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Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Pandemic Zombie

Here is the story of how I became a zombie. It is a true story, perhaps in the Twilight Zone. 6 months ago the pandemic reared it's ugly head. Quarantine happened so suddenly! Zoom became a thing, ready or not. I didn't feel affected by the quarantine too much since we live in the mountains with lots of room to roam. Plus, around here, hardly anyone has followed the suggested social distancing, except yours truly, so it seemed like news on TV was unreal. Looking back, I was mentally numbed by the fear. Even figuring out my odds of getting sick didn't help a lot. I got internal stress and in the process of ignoring it, I became zombified. Like the perserverant person I have always been, I pushed on through and I have continued to mend quilts and make cool creations, with less vim and vigor. Blogging felt way too tough. I played a good amount of computer games. I was commissioned to finish a Cathedral Window Project 2 months ago. I was thrilled to have such a pretty project. Some of the menders I have been sent, only a mother could love. This one was interesting, and started with such a funny introduction: "I, the one who hems pants with staples and tape, have inherited pieces of what was destined to be a Cathedral Window pillow. The large triangle of work measures roughly 29 inches per side with a hypotenuse of 40 inches. There are also a few additional strips of completed squares (shown in picture) and myriad squares of patterned fabric cut for more squares."
Here is the history of the project: "The quilter's name was Flora Etta Foley, and she was my mother-in-law's mom. "MaMa" was born in the late 1890s and died in the early 1970s. She lived all her life in rural Russell County, in the central part of Kentucky. She had a dozen or so siblings, and may have finished through 8th grade. I like to think that the cathedral window quilt was a project she started just for herself, when she had the luxury of time and security to make something beautiful instead of something necessary. My husband found it (the boxed project) in 2011 when he was cleaning out his family home. He brought it to me, and I put it in a desk drawer. It's taken me only a decade (almost) to find you, but perhaps now MaMa's pillow can come to be." Here is the project midway.
15 hours of hand sewing later, I finished the pillow case, and put a zipper into one side. When I first received the project, I had gushed over the amazing handwork and how special it is. After sending the finished photos and invoice, I got this request from the client, "I wonder if I could ask one more thing from you? Could you put in words what it is about the workmanship on the cathedral windows that made you take notice? It's all magical to me, but I would be interested to know what sets these apart so I can make note of it." Here is what I wrote to her, "When I first saw the cathedral window piece, I noticed the color placement. It is made up of little scrap pieces of 50's and 60's cotton fabric in a classic range of colors found then. As in a piece of art, my eye moved around and saw smooth movement. The little windows are perfectly even. This takes a good eye and practiced hand to curl the edges without markings, and take tiny even stitches. You will see that the stitches are visible on the backside (inside) and look like perfect, even quilt stitches. This is amazing because it is all invisible on the front. My blocks are not as even or tiny and don't all go through to the back. This method of stitching, to make the back look as clean and perfect as the front is often seen in Nordic embroidery. Believe me, I tried, but it is tricky! I believe the diligence and workmanship shows a real love of the process. You have a lovely, durable piece of art."

Friday, February 7, 2020

Better Than I Could Have Ever Imagined

I was contacted recently by a woman who had a set of hand sewn felt ornaments made by her grandmother. They were embellished with beads and sequins. She wanted them sewn onto a table cloth for a gift. I was intrigued. When I received them I decided they looked like they had been made in the 1960's. They reminded me of projects I saw in my mom's McCall's magazine. I called the client back to discuss buying the table cloth and found out I had 4 days to finish the project. Somehow that had escaped me at first. I blame our (new) puppy for my inattentiveness. This was a BIG problem, because I live, as Mr. Thimblepie likes to say, 50 miles from a traffic light. Getting a large red oval table cloth, not to mention doing the sewing, seemed daunting. After pondering for a minute, I thought to call my friend Linda, who supplies table cloths for our quilt auction. Sure enough, she had one that she'd give me. WOW Talk about synchronicity. I set aside the other repair job I was working on to drive to her home and pick up the cloth. It was perfect. She thought McCall's magazine, too. When I got back home I laid out the felt ornaments. One puzzling thing was the pieces that looked kind of like snow drifts. After playing with them I realized they were script words "Noel." Turns out the client had not looked through the box and didn't know about the words either. She said she was afraid she might damage them. I laid everything out, rearranged the trees and decided they would make nice centerpiece enhancers. They were kind of tricky with beads close to the edge, but I am used to fidgety pieces. They will look pretty and sophisticated with an evergreen and pinecone arrangement in the center, maybe with some varied colored poinsettias. Next for the reindeer and Santa's sleighs, 2 sets of 4 deer and a sleigh for each side of the table cloth. I spent a day machine appliqueing all of the pieces, then used some Aleene's tacky fabric glue to hold down the little bits that eluded my machine. It is flexible and water proof when dry, and dries clear. I was able to call the client and let her know the table cloth was ready before her deadline. I sent her photos and she said, " Wowwwww! It’s better than I could have ever imagined! THANK YOU" What a kind thing to say.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

What's in a Name?

