Thursday, April 30, 2015

Black Thread

Stash lives in my home in many forms, from fabrics to books, and of course to thread. Funny, the Webster definition of 'stash' is to store something safely and secretly in a specified place, usually a secret place for future use. The first known use of the word was in 1797. Synonyms are fun too: Cache, hoard, stockpile, salt away, squirrel (away), treasure.

Reminds me of 'secret toast' that you make late at night when no one is around, as if anyone cares. Secrets are fun for some folks, though my stash hardly qualifies as secret any more with all the posts I've made about it. I guess I am not into secrets, or mysteries. I do eat my words about those mystery quilts after they finally get finished and love watching Sherlock Holmes.

Thread from Lee's estate is almost used up, almost and not yet done. I've gone through most of the lighter colors. Sometimes its just the outer layers of a spool, exposed to years of light and temperature stress that fail a 'tug test'. I've read that you can get the spools damp, put them in baggies and freeze them overnight to rehydrate. Not sure about that because I am not the original owner. If I have doubts about it, I will use the spool to do hand basting.

Of course, I have added to the stash as need prevailed, yet some spools, like some of her fabrics, are interesting choices. Did she buy them just to have them or did she have a specific use? No clue. My task is to repurpose and use up what I have. 

Spools of black thread were next on my list and worked for blocks made yesterday and seams for the cat blocks. I did simple grids on a few holiday mug rugs and finished out the spool on more cat blocks before stopping for the day.

After pinning the blocks for the Constellation quilt, I realized that its got too much white on it for me to feel comfortable using a color like black that might show. I set it aside until I can get into town and buy some off-white.

Its not that I think more of off-white than I do the colors, but the recipients I send to are more traditionalists and would not welcome any sort of mis-matching. I love the richness of color, especially black which I see as making other colors pop. Yet, like all things, it has its place.

As I think of the secrecy of a stash, it reminds me more of my inner universe and the secrets of thoughts which are visions yet to be made manifest. I bless Lee and all her visions and all the quilts she made. Her mind is a mystery to me; what she considered, how she chose what she bought. I see her smile, and remember her passion for quilting. Those things I do know and do remember. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Its In The Stars

Stars shine so close here in the mountain valley that it feels like you can reach out and touch them. The science of Astronomy has much to teach about life. For instance, 'keep shining', 'look up', and 'shine your light of truth through whatever clouds come your way'. I like stars.

The Constellation Stars are laid out for the next quilt on my to-do list. Its going to be a play of the light and dark of hourglass blocks against the colors of the stars. I want to look at them for a day or two just to make sure I like the layout. I'll add the hourglass blocks as soon as I am sure that it will work.

My light thread for my machine is spent, so I am using black until I can get to the store later this week. This block is going in my personal B&W bed (with color) runner. It needs a stem in the lower corner with the tie-in fabric. I make up an extra when I do the swaps so the kinks can get worked out.

I can use black thread to machine quilt a swap-bot mug rug. The theme was butterflies and I had some triangles left from Brother's quilt and just made up this pattern. It measures 8.5" square and is perfect to set a mug on near a keyboard. Usually I make them more rectangular, but think it works fine. Both sides are the same.

I took a little time to watch You Tube videos for mitered corners just to make sure I was doing it as best I could. I discovered that I was making the corners at half an inch and some of them recommend stitching to the quarter inch. Details.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

He Ain't Got No Body

The cat quilt needs more fabric for one of the rows and the fabric shop is closed on Monday & I am not going out for awhile to get more. I started pinning rows that were either had finished blocks or would not have blocks added to them. (Thanks to suggestions my paper piecing mentor made.) One of the black cats is missing a body. Part of me wants to see how it would look if I didn't put one on it. Cats are like that. They only show you what they want you to see.

This project is set aside for the time being. Time to sweep the floor. Time to finish smaller projects. Time to start the blocks for the monthly swap. I've found a rhythm between working on the larger and smaller projects, with a swing from one side to the other that is peaceful as well as refreshing. 

My pond (although the sides are not done) is welcoming whole families of sparrows. Its difficult to distinguish them from the rocks in this pic I took inside my window. I could have watched them all morning and know that the pond is a success. I need to build up around the black form and get more plants tucked in among the stones. I can see it from both windows here in my studio and that is a good thing. I've got the camera ready for another afternoon swim and sun.

Monday, April 27, 2015


This cat paper piecing is a form of tessellation which is an ancient pattern that is mathematical, and was used in both Roman and Islamic arts. The first time I saw this kind of work was in Granada, Spain at Alhambra. Its also seen in honeycombs, which is a pattern on one of my personal quilts. M.C. Escher uses them a lot in his work, so I am a fan of the process.

