Tag Archives: Process

Catching Up (Again)

Do you feel like you’re in catch-up mode a lot? I sure do. And it’s CRAZY, because my life includes few deadlines, and almost all the obligations I have are self-imposed.

Right now I’m catching up from being gone several days. Jim and I were invited to a satellite launch at Kennedy Space Center (Cape Canaveral) in Florida. It was Thursday, March 1. Without reservation I can say it was thrilling to be there, to witness in person. And I’ll also say, it was like watching a football game — you can see it a lot better on teevee than you can in person! 🙂 We’ll have more to say in a few days on our joint blog, Our View From Iowa. For right now I’ll tease you with this picture.

While we were still in the area, we took a drive through a wildlife preserve. I’m a lot more used to wildlife in the northern states than in Florida. We saw several of these ancient beasts.

Before we left on that jaunt, I finished the three “retreat” tops and their backs, and I made two of the bindings. They are now ready to quilt. The cool (and frightening) thing is, I upgraded my longarm. Yes, after intermittent fits over the last few years (my fits? or the machine’s?) I decided the old one had to go. I didn’t expect delivery of the new one until this week, but lo and behold, it was ready sooner. And honest-to-gosh, I’ve barely looked at it since then. Oh yes, I am eager to get started, but other things have been higher priority.

And my EQ7 software took to crashing after my computer’s operating system was updated. After some miscommunication between the EQ company and me, I did figure out a work-around. However, I’ve decided to upgrade my design software, too. And until I do, another project is on hold. Aye-yi-yi, as my friend Kristin would say.

Earlier this week I visited another guild to share information about the Mill Girls, textile workers in New England in the early 1800s. It was fun and gratifying — they were a terrific group. But my schedule has been kind of crazy.

AND THE MOST FUN OF ALL!!! I now have another cold, more difficult than the last two. (Yeah, all three colds in about two months. Maybe then I’ll be done with it for a while.)

So yeah, I’m catching up. This week I finally got back to sewing. My house quilt has been patiently waiting for weeks. There were (way more than) a couple of choices for what to do next. I could either maintain the proportions as square, or I could elongate it. Most of my quilts are square. I LIKE square quilts. But sometimes ya gotta do something different, and certainly this project is easier than many to make that transition.

I made 10 variable star blocks and cut non-square spacer blocks to put between them. Using spacers is a great solution for dealing with size problems, and also when a border of all pieced blocks is too busy. Variable stars have 17 patches each. That’s a lot of patches in a small block finishing at 5″, and spacers will show them off better.

This photo just gives a feel for how that will look.

After attaching the strips of stars top and bottom, I’ll frame the whole with another narrow border. At that point it will probably be time for some of the dozens of flying geese I already made for this quilt, back when it was going to be a strip quilt, not a medallion.

All of this reminds me of a post from three years ago, about something I overheard. It was short, so I will copy it here in its entirety: 

[Overheard] at the Chicago International Quilt Festival, one woman talking to another:

First woman, “I haven’t finished anything recently. Life got in the way.”

Second woman, “That’s the good news!”

Often I hear of “life” as an interruption to some other pursuit, like quilting, writing, or keeping up with television programs. It often connotes that something bad has happened, requiring our time, energy, and attention. It could be that a relative needs care, or we’ve been ill, or the college bills demand finding a second job.

But those aren’t interruptions, are they? Aren’t those the things we’re here for, taking care of others and ourselves? We are connected. Our relationships are (or should be) primary. That, of course, includes the relationship with ourselves. And the leisure pursuits are the luxury. To put it another way, the relationships are the sustenance. The hobbies are the dessert.

So the good news is that life gets in the way sometimes, that we have enough to sustain us that we can enjoy the treat when it’s available.


Prepping for Retreat 2

Man, time flies, doesn’t it? Between working on other projects and catching a cold, it’s been several days since I’ve even thought about my retreat. But considering I need to leave here early Friday (less than 48 hours!) I better get on the ball.

I have my first project prepped to make a quilt for the VA hospital. While I pulled fabrics for that, I also dug through my parts drawer. Most of the stuff in there is lengths of binding that weren’t used, but there are a few other odds and ends, including orphan blocks.

