Monday, January 23, 2023

Just Take Me Out & Shoot Me . . .


I must be feeling better. I let myself get enticed into signing up for's 5 day "stitch camp" - free of course so what is there to lose but some time? I rationalized it many ways: 1) I really do love hand stitching and haven't done any for quite some time; 2) it was billed as doable because of the way the project was divided into small segments over the 5 days; 3) I might see something new or a new way of doing something I'd already tried - you know, transferring parts to something I already do; 4) I could always just watch the videos and if nothing appealed, I wouldn't have to actually do the project; 5) did I mention it was free? Yeah, a lot of rationalization. And even though "mark making" was part of day one, something I've never liked doing in any medium, I was intrigued by the idea of "seeing things in the marks" to drive how you would add embroidery. That's pretty much in my wheelhouse, "Masks" being one of my best examples of seeing images to be picked out in stitch.

So I grit my teeth and did day one's assignment of mark making. One good lesson was the suggestion to pick just two colors (one medium, one dark) plus a light neutral. That really does simplify things. I chose teal and yellow and searched my stash for fabrics of that color as well as threads and floss for embroidery and paint for making those marks on the "winter white" kona fabric. The resulting painted fabric was of two kinds, one with dense marks and little white showing, the other with the marks farther apart with more white area. Accents of the opposite color on each area helps with a bit of cohesion. I did the dense marks first and really didn't like what I did, partly because I was learning how the paint was working with the various "tools" I tried. Before I did the less dense marks, I'd scrolled through the dedicated Facebook page to see what others were doing and spotted some really cool marks made with fork tines - I'd totally forgotten about that, so I got marks I liked better on that piece. (You can see the results and my pile of threads and other fabric in the photo above.)

But no matter, this painted fabric wasn't supposed to be a lovely composition because it would be cut into 2-1/2 x 3 inch pieces (don't ask - the teacher gave no explanation for that dimension and also said we could cut them any size we wanted). Pick and choose what to pair, looking for connections from one square to another, then overlap slightly and tack with small running stitches. Yes, no seaming here as the simple embroidery stitches suggested are meant to "blur" the joins. She was putting together up to 4 squares into a strip, but I could see others in the group were breaking from this idea of making a long strip to use more squares in rows, which is what I wanted to do. As you can imagine, after I pulled those 3 dark teal squares together as something embroidery could help make the marks flow one to another, I spent quite a bit of time arranging the other squares around them. At one point I actually had a second piece going, but dang, I couldn't help myself. I managed to use every single square in this one piece. No leftovers for this gal!

Favorite marks are the thin parallel lines made with a fork and the concentric circles from a spool end

Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately depending on your viewpoint), those of us with larger pieces immediately realized we would be adding embroidery stitches on them long past the day specified for the embroidery. But we don't really care. I enjoyed tacking the squares together, that rhythmic running stitch, and am equally enjoying pondering what to stitch where. Day 4, if one was done with embroidery, was to be time to assess the piece to see what bits of applique might be added to additionally blur joins and make the piece more cohesive. The last day talked about how to finish the piece, and I particularly liked an example where a piece like mine could be laid on a piece of fabric extending beyond like a border and where embroidery stitches could extend into it. I could see this sort of piece being framed.

This exercise of blending marks from one area to another reminded me of a quilt I made prior to 2006 I believe. A friend had challenged me to do something with a small piece of 60's polyester fabric with a bold print. I had some bias tubes left over from a Celtic applique project and they became the connectors between rectangles of that fabric, over the solid hand-dye. I'm getting a bit of the same vibe off my stitch camp piece.

