Cross-X Swap, January Update

KristaDecOct Blocks

Krista sent me these too close to Christmas to post (and besides, no one was reading any blogs that week anyway), so here they are on the New Year, now that we’ve all put away our decorations, celebrated, vacuumed and have actually resumed some sense of order in our lives.  Or at least pretend we have.

CrossX all Together 12_13

We are in the (I can never get this right) the Plus and X Friendship Swap.  Or the X and Plus Swap.  I just call it the Cross-X swap, as noted in the title, and all our blocks — thus far swapped — are on my pinwall, above.  Cool, huh?

Cross-X So FarB

As of this post, she is all caught up, but I’m now 4 blocks behind for January.  I can just hear her saying “Neener, neener, neener!”  I’ll catch up, Krista, I promise.  I notice that usually we try to make the background all the same, but in her blocks sent for January, she’s varied the backgrounds.  I’m trying to decide if I like her new twist, but she’s very creative and a really wonderful swap partner, so I need to be open to new ideas.  We try to blog the last Fridays of each month and hey–it’s only the 10th, and I need to get out several blocks promised for a cooperative group quilt, two bee blocks, and I’m working really hard on my Amish With A Twist-2 quilt, too.

Quilt Frolic_front

Quilt Frolic has a new home. During Christmastime, all our children and grandchildren came home, and my youngest, Peter, and his wife, Megan, stayed with us the entire week while waves of family moved in and out of the two other available rooms.

Quilt Frolic_binding

I had this quilt on their bed, and one morning Megan was relating a conversation she had with Peter about how much she like this quilt.  “I mean, I really like it,” she said.  And she asked my son if she thought she could, like, borrow it, or even have it.

Quilt Frolic_back

Megan, that is music to a quilter’s ears!  I gave it to her on the spot.  I was thrilled that she liked it well enough to want it, and I think she was thrilled to take it home.  Megan really liked the fabrics in it–a combo of Amy Butler and some Anna Maria Horner–a kind of fabric that suits Megan well.  She did get it into her teensy little carryon for the trip across the United States, to their home on the East Coast.

Quilt Frolic_label

I am glad that this quilt has gone to someone who loves it!

‘Twas the Week Before Christmas

Well.  Almost the last week before Christmas (ten days to go, says the Advent Calendar on our fridge).

Dec MCM Bee Blocks

Given that I’ve been >>sick<< with ick and asthma and blah for too long, and that I have TONS of stuff to do, I leapt into action and made my bee blocks for December for Mary at Molly Flanders.  I mean, that is the prudent thing to do, right?

Dec MCM Bee Blocks_2

It was actually quite restorative working with old-fashioned prints and calming neutrals.  A whole lot more fun than trying to get the last of the Christmas decorations up (but I did finish them today, thank you very much).  I enjoyed the process.  One thing that our bee does, which I like, is that we make each other a signature block with our name, our blog name and our location and send it along with the blocks.  I have a row of signature blocks on the back of my Santa quilt (which has been idling all these past couple of weeks on my sewing room floor while I have graded and rested) which makes me smile when I see them.

Blocks all done

And maybe it’s because I have signatures on my brain.  Here are all the blocks for my signature quilt put up on my pin wall. They lack the sashing and the borders, but what fun to see a flower garden of my friends!

Mistake on block

Whoops.  I had to fix one of them.  Mind you, that block has been like that for nearly eight years, and I’m just now noticing it. What’s fun about working with signature blocks is that you think about the person who’s name you are holding.  Kendy would have a fit if her block were wrong, as she was always perfectly put together and perfectly modulated in all comportment.  (Look it up–I kid you not.)

Tracing Toni's NameI had one more signature that I had to get, and I couldn’t just contact her and get it lickety-split (more on Toni in a later post).  So I found her Christmas card from a few years back, enlarged her signature and traced it onto a prepared fabric square (a square of fabric that had freezer paper ironed to the back of it).

Toni's Block

Toni’s square, all bordered in greens.  She would be pleased.

