Post #8 On one thing leads to another, or practise makes perfect

Recently I learnt a new word from my good friend and artist, Catherine Knox, who is doing a design course. The word is iteration. It means “repetition of an action, process, or performance” (OED). Then I googled it, found a can of worms, and nearly lost the intended thread of this post.

Which is that I pounced on the word because it aptly describes how I use my needle to repeat the same thing many times. When I was a mew quiltmaker I constructed fabric houses. Over and over again. In various colours and styles, singly and in villages. I told myself it was because of my (then) academic interest in ecological literary criticism and the idea of the planet as humankind’s home or oikos. But it was really because houses are so easy to make – a series of squares to include the windows and doors and a slightly more tricky triangle for the roof. Even that was avoidable if one makes flat roofed houses. Some of the villages I stitched in the early 2000s are pitctured above and below. Note the iteration.

Extension 3

Before making these townships, I stitched individual or smaller groups of houses. Recently I collected the remains of these stitcheries (many of the small house quilts were given as gifts or sold) and made a quilt collage of them. Here it is, with a few close ups.


And another photograph – this one is called Oikos. It was selected to go travelling to Australia and New Zealand (from South Africa) on a Trinations travelling exhibition titled “My Place” in 2008. Spot the house.


My penchant for sewing houses faded (temporarily I hope) and was replaced by a preoccupation with making trees. Mostly lone trees, but also a few forests. My quilting friends have been heard to say “What. Another tree!” I will save the photographs of the tree quilt collection for another post.

To return to the word iteration and that can of worms. My ignorance about its meaning has led me down delightful paths of discovery. It has a mathematical meaning, which was explained in more or less these words: looping in closer and closer until you get the right answer (thank you Andrew). The precise dictionary definition is :

the repeated use of a formula

which provides

a closer approximation

to the solution

of a given equation

when an approximate solution

is substituted in the formula,

so that a series of successively closer approximations is obtained

(with apologies to OED for turning into a poem).


Iteration is also a big part of design technology and marketing.

According to the Pidoco website ( iterative design is a process where the product is repeatedly tested and evaluated to get rid of any flaws. In other words, iterative design is a process of improving and polishing the design over time. They claim that an example of iterative design is Wikipedia, where users can add missing information and correct mistakes that have been made by former contributors

Then there is iterative innovation, which takes it one step further. I think I will just stick with the good old fashioned wisdom of “practise makes perfect”.

A final bit of musing. The verb iterate comes from the Latin word iterare, to do again or repeat. (The word reiterate is more familiar, and has a similar meaning — to repeat something for emphasis.) I have just read a post apocalyptic novel, Fever by Deon Meyer, in which the main character, Willem Storm, likes to explain the roots of words to his son. I enjoyed these explanations (and the book itself) very much.

Thank you to my faithful readers Karen Davies and Jacqui Wiles for noticing that I skipped writing a post last week.


3 thoughts on “Post #8 On one thing leads to another, or practise makes perfect

  1. Oh no Mariss! Everytime I see pictures of your “house quilts” I want another one! These are gorgeous. Like the literary slant of this post too.


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