Friday, October 24, 2014

I'm a Quilting Fan. I think.

Yes, I've been a wee bit quiet lately. Some of that is due to the fact that everybody in the Quilt Industry is currently in Houston for Quilt Market and I am not. This is because I am basically no longer a part of the Quilt Industry, at least not the part that goes to Quilt Market. And this is actually a good thing. I had gone to the last Quilt Market in Pittsburgh hoping to become more comfortable with the whole process (trade shows are no place for introverts) so that I could eventually go and truly market my own stuff (instead of being too embarrassed to do so), but instead it turned out to be a clusterfuck of mega-proportions, and I left feeling unsure of my future in the industry as well as unsure of even my love for quilting. Usually I  come home from Market at least somewhat excited about new fabrics and patterns. But this time? Meh. I really started to wonder if my love affair with quilting was over.

I had been thinking that my articles were starting to get that "phoned-in" feel, and I really wanted to work as an independent artist and not as anyone's employee, so I bid a final farewell to Generation Q magazine and wrote one last column for the September/October issue. I spent the summer mostly hanging out with my kids, but I also started writing a book. I wanted to remember what I love about quilting, and I wanted to impart that love to other people. I won't say much more about the book than that, but I have managed to write over 15,000 words so far. That's not a Stephen King pace by any stretch, but it's not nothing either.

I've also been planning a novel, one I have mentioned in the past. I still want to write this, though it scares me and I am still working up the courage to start. I plan for this to merely be a "practice" novel, one to help me get the feel of the process and the structure, but I do have a dream to create quilt-related fiction that isn't all treacle and sunshine and heartwarming tales of friendship and family. No, I think there needs to be hot guys, evil bitch quilters who steal pattern ideas and take the good seats at guild meetings EVERY SINGLE TIME, and it should be GODDAMN FUNNY.

But I still wasn't inspired to actually, you know, quilt. I rearranged my fabrics several times, and even acquired some more, but I still felt no call to actually do anything with any of it. I've been collecting Tula Pink fabrics for a while, and got some more over the summer, and one day while going through some drawers I came across a "fan" ruler that can be used to make wedge shapes, as for Dresden plate quilts. The ruler came with a "Fan" pattern and I immediately thought of making an "I'm A Tula Fan" quilt. I pulled out all of my TP fat quarters and started at them for several days.

Then I selected a group based on the color wheel and cut my wedges. I had no plan. I was making shit up as I went along.

I sewed the tips into points and then tried to decide among several configurations. Just a mix to make it all scrappy? Full Dresdens? Half-dresden fans? Quarter-dresdens? Color wheel? Then, once I got that all worked out, I had to figure out the centers. I had already decided to use two blender prints from Tula's Fox Field line as the background, but I wanted something different for the centers. I played around with circles and squares and hexagons until I finally came up with a hexie/circle combo that I really liked.

I spent the next few weeks hand sewing like a maniac. All those dresdens could have been machine stitched down, but I just loooove the look of hand appliqué and I didn't mind the time it would take to do it. I mean, where the hell am I going, right? But it didn't really take as long as I thought and in a couple weeks (and after watching Outlander A LOT) I got them all stitched down. I finished sewing all the individual blocks together yesterday, and it now hangs on my design wall, waiting for backing and quilting and binding and just looking like a badass motherfucker.

I am so proud of this.

Am I desperately in love with quilting again? I don't know, to be honest. I sometimes feel a bit like I've seen too much of the little man behind the curtain. I do know that writing about quilting was a hell of a lot more fun when I truly was an outsider, and not so much when I was trying too hard to not be one.

So, I don't know where the next couple of years will take me.  I think there will be a lot of experimenting, and some of that will show up here. Because, ultimately, I just want to Make Stuff, and to be proud of what I make.

Even if nobody gives a damn but me.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Blog Tour: Quilt Talk by Sam Hunter

It's here, it's here, it's finally here! No, not my Tom Hiddleston fan club membership card. It's Quilt Talk, by my dear, dear friend Sam Hunter.

I've known Sam for a couple years now, but I'd say that it's been within the last year and a half that we've really become close. (But not distance-wise, because the damn woman lives on the opposite coast.) We met in person for the first time at the Houston Quilt Market in the fall of 2012, though before that we had exchanged a few emails and Facebook messages and such.

