Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 in Review

Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened.
~Dr. Seuss

Not about the pandemic. We are all crying over our losses. But another quiet holiday at home with only video chats for company got me thinking. When our forebears moved, they left everyone and everything they knew behind. They didn't gather together again. At best they had letters. That's why album quilts became popular - a way to memorialize absent friends. Don't you know our foremothers took those quilts out on holidays and traced the names and verses on each block. How grateful they must have been to have that one tangible link to their former lives.

No plans for New Year's although there has been time to talk with all my family this week. A group of us watched Soul together online. There's an app for that but I didn't find it easy to use. Thank goodness several people are tech savvy. We got rolling about an hour late but enjoyed sending comments back and forth. Popcorn and a comfy seat for everyone - because we were all at home. Today I hope to call more friends. And I will smile as I see {or hear} every person. Then I will pick up some mementos from my parents and grandparents and sit for a while remembering all the good times we had.


Despite or because of all the horrors, 2020 turned out to be the year to clean up and clear out. All it took was staying at home for months to get us to focus on overflowing storage - the drawers, the cabinets, the attic, the garage, and the shed. Sheesh! More UFOs found the light of day as DH and I cleared and cleaned the entire house. He sorted, tested, scrubbed, and sold or donated loads of computer and electronic equipment. I actually met my frequently listed but always unmet goal to whittle my stash in half. It's now three shallow boxes. {That's not counting the box of clothing fabric or the box of projects in progress. However, the remaining projects are all in that one box instead of being hidden - and forgotten - in various locations.} 

I had {and may still have} more fabric than I will use in my natural lifetime so it was actually a relief to work through so much of it. Sewing two dozen pillowcases for family, another two dozen tote bags for foster children and family, and a dozen quilts absorbed much of my excess fabric and leaves room for new purchases in the year ahead. The quilts fell into three {occasionally overlapping} categories:

Scrap, stash and strings quilts:

Stash, scrap, and string quilts in 2020

{Although the fabric is older, several of the designs are new or new-to me, including two with tulips. Loving them!}

Star quilts:

Star quilts in 2020

and quilts made from the Parts Department: One for a friend

Multicolor Ocean Waves scraps center around red print squares on point
Ocean Waves scrap quilt 3 

and another for me. 

Large Square Deal quilt block forms central medallion surrounded by Crossroads block border
The Square Deal quilt

Hooray for using fabric and blocks that have been "resting" on shelves for a while.

There was also a Christmas stocking for the newest grandchild and two aloha shirts. 

The Shadow Star top is almost complete. {Another pile of blocks that have been waiting on the shelf.} It should be finished in January and then will be off for long arm quilting. My arms can't move that much fabric around as easily as they used to and every stitch will show on the solid white. 

So, what's up for 2021? I'm not making many predictions and plans this time. We do have a new AHIQ prompt which we'll share next week. And I could make up some of the clothes... but right now, I'm relaxing, reading, and chatting with family. Just what the doctor ordered!

Monthly FUR (Fabric Use Rate) 

No quilts completed in this month either. But I finished one more kawandi, several tote bags and the Christmas stocking. That took11.5 yards. The 2020 year total is 165.5 yards. I hope to start the new year with some finishes of the two big quilts I've been working on: Wheel and Shadow Stars. We'll see how quickly that pans out.


Nann recommended The Address Book by Deirdre Mask and I just finished it.  The subtitle highlights the main points: What street addresses reveal about identity, race, wealth, and power. Without addresses, people can't vote, obtain bank accounts or jobs, get fire or ambulance services... or pay taxes. Without addresses, citizens have no identity. 

Deirdre began in Indian slums, moved to ancient Rome, then discussed the neuroscience of smell and mental mapping. Empress Maria Teresa numbered every house in her country to know who could be drafted for military service. 

Some of the first addresses numbered buildings by the year they were erected. Philadelphia led the way with odd numbers on one side of a street and evens on the others as well as assigning one hundred numbers to each block.  Europeans developed boulevards and parks while Americans used a grid with numbered and lettered streets. 

Stories of how countries name streets and number buildings ranged the globe but she ended the book with three new methods: what3words, Google Plus codes, and  Facebook Robocodes. 

Wishing everyone a healthier and happier year ahead. Peace, love, and true goodwill! 

Happy New Year, Ann

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Another Kawandi Placemat and More Tote Bags

Life is not fair but government must be.
~Ann Richards

There was time to finish a second kawandi placemat. Sujata gave me the idea when she suggested an appropriate size for her class. And I need a new set and what fun to work on something small in the evenings for a change. 

