Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve

I've been doing more work on the swap project for my friend in MN and tried a different method of machine quilting. Its nice & I do hope she and her dear husband like what I've made for them. The pieces need binding, which I can do tomorrow, and then they will ship out by week's end.

In my Italian heritage, many people honored the god Janus on the New Year. He is often seen as the baby of the new year and the old man of the old year.

A lot of art is dedicated to the double head of Janus who sees both our past & future events & is keeper of the gate. Again, its about seeing, looking, observing, watching. 

This sort of image was cast on coins during the Roman era, used a lot on reliefs, crockery, and in paintings. One can assume that folks of that time had an understanding about this particular energy.

As I look at what I have quilted this last year, several things are apparent to me. One is to pay better attention to the minor details, such as securing all four corners on both sides, ensuring back-stitching holds the seams, and keeping track of the patterns if I leave a project for another time; making notes of what was done on it, & what was planned when I do return to it. 

Janus has a sister Jana, who was also honored at this time of year. She was honored as the keeper of doorways, and is often portrayed holding a key. 

Again, that reminds me to look at quilting patterns & create something I love that will be cherished by someone who receives it. Sources for these Ancient Roman siblings give them responsibility for beginnings & endings. 

If anything, it sparked the idea that I need to make a new list for quilts I want to finish in 2014. I created a list for my sidebar for "Making Christmas/Solstice" that worked really well, and now there is one for the quilts until I do a reveal when the recipient has them in hand. Some have quilt names, others just working titles.

My younger Son sent me 20 rotary blades and five packages of queen-size batting for the holidays, both gifts will take me through the year. (I want to send him the traditional coin for the blade so they don't cut our ties....so that must mean 20 coins.)

Here's to those Ancient Roman siblings...looking back and looking forward!

Be safe on the roads if you travel tonight.

Monday, December 30, 2013

To Market, To Market

Pink. I am surrounded by family and friends who like pink. It is simply not my color. Yet I know it is a combination of red and white and its energy is determined by how much red is present. I do know that one might paint a room pink if they want it to provide them with feelings of caring, tenderness and relaxation. It also helps to neutralize aggressive behavior.

Give me a full out red any day. OK, I use it more as an accent. One of my WIP quilts is a red and white. Admittedly, I am concerned that it might be washed one day and turn the whites pink, even with the care instructions. I pre-washed all the reds before cutting them, and I am honestly thinking of soaking them again before the piecing begins on the quilt.

Yet here I am quilting with pink for my Grandpeeps and this fundraiser.

Along with the Pink Purse Fundraiser quilt I made for my friend Toni, I volunteered to make a bag to go with it...bag meaning purse. As I have written, I don't buy pink fabric and yet, with all that has been given to me, I discovered enough to make quilt after quilt and this bag.

I used a free pattern from JoAnn's for a market bag. I am making it reversible, with a bit of batting and light quilting for added strength.

This morning, I pieced the two parts for the front and back of the outside section, using some 2.5" squares for one side and some 4" squares for the other. No cutting, just piecing and pressing.
There was enough to make the two center parts, and then another larger piece to make the inside front and back. It still needs about 3 yards for the straps. I think I can do some light quilting for the center parts for reinforcement.

Unfortunately, I didn't have any material left from the quilt itself, so each piece is a stand alone. These pinks for the market bag are more traditional for Breast Cancer Awareness than what evolved in the quilt.

As I ponder the current work with pinks, it occurs to me that seeing so many shades of it are giving me those energies of caring and tenderness. And for as much as has been used, its surprising to see scraps remaining. Guess this energy has got some more work to do here.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Progress or Process

The last few days my quilting projects are gifts, and until they are shipped and received, I don't want to share photographs of the work in progress (WIP). Or is that process?

Those two words are quite interesting in quilting and in life. Progress means a positive and gradual development. Process means a series of actions or natural occurrences directed toward a specific aim.  

Too often, we either share too little of our lives or give too much information (TMI) as we process what is happening in our lives. Finding a balance to sharing is challenging. I find myself reading past comments from people on Facebook, who want to tell about abuse or crime or someone's sad story. Its titillating and makes people become voyeurs to life around them. Give me a story that is positive and life affirming and I will read to the end of it. 

Bloggers have different reasons for sharing, and admittedly, it takes a good story or reason for me to read them. I do not expect people to read mine. Not everyone is interested in quilting, and even among other quilter's blogs, mine is relatively personal rather than technical. AND I don't run bog-alongs nor do I give away goodies.

Last year (2013), I finished 6 of 8 scrappy wall hangings like this one my Niece Lisa received. Each had that gold star and all had mini ornaments & a dowel in the back through a sleeve. Loved them!

I used a design fabric and laid 2 out at a time so that I could shift the beiges and greens around. Quilting was done in a grid and then the other pieces hand sewn. 

