All I Could Manage

March 28, 2015

Yesterday, this is all I could manage…

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Actually, that looks like a lot. I sorted all the pieces for the Ventura quilt. It didn’t take long. I spent most of the rest of the night lying on the couch staring at the television and petting a cat. And managing Clash of Clans. It was very taxing.

Now it’s at the point I can start ironing. Did I start last night? Fuck that. I was so tired. I did go out to dinner with the girlchild, who’s stressing about colleges still…we have about 5 more days and 3 more colleges to hear from, and then she gets to decide. I think she’s done really well, but she’s getting her head all tied in knots over prestige and comparing oneself to others. So Indian food could solve all of that, at least temporarily. It was weird, though, because although I used to go to that restaurant all the time, it’s been about 2 years since that was the case…I’ve only been there I think twice over the last couple of years, and they still recognized me, and in fact asked if I was OK because they hadn’t seen me in so long. Sigh. Yes. Just poor. Love you guys though. Thanks.

Actually, I did a little fabric managing as well…I needed enough bins to sort all those pieces…so I started putting some of Mariah’s scraps into my larger storage bins…although I still have this pile…

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Hers are in the big bin on the bottom and one of the bins in back. The others are from the Ventura quilt and I can’t put all of them away, because I keep them out until the quilt is ironed together, in case I lose something. So three or four of the bins will have to find a home on the floor somewhere for the duration…and I pulled three pieces of fabric that were big enough for the backing before putting stuff away…

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I think. Actually, they might not be. So I don’t remember doing all that last night, but I must have. Because now it’s done.

Anyway. Art will be happening. I just need to make more tea and maybe even waffles first. I really am having a bizarre waffle craving. Can’t explain it. Must be part of being on Spring Break.

I Know How She Feels…

March 27, 2015

I think this recycled quilt titled itself last night…yet another quilt title pulled from some Star Trek episode. Anyway, we’ll see if it sticks. I finished ironing all the pieces last night. This was the hair…

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Yeah. I tried a bunch of combinations and this is what I liked…although I think the dark purple got pulled from the hair and put into something else.

I used 34 fabrics total…and I’ll keep them in here until everything is ironed down…

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Just in case I lost something, but also because I might make more oranges. It took about 2 hours and 15 minutes to pick the fabrics. It was an hour and 40 minutes to piece the background.

It’s not a big pile like the last quilt…

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So I started cutting it out, because it wasn’t very late.

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I didn’t get all the way through it though, because the day ahead of all this had been kind of a nasty one.

Here’s my best zoo picture…

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I know how she feels.

The thing about field trips is that it’s hell until you get on the bus, and then usually it’s fine until you get back. I had one kid issue before (made her cry) and one kid issue after (made her leave), but otherwise it was fine. Exhausting and blood-sugar-killing, but fine. I’m not sure all of the adults are still speaking to each other, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue. I think we all need a break. OK, I know I need a break. Even if it means bringing 20 hours of grading home with me, at least I don’t have to be in the classroom, dealing with adults and kids and air conditioning (they found a temporary fix) and a network that’s not working and parents who can’t parent and expect me to do it for them and kids who can’t follow basic rules.

One day to survive. I heard a couple kids talking about how they weren’t coming to school today because they didn’t feel like it. I also considered that, but then realized that wasn’t fair to my school, my team, or my kids. But interesting. My mom would have forced me to go.

I am exhausted, physically and mentally…even emotionally. It’s funny that we’ve only been back for about 12 weeks, but we are so worn out. My Spring Break plans include finishing the smaller quilt, the recycled one; ironing down, stitching down, and starting the quilting on the Ventura Earth Mother (maybe even finishing it); cleaning house; doing yardwork; finishing all the grading; sleeping a normal amount occasionally; getting back into the gym habit (I was there last night…my SIL called me a gym rat); hiking; and reading some books. Hanging out with some people I want to hang out with…including my Belgian exchange sister from high school, who is coming to visit with two of her kids. And there’s an art opening as well at Grossmont College. So yeah, I guess it’s still busy. Of course it’s busy…I am rarely not busy…but it will be more like life and less like overwhelming stress. There’s something wrong with a job that expects so much of you, but pays you so little AND gives you so little respect. And then there’s something about the kids who hang out with you on the field trip and tell you all this goofy stuff and connect with you and we stand in front of them every day and try to get them to see a different view of the world. We’re not always successful, for sure, but sometimes we are.

