Tag Archives: quilts

Slow Progress (But better than none at all…)

I finally finished sewing this one, and have since basted it. Currently it lives on the back of our couch, where every few nights I hand-quilt a diagonal row or two….

Sometimes life feels to creep along, or parts of life; while it’s already July, I’m making little headway on The Hawk, although sewing has increased.  Recently I copied photos from my phone onto my PC; five months worth of shots confirmed that yes I’d been a busy woman, just not in producing words.  That assuaged my sense of slight futility regarding writing, reminding me that currently my focus is on family, not fiction.  Or it was this past spring, and as summer speeds along again my kids and grandkids are taking center stage.  Yet, I also have to remember that I have gotten back on the writing train, albeit at a snail’s pace.  And if that pace meanders through autumn, okay.  Just take a deep breath and find another little project to quilt.

This was going to be a mug rug for our coffee table, then The Burrito visited, helping me machine sew the binding. Now it will be for him to use however he best sees fit.

Since I write (when I write) solely in the mornings, afternoons and evenings are free for fabrics, so I’ve been taking advantage of being at home, unlike how I seemed to be anywhere but earlier this year.  Maybe it’s as if all the words I want to write are vicariously translated via stitches; colours are scenes, building into chapters big and little.  The urge to create isn’t occurring at my computer, so I’ve set up shop elsewhere, even doing a little hand-quilting in the backyard.  Today however I started sewing rows for a big quilt, which I’ll detail in a future post.  For now, here’s a little sample of what suffices while The Hawk percolates in my gray matter.

Something for my hubby using leftover squares from the quilt WIP. I love these fabrics, and was so pleased to keep a few to enjoy.

Ah, The Hawk….  The other night I told my husband that a part of me doesn’t mind this drawn-out process, for I will never write this book again, in the initial drafting of a novel manner.  I truly felt that this afternoon as I pressed seams for the quilt WIP, finding joy at my ironing board, also beauty in this nowhere near done project.  I took three shots, just for this post, capturing one small moment in this quilt’s creation, sort of like documenting a paragraph within a book; it will be buffered by earlier scenes and later revelations, but within several sentences might emerge a beauty that later is encompassed within a greater whole.  The rows I sewed today while watching Wimbledon will simply be attached to other rows, then basted, quilted, bound, then given away and I’ll rarely visit that quilt again.  Books are the same; after being published I hardly return to them.  Recently it was brought to my attention how life is this moment right NOW, this post, this phrase.  Then it flows to the next and….

Pressing seams is very therapeutic, allowing me to once again admire fabrics but from a different perspective….

And yet right now is this small gorgeous slice of wonder, of a few words, of snippets of song.  It’s brown rice I just started in the cooker for dinner, it’s summer blue sky and blowy trees I see outside the window, it’s a quick glance to my right where those two sewn rows await another, which sits in a stack beside my machine, perhaps a task I’ll attend to once this post is finished.  It’s blues and low volume fabrics and a red tomato pincushion and by the end of the day this moment will be something else entirely.  Such is the nature of life.

Maybe I like the symmetry, hmmm….

Yet for how fleeting that all sounds, I think it’s beneficial to note the small bits, or the slow writing bits, for all these seemingly inconsequential steps build upon one another, then a quilt or book is done, dinner made, moments accrued into another day of my life.  And even if I didn’t write today, there’s tomorrow, or Saturday, or whenever I next sit at this computer to type out more than a blog entry.  And that is perfectly wonderful!  There’s no rush, what I keep reminding myself, ahem.  Maybe a post like this is merely to reinforce that leisurely notion; there is no rush.  What will be, will be.

I want to inhale that, wrap it around myself, comforting my eager authorial heart.  And in the meantime, pretty projects are tangible signs of my creativity.  What a blessing that is, both in the desire and ability.

Bittersweet Patchwork

I have a confession; to me, few things in this life are more mundane and maddening than sewing squares of fabric into rows.  I’d been quilting for over a year when I realized this, but fortunately I was already considering improv quilting, so instead of losing my mind, I breathed new life into my sewing and lived happily ever after.

Okay, not ever-after, but in the last fifteen months, my adventures in quilting have become less bound by patchwork and far more satisfying.  Having said that, here’s a finished quilt top, basted no less, and yup, it’s patchwork.

Squares that are a Christmas Gift not a Christmas Quilt have been hanging on the wall for a while, then on Sunday I sewed together those fifteen rows, which ironically I love doing.  If someone would sew the squares into rows, I’d gladly do the rest.

I thought about this as I built those rows into a cohesive quilt top; there’s the magic of it coming together of course.  But I love nesting the seams, I like ironing, then observing how many corners are spot-on.  Those that aren’t add their own unique mark, for nothing in this life is perfect, not sewing improv or traditionally.  Both have their merits and niggles.

