Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Baseball Quilt Finish

This is a very simple quilt using a very simple Log Cabin pattern and quilted with a very simple grid. Its all wrapped up now and ready to ship out.

Joey has a passion for this game. 

I am not sure if he knows much history or just plays for the love of the game. I'll ask when I see him this Summer back in MN.  I had my own heros from the Yankees and the MN Twins. Most of those guys are dead or long retired.

It gave me a certain pleasure to work with these baseball print fabrics. Making quilts for guys takes a little forethought. 

I can also see how my personal history effects the choices I make when I quilt. I've learned how to keep going and use what skills I have to do things I love. At first I thought quilting was too sedentary, and it can be if you only sit at the machine. That's not how I work. I am up and down all the time because I have never been a person to sit still.

Is this something a person learns or just part of their natural make-up? 

Baseball is still the only sport I can watch with full attention. Its such a slow game. And if you aren't looking, someone can make a play that changes everything. With quilting, you can always go back and change something that isn't working for you. Its almost like having the 'do-over' option. Like someone said, "keep calm and use your seam ripper". However, its more than that for me, its about vision and re-visioning, and loving what I do.

Another thing I love about Baseball that relates to Quilting is that it doesn't matter if you are tall, short, skinny or a bit tubby, if you have the spirit to play the game, you just give it your all and people wrap their hearts around the moment like they wrap up under your hand made quilt.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When Things Go Missing

There is nothing worse when you think you are so organized to have something go missing. As the end of the month rolls around, I am working on the various swaps I've joined so that they can all be shipped out on time.  

I also started the Summer Mug Rug Swap that goes to my friend Rex, put it away to work on something else, and then forgot where I put it. 

When it didn't appear just when it seemed time to work on it, I started to obsess. In an ideal world, I could have let it go and simply trusted that it would show up. I thought all the right things like encouraging myself to believe that it wasn't necessary to control everything; recognizing that there was a divine order and timing; and encouraging myself to believe that it would show up on time.

As a life coach for others, its what I say and what I believe for them. Its just harder for me to believe those things for myself. So yesterday, I sorted my fabric bins and kept looking.

This morning I found it where I thought I put it. Somehow the little baggie was hidden. Here is a soft focus picture that doesn't give away what it will look like. Was it the right moment? Good goddess all the time I spent looking! 

Oh, I guess the sorting served its purpose too. Does this example show up in my sub-conscious as a reminder to trust? Will the next time be easier even if it is something more critical or important?

One can only hope. In the greater scheme of things, missing a few scraps of fabric like these is not such a big deal. In fact, finding them again, is not such a big deal. If anything, this morning, I want to reach beyond my self-imposed limitations no matter what they are.

If I allow myself to remember other lessons like these, they were so much harder. Times that I thought I would never survive or be able to go on from the loss of people who passed or relationships that ended. Those were the deep lessons of my soul that were profound enough to last a lifetime. So how did I forget that I could survive other losses? 

It seems to me, this morning, that the loss and finding of these fabric scraps was a gentle reminder, one that didn't have a gut-renching price and yet taught me that there is a cycle to all things. Losing turns to finding again. Just let it go, just believe what was lost will return. And it does. Every time.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Another test Star

I was excited to finish another test star for my 6" swap this month. Creating smaller pieces is a challenge in accuracy from start to finish. In working with a test block, I allow myself the opportunity to be ok with it if its not ok.

Its like having a healthy conflict with myself. Knowing that its possible for the block not to turn out relieves me from having to produce perfection. I am released from inner name calling, stress and even being hurt by my own failure. It gives me an opportunity to see how the colors work and what I want to do with the ones that will actually go into the swap.

This is the "April Star" block pattern. This example will also go into the wonky container to be used as part of a border on that quilt.

It turned out to be a win-win situation. Not all of my inner conflicts end up like this. Like my quilting, I am getting better all the time, even if some times I take a step backwards and have to repeat the lesson, or the block. Creating this block was a step forward with an easy lesson.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

If I look back...

I spent the entire day piecing, pressing, pinning and piecing again. Nothing really got finished, however, doing the work of it all makes it a good day.

The part I got for the tote bag is not going to do what I want. Carol & I plan a road trip to the big city on Wednesday, which really means shopping at JoAnn's. I am not sure what I am looking for but will know it when I see it. They've become such a fashion item. It just means that it won't arrive for Debi's birthday like I planned. 

I do appreciate what I did today. What is funny is that I realize it takes courage to let go of my personal expectations of performance and realize that some days, what I do is simply enough.

A quote I like from the "Game of Thrones" books is something the character Daenerys Targaryen says a lot..."If I look back, I am lost". The first time I read that, it struck a cord in my soul. I know that the words are put in her mouth by the author, and sometimes I like the man, and other times, he really irritates me. I know that authors write from their own experiences and imaginations, so expect that he may have encountered a person who lived by that comment.

Looking back happens to me every day, sometimes with joy, sometimes with a wish that I had taken another path, or said something different. However, life is just too short to keep looking in the rear view mirror. 

Going forward, somedays, means pinning, piecing, pressing and doing it all over again. I cannot see the end of the project, don't have photos of the process and am simply ok with where it was in the moment.

