Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Year's End

This is the year that my patience was tested.  I had to constantly quiet the ants in my pants and learn to be quiet and peaceful while sitting with my parents.  This quilt that John and I slept under last night is one that I pieced and then quilted, all while sitting with both or one of my parents.  It's warm and lovely and I smile when I look at it.  And now that Mom has died, all I want to do is hand-quilt this elliptical Drunkard's Path.  Continuing to sit and be quiet and be thankful.  Mom was the one who taught me to sew - I even took her sewing machine to college with me in 1967.  Because that's what we did - take our sewing machines to college.  It is ironic that I always found a way to get out of handwork, usually by giving it to Mom.  And now in her last years and in her death, it is handwork that is such an important solace.

This is the year that I recognized how much I am gravitating toward minimalism in design.  I study the two books I have by Yoshiko Jinzenji - Quilting:  Line and Color and Quilt Artistry:  Inspired Designs from the East.   In February I am taking two classes with her at QuiltCon in Austin. 

This year I feel good about trying new things, like hand applique and curved piecing.  I am glad to have these techniques in my bag of tricks.  This curved pieced bit - my homage to the Badminton Shuttlecock - still needs some handpiecing on the background.  But I don't love this piece and don't know whether I want to spend more time on it.  And it's ok.  What I did learn from this piece is that an unexpected color, like the grellow, can really perk up a palette.

 As we ushered my parents out of this world, my family prepares to welcome another into this world.  My NYC niece Jen is having her second baby, a little girl, next month.  My favorite quilts to make are baby quilts.  I made three just after my dad died.  And now to make this special baby quilt helps balances the loss and focus on the Circle of Life (cue music from Lion King).  We had all the kids and grandkids with us Christmas Eve.  One of the many joys of that evening is that our youngest grandson Ben is now 12 - we played Christmas Charades and Christmas Trivia and Ben competed along with the rest of us.  But one of the sadnesses is that the grandkids are all too old for toys.  I'm thankful for my great nieces, my niece Laura's little girls, who are not too old for toys.  I had great fun watching them open what John and I got for them.  And I'm thankful for my friend Eileen's little boy Henry who came over and played with John and his train.  There is nothing like a 5-year old who can't keep his eyes off the train.  Or a 75-year-old.

This year was one of peace for my family as my parents lived their final chapter. 

P.S.  And this year was one of deepening friendships with my circle of quilt besties - an amazing group of women whom I love.

Friday, December 26, 2014

In the Bleak Midwinter...

Do you know this hymn? It's a Christina Rossetti Poem - lovely, simple, and not at all sad.  My mom died earlier this week from pneumonia after over four years of dementia/Alzheimer's.  She went through a lengthy period of asking for and wondering about her mother.  Once, over two years ago, my mom, dad, and I were walking down stairs and heading to an appointment.  Mom asked where Dad was, and I said, "He's right behind us."  She replied, "Not your father.  Where is my father?"   Sister-in-law Kim was brilliant with her responses to these questions - she would say that Mom's mom was with her sisters.  And that seemed to satisfy my mom. 

So in this bleak midwinter (Mom died on the 22nd and was 86 and a half on December 21st), I rejoice that my mom is at peace and with my dad and the rest of her family.  I have been writing my mother's obituary and celebrating her life and altruistic spirit.  I will use these next few days to work on the business end of things as my brothers and sister work on the memorial service in January.  I will soothe my soul with my hand quilting and then begin the quilt for the next great niece who will be born in mid-January.  And I am at peace. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Me.  The studio.  Projects.  The studio carpet was cleaned while we were gone, which meant packing everything away.  So I am still finding where I put things, like my walking foot (found it - phew...).  The elliptical Drunkard's Path is off the design wall and pin-basted.  While I wasn't quite ready to do this, I wanted the leftover wool batting to use in Infinity Scarves. (While I do love the feel of the wool inside cottons, I must remember that I tend to run hot and should be making these without any batting at all.)  Thanks to Charity S for putting these scarves on my radar and for the tutorial from Pink Castle! 
Fabrics and the germ of an idea for niece Jen's baby girl quilt
While on the cruise I did finish appliqueing the circle for my Yoshiko Jinzenji panel. But now I need to figure out how I want to combine these two elements. A few days on the design wall might help.
An Iron Cozy

People who don't travel and sew won't understand how difficult it is to carry a hot iron. Seriously. So using some old batik fabrics, leftover binding bits, and some thermal batting, I made one using this tutorial. It may not be attractive, but it gets the job done!

