Saturday, January 31, 2015

What's Next?

In some of my classes I taught for Women's Studies, I used to say that self-image is not who we really are, but the combination of who we wish we were, who we are afraid to be, and who we imagine others think we are. 

Sometimes I think I clean and organize my working area for these reasons of self-imaging. Yet, I really need order to keep moving forward. Yes, the paper piecing project is sitting. Waiting.

I put Sophia's Summer quilt away for now. And as I made room for it in the bin, I pulled out Tony's Mystery Quilt and the back fabric I bought for it. There is enough of the backing to make a small border for the top. And away it was placed. Then I worked on the next step of the Constellations quilt. Whew.

The February 12" Christmas Block Swap partners were assigned, so it was time to get back in the spirit. I took out the first year's swaps that are intended for my younger Grandson's quilt. Most of them came from Australia, some stateside, some I made. I have a red swirl that will work as sashing. Its on my to-do list, but not today. I thought about the backing I got for Tony's quilt and then wondered if it would go better on this quilt. I even started cutting fabric for the April Retreat.

My February Christmas Block Swap partner asked for a traditional House Block and I am thrilled beyond measure to make one. I pulled out the bin with all my holiday fabrics, found the white for the sky and then...

I did laundry, dusted the floor and re-stacked fabrics. It is a job I actually like because of what I do, where I do it and how. WTH? This all started because of quilting, because it is just as easy for me to forego those chores when I get going on a project. 

However, I need the floors clean. I need the shelves and bins organized. I need my "To-Do" list. Its all about the quilt-making, not about making an impression on anyone. Its not about wishing I were someone else. Its not being afraid of my intensity, or of my commitments. This is who I am as a quilter who has no housekeeper, no administrative assistant, no cook. Its all on me.

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Little Shopping

I used to be good at solving other people's problems and wiping their tears. It was during my Mother Stage and that stage evolved maybe five years after my Sons were grown and on their own. 

There is an old joke about Italian Mothers and their Sons....who think they are the Christ, who never leaves home til he's 30, thinks he is the Son of God, and that his Mother is a virgin. Well, I blew that notion out of the water in no time; even though the Sacred Heart of Mary hangs on my bedroom wall with rather interesting prayer ties on it, each with a story of their own. 

One day, I decided to make healthy decisions for myself. And that is no easy task. Now, I listen more and speak less.

I've been making a list of various things I need from the fabric stores. After deciding to do extra machine quilting on Sophia's Summer quilt, I knew I would need more thread and that started my list, which didn't take long to expand. I have a $20 coupon just burning a hole in my pocketbook that needs to be used at one time. 

Back from the store with a focus fabric  (the one on top with the circles), I have to say I ended up registering for another Mystery Quilt retreat. This pattern is scrappy, so I've pulled out bits and pieces from my stash to audition them against this focus fabric. It gives me great pleasure to use my inherited fabrics in these wonderful projects. I did go into my 2.5" strip box and found some that might also work. I've pressed everything I have, and colorized them. 

I also bought some fabrics & quilting tools for the Solstice projects, and another pin Grabit so they are not piled high on the only one I have been using. And having two allows me to have pins in more than one area. (How's that for an argument on spending?) 

I did go over the $20 card value, but after all, I NEEDED it all.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

But Wait! There's More

I feel like Michael Corleone in Godfather III: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!" The line has been used in other movies & TV shows and is used to show the good intentions we have to do something we know is good for us. "They" are the forces that come from within and without us that we cannot control either by chance or by choice. Its almost like "they" represent a lack of information or insight when we try to do good for ourselves.

As I started to finish up the last of three paper pieces for colors E/F, I looked at my swatch sheet to see how Block A's use the batiks. While I should have just stopped, I wasn't ready to set the project aside. I started cutting out more pattern copies for both blocks. The work of labeling them for rows and colors was a good choice.

Then I noticed that some of the batik (color) fabrics that make up the ears, for instance, are really smaller. I pulled out scraps and pinned them to the pattern copies. At least I know the next step to the work when I get back to it. Because of this discovery (which is probably how it was meant to be), I am re-planning the order of how I cut and piece these blocks. But not today. Wow, it really took a lot for me to put things away at this stage! 

I finished Cole's quilt hand binding, and brought the Log Cabin Sophia's Summer quilt out to machine quilt and trim, both great projects for in between work. I decided to use Sophia's Summer quilt for practicing a machine quilting stitch I saw on one of the groups I am in, and want to go back and echo stitch the corners on Cole's. Truly, both are ok the way they are right now, and the flashy additions on both are for me.

It's quite satisfying to finish projects rather by choice than by chance. Satisfying too, to add special touches.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Prayer Flags From a Cat Lady

Its been said that each of us is a one-and-only. And that's true for me. I see the world differently and I move through it differently, often finding meaning in the casual, often over looked experience. And I operate on an entirely different plane than most people because of my psychic skills. I keep the deeper stuff to myself and try not to scare people around me.

I usually work on more than one project at a time, however, the paper piecing is something different. I am not sure I can pick up and put it down as readily as all the other quilting I do. There are so many things to remember. I keep saying it will get to be a body memory, however that hasn't happened for me. While I make up one cat block after another, I still don't feel comfortable saying that I know what I am doing.