If I look back, I am lost. If I look ahead, I am filled with joy.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Tote Bag

I am almost finished with Debi's Tote Bag.  I decided to try something new with this one, which is to add binding to the seams and make them all closed. I did a simple grid quilting. Its a great look. The bag is a little larger than the grocery totes and when she & I talked about it, she asked for it this large and narrow. She plans to carry her knitting projects in it and wants the over-body strap look. 

That part comes next. Deb asked for blue and orange, so this fabric was the best combo for the tote I could get from within my stash. The orange could be turned to show a solid if she chooses to do that. This pic shows the binding on the outside seams.

Over the years I have wondered that when I listen to others if I really hear what they say. Sometimes what someone else says sparks an idea and then my mind races down another road and reaches its own conclusion. Recently in the last couple of decades, I've made it a practice to take time to hear their soul speaking beyond the simple words from their mouths. Of course, its impossible for me to really know what they think or feel, even if I make the connection in my mind that references my own experiences. I appreciate when they talk to me that what they want is to be heard.

I like to ask questions to get more information so that I believe my understanding is clear. Yet I know, with quilting, things like colors and design that are left to me without their actual input mean they have to accept what I create. This is going to be a gorgeous tote and I hope she likes it and that it works for her needs.

The Spring Mystery Quilt project is over, and participants are showing off their layouts. Every one of them looks different because of the fabric choices that were made. Same pattern, different outcome. That's what makes it pop to be a quilter.

Well, time for me to head out to Bakersfield so I can attend an all-day First Aid class. No quilting in front of the machine for me, but I will be thinking.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Finish Something Friday - Indian Test Star

As every Friday approaches, my goal to finish something also reminds me to laugh. I don't always have to be serious or push myself to produce. I have a right to enjoy all aspects of my life. As long as I don't do anything that hurts someone, or something and as long as I don't do anything that hurts me, I will do whatever makes me smile, laugh out loud and even rest today. Over the decades of my life, there have been many events and people that brought me to tears. Today is not one of those days.

The 6" block swap has me concentrating hard to learn and get correct. This is my second test block, and the pattern is called "Indian Star". The block goes into the container for the wonky border on the wonky quilt I will make with next year's swaps. It falls into the wonky category because of the colors (not so much that the block itself is wonky) which will add to the holiday theme the 12" blocks will carry. The black and red checks came off a strip in a package of scraps my friend Virginia sent me. On its own, its not really the kind of combo one would think could go on a Winter Solstice quilt. Yet it will. It makes me smile that I got the points to finish and the square to measure.

One of the best all-time movie quotes I know is from "League of Their Own", and is Are you crying? Are you CRYING? There's no crying in baseball! (yes, one of my all-time favorite movies). And for me, that is true. I think joy is something we chose for ourselves each day in spite of what is going on around us, and that its important to find the people or activities that help us get to that state of being. Joy helps keep our hearts healthy.

I completed one side on Joey's binding for his Baseball quilt and will have at it again this morning. I love feeling it across my lap as I work on it, and the energy IS one of joy. It reminds me of all those baseball & softball games I went to as I was growing up, and as an adult that I attended with family. We loved the old Brewers, and MN Twins' games, as well as the games kids played in. Its the only sport I can watch with patience between plays. I know it well and have my favorite teams. No matter how I feel, sitting in a stadium or even in front of the screen here at home, baseball, like quilting brings a smile to my face.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


There is an old Italian saying that you count your nights by the stars, not its shadows, and count your life with smiles, not tears.

I named the quilt for my Granddaughter Alandra "Rising Star". Last year she told me her favorite holiday is 4th of July so its a red-white-blue & beige quilt with two different versions making up 21 stars on each end and stripes down the middle. And yes, its another scrappy quilt. It took me a little while to save the pieces for it once I had the pattern, but I love how its turning out.

I've always loved the night time and actually have a fondness for the stars, and the phases of the Moon. There is something secure & dependable in their placement and cycles.

Quilting these 8-point stars is not as easy as it seems. For the points to show up, it requires an accuracy of cutting and seam allowance. Everyone of them requires my focus from how the fabrics are combined to the final trimming. I can see how my quilting education plays a part in what I do, and the emotional impact is what happens to me as I work.

There are seven more stars for me to finish before assembling this quilt. This is the one I got so anxious about because of the bleed factor on the fabric. That anxiety was only a shadow, only my inner tears. I was immobilized by both and now that I started working on it, and its so gorgeous, all that anxiety lifted. I will send some color set sheets to go in the first wash, and trust the universe to let these stars shine.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


No tutorial from me here, however, if you are a quilter and want to watch a You Tube Video for Binding, take a look at this one for the procedure I use.

Joey's Baseball quilt is almost finished and may make it here for "Finish Something Friday". I've been able to practice the binding techniques for some time. Its the mitered corners that require a certain skill. I started with pot holders and advanced to candle mats and small wallhangings. I feel very confident with them now and enjoy hand stitching the binding onto a quilt. Binding gets the most wear as the quilt gets moved across furniture and floors. It is the place on a quilt that gets held the most over time.  It is the frame of the quilt, the edge, like a fence or wall that holds and protects the contents.

I have often taught people how to set up their personal barriers in various classes. Some of us don't keep our boundaries in place and pay a price when we let others come into our space, take our time, and start manipulating our lives.

When I make any quilt, small to these larger ones, I set into them various energies. With this baseball quilt, the primary energy is one of good health and joy. 

With all the quilt finishes for the binding, the energy that goes into each one is that of safety. Quilts lay over the person who uses it, and unless that person understands that there is an energy to everything in the world, they may not even realize what they feel.