Kawandi placemat

This time the fula were sewn between the layers at the first round of stitching - just as Sujata recommends - but I didn't make quarter circles. Instead, they are folded into thirds, making them very thick and difficult to sew. I won't do it again... unless I forget. Sheesh.

All the fabric came from my scrap bag, including the bird prints. Each placemat will have one of these somewhere. But the colors don't match my dishes. We'll have to see what happens with these.

Tote bags

I found two adorable print {remnants} - the blue with space drive-ins and Charlie Brown's shirt stripe in the lower left. The others are pretty cute, too. The totes are fully lined, not to make them reversible, but to make them stronger.

Between my aloha shirt and DH's, there's enough remnants to make all the backs. So that and the birds are the unifying design elements. I suppose I can turn them over it a calmer placemat is wanted.

Several family members requested my tote bags. Although they have no pockets or special features, they are large enough to hold a large supply of toilet paper, paper towels, or general groceries. Some people have plans to carry sporting equipment in them. Whatever the bags are wanted for, I'm delighted to make them. 

The totes took 10.5 yards and the placemat used another half yard. Eleven yards this week - not that any reduction of the scrap bag is visible. How is this possible? Elves is my answer.

Merry Christmas to all!

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Just in Time for Santa

It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.
~Charles Dickens

As I've written before, there are many finishing steps to these stockings but the whole thing went together more quickly than it has in the past. Is it because I had a few ornaments prepared and the stockings themselves cut? Perhaps.

Red velveteen stocking with white felt cuff and sequined decals
Velveteen Christmas stocking, 2020

I found several special glass beads a few years ago. The little glass penguin is a marker for each member of this family group. 

Camel and mitten decals on Christmas stocking

The celestial event is the Perseverance rover heading to Mars. Yes. That lavender thing that looks like a train engine is my interpretation of the rover. {As an artist, I'm a pretty good geologist.} It won't land till early next year but it's on its way.

Sequined Mars and Perseverance rover adorn the stocking
Mars and Perseverance rover

I'm still not shopping in stores so finding jingle bells was a challenge. There were two sizes online: too small and too large. I chose the large ones and mentioned to DH that they could be changed next year. He told me not to bother. According to him, younger brothers will be delighted their bells are larger than their siblings. Hmm. Is that the correct spirit of the season? ;-)

Previous posts:


Since a friend suggested Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, I've been a fan of this author. I read both of her reimagined fairy tales when they came out and was eagerly awaiting A Deadly Education. Scholomance is a school for magic, but not like Hogwarts. There are no teachers. Magically gifted students are transported here as freshmen and dumped into dorm rooms. Once they choose an area of study, the school assigns their classes and presents lectures and homework. Students are responsible for avoiding prowling monsters. Galandriel must build alliances in order to run the final gauntlet of monsters that await all students at graduation. 

I enjoyed the book and found the situation between privileged and independent students timely and pertinent. Now I'm waiting for the next book in this series - due in June.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Beading a New Christmas Stocking

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
~Aldous Huxley

How could I forget? The new grandchild needs a stocking. Soon! Fortunately some parts are pre-cut. Ready and waiting you might say. There are four velveteen stocking shapes cut - front and back plus bright green lining fabric. I decided to cut all the lining now since it will store more easily. It can rest under the finished stockings and the Chief Airhead {me} will know where to find them. 

To make sure that fancy fabric doesn't unravel, I sewed the linings together and stay-stitched the tops. 
Now where are all the beads and sequins? They are packed in one clear box; I just need to find it. The joy of {previously} cleaning and clearing out is that it was {more}easily located.

In addition to a white felt cuff and lots of jingle bells, each stocking I've made has a Christmas tree. I try to vary the ornaments but also reprise a few for continuity. And also because my skill set is limited when ideas are interpreted in sequins. The mitten is a repeat but the camel and dove are new. Not bad.

Beading a Christmas stocking

There's been loads to do around the house so this is all the sewing I finished in a week.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Kawandi with Sujata

The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life. 
~Jane Addams


Last month Sujata Shah presented a lecture and workshop to our guild. She has a new class on kawandi which are quilts made by the Siddi people - Indians of African descent. Because some arrived as early as the 7th century while others came as slaves during the African Diaspora, regions have differing customs.

Kawandis are uniquely designed from the outside in. Siddis begin with a sari as the backing, baste waste fabric on top for batting, and appliqué scraps on the front... starting with the outside edges. They always know how big their quilt will be. What a refreshing change.

Not so refreshing is that they don't use pins. What? This was difficult for me but I'm trying.

