Thursday, May 27, 2010


Hello, Amy.

I finished this wall quilt not long ago, and while the photo doesn't do it justice, I am quite proud to have it done. Working on it once again made me think back over the last decade and recount my accomplishments and setbacks (but mostly the positive stuff), and it has helped me to see how far my sons and I have come in the time that has passed since beginning this particular quilt.

"Reading Rainbow" - Log Cabin, Chevron: 34.5" x 52"

When I began this little color study I was happily building/running a  children's bookshop in a very rural area of mid-Michigan, but my marriage was falling apart. Creating quilts kept me sane and able to focus on more positive feelings for the sake of my sons, and while I quilted I found I could let my mind wander over more pleasant thoughts. Some quilts would hang in the bookshop (for decor mostly), with each season or holiday represented by a new quilt. Some would even find a new home and bring in needed $.

Eventually (sadly), I had to close the shop & find full time employment (during the divorce) to satisfy home bills, and this particular little quilt found itself packed snugly away for 10 years! I was overjoyed to discover it was still safe & sound after all this time (in a storage box in the garage), so it came inside to be finished (with so many other quilt tops).

I still can recall the trip through the fabric store with my sons to pick out the proper backing material (they chose this hysterical dinosaur motif by Alexander Henry, of course).  My freehand machine quilting has come a long way, too, and I find the process much easier than when I began to machine top stitch all those years ago.

My entry decision was a toss-up between this colorful primary Log Cabin piece and an Ocean Waves-version baby quilt I made for a cousin, his wife, and their first child (April 28th blog entry).

Thanks for looking in and have a great day!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I am committed

No, I haven't been committed, that's a whole other topic of conversation I will not go into here. ;^)

I meant, I decided what project was going to be next under the needle. Despite the fact that I pulled another older, deserving quilt top from 'the pile,' let it air out and begin the un-creasing process, I have it in my head to finish the orange and brown color study (Snail's Trail) I began not all that long ago. I need to finish it.

The materials are washed and still hanging as wrinkle-free as they can be, right next to me in the sewing area (mocking me), and it is taking up too much room. It never fails, no matter what else I do, I am always moving the material aside to get at something else. If I just cut the strips needed for the border plans (top and backing), get the back assembled and simply make myself get on to the next step, I could have a quilt done and out of the way! What a concept! I know, right?

It came to me this morning, and I got to work in earnest. It felt good to know that project was getting closer to the finish line. Wish me luck, and stop by again when you can - hopefully there will be something to show off before too long.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lists and chores and what-ifs

While I sat applying the last few stitches to the pocket of the Log Cabin, I began to focus on what would be next.  Where to turn my attentions; what project (in the garage, the floor of the lower level, the bathroom caulking and sanding and painting, my new video demo, another quilt....) would be next?

Let's face it, most women are more than capable of multitasking (we have to be) - I definitely had that skill mastered in my last career, but I would much rather concentrate on one thing and get it done quickly and thoroughly, rather than spread myself thin and wish I were doing something else.  Does anyone else have this affliction?

Yesterday, I allowed myself the luxury of straightening out my sewing space, rearranging the props and do-dads, refolding and sorting the color palette.  You know, having fun! 

Of course, you can never simply sort your stash without daydreaming and matching up colors for the next quilt, and that incredibly rainy day allowed for a lot of 'what-iffing'.  So with all of these allowances, here's what I came up with:

I really love the idea of a black, white and red quilt - and would love to make a Burgoyne Surrounded (hmmm...maybe I can mix the two?).  With all of these lovely "shirtings" on hand, I should be able to come up with something...right?

But then, I do want to get a start on a quilt for each of the boys.  My well-intentioned self thought certainly I could make one for each of their birthdays, but I have since reconsidered and will take those projects on long term [audible gasp], in order to have one for each completed and under the Christmas tree this year. 

Karl was less than no help when I queried him on colors he likes - but this was a start.  LOL  He likes clear jewel colors...but nothing busy.  Oh my! 

His is going to take work.

Initially, I wanted to use the cute lizard print - perhaps even employ it as the focal point and build from there.  It would have worked, too, but he poo-poo'd a lot of the other colors I had set out with it.  Usually, I start big and weed things out as I cut, but Karl has really made fast work of that task.  So, back to square one. 

