If We Were Having Coffee (August 10)

100_0635If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that:

  • I want to introduce you to one of my friends: Dante! You might remember from Halloween last year. She’s also going to help show you some of the interesting fun I’ve had in the last couple of days. (HINT: look at what is on her shoulders.)
  • I still have lots of work to do, but I just had the urge to play a little bit (starting yesterday evening). Since it had been a long time since I felt that kind of urge, I figured the work could wait.
  • As part of my summer mystery quilt project, I assembled some fabric strip sets. Yesterday, cutting them into segments was on the agenda, but I needed to replace the blade on my rotary cutter. The last time I cut fabric, it was kind of a slog.
  • Having a new blade in my rotary cutter is like discovering a new land. I don’t know why on earth, I waited so long to change it. When I cut fabric yesterday, it was — dare I say it? — F U N ! I now have a slight insight into why I might have not been looking forward to that part of the quilting process. Now, it’s like: Bring me more fabric! I want to cut it!
  • Because cutting fabric was fun, I actually thought about doing some sewing, but I didn’t do the sewing for the mystery quilt, I started sewing together scrap pieces leftover from when I pieced the top for my daughter’s quilt.


  • So by the time I turned off the sewing machine last night, I had quite a string of these pieces paired up.
  • When Dante got here today, she was amazed at how many of them were sewed together. Since I did chain piecing, they were all in one long strand. So she had the idea of stringing them up across the room.
  • We decided (at first) that we should drape them around the closet doors. You can see the results of our efforts here.


  • We thought it would make sense to press them open so you could see the bright colors, but the string was way too long. So we cut them into four sections. I pressed and then cut, and Dante would lay them on the table. After we finished all four, we needed a way to display them. Refer back to the picture at the top of this post.   haha
  • Here’s another photo of my newest quilting process model.


  • By this time, we were really having fun! We talked of the possibility of setting a fashion trend. What do you think? Would it catch on?
  • But seriously, here is a picture of them actually arranged on the ironing board.


  • The next step will be to sew these sections together and continue playing with the colors and block sizes. With no definite plan in mind, anything is possible. These lovely fabric scraps in various configurations may be appearing in another post in the near future.
  • What have you been doing since we last had coffee?


An added bonus: I took a picture of Dante that I was kind of surprised at because the lighting was really strange, but she really liked it, so we thought we’d share it with you.



  • I hope you enjoyed our time together as much as I have.
  • I can’t wait until our next time.


February Quilt Update

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARemember this? Only 6+ years in the making, these were the blocks that I constructed for my daughter’s quilt. A couple of students played around with the arrangement and came up with what you see on the left.

The next step was to sew the rows together. I stacked all the fabric in piles for each row, and began sewing in fits and starts as time allowed. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as good about keeping things organized as the rows were completed. As a result, I ended up having to rearrange things as I went. It got frustrating at times, making sure that fabrics and colors didn’t get too close to matching ones, but finally, I am one row away from having the quilt top pieced. The final row will likely be finished in the next couple of weeks. I miscalculated slightly, and I have to piece 3 more blocks to finish the last row. I’ve cut out the pieces and can now get to work on that.

So, would you like to see what the top looks like when it’s all sewn together? My apologies for not taking time to press it, but there will be future updates with this quilt top as I move toward the quilting and finishing.  🙂


In other quilting news, I have done some preliminary cutting and piecing on the quilted wall hanging that will be hung at the restaurant/coffee shop around the corner–my first art piece that will actually appear in public! I’m not ready to post pictures yet, but they will be coming soon.

And the latest news: when last night’s dinner guest saw the quilting I was doing, he told me he wanted to commission me to do a piece for the wall in his apartment. I was stunned and tried to say I could just make him something when I had the time. But he was pretty clear that he wanted to pay me for it. So I have my first commissioned quilting project! Best of all, he knows my time is crazy, so it’s totally flexible as to when I do it. And he likes one of the designs I’ve already been playing with. We looked at fabrics and colors, and I have a sense of what he wants. Now, while I finish these other two projects, I can incubate further on his piece.

It feels good to have a ready outlet for the creative expression I find in quilting. At this time last year when I packed it up and put it away, it was the right thing to do. But, luckily that action has served its purpose, and it’s definitely time for quilting to be an ongoing part of my life again. It gives me a real break from all the crazy deadlines. And it’s fun! A little fun in life is a good thing.


Also posted for FanFoFeb. You can find out more here:  http://willowdot21.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/fanfofeb-the-slam/#like-5507

The Quilt Top Takes Shape

On Tuesday, December 3, I had four piles of different kinds of blocks, two eager students willing to play with said blocks, and a queen-size bed that almost accommodated the layout for the throw-sized quilt.




OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile I could have done the arranging of the blocks myself, Belle and Hebbe have been coming over on Tuesday afternoons for several weeks to work on their own projects and to peek into my quilting process. They are both interested in commercial design as well as a variety of arts and crafts. Hebbe has also designed and made some of her own clothes by hand, and she may take on a new garment project next semester, using my machine. They have been intrigued about the quilting process and wanted to participate. This seemed the perfect way to include them. So on Tuesday, December 3rd, they arrived ready to “play” with the blocks and see what kind of design they could come up with. A queen-sized bed was their canvas, and 120 quilt blocks made up their palette.


  1. Solid blocks and pieced blocks are alternated.
  2. Attempts should be made to keep each particular fabric from matching that fabric in any adjoining block, whether that be horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
  3. Blocks of the same colors should not be clustered too heavily in one area.
  4. Darks and lights should be spread throughout the quilt, as much as possible with the other constraints.

Numbers 1 and 2 were the prevailing rules, and numbers 3 and 4 were more like general guidelines. The process included a lot of placing, moving things around, moving other things around, and then discovering that something else needed to be moved around. OK, there might have been a little frustration here and there. It was like a giant jigsaw puzzle. It looks like fun, but it has moments when you’re not sure if you can find the piece that fits into a specific spot. But they kept at it (with a little help friendly advice from me. (Although it may have seemed like interference or, worse, changing making up the rules as we went along. OK, that may not be far from the truth.) Still, they persevered, and the results were worth the struggles, as you can see below.


I’m very happy with the results. Of course, this will shrink significantly when I sew all the blocks together with the 1/4″ seams, but it will be a nice size for curling up on the couch.


By the way, 522 days to 60.

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An Update on the Quilting Update

It’s been about three weeks since I posted an update on the quilt I’m making for my daughter. While much of the reason for the lag in updating has been due to work projects and other deadlines, I also made an error in some of the assembly. As I put blocks the first blocks together, everything was fine. You might recall some of those first lovely blocks.


Not only are these 24 1/2-inch blocks not pressed, they are also not correct. Suddenly, there wasn’t enough give and take among the colors to really be effective. I discovered this problem on November 26, when two of my students who are interested in crafts and fabric art came over in the afternoon to help play with the layout. Luckily, they brought other projects to work on as well, because it didn’t take long to realize that my large groupings totally limited the ways in which all the pieces could be laid out. This may have worked if I had only had two (or three) colors, and could group things together by color, but this project definitely got out of hand in terms of the number of colors and tones I was juggling.

Luckily I only had to rip out 12 such groupings before I could get back on track with actually planning a layout that would be more colorful. So the dismantling of seams took place, and then the counting began. The idea is to have 60 blocks that are pieced (like those in the first two pictures) and then 60 solid squares (shown with the pieced ones in the unpressed samples above). And then they are alternated–pieced block, solid square, pieced block, solid square, etc.

Somewhere along the line, I had started to experiment with other pieced blocks instead of just the penny patch. In the end, I had 31 penny patch block (the pieced blocks above). To supplement them (and reach 60) I created simple four-patch blocks (on the left) and some interesting three piece blocks (on the right) to reach required number of 60 pieced blocks.



I made these additional types of blocks rather than doing all the cutting required to make more penny patch blocks. I had done the initial ones in a production line approach, and I didn’t really want to do it again after thinking I was finished. In addition, with all the colors and the lack of low value fabrics, there was plenty going on. The quilt will not be lacking for interest. In fact, the actually penny patch effect is lost in all this color, so I will try the pattern again another time and follow the recommended number of colors and values a little more closely. But for Kate’s quilt, the way it’s turning out is a lot like her: unusual and definitely unpredictable.


Quilt Along or Quilt Alone?

Interestingly, the quilt along group is posting pictures of their blocks this week, as most people are making the last of their blocks this week. While I’ve made good progress, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve fallen off the pace. I can no longer say that I’m really keeping up with the group.

But it doesn’t bother me. My reason for joining the quilt-along has been fulfilled. What I wanted was to quilt. Before signing up for it, I had a project that I was moving toward, but no real work had begun. Signing up for the quilt along changed all that, and I started moving along. Selecting fabric from the stash, cutting the pieces, and starting to piece. The last time, I left off with this step, in which two four-patches are assembled with two solid squares. The one in the bottom right corner is an example of a completed one. And if you look at the next picture, you can see examples of completed blocks in all four colors.


Next, I took two of those completed blocks and alternated them with two larger solid squares, as shown below.


Now it’s time to repeat the process by taking two of these larger blocks and alternating them with larger solid pieces of fabric as shown below.



