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!

Criss-Cross Color • Quilt Finish

Criss-Cross Color, quilt no. 233
49″ wide by 68″ high

The quilting by Kelley of Wolf Girl Quilts really looks lovely in this light.

IKEA fabric, from back in the day: a series of numbers. It was what I had.

the label

All photographs above by my husband or I, taken from a frontage road on the 680 freeway, to the west of Grizzly Bay and the Goodyear Slough, on Lopes Road near the Bay Area in Northern California. I like how the shadows are playing with the quilt in this image.

These last two photos were not taken on Lopes Road, but at my brother’s, as I knew they had a picturesque playhouse from when their girls were tiny.

I listed this as Quilt #233, as I got over-eager when the quilt top was done. Kelley, a long-armer friend, did the fabulous loopy quilting texture on the quilt. It’s been a good series for me, challenging me to think differently about color, texture and size.

The pattern is sold in my pattern shop on PayHip. There is a discount running on this pattern right now, until January 15th, if you are interested in purchasing it. Details are at the pattern shop.

Other Posts about the Criss-Cross series of quilts:
Criss-Cross Color, completed top, Criss-Cross Autumn, and the follow-up to the workshop
Criss-Cross Autumn
Christmas Criss-Cross, quilt finish
Criss-Cross, the genesis

Criss-Cross Color

Criss-Cross Color • Quilt [Top] No. 233
49″ wide by 68″ high

It has been a good month, a month of Criss-Crossing with the Criss-Cross Quilt pattern.

Criss-Cross Autumn • Quilt No. 232
35″ square

After getting over my terror of Zooming, and finding I really quite liked it a LOT, I jumped in with both feet to prepare for the class that the Glendale Quilt Guild had chosen. To teach, I had to make some new samples — not to be sent around this time, but for short videos for their class.

So, these two quilts came from those endeavors.

Okay, I take it back. Maybe Criss-Cross Color started here, when a series of photos showed up on my Instagram. I pulled colors of Painters Palette Solids to mimic what I saw. (Yes, I’ve had this series of photos for over a year. Sometimes quilts take a while to percolate up to the top.)

This is what was on my design wall when I started my Workshop with the quilters from Glendale last Saturday:

This group is on fire! They were engaged, enthusiastic and even the most beginner of the bunch dived in and got to work on their quilts. This morning we had a follow-up session, where they showed off what they’d sewn and talked about their quilts.

Follow-up Workshop

I like to do a follow-up Zoom one week later, as it’s close enough to the time of the Workshop that the event doesn’t drag on and on, yet gives a few days to cut and sew. And these ladies did just that. Here are the quilts from the slide show I put together for them (they all gave me permission to share them). From the top, the owner/makers are: Cindy, Joyce, Flo, Annie, Nancy, Caren, Beth, Kathy, Rebecca, and Mary.

Some of these are under construction, some are completed tops, and one is all quilted, finished and bound! It was a most lovely follow-up session, and they had great insights about the quilt, working with pattern, finding ways to make this idea their own. I’ve been floating all day.

Thank you to the fine quilters of Glendale Quilt Guild for a wonderful time!

This and That • August 2020

I’m teaching another live-online class today, and placed the Criss-Cross Christmas on the design wall, then layered on the Criss-Cross Autumn, and when I started making colorful blocks for another version, up they went too! I like the look of them all together, but they really will be three separate quilts.

Here’s the final version of Criss-Cross Autumn, a bit more vibrant than what’s in the mash-up image. For the binding, I kept it simple: I sewed together the leftover strips, and used a simple single-fold binding approach.

I drew out some design ideas on a picture of my quilt with the photo lightened up, so I could sort of see what might work. There’s a lot going on in this quilt, and I didn’t want the quilt to overpower it.

I loved the idea from Linda of Flourishing Palms, where she mentioned she was including “Made during the Covid-19 Pandemic” onto her labels (or similar wording). So I added it to this one, too.

Speaking of labels, I finally finished the label for this one (my version of My Small World from Jen Kingwell), and got it sewn on. Obviously you can see that it took a hit during covid time–didn’t the earth sort of stop still in March? I finished this by the end of January, went to QuiltCon in February, came home and started buying truckloads of groceries, preparing for the pandemic, and just now got the label sewn on.

I’ve also been listening to this while sewing: I have Bette to blame as she recommended it, and I can hardly wait to keep listening.

I just finished The Authenticity Project, and can recommend it if you need a med-light read with interesting characters. It’s also set in London, which means we Americans get to hear a British accent while listening.

I happened on to this talk, presented by the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, and really enjoyed seeing Ms. Montgomery’s swing coats. There are other Textile Talks to listen to, if you are interested.

I finished up my Gridster Bee block, a free download, and Linda asked us to use cool colors and low volumes, and leave the four quarters unsewn. This was fun to do!

Moving right along with This and That, we first did the front of this puzzle (the Falling Water house by Frank Lloyd Wright), then tackled doing the reverse. We did okay on the center part, then floundered with all the blues. So I started flipping them over, grouping them by colors, and then flipping them back. We just have to DO the puzzle, right? There are no rules as to how you get it done, right?

