Vision, by definition, is the act of seeing. It is also the word used to describe something experienced in a trance or dream. The same word describes a force of imagination. As words go, it’s an easy one. As concepts go, it’s pretty hefty.potato bush flower3 Creativity relies on vision–all kinds of vision. (Okay, maybe not everyone creates from visions through trances or dreams, but many artists do.) Having perfect eyesight isn’t a guarantee of creativity. Even a broad base of knowledge about what you are seeing doesn’t translate into creativity. And you can certainly have all kinds of visions of yourself as an artist without any basis in reality.

So what is it that sets apart a Creative from everyone else? What happens in the brain and mind to turn sensory input into something other/new/different? Is it something you are born with? Or can you train yourself to “see” like a Creative?

potato bush flower2While the general populace tends to believe you are either born with a creative bent or you’re not, I disagree. I believe we are all born with the ability to be creative–in some way, to some degree. I believe it’s part of our humanity, our soul. For many, the creative urge has been stifled. Usually, early on and with repetitive attempts to “normalize” behavior.

Often, that creative urge is lying dormant, waiting to be valued and set free. All it takes is a tweak to your vision, a change of perspective. After all, what is creativity but a different way of seeing the world and expressing it?

But even if you recognize that creative part of yourself, you may be frustrated. You may feel woefully inadequate at executing the creative visions you do have. Don’t despair. That’s perfectly normal. But you can’t wallow there. You have to build skills, practice your craft and create, create, marigoldIn the meantime, you can feed your creative self by adjusting your perspective. Our eyes take in much more than we actually “see”. Our brains apply filters so we don’t go crazy from all the information we receive visually. But there are additional filters we can apply to change our focus and fill ourselves with beauty. orange marigoldWe don’t have to “see” the imperfections, the unappealing details. We can choose to focus on the things that feed us and inspire us. Once you start to do this, it becomes automatic. You can train yourself to pay less attention to some things and more attention to others. The choice of where your attention, your focus, goes is entirely up to you. Look at this photo:stuff to plantIt’s just a bunch of plants waiting to be put in the ground or in pots. They’re not even grouped to look particularly appealing in the interim. But that’s exactly they way they were when I grabbed the two close ups of the marigolds. And this photo:potato bushThat’s the potato bush waiting to be planted, in exactly the same spot as I got the first two photos in the post. I chose to look at the details and focus on them. Not on the stuff that needs doing in the yard–the weeding, the trimming, the ground cover, etc.

It’s a practical example of what I’m trying to communicate. Vision is not only about the light passing through your eyes and telling your brain what’s in front of you. Vision is as broad or as narrow as you choose. Focus on the things that are beautiful, interesting, different and you’ll soon be drawn to those things wherever you may go. Unexpected textures and colors combinations will show up. Bizarre details will pop out of mundane architecture.

One of the easiest ways to explore beauty and document the things you choose to focus on is to take photos. Those bits of captured inspiration can be turned into all kinds of creative “stuff”. And it’s a good way to train yourself to “see”. In an upcoming post, I’ll tell you about my cameras and how I use them. I’ll share the editing steps I take and talk about how to get eye-catching photos.

So stay tuned!

Color Therapy Block #11 And A Bit More

The Color Therapy Block of the Month is almost over. This month Block 11 has the spotlight. The colors for the month are True Red and Chocolate. Red, naturally, is for strength and love. Chocolate grounds and inspires. (Doesn’t it though?)ColorTherapyBlock11I selected Joel Dewbery’s True Color print for the brown. It’s more milk chocolate than dark chocolate. So I picked Tula’s Moonshine print for the red. It brings in a deeper tone and makes the combination work.

Over the past weekend, I managed to spend some time on the AMH EPP project. The first two rows are nearly done being sewn together.R1 and 2 AMH EPPIt’s becoming unwieldy–a sure sign I’m making progress. But it has to be set aside for a bit, as Free Spirit sent me some of Tanya Whelan’s Lulu to play with for Valentine’s. There will even be enough leftover for a February giveaway!

