October 8   New Quilt Project

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I could tell you about all the things I meant to do today and will be having a mad dash to tick off after I post this. I could tell you about the lovely pop in I did at lunch to Stefen’s Books – hey Grill’d has moved in to that end of Shafto Lane and my it’s suddenly a pumping spot! – I bought The Casual Vacancy. And I’m going to have to finish it before I head off to Canada as it’s not a pocket book.

Instead though, I’ll show you the quilting project that’s been absorbing my attention in the last week or so.
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I’ve not quite decided the placement of the log cabins, I’m still playing around with them. I fell in love with this fabric line called “Nightshade” which you can see as the centre cameo. And then over at the Fat Quarters Shop they have a thing where bloggers team up different fabric lines with plains and other fabrics and so that’s how there are those old men’s smoking lounge fabrics here. I kinda thought it worked more in the online photo than when they arrived and I’ve been playing around with them to make them work. The first thing I did when I couldn’t get it to work was take it to my mother who unfortunately also agreed with me that they didn’t work so we came up with the idea of splitting them into smaller pieces.. I actually fell in love with this series in the purple version and with the pirate female cameo. So that is the next one after this one. And I’m hoping to make a series of three faces to hang as a wall hanging series.

What I like the most is – it’s quick to sew! When you hand piece, you get used to projects taking a really long time. When my mother suggested just the face and 8 or 12 log cabins as a finished work I thought, “Am I *allowed* to do that?” Which is so me – always with the big extravagant, * complicated* projects that are hard to stay focussed and committed to. So the challenges here are to:

1. use the fabric almost as soon as it arrived and not have it be absorbed into the stash aka fabric collection

2. complete the project quickly for instant enjoyment feedback

3. make the fabric combinations *work* (I didn’t get as many faces to work with as I had hoped because of how my yards were cut)

And I’m enjoying playing round with log cabins. Bit of a step away from the 3D stars :)



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I mentioned on last episode’s Galactic Suburbia that I’m reading a lot of nonfiction at the moment. It’s quite weird for me as I haven’t really read nonfiction for fun in a few years. It’s going through a bit of a reassessment of aspects of my life and my reading is one of them. Basically, I’ve discovered you don’t have to force yourself to do or like things and that (revelation ahead) if you choose not to, you are much happier. Sounds obvious, and yet, not actually how I was running my life for the last decade or more. And so I realised that the reason I’m not finishing books is I am not reading the books that I need to be reading right now – are you a mood reader like me? I have to be in the right frame of mind for certain books and it’s why I tend to travel with more books than I can read in case I’m not in the mood for some. And right now, nonfiction, and nonfiction about craft, seems to be really appealing to me.

In Sweater Quest, Adrienne Martini spends a year trying to knit an Alice Starmore jumper. If you’re a knitter, you already know about the complexity of the fair isle and the holy grail that is the Alice Starmore projects. And if you’re not, you probably don’t really care. So suffice to day, in some ways this challenge is akin to the Julie Julia cooking project. And I kinda like me a craft related quest. Maybe if epic fantasy involved some kind of quest across country for maiden silk yarn, I’d like relate more?

This book is written in a very friendly tone – similar to the way online knitting blogs are written. Again, if you’re a knitter, you know what I mean, and if you’re not, well, knitters are pretty tech savvy and have many an online community. Because of course, knitting is deeply fascinating but noone said knitters didn’t love to bond over more than just the gorgeous yarn and pattern you’re working on right now. In Sweater Quest, we get to know Adrienne and a bit about who she is as a knitter and a person.

I enjoyed the quest to knit the Starmore but what I enjoyed even more were the truly crunchy questions Adrienne’s journey threw out. The thing about the Starmore is, according to Alice Starmore, you can only knit a Starmore if you use her specified yarn and colour combinations. If you deviate, she (and her lawyers) might just ask you to not call it a Starmore. And the problem is, they don’t actually make the yarn for many of her older patterns anymore. If you aren’t aware of the Starmore controversies and you like yourself a bit of internet drama, then this book is a great introduction to some of the goings on from the early 2000s and will point you in directions to chase up a bit more of that story.

