300 Quilts · Quilt Finish

Quilt Finishes, Kitchen Re-do, Watching a Plant Bloom

These strange looking almost-flowering buds belong to the Mother of Pearl plant. It’s also known as the Ghost plant, or Graptopetalum paraguayense.

This is the mother ship of that spindly, tentative arm that is reaching out to flower. This part is sturdy, well-rooted, thick and healthy. The flowering branch looks delicate, pale, and like you want to set up a succulent hospital to take care of it. I think the base plant could climb mountains, leap tall buildings in a single bound. I would think that the flowering branch is one of those caricatures of a fainting Victorian woman.

Both of these are us. Are you. Are me.

It’s on the sturdy plant days that we reply to every email, answer every comment on Instagram, hand-write overdue notes to far away friends, cook homemade meals, weed the garden, quilt for hours — our minds clear and powerful, our physical bodies cooperating and healthy. We eschew sugary snacks. We sleep well. We read interesting books. Each minute has a purpose.

Sadly, frail flowering stem days can sometimes prevail. On those days, while we might look well to the world, inside we can hardly step over doorway thresholds. We doom-scroll social media, but don’t have energy for even a “like.” Thinking of what to say to comments is herculean, and dinner consists of whatever is in the fridge, or at the closest fast-food place. Creativity is still treasured, but we can’t find our sew-jo, our mo-jo, our motivation or energy. Sleep is interrupted, and we worry/ruminate way too much. Our physical bodies are busy plotting against us and it’s generally Not Good (think something along the order of January 6th).

You get the picture.

And then two holy men step into the fray (thinking of their names: Angel and Ezequiel). We are in the midst of a kitchen re-do, as some of you have seen on other social media. Maybe to continue the metaphor from the Mother of Pearl plant, we are being re-potted? This week Angel and Ezequiel, and then Leo (on the right with all the cans, etc) came to paint the kitchen three different colors. (In case you don’t feel old enough, Ezequiel — a sturdy, jovial man — is 72 and has been a painter for nearly a half-century.) It has been nice to have many thoughtful, kind and cheerful people help us.

On another day this week as we ate lunch, I looked at my Dave and said, “Today we don’t have to pick a paint color. We don’t have to go to five tile stores to choose backsplash. We don’t have to go to four stores to evaluate countertops, or talk about drawer handles or garbage disposals. We don’t have to buy sinks, or microwaves or a refrigerator.”
“I know,” he said. “Would you like to take a nap?”

It was a spindly flowering branch day.

And then this happened. It was the arc scraps from Primula Ballerina’s Drunkard’s Path blocks, filled in with low-volume fabrics. I blocked all out that was happening below me in the kitchen and kept going because I was listening to this:

Baby Hurren’s Quilt #275 in the Quilt Index

Each Drunkard’s Path block is 5″ finished, so I guess the quilt is 40″ x 35″, about right for a friend’s baby who hasn’t yet arrived.

And that Target Special round mirror is for the half-bath downstairs, because ohgoshwhynot, we decided to replace the vanity/sink while we were at it and the old square mirror won’t fit when the new vanity comes in. The painters painted it “White Flour” today (our white for the kitchen). What a gift.

And then when the construction drapes were cleared from the family room for a weekend, we took the chance to binge-watch the last season of Sanditon. The ending(s) reminded me of Lord of the Rings, when we had wrap-up ending, after wrap-up ending, after wrap-up ending. Which allowed me to do a wrap-up ending on this EPP quilt (North Country Quilt) which was started in April 2019. (Free pattern for the pieces at the link.)

I decided to sew on a border as the edges were as unstable as my current state; on the right is my mock-up of the quilting for Jen, my long armer.

At this point, I just want this quilt to be done, even if I’m not so sure about it now. I am also hoping that soon the kitchen will be done, that we’ll move back out of the dining room, unpack the stacks of boxes in the garage and family room, and find our sturdy plant lives once more.

