Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Word About Criticism

First off, I want to apologize to folks who visit my space because of the visuals as today's post has no pictures. I also want to thank all of you who stop in here, whether you let me know you're there or not, because time is precious and I appreciate you giving me and my work some of your time and attention.

I've been reluctant to bring this topic up because it's something that, as a person who puts my work in the public eye, I feel I should accept as part of my job. On the other hand, I put an amazing amount of effort, time, and sometimes even sweat into the things I craft that when I'm harshly criticized, I feel hurt and discouraged. By criticism I don't mean someone stating that my work doesn't appeal to them or that they don't feel inspired by the items I create. I think that is totally legitimate and a matter of taste and preference. I realize that I don't design what could be described as traditional quilts and that might not appeal to a lot of folks. I also don't craft one-of-a-kind fiber art, so those people might also be turned off by my work.
What bothers me is when, in the anonymity of the internet(and it is anonymous even if you include your name because the internet is so vast), my work is vilified to the point that I am chastised for even putting it out there.
As I previously stated, criticism comes with the territory. Hell, it comes with just being human, but criticism that has a venomous tone is a lot harder to take and, frankly, unwarranted. 
Blog posts like this and book reviews like this:

Wow! Was I ever disappointed in this book. A waste of money. I cannot believe that it states that the author has been in juried shows! Who was she competing with? 2nd graders who had never used a sewing machine before. Her stitching is abhorent and I cannot believe that the publishers allowed this to be published. She uses crappy thread, which creates tension problems on it's own, combined with some real tension problems and no idea of how to top stitch accurately and you have the recipe for homemade disasters. She cloaks her sewing tips in phrases like "improvisational" for all of the mistakes. I sew for precision and hope that none of my projects ever look homemade vs handmade. If I received one of her projects as a gift I would put it directly into my donation bag. If you want to take your sewing to the next level and are looking for inspiration this is not the book for you. Shame on the author and publisher for allowing this to be printed. It is a hot mess!! 

I've actually known about that blog post for a while, but thought I'd rise above it and just ignore it, but reading this Amazon customer review of my book this morning made me feel like I wanted to say something.
I am proud of the work I do, the designs I create, and attention to craftsmanship I put into the items I sew. I am also proud to embrace a certain improvisational quality in my work. I know how to square an edge and I have the tools to do so, but I actually like the happenstance and raw energy that's created when edges are left un-squared. I have been sewing and/or quilting for almost 20 years and, though I hope to always seek out new and innovative techniques and materials as well as improve my skills, I have gained a lot of knowledge and expertise from my years of crafting. I am open to constructive criticism and questions that are put forth in the spirit of collaborative learning, but this is not criticism. It's derision. I am also open to anyone just plain not liking what I make. I don't like everything I see others make, but there's a vast difference between saying this doesn't appeal to me and the only way this work could ever receive any recognition is if I was competing with non-sewing 2nd graders. The former is a genuine opinion stated respectfully and the latter is...not.
If this was a phenomena exclusive to me or my work then I think the issue wouldn't merit bringing up, but I see it all over the internet. And the issue isn't whether or not you like a something, but how you state your opinion and whether you've considered the time and effort that went into the creation of that something before you spew forth vitriol rather than an honestly felt and respectful assessment.
I hope that having published two books and written a blog and designed for other publications, I've learned how to frame my criticism of other people's work so that it comes from a good place. I know damn sure that, having sat on this side of the aisle, I now take the time to write a positive review or add an encouraging comment or, if my opinion isn't quite so positive, temper my criticism so it's helpful not hurtful.
To those of you who've taken the time to let me know that you enjoy my work I say thank you so much.  For me, it's always been about the conversation, so thanks for your time and thoughts.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dear Urban Outfitters,

Is this what I was supposed to do with the recyclable shopping bag?
Because the bag did sort of feel like it was made out of fabric rather than paper. And I thought the "vision chart" font was kind of fun.
So, I cut the front and back, also known as pillow #2, apart and ironed the front. That's when I discovered that your cloth bag could not possibly be made entirely out of cotton scraps collected from the trash cans of corporate America because the polyester fibers melted a wee bit under the heat of my iron. No matter. I just trimmed up the front a little more than anticipated, added some good, old-fashioned muslin and sewed up an improv patchwork border.
I quilted the top, attached a zippered backing, and voila, I have my very own, genuine, Urban Outfitters accent pillow. And, all it cost me was the price of taking my sweet eldest shopping while she was home for Spring Break.
The icing on my pillow cake was when my daughter's friend Avery came over, saw, or rather zeroed in on, the pillow, recognized the font because, well Avery's been to Urban Outfitters quite a few times, and squealed, "Wow, that is such a cool Urban Outfitters pillow!"
Imagine my joy in responding," I made it myself."
So, thanks for the shopping bag. I hope I made you proud.