B Blocks are the Black Cats with the batik background. There are 42 B Blocks with Black Cats, and 30 A Blocks with Batik Cats. 

I need to stop, sit this aside and work on another project. Its as though it is holding me hostage with the fear that when I do return to it, I will not know what I am doing.

Wait. I am working on it without much confidence to I know what I am doing, so whatever the difference is I thought might exist, I am stepping away from this project for a little while. A day maybe. Or two.

Jinny Beyer has measurements on each pattern piece or section, and that confused me at first. They are there in case a quilter wants to make it in the traditional manner. A quilting friend of mine says that seeing how much to cut for each paper piece gets easier with practice.

Now that I have cut larger pieces to fit, I am starting to understand. Working with the right side of the fabric on the back side of the pattern is still harder for me to grasp. Its not rocket science, and yet, my brain is fighting it.

This is Diamond's puppy pic. She followed Granddaughter #3 home one day and stayed. She's full grown now and, like most beloved animals who become part of a family, lays where she wants. Great dog. Her pillow is fast filling up with scraps from the Paper Piecing. I am surprised that there isn't more waste, and my scraps come more from trimming seams. 

I suppose filling the Pet Bed with scraps is like working on another project, yet, what I plan to do is put Amy's quilt in its bin, clean the sewing machine, dust the floor ---yet again--- 

The new next project was the February Prayer Flag. The group requirements are so simple is scary. This is my second flag for this month and is meant to fly with a more tattered look than the one I made myself. I really scrapped it out by cutting 1" strips at about 3.5" long from all my pinks & reds and then layered them on the required 6x9 flag. I also double faced longer strips for the ties and then zig-zagged down the center to hold them together and yet leave them unfinished.

On the back, I wrote a quote, "Every broken heart can heal," which is my prayer and intention for the flag. When the partners are assigned, I will include a few things inside the envelope that support my partner's profile. 

I envisioned the prayer flag as a devotional representation for anyone who has lost someone they love, either through death or separation of values. While our hearts break for many reasons, I know that healing comes when all the broken parts of how we feel, what we think and what is inside of us come together to give us courage to go on.

Prayer flags are meant to fly in the wind, fade, and almost shred as the prayers get answered. (You can see more by just doing a simple online search for prayer flag images.) Having all these strips of fabric in layers on this one provides many shreds, many strings that will get carried off in the winds. Its a good project, and I am happy to join in for the monthly swap.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Working Backwards

Or so it seems. 

I find it difficult to accept my mistakes. I guess I think I should know everything without having to learn it. Or I should know better. Sure it is human to make mistakes and I am really ok when others do it. Just not me. And I thought I had released all that need for perfectionism. 

However, I know that when I do something that doesn't work out, I have to keep trying, keep coming up with solutions ...soul utions...if you will. 

My attempt with the first paper piecing block had me returning to the tutorial several times and I was still often confused. Then I thought I had it. Or did I?

First, place #1 fabric face up, the rest of them face down. And everything is backwards from how things are usually pieced. Thing is, as is seen in this pic, the fabric pieces have to go beyond the borders...white space of the pattern showing through is not a good attempt. Jinny Beyer had suggested sizes to cut for each piece but they were too small for my newbie fingers to place them properly. That was my fail for the first one. I believe the measurements she gives are for quilters who know what they are doing. I need to cut much bigger and then trim. Not only did I waste time, and fabric, but it was frustrating.

I had to cut fabric for the pattern upside down. Or maybe I am making it too confusing. The explanation wasn't clear to me. I thought that was how it worked. Or maybe it is because I am doing this on my own, and Mercury is in Retrograde. Honestly, I've always been technically challenged by learning new things. It simply takes me more time to wrap my head around new things.

I actually started over three times with this block, so when it got to this stage, it presented a whole new mistake on my part, one that made me go back and do that section again. I don't have confidence yet. However, I am going to keep working on it.

What I do see is the need for a vision and usually I have visions for my work. I am really in a fog and going on instinct or intuition with this.

This is Row #1/Block B1. While the background to it isn't a cat, I can see that I playing with the batiks to get a cat from each block is going to be essential. Amy wanted it to end with pinks and this may work. I am so pleased with the crispness of the points.

My next one for Row #2/Block B2 was like starting all over again. I will create body memory and need to keep doing it for awhile. And I find myself humming that "Beers on the Wall" song, modified to say "Two blocks of cats on the wall, two blocks of cats....make one up and start again, you got.... 70 more blocks of cats left to go" or some such nonsense. Each block is made in two parts and then joined. Its going to get easier with more practice. I've been told that with this pattern, the hardest thing will be in getting the gradient colors. 

I feel very accomplished with these two B blocks for today, and am willing to take pleasure in every moment they bring in the future. Not too sure about the song though. I am open to other suggestions.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Learning Needles

I am so grateful for heat in my home. Its quite easy to take warmth for granted. Too little warmth or too much cold changes the balance in our lives, whether it is simple temperature control or in our relationships. Because, I am so far from family and friends, I have come to trust what I hear in their voices indicating how in balance they are, and how much warmth they either have for or need from our interaction. Of course, I still ask how things are with them.

