Quilter Missing In Action

Quilter MIA

Wow.  Have a Giveaway and then go AWOL (*Absent Without Leave*).  Where have I been?  Grading.  Prepping.  It’s about this time of year that I can just feel the end of the semester looking around the corner, and I go wonkers writing the weekly blog posts and printing off assignments, and writing tests, just wanting it all to be done.  But I haven’t been totally inactive.  Here’s my QMIA (*Quilter Missing In Action*) report:

Binding for AWAT2

Cut and pressed about 45 miles of double binding for the Amish With A Twist – 2 quilt.  It’s still hanging out on the ironing board, waiting for me.  (I seemed to have been passed over by the binding fairies somehow.)

April 2014 ABL block

Always Bee Learning quilt block for April, with an ogee pattern.  I thought I laid it out as best I could (in this bee, we receive our fabrics and then stitch up the block), but I feel like I could have done better if I’d been able to slip in some of my stash to get a better distribution of colors, as I don’t want to disappoint her. I do hope the quilter is happy with it, but I’ll gladly do another if she’s not.  I finally got out the Curve Master foot that my friend Rhonda told me about, lo these many years ago, and after cutting myself a few curves out of some scrap fabric and practicing, I felt confident enough to go at the bee curves.  Rhonda says after you do a whole quilt of Drunkard’s Path, you’ll be considered a Pro.  I’ll take your word for it, Rhonda.  I tried to watch a YouTube video showing how-to, but that was the weekend that Adobe updated all their Flash software, which apparently didn’t work with my computer, so to be fair, some of my quilting time was spent cursing the computer, downloading, cursing some more, then uninstalling, reinstalling, etc etc.  You’ve all been there.

MCM April 2014_1

MCM April 2014_2

Two Mid-Century Modern Bee blocks for April for Debbie.  She only asked for one, but I got going and forgot to stop.

Fabric Stash Purl Soho

A birthday lunch with my kid, who is now thirty-nine and holding.  He has to stay that age so I don’t have to declare that I’m any older.  Oh, and just down the street from where he works is the Purl Soho warehouse for the West Coast, which coincidentally was having a sale, so these came home with me.

I also graded and prepped an inordinate amount, caught not one, but two, plagiarizers, but you don’t really want to hear about that.  Now to change gears a little, here’s a quote from a new book by curator and art advocate Sarah Lewis:

Mastery Quote

This quote is from Brainpickings, a website I haunt.  The author of this review, Maria Popova, often reviews books and brings together a lovely mix of ideas.  While I’ve been unable to get to the quilting, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I do what I do: cut a piece of cloth into little pieces and sew it back together again.  Of course, that’s the simplistic way of looking at things, for in the cutting and sewing lies a high degree of autonomy–of my being able to invent the design, give input to the creative process and even have a Fail once in a while.  I like the above quote, because while I’ll probably never have the fame of other quilters, Mastery seems like a worthwhile goal.  And apparently, according to Sarah Lewis, the author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure and the Search for Mastery, we don’t have to be perfectionists, nor have constant successes day after day.  But we do have to be willing to shut ourselves away and work at it, embracing failure and going forward.  Or, as Popova says, “This is why, Lewis argues, a centerpiece of mastery is the notion of failure.”

Popova continues by saying: “One essential element of understanding the value of failure is the notion of the ‘deliberate incomplete.’  (Cue in Marie Curie, who famously noted in a letter to her brother: “One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.”)” And then Popova quotes Lewis:

More to Do Quote

Okay, that’s enough brain food for one day.  I’m off to climb that mountain of binding, think about my goals (next post), and possible even finish grading the most recent literature paper that is in a stack downstairs on the dining room table.


But let me leave you with this gorgeous quilt from Cindy, of Live A Colorful Life, who is a one of those quilters who, while understanding the idea of the “deliberate incomplete,” also has a LOT of deliberate completes, such as her Marcelle Medallion, from *here.*  She and I have often talked often about the WIPs that float in our closets and cupboards, yet I’d like to morph Lewis’ idea of the “deliberate incomplete,” to a new place–perhaps that of a quilt that is not ready to be finished whether because the quilt maker’s “other” life gets in the way, or that the quilter has “lost her mojo” (a phrase often seen on blogs) or does not yet have mastery of the skills needed to finish up (and certainly, that may include time management!).  Yet mine and yours and Cindy’s quilts that are on our beds, our walls and folded ready for visits from family and friends, certainly is a testament that we do finish, that we are — at some level — on our way to mastery.

