I found a piece of pieced fabric when I was rummaging through stuff recently. The piece was about the right size for a journal cover. Over the weekend, last weekend, I did a bunch of small projects. Making this journal cover was one of them.
I am not sure for what this piece of made fabric was intended. I hope I don’t come across a note saying I needed it for X project or Y quilt. C’est la vie.
SIL #2 observed that the fabric combination looked like an adult coloring book. It does, but a mad version!
The strips were relatively even and bordered with the jester’s diamond check. I had to cut most of the diamond check off to make the journal fit. As it was I cut off a bit too much and the fit is snug. Fortunately, with cotton, it will stretch a bit.
I was working on something else at the same time and had magenta thread in the machine. I thought it would be great to use for this, because the piece is so stark. I thought a little color would enhance the whole project.
What the bold color choice highlights is the big wad of thread that happened as I was trying to sew over several seams. Bleah. I unsnarled the thread nest at Craft Night. The journal cover is finished and will be ready when I finish the dot journal.
You can see a little bit of the tightness on the inside cover. Still, this journal cover, even with its ridgy bump on the front will be an interesting change from my current journal.
We are midway through the foundation piecing class making a New York compass block. This is a long tutorial, but there are a lot of steps and I want all of the parts to be clear.
This segment discusses more foundation piecing. In order to get to this point, you should have completed parts 1 and 2. All of the supplies are listed in Part 1
Remember our goal:
Next, we need to foundation piece the small strip called Section D.
Cut 4 pieces of fabric that coordinate with the fabrics of your block. The pieces should be about 2.5″x 1.75″, which is generous. You may be able to use scraps for these pieces.
As you did in Part 2, you will work on placing 2 fabrics on the line between D1 & D2 with about a quarter inch hanging over into D2 as a seam allowance. Note the printed part of the pattern (the lines on which you sew) are face down for this step.
I like to pin the first piece of fabric to my pattern. It helps keep the fabric from shifting as I work on the second piece of fabric. Note the printed part of the pattern (the lines on which you sew) are face up for this step.
Flip Section D back over and position the second piece of fabric over the first. I often hold the pieces up to the light (or use a lightbox) to position the second piece.
When you have both of your pieces placed like you like them, pin in place. I like to use thin pins. Your piece should now look like the above photo.
With the applique’ foot on your machine. Sew on the line between D1 & D2. Do not cross the perpendicular line at the top or bottom. Back stitch one stitch at the beginning and the end.
Once you have sewn on the line, your piece should look like the above photo.
Open up both pieces and make sure they cover D1 & D2. Once you are convinced that you have covered both D1 & D2 with your fabric and there is a 1/4″ seam allowance, press your piece. Press with the pattern on top. Note the pattern is face up and you can see the sewing lines. (Nota bene: if you have taped your pattern, use a press cloth so that you do not get melted tape on your iron)
Flip your Section D over again, so you are ready to trim.
Lay your pattern, with sewn fabric, pattern side up (fabric down) on your cutting mat. The inside part of the curve will be facing your body. You may want to flip Section D around if you are left handed.
Fold the longer piece of the pattern over to the left using the seam line as the fold line. This will expose the fabric that will be your seam allowance.
Line up your ruler’s 1/4″ mark on the seam/fold line and trim your seam allowance to 1/4″.
Trim seam allowance to 1/4″.
Go back to the ironing board and position your piece so the fabric is up, pattern side down and smooth the fabric towards D2, lightly finger pressing.
Take the piece to the iron and press carefully towards D2.
Place your next fabric with the longer part towards D2 and the future seam allowance closer to D3. Hold the whole piece up to the light to make sure your placement is correct.
Pin in place.
Get ready to sew on the line between D2 & D3.
Once sewn, your piece should look like the photo above.
Check to make sure your fabric covers pattern section D3. You do this by folding the fabric over and looking to see that you have about 1/4″ on all sides.
Now, get ready to trim. Put your piece on the cutting mat pattern side up.
Fold your pattern to the left again, like you did before.
Line up your ruler’s 1/4″ mark on the seam/fold line and trim your seam allowance to 1/4″.
See that bump in the photo above? You do not want that bump to show once you have pieced D4 on to the parts of Section D you have already pieced. Press again, this time towards D4. Avoid the bump by pressing!
Press towards D4. No ironing!
We are heading to the home stretch!
Position your last piece as you have done before. It is going to look at little weird and out of alignment, because you are working with a curve. Remember to position the fabric so it covers D5 plus 1/4″ seam allowance. Pay no attention to the edges of the other pieces, such as D4, that you have already sewn.
It is easier for me to see whether or not piece D5 was in the right position by pinning it. Note, I would pin it on the pattern side to sew, because then I can see where the pin is in relation to where my sewing machine foot and needle are. The pin in the photo is temporary.
Once you have the placement finalized, go ahead and sew.
Now you have to fold back the pattern one last time and prepare to trim the seam allowance.
Now your piece is done. Fold back the D5 fabric and press. Place your ruler on the lines at the end of the pattern and trim a 1/4″ seam allowance. I know you can do this without photos.
Now you have to trim the curved parts of Section D
It is too difficult to sew the untrimmed Section D, so you will have to trim.
To trim, mark 1/4″ away from the dark line. The dots in the photo above mark 1/4″. I have trimmed the straight ends with a rotary cutter and I am ready to play “dot to dot” with my scissors. I am going to cut from dot to dot to create a 1/4″ seam allowance.
On to part 4!
If you have to rip out stitches, rip them out from the fabric side, not the paper side.
Pay attention to putting the next piece on the foundation.
We are learning foundation piecing (also called paper piecing) using a pattern called New York Compass. If you are just finding this tutorial, go to part 1 to see the supply list and learn how to prepare your pieces.
I am using an aqua with white dots for my background and a red with white dots for my foreground. You should have already cut your rectangles for both foreground and background at 2.5″x6″. If not, do it now, as you will need them almost immediately.
The sections of Section C are marked in the order in which you should piece them. Start with C1. Odd numbers are the background and even numbers indicate you should use the foreground (spikes) fabric.
You will be piecing from one side (C1) towards the middle to the other side, ending with C17.
Set up your sewing machine with an applique’ foot or similar. You will not need your quarter inch foot for the foundation piecing part of the process.
Shorten the stitch length. If you can’t shorten the stitch length, remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of each line of stitching.
If you are a speed demon, and the option is available on your machine, slow down your machine a little bit. You will need to control the speed at the beginning and the end of the stitching lines.
Place your Section C pattern face down on a flat surface.