Adrienne goes on a journey, both in writing her book and physically as she visits lots of the big name online knitters, asking the question, if she isn’t using Starmore yarn (she had to substitute one or two as she couldn’t chase down all of them), is she knitting a Starmore at all? I don’t know that I every really felt like I got an answer to that question. But I loved the thinking beyond that – a designer dreams up a knitted item and writes the pattern, knitters tend to pick that up, change the colour and/or the yarn brand, maybe change the cable here or there, add length, reduce length, change the collar or the sleeve… at what point does the end product no longer resemble the intent? When is it no longer the pattern? And more than that, what does a designer own?

I loved thinking these ideas over in terms of how they translated to writing and publishing and plagiarism. But I also loved the ideas as they applied to knitting. For years, I have been laughing at new knitters online who would never even have thought that you could look at a pattern and knit it in red instead of yellow – that they would hunt around for red jumpers if that’s what they were intending to knit, rather than find a pattern they liked and then just change the colour of the wool. Here in Australia, it’s only been really recently (and even more recent here in WA), that the yarn brand specified in the patterns was available to buy, let alone the colour. We are used to substituting not just the colour but the yarn and thus swatching before knitting is obviously a must (nonknitters – first you must work out how the yarn knits out – in terms of tension and so on – by knitting a square of a set number of stitches and then comparing the resulting dimensions to those of the pattern to figure out if you have to add or subtract stitches to be able to knit the resulting size garment). Basically, we are used to *not* using the same colours or yarn brand for knitting. So for me, the idea of Starmore’s, that to knit her jumpers you had to use her wool, was mindboggling. And before the internet and ebay, basically meant you would never be able to knit her work at all.

I dunno that I’ve finished thinking through a lot of the ideas from this book. I really enjoyed the food for thought. Recommended to my knitting geek friends.



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Apologies for this and the next couple of posts I’m going to make. They’re a bit of a whinge and a self kicking but I feel like I need to get them down here before I can move beyond them. Not talking or writing about it is becoming a block and not helping with the working to move past it.

It’s not surprising given how I feel – frustrated and drowning – that I’m not getting much done on my craft projects. And that frustrates me even more – craft is my outlet. But not being able to face crafting? Makes me even sadder. I noticed that what I have been able to do is more of the scrap quilt. And worse, I noticed I was doing it with almost an obsessive quality. And … well … this is not a project that is going to have a quick end date which means there is no quick payoff or enjoyment to dedicating myself to it. I’m not even really getting scraps tidied up and reduced because there are just *so many* of them. And it’s an example of how I so easily get sidetracked and how I do it as an avoidance technique.

Once I identified this, I realised it was because I was stuck pairing the above triangles for my charm quilt project. So I spread them all out on the table, as you can see, to just, face up to it and start making hexagons. Mm.. I have a lot of charm pieces. And they don’t match. I managed to pull maybe 8 hexagons (6 triangles in each) out of these stacks last weekend. And then I just got kinda depressed with the damn project. I can’t make those damn pieces match. And … *deep breath*  I kinda hate how the project is turning out. Here is just a small part of the pieced quilt top so far. I just. It’s not really doing anything for me. It’s not really going where I wanted it to go. And I can’t tell if this is just deep-into-project-fatigue or my general ennui or if it totally sucks. And none of these are really helping with the getting on with working on, and enjoying making, the quilt.

So that’s not really going very well. And neither is the rest of it. I was really inspired and loving the craft projects I had on the go. And the point of having the spare bed in the craft room was to have it as a working space to piece quilt tops and get them to the finished stage this year. This is how the bed looks at the moment – and this is after I cleared all the clean laundry off it and put that away. I can see 6 separate projects there in various levels of disarray and there is at least one more to the right of that box. Nothing about this inspires creativity.

