Breaking up the Quilting Work: A Few Thoughts on Refueling While Working


In a recent article about taking restful breaks in 99U, written by Christian Jarrett, he talks about the need for “truly restful breaks” when working hard on a project–which are different that just taking a break.  He uses a modern analogy when he writes “Just as you need to refuel your car and recharge the batteries in your cell phone, it’s important to give yourself the chance to recoup your energy levels throughout the workday. In fact, the more demanding your day, and the less time you feel like you have to take any breaks, the more crucial it is that you make sure you do take regular breaks to prevent yourself from becoming exhausted.”


Finally stepping away from the quilt late one night


celebrating Lisa’s birthday with our quilting group: The Good Heart Quilters

Jarrett notes that  “[N]ot just any kind of break will do. Psychologists and business scholars have recently started studying the most effective ways to relax during a workday – they call them ‘micro breaks’ – and their latest findings point to some simple rules of thumb to sustain and optimize your energy levels” which the article breaks down into a “three-step process.”

One is to “get out of the office.”  For me, the office is my home, so I interpret that to mean to get out of the quilting room upstairs and away from those kinds of tasks.  So getting together with my long-time quilt group works for me, as well as entertaining my grandsons (above) when the come for a long Sunday afternoon.


The article relates that “Countless studies have shown how a green environment gives us a mental recharge, and what’s really encouraging is that recent work has shown that this doesn’t have to be a tropical rainforest. A modest urban park is all it takes.”

Taking short breaks early and often is one of the ideas.  He quotes a study from Baylor University, highlighting this interesting detail: “[I]f you take frequent breaks, then they don’t need to be as long to be beneficial – a couple of minutes might be enough. On the other hand, if you deprive yourself of many breaks, then when you do take one, it’s going to be need to be longer to have any beneficial effect.”shine-block_sashing-tryout

I noticed all of this when I was working on my Shine quilt.  I started with the backgrounds: close quilting in the “white” areas with white thread, but then what?  Coming back to the quilt after a long break from my shoulder injury, I started with outlining the circle blocks.  Another break helped me see that more detail work was needed on each circle, with sometimes as many as four thread changes for different colors.

The next conundrum was how to quilt the small “sashing” in between each block.  I drew out many ideas, but ended up choosing what you see here: some modified geometrics.  Since I try to take frequent breaks to rest my arms/shoulders while I’m doing this project, I feel like I’ve avoided some of the burnout that can occur when we see the looming deadline and quilt our brains out late into the night.

If this is your Modus Operandi, or the way you work,  you might want to be aware of Jarrett’s final thoughts about taking breaks: “[Y]ou might have the view that you’ll push yourself relentlessly during the day, squeezing every minute for what it’s worth, and then completely flake out after dark. This strategy of extremes might work for a robot, but not a human. Psychology research from the University of Konstanz in German and Portland State University shows that over-exhaustion at the end of the day makes it even more difficult to recuperate after work hours. In other words allowing yourself proper breaks during the day will make your out-of-hours recovery more effective, ultimately boosting your productivity and creativity in the weeks and months ahead.”

I’m not talking to young mothers, who find that nighttime is the only time they have to work without little helpers (although that does explain why when the baby is sick and the toddler is a pest and you fall exhausted into bed at night, that the night’s sleep doesn’t seem to provide the needed rest).  I’m talking to myself, I guess, pushing to finish off a task, always reluctant to let go of a day’s work, hoping to get “one more thing done.”  I found Jarrett’s advice helpful as well, in allowing me to understand why sometimes I just have to push back from the machine — or the computer — and take a break.

I just need to make sure it’s the right kind.


The quilt shown is Shine: The Circles Quilt.  Free EPP patterns can be found by clicking on the link in the header of my blog.


Mom and her quilt

This is my Mom.  Dad is nearby, as always, watching over her.

Mom's Cross-stitch

This is a quilt that took her two years of living life abroad in Lima, Peru to make, putting in one cross-stitch after another.  She sat in an upstairs window seat in our home there, overlooking a quiet suburban street — quiet, except for the time that someone missed a stop sign, careened into our yard, the car turning upside as it landed near our front window.  My dad said he thought the maid had thrown the vacuum cleaner down the stairs again.  Luckily the Clinica was a block away, so it turned out all right.


