Tag Archives: quilts

Last thoughts for 2018

For a lovely little girl, Miss Suzi Q….

Well, not the year’s FINAL musings, but probably more apt than not.  Butte County is my childhood home, I’ve had a cold for a week, but have finished two quilts that will be Christmas gifts, so maybe it’s time to blog a wee bit.

For Grandmaster Z….

The last few months have been….  Difficult springs to mind, as well as lovely.  Confusing works, as does harrowing.  Appreciative bumps alongside uncertainty, which also applies to this blog, as I truly can’t say when or if I’ll return to it.  Writing also falls under this umbrella, which is somewhat startling; might 2019 be the first year in a dozen that I don’t craft some kind of literary tale?

The Nugget, so coined by the hospital pediatrician. I thought it was perfect, as is this chap.

Perhaps.  In the meantime, here’s my latest grandchild; The Nugget was born last month healthy and relatively happy.  We’ll see him and his big Burrito brother next week.

Little Miss and Miss Em are well; Miss Em is toddling all over, looking not so small compared to her younger cousin.

And Buttercup is fine too, lol.

Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas and a healing New Year…..

A rebooting of sorts….

We’re home from holiday; my youngest daughter married her partner whilst on vacation, so I have a new son-in-law.  The wedding was small, a larger affair scheduled for next spring.  This alteration isn’t due to Mom’s death, but better news; The Burrito will get a little brother before the end of this year and his folks decided to adjust their nuptials accordingly.  Which means a wedding quilt is now in the works, which I officially started this morning.

Not exactly hexies, but definitely paper piecing….

Well, I began glue-basting honeycombs a couple of days ago, but now a block’s worth of paper pieces are waiting to be sewn together.  Not sure if that will commence today, but at least I managed to arrange these shapes into something eye-pleasing.

Our vacation was fraught with airline mishaps, but those were set aside amid the wonder of Miss Em learning to pull herself to standing, as well as three-year-olds having a fabulous time on boat rides.  In the flurry of wedding prep I was able to forget what happened in June, enjoying a brief window of life as it ever was.  Coming home, I immediately went north to help pack up Mom’s house.  However my siblings did a bang-up job, so instead I assisted in a new bride going through her closets and The Burrito’s wardrobe.  Not only did I bring home mementos of my mother, but bags of 2 and 3T sized clothes waiting for another little one in which to romp and roam.

Cousins awaiting the big event; my sister-in-law turned these into gorgeous bouquets and boutonnieres with blooms to spare.

Some items left for me didn’t make it to Silicon Valley; I gave my father’s quilt to my youngest, as when I made it she lamented the aged fleece blanket used for the back.  Upon inspection, my hand-sewing has stood the test of the last four and a half years, making me long to again hand-sew a quilt top.  Right now more comforters than I can count await my machine, one of which is for an impending grandson.  Fortunately that blanket won’t be more than some whole cloth quilting that I will probably do on my machine to save time.

I designed this today, adding some hastily cut up batiks to round out the necessary large squares. I’m happy with it, and we’ll see when I get around to sewing it together.

Saving time…. That’s a funny concept as August is already half gone, this summer still feeling like I’m dwelling in an alternate universe.  Glue-basting honeycombs and 1″ squares was also a part of it; what has happened to all my lovely routines?  Everything’s different, and yes I know that’s a part of life but, but, but….  In checking out Dad’s quilt, I was sent back to when both of my parents were alive, no grandkids were present, The Hawk just a shell of itself.  Dad’s quilt remains, my novel turned behemoth is done, a fourth nieto is on the way, and now I paper piece.  My, my, my; that’s a lot of changes.

Up close with my dad’s quilt; no obvious weak seams, yay!

Right after Mom died, I thought about what I was grateful for, because even during a storm taking stock of the blessings matters.  Goodness knows I have heaps of treasures, and I am cognizant of them.  But recently I shared with some of Mom’s sisters that I feel like everything, little and large, looks as though a veil has been removed.  I then expounded upon that with my youngest sister that the accompanying glare is pretty damn bright and boy I’m tired of squinting.  I’m weary of all this newness, wondering for how long will the sensation last, or is this just how the rest of my life will be, constantly staring out finding yet another long-held tenet is askew.  I don’t know, nor will I find that answer immediately.  I suppose if I live to be an old lady, squinting won’t seem odd mostly because my eyesight will be shot.  And if I do live a long time, with most of my wits about me, will I still miss my parents or might this enormous sense of loss remain?

