Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wonky House Block

Looks aren't everything.

It actually is more of a challenge to look eccentric than it is to be eccentric. I spent the entire day attempting to make a Wonky House Block. This one is not done, and it certainly was a learning experience. This style is also called Liberated.

I think the first thing that was so difficult for me was the randomness. I just couldn't make it wonky to where it would turn out cute. Everything kept squaring up no matter how I twisted it. The top and bottom need re-cutting to sort of twist things one last time, which most likely means adding fabric to the sides. Another thing I am considering is something in front of the house. Its just not there for me.

The second thing was that I was still matching colors. If you look at other examples online, some of the most darling ones are really oddities. Whole quilts of oddities!

Talk about personality! Talk about trust, perhaps even more. Perhaps my personality developed over the years through the various expectations others had for me to be the good student, to be the good teacher, to follow the rules, to color within the lines and also to quilt with traditional standards. 

Liberated quilting is probably not as modern as we think. My guess is that women throughout time did what they could with what they had. Because fabrics are natural products & most quilts were made for utility purposes, the 'good' ones or the perfect ones were tapestries that hung in castles, courts or museums. They set the standard of perfection in art. This piece is called "Ladies of Camelot"; the physical representations of the human body are elongated, their faces more stylized as well. I don't think it is wonky as much as it is liberated. Yet, it is lovely artistry, well-planned beauty. I cannot imagine someone looking at this and saying that the bodies are not true forms. It was considered a major piece of decorative art of the Victorian era.

When we look at cultural art, primarily paintings on rock, the preservation is remarkable. It seems to me that if the artists of the time, men or women, were making these liberated forms of the human body or the representations of their world, so must have the blanket or quilt makers been creating these figures with a more liberated expression.

I think with any form of quilting, you don't get proficient with it without practice. I need to make a few more of these wonky houses. I want to push out of the box with wilder colors, or with more of them NOT matching so that even the color choices become wonky.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Creative Potential

The other day I re-read that most of our creative potential is unrealized. For years, people have been saying we use so little of our brain....10%. Since the theory was proposed, scientists declared it to be an urban myth, saying that our brains are always active & have a function, & our intelligence can increase with training. We still believe the myth even though we know the truth of it.

Everyone is creative. Everyone. I participated in a class that my friend Rex presented several years ago & struggled so much to paint & decorate a small box, even saying I was craft-challenged. What I learned is that I need more time to engage in any sort of artistic endeavor. Once I give myself over to it, some amazing things evolve. 

All Tuesday, I worked on these 12.5" blocks using the same pattern I found the day earlier. They look quite different from each other because different fabrics make either a bolder statement or seem to simply blend.

I want to do 16-blocks on my Grandson's holiday quilt that has developed from the 12" Christmas Block Swap. 

Sixteen seems to be the number I am using these days. Sixteen for the two bed runners, 16 for the boy's quilt, This one is called a Bento Box & looks best with two contrasting fabrics. I want to work on a Wonky or Liberated House for the last one. What surprises me about that is how I have worked hard to match points & corners on all my blocks, so making one that is off the standard lines might prove to be challenging.

Model of Creative Potential from the Insight Center
Encouraging others to accept their creativity is so much more easy than recognizing creative potential within myself. I think it comes down to getting out of my own way. Somewhere along the line, I defined creativity and cut myself out of the definition. My self talk decided that what I made wasn't good, and in fact, wasn't good enough. I see on this image that it has a lot to do with Personality and External Environment. All that negative self-talk really blocks or kills the creative juices within.

Its almost down right miraculous that I even continued with this fabric art. In the very beginning, some really terrible mistakes happened. Thing was, I was so uneducated regarding the construction of quilts that I didn't even see. 

Most things I have studied over the years have been wonderfully complex as well as super simple. Bottom line is that there is more, always more to learn, to explore, to embrace and even to reject. We probably have a better chance for quality of life if we use our creativity in some way, any way. 

My current evolution of spirit is creating a break-through self-inflicted habits, routines and beliefs about quilting that are being replaced with significantly different visions for it. Thanks to my friend Virginia who turned me onto a very artistic quilter's blog, and got me doing some very deep thinking.

It takes me longer to engage than most people. I think I weigh in all the parts and pieces of potential and then jump right in. Thanks to everyone who adds to my creative potential, to all the teachers, friends, elders in my family. You have made me a better thinker, and maybe even a better quilter.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Block by Block

I think that confusion can be a cop-out. Usually I know exactly what it takes for me to do something. I know that I have to practice what I learn whether its pounding a nail in straight, teaching a class on feminist theory, or putting together a quilt. For me, the state of confusion has more to do with being tired or stressed, resisting the project or not having the clarity regarding my next steps.

Sometimes it means sitting down with the books or in the case of quilting, the pattern, and practicing. Thing is, I am not a person to practice on something and then throw it away. I want to learn and have my studies & projects be meaningful.

Along with making all those green holiday quilts this year, I am working on a few small things including: 

  • 12" Christmas Block Swap 
  • 12" Quilt Block & Swap 
  • 12" & 6" B&W Scrappy Block Quilt 
  • 12" Christmas Bed Runner. 
My local quilting friend & I joined a couple of BOM groups that turned out to be a bust, and then found a Quilting Bee on Facebook that has been offering two block pattern tutorials each month. The tutorials are the most clear of anything we have worked with thus far. It has become a rich experience that will help me maximize the work on all four of my activities as listed above. Usually on a regular quilt, the block pattern is repeated at least 12 times so a person does get the practice.