After organizing more drawers, making a plan to shift things in closets from one room to another, and making a trip to the senior center giveaway table with objects no longer needed (including my old iron), I started watching the Paper Piecing tutorial again. 

The first part was the set-up for all we need to get started. Having watched it before, I had most everything and had already gone back to the patterns to fill in what I needed there. 

This time, I realized I needed two more tools.  She mentioned having an open toe machine foot. Mine is almost like this and is the one that came with my machine. I found it in my quilting supplies bin and of course, spent time organizing.

The other thing she spoke about needing to paper piece was an 80/12 needle. I didn't have one. I had a lot of other pins and needles but nothing marked with an 80/12 on the package. Then I realized I didn't know much about needles, what the numbers meant, and if they really made a difference.  

I found an old blog dated May 2011 that gives great information for needles from a seamstress. lets-learn-about-needles.html I learned that 80 is the European number, and 12 is the American number. However, this needle is not really the best for my project. It is so worth reading this article if you work with needles at all, and then you can make a wise choice with what you use in your machine. Her side bar has a list of great information and her home page gives even more. Too bad she isn't blogging any more.

What I really wanted to know is which needles to use for quilting and so kept looking. From /sewing-machine-needle-guide, I discovered that slim, slightly rounded needles that range in sizes: 75/11, 80/12, and 90/14 are engineered for use in both piecing and machine quilting. Thin shafts are tapered to pass through many layers of fabric without skipping. This is what works for me.

Back to my needles, all of which were gifts, or from estates as leftovers. I discovered a pack with two the size that are used with batiks (wooo hoooo! My Tessellating Cats are batiks!), another package is for heavy weight fabrics, and the third package is for general quilting use and is recommended for quilting several layers. 

Now, I have the correct Foot and two perfect new needles to get me started on the project! 

Wait, there's more. I also have an organized quilting tool bin and a plan to switch closets around next weekend. Binding strip is on Cole's quilt so I can start hand stitching it. Today was a warm day both inside the house and outdoors, even if I didn't paper piece.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

No Paper Piecing for Me

That's right. I made soup and did all sorts of weekend things instead of working with the Paper Piecing project, and not knowing what I was doing. Its not an excuse nor a reason. I don't expect to move forward all at once. I know I am complex, irregular and uneven, not that is anything new for me, but now, I tend to do things much slower than when I was younger, just bursting through life. Its been a long process and I am ok with letting things flow.

Luckily, I had the fall- back project to work on that didn't take calculating or trying something new. I finished machine quilting, trimmed it, cut fabric for binding, joined, pressed it and have it rolled in a ball. It is a stunning quilt. This was another Mystery Quilt I made. Although every one of them turns out great, I always think about what they might look like if I knew where the fabrics would go. 

Aptly named, Holiday Lights, this one is really bright overall and yet, has become one of my favorites just because of its brightness. It goes to one of my Nephews, and I have NO idea how he uses color in his life. He has jet black hair and reminds me so much of my Godfather when he was that age. It will be set aside with the first side of the binding pinned and ready to join. I know I will pick it up and work on it so will leave it folded here in the studio.

I am going to watch the tutorial again and do the first B block with it, stopping between the steps. 

Rex gave me a new "smart" iron as a Winter Solstice gift, and it took me awhile to understand how it operates.
One thing that Paper Piecing requires is pressing after each seam is joined, so I am sure to make use of her gift once I get going on these blocks. 

Tutorials first, practice next.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Blending Cat Colors

Its just as easy to think "I can" as to think "I can't". Its been said that neither attitude has much to do with the task at hand as it does to the inner spirit of the person facing the task. I'm sure that we learn both attitudes as children. Then life has a way of also teaching success or failure. This week I have been focusing on doing my best and recognizing that my best will change and is very dependent upon how healthy I feel.

I returned to Amy's quilt that has Tessellating Tabbies as its pattern, and while I have done a lot of the pattern labeling on paper, labeling my swatch page, and the number pinning of the batik fabrics, after making the cuts for the first B block, I discovered that there was one more step to the prep work. I needed to name colors on each pattern page so I don't get lost mid-project. Its really confusing to read words that are the same and yet go for something different.

Before any more got done on this first B block, I took the time to go back to page four of the main pattern booklet for the block layout, and then to my swatch page, and finally transcribed the color letter on each block pattern. While it seems to be a lot of work, its how I plan ahead, and what brings me to the state of "I can".

About halfway through lettering the A blocks, I saw a different letter required on one piece of the block. I realized that one piece in every one of the A blocks was a different batik! 

That one piece on each of the copies needed to be re-lettered. I was not as ready to start paper piecing as I thought.

This one little piece makes up the tail color for the cat above it, and contributes to the interlocking or 'tessellating' look. Better to have found it now! And that step actually helped me see how the colors will go onto the pattern.

Those four cuts above (in my first pic) are all that will be needed from that one batik fabric. Just barely used it, in truth. I am not worried about coordinating the remaining blocks just because I did that blending of colors when I purchased the material. I really believe the batiks will be kind to the kitties.

A 39-minute You Tube tutorial I found is at PP Art: Beginner & Beyond. It makes a tree that I decided to make first & use on a Wonky quilt. 

