Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ribbons & Buttons

There is more detail to those mini Halloween stocking/shoes than I realized. I cut out all nine from scraps I had that the patterns would fit on, did the preliminary stitching, added 11" lengths of ribbons and have been sewing on buttons that I had in a container that will work. 

They are a cute project, and coming along sweetly. The young girls in my family will love them. Some of the stocking/ shoes are being finished off with beads rather than buttons and look good. The last stitches to join front and back are next, and then clipping the curved corners should finish them up. And of course, I have three of those elfen stockings to make up as well.

Its a funny thing about Grandchildren. Two of them have graduated High School and have moved out on their own for higher education in the world. Yet, for all their grown up efforts, they want and need the simple things their Granny sends. There was a time that I thought I would only be giving to those still at home, but for as long as I live, I know that it will be important to them no matter where they live and how old they get, AND to me to keep the family connections. Luckily, these creations come from fabric scraps. Making them keeps me out of trouble. Heh, heh.

Lisa's quilt is about 3/4th finished. Although the outside temps are dropping, it was still hot in my Eastern workroom about mid-day. 

The September 12" Christmas Block partners were issued. Mine would like a Log Cabin block of 5 different holiday reds on one side, and 5 different holiday greens on the other side with gold as center. Each log is 1.5" wide to the appropriate length, which is an inch more narrow than I learned to make so I may need to practice to get it correct. Both start with a 2.5" square. I might be making more of it than it has to. Its such a classic pattern and one I enjoy making. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

And Then More

After finishing the Halloween stocking for a swap, I cut out several more for the young girls in my family. I decided to do something different for the boys. They are all small stockings & will take just a few non-candy treats...well, ok, some mini Hershey bars.

Its not a gender thing but I know they would enjoy something not girly and the stocking/shoe looks girly with the buttons and ribbons on it. I found a simple elf pattern that will work. I'll just join random fabrics on a diagonal, and add a cuff to finish it. 

In all, I will do 12 of these...nine stocking/shoes and three Hallows elfen stockings. Its not a full quilt, but will take time.

I bought fabric for a Mid-September weekend class on the Stack n Whack pattern.

A few months ago, my younger Son asked me to make a Mariner's Compass quilt for him. Silly man. He has no idea how much skill they take to make.

When I first selected the fabric to do the S&W, I found some that was bright, bold and all my favorite colors. I stopped myself and looked around to find something that was more him, more his colors and more his style. I found "Fabrique-Istan" by Paula Nadelstern for Bernatex. Wow, will this make amazing stars! If you don't know the S&W, it looks like a kaleidoscope. Each star has 8 blades to it, cut from the same fabric, and none of them look alike.

I selected a teal feather look with gold edging for the background, named "Dynasty" by Chong-Ahwang for Timeless Treasures. 

This book & pattern have been around for awhile, & I've picked it up & put it back several times because it seemed beyond me. The class will be a day & a half to get most of the top done. There are two accent borders and the binding that are selected after the center is completed. 

While its not a Mystery Quilt, it has elements of mystery and magick in how it comes together. This one is all about the cutting and the layout. I am excited. I still own a small kaleidoscope and enjoy looking through it to see the changes. Its actually my favorite toy.

With this quilt, I am already anticipating lessons and new ways of seeing the beauty of different expressions by the stars cut from the same cloth.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Halloween Swaps

First of all, I found the old camera in a wooden cigar box on another desk. I didn't put it there. Like the homes of many other magickal people, there is a house elf in residence who is free to do whatever...

I've put a new link on the blog for the Quilting Tips I personally find useful and plan to add to it as I go. Its a way for me to keep what I find for quick reference when I need it. Sometimes when I go looking for something, like that old camera, and end up cleaning the whole house, too much time is spent being frustrated and off center. So I like to organize one more thing in my life. 

I joined a 12" Halloween Block swap through the 12"Christmas Block swap I belong to. The facilitator said that if it goes well, we may do more of them. Tonight, I finished the Dresden Plate pattern for it and am pleased. The black fabric is authentic retro, and all I had were scraps, so this was a perfect use of them. The orange is a modern fabric, and the center (just pinned here but now completed) was a scrap leftover from scrubs material. I bought the lime green new.  Whomever gets this can finish quilting in whatever way they want. I like it and had fun making it. I might make a traditional block too.

The second swap is one from called the Halloween Stuffed Stocking swap. What I made is maybe 7" tall or so and is to be filled with about $10 worth of Halloween goodies. I liked this so much that I cut out a few more for gifts to the youngsters in my family. 

They will also get some of the treats purchased for the swap stocking. Each stocking is made with different scraps. I found the pattern on this site witch-stocking-shoe-treat thought it was a cute way to get started on the seasonal projects. 

Here is the link to  

The swapbot swaps have become great prompts for me to send things to my Grandkids. With hundreds of collective minds thinking about giving and receiving, what I see is that people around the world like participating in this process and want something in their mailboxes that are positive and celebratory. Oh sure, you give and receive, and yet, what I am seeing is an amazing generosity of people that goes beyond the swap requirements. 

Just because. They give just because. For the most part there is no financial requirement and if there is, it indicates it and a person can pass that swap up and go onto another. Its not going to change the outcome of politics or prejudice, or convert people to think a certain way. There is no advertising or gimmicks that I have seen thusfar. Its fun. Its healing. And its fun. I've already smiled and laughed more because of the mail I've gotten from this swap than I have in years. Silly laughter, silly fun. With the promise of more to come.

