Posts Tagged ‘quilting life’

Safe as Houses

April 1, 2020

The Progressive Party project I worked on this month is appropriate for someone sheltering-in-place, given that it is all houses. The bag came with the fabric cut already (thank you, Rebecca!), which made life a whole lot easier. The scary part for me was half of the houses must be made from striped fabric. Clearly, we are meant to match the stripes. While I did make one plaid skirt where I painstakingly matched the pattern, I’m more of an anything goes quilter. Still, the purpose of the Progressive Party is to learn new skills and stretch ourselves, so I prepared myself to be precise.

Turns out, Rebecca had given us another gift. The pattern has some wiggle room built in. The upper part of the block is 1” wider than the door strip. Matching stripes is easier when you can line up those little critters and trim away the excess! I feel reasonably safe turning in my houses this month, if you don’t look super close.

Luck and wisdom!

Making Do (With Fish)

March 25, 2020

Years ago, I visited an aquarium in Seattle that had an exhibit of baby salmon. I loved the way they moved in the tank, and made an art quilt to capture my feelings. It didn’t work. I had put too much time in the piece to throw it away, but I was too discouraged by my failure to rework it. The top went into a stack until it became the backing for another quilt.

Most of the border had to be trimmed, but I’ve saved those pieces. They may end up in another back, or as part of a scrap quilt.

This is the front of the piece. It was made years ago as well. The two tops were next to each other in a pile, and they worked well together. “Self,” I said, “you can make do with these.” I’ll spend part of my shelter-in-place time during the COVID-19 pandemic beading the quilt. Who knows, by the end of the quarantine period I may actually be happy with it.

Luck and wisdom!

Unexpected Victories

March 18, 2020

This is a quilt I made as a class sample but never finished because I didn’t know how I wanted to quilt it. I no longer teach the class, so there wasn’t much incentive to put it at the top of the pile. Well, it worked its way up. “Self,” I said, “just start quilting. The pattern will reveal itself.” I decided to let the fabric tell me what it wanted, which worked fine until I got to the vegetable appliques. Since the fusible interfacing was well past its prime, I had to do something fast just to keep the fabric in place. I decided to make little circles all around the pieces, with the intention of incorporating them into a more interesting design later on.

When I finished with the circles, I realized they were interesting enough on their own. These unexpected victories give me the courage to dive deeper into the unfinished quilts pile. You never know when something wonderful will surface.

Happy anniversary, Mom!

Unearthing History in the Sewing Room

March 11, 2020

I was preparing to baste another bunch of quilt tops and ran across one that just stumped me. Most of them came from a stack I had ready with batting and backs cut to size, and most of them are quilt old. So old, in fact, I couldn’t figure out why I had put such a hideous border on the quilt pictured above. It took longer than I would like to admit before I realized that the ugly beige stuff is extra fabric I attached so the border wouldn’t get distorted when I hand-quilted the top. I guess I’d better get more diligent with finishing up my UFOs so that no one else has to figure out what the heck I planned to do if they draw the short straw on cleaning out my sewing room.

Luck and wisdom!

When The Fabric Speaks

March 4, 2020

One of my friendship groups wanted to experiment with fused applique, making small projects that would allow us to explore color and shape without investing too much time and fabric. To make it more interesting, we each assembled a packet of five fabrics that we would trade at the meeting. I liked all the fabrics in the packet I received, but didn’t have the first clue how to work with them. I stared at my collection while my friends were busy cutting theirs. “Self,” I said, “pick up the scissors and get to work.” I chopped here, snipped there, and ended up with this.

A river in a canyon

Once I put the pieces on my felt rectangle, I saw a river at the bottom of a canyon. “Landscapes it is,” I announced. Since no one objected – even my hypercritical internal editor – I continued.

Disconnected rivers?

The subsequent pieces flowed from the first. To avoid overthinking the end product, I let the fabric guide my scissors, and chance dictate which shape or color was fused first.


Once I had half of the felt covered, I allowed myself to make choices about what would go next. I also allowed myself to decide how the colors might go together based on the variegated embroidery floss that I just happened to have bought on impulse earlier in the week.

I’m not sure if I want these landscapes to be of alien worlds or of our possible future if we don’t start taking care of the planet. That decision will come when I break out the bead box, and listen to what the fabric tells me.

Luck and wisdom!

What We Create

March 2, 2020

I read an article about the models we have used to help us explain brain function, and why thinking of the brain as a computer may not be ideal. You can read the article yourself here. This line caught my attention: “. . . the brain does not represent information: it constructs it.” The mad sci fi writer in me said, “Bwah-ha-ha! My world building is alive! It’s alive!” The quilter said, “See, your brain quilt series isn’t such a silly idea after all.”

