Christmas Gifts

Since all the recipients of my handmade Christmas gifts have received — and opened — their presents, I can now share what I made for my four children. Gifts for adult children and their families can be challenging. Sometimes we’ve given money so they can share an experience, sometimes we’ve purchased gifts for the whole family  — spending hours in the toy aisle at Target — but sadly, most of the grandchildren want something from the toy aisle at Amazon these days.  Other years we’ve given a beautiful Christmas picture book.

This year, we went this way.

Christmas Gifts1aChristmas Gifts2Christmas Gifts3Christmas Gifts4

I had leftover bits from my Criss-Cross Christmas quilt, but had to search to find more fabric to make what I wanted, then used an entirely different line for the backing and binding.  When these lines sell out, they are gone gone gone.

I started these in April (in process photos, above) and finished, quilted, and bound them in November and mailed them before Thanksgiving so the families could use them in their decorating (if they wished).  I unpicked the upside-down animals, righting them (as seen in the left photo).

CrissCrossChristmas_front

Christmas Criss-Cross, quilt #219

Christmas GiftslabelChristmas Gifts1

We were at my daughter’s for Thanksgiving, and I snapped this quilt, casually tossed on her bed.  I thought it looked great.  I hope to get photos of what the other families are doing with their table toppers/bed accents/wall hangings/whatever.

Gridster Dec 2020 blocks.jpg

We finished up our 2019 Gridster Bee by making these hot air balloon blocks, free from Woodbury Way.  They are for Afton, who lives in an area known for their hot air balloon festivals, so it’s a fitting block for her (although she may just really like them, I haven’t asked).  I was supposed to do Block 4, but things just kind of morphed  into something else once I got going.

Road to California Sign D19

Finally, in other happy news, this is a photo of me dropping off three quilts that were accepted to the upcoming Road to California Quilt Show.

We have quite a group that will meet up there, with Lisa bringing friends from Utah, Carol coming all the way from Boston, Kelley from Palm Springs, and the locals (Simone, Leisa, Laurel and I).  It will be a gathering, of sorts, for a few members of the Gridster Bee!  We generally meet upstairs for lunch, overlooking the gallery of hanging quilts.  This year I’ll have a quilt in that gallery as well, as our Inland Empire Modern Quilt Guild has been selected to provide those quilts.  I’ll have more news about all of this when it gets closer to Road, which will be held January 20-26, 2020.

I have one more Christmasy post on Christmas Day, so until then, keep your spirits Merry and Bright while finishing up the shopping, baking and gathering.  And if you are having a solo holiday experience this year, I wish you lots of good music, great take-out, and quality sewing time.

Guatemala Fabrics, Sights and Scenes

I figured in December that a post about High Productivity and Strenuous Piecing and Hours of Quilting might better be replaced with something of lower impact.  So, let’s go to Guatemala, look at fabric and maybe do some shopping.

Antigua View

This view of Antigua shows the bowl-shaped valley surrounded by volcanoes, where we spent two days, as well as two days in Guatemala City.  Who was “we”?  My sister Cynthia and her husband Gary are on an eighteen-month humanitarian mission in Guatemala City for our church; they spend long hours in a dental clinic, where Gary donates his services.  My sister is his assistant, so we took advantage of their time there and went to see them for a short weekend.  (Now I wish it had been much longer.)

Guatemala_1

We took a red-eye from LAX to Guatemala City, and that first day we went to a market in Guatemala City, where I tried to not pick up everything and buy it.  Surface pattern everywhere: it’s what a quilter loves.

They sell everything here, including bouncy balls for play.

GuatemalaCity_Huipil

My first purchase was this huipil, a hand-loomed top that is worn by Guatemalan women.  There are many different styles; this one happened to be embroidered; some have woven designs instead, like those shown below:

Guatemalan Queen

Here is the queen of her village (R), with her mother (center) and her older sister, at an indigenous ceremony where they choose the Queen from 100 different villages.  My sister has a blogpost about these young queens that is fascinating reading (where many more fabrics and textiles can be seen).  Cynthia (my sister) also sent me a lengthy YouTube video for me to watch before I went to Guatemala, which taught me a lot about their native and artisan textiles.  We explored that first market, where I showed incredible restraint, but I must admit to already having sent a letter to her, asking her to pick up a couple of more things.

