Southern Brights–FSF

This is my son Matthew and his wife, Kim.  Sometimes she likes to be called Kimberly.  Other times it’s just Kim.  She’s a bright and sunny personality of a gal, and easily matches my son in energy, determination and love of a good joke.  They’re great.

This is their family, taken at a family camping trip (quickly! and that’s why Emilee has no shoes on), in the mountains above Phoenix Arizona, a place they call their home.  But only for another day or so, because he’s been promoted in his corporate job and they’re off to Cinncinati Ohio.  I love that she would follow him anywhere, so I decided to make her a quilt to honor her love of the Southwest and her bright and sunny personality.

Ta Da!  I give you “Southern Brights.”  It’s a Bento Box block, with lots of wild and crazy fabrics, put together in a bundle by Fabricworm, but of course, I added a few of my own.

My favorite is the little Round Robin fabric with little round robins on it.  I also like the punched-up hugeness of those flowers in the middle.  Change in scale?  This quilt’s got it.  Change in color?  Yep, yep.  Change in value?  Not so much (all medium fabrics) so I threw in some lights and brights to keep the eye moving.

Love the Marimekko fabric on the back, punctuated by a strip of the the Anne Kelle flowers.  Alas, our Crate and Barrel outlet has closed, so now if I want those fabrics, I need to travel an hour and half–instead the previous half-hour.  So I hoard my stash of these, but this quilt just called out for something sunny and bright.

I wish them all success in their new home and new state!

Cowgirls Write Letters

My husband and I lived for a year in Washington, D.C. while he did his sabbatical at the Department of State.  (That’s what they call it.  Most of the rest of us just call it the State Department.)  I investigated any fabric store within reasonable driving distance and one of the ones was Material Girls in La Plata Maryland, about 45 minutes drive from where we lived.  Fast forward a year, and I went back for a visit to see my pal Rhonda, and of course, we had to hit some fabric stores.  Didn’t have a lot of room in the luggage, so I was drawn to the collection of fat quarters they had, and selected as many of this line as I could find.

But what pattern?  Luckily they had a whole rack of Schnibbles patterns, by Miss Rosie’s Quilt Company, and Rhonda and I each chose a couple of them.  I decided on this one, Decoy, then enlarged the blocks, cut them out, and had to piece the border because I was running out of fabric.

But what backing?  Of course it had to be a Western theme.  The cowboys were heavily represented on the front, so I went with the women on the back.

And I had lots of letter fabric, so I envisioned them all out on the plains, posting letters to each other as they herded the cattle wherever cowboys and cowgirls herd cattle.

We all know that the ladies are more frequent letter writers than the men.  So I titled it, Cowgirls Write Letters.  I made it extra tall for my own cowboy to use while he watches his spaghetti westerns on the television.  Thanks, Carrie, for such a great pattern!

Doing Nothing But Making A Mess


This is WIP Wednesday, hosted by Lee of Freshly Pieced Quilts, who is fabulous and writes us all a thank-you note for posting.  My mother and grandmother salute you, Lee!  (As do I.)

Let’s start with a quote from Andrew Wyeth, a great American painter, culled from the Brandywine River Museum when I visited last fall:

“I dream a lot.  When I’m doing nothing is when I’m doing the most.  Sometimes when there is great tension, or lots taking place, I may get an idea or an emotion, and it hits me strong.  I let it build in my mind before I ever put it down on the panel.  Sometimes I do my best work after the models have gone away, purely from memory.  (1996)”

I’m kind of in a fallow period right now as well. It’s time to make the shift from an all-quilt life to a life shared with the papers and detritus of my real job: an adjunct professor.  I’ve been quieter here on the blog, not because I haven’t lots to share, but I had to get that pesky syllabus over to the Copy Center on campus, as well as the Get To Know You form for the first day.  We’re also slipping out to a family reunion and a camping adventure in a National Park before I start back up again, so I’ve been doing the regular things like getting the car prepped, tires checked, laundry.  Well–you’ve all been on vacations and you know what’s involved.  Perhaps because of this, I relate to Wyeth’s comment “when there is great tension, or lots taking place”  it’s hard to be creative.