I cannot say its getting better with the cat quilt because it seems that every time I pick up (block pattern) napkins on a row, I have to spend a lot of time thinking about the notes on them. And they are clear. Its more the lesson of following directions, anyone's directions, evidently even my own. This a simple assessment of the facts about how I operate, not really any self-critism. It befuddles me.

Knowing my short-comings, if this is indeed one of them, helps me stay focused.

I got the top corner done, and have 14 more squares to complete before joining the blocks to form the center of the top. Four corners from four different blocks make up a shadow cat, so even following directions seems incorrect to me until I lay it back down. And to make it more challenging, rows are on the diagonal. Sometimes I think my friend Amy believes she will never see it. 

Facing the negative aspects in life takes a lot of self-worth. And the way this quilt is designed is that the positive and negative images need each other to complete the overall effect. With the tessellation pattern, I got to see how they are so much alike in endless ways. Each block seems unique like each person seems unique. And are we really all that special and different or is it ego that makes us see ourselves as different and needing to stand out and away from our tribes?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Napkin Paper Piece Holders

Two things happened as I looked that the paper piecing cats quilt top: One is that its too small. I know that the border will extend it but it wasn't quite enough for what I want; and Second, the first color was going to get cut away.

I struggled with adding more blocks by writing directions on paper. Guess I need to see it. Calculations indicated that to extend it, there would need to be two rows added to the top and two rows added to one side. My first attempts at just making more blocks was less successful than I hoped, so the result was to take paper napkins and lay them out, and then label them.

It will take several more days at the machine to add these blocks but I do think it will make for a more appealing quilt top for my plan.

I do think it is important for me to keep going. I know I whine about not being able to read patterns, and about running out of steam after quilting for more than four hours. 

This morning, I got outside in my gardens to move compost to the new transplants and to do some weeding. Doesn't look like rain, so that means watering in certain places the underground sprinklers don't reach. Many of my neighbors have switched to almost all concrete or stones yards. Unfortunately, trees have suffered from the drought, and yet, I am rather a hold-out for green. That means more birds! and a lot of animals who come to my pond and waterfall. I can lean back on my chair and see birds and butterflies and the wandering cats.

Oh cats. Back at it now.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

How To, Yet Again

I know there is a lesson for me in how/why I struggle with reading patterns. Its like people who look for nurturing and love that they deserve that simply doesn't come. The people they try to get those things from may not have it to give or may express it in different ways so that both of them are unfulfilled. I will never meet the pattern-makers and have no real connection. 

I know there is a lesson here about my failure to read them right. I know it because that is how I learn. Repeating things that don't work until I look at my who learns by being shown, me who learns by practice, me who keeps learning.

This morning I looked at a pile of projects. Simple mug rugs will take some evening hand work. Three aprons are at the bottom of the pile. All they need are waistbands. I've got them cut to size and one seam pressed over and pinned the bodice in with all the raw edges. Yet as I looked at it, I could not figure out how the sides of the skirt would be enclosed in the waistband the way I had it. I read the pattern instructions more than a few times. Then I saw, "do the same with the second strip". What second strip? I had not cut a second strip for either of the three aprons and simply stopped what I was doing. It was not about the pattern or the pattern-maker.

This happens too much for me. I think I read the instructions to understand them. However, what I am learning and think the lesson is about, is that I have to be responsible for what I read, for how I interpret what I read, and take action of some sort to make it work for me.

Its not so much continuing education as it is continuing evolution.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Birthday Gift For my Friend

I always wonder if the people I love feel that love in my fabric arts. When I looked at my list of things to do, a birthday gift was next. My close friend in MN requested another knitting needle keeper. I made her one last year and threw away the pattern. This one I found will do the trick.

It was so many pages long to download, and having pics didn't help me understand it. When I taught, one thing I shared is that we all communicate differently and what might seem easy for one person to understand might be gibberish to another. I struggle to understand patterns. Its a fine line for the pattern-maker to write one for people who are beginners to those who are advanced. My questions or obstacles seem to be about the simple things a more advanced sewer/quilter would know. 

This needle-keeper roll has three levels, which means three pocket pieces. It made no sense to me the way it was written, so I labeled the different pieces and actually stitched it from the back rather than to mark pieces and take the chance that I wasn't accurate. The top row has 1" slots; the second row has 2" slots; and the third row has three stitches to make three 4" slots and one 2" slot at the end. I am very happy with how the column stitches look. The result is what the pattern-maker wanted done a very different way.