Friday, March 18, 2011

In which my hamantaschen have their 15 Minutes and I post about a new quilt

Who would have thunk it that a day that began with my middle girl lamenting that she's not having a good time at the beach and could I drive the 4 1/2 hours each way to pick her up, would turn out like this.
I got an email this morning from an editor at the TODAY show asking if I'd let them use this photo:
Now, these are last year's nutella hamantaschen, so they're long ago digested, but, sure, go ahead and post about them here. I didn't notice until just now that the entire TODAY show cast seem to be smiling down on my hamantaschen. cute is that?
Then, my photo got picked up here and here.
Then, the lovely folks at TODAY decided to feature it here and I'm even quoted. Very fun. I've been giggling about it all day.
It's been almost as fun as finishing this quilt:
Postscript to the beach saga. My eldest daughter's amazingly terrific boyfriend volunteered to pick up the unhappy vacationer.  Yup. It's been a good day.
Have a great weekend and Chag Purim Sameach to all of you joining me tomorrow night or on Sunday in eating hamantaschen, cranking groggers, and general Purim silliness!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Haman's Ears, Adam's Pot Holders, and Saral's Paper

I had so many different ways I wanted to go with today's post. First off, it is my opportunity to introduce all of you, dear readers, to my newest sponsor, Saral Paper Corporation and to feature a project made with one of their products. But, it's also about two days before Purim. Did I hear you say, what's that? Click here to learn more. And, because it's close to Purim, I just this week got together with my buddy Adam with whom I often share culinary adventures and made these:
Mmmm...hamantaschen. Can you smell them? Of course you can't because: a. this is a computer screen and b. they're all gone. 
Don't despair, I've found a way to combine Saral Paper, Purim, Hamantaschen, and Adam all into one post.
The story begins with Adam and I getting together to bake Hamantaschen. These are the traditional cookies eaten on Purim. Why? Hmmm...I'm not exactly sure, but they do refer both in Hebrew and Yiddish to the villain of the Purim tale, Haman, though in Yiddish hamantaschen means Haman's pockets and in Hebrew, Oznei Haman literally means Haman's ears.  
I have been making hamantaschen for years and eating them even longer. In the past few years I've added a little twist to these cookies by replacing the traditional poppy seed filling with nutella. This substitution makes for an incredible tasting ear and I introduced Adam to this variation. He hated it. No, of course not. He loved it. And that got me to thinking about how to creatively pass on this recipe to him so that next year we can make them at his place and he can wash all the dishes. Also, Adam just got a new gas oven which I think we all agree he should hire a professional to install rather than assuming this is a DIY project. Are you listening, Adam?
Anyway, as I pondered these myriad issues, Saral transfer paper, hamantaschen, a gift to welcome Adam's new stove should he survive its installation, I came up with this project:
It is one of a pair of potholders with a hamantaschen cookie applique and the recipe for the hamantaschen dough written using Saral transfer paper and free motion quilting. 
I began by piecing and appliqueing the triangular fabric cookie to some charcoal gray fabric.

I cut out two small pieces of Saral transfer paper and positioned them on my potholder top. With the transfer side of the paper facing the fabric and with legible penmanship as my goal, I wrote out the ingredients and process for making the cookie dough. The fabulous thing about this paper is that it's fine enough to let me write as I normally would and still have that crisply and accurately transfer to the fabric. Add to that it comes in several colors so you can transfer onto dark or light fabrics.
Are you copying this down? Those are the ingredients you'll need, machine stitched onto the potholder using nothing more than white thread and a free motion foot.
My mind is racing with all the possibilities to add text to fabric projects this product affords. I'm thinking fabric journals, stitched, yet handwritten quilt labels....
What might you come up with?
While you're cogitating on that, here's the rest of the dough recipe and instructions for assembling the cookie. Adam, you'll have to wait for the second potholder for that part.

Adapted from The Jewish-American Kitchen by Raymond Sokolov

Making the Dough:
Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar into a large bowl. Work in the butter using a pastry blender. Add the eggs. Form the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour.

Assembling the Cookies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Divide the dough into portions you can easily roll out. On a floured board, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Cut the dough into 3-4 inch circles using the top of a glass or cookie cutter. Fill each circle with a heaping teaspoon of filling(think nutella) and pinch the dough around into a triangular shape. brush the dough with an egg wash and bake on a greased cookie sheet for 20 to 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Just the Pictures, Ma'am

Much as I'd like to write a long post and ask you all some of the questions that pop into my head while I'm moving through my day, I'm just going to have to be satisfied with pictures.
Except...I want to welcome a new sponsor to my blog, Saral Paper Corporation. They make some fabulous products including a transfer paper for transferring images on to fabric. Stay tuned because next Thursday, March 17, I'm going to be posting about a project, complete with tutorial, made using their transfer paper. to the pictures.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Suggestible Me and Probably You

I'm very suggestible, but I would guess that if you're reading this blog and you're passionate about creating, you're pretty suggestible too. I'm so suggestible that I make a list everyday of the tasks that I have to do. Otherwise, I'd spend entire days working on some project that I saw yesterday and got so excited about that I had to make it. NOW!
As an example, consider this dress:
A day before I made it, I was happily knitting a sweater. And then the weather warmed and I thought, hmmm...maybe I need a new dress. I didn't act on it right away as my list clearly stated that one of the day's tasks was to stop by Stitch Lab to drop off some class samples. While I was at Stitch Lab, I noticed the sample dress they had hanging. They offer a monthly dress class and February's dress looked oh-so Springy.
I didn't have a chance to write down the pattern number, but managed to remember it by repeating the pattern name and number multiple times until I got home and googled it. After all that, I decided that, despite how cute the dress was, I'm a little too short for a full skirt and that particular pattern wasn't exactly right for me. But, it was too late. The suggestion had already been planted. I searched around on that same site until I got to this pattern, Butterick B5455. And, there you have it. Pattern purchased, dress made.
A couple days later, I was looking through my contact's photos on flickr and noticed a cute little clutch someone had made. Yup, you guessed it:
Hey, it works with the dress.
You might think someone who spends the entirety of her day sewing and dyeing for work would not be drawn to do it in her off hours, but apparently that's what I see and so that's what I do.
Last night I was at Stitch Lab teaching a class and, with it being March, there's a new dress of the month.
Even as I write this a tab is open on my computer with that pattern.