 My mom has pneumonia. My sibs and I are wondering how serious this is. An odd time for all of us. Scattered...

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hi Ho Hi Ho...

We leave tomorrow morning for a 12-day Panama Canal transit cruise - first time we have traveled in over 18 months. John's excited - well, it is a jazz cruise. And I have my iPad loaded with books that I'm looking forward to reading. The studio is ready for the carpet cleaner, projects are lined up for when I return (baby quilt for a niece, Christmas purse, piles of Marcia Derse fabs just waiting to be touched, and handquilting the colorful elliptical Drunkard's path). This piece from Camp Stitchalot and Sherri Lynn Wood's class is mostly quilted. The background still needs to be done. I like it. Except I wish I didn't think of a badminton shuttlecock when I look at this. Happy December!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Little Wallet Goodness

Let's be clear. This isn't a wallet to carry every card and all the cash you have. This wallet will hold a bit of paper money, a couple of coins, a credit card or two, and a driver's license. And it's pretty darn cute. Despite Thanksgiving and travel preparations, my goal for tomorrow is to go to the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild western suburban sew-in in Elmhurst and make some of these little wallets in colors other than red and black! The pattern is Wonder Wallet by Lazy Girl.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Meeting Two Personal Heroes

Wow, that sounds dramatic, doesn't it?  But Camp Stitchalot did allow me to work with and watch two  important quit bloggers who have greatly influenced my attitude towards quilting.

Rossie Hutchinson's Double Plus Good
When I started quilt blogging in 2007, I thought at the time that I was doing something unique and unusual.  And then I began to be aware of quilt bloggers and how many there are!    I'm not sure what led me to Rossie Hutchinson's blog - she began hers in 2010.  I saw her  Double Plus Good, and I was hooked on Rossie's approach.  It was she who started the whole Process Pledge movement.  And I had spent the past few years knowing that the inception and execution of a project is just as important as the finished piece.  Having Rossie - and so many others - validate what I discovered to be true for me has been liberating.  One of the things I love about my guildsters is that I have friends who care about the process:  they want to talk about their process and listen to mine.  Rossie has a PhD in Communications and has been on the faculty of University of Michigan.   She is also one of the organizers of Camp Stitchalot, along with Brenda from Pink Castle Fabrics.  Throughout the weekend, Rossie was a fellow camper, taking the same delight in both teachers and classes as the rest of us and working as madly on her projects as we were.

Rossie was the July speaker at my Chicago Modern Quilt Guild Meeting.  I was afraid I would miss her lecture/trunk show - it was the same weekend as my father's funeral.  Sunday afternoon was clear, and I went to the guild meeting.  As delighted as I was to meet and hear Rossie, I was emotionally fractured and couldn't make it through the whole meeting.  So Camp Stitchalot was a nice Rossie Hutchinson bonus. 

tireless: up close
This one word sums up Chawne's approach to quilting and needlework
 The other hero/camper is Chawne Kimber, a math professor from a small college in eastern Pennsylvania and fiber artist/quilter who blogs at Completely Cauchy. Chawne was on my radar in later 2011/early 2012 before QuiltCon. She's a political quilter - her quilts make statements. Sometimes she tackles broad topics about race and language and gender. And sometimes her work is highly personal. She works both large and small.  Her art evokes reaction - that is the goal of art, isn't it? I wanted to meet her at QuiltCon, but she had a death in her family and didn't go. Except she did wind up making it to Austin for a bit. And when I learned that and that I had missed her, I was sad. 

Fast-forward to dinner Friday night at Camp Stitchalot.  It was the only ice-breaker meal where we were assigned seats. And looky looky looky who is across from me.  Miss Chawne! Chawne and I have a friend in common, the lovely Mirielle/Mimi, whose comment on Instagram tipped me off that Chawne would be at Stitchalot.  So meeting her, working along side her, and seeing her in action (omg she is working on such a tiny piece right now) was a highlight of the weekend.  Chawne, Mimi, and I have a date at QuiltCon in Austin next February.  Chawne's devotion to what we do speaks volumes to me. 