I am excited to work on paper piecing now that I see it evolve in my own work. This first block is actually going to be the top left corner of the quilt and this color will serve as a background for the first black cat. So far, so good, even though I have yet to paper piece. I cut the black out for the first of the B blocks, 

and now... well, as Scarlett O'Hara said in "Gone With the Wind," I'll think about that tomorrow.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Solstice in January

My plan hatched this morning. I have started making Winter Solstice gifts so that I am not rushed during the last months of the year to come up with ideas, have the resources to buy materials and the time to make them.

The first project was the pet beds. I started saving the fabric bits and scraps and was very surprised that they filled a basket before the month was out. I cut the yard of fleece in half for two of the pillow forms. At the suggestion of a Missouri Star Quilt Co. video, I added a scrap of batting to one side to help avoid lumpiness.

And then, I thought about joining smaller batting scraps, even using up end-of-the-spool thread, making this project a real scrappy one. First one long seam joining batting strips, then as luck would have it, there was enough to cut it in half, to sew up yet another seam, giving a perfect fit for the second pillow.

All that was left was to trim to the edges and put those scraps inside the first pillow. In less than an hour, two forms were made and sat inside a box ready to hold the fabric scraps. If I remember, dogs tend to walk around on their pillows to make them comfy, so filling them to capacity is probably a final goal. Thing is, its just made from scraps so is completely disposable in my thinking.

Then, the floor needed vacumning. Why is it that dust collects everywhere all the time? Then of course, I dusted the corner shelf where my childhood dolls sit and had to dust down the five shelves under them. And while I was at it, dusted all the picture frames, door frames and window frames in the room. Good goddess, clean one spot and the dust shows up worse on the next place so it cannot be left.

And where is my house elf? 

After some grumbling about what to do next for Winter Solstice, I decided to make use of a tutorial I found for a Double Oven-Mitt. This first one is going to be a test and is planned for my kitchen. My kitchen is has one lime green wall with the rest white. My dishes are black with a purple Iris, and my favorite all time Spring flower is the lilac. This finished Oven Mitt hangs over the oven door bar and will be a nice addition to the kitchen. Making a test mitt, I could see if it needs adjustments either for the pattern or the method. I was not completely prepared for the project, which reminds me of what happens when I wait til the end of the year.

Everything is finally cut (except for binding) and the pattern makes sense to me. However, it will be the first thing I work on for "Solstice in February". I am ok with setting it aside as it is, and can see that I need to plan ahead more for each month. While I had my focus fabric & the correct Isulbrite batting, the mitt part, its lining fabric and the back had been undecided, so it took me time to go through my stash and pull what would work.

My furnace is back on and there is heat in the house. It surprised me how exhausted I felt after the tech left. That whole event took time from my day. He did the work, but my emotions were raw. 

I decided that it was simply ok to let this project rest too. I did finish the two forms for the pet beds, and this one for the double oven mitt is cut and ready to go next month. I would like to gather fabric for a second one, however, will wait to cut anything until this one finishes to see about the sizing and method. 

In one way, I am really glad for this break in my quilting routine. So many quilters joke about not being organized or cleaning their homes, and its not really funny for any of us. We don't have house elves or maids or anyone who comes in and does that work for us. I was serious about how shocking the dust collection dolls were coated so much that it was obscene. And I breathe this air!

If cleaning happens once a month in here, it will also be a good thing...a Happy Solstice event! 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Non-Quilting Day

I realized that there are other things I want and need to do with my time than just quilting, so I set aside time to do some paper crafting projects once a month. 

When my first Granddaughter was born, I started a journal for her in the fashion those baby books are meant to be. And like many parents who start them, I started one for each new Grandchild believing that I would keep them up. Eventually, life turned away from the project and they sat for all this while.  One day, before Winter Solstice, Sami asked if I could make her a cookbook with my favorite recipes. She was the second of my Granddaughters to ask.

I found books for the first of the three grrrlie-grrrls and decided to give it a go using them to continue what was started decades ago, updating them with family recipes, my personal favorites and perhaps some story-telling.

The writers group I facilitated last Fall ended with a project where we were to decorate a journal on random pages sort of intuitively without having a real purpose. I took this one in and added to a number of blank pages. Some have recipe guides and other have pictures cut from elsewhere that caught my attention.

I've brought out my ratty 3-ring binder cookbook and started copying recipes in Sami's journal. I don't want to make it all recipes, and do want to include some of my thoughts and memories for her in it. Storytelling. Thing is, time went by so quickly as she and the others grew up, and now those memories might be altered a bit. Oh well. 

Here is the next journal for the #2 Granddaughter. It broke my heart to see so few pages written in it. Next month, I'll spend some time reading those earlier pages. 

What I realized is that this monthly work will bring back my commitment to write for these sweet kids, and what a nice gift for them someday. I'd like to think I will keep going on it, but one month at a time, perhaps to alter an old saying.

It was a good day working with paper projects from filing papers and tossing old magazines, to writing cards, making envelopes, and working on this journal. I need discipline to do something like this that takes time to do it. After reaching a burn-out-on-paper-projects, I stacked enough things to the side for next month. And probably, things will pile up.

