Thanksgiving 2015

Mutts Opportunities

Today, on America’s Thanksgiving holiday, I am grateful for opportunities that come my way.  To be sure, they are often disguised as *bonk!* on the head, occasionally causing some consternation. I am also grateful for hot and cold running water, a snug house and a garden where lettuce is growing, reminding me again of the harvest, but in a green way, not a gold-and-amber way.  I open my spice cupboard and I am richer than the ancient kings of Egypt, with spices all arrayed in their glorious pungency and flavor.  I have clothes in my closet–a variety, to be sure.  I am grateful also for comfortable shoes, socks with no holes in them, and enough fabric to last me for quite a few whiles. . . and then some more.

I am grateful for family, for my six brothers and sisters, and for parents who instilled in me a sense of excellence, of purpose, a love of education and reading and doing the right thing.  They also gifted me a love of the arts, of the decorative, of the intrinsic qualities of nature’s beauties.  I am grateful for my husband–can’t say enough about him–and our four children and their families.

I am grateful to be a writer, a quilter, a maker, and to have found quilty friends in this lovely online community.  I am grateful that you reach out to me, too, with glimpses into your lives and how things run for you.  I am richer for it.


(An Earlier Feast)

Thanksgiving Cartoon MuttsHappy Thanksgiving!

Quilty Procrastination

I feel the crisp air now of California, now that it’s finally mid-November (apparently the effect of climate change) and coming soon is Turkey Day.  (For a turkey prep that will change your life, see *here.*  We did it last year and I’ll never do anything else now.)  And then, you know, The Big One, and I’m not referring to earthquakes in California.  Yes. . . Christmas.  My friend has already sewn multiples of her gift for family and friends, and I’m just now kind of thinking about it.  I am already behind.


So I’m skipping all that, and going right to the New Year and its projects.   Because it’s never too late to focus on something in the future, where I’m going to live, than to spend time moaning over the fact that I have nothing sewn for Christmas, which will soon be in the past.  All this is because I seem to be an expert at procrastinating.  According to Timothy Pychyl, interviewed on *this site,* I have demonstrated several of the key unproductive responses to a dreaded task (from *his book*)[my comments are in brackets]:

  1. Distracting yourself, and thinking about other things
  2. Forgetting what you have to do, either actively or passively (usually for unimportant tasks)
  3. Downplaying the importance of what you have to do
  4. Giving yourself affirmations, focusing on other your values and qualities that will solidify your sense of self [even though you aren’t getting your work done!]
  5. Denying responsibility in order to distance yourself from what you have to do
  6. Seeking out new information that supports your procrastination (e.g. when you tell yourself you need to have more information before you get started on something)[a classic grad school trick]

So, in order to model for you number 1, 3, and 5 nearly all of them, I hereby give you:

2016 Projects

Projects for the New Year (or earlier, if I want):

  • Unpin Shine: The Circles Quilt after I spend close to 3 hours pinning it, take it apart and layer on another layer of wool batting, and then re-pin it in order to quilt it, or merely obsesses about quilting it, as the case may be.
  • Start the Spelling Bee.  I’m still trying to think of a theme or a pithy phrase to have my beemates make for me.
  • Continuing Chuck Nohara block creation.  There is no date by which these have to be finished, so it’s pure sewing enjoyment.
  • I’m the Queen Bee for Mid-Century Modern Bee in January and I already have my idea (I’m not telling).  We’ve had some changes, and have 2 openings for quilters who have their own blog –or– a body of work on Instagram/Flickr.  You also have to be over 50 (the Mid-Century thing), be vetted by our committee, have a modern tilt to your sewing, are a capable sewist, and love to be on time with your bee projects.  Leave a comment if you are interested.
  • Four-in-Art has a new yearly theme (Color) and Simone has announced our first quarterly challenge: Microscopic.  I’m totally jazzed.  We also have a couple of openings, and the same criteria apply — except for the age thing.  We’d also like if you would be willing to be creative and try new approaches to quilting. We make our quilts and post them on our blogs/Flickr accounts (we do not send them anywhere, so perfect for international participation).  Up to this point, they’ve all been in the 12″ square format, but we are now leaving the size open to the artist.  Leave a comment if you are interested. The guidelines we came up with are:

1. Members should have a desire to expand their creativity.
2. Have a body of work on line that members can review via blog, Flickr or Instagram.
3. Make a year commitment to the group, and do their best to make deadlines- unless some crazy life occurrence happens.
4. Be willing to review other Four-in-Art work and leave a comment within the first week of publishing.

