Leisa and the Sawtooth Star Quilt

Leisa and I at quilt show

Back in the day, Leisa and I were always hanging out at quilt shows. But now, she spends a lot of her getting chemo treatments, dealing with ALLeukemia, and hanging out at UCIrvine, where she is being treated.

LeisaJohn on NBC news

Here’s a video clip from the NBC Nightly News that explains it all.

So I floated the idea of a quilt for her, texting out little group of sewers who have hung out for a while.  Everyone was on board: Lisa, Marlene, Laurel, Caitlin, Simone, Beth and I.  But what block?  Well, you know I’ve had Sawtooth Stars on the brain since the beginning of the year, so we all scrambled to put blocks together, with Laurel sewing the blocks together and our quilter, Cathy, getting it done in record time.  Laurel bound it for us, too.

LeisaSawtoothQlt grouping

Laurel and I worked on the arrangement for all the fun Sawtooth blocks we received from everyone.  We finished it in time for Leisa’s birthday, and Laurel took it over to her.

LeisaSawtoothQlt_0

A couple of weeks later, I had the chance to catch Leisa in between hospital visits.  (Her dog Marley loves the quilt.)

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Close-ups so you can see the quilting of loops and hearts and flowers.  Cathy shut down her business after this, so it was one of the last quilt tops she did.

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The backing is the Tula print with bears all over it.  Because of this we called the quilt:

Leisa Quilt Label

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And then this arrived in the mail: I’ve known Leisa for years, and she knows the way to my heart is a lovely note.  Tomorrow she heads back to her hospital for more treatments, and we hope our hugs provide solace as she works her way through this difficult part of her life.  My heart goes out to her and to her family, and I’m cognizant of others who have suffered the ravages of cancer.  I can only hope for healing for you all.

tiny nine patches

Shu Embroidery

Recently I learned of a young woman on YouTube, Liziqi, who is worth watching.  As one commenter wrote, “Li Ziqi makes Martha Stewart look like a slacker.”  I learned about her video on garlic through the seasons and I was hooked (trust me, you have to watch this).

I found the episode about Shu Embroidery.  She doesn’t actually weave the base cloth for her embroidery in this episode, but I have no doubt that she probably could.  (In this video, she makes a quilt).  The music is tasteful, the mood serene, and the fantasy about living off the land in the Chinese countryside is complete.  While I usually shy away from excessive YouTube watching, I’m going to make an exception for Liziqi.

Liziqi screen shot

To you, to Leisa: Life isn’t easy, as a screen shot from Liziqi’s website attests.  And while her saying is a bit cheesy, it does have some truth:  we can live with our hearts engaged, thinking about each other, and bringing forward our best offerings.

Like a quilt.

Bee Happy in April 2020

While I titled this Bee Happy in April 2020, part of that is a statement: I’m working on my Bee Happy Quilt, started at least a year ago.  But part of that is also a question: is it possible to be happy in April 2020?  Let’s tackle the first, wander through the second and I promise I’ll leave you with something funny.

BeeHappy6_2

Like many of you I’ve been reading — no, gorging — on the news at this time, and one article about how nature is taking back the canals of Venice, the meadows of Yosemite and how we are seeing less pollution in our skies also commented on the amount of bird songs available now to us in our own backyards.  So one mopey day, I pulled out my Lori Holt Bee Happy quilt (!) and started anew.  I sat at the kitchen table, stitching, listening to the avian calls, and took a break from the chatter.

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BeeHappy6_1
BeeHappy6_full quilt April 2020

Hens stitched, blocks sewn and what I’ve finished is all smoothed out onto my design wall, a sort of vertical storage these days. Three of her rows are finished, ending with the clucking hen sisters.  I numbered how many I have left: 13 blocks.

I’ve been making a little tip sheet to go along with all the weeks on Lori Holt’s blog, where she has all her photos and pictures.  However, sometimes the info is not arranged as easily as I would like, and so I offer these as an adjunct to those working on the quilt who also need a bit more.  Click to download the PDF files. They are found on a page up in the tab section, under 2020 Projects, if you need to find them again.

Bibimbap Bowl
African Peanut Stew

I laugh at those COVID-19 memes that list a full menu for dinner on the first three days then devolve down to cereal and soda by Day 20.  I alternate between complete angst at dinner time and diving in to make a cool meal.  Here are two of my successes: bibimbap (top) and African Peanut Stew (bottom, recipe on ElizabethCooks.com).  My daughter, who lives too far away, has been baking these:

Barbara Macarons

Baking and selling them.  She’s really mastered this treat.