12 Hexies Blog Hop

Welcome to another stop on the 12 Hexies (or less) Blog Hop! I’m so happy you’ve joined us. When Diane asked if I would be interested in participating in an EPP blog hop, I didn’t have to think twice. Her challenge to each of us was to use 12 hexies or less for our original project. Brilliant idea because we all know how hard it can be to complete an EPP project once you realize you have to make and sew a gazillion pieces. With this hop, you’ll see ten different projects–all doable without investing years of your life in the process.
12 hexie blog hop buttonI had no idea what project I would make, only that I wanted to use some Anna Maira Horner fabric. I grabbed some bits and scraps and made 12 hexies. Then I played with the arrangement and decided on a triangular shape which only uses 10 hexies. Once I settled on something to act as a canvas for these pretty hexies, it came together fast. The end result is this very stunning grocery tote.12 hexie grocery tote To make this tote you will need the following:

  • 2/3 yard of medium to heavyweight fabric such as canvas, twill, or cotton duck
  • 1 1/8 yard of 1″ webbing in coordinating color
  • 1 1/3 yard of 1″ to 1 1/2″ trim (I used Anna Maria Horner’s Gold Reliquary ribbon for Renaissance Ribbon)
  • 10 scraps of cotton fabric at least 4″ x 4 1/2″ (5″ charm pack pieces work great)
  • 10 – 1 1/2″ hexie papers (I use Paper Pieces)

Prepare your hexies. If you’re new to EPP, there are numerous video tutorials available showing you exactly what to do. Here are links to Diane’s clear instructions to check out:

Got hexies? Now you’re ready to sew them together in a triangular shape. Sew each row. Then sew the rows together.hexie triangle stackPress well on both sides and remove papers. You’re ready to applique!

Cut a rectangle measuring 23″ x 41″ from the medium to heavyweight fabric you have chosen for the bag. Place your hexie applique on the right side of your rectangle, approximately 6″ from the top edge and 6 1/4″ inches from the sides.applique locationUse pins or fabric glue to secure. Edgestitch around all outer edges of the hexie triangle.applique close upWith right sides together, pin the side seams and sew. If desired, finish the edges (a simple zig zag or pinking will work fine). Press the folded edge of the bottom to create a crease. Keeping the bag wrong side out, line the side seam up with the freshly pressed crease. Measure 2″ from the point and mark this line. boxed endStitch on the marked line. Cut off the pointy end leaving a seam of approximately 1/2″. Turn the bag inside out. Sew a narrow hem around the top edge.

Cut the webbing into two equal lengths. Place the handles as shown in the picture below. The handles should be overlapping the top edge by approximately 1 1/2″.  Don’t worry about the raw ends. They’ll be covered by the ribbon trim. handle locationStitch the handles in place. For extra security, sew a box stitch on each end. A box stitch is made by sewing a box with an ‘x’ through it.boxed stitchTo finish off the tote, pin the ribbon trim in place around the top edge of the bag. Center the ribbon over the raw edges of the handles to cover them. Stitch along both edges of the ribbon to secure.ribbon placementAnd that’s all there is to it! The prettiest grocery tote in the store will be yours.071

Be sure to check out all the other projects. The links below will update as each day of the hop continues. The hop ends on the 25th so there are more great projects yet to come.

A Few Stars

Rock PurslaneI don’t always get to see what happens to my patterns and freebies. Nor do I get to hear about all the people who have found inspiration here. So, it’s great fun when I do. I may be the one running this show, but it’s not about me. If I’m doing things right, I’m just providing the catalyst for your creative fun. Today I want to point you to three people who have done some wonderful things with what they’ve found here.

First up, and these are in no particular order, is Aby. She has already made a quilt using my Controlled Chaos block in Quiltmaker’s 100 Block. Click here to go to her blog and see what she’s done with it.

Next is my blog buddy, Jessie of Messy Jesse. You need to spend some time reading through her blog. She’s been making adorable mini quilts and getting up to all sorts of things that will make you smile. Her latest post has an adorable pin cushion from my  Trellis Flowers block pattern. I love the boxed ends she made! It gives the sides so much character. You can find her fabric shop, Sew and Quilt, here.

