I Need That Right Now…

April 1, 2015

I’m getting close to done, which is good, because I’m expecting to be able to pick up my sewing machine today, and I’d like to be stitching things down today, although that would mean not doing much else, so I might have to rethink that plan. I’ve been trying to grade a little every other day and to do some yardwork every day or so, and clean some part of the house every day, although my brain just wants to get the art done…it’s worried that I won’t get this quilt far enough along by the end of break, and the reality is, I probably won’t, because stuff will get in the way, but I’m trying. I’m always trying. Part of why I write here is because it forces me to be accountable to myself, to say every day, what the fuck did you get done? What art did you make? And if you didn’t make art, what’s your excuse? Is it a good one (spending time with people is a good one)? Or is it lame (sat on the couch all day and stared at a television)? I don’t usually do that, just to be clear. But I could iron for 10 hours in a day and I don’t, because other stuff just happens. So if I only get two hours in, that’s the same amount I would do if I were teaching…and I’m not…

Anyway, yesterday was pretty good. I cleaned, I did yardwork, and I ironed for 4 hours…starting up in the torso…sunflowers on the shoulder and the arm…

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Then added the heron wing, which is quite pretty (and hopefully will still be pretty on the background I picked)…

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The heron body is there too, as part of the arm, ending in the head below.

I often have snakes in my quilts…couldn’t leave it out this time…

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Although I ironed it separately and then set it aside, because it was in the way. I do try to iron the pieces in numerical order…it’s just easier that way than having multiple boxes out at a time. I had made dinner earlier, because I had some time in the middle of the afternoon where I didn’t feel like ironing yet, and it was lasagna, so I could premake it and refrigerate it. I’m trying to be really efficient with foodmaking right now. Froze a dinner’s worth of it for next week or the following week, when we’re both back in school, plus made enough for two dinners this week. I seem to think this stuff through better when I’m not actually teaching, unfortunately. It’s all practice for next year, when I hope to cook a meal on a Sunday and freeze it so I can have it all month, interspersed with other Sunday meals I freeze. Or something. Some attempt to be healthy and not eat the same thing every night, and admit that cooking for just one person every night is tiring.

Then I ironed the bird in the torso…

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Tons of feather pieces between the two of them. Then I added the cat on the right side and a piece of the snake on top…

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It got a little complicated in here. I added the rest of the snake and the heart, and then the right arm is a fox, which turned out well…

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Although I had misplaced part of his eye, apparently. Never found it. Just cut a new one.

The next two sections had complicated overlapping leaves and roots on a flesh background. With the roots, I just lifted the pressing sheet and put them approximately where they belonged…

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But with the leaves, I ironed them together separately and then laid them out on the background. It was too complicated to not be able to see the pattern and try to iron it at the same time.

I did the same thing on the leaves on the right breast…then ironed the bird and snake down on top of it, where they belonged…

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The last step was the grassy area growing on the right shoulder…and there’s the whole torso…

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That’s almost 9 hours so far.

It looks a little chaotic without the head on top. And it definitely will need outlining to define some of the areas. I think the whole thing will read as a body, though, especially with the head. I really want to see it all together today at some point, so even though I have stuff planned (gym, more yardwork, book club for a book I read over a year ago and I’m really just going because I haven’t been since December and I feel out of touch), my goal today is to get it all ironed down and at least ready for stitching down. That part should only take 4 or 5 hours, then another couple hours to pinbaste, although that reminds me…I’m not sure I have a big enough piece of batting for this thing. I should check that today.

Everything else right now is stressful. It’s nice to come in here and iron and not have to deal with drama about colleges or health issues or worry about money or taxes or school. It’s peaceful working on this quilt. There’s the problem-solving of trying to get all the pieces to fit together right. It’s very methodical, laying the pieces out numerically, looking at the pattern, fitting them together, ironing them down, seeing the image come together. Apparently I need that right now. Which is good.