First two rounds on my kawandi

Only when they need to be sewn in place is another piece added. This was another hard lesson for me but I found the results worth tackling my pre-planning/let's-just-test-it-out habit. This way is "in the moment" and actually made turning the corners easier.

Anyway, I marked my calendar to sign up for her class as soon as it became available. And... this turned out to be the perfect project. My scrap bag is overflowing. Improvisational applique seemed the way to spin it down while listening to shows with DH. After several quiet evenings my first placemat was done. Yes, Sujata's size suggestion made perfect sense - a small, useful item.

Kawandi placemat without fula

My mistake was forgetting to add fula with the first round. Those are fabric scraps that represent flowers added to the corners of all kawandi. Sujata's correct. It's harder to add them later. 

Kawandi placemat with fula

A few more of these are basted and ready to start. Hopefully they will be finished before the end of the year. Christmas rushes in so soon after Thanksgiving. Canadians are smarter to have their Thanksgiving a bit earlier. But still, we are thankful for every day and for the family and friends we joined with online to celebrate the holiday.


This summer I was reading books that have been waiting on my shelves until new publications sidetracked me. Over the holiday I read an old copy of O, Pioneers that was hidden away - so old, I'm not sure where it came from. 

Willa Cather expounds on the relationships between individuals with society and with the prairie. While the land breaks many early settlers, over time they collectively transform the plains. At the same time, society forces weaker people to conform while those with a strong spirit survive. Her brothers complained about Alexandra's innovative planting and reminded me how people are always the same. But other scenes are dated. For example, Alexandra blames the couple who had an affair for their murder by the husband. Still, there were reminders of my grandfather who grew up on such a farm about this same time... and ran away as soon as he was an adult.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Figuring Out the Best Appliqué Prep

Do what you feel in your heart to be right for you'll be criticized anyway.

~Eleanor Roosevelt


Whenever I appliqué it seems to need different methods. There are two older but excellent machine appliqué books in my personal library: Mastering Machine Appliqué by Harriet Hargrave and Traditional Quilts Today's Techniques by Debra Wagner. 

Two books on a green cutting board
Machine appliqué instruction books

I drafted my patterns on graph paper then looked for something to reinforce it. The plastic on hand is either too thin or too small. But... there's a whole bunch of file folders from my shredding summer. Woo hoo. Doubled up with some glue, these are quite strong and the supply is almost limitless. So I can trace lots of leaves without compromising the edges of the design. 

Next issue is appliqué. What to do?
  • I actually have {needle turn} appliquéd an entire bed-size quilt {top} but that was years ago. 
  • When appliqué was required for some early t-shirt quilts, the backs are stabilized with fusible interfacing and then they are stitched with a narrow zigzag. Quick and easy. The knit fabrics limit fraying unlike wovens. 
  • Quilty365 circles started as needle turn but quickly changed to the "gathering around a template method." 
I chose needle turn but quickly realized that wasn't great for machine work. And there's no way I'd get this finished if handwork is involved. 

I tried gathering around the template which doesn't work well unless it's a circle. 

hand basting gathers the seam of an applique leaf around the cardboard template
Gathering the seam around a template 

Next I glued the turned edges to the template which worked okay until trying to remove them. Result: A quick way to ruin paper or cardboard templates.

Applique seam is glue-basted to the template
Glue basted applique

Now I'm simply turning the seams under and basting in contrasting thread to help me identify the correct one when it's time for removal.

Applique seam is turned and hand basted with red thread for easy identification
Thread basted applique

Three down; 197 more leaves to go. 

Monthly FUR (Fabric Use Rate) 

No quilts completed in November. Not that I'm sad since I'm working on this massive project again.  
YTD = 159.5 yards.


Most evenings this month I've been reading Underland: A Deep Time Journey by British nature writer Robert Macfarlane and it's finally finished. Caves, mines, tunnels, and crevasses reveal geologic time, prehistoric art, funeral practices, and nuclear waste storage for millenia into the future. Robert spans the globe taking us to different sites and showing what they hide. At times claustrophobic but definitely mind-expanding. NPR has an excellent review here.

Happy Thanksgiving! Wherever you are, I hope you and your family are well and staying safe. We're all looking forward to better holidays in future when we've gotten ahead of this terrible disease.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Cutting Leaves for the Shadow Stars Border

What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone? I avow my faith that we are marching towards better days. Humanity will not be cast down. We are going on swinging bravely forward along the grand high road and already behind the distant mountains is the promise of the sun.
~Winston Churchill


With so many colors in the Shadow Stars already, more green vines and fewer flowers seems like a better idea. I drafted several versions of the vines, made many minor changes, and then cut some simple leaf templates.

