year in review, grades

I offer here a self assessment of the last year.


straight up numbers: 330/365 = 90%

weakest month: October and July – October I couldn’t get a rhythm, and I wasn’t pushing the ideas hard enough. It wasn’t til I relaxed and let each one come that I calmed down, but the results still were not fabulous, with one or two exceptions. July I had two good ideas and then it was a looong time until the month ended. Two were beautiful, one heartfelt, the rest were filler. I expected to have more fun, and more ideas, for faces in September, but that felt like it dragged as well. I did well with the theme I finally settled on for August (sunflowers) but I could have chosen a better theme.

strongest months: November and December – I never expected to get so much out of chasing a color I wasn’t fond of, and I think the work in November is the strongest of the year. December has some strong stuff in it as well – I am doing well with abstracts, and with simple interpretations of real things. I had a lot of fun with the holes in June, but I don’t think the resulting work is strong, it mostly looks like I was having fun. Not there is anything wrong with that, sometimes. March was educational in part because I finally had to address myself to learning Photoshop and getting gmore from my camera. January was a fine start, but I definitely got better as the year wore on (which I was hoping for but didn’t really expect). April had a couple of inspired (if I do say so) money images, but overall was slow.

Overall:        A-  for fulfilling the letter of the law, a daily postcard. Selected postcards were completely awesome and deserve A+ for design and execution.

best part: having done it, I think. Going into my room on a daily basis and making something is very very good for me, mentally and creatively. I had more ideas than time, and I didn’t run out (which is reassuring, as those who make stuff up will tell you). I am going to do something every day again in 2008, but I think I need to make fewer, bigger things as well. Philip Pullman says that he doesn’t wait for his muse – he goes and sits down at his table and starts writing. Things show up. I certainly found that to be true. In fact, I had a harder time restarting the process after a vacation than I  did maintaining momentum in the middle of the year.

Do it again? yup. Watch me go!

Journal Quilts:

straight-up numbers
: so far 10 of 12, = 83%, if I finish December it’ll be 91%

overall grade: solid B – some extra credit for trying to cram so much into such small spaces, still a solid B. Hand in the last month and we can revist your grade. 

worst parts: I am certainly my own worst critic: let the images breathe! how about some colors beyond blue? I think I stressed too much over these because they were bigger (yikes!) and less frequent, and seemed to require more meaning. Once I stopped trying to make them quite so meaningful, I had more fun making them and I think the results were easier to “read”.

best parts: It is fun working at small sizes. After the postcards at 4×6”, a full page seemed enormous, but still extremely manageable to accomplish in a month. When I didn’t freak out.

other thoughts: I spent a year thinking hard about some part of my life on a monthly basis, and then making a quilt about it. I prefer the pages that are more opaque to the viewer, and have less me all over them. I think it might also be easier to look at pages that don’t need to be explained quite so thoroughly. While I  will be making things monthly next year (SharonB’s Take it Further Challenge), I think I’d prefer not to focus so much on what is internal, but turn my gaze outward more to see what I can show others.

Do it again? eh – not the journaling so much, but the monthly object? definitely.

For today, New Years Day, I took the day off. The whole house slept late, we got more snow, the girls and I shovelled while Al snored, I walked around the block and we finished by going out for Chinese food. It is funny – I think we were all thinking Chinese New Year, even though it isn’t for another couple weeks. Just the conflation of our New Year and Chinese Food. It felt like good luck though. But then, dumplings always feel like good luck.

New Projects starting tomorrow.

2007 intentions; the scorecard

At the beginning of last year I wrote a short list of things I intended to do over the year. It wasn’t the usual list of lose weight, stop spending money, eat right, but instead a list of things I thought would make me a happier and better person if I managed to keep them in mind. I gave up on resolutions a while ago, and tend to examine my life in Feb to see if anything’s changed.

It came out to a list of six things:

  1. make a fabric postcard every day
  2. talk to friends more, every couple of days
  3. knit all the socks from the Blue Moon Sock Club, when they come in
  4. call my mother more, at least every other day
  5. ride the new bike when the weather is above 45 degrees
  6. ride horses whenever the opportunity presents itself, no sloping
    off after cleaning stalls just because you can’t face a particular
    horse or don’t quite feel like it


postcards? check. I learned a lot about exercising my creativity, and why exactly I’ve been buying all that
cool stuff that is cluttering up my workroom and all kinds of things. I am thinking of a more detailed report on the postcards later.

