Friday, October 31, 2014

Tidings of Comfort and....

(This blog entry is published a day early. I am presenting a Writer's Forum in the morning & heading off to the big city for the entire afternoon.)

I've made a number of French-Seamed Pillowcases in the last few years, and am never sure how recipients like them. Quilting cotton fabric is not the same as the luxurious Egyptian cotton with higher thread counts that provide a fine softness to the touch. Egyptian cotton is milled on Italian Cotton Looms that employ a satin weave of the speciality threads of four over and one under; so very fine that its almost invisible to the eye. While quilting cotton works for quilts, it wraps around our bodies more than our faces the way pillowcases do in the night. And it wrinkles.

The French-seam itself provides a clean, concealed look to the edges on the inside and prevents raveling. Its an easy process many tutorials call a sausage roll which simply means how it is pinned, rolled up to the raw edges, and stitched. This one is an extra-long King size folded in threes side-to-side and in half the long way. The fabric makes it cute, and if its not used as a primary pillowcase, it could work as a decoration in the bedroom. Its the only one I plan to make this year.

Personally, I am pretty picky about my bed pillows. I own two pair of feather pillows, and even prefer one set of them over the other. I will bold-facedly admit that when guests are here, I will take my favorite set of pillows with me to sleep on the futon, and they are welcome to spend their vacation here on my Sleep Number Bed.

Because I have traveled a lot for work over the last few decades, I've slept on many beds, used many pillows and bedding and have some strong ideas about my personal comfort. There is a reason why we tell the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, so we grow up understanding that comfort means different things to all of us.

The other project I worked on is a couple of healing-scented rice bags. The pattern was a free digital download from Craftsy. It is made with 10" squares and some channel stitches about 2" apart, then filled with 2 cups of white rice. I did sprinkle some essential oils of Eucalyptus and Rosemary into the rice before adding it to the bags. It is also a holiday gift that will come with some safe microwave heating instructions. (I haven't owned a micro for years by choice...about the same time I decided not to own a TV, come to think of it.) I made two bags with this fabric, and still need to clip threads and put them into heavy weight plastic bags so that the scent holds for awhile. The pattern I followed suggested using 20 drops of each kind of essential oil to get that feel-good scent. Its just a little over-powering to sprinkle enough for both batches in one small space.

I've got a lot of scrap fabrics that will work and have several bags of rice to make a few more of these micro bags.

While I personally like using the greasy Vicks gunk on my chest and throat when I feel a cold coming on, a lot of folks do not. This combo smell really works in a neat and clean container. My note will let my Minnesota / Wisconsin recipients know that the bag should get tossed after the cold season is over. 

I liked this style more than most other patterns I saw for a number of reasons. First of all, I look for my own comfort in creating them. They need to be easy for me to make as well as seem reasonable to give. They do work as feet warmers, back warmers to take in the car, and will even wrap around the back of the neck, so again, they can bring comfort to others.

When Veils Between the Worlds Thin

Today is the mundane holiday for Halloween. It is believed that the veils between the worlds thin now, which means our consciousness travels to those we love who have passed from this world. The one soul who has been on my mind is one of my Nieces who passed after a year-long battle with leukemia. I was making her a Winter Solstice quilt, and put it away unfinished. I decided it is going to her Brother.

Named "Auntie M", the scrappy quilt is really lovely. The original and very old pattern is called Aunt Sukey's Choice. Its tradition in quilting to rename the quilt and yet attempt to use part of the original pattern name in it. Obviously, this was also a nod to the "Wizard of Oz" movie & me as her Auntie.

I brought the quilt out from its storage bag, and laid it across my bed to see what there was left to do. I pulled all the loose threads, and checked seams. But I couldn't do more.

And I knew it needed to leave my hands. I tossed it into the dryer on a no-heat setting and sat with it again.

When Death takes a soul, it always seems harder to accept when the person is young, has children to raise, a husband to love and so much life left to live. Her death has been very hard on all of us.

Quilts are meant to give comfort. They cannot replace the person who has moved on, but maybe being underneath the little bit of warmth they give, we can hold on to the dreams and maybe release some of the tears.

There actually was one more line of quilting I wanted to do on the border. I just couldn't. I just couldn't add to the unfinished work any more than I can add to Manda's unfinished life. Sometimes done is done.

Later today, I will write a note to my Nephew about this quilt. She was Auntie to his Sons and so it seems that their home is where the quilt belongs. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Last Quilt of 2014

The Butterfly Wings quilt is completed now and ready to ship out on Monday. Many thoughts came to me as I did the hand work on this binding and attached a label. I have always enjoyed butterflies and see their transformation from caterpillar to winged flight as one of transformation and freedom. Its sort of a given with them.

However, with this, more thoughts about love came into play. The quilt is to be an anonymous gift to a child who is only going to get it and not know why. (I am proud that my younger Son commissioned it for this child. He has a loving heart. He wants no credit, and that makes it a gift he is paying forward.)

