Into the Woods!

Into the Woods front

Into the Woods is finished–my first finish in the FAL hosted by Leanne.  I blogged about how bogged down I was in my entry FAL, so it’s nice to be able to go out to the front porch, have my husband hold it up and declare it done.  And yes, I know it’s January and we still have pumpkins out there.  Okey-dokey, moving right along. . .

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Here’s a closeup of the quilting, and the blocks.

Into the Woods art shot

And the requisite beauty shot, draping not-so-artfully by the pumpkins.

Into the Woods back

Back of the quilt.  I had purchased this fabric about eight years ago, when I was shop-hopping up in the Pittsburg area with a good friend.  Our husbands are both scientists and we’d see each other almost annually at conferences.  This particular time I had a rental car, so we left the boys to their science and took off in search of ours.  I love that certain fabrics have memories attached; whenever I see this I will think of Beth.

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I had originally named this a different name, mocked up the label but just couldn’t make the name stick.  Then one night, it came to me.  Seeing this quilt was like walking into the woods, surrounded by golds, greens, crimsons and browns, and so that became the title, just like the Broadway play Into the Woods by Steven Sondheim.  That play has always had special significance for me, as its allegory of going into the woods –the difficult trials of life — and making your way back out of the woods — into a different life than the one imagined — became a sort of map for me during a painful shape-shifting time of life.  I still love that play, and as I worked on the label (with a scrap of lyric pulled from the title song), I played it on the computer and sang along.  Nothing like a Broadway show tune to make the quilting go a little quicker.

My quilter, Cathy, did a lovely job on the quilting of pumpkins and vines (and if you know the play Into the Woods, there is a section of Jack and the Beanstock, which correlates nicely).  So there it is–my first finish, and finally, a Friday Finish for myself.

Update: Original post for the Finish-A-Long is *here.*

 

Summer’s Fading Fast

I read a post from someone in the Midwest this morning, and the blogger said she could start to feel the turn in the air, that telltale sign that summer was fading and fall was around the corner.  Here in Southern California, where today’s high should be 106, we forecast “fall” by the calendar.  In other words, if school is starting, it must be autumn.

School starts on Monday for me.  I have a mess on the dining room table, unable to move it upstairs because of my mess in the studio from the Lollypop Trees.

My main goal this summer was to get all of the lollies cut, shaped and pinned up on their background squares.  Done.

Then I went a little further and created all the border blocks, arranged here alongside the big lollypop trees.  Done.

And since I was picking up all the mess from off the floor and from around my cutting area, I cut the squares and rectangles needed for the sashing and borders.  Done.

Then I folded all the fabrics up into squares, stacked them by color and shoehorned placed them onto my fabric shelves. Done.

I’ll dust, squirt, vacuum, and sigh as I tuck away the mat, rotary cutter and sewing machine, as I prepare to bring up the laptop, textbooks, papers, attaché case and supplies from downstairs and move them up.

It’s been a good summer.  I had an 8-day visit from my daughter and her three children and we made a series of curtains for eight windows in her house.  My husband and I went to New York for a week, where my son and his wife joined us for a day, a night and a day in the Big Apple.  My daughter and her husband and three kids came back again for a week before their school started.  My sister and her husband started the treatments in Los Angeles for his cancer, and they came to stay with us a couple of nights.  We went into LA a couple of days for laundry and moral support.  I listened to three books, trying to keep up with my mother, and read three more in-the-hand books.

I sewed the blocks for my Summer Treat Quilt.  I conquered the Lollypop Trees–now to sew on them all fall.  We had great gingham fun with lovely and interesting and fine participation from excellent quilters.  Good conversations, late on a summer’s evening led to me finding last year’s sparklers from the 4th of July and my grandchildren writing their names in white-hot sparks in the air.  We made SomeMores over the barbecue.  My son and his three boys came up for a day of swimming, running, visiting and two meals.  My brother, his wife and family stopped over one night on their way to a coastal site for their week’s vacation.  I went to a Quilt Festival/Convention and learned how to make a bracelet and a New York Beauty Block.