AND. Course of course there is an And. I’ve been researching for the craft ebook project and listening to a lot of back episodes of Cast On podcast (more about the VJJ project later). And I am starting to miss my knitting. I have this terror of switching crafts – I’m sure I felt it when knitting about moving into quilting and now that I am here, ensconced in quilting, I don’t want to get absorbed back into knitting and abandon all these projects. But as much as I am kinda feeling I’d like to get back into knitting, or figuring out how to knit and sew at the same points in my time-space continuum, I think I’d like to try a sweater. I’ve never knit a jumper before. Which is not really 100% true – I have a kimono jacket which has been on the needles, possibly since the ex and I split. And this not finished. I’ve never embarked on a large knitted project and I’m kinda tempted. But at the same time, I feel like I need to finish the many many WIPs I have on needles about the place. And what’s stopping me? Not knowing where I was up to on most of them.

Can you say it with me now? AAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Am I driving myself crazy right now?

Yes.



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February 29   A Craft post

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I’m kinda hoping for a regular craft post. But for now, here is one, and I’ll hope to make another soon!

At the moment, I seem to be really distracted by these teeny versions of log cabin squares. I think technically they are steeplechase or some other name but the pattern is part of the log cabin family. And what this project is is two things 1) A fascination with using the scrappiest of scraps to make something useful/art that would otherwise have been thrown away and 2) an example of how I can distract myself, go off on long winded tangents and also create huge rods for my back.

This project is a long term one. It’s a scrap quilt. It’s using pieces of fabric I really didn’t want to part with – many of the scraps are from charm squares remainders after I’ve cut the piece for my charm quilt. But the problem is, I’m finding I’m acquiring these scraps faster than I can cut and sew them up. My mother threw in a bunch of her scraps from a few quilts she made last year. And I’m really collecting scraps out of my charm square project among other projects. It turns out, it’s not that hard to accumulate scraps. And in the interests of not having this get sucked into hoarding tendencies, I’ve been really trying for the last three months or so to get on top of it (I’m not really making much headway).

The squares are small – I’ve thrown my car key into the picture for scale. And they are a little fiddly to cut and sew. I have four ziploc bags filled with pieces I’ve cut out and then I work on some other project and use the spare thread at the end of a seam to sew bits of these together. Using the scrap thread for the scrap quilt.

Except, these little blocks are so colourful and fun to make, I sometimes get a little absorbed in them instead of working on other “proper” projects. It’s distracting! I’ve been playing around with lights and darks on these and intend to have a careful play with piecing the finished squares to see what I can do with the overall picture. I’ve learned a lot with my monochrome and charm quilts about colour, lights and darks and movement and I’m interested to see if I can pull something off with this little scrap project. Also, it’s based on an antique quilt I saw once on cable TV from a dressmaker who lived in an Australian gold mining town during the gold rush. She used silks from ties for hers but it looked spectacular. I’m hoping mine will be similar. Though I’m a bit worried it might be a really huge quilt (hers was a small wall hanging).

Lately though, I’ve been so pressed for time and so immersed in other things, I’ve hardly had time for crafting at all. I’ve mostly spent what little time I’ve had on cutting out pieces for this quilt rather than actually work on anything creatively. And I’ve actually been happy with that – it’s been “enough”. And what fascinates me about that is that rarely is the prepping for a project fun for me. I like the bit just after that, the starting. And I remember reading in Quilting Lessons that some days, all she did all day was cut out pieces for a new project, and thinking that there’s no way that would ever be my activity of choice and certainly not for extended periods. But it turns out, sometimes your head is just too busy to be able to do more than that. (Maybe I was just never this busy before in my life?) And that actually that’s totally ok. Because later on, all I’m going to want to do is sew and create and PastMe will have done all the groundwork to facilitate that.

And don’t even get me started on the *wanting* to get started on the first socks for the Cookie A Sock club I signed up for. We’ve decided not to bake the biscuits that came along with the yarn for just now. But I really really want to knit along with this one all year so as not to end up with 6 balls of yarn for my stash come Xmas. Stay tuned …



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February 1   Things Accomplished

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I described to a friend today in an email how this year is starting to feel to me – a year of consolidation. I meant it in regards to craft, my quilting to be specific. Here is the object in question, the finished quilt top of the monochrome tumbling blocks.

