Sewing · Something to Think About

Little Bits

#1

“Human beings are creatures made for joy. Against all evidence, we tell ourselves that grief and loneliness and despair are tragedies, unwelcome variations from the pleasure and calm and safety that in the right way of the world would form the firm ground of our being. In the fairy tale we tell ourselves, darkness holds nothing resembling a gift.
“What we feel always contains its own truth, but it is not the only truth, and darkness almost always harbors some bit of goodness tucked out of sight, waiting for an unexpected light to shine, to reveal it in its deepest hiding place.”
by Margaret Renkl, from her book, Late Migrations

#2

I have spent the better part of the last two weeks working with my daughter on her Fall 2021 Lookbook on packaging for mac makers, published Tuesday. She purchased Affinity Publisher and took a stab at working in it, her first time using some sort of design software. (Good for her.) We used all her photos of all her macs (she had over 400, but we winnowed it down to about 70); however, I was quite entranced with Page 19 of her book: it was about little bits, and how these ends of ribbon bolts or tiny clips, or shaped pieces of paper could embellish a package.

#3

The artists above (L) Alayne Spafford and (R) Anna Mac are making art with a gallery of tiny things.

All my life I’ve been enamored of little things. As a child, I once shaved the wood off the tips of 7 colored pencils with my father’s discarded razor blade, broke off the tips, and made a teeny set of colored pencils, complete with their own paper case (also handmade). I have collections of tiny things, in jars, in boxes, in drawers. Obviously I was drawn to the sewing world, with all of its collections of tiny bits (thimbles, needles, wee scissors and of course, scraps).

So when our Inland Modern Quilt Guild decided to host Berene Campbell, showing her idea of a Mini-mod Block Swap (they are all 1 1/2″ finished), I was all in. Earlier this year, I helped make advertisements for the guild’s blog, and I put together all those shapes using Affinity Designer. (Again, I mention this software so you know you can buy an excellent digital design software for about $55. That’s $55 once, not a monthly fee.)

She uses this concept–of going around and talking to Guilds as a charity fundraiser, but the guilds will sort out how to set up the swap, and she gives good support. Her series of YouTube videos help anyone make tiny bits of a block.

Three of my four batches of bitty blocks (2″ unfinished) have arrived.

All arrayed in rows.

I made a bunch to send out but I got confused and made too many. They joined what I had received.

An afternoon of playing with solid scraps yielded this bundle of wee blocks.

The challenge from our Guild is to make something for our December meeting from all our blocks. I have an idea, but it’s a bit of one, so I’m holding onto it and letting it grow. I did pretty well in the last challenge, winning the vote at the Guild Meeting. That made me more than a bit happy. Thank you, Guild Members.

#4

I read many bits of happiness when I read all your comments on your Happy Days. From start to finish, they were all wonderful, inspiring. I loved how often they included family and friends, fall traditions, and near misses with disaster. My husband and I read them together, commenting on how often you epitomized the Renkle quote from above, finding how “darkness almost always harbors some bit of goodness tucked out of sight” and I love that you shared them with me, with others.

I did choose a recipient (Pat A.), and have sent her a note to arrange the mailing of the jelly roll. Thank you again to Sherri McConnell for donating this so I could host the giveaway.

But most of all, thank you for sharing your Little Bits (and some Big Bits) of Happy Days. It was a treasure.

Fall leaves, Alexandria, Virginia: I lived there for a year and ended up scanning so many leaves on my flatbed scanner, as I loved them all and wanted to capture them forever!

Giveaway · Travels

Happy Days and Giveaway

If I unrolled a jelly roll and placed the strips end to end, would I make it from my house to my friend Sherri’s house? Um, nope. There’s more to this story, but first, some tourist photos:

A tiny cave on the left, and some petroglyphs on the right. The Valley of Fire State Park is not a huge place, but we arrived about an hour before sundown, and enjoyed all the glowing red rocks. Visiting here led to Sherri’s house, which led to her handing me a jelly roll of her newest line so I could do a giveaway of this bright and cheery line of fabric. See? I connected all the dots! And now some more tourist photos:

Okay, we ate right through the peaches we bought at a fruit stand in Santa Clara (recommended by Sherri’s husband), and then bought more of them when we were in Northern Utah. Happily the border checkpoint didn’t take them away when we came home with them. And now…more tourist photos:

We live in area that doesn’t get fall color. Around January some leaves on the liquid amber trees might change colors but the rest of the trees stay green, or might turn brown and drop their leaves. So if we want to see color, we have to go north, and we hit it just right this year. Above is the view from the Mt. Nebo Loop, Utah.