Cover piece C1 on the paper pattern with one of the background rectangles you cut in Part 1. Place the fabric in such a way to leave at least 1/4″ of fabric around each piece. You get extra bonus points if you line one long straight edge with the straight line at the end of the pattern.
Now, hold the pattern and the foreground fabric in one hand (optionally you can clip them together with a WonderClip) and hold the whole piece up to the light (facing a window or a lamp or on a light box). Take note of where the line is between C1 and C2.
Still holding your pieces up to the light, take one of your foreground rectangles and place one of its edges 1/4″ from the line between C1 and C2. This will be the seam allowance and that quarter inch should hang over the line into C2.
Put all the pieces carefully back down on your table.
Pin the two fabrics to the paper, keeping the pin well away from the line between C1 and C2. You want enough space so the pin doesn’t interfere with the foot on your sewing machine. I also like to pin parallel to the sewing line and within the seam allowance to so I can test to see if the fabric covers the other pieces. I like to pin on my cutting mat so I don’t damage the furniture.
Fold the foreground piece back to make sure that it covers C2. You will fold it on the line between C1 and C2. That will be your sewing line. You can move the pins to the front for easier sewing.
Flip the whole thing over and take a look.
Once pinned, check again to make sure that you have at least 1/4″ all around C1 (background) and C2 (foreground).
Take your piece to the sewing machine and sew on the line between C1 and C2. Do not go over. Only sew on that line.
Back stitch at the beginning and the end. One backstitch is fine.
Remove the piece from under the presser foot and fold your foreground over to check and make sure it covered C2. You might need to hold it up to the light.
You can see the foreground fabric through the background, which is why you need to trim. Depending on the colors you use, this may not be the case, but you don’t want to build up so many layers that you cannot quilt through the piece.
Take Section C back to your cutting mat and place it so the paper part of the pattern is on top.
Fold the paper back on the seam line so the excess seam allowance is exposed. You are going to cut this off, so it is worthwhile to take a minute and make sure you are not cutting off the wrong part, eg the part you need to cover your background and spikes.
Line up your ruler with the 1/4″ line on the seam line and trim the excess seam allowance.
Take your piece to your ironing surface and place it with the paper down. Press towards the foreground, so you get rid of as much of the “bump'” from the seam as you can. Press towards the middle of your pattern. You want the foreground fabric to be as flat as you can get it. Pressing is very important. It is possible that there will be a bump when you put the next piece over the previous one, if you don’t press well.
Your foreground piece should cover the line between C2 and C3 and give you a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Once you have pressed the foreground flat, you are ready to put on the next background piece.
Take one of your background rectangles and place one of its edges 1/4″ from the line between C2 and C3, smoothing (without stretching) the foreground piece you sewed, so it is as flat as possible. Again, this will be the seam allowance and that quarter inch should hang over the line into section C3. You may need to hold it up to the light again to position the piece correctly.
Once you have the correct placement, pin in place.
Once pinned, check again to make sure that you have at least 1/4″ all around C2 (background) .
Take your piece to the sewing machine and sew on the line between C2 and C3. Do not sew beyond the end of that line. Only sew on that line.
Repeat this process, alternating between foreground and background until you reach the other end of Section C. As you move down the pattern, your Section C will start to look like something you could put into a block.
Use your rotary cutting kit to trim the straight edges of Section C.
From the paper pattern side of Section C, I eyeball a 1/4″ and trim the curves with very sharp scissors. There are some serious layers here, so I am not fooling when I say sharp.
The finished Section C is a sight to behold. Even after making several of these sections, I amazed each time it turns out.
If you have to rip out stitches, rip them out from the fabric side, not the paper side.
Pay attention to putting the next piece on the foundation.
I hope you are enjoying this class! I am really appreciating the opportunity to update the tutorials. I hope to do more updating and keep making them better.
Today we are going to start another series of tutorials to learn foundation piecing. Foundation piecing is a technique where the pattern is printed on paper or fabric (the foundation) and the maker sews directly on to that foundation.
The block we will use is called New York Compass, a variation of the New York Beauty pattern. It is a little more complex than the patterns we have been working on, but I decided to throw caution to the wind and nudge you to step up. You have done curves, so I am confident you can sew this block.
In part 1, we will prep everything.
Notebook for notes
Pen to take notes 😉
applique’ foot (preferably one with a mark showing where the needle will stitch)
foundation piecing paper like Toni’s Disappearing Paper or Carol Doak’s Foundation Paper – you can just use printer paper, but it might be harder to rip off. Tracing paper can work, too, but it is good to be able to send the paper through the printer
Print the pattern sheets (all 4). I only have 8.5″x11″ paper so the pattern comes out on 4 sheets. Use some kind of foundation piecing paper to print the pattern. Nota Bene: I keep a folder for all of my projects, so I like to print at least 2, if not 3 copies of the pattern. One I use to make the templates (yes, we will need a few templates), one I will tape together and keep whole (you can use regular copy paper for this one) and one I will use for the foundations.
Trim off the margins and tape the parts together. Note, the tape will not play nicely with your iron when you press the foundation pieced parts so USE A PRESSING CLOTH. A scrap of fabric or ugly fabric work great. Guess how I found this out?
Above is how the templates shake out: 3 regular plastic backed templates and two foundation templates.
Cut the parts of the pattern apart. You will have 5 parts. Two of them will be foundation piecing patterns and 3 of will need to be made into regular templates with template plastic.
I am going to refer to the skinny spikes piece as Section C. Section C is in the middle.
Make your templates. You must add a quarter of inch to your paper templates (not the ones that will be foundation pieced. If you don’t know how to make templates with template plastic, refer to my tutorial on Machine Applique’ Part 1. Make sure you place the template on the wrong side of fabric when tracing. Set the templates aside
Cut rectangles for foundation piecing 2.5″x 6.5″. This is a generous rectangle. You aren’t going to save any fabric with this technique and you should worry more about coming up short, because ripping out stitches when using this technique is a real pain.
There is one tricky part about these templates. You will need to add a 1/4″ to the curve. The way you do that is to: A) glue the paper template to the largest piece of template plastic you have (you may have to piece the template plastic). B) Take your ruler and start at the left end of the paper template. Line the ruler’s 1/4″ mark up with the dark outline on the paper template (you should still have a rough cut paper template before you glue the paper to template plastic). C) Make a mark with a template plastic friendly pen at the 1/4″. D) Move your ruler slightly to the right and make another mark at the 1/4″ point. E) Follow the curved line of the paper part of the template with your ruler until you reach the far right side of the ruler. F) Cut along the dots you have made in as smooth a motion as you can using your paper scissors. You should now have a quarter inch seam allowance along your template. Repeat for all curved templates.