Working with paper includes what is in my files, as well as going through stacks of books and magazines on the shelves. I will like this monthly adventure no matter where it takes me. 

I am pumped for tomorrow's once a month Winter Solstice projects. I found a box so that I can hang the pet bed form over it to serve as a catcher for fabric scraps. I thought I bought a yard of the fleece which should make two of them, one for each Grand-dog (Diamond and Kyle). Wonder what else the day holds?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

And Here We Go!

One of my quilt block swap partners privately emailed to give me a few suggestions for starting this paper piecing project. 
She has a great Tutorial Series starting the first Wednesday of every month and the first one is going to be on paper piecing. I plan to join in knowing that my quilt project isn't going to be finished in one sitting. She calls her tutorials Stretch Your Skills. She told me that the biggest issue with a project like mine is going to be in color placement.

The first thing I did was to lay out the fabrics over my love seat and add numbered pins so I could see how many cat blocks would get cut from them. Batiks can be really subtle or strong for the changes in each fabric. The top row of pins indicates how many for Block B and the lower row of pins indicate how many for Block A.

The block pieces are relatively small, so I know that it will require me to look at the details of each cut and see how it fits into the overall block as well as how it flows to the next row of cat blocks. I really love this kind of thinking that helps one see the details and the bigger picture.

And yes, I can see that there will be small portions cut from all of these fabrics, so there will be a lot leftover, as well as bits for the pet bed projects. I want to bring out as much color from each piece for its cat block as I can so that the finished quilt top is bright and lively. I plan to use some of the leftover portions to make a simple border to connect the colors even more.

My guess is that once I understand this process that it will go together faster than I am thinking it will right now. I am fully engaged in it, and the planning part makes a lot of sense to me.

Meanwhile, in order to keep my creativity going, I pulled out two quilts that have been basted and are ready to machine quilt. The first one was a mystery quilt and that will get a simple diagonal grid in the center outlining each of the blocks, and some decorative stitches on each of the borders. This is the pic taken before it was ready for basting, and has three borders as well. Its a simple, simple lap quilt, and will be great to have for a break in the intensity of Amy's paper pieced quilt. 

Over the years, in my career, its always been important to keep an eye on the details as well as the over-all picture of any project. Most of the time, I had staff to delegate various tasks to. Now, it is my role to handle both. In one way, all those administrative skills I developed still work for me. I love having small notepads everywhere in every room so that I can jot down a thought or a need/want and not forget them when I walk into another room. Its not about memory loss. It was never about memory as much as it was just so very much on my plate. Retirement only shifted what goes on my plate, and I am still guided by the details and overall picture of a project.

I want to love this paper piecing project, and so having other things to work on will give me a planned opportunity to set it aside and return to it refreshed and with a more clear vision.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Wait. What?

The issue that is before me is like trying to figure out the difference between yesterday, today and tomorrow. That might be easy for some of us. However, I am not sure where yesterday ends and today begins. Sometimes it as simple as the clock moving from 11:59 to midnight. Or it is the span of time between going to bed and waking up. Some great rule maker made it up and we all follow it every night and day and cannot and will not change it.

What I am really working with is reading this paper piecing pattern. It is just as baffling.

First of all its a Jinny Beyer pattern. I have yet to figure out her brilliant mind when it comes to her patterns & struggle with them every time I try to make one. You can see her work on Thing is, I love her work.

I made copies for all 72 foundation templates for the paper pieced blocks, and numbered or labeled them according to their layout. When I looked at it again, I realized I was not clear on which colors go where. Oh, sure I know where the black goes. Black is black and its going to be one fabric for this quilt.

This is a very different type of pattern to read. What I have been working with thus far have been traditional or machine piecing patterns. That is not how paper piecing works. Not at all. And here I am, teaching myself the system.

For me to even get started is a matter of breaking the color code first. There are only 12 different fabrics combined with black as the 13th color on the quilt. The chart to select the colors & yardage was simple enough, and easy to buy. I bought batiks that range in color from earthy browns and greens and go to the cranberry hues. Quilters in the store looked at my pattern and said batiks are a better choice. 

What is throwing me for a loop was how to take the chart on page two, and figure out how these 12 colors are divided among 22 rows. There is a chart for that too on page four. I took the page with the swatches on it, and made notes on how many blocks each one is supposed to make. Ok, then there are two blocks, A block and B block. They mirror each other and this is what is called the Tessellating part of the pattern. The chart didn't list them separately, but did list the fabric with the "areas".

Wait. What?

Its a code. A simple code. 

Yet, I find myself saying, "Wait. What?" pretty often. I've made more than a few copies of the pattern so I can write on it as I try to figure it out. Its probably more simple than I am making it, but it is one of my challenges for this year. 

Now the instructions say how to cut the pieces in order to lay them down, sew them and cut them apart. It looks like this is done one block at a time, and that there is a fair amount of waste.

That concerned me at first, being as scrap happy as I am. I wondered if a person could make two of these quilts with the fabric...then I thought about the 72 blocks and laughed at how crazy that sounded. I would be lucky to make all 72 for one quilt. And here I am at the beginning of the project, wrapped in a deeper fog than I have ever seen, wondering if I could make two. Wait. No. 

