Ring Out, Wild Bells


Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

 Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Every New Year’s this poem, In Memoriam,  by Lord Alfred Tennyson, has been recited in Sweden to welcome in the new year.  It’s one of my favorite hymns, not only because of the arrangement (the Marsdon tune, arramged by Crawford Gates in an especially riveting D-minor key, which gives it a haunting quality) but mainly because the last stanza urges us to “Ring in the . . . larger heart, the kindlier hand,” among other things.  And while I could say that the wording might be reversed, giving us “kindlier heart and larger hand” and that would give us more chances to do quilting, I think I’ll leave it well enough alone and hope for what Tennyson wrote.


Yesterday I just finished the quilt I started one year ago.  This is a terrible, horrible blurry picture, but you get the drift.  That’s what happens when you finish up late at night, and the pin wall has all sorts of other things pinned around the edges.  Better pictures are coming.  The fabric is Countdown to Christmas by Sweetwater, and the pattern is by Angela and found on Moda Bake Shop. Since the stars and I went several rounds before I finally was declared the victor, and because I think they look beyond wonky in some blocks, I’ve been thinking about the book Star Mother’s Youngest Child, a delightful story of how a wonderfully ugly little child comes down to earth to see what Christmas is all about, and ends up sharing the hearth with a grumpy old woman (which I certainly was at one point in this quilt’s construction).  It’s okay that nobody but me will know what it means, but I like that title: Star Mother’s Youngest Child.

I’m at the point of deciding whether to just piece up the extras for the back, or to take the last steps and make the shams that could go with this so as to decorate the guest room for the holidays.  I’ll just make up two star blocks, for they measure 16″ and then border them and call it a day.  It IS New Year’s Eve tomorrow, and I don’t have much on the schedule, so why not?


This is the stack from IKEA that I finally got washed up and ironed (yes, I’m one of those), excepting the bottom red/white snowflake fabric, which I bought on my way home from Utah in a bookstore that also carried fabric.  How great is that?  Forget coffee. Give me books and fabric and I’m happy.  But that red snowflake fabric  is destined to back the wonky snowman quilt I started LAST November, which is the next to go up on the pin wall, while I can still listen to Christmas carols and before the urge to clean out closets creeps in with the New Year.

closets(Self portrait)

I’m too old for resolutions, but I try to put down some things that have me looking forward, for that is where the future is.  One is our newest theme for Four-in-Art: trees.  I took lots of photos of snowy trees while in Utah, and here’s a photo that my husband snapped of me in a lull in my photo-snapping.

ESE SnowyDay

But the one tree I remember was by the side of the highway while I was driving up north, covered in glittery frost and standing completely out in a field, all by itself.  I did see snowy trees on the way home, but most were obliterated by a huge snowstorm which had me sitting up straight in the driver’s seat, clenching the steering wheel, praying that the semi-trucks would stay in their tracks and I could stay in mine.  I don’t know how the folks do it who live in snowy climes–you have my admiration.

Screen Shot 2012-12-30 at 5.53.37 PM

Another bright spot is the Mid-Century Modern Bee.  All of us Mid-Century Modern quilters are gathered together by Cindy, of Live a Colorful Life.  She and I had fun creating the logo together when she visited in November, and I look forward to participating with such a distinguished group of quilters.

I don’t know what this New Year will hold.  Certainly the Mayan calendar is going to go for another round of days, so I guess we should too.  I hope to add to my 200 Quilts list, with another quilt just back from the quilter and awaiting the binding, then the documentation onto the list. I hope to write more, both on this blog and others that I maintain, to teach well in the classroom, to read some books, and attend some quilting conferences (next up is Road to California, with its emphasis on glitter and crystals (not a fan), but hopefully I’ll find one or two that I love).

I hope that you are gathering some bright spots together in your future, and that we are all able, like Tennyson, to “Ring in the . . . larger heart, the kindlier hand.” Happy New Year of Quilting!

Screen Shot 2012-12-30 at 6.01.15 PM

Something to Think About · WIP

Wonky Stars, Wonky World

I know you must think I fell off of a cliff.  I posted on Lee’s Freshly Pieced blog as a guest host, (click *here* to head back over to her site for some great looking quilts) then went dark and silent for lo, these many weeks.  Below is a composite of what went on, minus the rolling-of-the-eyes pictures while reading student papers and grading grading grading.  December2012activities

Besides grading, we got a new sofa, I made vats of a potato dish for our church Christmas party, sewed giant canvas bags for my grandsons’ Christmas presents (we gave them small tool boxes and broken electronics from the local TV repair shop, so they could take them apart with their new tools), decorated the Christmas tree, celebrated Christmas with my son and his family, pulled out an old block swap project then put it away, started on Secret Project A, Secret Project B (it is Christmas, after all) and then would up my time making Butternut Crunch Toffee and Christmas Caramels.


