What I’ve Been Doing Lately • May 2019

Gridster_May 2019

Since I hadn’t posted in a couple of weeks, I did want to blog, but felt pretty scattered about what to write.  So here it all is: from finishes to starts, from garden news and quilting to a Trunk Show.

So, to start with, Simone and I got together to make blocks for Rachel‘s Queen Bee turn in our Gridster Bee: Scrap Jar Stars from Gigi’s Thimble.  We’d made them last year for another bee member, so these blocks, in the requested red and green, went together quickly.

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Rachel laid out on her floor the blocks she’d received so far, and this is going to make a terrific quilt.  She blogs at The Life of Riley.

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Something interesting about Rachel is that she raises bees.  This screenshot is from her ETSY shop, where she sells beeswax for hand-sewing.  I’m lucky enough to have one of these!

Shine Blocks in the wild

Imagine waking up one morning to a tag from a friend about this quilt.  I recognized the block immediately, as it was the final block I designed for my Shine: The Circles Quilt.  This man sells a shot cotton (in Australia), and they’d contracted someone to make a quilt showing their fabric line and that person used my quilt design.  After a few back-and-forths, I did get attribution for the design.  Peony_2019

Moving right along, the peony bush in the garden bloomed.  I have two exactly-the-same bushes and they each have a slightly different flower.  Just like people, just like quilters, who can make the same quilt and have it look quite different.

And…after a visit to my doctor and the A-OK from him and from Kris, my physical therapist (above right), I started using the Sweet Sixteen quilting machine again.  This is my first attempt at quilting, so I took it in to show her.  They chart everything you do, asking seemingly innocent questions like, “How are your household chores coming along?”  or “Take any long drives this weekend?” so they can monitor my progress in recovering from rotator cuff surgery in January.  Nearly five months out, I’m in the “danger zone” where most re-tears happen, so I’m very careful not to stress the repair, or mow lawns.  (Kidding.  I never mow the lawn, because my husband does a very fine job and I wouldn’t want to interrupt his successes.)

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This past month I also proved to myself, once again, that texting can be a horrible way to convey complicated information, given the strange timing you get in texting (answering one text while that person is answering your text, creating an asyncronous conversation).  Because of this, I was unsuccessful in communicating with a new quilter I’d previously tried.  She was frustrated. And I was BEYOND frustrated.  (One unsolved topic: using vertical seams in your backing.) And yes, she only uses texts, so we parted ways.

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I bundled up my three quilts and their backs and took them to my regular quilter, Cathy of CJ Designs.  I asked her about vertical seams on the back, and she said she had no problem with them.  And her costs were more reasonable. So what felt like a set-back  really turned out okay in the end.

Merrion Square2

Over the last few weeks, I have sewn three of these mini quilt tops.  At the Meet the Teacher event I recently went to, I signed eight contracts for teaching, and many of the guilds chose this as their workshop.  And everyone likes samples to be sent.  This is the second one I’ve quilted, and it made me feel more at home on the machine.  I still have to take frequent breaks and can’t go too long in any one session, but I’m making progress.

Backing of Merrion Square2

I think the backing fabric is awesome.

I’ve also been sewing up some of my new designs, working out the bugs and kinks of the patterns, but am not ready to launch them yet.

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Finally, when I was sorting out my contracts, I developed a form to help me keep track of critical information, which was missing from several of the contracts I signed.  Only one Guild so far (I’ve gone through about half my contracts) had everything I needed to know.  I realize that if I flew into a city, the Guild Minders would take me around, so I wouldn’t need all this info.  But since I drive to all my gigs, it’s critical to know.  If you would like an editable MSWord version of this for your own personal use (the above is only a screenshot), I’ll be happy to send it to you. Just leave me a comment on this post, or email me.

Organizing Blog Content

And even more interestingly, I couldn’t find a lot of relevant information on Guild Websites.  So, if you are a guild board member, please make sure that people (strangers) can easily find the time and date and place of your monthly meeting, and the same for your workshops.

I know how this happens, as I’m guilty of it here sometimes: you just start throwing up blogposts, forgetting that some visitors come for specific information.  I’ve revised the organization and wording of this blog mulitple times, always trying to make it easier for people to find my quilts (links and titles) as well as other info.  It’s a never-ending task: like trying to keep the junk drawer in the kitchen cleaned out.

Best Wishes on Trunk Show

My husband left this sign for me on the kitchen counter while I was at PT.

I’m looking forward to a lot of fun teaching and meeting people, beginning with tonight, at the Valley of the Mist Quilters Guild in Temecula California.  I’ll be teaching a Merrion Square Workshop for them on Saturday.  Please contact them if you are interested in coming.

