Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mini Quilts

I haven't kept track of how many mini quilts I am making this year...these are the ones that are either mug rugs, candle mats or fabric boxes. I haven't made any small table toppers yet and may not get into them the way I did last year with the disappearing 9-patch pattern.

The only official mug rug swap is from Craftsy that I purchased. Their pattern with the quilter's color choices. The binding is pinned and ready to hand sew sometime today or tonight for certain. 

My partner requested Fall-ish colors, so I pushed it a little with the Monarch butterfly on top for the Butterfly cottage. The flowers are also more fall-ish in color and I tried to get a more subtle color for the grasses as well.

The Cottage on the Hill was fun because I could make the trees look like they had those vibrant Fall colors I remember in MN. My partner is in MN. Also, I used a larger patterned fabric for the backs & echo quilted the tops.

Other projects I am whipping out are 9" Halloween Candle Mats. I know that not everyone burns candles and these are a little bit too large to use as a mug rug. However, they simply add to a person's Halloween decor. My pics don't always show the pieces as being squared, yet they are. All of these seem to look a bit short on a corner or wavy. 

Gotta be the camera angle. I read somewhere that a well-done blog needs a camera that takes superior quality photos.

The other mug rug pattern I am working with is using that Dresden Plate template. These are going to be Thanksgiving turkeys when I finish. This is the only picture I will show of these two which are destined to be Pay It Forward gifts. I need to draw out a body, head, and wattle for them. Right now they are simply sewn onto the background fabric. After making the batting sandwich, I will do more of the echo quilting, which really works nicely on mug rugs.

While I did learn some things with the Craftsy MR swap, I am still not a fan of making specific patterns for a swap. There are endless options out there to try and these are just a little like a kid's coloring page. I wish they had selected something more sophisticated. It was fine, however, because I had scraps that worked for it.

Guess it comes down to my resistance in following rules. I agreed to this pattern when I purchased it, yet find myself whining all the way through. Maybe I have simply evolved past this kind of project and hope I learned my lesson. Or maybe, its like those mystery quilts where I have to follow rules and not know how it will turn out. In both cases, the only choices a quilter gets is to select her fabrics. The rest is following those rules. Like the kids say, "you git what you git and you don't throw a fit".

Monday, September 29, 2014

Spectacular Quilting

I've been seeing some amazing quilting lately and wonder how quilters get to that stage. As a care-worn quilter who is beyond the beginner stage and somewhere between a confident beginner and an early intermediate quilter, I puzzle at the process. 

I am sure the stories they tell give a great look into what it was when they first started to where they are with this fabric art now. Some have been quilting longer, and some just have this gift that springs out of their fingertips.

My struggle today was in making a block pattern for a 12" Halloween block swap. After two tries, the smaller one got cut down to a Wonky 6.5" square after two sides were cut off. The larger one, with its less than accurate points, will go into my collection for Halloween blocks to build a back. Blend them in with the others of their kind and what is a flaw for what I had planned becomes perfect for their new purposes.

Those spectacular quilters I read about have learned something I have yet to grasp. Many of them have been quilting for decades, so we don't see their practice quilts. My practice quilts are the ones I freely give away to family and friends (letting them know its a practice piece). Maybe Spectacular Quilters have been taking more lessons, maybe they belong to teaching circles or guilds.

Lately, the big lessons is that not all patterns are written the same, and that its really going to be important for me in this stage of quilt-making to read what is written, think about it and see the logic in it. One big thing that seems to shift between patterns is how to set the seam line. It is an illusion to think that everyone who writes a pattern will have it pieced at 1/4" seams, but not the specifics. When the machine shifts one thread over the line either left or right, it will drastically change the seam line and alter the way the block comes together. I think this was the issue on today's blocks. I set it for a scant 1/4" and the outer pieces wouldn't line up.

Also, some patterns will not say how much fabric is required nor say what level of quilting expertise is required. I have to start looking for this information.

Sometimes in relationships, I can see when a person is operating a little off center and that they don't fit in particular ways, yet, with a little creative interaction, they suddenly do have a purpose and contribute quite nicely in ways that work best for their choices. It's about accepting people where they are and for who they are in the greater scheme of the world.

What I do know is that we all might need practice, and need to keep going with what we do. It seems to me that any quilting is spectacular if the quilt-makers see their work in this way and that may start by internally accepting one's own work. Good mental health is living in the moment, so looking back on ill-informed choices we made in the past really doesn't serve us so much in the present. I plan to start with a different block tomorrow for this swap using this same fabric. This next block pattern will work for me.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Suddenly, the weather shifted here in the mountain valley with clouds moving in with this real biting cold. My body also shifted from feeling a lot of energy in the cooler temps to wanting to hibernate under all the quilts in the house. Forecasts say it will warm again but not get too far up into the 80's by the end of the week. 

It feels like Winter is Coming. 

Today was more of a quilting play day. I continue to work on the Cottage mug rugs for the swap. They are quite detailed and I am learning a great deal from the process. One of the 'tops' is completely finished now and ready to bat, baste, quilt and bind. It is definitely a WIP.

Meanwhile, I worked on two of the thanksgiving mug rugs I offered as PayItForward gifts. Dresden Plates have been making a huge comeback in quilting from the traditional methods they were made. My friend Virginia gave me a plastic ruler-template from her Mother's estate, and so I started collecting ideas from what others have made. Its almost addicting to find ways to make. These mug rugs will be turkeys! I might have to make one as a non-PIF gift so I can show a photo of it.

Each of the blades for the turkey feathers come from a 4" square. So far, I've joined pieces, cut background fabrics for two mug rugs.