I Can’t Explain…

March 31, 2015

Artists have so many things that get in the way of being able to create: Reality for one. Most of us have to have another job to pay the bills, and if it’s a decent job, it takes up more hours than those for which you get paid. And if it’s a job like mine, it takes up precious mental space as well, as we worry about kids and lessons and new curriculum and all that shite. And then on top of that, if you have a family and you’re the primary caregiver (aka, usually the mom, however sexist that is, it is reality in many families even now), then those things are in your head all the time, so when it’s an hour past when the girlchild was supposed to be home and she’s not answered her phone and you’re not entirely sure where she is, so you get the dad involved and then that turns into a contract for behavior, because honestly, that’s it, you’re done, and yes, dammit, you DO realize she is 5 months away from adulthood, but if she has any chance of surviving until then without one of her parents going nuts because she is yet again late with no communication, then there need to be clear expectations and consequences. And finally, both parents are on the same page and there is a plan. On top of that, if you are dealing with confusing tax situations that aren’t even yours (more kid stuff) and financial aid forms and the possibility of a kid going to college in Paris…yes, that’s FRANCE…for her freshman year (let’s not even talk about expense on that one, but YES, it would be an amazing experience, but when asked where do I draw the line financially? What? The line is drawn. The money stops here. WTF?).

I can’t explain…or maybe I can…why the art brain runs and hides with all that shit facing it. I can see it might think there is no space for it in all that.

It really isn’t surprising after all that AND a uterine biopsy yesterday (whoo! no one told me how fun that would be) that I was almost incapable of getting any art done until almost 10 PM. Which sucked. I did grade papers, because I’m trying to be good. I also cleaned the kitchen because I’m trying to be good. It’s possible that trying to be good is a mistake.

I’ve been accused of being selfish with my time, of not doing what the kids want me to do at the drop of a hat because of my art. And that wasn’t the case. Because it wouldn’t matter if I was spending that time at the gym, making art, or getting my nails done (not happening), I would still need some time to myself, away from the caregiver position that I exist in most of my days. Even when kids go off to college, my job is as a caregiver in many ways.

So yeah. My brain was fucked with yesterday. And today I’m feeling kind of overwhelmed and sad and tired and headachy and not happy about my existence and/or the pile of crap that still needs doing. So whatever. Another doctor’s appointment today, this one without cutting and blood. Hopefully.

But this is what I got done in two hours last night…I started with the trunk and then a bunch of tiny apples and their stems…

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I had to cut all the stems out and I couldn’t quite read the tiny little numbers on them, but I think it worked out OK.

Then there were the leaves and all the stems that went with them…

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Oh holy moley, that was worse. The stems are on that brown piece. There are enough of them for all those leaves. Actually, I was missing three leaves at the end. I found one of them, but two are still incommunicado.

Not that you can tell. Well, the apple on the ground is kinda obvious…

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I’ll keep going through boxes and see if it appears. I have the stem! I just need the damn leaf.

I ironed the heron’s head in with the hand that came with it…

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That’s the hardest part…getting everything to fit together with such tiny pieces and fussiness going on. But it did. At that point, though, I had this huge piece I was working on, and I needed more of the applique pressing sheet above, so I pulled the whole bottom section off and folded it up into a box…

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And I thought about just continuing with the ironing, even though it was after midnight at that point, but my brain was roiling with messy emotional crap and it needed more of the calm peaceful fitting of pieces into the shapes they are supposed to fill, everything has a home and a place and it’s all so perfect (except when it doesn’t fit, and then that’s just as frustrating as real life and you still want to walk away from it). Ah fuck.

Yeah. I went to bed. To toss and turn.

Today I’ll continue above that with the arms and the torso. When they’re done, I can iron the bottom on. Or I can wait until I’m ironing the whole thing together. I don’t have to decide that right now.

As far as today is concerned…fuck all of yesterday’s shit. Not all of it is fixable or even my job to fix. I’ll have to deal with some of it, of course. And I’m tired, because I let all the drama into my head at bedtime and it followed me into my dreams. So maybe I should sit and draw today, because some of that could spill over into the horror I want in the drawing. That would be an acceptable place for it to live…rather than in my head. Which is where it’s sitting right now.

