For some reason this morning, the fog cleared, the brain snapped to, I thought: “You have got to finish something today!” And so I did.
A low-energy-COVIDistraction-day back in May got me started on the quilting, although the quilt top itself was begun back in August 2019, in another galaxy far away from our lives now.
Shots from my backyard, in nearly 100 degree heat. We are both wilting, the quilt and I.
Why is it called Repeat/Augment? Because you’ve seen this City Streets pattern once before, in this quilt.
I decided it was Very Serious, all that gridwork in the quilting.
So I went natural this time, in as many places as I could. And used Tula Pink fabric in really saturated tones with curvy-swervy designs. Yes, definitely more playful.
Our lives, now, unless you live in one of those places that is like the wild, wild west and has released you from Stay-At-Home. In our neck of the woods, it’s not yet, so it kind of freaks me out if I go outside and see people not wearing masks.
Hey, around here, even the quarters have them on!
Which reminds me, I need to cut out some more masks. My friend’s granddaughters are making holiday-themed masks (not shown here, but there are some fun types) and after the most recent news from Those Who Know, looks like the granddaughters were on to something. If you are keeping track, here’s my most recent favorite map, from Johns Hopkins. (I put it here so I can find it again.)
Last happy news is that my hair stylist has re-opened for the first time since March, so on Saturday I will get a real haircut. Not the kind where you set the mirror up on the barbeque, and try to cut your hair yourself. I am a little afraid of what he’s going to say when he sees the hatchet job that is living on top of my head. All I’ve got to say, it’s a good thing I’ve been in Stay-at-Home mode.
Let me start with the easy stuff, the stuff that’s in my hands all the time: cloth, needle, thread, shapes, stitching.
While I’ve called this the #dungeonofcute on Instagram, I am happy that I finished it, and that it is really cute. I set up a place on my blog to corral all the handouts I made while working through this. I made a series of tip sheets that collect all the disparate information that Lori Holt presents on her blog, and hopefully will serve to help those who decide to jump in to Bee Happy. Borders are up next.
I started to wonder why this was so hard for me. There is the matter of all that stitching. By hand. It is also a quilt of medium tones and values, and while I do like those quilts, I tend to be more comfortable using stronger contrasts. And maybe I’m not as patient as I could be? And maybe because I felt like I was always buying her fabric, so everything could neatly “fit in together”? Sunshine and rainbows and unicorns and charming motifs and flowers and buzzing bees?
This week has provided us all with a way of looking at the side we don’t often see, the side that gets hidden behind a tidy facade. I’m a Pollyana from way back, and am always looking for the rainbows and the hearts and flowers. But there were more than a few things in the past few days to knock me around. It was that kind of week.
From this, the (mildest of) images, to the videos and pictures generated by another visitor to Lafayette Park, the news stories chronicling the fights and the hate and the soldiers and the protestors and the (unneeded) clashing.
This week, our Instagram feeds filled with these sorts of images:
Then a couple of days ago, I was surprised to see this statue from Alexandria, Virginia in my southern California newspaper. I’d walked past this statue often when I lived there, and thought it a rather simple memorial.
The art critic calls it a “racist civic sculpture celebrating white supremecy.” Its location in Alexandria is right where the main street through town gives way to a bigger highway, shuffling the traffic over to bridges and it faces south, away from the town. It was, when I was there, a mostly ignored statue. Is it okay to admit to liking this simple memorial in an area full of memorials, a soldier contemplating his fallen comrades? But this week, given our new vantage point, and out of necessity, it came down. And as my historian sister says, a lot of ink has been spilled on this topic recently.
So, this week I sewed.
This week I listened and watched.
I spent time in my garden, catching a glimpse of a late-blooming peony. I read through news stories of the protests, stunned at more instances of thoughtlessness. I would step away from the television and computer every night then lay awake in the dark, wondering what kind of senseless world I was living in, when people were singled out for how they look. I had no answers, just a lot of tired mornings, when I would repeat the cycle again. I wanted to make it all happy, turn the cloth under, hide the fraying and the raw edges, but I was being asked to see it from another view, a richer, more nuanced, and painful view.
I wish I could wrap up this post in a tidy little package, give a neat turn, but this is not that kind of week. This is the kind of week where you wonder. This is the kind of week where you decide what you want your country to be. This is the kind of week that you pay attention to what’s on the other side of things, knowing that they can make all the difference.