  • Write my pattern for Spectrum, a mini quilt, and get that up on Craftsy/PayHip.
  • My time with the Traveling Threads Bee is almost finished.  Just waiting on one more package from the quilter ahead of me, and then I’ve completed all the blocks for my beemates.  My blocks have also been returned to me (all the Alison Glass fabrics in the corner up there) and I’d like to dive into that.
  • Plan out the Halloween Quilt my friend Leisa and I are doing:

HalloweeenQuilt 1008dollars

Apparently all my readers are more clever than I (but I knew that already) and have located the pattern for me.  Thanks very much to Leslie in Rome, and everyone else.  You are the best!

It’s called “Hallowe’en 1904,” and is from Blackbird Designs.  Common Threads in Wisconsin seems to have it back in stock, which is great news!

See how easy that was?  And how I didn’t think about Getting Ready for Christmas once?

But according to Pychyl, one of biggest recommendations to avoid procrastination is simply to get started. “Once we start a task, it is rarely as bad as we think. . . .When you find yourself thinking things like ‘I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow,’ ‘I work better under pressure,’ ‘There’s lots of time left,’ I can do this in a few hours tonight’, let that be a flag or signal or stimulus to indicate that you are about to needlessly delay the task, and let it also be the stimulus to just get started.”

Happy mid-November, y’all.  Let’s get started.


Oktoberfest’s Blocks and Quilts and Plans

IMG_5162.JPGWhile I really love the festive cookies sold during Germany’s Oktoberfest, it’s the giant pretzels I really miss.

IMG_6234.JPGIMG_5545.JPG And who can forget the cute dirndls, wore by the most traditional Bavarian women? (I have three, all made by hand with fabric lugged home from Munich.)  But in honor of those weeks of partying they do in the Bavarian Alps, I’ve been partying here in my sewing room, finally gaining enough stamina to put in nearly a full day’s/several days’ worth of work.  In other words, it’s catch-up time.


A package of blocks from our Traveling Threads Bee finally caught up to me (we’ve had some delays) and I placed Amber’s blocks (she blogs at One Shabby Chick) all over my design wall to admire the handiwork of my beemates.  So often when I get a batch of blocks, I recognize that there is a different goal for those of us at the end of the bee.  Those at the beginning work on creating blocks and filling up the holes.  But if you are towards the end of the trading circle, a good look at the quilt is necessary, asking: what does this quilt need?  In this case, it needs some negative space, the hint given by that lone six-pointed appliqué star there on the turquoise background.

Starshine rays

The theme of this quilt is “I love you more than all the stars,” with the request to make pink stars on a range of blue backgrounds.  Amber also included this really cool lame cotton, which of course I couldn’t wait to use.  I kept singing the lyrics to Good Morning, Starshine in my head, and realized that’s where I needed to go.  So above, are three starshine blocks.Starshine on AmbersQuilt

I tucked them in around the edges of the quilt, pronounced it done, packed it up and mailed it off to the next partner in our bee.Detail Halloween Quilt 2015-2 Detail Halloween Quilt 2015

After two years of saving a few Halloween-themed Polaroid blocks, I pulled them out and put them into a random bordered square arrangement.  While I should be working on Halloween in March, or even April, I never feel like working on Halloween then.  Halloween Quilt 2015 Quilts for the Quilter

This, along with my basket quilt and another quilt Lisa and I finished for a friend, are now at the quilter’s.  Yes, I’ll enjoy my Halloween quilt NEXT Halloween.