My mother didn’t really speak Spanish, although she tried her best to communicate with the household help she was expected to keep: a maid for the household, a maid for the laundry, a man to wash the cars, and a gardener.  She took Spanish lessons, socialized with the faculty wives at the college where my Dad taught, and tried to corral her four blonde teenaged American daughters, along with the raising of the three younger sons.  But when she wasn’t juggling all that, she sat and stitched in the window seat on the second floor, by the large upstairs landing that was like a second family room.  All our bedrooms led off this landing, and perhaps it was a way to keep herself at the center of our lives? When the two years was finished, she brought the quilt back to the United States, had it quilted up by some ladies in Provo, Utah (the city to which they returned) and carried on with her life.


On my most recent visit, her eyesight failing, she finally let me take it home.  I had her pose for a picture before I carefully put it back in its zippered pillowcase and carried it away to my upstairs extra bedroom.

We bandy about the word legacy in our quilt world so easily some times, as we confront our stacks of fabrics and magazines and books, sewing away madly, trying to keep up with the deluge of digital media and blogs and print materials and keeping our local quilt shop in business.  We are busy, aren’t we, as we are always cutting and sewing and cutting and sewing and frantically trying to outdo ourselves with the number of quilts we’ve produced in a year, going for our Olympic best, in the best competitive fashion.  Numbers!  Quantity!

My mother didn’t have Instagram.  Or the internet.  Barely any English-language magazines.  But she had a plan, several boxes of DMC teal embroidery floss, some needles and a pair of scissors, and a series of stamped cross-stitch panels that when sewn together, would make a quilt.  And she quietly worked on that.  I remember many conversations with her hands drawing the thread in and out of the fabric, as she listened, and gave advice.  Sometimes I thought — in my little 13-year-old teenage way — that she was all by herself in this thing.  I didn’t think of my mother as her own self at that point, and if I had I might have thought loneliness might be a part of the stitching, but I don’t really know. Knowing my mother made it I realize that there’s probably some of her finger-pricked DNA floating somewhere in that cloth, as well as her feelings, thoughts and memories (she missed her own mother during that time).  It has the essence of her, in a way that only a quilt that has been held and worked on for two years can have.


Legacy’s origin comes from the Latin word “lex,” meaning law, or group of laws that are written and have become canonical, or ingrained and accepted.  And in a derivative sort of way, it (the laws, the legacy) can be a messenger, an ambassador of sorts.  And so it is with this legacy, this quilt: it is a message from a time in her life when she sat quietly and stitched, raising her seven children in a home in Peru.

Barbara SMALL

A Little Inspiration, A Little Bit of Work

Sometimes, like after I’ve been gone from sewing for a while, I need to ease my way back into the creating.  Sometimes I like to visit blogs by quilters, such as Jane Sassaman.

Sassaman collage quilt

(from Jane Sassaman’s blog)

Kevin Umana

(from Kevin Umana’s IG feed)

Other times I like to check in with artists. . .


. . . and graphic artists. . .

inspiration Sagrada Familia

. . .architecture (photos of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona). . .

Alcazar Tiles

. . . and other makers’ work, like yours:

Quilt Makers

But then I remember that applying the seat of my pants to the sewing chair is what gets things done.  Or as Chuck Close put it:


What gets you going, after a dry spell?

I really loved reading about all your travels, and hoped-for travels.  You do inspire me to consider new destinations to investigate.  Congratulations to Betty, our winner of the pearl cotton threads:

Betty Winner Threads


I’ll get those out to you in the mail.  Look for my note via email.

Three Mini Quilts and a Few Thoughts on Deliberate Practice



The Road to a Friend’s House is Never Long, Quilt #159

I started this July 2015, and you know what happened to me shortly after that, so it was nice to get it fixed up and quilted, because I’d had a purpose in mind: a gift for a friend.


