On Learning PATCHWORK IMPROV

Despite my many attempts at sewing over the years, I’ve never been able to shed my frustration with puckers and crooked seams and all sorts of irregularities. Enter “Patchwork Improv,” the possible antidote to my feelings of defeat and disenchantment with precision patterns.

improvquiltThere are three “Patchwork Improv” classes offered through Creativebug and presented by Sherri Lynn Wood, an award-winning author and “improvisor.” I watched the series on working with shapes—the other two installments deal with angles and strips. Given what I experienced through the videos I’ve watched so far, I also can’t wait to pick up Wood’s book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting & Living Courageously (Abrams). Improv. Creating. Living courageously. Sure, I’m all ears!

The best part about patchwork improv? No measuring! It involves all free-hand cutting and trimming! No more aggravation with one piece not quite matching up with another, with the result looking kind of kitty wumpus—in fact, the more kitty wumpus, the better, with this art form. The process? I learned that you begin by cutting out a variety of “squarish” shapes from any old fabric —Wood loves tearing apart men’s shirts for her fodder—then determine your “filler fabric,” then rev up your sewing machine and go to town!

Not long ago, I purchased a funky geometric painting from one of my favorite local art centers. Now I can’t help but think of how I could make something similar with fabric using Wood’s improv methods. Stay tuned for an update!

 

On Reading I JUST LIKE TO MAKE THINGS

IJustLikeOn the recommendation of a creative friend, I picked up I Just Like to Make Things: Learn the Secrets to Making Money While Staying Passionate About Your Art and Craft by Lilla Rogers. The author is both an artist and an agent who has secured contracts, licenses, and other agreements for herself and others who have a knack for modern illustration. The book is filled with testimonies and tips on how to make a mark in children’s books, textiles, craft papers, and other goods that carry color and design.

 

I most enjoyed the bookends of I Just Like to Make Things, first Rogers’ use of a bird analogy to demonstrate how we artists can visualize our life’s work:

 

…for every person on our planet, there are fifty birds. Wow! I would love to meet my fifty birds. They are all out there, and we don’t even know which ones are ours… If you think of the life of your career as having fifty birds, what would they be? Let’s let them equal fifty meaningful events or highlights in your career. They are out there, but like your birds, you just don’t know what they are yet. You won’t know until you reach the end of your life and look back; but in the meantime, they will happen. 

 

I love this visual. I love that my success doesn’t have to be defined by just one epic moment—a sum of many makes up the whole. I also love that, like birds, my art can boast diversity and color and merry tunes of all sorts. Yes, this imagery will indeed stick with me as I discover my artistic identity and calling. 

 

IMG_3739The other bookend? One of the concluding exercises of I Just Like to Make Things is to consider the many different turns an art career can take. Rogers presents forty-plus ideas to help “garner some self-awareness” and arrive at “what you really, deeply want to do next” in the creative realm. As she suggests, I photocopied the page, cut all the options into little rectangles, then drew five pieces randomly from the pile. I was skeptical of this assignment at first, but in the end, I gained some valuable insight:

Open an Etsy shop
I attempted this about a year ago with some scarves I made, but I think I definitely need a lot more stuff and a more defined personal style. I plan to work on the latter to arrive eventually at the former.

Volunteer to help creative kids
I love this idea! My dream of dreams would be to facilitate a kids’ knitting and crocheting group. My daughter is attending a fine-arts interdisciplinary school this fall, plus my church is starting a free after-school program for grades K-5. Perhaps I could start groups at those venues?

Sew for fun
Another option that piques my interest! It was at a Fourth of July parade that I became aware of the efforts of Iowa-based Dress a Girl Around the World, and I’ve been thinking about making simple little dresses for charity ever since. I also came across a few fun videos on Creativebug on “Patchwork Improv.” I’m in!

Start your own company including manufacturing
I began my own company about twelve years ago when I became a freelance writer. I changed the name of it some time later to make sure it could grow beyond communications. My next steps? To honor my intentions from long ago! To get creative! To make stuff!

Make jewelry
This option wrinkled my nose at first, but it grew on me when I thought about how I can use my current skills, know-how, and supplies to make small items for sale. I plan to experiment a bit with crochet and buttons and yarn and beads in the weeks ahead.

 

I know I’ve read a good book if it motivates me to some kind of action. Boy, do I have a to-do list from this one! Stay tuned as I get to work.

On Seeing YESTERDAY

Imagine if the Beatles never existed.

Such is the premise of the movie “Yesterday,” now playing in theaters. The film is clever. It’s cute. It’s funny. And it got me to thinking.