Besides, that cute little print is a scant fat quarter, purchased in a FQ pack, and there is no way to get any more.  Its probably a Kaufman or a Hoffman, or an Alexander Henry, but the person cutting the extra small FQ also cut off the identifying bar and the color circles, and all of my searching has yielded nothing!

However, before I get started on the fun stuff, I must go out and perform some needful chore from the list, first.  Drats!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

At long last, it is done!

Reading Rainbow - Log Cabin: 34.5 x 52"

I finished quilting this wall hanging several days ago, but decided to apply a sleeve after the fact, since that's the only good way for it to hang, really...on a a "wallhanging." It has had a long ride from inception to completion; from Hadley to Clarkston; from here to there.

The boys and I have also come a long way during that same time. They have grown so much - in fact, they completed their own journeys from boyhood into men, and I learned a lot about myself and the world around me while that quilt lay waiting for attention. I learned to stop letting things wait, and to stop waiting for what it is I want. We all still have a long way to go, but the journeys seem less daunting.

There are still a lot of quilting projects to complete before beginning something new, and as much as I daydream about what is to come and what I want to start next, I know there are things I must finish first. Some of those projects are meant to clean out the corners and widen my path and field of vision, some to make room, others just to finish for the sake of not letting it hang in limbo any more. If I want to use it, I am going to have to finish it!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Her usual perch

When I am at the desk in the library - either editing or searching for work - Cleo is usually on my lap and purring.  Demanding more than her share of attention; requiring two hands in full petting motion - so I typically end her sessions after 10 minutes or so just so I can get back to work. 

She hounds me for more loving. 

She sits and begs, and talks and pruts and chirps, until I break down and allow her back up in my lap.  Sometimes, if I sit pushed away even a little from the desk, she will simply jump back up when I am in the throes of typing and not paying attention.

When I am quilting, if she is not already sleeping on the bed (cat nap #1 or #2), she descends the stairs to begin her begging conversation there - perched just above the table holding the machine and quilt - trying to figure out the jump coordinates and landing zone. 

Here she is, nestled on a quilt in progress, in just the wrong spot for me to be able to manuever the quilt under the needle

She hasn't yet reached out to touch the needle out of curiosity, and for that I am extremely grateful.  Usually she watches the action for a short while, then drifts off to that gentle sleep cats are famous for.  She dozes until I have to move her and the quilt so that I can continue on to another area.  She is not a needy cat, simply a companion cat.  She wants the company.  She has to have the companionship and proximity. 

I don't know where people get that whole "cats are aloof" thing...our cats all crave company, and seek it out - and I am glad.  They are a big chunk of our lives and will be sorely missed when each short life span comes due. 

At least there will always be the ghost of cat fur somewhere on a quilt to keep me company.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Can you say "May"?

Already we cruise into May, and I have the top down and a smile on my face. Yesterday was a little too warm for me, but it was a good day nonetheless. Helped to move a friend's daughter's stuff from her apartment in Ann Arbor (while she leaves town for the summer); had a very late breakfast at a neat little diner (Angelo's) in the heart of the worst parking area of A2. The bread used for toast was just like my Aunt Pearl' I want to bake!

As we departed A2 and her twins, we discussed other things we could do besides just head back to Clarkston. It was early in the day yet, and we were feeling energetic and footloose.

Recently, I snagged a copy of an advertising newspaper for quilters and "craftys" which shows a statewide calendar of events and all of the quilt shops (who care to advertise) from tip to thumb; pinky to UP, and all points in between. I surveyed the publication for any (strictly) quilt shops with more than 2,000 bolts of material, and that were not craft-oriented in any way. Put together two lists of these shops and designated them as "Maria" and "Jean." Mind you, none of us has any extra capital so spend right now, so quilt shop hopping would be a horrible waste of time - but do we care about that?

Hahahaaaaaa...I laugh at your naiveté.

Which brings us to lesson #74: Never bypass a quilt shop unless you know it to not be worthwhile.

Oddly, as Jean was navigating her burly, college-crap-loaded Suburban down the expressway, she mentioned she has seen a sign (several times) for a quilt shop in Davison and thought maybe it would be fun to explore it as we were already out and about, and we're not too far from it if we stuck to I-69 and took the 'back way' returning to my house. Well, who am I to turn down a chance to scurry through a small, unexplored, heretofore unknown shop; how can you justify not examining the contents before dismissing it off-hand?

I couldn't. Besides, it was one of the shops on my new mission list! It was kismit I tell ya! She was reading my mind - thank goodness. And what a gem of a find it was!