Fabric for Halloween quilt

Except that there may be another quilt joining that one: this is our stack of fabrics from Primitive Gatherings quilt shop (and there are a few more from Temecula Quilt Company) that Leisa and I put together, so we can make this:

Halloween Quilt 1904

from the ever-talented Thelma, at Cupcakes ‘n Daisies

However I promised her we wouldn’t start on it until after the holidays, so the fabrics are stashed away until January.Alphabet to S

And I’ve made it up to T/t on my Quilt Abecedary project (T/t were too shy to pose for a photo).  Only a few more, then I’ll need to start really honing in on the theme of my quilt and what I want my Spelling Bee-mates to make for my quilt.  I’m first up in January, so I’d better get cooking.

And then after that finishes next year, I’m game to do another traveling bee.  And then after that. . .

It’s nice to be looking far forward once again, rather than just hoping I can make it through a day at a time.  I used to do quarterly goals for several online finishing collaborations, but have fallen out of the habit of looking ahead, bogged down as I was in this summer’s detritus of the here and now.  I still don’t fill up my schedule book too far ahead, not knowing if my stamina will hold out.

And does it really help to focus on your goals?  We’ll never quell that controversy, but according the article, How Goals and Good Intentions Can Hold Us Back on the 99u blog, focusing exclusively on your goals may “spoil your experience of the activities you’ll need to pursue.”  Even the first article linked above notes that “relentless fantasizing may actually reduce one’s odds of achieving goals.”  But, rather, “adopting the mind-set that your strengths and abilities are not fixed, but can improve over time and with effort, can have self-fulfilling results” (99u — always a good site for reading about this sort of thing).

For this reason, I’ve found often that reviewing my achievements often provides motivation to go forward, a sort of “I finished that one, now I can finish this” one sort of process.  Or I can say to myself, “I like the feeling of having completed this,” and enjoy the feeling like when I walked out of the post office yesterday, having mailed off a bee-mate’s package of blocks.

To close, here’s one two more thoughts:

make a plan

from here

but don’t forget to. . .Happy Things

I plan to quilt.

Cleaning the Design Wall

Since I am away from the computer for a while, I’m running a few favorite, previously published posts.  
This one originally ran on July 22, 2010, but is modified for today’s post.

Here’s the before:

The during:

The after:

Okay, that’s not a very exciting thing to do, right?  We want all our sewing tools to keep on working, day after day, no complaints, no breakdowns, no upkeep or maintenance required.  But it’s such a little thing to take a few minutes and cheap-o lint roller remover and stroke down the board.  And really, is the Before picture really so objectionable? Yet, what surprised me is how many of the threads that came off on those sticky papers were seemingly invisible to me.

But since I did it yesterday, just walking into the room is different.  My pin wall is thread-free (for the time being) and it makes the room look cleaner.  It made me think of the premise behind Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point: that an epidemic can start with one small thing and roll on out from that.   It’s like how picking up the towels in the bathroom and rehanging them triggers a cleaning of the sink.  Or washing the curtains makes you repaint the bedroom.  I’m talking about those kinds of mini-epidemics, that are just one person wide and one person deep. Those changes I make myself.

My sewing room (aka The Study) had been a mess since we arrived home from our trip to Canada and I just didn’t seem to have the mental energy to put the things away.  But I cleaned the threads off the wall and now I’m putting away those little naggy things that linger after travel is done.

So maybe, taking time off to take care of things has unintended consequences?  That this can, in some ways, apply to our own creativity level?  That taking time off to clean out a few cobwebs, have a walk on the beach, or take a minute to sing along to a popular song in between shuttling the family to various places is like cleaning the threads off the design wall?


Perhaps a little mental maintenance on our own selves is why summertime is such a tonic, even if we don’t know what ails us.

Process vs. Product

Since I am away from the computer for a while, I’m running a few favorite, previously published posts.  
This one originally ran on July 16, 2010, but is modified for today’s post.