The Doll Quilt Swap for January has a theme to try something new. Wow, was it new and wow, it stretched my skills. I've put it away until I hear from my swap partner so that if she contacts me, the quilt can be more tailored to her. I do not want to post that photo.

Another swap is with a friend back in MN. She asked for 2 quilted placemats, and they are also coming along quite nicely. I'll post photos after she receives them.

This was also a mini quilt I made last year that is in a box for one of my Granddaughters that I will give her when she gets her own apartment. It represents more of the beginning stage of my quilting.

The other work, behind the camera or behind the scenes is all about piecing which can be rather boring to look at until it has a more finished appearance. These are the WIP (works in progress) quilts, or is it process? 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Day's Work

Anything truly worthwhile in my life requires a full measure of effort and diligence, whether its my quilting or my spiritual evolution.

Today was spent working on time consuming small stuff. One long side of prairie points is left to pin on Baylee's quilt. Every time I touch it, it reminds me of this extraordinarily beautiful young woman. I worked on it on and off for awhile now, and probably can complete the pinning step tomorrow. 

Last night I pulled out another one of the 2014 holiday quilts. It left the UFO bin and graduated to the table where the WIP's are kept.

Most of it is cut, so last night, I laid the pieces out for 24 blocks. The next step was to draw diagonal lines on the light fabric. Today, in fact, all day, I sewed along those lines.

The pattern comes from a December 2007 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting. The magazine claims that a quilter should be at an Intermediate stage of their work. I think its pulling me out of the 'Confident Beginner' into the "New Intermediate'. Clearly, this one is requiring that effort and diligence!

I am modifying it just a tiny bit by substituting a center block for a panel print. Its just perfect as a scrap quilt because each block was to be cut from a fat quarter and I was able to find enough in my stash to make it work. The only purchase for it, so far, is the background. I selected a frosty snow in an ice blue fabric that has a bit of glitter to it. 

This is one of four quilts that is planned to go to my Niece in Wisconsin for her family. These four are the ones I would like to complete in January.

Tonight, while watching Sherlock's Season 2 on Masterpiece Theater, I plan to cut the corners and possibly press to the dark side. If that gets done, I can go onto Step 4 (of 10) for Block Assembly!  Woohooo.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

WIP Quilt

I pressed the borders on Baylee's grad quilt so I could lay the 146 prairie points out. Its becoming such a stunning quilt. The pattern comes from a book LINK TO THE 30'S: MAKING THE QUILTS WE DIDN'T INHERIT by Kay Conners and Karen Earlywine. Baylee's party is in mid-June and I plan a trip back.

It has been taking me some time to work on all the pieces. It reminds me that life is a process, and we are inevitably caught up in its flow. Its been said so often that our life is one long passage from one condition to another.

What I love about quilting, and also about life, is that there is something different to be experienced just around the corner. Like a snowflake from above, we are on the move, changing, spinning, sparkling and then melting. 

I have found that its silly for me to get attached to one part of the quilt, or to be over-whelmed by one step. There were a lot of cutting sessions. I learned a new technique for partial sewing of one square. It was a new way of thinking at first.

This quilt is a series of interweaving links that reminds me of how we are all connected. All differences make such a beautiful combination. 

The background is a lovely lavender. Her Mother suggested the colors, and I wanted to make something in the purples and pinks that looked a bit more sophisticated on the quilt as she goes off to college and takes it with her.

The prairie points are laid out now, ready to pin and then baste; and with that, the top is complete. I want to purchase another batik for the back. 

Like life, I work on this quilt tenderly holding it with open hands and an open heart. Like the title of the book, I want to think of this work as a symbol of claiming and reclaiming all the good in the world. It doesn't matter if we didn't have what we wanted, or thought we missed a chance at having it. We can get it now, we can be a part of the link to each other.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pressing Prairie Points

It takes awhile to do some things. Pressing, which is different than ironing, always takes me back to my childhood when one of my chores was to iron. I hated it. Its a boring, tedious job and once I learned how to twist fabric in my hands before buying anything made with it--- because if it wrinkled, it needed ironing and I would not buy it. THEN, I knew my ironing days were over.

In fact, had I known that pressing, which as I said before is different than ironing, was a part of quilting, it might have made me stop and think about what I was getting into.

These are 146 - 4" squares pressed into prairie points for my #2 Granddaughter's graduation quilt. The colors are not as rich here as in real life because my cell phone doesn't capture their true colors. More later when stores re-open after the holidays, and I can get batteries for the camera. Its going to be a drop-dead gorgeous quilt.

Pressing is different from ironing because pressing does not distort the fabric fibers. When you press, you hold the iron on the fabric, then lift it. When you iron, you move it forth and back. 

Ironing pushes or pulls the fabric, and can give a wobbly effect to the cut edges or pieced seams.

Pressing or ironing still bores me. My focus always wanders. Its like I am a kid again, whining, longing for freedom, whining some more, and standing with an iron in my hand. Whining.