As I look over the things I thought I wanted to do and the things I did, there are some differences.  It’s easy to fret about those tasks left undone — no Cross-X blocks made, no basket quilt started.  I can look at other lists I’ve made (I have a classic full-page To Do List from 1993 that has over 65 items on it organized into 8 different categories and neatly typed up) and realize that some will be crossed off, while some will never come to fruition.  My lists as I’ve grown older have become simpler, allowing for things like a trip to the frozen yogurt shop instead of the finishing up of a quilt task, or like taking the time to read to the last page of a novel instead of reworking a binding’s corners.

But after all, it is summer, and what else are summers for than to let the tasks drift like a folded paper boat out on the stream of time, watching it bob and weave and sail out of view?  I can pick up my rotary blade another day, but maybe there won’t be time to stand by a grandchild while they write their sparklered name in dark summer air, or feel the ocean tug the sand from under their feet, enjoying the delicious feeling of being pulled off balance by tides, by time.  By a summer’s moment.

Happy Summer’s End to you all.

FSF Friday–Back Among the Lollypop Forest

I like this part of the Lollypop Tree blocks the best: laying out the color scheme in those great big petals.

The part I like the least, in the cutting and choosing category, is the little circles all around.  I chose Block Five to start back in again, because there only a few circles and they were all jumbo.

Block Ten has a few more circles.  But two down, seven to go.  I’ve got to stop now and get the binding on the gingham quilt (which STILL doesn’t have a proper name) in order to tuck away a few loose ends before the arrival of Barbara and grandchildren.  I went to JoAnn’s yesterday and bought two more boxes of applique pins.  Since my goal this summer is to get these blocks all cut and pinned, and it’s taking one box for two blocks, I may be running there again–or else I’ll resort to the wicked long pins which stab you a lot when you’ve got it under the machine–or maybe pin with the stabbers, then change out.  Playing it by ear.

And what book propelled me through these last couple of days?

On Canaan’s Side, by Sebastian Barry.

A lovely quote: “Bill is gone. What is the sound of an eighty-nine-year-old heart breaking? It might not be much more than silence, and certainly a small slight sound.”  Narrated by an elderly woman, it is her story, and the story of the people she loved.  I listened to this intently as not only is the story interesting and well-told, the language and imagery is inventive and descriptive.

I thought of my own mother, and the people she’s said good-bye to.  And her mother, and then her grandmother, who came over from England, leaving that land behind forever.  I guess all of our lives could be an interesting novel, if only the right author told our story.  And this story is told by exactly the right author.

I loved listening to it, as the narrator gave shade and color to the characters, perfectly intoning the Irish inflection, as well as the Greek shopkeeper in the later section.  It’s not a long novel to listen to–only 7+ hours–a relief after the last one I listened to, which was fifteen-plus hours (with irritating piano music off and on).

Gingham Quilt Top All Done!

I sewed steadily while listening to The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafron, a worldwide bestseller when it was released in 2001, and finished my gingham quilt top.  At an especially gripping part of the novel, I sewed in a border block backwards.

I discovered this AFTER I’d dropped it off at the quilter, so had to run back there this morning and retrieve the quilt top to fix it.  She’ll have it to me in time for our Gingham Reveal Date, which is July 4th.  And no, I’m not going to show you the quilt before that.  Okay, maybe a little.

All I’ve got to say is I’m converted to gingham!

On the sewing part: some of the gingham was that lighter weight fabric that is found in JoAnn’s and some of it was cotton.  I really had no trouble at all sewing them together.  I used Kona white as the accent, and the blend fabrics worked fine with the cotton.  My thread was the polyester Guterman from JoAnn’s, and the only difference is how it smells when you press it–you’ll see.  But don’t hesitate to grab some large check ginghams and mix them with the cottons you can buy.  It all worked just fine.

Krista, of KristaStitched, and I dreamed up this gingham thing because I’d come into a load of ginghams.  I researched where to buy more (see this post) and bought a few more.  The finished quilt is so amazingly fun.  There’s just something about gingham that says summer and high spirits and picnics and lazy days.  I’m so glad we decided to do this, and I hope you’ll all play along!