Talk to friends? mixed. I can always visit with people I like more, I think I improved it some but there’s room for more talking,

knit Blue Moon Sock of the Month? failed, almost utterly. I started the first pair and they made me grumpy and unhappy and I’ve turned the heel and failed the cabling exercise on the cuff and now I have to frog them and do it better and at the moment I hate them. Then I kept from starting any of the subsequent ones because I was holding the first over my own head in a "finish your vegetables first" kind of way. (yeesh – mixed metaphors and all, that is an UGLY sentence!) So even though I kind of want to knit the last two, I haven’t started them yet. And I stopped knitting until I stepped away from the Blue Moon fibers entirely and got something that spoke to me and knit my own pattern the way I like. I finished them just before Christmas but haven’t managed to post them yet. My conclusion? I am not a knit along kind of soul.  I am OK with patterns in books but better with a recipe I can pull out of my head and follow.

call your mother
? needs improvement. say no more.

ride your bike? I could do a lot more of this. Whenever I do ride, it makes me happy. I don’t ride around town for errands because I hate dealing with the traffic at three intersections that I have to go through. I keep thinking there have to be better ways, but I’ve ridden all over town and it is just easier to walk for most of the errands in the middle. I could try to use the bike for grocery shopping. Maybe that could make an intention for next year.

Ride horses?  did great while I had a barn with an indoor ring and horses I liked. When I got busted back to a horse that made me ache, I stopped. Stopped over the summer. Restarted at two barns in the fall but chose the one with no sheltered riding for the winter, which makes the whole ride all year thing kind of difficult. I may need to think about how intent I am on riding, and what exactly I want to get out of it.

On the whole
? one rousing success, one abject failure (with introspection) and 4 mixed, with some excuses.  I can either add them onto the list for next year, or go for a new list from scratch. I think my hope for the intentions is that new habits would become an integral part of what I do, so I could think about adding other things to the list in the future. Although some were just tests, to see if the thing itself was fun (a sock of the month club – apparently not fun for me) or uplifting or energizing. Or spreading joy. Whatever.   

I’ll work on the set of intentions for 2008, and post them when the year has changed.

Journal Quilt pages

Oct Journal Quilt
Originally uploaded by Dancing Crow.

For October I was thinking about change, and then I made a tree, and then it was all about the leaves falling off and being blown around. I was thinking about embroidering the words "the only constant is change" into the wind, but then I didn’t because it looked done.

As for November:

Nov journal Quilt
Originally uploaded by Dancing Crow.

I heard a lot about the Day of the Dead this fall – a celebration and remembrance of those who have died. As someone on the radio said, the point is to remember them with pleasure, and to entice a visit from their ghosts by providing things they loved in life. I was thinking of people I missed. I admit I was also thinking of all the pets we have had, and all the horses, but there wasn’t room for all the ghosts I had hanging about. So I kept to relatives and put family skeletons dancing front and center.

Sept Journal Quilt

Sept Journal Quilt
Originally uploaded by Dancing Crow.

Missed the postcard yesterday, might make it up in the next couple days, did, instead, bake cake (see Gratitude, Deeply Felt) and finish September’s Journal page. I finished August’s too, but left it at the quilt shop for display. I’ll photograph it there and bring the pix back here, like some kind of quilt safari…

Anyhow – September. The month of my birth, therefore the month of the full on self portrait. I had been thinking Chuck Close, with his beautiful dots of color and intensity that suddenly resolve into a person, until I realized his pictures were feet across and his grid squares were inches. So I stared at what I had, and what I had was Photoshop and a lot of colors of fabric. So I printed out a picture of myself (that I didn’t hate) at 1/2" pixels, and set about recreating the intensity and color of the dots from my stash. I have the most lovely left overs – 3" and 4" and 5" bits of fabric with 1/2" holes whacked out of them. (For what to do with different sizes of punch check out Steven Nicholson, a student in the UK.)

I liked the resulting image except that it didn’t look like much up close, and most of the other months seem to be designed to be inspected at about book distance rather than wall distance. I wanted to add detail that was visible in close up and vanished with distance, and let the rastery-ness of the image shine through. I experimented with line work over the dots, but it looked ugly. Until I realized I could embroider in (nearly) invisible thread. Up close it would show the details, and far away it would blend into the image and let the real me (?) shine through. If you click through to Flickr, the image of the back is shown there. I traced some lines off the photograph onto silk organza, and ironed it onto the back to give myself guidelines for embroidering. I’m pretty pleased with the result.

Mum – to make this look like me, step back about 6 paces and maybe squint a little.

absolutely DO NOT sneeze

Joining Shula in the Making Life Difficult for Oneself Department, I show you the raw materials:


and the self portrait, in progress:


I can only congratulate myself on choosing to make the circles/grid larger than originally planned. These are 1/2" circles. They take some hammering to create (so I can only increase my palette when everyone is awake) but they cover a fair amount of space. I had thought to use 1/4" circles, but came to my senses in time. I have mostly finished August’s page, needing only to attach 30 perforated pennies in some sinuous line. And I actually have all the circles down for September’s page (a couple hours after this picture was taken).

I have also stabbed myself with a pair or scissors, and toasted a nice line across one arm with the iron, proving Arlee’s thesis that fiber art is, in fact, a sport. In the social arena, I’ve introduced myself to the new neighbors (they are nice, we’ll be fine), been down with a headache and had a nap, and fed everyone supper. I have yet to oversee the cleaning of the small (relatively speaking) child and chase the large one into the room with the shower so she can do her thing, and then I will catch up on doors.

