Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Keep Going

What great advice. Keep going. When I decided to take up quilting, I had no idea what I was in for as I practiced this new activity. Like anything worth doing, it takes training, learning, practice and all those other good things you get when you do something.

It took me awhile to do these today, although I made soup and a pie, and wrapped more gifts to ship out tomorrow. I am not a fan of the Maple Leaf block, though it turned out nice. The thing about doing this project is that all the fat quarters, framing and border fabrics coordinate. Its going to make up a lovely quilt. Mysteries compel me all the time.

The second block I finished today is the Desert Cactus. It's fine but again, not my favorite of all the possible basket-type patterns. These come one after the other and so I am not sure I will place them together when I finish the quilt. In a few days, the block for October will be posted.

My light thread ran out of the bobbins, and before I thought about putting black in some for Amy's quilt, I replaced them all with light.

Keep going.

Onward to work on more of the Winter Solstice gifts. I laid out fabric for two more projects, both of which are aprons. Aprons are not easy to make. And cotton wrinkles whether they are store-bought or hand made. They have come into fashion again. However, it almost takes a commitment from the person owning one to put it on. I really want to wear mine and yet made both soup and a pie yesterday without taking my apron off its hanging place. I have no expectations from those who receive them. I understand how hard it is to make changes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


The Moon was red again tonight. Oh she wasn't quite as round, and the red wasn't quite as bright and there was no eclipse. And I bet there weren't crowds of people looking out into the night. The nature of her cycle is to wax (grow, expand), shine brilliantly for a few nights in her full glory, wane (dissipate, relax, finish, release) and then go dark, resting, waiting.

I fell behind on the BOM (blocks of the month) and so am working now to catch up. The patterns for these two blocks were printed, and I pulled colors from the box. #6 is a Maple Leaf. #7 is called a Cactus Pot. 

Pieces for these blocks were selected and cut.

I finished Day #12 for the 12 Days of Christmas swap and now need to wait for the fabric to come in for Day #4. I wrapped everything else without taking photos. Its going to be a wonderful swap that should be delightful to open.
For Day #8, I cut 8 fat eights from my stash. The pieces are 9x22, which is half the width of a fat quarter--18x22. I found an old blog that folded them into lollypops! I took some chop sticks I had in a drawer, broke them in half and smoothed out the rough edges, and folded away. The tutorial (pic from it) made the first fold in half so it became the size of a fat eighth. I didn't get the plastic wrap to cover each one, nor the jar, but they turned out this cute. I folded them around the chop sticks and pinned them to keep them in place. Here is the link if you want to see how they are created.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Some Days

I read long ago that "Not to decide is to decide". That quote can take a person just about anywhere in their life. Endless fictional stories have taken that theory and formed their own chapters or episodes based on either being unwilling to do something ("Resistance is futile" from Star Trek) or taking chances (Risky Business, Indiana Jones), or in fact women living outside the usual boxes (Kathryn Hepburn, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep).

As I finish up the small projects on my list and take them off my to-do list on this sidebar, they get set aside until they are ready to go out the door. These are the gifts I made for the teacher in the local Infant Center to give to her peers during the three holiday swaps (Hallows, Thanksgiving, Christmas).

It takes time to do the smaller things too. My tendency is to not give them the same value as a quilt. I know that the quality of my life is dependent upon all choices I make. I never used to see it when I was younger, but now I know that time is a commodity all humans share whether they have hours at birth or live long decades.

I guess, for me, I make my choices based on living life fully. I live it in color, and patterns and even textures. I live in choosing possibilities and opportunities. I choose truth. I choose peace. 

On the days I chose not to decide, something different happens. I still live and breathe. I do a lot of things. I just chose not to decide anything for the day. And I've gotten to be ok with that.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

On The 12th Day

A new sort of 'Secret Santa' swap I joined this year is called The 12 Days of Christmas. In it, you send numbered gifts 1-12 for the 12 Days. For Day #1, there is to be the number one represented in it. Then, each succeeding day, like Day #2, there are two-somethings; Day #3 there are three-somethings, and on to Day #12. 

The rules are quite simple: Keep your identity a secret until the 12th Day when you include a card saying who you are; keep to a $30 spending limit (not including anything you might wish to give from your stash), included at least one handmade gift to be opened on Day #12, and include at least one yard of fabric (could be in segments like fat quarters, fat eighths, etc.). We filled out profiles for more suggestions and preferences.

Just in case I forget, here is a photo of the handmade project, though it is far from complete. I laid it out in dark-light-dark order, using up 5" scraps of holiday fabrics. It is a 22" square table topper. My partner says her favorite color is red, and I have learned that red is best as an accent, even during the winter holidays. This size/shape is a favorite of mine to make this year, though the Lil Twister makes up really great looking rectangular shapes as well. 

I did two things to keep myself on track with this swap: First was to make a list of what I was planning to include even though it might change; Second was to put $30 in an envelope and place receipts inside the envelope. I've found a box that might work to ship and have started wrapping. Yes, that means no photos for the few that are already tapped with ribbons over their papers. I will do my best to photograph the remaining days. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

No Photo AGAIN

I made up the cutest mug rug for my younger Son's Lady-Friend and I didn't take a photo of it before sealing it into the mailing envelope. I even wrapped it for her birthday. I guess some things are not meant to show. Acceptance and gratitude are the fuel meant to give us the wisdom to live life as it happens and rejoice in what we have.