Someone gave me this lovely hand-dyed fabric that I did not want to cut up. Much to my surprise, it was the exact size for this pattern (front & back bottom). And again, this is a scrap-stash gift, including the ribbon which was at the end of its spool.

It rolls up nice without anything in it right now. The color will stand out wherever she lays it down in her home. And looking at the inside part, it should hold a lot of needles and supplies. I think it took me about four hours to complete it, however, more time to include searching for a pattern and then finding fabric to make it work. 

I finished a number of simple mug rugs too, and spent time sorting shelves again. I need to do that every once in awhile. Its not so much about cleaning as it is retrieval.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Winter Solstice in April

Opening the top drawer of the cupboard where I keep my Winter Solstice projects, I pulled out an apron pattern and fabric I'd set aside for it. There was no real plan for today, only to work on something to take stress off myself come the end of the year. I've also got four Pay It Forward projects to make this year as well. These are non-quilting projects.

This apron pattern is one I found in the Winter 2014 "Quilts & More" periodical. Its Fat Quarter friendly. I received fabric as gifts from more than one person for the holidays and my birthday. Its fun to match them and then find what else was needed in the stash. Excited me to use them rather than to just store them. As much as I appreciate receiving fabrics, it is a challenge to find projects where they work.

Once I got cutting, I realized I could make two aprons, and then it turned into three! Its easy to see how someone can get caught up in making them. The fabric had no other designated project so it made sense to me to use what I could with this one. This project gave me an opportunity to use three different stitches on my new machine.

However, the waistband is left to attach and it will be easy enough to do before putting them away. It will be a bit more narrow than the folded fabric here. Pictures rarely do most projects justice, including my own. 

Usually there is a vendor for aprons at the street fairs in town. It surprises me how expensive aprons are. I remember both my Grandmothers wearing them, though I admit that my own apron has been hanging on a cupboard door knob ever since I moved into this home. I forget to put it on!

Aprons have an interesting history for household and professional use as well as in ancient rituals. Usually I think of them as something used to keep your clothing clean rather than part of a fancier costuming. 

It won't take long to finish these three. I did laugh when I made a holiday gift list and realized how many more things I have to get ready.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Basting a Holiday Golf Quilt

My appointment at the clubhouse to baste is at 8 am and this one took me an hour and a half to finish. This is the time of working on a quilt that I make some choices for doing either hand quilting or machine quilting. Sometimes we can look at something and not see it.  We see what we expect to see or want to see, and then just miss what's right in front of us.

I felt my whole world slow down as I basted this one. My friend here in town gave me some panels with guys playing golf. I used one for the center block and scrapped the rest of the pattern. Most of the fabric came from Lee's estate. 

I know a lot of folks stay away from scrap quilts, and they are a lot of work to make the quilt look good. I purchased the ice blue fabric for the background, as well as the back and binding. Fabric from Lee's estate is good quality and yet, fabric dyes change over the years making them hard to match. This ice blue did the trick with darker colors.

The slow down energy here was comforting to me. And that is how the game of golf is played. I decided to machine quilt on those sashing strips and then do something more decorative on the borders, perhaps a serpentine stitch in a dark red thread that meanders from edge to edge. 

Then, I went to a fabric store in town and purchased material from the sale rack to make some simple mug rugs. I spent time with them practicing one of the decorated stitches on my new machine. There is a 2.5" strip of green fabric that is going to make a perfect binding for it.

Things are rarely what they seem to be, whether its in quilting or in our relationships or what we do in the greater world. I never liked the game of golf because it seems so slow, yet here it was slowing me down, presenting the sense of peace, and allowing me time to consider my options. One of the spiritual mysteries I learned long ago is said simply, "It is time".

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Paper Project Day

I need to trick myself into doing tasks other than quilting, because I have become enchanted with this fabric art. Some people shake their heads at it because it means cutting perfectly good fabric into smaller pieces and then putting them together in a quilt that may not be appreciated. Its like parachuting...jumping out of a perfectly good plane!

With the swap-bot exchanges for birthday cards, I got quite a few, and rather than just toss them, swap-bot has taught me how to re-purpose cards into post cards. Usually I get only a few birthday cards, so this year was a treat.

Of these, one was unsigned so needs an envelope; 3 were post cards that just went into my PC file for a later project; 2 I wanted to save in my family box; 7 were cards that were simply cut in half to use the left-side/front as a new post card; 4 were cut and glued to card stock re-purposing them as birthday post cards, and 1 will work as a regular post card.