Well, with watching the daily short videos and doing something each day on the piece, that took me through Friday, and knowing I could set the stitch camp piece aside, I spent some time Saturday and Sunday working on the baby quilt. Extra incentive, I was having lunch with a quilting friend today, and I'd told her the last time we'd gotten together about my plans so I really wanted to have something to show her. I completed the 4 light blocks and 8 split blocks with dark centers, plus one from the split block with the light center. Here are the rest of those blocks with their squares all arranged and ready for  joining, so half plus one done. I must admit that I feel Judi over my shoulder, telling me to quit so deliberately putting the different patches in place, to loosen up like she did once when we were on retreat and I was working on a mystery scrappy quilt. She "caught" me matching up fabrics, which I denied. She wanted me to just pull pieces out of a bag. a way of working that I do find very hard to do. So while I arranged these squares, I just told her to shush, important not to have two of the same fabric side by side! I got the impression she wasn't convinced. ;-)

Monday, January 16, 2023

Cut And Sew

Some people count sheep when they can't get to sleep. I found myself counting squares and blocks one night last week while trying to drift off to dreamland. I've been a bit surprised at how this project has energized me, and it's been difficult NOT to lie awake thinking about it and envisioning it. But back to the counting. I suddenly realized that I did not cut enough squares, had miscounted the number of blocks, at least I was pretty sure of it, and when I checked the layout diagram with my work sheet, I had indeed shorted one kind of block by 2. Those extra light blue squares I cut? Now I needed to add two more to them because they were no longer extra, and cut a few more other squares as well - see the figures on the right that the pen is pointing to. Made me glad I'd left some of those fabrics out in a "just in case" moment which was more just in case I don't like the value of some of the squares I cut, not just in case I hadn't cut enough. I'm pretty sure this gaff is because of the extra row top and bottom I plan to add.

With the correct number of squares now waiting, it was time to make the half square triangle units that turn this nine patch into a split one. There are many ways to make these units and I've probably tried them all, settling on the method Judi describes in her directions.  It has proven to be the best method to get perfect results. It starts with layering a dark and light square, and in most directions, drawing a pencil line diagonally from corner to corner as a guide for then stitching a quarter of an inch on either side. I go one better by using this quick quarter ruler that allows me to draw instead the actual stitching lines. By lining up those corners in the center slot of the ruler, one can run a pencil along both sides of it to mark the sewing lines.

I generally put in a few pins to keep the layers from shifting, then it's off to the machine for some chain stitching, down one side of each square and then down the other.

Cut the threads between the squares and line up a ruler on those corners to slice down the middle between the rows of stitching.

Time for pressing. I generally do the "press seam to the dark side" but I've also made this block by pressing the seams open, and that is what I decided to do this time based on the kind of quilting design I'm thinking I'll use.

Not done yet. The size of the starting squares produce an oversized half square triangle unit that now is trimmed to a perfect 2-1/2 inch square with that diagonal seam ending right at the corners and no distortion. A little extra work but so worth it and only a little bit of waste in the trimming. Here you see the 45 degree angle of the ruler lined up on the diagonal seam with overhang to be trimmed.

I've laid out an arrangement of squares for each of the three kinds of blocks along the top of the photo and you can see my pile of trimmings from squaring up the half square triangle blocks. Now I really CAN get to sewing blocks together.

Monday, January 09, 2023

New Year, New Project

I know, I know. What happened to "continue finishing projects"? Well, there's a new kid on the block as of December 24 and she needs a quilt. And not just any kid, but the first grandchild of my late artist friend Judi. When I first got to know Judi, her two kids were grade school age, and I watched them grow into fine adults while Judi and I also grew our friendship. We were briefly in business together, making and selling handdyed fabrics, and even after I left the business, I made samples for Judi's vendor booths and often helped set them up and man them. Now that she's gone, I contemplated what kind of quilt she might make for this granddaughter, then realized I could make a very special quilt using the last of Judi's hand-dyes that I inherited and a pattern that she had come up with to show those fabrics off. Time to get out stacks of fabric and start auditioning.

Judi based her design on the split nine patch block. I actually taught a quilt class using the patterns she put together and that I'd made samples for, Spring Fling and  Country Star, so I got out my files with patterns, instructions and handouts - I've never been able to break down those class files I accumulated! And then, while looking for something in the bottom part of my roll-top desk, I realized there was a lot of things there I couldn't remember exactly what they were. More files and notebooks and to my surprise, Judi's original hand drawn and colored optional settings for using the split nine patch block and the prototype for the pattern cover which includes my name. While I'd planned to use similar colors as in the Spring Fling quilt, I didn't necessarily want to use that set. In these original options, I found the setting I wanted to use - the one in the middle.

