deep thoughts: an ode to craft, a love letter to art

a person who i admire dearly
said to me,
"you are a true artist"

and while, i have a BFA
from mica,
and was president of my high schools'
national art honor society
and was stirring up my small town 
with my conceptual art
 while i was a junior & a senior,
i knew that i loved art.

but what i didn't know
was that every decision and action i make
 is propelled by that love.

when i was in college,
i took an intro to fibers course.
it was part of my exploratory journey 
through school- 
i dabbled in video, i made wooden sculptures,

but, as i'm sure i've talked about here before,
when i found fibers - i fell in love.
in that class- i learned how to knit. 
i was a sophomore in college. 
i was 19.

 in that class, i learned how to card batts for wet felting,
how to dye (immersion, shibori, acid + procion!)

when i was junior, i finally figured out crochet.
and soon after, i bought a drop spindle.
and then while learning to weave
 on massive, impressive 8 harness floor looms,
beating down the layers of my overshot patterns
i started weaving with my handspun
and realized that drop spindle production
wasn't going to do it for me anymore.

and so i bought a spinning wheel, 
and then year or so later,
a drum carder.
and a whole big huge door of 'fiber art'
opened for me. 

this feeling of discovering a new craft is 
exhilirating!
undeniably addictive.
when i first started spinning, 
all i could think of was yarn and fibers and 
OH the possibilities!

by the time i was treadling,
i was out of school,
and no one was there to tell me what i should be doing,
and i could just dream of what yarn could be.

lately,
i've pushed my knitting to a new level,
i have completed a whole slew of knitting
that i never would have imagined i could do.

i learned contentintal instead of english.
i learned fair isle colorwork, i learned duplicate stitch.
i learned how to create stitch patterns from a giant red book.
(thank you barbara walker!)
and most recently, i turned a heel and picked up gusset stitches and shaped a toe.
i finished my first sock.

and while knitting is good and well,
developing a skill you consider "in your toolbox"
is not the same as discovering a whole new medium.

i've recently happened upon this feeling again.
as when i first found fibers.

i've been quilting! and needlepointing!

you may have seen my instagram and facebook feeds
filling up with images of fabrics and mesh.

needlepoint-
i've been free hand designing little scenes
and stitching them up is like painting with thread.
i sketch them out in my notebook, roughly,
but mostly just kinda
'have at it'

each stitch is soothing,
when i'm working on the desert, or the snow, or the sea,
i really feel like i am creating the landscape.
i am filling it in with stitches.
i am shaping this little world.

and then i finish the edges
and happily put my cup on top.

hey, they're coasters.
and it's good to be,
not so precious,
with our art.

my favorite thread is the hand-dyed kpm by koigu
i'm spoiled enough that we have it at purl.
i can firmly say that i would not be so into this craft
 if i was using solid machine dyed colors.

then again, some of my co-workers swear by their perfect solids
but i prefer the shot cottons to the konas,
while i can see the merit of each.

and there we go, 
i've lapsed into quilting already.
and like chris says, it's a bit like i'm speaking a foreign language.
between working at the store, and picking up new skills left and right,
i kinda am.

shot cottons- 
these are beautiful fabrics. 
they are not hand dyed, but rather,
 have been woven with two threads of different colors. 
one color for the weft (horizontal), 
one color for the warp (vertical),
and this gives them dimension 
and luminosity! 

the fabrics literally glow and change colors
depending on how you are holding the bolt.

clearly, i'm smitten.

konas-
don't get me wrong. these are classic fabrics!
 and i've recently been incorporating them into the stash
because they are excellent palette builders.

now what was i saying?
oh, quilting.
quilting, quilting, quilting.

good grief. 
how did i not know that i would love it?
because i assumed all quilting was rigid.
blocks and whatnot.
and if you know me, and you surely do,
you know that my art and my craft 
are definitely not rigid.

