Tuesday, January 22, 2019

pins and more liberty


i haven't pin basted a quilt in ages. in fact, when i decided i wanted to pin baste this quilt, i had no idea where my pins were being stored in my sewing room. i had to spend some time hunting them down.

as a side note - that room is such a mess. it really needs some attention! but look what i found in there while i was searching for pins:


i got to have another small #chocolateonquilts moment when i stumbled across these dark chocolate covered graham crackers with sea salt, from trader joe's. totally scrumptious and addictive. i was surprised i found a box with a few left in it because i normally devour them all in a few days. you've been warned - stay away! unless you need to sweeten up your pin basting experience.


actually, i quite like pin basting, the process of it. the push of the pin and the give as it slides into the fabric are quite satisfying. it's a similar sensation to hand sewing.

i used to be a die-hard pin basting fan, partly due to the fact that my 4th daughter, here known as d4, used to really like to take the pins out of the quilt once it was done. it was her quilting job and we both liked that.

however, i found that the best way to overcome the issues my juki has with straighline quilting is to spray baste my quilts. and, my goodness, is it so much faster and easier and more convenient. so now i do it for most all my quilts.

yes, there is some expense involved.
and some mess.
and i've read that the spray might weaken/damage the quilt's materials a bit in the longrun. (it's probably not best to have the glues in there for months/years before you complete the quilting and wash the quilt. like i do.) who knows for sure?


regardless of all that, i am a converted spray baster.

not having to stop in the middle of my fmq flow to remove pins while quilting (or having to worry about running over them when i don't stop - done that) is one other large argument in the favor of spray basting.

plus, you can have as many quilts basted at one time as you want. no waiting for your pins to be freed up. this may be a perk or it may enable bad habits. i'm undecided on that point.

the fact that i have a large, wide hallway of ceramic tile on which to do my spray basting only makes it that much easier for me to succumb.


speaking of that tile floor, here's another side note - basting of either kind, when done on the floor, especially on tile, can be hard on the knees. so just do like i do and lay on your belly.

truly, i don't normally lay on my belly to baste so i'm not sure why i was in this photo. maybe because i was trying to get out of the way of the photo i asked my daughter to take of my hands pinning? she thought it was funny to take this full-body shot instead. it is kind of funny, so enjoy.

end of that tangent.
where was i?


yes, i just said i was a converted spray baster.

and here i am pin basting.

i am handquilting this 'liberty makes do too' quilt, so i pin basted it. spray basting and handquilting don't mix as well as machine quilting and glue sprays.

so i got to enjoy the process of old-fashioned pin basting on this little beauty.


all the chocolate was eaten. all the pins were placed.

and now i am at my leisure to enjoy the contentment of handquilting this liberty and crossweave quilt.

wouldn't it be nice if i always have my pins in a handquilting project because i like having one on hand. that is a quilty goal i could aspire to.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday sewing final stitches


Putting final stitches into “Star in the Fairy Forest” quilt late on a Sunday morning after church. After my last post when I mentioned I looked nice while stitching after church on a Sunday I had to chuckle at myself because this photo doesn’t look much different than the one of me sewing in my gym clothes. My hair is cleaner and styled, but I’m not that made up. We have early church this year so it’s a roll-out-of-bed-and-go-in-five-minutes kind of grooming. And with my readers on, looking down at the stitching, making my I’m-concentrating-on-handwork face, I am still looking my age. Which is all just fine. I’m content  to be sitting in this comfortable and pretty spot with a quilt to handbind no matter what I look like in the photo.

And my daughter is very exited to be getting her new quilt.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

contemplating a maker's hands

i am a maker of handmade things

i will always grab the opportunity to take photos of myself at work on my quilts on the rare occasion that i also look nice, such as on a sunday after church. it pleases my vanity.

but i also allow photos at other times. today i even had my daughter grab a full-reveal photo of me at work still in my gym clothes, dirty hair, no make-up, while monitoring her math progress.

this is my life and what it looks like some of the time. this is what i look like some of the time at age 45: i need readers now; i have plenty of grey/white hair; i have a stretched out belly that bore seven children and now retains a few extra pounds; my ears, nose, eyebrows, and chins are all a little more there than they used to be. many days i can be okay with this. on others, i struggle with it like any woman.

my most important making tools

this is just as much who i am as those sunday sewing pretty pictures are, and everything in between is me, too. i'm a middle-aged woman who is trying to age naturally and gracefully, but has very little idea how to in our current youth-crazed culture. i believe in embracing who i am as i continue to age while taking care of myself.

