Tag Archives: Gifts

Visiting Quilts

I mentioned we went to visit our son. Coincidentally, we visited three quilts I’ve made for him.

The first one is actually a comforter. I made it for him when I was a new quilter and he was in high school. I made nine 9-patches of 8″ patches and set the 9-patch blocks in a 3×3 layout. Five of the big 24″ blocks are in solid navy and a dark blue print. The other four blocks are in solid dark green and a dark green print. Solid navy bordered the whole to make a cover that is 88″ square. I used fat, fluffy polyester batting and a navy flannel sheet for the back. It was so big and the batting was so poofy, I knew I’d never get it quilted. Instead I yarn-tied it.

As humble as it is, it is his favorite of the three quilts. I know why. Jim and I slept under it for almost two weeks. It is soft and cuddly, and very lightweight due to minimal piecing and the (now nearly non-existent) batting.

The second one I made as his college graduation gift. I designed it myself using EQ7, and I must have tried dozens of iterations before deciding on the final version. I wrote more about it here, including the design inspirations and the construction process.

[Son’s] Flight. 81″ x 81″. Finished in 2012. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

The final quilt is one I made last fall. Coincidentally, it also is in blues and greens!

For Son. 68″ x 68″. November 2014. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

I wrote more about this quilt here.

It’s always fun to see the quilts I’ve made, especially knowing that they are used and loved. All three of these quilts fit that bill.

Do you ever get to visit quilts you’ve made?

Power Builders 02.13.15

With Power Builders, I’ll be providing creative links each week. This is Week #2. If you’d like to see last week’s, you can find it here.

I call this series “Power Builders” because that’s what these little items do for me. They make me more powerful in my art and in my life. I hope they do the same for you. Some of the links will be about how other creative people use their time, structure their work, find inspiration. Some may be videos, music, or podcasts to inspire you. Some of it will be directly quilt-related but much of it will not. What you see in Power Builders will depend on what I find. Feel free to link great things in comments, too.

1) I loved this story of how a children’s book’s illustrations came to be. Note the discussion about how the illustrations have their own language.

2)  Here is an article about an amazing artist who decided to draw our worst fears. And here is the direct link to some of her art at the Fear Project.

3) Speaking of fears, Tara Mohr writes about what feedback can teach us, if we listen.

4) How to make toast. Most importantly, please watch the TED talk.

5) My post from several months ago about using your gifts.


Photo by Jim Ruebush. Aran Islands, Ireland, 2011.

This is one of my all-time favorite vacation pictures. I love the brilliant yellow contrasting with vivid red; the textures, smooth glass, feathers, peeling paint, bumpy stucco; long shadows cast from chicken butts by the high mid-day sun. The signs in the window, one commanding us to “GET INTO IT.” I even love the proportions of the photo, with how Jim cropped it to frame the chickens in the center.

Get inspired by the world around you! What has inspired you this week?

A Quilt for My Son

“It would be great to have a lap quilt with that soft stuff — what’s it called? flannel? — on the back,” my son said. We were using Facetime to visit with him. He was in his very small apartment on base in Oklahoma. Visible behind him was his bed, covered with the comforter I gave him when he was in high school.

When I made the comforter, I was just learning to quilt. It is designed as one enormous double 9-patch, in dark blues and greens. I filled it with a high-loft batting and then tied the layers with acrylic yarn.

The colors are pleasing, but its most important feature to Son is the flannel backing. As a senior in high school, he had his wisdom teeth removed. Jim took him to the dentist for the procedure early that morning, and then stayed with him for part of the day. Late in the afternoon, when I was away from my desk at work, I had a phone message from Son. Obviously drowsy from the medication, he mumbled about how much he liked the quilt, how warm and cozy it was.

He loves the flannel-backed comforter. And I saved the phone message until I left my job several years later.

But Son, above all else, is a practical man. So almost as soon as he said he’d like a lap quilt, he backtracked. “I don’t need a lap quilt in Oklahoma. Never mind.”

He won’t live in Oklahoma forever. In fact, in the middle of next year he’ll move to the Seattle area. And three or four years after that, it will be on to a different base and assignment.

So I made him a quilt, with flannel on the back. It is a buddy quilt, about 60″ square, big enough for him and a buddy (his fiancee) to snuggle under while watching teevee. At that size, it’s big enough for somebuddy to nap under, as well.