And then there’s my blog buddy, Cindy, who has taken my advice to listen to the fabric to a whimsical place. She also used embellishments on her bag and the end result is perfect for the recipient of this fun gift.

If you have projects you’ve made, either from my patterns and freebies or something here that sparked creative inspiration, I’d love to see it. You can always send me photos or just drop me a note at melissa(at)100billionstars(dot)com.

Have a great Friday!

Like-Minded People

Last week, I treated myself to Adding Layers: Color, Design & Imagination by Kathy Doughty of Material Obsession. The book is published by C&T Publishing under their Stash Books imprint.Adding Layers and coffeeTearing out the kitchen warranted a special sort of treat–one with color and lots of pizazz. Kathy’s book was the perfect indulgence after that hard work.

Before I say anything about the book itself, I should probably tell you that I have lurked around Kathy’s blog for years. I love the exciting things she does with fabrics. All those unexpected pairings of prints, the bold colors juxtaposed with less riotous ones…what a visual feast. Her shop seems to be bubbling over with a constant flow of creativity. You can almost hear the happy chatter and the laughter in her posts.

As I turned the pages in her book Adding Layers, I kept nodding in agreement. There are fifteen quilt patterns in this book, but if you take Kathy’s message to heart, the possibilities are endless. She tells you about her choices for fabric, batting, quilting, etc. She also discusses tools in depth. Best of all, her attitude is one of encouragement and gentle nudges to expand your quilting repertoire.

Now I’m in the mood for some “just for fun” sewing. Unfortunately, that will have to wait for a little while. I have one sample quilt to bind, two others to baste, quilt and bind, and then four life style projects to sew. All this month and all while in the midst of this:kitchen messFortunately, I have this little set up in the corner. At least until we’re ready to get the flooring prioritiesA girl’s gotta have her priorities straight, after all.

True Colors Blog Tour – The Final Stop

Welcome! I’m so delighted to have you here for the final stop on the True Colors Blog Tour. JM True Colors blog tour introIt’s been a fun couple of weeks, hasn’t it? So many wonderful expressions of color on this tour. I could really get carried away talking about Kathy’s magic using Anna’s fabric. But I’m here to talk about my projects, so let’s talk about what I got and what I did with it.True Colors by Jenean MorrisonFree Spirit sent me Jenean Morrison‘s True Colors to work with. Since I already had Jenean’s Wishing Well fabrics on hand from the last round of Market sewing, I was ready to dive in and start mixing and matching. (Do you know Jenean? If you don’t, you definitely want to change that. She is a wonderful person and an amazingly talented artist.) I began with the handbag. The pattern is Anna Maria Horner’s I’ll Have One of Everything bag from her book, Seams To Me. TrueColorsBlogTour threadThe citrus colors in Jenean’s True Colors collection make great slices of interest on this bag. Half of the prints are from True Colors. The other half are from Wishing Well. Combined, they really pop and shout “Spring!”JM True Colors blog tour2I couldn’t resist whipping up a little pencil case using the green gingham print from Wishing Well and little scraps from the True Color charm pack. Just look at how well the journal (covered in Jenean’s Palm Springs print from her California Dreamin’ collection) goes with everything.JM True Color sunlightI could have stopped there, having plenty to blog about. Instead, I kept playing (something that will hardly surprise my regular readers) and ended up with a little table topper. I started quilting it with big stitch quilting using Anchor pearl cotton thread, my favorite. More stitching is on the agenda for this piece, but for now, you can see the play of color and texture. This piece incorporates scraps from Jenean’s Wishing Well, Beechwood Park, In My Room, and Grand Hotel collections with the True Colors prints.

