Woodn’t You Love This Quilt?

This is the first half of the center of my autumn nine-patch quilt sewn together.

I cut my teeth on quilting how-to books with Wiley Publishing, the folks who did my Teach Yourself Visually Quilting book and its companion, Visual Quick Tips Quilting. It was a great way to learn, and great folks to work with as well.

For consistency and probably to maintain good contrast, Wiley insisted that everything be photographed against a white background. My photographer brought a number of foam core boards to my house, where we took the pictures, and they worked just fine.

I wrote here the other day about one of my newfound loves, my Epson printer, which does a great job of scanning the smaller pieces of a quilt in a state of becoming. I’m working on a new quilt, part of which is pictured here, that’s one of four that will be featured in my newest pattern book. Now it’s too big to fit in my Epson any more.

Which brings me, believe it or not, to the hardwood floors in my living room.

My husband installed them last year, pre-finished oak. We love them. And I’ve discovered they make a great background for many of my quilts.

This particular spot on the living room floor is near the windows that look to the southwest so on a sunny day like today, I get a lot of reflected light.

And I love the warm color of the wood.

Besides, it’s my book and if I want to use a non-white background, I get to make the rules. As long as readers understand what I want them to see in my images, that’s what matters.

My Journey to Ixtlan

Still one of the most influential books I've ever read

Back in my twenties, when I was in one of my spiritual-seeking modes, I read the first four books by Carlos Castenada. Of the quartet, it was the third in that series, Journey to Ixtlan, that I have carried in my heart ever since.

Why?

For this passage more than any other.

In a dramatic tone, Don Juan stated that well-being was a condition one had to groom, a condition one had to become acquainted with in order to seek it.

“You don’t know what well-being is, because you have never experienced it,” he said.

I disagreed with him. But he continued arguing that well-being was an achievement one had to deliberately seek. He said the only thing I knew how to seek was a sense of disorientation, ill-being, and confusion.

He laughed, mockingly, and assured me that in order to accomplish the feat of making myself miserable I had to work in a most intense fashion, and that it was absurd I had never realized I could work just the same in making myself complete and strong.

“The trick is what one emphasizes,” he said. “We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”

I’m still working to get to Ixtlan. But I have learned (and relearn when necessary) that working toward wholeness is possible, that what I put into my day is what I get out of it at the end.

Happiness, my friends, is not just a byproduct of being in the right place at the right time. It is actively putting yourself in the right place at the right time.

Getting to Know My Epson

Use your scanner to create images of your small pieces instead of a camera

I have a (now older) Canon PowerShot S5 with which I take just about every image in this publication. The camera definitely has some limitations but I’ve learned my way around those I can learn my way around so we rub along reasonably well together.

But one of those limitations makes me crazy when I’m taking pictures of quilts-in-progress for upcoming books. As well as this little camera does with outdoor shots, it’s pretty awful when in comes to handling the lower light indoors.

And that, of course, is where I make my quilts.

That’s where my Epson printer/scanner/copier comes in.

I gotta tell you, back when scanning technology first took its place in the world of desktop publishing, it was one finicky, expensive process. There was no way most individuals could afford the machines you needed to get color just right, to control lighting, to compensate for moire patterns. You needed high-end electronics and experts to run them.

Which is why I appreciate the scanning capabilities of my Epson. The images I get from this $207 machine rival those that used to come from the bigger machines. So now, instead of fussing and fuming over over lighting—too dark, too much glare, too dim—I take the smaller pieces of my quilts-in-the-making, lay them on the glass of this machine, sit at my computer and voila, great images.

If they made quilt-sized scanners, I’d be tempted to eliminate camera work all together.

Some technological advances are worth applauding.

It’s Either a One or a Zero

Nowadays, we seem to forget that we have the power to turn it off.

I remember seeing a film at Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center years ago with the performance artist Laurie Anderson. I love her stuff, generally—funny, intelligent, thought-provoking. Pretty much the way I like my people.

In part of her piece for the film, she figured out how to get the sound equipment for a drum kit between her teeth which allowed her to accompany herself with percussion. She remarked that in all things digital, what we are actually using are bazillions of ones and zeros, one being equal to on and zero being equal to off.

We are either off or on.

Like these light switches, one off, one on.

I try to remember that whenever I feel frazzled, when too many things are competing for my attention at the same time. No matter what the great gurus of multi-tasking try to get you to believe, you’re only going to get a certain number of tasks accomplished in a day (generally six, max), and only one of them at a time.

Yeah, it’s true that you can put a pot of chili on the stove to cook while you’re writing a blog. But once you turn the stove on, your part of the task is pretty much done.

One thing at a time.

And the power to turn things off.

I do that with the radio, the news, the urgency to GET IT DONE NOW.

Really, this creating-the-world thing is ours to control. The sad bit in all of this is that we too often choose not to.

Decompress.

Be grateful you can turn it off.

Wood Warms You…hmmm…How Many Times?

When the wind is wicking the heat out of the house, nothing beats a wood stove

The ancient Greeks identified four elements: earth, water, air and fire. Now I know that those of a scientific bent have identified 117 elements, those bits of our world that have everything they need to be themselves in a single atom. But quite frankly, I think four is a very good number for elements. I mean, what more do you need besides earth, water, air and fire?

After a week during which I complained on the hour every hour about the heat, we’re now in the midst of a normal March day. The wind is just whipping out there, most of the time carrying a lot of frantic snowflakes with it. Using the word “piercing” to describe this type of wind is not putting too fine a point on it.

(Sorry about the pun. Or maybe I’m not.)

In any case, it’s pretty darn cold, and it’s the kind of bone-chiller that makes me soooo glad we have wood stoves. This is a picture of our Vermont Castings Defiant. I love this baby.

Growing up, the closest I ever got to a wood stove was the fireplace that my grandfather built in the house he shared with Grandma. A classy fieldstone fireplace with a wooden mantle where a dusty stuffed pheasant reigned supreme.

Of course, there were campfires here and there, still one of my favorite parts of being outdoors.

But it wasn’t until we moved to the Upper Valley that I had the chance to live with a wood stove.

I’m tellin’ ya, there’s nothing that warms you better, especially on a day like this.

Hope you’re keeping warm too.

Ironing Woman

After the pre-wash comes the ironing

Years ago, I had a friend who referred to irons as “slave tools.” And back then, faced with piles of shirts, skirts, pants and blouses that wrinkled when you looked at them, that was probably an appropriate description.

But nowadays, I avoid ironing clothes as much as possible. However, my iron is one of the most important tools in my quilting arsenal. So I don’t iron any less. If anything, I iron more.

I’ve been working through my stash, washing the big pieces to get rid of the stiff sizing stuff that manufacturers put in cloth. Consequently, I’ve been ironing all of this fabric as I put it away. It’s been a long slog.  But there is a silver lining here, of sorts.

Like most quilters, I often forget what I have in my stash because when you open the door to find something, you’re always seeing what you saw the last time you looked. It’s one of those familiarity-breeds-contempt things. Or, to be more accurate, it’s one of those familiarity-breeds-familiarity things. After a while, you can’t see what you have with fresh eyes.

But when you iron a piece of cloth, you have to really look at it. Consequently, my head is now buzzing with design ideas that I want to plunge into RIGHT NOW!

Who woulda ever thunk that ironing would become a meditative design tool?