January This-and-That

To start us off right for January, Carol of the Gridster Bee chose Lori Holt’s Tall Pines Quilt Block, part of her Sew Your Stash series, found on YouTube. I lost my mind and my way a couple of times, so made up this diagram to go with her dimensions (screenshot from YouTube).

Click if you need to enlarge

For Carol’s signature block, she requested that we all make her a Teeny Christmas Tree from my free pattern. I updated it for her, so be sure to download the 2021 version.

Oh, and lately, we’ve had some current events. Even on my birthday, which I thought was highly unfortunate, so thank you to all who sent birthday wishes on the last post. On that day, they were much appreciated.

To balance out the above, some good news: The Shine Blocks are starting to return to the website, and they are in a new and improved format. Above are Blocks 1, 2 and 3. I’ll bring back three every month until they have all come home. To access, click on the above tab: Shine the Circles Quilt.

Remember all those memes that used to say that the month of April was like a bajillion days long? I think January 2021 might give April 2020 a run for its money. Several people I’ve chatted with lately have had a bad case of the holiday doldrums, a condition that my 93-year-old mother swears happens every year about the 27th of December and can slide all the way into mid-January. She’s right, you know.

So I’ve saved a great article just for times like this, and the above illustration on the article perfectly depicts how it all feels. It’s titled “Finding Hope When Things Feel Gloomy,” by Jenny Taitz, published way back in November of 2020. Clearly, the doldrums were starting early during the pandemic.

Taitz, a psychologist writing for The New York Times, starts us off with a basic: Control what you can. She writes: “When crises in the world at large feel out of your control, thinking about the various components of your life — and setting small, specific goals to improve them — can help reduce feelings of helplessness.” I think this is something we are all familiar with, as we resort to scrolling on our phones (see below), or looking at our stash of fabric but with no real desire to do anything with it.

Another idea is to “Swap microaggressions for ‘micro-progressions’ ” or instead of trying to take steps forward right now, perhaps try to incorporate “small actions that communicate respect.” It’s hard when facing the same people day after day, no matter how delightful and witty they are, to not to give in irritations about their habits and that noise they make that you can hear from all the way on the other side of the house. Or the neighbor who keeps moving towards you, breaking the social distance guidelines, having just returned from an RV tour of the United States. It’s also often hard to notice the micro-progressions I make in my daily tasks, the fabric all cut out, the blocks completed. I’ve taken to writing down even the littlest thing on my To Do List, just so I have a record of how this time in my life was spent.

There are other tips in the article, but I’ll close with my favorite: “Work on your mental agility.” I have a favorite mental rut I like to travel in when things are hard. It always involves a lot of sighing, many trips to the kitchen for the chocolates leftover from Christmas, maybe even some tears, and yes, doomscrolling. But if I can just step to the side of that rut for a few hours, perhaps vacuum AND dust the sewing room, I find that small actions help me avoid the downward trend into the doldrums. Of course, if you are having serious depression, get some help. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, just call your doctor and get in to see them.

We quilters have been alone a lot lately, with all of our usual venues shut down: no trips to the fabric store with friends (and lunch afterwards), no quilt guilds in person, and no retreats or fun conferences or shows. So find a way to connect, either through Zoom, phone calls, or some creative social distancing, and try to find hope going forward. “Hope is a psychological stabilizer — it protects our well-being from stressful events,” said Mark Manson, an author who writes about hope and happiness. “Even if you feel emotionally depleted now, research suggests that it’s possible to consciously and systematically increase hope.”

Alison Glass’ stack of colors

Holding onto that smallest sliver of hope can be enough to pull us through, and makes an anchor to our souls. Even with all the news lately, find a happy stack of fabric and if you don’t have the energy to cut into it or make it, patting it is perfectly acceptable.

As for me? I’ll be here, in my sewing room, having just set up for my workshop with the Beach Cities Guild this Saturday, where we are making Criss-Cross quilts.

Onward into this year!

The Last of the Shine RWB Blocks: 22

Happy Birthday to this blog!
Fourteen years of blogging: writing, sewing, quilting, venting, writing-back-to-you, reading and I still love writing this. I still love reading your letters and with a few exceptions was able to write back to everyone. Like I said, there are a few exceptions, but I try to keep the conversation going, so comments are back on for this final post of Shine blocks.

Block 22: Double Rosette

This block was very nearly infected with a virus, but I made some quick switches, and saved the quilt from this fate. It starts at the beginning when I choose fabrics, not always seeing the end from the beginning.

First up, attach the teensy little blue points to the large two-color points, already seamed using the quick trick I’ve mentioned before. But it’s easier if you work from the back, aligning the lower edge, taking a stitch to tack it together, then work upward to the point/shoulders of the two:

I never glue down that lower edge, so if you have, straighten it out, then you can see the bottom of the patterns. Take a stitch while you are looking at them. No, take two stitches.

After sewing one teensy point onto the same side of all the Inner Rosette units, repeat the process to sew two of these units together: work from the back, tacking the alignment into place. Sew the seam.

Twos, the fours. Notice that I sewed my little point onto the LEFT side of all the Inner Rosettes.

The blue diamonds went on, keeping the little blue dot pointing towards the center (I’ll show you that in a minute). It’s easier to add the outer sections if you are working in segments.

