Thursday, December 31, 2020

December: A Purse A Day


What works for me is to devote the studio to purses for a month at a time.  Each purse has 11 pieces, most of which are interfaced.  So to do the same step several times makes the best use of my time.  With this batch I used some leftover pieces that I was experimenting with and some leftover bits from other projects.  But best of all, for me, are fabrics with text.  I’m not sure whether the girls in Lusaka, Zambia, like this.  But I am confident that we are making something to suit everyone’s taste.  Sew Powerful leaders Jason and Cinnamon Miles set a goal of 20,020 purses for 2020.  And the mighty team of sewists of which I’m a part met this goal.  These 31 purses are for the 2021 goal of 20,400.  

Today I picked up all the leftover fabrics, already plotting for future purses.  And I vacuumed and organized.  I have a list of quilting projects I can’t wait to continue, start, and finish.  What a great end to 2020, the year of broken bones and Covid.  

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Not a Christmas Present


All the grandkids have quilts.  And now we’re on the second round since most of them are adults.  Jack, on the left,  is a senior at the U of I.  He is smart, personable, and a great kid.  This year he received his quilt, one I started at a winter retreat last year.  Brother Ben is helping with the photography here.  And Ben is up next.  It will be next Christmas before I figure out what I want to do for him and make it.  But it won’t be a Christmas present - it will just be his turn.   

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Surprises #2 and #3 and #4

 Sometimes I love someone so much that I have to make them something.  When there are several people who love someone so much, the result is breathtaking.  

This quilt is a series of raspberry kiss blocks made by 7 of us in  the color palette of the beloved recipient.  I agreed to hand quilt it, and it has a wonderful texture.  


This group worked on another quilt at the same time.  And we talked one of our group into long-arm quilting it.  And it is just lovely.  These pictures don't do justice to the wonderful quilting.  

The last group project was a series of individual 16" quilts for a recipient who has more quilts than anyone else we know.  I'm eager to see mine in connection with the others.  What great labors of love!  

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Up Next...

 Here are the leftover peppered shot cottons from Cristina’s quilt.  It’s pin-basted and batted with wool.  The backing is a white and black print that features the name of every color in the world.  This is 90” wide, and a little bit taller.  This will keep me busy for the dark and colder winter months ahead.  I know I am going to quilt this horizontally and may perhaps go for a plaid look by quilting vertically, too.  To be determined.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Surprise No. 1: For Cristina and Joe


You know how you want to do something so special for someone and sometimes get a bit paralyzed in getting started?  I knew Cristina and Joe were getting married at some point, and I knew I wanted to make them a "I'm thrilled you found your life partner" quilt.  And then paralysis set in.  What helped me to break through was this fabulous assortment of peppered shot cottons.

I wanted to do something featuring equally all the colors - so saturated and so bright,  I even went to one of Cristina's favorite artists, Robert Motherwell , for inspiration.  I eventually concluded that if I wanted to give her a quilt in this lifetime, that perhaps I needed to stay within my comfort zone.  So I reverted to some basic 9-patches which then I could perk up with some circular hand quilting.  

I started with an off-center spiral on October 5.  Eventualy I added a second needle and then a third.

As I began making the 9-patches and adding them to the design wall, I knew immediately this horizontal design wouldn't work.  It was fun to play around with arrangements, and I'm happy with the one I settled on. 

Its difficult to explain how much I love hand-quilting.  For so many years I palmed my hand-work off to my mother.  Guildmate Mirielle very slowly modeled the importance of handwork.  And as my parents were dying, I finally got it.  Yesterday I put in the last stitches and made a label.  As much as I love Cristina, I'm pretty crazy about Joe, too.  For a while I wasn't sure if he was good enough for her.  But he is for sure.  One night out with them as judges for a local Moth story-telling competition convinced me of that.  

I've known Cristina for almost 20 years. Despite the 41 year age difference,  we truly are friends.  There's a mutual love and recognition of how lucky we are to have this friendship.  

There have been several projects in the past year that I have been working on but haven't been able to share.  I'm thrilled that this quilt is in Cristina and Joe's hands and want to think it will keep them warm starting with their first year of marriage.  And of course I'm eager to reveal other surprises.  Soon...

Monday, November 23, 2020

Get Happy! No. 4


What a winning combination of fabrics and pattern!   I made two of these for nieces who both had quarantine babies last spring.  One niece loved hers so much that she commissioned one more for her sister-in-law (all pinks, see previous post) and for her mother-in-law who will have for the first time a baby grandchild living close to her.   

This pattern Get Happy! is available at the Bernina We All Sew website and was created by Laura McDowell Hopper (@lmhquilts, formerly @sonicstitches), a past president of the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild.  It was designed to be paper-pieced, but I made templates and pieced all four tops.  