But since these Wednesday posts are about Work In Progress, I give to you my WIP: cleaning up the sewing room.
No lie.

Another lovely view.  Sometimes I just pile the stuff here and there, making way for that next project.  I’ve been trying to finish up a few things (two more coming in the next couple of weeks–on Fridays), yet you can see on the corner of my elevated cutting table a stack of reds and whites.

The Red/White Challenge finished ahead of schedule!  Here they all are, with my block on the top.  I have them up on the pin wall, just percolating there as I think very sweet thoughts about the women who took a chance on me and my quirky idea.  September 1st is the deadline for the Temecula Quilt Company’s “quilt show” and I want to have something new to add.

Somehow the idea of a table runner keeps popping up.  This book is an inspiration.

Blocks on point, bordered by a log-cabin type of block?

Or with a checkered block in between them?

I’m going to let it rest while we do family stuff for a while, and see what comes up after things simmer down.

Come A-Round: Finishing School Friday

Come A-Round is finished.  This has lived in our house under many names: Crop Circles, Dotty Quilt, Elizabeth’s Masterpiece, That Quilt.  But its real name is Come A-Round. *This* is how I came up with the name.

I finished the top and sent it to the quilter, Cathy Kreter, who quilted the central fan-like circles, and the spaces in between them.  She also ran a line of stitching on the dark green stem and the outer edge.  I was to take over from there, but it went back to her to tackle the middle of the circles–a space about 2″ in diameter, which I couldn’t quilt because of so many layers.  Then back to me and I did the rest of the details.  It’s a good partnership.  The back fabric is about perfect for machine quilting: lots of tiny dots in all colors that hide a multitude of sins.  Just not green thread branches, and no, I didn’t pick them out.  I knew that if I turned back at that point, it would never be finished.  At least not by the end of summer.  And sometimes good-enough-but-done is better than perfect-but-undone.

The circle is simple in its geometry: one continuous looping whole.  Yet most of our lives feel more like jagged peaks on an EKG monitor with little blips of up and down in a rhythmic pattern–peaks and valleys that indicate there’s a life going on–that a heart is beating.  So when my husband’s sister called us early Monday morning with a voice full of peaks and valleys, so different from her usual and we heard the news about her young adult son gone too early, the rhythmic pattern of heartbeat stilled by his own hand, my husband and I sat together quietly for a long while afterward.  The silence between us was thick with emotion and sadness and wondering about whatever could have gone wrong?  We’d start a question, then pause mid-thought, not really knowing where we were headed, but knowing that there was no easy path around this sorrow.  This circle had been rent, broken.

My husband called our eldest son, and now his voice echoed his sister’s; as we called each of our children, we took turns pausing to let the emotion fall away so we could continue with the necessary news.  We went about our day.  We sat stunned.  We fixed dinner.  We took a walk.  We kept talking, thinking about Scott’s widow and his two young daughters.  The couple had recently separated and we wondered how we could let her know that no one blamed her.  I made a cake.  We were more gentle with each other.  We lingered outside after dinner on the patio, the sun falling into darkness.  Then the phone conversations turned to funeral arrangments.  Then the task of travel arrangements, and my voice cracked as I tried to arrange flights, blessing the kindness of the faceless voice on the other end of the line.  We talked with our children: life is fragile.  As people of faith, we believe we will see him again: whole.  After a few days the jagged peaks and valleys of those initial numbing hours leveled out.

It’s really a circle, this thing we call life.  The idea is not a new one, and certainly has a myriad of cliches to accompany the idea: one eternal round, the wedding ring’s symbolism, death to life and back to death again.  You name it, you’ve heard it.  But at the end of the day, we are all encircled about by a sense of going forth and returning, a feeling of beginning and ending, yet sometimes the lines that create those divisions are so subtle that they fade away.  What we send out, we see in return.  What is born, dies.

There’s a famous passage in the Bible, in Ecclesiastes, about a time for everything.  I looked it up again today and interestingly, in among the weightier references of death and life, mourning and laughter, peace and war, it notes that there is a time to rend, and a time to sew.

