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September 6, 2009

Works and Days of Hands
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 10:57 AM * 127 comments

Progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.

You know, it’s been a while since we’ve had a thread about making stuff. And, coincidentally, I’ve just finished my first serious quilt.

Fibonacci Quilt: front Fibonacci quilt: back

That’s a Fibonacci spiral there, but you knew that. The quilt is cotton, made for putting on laps and around shoulders in my living room, but it’s big enough for a single bed (146cm x 236 cm, or 4’9” x 7’9”).

The experience of creating a thing is always complex, if the work is undertaken attentively. My perception of the journey through making this quilt mirrors its design: it’s a pattern of steps of increasing scale, made up of memories and associations of varied tone and intricacy. And yet, somehow, it has transcended those elements and become a coherent whole.

0. Origin
Without a point of origin there’s no spiral. But how can one have a section that measures zero squared? That which you do not see is me: the entirety of who I was and where I lived when I started the project.
1. The gift
We start small, quietly and slowly. It was deep winter, which is not generally a good time for me. And my mother gave me a sewing machine for Christmas.

That sounds simple, but of course nothing is really simple between mothers and daughters. A sewing machine isn’t just a sewing machine. The gift is not the package.

My mother, who taught me to sew and made my wedding dress, who proudly tells everyone that I’m a more skillful seamstress than she is, gave me a sewing machine that’s even better than the one that she has herself. And I accepted it happily, comfortable enough in my own independence to be able to receive a gift like that without cost to my self-sufficiency.

See how the first stage depends on the origin?
1. Design
Fibonacci spirals start slow: the next step isn’t an increase on the first. Planning the quilt was like that. It was as small, as safe, as easy as receiving a gift. (This is good; I hadn’t the energy to take on the entire project at that point in the year.)

Now, I’m a long-term spreadsheet abuser. I’ve written games in Lotus 123 macros, and scheduled weekend-long gaming conventions in a single sheet. So when I was designing a quilt made up of squares, of course I turned to Excel. I’ve ported the design to Google Docs, if anyone’s interested in having a look. The spreadsheet also made it remarkably easy to calculate what squares I should make and how much fabric I needed to buy.

When I did the design, I had to mess with the classic spiral to make it eye-sweet. It needed to curl inward at the center, and I wanted to increase the line thickness as it grew. The basic tiling, where one unit is one square of color, was too low-res for the design, so I made it 4 squares per single unit. Then I broke it up even further in the center. But the pattern was still too stark, so I added two transitional elements: the first one mostly red with some white, the second mostly white with some red.
2. Materials
At last the pattern and the process begin to grow beyond their slow beginnings. We transcend old borders, lengthen our stride, curve round. Or, in simpler terms, leave the house and buy cloth.

I bought some of the fabric at Ikea: the plain red and the two mostly-white patterns were both from their fabric department, and the edging was a single sheet. But Ikea doesn’t have a wide enough range of red and white cottons for my needs. (One day I may do an all-Ikea quilt, very trendy, but not now.)

So I needed to go with the local custom and buy my fabric at the street market. The best selection in my area is in Amsterdam’s famous Albert Cuyp market, where quite a few fabric shops run stalls outside their front doors. They vary enormously in nature, but I eventually found one that suits my character. It’s chatty, cluttered and friendly, with the sorts of prints I like. There I bought my remaining materials: another almost-completely-red, two mostly-reds, several kinds of white, backing material and batting.

Buying fabric face to face was a stretch. I generally dread any interaction that requires me to speak Dutch, though things usually go better than I fear. Buying the fabric (and, across the road, thread and safety pins), I was initially shy, but broke the ice by apologizing for my poor Dutch. Oh, no, both shop assistants said, You’re doing very well. And it’s good that you’re trying. I managed a joke in one shop and an anecdote in the other, and thus emerged triumphant.

After that, the quilt felt like a lucky endeavor.
3. Cutting and Piecing
Now the sequence is finding its rhythm. The beginning is forgotten in the sensation of being underway. Things have momentum.

There’s not a lot to say about cutting fabric into precise pieces, nor about sewing square to square to make rows, then row to row to make the top of the quilt. It’s all detail work, getting things straight and even and matched up.

Then, suddenly, out of the piles of neatly cut and carefully stacked fabric, one catches the first glimpse of a new reality: a wholeness without pre-existence, a mere idea become material.

And that’s inexpressible in an entirely different way.
5. Quilting
The steps are larger now, and the next goal suddenly seems tiresomely far away. The journey must become an end in itself.

Quilting, for the uninitiated, is the process of sewing the three layers of the quilt together: backing on the bottom, batting in the middle, and the pieced top. One generally chooses a decorative, repeating pattern of lines and subdivides the quilt into logical sections.

Truly dedicated people do it by hand. I am not truly dedicated. (And anyway, I have a really neat sewing machine.)

Since the quilt design is all about Better Curving Through Math, I choose a classic “curves from straight lines” design, and sized it to one-Fibonacci-unit (4 square) block. I wasn’t very good at it: I made folds in the quilt top at certain predictable points. I tell myself it gives the surface a pleasing three-dimensionality.

This stage was all about time. It took half an hour to 45 minutes to do each of the 40 squares. The middle ones were the slowest, because I had to move so much bulk of fabric around my work surface. (Cut to a montage of spilled glasses, papers on the floor, and near-misses with the potted plant.)

Now, in ancient Greek, there are two words for time. Χρόνος (chronos) is the kind of time that passes on the calendar, month by month, while an unfinished quilt lurks on one’s secondary book press and clogs one’s creativity. Καιρός (kairos), on the other hand, is best translated as “season”, or “the right time”. It’s the moment when one is suddenly driven to finish the damned thing, and works until one does.
8. Outspiral
The story of the quilt continues past its completion, of course, just as the number sequence goes on beyond the point where you stop counting.

It’s already found its place in our lives. The kids curl up under it after breakfast and before going to school, though it’s not yet chilly enough for them to really need it. When winter comes and I have to spend time in front of my light box, I plan to throw it over my knees to keep me warm.

One day it will be a gift to someone, probably one of the children. It will pass out of my hands and take another path. I’ll never know what love gets made under it, what doll picnics it hosts, whose cold nights or bitter days it makes better. That’s fine; a true work grows beyond its creator.

In the end, I am reminded of a summer week, years ago, that I spent touring cathedrals in the South of England. I saw Chichester, where the earl and countess lie in stone, and Winchester, where Henry Austen did the same by omission. I visited Canterbury, of course, and found it wonderful. But for me, this quilt is Guildford, a new cathedral, brick-built from the clay of its own foundations. All of the other cathedrals were redolent with the history that had taken place within them; Guildford, by contrast, exudes the atmosphere of a building in which history is going to happen.
Comments on Works and Days of Hands:
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 11:16 AM:

To my chagrin, I've moved from "the motor has no torque" to "the motor and the multimeter have no juice" in the process of putting this sewing machine back together.

On the better hand, I've no pieces left over from putting it back together...

#2 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 11:23 AM:

(... and a knack today for errors with the posting button, it seems)

... and several pieces of rather lovely fabric for which I'll soon get about drafting patterns, and cutting. I feel terribly like a small child when I use my sewing shears -- my hands aren't quite large enough to use them one-handed (but they're such a delight to use, all the same!)

