Friday, December 25, 2020

Abiding in Christmas past, present and future

      I want to wish anyone who reads this a Christmas that will be real, deep, and grounded in a joy that can't be taken away. When you look at the first Christmas, it was a hard time. Mary was pregnant, dogged by scandal, away from family, the government had forced them to comply with a census decree which meant leaving home, no one would give them shelter (no inns in Bethlehem- the original Greek means guest room), and the Son of God had to push aside animals and waste to be born. We do rejoice because of the overall plan of salvation, redemption, and promise although it was painfully difficult.

    It is how I think of this year. I am weary of virtual everything. I am an artist, so I spend a lot of time working alone. Consequently, I need people- breathing, living people. To be forced to be solitary as if I am doing time for a crime I did not commit is ruinous. I comply with all the health guidelines, yet part of me is dying. I have not seen most friends or family since March. They seem ok with that because we have to be "safe".  I mourn and grieve for lost time, lost friends, those who are shut and starving emotionally in nursing homes away from family although they get Covid by the droves from employees (don't understand- they all wear masks, PPE), lost incomes, financial disasters for all but Walmart and Target. Church is a ghost town even with masks, distancing, constant cleaning yet the parking lots for Walmart, Target, Aldis are filled to the max. I don't think I will ever recover. Sometimes, I just cry over the loss. Christmas Eve was particularly hard- my husband and I alone eating dinner with Pandora. I think people will like the way it is, just fine, and loneliness will be looked at as a weakness. 

     I rejoice for what God has done and will do for me. I rejoice for the few that stick with me. I rejoice because I have been given a gift of art to share with those who need its comfort and humaness. But I grieve for the lostness, the vacuous Zoom gatherings, and media bingeing that substitutes for relationships. 

    Today, Buffalo received a blanket of heavy, wet snow which is how I feel. It has beauty, but is burdensome, fleeting, and icy. The light is leaden and dull. I tried to show my hometown beauty to you.

Our tree this year is a blue spruce from our yard. It started out as a small live balled tree for our Christmas over 15 years ago.
It grew too big for our small yard, so the tip top is our Christmas tree one more time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

O Christmas trees, O Christmas trees...

      I finished piecing the Christmas Tree top (Tree Farm from Moda, free pattern) but added some changes I think worked for the better. I thought the trees were too close with no air between them, so I added white sashing strips and I added the trunks. I did not like the way the quilt just ended at the white edges. I was able to use scrap strips from the trees for an inner border, but the only the dark ones looked good. They were sewn in hunks, whatever was left, randomly. For the outside border, I wanted cheery but calmer than a Christmas print. I found a beautiful red bubble batik in the stash. I only had 1" WOF left over after cutting  5" strips.

There was an oops wrong value strip at the top I saw after sewn,
so I had to rip and change out for the green above it.

     I have absolutely no idea when I will be able to quilt it. I do have the backing and need to sew that together to show. I feel guilty, but I am keeping this one. I have always wanted a Christmas quilt. It is about 69" x 81".

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Zig zag Comfort

      Somehow someone found my blog and asked for a comfort quilt as they were a cancer patient. I did have a top, but it wasn't quilted. I had just finished two other comfort quilts and gifted them recently, so I was not on top of it. I put holiday stuff aside, finished my cards and got the quilt quilted, made the bag, card and pocket quilt and it went out in the mail yesterday. Whew. Exhausted. I am hopeful the package will reach her before Christmas and give some much needed comfort. The quilt was one I finished at a quilt retreat in November. 

     I used Masterquilt blue thread on the top, gray DecoBob in the bobbin. The backing fabric is another present from Gwen, and is the smoothest, nicest fabric ever- from Art Gallery. Broken polka dot binding. Almost had it done and the tension went south with two rows to go. I am pretty worn out trying to figure out the longarm thing. I don't know why this happens, I am scrupulous with cleaning, oiling, checking, etc and this happens repeatedly so I approach quilting with a pit in my stomach. I have made a list of all I do to keep it consistent and can't figure it out. I don't know whether to sell the machine or really what to do. I did finish the quilt, but there were tears, not of joy.


