Saturday, February 28, 2015

ReCycling, RePurposing, ReUsing

I spent the day cutting fabric scraps into squares (I write this post the night before it goes live). It was another day filled with surprises. Recently, one of my Cousins sent me a box of treasures that I went through again this morning. My Cuz has an eye for the most interesting things. I spent well over an hour just looking at them over and over.

Rex sent me another container of buttons and I love sorting them. My little town here doesn't have access to such unique things. Always makes me wonder what their stories are. If buttons could only talk!

I had won a swapbot WTA (winner take all) in January. If you sign up for it and win, everyone else who signed up sends you something. Two packages came today filled with some amazing blank stationary, fat quarters, feathers, a candle and ribbons. I started to think that people were so generous, and realize that I opened to receive all manner of good things.

As I put together a PIF quilt last week, I realized that all this fabric was taking up a lot of room and could make up more of these simple quilts. Good fabric runs over $12 a yard, so all these pieces make a difference when they join as a utility quilt. I think these kind of scrappy randomly assembled quilt tops will give me an opportunity to practice free motion quilting without feeling like I was going to ruin something.

My quilting without the machine gave me time to cut. The first thing I did was to pull out all the color sorted fabrics from the bins in the closet. This is the key that I takes time to cut, to sort, to be organized. Nothing marvelous shows up in these pictures. And come to think of it, none of the movies or TV programs ever show this kind of mundane work. And I know that if my quilting machine were here, I would not be doing it. I don't know, maybe some sort of house elf comes along and does it all.

Many of the pieces that were donated to me could be squared up and sorted. I've been doing this for some time, and I've been averaging 10-15 scrap quilts each year, along with smaller projects. 

Its actually great to have a size readily available when some pattern calls for it in some way.  These are a goodly amount of the 10", 8", 6", 5", 4", 3", and 2.5" stacks. By the time I turned off the light and the cutting project was done, the stacks were quite a bit higher.

I made two more piles that included fat quarters folded in 4ths, and all the bigger pieces that were squared up.

The plan is to sort them by color and put them back in the clear containers. Right now, they are just piles.

Another container is holding the stack of 2.5" strips. I think my next project for all of these squares and strips is to colorize them. This one needs the strips to be rolled. I go into this box when I need binding, but also whenever I need 2.5" squares and can't find them elsewhere.

And I do think the first pet bed is filled. It is simply amazing just how many scraps filled this pillow. To think I've been just tossing them!

Everything that is flowing into and out of my life is really about ReCycling, RePurposing and ReUsing. All packages that came in the mail were things that folks liked for themselves, but were ok in passing them along rather than trashing them. 

Sometimes we have a dream that we will create something really great with what we buy, or what is given to us. Then time gets in the way, or we lose interest. What is so great about everything I got in the mail or all the fabric that has been given to me over the years, is that its not going to the landfill. It DOES get repurposed. 

Its quite exciting to be a part of this flow where people's consciousness is elevated at some level where they recognize the value of the Earth, and want to share the beauty that they brought into their lives.

I am grateful for such remarkable people in my life; family members, friends, and strangers who are generous, and creative.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Work With Patience

All beautiful things take time, their own time, to manifest. Sometimes it seems like I take a calculated step forward only to find myself stumbling two steps back. I keep forgetting what works for me and have no legitimate reason for impatience.

Grace's Spring quilt is ready for borders, basting, quilting and binding. One cornerstone was missing. I went through all the small scrap boxes and found two of them. It all needs a light pressing before taking any more steps with it. This last row needs to be pieced and added before the borders go on. Once again, I didn't really make good Notes-To-Self, so while there is fabric for borders, binding and the back, all I know for certain is that the back is yellow and still in its package. I don't know what size borders I wanted or which one comes first or second. And I am questioning my choices. Maybe this. Maybe that. Jeeze. So I set it aside for a day when I can think more clearly and just go for it. 

In fact, as I pulled many of the quilt projects out, what I was doing all last year was to gather fabrics that would work with the main theme, without really measuring or cutting. And of course, no Notes-To-Self. Wow, it has become a huge lesson of a lifetime!

I have an appointment in the clubhouse on Wednesday to baste one of the completed quilts. The top part here is actually scrappy pieces made like crazy quilt blocks. I hope to use it to practice free motion quilting.

Its almost like having to start from the beginning when there are no Notes-To-Self. Its not that I am forgetting the lesson now, its more that I am cleaning up what I did last year when I didn't even know there was a lesson to learn. This time, before setting a project aside, there are clear Notes-To-Self included with the pattern. Its hard not to be frustrated, but as Dany in Dance With the Dragons says, "If I look back, I am lost."

Here is the beginning of a Hallows quilt that is based on a cute panel I bought a couple of years ago and a pattern, yet without any plan for how to proceed. I've re-sorted fabrics so this represents the ones that fit better with the suggested steps. This is the quilt that will get some of those 12" Quilt Block Swaps done in Orange, Black and White. Clearly, this is a WIP (work in progress) even at the thinking stage. It will be exciting to see the evolution as the 12" blocks come in from all over the world.

With the "Note-To-Self" lesson so clear in my mind, I pulled out all the bins in my studio closets and labeled them with the general contents. It had gotten tiring pulling them all out trying to figure out what was in them even though they are clear. 

