We’ll See How It Goes…

July 23, 2016

So I almost quit quilting yesterday. Like completely. Like the day got so frustrating (and I’m thinking 105-degree temperatures weren’t helping) that I couldn’t see being a quilter any more. Which is funny, because I got the whole quilt ironed down and I think it looks pretty good…so that’s just lame. But I was so frustrated with machines. And electricity. And motors.

So my machine was acting up a couple of weeks ago, and I just took it in this week to be cleaned (late…I usually do it once a year, and I was about four months late). I told him about the issue, and he determined the drive belt was loose and tightened it, no problem. I picked it up Wednesday.

So I finished ironing the hair yesterday morning…

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And then I had to piece the background…so I set everything up, ironed the fabric, and sat down to sew…and I got about 10 inches down the seam, and the needle froze and vibrated again, just like last time. Fucker. Dammit. I stared at it for a while (brain works slow in heat). Restarted everything, and it sewed the rest of the seam. Damn. What am I going to do? I know I want to sew for hours over the weekend, but I’m not going to be able to if it keeps doing that. I don’t want to wait until Monday for him to try to fix it, so I call. How fast can you be there? Fifteen minutes.

Well of course we can’t reproduce it…probably because he has air conditioning and I don’t. But he says he’ll work on it later, after the AC goes off, and see if he can get it to do it again. He does notice the fly wheel getting tighter, which is the other thing I told him.

So he keeps it. OK. I got this. Think about where you put the old machine. I checked one closet. Not there. Garage? Yeah probably. Takes about 10 minutes, but I find it. Bring it back up, plug it in, light works. Well that’s good. Then I spend 30 frustrating minutes trying to find and then put on the foot I use for quilting. It’s funny, because it really is only the last two minutes that count. I must have been doing it wrong the rest of the time. But just as I’m finishing up screwing the foot in, I hear crackling noises and smell burning plastic. Oh crap. I pull the plugs, but there’s already smoke coming out of the back of the machine. Killed it.

I did manage to iron the whole quilt together before I burned out the 6460.

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Bloody hell. Machine circa 1977, used to be my workhorse of choice until about three or four years ago. I think only the girlchild has used it in those years. Burned it out. Don’t even know how or why. So I sit there, smelling plastic fumes for about 10 minutes.

Call mom. Mom has machines. So she offers me a Pfaff, but has no free-motion foot. Maybe the Viking foot will work? Nope. Call Jimmy, and he says nope (Jimmy’s the sewing machine guy). Mom says she’s bringing over her Epic. Well that’s what the girlchild and Simba have to say about that…

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So this thing is a beast. But it has a lovely large harp (the space between the needle and the right side of the machine. Now I’m sure this is a lovely machine. She shows me how to thread it etc, but it’s got a computer glitch at the moment.

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It’s convinced that I have a straight-stitch plate in there, so it won’t let me zigzag. I need to zigzag. I really need to zigzag. It won’t let me zigzag unless I take the plate out and mess with the computer-y bits until it gets tricked into thinking that I switched the plate (I didn’t) so it can try to sew zigzag. But then if anything goes wrong (thread issue, whatever), it resets into straight-stitch-plate mode and I have to go through the whole remove-the-plate, fuck-with-the-computer-y-bits thing again until it wants to let me sew.

I do that seven times. And then I leave the room. I turn the lights out so I’m not wasting electricity, and I go sit in front of the fan on the couch and consider becoming a painter. Or a sculptor. Bronze I’m thinking. Or anything that doesn’t require electricity or a motor or thread or any of that shit.

Yeah. It was a frustrating day. So I pull the sketchbook out. If I can’t sew until I get my machine back, then I can draw the next quilt and get started on Wonder Under for it, right? Oh my. Sketchbook is evil and steals my brain (at this point, it’s after 8 PM and still over 90 degrees, and my brain is fried). I realize I already did this drawing and it’s pretty reasonable. It needs stuff and it’s small, but if I enlarge it, I think I can make it work.

I go to Fed Ex at 8:57 PM. Boychild is a little surprised, but hey, this is how I roll. Fed Ex is delightfully air-conditioned. I should admit that I had problems with the damn copy machine too…it wouldn’t fucking GO a few times until I banged on the Start button about 7 times. Maybe I should stay away from technology completely.

I copy the original at 300% (it was pretty small to start)…but when I get home, I can’t handle anything until I have some tea (I realize in the heat that I wasn’t drinking caffeine, and that would explain the headache) and a big glass of water. Then my brain wanders back and admits it can tape stuff together. So I do that.