New project, using Jennifer Sampou’s SKY fabrics. Luscious. Coming soon.

The above two images go together: the brown smoky skyline, which is not a beautiful sunset, but a layer of smoke drift from California fires, coupled with the line-up of temperatures coming our way. I’m not leaving the house on Tuesday.

The the following three images are linked: a countdown clock for the U.S. Elections, a visually interesting and textural image of Kamala Harris, and a Trump cartoon from 2018, which popped up in my Instagram feed today, strangely prescient for this year’s election.

from here
from 2018, from here

Brendan Loper, the artist, writes “Strangely enough this toon was featured in Russia Today comparing it to a soviet political cartoon about western voting practices.”

Lastly, this is where I’ll be today. I laughed when I saw this. This might be partly true for my Zoom-trunk shows; I usually put up a quilt behind me, blocking the view. When I Zoom-teach in my sewing room, however, everything has to be spic and span, because so much can be seen.

A big thank you to all who wrote such lovely descriptions of their gardens, their terrain and what they see around them on my last post. My husband and I took turns pointing out our favorites (which turned out to be ALL of them), and it was like a lovely armchair travel through all your backyards. Sigh. If only I could come and visit you all…I would!

Right now, my tomatoes are hanging on for dear life, and with the 111 temps coming this next week, I’ll have pre-cooked tomatoes to harvest (yes, we even tried putting cupcake wrappers to protect them–this last week we moved their pots into partial shade). Everything’s getting browner: the sky, the hills, the garden, and every day I see air quality advisories warning me that it’s probably not good to go outside and try to inhale the muddy-colored atmosphere. Our summer is like an East Coast winter: we stay inside, keep the A/C at a comfortable-but-not-too-cool level, and sew our brains out.

picture from the 1918 pandemic

I’ll be working on the project with the SKY fabric, prepping up another live-online class, and waiting for the “bers” in the calendar to arrive: September, October, November and December. I actually thought about Christmas today. This year has been so totally and completely crazy, I wondered if I would jinx the season of Let’s Be Jolly by even thinking about it.

So, let’s just keep going, putting right sides together and stitching memories into our quilts.

Criss-Cross Autumn Quilt Top

I’m getting ready to do a live-online presentation and teaching at Glendale Quilt Guild next week, and a deadline always sends my I-should-try-this into overdrive. So while I have the Criss-Cross pattern up online, and I thought I was pretty settled, a little voice in the back of my head said I should try some autumn colors in the largest size block in the pattern.

Okey-dokey. So I pulled a group of red-orange, purple, gold, orange, yellow fabrics and I was cooking along, pretty happy with the choices I’d made, but when I was looking for another darkish to put into what was up on the design wall…

…this fell out of a bin. It was Jennifer Sampou’s Chalk and Charcoal fat quarter stack, purchased some years ago. I used to have it out on a surface, just because I liked the colors so much, but had never opened it. (I’m sure you have never done this.)

So, in a flash, all the previous choices were down from the wall, and I had cut and was arranging all the new choices up there. The last image is adding in the strips.

So here is Criss-Cross Autumn, a 35″ square wall hanging. And since we don’t live in a climate that has a lot of rusts, golds, purples, reds in the tree canopies, but we do live in a climate that at the end of summer has a lot of golds, browns and yellows, my husband and I took a drive out in the countryside to shoot some photographs.

We were out in Hemet, by the golden San Jacinto mountains (shown above). One writer once compared the California hills to a tawny mountain lion. I grew up in the Bay Area, where in autumn, the golden grassy hills are interspersed by giant spreading oaks. What we have mostly now is not native, as I discovered when reading this essay, but like the author, I do love the colors.

Now, what to do with that other almost-quilt? How about I give it away? I’ll send you the almost-quilt (already cut!) and its strips (also, already cut, although I have to tell you that once you get adding and subtracting, you may find yourself adding more). There are also a few extra pieces in there, in case you have a different vision. I will also include a hard copy of this new pattern, with multiples sizes and variations.

Leave me a comment at the end, tell me about what colors are in your landscape around you right now, and how you feel about those colors. I’ll pick a winner using the husband-draw-a-paper-out-of-hat method, and let the winner know by email. Here are some image/photos of Criss-Cross Quilt, done in Christmas fabrics:

I’m looking forward to live-online teaching this quilt at the Glendale Quilt Guild next Saturday!

Criss-Cross Autumn, Quilt Index No. 232

UPDATE: Just thought I’d add this to the post. I finished the quilt a few days later, using a simple straight-line quilting pattern, varying the directions. It will be perfect for hanging up during September, when autumn arrives.

UPDATE: Comments are now closed. Winner will be contacted via email on Monday, August 10, 2020.

P.S. There’s a coupon code for the pattern, good for 25% off Criss-Cross Quilt through the end of August. The code is listed on the PayHip page.