Apparently heading down into Payson, the cows are all over grazing, but there were only about three cars we saw the whole time. It was lovely. The last photo, of the yellow aspens and the green pines is from Millcreek Canyon, near Salt Lake City, where we stayed (visiting relatives).

We had such “happy days” driving through such beautiful country, and above are the fabrics in her line (photos courtesy of Sherri, from her terrific blog A Quilting Life). We also had happy days in being able to meet my daughter and her family at Orson Gygi, a giant cookware place:

On the left is Barbara‘s article about color in Orson Gygi’s fall publication, and on the right is the cookie cutter wall. We also saw my son and his family, all of us enjoying dinner together that night. All the wee grand-toddlers of long ago are grown into teenagers!

Sherri is also a fabulous designer, and all of the above quilts were designed for this fabric line; patterns available at Fat Quarter Shop, or on Sherri’s ETSY Shop (all photos used with permission).

.

UPDATE: Giveaway is closed. Thank you to all who entered!

So, to enter the giveaway for a jelly roll of Happy Days from Sherri and Chelsi, please leave a comment telling me of a recent happy day. Or days! Giveaway is limited to those who live in the USA, but please do leave a comment even if you are far away. We love to hear about happy days.

And now I leave you with one last photo, a typical Utah flower of a hollyhock. They were everywhere when I was a child living there. I found these right downtown one evening so had to take a photo: such old and dusty and cherished memories.

Thank you very much, Sherri. Please leave a comment to enter to win!

UPDATE: Giveaway is closed. Thank you to all who entered!

This-and-That

This and That • Should have been September 2021

Everything I’ve done lately has been done lately.

I did get this block made in September for Bette, and did send it off on time, but never posted about it, so here we are, October 3rd and there you go. You can download the foundation paper-pieced pattern from here. Each quadrant is a six-inch block. This is for our Gridster Bee quilt group and if you want some quilty eye-candy, here’s our space on the web. One of the things I like about this group is that we are all so varied, there are a lot of interesting blocks to experiment with.

And I’m totally on deadline for October’s block, just as soon as I look it up and remember what it is.

I know this is blurry and tiny, but you had to see it. The Metropolitan Costume Division of Wild and Crazy and How Does That Dress Stay On? recently had another one of their galas–this time in September because the May 2021 and the May 2020 were cancelled. The theme is American Patchwork or something like that, and of course, all we quilters cringe a little, because what THEY think is patchwork and what WE think is patchwork often are not the same thing.

But check out this hexie dress!! I’m in total love with it. Either she was one of the Vogue Magazine Staffers or Someone Not Important Who Was Fully Dressed, but she didn’t show up in any of the “after” photos. A Famous Quilter helped with one of the “outfits” which although I have high regard for the quilter, I was sort of Meh, or Meh-Minus, about the get-up. It’s up to you to find the calico bubble quilt, draped over the shoulders of somebody famous.

I get these letters all the time. I’ll forward them on to you, if you are interested. The internets is a funny place.

I can now make macarons, digitally, using Affinity Designer. I’ve been working on a logo for my daughter, and I’m pretty excited that I learned how to use the gradiant tool to give these sweet treats some dimension.

She owes me real macarons.

Iron died. Had to use my travel iron during the workshop, and yes, I’ve bought a new iron, but I like my old Sunbeam iron a LOT more than the new cheap-o Model of Rowenta (not shown) I purchased. So, hating the Rowenta from Target, I bought a new Sunbeam iron on Amazon, which is perfect: it gets hot, doesn’t spit or drip, is smallish so I don’t feel like I’m dragging an anvil around every time I pick up the iron and doesn’t pack as much wattage so the lights in my oldish house don’t dim as much as when the massive wattage irons click on to heat. I never buy fancy irons, by the way. Check back with me in five years to see if it’s still good. My first cheap iron lasted 25 years, but they don’t make them like they used to.

One of my readers sent me her version of four of my free SHINE blocks (here on this website). I love what she’s done! You all are so inventive and interesting and creative–if you use one of my patterns, send over a photo. Thank you Veroniqué!

Okay, this is random, but we went to Forest Lawn to see a stained glass exhibit. Yes, we were at a cemetary, but check out this brickwork. I asked inside if this was built to be a house or something and she said, No–always a mortuary. Famous People Buried Here: a list, but I almost didn’t know a lot of them (there are a few I did know, like George Burns, Clark Gable, Elizabeth Taylor and The Lone Ranger). Apparently it was the thing to see in the day, as my parents visited this place while on their honeymoon in the 1940s.

A N D…I did finish my September pillow, a whole ten days before the end of the month. I already see things I want to fix in that quilting, but it will have to wait until October. I’m not unsquishing the pillow form out now.

