Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Stars in Everyday (post for Wed.)

I remember being taught in Journalism classes long ago that a mob is mindless, and it doesn't matter who its members are. What a journalist wants to do is appeal to community and individuals in the community. It is the task of the journalist to do enough background work to know who the members of the community are so the focus of a story touches as many or all of them on some level.

We are one because we are many.



The next round of stars for the Constellation quilt grew from what I had yesterday, yet only half of them for the entire quilt are made. With this batch, its less easy to select one star to stand out, and in fact, the unifying factor is only that they are stars. I am loving the look of them.

I've pinned the next round of blocks and am setting it aside for a little while.  As soon as all blocks are constructed, seams need checking and all of them trimmed for size. I've already cut apart one of them and tossed it in the pet bag scraps. Not sure how it turned out so badly but it seemed that starting over rather than trying to fix it was more time effective. If I need to make more replacements, I would like to sort by color and see if one color is under-represented.

Its as though all the voices in the community need to be heard. Everyone is a star in her own right.

Seeing Stars

Spent more time on the Constellation quilt. Its amazing to me how my fabric and color selections are creating unique stars. When we look into the sky, at first glance, they are all alike. It isn't until we learn about the various constellations that we see the unique patterns in the sky. So it is with our lives, our friendships, our work, our pleasure. 

The star blocks are coming together and more will surface during the next round of piecing. These are the first completed. The pattern called for so many dark squares, so many lights. Now I see how the darks make up the 4-patches in the centers as well as the points of the star, and the lights surround the star. I also see that I thought enough ahead to make each star block almost mono in colors giving the eye a place to rest amidst all the scrappy look of it all. It was a stash buster, but one that has taken work to complete.

The other block I made for the Christmas block swap looks like gift wrap. Again, scraps. The original pattern calls for all the reds to be more scrappy, yet, with one block that will go with maybe two others for a table runner, it just seems wise to do less scrappy. I loved how this turned out, and the first one I made as a test block is going into the younger Grandson's holiday quilt.

I've changed my personal block request within this group from Wonky Houses/Trees to any star block. I did request specific colors for the stars and so it will be quite interesting to see what comes starting in May. I do have a plan in mind.

It makes me wonder if our desire to be unique is reasonable or if fitting in is the illusion. It seems to me, as I quilt these blocks for quilts I make as well as for the swaps, and those received them from other quilters, that being unique is just what is required to fit in. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Broken Again

As I looked at the photo for my third Broken Herringbone block, I remembered what my friend Lee told me about her best tool, the Seam Ripper, and took the block in hand and re-invented its look.


I like this one. It follows the pattern better to have a white sashing with the green  outside of it.

Done now with this and plan to return to the Constellation quilt piecing for the day.

Broken Herringbone Block

Being broken is something most of us feel in various ways and as I worked on this block named "Broken Herringbone", I thought about brokenness. Its hard to go into the deep in a bright and sunny day, but sometimes going deep brings up healing, so I decided to walk the path as I created this block.


It was another scrappy experiment that I love. I did have to play with them as the block was assembled and maybe that's why I thought about the healing process for those areas of our brokenness.

I think almost every person remembers a time in their childhood when they thought they were unloved, not wanted and responsible for everything going wrong in their families, in their classroom, for their teams not winning, and for lost contracts at work. We believe that everything is our fault.

As we mature, we learn to ask for support. I read this pattern and the first cut was at a 45 degree angle. I couldn't understand it no matter how many times I read it and looked at the photos, and had to ask for help. Once that first step was made, I could add the other pieces and even fill in where a strip wasn't long enough. 


And I love the result so much that I made another one for my 12" Christmas Block swap.

The concept of brokenness was something on my mind all day. I've been reading THE GAME OF THRONES books again, and in it, the author treats two differently abled characters with a lot of depth.

One of them is a dwarf, born into a rich family and the other is a young boy pushed from a tower window breaking his back. In both cases, the author lets the reader into the minds of the protagonists and also sees how people around them treat their brokenness. As the story continues, the reader witnesses the brokenness of every character and how they work with what they have and go forward.

Brokenness is not a clean wound or experience. As I put away fabric remnants, there were enough to start another block. I figured it could go on Jake's quilt. However, all I had were the scraps and put this together. Its not the true pattern because to make IT, I would have had to cut more and waste more. 

"Healing" doesn't come as clean or look the same for everyone. Some folks just give the pain time to heal, others seek therapy or turn to their faith. Some, unfortunately seek solace with alternative methods to avoid healing, or avoid the issues. This has got to be ok too. 

When the blocks come in from folks who used the fabric they had and the pattern they liked, the resulting quilt is called a 'Sampler'. When I look at such quilts, I see the overall effect and am impressed with how the diversity of fabrics and block patterns all coordinate. I am convinced that this version of the Broken Herringbone will work in Jake's holiday quilt. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pretty Pink Plate (Dresden)

I brought home a book from the library that I want to study. There is something about continuing education that appeals to the eternal student in me.

This one claims to be 'absolutely the easiest, most successful method for choosing colors and fabrics to create quilts you love'. Its got a color wheel in each chapter and numerous examples of how to match colors. Thing is, I am still working with my stash as a primary source for what I use. Yet, it makes sense to know this information.