Guatemala_2

We walked a couple of blocks away to Lin Canola (door on the right) where they had two big rooms full of fabric wrapped on circular bolts. (I obtained permission for these photos.)

Guatemala_3Guatemala_3a

Bliss. (My sister knows me well.)

Guatemala_3bGuatemala_3c

From all those bolts, I first chose these.

Guatemala_3d

Then I added some accents, as I want to make this:

Turkish Coast.png

I have vivid fantasies.

Guatemala Chicken Bus

The next day we boarded a chicken bus and went to Antigua.

Just kidding–we went in a nice car, but oh, how I love to see these fabulous, re-purposed school busses.  Here’s a video.  They have a person who rides along, calling people to get on, and helping with all the luggage atop the busses.  In the video you can hear the callers, as well as see some un-decorated American school busses.

Guatemala_quilt2

We went first to Carolina’s Textile Museum, where in the entry courtyard, a young woman was weaving on hand loom, anchored above her head, and strapped around her hips.  She was quick with her hands and interesting to watch.  I have many videos on Instagram using the #fiestaguatemala2019 hashtag, as well as in my stories.

AntiguaGuatemala_1d

Textiles Carolinas flier

AntiguaGuatemala_1

This huipil is rare–completely woven back and front, and done by a woman for her future mother-in-law.  The young bride gifts it to her mother-in-law on the wedding day, and it is used in many ways: a shawl, sewn up the sides for a huipil top, or folded up and placed on her head to shield her from the sun.  Then, the mother-in-law is buried with it.  (I’d have a hard time parting with it, if I were a new bride!)

AntiguaGuatemala_1aGuatemala_quilt3

The my sister noticed this patchwork quilt up on the wall.  Carolina (below) brought out two more quilts:

Guatemala_quilt1

The too-worn fabrics are cut up into patches, or parches in Spanish. Yes, I came home with some.

AntiguaGuatemala_1c

My sister and I, with Gary in the background. (I purchased the scarf.)

Antigua Arch

We left Carolina’s, which was on the outskirts of Antigua, and headed into town to pose with all the street vendors near the iconic arch.

Antigua Hotel

Our hotel was El Convento, mentioned in this article in the NYTimes.  I took about a billion pictures of this small, perfect, hotel, which I’m not posting here.  Above is the swimming pool.

AntiguaGuatemala_2

In the area just outside my room, they had tourist-safe water to drink (not shown) and little flowered meringues to enjoy.  I did enjoy them, and often.

Guatemala Bracelets

We spent some time in the main plaza, where I purchased some souvenirs from this young girl and her brother.  Interesting to see our thrift store clothing show up here.

AntiguaGuatemala on head.jpgGuatemala Colors1Guatemala Colors2Guatemala Colors3

Wares for sale one day in our hotel.  I kept trying figure how to pack it ALL up into my suitcase, but only purchased a doll for a friend who collects.

Guatemala Colors4

One early morning we went down to the bus depot (where we took the chicken bus video) and enjoyed all the colors there.

Guatemala Colors5AntiguaGuatemala

Thearch and volcano, early on the morning we left to head back to Guatemala City.

AntiguaGuatemala_8aAntiguaGuatemala_8

We brought home the two stacked wreaths the angel, a few table runners, placemats and the fabrics, but if I’d had another suitcase, I would have brought home so much more.  It’s truly a textile-lovers’ paradise.

Guatemala Note

Before we left, I had to call to make sure our credit/ATM card would work overseas and ended up talking to a young woman who was born there, but has only returned once.  When we came home, this note was in our mail, a thoughtful sentiment.