Back, the nicest fabric ever, from Art Gallery, seamed pretty good for me


The tote bag, made the pocket from scraps, cards and stuff in pocket

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Cards to the finish

      Since I was 19 I have been making my own Christmas cards. I have used many different methods and somehow the list grows longer every year. I did silk screening for a while. When I retired, I dusted off my watercolors and renewed my love of working with them.

     What looks good in one or two, once you have to make over 100 of them, things get difficult. One year I made color copies of my watercolor for the cards. No one was happy. Every year I vow I won't do it again and I start to hear the "can't wait for your card" remarks and cave. This year, I painted and made over 100 and mailed them out. This is why there are no decorations up at my house. They were all mailed out this week and others hand delivered. It was a marathon.

     I paint mostly with Winsor Newton paints, some Holbeins. I use Arches 140 Cold Press Bright White paper. It is the best for painting as it is all rag and can be wiped out and repainted. I painted the trees after the backgrounds were dry and then spattered white acrylic with a kid toothbrush for snow. Then I cut the trees in between. Then I glued them all on premade cards that I buy at Joanns with coupons. I used printed labels and Christmas stamps. Then I had a big glass of wine...or two.

First, I painted the background. I was going for a Northern Lights look. Someday, I hope to actually experience them. I love them.
Individual Cards, some different sizes, ideas

Pile of completed cards

Friday, December 4, 2020

Vintage Churndashes Done

      A while back, someone from my painting class gave me a slew of different blocks. There was enough churndashes plus two I made to make a quilt. I posted about the blocks being part of a exchange. I finally was able to quilt it. My quilting is far from perfect. I used circle rulers in the border and I had a terrible time quilting near the leader grips with them. I had some scrap of green vintage looking print that I used for the binding.

     This was going to be a comfort quilt, but the person who gave me the blocks wants the quilt, so that is what happens.

Vintage postmarks fabric seemed just right

Still yellow chalk dust marking the quilting lines

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Looking to frame it all

      The Christmas trees are all sewn together with their trunks. I will sew a 3" finished white border around the whole thing. Then I need some kind of color border. Narrow or wide? Colors? How much print? Scrappy? Blocks? I bought backing- an angel panel and pine needle branches packed tight.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Tree farm grows

      The Christmas Tree farm quilt continues. After making some trial blocks, I went all out and finished nine of them. 

      Then I laid out all three red trees, each on its own cardboard tray, and sewed them. I cut the corners before sewing with the Mini Simple Folded Corners template- I can't sew on those diagonal drawn lines straight and I can't draw the lines on the fabric with the fabric moving all around on me. Using that template has revolutionized my sewing of flipped corners.

     Finally, I could lay out all the trees as per the free pattern from Moda.


     However, I did not like the way the bottom points of the trees had no breathing room between trees. I did not like no breathing room between rows. So, I sewed a 2" white strip between the trees on the top row to see if I like it better. Yes. Then I tried some trunks for the trees thinking it would look too phoney, but, hey, I like it. I have laid out different brown scraps for the trunks and need to figure out the length of the 2" white strips to see between the tree rows. I will put a wider white border around them all, but I am also thinking of a print border, not sure if I have enough quantity of Christmas fabric to do that, but I will have to figure it out.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!

     This is one my recent watercolors. I think it fits today even though those colors are now gone. Thanksgiving is one of my best holidays. It is a holiday exuding gratitude- gratitude for others, my gifts, and God's character. I know this year has been very hard. I lost one of my best friends. Most things were cancelled. People who I thought were friends took a powder. Uncertainty dawned every day. But-

   Gratitude is not about circumstances or brokeness, but an attitude that holds true to what is true despite. Four hundred years ago this month, the Pilgrims landed and endured horrible tragedies- death, disease, wrong destination, and so on. They endured as a community and forged the Mayflower Compact. They established a mindset and celebration of Thanksgiving. I know people love to trash them these days, but examine what they went through.

