New Year – New Blog Goals

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Woo! So I’m back in the swing of things. :) New year, new dedication to this blog.

It’s officially been one year since I started Blanca Pate, and I think the first year was a good one for experimenting. I learned a LOT about blogging in general, and have become better at using the WordPress platform and different programs such as Lightroom and Photoshop. I think the best part is having all my projects and photos gathered in one place, so that I can look back and see what all I accomplished this past year.

But, even though I started this blog to talk about my sewing endeavors, I somehow ended writing more about anything and everything that was interesting to me at the time. Looking back, I realize that some things worked, and others didn’t.

So, in my second year of blogging, I’ve decided to reign things in and go back to the basics. I really want to go back to MAKING THINGS, for the sake of making things. I think last year I was so worried about making the garments and photos look perfect that I didn’t create or post as much as I would have liked to.

And while I started this website to present my sewing creations, the blog itself has brought back another interest of mine – photography. I was very interested in photography while in high school, and actually considered pursuing it in college as well (even though I went with the more practical decision to study business). I really like that this blog pushes me to take more photographs, and learn more about my camera and post-processing. Also, I’m so in love with mobile photography, and am amazed at the photographs that my little cell phone camera is able to capture. Photography is definitely something I want to keep improving, and I like that my blog gives me another platform for presenting my work.

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So all this being said, here are my 3 Blog Goals for this year:

1. Keep it Simple – write about projects related to sewing and photography.

2. Don’t worry about my audience – write (and live) freely.

This is sort of an over-arching goal that applies to my life, as well. I tend to worry too much about what others think, and I really need to work on doing things for myself, because they make me happy.

Same thing with my blog posts – last year, I tended to worry about what others would think about my website, which inhibited my writing at times. It also kept me from posting garments and photographs that weren’t “perfect”, and I really wish I had posted the failures, as well, to give a more realistic impression of what it’s like to improve on any new creative endeavor.

3. Focus on making a little progress each day.

Sometimes I get a little too virtuous with my goals and I forget about the small steps of progress I make along the way. For example, at the end of 2013, all I could think about were the garments I DIDN’T sew.. I wanted to try and make a pair of shorts, or a blouse with sleeves (something I’ve yet to try). BUT.. I forget that I conquered a hand-picked zipper, for example, which is a small skill in sewing, but something that will make my garments look much more professional than a wonky machine stitched zipper. So, in short, I need to focus more on my small accomplishments rather than worry about what I have yet to do (again – same thing applies in life). :)

Alright, now that I have my blog goals in order for this year, I would like to re-think one of my loftier ideas that was introduced in 2013 – in particular, my 30 before 30 list. While the list was a great idea in theory, I think it was a bit too ambitioius to create one a year before my 30th birthday. Since 2014 is the year I turn 30, it makes sense to focus on these 3 goals listed above, and maybe create a new list of things next year of what I’d like to accomplish before turning 40 (things that I can accomplish during a whole decade of time).

Ok, so that should do it. Ready for the new year! Thank you all for following and reading along. :) I really love sharing my thoughts and creations on this site. I’m inspired by so many more sewing and photography blogs out there – they are the real reason I started a blog of my own to begin with. :)

xo, Amanda

(both photos taken by me, and posted on Instagram)

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Gee’s Bend Quilts

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Helen McCloud, born 1938, blocks and strips tied with yarn in a grid pattern. Ca. 1965, cotton, nylon knit, polyester knit, 77 x 82 inches. This is one side of a two-sided quilt.

While I made steady progress on my Hawthorn muslin last week, I didn’t realize how crazy busy I’d be in my summer-school class until I read over the syllabus last weekend. It’s only a 5-week course, so I expected to take an exam each week or something to that extent, but I quickly realized there’s going to be a lot more to it than that.

So needless to say, I didn’t make any more progress on my dress this week. :( But… during my study breaks at the library, I was able to log-in some time to Pinterest, where I could at least be inspired by what everyone else is sewing this summer. :)

I’m mostly drawn to the quilts on Pinterest, only because the bright colors and compositions really jump out at me on this type of format. I particularly love looking at modern quilts, and any search online for this style of quilting will lead you to the Quilts of Gee’s Bend.

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Polly Bennett, born 1922. Two-sided quilt: Blocks, 1942, cotton (dress and pants fabric, curtain material, mattress ticking), 81 x 83 inches.

For those of you who don’t know the history behind this group, Gee’s Bend is a town in southwest Alabama. The predominantly African-American community is secluded from the rest of the state as it is situated on a bend right off the Alabama river. Ferry service was cut off to Camden, Alabama (it’s closest large town) from the 1960’s to 2006. It’s for this reason that Gee’s Bend has a very strong culture, and, like many other southern towns, has a deep history of quilt-making.

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Mary Lee Bendolph, born 1935. “Housetop” variation, 1998; quilted by her daughter, Essie bendolph Pettway, in 2001, cotton, corduroy, twill, assorted polyesters, 72 x 76 inches. In the early 1990s, a former Bend resident living in Bridgeport, Connecticut, sent some garments — double-knit leisure suits — to Gee’s Bend. Mary Lee Bendolph remembers: “My sister-in-law’s daughter sent those clothes down here and told me to give them away, but didn’t nobody want them. That knit stuff, clothes from way back yonder, don’t nobody wear no more, and the pants was all bell- bottom. We ain’t that out-of-style down here. I was going to take them to the Salvation Army but didn’t have no way to get there, so I just made quilts out of them.”

What’s interesting is that the women of Gee’s Bend have a distinct style that differs from traditional quilts from the past century throughout the South, and the rest of America, for that matter. The Quilts of Gee’s Bend have a very modern, simplistic aesthetic, and even their quilts that date back to the 19th century have a strong liking to what we call modern art today. The improvisational style and bold colors make the Quilts of Gee’s Bend stand out against the muted colors and precise piecing of more traditional quilts. I can’t get enough of their unpretentious beauty. :) These are exactly the kind of quilts I strive to make – simple and beautiful, but completely lived in and loved.

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Annie Bendolph, 1900-1981, “One Patch,” ca. 1960, cotton, 78 x 70 inches

Anyway, if you’re curious to learn more about this group, I encourage you to listen to this NPR podcast from 2003. In the meantime, I’ll be hard at work in front of my computer, and counting down the days until August!!

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Annie Bendolph, 1900-1981. “Thousand Pyramids” variation, ca. 1930, cotton sacking and chambray, 83 x 70 inches.

(All images are from the Quilts of Gee’s Bend Catalog, found here. The historical info came from this NPR podcast, ‘The Quilts of Gee’s Bend’).