Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Less Is More Than Enough

One of my favorite NPR radio programs, “The Story,” recently featured a guy named Chris McNaught, who is determined to pare his possessions down to a modest 500. Can you imagine? I have more than that in my sewing room alone!

His concept is not unlike the William Morris' quotation, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” It’s about making intentional, purposeful choices, rather than mindlessly accumulating stuff.

Chris includes everyday items like dishes, clothes, books, and music CDs in his tally. However, food, toothpaste, or other personal products that get used upare not counted. With sentimental items, he’ll sometimes take photos for posterity, before selling or giving things away.

I couldn't live like that, could you? I’m way too fond of my stuff. Even so, an occasional exercise in restraint is a good reminder that less is often more than we actually need.

On one of my first Mother’s Days, I asked my husband to skip the gift. What I really wanted was some uninterrupted time to sew. This little quilt is what I started that day. It's made of Roberta Horton's "Mood Indigo" fabric, just a few sample squares that I had of the black plaids. It reminds me that it doesn’t take a big investment of money, fabric, or time to satisfy a creative urge--just the bare essentials.

Sawtooth Sampler
16” x 18”
machine pieced, hand quilted
© Diane Burdin, 1990

George Carlin also has a great take on "Stuff"
(contains adult language)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Small Change

I don't know if it's the cooler temperature today (a glorious 68 degrees) or the little nap I took, but I'm feeling better than I have in quite some time. These "good days" are infrequent and I revel in the small victories they allow.

I was inspired to share this Chinese Coins doll quilt today by Libby, who recently stitched one of her own. In true scrap quilt fashion, this was made with cast-off trimmings from another quilt. Do you find it as hard as I do to throw those little bits away? It may be hard to see the cable quilting in that blue fabric.

Small Change
18” x 27”
© Diane Burdin,1995

Friday, September 7, 2007

Quilt Journals

Forgive me for borrowing a blog topic from Lazy Gal Quilting. A reader asked Tonya if she kept a record of all the quilts she’s made and what kind of information she saved. So, I thought I’d share my method of documenting quilts.

I keep albums for all the quilts I’ve made. There’s one for first quilts, large quilts, doll quilts, and challenges, exchanges and collaborations. I even keep one for family quilts and antiques, including appraisals.

My quilts have been exhibited in guild shows, so over the years I've accumulated a detailed record. Most shows require the name of the quilt, the pattern name, measurements, techniques used to construct the piece, and the date of completion. In addition, they often ask for a blurb telling the story of the quilt, what inspired it, who it was made for, etc. This information is usually compiled in a show program or printed on a card that is displayed with the quilt.

From my very first project, I’ve taken pictures of my work. When the piece is a gift, I also try to get a photo of the recipient. If I have a few fabric scraps left, I’ll save them too.

This may all seem a bit anal retentive, especially when it’s typed up and put in plastic sleeves. But it sure saves time when you have to retrieve the information for a quilt show or blog post.

It’s been fun sharing my albums with family and friends but it will also be of value to my kids someday when I’m not around to tell the story of each quilt.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


I’m happy when my kids ask me for help with homework. It makes me feel useful and proud that they actually think I know a thing or two. Yep, as long as it’s not math or science, I’m willing to share my sage advice and vast wisdom. When William asked me for help with his English homework, I thought, “Great! This is right up my alley.”

He explained that he had to match vocabulary words with their definitions, using the words’ roots as clues.
“O.K., what’s the first word?”
“Parvenu““Uh, what’s the next word?”
“Let’s try the next one.”
“Abstruse““Where the heck did they get these words?”

I did the best I could, helping him dissect words root by root, resorting to the dictionary when all else failed. Hey, if I didn’t know the answers, at least I modeled good learning behavior. Knowing the importance of reinforcing newly learned concepts, I subtly inserted the vocabulary words into dinnertime conversation by saying, “Tell Dad the goofy new words you learned.” I thought my husband would look as dumbfounded as I had upon hearing words like “interlocution” but damn, he even knew what they meant!

The next morning at breakfast, I thought I’d give Will another chance to review. This time I’d work from the other direction, giving him the definition and seeing if he remembered the word. “Hey Will, what was that word that meant “sleight of hand?” “Mom, I don’t need to know the word--just the root.”

He’d hit upon my personal bugaboo--doing what’s required and no more. How do you teach a kid the value of learning for its own sake? How do you foster the curiosity that will make him a life-long learner? It was early in the morning and all I could muster was, “You’ll get to my age and not know cool words like “abstruse” and your life will be poorer for it!” Enriching language indeed!

*Logophilia: Love of words

Monday, September 3, 2007

Red Stars

Red Stars
21” x 28”
© Diane Burdin, 1995

Most of these doll quilts haven’t seen the light of day in years. I'm pulling them out to photograph for their blog debut, but then it's back to the cradle where they're stored. It’s a shame really. I just don't have a good way to display them. No matter, it's the making that I enjoy most.

In any new project, the fabrics are what get my creative juices flowing. That windowpane plaid in the border isn't much to look at on its own, but it sent me digging through my fabric stash for every rich red I could find. Pushing the value range from medium to really dark reds, and adding one or two bright ones for sparkle, kept the color scheme from becoming too matchy. 

quilt back

Moda Fabrics came out with beautiful woven plaids and solids in the mid 1990's. The border plaid and drab colored back ground fabric in this quilt may have been my first foray into the homespun collecting craze of that era. Did you collect plaids too?