Friday, September 13, 2019

spare pennies, a finish and a memorial


my "spare pennies" quilt, made from culled and leftover pieces (here and here) from my very first penny patch quilt was completed in march of this year, and as it was at a major life milestone moment for my family, i never shared the finish here on my blog.





my mother, known in the family as "marmee," began fighting colon cancer in april 2016. when it resurfaced in june 2018, she made the decision to transfer to hospice care at home and began a slow decline. we were blessed to be very near her and my dad in her final months. in early march, she took a rapid turn for the worse. the family was able to gather together around her in those final days and hours.


it was a bittersweet experience. i was privileged to watch my mother finish her life here on earth and transition to the next phase. not only did she show her children how to live, she showed her children how to die and move on. we had the time we needed with her to say all the things you want to say and were able to care for her and serve her one last time. i can't accurately describe what happened or how i feel about all of it. but, for me, it was a beautiful transition to where she is now and where we will all go someday. her funeral was a victorious tribute to a difficult life well lived. the legacy she left her 8 children, 8 children in law, and 45 grandchildren is priceless.


during all of this, i was working on the binding of this quilt.

the beginning of the end was on a saturday. from that time til she passed away on wednesday morning, my siblings and i were at the house as much as we could be, a few of us around the clock.

as we sat with her, and with each other, i kept my hands busy stitching.


marmee's death will always be a part of this quilt's story and i love everything that was stitched into this quilt during that time.

i love that the quilt is bright and cheerful, just like mom. it has a lovely spring feel to it, just like the season during which all this occurred.

marmee was a seamstress and cross-stitcher, but not a quilter. i love that my final memories of her involve stitching of my own sort.

i love that this quilt is coincidently the same penny patch pattern as the one i gave her, which she loved and cherished so much.


one of the sweetest memories is me sitting with her all alone on that final saturday night as my dad left to complete an errand. mom was asleep on her bed, her feet resting on the "school pennies" quilt i had gifted her. the bedroom window was open to the gorgeous desert spring weather outside. i could hear birds singing and the breeze blowing. the sun set, filling the room with first soft colors, and then a gentle darkness. i stitched at the binding and quietly sang to her, rather like the way i remember her sitting at my toddler bedside, singing me to sleep at nap time. it was peaceful, restful, and so poignant.

this finish will always remind me of walking my mother to the finish line of this life.

forty-five is kind of early to lose your mother, especially when she is only 65 herself. there are things i want to tell her all the time now, and realize i can't. or at least i can't have a two-way conversation with her about it. but i have a very firm belief of where she is now and what she's doing. she's not "lost." death is not the end for any of us. she's just moved where i can't see her for now. but i can feel her and i know i will see her again in time.

when i started writing this post, i didn't intend to talk about marmee's death much, however, this finish is now inextricably linked to that event, and it all just sort of came out. this is a rather heavy and personal post for a quilting blog, but sometimes our experiences and sorrows get stitched in to our quilts as they intersect with our lives.

that's one of the precious gifts of quilting.

Monday, September 9, 2019

some mountain quilting


Earlier last month, my 3 youngest daughters and I got to spend some time at our mountain cabin while everyone else stayed home and got started back into school. We got out of the extreme desert summer heat and into some wonderfully cool and beautiful country. I took 3 quilting projects along for the visit: my epp project, “Maude’s Chevron Peaks,” and “sugar sweet pinwheel” quilt. 

There’s a small sunroom at the front of the cabin that has large windows, a pair of rocking chairs, and a glorious view into the trees and over our neighbor’s ponds and meadow. This is where I usually sit to do my handstitching. It's such a contented spot for this sort of slow and meditative work.


My epp has been languishing away, untouched, for quite some time now, but I revived it earlier this summer while we were traveling through Alaska in an RV for two weeks. I got another wheel going while we were at the cabin. I always lay out the wheel and take a reference photograph before i start stitching it together, because no matter how hard I try to keep it in the right order, something always happens to jumble the pieces.


Maude just needed a foot or two of binding finished. Getting it complete was pretty exciting, but the view out the window that morning was pretty distracting in itself. Once it was complete, I photographed it on the cabin’s red railings, something I’ve always wanted to do with a quilt but never gotten around to before. Since red features heavily in several of my projects, I knew sooner or later I’d use it as a finish shoot location. I’ll post those photos soon.