Is it possible to lust after another person’s finished quilt?  Yes, quite possibly.  Definitely. For sure.  The quilt shown above uses the Castle Peeps line, and was put together by  Elizabeth Hartman, of Oh! Fransson.  I purchased the blue colorway of this line this summer and before I close out my sewing blitz and focus on The Job, I’m dying to throw together one more quilt.  This design has inspired me.

There’s been a lot of talk on the blogosphere about the issue of production in quilting, and I’m here to add my .02.  Jennifer, of “That Girl. . . That Quilt,” has written a whole series of her thoughts about “quilting without obligations.” They seem to be a reaction to the feeling that quilting is all about production, rather than about the process.  This is an age-old discussion and is found in other corners of the creative universe.

When I was an undergrad, working in the black and white photo lab, this idea–process vs. product–was discussed constantly.  To give you a flavor of what our conversations sounded like, as we blew dust specks off of our negatives and worked at creating “art,” have a listen to the little clip below. Yes, it’s dense, but give it a go.

I think his point that when we focus on product, we may miss other connections that may arise from the creative process is valid, but there are times when product is not the Big Evil.  Sometimes I just want to get something done, speaking of quilts and quilting.  Sometimes I just want to quickly make up a quilt in a fabric line because I want to see that on my bed.  I’m not interested in being drawn into the process of the quilt–I just want to lay down under it.  Or hang it up on the wall.  Or because the process has already happened in my mind, in thinking about it at the back of my brain when I couldn’t get to the sewing machine for one reason or another.

I read a lot of blogs, like the rest of you, and many of them are designed as advertising.  The quilt artists/makers have been involved in the process of their art and designed fabric/patterns/quilts that they need to sell in order to make their living.  Many blogs are tied to online quilt shops.  These are valuable places for me to go and get my ideas, be exposed to new fabrics, enjoy the fruits, if you will, of other people’s labors all before I take up my rotary cutter to slice into some fabric.  I enjoy these blogs, love reading them, admire the work.  But I do not ever confuse what they are doing–earning a living–with what I am doing.  Some other blogs have “taken the process pledge,” and try to put out on their blogs how they arrived at the journey’s end.  This is a valuable resource for us as quilters when it truly involves process, and not just a “how-to” tutorial (although I like those too).

It seems to me that there is enough room in this quilting universe that we can quilt what we want to, blog when we want to, go off on vacation when we want to, work (when we have to) that we don’t need to compete.  Commercial blogs? Non-commercial blogs?  They are resources for us all to glean from.

ProductProcess_PreK+KImages, and interesting reading,  from *here*

Product?  Process?  We need them both.

Take Some Time

Since I am away from the computer for a while, I’m running a few favorite, previously published posts.  
This one originally ran on April 26, 2010, but is modified for today’s post.

There was a path-to-nowhere (which led to a tiny hidden grove of orange trees) installed near the humanities building when I was attending the University of California, and on either side of this path was a poem written out in bronze embedded letters. The way I happened on it, was to read it backwards from the end of the poem. So the words that stuck with me, “Time Take,” were an inverse of the above title, but became a tiny logo of mine, with different punctuation pushing the meaning to a different place: Time. Take. or Time, Take or Time–Take.

However I slipped those punctuation symbols in, the meaning was the same: time was available and I needed to stop and take some. It was never clear to me what I would do with this time that I was taking, but it was the stuff of poems, and hurried grad students, and bronze letters embedded on a path to a minuscule orange grove behind the brick buildings that smelled like heaven in the spring months when I would take the time to walk through those trees.

So, I took some time this morning to think about what I do with my time, and one thing I tend to do is to catch up on my blog reader, where, more often than not, after reading blog after blog, I come away feeling like my life is just so banal and trite and disorganized and unfulfilling and undecorated and uncrafty and generally unproductive.

