300 Quilts

Wealth of Days • Quilt Top Finish

As a culture we are in danger of falling out of touch, not only with objects, but with the intelligence they embody: the empathy that is bound up in tangible things….A well-made object is informed by thousands of years of accumulated experiment and know-how. Whenever we make or use an everyday tangible thing, or even when we contemplate one seriously, we commune with this pool of human understanding. ~Glenn Adamson, from the book Fewer, Better Things

I’ve been reading Adamson’s book, Fewer, Better Things, and have underlined quite a few different passages. Not everything in the book is a home run, but I love having books on craft, on quality, or on making available around my house, for just a few lines here and there can re-center my quilting universe. Like this one:

“William Morris, the great craft reformer of the late nineteenth century, was one of the earliest writers to espouse environmentalism, over a century ago. ‘Surely there is no square mile of earth’s inhabitable surface that is not beautiful in its own way,’ he wrote, ‘if we men will only abstain from willfully destroying that beauty.’ He also famously asked his contemporaries to “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” This sentiment still rings true today, particularly if we add the idea that objects should be meaningful. Let’s not think of things as ends in themselves, props to put on the mantelpiece. Rather, let’s consider them as points of contact between people.”

Last week I was in the overwhelmingness of QuiltCon, a series of “mores.” More color. More shapes. More wokeness (this got to be a little bit much, frankly). More quilts. More ideas. More fame. More longing. More more more, until it was just more exhaustion. I loved it all, and am so glad I went to this virtual presentation (Karen and her crew did a fabulous job), but by the end, I was kind of glad they took it all down, freeing me to escape that blotto-in-the-brain feeling for a few days. Sorry I missed you all last Sunday. It’s sort of like this:

Like the moon, we go through phases of being full and we through phases of being hidden.

And then I got an idea.

This idea has been preceeded by a long slow couple of months, as I was worn out by allthecovidstuff, and my bandwidth to accomplish or do things, or even to reach out was limited. So my idea was to set a goal to finish up at least one quilt from the past — and I chose my temperature quilt, newly renamed Wealth of Days (I’ll explain in a later post).

And my next idea was to use up all those triangles that I’d cut and were leftover from piecing together the quilt top, and turn them into a border somehow, because I felt like just the triangles in the center weren’t enough. So I just sewed and sewed.

And began to realize I had some problems.
I’d started making this way back in 2019 (obviously) but it was right after my second shoulder surgery. Rotary cutting is pretty much out of the question after a surgery like that, so in the beginning everything that was cut was scissor-cut. And this little imperfection of scissor cutting had — as quilty problems do — spread throughout the quilt. Some of the problems I could fix on this go-round, as I squared up and trimmed little slivers off the new flying geese to get them straight and true (above).

The center is the original series of triangles from my 2019 temperature quilt.

But…it started to look like the gimpy triangles in in the main quilt weren’t going to match up with the new, refined flying geese in the border.

Color placement planning.

Nevertheless, she persisted — and then decided to re-think some things.
It became obvious after all my sewing that I really could not fit the borders to the quilt. I started sewing the slivery-est of seams over and over along the outer edges of the inner section of the quilt, trying to ease in the extra fullness of those out-of-shape geese. I took off that lovely aqua skinny border, and cut a darker one:

I marked the new darker border strip every 2″ as I was going to force this quilt into submission, which of course…never really works. (I’m hoping my quilter can quilt out some of the bulk that shouldn’t be there.) I then retooled the inner border to make it really really skinny, and kept sewing those triangles into geese. But then. The corners. What to do? I fiddled and sketched and browsed, but when I couldn’t come to a solution, I took Steinbeck’s advice:

This is what the committee of sleep came up with. I’m happy with it.

So here it is. Wealth of Days quilt top all completed. I have a few moving parts for the backing, then I’ll call my quilter and hope she can work miracles with the limpy-gimpy triangles, evidence of my craft at that time. I will explain the quilt title when it is finished, and I can do a proper showing off with the fun stuff for the back, too.

stained glass version, taken from the back of the quilt

I did a search for #temperaturequilt trying to see how people finished off their quilts. I came to the conclusion that not too many have finished off their quilts, but I want to finish mine. Working on this quilt this week, remembering my physical self in January 2019 and allowing that woman’s imperfect making to be a part of this quilt, made me realize how vital making quilts is to me. It is not only a noun — as Adamson notes below — but a verb.

