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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Is anything better than finishing a quilt?

CHQuilts: Jeff's baby quilt
For the first time since 2015, I can proudly say I finished a quilt. It feels good!

Oh, I have done a couple of small projects since then, some seasonal table runners and pillows, but my last actual finished quilt was my pink flamingo quilt in July 2015. I loved that quilt. And now I love this baby quilt, lovingly created for our nephew and his wife’s first baby.

This was so much more than a gift for a new baby. It was a gift to me as well, a breakthrough, a therapeutic sense of freedom. I needed to get back into the activity I loved—quilting.

When my husband had a stroke a couple of years ago, our lives changed forever. I became a care giver. Between that and daily chores—both his and mine—as well as seemingly continuous doctor and therapy visits, there wasn’t much time for leisure activities. But, we’ve settled into a bit of a routine now. I found myself longing to return to the activity I loved. I still have so much to learn. I have barely scratched the surface in the past 20 years of my quilt making. Besides, I am the kind of person for whom it is just no big deal to leave a sink full of dirty dishes if there is quilting to be done. I know those dishes will wait for me. Same holds true with the vacuuming, laundry, scooping kitty litter, taking out the garbage, cutting the grass, and all the other things that need to be done. I consider life to be a constant re-evaluation of ever-changing priorities. And for me, quilting is toward the top of the list. There are times when other things take precedence, but that is the beauty of flexibility. Basically, my philosophy is to do whatever moves me at the time. There are of courses exceptions, but hopefully, those have subsided for a while.

I enjoyed making this Lemoyne Star quilt. From what I can see, all the white on white fabric is right side up, any seams are in-tact, although I did have to repair a couple that didn’t quite catch the fabric in the flange area, the points haven’t been chopped off, and the quilting looks pretty decent overall. I’m happy with it and will be proud to give it away.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Quilting is not like riding a bike

Lemoyne star
My 8-pointed Lemoyne Star

When I decided to get back to quilting, I figured I’d dust off my sewing machine and with little effort could commence to creating my next masterpiece. I soon found out it wasn’t that simple. I realized that quilting requires not just experience, but practice. It isn’t as easy as it looks, or as easy as it used to be. Taking a hiatus left me (seamingly) skill-less.

My first project would be a baby quilt, using six Lemoyne Star blocks, some sashing, perhaps cornerstones, and borders.

Normally I like all the aspects of quiltmaking, from fabric selection to precision cutting to piecing, to quilting, and finally binding.

With rotary cutter in hand, I started cutting out all the pieces of fabric I’d need. That went pretty well. Then I set out to sew them together. Wow, why did I start with an 8-point star? What would have been wrong with a nice simple design that didn’t include y-seams and points to match, and triangles on the bias. Yikes! What did I get myself into?

I set out to watch some You Tube videos on making the star. Alex Anderson of one of my personal heroes, had a great on-line tutorial. I watched it, but when I got ready to make the blocks, I couldn’t find it again. Edyta Sitar had a great tutorial, at and so did Jaye Lapachet from her blog at

Looked easy enough. When I set out to make my blocks, it wasn’t as easy as it looked. I had made Y-seams before with little trouble, but coming back from a two-year hiatus, quilting was like a new activity. My experience meant nothing. It wasn’t like riding a bike, where you just get back on and the balance, the peddling, and the steering all works again. I was taken aback at how difficult it was to manipulate the fabric so as to not have puckers and to get the blocks to lay flat. The best advice I can give when making these blocks with a Y-seam is do not sew into the seam allowance.

Lemoyne star baby quilt blocks
Lemoyne Star baby quilt blocks
The first day I made two blocks. Yes, there was some seam ripping, and some interesting language emanating from my quilting space, but I managed to get them done. The second day I made two more. Then the third day, I made the final two. It got easier as it went. The points match pretty well. The blocks lay flat, with the help of some spray starch and a very hot iron.

I probably used all the methods in the aforementioned tutorials when creating the blocks, so on the back of the piece, my seams don’t all go in the same direction. I may have some problem with that when I go to quilt the piece, but I will try to remember that. Once I get to the quilting, I'm sure that is a brand new skill to learn as well. 

All in all, I think the blocks look pretty good. I predict this will be a fine baby quilt. At least I hope so.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

I’m back; Once again, I can call myself a quilter

This pile of fabric will soon become a baby quilt

Once I finally made up my mind that no matter what, I was going to return to my beloved quilting, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. It had been a couple years since I did any serious quilting. But when my husband got sick and I became his full time caretaker, there was no longer time for quilting. I was pretty busy running to doctors, physical therapists, and doing my chores and those he used to do. But, I needed to quilt. I had to make time for my favorite thing. Besides, quilting is good therapy.