Thing is, with this site, you really need to read the FAQ carefully, because one slip and you are out. The site owners have a zero tolerance for flakers, and that makes it run more smoothly. I know that I've never been much for rules, and yet, sometimes you just gotta have them, gotta support them, and gotta follow them. Or find another place to play.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

You Cannot Use This Card

My camera turns on with this strange message. I am trying to use the camera not the card. What card? There is another camera around, or there was. After cleaning the entire desk, unsuccessfully going through drawers, and even looking in the car, I gave in to the fact that I am without a camera until the trip to the big city this weekend.

Its ok really because I have been working on the same two projects for the last couple of days, and while I made progress, all pics are essentially the same. I also continued working on a Halloween 12" block for a swap and am hand-quilting it. I haven't reached that moment when they are all completed.

There was a time in my life when something mechanical or electronic would fail and, because I am inept at fixing such things, I would panic. I mean really, really panic to the point of sobbing, going all drama-queen on everyone around me, and in short, feeling like it was the end of the world.

Now I know that there is always an alternative if I just step back, take a breath and listen for some inner guidance. Usually people who tried to fix things for me had little success anyway. Those were my life issues, my soul-triggers, my path to figure out solutions.

I continue with my projects even without my camera. And even if my sewing machine should fail, there are things in my quilting bins that are meant to be hand sewn or hand sorted, pinned, or hand cut. I missed this lesson when I was younger and really believed that the one thing that became a big challenge was going to stop everything I wanted to do. Then, some where along the way, I started to see how I could chose to do things differently, chose to keep walking, or running, or working, or playing. 

When I started quilting, some of the first thoughts I had were that I would never finish them in time, or that I would never make the ones I planned to give to members of my family. I got scared because some of the quilters I knew passed away with closets of fabric and bins of unfinished quilts. I worried that my quilting wasn't good enough, or the people I gave them to wouldn't like what I did. It was like the Universe was telling me, "You Cannot Use This Card" and to go on, my entire attitude needed to shift. And so it has.

I'm already thinking about what I might post the next few days without complementary photos, yet, I have a lot of photos of earlier projects and stories behind the quilts and the people I gave them to. I might even find the other camera.

A couple of decades ago when I was a drama-queen-in-training, I decided to go through one of my favorite books and underline the number of times the word "Hope" was used. Red lines were everywhere in it and then I realized that must be why I love the book so much. Hopelessness is simply not a healthy way of life. The story line plot in the book takes the protagonist to very dark places and yet the mission is clear. Do the deed no matter what tries to stop you. Keep going until you can't take one more step, and then get up and do it. I do like that book.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Grid Quilting

Among the important things to remember at the machine is to sit facing the needle so the body isn't skewed and stretched. A person gets mighty tired if they fight their body's natural position. Our bodies are the personal treasure we have in life. And a lot of us (including me) don't always have the healthiest relationships with our bodies.

Either I lied to my body, or she lied to me over the years and I did whatever I wanted; ate what I wanted, stayed up late, pushed beyond my stress capacity and stiff-armed it through whatever aches and pains I felt. Eventually, I slowed down, turned the loud music off, fell asleep during a late-night TV show, and felt indigestion. That was the moment in time that I knew I needed to pay attention to my own internal messages.

The real love I have for all of myself is growing. I like healthy foods. I like quiet. Every morning I wake up to the sunrise and  coffee and know that my life is good.

I am working on Lisa's Snow Gal quilt and decided to do a diagonal grid on it with about 6" apart lines. An easy way to work with a grid is to tape the lines with blue painter's tape, which comes off and doesn't leave a residue. Some people like the more decorative quilting lines and I like the utilitarian function that grid quilting provides.

My ruler is 6" wide and the 4-patches in the center of the quilt have lines that work exactly. The center piece is actually on a diagonal on the quilt though it shows going North-South/East-West in this more closeup picture. What is nice is that it allows me to hold many of the stitches in the ditch of the patches. After each line of stitching is done, the tape can be peeled away and re-used a number of times.

I've used the disappearing ink pen on lighter colored fabrics. Taping really works with this, and I guess its another lesson in using what works.

With so many ways to do this part, a person has to find her preference and test out the methods that work best. Its not about speed because slower is faster if you don't have to take time in recovering from mistakes. Wow, that was a lesson I could have learned earlier in my life!

My goal is to have this quilt done on the machine and hand sew the binding by the end of next week. One bobbin's worth of thread did a quarter of the grid quilting, and so the machine will need a cleaning when this part of the project is completed.  

Summer is almost over here in SoCal and soon it will be time for me to get into the gardens, pulling dried plant material out and making other fix-it choices for the entire property. Nights are already cooler and perfect for those quilts to lay across the beds.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Seam Rippers

I just tossed out a seam ripper I've had since I first started working with embroidery.  It had begun to frustrate me because it tugged on the threads rather than ripped them, and then the fabric seams were pulled. For whatever reason, I never considered that it was a dull blade! It was tiny and sat nicely in the machine drawer where I could find it. However, as tools go, it was useless.

Why is it that I keep things that no longer serve my greater good? A seam ripper that cost $2 back in 1974 gave me four decades of use making it cost less than a nickel a year to own and work with. I had no emotional attachment to it and in fact because it was so small, there were times I lost it in the house. Yet, I kept it.