Who knew this was part of quilting? 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Open to Receive

That has always been a challenge for me. I grew up in a very generous family. We had more than most, so it seemed that my Parents set in place an ethic of giving rather than receiving. They worked hard both in the family business operations and with jobs outside the family setting. 

As time moved along and I moved out, my life was still one of privilege. And things change. Women earn less than men, yet seem to need more for personal and household operating expenses. And then there is the age factor (I recently retired and am currently on a fixed income). As a single parent, I focused more on raising my sons than acquiring material possessions. I wasn't open to receiving back then unless it was for my sons. 

It took me a long time to find that state of openness.

My stash comes from generous gifts from other quilters. My quilts are scrap quilts primarily from this stash, supplemented by purchases for borders, backs and batting. 

I finished my friend's Granddaughter's mini quilt. 

I rather enjoy this one, and once again am surprised by the pink for the back. It wasn't really pink nor was it red, so its been in the stash for awhile.

I also used 2.5" strips joined together for binding to use up those scraps as well. 

My friendships have usually been quite reciprocal, without either friend worrying about who bought lunch the last time.

And I know that Vanessa will enjoy this little quilt. Children are much more open to receive than most adults are.

Yet, this year, and this season, have been over the top for me in being open to receive. 

I enjoy moving the fabrics into a new creation and onto a couch or bed to give someone comfort. So it had to happen. I had to open up to receive or there would have been an imbalance in the universe. Things must flow to stay alive.

The story of the Dead Sea always struck me as an example. It does not flow and has earned its name for that reason.

Yes, I have a lot of fabric to go through, and yes, I am buying more for special projects, and end up with additional scraps. 

How does any one quilt without building up those stash bins? I know that my generosity comes from my family. Its a good value to have, and one that I admire in others as well as myself. 

However, I am learning about receiving and how much of a challenge it can be for some of us. We owe it to each other to be on both sides so that others in our lives have the privilege in giving to us as often as they receive what we have to offer.

In my opinion, it is arrogant to only be giving to others. Not only do we owe it to each other to be on both sides of giving and receiving, it is a great act of love to open to them, to receive what they have and want to share.

Thank you to every person who has given me something this year. Thank you for helping open my heart.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Plan Ahead

It was Winter Solstice yesterday. I have a full appreciation for all that is in my life, and for what I might be missing. There is no snow here in the valley right now and none on the surrounding mountains. And Cardinals do not fly west of the Rockies, and I miss them too.

And I did not bring out my machine or any fabric to work on yesterday and do not have time today. That doesn't stop me from thinking or planning about next year.

Gifts I received from friends, family and my Secret Santa were beyond my wildest dreams. I discovered a renewed energy from quilting this year. "Every Stitch a Prayer" has become a way of life.

This morning, while cookie dough chills for three hours, I have been browsing online for some of ideas people have for quick gifts, and made a file for myself. Some of the ideas like Yule Crackers for the table suggest you collect pieces for them through out the year. 

And others are made of odd size scrap fabrics. No tutorial here, and the link was so old I couldn't find information, however, its going to be a simple pattern to create, piece, stuff and hang! My thought is to make one with loops on each end to hang over a window rather than a mantle. 

And I found a number of tutorials for quick Tree Skirts or Table Runners that will also use up fabric scraps. Scrap quilting has become more popular with the rise in cotton prices.  Admittedly, some projects do not appeal to me either for how they turn out or for how much work it takes to complete them. I want quick and easy, and attractive.

It is my intent to create individual gift boxes with these small decorations for each of my Nieces, Nephews, and Grandpeeps (suddenly leaving home and setting up their own apartments). I've learned to ask what colors they want to decorate in for the holidays and am able to make these to fit right in with their intentions.

I think I am going to dedicate at least a day or two each month to working on these projects for next year so I can keep ahead of the season and have the gifts ready to send just before Thanksgiving 2014.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Doll/Toy Quilts

My close friend's Daughter learned I was making mini quilts for kids to use for their toys and asked if I would make one for her child. She has three children, so after asking their ages, I decided to make three so they could each have one. 

My friend and I do not exchange gifts on these usual holidays, and we have not extended our interactions to include either of our adult children or their children. However, making practice pieces is a smart part of quilting.

It feels like part of "Make every moment count" to have every stitch count as well. I think of all the notebooks I filled when I was in college and how many files I tossed a few years later. They were essential to learning at the time, but ended up being such a waste of paper in the end.

These are more of the practice pieces for me. And they will have usefulness for a period of time and then also get tossed. This one goes to my friend's Grandson, and was an opportunity for me to quilt around the shapes, remembering to back space. It was one of those old panels just kicking around in my stash that had no where to go. I feel more comfortable with this process now, and would not be hesitant to use it on a full size quilt.

The second one was originally a calendar block I made for the swap that finished off too large and was really impossible to cut down. It is cute and I hated to just throw it away and am glad it got saved. I added a border to it from a leftover "Angel Wings" scrap. Then, I taped diagonally and machine quilted a snake-walk on either side and did one more maybe four inches out from each of those lines. 

