What’s that word that describes that feeling of when you finally get it, that gradual understanding, the skill opening up before you and the lights going on? We often use the word “blossom” to describe this but in a more long-term sense of the word, of working hard at something and all of sudden (or so it seems) it’s gone from a tight little bud of mysterious possibilities to a bloom in gorgeous bouquet.
The Olympics are like that. These athletes spend hours out of sight, working hard until all of a sudden they blossom out on the world stage, touching the wall after a 1500 meter swim, or sticking a landing.
We blossom into our quilting, beginning with learning how to make a proper cut, then a proper seam, and then all of sudden we are flowering into patches and designs and colors and quilts.
But here’s also to you: a quilter, whose creations grace our world with as much beauty as a whole garden of blossoms.
While I started this from my Flowering Snowball Pattern Lite series, the intention was a new sample for the class I’m teaching in September for the Santa Clarita Quilt Guild. And in a couple of weeks, this Pattern Lite — whose concept is just a few pieces and general guidelines — will grow into a full-fledged pattern which is better for teaching, with more instructions and yardage guidelines.
In other words…it blossomed!
Thank you to all who entered the giveaway for the Painter’s Palette swatch pack. I actually found more than one set, so there are winners (plural)! Emails will be going out tomorrow to alert the winners.
And if you were a winner of the book giveaway, I mailed them all off this morning. Look for them in about a week (depending on where you live).
Thank you, mostly, to you! (all my readers). I appreciate the conversations, the stories you share, the coaching you give and the gold medal hearts you all have.
Naturally, patterns emerge through repetition, and repetition yields up a type of discovery that reveals everything about itself, especially its sorry limits. (Jan Peacock)
I love this variation of my Azulejos pattern. I love the blues, aquas, the glints of yellow. I like where I made a mistake and put the wrong color in the triangle (you’ll never see it, but I like it).
But, I think I hit up upon my sorry limits, as Peacock says, in quilting this. It is the Month of the Broken Ankle, and something always seems to break in my mind when the body is goofy, and perhaps that’s why I just dove into quilting this without doing my usual due diligence of printing out the quilt, drawing all over it, like this (from another quilt):
A plan! Instead, I just went for it, wanting to get it ticked off the list and out of the To Be Quilted Pile, and yes Haste Makes Waste and all that, but I do still like SeaDepths. I just think that this time it hit its sorry limits with the quilter, that’s all.
In other news, Summer Snowcone has been pin-basted, and aren’t you impressed with that matching seam on the backing?
I purchased this fabric just because I am totally over the moon about it, but then…you know I love Sawtooth Blocks.
We grilled lettuce. It was good. That is all. (recipe) (Does this mean we are losing it? Hope not.)
I’m doing another Summer Book Giveaway, and these are the books: 1) Southern Quilts and Twisted (Kerr) (they go as one) 2) The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting (Walkers and Watson) (autographed) 3) The Quilt Design Coloring Workbook (Knauer) 4) Quilt with Tula and Angela (Pink and Walters) (autographed)
Since summer’s almost over, they’ll go in one big splat. Enter the name of the one you want, and slip it into the comments below, along with telling me the hottest summer day you ever had. I don’t care if you want two different ones; enter twice, and we’ll see what the Random Husband Winner Generator comes up with.
As far as hottest summer day, I have two: The first one was when I was pregnant with child #3, and we moved from California to upstate New York and the new house had no air conditioning, and it was during a heat wave. We finally bought one window unit and put it in the dining room (that has to be one of the reasons why we divorced later on) so the kids and I would gather there all afternoon and into the evening, mounds of toys and books and snacks under the dining room table while I lay there, so very pregnant and so very hot, so very sticky, humid, and miserable. (She was born mid-August.)
The second one was a July day spent in Montreal, Canada with the temperature climbing well above triple digits. That’s not necessarily the worst heat I’ve ever been in, but we were tourists and kept trying to go out and explore the city and see the sights while everyone else was in their right minds, and stayed in. About the third day, we gave up–going out only in the morning, coming home for the afternoon to the air-conditioned hotel, and heading back out at night, catching the bagpipers in the evening Mardi Gras Parade.
There’s this interesting explanation in a Wrinkle in Time, or at least I remember it and hope it’s there, where the main character tries to help the children understand this concept of a shortcut in time, and she demonstrates it with a string and a crawling ant. Or maybe that’s not in the book at all, and I just remember if from somewhere, but at any rate, the point is that I’ve had a wrinkle in time with this quilt.