The need for love is universal. We all seek some sort of affirmation or assurance that we are loved and needed, and that who we are makes a difference in the world.

Sometimes having a quilt to cover us and cuddle up under brings a comfort when no other love is around to help us feel ok. It can be a time when we learn how to nurture ourselves, how to be gentle and caressing to the spirit-being within. Unconditional self-love is a challenge that has to start somewhere.

Love breeds love. We almost need to shower it upon ourselves as we wait in our cocoons for the right moment when coming out of what holds us so tightly gives us wings. This is the energy put into the quilt and I can only hope that little girl feels it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Marking the Quilts

I've heard it said that if you do your best, someone might like it. 

I know that there are many systems around that are simply ideas, theories or practices quilters find and use that work for them. We are never guaranteed success in what we do if we use someone else's standards. Its too easy to be haunted by fears that we don't measure up or that our best is not good enough.

I chose to tape my quilting lines because of all the colors in this quilt. Its not the recommended method, but the tape is dollar store quality and barely holds on, so it will not leave a residue, PLUS, it will get removed right away when the seam is stitched, and brushed clean. The first set of quilting lines for this quilt was much easier because it went on the diagonal through the blocks. The cross bars go through the focus block and need help keeping the line. I've taped the first half of it here, which should take me through the morning.

I like Butterfly Wings more every time I lay it across my bed to check my work. It is bright, cheery and will be functional. It is scheduled to ship out on Monday. It is going to a child I do not know, do not know how it will be cared for nor if she will like it and use it. What is always vital with my work is that what I do pleases me, and that I do my best in creating it. My personal practice is to piece the back with a reversible look to it so that it can also serve as a quilt on its own if the front is too wild, or the wrong colors. 

I am doing my best & will let it go.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Keeping my Word

After a very expensive trip to the Post Office yesterday, I have opted out of a number of swaps I planned to join on Swapbot. The way that group is set up is that you can either watch or join the swap and can opt out until the final sign-up date. For awhile, I only joined USA groups because of the postage. And even then, I overloaded my packages with items that my swap partner 'liked' on their profile.

I think it is important for all of us to keep our word when we make commitments, and if we know that life can or has gotten in the way, and we cannot meet our obligations; then, I also believe that it is important to communicate our changed situation. People understand if they know. But if they are on the non-receiving end of a promise, all they can do is speculate. 

Whole studies of this broken promise situation have been done for some time to help us understand why it happens and how to cope. This is well and good, but it comes down to the individual understanding themselves and wanting to make changes so they are not the person breaking their word.

My family gift-giving season usually starts with the eldest Granddaughter's birthday. Easy to splash on some Royal Icing as skeleton bones over horses, cats, and boy cutters. They don't have to be anatomically correct, just close to show the concept.

The pile of outgoing quilts and other projects has grown, and an estimate of shipping costs is high. This pic doesn't include non-quilted items I have for the youngest generation of of kids in my family. 

Long ago, I cashed my 'reality check' about being on a fixed income during the Solstice holidays, and came to see that it was smart to stay within a budget for these things rather than to spend the entire year trying to play catch up for the costs.

Even now, I have a few more projects left to finish that will also need to get shipped out in the next few weeks. I know that my creative eyes are bigger than my resources, and so I fight this battle every year. 

This stage in my creative projects is one that only I know about. No one else knows what is finished or unfinished, planned or spontaneous. 

So the word I keep is to myself. And this is a pretty critical place in my spirit. If I cannot keep my own word to me, however would I expect to keep it to others?

Dropping from extra swaps was a way to reduce stress as well as reduce shipping expenses. The sign-up deadline allowed me to step back without offending anyone, and without giving my word.

Yet, this morning, I find myself almost immobilized by that choice. Its like feeling creatively blocked to take the next steps on all the work I DO have here.  

So I think I am coming to understand when people break their word to me; how they feel, how stress is a factor. Thing is, no matter how much I can speculate and empathize, when someone's word is broken, it has a huge ripple effect touching them and going out in waves to all of us. It is said that talk is cheap, so I am getting on with what I have to do. I need a mailing list so these packages go out on time.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Last Week of October

Hard to believe that October is almost over. It was a cold and cloudy day without rain, and just enough wind to keep me inside.

I worked a little more on Jake's Lego Playmat to get it to lay flat. My 24" ruler is near the center, so it shows how big that circle is. And the blue circle in the middle is from a 10" square cut as close to the edges that I could get. Laying flat will be the secret to making it a good play area for the inside fabric. So many steps left to this project. That's my red magnetic pin catcher for those of you who don't have one. (Priceless when the pins dump and you have to find them all or get stuck!)

This is the second fabric basket. Its not quite as colorful as the holiday fabric, and the actual fabric is not so light. The fabric looks like the same color as the strap! I am pleased with how they turn out and did make a few minor adjustments to make it work better as it was assembled.