One of my swap partners asked for her block in pinks and mauve. I don't tend to buy pink and yet knew there were probably scraps left from other projects, so spent time searching the stash. That part takes time. Once I'd found fabrics, I decided upon the pattern and selected the Dresden Plate. It would make a lovely quilt, even using scraps up and making each plate a different color.

It takes 5" of fabric by about 2.5" wide to make the blade size to fit the 12.5" block, and so then I started cutting and piecing. This one took 20 different fabrics, and still needs that center circle, and a piece for background. I have both hand and machine stitched the plate to the background when I have done this block in the past, and will see how my time goes. Pinks in my stash are all but gone and have gone to many super projects.

I think I have an eye for color arrangement and make good use of what I have in my stash. However, I second guess myself a lot. My tendency is to do more mono combinations. One theory with scrap quilting is the more different fabrics you use, the less worry there is in coordinating them, and in truth, the more you can get away with doing.

Second guessing my actions isn't just for my quilting projects. I do it all the time in my head and carry on silly conversations that no one hears. Its not so much indecision or lack of confidence, but more weighing my choices and evaluating the natural consequences. 

Sometimes I whine about those mystery quilt retreats because I don't know what I am doing with the material I get. But really. The whole idea is to create a palate of colors and fabrics that is appealing and then let the magick happen.

I am going to study this book during the week and let some of the concepts sink in. I have a fair amount of stash to work with yet and of course, because it is getting down doesn't mean all the good pieces are gone. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Perseverance

Sometimes apathy falls over us like a smothering blanket meant to put out a fire whenever we let sadness turn into depression. Fires go out and depression sets in, for everyone at some time in their lives. 

I think one of the reasons why I quilt, why I garden or landscape, and why I write is to avoid falling under its influence. Yes, I push myself to engage. I push myself harder than anyone else could ever do. I've always felt healthier when I care about something in my life, whether it is a long-time friend I haven't seen in awhile, or working for justice in the environment. Quilting also makes me care because I make them for people I love.


I just finished a round of paper piecing rows. I care about the woman who is my friend who asked me to make this quilt. I envision her wrapping up in it or tossing it over her sofa. I see her smile and know her smiling is because she cares. She cares about education of less fortunate children. She cares about helping young women prepare for jobs and higher education. She cares about the environment. It is no wonder I care about her.


A quilt made with love isn't a smothering blanket, but is like an angel's touch of comfort, a friend's reminder of shared laughter, a mother's labor of love. I kept reminding myself of this as I worked, and wondered if I would ever get finished with this step of the paper piecing project.



And as I picked up the folder that held the pattern pieces, only three remained for this step. It took me about 45 minutes to finish. Now, I need to take out the bin and match the blocks for pinning and joining. Because its worth celebrating to get this far on a project so very unfamiliar, I found that my internal fires are burning hot and bright right now. 

Woohoo is in order.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Continuing Education

Recovery, health, happiness. Everything is a choice, even continuing education. We can choose to stay where we are in life and feel our limitations or find new ways to evolve.

Harvesting Rock is hard on my body, and maybe hard on the car. This pond project should have been just relocating the rock as I relocated the pond. Logically, if I dug the pond out of one place and moved it to another, it would have seemed that I could have had the same materials....dirt from the new hole should have been enough to fill the old hole....rock from the left side should have been enough for the right side.


However, in the course of the project, I bought 9 bags of top soil filler, and harvested two trunks full of Rock. Of course, the lawn had to be mowed so I could pull the dolly from the driveway through the back yard. (The pond form is a dark gray about mid-way on the left side of the photo.) It had been nearer the arbor on the right side of the photo.

Anyway, after all my tasks outdoors, when I came inside, I was REALLY tired. I ate a good lunch, had a couple of glasses of water, and put some back ointment on, just for comfort before it started to hurt. I always lift carefully, but, the old bones just aren't what they used to be.

The thought of trying to quilt was too much. I turned on You Tube and found a number of tutorials for scrap quilting. They were on a sort of loop, so I was able to watch one after another and just relax my body.

It seemed like there was at least one nugget of wisdom I took from each of them, whether it was a pressing technique or a new use for scrap sizes. And then, I fell asleep for about half an hour. Was I continuing to learn while I napped and the tutorials ran? Is this why I dream quilting? Hmmm.

And now, I will do another round on the paper piecing project by cutting black for the next pieces. Its getting there. Lots of hours to get there. I am really grateful I took the time to number all the pattern copies and hope that matching and layout will go smoothly.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

When Wisdom Whispers

Some of my best thoughts come when I am in bed, either falling asleep or just waking up. Wisdom shines in the dark corners of my spirit in those moments. Of course, if I don't get up right away and take action, those thoughts fly away into the world of dreams never to take form.

While I did stitch another round on the paper piecing quilt and have nothing really to show on it but more parts piling up, I also spent time cleaning and rearranging the studio. Why is it that this particular chore is never-ending? Hmmm... I wish there was more storage, but then, if there was more storage, there would end up being more clutter, more stash, more.


Which reminds me of the compelling theme song for the History Channel's series "The Vikings". (pic is a strong female character of shield maiden Lathgertha, who is also an Earl.) If you want to hear the song, this is the link to it. https://www.youtube.com/Vikings      Yes, its become a favorite series of mine that is on both the History Channel and on Hulu as a download. One line in the song is "more, more, I want more" and refers to their need to seek more land and expand. Its a bit violent, but then so was history. The History Channel is treating this culture and the historical characters pretty close to their traditions. Its extremely well done. One of the recent episodes shows her serving as Priestess in a harvest thanksgiving ritual. It was chilling to watch.