This photo was taken in January 2020 at the end of Road to California, where my quilt Azulejos hung in a special exhibit at Road to California. It was this one that recently prompted Catherine H, a reader, to get in touch with me asking for the pattern. I’d made several stabs at it, but now I really buckled down to writing. So there’s the shortcut — a bridging of time from January 2020 to July 2022 — a shortcut not unlike those found in novels with children (and where were their mothers??) and IKEA warehouses, where you are trying to get out of there and pay for all your impulse purchases, and yet you still have to go through chairs and desks and lighting and rugs…unless you can find the shortcut.
I had some other ideas about what this pattern could do though, so got busy and made this blue/yellow/aqua/sea/glints of sun wallhanging, calling it SeaDepths. I had fun making it in solids:
It’s still a flimsy, though. Looking forward to sandwiching it together and getting to the quilting.
This block was supposed to be another version of the pattern, done up in scrappy red-and-white, like this sketch shows:
But, alas, the sprained ankle/broken bone/cast-or-boot-or-what problem persisted, so instead of sewing up a storm at the machine (it’s a quick and easy pattern, with the cleverness in how you trim it up), I kept my foot up and edited photos of an earlier photo shoot of the first rendition of Azulejos, with photos taken near some of the old greenhouses and lab buildings for our university:
It has a basic set of instructions for the version of Azulejos above, as well as SeaDepths. I illustrate two other versions, one in Cheddar and Indigo, and the one you saw above in scrappy red/white. Or at least that’s how I evisioned it. So three sizes, three versions, two sizes of block templates and a wall-hanging. Not bad for one pattern, I’d say. A free downloadable Preview sheet on PayHip will give you the rundown.
The technical name for this shortcut between two different times is an Einstein-Rosen bridge, more colloquially known as a wormhole. Jody Foster, in her role as a scientist who hunted for “little green men” on a SETI project, famously traveled in one in the movie Contact, a film I can watch over and over again. Actually I have a whole collection of space movies, from the goofy one that got me through grad school, Galaxy Quest, to Interstellar.
Sometimes I have my own version of an Einstein-Rosen bridge when I un-earth an older project, abandoned for lack of time or interest (or both) and when I come back to it, I find it interesting or even something that juices up creative connections. When I first made Azulejos, I thought it was a one and done, as it was the shapes in the quilt that interested me. Then, taking it up two years later, I found my way to other variations and then to SeaDepths, whose colors I could get out of my mind. It was like there was a wormhole between those two variations.
I’m always surprised when a creative journey takes these kinds of twists and turns. It usually happens when I try to box something in, with a dismissive, “Oh, I know all about that,” with a sniff and a tilt of the head. To counter this attitude of immediately sizing something up prematurely, Xavier Encinas noted that “If there is something I’m learning over the years it is this: Take your time while setting up your ideas and take time to distance yourself from what you have done.” So maybe completing this pattern, finding the missing link to getting it done took some distance.
Where does patriotism come from? The title for my quilt, “I Hear America Singing,” is from a poem by poet Walt Whitman. Today he might have been considered a type of patriotic American — one who saw and acknowledged the multitudes of regular Americans — and heard them sing their song of daily work (poem is at end of post).
“The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem,” said Whitman, and the poem, written in 1860 and published shortly before Lincoln’s inauguration, was a celebratory poem, lauding you and I — she and him, and those people over there. Karen Swallow Prior, in an article from The Atlantic, makes the observation that “Whitman’s claim stemmed from a belief that both poetry and democracy derive their power from their ability to create a unified whole out of disparate parts—a notion that is especially relevant at a time when America feels bitterly divided.” She goes on to say that:
“Notably, Whitman’s grammar (“the United States are”) signals his understanding of the country as a plural noun—not one uniform body, but a union of disparate parts. Whitman was centrally concerned with the American experiment in democracy and its power to produce “out of many, one,” even at as great a cost as the Civil War and the faltering Reconstruction. Whitman thus celebrates in his work the many kinds of individuals who make up a society as well as the tensions that bring individuals together in a variegated community.”
As Whitman asserts later in the preface to his Leaves of Grass:
The genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or colleges or churches or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors … but always most in the common people.
