Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Don't like elections

Elections have their value, but like all things of value, they take some effort, and sometimes there are lots of side effects.  Elections tend to bring out the best and worst, and because they bring out the worst, we see things in friends (or acquaintances) that we'd rather not, biases, prejudices, stubborn or rudeness streaks, closed minds...we all have some, but sometimes the worst can be worse than we guessed, and if there isn't a lot of basis for the relationship to start with, it becomes clear that maybe there is no basis at all.  If there's more to the relationship, the bad thing can be gotten past like all all of our weaknesses--we'd have no relationships at all without that much--but the other relationships may end.  While it seems from the outside like there might not be anything to lose, we always have hope that even a barely-there friendship might eventually go somewhere valuable, and ending it takes that imaginary future away.

I'm not aware of that sort of thing inspiring a story scene I've written for NaNoWriMo, but it follows that theme.  My character has regained someone she lost but thinks that it still is that imaginary future, a dream of what might have been, and can't accept that the loss has been reversed. 

I never planned to write about insanity and paranoia, and I'm sure I don't know enough about it to make realistic psychological thrillers (they are, in any case, futuristic space science fiction, which isn't quite the right genre for it), but I seem to land there in a lot of my stories, at least on the fringes, and in this particular series, which turns out to have a rather nutty premise and nuttier universe (never intended as I write it, but Dilbert meets Pern's dragons at Plato's Cave is as close as I come to describing the resulting flavor), insanity seems rather more likely than sanity.   I can't imagine that it will be easy to sell as a publishable novel, but trying to write it is a great way to distract myself from the election ads.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Set goals

Even if goals change over time or are more like improbable wishes, setting goals provides an incentive for giving up today's indulgences in favor of that foreseeable future.  It may not help the process of saving and investing, but having a goal provides a guide, persuasion, and helps prioritize spending.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Crazy Quilting as a group

Crazy quilts are one of the easiest kinds of quilts to do as a group, especially a group with mixed skills and preferences, because it allows the maximum variety of skills and approaches if done with a few simple guidelines in mind:

--Crazy quilts aren't for "control freaks": you can visualize the quilt and expect it to come out just like that, but you can come up with something beautiful and wonderful with a token amount of planning.

--Pick a theme and/or color scheme as a base concept.  The possibilities are endless but the group all needs to start in the same direction if the thing is going to look like a single entity in the end.

----The themes can be almost anything that might show up in a patterned quilt: zoo, a city, little yellow duckies, a base printed fabric (I'm currently working on a crazy quilt with a space fabric and space as the base theme).

----Colors should be limited in some minimal fashion, at least to choosing jewel tones or country colors.  Picking one or two colors as the dominant colors, or providing a base fabric works as well.  To allow maximum freedom (as for a project intended to help people use up their stash), a base color can provide the defining element with the rest of the colors left up to users choice.  If the color is highly variable, such as brown or red, and quilters are going to be working at home, encourage the use of more than one brown, more than one red, to maximize the ability to blend the pieces.

--If the results are to be combined by piecing, pick a size for at least one direction.  This makes it possible to sew everyone's pieces together into rows or one long row, and to then sew the rows together with a minimum of additional chopping and piecing.  Be prepared to need to trim down or add a strip to one side.

----For a more formal look, a block size can be specified, but make it large (9" minimum for a full sized quilt) and be prepared to trim or add strips to two sides (don't try to center the original block) as even a group of skilled sewers will end up with squares a fraction too large or small.

----If contributions are to be appliqued to a backing or backing batting combination, chunks do not have to be square or rectangular and a large variety of sizes should be encouraged to maximize ease of fitting and to minimize the amount of piecing that needs to be trimmed or hidden under other pieces.

--Encourage creativity.  The more different ways a theme is incorporated, the less any one individual piece will stand out as odd.

----Allow those who can pull something unique together to do so: encourage them to make several of any distinct style so that they can be spread throughout the quilt.

----For those willing to try, provide some instruction in making their own patterns.

----Encourage fabric swapping to spread fabrics throughout the quilt.

----For those who haven't previously made a crazy quilt, it may be useful to have a few patterns available: pieced, paper pieced: some patterns for crazy-quilt style blocks are available free on line.

