300 Quilts

Wealth of Days • Quilt Top Finish

As a culture we are in danger of falling out of touch, not only with objects, but with the intelligence they embody: the empathy that is bound up in tangible things….A well-made object is informed by thousands of years of accumulated experiment and know-how. Whenever we make or use an everyday tangible thing, or even when we contemplate one seriously, we commune with this pool of human understanding. ~Glenn Adamson, from the book Fewer, Better Things

I’ve been reading Adamson’s book, Fewer, Better Things, and have underlined quite a few different passages. Not everything in the book is a home run, but I love having books on craft, on quality, or on making available around my house, for just a few lines here and there can re-center my quilting universe. Like this one:

“William Morris, the great craft reformer of the late nineteenth century, was one of the earliest writers to espouse environmentalism, over a century ago. ‘Surely there is no square mile of earth’s inhabitable surface that is not beautiful in its own way,’ he wrote, ‘if we men will only abstain from willfully destroying that beauty.’ He also famously asked his contemporaries to “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” This sentiment still rings true today, particularly if we add the idea that objects should be meaningful. Let’s not think of things as ends in themselves, props to put on the mantelpiece. Rather, let’s consider them as points of contact between people.”

Last week I was in the overwhelmingness of QuiltCon, a series of “mores.” More color. More shapes. More wokeness (this got to be a little bit much, frankly). More quilts. More ideas. More fame. More longing. More more more, until it was just more exhaustion. I loved it all, and am so glad I went to this virtual presentation (Karen and her crew did a fabulous job), but by the end, I was kind of glad they took it all down, freeing me to escape that blotto-in-the-brain feeling for a few days. Sorry I missed you all last Sunday. It’s sort of like this:

Like the moon, we go through phases of being full and we through phases of being hidden.

And then I got an idea.

This idea has been preceeded by a long slow couple of months, as I was worn out by allthecovidstuff, and my bandwidth to accomplish or do things, or even to reach out was limited. So my idea was to set a goal to finish up at least one quilt from the past — and I chose my temperature quilt, newly renamed Wealth of Days (I’ll explain in a later post).

And my next idea was to use up all those triangles that I’d cut and were leftover from piecing together the quilt top, and turn them into a border somehow, because I felt like just the triangles in the center weren’t enough. So I just sewed and sewed.

And began to realize I had some problems.
I’d started making this way back in 2019 (obviously) but it was right after my second shoulder surgery. Rotary cutting is pretty much out of the question after a surgery like that, so in the beginning everything that was cut was scissor-cut. And this little imperfection of scissor cutting had — as quilty problems do — spread throughout the quilt. Some of the problems I could fix on this go-round, as I squared up and trimmed little slivers off the new flying geese to get them straight and true (above).

The center is the original series of triangles from my 2019 temperature quilt.

But…it started to look like the gimpy triangles in in the main quilt weren’t going to match up with the new, refined flying geese in the border.

Color placement planning.

Nevertheless, she persisted — and then decided to re-think some things.
It became obvious after all my sewing that I really could not fit the borders to the quilt. I started sewing the slivery-est of seams over and over along the outer edges of the inner section of the quilt, trying to ease in the extra fullness of those out-of-shape geese. I took off that lovely aqua skinny border, and cut a darker one:

I marked the new darker border strip every 2″ as I was going to force this quilt into submission, which of course…never really works. (I’m hoping my quilter can quilt out some of the bulk that shouldn’t be there.) I then retooled the inner border to make it really really skinny, and kept sewing those triangles into geese. But then. The corners. What to do? I fiddled and sketched and browsed, but when I couldn’t come to a solution, I took Steinbeck’s advice:

This is what the committee of sleep came up with. I’m happy with it.

So here it is. Wealth of Days quilt top all completed. I have a few moving parts for the backing, then I’ll call my quilter and hope she can work miracles with the limpy-gimpy triangles, evidence of my craft at that time. I will explain the quilt title when it is finished, and I can do a proper showing off with the fun stuff for the back, too.

stained glass version, taken from the back of the quilt

I did a search for #temperaturequilt trying to see how people finished off their quilts. I came to the conclusion that not too many have finished off their quilts, but I want to finish mine. Working on this quilt this week, remembering my physical self in January 2019 and allowing that woman’s imperfect making to be a part of this quilt, made me realize how vital making quilts is to me. It is not only a noun — as Adamson notes below — but a verb.