I started some propeller blocks a few years ago for a commission. I liked the fierce retro airplane fabric; chosen for the fellow receiving the quilt. He had a penchant for vintage airplanes. The companion fabric, sort of pebble looking, was something I loved. The colors worked, so I gave it a try. I used chartreuse blades for the first quilt, then switched to red bandannas for this second one. I was thinking about a Quilt of Valor (QOV) for my cousin Joey Holbrook, who was a pilot during the Vietnam War for the air force. He grew up on a sheep ranch and it seemed homey and fitting. There weren't enough for a big quilt so I sewed some airplane blocks from a book titled, 'Quilts for Kids' by Carolann Palmer written in 1993. (I used to sew with Carolann at Quilter's Anonymous retreats in Washington.) After I made a fleet of airplane blocks I realized that coordinate or not, the two blocks did NOT work together. So, I made an airplane QOV for Joey and relegated the propeller blocks back into the UFO basket.
The top needs to be quilted, I will do that before Memorial Day, when the annual Holbrook family reunion happens in Chesterfield, Idaho. I'll present it to Joey and give him a big thank you hug for his service. Meanwhile, the propeller blocks finally got my attention. I auditioned several fabrics for sashing and had just enough to make it work using both of them. I did not intend for this to be a dark quilt, but between the curry inner sash, the navy outer sash, and the outer border being a dark taupey grey it is dark. The corner stones wanted to be included and then shocked me with their presence when the top was finished. As I was pondering this lovely strange little dark quilt, I thought about ceiling fans.
They are often unseen but vital in our open home. We have a wood stove that heats the loft super fast. The warm air needs to be circulated and thank goodness for ceiling fans. Also important in the summer to move cool air up and hot air down and out. So, the quilt became my ceiling fan quilt.
This little quilt borders on being one of those UFOs where I wonder, "what was I thinking?" I like it, I like the darkness, the strangeness, and the name.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Treat Yourself Like a Little Kid

A new year, a new calendar, some people say a new decade. One thing I am sure of. For me, here, it is a new day. I wish all of you a Happy New Year, full of hope and possibilities and magic. I have long made resolutions and kept many of them in my quest to grow and learn. Finish up projects that have been in limbo. Start new projects! Have more fun! Ainsley says to treat ourselves like little kids, have a snack, a warm drink, a snuggle and a rest. Be kind. Smile more. Don't take myself so seriously. Sew more! Eat the good chocolate! I am finishing up a Hanukkah Star quilt, a little belated but still apropos. It is from a pattern I found in QNM, 12/2000, called Rachel's Star. It is a 29" x 33" table quilt, made with paper pieced diamond log cabin blocks and triangles. Luminous, timeless, classic. I started this little quilt as a thank you gift for a cousin who has helped me with family history for a book I am writing. She, however, is at the age where she does not want any more belongings. So, I sent her a photo and regifted it to my son-in-law. He and some other members of my family and friends are Jewish. I used Indigo Shibori fabrics designed by Debbie Maddy for Moda. I also used some muslin dyed with onion skins for a curry yellow tone. The yellow diamond centers symbolize the candle lights of Hanukkah. The border was serendipity, as it has snowflakes which are six pointed like the star. Some of the shibori print has six pointed stars as well. Pure grace. For the back of the quilt I chose a fabulous red and chartreuse bird print by Kaffe Fassett. During Hanukkah this past week, I attended a dinner party with friends and family and found this lovely version of the same pattern: Historically the symbol became representative of the worldwide Zionist community, and later the broader Jewish community, after it was chosen to represent the First Zionist Congress in Israel in 1897. The Star of David was yellow badge that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi-occupied Europe invested the Star of David with a symbolism indicating martyrdom and heroism.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Healing Comfort