The other project was working on my embroidery blocks. I'm doing one set as a swap with my friend CrowCallingWoman in colors, and one for a personal project using Halloween blackwork. While I like the blackwork, and its an art form in and of itself, there is more of a challenge to the embroidery pattern when full color selections are used. I am really called to task to make some choices for color values and placement.

Today, I am baking the first set of cookies to send back to kids in the family. These are cutouts of a cat, a horse and a person, all of which will get skeleton bones made with Royal Icing. The batches are less than a couple dozen. The only postal service is later in the day so they will have time to set.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Quality of Life

The Zombie Run was held outside of town on a jogging trail yesterday after the last of one my classes. So it was a full day for me away from quilting and embroidering. Weather was in the high 70's with nothing but blue sky overhead.

Its funny to see the folks dressed up as their Zombie personas still smiling for the camera rather than to assume a character move and attitude. It made me think about how our self-image is stuck in our self-esteem and that we have to 'look good' whenever we are out of our bedrooms or personal spaces. Being a Zombie means we look scary or icky or bad with torn flesh. Yet...

There were folks down the trail with flags and if a Zombie were to touch them, the flag needed to be surrendered without fighting back. Touched meant dead, and dead is dead. If a flag-holder could get to the finish line with their flag, they got a prize.

I am not a fan of Zombie movies because of the violence required to stop them, and simply the scare factor. I do understand how humans feel about their flaws, and the need for compassion vs. the need for survival and safety. Participants on this run were in their 20's so probably still working out some of those issues as they put on the look.

Today, I am back doing various Winter Solstice projects and getting my home and gardens ready for Winter. I came away from the trail site knowing that I am safe, and that is a huge gift to have.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fabric Baskets

With the success from making Fabric Boxes, I decided to up the game...or at least the size. I found a tutorial for TrickorTreatFabricBaskets.pdf  which are called that because they were made with Halloween fabric. I am so done with Halloween projects for this year. However, the project only took a few hours, so that part is good.

There is a line in the Old Testament in the book of Ecclesiastes (I am neither Jewish nor Christian, but have read that book 4x in my life) that says "The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong". Its a good quote and only makes sense to me during this stage of my life.

What interests me is finding small things I can make as gifts for Winter Solstice that will also help me use up scraps. The basket finishes at 8"x10" and 5" tall. While it is not made to be reversible, that might be owner's choice.

I want to make another one for my Daughter-In-Law for Solstice and will use Earthy non-holiday colors. OK, ok, part of my color choice had to do with the leftover strapping I have from an earlier project. Making fabric ties or belts is not my favorite thing to do.

Just lightly singe the edges and it doesn't ravel.

This isn't a project I will do more than twice because I am not sure I see the value in them. I did find another pattern for a fabric BUCKET that really makes the size a bit larger. There are also utility fabric box patterns to make as well. I guess if I had a specific thing in mind for them, it would make a difference. For as soft sided as they are, they might have a purpose for somethings, and could probably sit around until that purpose is found.It makes me grateful for the insight to know I can do a thing and let it go.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Finish Something Friday

Some months ago, I made a commitment to finish "something" on Fridays, and for awhile it got me going and gave me a sense of accomplishment. However, quilting doesn't always give me a finished project at the end of every week. Its not really how it works for me. Another thing that doesn't work for me is getting myself locked into the demands of a routine. I like the freedom I've created for myself that lets me move from project to project.

However, I do have several of them. This first one isn't finished but it is pin basted and ready to machine quilt. I've got that step down so I can book about an hour of my time to it. It really helps me to take pics of my projects and lets me see how it looks through the camera eye. This one, for instance is a scrappy log cabin, and with the picture, my eye lets me see the contrast between light and dark. The yellow on the back will be quite cozy and comforting.

The next project I tried with scraps is called a Jester's Bag. It takes two coordinating fabrics cut 9x22. To finish it, I need 6 small bells for each end and a circular curtain rod hanger to close it. I found an elastic hair tie & will skip the bells. It comes out small. 

I also added a bit of lace to the back of the 4" Dotee Doll and when I laid both projects together, it seemed that they were a perfect match, so the Doll will get shipped in the bag after being wrapped in some tissue paper. I feel better about her now.

And then I made another apron for one of my Nieces. Yes, the bag was made from apron leftovers. I worked hard to make this one reversible, though it is without a pocket on the other side, it still looks nice.

I do have a sense of accomplishment, but not because there was a deadline on Friday. There are a number of things I didn't get done and so its easy to fall into the trap of being disappointed with myself about it. 

There's that dis-word again. All of them, all the dis-words are just waiting in the weeds to pop up and change our moods and attitudes. When I did an online search for "dis" as a root word, 1691 of them came up such as:

It is believed that Dis was the Roman god of the underworld and means to take away or to deprive one of the part of the word that comes after. So when either I use a dis-word or hear one, it makes me take notice of what is going on around me. Its a very subtle negative energy and one I don't want.

There are a few more non-quilting projects for family that I have going that will get shipped off towards the first part of December. I've backed off from offering any more Pay It Forward projects for the rest of this year.

