Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Quilting and Perseverance

After reading this blog post's title, you may be asking what perseverance has to do with quilting. Well, until today, I would have asked that question too. In a recent post, I shared a mostly completed quilt top. Using only three fabrics and a simple pattern, I enjoyed seeing how large 18 inch blocks began to come together as they formed a chain-like pattern down the entire quilt. 

It's almost always an exciting process to begin a quilt, especially when using a new pattern. Finishing a quilt top is almost always gratifying as the last bit of stitching ends up in a completed product. This time, however, has been a little different. 

Starting this quilt top brought the same excitement as usual when I begin a new project. I found myself "in the flow" as I rhythmically worked on one block and another. Then--I took a break. I traveled a bit and read a bit and became inspired as I planned other projects. Today I returned to my mostly completed quilt top to find that the rhythm and flow I had earlier was just not there. I wanted to get the quilt top finished, but now putting the last few blocks together seemed repetitious. 

Sewing the last row of the quilt
It took a bit of self-discipline and a lot of perseverance to keep at it until the last stitch was in. This may have been the first time in my quilting years that I experienced this not-so-enthusiastic finishing of a quilt top which in turn required perseverance. 

Pressing the completed quilt top
I am feeling a sense of accomplishment for having persevered today with my quilt top. The end result is pleasing to me since the pattern is so different from what I've made in the past, and the quilt will be completed with just a binding rather than my usual borders. 

Pattern: Dream On designed by Jocelyn Ueng from Quiltmaker March/April 2013
But speaking of completing the quilt top I now have three UFO's (unfinished objects)--GASP!! I am usually a quilter who finishes a quilt top and immediately sets about adding the backing and batting, quilting the entire quilt, adding the binding and label, and presto--the quilt is complete!  Somehow the excitement of new projects awaiting negates the feeling that I should completely finish a quilt before starting another. In the past I have often made quilts to give as gifts. It feels a little different to make quilts just because...just because I like the fabric...just because I want to try a new pattern...just because it feels like the right time to attempt a new technique...just because. Since I'm making quilts right now that have no timeline or deadline, I can feel free to make a few of those quilt tops now and finish the quilts later. 

During this whole process of finishing my quilt top today, someone else showed a lot of perseverance too. My cat, Enzo, persevered in keeping me company and watching me sew from the top of a chair in my sewing room!

Enzo the cat

I have received no compensation for the mention of items or companies in this blog post. All opinions are my own.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Quilt 'Til You Wilt Days and A Few Other Favorite Things

I just love those days when I wake up with nothing on my schedule. After a leisurely breakfast followed by a steaming cup of my favorite tea, I decide what I want to do for the day. 

Most often, on these "free" days, I choose to quilt. Because I have the whole day in front of me, I can "quilt 'til I wilt." (I borrowed that phrase from a quilt shop, Tiny Stitches, in Marietta, Georgia. An eight hour group sewing day called "Quilt 'Til You Wilt" is offered once a week at this shop.) I have had a few of these quilt 'til you wilt days at my own sewing machine in recent weeks, and the product of those days is a quilt top that is about 3/4 complete. The quilt consists of just three fabrics and some whopping 18 inch blocks. Here you will see a partial view of my mostly completed quilt top featuring some of my favorite colors.

Pattern: Dream On designed by Jocelyn Ueng from Quiltmaker March/April 2013

I paused in my quilting to travel for a long weekend. My husband and I drove a little more than two hours to a neighboring state. Our main reason for choosing this particular weekend was to hear our favorite singer/songwriter, Peter Mayer. Peter is from Minnesota, but just once in a while he travels to perform in the southeast. We try to catch his concerts when they are within a few hours of where we live. The lyrics to his songs range from inspiring to nostalgic to funny. He is a master on the guitar, and his voice is engaging and quite pleasant, like no other songwriter I've heard. Below is a sampling of Peter's work, a song he wrote called "Dorothy's Pie" from his CD Novelties. The song references a true story about his mom and dad, and it is one of my favorites. My husband spoke to Peter during the intermission and unbeknownst to me requested this song, knowing it was a favorite of mine. During the second half of the concert, Peter honored the request, and so I was able to hear him sing it in person, much to my delight!

Among the activities during our long weekend was a visit to Congaree National Forest. As you may know from previous posts, visiting national parks is one of my favorite parts of traveling. We didn't know quite what to expect since this newer national park is smaller and not very well-known. We were pleasantly surprised as we walked a 2.5 mile boardwalk through beautiful vistas of trees and water. 