Giveaway Winners


While you were all thinking hard about how you’d like to serve up your citrus (and okay, now you have to send me those recipes you promised!!), I was hard at work in Washington DC being a tourist, while accompanying my husband on a conference and visiting our son and his wife.  And Allie, the Wonder Dog, their sweet little pal.

Cherry Blossom

I loved reading all your comments, and did so a bit at a time, reading them out loud to my husband in between seeing art, visiting the monuments and hoping the cherry blossoms would bloom; a few tried to bloom, but we think the full display will be this weekend.  I’m back home now, and used a random number generator to choose the winners.

random number_1

Let me rephrase that.  I tried to use a Random Number Generator, and if you are a long-time reader of this blog, you know Mr. Random Number Generator and I don’t get along very well, so I went to a grade school math site, but they couldn’t and wouldn’t build in the variables for two different giveaways, and having to add a couple of numbers for those who were followers, so I ended up with the old strips-of-paper-in-a-bowl random chooser thingie and I have two winners:

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Zedda wrote: “I’d choose the book. And I love everything citrus… but my hands down favorite is cilantro lime chicken in the crock pot.” (Don’t we ALL need this recipe?)


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Animated Librarian wrote: “I would love the fabric and thread. For cooking I love a kumquat, my mom has a kumquat chicken recipe that is to die for! Thanks for the give-a-way :-)” (And it looks like another recipe needs to come my way, as I have two large kumquat bushes out front).

Emails are going out tonight to these two quilters, but if I don’t hear from them by the end of the weekend, I’ll reach back into the bowl and pull out another winner (yes, I’ve saved your strips).  And I’m serious: if you send me your promised recipe, I’ll do a tab up above of all your delicious citrus recipes.  So many sounded terrific!

Thanks to all who wrote in, and welcome to our new followers!  I had so much fun with this one, I’m already trying to figure out what my next giveaway will be.

Citrus back_quilt

(quilt from *here*–this is the back)

Here are some of the amazing citrus uses that people listed on their entries:

I like making fresh lemonade. I like oranges, just peel and eat.

My favourite citrus fruit is a lemon, as I love making lemon curd tea cake.

As for citrus fruit: lemons. Mile High Lemon Meringue Pie. Or Lemon Loaf with Lemon Glaze. Or…Lemon Tarts with homemade lemon curd. Yummy!

My favorite citrus creation is salmon with a lime marinade. Thanks for sharing your goodies!

I like limeades so the lime fabric would fit right in with my tastes.

Lemons! I love lemon bars.

I love lemon in desserts- lemon meringue pie is my favorite, followed by lemon bars!

You are too too lucky to have citrus fruit growing in your garden. We lived in Seville for a year and I remember the orange trees along the street, the flowers smelled wonderful! I found some Seville oranges many years later and made marmalade, it was so easy!

I just made some lemon poppy seed bread. YUM.

I love lemon poppy seed muffins. But lemon iced cake sounds delicious too.

Now, I’m Greek, so lemons are the biz in all cooking: lemon biscuits, lemon egg and chicken soup, lemon on freshly steamed zucchini, lemon marinated olives, and that’s just the beginning.

I pretty much like all citrus, so today I’ll pick this one: orange peel dipped in dark chocolate. Did you know it has no calories when a piece is handed to you as a road trip pick-me-up? Amazing. Yesterday I finished my first ever quilt! A baby quilt, all laundered & folded & ready to give to our next door neighbors who are first-time grandparents. You inspired & helped me throughout the sewing & unsewing process. Many thanks.

Mango salsa. Yummy!

My neighbour makes me fabulous lemon butter so lemons for me.



Giveaway Banner

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Yippe Skippee!! It’s a giveaway over here at OPQuilt.com and I’ve got two prizes for you to choose from.  Of course you could say either, and that’s just fine too.

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Our citrus trees are bursting with limes, lemons and oranges all over Southern California, so I thought it only natural to put together a little something to celebrate Spring’s bounty, from our part of the world: a stack of six fat quarters in citrusy patterns and colors (and even one with homemade lemonade all over it).  Add in three different spools of Rainbows thread from Superior Thread, and . . .

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. . . a shapely little orange peeler that will help you zip off those skins to get to the eating (not recommended for kumquats — see below). They are waaaay too small.


The thread behaves like a rayon, with a nice sheen and good color variegation, but it’s a trilobal polyester, and Superior’s great quality.  So that’s Giveaway #1.

