Playing in the Leaves

If you’re a Northerner, you might remember playing in the leaves when you were a kid. There’s still great satisfaction in raking the yard and pulling pillowy piles of leaves together, the kinds of piles a child could disappear in. Watch this video to see the fun to be had in the leaf pile.

I’m not doing that. A) it isn’t Fall yet, and B) I’d probably break myself trying to breakdance like that!

But I am playing a little bit, both inspired and motivated by my sister. Recently she asked if I wanted to make 15″ blocks with her. My first reaction was that the blocks were too big and I didn’t know if I could make blocks that size! My second reaction was that we could make blocks that big, as well as some that are 6″, 9″, and 12″, and then make ungridded quilts of multiple block sizes. She bought in to that idea, and we started to make a plan.

I’ve always loved quilts with multiple block sizes. However, aside from dozens of medallion quilts, Stars for Nora is the only other multi-sized block quilt I’ve made.

Stars

Stars for Nora. 42″ square. August 2016. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

The quilts that caught Sister’s fancy were made from maple leaf blocks. Have you ever made them? I made my first maple leaf blocks for a round robin quilt, in 2007, the first year I was in quilt guild. The maple leaves and setting triangles were already assembled when it came to me. I added the squares on point and outer border that you see here.

I didn’t make the 6″ maple leaf blocks in the center. But I was so sure the quilt needed more of them that I made another dozen to send on to the next quilter. (I don’t have a photo of the finished quilt. It was fabulous, and my blocks got used as I hoped.) I also made several to keep for myself. Those maple leaves became placemats for both my sister and me.

Together, she and I also made this table runner. The blocks were mine and she did the setting, and she quilted it. I use it in autumn in my dining room.

And if that wasn’t enough, we also made a quilt for our brother and his wife, in 2012.

It makes me laugh to realize that all the maple leaf quilts I’ve made have been projects with other people. Playing in the leaves is more fun when you have company.

We’re making maple leaf quilts. We had to hash out some parameters for colors, backgrounds, and level of scrappiness. We’ll each make four 15″ blocks, four 12″ blocks, and eight each of 9″ and 6″. Spacers will be required to fit them together, as in Nora’s star quilt above. Later in the Fall she and I will get together and assemble parts into blocks into tops.

This project certainly wasn’t my top priority. I have five unquilted tops with backs, ready to go when I am. I have another several projects already started. I’m inspired to begin a guild challenge project for next July, something I’ll talk about in a different post. (Kerry Sanger, I may be bouncing thoughts off you for that one!) No, this wasn’t my top priority. But it’s got me excited. Inspiration (thank you, Sister!) has dragged Motivation and Energy our of the corners, and chased Focus down to join the group.

Here are my first two 15″ blocks.

Sister and I have different taste in fabric, though it overlaps quite a bit. If I had to guess, she probably hasn’t bought any 1800s repros for a decade. I still find some useful for both “old-fashioned” quilts as well as more contemporary uses. She likes busy background fabrics, and that’s harder for me. The overlap in what we like should make her blocks meld well with mine.

I’m looking forward to fun playing in the leaves.

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Motivation

I want to want to quilt! I really do. But quilting time competes with all other parts of life, and some times it doesn’t win. It isn’t just the matter of time, either. In fact, I have a lot of that. What I don’t have in spades is the type of energy that allows creative focus for longer stretches.

Since mid-April, I’ve made four quilt tops and their backs. When I’ve had inclination to “quilt,” the projects have been simple, not stretching my creative muscles very far. One is a Delectable Mountains (the second one I’ve made using the “modern” method,) one is a nursery rhymes quilt (the fourth and final one using panel fabric bought many years ago,) one is a disappearing 9-patch (I’ve made several of them,) and one is a small medallion quilt, which was pre-designed in EQ8. One of the projects has an intended owner; the others will probably be donations for my guild’s next quilt show silent auction.

Inspiration needs to join hands with motivation and energy, and at this point, those three are standing in different corners of the room, glaring at each other. I have a couple of pending projects that are inspiring, but they are “hard,” and have issues to sort out before moving forward. Motivation is not volunteering to help with that.

As far as that goes, simple projects can offer inspiration, too. Here are a couple of quick ideas I drew this morning in EQ8. You can click on either picture to open them full-sized.

The two designs are the same other than the alternate block. One uses a 3-strip rail fence block and the other uses a snowball. Pretty, huh? I like simple quilts. After I drew these I felt inspired and pretty charged up, ready to head downstairs to pull fabrics for one. Or heck, both use the same 9-patch, so I could do two! And then motivation walked away.

Motivation says, “What’s the point?” And right now, I don’t have an answer.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Summer isn’t quite over, but around here school begins this week. Did you ever write a paper about your summer vacation? I’m not sure if teachers actually assign this essay, or if it’s merely an easy criticism of trite school work. 

Is it trite? Or is it a good way to get students back in the habit of writing? Does the poetic turn of phrase matter as much as simply putting memories into words? If I wait until I’m feeling poetic or literate, I might never write another blog post. Instead, I’ll start here with a few sentences about my year. Perhaps breaking the ice this way will make it easier to write the next one.


Shortly before my last blog post, Jim and I left to visit our son and daughter-in-law. They were about to welcome a new baby into their lives, and we were privileged to be with them when he was born. He is healthy and sturdy and doing well, and both parents are over the moon, in love with the little one.