I “clip” news items to act on, quilts to make, books to read, always falling farther and farther behind, or so it feels. This morning, a little wake-up post by Jeezebel helped to articulate this feeling. I can’t recommend this site, by the way, but I can recommend this article to all you who are out there in Blogland feeling slightly overwhelmed by the pressures of blogging clever, beautiful, creative, productive, ever-so-interesting lives, every day or two. It’s funny to happen on this today, this morning, as last night I looked at the number of blogs I have coming in to my Reader, and put the feed on a diet, trimming the list by half — definitely getting rid of that decorator blog who is always putting pictures of other perfectionist decorators on her blog, with a chatty style that implies we just need to get with it a bit and that artist who artfully lays our her collections of old bias tape, rusty keys and pink erasers, one day at a time, sending the photo out into the world. I have this old junk, I think, why am I not doing the same artsy thing? You see how it goes.


So today, turn off the computer, and just make something.

Oh, The Places I’ve Been!

Well.  I’m exaggerating a bit.


I went into Los Angeles to meet my sister, who was accompanying her husband for his treatments here, in the Saperstein Center, at Cedars Sinai Hospital.  I’m including this photo so my mother will know what it looks like.  It’s a comfortable room, with private bays all along the sides of the main room.  My sister and I curl up in the comfy chemo chairs (that aren’t being used, of course) and talk while we wait to visit with him.  But this time while he was in treatment and couldn’t be visited, we first went to lunch at a favorite place of mine:

Sycamore Kitchen Yummies

Sycamore Kitchen, which has very inventive and delicious food.

Then to The Grove, where we hit Barnes and Noble because I was looking for Quilty Magazine, because I’d just hit print:

Gingham Quilt

My gingham quilt was featured in “Girls on Film,” paired with Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ.

Gingham Quilt front

Here’s a better look at it, and here’s the blog post about it.  We didn’t find the magazine; my issue came a couple of days later in the mail.


And then Nordstrom’s where just seeing these makes my feet hurt.  The heels on the left remind me of my mother’s “spectator” pumps, worn for years and very stylish.



Then back to the hospital.  We later had dinner at a lovely little Italian place, then it was home for me, as we were both tired and she had to drive to her hotel.


Another place I’ve been is my local community college, where school started.  (The white blobs are where I whited out each student’s name.)  This ought to give you a representative sample of who is in my classroom. I finally have a great class! (Intro to Literature) and I’m more excited to teach this semester than I have been in a while.

Square-in-Square Blocks

I’ve also found a few minutes to spend in the sewing room.  No, I’m not playing in the Economy Block Sew-a-Long.  The pretty pink, yellow and chocolate square-in-a-square blocks are for a friend’s baby quilt, and I’ve already sent them to the quilter who is putting it all together.  We used Red Pepper Quilt’s tutorial *here.*

Into the Woods front

I’ve  already made a quilt out of the (officially known) Square-in-a-Square block, in my quilt “Into the Woods,” (number 103 on the 200 Quilts list, shown below), so I’m squared out. The block in my quilt above is 9″ square, larger than the baby blocks, and I drafted it in my quilt software, QuiltPro.

ABL Jan14 block

This is the block for January for the Always Bee Learning Bee.  Toni of Hoosier Toni wants to make Christmas quilts for her children’s bed, and I thought her choice of the SpiderWeb block was great.

ABL Block with extra Jan14

This is like the one we made a couple of months ago for another bee; the tutorial is found *here.*

MCM January14 Block

This is for the Mid-Century Modern Bee, for Linda of Buzzing and Bumbling.  Her house burned to the ground right before Thanksgiving last year, so we were happy to make her house blocks to help her re-create her life in a new fashion.  This is my own design.  I’ve got a PDF file of the templates here: *Hyde Park House*, but I have to warn you that since it’s a 12″ block finished, some of the templates “fall” off the page, and you’ll have to figure it out the measurements.  What I did was measure the templates, then write the measurements down on the paper.  Then I used that as a guide for cutting out the pieces.  Somehow I ended up short on the height and had to add another strip of green on the bottom.  Just don’t be too precious about this and you’ll get through.  Hey, it’s free and untested, so Buyer Beware.

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 5.08.48 PM

Lastly, my mind has been in Budapest, Croatia and Slovenia, places I hope to go to this summer.  The challenge is when you are in lots of places, it’s sometimes hard to figure out where you need to be.  Today I needed to be here in my sewing room, finishing up the Amish With A Twist 2 quilt top (next post).

