Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Something to Think About

Time Let Me Play

I was struck by the idea that: “…all thinking is an act of memory in some form. That includes imagination, creativity, innovation and other variations of ‘new’ thoughts. That means the components of the thought are not new. Only the combination is new.” I read this in an article in the New York Times by Peter Coy titled “If There Are No New Ideas, How Do We Keep Innovating?

This quote came from Sheena Iyengar who just wrote a new book called Think Bigger: How to Innovate. In the case of this newest quilt top, which I’m calling Time Let Me Play (more on that in a minute), I went smaller in size, but bigger in the idea of it, which is what I think she is referring to. The idea that there is nothing new under the sun is an old one, but I wonder if she’s trying to get at a new way of thinking about creativity, an “act of memory in some form.”

Coy also notes that Mark Twain believed that there was nothing that is truly original when he wrote to Helen Keller:

“It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a telephone, or any other important thing–and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite–that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that.”

In this case, the memory came from a photo my friend Lisa had given me, and I went on to make a large quilt in cream and black:

How many times have we quilters seen a new “original” quilt, and recognized a well-loved quilt block? How often has a traditional block been seen in a recent quilt, and the maker claiming it an original creation? I am always trying to spot new patterns, new shapes, new ways of thinking about things, but I do like Iyengar’s thinking that it’s memory driven. This motivates me to fill up that memory: to keep reading and adding new things to the mind’s hallways and closets. Museums, anyone? Books? A moderated dose of social media? Quilt shows? A visit to the mountains?

Iyengar writes that thinking bigger is about assembling old ideas in a new way… [S]he writes that all successful innovators are “strategic copiers,” who “learned from examples of success, extracted the parts that worked well, imagined new ways of using those pieces, and combined them to create something new and meaningful.”

Peter Coy, New York Times

So as I was working on the pattern (coming soon), I first called the cream/black quilt SunShadow. <Bleh.> Then, Starfriends, which is what I called it when I sent it up to my quilter. I’m still not there yet. But the colorful version? Here’s the deal: It’s been a long, long winter over here, with a significant death, the remodel of a kitchen, gobs of rainstorms (which I loved, but the grey skies are not a usual thing), too many small things which added up to bigger things. When we were able to get back into the kitchen, and everything was put away (and the glass lampshade I had accidentally clocked with a pan was fixed), I found a tiny bit of extra energy that no one had claimed. I started playing around with color and put the shape of this quilt into a drawing…

…it was like Time had opened the window a little bit and found time for me to play. Of course, that phrase could also be read as a plea: Time! Let me play! but I prefer the idea of all the tumblers falling into place to let a person find a memory, a space, an interval not yet filled up in order to play.

Last thought from her book: “Henri Poincaré, the great mathematician and physicist. ‘Invention consists in avoiding the constructing of useless combinations and in constructing the useful combinations which are in infinite minority,’ he wrote in 1913. “To invent is to discern, to choose.” So keep trying. That quilt you want to make is almost here.

Our initial run at this photographing this quilt against the mural wall brought the lady out of the office next to us, with the scold “What is that? Some kind of flag?”
“No,” I replied. “I’m a quilter. This is my quilt.”
She went on to say we were on private property and generally wanted us gone. A flag. A flag? I puzzled about that long and hard until Dave made the connection that June had PRIDE connections, and rainbow flags were being washed over every advertiser’s website.
“Oh,” I said. “She thought my quilt was a flag???”

In her forming memory, seeing this quilt meant rainbows meant Pride Month. In my beginning memory, I was standing in a field of flowers, with pine trees ringing the valley with my quilt in the midst of it all.

But after seeing it, I did think it needed a different border, so added one. And we went back for another round, but asked her permission first. The woman is somewhere behind those mirrored windows. I’m sure she thought we were nuts.

More play time that night, pinning the quilt in my new blue kitchen.

In the deepest parts of this hard winter, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t answer emails, I.just.couldn’t. But Time is working its eternal magic on me, helping me heal and recover and find myself again. I think my Mom would like this quilt, with its bright colors, and I hope — if heaven has a window that can be opened — that she could peer down and catch a glimpse of me letting this quilt top wave to her. Thank you to all who have reached out and understood, thank you to all who have had patience with me.

Now, let’s go play!

Mini-quilt · Something to Think About


Occasionally I attempt to clean out my emailbox, which is a vain and futile attempt to generally keep my life organized. But in this round, I found several stacks of emails regarding Quilt Swaps, a thing we did in the quilt world for a while. Some of my quilty swaps:

And here’s one I received:

I had drafted this pattern for her in my then-used QuiltPro software, because — as she wrote to me — she could see what she wanted to do in her mind, but couldn’t get there. I sent it off to her, and she swapped this back to me. If you need a town square quilt, I have a version of this for sale on my PayHip shop, but it’s more colorful as I used a different source for inspiration.

