Friday, January 31, 2020

Over the Slump

I had good intentions of posting more often, but here I am with another massive post.

I'm also very relieved to have a massive post. Since the time of my last blog, I've been through a massive slump. It was hard enough just to look at the sewing room, let alone go in and get some work done. Coming out of it on the other side, I'm so proud of myself that I continued to work. Some of these quilts were agonizingly slow finishes that weren't made with my usual joie de vie, but they ARE finishes and I'm counting that as a win.

You might be wondering how I broke out of the slump, so I'll share what worked for me.

1. I forced myself to sew. No plans, just sewing bits together. Sometimes I went back to basics and just made improv half square triangles. Sometimes I sewed scraps together. Sometimes I would put one thread worth of hand quilting in. I would tell myself to sew for a certain amount of time and then reward myself with a show. I watched the whole series of Poldark this way! 🙂

2. I took some pressure off myself. I entered an IQF quilt show this fall (after a several year quilt show break) and made myself an absolute nervous wreck. I obsessed over the $100 I spent in entry fees and shipping and started obsessively questioning if I should enter Quiltcon (also after a several year break). I said no and I'm okay with it. Entering quilt shows is a wildly expensive endeavor and I share my work in other ways.

 3. I took better care of myself. I have PCOS so my diet can dramatically influence my overall health and mental state. I made time for myself to do the extra cooking and prepping that was necessary for me to eat the way I need to.  I said no sometimes to extra things I could do at church and my kids' school. I worked to get extra sleep.

4. I put my phone down and unhooked from a lot of social media, including Instagram. I removed all of the push notifications. I found that the flashing IG camera would make me switch on my phone and I'd check my email and other social media accounts while I was at it. That loop sucked way too much time out of more important things. I think this habit started as a way to mentally check out and relieve stress. Once I stopped doing it, I realized how much stress it was actually causing me.

5. I waited it out. Pretty soon I found myself back in the sewing room again without having to bargain/bribe myself there. Creative slumps don't last forever. There is definitely hope on the other side.

Anyway, I hope this helps someone.


I'm naming this one "Thirteen Bucks." It is 40" x 59" and was an absolute pleasure to piece.⁣

This summer I went to my mom's local quilt shop and raided the scrap bin that was for sale by the ounce. I was thinking only of supplementing my own stash and wasn't consciously picking a palette. I felt drawn towards fabric that had a texture. I picked out flannel, shot cotton, linen blends, chambray, slubs, metallics and fabrics that had an interesting visual pattern. I spent $13 on a pretty large sack and walked out happy.⁣

When I got home to Iowa and started sorting the scrap pack to put away, I realized that the fabrics looked very nice together. With only minimal additions from my stash, I was able to put a quilt together. ⁣

I made this without a ruler and definitely without a plan. My favorite part was trying to meld the sections together without any obvious construction seams and riff on a classic 9-patch.

At my guild presentation in September they asked how I decided when to do a facing and when to bind. I scissor trimmed this edge and admired the gentle curves so much that I decided to draw attention to them with a binding in a darker value.

I backed this quilt with shot cotton. I love that texture!

This is "My Favorite Earrings" It is 62" x by 64." ⁣

I started this quilt several years ago while I was visiting my mom's house. My mother was complaining that she was having a hard time shutting her red scrap drawer because it was so full. Simultaneously, Crazy Mom Quilts was hosting a QAL for her June quilt. Those two ideas collided in my brain and I volunteered to help my mother out with her problem! This isn't an exact June, I fudged the measurements of the inspiration quilt to work for the strip sets I'd pieced. ⁣

I struggled for a while knowing what colors to put with my red pieced strips. Sometimes I like to use the color wheel for guidance in choosing schemes. I kept trying to strategize what to use with the red, but I wasn't really feeling anything. Finally, I decided to do something a little closer to home. I modeled the colors in this quilt after my favorite pair of earrings.⁣

I got these earrings for Christmas several years ago. My favorite catalog in the whole entire world is the Sundance catalog. I love pretty much all of the jewelry in it. Every year for Christmas, my husband buys me one thing. I usually let him pick, but I felt very strongly about this pair of earrings. I left him several hints. When Christmas time came, he handed me my present box and I have to admit, I felt a little sad inside. It was too big to be my earrings. I tried to put on a game face and open my present with a smile. It turns out that it was an empty pineapple box with the little tiny earring box nestled inside. When I opened my earrings, I burst into happy tears and scolded my husband at the same time for teasing me. I still love these earrings. And now I'm glad I have a quilt to go with them.

