Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Crawl Mat

When I asked the Infant Center Teacher for what she might want or need, she said that her babies in the Center range from laying down, to crawling and then, by the time they start toddling, they move along to the Toddler Room. The Teachers each have a max of four babies in their care at one time according to the Cali State Laws. 

So when they take the babies outdoors, they might be able to put four of them into a wagon (with sides) to go for a walk, but some of the excursions might just be out in the air, and at best babies could crawl a few paces. What she said they need is a crawl mat that provides a little cushion and a little barrier.

I brought out my container of flannel scraps. The darker piece measures at 2 3/4 yard by WOF (width of fabric), so it was the standard size I needed to cut down the hearts on chocolate fabric. There were two ways to make the crawl mat, either to seam it for a square or make it uncut into a rectangle. She opted for the rectangle because it could transition from their door to the back yard and 'crawlers' could make the journey themselves, have enough room to play, while the 'layers' could have their seat-belted seats put at the end as a sort of wall to stop 'crawlers' from going farther into the yard. 'Layers' transition to 'crawlers' as they learn to push themselves over and need a variety of environments to test their new skills. 

The fabric was trimmed and squared, sewed right sides together and is ready to be top-stitched at the edges. The plan is to join the two pieces with a serpentine stitch between the bigger heart on the top fabric so it will lay relatively flat when tossed on the ground. Its light enough to go into the washer / dryer, not too hard to handle, and soft enough for baby skin.

I had hoped for that bin of flannel scraps to come down more than it did, yet, this was a remarkably easy project that made use of two lovely pieces. It is never my intention to toss perfectly good fabric away, and always my intention to make the best use of what I have. This project pleased me.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Living My Truth

Over the last few years, I learned to monitor my personal resources a little better. For instance, I know that making a quilt any bigger than one that can fit over the top of my queen size bed is too much weight for me to handle on my machine. Also, if there is gardening to do, it is better done earlier in the mornings because of high heats that start later in the morning and go into early evening. I pace myself better.

This morning I got outside to tuck some Rock Roses between rock spaces near the steps going to the pond. They do fade into the environment making them hard to see in a photo. I think they are called something else officially. I've also got Hen N Chicks that seem to do well there. And then I threw out the contents of a bag of fertilizer over them and some spots on the lawn. Its only getting up to high 80's here today, but it is best to work early in the morning for my sake and the sake of the plant nation. I watered everything and came inside for a shower.

I've been sewing the binding on Tony's Comfort & Joy quilt, and might be done with that part after tonight. Then, of course, I need to go over it, front and back, to clip threads I might have missed and just make sure its sturdy. Usually by the time it has reached this stage there is no taking it apart, so any fix-its have to be done carefully so as to fit with it as opposed to calling attention to it. I rarely encounter such boo-boos, but you never know. I would rather it be me than the recipient.

I am making three more fabric boxes this weekend for the Infant Center to use as small toy storage. Again, whatever is in that room needs to be washable, almost every day if a baby comes in contact with it. So boxes made with fabric that is perfectly good but has no future in a quilt, can go to this kind of project. They will not have buttons on the flaps because nothing small enough to go through a toilet paper roll is allowed in the room for baby safety. I plan to machine stitch the flaps down.

Each day is spent living my truth in some way. That means I need to know what my truth is, living in the present moment of my life rather than looking back to the energy I used to have as a younger woman or what I might not keep as I age. And because doing some sort of community service is a value of mine, I needed to find something to fit into what I love doing. As a retired teacher, I can still support other teachers by my fabric arts.

This is the moment I have, these are my resources both energetically and materially. My truth here is that I am enough and what I do is enough.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Comfort & Joy

My friend Carol stopped in for a visit and brought one of her quilts to show. She had the binding folded over and clipped with those snappy hair pins she bought at the dollar store. I've had this box of Wonder Clips for some time and hadn't used them.

I brought them out to use on Tony's quilt and was able to clip two sides or half the quilt with the 50 pieces in the box. Wow, are they slick!  I might just buy another box of them some time in the future or see about getting the cheaper version.

Also, Tony's quilt got its name finally. Comfort & Joy. The boy is always smiling and I could just see him with the quilt. As I finished machine quilting, squared it off and added the binding, I realized how much I loved it. I have to admit those mystery quilts always look lovely when they are done.

I spoke with one of the fabric store owners about putting the paper pieced quilt on the long arm. She gave me a number of ideas for it and also said to stitch along the perimeter of it before taking off the paper pieces so as not to stretch any small sections that were cut on the bias. Once I am past that point, I'll bring it in to purchase fabrics for the borders.