When we casually dismiss craft as a vital factor in our lives, however, we miss out on many satisfactions….When many people hear the word “craft,” they think of humble, decorative things: pots, baskets, or macramé plant hangers. But if we consider “craft” in its active form, treating it as a verb rather than a noun, we immediately realize it is much, much broader than that.

When we say that someone crafts an object, we mean that they put their whole self into it, body and mind alike, drawing on whatever skills they have acquired over the course of their lives. This is a deeply meaningful human activity, which can be observed not only in suburban garages and hobby shops, but also in factories (where people craft machines and prototypes) and fine art studios (where people craft paintings and sculptures). All these process-based experiences imbue materials with associations that resonate far beyond the act of making itself. ~Glenn Adamson, from the book Fewer, Better Things

Happy Quilting!

Gridsters · Quilt Finish · This-and-That

This and That • February 2021

Little three-year-old Gio came to live with my son Chad and his wife Kristen last year, and when this February rolled around, I decided that he had become, in effect, my grandson, and in my world grandchildren get quilts. I rustled up a stack of Hungry Animal Alphabet fabric by J. Wecker Frisch, figuring that my daughter-in-law was probably working with this little guy on his alphabet.

Kristen and Chad had first taken Gio’s mother under their wing some years ago (a complicated story), but soon Gio’s mom decided to go out on her own; it was heartbreaking. Fast forward two years, and Chad and Kristen got a call to come and get this cute energetic little boy. Without a moment’s hesitation, they did, and now he is in a secure home with a family that loves him.

This past Thursday, I had hit the Pandemic Wall, (and here, too) so we grabbed the quilt and jumped in the car and headed to the beach to take some photographs. Let’s go places, indeed.

Of course, this is my favorite block. That’s totally me, there, eating raspberries with racoons and a quail on my shoulder and a quilt on the table.

The back is an alphabet toss of black letters on white. I quilted it in a meandering stipple, bound it in red (Gio’s favorite color), and signed the back and sent it off that afternoon. Gio’s Quilt is quilt #244. It measures 45″ wide by 55″ high and I hope it makes Gio smile.

from Surfside Quilters Guild website, February 2021

This past week I was also able to present and teach at Surfside Quilters Guild, out of San Clemente area (California).

I recently got a new laptop and am now able to use virtual backgrounds when on Zoom. I used to have to set up a quilt stand and clamp on a quilt as my backdrop, and one afternoon when I was auditioning backgrounds, Dave magically appeared. I ended up using the lower image with Plitvice and the backdrop of California poppies. I still think my hair looks like –and moves like — a bowl of Jello when a virtual background is used, but it’s easier than setting up quilt stands.

Surfside Quilters Guild is a collection with many powerful, talented and well-known quilters. I fall in love with every guild where I go and teach, but it was fun to circle back around to this one, and have Nancy Ota in my class (I took one from her when I first moved to Southern California). Nancy mentioned that she’d just heard news of the death of Roberta Horton, a silver star of a quilter. (I wrote about Roberta Horton here.) In 2019, when I’d gone to PIQF, I saw Roberta and she graciously agreed to a photograph together. The news of her death blew me away, much as the news of Gwen Marston’s had done a couple of years earlier.

Horton’s books: I have all but the Stained Glass Quilting Technique.

Roberta Horton is one of a collection of BIG quilters, meaning Before Instagram. Before Facebook and before social media. You learned about these quilters — Roberta, her sister Mary Mashuta, Gwen Marston, Nancy Ota, Ruth McDowell, among others — by reading magazines, seeing which quilt shows where they would be teaching, and then trying to get there. The edges of our quilting universe seemed a lot farther away then and I was a roaming fangirl. I learned a lot from the women in that cohort, who, regretfully seem invisible to this new crop of younger quilters, quilters who somehow believe they sprang fully formed out of the social media earth without any quilting mothers. I have always believed that we quilters are richer for our heritage, and hope we won’t forget these giants.

Because Surfside began in 2009, and because their website is a strong compilation of their history as a guild, I had fun exploring their Blocks of the Month. I chose their Freddy Moran Garden Lady block (2012-2013) for my block this year for the Gridster Bee, and hope to make many of the accompanying sewing-related BOM blocks for a quilt in 2022. [Freddy Moran is another heritage quilter, seen here and here.]

This block, however, is not from Surfside, but is the block one of my beemates chose for her turn as Queen Bee, and is a free pattern from Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt. I am doing all my blocks for the above quilt with red backgrounds, so tried it out in the block you see above.

