Saturday, December 19, 2015

a finish & a greeting

I whipped up a little doll quilt for a super hero-loving grand niece who is expecting a special baby doll for Christmas. I have been enjoying watching Audrey's quilt along, wanting to join in, but haven't had much time with Holiday preparations. This quick little toe-test of the circle blocks have me wanting to make more -- next year.

Wishing all y'all a safe, warm, love-filled Holiday.
xxx, smazoochie

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Misses & Hits

There is a Modern Quilter whose lectures & lessons I listen to online. It seems like with every quilt of hers she uses as an example, she will exclaim, "I LOVE this quilt!" I find it a little off-putting. Does she really LOVE every quilt she has made? Is there nothing about any of them that she would change, do differently in the future?

There are quilts I have made that I had great expectations for -- perfect colors, perfect fabrics, perfect pattern -- but when they were finished, they just didn't hit the mark I was aiming for. Some are just off a bit, others not even close. As blogging quilters, we show our efforts out here on the Internets & our readers, our friends, will applaud them. Even when we say 'I don't like this' or 'I wish I hadn't done that', our readers & friends often say, oh no, it is beautiful just as it is. I do this myself. And when I do see something about someone else's quilt that I don't like or wish had been done differently, I don't say so. We seem to go by the If-You-Can't-Say-Anything-Nice-Don't-Say-Anything-At-All rule. So on Big Reveal posts, the comments are full of praise. I find that sometimes it gets hard not to believe all the praise, hard not to think, 'yes, smazoochie, another awesome quilt'.  But I try to keep my feet of clay firmly planted in reality.

Anyway, all this is leading to this quilt. It isn't often that I am so unabashedly pleased with something I've made. This quilt is not perfect, but I really don't think I would change anything about it. I LOVE this quilt! I don't say that about many of my quilts, just a few -- one more now!

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Proud, happy & thrilled

I began piecing this quilt more than 3 years ago; looking at my blog posts about it, I see I got the top put together in about a month. I basted it in the late Autumn of 2012, then began 3 years of quilting.

3 loooong years of quilting.

Not 3 constant years of quilting -- I would work diligently for a while, be overcome by the boring & tedious nature of the quilting I chose, then I would put it away for a month, a few months, a year. I finally got tired of the thing lying around & soldiered through. I put the last quilting stitch in a week ago today. After finishing, I would have Sworn an Oath that I would never quilt another quilt in that sort of dense, echoing way again.

But a week has passed & the memory of the boring tedium is fading.

Some time ago, after 2 failed attempts, I got to Hollis Chatelain's class at Quilt Festival, "Quilt Line as the Third Design Element." The only class supply we were to bring was an un-quilted top. Through the day of the class, the 25 or 30 of us would show our top, then with Hollis leading the discussion, we would talk about ideas of how to quilt it. I think after waiting years to get into this class, my expectations were pretty high. I suspect I was hoping for some sort of magic algorithm -- 
If This, Then This = Awesomely Quilted Quilt. 
Instead, through the day I heard Hollis ask the same set of questions to each of us. By early afternoon, I was sitting there like Peggy Lee wondering, Is That All There Is?

It has taken me this long to find the value in the questions Hollis asked each of us:

What is this quilt for?
What is your favorite thing about it?
What do you want to emphasize?
What do you want to achieve?

My Laura's Lightning is to be a utilitarian quilt; I really like the combination of fabrics, colors & I wanted to emphasize the zigzag streaks of lightning. I think I may have blundered onto the perfect quilting to achieve that. I am now hand-stitching the binding & am eager to pop it in the washer & dryer & get a good look at this quilt.

In other news, the chaos & mess in my sewing room has gotten SO BAD, trees are starting to grow!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Shame and Forgiveness

Before every Quilt Festival, I think about what I might be shopping for -- do I need anything? do I want anything? Quite literally, the whole world of quilting supplies will be coming to MY neighborhood! Of course, I know there will be impulse buys, the thing I Must Have! that I didn't even know existed, but I try to make a list. This year, I had thoughtfully decided to get very little fabric -- nothing I particularly wanted & certainly, nothing I needed.

After Festival was over, I awoke with a headache & was a bit disoriented. I was surrounded by teetering towers & enormous piles of cloth. I've read that when a person over-indulges in a behavior she intended not to do all, this can be a sign of addiction. I hardly knew how & when it happened -- but happen it did. I was truly embarrassed & a little ashamed.