Cut your fabrics. Nota Bene: When you cut the fabrics for Section C, cut rectangles for these spikes at 2.5″ wide.
Check to make sure you have cut your rectangles large enough. Take your Section C and lay it face up. Cover the first section (labeled C1 on my pattern) to make sure your rectangle covers the entire section C1 plus 1/4″ seam allowance around all sides.
Part 2 will be posted soon so you can learn the actual foundation piecing.
If you have to rip out stitches, rip them out from the fabric side, not the paper side.
As mentioned in part 1, above is the current block in our Sampler Quilt Class. These directions are for machine sewing your Flower Basket and include a little applique’. The applique’ can be done by machine or hand.
Are you playing along? If you are just starting, below is the complete supply list. You won’t need everything for this step, but you will need to start with part 1 and that part requires more supplies.
These directions use a quarter inch seam allowance. Check your seam allowance before you begin. If you don’t know how to do that, there are resources available, including one from Connecting Threads and Craftsy. Search the web for others if you don’t like these tutorials.
You will be directed to use the Triangle Technique. Make sure you have the chart as well as the instructions handy.
Respect the bias.
After working through part 1, you have already chosen your fabrics, made your templates and cut your pieces. You are ready to sew.
Carefully stitch along the hypotenuse of the large background triangle, about 1/8″ from the edge, to stabilize it. This stitching will be covered up when you stitch the handle part of the block to the basket part of the block.
The result is 8-2.5″ half square triangles. The above are actually a thread or two larger than 2.5″, which leaves the perfect opportunity for trimming to make them an absolutely perfect 2.5″.
Trim your HSTs to an absolutely perfect 2.5″.
Now you have 8 beautiful HSTs. You will need to make one additional HST.
Of course, you can use whatever technique you like to make the half square triangles.
Layout and Assembly
Now that you have cut all of your pieces, lay them out on your sandpaper board, or put them up on your design surface. It is great to be able to see where all the pieces belong and adjust any pieces that need adjusting before you sew.
Sew Handle to Background
Because I decided to use the method described below, I made another handle template with NO seam allowance. I placed it on the handle I had cut from the striped fabric carefully so there was an even seam allowance on all sides. Then I traced around it with my thin black pen. I thought the template was a little wide at the end so I adjusted the line a bit to make the seam allowance larger.
My pieces look a little weird-not the right size, etc when I laid them out. Have no fear! They will improve.
I was using my stiletto to adjust the seam allowance, but it was impossible to hold the stiletto, the camera and the iron all at once. Press carefully, so as not to distort your pieces. This is where a mini iron comes in handy.
Pay attention to the corners. The layers of fabric will want to pooch in weird directions. Again, this is where a mini iron comes in handy. I used my regular iron and a stiletto.
Take your handle and press the the seam allowance under on both sides of the piece. Press so that the drawn line is on the inside of the handle and is covered by the piece once the handle is sewn.
Nota bene: the orange fabric is laying on my ironing board and was selected for good contrast so that the steps would show up well
Fold the handle in half with wrong sides together and finger press on the midpoint. Unfold.
Fold your large triangle in half with right sides together and finger press. Unfold and layout.
Nest the handle into the triangle with the right sides up using your finger pressed marks.
Line up the bottom edges of the handle with the hypotenuse of the background triangle. If the handle ends are a little over, it will be fine. You can trim them later.
Eyeball your piece to make sure everything looks good and even.
Pin the handle to the background down the center of the handle. Remove the pins as you sew. Try not to sew over them.
Using a lot of pins will help keep the handle in place as you sew
Sew slowly and carefully along the drawn line around the curve. I chose a matching thread, an applique’ foot and a topstitch/sharp needle.
You will either need to hand applique’ the other side down or using a machine stitch that suits you.
Sew both sides down with a straight stitch.
Optional: You can satin stitch (see the Machine Applique’ tutorial) or blanket stitch or use some other decorative stitch to machine sew the handle to the background triangle piece. If you use one of these stitches, you may need some tearaway stabilizer
Optional 2: you can hand applique’ the handle to the background triangle.
Once the handle is sewn you are ready to move to sew the woven part of the basket.
Sew Basket Together
The block can be broken down into two pieces: the top half with the handle and the bottom half with the basket.
The parts are labeled as follows:
Single triangles A-G
Background pieces: B1-B3
Get ready to Chunk it, Baby! This is where numbered pins would come in handy.
Sew A to HST/1. Press towards Triangle A.
Sew B to the A-HST/1 combo. Press.
The two colored HSTs are supposed to give the illusion of a woven basket.
Trim off dog ears from the A,B-HST/1 combo.
Sew HST/2 to HST/5. Press towards HST/5.
Using the diagram above to confirm placement, sew your A, B-HST/1 combo to your HST/2-HST/5 combo. Press towards the red.
Sew HST/8 to Square 10. Press towards the Square 10.
Sew HST/6 to HST/9. Press towards the red part of the HST.
Using the diagram above to confirm placement, sew your HST/6-HST/9 combo to your HST/8-Square/10 combo. Press towards the HST/6-HST/9 combo.
Using the diagram above to confirm placement, sew C to HST/3. Press towards the red.
Using the diagram above to confirm placement, sew D to your C-HST/3 combo. Press towards D.
Trim your dog ears.
Sew HST/4 to HST/7. Press towards HST/7, making sure your seams will nest with the seams you have already pressed.
Sew HST/4-HST/7 together and then sew the HST/4-HST/7 combo to E. Press towards E.
Using the diagram above for placement, sew your HST/4-HST/7-E combo to your C-D-HST/3 combo. Press.
Trim dog ears.
Sew your A,B-HST/1-HST/2 segment to the HST/6-HST/9 segment.
Trim your dog ears!
Sew the last two segments of the basket part together. You may have to re-press some seams.
I didn’t move the borders the whole time I worked on the quilt See how much the basket part shrank? That is seam allowances for you! The more seams the more the piece shrinks!
Trim the dog ears, if you haven’t already.
Now you have two halves of the basket. Sew the woven part to the handle part by placing the woven part on top of the handle part, lining them up and then sewing carefully. You can fold the two sections in half, bisecting the handle, to match them up if you think that you need to trim the handle portion later.
Now you are ready to sew on the borders.
Sew the B2-G background section by placing the red triangle (G) face down on top of background piece B2 and sew the short end of the background to the triangle, as shown in the picture.
Take the basket piece that you sewed together above and place the B2-G background section on top of the basket section. Line up the red triangle’s seam from the B2-G background section with the HST/8-Square 10 section. You want the seams to match, so pin. Press towards background piece B2.
Only one more border to go.