An interesting twist to my PIF offer is that two of the people who signed up for it live in Australia. Well, Thanksgiving is a US holiday, so my plan shifted. Australia is a huge country, and their weather is as varied as any here in the states. australia-weather-and-the-seasons. One easy way to understand it is that we are in the Northern Hemisphere and they are in the Southern Hemisphere so our seasons are opposite from each other.

While I am feeling that biting cold settle in, some of my quilting friends in Australia are at the beach, having picnics and enjoying warmer climates. Christmas is a huge holiday there and is celebrated at the height of their Summer. That meant browsing the web for a summer Santa concept. I did get an idea and pulled fabrics to make it happen. I do not mind making a different season of mug rugs for them.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Cottage on a Hill MR

I worked on the second Mug Rug today, using the same process as with the first one. I've also cut the backs and binding for them. The next step is to embroider the flowers on both pieces, and then they are ready for batting quilting and binding. I decided that they will not need embellishments. 

Simple formatting works better on such small creations. The binding is a larger print and will add even more color to it and give it that 'fall-ish' look my partner requested. 

I want to start working on a different pattern for some mug rugs I plan to make as Pay It Forward projects. The downside for this is that they will take up a lot of my quilting time and I want to hold to my commitment to keep the work personal between me and the recipients. If they decide to post pictures, I am ok with it. In fact, I sent one off this week that I didn't even take pictures for my own record-keeping.

I am always surprised to see who signs up for this project. This time, one of them is a man who grew up next door to us and was best friends with my older Son. It warmed my heart because he sends me Mothers' Day cards, and cards for other events throughout the year. What will surprise him is that I have something else in mind to send other than the mug rug he thinks he is getting. And that makes me smile. 

He & MattE used to get in so much trouble together. It certainly kept me on my toes with them and my younger Son & his friends. And for all I knew about, I wonder what they got by with. However, they made it to adulthood and the guys turned out to be men that would make any feminist proud to know. Most of the time.

At any rate, I've cut the smaller pieces now for the 3 PIF projects and will chain stitch them, cut them apart and press, and see how they work. These projects are some that I am doing without a pattern. I am sure there will be more to say about them tomorrow.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Quilting Gallery Mug Rug Swap

Quilting stretches my self-definition. Every time I think I know who I am with what I do in this fabric art, something changes my mind and my perspective.

I still feel pretty much a beginner with the applique process. I am not sure what about it draws me in, yet it does. This mug rug swap is one where a pattern was given and the quilters could chose their fabrics within the framework of the pattern. That's not much different than following any quilt pattern. It is a mini quilt, I guess. Mug rugs have certainly come into fashion, becoming more preferred than simple coasters. They usually measure about 10.5" by 6.5" or thereabouts. Mine, at least, don't get lost on my desk and stay put.

This pic shows the result of an entire day spent selecting fabrics, tracing them on the backing, cutting them out, ironing on the backing, and then doing the required blanket stitch. This MR is called "Butterfly Cottage". There are three flowers to embroider yet, then the batting, basting, quilting and binding, just like on any regular size quilt. 

My swap partner for this one lives in MN in a familiar part of the Twin Cities. She will make the same pattern and chose winter fabrics for the ones she makes me. She said she would make a snowflake in place of the butterfly on this one. This is most exciting for me to get a pair of them from someone in my home state & home town.

I signed up for this swap because I know myself well enough that I NEED to set in place an obligation in order to learn. Its where I play the trickster to myself. If I did this on my own, I would spend countless hours trying to find the best pattern or the best method. That is called spinning. And I just wanted to learn. With the $6 registration fee, they sent the pattern, the tutorials, the shipping deadline and the partner. Now my spin-off is going to take me on more paths, however, it will be as a more educated quilter.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


More than 3/4 of a lifetime ago, as a way to study world religion, I took on the task of reading the Old and New Testaments of the bible, along with scriptures from mainstream religions including the Jewish Torah, Islam's Qur'an & Sufi writings, the Vedas of the Hindu, the Theravada of Buddha, Shinto, the works of Confucius, Native American teachings and some African traditions. I would mark my copies and write in the margins. What moved me is seeing how similar we all are no matter what we name our deity. In the end, its how we love each other.

One passage from the book of Proverbs always touched me personally to say, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Critics say this is a very misunderstood passage and its not about how we set our personal goals... meh.

Over the years I came to see myself as a visionary in many aspects, or as a person who listens to inner voices of her soul. A visionary is a person who exhibits an imagination & has ideas about what might be possible in the future.

Lisa's quilt is the last quilt project for 2014. One side of binding is left to finish tonight. I've printed off "how-to" copies for washing/drying, and folding hand-made quilts for every household receiving one from me this year. Endings / or finishing anything always gets to me. Honestly, I have to force myself to examine for the loose threads, seams, and the need to re-inforce whatever I've done.

Easier for me to envision the next steps. Down at the end of the hallway sits a container of projects for 2015. I've made the list on the sidebar on my blog, more to keep me on track than for any reader to take note. This where the quote above comes in, those words of wisdom about having a vision or perishing

It would be very easy for me to start floundering in my daily life if I didn't have a plan or a vision. It would also be very easy to think my life had little value now that I am retired if I didn't have a vision or plan. I like having plans. I like the visions for my work.

One of the concepts I learned from the study of world religions is about generative spirituality that is held in some way for many of the practices. What it boils down to is that the elders in the family or community do their work in holistic ways to pass on to the next generation. It is a key factor in current work for hospice care or end-of-life care work in the social services that help people find ways to make meaningful contributions. Social work has come to see that even at this stage of life, the call for a vision is critical.