Most rippers have a 'U' shaped blade attached to a handle. One side is pointed and longer. On the newer rippers, the shorter side has a plastic ball on it for protection of the fabrics. The inner curve is the cutting edge.

I have four other rippers that I've collected along the way. I think the smallest of the four (made by Collins) was probably one I purchased the same time as the one that just got tossed. They were kept in my embroidery project bag with their covers so they didn't damage the fabrics. 

The middle two rippers were part of my friend Lee's estate (a Singer and an Allstitch). I was ecstatic to have rippers that were hand size rather than just finger size. The pink one with the rubber end to it (Seam Fix) was a recent gift in a swap. The white rubber end will catch the cut threads and pull them away from the fabric without any real work on my part.

My Gramma taught me to cut thread on one side of the seam every 3-4 stitches and in some cases, rip threads between the top & bottom fabrics. Usually one side of the seam will cut easier than the other, so its a matter of testing which side comes free without a struggle. Its important to work under good light so the fabric doesn't get clipped.

You can buy seam rippers with a lot of accessories like magnifying glasses, lights, needle threaders, thread pullers, and ergonomic handles. Thing is, they are in hard plastic packaging so its hard to hold them in your hand for fit before your purchase. Rippers range in price from $2-$30 each. And just because it costs more doesn't mean it will work better for you. Most online stores include Star Ratings with the product information as well as Consumer Reviews, so that is a start if you are the kind of shopper who wants to know what she is buying. And of course, in this era, its best to keep your receipt in case the product either doesn't fit your hand, or doesn't work the way you expect.

Merchandise for quilting is rarely returnable because of warranty expiration, or receipt loss. What some consumers notice is that prices go up and the quality is not always there. I've been reading that some of these ripper blades will snap off the plastic handle or simply do not have a good cutting edge. Depending upon brand names is a thing of the past.

Having a good working tool is as important to me as having healthy relationships. I haven't got a lot of patience when it comes to things not working correctly & usually take steps to restore balance. I've got a trip planned to the big city this weekend and getting at least one new ripper is #2 on the list.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A New Week

I didn't quilt at all yesterday, and so when it came time to writing the blog, I drew a blank. This was the combo challenge I knew would happen if I started to blog. Was my focus quilting, was it my spirituality expressed in quilting, or was it my life-long love of the written word?

I think all three are only part of what makes me who I am these days, but none of them really defines me. There is so much more that I think and do that is not logged in here. I know this blog is public and do not know who reads it or why they find my words of interest. 

At best I am a storyteller, and maybe that is really a better definition or description of who I am. Stories are where we learn the moral of our lives, how we connect to each other and to our past, as well as with our future. We are either spellbound by the stories, or turn away. 

If you have ever read Joseph Campbell, you know he gave us a wealth of quotations that filter into our lives. He was a storyteller at a time in our culture where men did and said things they might not get away with now. However, because he was a brilliant storyteller with some very interesting concepts, I was compelled, like many thousands of others, to listen.

Writing a daily blog that has any value to the reader means the author needs to find a transparency and authentic vulnerability in her life, and in her words. I have questioned the value of what I do here, as a spiritual being, as an intermediate quilter and even as a writer. I like to say that I do not write anything of a personal nature that will bite me later, nor do I want to reveal stories about other people.

Its a challenge to even think that I have anything of interest to someone else. Its not about personal self-esteem as much as it is really seeing how this venue works. I write, I share, but its like I am playing to a dark theater where I cannot see the audience nor hear their replies. Are they applauding, silent, booing? Have they left the building?

Like Joe Campbell was heard to say: "Suddenly you're ripped into being alive. And life is pain, and life is suffering, and life is horror. But my god, you're alive and its spectacular!"

Tomorrow, more quilting topics. Guess I needed a Monday, Monday.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Planning Ahead

Because I live 2000 miles away from family, I start planning the holiday gifts long before most people even want to think about it.

This is one of my favorite pics of my Sons back in the mid-70's. And while they are all grown up and approaching middle age, they still become like little boys whenever they get something from their Momma. 

The last two years, they've gotten quilts from me, and not this year. Getting a quilt every year seemed excessive and so I've spent time looking online for DIY gift ideas. 

Most of the time, a fabric artist just changes their fabric choices to a more masculine look and calls it done. I've seen ideas for various totes, mug rugs, pillowcases, BBQ aprons, or journal covers; none of which appeal to me as gifts for them. A gift has to have some value or be practical or useful to the recipient. The only value would be that I made it, and that's not enough for me. 

When they were younger, of course, they got the usual Mom-Gifts of undies and sox. Then I stopped with those for a very long time until one of them told me that he looked forward to them because I always got 'the good ones'.

Why is it that manly gifts lack imagination and value to guys? I am not the only person who struggles to find the perfect gift. 

I found a number of sites that had endless suggestions for homemade items, and they are perfect ideas for people in specific relationships where their guy has specific interests. More so, they are for people in the couple relationship where the partner knows what is wanted or needed in their household that this gift will fill. These are my Sons.

I thought about making pajama bottoms and found this link.
PJs are practical, useful, personal, and according to this link, easy to make in one night. Hah! The pattern starts by telling you to use his favorite PJ bottom as a pattern. WAIT!  I don't live with them any more & don't have a pattern. Wasn't this the pattern link?