The backing incorporates an exclamation point in fabric featuring cursive writing.  The border is the same cursive fabric but in grey.  Exclamation points are from text fabric.  This quilt? Perfection, IMHO!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

An Odd Sort of Panic and New Mantra

When I was teaching I would leave for school early, like 5:30, and then run up to the third floor of Hyde Park HS chanting, "Papers to grade, Papers to grade, I still have more papers to grade."  Recently I have developed a new chant. "Shot Cottons and Wool, Shot Cottons and Wool, I will only quilt with Shot Cottons and Wool."  Actually, I mean peppered shot cottons.  The other night grandson Brandon admitted that he goes into a slight panic when he gets to the end of a binge watch if he doesn't have another watch lined up.  I get it.  That's exactly how I am with hand quilting.  I've been working on hand-quilt ing this piece for Cristina since the beginning of October.  It takes about two months to work my way through a big quilt.  I'm maybe three weeks from completion and already I'm worrying about what to work on next.  

So I've done something with this pile of peppered shot cottons and this backing.  And a roll of wool batting just arrived.  As soon as Cristina's is complete, I'll pin baste this new creation (forgot to take a pic before folding it up...).  Hello, December and January! 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

From Sad to Happy: Two projects


We know life is about births and deaths.  And we assume a natural order:  people die when they are old. In March an 8-year old died suddenly.
And a family, both immediate and extended grieves.  My friend Cecilia commissioned this quilt for her niece, Maddie's mom.  It is 65" x 75" and made in loving memory.  This pattern is Have a Heart by J. Michelle Watts, available at Etsy.

Because blue hearts are so special to this family and such fabric isn't easy to find., I found a fabric at Spoonflower and had it made.  See the picture below.

There was such an aura of sadness while working on the blue heart.  My niece asked me if I would duplicate the baby quilt I made for my nephew and his wife for her sister-in-law in NYC.  Perfect:  working on a baby quilt and focusing on a new life!  I love this pattern. It's "Get Happy!" by Laura McDowell Hopper, a free pattern at the We All Sew website

Monday, November 2, 2020

All Projects, Great and Small

The beauty of having such a great studio is that I can  work on several things at once - piles of future projects, fabrics I want to do something with, patterns with fabrics already chosen.  And I can put aside these piles to do something quick.  Last week I was dismissed from Physical Therapy after 8 months.  My two main therapists were terrific.  As a thank you, I made them each a Mors bag and put a loaf of pumpkin bread in each.  And my hairdresser Juanita requested two masks - periodic table and chemical elements - for her son who is in med school. Such great fabrics.

The big project for the past week has been this big broken blue heart for a family grieving the loss of their 8-year old.  I will start quilting this today.  It’s created great sadness on the studio accompanied by a deep appreciation for today.  Despite my heart racing over Tuesday’s election.  

Four years ago after the election and Trump victory, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt.  That effort soon ended.  He is a selfish, shallow buffoon. I sure hope this heart isn’t symbolic of the next four years.  While I’m thankful to him for how productive I have been during the past four years, I would love to slow down a bit and take some deep breaths...

Friday, October 23, 2020

My Guest Appearance on the Sew Powerful Podcast

In 2015 I made a couple of Sew Powerful purses.  The mission of resonated with me then and has continued to impress and inspire me.  The Sew Powerful initiative focuses on menstrual hygiene to promote the education of junior high girls in Lusaka, Zambia.  This initiative is community-driven and also features a sewing cooperative, a farming effort, and a soap initiative.  

These purses are very specific, and the pattern confused me - and I'm an experienced bag maker!  I made a couple in 2015.  I made some more in 2016.  And then by 2017 I  was cranking these purses out by the batch.  My commitment has grown over the years with both financial support and well as making purses and writing notes that go in each purse.  I think I have made more than 150 but under 200.  Despite the 2020 broken bones, I have done 31 and plan to do another set of 31 in December - a purse a day.  

In March 2019 I worked at the Sew Powerful booth, looking for purse makers, and met Jason and Cinnamon Miles (pictured here with Indianapolis purselike Kathleen Broadfoot.  Meeting Jason and Cinnamon has deepened my respect for them and for Sew Powerful.

There is a wonderfully supportive Facebook Group of Sew Powerful Purse Makers - Sew Powerful Purse  Project.  This group is international and features so many creative sewists.  We try hard not to compare ourselves to one another. We take turns at being prolific and encouraging.  And get this:  no one mentions politics!  

On this Facebook group name recognition happens - I'll see the same names again and again. And we purse makers kind of get to know one another.  This week I was a guest on the Sew Powerful weekly podcast, hosted by Jan Cancila.  The Sew Powerful podcast can be found of almost all podcast platforms.  Each is 30 minutes long and so interesting.  The first three, which were in June 2020, feature Jason and Cinnamon and the short history of Sew Powerful.  Cinnamon is a pattern designer for doll clothes, and the Sew Powerful purse is actually an adaptation of a purse for the American Girl dolls.  These podcasts are a joy to listen to - information, uplifting, and usually tear-jerking.  Jan made the interview process easy, and we discovered so many similarities in our lives - graduated from high school in the same year, went to small colleges, busier in retirement than ever, and utterly devoted to Sew Powerful.  