A full container of projects sits that the end of my hall waiting for my attention as soon as 2014 is fully wrapped up. And it actually is exciting because taking them out again will be like opening holiday gifts!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A plan for scraps

One of the plans I have this year for scraps is making backs from them. And again, part of it is working with making them look random. Hah!

I got an idea from a picture (no pattern) and played with the dimensions until it worked out to use an 8.5" square for the center with 2.5" borders. When it comes together, it will be quite busy so having a formula like that gives a person's eye some order. After that, anything goes! I pieced several of the smaller strips and see how they could contribute to the creation of a mug rug. The tinier pieces finally got tossed.

This is all part of the clean-up process to end this year's work. I know that some folks take the itty bitties and do more with them, but I have reached my limit now with what I have in the Halloween theme. Once I work on the 2015 quilts, more of this scrap-stach will grow.

I did finish the Winter Solstice Protection Amulet for a swap that begins November 1. There is a bag of leather scraps in the closet, and last year, I bought a bag of odd jewelry pieces. And then I took a walk in my gardens to find the twig. There is a vine growing and spreading like it should near my shed. When I went underneath the arbor, I spotted at least three Hummingbird nests and nests for other small birds. No wonder the neighbor's cat likes being back there! In creating the protection amulet, I decided to spread some of that energy towards the vulnerable birds that may come. I read somewhere that cats are more responsible for bird mortality than any other cause. There is no way to really stop that from happening because there are feral cats here in my neighborhood along with the two from next door that roam here night and day. I do keep the bushes trimmed under my bird feeder so the birds can see their predators better. Thing is, I like seeing the birds and I like cats. I do feed the birds and there is a water source in my garden that both species appreciate.

Plans got changed for basting that Butterfly Wings quilt and hopefully it can get done this morning. So I am off to the clubhouse with little else to write this morning.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lego Playmat

Among the gifts I am making this year is a Lego Playmat for my younger Grandson. The pattern is simple enough and is based upon the Dresden Plate format.

If there is ever a challenge with Legos, its storage. He is still at the stage where they are kept in the box they came in rather than being dumped together, but that stage is next. Thing is, this is big enough to hold those first boxes/ packages. The real benefit of this is that he can play on it and then pull the ropes for easy pickup.

Forty (40) blades are cut 4.5" x 22" so work really well for FQs. The next cuts are 1.75" at the bottoms on both sides to create the wedges. I wanted to make it a charm circle (each fabric only used once) and avoided any grrrly looks, though I did include a lilac floral. This step is the first pairing of two pieces. What I tried to do was to use a fabric that either was solid or read solid and just kept joining them as was possible. 

Then they went to the ironing board for a good press with the seams going in one direction so as not to fight the final layout. With such narrow ends, the stitching started getting a bit more complex for fit and pressing opened them up.

I laughed at myself because I still do not trust the random-layout factor. These went together 2 at a time, then 4, then 8, and on. At the final stage, I ripped one section in half to move a 'gathering of greens' and just let them lay out more evenly.

I was pleased with the final circle and it is as random looking as it can be. The center circle is going to be a dark blue with gold dots. Its a 10" piece. It is machine stitched at this point rather than hand stitched for utility purposes. Then the inside piece is cut to fit the outside circle and joined at the outside seam & turned, pressed and top stitched. I need to buy a grommet kit when the inside and outside are joined and then it will be done!

I finished my Godson's fabric box too. Its just a bit larger than the ones I first made. It stands about 4" tall and 6" across. Each side has a different gold button on it from my button jar. But they look so sweet on there. I'll put a note with suggested uses.

I did complete the binding on one more mug rug as well. I am far from finished with my holiday gifts but am so relaxed knowing how many are completed and ready to ship.

People scoff at early advertising for the holidays, and yet, anyone who does make their gifts knows that its so much better to start early and not get stressed over time limitations. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Holiday Gifts

With all the patterns out there for fabric boxes, baskets, and bins, I thought I'd try my hand at making more of them with all the scraps I have here.

Its funny how in the auditioning process, some fabrics make me want to hold onto them for something special. Long ago, I decided to use my good dishes for every day, so its curious to me why I would keep back a piece of cloth waiting for a special use.

Last year, someone sent me several shades of red hand-dyed FQs that were simply breathtaking. And after a year, I have just started using them. Here is one of the pieces that is going onto one side of a holiday fabric box that will have one of the vintage fabrics as well.
That fabric is a stripe pattern so I wasn't sure how it would work. While this pic shows the red on the outside, I do believe the finish will have it on the inside. It will be a good gift that is going to my Godson. There is still handwork to be done and buttons on each of the points.

The other thing I worked on was a swap for a Winter Solstice Amulet. It doesn't actually start until November 1, however, Rex counseled me to start the projects as soon as I sign up so that I didn't get behind on them.

I am still not sure how I will make this work or what the intention will be. I never see myself as particularly creative so doing something non-quilty is very healing and definitely makes me think outside the box with what I am doing.