Lilacs in bloom remind me of my mother
300 Quilts · Quilt Finish

Primula Ballerina • Quilt Finish

A hymn sung in our church begins with “Earth, with her ten-thousand flowers” and ends with the sentiment that all these things of nature “Have one chorus: God is love.” This was reinforced to me when I went hunting for a title for this quilt (not wanting to borrow from the original pattern — more info here), and fell down into a fun rabbit hole of internet blossoms.

In the end a ruffled primrose caught my eye, with a trademarked name of Prima Belarina. Not wanting to run afoul of the trademark police, I decided to call this Primula Ballerina, primula being the botanical name for Primrose, and the ruffles on that new flower resembling the tutu of a dancing ballerina.


I quilted it on my Sweet Sixteen Handiquilter; this size is a fun amount of quilting for one SoCal quilter (me). Label mock-up:

And…that’s about all for today. I did have a profound post on the similarities/differences between our tools as quilters and the tools I see everyday in my under-construction kitchen, but that will have to wait. So will the post about Distraction (inability to concentrate when there is fascinating stuff doing on the house), the post about Best Uses of Doom-scrolling Instagram (really, there are none except seeing all your pretty quilts), as well a potential post on Guilt About Falling Behind in Most Areas of My Life.

Likewise the post about Cooking with Cars, or the bit about Choosing a Particular color of Blue Paint in the changing seasonal light have to wait, too. Something for you to look forward to, I guess. But I will leave you with photos.

(That center sure is a flashy little thing, isn’t it?)

Go smell 10,000 spring flowers!

300 Quilts

Garden Flower • Quilt Top Finish

Floods! Snow! Storms! Rain! More Rain! That old saying about April Showers really doesn’t apply to California, because for us it’s March showers bring April flowers, so yes, my garden is overflowing with flowers which is where my latest quilt started.

This pattern is also where the quilt started, with Yvonne’s wonderful Garden Peony quilt pattern. Yvonne is a master of shape and space (her handle is Quilting Jet Girl), and love how the inner path of this quilt mimics the ruffling of a peony blossom.

I’ve highlighted it here.

But I’ve always wanted to make this in Kaffe prints, just knowing it would make a wonderful big blossom. Luckily for me, Yvonne put out a new edition of her pattern, so I was in business.

I busily cut out all the green I wanted to use (an old Kaffe geranium print) and then started mocking up the center. I remembered that our peonies had that brilliant yellow center, so that’s what I cut next. However, there wasn’t a blossom big enough for the solid circle Yvonne had in her pattern, so I ended up with four smaller blocks. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was already in trouble with this quilt:

Can we say Color Mush? Can we say Pieces Turned Awry?

Admittedly, this was taken at night, but I couldn’t see any delineation between the outer three colors. I went to bed, dejected, as I just knew her design would be beautiful in Kaffes but couldn’t see my way there.

Thank you, Committee of Sleep. Out with the treasured geranium fabric. In with dots.

I tried three different pinks around that center yellow, and have a shopping receipt and the cut-out shapes to prove it (some fabrics were already in the stash). I had to make another hard decision about the 2nd ring: I inverted it, largely because the shape of the blossoms in the Kaffe were fighting the natural flow of soft scallopy petal shapes. It was a hard call, as I loved how Yvonne had the ruffle effect (see above). But now I was in new territory, and I was determined to make it work.

But apparently the quilt wasn’t done with me yet.

This just didn’t work. So I re-made a new one, with a better match of pink blossom and a stronger background, and pieced it in. I even rotated it a quarter turn for better balance.

Admittedly the two outer rings are still very similar in value, even though one is Kale and the other Geraniums. I’m hoping the quilting will help fix that.

Yvonne has great directions. I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough big blooms to make full-blocks in one section, and I shouldn’t have. It’s one of my favorite parts. I wish I’d been braver on the other sections (this is a “before I switched it out” photo).

There are many good tips on construction in the pattern, so you shouldn’t have any troubles.

I printed out the pattern onto card stock, and put two loops of blue painter’s tape on the back to keep it in place when I was cutting. I set a ruler on top of the straight edges to help with cutting (large rotary cutter). I followed her directions for cutting multiple shapes, using my smaller rotary cutter on the curved edges.

