Monday, 19 February 2018

8/52 The Color Purple

Happy New Week Everyone! I am warming my toes against the heater as I write this. It is cold winter day outside that is perfect for reading under the blankets. The eighth book I am reading to 52 books in 52 weeks challenge is Alice Walker's The Color Purple. I finished it last week but wanted to share my new quilt pattern on Friday and save the reading notes post for this week. So far this reading challenge has been motivating and inspiring. It has been fun to share books I have read and check what others have been reading. I have also had great discussions about what books to read next with other bookstagrammers. My to be read list grows almost every day so it seems I will have plenty to read for the rest of my life. The challenge has inspired me to read thought provoking and not so easy to read books. Somehow writing about these books has made it possible to read because I don't have to keep it all inside but I can share thoughts with you. Today's novel goes to this category of books that were before almost impossible to read for me. I go deep to these life stories, fiction or nonfiction, and usually difficult books affect to my moods. Now that I have been making notes I process those thoughts to a paper and I don't have to carry everything in my head. Sounds like I have reinvented a wheel, right? I have never enjoyed writing a diary but after long years of studying keeping a notebook to gather important information and develop ideas has become a natural way of processing both things I have read and issues that circle in my head. I wonder how many pages I will write notes this year.

8/52 Alice Walker: The Color Purple (1982). I read this book in Finnish Häivähdys purppuraa. Following might contain some spoilers! This Pulitzer Prize winner was a difficult read because it pictures violence in many forms. Main character Celie lives between the World War I and II in Georgia, in a society that has racism. She is also being abused in her family and has little to say to the course of her own life. From this starting point her whole life story with it's hardships and wonderful moments is told in a form of letters to God and her sister.

Celie and her sister Nettie are somehow connected their whole life even though they are separated when Celie has to marry a man who she is forced to. One of the most wonderful things in this novel is the way it shows how a person's mind keeps the same and recognizable their whole life. It was in the end that I actually fully understood that this novel had Celie's whole life story. Her voice in her letters keeps the same and when she writes to her sister it sounds like they have just separated even though they have been apart most of their life. Sure people change in some ways but after all our personality is quite the same even though our looks change during the years. Especially when Celie and her sister Netty have known each other from their childhood it keeps up the person one has been since the beginning. Celie has her coping mechanisms and own humor that stays the same.

The way Celie confronts people changes when she gets friends who empower her and tell her to care for herself. In the beginning it is hard to read how down her self esteem has been pressed. She has learned to forget herself and her needs. Both her father and husband are violent and have taught her that she is nothing. This has gone deep in her and to cope with the daily violence she tries to forget her own existence. It is when she gets friends with her stepson's wife Sofia that she is guided to keep her own side and demand respect. And when Celie meets powerful Shug, her husband's lover, she gets a person to her side who puts a stop to her husband's violent behavior. This gives Celie a space to develop her own identity. Shug is the one who shows the surrounding world and it's possibilities; how it is possible to value yourself, demand people to do things for you, have a career using your gifts and express your own personality without apology. When Shug and Celie become lovers Celie is first time in a relationship she has chosen and she has someone who encourages her to find her own talent.

The novel brought up a thought if we can actually choose the people who we live our lives with or is it that the important people of your lives are just given. Like we have to cope with the bunch of people thrown in to our lives. Sometimes we do it with great success sometimes with not so wonderful results. In the novel the relationships are not straight forward and according to some common fairytale. There are ex-spouses and spouses, ex-lovers and current lovers, children and step children, siblings and parents, friends and enemies and they all live together. Some of the people are good and some are bad. Roles change, the good ones have bad sides and bad ones are not thoroughly evil. When Celie lived with her husband Albert her life was full of violence and fear and they seemed to have nothing in common. In the end of the story they have both been modified, Celie has become more powerful and Albert has acknowledged his former role as an abuser and made an effort to change. What they have in common is the way they both love Shug. Situations change and turn the way we see people in front of us. The bad things in life are not to be cherished and explained as good ones. But in Celie's life story links that lead to good or bad happenings were not that easy to spot. Some catastrophes brought great things to her life in the end. 

