Posts Tagged ‘quilting life’

Starting the New Year Project Pile

January 15, 2020

This is the second year that my sewing machine went to the shop over the holidays for a cleaning. As with last year, I took advantage of the time to arrange my extensive pile of tops to be quilted. This year, however, I rough-cut batting for the tops before stacking them. Since basting quilt sandwiches is one of my least favorite tasks, I am hoping breaking it down into smaller steps will help keep me on schedule.

Before I get to the quilt tops, however, I need to bind a quilt the Progressive Party made for me, which will go to Amador Valley Quilters next month. It’s our birthday month, and the guild has challenged members to complete a quilt we will donate to the community.

Before I get to the binding, however, I need to clear off the ironing board. I turned it into a staging area for another club gift, this one for Tri-Valley Writers. We offer a free drawing for members every January for a small basket filled with writer-related items, and this year I get to do the assembly.

Before I get to the basket, however, I need to do one teensy, tiny shopping trip. Eventually, I will get to the projects – or at least, that’s what I keep telling myself as one more “but first . . .” chore slips onto the to-do list.

Luck and wisdom!

Pushing Through to Happy

December 18, 2019

Since the project that no longer appealed to me was taking up most of my design wall, I had no choice but to soldier on to the end. Much to my surprise, I started liking it again. Whether it was because I could see the end in sight, or because I found a fabric that worked for a border, but the time I got to the last seam I was happy with the top.

I’ve made the backing (from a large piece that was in the collection but didn’t make it to the front), but I won’t be quilting it until after the holidays. I have quite a few tops with backs ready to layer, and they will be first on the New Project List so that I can start out 2020 by completing quilts.

Luck and wisdom!

A Christmas Miracle with Curved Piecing

December 11, 2019

The quilting goddess was in a good mood this week. My latest Progressive Party project was all curves. Three blocks of curves. Three blocks of curves that will go in someone else’s quilt.

They turned out.

Admittedly, the project included templates, these were mostly gentle curves, and the fabrics were good quality (allowing just enough stretch to make a smooth seam, not so much that I had to angst over distortion). Also, I’ve done a few projects with curves in the last year so my skills aren’t all that rusty. But still – three blocks and they all came out! This is worth celebrating, so I did.

Luck and wisdom!

The Kid’s Quilt That Could

December 4, 2019

Rain returned to my part of the world, making it safe from fires. This includes the fire inside that gets me into the studio to create. It didn’t help that I no longer loved the piece on the design wall. It has a bunch of animal and forest prints, and will be given away to a charity. Then I got my own little Christmas miracle when I walked into the studio and the green strips started to sing through the gloom.

This is the reason I chose that green, because it adds a little zing to whatever fabric is next to it. Well, I think it does, and I know small children like bright colors, so it stays. Anything that keeps me sewing when it is cold and rainy is okay by me.

Luck and wisdom!

Choosing Colors

November 27, 2019

The rain came back, which is good news for our garden, but not great news for my quilting. Proper light is essential for picking colors. Trust me, at the moment the light in my sewing room is far from proper. Still, there is an opportunity for me to learn more about choosing colors by looking outside. I would never have thought that a dull gray would do anything to enhance red, but what I saw on our sidewalk is changing my mind.

Here is a shot of the brothers, sisters, and cousins of the leaves on the sidewalk, this time framed with brown against the gray sky.

These are not my usual colors, but I like the way they work together. While I won’t be searching through my fabric stash until the sun returns, I can always plan which drawer I will look through first when it does.

Luck and wisdom!

Crazy Quilts, A Lifetime Commitment

November 20, 2019

Recognizing that the last three blocks I planned for this crazy quilt will not be finished in the foreseeable future, I sewed the nine blocks I have together. Then I waited for them to tell me how to embroider over the seams.

I got bupkus. In desperation, I sewed a line of chain stitches down one seam. The blocks remained silent.


Like all good quilters, I’ve got books on every aspect of the art. Three of my embroidery books were easy to reach, so I started going through them for inspiration. The books won’t shut up. Every page is screaming, “Pick me! Pick me!” The blocks, however, are shaking their heads, saying, “Don’t even think about it.” I hate to tell you what my threads are telling me.

So, I’m guessing this project represents a lifetime commitment. Anyone have any advice for navigating the crazy quilt relationship?

Luck and wisdom!

Embroidery, or Picking Up Stitches

November 13, 2019

My crazy quilt pile called to me this week, so I consolidated the stack and picked up some blocks. The floral block above is done enough. I’ll put more stitching on it when I put the top together, but it needs some context before I can decide what I want to do.

The block above was easy, as I had always intended to use an outline stitch for the koi. I set the block aside because I discovered I didn’t have enough blue embroidery floss to finish the design. Luckily, a delicate peach floss caught my eye while I could still adapt the color scheme.

