February’s Procrastination

Giveaway picking a winner

I did the Husband Random Name Generator today and Diane Nelson is the winner of the pearl cotton bubbles.  Congratulations, Diane!  I mailed them off this afternoon to you.  Glad you are making good progress on your Oh Christmas Tree.

Frivols Feb 2016

I received my latest Frivols tin, with the cutest little scissor holder–it will just fit nicely over my embroidery scissors.  I signed up for a year of these as a retirement present to myself.  So far it’s going along nicely: I have a stack of seven tins on my sewing room shelf (they have numbers on the side to keep track of them), with none of them made.  I think I need to stop putting this off.

Laurel's puzzle

Laurel let me stipple on her quilt for her yesterday.  Isn’t this just the dream of a mini quilt?  It’s for an auction for Autism Research.

Bee blocks are in my life right now.  I was Queen Bee for January in two bees, and they are rolling in–one batch of words for Spelling Bee was held up by a snowstorm in the midwest, and the rest of the words are being held back by my procrastination (see notes at the end of this post).
MCM book block_2

I finished this book block for Cindy’s granddaughter’s quilt last night, and there’s my signature block.  I love that in our bee we do signature blocks for each other; we also do them in The Spelling Bee too.

Chuck Nohara Feb 2016 Blocks

Time to gear up for February’s Chuck Nohara blocks.  Looks like we have more piecing than appliqué this time around–should go quickly together.  Susan has already started hers: here and here.  She’s quick!

Maybe not getting to them until now means I’m just taking to heart the advice from Adam Grant in his recent New York Times article “Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate.”  He wrote that “while procrastination is a vice for productivity, I’ve learned — against my natural inclinations — that it’s a virtue for creativity.”  There’s a term for that process of always working to finish things early.  It’s pre-crastination.  Grant notes that  “Pre-crastination is the urge to start a task immediately and finish it as soon as possible. If you’re a serious pre-crastinator, progress is like oxygen and postponement is agony. When a flurry of emails land in your inbox and you don’t answer them instantly, you feel as if your life is spinning out of control.”  Some of this is to reduce “working memory loads,” because, as Grant reports, “psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik found that people had a better memory for incomplete tasks than for complete ones. When we finish a project, we file it away. But when it’s in limbo, it stays active in our minds.”

Yes, apparently putting things off can make you more creative.

How can procrastination help?  Grant writes that “[o]ur first ideas, after all, are usually our most conventional. . . . When you procrastinate, you’re more likely to let your mind wander. That gives you a better chance of stumbling onto the unusual and spotting unexpected patterns.”  Of course, as anyone knows, especially my daughter who was helping her son with his last-minute science project  (how do these things slip our children’s minds until the due date??), excessive procrastination can also work against creativity, forcing you to choose the easiest route in order to get things done.

And today, this day in the first week of February, when I’m tired from chasing January’s deadlines and putting away the Christmas tree lights and mailing back all the things that were left in the house over Christmas vacation and summer is too far away to be of any help and QuiltCon is looming so how can I possibly concentrate, it might be helpful to realize that sometimes it’s really okay to put things off, as well as knowing that procrastinators have lots of good company.

Oh Christmas Tree QAL–Step 1

2XmasTreeFeb

I’ve been busy shopping for wools, wool felts, felted wools and all combos in between.  See below for an explanation of what they all are, although you’ve probably figured it out by now.  For those of us just joining in, the first step we did was to prepare by purchasing the Simply Moderne issue #3, which has the pattern we’ll be using; we also purchased all our supplies of wools, threads and fabrics.  It’s never too late to join, just look for the Oh Christmas Tree QAL tag at the bottom and click to locate all the posts on this blog (plus a wee giveaway to reward you for wading through all this).  We are also on Instagram with the tag #ohchristmastreeqal.

Let’s talk about wool, specifically FELTED WOOL and WOOL FELT:

Wool sweaters felted_1 Wool sweaters felted_2

I found some 100% wool sweaters at the thrift store, threw them in the washer with three tennis balls and an old tennis shoe, then dried them.  This process — using hot water, soap and agitation — is called fulling, with the result of felted wool.  I did that twice.  You can see in the top the difference between the two sweaters (they were originally the same size); however, one is called a “washable wool” so it won’t felt.  Some felted more evenly and better than others, but all of them looked like they could fit a toddler, even though they started out as an adult-sized sweater. I plan to use some of this newly felted wool with my flowers and birds.

