Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Long Road

I had a plan for this quilt...and maybe that was the problem.

I got two rows into the plan and started spending more time squinting at the design wall than sewing. That's not a good sign. (I snapped one picture with my cell phone, you can find it on the @pieladyquilts Instagram feed.)

I have a particular album that I like to listen to while I am sewing. It is a compilation album from Alecia Moore (P!nk) and Dallas Green called "You + Me." Since I'm too cheap to pay for the premium Spotify service, I get to listen to a lot of other music (and commercials) in addition to that album. Spotify likes to intersperse songs from "You + Me" with interviews from Alecia and Dallas. In one of these interviews, Alecia said, "It feels so good when it's good you know when it's not." I heard that one morning, wholeheartedly agreed, and started ripping the half-done quilt top down to components.

I thought Quilt 2.0 needed more black and a different setting, so I cast the plan aside, cut into some black and started piecing. I thought a radiating setting might be fun, so I tried it. I decided to not use a ruler, so I didn't. After awhile I ran out of shot cotton in Moor (the background), so I used shot cotton in Aegean on the side and the top. There was a whole lot of "what if?" in this quilt and it felt so, so good to be carried off by the process.

In the end, I was gratified to see that I had literally made a path that spiraled out from the center. A circuitous, wandering, meandering sort of path that passed a lot of different landscapes, but a path all the same. It was doubly gratifying since I had a plan in my personal life blow up while I was making this quilt. I had a lot on my mind and so much to consider. I worked my way through both problems simultaneously and got the same answer...hold on to faith and take the long road. It all works out in the end.

I took that lesson (and a friend) out with me when it came time to photograph this quilt. Linda and I decided to try an industrial setting and set off together with a plan. Ha ha ha! I will never learn, will I? We didn't love any of the places we had in mind and ended up at a dead end near a construction site. Linda talked me into driving onto the site and talked a few confused construction workers into listening to us. Finally a hard hat poked up over the top and shouted down, "I slept under a homemade quilt my whole childhood. I've got a soft place in my heart for quilters!" He rode the motorized lift down and visited with us for a minute. His mother is an award-winning quilter (I think he said her name was Jane Moore, but the equipment was noisy and I'm not sure if I heard him correctly). His neighbor growing up was Freddy Moran. Really? Of all the construction sites in Iowa, I pick the one that has a guy that will talk all things Freddy Moran with me. How awesome is that?! We clamped the quilt on the lift with him and Linda got the pictures. I haven't stopped smiling (or chuckling) all day. I am happy that I don't have all of life's mysteries figured out. I am delighted that I can still be surprised and I am always thankful to run into fascinating people. Your son is a kind man, Jane. I am glad there are so many of us together on the long road who speak quilt.

Photo by Linda Lee.

Photo by Linda Lee.

The back.

I used natural shaping methods to "square" this quilt. It measures approximately 52" x 66." I used Aurifil #2605 (Medium Gray), Aurifil #4093 (Jade), Aurifil #2692 (Black) and Yenmet metallic thread in #7003 (Pearlessence White). I quilted this in organic, radiating lines. All prints are from Lizzy House's "Natural History" line.

I just finished reading a book called Collaborative Quilting by Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran. Coincidence? Probably not. Also a very fun book to read.

Lastly, I'd like to share the mini quilt I made for the Kaffe Fassett Mini Quilt Swap. My partner requested geometry and color. I gave her shot cotton and improv. I'll know on Monday if we're both happy.

Linking up to Finish it Friday with Crazy Mom Quilts.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Fit for a Princess

 My stories end up being my quilts (and vice versa). This one is no different. I made this quilt for someone that loves following Kate Middleton, so it started out being kind of an inside joke. I grabbed handfuls of scraps and fat quarters in blue, pink and low volume and packed it out to my mom's house so I could work on it while we were visiting. Once we were there and I started cutting, I realized that I hadn't brought enough low volume fabrics with me. On our way to a swimming pool one afternoon, I ran into a local quilt shop and grabbed some fat quarters. One of them was a print that looked like vintage feed labels from Sweetwater Fabrics.

 I had half the quilt pieced when I noticed what had happened. I gasped. I groaned. Then I laughed and laughed and laughed. I heard my brother yell, "What's so funny?" from the couch, so I brought the quilt out and waited for him to notice it. When he did, he laughed and laughed and laughed.

I checked the uncut fabric and found the label advertising MOLASSES and knew I'd found the culprit. I contemplated ripping the square out, but I decided not to. I also didn't mention it to the prospective parents when I mailed it yesterday. I figured the quilt would be two gifts for them. The first would be when they opened the shipping package, but the second would be someday when they were holding the new baby on the couch, fall-down exhausted with sandpaper eyes and one of them said....