Take the basket piece that you sewed together above and place the B1-F background section on top of the basket section. Line up the red triangle’s seam from the B1-F background section with the HST/9-Square 10 section. You want the seams to match, so pin. Press towards background piece B1.
Now you are ready to sew the last piece.
First, trim the dog ears.
Your basket is almost complete.
Complete your basket half by sewing background piece B3 to the basket. You have already snipped off the corners using a Judy Martin Point Trimmer. Just line up the triangle piece with the borders already sewn to the block. Press towards the background piece B3.
Your half is complete.
Take the top half of the basket, the piece with the handle, and carefully sew it to the basket half.
I found another good photo for this project in the Alden Lane photos. To my eye, there are limited colors. To the tool’s way of thinking there were many.
The Palette Builder chose the colors above. There are more warm colors than the tool usually chooses, but I think ‘choose’ is the wrong term. I like the two greens – Kona Peapod and Kona Cactus. If nothing else, I am getting a nice introduction to the Kona solids.
Of course, I decided to have my fun and play around with what other palettes I could find using this picture. I definitely had to get that dark blue from the fountain into the palette.
Finally, I moved the circles down to the flowers towards the bottom to see what changes I could make. I was surprised at how much darker the palette became.
These directions use a quarter inch seam allowance. Check your seam allowance before you begin. If you don’t know how to do that, there are resources available, including one from Connecting Threads and from Craftsy. Search the web for others.
You will be directed to use the Triangle Technique. Make sure you have the chart as well as the instructions handy.
Respect the bias.
You really only a need a template for the basket handle. If you are using templates for all of your pieces, then prepare all the templates for pieces in the patterns as directed below.
Prepare pattern for your basket handle template by printing two copies of the pattern. I prefer to do this first so when I get into the throes of sewing I don’t have to stop and fiddle around with templates.
You will eventually place one copy of the pattern in your binder, but keep it handy so you can use it as reference.
Nota bene: You probably know how to make templates. However, I am including a quick refresher.
Rough cut* the handle pattern out of the second printout.
Glue the paper pattern (with seam allowances) using the glue stick to the template plastic.
It is okay to use scraps of template plastic. Put a piece of tape on seam lines to keep the joins stiff.
Fine cut** the paper pattern and template plastic you have adhered so you have an accurate template, cutting off any seam allowance that may have printed.
If you plan to machine sew the handle, prepare another basket handle template, in the same manner, without seam allowance.
Gather your fabric and press it all. Rough cut some pieces and press them with Mary Ellen’s Best Press to help deal with the bias. Treat the large background triangle and the basket handle in the same manner.
In my example basket, above (same as at the beginning of the post), this fabric is the medium blue.
Place fabric large enough for your basket handle wrong side up on your table or cutting mat.
Place your handle template right side down on the wrong side of the fabric.
Trace around the template carefully with your Pigma pen. Trace carefully without pulling or tugging at the fabric. You will be dealing with some bias on the curves. You will need to carefully move your hand along the template to keep it in place while you trace. Use the Pigma pen with a light touch.
Using your fabric scissors, cut around the traced image, cutting the drawn line off. If you are using a template with no seam allowance, leave approximately a quarter inch seam allowance on all sides.
Set the handle aside.
In my example, above, this fabric is the blue Michael Miller Ta Dot with white dots.
Measure the template for the large triangle of background fabric. It should be 10″ on each of the outside edges WITH seam allowance. Cut a square 10.5″ x 10.5″. You can trim it later. Better safe than sorry. Press the square with Mary Ellen’s Best Press.
Cut the square in half along the diagonal.
Cut the following additional pieces according to the measurements given:
2 patches: 2.5″x8.5″
1 patch: square 4 7/8″x 4 7/8″. Cut in half. Nip off the bunny ears with the Judy Martin Point Trimmer
1 square: 5″ x 5″. Cut in half on the diagonal and set your second triangle aside
You can cut some of the background pieces out of the leftover triangles.
The foreground fabric is used for the basket. You will need at least two fabrics for this part. In my example I am using a scarlet red and a medium blue. See picture above for placement of foreground fabrics.
1 square: 2.5″ square
For the HSTs, you will need 2 squares from different fabrics, according to the HST Size Chart, 6.25″ x 6.25″.
Nota bene: The above Triangle Technique only yields 8 HSTs. You can make another set using the Triangle Technique directions and have some extras, or you can cut the triangles themselves
1 square 2.5″ x 2.5″
Cut 4 squares 2 7/8 in. by 2 7/8 in. the second background fabric (red in my project). Cut in half. These are the base and top line of your flower basket.
You should now have all of your pieces cut. Look for the next part of the tutorial on sewing the block together. It will be available tomorrow.
* Rough cut means that you cut around the outside line and a little away from it, leaving some extra paper. This helps to position the template properly and eventually cut it accurately.
** Fine cut means that you cut the template out very exactly and carefully getting rid of any extra paper and template material used when you rough cut. This is the shape you will use to cut your fabric so prepare this step with care.
The next block is the Dresden Plate, which we are making using templates. As you have probably guessed, there are a large number of methods of making blocks. If you would like to see a wide variety of Dresden Plates, you can do a Flickr search to see what others are doing.
heat resistant template plastic
Pilot SCUF black thin point pen or Pigma Micron or Sewline pencil
magazine subscription postcard or small piece of scrap card stock
12.5″x 12.5″ or larger square rotary cutting ruler (I like Creative Grids)
Mary Ellen’s Best Press (or similar)
stiletto or similar (skewer might work)
sharp fabric scissors
thread for piecing
basic sewing kit
1. Select your petal fabrics. You can use 2 or many. You want to be able to see the work you have put into this block. Above are all of my options. I didn’t end up using all of them.
2. Print 3 copies of Dresden Plate Templates pattern. Two you will cut out and one you will keep for future reference.
3. From one pattern sheet rough cut around the petal and the circle including the seam allowance.
4. From one pattern sheet rough cut around the circle template and the petal template excluding the seam allowance. On the petal, cut off the thick black line. For the circle, leave the thick black line on the template.
Optional: Write ‘Dresden Plate” on each piece (or some way of identifying why you made these templates for later). Make a notation on the circle with no seam allowance so you don’t it mixed up with the other circle.
5. Glue circle and petal templates to template plastic
6. Carefully cut templates out of template plastic just outside of thin outside line.
7. Extend the straight line into the seam allowance with a ruler and a very sharp pencil or pen.
8. Right where the curve starts to move away from the straight line of the template, draw a line between those two points.
9. At the intersection, poke the corner of the petals to mark sewing start and stop points. I used a pin and then enlarged the holes with a seam ripper.
