April Reading List

coasters at amyhoodarts.com

Some coasters I whipped up this weekend.

Happy May, I guess. It’s supposed to rain for a week. I know we need it, but…blech. I would have guessed I didn’t read all that much in April, since I sewed so much, but I ended the month with nine books read. As always, asterisks indicate a book I really really liked.

The Year of Living Danishly, by Helen Russel
The Liars’ Club, by Mary Karr *
The Little Red Chairs, by Edna O’Brien*
The Hours Count, by Jillian Cantor*
The Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll
The From-Aways, by CJ Hauser*
The Man of My Dreams, by Curtis Sittenfeld
Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and others) in          the Name of Literature, ed by Meredith Maran
Nine Inches: Stories, by Tom Perrotta

Back to the sewing for me! And reading. Under a blanket. Sigh.

Art Quiltlet: 17/52

(This post is more personal than usual; it may not be your cup of tea. Fair warning.)

Because Love art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

The world has been chipping away at me this week, more than usual, it feels like. I “listened” via Twitter as Donald Trump held a rally in my former home state and used xenophobia and fear-mongering to whip up the crowd–and they complied, because that message has such strength right now. He then won all five states that had primaries on Tuesday, which includes my former state and the one I live in now. The UK voted against a proposal to allow in unaccompanied Syrian refugee children. People are boycotting Target over bathrooms. There are lots of problems with public bathrooms, but transgender usage isn’t one of them. My husband having to bring our daughter into a men’s room when they’re out together–that stinks. The way the women’s room always has a longer line–also a problem. (I’ve snuck into the men’s bathroom before.) But let’s focus on a made-up problem that has its root in hatred and fear. And then, the Baltimore Police Department shot a 13-year-old boy with a BB gun who was running away from two plainclothes police who got out of an unmarked car, and then they took his mother in for questioning after she saw her baby bloodied on the street, threw her into a cell for “belligerence,” and wouldn’t let her go to the hospital for hours, and then issued remarks that managed to blame both the boy and his mother for the whole thing. My heart.

I want, sometimes, to shut it all off, not let it in, focus on my own little life, but I can’t. Why? Because love. I made this quiltlet rather quickly, with the idea of mimicking black-out poetry. If I did it again, I’d make the cut-outs smaller. I may return to this idea in the future. Last night I needed to get it down, though. I’m not a religious person. I was raised Catholic but I don’t believe in organized religion (for myself; for others, I believe in freedom to worship as they want and hope they allow others the same freedom) or God or an afterlife. I believe in the here and now, in doing the best we can not for some promised reward later on but because we are part of a common humanity, linked, whether we like it or not (or admit it or not) to every other living thing on this planet, including people who live differently. I am not a Buddhist, but that’s what I relate to most. One of the most useful meditations–and I generally meditate while running because I am terrible at sitting still meditation but running clears my mind in a wonderful way–is loving-kindness meditation.  You start with sending loving feelings towards yourself, then work outward, beginning with people you find it easy to love and ending with someone you’re having problems with.

Let me tell you, the practice of loving someone who is causing you pain, whether intentionally or not, is so valuable. Sometimes life drops that situation in your lap and you don’t even have to go looking for it. We humans can get caught up in the idea of “winning” (if you have more than one child you’ve witnessed this a hundred times a day; my two youngest are struggling with it right now). What is accomplished, though? Letting go of that idea of getting the best of someone is freeing. I am disheartened and dismayed and overwhelmed by all the hatred floating around this country right now. It is worth reminding myself, always, to start from a place of love and common humanity, even if it seems like so many people are spitting on that idea.

So what is the why of anything in this life? Love. Because love. Carry on with love. xo

amyhoodarts at HERE. a pop up shop

HERE square

I’m back to selling, finally! I’ll have zip pouches and stamped notebooks at HERE’s next pop-up shop. I first learned about this shop in the fall, and I visited a few of the pop-ups before submitting, both to get a feel for what they carry and to see whether they already had items similar to mine. Their shops always have a really great vibe, with a great mix of items that are predominantly made by local artists. It’s a comfortable place to be, full of pretty things. I’m happy to be included this time around and excited to be stepping more into the great, vibrant creative community here in Annapolis, even ever so cautiously. I spent last week stamping, embroidering, sewing, and tagging in preparation. After the pop-up is complete, I will (finally!) open my Etsy shop again, after having it closed since before we moved. Ahem. It’s taken me a bit to get my feet under me, I think!

If you’re local, I hope to see you there! And if you’re not, Amy & El (the owners/founders) post pictures of their artists’ lovely creations on Facebook and Instagram and will sell online.