That was where I stopped my silly self. I am their Momma and I can give them Mom-Gifts of undies and sox to make us all happy with it. I drew the line and told myself that while they were not getting quilts this year, neither were they getting some substitute sewing gift. This experience helped me learn a bit more about myself and how I want to spend my energy. Simple sewing is more difficult than one thinks and very often what I make looks like I need more practice with it. If I have to practice on something, I would rather it be on my quilting projects.

I love quilting. Next year, they will get new quilts from me that show my elevated quilting skills. This year, they get some store-bought gifts from the woman who gave birth to them, nursed them, read to them, bandaged their wounds, held their hands, had their back, & continues to support their every step. 

What more could a man want (at least from his Momma)?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Hiding the Truth

Hiding the truth from others or even ourselves cannot be healthy. Its always been hard for me to avoid spilling out what I know, so not showing the pictures of what I make for my PayItForward projects challenges me beyond belief.

Yet, these tokens of my love are not meant for me to show or 'brag' about or comment on. Its always seemed that in the showing and the telling that it takes them to a different place and takes away the real essence of my gratitude. It is a very different hiding of the truth that doesn't really harm anyone.
What I did work on that I can show is that applique block Carol (the local quilting friend I have) & I are working on. For the flowers, I am going to do the standard Winter holiday Poinsettias. I like buying them every year & enjoy the hybrid colors they have out, like lime or orange. 

This plant, sitting on the edge of my desk, is years old & for some reason continues to thrive. I have a long history with Poinsettias, & will not mind having it on this square as part of the Winter bed runner I am making. It has a center placement on the piece because the flower petals are more 3-D in nature. Carol & I have been meeting every other week for about an hour to chat & do hand work. Its relaxing for both of us. I really didn't want to do this pattern again, but it was a way for us to practice it together.

I found another embroidery pattern from Embroitique that I want to make in colors rather than the simple black threads. I have been a fan of their designs & patterns for years, & machine embroidery designs can be converted to hand work. This broom looks to be something in a chocolate color. So yum! I am thinking that I might like to make a quilt using graphics that have quotes or sayings on them.

And as I think about it, I could easily make an embroidery square for the backs of my quilts and incorporate them as labels. Usually what I do on my quilts to sign them is to write on them somewhere as a hidden message rather than a full out label. I do like the idea of it being a hide-n-seek message.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Quilting Magazines

I don't usually pick up the quilting magazines off the stands because they will turn up at the library within a month or two. I have so many projects going that looking at the new ones is simply a distraction.

However, browsing can bring insight and fresh ideas, so every once in awhile, I look. Funny thing was that in this latest issue, there were examples of the "blackwork" for a Halloween project (even though it is just black thread on white or beige and not the authentic / historical stitching), a pattern for a bed runner (see the circle insert), charity quilts, and some new ideas for embroidery chain stitches. Each of those ideas represent various projects I was already working on. This gives way to the notion of collective consciousness, which loosely defined, is a theory regarding the expression of shared ideas within a group of people doing similar things. ("Yah, what she said!")

Quilting, and most art forms, are very solitary pastimes for many of us, and like other artists, I tend to think I am doing something unique; and then come to discover that there is this 'energy' swirling around the fabric arts community with many of us on the same creative page. Without being in the same room or even the same building, I am part of a group-think. Its not like I read the magazine first and then started working on these projects. 

I sit here this morning, smiling and shaking my head. The world is huge and small at the same time. Quilting magazines show us what the art community voices promote, and sites like Pinterest give us opportunities to tell the world what we appreciate and want in our lives. The artists among us see what would sell if we were to market our projects, and also what folks would appreciate if we sent them a gift. 

When I see the new issues and trends, I evaluate my stash and start to think of what it needs to make my quilting projects pop. Sometimes its just seeing ideas for different combinations. I love knowing that I can use what I have to express my creative force my own way.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Darkside of Swapping

This morning, there seems to be a lot of commenting about folks who either send late or flake on their swaps. Some folks hold onto the resentment & disappointment they feel and others cut their losses and move on. You never know what will happen even when there is email contact.

My recent FQ swap partner sent pieces of really lovely fabrics. It was a pleasant surprise to get state-of-the-art cuts. Halloween fabric is getting hard to find here in town because it just doesn't sell as a seasonal option. I already have plans for them!

The fabrics I sent were 'dotty' in nature because this is what my swap partner requested, along with fabrics that had mushrooms or small animals on them. I was able to find a few cut squares from my stash to include. And the dotted fabrics were from the Christmas collection. I think we were both pleased.

In the early stages of my swaps, and I know I have written about this, I was deeply disappointed to get flaked. It took some deep internal work to learn why it mattered because the person flaking was not someone I knew. I had thought that only people close to me had that kind of impact that wounded my soul. Flakers only set off triggers to the places in my being that need healing. I guess that is their gift.

Yet, in the first wounding experience I had, some stranger took my good work (it was a doll quilt) using the Disappearing 9-Patch pattern, never thanked me, never sent her quilt. Nothing. I loved this little quilt. I loved the work I put into it, the fabrics. And she said nothing. Yes, I had a tracking number on it, so I know she got it. It wasn't the thank you I looked for, but the swap. She promised a doll quilt and never kept her word. It still twangs my sense of right and wrong, however, I did move on to swap again, yet with a stronger sense of who I am in the swap more than what I receive. Now, I read that swappers call this non-sending theft.

Just last week, two late swaps came in from June and July. In both cases, we communicated via email and in both cases they got my swap, saying they loved what I sent. I moved on when theirs didn't arrive, and so when the packages actually came on the same day, it was almost like an unexpected gift from two senders I no longer recognized.