This block needs more work, but will also need context before I know what to do with it. I’m calling it done for the moment, because I’m pretty sure I could cover the entire thing with stitching and still not be happy with it.

One thing I am happy with is my decision not to save all the last bits of floss. Instead, I’m going to fill a scrap of Aida cloth with blocks of color. You can see the beginning above. I may put beads on it as well. We’ll see what the project tells me to do.

The thread in the box is the part of my collection I could get my hands on. I know I have more floss and specialty threads somewhere, but they’re playing a real good game of hide and seek with me. This is why cleaning my sewing room has been a grand adventure for such a long time. I really have no idea what I’ll find when I finally get to the last pile.

Luck and wisdom!

Repurposing and My New Purse

November 6, 2019

I have been searching for the perfect purse most of my life. I’ve gone through quite a few that were wonderful, but when they wore out I couldn’t find a good replacement. I made my own purse once, with pockets and zippers and sides that stood up, but it was more trouble than I wanted to experience again. Just as I was despairing that the problem was insoluble, my Halloween handbag gave me the answer. It is square, which makes it easier to arrange zippered pouches inside. Why bother trying to make a bunch of interior pockets fit easily, or wrestle with thick stablizers, when I can repurpose my considerable collection of pouches?

A few years ago, I made a bunch of zippered pouches as gifts. Not all of them were suitable to give away, but I kept them for my own use. I have also received many lovely zippered pouches as gifts from friends and family. Not all of them were put into service immediately, and I’ve always felt bad about that. Now I have a use for more of them, so I’m happy (one more item on the annual “Things I’m Thankful For” list for the Thanksgiving discussion).

I made a few alterations to the pattern (The Bellinzona Cube by Pixeladies, although I couldn’t find a link to it on their homepage). Aside from enlarging it a smidge, I added pockets to all four sides. I also added a sewn-in strap with a clip for my keys to one pocket, and made one taller and narrower to corral my pens.

The best news is the pattern went together well, even with the changes I made. Now I will be able to experiment as my handbag needs evolve – and never again be forced to buy something that is almost but not quite right.

Luck and wisdom!

The Great Wall of Quilt Tops

October 23, 2019

So the good news is I bought some nice batting on sale and decided to rough cut the batt for the four small quilts I need to finish. The bad news is I have more than four tops in the stack. This I did not know. I really thought there were only four in the stack, but there might be six. It’s hard to tell, because the tops get squeezed together. Looking at the layers is like touring a coal mine. I’m certain if I leave those tops unquilted much longer they’ll be compressed into diamonds. This is especially true if I continue to put the batting and tops together on top of the pile.


Here is the view from my sewing machine at the moment. I have a better understanding of what the soldiers who fought in the trenches of France during World War I must have felt. The good news is these quilts are small – and I have a deadline.


The better news is I cleared out the floor of the sewing room closet for the first time in years. I’m hoping I can keep it clear for a little longer, but just this week an item I thought was going away needs to be stored for a little longer. It is on the ironing board right now, but it can’t live there and I have no place else to put it but in the closet. On the floor. The once clean floor. Ah, well.

Luck and wisdom!

A Turning Point That Wasn’t

October 16, 2019

Last year at a memoir-writing workshop I wrote an outline of turning points in my life. This past week I was reminded of a career path I didn’t take and how grateful I am for that. When I graduated from college, I considered applying to the State Department. My father – a long-time civil servant – sorta kinda maybe talked me out of it. I found a different job, didn’t like it, moved to another city, married, moved across country, and discovered quilting. The brilliant career I dreamed of never materialized, but I’ve made art, contributed to my community, and even co-authored a series of sci fi novels (shameless self-promotion, you can buy the latest one here). Not too shabby, all things considered.

Whenever I wonder about the life I might have had, I remember 1979 and the hostage crisis in Tehran. Bruce Laingen (pictured above) was stationed there, the highest-ranking diplomat among the 52 U.S. Embassy workers held in Iran for 444 days. He was also a graduate of my alma mater, Saint Olaf College. In my imagination, I could see myself getting sent to Iran for my first posting, maybe even meeting Laingen at an embassy function and mentioning that I too was an Ole grad. Then the revolution would come, and I would be running for my life. That’s when I breathe a prayer of thankfulness for my (relatively) calm and peaceful existence.

Laingen died recently at age 96. He grew up on a Minnesota farm, interrupted his education to serve his country in World War II, then returned to complete his degree before continuing his service in government. The Iranian hostage crisis brought him to the world’s attention, and he responded with dignity, calm, and presence. He earned every bit of respect due him. I am very grateful to Laingen for showing America at its best.

Luck and wisdom!