Often at Christmas, all the relatives gather, or we go to their houses.  If you want to start a signature quilt, have a stack of squares ready for them to sign.  Choose a block with a wide open space for writing, and a simple frame for that signature.  Then cut the center square about an inch larger than you’ll need it, back it with freezer paper.  I drew the 4″ center square directly onto the freezer paper, so that it would show through and give people an idea of their boundaries.

I used a Micron .05 pen for people to sign their names.  Those who I couldn’t get (who lived too far away), I sent the block to them and had them write their name lightly, but legibly with pencil, and then I traced it in the Micron pen when it came back to me (I included a SASE so the blocks would come back).  I only had one that never returned to me, but then that woman get could get her dander up quickly, and she carried a grudge longer than anyone I’ve ever seen.  She was still wonderful to me, though, and I loved her.  I’m sorry she didn’t return the square.

Yes, all this quilt is women.  Relatives, friends, mentors, and the latest batch of my granddaughters.  At some point, I realized I had to cut off the additions, otherwise it would never be done.  So, with the exception of my granddaughters, I stopped adding, even though there are still people who are important to me without their names on my quilt blocks.  I love looking at it.  I drop it at the quilter tomorrow, and since my granddaughters are coming for Christmas, she has promised to have it done by the 23rd.  (I’ve already made the binding!)

Why did I start this?  Because of Toni.  I’ll tell you more about Toni, and why she was the inspiration for this quilt in another post–probably after Christmas, after all the company’s gone home!

Bee Blocks & Winner of Project Folio

Project Portfolio_chair

First, while my husband and I were watching Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway in Three Days of the Condor, I leaned over to him and said, “Give me a number between one and sixteen.”

“Five.”

Five it is.  Cindy, you are the winner.  I’ll mail off the portfolio tomorrow.  Thank you to all my very fine readers and followers.  You are such lovely people!

I must admit that I did want to give it to my newest follower: my daughter, Barbara (Hi Barb!), but I’ll make her a new something or other for her work-out clothes (what she said she’d use it for) and send this white one to Cindy.  Congrats!

Arrows Aug ABLbee 2

Secondly, even though it feels as if I haven’t touched a machine much this month, I did get my Bee Blocks finished.  Above is the one for Always Bee Learning.  We were sent some some fabrics, a link, and we were off to making arrows.  It was a real brain-stretcher, but I finished mine and sent them off to Megan.

MCM Aug Block 1 MCM Aug Block 2

And for the Mid-Century Modern Bee, Mary asked for some Cross-X, or X & + blocks as I’ve seen them called, in pinks.  So I followed her linked tutorial at Badskirt’s blog and sent them off.

And now, the to pull the biggest rabbit out of the hat: figure out how to start sewing my projects again.  With this disjoint summer, a bad beginning to my school year (it will get better), and some time away from the sewing machine, it’s like being on a boat being carried down stream from the dock, slowly, and you can see your picnic lunch there in the middle and you are getting kind of hungry but you can’t figure out how to get to it.  Okay, bad analogy, but I think you all know the feeling.

I look at my list of things I want to sew and nothing interests me. I love reading blogs and seeing everyone’s fun projects, and think, I could do that.  But if I do everyone else’s project, how will I find time to do mine?  It’s a double-edged sword, this living in a world of blogs and Instagram and it’s hard to turn off the input in order to find the creative project that is uniquely mine.

My father, aged 87, goes most mornings down to his painting studio on the second floor of a building in his downtown.  There, he thinks, starts his routine, puts on his music, paints, pauses.  Of course, I can only imagine this because it is done in solitude, but every October he opens his studio for a painting sale in his studio, proving that he accomplishes, produces, Gets Stuff Done, sending out more paintings into the world.

I find my challenge to still myself — to enjoy the social media-fied quilt world, yet also to let that project that is interesting to me find its way forward.  I’ve been tempted by another Polaroid Swap, a recent Signature Swap, this winter’s Scrappy Trip-A-Long, and the Medallion Quilt among other recent popular quilts.  But I also know through historical evidence that our quilting grandmothers searched the newspapers for what others were doing, and through imitation, linked themselves together through common projects.

