Friendship Cross-X Block Swap, January 2014



Jan CrossX quilt blocks lined up

Since it’s the last Friday of the month, it’s time to post our Friendship Cross-X block swap blocks.  Say that one five times really fast.  Our Flickr group is *here* and you can grab a quilty pal and start anytime! Above are my four blocks, and no, you’re not seeing double.  Well, you are, but it’s supposed to be that way.

Jan CrossX Quilt Blocks ESE

Krista, of KristaStitched, is my quilt-swap buddy, and I sent off her blocks and received some in return:

Jan CrossX Quilt Blocks ESEKS

Look how nice they play together.  We began to notice some variation creeping into our blocks, and took the time to really study what was going on them.


I did a search on these blocks and found this display (not our blocks).  I’ve circled the different blocks; can you see why?  It’s the weensy little background triangles.  As Krista and I talked we noticed that most of these tiny triangle blocks, or as I refer to them, the backiest-of-the-background triangles, are from the same fabrics.  I don’t think others in the Friendship Swap run into this, because all of theirs seem to be controlled colors and hues.  But Krista and I decided to go for it, and make ours scrappy, so are discovering things about the block that we hadn’t noticed before.

We now plan to make sure our backgrounds (our backiest-backgrounds) are all the same, and to keep with our two basic rules:  1) add some text somewhere in the block and 2) keep a strong contrast between the X and the + parts.  Sometimes the littlest changes can have big impacts.

CrossX Quilt Blocks January2014

And here they all are together!

4-in-art_3Come back tomorrow, February 1st for the reveal of our second challenge of the Urban series: Structures.  There are eight of us doing this Four-In-Art Art quilt challenge (so named for the four challenges we have a year), and I’ll present mine as well as link to the other quilts.

Four-in-Art · Quilts

WIP on a Thursday

WIP on

I love that Lee, of Freshly Pieced Fabrics, forgot to put up Works In Progress Wednesday until today, for that’s about the speed I’m moving at this week and it makes me feel better that there’s someone else on the planet who is marching to a different drummer.

4-in-art_3But today’s WIP is all about the upcoming Four-in-Art reveal of our art quilts, on Saturday, February 1st (just listen to me hyperventilate!).

Baby Envelope Quilt

This is as far as I’ve gotten–making wee envelope blocks for an idea that is cooking, even percolating, but going no where fast.  Grading, prepping for class and of course, a trip to the Road to California Quilt Show (with Deborah of Simply Miss Luella and Cindy of Live A Colorful Life and my quilt group, The Good Heart Quilters) for the next two days are Mighty Interrupters.  The overarching theme for this year’s Four-in-Art is Urban, and last quarter’s reveal was “Maps.”  This time it is “Structure.”

Birdhouse Burano

I’d thought about recreating a structure on a structure, like this small birdhouse on an existing wall of a house.

Building Gold

Building Silver

Or doing something with these amazing buildings in downtown Pittsburgh; one picture was taken in the late afternoon (the top one) and the other was taken in the morning.

Canal Burano

Picturesque Burano also captured my heart, but I decided that given the parameters of our group’s art (it has to be 12″ square), I’d rather save this for another day when I have a bigger canvas.  And more skills.  (Throw “more time” in there too.)

Freeway bridges PIttsburgh

I love the structure of these freeways, but it reminded me too much of a map, which was last quarter’s reveal.  So what am I cooking with, with baby envelopes tacked up on my pin wall?

See you in a week, and we’ll both find out.


A New Place to Photograph My Quilts

I was looking for a way to hang my quilts just for taking a photo of them.  You saw my old set-up in an earlier post–stapled sheet to garage door, which doesn’t exist anymore.  And while my sister and I were hanging out last week, waiting for her husband to finish getting his cancer treatment, we found clothespin bags, complete with clothesline and pins in Crate and Barrel for cheap.  I bought one and began scheming.

Hook Inside Faschia

Overhanging out house is this fascia board.  My husband put two hooks, about 110″ inches apart, and we strung that clothesline between them, supporting them with two cup hooks, also equally spaced.

Hanging Quilt

Then I got out the steps tool from the kitchen and hung up the quilt myself, as that was one of the criteria for my “studio.”  You can see the line is hidden and just the tips of the clothespins show in the picture.  But we found that this Amish quilt was too tall for the set-up.  It’s about the biggest quilt I’ve ever made, and it dragged slightly on the cement.  Yes, I should have put down the garage door, except right about this time two neighbors came over from two different houses to ask me about this quilt, and how could I interrupt that lovely experience?