Imagination is at the heart of creativity, and given that reality, there are endless possibilities around what we choose to draw, paint, write about, sing about, etc. Furthermore, there are possibilities revealed to us through regular day-to-day events and activities—a beautiful window box of flowers inspires us to replicate it on canvas, an interesting turn of phrase inspires us to write a poem—and possibilities that we would have never considered had we not sat down and primed our creative pump. The latter inspired the following exercise…

  1. “Imagine if the Beatles never existed.” In this sentence, “the Beatles” is the subject and “never existed” is an action. Let’s devise a list of several other subjects and actions. Here’s mine:
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      My two piles of subjects and actions

      Subjects: The Royal Family, a farmer, a Bible study group, the Trump administration, a tribe of aborigines, a high school marching band, an NFL football team, the Disney princesses

    • Actions: Started a forest fire, invented teleportation, biked across the U.S., cured cancer, vacationed in Italy, cloned themselves, owned a bakery, became super heroes
  2. I wrote all sixteen of my subjects and actions on separate pieces of paper. Keeping them separated in the two categories, I mixed up the papers and put them face down in two piles. Drawing one piece of paper from each pile, I arrived at the following possibilities—imagine if:
    • A high school marching band owned a bakery.
    • A tribe of aborigines biked across the U.S.
    • The Trump administration cured cancer.
    • A farmer started a forest fire.
    • The Royal Family cloned themselves.
    • A Bible study group invented teleportation.
    • The Disney princesses vacationed in Italy.
    • An NFL football team became super heroes.

I’m not one to dabble in fiction, but how fun would it be to take some of these ideas and develop them into complete stories or fantastical paintings or an all-out screenplay! “Imagine,” said John Lennon. Now you try it!


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Finished project: “Trinity” (Macrame)

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I completed my first piece of macrame and found a little corner for it to hang in my kitchen! Overall impression: Macrame is a full-body sport—I found it most comfortable to twist and tie while on my feet.

Read “On Trying MACRAME” post>>

On Trying CROCHET-ALONGS

I knit. I crochet. I’ve made hats and sweaters and blankets and so much more over my past twenty-five years of experimenting with yarn and needles and hooks. But it wasn’t until recently—last summer, to be exact—that I tried a “crochet-along” or “CAL” for short (you guessed it, there are “knit-alongs” too).

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Just a few of the hats I made last summer as part of a crochet-along

Through the Hooked on Homemade Happiness Crochet Community on Facebook, I signed up to join thousands of other crocheters from around the world to work on different patterns together. The group’s organizer, Breann Mauldin, is an accomplished crocheter and pattern writer who shares free PDFs (for a limited time generally) of her original creations, thus rallying the rest of us to get hooking too.

During a CAL, a new pattern is released weekly, then we post photos of our finished products on the group thread. It’s amazing to see how the same pattern results in such unique works of craftsmanship—it’s fun to see how people put their own spins on it. Different colors. Different textures. Different adornments. Artistry abounds!

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Here’s my progress so far on the sampler afghan CAL pattern. Each week entails adding another few inches of a different pattern to our blankets.

The Hooked on Homemade Happiness Crochet Community is currently in the middle of another hat CAL, which I completed for the first time last year. In the end, I donated about twenty finished hats to the cancer patients of the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, which is where one of my dearest friends fought and won her battle with the disease. I also enjoyed taking part in a sampler afghan CAL over the winter. My blanket is still in progress, but I’m determined to get it finished before the snow flies again. Just a couple more sections to go and some kind of border, then I’ll be done!

There’s something special about knitting and crocheting, how versatile they are not only in what I can make, but also in where and with whom I can focus on my projects. In the quiet of home. At a coffee shop with a friend. Around a computer with the rest of humanity. There’s no doubt I’ll keep knitting and crocheting along!

On Learning FINGER KNITTING

Finger knitting. I remember learning how to finger knit from a childhood friend so many decades ago. We’d spend hours together during sleepovers making long lengths of narrow knitted tubing in various colors. Sometimes we’d attempt to make something useful from our thick, long ropes of yarn—little pillows or blankets for our dolls, for instance—but we were never quite satisfied with the end results. I eventually traded in finger knitting for embroidery and cross-stitch, which seemed much more sophisticated back in the day.

homepage-knitting-without-needlesIt was through Creativebug that I was recently reminded of the fun of finger knitting.  And thanks to the brilliance of maker Anne Weil, my eyes are now open to the craft’s possibilities. In one of her six Creativebug classes, Weil walks viewers through the steps of creating a pretty and practical woven rug from finger-knitted cords. The same project is featured in her book Knitting Without Needles, which is full of patterns for finger- and arm-knitters alike. I picked her book up from the library, along with Finger Knitting Fun by Vickie Howell, Arm & Finger Knitting by Laura Strutt and Finger Knitting by Mary Beth Temple. Sweaters, toys, hats, and blankets—the options seem endless as I page through these resources on finger knitting.

Of course, I have all I need to get started again: a good pair of hands and plenty of yarn. I think I’ll try Weil’s idea for a wreath first, then maybe I’ll finally have something presentable to show for my finger-knitting skills. It only took forty years.