Monday, August 31, 2015

More Mug Rugs

There are a few swaps left for me to ship out from Swap-bot and then I am stepping back awhile to work on thinning out my fabric supply here at home. 

One thing that is easy for me is to use up the scraps I have and make Mug Rugs. Admittedly, I have been practicing with the various machine stitches and practicing mitered corners on the binding. I've only done some echo stitching on these three and my corners are crisp and completely mitered. Its been successful for me to work this way. And simple. No stress. The tea fabric was given to me in a swap and this represents 4 MRs from it now. I have been careful to see if my partner prefers Tea, and in the other two cases, both of them were thrilled! 

The cardinal MR is from a leftover scrap on Jake's. That swap is for Birds in Mythology, so I have a story to go with it. Again, its a beautiful scrap and worth having it uncut.

My life is sweet these days as the high heat of Summer gives way to Autumn breezes and cooler nights. In no time at all, the personal size or lap quilts will come out and offer comfort. These are good times.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday, Sunday

I've got 12 of the 20 blocks on the 12" Christmas Block quilt hand done. I laughed, thinking of those weekend warriors who get out in their yards and garden up a storm, or the ones who run a marathon without much training. They come away hurting. Well, its so with hand quilting too. I don't need to be in a hurry for it, yet, like any weekend warrior worth her salted sweat, I felt driven to get on with it. And yes, my hands are stiff. I want to quilt all 20 blocks, plus the sashing and the borders, so its going to take awhile.

One of many treats that came my way this weekend, was a post card from the SE tip of England, the White Cliffs. I've always found this face of the goddess to be so very interesting. This shot is remarkable. I took time, also, to watch travel videos on You Tube. I cannot get to these remarkable places, but someone can and they take videos for me. I 'traveled' here, and then to Belarus, and off to the German Rhine. I learned a great deal about these countries, even as an armchair tourist.

Luckily, other chores in the house were calling for my time. I've been listing my books on Amazon and selling them slowly but steadily. That need for organization had me re-do my bookcases. Now ALL the books listed for sale are on three bookcases on the north wall. Books waiting to be listed are collecting on the shelf in the entry, and books I am not quite ready to part with are on the bookshelf in the south wall as well as a small corner bookshelf in the studio. Many of them are in alpha order for easy retrieval. 

Then, I pruned indoor plants for the Winter, and washed all the floors. I even put away the Summer fairy village and pulled out the Harvest storage bins. Harvest starts August 1 and continues through T-day. I love the deep oranges, golds and reds. It feels festive in here.

I am ready to clean the machine and load it up with dark thread to work on Amy's Paper Pieced Cat Quilt. It is the only top I have not finished that goes out this year.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Cleaning Up & Cutting

Now that the last two quilt tops are completed and are waiting to get basted, I turned my attention to cleaning up the scraps. I've been just tossing leftover pieces in two boxes on the floor and it was a huge mess. 

Thing is, once I get to cutting, the sheer volume of fabric laying around drops. The smaller bits go into this box and will end up as stuffing for a pet bed. The Humane Society here in town is only open one day of the week and so when this latest one is made, I'll make a trip in to donate it. I am thinking I might make two smaller pillows rather than the large one. 

The other scraps were cut into my usual size squares and need to go into those containers later. I also cut two mug rugs from some fabric I received in a swap. These represent #3&4 I was able to make. I want to have them in reserve for swaps.

I did make one using leftover fabric from the Constellations quilt. No real pattern, just sandwiching top and bottom with batting, and then stitching a simple grid and adding binding. This particular swap asked us to send 4 different things that focused on our partner's requests. Mine was for Egyptian Mythology. 

The legend is that Nut's clothing was blue with stars on it. She is the goddess holding up the sky. It just seemed a perfect interpretation of the story. (I forgot to take a picture of the mug rug.) I turned on a You Tube documentary while working on it and learned even more about Egypt that looped into another one before I was finished. I learn much and more, as they say in Game of Thrones, from these documentaries and tutorials. Just about anything can be found on You Tube to further your education or viewing pleasure.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


I have a few swaps yet on Swap-Bot for this month that I am working on in between finishing my quilts for this year. I've stepped back from doing a lot of them too, and so am finishing up the ones I am committed to and do not plan to take on more. My wrap up date is the end of this month.

One of them is called "Birds, Birds, Birds". In it, we are to select at least three items from a list to include in our package. I selected 'something to write on', 'something sticky', 'something handmade by me', and an extra 'something of my own choosing'. I had some scraps from Jake's 12" Christmas International Block Swap and so cut a piece that comes down to a 6" mug rug. I used 2 layers of batting so it can also be used as a better insulated potholder. The back is the same green as the binding. I simply machine quilted an echo stitch along the Cardinals and leaves. Its really lovely in its simplicity & gives me an opportunity to use a leftover scrap.