The point of the True Colors collections is to have mixers and blenders that resist the stereotype. They are created to play well with others, to blend without dissolving into the background, to add interest without stealing the show. They do all of that and more. I think you’ll find favorites here, prints you go back to over and over again.JM True Colors black catI hope you’ve enjoyed each stop on the blog tour, finding inspiration and joyful color along the way. We have one last thing to take care of….a giveaway! Free Spirit sent me fabric to share. I have one fat quarter bundle to giveaway, as well as a designer roll plus two charm packs for each of two lucky comments. (That’s three winners, just to be clear.) Here’s all you have to do to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post before the deadline to enter. There’s no right or wrong answer, but I’d love to hear how True Colors inspires you.
  2. One comment per reader. Duplicate entries will be deleted.
  3. You have until 12:00 midnight Pacific Standard Time on Thursday, February 6, 2014 to enter. 
  4. International entrants are welcome.
  5. Winners will be selected by Random Number Generator.
  6. Winners will be notified by email and will have until February 13, 2014 to respond. If winners do not respond, a new winner will be selected by Random Number Generator and notified by email.

Good luck! I may not have time to reply to each and every one of you who enters, depending on the amount of comments. So to everyone who enters, “Thank you!” I’m looking forward to reading your comments.

UPDATE: This sweepstakes is now closed. Winners have been chosen and announced.

Color Me Hapi

Hapi stripsAmong the various projects currently in progress is this happy, happy group of fabrics. These are all from Amy’s Hapi collection. I’m having such fun with them, mixing them with pieces from her Lotus and Lark collections and playing with fussy cutting possibilities. To me they seem exuberant but grounded, enthusiastic but not overwhelming. Looking at them laid out like this, I’m reminded of the similarities between their color story and our back garden. Maybe that explains some of my own exuberance for these prints.AB Hapi pillow1I also love the way they fit right in with the other Amy Butler prints already on display in the living room. The fussy cut  Glow print (the one with the graphic diamonds, stripes and circles) really makes this pillow cover pop. Talk about letting fabric do the hard work. That is one print with some real brawn. And it’s not short on brains either, with all that geometry.

One of the things I’ve determined to do this year is to carve out time for more “just for fun” sewing. My stack of Hapi fabrics is helping me with that. It keeps calling me, whispering at every opportunity, begging for a little more attention. Even though I have to make room for the next box of sewing assignments (yes, already!), I’m keeping this stack out in plain sight. It makes me happy just to see it there, waiting patiently.

Is there a stack of fabric you keep out to motivate you? If so, does that trick work for you?

The Trickster’s Hat — A Book Review

Of all the books offered to me for review at the end of this year, I chose only one. It was an easy choice, quite serendipitous really. The book is Nick Bantock’s The Trickster’s Hat published by the Penguin Group under their Perigee Book imprint. Trickster's hatThe subtitle, A Mischievous Apprenticeship in Creativity, gives you fair warning. This is not an easy comfort book of optimistic affirmations about your potential. Nor is it a list making, mind-numbing analysis of the creative process. In fact, it is the opposite. Mr. Bantock only takes 10 pages to set the stage for this book. The rest is full of exercises designed to assist you on your journey and “poke and prod the psyche” (page 8).

It’s about letting go and jump starting your imagination. There is no right or wrong outcome to any of the exercises. They are simply tools for exploration. Collage figures prominently, as readers of Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine trilogy might expect. But there are also exercises involving pencil and paper.

Because this is not a book meant to be read and put on a shelf, I had to do at least one exercise before I wrote this post. I have a sneaking suspicion that Mr. Bantock would like nothing better than to see his readers batter and bruise their copies, filling them with paint smudges and chalk marks. It’s almost impossible to avoid sullying the beautiful glossy pages when you get into the “work” of the exercises. trickster suppliesI started out with Exercise 5, Directed Collage, despite the fact that you’re supposed to do this one with someone else. Yes, I know. My creative Imp got loose early. What can I say? Sometimes the Trickster works that way. After gathering a few supplies, I read further into the exercise and realized I needed to round up a lot more stuff. By the time I sat down to play, I had put together a pile of ephemera, tissue paper, colored pencils, a blank canvas, and a few more paints.

