Saturday, May 31, 2014

Child/Infant 1st Aid & CPR

I am headed to Bakersfield this morning for an all-day seminar in Child/Infant 1st Aid & CPR. It is a California state requirement for anyone working with children. 

Once the in-person class is taken, you can do online refresher courses. As a teacher and event planner, I've taken these classes a number of times over the years, and focused more for the adult version. You never know when an emergency will come up & sometimes having the simple know-how can save a life. I usually check with my event-team to see who knows 1st Aid. Often there is a designated person there, but again, its a good thing to know for your own household. And sometimes, an emergency situation could bring the need for more than one early responder. As you know, California is subject to earthquakes, floods and fires. 

Its a reality of life that things are rarely stagnant or happen the way we plan. Sometimes, and especially with quilting, as we move to another facet of our lives, other projects hang unfinished or un-started.

Last night I started packing for my trip back to MN/WI on June 11-25. Luggage restrictions allow one carry-on and one personal-purse or backpack. I wrapped Landi's Rising Star quilt and put it on the bottom of my carry-on. She will be so excited and on this trip, I will be able to see two of my Granddaughters receive the quilts I made for them (Baylee gets her Garden Paths at her grad party). Using those plastic travel bags, the clothes rolls nice and tight. I have a few things left to get and then I am ready.

I did decide to make a few Mug Rugs to give as hostess gifts to a few people I know are providing for my housing and travel care while I am back.  My friend Virginia sent me two packs of batik charms that she found among her Mother's things. They are so bright and summery that I think I can use them as the base for the mug rugs and use some other 2.5" strips for the top. I think I have some larger batiks for the back, and will need to go looking. I am delighted with them.

All of life's lessons, from the ones we learn in formal training or education to those we learn everyday, awaken in us an awareness that we get what we deserve and more. We can move ahead, fulfilling our part in the greater picture.

What we can do is our best, and our best is always enough.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Opportunities for a Friday Finish

I finished basting another quilt on Wednesday at the clubhouse but didn't take my camera for a picture of it. The pattern called for another yard of fabric to do the binding. I didn't have another full yard of coordinating fabric, but did have scraps. For a brief moment I was immobilized by it all.

For me, being unable to act stirs up all sorts of anxiety-provoking feelings and my mind races to the dark side of these thoughts and bounces back into the light. Bouncing. The only way through this for me is to act no matter if it is right or wrong. And nothing in quilting is ever really 'wrong', and often provides surprises for me along the way.

I cut my scraps into 2.5" strips that I joined and pressed in half length-wise. I made binding! I tried to join different colors so that they showed up on the chain of binding in a varied link. Most of them were from the quilt or complemented it.

Then, I simply rolled them into a coil, pinned the end of it and set it with the quilt to use after it was machine quilted. It reminds me of those old-tyme rag rugs. I've also learned that the more colors you use in a quilt, they tend to coordinate and you don't have to worry about things matching so much. This took time to cut, to join, to press, to roll. Yes, this quilt has a Hallows theme to it.

A couple things make a difference with fabrics...First of all using scraps means less waste going into the landfills. The US Government EPA says that there is an estimated 14.3 million tons of textiles generated as waste each year. Secondly, the cost of a good yard of fabric runs about $12 a yard. Some quilters can afford to buy new, some, like me, want to use up what we have first and shop from our stash.

Taking both of those issues into account, it is worth my time to use up the scraps I make with my quilting projects. This is one way. I will be sure to show the finished quilt later and expect it will be very cute!

My response to this was growth-producing, and nourished my very soul. In the beginning when I first started using up my scraps and stash, it stirred in me strong feelings of doing right by the environment and rather made the cost of buying new fabric inconsequential. Scrapping quilt left-overs out became a secondary effect from my work, and now is part of how I think about fabrics and how I use them.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What Goes Around

A very ancient Greek play (from 317 BC), Dyskolos, is the earliest recorded history for the concept of Pay-It-Forward. A character in the play, Sostratos, argues that wealth imposes upon its owner a responsibility to act nobly and to make rich as many people as you can by your own efforts: For this act never dies.  The play's key theme is "what goes around comes around", and by acting nobly now, one may, in a future moment of need benefit from someone else's kindness. I think it is also a way to be grateful for what you have and share that abundance.

This is the last of the P-I-F's I offered on Facebook during Winter (I have one P-I-F offered from my blog that is nearing completion...the back on it will be my Mystery Quilt project in June & the front of it was an Applique Mystery Quilt). 

The simple diagonal grid quilted on this one works for me.  I don't usually make an entire quilt as a P-I-F project, however, the recipient of this one is a special friend. Years ago, I made him one of those 2-sided tied fleece blankets that he has dragged around and loved to shreds. 

I've got plans to offer another P-I-F towards the end of Summer so that, first, I can make enough progress on the family quilts for Winter Solstice gifts. Each of these P-I-F projects is like an opportunity for me to practice the art. They give me an opportunity to use up my stash scraps, and to try new-for-me quilting techniques. Also, I am more gentle with myself too about what I make for these projects.