   I am grateful for the people, past and present, whose lives have enriched mine and have been kind and steadfast. Through these lonely times of lockdown, I remember them. I thank you for reading this. One quilt blogger said we should not share our blessings because it makes other feel bad.  In bad circumstances, we can still be grateful and rejoice with others. I pray for many people, for their specific needs and requests. I am so grateful for that gift. I am grateful for being gifted to make quilts and cards, have the resources to be able to give them away to those who need them and occasionally hear how much it meant to them. I am grateful for the absolutely wonderful people I have met and become friends with through quilting. What a gift and they are such blessings. I am grateful for the folks at Zoom. These are the things I will dwell on despite the brokeness, tragedies, and loneliness.  If you need a prayer, reach out and I will intercede for you. I would be grateful to.

     Happy  Thanksgiving to you!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Final border on Snail's Trail

      I auditioned all kinds of colors and prints with the Snail's Trail sashed blocks, but a blue Grunge seemed to hold it together the best. I think it is done, wish it was bigger- it's about 40 x 44. Regardless, I really like it. It could be a small quilt I guess. I am not fond of squares quilts, but this one works.


Friday, November 20, 2020

The trees are coming branch by branch

      I completed 4 trees out of 12 and laid out the other 2 light green ones. I cut all the white background pieces. I used a variety of white on whites (WOW) for the backgrounds. I really like them. I strove for a variety and sparkle. I tried to combine a variety in scale and pattern. I had no light green strips in the jelly roll pack, so I had to raid the regular light greens stash for some. Some people would say that the white with gold scrolls or stars are too light to use. I think it adds some sparkle to the busy strips.

     A Note to Non-comment reply blog comments: I can't send you a response. I am thankful a number of you commented on my last post. I do not have anything against precuts- I am always a sucker for Kaffe jelly rolls and neutral fat quarters. I don't believe, however, that often a company gives a good range of values, contrasts, and colors often in its packs. I have no trouble substituting or changing fabrics. Just sticking with one collection does not mean your quilt will be the best it can be in color and interest.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Diagonal Crazy

      This is not the first time I made this pattern, but it is a very nice balance. I used a jelly roll of mixed white type solids and cut my own blues and greens from scraps. It uses two strip sets- a light-color-light and a color-light-color and then the two sets are seamed together, top and bottom. The strips are cut with a strip tube ruler or 45 degree one, opened up and then trimmed to size.

     I wanted it to be a good size comfort quilt, so it is 8 x 9 blocks, 8 1/2" finished blocks. This is the very first layout, so I will let it sit on the wall and think about it for a couple of days before I mark the rows and clip it for webbing. 

    I personally like the few lighter green strips and a couple of the odd ball strips I added. I want the quilt to have some surprises and move the eye around and not just see one area as just a repeat of the previous. I  did not realize this was a problem for people, but I took an online class today that said your colors have to "go together" and match like a collection does. I guess I might get a fine or something.


Saturday, November 14, 2020

Love those flowers!

      By now, I have only a few scattered blooms outside. However, this quilt top completed at retreat, a 2 x 4 pattern using 2 1/2" strips, is a riot of garden colors. Love the way it turned out. 