I started to notice a trend in looking at all these quilts from Days Gone By: strong, bright colors with faded backgrounds, what we often called “low-volume” backgrounds. And lots of solids, or fabrics that read as solids. Maybe that’s why the little quilt at the top of the post felt so familiar to me when I was making it?

And in that mess of emails, I found a link to a post from Never Just Jennifer, detailing a “Round Trip” quilt swap that she was participating in (which is where I found links to these photos; I hope she never takes the post down). Be still my heart! Leaves! New York Beauties! Letters! Flying Geese! Low-volume backgrounds! It checked every box. But wait, here’s the quilt, a tribute to New Hampshire, at the next round, with Trees!

Yes, this was in the day before Design Walls and all that, when we just flat out quilted for fun, exploring new ideas, laying our quilts out on the floor before packaging them all up and sending them off with a book to chronicle our progress. I love that last row for the quilt with Foundation Paper Piecing!

We didn’t seem to worry about coordinated fabric lines, influencing, posting-with-polish-hoping-for-likes. We borrowed. We imitated. We sewed.

In that vein, after the final workman left the kitchen and I was waiting for kitchen-drawer organizers to arrive, I pulled out a stack of cream and black prints, and inspired by this photo from my friend Lisa from easily a decade ago, I got to work.

I remembered the tip from Yvonne, about placing your ruler perpendicular to the seam when making hourglass blocks. And yes, if you want a pattern, it’s drafted with two different versions, and I’m testing and it’s coming soon. But I did want to sew again with that delicious feeling of just making. Of just sewing.

You know what I mean.

Rolling Rainbow Star, and all the minis

Rainbow Gardens

Quilt Finish · This-and-That

Quilt Finish: Blossom and This & That for May 2023

I’ve been storing up some This-and-Thats, so buckle up, here we go.

First up is a quilt finish. I started this in June of 2021, and finished it today. I was teaching classes about this to Guilds and thought I needed to make up a sample. Or two. Or three. But finally, the genesis of all the samples is finished. I promised it to my sister, who always impresses me with her ability to adapt to whatever the world throws at her. She told me it will probably hang in her soon-to-be-finished basement (she lives in a colder climate than we do).

I quilted the petals simply, and the surrounding area and little more densely. It’s made of all Anna Maria Horton fabrics, from a wide range of her collections.

I seem to be going through irons like water lately. That means that this last one only lasted a few years, instead of decades. We’ll see what the new Shark one does. I’m sort of over name-brand irons. I look for the vent holes and if it has a ton of places for the steam to exit, I usually buy it.

Thought you’d like to see the full branching of that Mother of Pearl plant I showed you last week. These colors!

This popped up on Sherri McConnell’s Instagram today, and I love them. You’ve got to keep your eye on Sherri. She is Industry personified, and always has such fun things to share. So head over to her blog to see all her talents as well as links to the download. The free downloads for this block can also be found at Fat Quarter Shop, as they are building a Charity Quilt with delightful blocks.

Continuing with the flower theme, the geraniums on the left are from our front yard, and have just thrived in this cool, rainy weather we’ve had. The flower on the right is from our Chinese Fringe bush in the side yard. I love how they uncurl like they are strips of paper (like quilling? remember that?).

We’re three weeks into the garden, and so far we haven’t killed anything. The bare-limbed jacaranda took a hit this year from all the cold weather and the jury is still out on whether it will come back to life. Once the heat lands, we spend all summer trying to keep the vegetables alive, working hard to get our proverbial “64-dollar tomato.”

Why yes, I will be up early to watch all the Pomp-and-Circumstance, especially the bagpipers. I already purchased my souvenir, but it won’t be here for a couple of weeks:

I plan to use this when I inaugurate my kitchen. If you want to have your eyes glaze over, a lot of it is on Instagram under the hashtag #itsnewkitchentime2023 but that does not mean I’m doing this in 2024, or 2025, or ever again. I’m weary of not being to cook normally, although we are getting good at soaking our pasta to make dinner. And I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I made a pan of brownies:

That Breville oven has saved my sanity during this past eight weeks. The tile went up today on the backsplash, and as I type this, our contractor, Saintly Dennis, is installing the drawer/door fronts. Okay, hang on. We are almost finished.

Did you see the costumery of the 2023 Met Gala? This outfit above wasn’t one of them, but it was waaaay better looking that most of them, and this Rainbow Woman is completely covered, unlike a lot of what was worn at the Gala. Geesh. It had such potential.

Two sides of motherhood (in advance of Mother’s Day):

When your Young Adults are of a certain age, this might be a great sweatshirt for them.

And this is for when your Mom has passed away, and you are surprised that Reality is so different than the Expectation.