Throughout the weekend I slowly met more and more of the campers and could talk glowingly about so many of them.  How rich it was to meet so many lovely women, especially Rossie and Chawne. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Things with Straps

This A Cute Bag is for my daughter-in-law Jeannine. She picked the fabrics, and this is perfect for her. I worked on it yesterday, thinking I was getting a head start on the holidays since I have all next week to sew.  John just informed me Thanksgiving is next week.  Who moved up the calendar?

For comparison purposes, here is The Cute Bag next to the TwoZip Hipster. Both have adjustable straps, and both are about 9" x 11". One has a zippered top; the other has a fabulous magnet. Both have nice pocket options. And both patterns are the same in degree of difficulty. It will be hard to choose which one of these to do again.

 At Camp Stitchalot Carolyn Friedlander gave us little charm packs of her new fabric line Doe.  By little I mean 2.5" squares.  One of my guildsters has been waiting for this line to come out and I knew she would want this packet.  But I wanted this packet, too.  So I resorted to some teacher bribery.  I used my packet to make a RunAround Bag for Carolyn.  I had zippers with me and some solids fabrics and let her choose her accent color for her bag.  By Sunday morning I had two sets of these little charm packs.  Holly's is going in the mail today.  And Carolyn was pleased with her RunAround.  Things with straps - so satisfying.

Bonus picture - here's the back of my TwoZip Hipster - just had a throw on an extra pocket in red.  The back of The Cute Bag is exactly the same as the front.  Ever so handy for taking pictures!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Camp Stitchalot - Part 2


Carolyn Friedlander is a young quilter, an architect by trade, whose fabric designs and now new book, are hot hot hot. The way some of my guild members throw around the names of fabric designers scares me a little bit. I just don't pay attention. Until I see something I like. And within the past six months I have become aware of fabrics that are architextural in design. And whose fabrics do you think these were? Yep. Carolyn Friedlander. Then I bought a copy of her book Savor Each Stitch. The past half year has been one in which I have slowed down and experienced the joy of handwork - so her book is timely for me. At Stitchalot Carolyn focused on teaching us a method of hand applique. It was odd to be in a room with 30 quilters and not have any machine whirring away. Needle-turn applique is awkward for me, but I did improve a little over the weekend.  On the strip below, five of those circles are appliqued.

 I'll take these circles to my mom's tomorrow and see how far I get.  Even with a needle threader, it's difficult to thread the applique needle - I may have to use something bigger.  My goal is to inset a strip of circles into the above Yoshiko Jinzenji fabric (look, another designer name!).  Carolyn's use of hand applique and machine quilting is inspiring, and that's the direction I want to head in with this panel.  Carolyn gave us little samples of her new fabric line, Doe.  And I must say there are several fabrics that I like a lot.

The pairing of Carolyn Friedlander and Sherri Lynn Wood as counselors at Camp Stitchalot was very clever.  They are quite different in their approach to quilting, and both have enriched the bag of tricks and techniques that I bring to quilting.  A good good weekend.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My Curve is Basted

This piece is now 32" x 32" and ready for some hand work.  Some echo quilting in the background and something in the curves.  I like this.  I'm not sure what the orientation should be.  Maybe I'll figure that out as I stitch.  One observation about the process:  there is no economy of fabric.  I took these leftovers and pieced together a little Runaround, which I gave  to Sherri Lynn Wood last night after her lecture to our guild - a little remembrance of her very chilly and successful day in Chicago

Monday, November 17, 2014

Homework from Camp Stitchalot

What a great weekend!  Sarah S, Melissa and I went to Camp Stitchalot with 28 other campers and camp counselors Carolyn Friedlander and Sherri Lynn Wood.  The whole experience was fun AND educational!

We decided to go one day early to have the luxury of extra sewing time and make Two-Zip Hipsters.  All turned out nicely by Friday morning.  Special thanks to Sarah for figuring out the twisted zipper secret.  Then Sarah, Melissa, and I decided we needed to go to Pink Castle Fabrics about 45 minutes away.  Carolyn and Sherri asked if they could go with us.  Um, yeah, well - OKAY!  Later that day Carolyn led us through design choices and her method of applique.  There will be more about Carolyn and this project in a couple of days.  But now?  Gotta focus on Getting My Curve On and Sherri.  She's our Chicago Modern Quilt Guild Speaker tonight, and I promised I would have what I worked on in class in a more advanced state.