With that, I do need to go survive the last day before break…

Still Standing

March 26, 2015

Hello Thursday. You don’t look like a Friday. Or a Monday. You’re already kicking my butt. I know you think a field trip with a million 7th graders to the zoo is the perfect time to throw a bunch of other shit at me, like a horrendous period and a room with a broken air conditioner when it’s going to be almost 100 degrees and a girlchild freaking out about college and an ex getting butthurt about his kids’ lack of communication skills and chaperones canceling at the last minute and parents trying to dump all their responsibilities on us and a shower that lost almost all water pressure and on top of all that, yet another art rejection.

Fuck you Thursday. I know Spring Break is coming and you have to make sure I appreciate it. I PROMISE TO APPRECIATE IT. Like teachers don’t. You’re being mean.

Anyway. Last night, I started cutting out fabrics for the second recycled quilt. Because after being at work and a work-related event until after 6 PM I couldn’t stomach more work. You know? I have two jobs. I can only spend so much time at the first one before the second one starts screaming and I curl up in a ball.

First of all, I bought these tablecloth things (or maybe they’re huge napkins…hard to say) when I was up in San Francisco…and I found them on the kitchen table yesterday and was thinking if they would work on this…

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They won’t…but I think I’m going to dye them over break.

Then I laid out my fabric stash for this quilt, all recycled from Mariah’s stash…reds, oranges, pinks, purples, yellows, whites, blacks.

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Then browns, greens, and blues (more of those, eh?).

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So I could see everything right there. And then I started thinking about the flesh. I thought about making it blue, but there’s a lot of blue in the background already. Green seemed a problem. In the end, I went for normal flesh tones…

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I don’t know if it will work, but that’s what I did. And that’s most of the pieces, so it took me a while, but I laid out all the fleshy pieces…

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You’ll notice I added another one. The ones in the middle, there were three fabrics that were all the same tone, so I just used all of them for pieces that should be in that range. I had to piece one section on the lightest fabric, because it was bigger than the strip I had. I’ve done that before, so it’s not a problem. I just added a little piece of Wonder Under to one end after I cut the larger Wonder Under piece, so they will overlap and no one will ever know. Except I just told all of you. Huh. I’ve done it before. You didn’t notice then.

I didn’t start until almost 10:30…I did some cleaning and I booked my son’s return flight from college and there was dinner, albeit late. And I don’t remember what else I did. I’m sure it was important.

These are the fabrics I’ve used so far, all part of the body.

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I haven’t done her hair yet or the orange…but otherwise, I think everything else is done. There’s only 160 pieces…and here’s what I ironed last night…

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Not a lot of color yet! The hair will be the interesting part…and no, I haven’t decided what to do with it yet. Maybe tonight. If I’m still standing.

I See Spring Break Over THERE…

March 25, 2015

My uterus woke me up this morning around 4 AM…either that, or my neighbor left in his dump truck. They kinda feel the same to my tired, overworked brain (three days until Spring Break, can you hear the angels caroling in the heavens? It’s OK. I can’t hear them yet either, because I still have to survive three more days of school, including a field trip to the zoo). I wake up, brain zinging along, WOW! Yelling at me that something’s wrong, sung at the top of my lungs, adrenaline surge powering through my heart and blood vessels. So you do what we all do: you get up and pee, get a glass of water, pet the cat so she settles back down, and lie down, determined…DETERMINED to go back to sleep. Because being determined about it helps (that’s sarcasm, by the way). Who knows how long it took to actually fall asleep after that, but it wasn’t right away.