This photo is one an old feller I know who shared this pic of his mother's quilting group circa 1902. They met every week to quilt or hand sew. I think of all the women making quilts down through time who set energy on purpose or without being aware that they did it. The quilt might have been passed from person to person and each one of them feeling 'something special' also not having the answer of what it was, or why they felt that something special. Of course its easy to say that we feel connected to our Mothers, Aunties or Grandmothers who made family quilts. What about those things we buy that we love...or hate? Is it possible that the energy of the maker was in it? Is it possible that those things we buy for pennies that are made outside the country in sweat shops are more disposable because of the energy IN the sweat shop? I wonder.

Bindings I add always contain every stitch a prayer for safety and security for whomever uses the quilt. It seems to me that a quilt that comes off the back of a couch to cover a person at night as they watch TV gives them the barrier against the storms of life outside their windows. 

I like to think everything I do is mindful as well as heartful. At least with my quilts, I am more aware of how that works.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

With a Breath

This is a day for deep breathing, and one for noticing how I breathe, whether I am stressed or relaxed. I want to notice if I hold my breath or if I breathe rapidly at certain times. Its a valuable exercise I've done over the years just to align my mind and body to work together.

My new camera doesn't have a shake setting. You know, the setting that removes the shake when you press the button. My friend Rex told me to take a breath, release it and then push the button. It seemed to work on the two pics I just took.

 I joined a 6" block swap this month and my partner requested an 8-point star, and because this is a new size for me, I am practicing first before using the fabrics I selected for hers.

This first try goes into my wonky bag so it will add to the border of one of my quilts. I made it using holiday fabrics almost knowing that I had a lot to learn with the 6"-ers. It is not pressed, but I know it didn't work.

Nothing really lined up with this first attempt. I am not dis-pleased with the effort because its all about learning and developing a new skill.

The breathwork I did actually calmed me so I could look at the block with an ease rather than feeling stressed over it and saying the self-critical words that really don't serve my greater good. They don't add to the 'soul-ution' anyway.

I was able to machine quilt a diagonal grid on the baseball quilt and finish quilting the tote bag this morning. 

Breathing. Its a simple tool. Funny that I needed to be reminded.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Things That Go Bump....

Like most things in my life, I learn from what I experience. The trip up north had wonderful moments, especially those spent visiting with long-time friends. What a joy to be in their home, sitting on their deck that sported a lush container garden of specialty flowers and plants. Of course it would look like that...nature speaks to most of my friends and it feels most comforting to be surrounded by beauty and fresh air. These friends know how to make their life beautiful in spite of living in a second floor condo without access to the ground below.

On the downside was the hotel bed. Hard. I am pretty spoiled by my Sleep Number Bed and feather pillows. 

President Barack Obama speaks to the media on California's drought situation on February 14, 2014 in Los Banos, California.(AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Wally Skalij)
The drive through the middle farmlands was almost heartbreaking to see because of the drought Cali is in right now. Orchards and fields were dry and dying, mile after mile. Three consecutive years of below-normal rainfall have devastated the state, which produces half the produce for the entire country. Unfortunately, this also means Cali will get hit with even more wildfires. I didn't take photos. How does an ordinary tourist take photos of something like this?

It made me realize that when I become aware of quilting processes, there are tips and guides, but I didn't think there were a lot of articles on what goes wrong, or how a quilter feels frustrated and blocked. I decided to do a Google search, and there they were, numerous blogs, videos and forums discussing things that go bump on a quilt....the monsters, the zombies that won't die.

Quilters wrote about doing things correctly and still having that unpredicted event that changed their joy, changed the quilting process and brought out the big guns of frustration.

I want to believe that every quilt I make will turn out like I dream it. Like those other quilters who also find a monster growing in front of their sewing machine, I watch my 1/4" seams, baste everything correctly, and practice with smaller quilts (like mug rugs and candle mats). Things can still challenge me and require a shift in what I do to make it work.

Today, I am back at it. Already this morning, I basted the baseball log cabin quilt, printed off more instructions for the Applique Mystery Quilt, and am ready to quilt the tote, and piece a border. 

When it comes to quilting, I am my own drought relief. I am my own worst critic and best fan. If a quilt is a gift, I remember to tie a ribbon on it and cut the strings when it leaves my house. If I see monsters, then I also find my inner superpowers. 

Nature will survive in spite of what we do. What we really need to do is adapt, change our behaviors and get going on something whether it is outside or inside our spiritual core. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Its Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

I accept all aspects of my life. There are moments when I feel discouraged and then simply look outdoors. What an incredible Spring it is here in the valley. Lilacs, Iris, Snaps, Carnations, and the Herbs are all in bloom outside.

The goal I set several weeks ago to 'finish something Friday' helped motivate me until it suddenly became stressful on Thursdays. Every time there is a rule set somewhere, a rule-breaker is born. In that struggle, I came to realize that what I needed was more patience with myself rather than trying to force things to happen so quickly.

I am happy that I can make my own plans for life and am not going to be so hard on myself when things don't go as I originally planned.

Yesterday's mail brought two 12" blocks for the Christmas Block Swap. This is a year long swap so that every month is Christmas; every fabric in each block has a holiday theme to it. This swapper sent two different blocks using stars. The green above has small little trees that look like stickers a kid would love to put up everywhere.