You can also do this with 100% wool woven fabric.  You want it to felt down evenly so it is dense and won’t ravel.  Many of you purchased already felted wool and are ready to go.  Primitive Gatherings recommends using Steam A Steam 2 on the back to really stabilize the woven felted wool when you are working with it.  If you have tips on working with felted wool, please leave comments on this post, where others can find the info.  Many comments have already been left on the initial post on IG, if you want to look there.

I’m using what Wendy Williams recommended: 100% wool felt, which is that flat stuff your grandmother used to buy in the dime store to make toys, but is now available only in specialty shops (see previous Oh Christmas Tree post and the links below).  Felt does not fray when cut and is extremely stable, although it does shed a bit on first cutting.  It is wool fibers that have been felted together, and is not woven, nor knitted (as in the two examples above).

Try to keep these two terms separate in your mind: wool felt (which is what I’m using) and felted wool. There’s a few more links at the bottom of this post for more reading.ohchristmastree1_supplies ohchristmastree1_supplies2

So these are my supplies (top) and some medallion fabrics (bottom).  These fabrics have a circle pattern in them with fairly ornate decorative motifs inside.  Wendy uses them with her wools to add some flair, especially when creating the circles.

ohchristmastree1_2basefabric

I cut my background fabric, and I added about 1 1/2 inches to the measurements because I’m a chicken about these sorts of things.

ohchristmastree1_2csoftcrease

I took the fabric to the ironing board and ironed in a soft crease.  Don’t overdo it.

ohchristmastree1_2bmeasuring

 

I labeled the crosswise branches on the feather tree in the right margin of the first diagram, which you can see in the red box, and following their directions, and put pins along that soft center crease to know where to place things.

ohchristmastree1_1deciding

I cut first one strip of blue (lighter) and then the dark one, and couldn’t decide between the two for my tree.  So I laid out all my supplies on top of the strips.  I liked the country French blue, but decided, finally, that the darker would bring more contrast to the finished quilt.

ohchristmastree1_3acuttingI cut the long center strip, using the measurements in the pattern.  She asks you to taper the wool at the top, so I put a pin in the middle, then measured and placed others.  I angled my 24″ ruler from that middle pin to the outer edge of the center and cut away that wedge.  I didn’t cut enough on the first time, so did it again.  I also cut the top a wee bit larger than she asked –just a bit–as I like the look of it.

ohchristmastree1_3bcutting ohchristmastree1_3ccutting

I also cut these crosswise branches a scant 1/8″ larger, especially on the top branches (I have one more set to go up above) and I’m glad I did.
ohchristmastree1_4apinning

I laid them out on my fabric, using the soft crease and my rulers, in order to get them on the fabric straight.  You don’t want a tipping Christmas tree!  I also used the 24″ ruler as I pinned each set, as the wool will bump up against it, helping you get it on perpendicular to your tree trunk.  I was able to get it on fairly straight that way.ohchristmastree1_4bpinning ohchristmastree1_4cpins

Although I initially pinned them by putting the pins parallel to the crosswise branch, I soon found that it made the wool and the fabric buckle, so I shifted to this method of pinning.  Pin a LOT if you are using felt.  If you’ve used the wool backed with Steam-A-Seam, it will be tacky on the back and it will be easily positioned.  The felted wool people will then go to their ironing board after the first pinning step and press it down.  As Primitive Gatherings notes: “Keep your iron moving at all times so you will not scorch your wools.”  Wool is a natural fiber and can burn and scorch, but you might try using a lightweight pressing cloth in order to protect the wool and not give it a “shine” from too much pressing.  (That’s my college Clothing and Textiles degree being put to good use–thank you, Mrs. Dimas, for your tailoring class.)

ohchristmastree1_7holder

Now start stitching.  I put my ball of pearl cotton in this little holder and boy was that handy.  You can buy one from Bird Brain Designs. (See below for how you can win a couple freebies for yourself.)ohchristmastree1_8stitching

Start with the crosswise branches, and do a close backstitch on them.  I did mine right close together along the branches, like the top example:

backstitch

(from *here*)
You can do a search to find out how to do a backstitch, which is where I found *this* quick YouTube Tutorial.