Sometimes, it seems that the quilts that give me the greatest heartache in creating them are the ones I enjoy the most.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Seems that I take one trip out to the big city every 4-6 weeks is needed and make use of coupons from JoAnn's to get various things that are unavailable here in town. Thing is, they just had a sale so nothing is on sale. I needed thread and wanted to get a few tonal fabrics so made the trip in. I went right to the service desk and spoke to a MOD there who said she would give me two of the usual coupons discounts.

I found one fabric on sale, bought another at full price, and my thread, so the virtual coupons were used on the regular priced products. My receipt said I paid $20-something and saved $11-something. I probably spent at least $15 in gas for the drive forth and back, and stopped for a beverage.

However, the desert drive in the early evening makes it all possible. Its one of those wide open spaces that cowboy songs were written about and everything is still in Spring blooming, though the heat is coming on full out too. I just never get tired of seeing the views. This is a Joshua Tree, still surviving in spite of the changing environment.

There are six things on my list I didn't find. I would have bought them even without a sale and without coupons. But I have gotten to be a fabric snob and never settle any more for less than what I want in color and texture. I put a lot of hard work into what I create, and to use less than the quality the projects deserve is down right silly.

It was impressive to have the store manager give me those virtual coupons for the two items that were regularly priced. Sometimes I wonder what it takes to make that happen; either the time of day, the MOD working that shift, the fact I asked, or that I look like her ol' Granny. In any case, it was sweet of her.

Tony's quilt is ready for binding now. It took me two days to machine quilt a simple grid but it looks nice. With the new winter white thread, I am ready for the other projects that have been waiting their turn. And of course, there is a lot of hand work to do as well. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fears of Failure

Some days those fears just take hold and everyone of us have our own way of coping. I have a gut feeling that the UFO (un - finished object) bins some of us have are a result of what happens when fear of failure takes hold.

I was able to join all the rows to the Cat Paper Piecing project. Of course, there is trimming and squaring before measuring and purchasing border fabrics. More than once, I wanted to stop and set it aside. Its a type of quilting that baffled me from the beginning and I am still very uncomfortable with it. Those steps of joining blocks and rows are done. Now it has slipped into the stage of being like any quilt that needs borders. Whew! It means one less fear of failure to deal with. It is a WIP (work in process) project.

When I pulled out the box from the Quilt Retreat, I discovered to my complete disappointment that there were no notes-to-self. Pieces were pinned, but nothing telling me why they were pinned, if they represent enough blocks to the quilt and why there are so many extra pieces. This one, by being put away with feelings of dread and fear of failure is a UFO. I need a clear head to even touch it. Not finding any notes-to-self about the project was devastating. I thought I had learned that lesson.

My way of coping with the disappointment and fear of failure is to push ahead and do something... anything. And as long as there is something to do, I think it is easier for a project to fall by the wayside and become a UFO. I really do not want to make that a habit, nor make excuses why something is undone.

First, I got the three parts of top, batting and back together to baste another quilt, and will make an appointment in the clubhouse for next week to get it done.

There is still dark green thread on the machine that will work with Tony's quilt. the back on it is green and green will complement colors on the front. I like grid quilting in the ditch and decided that it is a good way for me to machine quilt without feeling stress. This quilt was also one of the Mystery Quilts and as I look at how it finishes, it is pleasing to the eye.

The last two star blocks for the Constellations quilt need light thread and then they can be pieced and added to the end rows. When the two star blocks are done and added to the rows, and those two rows joined, I think that quilt is also ready for borders, which are cut and ready to add. It does need fabric for binding and back.

I have a trip planned to the fabric store in the big city and have a growing list of things I need. Both stores in town are more specialized and do not carry solid color fabrics nor those big spools of thread.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


The prevailing lesson for me these days is about trust. Not trust of others so much as trust in myself and for myself. Usually we say that trust has to be earned. I have never been the kind of person to just blindly go down a path someone else walks. I am pretty much a skeptic.

Yet, trusting in myself is something in me still evolving. 

Quilting is like building trust. Again, trust in myself. Its a real challenge to select a pattern, the fabrics and go for it.

The cat paper piecing quilt blocks are joined in rows. There are three blocks that need to have a seam redone & I've pinned a white piece of paper on them so I can work on them next. For whatever reason, those particular seams do not lay flat, and this is the time to correct it. I enhanced this pic to get a sharper look at the colors, so in fact, colors are deeper than they show here. I need to purchase fabric for borders to finish the top and then can baste it. I am leaning toward getting it quilted on a long arm.