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I also email a friend of mine who has the same machine I do. My original. She also has a 6460, but I don’t want to kill another one of those. She’s not sewing much, and I pick it up from her this morning. So. (Kathy looks up at the Goddess…yo! Hey! Can I have a high 5 or something? I troubleshot. I improvised. I used all my resources. I did not give up and move into a convent. Can the rest be trouble-free please? Seriously?)

We’ll see how it goes. I have hope.


It’s Coming Along

July 15, 2016

‘Twas a busy day where some things got accomplished. I’m settling into summer. A bit. Funny, because I go back to school in exactly a month. Sometimes a month sounds like a long time, like “there’s a month of school left,” but sometimes it’s way too short, like “there’s a month of vacation left.” Perceptions…

A couple of my co-teachers are pinning educational stuff on Pinterest (I have to admit to some of that…it’s an easy place to keep stuff so I don’t have to remember it) and some are actually going into their classrooms and doing stuff (oh heck no). And some are doing everything in their power to have a non-school existence for a while, because it encompasses everything when you go back.

I got a great rejection letter yesterday, with a handwritten note to try again next year. Funny…at first, I just assume that she wrote it on everyone’s letter (and maybe she did), but it’s nicer to hope that it was just a few. I wasn’t expecting to get in…it’s “real art” and I work in fabric, dontcha know. It’s like craft. I do it with macaroni and a glue gun. I’m not really trained at all. (all lies. Although I do own macaroni and a glue gun.)

I cut out all the Wonder Under for the commissioned owl yesterday at my sewing meeting. Now I am getting closer to deciding what he should look like too…because I ironed the real one (well, the first one) together yesterday…

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I have to admit that the ironing is going slowly. Too many other things going on, I guess. But I got that part done before I went to the sewing meeting. I think the striped fabric worked out on the wings. There will be stitching that delineates between each feather a little better in the long run, but I think it works.

Kitten has taken to lying under the ironing board and playing with the strings that keep the cover on.

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So then I went to another meeting, an art meeting, and came home with this idea for our feminist coloring book…well, honestly, it would probably make a cool quilt too, but I’d have to significantly enlarge it. Right now, it’s about 8″ square.

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The original idea I had a while ago involved a ruler and a protractor, but this was not so well-divided and organized, and I like it better. I had to figure out how to balance the piece, despite the disparate sizes of the women, and I like how it turned out.

So that was about 2 hours of time when I should have been ironing, but I think it was well spent.

So then I made it back in here for ironing…finished the owl’s wing and another violet, and then moved on to the belly space. I ironed the trees separately, because I can’t see the lines through the background fabric…

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And then I put them where they belong.

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This stuff is pretty time-consuming. I’m almost all the through the 300s. Only. I’m planning on a few hours today as well, although I have some stuff I have to do first. It’s coming along. I never thought it would be quick.

Kitten moved to the other chair…her shaved bits clearly apparent. She’s so much happier now without the cone and the stitches.

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And I’m happy she’s still here too.


We Need the Good Crazy

July 11, 2016

I think the cutting may never end. I really really really wanted to be done last night, and surely it is partially my fault, because I didn’t start earlier, and instead I drew for about two hours. However, based on how my hand feels this morning, I don’t think I had two more hours of cutting IN me, and I don’t even know if it would have been enough.

Let’s start with the drawing though. Actually, let’s go Way Back. OK. Not Way Back. Only a little over two years ago, when I got an email from another quilter I’d never met (there are a bunch of those, and I’m OK with that) talking about my process and the size of the work I make etc. and I answered her…no, I don’t remember what I said, but probably something along the lines of yes, I’m crazy, but you can be crazy too. Start small. And she answered back, and WordPress always gives me their email address, but if they have a blog, it gives me that address, and I usually go read their About page and maybe one of their posts, and I have to be honest, I don’t keep reading most blogs. I already have over 800 blogs on Feedly, and I don’t keep up with those well at all, but occasionally I find someone who writes about stuff I think is interesting. And this quilter was interesting. Her name was Lisa and she was missing a kidney due to kidney cancer (her blog is here). She was a little younger than me and so were her kids, and although she was a fairly basic quilter, she loved color and wrote well, and those are pluses in my mind. So I followed her blog. And then she found me on Instagram and Facebook, and we were sort of online acquaintances. I have lots of those.

Time goes on. She writes about her illness, her family, fabric…and she’s very real about the illness…about cancer…fuck cancer (well yeah, wouldn’t we all like to be able to do that?), but I’m impressed by her persistence, her downright stubbornness, her will to continue to live her life even as her body was giving up. And last Saturday, she died.