I know that the concept can be taken two ways, however, for me, its an act of gratitude for all I've had in this lifetime. When I consider the wealth in my life, I look around at my gardens and see the flourish of green plant life and all those stones I harvested as part of the rock gardens here. I see so many birds flock to the feeder outside my window. I look at the bins of fabric given to me by many friends, and I pay attention to all aspects of my well-being. Of course I am wealthy in all those ways. Of course I am grateful. 

Of course I pay it forward.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Small Machine Quilting

I am not sure who taught me the reverence in life or when I began to see the Spirit in everyone and everything. I was lucky to have good people around me in my family like parents, grandparents, aunties & uncles. Of course they selected each other too, so having like-minded souls in a family can produce other people of spirit.

My quilts are made with loving intentions for living family members, however, I am always looking back and remembering those wonderful people who helped me follow this particular path.

This morning I am headed to the clubhouse to baste one more quilt. They are starting to pile up in my storage bins and now are ready to machine quilt. I am not pressuring myself to do more than the simple grids like the one that I started machine quilting this morning. I love the Log Cabin pattern and how different they all turn out based upon the color and fabric choices. It is still my go-to pattern and always makes me feel good to make.

As I work on these quilts, I am amazed at the sense of interconnectedness that I feel. Sometimes the struggles are simple metaphors that adversities I face are lessons in my humanity. If I can solve a problem as I quilt, I can come up with healthy solutions for decisions I face. More importantly is the the joy and sense of accomplishment and contribution that I see in the end result of a finished quilt. This too. This too is vital to the fabric art and to my soul.

Like every quilt, every person is different. I wonder if I know who they are as I work on their quilts. I wonder if they know me. We all do the best we can and that is enough.

Like Captain Picard of the Enterprise used to say....

Make it sew

And it is enough.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Handling Quilting Conflicts

Something always comes up in quilting that I didn't cause and can't always control. I am learning that I can bring about a cure or make a correction. Patchwork is all about making something of the scraps other people (including myself) leave behind.

I order more online these days because I live an hour away from the bigger cities and it takes at least $15 in gas, plus the travel time out of my day. Several weeks ago, I ordered 6 yards of blue tone-on-tone fabric for the back of Landi's quilt. What they sent me were two pieces cut at 2 yard and 4 yard sections. What I really needed was two pieces cut at 3 yards each. When I called to discuss this issue, the fabric was out of stock and I could return what I had for a credit. However, it meant re-ordering at full price. And waiting. The other option is that they gave me a $5 credit & I could keep what was delivered. 

I took that offer, kept the two pieces and started re-calculating how to make it work. One corner was short, because the fabric was also not cut on the grain and was crooked! I had to work hard to straighten the cut and make the fabric reach and lay right to the other sides. Not a lot of wiggle room, but there it was. The binding helped cover a couple of places where I had pieced it. 

I do not usually label my quilts but use a fabric pen and write on them. This label covers the seam correction I made in that corner and serves the quilt in style on the front with the stripes and colors. 

When I think about other instances in my life where I have been dealt with the choices of others that maybe didn't serve my greater good, I know I stepped away for a moment to see what it was I could do. 

We live in a human network and when we live in healthy ways, we give those around us the right and responsibility to chose. And we do evolve differently. Some of us are more advanced, some of us less advanced or learned. The choices of others on us are not always easy. But then, we have a choice in how we respond and negotiate. We can be the victim or we can survive and thrive through it all.

I'm not sure the $5 credit was enough for all I went through to make the fabric work. What I learned from the experience is that the next time I order material for a back, I will order it in the segments I actually need. In this case, I could have ordered two pieces of 3 yards each because that would have made the back according to the pattern requirements. The price would be the same and I could be sure to have the right cuts.

I need to be clear on whatever I want so that the other person understands me. Maybe it will reduce one of the quilting conflicts. Maybe clear communication has a good ripple effect.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Last Monday in May

I have always loved history, and am quite connected to the ancestors in my family and among my friends who have passed on. This is a national holiday to honor those who have served. The history of its origin and also the origin of the Old Guard who keeps watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is amazing.

As I worked on Landi's Rising Star quilt, the pattern being one of many that quilters use as Quilts of Valor, I could not help but think of her love for the 4th of July (coming soon) and how our family celebrates by participating in local parades and other events. We tend to celebrate each other all summer.

Moreover the colors of red-white-blue spark a sense of patriotic respect for service men and women. Its not just the people who are actively serving that I want to remember, but also honoring those left behind who wait for their return. This quilt pattern is striking because of the red and white stripes on it as well as the two kinds of stars. I loved making this.

Landi's quilt is completely finished and rather than wait for her December birthday, I'm sending it back to her now. She will love it for the colors, and for our connection.

If I have learned anything in life, its to take the moment and share love while you can. Waiting to tell someone that you love them is risky. Honoring someone's work or service is also meant for the living.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Its the Small Things

Learning to trust has been one of the most difficult things for me to life and in quilting. 

Mystery Quilts were my first challenge in quilting, and it drove me crazy not knowing how the quilt would look with the colors and fabrics I selected. I have to say that is still the way they work, and maybe what is supposed to happen along the way is what and how you learn.

One of the many MQs I am doing is the black & white. The patterns were supposed to come out every week so that a quilter could make them in 6" and 12". We've only received two patterns so far. The author did say that when life got in her way, she might not post a new one.