So many times, when a project gets to an approaching finish, I find myself going back over seams, examining colors and wondering if I made the right choice for it. The whole look of it will change once the borders go on, but they have to be the right choices of coordinating fabrics to make it work inside with the cats popping out as focus. I do not want to lose the cats after all the work. The borders will need to complement and not compete. This is the stage where I feel the most pressure. 

It is also the stage that is hardest for me to trust my own judgement. 

Its taken me a long time to get to this point with the top. Part of the struggle has been doing the paper piecing. Part of it is how much repetition there was in doing two blocks over and over. I admit to thinking a couple of steps ahead of myself, and yet, when I looked back to check my work, those three blocks called for my attention. Its probably easy to find errors. It certainly is easy to break trust in myself; to criticize.

Of the five PIFs (Pay It Forward) I am doing this year, there are two left to finish. I discovered that I do RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) after all. I am always impressed with how people among my quilting friends make comfort quilts.

In about an hour or so, I made a couple of 10" square pillows for an Infant Center in town. Most Teachers have to provide their curriculum and supplies & they really are underpaid for all they do; I will often make up small fabric items so I can practice stitches or use up fabric, and then donate to the lead Infant Teacher. I was given 5 of these small panels, and used two fish and two butterflies to make them reversible, practiced some machine stitches for appliquéing them onto the fabric, stuffed them with poly fill, and away they go. They can be washed after a day of being carried around by slobbering babies, and when they fall apart, go into the trash. Kids that age (0-18 Months) need soft things to play with that fit into the monthly curriculum. 

And yes, at this age, they are being taught colors, numbers, behavior, as well as science, music, dance and table manners. I've also given this Teacher doll quilts, and plan to make up a few fabric boxes for tiny toy storage. She's also got quite a few aprons that I've made and will tell me how they save her clothing. She gives me the opportunity to do RAK as a service. And I can use fabric that has no designation. 

Sharing my resources has given me a peaceful heart.

Monday, May 25, 2015

more and more cats

It surprised me to see that, for as many additional cat blocks as I made, there were more needed. I've been joining the blocks in rows and have them laid out in the diagonal pattern. I know I counted correctly, planned correctly. At least I thought I did. Rather than to whine about it, I printed more copies of blocks A & B, and set about cutting and pinning. Maybe I can get started on joining the rows. Its taken a lot longer than I thought. 

The aprons were easier. I cut out two of them for this month's Making Winter Solstice, and have them bagged for the next monthly session. Both are frilly aprons, one with a bib, and one without. They are both going to be cute and colorful.

I have nothing new to show for those fabric arts. It is enough to rejoice in progress how little or large it is. When I think of spending an entire day on the two aprons and not having them finished, it feels so smart to have started this early. No wonder they cost at least $20 for panel print versions. They take more time than you would think and even with sale fabrics are expensive to make.

The walk up in the Tehachapi Mountains was lovely. Temps were mid-60's and the sun was out. It is so essential for the paths and ground to be groomed in the event of fires. It is so dry, so very dry. I brought back a bag full of fallen twigs, some bark pieces, a few pine cones and moss. Fallen plant material breaks down quickly in this drought, and there isn't a lot to work with. It is my plan to build it near the pond in back with some of the smaller rocks for the foundation. I used to build a lot of them when I lived in MN on the farm. It was easy to harvest very interesting pieces for both the house and the furniture.

It will be good to sit outside and work on this. Unfortunately, there is no plan so it will simply evolve. Its almost an ecological insult to use hot glue and with this weather, it rarely works anyway. The challenge will be building the house by natural means...whatever that is. Maybe weaving. Maybe stacking. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Making May's Winter Solstice

Because my family is across the country, I've developed some healthy attitudes about them and my relationship with them as a collective as well as with the individuals. To that end, I hope for everything and expect nothing from the people I love. Some days, I mourn that choice and other days it sets me free.

When I opened the drawers to the Winter Solstice projects, I found the makings of a French-seamed Pillowcase and made a birthday gift for my younger Grandson. I've had that wizard fabric for awhile and just never knew what to do with it. I pulled out scraps to do the border and cuff. One-of-a-kind. The king-size pattern is generous in the measurements and the project, itself, takes about an hour to make. I'd rather have it extend beyond the pillow than to be too short. Longer means you can tuck it under, shorter means the pillow sticks out. 

