Monday, October 24, 2016

Building blocks

I love making quilt blocks, they are my foundation, so to speak. Combining fabrics & assembling them into blocks -- it is so much fun! I know I am not alone in this thinking. One can easily find stacks of un-assembled blocks at garage sale, estate sales, antique malls, any of our storage closets. A quilt block is an independent unit that, when combined with her sister blocks, will make a beautiful whole. I can't think of another creative process that has anything similar, do you?

I've got quite an array going on right now.

Wayward blogger

I am a few months away from the 6th anniversary of my blog.

I began my blog at the suggestion of my young friend, Bryanna. Back then, everyone & their pet hog had a blog, so I wanted one, too. A place to show what I was stitching on, share thoughts, get advice -- it sounded fun. And it was fun. I was brand new to social media & I immediately loved blogging. I have always been a shy, square-peg with self esteem issues, a combination that makes it very hard for me to make connections with people in real life. The semi-anonymity of writing & sharing under an assumed name was freeing.

What I did expect from my blog? I don't remember. It seemed many of the young quilting bloggers were managing to turn their blogs into book deals, fabric lines, fame, fortune. I suspect I wanted that. But, really, what a shy, square-peg with self esteem issues was going to do with fame & fortune, I don't know. Luckily, it never happened. Blogging through those hard years of my Mother's decline, death, was a real lifesaver. Then there was the sharing of things I was making -- somehow, in the whole Worldwide Web, I found similar thinking quilt-makers. I have gotten the kind of encouragement & support I never got at any guild. It has been a joy, because, better than fame & fortune, I found friends.

Now years have passed. My friend, Bry, has moved away, no longer quilts, no longer blogs, but I continue on. Well, sort of. My life is much simpler now, but I've gotten quite lazy, my posts are pretty rare. But I want to do better. I want to maintain the connections with friends-I've-never-met. So I am promising to check in more often, maybe just some pictures, a line or two. Enough to say "hi" & "thank you" to my friends.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Finally finished & on to new things

I quite literally let out a "WHOOP" when I finished the plum & gray quilt. (I don't know why, even though it seems a little pretentious, I feel compelled to name my quilts. This one I have dubbed "Rock the Casbah". The rich colors & the pattern make me think of Morocco. And then there is the memory of walking past my 3 or 4-year-old niece's room, she was in there playing with her dolls & singing "rock the casbah, rock the casbah". So, the plum & gray quilt is "Rock the Casbah".) Then I said a prayer to the goddess of quilts in transit & sent it on a journey to its owner.

It arrived safely & -- my Birthday Girl loved it. So pleased, so relieved. Her sister said the nicest thing, "it really is "her"". {happy sigh}

After that, there was a period of post-finish slump, that little let-down after something you have worked on long & hard is finally done. Then I started thinking about what is next. Of course, there are the WIPs/UFOs I pulled out as diversions while working on Rock the Casbah -- WIPs still, just a little farther along. And there are the new projects I began, also as diversions -- broken dishes with the 60s prints, hummingbirds with Cherrywood scraps, string blocks. But, something new, what could that be? Handwork, hand-sewing, has been on my mind. Appliqué? English paper piecing? Plain, old hand-piecing? Hmmm? Well, since moderation is not my strong suit, how about one of each? I was in the process of planning 2 queen-sized EEP quilts & a hand-pieced quilt & a big 4-block applique quilt, when I gave myself a shake & said, "hold your horses, Big Eyes, lets keep your focus small." So I am thinking of a 4-block applique (or maybe just one block, we'll see) with EEP hexagon flowers & a second project of hand-pieced bow ties. Those sound do-able!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

In the stars

Do you read your horoscope?

I do -- I don't guide my behavior or shape my decisions by what I read, it is just for entertainment, in fact, in 30 minutes I've usually forgotten what it said. That is, unless it has suggested doing something I wanted to do anyway: like, "Aquarians, you've been working too hard, take it easy today" or "Aquarians, how about a little indulgence today" or "Aquarians, an outing is what you need."

Then there was this one:

"You could be overwhelmed by everything you need to accomplish.
You might not be in the position to take a break, but you also can't say "no" to a great idea.
Give yourself the space to create more of what you want."

Well, the stars were clearly talking about my struggle with my niece's quilt & everything that has been trying to distract me from finishing it. I can't explain why that quilt has been such an uphill battle, nor why I let the least little thing distract me from it. I finished 2 other tops while working on it! I pulled out some of my oldest UFOs to putter with. And, of course, there were new distractions: a stack of 60s-era samples -- on my shelf for years, suddenly they needed to be sewn up, my box of string scraps that are becoming another milestone birthday quilt, Cherrywood scraps that seem perfect for hummingbird stars, etc, etc, etc.