Like the rest of you, I spend far too much time scrolling on my phone, I’ve been happy to see the contests sponsored by major museums across the world to have those of us keeping quarantine to mimic famous works of art.

Art Imitation Frida Kahlo
Art imitation Last Supper
Art Imitation Rivera
Covid Meme Quarantine houses

I also follow the hashtag #quarantineart to break up the quilty quality of my IG feed, where I found this image.

Other components of our COVID-19 lives: Zoom conferences (this time with my brothers and sisters and my two elderly parents highly quarantined in their senior living building), memes, walks around our neighborhood in the morning, and finally, peering into the homes of TV newscasters, where I spotted a quilt on the back of a sofa.  Hey!  A quilter lives there…or at least they appreciate a quilt.

So, can we be happy in April 2020?  Possibly.  Probably.  Often.  Sometimes. Always.  Occasionally.

In January 2020, way back in another time and place, my local quilt shop asked us to nominate someone who could use a sewing machine in their lives, along with some sewing helps from Olfa and fabric from the store.  I wrote about my friend Hayley, a young mom who is in my First Monday Sew-day group, who has really taken to quilting.  She’s the wife a medical student, and has a sweet young daughter.  I then waited…and waited…and finally heard this week that she had been chosen!

Hayley Wins Machine
Hayley Wins Machine2

We all wore our masks, kept our social distance, and Janet, the shop owner read from a prepared paper, thanking all those responsible for giving this award.  Then the curtains parted to reveal a sewing machine–Hayley started to cry, I started to cry, Janet started to get emotional.  I was so happy that someone who is starting to love quilting could get her own machine.  Here’s the video on Facebook.

Kay sews a mask

Now a funny video about how to sew a mask.

Here’s hoping you’ll  Bee Happy/be happy in April 2020!

Economy and Rough Drafts

Economy Block_6

I help teach a group of beginning quilters, and we call ourselves First Monday Sew-day, and yes, I know it’s not the First Monday today, but it’s COVID-19 season and nothing is normal anymore.  For this First Monday Sew-day, I chose to teach the Economy block, also known as the Square-in-a-Square block.

April 2020 First Monday ILLUS.png

I’ve made a little handout to go along with this, which includes a detailed chart of measurements.  Click to download the PDF file:

FirstMondaySewday_4_2020

(NOTE: I’ve also collected all my First Monday Posts and put them in their own page at the top of my blog, just in case you want to find them easily.)

Economy Block_1

I looked at Catbird Quilt Studios’ chart, but then decided I wanted to test out my own measurements.  First I cut some sunny yellow fabric for the centers.

Economy Block_2

I pulled some neutrals from my stash, cut the triangles, then painstakingly went through each measurement, adjusting it to what I thought would work for teaching beginners, then went to work.

Economy Block_2a

After getting the first set of triangles on, I squared it up, jotting down the measurements as I went through each size.

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When you trim, do your best to leave a 1/4″ of seam allowance at each point, as shown above.

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I love this color of blue, known around our house as painting-tape blue.

I’ve already put the triangles on the first two sides and pressed them.  Now I’m starting on the second set, with the finish below:Economy Block_3

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Here are all the sizes, stacked up together.  I’m thinking bordering the smallest sizes again to equal that large 15″ block in the lower left, and seeing what evolves.

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This is a free pattern from the Robert Kaufman Fabric Company, and it uses the Economy block, but the quiltmaker fussy cut center blocks for more interest.

Into the Woods front

I added one more set of triangles on this economy block to get this quilt. Doing a search on “economy block” yields lots of images to scroll through.

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I liked how this quilt maker had pinwheels inside their Economy blocks.  Our beginners learned how to make pinwheels when they learned about Half-Square Triangles.

tiny nine patches

Making Masks April 2020

And I’m still making masks.  I am making them for people I know, friends and family who need them as our particular county is a mask-wearing place.

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So when two friends came by and I realized that these masks wouldn’t work for them, I went back to the Accordian-style mask, added a nosewire sleeve and turned the sides into plackets, through which I could slip some elastic.

I’d say this is the fourth or fifth iteration of cloth masks that I’ve made.  I kept wondering why I couldn’t be like all the other mask-makers of our particular universe, and just settle into one kind?  I was heartened by “Tear It Up and Start Again,” an article by Harry Guiness, that reminded me of things I used to teach my college students, back in the day.  I reminded them never to turn in their first draft, as the really good writing starts to happen on the third or fourth rounds (inevitably the class would groan about this point).  Guiness notes that “Too often, when it comes to self-improvement, we create idealized, top-down systems with unnatural rules and regulations. We naïvely assume that we will somehow stick to our rigid plans when life gets random and hard, throwing unavoidable chaos and crises into the mix.”