The two drawers for Winter Solstice projects had these 2 wallhanging projects leftover & designated for my Sons. I squared them up and clipped threads. They went back into the drawer and need borders to finish tops. 

And then, there are the aprons. My plan with them is to give each of the Grandgrrls an apron with their own copy of family recipes. I started Granny-books for them when they were first born and you know how those things start off great and then whimper out with time. This part of the apron construction has to do with selecting fabrics. This particular apron has a bib with 6 ruffles. Some of the fabrics were given to me for my birthday, some were in the stash.

And one of the Grrrlies is younger so this apron will also have the rows of ruffles without the bib. I want to have both versions cut out and ready to sew before putting them away for the next session. It was a good day.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

a few final blocks

It looks like I am almost finished making the blocks for the paper pieced Cat quilt. Whenever the quilt project I work on nears this stage, the work turns into what might be missing, what might need correcting and then trying to figure out what comes next.

I've had it laid out so it made sense to me and have finished 5 more blocks with more to join. I like the addition of the blue/ pink in the top corner. And it seems like the block construction will get finished this weekend, so the next step is in joining them. After that is done, I'll get fabric for the borders.

The other project is to catch up on the House Block swap. My partner for this one-to-one swap lives in Australia so with the cost of postage, it makes sense to send more than one block in a package. This represents April (lilacs), May (yellow roses) and June (Cali vacation sites). I just need to add the grass bottom pieces, trim loose threads and square them up. Its going to be a scrappy looking quilt that will need perhaps an off-white for side borders. If we both make 12, that means it will be a 24-block layout and a generous lap quilt size. 

As I look at these projects and others I have going, I realize that I am always looking for the connecting component not only for my eye, but as a way for the finished quilt to fit in someone's life.

One of my friends in Minnesota shops the thrift stores and brags about her quilt collection. She just has them all folded up and sitting together in a stack. What about those quilt-makers? What about their former owners? Did they love the quilts to pieces and then decide to pass them on rather than toss them? I don't know what happens to mine once I ship them off. I don't know what makes a good quilt or a good gift.

What I do know is that I make this piece of fabric art pleasing to my own eye and then release it. That's it. That's what works for me.  And speaking of work, I am going back to it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Rain Some Other Day

When a drought exists year after year, all our heads turn to the sky with anticipation for a good soaking to drench plant roots and clean up the dust. I live in the dark red area called 'exceptional drought'. This is the first year the town I live in has enforced watering restrictions because we get water from the spring melts running off the mountains. Not so if it doesn't snow. And we had very little snow this year. Climatologists are calling it a death-grip drought driven by Arctic ice loss as well as human-assisted global warming.

Some folks claim they can feel rain or any change in weather in their older bones and joints. Well, scientists say it isn't so. Weather doesn't cause our bodies to feel worse. However, I have got to admit that when the clouds move in over the valley, what they do is cut off more of that glorious southern Cali sunshine. It seems colder and my whole body wants to hibernate, and get dressed in sweatshirts and mittens again. I want to be UNDER quilts rather than work at making them.

Weather does affect our moods no matter what scientists tell us about facts. Weather pushes dusty winds, brings on allergy symptoms & helps create natural light deprivation. Now, THAT is a measurable influence disrupting our body-clocks and causing depression in some of us. Rather than to lay blame on the weather for our emotions, it seems like a good idea to know what drains a person and then plan around it.

Because of all the steps involved in quilting, even if I never turn my machine on, I am still in the process of planning for the times I am actively quilting, so having a day or several days like this one really doesn't make it a non-quilting day. 

One of my current quilt block swap partners shared that she uses a 2.5" iron-on interfacing to join her batting. She is from Australia so calls it wadding. I liked her tip. And then, I realized that if I posted pics of the blocks I am making for her, she would see them. HAH! Caught that in time. When we started chatting, I learned that she uses the blocks she gets in the swap to make baby quilts for one of the local hospitals. She sent me a pic of one from last year and it is stunning. I feel over-joyed to contribute to this cause. I am always impressed with folks who have a generous heart and find ways to give back for the gifts they have received...or just do random acts of kindness. It is so much like seeing the cycles in; rains/drought; high heats/freezing colds.

One of my long-ago science classes questioned if the Earth has the same amount of water it had when it first formed. If you include the three states of water (liquid, ice, and vapor), the amount of water has been constant for 4.5 billion years. It just moves through cycles and exists in various ways. Fresh water is becoming a more rare resource.