When I started it, I was inspired by the wonky half-square triangle quilts of Katie Pederson. Here are two pictures from Katie’s site:

Aren’t they amazing? But obviously I didn’t go this way. I have a hard time working “wonky.” As much as I love looking at quilts like these, I like precision in my piecing. After making three blocks, I was annoyed by the process and by the waste of fabric. So I made the outside corner blocks with regulation half-square triangles, and all the rest, except the center, as strip-pieced HST.

I worked all from stash, with the exceptions of the flannel backing and the narrow “containment” border around the edge, which also was used for the binding. Even from stash, though, I was able to build in a lot of symbolism, making this uniquely his quilt.

The center block is an economy block, or square-in-a-square. It is centered by a piece of Air Force logo fabric I bought a few years ago. Surrounding the logo fabric is bright dark gold and navy, both printed with very Americana stars. (See my tutorial on making economy blocks any size.)

Besides that, you can see the shamrocks and plaids, signifying his Irish and Scottish roots. I added a piece of sky, because he is a pilot and will work in the clouds. And the musical instruments allude to his background as a musician, playing jazz saxophone in high school and college. I quilted it with free-motion stars and loops.

My original plan was to make this as a Christmas present. But it was very easy to execute and went quickly. Soon I realized I could have it done before Thanksgiving, ready to give him as a belated birthday present. When he arrived on Tuesday last week, he opened his present and was very pleased. I think he thought it should have a higher loft batting so it would be more like that fluffy comforter. But the flannel was the kicker, and he slept with it last week on his bed.

All in all, it was a successful gift.


Stolen Time, from Tara Sophia Mohr

One of my intentions with this blog is to help you become more powerful. You may have noticed my tagline near the blog title — “Be powerful. CREATE!” Of course the kind of power I’m talking about is personal power, not over anyone else.

I try to fulfill that intention in a number of ways. One is by talking about creative process. I never want someone to get discouraged from trying things because they think that creativity is easy, or that quilts are created wholecloth out of my brain. (HA! Do you see what I did there?) They aren’t. They are hard. Struggling with design, with process, with finding solutions to color or size or shape is part of creativity. If you KNOW that, you know it’s okay for you to struggle, too.

Another aspect of becoming more powerful is in realizing where your strengths lie. My recent post UZURGFT encourages you to identify your gifts, accept them fully, explore and stretch them, and share them with others.

Today I want to share another blog with you, this one by Tara Mohr. I’ve recently started reading from this wise, lovely woman’s blog. In yesterday’s post she talks about writing on stolen time. She says,

And suddenly I became part of a great legacy of women who had been stealing bits of time, writing at kitchen tables instead of desks, scribbling notes whenever they could, and most of all writing anyway.

Writing anyway.

Painting anyway. Composing music anyway. Dancing anyway. Working on their callings and dreams and labors of love anyway. Fill in the line for you. What is life asking you to attend to, in stolen bits of time?

We aren’t always able to devote large chunks of time to our projects. But if you wave your hands and decide you can’t be creative because you don’t have time, you give away part of your power. You let other forces decide for you, if you will create. Or NOT.

Be powerful. CREATE. Use the time you have. It, too, is a gift, even when it is in bits and pieces. Like the scraps and patches that create our quilts, our time, too, can be stitched together to create something of beauty. And that beauty is not just in our quilts, but in ourselves.


Traffic merged to one lane before me, polite Iowa drivers taking their turns to cross the overpass, single file. As we crossed, I noted the license plate of the car in front of me.

I solve puzzles, sometimes hard ones, but this one was easy. “Use your gift.”

It got me thinking about gifts generally, and how we use them. Everyone knows anecdotes about a mother, aunt, or grandma who would receive presents — table linens, bath towels, cologne — and put them away. The gift was “too nice” to use. Maybe you’ve done it yourself. Did you get china as a wedding present? Do you use it?

Why do we keep our best gifts hidden away? There could be a lot of different reasons. Fear might be the big one. Fear that we don’t deserve such a gift, fear that someone might think we’re showing off, fear that we don’t know how to use it or display it, or that it doesn’t fit in with our other “stuff,” fear that we might ruin it…
To read more, click here.