     On another unrelated quilt note, I am determined to sew a Christmas quilt this year. I bought a jelly roll and will make a sample block today of this free pattern. My greens are too dark and I will have to supplement from my stash.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Sometimes it comes together, but not right

      Another of the quilt tops finished at retreat, it used 10" Kaffe squares (Missouri Star Daily Deal- always gets me when it is Kaffe) and white. I have no idea how I muffed the layout of the blocks. I did not see the errors when I laid out the quilt, but when I sewed it together, POW, there it is. These blocks are impossible to rip apart as all the edges are bias and that would be a bigger disaster. I don't think the comfort quilt participant will care about the big boo boo. To comfort myself, I bought another Kaffe layer cake when it was offered this week to try again and get it right. It is not the first time I made this pattern- Disappearing Hourglass from MSQC. My brain must have been too distracted and cluttered. Focus again is critical.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Figuring out Appalachian Autumn

      When Bonnie Hunter offered her pattern, Appalachian Autumn, I bought it as I love leaves. I don't particularily love square designs, so when I saw Julie's layout, called Resplendent,  I started drawing. I thought if I made some of the leaves green, some changing and some orange, I could make it work. I also would transition the border to match the leaves. Instead of grays and creams, I decided to try light blues and dark blues. I am still totaling up all the pieces I need on my graph paper, but I have the idea going. Rectangular shape, transition leaves and border, light and dark blue backgrounds. Here is my paperwork.

     Here are my string blocks for the leaves, transition leaves to the right:

     Here is a rough mockup I did in a word processor using a couple of blocks I had :

     What I need are more light and dark blue scraps to cut out the HST and rectangles. I need to cut all the HST pieces, the two color sashing and 4 patch cornerstones. At least I have a solid start. Long way to go. Trying to keep myself from being confused in cutting the right amounts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Borders and another top

      Using the four patches as Leader/Enders, I finished the checkerboard border on the Snail's Trail piece. I do think it needs one more border and am thinking of more text fabric. I have to audition some and see. I wish it was bigger, but I am not ripping it apart now. I think the sashing helps to calm down the sharpness of the blocks and I love the scrappiness.

     Another quilt top finished at the retreat is a free pattern from Jo's Country Junction called Jimmy John. A guild member gifted me with a bright jelly roll and I thought this pattern was perfect.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Retreat and Refocus

      The past weeks have been hectic and scattered. I had computer issues- my big computer, the iMac, went down. The repair shop found a system software update went haywire and chewed up all the memory. My Mac laptop and my iPad are no longer allowed updates to the system, browser or Blogger. They work fine, but are not allowed upgrades. These fully useful tools can no longer work for what I need them to do. It is a terrible waste of resources. I am faced with buying a new laptop or iPad. The laptop will allow me more functionality, store on a hard drive, and better processing. Then I have to decide between a Mac Air or MacPro laptop. Which one will be obsolete first? I have to spend money that I did not plan on. It seems Blogger and Google Chrome took both devices down in one day. 

     Then the election happened and I decided I would do a media fast because the nastiness and diatribes were unbearable. Our guild retreat was Thursday through Sunday, only 6 of us instead of 20, at the same place we usually go, which provided distanced tables, individual meals and rooms. Stella Niagara went the extra mile to keep things clean and safe. I decided I would focus on finished the bags of quilts that were clipped and numbered for assembly. By focusing, I was able to complete 6 quilt tops and 7 flannel pillowcases (Christmas presents) and a bunch of masks. I will be sharing the quilts throughout the week. 

    When I came back, I was refreshed, my blood pressure down, sleeping and energized. I was horrifed to see the vilification of anyone who did not vote the "right way", the smirky nastiness, and encouragement to unfollow if you did not agree totally with the poster of art and quilt blogs. I am a student of history and I study hard to figure out trends and decisions. I do not demand or demean those who think differently. I have reasoned through my beliefs and hold to them. I found myself in the crosshairs of meaness, marginalized, and scorned with no room for explanation or defense. I can respectfully disagree, but am not allowed. This is not politics- it is the basis for humanity or inhumanity. 

    I am going to keep refocusing on my work. I need to organize better, document and label consistently, and work in less distraction.  I need to get quilts quilted and better my craft in design, color, and assembly. I will keep giving comfort quilt packages. That is enough to keep me fully engaged. Focus.

    Here are 2 quilts that were sewn. Both of them have HSTs that are the same size and made from 10" squares. Placement and color are everything.