The most recent tutorial pattern is gorgeous. I finished this last night, & it goes to my August partner in the Quilt Block & Swap group. Its made from 2.5" strips I found in my stash to make it work. I realized that I could make & remake this pattern using different fabrics for each. 

That black with yellow reminded me that these fabrics would work with my B&W project. I cut out the black fabric with daisies on it, used a couple more from the scraps bag. The blocks will be quite different. 

Then, I pulled out the holiday fabric scraps, planning to match & cut for my Bed Runner. Plans for this project are for 12 blocks -- 2 wide & 6 across, with sashing & borders for the queen size bed.

Like anything that gets built, its best to have a plan or a blueprint. I think that my progress is marked with a solid plan, so that I know what I need, how much time is required, and even what my resources are. These practice pieces help me learn, help reduce the fogginess that exists in my mind, and give me the skills to push myself onward.

There is nothing confusing about this art when I keep repeating the positive actions block by block. Most quilts are made by repeating the blocks and joining them to make another overall pattern. I know that with every new fabric combination I make, something is to be learned, something is to be gained. Its not that I plan to compare blocks, and say that one is better. Its that I SEE what differences there are in the choices I make. It becomes a pattern to success.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Burnout vs. Creative Visualization

I think the first time I read about Creative Realization was in the 70's and its been something I've carried with me since then. The essential theory of it all is to use your imagination to create something you want, or work toward or create in and for your life. Well, its one thing to set goals, and hold a positive affirmation, and another thing to be faced with burnout and things that block forward motion. I've never been one to handle the breakdown of mechanical things well, and so over the years, I have learned to adapt as soon as something stops working the way it should. Everything breaks down or burns out sooner or later.

I've found that if too many things fail, breakdown or somehow get overwhelming, that they contribute to a burnout in my spirit. My personality is such that I cannot focus too long on anything negative, but need to pick myself up and get onto something else. Its a question of either falling into being a victim about it or finding ways to survive and thrive.

My glass stove top burner burned out on Saturday, but first wouldn't shut off, putting out intense heat that threatened to melt everything around it. I tried everything from turning the knob on and off to flipping breakers. For safety reasons, I finally unplugged it, and then  started thinking of alternative ways to prepare food. The first small appliance that came out was my slow cooker and I made scrambled eggs for Sunday breakfast and later heated up leftovers for lunch and dinner.

Wow. This is such a metaphor for what happens to a human when she burns out. The heat generated by the internal malfunction is intense. She no longer can do what she wants to do or is meant to do, sometimes no matter what she tries to do for a fix. Unplugging is often the only answer to get relief  from the intensity and danger.

Quilters experience burnout and mechanical failures with their sewing machine as well as the inner burnout that takes us away from our goals. It bites when the sewing machine locks up and needs service. 

And there are days when I just don't feel like doing the next thing on a project and have to set it aside & go onto something else. Small Pay It Forward projects I take on help relieve any burnout working on larger projects can bring. A smaller project can be visualized & carried out in a day. This Thread Catcher is a perfect example.

With a Pay It Forward project, the challenge comes first of all in the imagination: What to create? Will it serve the recipient? How to put positive energy into it? Yes, it is for someone as a way to express gratitude for what I've received in the past, and just to be kind in the present moment.

I have a Thread Catcher of my own and use it all the time. It has a sandbag weight to it, that in fact, is more trouble than its worth for how I use it, so when I visualized making one for this PIF project, I purposely did not attach the weight portion.

This is the way I work. I evaluate what I have and figure out what I really need. Then I use the affirmations to envision its creation and make it manifest. So it is with my quilting projects. I have to say that the PIF projects serve my greater good too in endless ways, including the prevention of burnout.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What's With All The Green?

As the folded & finished quilts start stacking up, I realize that this year's quilts seem to be all green. Well, green is the focus color with other coordinating fabrics. Always looking for the metaphor in what I do, I researched its meaning and found that green is favored by well-balanced people and is a master healer. It a safe color, and symbolizes money, growth, the desire to change and offers a protection from fear.

I've actually selected holiday green on purpose. When I first decided to make Winter Solstice gifts for members of my immediate family, I realized that I could never begin to match the colors in their homes from more than 2000 miles away. I started making small holiday wall hangings for them and knew that the piece could come down after the season ended. So when my work felt good enough to me to make quilts, these are also made of holiday fabrics

I am working on the binding for Ava's SongBird log cabin quilt. It is green, along with the reds and creams of the season, but really green front and back. 

Its helped in many ways to continue quilting with the same fabrics because those quilts will go to different homes and no one sees that I use the same fabrics. I purchased larger yardage and have used the leftovers in various others. Additionally, I was able to buy a larger spool of thread (3280 yards) to load bobbins and use for the top thread as well. I can use it to join fabric pieces as well as machine quilt. Its simply a matter of conservation of my financial resources.

Next year, the holiday quilts are in various shades of blue. Blue is a calming color, and is used for inspiration, sincerity and is the color of truth, solitude and peace

In one way, using a single focus color on projects for an entire year is like achieving a healthy way of life that requires conscientiously repeating positive actions. 

What started me out like this was the need to separate the fabrics given to me into quilt projects, and I did this by color first. Then, I guess, it was really a matter of financial wisdom, knowing that each of those projects would have leftovers or scraps that could go into yet another quilt. AND THEN also realizing the cost of thread could be minimized through the purchase of larger spools. (I like G├╝termann 50 weight cotton thread for piecing and use this brand's quilting thread for hand work.)