I never met her (although I was in the same area as her once), and I feel for her family, especially her kids and her husband. And for some reason her death is particularly disturbing…maybe it’s because I’ve been hearing her voice in my head for so long as I read her posts, saw her photos, saw her on Facebook, but I drew. Because that’s what I do when stuff bugs me. I draw. And the thing is, I was already in a bad place because of all the gun violence and racism and just stupid things that spout out of people’s mouths these days, and that sure did show up in the drawing. That yeah, Lisa had died, but at least she didn’t see all that stupidity happening any more. And fighting her own body’s weaknesses, well that was over. There was no happy ending, because for a while with people with cancer, there is a chance, sometimes quite a good one, that they will fight it and be successful, and many people do. For some reason, having kids still in school when they die, well that makes it worse. In my head. I don’t know why.

Lisa had such a great attitude. The planet needed her.

And it’s funny, people want to give me condolences, but I don’t really feel like I deserve them. Or necessarily need them. I was once upset by a friend’s miscarriage. I didn’t need support; I just felt enough pain for her that I needed to draw, so I did. Some of my quilts aren’t about me.

So on the right, is the smaller drawing I did Saturday night, which showed up on Instagram and Facebook…because she was floating above all the shit and didn’t have to deal with any of it any more.

And then Sunday, I thought…you know? I want to develop this a bit further (because I don’t have 17 thousand deadlines here that have nothing to do with this right now)…so I started a larger redraw in the bigger sketchbook on the left.

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I’m not done, but it’s more carefully drawn than the other. And I will finish it, maybe today.

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It’s sad that to escape the crazy in this world, we either have to die or be completely ignorant. I don’t want to do either. On the other hand, I can visualize worse shit in the future if this election goes badly.

I wish the best for Lisa’s family. I wish I could make it easier, but I can’t. They should just know that her attitude was inspiring.

Sigh. So while I was drawing, someone was very tired and wanted to sleep right next to me.

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He is a sweet baby, even if he can be an asshole on a regular basis.

So I really wanted to be done cutting. I think I said that. I was sure I WOULD be done cutting, but NOOOO. Fuck me. I cut for over 3 1/2 hours last night…

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And I still have these fuckers to go. I wish I could say, hey! That looks like about 2 hours of cutting, but that’s what I thought when I started cutting last night, and I was obviously completely out of my head wrong.

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Here’s the pile of trash. I’m over 22 hours in. And not fucking done.

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ALMOST THERE. Sigh. At some point, we were all waiting for the girlchild to come back from a social thang. Dogs everywhere. Calli jealous that Simba fits on laps and she doesn’t.

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Actually, before the boychild came in, this is what it looked like. Me cutting, and all three of the furry beasts asleep nearby.

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And when I went to bed, there was number 4…Kitten with her floppy cone.

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She gets her stitches out today. I’m sure she’ll be quite pleased to finally get her tongue on that incision.

So to sum up, I’ll be working on that drawing soon, probably today. My tribute to Lisa. My way to work out the crap in my head. And hopefully I’ll finish cutting those damn pieces out as well. Plus a trip to the vet. And maybe a little less crazy in the world. The bad crazy. I think we need the good crazy.


Warm…

June 19, 2016

It’s warm here in my part of town, hovering around 100 degrees, although they say the “real feel,” which is the sweat dripping down my back, is 110 degrees. Ugh. Love summer out here in non-air-conditioned land. All the animals are flat and splayed out. I don’t blame them.

I worked most of yesterday, and will continue that today, as much as I can…waiting on a decision between style guide and opinions. Apparently not everyone works all weekend. Shocking!

I got no Wonder Under done yesterday, although I could have…but I decided to draw instead. I was driving and this drawing slammed full-force into my brain. You could almost feel the impact. I have a couple/several shows coming up that I need to make work for this summer, and so they are always floating up there in the netherwhere that fills my brain, percolating in a smelly corner, fires fanned by crazy-ass artistic fairies who form images and then squish them together until they are almost fully formed. So I drew. And this isn’t really it…this is the practice drawing…

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For one thing, the real one needs to be big, and this is the 9×12″ sketchbook. So I’ll do it again and stretch it out. I think the largest figure does actually need a head. And more of a torso. And something in the background. Maybe. But it’s the first official drawing of Summer 2016. So that’s cool.

I drew it while watching the second of the Somm movies about wine sommeliers and winemaking. I liked the first one better.

So here was my view most of yesterday (and continuing into today…).