Anyway, what did I get?

A fat quarter bundle of Lizzy House's mini pearl bracelets. I am such a sucker for bundles of all the color ways of a print -- put a bow on it & I am a goner. But don't I have an un-used bundle of her first pearl bracelets? Why, yes I do. Maybe they should come together, maybe using a Cherie House pattern!

10 pieces (!) of Anna Maria Horner's Loominous! They are so beautiful! The colors are like candy! They made me think of the Laura Ashley skirts & dresses I have cut up on my shelves.

Then, not one, not two, but THREE quilt kits!!! I mean -- SERIOUSLY!!! But there the quilts were, made up on the booth's wall, all pretty & everything. I crumpled. The coarse Daiwabo prints may become what they were packaged to become -- a simple medallion.

What if I skip the pattern & combine these others with things I already have?

Dots with Lonni Rossi?

Heavy Metal with a vintage print?

Quite a haul. After some introspection, I have decided to forgive myself. Simply put, I went on a bender. I'm not trying to excuse my behavior, rather to understand it. I think the reason for my spree may have been longs weeks of stressful work & no sewing. I have learned that when I can't sew -- I tend to shop. Now that I have some time & energy for sewing, the shopping should stop. :-}

Addendum: I had been working on this post for a while, but after the events of week's end, it seemed silly & frivolous. But I decided to go ahead with it. If every time something awful happened in the world, the latest display of how cruel people can be to each other, if every time this happened we stopped thinking about & doing things we enjoy & sharing with people who share our enjoyment, then there would be no pleasure in life at all.
Love one another.

Friday, November 13, 2015

That's better.

The weekend between my hectic work schedule & the arrival of our guests, I managed to make some time to spend in my sewing room. Boy, did it feel good to sit down in front of my sewing machine! You, my cohort, know how really necessary it is for us to stitch.

Because I was still a bit frayed from work & a bit preoccupied in anticipation of company; I wanted some simple sewing. So I pulled out two long-time standbys: the plus blocks made with my parents' shirts & the flying geese made with Goodwill men's dress shirts.

My plus blocks got set aside in the push to finish the quilts for my brother & nieces. After their quilts were done & my plus fatigue had worn off, I got out the parts for my blocks & have been using them as leaders & enders for about a year now. There weren't many left to finish, so it was an easy push to get this top done. Now I am waiting for a nice weekend day for some outdoor basting. Soon, I, too, will have a Reva + Lee quilt!

Then there are the geese. The 'problem' with them has been that I didn't know how big this quilt was going to be. In the past, when I was working one project or another, Shug would ask me how big it would be. I would answer, "As big as it gets, I guess." I wasn't trying to be difficult, it's just that sometimes a quilt's size has to reveal itself to me. This was the case with the geese. A small wall quilt or something big enough for a queen size bed? I had more than a dozen shirts, so large was very possible. And I so enjoyed making the geese & joining them together. At first, I was putting the geese up on my design door, but when it outgrew the door, I just began sewing & letting chance do the designing. Now it is a finished top, too.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

We now return to my regularly scheduled life.

My weeks of frenzied activity at work were followed by a half-week of intense & long-overdue cleaning at home. Then came the arrival of friends from overseas & 2 days at the Quilt Festival, followed by sight-seeing with the friends. Quilt Festival was fun. The exhibit hall was a mess -- construction inside & out, but that didn't hurt the beauty of the quilts. Inspiring -- and exhausting. The pedometer on my phone said I walked more than 13 miles over the days I was there. I didn't just walk, I also bought an insane amount of fabric. Trainers, forget the medicine balls & free weights, do you know how heavy fabric is!?! I'll say I bought the fabric to increase the efficacy of my walking workout.
You're buying this, right?
Well, I can't tell you why I bought so much fabric. 'Because it was there' is the best I can come up with. Alluring stacks & bundles of pretty colors, all now trying to find a place in my bursting stash.

I also got another quilt top -- very cute & cheap -- my main criteria for vintage quilts & tops. A bright, cheery wagon wheel made in the late 50s to early 60s. It is small & I am thinking of finishing it up with big-stitch hand quilting. Across the aisle from my cute, cheap top was a finished quilt that was beautiful & not exactly cheap. It was slightly older than my top, probably mid-50s, a log cabin all made in cotton sateen solids with a few sateen prints added in, hand-pieced & hand-quilted. With the seller's permission, I took some photos, hoping images of this beguiling quilt would be enough. But I kept finding myself in the neighborhood -- just visiting, you know, admiring it. Then I found myself asking the seller if she would take any less.