Paper leaf templates

Now it's time to review the greens. The stack that looked so good on the border stripe is now set on the Shadow Stars and it's easy to see that some are too bright. The Stars are a cheerful collections of clear and toned prints that {possibly} evoke a bit of Depression-era nostalgia. But none of them are reproduction fabrics. While I like nodding to a bygone time, I don't want a reproduction quilt. Neither do I want the border prints to overpower the Stars. 

So the two more colorful prints on the left are discarded along with the bright green on top. I may not keep the two polka dots underneath either. The remaining fabrics are quieter and more monochromatic. We'll see if there's enough to complete all the leaves. Merely 200.

Several green prints are laid on the Shadow Stars that will form the center of the quilt
Green prints for leaves

Leaf templates on regular paper won't last long so they are reinforced with the heavy cardboard from the old hanging folders. Boy, I'm glad I didn't dump these yet. Each can be reused several times before the edges become soft and I can lay them out to maximize use of my fabrics.

Cardboard backed paper templates are laid on fabric for marking
Arranging leaf templates on fabric


Martin Walker spent his career as a reporter for The Guardian and UPI. He also wrote several non-fiction books about European, Russian, and American politics including The National Front, Waking Giant, and Clinton. After moving to France, he began the Bruno mystery series centered on a local policeman. 

I finally read the first one, Bruno, Chief of Police, and enjoyed the way Martin incorporates his previous work into a believable and unique story. Tony Hillerman wrote a fabulous mystery series that introduced his readers to the Navaho homelands and Martin's books develop from a similar love of the Périgord region. He weaves threads from French history with current events about wine-making and small town life to create a memorable story. I'm looking for the second one now.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Fiddling with Flowers on the Shadow Stars

The cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy.
~Jane Addams

The US election results are in with joy for many of us but also sorrow that the vote was anywhere close. Much work remains to help minority communities, to reestablish science and belief in its research, and to rebuild faith with our democratic partners internationally. Hopefully we can all commit to considering the words we use and the meanings and intentions behind every word and policy.


My head aches from all the ideas running around it. First, I thought I could sew the four main pieces of the flower together and appliqué the finished group as as single unit. You can see that wasn't such a clever idea. The three petals went together easily but then form a thick seam allowance against the green base. Lumpy and pleated result. This is NOT easier. 

Not only that but the double petal on the leaves is too difficult for me to machine appliqué. Something else to simplify. 

The flower seams are pleated as it rests in place atop the vase
Partially seamed flower

On to Plan B. Or is it C, D, or E? I forget. Each piece of the flower unit will be appliquéd separately. And I redrafted the base into more abstract shape. Much easier. 

Next it's time to remove the center of the vase rim so the stems will fit inside. I made a template with the center oval cut out and laid it over the rim. Then I marked the inner oval with chalk and carefully, with much trepidation, cut the vase fabric in the middle so it could be reverse appliquéd. 

Trimming for reverse applique

The back of the rim must be appliquéd before the stems will fit into the vase.  Finishing the front of the vase comes later. This is fussy but not too difficult. I just need to be careful when I restart the stitching. Ha ha ha. 

I adjusted the amount the rim is turned under until it looked even then blanket stitched from one inner curve to the other. Meanwhile the rim's front seam allowance was pinned down to retard fraying. Then each stem was inserted and blanket stitched just to the edge of the rim because leaves still need to be inserted under the long stems. Finally the front of the rim could be appliquéd. Not too bad.

Applique vase

And because I still wasn't sure how the flower would look, it was appliquéd in place, too. Four thread changes. This is not simple but still much easier for me than hand sewing. We already know it takes thirty years for me to complete a quilt by hand


The Return of the Thief, the sixth and final novel in the Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner was published last month and I just finished reading it. Twice through. The books are set in an alternate world reminiscent of ancient or medieval Greece. The tiny countries of Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia occupy the Little Peninsula with larger empires and confederations on each side hoping to annex them. 

Pheris narrates this book. He appeared at the end of the previous one as the "youngest attendant" of the king. Here we find he is the disabled heir of Baron Erondites, the leader of the faction trying to depose the king. When the baron is forced to send his heir to be raised {and influenced} by the king, he sends Pheris, planning to kill the child later and name a new heir. 

If you've followed the series, you know the Medes are preparing to invade. The Little Peninsula must find a way to truly unite against them. There isn't much more I can write without spoiling the plot. And since it's the final book, reading them in order would really help.  