LIke them, I do quilt what is in my universe.  I often think of Nancy Crow, a quilt artist I admire from afar who has seemed to produce what is important to her, to follow her own stream of thinking and creating without regard for what is the most popular.  Perhaps she, and my father, are at one end of the spectrum while the social media/Instagram/blogging crowd, of which I am a part, is at the other end.  No answers here.

Just searching for those oars that will get my boat back to the dock, back to my sewing machine, back to my quilty world.

Owls

OwlCOllection

Our Four-in-Art theme this round is Owls, under the year-long theme of Nature.  When Betty chose it, I went blank.  Then she wrote about it, I did a search on Flickr, and ideas starting percolating.  Slowly.

Owl RingsSocks

This chick has owl rings and owl socks, but is not the same person that owns the collection up above.  I found out my daughter liked owls, as does my niece, one of my husband’s colleagues and Suz, of Patchworknplay.  I had no idea there were so many owl enthusiasts in my life.

KeaganOwl

KeaganOwl1

This card was from my granddaughter when I had my surgery. More owls:

OWL flying OWL harry potter OWL pins OWL1

But how to move an owl idea into a quilt?  What aspect to focus on?  I looked up the meanings of owls, the folklore and those were all over the map, fragmented.  Sometimes they are good, other times they portent evil or bad things, sometimes they bring luck, in other cultures they spell disaster.  Just about anything can be pinned on an owl.

The only “experience” I’ve had with an owl was when we were traveling in Canada around the Sunshine Circle (Vancouver and above).  We were standing waiting for the ferry to take us across one night.  The sun was fading into pinks and golds and it was pretty quiet up there near Comox that evening.  I was focused on the water and thinking about where we had to get to before we could stop traveling, when all of a sudden I heard a whoosh–a rush of air.  I spun around and an owl was just moving away, its wings unfurled and climbing toward the sky. It was eerie, out of nowhere.  No wonder these birds get pinned with all sorts of intents and purposes.

OWL ps desktop

This was my computer desktop yesterday, with all sort of bits and pieces of my owl scattered over the screen.  Whenever I approach these art quilt deadlines, I feel like a child being dragged kicking and screaming toward home.  Deadline, I moan to no one in particular.  I’d better get crackin’ because I know my Four-in-Art-mates will have theirs ready.

But one thing leads to another and to another and pretty soon I hear my husband arrive home and I’ve been working and veering through a creative journey for hours, absorbed in my task.  And then I can’t wait to get back to where I’m headed–which of course, I have no real idea of where it will end.  For now, I know only the next step, and that’s where I’ll go.

Creativity

(from *here*)

We’ve decided to open our group up to four more quilters to participate in our art quilt adventure.  You do not need to be an artist (hey–I’m not), but only want to stretch your creative wings.  We have four art quilt deadlines a year: February, May, August and November.  So far, the quilts are experimental in size: 12″ square. You’ll need to have a blog or a Flickr site, and a sense of adventure.  We welcome beginners, but most of us have some years of experience either in handcrafting or sewing.  I think we went this direction just because we wanted to try something new.

Leave a comment if you are interested, along with a comment as to why you might think taking a jump into this kind of creating is where you want to tread.  Make sure I have a link to either your blog or your Flickr site, so I can get a feel for what type of quilter you are.

Creating is a do to list

Block of the Month: Starts and Re-starts

AWAT2 Strip Sets

I’ve been working on Amish With a Twist–part II, having sewn up some strip sets before I went under the knife for foot surgery, then cut them apart:

AWAT2 Strip Sets Cut

While this is how the pattern recommended we proceed, but when sewing them together I found lots of repeated colors.  Think carefully about where you sew your lights and mediums, trying not to have the same order of colors from bottom to top, otherwise you’ll find yourself with the problem I have below:

AWAT2 blocks2

So yes, today I’ll be unpicking and re-stitching in order to break up the two yellows.  What you see up on my pinwall is where I got a bit smarter and laid out the strips and the stars and the sets, and could mix and match before sewing them up in a rush.