 

Art Quiltlets: 15/52 and 16/52

I’m not behind on making these, just behind on posting. I finished last week’s on Thursday night and spent Friday chaperoning a field trip that went 3 hours later than planned. Fun times! And this week I’ve been busy sewing other things (more on that in the next post probably). Anyway, last week’s is because I’m still missing the ocean.

art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

I was trying to figure out for myself how to sew improv curves. I didn’t quite achieve it, so I looked to the internets for guidance and came across this tutorial, which happens to be by someone who is in the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild! Last meeting she did a fun presentation on color. So after reading that through, I did much better with curves:

improv pieced curves at amyhoodarts.com

But…there is more to be experimented with there. I sliced it diagonally and sewed in a red strip. Than I quilted the black and white stripes. This is what it looked like after drawing the crop lines but before cutting it.

ready to crop, art quiltlet in process at amyhoodarts.com

So, just to reiterate, that red stripe isn’t sewn on top of the black and white curves. I pieced that in and it looks great! I love practicing new things.

Here’s the final quiltlet:

Movement, art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

*cough* Black fabric gets linty. I really like this though, and it’s going in the mental file of “things I may want to try on a much larger scale.”

As I said, I’ve been doing a lot of sewing this week, to the point where it got a bit rote. Taking the time to play for these little pieces is so important. It keeps those creative ideas flowing. And they really are the perfect size to try out new techniques too.

Art Quiltlet: 14/52

art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

“In the Flower Garden”

Ohhhh, this was fun. I was thinking about doing this larger, so decided to play with the idea on a small scale first. Even with the bobbin tension issues I had after switching to green thread, it was fun. (The bobbin thread snagged, so I cleaned under the presser plate and rethread, but it was still wonky, so I adjusted the needle tension, then the bobbin tension, then realized I’d overtightened, and had to go hunting for a better screwdriver to loosen….gah!) But once I was done with the green, I had some lunch and then started painting. These are acrylics, mostly liquid craft acrylics except for the green, which is heavy-body in the tube because I’m out of green liquid.

I posted this in-process detail shot to Instagram.

detail in progress, amyhoodarts.com

It was almost done at that point. I added some more color, and the butterfly, then cropped and stitched the edges. As I work with my sewing machine, I’ve noticed I’m much more free with line and shape than I am when I’m drawing. Put a pencil in my hand, and I feel pressure to be exact. It’s very hard for me to let shapes and line act as suggestions. But, perhaps because my ability to render exact and true-to-life is limited with my sewing machine, I’m more comfortable with looseness. I’m enjoying it.

Here’s a view of the back, wonky tension and all.

In the Flower Garden art quiltlet, back, amyhoodarts.com

I’ve been sewing so much! But not garments, and I have a list of clothes I’d like to sew for me and G, plus a rather generous fabric order (I don’t know what happened; I was feeling fluish and BAM!) on the way. So I need to be even more intentional with my sewing time I think to get it all in.

March Reading List

red panda visits DC at amyhoodarts.com

Red panda in the cherry blossoms.

March just flew by over here. We’ve got next year’s schooling sorted–my oldest moved up the waiting list to get a seat in his first-choice STEM magnet high school program. High school! He was just a toddler. My youngest will be switching to the local Montessori school, where she’ll get an age-appropriate amount of both recess and independence. (The local public school doesn’t provide enough of either, in my opinion.) I read more books this month than I did in either January or February, which I’ll chalk up to ending the month with flu-like symptoms and being unable to focus on sewing much, and also I didn’t need to abandon any books I began this month. As always, books I really liked have an asterisk, but if it’s on the list, I liked it enough to finish it, and I don’t finish books I don’t like because why. Reading isn’t an endurance test, it’s something I do for fun.

You Should Have Known, by Jean Hanff Korelitz *
Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout*
Pax, by Sara Pennypacker*
Husband and Wife, by Leah Stewart*
All the Houses, by Karen Olsson
The Opposite of Everyone, by Joshilyn Jackson*
The Beast Side: Living (& Dying) While Black in America, by D. Watkins
The Portable Veblen, by Elizabeth McKenzie
George, by Alex Gino*
The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr*

Art Quiltlet: 13/52

Blues art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

We’re one-quarter of the way through 2016, and I know this because this is my thirteenth weekly quiltlet. I’ve been feeling poorly for a few days now (something flu-ish but we’re not saying flu) and I was a little concerned if I’d get one done by the end of the week, but I split this between two days (which was necessary anyway, as you’ll see). This is an exploration of an idea in a different way than last week’s. That was, How can I interpret this scene using cloth and thread? (A question with many solutions, by the way; my result is just one way to solve that problem.) This week was an exploration of, What will happen if….

I had an idea in my head of a patchwork of blues, so I rummaged around in my bag of clothes scraps for different shades of denim, then I began piecing them with wrong sides together, so the raw edges would show, because one of the wonderful things about denim is how it frays. Right away, you see, I broke one of my rules for this challenge, which is to start with a whole cloth top, not pieced. Tough. My challenge, and I can break the rules if I want to.

Once the strips were sewn together the obvious next step was to throw it in with a load of towels to encourage my cut ends to fray. That’s why this was a two-day process–I ran out of time to do laundry yesterday before leaving to do some art with a group of kids, and last night I was in bed at 7 pm with my flu-ish self.