She sent me another block with stars on both the background and 8-point star block. These patterns are not as easy as one would think. There is a skill in knowing how to match all those points and leave enough at the edges so they work with a seam for the quilt itself. Its all about accuracy.

I've decided to move my work station out in the front windows. As more leaves cover the trees outside my back Western windows, there is less light here in the office-studio.

Several of the quilts are basted now and ready for machine quilting. I've learned to adapt, and that having a designated room that traditions say is used for one thing means nothing in my life. I am following the light, and the natural light I prefer  is outside this room. Moving rooms means that I will be able to look outdoors, and probably get drawn outside and away.

This weekend I am headed up north. Up north from where I live is different from the 'up north' when I lived in Minnesota. Up north here means a 5-hour drive up the 5 through the center of the state to San Francisco, over the bridge to Oakland and Berkeley.  Its a solid, no stopping drive time on that major freeway. The scenic route is the 1 along the coastline that curves with the pounding surf against the rocks so that you see the blue sky and the mighty Blue Pacific. Not this time. 

Yesterday, I worked more on the Mystery Quilt, more on the Halloween Village, and joined some batting pieces that are enough for another quilt. It was a productive day, but not one that set me up to finish something Friday--today Friday.

And I didn't even worry about that. I love having goals. I love breaking rules, even my own. Both are actions that make me feel alive and living my own life in a way that is free. I'll be home on Sunday, and I am sure will have stories to tell about the trip. Meanwhile, on the drive, I know that I will continue imagining my quilts, imagining the new light coming in through the windows while I machine quilt these projects. It simply makes me smile right now.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Creating a Focal Point

This little wallhanging collage is another challenge. Now that its starting to look like a Halloween Village, working on it is almost addictive. 

Yesterday, I started adding windows and doors and steps, along with little characters cut from Halloween fabrics. The pattern book gives many suggestions for the steps to take, but it is up to the individual to envision them.

This next step involves creating a focal point in the collage and then having your eye travel around the village from it. Whenever I select fabrics, I know that one of them has to be the focal or focus fabric around which the quilt is built.

For whatever reason, I have always experienced visions or imagery for my days both as I fall asleep at night or when I begin to wake in the mornings. I got into the habit of programming my sleep so that my body would heal to the very cells and inner core and that I could wake refreshed. 

This little Village is evolving with each scrap of fabric I layer on it. Some are glued in place, like all the choices I have made in my life; and some are simply there as potential.

The pattern book says to draw an imaginary tic-tac-toe grid over the piece and where the lines intersect is a good place for the focal points. This act takes the work out of the flow of intuition and places it more into logic and reason.

I honestly believe that when I am new or learning a process that I need both parts of my consciousness and subconscious to get the work done. Its not enough for me to quilt by the seat of my pants. Its too much for me to live unconsciously.

Its interesting that the pattern suggests laying out all the pieces for the collage process and that finding and placing a focal point is the last step in the process. It rather pushes the quilt-maker back into it, before allowing the next step to take place. 

I want to find the story in this collage. Already, I am dreaming or envisioning it as a "witch town" but filling it with fabric ghosts that peer over rooftops or around house corners. There is a folklore to all places we live in from our current neighborhoods and homes to where we grew up or places we visit. Does my little village have a story? A focal point? Do I?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The One Goal

Spring enveloped my gardens the last few days with temps in the 70's. Flowers are blooming and weeds threaten to move in, and I am outside for at least an hour every morning.

With all the things I do from gardening to being in the kitchen, to creating these lovely quilts and quilt projects, the real goal in my life is to be able to better love others, and to welcome their love into my life.

Crow Calling Woman (Rex) and I started our Halloween Villages this week, first swapping some fabrics that were required so we would both have a variety and splash of color. The piece only measures 16.5" square to start with. At first I thought it was going to be too small, and now am glad that its not larger.

The book/pattern says it doesn't look like a village at this stage. As I look at it, I get the sense that its like my own personal being as I evolve. It is like putting together a puzzle, and yet none of the pieces are supposed to fit the way a puzzle does, so its a new experience and a new process.

I don't get it yet. 

And I wonder if I get what changes in my life mean. People come and go, my health waxes and wanes, ideas and goals shift, my purpose in life is different than it was even last year. 

As I look at this Halloween Village project, it makes me wonder who I am, how to keep going in spite of the challenge and unknowing how it will turn out, and if the time I have left in this world will be enough to try new things, to remember to enjoy the flowers. Its not a morbid thought but one filled with potential and innovation. A mystery. 

When I moved here, the Iris were overgrown and compacted to a point that they would no longer bloom. I started dividing them, giving away many of the tubers and replanting here and there in the gardens. This year, they started blooming such lush, delicate colors. The gardens set me up to see my life as notice the simple beauty in it, to find breath-taking moments and to witness nature reaching with her tendrils to attach, to root, to bear the kind of flowers that welcome bees and birds.

Nature has that same goal of loving and being loved.

That excites me. This month LeChallenge's theme is Nature, and I have an idea how to use up floral fabrics and make some small mug rugs. Wow, I cannot believe how that also fits into my goal.

Today is a basting day at the clubhouse. The one ready for this process is Sheri's, with the working title of CEDAR LODGE, which comes from the pattern name. Usually, the quilt gets its official name as I baste. I really love how it turned out thusfar. 