June Journal Quilt

June Journal Quilt
Originally uploaded by Dancing Crow.

I have not been so reliable about finishing (or blogging) the Journal pages. I signed up for a Journal Quilt class at Valley Fabrics. The plan is to make a page for every month. I have finished through June (shown here) but I hated July until I got some suggestions from my cohort in class on Saturday. I am working on August and September both at once right now. August is about being married to Al – it has been 21 years as of August 25, 2007. September is a self portrait on account of it being my birth month. I am torn between some kind of funky sideways view and attempting to recreate a Chuck Close kind of gridded dot thing. And eventually I’ll have to go back and fix July. All the done pages are on Flickr. Click this image and you’ll be whisked there, almost magically.

embossed frost

Mar 12
Originally uploaded by Dancing Crow.

This was on the back on the van yesterday morning, before the sun came up and melted it. I emphasized the color a little, but it really looked like this. I put a layer of batting under the fabric to give the stitching more depth. I like the way that came out. It looks a lot like classical feathered quilting, but it isn’t – I really just followed the frost lines.

I have posted the finished February journal page on Flickr. I finished both the pages I posted previously, one with a woven background and one with a simpler background. I liked the woven background better, and I think it is a stronger page, so that is the one I posted. Most of the people in class felt the same; although they liked the second page well enough, it seemed too plain, especially next to my January page which is well and truly filled with incident.

I rode both Revy the Dim and Tiger Eye the Worried today. I had nice rides on both, though not so long because while it was the dead of winter last week with temps in the single digits fahrenheit, this week it is nearing room temperature outside. And everyone still has their winter coats on. Think of running around in your long underwear – we took it easy today. Everyone is shedding drifts of hair. The birdies will be happy with us, and build soft nests.

mud, ice, water over sand

Mar 5
Originally uploaded by Dancing Crow.

A part of iceberg melting on the beach. The diamond pattern at the bottom is part of the channeling process. Any stream that is sediment loaded beyond its capacity to move it all starts making braided channels. Overloaded pretty much defines water flowing over a beach. That lovely criss-cross happens all the time. Look at the edge of the waves, where they pull back, the next time you get a chance.

I also started over on the February journal page. The rough draft now looks more like this:


The critique said: text over the horse distracts from the horse, checkered background distracts from everything, can you make the horse really really luscious?

So I uncheckered the background. I put the text all on a separate piece of fabric (printable silk organza) and used it to de-intensify the background some more. Then I used transfer paints, which only work on man-made fabrics, to transfer the horse to the back of the velvet (to make him luscious), which is why he’s going the other way now… It is a stronger composition, but I don’t like it so well, and I still have to decide how much additional stitching to add.

berg on the beach

Mar 4
Originally uploaded by Dancing Crow.

Yesterday was frustrating. Fun, nice visiting, but deeply frustrating.

This was a small iceberg on the beach, printed on silk, lightly stitched. I photographed it in a hurry and at the moment the color is really bad. I’ll fix it when I get the next set of things up.

I also managed to almost finish the Feb journal page, only to receive a completely correct critique, along with the necessity of starting ALL over again. And then friends came to visit and we went out for a nice supper and I got a headache and retired and nothing else happened.

This is what it looks like now. Before I start all over again:


at the bottom it says: If wishes were horses, I’d still wish for a horse

woven keys

Feb 4
Originally uploaded by Dancing Crow.

I had two same sized images of the same set of keys portrayed quite differently, and I was trying to think of a way to combine them. So I cut them into strips and wove them together. I love the way the watercolor texture plays back and forth with the regular metal-and-fabric texture, and how you can’t quite forcus on any one piece at a time without sort of seeing both.

I also managed to finish my January Journal Quilt page, with mixed results. I like the general thing, but it is kind of crammed with incident. There is all kinds of stuff just glued on. I tried hard not to over-think it, and I may have erred on the side of failing to plan at all. I was so wowed by the amount of space I had (after 4×6 it felt huge!) that I had to work hard to keep things off it.

But, but, but… I needed to include the river, and the house, and the husband (and how rooted he is in this Valley) and the kids, and the desperate wish for a horse, and the things I’d managed to finish in January (all those postcards with keys and circles) and I wanted to keep the background I’d made, and I put a boat on it already so I had to cover it up, and — you can start to see some of my problems. The closeups are over on Flickr here, here and here.

I’m thinking about maybe making Feb a little cleaner. Or maybe planning it out a little more. But if I think too hard, I get pinned, and then paralyzed, and really these are not tests, just practice for the next piece. You make more good stuff, we all make more good stuff, if we just make more stuff, and practice our making chops, so to speak. Good stuff comes. With practice, it comes more often. With volume, more stuff comes, and even if the same percent is good, you get more. Plus you get the joy of doing, which is substantial.


Go make stuff.