Maybe its true that all beautiful things take time to manifest. I am not sure why this particular lesson is coming to me now, and I do not mean to say it is for anyone else, just because it is mine. I don't think anyone can push another person into a state of being until they are ready. And only when a person is ready, can they fully manifest what was waiting for them all along.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

March Prayer Flag

I have been making two prayer flags each month; one is my practice or test flag that I keep and hang with the others in my garden, and one I swap. Everyone in the swap gets to chose their theme for the flag they make and use whichever skills they have. The only real requirement is that finished flags fly at 6 x 9. I've been adding the ties to mine but haven't always received them from my swap partners. 

Ideally the flags disintegrate outside in nature, flying in the winds. Edges are meant to fray, so that when they go down, according to tradition or legend, the prayer is answered.

Winds are pretty strong here in Tehachapi, so I take it prayers are answered faster than average. My January flag went down the other day. Rather than fraying, it was quite faded and came untied from the tree to the North side of the house. It was such a surprise that I couldn't remember my prayer and the writing on the flag had faded. I guess when prayers are answered, you don't have to look back. You just open your heart, mind and soul to receive. 

My goal is to have enough of them to string between the two trees in back on the West side. 

This month, my first flag is relatively simple so that it can be all hand stitched. I selected a scrap of green that worked for the size and has clovers and pots of gold on it. March is actually named for Mars who was regarded as the guardian of agriculture. St. Patrick's Day is the 17th of the month where the shamrocks and pots of gold themes originate. We did 'take the Irish' when I lived in St. Paul (that means everyone is Irish for the day), and I would often get my Sons out of school so we could go to the parade on the weekdays. There are a lot of other themes for March, and my choice was simply to up the fabric scrap. 

I plan to make another one in green for this month and this theme. However, when partners are assigned, I will consider their profile. 

As I played with ideas by looking at my scraps, a consideration for next month came from a fabric one of my Australian swap partners sent as an extra. Its an interesting hand dyed piece that was just about 8" wide WOF. It has seven 6" repeats with the figure in the center. I hated cutting into the scrap and ruining the design, yet had no idea how it could be used. This is rather a perfect solution for how to use the panels without cutting into or across them. I need to come up with an idea for its actual construction to meet the size requirements as they are an inch short right now.

Its not that hard to be without a machine, knowing that it is temporary. I am catching up on a lot of things related to my quilting, like sorting the scrap boxes tonight while watching the latest episode of "The Originals". Along with working on these Prayer Flags, I've been progressing on other projects and still have many to go that will need cutting. I have one box of pins left to use on Grace's Spring borders.

The word 'temporary' is key. And also, I've been taking it in for an annual servicing, and remembering to clean it after using 3 bobbins. Nothing was really wrong with it and usually after service, the timing is re-set, and its oiled in places I cannot reach.

This is something I planned to do, which makes it easy to be without. I remember the first time it locked up, which was quite unexpected, so there were no planned projects waiting. I was thrown into chaos of mind. That was when I asked him how I could maintain the machine a bit on my own. He showed me how to take the bobbin case apart and use a Q-Tip to clean dust, and again using a clean one to oil and where to oil. Its all part of quilting.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Not Again!

I really hate pain. Whoever said it is good for us and that we not someone I want to hang with. 

The rotary jumped from the side of the ruler, slid across the clear plastic. I would have had another slice of skin & tissue, except that I have a scar built up from the last time. Thing is, it bruised under the scar and it hurts. Arnica.

I got another batik color cut for the next row on the Cat paper piecing project. Its just the first two pieces of each square because the next step is to stitch them through the paper. Its getting really close to completion for this step.

My attention turned to  Isabella's quilt. Oh sure, I highlighted what was done earlier, and crossed off some other steps that I didn't want to use. What WAS I thinking? Without next step instructions, it took me counting and laying things out, counting again and seeing what I had in mind. I am altering the original pattern based on what fabric scraps I had on hand. After figuring that out AGAIN, it was a matter of making new choices that might have been the same choices as before, but were new to me this time. The original pattern is actually creative, but not what I want do. I am going for a somewhat regular 9-patch with this and it will look just fine.

Unfortunately, I must have done the highlight process on others, thinking it would be enough, because the same thing is going on with Grace's Spring quilt. Maybe this is a more common practice; that some of us think we will remember with just a few notes. I am much aware that I need to make much clearer notes to self and that keeping it simple doesn't work for everything I do.

Back to the pain. Dang. That little non-cut-only-a-bruise hurts.

My next project was to press the blocks, and pin rows on another quilt meant to be a PayItForward. Its all folded waiting for the machine now. Note to self? Just one saying who the quilt is for and that the first seams between two rows is next. The note also says that those seams get pressed and the rows get laid out again, just to make sure that the colors and fabric patterns will coordinate. And then, pin, stitch, press and do it again. The time to rip is early.

I've laid out the next quilt projects and plan to take each of them as far as I can without the machine.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Big City!

Dropped off the machine and it might take two weeks, more or less. I've been taking it in for service once a year, because it gets hard use every day. I think about my own body and how it has taken so much pounding and hard use. I tend not to consider taking it in for service.

