CHQuilts: 2023

Friday, August 11, 2023

Operation Sewing Studio

I have a new focus, a new way to use whatever energy I can muster at my age. I’m calling it Operation Sewing Studio.

For the last eight years, I have been caring for my husband John who had been ill for eight years. Disabled, he spent most of his time either in bed or in a power chair. Sadly, he passed away a few months ago.

During that time, I managed to steal away an hour here or an hour there for my own kind of mental health therapy – quilting. I could not have gotten through those years without it.

“Idle hands are the devil’s playthings,” said Benjamin Franklin. While I don’t personally believe in a devil, the quote is certainly not lost on me. I have spent my life working with my hands, mostly in the form of knitting and crocheting. Not only have some lovely pieces come out of my efforts, but I know of no better way to organize my thoughts, contemplate new ideas, reminisce about days gone by, and even dream about things to come.

I started quilting about 25 years ago, inspired by local quilt shows and meeting quilters who had already fallen in love with their craft. I was amazed that quilting embodied so much more than a two-colored log cabin bed covering or other traditional patterns I had seen over the years. I realized that the sky was the limit to what could be created. I’m not there yet. I haven’t yet tapped into my own creativity. I may never get there, but I will always consider that there are no limitations besides those I place upon myself. Even if I never become a quilt designer, I still see so much value in the art itself. I may remain content in the cutting and stitching of fabric into something warm, wonderful, and beautiful that somebody else designed.

When John got sick, I had already made several quilts. I decided many years ago that I would always be a quilter. I realized early on that there is no end to the challenge, skill, creativity, and absolute joy it brings to work with beautiful fabrics in every array of colors imaginable.

Whether I take my quilting to the next level, whether it is creative or if I use this medium to carve out a living I still believe I will always be a quilter.

I have made the decision to move from my small quilting area – a breakfast counter overlooking the backyard – to a spare bedroom that was in need of an update anyway. I am turning a spare bedroom into a sewing studio – a place I plan to spend lots of time in the coming days.

So far, I have purchased a new sewing machine, a Janome Skyline S5, which is just perfect for my current needs. I have ordered a sewing table in which to put it. The room will be painted periwinkle blue, a color named for a Doris Day song my late father loved. New vinyl wood planking will replace the worn out carpet that has definitely seen better days. And I have ordered a Day Bed with a trundle for when visitors come or if the cats want to hang out while I sew.  

My view will be the front yard instead of the back. And, I’m hoping the old breakfast counter will hold lots of plants in that south-facing window. These changes already make me happy, and they are still only in the planning stages. But that’s OK. Once things are all in place, who knows where my quilting life will take me. As my favorite newsie says, "Watch this space."

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Homeward Bound is a fun project so far

My latest quilt project actually began in January; it is a Block of the Month (BOM) originating from The Quilt Show, free to Star members. I am proud to participate in the Quilt Show, a valuable resource for quilters. I learn new things every time I sign on.

This quilt is called Homeward Bound and was designed by Australian designer and teacher Sarah Fielke. 

While I have completed four months of this project, I have embarked on a bit of a lull at the moment, having completed my 4th month. I couldn't wait to create the fourth month Coneflowers, so I created my own pattern for them in the 3rd month without waiting for the official pattern. That left the whole month of April free for yard work and other chores that often take a back seat to my love of quilting.

I believe this quilt top will be gorgeous when it is done, many, months from now. 

As is typical for me, I decided to make this my own by choosing fabrics and colors from my own fabric stash rather than purchasing the kit that was offered. Tweaking colors is about as daring as I've ever been to quilt design—which is not very far at all. That is my goal and desire; I want to design my own quilts someday but I feel I have lots more to learn before I get there. At the very least, I enjoy the option to take a pattern I like and adapt it to my own taste through the fabrics and colors I use.

My first decision was to make this quilt with a dark background. I have never made a black quilt before, but thought this might be a worthwhile endeavor as well as fun for a change. All the other fabrics I will use will showcase my favorite colors and patterns; I will use fabrics I have collected over the years. Picking out fabric is an important first step, one over which I often agonize.