My first quilt, now in a new home. What tales could this comforter tell….

Plenty of queries, maybe as many as the quilts waiting to be fashioned.  I can’t fathom when I might write again, but it’s not like I’m aching for distractions; I’m most grateful for fabrics and thread and my ironing board.  And exceedingly thankful for my family, their patience overflowing.  One more is on the way, due the day before Mom’s birthday, and I’m very appreciative of that too.  Maybe that’s the biggest lesson of all, saying Thank You while I still can.

Fit for a Starship Captain (in training, of course….)

Washed and ready to be drooled on, the sure mark of a successful comforter.

Besides novels, other WIPs are wrapping up; I completed this baby quilt for Master Tiberius, and will deliver it perhaps today.  I’m very pleased for how well the quilting turned out, a mix of machine and hand sewing that took a little time to sort.

Solids and prints blend well, with a bright scrappy binding.

Occasionally I can eyeball measurements with the best of them; I used an old fashioned ruler to space the machine sewn rows along the top two thirds, then hand-quilted between those diagonal lines.

I don’t have much of this galaxy print left, but boy I had fun hand quilting around the planets.

The galaxy was quilted mostly by hand, although I did run two wavy lines along it with my machine.  If Tibby’s folks aren’t into a space theme, they can use this later on when Master Tiberius gets to crawling.  It’s wider than my usual baby quilts, as I didn’t want to sacrifice that galaxy print, it’s just too adorable.

Because I used the galaxy print’s entire width, I needed to add a long scrap to the side for the backing. Thankfully I had some of the flannel alphabet print in the scrap pile.

Without having to write, I took the time yesterday to sew up some of the remaining Southwestern placemats for my eldest, even managed to get three basted for machine quilting, perhaps a task for later today.  I would love to clear out some of these projects, mostly because others are calling my name.  In that regard, quilting and writing are no different, more plans for both than I have sense.

This quilt will be enjoyed more in autumn and winter due to its size and snuggly nature. And it’s long enough to last for many years, and starship travels, in Tibby’s future.

Yet I don’t lament those dreams, even if some (or many, let’s not kid myself) come to naught.  Maybe I spent four and a half years on one story, but heaps of quilts came to life during that time, not to mention all the grandchildren adventures, or coming to terms with my father’s death.  I still frame my life’s accomplishments along the decades; having kids in my twenties, raising them in my thirties, learning to write in my forties.  My fifties could be coined enjoying grandmotherly spoils, but so much weaves in between those ten-year spans, more of a mosaic than set boundaries can contain.

And one more shot of this rosebush. I am just in awe of how well it has bloomed, hehehe….

However it goes, a few things are certain, or relatively so; novelistic notions wind alongside yards of fabric, creating a vibrant template that satisfies my crafting nature.  As for the nietos?  Who knew I would be so blessed while still young enough to crawl around on the floor with them, ha ha!  I hope to share my creative energies as the years pass, then watch as they incorporate those passions into their lives.  Little Miss loves her hexies, and who knows?  There could be an author among them too.  Time will tell, and here it is, the beginning of May!  I want to make the most of each moment, appreciating all aspects of whatever this decade has in store.

Novels and Whole Cloth Quilting

Taken on the sunny day….

Over the weekend I finished reading through The Hawk Part Twelve.  For the first time since releasing this saga in installments, I found no typos which required me to upload a new version onto Smashwords.  Now, that’s not to say there are no typos, hehehe, only none that were so glaring as to catch my attention.  That’s also not implying I didn’t make changes within that section of the manuscript.  I *always* find something to tweak, but unless it’s an obvious grammatical error, I leave these beta releases alone.  Otherwise I’d be forever updating various sections with each round of overall edits that occur.

Snapped this morning; I love how the circles show on the fleece.

As I read through Part Twelve, I was struck at how this behemoth has evolved, each part like its own story.  The Hawk is one cohesive tale, but every section has its priorities.  Today I pulled out Part Thirteen, amazed that so much was already written, over 28K!  I never meant for this book to be so involved, or maybe convoluted is a better term to describe it, ha ha, um, yeah.  For better or worse, The Hawk is what it has become, and is still turning into, and I’m eager to return to fashioning prose.  I’ll deal with The End once I get there.