First, let me assure you, I am not a mixed media artist. I do not have collage experience. In fact, I would not have been able to attempt this exercise ten years ago due to the unpredictability factor and the general messiness. Somehow, in the last decade, I’ve gotten over the severely limiting need for perfection and order. More about that transformation in another post.

Second, the night before I did this exercise I watched Transcendent Man–the documentary on Ray Kurzweil. The disturbing implications stayed with me through dreams, and quite clearly, were ready for expression. Oddly, I didn’t see that coming at all which just goes to show how your conscious mind likes to pretend it is in charge.collage exercise1Before I began, I let go of any expectation of where this was headed. I let go of any need for a controlled outcome. If it looked ugly, fine. If it looked disturbing, also fine. If it looked like a preschooler’s attempt, excellent. It was not about being Pretty or Interesting or Artistic. It was about the Doing and nothing more. With that accomplished, I completed the first step. And then the next one and the next one….collage exercise2When it was done, I saw quite clearly my subconscious ruminations on the catastrophic implications of the documentary. There’s an echo of the Cold War between the image under the brain and the gray-green-yellow colors of the paint and map. The dinosaur, the Greek sculpture, the Asian elements all point backwards into various points in the distant and very distant past. The number four is considered inauspicious by the Chinese. In numerology the number 7 suggest struggle, although in Western culture we tend to think of Lucky Number 7. The blue with yellow dots seems like a window into the Universe, a safe place beyond our turbulent planet. None of these elements were planned. collage exercise3It’s not pretty. It’s not nice. It’s nothing like my typical creative output. I won’t be hanging it on the wall. But I’ll tell what it was….it was fun, liberating and revealing. When I say revealing, I don’t mean because it ended up reflecting what was percolating in my unconscious. It was revealing because I learned I am able to turn off that infernal internal editor and let my imagination play with unfamiliar tools without suffering disaster. Previously, I only secretly hoped this was the case. This exercise gave me a chance to prove it.

When you switch mediums, you open yourself up to new ways of seeing and observing. You move through the creative landscape in different ways when you use unfamiliar tools and techniques. These are good things. Things you need if you want to expand your creative life.

The great news,…you can do this! Yes, it may take you a bit of practice to let go and dive in. You may have to coax your inner child out of the dark corner you pushed them into long ago. But it can be done. More importantly, it is worth doing! If you need help, and you’re willing to let the Trickster in on your journey, get this book. If you want some directed exercises to expand your creative mind, get this book.  If however, as Nick says in the beginning of the book, “…you want a shortcut to originality…this isn’t the book for you.”

Winterize With Fabric

Starting to notice the drafts under your doors? The official start of winter may still be weeks away, but the weather seems to be uninformed. You’ll find my answer to those pesky drafts dressed up in Parson Gray prints in the latest issue of Sew It All Magazine, Volume 7. The magazine officially goes on sale December 10th.SewItAllproject12-13Image courtesy of Sew It All Magazine


Explosions of Color

Last weekend, one of my grandnephews was in the house (along with his momma and one of his aunties). His little face turned from one bit of color to the next, taking it all in. He kept looking at Grandpa’s Toolbox which hangs by the front door. Then he would swivel to look at quilts on the rack and the drapes at the window. And then the stacks of things on the chair, the behemoth and the ottoman. So much color, as far as his eye could see.

I felt quite satisfied to give him that introduction to the world of color as experienced in fabric and handmade things. At one year old, it’s not too soon to make impressions. Maybe he’ll have an artist’s eye like his uncle, my nephew, who is a photographer and painter. Maybe he’ll just have an artist’s soul. At a minimum, his Great Aunt Melissa has exposed him to color and given his brain something to chew on.Kaffe collective 2013 precutsSpeaking of color, the Kaffe collective for Fall 2013 is arriving in stores now. These precuts are perfect for stash building or scrappy projects. I have had great fun working with these prints for Market. I can’t wait to sit down with them after the furor subsides. My list for future projects seems to grow constantly, doesn’t it?

Market is only three weeks away. I think I just might make it to Houston with a functioning brain.

Happy Friday, everyone! Enjoy the weekend.