And shortly before that, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. When we returned from our family visit, I began treatment, which will continue for a few more weeks.

As you might imagine, writing has not been a high priority for me. In the meantime, though, I have made a few quilt tops and backs. I’m not speedy, mostly because I’m also not very inspired or motivated. My stamina is improving post-chemo, but not to the point where I’m interested in spending more than an hour at a time working on anything. And that hour? Might be once or twice a week. Finishing anything is hard at that pace.

Jim and I are trying to enjoy the last of the long summer days. Both of us are getting out for walks more often. We had the thrill of seeing the Big Boy steam engine as it roared past us a few weeks ago. We traveled to see Son and his family last week. On returning Friday, we headed downtown for live music and dancing, and huge hugs with old friends and new ones. Just yesterday we attended a “corn feed” with the sweetest Iowa sweet corn. If you know Iowa sweet corn, you know that it’s the best on the planet. And today I’ll make stuffed poblano peppers, more of the bountiful produce that help make summer so special.


If you have any questions about my diagnosis or the treatment process, you are very welcome to ask, and I reserve the right not to answer. Please NO comments suggesting I’m doing something wrong (not praying or meditating right, not having the right attitude or emotions, not taking supplements I should, not having the right treatment plan… ) NO comments like that, please. They are not helpful.

 

 

Cliffhanger!

In the previous episode, I told you some about my process for making the Wind River Beauty quilt. There are a couple of important program notes since then. First, it is still in process!! Yes, the top is done, and has been for, golly, a few weeks. It’s been on my longarm frame and off of it and back on.

In the meantime, I made a baby quilt for my very-soon-to-be-born grandson. Until it’s revealed to the parents, I won’t be sharing it here. And the little guy needs to be revealed first!

The second program note is that I’m taking a bit of a hiatus. Now, you may or may not have noticed that I haven’t been around, either reading or writing. Some family/personal/non-quilting things have come up, taking my attention. I’m not sure when I’ll get back to this, but likely it will be a few weeks.

Thanks as always for reading. I look forward to visiting with you again.

Wind River Beauty, Project Process Part 1

My recent post on project process summarized the steps in project development and implementation. As fancy as project flow charts can get, it really comes down to this, a simple set of procedures that can help you make a quilt, build a highway, or write a blog post. I’ll outline how these steps apply to making the Wind River Beauty quilt, one of my current projects.

Identify problem or objective
The problem to solve or objective to meet was to create a quilt using the New York Beauty block I made in a workshop last year. The original block I made, before modifying, is below.
The fabric in the center was fussy cut from a border stripe fabric. I experimented with the symmetry as shown in this video:

Potential solutions
When thinking of potential solutions to any problem, you can switch into brainstorming mode. Think of a lot of different options, at first without evaluating them as good or bad. When you get stuck, consult one of the many articles online for tips for more brainstorming. Remember, one of the best questions to ask is “what if?”

Making the block wasn’t difficult, but I wasn’t interested in making more. That meant any quilt using it would use only the one. It could be a small quilt like a table topper; a larger ungridded quilt, such as one using the block as one of many blocks of various sizes and designs; a larger gridded one, such as one using a number of other blocks the same size, but different designs; or my specialty, a medallion quilt, featuring the New York Beauty as a center block.

Honestly, I didn’t really brainstorm. I seriously only considered making a medallion quilt, as that was my intention as I made the block. There are still infinite options open within the category “medallion quilt,” so that decision alone didn’t determine my solution, but it did give it a framework.

Beyond that, I wanted to use and honor the fabric I purchased at a trading post on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, south of Yellowstone National Park. A traditional quilt style for some Native American groups is the Lone Star, also known as Star of Bethlehem. There were many quilts of this style for sale at the trading post. If you google “Lone Star” or “Star of Bethlehem,” you’ll see lots of beautiful examples. Here is an illustration from EQ8 of the basic format:

Constraints and resources
Prior to taking the workshop, I assumed that the block, if successful, would be used to center a quilt. The feature fabric mentioned above was both a resource and a primary constraint, since I had a limited amount of it.

In fact, fabric availability is often one of the biggest constraints for my quilts. I almost always start with stash, filling in by shopping only if needed. For this project, I had to create work-arounds for multiple fabrics. I designed my border treatment to use the limited length of the feature fabric. Some colors from the center block required substitution fabrics. The yellow used for the star’s background was a particular issue. The photo below shows two yellows I tried for background. The bright yellow in the lower left corner was too strong, while the soft butter yellow served as an appropriate foil for the stronger colors of the block and star points. You can also see two different purples, and two different rusts. (The color that might look like red in the star points is actually rust in real life. The colors, in general, do not show well in the photos.)

Besides materials, time and skills are both resources and constraints, too. There is no deadline for this project. In that sense, time is a relatively unlimited resource. My skills are a resource in the sense that I’m capable of the design and piecing for the quilt (although there were piecing problems, discussed in the next post.) However, my quilting skills are “intermediate” level. Over time I’ve chosen to do custom quilting more often for my quilts. As I do, I learn more and upgrade my abilities. But I still can’t do all the things I want to do for each project.

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This post is long enough! I’ll share more about the execution of my plan in another post. Thanks as always for taking a look.