Leisa likes it!  Pattern coming soon.  I used the new Northcott labels I bought at QuiltCon.  I just cut them apart, backed them with freezer paper, and ran them through my printer; see the complete how to under the tab “Tutorials,” above.

Thread Doodles_front

Thread Doodles, Quilt #160

And then there’s this one, a mini quilt made as a class sample for the Free Motion Quilting Class I’m teaching in late summer at Quilter’s Cocoon.  I had to think of a way for the students to practice their stitches, yet display what they’d learned in a pleasing way.  As soon as they master one of these stitches, I’ll have them stitch it onto their own class sample.  They may want to finish it all up that day, or may want to add to it as they get better.  Thread Doodles_back

I’m big on naming my quilts.  Another Northcott label.  After they are printed, I cut a square of lightweight interfacing and fuse it to the back the “light” section of the label so I won’t see the fabric underneath.

Electra Magnetic_front

Electra Magnetic, Quilt #161

I seem to be finishing up quite a few things lately, a nice change from the months November to February, where I felt swamped all the time, unable to seemingly get to anything.  Do you have times like that–like you see everything around you and just can’t get to it at all?  Where you are climbing, climbing Mt. NeverFinish and wish you could find the summit?  That’s why these minis feel like a success story to me.  Electra Magnetic_back

So, with all my rainbow-type quilts this past year, I’ve about run out of names.  Combine that with the funny comment I got on one of my quilts that they thought it looked like Hal the computer from the Space Odyssey 2001.  This quilt might also suffer from that comparison, so I thought I’d go with it.  The electromagnetic spectrum is all the colors, from those that we can see to those that we can’t; they call it “wavelengths, both visible and invisible.”  Okey, dokey.  So I feminized that idea and came up with Electra Magnetic, mother of Hal.

I’m still working on these patterns, and should have them out shortly.  Well, maybe not this week;  I’ll let you know.

But let not’s stop there today.  I have Brain Pickings in my Bloglovin’ Feed, and occasionally they hit a streak of book reviews on topics that interest me, and recently they did a review of Ursula LeGuin’s latest revision of her masterpiece on creative writing, Steering the Craft.  Brain Pickings references her written piece “How do you make something good?” and notes that:

LeGuin Quote1

Isn’t that also what quilters deal with?  We can make a decent quilt from stuff from the garage sale or someone’s basement (with that embedded fusty smell), but why not go for better ingredients?  We are surrounded by loads of high quality quilt fabric.  Perhaps instead of focusing on accruing endless supplies of this good fabric, why not focus on being good?  That means getting in those oft-cited 10,000 hours of practice, but as Joshua Foer noted, sometimes just making and making doesn’t bring us to the place of making something good.  Foer Quote 1

According to Joshua Foer, this is called hitting what is called the “OK plateau.”  That’s when we are just going through the rote mechanics of quilting, making quilts of only rectangles, or traditional fixed patterns in a loop that’s known as thinking from “bottom-up,” where we are good-enough, automated, rote practices to get our work done.  Yes, even those modern improv quilts with their fluid patterns can get stale.  Daniel Goleman notes how we can get stuck here:

Goleman Quote1

Foer also emphasizes this point: our deliberate practicing must be hard for us in order to engage that higher focus of creativity.  I, like many of you, can cut and stitch until I’m so bored I can’t slice one more piece of fabric or sew one more HST.  I’m falling right in line with studies that indicate that about four hours of concentrated deliberate practice is about the most amount of time we can do anything well.  At that point, we have to take a break and do other things.  Perhaps that’s why we are sometimes distracted by a new quilt, or a new design, or a new piece of fabric, as we try to restore our ability to refocus.  Perhaps we just need a break, in order to deliberately practice well.   But what I learned from these authors is that when I do come back to my quilting, I must “counteract the brain’s urge to automatize” and actively concentrate on what I’m doing.

So take a break, read that magazine, scroll through your IG feed, and then get back to it with a determination to make it good, make it better, and to fully engage.

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.

Microscopy for Four-in-Art Feb 2016


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.


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:


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.”


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.


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


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.”


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.