When we casually dismiss craft as a vital factor in our lives, however, we miss out on many satisfactions….When many people hear the word “craft,” they think of humble, decorative things: pots, baskets, or macramé plant hangers. But if we consider “craft” in its active form, treating it as a verb rather than a noun, we immediately realize it is much, much broader than that.

When we say that someone crafts an object, we mean that they put their whole self into it, body and mind alike, drawing on whatever skills they have acquired over the course of their lives. This is a deeply meaningful human activity, which can be observed not only in suburban garages and hobby shops, but also in factories (where people craft machines and prototypes) and fine art studios (where people craft paintings and sculptures). All these process-based experiences imbue materials with associations that resonate far beyond the act of making itself. ~Glenn Adamson, from the book Fewer, Better Things

Happy Quilting!

300 Quilts · Quilt Finish

Picties and Verities • Quilt Finish

Picties and Verities, quilt #243
71″ wide by 78″ tall

Finally!

This baby has a new name: Picties and Verities.

What, you ask? Well, that phrase was in a poem I read about a thousand years ago, and I liked it and wrote it down and of course I can’t find it now, because that’s my life, when even what we had for dinner last night is cause for wandering around in the corridors of memory.

Verities, defined: a true princple or belief, especially one of fundamental importance. Seems to me that striving to be happy, knowing that the sun shines on all of us, as well as the idea that it’s always good to go home — with or without your trailer — just have to be some verities.

Picties, defined: For this one, I went to my husband’s college Oxford Dictionary, a two-volume set complete with magnifying glass. Pict (rare, it says, from the 1400s) means to paint or depict or represent. I would say all those bits of appliqué up there qualify as little pictures. Of course the Picts were also the ancient name of people from North Scotland, and are associated with elves, brownies or fairies. And possibly old grey castles with dungeons (an allusion to its working title: Trapped in the Dungeon of Cute). And since my great-grandmother was from Scotland, I own that heritage with pride.

I sewed on buttons last Saturday, while listening to my Guild’s program, and added, as is my usual, “Made in the time of Covid-19” for anyone who receives this quilt after I’ve gone to the afterworld to frolic with Scottish fairies. You’ve seen photos of this, but here’s a last batch of fun.

And since you’ve read this far, I now treat you to one of my husband’s beautiful photographs, taken the last week of January:

Aloe Blossom

We retraced his steps to take a look at it this past week, because in trying to identify what it was depended on what the plant’s leaves looked like: if they were cacti-looking, it was an aloe. If they were leafy, it was a kniphofia (aka Torch Lilly or Red Hot Poker). It’s an aloe, but it is a distant cousin to kniphofia, apparently. My husband Dave takes long walks everyday, bringing home pictures like this, reminding me of when my children used to bring me home bits and pieces of their days, spilling them out into the kitchen, a line or a thought floating backwards over their heads deep in the refridgerator.

It’s so nice to watch Dave gather his interests about him now, after having had his nose to the grindstone for years, bringing home the proverbial bacon to put in the fridge for those now-grown children. His process — of snapping pictures of whatever interests him and only later culling and choosing — reminds me of this quote from the artist Ann Hamilton:

“A life of making isn’t a series of shows, or projects, or productions, or things; it is an everyday practice.  It is a practice of questions more than of answers, of waiting to find what you need more often than knowing what you need to do….Our culture has beheld with suspicion unproductive time, things not utilitarian, and daydreaming in general, but we live in a time when it is especially challenging to articulate the importance of experiences that don’t produce anything obvious, aren’t easily quantifiable, resist measurement, aren’t easily named, are categorically in-between.” (Ann Hamilton, artist)

Having had three finishes within a couple of weeks, and today teaching a workshop with the Surfside Quilters Guild, my next plan is to do some wandering myself, maybe some daydreaming and find those experiences that don’t produce anything obvious, yet are so critical.

And P.S. Blocks 4, 5 and 6 of Shine: The Circles Quilt are now back on the blog, free to all.

Other posts about Picties and Verities:

300 Quilts · Quilt Finish

Postcard from Burano

Postcard from Burano, quilt #242
11″ x 22″

Over the space of several years, I tried three times to get to the small island of Burano, just a vaparetto ride out of Venice. And when my husband and I finally made it there, we had only about an hour before the next ride back to Venice.

When the boat docked in Burano and everyone turned right to go into the main part of town, we turned left and wandered, taking in the brilliant color, the laundry, the umbrellas, the acqua alta barricades in the doorways, snapping away.

