Sand, Sea, Schnibbles and Y-seams

Joyce Carol Oates, the very prolific American novelist and writer was asked what she did when she finished a novel.  Did she go on vacation?  Did she stare into space? “I read poetry,” she said. “I find it is good to let the mind rest a bit from the ardors of a novel.” Well, at least that’s how I remember it, when I attended her lecture as a graduate student at our local University of California.

Sea and Sand Quilt Top Schnibbles

After last week’s wrestling of the difficult quilt (coming up), this is my poetry after a novel, say, The Brothers Karamasov, or something.  I missed last month’s Schnibbles outing–too busy with the beginning of the school year, but I was pretty determined to do one this month.  It was a squeeze play, especially after I started reading the directions.  I couldn’t make heads or tails of them, as it was a pattern geared strictly to pre-cuts, which I don’t generally buy.

Back Sea and Sand

(I like the back with its little open four-patches seam allowances.)

I stormed downstairs all lathered up about my frustration, but luckily my sister Susan had given me a treat to assuage the raging quilter within: some delicious cookies from Joan’s on Third in Los Angeles.  It rescued me, and I went back upstairs, figured out how to cut strips from my fabric and get going.  If you are not a pre-cut user, you have been warned.  However, there is a nifty method for making those pieced triangles/checkerboards in the corner, so Miss Rosie’s pattern company was redeemed again.  (Still think there should be directions for those of us who use fabric-by-the-yard!)


The original pattern’s name is Mercerie, and they do it in many different fabrics, hence, the need for charm pack directions.

And the Y-seams?

FAL Tutorial Header

On Tuesday, I’ll be doing a guest-blog post about how to sew the Dreaded Y-seam.  Stop by Leanne’s, of http://shecanquilt.blogspot.com to see the secrets.

In the meantime, read some poetry.  Here’s one from the Poetry Daily website:

On My Seventieth Birthday I Try to Skinny-dip in Boston Harbor
by Sandra Kohler

I cover my nakedness this morning
with an outsize purple tee, “Outrageous
older woman” scrawled in pink across
the chest. A gift from my son, daughter-
in-law. Beneath it, the only part of
my body where my skin fits me still,
unmarred by time—my shoulders.

Sunrise, ebb tide, half an inch of water
covering Tennean Beach’s pebbles, mud
I sink into as soon as I step out toward
dawning sun. Planning this baptism I
forgot to check tide charts: I’d have to
wade through seventy feet of muck to get
my feet wet: no quick strip and dip here.

Turning seventy: I never imagined this.
Years ago, when I’m visiting my eighty-
something mother-in-law, she’s gossiping
about a neighbor, calls her “an old lady”
—stops herself, says, “I know I’m old
too, but not inside.” Inside, what age
am I? Thirty, eighty, fourteen?

Will sinking into this muck renew me?
On the drive home, passing a shallow
wetland between abandoned factories,
I see a flash of white: two egrets gingerly
wading, stepping, spreading their wings
in the risen light over a brood of hatched
fledglings, as new as aging is to me.


Autumn Tote and Center Square

Hotel Room

This week I spent holed up in hotel room, sewing on fun things left and right.

Autumn Tote Bag

And some not so fun things, that turned out to be fun things, once they turned out.

 The Autumn Tote (above) is one of the fun things that turned out quickly.  It was my second time making this pattern, and I was able to use what I’d learned last time and make the needed tweaks to the pattern so it turned out much faster in the sewing time.

Autumn Tote Bag_3

This is the class sample for the class I’ll be teaching on October 22, Tuesday evening from 6-8:30 p.m., if you are in the area.  I’ll be teaching it at Bluebird Quilts in Grand Terrace, California (phone number is 909-514-0333).  I love the rich tones of autumn in this piece.  This tote is big enough that I can get my iPad in here with no problem.

Autumn Tote Bag Interior

If you decide to make it, pick something fun and whimsical for the interiors!