Another swap asked for something 'Unicorn'. I headed to the fabric store and bought enough to make an apron. More people joined so I might not get the partner I thought I would and the topic could change. I am taking my time with this apron, and it may go to my youngest Granddaughter as a holiday present instead of the one I had planned for her. The tutorial I watched said that some machines come with a 'ruffler' attachment, and I don't know if mine does. Aprons are not as easy as one thinks. I am getting skilled with them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Quilts & Cats

I decided to hand quilt this 12" Christmas Block quilt because the 20 blocks are all different and they just seem to want the attention.

As I work on the blocks, I remembered my partners and the simple conversations we had during the month we were paired. For the most part, many of the quilters make comfort quilts they give to children, families in need, and service men and women.

They talk about prices for fabric (it is a great deal more expensive outside the states), methods for quilting, and of course why they might be in the quilting group. Its been a great experience. Sometimes we talk about the animals in our lives.

My new cat, Rico, is not a cuddler and keeps his own company most of the time, but does follow me around the house. He settles down for sleep at night but wants out early in the morning. He likes my quilts for whatever reason. He is really a sweet guy who doesn't seem to bother things that he knows do not belong to him. Some quilts draw him more than others and I am not sure why.

Many folks do not want animals on the quilts they make. I am sure not to let him on anything going to someone who doesn't do cats. And I wash the quilt before sending.

Also a concern for me are the needles and thread. I had a cat who started eating on the thread & needle I had set down. We just made it to the vet, who put him under to remove it before the needle got into his throat. Danger_List.pdf. The biology of a cat is that the average person cannot take out a sewing needle if it gets swallowed. I've become quite vigilant with my quilting needles and pins since agreeing to have Rico. After reading that 'danger list' I realize that when you take an animal into your care, it really means CARE.

As a quilter with a cat, I know some of the harm that can be caused by leaving needles and thread out for a cat to chew. Sewing needles are sharp and can lodge in the mouth or the back of the throat. Going farther in, they can perforate the esophagus, stomach or intestines. If that happens, gastrointestinal juices, rich with bacteria, could leak into the body and cause septic peritonitis. 

The thread is also a foreign body that can cause severe intestinal lacerations & wrap around the intestines causing blockages. Just thinking about all this makes me want to go through the studio and clean up the loose, fallen threads, and just make sure the pins and needles are not laying around.

I no longer leave thread in a needle I am not using and have taken to keeping them all in small closed containers. For as much as I say this cat keeps to himself, I don't want to take the chance of him finding something and chewing on it for attention.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Quilt Backs

As long as it takes and as hard as it may be, I accept the fact that life is the prize and all I need do is open to the wonder of it all. I've gone through many stages and phases from infancy to this one. What do I call it? And it is wonderful.

I spent quite a bit of time making the two quilt backs from the fabric I just purchased over the weekend. You wouldn't think it would be that hard to cut the length of fabric in two pieces, pin them and piece them. Actually, its not hard, it just takes time. I learned awhile back that pinning them on a flat surface (I use my ironing board) reduces the chances of puckers.  
And now, the backs to my next quilts are done and ready for basting. 

This was just a stage in the quilting process. I am so in love with my Sister's StarBurst Twister quilt. The colors just pop for me in that combination with that border print. I plan to make an appointment at the clubhouse to baste these two. And while it is August, all my quilts for this year need to be done and ready for shipping back to Minnesota by the end of November.

I am quite aware that most people are not in the practice to thank me for my work, whether its a full blown quilt, a table topper or a mug rug. I quilt for the joy of it, for the love of seeing it come together. And that is enough.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Pre-wash & Laundry

There is always a controversy about quilting methods. Everyone seems to find their own way and preferences, such as machine quilting vs. hand quilting vs. tying; basting with thread or basting with pins; building stash or shopping from your closet; cotton vs. poly batting vs. wool or vs. hemp.

Pre-washing helps with the initial shrinking of cotton, which is about 3%. Now this amount seems little, however, if your quilt measures 100" long, that means it will shrink up 3" after it is washed. This is where the puckered look comes from that is characteristic on quilts.

Used to be I pre-washed the batting in my bathtub. However, its a backbreaking task. It also shrinks 3% so it will pull on both the top and bottom of the quilts to pucker and soften.

