Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Placement Matters

"There are many kinds of selfishness in this world, but the most selfish is hoarding time, 
because none of us know how much we have, 
and it is an affront to God to assume there will be more."
~Mitch Alborn in Finding Chika


We are all doing what we can to fight this virus - the bravest on the front lines, the rest of us donating to charities, tipping delivery people heavily, and staying home.

Two styles of cotton fabric masks. One a pleated rectangle and the other fitted like a bra cup to fit closely over the nose
Homemade masks
I made 40 masks this week with my tightest weave fabric for the front, cotton t-shirts for lining, and polyester or quilting thread to sew the ties {because I have no elastic.} With spring cleaning I'd already pulled extra t-shirts and fabric remnants that made good ties so it was easier to switch to this task.

Detail of backstitching at the corners where the ties and the masks meet reinforces those stress points
Reinforce corners by backstitching
There are loads of patterns online. I liked the fitted masks best {that look like a brasserie} but DH liked the rectangular ones with side pleats so I made some of both. What I found is that it should cover from bridge of nose to under the chin and from jawbone to jawbone. Aim for the width of your ears on the short sides or it just gaps when put on.

Delivery drivers, grocers, homeless shelters, rehab centers, nursing homes, and vet clinics are among the people and places that can use these to free up professional masks for our front line heroes. Mine went to a collection center for distribution.

Tip: Instead of adding four ties, make two longer ties {16" for each tie end plus the width of the short end} and zigzag them so they can better take the stress of tying. Also backstitch at mask corners to reinforce those points of stress.


Saved vegetable peelings enrich the broth from boiling a chicken. Bay leaves and other spices added for additional flavor
Making chicken broth with vegetable peelings
It recently occurred to me that I could again make broth with vegetable peelings rather than tossing them straight to compost. It extends the vegetables that must be acquired. My grandmother taught me to make it this way but after finishing college, it didn't seem necessary. Time to pull this method out again.


The addition of pink gives these trees the glow of spring... even though the greens lean to the yellow side. {In my mind, that usually indicates fall.}

Tree blocks laid out with with pale pink and green fabrics call the colors of spring to mind
Springtime tree blocks laid out with with pink and green

With spring in mind, an apple tree seemed in order. Lovely red and white plaid paired with red polka dots and a large circular print indicative of green apples. My mistake was adding those active prints to the light side of the trees. Instead of a tree, it's simply a mess.

Dividing the HSTs in the pine tree block by color rather than value causes the image of the tree to disappear
First attempt at apple tree quilt block

I laid out a new one with only polka dots and whites on the light side. It's the right-hand one on the bottom row. The circles and plaids now sit with the green - where their values match. As you can see, this arrangement works much better.

The apple blossom block on the bottom row, right, is own sewn with a better arrangement of fabrics that sorts them by value on each side of the HSTs
Spring tree blocks sewn

And no, I didn't unsew the first tree. These triangles are too small and fiddly. I just tossed it... into the scrap bag. It's a learning experience.

Two tote bags. A larger one in brown with pale green print and a smaller one with red and yellow printsI also finished two more tote bags. There wasn't quite enough fabric for one on the left but I made it anyway. It will just be a grocery tote; too small for a foster child. {It was already cut when I switched to mask making.}


Psychologist Mary Pipher wrote Reviving Ophelia about the needs of adolescent girls and now has written this one about cultural and developmental issues women face as they age. In some ways it reminds me of Atul Gawande's Being Mortal and in fact, she references his book and several of the same research projects. Atul's book addresses end-of-life issues while this one focuses on how women age.

One finished quilt, eight totes that took 11.5 yards, plus 8.5 yards for masks makes 27 yards this month. YTD = 47.5 yards.

Please stay safe.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Trees and Totes

Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong. These are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.
~Winston Churchill


Trees might be a possible border for Shadow Stars. If not there they could make a good quilt on their own. It took lots of drawing to determine which variation would work best. How many leaves on each side? How tall or short should the trunk be? Does it need roots or not? And since I want a specific size on point, none of these variations came with easy measurements. Of course not.

When I finally cut some triangles the real work began. It's difficult to get them laid out well. There's too much variation in the top one and the bottom right is too light.