 Another re-purposing project is to make envelopes out of the heavier magazine pages. Its simple to trim the edges and make two folds. When I am ready to mail something, I tape the edges and seal, and then add an address label.
Its interesting to me how much fun it is to receive an envelope like this rather than a plain white one. I haven't been too creative with sizes and go with what comes out of a closely trimmed page. 

I made 24 envelopes and am storing them in an empty tissue box. Paper has a way of hiding when it is stored horizontally. I keep three such boxes on a shelf for easy retrieval for mailing things out. I know plain envelopes are inexpensive, yet re-purposing seems eco-friendly to me.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Catching Colors

Attitude is everything.  For the most part, I keep a positive attitude even when things get crazy.

I finished Sophie's Summer lap quilt. I pre-washed all the fabrics, and because it is a red-white-blue quilt, and because her Mother passed from leukemia last year, I know that if this little grrl's quilt gets soiled, it will go into the washing machine with a lot of other clothes. It may get rough treatment and I just wanted to be a little more certain of the colors before sending it off to her. Its hanging over my shower curtain rod. 

Before I took the last stitch and tied the last knot, I knew this one had to be washed with some Color Catchers. I threw three of them in, and both the reds and blues bled to this sort of purple or indigo. After they dried, I put them in a small baggie and pinned it to the quilt. When I send it, I will include a few more Color Catchers with some care instructions...and then let go of it.

Sophia may be doing her own laundry. She may open the package and when she sees the quilt, may roll her eyes and say, "That's nice Great-Auntie Bellezza", and go onto the next present, hoping for what she really wants.

The attitude or intention that I held while making this quilt is one of celebration. Its what it is. On the other hand, it doesn't hurt to be practical and take an extra step to preserve the intended look of the quilt.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cats on the Design Floor

Usually reaching out for what is good and what we want is less of a struggle than we remember, so we can get immobilized by the memory of something that didn't work out. Yet, many times, we also resist taking a step into the unknown. Sometimes, a person just has to do IT. Something. I got to the next step on the paper piecing project, which joined the 2-parts to each block, and then started the layout.
Puzzles are confusing to me. I never did them as a child and struggle with puzzles and mystery quilts. This one is a simple pattern of black cats and batik cats. And each type of cat leans in a different direction. I got them all pieced to discover that SIX blocks have one piece done in it incorrectly.

It reminded me that our lives can be filled with decades of doing things that work for our greater good, and then every once in awhile, something we have done needs to be un-done or re-done. Luckily, in quilting, we can get do-overs. Praise be to the ripper. 

Whatever system I got into allowed me to make these six without noticing that the one piece was ill-placed. Oh well, a little time with the ripper and they are re-done.

Its joyous to actually see that there is no guilt or shame in what happened. Its something that does, and something correctable. How I wish I had begun quilting when I was younger so that this lesson in my life had been easy!

After getting them all laid out, I decided to add to the top so there is more of the rose look to it. I can see its not enough to add just one row because the quilt top must finish with black cats. I am going to put what I have together first and then take another look.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Do It Now, Or Do It Later

Last year, I held back a couple of quilts so that I could take my time with all the ones I was working on to send out in 2014 for family members.

Right now, many of the ones I held back are at the stage for basting. Thing is, last year, when I set these quilts aside, they weren't just ready to go but needed prep work or completion in some way. I've got two of them ready to baste next week. I turned them over to trim loose threads and press seams flat. It took me a couple of hours to do both quilts.

Cutting off threads meant I could toss them outside for spring birds to help build nests. Some strands were hung over Heavenly Bamboo bushes & some just laid over lower plants. Often what I clip in smaller amounts just goes in my kitchen compost. They are gone and not just blown by winds into the yard. The threads are being repurposed.

The next step was to press the seams flat. Only a few of them folded over like that top one, but pressing before they are basted makes for a smoother quilt. These two quilts go to a couple of Great-Nephews.

I need to start moving the quilts to the next stage for machine quilting and did pull out Sophia's Summer. It is pinned now, and ready to hand stitch the binding on it. I've taken to watching You Tube for movies at night, and did another one set in Naples, Italy ("That Hamilton Woman" with Vivien Leigh & Laurence Olivier), followed by a James Bond ("Die Another Day") that I had not seen. The only good things in it were Halle Barrie, Judi Dench & a great new hairstyle on Moneypenny. However, the movies made the tedious work of clipping threads and pinning go by quickly. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Push Buttons

Always something to learn if you care to learn more. I took time for my personal growth as a quilter. The DVD has much to share, and I read the companion guide as well. 