I don't remember celebrating my own birthdays over the years, yet love surprising others either with simple cards or small gifts. I loved having parties for my Sons as they were growing up too. Yet, I know that for some people, special events can be heartbreaking if they remind them of all the disappointments they had in not being remembered, not getting any gifts or getting gifts they didn't want.

That happened to me too. I still laugh at the year I started telling people my birthday was on July 4th, so that there were parties everywhere across the country for me. It helped for several years and then I got over it. Yet, some still send me cards in July rather than in April. 
And then, Alice in Wonderland's story line from 1871 in Through the Looking Glass presented an "UN-birthday" party. Oh what fun! The story said that out of the year, we all have 364 unbirthdays to celebrate. Oh Wow, the real huge positive twist. And this is an old story! Imagine my surprise when I realized it had been a human issue for more than a century.

Therefore, when I think of all the photos I have taken, having a few here and there that get missed is no big deal. It is what it is, right? Right.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Such Craziness

Every time I start a project, it begins with cutting apart perfectly good fabric. Its all about creating possibilities rather than looking at liabilities. Every time, I use a pattern and whatever fabric I have or purchase, I am usually making my own choices rather than buying a particular fabric grouping.

It is not asking, "What if?" as much as it is asking "Why not?"

Every once in awhile, motivational stories circulate about people who go against the odds in their lives, reaching beyond imagination. I can be so inspired one minute and then start finding all sorts of excuses that prevent any sort of action.

This week, I am working on Winter Solstice gifts. Small things, not full size quilts. I am also working on clearing up the various swaps I joined.

Lately, I've been thinking I want to get back to a writing project I began years ago. Its a re-telling of the legend of LaBefana, the Italian gift-bringer. Its been evolving as sort of historical fiction and contains a lot of folklore, which is right in line with my interests. I wonder what writing her story has to do with quilting, and then think it doesn't matter if they are not in alignment.

I've been experiencing the release of numerous obligations in the last year. Its a scary process that inspired me to re-examine my entire life, re-organize bookshelves, closets and projects. So these two questions of What If? and Why Not? are pretty real, pretty deep, pretty risky.

I did a few more seams on Amy's Cat quilt. What a bad choice to take them apart! Oh well, I am in it for the finish and learned the lesson that sometimes you cannot go back. Or perhaps shouldn't.

Jake's Christmas quilt is moving along each night with the hand quilting. I plan to finish the last block and a half and start on the sashing. 

And I am making progress with the Aprons.

Through it all, I am writing more of LaBefana's story in my head. I've always written like that. Thinking it through before I sit down to join words into sentences, paragraphs and pages. Its still swirling around inside me, but closer.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Starburst Twist Mystery

Today is the September Equinox, all about being in balance. We are who we are--no more, no less. It is a moment in the year where we can accept ourselves without needing to feel that any change in us is required.

It always brings a sense of satisfaction when I finish a quilt. Oh, I complain about these mystery quilts because the way the patterns are written, you never know what they will turn out. I have been mighty lucky with all of them I have made. Mighty lucky. Sure, when they wrap up, I get to thinking that if I had known better, I might have made this fabric choice vs. the one that went into it, and then, I look at the finish and am so pleased.

The border fabric is the focus, and usually the instructions for a mystery quilt say to select that fabric first and coordinate the other choices. In this case, it required lights, darks, and brights. I also used a dark green and gold stripe for the binding. I am loving how stripes make everything pop in ways other fabrics do not. It was the exceptional purchase for this quilt. Oh and the back too. I wanted something more plain for the back so that it could be reversible. Its the golden tone with a light pattern.The quilt took a lot of scraps to make it happen.

I pre-washed it with Color Catchers just in case some of those reds decide to bleed, and both of them that I put in did absorb color. My Niece passed almost 2 years ago now from leukemia, and my Sister goes in and out of grief regularly. I don't want to put an additional thing on her plate that is as simple as washing instructions. I will send some of the Color Catchers along with the quilt, and can feel better knowing that the majority of risk is reduced. It is drying on my shower door.

Remembering that we are who we are in this moment and that sometimes smiling is enough to do our part in making the world a better place.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Aprons for Solstice

My journey for this week is working on the Aprons I plan to give for Winter Solstice gifts. I am still overwhelmed with just how difficult or at least time consuming they are to make. I made myself an apron decades ago that often just hangs on a cupboard door knob. I am making an effort to use it whenever I bake and have yet to put it on when I cook.

One of the swaps I am in is for a holiday half apron. I found a 1930's pattern that reminds me of the Dresden Plate patterns. This pattern calls for three coordinating fabrics. My partner requested either poinsettias or holly in traditional green/reds or snowflakes on blue. This is what I came up with from out of my stash. My fabric scraps had to be the correct sizes, so it was challenging to find three of the correct lengths and widths for the cuts. For instance, the black was wide enough for the blades and not long enough for the ties. The green Holly was long enough for the ties and not wide enough for the blades. 

And based on my resolve to shop from my closet, I can only give from what I have. It is turning out to look festive. As a hostess apron, it will look nice over a simple black dress.

We wear about the same size, so when I held it up to my own body, the original 5 panels called for in the pattern seemed too narrow, therefore, I added another two more blades to make it 7. I need to do a bit of research for some terms used in finishing, like 'overcast'. I think I know what that means, yet want to be sure.

And yes, there is still a lot of hand work to be done on my last two quilts. Of course, with black thread in my machine, its a good time to work on Amy's Cat quilt.