After leaving the store, I drove further SE to Palmdale and went shopping for fabric at JoAnn's. I realize that this pic of fabric is laid out and almost looks like the other layout from yesterday. Well, that's one way I use my ever-standing ironing board. The darn thing has metal parts and squeaks so much putting it up or down. You would think I could oil it, but NO-O-O-o-o-o. I leave it up against the closet doors and use it for a cutting board, where I pin fabrics, and of course press them. It is a multi-tasker tool. As long as it doesn't get taken down and set up often, it just is.

And I think of my body. I've never been one for getting pedis or manicures. At best, a hair cut.

I left my list at home, and did remember two things on it that I did not buy for a couple of reasons. List-making works for me, even when left behind. Once something is written down, my mind remembers.

Additionally, there were two 5-yard pieces for backing the scrappy quilts that go to a couple of my Great-Nephews. Some of the fabric in both quilts are colors that are no longer manufactured, and so to match everything, it means taking the entire quilt top into the store, spilling it out and seeing what really coordinates. Many of my projects are ready for basting and then, machine quilting. 

The smaller pieces in the pic went right into my Winter Solstice projects drawer for next month, and on the far left, the last little brown with ...oh, those are bear paws not dog paws...ooops. 

Well, it will be a pet bed and is put in the bottom of the box with the ones in process. It's nearing the end of February and one pet bed bag is almost filled! I won't wait for the holidays and will ship it off to the lucky Diamond-dog as soon as it is completed. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Winter Solstice in February

While the weather shifted again, and its been raining all day which could turn to snow tomorrow, it was a little easier to get into the swing of making end of the year gifts. I took out all the patterns and fabrics that I plan to make for Winter Solstice 2015, sorting them with their patterns and then bagging the projects so they would be easy to pull out. Contents in my drawers are a bit more accessible.

Although I buy excellent quality fabrics, those reds, blues and purples are subject to bleeding, so into the washer they went with like colors. I discovered that the only thing started last month was one of those Double Hand Oven Mitts. However, without a sewing machine for a few weeks, its all prep work for now. There is a lot of it to do.

It was almost difficult to put away the paper craft project yesterday because there was more work that I could have done with the US cancelled stamps. My 3-ring binders with all the patterns in them fall into the paper project category, and so will need attention some time in the future. 

One of the issues I had, yet again, was not remembering what I wanted to do for this one day even with the sidebar To-Do list.  Sorting is a good way to start even though it doesn't result in a finished project. I pulled patterns out for the fabrics.

The majority of my Grandgrrls are teens, so I have similar ideas for all their gifts, even though they will each be unique. The grrrrlie-grrrls are all in love with the color pink, and its not one I would chose for a focus. Because the machine service shop is in Lancaster, I'll make a trip into Palmdale to buy some pinks, and some backing fabric for two other quilt projects. 

Its becoming an interesting process to take time out of the quilt-making and focus elsewhere for a couple of days each month. If anything, I see how not having that crunch at the end of the year will be a lot less stressful. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

paper crafting

The 21st of each month is a day I spend working with papers in my life. I went outside first, and blew leaves from behind my shed (before the spiders come alive again) as well as from part of the rock garden. My gardens are WIP (works in process) and this is the perfect time to be outside in them. I'll finish blowing leaves and then start moving the rock so the pond can be relocated. Not a one-day event.

Then I sat in front of my computer to watch the start of season 3 of the Vikings on the History Channel. It was a great way to have space to trim cancelled postage stamps and repurpose them into post cards. I thought there were so many, and yet, only two 4x6 sizes were filled with foreign stamps and I need to wait for more. I do like how they turned out. My plan is to make enough post cards to send one to each of my Grandchildren with a note telling them about the swaps I am in. Most of our post offices want to take the easy way and meter everything, even when asked to use regular stamps.

My magazines are sorted too. I've started a couple of 3-ring binders loaded with page protectors. Most magazines are lucky to have one or two things in them that I want, so I have been ripping the pages out & putting the rest in recycling. 

That's pretty radical for me to rip apart, but almost the only solution to avoiding clutter. It always makes me smile to see PILES of magazines in basements or garages because people just cannot part with the lovely pictures, or that one great recipe or article.

One of the swaps I got today came with a message. "Sometimes our Stop-Doing list needs to be bigger than our To-Do list. hmmmpf. What does she know? Right?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Colors Shifting Before My Eyes

I am really grateful that I thought ahead on this paper piecing project to swatch out the colors. Three of them are batik greens and while the shades and patterns are subtle, it would have been easy to use the wrong ones.

Colors shifting before my eyes are usually what I see in nature watching clouds, playing in my gardens and being under trees. This has been an interesting experience to have it happen while I quilt.

And while I thought I was on row 12, it was really a combination of blocks numbered for rows 12 and 13, using the middle green batik. Tessellating. The first green batik has a bit more olive to it and both these greens look like Italian marble. I didn't really fussy cut any pieces because they remind me of the random patterns one sees in cats. Cats, for all their unique coloring are always beings of mystery and wonder. Its a very subtle shifting of color here. Green marble-like cat blocks will spread across the quilt and form the two largest rows.

I am such a novice with this kind of work that I am not sure if I will like the result or be wowed by it. The only help I got in the fabric store was confirming my choice to use batiks with a tone-on-tone black.