I think this method will work wonderfully on CC's Hot Pink quilt. The tape came off easily without marking the fabric.

I've started a little larger quilt for the older child (think she's 7-8) using up 6" blocks from my stash. It will go together quite easily. I'll do the binding on all three at one time and then send them off.

It feels good to re-purpose fabric pieces and use up what is in my closet stash.  I rather enjoy the challenge.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What a Day

The morning here was filled with a bit of angst because Somerset, WI schools were in lockdown due to a threat some guy made to one of the kids. Two of my Grandgrrrls go there, and until the suspect was apprehended, and everyone declared safe, my attention was there. 

Its so easy to go along in life thinking everything will be ok. It is not ok for some families this year. And even though this was frightening beyond belief, I hold some compassion for the man and wonder what motivated his stupidity. It could have been worse, and isn't. It has effected all the families involved and many people who have only heard it on the news. 

I want to make every moment count, love as much as I can and as often as I can.

I finished binding the Fundraiser quilt last night. Its name is "Angel Wings" because of the pink on the border and back. It is a utility quilt, which means it can stand up to hard use for a time. It is a comfort quilt too. I was surprised at how cozy it made me feel while I worked on it last night. That allowed me to complete it. 

Its clearly the kind of quilt that early quilters made of scraps they had on hand and done in a random fashion. I am not as fond of the random quilts like this one, yet know, it will serve someone. If the new quilt owner doesn't like the top, they can flip it to the pink fabric and ponder its Angel Wings.

The other pink quilt I am making comes from a Moda pattern called 4 Charm Packs Plus. It's thrown across the top of my queen size bed and will come out to about a twin size when completed. I need to take it with me and get a piece for the binding unless I use the same fabric as what is on the back.

A true charm quilt uses a fabric only once, and that makes this one more of a charming quilt.

Guess I am still thinking about that school incident. There were incidents when my Sons were in school some decades ago. Things happen and no one is really exempt from life's challenges. Somerset schools are some of the finest public schools I have seen in this day. My belief is that they will have good counseling for the kids from now until their holiday break. Its up to the rest of us to find a source of healing and forgiveness.  

Bless those police responders and school staff...I plan to look up some addresses in a few minutes and send them written thank you notes for keeping my Grandpeeps safe.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Feeling Anticipation

Its so easy to relish the finishing of a quilt. Its also easy for me to trick myself into thinking that peak moment is the only one that counts most in my quilt-making. 

However, this quilt, meant as a donation for a Pink Purse Fundraiser scheduled for early February, has one more stage to go, and that is hand sewing the binding. Its pinned and ready, and will take me a couple nights to do.

This stage brings the moment of heightened anticipation, and in one way, anticipation is almost as good or better than the reward of it being done. 

I feel like my heart opened to this quilt as I put it together, even though I could not 'see' in my mind how it would work. I am not a fan of the color pink, and was limited by both what I had on hand in my own stash and what I could find in town.

I've been told by more than one non-quilter how they love the look of those random blocks of color reminiscent of quilts their grandmothers gave them many years ago.The front is put together with such a theme. 

Then I added that non-traditonal-and-a-bit wild pink print as a border on front, and for entire the back in order to jazz it up a bit. The lime green binding also has a suggestion of the angel-wing print, and I find myself loving how they both look.

Yes, my heart opened to this quilt, opened to the woman who will receive any sort of financial benefits it brings at the silent auction, as well as to the winner.

Sometimes not having a vision for a quilt, or going with how it evolves serves to push my comfort, and in a small way, it sabotages my joy in the process by creating angst. I think that when the joy goes out of a project, it gets tossed into one of those UFO (unfinished objects) bin with a big chance that it will never see the light of day again. Luckily, that didn't happen.

I have not let myself see how this one looks from the front yet and plan to wait until comes out of the dryer to fluff out. I am soaking up that sweet feeling of anticipation for now, and taking comfort in how cozy it feels as I work on the binding. 

Binding. Ah, thoughts for that another time.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Could it be Santa (Secret Santa)?

I got surprises in the mail today. 

Could it be from my Secret Santa? I have received so very much from Santa this year that my heart is full.

No card to say...and the return address is from a lovely person living in Knoxville, TN. Two fat quarters in coordinating colors! and an extraordinary pin cushion! It is a beautiful gift and the water is heating up in my teapot!

People close to me know my love for Earl Gray tea, and my love for red. This Secret Santa had the benefit of the answers to the questionnaire sent out and pulled from it even the smallest detail. I wasn't going to add to the list the big things and forego the smaller details. 

I learned long ago that its in the details that we are known to each other.

These small treasures are what warm our hearts as the days grow shorter and nights get longer. Like a kid, I tore open the packages.

Oh, and I do mean, packages. The second one was filled with these wonderful reds. All 7 pieces are hand painted, 6 of them are fat quarters and one is a half yard. Each one has its color name. 

