Quilt Finish · This-and-That

Quilt Finish: Blossom and This & That for May 2023

I’ve been storing up some This-and-Thats, so buckle up, here we go.

First up is a quilt finish. I started this in June of 2021, and finished it today. I was teaching classes about this to Guilds and thought I needed to make up a sample. Or two. Or three. But finally, the genesis of all the samples is finished. I promised it to my sister, who always impresses me with her ability to adapt to whatever the world throws at her. She told me it will probably hang in her soon-to-be-finished basement (she lives in a colder climate than we do).

I quilted the petals simply, and the surrounding area and little more densely. It’s made of all Anna Maria Horton fabrics, from a wide range of her collections.

I seem to be going through irons like water lately. That means that this last one only lasted a few years, instead of decades. We’ll see what the new Shark one does. I’m sort of over name-brand irons. I look for the vent holes and if it has a ton of places for the steam to exit, I usually buy it.

Thought you’d like to see the full branching of that Mother of Pearl plant I showed you last week. These colors!

This popped up on Sherri McConnell’s Instagram today, and I love them. You’ve got to keep your eye on Sherri. She is Industry personified, and always has such fun things to share. So head over to her blog to see all her talents as well as links to the download. The free downloads for this block can also be found at Fat Quarter Shop, as they are building a Charity Quilt with delightful blocks.

Continuing with the flower theme, the geraniums on the left are from our front yard, and have just thrived in this cool, rainy weather we’ve had. The flower on the right is from our Chinese Fringe bush in the side yard. I love how they uncurl like they are strips of paper (like quilling? remember that?).

We’re three weeks into the garden, and so far we haven’t killed anything. The bare-limbed jacaranda took a hit this year from all the cold weather and the jury is still out on whether it will come back to life. Once the heat lands, we spend all summer trying to keep the vegetables alive, working hard to get our proverbial “64-dollar tomato.”

Why yes, I will be up early to watch all the Pomp-and-Circumstance, especially the bagpipers. I already purchased my souvenir, but it won’t be here for a couple of weeks:

I plan to use this when I inaugurate my kitchen. If you want to have your eyes glaze over, a lot of it is on Instagram under the hashtag #itsnewkitchentime2023 but that does not mean I’m doing this in 2024, or 2025, or ever again. I’m weary of not being to cook normally, although we are getting good at soaking our pasta to make dinner. And I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I made a pan of brownies:

That Breville oven has saved my sanity during this past eight weeks. The tile went up today on the backsplash, and as I type this, our contractor, Saintly Dennis, is installing the drawer/door fronts. Okay, hang on. We are almost finished.

Did you see the costumery of the 2023 Met Gala? This outfit above wasn’t one of them, but it was waaaay better looking that most of them, and this Rainbow Woman is completely covered, unlike a lot of what was worn at the Gala. Geesh. It had such potential.

Two sides of motherhood (in advance of Mother’s Day):

When your Young Adults are of a certain age, this might be a great sweatshirt for them.

And this is for when your Mom has passed away, and you are surprised that Reality is so different than the Expectation.

Happy May Flowers to you, all!

300 Quilts · Quilt Finish

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

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

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

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

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

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

You get the picture.

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

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

It was a spindly flowering branch day.

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

Baby Hurren’s Quilt #275 in the Quilt Index

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

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

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

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

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

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

Primula Ballerina • Quilt Finish

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

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


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

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

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

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

Go smell 10,000 spring flowers!

300 Quilts · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Quilt Finish

Quilt Finish: Aerial Beacon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

late-night sewing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other posts about this quilt:

Bias Binding Fun

the label, a simple one this time
Quilt Finish

Stella di Natale • Quilt Finish

I started this quilt as another class sample for the Triad Harmony quilt pattern. The name “Stella di Natale,” is my version of Star of Bethlehem, but it is also a cake and the Italian name for the poinsettia plant. Every time I make a pattern, I try to do them three ways: the way it came to me, one in a completely different style of fabric, and of course, a Christmas version.

Having come home from my mother’s funeral with a roaring cold (no covid!) and Overwhelmed by Everything, I sat down at the Sweet 16 the next day and quilted away while listening to the latest Inspector Gamache novel, by Louise Penny. The label:

Back in October 2020, this is how it started. It all was about those wedges of flying angels, the last bits of a fabulous Alexander Henry Christmas fabric. The first two images are before the Run to the Fabric Store (I was trying to use my really old stash). I like the last one much better after a fabric transfusion.

I made a video of how to construct this for my Guild Workshop, and these are some stills from that video. It’s all explained really nicely in the pattern, too. If you click through to the workshop post, you can see all their versions of this pattern.

I never quilted it up, because I used it in teaching to show the back — how I pressed the seams, and other questions about that center point (just be bold and follow the pattern directions). But this past week, as I thought about my own personal star in heaven — my mother — it just seemed time to quilt it up. So I did. By the way, that first picture of it surrounded by dried leaves is how December looks here in Southern California, when all the leaves of the wisteria vine coat our patio.

Here’s a shot of another quilt, but in a wintry landscape; this was after the graveside service was over with, and our two boys (now, men) helped hold Jingle Bells for a photo.

My mother was laid to rest where she was born: Paradise, in Cache Valley. Yes, it was very cold that afternoon, but the morning services in Salt Lake City were lovely, the talks heartwarming (all seven of us children spoke), and the scenery at her little cemetery was beautiful.

