelight.

          What did we make?  It was far better than popcorn salad, I assure you!  We found this recipe in the Food & Wine magazine some years ago, and have perfected it over time so that it’s one of those “close your eyes while you savor the flavor” meals.  With some crusty bread, it’s heaven on a spoon:

          Smoky Shrimp and Cheesy Grits

          ingredients
          3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
          3/4 cup quick grits
          1/4 pound white cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
          3 tablespoons unsalted butter
          Salt and freshly ground pepper
          2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
          3/4 pound slab bacon, cut into 1/4-inch matchsticks
          4 garlic cloves, minced
          1 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp
          2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

          The full recipe and instructions can be found here.

          We like about 3 chopped green onions, added to the shrimp when you add the parsley.  And we prefer a soft white smoked cheese, as opposed to the white cheddar listed above.

          For wine?  My husband pairs this with a Pinot Grigio.  I’m not a drinker, so I’d be clueless about this part.  However, last night, we had no wine, so he settled for some Bavarian-Style Amber made by Shiner as an anniversary beer.

          After dinner, while I digested, I finished the border on the quilt that will forever be known as the “fabric line that nearly was my un-doing”:

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          It’s gorgeous, now that it’s complete.  I may even keep it for myself!

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