"Wait a minute...." (peering closer)

"Does that say....?"

Yes. Yes it does. And when they look at each other and laugh, that quilt will become a story for them and I will be satisfied. That is why I didn't rip it out.

Here's another gem. CLOVERSEED turned into...

I went back to the store and bought yardage of that fabric. After all, serendipity happens to the prepared quilter!

The quilt finished at 44" x 54." It is based on a sketch I made of the Union Jack on some graph paper. The whole thing is constructed from squares and half square triangles. It ended up being a massive amount of seams, but I divided the piecing into quadrants and did a single line at a time assembly-line style. That way I could make sure I was pressing the seams in opposite directions so they'd nest when I joined the rows. I used up a massive amount of scraps.

The block in the pieced backing is called Hearth and Home. I figured that would be fitting for a baby quilt.

 I quilted this in a stipple pattern using Aurifil thread. I used a pale pink, dusty blue and off-white.

All the jokes aside, I really do hope they find this quilt is fit for their little princess!

Back in May I was nominated for a One Lovely Blog Award from Kaja at Sew Slowly. I am sorry that it's taken me so long to pass it along on my blog! I really appreciate the nomination.

I am supposed to tell you 7 things about myself and pass along a nomination for other blogs. Here goes.

1. I despise liverwurst. My husband loves it and I will buy it for him, but if he puts any of that stuff on a sandwich I need at least a six foot buffer zone. Gross.
2. I am six feet tall.
3.  I grew up in Idaho/Utah, but I usually just say Idaho because it's a complicated story and that's where my mom lives. I live in Iowa now.
4. I love spicy food. I put crunchy jalapeno bits on my salad, salsa on my eggs and when I'm in denial about sugar I love to eat chocolate covered cinnamon bears.
5. 3 kids, 2 cats, 1 husband.
6. Pretty much every piece of jewelry I wear has a piece of turquoise on it. I especially love turquoise and pearls together.
7. My kids love to sing and one of my favorite things to do is listen to them murder lyrics. My younger son came home from preschool this year singing, "Oh Who-Sana, oh don't you cry for me! Well I come from Ala-banjo with a [something, something, trail off.....] knee.

I nominate:
Kelly at Pinkadot Quilts
Sarah at Smiles Too Loudly
Kate at Thread Everywhere

And if we're talking about recommendations for great resources, I would check out this page from Michele Bilyeu at With Heart and Hands.  It is an index of liberated/improv piecing tutorials and ideas. I dare you to take a look and not be inspired to try something new.

Linking up to Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


I decided to join the "Our Neighborhood" challenge, hosted by Angela from The Green Apricot, on a whim.  The gist of the challenge was to make blocks (smaller than 8.5") that represented your neighborhood. Send them to Angela and she'd send you back the same amount of blocks made by others. Turn your blocks into something and post pictures. Easy, right?

Reading about the challenge immediately made me start considering different things, so I joined. I love the challenge of thinking in new directions and doing things I might not do if I were left to my own devices. I sent 2 cardinals, 1 oriole and 2 ears of corn. I received 3 houses, a dog, a cat and a bonus tree. I added a lot more of my own blocks and turned it into an ode to my Iowa neighborhood.

I am not a native Iowan, so there are many things about my new home that surprise and delight me.

 You can't go for a drive in the Iowa countryside without seeing many barns. What I dearly love are the quilts that adorn a lot of the barns. When I was planning out the quilt, I searched for pictures of barn quilts and found one with a Churn Dash that I really liked. The block in the center is an improvisational copy of my favorite. Above the Churn Dash block is an improv interpretation of a traditional block named Tulip Ladyfingers. I included this in honor of Pella, a Dutch town famous for their tulip festival. Beside that is my version of a daylily patch. Daylilies naturalize like crazy here and you see them growing in many ditch banks alongside the road.

 My mother enjoys growing flowers, and one that I remember her planting in front of a wagon wheel (at our house in Idaho) was a clematis. We babied it and it did grow, but kind of gave up around hip height. The clematis in Iowa explode with flowers. People plant them underneath their mailboxes and sometimes you can't even see the box! My favorite ones are purple varieties, but I felt that red worked better on the quilt so I took a little artistic license. Also included in this photo are two of the blocks that were sent to me. The Carolyn Friedlander house on the bottom and the house with the peekaboo window.

 I used log cabins to reference home and pineapples to reference hospitality. Iowa is a friendly place! The little kitty in this picture was one of the blocks I was sent. The corn isn't just a joke, either. I can see a couple of different cornfields from our neighborhood.