Loving and being loved. It says so much as a way of life.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April Calendar Block

Its always so exciting to see the Calendar Blocks that Rex from sends each month. This swap has become a real celebration of life for me. Rex, in all her creativity and generosity has become a messenger of grace in my life. For each block we make, we test our creativity, for each month we successfully ship our blocks out, we find personal treasures to share in both resources and skills.

This one is so sweet! It will be a great addition to the quilt I put together when we finish our swap. The green is a little different shade here and the blue is true to color.  It is very much like a log cabin and yet goes beyond.

I already put hers in the link above "Calendar Block Swap". So funny that we both did rain themes. Mine is called "After the Rain". The pattern I used is called 'Twist Block' and while I have the printed pattern, it doesn't include the source for it. I am sure that it can be found online again. This block was the second pattern I worked on for April. The first one just wouldn't come together for me so I put it aside and started new. I love how it turned out.

The other thing I worked on the last few days is finishing the current step for the Spring Mystery Quilt. It still looks like a jumble of fabrics at this stage. The darker burgundy is the background and I am scrap piecing the rest of it. There aren't too many steps left to it. This one is planned for my Great-Nephew Tony and replaces one I started for him that frustrated me too much to finish. Also, the frustration is not something I want to pass on to the young man. This one makes me smile. 

Frustration can steal the joy I get in quilting and makes me feel like it is a thief in my heart.

Every morning, before I get started with my day, I spend just a few minutes feeling grateful, making sure I have forgiven people who, like frustration, have stolen a fragment of my joy. The closer folks are to me, the more chances they have to bring either joy or heartache...if I let them.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Birthday Surprises

Albert Schweitzer said that "In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit."

My friend Deborah used to live on a farm in Minnesota not too far from the farm I lived on, so we saw each other regularly. She moved out to Cali after I did and lives in the northern part and I live in the southern part. California covers almost all of the western USA and is a very big state. We don't get to see each other very often. However, we are headed to Berkeley for the weekend, and will have lunch with her & Schon on Saturday. 

It is Deborah's birthday. Our relationship has always been one of rekindling our inner spirits. She is the no-nonsense-in-your-face-with-a-smile one of my friends who is always on the wilder side of issues, opinions, and beliefs. She spoke her truth long before it was fashionable for women to do so. Still does even after reaching  60.

I've been making a simple quilted gift to bring her on Saturday when we get together for a brunch, and have been experimenting with a block design. Its all ready for quilting. and with luck, will make a sweet little gift.

Like most of the other quilted items I make for others either as gifts or for the various swaps I am in, I do not want to show the pic and spoil the surprise.

More than a few of my close friends help my inner spirit burst into flames when I see them. I hold my standards for friendship quite high, truth be told. They are the kind of people who can be near me and not feel burned out by my flame. Lucky, lucky us.

Here's to friendship & to all the wise poets and philosophers who share what they learned from their friends, like Aristotle who said, "Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies; and like Anna Cummins who said, "Do not save your loving speeches for your friends til they are dead; Do not write them on their tombstones, speak them rather now instead."

How did we ever get so busy that we forgot how very vital our friendships are to our inner spirits?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Start-up

The new swap I joined is for 6" blocks. Swappers make and send off two made in the colors and type of block your partner wants. My partner requested 8-Point Stars in Cornflower Blue with Cream. I had to go online to find the color and was surprised at how many shades and hues there are. I looked through my stash and found four different pieces that will do.

Earlier this month, I requested books at the library and got three of them this weekend, with all sorts of block styles, and guidelines how to draft them. Draft? One had a CD that you could get the pattern printed. It took my IMac several tries and almost an hour of my time to get it running. After looking at a few examples, this book, too was just a bit much for me.

The third one made me feel like Goldylocks had found her cozy chair! Although I didn't find any 8-point star patterns in it, Tula Pink's patterns are all for 6" blocks. She IS a modern day quilter who takes the traditional concept and goes beyond the old patterns. The subtitle of her book includes the word, SAMPLER, so it is her intention to have a person make up all these blocks in a variety of colors and then use them together. She gives ideas at the end. 

It is my plan to play with some of these patterns (yes, I copied the ones that were of interest). With the swap, my request was to get "wonky" blocks of any style and fabric colors. As 6" blocks, they will make a perfect border for a "Wonky" style quilt.  

Wearing shorts and a tee-shirt, I got out in my gardens today and did some Spring cleanup. Then I came inside to work on the quilt projects. Its a beautiful day here, and a good one to be alive & feeling positive about all things.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Slowpoke Saturday

I have often seen myself as one of the Husky Dogs pulling a sled through the Winter snow. They have one speed---fast, and only know one word---mush. In order to stop a dog sled, they either have a spin out, someone or something gets in their way, or they get so exhausted from running they cannot take another step. They are a driving force to be reckoned with, literally. I miss running those Huskies. There was a thrill of speed and a thrill of flying through the air not knowing how I would land when we had a spin-out. I think members of my family all seem to have this drive. We go and go and go. Sometimes it takes something really huge in our life to stop us from keeping on. 

My Niece Manda went into the hospital around this time last year. They put her in a coma hoping that her body would somehow heal with more time resting and less time being out there going full out being a Mom to three very active grrrlie-grrls. None of the medical treatments were working for her for all the reasons that they don't when they don't. Her form of leukemia gave such a slim chance of recovery in the first year, and we said good bye to her at the end of that week. I am not sure any of us have recovered that deep loss. We have gone on as best we could, but feel the absence her death created.

