Category Archives: Quilts & Things

30 days hath November

porch There were glorious days, warm ones and cold ones that had me scurrying about freshening bed linens and garden beds, planting bulbs and dealing with leaves and leaves and still more leaves! Oak leaves 12 inches long!

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The Undoing of Saint Silvanus by Beth Moore was only available as an audio book from my library. I debated and then reserved my space. When I saw it was 10 CDs, I wasn’t sure I would persist. But I did. her masterful storytelling kept me company as I dug and pulled and trimmed and planted a garden bed and then kept me company as I restored the edging of our old quilt with fresh binding. Then I listened to it all over again!

I began the quilt long years ago. When I started the class with Lois Smith, I was excited by the possibility of making – start to finish  a quilt for our bed. Under her kind, clear, tutelage, I learned so much about color, pattern drafting and machine quilting. But life, or a kind of death in the specter of fire, happened and rearranged our lives for a season. When it was over, nothing was quite the same and I chose not to work on this autumn themed quilt. I moved on and took several more classes with Lois and finished two more quilts. Sometime, I finished it off and hung it  in our family room in winter. Then I started using it, the weight and comfort just right. It was a shock to realize it is now a shabby beauty, warm and cozy.

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Autumn color can be a long, slow, unfolding here. Tender plants first, some trees seeming to forget to change, high winds swirling leaves around steps and doors. Holly berries ripped from their stems. One has to look for the beauty in all the pain and dying of this month.

golden tree   ruby trees   trees   oak   yellow   lighting

And, of course, we went chasing the super moon. It doesn’t look all that exciting, but the chase was fun. One more to come on December 14.  November moon

squirrel Of course there are always squirrels running to and fro and sometimes hanging from their toes to eat the suet cakes.  Woodpeckers, Flickers, Titmice and Nuthatches are the usual diners. But one day, I happened to catch this Bluebird too!bluebird   Things are always a bit fuzzy through the screen and glass, but there is no mistaking the color of these beautiful birds.

One of the surprises of the garden cleanup were stalks of Hosta seeds hiding deep within a large plant. Hosta seed pods  I’ve done a little reading and I’m not sure I will try to grow plants from the seed, but the pods are quite interesting. Hosta seed pods

This season of apparent dying and seed planting has been brought home to me these past days in the sudden and untimely death of my niece-in-love. At the several services we attended, even her pastor, who knew her well, marveled at the packed church as people came to show their love and respect for this lovely, quiet woman. She sowed seeds of love and acceptance in everyone she met. I pray that those seeds will bear much fruit in the coming days and years as her family struggles with her death and the changes in the home and for her children who were being home schooled.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.

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An old school question

There comes a time when autumn* asks,

What have you been doing all summer?  Anon.

Perhaps you too had teachers who asked that same question and required a paragraph or two of fun and exciting adventures.  Oh my.

I think it was the shoes I bought in spring,   shoe though it would be a while before I remembered the brown buckle shoes of many childhood summers. But once remembered they stirred other memories of those long ago summers — countless hands of Canasta and hours of board games with my sisters, afternoons of stitching, evenings of reading and porch sitting while thunder and lightening rolled across the sky. There were late, dark nights spent twirling the dials of a vintage radio dad brought home, listening for already old-time comedy or suspense broadcasts still playing in other places.

And I realized that while they might not have gotten me a good grade in school,  those simple pleasures set me for life. I’m always up for a great adventure to distant parts, but the everyday life here is one I am grateful to be able to enjoy even on the days when everything seems all wrong in the world.

embroidery  Simple embroidery,

learning a new quilt pattern from Craftsy,  scrappy quilt

finishing a small quilt started last year, small quilt.

or recalling seashore trips of other years with small vignettes shells & stuff   shells  are parts of my summer days now.    20160824_080926

Reading continues to be a blessed pastime and storms are part of every summer here. I’ve added other pleasures to these simple rhythms of life – letter writing, daily cooking, gardening, and the joy of meeting a friend for coffee. And old time radio has been bypassed by streaming videos, sometimes much too late into the night!

Our new friend Tim has just left a bag of tomatoes on the front railing – another splendid gift of summer! Rosy smiles in the face of heat and humidity.

*I recently learned that September 1 is the meteorological first day of autumn.

Making Connections

For me, one of the wonderful things about this time of internet communication is meeting people around the world. I want to mention two lovely Australian ladies whose blogs share creativity and kindness so generously.

Kerryanne English blogs at Shabby Art Boutique. This month she has started her 6th year of Simply Christmas entries. In the first post she introduced her beautiful 2015 Christmas Planner – free to download, which I was happy to do. In the next post, she wrote her thoughts on planning. Christmas Planner   I’ve been a planner, but somehow in the last couple of years, I forgot how essential this ingredient is for relaxed celebration. I find that planning – anticipating – can really add so much joy.

I used to keep wonderful records of menus and cookie baking marathons and gifting. I’m starting again to keep this record of joy sharing. Kerryanne is posting ideas for gifts and décor as well as continuing her Friday link-up parties full of inspiration.

Then, I would like to introduce Jennifer Reynolds – Jenny of ELEFANTZ. Jenny is always so generous in sharing her lovely talent in stitchery. She has also been gathering creative ideas for gift giving from other bloggers and kindly sharing the links.

While embroidery is an old and mostly abandoned interest of mine, I was inspired by her holiday table runner last year to create one of my own with fabrics available here.

design   And, I almost forgot – food – you will find tempting recipes at both sites! Have a look?

More August days outside

One day, it was just so hard to go outside. I only ventured out to tend a pot of marigolds.

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Another day, I spent lovely early morning time with some stitching while I enjoyed the rising cicada song. The stitching has been a long project and like my decision to go outside each day, I must be determined to finish – soon, I hope!