ohchristmastree1_8astitching

I butted my ends of the crosswise branches together under the main tree trunk and stitched, lifting the “trunk” as I went underneath.  I also tried it with the edges just under the edge of the trunk, leaving a space between them, but felt it was more stable with the wool tucked in further.

ohchristmastree1_9dblthreadsI did an expanded backstitch going up the side of the tree, leaving a space in between each stitch, using two separate threads (one for each side) as I went up.  I decided to sew the tree trunk as I finished each branch, so it would feel quicker to me.  The whole stitching down of branches and trunk took the better part of a morning.

ohchristmastree1_stitches

I have this on high-power magnification on my camera.  I  promise you NO one is going to look at your stitches this closely, so if you make a mistake or it’s not quite right, don’t fret. This whole tree is in the folk/rustic flavor so an imperfection adds to the charm. You can see that I did a closer backstitch on the crosswise branches and an expanded, or open, backstitch on the trunk.  It was easy to stitch.ohchristmastree1_treesewn

Ta-DONE!

ohchristmastree1_tracingSince we always want to prep up for the next step before leaving our project, I’ve also added to this step the tracing-off the patterns for the flowers and the birds.   I’m using freezer paper, as it can be ironed onto my felt and used multiple times.  There are a lot of circles to cut out of your paper in order to prepare.  I’m using Kay Buckley’s Perfect Circles, matching up to what’s on the pattern and tracing around them.  (Yes, I punch holes in my bigger plastic circles so they won’t warp and buckle under the heat of the iron when I use them at the ironing board–the heat and steam can escape through the holes.  I sometimes also mark the center, which is what you see here.)

ohchristmastree1_tracing first steps

I can use the inside of a Perfect Circle to trace those teeny circles in the middle (inside the green square in the first photo), or a spool of thread, if there isn’t a Perfect Circle to match up with what you are doing.  I labeled each circle on my pattern with a master number and an inner number, as in 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 1-4 so when I cut them apart I know which goes where.  I placed them all in plastic bags.

ohchristmastree1_tracing4

For the birds, I labeled them, drawing a dashed line where it crosses the main pattern piece (or is tucked under), added another piece of freezer paper to it with glossy sides together, and stapled them once in each major piece.  I’m not ready to cut them apart yet, as I’ll do that in April, when we do birds. Pay attention to where she says to reverse the bird patterns.  If you want to, you can also start cutting your circles out of your wools and felts and fabrics (if you are using fabrics).  I realize that things often change as we start stitching the flowers and birds (the under-tree scene will come later), but it’s helpful to get going on this step.

ohchristmastree1_tracing5

It’s all tucked away, waiting for next month’s step.  Here are the steps again:

January, Step “prepare”: buy the magazine, gather your fabrics, buy the felt/wool, buy/find the pearl cotton.  More about that in a minute.

February, Step 1: Make the tree on the background and stitch it down.  If you use wool felt, she has an easy appliqué method. Prep up the circles by tracing them and organizing them together.

March, Step 2: Make 21 flowers.

April, Step 3: Make 10 birds.

May, Step 4: Make the scene at the bottom.  Wendy’s pattern (IG: flyingfishkits) has two cavorting reindeer.  I plan to switch mine out to a simple nativity.  Your choice.  (If I were you, I’d also start haunting her IG site as she has lots of great embroidery ideas for the flowers. I’d also consider buying her book, Wild Blooms and Colorful Creatures, for more tips and helps.)

June, Step 5: Appliqué down the flowers.

July, Step 6: Appliqué down the birds and the scene.

August, Step 7: Sawtooth border (reds).

September, Step 8 (finish up Quilt-A-Long): Make wonky star blocks, sew them together and attach border #2.  Ta-Done!  I just have to deliver you here.  You are on your own for getting it quilted and bound.

We’ve done:

1Xmas Tree and now2XmasTreeFeb

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll post Step Two on March 2nd.  The second day of the month will be our regular posting day from now until we finish, and I’ll also put a reminder up on Instagram.

3XmasTreeMar

Some blogposts that have tips for working with wool:

Fresh Figs

Black Mountain Needleworks

American Pie Designs

Molly and Mama

To enter the giveaway for TWO perle cotton bubbles, leave a comment below. I’ll choose someone by Friday and get them sent out to you by next Monday, just as you are ready to start sewing your trees!

 

How to Make a Signature Block (for a Bee)

SignatureBlockFeb

In two of the bees I’m in, we ask for Signature Blocks to be included with each block we make for each other.  Here’s one of my earlier ones.  I’m writing this post as a tutorial for the newer members of our bees.