I make other quilts throughout the year, often attending classes to learn the methods. When I do this, I will buy the fabric for this quilt that is not made for the holidays. So it is always a learning process, a colorful process, and one of spirit for me.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

To Live Fully Creative

There are moments in my quilting work that I can live fully and appreciate the colors, the different patterns and the anticipation of a finished work of art. I know that it all requires a certain receptivity or openness to the process. Yes, there is the technical part, yes there is the understanding of how colors coordinate or clash, and yes, there is the continuing effort to evolve.

I've taken to the machine so that I can do the quilting on my projects. This is the back side of one of the Pay It Forward projects. Once it gets assembled, it will need a binding to enclose seams.  I am still quilting with straight lines, yet they make a great reinforcement to the piece, and the finish is always nice. I want to practice free motion quilting on the smaller pieces but am resisting doing it.

The more I work in this fabric art, the less I hold to a preconception of how it should end up. Even though I follow patterns, for the most part, my continuing experiences are allowing me to engage in the magick of it all as well as in the depth of the moment.

The whole mission of my work has not changed. Every stitch is still a prayer for the recipient of any given project. I feel a very strong connection to that person as I work. And where I used to wonder if that was how my Grandmothers & Aunties felt when they made me something, I KNOW that is how they felt whether it was a conscious or unconscious feeling, it was why they worked, how they worked.

And so every stitch I make connects me to my ancestors as well as to my descendants & friends; to the sisterhood of all those who worked to make life easier or more beautiful for others. I watch my sewing machine needle go down and up, and know that the threads link to each other and through the fabric parts. As do we.

When my days are fractured, and I feel scattered and unfocused, quilting brings me back to a balance I need in my soul. Some days the tasks are mindless, but they are never without partnership if I allow myself the moment to go there. I am never sure if in writing such things that anyone understands the power in this work, or if they might think I am some go-mer. And then, I remember that I am doing this --- the quilting, and the blogging --- for me first and foremost. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

I Didn't Know That!

Is it amazing how much we don't really know? When I think of how much time & energy I spend trying to do something that I don't know that someone else HAS figured out, it blows me away. I am sure many of us are driven more by enthusiasm than prudence, striking out on projects that we cannot complete nor even undertake. 

And there are those things we do out of habit that someday, we wish we had known better. Folding quilts for storage is one such habit. Like many people I pick mine up and fold them in half & then in quarters. These two are finished & hanging over a chair until I am ready to ship them all off before Thanksgiving week. I kept thinking they were folded & hung gently. Then, yesterday, someone in one of my online quilting groups posted a link that shows the better way to store quilts that puts less stress on the fibers. If you are interested, here it is from a blog posted in 2012.

I've started the binding on Cody's Quilt, Healing Holly. You can see how cavalier I am with my Works in Progress (WIP) as I toss them over my ironing board after each session of hand work at night. At least, they are hanging rather than bunched on the floor or folded in quarters for storage. The black & holly is actually the back on this one, & the front is a scrappy Log Cabin. It's made up of fabrics using the holly theme in some variation, so its more a guy-quilt. Its really going to be lovely.

The blog suggests going through your quilt projects and refolding everything. I won't do that today, but after I get this year's Winter Solstice quilts completed, I might just go back into my storage and spend time doing it just to take the stress off the fibers and avoid crease lines. As the saying goes, I'd rather be safe than sorry.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Never Say Never

There was a time in my life when I might make a decision about something and hold fast to that come what may. Over the years, I have come to see different views and that sometimes changing my mind is ok, and if no one else is effected by it or harmed by what I do, that too is ok. Not too long ago, I said that I never cared to do hand needle turned applique again. Its time consuming for what you get.

When my local quilting friend and I got together yesterday, we talked about the quilting progress and stages we were at. I showed her the B&W blocks I've made, and she showed me the stacks of organized stash she has colorized and stacked on her shelves. As we chatted, we decided to set aside every other Wednesday as quilting time together before she becomes a snowbird who flies off to AZ for the Winter.

Carol wants to learn the needle turned applique, something I said I didn't really want to devote any time on. I even sent that completed block, such as it was, to another friend in hopes she could figure out how to use it. As we chatted, I agreed to do one more block so she could learn how it was done, and perhaps make a table runner with it in the center and other holiday blocks on either side, adding sashing and borders to make it work. We calculated that it would only need a total of three blocks, three randomly made blocks with sashing and borders. Both of us were glad to make something that uses up more of our stash.

I don't really want a table runner. However, I have been seeing and thinking about bed runners. I like the thought of having something across the middle of my bed at night that is not a full quilt. I like having the extra warmth but not near my face nor on my feet. A bed runner is a perfect idea.

I've made some themed blocks that currently have no homes that I can use for this project. I think that it would work with sashing and borders, and enough different 12" blocks to run two wide and perhaps six across so that it extends across the bed and to the floor on both sides. It is actually the size of a lap quilt with 12 blocks but placing them to fit.

What this all means is that I have slipped into the stage of designing my own project. I can play with different 12" block designs and use them freely here. I've browsed enough magazines and websites to see how it can be done. Of course one could follow a pattern, and yet my style for making anything for myself is becoming freer.

Yes, can you believe it? It wasn't long ago that I thought I was trapped by convention and tradition. Here I am taking all those traditions and doing something relatively new and radical (for me) and making what I need and want. Not a table runner, not a full size over the bed quilt, but a bed runner.