I was commissioned to make a get well quilt for a brave friend battling cancer. The commission was for a soft and warm quilt. I asked about color choices. Modern favorite is black and white sophistication. NO WAY!! Make it cheerful and comforting. colorful and pretty. I thought about what would be nice to cuddle under, something that touches and has tactile interest. Something to ponder and day dream under. A meditation mantilla. Something with the chakra rainbow colors, to aid in visualizing healing. Softest quality flannel, front and back. The image that came to mind first was a hummingbird. "Ancient Aztecs recognized hummingbirds as brave and courageous fighters. It was admired because, despite its size, it showed great strength and power to fly. Its beauty, color and accuracy were highly prized qualities." I love the idea that bravery comes regardless of facts to the contrary, that despite lovely facades, a steely reserve can abide. The feathers are iridescent, prismatic. With amazing accuracy they dip into flowers larger than they are, and lap the nectar with their tongues. Their favorite are red flowers, such as honeysuckles and hibiscus. I drew up a pattern for a 3 foot hummingbird. The wings and tail would have rainbow colors. I decided to make a rag quilt with fringe on the top and smooth underside. In a style like foundation piecing I put the hummingbird together. Then I built the flower, red, pink, and orange with a yellow center sewn around the narrow beak. I imagined the hummingbird in a sky of blues. Beneath it a garden of greens. I pieced it together with pink and yellow on the back. Pink to symbolize cancer awareness, yellow as a cheerful warm sun. As I sewed I prayed and visualized healing miracles. I sewed love into the quilt. I put my heart into the quilt, and spent many hours creating a labor of love. As I held it up to look at it, I saw the world from a hummingbird's perspective. They don't consider bravery. They act on instinct. Wise beyond imagining, they migrate each year to the same feeders, the same gardens, and the same lovely humans who are so fond of them. If you chirp at them, they will chirp back. Their songs communicate to their young, their mates, warn adversaries, and sing for joy. Here is my quilt, front and back.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Never give up

I live in a canyon in the mountains. Cell phone coverage is spotty except for the very fanciest of smarty pants phones. When I travel to visit my progeny in Boise I need a phone. There are no longer any phone booths. How hard can it be to get a "burner phone?" Well let me tell you, for me it was very hard. I just wasted 2 hours trying to follow the simple instructions to activate my new flip phone at home where we have no cell coverage. Try to talk to a real human. No way. Try to log in on line. Get locked out by mistyping an email address. Have a very cheerful helper (read: controlling) spouse who offers to tell the non human that they are #$%@^^** Sheesh I can do that. If I could actually talk to a human, which I couldn't. I bought a flip phone and a prepaid card at the local dollar store. I came home and eventually got dragged into the 21st century backwards with my new phone. sheesh. So let's go to a much more pleasant topic: Quilts. I am working on a comfort quilt, commissioned by parents of a friend. It was promised today but is not quite done. So here it is in progress: It is all flannel and is "rag" style. The back is pink and yellow. It will be throw size. Right now it is about 3 ft square. I created it by looking at a paper piece pattern and just winging it. I am having such fun. The hummingbird is dipping into a giant red holly hock. I will also put this quote on the label: "Near your breastbone there is an open flower. Drink the honey that is all around that flower." (Kabir) Another fun project also a commission, is a Riley Blake Kit, "Farm Sweet Farm." So far I have 2 blocks, working on the hand applique and embroidery. It is very relaxing. The finished quilt will be 75" x 87" The embroidered details will make each animal so adorable. Here is what the big quilt will look like: The style is sweet and fresh. Not one I'd choose, but I am learning and having lots of fun. The fabric is fabulous and as usual with kits, there is so much left over, I am in scrap heaven. Creativity happens when we are pushed out of our comfort zone.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

I Have a Loose Screw

I am still waiting to practice on my long arm. Good grief, it is collecting dust. I had some other projects to finish first and it finally occurred to me that I can do my projects on my other sewing machines. The long arm isn't going to practice itself. I really really got side tracked. I got commissioned to make a T-shirt quilt for a paying client. That is good. I need to save money for a replacement car. I am willing to sew things for money that I wouldn't otherwise sew. I think quilts ought to be made from lovely fabric. There is a lot of gorgeous fabric in the world, much of it in my own studio. However, some people love T-shirt quilts and feel very comforted by them. This current project being a prime example.
Here it is before adding borders. Someone else started this quilt. The client is adamant about the baby outfit in the center. OK. I used red scrap strips for sashing , with the idea of pulling everything together. I added 2 narrow borders, first black, then black with red and yellow circles to blend with the other dotted sashes. The back is minky, a very nice Moda Snuggle brand. Super silky and low pile. The client chose red, and I found some on sale on etsy. The outer edge of the back is black minky. See? I am using my long arm. It makes a great design area.
In the middle of quilting this big, heavy quilt,I had to pick out several areas of loopy incorrect tension on the underside. Arg. I was glad I didn't have this quilt on my long arm with tension issues. Then my walking foot came lose. I was afraid I had stripped the threads on the screw. It turned out I had the wrong size screw holding it to the presser foot shaft. Fortunately, the screw is interchangeable with one from my Singer Featherweight. Phew! Works great. During the repair process which was done by Mr. Thimblepie, I had fleeting thoughts of delay getting finished, ordering parts on the internet, trying to find a good repair person in a big city far away, not being able to sew, and ultimately fear of failure and death. Fortunately none of those horrible things happened. I really want to share photos of lovely quilts made from lovely fabric. I want to sew those lovely quilts. So! As soon as I finish attaching the binding, which is chosen and cut, I will switch to a fun "palate cleanser." Stay tuned.