Monday, September 21, 2015

In the Garden

While I am still doing hand work on two quilts inside, there is much and more to do in the gardens outside. Summer has given way to Autumn here, and without regular watering, plants just gave up sooner. I filled the huge trash container with dead plant material, pushing it down. Things will dry even more in it so that when it is picked up on Thursday, the plant material will fall out easily.

As I worked in the yard, I thought about 'happiness' and what that means to me. I found happiness spinning and weaving through every moment, even as I thought about other times, other seasons, other people in my life. In no time at all, I felt surrounded in happiness and pure joy.

Sometimes I think I am a bit of a pollyanna, meaning taking in all that joy and forgetting the sadness, sorrow and pain. Its not that I deny that shadow existence, because I know better. I have a pretty dark side too, though few people want to know that part of me. It is simple balancing of emotions.

For instance, every good quilt made has to have a balance of light and dark. As I get closer to the September Equinox (officially on the 23rd), I cannot help but think about those balances in my quilting work, in the seasons here, in my life. I prefer and work toward balance in my relationships. The last few years have also taught me the value of napping during the day, and ensuring I get enough sleep at night.

It wasn't always that way. Most of my friends laugh when they learn I had to teach myself how to nap. I make sure I exercise, especially because quilting might seem to be a more sedentary pastime (it is not for me).

Anyway, I only got to the garden North of my home today. I let the wild sunflowers take over, bloom, feed the birds, dry up, and then need to be chopped down, chopped in sections in order to fit. They get huge. I also cut down my neighbor's as well, chopping them into sections so she could gather them and fill her trash container. And then I watered just a bit. With the drought restrictions, we are all our own water-police even with the meters measuring out our gallon usage. It needs more work there before Winter sets in. (pic reference is to House Stark in Game of Thrones on HBO)

I spoke with my Son this morning and he told me how surprised he was that the Constellations quilt glowed in the dark. Well now, I had tested that fabric for glow-in-the-dark and never saw it. He said that it takes awhile after the lights go off before the glow is visible. Made me laugh. I didn't wait long enough in the darkness to see the light.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Winter Solstice in September

It has been said that everything we do has consequences. Our actions can either enrich us or diminish our character. I raised my Sons to understand the 'natural consequences' for all their actions. No matter how quietly or privately we do something, it is quickly transformed into who we are. People notice. I've also heard it said that the kind words we say start out with kind thoughts. I suppose the opposite is true too.

I decided to devote as much of the coming week to working on and finishing some of this year's Solstice gifts. This is a fringed scarf made from the leftover front of the throw.

The next thing I did was to find patterns and fabric for some of the smaller projects, such as a mug rug for an Auntie and a couple aprons for others on my list.

This is a time-consuming step whether one shops from their closet or shops at a fabric store. Of course there are pluses and minuses for each choice. Natural consequences, I guess.

However, I am ready to engage in the work now. This is how a kit is made, starting with the pattern selection. Thing is, no one does it for me. I have to trust my ability to chose colors that work. Sometimes they don't. It is a learning experience, and one worth having. I try to learn from those choices, even if I repeat the process to try again.

I browse through quilting magazines or go online for ideas until I find the pattern that is right for my skills. I've learned to sit with the pattern, reading it more than once and being sure it is going to work for what I want. Then, its finding fabric for that pattern. Scrap quilting is not easy because scraps come from different sources. One fabric manufacturer can change their own dyes from year to year, but matching colors from several places can really be a challenge. When you are in a fabric store, you can find the entire line that the manufacturer puts out for the year and everything coordinates.

Thing is, there are always scraps and eventually I have to use them for something. And I do. With great joy.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Not at All Too Early For Skeletons

I think that every time I re-do my stash, its like finding skeletons in my closet; or perhaps things I have hidden even from myself. My closet was organized, and labeled. 

The first thing out was the family scrapbook project. Rico sits on the photo box which is on the papers box next to the two albums. Nothing will get done on it if it stays in my closet. Once I get going on the scrapbook project, I create pages that please me. They are becoming lovely books.

In truth, unless things come out of any closet, they are just unfinished business and stay hidden. How much like life this is. 

My plan for this coming year of 2016 is to finish as many of these unfinished projects as I can. I never considered them UFO's, but truth be told, now, with the new 'Quilter's Code', they were re-labeled and put together in a bin. They will soon be WIP's - works in progress, or PHDs - projects half done, and more importantly TIH - there is hope. Meanwhile, I separated all other projects into the new codes, which make a lot of sense to me now, more defined. Even if I never get to the Nesty bin in 2016, I know that they have never been started. What will be important is to finish what IS started. 

I've actually got six bins of potential projects. More than a few of them have designated recipients including 3 Great-Nieces and all 7 Grandchildren. Most of them are really close to completion, yet under the new code are probably PHDs or projects half done. Its quite probable that they will go out in 2016. See? Here I sit with a brand new plan without knowing how life will twist and turn. 

Goals are good to have. Plans. Projections. Hopes and Dreams. All these are in my closet. And maybe they have switched from being skeletons to being ghosts. Just in time for Hallows....bahawwaaaa!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Starburst Twist Mystery Quilt

One of my college minors was in Chinese History. The course made an impression on me and needless to say, it only covered a couple of centuries. What it did was to spark an interest that I've nurtured for decades. One of the old Chinese sayings I remember is, "Talk doesn't cook rice." 