I've seldom managed the patience for quilting, although irrationally enough I do have the patience to draft patterns from first principles, and modify patterns to suit ;)

I'd be curious to hear from folk here that sell occasional pieces -- there's things I'd like to make, but have no particular inclination to keep, once finished (but can't justify creating and handing off to the local thrift shop).

#3 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 11:45 AM:

I still have the quilting frames that belonged to my mom. If I ever get moved to a large enough place, I might try my hand at some quilts.

#4 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 11:52 AM:

Abi, that's wonderful!

Xeger, have you thought about Etsy? I have only hearsay to report, but it seems to be a good place.

#5 ::: rams ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 12:08 PM:

Woah -- you MACHINE-quilted that? I promise you that's harder than hand-quilting ("wrestling alligators" is one metaphor) -- anyone who doubts it, look at the space between the needle and the solid body of the machine and picture moving an entire quilt, rolled or otherwise, through there. Besides, the feed-dogs move the bottom at a different rate than the top, unless you let them down (hence the textural pleats) and if you DO let them down then you're entirely in charge of moving it at a reasonable rate. Wow. Impressed doesn't begin to cover it. (Beautiful should go without saying -- but maybe beautiful should never go without saying.)

#6 ::: Pedantka ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 12:28 PM:

That is impressive... and inspirational; halfway through the post you had me going to look at sewing machines on Amazon. (I do not sew--I have a comically poor rapport with machines, which seem to snap their needles in self-defence when they see me from across the room. So I stick to lace knitting, with the occasional sweater thrown in for variety, instead.)

The quilting design is especially jaw-dropping. I keep wanting to run my hand over my monitor to feel it. (Oh, and because I did click through to your Flickr set... the doll quilt with the tree is also incredibly lovely.)

#7 ::: Julie ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 12:29 PM:

That's a lovely quilt, and I love the pattern you chose for the quilting.

#8 ::: Ben B ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 01:00 PM:

Just beautiful! I remember hand-sewing a quilted cushion in primary school, aged about nine; it must have been all of 20cm square, and took me a whole term to complete, despite taking it home at the weekends.
Sewing wasn't formally on the curriculum, I don't think, but it was cheaper than swimming lessons - Thatcherism being then at its zenith.
Any recommendations on a good entry level sewing machine to tempt me back into crafting? I could do with some new curtains, come to mention it...

#9 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 01:22 PM:

I have two quilt tops done and am stuck at the quilting stage. One is already layered and pinned, but when I tried to stitch in the ditch on my machine it was a disaster. The one for my son I haven't even started layering.
I also have a fancy Bernina that my dad got me, but it hasn't been used at all since we moved. I have so many projects I want to work on, but when I have some time when I won't be interrupted, it's all I can do to veg on the internet. So I am both awed and envious.

#10 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 01:41 PM:

For the mechanically inclined, the dedicated quilting sewing machines are amazing. Not the ones for piecing the bits, the ones with rolls and totally separate mechanisims for the top and bottom that make the quilting stage something that can Just Work.

Then again, they cost like a small car. But damn, the right tool for the right job and all that.

#11 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 01:42 PM:

I've made a number of quilts over the last 16 years. It was a real breakthrough when I realized that quilts didn't have to be big enough to go on a bed. The two bedspread-sized quilts I've made both used Katharine Fisher's "quilting in squares" method: make a bunch of complete blocks, including quilting, then sew them all together for the completed quilt. That way I didn't have to try to deal with so much fabric at once. Of course, it does mean that there are a bunch of seams on the back, and it limits what patterns one can use. I love the process of building a picture up from random-looking scraps.

I do all my quilting by hand; in the early days I didn't even have a hoop. Machine quilting really requires a walking foot to pull the top layer through the machine at the same rate as the bottom, to avoid the bunching problem. Some day I may buy one and try my hand at machine quilting.

My quilts have almost all been made as gifts; a couple I made for me. They take too long to make to start one without a particular purpose in mind. The stuffed animals I also make go much faster. Those are just for fun, or to try out an idea I've had. I've sold a number of the science-fictional ones at convention art shows and have given a lot of the others away (some of those were intended as gifts from the beginning, but not all). But that still leaves me with quite a few hanging around. Selling them on Etsy has crossed my mind, but I don't want to start feeling that I must make something so that I can stock my Etsy shop. That would take all the fun out of it.

#12 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 01:43 PM:

I like sewing by hand, for several reasons. It's close enough to suturing that I can practice techniques; it's easy enough to do without much brainpower --for example, darning socks-- which allows me some guilt-free tv time, and it allows me to rescue clothing from ruin, which appeals to my inner thrifty soul.

I've thought about making a small quilt. That would be a great winter project.

#13 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 01:50 PM:

Mary Aileen @11:
Hey! I have a walking foot. I just didn't know what it was for; I thought it was for uneven layers of fabric on different sides of the seam.

(My sewing machine use is somewhat hampered by the fact that we sourced it from Brussels and the owner's manual is in Dutch. I've sat down and put the time in to read the bits about oiling the machine and such, but I've clearly missed the finer points here and there.)

Must source and English-language manual.

But, I confess, I actually kinda like the pleats. I know I shouldn't because they're Not Proper Quilting. But until the Quilt Police kick down my door, I'll run my hand over them and enjoy.

#14 ::: Madeline Ashby ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 01:53 PM:

Abi, what a beautiful quilt, and beautiful essay. Thank you for sharing your process and meditations with us.

#15 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 01:58 PM:

Oh, the dreaded Quilt Police and their colleagues, the Stitching Police and the Knitting Police!

There is *one* rule in quilting and stitching: the thread goes through the eye of the needle. That's it. That's the rule. Everything else is a matter of taste.

#16 ::: Marsha Sisolak ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 01:59 PM:

That's a marvelous quilting design and works exceedingly well with the pieced Fibonacci spiral.

Should I ever return to quilting, I have yearnings to make a black whole cloth quilt with a multi-colored version of a Lorenz attractor machine-stitched in rayon or silk.

Some day.

Enjoy that Bernina! They're wonderful machines.

#17 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 02:10 PM:

abi, the quilt is beautiful, but I especially enjoyed the essay about it. It captured some of the mystery of creating.

#18 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 02:32 PM:

That is a very nice piece, and both the design and the quilting pattern are really impressive. I say this based on at least some knowledge, as my ex is a really dedicated quilter and I've learned a little about appreciating it.

#19 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 02:48 PM:


(I have an Elna 1010, a nice basic machine (non-electronic), and I bought a walking foot for it.)

#20 ::: Nightsky ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 03:40 PM:

Ooo, Fibbonacci quilt FTW! I loves it so; good job!

As it happens, I'm working on a math quilt of my own:

(hope that works)

It's a quilt version of a Penrose tiling (rhombus version, as I can't figure out how to make paper templates of the kite-and-dart version), and it is aperiodic: the pattern will never repeat. I guess I'll keep going until I run out of fabric or get bored.

#21 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 04:05 PM:

abi (13): Glad to be of assistance! The site I linked to says walking feet are good for sewing things like velvet, too. Hmmmmm, they'd probably be good for faux fur, as well. I wonder if they make them for my cheap Singer?