Last night, I was sitting at my desk, hoping to power through the last pieces of the Ventura Earth Mother, sure it wouldn’t take long to cut them out, but midnight was approaching and I was tired and I thought to myself at one point, “Self, you only have about 10 pieces left. Go to BED. They will still be there tomorrow.” Well, you know how that conversation went…the same way it always does. Because I thought to myself (again), if I finish tonight, then tomorrow night, when I come home exhausted after teaching and then sitting through a teacher award ceremony (supporting friends), then I won’t want to sit down and cut, so I just won’t until really late. And then it will take one more night.

So I bullied through. And finished…

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Nine hours and 38 minutes…all cut out. Next I sort and start ironing…which is cool. I’m ahead of schedule…not that it will help me, because I have no sewing machine Tuesday. And I keep finding little pieces from when I spilled the box. It’s funny…they seem to appear from nowhere…like I’m sure I checked the whole desktop and all of a sudden I’ll look at a totally exposed area and a piece is just sitting there, like it was hiding from me and it just came out. It got tired of hiding and wanted to come back into the fold. Ugh. It means there are more in there somewhere. Fuckers.

Based on previous quilts, ironing will probably take 10-11 hours…but I think I’m officially halfway done with this one. The next stage is the fun one, when the image starts to emerge in color. I’m excited about that. I’d be more excited if I didn’t have three more days of school, but whatever. I also need to pick the fabrics for the other smaller one before I start ironing, I think…mostly because those fabrics are currently ALL OVER my office, and I don’t even think I have enough bins to sort the pieces at the moment because of that (which I was going to do tonight…). Sigh. OK. Well, that’s decided then. I have to pick out the fabrics tonight/Thursday…however that works out. I’ve been refusing to do schoolwork at home at night, because all the assignments I have for this week are mostly independent, so I’m grading at school every day. I feel like if I do that, I shouldn’t have to do it at home.

Meanwhile, my uterus is being a pain…literally. Next week, I get to do a bunch of tests that will confirm that I don’t have cancer or some other weird thing…it’s just my body doing the stupid stuff it’s supposed to do, which is FINE…I’m OK with that, but just freakin’ get ON with it and stop torturing me with your wishy washy crap. If you want to stop producing eggs, then just DO IT. Don’t fuck with me while you’re doing it. I give you permission. Maybe I’ll make my uterus a quilt, so it knows how I feel about this (like I haven’t been doing that all along). Seriously…perimenopause fully proves that there is no intelligent designer…or that he’s an abusive asshole. One of my students was complaining yesterday about how if she has to use the bathroom for her period, that it takes longer and passing period (4 minutes) is not long enough, and I said she needed more practice…that teachers could do it in 90 seconds flat, including hand-washing, and then she claimed I must be using a pad, not a tampon. Yes. I have to discuss these things with my students…I explained to her that 3 out of her 4 core teachers were females who regularly had their periods, and that we couldn’t use the bathroom whenever we wanted, so we had to be fast and efficient, and surely, it’s not THAT hard to pull a wrapper off a tampon and insert it (maybe it is if you are only 12 or 13…I don’t remember…). I think most of the world has no clue what being a middle-school teacher is like…we deal with content and technology, and then we also get puberty. And hormones. And Spring lovey-dovey crap. And self-esteem issues. And stink bombs. And cutting and bullying and suicide and drama and relationships and pregnancy and sex. Plus they still dance around when they have to pee really bad. And they’re trying to figure out how to have relationships with adults they aren’t related to as well, and that’s a fine line right there.

OK, so I have to go to work soon, but really, I deserve donuts and a heating pad and maybe a margarita.