---- Beginners and paper-pieces especially may prefer to use a pattern for a traditional block but insist that they mix up the fabrics so that the pattern is not obvious, else use them to advance the theme of the quilt.  For example, for a Quilt of Valor for wounded soldiers, patriotic themes are highly encouraged: have them make one each of several star or eagle patterns that can be mixed in among the crazy blocks.   They can also be asked to make any pattern they like in the required color theme, but have them make blocks that are smaller than the final block and then pass their blocks to other quilter to include the small blocks as part of the large crazy block, preferably at odd angles.
---- My personal rule of thumb is not to replicate a pattern or layout more than four times.  (Allowing four repetitions makes it convenient to rotate in four different directions, or to do a four-color hack-slash stack, where the same pattern is used with four different color combinations)

--The biggest fear is what will happen when all the pieces are brought together, but the group can aply the same concepts to the whole as they did to their squares, treating the whole quilt as one big crazy square or considering it an informal pattern.  There is no one right way: use the group's creativity and judgement.

---- For maximum craziness, it is usually most effective to distribute each person's contributions throughout the quilt.

---- For ease on the eye when colors clash, clustering may be the answer, for example, to have a slow shift from light or yellow browns in one corner toward darker or redder browns in the opposite, with swirls of medium, greener, or muddier browns in between, especially if there are sufficient in-betweens that one color doesn't stand out from the rest as odd.

---- If certain blocks stand out as particularly different from the rest, it may be appropriate to use them at the center or in the corners to give the craziness a sense of structure.

---- The purpose for having a color theme is typically to aide in blending the pieces into a unified whole.  In the classic crazy quilt, the blocks are not intended to be obvious, an overall continuity being preferred.  To minimize the internal blockiness, look for opportunities to put similar colors adjacent, and minimize the joining of sharply contrasting colors on assembly.  This can be especially effective when sharp contrasts are used within some of the blocks.

-- As with all quilts, the quilting can aide or defeat the intent.  To help given a continuous crazy look and decrease the focus on individual blocks, quilting should not follow the blocks but criss-cross them, following the colors or not, following the theme or not.  An overall pattern independent of block size or layout is probably best. 

-- Quilting can also ignore the piecing altogether and be used to form a pattern or picture that enhances the back, instead,

---- Many people think of Victorian crazy quilts as the ultimate classical crazy quilt, with embroidered embellishments.  Embroidery patterns may work well if the colors chosen are the strong, simple colors they used, the individual pieces fairly large, and the embroidery is providing most of the texture, but typically will disappear and be wasted effort if other themes are in play or printed fabrics or batiks are in use.  Also, the embroidery was often used as the means of appliqueing rather than as embellishments on pieced quilt blocks.  There is no requirement, in other words, than embroidery be used and its use should be considered in the context of the quilt at hand, not merely to comply with an old tradition related to a particular style of crazy quilt.

---- Embroidery as quilting works best if lots of sharp contrasts between small pieces have been avoided: if high contrasts, focus the embroidery on the lighter side or use a light colored thread on the darker side.

---- Embroidered pictures or other decorations within a piece should probably be done either before fabric is incorporated into a square or at least before the block is incorporated into the quilt.

---- If embroidery is planned, and sufficient of the quilters are able to embroider by hand or with embroidery-capable sewing machines, it might be best to make all three layers of the quilt together (provide everyone with pre-cut blocks of backing and batting, or use a thick fleece or flannel backing and no batting).  Blocks can then be assembled using embroidered applique or they can be pieced, then embroidered prior to assembly.  Again, to avoid undesirable blockyness, don't embroider the square seam lines, try to line up like colors to the degree feasible, and use extra-large blocks.  One way to enhance the craziness with this kind of assembly is to not require that the fronts be square: instead, use extra bits sticking out and small gaps when appliqueing the fronts together, to merge the blocks into a continuous surface.  This will definitely be aided by involving several people in the assembly

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Google has screwed up the blogger software and rendered it slow as molassas, so, unless there is some sudden miracle fix, I will not be posting here anymore except to direct readers to whatever new blog I set up. For now, I still post at my old blog, mostly writing, but temporarily on other issues to make up for the loss of my blogger blogs. It is at http://home.earthlink.net/~wyverns/