Nightsky (20): I've thought of making a quilt using Penrose tiling, but haven't gotten around to it yet. (Your link isn't working for me.)

#22 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 04:41 PM:

The wife's stalled work in progress -- the top, king sized is pieced, and the back is together, but it's not quilted.

#23 ::: Nightsky ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 04:42 PM:

Blast. How's this?

#24 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 05:01 PM:

eric @22:
Oh, that's going to be lovely.

I'm amused how many of us get stalled at that stage. Makes me feel better about how long mine sat and glowered at me from atop my second-best book press.

Nightsky @23:
That link works. Wow. Looks really neat.

#25 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 05:34 PM:

That's a very nice quilt, abi.

My most recent sewing projects were a second big giant squid with its Winslow-cultist hat, which came to Worldcon with me, and a bunch of little squidlets, some of which also came to Worldcon. My most recent non-sewing project was replacing the propeller on my bike helmet which I lost a few years ago.

I now have two big plush giant squid, which is at least one more than I really need, and I'd like to sell one. A couple of friends have suggested Etsy, and I need to look into it -- I want to know more about how the process works, including selling from Canada into the U.S.

#26 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 06:38 PM:

eric (22): I like that. Actually quilting seems to be just about everyone's least favorite part. (The people who enjoy it can make tons of money quilting other people's tops.)

Nightsky (23): Gorgeous! When you get tired of adding to it, are you going to square off the edges or leave it jagged?

#27 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 06:52 PM:

I admire good quilting like yours, abi, though I have no desire to try it myself after watching the work Eva had to put into the quilts she made as comforters for us many years ago. Though that lovely spiral makes me reconsider ...

#28 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 07:13 PM:

I recently finished a lariat necklace and am a bit more than half-way done with another necklace. Something that has sat for many years (I started it 9/11/01) is my piece about that date. I'm at a point where the four beaded panels are done (was there long ago), but I need a framework to hang them from and I haven't tried it because I think I'm not strong enough anymore.

#29 ::: Liza ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 07:28 PM:

Abi, I really enjoyed your post--thanks!

Nightsky @ 23, that's lovely!

#30 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 07:42 PM:

In terms of making things, I'm learning to knit-- rather, I've learned some bits, and now have a scarf to make. Knitting takes forever and hurts me eyes. I'd better learn lace soon, or I'll just stick with quick and sensible crocheting.

I forbade myself to do anything quiltinglike a while ago. I do have some quilting-type supplies, but that's for big square things like pillow slips. I am not allowed to learn to quilt until I've had a job for a year. Then I shall become insufferable.

#31 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 07:49 PM:

Arthur: (Pulls pin) One... one... two... five!
Galahad: Three, sir!
Arthur: ...three.

#32 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 08:01 PM:

Diatryma, have you considered a lace scarf?

(I've now learned how to knit socks, having started with sweaters. Toe up is easier, you don't have to pick up stitches around the heel.)

#33 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 08:21 PM:

Oh, yes: there's a book out on mathematics and (among other methods) knitting: Making Mathematics with Needlework by Sarah-Marie Belcastro and Carolyn Yackel.

#34 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 08:34 PM:

Ginger @ 12 ...
I like sewing by hand, for several reasons. It's close enough to suturing that I can practice techniques; it's easy enough to do without much brainpower --for example, darning socks-- which allows me some guilt-free tv time, and it allows me to rescue clothing from ruin, which appeals to my inner thrifty soul.

I do a fair amount of sewing by hand, and have made full garments by hand multiple times -- but for some reason it's much easier to find time to sew by hand when I'm traveling than when I'm home[0].

[0] I've no logical reason for this, it just is.

#35 ::: Zelda ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 09:33 PM:

P J Evans @33: That book is officially my Best Birthday Gift Ever. I've made couple of the toruses therein. I also have yarn on hand to do a Baby Surprise Jacket with Fibonacci stripes.

#36 ::: Laina ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 09:41 PM:

abi, the quilt is wonderful and the quilting is awesome. I like the texture it creates. And the essay provoked so many trains of thought... I bought melt and pour soap base and the necessary accessories just yesterday, because I need to make something, and that type of soapmaking scratches the itch without creating another project that I "should" be working on.

#37 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 09:44 PM:

Abi, what a gorgeous quilt!

My mother was a superb seamstress; I'm at best indifferent. Oh, the stuff I sewed was okay, but it was frustrating more than it was satisfying. I can do it in a pinch but prefer not to.

OTOH, today I put up 5 pints of tomato sauce, using the boiling water canner. It's been a while since I've done any canning, but I swung back into it. The fact that my current kitchen is much more canning-friendly also helps.

I may just do it again tomorrow. I heard one jar seal, for certain. We'll see about the rest.

#38 ::: Avedaggio ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 09:46 PM:

That is wonderful! What a fantastic keepsake. And the pattern of stitching is really cool! That's one of my favorite things about quilts-- seeing the more subtle patterns. My folks have a quilt that is a scene of a lake and mountain, impressionist-style. The stitching on the lake is wavy, the stitching on the trees framing the lake is narrow and long, like pine needles. I cannot remember how the sky and mountain were done, but it is a lovely piece.

For others who like geometry and math in their crafts, I would direct your attention to Woolly Thoughts' Etsy site. Their website is, but at the time of posting their website was down for maintenance. For those of you who have accounts, you can see their projects here.

As for my own blanket-related creativity, in June I completed a handspun, handwoven and hand-stitched blanket. It's 70 by 80 inches(Here's a shih-tzu for scale--her name is Mulan), and everything but the warp was handspun on my spindles by me. I am so thrilled with how it came out-- some people who have seen it likened it to Saori free-weaving, which I had never heard of before, but I guess that's what I did. My little Schacht Rigid Heddle Loom is only 20 inches wide, so I made the blanket in 2 long strips, cut them in half, secured the cut edges and assembled. While I was weaving, I put small curly and crimpy locks alongside the weft, and that added so much fun to the texture. Of any spinners and handweavers are interested, this Flickr photo has mouse-overs that detail dyers and fiber sources. Here's a shih-tzu for scale (her name is Mulan).

I've entered that blanket into Schacht's I Made it on my Schacht! contest celebrating their 40th anniversary. The submission deadline has passed, but on September 14th, the finalists should be posted at that same link.

In other creative news, last week I spin, felted and beaded (and belled) a headdress sort of thing for my friend who wanted something special for Burning Man. Pictures don't do the final product (8 hours of spinning/felting/beading and 3 hours of tight braiding) justice.

Enough self-promotion. What else have you wonderful people been making?

#39 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 10:21 PM:

I just finished my first pair of toe up socks. I'm contemplating a different toe for the next pair.

I am also thinking about what embroidery project to start - I should be working on two wedding afghans (couple's name, date, and a ring or something wedding-y) or better yet, I will finish my sweetie's Christmas present! Thanks ML for reminding me that I have to work on that!

#40 ::: adelheid ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 10:30 PM:

That quilt rocks! My mother-in-law quilts. I think she uses a machine for some of it and hand sews some of it. Her stitches are very regular. I have an old Sears Kenmore sewing machine of which I'm not very fond. I often think that's what keeps me from sewing more, but then I remember all the other projects in crocheting, knitting, and beading that I have yet to start/finish.