There are actually only five rows left to making these block pieces, and only four more batiks combined with the black. It seems that my progress is good. I've cut the paper copies out for the next row and brought out the fabric needed for the color parts. It has all gone into its container. I feel like I have the cutting part down now and could easily cut all the blocks for all the rows.

My quilting machine is going in for service and will be in the shop for at least 2 weeks, if not more. I have a number of projects planned to work on that do not require machine stitching. Two weeks will, hopefully, pass quickly and get me ready to just fly when it returns. Meanwhile, I made another hard copy list, and re-arranged my To-Do list here on the sidebar. It makes me laugh because it seems like more than enough projects to take up the time.

Except. I just finished cleaning up the studio outside the closets and bins. 

Friday, February 20, 2015


I feel such a relief when I make a list and then am able to check things off of it that I have done. Thing is, with the lists here on the blog, when I finish the project, I delete it, and POOF, its gone. One of my blogger friends told me that her server went through some changes and years of her writing was gone. I've had that happen here just by selecting a key inadvertently and lost it. Distressing when the change was unexpected or unwanted and most of the time irreversible.

When I think of it, that's what life is about and there are endless cliches we say to express either change or loss, sometimes with regret and sometimes never noticing.

An over-riding goal I've had is to use up the fabrics that were given to me by re-purposing them. I love doing scrap quilting, though every once in awhile, like needing a breather from quilting on a repetitious project, I need to go out and buy new fabrics to get a new perspective. 

Over the years as I quilted, I've learned generosity. I've learned organization. I've learned to condense and consolidate. I've learned planning.

For awhile fear took me down. I was afraid that I would never make quilts for all my family members. This year, I will realize the goal of creating quilts for everyone in my family. I was also afraid that I would leave chaos behind should anything happen to me; and whomever would come in here would not know what to do with all my "stuff". Fear has a way of creating monsters in our minds.

I just started a scrap quilt for a person on the PIF part of my To-Do list. He has been a long-time family friend. I pulled out a box of 10" squares and am using only one of a kind in the quilt. Its a very fast quilt to make, easy, and uses up almost the complete collection of this fabric size square. It will also give me an opportunity to use a different machine quilting stitch. AND it will come off my To-Do list in no time at all.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Row 12 - Hooray!

Sigh. Sometimes I think there is a huge reward when I do something hard. And how the heck can finishing part of a quilt be so hard? With this particular quilt pattern, each row has a specific color with the black. And rows are on a diagonal. Its almost like stopping without finishing each row would be risky because its system, a process.

Sure, I have numbered pattern pieces with the row numbers, and alpha-ed the individual parts with the color names. 

However, its confusing enough for me while I am doing it, and I just do not feel comfortable stopping in the middle of a row and knowing what comes next. I removed the thread and bobbins, putting them in the box with the other pieces, patterns and fabrics.

I cut the patterns for Row 13 and started cutting & pinning the shapes to work for the first and second pieces.

As I look at the sidebar for my "To-Do" list and see numerous projects that are huge, time consuming, I could not pick one of them up to work on. They are repetitive work, and I need something that is more one of a kind for now. I will throw my energy into positive re-direction rather than to feed my frustration regarding the repetition that works against my creative nature.

Luckily, I have a number of swaps going that are quick and done. On top of my list is the Halloween Tombstone pillow, and I've given it a great start. Now, it will wait for the finishing touches until after the swap partners are assigned. I want it to be something of a Halloween decoration that can be set out on a chair, sofa or bed. I have two partial bags of poly stuffing that will serve as filling for this one and perhaps one or two more.

I set in place two days a month to work on non-quilting projects, and so its coming up soon. One is paper crafting, and one is Winter Solstice gifts. I can see the need for list-making for the paper crafting day so that I am ready rather than to try and remember what it is I wanted to do with it. Look for another list on my sidebar here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Plenty of Time

I've read that we all need both time and opportunity to make enough mistakes to have the lesson run deep enough that we finally have it. And while some folks are lucky to get words of encouragement from others, most of us, well, at least me...I need to become what I want to be by consistently being and doing what I want to become each day.

Lately, what I am doing is working on the paper piecing project and Sophia's Summer quilt. I am still on row 12 of the cats, and have loaded one last bobbin and hope it will finish off the machine quilting. 

Here's what I have learned: It takes time to create a quilt. It takes constant effort and commitment. And there is resistance to the project. Where the resistance comes from, I do not know. I spent time researching 'resistance' and was surprised at how important a topic is to humanity, and how often it is used in various systems to show the human condition as well as to inspire a course of action against oppression. Here I thought it had to do with quilting and how I was resisting the constant repetition within certain projects. 

I know that one answer I have to my personal resistance to the repetition is to work on multiple projects at one time. I don't think that my simple tasks are what the whole topic focuses on, yet maybe this is how we learn. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Butterfly Guide

After getting outside and working on the next garden in my yard, I came inside to work on the Animal Spirit Guide Swap. I set up the swap, so want to get it in the mail soon.

My first thought to make a fabric box was not what materialized. Instead, I made small table mat or candle mat. It is not suitable for hot things. Last week, I bought fabrics to make up some small things to put in the boxes of goodies I am making for the Grandgrrls. The Butterflies on this fabric are too large to work on the fabric box, and honestly, I wanted to make a larger gift for one of my Granddaughters with the pieces. 