Its not about them. Its about me, about my energy, my spirit, my generosity and my willingness to keep going no matter what comes my way. I am this person because I stopped caring what others think, say or do to me. That is their path and I am on my own. I am only responsible for my word, for my actions.

I want to be a smart swapper and only get into ones that are as safe as they can be. Obviously, no matter what control the admins have, there will be flakes. The admins even ask for Angels who make up for the losses. So far, I haven't experienced an Angel gift, but the thought of that is very appealing. Maybe its more like those PayItForward projects I love so well.

Right now, I am working to finish up my own promises to myself for these quilts on my 2014 list. No one knows they are coming. No one expects them, and no one would be disappointed if they didn't show. Its just my word to myself. And it is enough.

Maybe it is in the darkside of our experiences that we find our deepest healing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Modern Blackwork

I completed my second block for the Halloween quilt that uses black embroidery floss on white muslin. When I first discovered the terms and history for Blackwork Embroidery (posted a few blogs ago), I thought that was what I was doing. However, like many online sites, information can be misleading. While the essence of it is on white...the tradition of Blackwork isn't just outlining primitive forms, but is more of a precise counted thread in repetition or as a pattern. What I first discovered was more of a way to name the use of black on white as a form to make Halloween-themed quilts. Well, that part works for me.

This morning, I found another site that gave additional information on the history as well as for some of the traditional stitcing. I doubt I will take the time to go in this direction because it takes me away from my actual quilts.

Here is my completed Bat from GothicThreads. As you can see, I am simply outlining the pattern and have no intentions of filling it in using the true Blackwork method. I ran out of black embroidery floss, so the remaining 10 blocks will wait til I make a shopping run to the big city.

It is easy for me to get away from my focus if I don't pay attention to my goals. I learned to quilt just because I needed to finish off the embroidery I had done for decades on the state birds and flowers by making them into quilts. Those quilts are yet to be basted, quilted and bound.  I loved doing the embroidery work, which was why it was so easy to get hooked into it again.

It was a long habit formed over decades in my life to bring the small square, the hoop and the needle and threads to my lap late at night. It is relaxing, comforting, loving. No wonder it calls to me. However, the longer I embroidered the birds and flowers, the more I held back from learning new stitches in order to keep the look primitive. If I learn these traditional stitches, its going beyond what I want for the look, plus the time it will take to learn and practice will also take me away from all these quilt projects.

Its just difficult to maintain boundaries.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Words as Wings of Love

I have always loved words from how they look on paper, how they sound to me and how they feel in my mouth. Some words are less popular than others and when they are used almost cut through silence. The slightest difference in tone or inflection can change the word. And many of them sound the same, yet are spelled differently.

I have been binding Baylee's Halloween Candy quilt. Its about halfway completed & will be ready in time to ship out off to her before the holidays. When she was born, her Mother made sure we all knew how to pronounce BAY- lee, which isn't the same as the more common Bail-ey. You can see how the Y and L switch places in the name and make it sound different if it is said correctly. Very subtle. 

Whenever I work on a quilt for someone, I cannot help but think about them, what my relationship is with them, where they are, what they are doing or plan to do.  So in those moments, the words I use to think about them or even say their name have a strong power in my room. Its almost like the chant of energy going in like a prayer with every stitch.

Oh I know that is the name of this blog, but it really is the way of life my quilting takes on.

This morning, I spent a bit of time organizing this desk top. My goodness, the clutter can get away from me so quickly.

I found in necessary to re-organize when a very tall stack of this and that crashed to the floor and an old familiar word made its way out of my mouth. It made me laugh to intonate it, to elongate it, to let it spill into my world the way the stack had spilled onto my floor. 

Sheeeee-it! I said. No matter how a person says it, the way I said it let anyone know what I meant. I did not mean she, nor sheet, nor even it. I meant that ca-ca-word, that smelly, stinky, close-the-door and open-the-windows word.

When I am in that frame of mind, I stop quilting, stop infusing my projects with stress, complexities, with anything at all negative. Its time for me to clean up my messes, to clear the air, center myself and come back refreshed or, in failing that, to get outside.

The world is filled with enough negative energy and hard words tossed at us from all sides. I've said my share of them over the years. My quilting and the prayers within the work are essential elements of my spiritual life, but themselves are not a spiritual life. They are the manifestations of it.

While words have power, I really think its the motivation behind what we say that holds the content. There is a cliche that teaches us we need to say what we mean and mean what we say. If we don't verbalize our thoughts and feelings so that we are heard, and that others can connect to us, we misunderstand each other too easily. That's where the pile up is, that's where the stack falls, that's where our tempers get triggered and the words stumble out whether we mean them or not.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Rest of the August Swaps

I finished up all the swaps for this month. To swap means the exchange of one thing for another. In the world of swapping, when a person flakes on sending what they promised, it is seen as a form of theft. I've witnessed people make lists of folks who have flaked on them. It seems harsh to me, yet it has happened to me too. The first ones were hurtful, but I was taking on the hurt and never did find out what the reasons were for them breaking their word.

Was it health? Was it finances? Were they over committed? Did they forget? What? Why? And it was their business.

What I am learning with the swaps I participate in is how to be open to receive, and how to be generous without strings attached. I am so deeply touched by people who do nice things, from those random acts of kindness to acts of respect and acts of love. 