Sherri led us all through her approach to improv quilting - guidelines that involve no rulers and working at one's creative edge.  Look at the link above to see her sweeping, bold, and wild use of color and design.  After I made these three wedges, I was done.  I needed to think about what is next with these pieces and how I want to create something that I want to keep in my home.  So I took them home.  Last night I began to play.

I tried overlapping these wedges, like so many in class had done.  but my instincts kept leading me back to keeping these pieces separate. And I also knew I that needed to trim these up and make them more symmetrical. 
Wonder if John has missed this Tupperware lid I keep in the studio...
As I have been blogging, I have had several epiphanies. I think I will stop, take a walk, and come back to this. Let's see if I was paying attention when Sherri was teaching how to sew curves. To be continued...maybe even today!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hand Project Completion

 This project, which measures 72" x 94" and was done by hand, is complete.  I started it (and blogged about this) in April of this year.  Each time I headed to my parents', I had these blocks with me.  Through my dad's hospitalizations, I continued to work on these blocks.  Just as he died, I finished piecing the this top.  And then I decided to quilt this by hand while sitting with my mom.  Each time I got to my mom's I would take out this quilt, show it to her, and tell her that I now sew because she taught me how to.  And each time she smiles and says, "I did?"  My stitches are big and primitive.  I used a No 8 perle cotton.  Some of the stitches are with No 5 perle cotton, which is just too difficult for me to work with. 

The batting is wool.  And the texture of this quilt is wonderfully lofty and airy and warm.  This project has provided me with solace and purpose as I have sat with my parents.  And I love it.

I'm heading to Camp Stitchalot (***squeel***)in Ann Arbor with Sarah S and Melissa today.  And I am packing this quilt. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

"City Spokes" is home!

After traveling with the International Quilt Festival for several months, "City Spokes" is home.  John hung it in a space intended for something not quite so tall - the grandchildren and travel tchotskis seem to be blocking the bottom of this piece.  And I'm surprised at how much I like this piece (she modestly says...) in this particular location.

The wall hanging made from t-shirts bought in Nairobi now hangs in the first floor hallway to the bathroom. 

Today was spent quilting this gorgeous piece made from shot cottons.  I was torn between which binding to use.  But just taking these pictures and looking at them has clarified what I need to do.  The sedate grey wins over the multi-colored.   Love love love the fall time change.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Whole Lotta Projects Goin' On...

I love this part of quilting - when a quilt is basted together, is a size that I can handle, and the quilting design is within my comfort zone. As I quilt I often think, "You can't be too rich, too thin, or have too many quilting stitches." And when my shoulders get achy and my eyeballs start to bounce, then I go to something different.Here are a couple of purse kits. One is a Cute Bag for my daughter-in-law, and the other is a TwoZipHipster, a pattern new to me.  And then I walk by the Yoshiko Jinzenji panel and add a couple more fabrics that I might want to use at Camp Stitchalot.
My friend Emily was over as I was putting together my big Ellipical Drunkard's Path and commented about what a luxury it is to work on something that is something you just want to do. This quilt marks a bit of a breakthrough. After my dad's death I needed to sew but threw myself into small projects. It's good to get back to big stuff mixed in with little things. And I'm already plotting my NEXT hand project. Thank you, Mimi. And Renate Hiller.

Monday, October 27, 2014

All pieced - and I love it

The final version - all pieced and ready for quilting.  70" x 70"

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Final Layout

This  might be it.  Seeing the layout on a screen will help tweak certain bits. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Quilting Tip from "Macbeth"

Today's layout features horizontal color arrangement and staggered columns.  This layout is closest to the layout of the inspiration quilt by the Australian Helen.  But actually I like the first of these layouts with the cluster of colors.  Lucky for me I am busy for the next two days and can't do any sewing.  But when I do get back to this, I think I will need to be "bloody, bold, and resolute" and just pick a layout and do this instead of dithering for days about which one is better.  All these are beautiful, right?  (I think I will try a column of warm neturals and cool neutrals on both sides to make this 66" wide.)  To be continued...