Cut your fabric into rectangles larger than your petal templates.
Optional: Spray rectangles of petal fabric with Mary Ellen’s Best Press to control the bias.
10. Place fabric wrong side UP on your table or cutting mat. Trace around the petal template, which is face down on the wrong side of the fabric. In order to keep that template still, hold the template tight down on the fabric with your fingers near where your pencil or pen is moving around the template.
11. Use at least 2 different fabrics to trace 16 petals. You can use many more. If you use two, alternate them. You want to be able to see the work you have put into this block, so select fabrics with contrast.
12. Trace a circle using the template with the seam allowance. Cut out the fabric circle with a generous seam allowance (more than 1/4″).
13. Cut fabrics using very sharp fabric scissors OR cut straight lines with rotary cutter and curved seams with fabric scissors.
Mark the holes you cut near the curves.
14. Choose your background fabric by laying the petals on the possible background fabrics, approximating the shape of the Dresden plate.
15. Cut a larger block, because the sewing of the block may make it shrink up. Cut a 13.5″x13.5″ background piece. Your Dresden Plate will be appliqued to this piece. Make sure it is square. You will trim the background piece once your block has been completed. Set this aside for now.
16. Line up two petals, right sides together.
17. Pin pieces together by lining up the holes you made when you traced around the template.
18. Sew from point to point, back stitching at each end. DO NOT sew into the seam allowance.
19. Press seams open.
20. Sew petals together in groups of 2, then sew the groups of twos to each other to make groups of 4, etc.
21. Sew between points, back stitching at each end. DO NOT sew into the seam allowance.
22. Sew all petals to each other, back stitching at each end, making a ring.
23. Press all seams open.
24. Trim threads.
25. Lay petal ring face down on your ironing board.
26. Lay the petal template without the seam allowance (which must be made from heat resistant template plastic or cardboard. Don’t use something that will melt) on the back face up.
You probably won’t be able to get the seam allowances flat, but press enough so the fabric knows where the curve is. It will help you when you are ready to stitch it down.
27. Press the curve into the outer edge of each petal. Use the stiletto to hold down the edge and iron right over the stiletto tip and the template. This is the miserable step, so intersperse eating some chocolate or some other sewing. Lay aside.
28. Take your cut piece of background fabric. Fold it in half and press lightly.
29. Fold your background fabric in half again (in quarters) and press lightly.
30. Open and you should be able to see the cross you have pressed into your background piece.
31. Take your plate of petals and line up 4 of the seam allowances with the pressed cross on your background fabric. This will center the plate on the background. Make sure you pay attention to the vertical as well as the horizontal.
32. Pin in place
33. Use thread that matches the plate or is neutral for hand applique’ or a blanket stitch to sew plate to background. You can also machine applique’ the plate to the background. We will cover that technique in another lesson, but there are many other tutorials available.
34. Pin curved edges of plate as you move around the plate to applique’.
35. Knot the thread sufficiently so the knot does not pop through the background.
36. Bring the thread up from the back through the fold of the plate (where you pressed the seam allowance).
37. Tug gently and put the needle into the background, just catching it, and pull the needle tight through the fold of the plate again.
38. Go around the entire plate in this manner, using the needle to tuck in the seam allowance so it has a smooth round shape.
39. Trace the circle template without the seam allowance onto the magazine subscription card.
40. Cut out the magazine subscription card circle, being sure to cut off the pencil/pen line.
41. Take the circle fabric you have cut and wrap it around the magazine subscription card circle.
42. Using any thread, take a running stitch in the seam allowance of the circle fabric and tighten it, keeping the magazine subscription card circle flat. If the magazine subscription card does not have enough body, you can also use the circle template without the seam allowance.
43. Press the drawn up circle well, so it is flat and a perfect circle. You will need to tug on the thread to draw the circle up as you press the first time. Once the fabric knows it needs be pressed you can pull the thread tight and make a knot.
44. Pin the circle to the center of the block, covering the raw edges of the center petals.
45. Applique’ using the same directions you used to applique’ the plate.
46. Trim block to 12.5″x12.5″. You might want to wait until on this step until you start assembling the quilt.
The green, turquoise, black and pink sample Dresden Plate was made for the class I taught in 2006/2007. I did this one a little differently. I machine stitched the plate to the background and the circle to the center.
As you can see, I also fussy cut fabrics to take advantage of larger spaces in the quilt block.
In the solid Dresden Plate, I placed like fabrics into groups of two for a slightly different look. The center circle was a good showcase for a bit of hand quilting.
I store my templates in a ziploc bag with a picture of the block or a label with the name and size of the block on it.
There is a link to this tutorial from the Artquiltmaker Info–>AQ Tutorials link under the header (see above).
In this lesson, we will make a block called The Dove. It is a baby version of the Drunkard’s Path. I like to use the Drunkard’s Path block in this class, but is very fiddly and be frustrating for new quiltmakers. The Dove gives you practice in sewing curves and has larger pieces. If you make this block, the next logical curve practice piece would be a Drunkard’s Path block.
This block, as well as the Drunkard’s Path block is made from two types of pieces: a concave ‘L’ and a pie shape. The pie shape forms the circle in the center and the concave ‘L’ can be considered the background. This design has a very strong focal point.
Take the The Dove pattern and rough cut the paper templates.
Use the glue stick to stick the paper templates to the template plastic. You won’t need heat resistant template plastic as we won’t be ironing over the templates. It is fine to use, though, if that is the only kind you have.
Rough cut the templates you have glued to the plastic.
Carefully cut out the template on the seam allowance line, cutting off the rough cut paper and plastic.
Place your fabric wrong side up on a hard surface.
Place the templates wrong side up on your chosen fabric. Nota bene: If you are using symmetrical templates, then it doesn’t matter whether they are right side or wrong side up, but it is good to get in the habit of doing it the right way in case you use non-symmetrical templates in a future project.
Draw around the template with your marking implement of choice. You will need to hold your template firmly so it doesn’t shift. You can also rough cut out the fabric pieces if trying to cut precisely with a long length of fabric draped over the cutting table is too difficult.
Cut the fabric out carefully using your fabric scissors, especially the curves. Cut the drawn line off the fabric. I used a rotary cutter for the 90 degree angles.
Check to make sure that the fabric you just cut out is the same size and shape as your templates. You can lay the template over your fabric to check.
Take a pie shape and a concave ‘L’ shape and fold them in half. Line up the edges carefully. The halfway point that you create will be used to make sure the pieces are sewn together evenly. You will want to make the marks so the patches nest. That means you fold the concave piece in half with right sides together and the pie shaped piece in half with the wrong sides together. Mark the halfway point with a pin or through finger pressing.
