Nice to See You, Christmas Quilts!

Christmas Quilts on Bed1

We have a tradition that nothing Christmas happens until after the Thanksgiving meal.  In the Old Days, when I had children at home, we’d sing Christmas carols that afternoon, a cluster of us at the piano.  Now, we turn on iTunes and listen to the songs while we do the dishes.  This is Christmas Star, #80 on my 100 Quilts List, in case you want to read more about it.

Christmas Quilts on Bed2

This morning I got out all the Christmas quilts that have been in the cupboard for a year.  It’s nice to see them again.  This is Star Mother’s Youngest Child, #108.

Christmas Quilts2Christmas Treat, #111.

Christmas Quilts1

This was about the first Christmas display quilt I made and I called it Christmas Wall Hanging.  It’s label-less, but is #15 on my 100-Quilts List, having been made twenty-two years ago.  I have made other Christmas quilts, but they’ve been passed on to others.

Wide Mouth Pouch1

I also found time to make a little pouch for a granddaughter, at her mother’s request.  It’s Noodle Head’s Wide Mouth Pouch, but I made it a little bit taller.

Wide Mouth Pouch2

Wide Mouth Pouch3I also added a tab at the zipper closure end so it’s easy to grab.  Her birthday is coming up this week, so I popped it in the mail the day before Thanksgiving.

Hope you enjoy getting reacquainted with your Christmas quilts, too!

 

Home Stretch: an Illusion

final inner corner

I finished up the quilting on the inner white field (background to the petal part) and thought–“Good!  I’m in the home stretch!”  Au contraire, mon ami.

narrow inner border

The next morning I got up and marked the swoopy quilting on the narrow inner border.  Yes, I’m pathetic enough that I feel like I want to mark every stitch.  At this point I’m watching millions of hours of longarm videos, as well as domestic machine (DM) quilting videos and everyone makes it look soooo smooth when they quilt.  I am really trying, but marking also just in case.  I stitch this and as I round the final bend, I realize that my stitching is more fluid and even that in the first foot or two of where I started.  I stop, unpick that section and re-stitch it.

crochet hook trick

Migrating threads can be taken care of by inserting a teensy crochet hook in between stitches in a seam, and pulling the thread out the side.  I’m successful at this about 70% of the time.  When I try this, I vow to study the quilts at the quilt shows a little harder.  Do they have this problem?  Do they worry about it?  I go back to studying longarm photos, seeing how even their stitches are, if they have wobblies.  They do, just fewer.  Is it fair to compare?  Not really, but I do it anyway.

quilting Colorwheel Blossom

I like it best when I can just go and go and the thread whooshes through and the machine hums and the TED Radio Talks are on in the background, not making me concentrate on anything.  I hate it the most when the thread breaks, or the bobbin runs out, or I bobble too much and feel like I need to unpick it and restitch it.

Quilting outer border

I take this photo before I go to bed that night and think “I’m done.” “Not so,” a little voice says.  Something’s just not right.

overlaying paper for ideas

I put that photo up on Instagram (IG) hoping for some feedback and the answer came back: the density of the quilting doesn’t match the inner field.  I knew that.  I just didn’t WANT to know that.  I overlay some transparent paper on the quilt and sketch in what’s been quilted, then try out some more bits and pieces.  I like the simplicity of the grid the best.

marking quilt again

More marking.

quilting done outer border

A ton more sewing.

colorwheel blossom beauty shot

And I finish.

Road Acceptance 2015

Somewhere in here I found about the acceptance of my quilts in the juried show of Road to California.  I’m dancing around on the bed, jumping around the house in complete and utter happiness.  For the last few years I’ve not gotten any quilt in and then to get all three??  I’m over the moon.

removing blue marker2

A very helpful Leslie, a quilter on Instagram, coaches me through the next step of getting out the blue marks.  I find a video on YouTube where the quilter uses a sponge and a cotton swab to get out the marks.  I follow her instructions.

removing blue marker

I’d done a teensy bit of grid right in the middle to tie into the outer border.

different between marked and not marked

As I take off the marks, I can’t believe how different (and better) the quilting looks!  I’m smiling as I swab. And then. . . of course.  I see all the areas where I’d missed stitching–there is one to the right of the vine in the photo above.

