January This-and-That

To start us off right for January, Carol of the Gridster Bee chose Lori Holt’s Tall Pines Quilt Block, part of her Sew Your Stash series, found on YouTube. I lost my mind and my way a couple of times, so made up this diagram to go with her dimensions (screenshot from YouTube).

Click if you need to enlarge

For Carol’s signature block, she requested that we all make her a Teeny Christmas Tree from my free pattern. I updated it for her, so be sure to download the 2021 version.

Oh, and lately, we’ve had some current events. Even on my birthday, which I thought was highly unfortunate, so thank you to all who sent birthday wishes on the last post. On that day, they were much appreciated.

To balance out the above, some good news: The Shine Blocks are starting to return to the website, and they are in a new and improved format. Above are Blocks 1, 2 and 3. I’ll bring back three every month until they have all come home. To access, click on the above tab: Shine the Circles Quilt.

Remember all those memes that used to say that the month of April was like a bajillion days long? I think January 2021 might give April 2020 a run for its money. Several people I’ve chatted with lately have had a bad case of the holiday doldrums, a condition that my 93-year-old mother swears happens every year about the 27th of December and can slide all the way into mid-January. She’s right, you know.

So I’ve saved a great article just for times like this, and the above illustration on the article perfectly depicts how it all feels. It’s titled “Finding Hope When Things Feel Gloomy,” by Jenny Taitz, published way back in November of 2020. Clearly, the doldrums were starting early during the pandemic.

Taitz, a psychologist writing for The New York Times, starts us off with a basic: Control what you can. She writes: “When crises in the world at large feel out of your control, thinking about the various components of your life — and setting small, specific goals to improve them — can help reduce feelings of helplessness.” I think this is something we are all familiar with, as we resort to scrolling on our phones (see below), or looking at our stash of fabric but with no real desire to do anything with it.

Another idea is to “Swap microaggressions for ‘micro-progressions’ ” or instead of trying to take steps forward right now, perhaps try to incorporate “small actions that communicate respect.” It’s hard when facing the same people day after day, no matter how delightful and witty they are, to not to give in irritations about their habits and that noise they make that you can hear from all the way on the other side of the house. Or the neighbor who keeps moving towards you, breaking the social distance guidelines, having just returned from an RV tour of the United States. It’s also often hard to notice the micro-progressions I make in my daily tasks, the fabric all cut out, the blocks completed. I’ve taken to writing down even the littlest thing on my To Do List, just so I have a record of how this time in my life was spent.

There are other tips in the article, but I’ll close with my favorite: “Work on your mental agility.” I have a favorite mental rut I like to travel in when things are hard. It always involves a lot of sighing, many trips to the kitchen for the chocolates leftover from Christmas, maybe even some tears, and yes, doomscrolling. But if I can just step to the side of that rut for a few hours, perhaps vacuum AND dust the sewing room, I find that small actions help me avoid the downward trend into the doldrums. Of course, if you are having serious depression, get some help. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, just call your doctor and get in to see them.

We quilters have been alone a lot lately, with all of our usual venues shut down: no trips to the fabric store with friends (and lunch afterwards), no quilt guilds in person, and no retreats or fun conferences or shows. So find a way to connect, either through Zoom, phone calls, or some creative social distancing, and try to find hope going forward. “Hope is a psychological stabilizer — it protects our well-being from stressful events,” said Mark Manson, an author who writes about hope and happiness. “Even if you feel emotionally depleted now, research suggests that it’s possible to consciously and systematically increase hope.”

Alison Glass’ stack of colors

Holding onto that smallest sliver of hope can be enough to pull us through, and makes an anchor to our souls. Even with all the news lately, find a happy stack of fabric and if you don’t have the energy to cut into it or make it, patting it is perfectly acceptable.

As for me? I’ll be here, in my sewing room, having just set up for my workshop with the Beach Cities Guild this Saturday, where we are making Criss-Cross quilts.

Onward into this year!

Sweet November 2020 • This and That

Okay, I love giveaways but I hate choosing the winner. So many of you had the best Christmas wishes, from fabrics to new sewing rooms, to visiting your left kidney (thank you Allison in Alabama), to the all-time favorite: visiting with family and friends with Covid no where to be seen. But I decided to play it straight, enlisting Google’s random number generator:

I don’t want to argue with you whether or not I should have put a one there. I always feel sorry for whoever is #1, because Random Number Generators never choose them (and I’m always that person, just so you know).