All these Log Cabin Quilts were hanging in a special vintage exhibit in a quilt show some years back, and I think I photographed them all. And while there are a lot of images here in this collage, I didn’t put them all in.
This Log Cabin quilt, above, was the second big quilt I ever made and it took me four years from start to finish. When the quilting was all done, I brought the backing fabric to the front, folded it over, stitched it down and called it a binding (the quilt police are gasping!). But it was what I knew how to do then. I quilted this by hand through the hot summers of my time in Texas, finishing it up in the mellow spring of the Bay Area in California.
So for our First Monday Sew-day group I chose the Log Cabin block. This group is geared toward new quilters, so I’m trying to figure out the basic blocks a quilter needs in their skills basket, and designing a monthly handout to match. You can get your PDF handout here:
It’s in a PDF form, two-sided. Trying to keep it simple, I only tackled two of the hundreds of variations of Log Cabin blocks. We’ve been doing this for a while, so search for First Monday Sew-day to get the rest of the handouts.
And variations of setting, too. I’ve made a few different kind of Log Cabin blocks. Here are a few:
A wonky Log Cabin quilt, given to my son.
A block for this quilt:
And even a funky round Log Cabin block, made by varying the sizes and lengths of the strips. Yes, Log Cabins are definitely in our heritage, especially our quilting heritage.
Barbara Brackman provides information on the origin of this name: “In June of 1866, an Iowa diarist known only as “Abbie” wrote that she “went to town, bought Delaine [wool blend] for my log cabin.” On the last day of July she “wrote a letter to Sis and worked on my log cabin.” If you don’t know about Barbara Brackman, a quilt historian, click over to her site and learn. She’s always my go-to source when I have a question.
So, even though we can’t meet together, that doesn’t mean we can’t have our First Monday Sew-day. If like me, you are stuck at home and you make a Log Cabin block, send me a photo!
While I titled this Bee Happy in April 2020, part of that is a statement: I’m working on my Bee Happy Quilt, started at least a year ago. But part of that is also a question: is it possible to be happy in April 2020? Let’s tackle the first, wander through the second and I promise I’ll leave you with something funny.
Like many of you I’ve been reading — no, gorging — on the news at this time, and one article about how nature is taking back the canals of Venice, the meadows of Yosemite and how we are seeing less pollution in our skies also commented on the amount of bird songs available now to us in our own backyards. So one mopey day, I pulled out my Lori Holt Bee Happy quilt (!) and started anew. I sat at the kitchen table, stitching, listening to the avian calls, and took a break from the chatter.
Hens stitched, blocks sewn and what I’ve finished is all smoothed out onto my design wall, a sort of vertical storage these days. Three of her rows are finished, ending with the clucking hen sisters. I numbered how many I have left: 13 blocks.
I’ve been making a little tip sheet to go along with all the weeks on Lori Holt’s blog, where she has all her photos and pictures. However, sometimes the info is not arranged as easily as I would like, and so I offer these as an adjunct to those working on the quilt who also need a bit more. Click to download the PDF files. They are found on a page up in the tab section, under 2020 Projects, if you need to find them again.
I laugh at those COVID-19 memes that list a full menu for dinner on the first three days then devolve down to cereal and soda by Day 20. I alternate between complete angst at dinner time and diving in to make a cool meal. Here are two of my successes: bibimbap (top) and African Peanut Stew (bottom, recipe on ElizabethCooks.com). My daughter, who lives too far away, has been baking these:
Baking and selling them. She’s really mastered this treat.
Like the rest of you, I spend far too much time scrolling on my phone, I’ve been happy to see the contests sponsored by major museums across the world to have those of us keeping quarantine to mimic famous works of art.
I also follow the hashtag #quarantineart to break up the quilty quality of my IG feed, where I found this image.
Other components of our COVID-19 lives: Zoom conferences (this time with my brothers and sisters and my two elderly parents highly quarantined in their senior living building), memes, walks around our neighborhood in the morning, and finally, peering into the homes of TV newscasters, where I spotted a quilt on the back of a sofa. Hey! A quilter lives there…or at least they appreciate a quilt.
So, can we be happy in April 2020? Possibly. Probably. Often. Sometimes. Always. Occasionally.