With so many small pieces to applique, this might even be considered a scrappy quilt. Quilters always have plenty of scraps to choose from.

I love handwork with a preference for needle-turn applique. I am far from perfecting this skill, so I plan to keep practicing. This project will provide plenty of that.

This is the progress I have made thus far on this project in this, the fourth month. 

This is the progress I have made thus far on this project in this, the fourth month.

I find myself watching the calendar for the next step. I can't wait to get started on it. I can’t wait to see what May has to offer.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

I make quilts, but for now, they aren't for sale

My quilt inventory keeps growing. For some, this might be a problem, but not for me. Seeing quilts all around me makes me happy. When I look at them, I remember working on them as well as the techniques I learned while making them. I like seeing colorful quilts on the back of chairs, couches, hanging on doors, and on display wherever I can place them. 

I recently purchased a ladder on which to display several of my favorite quilts all in one place. 

Oh wait, they are all my favorites!

Ironically, I do not have a quilt covering my bed. I do however have one folded neatly at the foot of the bed. I also have one hanging from a rack on the wall, above, and another quilt rack on the floor that holds the first quilt I ever made and a couple that my husband inherited.

I have been asked many times if I would ever consider selling them, but I just can't. Only on rare occasions have I given some away, but only to family members. I have never been commissioned to make a quilt. 

I have made many different small projects to give away as gifts but I have nearly all the quilts I've made in the last 20 years. None are "put away." They are all out in plain site, which is just how I like it.

For me, quilting is a quest, a project, a challenge, a skill, an art, a learning experience, and therapy; quilting is basically a highly personal endeavor that takes a year or more to complete. There is no way to put a price on that. 

I truly love the process of making a quilt. From choosing the colors and selecting fabric to hand or machine quilting, to hand-sewing the binding to washing the finished product, I do every step of the quilting process myself. I don't employ long-arm quilters. I don't just piece a quilt and then pay someone else to quilt it. I love all that goes into making a quilt and revel in all the many steps it takes from start to finish. 

The only possible exception to that is putting the quilt top together with batting and backing and securing it through some sort of basting to get it ready for the quilting. Because of my limited space, basting is not an easy task and one I'm not too fond of. But once the quilt is sandwiched together, I am back to loving every stitch, whether it be by hand or machine. I love both methods.

I don't quilt when I have the time so much as I make the time to quilt.   

I don't have as much time to devote to quilting as I would like, but I steal away hours here and there.

For the past eight years, I have been the sole caregiver for my husband who is disabled. I do all the chores around the house and in the yard, all the cooking and cleaning and take care of our three inside cats and feed our three outside cats. I do not have much spare time, but when I do, it often involves quilting. If I'm not sewing myself, sometimes I just watch other people sew on You Tube or my favorite quilting sites. Quilting is my obsession.

All this said, I can see a time when I may want to make quilts to sell. It just hasn't happened yet because the challenge is what inspires me the most. I guess that is because I am still learning, still trying to perfect my skills, and most importantly, still challenging myself. But I am getting there. Some day I may go into the quilting business, but for right now I am content with the way things are. There are still so many techniques I want to try and traditional patterns I want to make.

I don't have a quilting studio, so any business I would undertake would have to be limited. I basically have a breakfast bar that I've converted into my quilting space. I've written about my space in the past. It is very small, but it works for me. There is a place for my sewing machine, as well as a cutting and pressing area. What more could a girl ask for? I've machine quilted large quilts there quite handily. The only drawback to a small space is that it must be tidied often. I am limited to one project at a time because there just isn't room for more. That is OK too, since one of the other things I love is all the organization necessary to keep my space functional. I use baskets, cubbies, jars, and whatever else I can come up with for organizing the myriad tools and multitude of what-nots that are necessary for quiltmaking. 

So, for now, I have no interest in turning my obsession into a business, but stay tuned, because who knows what the future will bring.