The pattern I used is the Disappearing 4-patch and I used two 5" pieces of the yellow and the print, added the purple as a border and binding. Its quite lovely. What I learned from doing this is that the black shows through the yellow AND to make it heat resistant, the batting needs to be the Insulbrite. 

And of course, now the Animal Spirit Guide I am sending her is the Butterfly. I do want to plant more things to draw them into the yard.

Butterflies aspect change, dancing on the winds, and being in sensitive harmony on Earth. I wrote these phrases on the back & will write a note before shipping it to my swap partner.

The next time I use this fabric, I will make a mini quilt for one of my dear grrrlie-grrls, and need to remember to write similar words for her. We all can use a little help from what we see in the world around us.

Monday, February 16, 2015

2-Fer Sunday & Now its Monday

My time was off all day, so I posted twice for Sunday, meaning to have that second post go live on Monday morning. Like a few other bloggers I know, I write my post the night before I want it to go live, do some edits and then publish it any time after midnight. Some of my friends, who tell me they read my blog, are up earlier than I am because of the time differences. Its not the first time I published early and won't be the last time.

Its unrealistic of me to keep such high expectations that everything I do will be spot on. That's just a set up for disappointment, discomfort and pain.

I've found myself struggling with the 6" blocks. Either my seams are slightly off or the colors I selected do not work for the size. They always require a backup plan. I start working on them as soon as partners are assigned so I can get them finished and in the mail on time. I usually will cut four blocks (swap requires us to send two) and hope that I can learn from my challenges. This time, the first two have turned out, yet I will most likely make up the other two because they will not fit in any of my plans. Its a cute novelty fabric.

The struggles I have with them are why I created my Wonky Block Box. They can have a fresh outlook on a quilt when they have a purpose. These can go to my swap partner and she can elect to use all four or just two. 

The Animal Spirit Guide Swap for the March Equinox partner I have likes pink. My plan is to make up a small fabric box (Yes, I love them) and see which of the Spring Animals shows up more on the box. There are Frogs, Dragonflies, Squirrels, Owls, and Songbirds to chose from. It will be a perfect use for the leftover fabric.

My expectations for myself are never going to be low. I think I will push myself into the after-life!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cutting Edges

I spent time in the front garden today, watering, weeding, amending the soil, pruning, laying rock, and checking out the water fall feature.  I am going to leave it on the sidewalk as a way to monitor its operation. The birds seem to enjoy what I am doing out there and soon enough they will be building nests. I want to get all the gardens cleaned up from the Winter that we never had in case it rains or in case it turns cold again.

Inside, my quilting efforts were all about cutting. The little 6" block pattern for the Calico Spool needed to be fussy cut using that cute baby-grrrl pink fabric. I am not sure this is what my partner wants. Cute, however, is what she will get. There are five pieces to the spool; four half square triangles (HST) and the middle section which makes up the spool look. It took me a bit of time to cut them so they fit together. Fussy cutting is an art that is all about placement.

Then, I turned my attention back to paper piecing cats and started cutting the first two pieces of each part of the 11 blocks for row 12. Some start pieces with the black fabric, and some start with the batik. Therefore, its 22 pieces of black and 22 pieces of batik, and then the first stitches joining them. Pinning, pressing, piecing. I think its getting easier to do them backwards and upside down. Also, there seems to be less waste. 

While pictures help, I guess I would rather wait to finish than to show cut by cut and seam by seam. Quilting is more about the process, even though results also make a difference. Its a slow process which is why my work isn't as fast as a factory sweat shop might be. 

One last thing I was cutting were the postage stamps from the swaps. I am not a stamp collector, but early on, I got a postcard from one of my partners using cancelled stamps glued together in rows and cut on a diagonal. She just glued them onto card stock and cut it to a 4 x 6 standard postcard size. It was really creative and simple to recycle them for someone else to enjoy them before they get tossed.

With all my projects, as I finish them, I will take pictures. 

To Do List

I thought about this next week. What I am able to do in the world emanates from who I am, not what I wish I was. I can only do what only I can do.

All the work outside goes slower than it did when I was five years younger. I plan more, and portion out the work.

I have several quilting projects out on my workstation. My new partner for the 6" block swap wants a Spool block with pink and a cream background suitable for her 1-yr-old Great-granddaughter. I bought this very darling pink with sweet little animals on it. Not sure about the cream part, and may try to find something just a little lighter. These pieces suddenly look beige.

I am still working on the machine quilting for Sophia's Summer quilt. My goal is to finish all those lines and add the binding. At that point, it becomes a good project to hold for that 2-3 weeks my machine is in the shop for servicing.

And of course, there is row 12 on the Cat Paper Piecing project. That row is another with 11 blocks to it, so takes several days to complete. This particular batik has a nice marbled look to it, and I do want to make sure that comes through on the blocks.

A fun project takes me into embroidery. I joined a Halloween swap that makes a Tombstone Pillow. This is such an exciting project, because who would ever think of having a 12 x 10 Tombstone Pillow as a decoration? I pulled out gray fabrics and embroidery threads, and want to give it a go. One for the swap and at least two for my family. I still have pillow stuffing and these are just too sweet!

Of course, there are other projects to work on this week. I am taking Jacob's Bears in Birch Trees quilt into the clubhouse for basting on Tuesday, and have so much more piecing on the stars for the Constellations quilt.