As I looked at each of the fabrics, the artistry was simply breath taking. 

It gets better. See the Glitter thread--its from Japan! And also see the one above it? It is 100% cotton and made in Italy. Such treasures! Oh Santa.

This piece is named "Persimmon" and the painted pattern on it is a series of ovals, just beautiful work. The colors shift like a batik. 

I didn't separate the fabrics well enough for my camera to pick up details, however, the next fat quarter is called "Rosewood" and pulls the woody part or brown tone from the "persimmon" piece. It reminds me of Italian Marbled papers. Just stunning. 

"Harvest" is in this grouping of red-browns, and continues with a lighter marbling.  A higher contrast of reds and browns is seen in "Pomegranate" with a lushness reminding one of the fruit for which it was named.

The reds follow from the deep "Cardinal" to "Lucy" which has a pink undertone to the deep red, and finishes with "Chilies" and a paint that is really quite lively. Each piece is honestly a work of art.

Again, thank you. I am simply astounded at this generosity, thoughtfulness and these selections. Everything, everything has meant so very much to me to receive.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Waiting for Solstice

Whew! Packages sent, and now the end of the Cookies for Solstice shipped!  I cut back so much from previous years, and yet it seemed like it was over-done as I packed them all today. 

As I walked out of the Post Office, it felt like I could take a breath. Honestly, I thought about the Grandpeeps and how it will be when they don't get these small packages from their Granny. I feel so lucky in the moment to have the strength and resources. The joy of my life is living in the present moment without looking back and trying not to look too far forward with apprehension. Its actually a rush to feel that joy.

Two Grandchildren have their own apartments, and so this year there were FIVE households to ship cookies to. Five.

This represents some peanut butter / chocolate chips, a chocolate mint, and cutouts. I only made two kinds: Silver bells, and trees (in 3 sizes) so they were easy to decorate. Each household got half a dozen of most. I didn't count the cutouts, just wrapped them to fit safely.

Why the hat you ask?
Gray hair has a mind of its own and is a lot more maintenance. I decided that instead of getting my hair cut this month, I would get an hour-long foot reflexology massage today. 

Tom is one of those highly skilled Chinese physicians who can't practice in the US because his Chinese credentials are worthless. He is amazing. The hour was amazing.

It was helpful to have the massage as a transition of tasks. My holiday/Granny hat can come off in the house and I am getting back to the quilts. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Kicking Around Today

After facilitating the last Creative Writers's meeting for the Fall Season at the library in town today, I picked up mail, and stopped in at one of the fabric stores in town. Tomorrow is the big cookie cutout bake, and tonight is movie & popcorn night. Once I got home, I just couldn't get re-started on my current quilting projects.

It takes courage to live a life of spontaneity, and almost avoid the self-imposed concepts of should. I should do this. I must do this. Now. I know that its healthier for me to walk the path of choice. Time is part of the gift of life, and its all I ever want more of...

There was a couple entering the fabric store as I was leaving it. Before moving to this small town, I would have hurried on my way. This day, I stopped to chat. They were from a town almost two hours north of Tehachapi. 

My gray hair is a real change for me. It used to be so thick and quite curly. And long. Clearly, it is one of the qualifiers for my status as an elder, and as you can see, its cut in a non-traditional way. Elder is as elder does, or so some saying goes.

People chat with me much more easily than when I was younger. Its got to be the gray.

The guy clearly came with his wife to the store, and was very prepared to be bored. Yet, in no time, he told me of all her accomplishments and bragged how many very good sewing machines he bought for her over the years. 

He told me that they had one 43-year-old son and no grandchildren. She told me the holidays were always silent for them now. He told me where they had worked, where they had lived, and what they were doing in town. She said she was the kid during the holidays and didn't mind buying presents for herself. He smiled, and then he looked at her with the kind of love most people hope to see in someone's eyes.

I told them I was delighted with our conversation and hoped they would visit Tehachapi again. I told them it was a great place to live. 

All this standing in the entry way of the store without ever exchanging names. We left each other feeling somehow connected to the spirit of the season.

My purchase was a pattern for a retro apron I want to make for my eldest Granddaughter. Its such a cute thing for a very cute grrrlie-grrl. And my fabric stash is just begging me to use it up. I learned from the other aprons I made earlier that I NEED this pattern. 

Today was a good day. Monday is soon enough to quilt again. Or Tuesday.

Hot Pink Quilt and a Donation Button

I was surprised at how many 5" squares I found for my Granddaughter's Hot Pink Quilt. One hundred and sixty of them are pieced and the borders go on next. I love how the photo gives me a new perspective on how the squares went together. The color values are different for my naked eye. I am loving how it looks! I was concerned it would be too dark for a young teen (she turns 13 on this birthday!). Its got more light values in it than dark.

The photo reminds me how I walk through my world and see things differently than others do. I saw this quilt differently than how the picture shows it. Not better or worse, just different and darker for whatever reason. 

