Saturday, 12 July 2014

How-to and Woo-Woo

June was a busy month. I loved it all, but I’m a person who needs to bookend busy times with sufficient downtime, so I was looking forward to the first two weeks of July. No blog to write. No visitors. No parties or commitments.

Funny thing, though. After two days, I was already schlepping around the house, restless and antsy. Even at night, I was tossing and turning. Couldn’t sit still in our lovely garden; couldn’t read a novel from start to finish. What was going on? “Ah,” said the wise one, my resident sweetie. “You are missing your writing.”

Hmm. If I were to be marooned on a desert island, and could only take two things with me, what would they be? Duh! My computer and my sewing machine, of course. And if my desert island had no power, I’d take the equivalent in unplugged equipment: my sewing basket and paper and pens. With these basics, I could write my own books, construct my own fig-leaf clothes and fool around with decorative art. My family and those two things: that’s a quality life. And here I was, poking around the house trying to avoid the studio because I thought I needed a break from it. Nobody needs a break from quality of life.

So off I hied to the studio and began with a few stressless projects – pulling scraps together to make baby quilt tops for our guild’s Community Quilts project. Ah, that felt better. Soon I had two “flimsies” sewed up (for the quilting-impaired, flimsies are pieced quilt tops that have not been layered and quilted.) A quilter with a few flimsies in her closet is a happy woman – she’ll always have something to work on.

Then one morning I woke up and thought, it’s time to play in the studio. I will stitch up something without resorting to rules, colour wheels, patterns or even pictures to copy. It may be a big failure, but that is okay.

And as to writing – yup, that’s why there’s another blog in your mailbox. But not a deep-insightful-oh-so-serious piece of writing. Instead, I will document how I go about such a project. A blog I read occasionally,, sports this theme: “gardening how-to and gardening woo-woo.” Well, this blog is not a woo-woo piece! This is quilting how-to. It satisfies my need to write, and is, in part, a reply to a friend who said she’d love it if I took her through the process of making an art quilt.

It started that morning with a cup of coffee in the garden, feasting my eyes on the loveliness.

The colours of summer-flowering perennials are brilliant: fuschia, yellow, orange, purple, red, and all kinds of green. Some folks think a garden should be a haven of peace. They say people who put all those clashing colours into their garden are gauche. So call me gauche. In our garden, like in the world, all colours live happily together, and I find it beautiful. 

I took that mental image with me into the studio with a vague idea of capturing the beauty of our garden in a quilted piece of art. I began pulling out fabrics from my stash, laying them out like a deck of cards. As you can see, pastels and greyed hues need not apply for this job.

I decide to create four different flowers on green backgrounds. The calendula is my first choice – every year, the calendulas spring up, willy-nilly, all through the garden. Self-seeded, they’re equally happy in the midst of the garlic and blueberries or poking through a border of rocks. They remind me to just go do my thing, as they do, brightening people’s lives with colour. Next, I choose a rose because roses remind me of my dad, who bought a box of dead-looking roots at a fund-raising bazaar in November, and coaxed them into an amazing rose border that beautified our yard for years and years.  Don’t judge based on appearances, the rose tells me – dead-looking things may hold the beginnings of something beautiful.

From bottom left, clockwise: rose, coreopsis, clematis, cosmos, and gazania.
And then there’s the jackmani clematis. Every spring, we chop it down to practically nothing, and every spring we wonder if this is the year we’ve killed it. And so far, every spring it sprouts and grows and blooms prolifically, covering our garden shed with a deep purple robe. The clematis is about resilience and determination, I think. And lastly, a coreopsis – the dictionary tells me that its name means “having the appearance of bugs” because of the shape of its seeds.  I prefer its alternative name: calliopsis, “having the appearance of beauty.” The sunny rays of this flower look lovely in a bouquet. Sometimes, we don’t need to have a message – sometimes, we just need to let our beauty shine through.

After I’d worked all day in my studio, I had the best sleep I’ve had for weeks, and I no longer prowl the house restlessly. If there’s a woo-woo lesson in that, I’ll let you figure it out, dear reader.

This blog has gotten long enough. Next week, I’ll continue, showing you how I created my version of the flowers and what I did with them. And yes, I'm having fun.  

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