I wasn’t sure what my first project would be. I have a couple of things started—a Dresden Plate quilt top that is finished—maybe—and just needs to be quilted. I have to decide if I want to leave it as is—square, or if I want to make another row of Dresdens to make it rectangular. That is my preferred option, but I’m not sure I have enough fabric for the sashing and borders. I have a 12-block Block of the Month calendar quilt top, but it is so busy with so many colors and patterns that I really never decided how I wanted to finish it. Just adding backing and batting would create a really small quilt. That may be alright, but I haven’t decided what to do as yet. I also have my Ginny Beyer hand-sewn quilt kit that I had been working on, but I'm not in the mood for that. To me, hand sewing is best for sitting in front of the television. But therapy is what I’m after; I want to retreat to a place in the far reaches of my brain and completely lose myself there. I probably could have started my return to quilting sooner, but the uncertainty of these projects caused me some anxiety. That was definitely not what I was after, so,...

Then I learned that a family member was going to have a baby. Perfect. I would start a new project—a baby quilt. I could complete a new baby quilt in a much shorter time than a full sized quilt. And I love finishing projects. My psyche is happier already.

I looked online for a pattern I liked, but nothing really spoke to me. So, I decided to check out my Electric Quilt software program. Of course, it no longer worked since my computer upgraded to Windows 10. Have I mentioned that I hate Windows 10? The support folks at Electric Quilt were wonderful and solved my problem by sending me a new, upgrade. It works like a champ now. Good support people are the best!

Finally, I decided I'd piece a quilt using quilt blocks. I like the traditional look of a simple quilt. I chose the Lemoyne Star, a 4-color 8-pointed star. I’d make 12” blocks; two across and three down, with sashing and borders. I chose some fabric from my newly-organized stash, picking out a pretty yellow, green, lavender, and pink. I even found a small flower print that had all those colors in it. Perfect. I can't wait to get started.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Taking my first steps back to quilting

fabric stash 

My quilting has definitely been on hiatus of late. When my husband became ill two years ago, I just didn’t have the time for leisurely activities or creative expression, both of which I consider quilting to be.

Between trips to doctors, supervising his exercises, along with the his, mine, and ours chores, not to mention the exhaustion factor, I just couldn’t find the time or concentration to quilt.

Either things are settling down or I’m becoming really efficient at my routine, but quilting is regaining a focus in my life. I still don’t have much spare time to actually sit down at my sewing machine, but my love of quilting is at least working its way back into my thoughts. That is a start. I have begun catching up on the latest quilting videos, and started organizing my fabric and my quilting space.

I recently purchased a couple of cube shelves for my bedroom. I don’t quilt there, but that is where I have some room to store my fabric. I also bought some comic book boards. One day I dragged out my ironing board, turned on some music and began pressing and winding the fabric around the boards. They stacked so neatly. I placed them into the cubes, assorted by color. My fabric now looks so neat and organized. I can see what I have, determine what colors I have or need to purchase for a project. This is an ideal solution for me.

I saw this done online somewhere. I wish I remembered where, or by whom because I would love to thank them for the idea. This is a fantastic organizational method for storing fabric. It works great. I used to keep my stash in a couple of deep tubs in my closet. I could never find what I was looking for, so I moved it to under-the-bed storage containers. That wasn’t ideal either. The containers were bulging and the lids no longer fit.

I have such a variety of sizes, but this method still works. When I started collecting fabric, I generally just bought fat quarters. It didn’t take long before I realized that wasn’t enough for most projects, so I moved up to half yard pieces and then to a yard or two.

Quilters often ask others how much fabric they buy for their stash. The answers are as varied as quilts themselves. I remain very frugal, so I generally buy a yard just of what I like. If it is something I really love, I will buy two yards. If I am gaga over it, I’ll even buy more.

I recently redecorated my room. On one small wall, between the master bath and a closet, I decided to place my fabric cubes. Above them, I hung what used to be a pot rack turned quilt rack. I hung one of my favorite quilts from it. I added a few other quilty things. This tiny area of my room looks like a quilting studio. Ah, something to dream about.

All this is a sign of my strong desire to find my way back to my sewing machine and my next quilting project. For now, I’ll just have to ponder what that next project will be. I can't wait to find out...

Monday, February 8, 2016

Pillow talk

I have finally finished a project that wraps up my recent Craftsy Class--Quick Strip Paper Piecing. I've really enjoyed this class, taught by Peggy Martin. This project is a pillow using Martin's New York Beauty Block. 
This is the completed pillow, both from the front and the back. It is pretty heavily quilted, and I enjoyed every minute of it.


Story behind the project

I really wanted to make a pillow. I had an old pillow--a very old pillow in fact--that I wanted to transform from a hugging pillow to a decorative pillow. For years, I have had this really comfy feather pillow. I've washed it, vacuumed it, hugged it, and more often than not, thrown it around in my sleep,...The poor thing was once a king-sized pillow, but due to its age, and feather loss, it was reduced to half its size.

One day when I was making the bed, I decided to fold the pillow case in half around my favorite pillow. What used to require a large king-sized pillow case was now reduced to half of a standard one. And they say people shrink when they get older!

That got me thinking. As much as I loved hugging this pillow, it was time to re-purpose it into something pretty. When I saw Peggy Martin's New York Beauty pattern, I knew this was my answer. The bedroom is decorated with sunflowers. I just love the yellow and orange tones of these smiley-faced flowers. I also love the sun shapes, such as those seen on CBS Sunday morning. I'm so drawn by those pleasant shapes that make up the beautiful star that shines on us and sustains us each and every day.