I guess its like the energy I give to my quilting. It comes and goes as part of a natural cycle. However, what I do in my quilting and how I try to do it, serves to reduce my personal carbon footprint. Here is a very simple and free calculator if you are interested.

Predictions say this drought is not going away, probably not in my lifetime. Sigh. I think of all the times I said that little ditty: "Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day." What were we thinking? Oh right. We weren't. We were taking for granted that we could play and the world would spin and nothing would ever change.

Thing is, the drought here in Cali is going to affect the country. Food prices will go up and then cotton because it too is a crop, which means all the quilting supplies I use will see prices going up and maybe quilt stores going out of business. 

Part of the low carbon footprint will continue at a lower level for me as I keep using up what I have, sort of shopping from my stash and my closets.  Everything I write here seems to come back to my quilting. Everything I quilt comes back to how it touches my spirit. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Some folks I know concentrate on one side of a quilt. I like to make things with two sides so they are reversible. I do tend to see that whatever we do and whomever we relate to have at least two sides to their stories. I learned long ago, from my Daddy, that things are different and do not have to be either right or wrong.

I've come to see that having choice is not easy for any of us because taking a different direction or holding a different opinion from what we thought, even yesterday, means changing who we are. Having this freedom often means taking risks and leaving a comfortable place. It means taking responsibility for what happens and not blaming others when it takes a different path. It sometimes means standing alone.

I think the biggest choice any of us can make is to be happy; happy in our relationships; happy in our work; happy with whatever stage of life we are in. I believe we chose every day all the time.

Lately, each month I've been making and exchanging Prayer Flags. For June, the one I made is double-sided because Gemini is the Sun Sign for most of the month and is a dual energy. I used a hand-dyed fabric I received from a partner in Australia that has a sort of aborigine figure on it. It was perfect for the Prayer Flag width.

However, to make it long enough, it seemed to work best when joined at the top to make it two-sided. (The camera picked up colors differently in this pic) I set the intention as "Choice" and I must say that this word is my all-time favorite word and has many layers of meaning to it.

Another swap I did was for a Halloween Mug Rug...its already in the mail without me taking a pic of it. However, I found these wonderful blocks I made some time ago and put them together as a small table topper and put it in a box with other little things I am making for one of the Grandgrrrls. The pattern reminds me of the paper pieced quilt I am making for my friend Amy.

The other side is Bats and Cats with a completely different look to it, providing choice for which side sits up on a table. This mini-quilt is a 12" block so can add to the Hallows decor in a room and will bring a sense of tradition with its symbols of cats & bats.

And then, because of the quilt block swaps, I needed fabrics to continue the work I am doing. My stash consists of a lot of darks, and therefore, my choices to add to it usually include brights and lights. This time, I needed more of the lights to brighten up the quilt blocks. This serves to remind me that I need balance in my life.

Yesterday, a swap-bot partner from England sent me a rare stone that can only be found there called a "Blue John". The history & healing properties of this stone are extraordinary. I read that it works to balance out the lives of "sensitives", which is a different word for empaths. It fits perfectly in my hand when I hold it to my Crown or Third Eye Chakras, and has a noticeable buzz to it. And I feel mighty lucky to engage in these swaps. The generosity of people in the world encourages me to hold a dream that we do want peace, we do want love, we do want a better place to live.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Making May Blocks

I've spent a lifetime being somewhat of a perfectionist, so when I made mistakes or something didn't turn out the way it was planned, the stress was unbearable. It was as if mistakes cost me acceptance and approval, so by the time I passed my 50th birthday, I was snapping my fingers at THAT concept. I had become my harshest critic & had learned to reject myself. Now I know that I could never have gotten up if I hadn't fallen down and gotten bruised so badly. My poor choices taught me what I didn't want.

I don't need criticism from others, and if someone starts to do that to me, I walk away. Their words would have cut me to the core at another time in my life and now. Nothing.

Each month, I make a number of quilt blocks to swap. The first ones I finished this month were Christmas blocks. My partner asked for any block in traditional colors. Ooops. This Spinning Star looked great, but the colors were sage and burgundy.

I took out the fabrics and started over with the traditional red and green with this Waterwheel pattern. However, my fabrics were directional. AND the 4-patches are not even in the pattern so there is more to it than one would think, so after a bit of ripping and re-doing, it turned out ok. What it taught me is that after the pieces are cut to remember to lay them out before joing. This was ok, but there could have been more planning.