I won’t bore you with how I figured out who should win between the IG and the blog commenters (some of you figured out you could do it in both places–good for you), but there is a paper with calculations for proof: the winner is Susan, of Patchwork N Play in Australia. Congratulations!

Thank you to all who wrote and who made my day with your comments. I would have to say my Christmas wish would be seeing family again, so many of you really touched my heart. My husband wanted me to choose Allison of Alabama, but because it was too hard to choose, I had to do the number generator.

Please don’t hesitate to get yourself the book on pre-sale, if you really want one. You will use it a ton. I remember being somewhere when Barbara Brackman was speaking, some years after the publication of the book I have. She said she’d give up an awful lot to have a case of those early books in her closet, but they went out of print really quickly and if you wanted one, you could get it on Amazon:

Only 80 bucks for a used one, and over $200 for a new one.

In other news, I finished my bee block for Lisa, and sent that off. And before I turned my sewing room upside down and dumped it into boxes, I also made November’s block for Allison:

I love the first one of November’s with the use of ombré fabrics, which — as you know — has been on my mind lately. I usually link you over to our #gridsterbee home on Instagram at this point, but apparently they’ve removed all “recent” tags from Instagram because of the election in two days. I don’t understand how the bots thought that quilt blocks from one to four years ago were “recent” but I do hope they come back. We have lots of good blocks we’ve made! Chalk it up to another 2020 weirdness.

I started the Pumpkin-a-Day Challenge with Carol G, and so far have been able to make one per day. Sometimes I was finishing it late at night while I watched Judy Woodruff on the PBS Newshour, a comforting end to our anxious news days. Carol has done machine appliqué but on that first one I was too tired to figure it out, so have been doing hand stitching.

I’m using the older Voysey line from Moda fabrics, a line that uses designs from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collections. You can still find some of on ETSY, if you are looking.

I’d been saving it to use for this project, and when Carol saw my photo of the packed bathroom (we put a lot of sewing room stuff in there), she circled my pattern in red so I could find it again. It’s by Laundry Basket Quilts, if you want to jump in.

This Apple Galette was our Halloween treat.

Since I’m finally unpacked and most of the house is put away after our home renovation project, I am feeling like myself again. We still need to find shelves to put in that closet, or build some, but for now, they’ll rest there, and not in our bathtub.

Thank you again for all your entries. I want to have you all to lunch when we get back to normal. Please say you’ll come!

Happy Quilting!

This and That: Pattern Release, Quilts, and Variations on the Puss-in-the-Corner Block

Recently QuiltMania Magazine and I entered into a collaboration — one of those collaborations that finds you in the middle of the night cleaning out the front closet, or tidying up the bookcase in the family room, or hunting all your sewing studio for your favorite piece of fabric. So I tidied up rewrote wrote a new finishing pattern and it’s now up for sale on PayHip. This pattern provides the setting templates and instructions for putting all those circles together cohesively.

Eventually I’ll put out a pattern with all the blocks, but for now, the Shine series consists of the free ones on QuiltMania, four more blocks for purchase, and this pattern to set the quilt together.

The original pattern was from my write-it-up-in-Microsoft-Word days, all the while plugging in poorly lit photos of the steps. Now it has many illustrations, as I’m finally getting the hang of my creative software, and what I don’t know how to do, I’ve figured out a few workarounds. The above illustration was one of those.

I made up a new EPP circle pattern, Summer Day, and threw that in at the end, figuring whoever checks this out would like a freebie.

Last week I taught a live-online lecture for the Alabama Station Quilt Guild, and the Criss-Cross Quilt below was sent to me by Gisele, one of the participants. I love the colors she chose and thought the quilt was really terrific.

A few weeks ago my friend Mary of ZippyQuilts sent me a photo of her version of my Merrion Square pattern, made larger as it had a specific size need. I love her interpretation and the cute bunnies in the town square.

Last year, in April 2019, I received this comment from Karin on an old post:

“I’m just embarking on making this quilt (Crossed Canoes) as a memory quilt for my parents. We lost my brother, an avid canoeist, in December. Thank you for that idea! I’m making mine with my brother’s shirts and a few other fabrics from my stash for extra vibrancy.” My original post was about my sister and her group of friends making a memorial version of Crossed Canoes quilt for a friend. I love this pattern, and this post tells that story as well as provides a free downloadable pattern of this block.

Last post I had put up our Gridsters Bee Block for September, attributing it to a variation of Puss-in-the-Corner block.