I asked one of my friends if we could swap Fall-themed mug rugs. This is my second attempt and the one I sent her. (the first round Fall-themed one went to my Auntie Carrie in SD). Its not a perfect round and I am not sure how that happened, except to say that nothing is ever really perfect. I could have made a third one, but I like these colors. I realized that when I start buying fabrics that I like the way batik solids show up. Again they are blenders adding depth to the projects.

Along with the mug rug, I made her a lined (and perhaps reversible tote). The inside is a dark chocolate brown with white dots and the outside is a fabric that has a graveyard with a full Moon and Crows in the leafless trees. My friend uses Crow Calling Woman as her creative name and these fabric Crows just shout back at her. She sent me this picture taken against a leafy background.

I finished the 6" blocks for my Australian swap partner too. I did see some examples of what she wanted and didn't quite do the charm-scrap for the block within a block squares. I am not going to take them apart, but might just make up two new ones the way she wants and can use in the quilt she is making. I am still matching more than letting the randomness take over. Even the two 9-patch blocks she requested as scrappy have been colorized.

Its like those wonky blocks. You wouldn't think that making something off center or off the line would be that hard. Yet it is. There is a natural tendency to want quilting squares to work according to conventional methods.

Yet the world we live in is showing us every day that it is ok to be different, ok to have diversity or divergence. Sometimes.

With the tote bag above, I took special care to match the horizontal lines even though they were wavy and once the pieces were cut, it was nearly impossible to match the pattern both horizontally and vertically. Yet, I came close. Sometimes close is all we get. I used to say close only counted in hand grenades, but I am more gentle with myself these days.

I also worked on the Applique Mystery Quilt yesterday too. Its almost ready for me to start assembling the top. Once that is done, I need to make multiple borders, match the top to the back for size, and get it ready to baste.

The first of my Blackwork is done. This is the Zombie Couple pattern from flossbox. It took me several sessions to embroider the pattern and I used up the two partial skeins of black embroidery thread I had. I am almost finished with the second block.

The site, ,   has a lot of embroidery patterns and tutorials if you are interested. Of course, they are not my only source, so as I make these Blackwork squares, more of them will come up. I want to stick with what I know and only make these squares to fit on a finished quilt. 

Blackwork, itself, is a step away from anything I have done before. In truth, what I am working on is not really traditional counted stitches. Historically, it originates in Spain from at least 1500's and was a method used to decorate clothing and household items with silk thread on linen. I am simply using black embroidery floss on white muslin and taking the most primitive of stitches. This seems to hold the spirit of this fabric art in its organic simplicity.

Unfortunately, like many fabric arts, there is little surviving examples of this form of work. By 1598, books appeared with sampler patterns, and other colors were introduced. There were actually laws prohibiting lower class people from wearing Blackwork. The introduction of Redwork and Bluework had much to do with the color industry of Turkish threads. Colorfast Red was produced 200 years ago and the Colorfast Indigo Blue only in 1910. 

It seems that a person could do any color of the rainbow in creating a one-color look to their embroidery. I have to think about this. For now, I hold to what I know.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Day on the River

I took really a gorgeous hour and a half drive through the Sequoia National Park and then sat at the Kern River the rest of the morning and into the afternoon. I brought the Halloween Blackwork square with me and worked on the cute little zombie couple sitting with this perfect view in front of me and listening to the rush of the water. 

Then of course, the crowds came for this luscious Sunday outdoors, bringing their loud music and portable grills to fill the air with competing dissonant sounds & coal starter fluid, loud laughter and screams of pleasure. Temps soared over 100 & it was time to drive home. Next time, I might chose to stop along one of the Park road turnouts for a bit more privacy. There is something about flowing water that soothes the soul. I found it very relaxing to work on the embroidery piece. Its almost finished. I worked on it again last night and have one more sitting to its completion.

One of the swapbots that I am in for September is called "Fill My Stocking". The swap asks participants to make something for a person in the swap, wrap it to fit inside a holiday stocking. I found this free download pattern and pulled out scraps to make my version.  

I figured that if the person actually saved the swap & opened in December, they might like a mug rug with a non-christmas theme. After I got the scraps on it for the ray effect, I put the batik heart on some backing, did a machine quilting stitch around it and then echo stitched to the ends. The back is the same fabric as the binding. It turned out cuter than I imagined it would. It measures 6x10, which is a good size.

I am not sure I can save what I get in September for my stocking gift. I celebrate that part of the season on the feast of LaBefana which is on January 6. Yes, I am ever the kid at heart.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Embroidered Quilt Blocks

My maternal Grandmother taught me how to embroider when I was a child. She gave me patterns for making blocks that had our state birds and state flowers on them.  I bought white fabric and started making two sets the way she taught me. It seemed to be the most peaceful past time in my life, and something I pulled out almost every evening.

I have quilts ready to add batting, baste, quilt & bind. The most recent was a quilt made for my younger Sister with 9 blocks, complemented by batik sashing, corner stones, borders & binding. Its really lovely. 

Last year, I did one Heart-shaped embroidered block for a swap, and plan to do an entire Halloween-themed embroidered BOM swap. I am already ahead having finished the first one we plan for October. As I browsed online, I discovered many free or public domain patterns that are Halloween-themed. I found a whole form of embroidery that I did not know existed called "Blackwork" which is simply using only black threads to embroider the same way "Redwork" is done with red threads. It continues using more of primitive embroidery stitches. 