Crazy Duck Lady

March 24, 2015

I came home after the chiropractor put my neck bones back where they should be and after the final dance practice for this thing we’re doing at school, filming starting today, and I thought…I should do some work. Like grade papers. And then I thought about the week’s assignments and realized that although there’s a field trip, which will probably kick our butts, and certainly if they don’t fix my classroom air conditioning by Thursday/Friday, when it’s supposed to approach 100 degrees, then I will not be able to think straight, but mostly…mostly kids are working independently this week and I can grade papers during class. Often I think this, though, and it does not happen because the kids are needier than I expect or their behavior requires me to walk the tables constantly. Sometimes, though, they settle down and work. So we’ll see, but it was my reasoning for deciding not to grade last night. I read for a little bit and then came in the office/studio to decide what I wanted to do next…and apparently, I wanted to piece. This is not a normal thing for me…either piecing or wanting to piece. I know how. My first quilt classes were all piecing, until I realized straight lines were not my friend. Then I even pieced a landscape quilt with all those curves. Yeah. Also not my thing. So this was a strange experience…but this thing is calling to me. Plus Mariah did all the hard work already…like those two bottom rows.

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I found a few more sections and sewed them together and then sewed the bottom rows together. Then I sewed the two sections of long strips together. Easy peasy.

Then I found all the pieces that I had of this type of strip. I had to pull a couple apart and mess around to make them fit the way I wanted…

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I wanted alternating darks and lights, but the next row had to move over to make that work. And then there was one large block and half of another one, which did fit in the top row…so I put it there. Although apparently I laid it out here upside down.

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Not that it really mattered in the end. I just didn’t want likes with likes. It worked out OK. Then I had to fussy piece/cut the next squarish bit to get that block in there…plus the strips were not quite tall enough (probably because that one orangey stripe is skinnier than the others), but trimming a quarter inch off wasn’t noticeable…

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And there it is. I had to add some to the left of the purple strips too. Holey crikey…that’s crazy. It’s totally busy. And some people will freak out about the purple (it really does look fine in person…this photo is a bit washed out). And this might not work. But I really like it. I like the crazy. The mixed up.

I laid out the image again…good size. It might be too wide, but I’m considering that…

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She’s holding an orange. I could make more oranges.

Then I hung it up, because the next step is to pick out the fabrics for the image…

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So yeah. I’m going to have to work hard to make sure it shows up on the background and doesn’t get swallowed up by it. And no, it’s not like what I normally do. That’s what’s cool about it. Yes, I have considered a paint wash over the background. I’ve also considered overdying the whole thing, a layer or two of tulle, and using this on the back instead of the front. I want to try it, though. I think I can do it. It will be different, but that’s part of the challenge. And the cool thing about the technique I use is that I will iron that whole image together and then I can lay it out on the background and decide if it’s going to work or not. And if not, then I can adjust. So watch for that.

After that, I settled down for my 2-hour session of cutting tiny fucking pieces of fabric out, because I designed the quilt that way in the first place (yeah, I do keep challenging myself)…but here’s how you know Babygirl is feeling better. That’s my lap.

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I’m trying to cut things out, cat. Please either get off or settle down and get out of my face. “Pet me. Please pet me.” Sigh. Pet the cat. Pet the cat. Settle the cat. Cat leaves. Really?

Good. I cut out for almost 2 hours again…

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I have 8 hours in. And I really am almost done. That’s mostly big pieces in the left box, and not very many of them. Fire and wind and earth. (Yeah, those are in the wrong order). Trash in the middle. Finished pieces in the right box…mostly elephants and trees last night. Tiny and complicated pieces that required the tiny sharp scissors. Wrinkles on knees. I must have strong hand muscles. It doesn’t hurt today and it should.

In other news, my students put together a petition for me to get a class duck. I tried to explain that ducks were noisy and they smelled, but they really want a duck. Enough to get other teachers to sign the petition. And they want it to be named Spaghetti. What my students DON’T know is that my neighbor feeds all the local wild ducks…

Normally there are way more ducks than that (I was early). Yes. I am the weird teacher. Why do you ask? (I’m not getting a duck. All those ducks are wild and I think they should stay that way. Yes, my daughter thinks I am a freak. No, I am not a crazy duck lady.)