First off, the new machine operates by pushing buttons. What I learned this time is that there is a button to raise and lower the needle rather than to turn the knob on the right. Oh, you can still do it that way, however, pushing the button is easier. The three buttons are right above the needle: One is reverse, then needle down / up, and the lowest one is to turn it on and off.

The other feature that is new for me is the bobbin threader, which is another step up because thread winds around the bobbin and doesn't need to go through any hole like it did on my old machine. The new one also threads the needle like the old one did for me. I need these features not only to save time, but also for the convenience.

When I started looking at machines, cost was my first consideration. My repair guy told me they all need servicing and that none of them are made to last more than five years. FIVE years! That is startling information to know that none of our appliances last the way they did. Not the sewing machines, not the toasters nor refrigerators, none of them.

So the range of machines I was looking at cost between $9 a day to $.30 a day to run for 4 years, and that was if I paid cash rather than put it on a credit card. It made sense to me that getting a less expensive machine knowing it would need replacing was my best option. I just do not have the money to spend, knowing that no matter which one I purchased, it would need an annual servicing and might just flair out in 4-5 years.

Everyone needs to decide this for themselves by looking at the features they want. I liked my last Singer, in fact, the last two Singers. And this Brother is really going to serve me well. I've learned so much about it from the DVD that I wish I had known about the Singer. It is amazingly light and does more than I know how to do or want to do with it.

Along with learning, I spent the day piecing, cutting, pressing and pinning. The smaller projects are helping me practice. I do admit to being a little hesitant to jump into the machine quilting stage. 

It will happen. It must happen...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Another Stitch, Another Prayer

I've heard that we can accomplish many things in life, and yet without love, our accomplishments are mighty hollow.  For me, quilting is about the love I feel for others. Moreover, love is something we give ourselves too. I think a person has to love quilting and be willing to grow in the fabric arts.

Most days, there is little to show for my efforts because it might be a day filled with pinning, piecing, snipping dog ears and laying out blocks to see if or how they fit together. The mere act of creating stimulates my brain and helps me think about problem solving, color coordination and surrounds me in the beauty of the fabrics.

And I am still learning about my new computerized machine! It has two options for controlling the power. One is the old school way of using a peddle and the other is push button. I bought a Brother this time and its on the top 10 list for value, product popularity, and user rating. 

I've watched the DVD for it and want to review it now that I have actually used the machine. It takes time to go to the next step in continuing education and would be easy to continue doing what is comfortable. There is no one telling me that I must learn a new method of operating. 
Its all on me.

And that brings it all back to the piece about acting with love. Its always easy for me to love my Sons, my friends, my extended family. Easy to extend that love to them, to make them something that shows my love. But loving me is a 'horse of a different color'.

That love looks like eating nourishing meals, drinking water, stretching, gardening, landscaping, reading, laughing with friends. That love looks like buying fabrics that I love to look at and work with...buying a new machine and other tools to make the projects go together better.

When I quilt, I am remembering to pray for myself so that I stay healthy in body, mind and spirit. And that makes me smile.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Day Well Spent

With more than a few errands to run in town, my day was spent enjoying the view driving around the valley. Then I came home and worked on a number of projects, almost flitting from one to the other the way I do. And I made sure my lists were current so what I plan for various gifts or other deadlines doesn't get lost.

A new swap I have engaged in is a "Movie Challenge of the Month" where you agree to watch a movie made or set in the location of your swap partner. Much to my delight, mine is from Naples, Italy. When I went looking for films, I found 10, and yet also wanted to find them online so went to You Tube and found a 1914 silent film "Assunta Spina" starring Francesca Bertini who is considered one of the first divas of cinema. Assunta Spina

In some places, she is listed as Co-Director of the film. Her performance sets the standard for acting and is considered extraordinary to this day. She wanted the effect of her acting to be close to reality, so never looked at the camera, used everyday gestures and related internally to external events with her acting responses.

While most of this film takes place indoors and is colorized by adding one of four colors to it, there are other realistic sets for the action, one of which included wooden sidewalks on the outside of buildings. I took this from my computer screen.

In the end, the story shows how women of that era were put upon by men as well as the system. Even a strong woman such as Assunta Spina had little hope for her happy ending.

Bertini, on the other hand, knew world wide acclaim portraying a wide range of female characters, and became a symbol for feminine elegance, and authenticity. I've looked at You Tube for more information about her, and none of the videos are in English, including a final interview with her where she appears in fur and pearls after a few clips from her movies showing her beauty and the drama in the films.

Good Goddess, she was stunning. And while I did not know what she said, it was so fun to LISTEN!