What I need is to use up what I have and be sensible about the projects. I've pushed three quilts down the To-Do list in case my time gets shorter than I expect. I probably spend 3-5 hours a day doing some work and yet, here it is almost the end of March and the ones on top of my list are taking longer than I thought. To make things clear for myself, I've added the months to projects so I have a better idea when I want them finished for shipping. There are a few done and good to go that are no longer shown, and stored in bins.

If these top projects get finished, the ones lower on the list will move along to their next steps. I haven't liked the quilting terms like UFO or WIP because it makes it seem like they are in limbo, and maybe that is truth.

While I spend a fair amount of time with my quilt block swaps and the swapbot swaps, each of them is like a training experience where I can test my skills and think outside the quilt box. AND I have a couple of goals to learn new things. One of them was paper piecing and that was a huge learning experience. I still want to connect with a woman here in town who offered to show me how to do the free motion quilting.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Playing Catch-up

I like to think my life is spent going from one stage of life and living to another. My lessons come easier now that I am older, or maybe they repeated enough times for me to finally get what I was here to learn. There is nothing guaranteed about having a springtime of spirit. I think we have to chose it for ourselves. And it IS Spring here in the northern hemi.

At the beginning of the year, I made a personal commitment to dedicate a couple of days each month to do first; paper-work projects of any nature, and secondly; to work on Winter Solstice gifts. However, my trip was going to make that hard because it was smack dab on those dates. It would have been easy to just skip it all and go to next month.


However, buying all those postcards at Yosemite gave me a perfect opportunity to connect with the elders and youngsters in my family. I wrote until my hand was stiff, then took time out to put the stamps on and add some stickers. I spent time cutting out more cancelled stamps for my diagonal project and then made a few envelopes from repurposed magazine pages. Some of them are really heavier weight paper, and make decorative envelopes for the swaps I send out. I'm getting better at repurposing any paper because of this dedicated day.


When I opened the top drawer where I am keeping the Winter Solstice projects, a Halloween table runner urged me to pull it out. I found batting leftovers to fit, a back and binding. Hand stitching the binding is almost finished. Its not really a Winter Solstice gift as much as it belongs to one of my Granddaughters. I've been making each of them a box of mini quilts or other things for their apartments/homes. Two grrls are already on their own.

Being in the valley forest of Yosemite and always looking up to see trees and mountains, brought me closer to the place of remembering to slow down, to enjoy the moment and to breathe. As I sit looking out my window at night, the lessons remind me to stay full of wonder and to live life to its fullest.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I'm Back!

Yosemite was wonderful. Its a place that pictures simply do not capture the moment. I sat for a good half hour and watched a Woodpecker flit up and down two trees looking for and eating bugs. I stood by a fence and watched a rapid stream crash over boulders...the sound. I cannot explain what it did for me. And I swear I hear voices in the winds. And this pic was taken from Sentinel Bridge. Look at the still waters!

Yosemite is kept natural and is filled with people-tourists-campers from all around the world who respect what they see. No litter anywhere. No harsh sounds, no children crying. Everything is filled with wonder wherever you look. Oh I am sure people break the simple rules but they are not destructive, not abusive of the environment. Tall trees take you in and the sheer mountains settle your soul. It is a magickal place, another world outside the ordinary ones we live in. 

On the downside, outdoor toilets are at a premium. I could not believe how hard it was to find one on day one. Finding them became a priority on day two. I just wanted to know where they were!

And of course, I didn't quilt today. It was 5 hours coming home again, and then picking up and dropping off mail, depositing a couple of checks, unpacking, doing laundry and filling the bird feeder. I have more than enough on my quilting To-Do list and will be back at it in no time at all. 














Its good to be home. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Vacation Until Monday

I know!  Plans are to leave early in the morning for at least 5 hours on the road all the way up to Yosemite. I haven't been there for decades and it seems to be a perfect weekend to go. Obviously, I won't have web access so will not be here until Monday or Tuesday. I spent the day shopping for groceries so I could make and take some meals in the cooler. The motel has a refrigerator and a micro. I've made an eggplant dip, a tomato & onion salad, soup, and have all sorts of things to go with everything. I still need to pack and luckily have a list.


I did finish the two other Churn Dash blocks and got them in the mail. The top ones are the more traditional look and so she will have choices. I am sure she will go for those. I like how they form another diamond at the corners. Nice look.

Vacations are a way to re-start our internal clocks. And California has endless ecosystems. Yosemite is cold this time of year, which is a consideration for what clothes to bring. In the past, I would have brought my laptop, some hand sewing or embroidery work. However, my plan is to just be away from everything here at home and enjoy the trip up and back home. All my swaps are current, and with luck, my mailbox will be filled with goodies when I return.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Communications

One of my swap partners this month asked for a 6" churn dash pattern using the same fabrics in reverse. This IS a churn dash pattern that uses three fabrics. I was a bit confused with what I'd found. However, now I am thinking I might like to make a couple using only two colors. 