The series started over twenty years ago but remains one of my favorites and this final novel makes a fitting conclusion. 

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Vases on the Shadow Stars Border

Fairy tales are more than true: 
not because they tell us that dragons exist, 
but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.
~C. K. Chesterton

Today is finally Election Day in the U.S. unless you voted early. And I hope you did since the lines will be long today.

Even though the rabbit print seemed a bit light I wanted to try it. The vase is too short to include the whole image. I chose to put the face in rather than the ears. Then I asked QS and several friends whether it needed a foot. Of course, everyone said, "Yes." And I agree... even though it's more work.
Vase with and without a foot, before turning the edges

So I adjusted the template and started pinning them in place. Fortunately DH bought me this LED light board for my birthday. It really helps tracing and placing appliqué. 

Placing components with a light table

There was another fabric I considered for the rim of the vase but it doesn't work as well as it moves quickly into greens. 

Alternate vase rim

The vase is {possibly} straighter than it appears in the photo. My applique is not that accurate and these are hand drawn templates; hopefully, they will look organic when finished and not just weird. I left some basting stitches because the center of the rim needs to be cut when the stems are inserted. 

Vase mostly sewn

But that's next week's task.


Because I learned some people can't comment on my blog, I briefly tried the popup window and full page options for comments but neither allows me to reply directly to the comments. So I'm back to my original choice - embedded. Let's hope Google gets all these issues fixed soon. 


Watching a recent Textile Talk on Women's Suffrage introduced me to the Grimké sisters which led to Sue Monk Kidd's novel, The Invention of Wings.  The story blends their history with the fictionalized Hetty, a slave gifted to Sarah on her eleventh birthday. When Sarah teaches Hetty to read, both girls are severely punished. As Hetty notes later, she is physically imprisoned but mentally free while Sarah is physically free but mentally imprisoned. 

Because Sarah and Angelina supported abolition as well as equality for women, they eventually moved from Charleston to Philadelphia where they began speaking and writing pamphlets. The South Carolina legislature threatened to arrest them if they ever returned home. 

Sue's book is meticulously researched. Most of the Grimke story is true although the timeline is slightly altered in places. While Hetty is fictional, all the cruelties of slavery are not. Nauseating to watch Whites justify their actions in ways we still hear today. 

The novel was published in 2014 so many of you have already read it. What can I say? Sometimes I'm slow.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Return to Shadow Stars

This present moment used to be the unimaginable future.
~Stewart Brand


Did you think I'd forgotten about the Shadow Stars? I've been researching different border ideas. DH didn't like white for the border and I've come to agree with him. I don't want a reproduction although this has traditional roots.

Without enough fabric on hand I spent several weeks looking at online choices. That's a difficult way to make a decision when looking for a specific color. The background needed to be white rather than cream. But the whole thing needed to be soft since I'm planning to applique on it.

After looking at lots of small prints, microdots, plaids and stripes, I settled on this watercolored stripe by In the Beginning. 
The border fabric is laid around the quilt to see how it might look
Striped border around Shadow Star quilt

Now that I'm developing a tulip fixation like Audrey, I drew a fairly simple design. It only took four or five days. Sometimes I'm so literal I try to include everything down to the pollen! It finally occurred to me to merge the leaves and base into one template. I may change the petals later. These outward pointing ones are narrow at the top; perhaps an inward shape would be easier.

Stylized tulip for possible flower on the quilt border
Stylized tulip

Lots of leaves so I pulled these light greens. Mainly too light although the dark one in the middle is too dark. The light blues are also too light. They are lovely but won't contrast enough with the background stripe.

Collections of green and blue prints against the blue and white striped background fabric
Fabric pulls for applique

Something from these choices will show up on the background. There's not enough of anything to make all the leaves. We'll see how many different fabrics are needed. Sometimes I like a lot of variety {the more-is-more style} but this time a restrained collection seems more appropriate.

A variety of green prints against the blue and white striped background
Green fabric choices for leaves

The flowers will be pink... or purple. There's only a smidge of red in my stash and no yellow. Of course, there are some bits in the scrap bag.
Purple and pink fabrics on the blue and white background fabric
Fabric choices for the flowers 

These darker blues might make a vase. Black and brown fabrics were too severe. The lightest one here is really too light but it's that Tula Pink print with rabbits. I'm just compelled to try it. Perhaps with a darker rim...

Blue prints on the blue and white background fabric
Vase fabric choices

Lots of plans, sketches, and measuring this week. Cutting and sewing starts next. And so does the U.S. election. Make democracy work for all of us. V-O-T-E!