#41 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 10:51 PM:

The quilts are beautiful. The essay is thought provoking and well written. I first learned about the Fibonacci Series in connection with weaving. I keep wanting to find something I can make using it.

I have a number of bags of unfinished crochet projects and a stash of yarn for future projects. I'm currently alternating making hyperbolic crochet coral reef pieces for a wall sculpture with other things like necklaces, scarfs, collars and blankets. Yarn stashes grow almost as fast as paper piles do.

#42 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 11:21 PM:

Neat, Abi.

#43 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 11:37 PM:

"Whoever dies with the most projects, wins."

#44 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 11:41 PM:

Abi... Aren't you afraid you'll be getting a visit from the Laundry?

#45 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 01:21 AM:

Serge @ 44 ...
Bah! Knuth's known books cover Fibonacci! No way Abi'd get a visit from the Laundry for that!

#46 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 02:26 AM:

Actually, on the last thread about making things I meant to post about my mother's quilting, and never got around to it. One reason being that I wanted to link to pictures, and didn't have any that did it justice. Still don't....

Anyway, my mother quilts, and in particular when she heard that Katie and I were moving to Texas she worked frantically to get one ready for us to take. Successfully, too. We use the quilt as a bedspread (though since we keep the indoor temperature at about 80 degrees, we usually just fold it back at night). It's reversible; one side is brown with a pattern of hollow squares in different colors, the other -- my preferred one, though the other is nice -- is white with a number of stars and symbols. When she gave us the quilt she gave us also a card with descriptions of some of the symbols: ginkgo leaves for protection, cherry blossoms as a carpe diem, a Texas Star; things like that.

It's absolutely one of the most beautiful things I've ever owned, and I'm not just saying that because my mother made it. I really need to put up some photos of it.

She also recently finished a quilt that she entered into a traveling, juried show. The theme of the show is "Wonders of the West" and it depicts her grandchildren (my niece and nephew) looking over a vineyard at a setting sun.

#47 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 04:37 AM:

Abi, what a lovely quilt!  I do so admire you, both for making such a beautiful thing and for using it – that’s Ming-vase-as-umbrella-stand level of nonchalance.

Now, to digress from quilting to literature for a moment:  is the thread title a reference to Hesiod (whom I’ve never read)?  If so, is there a link from Hesiod to Goethe?

#48 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 04:55 AM:

John Stanning @47:

The title is Hesiod by way of TS Eliot:

There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

(Prufrock, of course)

The Goethe quote, which I originally picked because it's about spirals, echoes the Prufrock passage for me, particularly rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution. That bounces nicely off of a hundred indecisions...a hundred visions and revisions.

The whole essay is kind of about bringing a two-dimensional pattern into the third and fourth dimensions (more the fourth than the third). And Prufrock's little time-riff there is one of my personal touchstones, so I wanted the allusion in there somewhere.

Getting Hesiod and the transformative value of work thrown in for free was an added bonus.

#49 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 05:12 AM:

Abi, thanks.  Nice links!

#50 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 05:28 AM:

About using the things one makes (and I have this discussion a lot with people to whom I give books)...

There is a technical term for beautiful things that one does not use. That term is clutter. Learn to drink from the cup as though it is already broken, because the alternative is to choose between a cluttered life and an ugly one.

#51 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 06:44 AM:

There is a technical term for beautiful things that one does not use. That term is clutter. Learn to drink from the cup as though it is already broken, because the alternative is to choose between a cluttered life and an ugly one.

That's beautifully put. It's going to be my mantra of the month. It has taken us a long time to come to that realization here at home, but we're learning. I bought a lovely set of ceramic dinnerware at a crafts fair this weekend, then packed and stored more than a hundred plates and glasses articles we never use (and most of which fall under the category of ugly clutter).

#52 ::: Liza ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 07:23 AM:

John @ 47, abi @ 50, on the discussion of using beautiful things: I find it easier to use a beautiful thing I've made myself--if it breaks, I know I have the knowledge and skill to make another one, even though it might take a lot of time/energy/resources. When the beautiful thing was made by someone else, it's harder to convince myself to use it because it might not be replaceable.

Onward to another topic here: I like the quoted piece of poem! I've never read that one, though it's been vaguely on my to-read list since the reference in Tam Lin.

#53 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 09:05 AM:

There is a technical term for beautiful things that one does not use. That term is clutter. Learn to drink from the cup as though it is already broken, because the alternative is to choose between a cluttered life and an ugly one.

Abi, this is brilliant. A very good summation of a problem and its solution.

#54 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 09:28 AM:

xeger @ 45... I pray that you're right. I have no wish to hear about abi's mysterious disappearance because of the Dog-blankie of Tyndalos.

#55 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 09:50 AM:

Very nice quilt.

It must be accounted a character flaw, and a double-wide one at that, but I lose interest in anything I make as soon as I'm done designing it. Whether it's a piece of code, a way of fixing a lamp socket with a nail, an essay, a bookcase made of foam-core, or the proper eigenfunctions for a problem, or (theoretically) a battery-powered steam-pipe suitable for use on a space-station (thanks a _lot_, Ken, _now_ how do I get that half-hour back?), once I Know How it's Done...well, the fun part's over. (And, speaking as one normally given to self-deprecation, I'll baldly assert that I've never learnt anything interesting about a problem after and if I've reached the I.K.H.i.D. state.)

True, there can be pleasure in proper use and development of technique, but it's always mixed with irritation that that thing in my head doesn't exist outsude it yet. (And yes, the first time I ever heard anyone opine that it's the Journey, not the Destination, my eight-year-old heart told me, 'This person is _insane_,'---I have since moderated my opinion to include the possibility of sour grapes, or that the person is merely alien to me in this respect.)

#56 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 10:06 AM:

I'd say that the journey and the destination are both enjoyable, but not quite in the same way: making something for someone else, for example, as opposed to something made for yourself or something that someone else has made for you.

#57 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 10:49 AM:

Abi, the quilt is lovely and the essay even more so. It tempts me into quilting, which is a little more finiky that I prefer most of the time. If I'm going to be that precise, I want to only do it for a short while.

So, instead, I'm going to go finish one of my embroidery projects before starting on my reconstruction of a Worth gown. Seems like just the thing to do on a lazy holiday Monday.

xerger @ 34 because at home, there are a lot of other things you *could* be doing or *should* be doing. As you travel, there are fewer distractions to the work.

Thus, on saturday, I finished cuffs and collar on a tunic that has been on my "finish someday" pile for years and knotted a mala for a friend, while I was at an SCA event. Because it was easier than getting it done at home.

#58 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 10:51 AM:

Michael Turyn @ 55: For me, the construction of things I've designed is important too. Part of it is that I almost always discover that my visualization of How It's Done is flawed, frequently to the point that it can't really work as I originally planned it -- the real thing has complications that I hadn't foreseen. (Once in a while, things work unexpectedly well -- some simplification manifests and/or I end up with something better than I expected.)

And it's nice to have an actual thing that I can show off to other people, or give to someone.

#59 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 11:26 AM:

sisuile @ 57 ...
So, instead, I'm going to go finish one of my embroidery projects before starting on my reconstruction of a Worth gown.