Another swap was for a Maple Leaf block. I loved the one with the black background, however, other swappers had made theirs with the stem on a lighter background, so I tried again. The first one in that pattern gave me trouble with points on the edges, so I made a second one and am happy.

Then I made the third block for the BOM & it was perfect.
Claudia (fabric store owner in town) told me that when making a sampler, that you take one of the fabrics, say from block #1 and use it in #2, and one from block #2 to use in #3 and so on. I am doing that and am sure it will turn out just fine. The layout doesn't need to keep the order they were made, yet having the colors work like this will help.

I started working on some swap-bot swaps too, adding a step here and there, so am not finished with all of them. I've run out of white and want to pick up a few other colors missing from my stash. Its amazing with all the fabrics that I have.

When I look back on all I've learned its not that I was making mistakes as I was learning. Each time I had to repeat a step, then the next time I understood what I was doing and how to do it to make it work. I think I will always be a perfectionist in some area of my life and it is ok. When it becomes dysfunctional, that is when I have to shake my own nut tree.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Paper Project Day

Life for me is action and passion. As I have aged and slowed down a bit, I tend not to do the things that will get me injured because it takes longer to heal, from even a small cut or burn.  I still want the action and still want the passion in what I do.

I set aside one day a month to do my paper projects: Get mail ready to post; work on the sidebar list I've made here, and also do any scrapbooking of my family photos. And I do have some correspondence to answer and initiate.

I have started this new thing that is the rage on Swap-bot called 9-Pocket Letters. I want to do a few of them before making and sending them to people I actually know. I bought a pack of the holders which was $6 for 35 pages. The theme for this swap was Elemental Earth, so this is my foundation or start. It is double-sided and will fold in 3 to fit in a #10 envie with 'maybe' a Forever stamp on it. You can put just about anything in it that will fit. They are like scrapbooking but quicker and they are meant to be a letter or way for you to share who you are with others.

I have also taken to making my own envelopes out of the more substantial pages in magazines. And I am repurposing cancelled stamps by gluing them to cardstock and then trimming them to post card size.

You might see the passion I have for doing this work. And while the action isn't like the kind I used to do, I am still doing something. It takes courage to make peace with the past and not dwell on what was, but focus on what is and what can be.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Quilt Block Swaps

Its been two years now since I set aside the robes of Priestess and only recently have donned the cape of the Crone. Where the Priestess served by action, standing in the center of the circle, the Crone must become translucent so that her experience in the solitary depths shines through. It is the stage where a woman begins to release the things that no longer serve her energy and interest. It means a true examination of who I am.

Quilting is a very solitary past time and I wonder if I chose it or the divine within chose me.

Several years ago, there was a quilting blog and tutorial called "Aiming for Accuracy".  I wasn't at the stage in my quilting where I could participate in it, but the title of it stuck. Seventeen lessons are available for purchase and there is still a lot of information to be had by following the links on that site. Each lesson contributed to part of the finished quilt. 

I've been working on several quilt block swaps. There are two for the Maple Leaf, one Christmas block, two 6" Churn Dash, and one bright/white. It does feel like I am doing the work as above but learning lessons out of that need for accuracy. Each of my partners wants a specific block with specific color. What I learn from it is how to work with those different requirements to get accurate seams and an accurate finish.

What I get in exchange are blocks for a quilt I need to assemble and finish. The variety of their fabrics and techniques is astonishing. My role as quilt-maker is to take what my partners from around the world have sent and transform them into a work of art. It feels like not being the mistress of my fate. I don't have to know what I am doing. I am excited to see what will happen because I did release control by giving my partners the option to create any block of their choice.

2016 will be a pivotal year in my quilting because I will meet my goal of making a quilt for every family member. Of course, as the Grandkids grow up, they will partner and perhaps start having families. AND I still have those 'bird quilts' for the Grandkids similar to this one I made my Sister. They need to be basted and quilted. The embroidery is finished on them and they are quite simple. This is the quilt project that started my work.

Every time I make a block or a quilt and ship it off, it is an act of releasing as well as paring down my stash. Each time I let go of a piece of art that I've spent so much time and energy in, I think I am being prepared to release more important things or people in my life.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Cutting, Cutting, Cutting

As I considered how I could stay strong and focused with my fabric art, what I have learned in the last several years is that I need order or otherwise, I become like a whiney kid again. I hear the adults in my childhood telling me to clean up my toys and I don't know where to start. Living in the slightest chaos brings on my mood swings these days. For me, it is the attachment of seeing all this fabric and all these colors. I need to learn what is there and what isn't. I need to take time to organize.

