Tag Archives: improv quilting

Big Bright Quilt Top

Sewing this project has been a lot like writing The Hawk; both have required faith and perseverance, while the sense of fulfillment waits for when each is finished.  Today I completed this quilt top, and while much remains for it to turn into a quilt, I had to write a bit about why it means so much.  And that as behind the scenes a novel is produced, how similar these processes are.

When sewing, it’s a matter of making sure pieces fit together.  Yesterday I fashioned the bottom row, big squares of fabrics used in this quilt, then edged with a sash of Kona Sprout.  I attached that section this afternoon, then photographed most of it after getting laundry off the clothesline.  About a foot of the quilt hangs out of sight; it’s a large piece, measuring about 80″ long, 76″ across at this stage.

I’d been toying with the notion of adding sashes along the perimeter, sort of tying up the whole kit’n’kaboodle.  A little math led me to believe I had enough fabric left to do just that, so I spent the rest of the afternoon cutting strips, sewing them together, ironing flat the seams, then pinning those long pieces to the sides, top, and bottom.  Lots of minutes were spent at my ironing board, during which time I listened to a most apropos band, called Quilt.

My fave tune currently is “Cowboys in the Void”.  This is from their 2011 album, also called Quilt.  My husband introduced me to this Boston band, and along with some Mozart, I had plenty of good music to keep me in the mood.

By a quarter after five, I pressed the last seams, then started some dinner for my hubby.  After we ate, he and our son held up the quilt top in the backyard so I could snap some pictures.  I hung it back on the line, then draped it over the sofa, while my husband watched the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder.  Now I’ll take a few days to ponder this quilt, The Hawk, and various other matters.  Next week I’ll make the back, then we’ll see how and where I baste this sucker.

It’s now a vast 85″ X 81″, and I’ll spend the summer hand-quilting it.  I wanted a blanket that I could wrap around myself, maybe one that the nietos will make forts with, or snuggle with me under its vibrant quilty goodness.

And best of all, its story is only beginning.  Once it’s perched over the back of the sofa, then the tales truly begin.

For now it’s folded on my sewing table, much like The Hawk is percolating in my gray matter.  About two parts remain for me to write, just a matter of knowing when the time is correct that the words will return.

For now, have a listen to “Cowboys in the Void” while I head into the living room, basketball and baseball on tap….

Building a Big Quilt

This shot was taken by my husband, the rest by yours truly....

This shot was taken by my husband, the rest by yours truly….

I suppose this is like writing The Hawk, but much less time is necessary.  I’ve been working on this since February, taking several breaks throughout March.  Now I feel it’s time to get moving, not that I’m planning on using this for months, although it’s been cool lately, small storms blowing through.

This will be for autumn when I’m feeling like wrapping around myself a large colourful blanket.  Still not sure if I’ll back it with cotton or flannel, but the top is coming together.

Initially I made small blocks, then added some together to fashion a few large ones.

Initially I made small blocks, then added some together to fashion a few large ones.

What I want to accomplish with this quilt is shade and size.  Depth and lightness.  A quilt encompassing but broken in stages.  I’m thinking a very light pinkish-red for sashing, maybe a couple of different hues to bring all these random blocks together.

This is the biggest single piece, for now...

This is the biggest single piece, for now…

I’m thinking nothing fall-like in shades, I’m thinking how wonderful it will be to drape myself in this decadently vibrant creation.

And I’m thinking of hand-quilting this baby once it gets to that point.  I’ll recline under it in the summer evenings while watching baseball as stitches are weaved through three layers, bringing all this sewing into one cohesive piece.


Some log cabin blocks have been made; I love sewing these blocks!

I love walking into the sewing/writing grotto and spying this on the quilt wall.  I love peeking at the assembled fabrics that gather on the table to my right, waiting to be made into yet one more block.

Every time I turn around while writing, these collections of colour fill the available space.  To the left I’ll add another row of blocks, one of these days.

Maybe it’s a lot like writing The Hawk, of which Part Ten is underway.  It’s slow-going though, unlike the last few sections which have flown from my brain like no time remains.

Lately that mood has been for the sewing.  I don’t mind; all things in their own good time, be they fabrics or fowl-themed novels.

Fit For a Baby

Been thinking about writing this post for a while now, amid a visiting Burrito, basketball games, revisions, and a very tender right shoulder.  Not sure if the pinched nerve was from too much cross-stitching while my grandson visited, excessive weeding while ground was soggy from recent rains, or simply age.  Possibly a combination of all three, but what can an abuela do?

Doll quilt to the left, for later days....

