Happy August 2019 • This and That

When I looked outside in my garden today, the zucchini plant had wilted from the heat, mirroring how I felt inside.  However, unlike my spectacularly unproductive zucchini plant [we’ve only had ONE], I’ve been pretty productive.  Just not on quilts.

I’ve been working on prepping my upcoming Guild Workshops, getting the kits together (in wax paper bags instead of plastic, given my attempt to cut down on plastic where I can), and cute touches like place cards, so I know whose spot is whose once the class gets going.

Spectrum Pattern Revise

The pattern cover with thumbnails showing the pattern pages and revisions. Now it’s a pretty good guide to EPP.

I also revised a couple of patterns, the first one being Spectrum.  Inland Empire Quilters Guild contacted me for a program for their evening meeting, then they got together a group of women for a workshop who wanted to learn English Paper Piecing.  So I changed some things up in the pattern, added more content, and put it back up for sale up on PayHip.

EPP Spectrum Bag

One thing I made for a sample was this tote bag, splitting the main pattern in half and placing it on either side of the bag.  I wanted to show that a person can do more with a pattern than simply make a quilt.  That version of Spectrum is one of the variations in the pattern (bag pattern not included; I used the one in the October 2019 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting by Kristyne Czepuryk).

Kansas Sunflower Minimini

I also made a mini-mini to show them how to do the basics.  I’ll be passing out this pattern for a Kansas Sunflower block in class, show how to “batch-cut” pieces, glue and prep them.  They can then move on to Spectrum, or stay sewing up their mini-mini.  We’ll also do one hexie flower, because what’s a class in EPP without a hexie flower?

Hexie Flowers July 2018

(We’ll only do one; these are from my Field Flowers quilt.)

Merrion Square Pattern Revise

Another class I have coming up is Merrion Square and Far Away Doors, teaching it for the Pass Patchers Quilt Guild nearby.  For ages, I’d hand out the instruction sheet to Far Away Doors when the class was taught, but adding it to the original Merrion Square pattern was one of the revisions I wanted to make, in order to get all the variations in one place.  I took it offline, revised it, and now it’s back up for sale on PayHip, if you want all three versions in one pattern. [Note:  If you’ve purchased Merrion Square and haven’t received Far Away Doors from me in a workshop, please contact me and I’ll get it out to you.  Proof of purchase is required.]

Of course, all this is made easier by the fact that I’m getting the hang of the three pieces of Affinity Serif software that I purchased last fall: Affinity Photo (replacing Adobe’s Photoshop), Affinity Designer (replacing Illustrator) and Affinity Publisher (instead of InDesign).  I’m getting quicker at each one, knowing where the tools are and how to use them.

Low Sugar Strawberry Jam

I also made three batches of low-sugar strawberry jam, after I tasted Laurel’s.  Laurel and her husband grow their own strawberries, but the ones from the market in our neighboring town worked well for us.  To go with it, I made a batch of zucchini bread with cranberries and left out half the flour (!).

My saintly husband declared it just fine, and takes chunks of this incredibly dense bread in his lunch every day.  He makes me look good, even on my very bad days (of fighting asthma), wilting in the heat (like the zucchini plants outside), and trying to get all the guild workshop stuff lined up from here to eternity.  I have to remind myself to take it one Guild and a time, and enjoy the process, which I genuinely do.

I finished The Night Tiger (I can recommend highly) and have started Little Fires Everywhere (so far enjoying it, but don’t give a recommendation until I finish).

I decided I was done waiting to start on this Halloween Banner project.  I layered the panel (if your store doesn’t carry it, it’s available here), quilted it, and cut out the flags.  I cut 1-1/4″ strips of stripey fabric from this line (called Costumer’s Ball by J. Wecker Frisch) cutting it across the stripe and bound the edges of the flags, sewing the strips first to one side of the flag, then the other.  After trimming the bottom edge, I folded it up and glued it all down with my trusty friend, a regular old gluestick.  Then I pressed and folded in the binding on the sides, again using my gluestick to keep it in place.  (Be sure to press after gluing in order to distribute the glue).

gluesticks

Hit those back-to-school sales, people!