Stay safe out there, everyone.

Keep Quilting!

Quilts

thirty-two years • Quilt Finish

thirty-two years
quilt #257 • 34″ wide by 25″ high

Guild Challenge: Use the Churn Dash block, but make it “modernish.” Reams have been written, umpteem digital slides have been presented over what “modern-ish” means. I decided to just do what I want and roll from there.

This was first base: overlapping churn dash blocks with blocks in the corners. I’d already left home plate long ago (which would have been a single Churn Dash).

After I’d merged the two blocks, late one night (tired) I sat and studied it. The deep blue color was strong and I liked the aqua color and I really liked where they merged in the middle, retaining something of themselves, but blending by giving a little of their color to the other, making a new hue. Yep, I thought, reflecting on our recent thirty-second wedding anniversary, this little bit of a quilt is just like marriage.

So now how to get the numbers in script onto it? I’d done this once before, so I went at it again. That’s the beauty of all those art quilts I made; I was schooled in many techniques. I wrote it in my Pages (word processing) program, then scaled it up, and printed it out on freezer paper (I had to tape the paper to some card stock to get it through the printer). The most tedious part is cutting them all out; I left them joined by a small bridge of paper, knowing I could just quilt through it.

I pressed it well. Yes, I pinned the quilt together first, quilted the center, then added the letters.

I wondered what to do for the fill. This is why I take lots of photos of quilts at quilt shows (remember those?).

Liking this.

Finished.

I decided to play around with this shape digitally:

I stacked them up, then mirrored two more to the side.

This could be fun. I wanted to really play with changing out the colors, but I was on to other things.

If you want to play with a snuggled-up Churn Dash Block duo, then click on the link below to download my rough guide (PDF):



Happy Quilting!

Digital/Virtual World · Guild Visits · Something to Think About · Zoom

To follow the notes of a disappearing bird

I work upstairs in a bedroom at the end of the house in what used to be my daughter’s room, before this penultimate child burst out into the world, leaving home at twenty, coming back only for visits — an ending I didn’t see coming, for sure. In that room, my sewing machine sits on a desk that runs underneath a double-wide window, and my view is visually sheltered there by the boughs of a silk oak tree, like a frame.

Just below the window, and sometimes climbing up the screen, is an enormous wisteria vine — no it’s really two vines — stuck in the earth some thirty years ago when we moved to this house. In the spring it’s an uncontrolled explosion of heavy blossoms, followed quickly by incessant leaves and sinewy vines and tendrils, climbing, growing, spreading, taking over the old arbor full of termites and carpenter bee holes, and reaching over the pathway to the silk oak.

Two days ago I was startled by a squirrel that leapt from the roof of our house onto the silk oak limb, and as the wisteria has its tendrils wrapped around that one, too, the whole green carpet above and just below my window was set into motion with the squirrel’s landing, a rustling that kept me watching until everything stilled and the squirrel descended down the trunk and onto to other things.

I took a leap of sorts last year when I figured out how to do everything Guild-related from this desk in front of this window: videos, Zoom lectures, demos with two cameras on camera stands that I always have to wrestle into submission for at the time, I was unaware of the fancy ones that moved at the touch of a finger. I loved the Zoom teaching, especially.

I loved all the students in their places and their spaces, their fabrics right at hand, the mess underfoot, the walking back and forth from cutting station to ironing board to sewing machine. It was a rich, varied tapestry of individuals all honing their craft, this pattern they’d chosen, and we worked together as a very long-distance team. Most of the time.

I had a few failures, when I couldn’t reach through this digital space to show them how I trimmed, or to look at the blocks arranged on a wall that was in the hallway just around the corner, with no way to show me. I’ve had classes where it was deathly silent, everyone on Mute, watching my class videos or just being extra-respectful to not bother everyone with their usual noises: phone calls to friends, TV on for company, or the singing along to the radio. I could see them having a life, but there I was at the desk, sipping my water: the girl in the digital box.

Concentrating on getting the talk set up

I loved the Guild Presentations, too: the rows and rows of shining-faced quilters, and before I start, we are all expectant, all of them present in their easy chairs, propped up against their pillow towers on their beds, or the living rooms where husbands/friends/children/dogs wander through, and at the kitchen tables, all of us beaming at each other.

As you know, I recently taught a second class for the Santa Clarita Quilt Guild and my husband asked me if I had any repeats from the first time. I hadn’t looked up the previous class, but when I saw one student’s beautiful wall, I knew she had taken from me before. The space was familiar, for, in a way, I’d spent several hours there last year.