This week, I sewed circles.

RedWhite–AUSTRALIA

How fun is this?  The mail lady rang my doorbell and gave me this lovely package all the way from Australia.  I practically grabbed it out of her hands.

And look what was inside–these lovely Shoofly blocks from Kay from Down Under.  She has a funny story (which she gave me permission to relate) about these blocks.  Seems she had them all completed and ready to send off when her niece spotted them in her sewing room.  She grabbed them and gave the dogs a bath with her aunt’s “pretties.”  So Kay sent off for more fabric, and remade them.  I’ll always think of this story when I look at these blocks.  The dedication of the quilters in this red and white challenge impresses me over and over again.  Thanks, everyone!!

WIP–Lyon Carolings

Welcome to WIP Wednesday, hosted by Lee of Freshly Pieced Quilts.

Lyon, what? you are saying?  Lyon Carolings.  That’s my work in progress for today.The title comes from the name of the church–Carolingian–in Lyon, France, which was built by the Carolingian Dynasty from the 7th century, and alternately known as the Carolings. I snapped this photo of the patterned design on their ceiling, because you know us quilters.  It’s like a reflex. See pattern.  Take photo.

I obsessed wrote about the process of converting what I saw to a quilt block on another post; feel free to look it up. I’ve had this quilt top and back completed for a year now, and as my free time this summer is on its last gasp, wheezing its way to the finish line (where I REALLY have to think about school and lesson plans), I was determined to finish this.  So here’s my steps (pictures are below the STEP description).

STEP ONE:
Lay out backing, ignoring the fact that while you pressed it when you put it away last summer on a hanger it has developed new wrinkles.

STEP TWO:
Move the red bucket chairs because you need more room, leaving giant Xcircles in carpet.

STEP THREE:
Tape the backing to the floor, giving it a little tension to keep it smooth.

STEP FOUR:
Lay out the new kind of batting you bought, and realize that it will shrink 2%, which isn’t much, but if you’ve waited this long to quilt this puppy, you can wait a little longer while you squish it out in the newly washed kitchen sink, squish it some more, then drip your way to the dryer and dry it.  Spread it out again.

STEP FIVE:
Lay out the top, and even though it’s a billion degrees outside and in, lean over and pin the quilt, thinking cool thoughts, thinking of this as some kind of Pilates Stretching Exercise as you reach for the middle, sucking in your stomach while you hover over the quilt, safety pinning it to death.

STEP SIX:
Trim off excess batting, then stand back and admire the quilt.  This is an important part of the process because even though your husband really likes your finished quilts and is proud of you and loves to tell others about them, he’s not much interested in this part of things, so it’s you, baby, that has to bring the Atta’ Boy cheer to the table.  Atta’ boy, you say.  Or atta’ girl.  Whatever.

STEP SEVEN:
Begin quilting the blue, because that will stabilize the quilt as you ponder what to do next.  Some have a plan.  I have a desire to Get It Done and will figure it out as I go along.

That’s as far as I have gotten.  I like the puffing that happens as you start to quilt.  I use Superior’s Bottom Line thread in the bottom, with a distinct advantage that it’s thinner so you get get more on the bobbin.  I like the fineness of the thread and that it looks more delicate on the back.  In the top, I keep coming back to using Poly Neon.  For some reason this just works for me in most cases, although I have used other threads such as Superior’s King Tut and Poly Quilter.

I have no problem mixing threads, but do stitch out a sample on a sample quilt sandwich, identifying what I’m doing by writing on the section with a pen. Although you can’t see it really well, there are little numbers written inside those purple circles, above.

I’ve thought about using this flower, or the one below, as a template for how to quilt the yellow centers.  Which always leads us to Step Eight: Visit the fabric shop to pick up a marker to sketch in the flower.

In the post just below (published on my FSFriday last week), I write about how quilts stay done, when everything else doesn’t.  I’ll have another FSF post I’m working on, with a project that has been in process since last October.  Check back, if you want to, to read about that one.