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.

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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.)

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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:

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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 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:

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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:

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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.

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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!

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).

gluesticks

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!

Scrappy Radiant Star

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Mary, of NeedledMom, chose this block for her June turn as Queen Bee of the Gridsters.  Originally found on Wombat Quilts website as a free illustration, I redrew the block to Mary’s specified 6-inch (finished) size.  Four of these blocks are put together to make Mary’s larger 12-inch block.

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Scrappy Radiant Star Illustration

Click on the download PDF file here:

Scrappy Radiant Star

You’ll need four copies to make one 12-inch block, as shown below:

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sketch I made to keep the colors organized

Notice there are FIVE colors per Mary’s larger block.  Four corners have the same color, which when sewn together make that center star.  But in looking at the way she designed it, the colors are to be distributed throughout the quilt.  You can see her initial thinking about this version on this blog post (where you’ll also get a glimpse into her gardens and cooking.  I love reading her blog).

Peek Marys Chart

Just a peek–download below.

Mary gave me permission to post the chart she drew up to keep her ideas straight.  You can download this as a PDF:Mary’s Chart_ June Gridster Bee

You can see that she’s diagrammed the main stars (in the center), and the secondary stars in the corners.  We Gridsters each chose two blocks, identifying our choices using her coding on the sides and are now sending them to her.

scrappy radiant star_5

To further my tributes to Mary today, I’m making her bread recipe to go with my version of Italian Wedding Soup.

Have fun making these blocks!

Bee Blocks, Etc. * March and April *

Bee Blocks, yes.  But first:

Dream Big Bag_2

I recently asked Lisa to make me a tote bag out of a Dream Big panel by Hoffman.  I ordered everything, and the bag turned out to be a good size, one that could hold a queen sized quilt, perfect for taking along binding projects. Dream Big Bag_1

I chose a summery floral for the inside (I like bright colors inside my purses/bags, so I can find things).

Dream Big Bag

Beauty shot in the flowers by the front door.  Thank you Lisa, I love it!

March_2019 Gridsters

Now, here are my bee blocks for the Gridster Bee. Here are March’s blocks, requested by Marsha @quilterinmotion on Instagram.  We used this pattern, and it worked up quickly.

March_2019a Gridsters

If you decide to make these, I’d suggest switching up the order–put #9 on first, then #8.  It’s a sturdier constuction that way.

March_2019b Gridsters.png

But here’s the cool thing: her center will be four “straight” Flying Geese blocks, with our curvy ones being added to it, for lots of motion in her quilt.

April 2019_Gridsters Bee

Nancy who blogs at Patchwork Breeze, and is on Instagram @patchworkbreeze, asked for a patriotic block for a summer quilt.  I guess it’s not too early to get started on the  red, white, and blue, a good reminder to work ahead of the seasons and celebrations (anyone for Halloween quilts?  Christmas?).

Finally, I decided to tally up what I accomplished last year, in terms of completed quilts.  If you remember (or are hoping to forget), it was the Year of Frivols.  So here’s the totals:

• Twelve Frivols
• Three Mini-quilts
• One Baby quilt
• One Small quilt
• Two large quilts
• One large quilt that will show up in Fall 2019 Simpy Moderne

Number Twenty

And for 2019? It’s hard right now because while I can sew the tops, I can’t quilt them myself.  Quilts are only being finished when I can send them out.  But here’s the list of projects so far:

•  Plitvice (finished)
•  Chuck Nohara quilt (binding being sewn on as we speak)
• Nameless other large quilt, being kept under wraps/headed for publication
• Home-keeping Hearts (top only at this point)
• Merrion Square–there are three of these small quilt tops in circulation, and are samples at guilds where I’ll be speaking
• Basket quilt is still on the design wall, as I audition borders.

When I finish them, I’ll catalogue them, above, on the 300 Quilts list.

Speaking Teaching Events
Meet the Teacher for the Southern California Council of Quilt Guilds
Utah Valley Quilt Guild, Utah–Trunk Show and Day-long workshop
Valley of the Mist Quilt Guild, Temecula, CA–Trunk Show and Day-long workshop

If you are in Utah, they still have a couple of openings for the workshop on April 16th.  If you are new to this blog (welcome!), you can meet me digitally in my Happy New Year post.

I leave you with a few shots of our California Superbloom.  Happy Spring!

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Starry Sky Mug Rug

Starry MugRug_4Starry MugRug_3

This summer, my niece Abby, let me have one of her hand-thrown mugs, of which I was thrilled to get (I love hot chocolate).  I meant to send her a little quilted mug rug in return, but that project seemed to get stalled for one reason or another.  But last week, I decided not one more thing would be done until I finished it and sent it off.  (Sometimes you just have to give yourself a little talk.)

I used the Starry Sky block pattern, by Kylie Kelsheimer (a downloadable pattern from Craftsy).  In this new version of her pattern, she has three sizes, and the 6″ size is perfect for a mug rug.   Note:  It has been taken down from Craftsy/BluPrint.

UPDATE June 2019: The pattern is now up on PayHip, in three sizes.

Starry MugRug_1Starry MugRug_2

My niece likes to go hiking, and lives up in the Northwest, so I used colors of purple mountains, green hills and aqua-and-blue waters.  I bound it in navy.

Starry MugRug_5

I used an agate-stone looking print for the back, one of my favorites lurking in my stash.

It took me a couple of hours from start to finish.  It’s a paper-pieced pattern, so all the star points are sharp and it goes together easily.  I kept a photo of the block near me when putting the pieces together, to keep myself straight.

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I listened to the latest Bruno, Chief of  Police book, The Resistance Man, and that kept me going.  Then I ran it to the Post Office, and off it went.  I hope Abby likes it.

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A couple of days before I’d made Simone’s blocks for the Gridsters Bee, a wee bit late, but she forgave me.

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And then I got right on October’s blocks for Joan, for the Gridsters Bee.  She asked for a black-and-white New York Beauty block, with a touch of solid color.  Hope she likes these.

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I liked this old photograph of women sewing, found on the website for the National Gallery of Ireland, reminding me of my travels (I’m finally over the jetlag).

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Here’s your reminder: the perfect is the enemy of the good, Stephan Pastis style.  As some long-time readers know, I believe in this quote and used to keep it on my syllabi when I was a teacher.  Sometimes it’s good to just be *good,* and not strive for perfection.  Hope that idea helps you “lead a sane and balanced life.”