In all my life, I observed that I do not have a gentle touch, not on my own self and not in other ways I work and behave. I am not always patient, and often lose interest if things don't move along effortlessly. With the smaller blocks, everything must align, must be pinned, and even the dog-ears must be clipped or the seams get too bulky. Being gentle means not stretching the fabrics cut on the bias and taking time to align everything with accuracy.

Not to lose interest in the project while waiting, I went back to the first pattern she sent and made a 6" block and the 12" for the second pattern. Now there is one of each size for both blocks. It seems like everything looks pretty busy, and I am still figuring out how to select the fabrics for the best effect. Its a real learning process. Each block teaches color coordination, alignment of the pieces so that there are points where they meet and that the block measures to size. In the end, a quilt has been built one step at a time!

My Fat Quarter swap came in yesterday's mail too. I've requested fabrics in black and white from my swap partners so that I can do this quilt. She actually sent 5 FQs, plus two spools of thread, a pin cushion, and a crocheted piece for the thread spindle. Additionally, Carol gave me a few bags of scraps she had, and I used some of the smaller pieces for these blocks as well. Small things.

Its really hard to know how to select fabrics that will work for the block and make sense for the finished quilt. Trust is a huge part when you make a Mystery Quilt. 

Its my touch that is key to it all. A touch for visioning, a touch for creativity, a touch for handling small things, a touch for trust that in the end what seems like chaos will evolve into something that is lovely and that I cherish.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

What Matters Most

Isadora Duncan said, "All that is necessary to make this world a better place to live is to love as Christ loved, as Buddha loved." Then, if you look at the quotes attributed to them, your world expands. 

What we think, we become. How we love makes the world a better place to live.

Yesterday, my Finish Something Friday, I kept working to finish up some June Swaps before leaving on my trip back to the Midwest on the 11th. One of them is a Fat Quarter swap. Each swapper lists the colors or fabric styles and exchanges four FQ's. No where in the forms we fill out do we say what we are going to use the fabric for, so this time, I included a pattern for this really cute kitchen towel that hangs on the oven door handle.

Then the other swap I finished and am shipping this week is for the 12" Christmas Quilt Block Swap. Only one block is required in the exchange. I've been wanting to make this cat block for some time. However, I do not know if my swap partner likes cats or what she plans to do with the blocks she receives in our swap. 

When I think about the act of loving or being loved, it starts with loving myself and being true to myself. I enjoy the full out colors of fabrics and enjoy the brighter look of finished quilts. I love cats and dogs (haven't found a dog-block pattern I like yet), and enjoy this holiday, so many of my quilts are made with these fabrics.

My swap partner for this month indicated on her form that she wanted any style Christmas block. So I pulled out another pattern I've been wanting to make and auditioned several fabrics & came up with this combination. I was attracted to this pattern's crisp look, and yet, while it seems like a simple construction, it wasn't so simple. Again, not knowing how she will use it, all I can do is hope it fits into her plan. At least with these two she will have options.

I re-programed my thinking about this block's construction. How I thought about it was how it manifested. When the form says "Any Style", that gives the quilt-maker freedom to try new skills or expand and learn something new.  Not everyone is comfortable giving that freedom and not everyone is comfortable taking that freedom. It feels pretty risky. You have to be in a place where you have a certain level of confidence in your fabric art, and trust that what you create will be welcomed.

Which brings me back to love. Not everyone is open to receive it, and not everyone is open to give it. I held this swap partner close to my heart as I cut and pieced these two blocks. I set into them the energy of love from one quilter to another, from one woman of spirit to another. I may never know what she does with them and that part doesn't matter. I actually did the same with the selection of Fat Quarters. And in fact, I do that every time I create a quilt.

What matters to me about what I do in every aspect of my work is that I love. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Another Finish for Friday

Sometimes we are lucky enough to have people in our lives who remind us with their love and friendship that we are never alone, and that in every circumstance our best interests are being cared for. Just being with them helps us understand our value to this world.

I've got a number of projects close to done, and this one got finished this morning. Its a tote I made for my friend Debi who is gracious enough to pick me up at the airport in MN and give me an entire bedroom apartment while I am there. Ever since we met almost two decades ago, she has opened her home and her heart to me. I am quite lucky to have such friends.

When I started thinking about making totes to practice free motion quilting, I decided to offer them as Pay It Forward projects in the fall. I still plan to do that. Debi told me she would love to have a tote for her knitting projects & I agreed to make one for her. 
She asked for blues and oranges and gave me the size as well as requesting that the strap be long enough to be over the body. This one has hand-sewn binding around the edges and could be reversible. I had to look up what an 'over-the-body' strap was and did my best to make it work. I am taking it with me to MN and if she needs something different, at least we have this one as a model.

Life is a series of lessons that come before us. If we learn what we need to learn and pass the test, we get a new lesson. If we didn't get it right, we experience the lesson at another level, sometimes even more difficult than the first go-around.

I think our friendships are like life lessons. There is an old bromide that says "we have friendships for a reason, for a season, or for a lifetime". What I do know is that its important to recognize our behavior in those relationships and cultivate them for what they are without judgment. Each is ok. Each is vital to our well-being.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Liberty Blocks

There are other words to name the blocks that take creative license, like Wonky or Crumb quilts. They are not as easy to make as it would seem because they fly in the face of conventional quilting.