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April’s Temperature Quilt Blocks are all done…moving into May!

A Bit Frosty this January

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Remember this?

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And this?

This is Shine: The Circles Quilt, and I started it as a English Paper Piecing project, putting the free patterns up on this blog, beginning in 2014.  I also have a page dedicated to these blocks, giving out the patterns and tutorials for each, until the last four (which used to live on Craftsy, but that’s another blog post.  Coming soon.)

And then this new year, I opened up mail from one of my heros, Becky Goldsmith to see this:

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and this:

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all advertising her newest endeavor.

As near as I can tell, she has no idea I exist.  She is not copying me.  She has fancy borders, and has done the quilt twice.  I think this is a classic example of what the German’s call “der Zeitgeist” or “the trend of thought and feeling in a period.

But I am a bit frosty about this, for one reason only: she has a megaphone, and I have only this blog.  I used to have a blog and a Craftsy site (!), but I guess I also have Instagram, which might have a zillion followers if I unblocked all those creepy men or Quilt-Content-Thieves.  But is it really “frosty” or is it more that I’m jealous?  I think the latter. 

I still have my Shine patterns here, but really, I have to yield the selling floor to the firepower of Piece O’Cake Designs, in making a quilt with a grid of paper-pieced circles based on the traditional style of a compass rose.  I don’t have her readership, her TV show appearances, her mailing list.  She’s a tsunami.  I’m a wobbly sprinkler on the back lawn.  To be truthful, Goldsmith earned her tsunami status through hard work over many years; again, she did NOT copy me at all. I have all of her books, and have made a couple of her designs, so you do have to put me in the category of Total Admirer.  But that’s not the issue here.

My takeaway: when quilters come up with designs similar to one another, it’s not always a copyright issue, which is the usual scream that emmanates from the collective online voice.  Sometimes it just is the Zeitgeist.

Sometimes the Sew Together Bag is merely a copy of her grandfather’s toiletries kit (this fact mentioned to me while we were standing in line together at Market in Salt Lake City), and my Mini-Sew Together Bag was a version I was working on when I didn’t like the bulk of the original, and my Smile Bag came before byAnnie’s Clam Up bag and perhaps we were both inspired by the bag for the First Class United Airlines customers, and perhaps they were inspired by some ancient Japanese zakka.  That’s how these things go.

Scream

Edvard Munch’s The Scream

 

 

 

Okay, I feel better now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updates to original post are in black text.

Shine: The Circles Quilt, finished

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Shine: The Circles Quilt
Quilt #170
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This quilt finally finished, I took it out for a photography session with the help of my husband.3shinecirclesquilt

I started sewing the first block in June of 2014, and finished the top a year later.  The quilting was finished at the end of September, but it wasn’t until now that I could get time to take it up to our university’s Botanic Gardens to get some photographs.
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My husband’s favorite block.  As some of you know, many of these blocks were inspired by art in a church in Slovenia, as well as designs from our travels.  Most of the patterns and accompanying tutorials are free on this blog, found *here* as well in a tab labeled Shine: The Circles Quilt.  4shinecirclesquiltl 5ashinecirclesquilt

This shows the quilting.  I was trying out double batting (polyester with wool), and found it was a challenge to move the heavy quilt around on the machine.  It took me nearly 4 months to quilt this thing, as I was hobbled with a shoulder injury.  But I was able to finish it!7shinecirclesquilt_label

As I quilted, I thought a lot about my brother-in-law Tom, who passed away a little over a month ago.  He maintained a beautiful small garden in his backyard, and so in one of the corners I quilted in a flower in his memory (shown below).  Many offered advice and help while I was quilting: thank you, everyone.6shinecirclesquilt shinecirclesquilt_detailback

detail of quilting from the back

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This closes a chapter in my life.  Lovely to see you here, Shine!

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Chuck Nohara Blocks, and This N’ That

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It’s Chuck Nohara update time, as I just finished my last block for September.  This is how one of them started: a wonky mess.  I realized that while I had decided to paper piece this one, not each piece was identical to its brother/sister piece.  If you decide to do #CN1723 (which is how we identify them on Instagram), number the pieces from 1-8, so you get neighbors together, rather than mixing them up.  Yes, I unpicked it all and started again.