I pre-wash in hopes that the loose dyes will wash away. It makes the fabric softer on my hands as I work with it. Some of my quilts get washed before I send them, to ensure the colors are set more, especially because I do a lot of scrap quilting. Reds, blues and purples are notorious for bleeding. I have come to love Color Catchers, and even though I use them for my pre-washing, I also include a few sheets with a note whenever I give a quilt to someone.

Also, I laid out one of the quilts to see if I had enough batting and am able to join the two largest pieces I had leftover for a good fit and 3" overlay. This marks a success for the year.

I did not pre-wash the fabrics for the wallhangings. I doubt that they will get machine washed and am also not worried because of the colors they are.

My washing machine was going all day with this and regular laundry.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Shopping Score!

While the trip out of town was to go to the County Fair, when you go to the big city, you take a list and shop. 

I found the golf fabric for the back of my Brother-in-Law's Winter Golfers quilt (which was out of stock online), a light golden tonal for the back on my Sister's StarBurst Twist quilt, a lovely batik & a winter green for one of the Tree Wallhangings, and some Halloween stripe. 

Additionally, I bought some Halloween accessories for the outside fairy village I built this Summer, the indoor Hallows village, and a couple of pieces I plan to send to two of my Granddaughters. I know they just put this stock out, and once its gone, it doesn't get re-ordered. 

The thing about shopping at JoAnn Fabrics is that they give out great coupons and then put everything on sale. I've gotten wise to that over the years, and this time bought embroidery needles, one of the fabrics, and something for the Infant Center in town, using three coupons. I gave the rest of my book to the customer in line behind me. It was tempting to buy seasonal fabrics, because it is there and on sale. Thing is, I am going to quilt what I have first and only buy the supplemental pieces. 

There is enough to finish this year's projects and get them shipped to MN by November.

I am getting better with the way I shop, even though it seems like I can drop over a hundred dollars in the blink of an eye. Having the list and sticking to it is the only way it will work for me. Its like being a small town grrrl with big city dreams. The fabric purchase was practical. The Halloween purchases brought out the child in me who needs to play.

And the Fair was fun. I love the various building displays and love riding the Ferris Wheel. I did leave the camera in the car so only have memories of being high off the ground and looking out at the stars above and the lights below. 

Good day.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Winter Solstice in August

August is the 8th month of the year and these couple of days each month that I set aside to work on my Solstice gifts have been a very wise decision. Focus is important. Quilting is a world of wonder for me, and yes, even mystery. Every day I am surrounded by beautiful surprises that help me see life within me, and all around. Sometimes there is stress when something doesn't go as planned. Most of the time, its helped me see more clearly how I want to live and move through the world.

In particular, this month, I worked more on one of the aprons. I got the first row of gathering onto the skirt panel, which I hemmed on both sides. Then, the pattern threw me. The next row should go above it and layer over this one so both show. It has 5-6 layers of this gathered fabric. But the instructions made no sense to me yesterday. I am sure I can figure it out. But, there is no stress with it in the way there might have been if I was doing this and other projects closer to the Solstice. Having time to get things done is why I chose to set these days aside each month.

I also finished the table topper and decided to simply back and bind it with that green holly print. Its a lesson well learned about selecting a plain fabric for the outside on that Lil Twister pattern. It is pretty busy for my taste. Hopefully the partner that I get for the 12 Days of Christmas swap will find a space for it in her home. At least with this back, if she hates the top, she can flip it over and use it that way. Options. Best to have options.

And lastly, I picked up the mailing boxes that are the right size for the Tree Wallhangings and rods. I might move to that project and away from the apron so that I have something done over the weekend. They need borders, batting, back and binding. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Borders and Basting

Quilting gives me time to reflect, to listen to myself, to ask how things are going, to think about what was successful and what might have been challenging. My mind often needs to be pried open like a window to get the fresh air of inspiration.

Jake's holiday  international quilt is basted. As I thought, it needs to be hand quilted to make the best use of the different blocks in it. I couldn't see a way to do my usual grid machine quilting and have the lines work.

I headed into town to get more of the border print for my Sister's StarBurst Twist quilt. My concern that it was sold out proved to be true. Claudia said the fabric manufacture made only one run of this stunning fabric and had no plans to make more. She said it was gone. 

While she has a lot of fabrics, nothing in the store was going to work for the quilt, or for me. It is such an amazing print. As we talked, she asked how much I had and said it should be enough for the final border in spite of what the pattern called for. She said the extra yard was given for a directional print and this one would work. Sure enough, I measured after the first two borders went on and eight 5.5" cuts WOF were going to be enough with one more cut left. Whew. It is stunning. The circles with their sunray effects are such a complement to the center with its starburst effect. 