Put your sewing machine speed on slow, whether it’s you that’s on slow, or the machine. Pin the center of the arc. Then one more at each end. I always tried to use a scrap to start the seam before stitching that beginning edge, and used the natural flex and give of the bias to help align the edges.

I pressed nearly every edge to slide under the larger arc piece, with the exception of the center circle. Then trim it up and put it on the design wall.

Sew together, pressing well.

I had to do a last photo in our under-construction kitchen. This is the Day Six of Week Four, showing the floor all finished with its patching (sense a theme?). We’ve chosen our cupboard color (the Great Angst of the last two weeks), but you’ll have to wait to find out which one we chose. I woke up from a dream the other morning where I was being tiled: tiny pieces all over my face. Hmmmm, I thought, when I was fully awake. Better get on the tile stuff for our backsplash. And the stories! I’ve loved reading about painting, buying, kitchens, workers, counters, windows–your experiences have helped me be more sanguine about mine.

So just like making a quilt, from choosing a shape to material to color to size to revision, the kitchen is coming along. I had thought I’d just sit upstairs and sew merrily away for six weeks while they hammered and sawed downstairs. That was an illusion. The reality is we’ve spent nearly every day making some $ignificant deci$ion, or shopping to learn about that significant decision. But we think we’ve purchased just about everything, and now it’s just time and other people making in their workshops, sawing and planing and cutting wood.

I much prefer fabric.

Happy Easter!

300 Quilts · Free Quilt Pattern

Bright Ladies (Well Read) • Quilt Top Finish

There was a young lady named Bright,
Whose speed was far faster than light;
She set out one day
In a relative way,
And returned home the previous night.
(limerick by Arthur Henry Reginal Buller)

Our high respect for a well-read [wo]man is praise enough of literature.

Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make ourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not. (Thomas Henry Huxley)

But now my task is smoothly done,
I can fly, or I can run.

Have faith and pursue the unknown end. (Oliver Wendell Homes)


I’m just having fun here, typing in some quotes that fit my happy mood at having finished the Ladies. For a while this unfinished quilt top fell into the worst place for a while, as it became a metaphor for my sadness, my sorrows, my frustrations, my pain, my inability to finish a task, the mess downstairs in my under-construction kitchen, and it mocked me at night when I would come in to try and finish it. I had to hack off a border to get it to this place. I did like that border — but it was either make more to even things out • or • take it off and be done — so the rotary cutter came out. We are all friends again, the ladies and I.


I don’t really have a title for this quilt yet. Ladies has to be somewhere in that title, though.


I decided I did not want to snowball a million rectangles to get that border. So I figured out a pattern for two triangles and a diamond that would fit together. It’s not that I hate making snowball corners. I just hate having to figure out what to do with all those leftover triangles. Yes, I know: make more half-square triangles, but then it begins to feel like real work, instead of fun.

The free pattern for the zig-zag idea is up in the tab marked Pieced Quilter Ladies & Notions (scroll down to find it).

Okay, that’s about it for today. Happy April!

300 Quilts · Quick Quilt

Quilt Finish: Chris’ Quilt

Make this snappy, I thought: no malingering or beating around the bush. You’ve got a birthday deadline.

This is Chris’ quilt, quilt #274 in the Index, it’s roughly 60″ by 72″– tall enough for him. My quilter turned it around in like a New York Minute, and I had it back out the door again a few days later, sending it on to him for his birthday.

I chose Mod Dots for the quilting: nice loop-de-loos around all those sharp angles and edges.

For the backing I used a pre-packaged quilt backing, liking the bursts of color against the sea of blues on the front. There are several airplane fabrics in there as he wants to be a pilot, but other than that, it was a scrap quilt all the way around.

I’ve learned to include a care label on quilts I give away.

This post is a contrast to the last one, showing you I do know how to do a quick quilt and like Mary, I can make it snappy.

Other Posts about this Quilt

Showing the blocks under construction, with the measurements so you, too, can do a snappy quilt full of love (I love working with HSTs and large blocks!)