As quilters, we are usually holed up in a room upstairs, or a basement downstairs, and only other quilters see our work on Instagram or on blogs.  So, today, this quilt saw the light of day.  I take it next week to go to Road to California to choose some thread.  I’ve had some great suggestions from an earlier post, including thinking about using lavender thread–brilliant!  Thank you all for your great suggestions; I’ll consider them all.


(my bag is similar to this photo, snagged from the web)

After I took off the clothespins, I slipped the clothesline off the hooks and stored it all away until the next time I need to photograph a quilt, and my husband isn’t around to hold up the corners.

Free Quilt Pattern · Quilt Bee · Quilts · Something to Think About · Tutorial

Oh, The Places I’ve Been!

Well.  I’m exaggerating a bit.


I went into Los Angeles to meet my sister, who was accompanying her husband for his treatments here, in the Saperstein Center, at Cedars Sinai Hospital.  I’m including this photo so my mother will know what it looks like.  It’s a comfortable room, with private bays all along the sides of the main room.  My sister and I curl up in the comfy chemo chairs (that aren’t being used, of course) and talk while we wait to visit with him.  But this time while he was in treatment and couldn’t be visited, we first went to lunch at a favorite place of mine:

Sycamore Kitchen Yummies

Sycamore Kitchen, which has very inventive and delicious food.

Then to The Grove, where we hit Barnes and Noble because I was looking for Quilty Magazine, because I’d just hit print:

Gingham Quilt

My gingham quilt was featured in “Girls on Film,” paired with Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ.

Gingham Quilt front

Here’s a better look at it, and here’s the blog post about it.  We didn’t find the magazine; my issue came a couple of days later in the mail.


And then Nordstrom’s where just seeing these makes my feet hurt.  The heels on the left remind me of my mother’s “spectator” pumps, worn for years and very stylish.



Then back to the hospital.  We later had dinner at a lovely little Italian place, then it was home for me, as we were both tired and she had to drive to her hotel.


Another place I’ve been is my local community college, where school started.  (The white blobs are where I whited out each student’s name.)  This ought to give you a representative sample of who is in my classroom. I finally have a great class! (Intro to Literature) and I’m more excited to teach this semester than I have been in a while.

Square-in-Square Blocks

I’ve also found a few minutes to spend in the sewing room.  No, I’m not playing in the Economy Block Sew-a-Long.  The pretty pink, yellow and chocolate square-in-a-square blocks are for a friend’s baby quilt, and I’ve already sent them to the quilter who is putting it all together.  We used Red Pepper Quilt’s tutorial *here.*

Into the Woods front

I’ve  already made a quilt out of the (officially known) Square-in-a-Square block, in my quilt “Into the Woods,” (number 103 on the 200 Quilts list, shown below), so I’m squared out. The block in my quilt above is 9″ square, larger than the baby blocks, and I drafted it in my quilt software, QuiltPro.

ABL Jan14 block

This is the block for January for the Always Bee Learning Bee.  Toni of Hoosier Toni wants to make Christmas quilts for her children’s bed, and I thought her choice of the SpiderWeb block was great.

ABL Block with extra Jan14

This is like the one we made a couple of months ago for another bee; the tutorial is found *here.*

MCM January14 Block

This is for the Mid-Century Modern Bee, for Linda of Buzzing and Bumbling.  Her house burned to the ground right before Thanksgiving last year, so we were happy to make her house blocks to help her re-create her life in a new fashion.  This is my own design.  I’ve got a PDF file of the templates here: *Hyde Park House*, but I have to warn you that since it’s a 12″ block finished, some of the templates “fall” off the page, and you’ll have to figure it out the measurements.  What I did was measure the templates, then write the measurements down on the paper.  Then I used that as a guide for cutting out the pieces.  Somehow I ended up short on the height and had to add another strip of green on the bottom.  Just don’t be too precious about this and you’ll get through.  Hey, it’s free and untested, so Buyer Beware.