These are what I made for Susan. The scissors are there for scale (blocks finish at 3 1/2″).

And last but not least, here are some textures drawn by Mother Nature and her helping flock of seagulls, seashells and edges of waves. If you need more beach, I put a Beach Highlight on my Instagram; make sure the sound is on for full effect. I plan to keep my finger on that play button often in the next few weeks, trying to get through pandemic life, and as I get my second dose of vaccine this morning.

It’s nice to feel a bit of hope again around the edges of life. I wish this for you, as well.

Happy Valentine’s Day Quilting!

300 Quilts · Quilt Finish

Picties and Verities • Quilt Finish

Picties and Verities, quilt #243
71″ wide by 78″ tall

Finally!

This baby has a new name: Picties and Verities.

What, you ask? Well, that phrase was in a poem I read about a thousand years ago, and I liked it and wrote it down and of course I can’t find it now, because that’s my life, when even what we had for dinner last night is cause for wandering around in the corridors of memory.

Verities, defined: a true princple or belief, especially one of fundamental importance. Seems to me that striving to be happy, knowing that the sun shines on all of us, as well as the idea that it’s always good to go home — with or without your trailer — just have to be some verities.

Picties, defined: For this one, I went to my husband’s college Oxford Dictionary, a two-volume set complete with magnifying glass. Pict (rare, it says, from the 1400s) means to paint or depict or represent. I would say all those bits of appliqué up there qualify as little pictures. Of course the Picts were also the ancient name of people from North Scotland, and are associated with elves, brownies or fairies. And possibly old grey castles with dungeons (an allusion to its working title: Trapped in the Dungeon of Cute). And since my great-grandmother was from Scotland, I own that heritage with pride.

I sewed on buttons last Saturday, while listening to my Guild’s program, and added, as is my usual, “Made in the time of Covid-19” for anyone who receives this quilt after I’ve gone to the afterworld to frolic with Scottish fairies. You’ve seen photos of this, but here’s a last batch of fun.

And since you’ve read this far, I now treat you to one of my husband’s beautiful photographs, taken the last week of January:

Aloe Blossom

We retraced his steps to take a look at it this past week, because in trying to identify what it was depended on what the plant’s leaves looked like: if they were cacti-looking, it was an aloe. If they were leafy, it was a kniphofia (aka Torch Lilly or Red Hot Poker). It’s an aloe, but it is a distant cousin to kniphofia, apparently. My husband Dave takes long walks everyday, bringing home pictures like this, reminding me of when my children used to bring me home bits and pieces of their days, spilling them out into the kitchen, a line or a thought floating backwards over their heads deep in the refridgerator.

It’s so nice to watch Dave gather his interests about him now, after having had his nose to the grindstone for years, bringing home the proverbial bacon to put in the fridge for those now-grown children. His process — of snapping pictures of whatever interests him and only later culling and choosing — reminds me of this quote from the artist Ann Hamilton:

“A life of making isn’t a series of shows, or projects, or productions, or things; it is an everyday practice.  It is a practice of questions more than of answers, of waiting to find what you need more often than knowing what you need to do….Our culture has beheld with suspicion unproductive time, things not utilitarian, and daydreaming in general, but we live in a time when it is especially challenging to articulate the importance of experiences that don’t produce anything obvious, aren’t easily quantifiable, resist measurement, aren’t easily named, are categorically in-between.” (Ann Hamilton, artist)

Having had three finishes within a couple of weeks, and today teaching a workshop with the Surfside Quilters Guild, my next plan is to do some wandering myself, maybe some daydreaming and find those experiences that don’t produce anything obvious, yet are so critical.

And P.S. Blocks 4, 5 and 6 of Shine: The Circles Quilt are now back on the blog, free to all.

Other posts about Picties and Verities:

300 Quilts · Quilt Finish

Postcard from Burano

Postcard from Burano, quilt #242
11″ x 22″

Over the space of several years, I tried three times to get to the small island of Burano, just a vaparetto ride out of Venice. And when my husband and I finally made it there, we had only about an hour before the next ride back to Venice.

When the boat docked in Burano and everyone turned right to go into the main part of town, we turned left and wandered, taking in the brilliant color, the laundry, the umbrellas, the acqua alta barricades in the doorways, snapping away.

We arrived at the outgoing vaparetto a few minutes early, but stood in line, mentally and physically leaving Burano forever.

