Happy Old Year Ending • 2020

I just had to lead off this Happy Old Year Ending Post with one of my favorite memes from this year. So it is with fervor and conviction that I say: Happy Old Year Ending. Good-bye. Go away. Good riddance.

Here are my finished quilts for this year:

Not as many as last year, but then I wasn’t immersed in a nation-wide experience of dealing with a pandemic, either. Somehow time passed in interesting ways:

Yes, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

These two quilts were on my 2020 quilt top finishes list, and they are still lost in space somewhere, as each will take herculean thinking to get them to where I want them to be. Here are some of the tops I finished:

I finished all my red, white and blue blocks before Christmas. The top is on its way to being complete. Stay tuned.

The Bee Happy top was finished before Christmas as well, with the addition of the hexie and blue borders. I’m now starting to quilt it.

When I first wrote this post, it was all about the emotional landscape of how we felt these past nine months, rather doom-and-gloom, Sturm und Drang.

Zoom teaching in 2020

But after letting it sit for a couple of days, I decided I didn’t want to end my year of describing the realities of the year that we’ve all just lived through. Instead I’ll leave you with a few quotes and links I like, something to bring in this new, but not necessarily different, year.

  • The New York Times published a column on finding hope when things feel gloomy.
  • I’ve been enjoying all the news articles I see that contain references to quilting or knitting or all those other crafts that normally go under the radar.
  • Austin Kleon wrote a great post about how quantity can lead to quality.
  • Brilliant tip for holding up quilts for photography that uses only a clamp and duct tape–nothing fancy.
  • Finally, a Zen Habits post I read once in a while, when I just feel emptied out in frustration or disappointment that I just can’t get my projects to work themselves into being, and I’m sure that I am the problem.

“We must surrender our hopes and expectations, as well as our fears, and march directly into disappointment, work with disappointment, go into it and make it our way of life.”

Chogyam Trungpa

“To create, take your time, block out the noise…It’s difficult to find the time, especially when other demands seem to press much closer to the skin of daily life. Most days it feels less like locating a stretch of time that’s available for the claiming, and more like forcibly insisting on the clearing of space. Since I don’t have the inclination to quilt in small bursts, I need to be intentional about setting aside at least a few hours or half a day. The aim is to treat quilting like any other work, which it is. This means if I mark off time to create, I can’t go off to run small errands, agree to coffee with friends or acquaintances, sit in front of my phone answering text messages and e-mails, or distract myself by chipping away at random tasks.”

Jenny Xie

Remedy for when you are stuck: take a break. I think that if you bang your head against the wall trying to create, you’re going to resent the process of creation. Usually when you reach an impasse it’s a signal to move on to another thing. Maybe you haven’t slept in a while. Maybe you need some time to ponder, to just stare at the wall. Maybe you need to live, truly be alive for a little and not near a computer. Maybe you need to read, see, watch—to refill your well.

Fatimah Asghar

Don’t partition off your daily life from your creative life.

Emily Skillings

I like that last quote quite well, as so often we use our quilting to escape away, and while I welcome that, I also think that who we are, what we are dealing with, our sorrows, our joys need to inform our creating. Maybe you are working hard on a quilt because someone close to you has just died and piecing a large quilt is the only thing that will help us mark those first awful days. Maybe you are working in red, white and blue because you worry about your nation, expressing your patriotism in your country’s colors. Maybe it’s a year of handwork, grabbed in snatches of time in between spending time in Zoom meetings (or maybe you are doing handwork during those same Zoom meetings!). Whatever your life is like, bring a little of it into your quilts, letting it hold these days for you.

So farewell, 2020, a year of disaster, of disease, of sorrow, of death, of forced calm and glints of silver linings. A year for the history books.

And welcome 2021. We look forward with hope.

Dave’s Cozy Quilt • Quilt Finish 2020

Gerbera Garvinea, Sweet Surprise • photography by Dave Eastmond

My husband takes walks. Daily walks where he brings home dozens of flower and leaf photos. He specializes in color, in contrast, in finding whatever others pass over as they zip by in their cars, Southern-California style. He brings a lot of joy to my life and to those who know him.

He also single-handedly decorates our house for Christmas, with lights and a forest of little pine men: his nutcracker collection, gathered from far and wide. And so this Christmas, even though he was always around the house (due to covid and being newly retired), I decided to make him a quilt, a cozy flannel quilt — his favorite.

I’d had my eye on Bonnie Sullivan’s Woolie Flannels Over and Down Under pattern, and had purchased the pattern, the jelly roll and border fabric waaaaay back in March, thinking I’d sew while he was at work. Hahaha.

So December 8th, I cut the bazillion little squares from a jelly roll then lost my mind once or twice trying to get it up on the design wall. (Yes, that little stitchery does say “Choose thy Love…Love thy Choice.” It’s from my cross-stitch days and I still believe in the saying.)