We often think that the ideal of “patriot” has an affiliation with war: the machines of war, the fighting and dying and the slogans and the confrontations, which leads in the end to the cemeteries of war, with honoring our war dead. We make that connection easily because we honor those who fought for our freedoms. I acknowledge them and am grateful for them. However, if it is defined only this way, it’s easy to feel separated from the idea of being a patriot, from patriotism, and make “them” responsible for the well-being of our country.
So on this Fourth of July, I wanted to emphasize a different sort of connection to patriot. That it is not found in going to war. It’s not in defined battles. It’s in us, the people. It’s in our going out of our way to take care of our neighbors, with their varied songs and carols and labor and daily work. It’s in going to that daily work, from the work of masons and shipbuilders and deckhands and mothering and washing and sewing: “Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else.”
Stephan Cushman noted, “Although we hear the words “patriot,” “patriotic,” and “patriotism” all around us … we do not have many useful public models for combining genuine celebration of the United States with constructive criticism of it.” Cushman gives a nod to the idea that “patriot” is a formal label that can be worn on one’s chest. But after noting that Whitman used that word sparingly in his volume of poetry Leaves of Grass, Cushman goes on to say:
“Different readers might offer different explanations for the paucity of direct references to patriotism in Whitman’s writing, but one that feels plausible to me is that someone so deeply engaged in celebrating various aspects of the United States, and in identifying himself with his image or images of an American ethos, had little need or ability to separate himself from that celebration and objectify it with an abstract term like “patriotism.” Or, to put the matter more bluntly and reductively, Whitman was too busy celebrating himself and his country, and insisting on the connections between them, to spend much time crowing self-righteously about how patriotic he was and how deeply he believed in the value of patriotism.”
Perhaps the greatest patriotism is in seeing each other, in realizing how alike we are and how dissimilar we are, making us figure out how to negotiate, how to keep the peace, how to be respectful. This is why one reason my husband and I photographed this quilt at our county’s 1903 Courthouse, a place administering and honoring those laws that are part of the the thousand daily comprises we make to keep our country stable and thriving. We also chose this place because it’s also really beautiful, with its craftmanship intact; this place generates in me that old-fashioned kind of feeling of pride, and yes, of patriotism.
As I have traveled around the world, I have found patriots in all countries, loyal to the carols they hear around them, fiercely proud of what makes their country the best one ever. It would indeed be a great world if we could all think like that, seeing this similarity as something that can unite.
Finally, Swallow Prior brings another gentle affirmation for this idea of America as a poem by mentioning Harvard professor Elaine Scarry, who “describes the importance of multiple viewpoints, arguments, and counterarguments to ‘political assembly,’ [and wonders] how ‘will one hear the nuances of even this debate unless one also makes oneself available to the songs of birds or poets?’ The basis of poetry is precisely those connections forged between different elements, different voices, and different perspectives. In envisioning the United States as “the greatest poem,” Whitman links the essence of poetry, which is unity within diversity, to the essence of democracy.”
I am a patriot of the singing kind, the poetry kind. I will always love America. And so I present to you my quilt, I Hear America Singing, a celebration of that great American poem that Whitman believed us to be.
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 think we left the Flowering Snowball block here:
Don’t get me wrong…that was a good place to leave it, and I still might try to make this version of it, but the idea that I should do one in Anna Maria Horner fabrics just wouldn’t leave me alone. Thanks to Patti, I just had to give it a go.
For some time I was stumped on what to do for a border. I try to subscribe to the Ruth McDowell school of sneaking in a border if you can, that is, having it be integral to your quilt, but not the same as the quilt.
I looked at the center section for a long time, and was bothered that the tips of the petals were cut off. So I had the idea to extend the petals, re-draw a new border piece and see where that took me.
First draft of border, using the petals I’d originally cut for the center (but in the end, chose the warm yellow-green instead):
This is still an AMH fabric, called One Mile Radiant, a lovely design with Queen Anne’s lace all over it. I’d show you what it looks like, but I cut it all up.
(Aren’t we supposed to do that with fabric?)
The white was ho-hum, just didn’t sing it for me. So I auditioned different colors of solids: medium purple, light periwinkle and deep pink. But as I said to Carol, “That dark pink on the left just looks like freshly manicured fingernails to me.” And then she said, “Once you see that, you just can’t un-see it.”