When I think of what I am 'able' to do, I have to consider the emotional energy that goes into my projects. The swaps are easier and are quite the learning component. While there is a relationship I feel towards my partners, the time of the relationship is short-lived. It takes much more energy to work on projects dedicated to family and friends.

The question rises then, of me asking myself who am I now. Is the woman I am at this stage of life able? Able-bodied, able-engaged, able-minded, able-hearted? Able.

There is no such thing as leaping tall buildings with a single bound. No such thing as running, jumping and leaping like a super secret agent. No more fighting battles at City Hall to save Frog Habitats. My long list of those kinds of wishes are pleasant memories that are ok to release. Once having been a "wonder woman", I think you always are. The movies or series that show the aging superheroes are seen as a joke rather than honoring the changes. Those of us moving into a new stage of being are looking more at our realities and working with what we have.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

What's the Question?

I didn't quilt today. Oh wait, I bought some fabric. Does that count?  And oh wait again, I mailed out some swaps. However, I didn't turn on my machine, nor the iron, nor did I pick up a rotary cutter nor any needles & pins. 

This morning's group at the library was engaging. One of the guys even brought me flowers! Members of the group talked about vulnerability, authentic sharing and how the book, THE ALCHEMIST touched them. I even stayed a few minutes after the time ended and chatted. Me. Chatting. I know.

I came home, made lunch, and went outside to do some yard work, starting with the water feature. The motor had clogged and so I emptied it and moved it to the sidewalk, where I discovered a very small frog floating. I had to keep going with it, so was most pleased to discover it outside hiding in a corner. The pump is going to operate out there on the sidewalk through the night, and with luck the frog will be safe. If it is gone off the lip, I will never know if it is hiding on the ground somewhere, or got eaten by another critter coming for water.

I spent more time cleaning up the front corner garden, by pulling unwanted plant matter and watering the roses. Everything is so dry here and its getting hotter each day. Sometimes with how cold it gets at night, I forget how hot it gets during the days. Roses and trees are starting to bud out. For as much as I love quilting, I love the gardens too.

With all the physical work outside, I thought about our library discussions this morning focusing on vulnerability and authenticity. It seems to me that when we start moving towards those values, we step into our self-worth. Its slow. There are many levels of being vulnerable that can get us hurt, and we remember that pain. We even talked about how being authentic can get you hurt when you chose to make choices for your greater good. We remember those pains too.

What I know is that I do less and less to please other people, and more to appreciate and please myself. Not everyone likes that I don't want to take care of them, or that I don't want to fall into step with the rest of the gang. I can answer that question now. "If your best friend was going to jump off the high bridge, are you going to jump too?"

Friday, February 13, 2015

Row 11 - check

Lack of understanding between people, nations and our values is the reason so many of us are alienated. That is the same concept I have about labeling the work as I go. I NEED to keep writing notes-to-self for everything, especially for the projects I set aside, even for a day.

This represents the half way point for the rows in the Cat Paper Piecing quilt, yet, not the half way for the quilt top's completion. I worked on the it for a large portion of the day, almost pushing myself to complete a row. That practice, of pushing myself to finish, had worked to complete a row before setting it aside when there were only a few blocks in it. However, row #11 and row #12 each have 11 cat blocks to them. Each block is made from two different patterns that visually will connect them to cat blocks above and below. Each long row requires a couple of days spent measuring, cutting, pinning and piecing. (see my spinning thoughts...gah!)

My attention turned to other quilt projects for awhile. Primarily, it was having the hands-on touching them, measuring, making notes and refolding them for another day. Most of the ones I looked at have finished tops, therefore, its only a matter of purchasing fabric backs for them. This Red/Blue/White one is for Sophia, and I am using it to get some practice on machine quilting  with simple grid lines that have random spacing.

In one way, its been good to set quilt projects aside for a time, returning with a fresh mind and vision. However, my notes-to-self have become more detailed so that I do not misunderstand my original plans and goals.

I think my notes-to-self have more to do with how busy I get and how many things are going at the same time. Misunderstanding my own motives and preferences can get me in trouble...with myself. When I am clear with myself, I find that there is less stress, and more affirmations.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Would You Like to Swing on a Star?

Wow, 50 stars to this Constellation quilt. Its not a complaint, mind you. Just reality. Like thunder bumpin' a stump. Its a jolt to my entire being how much it takes to build a quilt.

Each star begins with a 4-patch, and then is bordered with flying geese pieces, so that means 200 of those guys, finished. Two hundred center triangles with 400 smaller triangles, pinned, pieced and pressed. And then again, pinned, pieced & pressed.

Colors need to be matched each step along the way from the 4-patches to the flying geese, and then 4-corners, so that visual spiral tension of color is achieved for the top. 

It is a quilt-maker's choice to either have them coordinate or contrast. And every step offers that opportunity. I started coordinating and know that the next step will bring on the contrast.

I am working on both this one and the Cat Paper Piecing quilt at the same time so that I can work until I need to give myself a breather, step back and come back refreshed. All of the blocks in a row are the same, so its getting easier to cut the pieces to fit with less waste. What seems to be working for me is to keep sewing them on the paper copies. At first, I thought it might take me an evening to cut the papers off and pin the two parts of the blocks together. That is probably a low calculation of the time it will take.