AWAT2  blocks1

Actually, when you open that first package, I’d recommend making yourself one of these:

AWAT2 Swatch Card

A swatch card.  I wrote the name of the color on each clip of selvage, then also coded them as to whether the pattern designer considered it a “medium” or a “light,” as shown by the pink or yellow lines next to the swatch.  While it was true that I was cutting these out while hanging out with my three younger grandchildren, and I was trying to follow the plots of their multiple episodes of Witches of Waverly Place streaming down on Netflix as their mother took a nap, I was also pulling out my hair over which color was which.  The pattern does include a color chart, but as we all know, print colors can vary from actual colors.  So, do your best to sort out which is what color and go forward.

I’m past the initial confusion and aside from the bit of re-stitching I’m going to be doing in a minute, I’m enjoying this process.  I’ve never done a Block of the Month (BOM) before, and it’s kind of fun to get a package and a pattern on your doorstep.  It is fun to pick and choose colors in the fabric shop, I admit, as well as patterns and ideas, but this summer, given all the sturm und drang (aka “storm and stress”) of the surgery, family trips, and other sundry complications in my world, it will be nice to have part of the creative process simplified.  This is my inspiration (the finished quilt top) and I look at it often:

AmishTwist2

Hopefully, if I stay on track and don’t get too far behind (yes, I’m three blocks behind already!) I’ll have a gorgeous quilt like this one.

˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙

Zucchini Cranberry Walnut Bread

On a side note: for those of you with tons of zucchini in your gardens, I finally got a handle on an interesting zucchini bread recipe, with dried cranberries and walnuts.  Recipe *here.*

Christine’s Philadelphia

At the last post, we were in the bakery section of Bottega Louie and I had a big surprise for my sister Christine.

ChrPhilly all wrapped up

 It was  Christine’s Philadelphia, a quilt celebrating her life and her newly adopted city.  She moved to a Philadelphia row house this past year, after ten years in transition.  First, she raised all her children, then began a new section of her life as an artist, returning to school.  Settling in to this life was not for long, as her husband died of cancer in a quick and wild two years.  She went on a mission for our church to New York City, and resumed a friendship with Doug, who had also lost his wife.  They married after her mission and she moved from the West Coast, where she’d spent most of her adult life, to the East Coast (Delaware), then finally to a lovely home in Philadelphia, within walking distance of art museums.  She resumed her art, but one more mishap: while biking to her studio one evening, she was hit by a car, but has now mostly recovered from that accident.  She is taking on new challenges all the time.  So you can see why I wanted to make her a quilt.  I had lots to cram into one tiny creation of mine.

She was surprised.  And I think, delighted.

ChristineESE Row Quilt

I’d been planning it and working on it for a few weeks, and when she came out for her son’s graduation, I knew I could give it to her then and see her face, and then mail it back later (which I’m doing).

Christine's QuiltSketch labeled

This was the sketch I made in QuiltPro.  I knew that I wanted to alternate bold solids (for the roofs) with other patterns (for the houses).

Christine's Row Quilt labeled

This was the quilt, all sewn and smoothed up on the pin wall.  I think I was able to execute the vision I had fairly successfully.  I also wanted to emphasize the chevron effect, but didn’t want a steep 45-degree angle on the roofs, instead I went with something more sloping (drawing my own pattern to get this done). I often thought about making this just in solids, like the sketch, but I’m all about richness and texture in my quilts.

Pulling fabrics

This was the first pulling of fabrics.  I was worried about mixing the moderns (used mostly for the houses and the row above, as well as the sky) with the densely colored, floral Kaffe Fassett fabrics.

ChrPhilly on pinwall 1

I sent a photo of this around to some friends and asked them what they thought.  Cindy of LiveAColorfulLife said, “Oh, go for it.”  So I did.   (Like all my junk on the sides of my pinwall?  Sometimes I treat it like a giant cork board.)

ChrPhilly on pinwall 2

Swapping out roofs on the right side to see if I like the orange down on top of the yellows any better.  I don’t.

ChrPhilly on pinwall 3

But I tried the whole row and added in the doors and windows.  You’ll notice there’s a bold blue sky piece which disappeared in the final version.  I keep trying to refine my design as I go, snapping a digital picture, evaluating, moving things around, and repeating the process.