Something tells me she wants a different look. I think. I followed the pattern, yet when I went looking online for images, other patterns only used two fabrics where the center frame is predominate. While these might be just fine, I am making two more of them with just the two colors and pulled out the cream. Her instructions were to reverse two fabrics, one light and one dark. If she is making a quilt with only a 2-color pattern, then these first ones are not correct. They are not wrong, but not correct either. I'll include the pattern I used for them.

When communication is not completely clear for both people to understand what is meant, even the best of intentions can bring about misunderstanding. Now that I made these two, I see that I was not following her wishes.


We give enough information that we think is clear. Yet, when others respond to us in ways that are not what we wanted, the natural tendency is to blame the other person for faulty interaction. We have a responsibility to be clear communicators both in sending and receiving. If I send only these AND they are not what she wants, then it follows that she will be disappointed in the swap.


Am I contacting her for more clarity? No. I am taking the opportunity to learn from this and see it as an adventure. 


Another swap I joined is the monthly Halloween Trick or Treat Stuffer. This month's theme is black cats, so I whipped up another simple mug rug. Not doing anything fancy for these stuffers but think my partners will be pleased. Do I know? Well, the swaps are wrapped and to be saved for an October opening. And its a 'sender's choice', so when you sign up for such a swap, you are open to receive whatever comes your way. We are told to send things we would like receiving ourselves. Most of my mug rugs have come from my friend Rex in private swaps we have done. I make good use of every one!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Doing Our Best

I've considered the denial factor in many things most of my life. Its a big issue for a lot of people on the planet. It exists in quilting too. Most of the time we don't have to deal with what we don't see. And the backside of the quilt top can hold a lot of boo-boos, ouch-ys, that are simply kid-words for the unease, mistake, difficulty or awkward situation our quilting has. Yet, any quilter can look at the back of a block and see how the quilt-maker aimed for accuracy.

A good iron (thanks again, Rex) can press a lot of clumsy quilting away.

I've discovered that I can use any light colored thread if my neutral bobbin is spent if it is in the same colorway as the pieces. That is a rule-breaker for some quilters. And honestly, there is a reason why that rule exists. Cheap thread is like cheap fabric. It might cost less, but in the end, it lasts less time too. Am I denying the way it will wear or look in 10 years if my quilt lasts that long? Choose-Sewing-Thread

Some really old quilt top backs I've seen were filled with newspaper! That was what the quilter had and the quilt was still of value. Was she in denial or full acceptance of her reality to use what she had? Looking at it now, I am in awe of her flexibility and creativity, not sitting in judgement that she used the wrong material. Some of those quilts were made with flour sacks or repurposed clothing. 

I am not really in denial about my work. I know that I am a newer Intermediate quilter and have a lot to learn. I do my best. One person's best is not always as good as the next person's best, but if we keep working on whatever we do, it shows.

With all the tutorials on You Tube, a person can see the differences in quilters based on their artistic natures as well as what supplies are available to them. IMO, purchasing high end fabrics helps a quilter create higher end looks.

Factor in personal health aspects, aging issues effecting energy, stamina, eyesight, or steady hands, and good equipment, other financial resources or considerations. Output can vary with each person. Most quilters I swap with will comment on how much they learned working with each monthly block swap. The same happens for me too. 

I struggle most with the 6" blocks. Not only are the patterns challenging, but I am challenged by fabric selections. I am my own worst critic when it comes to the end product, wanting points to match, and 1/4" allowances outside the points so they don't get lost.

Another thing about doing one's best is that its about you, not about comparing to someone else or competing. Its your best, you. 

I did more work on the paper piecing project. It seems like progress is steady. The quilt will look wonderful, however, I am still not that much of a fan regarding paper piecing itself. Maybe the outcome will change my opinion. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Return to Paper Piecing

I worked on my older Son's Constellations quilt again and have 4 of the star blocks pieced. So many steps to the stars. 

The outside garden project called to me too. Weather is just lovely here right now and perfect for doing heavier labor outside before the heat makes it less comfortable. Steps to the pond are in. It needs at least 6 bags of top soil to form the foundation for the rocks. Then, I washed down the rooftop to my shed, which I plan to paint as soon as possible. Unfortunately, its not going to be an easy job.


There is a comfort in returning to various quilting projects. Besides a bit of piecing on the Constellations quilt, the cat paper piecing sections were trimmed for the next few black and batik pieces. Once this is completed, all of the half blocks will be pinned, and threads clipped. I am going to leave at least one half of the paper on so I know how to lay out the top. Its exciting to be this close.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Colorizing Greens

I finished two blocks for a swap, though only one was required. I simply wanted to try out the different patterns. I've got so many more pieces pinned and at my machine so when it gets turned on later this morning, there will be a lot of progress made on a number of projects.


Its interesting how the look of these blocks can change with just the slightest shift in fabrics. This first one has yellow in it and the floral is more summery. Its called a "No-name" pattern. I've made it before and really like it.


This one is called "Shooting Star 2". It has an entirely different feel, even though it is the same green. The gold of these fall flowers changes the visual. I know that the pictures can take on different hues.

Finding perspective is an interesting challenge, whether it is in quilting or in my mundane life. I really love working with color and finding ways to make my quilt projects come to life.