I put together this comfort quilt using scraps from my stash, and doing two dark rows on one side and two lighter of the same color on the other side. Its a modified log cabin and just keeps adding the logs. The diagonal line is how those colors worked. She loved the quilt. I've posted this pic before, and took it the afternoon I gave it to her in MN (with her youngest of 3 Daughters, Sophia).

I'm working on several projects today that include a birthday gift, and a few quilts. Obviously, most anyone I make a quilt for is important to me. Every project that engages my time is important. Yes, important.

Over the long years of my life, I have learned that it is energetically enhancing to take a nap, sleep a few minutes longer in the morning, sit on the sunny porch and watch the bees dance on the flowers, or read a book....all those lazy dazy things I never did when I was younger. I waver between the compulsion to 'quilt til I wilt' and to do some self-nurturing.

Its going to be a week of being slow for me. I want to remember them all...all the members of my family and those few friends who have passed along. I take joy in their memories and how they laughed and played hard, and lived full out. This is the energy going into my projects this week; part of it slowpoking along and part of it full speed on.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Finish Fail

Looks like this Friday will be a non-finish day. And that's ok. Its a day for me to be realistic. So be it. How many times have I heard that phrase...'so be it' as if there were no other way to be or live or think or vote or have.

My meditation today led me to see that I never want to be realistic when it comes to looking at injustices or misery. I never want to chose blindness that happens when we turn away from the unacceptable. As yesterday moved along, I found myself getting stressed that every quilt project I had in front of me was something that could not be finished on Friday.

The April Calendar block was finished this week for Rex. I call it "After the Rain". It has a woven look to the strips & is quite pretty.

So much in our world is not pretty. Far too many terrible things happen to good people. And too many nasty people seem to be the ones in power.

"So Be It" is a phrase I am using today to declare a personal war on spiritual blindness so that I can really see clearly what I am doing, whether or not I keep a personal value and freedom or if I fall into an injustice to myself.

I stopped by the library to pick up a few books I requested and plan to spend time browsing the hundreds of examples for quilting blocks. Hundreds! And now I am willing to see them, willing to consider making them, willing to stretch my skills.

Also, I worked on two quilts this week. One is for my Niece Lisa that I named "Burr - Snow Gals" and the other is for my Granddaughter Alandra that I named "Rising Star". Both have lots of steps with lots of small pieces and both will take time.

I am giving a shout out to beauty this the block for Rex, to the quilts for Lisa and Alandra, and to me, sitting back and turning pages.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ironing Vs. Pressing

I grew up having to iron. I hated it. Cotton wrinkled so badly then that you had to spray it down and then add starch. Cotton still wrinkles. 

Back in the day, my chore was to iron our sheets, pillowcases, shirts, and dresses. I hated it. Oh. I said that. Well, its true.  And if the iron seemed to have only one temp so if I left it against something a fraction of a moment too long, it scorched and left the pointy end to the square end of a mark. Then, I heard about how I had to concentrate!

If I had known there was going to be ironing in quilting, I might have...well, no. I actually love quilting so much that I am willing to pick up an iron again. However, now its called "Pressing" and there is a difference.

One of the prices we pay toward achieving freedom is to name our slavery. No matter what it is that holds us back, until we slip off those chains, we will hold onto the negative memories, carry resentment for those times and against the slave-drivers, and end up avoiding the present moment.

All those borders that were pinned and pieced yesterday need pressing. Also, the backs for those quilts need to be pressed and pieced. I cannot sit here and whine about how I swore that when I grew up, I would never iron again. 

I went through that stage, only buying clothing that passed the twist-in-my-hand test and did not wrinkle. I am a grown woman working with 100% cotton fabrics, all of which eventually wrinkle. I've actually started on my second bottle of this Best Press clear starch. Oh, I know I could make my own, but I like this product. I am keeping the spray bottles just in case I change my mind. And isn't that what it is all about?  Growing up, evolving, thinking differently, finding freedom by facing those demons that keep us shackled.

I don't think it is ever easy to break a habit whether it is a negative one or something productive that simply might be outdated.  Change is inevitable, change is good.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ordinary Days

There are always things or people we take for granted, and sometimes when they are no longer in our lives, we sense or see that they are missing. I am not sure I am any better at noticing what I love while I have it than other people are. This morning, at least, I am thinking about it.

Today is going to be another ordinary day that I have planned at the clubhouse so that I can pin the last two borders on two of the quilts I am working on for Winter Solstice Gifts. While I work on them, it is my hope that I pay attention to the stage they are in, how they look and how they feel to my spirit. This kind of work on a quilt allows for my mind to wander.

I don't think I ever took for granted the Northern Cardinal that is so abundant in MN. I just expected to see them wherever I went. Who knew that they don't fly west of the Rockies? Whenever I return to MN, I hear them and spend hours scanning the nearby trees just to catch a glimpse of them. The Northern Cardinal is like an heirloom quilt.

When I first saw the sweet little dash of red from the Purple Finch at my feeder here in southern Cali, I got mighty excited. But they are not the same in any way. Where the Cardinal is a more solitary bird whose territory is shared with a mate, the Purple Finch is friendly to other birds and shares the feeder with other backyard birds. It is an ordinary bird who choses to fit in freely. This Purple Finch is like a utility quilt that can be washed over & over, and dragged across the floor.