Monthly FUR (Fabric Use Rate) 

October saw one quilt completed. It took  6.5 yards. YTD = 159.5 yards. I do like tracking my fabric usage as it makes me more honest about purchasing. And I intend to go shopping again soon.


The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate follows dual timelines of Benny, a present-day schoolteacher , and Hannie, a freed slave in the 1870s during Reconstruction. The title comes from the real Lost Friends column published in the Black Methodist Episcopal newspaper, The Advocate, to locate missing/stolen/lost family and friends of former slaves. The subject is heavy but the writing is excellent. As others noted, this is a topic not usually covered in history classes. 

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

String Tulips 2 Quilt Positively Finished

A president doesn't have to be brilliant. 
He doesn't have to be clever. You can hire clever. 
But you can't buy courage and decency, and you can't rent a strong moral sense. 
A president must bring those things with him.
~Peggy Noonan


My second String Tulips has more yellows in the border. {I learned that from the Electric Socket.} 

Four string tulips form an X in the center surrounded by a border of X string blocks in multicolors.
String Tulips on Blue baby quilt 

That let me choose tulip petals that are lighter in value than the first. More yellows here, too. I can see more yellow will be useful in future quilts as well. It certainly adds light and excitement. 

Black and white print for the tulip stems with purple circles near the center and yellow circles atop each tulip
Detail of crossed tulips

After all the difficulties quilting the previous String Tulips this one is quilted in the same manner. I'd like to get those ideas down pat.

A three petal string pieced tulip on blue and white stripe background
Detail of string tulips

I really, really, really wanted to use this blue and  white stripe for the background but it was a bit short in one direction. Even after cutting the extra from the height to add to the width, there wasn't quite enough to fill the space. So I just turned the final scrap ninety degrees. It adds to the charm. Right?

A lively mix of fabric strings sewn diagonally across each block form Xs around the border
Detail of String Tulips border

The back uses a blue stripe enlarged by an insert of green. 

A blue stripe fabric with a single insert strip of light green creates a back for the quilt
Back of String Tulips on Blue quilt

As always quilting visibility improves on the back. Is it because we have fewer different fabrics? The zigzagging of the border quilting is easily seen here. I stitched diagonally across each block around the inner round of the border then moved to the outer round to complete the design. The zigzags roughly parallel the strings.  

The FMQ quilting designs show on the back of the quilt
Detail of back of String Tulips on Blue quilt

The border is the final remnant of a pillowcase made for a grandchild. Not even enough to capture the entire height of the swans but the color was a good value and I love the scale variation it adds. 

Part of the front, back, and binding can be seen in this photo
Folded String Tulips on Blue quilt

The binding caused me to pull out all my fabric {which is greatly reduced from the beginning of the year. Hooray.} This fun print was in the purples but the blue undertones {is it periwinkle?} and the sprinkling of dark blue ovals made it work very well here. I love finding unexpected solutions, don't you?

Quilt Specifics
Size: 47" x 47"
Design: String tulips and string block border
Batting: Mountain Mist Cream Rose cotton
Thread: Gutermann 50/3 light and dark blue cotton thread
Quilting: SID and FMQ
Approximate yardage: 6.5 yds

Previous posts:
1. Stringing along - the original plan


A friend recommended Reading with Patrick {The Atlantic's comprehensive review} to me and I'm glad I took her suggestion. The memoir by Michelle Kuo focuses on a two-year stint with Teach for America in Arkansas and her seven-month return to the Delta a few years later when she discovers one of her students has been arrested for murder. Michelle, who currently works for an Oakland CA non-profit, says her writing is an act of contrition. The New York Times published a conversation with her that illuminates her motives and hopes for the book. 

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Binding on Average

"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, 
the last of the human freedoms 
- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
~Victor Frankl in Man's Search for Meaning


Today seemed like a good time to review binding because frankly, I've gotten a bit lazy. There are many good videos on YouTube showing how to apply binding, turn the corners, and finish it off. In general I like this McCall's set of four videos but find they've missed an important step - waving edges. That happens when the binding length is not measured and fitted to each side. 

It's easy to think the quilt is perfectly squared up but that's not always true. So cutting binding to the sum of the sides isn't enough to keep the edges flat. Sewing the binding to the quilt without comparing the side and the binding lengths allows them to stretch... even when using a walking foot. 

A smarter way to attach the binding is to measure across the middle of the quilt in both directions and use those measurements for the sides. If the quilt is square like this one, measure both directions, take the average, and apply it to all four sides. 

In this case, my "perfectly square quilt" was off by 1/8-inch. The average is 42.5 inches. 