I laid out the last one of my quilts that I will machine quilt this year. I've laid it out a few times and again this morning, deciding that it would be ok to do a simple grid. I have been hesitating the quilting choices because of the machine stitching, and struggling with the tension on it that wasn't working either on top or bottom. It has a lot to do with threading the needle and bobbin correctly and checking to make sure it is right before doing to many lines.

I love how this mystery quilt turned out (yet again, they turn out beautifully) and hesitated to 'ruin' it with my primitive quilting skills. As much as I wanted to work with free motion quilting this year, it wasn't working for me. And then, there were the more skilled quilters with all their advice and comments that the simple grid stitches were boring and, well, primitive. 

Somehow, in my mind, I heard this ancient Chinese wisdom over and over and knew that if I didn't just do it, do something, then her quilt would sit and perhaps become an unfinished object (UFO). Its just far too lovely to let that happen. And therefore, I have begun and the machine is cooperating with threads and tension.

Much of life is like that for me. Just yesterday, I found and printed off some affirmations and have the sheet of paper on my elliptical trainer. I work out daily and having this list gets me through the workout with purpose. The printout has 30 points, so my plan is to say the entire list a few times and focus on the specific number on the list for the day / date as the guiding affirmation. It joins my body / mind /spirit in a good way that helps work on a number of healthy aspects of who I am.

And as for the rice. I plan to make some and put cioppino over it today. Its a yum treat I buy whenever I go to Trader Joe's in Palmdale. It tastes as good as I remember, and I will add some frozen shrimp to it and often just eat it with some good bread. This time. Rice. 

Talk really doesn't cook rice. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Small Things

"Its all in the details" they say, whomever that wise "They" are. I remember the time in my life when I had no time for details and rushed through everything I did. Funny how luck was with me and things turned out.

Now that I am taking my time with various projects I acknowledge that there is value in placing energy and time into the details.

The "Thanks For You" teacher gifts are finished. As I practice with the template, what I did here was to alternate light and dark squares and then gave it a lighter fabric that reads solid. The mug rug squares are the leftovers in cutting the twisters from the table topper.
This one is really more structured than others I've made and has a more traditional feel to it. Again, I used 5" charms from my personally cut stash rather than to buy a charm pack. I bought the fabric for the binding, which is a softer brown that I think frames it perfectly.

And I decided to get some lavender dryer sheets from Trader Joe's the next time I go to Palmdale to include with the fleece throw. I'll open the package and toss them around it and hope they absorb whatever chemical that is (yuk). I actually like how this one turned out and know that the young man will love it. I have yet to make the scarf and think its also just a matter of cutting fringe. Small detail.

And now I am ready to run my Sister's quilt on the machine. I need to figure out what I am actually going to quilt so will lay it out over my bed and sit with it awhile.

Its hard for some folks to get into the holiday gift making or even thinking about holidays. In order to take care of myself and reduce the stress that builds up for me, I keep a "weather eye" out as Captain Jack says on Pirates of the Caribbean. My details, in this instance, include having a shopping or creating list, knowing how long it takes me to do a thing, and then getting on with it. I know that things have to ship out the week before Thanksgiving or to arrive in time. That means gift wrapped & tagged, and money earned and saved for expenses.

My list always changes because folks pass, are born or step into the family through loving relationships. Like me, many of the elders don't want things any more. Oh they like cards and letters, but not things have to be dusted, stored, cared for and which take too much energy. On the other hand young people, in their first apartments, don't want things they have to pack and move, store or cram into small spaces. Those family members in between have specific colors or household themes and don't always appreciate what they receive. So its a dance of observing, listening, considering other people.

The little details.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

It Takes 2 Days

Those fleece throws make a quick gift if you don't mind fleece. And we can only do a certain amount of things in a certain amount of time. I guess its about creating priorities.

For instance, I COULD get a ladder and trim the two ash trees in my back yard. The Westerly winds blow fiercely here in town so that many trees lean to the East. And that means, in my yard, they are starting to lean on my roof. There was a time (5 years ago even), that I trimmed all three of my trees. But, now, I don't want to. Its not safe, I am not as strong and I don't want to.

The fleece throw is completed. Non-seamstresses all over the world make these non-sew throws. And they look nice for as long as they last. The top side of this one is the Green Bay pattern, and the back is the solid yellow. Fringe, when it is tied the same every tie around it lays the solid on the front and the print on the back. Its nice. Its only a one-person throw unless two people cuddle under it, but that is fine.

I'm not a fan of the smell from synthetics. However, I will lay it out with some Lavender (if I can find some in my drawers) and it should clean up the synthetic a bit.

And now onto finishing up the last few quilts for this year.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

And Then Fleece

After learning about Cotton, the order came last night for some Fleece. My #2 Granddaughter's beau is a Green Bay Packers fan. I won't fault him about that because he was born and lives in Wisconsin. I love football, just not this team and just not their colors. (MN & WI have always been rivals with football and for other reasons. It is in our blood.)

Fleece is a no-sew polyester fabric perfect for making those stadium-type blankets. I've made a few of them for the kids in my family and while cutting the ties is no easy task, they are less an investment to make than a standard quilt. With the sales over Labor Day weekend, it might have cost $4.99 a yard, so about $20. No way to make a quilt for that little!