For a few years now, I’ve had the new years resolution to finish x many projects and have failed to deliver. This year, I have no resolutions at all. I’m content to go with the idea that whatever is really important to me, I will do. And the rest, well it was not important enough for me to do. And without such imposed rules, one month into the year and I’ve finally finished my first quilt top for the year. A project in development for over two years now. I hope to be able to have it quilted by the time the year is out. But we shall see.

And I haven’t stopped here. I’ve been looking at all the exciting projects I have queued up, and all the stash that is, as yet, unallocated. And still I am picking up started projects and working on them. I like the tidying and organising feeling of working on projects long into development and the wrapping up. Well. *This* year I like that. This is the thing I often complain about here but don’t explain well. I go through *periods*.[1] And right now, I’m in a progressing and finishing phase. I’m working on the scrap quilt and the charm quilt and finishing off the still in progress Xmas presents. And after those are done, I will be basting and quilting a quilt top I finished last year.

I like the order that is being created. But I am also aware that none of this is really at the creative end of the craft spectrum. And I wonder if I’m out of creative steam right now. I’m preferring to do the repetitive tasks of fiddling and finishing projects where all the creative decisions were made long ago in a startitis phase. I don’t seem to want to sit down and create or plan or start anything new. And actually, that’s ok. Like I said, a year of consolidation. I do do that from time to time – spend a long period just tidying and sorting and finishing things and creating order in my world. The sweeping the floor and clearing off the desk to make for new projects to come.

I’m still hard at work sorting and culling in the house. It’s down to all those boxes you never open and I’m having to look at all kinds of small objects that I don’t really want and make decisions about them. I’m doing it bit by bit. And sort of understanding how those people really turned their life around on Hoarders Buried Alive – that it really is a long and ongoing process but in so doing it also really does change the way you think and the things you do. I am so much better able to just turn down offers of crap other people are trying to get rid of. I actually told the lady at Bunnings that the Australia Day flag she was offering me would “just be one more thing I’d have to throw out later” and she nodded very knowingly. Don’t acquire it in the first place is the best rule of all. But I’m getting there. It’s an emotional process so it does take a while and I don’t feel up to sorting through my past every day. It’s not every day you feel like you can part with it and toss it out. But on good days I’m getting through a lot of it and I don’t regret tossing out anything so far. I guess soon that will make me properly moved in.

And I guess to some extent the Twelve Planets feels like a consolidation process. I’ve delivered 4 of the 12. And I’m very proud of them. I think they well represent the rest of the series to come. Book 5 is very almost at the printers. And Books 6, 7 and 8 are not far behind. All the stories have been finalised and rewrites done. And now that I have sent Jason his edits for Salvage, I realised that I might very well have done all the heavy lifting for editing for 2012.

It really does feel like it will be a good year. On the other hand, the quilt top is upside down in the photo above! It really should look like this here, and that matters to me because I agonised over the placement of the red blocks! My original idea had been to have just 3 red diamonds. But Kate convinced me that I would need blocks for the 3D effect to still work. She of course was right.

I learned a lot in making this quilt. I especially learned a lot about the effects of texture and on mixing lights, darks and mediums. I also learned that overall effect can swamp the individual pieces – I worked so hard on not placing same blocks next to each other etc but your eye hardly really pulls that much detail out to look at. And I also learned that finishing is more important than perfection. Sometimes, the lesson learned is more important and moving on and taking that lesson to apply to the next thing is more valuable than standing still, redoing to perfect the current.

I took the lessons from this quilt and immediately turned them to my charm quilt. The charm quilt has no two pieces repeated. Every piece is unique. And in mine, I’m trying to do something with hexagons and darks and lights to create yet more tumbling blocks, but this time in full colour. Turning to this project I was immediately able to see several sections that simply did not work, and why. And there was nothing for it but to unpick these pieces and replace. And there I was removing centre pieces and replacing like it was nothing. The process gave me some insight into art – the process of making art, where works are about exploring, not perfecting, a technique. Where the process of creating art is about learning to create rather than creating perfect work  for the appreciation of others.

Photos of the next quilt to come.

[1] And my issue with this is that whenever I am deep within one, I worry I will never come out, and do likely the opposite. So in a knitting obsessive period, I worry I will never quilt again. And vice versa. etc. So actually I am worried I may never knit again right now. I’m also worried if I take knitting with me this weekend, I might get kicked into a knitting binge and abandon my quilting.
 