In spite of the distractions, the plum & gray top WAS finished, the sandwich WAS basted &, after 30 or so hours, the quilting is DONE! I squared it & machined the binding on & am now doing the hand-sewing -- all with several weeks to spare!

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Quilty 196

The blocks for my version of Audrey's Quilty 365 are finished. Like cards, I dealt them out on my design floor. I tried not to fuss too much with them, but with the few stripes, the read-as-solids dots, the distinctive dots, the subtlety different backgrounds & all the different colors -- I did fuss quite a bit, trying to get everything spread evenly across the surface. As I am sure you will say, the second photo is a big improvement over the first.

You say you hardly see a difference?!?
Well, I guess I have to agree. But this is the final layout & baring any construction mishaps (arrrr! I switched rows 3 & 4!!! It's a disast -- wait a minute, I think this will work out even better) this is how my quilt will look.

I've never been one for hand-sewing, but I really enjoyed this project. I see more hand-sewing in my future -- I've been thinking about those old, 4-block appliqué quilts, maybe some English paper piecing, maybe more circles .......

Monday, June 20, 2016

The things we do for love

My oldest niece is having a Big Birthday this year.
When I saw her last, I asked, "Would you like a quilt?"
"Yes, please," she replied.
"Lap-sized or bed-sized?"
"A big one, please."

OK. So I asked her to send me a photo of her room, which she did -- a picture of an elegant room in plums & pale gray with silver accents -- it looked like something from a magazine!
Can I make a quilt that will be at home there!?!
Well, I will try.

I gathered a few plums & purples from my stash. I guess I am not a purple person, so some online & in-real-life shopping were necessary for a stack of 30-some prints & solids. Now for a pattern -- after much study, I settled on one out there these days on the interwebs: Wanta Fanta by Basically, it is a kaleidoscope-ish block & a snowball block; in combination, they make a pretty, overall pattern.

I had been sewing & sewing & not seeing much progress -- that is, until I did see progress. The pattern isn't hard, just a bit fussy. Now that the design is emerging, I am getting excited. It's kind of elegant!

As a sort of palette cleanser to the elegance, I pulled out a stack of wacky blocks my Grandmother made. She gave them to me long ago when I first got seriously interested in quilt-making. She finished only 2 quilts -- a flower garden -- Mom & Dad's wedding gift, now mine, & a wedding ring that my cousin has. Both are beautiful & beautifully made. This stack of plaid-on-plaid blocks are beautifully made, but beautiful? Not so much. Grandma was a refined farm woman, but these blocks are not refined! I wish I had asked what prompted her to make them. Anyway, rather than calming their loudness with a solid, I decided to turn them up a little more with some calicoes.

Monday, May 23, 2016

More dots and a new obsession

I think I am nearing the end of my Quilty 365. As my stacks of fabric squares & fabric circles shrink, the number of thimbles in my little sewing kit grows.

Thimbles -- I inherited a handful of utilitarian ones from my Mother & Grandmother; I keep them in a Depression glass sherbet bowl in my sewing room. Then one day, I was looking at Etsy & for a reason I cannot explain, I did a search of thimbles. A wealth of possibilities came up. One bunch caught my eye: a group of 63 from a seller in The Netherlands -- some utilitarian, some souvenirs of travel, some fine china. But these 6 sealed the deal -- 5 brass, 1 pewter, all with little delftware tops. This was the first of quite a few shipments from Etsy sellers that have arrived at my house.

Collecting is in my genes. Back in the day, Mom & I would go to the thrift stores & antique malls, each of us with our list of collections: elephants, interesting birds, wedding cake brides & grooms, cow creamers, butter pats, etc, etc. The hunt, the thrill of a find, the fun & companionship of the search -- such wonderful memories! But I rarely add to my collections anymore, it isn't as much fun going alone. I do sometimes look on Etsy or eBay, but it is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel -- the sport is gone. I doubt my thimble mania will last long, but for now, they are giving me pleasure. When we were emptying out Mom & Dad's house, my brother, 2 nieces & I could not absorb all of the collections that lived there. Some were put up for sale & I like to think of those things now being loved & enjoyed in another collector's collection. This is how I feel about the thimbles -- someone's tokens from travels, gifts, pretty purchases -- now living & being loved in my house.

Mom would understand.

Inspiring books

I've been building away at my towers of owls &, because I am a fickle quilter, getting a little bored with them.