I love the characterization of quilting as 'finicky', unlike reconstructing a Worth gown... ;)

#60 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 12:14 PM:

My mood, when making the Awesome Skirt of Awesome I whined about some time ago, went through some ups and downs. As soon as the thing was done and turned inside-out (this is the I-am-not-finishing-edges-please-don't-disintegrate-in-the-wash done) I adored it. While I was making it? Lots of anger. I spent three days updating Facebook with short growls and pinned the hem at the local and beloved fabric/yarn store because I knew if I did it alone I'd throw a tantrum, but I'd behave in public-- I also walked in there and said, more or less, "Reassure me NOW." And I had hot chocolate and a cookie.

I figure I'll do the one scarf, then it's time to learn how to make lace. Anything I can do more easily with crocheting, I may as well do so. It's still nice to have another thing to do with yarn.

Perhaps tonight's the night I'll upload photos of things from the last few months.

#61 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 12:46 PM:

Diatryma @ 60 ...
Argh! I bet you're the person I owe a buttonholer... would you mind emailing again?

#62 ::: Madeline Ashby ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 03:02 PM:

@Joel: I have a friend in Canada who wants the squid. How much do you want for it?

#63 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 03:58 PM:

Abi, your quilt is beautiful, all the more so for being in use. (And yes, I have adopted your phrasing about clutter. With attribution. If your ears itch, it's just me, attributing.)

The other quilt photos linked in this thread are magnificent. *Almost* enough for me to want to learn how to do it. Instead I will be an admirer, I think.

And yo, all you other sock knitters! You-know-who (the usual culprit*) has figured out yet another way to revolutionize sock knitting. Now she knits a sort of ball and puts in an afterthought leg! (It's not exactly toe-up, although it is... have to see it to believe it.) The book will be out on the 24th. I. can't. wait. She even has a sort of promo for it on YouTube, with details and pictures. And scary-beautiful socks!

*˙ǝɹoɟǝq ǝɔıʍʇ ʇı ǝuop ʎpɐǝɹןɐ s,ǝɥs ¿ǝsןǝ oɥʍ ¡ǝsɹnoɔ ɟo 'ıɥpɹoq ʇɐɔ

#64 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 04:02 PM:

Madeline @ 62: I'm looking for something on the order of C$350 + shipping -- I spent about $50 on the materials and (I estimate) somewhere between 30 and 35 hours building each one. I'm willing to part with either or both. Apart from the different colours, the eyes are slightly different: the blue one has larger pupils, i.e. more squid-realistic and less human-like. (And I'm willing to make more of them if anyone wants, with colours depending on what I can find in the way of arctic fleece and dimple chenille at the local fabric stores. I wryly accept that my filk songs have had much more of an effect on society than my scientific papers ever will, and would be happy to have some money coming in for making plush toys while I'm looking for work.)

I can be reached at . (Is it no longer possible for posters' E-mail addresses to be viewed from the "view all by" links, etc.?) Shipping cost would depend on location, and of course I'd be happy to transport the thing within the Ottawa area myself.

#65 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 04:04 PM:

xeger @ 59

Quilting is a different kind of finicky involving really small pieces of fabric and keeping track of the overall pattern while sewing straight lines with appropriate seam allowances...forever. At least with the Worth gown, all the finicky bits are tailoring, resolved in the pinning/fitting stages, and all the pieces are big and not easily confused.

When I'm done with that one, I get to do this one. Both of these projects fall under "stop calling your underwear Victorian steampunk."

#66 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 04:22 PM:

Dena @63:
And yes, I have adopted your phrasing about clutter.

Did I get emphatic on the matter when we had lunch? I do, rather.

Oh, by the way, you gave me enough spare yarn that I knitted myself a little tiny Sackboy with it! He's only about 13cm high, but I put a little metal endoskeleton into him so he's poseable. He hangs out at my office. So you not only gave me toys (the kids love theirs), but inspiration! Thank you again.

Joel @64:
Is it no longer possible for posters' E-mail addresses to be viewed from the "view all by" links, etc.?

'Fraid so. There were too many spambots harvesting addresses, so Martin moved the email address indexing under the covers.

#67 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 04:31 PM:

Abi@66: Not emphatic - poetic - and let me know if you want some more of the same yarn (it's a delicious brown alpaca that I inherited; it wants to be shared.)

And the book - very NotClutter - is a joy and an heirloom in progress. (It holds poetry, as promised.) Thanks so much for being its maker!

#68 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 04:55 PM:

Practically speaking, I've become a fan of both sewing patched quilt tops to fleece blankets,* and of making hemmed wall hangings. Haven't managed to learn to hand quilt. My machine quilting efforts have been successful enough, but the quilting just isn't the part I like.

For one thing, I agonize endlessly over the quilting pattern. It has to in some sense stand alone, but also complement the patchwork, and finding something Just Right is daunting to me. And then the actual act of quilting is pretty much Houpelonde Hemming, to borrow Xopher's description from the LitCrit thread.

Many of the quilts I've seen, and certainly the ones I tend to make, turn out to become a sort of focus for meditation (or something). I find myself contemplating them for ages.

*you can get fancy with the quilting, but you don't have to. It seems a good compromise, and a way to get a usable blanket more quickly.

#69 ::: Karen ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 09:46 PM:

That quilting pattern is beautiful, and looks very time-consuming.
I've come to terms with the fact that once I get to the larger size of quilt my choices are a)have it sit in a closet partially quilted for over a year or b)mail it halfway across the country to someone with a big quilting machine and get it back in three months. At this point option b looks pretty good. I am happy to quilt a lap-size (and maybe twin-size) quilt myself. At the juried quilt shows I'm amazed at how much extra oomf you can get from really good quilting.

#70 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 12:33 AM:

Absolutely beautiful.

And for those who have trouble with machine quilting, you might want to look into machine hoops— they'll help with keeping an even tension top to bottom.

My mother-in-law has gotten to the point where she's gotten a full-size quilting rig. I swear, my next big project is going to be timed so I can quilt it in Oregon...

#71 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 08:35 AM:

abi, that quilt is just fabulous.

Diatryma @ 30, I find that I only ever have the patience for knitting if I combine knitting with gossiping. Otherwise I get bored with it very quickly. It has to fill the "fidgeting with something" niche while conversation is taking up my brain. But it's fantastic for that.

I am re-learning to sew, with help from my mother, but the pencil skirt I'm making is on hold while we look for the chalk wheel and buy a zipper. (The maternal sewing supplies are in some disarray, and I have not yet bought my own.) It is excellent fun so far, but I could not learn or re-learn by myself -- it needs at least a bit of apprenticeship.

I took a sewing class in school thirteen years ago. Did you know they invented sewing machines that thread themselves now? Yes. That was always the part of sewing class that made me feel most useless and idiotic, and now it is not a problem.

I have also recently made and presented a talk at a conference, which went quite well. I am proud of myself for finally producing and presenting something from all my work so far. Now I need to finish the paper and start work on the prelim.

#72 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 09:15 AM:

Oh, lovely quilt abi!

I've just finished an enormous (6x6) lace shawl. I love the feeling of finishing up a big project, standing back, saying "Wow!" and "What next?"