We’ve all had some unavoidable chaos recently.  While this article dealt more with those self-improvement plans we all make for ourselves (I hope you have all torn yours up during this stay-at-home time), I did like his nuggets of truth, such as this one: “When a plan or resolution fails, the solution isn’t to dismiss it and try a new, equally rigid prescription next year or next time. It’s to build on what worked, ruthlessly cut what didn’t and start straight away on a much-improved second draft.”  I like that I won’t have to discard what I learned in my first draft, but can carry forward the best parts.

“I never lose. I win or learn.” This phrase has been attributed to many, but whoever said it was on to something.  Hopefully we won’t lose during this time of forced idleness (for some), crashing boredom (for some), an onslaught of toomuchtodo (for some).  We can win at our tasks if everything goes smoothly.  However, you can tell by my variety of masks that it doesn’t — usually — go smoothly for me, but we can still learn new things about others, or new things about ourselves.

I’ve learned I like to tinker to figure out which mask will fit which face.  I’ve learned that I can’t read the news before I go to bed at night.  I’ve learned that my current forced isolation and distraction (courtesy of the novel corona virus) is not the best working environment for getting my quilting projects done.

I’ve learned a million new science-y facts about peak dates and doubling rates and flattening the curve and so on (I am married to a scientist), which may or may not come in handy in the Life After COVID-19.  But hopefully I’ve also learned that my first drafts can lead to successful subsequent drafts, no matter whether it’s writing, or quilting, or making masks.

tiny-nine-patches

Last Supper

The Last Supper of Christ, by Jorge Coco

Happy Easter to everyone!

April Flowers

Gridster Bee April 2020

We had our April showers this week, and while the verse says that the flowers aren’t supposed to show up until May,  Nancy of Patchwork Breeze, our Queen Bee for the Gridsters this month, asked us to make these giant blooms for her block…so I made her two, just because at this time of Being Shut In, why not?  It’s the Totally Tulips Quilt from Missouri Star.

Yellow Quilting Tools Block

I also am attracted to happy, yellow posts, and this one from Karolina fit the bill.  She brings string-pieced blocks to a new level with her photo styling.

Roz Chast Cartoon April 2020 COVID

Roz Chast says it best.

Oliver Meme

More Instagram memes, which also remind me to be grateful that I’m esconced in a house with a sewing room with all that I need to sew.

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Beauty Queen in an Face Mask

I chose to put a little dart at the nose and chin of my accordian mask with ties.  I had run out of elastic when I made this batch. Then the universe, and Elin, smiled on me, providing more elastic for more masks.  While I am choosing to serve our country during this critical time by making a few masks, I think there are very many ways to serve.  Maybe your best way is to stay home, or take care of your children, or bring a neighbor some groceries, or put something in the mailbox for your mailman (I usually put treats, but yesterday I left a mask), or treat the people with who you live with a little more patience, or call up someone who is alone and have a chat.  We can all do our part.

Somewhere in this mess of a house, or in my garage somewhere I have a whole box of black pipecleaners that could be used for  shaping in a face mask.  Can I find them?  No, but I found a box of my grandmother’s large silver hairpins, given to me upon her death several years ago.  Thank you, Grandma, for doing your part in donating wires for face masks!

I updated my Face Mask page, after getting the official names for masks.  I found another version on the Washington Post website, so now you have your pick of what you can make — if you need to for your family/friends/health care workers.  Our county put a “wear a mask” mandate out there at the beginning of the week, the neighboring county did it yesterday, and Los Angeles will adopt this as well.  If you don’t have a mask made of batik, then good-quality quilting cotton will do, and in a pinch, a bandana.

Why are you doing it that way Meme

This hit a little close to home.

Fast April 2020 icon

Our church is inviting everyone to fast and pray with us — or just think on it, if you aren’t affiliated — this week on Good Friday.  Our main ideas are “that the present pandemic may be controlled, caregivers protected, the economy strengthened, and life normalized.”  I personally can’t do much for the caregivers, health workers, scientists who are scrambling to find us treatments and vaccines, but I can pray and fast that the suffering may end soon, and that those who are on the front lines, supported.