One of the bins was overflowing with bags of fabrics sorted by color. When I first sorted by color, it was visually a good thing. However, the scraps and leftovers were just stuffed into the extra large baggies. Clear. 

At least I could see what was in them.

I thought that maybe I could just fold them to get a neater look. That works for the larger pieces. And if there was really a lot of time, I could even colorize them light to dark. However, there are a lot of baggies to go through and standing to cut for hours on end is hard on the back.

What I did cut were ends of rectangles or the smaller pieces. Because bags are colorized, these cut sizes (I like 10", 8", 6" 5", 4", 3" and 2.5") will have like colors as well. They also go into bins, however these are of like sizes.

I am ready to baste the last 10" random-squares quilt in the next week or two. I think the next one will be made from the 8" size. I do like how quilts using this random-squares technique give me another opportunity to try something new with machine quilting. Funny thing, for as much as I cut new squares, folded and minimized the bulk in all the bags I had in that bin, there is still a lot there. At least it closes.

It felt like with the work I did, yet again, I was slowly re-sorting my own identity apart from the identity that is about production. This is a vital step for me as much as having a finished quilt can be. I have what it takes to do what it takes.

Friday, May 15, 2015

There is always tomorrow

I have had some monthly Winter Solstice projects sitting out so rather than work on quilting projects, I decided to finish one of them. Well, heck, if I can get through a project that baffles me, I can get through anything.

However, it got the best of me and I have set it aside for another day. I just couldn't get the waistband edges to line up to make a topstitch and ended up with two of them on each edge and didn't finish the rest of the ties. I know it will look fine, but its not sitting right with me in this moment. Thing is that it wasn't my designated time to work on Solstice gifts, and maybe I wasn't in the right mindset. 

Skies have been overclouded and temps lower again, making it feel like "Winter is Coming". Part of me feels like hibernating again and isn't that silly? When the sun is down in the mountains and valley, it is dark and it is cold. Of course it feels like seasons have gone retrograde. My body was just getting used to being outside again.

Its always been important to me to be in a good frame of mind when I work on my projects. I believe that energy is infused in any thing we have and do. When things happen to go differently than I expected, I turn away from it before I get frustrated. I felt better doing something that took my mind off the apron, and actually got a lot done today.  I did more labeling for the contents of various storage boxes I have. Its much easier to know what is in a box or bin rather than to lift it out of the closet to go through it.

This might be a pattern for coping. Me getting organized. I think it is and honestly, I like it.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Quilting / Alchemy

I've always been fascinated by alchemy, which is the art and science of transformation. The word comes from Arabic for Al Khemia which means "matter of Egypt", where alchemy was supposedly invented. We don't know much about how it was practiced and a lot of beliefs include turning something simple into gold. It is simply a divine secret.

What I think is that it can be taken to its basic explanation in that it dramatically changes things, even who we are. I love that it exists in fantasy literature where some of the more brilliant of human minds still create worlds we love to visit.

I practiced some of the machine stitches by joining larger pieces of batting with the dark color thread bobbin ends. I stitched a few inches, and then changed the length of the stitches or the stitches themselves. These seams get hidden in the sandwich. And the cutoff pieces from two-three quilts I make work easily into batting another quilt, rather than to toss the leftover batting into the trash. Once machine quilted, the batting is secure.

Piecing blocks and rows to the Constellations quilt was easy and yet took a lot of hours. Surprisingly, two star blocks need re-doing. Not quite sure what happened, but they are an easy block to make. I left ends of two rows to fit them. 

It seems like alchemy when I quilt, taking all these bits and pieces that could go into the trash to find new life and purpose in a scrap quilt like the one above. It DOES take more time to layout a scrappy style quilt, but then if I was an ancient scientist devoting my time and energy into alchemy experiments, I might get lucky. It seems that what I do now is indeed changing the outcomes in my life, in my quilting too.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Its always fun for me to baste one of the quilts. Several years ago, I realized I could take advantage of the clubhouse and push double-long tables together rather than to struggle trying to baste on a floor at home. I've got it down to about 70-90 minutes. In the past, I might even pushed three tables together if the quilt needed extra space.

Spaciousness is something a lot of women struggle with. I read, a long time ago, that female executives will take less room at a conference table than their male peers. To look confident, the article suggested practicing taking up more space and examining how we set boundaries.