Juxtaposition in process

Full reveal comes in a future post, but finally! I was able to move this quilt from Problem Child to Model Student.  It all came because of a comment on my post from Linda, who noted that besides all the other things I mentioned, the ferns were headed in the wrong direction.  A redraw, and a few other tricks which I’ll mention later, and I was on my way.  Here it is in an interim step, threads hanging out and everything!

Pacific Grove

Tomorrow we leave from home after one last walk along the beach here in Pacific Grove (California), watching the colors on the rocks change as the sun rises.  It’s been a lovely time.

100 Quilts · Finish-A-Long · Quilts

At the Bandstand, Under a Starry Night


 At the Bandstand, Under a Starry Night, front

I’ve written about this quilt on this blog before, where I referred to it as Hunter’s Star, a description of the block.  But now it is finished, binding and all, and has a new name: At the Bandstand, Under a Starry Night.

SFO Bay Bridge_1

I’ve done a couple of “under the starry night” experiences this past week, and there’s also been some bandstanding, or music.  The photo above is of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, where they have an LED art installation, The Bay Lights, which makes patterns with fish swimming across the bridge, clouds, waves, shooting lines, sparkly doodads and all sorts of patterns.  We drove up to San Francisco to see this, as it’s only here for two years.

SFO City LIghts

And here’s The City’s lights, with the Ferry Building in the foreground.  I had first made this quilt for my youngest son’s college quilt.  He was enamored of music of all kinds, acquiring the nickname of Audioman, so I incorporated music-themed fabric into the Hunter’s Star design, a personal favorite.


 At the Bandstand, Under a Starry Night, back

However, he took one look at it and kind of squinched up his eyes, subtly shook his head and didn’t say much.  I figured it out, and made him a different one (#43 on the 100 Quilts List), which he liked much better.  This one sat around.


I pulled it out because I’d put it on my Finish-A-Long list, rummaged through my fabric stash, finding the borders already cut out.  I slipped in the yellow inner border for some variety (funny how your quilting tastes change), found a large piece of IKEA fabric and put a back on it so my quilter could get it quilted for me.

BandstandStarryNight_back detail

Back detail

As you all know, it had been a beyond-stressful week for me not only for my own puny reasons, but troubles within my larger circle of people I love.  And then the landline phone on the house telephone went out.  That’s it, I said.  So I sat down and put on the binding, and Friday morning found me traveling north with my husband to a scientific conference.  I happily stitched as he drove.


 quilt on a large cypress tree, outside our hotel room

So we found ourselves here in Monterey and it’s the jazz festival — a Big Deal, with Big Names — jazz in the lounge, on the stereo, musical instruments being seen everywhere.  And I thought of the best kind of music, being played with great affection and intensity under a starry night, perhaps even by a band on a bandstand on a summery night, and so the quilt found its name, and its finish.


FinishALong Button

This is one of my project on the Finish-A-Long list, and quilt #47 on my 100 Quilts List.  Yes, I went backwards.  (Although now I only list them when they are completed, earlier I slipped in a couple of tops only.)

Classes · Quilts

Not All Dirt and Rocks

The quilting community is priceless–I see it on blogs, on Instagram, in quilt shops, and in smaller groups that gather together.  And in my case, this week, the comments I received about my frustration with my quilting buoyed me up and gave me lots to think about.

quilting tools

The first thing I did was buy a couple of more tools to help me.  Both Amie and Pip, in their comments, steered me back to Leah Day’s FMQ site, and then to Diane Gaudynski’s blog, where I learned tons of things by reading through all of her posts (loved the one about *batting*).  One of the things I learned was continuing education is invaluable, as new tools (above), ideas and techniques are always evolving and I Need To Keep Up.  Practice is mandatory, other commenters reminded me, and to not despair that my quilting is not like that of the long-armers. I loved the quote that Dot sent over, and also this one by Ursula La Guin:

If you see a whole thing, it seems that it’s always beautiful. Planets, lives… But up close a world’s all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern.