I top-stitched down the striped binding, and am now waiting for the fabric to arrive to make the top part so I can get the banners all ready for October 1st.

August Gridsters_2019 trees

Lastly, I finished up August’s bee blocks for the Gridster Bee, using an original pattern designed by my talented beemate Kelley.  She’s getting ready for Christmas early!

I think my holidays are all mixed up, because I’m working on Christmas blocks, Halloween Banners, and my Fourth of July quilt just came back from the longarmer, needing binding.  I hope you are able to keep your days and events and sewing projects straight.  Happy Quilting!

City Streets • Quilt Finish

City Streets_1

Recently my husband and I took my latest quilt, City Streets, out to a small branch library in our town for some photos.  It was a deserted Sunday afternoon, perfect for us to find interesting shadows and backdrops.

City Streets Quilt_1aCity Streets_2City Streets_front

City Streets, 2019
Quilt No. 224, 47″ square

City Streets_3

I made this with a fat quarter stack of Vanessa Christensen’s ombre confetti dots: I wanted to see if it was possible for me to work with one line of fabric.  I almost made it, but pulled in some white grunge and a solid to offset the colorful squares.  I quilted it on my Handquilter Sweet 16 using Art Studio Color 101, which looks like gold, but it’s not a metallic thread.  I did the background using So Fine color 401, which is a white, but not stark white hue.  I only mention these details because our last guild meeting had a speaker who emphasized this point: we should tell people what thread  and fabric we quilt with.

City Streets_5City Streets_back

The back, and the label:

City Streets_labelGinza Scramble

Maybe my original design was inspired by this scramble intersection in the Ginza area of Tokyo, or by this view of Tokyo from the Government Building (below)?

Tokyo SkylineCity Streets_4

Thanks to my ever-supportive husband for holding quilts, and helping find great locations for photography. Pattern coming soon.

Mending

I’ve had mending on my mind and wanted to write about all forms of mending, but hadn’t been able to find a way in until I saw this:

Mending3.png

“The Opposite of Hate is Mending,” by Kate Sekules

Mending 2a

I’m a long-time mender.  I recently fixed a favorite purse for my mother, replacing the torn pocket with some vivid yellow lining.  I stitched up a few other ripped places, re-glued the lining into the frame and sent it back to her; she was pleased as punch to have her little purse back in working order.

ChristAdulteress_0I always look for handsewing in pieces of art, and found it in this image by David Habben, in a recent art exhibit in Salt Lake City.  It depicts Jesus and the adulteress with her angry mob of accusers.  The clenched fists with rocks, the tortured shapes, and the vile expressions in the background convey the tension in this well-known scene.

ChristAdulteress_1

In the foreground, Christ kneels and writes on the ground, this thread looping around his other hand.  This puzzled me, as I knew it wasn’t in the original story.

ChristAdulteress_2

I found gold stitching in areas of the woman’s veil, clues to my small mystery.  My sister, viewing this with me, provided the connection: calmly drawing in the dust with his finger, the accusers slinking away after his measured rejoinder, Christ was mending.  The accused woman may have stitched her clothing, but now He would mend her soul.

A mended surface can carry a scar.  In the case of boro, or of artful kintsugi, we appreciate the addition.  But more often that not, we humans don’t want imperfections, or wrinkles, or sadness, death, old age, or any evidence of a rent place.  We want happy.  We want life to go on with daisies and sunshine and lollipops: no fights or bad diagnoses or mistakes that reverberate for generations.

For years I’ve taken comfort in Eugene O’Neill’s line: “Man is born broken.  He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.”  Are we broken? Certainly we only have to the watch unbelievable tragedies of this past weekend trickle in a headline at a time on our screens, to know that broken and torn places are piling up somewhere in a onslaught of rage.  I turned away from the yet-again, awful headlines, not knowing what to do.