I now have two lectures, four online classes, but almost no gigs lined up. Is this an ending? I love teaching, but maybe it’s time to take longer to watch that squirrel with her descent or
“To follow the notes of a disappearing bird
out into the trees, up and out along the farthest / branch…”

I don’t know. Maybe it’s not?

I pinned all the Blossom quilts on the design wall before class.

I recognized an ending last time I came to this familiar junction. And I recognized when I had written everything I needed to say at another place in time. But this is all sort of unfamiliar to me now, for I don’t think I’m done, but yet somehow it feels like it might be that way. Or, it might not.

I gave the final scheduled lecture for 2021 last week. It was a hybrid: with a small cohort in their Guild’s usual meeting place at the Fellowship Hall, and the rest of us on Zoom. It was an interesting push-pull, a tension between the recent months of Covid and our isolation and this guild meeting was kind of at the reverse place — wanting to get out, but also wanting to stay in.

I recognized the impulse. Here in California we are all feeling sort of safe with masking in place, numbers down, vaccines in arms, and so we are venturing out to normalcy. However, I figured out some time ago that I would never visit a Guild in person again to teach or give a talk, much preferring the Zoom format. So perhaps this hybrid meeting was the opening of that proverbial door, the notes of that disappearing song beckoning me to the edge of a different wood, in a different territory.

Perhaps.

I’ll still be quilting, I’ll still be writing here on this website. I have a thousand-and-one projects lined up, and I may yet figure out how to schedule my own classes, turning students loose in my videos and handouts and structure. And I know Santa Clarita wants me to come back, too.

Stay tuned.


“Some Ants for Henry,” by Ralph Black
[….]
To begin each day among the weeds, crouched
   and hungry for a sign of complete desire, this
is my small prayer. To pull a blade of grass and watch
   a single globe of dew fade and blink out.
To follow the notes of a disappearing bird
   out into the trees, up and out along the farthest
branch, laying my fingers against the pulse
   of that blue-fletched, warbling throat.
Such moments can kill a man, or startle him back
   to his senses. [….]
(from here)

Guild Visits · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt

Blossom Quilts • Santa Clarita Quilt Guild

I had a great visit to Santa Clarita Quilt Guild this past week, presenting a new lecture:  Exploration Through Modern, Art and Traditional Quilts. I then taught a Workshop on 9-11 (!) using my Blossom pattern. I’ve worked with this Guild before and they are delightful. I thought I would share (with their permission) some of the quilts they made for our Follow-Up meeting about a week later.

The pattern has three sizes of blocks, and some quilters chose the smallest size, and some chose the largest, but the impact is great with whichever size was used, as the basis — the Flowering Snowball block — is really adaptable to many different fabrics.

Carol C. used the smallest size, wanting to make a quilt in autumn colors. I think those oranges fairly glow against her dark border.

Jean C. chose dark tone-on-tone batiks for her petals, and backed them with brights. I love that grayed aqua border. While you can’t really see it here, she used a flanged binding, so outside the burnt orange is the dark color again.

I think Joan used the small block again, and I love how the bright cranberry background is balanced by the soft floral petals and the muted green border.

Kristeen D. started out with a white polka dot fabric at our workshop, but by the time we met again, she’d swapped all of that out for the black/white polka-dots. That was a really great choice, along with that border.

Melissa N had pieces of three different black florals, which she combined to great effect for the backgrounds and border. Several quilters finished their quilts completely and she was one of them.

Vickie R used the smallest block in a limited palette of yellows and blues. But she finished hers into a pillow–a great use for this mini-mini quilt.

Usually we have a full week in between, but we shortened the interval to five days. Sue B. was able to get her quilt pieces cut out and arranged on the wall — I am happy to see quilts in progress in our Slide Shows, as that reflects Real Life. I love that border she chose, and it’s a perfect foil to the bright colors in the center.

Robin T. was at the Guild Meeting and once she heard that I have several videos in the class materials, she realized she could sign up even though she couldn’t attend the Workshop. She used autumn tones again, and then brought the center petals forward with her bright pop of yellow. We all liked how she stepped down from that to the polka-dotted half-petals, then out again to another muted floral fabric.

And this is my mini-mini, made in the smallest size. I had decided I’d better try the quilt myself, in preparation for teaching. I loved using the subtle stripe in the border, and rotated the corners 45-degrees so the pattern would continue around the outside. I also demo-ed on this fabric, so this is the front and a large version of the block is the back. Note: the tiny lavender flowered fabric in the outer border is one of the oldest in my stash, as I think it’s about 25+ years old, and was used in a quilt for my then young daughter.

Thank you to the women in the Santa Clarita Quilt Guild for their creativity and imagination and quick work. Hope you enjoyed the Blossom Quilt Show!