This coming Wednesday, June 6th, we’re hosting a giveaway on three different blogs (ours, plus Cindy’s blog: Live A Colorful Life), for a chance to win one of these fat quarter bundles, which also includes in each bundle is a full half-yard of Kona white.  If you win the Gingham Giveaway, you agree to make a quilt or a block or a mini-quilt or something and post it on your blog  and link back to our blogs as well. For my blog, I want your entry to include a favorite summertime memory from your childhood, whether it be a childhood game or event or taste or activity, so start those memory engines.

And judging from the following photos, snapped in secret in Macy’s, gingham is going great guns in ready-to-wear also.

and this one from my Dad, who writes:
I’m expressing my pain on being photographed. It’s like shooting yourself.

Ah, Dad.  Now you know why I like to be on THIS side of the camera lens.  But in answer to your question–yes, that’s a gingham shirt too!

Friday Finishing School–This and That

I’m almost done with the quilt blocks I’m not yet revealing, keeping it under wraps for a variety of reasons.  Soon, soon. I have this tiny little window of quilting before the research papers hit (I know I keep talking about them–all English teachers dread this particular paper because they are so time-consuming to grade).  So count this for my Friday Finishing School, a project I take up now and again.

American cover on the left; British cover on the right

While I cut and sewed, I listened to The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes, a British author who has written twelve previous novels.  This is another gift from my mother–she decided to start listening to audiobooks, and I signed us up for an Audible account.  She chooses the books, and when I was there last weekend, we downloaded four new ones, The Sense of an Ending being one of them.  I liked this book because it’s written from the viewpoint of an older man, reviewing his life.  While I listened, I could see some of myself in the portrayal, then some of my father, who is 86 and still painting up a storm.  But at the end, I only saw the character and the sense of his ending–the life he is left with after decades of choosing to be “peaceable.”  Note: the younger self of the main character in the novel seems obsessed with sex when he’s at college, if that sort of thing makes you squirm.  But it does all fit into the picture expertly drawn by Julian Barnes, who won the Man Booker Prize for this novel last year–equivalent to our National Book Award.

My mother and I have also listened to Penelope Lively’s novel, How It All Began, about an older woman (do you see a theme here?) who is injured in a mugging (that occurs offstage and is not violent–a purse-snatching).  The novel examines how many lives are affected by this act, and Lively draws an entertaining group that react to the “Butterfly Effect” of the main character’s injury and recovery.  I remember in grad school how I read umpteen books about young people’s coming of age, that shifting tectonic plate between leaving home and settling into a life.  I got soooo tired of all the sexual angst–not that it wasn’t real, but a steady diet of one facet of life’s prism can be wearying.  As an older student I often wondered where the novel was that spoke to my life, the novel that I could emulate?  I seem to have found the mature, nuanced view in several British novels, and I’ve enjoyed them immensely.

A quilt cartoon for you.  I smiled when I saw the cartoonist’s version of a quilt.

More This and That: This is the shot of a bolt end of Thermolam Plus–the stuff I have up on my pin wall.  It looks like quilt batting, but it’s not.  A friend was asking me about how I built my pin wall: 2 sheets of 1/2″ foam core art board taped side by side, covered with gridded flannel (I wrapped this to the back and stapled in place using really short staples, then covered that with tape.  I then affixed it to my wall by using door jamb covers–long rounded metallic bars, each about six feet in length.  I used four: two for each side, top and bottom).  Over that, I layered this Thermolam Plus, using straight pins to anchor it into place.  The fabric really sticks to it–like magic, and when it gets all thready, use one of those sticky roller things that is used to clean off clothes.

Anyone interested in my scraps from Scrappy Stars?  They are not really big pieces–mostly 8″ or less in odd shapes, but they are a range of reds, with some coordinating accents.  They’ll fit neatly into an envelope and I can mail them off to you.  Let me know in the comments.

