Tag Archives: tools of the trade

Thinking in colour (and in black and white)….

Last night’s accessories….

Quilts aren’t my only items sewn by hand; I do a fair amount of mending, mostly on jeans.  I’ve been wearing 501’s for over thirty years, and they have to be either in tatters or not longer fitting for me to throw them away.  I have several old pairs that have fallen under my needle, and last night it was time to affect some repairs.

One small purple patch amid layers of previously mended sections….

Recently I’ve used navy thread just to liven up these ancient trousers, but as I cut patches yesterday I considered all the new thread acquired over Christmas; how neat might it look to employ some of those shades?  I chose three colours, then began to pin; I use a lot of pins when mending jeans, making sure patches stay right where I put them.

Pinned within an inch of its life….

Hand-sewing quilts came easily after all the wear and tear I’ve tackled on denim over my lifetime, ha ha ha….

Snapped this collection again once my hubby turned on the light….

So excited to incorporate these new threads, I went back of this pair of jeans, finding new places in need of some patching love.  As I sewed, I kept glancing to the coffee table, admiring vibrant spools; something about colour touches me deeply, not sure why.  But equally my thoughts have been drifting to hues described in prose; I’m over a third into The Hawk Part Twelve, managing nearly three chapters of revisions most days.  Reading it on my phone is the easiest way to get a feel for just how “finished” it is; books on devices always appear polished, although not very colourful.

A plethora of bright patches!

Sometimes my life is kind of black and white, although myriad levels of gray are always prevalent.  Writing remains dormant, but novelistic notions flirt in the background, as if waiting for spring.  Daffodils are already up in our garden, and I’m hoping to return to Part Thirteen perhaps as soon as March.  I’m not in any hurry, in part that for the last two years I’ve thought the end was in sight, hah!  But when that occurs, my goodness.  It will feel….  I can’t even imagine that sensation, or what colour would describe it.  Maybe a rainbow will do justice to such an event.  Stay posted; eventually I’m going to complete The Hawk, just a matter of time.

I did finish the patching, very subtle in appearance, but I’m quite pleased.

And so begins the year of using what I have….

Earlier this week I laid out a variety of scraps, bright primary and secondary hues.  I stared at them for a couple of days, not certain how I would arrange them; a mix, or by shade, or value perhaps?  Then yesterday afternoon I recalled a project more in need of my attention; my grandson requires an insert for his sleeping bag!  Problem of what to do with those scraps is temporarily solved, ha ha.

I bought two yards of this fabulous print, and only needed a couple of feet, plenty more for future space travel….

Once I made that decision, the insert came together quickly, in part that I already knew most of the fabrics, and chose to use a large section of one, which left little for me to ponder.  Even then, the rest came about rapidly, and by the time my husband got home from work, the top was done, just the back to sew together.  By evening’s end, I had it basted, and was hand-quilting it.


This print has been in my stash for a good while, again the perfect time for it.

I even have the binding, that chocolate strip from a recent post!  It felt so good to dive into my stash, not thinking about any additional purchases.  Batting was from my large scrap collection, and while my daughter’s sleeping bag insert had two layers of batting, The Burrito doesn’t need that kind of padding for a while.  I’ll have it finished in time for his birthday next month, and look forward to his reaction, all our recent chats about the galaxy ready for him to explore within a quilt.

I added the anchors to hearken back to older times.

So far my 2018 sewing adventures have me feeling very pleased, and I’m itching to get back to those vibrant colours, although I still don’t know how they will fall onto the quilt wall.  I do have a binding prepared for whatever emerges, and it’s not short, so if a medium to large project happens, I’m covered.

I do love me some colour!

What I am finding is that by choosing to not purchase fabrics, parameters have been built in to each project.  It’s not that I’ve stopped admiring my fave fabric website, but the reason for gazing at those gorgeous prints has changed.  Instead of ideas, it’s appreciation.  What I sew this year is going to come from my own backyard.

And now neatly coiled….