my art needs room to grow organically.
that's why i love freeform crochet.
and why i became a spinner 
and not a weaver (warping and planning? not so much!)
and why now i am falling so freaking hard for improv quilting.

my first quilt i ever made was a
'crazy quilt'
i decided i wanted my motif to be a swirly organic shape
and my mom went with me to joanns (gotta love the midwest)
and i picked out velvet-chenille type fabrics 
to go with sheers, and upholstery golden fabric
to go with who-knows-what-else!

i just cut out the shape i wanted,
and top stitched the whole thing together.
i never got to the batting or backing,
and it was certainly not a square or a rectangle, 
but more like waves in the ocean.
tendrils running along the edge.
and recently it was ruined in my few moves.
otherwise i'd show you a picture.
it was impractical, but it was beautiful.

and because my organic shape 
couldn't be restrained within a rectangle,
and matching my fabric weights
was so out of my scope of planning,
that i swore the whole thing off.

my second quilt was from scraps.
strip piecing, on a whim.
when we cut bundles at purl,
we cut lots of fabric, 
and for fat quarters, we trim off the folds,
these 'folds' go into a bin
and during a big purge,
i claimed a whole slew.

i spent forever ironing out these tiny bits, 
and sewing them into long skinny bits
and then slicing them again and re-arranging.
i made a small, maybe 16x16
 little yellow quilt.

that did it for me.
i really loved that feeling!

but then i forgot.
like most fickle artists.
i plum forgot that i enjoyed that feeling,
or rather, i didn't have a quilting fabric stash,
or i didn't know how people got up the courage to cut into 
those damn beautiful fabrics.

enter nani iro.
good lord, i don't know if i have ever been so into a designer.
painterly and organic. beautiful palettes, and ideal for quilting,
as each square and slice will be unique.
the patterns don't repeat like polka dots or traditional prints do.
they flow!

so i collected her fabric for about 2 years.
sometimes, i would wait until we cut down the very end of the bolt,
only a 1/2 yd piece left, and packaged it up,
and then i was like, oh! i can't live without it!
and i would take it home. to sit on my shelf. 
and for me to stare at longingly.

and earlier this year,
i finally cut it.
i cut two of my favorites into some squares.
about 6 inches.
i didn't know where to start.
so i figured i'd start by cutting, so i couldn't go back.

you'd think that if you had some seriously precious fabric,
like never get your hands on it again,
type stuff, you wouldn't just slice it up willy nilly.
but oh, i did!
and it felt amazing.

i cut those squares. and i put up some batting on my wall.
and i moved them here, and rearranged them there.
oh! the bliss! 
all the joy i get from rearranging my house,
organizing little bits, 
it is found here.

playing with composition in a quilt
 is a true thing of immersion.
you get lost.
i would just put a piece on the wall,
and then stare. and move a piece there, and stare.
but then, zip zip, they were sewn together. 
and whoops, i flipped them around, but, no, it was perfect.
and it grew. organically.
in every way i want my art to be.
evolving.
and this quilt, pieced into everything i loved.

and then as fast as i'd made the top, i backed it the next day,
and one late sunday evening, that same week, 
i machine quilted the whole thing together.

the lines ramble across the plains of fabric.
indigo on navy, greys on gray.
maps of my movements.
free motion for a quilt of whims.


and now, i've started another.
and it is not coming as easily.
maybe because i hadn't collected enough
or maybe because i know i am hooked now,
and i feel i am starting a legacy.

and how will this new quilt, bruised in colors
compete with the indigo star?

today i looked at gee's bend quilts.
and we've had books in the shop,
that i've thumbed through.
but i never knew the history.
and that their quilts are closer to mine 
than 'patterns' or 'blocks' 
and so i spent my whole evening looking at quilts for inspiration.
to help me get un-stuck.

to stop being anxious about sewing 
the wrong pieces together, 
about bringing in colors that weren't present before, 
about using my hand dyed fabric,
and deviating from where i started,
and to just let the hum of the sewing machine guide me.

 and enter the joys of the unknown.

laila