There’s been some pretty creative uses of these blocks:

Back of Table Runner

Signature Blocks — image from Susan of Patchwork N Play

 

Sampler Quilt 2015with SigsI worked them into the front of my Sampler Quilt (in magenta circles), a blatant copying of Carla’s inventiveness in an earlier quilt.

Signature Blocks on Susan’s quilt (Patchwork N Play)

So here’s how:

Signature square_1Start with one 3 1/2″ square (base) and two 2 1/2″ squares (accents).  We generally use the fabric from our blocks.

signature-block-triangles2A

Snowball them onto two opposite corners.

Signature block sewn cut

Trim off the excess, then press open.

Signature square_2 Signature Square_3

Press a scrap of freezer paper behind the center white band.  Because I have a long name and a long screen name (what I use on Instagram and on my blog), I’ve made a cardboard template that I slide under the signature area.  I like to sign my name, then my screen name, and sneak in a date.  Then last, I put my city and state.
Signature Square_4

I use a size 08 Micron Pigma Pen.  The freezer paper keeps it stable while I write.  Peel off the freezer paper and send the signature block with your beemate’s blocks.

Signature Block Jan

Chuck Nohara • January 2016 blocks finished

Jan 2016 Chuck Nohara

Happy to report that I finished my January’s Chuck Nohara Blocks a few days early, even with totally redoing the house on the hill block (#cn968). (The upper left fabrics are from Sherri and Chelsi’s new line of fabrics, called Valley. Yes, that is a shameless plug for her two lines, as I love the colors and patterns.)  By the way, that  (#cn968) is how we tag them on Instagram if you are ever looking for a block, and want to see what others have done.  After seeing what others put together, I switched out the house colors (previous version shown below):

Old Chuck Nohara 968Yeah.  I didn’t like it much either, although I like all those fabrics.

ChuckNoharaChoices2016

Chuck Nohara Jan16 planned

Jan 2016 Chuck Nohara totals

Here they all are so far.  No, I haven’t trimmed up all the blocks yet.  Mine will measure 6″ when they are finished (6 1/2″ trimmed).  Here’s February’s blocks, in case you want to think about them early:

2-2016_ChuckNohara

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Quarterly Reveal on February 1st

ChristmasTreeLogoSM

See you on February 2nd to begin our Oh Christmas Tree QAL!

Microscopy for Four-in-Art Feb 2016

cocaine

This microscopic image is cocaine.

I found it while researching images for this quarter’s Four-in-Art challenge of “microscopic.”  The overarching theme is color, so of course, I was drawn to this as an idea for a quilt, hating what I’d already started piecing a couple of days ago.  As any good grad student knows, the best way to postpone the inevitable work on a deadline is to do more research.

The image of cocaine is from a website run by Michael Davidson, who recently passed away.  But he would take the images from his laboratory’s microscope and use them to make neckties.  I thought we could keep going and use them to make quilts.

nioxide

This is nickel oxide on sodium chloride, an image from his website.  After exploring his butterfly gallery, I moved on to the pharmaceutical section, and noticed that not only were Mr. Davidson and his team a whiz with microscopy, they also had a sense of humor, as witnessed by the last line in the description of caffeine:

caffeine

To quote: “Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant most commonly found in the coffee we drink every morning….Symptoms of overdose include insomnia, restlessness, tremor, delirium, tachycardia, and running of the mouth.”

taxol1

Taxol, a drug used in chemotherapy.  I’ve pinned quite a few of these to my Pinterest Board Art Quilts, as they will become the inspiration for this quarter’s efforts.

serendipity illusNot only was wandering through the internets a way to spark my creativity for this month’s looming deadline (to be published on Feb. 1st), but also I allowed myself to goof off do the research because of an article recently published in the New York Times about Serendipity, or more specifically, “How to Cultivate the Art of Serendipity,” by Pagan Kennedy.  She talked first about the word’s origins, noting that we “think of serendipity as something like dumb luck.”  But it was coined in 1754, when Horace Walpole noted that he “had been entranced by a Persian fairy tale about three princes from the Isle of Serendip who possess superpowers of observation.” In writing a letter to a friend, “Walpole suggested that this old tale contained a crucial idea about human genius: ‘As their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.’ And he proposed a new word — “serendipity” — to describe this princely talent for detective work.”  So, as Kennedy notes, the word meant “a skill rather than a random stroke of good fortune.”