Quilters have always been making quilts for their families and friends as ways to ensure their comfort and safety. Perhaps not every quilter make her quilts with this in her conscious mind. Yet, I read and hear how they work to make heirlooms to hang and keep safe or utility quilts to use and love to shreds. There is even a Visions Art Museum with spectacular fabric arts that take this work to a much higher level.

Other areas we see this practice can be in political ways that government sets out budgets, decides who gets the funding for what services to include health care, education and safety. Without visions, the people perish. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Surprise

I finished the block, then measured it to trim it to size and finish the cleanup. Who was that Gomer on the TV show who used to say, "surprise, surprise, surprise"? 

Yup, me. It only measured 9" finished. Nine, not twelve. I sat with it in my hand, just looking at all the scant 1/4 seams I made, making sure each piece was the correct width and length. Everything was as it was supposed to be, yet it was only nine inches. Nine, not twelve. 

Then I started to laugh. I think I laughed until I was almost ready to cry or had to stop before it drove me crazy-mad.

I went online and browsed 12" quilt block patterns & found one called 5-Patch Variation. I remembered a scrap of a lime green print that had black in it, and went looking for the remaining colors on my partner's list, auditioning them to work in her color scheme. I got back to it, and cleaned up the loose threads, checked those crazy points to make sure the seam is closed on them and gave it a final press. Red, pink, yellow, orange, lime green and black. All here. And actually a nice block.

There have been rare times in my life where some event or person immobilized me. Those moments were void of choice-making and responsibility. And there is a little attraction for me in that state. It was almost getting easier to give in and stop fighting against the unknown forces. I struggled with that first block for days, fighting with various parts of it, but more struggled with internal conflict. 

This one went together a bit easier. Not to say it didn't have challenges with those points and partial seams. Its not the easiest block I ever made, however, I am pleased with the final outcome. There were only two pages of instructions, which I read several times, and I had learned to colorize the pattern. 

I think the ease wasn't just in the mechanics of the process, but in the place it took me. Maybe it was better to let go of that first block in both its incarnations, so that I could find this one and could create it from a more balanced and positive place of self.

Its funny how many color combinations & values of fabric that I made, most of which never got into a block. I worked with them energetically for my partner, and they seemed to work on me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A New Start

Sometimes I think that I am being silly with this work and then, the spiritual lessons come through. Its not a matter of wanting someone out there to approve of me, because I am too old to care about such things. I've been reading a couple of books at once, and because I select such meaningful ones, their theories sort of blend in my subconsciousness.

While I did a lot work outside my home today, the quilting project of this simple block took my time here. Like the first block, I cut everything very accurately and started piecing, but looking at the pieces as the lesson learned from yesterday.

Ouch. Guess I am still a student in this life lesson.

Even with the model from yesterday's fiasco, this one still had me shaking my head. This picture represents 3 1/3 (unnumbered) pages of instructions. Unfortunately each page has its own number for the steps. So, rather than to keep whining over someone else's choices, I numbered the pages (there are six) and I numbered the steps. I named each of the colors:

  • A-1 & 2 Red
  • B-1, 2, 3 & 4 Background/Black
  • C-1& 2 OuterRing - Lime Green
  • D-1 & 2 Orange
  • E-1 &2 Yellow
  • F1 & 2 -Pink
And then, I started piecing, pinning and sewing that scant 1/4" seam. Slowly, slowly, slowly.

I've said it many times before, I don't like a mystery in quilting. I am not fond of puzzles. And this block continues to push me out of my comfort.

Oh the books. Well, one author writes about intent vs. intention. Its regarding Toltec concepts. Information can be found at this site. http://www.toltecspirit.com/ & is something I have studied over the years. There are lots of books about it and many ways to embrace the work. I think it is more of a philosophy than a religion. 

In this belief system, "Intention is something we aim for or plan to do...something we're wanting, wishing, hoping for, or trying to accomplish... Intent, on the other hand, is a force that originates from the void, the Infinite, which is the life itself, and uses this force to create everything that exists in our manifest universe..."

I think this is the issue I am facing with this block. I've been caught up with my intention and have kept it on a lower level of my action. I have not been putting the spiritual aspect of who I am into this particular block. This author continues to say that "only when the mind is absolutely quiet and we are totally present, can we begin to touch this force."

The other books I am reading are by the author Paulo Coelho. I have several by him, and here are some of the most popular of his quotes: paulo-coelho-quotes

I don't know this swap block recipient. Usually my swap partners exchange some information, and all I got from her were the colors she wanted in her block. A list of colors. 

My conclusion with all these thoughts is that I can only work creatively with the lifeline I throw out to the recipient on one end and the higher divine presence on the other.

I accept who I am even in the face of rejection by others. For as long as I have been aware, I knew I was a person of spirit. Not someone who followed a particular religion, but a person who is connected to that infinite creative force.

This was the issue, not the pattern maker, nor my skills at the sewing machine...but this, that I had forgotten to be the bridge between the recipient and the Intent of the universe. I am taking what she gave me-her simple list of colors, and tomorrow when I work on the block again, I will infuse it with these characteristics as positive affirmations for her.
  • Red = Warm & positive
  • Black = What is hidden & secret
  • Lime Green = Self-reliant
  • Orange = Social communication & optimism
  • Yellow = Cheerful
  • Pink = Unconditional love (this fabric has the peace sign on it as well as the flower-power from the 60's)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Attention, Attention

I set about making this very interesting block and while I cut accurately and even thought I was piecing with the scant quarter inch seam, construction on this one has been a nightmare. The pattern was not really well-written and I should have seen that. 