I went outside again in the late afternoon, took some pics of the progress AND THEN started working to dig the pipe in and after it was set, and the cord run through, I opened a bag of soil filler and covered up a section with it and some rock.
Thing is, rocks vibrate energetically so slowly that they don't photograph well with a simple camera & much of the perspective is lost here. This pic shows the new pond location just above the sage plant to the left. The dirt flow is where the steps will go. The first section of the pipe is covered with dirt and rock already. The push is on to finish because once the leaves and vines start to bud out, everything changes out there. I've also decided to give the rooftop of the shed a coat of rustolium to protect it. Right now its not rusting but left another season or two, the rust will start to eat away things. I should have started it earlier, but it is on top of my To-Do list.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Real Life is Happening on Earth

While I am still doing things for my quilting projects, like selecting fabric and patterns, pinning, piecing and pressing, the real work these days is out in my gardens. And I am not really taking my camera with me.

This morning, I attended to the SW corner, blowing fall leaves out under bushes and from the rocks, trimming dead plant matter and moving rock. I filled one of those big trash containers before stopping.

The outdoor project is ambitious this year. It starts with the relocation of a small pond I put in a couple of years ago. I set it too close to an arbor with new vines. Well, the vines grew and the neighbor's Cat hid so she could catch birds. Birds stopped coming to the pond.

Over many years, I harvested rocks as big as I could lift (and some bigger to take 2 people). I love stacking rocks and landscaping with them. And this re-location is actually the 4th time I've done a pond in my gardens!

Plants go through a 3-year growth pattern after you put them in: Sleep, Creep and Leap. Most of these are leaping and well-estabished.

A new trench was dug for additional electrical conduit. That also got put together this morning with the cord pulled through. Now its a matter of sealing the pipe and burying it, then covering it with rock so it looks like it spilled down the little hill. I need to put in two sets of steps, finish covering over  everything with the rock to make it look as natural as possible, and the pond will be ready to fill with water.

Real life is happening on Earth and real action is taking action. As years go by, eventually I will be the one sitting on a bench looking at what is out there. Its my plan to remember that what I did made it a more beautiful place. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Changes

Once I accept things as they are, I can create new things. All we can ever do is accept things that happen and go on without anger or regret.

When the rest of the pattern for the BOM was revealed, it suggested that the border fabric be included within some of the blocks in small ways. I liked the red with black dots but not enough to make it a border. It doesn't pop the way a print does. The shop I went to the other day sold out of the wild print, so I headed to the other shop down the street. 


I bought enough for a floral border, FQ, a coordinating floral frame for the 12-BOMs, sashing and binding. Yup. A chunk of change. What this pic shows is 2 light FQs, 3 mediums, and 5 darks. The white floral is the border and will be repeated in the BOMs, the black floral is for the frame and the green tone-on-tone is sashing. I got another FQ in orange and set aside the red & white stripe, and the other wild print.


I put the entire project away for another day, and went back to the stars on the Constellations quilt. Lots of pinning, joining, and pressing. My goal is to match all pieces to the 50 stars.

And I've also been working on some of the 12" quilt block swaps. This one is called "Snowball 9-Patch" & is supposed to be made using solid colors. I wasn't thrilled with how seams look on the back, so started cutting a second one using a lighter green, a yellow with the white. Its not all that pretty either.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Trim the Dog Ears

Who knew there was so much to making flying geese?

My older Son's quilt has 50 stars in it, which means 200 flying geese. That's 200 triangles with 400 smaller triangles. 


Its hardly the big accomplishment because there is more to prepping before they are star quality. Three triangles are pieced, and they are pressed flat. "Trim the dog-earred points" is all it says on the pattern for the next step. 

One line. 



Dog ears are the points at the corners that add bulk to small squares. Some people leave them, however taking the time to clip them helps give the quilt top a smoother look. It reminds me of so many other mundane tasks a person has that seem relatively insignificant.  

During this particular task or step, each flying geese piece is assessed for its point with a scant 1/4" seam allowance overage. If it needs a correction, now is the time. I've spent an hour clipping and have a few seams to re-do to make the quilt top go together correctly.

As I pieced the smaller triangles on top of the larger ones, over and over and over again, it reminded me why I work on a project and set it aside. All I can ever do is work in the present with what I've got and keep going forward. I don't want to get caught up in thoughts of how they will fit as part of the star blocks. I need to focus so that they are done with as much accuracy as I am able to give.

Looking back on my work, I see how fabrics got matched and know that in the matching of each set of 4 flying geese, that a person's eye will have a place to rest in the busy-ness of this scrap quilt. Scrappy quilts get busy-looking. That is the charm of them. It looks like each star will be fairly mono-chromatic or at least look coordinated. I will complete these star blocks and then set the project aside to work on others. 

I am tempted to simply highlight the step when I finish it, however, after doing that, I plan to leave the Note-to-Myself.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Addictions

I sit here shaking my head and trying to figure out if quilting has become an addiction for me. New ideas for quilts keep popping up for me to create, and I jump right in! I didn't know it was an addiction until I tried to stop. I can't stop. I don't want to stop. 

One suggestion I made for the huge, huge quilting group on Facebook was to offer a BOM opportunity for folks who have liked it, are following it, and yet are not involved in the monthly swaps. This way, they can be a part of the community and keep their work. Swapping is a huge commitment. Yet, quilters are just people who want to belong, want feedback and want inspiration.