To be in a creative flow is, in part, altering my mood, boggling my mind and being spontaneous. It goes against most things I was taught, even in quilting. Its like making a mistake on purpose even though its not a mistake.

My 6" swap partner sent these two blocks this month, along with a splash of hand-dyed fabric from Australia.

This style pushes a person to a space where they stop resisting and stop trying to control the creative flow. 

I am exploring this concept in quilting and decided to go with it and use two of my swaps (6" and 12") over the next year to make a wonky holiday quilt. Its going to take me some time to gather up the pieces to it and then make sense of how to assemble them all. Sometimes it feels that my creativity is the clutches of my ego, and that I find myself surrendering more and more to the spontaneous moment. That is harder than you might think for me. In that moment, I am less self-critical especially with these blocks because there is no wrong way to do them. I plan to use the 12" blocks for the center and the 6" blocks for one of the borders.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wednesday Baste & Rip

One cannot have wisdom without experiencing life. 

I learned a good lesson this morning. I have been using an online calculator to get the amounts of fabric needed to finish off backs and bindings. I just enter in the measurements, push a button and it calculates how much I need. Its pretty slick. I think there are a number of free apps you can find for this task.

Today was Patrick's quilt, the one called Snowy Roads. It laid across THREE lunch room tables to fit for taping down. What I didn't factor into the back is that it is a directional print, so rather than measuring the two pieces again, I just brought them in for basting. 

I ended up ripping the seam for one row of blocks as well as the border. It will make the quilt a little less square and a bit more rectangular looking, which is fine too. 

I am just sort of laughing at myself for 'knowing' what I was doing, and still keeping on with it without making the correction first. And actually, even though I made that choice, it wasn't a mistake. Either way, the quilt row and border would have had to come off. At least with the tables, it made it easier to pull up a chair and rip away. 

Here is a link to a musical thought about all this. When will we ever learn? with Pete Seeger. I guess the complexities of life, of quilting, even of math teach me wisdom. And becoming wise is just another step on the path to success. 

What's New Here

I've changed a few things on my blog. 

There is a contact form on the side bar if you want to communicate something with me about what I've written or just want to chat. The email form is a new gadget. I did a test to see how it worked, & it went directly to my email & does not show up here, so is for more private communication from you to me. I'd love to hear from you and will answer your email.

Then on the bottom of each post is a "reaction" check list for three different responses you might have to my posts letting me know if you (1) enjoyed my spiritual insights, (2) if you can relate to what I've posted, and (3) if you really are here for the quilting information. Its anonymous so you can freely check one or all the boxes without anyone knowing who you are.  

For those of you who know me & for those of you getting to see who I am, you know that I seem to find spirit in everything I do. Being spiritual isn't the same as having a religion or being a member of a specific church or religion. Its deeper for me. Everyone has a spirit they can tap into.

And I quilt. Its a relatively new pastime for me and one that I started as a way to express "generative" spirituality in contemplation, which simply means creating something that you pass on to family & something that connects your spirit.

I am soon headed off to baste my Nephew-in-Law's quilt at the clubhouse. Its a bit bigger and will take 3 tables. I am bringing my camera. I will make another post about it later today.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Desire for Improvement

My desire for personal growth never ends. I think it started with a wish to find and make a place in the world for myself. Then it evolved to a desire to count for something in the lives of people I love. I've always felt this inner urge to move ahead, to try something new, go after a different experience, and learn new skills. Its seemed to me that I find the meaning of life in following those inner urges and want to be more, to make more of myself.

Machine quilting halts me. And I have come to see that immobilization is only fear. In this case, it is based on two things: One is a big fear of failure... meaning I will ruin the quilt by being inept at it; and the other is a lack of training. Ah, then, its down to systems management that says its not about the operator or the machine but the training for the operator to understand the system.

This shows part of what I am doing for small machine quilting on Landi's Rising Star quilt. I am outlining the middle block of these 14 squares and will do a similar outline on the 8 blue star blocks. I've been at the machine with this quilt for days and have days more left to work on it before it is ready to trim and bind. Clearly this is new work for me, and as I do it, I can see how much I need the training if I am ever going to evolve.

Like most adult learners, I am relatively stubborn about asking for help or realizing that I need help. Like most adults in this culture, right now money is a bit tighter for me, and so paying for a class is not high on my list. And what is really key is making time. 

I am thinking about this, pondering my resistance, and seeing it as a WIP for my inner development. I admit I need a class on small machine quilting techniques. So what's my hangup? 

Listen up, woman, the quilting fairies are buzzing around your head!

Monday, May 19, 2014

The 6" Block

I've really been struggling as I make the 6" blocks. Some are for swaps and some are for the BOM in black & white that I am making in the quilt-along Carol & I joined.

With each one I make, I learn things about color placement or fabric choices. This is the first of my B&W 6" blocks. I learned to select less busy prints. Everything got lost in this one and while I will keep it, I will chose differently. The pattern only includes construction steps and does not give suggestions for color values or placement.

I work hard for accuracy in cutting and piecing, yet for whatever reason, operator error or mechanical error, sometimes a block doesn't measure up. Do I say its a mistake?  Mistakes are human and everyone makes them. I am my worst critic. Mistakes cost us acceptance and approval, especially in a swap. I hate it when something I do doesn't turn out the way I planned even with my best efforts.