The back is just half-yard cuts of Kona fabrics with small pieces filling the gaps.  I wanted a contrast to the front, and I plan to hand-quilt diagonally in gray thread.

The back is just half-yard cuts of Kona fabrics with small pieces filling the gaps. I wanted a contrast to the front, and plan to hand-quilt diagonally in gray thread.

I chose patchwork for this gift because it was a simple way to go, and it’s for a child.  My nephew isn’t going to admire fancy techniques; hopefully he’ll like the fabrics, a camping theme roughly explored amid the cottons.  What I learned is how valuable are a variety of skills, even if some drive me a bit batty.

Waiting for me to finish this post....

Waiting for me to finish this post….

The best part about prepping this project for the hand-quilting is that I’ve come down with a slight cold, and there’s little brain power required to sit on the sofa and run a needle through a quilt sandwich.  I didn’t even write today, no intellect to fashion more than letters to loved ones and this post.  However, I’ll spend much of this afternoon on the couch pondering the Snyders and Aherns, Marek, Laurie, and Stanford, giving thanks that I finally figured out what to do with Wilma Gordon’s chocolate cake recipe.  There’s a time for all things, from patchwork to plot twists.  All of matter of appreciating how life shakes out.

Quilting (and other) Ironies

Yesterday might have been the last of the warm days.  It probably was, but let’s hedge it in a more ambiguous manner.  It might have been the last of the warm days.

Summer in much of California lasts nearly forever.  Winter is a blip, autumn and spring slightly longer.  I grew up without summer rain, so I assumed it never rained anywhere in June and July, August and September….  Living for a few years in Colorado was a pleasant surprise, for summer rain was abundant, as were summer hailstorms.  Then there was England and….  And now I’m back to where it doesn’t rain but every once in a while it pours.  Ironic that for eleven years I ached to see blue skies.  Now I’m itching for precipitation.

For a few months I’ve been hand-quilting the Big Bright Quilt.  But over the last two weeks, as cooler temperatures descended, I got busy with it, and last night, on an evening in no need of any sort of comforter, I sewed the final stitches of proper quilting.  Much remains, like fashioning the binding, like even cutting the strips for said binding.  I’m in the process of hand-sewing the perimeter, as the thought of running the edges in my machine makes me a tad dizzy.  I’ll attach the binding that way, but this is a big quilt and the less I have to maneuver it through my Janome the better.

As I made those final stitches, then inspected the quilt, confirming that yes, I’ve done all the necessary quilting, memories of making this piece were rife.  They intersect with the last sections of The Hawk, which is still a day-to-day process in itself, although not this day.  Today I’m trying to complete the quilt top that isn’t a Christmas Quilt but a Christmas Gift.  Too many irons in the fire perhaps, in a place where fires are everywhere and still we pray for rain.

One of the reasons hand-quilting took so long was that I used different colours of thread.  But I like how it looks.

One of the reasons hand-quilting took so long was that I used different colours of thread. But I like how it looks.

But irony isn’t bad, it’s just a different perspective.  Ironic that for three years while I have worked on The Hawk, the words have flown (ha ha) from my fingers with alarming speed, and now that I’m on the last part, it’s like pulling teeth.  Ironic that having lived in a place where weather permeates not only the landscape but conscious thought now I’m back where there is scant alterations in seasons.  Ironic that quilting has come into my life now that I’m a grandmother.  No, wait, that’s typical, except that I’m not making the sorts of quilts typically associated with abuelas.

As a writer, I straddle the line between plot and characters that think out of the box alongside cliches; stereotypes are such simply because in this life, they happen to often be what we see.  But it’s ironic that for how vibrant is the front of this quilt, the back is fairly staid.  And accepting, embracing even, these varying parts of the spectrum is acknowledging that sometimes the familiar reigns.  But sometimes it doesn’t.

Like rain; allegedly we’re supposed to receive some this weekend.  If we do, maybe I’ll feel inclined to sit under a quilt, either finished or in progress.  I’ll be very pleased for rain, but if none falls, that’s all right too.  It’s like how words emerge (or they don’t), how rows fall into line, how every day holds promise and mystery.  I don’t mind a bit of irony, reminding myself it takes all aspects to keep this planet on its axis.  Although I’ll tell you, if damp weather finds its way to Silicon Valley, I’ll be wondering if Earth’s axis took a left turn at Albuquerque….

Took a little break today….

A table runner in progress....

A table runner in progress….

I had planned on writing this morning, even though Andy Murray was playing in the Wimbledon Gentleman’s Final.  But last night I had second thoughts; I’ve been working many days, checking on tennis without watching much of it.  I’ve been a Wimbledon fan for a long time; I remember when Boris Becker won the title at the age of seventeen.  Living in the UK was heaven when it came to the grandest of the slams, but if I had that much access to the matches now, hardly any writing would be accomplished, ha ha.  As it is, I’ve made some big headway in The Hawk, and perhaps today was the perfect time to take a little breather.  I spent this morning hand-quilting the Big Bright Quilt while paying a fair amount of attention to the McEnroe Brothers and Chris Fowler commenting on the contest, considering not too much else.