Woo hoo! Woo Hoo, I say!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Illusions is the name of the quilt I am finishing. The hand sewn binding takes about three evenings to complete and tonight will be the third session, and then its done. It gets tossed over my ironing board. I've fallen in love with the colors and the name of it. Illusions.

This quilt goes to my eldest Niece Sheri. The pattern is meant to be scrappy and creates an illusion when its opened and laying flat. 

It is unrealistic of us to expect a quick or smooth journey in life. Unrealistic expectations can generate discouragement, which in turn can make us want to quit living some days; & simply curl up under a quilt & sleep the day away. That is really ok to do as a method of coping with the realities, & also as an act of restoring our confidence & self-esteem. 

In fact, naps are a good thing, a quilt thing.

Every one of us has something in our lives that challenges us, stops us from acting, reminds us that we don't have the skills we need to make the journey, or forces us to endure horrendous mis-deeds of others we might have trusted; or simply asks us to accept the fate that is tossed in our paths as life lessons.

An illusion is a distortion of the senses and reality. Visual illusions are the most well-known and actually dominate the other senses. They can bring on specific forms of sensory distortion and misinterpretation. 

As I created this quilt, the prayer that came for me with it was that anyone who saw or used this quilt would be open to their own skills to see what is true and not false in their world.

The comfort I hope comes from using it will generate tenacity, peace, foresight, understanding and acceptance of what is real. And I pray it is well used.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Just Another Day

I love doing the handwork part in quilting. It relaxes me like none other. Often times, its the last step on a quilting project. Yesterday, I finished another one of the PayItForward projects I am doing this year. I've said that I am not going to show the finished work here because its part of my soul work. I wonder sometimes what the difference is between works of spirit and soul work. It seems to me that works of spirit are those things I do that are made for the enjoyment of others, and my soul work is what I do to heal or enhance myself.

This last PIF project took me out of my comfort because the online pattern (follow link to it) didn't say what size the finished work would be, and the print was so darned small on it when I made a copy. Because of my learning style, the pattern was hard for me to understand with all the folds and stitching. I actually asked for help in the final few steps. It turned out remarkably cute, and I might even make it again using a larger amount of fabric now that I know the process. What is seen in this pic is the final machine stitching to make a casing so a ribbon could go into it. The ribbon is pulled like a drawstring. Its really quite enchanting. To get an idea of the size, cup and hold your hands apart so the fingers do not touch. If you follow the link above for it, you will get a better sense of how it looks finished.

The next thing I made was another B&W 6" block for my sampler quilt. The scrap of red fabric was just enough to make the four rectangles on it, and I was able to use the black/daisy for the center so the theme carries onward. My local quilting friend and I are getting together Wednesday to share what we've made and learned along the way. She's given me a lot of scraps and I do want to use as many of them as will work. The smaller squares call for tinier pieces, yet it can be a challenge to make them work.

As evening wore on, I finished another 12" Dresden Plate Christmas block by doing the center circle. This piece is entirely hand quilted and will be an extra tucked into my next 12" Christmas Block Swap. Most of the women in that group make sampler-type table runners with three different style blocks adding sashing and borders. Some of those become gifts and some are used as fundraisers in various other groups they belong to. The charm of these table runners is that each block is made by a different quilter from around the world. The block itself is more a practice piece for me and if I were doing many of them to fit on a quilt, I would need to look at colors, values and placement a bit more. 

There are four quilts on my to-do list that need to be finished and go out the door as gifts for Solstice this year. This one goes to my Niece Sheri and is called "Illusions". What is left on it is hand sewing the binding. I got maybe 3/4 of one side done last night before tossing it over the ironing board. Whew! Its still pretty hot here to have a quilt over my lap at night! 

The way the weather has been this year, it feels like the end of September and that made me think I was behind on completing work that is needed for them. Cali is in a 3-year drought and people are calling for us to conserve our water. They say the new green is brown. Unfortunately, weeds love to take over the land and come up abundantly without needing much water. Over the years, I've turned more to xeriscaping the yard for water conservation as much as possible, and that is another story for another time.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Monkey Wrench Kinda Day

I spent Sunday making 6" black and white Monkey Wrench blocks for my swap partner. The most important part of working on these is, of course, the opportunity to practice accuracy. Its gotten to be a standard and a goal for me. And what is funny is that in doing my work like this, I realize that its more foundational in this fabric art. I don't think I can take the liberties needed for the more artistic pieces yet. I am still learning.

The first ones I made were the swirl ones, & I really like that pattern best of the ones with the Monkey Wrench name. I wasn't satisfied with either of them. The points were difficult at 6", one of the blocks wouldn't press flat, & even my camera blurred the picture.

The second version of the pattern with the same name worked much better. I'd like to say that the pics were blurry on purpose so they were still a surprise for my partner, but there is no shake-free button on the camera, and no matter the settings, they came out blurred. I am not sure if the black & white reads differently, but they are what they are. I like the contrast here, and all the cuts/joinings were successful.

As I continue to think about this fabric art and how I work with it, I know that it offers me great moments of spiritual evolution. We are all born into existing patterns in our life through our families. For the most part, if we chose to stay within those familiar systems or patterns, we try to maintain stability by negotiating our relationships, speaking gently and forgiving slights others might present. Changing habits and traditions is always a challenge, and we resist change. When we dare to do something different, its like we have begun to rock the boat, and that threatens us and everyone around us.