So when I had a chance to take Gillian Travis‘ class in October 2019, pulled in by the chance to do a fabric representation of that small island with its brilliant colors, I signed up quickly. It was at PIQF (Pacific International Quilt Festival); my friend Leisa and I traveled there and spent three days in the hotel, rarely leaving as the Mancuso quilt show had many pieces to see, and then there were all the vendors (of course).

In our Townscapes class, we started by tracing, and Gillian had very specific and helpful instructions on how to do everything. I listened carefully and took copious notes. This was one project I wanted to finish. She’s the one who taught us the trick of using parchment paper as a backing for layers of fused fabric (instead buying those expensive specialty sheets).

When I got this far, she came over, and making sure it was all fused together, peeled it off the parchment paper like peeling off a giant sticker, and we plopped it onto a stretch of blue fabric I’d chosen (in consultation, of course).

And this is where I picked it up, a year and some months later. But I’d been to Burano and seen the white window frames, the laundry and the umbrellas, so I pulled out my photos and started adding details.

I imitated the upside down boots on the left side, having found that in our visit:

In the course of time, a lovely splotch affixed itself above one of the chimneys. I tried to get it out with soap and water; it just means that some of the gulls of Venice would now fly through my sky. Her method is to stitch details into the picture while stitching down the fused pieces.

I did that, constantly referring to all the snapshots I took during class. I used a free-motion quilting foot, realizing I would sacrifice another needle to the gunk of fused fabrics.

Then I added borders, as I knew I wanted to stretch it onto bars like California Bear.

I quilted it lightly, trying to add some detail to the sky, but not too much, winding my way around the gulls.

Side view of the borders wrapped and stapled.

I took shots of all the details. Like the teacher, I tried not to be too pristine about how I stitched the window frames, or added detail to the laundry. I can sometimes be a little too uptight about those sort of things, and while I’ll never be an artist like Ms. Travis, I can imitate in order to learn new things.

Work of Gillian Travis

And if you’ve been to the Yorkshire Dales, she has a townscape for you too.

If you want to read about our quick trip to Burano, I include many colorful photos on my travel blog, TraveledMind.blog. (It’s currently under renovation/repair having suffered a loss of domain name recently, and I’m still working to get it back up to where it was.) On the blog, we’re currently in Tokyo, soon heading to Korea and yes, it was a trip from 2017. I’ll get it finished, hopefully before we head out again, maybe in 2022?

Happy February. Wear a mask, get your vaccine, and stay home and quilt!

300 Quilts · Quilt Finish

California Bear • collage quilt finished

California Bear, Quilt #241

California Bear, a collage quilt started in a class with Laura Heine at Road to California 2020, is finished and hanging on my sewing room wall. (It just seems pretentious to call it a “sewing studio” so I persist in calling it a sewing room.) This is a fused collage quilt, and I wrote about it a year ago, when I first began.

As usual, I did multiple permutations moving butterfliers and flowers around until I decided I was done messing with it. The perfect is the enemy of the good…and the done, as I always say. More info our on California Bear is here, if you are interested.

I hung him across from my fancy new calendar from The Dolphin Studio (I saw my sister’s and just had to have one), and he’ll stay there until he walks on to somewhere else.

I finished fusing him into place Friday afternoon, then quilted it in a tiny grid all over, thoroughly gumming up a needle, but it got the job done. After that, I my husband, Dave, and I went out to get stretcher bars (we are double-masking now) and a burger, and then we sat in the parking lot afterwards eating our hot french fries and Habit burger. Later, he helped me staple it into place; I cut out Laura’s name from one of the selvages and fused it onto the back. I’ll make a label later on, but I wanted it up on the wall before January ended.

I went walking this morning and it was California cold. Not as cold as some of the weather in other parts of this wonderful state (we have twelve “Fourteeners” in our state–that is, mountains over 14,000 feet, so you know they have snow). But here in Southern California, an hour east of Los Angeles, well…this is kind of cold. All around our geographical basin the mountains were touched with snow after our last storm. Pretty fancy for us.

And here’s a photo of my quilt holders: two clamps duct-taped onto some molding strips that I found in my garage, but you could use dowels. Really high tech. Oh, and here’s a photo of the Quilt Holding Husband using the Quilt Holders:

We just clamped them onto the corners of the quilt. If you are a short person, like I am, then it makes it easier to hold up the quilts. Later on, we switched, and I held the quilt for while, as seen in this post (in front of the colorful wall). I haven’t yet tried them on a quilted-with-batting quilt, but soon I will and I’ll let you know how it works.