300 Quilts · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Quilt Finish

Quilt Finish: Aerial Beacon

To get across great distances, way back in the day, early airplane pilots would focus on visual landmarks, or sometimes lit bonfires if they needed to find their way in the dark: “In February 1921, an airmail pilot named Jack Knight put this to the test with his all-night flight to Chicago from North Platte, Nebraska. Knight found his way across the black prairie with the help of bonfires lit by Post Office staff, farmers, and the public” (from here). When I found this Aerial Beacon block, it sent me gathering information about this idea: that there were physical beacons to guide those airmail pilots before we had modern navigation. Really? I’d never even thought about this.

An early map showing one of the routes across the United States.

Many aerial beacons were atop tall city buildings. This is from a vintage postcard of Chicago.

Some aerial beacon were little huts with a number painted on the roof. They were next to the tall beacon, with a concrete arrow pointing on to the next one. These are still found in the United States on hilltops, beside cities, although there are very few extant arrows.

This quilt began with these French Bee fabrics by Renee Nanneman. I kept trying to think of names for the bees, and thought up “sky pilots.” Nope. That’s an established term for clergymen/women, which I also didn’t know. So I kept looking, and then found this:

A traditional block, which would let the bees show off nicely, as well as the coordinating fabrics. I loved those four big triangles; sort of like propeller blades (another reference to flight). So I made my first block, wondering if could I even do this? I chose to make this a foundation paper-pieced block, so as to get those snappy points and to keep everything in place (pattern coming next year some time).

ultra-high radio frequency waves (RFID, or radio frequency identification)

Then, thinking about the idea of RFID waves, and the communications that replaced the aerial beacon huts, I referenced them with a waved border made with bias binding. It was a good exercise to figure it out, and I love how it looks.

Jen of Sew-Mazing Quilting went the extra mile in the quilting. I had many strong colors in the blocks and a very light border and backgrounds and I asked her to use Superior’s MicroQuilter thread in silver (7007). Bob Purcell (who founded Superior) told me it was their best blender, and he was right.

late-night sewing

I did begin making the blocks way back in October, first thinking about a design with nine blocks. But there was so much fabric left from each French bee color, that I made more. And took trips to Utah. And tried to sew. And took trips to Utah. And I kept trying to write the pattern, because it was such a fun block. And took a final trip to Utah. Then unlike those early pilots ferrying mail, in the next few weeks I felt more than once like I had lost my way. This quilt spent a lot of time wadded up in the corner, as I just didn’t have the moxie to work on it.

I even had the backing ready to go as I dithered and dithered about whether I should quilt it myself or not. I finally realized that given my current state, you-know-what would freeze over before I got around it it. When Jen returned the quilt, it sat some more time. Finally this past week, I found my way to binding it. (Binding is a lot less stressful since learning this trick.) And then I indexed it: Quilt #273.

the back of the quilt, held by the best Quilt-Holding Husband, at a local park

Since I often write about my own life on this blog, I will share that I have often wondered how I would react when my mother died. I thought about it off and on in my life, sometimes thinking I’d be perfectly fine and then other times thinking I’d be a total wreck. My mother lived to be 94, so she had been with me my entire life and really, truly, I liked her a lot. Yes, we had our differences, and no, she was not perfect, but in her later years (before it got really hard for her), we had an easy camaraderie. The truth is many days I am perfectly fine, and at other moments, in other days, I’m quite tender around the edges, breaking into tears. You probably know how it goes. When I was a teenager, Dad got all the credit, but I came to realize — and even more now that she is gone — that she did all the heavy lifting of relationships, of sending me little gifts, of checking in with me. I always knew she was my best cheerleader.

I had a chance a couple of years ago, after a presentation with the Utah Valley Quilt Guild, to go up to her condo and give her and Dad and one of her friends a mini Guild Presentation. Her eyesight was failing then, but we passed around the quilts so she could look at them up close and feel them; she enjoyed it all. She apologized that she didn’t have more of her friends there, but that wasn’t who the show was for.

It was for her, my mother, now my very own aerial beacon.

Other posts about this quilt:

Bias Binding Fun

the label, a simple one this time