I also want to make the quilt rectangular rather than square so will add a row of blocks top and bottom. This all necessitated me doing some calculations of how many of three different kinds of blocks I would need and then how many of two different sizes of squares in light and dk/medium values I would need. Now the cutting could begin! The camera had difficulty picking up the light purples as light purple but the other colors are pretty close. I cut a few additional light blue squares as some of the last blues that I cut are perhaps too dark for the light areas. We shall see. Sewing commences this week.


Sunday, January 01, 2023

Welcoming Another Year


For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

I've been thinking about my resolution word for 2023 for several weeks now. Three years ago I chose "GO" as encouragement to get in the studio and just do anything. The next year I realized I had lots of partially finished or ideas for projects that I still wanted to work on so the word was "FINISH". Well, I didn't get all that far down my list so the next year was "MORE" as in keep on this track and finish more projects. That unexpected surgery this year kept me from finishing as much as I hoped, but I'm not giving up on the idea, still wanting to stay on that track.

So the word for this year, as you can see added to that sign taped on my studio door back in 2020, is "CONTINUE". The more I thought about that word, the more I realized how loaded with meaning it is for me. Not just to continue working on these old projects and ideas that still interest me but in general to continue with all facets of my life that got put on hold, to continue reaching beyond my four walls, living those things I could only dream of doing at some point as I struggled through this year. I feel buoyed by the thought. "Continue" may not sound very exciting, even mundane, but to be able to continue with my life at this point isn't mundane at all, but indeed exciting. As we age, life throws more curve balls at us, not to mention health issues and the loss of friends and relatives. So much gets harder and it's no wonder a person might just give in and give up. But I'm not going that route. I'm going to continue . . .

"Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning." - John O'Donohue



For previous year's resolution words, see these posts:

2008 - Freedom
2009 - Calm
2010 - Focus
2011 - Refocus
2013 - Perseverance
2014 - Explore
2015 - Fearless
2016 - Light
2017 - Endure 
2018 - Refresh
2019 - Wing It!  
2020 - Go! 
2021 - Finish 
2022 - More


Saturday, December 31, 2022

Dead Week

You saw a shot of my sticky buns for Christmas morning, and here are the Raspberry Ripple cookies I made on Christmas day. I used to make these every Christmas but haven't for quite awhile for one reason or another. Determined not to let another year go by, eating up the jar of raspberry jam bought just for them on other things instead, I got them baked before preparing the turkey breast for the oven. They turned out particularly good I thought. A great start to "dead" week.

I'd never heard of this term before last week and I'm not sure I agree with it, but here is the explanation according to Helena Fitzgeraldin her piece All Hail Dead Week, the Best Week of the Year":

Dead Week… is a week off from the forward-motion drive of the rest of the year. It is a time against ambition and against striving. Whatever we hoped to finish is either finished or it’s not going to happen this week, and all our successes and failures from the previous year are already tallied up. It’s too late for everything; Dead Week is the luxurious relief of giving up.

All I could think of reading this is that she surely doesn't know any quilters or other creative types. How many "dead" weeks did a scramble to put the finishing touches on a quilt so it could be counted in that year's tally, not slop over into the next year. I don't do that quite so much anymore, but found myself pushing to get the Peace II quilt's sleeve on so that I could say I finished it this year. Not ready to "tally up successes and failures" until at least New Year's Day. I have to say though that as I lay in bed one night going over in my head the steps to making a sleeve, I found myself floundering in remembering the steps. Could it really be that long since I've had to make one to hang a quilt? Apparently. But it eventually came back to me and I put the last stitch in not long ago.

Fortunately, cutting and applying the binding so I could feature it in my Christmas blog post did not pose serious memory lapses. I opted to do the stitch in the ditch from the front with the same gold twist thread I'd used on the satin stitching. I wasn't totally sure about that but decided to take an "oh well just go for it" approach, knowing I could always take it out and redo with my other choice, black thread. It's a subtle touch I think I like just fine.