She quotes Sanda Erdelez, a University of Missouri information scientist, who divides serendipitsts into three groups: ” ‘non-encounterers’ ” or people who see “through a tight focus, a kind of chink hole, and they tended to stick to their to-do lists when searching for information rather than wandering off into the margins. Other people were “occasional encounterers,” who stumbled into moments of serendipity now and then. Most interesting were the “super-encounterers,” who reported that happy surprises popped up wherever they looked. The super-encounterers loved to spend an afternoon hunting through, say, a Victorian journal on cattle breeding, in part, because they counted on finding treasures in the oddest places. In fact, they were so addicted to prospecting that they would find information for friends and colleagues.”

So, maybe in “researching” my Four-in-Art quilt, I’m just really being a super-encounterer, finding that “happy surprises” pop up with each click of the mouse button.

Or maybe, I am just putting off the inevitable: getting the work done.

4-in-art_3button

Four-in-Art Microscopy.  Coming soon to a blog near you.  Premiering February 1st, 2016.

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P.S.  Pagan Kennedy has written a new book, titled Inventology.  The blurb from her website says “Inventology is a must-read for anyone who is curious about creativity and imaginative leaps.”

 

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

1Xmas Tree

The winner of our giveaway is Quilter in Motion, aka Marsha.  And no, she doesn’t get a chicken dinner–I just like saying that.  Thank you so much for all your birthday memories–I loved reading them!  I have a couple of favorites, and have read many of them to my husband, who also picked a few of his favs.  You are all the best.

You’ve all been busy out there in Quilterland, contacting felted wool/wool felt suppliers and I have a few more pieces of information for you, as you collect and gather.

First up is a note from Stephanie, saying she contacted Errin Rissberger at QuiltingAcres on ETSY, and bought this fine array of colors of felted wool, all for about $69.50:

rainbow of felted wools

Stephen had shopped around at some other sites and found this one to be most reasonable.  Erin has those bundles up there, ready to go, if you want one too.

Prairie Woolens FeltBrenda contacted Donna, of Prairie Woolens, and she wrote that she does: “create custom kits for pretty much any pattern whether it’s something we carry or not and there are no requirements.  I checked out the picture and I would say it would likely be the hand-dyed colors [of wool].  The 100% wool felt and the felted wool are similar in thickness so I think you could use them together in the same project.  I’ve mixed felt and wool together in the same project and it works wonderfully.  Hopefully this helps but if you have any questions, please let me know.”

Primitive Gatherings Wool

This screenshot is Primitive Gatherings’ offering.  I was down in there shop this past week, and they stock felted wools, but no wool felt.  They are beautiful, though.  You can purchase them on their website, too.

Whether or not you’ve already purchased your wool, you can bet that halfway through the project, you’ll be wanting a different color, so either head over there now, or save this for later.  I so appreciate those who have written in to pass on information for others to benefit from.

4-in-art_3

The next post on this will be in a couple of weeks, just after the beginning of the February.  On February 1st, we have the reveals for our art quilt group, Four-in-Art, a collaborative group of quilters who wanted to try something different.  We post four times a year (hence the name) and work in the chosen themes.  This year’s theme is Color, and February’s challenge is Microscopic.

Road 2016 QuiltsSM

Before that, I’ll be going to Road to California, where I’ll have two quilts hanging in the show–if you are going, please DM me on IG and find me–I’ll be the girl with the goofy smile standing in front of one of these quilts.  I generally post a lot on flood Instagram with quilt photos from the show, so you can find me there: occasionalpiecequilt (the button is on the right, if that’s easier).

Okay, Marsha, I’ll be in touch with you to get your snail mail address and get your magazine off to you!

Oh Christmas Tree Quilt-A-Long & a Giveaway!

1Xmas Tree

When I first saw this Christmas Tree on Instagram, I fell in love.  So I proposed a Quilt-A-Long that would force enable me  to to get it completed in time for Christmas 2016, for there is power in having to put your innermost feelings about quilts/goal setting out there in the world and shaming yourself into finishing it.  I’m really good at this, I know. I wrote to Wendy Williams, who designed this pattern, and she gave us her blessing, and said “she can hardly wait to see the quilts that will come of this.”  So onward, everyone!