Once you've made one of these throws, there is no need for a pattern. Two yards for each front and back will work for an adult and it will lay across a sofa or even a bed for extra warmth. Its something a kid can drag across the floor and the house animals love to cuddle up with as well. This is the kind of fabric I will buy at JoAnn's, and watch sales and coupons whenever I plan to make one (rarely).

In-store cutters measure fabric to the inch, and quite often when I order online, I get a LOT more. This time there was enough of the print to make a WOF scarf. I've pinned the top to the bottom on all four sides, and squared them up. Cutting one side at a time and tying it as I go works. (The tutorials say to cut 1-2" strips, and I find that 1" is a bit too narrow and 2" is a bit too wide, so go for 1 1/2" and about 6" long. Check the tutorial on your own if you try this.)

I found a site on the web that gives all I ever want to know about fleece, including a tutorial. It is a good resource and I may print off the laundering tips and send it in the gift box. There is a lot to learn here and worth checking out if you ever consider working with this fabric, even once.

Meanwhile, I am continuing with the hand work on the smaller projects.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Magickal Properties of Fabric

Maybe because it was Sunday when I wrote this. I started thinking about the magickal properties of fabric. Of Cotton.

Some time ago, fabric most of us used shifted from natural  fibers to synthetic.

Cotton wrinkles, and so when clothing showed up on the racks that didn't need ironing, as well as sheets and pillowcases, kitchen towels, etc., most of us (including me) were sold on synthetics. It had its downside too and eventually most of us went back to natural fibers.

As I thought about my personal fabric usage as a quilter, I was re-educated about fabric by the two fabric store owners here in town. They taught me about good fabric that would hold up to hard use, would hang right, wash easily. I knew that if I wanted this good fabric, I had to be willing to pay over $10-12 a yard or more. They taught me that the outer wall at JoAnns was craft fabric, not for quilting even though it went on sale often for less than $3-4 a yard. It would bleed more often, was thinner and simply would not hold up in quilts.

I re-gifted any fabrics & thread given to me that were not quilt-quality cotton and even stopped using poly-batting. I made it a practice to wash what I received, and thought it was to equalize fabrics bought from different manufacturers, because washing removed chemicals and loose dyes put ON it by the various manufacturers, and cotton would shrink differently, anywhere from 0-3% and always wrinkles.

I found one article, the_magic_of_fabrics, which gives correspondences, trivia and material origins for most of our fabrics. It is worth reading their lists because they were created from a lot of other world-wide research. What I learned, and what was of interest to me, is how many other fabrics come from the cotton plant, and are sold as calico, chiffon, chintz, denim, flannel, gauze, lace, fake leather, linen, muslin, fake suede, velour, and voile.

If you are interested in more FAQs about cotton, I found addressing world cotton production stats and the logic behind growth, marketing and consumer consumption which is based on supply and demand. Why read it? Well, if the demand for cotton has increased over 2% of the world supply, we are going to see an increase reflected in the cost for our thread, quilt fabrics and batting. Oh, and the price will go up on cotton sheets, cotton clothing, cotton anything. Bet the cost of cotton products goes up more than 2% so that everyone (designers, manufacturers, brokers, store owners, delivery staff and maybe even the farm grower) gets a share of the increase.

US Cotton growers are shifting from cotton to higher cash producing crops such as soybeans or peanuts, and allowing China, India and other countries to produce cotton for export to the states.

Cotton, used to symbolize simplicity, harvest, protection, good luck, and rain. Rain. 

With the three-plus-year-drought Cali finds itself in as a consideration for me, I wanted more information and sought out resources like the WWF Global, who reports that cotton is a water-wasting crop! I figured as much but had more to learn.  freshwater_problems/thirsty_crops/cotton/

One part of what I read says, "Agriculture is the largest source of pollution in most countries. 2.4% of the world’s crop land is planted with cotton and yet it accounts for 24% and 11% of the global sales of insecticide and pesticides respectively. Unsafe use of agricultural chemicals has severe health impacts on workers in the field and on ecosystems that receive excess doses that run-off from farms.

The use of genetically-modified (GM) cotton varieties has increased remarkably in recent years reaching 20% of the global crop area in 2002. 

Additionally, It can take more than 20,000 litres (over 5,283 gallons) of water to produce 1 pound of cotton; equivalent to a single T-shirt and pair of jeans.”

Their report continued to be a jaw-dropper for me and something I cannot even address fully. Its one of those "read for yourself" pieces. It gives agricultural / economic stats, without addressing working conditions for field crews, or possible chemical exposure to those of us wearing or using cotton. And then what? We give our quilts to people we love!

Does simple washing take care of what is INSIDE the product beyond what the fabric manufacturer puts on it? Do we skip any regulation process, because it is imported, the way we are doing for our food? We are keeping US workers safer, but not even looking what the lack of safety in other countries does.

Bottom line, after seeing all this information, is that I am even more convinced that I have to shop from my closet of fabric stash first and foremost to be a conscientious world citizen and help keep my footprint as light as possible on our Good Green Earth.

Things are changing for the plant nation with the shameful genetic engineering / modified planting that reached 20% of the global crop in 2002. I have no idea what that means for me as a clothing & household goods consumer, nor as a quilter. There is a very mini label on the bolt of cotton or for the simple t-shirt, with very minimal information. How do I know what I am buying? Does anyone know? If it says, 'Made in China' or 'Made in India', do I know what chemicals are in it? The more I think about it, the more questions I have. I don't know what I know.