Several rivers drain into this area causing flooding at least once a year. It was interesting to see trees that flourish in this environment and to learn about the benefits of the flooding that bring necessary nutrients to this wilderness area. 

We chose a good time of year to visit this particular national park. Because of the abundance of water and the heat during the summer months, mosquitoes can be a major problem in the park. We were glad that the posted mosquito meter was only at a "1" during our visit in early March.

Back home now from my long weekend away, it's time to think about spring, one of my favorite seasons (the other favorite being fall). Even though it is not officially spring, the daffodils in our yard are in full bloom. 

Just like this time last year, the snap peas, lettuce, spinach, and broccoli are planted in our garden, and a few stalks of asparagus are pushing through the earth. I'm eager for the time coming soon when I can walk into the backyard and harvest these favorite spring vegetables to use in a healthy and delicious meal.

Over the years, I have enjoyed collecting pottery. My husband was recently gifted a new piece of pottery made by Peg Morar of Asheville, NC. It is a unique piece in shades of blue and sage green with dots of red. This may have become my favorite piece of pottery that we own. I immediately placed it on our dining room table along with a quilted table runner in coordinating colors.

So, when will I have another of those favorite quilt 'til you wilt days? Well, I'm not sure since very soon I will be at another of my favorite places--a quilt and sewing expo. Stay tuned as I might just share that experience in a future blog post. In the meantime, please leave a comment and share a few of your favorite things!

I have received no compensation for the mention of items or companies in this blog post. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Quilting is a passion of mine, but at the same time, it is a calming and meditative activity for me. I sometimes listen to favorite podcasts while I'm in front of my sewing machine. Other times, as I've mentioned in a previous blog post, my time spent quilting gives me time to think about all kinds of topics. Quilting in combination with listening and reflecting often leaves me with new insights.

I have been sewing a lot lately, working on a new quilt top. It's a simple pattern using only three fabrics, so it's been a perfect time to ponder topics that come to mind. 

Curiosity has been at the forefront of my consideration in the past few days. My husband and I recently attended an event where the theme was curiosity. Although the speaker for the event was pleasant and personable, I felt he didn't cover the topic of curiosity in a very convincing way. What the event did, however, was to spur my own thinking about this subject.  

Just the word curiosity takes me back to my teaching days. What I wanted most for my students was for them to become life-long learners. I truly believe that maintaining a sense of wonder and curiosity fuels a desire for learning during one's entire lifetime. On occasion, I asked my students to find and share a few "wow facts" which were facts that made them stop and think, "Wow, that's amazing!" As these wow facts were shared, there were a lot of wide eyes filled with wonder and curiosity (including mine). This assignment gave me insight into the topics that engaged my students' curiosity. 

As we know, curiosity seems to come naturally to humans. We can witness this natural curiosity in toddlers and young children as they explore their world and ask many questions, including the famous "Why?" that many young children continue asking until their understanding is satisfied. As children grow older, it seems that some of that natural curiosity gets drowned out with other parts of life sometimes getting in the way. The question then becomes how we can rediscover our natural curiosity as adults. I have a few suggestions:

  • Slow down and take time to allow for wonder.
  • Show interest in others and their pursuits.
  • Know that there is always something new to learn.
  • Make a point of being around others who voice their wonder, curiosity, and amazement.
  • Find activities or hobbies that spur creativity and innovation.
  • Spend time in nature where it's so easy to be amazed by awe-inspiring sights and sounds. (Many of those wow facts shared by my students related to nature.)

To close, I will share a few quotes about curiosity:

The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
                                                        --Albert Einstein

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
                                                       --Walt Disney

Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
                                                       --e.e. cummings

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Not 1, Not 2, But 3 Quilts!

Fabric, so much fabric! That's how I feel since I bought fabric for a quilting class and then decided not to take the class. I have found from experience that it's best to choose a quilt pattern and then look for fabric that fits the pattern. However, this time I'm doing the opposite. I have been perusing my patterns and pattern books trying to match patterns to all the yards of different fabrics I purchased. I'll have to say that I have had fun throughout this search and match process. It has reacquainted me with the quilt books and patterns that I own, and for the most part, it has been a creative endeavor as I try to imagine how the fabrics would look put together in certain ways. It has also been a bit of a mathematical process as I've calculated the yardage needed versus the yardage I own of certain fabrics. If I've calculated correctly, I will be able to make not just one and not just two, but three lap size quilts out of the fabric as well as two bonus table runners!

I decided to make one of those table runners first. I was delighted to find a pattern that uses only two fabrics since I have quite a bit of a teal batik and a coordinating cream and teal batik print. Below is a picture of the completed quilt top on my design wall. I still need to layer the batting and backing, quilt it together, and add the binding. 