When I was a child, I used to wonder if everyone saw the same color. I wondered if we simply name some thing a particular color--say grass-green, and no matter what, it is the name of that object. We all call it grass-green and no one objects, even though if there was a way to measure the color waves and each person was, in fact, seeing different hues or intensities. No one says, this grass is purple. 

Kids who color grass purple in their art work are told they used the wrong color. 

And then there is Dmitry Raguimov with Artist Rising. I found this work online just by keying in 'purple grass'.  Makes me wonder how this artist found the permission to see it in his mind, and show us grass named purple rather than green. 

I am not sure I could walk through a grassy field of purple grass with any sort of ease. I am conditioned to see it the green-grass color I've known all my life. I am not ready for this big a change.

Next: The PayPal Donation button. There it is and if you ever feel so inclined to support my work in a financial way, this is the way to do it. I've been struggling with putting one up for awhile. However, its more about my openness to receive. By putting it up here, I am declaring that openness with a grateful heart. Thank you in advance.

Friday, December 13, 2013

December Calendar Block Swap

I am always richer than I think. 

Rex (from http://crowcallingwoman.blogspot.com/) & I send our calendar blocks within a day so that we open them about the same time. When her blocks come, I feel like I've won the lottery. We both experienced a change of our original plans for this month's block.

I was overjoyed to see this beautiful Star of Wonder. She also sent me some of the leftover pieces so that I could do a border that includes the same colors for my finish.

By the way, Rex, I love your new Blog background!

My first December block started out with a pattern that the pattern-maker converted to the 12" finished block, and even though my pieces followed the pattern, it turned into a 14" block. It was back to the drawing board for me. This block had no pattern. I just cut and put it together as I went. 

I keep a digital file of the blocks sent to her and what she sends me. It works as a design board. I've made three traditional patterns and three self-designed blocks since July. Time to return to a traditional idea.  Having this 'design board' lets me see the overall picture for the quilt blocks for both our quilts.

This swap helps me realize how rich this work is, how creating a partnership brings something to my life that I had not conceived myself and expands my creativity. 

Not all swaps work. Some exceed one's expectations, and some can harm the feelings we have for our artistic expressions. When we find swap partners who are as committed to the swap as we are, then that is where the joy can be found. 

I am richer than I think. I want to think outside the patterns in my life and open myself up to receiving even in challenging moments when things do not go as planned.

I am richer than I think. There, I've said it three times and like my Gram used to say, "Three's a charm!"

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Just Ask

One of my Granddaughters called last night. She got a box in the mail and didn't know if it was ok to open. It was one of the boxes of cookies. She called back after she ate one of each of them, so we talked about the season, school, hockey (she plays that very competitive sport quite competitively), and how the remaining boxes from me are shipping out.

And of course, her Mother brought her milk as she ate another cookie and talked about her holiday want list. Her birthday is the end of January, so the gifts pile up for her this time of year.

As we chatted, I thought about how important it is for a child or an adult to taste the sweetness in their lives. These sensual experiences are part of the privilege it is to be human. It was a sweet experience for me to hear her voice, and to sense the pleasure we both had in this moment.

It surprised me that she wanted me to make her a quilt. Then, I realized that all she's had from me were more those younger child-size comforters. She told me about the yellow-orange-brown one with horses riding across the horizon. She said if she covers her feet with it, it only goes up to her tummy. She said she wanted a hot pink quilt from me for either Solstice or her birthday. Solstice is nine days away and her gifts are wrapped and ready to ship out on Monday.

This morning, I gathered pinks and cut them into 160 - 5" squares. I saved out a couple of the larger pieces of fabric for borders. I do have batting but might look into getting a flannel for the back. Winters in MN are cold.

Suddenly, I am making a new quilt that wasn't on my plan for the month. Oh, its still December, right? 

I worked on Tony's WINTER IN THE WOODS yesterday, from pressing and cutting to pinning and piecing. Its coming along, but is taking time.  And I also worked on a new pattern for the January Doll Quilt swap. It is also a time intensive piece.  There are two other quilts machine ready.

It all reminds me of the beauty and power that flows through the universe every minute. I am surrounded by pieces of fabric, that on their own may hold some of this beauty. Interestingly, some of the fabrics are plain and hold little attraction for me, and yet, when they are joined with other pieces, I am reminded of all the relationships that can work together to make something extraordinary. 

I think that its not so much about liking a fabric or a person as much as it is being open to including them. If pretty is as pretty does, can we then say that unpretty just needs a chance?  

I found a flannel online and ordered it. Seems that its going to have a heart theme...my love to her heart.

More pictures to follow.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Season of Beauty

Even though my quilting projects are finished for the year, I chose to engage in a number of traditions. This is an enchanting time of year for me, and one I dearly love. Nature here shuts down more every day as the days grow shorter. When I open my eyes to the night, there is always a blanket of stars. I learned some of their names when I was a child, and rejoice to see them again each year. 