#73 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 09:29 AM:

FINALLY, I have an excuse to plug the work of an old acquaintance of mine, Ferret, particularly her quilt taken from another old friends graphic novel... Bad Rain

#74 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 11:47 AM:

You nearly made me cry with the beauty of this essay, Abi. Thanks.

#75 ::: JCarson ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 12:04 PM:

@ abi 50 - There is a technical term for beautiful things that one does not use. That term is clutter. Learn to drink from the cup as though it is already broken, because the alternative is to choose between a cluttered life and an ugly one.

I think this is powerful and often true (yes, I also have found that getting people to actually USE the blank books I bind for them is an uphill battle), but I have another term for beautiful things I do not use, and that is art. The painting on my wall, given to me by a beloved mentor, is not useful in any typical definition of that term, and yet it brightens my days.

I'm also in the midst of making a mobile for my art studio space (actually a repurposed bedroom), and when it is complete, it is not going to help the air circulate better, or do anything for me - except be beautiful. And the process is keeping me sane in the midst of a pretty terrible emotional time. So it's useful, I suppose, in that sense.

Of course, this can lead into the impossible argument of Art versus Craft, and why our culture seems to find useful things to be of less artistic value than non-functional objects. But I just wanted to point out that for me, what I own that is beautiful and useless isn't clutter, but is art.

#76 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 12:09 PM:

Abi, you wouldn't have written instructions somewhere on how to use a spreadsheet like that, would you? Or know of somewhere where I could get them? I'm trying to work out a blackwork pattern that is crying out for that sort of treatment!

#77 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 12:12 PM:

Caroline @71: I knit while watching TV -- that way I have something to keep my brain ticking over while I knit, but it also helps me sit still for the TV instead of fidgeting, getting up and walking around, etc.

#78 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 12:14 PM:

JCarson @75: but you ARE using the art -- you're using it with your eyes, everyday.

#79 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 12:28 PM:

Quilts. Art. Use.

Everyday Use by Alice Walker, for those who might not know it.

#80 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 12:30 PM:

JCarson @75:
As Elliot Mason said, you are using the art by hanging it and looking at it. That is the use of art, to refresh the spirit and please the senses. It's a not inconsiderable use.

Art you have wrapped in cardboard and stashed in the attic is clutter. I say this as the owner of a number of paintings and prints in exactly that place; it takes a few years before I'm moved into the house enough to finish hanging.

#81 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 12:40 PM:

I have art in the trunk of my car. Should get it out soon. I moved from my Little Slanty Apartment to the house of friends, who have moved and are trying to sell it. Rules of house-showing: eliminate as much personality as possible, and if a room doesn't look finished, leave it empty.

I knew I wouldn't be able to put up Blackbeard's Rugged Tampons (someday I will have a bathroom large enough) but still. Very little of my art matches the rooms.

Caroline, the amount of time knitting takes is a feature, not a bug, though I think I was unclear. I like that it takes longer, so a scarf is more than a two- or three-week Knitter's Breakfast project. I dislike that something about it hurts my eyes ('motion-sick' is a better description) and that my first project is boring. If I watched TV, this would be a good use of my hands.

I think I'm dissatisfied that it doesn't feel the same as crocheting, where I know what I'm doing and get a lot of feedback on things-- latest project was a filet piece, and those look more impressive than they are to make. I'm not getting a rush of finished! or progress! or boy that looks cool! at all.

#82 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 12:57 PM:

Diatryma @#81

You'll learn nothing (other than patience) from making a scarf that you won't learn from making the same stitch pattern into a pot holder sized square.

If you don't want a scarf and aren't giddy with pleasure at the thought of wearing the one that you're going to produce, I'd highly recommend casting off and starting something in a lace pattern, since what you want to do is knit lace.

As a crocheter, you already know how to boss your yarn around. And if you're doing a scarf, you can knit, purl, and cast on and off. Additional lace knitting skills are trivially easy to pick up.

And if you want suggestions for patterns, I've got a million!

#83 ::: JCarson ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 01:23 PM:

Ah, okay, if we're categorizing art as being useful merely by being beautiful, then I'm in vehement agreement. I suppose my first reading of abi's post is actually my oversensitive kneejerk reaction, primed by years of "but what is it FOR?" combined with a Puritan cautiousness about anything that's pleasant.

I did mystify my parents in my first apartment by hanging all my art before I unpacked any more than the most necessary boxes. Which may indicate something about how useful art is for making a space feel like home, to me.

Art that is packed away is probably clutter. Though the pieces that don't fit on my current walls are carefully stored, waiting for the next house, the one where I'll have a space for them to be. So it's art-in-waiting, I suppose.

#84 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 01:42 PM:

JCarson @ 83:

Some "clutter" is probably necessary. I have clothing I'm not currently wearing, too; is it clutter when it hangs in my closet? I may be being overbroad in my definitions.

What I'm pushing against is the all too common reaction of, "What a lovely [book/quilt/other useful thing]! I couldn't bear to use it!" So very few people go the other way and say, "That painting would make a perfect doormat!"

#85 ::: JCarson ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 02:06 PM:

Hee, abi, now I'm highly tempted to make a painted doormat. Actually, wait, I've made floorcloths before, which really is the same thing. Probably more amusing if it's a copy of a recognizable piece of art, though. See, now you've gone and given me another project idea.

There is definitely a balance between "clutter" and "stuff that I really do need/want to keep, that I'm not using right this moment. "Clutter" has a pretty strong negative connotation, but I'm not coming up with a better word.

I've definitely had the same problem of something beautiful not being used because it might hurt it. I've actually used "The Velveteen Rabbit" to combat that mindset before - something may be beautiful, but it's not real until it's used. But I like your clutter definition, and it's useful (there's that word again) to have more different angles in the arsenal of "no, really, it's meant to be used!"

#86 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 02:21 PM:

JCarson @85:

Anything that works to get over people's anxieties about Doing Things Wrong*. For really difficult situations, I use a guilt trip:

[RDP]: Oh, Abi, I could never bear to write in this!
Abi: Oh, great. Now I've cluttered your life. I'm so sorry! I never meant to!
[RDP]: Oh, no, no, no! No, it's not clutter! I'll use it! Here, see? I'm making a mark in it right now! See? Using!

* I do actually understand this perfectly. When I was a kid, I had a copy of A Hobbit's Journal which I started writing in, abandoned, hated the handwriting in, and generally felt I had completely ruined. But I was wrong; those entries were important at the time. My only misdeed was in not using the rest of it.

#87 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 02:23 PM:

By the way, I've released two comments from Link Purgatory in this thread. I think I've cleaned up all the cross references, but if I've missed something, sing out and I'll fix it.

#88 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 02:34 PM:

Re: projects that are for the experience rather than the possession:

Many organizations regularly run art auctions, and are delighted to have donations. A particularly satisfying combination is to offer not only the artwork, but an accompanying discussion with the patron of what you were aiming at, digressions and diversions during the construction, and how you fetched up. What? As Abi has given us?!

Work for clients is like wiring a lamp base: figuring out the best way to accomplish the task straightforward for the money, no surprises.

The most satisfying creative work for me is having a definite goal, and a definite game plan, and being able to follow the inspirations that come of following it through. That technique refuses to give a hard edge? How can you let the blurriness redefine the outcome?