this photo is me, even if it's not who i still feel like inside and rather takes me by surprise when i see it.  because even though i accept aging, i don't feel different inside (other than a few creeping aches and pains) and i still expect to look the same on the outside. a 65-year old friend once told me she felt like she'd stopped aging on the inside somewhere around 25. i'd probably say 30, myself, but i totally agree with her. i don't feel much different even though the years keep piling on. i'm not afraid to count or state my years, believing each one is a blessing rather than something to be ashamed of or hidden.

some other maker's tools

all of this is right in line with a hashtag stream from instagram started by 50-something krista hennebury (@poppyprint) called #amakershands (or #makershands). krista is another woman who resents being told to hide her age and her aging, who would rather be grateful for what her hands can do than worry about how they look or what others think of them. i loved her post about her maker's hands.


this is the photo i posted as part of the "a maker's hands" movement. i do like to photograph my hands at work because i think it's important to preserve the fact that my hands, my most important tools, are what make these quilts. and since i would love to have photos of my grandmothers' hands at work on items i have inherited, i take photos of my hands making things my children and their children might one day inherit.

i feel like our hands are nearly as distinct and recognizable as our faces, and i like photos of my loved ones' hands at any stage as much as photos of their faces.


so i photograph my hands at work a lot.

even though i don't think they are particularly pretty and i have a hard time getting photos of them that i'm pleased with, i keep doing it.

my hands are large but thin, and my knuckles and veins continue to become more noticeable with age. they are picking up sunspots. they look older and more awkward in photos than they do in real life. my daughter even said so recently when i asked her to take a certain picture, "mom, your hands look so different in the photo than what i'm seeing!"

they are what they are, and they serve me well.

i love my hands.
i'm grateful for what they can do.


you may have also noticed that my wedding band shows up in my hand photos a lot. this intentional. it's kind of my hand trademark. if you don't know it's my hands by looking at them, you might recognize the band.

i don't have a diamond engagement ring because we couldn't afford one when we got married as 21 year old struggling college students 24 years ago. but i did get the lovely, thick artcarved band i wanted, and it's been enough for me all these years.

my hands are really busy with binding quilts these last few weeks. 
the third quilt i've bound since christmas is nearly complete.
thank goodness i still have two more to bind because i love handwork!

when i completed the first quilt i started binding this winter, my youngest daughter (age 7) said, "ahw, what?! i don't want you to be done! i like you working on it!" 

i feel the same. 
i like for my hands to have needle and thread work to do.
my maker's hands at work making.
this makes me happy.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Stacks of sweets


It’s January, so of course I’ve pulled out my “sugar sweet pinwheel” blocks again, hoping for a Valentine’s Day finish. I noticed when I attempted to stack them in a pile that those 8 intersecting seams in the middle really add up and distort the pile a lot. It’s better to stack them with the seams alternating in place, but still not an ideal way to store them if I want them to lay flat until I can sew them together. 



I also realized I have far too many blocks for one moderately sized lap quilt, which is what I was aiming for. I don’t want a behemoth valentines quilt to wrangle through the quilting stage.  It’s not the worst problem to have, but it has slowed down finishing the project because now I need to decide if I’m going to make two quilts instead, which involves a whole other slew of decisions to be made.

To top it all off, I like this project well enough, but really it was all about using up fabrics I purchased a loooong time ago that I don’t really love anymore, if I ever did. When my quilting time is low and I am dying to work on other more exciting projects, it’s hard to keep myself going on this one. However, I am being uncharacteristically steadfast and plugging away at it whenever I can. I really just might have not one but two Valentine’s Day quilts for the family room this year. 

PS - this is the first post I’ve ever attempted from my phone! Here’s hoping that works. It feels like Blogger should have a mobile version of the blog for posting, but I don’t see one. I’ve had to use the regular site on my phone, which involves a whole lot of scrolling, etc. Does anyone know of a mobile version or app for an iPhone that allows for easier posting from the phone?

Monday, January 14, 2019

constellation of the stellas


in 2017 i began a series of large sawtooth star quilt variations on a pattern that i named "stella grande."

in 2017 i also used instragram far more than i blogged, so there aren't many posts about my stella grandes as there could have been.


these large block, simple quilts didn't take much time to make, and i was able to do one a month for the first several months of the year. three of them even got completed, start to binding, during the year. the other two have yet to be done, but here is a look at the stella grande quilts i made or worked on in 2017:


january - star of the circus




the first, and arguably still my favorite, stella grande quilt was "star of the circus." it's vintage colors and border remind me of an old-fashioned circus poster. the backing of this quilt still makes me happy every time i see it. this quilt lives in our family room and gets lots and lots of snuggle time.

you can read a bit about it's beginnings here.

january/february - love all around






"love all around" did actually get some airtime on the blog. it was a political response quilt, believe it or not! you can read about its origins and meaning here. this quilt, which i gifted to my aunt lynn, never got a full finished shot on its own. you can best view it in the two opening photos of this post. and you can see the stash-busting backing above. i have altered the border in almost every single stella grande - this one has chevron-like little hearts made from hsts. also unique, this is the only stella grande so far to have a print binding rather than a solid one. the heather bailey stripe looked great with the monochromatic pink top. (that's me working on the binding early in the morning on my birthday in my dressing gown.)