One of the traditions I carry forward is sending out holiday cards. In fact, the topic for the Creative Writer's Forum class I teach this Saturday is writing letters and including notes in greeting cards. 

My list gets shorter each year. In some ways, the economy prohibits a lot of us from sending them out. More, however, is the changing methods of communications. Younger generations simply do not see the value in them. I cannot do them all in one sitting, My hand is not used to writing. I got envelopes addressed, return labels and stamps added for about 25. Enough time to sign and add notes later.

I also brought my Great-Nephew's quilt out. Its driving me crazy to work on because the pattern for making those triangle points is not well-done. I like it enough to work on it and re-do them, but it will take more time.

Also got out to buy more shipping supplies for the cookies and gifts going out next Monday in time to get to the midwest before Solstice. 

Then I threw a pot of faucet hot water into the pond I put in last summer. The bubbler moves the water 24/7, however, the colder nights froze a layer of ice over it that I just want to make sure stays open for the birds. They love bathing in it even as it gets colder. Its been the most delightful garden accessory!

Oh, and I re-did the blog background. It changed for me so easily last time and this time, took way more time than I have for such things, so it is what it is for today. I am surprised how much work it takes. Its me. I want the color, layout and design. Me. Yet, that means I need to have a better understanding of what it takes to work with the software. Ah well, back to quilting I go!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Secret Santa Rides AGAIN!

I am amazed at all I see today. Daylight is wonderful for me because it gives me an opportunity to see everything from the rising sun, birds at my feeder, frost on the next door roof and my cup of coffee. I chose a tall green cup today with Dragonflies on it. 

Dragonflies are surrounded by folklore because of their iridescent wings, so some cultures believe they travel between the worlds. My life is like that some days. Its not that I have one foot in reality and the other in some dreamtime. I just feel more in touch with the layers of reality lately. 

In MN, my home state, Dragonflies are studied as much as Frogs to see how pollution effects their little bodies. They are two species from the Animal Nation that react more quickly to the damages. Such brilliantly colored creatures. I am in awe of them.

My life is more open to possibilities and colors because I quilt. 

We've had a lot of icey storms and very cold weather here in the mountain valley. I got the mail today and was so surprised to get another gift from my Secret Santa. I know it was she because few people are in on my love of the old Patchouli and it was on my list of secret passions.

This comes from Botanical Labs and the scent is simply divine. 

AND it came at a perfect time. The front faucet had not been covered quite enough for the freeze that is here right now, so it broke and leaked onto the main shutoff. It was just fixed and I have running water again after two days. 

So, I am stepping into the shower as soon as I finish posting.

Thank you Secret Santa. You have more than fulfilled my wildest dreams with these two gifts. (the first was the cozy sox!)

While I was out in the still frozen streets, I stopped at one of the fabric stores to purchase a few light fat quarters for my next project. Its also a swap with one of my very artistic friends. She knits and also weaves, among her many talents. She asked me to make a couple of table place mats. Not going to say too much here because I know she reads my blog from time to time.

Everything comes back to quilting. And I love it!!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Not Made to Measure

Thought I would try something different for my quilting experience, and its become a mini quilt going to the Infant Center here in town for babies to wrap toys in. I tried and am not quite at the stage of quilting that is ok with this sort of piecing.

Its hard for me to hold onto my confidence at times when I do something new. There is no judging about this particular pattern and how it turned out other than if I like it. So many quilters tell me that they will not work on something they don't enjoy. I guess we all have so many different preferences that its ok to release and go onto something we do enjoy.

It was a pattern I found in the 12/12 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting. Its another example of scrap quilts. After I get the batting and back sandwiched, the plan is to quilt it diagonally in relatively close lines. It will hold up to a lot of washing in the center. I learned that they toss most washable things in at least weekly and more if a baby throws up on it.

It looks the way the pattern calls for it to turn out. Its a piece I will finish because its small. I wonder what I learned about myself while doing it. Right now, I just don't know. Maybe its about release and moving on.

The other thing I did was to bake one more kind of cookie. Chocolate and coffee make the very dark brown dough, with those Andes peppermint pieces, which is a very strong flavor to it. All the cookies are in containers now and will be packaged for shipping in the morning. The recipients of what I sent already have expressed their pleasure and look forward to getting more in the mail.

Also going out is the December Calendar block to my swap partner Rex in WI. 

Its going to stay at freezing temps through the week, so I've left a drip running in the last bathroom to keep the pipes from freezing. This is California, and the housing construction industry has yet to allow for such overnight chills. 

This last year, I put in a small pond in the west part of the gardens which is going to run through the winter. I laid the electrical wire underground through some PVC so the motor goes 24/7. Its enough to keep the small pond bubbling. 

It amazes me that the small birds come to bathe in it with snow covered rocks surrounding it. They blend in with the stone and so attempts to photograph them with my little Kodak are unfulfilling. I've been seeing some birds who rarely come this far south from Canada. There must be a shift in weather up there too.