I spent more time talking with the two staff members and told them about my stash, discussed everyone's waning energies and asked for ideas for simple quilts that would still turn out nice. They suggested three options beyond the simple random square assembly I am considering: Log Cabin, Lover's Knot and the Twister. I have books for the first two and had the small Lil Twister tool. I bought the larger Twister but could not find the book for it. They also told me that picking apart the paper piecing quilt was going to make a huge task to finish.

Well, heck. Most of the day was successful. This paper piecing challenge was actually nothing new and while it is going slow, it is something that is happening.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Starburst Twist Got Posted on Wed

I try to write during the nights when I am up, which is almost every night. I can post after midnight. To the right of the draft page (seen published here) are buttons that say PUBLISH ~ SAVE ~ PREVIEW. So I wrote another page that was to be published on Thursday...and whooops... rather than to hit the save button, I selected publish and there it was. Wednesday.

This morning, I do have an appointment at the clubhouse to baste my younger Grandson's quilt. This is the one made from the 12" Christmas Block swap. So all the blocks are different and its going to be a twin size, and hard to machine quilt. I wonder if it would work better hand quilted. I wonder if I can hand quilt again? Big job either way. Usually, those questions come up as I baste. So more tomorrow.

I also cut two borders for the Starburst Twist. And I need to get back into the store because I am at least a yard short on the final border fabric. Not sure how that happened.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

StarBurst Twist

Just as all the stars above are not themselves the totality of the Universe, and prayers themselves not our spiritual life, both are manifestations of what we see out there and inside our souls. A spiritual life is always open to communications with one's surrounding, the people we meet in life and however we connect with the Divine.

The Starburst Twist mystery quilt is ready for borders. It is a well-named pattern, so I plan to keep it for the quilt. It feels like such an expression of love. Most quilts I make help me feel that way. 

And, yet, there is still this love-hate relationship with mystery quilts. I have to express my feelings about what I do and how I think, or it's impossible for me to come to a better understanding of what motivates me.

People communicate differently and we are not always as clear as we think regarding what we say or hear. Its the same for me when I quilt. I want so desperately to be accurate in matching my points, in keeping the seams aligned and yet, perfection is not always there. 

Its been pointed out that if you look closely at photos in magazines, you will see that even those are not always point on. We are, afterall, human. Maybe the form of our artwork is much less important than our motivation for doing it is. 

Whether we call our prayer or magick doesn't really matter either if our intention to do good, to want good, to be better is what matters. We have to enter into contests to vie for the blue ribbons, and in doing so, we are subjected to the competition. 

That puts us either ahead or behind others, but only in the mind of the judges. Do they follow rules for judging or is it based on what they like? Judges can be appointed, elected, rise to the work through experience, or be even self-appointed. We are the ones who put ourselves in front of judges.

As soon as this year's quilts are finished, I plan to re-do the sidebar using the Quilter's Code. I think this makes me a self-appointed judge of my own work, which is healthy.

Quilter's Code

I worked on the Starburst Mystery Retreat quilt that is to go to my Sister (the middle one of us). Its at the stage of joining two rows x 3 to make up 6 rows. 

I found this on one of the Facebook groups I am in and want to keep it handy so I can identify my projects better. What is sweet about it is how many of us actually can identify with them! I am not going to take my bins apart to re-label them but know that I will think differently. I printed off a full page size copy to hang in my closet wall over the bins for easy reference. This list requires that a quilter be more realistic about what they do, have and how they plan to use it.

I also played around with different fabrics to add to yesterday's Lil Twister project. I have an assortment of greens, none of which will work, and a beige that matches the background colors in it, that doesn't work. I even tried red. So it will finish out the way it is and becomes a WITHWIT. The more I looked at the photo I took of it, the more accepting I am of it as a learning experience.

My quilt-related shopping spree got two cafe rods for the Tree Wallhangings I want to make for my Sons. When I made the ones for my Nieces & Nephews, I had no luck in finding anything that would work and simply ran ribbon in them with dowels. This makes a better presentation. While there were mailing tubes at the post office, the ones that are the right size have been scooped up, so I am watching.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Need More Practicing

I have begun to see practice as an art form. Recently, I made a number of Mug Rugs and Table Toppers using Hallows squares received in a swap some time ago. I mailed them out today.

And with this Lil Twister tool, I thought I'd make a Table Topper for the 12 Days of Christmas swap I joined. This is the third one I've made using the scraps on hand: One for Hallows; one for Harvest; one for the Christmas swap. With the first one, I learned that larger prints don't work with 5" charms. With the second one, I learned that the best contrast is seen when the squares are light-dark-light. With this one, I learned that the border might look better if it reads solid. I may still put another border (perhaps beige) and then bind it with the green holly print. Its pretty busy right now but might give the eye a place to rest with a beige border.