Happy May Flowers to you, all!

300 Quilts · Quilt Finish

Quilt Finishes, Kitchen Re-do, Watching a Plant Bloom

These strange looking almost-flowering buds belong to the Mother of Pearl plant. It’s also known as the Ghost plant, or Graptopetalum paraguayense.

This is the mother ship of that spindly, tentative arm that is reaching out to flower. This part is sturdy, well-rooted, thick and healthy. The flowering branch looks delicate, pale, and like you want to set up a succulent hospital to take care of it. I think the base plant could climb mountains, leap tall buildings in a single bound. I would think that the flowering branch is one of those caricatures of a fainting Victorian woman.

Both of these are us. Are you. Are me.

It’s on the sturdy plant days that we reply to every email, answer every comment on Instagram, hand-write overdue notes to far away friends, cook homemade meals, weed the garden, quilt for hours — our minds clear and powerful, our physical bodies cooperating and healthy. We eschew sugary snacks. We sleep well. We read interesting books. Each minute has a purpose.

Sadly, frail flowering stem days can sometimes prevail. On those days, while we might look well to the world, inside we can hardly step over doorway thresholds. We doom-scroll social media, but don’t have energy for even a “like.” Thinking of what to say to comments is herculean, and dinner consists of whatever is in the fridge, or at the closest fast-food place. Creativity is still treasured, but we can’t find our sew-jo, our mo-jo, our motivation or energy. Sleep is interrupted, and we worry/ruminate way too much. Our physical bodies are busy plotting against us and it’s generally Not Good (think something along the order of January 6th).

You get the picture.

And then two holy men step into the fray (thinking of their names: Angel and Ezequiel). We are in the midst of a kitchen re-do, as some of you have seen on other social media. Maybe to continue the metaphor from the Mother of Pearl plant, we are being re-potted? This week Angel and Ezequiel, and then Leo (on the right with all the cans, etc) came to paint the kitchen three different colors. (In case you don’t feel old enough, Ezequiel — a sturdy, jovial man — is 72 and has been a painter for nearly a half-century.) It has been nice to have many thoughtful, kind and cheerful people help us.

On another day this week as we ate lunch, I looked at my Dave and said, “Today we don’t have to pick a paint color. We don’t have to go to five tile stores to choose backsplash. We don’t have to go to four stores to evaluate countertops, or talk about drawer handles or garbage disposals. We don’t have to buy sinks, or microwaves or a refrigerator.”
“I know,” he said. “Would you like to take a nap?”

It was a spindly flowering branch day.

And then this happened. It was the arc scraps from Primula Ballerina’s Drunkard’s Path blocks, filled in with low-volume fabrics. I blocked all out that was happening below me in the kitchen and kept going because I was listening to this:

Baby Hurren’s Quilt #275 in the Quilt Index

Each Drunkard’s Path block is 5″ finished, so I guess the quilt is 40″ x 35″, about right for a friend’s baby who hasn’t yet arrived.

And that Target Special round mirror is for the half-bath downstairs, because ohgoshwhynot, we decided to replace the vanity/sink while we were at it and the old square mirror won’t fit when the new vanity comes in. The painters painted it “White Flour” today (our white for the kitchen). What a gift.

And then when the construction drapes were cleared from the family room for a weekend, we took the chance to binge-watch the last season of Sanditon. The ending(s) reminded me of Lord of the Rings, when we had wrap-up ending, after wrap-up ending, after wrap-up ending. Which allowed me to do a wrap-up ending on this EPP quilt (North Country Quilt) which was started in April 2019. (Free pattern for the pieces at the link.)

I decided to sew on a border as the edges were as unstable as my current state; on the right is my mock-up of the quilting for Jen, my long armer.

At this point, I just want this quilt to be done, even if I’m not so sure about it now. I am also hoping that soon the kitchen will be done, that we’ll move back out of the dining room, unpack the stacks of boxes in the garage and family room, and find our sturdy plant lives once more.

Lilacs in bloom remind me of my mother
300 Quilts · Quilt Finish

Primula Ballerina • Quilt Finish

A hymn sung in our church begins with “Earth, with her ten-thousand flowers” and ends with the sentiment that all these things of nature “Have one chorus: God is love.” This was reinforced to me when I went hunting for a title for this quilt (not wanting to borrow from the original pattern — more info here), and fell down into a fun rabbit hole of internet blossoms.

In the end a ruffled primrose caught my eye, with a trademarked name of Prima Belarina. Not wanting to run afoul of the trademark police, I decided to call this Primula Ballerina, primula being the botanical name for Primrose, and the ruffles on that new flower resembling the tutu of a dancing ballerina.