Simply Moderne Scan

The magazine where this pattern is found is Simply Modern Issue #3, and that’s the giveaway part.  I have an extra copy which you can win, but wait a minute.  First let’s do the business of this.  If you aren’t lucky enough to win this, you can buy it from Fat Quarter Shop, or the QuiltMania people, or if you live in Australia, it’s on Wendy’s website Flying Fish Kits (link below).

I’ve broken it down into several steps, some easy and for some months you will be carting around your embroidery around with you everywhere you go, but these are definitely do-able steps.  Here they are:

January, Step “prepare”: buy the magazine, gather your fabrics, buy the felt/wool, buy/find the pearl cotton.  More about that in a minute.

February, Step 1: Make the tree on the background and stitch it down.  If you use wool felt, she has an easy appliqué method.

March, Step 2: Make 21 flowers.

April, Step 3: Make 10 birds.

May, Step 4: Make the scene at the bottom.  Wendy’s pattern (IG: flyingfishkits) has two cavorting reindeer.  I plan to switch mine out to a simple nativity.  Your choice.  (If I were you, I’d also start haunting her IG site as she has lots of great embroidery ideas for the flowers. I’d also consider buying her book, Wild Blooms and Colorful Creatures, for more tips and helps.)

June, Step 5: Appliqué down the flowers.

July, Step 6: Appliqué down the birds and the scene.

August, Step 7: Sawtooth border (reds).

September, Step 8 (finish up Quilt-A-Long): Make wonky star blocks, sew them together and attach border #2.  Ta-Done!  I just have to deliver you here.  You are on your own for getting it quilted and bound.

1Xmas Tree

So here’s the drill for Step: prepare.  Wendy calls for wool felt.  Some of my IG followers have left a lengthy series of comments on an earlier IG post about threads and wools (scroll back in the feed to find it–it says Step 1 on it, which is an oops, but it’s those Flying Monkeys again).  You can buy 100% wool and felt it yourself (more tips in her book or on the internet), or buy 100% wool felt.  According to @yondergirlie, the preferred is the felt, as you don’t have to stitch it down as much as it doesn’t fray (sometimes the felted wools can fray).  The general consensus was to use pearl cotton #8 for the embroidery.  According to the pattern, you’ll also need a medallion-style piece of fabric to appliqué in the center of some of the flowers.  I love Wendy’s combination of wool and felt together.

OhChristmasTreeSupplies

(all of my felts, threads and wools; some of the fabrics, and Sue Spargo’s Creative Stitches book for embroidery ideas)

I visited with the people at a local shop today that specializes in felted wool.  When using the wool they use Steam-A-Seam 2 to back their pieces, fuse them to the top, and then they handstitch around them, using pearl cotton size 12 thread.  All these are options for you to try and to experiment with.  I’ll be using wool felt, plus some felted wool sweaters for accent pieces, that I recently re-discovered in my garage (let’s hear it for UFOs that deliver to your newest project).  I also found a stash of wool felt that I purchased in Munich, Germany some years ago.  If you want to take a trip there, I can provide the address (it’s another one of those things that I buy, hoard away, and then later find a use for, much to my delight).

Many others mentioned an ETSY shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/quiltingacres [copy and paste addresses into your browser address bar].  I’ve also seen Primitive Gatherings mentioned for felted wool, as well as @benziedesign on Instagram.  I have found lots of Christmas fabric on sale this past month to use for the wonky stars, borders and background.  So, gather away and get ready for the Oh, Christmas Tree quilt-a-long!

Giveaway Banner

Now for the giveaway (domestic only).  HOWEVER!  if you live in Australia, Wendy has patterns of this tree for sale on her blog (just thought you’d like to know).

Since it’s my birthday tomorrow, I’d like you to leave a one-or two-line memory about your best birthday ever.  I’ll randomly draw a name this weekend and get it sent off on Monday.  Make sure you fill in an accurate email address as I’ll use that to contact you.  And if you throw your name in the ring for this magazine, I’ll expect to see a finished quilt this coming December, as you wouldn’t want to just hoard it away from someone who really really really wants it, would you?  Leave your comments below.

NOTE: Comments are now closed.  Giveaway winner will be announced this afternoon (Friday, Jan. 8th).