My laughter continued though I was the only one in the room to hear. You know that crazy sound someone makes when they are borderline scarey...reminding me of Renfield from the Dracula movies...heh, heh, heh, heh, heh.

Some scraps might come out of it. A lot of bits might go into the pet beds. And is it really that important to plan that far ahead? I was trying to figure out the difference between today and tomorrow. 

I have been pretty spoiled with my previous projects. I was shown how to cut, how to pin, how to piece. This is not that. I am on my own and have watched the tutorials and read the patterns. I did ask both fabric stores in town if anyone taught paper piecing, and wasn't given much encouragement.

Rather than try to figure out the mysteries of life, I will give my mental resources another day of working out paper piecing. Luckily, there are also plans for the week that include scrap booking and a Winter Solstice project starting on the pet bed.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Moment to Moment

I read once that the world doesn't need any more spectators. I usually like being part of the action rather than sitting on the sidelines. It makes me feel alive to be involved.

Long ago, I thought that women who stayed at home opted out of being in the high action of life. Long ago, I thought that quilters led boring lives. 

Yet, here I am at home and quilting. I am not bored nor am I boring.

This morning I cut the scraps from Jer's quilt into squares for my shoe-box stash, and put the bits into the basket for the pet blankets I want to make my Grand-dogs. 

Then I set myself to the task of cleaning up the kitchen and planning a shepherd's pie for dinner tonight. This week, I have two days set aside for other work, such as the paper crafting and the Winter Solstice project. Because the scraps have been building up in my basket, the first thing I will do is make up the pillow form for one of them.

While I do have another project requiring some handwork, my next big quilt project is the paper piecing one. All my prep work is done for it...the patterns for each block are copied and they are swatched out with the fabric / colors.

At one time, I might have looked down my nose at those home-bodies. Goodness, I WAS part of the women's movement and heated discussions regarding those who were stay-at-home mothers or those who went to work and left their kids in day care. I know that there is neither a right nor a wrong with differing values and preferences. I know the difference between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice, and its more than just birth control. 

Life and Choice. Its not an either / or. It is an AND.

I just didn't get it for me about quilting. I thought that my higher energy would always keep me in intense physical action. I never saw that this kind of action is just as intense, just as important, and just as much a contribution to how the world keeps spinning. I thought it was...well, I had no idea how much intensity there is to this sort of life and this sort of choice.

We do our part in so many ways. In this moment, I do my part by smiling, by knowing, by being alive.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Waste Not, Want Not

Time is a precious gift, and when a person is committed to something, they find ways not to waste a moment. 

When I discovered that the Post Office is closed on Monday, it gave me extra time to complete some swaps, and get ready for the two birthdays coming up (my younger Son and Granddaughter #4). Funny thing is that I didn't plan to go to the PO until Friday. Monday closing just makes the week feel like it has extra time to it.

The Kaleidoscopes quilt binding was finished last night and later today, I want to lay it across my ironing board, check seams, and clip loose threads.

Two of the 6" blocks came out to size and will be ready to ship out to Italy. This one is called a Garden Star. 

Some time ago, I subscribed to a daily email that sends me 6" patterns. Thing is, sometimes the pattern is for either a 5" or 7" block. Eeek.

The second one is called an Indian Star. This one has been posted in a number of sizes, so it is popular to make for some reason. I did have to play with the layout because of the fabric with the stripey pattern, but that part was easy enough & looks nice.

Another project I worked on was my older Son's Constellation quilt. Its one of those scrappy quilts to make up 50 stars, and 49 hourglass blocks. I have loved selecting the pairs/patches. This represents 2 pairs of dark 2.5" squares made into 4-patches. The variety is really lovely.  Each 4-patch is the center piece of the star block, so there is a lot more to do. The deadline for sending this is the end of September. I am really pacing myself on this one.

This is a perfect example of how to use time. There are many steps to complete on this quilt that can be a pick up, fill-in between projects. A little bit of pinning one time, a little piecing the next, and then pressing. There is always pressing. And I keep notes to self about what needs to happen next.

One of my friends mentioned that she was glad I had moved on regarding the furnace repair. That too has been a real time drain on me, limiting my desire to be too far away from a space heater. My body just stiffens up with the cold and that makes it too easy to huddle and give up my day. With the Monday closings for President's Day, I am giving the utility company an extra day to do whatever they are doing, even if Monday isn't a holiday for their offices.

I love the commitment I've made to myself, to my swaps, to my family for their special days. These things are what motivate me and make the time I have worth living.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Prayer Flag Swap

When we ask for what we want, we are telling the world how much we want it in our lives. A big part of asking is knowing yourself first, and then being clear communicating the desire.

I know that my words have power, and when I joined what seems will be a monthly Prayer Flag swap, I was in the moment and didn't really have a long range concept. For my first PF, I made two, one to send that had an intention for my partner, and also hung the first (test) one I made in my back yard. In one very huge way, I didn't think it was good enough to be swapped. And yet, I love it.

The one I received had the word "Harmony" on it and hangs next to my North door entrance. It is so lovely that I know it would never go outdoors. I honor that fabric artist who was from Switzerland and did such an amazing job on it.

