Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Decision Time

More HSTs for Hanami

I am not a good multi-tasker, but this winter I needed about 2000 HSTs for three projects, and that is a lot of repetitive work. (About half are done now.) So, I downloaded some of Pat Sloan's podcasts from All People Quilt. There was a great interview with Gwen Marston on February 6, which I recommend. What's the difference between liberated quilting and improv quilting? None. There is no difference, says Gwen. I love her common sense approach!

I also enjoyed Pat's discussion with Linda Thielfoldt in the same podcast. Linda has been cleaning out her studio, and has some helpful thoughts on how to make decisions about what to keep and what to let go.

Since I finished Hen Party I've been thinking that it's time to stop jumping on every shiny project that comes along, and to get real about what the quilt is for, and how it will be used. So, I've pared things down to two basic categories:
  1. Quilts for Use -- throw quilts and bed quilts
  2. Quilts for Art -- wall quilts
When I thought about my requirements for those two categories, several of my projects started to change, and some dropped away. Quilts for Use have to be durable and not too precious, with no fragile embroidery or applique. Quilts for Art, on the other hand, have to be non-trivial, there has to be something special about them. And, they have to be smaller! There is nowhere in our house where you can hang a bed sized quilt on the wall.

Improv quilts will work well in both categories. My Gwennie Medallion is something that I will be quite happy to hang on the wall...

...when it's done. ;) One of a kind, original, graphic -- improv sounds like art to me.

Two recent projects are going to the orphan block box. The first is the half scale version of Brinton Hall that I started for my guild challenge:

I just don't think this will hold its own as an art piece. You have to be very close to see the embroidery, and when you stand back it feels drab. Plus, I still have the big one for the bed.

The second one to bite the dust is the 150 Canadian Women quilt along, which is not feeling good to me any more. 30 blocks are done:

I was not thrilled when I realized that this quilt was excluding important women in Canadian history, such as Laura Secord and Elizabeth Simcoe, because they were not born in Canada. I admit I did not read that part of the introduction very carefully! But last week's inclusion of Helen MacMurchy was the final straw for me.

The challenge of history is that when you go back far enough, you will almost always find something unpalatable by today's standards. MacMurchy was a significant figure for women's rights in Canada, so I understand why she was chosen. But she is not my choice, she does not represent the Canada that I want to live in going forward, and I don't think it is sufficient to say "those were the times then." This would be a quilt that I am making today, for the future. I don't want to spend the rest of the year turning over rocks in Canadian history, and making excuses for inexcusable things, so I'm going to let this one go.

On a brighter and completely different note, I've implemented a new plan for all my hourglass blocks. Last time you saw this project, I was sewing the hourglasses as leaders and enders on Allietare. That worked great, and all 896 of them were finished last year. BUT...

...the vast majority of them still required trimming. And I baulked.

I think I made a big mistake when I decided to make a large, time consuming project from fabrics I didn't like. For six months I've been thinking of ways to make it nicer. Different settings, applique... nothing seemed worth the effort.

Then last week I was thinking deep thoughts about improv, and I thought it could be a great solution for the hourglasses. Before I could change my mind again, I started to sew:

I just sewed together the untrimmed hourglasses, and used scissors to clean up the seam allowances. It turned out that a row of eight untrimmed hourglasses was about the same length as nine trimmed ones. I like those offset rows quite a bit!

My "plan" is to play around with different settings of the hourglasses, and make brick-shaped blocks like this. I've been admiring the green in Kaja's latest work, and I think I'll use something similar for narrow sashing between the big bricks. We'll see!

I've been keeping some of the hourglasses in a project box on top of my wardrobe, for "easy access."

This has been the situation for six months. Maybe there has been some creation going on up there when I wasn't looking! The Improv box has some of my early improv letters and words, and I've decided to stick them in this quilt with the hourglasses too. Would the embroidered roses from the Brinton mini work as well? Probably not, but we'll see.

Anyway, I'm still aiming for queen sized with this quilt. I like it so much better now, that even the fabrics don't seem so bad!

And I'm glad to be back at AHIQ. Please check out everyone else's work at the link up right here.


  1. I never did "get" improv so have not gotten on that band wagon. I like my points to be pointy and my corners to meet up and my applique to be easy.
    I like your logic about the purpose of the quilt. I started making quilts to be used, then I got caught up in impulsively starting lots of popular applique quilts that are in project boxes.

  2. Congratulations for calling a halt to projects you no longer love (just don't store them in the closet - pass them on to someone who is interested) AND for finding a way to use your hourglass blocks in a new way (and your i your thoughts about incorporating other pieces and parts from the stash). Your Gwennie medallion is wonderful!!

  3. Great idea for your hourglass units! Trimming so many of them would have been mind numbing, for sure. I was just wishing last night that I had done the hourglass learder/enders after seeing what Bonnie is doing with hers. I just finally put together my spool blocks, so I won't be doing hourglasses! It's sad to set aside a project we aren't in love with anymore, but with so many other fun things to do, it only makes sense--lol!!

  4. We seem to be at similar life stages, Monica. I, too, started with bed quilts and agree with your classifications {and also have nowhere to hang bed size quilts.} I want to make some more detailed quilts but think they will work better on a wall quilt where they don't have so much wear-and-tear.
    The new hourglass arrangement is so interesting, especially the offset and your idea to make several blocks of them. I'm quite intrigued how you plan to join those blocks. Several thoughts are flying around my brain. What fun for you.
    I see the problem of the Canadian Women quilt and agree that's what happens when you use someone else's pattern. While I think every person has aspects of their personality that won't hold up well to scrutiny, I agree we need to weigh their contributions and shortcomings and always need to mention them. As Maya Angelou wrote, "When you know better, do better." Can't do that without acknowledgement.
    It is hard to give away projects that tire us. I love the way you use them as building blocks of something new and creative. I think you are so talented that you should be creating your own original designs and letting others copy you!
    Thanks for linking this thoughtful post with AHIQ and joining in with #AHIQChineseCoins. I love that your coins are hourglasses - so inventive.

