Covid-19 Times · Happy Old Year Ending (Wrap-up)

Happy Old Year Ending • 2020

I just had to lead off this Happy Old Year Ending Post with one of my favorite memes from this year. So it is with fervor and conviction that I say: Happy Old Year Ending. Good-bye. Go away. Good riddance.

Here are my finished quilts for this year:

Not as many as last year, but then I wasn’t immersed in a nation-wide experience of dealing with a pandemic, either. Somehow time passed in interesting ways:

Yes, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

These two quilts were on my 2020 quilt top finishes list, and they are still lost in space somewhere, as each will take herculean thinking to get them to where I want them to be. Here are some of the tops I finished:

I finished all my red, white and blue blocks before Christmas. The top is on its way to being complete. Stay tuned.

The Bee Happy top was finished before Christmas as well, with the addition of the hexie and blue borders. I’m now starting to quilt it.

When I first wrote this post, it was all about the emotional landscape of how we felt these past nine months, rather doom-and-gloom, Sturm und Drang.

Zoom teaching in 2020

But after letting it sit for a couple of days, I decided I didn’t want to end my year of describing the realities of the year that we’ve all just lived through. Instead I’ll leave you with a few quotes and links I like, something to bring in this new, but not necessarily different, year.

  • The New York Times published a column on finding hope when things feel gloomy.
  • I’ve been enjoying all the news articles I see that contain references to quilting or knitting or all those other crafts that normally go under the radar.
  • Austin Kleon wrote a great post about how quantity can lead to quality.
  • Brilliant tip for holding up quilts for photography that uses only a clamp and duct tape–nothing fancy.
  • Finally, a Zen Habits post I read once in a while, when I just feel emptied out in frustration or disappointment that I just can’t get my projects to work themselves into being, and I’m sure that I am the problem.

“We must surrender our hopes and expectations, as well as our fears, and march directly into disappointment, work with disappointment, go into it and make it our way of life.”

Chogyam Trungpa

“To create, take your time, block out the noise…It’s difficult to find the time, especially when other demands seem to press much closer to the skin of daily life. Most days it feels less like locating a stretch of time that’s available for the claiming, and more like forcibly insisting on the clearing of space. Since I don’t have the inclination to quilt in small bursts, I need to be intentional about setting aside at least a few hours or half a day. The aim is to treat quilting like any other work, which it is. This means if I mark off time to create, I can’t go off to run small errands, agree to coffee with friends or acquaintances, sit in front of my phone answering text messages and e-mails, or distract myself by chipping away at random tasks.”

Jenny Xie

Remedy for when you are stuck: take a break. I think that if you bang your head against the wall trying to create, you’re going to resent the process of creation. Usually when you reach an impasse it’s a signal to move on to another thing. Maybe you haven’t slept in a while. Maybe you need some time to ponder, to just stare at the wall. Maybe you need to live, truly be alive for a little and not near a computer. Maybe you need to read, see, watch—to refill your well.

Fatimah Asghar

Don’t partition off your daily life from your creative life.

Emily Skillings

I like that last quote quite well, as so often we use our quilting to escape away, and while I welcome that, I also think that who we are, what we are dealing with, our sorrows, our joys need to inform our creating. Maybe you are working hard on a quilt because someone close to you has just died and piecing a large quilt is the only thing that will help us mark those first awful days. Maybe you are working in red, white and blue because you worry about your nation, expressing your patriotism in your country’s colors. Maybe it’s a year of handwork, grabbed in snatches of time in between spending time in Zoom meetings (or maybe you are doing handwork during those same Zoom meetings!). Whatever your life is like, bring a little of it into your quilts, letting it hold these days for you.

So farewell, 2020, a year of disaster, of disease, of sorrow, of death, of forced calm and glints of silver linings. A year for the history books.

And welcome 2021. We look forward with hope.

Covid-19 Times · Shine: The Circles Quilt · Something to Think About

Christmasy Shine Blocks • Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

The sign on the door of my sewing room as I sew a special gift for my husband.

Okay, you just have to see the creativity of my friend who pattern-tested all the later Shine blocks — the last few I’ve been talking about. The originals, you are familiar with. Now I’m doing them in Red, White and Blue. But my friend Linda, of @lkhomework (she used to teach school before she retired), did them all in Christmas fabrics, and she has graciously allowed me to share them with you.

Such wonderful eye candy, perfect for Christmastime and to help get us in the mood for this very different season in 2020.

As you can see, she plans a diagonal set for her blocks.

Yes, I realize I should have imprinted the number of the block before I posted them, but I didn’t. Here’s an index of them all, in mix of the original colors, illustrations and RWB:

Block #1, which is based on a traditional pattern, morphed into Block #7. Linda used both of these variants to great success. I think her quilt is going to be just fabulous!