I looked around my sewing room & pulled out a pair of my favorite books by Cherie House: City Quilts & Urban Quilts.

They are both pattern books, but Ms. House also writes about the process that went into creating her quilts. They are simple, elegant & really speak to me -- I love their graphic nature. She encourages looking at our surroundings & using the things we see everyday as inspiration for our patchwork.  I am pretty sure it was her voice in my head when I made my Downtown Foley's quilt. On this particular trip through her books, City Sky caught my eye. It looked like the perfect thing for all those early 1990s strips that had recently bubbled to the surface.

So, shifting gears, off I went, making a brand-new, 20-year-old quilt!

Let me be the first to say it -- this quilt is a little muddy & dull. The sky in my Gathering Storm quilt is what you might see before a hurricane -- the perfect thing as we are just a week away from the beginning of this year's season.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Quite contrary

Not long after I did my first Creatures in My Stash post, I was at an HMQG gathering. A group of us were chatting, when one of the young women in the chatting group said to me, "Oh, you're the one with the owls."
Was there actually a what-stinks look on her face or was it just in the tone of her voice?
Yes, sweetie, I am the one with the owls.

After that, this same person became in charge of the Guild's swaps & challenges & handed out a list of fabrics that were unacceptable for participation in them:

no batiks
no blenders
no reproductions
no novelties
nothing from the big box stores
etc, etc

Well, this freed up a lot of my time because, with my odd & old stash, I no longer felt welcome to participate in the swaps & challenges with my guild friends. It also made me really dig through my stash -- not to get rid of my offending fabrics, but to pull them out & try to use them in ways that Modern Quilters would not find so offensive. What began in a state of peevishness has turned out to be a whole lot of fun! I wish I could impress upon younger quilters what a thrill it is when a long-time member of one's stash comes together with some newer members & the combination makes all greater than themselves. Then there is the creative fun of trying to make something lovable from not-so-lovable fabrics -- it's easy to make something beautiful from beautiful fabrics, much more of a challenge using ones that are less than beautiful.

It isn't accurate to say I don't love the owls & browns (all from big box stores, not a single designer's name on any selvage) in this project, because I really do -- the chocolate-y browns & the big-eyed owls really make me happy. But somehow it had gotten sidetracked. I pulled it out early this year & have been building away at it. Then Shug said that he really likes it, could see it as a summer quilt on the bed. Well OK then. The quilt of undetermined size that I had been dabbling at now became a quilt of determined -- & quite large -- size that I was motivated to finish.
Time to get sewing!

p.s. Did you notice my new banner? I thought it was time for a fresh look. And my new "picture"? My avatar, if only I was as cute as her! It was recommended that I add an email update feature, useful since my blog posts have become pretty erratic & a translator, if English is not your first language or if you want to see if I make more sense in Urdu than in English.

Friday, March 04, 2016


I was intrigued by Audrey's quilt-along from the beginning.
First, was her block -- a circle appliquéd to a square -- simple & perfect.
Secondly, was the idea of making a small block everyday for a year. I loved the diary-like aspect of that! A small block, like all the other blocks, but each would reflect the day you had -- good or bad, bright or dull. Again, simple & perfect.

But my appliqué skills aren't the best & I was daunted by the idea of making a block every day for a year. Still, I wanted to play along. So when I began making plans for my trip to California, I thought the time was right for some handwork & I starting thinking about an abbreviated, non-diary version of Quilty 365.

I cut squares & prepared circles from a variety of dotty fabrics, gathered sewing materials into a little travel box & I was ready to go! While I was away from home I made 30-40 squares.

Also while I was away, I got sick. After I returned home, I spent nearly a whole week in bed -- stuffy head, congested chest, fever -- hand-sewing was all I had the energy for. When I ran out of block parts, I managed to cut more background squares & circles. Now that I am better, I am still enjoying making these blocks. I now have nearly 80 with a good deal more ready to go. I'm not sure how big this quilt will get. But for now I am having a very nice time.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


Two things:

First, I live in the city where one of the biggest quilt shows in the world happens every year. Because of this, I have become very lazy about seeing quilts elsewhere. Plane tickets? Booking a room? Eating in restaurants? Nah. If it involves more than a 45 minute drive, spending the day then coming home, eating at my table, sleeping in my bed, then I can't be bothered.

Secondly, I have known since Autumn of last year that, early in 2016 I would be traveling to California for work. I had been discussing with my hosts about when would be the best time, for them, for me. We finally settled on a time agreeable to both of us & I began to make plans to go -- a PO for plane tickets, gathering materials I would need while there, etc.