Birds release and move on in their own ways as well as some humans. I see the different kinds of birds and how they share the resources.  The bigger birds swoop in with large wing spans that would seem to chase the smaller ones away. However, they--and these are the Mourning Doves, will roost on the roof next door and wait awhile. Their usual numbers are at 10-16, and I am still unable to count the smaller birds.

The expense of seed is going to be a part of my Winter season this year, and is quite worth it for all their presence gives me in return. I've taken to adding seed twice each day now. Nothing gets wasted by them as they feed off the floor of the porch when the tray empties.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Baking Solstice

These days, I take nothing for granted. Not the weather, not my health nor my energy. And while I don't think I ever took people in my life for granted, I know that with so many precious ones who passed this year, I realize that their leaving is not predicted by their age.  They left behind a rift in the lives of their children, parents, friends and family.

The aftermath of death in families can sometimes bring people closer and sometimes drive them apart because of the grieving process. Its worse for some reason, during the pressure and stress of holidays.

With another shift in my consciousness on this topic, I came to realize that we are all wounded by something, and its how we react to the person or thing wounding us that defines our own healing. I see so many of us bringing our wounds to the feasting tables where the slightest word can set someone running to the other room in tears. 

A lot of the holiday movies poke fun at families, leave us agreeing that we dislike attending those events and yet, every year we are drawn to them for the same kind of play.

I think more about the children around me who must deal with what the adults in their lives choose. They move, switch schools, playmates, and have to rediscover their sense of place. They hear what goes on, even in whispered rooms with closed doors. Kids can have a sense of wonder at this time of year, yet, partnered with a sense of fear.

Although I live so very far away from them, like many Grandparents, I provide a sense of ....what?....stability, comfort, tradition, humor?

I started making the dolci to send back to the Grandpeeps last week, and went at it in earnest this morning. The kids like the traditional cookies we used to make together, so these aren't really all that fancy. I will do more later and, like always, clean up as I go. 

The first batch was the Spritz. Years ago, I had a really good setup, and the side handle broke, so it got replaced with a 'new-new-new' model that will go to the thrift store tomorrow on my way to the Post Office. The batter was soft enough, but the whole thing kept coming apart either at the top or bottom. Its done. With all the wonderful cookie recipes out there, I do not need the hassle.

My next batch was the Pizzels, a very old family recipe made with Anise seed and oil. When I first learned to make these, my Gram & Mother had stove top irons that made one at a time as you flipped them over and hoped they didn't burn.  This modern iron makes two at a time and I love the ease of it.

Third to come out this morning is one of the store-bought and frosted Oreos. I do one of this type each year so that the Grandpeeps see how simple it is to make a cookie without much time or effort. ALSO, it gives me a way to use up the end of any decors left over from last year. They are quite noticeable on any serving plate.

I have at least one or two more planned today. The first is a chocolate dough with some Andes Peppermint chips...made like chocolate chip cookies with two changes in the recipe. Very easy, very lovely. Not sure about another one in this moment. 

Everything will cure today before going into shipping boxes tomorrow. If I am lucky, each Grandpeep will get about half a dozen of each one in their box, PLUS their own holiday mug rug.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Staying in the Moment

As the shipping deadlines get closer, its hard for me to stay in the moment.  I let this time of year get me caught up in memories of the past, in frantic plans for each Sunday night as I bake, that flow into Monday when I ship cookies or gifts back to the Midwest.

I pulled out the Pizzel Iron and the Spritz Press, and checked to see if there were ingredients for what I planned to make. I need shipping boxes too, and have quite a few collected. Some get used and some get recycled by the end of the season.

Its particularly hard for me to stay in the moment each day for a number of reasons. However, I know that the only thing that is real is right now. 

It feels like my quilting projects are simply sitting, however, they are on my priority list. This represents the blocks for a new Doll Quilt. If it works, it will go to a new partner (unassigned as of yet). The second choice for any of them that I make is for them to go to the local infant center where the kids just love having them to wrap their toys. I am also working on a couple of Comfort Quilts for the local group that should be finished soon.

And of course, the Pink Purse Fundraiser quilt will need to ship out the end of January.
The grocery bag style tote bag that accompanies it will be pink. Everything is a WIP at this stage.

I don't want to let myself get preoccupied with any of it ~ that I lose sight of how I celebrate the endarkening season.  I love Winter Solstice, love setting up lights outside on the trees outside my windows or around the porch railing. I love my eclectic Winter Village too.  

Each year, the pieces get laid out differently through out the house, showing a different side of the buildings and having different people, trees and animals surround the spaces. Its the one time I let myself play. I never got caught up in having specific sets and would purchase the pieces that I loved and wanted to bring into my home. 

Playing changes things for me...for all of us, and I know that this season allows my inner child to come out. She sings the old carols, laughs at all the presents and looks in wonder at every light in the dark night. This is my moment. And it is real.