Cloudy day shot, I believe. Again, the galaxies show up on the back as well as the front.

Along the way, I have completed the sleeping bag insert for my grandson, although getting proper photos of it has been nearly as complicated as writing The Hawk; one day there wasn’t enough sun, another day too many shadows intruded.  This morning I snapped a few more shots, which seem to be acceptable.  In the interim I’ve discovered the notion of whole cloth quilting, then found I’d dabbled with it right in making this project!

This print was just too adorable to slice, definitely lending itself to whole cloth quilting.  I’m also very pleased with the espresso binding….

That realization is sort of how I feel about my fiction WIP; meandering along, I’ve spent the last three-plus years honing my authorial skills, gaining lessons in patience as well as sharpening my abuela senses.  Just days ago I was pottering about various quilt-making websites, coming across whole cloth quilting, then BAM there it is, draped right over my sofa, dude!  The purpose to whole cloth quilt this insert was in part due to not wanting to cut up this awesome print, but also to quickly produce this piece in time for a three-year-old’s birthday.  Now I have plentiful notions to consider about what I’d like to next quilt in this style, maybe a similar insert for Little Miss.  We were speaking about her cousin’s upcoming birthday, and when I mentioned what I’d made him, she said, “What about mine?”  I smiled, noting it wasn’t her birthday yet.

I can’t wait to see what The Burrito thinks of his new blanket!

Toddlers don’t miss a trick while this grandma is trying to stay ahead of the game, and when it comes to whole cloth quilting, perhaps I am a little more in the know than I realized.  As for The Hawk….  It’s been months since I worked on it, so the next few weeks will be spent reacquainting myself with current plot lines.  But the end is so clear in my mind, it’s as if I’m already there.  Then one day I’ll be done with it, revising for typos’ sakes, as if whole cloth quilting, removing erroneous commas akin to continuous stitching over seamless fabric, or something like that.  Writing and sewing might seem unrelated, but to me they go hand in hand, or I use my hands for both tasks, or….  The Hawk is like whole cloth quilting, even if it’s broken into sections; it’s one long story brokered by many stitches along the way.

A Bright Baby Quilt

Sunny view, amid a blustery morning….

While we’re still waiting for Lil’ Sis’ arrival, another bambina is in my thoughts, due in a month’s time.  This little quilt is for that girl, whose mum is a good friend of my youngest daughter.  I completed the hand-quilting a couple of days ago, washing it last night.  It’s very soft yet vivid, perfect for these short days right before the winter solstice, and of course for many years to come.

A more subdued view….

I like me some floral prints, and this blanket is chock-full of them.  I included fabrics decorated with bees, then backed it with an adorable hedgehog flannel I found at Joanns.  It’s bound in Kona Orchid, coordinating with purples scattered amid the hues, also a calm spot in an otherwise busy collections of prints.

Butterflies and bees add to the outdoorsy nature of this comforter.

I’d been collecting these fabrics for a while, and once I knew the gender, went all out for this quilt.  I like how the dark purple pops, as well as the dark pink and the orange.

So dang cute!

As soon as I saw the hedgehogs, I had my backing.  These little creatures were prevalent in England, and are perfect for this quilt.  I still have over a yard, for future projects.

I have some burp cloths ready as well, so fun to add to a couple’s joy.  Plus it reminds me of the nieta that will be joining my family soon, many blessings all round.  Now to pop it in the post, then get to a Christmas quilt, nine rows left to sew….

All in many days work….

It’s like looking at a nearly completed novel, just a few more bits to include…..

So while I’m technically back to writing, I haven’t written in days.  Between our trip to Humboldt County, quilting, and keeping an eye on grandkids, The Hawk has lain dormant in my computer.  Now this doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about, ha ha ha!  (Whoa, I about fell outta my chair with that one.)  I’m *ALWAYS* pondering writing, and I don’t think I can emphasize that  strongly enough.  I’m truly grateful that sewing doesn’t occupy a fraction of the gray matter that novels steal, or I’d never get a quilt finished.  However, a couple of quilts have been eating into my authorial moments, so as I wax lyrically about writing, I’m posting pics of the Wedding Quilt, which is done.

Early morning quilt tools on display, including mugs that depict the mainstays of my current existence; grandma on the left, John Steinbeck on the right…..