If you ever find yourself wheeling around in the Davison area, head north of M-15 until you find "Linda's Quilt Shop," you won't be sorry. It is EXACTLY as a quilt shop should be!

I had the added pleasure of being recognized by the owner...and it had been over 12 years since we had seen each other last.

There was once a shop in Davison's old downtown that was loaded for bear with calicos and solids, flannels and new geometric prints. That was some fabric mecca for a small town girl, and it was forever crawling with new quilters, curious tag-a-long friends, long-time customers, and the instructors who taught classes there. The women who worked there grew to know me over time - as they did with all of their regulars - and somedays I would go simply to have fun looking and dreaming about new quilts to assemble, or to pick up just a smidge of something to finish a current quilt. The conversations were a riot, and I always left feeling as though I had just had a great conversation with a sister or favorite cousin and not a clerk who simply wanted to make a sale.

Well, here we are at the check out counter, and Linda said "You remind me of someone. Did you use to raise turkeys?"

You could have knocked me over with a quarter yard of calico! How did she remember that!?! Not only that, but she recalled that we lived in Hadley! Of all the women that she had met and gotten to know, she remembered my sons and me because of that - and because of the chat we were having over the material.


As we stood talking, she told me how the other women thought Brian and Karl were so well-behaved when they would be at the shop with me. I love my boys. She also said that after I would leave the shop, some of the women would laugh til they cried over some of the stories I would tell of the boys and the turkeys, and of my idiot husband at the time.

Hmmm.... :^) It's all good, I guess, if you can make a lasting impression - especially if it's a good one! LOL

Well, with two happy finds like that, you can bet your boots I will be returning to Linda's lovely quilt shop!

From there, Jean and I went to the Ortonville Quilt Show (yes, that was on the mission list, too), and as luck would have it, we were there on the first day of the two day show. We were both very impressed by the lovely pieces exhibited throughout the church. There were quilts of all ages and sizes either draped over pews or hanging along the walls. A woman played tunes on a piano up in the front of the church while women and men went around the exhibit, closely examining (and appreciating) the workmanship and overall beauty of the quilts on display.

I have a whole new set of quilting ideas and goals after having a look at so many beautiful quilts. I most appreciated the oldest pieces and their simple, rustic handwork, as so few woman finish their own quilts any more. Quite a few of them opted to have their quilts quilted via someone with a long-arm machine - a pity. While the quilting was precise, and definitely tell tale of having been stitched by machine, it lacked the imperfections of hand/machine work - that is to say, when someone uses their regular flatbed sewing machines to stitch the quilts by guiding the quilt under the needle freehand. Less than perfect results can happen, but I think the advent of the long-arm has taken away the last bit of creativity one can apply to the quilt in order to call it "hand made."

I can still remember when woman poo-poo'd others who would use the free hand method to topstitch the quilt, and refuse to consider the quilt hand made because of it - and that was a scant ten years ago! My, how the mighty have fallen.

Personally, I reserve my hand work (stitching-wise) for binding the quilt and for crazy quilting, or on standard miniatures alone. My crazier pursuits are not undertaken with a needle and thread. Besides, I know my strengths and weaknesses; straight stitching (through layers) is not a strength of mine. Crazy quilting does not employ "straight" anything, and binding is an art which requires deftness to hide the stitches while accomplishing a strong and stable turning of the material from from to back. So, I apply the use of my skills where they are best appreciated!

Anyhow, from there we went back to Clarkston, where we watched a couple of movies we have been wanting to see; and talked about next steps; and what's next for classes and school; and work prospects and kid stuff in general - hers and mine. She's got an exciting week coming up with one of her daughters graduating from medical school! Another will be home from college for the summer, a third is heading to New York for a couple of months to re-energize, touch base with friends, dance with her NY troupe and have fun before architectural classes resume in the fall for her at...well, that supposed school in A2. Her son is providing her babysitting duties with her first grand baby, and she still has her own classes to tend to.

Me, on the other hand, I need a new life! More on that later - we have a whole new month, and I am certain to have news to share soon enough.

PS: Mucho thanks to Aunt Judy for the birthday email. You have always been my cheerleader - which, I suspect, you have been for all of your nieces and nephews. But I greatly appreciated the kind words. Yours was the only familial contact (except for my missed call from mom) on my birthday, and I was feeling pretty low. [hugs]