About a week before I was to leave, lines started connecting dots:
I was going to Pasadena, California. I would be there during the third week of February.
The third QuiltCon was to be out west somewhere, California, wasn't it?
Sometime in the second half of February?

Yes, I was going to be in Pasadena, CA the same week as QuiltCon!

I was busy with work most of the week, but Friday was carved out for a quick visit to QuiltCon & a quick tour of Pasadena. I don't think I've been through a quilt show faster! But I had time for a once-over of the juried quilts & the special exhibits. They had a display of Gwen Marston's quilts. It was nice to see quilts from her books up close & personal.

The other display was of Molly Upton's work from back to the early 1970s.
They were moving, stirring & inspiring. I will let them speak for themselves to you.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Fabric teaches a Lesson

Recently, my friend's friend passed away. I did not know her, but I understand that she was very creative. In her life, she had experimented with many different artistic media & had excelled at quite a few of them. Her studio was filled with the materials of her creative life. After her death, my friend volunteered to her friend's newly widowed husband, to help with the big task of clearing out the studio.

My friend's dining room was *filled* with her friend's fabric. She put out a call to her fellow quilters & to several church groups who sew for those in need. In spite of my over-full stash, the words "free fabric" had me in my car & headed to her house. I was amazed by what I saw! So much fabric! Fat quarters, small cuts, huge cuts. Cat fabric, Asian fabric (I came away with an Asian cat fabric), batiks, etc, etc, etc. There were zip bags filled with blocks & block parts. There was even tub filled with bandannas?

After several, round-eyed "oh my words!" on my part, I started thinking about how many plastic tubs would it take to contain *my* stash.
As many?

But the good news is that though my friend's friend will no longer enjoy her studio filled with color & inspiration, her fabric has found new homes & will be put to good use. I brought home a couple of bags of WIPs to make up for charity quilts. One was a bag of bright batik blocks which made two quick quilts -- one to give, one to keep.

I am still absorbing the lessons.
The first lesson I was: people with too much fabric should not throw rocks at others who have too much fabric. I know a very few people who only buy fabric when they need it. Me? I. Buy. Fabric. I buy fabric because I LOVE fabric. I have too much fabric & now I have a little more fabric.

The second lesson was this -- don't worry about having too much fabric. Yes, it will present a problem to who ever has the chore of cleaning out my sewing room, but the very good news is that quilters will love the fabric I loved & will do good things with it. This dear woman's beloved stash is now scattered over Houston being loved & doing good.

Happy mail days!

And a happy FedEx day!

My Pinterest Pal & I had been "chatting" about little quilts, when I realized that I never had a baby quilt. Turns out my Pinterest Pal hadn't one either. So we decided to make one for each other. For her, I put together the strips left over from my scrappy trip around. My gift recently arrived, & while not a baby quilt, it is even better! A charming pillow! And a bonus hot mitt & pincushion!

Then came a birthday remembrance from my dear Mrs. O'Quilts. They look like hot pads but what I see is love & creativity & strength.

And then the FedEx driver came! Red Bowties! Home again after more than a year! It was so beautifully wrapped -- tissue wrapped, tissue in the folds, I could not immediately un-do it. Pippa, always on the lookout for the new & comfy is enjoying it, as is.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Tree Lot

The tree is probably my favorite part of Christmas. Well, after gathering & sharing with family & friends, then the Christmas tree. I have been known to leave the tree up until springtime -- an artificial one, we quit having real ones after we realized we both were sneezing the whole time it was in the house. But because we often travel at the holidays, I don't always get to have a tree. This year was the second in row without one at chez Shug & smazoochie. I hung a wreath on the door, our stockings on the mantle, my old Christmas tree quilt on the wall & called the house decorated. Easy to clear away when the holiday was over, but not very cheery.

I began thinking about a another tree quilt in mid November. I love my first one, am looking at it now while I type, but I wanted to make another. This time I wanted more freely pieced trees. I thought & thought, looked at books, on Pinterest, watched Craftsy lessons. Finally, I went to the source: Gwen Marston's Liberated Quiltmaking. I pulled a mix of greens, old & new, then began making liberated geese. The trees grew quickly. While I sewed, I remembered tree shopping when I was very young. A guy with a semi-trailer full of trees would set up business on a vacant lot in my town -- the Tree Lot -- this is where my family would go to choose ours. While Mom, my brother & I looked for The Perfect Tree, Dad's input was a tree with a straight trunk. I don't remember a tree ever falling over in our house, but the straight trunk seemed a very big deal. Perhaps none of these trees would have passed his standard, but it was such pleasure making them & remembering those old times.

This quilt may hang until Spring.