On further look, it is more like a variation of Illinois, from the periodical Hearth and Home, published from the 1880s to the 1930s.** What a difference a few well-placed color shifts can make! What would happen if I made a few color shifts, or line shifts, I wondered? The following riot of squares and triangles ensued. In my defense, it was late, and I was too tired to do the dishes, so I sat down to play with what my friend Janet calls “a quilter’s video game,” our quilting software.

These are grouped by first, the block, then a grouping of possible quilt designs. There’s a lot so feel free to just scroll quickly.

The basic Puss in the Corner block. I guess those little square blocks are the farmhouse cat, tucked away in the corner sleeping.

Basic Quilt with no sashing. If you squint, you can start to see a secondary pattern emerge. #needshelp

So I added some color. It needs some value shifts, I think.

Variation. I cleared out the undergrowth.

This final rendition has some different versions of coloring the blocks, along with some sashing.

I thought the prominance of the flying geese might make for some goose tracks throughout the quilt.

Here’s the basic Illinois block, in the coloration from Hearth and Home publication.

Okay. Maybe we could do something with this one.

I must have been really tired to use so much purple.

Okay, how about I keep the flying geese and Puss-in-the-Corner corner blocks, but just turn them all inward-facing?

Busy, but could be fun as a scrappy quilt, playing around with where the blocks touch. Of course, our quilting foremothers would have always had sashing, right?

This was a neighbor to Puss in the Corner, and is called Big T.

I went this direction first, swapping out the center. Nah.

Here’s the variations of that block. I kind of like how it looks like the corner edges are folded down.

Here’s what I played with, all capsulized. And below are the blocks in white, and then further down, a PDF of the pattern templates.

Final thoughts: The top left block looks like it has more possibilities, less places to call a halt to other ideas. The other three blocks kind of box in the quilter, confining the creativity to the block itself. I would like to try matching these up with other nine-patch variations, and see what kind of quilts those combos could yield.

Here are the basic block PDF files for download. They all make a 12″ block.

Happy Stitching!

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**This information was gleaned from the quilter’s bible, The Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns by Barbara Brackman.

My Small World 2019, sections 1 and 2 finished

Cartoon_playwith the puppy

In my Instagram search box, sometimes the bots throw interesting things up there for me to see — like this cartoon of the sad, then very happy dog, courtesy of a little tender care from a young child.  Coming into the year 2019, I had three quilts who were like the dog in the first frame of the cartoon: miserable, the quilts quite possibly headed for the dustbin to be put out their misery.  But like the young child who was “on it,” the first (Plitvice) has been completed, the second (Sing for Joy) is finished and awaiting photography and a blog post.  The third…well, here’s the first frame photo of it, when I left it several years ago:

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First, a detour.

Intrigued by what qualities would most accurately predict outstanding achievement, Harvard researcher Angela Duckworth isolated two qualities:

Grit Two Qualities.png

So what does it take for a quilter to look at a seemingly failed project, and decide to figure out how to redeem it, to re-work it, to finish it up.  Sometimes I don’t have a clue why we finish some quilts.  I’ve seen a lot that might have better been abandoned, mine own included.  But perhaps the idea of “grit,” which Duckworth articulated so well in her TED talk, might have something to do with it.  For what we do in our workrooms is somewhat about thread and cloth, but other times, it’s a microcosm of the world outside our sewing room doors.  Okay, back to gritting my teeth and tearing apart a half-built, unhappy quilt.

Moving On...Part I

The first step is to balance the value of the buildings.  If you see the first example, they are all about the same value (light-to-dark) grey fabric, even though they are different prints.  And too many different windows!!  In the new version, I used the same fabric for the bulk of my windows (excepting the “apartment” on the lower left), cutting from different places in the fabric to get a different look.  I’m much happier with this.

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I found some pictures of Small Worlds I liked on the web and on Instagram, and pinned them up in the corner for inspiration, as I worked through the next section.  I took apart my existing under-the-building-shapes and re-used some of them, yet adding others.  I also moved around the shapes to suit what I liked, deviating from the Jenn Kingwell pattern.

mysmallworld2019_5 DUOThen there was this choice: in the lower left, which little large-door shed should it be?

UPDATE: I should also note that I find the My Small World Templates from Sarah Bailey to very helpful.  If you head to Sew What Sherlock? you’ll find instructions on how to obtain them.  I printed them out on my favorite vellum paper, but also printed them on cardstock, for tracing in some sections. 

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Finally I declared it finished, posted it up on IG to check in with the organizers of the My Small World.  I passed.

Moving On...Part II

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The before of Section Two.  Ugh.  Too much of everything.  It’s like I opened the doors to my cupboard and tried to put one of every color, every value and every fabric in this thing.