It came with pictures step by step, but all the outside pieces were all named A-1 and A-2. Adding to that confusion, the fabrics all had circles on them and were laid on a cutting mat that was too close in color to give any sort of contrast and the lines really messed up the ability to see the block design. 

In no time at all, I had lost my way and ended up ripping the little 1.25" strips and squares. Ripping caused pulling of threads, and in no time, it was a mess. The four sections above are not pieced but even so, their oddity from each other is visable. Nothing is going to match right anymore.

I am going to use this as my model and start over. Unfortunately, these fabrics are used up and it means a different representation for them in the block. Honestly, it knocked the steam out of me and I don't feel like working on it any more today. Blah.

I know that one suggestion is to bring out crayons and color code my own copy of the pattern. Another idea is to snip a bit of the fabric and glue it to the pattern as a reference.  However, doesn't anyone test these patterns before they get published so that the user isn't wasting her time and materials on them? I run into this so much now that I know its up to me to take action.

The biggest part of it is understanding the process, and honestly, I thought I did when I started this one, and clearly that was faulty thinking. I don't want to blame others for my mistakes, and also don't want to be such a skeptic.

But hey. No one is responsible for my misunderstanding except me. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Time it Takes

It took me five minutes to load one bobbin this afternoon, and yet only 10 minutes to load a total of 5 bobbins. 

With the first one, I had to set up the thread, find the bobbins, & set machine dials. Before it got going too far, the winding thread fell over & knocked two bobbins on the floor. Of course, one was hiding because they are clear. Finally, they were loaded. 

Why this matters is that doing them one at a time would add 15 minutes to the bobbing loading. Several years ago, I stumbled on a site called http://www.flylady.net/. Her theory is that you can get your home clean by using a specific plan and only spending 15 minutes per day doing housework. No kidding. It works. Well, it works for me, so I take those 15 minutes seriously.
Many quilters have reasons why they can't do the housework, including mine: I hate it. Thing is, I love a clean house, and I love being able to find what I need.

I test the limits of my quilting machine by loading and using five bobbins before cleaning it, yet, so far, I am getting away with it. I feel mighty smug that all my 2014 machine work is done with only the finishing handwork stage to complete, and of course, the various quilt blocks for swaps.

If it needs servicing, none of my projects have pressing deadlines and I can have it gone for up to three weeks before I start panicking. I've even spent time reading again beyond the browsing in my quilting magazines. Time is a good thing to have in small or larger increments. 

And none of it is wasted.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Funny Thing About Saturdays

I spent a great deal of time looking through quilting patterns today. I have a couple of projects in mind and am looking for the right combinations. Sometimes there are too many choices that I feel like that proverbial kid in a candy shoppe.

One of the quilts is for my Daughter-In-Law. I have the fabrics and need to find a pattern that will use one piece of it as a focus. The other pattern I seek is for a wallhanging for one of my dearest friends. I know the dimensions she has for the wall space, the colors she wants, and what I am able to make for her. She thinks she has the fabrics. 

by Zyde
There isn't much to show for my efforts, but sometimes planning takes more time than a person realizes. In fact, I have nothing to show for those efforts. Nothing but ideas and imagination.

And then of course, I have been hand sewing binding on my last two 2014 quilts. Pinning, sewing, round and round.

Its an interesting place to be in as 2014 finishes up and 2015 has yet to take action. Everything is in such a different state of becoming that it doesn't give me time to get bored or disinterested.

Provoking creativity means thinking about the requirements for time, resources, talent and commitment. A person actually has to come up with their objectives, solutions and processes. This explorative piece usually gets followed by an incubation of ideas, and then that illumination or sudden idea for what comes next. Its hardly a revolutionary concept and is something most of us go through every day in some area of our life.

I can't say that Saturdays are special for me unless I have a trip planned somewhere that includes going with someone who punches a weekly clock. Then its a play day. Today I worked at browsing magazines and thinking. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Finish Something Friday

Some time ago, I set myself up to finish things on Fridays. I kept it going for awhile and then, as things changed, I didn't hold to it for every Friday. Yet, here it is again, and can say that two of my projects are completed for the week & one more at the ready to finish. I've never been one to wait passively for changes, and enjoy taking action, whether it is a small step or a huge leap.

Both of my Sons are grown men and its always difficult to find something they would like as a gift from me that has meaning and doesn't cost me more than I can afford to give. One non-quilting project I started recently came from a site with information about monthly, weekly & daily celebrations: http://holidayinsights.com. I took each of the daily national holidays and printed off information for it, and in some cases, pulled books or other small objects from my shelves that were significant to the daily event. I wrapped the gifts and put the print material in that folder off to the left of the box for him to read. Now, he will either enjoy reading the trivia or roll his eyes at it all. 

As a bonus, I used up most of the wrapping paper scraps as well, clearing that whole space as a bonus to the downsizing I am committed to doing in my home. I am only sending him things I think he will appreciate that are either new (that I bought this week) or like-new, such as a few of my books or trinkets that signal the daily holiday celebration.

Another project I finished was a prayer flag for a swap that is going to a partner in TX. The theme for it is "Trust", which I think is very different for every person. It seems to me that all the layers of this value start within a person and then extend outward to those people surrounding them. Its quite a fragile concept that includes confidence in self and hope in others. As I worked on it last night, it just reached that place of completion even within the space where there was no further design. My partner's profile doesn't give a lot of information so its like trusting on my own instincts.