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Through the years I have sometimes been blessed to visit the ocean. I love to go and wander the beach in search of treasure. I enjoy having jars and boxes and piles of shells out in the summer and this one has been particularly intriguing to me this year.  Sometimes I have it on the kitchen table, other times it is on this one outside the door.

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The early light playing on the worn beauty of it draws me to look closer – the tiniest of stones are stuck tightly into the spiral –  and then I find I’m out the door! Yesterday, that meant going out and while looking about, finding that rain had washed the trees of more unneeded limbs that had to be cleared from the lawn. After that, the weeds called; I was glad when evening came!

More August offerings of beauty:

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It was surprising to go to the door and find the magnolia leaves thinking of autumn.

Country gold

Heavy weighted fog pressed down, but along the roads and parking lots, there were golden bells proclaiming spring! I captured these if full ring outside the library. forsythia

Inside, I captured Melissa Michael’s new book and Karen Kingsbury’s too. At home Jeff Goins new book had arrived!

book stack A bounty of riches waits on my table, urging me on through my work sessions, teasing me with promise of inspiration, fresh insights and ponderings.

I have followed Melissa and Jeff on their blogs for a number of years. And while I don’t read much fiction, I do enjoy Karen Kingsbury. Her new series, Angels Walking, is compelling. This is book two. Now for some long quiet evenings!

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During the longest, coldest winter, I sorted through my sewing and crafting things like a squirrel in semi-hibernation turning over her cache of nuts and acorns looking for choice specimens to savor.  While at first it was almost a sad endeavor, I now feel the freshness in it. Encouraged by the writing of Bonnie Grey, Cheri Gregory and Kathy Lipp, I came to see that my stash had actually become a hindrance to creativity and productivity.

Cheri had a great post that helped me. Projects get interrupted in my life and when I go back to them, sometimes I couldn’t figure out where I has stopped and what I should do next. My notes, if any, where like a code I couldn’t crack. And so I would set them aside, again. Procrastination. Frustration.

After reading her post, I went through my supplies and created a small collection of future projects and wrote out my plan for each in as much detail as I could. If I didn’t have a plan, I chose not to keep it. I freed myself of leftovers from past quilting projects and other crafts this way too. And the good news? I have actually been sewing again! I’m finishing things, and fluffing the guest room. Projects seem fresh and exciting. And more good news – I’ve found a place to gift the overflow, investing in the creative lives of young women. This makes me smile, big!

The plans?  Itemized and amplified to included any other needed items; typed, saved, printed! No little scraps of paper written in mysterious code!

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A Simple Gift

snow day    The words of the old Shaker song go round in my head. Finding myself in “the place just right” seems hard some days – like the other day when I realized that the inkjet cartridge had leaked black all over lovely wood and then I picked up the wrong can of paint and though I thought it looked a bit dark – it was wet… I went on painting. And then I had to paint again. <sigh> I know, in the grand scheme of life, not so big a deal but it is the little things some days that seem to overflow the cup. What do you do with those days? When the wind blows hard and there are even waves in the birdbath.

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In 1985, it was really big deal to have our beloved Nana diagnosed with dementia. We tried keeping her at home with helpers, but the disease took her away in giant steps. Too soon, for her safety and well being, it became a necessity to place her in a care facility. It was a time of busy grief.

Christmas was coming. I had so much on my mind that day I drove the beltway – from where and to where – I no longer remember. But on that drive, the thought came to me that we could give her an album quilt for Christmas. Only one problem. I had no idea what an album quilt really was but I thought of blocks, large ones, that would tell a story, the story of her life.

I went to a small quilt shop with my idea and the staff was so helpful with the project from beginning to end; even supplying fabric from personal stashes when I cut the border fabric wrong and there was not enough to finish.

I sent fabric and the plan out to family and everyone worked on squares that said something about her life. Everyone worked quickly, taking comfort in being able to do something, anything, to bring some comfort to her, and ourselves. Soon, all the blocks were back and it was time to make the quilt.

I had never made a quilt before…

Sewing the blocks and borders together was the easy part. Then came backing and batting and I recall taping it to my kitchen floor as the only place to stretch it out and layer it. Finally it was pined together and ready to quilt.

I had never made a quilt before…

I called my friend Lucy. She was a Southern girl with a country background. Did she know how to quilt? “Quilting should enhance your design, don’t do too much.” What did that mean?! I stitched some, and then some more. Then came the binding – and somehow – it was done – by Christmas.Nana's quiltThe quilt became a great gift to us as we felt we could wrap her in our love. Nana used the quilt for 4 1/2 years. At first the staff thought it a nuisance, then it changed their view of this wonderful woman. It gave her an identity, a life; it became a conversation point. It reminded them that she was loved and cared about.

There is nothing fancy about the quilt but it is now a family treasure, faded, worn and soft.

And today? That gift to Nana, opened a space for me. For when the wind blows hard, the ink spills, the paint goes on wrong… there is a calm that comes with fingering fabrics, hearing the whirl of the machine.

                   quilt     quilt

We woke to snow today, rather like a celebration to remember Nana on her birthday, with love.

Loretta    1906 – 1990

Nana

Building a quilt

I’ve loved using these reproduction fabrics – for years. And while I have loved them I am also glad to be coming to the end of them now.

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It will be interesting to see the end result in its riot of color. I’ve made many things with these fabrics but never the queen size Dresden Plate design quilt of “Every Day Dishes” that I had in mind at the first. For me, quilting can be like that unless I am very determined from the outset to make all the fabric ‘behave’. And that, I must confess, has nothing to do with the fabric and everything to do with a creative mind galloping on imagining other possibilities and making a small quilt or two or five and a few other projects along the way until there is just a pile of scraps. More cutting and lots of sewing till show and tell and then I will be the most surprised!