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Here are September’s blocks: #cn1723, #cn1105, #cn570, and #cn1454 (links are to IG).
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I cheated on the EPP on this one, as I first pieced together the four-patch, then treated it as one unit in the construction.chucknohara0916_4

Here they all are.  Now that we are getting closer to the end, I need to think about the shape I want to make.  I tend towards square quilts, so if that’s what I want to do, I only need four more.  Or eighteen.  (Maybe I won’t make it square.)kcity_1

You know already that I went to Kansas City, but I thought their restored Union Station was stunning, which includes the ornate ceiling and scrubbed-up chandeliers.
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The folks in Kansas City are rabid enthusiastic about their sports teams, as I’m sure you can see the Chiefs logo in one of the giant windows.
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While I was there I had a chance to sew on a new label for Starry Compass Rose, and it was good to see an old friend again.  Not only was my quilt an old friend, so were the people who work at Paintbrush Studios–it was Anne’s birthday and we all went to lunch to celebrate.  Yes, we sang to her in the restaurant–she is a lovely person and I was happy my trip coincided with her birthday.pbstudios_2 pbstudios_3

They do food big here; it was delicious (I took home the leftovers).  I think there’s a special feeling about the Midwest.  You kind of feel like the center of the universe there, with all the trains and planes and people having to go through there, or pass over there on the way to somewhere else.  I lived in the Midwest for a couple of years, and still have very fond memories (just not of the snow in the winter).shine_0916_back

Lastly, I finished Shine: The Circles Quilt, and have been photographing it in preparation to enter Road to California.  I’ll give a big reveal here in a couple of weeks after I finish some more photographs, but for now–it’s done by the deadline.

road-entry-for-2017Now comes the nerve-wracking waiting part.

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(I swiped this illustration from Susan’s blog: we are doing this Chuck stuff together.)

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I do not know about, nor choose, the content, nor do I receive any money from these ads.
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Breaking up the Quilting Work: A Few Thoughts on Refueling While Working

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In a recent article about taking restful breaks in 99U, written by Christian Jarrett, he talks about the need for “truly restful breaks” when working hard on a project–which are different that just taking a break.  He uses a modern analogy when he writes “Just as you need to refuel your car and recharge the batteries in your cell phone, it’s important to give yourself the chance to recoup your energy levels throughout the workday. In fact, the more demanding your day, and the less time you feel like you have to take any breaks, the more crucial it is that you make sure you do take regular breaks to prevent yourself from becoming exhausted.”

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Finally stepping away from the quilt late one night

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celebrating Lisa’s birthday with our quilting group: The Good Heart Quilters

Jarrett notes that  “[N]ot just any kind of break will do. Psychologists and business scholars have recently started studying the most effective ways to relax during a workday – they call them ‘micro breaks’ – and their latest findings point to some simple rules of thumb to sustain and optimize your energy levels” which the article breaks down into a “three-step process.”
grandsons

One is to “get out of the office.”  For me, the office is my home, so I interpret that to mean to get out of the quilting room upstairs and away from those kinds of tasks.  So getting together with my long-time quilt group works for me, as well as entertaining my grandsons (above) when the come for a long Sunday afternoon.

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The article relates that “Countless studies have shown how a green environment gives us a mental recharge, and what’s really encouraging is that recent work has shown that this doesn’t have to be a tropical rainforest. A modest urban park is all it takes.”
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Taking short breaks early and often is one of the ideas.  He quotes a study from Baylor University, highlighting this interesting detail: “[I]f you take frequent breaks, then they don’t need to be as long to be beneficial – a couple of minutes might be enough. On the other hand, if you deprive yourself of many breaks, then when you do take one, it’s going to be need to be longer to have any beneficial effect.”shine-block_sashing-tryout

I noticed all of this when I was working on my Shine quilt.  I started with the backgrounds: close quilting in the “white” areas with white thread, but then what?  Coming back to the quilt after a long break from my shoulder injury, I started with outlining the circle blocks.  Another break helped me see that more detail work was needed on each circle, with sometimes as many as four thread changes for different colors.

The next conundrum was how to quilt the small “sashing” in between each block.  I drew out many ideas, but ended up choosing what you see here: some modified geometrics.  Since I try to take frequent breaks to rest my arms/shoulders while I’m doing this project, I feel like I’ve avoided some of the burnout that can occur when we see the looming deadline and quilt our brains out late into the night.

If this is your Modus Operandi, or the way you work,  you might want to be aware of Jarrett’s final thoughts about taking breaks: “[Y]ou might have the view that you’ll push yourself relentlessly during the day, squeezing every minute for what it’s worth, and then completely flake out after dark. This strategy of extremes might work for a robot, but not a human. Psychology research from the University of Konstanz in German and Portland State University shows that over-exhaustion at the end of the day makes it even more difficult to recuperate after work hours. In other words allowing yourself proper breaks during the day will make your out-of-hours recovery more effective, ultimately boosting your productivity and creativity in the weeks and months ahead.”