Friday, 16 February 2018

Quilt Pattern: Memory of August

You are allowed to laugh at me if you like. I have made a new quilting project thinking of warm late summer sun even though there is constant pour of snow and strong winds outside. Coldest winter months are at hand so it is actually very logical to dream of summer and gather warm inviting colors to a quilt's palette. The first draft I made for this project before Christmas but the darkest three months I keep a break from quilting. These projects need light in order to succeed because there are so many fine details. Seams need to match and stitches to be even so the look is finished. Not to talk about color planning. I don't want to notice in the first sunlight that colors I have chosen are anything but the colors they seemed to be in artificial light. It might be interesting for you to compare the first ideas on my bullet journal spread to the final version you can see in a pillow. Idea can be seen in the drawing but every time the end result is a little bit different after the whole process.

I have made quite many quilt projects during these years when I have been blogging. In the pictures you can also see the very first quilting project I have put in this blog, the Creative Night Shift. It is a blanket made with log cabin technique and has been a start for my colorful quilting style. Before that I have made two blankets, some smaller works and about five pillows if I remember correct. Quilting is a hobby that easily turns into a passion of a lifetime. It offers endless possibilities to learn new, test different styles and plan your own projects. If you study more about traditional quilts you will learn how much symbolism they hold. Learning about the symbols take you to an another level of quilting. I have tried to catch some emotions to my quilts, how I have felt when planning and making and what has been around me at that moment.

This month's pattern is called Memory of August and I share with you some tips how to make your own piece. In my last post I opened the planning and making process and from that you can read how much time it takes to create a new quilting pattern. If you like my work please share on social media and/or link to my blog so people can see these posts too. Also if you get inspired by my posts I would love to see your own creations, connect on social media and visit your blog. 

Color planning. The print with black birds was too strong to company with the rest of the fabrics so I left it out. After making the first blocks I saw that I needed to add strong yellow to brighten the palette.

Memory of August

You will need:

Cotton fabric in red, grape, pink, peach, orange, yellow and pattern.
Sewing yarn
Embroidery yarns
Batting fabric
Back fabric (pink)


Sewing machine
Quilter's rule
Cutting mat
Rotary cutter
Embroidery hoop

Step 1. Cut 6,5 * 10 cm rectangles: 10 in Grape/ 10 in Orange/ 8 in Pink/ 8 in Red/ 8 in Yellow/ 8 in Peach

Step 2. Make triangle blocks using 6,5 * 10 cm rectangles. Combine together grape and orange / pink and yellow / red and peach. To a block you need two rectangles in both colors. Put the rectangles as shown in the picture right sides together and matching together opposite corners. Attach the pieces together and draw a line from corner to corner. Remember to make the second piece as a mirror image.

Step 3. Sew from both sides of the line with 0,75 cm sewing allowance. Cut the pieces apart following the drawn line. Open the seam with iron.

Step 4. Now you have four triangle rectangles. Cut off the extras that come out of the sewing allowance.

Step 5. Now you have many ways to place the rectangles and create different patterns. In this project we are using the first and sixth way. With grape and orange use the first one and with red and peach & pink and yellow use the sixth.

Step 6. Sew pieces of the block together. First long sides together and then matching the seams combine the two parts. Note that there is a bit bigger sewing allowance when you combine the two parts!!

Step 7. After you have made all triangle blocks measure a block and make plain rectangles in following colors: 4 in orange/ 4 in red/ 2 in pink / 4 in pattern.

Step 8. Sew blocks together following the picture above. Remember to iron well.

Step 9. Layer together batting fabric, batting and the quilt, pin and sew. Then stitch the layers together using embroidery hoop, embroidery yarn and needle.

Step 10. After you have stitched the layers together cut off the extra batting and batting fabric. Sew the quilt into a pillow. Tips for that you can find from my previous quilting tutorial. 