These Sew Powerful books are available at Amazon.  There is a second edition of We Are Sew Powerful, but I cannot locate it.  See the end of this post for my story which appears in it;

A funny thing happened during my interview with Jan as she focused on other charitable sewing efforts I've been involved in:  it became a history of my involvement with my Chicago Modern Quilt Guilt.  Jan wanted to know about the Mors bags and the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the Road Home quilts, the Teen Living quilts, zippered pouches for Sarah's Inn, and others.  And although I knew this already, it is so obvious that this guild has changed my life and my guild friends are among the most valuable.  

The most embarrassing fact revealed in the podcast I did was that I actually took a sewing machine to college with me.  That was the 60's for you!  Sewing is an integral part of my life, and I'm proud of this.  

(from the 2nd edition of We Are Soo Powerful)

So Fiddly but Perhaps Worth It

Donna Moscinski

Chicago, IL

After 34 years of teaching high school English in Chicago Public Schools, I embraced retirement at 55. In these past 15 years, I have been thrilled to describe myself as a quilter. And that is still the title I use to define myself.

But I knew back in 2005 that quilting alone wasn’t going to satisfy me. I needed to find charitable outlets for my sewing. The first project I embraced was Mors bags. These are simple, pretty reusable fabric grocery bags. Give people a Mors Bag and ask them to use it instead of accepting a plastic bag from the store. Pretty soon everyone in my family, all of my friends, my doctors, and their staffs, and even random strangers had at least one Mors bag.

Every year my guild, The Chicago Modern Quilt Guild, has a designated charity— Mors bags for the Chicago Greater Food Depository, quilts for the children of homeless women through Project NightNight, toiletry bags for victims of domestic violence through Sarah’s Home, quilts for teens graduating from foster care to independent living through Teen Living, quilts for veterans through the Road Home Project. Each project is so satisfying. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, an honored poet from Ohio, has said:

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.

Sew Powerful, through Jason and Cinnamon Miles, has made the girls in the Ngombe compound in Lusaka, Zambia, within my reach. I first learned about Sew Powerful through my quilter buddy Wayne, the same guy who started me in on Mors bags. Wayne learned of Sew Powerful and decided he didn’t want to do it but perhaps I might. Why, yes, I was highly interested and had flashbacks to my early teenage years and coping with “womanhood.” I vividly remembered the horrors of trying to get through a school day in a large high school without a visible accident. And this is a first-world country! My heart aches for those who cannot maintain normalcy during menstruation.

I made my first Sew Powerful purse in late 2015 and whined about every single step. I concluded it might just be easier to send money to Sew Powerful. But I stuck with it and did nine by the February 2016 deadline. And then? Hmm, I just took a break. What ended my break was a Facebook sew-a-long hosted by Louise Ambrosi from the UK in the summer of 2016. Since then, I have been cranking out purses, doing what I can when I can, and sharing the Sew Powerful mission.

We live in such uneasy and violent times, and I have never been more politically distressed. My solace is my faith and my sewing. This is a perfect time for me to be working on purses for Sew Powerful. We all sleep under the same stars.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

On Its Way to Oregon


Look how nicely this quilt turned out!  Quilty Eileen made a quilt from this pattern years ago - it's a clever way to make hexies without using Y seams.  I had a Layer Cake of the Moda Thrive fabrics and think it creates a pretty palette.  I didn't have quite enough but was able to fill with with fabrics from my stash.  As I made this quilt top, I loved it.  But then I fell out of love.  You know, one of those "Somebody's gonna love this quilt - it just won't be me."  

Because I no longer loved the quilt top, I wasn't going to bat it with wool. I used the Warm and Natural batting, perfectly fine - its just heavy.  I even tried to hand quilt it - after one vertical zig zag row I knew that was wrong.  So then I tried to machine-quilt the zig zag lines. Again, wrong.  So I just put it away.  

Fellow guild mate Susan Elster-Jones knows people in Oregon who lost everything in the September fires and put out a call for quilts.  And I volunteered this one.  Just simple straight-line quilting.  And check out the backing - I love it.

 That Susan is collecting and shipping quilts is so fabulous. I'm happy that this quilt will find an appreciative home.  Between finishing this quilt and shipping off 32 purses to Sew Powerful, I feel like I've removed two monkeys from my back.  On to a few more masks and then ? - see the previous post!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Project Dreams

I’m in the best space - purses are done for the time being, I just made a pile of masks, the studio is clean, I’m finishing a hand project and happy to be starting a new one, and I have several projects I’m excited to start.  

        This pattern caught my eye.  It’s similar to Interwoven, one that I made last year.  This pattern uses 2.5” strips instead of 1.5” strips.  It ought to go together nicely.  Below are the fabrics I want to use

The above jelly rolls are going to be a chevron quilt.  Eileen gave me the idea and shared her Mr. Domestic chevron design.  And then I found the picture here.  This design spreads the chevrons out, and I think that’s what I want.
This backpack design intrigues me.  I don’t need another backpack, but they are great for sewing that demands a lot of concentration, a perfect diversion from the current political scene.  I’m appalled by Trump and his GOP Enablers. See?  time for a back pack.

Last - and this is sad - I have a pattern for a Retreat Bag.  Even though there are no retreats scheduled.  But a girl can dream, right?

As I’ve said before, I have never been personally happier and never more unhappy politically.  These days leading up to the election will be very productive for me.