Forgive the hastily taken photo but I did want to show the complete quilt here, even though it really should be steamed along the edges after applying the binding and have a proper length of dowel or slat for it. Done done done . . . and on "dead" week!

How have you spent the week between Christmas and New Year's? When I was in school or working for schools, it was always a vacation week so a chance to relax, read, knit or crochet, and enjoy the extra sweets that the holiday always brings. This last week I've caught up on a few things, including adding notes and quotes from the book study selection I've been working through to that coptic journal I just finished - very satisfying. I'd planned to find time to play with these two new Zentangles because they looked so holiday-ish to me but somehow it didn't happen. But I felt like I caught up on a lot of little things that make me feel more ready to welcome the new year.

Speaking of, it's about time for me to go fix my traditional turkey enchiladas and crack open some bubbly. Aren't these two bottles of Prosecco cute? I opted for splits this year since a medication prohibits me having alcohol tomorrow or Monday when the Rose Parade will be held, something I generally watch while sipping orange juice and champagne. So a full bottle would go flat before I'd have a chance to finish it. I couldn't resist these as Prosecco is what my racers pop open on the winners box at the end of a race. Have never had it so I'll see what the big deal is. ;-) Hope you are having a good end to your "dead" week!

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Wishing You . . .

Wishing you joys old and new.

Peace Quilt II bound

Wishing you peace.

Homemade Walnut Sticky Buns

Wishing you merriment that good food, drink, family and friends can bring during the holidays.

City crews hard at work

And especially wishing you and yours safety this Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Caught Up Yet Behind

Santa arrived early at my door (along with another 8 or so inches of snow) - a sweet treat from my sweet cousin and a reminder that I've done nothing toward Christmas preparations, save for the turkey breast bought early and stashed in my freezer. The plan was to at least work on cards over the weekend but I was also determined to finish the book challenge first.

And I did at last, only a week late! The stitching of the signatures was going really well when I noticed I'd be running out of thread before the back cover could be secured. I wasn't the only one with this issue and several theories surfaced, including that the original example from the teacher had two less rows of that chain stitch so her directions for figuring how much thread to reel off may have been based on that rather than the directions she gave for punching the additional holes. I partly blamed my shortage on the heavier and waxier thread I used. At any rate, she'd shown us how to add thread using a weaver's knot so all is not lost.

Except that I couldn't get the weaver's knot to "snap" and hold the thread the new length was being added to. I tried several times, even getting out a photocopy I'd taken from a library book showing several useful knots. I had to laugh that at the end of the instructions for the weaver's knot, it said that if you couldn't get the knot to hold, just make a square knot. So that is what I did. A little messier but since this is a book I'll be using, I really don't care, especially since it is in the last signature of the book. In the picture you can see I remembered a couple of helpful things when sewing in signatures: 1) use finger cots on thumb and second finger to help pull the needle through - there's always a bit of tug of war, and 2) clip the next signature to be sewn to the previous signature to keep it from flopping around until you get a few stitches sewn into it (lower left).

There it is, all neat and tidy from the outside. One problem though . . .

I tend to tighten my stitches quite a bit because of a disappointing experience where I was not careful about that and ended up with a wobbly book. However, too tight and the covers spring open. Not equally this time, and with a little pulling and jiggling I was able to even up the amount of spring front and back and think the rest will resolve as I use the book.

The book was designed for the addition of tabs. I didn't really think I needed tabs for the way I plan to use this journal, but as long as the covers were sized to accommodate them and I had some of the cover paper leftover to make a few, I went ahead and added them.

 cover measure 5.75 tall x 4.75 wide

So there we go, all done, and I'm already collecting the bits of paper I've scribbled thoughts and quotations on that will now be transferred into this book. Not done in 5 consecutive days nor even 5 non-consecutive days, yet done within a two week period where life managed its usual intervening. Pretty pleased with that and now onto the holiday preparations and binding the Peace quilt.