I wish you the most wonderful and relaxing weekend my friends! If you need more quilting inspiration check these two tutorials:


Monday, 12 February 2018

Framed Moments

I have noticed that in quilting there are few special moments that tell you if the project is going to the right direction. Nowadays I know to seek for these moments and I work until I reach that step before I continue crafting. First step for me is choosing the right colors. After I have drawn the first sketch of a pattern I begin to go through my fabric stack. I make color families, some with harmony, some with contrasts and some with unexpected pairs. One method I use too is to take one print fabric and then choose colors to support it's palette. Usually when I am drawing a new pattern I have an idea what colors I will use, is it going to be more about red, blue, or green hues. I could also choose to have all the colors of the circle in bright graffiti shades. When the color combination begins to form I might need to buy one or two new fabrics that I don't have in my fabric cabinet. It is more of a tradition that I need to visit a fabric store. Because quilting is a craft that is time consuming I allow myself to purchase new equipment and materials quite often, there is no point using colors that don't feel exactly right and then spend weeks planning, sewing and stitching a pillow or months when a bigger project is in question. 

When colors have been chosen I begin to draw detailed color sketches. I draw 4-10 sketches where different parts are colored with different fabrics. After this process one or two begins to feel right and I choose one for further development. I plan and count the cutting as precisely as possible. Then I cut a sample of fabrics according to my cutting plan and begin to sew sample blocks. It might be that the pattern doesn't actually work in that size or with that fabric and I have to make corrections. Then I sew some blocks more. I begin with the blocks that have most seams and cuttings and then continue to count other blocks according to measurements of the most difficult ones. Like for example in my latest project I first made all triangle blocks and then measured and cut the rectangles that go between. I had a quite detailed color palette but one fabric I had planned to use between triangle blocks was too dominant and I left it out and went with no pattern fabrics that give space for the design. I cut few rectangle samples and played with the blocks. Then one setting looked interesting  and it had some challenge. I don't like too much harmony and every work needs to have spark. In every project I also make a test. I have a bad eyesight and when I take my glasses off all I can see is color blur. So I use my special power and take off my glasses to see if the colors are working. If there is for example too much yellow in one corner and then a bunch of red in another I make corrections so that the work looks even and colors go smoothly

Then it is time to cut the last blocks, sew and iron before one of my favorite parts comes. Stitching the batting. To be honest I used to hate this part. I have a small apartment and stitching a larger project is difficult or even impossible. When I understood that I can make smaller projects it was a heureka moment. With pillows or table runners it is easy to get an even batting. Embroidery hoop stays tight, you can sit and embroider in a comfortable position and there is no horrible back ache that comes from working with heavier projects like blankets. Now I love to plan the stitching and even if I stitch every block decoratively it doesn't take ages to finish. The ultimate framed moment is when the first part of the work is attached to the embroidery hoop and I have made the first stitches. It is the moment that tells if the project has succeeded. Because a successful project is a piece of modern art framed with embroidery hoop. It works as itself and could be hanged on the wall. Its colors please and challenge the eye. Lines cross in harmony creating an interesting pattern. It is the moment I am hooked in quilting and it encourages to start a project after project.

What are your framed moments? Do you love quilting or do you have another form of self expression?

Inspiring and creative week to you all!


Friday, 9 February 2018

7/52: Anna Karenina

7/52 Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina (1875-1877). This classic has deserved it's position as one of the most loved novels in the world. It is a long read, there is 999 pages in the Finnish translation, but Tolstoy has used his paper well. The novel opens the whole world between human's birth and death.  I love novels that work in various levels giving a great story and something deeper to work in your mind years after. In Anna Karenina there is both day's politics of the 1875-1877 and greater than life love story. Discussions that social circles have in their parties open the mental climate of the era without a historical dust cover. Time has changed but it is interesting to notice how for example equality issues were brought up in a party conversation. They discuss how women and men have different possibilities and rules in what is accepted. The life story of Anna and Vronsky also examines the same issue. Anna has more drastic consequences from their rule breaking decision to live together. 

In infinite time, in infinite matter in infinite space, is formed a bubble organism, and that bubble lasts a while and bursts, and that bubble is Me.

-Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina

The characters have their own  backgrounds that have formed them as they are. Everyone has their own noble moments and charm but not a single character is without flaws or ugliness. After all, what we can know from each other is very limited. We know people around us by shared experiences and what they decide to tell us of their inner life. People have expectation towards each other and they build their own dreams including others to their plans. Karenin has his career goals and he is satisfied with his mundane family life. Anna Karenina seems pleased with her life with Karenin but reads and dreams of great adventures and something more. Dolly, Anna's friend and her brother's wife, feels betrayed when she hears about her husbands lovers and that the truth she has learned is something very different than what she has based her whole life. There comes a question in what way you are allowed to chase your goals and dreams? In the novel characters hurt each other badly when they try to orientate towards their own ambitions and passions.  

When Anna meets Vronsky she finds a chance to make her own adventure and turn her life into something interesting. Little by little what she has learned to accept during the years become unbearable and her husband's manners start to irritate her. In her need of change she feels even a full catastrophe is better than live the boring life she has had so far.  When she tells her husband about her relationship with Vronsky Karenin's sanction to keep things as they are is so horrible that she gets depressed. The safe, boring and fully planned lifestyle offered to women doesn't seem to please any of the characters. In one get-together women ask from each other how they spend their time when everything is so boring. In the atmosphere there is a need to shake the norms. Women's rights for education, self development and public career is discussed a few times. One of the biggest themes in the novel is a woman's right to seek passion and fulfill her dreams in every sector of life. 

It is tragic that after all the years Anna and Vronsky spend together Anna is haunted by the decision she has made. Social circles have abandoned her and she feels lonely. She misses her son she had to leave to Karenin. In the loneliness there is space for jealousy after Vronsky. She is constantly afraid of loosing him and the passionate relationship turns into game of suspicion and mistrust where they both begin to show their worst sides. When Vronsky finally gets to be with Anna he doesn't feel happy but empty and after years together begins to seek his freedom. He, as a man, has a right to chase freedom. Anna has made a decision to choose freedom but is restricted by social circles and norms.

With Levin there comes a philosophical aspect to the novel. He swells deep in questioning the meaning of life and the inevitable truth that we all die. He is used as a way to bring the large scale of life's and nature's circle in where all life's fortunes and tragedies take a place. He is both attached to the world and soil by his farm and love with Kitty but also at times comes to understand how temporary it all is. The thought of temporariness makes him anxious and he is challenged to stay focused on life. When he goes too deep thinking of death he doesn't see a point to do everyday chores, dream or develop himself. Because of these thoughts, old as life on Earth, he loves to take part in farm work that keeps him in reality. 

The constant thinking of death would make it impossible to live but death is also a motivator in life. Anna decides to go after Vronsky when still in this life, with the risk of hurting Karenin. Decisions in life are always decisions of life and death, how you choose to live this moment or waste it. Do I follow love or leave the important decisions undone and stay satisfied with the boring and mundane. Spending time on Earth is how we slowly kill ourselves. On the contrary our decisions can waste time from other people and make their decisions and how they have spent their time pointless. Like Stiva who has made Dolly to question their life together or Anna who questions Karenin's achievements. 

Levin also brings up the theme of ideals and how much people can change. He and Kitty go into same fights again and again. And in the end when Levin finds religious path he is surprised how little it affects on his everyday manners. After having a life changing moment when he realizes some of the meaning of life he still yells to his worker and does other things he has just wanted to change in himself. The tasks and patterns that keep us in life keep us separated from the greater truth of life. Truth being something we can then stop and think every now and then, forget and continue doing what we do as long as we have time. And life in all it's horrible, terrifying, wonderful and beautiful ways is between birth and death and small moments of understanding the bigger picture.

I have tried to read Anna Karenina before but never finished. This time the story began to speak right from the beginning. Maybe there is time for every book. A book that was just a book starts to bring up the same issues you have pondered in your mind lately and every clause has a meaning. Maybe some discussions get a new meaning because we study the story behind the 2018 lenses. Still the fascination of a great classic is to notice how similar issues we carry through the time. Of course the ideologies of the era bring an own touch to the writing but when human being is described in their barest what we can find is something that doesn't change.