Covid-19 Times · Creating

Renewal

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” TS Eliot, Four Quartets

Where I started this section. The journey for the Leaves Border:

I thought I could appliqué each leaf onto a block, then sew the blocks together. Soon, I realized that sewing them together in a strip, then appliquéing them in a row was more efficient. Note the blue border separating the sections.

I used the draw-shape-on-freezer-paper-then-remove-just-before-the-end approach. I learned this when doing my Elizabeth’s Lollypop Trees, and have kind of kept at it.

When we get into a situation that feels uncertain, most of us will immediately try to get to a place of certainty. Leo Babauta

Beauty Pose in the Garden One Morning

I brought it back in from the garden, but somehow I left my creative brain out there in the weeds. Seriously, this is all I did for a couple of days. Tacked up first one fabric, then another. Not liking much. I tried to write a blog post, but there was nada – zip – zilch. Instead I spent my time converting an old blog of mine to a book (I’ll let you know how it goes–book should be here next week).

I had attended (virtually) the MWEG Conference this past weekend, filled with inspirational women speakers, and this let me leave my self-enforced creative rigors for a while. One speaker mentioned a variation of my oft-quoted line about how perfection is the enemy of the good. She put it this way: “Perfection is the law of diminishing returns.” In thinking about this, I finally just chose the upper right pink fabric, cut it, and sewed it on. At some point I just have to get past the anguish of too many choices, grasping for perfection.

How could there be any perfect to long for, when it hasn’t been created yet and doesn’t know what it is?

I tried out multiple variations of the outside two-triangles block, unpicking them apart, then re-sewing in different combinations. I noticed that this past two months, I had put in online orders a few different times to different online shops, both ETSY and regular places. Most weren’t large orders, but I wondered if my “stuck-ness” both in quilting and the restrictions in life and trying lose some of my Covid-19 pounds caused me expand out this way: retail therapy. (Don’t worry, dear, we haven’t broken the bank.) I think it’s also a reaction to this past year of trying bravely to stay sane, seek new quilty horizons, dodge dysthymia, and to Keep Calm and Carry On.

With Sprinkles on Top, by Alicia Jacobs Dujets

But the funny thing was, in all those incoming fabrics, only one made it into this quilt. All the rest of this is from my stash in before all those packages arrived–a true scrappy quilt that hopefully doesn’t look like all those “scrappy quilts” that I see in the magazines. Hopefully, it looks more coordinated.

So this is where I ended a couple of days ago.

I started working on the outside border.

The entertainment of watching someone else’s ship get stuck proved a great distraction. I am also familiar with the back-up of tasks behind one greatly-stuck task, and thought it was a great metaphor for so much of my designing and quilting. Like the Ever Given, I was also stymied, and thought that maybe that terrific orange border was the final part of the quilt? I don’t really know, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. I made some sample blocks while listening to this book:

I did some quilting (cream-colored thread) on my quilt I Hear America Singing.

After stewing a while, I went to Affinity Designer and re-drew my ideas for that outside border. We’ll see what happens next.

This week is Easter weekend. But before I go there, I want to go back a few days.

Last week, we went to church for the first time in a year. we were all socially distanced, with masks on. Before the meeting started, I went up closer to take a photo of our new organ (not yet quite finished) and to soak up the feeling of being in a familiar place after so long. However, given my year of nearly total confinement, I was a nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof, nodded to people, then skedaddled outside after the service was over. It may take me a few times to acquaint myself with crowds, and places, and more than a few people in my bubble. We are still Zooming our services for those who can’t yet come and participate.

Boy did I love this story that came in from the Washington Post Instagram Account. This is La Verne Ford Wimberly of Tulsa, who has been going to church virtually. The “82-year-old retired educator decks herself out head to toe every Sunday, then — to the delight of fellow parishioners at Metropolitan Baptist Church — posts a selfie on Facebook after the service. Since March 29, 2020, she has taken photos of herself from her living room in 53 different color-coordinated outfits. She hasn’t decided what she’ll be wearing this Easter Sunday, but those who know Wimberly said the odds are good that she’ll make a big splash.”

UPDATE: In the video the local TV station made about her, it shows many of her photos, with all her wonderful hats.