Or rather, my sewing/writing grotto closet, lol.  I definitely have a Dorothy returned from Oz mentality going on; if it’s not within my reach already, I probably don’t need it.  I’m interested how this approach affects my crafty output, but at least I’m starting off firmly planted right in proverbial Kansas, even if it looks a lot like a solar system.  I don’t plan on explaining this to my grandson, I’d never hear the end of why’s.  But maybe one day I’ll tell him how his sleeping bag insert launched a new manner for this abuela to fashion quilts.  It’s sort of like the anchors in the corner, just a return to methods from the past.  Find purpose in what lies at your fingertips, be it in cotton, words, or a beautiful hug.

Waiting to be sewn together….

Boxing Day Colours

An ivory tower flanks a variegated peony garden….

Ten years since we celebrated this holiday in the UK, it’s still Boxing Day within my immediate clan.  However, the visiting with relatives element has faded; now it’s about the hubby and myself enjoying some down time, as we spent yesterday with Miss Em and her crew.  Last night’s Christmas Doctor Who saw us off to bed, as if we still dwelled in Yorkshire, but truly those days feel like a different life, as if who I am now is another incarnation of a Gallifreyan, lol.  If nothing else, spools of gorgeous threads are a testament to how I have changed, if being an abuela wasn’t enough.  I also received pens, hearkening back to my writerly self, but sewing notions seem to rule the day.

Pastels a’plenty!

Yet, noveling thoughts brew in the background; nothing to do with The Hawk, alas, but those ideas keep the authorial flame alive.  Occasionally I wonder if plotlines pondered will amount to more than bits filling my head, but the fullness of these days won’t last forever.  I spent a lovely chunk of yesterday afternoon with Miss Em asleep on my chest, aware of how blessed were those minutes, also fleeting; she’s examining her world, not that she sees much, but it’s a thrill to marvel at her open eyes, wondering to what colour her rather dark irises will lighten.  These elements are the immediate parameters of my universe, as if in England I was a Fifth Doctor and am now The Tenth (I suppose David Tennant is my fave Doc).  Regeneration is a funny process, even for us humans.

Primary hues….

Currently I have no sewing projects on the docket, other than hand-quilting a wedding comforter.  I could review the most recently published section of The Hawk, but more pressing is cleaning my shower.  Some things never change, ahem, but many aspects of life are constantly evolving.  I am, even if it’s in a far slower manner than my grandkids, the pace of which is fine by me.  There’s more to consider, and to be thankful for, than time actually allows.  But in these paragraphs, I wish to capture just a sliver of the beauty, not merely in shades of cotton thread, but of how magical is simply realizing these gifts.  Loved ones and hobbies and years accrued all bound by grace, my goodness.  How magnificent are these days!

Miss Em, taking a pre-Christmas nap.

Best enjoyed while admiring a newborn, might I say….

Too Many Quilt Stores

Now, don’t get me wrong; this isn’t a bad thing.  It’s just that this morning, looking online where I could buy some Kona solid rose fabric, I found several more quilt/fabric stores in my Silicon Valley area, and it’s making my head spin.  It also makes me wonder about how something as simple as quilting has turned into an industry just like Legos and Tupperware.

Now, that I do write with a little wrinkle to my nose, but it’s qualified, for every time I step into a quilt/fabric store, I’m in heaven.  But I also feel a little…  Uncertain, like am I going to hell for contributing to yet one more ancient pastime that seems to be as heavily marketed as the latest reality TV show.

Or maybe I’m being COMPLETELY naive, and I should just talk about the beautiful fabrics I received recently for my birthday.  Yes, I think I’ll do just that.