Looking good isn't the same as being good or feeling good. Poor judgement teaches us to set better boundaries for ourselves in whatever we do the next time we act whether its in quilting, or in our relationships. 

These are "pretty in pink" Ohio Stars for the May 6" swap as requested. I made several that are in my wonky box dedicated for a future wonky-style quilt. Tiny pieces were put together the same way a 12" block would go yet, resisted my fingers and tested my skills at accuracy.

My swap partner is sending these that she made for my request to do the blocks wonky. She told me working with this style was out of her comfort zone and I suggested using wild fabrics. They are wonderful!  And they are not mistakes. In one way, my mistakes would be orphan blocks, and then saved to be used. In this way, recognizing them as a mistake, and still dedicating them as wonky-style useful gives them a recognition for the work I put into them. 

Probably no experience teaches us more than when we make mistakes or bad choices. We are, after all, only human. And when we accept our mistakes or find a way through our struggles in life, we are better able to accept ourselves.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Adding Articles I've Written

The last few days, I've been writing about quilt backs, and of course, because its who I am, I've been applying quilting techniques to my spiritual journey. These 'back' theories are not new to me. Many years ago, I researched the back chakras, wrote an article about what I found, and also taught several classes on them. I am including the piece called "Wind at our Backs" above in the link. Its going into my deep, and so perhaps if you are interested in those chakras, the information I have will be educational.

The quilt at my small home machine (a Singer Quilter) is Landi's Rising Star. This is the one that freaked me out with color bleed. It has simple white outlines on the white stripes, and a red serpentine stitch on the reds. 

The back, however, is that luscious tone-on-tone blue. So white or red thread on the front & blue on the back. I don't mind if an occasional blue thread pops up in front, but do NOT want white threads on the back. It was a simple matter to make the correct tension adjustments.

This brings me to the article I want to share on the Back Chakras, and how they work differently from those we know about in the front.  I know that my academic work can be pretty deep, especially for people expecting to read about quilting, so having it in the link above gives you a choice if its something you want to learn more about that is not quilting.

However, I think this is what is the important piece I want to remember when I work with the backs on my quilts. Here are a few paragraphs of what I wrote:

Back-focused Power Centers pertain to our well-being in community, and maintain links to our past, present & future. It is believed that our Front-Power Centers remain inactive until they are awakened through Yoga, conscious raising efforts or specific healing modalities.

The Back-Power Centers are active during everyday life and may be open, blocked or closed without conscious effort as a response to the environment, culture, simple life choices or by chance. It is these Power Centers at our backs that most people know the least about. Just because they are active during everyday life, without conscious effort on our parts, we can be vulnerable to a Community Energy that effects our actions in both positive and challenging ways.

Ok, and so what? Well. The more I think about it, the more I see that quilts are like the chakras on our bodies, front and back. It is the back of a quilt that most people have against their bodies when they use the quilt for warmth or comfort. The quilt owner will show off the front of the quilt. Its almost like the back is reserved for privacy....without the need for conscious effort. Warmth just is. Comfort just is. Resting / sleep just is. Healing just is. Security just is.

As the quilt-maker, and one who makes them with intent adding a prayer with every stitch, I want to be mindful of the back-power centers of each quilt. It is often not showy, and yet, as my consciousness about them evolves, the backs of my quilts have a message and deeper meaning than ever before. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Another Mystery Quilt

While the swaps are often about learning to listen to one another so that each partner gets some needs met, quilting remains a more solitary experience if you let it. I've learned that I am responsible for getting my needs met and that starts with creating clear communication. If I don't tell others or put it out in the universe, it means everyone has to become a mind reader, and moreover, I don't get my needs met. What a simple lesson.

The online quilting group I belong to has two more Mystery Quilt projects for this year, and one just started for June. I have a lot of quilting projects started and going. At first, I shook my head thinking about doing yet another quilt. The pull to join this one is that its just a month long.

Then I realized that all my quilts need backs. This pic shows the beginning quilting lines on one I am currently working with. Its a tone on tone green, yet shows every stitch. (Again, this is just tossed on a chair and would be smoother looking over a bed or couch.)

The first part of any Mystery Quilt pattern is to select the fabrics. As I considered joining this time, I decided that I have enough fabrics to make backs for two quilts that I am working on. This pattern builds borders that will extend the back to any size that will fit with the front.

I am in a sort of self-partnership as I quilt and need to listen to myself, to my own needs, to make a clear assessment of what is in my stash, and shop first in my own storage bins. Part of my needs with all this fabric is to use it up and keep thinking of possibilities. Its that concept of 're-use, re-purpose, re-cycle'.

There is nothing wrong with the solid look back on a quilt. I've been doing that with most of my quilts and only made a handful of them with creative backs. This is stepping up the game to create another quilt with a definite new pattern for the backside. It shouldn't out-shine the front design, but can take on a new look that either coordinates or complements the front.

As I practice listening to myself, it seems like the same concept I use with others. I want to listen without making negative comments; when I comment, I want to say things that are positive, supportive and affirming.

For a time, it looks like its about focusing on the backs of my fabric art. More tomorrow. I am already thinking of more.