And if you are interested in making the Scrappy Stars, I have about twelve of the vellum sheets with the diamond paper-piecing pattern on it.  I can mail those to you, too.  I was going to just file away the sheets, but I noticed that a couple of you are going to try making this quilt, and I thought you might like these.  Again, leave a comment and I’ll be in touch.  You’ll need six sheets for every star, so this stack will make two stars.  I guess you could just make the front and back of a pillow; the star finishes at about 16-20,” depending on which way you orient it.  They are Big and Bold–lots of fun to make.  And use a fabric that reads “solid” for the setting diamonds–save yourself some quilting angst!

Today I’m going to finish up the quilt top mentioned at the beginning, because I want to get it over to my quilter.  Since I don’t want to start another book (which will leave me wondering what’s happening and I have to grade *those* papers), I’ll listen to This American Life or RadioLab podcasts, brushing up on either quirky stories about people, or interesting science-based tales. If I get bored with that, there’s always the NPR on the radio.

What do you like to listen to when you create?

The Done Manifesto–FSF

Since, during summer, Friday is my FSF–Finishing School Friday, I thought I’d mention this idea of the Done Manifesto, created when “Bre Pettis, an inventor,  and collaborator Kio Stark gave themselves exactly 20 minutes to create a manifesto encapsulating everything they knew about bring a creative vision to life.” (from Infographic of the Day: 13 Rules)

I read about this some time ago, but parts of their manifesto haunt me, as I read your blogs and hear you talk about the struggle to craft a balance between your time blogging/interneting and quilting.  Here’s the full list; focus in on number 12:

Some of my “done” quilting is ghostly, existing on pinboards, and websites and floating around on the internet, and on this blog.  You have to take my word for it–my quilts exist  in real time, with the soft hand of cloth, quilting, and batting, sewn together with the whir of a finely tuned machine.  I love reading your comments, interacting and forming online friendships with you (one of the good things about blogs!), but look at Number Nine.

This one notes that to dig in and get the work done is what’s right about things (“People without dirty hands are wrong.  Doing something makes you right.”) All of these can be applied to quilting.  One of my friends completed a quilt top, hated the borders, unpicked, resewed.  Another friend had begun quilting her son’s wedding quilt, hated it, unpicked, resewed.  Both of these quilters embodied Number Eleven.

Number Seven?  Throw it away is sometimes good.  And so is to give it away–to a charity, a quiltless friend.  Some quilts are made to go out into the world and not hang around in your closet.  And Number Six?  Will I ever finish the list of quilts I’ve dreamed of?  We all know the answer to that one. But that brilliant Number Thirteen nails down the reason why doing the *real* quilting and sewing and creating is so much more satisfying: “Done is the engine of more.”

I loved all last summer when I could easily post something “done” every Friday.  It’s a different satisfaction that I get from quilting than from most anything else I do in my life.  My quilting stays done.  I can touch it, be warm underneath it, point to it when I hang it up on a wall.  It defines me.  It’s my favorite work, for when I enter my quilting zone, time just flies.

This week’s finish: Doll Quilts.  I heard from Kim, my daughter-in-law and they have arrived!

Be My Valentine

Okay, I know I’m late.  Late for Valentine’s Day.  But better late than never, right? Another entry into Friday Finishing School.  In fact, today I have two!

I finished sewing down the binding on my LOVE mini quilt–here it is!  Okay, on to the red and white.

Be My Valentine, front.

I threw a color catcher into the washer to catch the red dye–obviously I needed two, judging by the fact that the little ladies now have a light pink background instead of a white background.  It’s interesting how some of the whites were tinted pink and others were not.  Go figure.

The back.

I wanted something fun for the label, so I cut out a piece of fabric from the front, and printed onto that. It really is squared up.  Ignore the photo.

Beauty shot of the quilting on the front.  I used a thicker thread–King Tut, because I wanted those circles to stand out.  I have to say I really like quilting with Superior Thread’s King Tut.  And I buy my thread from them, just like everyone else does.  No, they are not a sponsor.  Yes, we are having a giveaway but only because I like their product.  I also use the Guterman that I get on a 50% off coupon at  the big box fabric store, but I’ve only really been happy with that for piecing, not for quilting the top.  (And no, I don’t buy into that myth about polyester thread “cutting” the cloth.)  I have also used Sulky on occasion, but sometimes I don’t like the shiny look of the polyester, and head back to the cottons.  Some quilts call for one kind of thread, other quilts call for other threads.