What I believe is that we have to reconsider the magickal properties of the cotton plant, and of the fabric made from cotton. 

At one time, when the world was young and more innocent, Cotton was believed to vibrate higher as a cleaner member of the Plant Nation, and it was believed that Cotton protected us from negative energies and so we covered ourselves in it from our underwear to our outerwear, and used it for what we slept on, washed with, and even in our soft baby toys. It was good for the health of our skin. I am not sure that is true any more.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Using Stash

When I won a drawing for a machine embroideried piece, it brought me such joy. It kicked around on my work station for a little while. 

And then I realized it was the perfect size for a mug rug. It is so very cute and now has a purpose. It was given to me with no strings attached, so I could use it in any way I chose. This finish on the binding completes the first two of my teacher gifts. I bought a tall mug rug and will roll the mug rug up and tuck it inside. I thought about adding a pound of ground coffee, but that is so personal.

The notion of recycling, repurposing or even re-gifting is not new. It can sometimes be a difficult choice to make.

Years ago, I was invited to one of those White Elephant parties. You are to wrap a gift you have received that you have absolutely no use for that might have been a gift from your favorite relative. So its been sitting in the closet and you cannot bear to part with it. Then, at the party, a couple of pie tins with a pair of dice circulate the room. When you roll a double, you pick a gift. When all the gifts are selected, you unwrap the gift and the rolling of the dice starts up again. You could take someone else's gift by exchanging what you had.

At this party, someone brought a t-shirt with a plastic mask/head on it. It was truly ugly. Well, as things go, it became the hot item and people went wild trying to get it. We laughed so hard. Most of the stuff went into a trash bag, and a few items went home with their winners.

I've been to other such parties where folks don't get the system and either are shocked at what they got and hide it under their chairs, going home feeling incredibly disappointed. Or they didn't know how to take someone else's gift in exchange for the really crappy one they got.

It really is a metaphor for many things: Saving stash, wanting to please, hoping for a good gift, learning how to release, how to negotiate; Learning how to play. Unfortunately, at the holiday season, we all become like little kids again with high expectations that someone will know exactly what we want or need. No matter how often we hear, "You git what you git and you don't throw a fit," we still get disappointed in the gifts that come our way.

I think it is easy to close off when this happens. We stop being open to receive when we set conditions on what is underneath the wrapping. We forget that it is not about the thing so much as it is the moment of joy in the exchange.

I am considering making up a box of random items from my home. By random I mean White Elephant items. I am considering sending this box to someone in my address book and labeling it as White Elephant items. Just the thought of this makes me smile.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Holiday Projects for Teachers

As I quilt these 'teacher' projects for those who work in the local infant center, my thoughts stretch back into my own student days, both as a child and as an adult. We never know where a particular value is created or, in fact, when we influence another's world view. The pre-schoolers often don't even recognize their teachers outside of the school, so of course, they won't remember their training.

I worked on the Hallows Teacher Mug Rug and used up all the 6.5" squares from last year's swap. Wild, yes, but eventually on its way to a new home.

I can remember a time when we thought that the only things babies did was to eat, poop and sleep. These days, the babies even under 18 months are taught human values (please don't bite, that's not a safe choice, share with your friends), colors, words, numbers, animals, relationships. Well, the list is endless. I suppose I taught those things to my Sons as well because they DID grow up to be men other women can love.

I don't remember all my teachers. Only the ones who stood out for how they behaved, such as my third grade teacher, Mrs. Gonzales, who dressed in swirling skirts, wore a flower in her long dark hair and bright red lipstick framing her smile. She taught us basic Spanish. Then there was my high school English teacher, Mrs. Thiltgen, who, when she walked into the noisy classroom shouted, "I demand pandemonium!" Of course, we were silent because none of us knew what the word meant. Every class with her expanded vocabulary as well as the ability to think critically. Part of her curriculum was to teach us how to write letters and cards and see the meaning in what we bought for that stationary.

Try as I might, I cannot remember the names for my college professors. I do remember the tutoring my algebra professor gave me so I could pass that damn class. Brilliant way of helping me understand the simple formulas. I also remember walking to a nearby soup kitchen with my neuroanatomy professor after having worked on a cadaver brain. I remember classes rather than the people who taught them.

Well, I had to have been influenced by so many women and men in all the classes I took. I read, write, can do simple math in my head, and think critically. I know how to DO so much that someone had to show me the way. Many someones. 

Making these mini quilts for the one teacher to give 6 of her peers in the school is such a small thank you. And yet, I am grateful for them all, even if I have forgotten their names. They don't know specific students any more than most of us remember them. That is the way of life. We touch lives. Our lives are touched. And we go on.

Friday, September 11, 2015

12 Gifts For a Swap

Although partners will not be assigned until October 1, I created a 12-point list for ideas, and as a way to check off what I might have and see what I need. Suggestions for the gifts are to find a way to 'number' them or associate the number. Of course, most of them need to be tailored to fit the partner's needs and requests.

This weekend also marks the point in the month where I do a 'Second Sunday Simplify'. And when I thought about that, of course, I want to simply my fabric stash. 

I pulled out the cut squares bin. I pulled out one of the smaller bins inside it. and see that there are three sizes that I've either cut or have received cut. I'd like to say that everything is cut to size. I found 5", 6.5" and some in between. 