I love red. It makes sense that a splash of red in nature grabs my attention, just as much as a splash of red in fabrics makes me swoon. I just wish reds didn't bleed so much. I guess that's the price one pays to use it in a quilt. And there are things one can do to protect the integrity of the other fabrics.

When anything is ordinary, the definition says that there is no special quality to it, and that it is plain or undistinguished. Its probably ok to have ordinary days. There is room for ordinary in our lives. And today is such a day for me. Ordinary.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

FQ Swap

I was so very surprised by the mail today when another swap came in...this one is a Fat Quarter swap where we exchange four fat quarters in the month. In filling out the form, I agreed to swap with more than one partner during April.

The first to come in was from Cheri, a very generous quilter who sent a number of  extras in her package to me. There were buttons, a zipper, some lace, several charm squares, some strips and and pieces not quite a FQ but very charming. 

The Black and White pieces as well as the Brights on Black are most welcomed and will go into a special bin that will one day help me make a quilt for myself.

If quilters take the time, like Cheri & I did, we can form a simple relationship of like minds. Most are generous people and keep their commitments to swap. Conversations are easy, sharing tips and challenges. We love to quilt, we love fabric.

This swap was pretty easy because it didn't involve making anything to send off. Its also an eye candy treat to build stash in a way that only costs the price of postage. The swap guidelines said that you could send off 'like-new' FQs from your stash or you could purchase new ones. 

I keep saying that I need to include more things in the package I send that go beyond the simple requirements, and want to ease myself into doing that. Cheri pointed out that we can never know what another person can use, and its so much better to pass things along that we are not using rather than to either trash them or let them rot on our shelves. I learned a lot from her and hope what I learned makes me a better swap partner and a better quilter.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Falling Behind

I like to keep a "To-Do" list for my projects, whether they are for quilting, gardening, writing, house-cleaning or something else. 
I learned this Franklin DayPlanner system when I worked in Corporate America. Back in the day, I needed to schedule hourly appointments and tasks. The company I worked for paid for the training it took as well as the desk set and refills. I loved it and used it for many years later. People have electronic calendars and easier systems now, making this paper one almost obsolete. 

I keep a simple list of my quilt projects here on a sidebar of this blog and a link above for the finishes. They don't include the other projects I carry on during the days and nights of my life. I do want to keep my life flowing free for my spirit like the free flow of blood within my body, so these lists help. 

I fell behind on the weekly assignments for this Applique Mystery Quilt I am doing. The instructor is on Week Eleven, and I am only on Week Nine. I keep at it, but find it very complex quilting. Each new fabric color requires a thread change on my machine, and they are layered in specific ways. I actually love how it is turning out and am glad for the opportunity to be guided along the process. While it might seem like I am whining, I am not really complaining about the project as much as recognizing my own ways that block the process. 

I think I fall behind on any of my tasks when I start feeling inept. Its that desire for perfection that gets in my way more than anything. When I know how to do a thing, anything correctly, I sail through it. Its when I fear making a mistake or not getting it right that I stop myself from taking the next step.

I plan to keep at this project. Every time I have agreed to take on a Mystery Quilt, the finished work astounds me. I can hardly wait to finish this one and show the results of it.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Holiday MQ

Part of the morning was spent dusting off the ceiling fans, and then I took the ladder outside to the Honeysuckle to tie them onto the arbors. I pulled more than my share of weeds and came back inside. Whew.

I finally got to the next step of the Holiday Mystery quilt, piecing and pressing. Of course I had to count to make sure there were the correct number of pieces. Back in the bag for them until next week.

Its going to stay in the higher 70's here this week, which is perfect for having meals on the porch and watching birds and bees make their way through.

It often seems that any of my work runs in cycles and I am a lot less hard on myself to stay to any task. I've tried to be most careful that in my search for good feelings that I avoided feeling at all. 

This valley, these mountains, the near-by deserts and wild rivers are incredible to behold. I try not to get locked inside at my workstation either quilting or writing so long that I don't step outside. Life can pass a person by so quickly and all those cliches like stopping to smell the roses hold real meaning the older one gets.

Its almost a year now since I received this last huge amount of fabric from Lee's estate (five very large shipping boxes full). I passed a lot of it along as I opened the boxes and considered what I might not use as candidates for someone else's storage. I told myself that I would re-assess the 'stash' again at that anniversary to be fiercely honest about keeping or releasing more of it. Much of it has been used and is dedicated to quilts that I consider WIP's. 

I am giving myself til the end of May to re-sort and re-think what is here. I don't want to be one of those quilters who has an endless supply of unfinished quilts and containers of fabrics without any purpose.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Rhythm of Rain

There is something soothing to all rhythms, however, waking up to the sound of rain on the roof and tapping on the fences and backyard furniture makes me smile.  It is like my whole being lives in and for the moment. There have been numerous times in my life where I went out in the rain, splashing through puddles up and down the streets. I wonder why we stiffen up so much and avoid those times of simple abandonment?

This morning will not be one of those times I go out dancing in the rain. Its 37 degrees out and I have coffee.

I ordered this pattern/book early this month that I found online, as a way to kick off my next goal to make house block quilts. It presents more of a collage concept and the finished mini quilt only measures 16" square. The pattern calls for 10 different fabrics for each type of village that the book suggests. 