We arrived at the outgoing vaparetto a few minutes early, but stood in line, mentally and physically leaving Burano forever.

So when I had a chance to take Gillian Travis‘ class in October 2019, pulled in by the chance to do a fabric representation of that small island with its brilliant colors, I signed up quickly. It was at PIQF (Pacific International Quilt Festival); my friend Leisa and I traveled there and spent three days in the hotel, rarely leaving as the Mancuso quilt show had many pieces to see, and then there were all the vendors (of course).

In our Townscapes class, we started by tracing, and Gillian had very specific and helpful instructions on how to do everything. I listened carefully and took copious notes. This was one project I wanted to finish. She’s the one who taught us the trick of using parchment paper as a backing for layers of fused fabric (instead buying those expensive specialty sheets).

When I got this far, she came over, and making sure it was all fused together, peeled it off the parchment paper like peeling off a giant sticker, and we plopped it onto a stretch of blue fabric I’d chosen (in consultation, of course).

And this is where I picked it up, a year and some months later. But I’d been to Burano and seen the white window frames, the laundry and the umbrellas, so I pulled out my photos and started adding details.

I imitated the upside down boots on the left side, having found that in our visit:

In the course of time, a lovely splotch affixed itself above one of the chimneys. I tried to get it out with soap and water; it just means that some of the gulls of Venice would now fly through my sky. Her method is to stitch details into the picture while stitching down the fused pieces.

I did that, constantly referring to all the snapshots I took during class. I used a free-motion quilting foot, realizing I would sacrifice another needle to the gunk of fused fabrics.

Then I added borders, as I knew I wanted to stretch it onto bars like California Bear.

I quilted it lightly, trying to add some detail to the sky, but not too much, winding my way around the gulls.

Side view of the borders wrapped and stapled.

I took shots of all the details. Like the teacher, I tried not to be too pristine about how I stitched the window frames, or added detail to the laundry. I can sometimes be a little too uptight about those sort of things, and while I’ll never be an artist like Ms. Travis, I can imitate in order to learn new things.

Work of Gillian Travis

And if you’ve been to the Yorkshire Dales, she has a townscape for you too.

If you want to read about our quick trip to Burano, I include many colorful photos on my travel blog, TraveledMind.blog. (It’s currently under renovation/repair having suffered a loss of domain name recently, and I’m still working to get it back up to where it was.) On the blog, we’re currently in Tokyo, soon heading to Korea and yes, it was a trip from 2017. I’ll get it finished, hopefully before we head out again, maybe in 2022?

Happy February. Wear a mask, get your vaccine, and stay home and quilt!

300 Quilts · Quilt Finish

California Bear • collage quilt finished

California Bear, Quilt #241

California Bear, a collage quilt started in a class with Laura Heine at Road to California 2020, is finished and hanging on my sewing room wall. (It just seems pretentious to call it a “sewing studio” so I persist in calling it a sewing room.) This is a fused collage quilt, and I wrote about it a year ago, when I first began.

As usual, I did multiple permutations moving butterfliers and flowers around until I decided I was done messing with it. The perfect is the enemy of the good…and the done, as I always say. More info our on California Bear is here, if you are interested.

I hung him across from my fancy new calendar from The Dolphin Studio (I saw my sister’s and just had to have one), and he’ll stay there until he walks on to somewhere else.

I finished fusing him into place Friday afternoon, then quilted it in a tiny grid all over, thoroughly gumming up a needle, but it got the job done. After that, I my husband, Dave, and I went out to get stretcher bars (we are double-masking now) and a burger, and then we sat in the parking lot afterwards eating our hot french fries and Habit burger. Later, he helped me staple it into place; I cut out Laura’s name from one of the selvages and fused it onto the back. I’ll make a label later on, but I wanted it up on the wall before January ended.

I went walking this morning and it was California cold. Not as cold as some of the weather in other parts of this wonderful state (we have twelve “Fourteeners” in our state–that is, mountains over 14,000 feet, so you know they have snow). But here in Southern California, an hour east of Los Angeles, well…this is kind of cold. All around our geographical basin the mountains were touched with snow after our last storm. Pretty fancy for us.