I see that in myself right now as I struggle to do what I know in my quilts, and resist doing that which is unfamiliar. I find myself criticizing the minor 'fail' in a block I make that really only goes beyond my comfort with with a pattern or fabric combinations. Its not that they fail. They present learning opportunities that push my comfort. My old system or quilting style is just protecting itself.

Sometimes, what I do is just not going to be right for it to be something that is either swapped or part of a quilt going out. Funny thing is that now I am making the B&W quilt for myself, I am willing to take a block that is less than perfect because of the nature of this quilt (scrappy sampler), where anything goes and anything works. Life. Anything goes and anything works.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Playing With a Monkey Wrench

When I joined the 6" quilt block swap, I really didn't understand how trying to make a 6" block would be challenging. The swap partner has the option to chose either or both the block and the color; or they can make it a block maker's choice. This month, my partner's request was for any block style in black and white.

I've been making my own sampler quilt using scraps of black and white (with a little color) in both the 12" and 6" sizes. It works for me to make the first trial block out of the fabrics I use for my own quilt. That way, if I run into any sort of quilting issue, I can work it out on my own materials. And that sort of happened with this Monkey Wrench pattern. The two black fabric points in the center don't quite touch, which also means the two white points don't touch either. There is so much fabric bulk in the center of the square, that I didn't risk moving the seam close enough to be on point.

I learned that there are four patterns called Monkey Wrench. 

Here is a pic of several wrenches. Legend says that many of the old quilt block patterns were used to tell instructional stories to folks who couldn't read. The Monkey Wrench was supposed to be the key telling folks to gather the tools they need for their journey (spiritual, mental, emotional or physical). Guess they needed to know all four patterns to get the message. None of the block patterns I found look like a wrench. I am going to give each one a chance before shipping them to my partner.

Using the word "risk" in quilting came as a surprise to me. When I think of how I have risked my life in various things I've done, like sky-diving, skiing, dog-sledding and other similar activities, that simple risks like sewing to the edge would come easily. They really aren't the same; a physical life-demanding action vs. sitting at a quilting machine.  With quilting, there is always the ripper for a do-over.

However, if we are to believe that quilts were made with messages guiding groups of people in the underground railroads and away from slavery, those days were filled with risk both for the quilt-maker who supposedly hung her work on a fence and the countless numbers of slaves running towards their freedom. The quilt-code theory is controversial and falls into the realm of folk lore. Yet..... 

Like any action we take, the first thing we put on the line is our intention. Our history is compelling, and if a modern quilter puts the intention into what she makes, then it is her reality. She gets to decide, her choice, her way, her rules.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Binding (a tutorial of sorts)

The thoughts have been ever present for me regarding the projects I have going, and what I see out there as more artistic expressions in quilting. I've been so fortunate to receive lovely fabrics, and fortunate to separate them into projects I want to do for my family. Thing is, I started doing this sorting when I was more of a beginner and for the most part want to stay with these traditional techniques a while longer. Yet my soul longs to break out of conventional methods too, and try some of the creative works. These quilts take time and focus which I am not sure I have right now.

This morning I worked on binding a PayItForward project & realize that I love doing the binding work. It took me awhile to learn the clear way of creating the mitered corners. Quarter inch seams end quarter inch from the edge. It starts with that crisp fold at the corner, binding to the left.

Then, binding is folded back to the right. And you pick up the sewing quarter inch in from the left hand edge. I've found that I make non-mitered joining for binding, just joining with a vertical line.
Both methods are pretty much a person's choice for bindings and borders on a quilt. I've pressed the seams flat and they don't have much bulk. With scrap quilting, it is sometimes a matter of how much fabric you have.

The corner miter has two sides to it. Its actually important that the mitering holds on both sides. This all starts with the seam to 1/4 inch while joining it, and then folding it with both sides in mind. I always take another hand stitch running through both sides just for simple reinforcement, and my peace of mind.

I like to hand sew binding. It gives me pleasure to do it this way, & machine sewing it is a less finished look in my opinion. If you look carefully, you can see that one folded side of this corner is open to the top, & the other side is open to the bottom. This is the strongest way to make them. If both openings face one direction, it is called a 'pig's snout' and can get inadvertently pulled open if it gets snagged. 

The beginning of the binding is cut and pressed at an angle and then the end of the binding is cut at a matching angle and tucked inside. Binding suffers the most wear on a quilt and is often seen in shreds on older ones. Its not a place to skimp with the quality of fabric.

Back to what binds me. I am wondering if the self-imposed binding I have in my quilting is what keeps me safe for now, as well as what helps me learn the various steps. For as much as I want to break out and do something wild and creative, its almost as if I don't know how the material and threads and even my machine work well enough to let me take liberties with them. And I recognize that the binding on a quilt takes the most wear and tear, I wonder if the binding in my heart and soul also absorb the strongest strains.

I have to hope there is enough time in my lifetime to learn these processes and then take the risks with what I know. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Comfort Quilts

I think quilters have always made comfort quilts because that's one of the natural components of having one over you. There is a feeling of warmth, one of safety and yes, of comfort.

These two need pressing, so please disregard the wrinkles you see. I took home two 'kits' or packages of fabric with me several months ago and just finished piecing the tops to return at the August guild meeting. Several quilters will baste the back and batting over a larger table. That step goes fast with many hands. And someone will take it home to quilt. She will either bind it or bring it back for another person to add binding. I learned that quilters enjoy doing the various steps to quilt-making.