I cut out 12 blocks in white, browsed the ideas & pulled out 12 different patterns that were free downloads, including a zombie couple, this bat, a mummy, ghost, & more. I wanted to ensure ease in my nightly work. Then, I found an example of how embroidery blocks done with Blackwork could look in a finished quilt. 

These blocks are a bit more detailed than I want & more well planned out as mine might end up being, but I like how the blocks were used as a border around a middle piece.

I still have the old bag I kept my WIP in, with the hoop and needle pack, making it easy to find wherever I am. To transfer a printed pattern to the fabric, I simply tape the paper to my window and then tape the fabric over it, and trace away. 

Embroidery for quilting projects gives me such joy. Gramma made her quilts for us to use, and we loved them all to shreds. I am not sure any of us ever thought about keeping them for good---whatever that means. I think of her all the time as I quilt, and especially as I embroider. I can hardly wait to get started threading the black threads. 

Blackwork. Its a Halloween thing.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Calling it for What it is!

I started a red/green Log Cabin quilt over six years ago and am finally finishing the binding on it this week. I never wanted to call it a UFO because that seemed like giving up on it just because...well, let me tell you, I have whined over this one a long time. There was no color contrast; the hand quilting was hard for me to see and do...whine, whine, whine. And really, because it was going to be for me, I didn't have a deadline to finish it, wasn't infusing it with my usually good energy and just made one excuse after another.

Its really a lovely quilt. The other day, I went back to the quilt store and found what I thought was the same gold fabric of the border that would work for the binding. Close, but a different dye lot and just a smidge lighter, which can barely be seen unless you are looking for the difference. It still works. So I set myself finishing it. Another night of hand stitching &it will be completed, ready to toss across my bed.

Two wonky houses arrived from my Christmas block swap partner. Its not as easy as a person thinks to do one of these! I thought her treatment was cute and appreciate her work on them. I know that this new quilt will have a lot of character. Its sometimes easier to accept the work of a partner than it is to appreciate my own.

I've been working on the B&W sampler quilt in two sizes and am not at all pleased with the 6" blocks. I joined four of them to make 12" blocks, but plan to rip them in half horizontally and use them as borders for ends of the bed runner. This one is going to be busier than I thought & yet, the end result will be most pleasing.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

As an Extroverted Ambivert

Later this morning, I am participating in a conference call book discussion for one named QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN'T STOP TALKING by Susan Cain. It is actually something I think about all the time. The book examines humans from infancy through school and into the workplace. Here is one quiz that might help you with some information. If you browse that site, you will find a newer way of thinking about how you move and fit in the world, perhaps more as an ambivert or lone wolf personality. Key in those words elsewhere & you can find other online tests.

Over the years, all sorts of labels can be put upon us. The term of ambivert means that we could be a little of both opposites of the introvert and extrovert. Being an ambivert isn't straddling the fence but is a person who can create balance by whatever comes their way.

I laid out Lisa's quilt at the clubhouse, and because the back was too large for two tables, I taped the top down, then smoothed out the batting & cut it to fit across the table edges. I thought about what it takes to be an extrovert always presenting your good side forward, & that for all of us there is more to our story.

The pattern is there, and yet seeing it this way in the first pic, shows even more of the work that goes into seams and lines. Laying the back side down and then pin basting it in place means that it is now the top and that machine quilting will be done according to these fabric lines. Will it matter? The first patterns on the first pic have much more detail to them than the one in the second picture.

What I know about the final quilting is that the more lines a quilter puts on it, the stiffer the quilt, and the less it is quilted, the softer it feels. This can be a metaphor for how we speak or how our conversations go. The more recent studies about being an Introvert or an Extrovert talk about the need for 'restorative niches' and that might be the softness in what a lot of us crave after being in crowds during our day. The Extrovert is out there doing more, more, more, and yet the end result might not be good for that person if they cannot find their restorative niche. Does it, like adding so many more quilting lines, create stiffness in their lives?

I think the patterns on both sides will complement each other and so I am going for the one on the second example. There are endless commentaries about the quilting process and how it finishes the quilt. It is really about working with the fabrics chosen, and then it continues to be a matter of personal choice. As I thought more about it, I realized that each quilt I make may become a restorative niche for someone I love.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Swaps Ready To Go

The other day someone asked why I participate in so many swaps. That is a really good question that has many layers to its answer. When I was a child in school, one of the teachers signed us up for Pen Pals. Most of us were excited to make those connections with kids in Europe. My connection didn't work. I wrote and wrote and wrote, but for whatever reason, and most likely it was not about me, my Pen Pal never replied. The other kids got letters, holiday greetings and even gifts that they shared with the class. Not me. My little girl heart was broken and stayed broken for decades.

In the course of my evolution, things like these events surfaced and called for healing. No one could fix it then and only I could do the work to ease the pain now. My first swaps were iffy at best, and then something started to change. Short term relationships among my swapping partners began to form and my little girl heart began to heal.

One of the swaps I am involved in now is a Fat Quarter swap. My partner for this month asked for fabric with mushrooms or small animals on it, and also gave the option of white fabric with dots. When I first started this swap, the requests were easily filled from my stash. One of the benefits of this swap is that I took time to organize my stash better, bundling pieces first by size and then by color. Last month my partner requested brights and specifically yellow. I went to the store and purchased half yard pieces (this month too), cut them into two FQs, sent one off and kept the other for myself. I did the same with this swap, and also pulled out cut squares that had either dots or small animals on them. Now my stash includes FQs of these and when I use them, this new friend will come to mind.

