Tag Archives: VA hospital quilt

Productive Procrastination

Did you know that “productive procrastination” is a thing? I’m talking about choosing to do something valuable while actively choosing not to do something else valuable. For example, you could choose to dust your living room rather than call your mom. Or vice versa. What I’m not talking about is getting lost for hours in Pinterest or Instagram photos, searching for inspiration you’ll never actually act on. Or clicking through Facebook or online news ceaselessly, looking for something new to read or respond to.

Right now, I’m putting off writing about my trip to Peru, and all the tasks that are included in that: identifying photos to share; framing my memories so they are meaningful for you, too; considering how those memories have shaped my creativity, even just a little. And I’m also putting off re-starting one of my quilting projects with the benefit of my new perspectives.

Instead, I am working on another VA Hospital quilt. Certainly that is worthy of the time involved. I can’t pretend that it is a high priority — there is no deadline. On the other hand, there’s no deadline for my purely creative adventures, either.

It started when I opened a drawer of orphan blocks, parts, and binding leftovers. I found a bunch of these, dull and dismal puss-in-the-corner blocks. (They didn’t qualify as a UFO by my definition, as they were not “a project” themselves. They were just orphan blocks, parts waiting in inventory until useful or otherwise disposed of.)

They finished at 6″, more or less. The fabric is not particularly nice. And they certainly aren’t pretty. But could they be useful?

(This reminds me of the very silly public television show, The Red Green Show. He is famous for saying, “If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.“)

So what can you do with 10 not-pretty blocks? I decided to use them within a disappearing 9-patch quilt. Mix them in with enough other, prettier fabrics, and they’ll be okay.

When I make disappearing 9-patches, I like to use an accent color for the centers of the 9-patches. It also is helpful to have value contrast between the large corner patches and the side-centers, which become the “legs.” As I picked through fabrics, I decided to stick with dark greens and dusky blues for the corner patches, rusty oranges for the accent center patches, and lighter pieces for the legs.

I made nine large, ugly 9-patches using 6″ finish blocks. All the blocks were unpieced except my green and tan puss-in-the-corner blocks.

After completing the 9-patches, I sliced each into four pieces, arranged them, and stitched them into a quilt top. The top is now finished.

Disappearing 9-patch top. About 44″ x 62″.

(Honestly, it’s better looking in person than it is in the photos.)

I’ll need to build a quilt back, quilt it, and bind it. But it will wait as I have another task to tackle in the next few days, one with an actual deadline.

What are you working on? Are you procrastinating, forging ahead, or doing both in turn? 

Advertisements

Five Quilts in Four Weeks

Between the middle of September and four weeks later, I started and finished four quilts, and I also put the binding on a fifth one. This isn’t my preferred way of working but deadlines piled up on me. Here is a quick run down:

When I returned home from a high school reunion, Jim informed me that brother-in-law Dan was granted an “honor flight.” According to the website, “Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. We transport our heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials.” Dan’s trip to DC was scheduled for less than two weeks later. I wanted to make him a quilt. Coincidentally, another brother-in-law, Sonny, was also taking a flight in mid-October. One quilt wouldn’t do; I would make two of them.

When I need to  make a quilt in a hurry, I often design it using Electric Quilt software. Currently I’m using EQ8 (version 8.) I designed similar quilts for both men. The medallion format with which I’m so familiar uses block “borders” for these, making sizing simple.

Dan’s Honor Quilt. September 2018. About 66″ square. Photo by Jim Ruebush. Border blocks (hourglasses and puss-in-the-corner) finish at 8″.

Sonny’s Honor Quilt. October 2019. About 61″ square. Photo by Jim Ruebush. Border blocks (rail fences) finish at 6″.

Both quilts were easy to execute, but Sonny’s was actually much simpler. It uses all one block style, alternating blue and red, and solid white as the only background fabric. The only complexity in Sonny’s quilt, in terms of the block borders, is the blocks combining half-square triangles and rail fences. It took a bit for me to work it out, but in truth it was really easy to do. If I ever make them again, I’ll show you how.

I used all stash for both quilts, except borders and backs. Both used lots of smaller pieces for the blues and reds.

In the midst of making these, I realized my sweet neighbor Heather’s baby shower was in early October. I planned to make a quilt for the baby, but he isn’t due until December, so I wasn’t in a hurry. With the shower coming up, that changed things!

I used the same rail fence blocks that were so quick for Sonny’s quilt. Once the front was finished, I gleaned leftover parts from another project to make the back, turning the quilt into a two-sided quilt. All fabric was from stash.