First glimpse on wall

I am not a fan of when people say “Oh, I am working on this but I can’t show you.”  Then just don’t show me.  I hate keeping quilt secrets, but I had to keep it secret from my sister as it was a surprise, so I tried this sideways artsy shot on Instagram one day, hoping it would disguise the basic design.  I didn’t want to put it anywhere on my blog since she’s a faithful reader.

stitching on windows

I formed the windows and doors over a piece of stiff paper (like what is in a calendar) so they would be all the same size, then topstitched them down.

lined up for piecing

I sewed the narrow roof/house sections row by row; here’s one row lined up for stitching.

ChrPhilly piecing 2

Then I would add the house, then the sky. The “row” on the right is all done.  I’ll do another post on sewing those Y-seams, but later.

ChrPhilly pressing

I like this shot.  It reminded me of the AMH feather block I’d done for my Mid-Century Modern Bee.

ChrPhilly piecing 1

I pressed the seams open — a rarity for me.

ChrPhilly top

I took it outside to photograph the top, and just by draping it over the fence, I could see how valuable that deep plum-colored roof was to the whole composition.  This partly influenced what color I chose for the binding.

Christines Philadelphia Quilt Front

Christine’s Philadelphia, front

Christines Philadelphia Quilt Back

I rigged up a clothesline on my back fence to take photos, as my husband wasn’t home and I wanted to get it ready to go with us to the graduation.  I used a Jane Sassaman for the backing (above), and my quilter was lickety-split on the quilting (thanks, Cathy!).

ChrPhilly detail 1

ChrPhilly detail 2

Christines Philadelphia Quilt Label

I didn’t want the quilt label to stand out too much on that background, so printed it on yellow.

Giving Christine the quilt

Here we are again, in an uncropped photo.  You can see all the bakery goodies in the background.

ChrPhilly on sofa 1

When you sew on a quilt that is destined for someone, you spend a lot of time thinking about that person, in essence sending good vibes out into the universe for them, I think.  I remembered the time she had mononucleosis when she was going to Stanford, and moved home (my dad was a professor there so we lived in the area). I was in high school at the time, and we shared a room while she convalesced.  She hates it when I say this, but she has served as a great example for me and my other sisters, as all four of us are close together in age.  All of my sisters are amazing.  I am beyond lucky to be able to say this, and I know it.  I made a quilt with Cynthia, made one for Susan, and now, with this one, they all have one of my quilts.

And with each quilt, I send them my love.

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This is Quilt #115 of 200 quilts, and I’m publishing this post on my mother’s 85th birthday.  Happy Birthday, Mom!!

(Don’t worry.  A long time ago, I made her a quilt too.)

QuiltPro Quilt Software

I’ve used QuiltPro software for about a decade now, choosing it first because it worked on a Mac as well as a PC (I’m a Mac user, and Electric Quilt has ignored people like me).  I’ve been reading about another quilt software program that you rent monthly, and thought I ought to talk about an alternative to that, especially since QuiltPro is having a sale right now of 30% off. 

Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 9.05.42 AM

What I like about this program is its simplicity.  It didn’t take me long to figure it out–click on the square icon and draw a square, click on the triangle (there are two kinds) and draw a triangle.  Click on the paint can and color in your shapes.  It does have a fabric library, but after a few times, I’ve skipped over that and just use the solids, coloring in what I want to show value and placement. (And sometimes I wonder if that’s not why we’ve had such a surge of popularity in using solids–we see them in our quilt software and then want to make those quilts? Who knows, but I’ve thought about it.)

Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 9.06.48 AM

And if I want to, I can change the colors by double-clicking on one of the little squares.