A retractable tape measure helps with accuracy in planning
Measuring across the quilt to determine the length of the sides of binding

Insert a pin several inches from one end of the binding. In the photo below the pin is about ten inches from the end of the binding. {You can also mark the place with a pencil or marking pen.}

Start marking the binding with a pin 

Add another pin when you reach the average length {the one measured across the middle.} You will do this four times for a total of five pins in the binding. If your pins tend to fall out, you might prefer to simply mark them with a pencil. Just make sure you mark on the "top" so it will fold inside the binding.

Measure the binding and insert a pin at the appropriate length for each side of the quilt
Insert another pin each time you reach the average length

Starting with the first pin line it up with the first quilt corner/edge. That extra ten inches will extend back over the "fourth" side. Pin the binding to the quilt at each corner until you return to the starting point with that fifth pin. 

This isn't a good photo but the binding is pinned loosely to all four sides and overlaps the original extra bit here. 

Pin the binding on the fourth side over the original extra

Go back to ease the quilt and the binding on each side with more pins. On the fourth side, pin the last overlapping binding but remember it won't all be sewn the first time. The two ends need to be fitted together. Mark where the binding ends meet and plan to leave some space to sew them together. Again, look at the YouTube videos for a method you like.

Fold the original leader back when pinning the binding in place

EDIT: Patty "The Quilt Lady" has a different way to sew bindings that she has used for years. It looks like her corners might be tighter than mine but she still matches the length of each binding side to the average length across the middle. 

This post is a personal sticky note that I hope helps you, too. 


Mary Robinette Kowal's latest installment of the Lady Astronaut series was my latest book. I find the the premise of this series very engaging. The Relentless Moon is the first story without Elma {the original Lady Astronaut}, who is on her way to Mars. In addition to a Martian base, humanity is creating a lunar base to evacuate more people. Post-Meteor life means women and Blacks have new opportunities but there have been several accidents that could ground the space program. Are they caused by minorities or by political extremists or are they the result of poor planning by the space program?  There is evidence to support all these reasons. 

Nicole Wargin, another of the first women astronauts and the wife of the governor of Kansas where the US government and space effort is headquartered, is sent to the moon again to help discover the truth. At fifty, she is intelligent, resourceful, and privileged but also experiences physical and mental issues - like a real person. Mary expands her book universe tremendously by developing the motivations and point of view of {previously} secondary characters.  

Well researched, well written. I enjoy the twists that happen in this alternate world including how Mary addresses racial and gender equality. 


Early voting begins today in Texas. Wherever you are, print a sample ballot; research the candidates and issues and take it with you to vote. VOTE UP THE BALLOT. That means research and vote each position on your ballot, not just the presidential race. 

My ballot has already arrived at the election office. Where is yours?

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

A Second String Tulip Started

It takes courage to live through suffering and it takes honesty to observe it.
~ C. S. Lewis


The first set of Electric Socket blocks have been on the design wall long enough. After so many supportive comments, I've come to like the craziness, too, but still wanted to play with tulips. Fortunately there are still more blocks waiting to be sewn. Now I'm basically repeating the previous tulip quilt but with a brighter border. The blocks were arranged to flow from yellow to red to blue to green to orange and back to yellow around the border. The yellows in Electric Socket made that quilt shine so they had to be included in this one. Additionally, repeating the Tulip design should help crystallize all the techniques I learned {hopefully without all the mistakes.}

Because the border contains clear, bright strings, the tulips should, too. Compare them with the black tulips in the first String Tulip quilt. 

Green could have been used for the stems but this black and white seemed more fun and made a more emphatic contrast on the blue striped background. Altogether this is a jauntier look for the same layout. Funny what a difference a few strings make.


So many books are in my queue these days. I'm coming to realize how my "home reading", i.e., those books I've purchased, gets behind. The library has been notifying me daily of yet another hold that's available. After waiting so many months for access, I'm more aware of the queue of readers still waiting. 

The Smallest Lights in the Universe, a memoir by MIT astrophysicist, Sara Seager, recounts her professional development from a young girl awestruck by the sight of a clear night sky to a MacArthur grant recipient and lead of a NASA research team. Soon after becoming tenured at MIT her husband dies of cancer. The story intertwines the search for extraterrestrial life with the equally important ones of search for a meaningful life and search for connections with other lives. She masterfully links images and scenes from one to the other. 