Piecing It Together

March 23, 2015

Well, normally, I just buy a big piece of fabric and that is my background. I iron all my bits together and plop them on top. So the background tends to be, well, not very busy, because it would detract from the image. There are some pieces I’ve done with busy backgrounds, and mostly they read well…this one, for example…

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The background has crazy details (this is 3-Piece Family, by the way…far back in the Kathy canon…circa 2009)…but it still works.

I’ve pieced a few backgrounds…sometimes on purpose, like in FishWife


I didn’t have enough of the pinks, so I had to piece it (I actually did stitch and flip for parts of it, a la crazy quilting…it’s on a muslin background), but then while I was figuring that out, the rest started to make sense. I think the waves were in the original drawing, but the rest of it was improvised.

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A truly strange piece that has been in many shows.

I pieced this one for a similar reason: not enough of the background fabric…

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This picture shows the overlap between the two fabrics pretty well.

I have never pieced a background quite like this one though…I have pieced strips and one larger block and then lots of smaller units that probably belong together…and they’re not all from the same quilt. This does not bother me. I started laying them out last night…

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See, most of them are blues and browns, but there’s the weird purple bits too, which I really like. This kind of piecing is more about the pattern and the fabrics than about showcasing the image, which is why it’s outside my realm of expertise. I mean, I’ve made pieced quilts before, mostly for babies, who really don’t care about my piecing skills. I could do the strips on the bottom, but it would hurt my head! Anyway, the layout above was OK, but not quite right…so I tried again…

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I like this better. I think. Maybe with another row at the top? Of course, it will all shrink down when I piece it together. I did consider just going through the boxes and finding more strips and strip-piecing the whole background like that one section…but that’s boring (and easy)! Hell, if I’m gonna piece this thing, I’m going all out. Besides, Mariah did most of the work already. Sort of.

I found the drawing for the 2nd recycled piece…

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So I could check sizing. The image will have to be strong to stand out on the background at all. I think I can do that. I’ll probably need to do some more piecing for the larger sections. It has 160 pieces in it…more detail than the last one. That’s why I didn’t want to do it in upholstery fabrics. It would be too difficult. Plus my machine wouldn’t go through all the layers. It was having issues with more than 2 layers on the last one.

OK, well I’m working towards a decision that involves my sewing straight lines (aack) and filling in weird spaces between strips that don’t quite match up. It’s a good thing I’ve been sewing with a machine since I was 8. Or so. Can’t remember. Because I need a background before I start picking fabrics out for this one, so I know what will be behind each piece. Maybe I’ll offset the strips more so they don’t line up at all. Because that’s not like more work or anything.

After I messed around with all that for a while, I sat down and kept cutting things out for the Ventura quilt for another couple of hours. I had to steal my computer back from the girlchild, who had left multiple tabs open with prom dress websites (ugh). She has gotten into one college so far and is waitlisted on three others. She is treating those as rejections, while I see them as opportunities (one of them quite a nice opportunity), so the tension here is thick…but at least we have one acceptance and no rejections so far. I’m sure the rejections are coming, but they are somehow easier to take. It’s not a wishy washy “we sorta want you…maybe,” but a definitive “no.” So the drama continues.

Cutting…six hours in…

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The cut-out pile on the right is significantly larger than it was…well…6 hours ago. There doesn’t seem to be much left, but it’s all the tiny stuff from the bottom of the quilt (elephants and apples), so it will probably take longer than the size of the pile indicates. What did I guess? Twelve hours? I don’t think it will take that long…but if it did and I keep on my 2-hour-a-night streak, I’ll be done by Wednesday. Earlier than I originally thought…nice.