Last night was my birthday and I got another pair of earrings. I opened the gift bag and pulled out the tiny Sundance box inside.  My husband instantly started apologizing that he hadn't wrapped it "properly." I'm glad he was tired. It definitely cut down on the clean up!! 😜

I am excited to show a much better photograph of my quilt, Rattlesnake, that I pieced in 2017. I hung it from tree in not great lighting and all I managed to do was give myself nightmares. ⁣

This quilt appears in the new book by Thomas Knauer called "Why We Quilt." I was honored to be asked to write a brief essay about why I choose to quilt. This invitation came at the perfect time. I had just gotten Rattlesnake back from a quilt show and had received some feedback that stung. The criticism made me feel like I shouldn't be quilting anymore. Within days of that occurrence, I received a fortuitous email from Thomas Knauer asking me to write an essay about why I quilt. In addition, he also asked to include a picture of Rattlesnake in his book. I am so glad for the moment of clarity I had in writing that essay at that particular moment. ⁣

It's important for all of us to contemplate the reasons why we quilt. Quilting can be wildly expensive and time-consuming. Thinking about the motivations alters the perception of the final product and helps prioritize goals. For instance, I know I quilt as a way to create personal meaning. I look at my quilts differently than I would if I didn't understand that I was trying to SAY something. I write about them. Transmitting a feeling is important to me. Knowing that changes how I choose what quilt I make next.⁣

If all of that seems like a whole lot to think about, it's because I've had a chance to look through this book since receiving my contributor copy. I found the book to be very thoughtful discourse. You'll have deep thoughts about why you quilt, too. I've loved reading different perspectives. I recommend it highly. It is currently available.

This is "Bucket List." It is 35" x 35."⁣

My favorite compliment is that looking at my quilts makes people feel happy. I like that. Creating is a joyful act for me. I am happy when I create and happy that others feel it too. The challenge this year at my guild is to include words on a quilt. This is my word.

I made these buckets improvisationally and hand sewed each handle down along with the H, P,P, Y. The stars are pieced.

"Rising," 31" x 33"⁣

I went to a lecture by Weeks Ringle of Modern Quilt Studio last month. She included a picture of The Gates by Christopher and Jean-Claude in her presentation. Something about the vibrant orange next to the drab winter landscape in Central Park really spoke to me. The colors were enhanced by each other.⁣

I worked on my idea the next day at the workshop. I started with the orange part. My favorite part was to watch people walk by me and physically flinch. The purple somehow calms it down and makes it look purposeful all at the same time. Color is so cool!!⁣

It is improvisationally pieced, naturally shaped, freehand crosshatched in monofilament and finished with a faced edge.

I didn't have the original picture I took of this quilt from the front lawn, so I got it out from the cupboard today and took a picture of it in our living room. I still love it!

I have a soft spot in my heart for making baby quilts and a soft spot for a couple at church who deserve all the good things. I delivered this in person. It was totally a "This is why I quilt" moment.

It is 40" x 40." I quilted it loosely (for the extra cuddly factor) with freehand ribbons.

This is "Phyllis," 20" x 30." I named this for the guild-mate that gave me a bag of oddly shaped scraps. While I was deep in the funk, sewing the weird shaped pieces together to make a sort of rectangle was the most I could handle. I repetitively sewed these shapes together for a couple days, then grouped them by size and repetitively sewed them together again. If you are in a creative slump, I highly recommend that activity. I've found that I have to keep touching fabric (even when I don't feel like it) to sew myself through these periodic lulls in creativity.

I decided to matchstick quilt this in hot pink thread.

"Not an Asterisk," ~36" x ~36."

In 2016, Pantone surprised everyone by announcing a dual color of the year--Rose Quartz and Serentiy (blue). Not everyone was happy. I remember reading horrified comments like, "It looks like shades of an 80s bathroom!! That was the year with no Pantone Quilt Challenge. Given the reception? Totally understandable.

It is, however, the asterisk in a long string of Pantone years and quilts that I needed to fix.

I made this from three dress shirts I bought on final markdown clearance at Goodwill and a small bit of dark blue and light pink from my stash. If you look closely at the left, you'll see the Nautica logo I trimmed off a pocket from the chambray. I used a scrap of wool batting my mom gave me and backed it with a piece of gingham that came from the free table at guild. It is pieced and quilted with thread that I've won from other Pantone Quilt Challenges. I think that means that I spent about $5 for this quilt (and that includes an estimate of how much spray baste I used).