This morning, my attention turns to the last 12" block for this month. The pattern is called Interlocking Seasons from the parfait cafe site. My partner requested a block made with red, pink, yellow, orange, lime green and black. That seemed like a tall order until I found this pattern calling for six different colors. Its at the cut stage now and only requires my attention and patience to complete it.

The air here is quite chilly this morning and gives me a renewed sense of energy for the season. With windows open in the studio-office, the fresh mountain breezes come in and make me smile. I love this time of year.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cutting Mats & 6" Blocks

Many years ago, I heard or read that we teach people how to treat us. And it makes sense that they teach us how to treat them as well. It struck me that I teach myself self-esteem, self-critism, self-whatever. And as my own teacher, I make up a lot of tests along the way and hold to a pretty high standard.

I've been struggling with a cutting mat that I've sliced through the center many times (rendering it almost useless), bought a new one, and yet today found myself using the same gnarly mat instead of the one I bought. I took my kitchen shears and cut out the center and cut the outsides into three quite useful pieces. I found another site that gives Rotary-cutting-mat-care-tips/. Now. After the fact. 

I put up with the decrement old mat because they are expensive, and I was feeling a bit guilty that the center of it was shot. So I did my usual, "that's ok" until the retreat came up. I needed to bring a cutting mat there with sharp rotary blades (I have a pack of them yet). So I ordered a new mat...and then was able to use the store cutting board.

It is still fresh as the day it arrived. Look, it even is marked for a 12" block and eventually cutting through the center of it. The smaller piece from the old mat is perfect for working with the 6" blocks I make every month. Its actually almost 8" wide and fresh to cut on! It made my work today joyful. The larger fragment is barely 12" wide and wavy at that, so its not going to be the best of choices when I make the 12 1/2" blocks, nor is it the right size for cutting width of fabric strips. Maybe I learned my lesson about how to cut on a mat and can make all these pieces work for what I do on them.

My first project on the reclaimed mat was my 6" blocks.

My September swap partner requested black and white prints for her blocks and gave the style to be quilter's choice. The first pattern I made was incredibly hard and off in many ways. I kept trying more patterns with different fabrics until I came up with these five, which all seem to work. They are each 6 1/2" squares in various black & white fabrics. I think we are to make four blocks, but once I found these patterns, I wanted to keep going and see which ones worked or didn't. I made two more and didn't remember to take pics of them.

I think a huge lesson from this project was in how the colors work. I am still using a stash grouping that includes bits & scraps, all the way up to fat quarters. The accuracy that is required seems to build the more I quilt. If in fact, there is a teaching here of how the art of quilting wants to be treated, and I personify it, the use of well-cared for tools is essential to the finish as well as to the process.

A clean cut is dependent upon a healthy cutting mat, a sharp rotary blade and strong holder, as well as good eyesight to make good choices and see the seams. 

My real life changes every moment. Every moment I am faced with choices that either enhance my greater good or take me down a road that is hard to travel. One of my values is the concept of recycle, reuse and repurpose. I really believe in it and live it. However, I think that I also have to keep a fresh outlook on the service of something that has reached its limits and see if change is needed for my greater good.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Receiving is Hard

Before the retreat, I started working on several small projects. I finished making the three fabric boxes intended for birthdays coming up soon.

My Cousin in Alaska got one from me a few weeks ago and sort of gave me an OK. What I mean is that she enjoyed the gift and said she would find a use for it. This one is intended for my older Son's birthday. 

Thing is, when I give a gift I really don't know how it will be received. Do we really ever know? I remember reading a quote many years ago that said if we accept the gift, we accept the giver. Receiving is not easy. We were bombarded by other quotes that said "it is more blessed to give than to receive."

Is there truth to that? And why? Receiving is hard. It has been very hard for me and is a skill that I am developing through the various quilting swaps I participate in. I find that most of the people are very generous. Again, we are exchanging our projects and are at different levels in the fabric arts. So what a person receives might be superior to their skills or less than where they are with the art. I find that in the receiving of these items, I am challenged to both evolve and to tolerate diversity.

Another project I finished started out as a test block for a swap starting up in October. It didn't quite work for how it is supposed to look, so I cut the borders down a bit and made a small candle mat, which does work. The binding on this one is also leftover from another project. 

I am wondering if it is easier for me to receive from people I do not know. I place no judgements on their motives when I receive their gifts. I have no family history with them. I do not worry that their gift to me might stretch their finances. And after many years of doing this, I really have stopped caring if they keep their word. I keep mine and that is what matters to me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Autumn is Here (unofficially)

I love the changing seasons. It always reminds me of how I change or how I need to change. It seems like its a pivotal point in the year to have the September Equinox draw near (officially on the 23rd). I am in the northern hemisphere so Autumn has begun. 

I have an early morning appointment at the clubhouse to baste the applique mystery quilt. It won't take me long to do. And then, there is a tenant meeting that I would like to attend, so the morning is already spoken for with these two activities. Because the quilt is a Pay It Forward project, I will not show photos of it. I took advantage of another mystery quilt opportunity and made the back using coordinating fabrics from the top or front. It really has turned out sweet. Not sure how the quilting will go on it yet.

Yesterday, I finally got outside in my South garden to cut down or pull out the dead plant material & cut back some of the plants to ready them for Winter. I filled the big trash container and still have much more work to do in the yard. Its probably a good idea to get it off the property as southern Cali is in its full blown fire season. Watering has been quite curtailed here and the whole state looks parched. Weather is cooling and that means the AC can stay off and the windows are opened. Yaeh! Fresh air again!