I do appreciate my sister and her husband hosting us for a long weekend in the middle of their busy, giving lives.  I was especially thankful to spend time with my sister.  I have three sisters, but all of them live far away from me, so it was lovely to talk to her, stroll around Antigua with her, and deepen our relationship.

Christmas Treat final

The last thing I want to say is that it’s Christmas time, so be kind to yourselves in the rush.  I know you are all busy with your final preparations for family, friends, and a day or two to yourselves, but take time to listen to a carol, take a breath, and enjoy this season of light.

 

Oh My Stars Where Have I Been?

I could say to the moon and maybe to the stars, and back.
I could say Guatemala, but you already know I’ve returned home from there.
I could say sick, but now I’m better, and yes, I had a nice Thanksgiving at my daughter’s house.  They even had a quilt shop in her tiny town in Arizona, but since I’d been in there several times and the fabric was all the same, every bolt every time, I didn’t think it warranted another stop.

I could plead The Fifth and just get on with it, which is what I’ll do.

November 2019 Gridsters

It’s always good to begin with a finish, even if it is only a block.  In this case, this finish went to my buddy Allison in the GridsterBee: a free online spider-web block, which we printed out onto paper and got to work with all those skinny litle scraps of fabric in that bin over there, next to the iron.

Above are scenes from my Thanksgiving (click on image to enlarge):

(from upper left, going down) 1)El Travatore, an old motel in Kingman AZ (the longest piece of extant Route 66 runs through this town), 2) the family just before enjoying the two turkeys and two kinds of sweet potatoes and salad, and multiple pies and then falling into food coma sometime later on, 3) teachers’ gifts my ever-talented daughter dreamed up and put together.

Sign at top right: a Truth.

Two views of storefronts across the bottom that my daughter designed: THE  Farmhouse used to be her shop until last year, and West of 3rd is her friend’s shop.  We went out Saturday for Small Shop Saturday, so I hope you visited yours.

Kingman N19_3

Sunday morning, really early, heading out across the Mojave Desert.  (Mojave is spelled with a “j” in California, but spelled with an “h” in Arizona, as in Mohave, and that’s just the way it is.)

Arrow Tape.png

I picked up a few of these. It’s washi tape on major sale at the Get To Work Book website.  I bought it because I’d seen this from here:

Washi Tape for stitching.png

and figured out we could draw our own lines on either side.

Washi tape Carol

My friend Carol figured it out.

Pear Tart

Monday, I launched into laundry, but later rooted out the pears we’d stuck in the fridge the week before and made a Pear-Almond Tart.  I always know the routine is coming back when I start baking again.  The recipe is over on my recipe-blog: ElizabethCooks.com.First Mondays_D19

Then fun-of-fun, we found a couple young women who wanted to learn to quilt, and so we rustled up a small group, calling it First Monday Sewday.  (We’re missing a kid from the photo, and me, of course.) It was chaos, but really fun.

Illustration FM_D19

I made up a little handout for the newbies; click below on the link if you’d like to print it out:

FirstMondaySewday_D19

Relax Grant Snider

All good suggestions from Grant Snider, except for the top right.

Many years ago we took our children to Italy, scraping together frequent flier miles, and saving for months before we showed up in Rome on Christmas Eve.  Being in a different place for Christmas broke my “Overwhelm Them with Gifts” habit, well-formed after raising children for twenty years, helped along by American merchandising.

That night we walked down to Vatican City, walked through the newly opened Jubilee Door, and experienced a midnight mass where they placed the Christ Child back into the empty manger in Nativity Scenes everywhere.

Christmas Day we slept in a bit, then went out again to see the parade of the Pope’s Swiss Guards, listen to the service in Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva where, after the service, I stood to sing the Hallelujah chorus with everyone, but I did it in English.  My family sat beside me in the church for all of about ten minutes, then ducked out to see the Pope bless the crowds gathered in front of St. Peter’s.  No, we aren’t of that religion, but seeing the holiday from another perspective changed how I view Christmas.