QuiltProBlocks

There’s a block library if you want it, but I use QuiltPro mostly to work up a design that’s in my head, like this one:

Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 9.28.25 AM

Which became this:

IMG_7185

and this

SunshineShadow3

Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 9.30.04 AM

Or this design, to make use of some lovely bits and pieces from a cherished set of fabrics, which became this:

HeatherQuilt

A quilt for a friend who needed some quilty hugs.  And I’m now thinking about how to make this one, dreamed up recently:

ManCharacterQuilt

Sometimes when I read quilty blogs, I get the feeling that whatever is being shown, or pitched, becomes an extension of that quilter.  That is to say, that if you buy this, or shop here, then that’s like a ‘vote’ for that quilter, and you say you like her better.  I don’t really care if you use QuiltPro or not.  I do use it and I’ve had great success with it as a tool to help me get done what I really do love: quilting, so I thought you might want to know about it.  I used to draft blocks using graph paper, pencils, rulers, drawing out the templates by hand.  This program does all that for me (yes, it prints the templates too, so I can measure them to use with my rotary cutter and rulers).  It’s my tool.  I’ve used this tool in my little quilt group, Good Heart Quilters, when we do our block swaps, or someone needs me to draft up how their chevron quilt will look.  It’s been very helpful in a lot of ways.

mag-17Talk-t_CA0-articleInline

Here’s a photo of Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, who lost both of her legs in combat.  She was recently profiled in the New York Times–go read the article; it’s short and sweet and makes you want to cheer.  But I liked what she said here:

“Q: When you wake up do you feel a sense of loss when you realize what happened to your legs?
A: Of course. But I have a different perspective for what my legs are now. Now they’re just tools, you know? If I still had my legs, I would be in line for a battalion command, and instead I’m flying a desk.”

I want to fly my version of a desk–my sewing machine–making quilts and sewing and playing with cloth and squares and triangles and designs.  I love quilting and am happy to have my rotary cutters and rulers and yes, my QuiltPro software.  It’s just a tool, you know, to get the quilting done.

The Winners and Other Musings

Congratulations to Mary of Mary on Lake Pulaski who won the Hot Stuff bundle, and Nita of NitaDances won the boy fabric and the Power Tool button. I’ve had fun going around to people’s blogs and noticing what they are making and quilting and just plain old doing.  Some are bemoaning the long cold spring, others are finishing up other projects, some are buying fabric.

Like me.

Fabric 1 April 2013

I’m in love with that Italy fabric and plan to make a Schnibbles with it in Sherri and Sinta’s Another Year of Schnibbles.  The pattern they’ve chosen is Top Hat, and as soon as I finish up the prep for class today, I’m going to start cutting out my nine-patches.  If it’s not the Italy fabric then how about one or two of those others?  I’m saving the Lizzy House Constellations for another project, so it won’t be that fabric that gets rotary-bladed today.  This fine stack is from Fabricworm, who will give you a discount of 5 bucks on 50 dollars worth of fabric.  No problem!  There’s always one more piece I want to buy to get it up to that amount.

Fabric 2 April 2013

This past weekend I flew up to Utah to see my parents, and there is a fabulous quilt shop there: Gardiner’s.  I took my Dad in with me and in a few quick minutes, given how well they display everything, I had these cut, paid for and we were out the door.

GG3 McArthur Grave

I always enjoy visiting my parents, and Sunday afternoon we took a drive up Route 89, which winds all the way to Yellowstone, but we weren’t going that far.  We were headed to Brigham City, and as we passed through Willard, my mother mentioned that her great-grandmother was buried there.  At my request, we veered into this old pioneer cemetery, where we stopped and looked at her great-grandparents’ grave.

Willard Cemetary

Most of this area was settled by immigrants like my great-great-grandparents: he was a tailor in Scotland, who, when he landed here in this sloping valley, became a farmer.  I was intrigued that he was a tailor first, given my love of sewing.  This Elizabeth Dickson, born in Needles, Scotland, was the mother of Elizabeth in my English Elizabeth quilt.

It’s interesting to hear these things at my age.  I’m sure I’ve heard all the stories more than once, but somehow they hit a touchstone now, and these grandparents are more real to me: a tailor, turned farmer, a Scotswoman who immigrated with her husband and gave birth to my great grandmother who I’m named for.  Next time I go up, I want to visit all the graves of my relatives, something my mother and father do every Memorial Day, so get ready, Mom and Dad.  It’s our next field trip.