So, over the weekend, I was lovingly overwhelmed by family, many of whom were bearing fabric gifts.  My husband got things started, presenting me with a voucher for a local quilt store, which I hadn’t expected.  My gift from him is my sewing machine, but now I can peruse some gorgeous bolts of cotton, or maybe pick up one of those fat quarter bundles that my daughter and sister and I watched being put together when we visited another local store, where my sis told me to choose ten fat quarters on her.  But before that, my eldest had gifted me with a bag of fat quarters from a shop in her neck of the Bay Area woods, a mixture of batiks and more conventional prints.  And youngest daughter got into the act as well, slipping some cash into my card, with strict instructions that it was only to be spent on fabric.

All the birthday fabrics, hollering at me to use them.

Talk about a magnificent birthday!  Plus, the Giants won to boot.

My eldest, the instigator of all this quilting mania, is eager for me to acquire a stash, but I’ve told her I have nowhere to put it.  I’m going to be hard pressed to find a good place to baste then tie the summer comforter, which is over halfway sewn together.  I have five rows left to add to it, but dude, what then?  I’m thinking I’ll make a rough sandwich on the bed, then transfer the whole enchilada onto my 30 X 60″ table, and pray, a lot.

And those new fabrics?  I’ve already a quilt in mind for a good number of them, a nine-patch with some rose sashing between.  I’ll use a couple of the batiks, and save the rest for a project yet to be determined.  And that quilt will be for me; my sister was concerned that I was going to burn myself out making quilts for others, but not have a proper one for myself.

I smiled, and told her what’s the point of making a quilt if not to give it away?  Isn’t that what love (and life and sewing and writing) is all about…

Some personal quilting essentials…

As with writing, every quilter has their own methods.  Now, I’ve been writing for over seven years, so I know how I prefer to go about it; early morning for the actual writing, revising anytime but late at night, for by then I don’t have any useful brain cells remaining.  But quilting, or piecing then quilting, well, that’s a work in progress, in the figuring out what makes me happiest.  I do know that I like a clean sewing machine, which means under the needle plate.  I mucked that out this morning, for yesterday I put the finishing touches on the Fat Quarters Quilt.  Next time I complete a quilt, I’ll snap a picture of the Magnolia’s easily accessible innards, for it was a fuzz-fest.  Now it’s tidy, ready for the next quilt in the queue.

Washed, puckered, and waiting to be used

But that’s the nuts and bolts of equipment.  What I mean are the quirky touches that only I can bring to the sewing table.  Music is a mainstay, mostly on the stereo when I’m piecing in the living room, then on my PC when quilting in the sewing grotto at my big table, as I did with the FQ Quilt.  Which is due for another name change, for I’m not keeping it, bequeathing it to my eldest and her hubby (and Buttercup the basset, of course).  It will be the Mijos Quilt, abbreviated Spanish for my children, but it has a personal significance for me, which if you’re interested you can read about here.

But still, I’m digressing, something I’m good at in real life.  In quilt life, well, I’m still so wet behind the ears that other than copious tunes, and a clean machine, I don’t yet have a rhythm, although I also prefer a new needle for machine quilting.  Fortunately needles aren’t too expensive, and perhaps as I go along, I’ll not be so fussy.  (My sister doesn’t replace her needles until they break, which when our mom learned about that, Sis was immediately chastised to change that needle more frequently!)  I do like a less-quilted quilt, which is going to be important for the next project, a big summer quilt for our bed.  I’ll tie that baby, as it’s going to be queen-king bed appropriate, and I’m still sorting just exactly how and where I’ll do that tying.

Flannel backing in blue and coral...

Something for later, surely.  Today I know music matters, and when in the living room, it’s the albums that rest against the cabinet upon which our turntable, amp, etc, sit.  The Mijos Quilt was pieced to Ryan Adams, Endless Boogie, Linda Ronstadt, Miles Davis, and Cat Power.  The quilting however was dependent upon R.E.M., Patsy Cline, Cracker, Josh Rouse, the Oscar Peterson Trio, The Cramps, and Josephine.  What was nice about quilting near my computer was I didn’t have to get up to flip the record, just sew endlessly (and mostly) straight lines while songs filled the grotto.