I believe in gifts (I’ll show you what I made our families later) and celebrating, but I try to do it in a quieter way, enjoying hours of Christmas music, decorating with my husband’s nutcracker collection, baking up a few treats, while taking the incessant retail merchandising blast in much smaller doses.

Target Birds 2019

Target’s newest birds

Glad to see you all again!  I hope you ease into the holidays, too.

Mary Joseph Donkey Vatican

Favorite small sculpture in the Vatican; December 1999

 

My Small World Top • flimsy finish

mysmallworld2019_final full top

It’s done!  I decided to forge with ahead My Small World because basically, nothing else in my life was getting done with that mess in the sewing room, and I wanted to be finished with this project, the Third Hard Quilt of 2019. Here, in my backyard studio, I’m showing the finished flimsy of My Small World, a pattern by Jen Kingwell.  I made some changes here and there, but it’s basically her pattern.  Began in 2014, I was nudged to completion by a new Instagram Quilt-a-long #mysmallworldsewcial, where many others are still working.  Let’s take each of the last two sections, one at a time:

mysmallworld2019_5_completed

One late night I was thrilled to discover an Eiffel Tower in one of my fabrics.  I love the embroidery others had done, but it wasn’t for me.

mysmallworld2019_5_1a

I took the hexie bubble with me to Guatemala last week, and stitched it up while chatting with my sister/BIL (who we went to visit) and on the plane home.  I brought home some illness, courtesey of the Chicken Bus airplane we flew home (kidding, it was a regular airplane but there were a lot of people sneezing, coughing, etc).

I made a teeny video of our visit to the bus depot in Antigua, where we saw a lot of Chicken Busses, so nicknamed because they can carry everything, including live chickens.  If I could have figured out how to add a chicken bus to this quilt, I would have; I fell in love with them, as well as Guatemala.

mysmallworld2019_5_1c

I also fussy-cut a unicorn (just under the top rainbow, but everyone on IG called it a horse–his little white horn is hard to see).

mysmallworld2019_5_1d

Underneath the arches and hexie-bubble are bigger blocks of fabric, as I figured I was going to cut them out from behind the two structures at the end, and why waste all that piecing?  I cut out the fabric from behind the rainbow (shown above) and the spikey arch and hexie-bubble:

mysmallworld2019_5_1

Those arches were a grind, but I did them.  I included other tips and tricks in this post.

mysmallworld2019_6_completed

Section six was a relief to get to, after those arches.

mysmallworld2019_5_2a

I liked the two blue silos, but they were a bit stark, so I added signs to them: a sewing chicken and the word Quilt.

mysmallworld2019_5_2b

I changed the order of the bottom row of patches around, and I just couldn’t face another eight teeny flying geese, so I did a square-in-a-square with fussy-cut horses, since this is the farm section.

mysmallworld2019_5_2mysmallworld2019_5_3

I sewed those two sections together, then stitched it to the other part of the quilt I’d already completed.

mysmallworld2019_5_full top2

Yes, I’m pretty happy to be at this point.  My friend Laurel added a border to hers and I’m considering that, too.

My To-Do list of items is lengthy, all being held hostage by this quilt.  Now I need to go and clean up my sewing room, vacuum, clean some bathrooms, and try to find the extra furnace filter in the garage, as well as maybe take a nap. But I’m done!!!

Sing for Joy • Quilt Finish

Sing for Joy_3

Sing for Joy • Quilt #226

This is the second of my Three Hard Quilts to Make for 2019.  It’s a lovely day now that Sing for Joy is finished.

Here was my recipe in four easy steps:

  • I decided I wanted to make a quilt with words, so I bought every quilt book there was on words.
  • Then I decided I wanted mine a bit wonky and NOT paper-pieced.  I posted the how-to’s, one by one on Quilt Abecedary.blogspot.com, where they still live.
  • I sent around an email to see if anyone else was interested, and some colleagues in a former online bee jumped in, so we ran the Spelling Bee ran for one year, all of us making words for each other.
  • I follow Kviltstina on Instagram, and she has the sweetest little creative shapes on her feed, so I put some of them in this quilt.