My Gramma Anna used to tell the story of being infatuated with a man from Naples and that her Father refused the union because he had moved to America and wanted his children with him. He arranged a marriage to my Grandfather. She would have been the same age as Assunta in the movie. I love the costuming and the indoor sets. Yes, I plan to watch it again.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

#1 Block Orphan

After coming home from the retreat, I pinned all the parts to the blocks because I left the site before finishing the first of my blocks. I had taken a number of photos, so pulled one of them up to discover that I had laid the square block (forming the triangle) on the strip pair going a different direction. Its not that it was wrong as much as it was different and didn't follow the pattern. Women who bought fabric for this quilt got all their darks in one color using different fabrics, and all their lights in one color using different fabrics.

Admittedly, I panicked. The paper pieced cat blocks are still waiting in my front room because they represent a puzzle that is more than I can take looking at. So to do yet another one for myself just freaked me out. 

My fabric selections will make a scrappy quilt using the scraps from my stash rather than going to store and purchasing coordinating colors and patterns. If I hold to the quilt pattern as its written, it will look just fine. One block is too soon to tell if it will work or not. So I re-counted. There is enough to make up another block going in the direction that the pattern calls for. I panicked anyway and realized it was outside my comfort to make it flipped.

I re-pinned a few blocks and started piecing them. It takes less than 5 minutes to piece 1/8 of the block and countless minutes to assemble it, and in fact, its not going to be further sewn until I decide how it will look. What I see in the print copy for the pattern is that the look can get lost if the fabrics fight for dominance or fade. Its another one of those random quilts that needs a bit of thoughtfulness. Not over-thinking, which means looking at it with soft eyes.

Yet, with a little re-arranging, the star blocks showed up more. These 8 blocks are the only ones pieced, and I think I will take the time to layout the colors to see how placement will make it work better on the eye. As long as the 4 sections of the stars are not pieced, its all like playing a game. My plan is to join the triangle pieces over the strips and lay them all out to see what I like. Its an easy block to make that goes together with just a few points to match.

Mysteries. Dang! Funny thing is that I am enrolled in a BOM mystery. They push me way beyond my comfort levels, and for that, I am grateful.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mysteries of Transformation

While I worked all day on the mystery quilt, I brought it home yet to be finished. There are many mysteries in life, including the one that seems to take place for women when they get tired and extend themselves. We start out with such positive energy and enthusiasm.

I witnessed the hard work everyone was doing, and could see how the project wore on us all. We wanted to see the magick manifest in the quilts we were constructing. Where there was silence on the first day, by the end of the second day, for myself at least, I started to feel the pull of home and my obligations there. I started to feel a sort of frustration at not having this quilt top be finished.

I took some work-in-progress photos. There are many steps to this particular pattern that took a lot of time. My guess is that once these prep steps are done, it will go together quickly. Here are a few photos I took of some of the work stations. Some of us brought fabrics from our stash, some bought all the material needed.

The blocks consist of a dark combination that is a version of the friendship star block. We were urged to make one block at  time in case we wanted to shift the colors around. Scrap quilting should be more intuitive rather than over-thinking it.

As the blocks get assembled, the lights in them will form a secondary star block. None of us reached that stage in our construction. The easy goal was to finish one block before going home again. I did not get there with mine.

This photo below shows the construction layout one participant was using for her 30 blocks so that she could be sure the colors were evenly distributed. I came home to do this, yet chose to do it block by block, pinning lights and darks together. Its a scrappy quilt, so there is no right or wrong way to construct it, yet randomness does take planning.

While the actual event is over, the project is yet to be completed. I've got all pages to the pattern. One of the women discovered that if she took the time to sew another seam, she could create a HST from what might end up as scraps. While it takes more time, I decided to go that route as well, and drew the additional stitching line on those squares. They will make up another border for a project planned for 2016, and will make a great addition to that quilt.

While I was in the store, I bought a couple of FQ's to work on another swap-bot project called the "Butterfly Spirit Guide". This 6" pattern is called "Butterflies on Parade" and is what I am using for a Mug Rug. I chose the Lilac-Bordered Copper Butterfly to send my partner information about. I'll finish the MR with the copper fabric as a binding. The green is on the back too.

The Butterfly affirmation says," I recognize my true beauty within. I value & cherish all that I am. I have the power to transform my life to experience true joy."

It seems to me that quilting is not just making one project. When there are scraps left over that go into one's stash, a quilter has to make choices regarding their use, which means either going into yet another quilt she makes, or giving them up to someone else to use. Even with this Mystery Quilt, those HSTs being created will be used in that panel quilt I plan for 2016. But, in the mean time, they have to be stored with a note-to-self for their designation.