But that comforter is going to muscle its way into this post past photos and captions; so many elements go into a completed quilt, just as they do a book.  In this quiet writing time, contemplation of the story has emerged, and today it was about the hawk that was, is, and has yet to be scribbled into the manuscript.  Just as a quilt is made of layers, and I’m merely talking about the top, batting, and backing, a book is more than sentences and chapters.  It’s my soul being stretched, and I guess with this tale it’s taken a good four years to grasp those alterations.

I so love the slow hand-quilting process as a counterpoint to how quickly these blocks came together on my machine….

Within the writing, the characters aren’t the only ones maturing; this is so much about me as a human being, and while I don’t want this to come off as all about me, ahem, in a way it is.  Writing is such a personal endeavor, yet there is a public side to it that seems at times like a Mr. Hyde to my Dr. Jeckyll.  Or maybe it’s the other way around, hehehe.  Either way, on so many levels writing forges a split within me, be it in the guise of not writing and desperately wishing to, or during the writing translating how many varied personalities.  Or what about the myriad themes explored within the story, or the time frames or languages or….

Each stitch means a moment of my life conscious of one goal; to make this quilt as beautiful and lasting as possible. Every single word I write is equally focused….

Whoa, that’s a lot of issues, similar to how many sewing techniques I’ve employed within one quilt; making blocks with my machine, hand-sewing the quilt sandwich, machine and hand-sewing of the binding, dude….  And writing, or thinking about writing, is just as complex, but it’s all within my mind, then dashed onto a keyboard silently and intricately, weaving its own glorious sprawl of colour.  But I can’t count those kinds of stitches, and a word count carries little weight.  The weight rests upon my soul, nestled inside my heart, changing me as the chapters increase.

Just needs a run through the washer and dryer….

So what does all this ballyhooing have to do with a hawk?  In the beginning, it was just one hawk.  Now more than a few have graced the story’s pages, maybe a trinity, maybe not.  Marek has decided to tell Klaudia about Eric, and when I write that scene, I want the reader to truly understand that it was Marek’s decision, not mine.  But okay, I’ll play along, wondering how in the world that’s gonna happen, and the resulting upshot of that plot twist.  And what it will eventually mean within my life; I’ve written a lot in the last ten years, another post for a different day.  But I will say that in one way or another, each draft, regardless of what happened to it, altered me.  Some of those stories simply made me a better novelist.  But more than a few have led to increased wisdom, greater empathy, improved relations with others.  To me, this is a vital point in writing, creating art that speaks of joy, hope, love.  You can never get enough of these virtues.

Solids make up the back, also showing off the lovely pattern that emerged….

And perhaps that’s the main lesson I’m to take from my non-writing, quietly chipping away at the dross, permitting myself to be refined in the process so the paragraphs that follow are precisely what The Hawk requires.  Hey, that’s a pretty nice way to look at not getting much accomplished.  I can’t accurately say how much of this story is currently my lesson, but hopefully when it’s all said and done, I’ll look back at these years immensely grateful for the inner growth as well as what was written.  It’s like gazing at these photos and being reminded of the quilting process; early mornings and late evenings spent seated on the sofa, covered in a blanket celebrating love.  I don’t think it gets much better, and more meaningful, than that.

The evolution of a wedding quilt

Amid book revisions, I’ve been working on a quilt top that today sits on my big table, basted and waiting to be moved to the sofa where I do the hand-quilting.  It’s a plus pattern from Wombat Quilts which I found ages ago, recently rediscovered when whittling down sites bookmarked when I first started sewing in 2014.  Something about this project seemed perfect for nuptials, the plus signs emitting positive vibes, the low volume fabrics reminiscent to a wedding gown, so I decided to give it a try.

The sewing process begins….

It meant shopping for fabrics of which I have little, both in the low volume and navy prints.  It meant waiting to begin until I had enough of those fabrics, as Cath’s quilt is the product of bee blocks, and I really liked the variety within her quilt.  It also meant a lot of cutting, then procuring more fabrics after the sewing started, finding I didn’t have quite the variety I needed.

Matching up seams as best I could.

Honestly, making this quilt was a lot out of my comfort zone, so I have been snapping pics along the way, sharing them with my daughters.  Today I’m plopping them on the blog, in a manner of debriefing.  Also to say how much I loved making this quilt, and look forward to starting another very soon….

Lots of pressing involved. Fortunately I don’t mind, it’s actually very calming.