The Butterfly Wings quilt is ready to baste and so I will make an appointment at the clubhouse for later in the week. I have more than a few smaller items to do, and then the machine needs to go in for service. I've been cleaning it a lot more, but can tell that the timing is not spot on.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fabric Stores

Sunday was a drive to the big city for me, which means a total day of shopping. Its a one-hour drive through the Mojave Desert to Palmdale. The desert has its seasons and changing of colors, which still amazes me more on every trip I take. Thing is, when I go, it means thinking ahead for everything I might like to buy. 

The most important purchase was finding a fabric for the back of the Butterfly Wings quilt. I really thought that something in yellow would work, yet, I took the entire top with me to audition fabrics. Its best for me not to guess those things.

This is the choice I ended up with and think it will be great on the back and bring out the feel of the front. There was another one that was in purple with butterfly lines on it that I might have gotten if the top wasn't with me. However, this choice is light and fun, and perfect for a child.

Sunday shoppers filled the store and as they loaded their carts with bolts of fabrics, there was a sort of contagious energy to buy-buy-buy more-more-more. It was a crazy feeling. Being in any fabric store is like seeing eye candy. The temptation for wanting gets worse the longer I stay in the store, which is why I make a list before I leave my home.

My list for the fabric store started with the Butterfly Wings back. Four yards. Then my list had "2. Brown; 3. White on White; 3. Holiday Buttons; 4. Orange Embroidery Floss; 5. Yarn for Doll Hair, etc."

While standing at the cutting counter, a woman in front of me had a holiday print that was mustaches and the words, "Staching through the snow". And I had to have some. Just one yard for a pillow case, so I ran back to that section and found a bolt, and bought a yard. It is so darling, and will make up one last Winter Solstice non-quilt gift for my younger Son, who is at this stage of his life, clean-shaven. Of course, as soon as I left the cutting counter, I wished I had taken everything left on the bolt....and for what?

One yard is enough for a king-size french-seamed pillowcase. Its a directional print so would not make a good fabric box. Yet, the want-must-buy energy was in high gear. Of course there were a few more items that slipped themselves into my cart unnoticed. I left the store with a $62 receipt that said I saved $76 from sales, discounts and coupons, and stopped for lunch before shopping on.

Later, in Palmdale, I bought new bathroom rugs, a lime green kitchen spoon, kitchen towels for gifts, some bathroom accessories, & a bday gift for my eldest Granddaughter, and made a stop at the Pet Store for turtle tank supplies. And then turned the car towards Tehachapi, driving back home through the Mojave with a smile on my face.

There was a phrase in the Star Trek series that said, "Resistance is Futile" that makes me think about what happens to me when I get into a fabric store whether it is one of the two shops in town, or any place I travel. I found one shop in MN where I always lay down at least $100 every time I visit. The biggest challenge for me is remembering just how much stash I have and to use IT first rather than to buy more. 

I've heard more than one quilter say she has to live forever in order to use up all the fabrics she owns. Its something we all laugh over but also take seriously. I get so excited to use up fabrics from my stash, yet know that sometimes I need to purchase supplemental pieces in order to finish them off, like the yellow fabric with butterflies on it; like the brown and the white; like the orange embroidery floss; like the buttons I put away and plan to use on a couple of holiday fabric boxes.

A person could say that needing money holds them back, but as a privileged woman living in our culture, I really think everything we purchase is about making healthy choices. I need my list. I need to know what my bank account says and decide upon a budget before I leave the house, and then stick to it when I am shopping. I don't want the stress of bills coming due with the money for them having gone into building a stash...a stash of anything, not just fabric. It doesn't make sense to me to be surrounded by more things. 

But then, I didn't always think this way.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Butterfly Wings - Ready for Back

I read that a wrong-doer is a person who has left something undone more than they have actually done something wrong.

I really didn't know how to make an unplanned quilt. Usually my planning process starts out differently and I know what I am going to do before I start it. My creative wheels were spinning long enough, and there actually had been a lot of resistance for me in getting started with it. I know that blogging about it helps me to be accountable to myself.

This has been an evolutionary quilt, changing sizes, changing layout. The borders are on it and help to make the 3.5" focus squares pop.

It is bright, a good sized quilt for a 5-yr-old, and is a nice modified Log Cabin with the lights and darks forming the pattern. It measures 64"x77" so 4.33 yards will work. I am taking the entire top with me to match something for the back. I think its the size that a kid can drag across the floor and cuddle up under easily. 

I've struggled with a number of things while making this quilt, and of course it is far from completed. From what I know, quilts going to kids have to stand up to a lot of use, both by the child and also because they will go into the laundry more often. In the past, I've made more of a comforter-quilt for kids this age for that reason, using the WOF by 2.5 yards on both sides and tying the layers. I have not done a pieced quilt for one this age.

As I look at this pic above, the thought about machine quilting using a channel stitch makes more sense. It will hold the diagonal lines for each block and re-inforce the seams. The more lines in a quilt, the stiffer it becomes, and so I need to do some calculating or measuring and am guessing I would like to make them about 3" apart.