I have been feeling much like the grandma in the snow.

And then last weekend’s horrible events happened, and like you, everything in my world pretty much came to a halt, and I watched the news, read about the lives of the slain children, and cried and cried.  And one really bad day, both my daughter’s and my tender emotions collided in a colossal disagreement over nothing, and I realized that the resultant tears on both our parts was more indication that our days would be forever changed by our concern for twenty-eight families in Connecticut.  I wanted to write about it, but mostly I just wanted to gather a quilt around the closest child, read them good books and ward off the outside world to protect them.  How to move from this wonky, capsized world back to Christmas?

Start slowly, by doing the things that right the world after a terrific up-ending.

Christmas Cards

I wrote Christmas cards.  Thinking about those closest to me enabled me to brave the mall and do some gift-buying.  I spent time with good people, friends, church friends, family.  Many many years ago, after I went through my Horribles one tear-filled Christmas (a divorce), the counselor said that trying to get back into a routine would help everyone.  So I made some toffee.  Then my annual Christmas Caramels, while listening to Christmas carols. Wonky Star

And realized that I’m no good at making Wonky Stars.  I can get the star “blades” on crookedly, a necessary ingredient for wonkiness.  But I keep messing up the placement of the star blades direction, like the one above.

Laying Out Star blades

So I would lay them out, and invariably have to unpick one.  I decided to plow through it, for if I left this project midway, I might never be able to get back in.

Wonky Stars

The stars turned out appropriately wonky, maybe more wonky than they should have.  But more importantly, the stars are done.  And I hope to find some time in the sewing studio to sew the companion blocks to this quilt.

Next week, we’ll be spending some time with my family, with my husband’s family, looking at lights, singing Christmas hymns at church.  We’ll also be listening to Uncle Earl play Lady of Spain on his accordion (a rare treat), celebrate the season with my Dad and Mom’s great cooking, and yes, like most families, we’ll tell jokes, admire the babies, trade stories of cancer, new furniture, failed toffee and failed marriages, changed jobs, successes in grad school, all of us sharing bits and pieces of our patchworked lives.

I wish you all the best of a patchworked Christmas!

Free Quilt Pattern · Quilts-on-the-Bed

WIP–December Quilting

Today I’m guest-hosting over at Lee’s blog: Freshly Pieced, so I encourage you to head over there and see all the beautiful quilts in her Linky party, and leave some holiday comments to cheer all the quilters on.

If you are arriving here from there, welcome!

Log Cabin Advent Calendar Christmas

You may be here looking for the free downloadable quilt pattern for the Log Cabin Christmas Advent Calendar (above).  Here it is as a PDF file: Log Cabin Advent Calendar.  You might want to download the picture above as a reference for things like buttons, etc.

Here’s two photos of the back, showing the label and the drapery ring, which I use to hang it with:




These two photos show how I tied the ribbon around my “ornament” buttons, then used a dot of hot glue to secure the knot in place.


And I promised those in my readership a look at the finished quilt shams, mentioned in the last post.

pillow sham finish

I bought that tiny little pillow at the after-Christmas clearance sales, shortly after Dave and I were married.  It had been one of those harried, race-and-shop-’till-you-drop sort of Christmases, as we were shopping for all four children and each other and parents and relatives and friends.  We’d had more than one of “those” finances, stress, did-we-need-this? sort of conversations, yet I wanted to provide a lovely (but not extravagant) Christmas for our newly joined family (Dave, a long-term bachelor, married me and my four children). Seeing the pillow in the clearance bin reminded me what I really wanted for Christmas, and it has gone on our bed every Christmas since then.

We can’t forget the hurryhurryhurry feeling that always shows up this time of year, but I wrote about that over at Lee’s, so there’s no need to repeat myself here.

Thanks again to Lee for inviting me to guest blog.  And here’s to you–the quilters who make the Christmas quilts and banners and gifts and pajamas (that one’s for you, Lisa).  I hope you have a lovely Christmas and holiday season.