In January 2020, way back in another time and place, my local quilt shop asked us to nominate someone who could use a sewing machine in their lives, along with some sewing helps from Olfa and fabric from the store. I wrote about my friend Hayley, a young mom who is in my First Monday Sew-day group, who has really taken to quilting. She’s the wife a medical student, and has a sweet young daughter. I then waited…and waited…and finally heard this week that she had been chosen!
We all wore our masks, kept our social distance, and Janet, the shop owner read from a prepared paper, thanking all those responsible for giving this award. Then the curtains parted to reveal a sewing machine–Hayley started to cry, I started to cry, Janet started to get emotional. I was so happy that someone who is starting to love quilting could get her own machine. Here’s the video on Facebook.
I help teach a group of beginning quilters, and we call ourselves First Monday Sew-day, and yes, I know it’s not the First Monday today, but it’s COVID-19 season and nothing is normal anymore. For this First Monday Sew-day, I chose to teach the Economy block, also known as the Square-in-a-Square block.
I’ve made a little handout to go along with this, which includes a detailed chart of measurements. Click to download the PDF file:
(NOTE: I’ve also collected all my First Monday Posts and put them in their own page at the top of my blog, just in case you want to find them easily.)
I looked at Catbird Quilt Studios’ chart, but then decided I wanted to test out my own measurements. First I cut some sunny yellow fabric for the centers.
I pulled some neutrals from my stash, cut the triangles, then painstakingly went through each measurement, adjusting it to what I thought would work for teaching beginners, then went to work.
After getting the first set of triangles on, I squared it up, jotting down the measurements as I went through each size.
When you trim, do your best to leave a 1/4″ of seam allowance at each point, as shown above.
I love this color of blue, known around our house as painting-tape blue.
I’ve already put the triangles on the first two sides and pressed them. Now I’m starting on the second set, with the finish below:
Here are all the sizes, stacked up together. I’m thinking bordering the smallest sizes again to equal that large 15″ block in the lower left, and seeing what evolves.
This is a free pattern from the Robert Kaufman Fabric Company, and it uses the Economy block, but the quiltmaker fussy cut center blocks for more interest.
I added one more set of triangles on this economy block to get this quilt. Doing a search on “economy block” yields lots of images to scroll through.
I liked how this quilt maker had pinwheels inside their Economy blocks. Our beginners learned how to make pinwheels when they learned about Half-Square Triangles.
And I’m still making masks. I am making them for people I know, friends and family who need them as our particular county is a mask-wearing place.
So when two friends came by and I realized that these masks wouldn’t work for them, I went back to the Accordian-style mask, added a nosewire sleeve and turned the sides into plackets, through which I could slip some elastic.
I’d say this is the fourth or fifth iteration of cloth masks that I’ve made. I kept wondering why I couldn’t be like all the other mask-makers of our particular universe, and just settle into one kind? I was heartened by “Tear It Up and Start Again,” an article by Harry Guiness, that reminded me of things I used to teach my college students, back in the day. I reminded them never to turn in their first draft, as the really good writing starts to happen on the third or fourth rounds (inevitably the class would groan about this point). Guiness notes that “Too often, when it comes to self-improvement, we create idealized, top-down systems with unnatural rules and regulations. We naïvely assume that we will somehow stick to our rigid plans when life gets random and hard, throwing unavoidable chaos and crises into the mix.”
We’ve all had some unavoidable chaos recently. While this article dealt more with those self-improvement plans we all make for ourselves (I hope you have all torn yours up during this stay-at-home time), I did like his nuggets of truth, such as this one: “When a plan or resolution fails, the solution isn’t to dismiss it and try a new, equally rigid prescription next year or next time. It’s to build on what worked, ruthlessly cut what didn’t and start straight away on a much-improved second draft.” I like that I won’t have to discard what I learned in my first draft, but can carry forward the best parts.
“I never lose. I win or learn.” This phrase has been attributed to many, but whoever said it was on to something. Hopefully we won’t lose during this time of forced idleness (for some), crashing boredom (for some), an onslaught of toomuchtodo (for some). We can win at our tasks if everything goes smoothly. However, you can tell by my variety of masks that it doesn’t — usually — go smoothly for me, but we can still learn new things about others, or new things about ourselves.
I’ve learned I like to tinker to figure out which mask will fit which face. I’ve learned that I can’t read the news before I go to bed at night. I’ve learned that my current forced isolation and distraction (courtesy of the novel corona virus) is not the best working environment for getting my quilting projects done.
