Come A-Round: Finishing School Friday

Come A-Round is finished.  This has lived in our house under many names: Crop Circles, Dotty Quilt, Elizabeth’s Masterpiece, That Quilt.  But its real name is Come A-Round. *This* is how I came up with the name.

I finished the top and sent it to the quilter, Cathy Kreter, who quilted the central fan-like circles, and the spaces in between them.  She also ran a line of stitching on the dark green stem and the outer edge.  I was to take over from there, but it went back to her to tackle the middle of the circles–a space about 2″ in diameter, which I couldn’t quilt because of so many layers.  Then back to me and I did the rest of the details.  It’s a good partnership.  The back fabric is about perfect for machine quilting: lots of tiny dots in all colors that hide a multitude of sins.  Just not green thread branches, and no, I didn’t pick them out.  I knew that if I turned back at that point, it would never be finished.  At least not by the end of summer.  And sometimes good-enough-but-done is better than perfect-but-undone.

The circle is simple in its geometry: one continuous looping whole.  Yet most of our lives feel more like jagged peaks on an EKG monitor with little blips of up and down in a rhythmic pattern–peaks and valleys that indicate there’s a life going on–that a heart is beating.  So when my husband’s sister called us early Monday morning with a voice full of peaks and valleys, so different from her usual and we heard the news about her young adult son gone too early, the rhythmic pattern of heartbeat stilled by his own hand, my husband and I sat together quietly for a long while afterward.  The silence between us was thick with emotion and sadness and wondering about whatever could have gone wrong?  We’d start a question, then pause mid-thought, not really knowing where we were headed, but knowing that there was no easy path around this sorrow.  This circle had been rent, broken.

My husband called our eldest son, and now his voice echoed his sister’s; as we called each of our children, we took turns pausing to let the emotion fall away so we could continue with the necessary news.  We went about our day.  We sat stunned.  We fixed dinner.  We took a walk.  We kept talking, thinking about Scott’s widow and his two young daughters.  The couple had recently separated and we wondered how we could let her know that no one blamed her.  I made a cake.  We were more gentle with each other.  We lingered outside after dinner on the patio, the sun falling into darkness.  Then the phone conversations turned to funeral arrangments.  Then the task of travel arrangements, and my voice cracked as I tried to arrange flights, blessing the kindness of the faceless voice on the other end of the line.  We talked with our children: life is fragile.  As people of faith, we believe we will see him again: whole.  After a few days the jagged peaks and valleys of those initial numbing hours leveled out.

It’s really a circle, this thing we call life.  The idea is not a new one, and certainly has a myriad of cliches to accompany the idea: one eternal round, the wedding ring’s symbolism, death to life and back to death again.  You name it, you’ve heard it.  But at the end of the day, we are all encircled about by a sense of going forth and returning, a feeling of beginning and ending, yet sometimes the lines that create those divisions are so subtle that they fade away.  What we send out, we see in return.  What is born, dies.

There’s a famous passage in the Bible, in Ecclesiastes, about a time for everything.  I looked it up again today and interestingly, in among the weightier references of death and life, mourning and laughter, peace and war, it notes that there is a time to rend, and a time to sew.

This week, I sewed circles.

Looky! Part II

Yep, it’s Looky! Part II.  Applique is all done (obviously by the gap between posts, it’s evident that I’m not a quick appliquer), and I’m ready to attach the two side borders.  One of the difficulties of this quilt–with all due respect to its fabulous designers–is that the instructions are majorly confusing.  REALLY confusing.  And I don’t think I’m that dim of a bulb, either.

So while you may cut the borders according to the dimensions listed, that won’t be the finished width.  No, you now have to cut them down.  This is a problem if you have leaves and flowers that go near the edge.  I had puzzled over these directions before, and decided I would cut the borders closer to their finished width inititially, leaving a little extra.  So, I fudged on the instructions, not cutting the inner border as narrow as they called for (I was NOT keen about unpicking leaves and flowers).  In the photo above, I’ve folded back the leaves.

I’ve drawn the line and am trimming down the border.

The two side borders, attached, and the extra blossoms and portions of leaves stitched down.  Thank you, Netflix and Downton Abbey, for keeping my brain engaged while I did more applique.

I had already determined that my pin wall wasn’t big enough to accommodate the next task: putting on the top and bottom borders.  So I “pleated” the quilt in half, and pinned it up.

Borders being tried out.  I’ve run out of the chrysanthemum fabric, but now know that there’s no need to obsess over those outer borders.  Just get the fabric up there, and get it sewn on.  So I tried to match the fabric in terms of value (light-to-dark) and hue (color).  I think I did okay.  Another reason why it’s taken me a while was because I was interrupted here and there by having to go to work (imagine!) and grade papers.  I should be doing that right now, but I wanted to get these photos up. It’ll be a late night.

Ta Da!!  Flowers pinned up and placed.

Tomorrow after teaching, I’ll pin them on with my teensy applique pins and start stitching again.

It’s nice to be at this point (reprise).

Deep in the Trenches & Twined Thread

Or rows of flowers, as the case may be.

It’s winter, so that means some sort of flu bug or sickness will find its way to me.  So, I sat on the sofa and appliqued my flowers while I watched The Social Network.  Twice.  Once straight through and once with the actors all talking about what they did/thoughtabout while they did their scenes.  My husband fixed dinner, cleaned it up (I know–I’m not trading him for anything) and I went upstairs to do lesson prep for today’s teaching–like I had a cotton head or something. Luckily appliqueing doesn’t take much brain power or we’d be in trouble.