I take comfort in O’Neill’s wisdom, and Christ’s golden thread.   Rather than join the fury, I can fix a torn pocket, a broken heart, work through a quarrel, listen to someone who is trying to heal a shattered life. Whether at the epicenter of the current bad news or in our own homes, we can do our part to draw together the gaping edges, mending them with careful, even stitches.

Wonky Hearts Aflutter

Wonky Hearts_7

How do I make nearly 60 wonky, improv-y hearts and not go crazy? Now there’s a challenge.

Wonky Heart Illustration

I started here, with a rough pattern of how big I wanted my “improv” wonky heart to be. The free PDF file is available for download.  It finishes roughly at 5 1/2″ wide by 7 1/2″ tall.

Click here: Unfussy Wonky Heart

Wonky Hearts_2

I started with the heart pieces. I layered up seven pieces of different pink and red fabrics, pinned on the heart pieces and placing my ruler along their outer edge, I cut around them with a rotary cutter: it wouldn’t really matter if I was hyper-accurate…close enough would do.  I repeated this nine times.

Wonky Hearts_2a

Then I did the same thing with the background pieces, but was careful with my directional fabrics: I kept the pieces oriented as they would sew into the heart block.

Wonky Hearts_1

Everything’s stacked up.

Word Quilt in Process

These photos were taken over two weeks’ time, as I tried to fit all the words together. Words were made in The Spelling Bee, from 2016.

I shuffled the fabrics so no two fabrics would be together, and made a sample heart (at the top of the post). I pinned it next to the quilt of words I’d been working on, closed up the machine, turned off the iron, and enjoyed the sunset:

Sunset July 2019

Word Quilt Mock-up

When I woke up in the morning, I decided to try a digital mock-up of the quilt with the hearts as a border, as I wondered if the hearts were too big.  I sent the photo to my two of my quilting buddies and they gave me two thumbs’ up.  I’ll probably try to sneak in a narrow red/pink border between the quilt center and the outer border of hearts.

 

I’ve become braver about being wonky and improv-like, skewing seams, overlapping, cutting off points, generally going at it easy, instead of pristine.

Wonky Hearts_5

I have a few more hearts, now, and while the widths vary from 5 1/4″ to 5 1/2″ (I just trim them where it feels right), I’m forcing them to 7 1/2″ tall (that’s before seaming).  Because I am tired of cutting off the points, I’ll now be cutting about 1/2″ off the bottom heart section before I seam it to the top part.

This is one of two long-term UFOs that haunt me in my dreams.  The other one is Small World, which I keep in parts in a basket in my shelves.  I do have hopes on finishing that one, too.  I signed up for a Jen Kingwell class at Road to California in January; I suppose one goal would be to have it finished so she could sign it?  Right.

July Gridsters Block 2019

In other sewing news, I finished July’s Gridster Bee blocks for my beemate Linda and sent them off.

 

And I’m trying this new type of tomato, developed for scorching temperatures.  This year we were almost chilly and foggy until June, then the temps shot up high.  I haven’t had good luck with my garden in three years, after a stunning first year of beginner’s luck.  But hope is a thing with feathers, said Emily Dickensen, or my case, tomatoes.

 

I’ve also started quilting City Streets, a quilt of my own design.

Quilting City Streets_5

I’d picked up this Magnifico-cousin (same type of thread) when I visited Superior Threads last time.  It’s color 101, and it looks like a gold thread, but isn’t a metallic thread:

Quilting City Streets_4

I hope I don’t run out before I finish this quilt.

Random Quilter

Finally, in my discussion about how the internet irritated me, I read a ton of blogs, some of which I can’t quite remember.  But I did take a screen shot of this gem, a featured quilter on a truly dedicated quilter’s blog. (Given what he says about his favorite fabric color, I don’t think he would like my gold thread.)  However, I leave you with the hope that you, too, have started quilting several times, as well as the ability to make the quilts in your head.

