Saturday, May 2, 2020

Old Maid's Puzzle Blocks

Two of my kids used to go to a Waldorf school in our area.  There are so many things I love about it, especially the Waldorf approach to learning and being human.  It spoke to my children, but it also spoke to me. At Waldorf schools, they immerse themselves in a thing until they are done.  They allow themselves the time to understand a concept on many different levels.  To let it really seep in.  By the time a study is complete, my kids knew the thing in their guts;  it had become a part of them.

Frequently, I heard ideas sprinkled throughout my interactions with the community that rang true, especially from their teachers.  Mostly it reinforced what I already believed, but occasionally there was a message tucked into a conversation that I needed for myself.  One time, when I was talking with a teacher about kids finishing projects, she said it was like a muscle.  You finish one project, and you are better able to begin and see the next project through to its finish.  Basically, it's a good practice.  I have no problem with this concept.  I believe in it.  But sometimes I hit an obstacle trying to put it into practice.

Right now, as I (and every other parent around the world) homeschool my children for an unknown amount of time, I am revisiting some of these valuable lessons and asking myself important questions.  How do I want my children and myself to spend each day?  What is the right balance between work and play?  What makes an experience valuable and how do I make sure that my family is nourished, body and soul, through this time?  As I navigate my way through assigned work and "enrichment" offered by the public school system, I am startled by the stark difference between it and the Waldorf community.  One is a "do it all" approach and one is methodical and slow.  What is right for my family and how do I find a balance that keeps my children tapped into their school community while being true to the things I believe have value?  Like all people who embrace the Waldorf philosophy around the world, I limit technology at my home, so online curriculums are hard for me to embrace.  I believe young children should have tactile learning experiences without much screen time.  So I have begun building projects based on the learning my children need to be doing.  Reading practice, math practice- yes.  But also projects that let them think about the natural world, how things work, and art, and writing. Games that make us laugh and help us be together.  And puzzles.  I love puzzles.


My kids found this guy in our house.
We think we found him in our insect ID book.


We are making gardens and studying backyard birds.  We are looking into building birdhouses and how to attract specific species of birds to our yard.  We are drawing pictures and thinking about flight.  We are reading fantasy books and writing about what we see each day.  Each day we try to dig a little deeper, find out something more or just take time to see our surroundings.  We need to water our garden, make our food, engage our bodies and our brains.  And right now, that's a lot of work.

Miles is working on an oriole study.
But I am also thinking about myself.  I find so much pleasure in quilting.  It brings me peace, and grounds me.  It connects me to the moment, but also to the past and future.  I delight in texture and color.  I love the finish, but I really love the process.  I like to make quilts from patterns and from my head.  I have so many ideas that I sometimes have trouble staying with a project all the way through to its finish.  I suspect I'm not alone in this.  As a result, I have a pile of WIPs that have been neglected for a long time.  Some of them have been waiting years to be finished, but somewhere along the way they were set aside, and if not abandoned all together, they have certainly been neglected.  I haven't lost interest, I just hit a road block in each of them.  I see that I haven't embraced the practice of taking a project to its finish.  That's not to say I haven't finished anything.  In fact, I've been fairly productive.  But I also have plenty of room to grow in this area.





Now that I have some time at home, I'm really going to try to tackle those projects, or at least some of them.   I picked out a few projects to start.  I have three main pieces to complete.  One is a traditional Old Maid's Puzzle quilt.  I pieced several blocks from Anna Maria Horner's Luminous (maybe 2) line.  I almost never make an entire quilt from one collection of fabric.  It just isn't for me generally. In fact, I never buy an entire line of fabric.  But in this case, I bought it thinking that I had a use for it and then when I found I didn't, I thought I could repurpose it.  I wanted to keep the collection together because I loved the drape of the fabric.  I have a shot cotton quilt that is my favorite, and I felt that this would be a similar feel.  I did a sample block out of Kona cotton, just to test it out, and found it was a lot of piecing, but nothing difficult.  And then I started working with the woven fabric. All the points were difficult to get right.  The fabric slides around and as pretty as it is, I found it was not really fun to piece.  I got through seven of the sixteen blocks, put it away, and only pulled it out when I was moving my sewing room a few weeks ago.  I decided to complete a block a day, and planned to have it be a 64" square throw.  Then my daughter decided she really liked it and would like it on her bed.  She sleeps on a top bunk, so the quilt doesn't need to be generously sized.  Too big and the bed is difficult to make.  So I thought I could add one more row of blocks to the bottom and it would be perfect.  Unfortunately, I didn't have enough of any one piece of fabric to make that work.  So I came up with a second idea.  I would cut pieces out of my scraps to make 4"x5" rectangles and piece 2 rows of them as a border for the top and bottom.  But, as I worked on that, she didn't like it.  I checked in with the rest of my family, who didn't like it, and then I texted pictures out to my extended family, who didn't like it...





So, now I'm stuck again.  But this time, I need to come up with a solution.  I'm giving myself a few days to ponder my options, and then I will face this problem again.

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