Thursday, April 16, 2020

Putzing Along

How everything has changed since my last blog post. It's hard to concentrate on anything for very long. Some days have been consumed with concerns about family members or with planning for basic necessities, or if I am honest, lots of negativity about the current state of our union as states and central government. There are lots of other emotions, too. I'm sure you can relate.

But I have been doing some sewing, putzing along. (There is some mask making, a necessary task, but not one I really want to document). Aside from a project that I'm not ready to share (it's going slowly anyway, and now I have literally set it aside for a bit until I figure out the next step), I have been doing just a bit of quilt-related sewing thanks to a book I had ordered to celebrate my birthday a long, long time ago. Here's what I've made so far:
 Here is the book:

For six months, author Rachel Hauser is leading us online through chapters of the book, encouraging us to complete two or three challenge tasks a month to learn about using color in quilts. I've completed three challenges so far, sharing them on Instagram, but I want to document them here, too. And this is a good way to keep myself writing a bit. The block suggested in the book is Bear Paw, which is a quick sew and fun to make.The book contains a set of card stock swatches to explore color along with suggestions for translating the swatches into fabric. 

The first challenge was working with Temperature (warm and cool colors). I found myself confusing temperature and value, so I made pairs of warm and cool greens and purples in lighter and darker values. Once I made that decision, the exercise was easier for me. 
Here are the color swatches I chose:

and the interpretations in fabric:

The second challenge was working with Seasons. The first step was to choose eight swatches for each season. Here are mine:
                          From left to right: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter

For Spring, I thought of all the colors I see in my yard--the softening blue of the sky, yellow-green of the leaves, purple hyacinths, yellow daffodils, and colorful tulips. My swatch choices: Sky, Rose, Chartreuse, Milk, Lemon, Iris, Strawberry, Orange. 

For Autumn, I again pictured nature: vivid skies, colorful leaves, dried foliage and late blooming perennials. Swatch choices: Sapphire, Chili Pepper, Hunter, Cinnamon, Goldfish, Mulberry, Ruby, Flame. 

My winter palette is perhaps a bit unusual: snow. We usually think of snow as white, but if you look at photos or paintings of snow, you see that it is really many colors from reflections and shadows, so I tried to choose pale versions of the eight colors in the lesson. My swatch choices were cloud, ballet, seafoam, ice, cornmeal violet, primrose and buff. 

Although nature was my inspiration for those three seasons, Summer made me think of beach accessories--flip flops, beach balls, umbrellas--so I chose bright, sunny colors. Swatch choices: Turquoise, Flamingo, Emerald, White, Pineapple, Blackberry, Autumn, and Tiger.

Translating color swatches into fabrics was more challenging. At first, I was trying to find fabrics that would coordinate with the blocks I had made for the Temperature challenge. Once I got rid of that idea and treated each block as it's own exercise--not part of a quilt, I felt freer to do whatever worked to interpret my swatches. For the Spring block, I focused on the purple hyacinths (they are the first flowers to bloom in our yard), the sky, and the new leaves. 

Next, I worked on the Winter block. I had a scrap of a Kaffe Fassett print that had a version of the colors I was thinking of.
But when I laid it out, it seemed more vivid than I wanted. So I turned it over, for a paler version and paired it with a pale blue and an icy white. The result is really low volume, but it does seem a bit like snow drifts, I think.

I feel like I kind of cheated on the Autumn block. I had the perfect batik that had all of the colors in it as well as the right print. I just had to use it paired with a lively, clear autumn sky and the color of already-dried leaves on the ground.

I dithered over the Summer block for awhile. I had a wonderful tropical print that would have been fun, but it had some colors that weren't quite like the ones in my swatches. I had another print that reminded me of beach balls. It also had a few additional colors, but they weren't as noticeable and still had all the feels. Thinking of the color blocks in beach balls and umbrellas, I chose bright solids for the rest of the block. Fun, fun, fun.
Disregard those wrinkles. Long-crunched-up fabric pressed with a dry iron.
Here are the four blocks together. It would be challenging to put them all together in one quilt, but now that I'm not thinking that way, it's okay. 

The third challenge was color as Emotion. I have a confession to make. I started with fabric instead of swatches for this one. I had some prints that I love that make me feel various ways, and I think that the prints as well as the colors are what evoke the emotions. In fact, after I pulled the prints and was reading the chapter, I saw that Rachel does talk about the types of prints that might be used in this challenge. So it's all okay. Choosing the swatches was fairly easy then, and when I looked at them away from the fabrics, they still conveyed the emotions to me. How interesting. And now I know that were I to choose more solid or tone-on-tone fabrics, the interpretation might be the same. Something to explore further after this workshop is over.