And my art brain is sitting over THERE sulking, arms crossed, cranky face, because I didn’t let it play as much as it wanted yesterday. I can’t explain to it that the other stuff has weight too…that it has a place too. That I have to deal with all of it. Or I can just be a hermit and once the kids move out, I can stop talking to everyone and just hide here at home. It’s definitely an option. Artists can be hermits. It’s allowed. I just suck at it.

More ironing today I think. And maybe some loud music. Or something distracting. Because it’s supposed to be vacation. And the art brain does deserve some time away from all the other crap. So do I.


Still Gonna Make It…

March 30, 2015

I did iron yesterday…I also went prom-dress shopping, something I never did growing up (I wore my aunt’s prom dress to my prom). Wow. That was blingy hell. Blingy expensive hell…like more than I paid for my wedding dress hell. And the girlchild doesn’t want bling. So I could have done without all that, but I managed to come home and iron for a while, then eat with my parents, then iron some more before my body told me it really was tired and could we go to bed, and then it didn’t want to sleep.

Anyway. It’s on vacation. It doesn’t like going to bed early on vacation.

I started by laying the first 100 pieces out…they’re all pretty good sized pieces…

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It didn’t look like much at first…

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I put the drawing on the ironing board under an ironing sheet…I have two huge sheets and a number of smaller ones. If I can keep the cats away from them, they don’t get damaged (a couple of my cats like(d) to chew on this stuff).

The big stuff at the bottom went pretty fast…

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I call this section Earth, Wind, and Fire.

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The wind is pretty light in color, so it’s hard to see on the sheet…but the background of the quilt is a dark blue, so that will be much different looking.

Then I started the acacia trees…

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All of a sudden, we’re into the teensy-weensy stuff. This is the 100s…check out how much smaller they are.

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So they take longer to iron. Those are all elephant pieces…and that took me a while, ironing the three elephants.

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Some of the smaller pieces I don’t cut out until I get to this stage, so I don’t lose them…like eyeballs and knee wrinkles. Outlining the elephants when I quilt will really help the detail pop out.

Here they are incorporated into what had been done so far…

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I’m well into the 200s now. There’s an apple tree to the right with tiny stems and tiny leaves and tiny apples…so you know what I’ll be doing today. None of the stems are cut out yet…so I’ll be cutting as I iron those. I have a nasty woman-part appointment this morning (one of those where you take pain meds before you even leave the house), so hopefully I won’t be in too much pain this afternoon, and I’ll be able to iron. I’m hoping to get this whole thing ironed together by sometime tomorrow. My sewing machine goes in today for its annual (I really should put that in quotes, because it’s so not annual) cleaning. I can’t pick it up until Wednesday, but it would be nice to be ready to be stitching down on Wednesday.

That said, I do have other stuff to work on…I finished cutting out all the pieces for the second recycled piece last night too…

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I was too tired to stand and iron, but not tired enough to go to bed and sleep, so I cut stuff out. So I can iron it down as well before I get the machine. And I could even start tracing the next big quilt if I wanted to. I’d have to go enlarge it and tape it together and number it, but that’s all OK. I have free time for that. Yes, I have a list of chores and errands and have-tos as well, but I’m trying not to dwell too much on that. A little a day…today I’m going to start the FAFSA for the boychild and maybe his taxes…and Cornell’s financial aid stuff. I’m worried about next year’s expenses. Really worried. But hey, whatever. I’ll get by. I usually do.

Meanwhile, I toldja I’d be making art. I’m actually excited to see what this one will look like. I’m excited about the recycled one too…even though I think it will fade a bit into the background, because I’m kind of OK with that idea. We’ll see. By tonight, I should be up into the heron arm and whatever’s past that on the numbering (can’t remember). Lots of feathers and petals, from what I remember. Lots of things that overlap each other, which can be a pain in the butt. But that’s how I made this drawing work…no nudity, no politics, no violence. And no, there’s no guarantee it’ll get in. As usual. Still gonna make it.


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.


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.)


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