I always check front and back measurements at home, but it isn't until I lay it out at the clubhouse that I know if it will fit. This one hung over the right side a few inches. What I did was to pin baste most of it to that edge, then released the holding tape and pulled it gently to the left until the other few inches were on the top of the table. Then I finished basting with thread. The batting and backing edges were left to trim after it is machine quilted.

It seemed the lesson of this quilt has a lot to do with learning flex-boundaries and how to take a broader view and see how that flexibility affects the outcome.

Usually, this is also the time when I think about how it will be machine quilted and also the time when I give the quilt a name. It was a scrappy mystery quilt, so I had no idea how it would look. I think a diagonal grid will work best on it, and I may even wash it again before giving it, just to make sure the colors do not bleed.

With that imagery of a woman sitting at a conference table with various people, it seems to show that we are always faced with expressing our personal power wherever we go and in whatever we do. 

Same with these quilts. I can take a stance of 'power over' the project or step into a certain partnership with my projects and express who I am as 'power with' the creation. Each one of them evolves in my mind as well as becoming a quilt through every step. I am faced with choices and the need to shift gears and adapt to my materials and environment.

I learn by doing, by seeing the play of light, medium and dark, by using what I have to create the spaces and spaciousness that exists within me and for the projects.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Another Finish

I read the other day that "whatever agenda you create for things being out of control or out of your hands is the dark spot you have to look into". I can handle that concept if things are going my way, but am more than a little resistant to that jolly attitude when stress whirls around me like the wind.

My choice is to drop whatever the irritant is and go onto something else. Today, it was running errands and doing some gardening. There are gaps between the stones, so I pulled some Thyme from the left of it to fill in. The Sage is in bloom, the Thyme flowing over the rocks and then the Lavender is starting to bud out. I watered, sprayed some more resistant weeds, and pruned the Honeysuckle back a lot. I spread seeds, raked them lightly and laid down the last of the stepping stones.

Without white-light thread, I was still unable to piece the swap blocks or work on MattE's Constellation quilt. There was one other project I worked on but, its a surprise, so am not posting pics of it here. I run out of light thread for piecing more than I like so decided to order a huge spool of it rather than to keep purchasing these smaller ones.

Another quilt is finished and will go to the oldest of my Great-Nephew's. My friend Carol gave me some vintage golf panels last year, and I converted a pattern so I could work one of them in on the design. Then rather than to buy fabric, I scrapped most of this out. I did purchase the fairy frost ice blue for the background, as well as more for the back and binding. I love how scrap quilts turn out and am very proud of this one.

And next, I have an appointment at the clubhouse to baste his Brother's. That topper is from a mystery quilt I did with scraps, and similar purchases for the background, back and binding. I am feeling very unstressed about completing my 2015 plan.

I have laid the cat paper piecing out again and want to make sure it is going the way it is planned. Although it is not anywhere near finished, I am questioning whether or not I feel comfortable with my own machine quilting skills. Its too soon to think about that part...hah! Its out of my hands at this stage, and so is the dark spot that requires looking into.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Quilting to Hold the Line

My work with the Matriarch archetype ends with a quote; "We embody the Matriarch when we are fully present, fully in our power. We stand strong for all of life, we hold the line."

As I worked on various quilting projects, I thought about this and wondered if it was true in my life right now. The chilling part of it was "We hold the line". I decided that it is a concept I want to put into my quilts...the line, my values, family values. 

One of the next quilts to be finished is for my one of the Great-Nephews. I am probably going to finish the binding with my next session on it. Its actually going to be a nice quilt. This boy is incredibly tall and hopefully, it will cover him as a nap quilt, if he ever slows down. Like most members in my family, its go-go-go. The 'line', is about taking time to rest.

Another project with a line to it is for my older Son. I've started joining the star blocks to the hourglass blocks. The whole concept of stars, constellations and hourglasses is really a gift of time. The 'line' I want to use as intention is about looking up and seeing the vast potential in life and taking time to be awed, to enjoy the beauty. I want to remember the era before we began to count time...when woman was the world and the world was woman. As my Son, he is a part of this.

I know we have to reach deep to find our living memories. So long ago, there was a time, even in my life, where as Mother, I established my clan, guided my Sons, set the standard of behavior for everyone who interacted with me. 

In holding the Matrilineal line, I must remember when the real foundation for human life was in our hands, we women, we wise women. And now, what is vital in this changing, fast culture is that some of us find ways to connect that are mutually reinforcing rather than competitive or wasteful. 

This is also why I quilt.