I’ve learned a million new science-y facts about peak dates and doubling rates and flattening the curve and so on (I am married to a scientist), which may or may not come in handy in the Life After COVID-19. But hopefully I’ve also learned that my first drafts can lead to successful subsequent drafts, no matter whether it’s writing, or quilting, or making masks.
I was going to post a follow-up to the last post about masks, and I have (scroll down), but I wanted to write about my very first group Zoom meeting ever. It was with the Gridsters, a group of women I’ve come to know over time. Rachel and I have been doing parallel quilting together now for seven years, working in various small organized groups, and this was the first time we’ve talked face-to-face. I met Linda this morning for the first time, as well as Nancy, who organized our Zoom conference.
We found out that Kelley, with her friends, has made over 2,000 face masks, while the rest have made smaller amounts, or masks for friends’ or personal use. We each talked about our projects, how we are coping (Gov. Cuomo’s daily briefings were all mentioned as a must-see), and avoiding TV/print news in the evening. It was fun to see the variety of projects, to hear everyone’s voice. Each of these women, like you, have different stories, different situations, live in different parts of the country, but all of us quilt. We are so isolated now, doing our “i-sew-late” and really enjoying it, but it was amazing to get together to see each other, to make us feel a little less alone. This meant more to me than I can say.
Now, the post I originally wrote, with good information about the Times We Live In:
Background: If you read one article about why we need to stay home, let it be Thomas Pueyo’s Coronavirus: The Hammer, and the Dance. And if you listen to one podcast, I recommend this episode of The Daily, when a NYTimes editor gives a moving description of living with someone with a coronavirus infection — her husband.
Or maybe neither read, nor listen, to this, because they will scare you into staying home and taking it seriously. They have made me more aware, having listened to/read these late one night when I couldn’t sleep, worrying about my children, my parents, and that terrible series of pronouncements when the GDP was of bigger concern than human lives. But ever the hopeful, I believe in us. We will figure it all out after this year is over (and yes, I now am leaning towards a year…hoping they’ll get a vaccine by that time).
Deaconess Hospital list of Where to Donate Face Masks Use the filter for your state, and scroll down. It’s not always apparent to me that they are wanting home made masks, as some list N95s as their request.
Liz wrote in with these tips: “Using a modified Deaconess pattern, starting with two 7×10.5″ instead of 6×9, and stitching seam binding across the top and bottom of the mask (40″ piece for top, 36″ for bottom). Also very important to make an OBVIOUS FRONT and BACK side to the mask, by using two different fabrics or the reverse side of the main print on the back/inside portion.” I think her caution to make an obvious front and back side, if you are using the Deaconess pattern, is a great idea. If you are using the Orange Dot Quilts pattern, the shape of it denotes a front and back already.
The new idea is that all of us need a mask to wear, unless we are at home. So you put it on when you go out, and you take it off and wash it when you come home. So maybe make a couple of masks. The last link above has two mask patterns: one made from an old T-shirt (to see it to believe it) and one that makes the version with the curve shape for the nose). I’m still an Orange Dot Quilts mask fan, and she now has the aluminum strips that go across the nose for sale. There are some good comments on fitting the mask on the last post, if you want to read them.
This morning I found The Fabric Patch’swebsite about masks to be an invaluable resource, complete with videos and straight talk about the difference between the two kinds of masks and which non-woven interfacing to use inside your masks to make them better. I’d recommend her third video, also gives information about what kind of wire to use to go over the nose bridge, and tie placement (don’t sew it at the edges).
Here’s our county’s latest projections into May as of Tuesday evening (still no flattening of the curve, but I’m hopeful). I like the new phrase: “Stay in Place • Maintain Your Space • Cover Your Face.”
How to stay sane in these times of ours? Gardening, reading, knitting, cleaning out, baking or whatever you choose, but realize that I am not raising children or trying to school them. So one of my goals is also to support parents of young children, especially when you can’t go and help them out physically.
While I admit to being shaken off course by all the terrible news, angry some days, weeping on others, sitting glued to the screen on still other days, I’ve had more conversations with quilty friends than before. In this time of uneveness and wobbly lives where pithy quotes can bring me to tears and #covid19memes can make me laugh, what steadies me is keeping my hands busy.
And of course, all of you. Thank you for your notes, for your encouragement, for sharing your lives.