And often when you are too distracted with your head in many places, you fall into the procrastinating habit.  I had a student from my last class write to me, as she was worried about trying to overcome her habit of procrastination (although her habit is very slight, truthfully). I told her I sometimes ask myself “What do I want to have done before this day ends?” and sometimes that helps.  Other times it is just not wanting to face that dreaded task every day, so you finally find the resources to get it done.

Although you might think this doesn’t really apply to us quilters, I think it does.  Sometimes we put off tackling the really hard tasks and instead do our bee blocks (Ahem.)  Other times we have sketched out a terrific quilt, but are seduced by the latest trend on Instagram (Economy Blocks) and let that pull us away from doing the hard work of designing and figuring out the quilt in our head.

An article in the New Yorker noted that “The essence of procrastination lies in not doing what you think you should be doing, a mental contortion that surely accounts for the great psychic toll the habit takes on people. This is the perplexing thing about procrastination: although it seems to involve avoiding unpleasant tasks, indulging in it generally doesn’t make people happy.”

So I’m trying to figure out which place I should go next, which direction I should head in my quilting.  Shall I fall back on something easier to do than what I have to (“we often procrastinate not by doing fun tasks but by doing jobs whose only allure is that they aren’t what we should be doing”) , distract myself by buying more fabric (judging from the recent Instagram De-Stash, a lot of people have been doing this one!), or simply surf the web some more to get so many ideas, I can’t possibly make them all in my lifetime (“many studies suggest that procrastinators are self-handicappers: rather than risk failure, they prefer to create conditions that make success impossible, a reflex that of course creates a vicious cycle”).

Ultimately, it comes down to Getting The Work Done: “Since open-ended tasks with distant deadlines are much easier to postpone than focussed, short-term projects, dividing projects into smaller, more defined sections helps.”  And aren’t most of our UFOs the result of procrastination?

So get yourself a notebook, break down the quilt you want to make into smaller steps, and check them off as you go.  It also helps to set a deadline–try the Finish-A-Long if you need a little help with that; because of that I finished several dead-in-the-water quilt tops, surprising even myself with twenty-four completed quilts in 2013.  Not all of these were begun and finished in that calendar year, but that’s when they came alive.    I’ll close with some lines from one of my son’s favorite books, “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” by Dr. Seuss:

On and on you will hike
and I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.

So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.


Happy Quilting!

A Quiet Week

AMH tote bag

AMH tote bag pocket

After the big TaDa! moment of getting Santa and his blocks and his neighborhood all done, it was a quiet week.  No bee blocks.  No quilting.  No sewing, unless you count the samples that I put together to teach my Pleated Tote Bag class on Tuesday night.  Tonight, I finished the bag that I’d used as a teaching sample (above), putting the pieces together, arriving at completion.


And because I have a quiet week, and I’ve had a chance to reflect on recent events, and because we are approaching the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s time to count my blessings, quilt-wise.  In the photo above, Cindy, of Live A Colorful Life is seated at my dining room table, sewing on my little featherweight.  This was the second year she has come down for our Good Heart Quilters Potluck Event, and I’m so glad she did.  One of the blessing of modern quilting is the internet, the connections we make through Instagram, through blogs and their comments, through emails, and through bees (Cindy organized the Mid-Century Modern Bee, of which I’m a part).

Pho and Flatbread

When she arrived, on Halloween Night, we turned out the lights on the porch and went out for Pho and flatbread from a new restaurant in town.  She was pretty adventurous, even so far as to have the Korean-style flatbread, with kimchi on top.  Later, we came back home and talked and sewed (my husband was out of town, so we had the run of the place).  Cindy’s gift of collecting people and connecting people has greatly blessed my life.

TAble setting

After sewing all day Friday, we set up the tables in my dining room, and hosted the Good Heart Quilters, or about half of them.  It seems it was a very busy weekend, and we were missing a good number of these fine quilters.