Another swap I am in is for 6.5" fabric squares. This represents what I've received so far from the Halloween swap. I plan to use them for the back of a quilt I am making my younger Sister in 2015. If everyone sends their swap, I will receive 120 pieces. Of course there are already some duplicates and because I am hoping to make this a charm back (meaning a fabric is used only once), the duplicates go elsewhere.

My friend Rex suggested I join I did and then deleted the account because of all the rules and my inability to understand the links. I rejoined to discover that once an account is deleted, the person is too! I found a way around it & signed up for my first five swaps. The newbie swaps are set up for folks to test their own integrity and are pretty easy, like sending a post card with three facts about your town or state. 

This swap was to make and send a Halloween Mug Rug. Just the other day I started going through the stash bin that holds my orphans from other projects and pulled out the pieces of Halloween fabric. Lo and behold, I was able to use the scraps and joined pieces to make the front, back and binding for this mug rug. A little batting, some machine stitching and its done! The front is cuter, & it works.

I think the whole swapping process is one of trust in strangers that they honor simple commitments. Organizers do their best to facilitate the partnerships but cannot control the outside forces that might present problems for a swapper to send their swap out.
Over the decades, I've thought a lot about this girl who had been my Pen Pal. Sure I went through the heartbreak, the shame too, feeling it was my fault and something I must have said. At the time, I never thought about outside influences that could have blocked her. She's my age so who knows what she thought or if she thought or if she's even alive. Did she think of me? What happened? In her evolution of spirit, was she able to forgive the forces that prevented her from participating? Did she get all my letters? What happened when my letters stopped?

With each swap, there is a constant awareness of our human connections and how fragile they are, how fragile we are. I think about the pressures everyone faces and how we all want to do good. I really believe in our heart of hearts we want to do good. Now I know about the things that get in our way like lack of finances, someone else who has power over us (our parents at the time), and maybe health issues. I have long forgiven those circumstances and her. 

What has happened with all these swaps is that my heart is open again. Open and vulnerable. All I know is that I have a responsibility to swap and send to someone, a stranger, what I might like to receive. As I send each thing off, I imagine what it is like to get a package in the mail and tear it open, just like a kid. Because that is exactly what I do each and every time. I smile, my heart is warmed, and the world spins just a little more in my favor.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Good Day

Some days I have are full of such energy that I get a lot of things done. Things. So many things to do in quilting are behind the scenes, so to speak. Its like healing. In order to feel good, at any age, a person needs to do simple things, like drinking water every day, getting exercise, eating healthy foods, and laughing, All those things we do are routinized to a place we no longer bring them to our conscious, and we just do those things. They make us healthy. They make us who we are and help us move through the world. 

Its the same with quilting. Some days, I cut, some days I piece, some days I hand stitch and some days I just think about what I want to do next. 
One project for the day was one of those PayItForwards I am making this year, and so holding to my personal preference, I won't show the finish, but this is a picture of the inside guts of it all. Each one of them teaches me so much, and if there is a seam that is not quite right, or fabrics that didn't work the way I thought, I can re-do them or just not do it the next time. There are always options and handy rippers.

Also, I brought out another stash bin where I keep my orphans. Orphans are usually those extra blocks that got made and aren't going to be used on a quilt. I started to see the quilt backs so differently that the orphans might all have homes sooner than later. Its not an easy project, but one that re-purposes things already made or started. On a quilt back, I am taking more liberty in creating them, but just have to think it out. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sock Critters

Although my current passion is for quilting, every once in awhile, I do take on something different artistically. I garden, even do a little scrap booking, and I still teach here in town. It seems like a good idea for me to have several past times. Its a matter of staying healthy at various levels that include the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. (PEMS)

I have a pair of cotton sox that were pricey and when they got holes in the heel, it was devastating. I don't darn and never had luck wearing darned sox. Pinterest has a lot of ideas for re-purposing them into critters.

So I started with one yesterday, and from the ideas I saw, I could make two little critters...odd ones of course. Cutting into them was hard. Why ever it was, it didn't take too long before I made two cuts that separated the front from the back.

The next step was stitch around the edge to hold the cut threads and then to stuff the toe with leftover batting. The batting has been sitting in  one of my closets for some time just waiting for a non-quilting project to appear. 

There was a time in my life that I would take such holes to Mother to darn. And she did such fine work on them! However, my feet, used to being bare, could not tolerate extra stitches, & in fact, to this day, I wear sox & shoes, taking them off inside.
The two parts were stuffed and the openings stitched closed. The final step to making one of these critters is to stitch them in ways that make them cute and critter-like. Well, after several attempts at following the guides set up for me on the links I found, I decided to hold off on them and do something I do know how to do. Looking back at these photos, I think I will cut apart the longer half (the one with the stripes on the top) and make them into legs to fit on the shorter one. Cutting got easier after seeing that the whole process would work. Cutting. Now there is a metaphor for what we need to remove or change in our lives.

However, I pulled out Patrick's quilt and finished the binding on it. I am very pleased with how it looks and will need to lay it flat and take one more look at it for loose threads and any errant issues that might have been missed before. Some quilters might call this an "Eye Spy" quilt because of the small little details such as the cowboy on the bucking horse, the little snow person, and the little holiday girl.  It is that and more. I haven't counted how many blocks were made with 16 of those 2.5" squares, but there is a lot of interest in each one.