Do we have a quilting heritage?  I think so.  I learned to sew from my mother, from my sixth-grade sewing class where I made a gingham apron, and quilting entered when I was pregnant with my first child and wanted a baby quilt.  I’ve lived through one solids phase, when it was the Amish quilts we hungered and thirsted after, stitching them up in bold modern shapes.  They are the mother to today’s Modern Quilts, I believe, but instead of black as the neutral, white or gray are preferred in this iteration.  I think many of us remember our first quilting experience, whether it be last year or decades ago.  While we don’t have markers of stone set in hillsides overlooking Willard Bay and the Great Salt Lake, we might have quilts tucked away in corners, or given to children and friends.  There is a rich lineage of quilting in our world, and I’m happy to be a part of it.

I think the associations we form amongst ourselves as quilters, are every bit as valuable as those folds of fabric sitting in our cupboards and closets, the pieced quilts hanging on walls and draped over beds. Thanks again to all those who visited the blog this past week, who leave comments of support and who are (or who became) followers.

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UPDATE:  Doing this Bloglovin’ thing after so many of you indicated you’d signed up that way.  Thanks.
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Bostonian Bag and a Wrap-up

While this post has lots of pictures of my recent class, the Bostonian Bag (which they titled Bag Bostonian), it is NOT a tutorial nor are there any patterns.

Class 6

For this you’ll need to take the excellent class from Kathy Ranabarger at Sewing Party in Orange County, California; our class was held last Friday, March 22nd.  And because it’s a wrap-up of some of the details of the class, the post itself may not make any sense to you at all.  (Hey, I have many days like that!)  In the photo above I’m on the right in the aqua sweater.

Bostonian Bag side view

First off, here it is.  It’s a good-sized bag. . .

Class 1

. . . and the ten-member class made excellent progress. But nearing the end, I was nervous about beating the traffic home, so I left a few minutes early but not before taking lots of photos of Kathy’s samples to jog my memory.  I told the class I’d post them in case they needed them too (so, this post is picture-heavy).

Bostonian Bag details ESEFirst, here’s some details, just for visual ideas: the bag bottom with decorative piece, the side trim piece wrapped to the inside and stitched down by hand, and the pockets I made in class: a double pocket (one on top of the other, and on the other side, a zipper-closed pocket.

Class 2

Class 3

So, after the fabric’s been quilted, the pockets made and the lining basted to the bag on the sides and top (wrong sides together), the decorative trim is attached to the zipper-opening edges (shown).  Kathy showed us how to install our zippers in class, and I’m pretty sure we were all successful in getting those in before we left for home.  Next was sew the side seams together, lining right sides together, so the seam allowances ended up on the outside of the bag, which is covered with a decorative trim piece.

Side Cover Strip ESE

(Click to enlarge so you can see detail.)

I did end up interfacing the side trim piece, as my 1/2″ seams were pretty bulky.  I pinned down the trim piece, then stitched it by machine as she showed us in class.  I kept going at the end: I stitched right off the edge of the bag on my trim piece, continuing along the pressed-under seam allowances, top-stitching them down.  I then folded the piece over as Kathy showed us, then trimmed and hand-sewed it down as I was using two colors of thread (one dark, one light) and it just wouldn’t have worked to machine-stitch. (See very top grouping of photos, illustration in upper right.)

Bag Corner

“Boxing” the corner, with a five-inch measurement, centering the seam at 2 1/2″ inches.  Stitch along that line.  In that same top grouping of photos, you can see my bag corners in the lower pocket photo.  In the final bag, I wasn’t really keen about how the bottom trim piece stopped an inch short of the boxed corner, so in the future versions of this bag I’ll either 1) box the corner in deeper (maybe at 6″) or 2) make the bottom decorative piece longer.

Hardware Bostonian Bag

Attach the bottom trim piece to the side, by sewing the point to the side trim piece. The ring moves freely, and is not sewn down.

Class 4

Handles are next.  Flatten out the bag, take the handles out and let them relax, then place them near the top, centered on the bag.

Handle Placement

I put a couple of pins to anchor mine, then did a backstitch all around the outside, starting about 4 holes down from the upper left holes, taking it up to the end, then backtracking all the way around the tab. I wasn’t really keen about how the inside looked and ended up cutting some more lining fabric to applique it over the stitching, so it will be unnoticeable.  I have to say that attaching the handles was one of the more frustrating parts of the bag and it took me some time.  Sit in really good light, use a heavier hand-sewing needle and thimble on your finger for pushing it through the hole (which is sometimes not easy to locate and yet other times it is), and work steadily.

