Monday, December 11, 2006

Slow but Steady

Slow but steady could mean a bunch of things at this point, including the way I just covered six blocks, mostly downhill, to the grocery store, and then six blocks, mostly uphill, coming home. The tortoise. Racing no one, just going where I need to go. Much as I wish I could walk a couple of miles at a nice clip, that has to wait until I can do it again. And I will.

The butterflies are being appliqued, by hand, slowly. So far nine of nineteen, but only four have their antennae -- it makes a big difference. Nothing much to say about applique. When 2/3rds I stuff them with a few wisps of batting for more dimensionality. I really can't work many, many hours a day at something so totally sedentary and repetitious. I'm listening to Katherine Graham read a much condensed version of her autobiography. That helps. But she read flatly and I had little interest in a run of the mill rich girl with important husband having babies on the first CD. But on the second her husband give in to manic-depressive disorder and the charms of another woman. Her reading remains flat but this is much more interesting, the' the insights are predictable.

To break up the sameness, I'm back to the 14th "Star Quartet" in the series. The one that is dark and bright and so busy I still am not sure I'll like the final result. But I will finish it, quarter of a star at a time. This, too, is slow work but I truly enjoy the paper piecing technique. The picture shows clearly, I think, that there are 12 quite small pieces and another four that are largish. This particular star is an example of why I truly enjoy paper piecing. For those who haven't used the technique there is a learning curve, but an easy one. Then the challenges become the original fabric choices and not the sewing -- once one understands that it's absolultely necessary to sew exactly on the marked lines.

Here are the reasons I really enjoy using this technique:
1. Only with this method can I make neat points on triangles
2. Only with this method can I make designs with tiny elements like the ones in this design
3. The quarters of the star can also be joined with accuracy I wouldn't have otherwise
4. If I were using templates and cutting these pieces one by one {I cut strips of each fabric instead] nothing would join right and I'd be constantly frustrated -- rather, anticipating that, I simply wouldn't' make anything this complicated.
5. There is an element of surprise and I LOVE the surprise of sewing on the wrong side, and only when done seeing how it is turning out. For this star series there have been many kinds of surprises.
A. It's been an exercise in color. I've discarded some original color choices after seeing a whole or even half a star and realizing it doesn't work.
B. when it does work, I've usually been surprised how well it came together and how the colors played off each other. The "I'm doing something right!" discovery is affirming and fun.
C. On the various occasions [as with this one] when my uncertainty continued, I've had plenty of opportunity to mull over what's happening with color and pattern, I analyze and think about stretching my taste toward the more contemporary.
D. I am surprised several times - finishing a quarter of a star, finishing a whole star, putting four stars together, and then looking at how my choices in borders work. Every surprise teaches me things ... and I find them just plain fun.

6. Another reason I like paper piecing -- there are already so many designs available I can choose among many and don't need to think at all about coming up with an original design -- the color choices will be mine, so will how they are put together -- That is all within the American quilting tradition: taking a known pattern and making it yours by your choice of color, border, backing, quilting. Yes, once in a while I do a "from scratch" quilt and I hope to do more; but the good old tradition is enormously satisfying to me.

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