 

 

Far Away Doors • Quilt Finish

FarAwayDoors_1

Doors opening, closing on us
by Marge Piercy

Maybe there is more of the magical
in the idea of a door than in the door
itself. It’s always a matter of going
through into something else. But

while some doors lead to cathedrals
arching up overhead like stormy skies
and some to sumptuous auditoriums
and some to caves of nuclear monsters

most just yield a bathroom or a closet.
Still, the image of a door is liminal,
passing from one place into another
one state to the other, boundaries

and promises and threats. Inside
to outside, light into dark, dark into
light, cold into warm, known into
strange, safe into terror, wind

into stillness, silence into noise
or music. We slice our life into
segments by rituals, each a door
to a presumed new phase. We see

ourselves progressing from room
to room perhaps dragging our toys
along until the last door opens
and we pass at last into was.

FarAwayDoors_2

Far Away Doors
Quilt No. 216 • 49 1/2″ wide by 43 1/2″ tall
Some blocks sent to me by the Gridsters Bee

Finished!

I originally named it “Home-keeping Hearts” but that was just its milk name as it had just been born and I was in a cheezy mood of  Hearts and Deep Meanings and All That.  Marge Piercy said it best about doors, even quilty ones inspired by far away doors from Dublin, Ireland:

“the image of a door is liminal, / passing from one place into another / one state to the other, boundaries // and promises and threats. Inside / to outside, light into dark, dark into / light, cold into warm, known into / strange, safe into terror, wind // into stillness, silence into noise / or music.”

The photograph on the truck?  It went like this: on our way to get some Vietnamese bùn châ for lunch, we trekked down to our newest neighbors’ home to ask if we could please pose the quilt on their cool car, and so I knocked on their door and it opened to a crying baby in the other room and a smiling baby in his father’s arms and good-natured parents, owners of a new-to-them truck and the mother’s name was Genesis and the father’s name was Nate and we introduced ourselves and they said yes, of course, and then they headed back inside because it was about a hundred degrees outside, as they smiled and waved and shut the door behind them, the  lovely music of a home with a young family and a Ford Ranger just made for quilt posing.

FarAwayDoors_7

And so, this variation of Merrion Square is finished.  I pass out the how-to sheet as a freebie when people take my Merrion Square classes, so hopefully you’ll be in one soon.  Check my schedule to see if there’s a workshop near you.

Far Away Doors_LABEL

And finally, many thanks to all who entered the giveaway for the ruler.  The winner has been notified by email and I’ll get the ruler off to her this week.  I am leaving the post up because there are so many great responses to my question.  You are all a significantly talented and experienced group of quilters — thank you for your ruler advice!

FarAwayDoors_6

Can We Talk About Rulers? (Giveaway)

Stack of Rulers

When I teach,often there seems a disconnect between what rulers students have and what rulers they need.  So I thought I’d write a post talking about the basics that I wish everyone could have.  [And while I’m at it, rotary cutters need a mention, too.  The largest I’d recommend in a classroom size is 45mm, for a variety of reasons.  I think the larger ones are less helpful, and sometimes even dangerous.]  

Read through to the end, leave a comment telling which ruler you use the most, and why, and you can be entered for a Giveaway (US only).  Giveaway now closed; thanks to all who entered!

Vintage Folding Ruler

I use this folding carpenter’s ruler when measuring the width and length of quilts.

I got started on my ruler fetish honestly, when a mild-mannered shop owner named Carolyn hosted weekly class based on making a sampler quilt.  And every week, she’d hold up a new ruler saying that we needed this to make the block that week.  My friend Leisa and I would exchange glances, knowing that Carolyn was a Ruler Enabler of the Worst Kind: she made it so necessary, that you just knew you couldn’t go on without it.  Because of this, I’ve used a ton of different rulers, and have two drawers and bin full of those plexiglass gridded items.