And today the December QuiltMania newsletter was published, and with this, their series of my SHINE: The Circle Quilt blocks ends. The first 12 blocks can be downloaded by subscribing to their free newsletter; they will send you the link (details here). They will live at QuiltMania until early 2021, when they will come back home here to stay. I’ve enjoyed sharing them with QuiltMania, and feel like those scary disorienting days of covid are behind us, when I first made the offer to QM for them to use my patterns, in order to do my own little part to help keep interest in their excellent publications.

More than other years, I find this Christmas to be such a mix. I wrote on Instagram about seeing someone contemplating a jump from a freeway overpass. I had just come from visiting a friend who had successfully completed her initial phases of a stem cell transplant, the cells giving her another chance at life, and I’ve thought about these two contrasting experiences for days.

She, working so incredibly hard to keep life, to beat her disease, putting up with all manner of incredibly painful and difficult treatments and procedures. And then to see this young man who appeared to have cut open the chain mesh fence that shields our overpasses from just such desperate decisions. Our traffic was slowed, and as my car neared the bridge, I could see the man clutching the fence, holding on, having given himself a second chance as the fireman secured a belt around him, preserving his life. It was a different kind of second chance than my friend fighting cancer. Hers, a grueling year-long journey. His, a reconsidering of a tragic decision in a split second.

And so our year continues with such contrasts: thousands of people dying from the pandemic, while we turn inward to try and find the joy and the happiness, aware that just around the corner, ennui and disease and depression await. It’s a dance in the best of times, but made so much more complicated this year with its seemingly endless conveyor belt of tragedy. With hearts so tender, Christmas sewing is a tonic: the snowmen and Santa, the holly and ivy, the red and green, patchwork and stockings and gifts and delights.

And so I rejoice in Christmas.

I light the candles on our kitchen table and set out the soup. Over dinner, my husband and I (a covid-bubble of two) talk over the news, before moving on to the detritus of our day. I relish the lights, delight in the sight of our miniature tree and my husband’s nutcrackers, all anchoring symbols of familiarity, grounding us and keeping us tethered.

I rejoice in carols: a favorite song can move me to tears, so close to the surface are the emotions of this season. I might post again before the year is out, but you may be too busy to respond; it’s less than two weeks until we close out the official holiday of lights and gifts and slide on into the new year. To wish you all the best as you make your way to 2021, I leave you with one of my favorite songs of Christmas (click on the link to listen). Sing along and enjoy!

Covid-19 Times · Live-Online Classes · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Zoom

Triad Harmony Workshop

A song from my childhood always pops into my head when I start my Zoom classes, bright and early, on Saturday morning. It’s something about “bright, smiling faces” that are “all in their places,” and when you see that class portrait where I cue them all to look at the camera and smile, it certainly resonates. (I like to do a class portrait, giving the students time to compose themselves, so as to avoid that strange deer-in-the-headlights-slightly-tipsy portrait that can happen when we try to freeze a video feed with a snapshot.)

The portrait above is the Coastal Quilters from Santa Barbara, one of those Guild engagements that morphed from in-person to Zoom. Again, I have to say I’m really loving teaching this way, with everyone in their own spaces with their own equipment and fabrics. (Do we have to go back to the other way?) I did teach one Zoom class once where they all gathered in the back room of a quilt shop, masks in place, but there wasn’t the interaction; I really missed the individual conversations that the traditional Zoom set-up allows.

And this is what a busy workshop looks like in reality. Everyone is on task (since I took this unannounced, I have blurred out any faces), working hard at creating their own versions of Triad Harmony. This is later in the afternoon and they had all made incredible progress.

Something I do — which I think is unusual — is a Follow-up Workshop Session, one week later. It’s one of the best parts of the class, in my opinion.

In this Follow-Up class, the students send me photos of their quilts the day before, and I put them up into a slide show. This is my view from my computer, and we all engage in discussing the quilts, the fabric choices, successes, and challenges. It’s a lovely time to hear from the quilt makers, the quilters involved at a granular level in creating these masterpieces. It’s not often that we get to talk like this, and it’s a treasured time.

I wish I could have had you all there. More than once, someone said, I was scared to work with this precision, but it went together really well. Or they’d say, they had a stack of triangles cut and changed out. At that point, several people picked up their stacks and flashed them at the camera. A couple of people had theirs already quilted, some were still finishing up borders, and one quilter had printed off onto paper an image of the fabric she was missing in order to show us how it should look. All in all, the follow-up class motivated them to work hard, and finish up as much as they could.

Enjoy the show!

Karen B.
Sue B.
Margaret D.
Heather G.
Marcia G.
Gail B.
Ranell H.
Carole K.
Sue K.
(The black is for display only.)
Susan K.
Tami K.
Barbara M.
Polly M.
Sue O.
Karen P.
detail, Karen P: dimensional wedges
Bee S. (with bee fabrics!)