Cooked Stuffed Pumpkin

Stuffed Pumpkin_open

This was what I made for my contribution to dinner: stuffed pumpkin (recipe found *here*).

Quilt Night_1a

from l: Carol, Laurel, Janette, Leisa and Tracy

Quilt Night_2a

from l: Simone, Caitlin, Cindy and Lisa

Quilt Night_Laurel

We always start (and usually finish) with Show and Tell.  This is Laurel’s finish–a quilt for her sister.  It’s very tall, so the angle isn’t the best, but as always, Laurel combines piecing with appliqué to create something we all want to sneak off with, into our cars.

Quilt Night_Lisa

Lisa got her borders sewn on tonight–a Hallelujah! moment because she’s been busy getting ready for her daughter’s wedding in about three weeks, and she has sewn her own dress and most of Bridget’s trousseau, amidst working all day.  We were thrilled for her.

Quilt Night_Simone

Simone started coming this spring for the first time, and has her first finish: an apple core quilt done in modern fabrics.  It’s fabulous.

Quilt Night_Simone2

But she didn’t stop there–she used the scraps to create a table runner.  A clever quilter, wouldn’t you say?  Last year, we ate and then just chatted, but this year we ate and then got to work and everyone made progress on their projects.  Next quilt night is at Simone’s, on Saturday, December 7th, a shift from our usual Fridays (the church Christmas supper snagged that Friday!).  In counting my blessings, this quilt group is one of my big quilty blessings.  Sometimes we’ve been only a few ladies gathered at a house for munchies and sewing, sometimes there’s been a lot of us, but after meeting for sixteen years, roughly 8-10 times a year, we’ve all become close friends, and are always ready to welcome in a new quilter (like Simone and Caitlin).

Hello Kitty on Ceiling

I don’t know if you can see this, but when I went to Arizona to spend time with my daughter and her family while her husband was in Tonga doing free dental work, I got to sleep in her daughter Keagan’s room.  I turned out the light, pulled up the covers and was greeted by a giant pink Hello Kitty and the time, all broadcast to the ceiling.  It made me smile, and count my blessings of having grandchildren who like to know what time it is.  Even if it is in the middle of the night.

Santa Backing

While I was there, Barbara took me to a giant fabric/quilt shop store where they had tons and tons of great quilt fabrics: 35th Avenue Sew and Vac, in Phoenix Arizona, where I found a piece of Ann Kelle’s Christmas trees for no good reason.  Ah, but the very good reason became apparent to me after I finished off the Santa top.  This will be the perfect backing (and I got it on sale!).

Friendship Quilt

And lastly, about fifteen years ago I started this Friendship Quilt. At that time I wanted to remember lots of women in my life who had been my mentors, my friends, my sisters and sisters-in-law, my daughter and daughters-in-law.  Some of these women: two of my aunts, and my mother-in-law have passed away already.  It’s time to get it done.  I have put it on my Finish-A-Long list nearly every month, but hadn’t done much about it.  Recently I laid out the squares in what I thought I remembered as my original design.  Holes in the pattern were apparent.  I realized that I had just enough missing blocks that I could gather my granddaughters’ signatures, as well as the my most recent daughter-in-law.  It’s tempting to keep it going, to add those friends who are close to me now, but I decided some time ago that with the exception of adding those related to me, I would leave it as it was: a snapshot in time.  But because I am counting my quilty blessing on this post, from new friends and far-flung internet friends and old friends both near and far, and all those related to me, I must end by counting these sweet blessings in my life:


These were the signatures I collected last week, from the three-year-old Dani to the eldest granddaughter Keagan, and all the others in between.

I am beyond blessed to know these little women.  They make my heart sing.

Cool quilt square from IG

Happy Thanksgiving week, every one.  Don’t let the cooking interfere too much with the sewing (although, judging from what I see on Instagram (photo above), things are proceeding apace! (Nice quilt block, Leanne!)


As a reminder, if you see an ad on this blog, it is because my blogging software puts it there.
 I make no money from their ads, but since I blog for free, I figure it’s a fair trade-off.