Now here are a bunch of photos of the samples we saw that day in class.

Teacher Bag 1

Teacher Bag 2

When she attached this particular bag handle, she used a running stitch, which looks like this on the back.

Teacher Bag 3

Teacher Bag 4

Teacher Bag 5

Teacher Bag 6

Handle attached with a back-stitch.

Teacher Bag 7

Teacher Bag 8

Teacher Bag 9

Teacher Bag 10

And here’s a few more of mine:

Bostonian Bag unhooked

Bag unhooked.  I think I could fit a small laptop in there, or at the very least, a tablet.  It’s quite roomy inside.

Class 5

Our class.  This was a fun group of ladies to sew with.

Full Bostonian BagAnd that’s it!

Another March finish for me.  Actually I took this class the last day of Spring Break.  I started Spring Break with tune-up visits to doctors, getting the have-to’s out of the way before I quilted all week. So in the spirit of a teacher giving a grade to things. . . I’m at an interesting place in my life right now, and so content and calm about what I’m doing that I’m sure the proverbial “other shoe” will drop from the sky at any minute.  I have a job I mostly enjoy, love my church and congregation as I’ve been going there for nearly a quarter-century and know their histories, and they, mine, and we have both endured each other’s quirks and habits. My husband and I have worked out a good balance between together time and “cave-time,” and really enjoy each other’s company when we are together. I could make a list of all the good things in my life, of which family and friends would occupy the top spots, and I’m sure that your list might echo mine in magnitude and depth. I also have this blog, and love to write and quilt and have the wherewithal to do both.

As I listened to others talk while our class was in session, I caught whiffs of the same sort of feeling: one woman expressed pride over her daughter’s achievements, another woman was having her sewing room re-made which I gathered was something she’d looked forward to for many years, and several of us found we had connections (via our children) to UC-Davis, of all places.  Perhaps it was the beautiful weather, or a relaxed and informative class or the fun of getting something done in a creative environment, but I could see that many of us were living in a “parallel contentment.”  Maybe we’ve just learned not to sweat the small stuff. . . and at our age have figured out which is the small stuff and which isn’t.

While the grading will pick up to a dull roar in the next few weeks of the semester, it’s really nice to feel this way — especially tonight, when some nice tunes are on the playlist and the fragrance of the wisteria blossoms is drifting in through my open window.

Happy Quilting.

Craft vs. Art

Ken Price: “Untitled Two Parts”

For a while now, I’ve been intrigued by a comment by Ken Price, a ceramic sculptor, an artist.  Since he sometimes did representational shapes like cups, saucers and covered jars, the “cultural prejudice against clay as a hobby-craft material unsuitable for major art” reared its head to often typecast him as a craftsman, not an artist  (quotes from an article in the LATimes).  Just like our quilts.  My art professor in college, when I asked him when he’d ever okay a show of quilts, said “Over my dead body.”  He was kidding (well, maybe not) and the answer stung.  I realized that even though there is now more recognition for the quilt as an art form, too often we are put in the craft category.  So I was intrigued by the following quote (also from the LATimes article):

Price did distinguish between craft and art, but it’s important to note that he respected them both.  “A craftsman knows what he’s going to make and an artist doesn’t know what he’s going to make,” he once said, “or what the finished product is going to look like.”

These words did echo in my head as I worked on English Elizabeth.  Like Price, I took my fabrics and my technical skills and knew that somewhere I’d end up with a quilt.  But I didn’t know what I was going to make, or what the finished product was going to look like.  My quilts will never hang in a museum, but the journey for this quilt was so different than my usual, that Price’s words resonated.

There’s an interesting energy that comes from trying something new, or to use a cliché: “stepping out of your comfort zone.”  Usually, for me, a quilt begins at the computer, doodling around in my computer program or imitating something I’d seen before, but this process–to create out of whole cloth, literally, was an experience that I found seductive, scary and immensely satisfying.