I have most of the rest of this size block set up to sew the final seams. So a pieced block is joined to a solid block. The next sewing involves taking those two halves and putting them together into blocks like the purple ones above. The halves are stacked with their partners in a neat pile next to the sewing machine so I can finish that step next. Then it will be time to play on the design wall to plan the next move.

What I’ve Learned

2.  I don’t need to have a dedicated quilting area. By setting up a spot for my sewing machine and being willing to do cutting and pressing on the kitchen counter (and sharing that counter with food prep), I am able to use smaller chunks of time to keep the forward moving momentum.

3. It’s good to have a plan, but it helps to be flexible about adjustments. Maybe that one isn’t just about the quilting.  😉

4. Even though I don’t feel like I’m really part of the quilt along group anymore, I still feel like this project is a huge success. Those who stay with it will have a finished quilt by Christmas. That’s great, but even if I have my quilt top half finished by Christmas, that’s half a quilt more than I would have had if I had not signed up for the quilt along. The directions, suggestions, and timetable for getting started got me moving and kept me from stalling or putting it off (again) indefinitely.

5. While I still need to work on the staging of photos, at least there is a record of this project. That’s significant, since it hasn’t happened before. In addition, knowing that photos are going to be taken keeps me focused on the process itself, so that I am more likely to finish all pieces of one step before moving on.

6. Unlike my last attempt at bringing quilting back into my life, I am having a lot of fun.

Stay tuned for the next update!

Quilt-Along Update #2 or 3, depending on how you count

In our last episode, I left off with STEP 3 of the process and a big pile of pieces that needed to be assembled into squares.


Today, I took the piles of other fabrics and sewed them into more squares like the ones above. Then they were all pressed. There are 16 different combinations of pieced squares. You can see 15 of them here.



Now, it’s time to take to of the blocks above and sew them to solid pieces of fabric of the same size. Here is another picture, this time with the solid blocks that will be joined the pieced squares.


I then took the squares (pieced and solid) and sorted them by color. Each pair of matching pieced squares was grouped with a pair of matching solid squares. I ended up with 32 piles of four squares, each pile having 2 pieced squares and 2 solid squares.


It is time to take one of those piles of four pieces and arrange them into a new, larger square as seen below. Since I had already done the sorting by color, the example below is from the pink fabrics, but the same principle will be followed with all four colors as the sewing continues. You will notice that the square in the lower right corner has already been sewn. Over the next couple of days weeks, the rest of them will be sewn and pressed.


What’s Next?

After today, I have to get back to the real world. (Well, I have still been working, but because of not having to teach, I’ve been able to snitch a few extra hours for this project.) Starting tomorrow, I will only have an hour here and there to work on it, so it will take a while to assemble the rest of the squares. The good news is that with all of these sets of four squares sorted and organized into piles on my sewing table, I should be able to make progress. I think it will be possible to assemble several in an hour if all goes well. Of course, I’ll allow for surprises in that department.

I have enough pieced and solid squares to make 8 of the larger squares in each of the four colors–green, pink, green, blue–for a total of 32 squares. Then I’ll move on to constructing the next type of block, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I can’t say how amazed I am at the progress I’ve made on this project. I still had other projects and deadlines to juggle during this quilt start-up. The quilt-along is definitely a big part of my success, as is setting the intention to do this, and to persevere even when it seemed like my time might be better spent elsewhere. But the fact remains, I have a major start on a quilt, one that’s been sitting in the “dream” stage for over five years. I may not have made it through the 20 block goal set on the quilt-along schedule, but I have everything set up to get those blocks done. Momentum has been built.


Further, I must say that I feel good about the things I’ve done that were for me: the blog, the quilt, and the exercise program. Even though they all take time, the important things haven’t really suffered, because I am energized by doing the things that are meaningful to me. If I had pushed myself to “work” instead of nourishing my creative self, I don’t think I would have gotten as much done. Time spent on rejuvenating my spirit is an aspect of self-care that I have too often been willing to give up for the sake of others. It’s not news, but I am finally experiencing how taking care of myself provides the necessary resources to be truly present in all aspects of my life.

These past few weeks have been an unplanned adventure. I’ve ended up in a place I didn’t expect to be. In a way, it seems like when I take time for myself, the “feeling” of time expands, even if time itself does not. I feel like I have more time than I’ve ever had, and I’m doing more than I was a few months ago. The difference is that the added things are not a burden–they are a joy. Taking time for me has taken me down a path where I feel like I may be more in balance than I’ve ever been. I’ve weathered challenges to my intentions, but I’ve persevered. I look forward to the days ahead in a way that is new to me, a way that I like. I intend to continue on this path and see where it leads.

557 days to 60!