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Auditioning–trying to keep it to a limited palette of colors, trying to repeat fabrics or mimic them in other sections, all the while listening to this:

Book_Leadership

I’m learning a lot about grit from the four presidents discussed in her latest book.

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The little record was from a Polaroid swap some time ago: I took apart the Polaroid block and inserted it.

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I wanted the Art Gallery Maker fabric in this section, but it was too blah next to the pinwheel underneath.  So I bordered it with a bit of blue.mysmallworld2019_8

Section Two: Finished!

I sewed the two sections together, and am now back where I started long ago.  But I like it much better.  I really like the small pinwheels section, the same print in different colors (from a purchased charm square pack) used with the same background print.  I studied many peoples’ Small Worlds to see how they were harmonizing, and where it was okay to throw a ton of stuff at the quilt to see if it stuck.  The hashtags #mysmallworldsewcial and #mysmallworld have been really helpful.  (The first one is the current one; the second from long ago.)  And the two leaders, Nicola and Paula have been great, too: it’s always fun to see their comments on my posts, encouraging me on.

Gridster October 2019

As my buddy Linda noted, once you get going on Small World, it’s hard to do anything else, but I did get my Gridster block made for Lisa and sent off.  She’d met Jenn Kingwell (there seems to be a theme, here) and Jenn had given her permission to send patterns out for our group make Steampunk blocks, for her turn at Queen Bee of the Gridsters. Lisa also sent us some of Jenn’s fabric, asking us to go wild.

Oct 2019 Gridsters blocks.png

Here’s the first batch of blocks to reach her.  They do play well together.

Lastly, I had a nice time visiting the Inland Empire Modern Quilt Guild.

Guild Visit IEMQG_1

Simone (on left), helped me set up.  This is before it started.

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Some scenes of the Guild Meeting.  They are a small (50 person) guild, but have such lovely people.

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I’m headed here this week with Leisa–can’t wait!

Hope your small worlds are harmonizing, your colors singing together, and that your sewing places are fun and cozy places to be!

This and That • September 2019

Antelope Valley Guild Sept2019.jpg

Free Motion Quilting can be one of the main challenges we quilters face after we’ve gotten down the basics of piecing and other construction methods.  Now we want to stitch and shape and sculpt our quilts with thread.  This coming Saturday, September 14th, I’ll be teaching a Free-Motion Quilting workshop in Antelope Valley, and if you are nearby, come on down (up?).  You can find out more at their Quilt Guild Meeting, held Thursday evening, where I’ll present a show titled “An Undercover Traditional Modern Art Quilter.”  I’m bringing two suitcases of quilts, some stories and a sense of humor.  Hope to see you there!

Gridsters Sept 2019 Simone.jpg

Simone drew up another one of her fabulous blocks for us in the Gridsters Bee, and I got busy and did six of them.  I just kept wanting to try out different combinations.  More info (and a free download) of this block is available on her website.

Book 15 Gamache

I started a new Inspector Gamache book, #15.  Halfway in, and I can’t wait to get back to listening.

AustinTX_1BBQ

Over Labor Day weekend, we went to Austin, TX (common abbreviation, I found out, is ATX) to see my son and his family.  Here we are outside Coopers BBQ, where I’m going when I go to QuiltCon in February (well, both places: the BBQ, which is right downtown, and also to see the grandsons).

AustinTX_2pluginshoes

I always learn something new when visiting the youngsters: did you know you could charge up your shoes, and when you are at a dance, they will glow different colors?

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When the boys went back to school and their parents went back to their regularly scheduled lives, we did touristing at the State Capitol Building.

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Then up to the University of Texas at Austin, where I visited someting I’d been wanting to see for a very long time: Austin, by Ellsworth Kelley.  Kelley gave the design for this chapel-like space to the Blanton Museum, which had it built.  It’s just over 2700 square feet, so not huge.

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But inside…

AustinTX_4cAustinTX_4dAustinTX_4e

We went in the morning, and then back again after lunch and a walk through the next door Blanton Museum.  I want to come here again, in February, when they say the light comes in the grid over the front door.  Hope it’s not cloudy at QuiltCon!

AustinTX_5art

Another Ellsworth Kelly.  We call this Couple Self-Portrait in Kelly’s B.  Occasionally if you spend too much time in museums you can get a bit goofy.  We also went to the LBJ Presidential Library after all this.

AustinTX_b

But this — a dance of color and light — is what makes my quilty heart sing!