And I guess I should add that quilting seems to be best looked at as a “whole thing.”  I am thankful for those who read my blog, reminding me not to focus on the dirt and rocks, but to keep the vision–to not lose the pattern.

Lollypop Class

One of the little miracles this week was teaching my Lollypop Treat class at Bluebird Quilts & Gallery.  I had six great and enthusiastic students (one was camera shy), shown here the second week, bringing back in their own Lollypop Treat blocks.  Each is so different and so wonderful, and I had such a great time.  A couple of them became readers of this blog, so to them I say–thanks for joining in the adventure!

New tote bag fabrics

The owner, Janet, saw my Tote and thought it would make a great class, so she picked out some fall-themed fabrics, with a fun pop of Halloween for the lining.  It’s an evening class, just one day, on October 22, from 6-8:30 p.m. if you’d care to join us. (You can reach the shop by calling (909) 514-0333.)


This is the tote that I made–I’ve been using it as my purse and I’m really liking it, even though it’s probably not what you’d see in the fashion magazines.  But I need a purse that I can throw stuff in, and that has pockets, and that I can set on the floor if needed.  I also love my higher-end leather purses, but in truth, that’s not always the kind of life I lead.  And this suits me.

May you have a good week, working on the Dirt and Rocks, but keeping an eye on the bigger whole.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Lee’s Freshly Pieced blog.

WIP new button


Quilting. . . and a Sticky Question

Facets Quilting_1

It begins here.  I printed off a picture of my quilt, then took a fine-point sharpie to “quilt” in the designs I thought I would do.

Facets Quilting_2

Then this happens.  Over and over, on each row.  For every hour quilting, I spent half an hour unpicking.  Wrong color thread.  Wrong pattern.  Wrong shape.  Wrong style.

Facets Quilting_4

Finally, things start working.

Facets Quilting_3

Facets Quilting_5

I admit it.  The last row got stippled, as I was pretty tired and my shoulders hurt from quilting.

Facets Quilted_1

I put it up on the pin wall, but something’s not working.

Three Tries for Facet

I pin up different centers–hard to see on this small picture, but I know it’s the center.  I call in my resident quilt expert.  “Looks nice,” he says, in the same tone of voice as when he answers the question “Does this make me look fat?”  I know now what is wrong, but I am loathe to admit it.  I turn out the light and go to bed.

Facets unpicking_1

In the morning, I pick up my seam ripper.  Unpicking dense quilting gives you a chance to think.  A lot.  Here comes the sticky question, but first the set-up.  I own a good-quality Viking/Husqvarna sewing machine, but it was purchased before we all started quilting so much on our quilts, even though it is called the Quilt Designer.  After three tries, I finally found the foot that works for me, the tension, the everything to allow me to quilt on my machine.  But my quilting doesn’t look like Judi Madsen’s on The Green Fairy, or on other blogs that I haunt.  And I know why: my domestic sewing machine, without a stitch regulator, cannot compare to what a long-arm can do.  Or even a baby long-arm.  It’s just me and the thread, me and the pedal, my hands moving supposedly in sync with the speed of the machine.

But it’s not enough anymore, is it?

Facets unpicking_2

What was wrong with the middle was my quilting.  The shape of the fern, the stitches that hover near even, but occasionally veer into very small or a bit-too-big, the whatever–it was just wrong.  Free-Motion Quilting — the REAL free-motion quilting, has its warts, showing the artisan behind the tool.  But that’s not what we are after anymore, is it?  We want perfection: no bobbles, no wobbles.

So after three hours of unpicking, I am back here.  And the reality of where our industry is heading today is that if I want a quilt that I feel I can enter in a show, or display wherever, I’ll have to step up on the quilting front, because no matter how you look at it, the ones with the bigger, more extensive machines with stitch regulators will always have it over me on my little domestic machine. Because of the limitations of my tools, I don’t know if I can make it right.