  5. I rarely trim my HST or hourglass units and it's rarely been a problem. If you cut and sew accurately or at least consistently they should all fit together anyway. I like how yours are looking, and kudos for making those sometimes difficult decisions regarding WIPs. Thanks for the links to the podcasts too; I think I might have to spend some time there!

  6. Thanks for sharing your good ideas on projects.
    I like how your hourglass blocks have come together.

  7. It reminds me of that (trite) saying "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." I like the way you have elevated the hourglasses into something likeable rather than letting them dominate you. Way to go! The hourglasses now being just a little irregular are, to me, much more charming. They remind me of the repeating patterns of Sujata Shah's quilts. Very nice!

    1. Yes, I showed them who's boss! LOL. I like that. Thanks, Sue! It makes sense, doesn't it, that we should at least be the boss of our own quilt. That is something that Gwen Marston is always saying too -- find your own voice.

  8. Your voice is coming through loud and clear. I love that you are taking something and repurposing it like the hourglass blocks. They look delightfully scrappy. I just gave away a whole set of blocks because making them was my learning process, but I had no interest in quilting them. I gave them through Cynthia,s Oephan Adoption and it feels so good. Keep up your good work, like your,terrific Gwennie.

  9. I like your two categories of quilts! I think I may get there sometime too; but, for now, I'm playing with WIPs and working on the "finish!" I like the looks of your hour glass improv units. Life is too short to do things that don't interest you. I'm glad you found another solution for those hour glass units!!! Go girl, go!!!! :)

    1. Well, technically, I am playing with WIPs too! But I realized that if I want to finish them, dramatic changes are needed. Pretty much every project is getting a re-think right now. Thanks, Terry! It feels good to have some forward progress on these again. :D

  10. it is good to take time and see what and where we are going with our stitching, seem you are now on the right track we all tend to jump on the bandwagon and have far too much in the making. The hour glass blocks look good done this way I too like the way Gwen Marsden thinks with here improvu and have signed up for the Elm street imprvu blocks to get me going do fr 7 have been realised but so far have not one any maybe today I will have a go.
    I do not envy you having all those HSTs to trim best of .luck

  11. This is such a thought-provoking post. I like how you have worked out how to decide what you want to work on; your decisions make a lot of sense to me. I love your liberated medallion - definitely wall-worthy - and also this new hourglass piece. I like that you have ended up with some blocks offset (keeps things interesting) and am intrigued by the ideas you have for continuing.

  12. Changing direction and or casting aside those project that don't Insprire or bring us joy anymore can be a hard thing to do, but in in the long run, very beneficial. I really should do it more often. Thanks for your example. I love how your Gweenie quilt finished.

  13. You really make me think! I have been pondering your post for nearly 24 hours. I admire your clarity and decisiveness. Your response to the Canadian Women quilt is in line with my thinking. I clumsily tried to express this earlier with a comment about the requirement to be Canadian-born. I couldn't imagine that working in Australia as a criterion for "Australian women". I fully understand your abandonment.
    What I'm not sure I could stick to is the distinction between 'for use' and 'for art'. I can see how it really helps as an organising principle and frees you to get on more productively. I'm just not sure I could keep the distinction going.i will be really interested to follow how it works out. It's certainly off to a good start.

    The hour-glass quilt looks fantastic - well done you! Thanks for posing such challenging propositions.

    1. No, Jillian, you were totally right with that comment, and I was the one who hadn't read it carefully enough. I was so sure that it couldn't possibly be what you were suggesting, but obviously the designer and I have a different bias.

      I can already feel that this Use and Art distinction is helping me to prune out the dead branches. Or maybe the suckers (like on a rose bush) is a better analogy. Anyway, we'll see how it goes! Thanks, as always, for your encouragement and support. :D

    2. I like the suckers analogy! It helps.

  14. I like your idea of what to do with The Hourglass blocks. It will make them much more interesting. I only have a few rows done and was just thinking the other day I should prep to make more blocks. That's where I fall down with the whole leader and ender idea. I just don't have the pieces cut and ready to go. Now to find the box that they are in.

  15. I'll be interested to see you continue with those hourglass units. I have a lot of them for a big quilt half sewn together and I actually have pins stuck where the hourglass points didn't match up PERFECTLY. I wanted it to look like an inspiration quilt I had seen and it had matched point after point after point. Well, you know how far that got me...it's still sitting around all these years later. I've KIND OF moved past the matchy matchy thing so should get it out and play like you are doing.

    I don't do many art quilts. My walls are already covered with other dusty items.

  16. What a great hourglass project! The fabrics and colors just wonderful. And your Gwennie inspired quilt might just be my absolute favorite. Wowsers, it just glows with a happy vibe! I had to laugh that your quilts for use couldn't have applique. Uh oh. I'd never get to really use most of my quilts! lol

  17. I gotta say, those hourglass blocks set half-way between are fabulous. I like hourglasses but the corners are such a challenge. Your setting avoids all those problems.
    Thanks for mentioning the podcast and including the link. I can't listen tonight but I will tomorrow or the next day. Love your Gwennie medallion. It must make your heart sing!
    That's a lot of half-square triangles to sew but your pink and light ones look beautiful.


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