I’m not talking to young mothers, who find that nighttime is the only time they have to work without little helpers (although that does explain why when the baby is sick and the toddler is a pest and you fall exhausted into bed at night, that the night’s sleep doesn’t seem to provide the needed rest).  I’m talking to myself, I guess, pushing to finish off a task, always reluctant to let go of a day’s work, hoping to get “one more thing done.”  I found Jarrett’s advice helpful as well, in allowing me to understand why sometimes I just have to push back from the machine — or the computer — and take a break.

I just need to make sure it’s the right kind.

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The quilt shown is Shine: The Circles Quilt.  Free EPP patterns can be found by clicking on the link in the header of my blog.

Summer 2016 Goals

Pattern Cover SpectrumTo introduce my newest goal, I need to talk about my new pattern covers.  I made them in a new software I’m trying to learn, Affinity Photo, fearful that any day my upgrades on my Mac will render my old copy of Photoshop more obsolete than it already is.  And no, I don’t want to pay a monthly fee to use their software (are you listening, Adobe?)  I just heard that Affinity Photo is launching a beta version for PC users, too, although it was developed as a Mac software.  So this is the first of my summer goals.

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They also have Affinity Designer, which I’m also trying to learn, but since I don’t know Adobe’s Illustrator very well, it’s like banging my head against a wall.  When my friend recovers from getting her daughter married off, I’m going to bug ask her to teach me a few things.

Long Man Novel Cover

To keep reading is another summer goal, and this was the latest book I finished, while quilting up a few things for my Riverside Sawtooth post.  It set me down so carefully in time and place.  No, it’s not a grip-you-by-the-throat novel, but a quiet one, filled with well-drawn characters from a time in our past.  I listened to it on Audible, which I would recommend, as the narrator really gets the sound of the voices and it adds another dimension to the story, I think.

Cal Primaries 2016

Can I mention Summer Events?  Here’s about the only political statement I’ll make on this blog: we recently (and sadly) lost our ability to have a primary election here in California.  We’d all been so excited, actually asking everyone “who are you going to vote for?” and really getting interested in politics in general.  We are one of the final primaries on the Presidential Election Schedule, and for once, we were going to Have a Say!  Except now we aren’t, because of the recent events (which has made great theater, I have to say).  So, hope everyone else in the United States had a great time voting–as usual, our votes won’t count.  H o w e v e r. . . I will be watching the conventions. After teaching Critical Thinking a few years, and having my students watch the conventions and have them analyze the speeches, the rhetoric, looking for the logical fallacies and spotting all the weakness in candidates’ arguments, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  It’s going to be a long, hot summer out here, and hey! we need something to compensate us for not getting a Primary Election.

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And it that’s not enough excitement (!), we can always watch the Brazil Summer Olympics, although with all the talk lately, it may end up being like our primary.  Click on the link at the end of the post to see this colorful Olympics design in action.

In other news, my garden is growing well, I’ve got a few more projects in the pipeline, but my main quilty goals this summer are as follows:

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1. Finish My Small World.

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2. Quilt Shine: The Circles Quilt

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3. Quilt Riverside Sawtooth

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4. Keep working on this quilt.  Remember this?  It was one of the units in the New Hexagon Millifiore Quilt.  I’m halfway through, and my friend Laurel is all done with hers.  And her quilt is gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous, so I need to perserve and Be A Finisher. (However, notice I didn’t say “finish this quilt,” but instead wrote “keep working on this quilt.”  I am reasonable.)

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5. Finish this quilt top, and if possible get it quilted, too.

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6. And… this one, too.
I am all done with the hand-stitching.  Now just to figure out the borders, and get it quilted.
Easy, peasy.  We are coming right along in our Quilt-a-Long, with Step 5 coming up on June 2nd.

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Other summer goals:

7. Be a good citizen and follow the national political process.  Every other week ought to be about right.
8. Visit my kids and their kids. And my parents.  And my husband’s family.  That’s about eight car trips right there.  I’d better work on #4–if only to have some hand sewing for car travel.
9. Celebrate my one-year anniversary of recovering from my surgery.  I think a night in front of the TV would be appropriate, in my nightgown with hand-sewing on my lap, to memorialize where I was last year at that time.

Voting booths
10. And oh, yeah.  Vote in California’s Primary.  I’m so excited, yes yes yes.