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Twelfth Planet Press Call for Submissions:

A Stitch in Time Travel

Craft Ebook Project

Twelfth Planet Press is looking for innovative and fun science fiction, fantasy or horror inspired craft projects on the theme of time travel for a Geek Craft ebook to be released at Craftonomicon, the Australian National science fiction convention, 8 – 11 June, 2012.

Projects

We’re looking for anything from a knitted scarf or jumper to socks, toys, hats and anything and everything in between. Draw inspiration from your favourite books, comics, games, movies and television. We want it creative and geeky!

Some examples of what we’re looking for:

Knits for Nerds

Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi

Steampunk Softies

The AntiCraft

 

Submission details

Your submission should include:

  1. your pattern with clear step-by-step, repeatable instructions;
  2. list of materials and supplies required;
  3. photos for easy reproduction of your project by others;
  4. whether your pattern has been beta tested by others
  5. your contact and paypal details.

Wearable patterns should include suggested sizings. Consider using http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/sizing.html. We will give preference to submissions that provide a range of sizes.

Your photos should show the completed work but might also include steps along the production process. They should be in colour and good lighting, with a minimum of 72dpi resolution.

Send your submission to contact@twelfthplanetpress.com with “Craft Project Submission” as your subject heading.

Submission Period Closes April 30, 2012.

Payment: $50 for each pattern or tutorial and a copy of the final publication.

 

Caveats

We are looking only for previously unpublished works. Please note, work published on a blog is considered previously published.

We are not accepting any works derived from copyrighted franchises.

We are aware that riffing off a theme or idea is a large component of this kind of project. Please let us know about the original products that inspired you so we can determine whether your submission encroaches on any intellectual property rights or copyright infringements.

Additionally, if you do obtain permission to design a project inspired by someone else’s creative work, please include this with your submission.

 



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December 21   It’s not Christmas yet!

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You know, every year, I watch all my crazy crafty friends do that pre Christmas Eve panic as they try to fit what I think is three months of knitting or sewing into the last 4 days to get their gifts finished on time. I’ve watched this and thought it was insanity. And so this year, when I fell in love with some over the top Christmas fabric, in September, I justified purchase of it by deciding to make hand made gifts this year. You see where this is going. But! But I started in November! And I am still, no, I am still not finished. Sigh. My fingers hurt as I madly hand quilt. I have recruited my Mum to help me finish off. And I am still wayyyy behind. My annual leave starts today and I shall be spending tomorrow furiously at (craft) work to at least meet some of my Christmas Day deadlines.

In thinking over this madness, and the need to obviously start earlier than November, even for what is a relatively simple project, I’ve realised that I would resent starting making gifts for Xmas in June. Like that would encroach into my personal crafting time, for making things for me. And in recent days, I’ve been looking forward to finishing this project in order to get stuck into the projects I had earmarked for working on in my holidays. But I also realised that making these gifts has kickstarted me back into sewing every night, which I hadn’t been doing before that. So that I will easily slide back into regular crafting afterwards, when I hadn’t before.

And I always have this massive introspection when I fall into what I think is a new routine – will it mean the old one is gone for good? Have I changed? What does  this mean? etc etc. Because ultimately, I’ve reduced the amount of time I have for craft in the evening because I go to bed earlier than I used to and I now spend maybe half an hour, sometimes an hour, reading in bed before I sleep. One of the new things I started when I came back from the US. It means I have less time for crafting but I am reading more. Cue the loop that is the beginning of this sentence.