It took a little while because I don't have the time to quilt as much as I'd like these days, but I finally finished my pillow. I can't imagine making a whole quilt in this pattern, because I just don't have the time. But I know that if I did, it would be a real spectacle. I love the pattern. I love Martin's technique. And I love my new pillow.

Here's what it looks like on the bed surrounded by all the other flowery projects I've loved doing over the years. It matches my big sunflower, a painting I did in a class several years ago which remains one of my favorites. Now, if only I could get my act together and paint these walls yellow. I've been wanting to do this for years and just not yet gotten around to it. One of these days,...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

UFOs are starting to fill my world

Up until now I've been pretty good at keeping my UFOs (UnFinished Objects) to a minimum. It seems I just can't contain myself though. There are so many quilts I want to make and so many new techniques I want to try. Neither my hands nor the hours in the day can keep up with all my desires.

Since this is the first month in a new year, and I have warmed up my blogging chair a little, this might be as good a place as any to take a little inventory.

First, there is the above pictured Dresden Plate quilt top that needs to be quilted. initially I wanted to free motion quilt this, but it might be nice to quilt it by hand. It has been a while since I've done that and it might be nice to get back to basics with this classic Dresden design. Or, I could do a combination of both free-motion quilting and hand-quilting. Until I get it put together with backing and batting, I won't really know.

I still have Christmas fabric sitting next to my sewing machine, just begging me to cut it up into pieces, to be sewn together. It might be nice to get ahead of the game for a change.

I still have one more project to do from my recent Craftsy class, Quick Strip Paper Piecing. I have to try my hand at Peggy Martin's New York Beauty blocks.

I even have a calendar quilt top, one with a different block for each month, that I started a few years ago. It was a Block of the Month (BOM) project, probably my first. Kasey seems to like it, which is incentive enough to turn it into something lovely.

I liked making BOMs so much that I was hooked and have done several more since. This quilt is very busy with lots of different colors. I have actually been thinking about this one a lot lately. It is a lap size quilt at the moment, but there is no reason I couldn't add a border to it, or even several borders. I think it would make a really lovely quilt when it is all finished. I would like to put it together and perhaps quilt it on the machine. It would be very challenging to come up with quilt designs for all twelve of these very diverse blocks.

There is the Jinny Beyer quilt kit from Jinny's Craftsy class--the 2015 BOM--that remains in the plastic sleeve it came in. I look at it every night, as it sits on a table in my room. I have been waiting for a large block of time to start on this one, but haven't found that yet. This one will be special, as Jinny is another one of my quilting heroes. She is such an incredibly talented quilter and lovely woman who I have related to since the first days I saw her on Simply Quilts, many years ago.

I now have one more thing to add. Craftsy has another BOM for 2016. It is taught by Lynette Jensen, another quilting icon. I really like this quilt and have decided that if at all possible, I'd like to make it. It starts out with a medallion-like center filled with hourglass blocks. It is done with borders and includes a pretty applique border.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Quilting is my therapy; needed it recently

Quilting is not just a challenge for me; it is also a respite that is vitally important to my well-being. I'm anxious to return to it when time permits.

I've been 'away' from blogging, and from quilting for awhile, since just days before Thanksgiving, when my husband John, who has been slowly recovering from a stroke a year ago, passed out and fell backwards, hitting his head hard on the floor. We suspect he was suffering from low blood pressure.

He was unconscious for a short time and remembers none of it, which is probably a blessing. I called 911 and followed the paramedics to the hospital. Tests revealed that he had a brain bleed, which is being considered another stroke, so they decided to transport him via helicopter to another hospital, in a neighboring state, where there was an available neurosurgeon standing by if necessary. The hospital was more than two hours away. I went the next morning and stayed one night with him, but had things to tend to at home. We stayed in close contact.

Sadly, all of the progress John had made in the last year was gone, and even exacerbated with this latest incident. His had no mobility on his entire right side.

John stayed in the hospital for a few days and was transferred to a rehabilitation center for in-hospital rehab. He's home now and receives at home therapy three times per week as he struggles to regain his mobility in his hand, arm, leg, and foot. I've resumed my caretaker responsibilities which doesn't leave much idle time. I've taken to reading, while he takes an afternoon nap, since it isn't long enough to get "into" a quilting project.

Quilting isn't far from my mind though, as I do steal away some moments when I can, to watch quilting videos and ponder current and future projects.

Between visits, while John was in the hospital, I spent an entire day satisfying my own mental health needs, as I worked on a project from the Craftsy class I mentioned previously, Quick strip paper piecing with Peggy Martin.

I love how this Christmas table topper turned out. It is about 22" square.

It is from Peggy Martin's 'Sailor's Delight' pattern. It just screamed Christmas to me.

I wanted to do more of these, perhaps make Christmas gifts, but we didn't get around to celebrating this year.

This piece was great fun though and was so much easier than it looks.

I've decided I may not be finished with this pattern yet. I'm not going to store my Christmas fabrics just yet, just in case I get some free time.