It’s likely I could have completed the binding on this pinwheel quilt also, but I got pulled in the direction of epp instead. The pinwheel quilt has been at my dad’s house ever since my mom died this past March. I was working on it there as we waited out her last few days, and I left it there to work on whenever I visited my dad. He recently moved out of town, so I took the quilt back home with me. It’s covered in dog hair from his Pomeranian, which is the main reason I put it aside. It needs a good lint rolling first before I can get it completed.

I hung it out on one of the porch swings for an airing and to get a good look at the binding progress. It was a lot less than I thought. I almost always spread a quilt out on the floor when I want to check my binding progress. I feel like it’s the best way to see where I’ve gotten. Do you do that?
The quilt looks pretty at home at the cabin. I might be taking it up there to leave when it’s complete. Then again, I’ve considered giving it to my mom’s sister as a memory of the time we shared just before Mom passed. Undecided at this point.


Most of my epp work got done down by the river each day. The girls played in the water, trying to catch the newly stocked trout by hand, whilst I sat contentedly nearby and stitched, soaking in the mountain air and views. 



Maybe over Labor Day weekend I’ll get to go back up to the cabin for some more mountain freshness and stitching.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

wip wednesday 2019.36

most every quilter has a nice little stash of wips - work(s) in progress - laying around. i'm particularly prone to starting a new project before i finish another. i like variety and having options when i want to sit down and work, not only of project types but also phases of the process to work on. most of these are pretty old, as i'm not a fast quilter. it's normal for me to be working on a quilt over the course of several months, if not a few years.

i used to have a list of my wips at the end of my quilts page, but it was sooo far down there and sadly out of date, that i decided to make a wip page all of it's own. it's pretty long! here is an honest, updated account of all my works in progress.

piecing queue



cheery (easter) quilt
improv frames, own design
started feb 2019



citrus star
stella grande pattern, own design
started march 2017


giant swoon
meadowdot by sandi henderson, floral bouquet by heather bailey, and linen
started march 2017


3" hst patchwork quilt
started march 2016

gypsy wife
started jan 2014
participating in quilt along schedule
pattern: "gypsy wife" by jen kingwell
recipient: self


started jan 2014
pattern by by amy gibson of stitchery dickory dock
recipient: self


"london wardrobe"
an english paper piecing (epp) project, all done by hand
traditional ferris wheel pattern inspired by Katy at i'm a ginger monkey (here)
begun: july 2013

 hst diamond quilt
begun may 2013
own design
fabrics: spring house by  for moda
recipient: play room



flimsy in need of backing queue

navy and pink improv
started august 2019


quilting queue


guys and dolls
stella grande pattern, own design
started feb 2017


etoile de patisserie
stella grande pattern, own design
started dec 2017


neopolitan sundae in pewter
stella grande pattern, own design
started dec 2017



handquilting queue



"mildred and ethel"
triangle quilt, own design
fabrics: liberty tana lawn and crossweave
started april 2019



binding queue



"love in a spin"
pinwheel pattern valentine's day quilt
fabrics: lecien flower sugar
started feb 2015


"beauty for ashes"
improv bricks and strips quilt, own design
fabrics: liberty tana lawn and crossweave
started march 2019

Monday, September 2, 2019

quilting on the road in alaska



We did a lot of summer travel on the Pacific coast this year. It started pretty far south in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; then we were in various places along the central California coast;  and our final trip was to Alaska, much further north. 

For the two and a half weeks we were in Alaska, I brought along 3 handwork projects to choose from. I had “Mildred and Ethel" with me in my carryon on the plane flight, but I’m pretty sure I just nestled under it rather than actually getting any more stitching done. (Why are planes always so cold?) 

(And for the record, I completed War And Peace while we were in Alaska, so Book Beat Quilt in the showdown this summer.) 


We were driving around Alaska in an RV, which afforded plenty of time for handwork. I dug out my old epp project, which was started 6 years ago on a summer road trip, and has been on many since.  I almost think I need to rename this project something like “wanderlust” or “on the road”, but I haven’t hit on anything that sticks. It’s been with me throughout the PNW, on a backpacking trip in Yosemite Natl Park, San Diego, to Florida, all over the South, and I even worked on it in Edinburgh (but not the rest of the UK) two summers ago.  You can see some of that if you look at its hashtag on IG - #londonwardrobeepp. It’s a quilt with some miles on it!

I am thinking it might have been a good idea to stitch the location where each block was made into the hexi center of each wheel, but it’s kind of too late for that.

Whenever I start a new block, I always lay it out and then photograph it for reference until it’s finished. No matter how carefully I lay it out, inevitably something disrupts it before its complete, so the photo is nice to have.