These fabrics are suitable for boys or men only because they are not cutsie or floral. Personally, that makes me smile, because I don't tend to make my quilts based on gender. I was given the quilt pattern as a start when I first joined that circle and made several versions of it.

What they tell you is that the quilts are loved and appreciated by those folks who need them. What matters is that they are strong enough to survive washing and drying almost every day. They go to kids in hospitals, to group homes and even are at the ready in the emergency vehicles whenever they pick someone up in the night and are transporting them.

Comfort is an interesting word. Usually we need it or give it when someone or ourselves are under distressing situations. We grieve, we need comfort. We stumble and get hurt, we need comfort. Something big happens to change our life, we need comfort. Yet, comfort could and should come to us when we do good, do mighty things, and are happy. Why wait to give comfort or ask for comfort when things are at their darkest?

These are the last comfort quilt tops I'll make for the guild for awhile. Its not that I have stopped providing a community service, its just changed for now. I think I get comfort from quilt-making, a comfort that is self-generated, warm, safe. Mine.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Paying It Forward

I've been officially doing Pay It Forward projects for several years. Offering them now is helpful for me as I quilt because I need to do a lot of practice pieces on smaller squares. The challenge, of course, is figuring out what I can do with them. In the beginning of my work, I made pot holders, & then moved onto small wallhangings, candle mats & mug rugs.

As seasonal projects, some were started in Winter, and most recently I took on several more to end before Winter (a holiday fabric theme). Yesterday, I did a lot of the cutting, both for the fabrics and the batting and all from scraps. This morning I spent time at the machine practicing various quilting stitches that are standard. I am not using the free motion quilting techniques and still holding out for classes on it.

For me, paying it forward is an act of gratitude for all the wondrous things I've been given in my life. In most cases, I might have thanked the person at the time, and in some cases, I didn't even realize what I was getting. Then there are the things I've been given just by being in this place and time by forces beyond simple human beings.

One of the clauses put to the PIF process is that if you sign up for it, it means you will give to 3-5 people in your life, either that you know or whom are strangers; some gift of any nature from a complement for their emotions or mental-well being to something more monetary or physical in nature. When I post those requirements, I try to be quite liberal in what recipients of my gifts give to other people. They know what they can do.

And if a person doesn't do anything, and just receives, good for them too. Timing is a big factor in any person's evolution. We have to be ready to hear, to be open to receive and to be open to give.

Many things block us as human beings. Many.

All I know is that I came to this place in time for doing this sort of work a couple of times a year. Just because I consider the pieces practice, or just because I use scraps of fabrics doesn't mean that the end project is unworthy of my gratitude. I try hard to create each project the best of whatever it is to the best I can do on it. I put just as much love and positive energy into them as I do a quilt I make for one of my Sons or Grandchildren. I learn more with everything I do. 

I don't tend to post final pictures because it seems like it would take away from the relationship I have with the recipient. That might seem odd when these projects reflect my learning just as much as a quilt going to a family member. 

What goes around, right? It has come to me, and often I will say that I stand under a lucky star. I have been privileged in countless ways that others will never know, even if when others look at my life, they cannot see it. I know it. And I am most grateful. The PIF projects are not something I want others to comment on or evaluate. They are products of my soul work and that really is private.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Oh Such Progress

Life isn't overwhelming. Expectations are. 

I remember a song by Neil Diamond you can hear on You Tube called DONE TOO SOON where the lyrics start off with a list of world leaders who died and then he sings: "And each one there has one thing shared: They have sweated beneath the same sun, looked up in wonder at the same moon, and wept when it was all done, for bein' done too soon, for bein' done too soon, for bein' done." The video link above leads you to the song with photos of each person Diamond mentions. Back in the day, it impacted how I thought about living and loss.

Life can be mighty fragile. And I've found that the best I can do is to find my own integrity and sense of self and keep doing what I love to do for as long as I am here. 

I question myself a lot and its often difficult to measure up to my own standards. In the song, with that list of people Neil Diamond wrote and sang about, every person was notable and memorable to the greater world whether you agreed with their philosophy or not. They made a difference and created an impact by living.

Yesterday, I finished the top for Lisa's quilt. Its the last one I plan to assemble this year and needs to be basted, quilted and bound. She told me that burgundy was her color. Stores here in town carry more traditional holiday colors like the truer red and green. I looked in the big cities' fabric stores, and finally found what I wanted. 

Even as I build a quilt, sometimes I am very accepting of how it turns out and other times I disagree with what I see. Then I remember that all these 'earlier' quilts are practice pieces and that its ok to experiment and ok to have them turn out differently than planned. This one changed from my original plan as it evolved. Adding borders to it changed how the center is seen. It made me wonder how the layers of life we take on change how our center cores are perceived. I could see that what I believed as a child might still be within me, but my experiences have shifted perspective.

My expectations are that I WILL live long enough to learn this fabric art and be able to cycle through my family giving them quilts; practice or utility quilts first and an heirloom-quality quilt second. My expectation is that the next quilts I make for my Nieces and Nephews will be closer to the perfection I see in my mind.

I changed my expectations for 2014 and stopped putting pressure on myself to create more quilts than I could actually do. Originally, I thought I would have been done with at least six of them by March. Hah! I took at least 3 or 4 of them off my list to finish this year. Done too soon? Like many quilters, I know that to finish what I have started or want to start, I will need to live and flourish at least 20-30 more years. 

