Blog…Day One.

As it happens, I’m participating in “30 Days of Writing” led by Tyler Knott Gregson and Andréa Balt, from writeyourselfalive.org It started this morning. Imagine my amazement when I poured my second cup of tea, logged in, and encountered the writing prompt for today:

“Reflect over the past 10 years of your life and write the decade- younger YOU a letter, as if you were catching up with an old friend. Include 5-10 life lessons learned so far that you would share with this younger version of you.”

The moon is in the seventh house!
Here’s mine…What about you???

Dear Sue,

Have been thinking about you a lot lately. There are so many new things going on. But first, you were right!

Remember all that reflecting you did just after your surgery? I know that was a hard time and looking for new models and metaphors was really important. Then you did all that work figuring out what you wanted to do with the next part of your life. I actually still have some of your notes from that time. You said that you wanted to do the counseling, leading, training work you loved, make things, and—when the time came—be a cool grandma.

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Taylor’s Big Girl Quilt

This one was a challenge! Another move, and another big girl quilt, twin sized. Taylor wanted pink. Mama said pink and purple. I like polka dots. I learned a lot!

One night I got online and started buying up juvenile-type pinky prints. Also lots of dots. Then the box came. The next morning I was off to Intown Quilters. I needed help!

I walked into the store, past the register, into the second room, and literally almost tripped over the fabric that turned out to be the focus fabric for this quilt. And, immediately, I knew the perfect pattern. Back to the “Geese in the Fields” block by Carolyn Griffin I had re-worked for my Liberated Wild Geese quilt.

Then things got exciting! I was busy laying out the pieces on my homemade “design wall” which is simply a flannel sheet cut to fit, hung through the top hem on a broomstick that fits perfectly on top of my fabric cupboard. Enter Sarah, our Newfoundland rescue, who had been with us just two days. She wanted to be by me so laid down just at the bottom of my flannel sheet, rolled over, and pulled all my carefully positioned blocks right down on top of her! I started again and added quilting to the list of things Sarah needed to learn!

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For this quilt, I added a gorgeous batik border and then a scrappy striped border with lots of my favorite fabrics. Fun. Easy. Lots of movement. Not at all juvenile. Perfect!

Again, backing and binding cut from a good quality, pre-washed flannel sheet. This one’s a binding fiddler, too!

Then I gave all the kids’ prints away!

Behave Yourself, Barely!

In 2014, my friends at Intown Quilters had a birthday challenge to honor Kaffe Fassett, who designs some of my very favorite fabrics and quilts. The directions were simple and terrifying. Entrants were to choose one of Kaffe’s older quilt designs and update it, while also using some of Kaffe’s more recent fabrics. In a moment of wild optimism, I signed up!

I’m so glad I did! Let’s get the suspense over with up front. I didn’t win. Red seemed to be a popular theme among the lovely quilts that were recognized. Mine’s not so red. And it’s possible that I updated a bit much on the design side. But I learned a lot and wound up with a quilt I adore. Bill calls it the “winter” quilt for nights when we need two. I named it, “Behave Yourself, Barely!” in honor of a story Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Este’s tells about a favorite aunt of hers.

My fabric selections for this quilt were largely to coordinate with my first queen size quilt, “Autumn Log Cabin”.  Many are designs from Kaffe Fassett or Brandon Mably. Among my favorites are the purple Zinnia design and one of my go-to fabrics in several colorways of the Paperweights pattern, mixed with lots of dots.

I added an inner border of black and white micro dots and an outer border of a large scale, Asian looking floral. The backing is a wide width batik of larger black and white dots and the binding is the same black and white micro dot as the border. I much prefer random dot patterns to symmetrical dots. They’re way easier to work with!

I used a Hobbs 80/20 black batting on this quilt and washed it after finishing as described for my Liberated Wild Geese Quilt. Regina Carter did the wonderful long arm quilting.

You can find the “sunlight in the forest” pattern in Kaffe Fassett’s Quilts in Sweden, copyright Rowan Yarns, 2011.

My Liberated Wild Geese Quilt

I love this quilt! I started with a pattern called, “Geese in the Fields,” by Carolyn Griffin. The first sample I saw was very neutral, almost like grain fields in the fall, which makes sense but isn’t at all me.

First I picked the focus fabric—a fabulous, very feminine, spirited print from a line called “Aboriginal,” out of Australia. I’d fallen in love with it on sight so had several yards at home.

Then I decided to turn the geese into Gwen Marston-style liberated geese. Wild geese, in this case, as they are sometimes used as symbols for the Holy Spirit in Scottish spirituality traditions.

It was really coming together!

Then, I actually needed geese. Batiks in this case. Mostly jewel tones. It just makes me happy! Sewn flying a bit out of formation, as liberated geese surely would. The solid black is a linen and cotton blend, which I pre-washed as suggested by my Intown expert buddies. I don’t normally prewash and didn’t except for this linen blend, which was used for background, borders, and binding. There’s a dark spiral batik on the back, cut from a piece 108” wide. Hobbs 80/20 black batting. The finished quilt was washed with a gentle Seventh Generation liquid laundry soap and 4 – 5 “Shout Color Catcher” sheets*, then damp dried on low in the dryer and hung to finish drying outside. I like wrinkly quilts and this worked out just fine.

The quilt came out to be about 50×64 inches which is great for my chair quilt. Regina Carter did the long arm quilting and it’s gorgeous. Especially with the black linen blend, the texture is fantastic! I feel like a wizard! Both of my books were written curled under this quilt.