And here’s a photo of my quilt holders: two clamps duct-taped onto some molding strips that I found in my garage, but you could use dowels. Really high tech. Oh, and here’s a photo of the Quilt Holding Husband using the Quilt Holders:

We just clamped them onto the corners of the quilt. If you are a short person, like I am, then it makes it easier to hold up the quilts. Later on, we switched, and I held the quilt for while, as seen in this post (in front of the colorful wall). I haven’t yet tried them on a quilted-with-batting quilt, but soon I will and I’ll let you know how it works.

That big-skirted lady is for a quilt, coming later on in the year, and the ABCs and other fabrics are part of a quilt for a grandchild who is having a birthday soon. I use my design wall as a bulletin board sometimes.

I’m making progress on this (binding on and clipped down, reading for hand-sewing). I’ve also come up with a name. Coming soon.

I recently freshened up my blog header, switched up my blog theme (the other one wasn’t supported any more) and am working on the commenting problem some of you have had. I think I’ve solved it, but will know when you tell me. I always ask for your name and your email, as I like to answer my comments privately. If you can’t comment on the blog, you are welcome to email me at opquilt [at] gmail [dot] com.

Happy Quilting!

Older Header, from 2014. My, how time flies!
300 Quilts · Red, White and Blue · Shine: The Circles Quilt

I Hear America Singing

I finished the red, white and blue version (top only) of Shine: The Circle Quilt and I did it by the time of the Inauguration of our new President, my goal.

This is not my first red, white and blue quilt, nor my first Inaugural quilt. In 2005, I attended the Inauguration of President Bush while we lived in Washington, D.C.

It was a really cold day that day, and being from California, I wore long johns underneath my pants, two sweaters, gloves, a hat and scarf and I was still frozen as I spent most of the day in the 20-degree cold. When it came time to find a bathroom, that chick in the red coat behind me accosted me, admonishing me for leaving this site while the Inauguration was going on. Okey-dokey. Fevered believers, everywhere.

Fancy ticket from my Congressman, but then I scored a better one, thanks to my Congressman’s staffer:

Waaay less fancy, but lots closer to the action, as I was in North Standing, which meant I was in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pond. Unfortunately it also meant that I couldn’t see much of anything because of trees, but it was very cool to be there, anyway.

Two quilts came out of that time. The first one was a quick flannel quilt which I spread out on the floor of our apartment in Virginia and tied together while we were watching the returns come in from the Bush-Kerry political contest.

Flannel Squares on Point, quilt #58

Really stunning (haha), but I use it to this day.

D.C. Dots and Dithers, quilt #60

And this one, D.C. Dots and Dithers, which you can read about here.

But this post is about finishing the quilt top for my red, white and blue version of Shine: The Circles Quilt. I’m really happy to be at this point, and already have the backing picked out.

Because I knew I wanted to write about this on Inauguration Day, January 20th, 2021, we took it down to the most traditional government building we could think of: our very own Riverside County Courthouse. Some skate-boarding teen boys gracefully cleared out when we showed up.

I titled it after Whitman’s poem of the same name, where he asks us to listen to America, with its varied carols, and then goes on to identify the different workers he imagines, all building this great country of America (and which is always under construction). Yes, in the poem there is someone sewing, but I can imagine many more songs and carols in 2021.

Whitman probably couldn’t have imagined a female Vice-President in his day, nor women in Congress or the Senate. He wouldn’t have thought we would have women doctors, as they tend to covid-19 patients lined up working hard to breathe, a rhythmic straining that populates too many places these days.

We have carols of discord, tunes of tumult and shouting. While some of this has existed in my own home when the teenagers lived here, it feels harder when this cacophony surrounds us in our public lives during a pandemic. When it’s this noisy, it’s hard to put my head down and stitch a seam, concentrating on my own tune of color, patches and cloth.

We have our own carols, we quilters: the whir of the machine, the click of the scissors, the slice of our rotary blades through the cloth. Whitman’s genius of a poem is that he stretched to include all different kinds of work and workers, yet give us an insight into their lives, with “each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else.” Yet in our singularity, we are drawn together, “blithe and strong” all of us with our “strong melodious songs.”

I honor our tradition of presidential inaugurations. When I was there in Washington DC in person, there was a sense of excitement, of an event, of something happening that was bigger than my own tiny quarrels in my life. Being there all day made me lift my head, look around and see all those people and to realize that we can come together whether our guy won or not, and commit again to this great experiment of democracy.

And that’s why I made a red, white and blue quilt.

from here

I Hear America Singing

by Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

I scanned that North Standing-Green ticket and used it as part of my label on that quilt.

300 Quilts

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