I quilted it on my Sweet Sixteen Handiquilter; this size is a fun amount of quilting for one SoCal quilter (me). Label mock-up:

And…that’s about all for today. I did have a profound post on the similarities/differences between our tools as quilters and the tools I see everyday in my under-construction kitchen, but that will have to wait. So will the post about Distraction (inability to concentrate when there is fascinating stuff doing on the house), the post about Best Uses of Doom-scrolling Instagram (really, there are none except seeing all your pretty quilts), as well a potential post on Guilt About Falling Behind in Most Areas of My Life.

Likewise the post about Cooking with Cars, or the bit about Choosing a Particular color of Blue Paint in the changing seasonal light have to wait, too. Something for you to look forward to, I guess. But I will leave you with photos.

(That center sure is a flashy little thing, isn’t it?)

Go smell 10,000 spring flowers!

300 Quilts

Garden Flower • Quilt Top Finish

Floods! Snow! Storms! Rain! More Rain! That old saying about April Showers really doesn’t apply to California, because for us it’s March showers bring April flowers, so yes, my garden is overflowing with flowers which is where my latest quilt started.

This pattern is also where the quilt started, with Yvonne’s wonderful Garden Peony quilt pattern. Yvonne is a master of shape and space (her handle is Quilting Jet Girl), and love how the inner path of this quilt mimics the ruffling of a peony blossom.

I’ve highlighted it here.

But I’ve always wanted to make this in Kaffe prints, just knowing it would make a wonderful big blossom. Luckily for me, Yvonne put out a new edition of her pattern, so I was in business.

I busily cut out all the green I wanted to use (an old Kaffe geranium print) and then started mocking up the center. I remembered that our peonies had that brilliant yellow center, so that’s what I cut next. However, there wasn’t a blossom big enough for the solid circle Yvonne had in her pattern, so I ended up with four smaller blocks. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was already in trouble with this quilt:

Can we say Color Mush? Can we say Pieces Turned Awry?

Admittedly, this was taken at night, but I couldn’t see any delineation between the outer three colors. I went to bed, dejected, as I just knew her design would be beautiful in Kaffes but couldn’t see my way there.

Thank you, Committee of Sleep. Out with the treasured geranium fabric. In with dots.

I tried three different pinks around that center yellow, and have a shopping receipt and the cut-out shapes to prove it (some fabrics were already in the stash). I had to make another hard decision about the 2nd ring: I inverted it, largely because the shape of the blossoms in the Kaffe were fighting the natural flow of soft scallopy petal shapes. It was a hard call, as I loved how Yvonne had the ruffle effect (see above). But now I was in new territory, and I was determined to make it work.

But apparently the quilt wasn’t done with me yet.

This just didn’t work. So I re-made a new one, with a better match of pink blossom and a stronger background, and pieced it in. I even rotated it a quarter turn for better balance.

Admittedly the two outer rings are still very similar in value, even though one is Kale and the other Geraniums. I’m hoping the quilting will help fix that.

Yvonne has great directions. I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough big blooms to make full-blocks in one section, and I shouldn’t have. It’s one of my favorite parts. I wish I’d been braver on the other sections (this is a “before I switched it out” photo).

There are many good tips on construction in the pattern, so you shouldn’t have any troubles.

I printed out the pattern onto card stock, and put two loops of blue painter’s tape on the back to keep it in place when I was cutting. I set a ruler on top of the straight edges to help with cutting (large rotary cutter). I followed her directions for cutting multiple shapes, using my smaller rotary cutter on the curved edges.

Put your sewing machine speed on slow, whether it’s you that’s on slow, or the machine. Pin the center of the arc. Then one more at each end. I always tried to use a scrap to start the seam before stitching that beginning edge, and used the natural flex and give of the bias to help align the edges.

I pressed nearly every edge to slide under the larger arc piece, with the exception of the center circle. Then trim it up and put it on the design wall.

Sew together, pressing well.

I had to do a last photo in our under-construction kitchen. This is the Day Six of Week Four, showing the floor all finished with its patching (sense a theme?). We’ve chosen our cupboard color (the Great Angst of the last two weeks), but you’ll have to wait to find out which one we chose. I woke up from a dream the other morning where I was being tiled: tiny pieces all over my face. Hmmmm, I thought, when I was fully awake. Better get on the tile stuff for our backsplash. And the stories! I’ve loved reading about painting, buying, kitchens, workers, counters, windows–your experiences have helped me be more sanguine about mine.

So just like making a quilt, from choosing a shape to material to color to size to revision, the kitchen is coming along. I had thought I’d just sit upstairs and sew merrily away for six weeks while they hammered and sawed downstairs. That was an illusion. The reality is we’ve spent nearly every day making some $ignificant deci$ion, or shopping to learn about that significant decision. But we think we’ve purchased just about everything, and now it’s just time and other people making in their workshops, sawing and planing and cutting wood.

I much prefer fabric.

Happy Easter!