february - guys and dolls quilt






"guys and dolls" was inspired by a small gift bag i had on hand. and it always reminds me of a swimsuit my grandmother bought for me when i was in the 8th grade - that was the first time i had ever seen navy and pink together. this quilt also has a few touches of gold and white mixed in to mimic the foil hearts and jewels on the gift bag.

this is another backing that makes me really, really happy to look at. for some reason, i didn't quilt this one right away and it has been laying in the flat-lay/ready-to-quilt pile ever since. as soon as my kids' quilts are finished, it's going on the machine.

march - citrus star



"citrus star" was supposed to be an ode to the eight citrus trees we have growing in our backyard, and to what i like to refer to as "citrus season" around here - that most beautiful time of year in the desert when the citrus is in season and the weather is absolutely divine (as opposed to the six months of hellish heat we get after it). i chose several shades of citrus to represent our various trees and wanted to mix in the blues of our spring skies.


but something about the blues against the citrus colors in the star was way off. so after it languished for a while, i reworked it with a white background reminiscent of citrus pith and it looks much, much better - more like the colors in the first photo without any blues. however, it's still only the star medallion pieced at the moment, so i haven't bothered to take any new photos of it. yet another wip awaiting it's turn.


april - valoe quilt



this quilt was a huge departure in color style for me. i was inspired by a favorite quilter on instagram, jenna valoe. i really doubted myself when i had collected all the colors for the quilt top, which were based on colors from jenna's quilts. but in the end, i totally loved it. this one is right next to "star of the circus" in my heart when it comes to favorite quilts to snuggle.


again, i made a unique border for this quilt variation. there's a small diamond medallion in the center of four strips. maybe you can tell the colors in one border's strips are the colors in the other's diamond? the colors are all pulled from the star's palette. i like this one a lot! perhaps i should have made diamonds to go on the ends, too. but i never think that when i'm with the quilt, only when i'm looking at it in pictures as a whole.



the backing was another wild, risky venture for me, but it all came from stash and i like it, too. now that i'm used to it. the strip on the far left is actually left over from from the backing of "star of the circus." i like that it sort of makes them siblings in a way.

so there you have it - the five stella grandes from the beginning of the year. i had many other combos in mind, enough to finish out the rest of the year. but i never got back into them after summer vacation started. i did, however, churn out seven more for my kids for christmas! so i had 12 for the year after all.


these quilts are mostly complete and are being documented as i go. you can find them by looking at the "quilts" page on this blog and links to posts about each are there, as well as see them on instagram at #7kids7quilts.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

liberty makes do too


last night, after a week of putting our house back together as phase 1 of our home reno winds down, i took some time in my quilting room to finish this quilt top.

"liberty makes do too" is the second liberty + crossweave quilt i've made. i really enjoy the combination of tana lawn and crossweave (chambray). however, i think i like sticking to one color of crossweave per project. for this quilt, i used 3 different colors and it makes the quilt look as if it was composed of old jeans.

this quilt will be my next handwork project as i like the look of handquilting with the liberty + crossweave. but first, a backing needs to be picked. i have a few of the prints from the top in mind for the backing; like, maybe that betsy ann hanging there next to the flimsy. a full liberty tana lawn backing is quite luxurious! i'm really happy with the first one i did for "liberty makes do", so i will repeat that choice for this second quilt.

i still have quite a few liberty pieces cut from the first project, so there will be more of these in the future. two ideas i have for more liberty + crossweave include a log cabin quilt and one with more random strip orientation that incorporates some vertical pieces into the strips (not sure what to call it) i saw on instagram:



and i'm certain there will be a few more strip quilt variations, too.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

in a binding mode


before christmas, i got four bindings made for my kids' (last) christmas stella grande quilts. "rubix star" got its binding completed over the winter break at the cabin and as soon as we got home, i machine attached the binding to "star on the field" so i could keep the handbinding good times rolling.

i love handwork like this. handbinding is one of my favorite parts of the quilt process. i think it's a great way to end the whole making of the quilt, to sit quietly stitching with the quilt for company a few hours at a time before it goes to its new owner or gets put out for use around the house if i'm keeping it for myself.

a little #sewingtimesweets like some delicious dark chocolate covered almonds from trader joe's just adds to the enjoyment. #chocolateonquilts is still going strong.


i like to do my handbinding whilst sitting in the middle of family and friends, but sometimes i prefer to do it quietly on my own with a movie or book going on my phone. the phone is not in my photo because, of course, it was taking the photo. what marvelous devices the modern smart phones are! who could have imagined all they'd do just a few years ago? i've been rotating through several versions of jane austen in both formats, and even some of return of the king, LOTR 3, which i had been rereading and wanted to continue with as i did my handbinding. thank goodness for audible.

i just realized there is a chocolate covered pretzel on that quilt above, so that's another #chocolateonquilts capture right there.


