Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Quilt Police

Standard

I’m finishing up Christmas gifts. It’s hard. I just completed a 36″ x 36″ wall hanging, which I will reveal on the blog after Christmas. It’s based on log cabin blocks, with some fusible applique . My piecing is getting pretty good and the quilting would have been fine, I think, on my longarm machine. It didn’t turn out quite so well on my Janome, however. I admit there was some puckering, the edges weren’t completely straight, and it was — well — nowhere close to perfect.

My friend Vicki and I had a long talk about our recent quilting projects. Like me, she’s become pretty good at piecing. She’s making a gorgeous quilt and attempted a difficult design in the quilting. Probably, I think, too difficult for a domestic machine. But she’s challenging herself and she’s becoming an awesome quilter. But, guess what? Her quilt isn’t perfect either!

So our conversation went something like this: Some of our first attempts at quilting actually looked the best. We used simple blocks and quilted in straight lines. The designs were easy and they looked awesome. Now we’re trying harder stuff (Vicki’s latest quilt had a bunch of trapunto), with more difficult free motion quilting or template designs. And then we’re not happy with the results.

This, my friends, is incredibly frustrating. To grow as quilters, we need to challenge ourselves. But it’s incredibly difficult to have our work, that we’ve spent dozens of hours completing, turn out to be sub-par.

Fortunately, we are our worst critics. Most people, even seasoned quilters, don’t notice our mistakes. They see the whole and not tiny errors. After all — how many of us show our Christmas gifts to quilt judges? Secondly, most gifts go to non-quilters. I showed this wall hanging to the carpenter fixing my studio and his comment was: “Wow! You used a lot of different fabrics!” He certainly didn’t notice the puckering or wavy borders.

I think the quilt police do exist, but they’re in our own minds. And they can be a nasty bunch. However, they only triumph when we refuse to finish our projects, because we let perfectionism get in our way. We have to be willing to finish our quilts, imperfections and all, and let them out into the world. It’s tough. But this process enables us to become better quilters, and doesn’t deny our loved ones treasured gifts because of our pride.

Nikon School … my adventures with learning photography

Standard

I’ve had a pretty decent camera for several years now. And I’ve been interested in photography since I was a child. However I’ve never gotten around to learning what those buttons do, or how to take decent pictures. The extent of my adjustments with the camera is to turn the little wheel from “auto” to “sport” or “flower” mode. I’ve never had any idea what any of those other buttons were for. And I’ve never dared touch them, for fear my camera would explode!

I admit there are people out there who are tinkerers. They get a new gadget, make themselves a cup of coffee, and start playing. When they can’t figure something out … they consult the manual. Within a few minutes or hours, they are proficient users of their remote control, camera, or GPS system. Not me. I still do not know how to program in the radio stations on my 4-year-old minivan. (And, yes, I should pull the manual out of the glove compartment and figure that out some day.)

So that’s why I agreed to spend last weekend in New York City attending two-days of seminars conducted by the Nikon School  (www.nikonusa.com). I needed somebody to tell me how to use my camera, and to explain what those buttons were for. Well — they did! The first day was an introductory seminar, and the second day far more advanced. The teachers were experienced professional photographers who explained everything in layman’s terms. (Even I understood, so they must have done a good job.) Not only that — they were very entertaining. These guys travel all over the world, and their demo photos were a travelogue. The audience contained people from complete novices to photographers with 30 year’s experience, and everybody I talked to was delighted with the seminar.

We also covered a lot of stuff that I hadn’t thought of previously — for example storing my photos (backup systems), how to manage your photography files (software), lenses and filters, flashes, and making sure that the colors in your photos come out correctly when the picture is printed.

What does this have to do with quilting? Well, a few things.

1. I need to take photos of my quilts to enter shows and contests.

2. I wanted to take better photos for downloading photos on fabric.

3. I wanted to learn how to manipulate photos using software. (They touched on that using the Nikon Capture software.)

4. I wanted to take better photos for my blog.

So … I highly recommend you invest a weekend in these seminars. They are very affordable. Even some of the more technical info (such as lighting) was applicable to quilting. You do not need a Nikon camera to attend. (PS: I am not affiliated with these seminars in any way.)

 

Catching up, car accidents and Christmas

Standard

It feels like confession time … “Dear readers — it’s been three months since my last post …”

Lots of exciting news. Some good, some not-so-good. But I’m moving forward.

In October, my wonderful new A-1 longarm machine has been delivered and installed. I love it! I attended the Innovations conference in October and came back brimming with excitement. My living room has been renovated into a studio and painted a beautiful blue. The trim is white and the crown molding was installed today. It is a restful, creative space. My intention is to rent my machine, once I am proficient enough to handle all problems and give good lessons. The longarm is truly an industrial machine. While I am a great creative person, it takes time to learn the mechanics of the machine, and I have not spent all the time necessary to be accomplished with sewing, maintaining or teaching with it.

The not-so-good news was a car accident on November 4th. My van was hit from behind and the driver’s side when the guy behind me blew a tire. It was raining, and my car spun out. Thankfully, due to the slipper roads, I did not roll the car. I also did not hit any other cars. Unfortunately, I do have whiplash, and my physical therapist has been making me stay off of the longarm until my neck is better. Boo. Hiss. And, yes, I feel sorry for myself.

I spent the first month on pain medication and felt pretty good. Now that I’m drug free, however, I really feel those muscle spasms in my neck. I’ve been using my domestic machine and working mainly on quilt tops. I did a couple of small pieces that involved quilting — very hard on my neck and also unsatisfying when I know there’s a longarm sitting idle in the next room. Plus my days are now busy with physical therapy, chiropractic visits, and lots of annoying paperwork from the insurance company!

I’ve made a couple pieces for Christmas. They’ll wait for future blogs, since they are surprises. I’ve also finished some quilt tops. I have hangers for my studio, which I hope my husband will get up this weekend, and then I will take some photographs.

It’s nice to be back blogging again!