Nestle the pieces right sides together.
To do this, line up the middle mark where you have finger pressed to align the blocks accurately.
Place a pin in the middle at the finger pressed center
Line up the outside edges and place a pin close to the two outside edges. Because of the seam allowance, the piece will look misshapen.
Fill in the area between the middle pin and each outside pin with pins. Ease the area between the outside and middle pins into smoothness with your fingers, lining up the edges of the fabric as you do so. Place as many pins as you need between the middle pin and the outside pin. Make sure the fabric is flat and there are no pooches. You may have to ease a bit, but do it very gently so as not to stretch the pieces. If you have to stretch and tug and pull, there is something wrong and you should check to see if your templates match your fabric pieces.
Do the same with the second section between the middle and the other outside edge until you have used a lot of pins.
Sew Pie to Concave piece, removing pins before you sew over them. You may want to use a stiletto or the point of a pin to keep the edges of the fabric lined up until you sew over the area where the pin was. I also use a seam ripper as a stiletto to keep the two pieces in place after I remove the pins.
Repeat for all of the quarter blocks. Once you have sewn the four curves. you have a four patch.
Sew 2 quarter blocks together to make a half, then sew the other 2 quarter blocks together so you have two halves.
Press so that the center seams nest
Pin the two halves together, paying careful attention to the center.
Sew the two halves together.
GREAT work! You did it!
In a previous class, I did a tutorial on laying out a Drunkard’s Path. The fabrics and the block are different, but you can get an idea of the opportunities available to you with different fabrics by taking a look at the tutorial.
Some time ago, I saw an episode of Love of Quilting where Jo Morton was the guest. She was showing a technique for making half square triangles that blew my mind. Based on what I saw Marianne and Jo do on the show, I tried the technique and was pleased with the results.
I found this half square triangle (HST) technique to be one of the best I have seen. It is straightforward, there is a minimum of dealing with bias and the squares magically appear all at once.
There are a number of different tutorials for making HSTs (half square triangles/triangle squares) and I link to some of them below. My technique below makes 8 HSTs at a time and can be used for the Double Pinwheel we made the other day.
This is more of an informational tutorial than a tutorial related to certain blocks. HSTs are a component in many, many blocks designs, so learning to make HSTs using this method will come in handy
I started with 5″ squares, which is the size they used on the show. The 5″ squares make 8 HSTs. I thought it would be a great way to use charm packs. For other sizes, I have created the AQ HST Size Chart. You need this chart to find the sizes of the various pieces to make other block patterns.
Next, using a ruler and my Sewline pencil, I drew an X, corner to corner, on the lighter square.
Place the 2 squares right sides together and press them. Pin far away from any of the lines.
Next, sew 1/4″ away from each line. I place the guide of my 1/4″ foot on the pencil line, which ensures my needle is 1/4″ away. Sew on both sides of all of the lines.
After sewing, I measured 2.5″ from the side of the square and cut. Don’t move the two pieces. Position your ruler 2.5″ from bottom and make another cut.
Cut the square in a plus configuration 2.5″ – use the middle of the X as a guide. This is called the PLUS cut on the chart. You can draw pencil lines in a plus configuration and cut on those, if you want.
After you cut the PLUS you will have four squares, each with a line drawn diagonally across the middle. Cut the squares in half diagonally on the line. Use the line as a guide. It is more important to line your ruler up corner to corner.
The result is 8 2″ half square triangles. The above are actually a thread or two larger than 2″, which leaves the perfect opportunity for trimming to make them an absolutely perfect 2″. If you trim, you get rid of the bunny ears as well.
Trim the squares to 2″. Line the 45 degree angle line on your ruler up with the diagonal seam line on your HST and trim on all four sides. Trim on all four sides. Don’t be tempted to trim just on two sides.
Now you have 8 beautiful HSTs. The bias edges shouldn’t be scary for you when you use the regular HST method, but this method makes HSTs much easier. This is a fabulous method when you need to make a lot of HSTs in a short amount of time. It is similar to a tutorial that p.s. i quilt posted, but times 4.
My DH came up with a chart showing the different sizes you can make with this technique. Look at this chart to find the correct size for your project.
Today we will be making the Sawtooth Star block. You will use your newly formed bias skills as well as cutting. You will also learn to make Flying Geese.
I love this block. I could make tons of them and never get bored. Like the Nine Patch, there are a lot of variations of this block to keep it interesting. I made about 1,000 of them for the Star Sampler quilt. Yes, I got tired of making them, but the end result is spectacular and I would make that quilt again.
In the large size (12 inches or larger), it is good to use large prints, like I did, especially with the center. Alternatively, make one of the variations (see Star Sampler for examples of the variations) with more pieces. For now, if you have large prints, use those for this block.
Flying Geese are a unit comprised of two different kinds of triangles. One of them is the same and the other is different from the triangles we used yesterday. The Flying Geese are also used as a component in many types of blocks as well as as a design component by themselves and in borders.
This is a thinking girl’s tutorial to making flying geese. Knowing how to make Flying Geese allows you to make, not only, Sawtooth Star blocks, but also Dutchman’s Puzzle blocks, borders and many other other parts needed for your quilts.
We will be learning the very basic way to make Flying Geese – no special rulers or tricks. There are many other ways to make flying geese and I use a specialty ruler now that I know the basic method. I’ll see about a tutorial using specialty rulers another time.
rotary cutting ruler large enough to cut 4.5″ squares
rotary cutting mat
fabric (2-3 different)
Optional: Mary Ellen’s Best Press (or similar)
sharp trimmers or scissors
thread for piecing
Sewline pencil or mechanical pencil
First print the cutting instructions (pattern) for the Sawtooth Star block.
Cut your pieces according to the instructions.
The above is the fabric I will use for the ‘wings’.
Turn the squares wrong side up and draw a diagonal line from corner to corner. You will need to do this on all of the squares for your Flying Geese.
Cut the goose, fabric. Nota bene: above is a different fabric than I used in the final block. In the finished block I used an aqua with red dots.
Lay first square that will be a wing on the goose (blue) fabric. The diagonal line should be pointing to the center of the blue piece.
Pin the square to the larger patch. Make sure the pin is out of the way. You will be sewing on that drawn line, so you will need to pin far enough away so the pin doesn’t interfere with the operation of the machine.
Sew along line and trim threads. I use a foot that has an arrow on it. I can line that arrow up with the drawn line and sew away.
Trim 1/4″ away from the sewn line as shown above. You will cut through the wing and the goose.
Press the wing so the front of the wing fabric is showing. You must press the wing into its final position before you sew the other background on to your block.