I try to give something a little extra to each class, and for this class I included four different videos they could watch, with different tips and instructions for making the quilt, as well as a line drawing for use in coloring in preferences.

I also included pattern pieces that would make a larger size, shown here for comparison. I’ve updated the pattern in my PayHip shop, and the pattern now includes the larger size. The fabric line I chose for the larger size is Geo Stones, by Riley Blake.

Thank you all, Coastal Quilters, for a lovely experience!

300 Quilts · Covid-19 Times · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Sawtooth Stars

stars shining brightly

stars shining brightly
quilt #237 • 35″ square

This is the second sawtooth star quilt top I made during the Time of Covid, but that first one is still awaiting quilting. One night, dragging around, looking for something to do besides all the things I’d done every single day for the last few months, I thought I would just knock this one out, get it done.

It had held me up for a while, as I kept thinking that it had to have precision ruler work in all those fine-pointed stars that were made when I was testing out my Sawtoothmania pattern, but in the end I decided that Done Was Best.

I’m about ready to sew the labels on the back, but I’ll pin them on then wait for a Zoom call to finish this up.

We snucked sneaked zipped up to Utah for a very quick trip last weekend to go to my niece’s wedding, dithering about it so badly that it wasn’t until the night before that we actually made our final decision. You know…covid. But the evening was idllyic, the food delicous, the bride and her father (my brother) both giddy and slightly delirious with happiness, so I’m glad I got to see that. She had three pages of vows, he had two pages, and all of us old marrieds are thinking: seriously? But in the blush of youth, why not pledge your troth in a really big way? Life will do what it does, and I’m thrilled they both climbed in the same buggy for the ride.

While going through photos the other day, I found this screenshot. It’s the headline that makes it delicious. Or awful, depending on how your day is going. Yep, it’s not like we wear those kinds of clothes in the photo anymore, right?

So I fell down the Riley Blake Gem Stones ombré fabrics rabbit hole. Here are some brights from The Cotton Cure, complete with a fun piece of candy and a sticker (which I put on the front of my calendar that I still am having a hard time filling out…who needs calendars these days?) I wish I could unfurl the fabrics for you to see the wonderful gradation of color and hue.

Here is another batch of half-yards from Quilt Expressions, who included this little note pad. These two shops know the way to any woman’s heart is a little gift. I found both these shops by doing a search on ETSY for this fabric, which led me to them.

All of them together.

Plans? Another Triad Harmony quilt, as I have my first live-online class with this pattern in a couple of weeks, when I Zoom into the Coastal Quilters for an evening and a fun Saturday. I’m starting work on the password-protected page on this website, shooting videos, freaking out when I try to edit them. You know, the whole digital experience of teaching these days.

Lastly, we are saying good-bye to too many people these days. The flags at half-mast are for Judge Ginsberg, and the 20,000 flags in front are to honor the over 200,000 dead due to Covid-19, since March. I wrote about the first 100,000 dead some months ago, and I struggled at this milestone. Are we not talking about it because we are numb? Are we not making a big deal of because it’s an election year and all the rahrah is distracting us? Or, more soberly, are we not noting it with fervor because we expect that soon there will be a 300,000 milestone, maybe even a 400,000 and we want to save something for that event?

This last idea scares me to death, for that means that many more people we love will be gone, from grandparents to aunts to friends and neighbors, almost sliding out of our lives without much notice. All that history. Gone. All those relationships. Gone. All those memories that will have to stand in place of these who died of this disease; gone too soon, they now grace the heavens, stars shining brightly.

I wish for all who remain behind, solace in their sorrow, and hopefully a quilt somewhere to curl up in on a bad day. Take care everyone. Wear your masks. Be kind.

We are not out of this yet.

My grandmother (left), my great-grandmother (right) and my Aunt Alfarette as a child, all wearing masks during the 1918 Flu Pandemic.

Covid-19 Times

New Mask Pattern • Sept. 2020

I found a new mask pattern that I think will be the best one yet. It’s from the Japanese Sewing Books site, and she has multiple sizes on one page, or you can download them one by one. She also has a video which clearly explains how to make one. I wore one of these masks around today for a while and not once did my glasses fog up–a real plus!

I use two (2) layers of quilting cotton and one (1) layer of featherweight nonwoven interfacing–it doesn’t really matter what kind. Just really light nonwoven. I made the Large size, but I might try the XL size next time–it will give a little more coverage.

I like to add a little casing for a flat piece of aluminum across the nose bridge so it will snug in. I cut a piece of matching fabric about 4 1/2″ long and about 1″ wide. I turned in one short end and stitched down this seam allowance. Then I finger-folded the raw edges under on the other short side and one long side.

I aligned the long-raw-edge side with the raw edge of the lining piece, centering it and placing it at the top of the lining. To finish, I top-stitched it down on two sides, then made the mask as the video indicates. That last long raw edge will be caught into the seam.