But I’ll try.


Note: You may occasionally see ads here placed by my blogging software.  They place ads so I can blog for free.  It’s an okay trade-off.


From Baskets to a Museum–more quilts in Utah

While visiting relatives in Utah, just before I tucked into the new semester of teaching (which would explain why I have been AWOL for a couple of weeks), my husband and I headed to Salt Lake City’s newest museum: The Natural History Museum, high up above the University of Utah.  It is a gorgeous museum, complete with artifacts, history and dinosaur bones.

Nati'l History Museum Baskets

But I was more interested in the woven baskets in the Native People’s exhibit.  I guess I’m fascinated by color and pattern, in all forms.

Lino Quilt

Which is why I found this piece of art, in the Millcreek Library so fascinating.  That library, where my sister-in-law Annie works, has a Senior Citizen’s center, a gym, a cafeteria and of course, art.

Lino Quilt detail

This appears to make of some sort of plasticized material–almost like a thin linoleum, cut and sewn in quilt patterns.  I loved it.

Polaroid CameraQuilt

I had brought up my Polaroid Quilt to show my mother, and my dad held up his finger as if to signal a pause and came back carrying this: a genuine, bonafide Polaroid camera.  Of course, there’s not any film to be found for it anymore, but I thought it deserved a picture with the quilt.


On the way home, we headed to the Springville Art Museum, which hosts a quilt show every August.  I snapped a lot of photos, but here are just some of them.  This one is titled Juxtaposition and is by Marilyn Landry Toone, and was inspired by her daughter’s choice of fabrics from her “fabric stash of 40-plus years.”


I’ve Had the Blues is made by Jacque Thompson and quilted by Kim Peterson, and was made “entirely out of scraps using one-inch strips.”

Springville_Thompson detail

Detail of the beautiful quilting.


Kristen Roylance’s quilt Posy Patch was made using a modified disappearing 4-patch block, and was quilted by Molly Kohler.  The dimensional flowers were charming.

Springville_Roylance detail

Springville_quilt detail

I snapped this one without noting who made or quilted it–it’s really beautiful and detailed.


“Look, honey,” I said to my husband.  “A Dear Jane quilt!”  “Dear what?” he said.  The title of this one is Dear Jane Invites Hannah for a Dutch Treat, and is made and quilted by Shirley Olsen.  It was a masterpiece and earned an Award of Excellance from the judges.


Marion McClellan’s Bottle Cap Bangles is a fun use of hexagrams and fussy-cut fabric.  She also quilted her piece.


This quilt, Zinnia Basket, was made and quilted by Patti Jacobs, from a Kim Diehl pattern.  Apparently she used to think that quilters were nuts to “spend time doing hand appliqué when you could sew the pieces on with the sewing machine,” but now is a dedicated lover of appliqué.

Springville_Jacobs detail

I really liked the border.


Kaye Evans quilt, Just One Weed, is named for the dandelion hexagon in the middle of the quilt.  It was quilted by Sue McCarty.


The quilt display was merged with a display of giant critters made out of auto body parts, springs, doodads and whatevers.

Camera Bug

I liked Tim Little’s Camera Bug the best.


My husband knows just what to do at a quilt show: become like a camera bug and start taking photos.  Many of these photos are his–he’s a delight, but was probably relieved that there was no vendor mall here.


Ladies of the Sea was made by Karin Lee Crawford and quilted by Judy Madsen.  It was a pattern from Sue Garmen depicting famous rigged sailing vessels from around the world.

Springville_Crawford detail

Detail.  I have to assume that the quilter is really Judi Madsen, of Green Fairy fame, but I could be wrong.  It was gorgeous in both the making and the quilting.


And to finish up this little quilt show, a Log Cabin quilt.  Megan Christensen made the quilt, but didn’t identify the quilter.  The title is A Good Use of Scraps, inspiring us all to get going on our scrap baskets!

Springville_Christensen detail