Light green HSTs interspersed with blue, pink, and darker green HSTs to add life to the blocks
First attempt at tree blocks

My next attempts were at the bottom of this photo. I liked the tree on the left and began to fill in the background above it; however, orange leaves still didn't work as well with the tree on the right so they were exchanged for blue. It needs more tweaking.

Arranging green HSTs interspersed with a few pink and blue HSTs to create lively pine tree quilt blocks
Creating tree blocks

The trees don't need as many different fabrics as I'd expected although they sure need lots of triangles. In fact, each block has 82 pieces. Who thought this craziness up? At least this is a good time to sit and sew. It's amusing how significantly the blocks shrink when they are sewn. {It doesn't take much to amuse me.}

Two pine tree quilt blocks. One with all the fabric laid out as leaves, trunk and background. The other with all the pieces sewn. This highlights how much sewing contracts the blocks.
Tree blocks laid out and sewn

By the end of the week there are five tree blocks.

Fine pine tree quilt blocks sewn. Leaves represented by light green triangles with a few other colors like blue, pink, and darker green for depth. for depth
First set of tree blocks

I'm surprised how few different fabrics are used in each tree. I expected to need ten or more just for the green leaves but most have three fabrics there {with another three or four in the background.} They also take a very light hand with the accent colors. Good practice for me who always thinks more is better.

Tote Bags
With all the extra cleaning, an older stack emerged. Tote bags - good for groceries, overnighters, or work bags. Shockingly, the Texas Supreme Court ruled banning plastic bag unconstitutional a few years ago. What a selfish, short-sighted decision that current inhabitants can do whatever they want without regard to future generations. Surely we can do better.

Four tote bags in a variety of colors make overnight bags for foster children
Tote bags

These are shoulder bags based on a free pattern from Back Porch Quilts in Pacific Grove. Each uses 1.5 yards. One yard for the sides, lining, and straps. Half a yard for the contrast on the front. These fabrics have been paired for a while. Now is a good time to finish them.

The purple one is mine; a reminder of our other sister who loved birds and that color. The others are for foster children. A quick way to pack might be a better gift than a pillowcase. I'll make more throughout the year.

Face Masks
We gave two boxes of procedure masks that we had from the last wildfire to the local hospital. They aren't N95 level; just what sick patients wear. Now we could use a few homemade ones to keep from spreading coughs and droplets to others {if that happens to us.} This article discusses the effectiveness and breathability of various materials. Realize that the pillowcases they mean are NOT the pretty ones we cover our pillow with. They refer to the feather-proof ticking that holds the feathers or foam of your actual pillow. Oddly, some is already in my stash and I just sorted our t-shirts. This will be next week's project. Our local hospitals don't want these but making them for us will not take the good ones from the people who need them most.

There are inspiring stories worldwide of the creative ways people build connections, hope, and service to each other while fighting this pandemic. Just like Mr. Rogers said, "Look for the helpers." I hope you are all well, safe, and busy as we all do what we can to help each other.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Lone Star Quilt for a Grandmother

Our ecological emergency demands proactive choices, not reactive sideswipes.
~Tommy Morton

How much more true in this global health crisis? Some countries are taking effective action while others exacerbate the problem by their past and current choices. By firing the CDC pandemic staff in 2018, our president ensured we would be less prepared for this emergency. We see the result in critical lack of testing kits, ventilators, and coordinated response.

We are under a shelter in place order. I had a visit to QS planned but postponed it due to the pandemic. We were already fairly well prepared because we are accustomed to keeping emergency supplies. Fortunately there are also mounds of fabric and stacks of books in my house. My best choices are to stay home and increase my monetary donations to help those in need. I hope you all are safe and careful, too. 


Grandmother quilts are gifted to friends when their first grandchild is born so they have a quilt for all their grands to use. My SIL became a grandmother at the end of last year. That's not too long ago, right? She loves blue so I made a top using leftovers from the farmhouse quilt I finally finished for her. This week was the time to push myself to get it quilted. I'll mail it later.

