Instagram — All New To Me

I decided to take the plunge so many of you have already made. Yes, I joined Instagram. You can find me as catbirdquiltstudio.

Barbara Brackman had a great blog post the other day, on saving the Instagram world one quilt at a time. Her theory is that newer quilters largely have bypassed traditional blogs and blogging and gone straight to Instagram. The slant toward “modern” quilts, many from a fairly small set of patterns, narrows their perspective rather than broadening it. She has added hundreds of photos of historical quilts, reproductions, and other traditional quilts. It certainly provides a wider look at quilting!

So far I have loaded a few photos to #medallionquilt. It will take me a while to figure out this new (to me) platform. By the time I get it, the world may have moved on! If you use Instagram and have some great tips, please share! I’m all ears.

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No followers yet!

Thinking About Goals

A few weeks ago I asked my personal trainer if she could help me define some fitness goals. I’ve already achieved my daily functionality goals (YAY!!) Beyond basic health needs, and being able to quilt with physical ease, I want to have strength and endurance for the day hikes Jim and I enjoy. I’d like a clearer sense of what training program I need, what markers at the gym I need to meet to achieve that goal.

Note that goals or commitments are not the same as challenges. The goal is the end point, while the challenge is a barrier to reaching the end. Opportunities are creative pathways to breaching the barriers. With the example above, a goal is to be able to hike with enjoyment. The challenges and opportunities are offered by my personal limitations and the physical training to get there. I wrote about challenges and opportunities here.

I’m also thinking about my goals in quilting. Lori at the Inbox Jaunt just asked

Imagine it’s the year 2117--and a family member has just inherited a trunk of your quilts.

What will YOUR quilts say about YOU?

Do they say what YOU want them to say?

Another way to think about goals is to ask, if you knew you only had one more year to make quilts, which quilts would you choose to make? Would they be gifts for family members, or donation quilts, or quilts to challenge your skills? Would your goal be to finish UFOs rather than to begin (and hopefully finish) new ones? Or would you want to spend your quilting time working with friends, regardless of finishes?

And even if you have a goal, it’s SO easy to get sidetracked, isn’t it? A friend just posted in Facebook:

Cleaning up bedroom, realize you need a pair of scissors. Go to kitchen to get scissors. Notice the floor is sticky, wipe up spill. Get coffee, go back to bedroom. Realize you forgot scissors. Go to kitchen to get scissors, past washer & dryer. Realize you need to start laundry. Take out clothes in dryer, put them in the bedroom. Realize you forgot scissors. Go to kitchen to get scissors, carry them to bedroom. Realize you forgot why you wanted scissors.

And quilting is just like that! Finish an important project; realize you have a deadline coming up for a guild project; look for fabrics to begin that; pull a favorite fabric you’ve intended to use for something else, as well as eight more pieces to go with it and the pattern; head to the kitchen for coffee; sit down at the computer for a few minutes; get distracted by someone’s Instagram post and decide that’s the thing you want to make next!

How will you spend your time? How will I spend my time? I want to focus on what is most important to me, on things to which I’m emotionally committed.

Sometimes it is easiest to start with the negative. What I am NOT committed to?

1) Making quilts for family.
2) Using scraps for the sake of emptying the scrap drawer.
3) Finishing projects in which I’ve lost interest.

What am I committed to?

1) Making projects that create puzzles for me to solve.
2) Teaching, both in person and on the blog, especially about medallion quilts.
3) Working with my local guild on quilts and other projects.
4) Building relationships with my small group.

These do describe how I want to use my time, but are they goals? Maybe not. They’re certainly not well-defined. A lot of sources on goal-setting recommend developing specific, realistic, measurable goals, and setting deadlines for attainment. ::sigh::  I guess this is why people fail at New Year’s resolutions.

But honestly, while I did this small exercise, I clarified for myself that “using scraps” for its own sake is NOT one of my goals. I don’t need to clean up piles of cuttings by making more quilts deliberately from them.

Okay. Goals. I have a goal related to commitment #4. One of my small group members developed a mystery quilt project for us, and I will participate. It is a specific project, it is realistic and measurable, and has a rather nebulous time frame of some time early this year. I actually can use scraps in it 🙂 though most of my cutting will be new. It will help forge the camaraderie of our group. And as a mystery quilt, it also suits commitment #1. I have my new project.

Have you developed goals for your quilting? How successful are you in meeting them? Is your current project lined up with those goals? I’d love to hear in comments. 

Medallion Process — Final Borders

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Unnamed top. About 71.5″ x 71.5″. January 2017.

Last weekend I finished this quilt top. I’ve shown you some of my process along the way, through the flying geese middle border. The geese border needed to be contained and balanced. Putting the orange and hot pink edge both inside and outside does that.

That decision was made before we traveled for the holidays. While gone I worked on designing the final border.

Remember the purposes of middle and outer borders are to

  1. build the story by repeating and varying earlier elements such as color, value, shape, line, and contrast; contributing to a motif or theme; and
  2. correct problems with balance and proportion; and complete and unify the composition.

I used EQ7 to try design options. If you ever think that designing with software is cheating somehow, let me assure you it is not. I spent many hours, trying literally dozens of designs, before choosing what you see above. One option that made the finals was a border of variable stars on point. Those variable stars, in fact, are what inspired me to begin this project, so it was hard to let them go. The star proportions are the same as the variable star in the middle of the Carpenter’s Wheel center block, so would echo it. (The EQ7 drawing below uses a different version of the center block than I used. See the photo above.) The on-point setting also repeats the 4-patches’ setting in the first border. Another benefit is the ability to use all the colors again in a natural way.