That’s what happens when tennis starts at 6 o’clock in the morning!

Yesterday afternoon and evening I wrapped up another little project, a table runner for my eldest to match some place mats I made for her family.  I never posted about those, but the runner I did want to share, in part that I took several shots of it with my phone, although please don’t ask which setting goes with what photo.  Which of course is the reason I took these shots, sort of silly not to have paid attention to how they were snapped.

Currently the runner is basted and waiting for me to sit at my machine; I won’t hand-quilt this because I didn’t hand-quilt the place mats.  And because I have enough hand-quilting to do already, lol.  I took photos of that work while trying out camera settings and I was pleased with those shots as well.

I did consider, as Murray and Milos Raonic traded amazing ground strokes and very fine volleys, how hand-quilting provides time to appreciate the fabrics.  As I sewed, memories of making this quilt top were fresh in my mind.  I won’t get that experience when I machine-quilt the table runner, but I shall enjoy viewing it every time I visit Little Miss and her folks.

Watching Wimbledon is sort of like that; I recall the fantastic players of the past, like Britain’s Tim Henman, oh goodness I so wanted him to reach the Final!  Martina Navratilova is one of my all times faves, while the Roger Federer/Marin Cilic match offered a glimpse of Cilic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic, who won in 2001 as a wildcard entry!  (He’s the only wildcard to have ever taken the title, by the way….)  I was so pleased to see Juan Martin Del Potro back on the grass, maybe he’ll go further in New York at the US Open.  A small part of my love for Wimbledon is the rekindling of the past, the game as well as life in Yorkshire.  Most of it however is my affection for sports.  Yes I love to write and sew, but first came an appreciation for athletes, and it’s not just baseball players to make me smile.

However, the fortnight at the All England Club is over for another year.  I’m going on a brief holiday next week, then the work resumes on The Hawk when I return.  I am taking the Big Bright Quilt with me, something to do in the evenings.  I wonder in the future, while snuggled under this quilt, if I’ll consider Wimbledon and/or books.  Maybe Eric, Lynne, and the rest will be like those tennis players who stir happy recollections.  How the mind retains, then reflects memories is a curious, sometimes precarious notion.  I bet next month’s US Open will figure into that quilt too, but I’ll think about that in late August.  Right now Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon is plenty to celebrate.

This is actually about the writing….

Last week I went to Oregon to visit my youngest sister.  My eldest and Little Miss tagged along, and it was a merry week of familial togetherness, with sport on the side.  My brother-in-law is as devoted as I to various team games, so while girly chit-chat ruled during the day, basketball and hockey battled little ladies (and three mums) while my granddaughter fell in love with their dog Butter as well being mesmerized by their chickens.

Amid all the activities, in the back of my head was The Hawk.  We even saw one on a walk, as if signaling what I’d be up to upon my return to California.  I don’t know if the chickens were the impetus, or that it was merely time to return to prose.  During the weekend, wondering if Draymond Green was going to be suspended for tonight’s Warriors/Cavaliers game, I finished reading over Part Ten, becoming even more eager to dive back into this tale.  But this morning….

Spent most of this morning cutting fabric....

Spent most of this morning cutting fabric….

I didn’t feel like writing.  I was mulling over other ideas, like yesterday’s shooting in Orlando, last night’s Tony Awards, how the Giants took two games from the Dodgers, and of course how might Golden State fare without the only member of their team who has played in every game this season.

Not quite halfway designed....

Not quite halfway designed….

Or had played; tonight Draymond won’t even be in Oracle Arena, and I won’t speculate about whether or not the Warriors will beat Cleveland minus one of their best players.  In the big picture, Game 5 of this year’s NBA Finals is somewhat diminished by another event.  Which brings me back to what this post is truly about, doing what I love.  Last week it was celebrating relatives.  This week it’s….

More than halfway done.

More than halfway done.

Okay, so today the writing tanked.  I sat down with the best of intentions, but I didn’t feel exceptionally well, my mind was elsewhere, and….  And I know myself enough to say, “Right.  Today I’ll do something unplanned.”  This quilt, for someone very dear to me, wasn’t at all in my head.  But now it’s on the wall, and I’m not sure exactly how it got there, other than to say sometimes the words land on the document as if by magic.  Tunes were rollicking; I was up to my ears in the Hamilton Soundtrack (thank you so much Julie Rose!) which morphed into a dance playlist that kept my feet tapping as squares decorated the quilt wall, still playing as I type this entry.  I can say I did some writing today, but it wasn’t what I assumed would be written.