Traditional Lone Star quilt of blue and white fabrics set on white background with feather quilting
Blue Lone Star grandmother quilt

What was so hard about the quilting? Nothing. I simply psych myself out at times. The star itself was easy orange peels but the background was another story. The top looked so formal that a circle of feathers seemed a requirement. Besides, SIL will love them. That was the sticking point because I hate marking - which is why the quilt went to the closet for a while.

Finally I rewatched Angela Walters YouTube videos on feathers and fillers. Then I marked an arc on the four sides with boundaries for the feathers. My official washable marker is dry so washable Crayola markers were the next solution. I've heard red and purple don't always wash out so chose the blue. It required a longer soaking but afterwards all was good.

Detail photos of quilting feathers and filling their background
Drafting lines for free motion feather arc

You can see the "wavy" arc in the top photo. After looking at it with all sides sketched, I didn't like the wave so I just eyeballed a normal curve on the go and it turned out pretty well.

What else can you see in the photo? You can see how mark a two-lane road for feathers. It gives me the center spine {the median} and the outside width of the feathers {the shoulders.} The feathers are close enough in size although each is unique. It's certainly easier than marking every one and trying to follow those lines!

The main circle of feathers uses the bump back method but those little twirls inside are normal feathers. I can only bump back when they grow from the base. If they are sewn from the top down, I have to do regular ones. Does anyone else have that problem? Can you even tell the difference? {I can't unless my nose is right on the quilt.} Do I care? {No.}

I quilted the side feathers first, then the inner twirl, then stippled the inside {because I didn't have a better plan.} The corner feathers came next. Then it was time evaluate and determine how to handle the outside.

Adding plumes to fill the corner blocks with more free motion feather quilting
Corner free motion quilting on Lone Star quilt

By this time I was bored with stippling and decided to add random motifs: clam shells, curls, string of beads, and echo quilting. I pulled these ideas from Diane Gaudynski's Quilt Savvy, The news was on all day and I just kept quilting. That's my excuse for the heavy quilting. It seemed a bit stiff when finished but softened beautifully after a wash and dry. {It also helped that the thread is YLI Soft Touch, a fine Egyptian cotton thread.}

The center of the back is a remnant of the fabric backing the Square Deal. The borders came from my stash. I usually put fabric I'm tired of on the back but I'm trying to up my game. Amazing how nice it looks with reasonably coordinated fabrics. They all have circular designs and a soft blue-green color.

Three light blue fabrics with circular printing create the quilt back.
Back of blue Lone Star grandmother quilt

The orange peel arcs that looked a bit irregular on the front appear much better from the back.

The photo shows how orange peel quilting designs appears on the quilt back
Detail of orange peel quilting
on the back of the Lone Star

So many blues have been used lately that the stash is low. This binding is a remnant from my dress. With blues and blue-greens it blends the front and back perfectly.

Detail of folded quilt showing parts of front, back, and binding
Detail view of blue Lone Star grandmother quilt

Although this top has been hanging in the closet for six months, it's finally done and on its way to the best SIL in the world. She will love seeing her fabrics in a new setting and I love using some of my favorite fabrics to finish it off. Her new grandchild is a blessing and I hope this quilt is, also.

Quilt Specifics
Size: 49" x 49"
Design: Lone Star
Batting: Mountain Mist Cream Rose cotton
Thread: YLI Soft Touch white cotton thread and Aurifil 50 wt. light blue thread
Quilting: FMQ orange peel, feathers, stipple, echo, etc.
Approximate yardage: 7 yds

Previous post: Lone Star top.


If you have Amazon Prime, you can read the Newbery Honor winner, The Thief, free. It's the first book in the series by Meghan Whalen Turner and I recommended it two weeks ago. I've now reread the five current books in the series and am awaiting the sixth coming in the fall.

Poster for movie starring Lily Collins as Snow White and Julia Roberts as the stepmotherStaying home this week I watched Mirror Mirror starring Lily Collins {daughter of Phil Collins} with Julia Roberts as the evil queen. It raced through theaters but was one of my favorite versions of Snow White - more fun than scary. Best of all was the costuming by Eiko Ishioka which was nominated for an Academy Award. As quilters we love fabrics; these are glorious {although I've read they were extremely heavy to wear.} She creates structured clothes that reflect her Asian heritage... at least they do to me. This was the last movie Eiko ever costumed. A 2017 Google Doodle celebrated her. Wouldn't it be great to personally know someone who was honored this way?