I looked at some pics of the Prayer Flag Project that are posted online and realized that for every very creative PF there might be 10 or more others that weren't posted. I always seem to struggle with my creativity and know I get into my head too much about it. It takes time for me to engage intuitively. That is why I have both an orphan bag and a wonky box for quilt blocks or borders that came out as not quite right or good enough. They will be repurposed eventually and no one will notice that they are either orphaned or wonky.

Partners for the February PF swap are assigned 2/1. There are specific guidelines for the size of the PF and that it is to be hung outdoors with unfinished edges so that it frays in the wind. It is to have a hem for the hanger so that folks can string them together if they so desire. The person I send to is not the person I receive from, and it could be different each month. Its really going to be an act of Spirit.

The only things that are in my control include my monthly intention, and the fabrics and designs I use. Yet, I still needed to use up thread on my bobbin so I could start a different project. For this one, the color of my thread didn't matter.

Remembering how Rex & I did our calendar quilts, we agreed that each month's block would have some visual cue for the way people think and see the calendar. 

I pulled that pinkish solid for the foundation of the February PF and thought about the energy I wanted to call in or ask for. I wanted to make it in rows of color for the elements: Blue for Air, Red for Fire, Green for Water and Yellow for Earth. I pulled out the 3" square shoe-box and started pulling those colors, stitched them so they would layer over each other and blow in the winds together and independently. It has the look of a patchwork quilt, yet keeps all edges free to fray.

All the while my intention was different from how I put it into the quilts I make, yet seemed to want me to pay attention. What was I asking for and did I really want it? I kept sewing, trimming the bottoms and sides to keep it within the guidelines.  

And then, I knew what I was asking for, and found a piece of fabric I bought that had words on it. This is the one I cut out.


No matter what other things in life I say I want, like peace, prosperity, good health, happiness, love, and even heat in my house, hope is what spins my creative, spiritual wheels.

With hope, there is life, there is joy, there is excitement and laughter. It doesn't mean that things are going to work out the way I plan because plans are often insignificant to the real workings of life. But it does mean that I can still experience the wonder and joy and excitement that is also part of the real workings of life.

The first PF I made & hung in my back yard was also infused with the intention of HOPE, which I only discovered after browsing through past posts here on my blog. Two very unplanned themes let me know that this is what I want, what I would like to make my personal prayer for this year. HOPE. 

After thinking awhile, I realize what triggered my loss of hope were moments when the plans or expectations I had did not come into fruition. I hadn't picked myself up from certain losses. And in some cases, I was giving up because I could not see hope in other ways where change was possible.

The official swap doesn't start for a couple of weeks. I plan to make two; one for myself each month that I will hang outside on my trees or arbors that brings me hope and the second one for a partner.

Friday, January 16, 2015


Who you ask for more information makes a difference in how you reconsider any issue you are concerned with. 

If the person you ask for input is on your same mental page, then its easy to go forward, and keep doing what you are doing the way you are doing it. 

However, if they have a different opinion, then you have to think about yours. Different is just different and doesn't mean one of you is right and the other wrong. Just different.

I learned to do hand sewing for binding a long time ago, and while I have watched tutorials on it, I still like how this way goes. First, fabric gets cut into 2.5" strips that are joined together so that they will go around the entire quilt. 

Then, joined strips are pressed open to reduce bulk and also pressed in half to make the strip 1.25" wide. It is pinned one side at a time, and then joined to the quilt sandwich with a 1/4" seam and will be folded over yet again. Each side is sewn, one at a time in order to make the mitered corner. Once it is completely attached, it is pinned for hand sewing.

The issue I always had was the mess the strip made while it hung down from the table to the floor and gathered around my legs and feet.

Then I watched a video where the quilter in it said she rolled hers into a ball and pinned it. Watching yet another video, another quilter thought to put it into an empty oatmeal box with a slit cut into the lid so the fabric would pass through it. I've opted for the rolled ball because it is easily made without needing another tool, such as the oatmeal box with a slit in the lid. Besides, the time I tried it, there were more steps to take to get it to work. This ball idea works for me.

I need 'easy' at the end stage of my quilt-making projects. By the time I get to adding the binding, I am looking at the deadline, considering shipping options, and trying to decide if I want to pre-wash it or send it off with washing instructions.

Binding is an important part of the quilt. Studies say the first thing to shred on a utility quilt (one that is used rather than hung) is the binding. It is recommended that good fabric is used and this method of reinforcing layers be added for durability. 

I plan to pre-wash this one and then spend some slow time checking it for any glitches in either my hand quilting, the mitered corners, or machine stitching. Its easy enough to repair any popped stitch before it heads off to Minnesota where I might never see it again.

Whenever a project gets to this stage, I am reminded of times when I was more rushed and didn't check it over and over again. Nightmare things. Once a mitered corner popped free. Once a pin was caught on the inside within the sandwich. I was able to fix both these issues but saw them myself. No one told me. No one pointed out the ...horror. 

