The Places I've Been - Improv Letters in Action

Improv Letters and Words Quilting

The quintessential graduation gift is Dr. Suess’ Oh, the Places You Will Go! For whether you are graduating from kindergarten or medical school. It’s a fun one, full of optimism and encouragement. And while I don’t want to disparage any of that, I do think it is also important to look backwards some times. Not to hold grudges, obsess over past mistakes, or fester (although I do a fair bit of that myself). No, looking back sometimes is important for celebrating progress and success. It is a good reminder that our hard work did get us somewhere.

In the wake of some high profile retirements from the quilting industry, plus a few more you might not have noticed, I’ve been doing just that. Well, actually, I started this particular process years ago, but the past month really got me being reflective.

Quilting was a lifechanger and is a lifesaver for me, no question. I would not be the person I am, the mother I am, the woman I am, without quilting. It teaches me to embrace my own creativity. It provides a mindfulness that no amount of meditation would ever give me. It is an outlet for anxious hands. And, at the end of the day, is a career that provides financial freedom and personal challenge.

A few years back I started teaching a class on making letters and words, improv style. For my class samples I started working on the names of places I was at or had been. As a teacher I like having samples that can be something else some day, that can be built upon with each class I teach. It simply provides a focus. Picking the community names was a fun thing I tried. And it kind of stuck.

Cheryl Arkison Quilt Teacher

In all fairness, I haven’t got that far. I will admit to overwhelm when I think of having to add Charlottetown, Kangaroo Valley, and Prince Rupert to the list. That’s a lot of letters! But when I sit down to make a word, in the end, it doesn’t take that long. It becomes a wonderful trip down memory lane. I often pull out the photos from the trip and pick colours based on the scenery or something memorable from the class.

My plan is to make a quilt with all the places I’ve been. I can’t predict where I will go in this industry - it is constantly changing, as are my personal challenges - but I sure can appreciate where I’ve been. Since becoming a professional, as a writer and teacher mostly, quilting brought me to some pretty amazing places to meet some even more amazing people. How lucky am I?? I’ve worked hard and will continue to do so (this is not a retirement announcement). As I have no travel gigs booked for this year I might get this done to this point. Then we will see all the other places I will go!

A Year of Quilt Play

Scrap Quilts Under Construction

There I was, going through the mess on the cutting table, minding my own creative mess. Company was coming and tidying was in order. My blue clipboard emerged. This is my all purpose clipboard - it holds the Quilts Under Construction list, it travels with me to gigs for newsletter sign ups, it holds notes and sketches made during classes. It also holds the list of finished quilts each year. For whatever reason that particular list was on top.

4 quilts. And one was a mini. That was the last quilt I finished, back in July.

My first reaction was a bit of sadness and shock. That lasted for about 30 seconds though. I moved on to a bit of anger. How could I only finish 4 in the year?! Just 4! I know why and that is what brings the anger. Chronic back pain since April has meant that basting quilts is out of the question and sitting for long periods of time is also out. I’d always hoped that I could use a rented long arm and get some done but I don’t have the time to do that with our family schedule. All those things combined into anger, full confessions. Let’s be clear, though, not about the unfinished quilts, the anger it about those situations. But that is life and being angry won’t do me any good.

So perspective kicks in. I’ve been sewing nearly every single day this year. Some days only for 10 minutes, some days I get a whole hour. Sewing is what saved me from rage and frustration this year. Sewing kept me sane when pain and stress and constantly moving kept fighting for dominance.

Heather Ross Fabric

I worked on… let me count them… 22 different quilts this year. I feel like it might be more than that, there might the odd day where I played on one random quilt under construction or another.

Some started from scratch, some were old playtime pieces. These became quilt tops:

Improv Curves

Others were just consistent work that will eventually, probably, result in a quilt. Or something I decided to try, just playing.

I played with scraps, sorting and sewing. I taught classes and those samples became something. I tried ideas I had.

Mostly, I created for the sake of it. Sure a quilt at the end is nice, but mostly I sewed for the sake of sewing and what it does for me. Keeps me sane in a crazy, angry, busy, intimidating, and stressful world. Process matter so much more than anything else.

Maybe I will finish more quilts in 2019, maybe not? Either way, I will be sewing.

Quilt Sketch Uppercase Fabric

Epic Battle With the Scraps

Little Log Cabin Scrap Quilts

Victory is mine!

A month ago - after teaching multiple scrap and Values Plus workshops - I got it in my head to buckle down and hit the scraps. And I hit them hard. While I have my lovely little bins of colour sorted a blue IKEA bag kept getting filled with strips and random bits. I sorted out a bunch of little bits back in May, but otherwise the bag sat there taunting me.

Hey you! Hey! I’m talking to you. You know you won’t throw me out, you simply can’t do that. But did you know I grow when you aren’t looking. The rest of the fabric? It comes to me at night and fills me up. You will never take me down!

Oh yeah? Let the battle begin.

I spent an hour or so sorting that bag by colour. Easy enough. And usually sorting is enough for me. It gives me the calm I want and finding order makes me happy. But there were just so many scraps! So I went headlong into the fury and am happy to say I emerged victorious!

Values Plus Scrap Quilts

This morning I finished the last of the blocks for a queen size quilts based on my Values Plus class. As I sorted, sewed, and trimmed for those blocks little bits and little strings revealed themselves, like soldiers stalking me in the grass. Well, they’ve been tamed too. I have a pile of skinny strings ready to action on my side - in some little log cabins. And the little bits leftover from battle are contained in colour sorted bags, another project in mind.

All my Morning Makes and any other free time in the last month has been spent on this battlefield. I became solely focused on this. While I generally have no issue with scraps something just got in me that these needed to be dealt with. Like an itch I couldn’t scratch it became an obsession to empty, sort, and use everything in that blue bag. While not everything is used yet, it all is designated or tamed. I am winning!

Now I hope to spend some time actually finishing a quilt or two, that’s a whole other battle.

Modern Scrap Quilts

Focus

Focus means eliminating distractions, not just from other people, but the things we do to distract ourselves
— Catherine Pulsifer
patterns.jpg

My life moves in short shifts. If I was a lawyer I would book my time in 15 minute increments. It is no secret that I, like any other working mother, am being pulled in multiple directions. Kids and their activities, kids and their emotions, family business, voluntold commitments, my own writing, a teaching career, Morning Make, dog walks, attempts at a clean house, all the food, and that being a good wife thing. Not to mention extended family, some snippet of self care, and simply trying to read a book.

Maybe writing it all out wasn’t a good idea. I might make more changes.

For now, I want to let you all know that I am stepping back from selling patterns. No PDFs, no printed copies. Not until January 1, 2019 though!

I’ve come to this decision for three reasons, and they are outside of the business reality of it all.

  1. Exactly what I wrote about above. I am like Elastigirl in The Incredibles and at point, something is going to snap. Taking one thing off the list is vital to survival.

  2. Patterns require a certain hustle. I just don’t have it in me to do that particular hustle anymore.

  3. Teaching is a real passion of mine. That means teaching technique, skill, and embracing the process of improv. Written patterns rather contradict that.

To be clear, I am not leaving the industry. For all its warts and aging joints, I rather like working in the quilt industry. This is simply about focus. I have plans, big plans, and now I can truly focus on them.

Pattern Sale - now until January 1, 2019