Happy St. Patrick's Day. Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Pi Day 2020

"Hope is the choice we make to see the light, 
even while recognizing the inevitable presence of darkness." 
~Rabbi Nancy Kasten


Wonders never cease. Pi Day is Saturday and I'm currently working on a circle quilt as it approaches. In fact, the top is sewn. Sort of. Maybe I'm moving forward; maybe I'm standing on quicksand. I'm not sure. But I have sewn plain white sashing and posts to the Shadow Stars. While it's not as visually appealing as the green compasses, it's not lumpy and twisted either.

Shadow Star quilt with plain white sashing

While I consider whether to add appliqué near the posts {and if so, what fabrics to use} I'm also going to think about the border. The Stars are {fairly} precise so improv or very casual piecing won't match. Appliqué borders may be a solution but oh, how I wish I could think of a pieced border that would work.

Meanwhile, here are some light prints that might fit in a border somewhere. I'm wondering how they'd look as part of a pieced border or as the background to some appliqué.

Photos of four floral prints on white backgrounds that might make a border for the Shadow Star quilt
Possible border prints for Shadow Star quilt

I can only find three circle quilts this past year. The propeller baby quilt:

Large propeller block surrounded by twelve smaller propeller blocks sashed with red flying geese
Propeller baby quilt

The spirals on this Chinese Coins quilt:

Chinese Coins sashed with a variety of yellow to orange solid fabrics has additional spiral applique in dark rust
Chinese Coins quilt with spirals

and Clara's emoji hair:

Fabric collage of girl's face with emoji fabric cut as pigtails
Clara, a collage quilt

Now that we have the spiralizer apple peeler, we are definitely having apple pie for dinner. All week!

A small clump of yellow daffodils in full bloom

The daffodils are fading. Every time they bloom I remember how our mother told my sister she was born "when the tulips bloom." Upon spying the daffodils in the garden she started dancing around crying, "It's my BIRTHDAY!" And we had cake that night.

Professor Marcel Salathe recorded a lecture on coronavirus for an infection biology class at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne the last week of February. It addresses the state of our knowledge at that time but it also contains excellent general information about how epidemiologists address novel diseases. Just over ninety minutes so get your coffee first.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, March 3, 2020


"Progress is not created by contented people."
~Frank Tyger


Frank may be correct but taking this top apart is a funny sort of progress. And that's what I'm doing. Fortunately not all the seams are sewn but it's still a lot. Why? Because I'm very unhappy with the result.

It's not visible in this photo but there is no way to press the compass seams flat. They must twist or create a gigantic lump at the post or the point. If they twist, there's a dimple in the seam, especially because of the solid background. Even though I trimmed carefully, the points seem to wobble around although that may be an artifact of the seam/pressing issues.

The white sashing has four-pointed stars of pale green prints around purple posts
Testing compass sashing on Shadow Star quilt blocks

My choices are to force my way ahead {and continue to be dissatisfied} or to back up. I choose to back up. I intend to have this long arm quilted by a friend and she will make something beautiful in all the white space. A better solution than continuing with lumps and bumps that will make the quilting more difficult.

But oh, how I hate to rip all those seams and toss this idea.


The cover of the book, The Thief shows an amulet in a pair of handsBecause Megan Whalen Turner just published her sixth book in the Queen's Thief series, I'm rereading all of previous ones first. The Thief, written twenty years ago, won a Newbury Honor so it's listed as a children's book. Before passing this up, remember Wrinkle in Time and C.S. Lewis' Narnia are also found in the children't section. Some of the best books are.

The king's magus believes he knows where an ancient treasure is hidden. Needing a thief to assist him, he chooses Gen from prison. The story is still as good as the first time I read it. Megan based her world on ancient Greece as countries are rising from city-states but freely adds and alters to create her own setting. She is a master of clever surprises.

Warning: The second book, The Queen of Attolia, opens with a devastatingly violent scene. Still worthwhile.

Enjoy the day, Ann