I wonder why those Spring & Fall deep cleaning times are so much a part of me, yet they have been almost rituals each year. And living here has sparked my captivity inside because of the weather. Temps can go over the 100 mark during the day, which is just a bit too much to be outside working. While I prepare my gardens for the Winter, I like to de-clutter my rooms, and especially my storage closets and bins so that I can start my work as if it was new.

The other big project I did was to rearrange the studio/office. Last week, I moved my quilting machine in here, but this work took housecleaning to another level. 

I worked on the prayer flag a bit more. I am not as much an artist on it as I am a woman of spirit, and it has another day or two before the partners on the swap are named. I would like to hold off finishing it until I find out who that person is and do work on it that is specific to them. Its exciting to have that swap be an international. In spite of the high cost of shipping, I am loving the world wide connections.

And I found a pattern I want to use for a quilt to give my older Son. The store in town has this amazing dark blue fabric with constellations on it. I knew I wanted it and this pattern is perfect for it as a complement. The stars will take scraps and so its going to be one of those 'stash-buster' projects. 

Jer's Kaleidoscope quilt needs the first border fabric. I worked on that a bit too from laying the blocks out to trying to piece the final three blocks. It is coming along nicely.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Retreat Session 2

I was able to cut more background fabric and got 8 of the blocks ready for piecing. I am still not sure of how the end arrangement will go and really need to wait it out. Sometimes the clarity in life is only really seen once we are closer to our destinations, and so it is with this quilt. 

There are a couple of options for the first border that I am considering, both are lighter shades of either blue or green. While it would be easy to just pick one & buy the 1/2 yard of fabric, I've decided to wait until the entire center is completed before making that purchase. All the Kaleidoscopes are pinwheeling off in the same direction which took a bit of planning. The close-up details are magickal on each one, and I am very much in love with how it is evolving. Of course, the blocks need trimming and pressing, so are not looking as crisp as they will be the closer it gets to completion. 

It is very art deco in design for the individual blocks, and with as lovely as it is at this stage, it seems worth it to wait to buy the best choice for that first border & binding. I feel like a kid looking into the glass turning it & tumbling the pieces to see the designs unfold. Every block is a design discovery.

There is enough of the fabric to make the blocks, however, I have not cut the in-between block setting pieces, and may need to purchase more background to extend it from the lap size to a twin. I did a layout for the last 4 blocks to see which of the 3 will fit. It seems that the blocks with the finer detail hold more of the light green and the blocks with the bigger objects are in blue. Its so interesting! The richness in the designs remind me to be grateful for the patterns in my life and to see how varied they are. I am not sure how one compares each experience because its almost like the value is in the bigger picture, in the greater good.

This was a great quilt to work on in a retreat class setting because of the complex pinning/cutting treatments. I left after another four hours at it in this second session simply because I've learned that its healthier to feel good and quilt another day. My body was starting to get weary and my concentration was being compromised. 

I will finish up the last 3 blocks, and then see if I have what it takes to put the center workings together or if I need to make a purchase. I have to keep working on it this week to get to that stage.

Meanwhile, the other current projects on my to-do list are sitting here too. Its not that I actually veered off course, however, I would like to get back to them so that they finish on time. This quilt is free from a 2014 deadline for now.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Session One at the Retreat

The retreat is proving to be meaningful. The hardest thing about the "StacknWhack" process is pinning through eight layers of fabric. Before that was cutting of eight layers which had to be precise, with accurate pinning. As the first hour passed by, I was still cutting, and it seemed endless and quite confusing. I did what I was told, and that proved to be a wise choice.

This is the first of the blocks I finished. The store owner-teacher loves fabrics and loves teaching, so her patience with each person in the room is inspirational. I put in a new blade for my rotary before leaving for the retreat, and brought flat pins to go through the layers. With each step, I tried to understand more of what I was doing, and for the most part simply surrendered to it all.

My second block has a real spinning feel to it, and not as much contrast, but the fabric details are so very interesting. Its important to lay them all out with the spin going in one direction. They cannot be chain stitched to avoid any mishaps. Block assembly is actually the easiest part of this work. At this point, it is still hard to know what the quilt top will look like, but the colors are rich and I love it.

The third block I finished carried a part of the fabric print to another place with the contrasts. The art deco fabric is much more subtle than what other quilters are working with. This is going to be a guy's quilt all the way.

We meet again for all of Sunday, however I took time at home to clip the dog-ears, finish cutting more background pieces, and pin what I could to keep a forward motion going for the project. I discovered that there would be enough fabric to make a twin size quilt so I've opted to go that little bit larger from the original 8 blocks to 11. However, it means going beyond how the book shows the pattern, and letting it evolve beyond what is there. The twin size is as large as I care to make because of the weight that builds with batting and the back. However, I will be happy with the larger quilt with all this effort.

The kaleidoscope pattern works by directionally matching 8 tips from the cut triangles. Now that I experienced three of them, I get how to make them sit in center to make the pattern fling outward. It still is a bit magickal how a block turns out. I thought I could change it but the cuts dictate the layout and in the end, its still amazing.

It occurred to me that some patterns forming were bright like human extraverts while others were shyer & less noticeable at first glance much like human introverts. Both forms are very interesting and unique. The final layout will be like building a community of stars!

One of the 12 blocks cut & pieced will not go into the quilt. Like most of us struggling to find our place in our world, it will need to audition to see how it fits in the greater plan for the quilt top. There is nothing right or wrong about the blocks any more than there is anything right or wrong with who we are. We either fit or we don't. 