Colorwheel Blossom Drying on Bed

I checked my other expert I turn to for help: Linda of Flourishing Palms, and both she and Leslie suggested laying it out and putting a fan on it to let it dry.  So I put down my two cardboard cutting boards for a stiff surface, layered it with towels, then smoothed it out to dry.  Next up is finding and fixing all those missed sections of the quilt, and then the age-old question: how to bind this?  One of my quilty friends suggested a faced binding, and I’m leaning that way, for sure.

I’m pretty pleased with my work thus far, as I see it laying on the bed in the other room.  And I’ve really benefitted from a lot of encouragement from all of you here on the blog and in Instragramland.  But as I said to a friend today, why is it that I see all the mistakes?  And do I need to unpick them and re-stitch them?  I had the same experience with my Lollypop Trees quilt–and my uber-observant husband also found all the wobblies on that quilt (I’ve asked him to not do that again–one of me is bad enough!).  Leanne suggested living with it for a while before deciding, and after a couple of months, I didn’t notice the problems.  As much.

I’ve complimented others on their quilts and in return I get a litany of all the mistakes and the problems.  I don’t want — as Benjamin Franklin said — to look for the worm in the apple of my eye, nor do I want to see those flaws that others point out in their own work.  (BTW, my father always said the correct response when someone compliments you is”Thank you.”) So what is it about human nature that only sees the flaws?  Do you do this too?

All that being said, from the vantage point of the above photo, and my forays into the next room to check on the drying, I’m enjoying this quilt.  And happy to be at this (almost) home stretch.

 

Colorwheel Blossom in Progress

Colorwheel Blossom Quilt_in progress1

Because of all the wonderful and encouraging comments from last post, I kept going.  This is an in-progress update.  Inner blossoms quilted.  Inner background quilted.  Moving on today to small border, then final large border.

Making a quilty knot

Some asked about how I knot the threads to bury them.  When I begin stitching an area, I pull the bobbin thread up to the top, hang on to them and start stitching.  When I’m done, I need to deal with these threads. Before, I used to tie a square knot and then thread the tails through a self-threading needle and bury them.  There is a better way that I learned from Sue Rasmussen.

But first, there are two kinds of self-threading needles:

self-threading needle 1 self-threading needle 2The top kind, where you snap the thread into place, is a more reasonable cost, but occasionally it will shred your thread.  The side-threading needles retail for about seven dollars each (coming in a pack of three), but those who have them swear by them.  I did a search on “self-threading needle” on Google to find these.

But now I tie an overhand knot leaving the knot about a 1/4″ away from where I want to sink it into the quilt.  I grab the tails, put them in my self-threading needle, insert the tip of the needle where my threads originated and come out about 1″ away, pulling on the thread to pop in the knot.  If your knot is too far away, it will come loose.

Thank you again for all your encouraging comments.
Linking up to Lee’s Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday.

 

Don’t Let the Process Overtake the Purpose

Narrow Mountain cliffside road

So here’s a dream story. I was driving someone home on a cliffside road, maybe it was the side of a dormant volcano or something–things are awfully hard to pin down in dreams.  The road was carved into the side of a mountain and kept getting more and more narrow until I felt I had only about two wheels on the road, but somehow didn’t fall down the mountain.  I could see the village in the valley below, and the person in the front seat kept yakking on and on like there was nothing unusual, and I’m like, “Hey! There’s no road here!”

Leap of Faith Indiana Jones

And as only dreams can do, it suddenly got worse when a car was coming the other way and I’m like “Are you nuts?  I’m not pulling over. . . I’ll grind right into the mountain.” And the oncoming car got closer and closer and I was sure I was going to be killed–because it was a dream, and that’s how dream things go.

crusades1

I woke into that lucid dreaming sleep place, where you are half in and half out, and thought of that scene from Indiana Jones, where he had to take a step of faith, and then discovers that the land bridge is there, only he couldn’t see it.  I focused on that, trying to stop being so frightened about there being no road, when it suddenly dawned on me that this was all about The Quilt.  The one that has been done since MAY and the one that’s been hanging in the closet, as I was too frightened to start quilting it.  I just didn’t know how, didn’t know if I was up to it.  I had already purchased all the thread in two separate trips up to Utah’s Superior Threads, so it wasn’t like I didn’t have my supplies.