Whenever I got tired of epp, I switched up to handbinding on “Maude’s Chevron Peaks” quilt. I even slept under this quilt most nights in the RV, binding clips and all. We got quite cozy together in Alaska.

My youngest daughter had great fun foraging for berries of all kinds whenever we hiked or were outdoors. The salmon berry and blueberry she brought me one afternoon went with the colors in Maude quite nicely.



Alaska has my kind of summers. I was in wool socks, jeans, and a hoody, able to cuddle under a quilt almost every day we were there.


The natural beauty in Alaska is nonstop. It’s a rough and rugged place, but so very beautiful.


One of my favorite quilt memories from this trip was when we were staying in a KOA park outside Seward on a Sunday. I sat myself on the picnic table at our site to stitch. The views were breathtaking.


Another favorite spot was a cabin we rented in Denali for two nights. Two and a half weeks straight with 9 people in an RV was a bit much, so we broke it up by getting a cabin or hotel every so often. This really rustic cabin had a great porch for stitching on. 

The Alaskan summer nights have sun that lingers and lasts well into the final hours of the day. I was out on that porch stitching well past 10pm one evening.

I love that the memories of this trip have become part of these quilts' stories.

I nearly completed Maude while on this trip, but didn't quite get there. Alaska would definitely have been a cool place to photograph a quilt finish, but Maude didn't feel very Alaskan to me, so I wasn't determined to do that. If I'd been in the South or somewhere farm-y, Maude would have fit right in. I'm content that I worked on and used it during this trip.

The colors (greens, grizzly brown, stone, fireweed purple, white snow and flowers, blues from glaciers, water, and sky) would make a fantastic quilt all on their own. Maybe someday that inspiration will come out in a quilt.

Monday, August 26, 2019

maude’s binding


Some quilting choices don’t come easily or quickly. I auditioned several binding options for “Maude’s Chevron Peaks” quilt over a course of weeks before I finally found what I wanted. I tried reds, blues, yellows, and black-and-white stripes, but either the colors were off or the pattern was too distracting.

Finally, I found two fat quarters of this slightly faded, vintage-y red stripe. Only problem was I couldn’t be sure it was enough fabric since this quilt was on the larger lap side of sizing.

In order to pattern match, as well as to get as much binding out of the fat quarters as I could, I opted to do straight attachment seams rather than my normal diagonal. I feel this is less sturdy and can be slightly bulkier, but it works just fine. And it’s definitely faster and easier than all those diagonal attachments!  


The chain piecing bunting looked so festive, just right for the 4th of July, which is when I was working on it. 




In fact, without meaning to, I ended up with a very patriotic flag-looking binding. The two fat quarters were a couple of inches shy of the total binding length I needed, so I grabbed another binding option I had considered and added it to the mix. It was a blue with dots on it. They weren’t stars, but when paired with the red and white stripes, the binding definitely has an Americana flag look to it.




Friday, August 23, 2019

pink and navy and an improv question


Do you remember this Stella Grande quilt I pieced and sandwiched two years ago? Unfortunately, it’s still in the “to be quilted” queue. But even though it’s not complete, it already has a baby! Projects beget projects in my world. Originally, I tried working this gold pinstriped fabric into the hsts of the border, but I didn’t like the way it looked.


So I had a whole bunch of hsts leftover after I made the quilt. And several 6.5” solid colored squares, too. I was going to simply alternate the solid squares with the hsts and make a nice, structured baby quilt out of the culled pieces and leftovers.


But . . . 
On a whim I decided to make a larger quilt by incorporating other pieces of scraps from the original Guys and Dolls quilt, placing them in rows, piecing in an improv fashion.

At t first I wasn’t sure if the hsts would work in an improv setting. I don’t know why, maybe because I feel like improv is wonky or not structured? That can certainly be an element of it, but it isn’t the only way to improv. 

Which led me to ponder the question:

How do I define improv?

Does it mean no straight cuts with a ruler? Or does it just mean random placement? Does it have to be wonky?

In the end I think I decided that improv meant making things up as I go. I consider the Cheery quilt to be improv because it follows a basic design idea, but each individual block is made up as I’m creating it. You can plan for improv, but I feel like improv has more to do with making design decisions in the process rather than following a pattern. 

I’d love to hear what any readers think about improv, so please let me know in the comments. 


And the answer to my concern:

Yes, hsts can absolutely be part of an improv quilt.