So, the emotions. I have a lot of emotions right now. None of them are ones that I'd be likely to interpret in a quilt. I have a feeling that when this virus that has gripped our whole world is more of a memory, many quilters will have made quilts that commemorate this time period in one way or another. I would imagine that the ones that show our true feelings will be art quilts--not quilts that give snuggly comfort. What colors are anger, irritation, sorrow, despair, anxiety, fear... need I go on? I know there are other more positive emotions associated with thankfulness, gratitude, and admiration for all those workers that persist in helping others, and there will likely be quilts that commemorate those emotions, too. I couldn't deal with any of the negative emotions right now. I wanted to make blocks that might actually go into a quilt that would give someone positive feelings, because those are the kinds of quilts I like to make. Here are what I chose instead. 

No surprise to me, this fabric also reminds me of beautiful days at Lake Michigan--the sky, the water, grass and foliage, and sunshine. Contentment. Just breathe. Relax. Take in the view. Be at peace. Aah. There is a tiny bit of pinkish-red in that fabric that I could have included in the swatches, but the four other colors represent the feeling to me the best. Swatch choices: Gold, Apple Green, Bahama, Denim.

I've had that print fabric for quite awhile. If you look closely, it is has an intentionally faded look. It makes me think of a "simpler" time, which yes, I know was not really all that simple, but that's how nostalgia works, right? The peachy background fabric is from a very old set of fabrics I have that were based on the marbled paper or cloth that used to be used as linings of book covers. I loved those fabrics long ago, and that makes me nostalgic right there. Fabric pattern affects how these colors make me feel, but the swatches do it, too. Swatch choices: Peach, Malachite, Olive, Shell.

Sense of mystery
When I first saw this fabric, I thought "mysterious." But I wasn't sure if that qualified as an emotion. So I looked it up. Well, there is so much out there about labeling emotions. There are the usual 5 basic ones (only one positive one, by the way), but there are lots of expansions of them, and one I found was "sense of mystery," the feeling that makes us seek out certain thrilling books or movies. So okay, let's go with that. I chose 5 swatches for this one because it really needed the silver to complete the theme. Yup, looks mysterious to me. Swatch choices: Black, Mauve, Wine, Jungle, Silver.

Here are the three blocks together. 
Of the three challenges, I enjoyed this last one the most. Maybe that's because of those fabrics that already suggested emotions to me. I certainly did look at colors in a new way. But I think I learned something from all of the challenges so far, and I know that these will help me expand my ideas for future quilts. I had intended to use the challenges in this book to expand my quilt stash with newly purchased fat quarters. Now that I'm sheltering at home, I'm somewhat limited by what I have on hand. I do not have many fabrics that both match my swatch choices and are large enough to cut a 4 1/2 inch square for the paw parts of the blocks. But I'm going to make this work. It's been a good way to keep me going when I often have little or no energy for creativity. Once I get myself involved in a challenge I can almost feel like life is normal for a little while. 

These little blocks take some time to plan every two weeks but very little time to sew. So, now that I've set aside my secret project, I'm going to go back to the Rainbow Scrap Challenge blocks I made during the past year. I've already trimmed some blocks and have sashing strips ready to sew to them. 
There you have it: my second post of this year. I don't want 2020 to slip away without documenting my projects. Thanks to Rachel for her book and her online workshop to keep me quilting in the time of Corona. There will be more posts as I complete the rest of the challenges.

I hope you are all staying safe and well. I know many have concerns that can't even be articulated right now. Let's all work together in whatever way we can. For some, that means risking their lives to serve others, and we need to be forever grateful to them. For others, it is just being--staying in isolation. The line of a poem by John Milton keeps running through my head: "They also serve who only stand and wait." [Update: I originally attributed this line to William Blake. I guess my brain is putzing along, too, because it just occurred to me that I was wrong.]

Do take care.

I'm linking up this week with Kellie at My Quilt Infatuation for Needle and Thread Thursday, Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Can I Get a Whoop Whoop, and with Cynthia at Quilting is More Fun than Housework for Oh Scrap. Thanks to all these women who keep us going with quilting projects and social contact. 

(Just a reminder: I'm not affiliated with any company, so when I mention products, services, or stores I'm just documenting what I used or liked.)