Discouraged Sailors Advice Meme

The Times We Live In

Zoom Chat April 1, 2020I was going to post a follow-up to the last post about masks, and I have (scroll down), but I wanted to write about my very first group Zoom meeting ever.  It was with the Gridsters, a group of women I’ve come to know over time.  Rachel and I have been doing parallel quilting together now for seven years, working in various small organized groups, and this was the first time we’ve talked face-to-face.  I met Linda this morning for the first time, as well as Nancy, who organized our Zoom conference.

We found out that Kelley, with her friends, has made over 2,000 face masks, while the rest have made smaller amounts, or masks for friends’ or personal use.  We each talked about our projects, how we are coping (Gov. Cuomo’s daily briefings were all mentioned as a must-see), and avoiding TV/print news in the evening.  It was fun to see the variety of projects, to hear everyone’s voice.  Each of these women, like you, have different stories, different situations, live in different parts of the country, but all of us quilt. We are so isolated now, doing our “i-sew-late” and really enjoying it, but it was amazing to get together to see each other, to make us feel a little less alone.   This meant more to me than I can say.

tiny nine patches

Now, the post I originally wrote, with good information about the Times We Live In:

Background: If you read one article about why we need to stay home, let it be Thomas Pueyo’s Coronavirus: The Hammer, and the Dance.  And if you listen to one podcast, I recommend this episode of The Daily, when a NYTimes editor gives a moving description of living with someone with a coronavirus infection — her husband.

Or maybe neither read, nor listen, to this, because they will scare you into staying home and taking it seriously.  They have made me more aware, having listened to/read these late one night when I couldn’t sleep, worrying about my children, my parents, and that terrible series of pronouncements when the GDP was of bigger concern than human lives.  But ever the hopeful, I believe in us.  We will figure it all out after this year is over (and yes, I now am leaning towards a year…hoping they’ll get a vaccine by that time).

Okay, on to more updates:

UPDATED NEWS ARTICLES/SOURCES:

  • Some hospitals are not collecting masks, some are.  Should we be sewing them?  While it’s evident that if you have a couple of boxes of N95s laying around, the medical centers would rather have those, but still, I can’t rule out homemade masks.
  • Deaconess Hospital list of Where to Donate Face Masks  Use the filter for your state, and scroll down.  It’s not always apparent to me that they are wanting home made masks, as some list N95s as their request.
  • Liz wrote in with these tips: “Using a modified Deaconess pattern, starting with two 7×10.5″ instead of 6×9, and stitching seam binding across the top and bottom of the mask (40″ piece for top, 36″ for bottom). Also very important to make an OBVIOUS FRONT and BACK side to the mask, by using two different fabrics or the reverse side of the main print on the back/inside portion.”  I think her caution to make an obvious front and back side, if you are using the Deaconess pattern, is a great idea.  If you are using the Orange Dot Quilts pattern, the shape of it denotes a front and back already.
  • It’s Time to Make Your Own Face Mask.

T-shirt Mask COVID-19

Click here to watch.

The new idea is that all of us need a mask to wear, unless we are at home.  So you put it on when you go out, and you take it off and wash it when you come home.  So maybe make a couple of masks.  The last link above has two mask patterns: one made from an old T-shirt (to see it to believe it) and one that makes the version with the curve shape for the nose).  I’m still an Orange Dot Quilts mask fan, and she now has the aluminum strips that go across the nose for sale.  There are some good comments on fitting the mask on the last post, if you want to read them.

This morning I found The Fabric Patch’s website about masks to be an invaluable resource, complete with videos and straight talk about the difference between the two kinds of masks and which non-woven interfacing to use inside your masks to make them better.  I’d recommend her third video, also gives information about what kind of wire to use to go over the nose bridge, and tie placement (don’t sew it at the edges).

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Here’s our county’s latest projections into May as of Tuesday evening (still no flattening of the curve, but I’m hopeful).  I like the new phrase: “Stay in Place • Maintain Your Space • Cover Your Face.”  

How to stay sane in these times of ours?  Gardening, reading, knitting, cleaning out, baking or whatever you choose, but realize that I am not raising children or trying to school them.  So one of my goals is also to support parents of young children, especially when you can’t go and help them out physically.

While I admit to being shaken off course by all the terrible news, angry some days, weeping on others, sitting glued to the screen on still other days, I’ve had more conversations with quilty friends than before.  In this time of uneveness and wobbly lives where pithy quotes can bring me to tears and #covid19memes can make me laugh, what steadies me is keeping my hands busy.

And of course, all of you.  Thank you for your notes, for your encouragement, for sharing your lives.

Keep quilting!

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