Now, a chance to catch my breath. And to enjoy my purchases.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


I know you know about Pinterest. Maybe you have your own pin boards or maybe you do like I did, lurk & look at the boards of others. I was resistant to starting my own -- I knew what an enormous time-suck Pinterest can be. I could imagine sitting down with my morning coffee, checking in to see what was new; the next thing I would realize would be that my coffee was cold, my feet were asleep & the sun was setting. But I succumbed & drank the Pinterest kool aid (you can find the recipe on Pinterest!). At first, it was almost as bad as I had imagined -- I never actually wasted the *entire* day, but I certainly squandered quite a few hours. I had no idea about the social aspect of Pinterest -- a pinner can send pins to friends, chat, comment, etc. Then there is the curiosity of finding someone, a stranger, whose tastes are very similar to your own & wondering, "Would I like this person? Would this person like me?"


Work has been keeping me from what I love -- no cutting, no piecing, no quilting. I've hardly sewn a stitch in weeks. I get home physically spent. Evenings, I eat some dinner (thanks, Shug!), then sit in front of the television & scroll through Pinterest. Scrolling one evening, I saw a charming, scrappy plaid quilt & pinned it to my "I want to make that" board. A few days later, a Pin Pal commented on it, which caused me to look again & more closely at it. Yes, it really was glorious! The source of the pin was eBay, so I clicked through to see more details. There it was, a buy-it-now listing & a really good price. A few clicks more & about a week later, this glorious quilt was mine!

As always, I wish this quilt could talk. The fabrics are old but the quilt is brand new -- never used, never washed. At first, I wondered if it had been recently finished with true-to-the-era backing & binding. There are a few fabrics in the patchwork that make me scratch my head, like the larger-scale florals & a neon orange, but most are clearly from the early 20th century. It is pieced & quilted by hand; the quilting is simple straight lines in one direction -- except on two opposite sides, in a of row of blocks, there is perpendicular quilting. The backing is four plain feed sacks machine-stitched together & here are where the "problems" are: several dark, smeary stains. Blood? Did these stains spoil the quilt for the maker, leaving it unfinished, unused?

All I can do is wonder & fall passionately in love with this glorious quilt!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Be careful what you look for --

In my stash, you may not find what you were seeking but you will find something.

I recently found these -- a mass of eighth yard strips from the early 1990s when I was working in a quilt shop. At the time I really wanted to make a Joen Wolfrom-style landscape quilt. I looks like I collected a piece from nearly everything in the store! But like many of my best laid project plans, this one didn't get made. (When I think of all the classes taught by quilters I admired that I have taken over the years! Wasted money & effort? Well, no, I don't think so. They helped me to find out who I am -- & who I am not -- as a quilter.) But now here are dozens of fabrics sure to get me banned for life from the Modern Quilt Guild! They are kind of pretty & really do represent an era. A strip or string quilt seems obvious, so I am gathering ideas & putting these on the back burner to simmer for a while.

In the meantime ....

I got some good comments about whether a quilt should coordinate with the bedroom. For my sailboat pluses, the suggestion was to add some of our room color into it -- brick-y reds to all the blue. A splash of complementary color is always a good idea & since the suggestion sort of gave me permission to shop, that's what I decided to do!

As I waited for my ordered fabrics to arrive, I took the sailboats down from my design door, then, because I can't look at an empty design door, I started playing with another fabric stack that had bubbled to the top -- romantic & sweet (maybe a bit saccharine) florals in very girly, rosy reds & blush pinks -- almost the opposite of the blue sailboats.

For a while now, I've been obsessing over chunky, strippy medallion quilts. I want to do something of this sort with the fabrics from my & Mom's dresses. I thought a test run with fabrics considerably less dear would be helpful. So here I go. The center is a vintage pillow cover I got from Etsy; most of the florals are half yard pieces from big box stores & quilt shops. There are few fat quarters, an inherited plaid, a piece of real French toile, kittens, butterflies, gingham. I'm having fun!

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Collaborating with a friend

This was a new experience for me -- working with someone to make a quilt for someone else.