Another presence hovered as I sewed that quilt, but that had little to do with music, more about what I’ve been reading during lunchtime.  And as I consider that influence, I wonder how future quilts will be affected by outside matters.  Especially quilts that I won’t keep, which will be most of them.  I only need so many quilts.

Perhaps that seems like blasphemy, but our house is small, and we don’t live in the frozen tundra.  However, last night was chilly, and the Mijos Quilt was getting a trial run.  I thought it was fantastic, but will give it to those children in a few days.  Until then, I’ll give it another go tonight, making 100% certain that it’s acceptable.

My husband snapped this during a commercial while we suffered another baseball loss...  Thank goodness for a comforting quilt!

My husband snapped this during a commercial while we suffered another baseball loss… Thank goodness for a comforting quilt!

And maybe tonight, the SF Giants will win, making the evening not quite so dismal.  I’d give my kingdom for an offensive onslaught….

Soon to be sitting to sew…

But in the meantime, no matter how eager I am to finish up the Fat Quarters Quilt, other issues take precedence.  The next quilt in the queue was my focus last week, when I found I needed a walking foot, which I borrowed from my eldest daughter yesterday.  I spent Easter in the bosom of my family, no better way in my opinion.  Now it’s Monday, and I’m back home, in my little sewing haven.  Still, before I sit at the machine, I need to note a few things.

The note is to remind me to fill bobbins and change the needle.

The note is to remind me to fill bobbins and change the needle.

One is that it’s fine to imagine a big quilt.  It’s another thing entirely to find room in one’s house to sort it out.  I have the quilt wall, but it’s nowhere big enough to accommodate a 88″ X 96″ queen/king summer quilt.

I’m not sure I was thinking about this when I first considered this project, but this morning, laying out a few squares, I came to realize the limitations of a small house and a huge quilt.  But I will make it work, especially once I get another half-yard of some big print with pink and yellow as the predominate colours.  In the meantime, I have three rows (basically) plotted.

I didn't lay them out to their full 8X8 glory.  Going to be a big quilt...

I didn’t lay them out to their full 8X8 glory. Going to be a big quilt…

In the same way that I can’t just jump into the writing first thing, I’m not an off-the-bat seamstress.  It’s like I need to wake up properly via lesser tasks, allowing the morning to seep into me before I tackle a major undertaking, no matter how badly I want to sit at that machine.

In the process, I gazed at the quilt wall, now housing the beginnings of my youngest daughter’s ocean quilt.  It’s in flux; when I started placing squares on the wall, I found myself getting dizzy.  Too many busy fabrics, not enough low volume/solids.  I need another half-yard of fabric for that one too, orange and light blue solids, I’m thinking.  (I’m also thinking I need to go shopping soon…)

At least the wall isn't bare...

At least the wall isn’t bare…

But now that I have a walking foot, there’s a project to complete!  Writing is a lot like sewing, all parts in their proper time.  And, when I’m caught up in a particular quilt or novel, I ache when unable to finish what is nearly done.  More parallels between those somewhat disparate pastimes in another post.

For now, it’s about time to quilt.  Need to fill some bobbins, change the needle back to one I use when quilting, then plop my butt in the chair.  That is just like writing, which doesn’t escape me at all…

Hope vrs. reality in writing, publishing, etc…

Last week when starting my latest manuscript, I felt a bit blah.  For a day I wondered, ‘What in the heck have I done?’

The next day, well, sometimes it just takes a good night’s sleep.  I was off to the races, and after another chapter added yesterday, man oh man, I am loving this new novel.

But in those few hours of hesitation, I considered earlier days, other first drafts, my start.  Or a year or so into my start; in July 2008, I was writing a novel that I might one day get back to, but at the time, Detours was a story I just had to tell.  I wasn’t thinking about publishing in an overt way, and certainly not indie publishing.  I was just writing for the sheer flippin’ joy of it.

Okay, well, maybe I was thinking a little about publishing.