I’ve never counted orphan blocks as UFOs. That’s because in my life, they’re just random blocks, not neglected projects. And I don’t have very many, but there are a few. One of them is the terribly cute economy block I made for my world-famous tutorial. (Yep! Google “economy block” and see. Between my original blog post and the pinterest links to it, that post has two of the top four listings.)

As cute as it is, I don’t make a lot of cute quilts, and I haven’t found use for it. Until now. What the heck, right? It’s the perfect center for either a stillborn’s quilt or a small child’s quilt. My guild donates both sizes through our university hospital. Or if I love it too much, it might be for the new baby of a family friend. And while I don’t have a lot of those sweet colors left in my stash, there is enough to cobble together something I’ll be pleased to give.

Here is the beginning of it on the design wall, pieces cut but not sewn together.

So imagine big half-square triangles in pink and yellow all around, and then a double layer checkerboard in pinks, yellows, and blue. And then probably that more vibrant pink gingham for the last border.

One thing I enjoyed while cutting these pieces is completely finishing a few of these fabrics, aside from small scraps. That amazing stripe? That’s all there is of it. And the dainty but whimsical floral on yellow background? Gone. I’ve loved having them and using them, but as mentioned, I don’t make many quilts in pastels and twee prints. It won’t hurt to use them up.

Besides prepping projects, there is packing to do. Here is our list of suggested items:
* Name tag
* Sewing machine, power cord, foot pedal, attachments
* Machine needles
* Fabric and patterns for your projects
* Rotary cutter/scissors
* Seam ripper (just in case)
* Rulers (Please label these since they all look alike.  Address labels work well for this.)
* Marking pencils/pens
* Thread
* Tape measure
* Pins
* Lamp (optional)
* Lint roller for Sunday cleanup
* Something to drink (no alcohol) water, coffee and tea are always provided
* Snack to share (optional)
* Comfortable clothes—layers are probably best
* Pajamas
* Toiletries
* Your own pillow (optional) one is provided
* Sewing chair (optional)

Seems like they left off the calculator… I’ll also take my iron and a two-sided ironing/cutting board. And since we have a forecast for several inches more snow, and our work space is in a different building than the bedrooms, I’ll take sneakers for inside and boots for outside.

It looks like a lot, but aside from the chair, all of it is pretty compact.

Other than chocolate, I am missing anything from this list? 


Prepping for Retreat 1

In less than two weeks, I’ll join 15 other local quilters, mostly from my guild, for their annual spring retreat. Okay, sure, the first half of February does not really count as spring in Iowa, but it will be warm and sunny where we are.

Have you ever been to a retreat? This will only be my second time, but from my prior experience, it seems that it is good to be well-prepared. Besides bringing snacks to share, most quilters bring projects to piece. Though there will be ironing stations and cutting tables set up, it’s more efficient to use retreat time for stitching, rather than cutting.

I plan to take at least two, and maybe three or four projects to work on. That way I can change gears if bored. The first one will be a quilt for the local VA hospital. It will be simple with 32 6″ puss-in-the-corner blocks with 31 alternate blocks, for a layout of 7 x 9 blocks. With borders, the top will finish at 48″ x 60″.

I’m working from stash, but also from some pieces my small-group friends gave me for another project. They each said they DO NOT want the fabrics back! So I’ve pulled out what I want for the other project and figure a great use for the rest is donation quilts.

Cutting is almost done for this one. These are most of the fabrics:

Yes, that plaid was sold as a Christmas fabric, but who cares, right? I think it will do well for most of the alternate blocks. Here is the basic plan:

I still need to choose something for the alternate alternate blocks, because I am ONE BLOCK SHORT of having enough of the plaid for all of them. So I figured, make do! Switch them up and dress up the layout at the same time. But given the large floral with the blue background something rusty might be the right thing there.

It’s not fancy, but I think it will make a pretty quilt and something quite useful for one of our veterans.

What do you take to work on at retreats? 