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 5.08.48 PM

Lastly, my mind has been in Budapest, Croatia and Slovenia, places I hope to go to this summer.  The challenge is when you are in lots of places, it’s sometimes hard to figure out where you need to be.  Today I needed to be here in my sewing room, finishing up the Amish With A Twist 2 quilt top (next post).

And often when you are too distracted with your head in many places, you fall into the procrastinating habit.  I had a student from my last class write to me, as she was worried about trying to overcome her habit of procrastination (although her habit is very slight, truthfully). I told her I sometimes ask myself “What do I want to have done before this day ends?” and sometimes that helps.  Other times it is just not wanting to face that dreaded task every day, so you finally find the resources to get it done.

Although you might think this doesn’t really apply to us quilters, I think it does.  Sometimes we put off tackling the really hard tasks and instead do our bee blocks (Ahem.)  Other times we have sketched out a terrific quilt, but are seduced by the latest trend on Instagram (Economy Blocks) and let that pull us away from doing the hard work of designing and figuring out the quilt in our head.

An article in the New Yorker noted that “The essence of procrastination lies in not doing what you think you should be doing, a mental contortion that surely accounts for the great psychic toll the habit takes on people. This is the perplexing thing about procrastination: although it seems to involve avoiding unpleasant tasks, indulging in it generally doesn’t make people happy.”

So I’m trying to figure out which place I should go next, which direction I should head in my quilting.  Shall I fall back on something easier to do than what I have to (“we often procrastinate not by doing fun tasks but by doing jobs whose only allure is that they aren’t what we should be doing”) , distract myself by buying more fabric (judging from the recent Instagram De-Stash, a lot of people have been doing this one!), or simply surf the web some more to get so many ideas, I can’t possibly make them all in my lifetime (“many studies suggest that procrastinators are self-handicappers: rather than risk failure, they prefer to create conditions that make success impossible, a reflex that of course creates a vicious cycle”).

Ultimately, it comes down to Getting The Work Done: “Since open-ended tasks with distant deadlines are much easier to postpone than focussed, short-term projects, dividing projects into smaller, more defined sections helps.”  And aren’t most of our UFOs the result of procrastination?

So get yourself a notebook, break down the quilt you want to make into smaller steps, and check them off as you go.  It also helps to set a deadline–try the Finish-A-Long if you need a little help with that; because of that I finished several dead-in-the-water quilt tops, surprising even myself with twenty-four completed quilts in 2013.  Not all of these were begun and finished in that calendar year, but that’s when they came alive.    I’ll close with some lines from one of my son’s favorite books, “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” by Dr. Seuss:

On and on you will hike
and I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.

So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.


Happy Quilting!


A Record of Quilts–Making A Quilt List

I have two links up above, one titled “100 Quilts List” and the other “200 Quilts List.”  It’s been interesting to be able to say with some accuracy how many quilts I’ve made over my lifetime, but I didn’t start those lists when I first started quilting.

Dad's Art Book Pages

Those lists began because of my father’s journal of his paintings (this is one volume of five), which are a record of how he created them, colors he chose, inspiration, sketches.  My friend Lisa also had a quilt journal and when she showed it to me, some time ago, I was in an insanely busy time of life and thought I could never do such a thing.  But life changes, from busy to not-so-busy, and as an experienced quilter, I began to want a record of my work in this life that didn’t vanish under dust or dirt, or disappear into a student’s backpack, never to be looked at again.  I began quilting in my twenties, some four decades ago, so that was a lot of quilts to account for.

CCA holding quilts

And once I started my journal, I wanted it to be accurate, a habit that has come about because I am married to a scientist, and we are all about accuracy in this house.  I started making a list, pulling photos from albums, and bugging my children to let me come and photograph their quilts.  That’s my oldest son, Chad, above.  We met one day at his work and we laid out the quilts he had in the conference room, so we could photograph them.

Photographing Quilts

At that time, we had wooden lift-up garage doors, and I stapled a white sheet to the front, set up a table and gathered every quilt from what I had in our house to photograph.  I pinned the quilts as straight as I could to the sheet and waited until the sun had moved off the door, so I could get an even tone (adjusting for the shadow).  It took me about three days, and the neighbors were quite entertained by all my going up and down the stepladder, photographing the front, turning the quilt over (you see a back up there), and then a few close-ups here and there.


Another time, I drove to Arizona, where two of my children lived, set up a borrowed frame and pinned and photographed, over and over, with grandchildren watching, finally being allowed to wrap up in their baby quilts.

