Technology and Beauty

Finding inspiration in friends and on-line


As a quilter, I am thrilled at the kinds of things my friends and I can do with the computer technology that has gotten huge in the past few years.

My friend Deb wanted me to make a quilt for her friend and roommate Michelle but the only thing she knew was that Michelle likes yellow and gray. Hmm. Ahh. Yellow and gray what?  Stripes? Flowers? Dots? Solids?

“Well, it should be a twin-sized quilt,” Deb said helpfully.

There are lots of yellow and gray fabrics and lots of florals, lots of stripes and other geometric designs. There are solids and ombres and so many different ways some of each could be combined. To complicate things, Michelle is a long-haul trucker currently on the road and Deb was in Albuquerque. What to do? There was no guarantee I can find something she likes locally, even if I could go shopping. And besides, it was nine o’clock at night.

So, I went to Google. I entered “yellow gray fabric.” I clicked Images. Up came pictures of available fabrics from across the country. I picked a few that I thought Michelle would like and that I could also get in a nice combination for the quilt. I used Messenger to send the pictures to Deb so we could see and talk about them at the same time. Afterward, she sent them along to the traveling Michelle who liked one from the Missouri Star Quilt Company in Hamilton a lot so I was able to order everything I needed – fabric, batting and backing – from one place.

It took several months to get everything together and I finished the quilt on my birthday, Oct. 30. My friends had thrown a small party with a Death by Chocolate cake from Indulgence Bakery & Café topped with Breyer's vanilla ice cream. And we had party hats. I loved my party hat so much I wore it to finish the quilt. And when all was said and done, Michelle loved both the quilt and the picture of me finishing it in my party finery.

My friend Kim, who recently moved to Las Cruces from Kansas, loves a quilting program called Electric Quilt 8. When I saw how much fun she had with it, I bought a copy myself. One of our favorite things to do is to look at quilts online and then together figure out how to make them. We don’t always get them made, but it’s fun figuring out how we might. Kim likes designing more than she likes the actual making and I love the making.

So, a good place to see amazing and inspiring quilts, some of them years and years old, is on the posts by the National Quilt Museum. To celebrate their 30-year anniversary last year, they posted a different and amazing quilt from their collection of over 650 “works of art" every day. Some of these beauties are way beyond our current skill levels and must have taken months, if not years, to make. Some, like the Gees Bend quilts, tell stories of communities and their ways of living and making do with what they had. Nonetheless, these quilts of struggle are still works of a unique and special kind of art.

There are many different construction methods in the museum’s collection. While pieced quilts are maybe the most familiar, there are also appliqué, foundation and paper piecing, thread painting, pictorials, One Block Wonders, and sometimes, something that is simply what the quilt artist wanted to make. “Falling Down" by Eleanor McCain is one such and is one of my favorites. It is a pieced quilt that is a metaphor and is designed to be hung so that the bottom rests on the floor, completing the idea of falling.

Another thing we like to do with our program – everyone calls it simply EQ8 – is to look at fabrics that are just coming out and figure out what we could make with them.

Usually, that’s not the way it works. Usually, you find a pattern and then get some fabric to make it. There are hundreds of thousands of designs because people have made their own changes to what started out as the first plan. The difference between a design and a pattern is that the pattern tells you how many fabrics you need and how to cut and sew them. Some even tell you what fabrics to buy. But if someone has an older pattern, then they must choose new fabrics and so the Instagram and Facebook posts by the manufacturers and designers come in really handy.

And the really cool thing about a lot of designers is that they make fabric for holiday celebrations. These fresh, new releases provide opportunities that can completely absorb us for hours. Fabrics designed by Patrick Lose are particularly fun and joyful and want to be used in novel ways.

For Kim and me, figuring out patterns that show off the fabric is a challenge we simply cannot pass up. Together, we will sit for hours in the Milagro Coffee House, drinking superb coffee and enjoying green chile bagels with lox cream cheese, and comparing ideas on our current project.

In the back room, where jute coffee sacks that weigh 130 pounds when full line the wall, lit only by small lights on tables just large enough for two laptops, two coffee cups, two plates and two mice, we sip and munch and make changes. We squint and scribble and erase and sometimes just blow the whole thing away and start over. We trundle out happy and satisfied, laptops under our arms, still chatting about the design and what we will do next.