Beginning is underrated*

*That is a recent post from Seth Godin, a popular writer and thinker on innovation and excellence. A lot of his posts are not much longer than that, a few words of inspiration, motivation, or encouragement to make, do, serve, share. And here the message is to do. Just begin.

There are different ways to say this. Nike’s famous “Just Do It.” Or the basic lottery pitch of “ya gotta play to win!” Something I’ve often said is, “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.” (Now, sometimes that might have been said with a whiny tone of voice, implying that other people who could or should take responsibility would not, and therefore it was left to me. But most of the time, it’s simply my own recognition that I have a task to work on that won’t do itself.)

Are there things you’ve been intending to accomplish, but which you haven’t started yet? Are there quilt shows you want to enter but haven’t yet filled out the form? Are there techniques you want to try but for some reason haven’t? You can fill in those blanks for yourself better than I can. And I have a list of them, too!

Today is a good day to begin, so let’s get started!

What’s on your list of things to begin? 



A Lot of Fun Stuff Going On

It’s been a while since I’ve showed you my current work. A couple of weeks ago I finished binding a project started last year. It was the one that made me tear my hair out, along with thousands of quilting stitches. It’s finished, but it’s for a loved one and I’d like to get it to her before showing it off here. Just in case.

If you’ve been a reader for a long time, you may have noticed (or seen me write) that I often don’t post about projects in their early stages. Mostly that’s because I don’t much like taking pictures, and it’s hard to describe a project without them! The project I’m working on now is much the same. I actually started it months ago, and now finally am getting around to posting. This time, however, it really still is in the early stages.

So what’s been done so far?

  1. made 112 flying geese to use in a strip quilt
  2. found and pieced together a long strip of border stripe, to use in said strip quilt
  3. changed my mind and decided to use the geese and the border stripe for a medallion quilt
  4. drew house block to center the medallion
  5. sewed house block
  6. embroidered embellishments on house block
  7. framed house block to stabilize it and standardize the size
  8. prepped border stripe (most of the way) to serve as the first showy border

I began the flying geese as I finished making Union. As mentioned before, I was still enjoying the double pinks and browns, and I wanted to combine them with reds, aquas, and teals. Since the fabric was still out, I started cutting pieces for the four-at-a-time method of making geese units, but I didn’t start sewing them until this year.

I’m not sure what inspired me to make a medallion with a house center block. I’ve always been charmed by folk art including early American embroidery samplers, which often featured houses or school buildings. Recently Barbara Brackman posted about quilts with yellow house motifs. Maybe that got me going. I also had a hard time imagining the strip quilt I originally intended. I couldn’t figure out the numbers of strips or what, besides the flying geese, to use. It seemed like it would be a lot more piecing than I wanted, and perhaps without a good enough payoff.

At any rate, I drew that house.

Sometimes the easiest way to do things is the old-fashioned way, and here graph paper and pencil worked just fine.

I’ll show you what happened from there next time. Before that, the title of this post might merit some explanation. There IS a lot of fun stuff going on, which is good, since one of my primary intentions this year is to have fun.

I’ve had lots of RPT (Real People Time) already this year, and a lot more coming up. On Thursday I’ll have lunch with a dear friend from grad school. She and I lost touch several years ago, and it will be a treat to catch up.

Guild stuff keeps on comin’! Between the presidenting and committee-ing and bylaw reviewing, there’s always enough to keep me busy. Besides that, I decided to go to the three-day retreat in mid-February. That means I have to FIGURE OUT WHAT TO TAKE to keep me busy for three day!!! ACK! So much fun! 🙂 (Imagine that smiley face with a slightly crazed look to the eyes.)

I’m also doing things in my non-guild quilty life that are new and different, but things I’ll wait to explain. Could be a crazy year with that, too.

I updated the blog a bit, gave it a little fresher look. My galleries are finally up-to-date, after languishing without much care for too long.

And then the other personal stuff, including travel coming up. We have four trips pegged already this year and forgive me for hoping that’s all we do!  But really, Son’s wedding? FUN! Granddaughter’s graduation? FUN! And a couple of trips for fun? FUN!!

Okay. That’s enough for this time. I’ll show you more of my house project in the next post.