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Giveaway #2 is Sherri McConnell’s latest book, Fresh Family Traditions.  Somehow I ordered two, so that means I can give away one to you!  In your comment, choose between the book or the fabric/thread, and leave me a comment telling me your favorite citrus fruit and how you like to prepare it (lemon shortbread?  orange chicken? lime coolers?  homemade lemonade?).  This opens now, on Monday, April 7th, and will close on Wednesday, April 9th.  Followers are entered in twice, so if you’re not a follower, come and join us.

I hope you win a little sunshiney pack of fabrics, or a sweet new book from Sherri McConnell!


Thanks to all who entered.  Giveaway now closed.

Quilting Makes/Breaks the Quilt

As you know, I recently finished quilting the Lollypop Quilt that I’d been working on for about two hundred years or so, and so appreciated all your comments about taking time to sit back and live with the quilting before I made any rash decisions to become a Quilt Surgeon and slice and dice up the quilting I didn’t like.

Quilting ESE_1

Showing you pictures of my quilting close up is like agreeing to pose, at my age, in a bathing suit.  Probably not a good idea, but I wanted to show you how even rank amateurs like myself can be pretty happy with how things out.  I am even learning to like the quilting spots that I thought were a total fail.

Quilting ESE_2

Radiant mushrooms with echo quilting.

Quilting ESE_3

A feathery sort of stitch.  Every day when I’d start quilting, I type in “background FMQ filler” and read on the internet for a while, gleaning from the Master Quilters.

Quilting ESE_4

A sort of swirl-this-way-then-that sort of stitch.  Of course those long-armers make it look easy with their stitch regulators and space and ability to clamp down the quilt so it doesn’t move.  And I love learning from them and admire so much of what they do.  Which brings me to the title of this post.

One longarmer I dote on, learn from, admire immensely, and generally adore is Judi Madsen of Green Fairy Quilts.  She is a master–all her stitches are perfect and even, and she has fabulous designs, and a terrific book.  So I was more than excited when I noticed on her IG feed that she was quilting a Kim McClean pattern quilt, Kim being the woman who designed my Lollypop Tree quilt pattern.  Zounds!  I’ll learn from the best, I thought, because she is the best.

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 5.28.55 PM

This picture is a snapshot from her blog post about the quilt, and I only insert it here to give you an idea of her style of quilting.  Really, I can’t say enough nice things about what she does.


You’re waiting for that other shoe to drop, aren’t you?  Okay, here goes.  These quilts are tough to quilt (why do you think I waited a century or so?) and so I was hoping that Judi, with her infinite skills and talent, would figure out a different way to enhance the quilt, to work with the quilt, to augment the quilt.  But I started to feel, as I looked through her post, that the quilting overpowered the quilt.  She even alluded to this same idea in her blogpost, a comment left somewhere by some random person, who was promptly tarred and feathered by all the blog commenters (one of the nicer names she was called was “blind critic”).  {Note: I found it curious that everyone leapt into action to defend Judi against this random contrary comment, but had no problem dumping vitriol and shame on that poor quilter who dared to say what she thought.  But that’s another post.}

My reaction came more slowly. A sort of creeping feeling that maybe I’m just not in the Great Big Quilter’s Loop or something, but I didn’t (can I say this?) like the quilting on this quilt.  It was stunning.  It was stellar.  It was perfection.  But I remember when making my quilt, spending hours on each block, choosing all the florals, working with the sinewy forms and floral blooms that I was thinking about nature and form and randomness.  And I guess I was hoping that Judi would find a way to make those shapes and forms burst right off the top into a new space.

IG Comments

Couple that feeling with a comment left on Instagram (above):  “Your quilting is prettier than the quilt.”  Hmmm.

Has the maker been eclipsed by the quilter?  Certainly quilting has become its own art form, in a way, but if the quilting is what matters, why not just send a pre-printed panel over to these long-armers and let them go to town?  Does it matter what we, as piecers and top-makers, do?  Is it necessary for our art and design to be subsumed into theirs?

I’m shaking my head, still trying to figure it out.

Dones and Do-Overs

Lollypop All Quilted

So, is the Lollypop Tree Quilt all done?  Was it completed by the goal date?  Yes. . . and no.  Last night about 9 p.m. when I couldn’t quilt one more stitch, I laid it out on the guest bedroom bed: my go-to flat space in my house.  I was content.  It was complete.  I had quilted all nine blocks, all twenty of the border blocks, the sashing, and the only thing that remained were a few details.  Until I woke up too early this morning thinking about it.

Lollypop Quilt Square_blue

I had done a curvy pattern in the sashing blocks, but am just not happy with it.  I am not crazy about the thread color, and let’s face it, my curvies could use some help.  So now I’m really thinking about unpicking all the sashing and trying a different approach.  My husband suggested one that might work.  So even though it’s finished — it needs a do-over.