Friday, May 16, 2014

When the Mail Comes

For as positive a person that I am, each day I wake, I remind myself to be open and willing to receive all manner of good things. Its not always easy to move forward with plans, to let go of concerns and simply experience the joy in being alive. I have to work at it.

I am such a kid when the mail comes. You would laugh to hear me giggle with absolute glee over a package that comes with a swap in it. I love all I participate in and the sweet friendships that last for at least that month, although some stay in touch after the swap is complete and communicate regularly.

The block above is the May Calendar block from my friend Crow Calling Woman (see her blog on my side bar). We have one more in June that will complete our year BOM swap, and are already planning for the next one that starts in October.

We also swapped Summer Mug Rugs. This one has the interesting machine quilting on it. Its a bit larger but will work beautifully at my work station. There is a free flow to the design of the strips that has the vertical lines uniform and the horizontal line flow.

The back shows off the design detail of the stitching and makes it totally reversible. 

I've learned that there is a hidden power in the backside of quilts as much as there is at the ending of the days when the light fades and one lays down to sleep. I sleep better when I program my body for relaxation and healing. Some nights I go to bed thinking about the people I love and things they are going through that I cannot really fix or change. Those nights are riddled with mental anxiety. Silly really. Because I know that everyone has their own path to walk, their own lessons to learn, and its not really any of my business how they proceed.

I believe that I can tell my body to make use of the sleeping time to heal to the core of my cells. Nights and sleeping are like the back of a quilt. The design is there consciously or sub-consciously. Some times, I discover something on the back of a quilt that needs ripping out and re-doing. Sometimes, as I go to sleep, I remember that I need to make something right with one of my relationships, or it comes to me that a certain energy needs to go into a quilt I am making.

As I machine quilt the simple grid on Sheri's Illusions quilt, after each row, I turn it over to look at the back, making sure the threading was consistent, and that there are no puckers. Guess life is like that too. At least for me.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mystery Blocks

Learning to say "no" is a lifelong experience that seems to start when we are in our terrible-twos. Most of the time, its not something others like to hear from us. And now, after a lifetime of struggling with that word, I am learning how to say "yes" and "that's for me". Thing is, I want to make sure that something is for me before I get too engaged.

My local quilting friend and I joined what I thought was going to be a block of the month online. As I read the directions (again), it seemed to me that the author was offering these blocks free once a week (if she had time for it), and then was putting them into what would be her third book. So I emailed her to ask how many blocks she planned to offer. Her reply was "100 +". She continued to write that she was going to join the 6" blocks into a 12" square, join them all with sashing and make a queen size quilt. The pattern comes in both sizes.

I really didn't get the answer I was looking for that would tell me how many blocks were coming, and how often. It seems like she would release them according to her schedule. It was a sort of 'no' from her that I needed to respect. After all, these blocks are free online for an introductory period, AND the instructions are clear for construction. Color choices and placement of those colors are left to the quilter.

I'm glad I made this as a test block for a different quilt I am making. It turned out nice, and gives me a chance to see how I will use the black & whites with color in it.

I've decided that, yes, this quilt is for me, and I will make every pattern in either the 6" or the 12" and let it evolve as another Mystery quilt for myself. I decided that I would alternate the sizes with each new block pattern the designer releases. This one (named Old Maid's Puzzle) I will make as a 6" in the B&W/Color. I have a certain amount of control in the color selection and the size of the block, yet knowing that I don't know what is coming makes it a mystery and makes me smile.

I know that saying "no" to the things I do not want in my life is vital. It makes me goofy-grin remembering how adamant I have been when I used that word. Now, I can whisper it, and still express the power of my choice that echos in my eyes, my body posture and my smile. Or maybe because I have gray hair. 

Saying "that's for me" almost feels selfish, and maybe its time and ok for me to finally BE selfish or self-focused. And why not? I love the feel of quilts over my lap that I finish for others. Its about time that I make one for myself...and this is it. This will be the mystery unfolded with each block, not knowing how they will turn out. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wednesday Basting at the Clubhouse

A free and happy life is a work of art.

I've come to realize that if I want something beautiful, I need to give this fabric art consistent, daily attention that brings beauty into being. I can only expect a day's worth of progress from a day's worth of work.

Wednesdays have been my weekly appointment to get down to the clubhouse and use their lunchroom tables to baste my quilts. Such an easy task to lean over rather than be on the floor with them. It is also exhausting, so when I come home, I settle in with a hot cup of Earl Gray tea and relax.

Today was Landi's scrappy 4th of July quilt. This is the one that freaked me out with the bleed factor. I took a huge chance & pre-washed it with 4 Color Catchers, and nothing bled. Whew. I didn't really press it again and its ready to machine quilt, so is at my workstation. It barely fit across two tables. Patrick's is going to take 3 tables next week & a bit more time.

The other scrap quilt top I finished last night is this one made with two pieces of horizontal fabrics. I love how it evolved from the original pattern I found in the magazine. One fabric is the Santas with more holiday bird houses and the other is bird houses with some big sunflowers. I cut and pieced them for the center as well as the borders. The 5" charm squares are from my own stash and from gift packs sent to me by two friends. The burgundy frame is leftover from Tony's Mystery Quilt and the beige after that was a scrap given to me as well. The back is going to be a scrappy one and the only thing I need to buy is a darker green for binding. I was surprised how much of the horizontal fabric it took because I have other pieces that I might make into another quilt....later when I can be fresh about it. Of course, the next one will look very different because of the scraps I have that will contribute to it. This one is a perfect design, however, and deserves repeating.