What I Learned from the Cedars-Sinai Hospital Hallway Art


This collection started as a way to help a beloved husband heal.  I was there to share some time with my sister, as her beloved husband is battling cancer.


But when I went to get her a soda, and found my way back to the right space by following the trail left by the art in the hallway, I learned that a line. . .


. . . can be colored in. . .



. . . to make some great shapes.


Maybe a quilt block or two?

More about the art in the Cedars-Sinai hospital, on YouTube.  And Happy Veteran’s Day, if you are in the United States.  Thank a vet for their sacrifice.

Cedars-Sinai Art Quilt Block

Map Musings

4-in-art_3Since the quarterly reveal date for our Four-In-Art is coming up in a couple of days, I thought it was high time to sit down and think about this new overall theme of Urban, and the specific quarterly theme of Maps.

Front Page TM

While we love the old maps, shown above on the front page of our family’s  travel blog, we all depend on recently updated maps to find our way around.  I read somewhere (and of course I can’t find it now,) that at some point in history, maps were kept only for those who had money or a position, guaranteeing them power over the masses who toiled in medieval fields.  For to hold a map, and to read it, is to understand your place in the world and how you relate to it.

SM Aerial Map Quilt

(Alicia Merritt, Green and Pleasant Land)

In a section of  Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, he writes about how maps develop:

“We progress from the infant’s egocentric, purely sensory perception of the world to the young adult’s more abstract and objective analysis of experience.”  Children’s drawings of maps advance as 1) simple topographical relationships are presented, without regard for perspective or distances, then 2) intellectural realism evolves connecting what is known with the proportional relationships, then 3) a visual realism appears.

Carr recounts that first maps were rudimentary, then realistic, then scientific in both precision and abstraction.  In addition, maps expressed ideas: ” ‘The intellectural process of transforming experience in space to abstraction of space is a revolution in modes of thinking,’ writes Vincent Virga, an expert on cartography affiliated with the Library of Congress.”

TV Map of USA

While no one under the age of 40 will remember this, once it was common when someone was coming to your house, for them to call you with the question, “How do I get to your house?”  Then we’d detail for them the streets to turn on and the landmarks to notice so they could arrive at our home.  Then came MapQuest, then Google Maps, then maps on our phones where can follow the little blue dots, then the aggravation with Apple’s Maps, proving again that he who holds an accurate map has real power.

Nighttime Map over USA

While this is a blurry shot of a city from an airplane, the first maps were of the heavens–of stars and planets and their movement.

LG Aerial Map Quilt

(Alicia Merrett, Canal Country)

Only later did it invert, so that maps became aerial views of the earth and its landmarks.

Creative Class Workers by Census Map(from the Santa Monica Patch: type in your USA city and see what you see)

Thiebaud Levee FarmWayne Theibaud, Levee Farms

Land Patterns from the air

Don’t we all have multiples of this photo on our cameras?  Aren’t we all amazed by the patterns on our earth, invisible to us as we drive/move/walk around at ground level?

Capturing a View National Portrait Gallery

(view towards the Archives, taken from the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.)

Maps can also be a window on our lives.

ESE Life Map 1a

I once had a class do Life Maps, where they depicted an aspect of their life, wrote a paper about it, and presented the map to the class.  This was my sample map of my education.  In writing in my art journal last night about maps, I began to realize that maps could also freeze time, evoke a memory.  Unlike my other Four-in-Arters, who seem to be charging ahead, I’ve been at a loss about what to make, how to proceed.  But after sitting down and writing about it, gathering pictures of maps and ideas, I am now creating my own map of where to go with this project.


We are welcoming four new members this year, so the logo, which originally meant four artists, now has — at the suggestion of one of our group — changed to mean the four quarterly challenges we make. We reveal a new over-arching theme in August, then in November, February, April and August we make quilts around that theme, with smaller “subset themes” to guide us.  We hope you’ll come back on November 1st to take a quilt art tour, as the eight of us interpret our current theme of Urban/Maps.