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As time went on, the cat got longer and more into fondling the keyboard and the mouse…not helpful. Right now, she’s covering the number pad and blocking half of the mousepad and trying to whack my hand every time I touch the mouse. Must be warm…

Boychild decided to teach Simba about the pool…Calli already knows how to cool herself off…as is apparent…

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Simba was not thrilled, but did know how to doggy paddle (apparently some don’t). But then got out and rubbed his entire body in dirt. So he got his first bath from us right after. Apparently that was also traumatic. And exhausting.

The heat certainly does suck energy out of you. OK. Back to work. I will resurface for Father’s Day dinner and then see if I can get some of that Wonder Under done, despite the heat and the workload. I can’t actually finish the editing without a definitive answer, so that’s OK. It’s good to have an excuse not to work all night.

And maybe I’ll get another drawing in there too…


I Got This…

June 16, 2016

It’s the last day of school. Can you hear the party going off in my head? I’ve spent the last three days thinking today would never come. Silly really. It always does. My room’s not ready. I’m already scheduling family hikes…well, after the crazy heat wave comes through.

I got nothing done last night…well, except dinner and a card game…Gloom…where you try to make all the other families happy and yours miserable.

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After playing (and almost winning the second round), I was so tired I couldn’t do much at all. I pulled the scissors and Wonder Under towards me on the couch and then just sat there. I made a cup of tea at one point, and still, just sat there. I love it when my body gives me those obvious clues that I need rest and recovery and relaxation.

I’m listening. I am. I just can’t do that yet. Some time on Friday maybe? Certainly it was nice to come home yesterday and not have to really think about school. That’s the part I love best about summer break. School is off my mind. Until they email me about something I have to deal with. Seems like one of the trainings I thought I might have to do over the summer is a webinar. Oh please please…don’t make us all meet in a room to watch a webinar. Let me do it on my own. (They don’t trust us to do it)

So a short summary of summer art projects: one small commissioned owl, one giant-ass time-consuming Earth Mother, two largish new projects that only barely exist as ideas (these aren’t due until late Fall, which helps), one coloring book page AND managing that project, one nightstand collaboration, one oldie but goodie that just needs quilting and binding. I think that’s it. No minor thing, all that.

I would hope to have the big one and the owl done in July, which means I need to start drawing the other two. Which is FINE, because I’ve been missing drawing like crazy. I’m dreaming of sitting on the deck with a cup of tea and some music, drawing like a crazy woman. First coloring-book meeting is next week. Nightstand starts after the 22nd. It’s all good. I got this.


Support

May 30, 2016

About 4 or 5 years ago, I was coming to the realization that my work doesn’t necessarily fit in the quilt world, that there are shows I can get into, but there are also many that I can’t, because the imagery is too challenging or controversial or hell…it has boobs and a vulva and those things aren’t allowed. Because 50% of the population needs to have their parts hidden away? Well it’s not like there’s a bunch of art out there with penises on it, unless it’s the oh-so-acceptable sculptural types from the Renaissance. I was in a few quilt groups that ran on the art side of things, but I was looking for local groups, places where I felt less isolated and out there in the art world. I wasn’t in the San Diego art world at all.

So I started looking, and I found two groups that I’ve been a part of since then, one juried and one not, and between the two of them, I’ve been in about 10 shows in Southern California and beyond (one is traveling to Sweden next year), but more importantly, I’m growing this support group of people who know my work and support me and have no problems with fabric inhabiting the art world. I can have a conversation with almost anyone in either group, and I’m starting to find other opportunities because of belonging…my 2-person show in January absolutely came about because of my membership in one of the groups with the curator. I was just juried into another group and members from both groups voted for me…hence more opportunities to show work.

Being in local shows doesn’t seem like a big deal…I get work into shows all the time and it travels all over the world. But it is a big deal, because the local shows are where I meet people in person who are looking at the work and talking to me…giving me tangible support to keep making. Not that I will stop…not that I know HOW to stop. This drive does not slow down for exhaustion or my job or other obligations. I hear it in the back of my head all the time (Make Make Make). But now I have people I see at shows, people who have my back, people who talk to me about my work, their work, work in general. People who push me to do different work, like the 17-foot woman from last year and the nightstand I’ll be doing this year. This is all good.

We had an artists’ talk for my women’s art group yesterday at our show Feminism Now. Amusingly, someone actually did some mansplaining for us, telling us how the problems we think exist don’t any more. Say what? But it was a good discussion anyway. I got to hear a few artists talk about their work, artists I hadn’t heard from before. As our group grows, I’m finding it hard to make sure I can place name with face (we need to work on that as a group), but I do know the group serves to support female artists in a city that is known for ignoring or even censoring our presence. This discussion of what is a feminist, what is feminism NOW, and especially to us…it’s important and our group isn’t going to let it drop.