 While I was piecing this quilt, I listened to some quilting podcasts. I enjoy hearing thoughts about quilting from a variety of voices. I think it's fascinating to hear why others quilt and the purpose it serves. I had to laugh when the discussion on one podcast turned to expressive, statement (often political) quilts and I looked down at the tractor I was piecing. Despite its whimsical feel, this is an expressive quilt for me and reflects my perception of my surroundings. Even the tractor!

There are also personal details. These are my children. I also included some of my favorite Iowa birds. Some of you *may* have picked up that I have a thing for cardinals. I don't think I will ever be able to ignore a cardinal song no matter how long I live here. I don't see too many orioles, but we discovered a place they seem to congregate on one of our nightly walking routes. The Carolyn Friedlander 'Grove' tree was a bee block.

I couldn't have a neighborhood quilt without including our house! Our house is not actually blue (more artistic license), but it is a 2-story. When we built our house, my husband and I had a hard time deciding what color siding to use. We had it narrowed down to an olive brown and a dusty blue. After a lot of considering, we ended up choosing olive brown. When construction began on the house across the street from us, we mentioned to the contractor (our neighbor) that the neighborhood sure could use a dose of dusty blue....and they did it!!! I love that the house I received from the swap (the one with curtains) matched the color of our house so closely! I also included the trees we've planted, including the two mismatched pines in our front yard.

I do love a good joke, so I put the Grant Wood American Gothic house on the Iowa quilt. I free pieced the cathedral window and used needle turn applique to attach it to the house. I put some snarky caption on a picture of the block when I uploaded it to Instagram with #bringyourownpitchforks. I think people thought it was a church. #ohdear #thejokewasonme

Also pictured is a puppy bee block and another Tulip Ladyfingers.

I almost never buy wide quilt backs, but I was totally going to for this. I cut the timing really, really close. The finished quilt was due on Friday and I hadn't even finished piecing the top when I went to the quilt store on Tuesday. I was tired from too many late night/early morning combinations. To be honest? I was done with piecing. (#theheresy!) Then I saw the Happy Home line from Art Gallery Fabrics and happily pieced a back to include my two favorite prints.

I quilted this using Aurifil #2600 (Dove) and the scallop stitch (112 on a Janome). This is my new favorite texture.

One of my favorite quotes is, "In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured." --Gordon B. Hinckley

Life is good here in Iowa.

Linking up to Finish it Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Cancer Sucks

I got the call on June 30th. "She found a lump," he said. "It's cancer."

I didn't know what to say then. I definitely don't know what to say now.

So I made a quilt.

It's a gift. It's a hug. It's a plea.

Cancer sucks.

This quilt finishes at 56" x 68." I constructed it all with improvisational piecing based on a sketch I made. Special thanks to Lynne Tyler at Patchery Menagerie for her tutorial on the letter 'K.'

I quilted this with stitch number #112 on my Janome (a scallop) using Aurifil #2783 and #2606. I quilted the whole quilt in one direction, then subdivided my lines going in the opposite direction. I love how it looks like a chunky, beaded necklace. The texture was worth the extra work.

Linking up to Finish it Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts and Let's Bee Sewcial at Sew Fresh Quilts.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Finding Jade

When I was a little girl, I loved to play in my mother's jewelry box. My favorite piece was a small jade pendant that had been hand carved into the shape of an elephant. I had no special affinity for elephants then (or now), I just knew that the color was perfect and that I liked running my fingers over the smooth, cool stone. I asked my mom once if I'd ever be able to find a piece of jade that I could keep. She assured me that I could and in those hot summers when we lived in a tiny travel trailer on our farm, she would send me out into the gravel driveway to look for some. I must have picked up every green rock in a hundred yard radius. Twice. I would carry in handfuls for my mom to look at while she was making supper "No," she'd say. "Not quite. Try something lighter/darker." I wonder how many suppers she cooked with me out in the driveway scanning for the perfect shade of green. Maybe that's when I fell in love with color. I know for sure that's where I became an optimist!

That memory popped right into my head when I was gifted a bag of narrow scraps from a Kona Cotton Grecian Waters collection. I haven't spent a lot of time out on the water, but I have spent plenty of time with a small jade pendant in my hand, so that's immediately where my mind went. I pulled out every solid and shot cotton I had and held up each piece next to the scraps. I sorted quickly and tried not to think too much. I ended up with two piles. "Maybe" and "Put it Back in the Cupboard." I played with the "Maybes," eliminating rogue colors and colors that were too similar. I also experimented with tints. I enjoy buying solids on sale and will purchase a half yard of pretty much any color I can get my hands on. That strategy paid off with this quilt since I ended up having the kryptonite greens and lavenders in my stash. Neither of those colors are ones that I would be excited to purchase in a store off the bolt, but they are the colors that make this quilt sing.