I think the practices have been successful. By the time the fourth one is made, the snafu's will be worked out and through. Its a very fun template tool that doesn't come with a lot of guidelines. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Lil Small Things

One of my favorite movies is one I don't own. NANNIE McFEE with Emma Thompson. I find myself spouting off some of the lines, one of which is "lil small things" and refers to the children. I use it to describe my smaller projects. 

The colors in the movie are really wild, from the walls in the house to the costuming of the characters. Its a fun movie with the most charming storylines.

I am doing a Solstice holiday swap called '12 Days of Christmas' (of course it is) where you send 1 item the first day, 2 the second day and finish on the 12th with a home made item. I decided to make the square Lil Twister table topper from some of my 5" holiday fabric squares for the homemade project. This will be my third try with the tool. I sorted fabrics so they would go light-dark, and used smaller prints. There is also a pile of scraps that I will cut into uniform sized squares and put them into another topper to be sent out as a different gift or swap. I've got a list for 12 ideas to go into this swap, which has a $30 spending limit. Partners are not assigned until October 1, so I want to wait on most things to be sure they are what my partner would like to receive. I know that these kinds of swaps are often the only thing some people ever get as gifts. I do believe that if that does happen in our lives, that we can take action to receive and find ways to be open to receive. We do not have to whine about our circumstances.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Like many things in our current economic culture that are minimizing, the quilt show was smaller this year. This time, I was looking for ideas that I might use next year as I use up my stash.
I found one I really liked, and took its photo. It is simple enough to replicate without a pattern once I do use some graph paper. I love the black background on it, which makes all the 2.5" squares pop. The centers look like the 5" charms. Should be easy.

Then, I came home and finished the Constellations quilt binding so it is ready to ship this next week. Good goddess, that quilt is heavy and warm. I know that's been said before, but it IS. And it is lovely all scrappy at its core. There is a strong contrast with dark blue against whites.

And then there is the Night Circus. Oh not the book I just finished reading, although it did inspire me to want to attend in all this heat. Every year at this time, Tehachapi has this Mountain Festival with events such as the Guild Quilt Show, a mineral / gem show, arts & crafts, and then this Carnival of rides and games. Tickets cost $1.25 and it takes 3-6 of them for a ride. Lines form and about 20 people can go on a ride at a time, making it earn at least $100 a trip.

I am fascinated by the swiftly moving colored lights on the rides, and the energy you feel from the carnies who call folks in for one moment's pleasure, to the families walking with kids who "wanna go" on this or that. Of course there are groups of teens walking around flirting with other teens they see in school. Groups of them walking, laughing, being caught in the magick of the night lights.

I came home to work on hand sewing binding. I am almost finished with the last of the Hallows projects started for friends and family on Facebook. I did purchase fabric for the Thanksgiving Table Topper one of my Nieces requested. Its good to get out, and good to come home.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Quilt Show Today

The guild, here in town, hosts a quilt show every other year. While I do not belong to the guild, I love attending the show and seeing what others are doing. It's quite inspirational. Just because I am choosing to work on projects stashed in my closet doesn't mean I have opted out of the community.

The Constellations quilt is warm. It feels like the changing of seasons outside so having a heavy quilt on my lap means shifting it to free my feet and not have so much on my lap. I like the little clippies made for holding the binding with ease.

The next project using light thread is the last mystery quilt I did that is planned for my Sister, the middle one of us. I both hate and love mystery quilts. My Cuz up in Alaska always urges me to do the more random placements of fabric, so I let that happen here. The pattern called for light and dark fabrics in your color range, and then you let it happen. I played more with block layout once the 30 were constructed so that there was a variety of colors in the placement. Its pinned now and ready for me to piece the rows, which are numbered to lay down in the planned sequence.

Mystery quilts drive me mad because I want more order to them. And yet, every single one I have ever made has turned out simply gorgeous. Its all about releasing one's self to the process and having a little faith in, I don't know, Divine Order, Divine Direction, Divine Outcome.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Mysterious, Complex Process

Healing is. Healing is the mysterious, complex process. It follows its own timeline, its own path. Usually I can see the healing in someone else better than I can see it in myself. Often, I don't see it happen AS it is happening as much as I see it after the fact.

I've machine sewn the binding onto the Constellations quilt and am once more taken with how heavy it is. Two things make it so, the size, and the flannel backing. Its not going to be the kind of quilt a person can drag around and may just lay on a bed. What I hope is that it's not too heavy. I might just try it out on my bed one night after the binding is all hand sewn.