So that’s like my general update. Too busy running around chasing my tail this last month. Too much to do, too little time. I’m wrapping up at my current day job and will have the first half of January to hand over before I move on. My new job will involve a long commute. A commute that will add an extra hour of commuting to my day and I already commute two hours a day. It’s the one and only main con for this position. And I don’t know how I’m going to go. But I’ve had some fantastic suggestions on this. Obviously its a great chance to catch up on all the podcasts I’m behind on. So that will be great. I’m thinking of finally exploring audio books – driving 15 hours a week will mean I can actually listen to a book a week. But my favourite suggestion so far came from a colleague in a different team who said, “hey did you know that you can get Adobe Reader to read you out your pdfs?” Well no, I did not know this. AND OMG I nearly hugged him. Because we shall be reading novel submissions come January 1 and the thought of losing more of my time  for TPP from commuting (driving is the only option) was making me feel a bit sad. But if I could get my computer to read out submissions to me? Well then my commute is not a waste at all – I can be productive and its not so easy to be distracted by the internet etc. Last night C set it up for me on my laptop. And he’d bought me an iTrip as a present a few weeks ago which I’ve been using to listen to podcasts whilst driving. So I may very well be all set up AND be in a more productive situation than previously. Very excited.

I hope your last days of December are going well. I wish you all the best for the holiday season and a very happy new year. I hope to be around here in the next few days catching up on some thoughts and so on. But I’m also planning all sorts of other things that I want to do.



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October 20   To Do Lists

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I have to admit I’ve not been sticking to any system for organising or managing my tasks for a while. It was pointed out to me that from my post yesterday, it was clear that I set goals way too high for myself and then leave myself constantly feeling like I come up short. Well, yeah. I do that. And somewhere along the line, I stopped celebrating or rewarding the wins.

Which is true and yet not. I did order myself a very nice lot of fabric which would perhaps amount to several rewards for the last few months and was a few things I’d had my eye on.But it wasn’t a – here this is a reward for getting all this stuff done. I tend to greet the end of tasks by moving onto the next thing.

One thing I have been trying is iDone This. At the end of every day the website emails you and asks you to email it what you did that day. And then it gives you a tick for each day you got stuff done. OK well that bit I find quite hilarious. Because I am entering everything I get done including day job achievements, housework and TPP. It then lists what you entered when you click on each day. You can quickly scan through and see which days were more productive than others, assuming each line item is of equal value.

I’m trying to enter tasks as step by step so say I worked a lot on a book, I don’t write “progressed book”, I write down each step of achievement that led to that. It’s helping me look at things rather than not having achieved the lofty goals but more at what I did actually get done. And if I spent the day at a family commitment, say, then I write that done. Because that’s what I got done and spending time with people who matter should count when you sit down and think, “what the hell did I do with my life?”

But I do need to link that back into more effective list writing and management and also planning. When  I come home from my trip, I’m planning on setting out a year long work plan and to then break that down into various smaller parts. So I will try and enact “big and little reward milestones” as Terri gently pointed out to me today. I should be rewarded for making it partway towards stupidly huge goals. And, I might reward myself just a leetle bit more in the dealers room at WFC. I think that’s probably likely :)

I discovered that the Fat Quarter Shop would happily post my order to the hotel in San Diego instead of to Australia. And whilst I was putting together that order with all the bits and pieces that I’ve had my eye on plus some Christmas fabric as I’ve decided to make some gifts for C’s family this year, I realised I have never received my last order! (The ballet set above.) After I queried, they have been really happy to send me a replacement, in the same postage. Which is really very kind of them. And then tonight, I was hunting round for pics of the fabric I ordered for this post, I found he NYC fabric I had wanted and then couldn’t find later. As I was ogling it, I got an email telling me one of the charm packs I’d ordered was out of stock and not being reordered, would I like to replace it with something else?! Well I got me a yard of this (below)! Though I do quite like others in this design series.

I think I really am itching to get back to sewing. I always panic that if I take too long away from my crafts, I’ll forget all about them. It’s reassuring to know that eventually I come back on my own, because I want to, or need to. I often think about Janet Catherine Berlo who wrote Quilters Lessons: Notes from the Scrap Bag of a Writer and Quilter. She is an academic in art history and suffered a terrible writers block after her mother died. And basically she took up quilting and for a year did nothing but quilted. I don’t have that luxury. But her series of essays are so memorable about how she became entranced with colour play and how some days all she was up for was cutting out material and other days would be a flurry of activity. And how some projects would lie out for months as she’d play around with how they looked before she completed them. All of that is how I’m starting to think I would like to spend my Christmas Holidays.

 



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