Colorwheel Blossom Quilt Top

I did this-and-that all morning, still avoiding The Quilt.  And at lunch I was reading the New York Times and found an interview with Janet Elkin, with the words from this post’s title: “Don’t let the process overtake the purpose.”  She went on to say that when she motivates her employees, instead of focusing on the negative, she says “Let’s talk about how we’re going to get better.  Let’s get started.”  I ripped out that article and went right upstairs and pinned it to my design wall where I could see it.  It was time to get started.

Quilting Ideas

When I’d taken my class this summer at San Diego, Sue Rasmussen, the teacher, recommended finding ideas even in clothing.  I had drawn up a small sketch of an idea some time ago, and in another “ah, ha” moment, recognized it as being from the skirt I was wearing that day.  So I pulled out that skirt, traced a quarter of my quilt onto tracing paper and started sketching some ideas in pencil, going over them in ink when I liked them.

Colorwheel Quilt_sketch

Although it took me a while to realize this, a lot of free-motion quilters use drawn shapes to help them get the quilting done, so I made some templates of repeated shapes and laid them out on my quilt.  I used a blue wash-out marker to trace them, as I wanted them to stay on the quilt for while, giving myself a road map. I kept saying to myself that I had let the idea of quilting this quilt — the process — get in the way of my vision of a finished quilt — the product.  The universe had delivered two strong messages to me, so finally it was time to get going.

Colorwheel Quilt_petals1

I drew on the design with a purple disappearing marker for the inner petals, found the threads, and stitched those.  Big breath. Keep going.

Colorwheel Quilt_petals1a

I have NO confidence whatsoever in my ability to free motion quilt feathers, even though I have drawn them out about a billion times.  So I drew on that next set of petals, found the threads and quilted those and before quitting for the day, I buried all my threads, using the new method taught to me by Sue Rasmussen.

Colorwheel Quilt_petals2

I matched up the colors for the outer petals this afternoon, but even though I’d made a sketch of what I wanted, I needed another road map.

Colorwheel Quilt_petals template

So I made  another template, and drew that on.

Colorwheel Quilt_petals3

Tonight before I stopped, I had finished up all the colorful petals of my Colorwheel Blossom.  Of course, I’m not out of the woods yet, because I feel like another cliffside road is coming up for the quilting of the white part, but I will go forward in faith, trusting that I’ll figure it out as I quilt.  I appreciate all the encouragement I’ve received from the IG crowd; their enthusiastic comments help to propel me forward.  Lastly, I don’t know if any of my quilts  will ever be “show-quilt” worthy, but I will have tried something hard for me, and traveled down a new road.

driving into the sunset

Sometimes that’s enough.

Moments of Friendship

collage

I had some enjoyable moments last week with friends and family, and a funny little moment in a fabric shop watching these two little future quilters in the lower right corner climb up the shelves of fabric.  I was also able to attend Andrew’s baptism at the age of eight, and I got all teary listening to the talks, the messages from the bishop of that congregation, and enjoying seeing my son interact with his sons (he has four boys).

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 8.35.54 PM

Another friend and I traveled to Roger’s Gardens in Costa Mesa (Orange County) to see their holiday decorations, newly revealed and loved all their arrangements.  But since we didn’t rob a bank before going, we took snapshots of a lot of them for you to enjoy (although I would have like to have sent you all that beautiful wreath in the upper right).

Signature Quilt Top

And to honor another friend, we finally gathered up all the signature blocks we needed in order to make a quilt for Lora.

Signature Quilt top2

Another reminder of how the weekend went was the chance I had to listen to still another friend who had just lost her father, and all the attendant issues that come with the dismantling of a childhood home, of caring for the remaining aging parent, of dealing with grief and loss.

listeningSome of us have known each other for 25 years or more, and like all friendships, our ties to each other have come about layer by layer and shared experiences and I have had a chance to reflect on why they had impacted my life so deeply. The salient characteristic was as Emerson described: they listened to listen.  They listened to learn.  They listened and then asked questions and our answers and questions to each other would ping-pong back and forth.

Bizarro About me and my stuff

They never listened to me in anticipation of getting the conversation centered back on themselves, a commonplace experience nowadays.  Slowly over time, like the process of building a quilt,  we learned about each other, the years sifting over us until we found ourselves at a dinning room table talking about seam allowances, a flood in a kitchen, how a child is doing in college, a child’s wedding.  Not all friendships can go the distance, and perhaps Emerson’s words are a golden nugget for me to think about again and again.  All I know is that time with a good friend is a treasure, and this past week I had more than my share.