Those in between squares are what I wanted to trim up and include in my 12 Days of Christmas Swap for day #6. I started cutting all the odd sizes into either 6" or 5". I'll keep the fives and give my partner all the sixes. With luck the small packet of 6" squares will total 36, or 6 x 6. I'll sort them by color too. the swap requires that we include fabric totalling a yard. Well, this is 36" end to end and 6" wide. Its a start. And its a lot of time to do.

I have another goal with all my scraps and that is to make myself 'kits' for next year's projects. What I think, for today at least, is that my 'kits' will be for either tops or backs. It may be an ambitious goal, but its part of simplifying my stash.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Wait. What?

I love that comment. Wait. What? It actually identifies this day perfectly.

I bought a yard of fabric that has absolutely no purpose for what I am working on. It's just a unique print and a bit wild. I need wild right now. It has a sort of illusion quality to it, AND it is going against what I said about using up what I have. 
So why did I buy it? 

I actually was looking for this finger protection for my hand quilting. This is the second package I've had, and with 70 dots, they do last. I put one on each night I do the hand quilting and even though I've gotten better at rolling the needle, this adds a barrier to protect the finger when needle pushing.

My learning style is "Audio-Kinesthetic-Visual" so when I walk into a fabric store (or even my own closet), its like being overwhelmed with eye candy. Its compelling, addicting. All the colors, patterns and textures have me spinning. Which is one reason I don't shop. I know this crazy fabric will go on some project and it will be stunning.

I have made progress on the Teacher Gifts for this season. With the Lil Twister template, I can get one larger table topper, and then the mug rug for the second gift of that season. The mug rug will only get batting, back and binding. And the table topper needs piping to make a distinct separation for the border, then the batting, back and binding. This was yet another distinct look. Its pretty random even with the light-dark-light pattern. I was going for fall leaves in a pile. Its not a complete project yet. And that is part of the fun of it all. Eventually, I will use the larger template for full quilts and doing these smaller table toppers gives me some insight as to how they might turn out.

My bobbins are out of light thread, so next is the black thread for Amy's Cat quilt. That too, is getting there.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Slow & Steady Strategy

For most of my life I resisted moving through life at a slow and steady pace. I participated in a number of extreme sports that required hitting balls, moving fast, running sled dogs, jumping out of planes, and skiing in water and on snow. Slow, in my opinion back then, was for slackers. I was not into taking small steps. Everything was leaps forward into the dark caves, or through the woods without fear. Good ol' days for sure.

Quilting is not like that. Quilting is about having a strategy that takes time and places value on thinking before cutting, measuring, planning and then piecing. Slowly. Steadily. 

I had a number of those 6.5" Halloween print squares from last year's swap. I figured that I could cut them in half, and then cut one of the halves in half again. I trimmed them down to a 5.5" square and joined five of them in five rows. They end up being a 24" square table topper. The back side is flipped over to show a more moderate expression in case the recipient thinks the top is too busy. It is quilted and the binding waits to be hand sewn for the finish.

There were two blocks leftover that will go into the mug rug next. I'll buy one of those glass jarred candles to go with the table topper and a mug to go with the mug rug, which needs to be made next.

I try to slow down. Honestly. And then some voice deep inside my head tells me to get up and DO something. I think that I have invited a lot of voices to join the chorus in my head since starting this fabric art. 

I've had to sort through them and make my own choices to do my own work. When I think about freedom and choice, I know that people stormed the Capital at various times to get personal freedom, and while I might have it on most of those political and religious levels, I still fight a battle inside that wants to give me permission to take a nap rather than to work myself into exhaustion. The other voice of that issue tells me that there is enough time to rest when I am dead. Jeeze. Seriously. And I have said it often. I am a person who resists a rest.

I felt so driven to make quilts for all my family members. I pushed myself to do them. And now that I am almost finished with 'the great plan', I can slow down and work at a more civilized pace. I think. Oh sure, that's what gets me in trouble. Thinking.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Open to Receive

Its only been in the last decade that I have been open to receive from others. I grew up with privilege all around me, which continued in the early part of my adulthood. Then, as things happen, life changed and I was a single parent struggling to make ends meet and working my fingers to the bone. I learned that if I wanted flowers, I had to plant them in my own garden. I discovered that I had to earn and pay for what I wanted, and so set my sights on our family needs first.

Most material objects are really only meaningless trinkets. A person can gather and hold onto it all as if it gives us value. Until one day, all the stuff needs dusting and almost pushes us to the wall of our homes because it takes up the space.

When I opened to receive, it wasn't so much for things as it was opening to receive friendship and love, kindness and nurturing. Joining some of the swaps brought that. And of course, it has brought me some insights about myself.

I have two quilts left to finish for this year. This pic represents the project I started for the teacher gifts at the preschool. Left to right here is the table topper for Halloween, one for Thanksgiving and finally the project for Christmas.

Teachers at this preschool exchange gifts for each of the months; 'You've Been Boo-ed' for October, 'Thanks for You' in November, and 'Elfed' in December. Teachers usually spend their own money for their classroom decorations and curriculum. In giving to a teacher at this little school, it helps her with that expense, but it is also giving to all the kids, which in return, gives to our community. How I receive from this is in knowing that a better world is created by helping make happy adults who teach and work with happy children, who grow up to run the country.

Most of the fabrics pictured above have been given to me. Most of the fabric I have has been given to me over the last few years because I was open to receive. Yes, they were left-overs from stash others had that they no longer needed, or from estates other quilters left behind. There is a sort of divine power that exists in the world and in each of us that makes all things possible and precious if and when we are open to that flow.