I finished another one of my Hallows table runners. The center blocks are the leftovers from one of the Lil Twisters. I backed it with the dark purple. I am going to spend time wrapping all the ones made so they can ship off next week.

And then I looked at the clutter on my desk and knew it was time to deal with it all so I could work in a more clear atmosphere again. When I remember how long it takes to do the hand binding on a quilt, I know that it will take me at least three nights with the Constellations quilt. And I would really like to get it shipped out next week too. 

With all of these, the mailing process includes packaging or gift wrapping each item, writing an inclosure note, addressing the box or envelope and then going to the Post Office. It's always best to work off clean surfaces. Maybe healing is like that too. Our wounds, whether physical or psychological can be pretty deep or simply surface. Yet, we know that to heal, the wound needs to be cleaned before the next steps are taken.

I sit here at my writing desk, with my eyes closed, and my body doing a simple rocking forth and back. Some deep breaths. And now, it is time to start the day and I am ready. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Process and Results

Quilting is often more about the process than it is the result. Yet, admittedly, I struggle with only having the process in front of me without any result. I want the finish. I crave the finish. I love the finish. There was a time that I made a commitment to "finish something Friday". I did that for awhile and then couldn't.

With this art, the prep work is pretty intense and very behind the scenes. It is not all that pretty. In fact, it looks boring. And with this art, the working, daily working, working, working is often without a result. That doesn't always feel good to me. Sometimes it seems like I haven't worked hard enough, or long enough, or good enough. 

I finished the machine quilting on the Constellations, laid it out to check seams (though I did that also as it went along), and made sure no pins were left on it. I went looking for the binding fabric, sure I had bought enough, and couldn't find it in any of the storage bins, in any of the usual places. I went out to the local fabric store as soon as she opened, and bought another 3/4 yard.

There are other small projects, so I worked on a few of those just to keep my mind clear. This block was one I got as a swap and was off-size for what I needed. I did an echo stitch and think I might hand quilt around the lights. It will make a nice table topper.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Song of the Universe

I've heard it said that the song of the Universe goes on whether or not we are listening. I think going on short vacations helps me tune in. I love the drives in any direction from where I live. AND I love where I live, so it seems easier for me to be aware or in tune to the song.

My older Son's quilt, Constellations, is completed to the stage of getting the binding done. I need to find the fabric for it and get it on. I am planning a short visit to my friend Carol's home today. She's got a couple of quilts to show me and we need to catch up on what has been happening for both of us.

I also finished another one of the simple Mug Rugs. All I did on this one was to do a decorative stitch around the figures on the fabric, allowing it to be the focus for the piece. That was the plan for most of them. Easy-breezy. I've got two table toppers to finish and then, that does it for the offer I made on FaceBook. A number of magazines I've seen show how mini quilts are used and collected for various holidays. Personally, I love the collection of MR's that I have and use them all the time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Back to Black

My lesson today is that there is always another day.

After some time loading bobbins in black thread, I returned to the repair of Amy's Cat quilt until my eyes started to burn from squinting at black on black. Although the Constellations quilt is a very dark blue, black works for machine quilting it, and that was next on my list. Wow, that baby is heavy!

There are a lot of joints to re-join on the Cat quilt, and I'll do a few each sitting as I am able. While many folks enjoy paper piecing, I did not find my talents or skills up to the task of this quilt. Perhaps it is easier to do one block rather than 72 that this quilt takes.

I got a number of rows stitched on the Constellations quilt before turning off the machine for the day; at least 1/4th of it is done. Taking my lesson to heart, I know that it is better on my body and in fact, my attitude, to take my time when something is difficult. It is far too easy to get frustrated and stop working on a project than it is to take my time and keep going. MattE's quilt needs to be completed and out the door in a couple of weeks, so it is, in fact, a priority. 

I really want Amy's Cat quilt done so it can go to the long arm, but again, I would rather it be something I am pleased with rather than to just get it done.

And of course, I am still working on the Hallows Mug Rugs, and finished two more. I loved the fabric square swap I was in last year and got some really cute ones. These MRs aren't as great as some I've made and received, but the fabric just sings for me as it is and doesn't need to be cut and re-shaped. It is my hope that they will be used for the holiday.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday, Monday

I cannot help but sing with Mama Cass this classical song every Monday. Here's the song! Monday, Monday

Last night, in order to relax and get back into the routine of my life, I watched a couple of videos and worked on binding. The smaller ones are mug rugs measuring 6" square and the larger table top is about 17" square. While these make up the ones I offered on Facebook, I have three more Mug Rugs (MR's) to go as extras, and already sent off 2 MRs as a birthday gift to my Brother. Its been a great way for me to use the squares from a swap I was in last year AND give me the practice I need on the machine as well as making those mitered corners. It just seems silly to throw away small practice pieces. 