Spelling Bee Begins • January 2016

Making Words_4

Sometime ago, I hatched an idea of making letters and words and ideas up in cloth.  Not a new idea, but just one that emerged from the morass to capture my attention, I’d say.  Getting a few friends to join me in this endeavor was the easy part.  I set up a blog, Quilt Abecedary, where I experimented with making letters free-form, teaching myself as I went, failing and succeeding, jumping off my comfortable quilty cliff.  That done, I wondered what to choose for a theme.

woman cooking_2

My first thought, and the one that lingered the longest was to do a series of words around the theme of “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Elizabeth” — verbs like bake, roast, chop, sauté and so forth.  I have a recipe blog, Elizabeth Cooks, so thought to add that blog address to the mix.  But somehow it just didn’t seem satisfying, as I couldn’t just settle into it.

Saying w:o names

I made my parents an embroidered sampler some years ago with a lovely saying celebrating their marriage:

When the one man loves the one woman and the one woman loves the one man,
the very angels leave heaven and come and sit in the house and sing for joy
The interesting thing about deadlines is that they force you to a decision, whether or not it’s the “perfect” one. And this idea–of making a Valentine’s quilt — resonated with me.  For better or for worse, my marriage is the key to my happy life, and I wanted to celebrate that idea with a Valentine’s quilt.
Spelling Bee Fabrics
I chose a range of reds to dark pinks in all shades, with minimal patterning, with creamy whites to light pinks to serve as the background.  I’ll mark our progress as we move through this one-year commitment (the bee will disband at the end of the year).  My beemates will choose their words and I’ll make the rest.  We’ll pop up now and again on Instagram at #spellingbeequilt.  We have no blog or Flickr site as it is only a year-long project. If this idea piques your interest, drop me an email with a photo and I’ll share your words on here, too.
Happy New Year
Since tonight is New Year’s Eve, I thought it was a good way to celebrate the New Year by trying something I hadn’t tried before.  I was quite struck by something my nephew’s wife posted today on Instagram.  She wrote that she’d seen babies born, a friend’s wedding, job losses, and sadly, buried a brother; she summed it up by saying “So much great that I want to remember forever and so much heartache I hope I never know again.  Goodbye 2015, you have made your mark.  And now on to 2016, I have so much to tell you.”
She echoed my feelings exactly.  I’ve learned a lot this year, working through my Lost Summer of surgery, continuing health problems and had to come to grips that every time I look in the mirror I think of more of my grandmother than I do those pictures of me as a young woman. But I’ve had the sweetness of my husband’s company during this time, good friends who rallied round, lovely readers of this blog (many of who have become good friends) and lots of new quilting opportunities to enjoy.  So, to echo Casey’s words: Goodbye 2015, you have made your mark.  And now on to 2016, a clean slate, full of hope and plans and big challenges.
Happy New Year, everyone!

Merry Christmas 2015

Christmas Treat final

Christmas Treat Wallhanging (from here)

Merry Christmas 2015!

ChristmasRunners

Largely because of traveling and family obligations, this season has felt like a mad dash, reminding me of the runners I met in the Metro in DC one December morning.  But here we are and now it’s time to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a thought-provoking New Year.

It’s time to celebrate the birth of the Christ child, with the thoughts of Mary gazing at her newborn son in wonder, perhaps hoping she could keep him a wee babe forever and ever, but of course, all children grow up and so did He.  I celebrate her and him and the sweet feelings that arise at this time of good cheer.

Christmas Canadian Tree

Please do eat some fudge and toffee and savor some good food, whether or not you made it, or your mother made it, or you picked it up in the freezer section at the grocery store. (Time enough for dieting after the new year.)  Please also play some Christmas carols and if you’ve got half a voice, sing along. What happens here after the holidays? I’ve got some posts coming up (after the company all leaves) about some quilt-a-longs for 2016, and I’m developing some new patterns for you to try.  And of course, I’ll write about some quilty topics (haven’t blogged about QuiltCon Rejects yet, have I?), and some musings here and there.  We’ll just see where the new year takes us.

I hope for you all a season of joy and of remembering the good, letting the rest slide into the background, knowing that all that we go through makes us who we are–perfect and imperfect and very human. . . and very much in need of each other.  I wish you all time for reflection on family, friends (both near and wide in our quilty universe) and for all that we are grateful.  I’ll see you after we traverse through the darkest and longest days of the year, moving always towards the love of our Savior, Jesus Christ and the light and warmth of Christmas.

nativity