And for the in-between times, I keep doing 'little small things' like the block swaps, and the holiday projects, as well as remembering to make the occasional item to go into one of the Grandchildren's boxes.

I still wonder if anyone really likes what I make and give them. In this new world, people don't find time to say thank you, and so its hard to know if they are smiling or rolling their eyes when they get something I've made. It has become a common issue, resulting in a practice for a quilt-maker to do what she (or he) does for herself. For the pleasure of it, for the opportunities to grow, and for the friends she makes.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SWING ON A STAR? Carry Moonbeams home in a jar, and be better off than you are? Or would you rather make a quilt?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Swaps

Efficient people tend to come up with an answer before they hear the question. They can be arrogant and impatient. They often wonder why people are so slow; slow to act, slow to catch on. Slow. Guess that was a good description of me for most of my life, and yes, I still own these personal character flaws. This sort of behavior is familiar to me, and they are my go-to behaviors. I've worked long and hard to change them. Yet, here I am.

I chose to be slower now, not to smell the roses, but just because its another way to know myself. Well, I do try.

I've got a lot of quilting block swaps listed on my To-Do list. Three of them are based out of Australia (Oz as it is called) and the other one is state-side with International swappers as well. Partners are assigned either at the first or end of the month for the 12" blocks and mid-month for the 6" blocks.

Usually, you make up one block for the 12" swaps and two blocks for the 6" blocks.

This pic represents what I received from the 12" Christmas Quilt Block Swap (CQBS) during the first year. Extras are going on the back (I think). I asked for fabrics that would work on a young boy's quilt. Then, I changed my request to Wonky House or Tree blocks in CQBS. Some trees came in the 12" swap, but more houses than trees. In a few months, when I have enough Wonky Trees, I shift to another kind of block.

Next is a second group, the 6" Block Swap. We swap two blocks in this one. I requested any Wonky style block and plan to join them as a border around the Wonky Houses & Trees. I just changed to any style block in the Orange, Black and White colors.

The third group I joined is the Block Swap Adventure (BSA), and my request is also for any block style in Orange, Black and White.

The fourth group I joined is the Oz based group and this one is called Own Choice (OC). My choice is again, any block style in Orange, Black & White. I've started using Halloween fabrics to make the backs, and think getting these random blocks 12" & 6" in Hallows colors will be so very complementary. This means getting two blocks 12" and two 6" per month in the Hallows colors and that means I can finish  Halloween quilts I am making this year. What I make to swap will be what my partners request. The joy of swapping is getting the variety of fabrics and patterns that would be virtually impossible to do on my own. It add such depth to any project.

Fast. Ooops. Well. No one ever said personal growth would be easy. 

And to make it even more interesting my CQBS partner (for this month) & I discovered we both love the house blocks and want to do a private swap. We are still working out the details. I will love it!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Telling Time

The Cat PP project is still progressing. I cut more pattern pieces for the blocks for the next batik color, and then set it aside for tomorrow. I want to say it is going easier, however, I am not going to be so arrogant as to think I have the system down enough for that kind of confidence. Not just yet. I am still learning and there are many lessons to this.

As I work on the Constellations quilt, it makes me smile that there are 50 star blocks and 49 hourglass blocks contained in it. Its taking me longer to create than I would have guessed. I named it Constellations because of the dark blue fabric I bought for it that has glow-in-the-dark stars. I had no idea how profound meanings in the quilt would become by combining these aspects of the fabric with the stars and hourglass blocks. I also had no idea how much time it was going to take to piece the top. 

Its a scrappy quilt, with the exception of the dark blue fabric, and if anyone ever says scrappy quilts are easier because you have stash in your closets, you would be misinformed. Its important to match colors and values, and then also attempt to keep each piece as unique from the others as possible. The goal is to create a quilt that looks good and isn't a bunch of scraps tossed together. Experience has shown me that once the blocks are created, the next step is in layout, again, ensuring that there are differences throughout.

Now, that the hourglass blocks are completed, the next step is to make flying geese pieces, surrounding the 4-patches, for the 50 star blocks by pinning them together. Of course, they would be ready for piecing.

Every such pic seems to be just a pile of scraps, and seriously, that is what they are until time and attention put them together in a new way. I've heard many a person say how silly it seems to cut perfectly good fabric apart only to piece it back together. However, by the time I get most of these fabrics, they are cut and only the bits are left.

Reminds me of how it feels to jump out of a perfectly good plane. It is EXHILARATING, life-enhancing, adventurous.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Cats & More Cats -PP, that is

The more I do paper piecing, the easier it is. Oh sure, I still make the occasional slip and join a fabric where it is either facing the wrong way; one corner or edge is not long enough to cover the seam; or I used the wrong color for one of the pieces (caught that before stitching).

The project is at the 5th batik color for the cats and at the 8th row. I am learning so much about staying with the details and being in the moment.

Even with careful cutting, the sizes of each batik are just enough to make the required cat pieces. This particular batik is easier to cut because the fabric pattern has the same look and no fussy cutting is required. I do want to keep going with it now just in case I need to buy more fabric for a particular row. 

I decided, when I first started, that I would leave the paper on the backsides and take a night to clip threads, remove the paper and pin the two parts of each block together. Each batik coloring flows to the next, so I am happy with my selections so far. The next two rows will be the longest with 11 blocks each.