My birthday present each year is a day away. My husband takes one of his personal days at work so he can watch our children and I can go to a workshop. My guild does a great job getting amazing instructors. In the last three years I have been to classes taught by Amanda Jean Nyberg (Crazy Mom Quilts), Bill Kerr (Modern Quilt Studio) and Jacquie Gering (Tallgrass Prairie Studios). This year it was Jacquie Gering. She came to teach a class on improvisational log cabins. I didn't go into the experience with any great master plan, I just figured that I would listen to what she had to say with an open mind and be inspired. As soon as she mentioned that pineapple blocks were part of the log cabin family, I got excited and wanted to get to work as fast as I could. I loved the radiating arrows in the pineapple block, and somehow those arrows felt right at home with the concept of "Finding Jade."

I don't have any magic strategy tips for how I set the quilt. I made sixteen blocks of different sizes before I joined any together. Of those sixteen blocks, I put four of them aside (one ended up on the back of the quilt). The four rejects weren't ugly blocks, they just didn't fit with the direction the other twelve were going in. Making a bunch of blocks in the beginning was a freeing experience. I tried to do something a little different each time I made a block, and it took me in some interesting directions. I would stop and look at the design wall after I finished each one, and I could see where I needed to go next. I keep a Post-it pad near my sewing machine and I would make notes to myself so I would remember what my impressions were if there was a break in my concentration (like needing to feed my kids breakfast and get them out the door for school on time!). Those notes helped me make work more efficiently because I didn't have to waste time reorienting myself the next time I had some time to sew. When it came time to start joining blocks, I squared the pieces down and made a note of the size. I  kept track of the sizes as I built. Once I built my first unit, I knew its measurements and could build other units in appropriate sizes.

I am very happy with the piecing in this quilt. Even though it is a pineapple quilt, I made sure to put in each kind of log cabin block that Jacquie mentioned in her lecture. When it came time to quilt it, I knew that I wanted the piecing to take center stage. It had to be matchstick. It took forever and my triceps are still a little sore, but I know it was the right call. This quilt deserved a matchstick! I used four different colored Aurifil threads in the top and in the back in a combination of 40 wt. and 50 wt. Not that I was counting or anything, but this quilt took 25 bobbins. I *may* have kept a tally on that Post-it pad every time I put a fresh one in.

The quilt finished at 50" x 60."

The thought I wanted to leave you with is this. I never found jade in that driveway. I did find a lot of great green rocks. I discovered that if I ran them under the hose, that the color changed and patterns would emerge. Somewhere along the way I figured out that I could carefully paint them with clear nail polish so that they'd stay beautiful even when the water dried. By the time I was done picking out all of the green rocks in the driveway, I had quite a collection of beautiful stones.

I know that if you go out looking for beauty, you'll find it. Keep looking! It's there.

Linking up to Finish it Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

From Hell to Breakfast: Blogger's Quilt Festival

Quilting has made me much more observant. I notice things now that I never used to. I notice how the windows in the Habitat ReStore near our house make the most fascinating, asymmetrical log cabin quilt blocks. I notice colors and shapes in the landscape....and I notice public places where I could take some great quilt photos! I spotted this old truck in a parking lot behind the Eagles Lodge where we basically live during the Fish Fry/Lenten season. I thought it would be a great place to get a good shot of this quilt. I was wrong.

It turned out to be a great place to get a photo of my husband! I've held up my fair share of quilts and I know how sore it makes my shoulders, so I try to be mindful of his arms when he holds for me. I had my shot ready when he had to take a break. I think I'll frame this one.

My own arms got pretty tired when I quilted this one. I started quilting a radiating square in the center of the focal point. I did it with my walking foot, so every time I got to a corner I had to shove the quilt around in my machine to turn it. It was a pain, but I am happy with the result.

I did have *some* fun with the quilting. There aren't a lot of perfectly straight lines in the piecing, so I tried to echo that idea when I quilted it. Every once in awhile I purposely put a giant wiggle in the lines. I tried to do it often enough so that everyone would know it was on purpose and that I hadn't just sneezed. The result is organic and interesting. I quilted this with Aurifil #2452 (dusty rose) on the top and Aurifil #5011 (rope beige) for the back.

The back is pieced with the scraps I had left from making the quilt top. Lately I have been thinking of more efficient ways to store my scraps and I've come to the realization that one of the best solutions is to use them. I am full of other profound insights, should anyone require them.

Here is my original post, back when From Hell to Breakfast was a quilt top entry to the Pantone Quilt Challenge.

Linking up to Amy's Creative Side.