Others who were also discussing the Facebook group, liked the BOM concept and came up with an idea of a 12-block sampler that is easy, and takes 10 Fat Quarters to do the blocks. I pulled out eight FQs from my stash that coordinate nicely in reds, and raced downtown to buy two more FQs (red with black dots and the green & red print). 

Then, when I came home, I pulled the light green FQ to go with the larger print and put more in contrast for the blocks. I am already thinking I might like to get more of that wild print and use it for a border. They haven't given all the fabric requirements yet but buying it while it is in the store makes a lot of sense to me. I want to be sure it will be used in this quilt and not become "stash". The colors excite me, and the reds batiks came to me as a Secret Santa gift.

I had an extremely great conversation tonight with my Cuz in Alaska about addictions, and know that everyone has one or more of them. What happens when a person has an addiction is probably different for each of us.

If quilting is one of mine, it stays pretty much in control. Many quilters buy larger amounts of fabric and build up stash. As it is, my bins take up more than enough space. I am way too practical to over-buy.

Quilting IS an expensive art. I have learned to buy good quality fabric just because buying cheap fabric, and putting all this work into it makes no sense. I have also learned that having good tools makes it easier to work with projects, like sharp needles and pins, fine seam rippers and good rotary blades. However, I have calculated the cost difference between buying a very expensive sewing machine vs. a cheaper one. You can buy an inexpensive machine that costs $.27 a day for its expected life of 5 years vs. a more expensive model that will use up over $9 a day. 

I don't just lay my money down without thinking.

I tried giving myself a fabric budget, and that worked until I left home and got in the car. By the time I got to the fabric store (less than 2 miles away), I had forgotten how much I was going to spend and bought what I wanted. While I used to keep receipts in the early days to know the cost of a quilt, they get tossed. If you have to ask how much it costs, then you probably cannot afford it anyway.

Historically, addiction was a term used to describe an individual's devotion, attachment, dedication and inclination to something outside themselves. Now it is considered more a recurring & uncontrolled compulsion to engage in specific activities despite harmful consequences to health, personal life style and damage to others.

I think what I do could come close. There is a reward for me in quilting. And I monitor the work close enough so that I don't have to experience withdrawals when something interferes. Yet....

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Am I Blue?

I am a spiritual person in case you haven't seen that on this blog. I send positive energy. I pray. I do magick. Pick whichever phrase works for you and dismiss the others without needing to judge or assume my choices are either mainstream or out of the box.

Furthermore, I like people who can admit their own failures. I like people who keep going with their lives in spite of obstacles, without blaming other people or circumstances. I like people who show compassion and have tolerance. I like people who laugh so hard they cry, and cry so hard they laugh.

When I first received fabric scraps from my friend here in Tehachapi, I washed, sorted, cut and perused quilting magazines for ideas on scrap quilting. Most of those early quilts were done and have been given.


This one. This one I call Am I Blue? has been shifting around ever since then. Its really lovely. And now it has a back, batting and has been basted. I am not sure how it will get machine quilted and may be one that is used by me to practice free motion quilting. I've changed my mind about it a lot.

Me. My mind. No fault. No pressure. No fear. Its just a quilt that has been taking its own sweet time to get finished. And now it is another step closer to done.

Usually I set in the energy for a quilt as I make it and work it specifically for a person. What is so interesting is that the recipient for this quilt has changed at least three times, and so have my prayers. I know that I've been working with comforting thoughts, prayers, magick. 

This sort of electric blue is the color of Spirit and reflects peace to keep negative energies away. Blue usually produces body chemicals in us that are calming and slow human metabolism so we can rest. This particular blue is dramatic, exhilarating, and encourages confidence. All the small pieces are framed with bright, bright blue. It is a quilt top that holds a lot of life....and is going to the right person at the right time for the right reason.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Learning via Swaps

I've been working on a number of quilt block swaps, and getting some mighty good lessons. I feel like I am surrounded by endless sources of inspiration. Mail brings incredible treats in small packages from strangers. And what I get often helps me be more creative and become more generous.

Packages like these are healing. I had no idea how much. It starts with being open to receive. People are strangers and there are no expectations, no payback. The only rule, if you will, is that you must send the required parts. What I see is that most people go above and beyond.

Today's mail brought a swap called "Pick 3" and there were homemade envelopes in it, blank postcards (really cute ones too!), blank note cards, a little envelope holding 10 used foreign stamps to add to my stamp project, Easter stickers, a package of flower seeds, a keyring and a pen. Obviously there were more than three items in it. And everything was sent so artistically wrapped. Sweet, sweet touches.

One of the blocks I made was cut incorrectly but is going out the door to my partner as an extra. Seems that many of us make blocks that are ok, but not what we wanted or planned to have happen. I am certainly using all that come my way. People say that when you make a block or a quilt that steps away from the original pattern that you are a quilt-maker. The more I look at this block, the more I like it.

The actual block that is more Christmas-y to fit into this swap is called the "Postage Stamp" pattern. My partner hinted that her color preference is red. The repeats here were only the solid reds and everything else is only used once and is randomly placed. However, I took care to join the blocks with an upright look. This is yet another one of those old methods that uses pieces from other quilts, so as I made it, memories came up for where each piece was used in a family quilt. And included the package for my partner was a spool of red Italian thread.