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Pretty, yes? But I like the boldness of the components that come before, and the stars are small and the detail gets a bit lost. To me the design did not seem well balanced or fully unified.

Long ago I played with a number of quilt designs, which used a repetition of a center block motif in the corners of both an inner and an outer border. Here’s one example (and see more here and here.)

wraparound corners 4

I tried this idea in a variety of ways, and I liked the direction it was taking. I chose corners the same as the corners of the center block. They are the same size, and the pinks are the same fabrics. They made sense, continuing the floral motif and unifying the design in ways the variable stars did not.

However, with all the blank space between those corners, it didn’t balance well with the busyness and boldness of the flying geese. What it needed was more.

Next I tried more. I tried adding a flower variation in the centers of the border. Several iterations of that later, I stopped with my final choice. But still it looked too bare.

Once the chain blocks, made of double 4-patches, were added, I stopped. The 4-patches repeat the inner 4-patches. The chains’ stair-stepping shape also imitates the line of an on-point setting. Finally, they present the notion of floral stems or vines, or even swags, very traditional ways to border a medallion.

I have fabric for the back and will quilt it soon. I’ll show you final photos then.

A Challenge and an Opportunity

“Think of it as a challenge and an opportunity.” A wise, gentle boss would suggest this, when I balked at tasks I didn’t relish. It’s taken me more than thirty years to fully appreciate these words, and I still don’t do them justice.

As a noun, “challenge” has multiple meanings. A challenge is a stimulating task or problem, an invitation to compete in a contest, or a command to prove identity, among other things. As a verb, it can mean to confront or resist, or to dispute something as being unjust or invalid, or to create a contest or difficulty.

It can be easy to identify challenges. Anything that creates a barrier is a challenge, whether it is difficult dealings with other people, a job interview or art show jury, or a fear of flying when you need to cross the country quickly.

This is where opportunity comes in. The root of “opportunity” is “port.” Some etymologists use the notion of “ob portus” or heading toward port in a storm, sailing away from danger. Other words derived from port are portal and porch, perhaps giving welcome refuge from our challenges. More current usage of “opportunity” refers to a chance, or a favorable time or condition for achieving success or attaining a goal.

If we recognize a circumstance as a challenge and an opportunity, we recognize there is both a barrier and a way through it.

To practice this concept, I’ve chosen CHALLENGE and OPPORTUNITY as my words of the year for 2017.


As I look into 2017, I foresee many challenges. Some are personal and others are societal. For societal ones, I intend to offer the challenge of resistance and questioning. These give me the opportunity for expression and the potential to affect change. I’ll need to think creatively, exercise my patience and tact muscles, and work for equality and justice.

Personal challenges can come from anywhere, anytime. Disagreements, slow check-out lines, misplaced paperwork, and much more extreme difficulties, can cause stress and irritation. Again, patience and tact go a long way toward moving through them gracefully. These are skills I continue to practice.

My quilting challenges are of a different nature. Here I’m usually on the receiving end of challenges, mostly self-imposed. I challenge myself to try new things, or to do more or better at familiar things. On reviewing my last few years with their sources of satisfactions and frustrations, I found that most are related to teaching or learning. Here are a few.

Challenge: Teaching in person is a prime source of gratification, and I want to do more. My favorite local quilt shop, which had great classroom space, closed its doors last week.
Opportunities: Another nearby quilt shop just moved into new space, and they do have a classroom now. I’ll check to see if my classes suit their needs. I’ll refresh my list of quilt guilds to contact for presentation and workshop possibilities, and follow through with contacting them. I’ll consider options for teaching about quilt history in non-quilting venues, such as historical societies.

Challenge: It is hard to obtain high-quality feedback on my projects as I develop them.
Opportunities: My medallion class, at its best, provides good feedback for me and the students. Re-establishing a schedule of classes would help me as I help others. Beyond this, I’m not sure how to get regular feedback and would welcome ideas. 

Challenge: While I want to continue making medallion quilts, it’s important to me that each is unique, not simply a rehash of things I’ve previously done.
Opportunities: This week I’m beginning a new class at the community college on linoleum block printing. In February I’ll take a second class on printing on fabrics. I’ll look for more workshops and classes through the year to refresh my work. Any other thoughts on this?

Challenge: A specific intention is to create story quilts. I have a number of ideas to present this way but am unsure of how to go forward. I’d really like someone to help pull me through the process, at least for the first one.
Opportunities: Honestly I don’t know where to go on this one. If you have ideas, please share.

Other challenges come to mind, and more will arise through the year. However, these currently are my highest priorities. Any ideas and advice you have of how to create or expand opportunities is welcome!

One Last Weird But Fun Thing From 2016

In the spring, a young woman named Taylor Brooks contacted me. Taylor is a student in broadcast journalism. She wondered if she could interview me about my quilting projects. She came to our home with camera in tow, and spent several hours with us. Jim and I both had fun telling her about my projects and how I got started quilting. When she was done, we convinced her to eat the lunch she had missed.

Her edited interview is here.

There. I’m done looking back. It’s all forward from here!