Being reasonable, however, I keep the list on the sidebar of this blog and keep doing what I can through the days that are free for me to sweat beneath the sun. Then when the sky darkens and the moon rises, I look up in wonder of her light.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

No Designation

I've been working on those June MQ's that I want for backs of quilts. The first one has a home already, and this second one, also made from my stash, is yet undesignated.

It has triggered in me thoughts regarding attachments to things, and a sense of belonging to family, friends, and groups. Sometimes I feel very much alone, scared, isolated and alienated. That even happens to me when I am in the middle of my beloved circles. Quilting heals me. I might not always have the words to say how that happens, yet I know it does.

The June MQ instructions only gave fabric amounts & values of light-medium-dark, but not how they would play out in the quilt. I see how other more skilled quilters really understand this process. Doing two of them with the same pattern gave me a bit more experience. 

I like how the first one turned out, and its going to be a gift, so I am not showing it on the blog. The colors are gentle, matching the top, as well as matching color choices for the friend who will receive it.

This one, however, has no designation. It is merely an effort to use up more of my stash.

The lesson of not having a designation for myself is that I need to be true to my own values and make the most of what I have. I like dramatic colors, the way blacks that either I wear or use on a quilt come in and step everything up. I also like not having a designation in my beloved circles because there is a certain sense of freedom that extends beyond the sense of belonging....a sense of freedom that makes me a member of larger circles of world communities. 

Those larger circles are ones that create my imagination, psychic skills, intuition, spirit. They are where I live in my mind and in my heart, where I really live. This is also why I quilt, why I love the quilts I make and give to the people I love.

Plans are good. No doubt about it. And I am uber organized, so for me to sit here and write that I can forego having life plans, being organized, and not recognizing my designation of where I sit and stand would be an all-out lie. Its just that every once in awhile, I want to risk something new and almost making a quilt that has no designation.

(Insert scary sound here)

Monday, July 14, 2014

New Blocks

I spent Sunday building blocks...the kind that are made for quilts. My friend here in town and I are trying to learn the various methods to quilting by each making sampler quilts as we pretend to do a BOM. We had little luck last year, and this year hasn't been working out for either of us. The BOM author got busy with her life and didn't put out the patterns the way she thought she might. 

I found another page on Facebook (Quilting Bee) that is hosting 2-Blocks each Month and simply added to what I have already made. This is a 2-fabric pattern called "Bento Box". My plan is to use the black with white daisies on it in all the blocks so they tie together even with all the variety of blocks. I've learned that when you do a sampler quilt, something has to be the theme. And I had a lot of it leftover so this is perfect.

Not everyone likes a scrappy quilt, and I can understand that. They can be really messy looking. My plan is to do it scrappy, so every block is slightly different.

I am making this quilt in black and white with color, as a 12" on the front and also using some 6" blocks. (If you piece 4 of them, you get the 12" finish.) This pattern is "Woven". It turned out quite lovely, and was actually a challenge to select fabrics and to lay them out in a way that works. This will be one of the elegant blocks on the quilt. Its got great contrast. I like this one best of those I made Sunday. Its clear with visible parts.

The blocks are going to be quite busy and that was my plan from the on-set. This particular quilt will be mine and as a sampler, is meant for me to learn on. I didn't necessarily plan it to win any ribbons as much as it is meant for me to use up scraps. 

"HST Twist" was the third block I made and with all those dots and daisies is enough to make your eyes water & your head spin. It is all half square triangles (HST) and the layout forms a different image on the block. Playing yes, really learning more. These Facebook patterns come with relatively detailed tutorials which have been lacking with the last two groups we tried following. 

Sometimes scrap quilts are just simply cluttered looking, and other times look quite elegant like the two I made for Baylee and Landi this year. However, using scraps can mean dealing with small pieces. It takes awhile to sort through bits and seeing if there is enough to complete the pattern. In the beginning of my quilting work, I spent way too much time trying to go for the posh look. I scrapped that idea and decided that the goal was more to use it quickly and move on. 

Scrap quilters tell me that the more variety you have in a quilt, the less the pieces need to go together. Its when you get caught up in making things match that it becomes troublesome. I've found truth in that. This one will evolve all the way to the end, and so this part of it is less concerned with how blocks might work together and more in just doing it. Maybe by the time its ready for the layout, it will drive me bonkers and I will wish I had done something different.

Its all about living with potential and possibilities, and releasing the fears that insist that I follow the rules. Whose rules? What if I love it when its done? What joy comes with that! And what if I hate it when its done? Well, maybe some beloved doggy will have a new blanket. 

Nothing is over until its over!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Another Mystery

That I am here to celebrate the morning is a wonderful mystery and no accident. I sat outside last night to watch the Moon rise in the east and kept my curtains open for her light to shine in on me as she traveled south to west and set as the Sun rose.

All my quilting is a mystery, in fact, and not just those projects whose patterns and steps are offered as a Mystery Quilt experience. Yesterday, I worked on numerous steps to different projects. I finished the needle-turned applique project, made great progress joining rows on the first of the June MQ's, cut scraps into usable squares and sorted more for fabric swaps, moving many projects onward.

Life is something we are granted minute by minute. Through the internet connections that I have, I am able to see the wonder of life through pictures my family and friends take all over the world in their travels or where they live. I am able to see gorgeous views through their eyes, and to share happy events even though I could not attend. Happiness overcomes me and I find myself smiling within and without.