I bought some of these “nose wires.” Funny name. I used this elastic cording, threading it through the little casings on either side (watch the video). I cut each piece 9″ and then threaded it through and knotted it.

I didn’t want the little tip on her pattern, so I just folded it under when cutting. It looks cute, for sure, but I wanted to make the nose strip casing, and it wouldn’t work with this.

You can see me modeling my mask on Instagram.

Yep. I’m no Lady Gaga in the mask department, but I’ll bet she doesn’t wear hers to the grocery store, either!

300 Quilts · Covid-19 Times · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt

This and That • August 2020

I’m teaching another live-online class today, and placed the Criss-Cross Christmas on the design wall, then layered on the Criss-Cross Autumn, and when I started making colorful blocks for another version, up they went too! I like the look of them all together, but they really will be three separate quilts.

Here’s the final version of Criss-Cross Autumn, a bit more vibrant than what’s in the mash-up image. For the binding, I kept it simple: I sewed together the leftover strips, and used a simple single-fold binding approach.

I drew out some design ideas on a picture of my quilt with the photo lightened up, so I could sort of see what might work. There’s a lot going on in this quilt, and I didn’t want the quilt to overpower it.

I loved the idea from Linda of Flourishing Palms, where she mentioned she was including “Made during the Covid-19 Pandemic” onto her labels (or similar wording). So I added it to this one, too.

Speaking of labels, I finally finished the label for this one (my version of My Small World from Jen Kingwell), and got it sewn on. Obviously you can see that it took a hit during covid time–didn’t the earth sort of stop still in March? I finished this by the end of January, went to QuiltCon in February, came home and started buying truckloads of groceries, preparing for the pandemic, and just now got the label sewn on.

I’ve also been listening to this while sewing: I have Bette to blame as she recommended it, and I can hardly wait to keep listening.

I just finished The Authenticity Project, and can recommend it if you need a med-light read with interesting characters. It’s also set in London, which means we Americans get to hear a British accent while listening.

I happened on to this talk, presented by the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, and really enjoyed seeing Ms. Montgomery’s swing coats. There are other Textile Talks to listen to, if you are interested.

I finished up my Gridster Bee block, a free download, and Linda asked us to use cool colors and low volumes, and leave the four quarters unsewn. This was fun to do!

Moving right along with This and That, we first did the front of this puzzle (the Falling Water house by Frank Lloyd Wright), then tackled doing the reverse. We did okay on the center part, then floundered with all the blues. So I started flipping them over, grouping them by colors, and then flipping them back. We just have to DO the puzzle, right? There are no rules as to how you get it done, right?

New project, using Jennifer Sampou’s SKY fabrics. Luscious. Coming soon.

The above two images go together: the brown smoky skyline, which is not a beautiful sunset, but a layer of smoke drift from California fires, coupled with the line-up of temperatures coming our way. I’m not leaving the house on Tuesday.

The the following three images are linked: a countdown clock for the U.S. Elections, a visually interesting and textural image of Kamala Harris, and a Trump cartoon from 2018, which popped up in my Instagram feed today, strangely prescient for this year’s election.

from here
from 2018, from here

Brendan Loper, the artist, writes “Strangely enough this toon was featured in Russia Today comparing it to a soviet political cartoon about western voting practices.”

Lastly, this is where I’ll be today. I laughed when I saw this. This might be partly true for my Zoom-trunk shows; I usually put up a quilt behind me, blocking the view. When I Zoom-teach in my sewing room, however, everything has to be spic and span, because so much can be seen.

A big thank you to all who wrote such lovely descriptions of their gardens, their terrain and what they see around them on my last post. My husband and I took turns pointing out our favorites (which turned out to be ALL of them), and it was like a lovely armchair travel through all your backyards. Sigh. If only I could come and visit you all…I would!

Right now, my tomatoes are hanging on for dear life, and with the 111 temps coming this next week, I’ll have pre-cooked tomatoes to harvest (yes, we even tried putting cupcake wrappers to protect them–this last week we moved their pots into partial shade). Everything’s getting browner: the sky, the hills, the garden, and every day I see air quality advisories warning me that it’s probably not good to go outside and try to inhale the muddy-colored atmosphere. Our summer is like an East Coast winter: we stay inside, keep the A/C at a comfortable-but-not-too-cool level, and sew our brains out.

picture from the 1918 pandemic

I’ll be working on the project with the SKY fabric, prepping up another live-online class, and waiting for the “bers” in the calendar to arrive: September, October, November and December. I actually thought about Christmas today. This year has been so totally and completely crazy, I wondered if I would jinx the season of Let’s Be Jolly by even thinking about it.

So, let’s just keep going, putting right sides together and stitching memories into our quilts.