All the outer wedges are on, units are sewn together and it’s time to go hunting for a middle.

Because this circle is so much larger than my templates, I trace it on to the dull side of freezer paper, but also add a row of dashes at 1/8″ away from the circle and 1/4″ away. As I tell you on the pattern, it’s best to make your circle a little bit bigger.

I went to the ironing board and with the shiny side of the freezer paper facing upward, I tack it in four places with the tip of a hot (cotton setting) iron, kind of melting the shiny side of the freezer paper to hold the seam allowance in place.

I then work my way around, smoothing it into place. I will smooth out any bumps when I hand-stitch it down. Notice that the seam allowance is closer to 3/8″ — I will trim it down after it’s sewn to the larger EPP circle.

I measure from the edges to the center circle to make sure it’s evenly placed in the center.

And even now, I didn’t see what was happening with that blue polka dot against those teensy blue points.

I carefully stitched the center circle on, flipped it over for its papers-in beauty shot. See the little blue dots in the Outer Diamond E piece? They are there to help you know which side goes towards the center.

NOW I see it. It looks like a giant virus. This just won’t do.

I dithered about what to do for a day or two, then took off the center circle.

I replaced it with a medium blue center. But after another day, I added the final dark circle in the middle. I kept thinking I should dream up some more EPP for the middle, but frankly, I was kind of . . . done. And so I called the last block of the series, finished. (See the photo at the top for the final version.)

So, at this point, the Shine Blocks are all a family: The first sixteen, the second batch of ten, making 26 blocks out into the world. I love it when I see other people’s blocks, so I’ll leave you with Linda’s final block of her quilt.

Shine on, everyone!

And Happy Birthday to me this week!
Illustration by @flora.forager

Because it’s my birthday this week, here’s a coupon code to get yourself a little present in my pattern shop!

The Fine Print: 25% off • Expires Saturday, January 9, 2020

Happy New Year with Shine Block 20

This is the second of the three last posts for the Shine quilt done in red, white and blue, and these last three are all new blocks, found in the Nine More Blocks from Shine pattern in my pattern shop on PayHip. And yes, I know I put Block 21 before Block 20, but in spite of that I still think I’m doing pretty well these days. I have named this block Dresden Rosette, for every creation needs a name.

It all always starts with this, doesn’t it? I started Block 20 by doing the quick method of EPP, as described in the General Instructions: I pieced a couple of the fabrics together in strips, then laid out the pattern and cut/glued that to the paper. There are some tips in all the blocks, but I also think I did this in Block 19: Compass Star. Here I’ve paired up the Dresden-looking pieces:

The pairs were joined up to make a foursome, then the pieced diamonds were added to them, with one extra kind of hanging out there on the end.

Nothing prettier than a Dresden Rosette. But we’re not done yet. I’ve stitched the three sets together, but if you look at the photo at about 1-o’clock on the dial, you can see I’ve left one complete seam open. Trust me when I tell you it’s easier to sew the outer wedges on, if you have not sewn it into a circle.

Outer Wedges: On!
Final Seam: Sewn!
Now to hunt around for a middle…

Found the middle I wanted, and now am trying to decide between the two arrangements. You can which one I went for at the top of this post.

I’m sure you noticed all those little bits of seam allowances at all the tips. How do I handle those? Here’s three photos to show you. I first fold over and tuck under one side (#2), then fold and tuck under the second little bit (#3). Finally I stick a pin there, or quickly put in a couple of stitches.

Before
Photo #2
photo #3 (sorry about the color–I was outside and the sun shifted)

After it is all stitched down, I press. First I press from the top, then I set the circle on a well-padded surface, and really give some heat and steam to those protruding seam allowances. They usually fall nicely in line.

On onward to the last of the Shine Blocks. Again, I have turned off the comments for this post, too, as I’m doing them in such quick succession. My contact info is above in About Me, if you need to send me a note.

Happy New Year with Shine Block 21

Something short and sweet for you today: how to make block 21. I’m posting these last few blocks of Red, White and Blue SHINE in quick succession, so others can these posts for references.

The going is quicker, so I swiftly moved from the above, to the layout below.

This is an easy block to start with, if you are just a beginning EPP-er. This block can be found in Pattern 121, the final nine new circles, and is available in my PayHip shop. The quick trick is explained in the General Instructions, as well as in other Shine Block instructions (on this website).

Follow the steps on the pattern. You can see I made the inner circle first, then added on the red/white star points. Then next is making the outer wedge-point-wedge units. Sew them in between the star points. Applique a small circle on the center. Appliqué the circle to the background square, deciding if you want the red/white star points UP, or the blue smaller points UP. You can tell from the first photo which one I chose.

We’ve just had Christmas, come through the bulk of 2020, and I thought a short and sweet post would be best. It’s touch and go as to whether I get the top finished by the Inauguration in January, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

In other news, I finished the feather for Jen in our Gridster Bee for December. She wanted organic-looking batiks for the feather part, and solid black for the feather’s shaft. You can see a whole bunch of the feathers here. The pattern was a free download from ZenChic designer Brigitte Heitland.

I have turned off comments for this and the next two posts, as I am finishing up the SHINE block construction information; hope you won’t mind. If you want to get ahold of me, my email can be found on the About Me tab, above.