And on the back I used Superior’s Bottom Line thread in white. How did I ever start using this?  It was when I was sewing my Empty Next, Full Life quilt (up there in the masthead, if you want to take a look), and I just couldn’t get the threads to balance properly with their locking of the stitch in between the front and the back.  I think I had purchased a spool of Bottom Line at the last quilt show I’d gone to and in desperation, wound it onto the bobbin to try.  It’s a lighter weight thread, and I think Heather (Mother Superior, as she is known on the website) told me that a lot of show quilters used it because they could more densely quilt their quilts.  That fact didn’t sway me at all (you know how much I hate densely quilted quilts), but the fact that I didn’t have loopy loops or pulled threads to the front did convince me it was something to have around.  I loosen the tension on the top a little, sometimes a lot.  Then I write that on a post-it note and keep it near the machine for when I have to come back to it.  Generally, with a thicker thread on top, I lower it by one full point–from a 4.0 to a 3.0.

So I tend to use it always in the bobbin.  I’ve always wanted to try it in hand piecing, as it is as fine as silk.  Some day.  There you go–two Friday Finishes!

FSF–Autumn Quilt

I just finished sewing this together, and smoothed back up on the wall to do the next step: audition borders.  Those blocks have been orphaned on my wall for nearly a month now, so it’s nice to have them all sewn together (so I won’t worry about them falling off and never getting them back in the arrangement I’d decided on).

I went up to Bluebird Fabrics, which stocks a lot of Kaffe Fassett fabrics, thinking that his florals might do the trick.  But I decided it was mixing two different time epochs–not where I want to go with this quilt.  So I dug back into the stash, looked through some books and think I’m heading toward a pieced border, with that stripe as a divider to let those edges glow.  It’s interesting how “of a certain date” these fabrics are, as well as a certain look.  I’m trying for a mellow quilt top here, like the golds and reds and browns of autumn mellow into a beautiful display every year.

But Mother Nature always has a leg up on us, as she paints her fall palate.  I noticed when we were in Canada last month, how much better the Halloweeny/Fall colors looked against a gray sky and the softer contrasts found in the northern autumn light.  All those pumpkins look out of place here in Southern California, with our bright light and the continuous greens of plants and trees.  So it’s no accident that we don’t have “fall” here, at least not until January, when the liquid ambers blaze into brilliant reds, then quickly turn brown and fall off the tree.  So, as I work, I try to keep in mind the atmosphere of Montreal and Quebec City and the small island north of that old city as I work on this quilt.  Luckily it’s supposed to rain tomorrow, which will help me stay focused.

FSF–Halloween House

At long last.  After the holiday.  In time for next year:

Binding on and stitched down.  Label is coming. . . later. . .as are most things in my life right now.  We’re in crunch time at school and if you think witches in doorways and skeletons all dressed up going to a party are scary, you haven’t seen midterms and research papers for some time now.  Yesterday the students all dragged in after having taken the fiction exam last week.  They looked, in a word, bedraggled and like that scene in Roger Rabbit where the character is run over by a steamroller.  Only these young adults hadn’t popped back up yet, cartoony-like.  I opened with a few jokes, but really folks, we had more work to do.  My wry comments were followed quickly by a more thorough reading of the Research Paper packet and ideas for drafting.  There’s no way to avoid it–it’s work work work until the end of the semester.

We shifted gears and discussed the play that was assigned to them, as well as the difference between fiction and drama.  I gave them a pop quiz and wrote a condensed version of our final few classes in a modified calendar up on the board.  A few squares, like the quilt above, filled with goblins (essays), research papers (witches), exams and presentations (other scary things).  Finally, one young man spoke up, his voice weary: “It’s nice to know we have a light at the end of this tunnel.”  The ice was broken, everyone laughed, and their spirits rose a bit in order to finish the group projects, get their exams returned (they had all studied hard and did well) and move on out into the crisp California afternoon.

Halloween’s over.  The work continues.  Reading and writing for them, grading for me.  And maybe an hour or few stolen for another quilt project.  Just to keep the goblins at bay.