So yes, I am my best guide and worst critic all rolled up in one. Its not so hard to understand. I want to do my best. This is why continuing education is important to me whether it is for quilting, for gardening, for communication skills or anything else. Experts are out there just waiting to make a difference.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Onto More

My energy was really higher than it has been for awhile and that might be because I am getting deep sleep. Not having heat in the house, I put up a piece of foam board insulation over my bedroom window and hung a very dark purple corduroy over it. They both lock out the light! After my last call in to the utilities department, I decided that they could, would and are taking their sweet time getting my furnace control fixed, and I was responsible for either being a victim or surviving this cold.

For whatever reason, it came to me that being a victim with anything or anyone was like giving up my power to create, and to live full out. It is irresponsibility to place myself in the hands of anyone. I just don't care to engage in the conflict or the blame game. Once I decided that, my energy drew back from "those people" and was mine again.

Yes, I finished the hand quilting project. Before I go too much further with it, I want to check each seam and make sure I didn't miss anything. Not by dim light, but in the full daylight and cold of the room. 

I discovered that all my bobbins were loaded with a beige for piecing and there were none left to do the teal blue on the Kaleidoscope quilt. To change that situation, I chain stitched the center 4-patches on the Constellation quilt that will evolve into star blocks. Are there 50? I think there will be 50 stars. I have to check the pattern. Not all of the 4-patches were started, and these pairs will need to be pressed open and joined to their partners. I really like working like this, which is about setting up projects so that I can flit from one to another without wasting time or needing to stay with one to the end. Most quilts will finish out before fall to be mailed by Thanksgiving.

Other projects I started involved more cutting and need to be finished soon. I belong to a 6" block swap and we are to make two blocks that measure 6.5" from 100% quilting weight cotton. I've got patterns for three different blocks. My partner, this month, is open to any Star pattern in any colors. It is my hope that two of them will turn out good enough to send. Those 6" blocks that fail to meet the standards will go into the Wonky box and be adjusted in whatever they need. She is from Italy and lives in Rome. She is married with a 3-year-old Son and works in the airport. I am LOVING our email conversations. She is the third Italian woman I have met in three consecutive months.

The other project is for a swapbot swap that I am hosting called ANIMAL SPIRIT GUIDE/ IMBOLC ENERGY. The idea of it is to make something for one partner that holds the energy of a Winter animal we might see or imagine. I suggested providing some text or research and then making something of substance for the partner to either hang, wear or set on an altar.

I selected Raven because I see so many of them outside. My research was really wonderful and I learned a great deal from it. One of the legends says that the Great Spirit put the energies of creation into boxes that were given to all the Animals because they came before Humans. Well, you know how Seagulls can be..."Mine, mine, mine." And flew off with the box refusing to open it. Great Spirit sends Raven. Raven gets Seagull to drop the box and releases the Sun, Moon and Stars.

A box. I love the fabric boxes I've made. It is a perfect choice for the legend as well as my skills. I have this black fabric with moons and stars that glow in the dark. And I found a yellow (which doesn't show in the pic) to represent the Sun. Legend says that Raven is responsible for bringing light to the daytime, and enlightenment at night.

And then, after finishing these smaller projects, my attention will turn to paper piecing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Changed Another Blade

For whatever reason, the act of cutting fabric was like shaking out my soul. Down through history, cutting is symbolic for releasing, for letting go of relationships or events and for closure on any sort of issue. For awhile, it was believed that we cut people out of our lives, yet a kinder way is more to release than to sever. Cutting is also painful.

I know. Not too long ago I cut the tip of my index finger with the rotary blade. Experience has taught me to release and how to release.

However, fabric must be cut for better use in quilts, or in failing that, it will be released or given away to someone who can use it.

I finished cutting scraps in two bins, reducing the volume in them by half. After changing a second rotary blade for this project, I decided it was enough cutting for this session.

More squares were added to the shoe-boxes that I also labeled with sizes, as well as colorizing some and doing a count to how many squares were in the box. With this information, I can grab and go to make a quilt when I get a pattern for one.

One shoe-box is filled to capacity with the 2.5" strips.
My plan is to sew strips end to end & use them for binding on one of the random quilts.  None of these boxes is really very neat, however, they are much more accessible for a quilting project.

Nothing was tossed in this activity. The small scraps have been tossed into this basket, over-flowing. The plan is to fill a fleece sack that will become a Grand-dog or Grand-cat's bed. Usually these bits went into the trash.

I admit that the shaking out of my soul had a lot to do with releasing. Some things in life are painful and unavoidable. Life is this creative experience whether or not we have children, whether we paint, or sew, garden or walk in the forest. 

Cutting / releasing things that no longer serve us in their current state is a way to see the world fresh.

All my cluttered bins of fabric were getting in my way and I had to take this time to do something about it or continue being frustrated when I went looking for something. It was like they represented other difficult people and things that needed my attention.  No one saw my bins, so no one really knew how frustrated having that clutter was for me. No one knew how hard it was for me to be creative living with a mess.

Yet, that might not be true. I think we do see more about each other than we talk about or share. This is  the Johari window every Pysch 101 class talks about. Read it down to see what is known to self and not known to self. Then read across to see what is known to others and not known to others. The more open we are in sharing, the less that is hidden to ourselves and the less others know about us. The reward of that is that the orange unknown is in our subconscious and begins to heal in this process.

My simple act of cutting fabric. Now you know. Now I know. Now I am known more to myself.