Here’s another wintry quilt. It’s Shine: The Circles Quilt made up in snowman fabrics and with a unique and playful setting, all done by Linda Kucera. I have a closer look at her blocks in an earlier post. Most of the Shine blocks are free on this website, and the index is found above.

And this happened. I entered two, but only Eris will be in the show. Now I have something to look forward to.

detail, Eris

I now close a chapter in my life: that of having a mother nearby to call, to talk to, to share something like the good news about my quilt. I’ve observed from many of you that this may be a long transition. On the morning of her service, I sat quietly in the corner before it began, so bereft, so incredibly sad. My niece Melinda sat down beside me and said “I know there will be times you will want to call your Mother. You can call me, instead.” Her words were a treasure, as was the support from my husband, family, sisters. This past month I also have received many treasured messages of love and support from all of you, and so appreciate them. Thank you all for your kindnesses; it has made this difficult road easier to travel.

Stella di Natale • quilt #271 • 34″ wide x 31″ high

Other posts about the Triad Harmony quilts:

Triad Harmony • Quilt Finish

Triad Harmony Workshop

Secret Garden • a Triad Harmony Pattern Quilt Finish

Spectral Light (aka Eris) • a Triad Harmony pattern quilt

Eris • a Triad Harmony Pattern Quilt Finish

Choose Something Like a Star • a Triad Harmony pattern Quilt Finish

300 Quilts · Christmas Quilts · Quilt Finish

Jingle Bells • Quilt Finish

We recently took a small road trip up to see the Bristlecone Pines in the White Mountains. Pine trees = Christmas, right? And while we were up there at 10,000 feet at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center at Schulman Grove, we took some pictures with those old pines of my latest Christmas quilt, Jingle Bells.

The song “Jingle Bells” is actually a Thanksgiving song, what with the sleigh and all that, and since these circles make me think of those jingley bells — not during November — but in December, that became its name.

However, that’s not the name of the block. Jack’s Chain is the name it’s most commonly known by. The earliest mention of this block is around 1939 and it’s called Rosalia Flower Garden, but the name Jack’s Chain comes into play in 1978. For not knowing about this, all of a sudden the name Jack’s Chain was everywhere. I ordered another early quilt book and it’s in there, too. It’s in Brackman. In fact, for being such a well-recognized pattern, the origins seem to be shrouded in mystery. To see how the current version relates to the old one, take a look at this video:

After the Jack’s Chain is exploded, with the rings set beside each other, it morphs into another well-known, more contemporary version of this block (center construction shown below).

My good friend Dot sent me this photo of her Jack’s chain from 1999. She writes: “The quilt was made for a 1999 South Bay Quilters Guild challenge: to make a quilt using the guild’s logo, which is the traditional Mayflower Block. It’s not that exciting a block, so I found a fun way to set it. I drafted my own pattern from a little sketch in a quilt-block book.” [corrected 10/23/22]

The backing, and fussy-cut centers of the circles were cut from this Jane Sassaman fabric.

Yes, I really liked those old Bristlecone Pines, and liked the fact that we were walking around among these giants, both in age, wisdom, adaptability and scarcity. If you watched the Highlight reel (above), some of the wood looks fluid, as if it were poured into place. A good lesson for me, for this quilt has been a struggle.

After I put up this earlier post on Instagram, and then wrote about it on this blog, I was blasted by those who police the Other Well-known Name of this design. The origins, of course, were Jack’s Chain, but morphed. That morphing was lovely and allows the viewer to see giant circles, a secondary pattern. After I was castigated for calling it Jack’s Chain (seven pages worth!), I started doing research and found multiple places where this pattern resides. One of the places even offers acrylic templates for sale (do your own search, if you are interested). There are two basic sizes, 3″ nine-patch blocks, and 6″ nine-patch blocks. Sometimes there are diamonds in the center, and sometimes not. Sometimes the center is done with English Paper Piecing, then the nine-patches added on via machine. Sometimes the version is a table-runner (and there is a YouTube video for that one). There are as many variations of this block as there are blocks in this quilt; something for everyone — plenty to share. There is however, only one “official” pattern of that contemporary version smaller nine-patch, so if you want the complete how-to, it’s best to make sure your nickels and dimes get to her.

I originally obtained my pattern from a very fine and brilliant quilter, who no longer sells her pattern online. So when it came time to figure out how to put the sides on the center, I was stuck. So I drafted my own. The quilting on this quilt was done by Jen of Sew-Mazing Quilting.

In the Quilt Index, this is Quilt #270 and my second Christmas quilt finish for 2022 (the first). As the label notes, it’s 66″ wide and 78″ tall.

At the midpoint of this quilt, after being harangued and scolded, I wanted to wad it all up and throw it away. Our quilts often carry our hopes, dreams and emotions and I felt like this quilt had been dumped on. Maybe it was just me. Could be. I always consider my own foibles first, but in the end? I kept going. And now that I’ve taken it to 10,000 feet and let those Bristlecone Pines shed their magic on it, it’s a keeper.

Be as kind as you can, in all the ways that you can–

We also headed up Bishop Creek to get these shots, as we don’t really have many pines around here:

If you go to Bishop, I can recommend Great Basin Bakery for lunch. And breakfast! If you are down in Lone Pine, the Alabama Hills Cafe & Bakery is also really good (named for the hills at the base of Mt. Whitney).