But it’s different now, knowing anything I write I can, with some or much work, whip into shape and upload into cyberspace.  And having said that, not everything I’ve written since deciding to go indie will be released.  Case in point; of my two novels from last year’s NaNo, one will never be published.  The other sits unfinished, with no date on the horizon for its completion.  The WIP feels like a future release, but maybe not.  Those considerations now hover over every book I write.  In 2008, it wasn’t that way.

In 2008, I was still trying to acclimate to living in America after eleven years of Britain.  I was getting used to two kids not living at home, one still in high school, but not schooling any of them myself.  I was wrapping my head around constant sunshine and Silicon Valley and not being able to buy decent tea when I went grocery shopping.  And, believe it or not, writing novels.

In July 2008, I was so much of a newbie, it’s not even funny.  But, and this is imperative, I was writing.

I was so involved in the writing that at the end of July, determined to finish Detours by the end of that month, I wrote 19,000 words in one day.  I will never forget it, especially that part was spent clearing out enough typing errors so I could return to the document.  Word didn’t like all my red and green squiggles, and I lost valuable writing time sorting that issue.  But late into the evening, after barely seeing my family all day, I wrote the last sentence; It’s all right.  I sat back, looking to night through mostly closed mini-blinds, and heaved a sigh of tremendous relief.  In those days, that’s what the writing was, an enormous relief.

It was also a mess, but that’s expected.  Some of my novels have ended with that much emotion, although never that many words in one twenty-four hour period.  At the end of Oklahoma, I started crying, my husband at his computer two feet away bringing me into his arms.  Some books stir a breakdown, and it doesn’t matter what happens to them except that they are expunged.

I have to admit I have lost some of that deep sense of relief.  Maybe it’s not lost, but it’s certainly diminished.  Maybe part of it was simply the wonder of finally writing fiction.  I had wanted to write for so many years, and here I was, back in California, doing just that!  I call writing the work, my job, and it is, but perhaps that tarnishes it in some way.  It’s also a thrill, a gift, another part of why I breathe.

It’s also work.  And sometimes work is not fun.

Publishing is cool.  Writing is too, at times.  Then sometimes I wonder what’s the purpose?  Then I start a book, and really wonder what in the hey am I doing?  Why did I think this idea needed to be set onto a document?  I just pulled this story outta my backside, blah blah blah.

Then I wake up, shower, eat Grape Nuts, drink tea, read over yesterday’s chapter and think, ‘Oh yeah!  I wanna say this and this and that over there and…’  And I’m back in business.  I’m back to that day in July 2008 when I could write 19K like it was nothing.

Except that now I manage about 3K.  19,000 words would probably kill me.

But now I’m not only writing.  I’m publishing, and that’s another kettle of fish.  I had hoped to publish, way back in 2008, but the writing had to come center stage.  One stage at a time, and as stages come and go, I as a writer have evolved.  Writing 19k probably would set me back, no doubt.  I’m five years older, and it makes a difference now that fifty is three years away.  (Yes, a slight shudder engulfed me while writing that.)  But that seasoning has taught me that pacing myself isn’t a bad thing.  That every novel I have ever written doesn’t need to be for public consumption, even the ones I create now.  That hope is necessary, or nothing gets accomplished.  If I had never pined over this dream, I wouldn’t be writing this post today.

Today’s reality is that in another hour or so, I’ll pull up the WIP, read over yesterday’s work, and maybe tinker with it a little.  I wrote a HUGE info dump yesterday, which was GREAT, because this novel, while possessing a firm beginning, middle, and end, has plot holes the size of Lake Michigan.  But yesterday, ah yesterday…  Yesterday I came up with all sorts of gemstones, yet they can’t all be plopped into one chapter.  And that is part of the bliss, also part of the work.  The hope is by the end, all those gold nuggets will be scattered just so, thus providing another novel in the publishing queue.

The reality is that I don’t know this novel’s fate, yet.  Each day the mystery unfolds, like a good book.  Gleefully considering the options, what will I write about today?