I've been using recycled dress shirts quite often lately. The commercialism in the quilting world is starting to really bug me. I'm not much of a social media "influencer," but I'll say this...having a "make-do" spirit is good for me creatively.

This quilt is improvisationlly pieced without a ruler and the edge is scissor trimmed.

I was just starting to mentally get over the slump with some hurried sewing (this was originally going to be for a wedding gift) when I got sick. I was just about finished and ready to send it for an on-time arrival when I got pneumonia. I didn't sew at all for more than two weeks. I'm pretty sure that's the longest I've gone without sewing since I first started quilting about 10 years ago!

This was still on the design wall when I started to work again. I decided to name it "Crackle" for the icy shards of cool color and for the sound in my lungs that abruptly stopped it's making. It is 28" x 28."

I quilted this with a combination of monofilament and metallic thread.

I ended up keeping "Crackle" and making another gift for the newly married couple (since it was already late).

My mom was at the wedding and one of her favorite parts was when all the friends and family stood outside at the end of the evening and sent the bride and groom off in a shower of sparklers. I really liked that image and thought I'd make something to remind them of that.

Ths pillow is 18" and is made in their wedding colors. The orchid color is from a Goodwill shirt (It's in Crackle, too). It's quilted with cotton and metallic threads. I was going for sparkler-esque. In truth, I'm just a sucker for sparkles.

FYI, that's our new couch that was delivered over Christmas break. I have never been more excited to get rid of a piece of furniture than I was when we chucked the old couch in the back of the truck. I think I'm going to have the urge to make a lot more pillows!

Last but not least is "McKay." It is 39" x 39."

I made this quilt for the Project Quilting theme of  "Team Colors." My mother's family is from Scotland so the design, the inclusion of Loominous plaids and color selection is inspired by the McKay tartan.

The very last commitment I made in the quilt was to add the metallic orange from Loominous. I think split complementary color schemes make fun quilts, and honestly, I couldn't really resist that metallic check.

I didn't get it done by the Sunday afternoon deadline. I almost made it, but my machine begged for mercy. I've had the suspicion that the bobbin case was wearing down for a few weeks now. About a quarter of the way through the quilting my suspicion turned into certainty. The stitch quality went down and the noise level went up! I made the decision to switch out machines and take the time to rip out most of what I had done. I liked the quilt too much to compromise for the sake of time. So, I finished late. After you've done the best you can, you just have to know when to be gentle with yourself and let things go.

I quilted it with monofilament thread on my spare machine, which is my mom's old Pfaff.

The last is a picture of the McKay tartan for reference.

I hope you all have a great day!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

A Clearinghouse of Quilts!!

Well, first things first. I am going to be doing a trunk show on Monday, September 9th at 7:00 pm in Iowa City. My presentation is called "Every Quilt Has a Story" and will be held in the multi-purpose room (lower level) at the Our Redeemer Lutheran church on the corner of Court Street and First Avenue. It's free. If you are local, I'd love to see you. If you're not, don't worry. I'm about to catch up with all the quilts I haven't blogged about and will be hitting you with a virtual quilt show right now.

I'm really behind on posting, so fair warning, there are a MASSIVE amount of quilts coming.

First up is "Wise Eyes," which is 57" x 57." I am calling this one finished even though I plan on adding a little bit more hand quilting in the center of the "eyes" before Monday. Probably two more echoes will make me feel better about it.

I wrote more about this quilt in my last post because it was on of my Pantone Living Coral quilts for the year. This quilt tied for Viewer's Choice in the "Just the Top" category. I really appreciate your votes!

I have a powerful association with pickles. My dad's oldest sister became my de-facto grandmother through a complicated family dynamic. I treasure her memory. She was well-known for making the world's best homemade pickles in a million different forms. They were literally the bright spot on every dinner plate in our house in terms of flavor and color. My favorite was mustard pickles. That taste gives me an instant transport back to my childhood. My own kids tease me about the inordinate number of mustards in our fridge. I think they counted 9 different varieties? What can I say...I guess I love zing!!!!

I got to explain the concept of "relish" to my oldest son recently when we had pork with red cabbage. He insisted that he didn't like the red cabbage and I told him he needed to stop thinking of it as a vegetable and start thinking of it as the sweet-sour condiment. As soon as I compared it to cranberry sauce on a Thanksgiving plate he understood and liked it a little better because he changed how he was eating it. Thinking about things in a new way opens up so many possibilities!