It seems to me that this kind of quilting is like creating healthy spaces, which are totally different than creating unhealthy barriers. We draw lines in our physiological dirt all the time, creating boundaries and borders to declare our personal space or property; to keep things in or out; to define and hone who we are.

The concept of Butterfly Wings has always been to promote new growth and freedom of expression for this little girl. There is a yellow Princess fabric for some of the logs and some logs also have butterflies on them, some have flowers, and most are plain, waiting for her own dreams to land and grow.

Again, the right use of will and action is what makes us human and defines us as part of humanity. It is my hope that the energy I've been putting into this quilt will be felt even more than the bright colors of it are seen. 

And I may never know.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dotee Doll

I've been seeing these Dotee Dolls on swapbot and decided to check into tutorials on them. I never had dolls growing up so they hold a certain fascination for me. The artist who started this art surge no longer makes them, but the web is full of ideas, patterns, tutorials and swaps.

After looking around, I found a very simple way to start. So I gathered supplies, made a pattern and started cutting. The theme for this swap was Thanksgiving, or the expression of gratitude for someone or something in our life. I know that its going to go to someone else. However, the energy I put into the doll was in gratitude for my Daughter-in-Law for how she always steps up whenever there is need in our family or among our friends.

I knew that whatever I created would be much more simple that the hundreds of amazing examples seen online. Here is my Jeanne-Dotee Doll. She is not quite finished and will need a few more accessories. When I think of the challenges women face being Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law, it just makes sense that some would come in the making of this doll.  

We tend to make all our mistakes in early relationships because they are the fertile ground for growth, and then we hold onto those events and have a hard time evolving in our interactions with the person. 

If I make another Dotee Doll, I would like it just a little larger, a lot more artistic, and just as meaningful.

Another thing I am working (besides the Butterfly Wings quilt) are Christmas Stocking swaps. The details for these swaps say that the gift must be wrapped and small enough to fit into a stocking. I decided to use up scraps (oh, go figure!) and make mug rugs that would be useful AFTER the December holidays. This is a pic of all the backsides that I put together with the scraps. 

The fronts are also scraps of Valentine novelty prints that were in my stash and scraps for the binding. There are at least four more cut for fronts laying on batting to go. The one in blue is for a stocking stuffer with a blue theme for the gift in it. This comes from the practice blocks I made for the 6" Block swap.

Swaps traditionally benefit both participants. The more I get involved with them, the better I see myself and my skills. Its not competitive. Early on, it hurt when someone flaked or didn't hold up their part of the commitment. Doing more of them releases those expectations and simply sets me up to create, to give and to be open to receive. It is such a delight to get a surprise in the mail. No matter what it is, or even if it is something I would never buy, the joy that comes in getting something from another artist is a human connection that is beyond words.

My scrap stash is dwindling, which is a delightful thing to see knowing that this fabric is being used, and hopefully results in items that people will enjoy. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Am I Blue?

The 6" block swap partner for this month requested blue & white with white on white colors using the Churn Dash pattern, and she said she would take a wonky Churn too. The Churn Dash is a beginner's block, so they say.

I bought 3 Fat Quarters for the project from one of the stores in town. I kept in mind that the blocks are small so getting the contrast is more challenging. Of course, the first attempt switched the last row to go on so I ended up with Wonky. I actually LIKE the darker one to the left of the picture. It has a lot of character. Is it amazing how both are wonk-ified and yet turned out differently!

After ripping and re-doing, they are correct for the pattern, however, far less interesting. Also, the lighter blue gives the block less contrast, so my plan is to do another set with the third fabric I bought and perhaps redo these. They will not go into my Orphan bin because I signed up for a Stocking Swap with the theme of "Blue" and think I will use one of these and make a mug rug as the gift for it. I want to re-rip the darker of the two and return it to the Wonky stage above, which I think is really attractive.

This experience felt like one teaching me vulnerability. Oh I can accept the vulnerability in others so much more than I can accept my own. Sometimes we can push our own re-do buttons and other times, we need to just accept what choices we have made and figure out how to make the best of what we have in the here and now. And go on. 

The Butterfly Wings quilt is still going through a layout plan. I took off some of the blocks during the 'audition' to make it more the size a little grrrl could wrap up in. Doing 30 blocks makes it a hefty twin size for a bed, but not something she can drag around and wrap up in. The challenge will be in finding a print for the back and that means a trip to the big city on Sunday. I looked here in town and wasn't turned onto anything I saw. It will be important to match that lovely royal blue underneath the butterflies to something for the back.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Day 3 Butterfly Wings: Charm Blocks

Besides working on this quilt, I got outside and transplanted 3 of my Lavender bushes to the south side of my house under the bedroom window. I want to get a few more plants and make my own mini Lavender Field in the garden. Its a plant that does well in this weather. The other event was the delivery and setup of a new stove.