How to sew this together? I decided to do it in nine-patches, and then sew the outer rectangles together. I listened to audiobooks, kept sewing.

Still sewing after several days, I made a sign and taped it to my sewing room.

I realized after I finished the center, that it would not be nearly tall enough for him. I ordered some more black herringbone woolie flannel, praying that the dye lots would be close enough. The order got caught in the Great Christmas 2020 Mailing Slowdown, and I checked my email everyday to see where it was. Finally, after a loooong (felt to me) wait, it showed up a few days before Christmas.

But luckily the hard work of piecing was over, so I sewed a great large swath of the border fabrics on the sides, top and bottom, then moved the Mrs. Claus sign over to our guest bedroom, also known as the Quilting Room. I pinned it all together on my kitchen counter, took it back upstairs and went to town on the quilting. One long day later it was done. I chose to do a very large meander on it, because I wanted it to feel soft and snuggly, and I knew that loosely quilted quilts feel that way.

One day when he went back up to his office at the university, I bound it, then machine-stitched that down, and even got it wrapped and put beside our tree (the large red package).

Of course, you all know Dave from the great job he does supporting me in my quilting adventures, as well as scoping out great photography locations. He is a premier member of the Husband Holding Quilts Association.

Dave’s Cozy Quilt
Quilt Number 240

Here is the finished product, about 85″ high, 65″ wide. I ran it through the washer and dryer to crinkle it up a little bit before giving it to him. Merry Christmas, Dave!

And here’s his gift to you: a couple of more beautiful photos, published on his Instagram account of @toxdae (he’s a toxicologist by profession). Follow if you want a bouquet in your feed.

Winter Berries • photography by Dave Eastmond
Geranium • photography by Dave Eastmond

Christmas * 2020

Christmas Treat, wallhanging

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Elizabeth will be closed for a few days while she tests out her new Christmas Present and thoroughly makes a mess of her sewing room. She will emerge, eventually. Thanks for being great readers and writers. Hope you have a merry merry!

Sawtoothmania • Reflections on Fertile Ground

Sawtoothmania, Quilt no. 239

All the signatures of the Gridsters, who contributed blocks to the quilt top.

the label

All photographs above by my husband or I, taken from a frontage road on the 680 freeway, to the west of Grizzly Bay and the Cordelia Slough, off Lopes Road near the Bay Area in Northern California. We just can’t resist those Northern California hills, as he and I have significant history there.

He went to UC Berkeley for his doctorate in Environmental Health Sciences (aka Toxicology), and when he wasn’t in the lab or studying his brains out, he was out in his vintage Dodge Dart exploring the Bay Area, Muir Woods and other areas. I, on the other hand, spent my teenage years in Portola Valley on the other side of the Bay, my father a professor at Stanford. We’d just come back from two years in Peru (and how we got there is another story about the life my charmed parents lived) and instead of returning to the mountain-west states, our family landed here. That was when houses were dear, but not astronomical, and somehow they pieced together a way to get a house on a professor’s salary. I grew up in the wooded hills, the large California Oaks standing alone in the the golden grasses in autumn, just like they were this day, when we went hunting for a place to photograph my quilts.

One of my children was born not too far from this place; however, my husband and I didn’t know each other then. As we drove down to my brother’s house from the Sacramento area (where this same Mr. Claus took this Mrs. Claus to get her Christmas present…more on that later), I narrated where I used to drive this child to the orthodontist, where he went to the surgeon to correct his cleft lip and palate, where I visited the attorney for my divorce. Then my husband took his turn in narration: the place where he used to go to school, his tale of arriving for grad school on a Friday, then heading to San Francisco on Saturday, to see what was there, all before beginning his studies on Monday. We drove by the Oakland Temple, of the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints, where we first met on a hot July evening, and gradually fell in love, sitting on the low stone wall around the property on summer nights, just talking, and watching the shimmer of lights from across the bay as we figured out how a newly-divorced woman with four children could fall in love with a single, brilliant young man, and about how they could take the leap together into a new life, the fertile ground of the northern California hills under their feet.

And so we did leap: into a life of raising children, of tracking the academic life, of quilting, of learning. It’s been a good journey, with lots of love, a few intense discussions, a life of forgiveness and kindness, a happy and creative life together…all of this reminiscing while finding a place to photograph a few Sawtooth Stars.

Other Posts with Sawtoothmania:
Sawtoothmania! – the beginning of this quilt
Some Thoughts on Our Nation’s Milestone — where Sawtoothmania makes an appearance at the end
stars shining brightly — a sister to this quilt
The Ides of March — where a few blocks show up after we build a new design wall, and I write about possessions, and an old recipe held together with a straight pin
Tiny Envelope & More Blocks — where I wrote you a free tutorial to make those very cute signature blocks on the back of the quilt

The quilts above, are Criss-Cross Color and Sawtoothmania, both available in my pattern shop.