Pattern: Toast Points from Let's Do Lunch by Anderson Designs

My next project will be one of the lap size quilts using the same fabrics as the table runner but adding a third coordinating fabric--a lighter teal with dark teal dots. The fabric is cut, organized by  into ziplock bags, and ready to sew. 

The other lap size quilts will use a variety of fabrics rather than just two or three different fabrics. Similar in color to my first two projects will be a quilt that will use a batik focus fabric swirled with teals, greens, and purples. 

I am modifying a pattern so that it showcases the main focus fabric, but it will also feature blocks of pinwheels that include these coordinating fabrics.

My third quilt will have quite a different colorway of corals, greens, and grays. I will most likely use a quilt pattern that I have used before when I made a quilt for my daughter. It's interesting how some fabrics and patterns just seem to be made for each other! After making this quilt, I should have enough fabric left for a simple table runner. 

Fabric by Moda Fabrics

I believe my search and match process has provided me with enough projects to last for a while. It's fun to plan and to blog about planning, but it's even more fun to sew! That means it's time to get back to my sewing machine. Stay tuned to see how my planned projects progress. 

I have received no compensation for the mention of fabric, patterns, or companies in this blog post. All opinions are my own.

Linked with: Over the Moon, Wonderful Wednesday, Linky Tuesday Freemotion by the River, Needle and Thread Thursday

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Word Play

Do you like to read or write? Are word games like Scrabble your favorite? Do you find the humor in puns, plays on words, or limericks? Do others look to you to edit their papers or essays? If so, you may be high in verbal intelligence as part of Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences. 

Howard Gardner is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is also an adjunct professor of psychology at Harvard University. Gardner may be best known for his theory of multiple intelligences where he challenges the assumption that there is only one kind of intelligence. Instead his widely accepted theory states that there are at least eight different intelligences. 

Howard Gardner

Let's get back to all those questions at the beginning of this blog post that relate to verbal intelligence, one of Gardner's eight intelligences. Verbal is not my strongest intelligence on the multiple intelligence quiz, but it scores a close second. I really enjoy words, and my latest quilting project reflects that love of words. 

For an annual fee, I subscribed for a few years to a quarterly newsletter from the fabric company Benartex. The newsletter came along with some new fabric samples from the company. The fabric was always cut into charm squares (5 inch squares), and the newsletter contained information about new lines of fabric as well as one or two patterns that could be made using the charm squares. When I received a packet of charm squares a couple of years ago named "Word Play" I set it aside knowing that one day I would make a small quilt from the squares. Well, the day has arrived to make that quilt and use some of that fabric in limbo that I mentioned in a previous post.

The pattern for this fabric featured in the newsletter is a little scrappier than I usually make, meaning that the colors don't necessarily coordinate the way in which I usually choose fabric. There are browns, blacks, grays, whites, creams, and greens among the squares. The common bond among the fabrics is that they feature words having to do with quilting, and since I love words, I'm going with the scrappy pattern that is featured.

I start by cutting each of the charm squares in half to make what quilters call a half square triangle (HST).  

Charm Square

Cutting Half Square Triangles

Hafl square triangles cut from "Word Play" by Benartex Fabrics

Following the pattern, I mix and match the HST's to lay out small quilt blocks all around my sewing machine. 

Then I begin to stitch the HST's together, and after that I sew the individual quilt blocks together. 

So now the quilt top is ready for the backing, quilting, and binding. It has been such a pleasure to combine my love of words with my passion for quilting by using this Word Play fabric. 

What about you? Do you believe yourself to be high in verbal intelligence? Or is another of Gardner's multiple intelligences one with which you identify? Does your work or your hobby reflect one of your intelligences? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

I have received no compensation for the mention of fabric or companies in this blog post. All opinions are my own.

Linked with: Freemotion by the River Linky Tuesday, Over the Moon, Wonderful Wednesday, Needle and Thread Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What Do You Do on a Snowy Day?

You sew, of course, on a snowy day! I used my indoor day to complete a tote bag and make new throw pillows for my sofa. If you will recall, I spent quite a bit of time at the end of this past year making multiple items for a fall craft show. That left me with an unfinished project from early in the fall when my husband and I traveled to Sequoia National Park. While visiting the park, I bought some souvenir inserts for a tote bag, but I didn't get a chance to start the tote bag until just recently. I chose green fabric for the main part of the bag. 

I have made a few tote bags through the years, but the souvenir inserts came with directions for a bag. 