A topic that always seems to come up when I attend such groups is the discussion of stash and our end-of-life plans. Who will want the scraps? Who will finish the unfinished quilt projects? Are we clear about the next steps to the unfinished work for ourselves? Every project that goes back into the closet takes time to review its status when it comes back out.

Sometimes a quilter returns to a project only to realize she no longer has interest in finishing it. Then what? All good questions. And all topics that only come up during the last hour or so. How very much like life.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Still a Mystery

Someone once said that the world always needs magick, because without it, life is nothing but a bag of cheap tricks.

I believe in magick. I believe in the mysteries we encounter in ritual. I like to keep my communications as open and honest as I can, which might be one of the reasons Mystery Quilts challenge me so much.

With a mystery quilt, each step is revealed as it is needed, and you do not know the outcome. I am drawn to them and love most of the ones I made this way. Most, not all. I have learned a lot about myself when I surrender to the process and yet, have retained my common sense when it comes to selecting fabrics from the first page information. I learned from the ones I made that I didn't love.

This year's retreat is a much more quiet one than I have attended in the past. Women have been spending much more time working on the second step and are less chatty. In that step, all of the cut strips were paired, in as many different combinations as we are able to make. 

The third step is to draw diagonal lines on all of the squares. I took this part of the project home because today's session starts at 10, and I am an early riser, so have time to get this done. It took three bobbins to sew the long strips together, therefore, I've brought the empties home to re-load them. All these things take time, and if I can do them on my own, my time at today's retreat session will be more productive.

This is important for me to advance through as many of the steps while with the group's instructor. And today, I will spend some time with other participants to see how they have interpreted the mystery for themselves. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

What Is Pretty

So much in our world isn't pretty. I gave away my TV years ago and never replaced it because I didn't want to watch the horrible news that seemed to dominate the air waves. Even now, I avoid the Facebook posts that are grim call-to-action reports about abuse to children, the elderly, and other beings and parts of the world. I know its out there, but focusing on the negative or what isn't pretty only brings me down.

One of the latest swaps I am in is for a small altar cloth. ALTAR with an "A", meaning a sacred space where one prays or does their magick. What happens or should happen is that a person is altered with an "e" meaning they are changed by how they pray or do their magick. We are changed and the real power of it all is how much we love.

Traditionally, the altar cloth is meant to be the dressing for the divine. I decided to revisit the pattern for the block I sent off without photographing so fast that the aftermath was devastating for me. I used traditional European colors for calling the elements in. Earth=green, Air=yellow, Fire=red, Water=green. And the cross quarters in the corners are seasonal florals, with a purple batik for Spirit. White represents the Divine, SheWho lives and breathes in space & time for us and with us.

It was good practice for me on the new machine. I took special care to have all the blocks trim out to the same size, added a lavender border and a darker purple for binding. The back is the same lavender fabric and so now that one is used up. I would be happy to receive such a cloth and love how it looks. It finishes at 14" and is a perfect centerpiece to an altar by itself or to sit on top of a larger cloth. With all the colors in it, it will go with any decor and fit just about any table size or shape.

I am thinking that one of my PayItForward projects could be an altar cloth, however, I might like to focus on the element of Fire for it and see how I could use up some of the red family of fabrics that I have here. 

Quilting, for me, is my own spiritual declaration against spiritual blindness. I recognize the state of the world and the state of humanity within me and around me. My eyes are open to what exists that is not pretty, yet I refuse to participate in that energy. I chose to work on myself, to pray, to do the magick that alters and heals. Me first, and then the rest of the world.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Layouts & the DVD

Today is all about saying yes to positive choices. I started laying out the cat paper piecing project as well as working on the layout for my younger Sister's quilt. 

All those cat block pieces are numbered and yet they look like a huge puzzle for another day. I need time to sit with them and lay the correct block in its place for each row. That's why they were numbered! I forgot I took that step. It should end with more browns and there is enough fabric to re-do the end blocks if that doesn't show.

The other quilt for my Sister needs frames around some blocks. The foundation for this quilt is a panel, and I do have a pattern for finishing it, so have put it aside. Too many new things coming my way to learn this week. I am feeling overwhelmed by being in this stage with so many projects.

After finishing the stars on the Constellations quilt, it came up star one short. They need to be squared anyway, and so before making only one more star, I want to see if more will need to go into it. 

Then, it needs to be sorted by color and then laid out as a quilt design too. Its safely in its package waiting for next week. It feels good to get this close to that step.

