Tag Archives: Progress

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.


One More Quilt Top Finished

For my recent quilt retreat, I prepped material to sew three quilt tops. Over the two-and-a-half days I got a lot done, including one quilt top finished, one done except borders applied, and one with a boatload of blocks created. I already showed you the first two of them. Now I’ve finished the third quilt top, too.

This will be another quilt intended for my local VA hospital. They have requested quilts finishing at no bigger than 48″ x 60″. The size works well as a lap quilt for most people, but most importantly, the quilts are tangible symbols of appreciation and respect.

I love block quilts with chains. The puss-in-the-corner blocks are so easy to make and create those chains effectively. What doesn’t work in this quilt is the lack of value contrast. Because of the prints used and the fairly narrow range of value, this is all a bit mushy. As you might be able to tell from the close-up photo, though, it’s actually much prettier in person than it shows in the top photo. And I think it will suit one of our hero-patients just right.

With the end of February rolling up on us, I only have one finished quilt in my count for the year, as well as the three completed tops. Another (the house quilt) is in process. But I’ve been working hard on other projects, so I don’t feel (very) sorry for myself.

How’s your year coming along? Are you making progress on things (however you define that) as you’d hoped? 

Retreat Report

After showing my prep work for last weekend’s retreat (here and here,) I thought I should also share a follow-up about it.

The retreat was scheduled for Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday. During the week prior to the retreat I had a mild cold, and on the night before it was to begin, we had a forecast for several inches of snow. Between the two conditions, I decided to stay home on Friday and join the other quilters on Saturday. Even so, I sewed most of the day Friday, except when I was napping.

This morning I finished applying borders to this strip quilt for the local VA (Veterans’ Administration) hospital. It measures about 39″ x 59″.

Saturday I started fresh. After checking in at the retreat center and setting up my machine and stuff, I got to work sewing this baby quilt top. I had a little bit of cutting to do, but most of it was ready to go. It is about 38″ square.

And on Sunday I made blocks for a third quilt. They are all sewn but not pressed, so I’ll share them another day.

Since I usually work by myself, and often without teevee or music going, it was very different to have friends around me. I enjoyed listening to their conversations and getting to know some of them better. I think my sewing efficiency was better in some ways and worse in others. Certainly I got a lot done in the time, and I’m pleased with that.

Next steps are to press the other blocks I made and assemble them into a top. Then prep backs and batting for all three and get them quilted. With a lot of other things on my plate, I won’t guess how soon that will happen.


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?