Here’s most of the women who were in the show (there’s a chunk of women who weren’t…it’s a big group now).

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Wirework outside the gallery…suspect Spenser Little at work…

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So most of my day was picking up work from being juried and spending time at the gallery for the talk and trying to get better pictures for an official group blogpost of the show…but I did eventually (after grading of course) come back and start tracing again…

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This piece is slow going, but it will be worth it. I’ve got about 3 hours in and I’m only on piece 220. The first 115 pieces were large and kind of convoluted, so they took longer to trace. Now I’m into the tiny pieces mostly, with some background stuff in there.

This is what it looks like from the back when I’m tracing…

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Except the light on the light table is on. But the numbers are all backwards, which takes some getting used to. I did the left thigh last night: a raccoon and some flowers and leaves. I stopped when I got to the owl, because it was 100 pieces (at least) and it was after midnight. I was tired. I stayed up another half hour to let my brain relax…don’t know if it worked, but I zonked out pretty fast. Good sign.

Apparently I have to trace the owl twice…although I think I will redraw him so he has all his parts first…because he’s missing some parts of his tail I think, and part of a wing. I could do that today as well.

I do have two more classes of the last unit to grade today, plus making new seating charts…very exciting stuff. And groceries and laundry. It’s nice to have an extra day for it though. It would have been hard to deal with going back to school today with everything I was trying to get done over the weekend. Trying to keep up with my job and live life and make art…it’s a lot, and I’m totally looking forward to a break in a few weeks with summer vacation (I’ll still be making art…just not trying to juggle the job in the middle of it). I’m looking forward to sitting out on the deck and relaxing with my sketchbook. I’m looking forward to having the time to reconnect with my art brain in a less stressful way. Also eating and peeing when I want…those are pluses. And fewer demands on my patience (only 2 kids instead of 155 and mine are adults, so hopefully that will help).


Big Numbers…

May 27, 2016

I stayed up late to finish numbering. I know you find that surprising. I really was going to stop at midnight, but I really really (notice the two reallys) wanted to know how many pieces she had. So I numbered…for a total of 2 hours and 33 minutes (not all last night, mind you)…and she has 1954 pieces. Not bad. Less than 2000. I guessed right. So now I can process that in my head…make sense of it. Everything will take longer than the last couple did. And I’m OK with that.

I like having summer quilt projects with big numbers…lots of pieces. It’s like books you really love…you want them to be big, thick tomes so they take up a huge amount of your brain and time to read. I like to have big hefty quilts that will take up a huge chunk of my summer creating time. It’s somehow easier. I used to only make big quilts in the summer, but now I just make year round.

I started numbering at the bottom and went to the top. I try to be logical, but I was tired last night, so when I start tracing and ironing stuff, you can remind me that I probably wasn’t as logical as I’d like to be. You can see how big it is here.

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I number in sections…one leg, the other leg, one arm, the other arm. The head is often last…some cactus there and an octopus.

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I try to make it easier when I can…number all the background pieces and then the stuff that lies on top of them…a bat, the tail of a snake.

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Midnight likes to lie on it while I’m numbering, until I poke her too many times and she gives up and goes somewhere else…stares at me balefully from the couch.

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Here’s one of the crazier sections, although, again, while I was drawing, I tried to make sure I could trace all the petals of those flowers as one piece…and the pine branch above it is a little nuts, but not as crazy as it could be.

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I even marked a couple things as embroidery or beads (the tips of butterfly antenna do not need to be cut out of fabric). Does it have a lot of pieces? Well, yeah, but that hasn’t worried me before. Last year’s big summer quilt had 1850 pieces in it, finished the drawing in mid-July and the whole quilt by the end of September, with that 17-foot woman done in the middle of it. Plus surgery, the start of school, and taking girlchild to college. So I did OK. It was 164 hours total. So tracing on this one will probably take about 22 hours…My goal is to be done with ALL the Wonder Under, tracing and trimming, by the time school gets out in three weeks. I think I can do that.

And yeah, I know a lot of people think I’m crazy for making quilts like this, using all the tiny pieces, but I like the process and how it looks in the end, so I am going to keep doing it this way. I do have more problems with my hands than I did when I was young, so I realize I might not always be able to do quilts with this level of detail in them, but until that happens, I’m going to take advantage of the hand years I have now.

OK. I’m actually a little excited about this quilt now. Next stage. Tracing is meditative. And I do have two more major drawings to do before the summer is out…


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