Heather’s baby quilt, front. October 2018. About 46″ square. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Heather’s baby quilt, back. October 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

The fourth quilt was a hostess gift. Jim and I went to Peru! (We’ll write about our trip soon, on Our View From Iowa.) One of the meals during our tour was at a family home. The tour company recommends bringing a small gift for the hostess. It’s a way to connect with the family, as well as show gratitude and have a way to say something about your own home.

My original plan was to take a small wall-hanging that’s already finished, but it wouldn’t fit nicely in our carry-on suitcases. Instead I started a new one, with the primary design being a map of Iowa. The fabrics chosen represented the corn and soybeans grown here, as well as the broad blue skies. Using a quickly-traced outline of Iowa, I cut the assembled cloth to size and appliquéd it to a background fabric. On the left (west) and right (east) sides of the map, the blue stitching represents the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Hand-stitching through the map, and machine-quilting through the background, completed the design. On the back I adhered a label, written in Spanish, to explain what the image is and how it represents Iowa.

Un Mapa de Iowa. October 2018. About 15″ wide.

Last but not least, I also put a binding on a VA hospital quilt, which was finished except for that. It will be donated at my next guild meeting. No photo of the finished quilt.

It was a busy month for quilting, and as you may or may not have noticed, I didn’t write here at all during that time. As soon as the Iowa map quilt was finished, we left for Peru, giving another two week gap. One thing to note is, the longer I go without writing, the harder it is to get started again. Hopefully this will break the ice and I can shift into semi-regular posts again.

Thanks as always for reading.

Rooster and Other Progress

For the first week or more after returning home from travels, I didn’t get into my studio, except to do a really minor project for Jim. My hiatus of about a month left my quilting “muscles” wimpy, so I eased in by sewing a label on a baby quilt and making a pillowcase for the baby’s older brother.

Flying Geese
After those were done, I still wasn’t mentally prepared for anything very hard. I decided to pull out my stack of flying geese, made before the end of last year with the intention of creating a strip quilt in pinks and browns, with the addition of teal and dark red. If you remember, that “strip quilt” became a medallion, centered by a house. But there were 88 flying geese, still plenty to make a strip quilt! I could split them into four sets. The geese finished at 3″ x 6″, so a strip of 22 geese would be 66″ long. Nice size for a big lap or couch quilt.

The trouble was, I would need strips to put between the geese, and then something else to use as borders. I’d have to buy something or do a lot more piecing. Honestly, I just wasn’t that into it. After moaning to Jim a bit about the math, the sizing, how it would be to make blocks instead of strips … he said something like, can’t you just sew them all together?

Heck, yeah!

Funny how someone else’s question can unstick your mind. It’s just one of those “what-ifs” we’ve talked about before. What if you give up the idea of making a strip quilt, or even a block quilt? What if you enjoy the shapes of the triangles, created by value differences between light and dark? What if the lines between shapes extend and end in unpredictable ways? What if you stop being so rigid? 🙂

Because I can’t give up the math completely, I figured that my 88 geese would go together in pairs, to make 42 blocks finishing at 6″ x 6″, with 4 geese left over. I sewed them into pairs and then started arranging. This was the finished top, with edges cropped in the photo-taking.

I found fabric for the back and cut binding strips. After I quilt it later in the month, I’ll donate it through my guild for the VA hospital.

Next time, what about that rooster? 🙂

Binding a Quilt for the VA Hospital

Over the last few years, I’ve made several quilts to donate to the local VA (Veteran’s Administration) Hospital. This year I’ve made two so far, and likely I’ll make at least one more.

Though I finished the tops and had them quilted before the end of March, I didn’t get the bindings attached. I plan to turn them in at my guild meeting next week, so it’s time to get them bound.

I’ve written about binding before. If you need a primer, you might find it useful to review here. I’ll also add a few tips right here about machine finishing.

For this particular quilt, I chose to finish the binding by machine rather than by hand. I attached it to the back of the quilt and then used a warm iron to press the strip toward the front, across its seam allowance. That makes it easier to bend around the edge.

I increased the stitch length a touch. I also set the machine speed to medium, so the process wouldn’t accidentally get away from me! Using a thread that matches my binding color and a straight stitch, away I went! (Sometimes I use a zig-zag. I think it’s sturdier, but it doesn’t look as neat.)

I rarely use pins or clips when I machine-finish a quilt. When I do use them, I NEVER clip or pin all the way around, whether I’m doing hand-stitching or machine-stitching. That just makes a lot of protrusions that get in the way. I only clip a few inches at a time, and move them as I go.

This border has a stripe that made it easy to wrap the binding consistently all the way around. I think the finish looks neat and clean on the front

and pretty good on the back.

The quilt is finished now. I have three others in the queue for their bindings.

Do you attach your quilt bindings right away? Or do you wait and do them some time later? What’s your favorite thing about binding a quilt? Your least favorite? 

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?