The completed design, simply awaiting its turn under the needle.

The completed design, simply awaiting its turn under the needle.

But life can’t be lived according to schedules; it’s precarious, often far too brief.  Sometimes it seems endless, like how The Hawk is taking ages to write, how Lin-Manuel Miranda spent seven years composing Hamilton, how over two hundred years after the Revolutionary War the awful sense of helplessness and horror attempts to again stifle our freedoms.  Yet in the face of such evil, good does triumph, although it’s tinged with deeper considerations.  What does freedom mean, what does love overcome?  What is the state of our nation, a nation of states, a collection of people, ideas, hopes, dreams….

I didn’t watch the Tony Awards live, but I listened to the backstage chatter while watching the Giants and Dodgers.  When the game was over, I returned to my computer just as Miranda was giving his post-win remarks, noting how long it had taken him to write Hamilton.  Good things don’t often occur overnight; some treasures are lengthy in their gestation, and patience is required.  But it’s hard to wait, although as I age, waiting has gotten easier.  Or maybe my perception has altered, a longer view permissible.  That wisdom, for lack of a better word, doesn’t make massacres more acceptable, but terrible things have happened all through history, and they won’t cease in my lifetime.  Yet, I can do my very small part via prayer, and of course, the work.  I write about love, hope, and perseverance in the face of long odds.  I write about the nature of healing, even if healing seems impossible.  And today I started a Christmas quilt, which perhaps is the best sort of quilt to design even in the middle of June.

Random pre-cut squares drew me to this project, at least consciously.  But perhaps buried in the gray matter was a need to seek a deeper peace that not even writing could provide.  Not that I understand any better what happened in Orlando, or who Steve Kerr will start in place of Draymond Green.  I don’t even know why I didn’t feel like writing this morning, other than instead I began another quilt.  A colourful Christmas quilt that hearkens to the future, which sits ahead of us like a gift.  It’s our task to unwrap it with hopeful hearts, then find a place for it within our lives, even if we can’t imagine how or where.  And if we allow grace to lead us, we don’t have to think too hard about the how or the where.  We just do, or be, or….  Watch some sport on TV when the game starts.  And if writing is on the docket too, okay!  I’ll open my arms and mind to whatever is slated.

These squares remain; I think I'll sew them into a row, then fit them into the back of the quilt....

These squares remain; I think I’ll sew them into a row, then fit them into the back of the quilt.

It’s how I get anything done anyways; ignore the uncertainties, embrace the now.  Embrace all gifts, for you never know where a miracle is lurking.

Baby quilt amid the heat….

It’s been hot here in Silicon Valley, but we have A/C, for which I am so thankful.  I haven’t done any work on the Big Bright Quilt, bunched up on the end of the sofa.  Might tackle it tonight while the Warriors play the Cavaliers, but even with air conditioning, that seems a somewhat toasty task.  Hard to work up the gumption to sit under a blanket when it’s over 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

It was cooler when I hand quilted this little project.  Summer has roared into June, not just here, but all over western America.  I’ll be spending time with relatives over the next few months, my youngest sister and her crew this coming week, grandkids of course, then a family visit to the Midwest, culminating in a long weekend with friends we met in the UK who now call the East Coast home.  By the time I return from that sojourn, I hope to have completed another section of The Hawk, as well as sewing much of the Big Bright Quilt into a cohesive whole.

Yet smaller pleasures are sprinkled amid the bigger plans, and most of those are unknown to me.  I didn’t expect to make this quilt, but it came together with ease, and not only for its diminutive size.  I had the squares, the backing was one piece, and patchwork requires little concentration once the design is sorted.  It was the perfect project and soon will be in a new home awaiting its owner, due in September, by which time autumn will be knocking on the door.

Quilting is like writing, for how it ebbs and flows; getting the Big Bright Quilt to where it now lays over one end of our couch was like starting the last third of my novel, heaving a sigh of relief even if work remains.  The bulk is in the proverbial can, and now with only two parts left, I can see the end, although I’ve been envisioning it for….  Well, more than a year, two years perhaps; it has been a long journey for me, who previously burned through a manuscript in a matter of weeks.  But The Hawk is no ordinary book, nor is this baby quilt dull.  It’s as bright as a much larger comforter, a sea-theme with elephants, namely Babar, as the compliment.  I quilted it diagonally, and the only warm part was the flannel backing.

The Big Bright Quilt is not backed with flannel, but it’s a heavy beast, again similar to The Hawk.  But in bits and pieces, it will be turned into a solidly fixed blanket, just as that lengthy story is closer to reaching The End.   For now, I’ll concentrate on quilts, while Eric, Lynne, Marek, Laurie, Stan, and the rest simmer in my gray matter.  But hopefully in about a week’s time, the writing will be on the wall while basketball winds its way to a season’s conclusion.  Go Warriors!


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.