Doll quilt to the left, for later days….

Ha ha, I can quilt!  And for the last six to eight weeks, that was my occupation, geared for one bambina due in May.  Her parents are college buddies of my eldest and son-in-law; weren’t all these young folks just cramming for finals and the like?  Um, no, that was ages ago.

Ages of time wrapped up in my memories, sewn together with thread, held in a gift bag for my daughter and her hubby to deliver in a couple of weeks.  I’m so glad my shoulder waited to act up after I’d finished the hand quilting on the baby blanket, the other three pieces quilted on my machine.  All came out well, distinctive from one another, and I even made a spare rug mug for my daughter, tiny scraps I couldn’t bear to throw away.

A mug rug for the new parents; these are one of my favourite projects, for they are easy to assemble, and use up scraps for the batting as well as the backing.

Makes for more memories, or something for Little Miss to enjoy.

I’m in a break from work at the moment, no sewing or writing as a friend is visiting, Easter just around the corner.   It’s a time of reflection upon life as a whole, life in parts, life in a modicum of pain.  Pinched nerves don’t heal overnight, not when fifty beckons.  After weeding on Tuesday afternoon, I actually fell asleep on the sofa, not something I frequently do.  But this body is changing, and there isn’t much I can do for some of those alterations.  That’s a sobering thought, but it’s also comforting, in accepting one’s parameters.

I do what I can, and move on to the next task assured of the strength waiting for me.

In April, I’ll return to The Hawk; my hope is to complete Part Ten before the end of June.  I also hope my shoulder won’t hinder that plan, of that I can only wait and see.  I’m working on a blanket for myself, large colourful improv blocks that currently brighten the quilt wall with no clear direction for their eventual use.  I don’t mind, they aren’t going anywhere.   For how busy March was/is, April might be calmer.  And that’s good.  A year ago my father was dying, and while we didn’t know the timetable, every day was a little lifetime of its own.

Yet, isn’t that how I should view this day?   Quilts and plans and cups of tea with a good friend make for a fulfilling twenty-four hours, and this day, 24 March 2016, will never be lived again.  At this time last year I had no idea what the next set of minutes would reveal for my father, myself, and the rest of our beloveds.  I felt to know so little, and who’s to say I know all that much more now?  I don’t know how the quilt on the wall is going to end up, not sure what I’m going to do with Walt and Callie in The Hawk.  After reading through the last two parts, having introduced all those folks in Karnack, Texas, what will they signify for Eric, Lynne, Sam, Renee, and the rest.  Questions and queries abound!

At least I know this; an improv baby quilt is done, whew!  I thoroughly enjoyed the hand-quilting, which meandered all over the place.  Sewing around little foxes and diamonds was somewhat tedious, but I like the overall quilted look, and it was a great way to unwind each night, often with the Golden State Warriors winning another game.  What I find intriguing is how hand-quilting didn’t mess up my shoulder, but cross-stitching seems a beast.  Some things in this life are inexplicable.

But that too is okay.  I guess I do know a little more than at this time last year, yet I like mystery.  I also find the notion of each day being a lifetime pretty interesting.  Balancing the big and little, be it stories, quilts, or people, takes an appreciation of just why I am here, doing what I do.  I don’t want to know too much, that would take the fun out of it, as well as the desire to keep writing, sewing, striving to love.  Yes, sometimes love isn’t easy.  But it is necessary, because without love we aren’t more than clanging gongs.  And in this chaotic world, love is all that keeps us afloat.  Occasionally it feels as unpleasant as my niggly shoulder, and just as uncertain; why does it hurt, how did I cause it, when will the pain disappear?

Some sun illuminates the quilt....

Some sun illuminates the quilt….

I don’t have an answer for those inquires, only the rock-solid sense of keep writing, sewing, even weeding.  Keep moving and loving, and inhale the blessings of this life-day as they come.

The Creative Process Part 256….

The beginning....

The beginning….

I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but when coming to a crossroads, reflection is necessary.  I just completed Part 9 of The Hawk.  Assuming the rest of 2016 goes to some ethereally tentative plan, I will manage to wrap up this story by year’s end.  But it won’t be like finishing a typical rough draft, for I’ve been revising this novel since I clocked in the first 40K.  This tale is like no other, but then that’s true of whatever gets written.

Building around it....

Building around it….

It’s like a quilt top, for no two are the same.  I’ve been working on what will be a baby quilt for college buddies of my eldest and her hubby.  A playmate for Little Miss will arrive in May, and in between chapters, fabrics have been accumulating on the quilt wall.