I want something beautiful with what I create. Always.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


WIP is a quilting term for work in progress. When I tag one of my quilts as a WIP, it means that I am doing various steps that it takes to get the quilt completed. I believe that most people turn others off when they talk about their projects and to the other person, it seems like a story they have heard before, and maybe often.

If you ask someone how long it might take you to finish a quilt because you want to make it for a gift, a good quilter will tell you there isn't an easy answer to that. It depends upon how long you work, the machine, your tools, pattern, fabric, how large it will be, and your skills.

I've noticed a lot of newer cooking recipes will tell you how long to bake something, and they also give you an idea of the prep time too. Now, that varies from cook to cook.

With quilting, it is recommended that you clean out your machine after running three bobbins. It is believed that using three bobbins takes about eight hours. Generally speaking, you want to change your needle too and keep it fresh. If your rotary blade skips, its time for a change, but that might depend upon variable factors like the kind of fabric you use and how hard you press down.

As one gains experience, they learn how long it took to make a quilt of similar size and can factor in some of that information. However, things get in the way of us doing anything from quilting to cooking to getting dressed in the mornings.

The variables are what few people talk about. Most quilters post pics of their finished quilts unless they are doing tutorials to show how something is done. Few people talk about the time it takes to audition fabrics for a quilt, to dig through their stash or how long it takes to rip, pull threads and re-press a seam. Few people talk about bathroom breaks or interruptions required to eat meals and sleep.

So when I write about a quilt that I started last year, and post yet another photo of it from step #743 that I took, no wonder why the person I am speaking with loses interest and yawns.

WIPs are boring.

Yet, here it is, this wonderful work of creation, this wonderful piece of fabric art that is infused with my deep concentration, my open heart and my unconditional love, this work in progress. It is here in my life from the moment of its conception all the way through its rich potential into its manifestation and into the hands of its recipient.

And so I didn't take a photo of the piles of pinned fabric waiting on my workstation to get pieced. Those kinds of photos aren't important to me either. I want to see the finished quilt, to have that sense of accomplishment and to read or hear that someone, any of the someones I know, thinks it turned out great.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Magic Monday

I really love Mondays. A lot of people don't. I love Mondays, and Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Fridays and the weekend. It might be that I love being active and that one day spills into the next. The important thing for me is not to stop. Its not like I have to do everything all at once, I just have to do a little bit each day to keep my enthusiasm no matter how I feel. And therefore, all the quick piece work I did yesterday, because it was a family-call day, paid off.

First of all, that last BOM block is history. Its going to get finished off, get cut down to 6.5" and placed in the wonky box for later on. THIS is the first block of the new BOM Carol and are doing. She's making hers with a SW look and I am doing mine in black & white with color. The pattern comes from Michele Foster and is the first she offers this year. It actually called for 7 fabrics, but I used the B&W one in the center for bars around the sides. I REALLY love how it turned out. My plan is to have a different focus color added to the different blocks and try to use that B&W in all 12 as the fabric that ties them all together. I pulled every scrap I had with a black foundation to use and it might be a matter of fussy cutting and placing. This quilt is already mine. Mine, I say, all mine!

Here's a teaser on Lisa's quilt. She asked for burgundy and its actually not readily available as a holiday color. The green 4-patch was supposed to be an accent and then took over! I added that small white fairy frost border and then everything went down hill for my plan. I poured over four different books that have border ideas in them and nothing was working for me. Adding the burgundy again is brilliant.

I loved this color combo and am committed to finishing quilts for Lisa & her Husband, and her Sister Sheri & her Son this year. Each of them is so different from the others its actually stimulating for me to see how they turn out. I bought a lot of fabrics for this quilt thinking it would be a Log Cabin and then changed my mind. My next step on it is another border. It will be an interesting next step.

The other quilt top I am making is that horizontal Bird-feeding Santa one. It uses up some 5"charms (I made sure nothing repeats to keep it charm status). Then I dug into my stash and found three pieces that are just enough to make more borders go around, and expand it to be a twin size. This is also a teaser picture. Its going to be such a lovely quilt, and I think goes to my younger Son this year (if I get it finished).  It made me laugh to find a number of novelty fabrics in my stash that are horizontal. I know that they will also use this pattern and make up great quilts.

Its not quite noon here and these simple successes give me renewed energy. I know that surrendering that last block didn't come easy. It got ripped apart four times when I said I would be done with it after three. It surprises me how much I still get caught up in trying to prove I can get through something very uncomfortable, very senseless. This was just a little thing, this last block of that BOM project. If Carol is right and it was a learning experience, I hope I learned to let go more significant issues of my past with a bit more ease. I hope I learned that life is too short to fight stupid battles that are not worth my time.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

An interesting Sunday

I live across the country from my family, so there were a number of phone calls, texts and emails (with pictures) that happened today. Its amazing how we spread out to Alaska, Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Texas, and Florida. I've never been much for traditional holidays and like to make every day a celebration. I usually don't remember that there is a holiday happening until someone reminds me. 