The next session for the retreat will last as long as my energy lasts. Luckily, there isn't any real calculating left to do because the book still confuses me. I learned a great deal just simply observing the choices others made for their fabrics. Tips were shared about pressing preferences and even how to finish the centers of the blocks so they lay as flat as possible. Real life happening in the moment. 

Many of the quilters named their projects. Mine isn't ready for that step. I keep being enchanted by the kaleidoscope concept and have a feeling that word will be part of the name.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Retreat Weekend

This is my quilting Retreat Weekend where I plan to make the Kaleidoscope quilt for my younger Son. I dropped off my quilting machine, cutting mat and clear rulers at the store, and have the material and other tools, along with my camera packed in a tote ready to take with me to the class.

I bought the book with the instructions in it and tried to read more about the "Stack n Whack" process, and remembered that while I want to make this quilt, I NEED the class instructions to get it done. I might try and make a second quilt with this pattern so that I 'get' it. The instructions were like trying to read Albert Einstein's mathematical equations or calculations as someone still in 1st grade. Its not a new idea, but is new for me, & one that has intrigued me.

The group will gather at the store in town after business hours and quilt until we are exhausted, then go home, sleep in our own beds and come back on Sunday morning to do it all again. Each person will get done what she can and go home knowing how to finish her top. We work with our own fabrics using the same pattern, which is why I am bringing the camera to share the different perspectives.

This gave me an opportunity to deep clean two areas of my home and set up the studio-office workstation. Its time to move from one room to another so I can work in the evenings. My front rooms, like many houses, face the street, and because I've chosen not to hang curtains in my home, I use a lot of plants as a 'breaker' in front of my very long windows. As the nights get longer, it means turning on lights to see as I work, and I would rather not show me working to the world outside whose darkness hides people going by from me.

While I live in a gated community, that doesn't make for an entirely safe environment. I'd rather not set myself up for feeling vulnerable.

Mail brought more of the 6" Wonky blocks from my swap group. I've requested that style in both groups and every one of them is outstanding. Quilters always comment that they are more difficult than they realized and yet that they have been soooo satisfying to make. They say that its not easy going against the rules one has learned and practiced. I have also asked for wild colors in the blocks. Many refer to Gwen Marston books as guides for liberated quilting in the way that the StacknWhack are for my retreat.

The other thing that came in the mail was an ATC card in a frame with a matching envelope my friend Rex made that actually glows in the dark. What a treasure! 

She found buttons for me somewhere on her journeys through Madison or the neighboring outskirts. I was excited to get them because I am working on a few things right now that use them more for decoration than function. I bought a small pack for $8 here in town, but got nothing like this variety. I am most pleased.

I've cut out more easy-breezy Hallows stockings when I realized there were 3 more Great-Nephews in my family. They are all teens, & the filling needs to be things like sports/energy bars. There are still enough scraps to work for these. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Last 2014 Family Quilt

The binding is pinned on Lisa's quilt, which is the last of the ones going out for the 2014 holidays. Every quilt has been my teacher, every quilt has been my friend. I always set them aside if my spirit is off-center, and so every quilt has loving, positive energy. No circumstance in my life allowed me to be detrimental to this work.

I admit to the struggles with this quilt from finding burgundy fabrics, to the layout. The center piece turned out smaller than I planned and so I cut pieces for a border, which didn't look the way I wanted. I pinned it from the back and quilted from the front. I could go on and on with what I had hoped for vs. what manifested. It truth, I have not hung it to see the finish, and yet, am loving the combinations of colors and pieces. The top part of the picture is the back of the quilt, which has those blocks printed on it. The underside of the picture is actually the top where it was pieced. It does make a reversible quilt whose fabrics are quite coordinated.

I am grateful for the lessons from all my yesterdays and look with hopeful anticipation towards the journey ahead. For whomever taught me this way of living, and for whatever successes I experienced, I do know that very little stands in my way. I've always been a student of life and quilting is another chapter, another class, another opportunity for me to learn.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Working on a Prayer Flag

I have another swap going and this one is for a prayer flag. I keep saying I want to push myself into more of the art forms so this is one way. It feels like an uphill climb in the mountains and for those of you who have not been hiking at higher altitudes, believe me, its hard to breathe, your muscles ache and suddenly its exhausting!

I've started out with a scrappy rectangle of blue velvet, one of my Skecher's shoe laces and some of that heavier white embroidery floss. Blue is a color that evokes trust among its many other characteristics, so trust it is for the theme of the flag. I am randomly stitching with the white, as a symbol of how one moves through life. It is already halting and flowing without a plan or real goal.

The metal rectangular pin towards the bottom is an angel holding a 6-pointed star. Its clasp is crushed and so I stitched the pin part of it to the velvet as best I could. It does give weight to the flag and offers another dimension to the interpretation.

TRUST is a firm belief in the truth or strength of someone or something. Its the confidence we place in a person. Its what we have when we honestly believe in a positive outcome. And I think its one of those very fragile characteristics in that when it fails, it becomes hard to restore. 

I want to incorporate the angel's 6-point star onto the blank space of the flag. Tradition/
myth/legend says this particular angelic star brings clarity of thought and enhances intuition. When identification-based trust is in need of repair, the situations we find ourselves in have strong emotional implications, and we need clarity of thought to ease ourselves away from distrust and back into emotional well-being. 

I've lost my trust often enough in my lifetime, so when I started to create this prayer flag, I knew it needed to be some concept I actually wanted to draw into my life. Yet, in truth, I let the meaning of the color blue guide my choices. I wanted to go with the energy of the foundation fabric.