 I am still glowing from the trip to the ocean at Carmel-by-the-Sea & Monterey Bay, even though it was overcast and gray. When I lived in northern California, this is one of my favorite areas. Of course the drive was shorter. 

Carmel caters to a more wealthy clientele and to those from out of the country who come to shop. Monterey is a bit more touristy and less pricey. Both towns suffer economic decline in the usual ways of independently owned stores closing. Both were crowded.

This morning, I have the black thread ready to load onto bobbins so I can work on Amy's Cat quilt and my older Son's Constellations quilt next. Its almost mid-August and time is ticking away. 

It would be nice to finish Amy's Cat quilt for the long-arm, and also nice to finish the Constellations machine quilting in time for MattE's birthday. I know I can do it!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Back Home

The good part about taking a vacation is eating out and being by the Ocean. I like to vary the ethnic meals so, ate home-made Gorditas at a great Mexican restaurant; Baguettes, a Crepe, Pea Soup, White Wine, & Chocolate Ganache Cake at an elegant French restaurant; Salmon & Crab Eggs Benedict with a Mimosa at the Wharf; and Vegetarian Pizza half-way home. The time in the Aquarium was highly educational and very satisfying. Splendid trip and less than 5 hours from home.  

While I don't even plan to quilt today, as soon as I got home, I thought about it. Plenty of time tomorrow.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Twist Again

I love that Lil Twister tool. It seems like it will be something great and easy to use with my scraps in creative quilts. I know it only works with the 5" charms, but there are so many in my storage bin. Directions say that the cuts bring it down 25% the original size so I need to look for some patterns. From photos I have seen online, a quilt-maker can put together something random or create specific themes.

One of my Nieces made a comment on FaceBook when I offered 5 Hallows Mug Rugs to Family & Friends that her baby boy was due at Thanksgiving ...hint, hint. I gathered what I think are Fall colors to make a rather random piece, alternating dark with light colors as best I could. I am learning that small prints or fabrics that read solid will be best using this tool. Anything too large on the fabric gets lost in the cuts. I also extended the border from 3" to 4" and think I like the smaller cut better. There was more waste with the 4". I want to join the 2" squares that were leftovers and make a border for it. My stash has smaller scraps that will work in too. It is a great stash busting tool.

This isn't a project I need to work on or finish right now. 

Actually, I am headed to Monterey / Carmel on the weekend for an overnight at the Monterey Aquarium and will be away from the studio. More when I return.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Halloween on the Run

It has been an exciting week for me to work on Halloween projects. I finished a very cute throw for my younger Sister using a panel for The Great Pumpkin. Once it is in her hands, I will post the pictures. 

My spiritual lesson lately seems to be one of humility. I want to practice formulating good questions and seeking good plans rather than having bad answers or or making ill-chosen comments. I know how it feels to receive and find myself thinking a lot more before I speak. I think it means being open to changing my opinions, my plans. 

Two of my Cousins & I were on a 3-way call yesterday and we laughed at how life has changed us. Its a good thing to laugh, whether it is with family, friends or just by ourselves. Of course, we still make dream-plans together while doing those reality checks that tell us what is still possible. And one of us always seems to recall a place or a time when we ran wild together, back in a time when we believed we knew it all and had all the best of answers.

That made me wonder and realize how much there is to learn in life. Then I wondered just how teachable I am. We make choices and have experiences, and from those experiences learn about the choices in retrospect. I want to stay teachable to the end of my days and nights. Teachable, flexible. Open.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Birthday Surprises

Surprises are supposed to be just that. I have made or sent different gifts to relatives recently that I did not photograph. How do you write a blog without pictures and make it interesting and keep it alive?

Recent birthdays include those for my elder GrandSon (who is in Marine bootcamp in San Diego now), my eldest Niece, a Niece-in-Law, my only Brother, and one of my dear Friends. Coming soon are most of the rest of my family. The Grandkids get money gifts these days because that's how they like it. However, the two older Grrrls are getting hand-crafted gifts too. My Siblings get quilts or mini-quilts. I just mailed off Brother's bday card with two Mug Rugs in it for he and his wife. (No photos)

To this end of wanting it to be a surprise, I am hesitant to post photos of what I make here after they are finished. Those works in progress (WIP) are a different story because sometimes I am not even sure what they are!

The Great Pumpkin quilt is almost finished with hand and machine quilting, so will be ready to bind, and then ship off. My Sister is already writing about Fall decorations. I can almost hear her glee over the bright colors of this quilt and of course, its theme for The Great Pumpkin. I've been working on the binding and mitered corners for all those Mug Rugs just to get the practice and I am declaring right here and now that the corners on her quilt will be really great looking! I love the holiday and the deep, rich colors. 