Its not about shopping, or gathering, or hoarding as much as it is being part of a system that shares resources. We have to give to receive, and in my case, receive to keep on giving.

In some swaps I have participated in, the giver has sent far more than the swap requirements. Generous people out there! They find a joy in giving. And now, I find a joy in receiving. And there is an evolutionary growth necessary to receive. Sometimes what I get is not what I might buy for myself, and rather than whine about it not being the right color, or style...whatever....I figure out a way to use it in my fabric art and make something I like from it. It is re-purposing and may become re-gifting.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


In my opinion, all of us need people in our lives who interact with compassion. We need to give it. We need to receive it. We need to be self-compassionate, or compassionate towards ourselves. With compassion, we are able to see intentions beneath the mistakes, effort beneath the failure. It is said that compassion is a state of being in touch with what is the bright, beautiful and flawed nature of humanity.

I need to look in the mirror more. Certainly that definition applies to me.

I finished the binding on my Brother-in-Law's quilt. Its off the sidebar to-do list. Getting there.

I spent time cutting and sorting fabric squares and pulled out fifty 5" charms, plus the balance of the 6.5" Halloween squares from a swap last year. I agreed to make some gifts for six teachers in the Infant Center in town; three table toppers and three mug rugs. Two will be given for three holidays: Hallows, Thanksgiving, and at Winter Solstice (well, OK, they celebrate Christmas). What's nice about the Lil Twister I plan to use on two of the table toppers is that there are leftover scraps to make mug rugs.

As I sorted, it is apparent that I am way over-stocked and definitely need to get quilting. I need a plan. Or patterns. Before I promise someone a quilt (mini or full size), I want to make some quilts so that I have a stash of finished quilts rather than a stash of fabric.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Easier Online

I've heard it said, often, that what we think about we bring about. Sooner or later, they say, our thoughts become reality. Makes sense to me, then, to think as many positive thoughts as we can whether or not we believe them in the moment.

While I did shop in the local stores, albeit KMart-the only store in town, for something 'Greenbay Packers', I ordered a couple of yards of fleece that were on sale at JoAnn's. It was less expensive, even with tax and shipping, than the same size fleece cover in the store. AND it was better quality. I like this plaid look, which seems so much like a football blanket. There is time for me to consider making it two layers or just doing a blanket stitch around the outside. It is a throw for my #2 Granddaughter's beau for Winter Solstice. Plenty of time.

Last night, I ran into a couple of SNAFU's with two of the quilts I was doing hand work on. I had forgotten the rule of quilting from the center out and had quilted down the sides. There was a wrinkle, and so I had to rip out the quilting stitches from one of the blocks to smooth it. The other SNAFU was on my Brother-in-Law's quilt.  For about 12-18", the binding didn't get enclosed with the seam end, so that had to be ripped and re-stitched. Both are fine.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday Pre-holiday Work

Sometimes it feels like working on myself is a challenge enough. I could make a very long list of things that I'm either not very good at or one with all the skills I have learned that I do feel good about having. I guess the best thing is to just keep working on some part of it all.

I finished machine quilting my Brother-in-Law's quilt, made the binding, sewed it on the quilt and then clipped it with those Wonder Clips by Clover. I own this box of 50 that were given to me as a gift by my friend Amy. I thought about buying more because they don't quite wrap most of the quilts I make and then decided against having excess. These are enough.

They make it around two sides, and I can do a little more than one each night I work on the quilts. So they are enough.

There's that word again. Enough. Learning takes time. Practice takes time. And it is way too easy to get trapped into thinking I need more of this or more of that, when in fact, in the moment, what I have and who I am is enough. Just like Wonder Clips. The lesson takes me way back to Goldilocks and her adventure in learning what is too little, too much or just right. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Didn't Quilt Today

It is true. 

I found many other things to do today other than quilting, It rather surprised me to do my usual wrap of the day to discover this fact. 

SPOILER ALERT: We went to see Mr. Holmes with Ian McKellen. I laughed while listening to the two older women chatting behind me before the movie started. Each took turns bemoaning the young people of the day, having unprotected sex and getting pregnant. They took turns telling their personal favorite saviour story. And when they commented that Ian is British, I had all I could do to keep from turning around to tell them he lives in San Francisco and is gay. It rarely surprises me how people of their faith can rattle on.

And the movie, while it was slow, made me not want to see this version where he has lost everyone who ever meant anything to him as well as his mental facilities. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock, who is bright beyond even the Sun should never have been reduced to dementia. 


And set in the background for his retirement home are, of course, the White Cliffs of Dover, right off the post card I just got from Great Britain. He looked old. This Sherlock, this McKellen, and sounded so much like Gandolf in Lord of the Rings whenever he turned his back. He wrote his notes to self on his shirt cuffs.

And before the movie ended, I was crying. I want to watch the old Hollywood and new Hollywood movies, where Sherlock Holmes is a smart ass, rude, young, and solves cases because he thinks better than anyone on the planet. I don't want to know that he outlived Watson and Mycroft. 

I don't want to see him fall out of bed and get hurt hitting the floor only inches from the mattress. Mother falls out of bed. She cannot remember people or what happened a few hours ago, or if she ate. Not Sherlock Holmes. Not even Ian McKellen. They are out of Hollywood where every story is make believe. Not real stuff. Not aging. Not dementia. Not being the last to go.

And yet.