Happy August 2019 • This and That

When I looked outside in my garden today, the zucchini plant had wilted from the heat, mirroring how I felt inside.  However, unlike my spectacularly unproductive zucchini plant [we’ve only had ONE], I’ve been pretty productive.  Just not on quilts.

I’ve been working on prepping my upcoming Guild Workshops, getting the kits together (in wax paper bags instead of plastic, given my attempt to cut down on plastic where I can), and cute touches like place cards, so I know whose spot is whose once the class gets going.

Spectrum Pattern Revise

The pattern cover with thumbnails showing the pattern pages and revisions. Now it’s a pretty good guide to EPP.

I also revised a couple of patterns, the first one being Spectrum.  Inland Empire Quilters Guild contacted me for a program for their evening meeting, then they got together a group of women for a workshop who wanted to learn English Paper Piecing.  So I changed some things up in the pattern, added more content, and put it back up for sale up on PayHip.

EPP Spectrum Bag

One thing I made for a sample was this tote bag, splitting the main pattern in half and placing it on either side of the bag.  I wanted to show that a person can do more with a pattern than simply make a quilt.  That version of Spectrum is one of the variations in the pattern (bag pattern not included; I used the one in the October 2019 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting by Kristyne Czepuryk).

Kansas Sunflower Minimini

I also made a mini-mini to show them how to do the basics.  I’ll be passing out this pattern for a Kansas Sunflower block in class, show how to “batch-cut” pieces, glue and prep them.  They can then move on to Spectrum, or stay sewing up their mini-mini.  We’ll also do one hexie flower, because what’s a class in EPP without a hexie flower?

Hexie Flowers July 2018

(We’ll only do one; these are from my Field Flowers quilt.)

Merrion Square Pattern Revise

Another class I have coming up is Merrion Square and Far Away Doors, teaching it for the Pass Patchers Quilt Guild nearby.  For ages, I’d hand out the instruction sheet to Far Away Doors when the class was taught, but adding it to the original Merrion Square pattern was one of the revisions I wanted to make, in order to get all the variations in one place.  I took it offline, revised it, and now it’s back up for sale on PayHip, if you want all three versions in one pattern. [Note:  If you’ve purchased Merrion Square and haven’t received Far Away Doors from me in a workshop, please contact me and I’ll get it out to you.  Proof of purchase is required.]

Of course, all this is made easier by the fact that I’m getting the hang of the three pieces of Affinity Serif software that I purchased last fall: Affinity Photo (replacing Adobe’s Photoshop), Affinity Designer (replacing Illustrator) and Affinity Publisher (instead of InDesign).  I’m getting quicker at each one, knowing where the tools are and how to use them.

Low Sugar Strawberry Jam

I also made three batches of low-sugar strawberry jam, after I tasted Laurel’s.  Laurel and her husband grow their own strawberries, but the ones from the market in our neighboring town worked well for us.  To go with it, I made a batch of zucchini bread with cranberries and left out half the flour (!).

My saintly husband declared it just fine, and takes chunks of this incredibly dense bread in his lunch every day.  He makes me look good, even on my very bad days (of fighting asthma), wilting in the heat (like the zucchini plants outside), and trying to get all the guild workshop stuff lined up from here to eternity.  I have to remind myself to take it one Guild and a time, and enjoy the process, which I genuinely do.

I finished The Night Tiger (I can recommend highly) and have started Little Fires Everywhere (so far enjoying it, but don’t give a recommendation until I finish).

I decided I was done waiting to start on this Halloween Banner project.  I layered the panel (if your store doesn’t carry it, it’s available here), quilted it, and cut out the flags.  I cut 1-1/4″ strips of stripey fabric from this line (called Costumer’s Ball by J. Wecker Frisch) cutting it across the stripe and bound the edges of the flags, sewing the strips first to one side of the flag, then the other.  After trimming the bottom edge, I folded it up and glued it all down with my trusty friend, a regular old gluestick.  Then I pressed and folded in the binding on the sides, again using my gluestick to keep it in place.  (Be sure to press after gluing in order to distribute the glue).

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Hit those back-to-school sales, people!

I top-stitched down the striped binding, and am now waiting for the fabric to arrive to make the top part so I can get the banners all ready for October 1st.

August Gridsters_2019 trees

Lastly, I finished up August’s bee blocks for the Gridster Bee, using an original pattern designed by my talented beemate Kelley.  She’s getting ready for Christmas early!

I think my holidays are all mixed up, because I’m working on Christmas blocks, Halloween Banners, and my Fourth of July quilt just came back from the longarmer, needing binding.  I hope you are able to keep your days and events and sewing projects straight.  Happy Quilting!