Abi's textured pleated quilting (as one of several elements) pulls the entire experience into its own space.

#89 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 02:41 PM:

Example (the knit original is a distantly related cousin to the finished piece):

#90 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 02:43 PM:

Oh, pooh. I know how to do
this (link now embedded).

#91 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 02:45 PM:

Emma @76:

I'm not sure I could write instructions for just, um, does it. (Years of spreadsheet abuse have clearly polluted my cognitive abilities in this area.) But I'll try.

The design on the right is done with conditional formatting: if the cell has the value "3", the sheet knows to turn it dark red, "2" goes lighter, "1" goes lighter yet. (Go look at the Google sheet to see how that worked; conditional formatting is labeled "change colors with rules" under the Format menu.) So all I did was manually enter the values and watch the colors till it looked right.

Then I got fiddly, because the cells in the spreadsheet were each 1/4 of a "square" in the quilt (not to be confused with the "Fibonacci units" that I used for quilting, which are 4 "squares" or 16 cells in the spreadsheet). I wanted to make the squares first, then sew them together to make the pieced top. That section of the spreadsheet was a recipe for how many of what I needed to make.

(Still with me?)

The next column over was done manually. I figured out how many different kinds of 4-cell squares were in the quilt (remembering rotations), then counted them by hand. I printed the sheet out and ticked off the different squares as I went, then put a checksum at the bottom of the column to make sure I'd come out right.

Then I calculated how many cells of each color existed in each 4-square piece, using the spreadsheet's COUNTIF function (most spreadsheet programs have help on these functions). Multiplying that information by the count of squares I'd just done in the last paragraph gave me the total number of "cells".

I added them in columns on the extreme left, to get a grand total of each cell-sized bit I needed.

At the bottom right, I then calculated how many cells I could get across the two standard widths of fabric available here. Dividing the total number of cells I needed by that, gave me the number of cell-width strips I'd need to buy. Multiplying it by the cell width gave me the length of fabric I would need in each color.

You'll note that that leaves me overbuying, because if I have a square of 4 white cells, I don't cut 4 white cells and sew them together; I just cut one square. But I figured I'd rather over- than under-buy.

Now, this is all hugely complicated and probably hard to follow. If you'd feel comfortable doing so, you could put together a Google document of your sheet and open it up for public viewing; I'd be happy to help you work through the process.

#92 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 02:51 PM:

JCarson @85 said: There is definitely a balance between "clutter" and "stuff that I really do need/want to keep, that I'm not using right this moment. "Clutter" has a pretty strong negative connotation, but I'm not coming up with a better word.

I call it "stash," personally ... but the line between stash and clutter is drawn in different places for different people. My partner views much of my deep-storage stash (supplies for crafts I'm currently too busy to do, for example) as clutter to be, ideally, removed right away.

#93 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 02:51 PM:

As requested elsewhere: our two released comments are Avedaggio @38 (too many links) and Peter Darby @73 (b0rked and follow the link instructions!)

#94 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 02:55 PM:

Carol @90 after translating a demi-infinite number of mission statements, I can safely say yours is the best, ever.

#95 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 03:08 PM:

abi (93): Thanks!

Peter Darby (73): That's a wonderful* quilt.

*in several senses of the word

#96 ::: A. Riley ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 04:36 PM:

I'm a process crafter too, glad to make things, and glad to give them away. I have made quilts for friends' babies (people just ooh and aah like there's no tomorrow over them, even though I'm no expert and my simple little quilts show it -- the fabulous quilting pattern our author above used on the Fibonacci quilt is *way* beyond me), for my college-age nieces, and for two friends who have had cancer. I love designing & piecing the top, but the quilting part -- rasslin' a big bundle of fabric & safety pins under the needle & not getting puckers everywhere -- arggh!!

Anyway. There are lots of organizations that take the products of process crafters like ourselves and do good with them. For example, Project Linus gathers and distributes quilts and blankets for children and teens in crisis -- I've crocheted a few baby blankets for them. Google "service knitting" or "charity knitting" -- you'll never get to the end of the list.

#97 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 05:12 PM:

Um, abi, you've laevorotated it, and it needs to be dextro-. And it's missing the two dots.

So, now you know my hobbies.

Seriously, that's wonderful. I can't say I wish I could do that, because I don't. Crafting has never been of interest to me, unfortunately. But I can be impressed. And I am.

#98 ::: JCarson ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 05:35 PM:

Elliott @92 Ooh, I like "stash" - it feels exactly right - not like "hoard," which implies that the stuff'll never be used, but rather that it's going to be used in future, just not right now. And yes, everyone's line between stash and clutter is different, and I've had to occasionally face the fact that something I was clinging to as stash for a craft was, in fact, never going to be used by me, and therefore needed to be passed on to someone who would use it.

#99 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 07:34 PM:

When I was in the hospitals with the stroke, I found that I didn't like to watch TV unless I had handwork.

#100 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 11:21 PM:

Sarah S at 82, thank you; you have absolved me of knitguilt. Although I did buy the yarn to make a scarf. Except boring.

Oh well. I can learn whatever else on scrap yarn, then trade scarfyarn for the stashed silk-merino and do something gorgeous with that. It doesn't count as stashing that way.

#101 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 11:26 PM:

My stash appears to be suffering from enthusiasm, exacerbated by being spread across multiple locations...

#102 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 11:42 PM:

xeger, you mean I'm not the only one who has that problem?

#103 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 12:02 AM:

Is it stash...or Borg wiring? Resistance is futile, but if you'd like to try, you can mail me the extra.

#104 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 12:36 AM:

Biggest sewing project I ever undertook was a tent. 10'x12' footprint, ridgepole ~6'6" up, so it's a good-sized 1 or 2 person tent. I started with a couple of 10'x15' heavy painter's drop cloths, figuring at least part of the assembly would be predone, then realized the original seams were not well done and ended up oversewing them. By hand. It's a nice tent, sort of the bastard offspring of a Viking A-frame and a Quonset hut, but it did take several months to make.

Current projects include a Dr. Suess-ish looking wind instrument I'm making from a dipper gourd and other odds and ends, and a knife from half of a broken pair of scissors and an antler tine. My tent frame needs a minor repair - one of the badger heads on the end boards came off while I was loading it on the honking big SUV I had to rent after my car broke down on the way to Pennsic. I am also in early planning stages to remake my Gayla peregrine falcon kite as a white gyrfalcon. She's really too big for a peregrine, with a 54" wingspan, and is getting a bit faded and battered looking.

#105 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 01:02 AM:

The sewing project that made me decide not to sew anything until I had a machine was a laundry bag. I needed one, and Hobby Lobby had a big enough piece of canvas in the remnant bin, so I bought heavy needles, lots of heavy-duty yarn, and read up on how to sew a proper seam in canvas. Then I decided that it was too difficult and just made the bits go together. It took most of a day, sitting in my computer chair with the laundry bag draped over a drying rack.
When it's full, I can't carry it for more than a few frantic steps. It's kind of ridiculous, but it's mine.

#106 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 04:10 AM:

One of the most satisfying projects I ever made was a down jacket. Having grown up in Florida, I was not ready for any sort of serious winter weather when I went to grad school in Indiana*.