One of her many skills is the ability to explain her projects clearly to amateurs and non-technical readers. She simplifies without speaking down. She also conveys an amazing awareness of other people, why and how she built a family/community of people vital to her life. Definitely a worthwhile read.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Another Ocean Conquered

Paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people.
~Justice Hugo Black


It seems I am flitting around from one project to the next. While it's true, there's an explanation. We are steadily cleaning out every drawer, cabinet, cubbyhole, and niche in the house. The floor is covered with files, collections, and half-finished projects. When there is time to sew I just grab the closest one {or the one I keep tripping over} and move it along. This week was the time to finish the Ocean Wave scrap quilt that resurfaced in my last cycle of cleaning. {An embarrassing number of projects in various stages of completion come to light when I clean. They are neatly stored, usually in common areas although not with my current fabric. I don't have a separate closet for tops either so they get hung with the out of season clothes. Perhaps they need a divider to highlight them. In this case, some of the triangles were boxed {in shoeboxes like and with heels I no longer wear} since the previous one was completed seven years ago while others are leftovers from my first Ocean Waves... which doesn't seem to be posted. Here is the 2009 quilt that started this series.

Scrap quilt of small blue and cream triangles form this traditional pattern
Ocean Waves quilt with blue centers 

I don't remember difficulties quilting it but I was younger and stronger. The white triangles are matchsticked. There are feathers in the border, but I don't remember the design in the blue squares. It was a college graduation present to a dear young man. We still keep in touch but I haven't seen the quilt since.

Matchstick quilting in the light triangles allows the blue ones to advance.
Detail of Ocean Waves 1

Since this newest red version was the third and especially since parts have been lying around for a decade, its name is Tethys Waves in honor of the ancient Mesozoic Era ocean. Just amusing myself. 

It was pin basted along with the LeMoyne Stars but didn't get quilted as promptly. Time to move it out before it truly belongs in another era. 

Tethys Waves and LeMoyne Stars pin basted

Comparing it with the blue quilt highlights the effect borders make in this pattern. The variations in color and value create a sense of wave motion that gives the block its name. Even though the "waves" include many of the same fabrics, this version seems much scrappier and casual without a border.

Triangular scraps of blue and white form waves across the surface surrounding red squares on point
Ocean Waves 3 scrap quilt

This time I wanted to see the effect of an all over quilting design. Again, straight line/matchstick quilting was considered {when is it not?} but the curves of Baptist Fan will work better for two reasons: they fit the wave theme and curved quilting stands up to daily use better. Casually ignoring the piecing seems in keeping with a scrap quilt.

While it's not very visible on the front, the red thread makes it stand out better on the white back. 

Two photos show how the curves of Baptist Fan quilting appears on both sides of this quilt
Detail of Baptist Fan quilting

In fact, here's a view of the entire back. A bit boring but this large piece of blue pine trees on white has been languishing in my stash long enough. Large lengths of fabric can drive me crazy. There's either too much to "waste" on a smaller quilt or not quite enough for a large quilt. Time to put it to use and move it along. The off-center strip of two blues adds some interest, blends with the blue shades of the pine trees and saved me from matching the pattern at the seam. 

The quilt back is blue pine trees printed on white with a single stripe of blue fabric to add interest
Back of Ocean Waves 3 quilt

The cadet blue that was used on the LeMoyne Stars makes a good binding color. It matches the pine trees on the back and fades into the values on the front where there's already enough going on. And that fabric is gone. 

The folded quilt highlights the front, back, and blue binding
Detail of front, back, and binding

Using an all-over design made the quilting much faster. It was finished in less than a week and it already in the mail to my dear friend who has been patiently waiting for a red quilt. This is one of my favorite designs even though all those tiny triangles mean it is time-consuming to make. But I've given every one of them away. Perhaps I should make one to keep next time.

Quilt Specifics
Size: 63" x 63"
Design: Ocean Waves
Batting: Mountain Mist Cream Rose cotton
Thread: Superior 50 wt red cotton thread
Quilting: Free motion Baptist Fans
Approximate yardage: 9 yds 

Previous posts:

Monthly FUR (Fabric Use Rate) 

Woo hoo. The three quilts and two shirts completed in September took a total of 27.25 yards. {Yes, baby quilts still count.} YTD = 153 yards.


The last day to register to vote in Texas for the November election is coming up. Monday, October 5. That's when your application must be accepted - not just mailed. Check online to find the deadlines of your state but whatever you do, make sure you and all your friends are registered!


This administration callously moved the deadline for the 2020 Census up by a month. September 30 is the new deadline to give information that will effect your community for the next decade. It has nothing to do with citizenship and everything to do with hospitals, libraries, roads, and Congressional districting. Don't let your community be undercounted. 

Enjoy the day, Ann