The smart and handsome youngest son and his brilliant and lovely girlfriend came yesterday for an early Father’s Day lunch (which is why this post is late but that’s a good reason), and they graciously posed in front of Sunny Flowers just before Dave (DH) suggested they go up to the sewing room to help me with my conundrum of freshly painted fingernails. They were like, what?
But then I showed them the stack of AMH and started flipping through the bits, and one of these two said, What about that one? pointing to what is now front and center. I think that might work, I said. We all agreed (by now Dave had joined us) that the tips of those leaves were like an extension of the yellow-green and that the pink bits echoed the center of the larger flowers in the quilt.
So, after church today, we went out back to the pavilion and park and took a few pictures, before heading home to celebrate Father’s Day. As usual, Dave was my Quilt Holder Supreme.
Happy Father’s Day to the man who married me and four children, all at once, and raised us all.
I was also fortunate enough to have a magnificent father, who raised me, as well as being surrounded by many fine fathers: brothers, brothers-in-law, our sons, friends we know — all men who are doing their best to influence their families for good.
One of the members of the Gridster Bee chose the Flowering Snowball for her block this month, and I was sort of: hmmm, nice block. But when I started playing around with the sewing of the curves, I became addicted to figuring out how to explain it. Then I drafted it up in my Affinity Designer software — nine blocks’ worth — and then it was oh, WOW! I love this block!
So here we go with a lot of things to help you, including a new PatternLite that has all the tips and tricks plus full-sized templates to make a 12″ block.
BONUS: At the last minute, I threw in the templates for a 6″ size block. That’s in case you want to make a mini version of this quilt.
Kelley chose a range of colors for us to work with, but I also loved Patti’s idea to make them all up in Anna Maria Horner with low-volumes for the petals. So I got out my stashed fabric, some going back for years, and started playing. I chose a neutral for the “petals” but I think Kelley’s and Patti’s ideas of a rich color palette might work really well for this block. Stay tuned.
Laying it out. Kelley had warned us about getting the light-colored petals flipped around, so I figured out how to explain that. Then I just started sewing it together willy-nilly, which works okay. When I went to write up the PatternLite, though, I took a more systematic approach, which I think works better. You’ll see.
Caveat: I never went to film school. I am not 27 years old. I don’t live on my phone. Some parts are blurry, but the professor in me just kept on going and kept on explaining. Hey, it’s free, and it has some pretty good tips, and it’s under three minutes.
And I decided to get organized on an idea I had: some of us more experienced quilters don’t really want to buy a full pattern, but we either a) like the block/quilt, or b) want the templates. So I am trying to put together a series of what I call PatternLite publications, which often will have the templates, but sometimes will carry the idea forward and have some tips for construction and finishing.
My first two: Build Me A House, and Sunny Flowers Quilt were like this. Or as I say on the pattern: PatternLite: not all-of-a-full-size-pattern for not-all-of-the-price. I still write complete patterns when I have a bigger idea, or I think the pattern might appeal to a quilter who wants step-by-step patterns. Most of my regular patterns have between 20-40 full-color illustrations and are very thorough; however, not every quilt or every quilter needs that. And rather than having them all different prices, I’m also pricing them all at one low price, which is less than the cost of a double-scoop ice cream cone (I checked).
This week I spent a very lovely morning reading and thinking about all your summer experiences. Many of you have had similar ones to me, and others have been quite different; some were very poignant and some quiet and personal. But what they all had in common was a that feeling we all feel now (that we’ve been vaccinated) of freedom to do, to explore, to ignore the clock and to just immerse in the moment. I have contacted the winners; thank you all for entering my little giveaway.
Penultimate final note: This week I had fun learning how to make a sun filled with orange scribbles using Affinity Designer. They are a great replacement for Illustrator, if — like me — you hate subscription software; they are having a 50% off sale.
Absolutely final note: I am giving a lecture and teaching a workshop this week at Northern Star Quilt Guild. They let me know that if you want to join in this Criss-Cross Workshop, you are more than welcome to.
Head to their website and sign up, as they have made it very easy to do this through their website. My lecture, Abecedary of Quilts is Tuesday evening (East Coast Time) and the Workshop is Wednesday (beginning at 10 a.m., East Coast Time). As life moves on, it is probably the last time I will be teaching Criss-Cross, and really no prep is needed. So if you want to join in a fun workshop, go sign up and we’ll see you Wednesday.