Good Heart Quilters · Quilts

Holiday Quilt Night for the Good Heart Quilters

I’m sure I’ve told you, but our little quilt group–named The Good Heart Quilters–began when Lisa, majorly pregnant with her second daughter, enlisted my help (as well as few others) to get us all together to sew.  Our first quilt night was December of that year, and just about every month after that we loaded up our sewing machines, rulers, mats and rotary cutters on the first Friday and sewed until the caffeine from our stash of Coke and root beer wore off and we headed home, usually in the wee hours of the morning.

QuiltNightGang 12_12

Fast foward sixteen years.  Lisa is in the middle in the brown vest and still looks as young as she did that night (and by the way, she had her baby the next day).  We have some new Good Heart Quilters, but it’s fun to have this gang hang together as long as we have.  In the middle next to Lisa is Cindy of Live a Colorful Life, who joined us for the party (and stayed with me for the weekend). And now, everyone was cleared out by 10:30 p.m.


Leisa and I hosted this gig, and she arrived early to give my tired Christmas wreath a makeover.  Thanks, Leisa, it looks terrific (I didn’t get wreath-making DNA).



We set up two long tables, plus had the one in the kitchen, ready to go.  I hate juggling too many utensils, so Cindy and I set them out.  Cindy had arrived the day before, and that morning we had done a little shop-hop, but were back in time to set up the party.  I’d cooked up a slew of my mother’s chili on Thursday (because chili always tastes better the next day), Leisa brought rolls and sodas, and everyone brought the toppings.


Leisa found these sweet pincushions for everyone, and together we sewed a bunch of zippered pouches to give out as gifts (below).



Bethany brought two kinds of cupcakes: chocolate and white.


And she brought one of her first sewing projects to show us: a cute Christmasy pillowcase.


The chili and all the fixins.  Karen brought us some vegan chili, as we have a couple of women who are watching what they eat.  I like that our group changes and flexes to our needs.


Quilters in the kitchen. . .


. . . and the dining room.


After dinner and visiting, we got to work.  Lisa brought a yo-yo project and everyone helped.


Bridget curled up in a red chair to sew on her red/white quilt.


Simone’s working on her apple core quilt.  Someone commented that she seemd to have dressed to match what she was working on, but she denied any overt connection.


Kelly, who came just for a little holiday cheer and destressing, quickly joined us in visiting.


Tauni has finished two quilts–the one above, and the one below.



Tauni and Sara.


JoDy is getting the binding on a zoo-themed quilt.


Jean helped Lisa with the yo-yo project and in the background, Carol listens intently.


Cindy and Laurel talk shop: Farmer’s Wife blocks.  Seeing those blocks all together was really stunning.  It’s hard to appreciate them only on the blog.  I got a closer look the next day, when Cindy and I decided we’d had enough running around and hunkered down to sew.


This is the string of them, coming off the machine.  She was bordering them, but I kept finding ones that I loved.


Like this one.  Almost thou dost persuade me to make my own set, Cindy.  Almost. But I think I’ll just admire yours.


I got busy on the shams to go with the Christmas Star Quilt that I’d made a couple of years ago.  I did want to get these done last year, but we went to Ohio for Christmas, and then there was that cancer surgery thing I had to go through (I’m fine) but it sure disrupts a life.  So, better late than never. I’m guest-hosting at Lee’s Freshly Pieced Blog on Wednesday, so check back then for the finished reveal on the shams.

Sunday morning, the weekend with Cindy came to an end, when I drove her down to the train station to catch her ride home.  We were early, so sat and talked quilting stuff: blogs, creativity, challenges, feelings of inadequacy, and the impact of online distraction.  From our conversation, I have enough ideas for many more posts.  I appreciate my quilting friends–both those that I have had for many months and years–as well as those I meet online.


P.S.  Those of you who read my blog through your readers, click through to see the new Christmas banner at the top of my blog.  Some of these photos were taken when we lived in Virginia and are trees found around Washington DC during the holidays.



I had need to buy a passel of zippers (don’t ask questions around Christmastime!) and found a great online source I thought I’d share (and no, they aren’t paying me to write this).

It’s called Zipperstop.  I navigated to the photo above (under “closed zippers,” then “lightweight,” then “skirt and dress assortment”), which is an illustration of their 50-pack of zippers.  I only needed 25, and I needed them in rainbow colors.  I called the company (they’re in New York) and the person that answered the phone said to leave a note at checkout–there will be a box in which I could write them a note.  So I asked for an assortment of rainbow colors, which you see in the top photo.  I’m very happy with my zipper stash, and now wish I’d bought the full 50, as it’s such a deal (and they are high quality zippers).  Price? Very good, but  don’t forget that there is shipping.  Overall, it’s WAY cheaper than my big box fabric store.