Sing for Joy_4

The back, showing the signature blocks of my beemates.  I had to remake one, when the ink started running down the block when I pressed it; I guess she grabbed the wrong pen.  (It’s always something, right?)

Sing for Joy_1 Front

My husband and I went out for some photos in our neighborhood park, and several of the walkers asked about it, wondering how long it took to make it?  (Why is that always the first question, when people talk to us about our quilts?)

I began in 2016, and finished it this year (some early photos, above). I had to remake some of the words and cut down others, so I could fit them evenly on the quilt.   I hand wrote a label and pieced it in with the signature blocks, but if I printed one out it would say:

Sing for Joy label screenshot

My brother and I had an active discussion last week about whether or not there is such a thing as a soulmate.  I said I believed there is no such thing, as it was the stuff of movies and greeting cards.  What is possible is that you find yourself a partner and you work to build a relationship and sustain each other and the family.  Soulmates are ephemeral, I said.  Of course, he disagreed with me, as so might some of you.

But what I think I do believe in is a cheerleader, someone who has your best interests at heart, who encourages you, listens to you when you’re sad, upset, cheers you on in happy times and is steady and consistent.  Someone who is always on your team, and for who you’ll do the same.

This quilt is a tribute to my cheerleader of a husband, who 30 years ago married me and my four young children, raising us all.

He makes me Sing for Joy.

Sing for Joy_holding a quilt.jpg

tiny-nine-patches

First Hard Quilt of 2019

Second Hard Quilt of 2019

Third Hard Quilt of 2019

My Small World • Section 3 & 4

mysmallworld2019_4_1 full.jpg

I know you are thinking, no — praying — that someday soon I will be through with This Quilt, and believeyoume, you are not the only one hoping and praying that I can add it to my list of Three Hard Quilts of 2019 to be completed.  I’ve finished two Hard Quilts and I’m determined not to put any other quilt up on that design wall until I slay this Patchwork Dragon.

So I’m here to report progress: Section Three AND four are finished, hallelujah, but I’m celebrating probably less than you are because I have two more sections to go and I get stuck on the smallest things.

mysmallworld2019_3_1

Like the flying geese in Section Three.

The approach I took the first time I made started this quilt was to pull every fabric out of my cupboards, strew them around and clip a square of this or a square of that and piece it into this quilt.

I occasionally try that approach again.  Which doesn’t work, again.

mysmallworld2019_3_1a

The best approach is to see what you’ve already thrown into the first two sections, then replicate that, either via color/value or the actual fabric, if you can find it the mess. The completed flying geese, above — which you can see is sort of an amalgam of all the geese I tried.

I’m finding the paper piecing templates from Sarah of SewWhatSherlock very helpful, if you want to get yourself a set.

mysmallworld2019_3_2

I also learned that I am truly stuck, lunch helps.  And maybe read the newspaper.  And then start in on the big shapes, letting the detritus come later.

mysmallworld2019_3_3

I can work in new bits here and there, like this woman with her bird.

mysmallworld2019_3_3a

Or some fun repeated shapes, the appliquéd half-circle echoed in the fabric.  I can’t decide if this yellow is a fancy front window, or two hidden doors, camoflauged, or a re-planted tunnel under this European-style gate to the city.mysmallworld2019_4_2.jpgmysmallworld2019_4_3.jpgThen I charged into Section Four — and why not? the whole sewing room is already a disaster — hand-sewing clamshells and fussy cutting blocks, and cutting multiples of the lower section strips but finally deciding, and now these sections are sewn together: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4.

Seam Presser

New notion: this little seam presser, purchased at PIQF from Edyta Sitar‘s booth.  I’ve tried the roller ones, and this one’s on par.

To recap:

My motto: Making progress, square inch-by-square inch.

My Small World Quilt, a pattern by Jenn Kingwell.
Mess in the sewing room, by Elizabeth Eastmond (me).