I invited my friend Rex to do one with me. She is an extraordinary artist. And we have had such fun doing our swaps & Calendar quilts. We even plan to do an embroidery BOM for next year, & want to do it in a Halloween theme. Every month, one of us will select the pattern for that month to embroider. In the end, we each will have 12 embroidered blocks to put into a finished quilt.

With the pattern in this "Happy Villages" book, each village is made with 10 different fabrics but only cut small 6.5" squares and 6.5" x 2" strips from each. These are fabrics from my stash that I am sending to her with the April Calendar block. I need two more B&W pieces that I can tuck in a regular envelope. It seemed that we could get the most variety if we shared the small pieces and that it will be most fun to see how each of us uses the same fabrics in our creations.

Building the collage is much like doing one of the mystery quilts. You gather materials for the first step, do the cuts for the second, and then start to do the layout, the pinning and then the quilting. I was concerned that if I tried to do this one on my own, it might not get finished. I was concerned that I might not be able to give myself over to the playfulness of it all. Sharing the times with another quilter works for me.

Rex & I are both doing a mystery quilt through a Facebook group. The step we are in this week has us piecing the middle size cuts with the smallest cuts.

I have come to see how playful this type of quilting can be. Its like being able to run out in the rain and remember what it is like to play. "Now" is the only time we have. And the event is the only thing worth thinking about. The older I got, the harder it was for me to play. And I see the value in it again. But it doesn't come easily. I have to fool myself into playing.

I know there is a lot to learn in this fabric art. I also know I get pretty frustrated when I can't do something the way I envision it. The choice is to toss it into the dark recesses of the dreaded UFO bin, or to rip and try again.

Today, I will play. Today is my birthday and I am entitled.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Finally Finished

Its been said that a child's self-image is formed by their image reflected back at them through people in their lives. That means they get the full range of images. This child will turn 18 in June, a child no more. I know I only hold up one mirror for her, and smile whenever I see her. I hope this quilt is also a reflection of her beauty.

And yes, Baylee's GARDEN PATHS quilt for her graduation is finally finished. I've been working on it for months and it was a complex pattern, and took me awhile to do the hand quilting on it. I am most pleased with it. The quilt fits across the top of my queen size bed and is meant to be a personal lap quilt or additional cover, not so much a bedspread.

Wish the hand quilting showed up, however the thread I used blends in. I had a copper heart-shaped cookie cutter to make hearts, so four of them in the larger lavender blocks in the center, then also on the edges going onto the first border. I did a single stitch down the middle of the second border which is a batik fabric and then added more hearts spaced in between those first border sections.  It has matching prairie points around the edge and the back is turned under to make the binding work. For security reasons, there is a final serpentine stitch at the very edge.

The back is also a work of art. If you click on the pic, it should enlarge to show the baskets and vases, as well as some of the prairie points at the top and bottom (they run all the way around). This was two pieces of fabric that were joined down the middle with a center seam. Matching repeats only lost a few inches at the top of one piece and an inch after the selvages were cut off. Looking at the pic, I cannot see the line. It is a stunning piece of fabric, and does make the quilt reversible. I am going to use one of the prairie points to write my label information. At first, I was hesitant to use such a dark fabric on the back of that lighter lavender, however, it is striking in person and I am glad for it.

The other thing I finished this morning is the April block my local quilting friend and I are making. Both of us struggled with this one because the instructions were unclear. I learned not to use a striped fabric for such smaller projects and am glad to have this one completed.

I did finish all 20 of the blocks on this jungle comfort quilt and have them laid out. Its pretty wild, but that is what jungles are supposed to be, right? I had hoped to finish it for Le Challenge. The theme this month is BRIGHT and ends on the 15th. Unfortunately, I don't return to the comfort quilt meeting to get the batting and back until the 21st, so I may not enter anything this time.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Three P's

My quilting adventure this morning took me into the three P's of quilt-making: Pinning, Piecing and Pressing.  All of these steps are essential to building any quilt. All of them take a fair amount of time, and when its all I work on in a morning, my mind wanders.

What I do is put on a You Tube tutorial. Yes, that's multi-tasking. And yet, it gets me through these mundane, repetitive tasks so I can keep 'keeping on'.

This morning, I watched a first step for a Mystery Quilt with Eleanor Burnes & Marianne Fons. It runs an hour and a half and is a filmed presentation she made to an audience of quilters. The two seasoned quilters have a running conversation as they worked on this first step and demonstrate how to fussy cut for the centers of the various stars in their quilt. It was interesting and I did stop to look every once in awhile as I worked. The link to it is:

When I quilt, I put positive energy into each project. And so for me, working with those 3 P's this morning, I adapt the words as intentions going into the quilt to reflect PEACE, PROSPERITY & PATIENCE. The two different quilts seen on my ironing board will be Comfort Quilts going to folks who are in recovery. My three P's for them are like an underpinning of energy. I don't decide how those energies will work in their lives, and simply hope that they do.

And yet, these are my words too. They are like prayers for the evolution of my personal humanity. I found myself taking deeper breaths as I worked as if I was breathing in the wonder of Peace and releasing all forms of stress and conflict. I breathed in Prosperity and released any of the scarcity thinking that gets in my way. And finally, I breathed in Patience, releasing the need for speed, the need for perfectionism, and the need for restlessness.

And now onto cleaning the machine, replacing the needle and winding more bobbins.