After cutting squares from the Halloween fabric scraps, the entire studio got cleaned, yet again. All those fibers create such HUGE lint balls some call dust bunnies. And this new cat refuses to dust the way Vito seemed to do.

One of the swaps on Swap Bot was a prep for Halloween. Its sort of like those advent calendars, which I dearly love. I decided to duplicate the efforts and make one for the Halloween-born Granddaughter. Its 30 envelopes with something to read in each of them and then a small, hopefully flat gift. On the 31st, they are supposed to get a Hallows card and a nice gift. Well, I want to put in good things to open and serve as decor. I found a lot of templates online and got to making envies of various sizes. Its really fun. However, the stores are still selling back to school items. School starts here mid-month and hopefully the Halloween stuff will be on the shelves.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Twister Tool

I am always open to new experiences. As others finish their table runners, they post photos of the completed ones before they ship out without saying who the recipient is. I requested a square topper in winter blues, so when I saw a picture of one that fit my request, like so many others in the group, I was very impressed with it. It may be mine or not. The quilt-maker shared where she found the idea for the pattern on You Tube. It was made with a plastic tool called Lil' Twister, designed to make pinwheels.

What I learned as I made these Halloween Mug Rugs and one of the Table Toppers is that I would rather baste my Sister's quilt, The Great Pumpkin with black thread. So off to the fabric store I went to buy a couple of spools. As luck would have it, the Halloween inventory had just come in.

The tutorial on You Tube suggested that you could make it with all sorts of random fabrics, and as the twisty pieces were cut, each one would have a 2.5" square left over to make into another mini quilt. The first one is way busy but showed me, yet again, that random placement is not my first choice. The second one is more structured. Of course, both of them need backing fabric and will finish off with a binding.

With the black thread here now, I can load my bobbins and get The Great Pumpkin & two of of the Mug Rugs (going to Brother for his birthday) finished to ship out by this coming Tuesday. I would like to work on Amy's Cat Quilt too. While the smaller projects DO help me with various lessons, until I get the quilts on my list done, taking on the practice pieces could also be a diversion. 

Gotta watch that. My natural tendency is to love doing new things. Harder for me, is the middle part of any project.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Metering Corners

I noticed that some of my mitered corners were bunky. I realized that to get some body memory into this part of my quilting, I needed more practice. THIS was another reason why I offered the Hallows Mug Rugs.

Yesterday's blog had pics of the first go-round. Here they are with batting, machine quilting and the binding ready to hand sew. Like any quilt I do, these take me a night or two to work on and finish. What I need is the practice.

The first four of them are done. What I don't under-stand yet is if I pin and sew them all the same, that one of the corners always gives me trouble in turning it correctly. It is a bunky corner. 

Another thing that happens is that I get concerned that those who receive them were hoping for something more than just the fabric squares. I practiced the machine stitches and also learned that with the darker black fabrics that I don't want to use the lighter threads to machine quilt. 

Practice, practice, practice.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Small Things

Peace is not something won by an outside reality. Not money, not the perfect house, the perfect car, the perfect closet full of stash. Nothing really guarantees a peaceful heart. Who I am right now in this moment is where my good mental health resides, and so also does my peace.

As my quilting swaps are wrapping up, I am packaging whatever is ready to be shipped in a few days. This table runner is as good as I could make. Although the Charm pieces do not read purple my partner requested, the Lady Slippers in it reminded me of home. The Lady Slipper is the MN state flower. And it has a lot of the purple running in each square.

What was next on my list was the last block and now I step back from the FB online groups! Any star, she asked for in jewel fabrics with a light gray background. I tried so many versions, all of which became orphans to be used in the Gypsy Wife pattern sometime soon. This one turned out and honestly, I prayed with every stitch I took! The points match and float. And it measures 12.5". Success.

Speaking of FaceBook, I made an offer to the first 5 of my family & friends who wanted a Hallows Mug Rug or Table Topper (mini quilts). Last year I joined a Hallows 6.5" square swap thinking I would join them for a back on The Great Pumpkin. Instead I used that vertical fabric and these were just kicking around. These are backs for 6 Mug Rugs. I did several versions of grids plus outlined pumpkins on one. All they need is binding.

And I am going to make this one into a Disappearing 9-patch table topper. This is the first layout before it evolves. While I have made this D9P before, I've never done this sort of radical combo. I would like to use more of the Hallows fabric I have and perhaps do more of the 'disappearing' techniques. Each Mug Rug and Table Topper is a practice for me.