Anyway, there used to be a company that made kits for all sorts of down jackets and other items, including bathrobes and ski pants**. The kits were brilliant. My jacket was (is! I still have it) actually a vest with attachable sleeves and inner and outer pockets. All sorts of tricky things were involved, including three zippers and sealing the nylon fabric edges using a candle flame, but everything was included, and the directions were crystal clear. As I said, satisfying on every level.

*'serious' being a relative term, I know!
** The company was Altra. They appear to be out of business, but you can find items on vintage clothing sites. Ouch.

#107 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 05:51 AM:

My life is full of knitfail right now, but I refuse to be beaten. I'm trying to make a pair of wrist warmers, and it's my first attempt at circular knitting with double-pointed needles.

#108 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 11:52 AM:


What's the trouble?

#109 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 01:51 PM:

Pendrift -- hang in there! dpn's take some getting used to.

(If you want to try another method of circular knitting, I found Cat Bordhi's instructional videos on using two circ's very helpful. Part Two is here.)

#110 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 02:19 PM:

Sarah S. and Debbie: Thanks!
Mostly careless errors, in this case. I like using double-pointed needles more than circs, but that has more to do with the size of my only circs.

First attempt: I somehow managed to knit on the wrong side after 4 rows (as though I'd switched to purling after knitting), and still don't understand how I did it.

Second attempt: I dropped a stitch in one row and only noticed 3 rows later; didn't know how to backtrack and fix that.

Third attempt (it was already past midnight at this point): There was a twist in my stitches when I joined the ends, even though I coulda sworn I triple-checked to make sure there wasn't any.

I frogged the first three tries. As for take four, so far so good!

#111 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 02:31 PM:

Pendrift... I though your problem was that you were using THIS for your knitting.

#112 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 03:25 PM:

What a beautiful quilt! I'm passing the link along to my quilting sister

Also, the pleats are not mistakes. They're "Design Elements". I'm a big fan of the TLAR method (aka: That Looks About Right) when it comes to sewing, knitting, crochet or anything else hand made. If I wanted perfection,

#113 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 03:55 PM:

#5 is right. Wrestling aligators is the perfect term.

My first quilt was a 90" x 90" 16 patch for a friend for her combined birthday/christmas. The recipient just wanted a plain front and back, quilted, and thin bed covering. (Think something along the lines of a very thin duvet.) I made the mistake of starting one side with a fairly small african violet print because I coulnd't find two solid colors that both she and I would like. After matching the lavendar (easy) and the white (difficult) from the flowers, I ended up making one huge sixteen patch. The quilting consisted of a modified compass rose inside a diamond.

Wrestling that aligator was a lot of work, but the payoff was worth it. My friend rolled up in it that night to sleep and uses it year round.

#114 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 06:16 PM:

Abi, thank you! I will now proceed to drive myself nuts until I have my first pattern. I am one of those people who crack their heads on instructionns at least five times before it all becomes clear and then it's "but it's so simple!"

#115 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 06:24 PM:

Pendrift: The first time, you probably turned the tube wrong side out. The second time, yuck, I hate when that happens. The third time is fixable by casting on to a single DPN and doing a few back-and-forth rows before joining.

#116 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2009, 08:37 AM:


Fixing dropped stitches without ripping your knitting is easy and deeply satisfying.

You need a crochet hook, but in times of direst need, I've used a DPN, a toothpick, or a ballpoint pen.

Good video of instructions is here.

#117 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2009, 12:07 AM:

Pendrift, I've done all three of those myself. Sometimes serially, as I frog and restart the project. (Just took out the last three rounds of the second sock in a pair; it was one round too long to match the other sock, and it showed. Now I get to redo the last two rows, which involve one round of increase-between-every-pair. After I make sure I haven't dropped any.)

A smallish crochet hook - for socks, somewhere around a 7 or 8 - is a handy tool. Or a couple of needles a size or two smaller. (Susan Bates has a 'sock set' that's six DPs each in 000 through 1. Aluminum; the smaller ones will bend.)

I'm doing socks from the toe up; the beginning is more difficult, but the heels are much easier to knit: decreases instead of picking up along the flap, and you can decide how long to make the top when you get to it.

#118 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2009, 04:39 AM:

TexAnne et al @115 onward: Thank you, all tips duly noted! They will certainly come in handy one day. It's a relief to discover that repairing a dropped stitch is that simple.

The fourth try is going well - socks are next!

There are several crochet hooks among the knitting needles I have at home - I picked them all up at a flea market for a song. All are either aluminum or steel. I have since discovered that I like working with bamboo needles a lot more, at least for the bigger gauges. Figures.

#119 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2009, 09:13 AM:


if you choose to replace the non-bamboo needles, your local knitting guild probably has a group which teaches other people to knit or crochet, and could use the ones you don't want anymore.

#120 ::: Cath ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2009, 04:49 PM:

Talking about socks and new ways has a new way Knit the heel then the foot then the leg. I haven't tried this yet, but the pattern reads well. Then there is the lace scarf in that issue

#121 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 03:15 AM:

I've been busy, in my way, with making stuff.

I could say I've been, in my way, making light (and generating heat).

I am playing catch-up in ML, because I was in Chicago, where I was speaking about torture, and what to do to make it happen less.

I took advantage of the flourosphere to do it. Bill Higgins, Beamjockey, pointed out to me, that despite my sense of being one of many minor players in the chorus here, I am a tolerably heavy contributor (he says I've written some 500,000 words here).

In that time I have polished my rhetorical skills (if not my typing prowess). I've borrowed freely from people here (Teresa, I've found great use from the idea "story is a force of nature" and used it liberally; there is reference to it in the WBEZ interview.

As a result, I've also been making friends; I wouldn't have done it without you.

I've also been, as is my wont, making pictures, and some of them may rise to art.

Examples to follow, though perhaps not with speed.

#122 ::: John Houghton spots possible SPAM test ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 07:00 PM:

Completely random, but no Google hits on quoted phrase at the moment, first time poster.

#123 ::: Nightsky ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 03:34 PM:

Mary Aileen@23 - depends on what I end up doing with it. I've added to it significantly since posting, and it's now approaching lap-quilt size. I'm getting a little sick of making the damn templates, but I've got plenty of fabric left... maybe I'll see if I can't get it up to bed-sized.

It looks kind of cool the way it is now... sort of a roundish blob shape. If I leave it natural-edged, though, I'll have to figure out how to put a binding on.

#124 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 03:55 PM:

Nightsky (124): Binding a non-squared-off quilt would be tough, yeah.

When you're finished, be sure to provide pictures!

#125 ::: Cartier love bangle white gold fake ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2015, 04:35 AM:

I had an abortion about 3 days ago and I’m having a really hard time dealing with it. I feel so empty because I made this decision based on my boyfriend demands. I have shut off all my family and I’m not sure what to do and who to talk with. I am even ashamed to pray to God because I did wrong.
Cartier love bangle white gold fake

#126 ::: kate sees some spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2015, 04:42 AM:

Clean up on aisle 19, for the fake confusing sob story spam!

#127 ::: Mary Aileen sees old spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2016, 12:01 PM:

undeleted spam at #125

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