MeganPeter SunandSea

I started going through all my digital photographs, looking for quilts.  Above are Peter and Megan the night before their marriage, holding a quilt I gave them.  And from all these sources, I started compiling my list in a simple spreadsheet.  Where I had dimensions, I put them in.  Dates were critical, but I decided to keep it just to the year.  Was the quilt labeled?  Photographed?  I noted that too.  A couple of quilts are gone forever, but I remembered them, and tried to put them in where I could, numbering and re-numbering.

I decided to only include finished & quilted tops, but I know Thelma, of Cupcakes and Daisies counts hers by pieced tops.  However you decide to count yours, I would encourage you to start writing down what you have accomplished.  I guess the biggest pay-off came from me when I came home from Arizona with those frames and was able to photograph some of the larger bed-sized quilts that I couldn’t accommodate on the garage door.

Clay's Choice

This is Clay’s Choice.  The first big quilt I’ve ever made.

My husband helped me put it up on the frames and I stepped back a bit to photograph it, then looked up from the camera to really see it.  This was the first time I had seen my quilt off of a bed, all arrayed in its beginner-quilter glory.  I paused and studied it–the white floral sheets, the solid greens, the Clay’s Choice triangles in a dainty blue print spinning around, each in their own block.  I remember tracing around cardboard to get those shapes, stitching the blocks, and hand-quilting it over several years on a small portable frame.  I looked at it, all the memories of the making, here, visible in this fabric concoction, never needing to be dusted, or re-done, or rewritten.  This quilt, nearly 35-years old, captured all of that in its pieces, waving back and forth in the late afternoon breeze.

“Everything okay?” my husband asked.

Oh, yes.  Everything is just fine.

Quilt Shows · Quilts

Amish Quilt, in progress


Finished the inner top.  Put on two borders and still have one border to go this gigantic quilt (finishing at 105″ square).  What was I thinking?

AWAT-detail Jan_2014

I was thinking I loved the colors, the sparkle of the brights, and the use of solids.

Quilt Border Fail

This picture is titled Border Fail.  They sent me 2 5/8 yards of Blue Coal (it’s a nighttime photo, so all the colors are wacky), and after dinner I was tired but wanted to push on to finish the quilt.  So I came upstairs and whack, whack, whack started cutting crosswise strips to piece together for the outside border.  After I’d cut about half the strips, I realized they sent me enough to do a lengthwise cut for that outside border, which would really stabilize the quilt.  I slumped into my chair, and yes, got all teary about how dumb I was.  I was tired.  My husband said some “there, there, theres” and I ordered a new swath of Blue Coal from an online shop, which should be here by the end of next week.

Lessons learned: husband is a gem, mistakes can be made, especially if I’m tired, and beware of cutting after dinnertime.  I’d already put on the first inner border, and the little squares border.  Now that’s an exercise in frustration.  Those squares NEVER fit, so you go back in and stitch another 1/16″ of a seam on a few squares, inching it down to fit. If you want to see what I’m working toward, here’s a photo of Amish With A Twist–II:

AWAT2_someone else's

Here’s Amish with A Twist–Version I, and it’s really big, too.AmishWithATwist2011

Found this on the web when I went searching for ideas on how to quilt my quilt.  Which won’t be done until NEXT week now.

So the center of my version, Amish With A Twist-2,  is this lighter set of fabrics, so that would call out for beige or cream or light gray or something.  But then the outer is darker, so that indicates black or dark gray.  And I’m having this done by my long-armer, and to keep it affordable, I’ll probably do an edge to edge design.

AWAT1 quilting

This quilter had hers done in colorful variegated thread, which she showed on another page.  That’s certainly an option, as it does melt into the light-colored fabrics.  But I’m not too crazy about how it looks on the dark black.  My version doesn’t have that dark black thing, so maybe it will be okay.  What would you choose?  Road to California is coming up in a couple of weeks and I can pick up some Superior Thread there.  Any ideas?

Road to California Logo

And if you are going to Road to California, want to try for a meet up–say Friday, late afternoon?  That will give the out-of-towners time enough to get there, and by then, I’ll be ready to call it done for the day.  If you are going, leave a comment, and we’ll figure out a place.  Possibly near the ice cream cones.  Or cookies.


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