Corners and the middle block sort of set....

Corners and the middle block sort of set, with one log cabin block in place….

Admittedly I’m not sure what I think about it, for a baby I mean.  I told my daughter that I’m still slightly intimidated when making an improv quilt; just because I like this style doesn’t mean everyone will.

Another log cabin block; oh I so like sewing these!

Another log cabin block; oh I so like sewing these!

But of course, that’s a tad defeatist, and I just need to set aside my fears.  Fortunately I have laid down all expectations when it comes to The Hawk.  I keep spinning out more plot than might be good for me.  Yet, a novel isn’t intended for merely one person; it’s uploaded for all takers, and I have no concerns if someone quits halfway through.  Writing a book differs from making a quilt in that manner, or maybe just sewing a baby comforter for someone not related to me, lol.

And then I switched it around....

And then I switched it around….

But if I take away the expectations, I love how this quilt top is coming along; I adore the log cabin blocks (Oh give me a log cabin block any day!) amid the corner and middle blocks which are drawn around one framed piece.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to fashion this quilt until I saw another with the same notion.  Then it became a matter of solids balancing the prints, low and high volume hues scattered appropriately, sewn as words fell onto the document, stretching out what initially was a short story into something epic in length if nothing else.

Then added some more....

Then added some purple, as well as teal with foxy-looking feet!

Considering that novel will take up my time through the end of March; I’ll be keeping an eye on grandkids and hosting a good friend.  But I’m grateful for the break, for I went from Part 8 right into Part 9, and while I love writing, the last few chapters felt like pulling teeth.  I’m also feeling that way with this quilt, insecurities chipping away at my resolve.  Silly insecurities!  A baby won’t have aesthetic concerns, plus her parents will be too sleep deprived to notice.  By the time any of them might harbor a critical eye, the quilt will be well worn, and other distractions will have arisen.

Where is stands as of this morning....

Where it stands as of this morning….

Creativity isn’t conjured by twitching one’s nose or snapping fingers.  There is work involved, many musings, then the courage to git ‘er done, as my father used to say.  And perhaps bravery is the hardest part, pushing through the anxiety, reaching the stopping point.  Sometimes that pause is brief, as revisions occur, or sometimes it’s the finality of those last stitches, followed by a good laundering.  And of course that’s merely for those pieces of my life which don’t linger.  They are given away to make room for other treasures, which then are handed over and….  And the cycle will continue until either I run out of words and plot or fabrics and thread.  I remember completing previous novels and quilts, wondering what would follow.  And here I am again in the middle, working myself outward, widening the circle in manners I never considered.  Maybe that’s analogous to a life well lived; touching with love all with whom we encounter.  What a blessing not only to proffer books and quilts, but to persevere through the worries.  What I write and sew isn’t for everyone, but that’s all right.  It’s not for me to determine the purpose, only to engage in the process, then embrace what comes next.

Duck Quilt

Originality is not doing something no one else has ever done, but doing what has been done countless times with new life, new breath.

-Marie Chapian

I finished this quilt last week, mailing it off today to my youngest sister and her family.  They live north of California, where ducks take on a significant importance, so it’s apropos this comforter heads their way, sort of how a duck might travel if it was stuck in a box.  Fortunately the ducks on this blanket won’t mind flying north via the post.

The quote at the top of this entry is also appropriate for this quilt, as well as the writing.  Those words are from a page a day calendar that graces my dresser, and I had to include them as this quilt encompasses crafty triangles that were as perfectly unplanned as how I write novels.  I just finished reading over The Hawk: Part Six, eliminating a few typos, and gathering ideas how to further this tale.  Thank goodness for the opportunity to tack notes onto the end of the main document, sort of how the back of this quilt came together, scraps from the front amid a lovely navy blue.

It’s as if the chaos of the front seamlessly blends into the quiet of the back, sans ducks.

And speaking of ducks…

The larger of the two was merely a flick of the wrist.  The second was planned, but I only had a little orange to scatter among the other hues, which were a Christmas gift from my daughters.  Topped up with some tone on tone blue and Kona white, I pieced this on my machine, then hand quilted it.  I so like hand quilting, although I was worried I hadn’t done enough to provide the desired rippled effect.  But post-washing, I’m happy with the finished look.  Thinking back on it, all I can conjure are Golden State Warriors wins tucked amid the stitches, hehehe.