I thought about my aunt a lot while I made this quilt. I wondered how she would approach the concept of a "pickle dish." Thinking about her helped me approach the quilt with humor and sass, traits she held in spades. I thought about her when I sat in a rocking chair that was similar to hers, persevered, and hand quilted this throughout July.

I enjoyed the process of making this quilt so much. I didn't have a plan, just a square taped up on my design wall that I was trying to fill, one curve at a time. So many life parallels there and so many different meanings of the word 'relish.' Here's to slowing down and enjoying the journey, and here's to you Aunt Lora. Miss you.

Next is "Yes! Yes! (Yes!)" It is 47" x 63."

This was a flimsy that I finished this spring. I saved the hand quilting to do during all our time in the car during summer travel season.

So, the name. While I was digging in my scrap bin to get strips for another ginormous block (this is 100% from my scrap bin, by the way) my then 5 year old art-obsessed daughter walked in. She looked at the pieces already on the design wall, gasped, and came out with this profundity. "Mama, I see what you're doing!! You're coloring with fabric!" That was such a succinct and perfect way of summing up what I do that I gave her an emphatic nod and a firm "Yes!" Then she said, "I want to do it, too. Will you help me make a quilt?" Another nod and an emphatic "Yes!"

Since that moment, I've thought of this s the "Yes! Yes!" quilt. The last minute name addendum came while we were traveling. I was using all my time in the car to hand quilt this, so I had a sewing kit with me. While playing with a little girl down the street from her grandparents' house, disaster struck. My daughter tried to open her new friend's backpack by the pom pom decoration on the zipper. The gathering stitch snapped and she was left holding some fiberfill and a square of fuzzy purple fabric. She was horrified, ran to get me and asked if I could fix it. "Yes!" The new gathering stitch is black 12 wt. thread, but you know what? It will probably last longer that way! That kind of make-do spirit is what this quilt is all about and I figured it warranted a name change.

Saying YES in the sewing room (and teaching yourself to have fun doing it) is an empowering, joyful act.

Did I make a quilt with her after all that? Yes! I let her raid my stash and choose her own fabrics. I helped her with the sewing and even bought a really cool rainbow unicorn print for the back. I hand quilted this. It is 40" x 60" and happily lives on her bed.

Next is a mini I made for a Curated Quilts "Well Said" theme. It was selected and appears in the mini gallery. I called it "Me" and it finished at 15" x 15."

Read between the lines of any quilt I've ever made and what do you see? ME!!

Last summer I entered one of my log cabin quilts into a local show. I received a feedback form from the judge with the comment, "I am waiting for you to do something more with this design." Then she signed her name and listed her judging credentials. I felt a series of emotions, but after some thought I was able to place the experience in some context. She signed the sheet with her opinion and I signed the quilt with design, color and the form my personal expression seems to take. I consider the center of this mini to be a figurative version of my signature. Her signature was ignored and forgotten. My signature is proudly hanging in my sewing room.

This table runner was made from one of the Project Quilting prompts last year. The theme was "Chocolate," so I made this based on one of my favorite chocolate bars, the dark chili chocolate from Moser Roth (I get it at Aldi). I called it "Dark Chili Chocolate" and it finishes at 14" x 30."

Next is "This is 41." It finishes at 34" x 36."

Last year when I turned 40, I was in no mood to celebrate. I was 37 weeks pregnant and I'd heard one too many "old" jokes and comments to feel happy about my birthday. I decreed that we'd let it slide by with the barest of fusses, and we did.

This year has been all about embracing being an experienced parent (NOT an "old" one). I don't get too worked up about the inconveniences. I've adapted to being perennially tired. There's a lot of "rolling with it" at our house. It's been so nice to simply enjoy a baby from the perspective of the other side of the hill.

Since there was no celebrating at 40, I wanted to make a quilt that showed what 41 looks like. This is made from 2 dress shirts I bought on clearance at Goodwill. I made 41 free-pieced flying geese out of the shirts and combined them creatively to draw out some shapes in the center panel. To that I added some of the shot cotton that my mom sent and some Handcrafted that the baby emptied from my shelf. Instead of worrying about putting it back, I shrugged and added it to the quilt. It's beautiful serendipity. I made improv sawtooth borders and added one row upside down for some fun. Part way through the quilting I ran out of matching thread. I pulled out another spool in a contrasting color and kept going. I didn't use a ruler until I cut the binding.

So what is 41? It's a whole lot of making it work and also a whole lot of fun.