However, when someone does connect, I like to take time in the moment to be present and give them my complete attention. The members of my family make me smile when I hear their voices or see their faces. They make me feel pretty lucky to know them. I let the day be one of small tasks so that when something interrupted me, it was ok and I didn't have to try and remember what I was doing.

I was able to cut and pin a lot of projects that are now sitting next to my machine so I can get to them in the morning. Its amazing how much a person can get done.

Lisa's quilt has still got me pondering how to make the borders on it so it grows to personal lap size. Its coming along but I didn't have it fully planned out when I switched from doing a Log Cabin to what it is. I got a couple of books from the library on borders and had one here too that were all helpful. Yet, its going to be one border at a time. Its the last top I want to make into a quilt this year. 

I also started on the new swap projects. My new 6" swap partner was assigned and requested pink Ohio Stars. Rex & I decided to swap our embroidery for the Hallows quilt, so I found enough natural muslin to make twelve 12.5" blocks and set that aside. 

And while Carol & I aren't swapping, we plan to make a new BOM this year and hope to heaven its better than last year's. She kept trying to tell me it was a learning experience. Hah! That last block is pinned for piecing and I swear, if it doesn't work this time, I am so done with it! I have had it with patterns that are either edited or printed incorrectly as this one clearly was. What a waste of my time and energy to put it together and take it apart so many times. It will be what it is, or get used by cutting it down and adding it to the wonky pile if it doesn't turn out.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Saturday Sort

Any kind of excitement gives me a high & is both pleasurable and powerful. In my younger days, I loved higher risk sports like dog-sledding, sky-diving, skiing, and competition volleyball and roller hockey, all providing me with several crash landings. My back X-rays show athletic wear and tear. I even love the heart-pumping movies and get rather bored with what they call 'chick-flicks'.

While there is nothing wrong with being excited with high energy activities, there is also a place in my life just as pleasurable called serenity. Serenity, peace and quiet have become more important than those thrills, that drive to succeed, that pleasure in winning, and that tumbling flight in the air before hitting the ground ever did.

At the time, if someone had told me this truth, I might have laughed in their face, pulled on my boots and headed out the door for the next challenge.

Well, I spent the better part of the morning sorting fabrics, and then cutting smaller pieces into usable scraps. Here is the morning's work in 2.5", 3", 4", 5", 6", 8", 10" and 2.5" strips (rolled in the shoe box). Not only does this save space in my fabric bins, it also saves time when I make quilts that call for those sizes. I tried to keep like colors together when I could but let them all take on a random sort.

Then I stepped outside to my gardens to pull some weeds, trim bushes, and prune the declining Iris plants. Its gorgeous outside! The colors are inspirational, and that work in the dirt and among plants lets me celebrate being close to the Earth. 

Good goddess. My life has become a chick flick!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Fabulous Finishes for Friday

What a productive week I've had! Sometimes it seems that my quest for quilting makes me quite restless. Not so much in the way of frustration or lack of peacefulness can make a person restless, but more in knowing that it brings me a joy without end.  I can get lost in all the details and mindless parts of the work, but when something comes to a completion, it makes everything so worthwhile.

This week I have several finishes. I sent out three mug rugs: One to Mother for Mother's Day; one to my Daughter-in-Law; & one to Rex for a Summer Mug Rug Swap. My friend Virginia sent me a number of items from her Mother's estate recently. I already used pieces of fabric from it.

One item is an acrylic ruler for making Dresden Plate blades. I am really loving it. There is more to the assembly than one would think & I do plan to utilize it for more projects. I didn't want to post these until Rex received her swap.

And now I can add to the link above for 2014 finishes. I like all three of these examples, and learned so much by doing them. Mother's is hand quilted, and then the others are finished by machine. Its pretty much the same concept, and just different expressions of the same one.

These are other finishes I've held off on showing because I wanted the swap to be a surprise, were two 12" Christmas block swaps using the Dresden Plate concept. This partner requested blues with cream. Its quite stunning in person, however, silvers in the fabrics make it harder to see in a picture.

The next one for that swap was done in traditional holiday colors. I've decided to send one Dresden Plate in every swap along with the block my partner of the month requests. I need to update that link above to show the blocks I've sent.

Another fab finish for the day is Tony's Mystery Quilt. The borders are on it now, so it can be held for a 2015 finish. It made great use of holiday fabric scraps. That background fabric is actually a very nice print I purchased on sale here in town. I am sure he will enjoy it. I look forward to another adventure in mystery. Many people made this quilt and its amazing how different they all turned out.
The thing that got me stressed, yet again, in my quilting was the bleed factor. I ordered a dark red for the binding on Landi's 4th of July quilt and tossed it in for a pre-wash with one sheet of Color Catcher. This is the horrifying result. The top is almost finished, but I could not bring myself to keep working on it if the reds had any chance of destroying the whites. So I put it in a gentle cycle with FOUR Color Catcher sheets. They had some color in them, but nothing like this one. Believe me, that result brought me unbelievable joy. I will go forward and add the borders to the top and then get it ready to baste later this week.

Even with the various frustrations that come with this or any endeavor, what I know is that when I am able to find my way through them, the satisfaction of success makes it worth doing again, pushing my boundaries, and taking more risks.