That big-skirted lady is for a quilt, coming later on in the year, and the ABCs and other fabrics are part of a quilt for a grandchild who is having a birthday soon. I use my design wall as a bulletin board sometimes.

I’m making progress on this (binding on and clipped down, reading for hand-sewing). I’ve also come up with a name. Coming soon.

I recently freshened up my blog header, switched up my blog theme (the other one wasn’t supported any more) and am working on the commenting problem some of you have had. I think I’ve solved it, but will know when you tell me. I always ask for your name and your email, as I like to answer my comments privately. If you can’t comment on the blog, you are welcome to email me at opquilt [at] gmail [dot] com.

Happy Quilting!

Older Header, from 2014. My, how time flies!
Software

Making a Curve for the Dungeon of Cute • Affinity Designer Tutorial

Yes, I’m going to talk about making curves, but it’s part of a path that began after I finished the Bee Happy Quilt. You know what comes next: either get it quilted by check, or if you are daft enough, quilt it yourself. (Above: measuring and cutting the batting). But the hardest part is coming up with ideas, so then I check Instagram. I found Rebecca Silbaugh of rubybluequilts and generally followed along to what she had quilted for customers’ quilts like mine. It wasn’t exact, but it gave me a roadmap.

I use a Sweet Sixteen mid-arm, or stationary quilting machine to stitch by quilts, so I have to find some workarounds, and one of them is good use of the disappearing marker. But I need a template to trace to get the design I wanted for the border, and didn’t want to take the quilt downstairs to try out a bunch of plates from the cupboard to find the shape I wanted, or go through all my rulers.

In the early days, when quilters wanted a repeated shape for their border, would often cut a piece of paper the length of the border, and then fold it into parts, using that to mark off the segments. But I had two border lengths to work with and neither were easy measurements, but I figure if I could get a 3 1/2″ petal-shaped something-or-other, I could trace that and make it work. I turned to my Affinity Designer software to get that perfect shape. The steps I took are listed at the bottom of this post, as I didn’t want to interrupt the post, but if you are someone who is learning this software, they may help.

I printed out my shape, but kept a connecter — punching a hole so I could mark through it. I traced one side at a time–using the shape at a perpendicular angle in the middle to fill up the space and arranging it around the corner.

Here’s a picture of the border pattern in soft afternoon light, so you can see the quilting. I used So Fine thread from Superior Thread, color #402 — an off-white — in both top and bobbin for the center of the quilt. Then I switched to a matching Magnifico Thread (also by Superior) to quilt the borders, keeping the bobbin the same.

The quilt — and I — are resting before I tackle the trimming, binding and sleeve. I’m also waiting for inspiration to strike for a name. I’ve called it the Dungeon of Cute all this time (I began the quilt in January of 2019), as I loved the first three or four blocks. Then it was like being chained to a wall, having to make cute blocks over and over and over. (But I don’t think I want to name it this.)

Something will come to me.

Affinity Designer Tutorial for making a petal-shape

I had taken a class at QuiltCon that talked about merging shapes and subtracting shapes, so I started with the left mess, trying to get that curve. Fail. Then I found *this video* and it opened my eyes to possibilities. Go and watch it now. I’ll wait. In figure 2, I drew a constrained square by holding down the shift key to make the sides all the same length (without the shift key, I’d get a rectangle). I put a thicker border on the square so I could see it.

Then I did what it says. I clicked on the border to highlight it, then converted it to curves. That lets each side and each corner move independently of the others.

Click on the corner tool (in the pink circle) and the nodes will change to little boxes. Right by them, not really visible in his illustration is a small red “handle” that you’ll grab. Move your cursor around to locate it for one corner, then drag toward the center of the square.

You can see the little red “handle” in this image; it looks like a small circle. The farther the radius of that larger red circle, the flatter the corner.

Figure 5 is getting a work out.

But I really want to make a petal-shape. I dragged the handle until the radius was the same as the square’s side: 3 1/2″ inches. I kept my eye on the measurements, shown in the pink oval.

But I wanted a thinner petal, so I went with a 4″ radius. Then I copied and pasted them together, using Command-G to merge the layers so I could move them as I wanted. I printed them out on cardstock and used that in the marking of my quilt (below).

Good news! All Affinity software is on major sale right now (50%), so if you need any design or photo or pattern-writing software, I can recommend it to you. No subscriptions. And they also have a 90-day free trial, as well. I don’t get any kickback for recommending them to you; click this link for more information.

Happy Quilting!