I think it was Wrongturn Rojas' idea to make something with Anna Maria Horner's feathers (very generously available for free on her web site) for our mutual friend. I said we could go through my batiks for some bright blues & greens suggesting macaw feathers. We got together one day to sew. Because of the odd angles & shapes, the blocks were a little tricky to sew, but we soon had *almost* enough feathers for a quilt. Then we ran out of our background fabric! What to do?!?! How about adding a different background with some red feathers! Problem solved!

We texted back & forth one Saturday morning deciding on layout. Wrongturn assembled the blocks -- she did a BEAUTIFUL job, let me add (I would have been very casual about matching feather shafts & corner seams). We met at a fabric store & found the perfect fabrics for a border & binding. Because she put it together so well, it was super easy for me to quilt -- my go-to wiggle stitch again. Back to Wrongturn for binding; back to me for washing & a photo session.

Voila! We are both very happy with our quilt & very eager to give it to our friend!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Siren's call

I've been spending quite a bit of time sitting at my sewing machine finishing up several quilts. When I am piecing, I can watch or listen to things, but quilting requires my full attention & silence. In the silence, I think -- life stuff, work stuff, what's for dinner & -- my beckoning stacks of fabric.

One beckoning stack of fabric resolved itself while I was quilting. Sailboats & sea-ish, marine-ish go-withs. The sailboats are mostly scraps from shirts I've made for Shug -- the shirts have all been various levels of, I won't say failure, maybe non-success?, all either too small or too short. Anyway, I had been thinking of another no-plan outing with free-cutting & free-piecing. But the shipshape nature of these prints seemed to want to be more ordered.

And because I had not lashed myself to the mast, I heeded their siren's call.
Why not add another plus quilt to my oeuvre!

And here is a question for you: you've heard the saying "art doesn't have to match your sofa"?
Well, does your quilt need to match your bedroom decor?
Shug's & my room has terracotta-colored walls. The furniture is a jumble of Mission-style & inherited family things all with a patina of cat damage. Will this quilt "go" with our room?
I would love to hear your thoughts!

Quilt of Shame

My brother & his wife were married 12 years ago. They married almost exactly 8 months after my brother's & my Dad died. My sister-in-law-to-be had already been a part of the family for a while then; she was there with us through Dad's diagnosis, treatment, death & had been a support to all of us. Their wedding felt like a family renewal, so I wanted to make something special for them.

A wedding ring quilt, right?!?

But a cheater sort of wedding ring -- the ring arcs appliqu├ęd on to squares. No problem! The finished top was gifted to them at their rehearsal dinner.

Then came twelve years of quilting.
Not literally, of course -- twelve years more-off-than-on quilting.

I am such a better &, more importantly, a smarter quilt maker now. I know my strengths & I know my weaknesses. This quilt was waaaay more quilt than I could handle back then. But as I got smarter in the following years, when I would pull this quilt out to work on, all I could see were its flaws.
Well, it is done now. It looks a bit dated (12 years, approximately). It will soon be with its rightful -- & patient -- owners.

Monday, August 31, 2015


My finished quilts kicked it up a notch -- from 1 to 7!

A mini & a lap-sized, made with on-hand parts were shipped to new owners before I made photos. Here's one in its new home.  A big quilty hug to you, Mrs. O'Quilts.

Besides the massive amount of quilting on the hummingbird stars, I also added some perle cotton ties. I mentioned before how the block edges are all on the bias & these edges are where the heavy quilting *isn't*. So to keep the quilt from looking like a Jonathan Adler vase, I tied the block corners.

The Pop Art nail polish bottles are done -- quick & cute.

And a jelly roll race -- not completely done, binding is on & hand-sewing is in progress.

In the not-ready-to-count-as-finished-but-nearly-so category are these: I got another 2 bands of Laura's Lightning quilted -- it's another with dense, time-taking quilting -- much more to go, so please stay tuned.

Then there is my Quilt of Shame -- a wedding present? -- 12 years late! UGH! I am hanging my head. My reason -- not my excuse! -- was that the quilt was at the edge of my abilities when I began it sooooo long ago. Materials & my equipment were different back then. The all-cotton batting helped reduce -- but not eliminate -- the number of tucks on the backside but also made the huge thing weigh a TON.  Free-motioning it on my dear Bernina was hard. The deeper throat-space on the Brother is making it much simpler. The "bride & groom" will get this quilt before the year is out!