I've got some things down to a system to make my work easier. For instance, I've cut about 1/3 a yard of black to work with at a time. And I am learning which way it has to face (right side up or down) when it gets cut for the block. And in truth, I still look at the batiks before cutting because the topside is so very subtle on some of them.

Learning something new on my own sometimes is not the best way, the fastest way or the most productive way. However, with all the tutorials out there and others willing to offer suggestions, I am feeling so much more confident in this method.

I set learning Paper Piecing as one of my goals for this year, and while it is early February, and I do believe I have lots more to learn, my confidence has shifted. I am a paper piecing beginner. And I will keep going.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Another Sunday

Batiks on this Paper Piecing Project was the way to go for a beginner. At least I think so. I have the next row of color started. I do think it is best for me to have it out so I can work on it every day. Attention to a specific quilt is like giving attention to a relationship. If I leave it too long, then it takes more effort the next time around.

Things are familiar, and its too easy for me to take it for granted that I know what I am doing. People change all the time, and if we don't keep in touch, we each only assume we know what is going on.

And on the other hand, I want to keep working on my other projects the way I do, one step at time. I modified the pattern for this simple table runner. It is made of twenty-four 6" squares, so it ends up a little larger at 15 x 41. I am not going to finish it right away because I used Halloween squares and just wanted to see how it would work. Its almost like a costume party! 

I also worked on the Constellations quilt to get it ready for the next round to finish off the 49 Hourglass blocks.

With all the rearranging of fabric bins, what I came to see was that each bin needed a marking identification, especially the two that are colored and the contents in hiding. I took everything out and made more sense of it. The goal was to have the bins I use up front for easy access. 

My final project was to separate scraps in the pet beds and now one holds just 100% quilting cotton and the other holds batting scraps, which might not work. Its surprising to have one almost filled only six weeks into the year. I had no idea there was this much and it all had been going into the trash and ending up in a land fill. Making these pet beds turned out to be this year's environmentally sound practice.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

PP Challenge

I think I let the project sit too long. One good thing is that I cut out the copies and matched them with the next batiks for the colored cats before setting it aside. I did that today too, though plan to return to it tomorrow.

What I forgot is the PP system which requires that I think upside down and backwards. The black is a tone on tone and must be facing the right way. Rather, it must be the backside of the fabric to the backside of the pattern. Then the next piece also has to have enough to it so when it opens wrong side to the wrong side of the pattern, there will be enough of it to cut to fit.

I know, I know, practice, practice, practice.

The quality of the batiks is high enough that if I do have the wrong side out, some pieces are so small that you could not tell anyway. I spent more time correcting my sewing mistakes than I wanted, and wondered why I couldn't learn by these mistakes? Black gets scrapped more than the batiks and I am so glad I got twice what I needed.

Some months ago, I participated in a 6.5" square swap for Halloween fabrics. Rather than get too frustrated with the PP, I pulled these squares out, trimmed them to 6" and then started cutting them the way they were cut for the Autumn table runner, using 3x6, and 3x3 pieces. They just need squaring up and joining. If the Southern Hemisphere swap goes, the next one is May 1 where they celebrate Halloween. I made it just a little longer using using 24 different fabrics.

I am really surprised how quickly that pet bed form is filling up. I will most likely spill out the contents and make sure none of the pieces is too big before closing it up. 

What surprises me even more is this issue of not learning from my mistakes. Usually we learn our lessons just because we don't want to pay the price of getting them wrong. I thought about the cost of it all, not so much the fabric costs, but the costs of my time and energy.

My current solution is to take it out again this afternoon, and again tomorrow, while it is relatively fresh in my mind. I really think that setting it aside for as long as I did was a mistake. Another thing I might have done was to watch the videos on it again and then start up with it. I think I trusted my memory a bit too much, which goes to show memory fades.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Another Finish for Friday

Since moving all my quilting items into one room, its been a challenge for me to find what I want. Funny how I've formed simple habits of reaching for something, even when it meant going into another room.  I got really excited when I saw one of the bins in the closet a little more than half empty. Then I saw another bin sitting outside of the closet, so full it wasn't closing!

While I did make two charm square table runners and have a third cut and ready for piecing, what was taken out for them was hardly noticeable with what I still have in stash.

I try not to seal any of the bins so air circulation isn't cut off from the fabrics. There is always a fine line to storage, because fabric will absorb odors and smoke, even from cooking. And once in, its really hard to get them out, if you ever can. I think moving everything in this one area is smart as long as nothing radical happens. I don't mean to be whining about not finding things easily. The goal of being organized is easy retrieval.

I am ready to start paper piecing again. I thought that would happen already but got caught up in running errands and then finishing up some of these smaller projects.

This is a traditional Friendship Star block ready for the BSA 12" mailing. I like to limit my trips to the PO to once a week just because their staff is low and it means waiting in a very long line for service. 

It will be a nice complement to the other block I made with the same fabric. My partner says she has been quilting since she could stand at the sewing machine and is still hoping for a blue ribbon on one of her quilts. If she is like me, she lost count of how many quilts she has made over the years.

I've been thinking the machine needs to go in for service and so want to have a few projects ready to work on while it is in the shop. Luckily, I have several packages of batting so could go to the clubhouse with those. And I have a couple of embroidery projects too. Its all about timing.