I've made it a personal practice to stay positive in life and not get too caught up in the negative. Sure I do get caught. I am human. My faith in human nature has been crushed many times, and my trust in divine outcomes have challenged my sanity, as well as affecting my health and well-being. 

This is what life does. 

I don't want to get on board the train of cliches about how life is supposed to work, because sometimes it just doesn't work out how we want.

However, if people of spirit can hold the line, and trust against devastating circumstances, if they can love beyond the resentments & rejections, and if they forgive beyond the unforgivable, something must change. I trust in that. I believe that everything changes. This is a flag I want to fly, a flag for trust.

More on that angel pin. I went looking in my odd collections for things to add to the prayer flag and for whatever reason, this pin seemed fitting to the theme though I didn't know why. Is this the same angel that is on top of holiday trees with the star...? 

With a bit of research, I learned that there was a high-ranking angel who was charged with the care of the stars, Moon and constellations. However, the angel fell from grace for two reasons: First was for loving a woman; secondly for teaching mortals the science of Astrology. As I thought about the angel, it struck me how it might have felt to be a celestial being and then to be disgraced. Disgraced for loving? For teaching? What were the good ol' boys of that era thinking? How does someone with that experience ever trust such a system? Its like being fired from a career that you devoted your entire beingness to. Suddenly, I was thinking how hard it is to be the object of bullying, or to feel rejection by people you love and trust. An angel could forgive and learn to trust. Even a fallen angel. 

There's that word again. Trust. I didn't know this swap would touch me so deeply.

I've got another week to work on this International prayer flag swap and have no idea where on Earth it will fly or for whom. The evolution of it as an art form is captivating.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Am I Really Ahead on the Season?

Its wonderful to see how Summer ended so quickly, and Autumn is in full force in the northern hemisphere...well, anyway in southern California. I've been opening windows and leaving them open most of the time now without the AC kicking in. I love this time of year and I am getting prepared for October festivities.

All the Halloween stockings are ready for the younger kids in my family. These turned out easier than the witch shoe version I made the grrrlie-grrls last week, and also they made good use of a lot of scraps I had. They are a wild and anything goes for Halloween. Just a snip of ribbon folded, stitched on the edge and they are ready for the Great Pumpkin.
My gosh, that aired in 1966, which seems like such a long time ago. I am not sure too many kids these days care about that particular cartoon-type presentation, nor do their parents particularly care about candy. My plan is to load the 7" stockings with more non-candy articles and perhaps see if I can make copies of the cartoon strip for each envelope, just in case they wonder why I sent them holiday stockings for Hallows.

Ever remember those elders in your family that you thought were crazy? I sure do. We would laugh at how they talked, what they wore, what they brought to potlucks, and the crazy gifts they used to give us. Now, when I look back, those were the times and people I actually liked best, and still cherish. Every family needs stories to share. 

I worked on the fabric boxes too, got them all top-stitched, and one of them channel quilted. I love how the channels made waves on it. I'll run the seams on it for the corners of the box and then add buttons to it. 

There is a lot of detail to them and as I thought about the little small things in life, it made me smile to remember a scene from a British movie with Emma Thompson called Nanny McPhee (2005), which I thought was a hoot. The story is based on "Nurse Matilda" books published in the late 60's with adaptations for the movies. 

Funny, the thoughts that fill my head and pop out when I quilt. However, I love a great fairy-tale & this one is brilliant. Nanny McPhee trailer Nanny/Emma Thompson is magickal in so many ways, and this portrayal is as brilliant as the Aunties in Practical Magic, whom I always channel when I put anything into my blender and sing, 'put de lime in de coconut & drink it all up.' Midnight Margaritas

Oh yes, it is the end of summer and there is a chill in the air. And that brings out the best of movies to be watched while under a cotton quilt. MMMmmmmm

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Little Bit Here, Little Bit There

I got one block finished today. When I moved my quilting machine into the other room, the ironing board stayed in the studio-office. That means when I work on a project, sometimes I walk forth & back from one workstation to the other. Makes for a longer day, but then it is a bit of exercise, I suppose. 

One block. This Log Cabin came out lovely even though the fabrics got changed as it got pieced, for a variety of reasons; and one red log didn't work so left the table. I did enjoy the lessons it brought me. One block. If it is tradition that one side represents the challenges in life and the other side its joys, for this one, green brought out joys for me and red its challenges. Usually the center block is red for the hearth fire, but most fires burn more yellow or blue than red, so made sense for me here.

Then I worked the rest of the day on the 6" blocks. All I can say to them at this point is "Gahhh!" Maybe tomorrow they will go together easier.

One of my dear Cousins lives in Alaska and has been willing to take a couple of my practice pieces. Her feedback is quite valued because she is so very authentic. The last one I sent was a small fabric box. She said the concept would work as gifts to just about anyone on my list, so I started putting three together. First comes fabric selection, and these three are 10" coordinated squares, joined with batting to form a sandwich. I've pinned the edges and will do a top stitch around all four sides and then for quilting, do a simple channel stitch that forms a squared labyrinth. Although they look nice together, they will go to three different homes. I plan to load my bobbins with green quilting thread so selected fabrics so the green would contrast.

Almost every quilting day, something happens that doesn't turn out like I planned or like I want. On the days when that one project doesn't work, its easy to set it aside and go on to something else. In many ways, its like letting go of the control factor. However, I cannot leave things for very long to let them slip into that UFO status.

I think the people in my life whom I trust to provide some wisdom-feedback, like my Cuz in Alaska, help me envision that bigger picture. I don't want to look at life's struggle so much as I want to embrace the joys that surfaced. Whether it was because of a Log Cabin block or a fabric box, this day was good.