What did I like about it?  Shopping for fabric is never a chore, ha ha, although it took time, because I possessed a dearth of low volume prints.  Cutting them was pretty routine, and I’m still not certain whether fat quarters, quarter yard, or third yard cuts are best.  I am not the sort to get to an exact science which lengths of fabric are ideal for what kind of project, although I prefer smaller cuts.

After designing a dozen blocks, I knew more fabrics were necessary.  Thankfully we went on holiday, where I chose several more, then returned home, cutting those and making another ten or so blocks; thirty are needed for a 56 X 68 inch quilt top.  Once I had those fabrics prepared, I tried to sew about five a day, but this past Monday I was in the mood, and completed the last nine, placing them on the big wall.  I hadn’t trimmed any of them, although Cath trimmed all hers to 11.5 inches square.

The tricky part was making sure as many seams matched as was possible. Other than a few wonky spots, I’m very pleased.

Okay, so the reason I didn’t trim them as I made them was once they were done, all I wanted was to put them on the wall.  I had fabric spread out all over my cutting mats, no room really even if I’d been so inclined.  Then when faced with thirty blocks in need of tidying, um, no.

Except that I did, after sewing the first two rows.  Basically I evened up the most obvious offenders, maybe taking off an eighth of an inch on either side of a square.  I did NOT trim the tops and bottoms, only the sides.  When I make this again, I’ll do it the same way.

Photographing the completed quilt top is one of the biggest thrills of the whole project. Only pulling the finished quilt from the dryer tops that fantastic notion of oh my goodness what have I accomplished….

Sewing the blocks was very easy, but because I’d chosen not to trim them, I did have reservations about how they would all come together.  I noticed Cath’s blocks didn’t meet at all corners perfectly, which eased my mind, whew!  But I did try to make the big squares match up, and didn’t do too badly.  Because the blocks are so big, assembling the top doesn’t take that long; I started on Tuesday  and by that night had nearly all the rows done.  Yesterday I put together the last two, then spent the afternoon making the back.

Sizing up which piece goes where….

Half-yard cuts of Kona cotton make up the backing.  I pulled out several colours, playing around until I liked what I saw.

Then it was a matter of sewing them up, long swathes of fabric pinned to within an inch of their lives.  By then my husband was home, and he helped hang what I had managed, for it was too big for me to handle alone.  Even then we didn’t get it completely straight, but at least it stuck to the wall so I knew how much remained to be added.

I want to note how much I enjoy all aspects of the process; this isn’t just browsing for beautiful fabrics or finding the perfect pattern.  I get caught up in every step, be it cutting fabrics, designing blocks, choosing hues or slicing binding strips.  Occasionally I was a little bored by walking from where unsewn blocks waited on the little quilt wall, then returning to my sewing machine and putting them together, but US Open tennis has been a distraction, and I do wonder if this time next year I’ll recall this particular project when I turn on that event.

Yes, more ironing required….

Or maybe when I make another of these quilts, I’ll consider four American women in the semi-finals or Juan Martin del Potro’s amazing comeback victory over Dominic Thiem, which led to del Potro beating Roger Federer last night.  By last night I was done with this quilt, doing a little hand sewing on a different project.  But for the next several evenings, a wedding quilt will be my focus; the big event is in early October and there’s no time to waste.

And voila, it’s a quilt back! Lots of colours in contrast to the top….

As I basted this quilt today, I listened to music gathered with a story in mind; either I’m writing books, editing manuscripts, or planning the next novel.  But sewing fills a gap that noveling can’t manage, that of viable results.  Especially since most of what I publish are ebooks, making a quilt feels so old school, lol.  Yet it’s not merely what my hands produce; it’s about sharing a part of myself in which the me disappears as this quilt is adopted into a new home.  As I hand-quilt the entire thing into a cohesive whole, my stitches dissolve into a silent heartbeat that I like to think travels through the fibres, infusing those who wrap themselves within it how much I love them.  Maybe that happens when someone reads one of my books, but quilts offer tangible comfort.

The basting process; I’m thinking light and dark pink threads for the quilting, which will begin tonight as Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens start their match.

And with that, off I go to the living room, settling in for a couple of hours devoted to tennis, New York style.  Maybe that’s what this pattern will hearken too as the years pass, others receiving different versions of a plus quilt.  Thanks to Cath of Wombat Quilts for the idea; it’s greatly appreciated.