Place the second wing on the other side of the background fabric. Again, the diagonal line will be pointed towards the center of the larger patch.
Sew and trim as above. Sew so that you cross the previous sewing line.
Press back the 2d wing and, voila’, you have a Flying Geese element.
Now make 3 more and cut your squares for the rest of the block.
You can also make these with various rulers. I often use the Deb Tucker Wing Clipper ruler and also have the various sizes of the Quilt in a Day Flying Geese ruler. I teach this basic method so you know how to do it and don’t have to purchase a specialty ruler. If you plan to make many Flying Geese, I suggest you buy either of the rulers listed above.
You need four of these to make a Sawtooth Star or eight of them to make a Dutchman’s Puzzle.
The fourth chapter in The Creative Spark is called The Crazies. Many writers of creative inspiration write about the negative voices in our heads: the judges, the critics, naysayers, all the people who ever told you you couldn’t. Bloomston calls them The Crazies.
I am not surprised that Bloomston brings them up. They are as much a part of the creative process as paper and fabric. They are in our heads and we all hear them whether we acknowledge them or not. “The Crazies are programmed to trip you up” (pg.21).
I hear them. They often tell me I am not good enough, need to do better, need to do more, need to spend more time, etc. It isn’t always possible, but when they tell me I need to do better, I try to listen by work on improving my skills. I also try not to get depressed. Examples of things I do are:
Ripping out pillowcase cuffs when I sewed them on upside down
Matching seams better
Evening out topstitching
Using what they say often involves a lot of ripping. From my vantage point, my work is better when I try harder to do better.
Still, I don’t always like hearing what the critics have to say. They are never nice about my work and it isn’t always possible to be Zen about their words.
I have never wanted to be a full-time artist; I have always wanted to make what I want to make when I want to make it. This attitude gets me off the hook for most of the comments about being irresponsible and dooming myself to a life of “poverty, lack and struggle ” (pg.21). Still this work, especially since fabric and thread are so firmly rooted in the female realm, is not valued and that is painful to me. Even not being a full-time artist, I feel I have to explain or justify the time I spend on my work and what I make.
Bloomston has great strategies for banishing the Crazies. Chief among them is writing them down and enclosing the voices somewhere.
Being organized is another one. “Life generally tampers with creativity because being a grownup requires a great deal of organization and management” (pg.22). Being a grownup doesn’t mean you have to give up your creativity or the art you make. It simply means you have choices with regard to your art. Don’t let The Crazies become the buzzkill, the axman or the murderer of your dreams of art (pg.22), use their criticism to spur you on.
Bloomston also has great techniques for dealing with, if you can’t banish The Crazies: Play, Notice, box Them Up, Show Them the Door (pg.23).
And when you are being overwhelmed with the magnitude of the criticism, turn to your friends, your critique group, your sewing circle, for support.
This is a bonus block. I would like you to make it and use your fabrics to practice the techniques you learned in making your Nine Patch block. While this block is firmly rooted in square patches, there are a lot more seams to match, but not so many that you can’t do it. You can make this block or not. Remember Practice Makes Perfect.
Use the same group of fabrics you used for the Nine Patch so you can use this block in the same quilt, if you choose.
This block has a different grid than the 9 patch. It has a 2×2 grid. That means that there are, essentially two patch across and two patches down. In this case you make one of the patches up from a Four Patch, so you sew each 4 patch, to a two plain square and then sew the halves together.
It isn’t my intention to have very frequent book reviews in this Friday space. I think, however, that this book review feeds directly into my search for continuing creative inspiration. There are a lot of words in this review, but you will get more out of the book review, if you go buy the book (or find it at your local library). Definitely read and comment on my review, but go and get more out of it by looking at the illustrations and other materials in the book, too.
I heard about this book when I listened to the Creative Mom podcast. This is not normally my kind of book, but I really enjoyed it. I was also very taken with the profound insights into the creative process and the thoughtfulness in nurturing creativity. The book is the product of a curriculum from one of Lynda Barry‘s classes and the content still has those qualities. I liked Barry’s idea of a curriculum: clear standards for the class that had more to do with production than perfect drawing. My favorite thing about this book is that it conveys the message that I was trying to convey with the Creative Prompt Project:
Just draw (or paint or sculpt or dance) and don’t worry if it looks imperfect or childish. Experience the act of making something with your hands/body.
The book looks like a composition notebook, one of those black and white marbled notebooks seen in massive stacks at stores during the back-to-school season. Barry uses very humble materials. They are not low quality, but humble — crayons (pg.87), Flair felt pen, etc. The title page and verso are not very obvious at all, which caught me, as a librarian, off guard. There is no table of contents and no index. The text just starts with the question “Is Creative Concentration Contagious?” There is a method to the seeming madness, however, and the book includes the story about the class Lynda Barry taught.
As I wrote the review, I wanted to go back and read all the pages over again. There is so much to see on the pages, I think it is possible to get something new no matter how many times you look at the pages. One part I cannot get out of my head is something I knew, but could never put into words. I was very glad when Lynda Barry wrote it down for me. “We know that athletes, musicians, and actors all have to practice, rehearse, repeat things until it gets into the body, the ‘muscle memory’, but for some reason, writers and visual artists think they have to be inspired before they make something not suspecting the PHYSICAL ACT of writing or drawing is what brings that inspiration about. Worrying about its worth and value before it exists can keep us immobilized forever. Any story we write or picture we made cannot demonstrate its worth until we write it or draw it. The answer can’t come to us any other way” (pg.163). I love the quote and think I will write it down and put it up where I can see it. It is so important to remember that inspiration is a must, but it is not everything. Practice. Practice. Practice.
There are a lot of slightly scary (I am not a horror person) and disturbing images in this book. A lot of the images are dark. This book is probably not appropriate for 5 year olds, but is perfectly fine for the tween to adult set. Also, it is a good reminder that not all drawings (or quilts or other artworks) are pretty in a conventional sense. This does not diminish other aspects of the piece (pg.29). The encouragement to just be creative regularly is the point.
The book discusses drawing a lot – not theoretical aspects, but the sheer magnitude of work the students are expected to create. Yes, you get better the more you practice, but you also have to have an “experience by hand” (pg.31), which has value. Barry writes “…what if the way kids draw — that kind of line that we call ‘childish’ — what if that is what a lines looks like when someone is having an experience by hand?” (pg.31). When I work, there is definitely something I gain by having fabric in my hands. It may be because my paid work is just stuff appearing on a screen while my quiltmaking is more of a whole body experience.