Once it was out of the dryer this morning, I began adding some quilting lines. I don’t always show what a piece looks like before cropping, but when it makes a huge difference, it’s fun to see:

Blues quiltlet before cropping at amyhoodarts.com

Usually I draw the cropping line with pencil, but there was no way that was working here! Fat black Sharpie was definitely needed. I really enjoy the process of working on a piece and then leaving things out. I don’t do it all the time, but it’s a really fun design exercise. It’s like revising in writing–some work is going to get left on the cutting table. But without doing all the work, even the stitching that doesn’t even show up in the finished piece, the finished piece won’t exist. I needed it all so I could cut on the angle and get the final quiltlet.

I like the back of this one too.

Blues quiltlet, back, at amyhoodarts.com

Just some simple lines, repeated evenly. Nice and clean.

Art Quiltlet: 12/52

cherry blossom photo at amyhoodarts.com

Our view from our picnic spot at the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial.

My kids are on spring break from school this week, and in a happy coincidence for our first year here, the DC cherry blossoms hit peak bloom this week, too. So I took the kids into the city so we could see them–and, while we were there, the Jefferson Memorial and the Botanical Gardens as well. It was the photo up above, however, that inspired this week’s art quiltlet.

I thought about how to approach it quite a bit before starting it. Here’s an in-progress shot.

cherry blossoms quiltlet in progress at amyhoodarts.com

I quilted the cloud-like lines on first, using free-motion stitching, then appliqued the Washington Monument on top of it. Then I switched back to free-motion stitching for the tree branches, which I lightly sketched on with a very soft pencil beforehand–more as an idea of where to go then a firm stitching line, and I continued to use the photo as loose guidance.

cherry blossom art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

The finished quiltlet.

This is the first quiltlet I’ve used any hand-stitching on, and that was to sew the blossoms on. They’re layered, white cotton, then organza, then tulle. Finally, I cropped and bound, choosing the cream color of the Monument.

I really, really like this one. If I played favorites, which I don’t, it might be my favorite so far. Some of these quiltlets I’ve planned out a bit, and some I’ve approached as pure play, but this is the first one that I seriously considered the idea of a small quiltlet like this being a study for something larger. I can see it as a possibility, now.

Sewn: Baby Quilt Number 2

When one of my husband’s colleagues is expecting a baby, I make something. For a long while, I knit. Sweaters and blankets, mainly. Then last fall I made my first quilt to send up to one of his co-workers at his previous job. That was pretty fun to make, so I decided to make another one for the latest expecting co-worker. I have to say, if you work with my husband, even peripherally (he knows lots of people worldwide; I’ve knit for some of them, too), it’s kind of a nice bonus that his wife is crafty.

I mean, look at this quilt.

HST baby quilt, front, amyhoodarts.com

This is composed of 100 half-square triangle blocks. I kind of love the HST, mainly because arranging them reminds me of playing with pattern blocks. I didn’t consult a pattern for this, although I’m sure one must exist, since this is fairly basic. Rather, I got out graph paper and fiddled with various possibilities and decided upon this one. I aimed for roughly 40″ square, which meant ten four-inch blocks across and down. (Math is handy stuff.) I sewed this in February, and in-progress photos are on Instagram; I fell in love with it a little more each step of the way.

The piece of fabric I bought for the back should have been big enough, but was just shy. So I made some more HSTs and inserted them.

HST baby quilt, back, at amyhoodarts.com

Those are pink and green elephants in the main fabric. A little more juvenile than the front, but it is a baby quilt, after all. Oh, that selvedge quiltlet I posted a couple of weeks ago–those are from this project.

It’s high time I made a quilt to stay in this house, I think. I’m working on a sampler block quilt that I still haven’t posted yet. And I think I need to make one for my daughter. Safe to say I’m well on my way to falling right down the quilting rabbit hole.

Art Quiltlet: 11/52

black & white art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

Black and white this week. Simple, enjoyable, engaging to make. Like sketching with fabric, trying out ideas of composition. I labeled this one “Black and White I” because I’m sure I’ll be doing more with just these two colors. Reducing to just shape and line, no distraction of color–I like to do that.

Here’s a view of the back along with the scraps I cut off when cropping. The scraps are interesting to look at in their own way.

quiltlet back and cropping scraps, amyhoodarts.com

The past several weeks, the quiltlet sewing has been pushed to later in the week. This week I felt the need to play first thing Monday.

I’ve been sewing almost every day lately. I remember when I first got my machine, how every time I sat down at it, it was a crapshoot on whether things would work the way they should. I don’t even mean not making mistakes sewing, I mean whether the thread would jam or the bobbin would behave. It was stressful; I didn’t feel comfortable with the machinery itself. And then after a while I did, and if something went awry, I was confident I could adjust it.

The same thing has happened with free motion stitching. I’ve pushed through that period when I wasn’t sure anything would go as it should. Yesterday I realized I switched from regular stitching to free motion almost seamlessly. I switched the feet, adjusted the tensions, dropped the feed dogs and released the IDT–all the things I need to do to set up the machine–and I sat down and stitched free motion without a hitch. It’s so good to tackle those learning curves, stick with it, and get to the other side, where my mind isn’t constantly occupied with the mechanics of the skill but is gradually freed up to think more about what to do with the skill. It’s very cool to keep learning new things.