I love these Star of Bethlehem succulent plants; this is my Easter blossom for you.

Remember the reason why there is Easter, pause for a moment, and come back to the tasks of life, renewed.

Happy Easter.

Covid-19 Times · Quilt Finish

Memorium: Speech Acts for a Dying World

Speech Acts for a Dying World
19″ high by 20″ wide

I thought a long time about whether to alter this quilt’s perfect original symmetry of twenty inches square. The design, by Yvonne Fuchs, called out for such a premise: neat, ordered, tidy, structurally sound. Even-keeled, if you will. But with the advent of 500,000 dead Americans from the covid-19 pandemic, our world was none of the above. We were not even-keeled, neat, ordered, or even structurally sound, given the riots in the Capitol in January over the continuing big lie of the election. I feel this keenly.

When our guild proposed a challenge, calling it Sounds and Voices, I was all ready with a design in my head of a vision of people beating pots and pans in solidarity with the essential workers in New York City, a rite that has its origins in the protests in Chile years ago: women in the streets beating pots and pans, protesting in what was known as a cacerolazo. These sounds and voices of a cacerolazo have spread to Spain, to Mexico, to many other cities around the world, but coming home to America as show of strength for those in the early days of this pandemic. Knowing now the roots of this sound, I wonder if it wasn’t also in protest: protest against our inability to take our American-made gumption and beat this thing soundly. But the virus is boss, no matter what we think, no matter how many pots we bang.

After too many weeks inside and of not traveling more than five miles from our home, I got up from the computer where I’d just seen the image above, and said, “We have to go to the beach. Today.” My husband and I had tossed the idea back and forth many times, but all of a sudden we just had to go.

We took some photos of a grandson’s quilt, had a burger at a local shop and even grabbed a few groceries at a new-to-us store: in other words, we refreshed, just for a few hours. Back home, in looking at my ideas for the challenge quilt, they too, had to change.

Less than two weeks after our trip to the beach, this awful number came into the news around me. You all know the statistics: how many more dead than our wars or combined wars, how many families with that proverbial empty seat at the table, how this number will not stop here, but keep going. And now I realized that I would change the quilt’s dimensions and purpose, making it 19″ high (for Covid-19) and 20″ wide, for the year 2020, when our pandemic started.

I started quilting while watching QuiltCon lectures.

This quadrant is about the noise: sounds, voices, getting larger and more obstructive. It’s the daily statistics, the numbers, the news, the anxious waiting for vaccines.

This quadrant has the wind, clearing my mind, corralling the noise and sounds into a restricted space, even though they try to expand. The starfish is on the beach, a transition between the offshore refreshing winds, and the ocean calling out a rhymthic hushing of the clenched ennui in our world.

Beach at the top, descending into the sea, with lots of shells, some of which I brought home with me.

I thought I was done at this point, but I kept thinking about all the references to hand-work and stitching at QuiltCon this year and last. How do I stitch a shell? A starfish? Questions with no answers are my needle and thread.

This quilt is in memorium to those who have died, and the title is taken from a poem by Peter Gizzi. I spent a long time with this poem, using all my rusty creative writing/reading skills to tease out the meanings from his words. This section shown is the final set of stanzas. It references voice with its “whole unholy grain” and I took grain to mean the quality of it, the chorusing of voice, but then he cuts to an allusion of paradise, that place where the dead will congregate after death. Grizzi carefully charts the passing of time with his naming the constellations in the sky: a hunter, a bear, all undergirded by the “sound of names,” calling out for the dying, the naming of those who are sick, or gone, or merely absent in a rest home or a hospital.

He ends the poem with the line “the parade of names,” a bell-like tolling, a constant recitation in our obituaries and our news stories, a clear marking of those leaving this world for the next. It’s this era’s verion of John McCrae’s classic poem In Flanders Fields, a short poem about the dialogue between the dead and the living, a reminder of those buried there, keeping watch yet battling onwards, wanting us to

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep.

While their enemy was about territories, and the next war’s was a horrific grinding of ideals and democracies under the hand of one small man, we must catch the torch, and not break the faith, no matter what our foe. Death is death. Those who are gone can never come back, yet are alive in memory and stories, fragments of lives told with the sound of our voices.

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.