I had some more scraps left over from the shirts that I wanted to use. I combined that with some of my own scraps plus the scraps from someone else who was destashing on Instagram (Thank you, Karen). I thought it was a fun snapshot of where I am as a quilter right now, so I called it "Making Do." I constructed this without a ruler, too. It finished at 23" x 24." I got a blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair for this quilt and was pleasantly surprised. I thought for sure that the first two quilts in this post would do well (they didn't) and I entered this one for fun. Lesson learned. You just never know.

This pillow is the result of another Curated Quilts prompt, "Stars." Our summer travel plans caught up with me and I wasn't able to finish before we left and the deadline happened. That's okay, though. Missing the deadline gave me the opportunity to turn it into a cute pillow. It is a 14" square. The dotty fabric came from a $0.44 maternity shirt I bought from Goodwill and cut up. Be on the lookout for more shirt quilts, I really enjoy piecing a quilt with something that already has a history.

Speaking of history, I was able to buy nine pieced vintage diamonds from a Mennonite thrift store near me. I purchased the diamond blocks and one other block from the same maker for $4.50. It was a wonderful find.

This is the quilt I made from those vintage diamond blocks. I named it "Log Cabin Star" because that's what the original maker called it. She'd pinned the blocks together and labelled the nine pieces with the name of the block and a sketch of the finished quilt. For my label, I traced her handwriting and sketch since this is her quilt, too! I made an educated guess for her city of residence because one of the paper foundations was made from a Shumaker's Grocery bag (Wayland) and the notepad she'd used to label the pieces was from a feed company in Wayland.

It was such a fun experience to feel like I was collaborating with someone from the past and creating something that already had a history. I used modern methods, fabrics and sensibilities to finish a thought the original maker had started. Of course I had to make some modifications along the way. Some of the diamonds were frayed and needed extra fabric to fill the voids (that's the red). Also, I'm not quite sure of the math on a nine-pointed star, so I was kind of glad that one of the pieced diamonds was in pretty rough shape so I could default to the more doable eight-pointed star.

Wherever she is, I hope she's happy with the finish and glad that I crossed off a UFO from her list.

"Log Cabin Star" finishes at 36" x 36."

I have been on a cleaning tear this summer. I just conducted a ruthless tear through the fabric closet in my sewing room. Many things were purged and sent to a consignment store. Many things were also found. This pillow is based on an oil stick fabric stencil my mother had finished in a workshop several years ago and given to me. Originally, I had planned on placing the coneflower stencil drawing she'd made in the place where the rusty red square is. I decided at the last minute not to piece it in and add the monochromatic half square triangles instead. Ordering the disorder is one of my favorite things to do, and is definitely what is happening in this pillow. It is an 18" square.

I was very saddened to hear of the death of Gwen Marston this spring. I would not be the quilter I am today without her influence. Instead of moping and getting too maudlin, I decided to make a Gwen-esque quilt to honor her memory. "Remembering Gwen" is improvisationally pieced, completely liberated, made from scraps (including someone else's) and heavy on the red and purple. It finished at 20" x 20."

Last up is my most recent finish. If you are still reading this, THANK YOU! This post has been way too long and way too long in coming. I'm considering posting on Instagram and my blog simultaneously. I don't really know if there are people who follow both places or just one. A few months ago I started telling the stories on Instagram too. It seems silly to try to keep the two accounts separate or to try to use one platform to promote the other. I appreciate the friends that follow me on both accounts and I think it would be better to show my appreciation through more timely posts.

This is "Lift." It is 39" x 53." I started this quilt back in 2017, and I took it off the design wall to work on the Pantone Greenery quilts. I found it in the fabric closet during my purge and I am thrilled to finish it!

This quilt began out of thriftiness. I wanted to use up little triangle scraps from my Wanta Fanta bee blocks. I improvisationally pieced them together as quarter square triangles and it reminded me of a butterfly. This is the first one of many butterfly quilts that I've made. I'm pretty fond of that metaphor.

In this quilt I am trying to create movement. I used every trick I know to make the eye lift upward. I changed the butterfly density. I added vertical strips of fabric that looked like effervescence. I used another fabric that looked like bubbles. I added a swoop of butterflies that flashed color. I also used a free hand waving quilting pattern that replicated a flight path. I pieced in lots of surprises. There are peeking animals, a continuation of the color in the binding and an interesting cropping of the word "molasses" in a texty print. I left it in. Sometimes whimsy can have a PG rating.

Thanks again, everyone! Have a great day!