Criss-Cross Color • Quilt Finish

Criss-Cross Color, quilt no. 233
49″ wide by 68″ high

The quilting by Kelley of Wolf Girl Quilts really looks lovely in this light.

IKEA fabric, from back in the day: a series of numbers. It was what I had.

the label

All photographs above by my husband or I, taken from a frontage road on the 680 freeway, to the west of Grizzly Bay and the Goodyear Slough, on Lopes Road near the Bay Area in Northern California. I like how the shadows are playing with the quilt in this image.

These last two photos were not taken on Lopes Road, but at my brother’s, as I knew they had a picturesque playhouse from when their girls were tiny.

I listed this as Quilt #233, as I got over-eager when the quilt top was done. Kelley, a long-armer friend, did the fabulous loopy quilting texture on the quilt. It’s been a good series for me, challenging me to think differently about color, texture and size.

The pattern is sold in my pattern shop on PayHip. There is a discount running on this pattern right now, until January 15th, if you are interested in purchasing it. Details are at the pattern shop.

Other Posts about the Criss-Cross series of quilts:
Criss-Cross Color, completed top, Criss-Cross Autumn, and the follow-up to the workshop
Criss-Cross Autumn
Christmas Criss-Cross, quilt finish
Criss-Cross, the genesis

Christmasy Shine Blocks • Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

The sign on the door of my sewing room as I sew a special gift for my husband.

Okay, you just have to see the creativity of my friend who pattern-tested all the later Shine blocks — the last few I’ve been talking about. The originals, you are familiar with. Now I’m doing them in Red, White and Blue. But my friend Linda, of @lkhomework (she used to teach school before she retired), did them all in Christmas fabrics, and she has graciously allowed me to share them with you.

Such wonderful eye candy, perfect for Christmastime and to help get us in the mood for this very different season in 2020.

As you can see, she plans a diagonal set for her blocks.

Yes, I realize I should have imprinted the number of the block before I posted them, but I didn’t. Here’s an index of them all, in mix of the original colors, illustrations and RWB:

Block #1, which is based on a traditional pattern, morphed into Block #7. Linda used both of these variants to great success. I think her quilt is going to be just fabulous!

And today the December QuiltMania newsletter was published, and with this, their series of my SHINE: The Circle Quilt blocks ends. The first 12 blocks can be downloaded by subscribing to their free newsletter; they will send you the link (details here). They will live at QuiltMania until early 2021, when they will come back home here to stay. I’ve enjoyed sharing them with QuiltMania, and feel like those scary disorienting days of covid are behind us, when I first made the offer to QM for them to use my patterns, in order to do my own little part to help keep interest in their excellent publications.

More than other years, I find this Christmas to be such a mix. I wrote on Instagram about seeing someone contemplating a jump from a freeway overpass. I had just come from visiting a friend who had successfully completed her initial phases of a stem cell transplant, the cells giving her another chance at life, and I’ve thought about these two contrasting experiences for days.

She, working so incredibly hard to keep life, to beat her disease, putting up with all manner of incredibly painful and difficult treatments and procedures. And then to see this young man who appeared to have cut open the chain mesh fence that shields our overpasses from just such desperate decisions. Our traffic was slowed, and as my car neared the bridge, I could see the man clutching the fence, holding on, having given himself a second chance as the fireman secured a belt around him, preserving his life. It was a different kind of second chance than my friend fighting cancer. Hers, a grueling year-long journey. His, a reconsidering of a tragic decision in a split second.

And so our year continues with such contrasts: thousands of people dying from the pandemic, while we turn inward to try and find the joy and the happiness, aware that just around the corner, ennui and disease and depression await. It’s a dance in the best of times, but made so much more complicated this year with its seemingly endless conveyor belt of tragedy. With hearts so tender, Christmas sewing is a tonic: the snowmen and Santa, the holly and ivy, the red and green, patchwork and stockings and gifts and delights.

And so I rejoice in Christmas.

I light the candles on our kitchen table and set out the soup. Over dinner, my husband and I (a covid-bubble of two) talk over the news, before moving on to the detritus of our day. I relish the lights, delight in the sight of our miniature tree and my husband’s nutcrackers, all anchoring symbols of familiarity, grounding us and keeping us tethered.

I rejoice in carols: a favorite song can move me to tears, so close to the surface are the emotions of this season. I might post again before the year is out, but you may be too busy to respond; it’s less than two weeks until we close out the official holiday of lights and gifts and slide on into the new year. To wish you all the best as you make your way to 2021, I leave you with one of my favorite songs of Christmas (click on the link to listen). Sing along and enjoy!