I used the directions to make the front of the bag, accenting the green with a couple of brown strips. Patterns are not created equal, however, so I ended up using my tried and true directions for the remainder of the tote bag. And here is the result! (To see another tote bag that I recently made, visit my friend Debbie's blog here. By visiting her blog post, you can also read a great book review.)

The majority of my sewing time today was used to make new throw pillows. I pulled out some of that fabric-in-limbo that has been waiting in a drawer for a while. I will use this fabric not only for throw pillows but also for a new valance for my family room. 

It has been a long time since I've used home decor fabric. Since I mostly quilt now, I almost always use 100% cotton. I will say, this drapery weight fabric was nice to use for a change as it doesn't wrinkle as easily as quilting cotton. Most pillows I've made recently have had a pieced front where I have combined several fabrics such as in this pillow below.

The pillows I made today went quickly since I only used one fabric for the fronts and the backs of the pillows.

Stitching the back of the pillow

Finished pillow back

It's nice to freshen the decor in my home a bit on such a snowy day. 

My next project will be making that matching valance, and maybe even a coordinating quilt for the back of the sofa will be in the works sometime this year so that I can use more of my fabric-in-limbo.

Sandpiper Bali Crackers by Hoffman Fabrics

Linked with: Wonderful WednesdayLinky Tuesday Freemotion by the River, Needle and Thread Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Recap of 2017

Quilting terms to know before reading this blog post:

  • Stash--fabric that is leftover from other projects or fabric that is bought without any particular project in mind.
  • Fabric in limbo--fabric that was bought for a particular project or quilt that has not been made yet. This fabric is  stored until the project is started.
  • UFO--unfinished object. More specifically, this is a quilt or project that is only partially complete. More work has to be done for the UFO to be finished.
  • Design wall--a place where quilters put fabric to arrange quilt pieces, compare colors, or organize completed quilt blocks. Design walls are usually made of felt, flannel, or other types of fabric that will allow cotton fabric to stick to it without pins or other fasteners.

Toward the end of each year, I like to look back at sewing and quilting projects that I completed during the previous twelve months. Another year of sewing and quilting projects is almost complete, so I am ready to review my 2017 projects. Before I continue with my year end review, I must say that my goal for 2017 was to use much of the fabric in my stash and/or my fabric in limbo. Let's see how successful I was in that endeavor.

The year began with a few small quilts. I made a tea themed quilt which used my favorite technique--paper piecing. View an earlier blog post here to see details about this quilt. This first quilt of the year did not use any of my stash fabric. I decided I wanted to use the tea cup paper pieced pattern, so I visited a fabric store to find tea themed fabric.

My next few quilts of the year were made from stash fabric that had been in a drawer for a year or so. I bought the fabric at a favorite quilt store of mine in a little town called Burnsville about 45 minutes from my home. Unfortunately, that special quilt shop has now closed. At the time, I could not resist the muted reds, taupes, and greens of one fabric line and the bright primary colors of the French Country fabrics. I wasn't sure at the time how I would use these fabrics, but it's part of the fun to pore over quilt pattern books to find the perfect pattern for specific fabrics. All of these fabrics ended up as table runners or as a table topper. 


Using additional fabric in my stash led to this more modern quilt featuring bright colors accented with black and white. I'll have to say that even though I started this quilt early in the year, I still only have the top of the quilt pieced. The batting, backing, and binding of the quilt have yet to be completed. Even though I enjoy piecing the top of quilts more than doing the actual quilting, I still enjoy the satisfaction of completing an entire quilt. Therefore, I rarely have UFO's around my house. I probably will not finish this quilt before the end of the year, so it will be my only UFO of 2017. You can see this partially completed quilt below on my design wall.

I took a break in my quilting for most of the summer as my husband had major surgery. His recuperation became my first priority. However, toward the end of the summer I began to sew items for a fall craft show in which I would be a vendor. This was a terrific way to use fabric from my stash. I made multiples of fabric bowls, wine totes, bird seed totes, inspirational throw pillows, and more. It was good to see my stash dwindle, but I found that I would rather work on individual quilts than multiples of small items. 

As I open the doors to my fabric storage chest, I notice a real difference in my fabric stash. In addition to all the projects I made using my stash, I also donated some of it to a quilt shop in a neighboring county. The shop made special pillows for hospice patients so my stash fabric was put to good use.

I reached my 2017 goal of using fabric in my stash, but what about that fabric in limbo--fabric I bought for a specific pattern or purpose? Well, using my fabric in limbo is a goal for 2018! Stay tuned to see how I reach this quilting goal for the new year.

Linked with: Freemotion by the River Linky Tuesday, Wonderful Wednesday, Thursday Favorite Things