I struggle yet, with how to be more generous. One block was extra and the thread. It was something, yet, I am not quite as giving as I would like to be. Its a learning process.

One of the monthly swaps is called "Trick or Treat Bag Filler" and is sent wrapped to be opened in October. I decided to pull out the 6.5" squares I got from that swap some months ago and use two of them for a mug rug. Its a perfect size and I do have enough of them to plan ahead to make more. I used batting scraps too. Its an easy peasy one-night quilting project. If this swap is monthly, then I will make each partner a mini quilt / mug rug.

The fabric square swaps are often fun, and I pulled out two sets of twenty 5" squares that will go out later this week. We send 20 to two people in the swap. I did spend time cutting fabric pieces into my favorite sizes.

I am still working on two other 12" block swaps, and its slower going than I would like because they are really different patterns. One is a "Snowball" block as a 9-patch. Its really harder than I thought to match the small angled seams, so it may take more than one attempt to get it presentable.

There must be a secret to all of this from the generosity of individuals, the attitude of openness, gratitude, creativity. All of it. As the secret unfolds, I do evolve in small ways. And if others are evolving and learning, then clearly the ripple is felt within the group and must, must, must be sending it out into the world as positive energy.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Disappearing 4-Patch to Swap

The quilt block swap groups I am in are going through some transitions. While change is good, it can be difficult. I was invited, with a few others, to comment on what is happening and have offered ideas for how to take on the growing numbers and not loose the integrity of the existing group. Even though the administrators asked for comments, it will be what they do with what they learned that will count.

Leadership has taken a different turn. Groups that are run by one or two people seldom last long. We went through the era where our leaders were killed, and now with information so readily available online (and free for the looking), no one needs a guru, and most people want to find their own way through life. What is clear, is that there are more people quilting who want to join groups, and as they get bigger, more rules or guidelines are needed for success.

Quilters are solitary beings who want to belong, want to learn, want to build relationships. 

I did finish Grace's Spring quilt topper, joined the seam for the back and have it on the list to baste. Goddess, it will be a stunning lap quilt. Pictures to come when it is further along.

One of the 12" blocks is finished too. My swap partner mentioned that she would like to make a red and white quilt some day, and loves red. I love the freedom some partners give when they are ok with whatever comes. 

This Disappearing 4-Patch is perfect for the combination of red and white. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Halloween Pillow Swap

One of the swaps I just finished is a Halloween Tombstone Pillow. Not everyone gets a kick out of the Death concept. Its too close to reality that we all must die or that someone we know and miss died.


However, I thought it was a cute idea and pulled out what gray fabric I had in my stash and made my first one, which will go to my partner. Usually I keep the test projects and send off the next one where I learned from my mistakes. She asked for her name to be on it, and said she was Pagan rather than Christian. I added a pentagram, and found some words,  "Brave enough to burn. Fearless enough to fly." The top part didn't work for me with its tombstone ridges, so when I do another one for myself, I will make it rectangular. And honestly, the photo doesn't do it justice. It is really cute. 


Saturday, March 7, 2015

10" Squares

There is no such thing as standing still, at least not for me. I like to think of my life as either moving forward or taking a step back.


I can see how my sewing machine needs replacing soon enough, yet for now, it is serving me. I finished a top that is made of 10" squares, pieced randomly and not repeated anywhere. I've been told that the more variety there is in such a quilt, the less it has to match. I usually try to vary the lights and darks and that's about it. Its got a Note-To-Self with it and will be folded away to complete later. 

I would like to start using more of my cut squares for quilt tops once I get the family quilts done this year so I can practice free motion quilting on them. I did a lot of cutting while my machine was in for service so have stacks and stacks of them ready to use.

What I think is funny is how people respond to this kind of pattern as if it takes them back to quilts their Grandmothers made. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

And Here We Go

I am here. I count. This is what I think. This is what I do. Its always been about choice. I think the word "choice" is my most favorite. I like how it feels in my mouth, and I like how it feels in my life.

With a little over a week without the machine, I had a chance to take several of my projects to the next step. I wasn't born to sit around, so having that To-Do list on my sidebar helps me see what my plan is, and what comes next in each plan or project.


Thread loaded in the machine and several projects were moved to their next steps right after bringing it home. As I used fabrics that were given to me over the years, I created a lot of scrap quilts. This morning, I finished the back seams on three of them, pressed and folded them with their tops. They are in a bin waiting to be basted. Its interesting how this group uses up a lot of the fabrics in the same colors. Tops really look different.

I have a Tuesday appointment to baste the Blue J&J quilt. Each time a quilt gets basted, there are leftover sections of batting to join. My sewing machine repair guy said the machine is skipping, and so I used a thread that showed up enough on the batting for me to see what he meant.

When I thought about choice this morning, it was because he (machine repair guy) told me that most appliances, including sewing machines are built to last about 5 years. He said he got it as timed as good as possible, and that it will do fine with straight stitches for joining and struggle more with the heavier sandwiches of actual machine quilting. Mine is going to be 5 at the end of this year. He said its at the end of its life, so I have started looking for a replacement.


I closed seam on the first Pet Bed. It has scraps from January and February and is a king pillow size. Its heavy. So the machine struggled with it. I did make three passes with the closing stitches, so there are threads to clip and its ready to ship.