Colorwheel Bloom

Lisa dropped in yesterday to show me a couple of her quilts — amazing — and while we were talking we were looking at the Colorwheel Bloom (how about that for a title?  I keep working on it).  She agreed that the bright yellow petal wasn’t quite right.  I’d saved all the earlier incarnations and pinned this one on top.  Yep, yep.  Another do-over.


But first I have to go and read one hundred or so pages of this book in order to write the quiz for the students today, plus grade a stack of précis, plus prep for class.  So the do-overs will have to wait.

Giveaway Banner

In honor of hitting 250 followers, I’m planning a little giveaway mid-April.  Anyone can throw their name in the hat, but followers get an extra chance to win, in order to say a big thanks.  I’ll post more details in a couple of days.  I’ve got a quilt book, some fabric, and thread that need to go to a new home.  I’m still photographing the goodies, but will post soon!


Friendship Cross-X Block Swap, March

April Cross-X Quilt Blocks stacked

Krista and I decided we were impatient about getting these done, so we sped into hyper-quilt-drive and did a double batch for this month’s swap.  Above is one set, all stacked together. . .

April Cross-X Quilt Blocks4

. . . and the double set all together.  As one commenter on Instagram said, it’s interesting how the switch in fabrics can make the block look so different.

Mar Cross-X Quilt Blocks stacked

This is the other set, with a few Mirror Ball Dots worked into the mix (I still have LOTS of those scraps left).

Mar Cross-X Quilt Blocks4

And the foursome, all in a row.  Looks like I was on a blue kick here, doesn’t it?  I didn’t get everyone out of their bags for an overall progress shot, so that will have to wait until the next round.  Come and see us on our Flickr Group where Krista has put up a picture up all of our blocks together.

Quilting the Lollypop Tree Quilt, I

Still working on the lollies, or my Lollypop Tree Quilt.

Lollypop Tree Quilt Block_2

Quilting Lollypop Tree Quilt_1

I took the quilt to my quilter and she basted it together for me, which has actually worked pretty well.  Usually I crawl around on the floor on my hands and knees and pin the quilt sandwich to within an inch of its life, but went this direction this time.  It’s been nice not to have to navigate those safety pins, but I still don’t want to sew over the basting thread, so I’m pulling it out as I get there.

Lollypop Tree Quilt Block_3

Finished up this one last night.  I’m trying to do a different filler in the background of each block.  It may not last, but this one is leaves.  The background filler on the first one is a rounded double loop in all directions.  When I look at these photos, it reminds me that there are still some details to go over (like the brown stems need to be quilted down at the trunk), but I’ll do the brown thread quilting all at one.

Lollypop Tree Quilt Block_4

And then I started on this, and got almost done, but had quilted myself into a corner with extra fluffiness.  After I quilted a tuck into the quilt, I stopped and unpicked for a while, and will take it up again today in better lighting, and when I’m not so tired.  This background is an oval double teardrop.

Lollypop Tree Quilting detail_1

Diane Gaudynski advises free-motion quilters that a little marker now and then is a quilter’s good friend.  Like in that run of white thread on the blue batik.  The thread I’m using is So-Fine white #401, and in the bobbin, I’m using the Bottom Line in a soft yellow.  I’ve lowered the tension on the top to nearly half of normal (2.2 or 2.0) and I have really good balance in the thread.  This thread from Superior Thread is quite fine, as the name states, and it just sews up beautifully. I switched to a size 14 topstitch needle which allows lots of thread movement, so no shredding.  (I had been using a size 12, but the 14 is working better.)

Lollypop Tree Quilting detail_2

Lollypop Tree Quilting detail_3I like the way the appliquéd pieces pop up.  This *post* by Sandra Leichner is invaluable for explaining the process.  I have a permanent link to it from the home page of my blog, as well as to Diane Gaudynski’s website.

I figure I still have about 5 days left of quilting time in my February/March goals, which clearly states: “Quilt Lollypop Trees.”  I’ve been able to cross of all but one of my projects, so am still trying for a completion here.

Linking up to Lee’s Freshly Pieced blog.


FMQ Lollypop Tree & A Beauty Shot

FMQ Lollypop Tree

I started free-motion quilting my Lollypop Tree quilt.  It has sat for nearly a year while I did Life and thought about how to start.  I had quilted my Christmas Treat, but the spaces there were more wide open with fewer appliqués, so this one was a bit of a challenge, managing the quilt bulk and keeping the density of the stitches evenly spaced.  I still have a few more details to take care of, like stitching around the trunk of the tree and across the leaves where they join the trunk, but after two-and-a-half hours, one block is done.  Look at the tab above if you want to see the entire quilt.