The picture above was inspired by an article describing how language is stored in different parts of the brain. Neurosurgeons received permission from a bilingual woman to make a few tests while they were treating her, and discovered English words were stored in one place, Spanish in another. I’ve also read that the language we speak structures the way we think, so learning a new language can in effect rewire our brains. Now it appears that the very nature of what we consider real is created by our thoughts as we try to explain what we see. There’s a story in here somewhere, as well as several quilts.

Luck and wisdom!

Red Barns

February 26, 2020

It’s funny how chance encounters create life-long interests. My friend Ann Anastasio made several barn quilts because she liked how barn design differ from state to state. I barely noticed that barns had design, much less that they vary. Now I watch for barns (I also watch for big rigs since that long trip through Nevada with nothing to see but trucks, but that’s a story for another day). Suzi Parron has a redwork kit of barns that are darling, and when she spoke at AVQ I bought one on a lark.

These designs come from her travels on the barn quilt trail, which is different from the barn quilts Ann made. Suzi has written two books about quilt blocks painted on barns or other structures, which you can find on her website.

The block shown above has a horse peeking out the door. There’s something about a critter in a quilt that draws my attention, even if it is just an outline with a French Knot eye.

This next block has a lovely curve to the roof that reminds me of the lines to a boat. I also think of it as Dutch, but I couldn’t tell you why.

Somehow I managed to either use the floss in the kilt wastefully or mislay several strands, because I ran short for the last block. Rather than try to match the color, I decided to turn that bug into a feature. I stitched the outside edges of the barn, the ground, and the foliage in brown, stitched some of the slats in what was left of my red, stitched most of the rest in a dustier red, then stitched the remaining slats and quilt block in a variegated red and brown. Since I had always planned to make separate projects with the blocks, it doesn’t matter that this one is different from the other three.

Luck and wisdom!

Oh, The Mistakes I’ve Made

February 19, 2020

I’ve been doing this quilting thing for 35 years, so I’m usually competent. If I’m going to mess things up big time, however, it seems to happen when I’m working on my friend Jeanne Brophy‘s quilt. The latest Progressive Party project from her is a wonky row quilt. I read the instructions, ironed the first fabric, measured it wrong, and cut the pieces both too narrow and too long. Totally ruined the fabric. Couldn’t be saved. Luckily, Jeanne has a good sense of humor and a huge fabric stash, so she found a replacement. It was also fortunate that I realized my mistake after cutting only one fabric, not all of them.

At my second session on the project, I remembered that making wonky blocks means you are sewing on the bias. Usually I just pin the living daylights of stretchy things, but since this is a Progressive project and many people will be working on it over the next few months, I decided to be kind and sew a stabilizing line 1/8″ inside the cutting line before I cut, as shown in the block above.

Much to my delight, the blocks went together as they were intended. Those of you who actually read those helpful hint books on quilting technique will not be surprised, but it sure amazed me.

Luck and wisdom!

Daydreams of Quilt Patterns

February 12, 2020

One of the best parts of getting a boatload of quilt magazines is finding fun patterns. I like to save quilting patterns, like the little bird pictured above, for that elusive perfect project. So far, the patterns I’ve saved haven’t been exactly what I need (well, maybe one or two). I finally realized the examples in the magazines use pearl cotton on solids, which is not what I typically use in my quilts.

Turns out my fabric stash is stuffed with prints that absorb most quilt designs. I’ve always felt a little guilty about letting the fabrics dictate the quilting, until this one. It’s another charity quilt, made from some coastal village-scape fabric that I don’t remember buying, and a maritime-themed stripe that I do. I could almost hear the sound of surf against seawalls, which prompted me to say, “Self, quilt simple waves.”

The wave turned into a squiggle, but it still seems both watery and energetic. I’m not distressed that the fabric absorbs most of the design, and I’m certain whoever receives it won’t be either.

Luck and wisdom!

Take Care of Your Tools, They’ll Take Care of You

January 29, 2020

Another experiment with fabric that will become a donation quilt

I brought my sewing machine in for servicing while I was gone. It was the second time last year, but since I’ve been doing a lot of machine quilting I knew the poor little workhorse needed some extra care. They adjusted the tension, which made quilting the project featured above so much easier. I even quilted the white panels by machine, with white thread on the top and black on the back. With the proper tension, the different colors stayed where they belong.

You may not see the quilting, but you also can’t see any bobbin thread peeking through

I know the owners manual has a section on adjusting the tension, but I have a remarkable capacity for making mechanical problems worse. If you are blessed with the ability to pamper your own machine, you probably already have a regular maintenance schedule. Whether you can do it yourself or need a professional, it is very true that the time and money you spend in taking care of your tools is repaid with interest.

Fabric I couldn’t bear to cut makes a wonderful back

Now if only I would remember to change my needle.

Luck and wisdom!