One hiccup in all this…last night, I managed to flip the container with all the cut-out pieces all over my chaotic desk. I think I’ve found all the pieces, but then again, I know I haven’t. How do I know? I thought I had found them all last night, and as I was staring to the right of my computer, deciding if I was done writing this post, I saw another piece in a box. Fuck. Dammit. I’m gonna be hating life when I go to iron this beast together. Oh well. Shit happens. That’s what I get for being a klutz.

By the way, one of the things that really helped me in the last week was having some down time over the weekend. I did some totally useless stuff and hung out and got recharged. I feel much more ready to face the week than I have for the last few Mondays…it’s a real relief. Yes, I did schoolwork too, but I didn’t have to do a lot…just enough to feel like I’m not buried in it this week. And I worked on non-deadline fabric stuff. And I got connected. So that helps. Good thing really…it’s the last week before Spring Break, so the kids will be braindead (they already were on Friday). Plus we have a field trip. So I need all the help I can get.

Recycled Two

March 22, 2015

One of the art groups I belong to, California Fibers, is participating in a recycled fibers show called Diverted Destruction 8 at The Loft at Liz’s, where we were asked to used recycled materials to make our art. The group has a wide variety of fiber artists, from weavers and quilters to basketmakers and sculptors and dyers to painters and embroiderers. Some defy description.

I’m a quilter though. Really. I do a bunch of different things, but mostly I quilt. So I approached this exhibit with the idea of using different materials to do the same type of quilt I normally make…the challenge being in the materials. The first one is done and photographed (supposed to hold off on putting the final on here) and was made largely of upholstery fabrics from a sample book, not something that was foreign to me due to years of crazy quilting and starting out with some very different types of quilting in the early days, but certainly not how I usually approach the fabrics in my quilts. In fact, some of my quilts have satin, lame, and sequin fabrics in them, all of which were their own special challenge.

The second quilt I didn’t want to do in the same types of fabrics, so when over Winter Break a quilting friend called to say she was getting rid of her excess fabric (wait, what is that?) and did I want any of it, hell, I jumped on that. Mariah’s a mostly traditional quilter, using lots of batiks and fun prints to make some pretty gorgeous quilts. She has good color sense, and batiks have always been my favorite as well, and because I often deal with some awfully small pieces, the off-cuts from her traditional quilts actually come in useful. I brought home two or three bagsful…

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and it’s taken me three months to sort through them into color piles

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and then into bins where all the likes were together. I suck at filing; what can I say?

This afternoon, I grabbed the blacks, whites, and yellows, and sorted their asses…

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Then got all of it in the same room…

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It looks like a lot, but it’s hard with all the prints and colors, which won’t necessarily flow together, to see coherence at this point. Obviously, I’m not going to use all of these. Honestly, I’ll probably use maybe 20-30 of them. Then the rest will go into my stash and people will walk up to my quilts and go, “Oh hey, didn’t I give you that fabric?” Happens all the time.

Mariah had lots of owls…

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Then there was this pile…

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She had a lot of partially finished blocks or trims from piecing, and I just took them because I thought I could use them somehow. I personally hate piecing, so I’m glad to let others do it.

There were these two chunks that I put together, trying to visualize a background…

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Although I think it might be too busy. But maybe…maybe this is Mariah’s quilt and the background should be busy. She’s a young mom of two…that’s what your life is really like…and then the main figure can sit on top of that. It will be difficult to make the coloring work, but let’s say I have 25 years of experience and I can make it work.

Maybe. Here are some more of the pieced bits…one whole block…

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Some more pieces of strips…there’s one pile in the middle of pieces that could make another part of the background. Maybe. She tends toward blues and browns. They’re all in that range.

But then she has this skinny strip of pieced triangles…I like it as a border maybe or a base for the figure.

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although they are a completely different color range. Things to consider. Obviously I’m not making decisions about those tonight, because it’s time to make dinner. I too am a mom with many distracting things in the background of my art self. More later…but this one is definitely coming into existence this week…whether I like it or not.


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