There is so much that translates directly to quiltmaking. I almost couldn’t take it all in. “I told them to color had in order to do it right. And go straight to use force — thinking I was showing them a short-cut — this took away the way of coloring they would have found on their own. By telling them just how to do it, I took the playing-around away, the gradual figuring out that bring something alive to the activity, makes it worthwhile, and is transferrable [sic] to other activities.” (pg.89) I love this passage. It makes me wonder if there is joy in using quilt patterns? Sure you have a quilt when you finish, but did the making of a design that someone else has already made bring joy to the quiltmaker? Perhaps this is the product vs. process question.
There are random and very interesting facts scattered throughout the book. “Every baby old enough to hold a crayon can already use and understand these 3 languages. Sometimes all at once.” (pg.14). She is talking about the relationship between pictures, music and dancing. This struck me as really amazing. She also talks about the relationship between hands, images and insights referring to using what is at hand to make art. One example is a child in bed interacting with his/her blanket as if it were alive. Another example is a of a homeless man acting out Romeo and Juliet with a cigarette butt and bottle cap as the main characters. (pg.15). This section is too insightful to include quotes. I would have had to type the entire section, which is why you should read this book. 😉
One good reminder (pg.19) is that even though we don’t like a piece of our artwork, it survives. This reminds me of finishing a quilt and being very glad to be done with it. Still, six months later, the quilt is one of my best. It is a good thing to remember that our work survives even if we don’t like it. Barry also states “Liking and not liking can make us blind to what’s there.” (pg.23). I make no secret of not liking brown and having a hard time appreciating Civil War reproduction fabrics. Some years ago, I forced myself to look more carefully at some of these types of quilts in order to appreciate something else about the quilt, such as the piecing and the design. While I have a hard time imagining such quilts in brights and dots, I can appreciate intricate and exact piecing.
The book is filled with tips, many of which dovetail with what I am trying to do with my blog. One states “I know if I can just keep them drawing without thinking about it too much, something quite original will appear…” (pg.21). I think it is very important to keep working, even if you make a lot of terrible work, because at some point, something great will happen that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t done so much mediocre or okay work. One tip is to use smaller spaces. Lynda has her students fold 8.5″x11″ sheets of paper into 16 squares and use those for their drawings. Friend Julie is making small square quilts as a weekly exercise. Is this something that would jolt my creativity? Your creativity?
Words in the book described as tips become profound when I think about them. One such group of words is something that I tried to espouse in the Creative Prompt Project. “Daily practice with images both written and drawn is rare once we have lost our baby teeth and begin to think of ourselves as good at some things and bad at other things. It’s not that this isn’t TRUE but the side effects are profound once we abandon a certain activity like drawing because we are bad at it. A certain state of mind (what McGilchrist might call ‘attention’) is also lost. A certain capacity of the mind is shuttered and for most people, it stays that way for life” (pg.115). This quote, idea hits close to home. I know I do it. It is easier to do things I am good at and avoid things I think I am bad at. I don’t do needle-turn applique’ because it is hard and I have to work at it. I want the time I spend to mean something more than ravelly edges on a piece of applique’. Still, what am I losing with this attitude?
One aspect of the ideas in the text that really struck me was about images. Lynda Barry writes “I was trying to understand how images travel between people, how they move through time, and if there was a way to use writing and picture making to figure out more about how images work. (pg.49) This idea has been rumbling around in my head, including the relationship to quiltmaking. We know that newspapers used to print patterns. We know that ladies would trade patterns. Now we have digital cameras and record quilt images that way. Still, we see images and they rumble around in our heads, morph and change before they become a quilt. Even when they become a quilt, changes are still possible.
The other thing about this book is the author encourages us to notice things. The composition book acts as a life note book. She encourages a small box to record things students did, saw, heard and then there is a space for a daily drawing. “what goes into your diary are things that you noticed when you became present — that is to say when the hamster wheel of thoughts and plans and worries stopped long enough for you to notice where you were and what was going on around you — little things…” (pg.61). This happens to me when I walk and am not listening to a book. This book makes me think I should just allow my mind to wander more often. What am I losing by not giving my mind that space?
Partway through the text, Barry writes “sometimes right before class I’ll see students rushing to finish the homework I gave them and I always feel sad. They’ll get nothing from the work without the state of mind that comes with it. It’s a thing Dan Chaon calls ‘Dreaming Awake’ – we can use writing and drawing to get to that state, but not by rushing” (pg.128). I think I get to this state when I am piecing a lot of the same types of pieces. It allows me to accomplish something in the quiltmaking world while my mind wanders off to other places to solve other problems. I don’t think we have enough of this type of time. While I like to have a basic plan in place when I start a quilt, often I just want to try something and that ends up as a quilt, like the Swoon did. I think there was an element of this type of working in the IRR as well. Lynda talks about this when she says “It’s a kind of picturing that is formed by our own activity, one line suggesting the next. We have a general direction but can’t see where we are until we let ourselves take a step, and then another, and then we move on to the third”(pg.136). There is an element of uncertainty when working this way, but also an element of excitement, because the maker does not know exactly where s/he is going.
Fixed places are a concept I cannot completely wrap my head around, but if what I think the author is talking about is true. I can identify at least one group of fixed places relevant to my life. Lynda B writes “Poets claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years” (pg.181). I wonder how fixed places affect our lives. The point about failure and success is well taken. You can’t go back and we do look back on the past with rose colored glasses and forget the difficult parts.
Finally, Ms. Barry talks about journals. Journals, as you know, are near and dear to my heart. I have kept one for years and she gives voice to my thoughts on journals and writing in a journal when she says ‘the nature of notetaking by hand. Thinking of one’s compbook as a place. The practice of developing a place not a thing” (pg.194). For me, a journal is a place to think. It can be a mess. If I force yourself to make it beautiful I know it is less useful. I need a place to dump and my daily journal is that place.
Towards the end of this 200 page book, Barry tells a story “He said that during those years, as a child, he used to imagine that he was the son of the emperor of China, and the old, wise advisors of his father set a spell on him: he would have to experience all these terrible events so when he grew up and became the emperor himself, he would not make war. Since, I stopped thinking that art is decoration in life; for me, it is proof that art is essential to our surviving.” (pg.173). Using creativity to survive a terrible situation is so clever that I cannot think how this author thought of it except that he practiced and it was second nature.
I guess the thing about this book that I liked best was that it made me think in a different way. Barry’s book gives me a lot to think about. It made me wonder if I can to do more to develop my creativity? Practice more? Draw more? Dance more? More walking without headphones and an audiobook? Allow my mind to wander? There is a lot in what I have written in this review, but there is so much more. Go buy this book (shameless plug!!) and read it. Then read it again and again.