One of the pleasures of quilting, as well as writing, is creating something that can never be duplicated.  Yes, I’ll sew more quilts, maybe even write another book someday, ahem.  But this comforter, like The Hawk, is unique, and necessary.  It’s essential for me to write novels and fashion lap blankets as if in those actions I am indeed breathing.  In and out goes the needle, drawing thread through layers of cotton, securing elements that will fade in the washer, one day falling apart altogether.  Yet, the essence isn’t fibres, but love.  Similarly, words fall onto a virtual document and as those words are read, again love emerges.  Peace too, warmth and devotion and a vital energy that says, “Here, have this.  I have made this just for you.”

The arrow leads from one duck to the other....

The arrow leads from one duck to the other….

Such a blessing is the creative life.  Don’t let that spark be extinguished by those who claim it’s all been said and done.  All is new and fresh when translated via the heart.

And before 2015 slips away…..

Just one more post, about quilting and triangles.  And The Hawk.

Even though December is a packed month and my entire family was hit by a miserable stomach bug (which morphed into a head cold for a chosen few), and that my husband and I didn’t manage to get our tree up (although we gave it away to a good home), and Golden State lost one game, a plethora of blessings surrounded us.  Like we all got sick the week *before* Christmas.  And I have no pine needles to hoover.  And the Warriors continue their winning ways amid injuries.  And I found time to read through the last parts of The Hawk, with only a relative few chapters left to peruse.  And I received beautiful fabrics from my daughters, some of which are being transformed into a quilt, not that I require another.  I do need some improv practice, as well as triangle experimentation.  This project covers both of those issues, as well as some hand-quilting practice for 2016.  I am truly falling in love with hand-quilting, especially when the back isn’t flannel.  Not sure yet what I’ll use to back this one, but something vibrant certainly, maybe triangle-themed.  Who knows what the new year will provide?

I wouldn’t dare to hazard a guess, other than finishing this comforter, as I know I won’t manage that feat in the next two days.  I will go on record to say I’ll write, yes, I’ll be that bold.  How much….  Um, no, I won’t touch that one either.  I did wistfully regale my beloved with the faint notion of perhaps wrapping up the behemoth that is The Hawk, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!  He smiled at me with love in his eyes, not batting those eyes.  I mean, after all that occurred in the last twelve months, who knows what sits on the horizon?

Triangles in the process....

Triangles in the process….

But certainly words, oh and I would be ever so pleased with a lot of them.  Again, we shall see.  Of course quilts, one for Little Miss made with fabrics her other gran gave to me, as well as some Christmas gifts, and whatever else catches my attention.  Plenty of time spent with my grandkids is on tap, with my nieces and nephew too, and, ahem, some significant birthday celebrations for yours truly, as fifty looms in spring.

But having been a grandmother for nearly a year, turning fifty is small potatoes.  More to crowd my thoughts is a cast unraveling since October of 2013, long before The Burrito and Little Miss were even considered.  Eric and Lynne, Sam and Renee, Stanford and Laurie and Marek and Seth are back in my day to day, three chapters each morning read and revised, leading up to this coming Sunday, by which time I’ll be muddling through the last bit I wrote, leaving me with open hands and a teeming mind to set the next part of the novel in motion.

As God as my witness, I am ready to get back to writing this book!

During our time in England, long before writing fiction took precedence, the last week of the year was spent watching end of year specials, not to mention trying to stay warm.  I don’t recall such shows before we left for Britain, and now I only watch sports.  But those eleven years I turned into someone who would return to America as a budding novelist, who no longer homeschooled offspring, who went to the beach, a lot.  The last time I went to The Hook in Capitola was two years ago, two entire years!  Then in 2014, I started sewing, Dad began chemotherapy, both of my daughters got pregnant, and I was writing The Hawk.

31 December 2013, Capitola, California

31 December 2013, Capitola, California

Funny that as that book began, my trips to The Hook dwindled.  Life is always changing, one can never predict the future, although I sure can dream about it.

My authorial dream is to complete The Hawk, oh man, I so want to finish that novel.  I dream about quilts, ha ha, but sewing blankets isn’t as compelling as putting The End to the biggest story my little brain has ever concocted.  Or by the love of sweet Jesus one of these days will finally slip from my fingers and….  And send me back to the beach, maybe.  Or to my ironing board, or God willing to start another novel.

You know of course, I’m dreaming of other novels too….

Maybe that’s an equal impetus to wanting to put The Hawk into the done column.  There’s The Hounds of Love and War, which actually started as an epic poem back in April 2013, but it sputtered out around Part 27 (When I say epic, I ain’t kidding….).  Yet I’ve not forgotten it, just like the sequel to two other novels still percolating in my aging brain.