Helpful sights: a Pinterest board with lots of filler ideas, Leah Day’s commentary on filler backgrounds, and multiple videos (not linked).

And I promised you a beauty shot.  Here’s my Sol Lewitt’s Patchwork Primer quilt top, in my outdoor “photo studio.”

Sol Lewitt's Patchwork Primer

I also put this as my home screen on my phone.  It makes me smile.  Hope you are smiling, too, as you enjoy your weekend.

Working on My Stuff


My first issue of Uppercase magazine arrived.  It’s on my nightstand and I can hardly wait.

Center Colors

I also took a trip to Purl Soho-West Coast (in Orange County, California) where I picked up some more solid fabrics for the inner petals on that soon-to-be-renamed Rainbow Petals quilt.  I appliquéd on three of the petals the other night while my husband and I watched the latest Star Trek movie, and added another petal during the our local quilt guild meeting.

Now that Downton Abbey’s over, I need to make time to sew.  Maybe I should rewatch parts of it, so I can get this finished?

Sol Lewitt’s Patchwork Primer

In class this semester, one of the types of poems that we studied were “form” poems, or poems that have a prescribed meter, rhyme scheme, and even construction, such as a ballad, a sonnet, or a villanelle.  Many poets like to write poems in this constrained forms, especially if they are difficult subjects, as the nice, tight boundaries help keep the poet from going off the rails, sloppy and wandering.  Likewise, every once in a while, it’s good to put one’s brain to a task with similar constraints, just to see if it can be done.


This quilt started with this drawing from Sol Lewitt: “Fifteen Etchings: Straight lines in four directions and all their possible combinations.”  Lewitt is famous for his wall drawings, where he would draw up a certificate with a set of instructions or descriptions, and others would execute them.  This drawing would serve as my shape boundaries.

SLPatchworkPrimer start

And my fabric boundaries?  I had purchased a stack of Mirror Ball Dot fabrics two years ago to go with the few I already had, I decided to use these as my parameters for this quilt. Those shapes, these fabrics, and I started cutting last Saturday, after grading seventeen essays in a 24-hour period (yes, the brain was fried). I started laying them out, beginning from the upper right.

SLPatchworkPrimer beginning

I cut, added.  Rearranged.  Went to bed.  Cut, added, rearranged, asked my husband what he thought.  Cut, added, rearranged, took a photo, then pondered.  It was harder than writing a villanelle.

SLPatchworkPrimer Near End_1

Until I got to here.  Then it was like this:

Photo Montage SLPP

All. . . Day. . .Long.  I was purposely leaving that last square on the lower right white, for that’s where Lewitt had the writing, the description.


When I got to this place, I rested and began to doubt myself, completing ignoring the advice he wrote to Eva Hesse, a fellow artist, which included some of the following (with some edits):

Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, numbling, rumbling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, hair-splitting, nit-picking, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding, grinding, grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just DO!

He continues:

Do more. More nonsensical, more crazy, more machines, more breasts, penises, cunts, whatever – make them abound with nonsense. Try and tickle something inside you, your “weird humor.” You belong in the most secret part of you. Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool.

Then finishes with:

Make your own, your own world. If you fear, make it work for you – draw & paint your fear and anxiety. And stop worrying about big, deep things such as “to decide on a purpose and way of life, a consistent approach to even some impossible end or even an imagined end” You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to DO!

So I called my sister in Philadelphia and sent her some images, and we talked about changing the design, adding another block and what kind of block would it be?  She suggested some time with Photoshop, a tool to help me move beyond my stuck place.  In an obituary in the New York Times (Lewitt died some years ago), the writer noted that “He [Lewitt] took an idea as far as he thought it could go, then tried to find a way to proceed, so that he was never satisfied with a particular result but saw each work as a proposition opening onto a fresh question.”

So the fresh question brought me here, where I think it will stay.

SLPatchworkPrimer Quilt

And yes, that block lurking on the right is an alternative block, which I am leaning away from.  Borders (plain white) will be added last.

A primer  (prim-mer), according to the dictionary, can be as a child’s first book of reading, helping that child to decode and unlock the words on the page.  I doubt Sol Lewitt had any inkling of patchwork, steeped as he was in the fine art world, but when I saw his etchings, I recognized them as sort of a primer for what we quilters do: divide and subdivide and go at it again and again, always looking for that fresh question.