Plus I like talking to people from New York.  They make my California accent sound bland.  But I do have to say that when I lived there, my neighbor came over that first week, and she was from Brooklyn.  We talked and she was lots of fun, so I told her I was trying to figure out where her accent came from.  “Accent?” she said.  “You’re the one with the accent.”

What else did I do this week?

1.  Graded my brains out (example of a guy-staple job on the corner of stack of papers)

2.  Took my quilt in to be quilted at Cathy’s

3.  Got rid of a sofa, got the carpets cleaned, and went to IKEA four times rounding up furniture (that includes returns and re-purchases of wrong items)

4.  Bought fabric.  This one’s from IKEA.  I think I’m the last to know about their fabric department but I have to say my husband was beyond patient while waiting for me to stop noticing bolts of fabric.

5.  Had Autumn.  This is it.  This one tree.  Hope you enjoyed the show as next week it will be summer again (we’ve had temperatures in the upper 70s and 80s this week–83 degrees on Thanksgiving, which is just un-American).

6. Had Thanksgiving.  And given the regularity of seeing the leftovers at mealtime, I’d say we’re still having it.  But last night we went out for Thai, today for lunch we just about killed the leftovers, so things are looking up in the meal department.  But it was a good feast and a lot of family put their feet under our table.

I’m completely in a L-tryptophan high, except for the fact that there are 12 boxes of Christmas sitting in front of the cars, waiting for someone to do something about it.

200 Quilts · Quilts · Something to Think About

Autumn Quilt

Autumn Quilt is just smoothed up on the wall (crookedly), but I’m happy to be at this place with this quilt.  I started collecting fabrics for it about 8 or 9 years ago, gathering up  reds and golds and earthy greens, browns and blacks with pattern.  I was mimicking a quilt design from a friend of mine who had made a similar quilt and I loved the way it glowed.

I used the basic Square-in-a-Square pattern, adjusting it so that these are nine-inch blocks.  I put the inner striped border on it and hung it in the closet last fall.  And it stayed there while I ruminated on and pondered the border.  My family has the Ruminating Gene in spades.

I showed some of the process in my last post, so I know this is a repeated tale.  Sorry.  But what was different was that I cut down the one-inch striped border to a half-inch sort of piping-effect border. I’m happy with it.

But when I put it all together, it was like there were doorways or gates on each side, letting the border go flabby.  While I may have to deal with flabby everything else, I’m not at all about to settle for flabby borders.  I unpicked and re-stitched to what is shown above.  I like it a lot better, and many thanks to my husband for helping me talk through that little knot of a problem.

I had one backing all picked out–a vintage piece of fabric, bought at a yard sale next to my sister-in-law’s house in Utah.  It just didn’t sing.  But this eight-year-old piece from Alexander Henry did.

I added two other fabrics with a orangey-blue tonality, and we were good to go.  So today, it did–off to the quilter’s.

I did other errands today made me glad to have a holiday that causes me to think about what I’m thankful for.  I ran into Joan in the grocery store — an 80-year-old friend — and she was buying a disposable roaster and colorful napkins.  The whole family, with grandchildren, boyfriends and everyone is at her house again, as they are every year.  Everyone helps but she confided she has a hard time getting the gravy made because “They want me out in the backyard playing croquet with them!”  And then as we were leaving, she gestured with her arm to the immaculate grocery store, perfection this morning at 8 a.m. before the hordes of Thanksgiving shoppers arrived, and said “When I look at this abundance, I feel like I need to give thanks to God all over again.”  I’ll be taking a wee break from blogging while I cook and peel and crimp and serve and oh yeah, clean up (as well as do a bit of grading and maybe even shopping) so I’m posting this holiday wish a bit early.

Like my friend Joan, this Thursday, I’ll be giving thanks to God for friends I’ve found in writing this blog and in participating in the quilting world.  You really do enrich my life with fabric chats, a little fun gossip now and again, and a sense that I belong to a vibrant community full of talent and enough quirkiness to make it interesting.

I’ll be giving thanks to God for his goodness in my life, for the gift of our children and grandchildren and in-laws and out-laws (hey, we all have a few).  I’m grateful to my mother and father for giving me atta’boys when I need it, and correcting my grammar and spelling when called for.  I’m happy to have sisters and brothers, and to have grown up in a family so large that we had to learn to share, yet small enough that when one of us is down, the others all know and want to help.

I have many ways to count the blessings in my life and will be doing just that on Thursday, feeling the Lord’s kindness rain down. And I wish this all for you.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!