The final stage for the Butterfly Wings quilt center required focus in order for each of the blocks to have the charm logs. Tomorrow will be more of a formal layout to audition the blocks next to each other but this is an idea to see how it works. The charm theme means only one fabric is used in each block with the exception of the butterfly square shown here in upper right top corner of the blocks. As the blocks grew, it meant ensuring that there were strips long enough to fit that had not been used. Random yes, but a planned randomness.

What I found interesting is that in order to make the charm-style blocks, being unique is what created each 'community' & made it more interesting than when the colors coordinated. Its going to be a little girl's very bright quilt. What I notice is that some colors stand out so much more than others do, and even at this stage of its creation, I am not sure what the dominant colors will be. And again, its like seeing introverts and extroverts as fabric art.

The borders of course will stand out, or at least I hope they do. I am so impressed how many fabrics are leaving the 2.5" strip stash container. I was also surprised how many fabrics had butterflies on them.  

Going out in the mail to my friend Crow Calling Woman is the October embroidery swap, and 12.5" block for the back. My selection for this month is "Zombie Girl Mandala" from The Floss Box. While all the cats here are black, the girls each represent one of the elements in their garb and have formed a magickal circle. Really a cute pattern.

A few swaps came in the mail today and simply made my day. One had seasonal confetti in the box with other goodies. It was shaped like black bats and orange pumpkins. Such a silly thing, but really made me smile as they spilled onto the floor. I kept finding the tiny bats clinging to everything for some time later.

I am really glad to be open to receive. Not sure why I waited so many years to declare that.


Butterfly Wings - Day 2

It took me awhile to collect and cut all the centers and logs for the blocks. I am chain piecing this project. The challenge in doing a scrap log cabin with 30 blocks is to have some structure to the randomness. 

With the early additions of the logs, I tried to do more matching, but that proved to be more difficult than I realized. Quilting scrappy requires that the quilter get into a state of mind that there are no rules and that anything is possible.

I decided to square them up when they reached this stage with the center (placed in the lower left corner) and 7 logs. They measured 9.5" square at this point and needed very little trimming, which is quite pleasing. This quilt is still challenging me to get a sort of coordination to each block and every 'system' I try to use stops working with the next addition of logs. So I gave into the randomness concept and now am only attempting to have each block be a charm (meaning that no fabric is repeated in it).

After each block is finished with a specific log, I put like colors together for the previous log and then can make sure that the next one I add is not identical. Its so contrary to the concept of fitting in. And its unsettling to go against the convention to have things match.

Yet, in the past, when I have posted photos of my finished quilts on Facebook, the ones that get the most comments are the ones that are made using random squares, reminding people of a quilt their grandmother made them when they were children.

So why is it that as humans we struggle so much to fit in? Why isn't that randomness in who we are more acceptable?

At best, with this one, all the light colors will show up on one side and dark brights on the other side. How they line up is the random factor and I have surrendered to it all. I think that there is more of a challenge coming as the final 3 logs are laid, and then another challenge will be the block layout for the 30 pieces, both tasks might take up the better part of today.

I don't know this child nor the circumstances why my Son wanted to make a gift of one of my hand-made quilts to her. He sees the need and that is all that matters to me. His sensitivity & generosity make me even more proud of him.

In exchange for the quilt, he paid for and is having 5 packages of queen-size batting shipped to me by Monday. Usually the quilts I make take on a life of their own. My guess is that this child will find comfort under this quilt's energy. Butterfly Wings is the symbol for transformation and for being free to express one's self and find beauty wherever one goes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Butterfly Wings Quilt

My younger Son called and asked if I could make a quilt for a small girl who lives in a single parent household. He didn't give me much more detail and asked what I needed. Batting. I need batting for any more larger projects, so he ordered and shipped 5 packages to me. 

My stash held a lovely royal blue with butterflies on it that would work for this child. I pulled out all sorts of scraps that are on the butterfly wings. I tried coming up with a pattern that would work, so spent time sorting those into categories: Houses, Patriotic, Holiday, separate blocks.

I found a pattern from one of the stores in town that actually uses a butterfly focus and created a test block. It is a modified Log Cabin with the center block in the lower left corner with the logs that are quite scrappy. My next step was to measure the logs and start cutting.

I laid scraps out to make sure I would have enough for 29 more blocks. The blocks will sit 5 across and 6 down. There is enough of the butterfly print to make a border and binding for it, so the next stage is to start the piecing, and then join the blocks. 
The batting comes next Monday, & after that, basting and machine quilting. It is amazing how much of my stash is being used here and clearing out my bins. I am incredibly pleased to find a good home for it all.

The apron finished beautifully. I want to make two more of them for holiday gifts. I am not a fan of the technical work it takes to make an apron. And while one would think they are a one size fits all kinda project, I find that that is not the case. This apron is slimming, with almost what is called a peplum style, creating a flare below the waist line. It is a slimming style for most body shapes. This pattern went together easily, taking about 2 yards of fabric to finish it. I really like it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Santa Swaps

That time of year again. The usual Secret Santa Swap I've done isn't happening this year because of some personal time issues for the planner. It was so enjoyable that I've worked to find something else. 