The decision to be happy is mine to make, every day, no matter what the experience. Choice is the over-riding element. Its like building a quilt that starts with choices in patterns and fabrics. Everything that happens is really a mystery. I have found that when I chose the fabrics for a project and think I know how they will look, its still a surprise in the end.

How a quilt ends up looking depends on the quilt-maker. For as many years as I have been quilting, there is still so much more to learn, so many more mysteries to solve, so many more joys that bring a smile. Therefore, this morning, I celebrate being here to do more, to take more risks, to watch the Moon and Sun rise, to see another quilt finished.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

How To Stay Happy

My friend Virginia posted a quote on Facebook this morning from a piece called "How To Stay Happy" that included a couple of lines that said, "work hard at what you love; work hard at what you hate".  

I took that needle-turned applique class this Monday and left the workshop with over half to do. While its not a fabric art I care to do more of, I did want to complete it. Last night, I finished the heart, the second stem and added a second leaf. I posted an earlier pic on this blog that showed where I left it when the workshop ended.

Funny thing that happened as I worked at something I really don't love (hate is too strong a word for this), as it started to evolve, I started to like it. IT meaning the project, still not so much the actual art of it. 

The background fabric laid flat, the concept of where to start stitching made sense and even the needle turning became easier. It wasn't so stressful to do as it was to learn.

I think that as life goes on, we serve our own best interests by stepping into the energetic flow of what is happening around us. Being open to life is our only chance to experience evolution and growth. Experiences beckon us forward without guarantee of joy or love or happiness. We are not free of those harsher moments of fear, insecurity, or confusion. The things I love that I work hard at include being present to the moment, being present to the person I am sharing time and space with, being present to the feelings, and feeling the very winds that blow my hair.

I love keeping promises to myself and to others. I love it because its what grounds my integrity. Having kept those promises is like having emotional freedom in very positive ways. When a promise is broken, it sets up avoidance and heartbreak to everyone involved.

This is, in part, what drives me to quilt and to finish quilts I start. I only have one official UFO, and I know its there waiting. Like so many other quilters, I have to live a lot more decades to finish everything that I've already started, and to start other things I see in magazines or online.  

Quilting makes me happy. All the lessons I learn from it and the finished pieces I create all make me happy. And I work hard because I really love it.

Friday, July 11, 2014

We Count

All of us learned to count as youngsters. Most of us take for granted our counting skills. And yet, it reminds me of how we count or matter to each other. Love from someone else heals us as it acknowledges our existence, assuring us that our presence is valued by someone else. We count on each other. Distance doesn't matter. We can be together with just a memory, just a thought, just by sending positive energy and support. 

I am still working on those two scrappy MQs that will serve as backs on a couple of quilts. Once the pattern was completed, it was left to me to come up with final placements. The suggestion was to follow pictures and lay it out in whatever way works for the ways the fabric was cut. 

That layout being done, the small 4.5" blocks need to be pinned, pieced and pressed row by row. I had a bad experience a few years back trying to keep the blocks and rows together. That quilt was laid out on a diagonal and as I picked things up, I must have twisted blocks, and a few of them had to be ripped and pieced again. 

I could see that rows needed to be counted & tried using post-it-notes, which came off in the shuffle of things. I knew these numbered pins existed but had no luck finding them. One day, a package came in the mail for my birthday from someone I dearly love. It was this round of Marilee's Numbered Q-Pins

Now, I can pin up to 20 consecutive rows and start over if I need to use another round of numbers. I can even use the pins to help me count on a couple of projects going at the same time. This MQ back has 12 rows to it (unless I add more before doing the borders). Once the rows are done, the points to the blocks need to be matched so it will just take time and patience. It is at that stage, the counting pins will be returned to their round container.

Keeping track of the smaller pieces or rows on a quilt makes the bigger piece easier to work with and finish. I can see how all the people in my life who have mattered to me from the time I was born to now make up who I am. They count, I count, we count.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Needle Turned Applique

There are endless methods of quilting and a passion for everyone who picks up a needle. And while some folks will tell you to follow your passion, it seems to me that the best we can do is be authentic and recognize what is a good fit for the work we do. I think it shows.

I sat in an all-day workshop yesterday, & learned techniques for needle-turned applique. For as much as I enjoy embroidery, I thought this was going to be something I could get into and yet it was not. The project is simple enough and will be a lovely piece, but its just not my passion. 

No one sitting at the table understood my reference to feeling as inept as Arya Stark doing her needlework on the HBO series Game of Thrones. In the early part of her story, she sits with her older Sister and some other girls their age under the watchful eyes of a tutor. The girls are learning to space their stitches evenly and delicately. Arya's hand is not steady but really, her attention is outside in nature, running and playing hard.

For most of the long day, I just did my best to keep up with the group and to give the project my best intentions. There were even a couple of Sisters teasing each other all day that further reminded me of Arya and her Sister, and increasingly reminded me that it was ok to be different.

By the time I got home, I was back-weary from sitting so long in a room without windows, and realized that as I work in my own home, I am up and down all day, stopping, starting, shifting projects. That sort of fluid routine suits my personality better than sitting still and staying singularly focused.

When I first signed up for the workshop, the finished block called out to me. The colors were bright and the 3-D look to it appealed to my sense of drama. There is more than half of the project to complete and it might take me a night of finishing it while watching a video. However, I think that its not where I want to put much of my energy.

Quilters like various parts of the art more than others. Some quilters pay to have others do steps they either cannot do or don't wish to do. Maybe most of us have come to that place in our lives where we realize life is just too short not to be involved in the passions that drive us forward.