All the choices I make for right here and now need to focus on what can be done. Everything I am working on that involves simple fabric joining without creating stress on the machine, has risen to the top of the To-Do list.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Footprints Behind Us

Its been said that we all try to leave our footprints or some mark of who we are behind when we leave this plane of existence. Quilters leave fabric, UFO's, WIP's and quilts.

Just before my drive to the big city to pick up the quilting machine, I spent time basting a jelly roll batik strip quilt top.


These batik strips were part of the fabric from my friend Lee's estate. She used to sign up for door prizes, donated lots of money to various quilt guilds, and always seemed to win. My guess is that these strips were a prize because they are not her typical purchase. They were all pre-cut to 2.5" and were of varying lengths (jelly rolls). I just started kept making rows. Then I trimmed the sides and here it is, enough for a lap size & binding.

Lee didn't quilt in this simple style. Her quilt projects were one of a kind, and she made a lot of hand appliqued wall hangings, finding just the right piece even if it meant buying a 1/3 yard to get the one she wanted. Her hand work on all her small pieces was exquisite. She had an eye for beauty.

Though we may not be aware of it, people watch us. Most of my peeps watch me 2000 miles away. I live in Cali and they all live in Minnesota or Wisconsin. What we say and do, or don't say and don't do has an effect. Our words and deeds matter.

What I hope they see is that I keep going, keep doing the things I love, going exciting places, reading, writing, sometimes saying & doing wild things, and yes, quilting.

We never know what another person will take from seeing how we live, and so it comes down to always doing our best, and doing what we love.

Generations change and value different things in life. What worked for women in Lee's generation is not what works for younger people. I hear members of her family expressing the real love for her work now that her job is done. What I know is that her door was always open to me. She listened and helped me evolve in fabric arts. I get this whole concept of "Notes-To-Self" from her, just because she never left any. And when she passed, the women who went through her things spent hours trying to find the value in what they saw, and sometimes missed it.

We teach each other how to live and how not to live; how to make our footprints and how to disappear.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

House Block Swap

Most of the time, things happen as they should. 


Here is one of the quotes from a book last month's library group read. Some people reacted quite negatively to it and gave a lot of examples of when something happened they did not want. I still believe we draw both good and challenging aspects into our lives that make us who we are, even when I don't like it all. If you open to receive, you open to the good things as well as to what challenges you.

My 12" Christmas Block swap partner & I decided to make and swap house blocks this year. The pattern calls for enough pieces to make 2 blocks, one to keep and one to send. We both end up with two house block quilts at the end of the year.


I've been holding onto this really wildly colored decorated egg fabric and thought there would be enough for two, and unfortunately that wasn't the case. I will make one with tulips for March. And then I want to see how I can make the egg fabric work for April.

AND weather is good enough in the afternoons to get outside and work in my gardens for about an hour. I picked up 3 bags of top soil to fill the hole where the pond was, and started lifting stone over. Its a big project that will take lots of hours. I cut a section of grass, raked it, and then also blew leaves from behind the stones. I need to buy some plumbers's pipe and run it along the back wall for the electric cord to the pond.


As I got a glass of water, I looked out the window and saw a hawk near the bird feeder, waiting. Now I know why there have been feathers on the porch! Not the cat next door. I ran for the camera and zoomed in on it. Soon enough that old railing will be replaced along with new carpeting, and reinforcement of the porch and steps. Definitely, the Heavenly Bamboo plant and the arbor stay.

After basting this next quilt, I am off to the big city to pick up the quilting machine. Looks like it will need replacing before the year is out. He's tuned it up as much as he can. I want it to last through my 2014 projects, yet, will start looking and trying them out for a new purchase within the next few months. I am of a mindset that buying a higher end machine is not worth it even though I use mine heavily every day. I know how I quilt now and just need simple bells & whistles. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Wait. What?

As I sit here shaking my head, I know that last year, I had a system where I highlighted what I had done on the project pattern. I really, really thought it would be enough. I am being quite harsh with myself, and only because this whole project seems more than I can understand.


I question my logic. At the time, it seemed logical to highlight the completed steps on the project. Something happened to make me set it aside. Usually its that I hit a wall of understanding or skill. Did I evolve over time to want have a better set of directions or am I being irrational? 


Everything needs pressing, counting and matching. I see that I swatched out some of the fabrics onto the pattern, so at least I thought I knew what some of my original intentions for it were. Nope.

And yes, of course, at that time I did not make Notes-To-Self, so it really is not going to be easy peezy to step back into the project. I think this is the last of the ones from last year, and is under the old system of highlighting.


Luckily, the photo on the pattern shows me the general plan. Its got to be one of those projects that goes one step at a time on the machine, stitching borders on and together. 

I spent a couple of hours on it now just trying to figure it out. I did press some pieces, but am no closer to knowing what I am doing than before it got unpacked.

If I am my own quilting cop, judge, jury and executioner, I am not going to penalize myself for something beyond my skills and understanding. If I am my own doctor, nurse, therapist, then I will appreciate myself for what I was when I started this project, who I am right now, and how I will proceed. 


When this project is finally finished & on its way to my Brother-In-Law, I am going to be the star ballerina wearing red shoes, who understands that when you stumble, you make it part of the dance. No one will know, no one will see.

Yes, I did write a Note-To-Self before putting it away.