That following spring, I decided to step down from being the creative director at Generation Q magazine in order to have more time to focus on my own creative pursuits, and when Sam heard about this, she called me up. And the first thing she said to me in that phone call was, "I am so proud of you and I completely support you." She understood—more than anyone outside of my family—my need to spend my creative efforts on work that is mine alone. She got it, and she reached out to me so that I would know that someone in the world got it and would cheer me on, even if I felt like I was disappointing people who needed me. I don't know if she knows how much that conversation meant to me, but I know that it has set the tone for our friendship ever since. I can only hope that I've given her even a fraction of the love and support and understanding she gave me that day.

Over the course of the following year, Sam worked on her book for C&T, Quilt Talk, and I got to hear a lot about the process, which was pretty fascinating, and frankly involved a whole lot of cursing, but lucky for Sam I can handle that kind of thing. The book was developed from a paper-pieced alphabet that Sam designed, with projects that show how the letters can be used in different ways, from the nifty buckets on the cover above, to larger statements:

The book has a Gallery section, where Sam got several people to use the alphabet in their own way to show how versatile they can be for your own designs. AND I MADE A QUILT FOR IT, Y'ALL!!!! This quilt clearly shows how versatile the letters can be in the hands of a smart-ass:

The sewing machine, the flames, and part of the spool are raw-edge appliqué, something I had never really attempted before. The thread, the sewing machine foot, and the wheel are all embroidered. And the quilting was done by the incomparable Lisa Sipes. The sewing machine is my design, one that I've used before on various pieces of merchandise.

And yes, I open the book and lovingly stroke the page my quilt is on (41) A LOT and I am not ashamed of it. Much.

So, let me tell you why you need this book, other than the amazing and beautiful quilt that is on the bottom of page 41, which—though I'm not making any promises here—could in fact change your life.  Sam doesn't just give you a whole bunch of paper-piecing patterns and some projects. Nor does she waste time with the "here's a completely abbreviated lesson on how to make a quilt" chapter (and you all know my pet peeve about that). The whole first section of the book is dedicated to helping you understand typography (you need to know about ascenders and descenders and leading), choosing fabrics for lettering, and working with re-sizing the letters to fit the project you want to make. THIS IS A BIG DEAL. What I love most about this book is that while it does give you projects that you can follow to the letter (heh - see what I did there?), it also gives you the tools and the encouragement to make your own statements. It can be hard to follow your own creative path, especially when there are so many beautiful quilts out there that seem so much better and more interesting than what you can come up with yourself.  But with words, well, just think of all the things you can say! And Sam makes sure that you can say anything you damn well please—in quilt form anyway. Because that's pretty much who Sam is: she's the cheerleader for anyone who wants to create, the person who says, "I know you can do this, and here's some things to help you start."

I am very honored to be the first stop on the blog tour for Quilt Talk. You know those buckets on the cover of the book? Sam has put together special patterns for making the word section of those buckets into color names for sorting scraps (or yarn or FQs or underpants—whatever). You'll still need the book to make the buckets, but each stop along the tour will have a PDF of the letters for each color word. My color is PURPLE, because it is the best color in the world and most expresses my true nature: a royal pain in the ass.

See how lovely they all look?

You can download your "purple" letter section here!

Here are all the stops on the tour so you can get all the color patterns:

NOW - DO YOU WANT TO WIN A BOOK? Of course you do, you avaricious little darlings, you. To win a copy of Quilt Talk:

1. Leave me a comment below telling me what your quilt (or pillow or wall hanging or bathmat) using Sam's letters would say. And remember where you are, people—dirty and profane are TOTALLY FINE.
2. To get an extra chance to win, go to my Facebook page and share the post that links to this one on your own page. Make sure your privacy settings are set so that I can see it, or come back here and tell me.
3. For another entry, pin one of the above images on Pinterest.
4. And finally, for another entry, say something about Quilt Talk on Instagram. Use the hashtag #quilttalk and tag me, @meganzdougherty.

You have until midnight, EST on October 19 to enter. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, October 21.