"star on the field" got its final stitch shortly after new years and was handed off to my younger son. photo shoot date with mom will be forthcoming.


the choice of which quilt to bind next was a tough one to make. so i decided to do two simultaneously. i've never done that before. i keep rotating back and forth between "etoile de patisserie" and "star in the fairy forest". i stitch one full length of thread on one quilt, then switch to the next. i couldn't decide which daughter needed her quilt first, so they'll both get them at the same time. fair enough, right?

it being winter right now, it's super cozy to have a quilt on my lap most of the time. last sunday, the littlest and i played some old favorite games and i stitched whenever it wasn't my turn. she's such a good quilting buddy.


she clips threads for me, sometimes pulls the needle through, and moves the binding clips down the line as i remove them. she's actually been begging to do the binding herself, so i'll need to get her a little quilt of her own she can learn on. i'm happy to teach her, i just don't want learning stitches on her sisters' quilts.

hmm, i was just looking for that liberty tana lawn "fairy lawn" in melon to use on a different quilt back, and here i see it in the photo on the back of the quilt i've been working on. oh, where is my brain? looks like i'll be tracking down some more for the other quilt backing.


i've got enough binding to keep my hands busy for a while. if i'm lucky, i'll get a chance to move a few more quilts into this phase before these are through. i do enjoy having handwork around.

Monday, December 31, 2018

rubix star quilt, a finish, and some snow


rubix star, my third stella grande quilt that i gave to my children for christmas 2017 is now complete, as of christmas holidays 2018. it's funny how it took me waaaay longer to quilt and bind them all than it took me to make the tops and assemble the quilt sandwiches in time for christmas gifting. there was just too much going on this year for it to be otherwise. only four more to go.

this quilt goes to my older son, second child, a new adult (18!) and college freshman/junior in biochemical engineering this year. (yes, you can be freshman and a junior all at once if you go to community college for 64 credits as a homeschooler and have to count it as concurrent enrollment at the university.)


this kid of mine has always been brainy in math and science, which is why i picked the two text prints that back this quilt. the black and white carolina gingham was to keep with the black and white theme on the back and because it's cubes. (you can see the fabrics closer in subsequent photos.)



my son is one of those brilliant people who can solve a rubix cube in a matter of minutes, therefore the quilt top is an allusion to the rubix cube in my stella grande giant sawtooth star format. it's supposed to look like the rubix puzzle is in process of being unscrambled. having only one orange hst in the star was an accident on my part, but i think it goes with the concept of the mixed-up rubix quite well.

for the border on this stella grande variation, i chose 6" squares to, of course, resemble the cubes of the rubix puzzle. color placement is random, with a few spots where two of the same color cubes meet up, as if the puzzle is being solved.


i got the quilt binding machine-attached to the quilt body just in time to take it with us to our mountain cabin for the winter break. we got dumped on with snow just enough to look amazing yet not be too dangerous, and to make it perfect to sit inside under a quilt.


usually, i sit in the sun room in a gliding rocker to do my stitching, but this time i sat in the main space by the fireplace with the windows to my left looking over the beautiful landscape. it was a bit too cold to sit in the sun room in such snowy conditions.


i did venture outside a time or two to track down children and to take some photos. it was simply breathtaking out there! i know people live in snow all the time, to the point of being sick of it. we get to enjoy it for a week or two each year, just long enough to relish it and then leave.


have you ever seen snow look like glitter when it comes down? one morning the conditions were just right and it looked like a glitter shower was going on in the meadow across from our cabin. all those white flakes you can see were sparkling, shiny and shimmery, but the photos don't capture the glitter effect.


they did, however, capture the huge snowflakes that were already in place that morning. i've never seen them so large that you can actually discern the individual crystals with the naked eye!


but back to the quilt.

i finished off the binding late on the last evening of our trip, cozied up in front of our unique hanging fireplace. it's on the list of things to update in the cabin, but that won't be for quite a while. in the meantime, it's certainly warm and cheery even if it's funky looking.


i had big plans for a photo shoot in all the fresh powder everywhere on the morning before we left, but since it was hovering just above 0*f, that did not happen. it was going to look so good with the red railings on the cabin porches. didn't happen. i did get one questionable photo with red doors and roof of the shed in the background before my son was ready to hold the quilt and we had to move on.


my son and i managed a couple of snaps before we and the quilt froze into ice cubes and then got on our way home.

i guess you could have called us a couple of rubix ice cubes.