And much to my surprise, my new sewing machine was delivered in time for me to unpack it and see how it starts up. It came with a DVD, so I watched it and learned a lot, even for my previous machine which only came with set-up instructions. This one demonstrated button holes, blind hems, various stitches and tension settings that I never knew on the other one! Its quite lightweight, and works by pushing a button on and off, making the foot pedal optional.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My Own Projects

Some life situations can be so devastating that you wish you you had the courage to just die rather than face them another minute. Well, yesterday wasn't that bad. In fact, I think it takes more courage to keep living. And so, when the sun rose this morning, it was indeed another day worth living.

I started working on a BOM Mystery again. This is the one I am doing with the Aussie group, but it is out of my own stash and will go to someone of my own choosing rather than be a swap. Although it is a mystery, I've decided to take one fabric from the previous block and use it in the next one, and that way see a flow in the finished quilt. I LOVE these colors! This quilt is being built from a group of fabrics I found in my stash.

Then I remembered a work in progress (WIP) for a black and white BOM that my friend here in town & I started together (she is using SW fabrics). Mine is scrappy with B&Ws with that daisy print on black as the unifyer. Each block will use that fabric in some way. I felt like I was on a roll of quilting successes.

One failure yesterday was on the first Churn Dash that left 4 pieces of white & pink that got pieced together today as a smaller block, trimmed to 6.5" for that Wonky Block box. There is nothing wonky about it, only that it is the right size now as more of an orphan block, and will be used as part of a border in the wonky quilt.

And it was about time I got back to the quilts for this year. I pieced 13 more scrappy star blocks. Its going to be a gorgeous quilt with a lot of variety. It needs 9 more star blocks, that all need squaring up, threads cut before they are laid out.

This was a diamond day. Some days are like that.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Gone With the Mail

One of the swap blocks I made got into the mail and it wasn't until I returned home that I realized there was no photo of it, which was a bummer for me. Then I got concerned about writing my feelings and wondered why I needed to be positive when I wasn't feeling all that great about it.

It was interesting to see how forgetting to take the photo let the air out of my creative efforts. I started back at my work, and found myself so self-critical that I began to make small mistakes, turning to my seam ripper over and over. And of course, even that tore into my soul. How silly. How really silly.

The next block I made was the BSA Churn Dash in 2 colors of pink with white. It was ok and yet, I wanted to switch the pinks and see if it turned out better. Its a pattern I've used before and this one called for two colors.

The second one seemed to pop more and brought back a bit more confidence. I'll send both blocks to my swap partner because I just have no use for pink in a block at this time and cannot imagine it for the future. This way, she can chose which one works better for her needs.

I wondered how and why not taking one photo sent me down. Maybe it was something else. It is raining outside and cold. Weather has been building to colder temps and my body feels it. And it is after a birthday. Some folks say that happens too.

Whatever it was, my feelings were real. I think that our culture wants us to label any sort of distress or depression or sadness as being worse of a situation than if you broke a bone or had the flu. Visible illnesses, or accidents are ok where this sadness or disappointment I am feeling is invisible and almost not ok to experience.

There are more advancements being made to recognize the hidden disabilities....dis meaning taking away, putting down...and of course add that to the word ability and whatever a person has that is not the normal functioning level is considered less than.

I watched Dancing with the Stars tonight and one of the latest episodes has a contestant who lost an arm and a leg in the Iraq war. Oh how he is a hero when he gets out and dances, pushing his limits! Yet in last week's episode, the prosthetic arm hurt him and in his frustration, he tore it off and tossed it aside. That dance had to be recreated; he got high praise from the judges and audience. We may never see his daily struggles after the season ends and he is out of the spotlight, in a dark room at night and all alone again. The public, our culture, doesn't want to know that part of a hero's life. We do not look, do not see any brokenness in others. 

Nor do I want to see this part of my life. I want every day to be positive, to be filled with joy, laughter and high productivity. And when it is not, then I feel obligated to find something good to say or at least not write about feeling down. Something simple that goes wrong or is unplanned just gets moved to high trauma drama. Jeeze! That's just so out of balance, yet it is my trauma drama.

 One of my Gramma Anna's favorite songs was by John Denver, who was a hero too; a humanitarian, an overachieving artist & entertainer, and yet struggled personally with relationship issues, addictions, arrests, and endless court cases. I find myself humming it tonight, remembering the music and all the good he did in his life through political activism. 

"I'd like to say I've been fine, and I do; but we both know the truth is hard to come by, and if I told the truth, that's not quite true. Some days are diamonds, some days are stones. Sometimes the hard times won't leave me alone. Sometimes a cold wind blows a chill in my bones. Some days are diamonds, some days are stones..."
Some Days Are Diamonds (You Tube link to the song)