Buttercup wishes you all a very pleasant 2016.

Buttercup wishes you all a very pleasant 2016.

I might be turning fifty soon, but there’s plenty left I have to say.

And so that brings me back to triangles, fabric in nature, also puzzling.  I only managed a C in geometry, so playing around with those shapes is truly a matter of cut, sew, rip out, repeat.  As I’ve been dabbling, I’m indelibly drawn back to The Hawk, not because it’s a cut, sew, rip out, repeat sort of novel, but what remains to be written is so, so, so….  Compelling, fantastic, dramatic, magical, healing.  (Not to mention bringing up another story in the lengthy novel-to-be queue….)  It’s been an amazing gift to simply tell this tale, as if winning a lottery.  It’s been soul searching, and soul-wrenching.  I’m being stretched as a novelist, refined as a human being, tested like some Biblical icon, or that’s how it feels.  It’s the themes explored, the love stories exchanged, and the personal triumph of just getting one word to coherently follow another.

All I ever wanted to do, amid loving my family, was write novels.

We’ve been back in America for coming on nine years; that’s nearly as long as we lived in Yorkshire, which seems somewhat erroneous, both for how speedily time has passed as well as for how much of our souls still reside in a land far away.  But time, and life, is not static.  As I prepare to again grasp my writing hat, putting it firmly upon my noggin, I embrace the steps necessary in the process, and yes, sometimes it is cut, sew, rip out, repeat.  But mostly it’s steps taken with the lightest heart as I traverse ordinary time to another place in a universe where unlikely events are just as factual as baking pies, where love is found in unusual guises, and where rock-solid trust is built upon the shakiest foundations.  And yet, isn’t that how real life spins out, not as yarns but our realities.  And as reality goes, one of these years will be the year I finish The Hawk, closing that chapter (ha ha) of my life.  Then immediately another door will open, maybe with a quilt top dangling in the door frame, or an ocean beckoning, or grandkids tugging on my hands.  And as I drift into the next realm, I’ll fondly recall this one, if only for fleeting moments.

Quilt in progress, a few triangles popping up.

Quilt as of last night, a few triangles popping up.

And before I know it, triangles will have emerged, less ripping out, more repeating.  Triangles and tales of triangles I’m certain, hehehe….

WP_20151230_005 (1)

Updated 30 December 2015: inadvertently I added some triangles to the piece on the far right, making a statement of sorts.  My husband called it pop art-like.  I am simply thrilled for how without any planning triangles are making this their own, hee hee.

Making Sense of It All

Last night, with my hubby’s assistance, I got the over the bedroom closet door wall hanging hung.  It’s been finished for probably a week, but time is a precious commodity, or maybe we’re just old and lazy.  I’ll note the former, and give thanks that project is finally where it’s supposed to be.

He took pictures, in his somewhat imaginative, wonky style, while I laid on the bed, admiring that improv piece.  I was tired last night, having spent much of my day with Little Miss and her mum, then enjoying a long Skype chat with The Burrito and his mother.  While gazing at the primary-hued quilt on the wall, I considered how blessed is my life, an abundance of riches, from family to fabrics.  And, of course, words.

The Hawk is moving right along; the first three days back, I felt sluggish, creeping along with 2,500 word chapters, which is nothing to be sneezed at, yet certainly a little slow out of the gate.  On Wednesday, ideas were bubbling, and I managed 3,800 words.  Yesterday was an off day; I don’t write every day, finding in the last few years that I am more creative if I go three or four days on, a day (or sometimes two) off.  I’ll write this morning, probably as soon as I wrap up this post.  And when I wrap up this post, I’ll also step away from the blog, for a while.

I’m not sure how long, maybe a month, a week, a couple of years.  So much has happened this year, jeez!  Or maybe a lot happens all the time, but sometimes it feels like more.  Or perhaps aging makes me less competent to handle the big moments.  Two grandchildren were born, my father died, I started piecing fabric however I pleased.  And again, I’m plugging away on a story that is bigger than the word count, which isn’t small at all.  The Hawk is about art and grace, love and war, life and death, clarity and madness.  It’s also the sort of book that is leading me to places unknown, like the forest in which Marek finds escape, or the skies where Eric falls to Earth, or the pies Lynne bakes as if her eyes were closed.  The writing of this novel has become a journey unto itself, and I’m so thankful to again be on this road.

This road is call the new normal, and it encompasses new faces, while one has been left behind.  I feel I’ve blogged about all I can on family and fabrics and fiction.  Right now, a curtain needs to be drawn, while I step behind the veil, allowing the mystery some room.