* I’m sure there are things in the Color Catcher sheets I don’t want to know about, including the fragrance. Everybody needs an exception to the rules and this is mine. It’s how I get my quilts to look like I want them to and it gets rinsed out, unlike dryer sheets. When I give quilts as gifts, especially dark or brightly colored ones, I include a box of these with a suggestion that they be used the first couple of times the new quilt gets washed.

Autumn Log Cabin Quilt

This was the first quilt I made for Bill and me. There was a sample up at Intown Quilters in very similar fabrics. All the purples and the limey greens are favorites of mine. This design, by Liza Prior Lucy, in Kaffe Fassett’s Quilt Romance (Rowan yarns, 2009), was also my first major Kaffe quilt. Just between us, following the charts to pick out the fabric made me crazy! I ended up looking at the picture and buying extra of everything! I’m so glad I did! I’m still using those fabrics and they’re still among my very favorites!

I love the history of log cabin blocks. The tradition, as I learned it, says that each block represents home and they often have red or yellow central pieces. The red represents the love at the center of the home and the yellow recalls the light that beckons wanderers home.

These are very precise log cabin blocks. Centers all fussy cut from the same fabric. Everything straight and even. In the beginning, it was a bit of a challenge, but I got the hang of it and really enjoyed the process. First, I cut seemingly millions of strips and sorted them simply into two boxes—one for greens and one for everything else. It’s random-esqe, as true random piecing creates design problems I can’t cope with! I couldn’t figure out how to make the chain piecing, assembly line style of construction work for this so I did one block at a time with an iron close by so I could press every strip as I went. It took a while but the colors and patterns seemed to keep me in some happy brain space and I loved doing it!

I needed a quilt larger than the 96”x96” this was designed for so I added a black and white microdot inner border and a very scrappy, striped outer border. The backing is a tropical batik with black background and lots of jewel tone colors. I repeated the black and white microdots for the binding. My finished quilt is probably about 104”x104”.

I followed my usual habit of not prewashing the fabric. I chose organic cotton batting in the thinnest weight and Regina Carter did the fabulous long arm quilting. It adds so much to the design! The finished quilt was washed in cold water and Seventh Generation liquid laundry detergent with several sheets of Shout Color Catchers. I use the dryer to damp dry—I want wrinkles!—and then hang to finish drying outside. My quilts look like photos from Kaffe’s books when they’re hanging from the front of the house!

This happy quilt lives on our bed. Somehow, it reminds me of Easter! It’s also very good Feng shui colors for that room and just shines among grey walls and bright golden toile drapes. I think this project was the one that convinced me that I am an artist!

Kenzie’s Big Girl Quilt

The pattern for this quilt came from Atlanta’s Intown Quilters. “Twinkle” is by Cheryl Wittmayer for Sew Be It. I chose this when my kids moved to Phoenix and my older granddaughter, Kenzie, who was 4 at the time, was being promoted to a twin size bed.

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She was so excited! Kenzie said she wanted blue but she kept reaching for red fabrics. I thought this was a nice compromise, plus plenty of flexibility for the future. Each block is different because Kenzie said, “All the stars are different, Grammy!” Not, perhaps, for beginners and a little fiddly to piece, my heart still feels good when I see her dragging it around the house for movie time in the basement or a sleepover down the hall with her sister.

The backing and binding are from a good quality, pre-washed flannel sheet. Fuzzy to rub with sleepy fingers!

Taylor’s Baby Quilt

About two and a half years after Kenzie was born, Taylor came along. Many things were different. The kids were back in the states. We knew, this time, that Kelly was expecting a girl. I’d learned more about quilting. And my mom died about 4 months before Taylor was born.

Mom, who was a talented knitter, had made lots of sweaters and blankets and booties before Kenzie was born. She had a blast. When I knit, I do very simple, back and forth projects like prayer shawls. It’s a meditation thing for me. Mom liked complicated patterns to count and keep track of. She said it gave her something to think about. She did know Taylor was on the way and made one little sweater for her.

I think we were all feeling bad that Great Grammy wasn’t there to welcome this new little one with all kinds of things put together with love. Then I had an idea and the kids agreed. This little lap quilt I’d made for my mom became Taylor’s first quilt.

It’s a traditional pinwheel pattern I made in a class taught by Debbi Kratovil. Debbi is a genius at plotting out construction tips like which way to iron which seams and how to piece the blocks that make quilt construction much easier. I chose some of the Kaffe prints I love in colors closer to the 50’s quilts Mom was more familiar with. (She was not so much a liberated quilt sort of person!)

There are actually three borders on this quilt. A narrow, inner border in the aqua floral, a very narrow yellow border, and then a wider border and binding of the same aqua floral. I think there’s a madras plaid on the back and my usual thin cotton batting. I did the machine quilting, shadowing the pinwheel shapes. Finished, it’s about 45” square.

I remember Taylor having tummy time one day when she was quite small. She just patted the surface of the quilt like you would a dog, tiny fingers playing in the vintage-y wrinkles I love.

Taylor’s real love, though, has always been a bwankie that Mom knit before Kenzie was born. It’s a delicate, off white pattern with several types of openwork. Just the thing you want a kid to drag everywhere! Bwankie has a tendency to bweak and it’s my job to try to crochet and weave the openwork back together. I’m concerned that I’ve patched it about as much as possible and am keeping my fingers crossed. I think Great Grammy is probably laughing at me somewhere!