Tips:

  • Please don’t buy the cheap rulers.  Take your time to accumulate these, and buy sturdy rulers, as too thin rulers can warp out of shape.
  • Buy rulers that have some sort of coating on the back, preventing slippage.
  • Please buy rulers that have accurate measurements on them, and enough gridlines on them.
  • I am not partial to any one brand, but I did notice that most of my rulers seem to be from Creative Grids, Omnigrid, and Olfa.

I wish every student, every quilter had these basics:

rulers 6 x 24

6″ x 24″ ruler

What it’s used for: large initial cuts off yardage, long narrow cuts of yardage

rulers 6.5 a 12.5 inches

6.5 x 12.5″ ruler

What it’s used for: when working in a smaller space (some classrooms are beyond tiny, and some of our sewing spaces are too), it’s useful to fold the fabric to get the longer cuts.  Also good for truing up smaller parts of blocks.  Good for even-ing up sewn sections.

Caveat: some people hate having that extra 1/2″ on the edges of their ruler.  I got used to it and appreciate it, but for some, it can be distracting.

Small Square Rulers

Small square ruler

With this size, you can rule the world.  You don’t need specialty Flying Geese rulers, if you know how to use this.  The small one is easy to flip around, when truing up blocks, and easy to use to cut smaller shapes, when scrap sewing.

Square rulers, ranging from 6.5″ – 9.5″ – 12.5″

What it’s used for: I use the 6.5 the most, as I believe in truing up sections of a block before sewing it together.  But the other sizes are great for truing up larger blocks, helping you trim your corner of quilt borders evenly.  One day I even purchased a 16.5″ gigantor square ruler, and believe it or not, I do use it more than I thought I would.

BlocLoc 6.5 inch

Bloc-Loc ruler for trimming up Half Square Triangles

What it’s used for: Keeping your sanity when truing up HSTs.  They are expensive and I rarely see them on sale.  I’d start with a 6.5″ BlocLoc and invest from there.  Here are some of the others I’ve picked up over the years:

BlocLoc Rulers

Specialty Rulers I think should be in your stash:

Triangle Rulers

A few of my angle rulers

30-60-90 ruler 

Some times, for some patterns, you need one of these, like when you make Annularity.

Tri-Recs Ruler

Tri-Recs ruler

If you are a traditional quilter, or jump in on one of Bonnie Hunter’s Thanksgiving Quilt-A-Longs, you may find yourself needing one of these one day.

Essential Triangle Tool

Bonnie Hunter’s Essential Triangle Ruler

I only purchased this because she said I would need it.  Since then, I ‘ve used it a ton of times in making triangles, and now I consider it one of my go-to rulers.

rulers Cute Cuts 4.5 inch

Lori Holt’s 4.5″ Trim Up Ruler.  Careful.  You can go broke on these, as she has them in every size from newborn to old age.  I have only the 4.5″ and the 8.5″  But what makes these unique is that is is a form of a “centering ruler,” a tool I had to purchase when I studied Clothing and Textiles in college (and which I still use today).

rulers 2.5 by 6.5 inch

2.5″ by 6.5″ ruler.  Verrry handy for trimming up.

 

Giveaway Ruler

P.S. I had this toy from Berlin way before Megan Rapinoe led the US Team to a World Cup in soccer.

I hope you’ll contribute to this conversation by leaving a comment, telling us what your favorite ruler is, what brand it is (if that’s important), and why you like it.  That will enter you in a Giveaway for a ruler, as I’ll be sending out (USA only) a 6″ ruler, courtesy of my pocketbook and a recent bonzo coupon at a national chain fabric store.

Leave a comment below to enter the giveaway.  I will notify the winner by email in a few days.  Thanks for entering!

Although the giveaway is now closed, and the winner has been notified, the comments here are a wealth of information and helpful ideas, so I hope you’ll take a look at them.  There are a lot of very experienced quilters out there! Thank you all for entering.