I took down the other row this afternoon after class, with all the pins skitty-wampus through the pieces.

I lay them on my table, and trade out the monster, regular pins for tiny applique pins (see the comparison, above).  This is a trick I learned from the quilters when I we lived in Virginia for a year.  They are accomplished appliquers, all.  They also told me to use silk thread, which I do, for the thread just disappears when the piece is stitched on.

I traded out the Wintery Branches quilt in my hallway a few weeks ago for the Valentine Quilt I’d made out of turkey red and cream.  I’d always wanted a turkey red-white quilt, and was at a little teensy-tinsy quilt show, where one booth had some turkey red yardage.  I didn’t prewash the red fabric, so I guess I’ll never throw it in the laundry.  It would probably end up a turkey red-and-pink quilt then.

It’s a fairly simple quilt, with intertwined stripes, but I like it not only for its coloration, but that lean, linear quality.  This is also the first quilt I machine quilted.  Ever.  I started out with cream-colored thread, but hated how it looked when I stippled over the red.  (Everyone did a stippling pattern in those days!) I switched out to monofilament thread after unpicking yards and yards of stitching.

Here’s the label on the backside (sorry, I know it’s a little blurry).

The verse reads:

No cord nor cable can so forcibly draw, or hold so fast, as love can do with a twined thread.–Burton.

The name of this quilt is Twined Thread, and it was completed July 1997.  Of course, you all know it’s in honor of that man who will cook me dinner and do the dishes when I am laying sick on the sofa.  Love holds us fast together.



One side pinned down. Sort of.  There’s always changes. (I can already see a couple I want to make.)

This after I complained to my mother that I hadn’t had any time to work on the quilt–but I hurried through lesson prep and writing an assignment and did the dishes early and rushed upstairs after dinner.

Those tiny circles are tedious, but the forward motion of the quilt is pulling me to completion.  Will I last for the next few weeks?  I’ve got a commitment to Rhonda to start our Lollypop blocks in March, but Rhonda, please–can I have a little more time?

Good to Be At This Place

I finally decided on the blue inner border and a glorious blossoming orange and yellow mum border.  My husband calls this the red dot phase and so it is–trying to figure out where to put the dots, the leaves, the stems.

Before the next set of essays to grade come in (this Thursday), I’m working on ironing the leaves around their freezer paper templates, making circles and circles and circles. It feels good to be at this place. In the book, Learning by Heart, Corita says:

“There is an energy in the creative process that belongs in the league of those energies which can uplight, unify, and harmonize all of us.  This energy, which we call ‘making,’ is the relating of parts to make a new whole.  The result might be a paint, a symphony, a building.”

Or a quilt.


Concentrate on those outer borders: the ones separated by the thin dark green strip.

Now, what have you learned?  That watching someone trying to figure out a quilt is more boring than watching paint dry?  I agree.

I subject you to this only because there was a flurry of “I Took The Process Pledge” buttons popping up on posts all over the blogosphere.  Supposedly you, the reader/viewer, would find it completely fascinating on how we all put our quilts together–the “process” of our quilting.  So, some quilters that I used to enjoy have lately become really boring.  With this quilt, I have to place myself in that category.  Would we have liked watching Van Gogh do his brush strokes?  Only if we were interested in replicating Van Gogh’s work.  What about Rothko, with his endless layers of paint?  Same.

So (thankfully) my obsession with this quilt took a momentary back seat to going to my daughter’s home, where they are packing up again to move–the fourth move in three years, she told me.  Or is it the third move in four years?  It was a busy weekend.  With the help of my very cute granddaughter, I helped the process along by packing up the kitchen while my daughter went to her last heart doctor appointment.  (She has PPCM.)

I didn’t think about this quilt at all, and came home to gaze on it (and all those photos in the slide show) with fresh eyes.

By studying others’ quilts, I discovered that the two fabrics on the outer borders need to harmonize.  For the circles in the center to have the most impact, those outer borders need to be lighter in value.  Now I just need to choose between the combinations above.  Feel free to add in your two cents, knowing that I will go where this quilt leads me.  Even if it is over a cliff.


Okay, so I did what any self-respecting woman with a computer and fast internet connection would do: I searched the web for other variations of this quilt.  First up: Google with 217 pages (about half applied).  Then Google Images, then Flikr, then change up of keywords, then Flikr and Google Images again.  How are all you quilty people out there in the universe making YOUR Everyday Best quilt?

Some left the flowers off of the borders, some included them. Some quilts were very dark, with striking contrasts, others made light quilts.  Some put small circles in the middle of the large pieced circles so as to cover the intersections, some did not.  Some stopped at one block, some did fancy borders (not flowers), some had impeccable craftsmanship, others were just learning.  A couple in here are variants of this quilt–not exactly the same.

In other words, everyone’s quilt is slightly different.  What I did learn, though, was to press on through my doubts and go for it.  Yes, it may take me a while, but once all those flowers in the border are finished, and it’s quilted, it all works.  Enjoy the slideshow.

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Halfway? There

I think I’m about halfway finished.  I’m glad to be at this point!

A set of papers to grade are coming in Thursday, and I need to pay attention to more school stuff.  Getting this sewn together–with the sashing around the edges–will allow me to take a bit of a break.


A Day in the Life. Trying for those first borders. The captions are in the photos.

Not done, but at least I can now go to dinner with my husband.  Our Saturday-night date.

This is what happens when you realize that you’ve cut the piece 16″ and it should have been 16 1/2″.  You piece it.  With whatever scraps you have.  Even though you are creating a new kind of fabric with a two-toned dot.