The SSSwaps work only if people keep their promises. And I am like any adult who becomes a child during the holidays even though my celebrations are for Winter Solstice and the Festa d'Befana and not Christmas. I have become open to receive.

The Swapbot participants are incredibly generous in sharing their art and resources. Every envelope and package is a delight to open. The wrapped stocking stuffers started coming last month and mine are still wrapped for opening the end of the year (or in January when LaBefana visits)!

I have three going out after the partners are assigned later this week, and two of them are International in such countries as Germany, Finland, Ireland and Norway. This too, is like a childhood fantasy to get mail from all around the world. One never knows who they will get or whom they will send to.

To this end, I am making Valentine mug rugs. When people wait til the end of December to open their packages, if what is inside is a Christmas themed gift, the season is gone the next week.

At my local Quilting Guild's holiday party last year, I received a Valentine-themed FQ and had no idea what to do with it. Oh, its cute, but not what I want in my quilts...this is the first one I made just quilting around the images and adding a binding. I cut three pieces and this one finishes at 10.5" by 6.5". It meant that I could cut three mug rug shapes and still have half the FQ for another three.

I have a lot of scrap pieces and made a three-piece back, which seems to keep with the theme on front. Each of the swaps is to be wrapped and must fit inside a stocking, so I will roll these, and probably add something else with it.
I've learned to be more generous with what I send out, and have stopped looking for parity in the interaction because you do not receive from the person you send to.

And once its done, its done. 

I feel like making these mini quilts offer me more practice, and giving them expands my sense of community and place in the world. What I like is that there is little to no connection with the people giving and receiving. It takes away all the baggage that can come with gift-giving. Probably, the postage ends up costing more than the contents of the mail. However the point is...what? to get good mail, to make connections, to learn generosity? I think that for anyone participating in these exchanges, its about an evolution of spirit.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cutting, cutting, cutting

After finishing my Daughter-in-Law's apron, I pulled out a bin that holds holiday fabrics. It gets to be such a mess after I dig through it looking for whatever is in my mind to do. I don't have a new project going for the contents, but just wanted to reduce the bulk of fabrics. This helps.

I've said it before, cutting scraps down to usable squares reduces the bulk in a bin, yet, it is as boring a task as white bread. After standing and cutting for a couple of hours, this is the result of my work. Whew. It seems so little for the effort, yet I know that its like any sort of behind the scenes prep work. Its got to be done and someone's gotta do it.

I put on a movie and just kept cutting for a good couple of hours. The wider strips are simply folded, and will be just set in the bin, not because I cannot keep cutting, but just in case they can be of a greater use sometime as a bigger piece. In one way, it wraps up the last of the 2014 projects and allows for storage space once the 2015 quilts get started and end up with scraps of their own. 

I want to make a Lego mat for my younger Grandson, and it takes WOF (width of fabric) strips pieced together as a circle, so some of these uncut strips will get used in it.

I've been hollowing out another one of those book safes. Can't say it got easier to think of destroying all those pages, so I tried to think of it as re-purposing. I've actually never known anyone who has one or if they do, perhaps the idea of it is not to tell people. I am not sure what either of my Sons will use them for or if they will even think they are of value. My 3" square ruler fits into the hollow and provides the line for me to use. I hold my bracing hand well off to the side and cut pressing downward with my other hand.

It still shocks me as my box cutter blade cuts through the paper and creates shred all over the table and floor. The blade is dangerous on its own, and the force it takes me to cut into the book makes it even more dangerous if it were to slip. I've been trying to be mindful and to work completely focused. All along, I have wished for a proper workbench and a vise to hold it secure while I cut.

Its given me a renewed respect for my skin, my hands and fingers. I know that a forceful & accidental cut would create a lot of pain and be messy...bloody messy! I think I have about 1/4" of depth to go on it, and then this is the last of the ones I will make. It will need a final coat of the glue on the inside hollow, and then be pressed over night to have it all hold together. 

I am glad to have followed through on this non-quilting project just to say I did them. If I were to recommend them to someone, I would suggest more safety. The tutorials all showed it done this way on a table without the vise, but that doesn't make it really safe.

The metaphor that cutting is all about reminds me how hard it is to cut things from my life. I used to think it meant cutting off or out what no longer serves us. However, in this case, clearly the lesson is about cutting TO serve, to organize and to make use of something.

Cutting has always been the designated Crone archetype work represented in many cultures. The Maiden gets the Spinning; the Mother gets the Weaving. The imagery presented to us is that the spinning and weaving have more importance in creating the fabric of our lives than the cutting part. Cutting is ending, is final, makes everything done and over and finished. In most pictures, the Crone is seen almost receding and darker with less energy. 

Not so. Cutting is creative and vital to every process. If anything, cutting takes more energy, more attention to detail, and is the less safe of these actions. Is there more to the time of our lives the Crone represents? Maybe.