Tuesday, July 28, 2020

String Tulips

Freedom discovers man the moment he loses concern over
what impression he is making or about to make.
~Bruce Lee


As if the first set wasn't enough, here's a second set of the Electric Socket strings. {Thanks for the perfect name, Julie.} Not so much yellow here and the green blocks aren't resonating. 

Long skinny strings of fabric in a variety of prints form Xs when set together.
More string X blocks

Leaving them on the design wall gave me lots of time to arrange and rearrange all those string blocks. I moved something every time I walked by but they were just too crazy together. It could be the mix of fabrics {completely mixed up} or the angles of the strings themselves but it never gelled. What to do? What about taking out the center to make a medallion? 

After a while, I realized scrap tulips have been on my wish list for years. Tulips remind me of our dear sister and always make me happy. This will be my #AHIQPositiveThinking prompt. Just when I need a smile. 

Now I've looked at hundreds of tulip quilts over the years - antique stores, online auctions, blogs, etc. - but some of my favorites come from Audrey at QuiltyFolk. There are three general block types: a single tulip with leaves, one or more tulips in a basket, and crossed tulips. {Audrey has made all of them.  Another reason to follow her blog.} The center petal can be another string set or a single fabric. 

Most often the petals are strung crosswise but I saw one years ago in Dallas where the strings ran the length of the petal. That's what I chose to do with mine. 

48 colorful angled string blocks form Xs around a blank center
Angled string blocks as a border

The tulip are sized so one petal fits inside one of the already sewn blocks. No reason to add more work. It also uses some of the blocks that were removed. How nice is that!

Now to choose the background fabric. Loads of greens and a few blues came out of the stash. These four are too busy, too bright, or too strong.

Three green prints and one blue are tested as background for string tulip blocks
Possible center background fabrics

This funky green with gold crosses and x's blends nicely with the melange of colors in the border. Lighter tulip petals faded into the background. Using blocks with some dark strings {like the one in the bottom left} makes the tulips pop the most. It reminds me of Black Tulips such as Queen of the Night and Black Hero

Four string tulips make an X in the medallion center. Forty-eight multi-colored angled string blocks surround it.
String Tulips baby quilt top

I was going to add leaves but there wasn't room once everything else was sewn so circles using Kay Buckley's Perfect Circles templates were the backup plan. My circles always turn out well shaped with this tool and there's a lot of choices in the set. I just put different sizes on the top until it looked right. Then it seemed to need another set of circles at the petal points. 

All the appliqué has turned under quarter-inch seams topstitched down using an edge foot... even the circles. {My previous appliqué used a blanket stitch.} Only when sewing across the bottom of the tulips did I have any trouble. So many seams. Just slow down so the stitch length stays even. 

The stems are binding remnants. Their chunkiness fits the large scale of the tulips. 

Monthly FUR (Fabric Use Rate) 

Despite my goal to finish more tops, nothing was completed in July. Again. YTD = 111.75 yards.

Voting and Census

Our national election scheduled for November 3 is 98 days away. Help someone register and encourage everyone to vote. Everyone needs to participate in a democracy - both in becoming informed on issues and candidates as well as actually voting.

And just as important, the 2020 census is still ongoing. Everyone residing in the US of every status needs to participate. Our constitution requires an accounting each decade of every person in the US and its territories as a way to determine congressional districts and apportion Congressional seats and allocate federal money. Please make sure you and your neighbors are counted. Check here for more information. 


Poems by Mary Oliver have been my latest evening reading. After weeks of randomly reading her poems online I started her fifth collection, American Primitive. Her reflections on nature and her joyfulness at life draw me in every time. 

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

When to Say Uncle

Love determines our bonds.
~Mitch Alborn in Finding Chika

When we were growing up {back in the Dark Ages before the internet} my youngest sister cried because "everyone else gets mail and I don't!" So our mother told her everything addressed to occupant was hers. Mother was a clever woman.

Taking that lesson to heart, I send my grandchildren a weekly postcard. Their parents tell me they are thrilled to receive "real" mail. I look for postcards wherever I go. Museums are especially good places to find them... when they were open. Fortunately I stocked up several good batches. 

Remember the story, String Too Short to be Saved? This week, just before dropping all the scraps into the trash I sewed some together to make fabric postcards. Because they are still useful... And I'm crazy.

It started with some leftover Porgs from a shirt for DH. {That curve came from the sleeve.} I backed it with muslin, stitched the layers together, then decided to zigzag the edge. Oops. Big mistake. It was straight but ended up lumpy and wiggly. However, edge treatments need to be done before attaching the card backing. As we all remember, close stitching on paper just causes it to fall away.

Because I attached the fabric to the card from the fabric side, the back is visibly uneven.  Altogether as bit of a mess.
Two collaged photos show the cardboard back and the fabric front of the postcard. Half the front is a print with U2D2 hidden in a bunch of porgs. On the left are three parallel strips: dark grey, tan, and white.
First postcard attempt

The backs are 4" x 6" index cards... because I have a bunch at the house and it's better to use what's on hand. I sewed the layers together with with longest basting stitch and learned
  1. The "basting" stitch length is too long. A 3 on my Bernina looks best.
  2. Topstitch thread works better than regular sewing thread. 
  3. Lightly glue the fabric to the card {then press with a dry iron until the glue dries} to hold the layers in place. There's no way to pin these together that won't leave a hole in the card.
  4. Mark a border about a quarter inch from the edges of the card and sew with the card side up to create an more even border.
My next Porg attempts turned out a bit better. I pinked the fabric edges... because I have my grandmother's pinking shears.

Two more postcards with the R2D2/porg fabric paired with red, white, mustard, and dark brown prints.
Porg and R2D2 postcards

I made a few more with raw edges but thought sewing a pillowcase might look more finished. No idea why that would matter with a postcard.

Two collaged photos show the cardboard back and two fabric fronts sewn so there are no raw edges around the sides. The one on the left has jellyfish on aqua. The right has white prints on the left, green on the right with a vertical strip of reds.
Pillowcase postcards

They make a nice change but the raw edges are simpler. Notice how much nicer the back looks when the sewing line is drawn and stitched with the card side up.

Then I pulled any scrap that had a design on it. Crab, bird, frog, tulips. Even when they are partly cut off.

Postcards of colorful scraps rest on a green cutting board. The fabrics include a crab, bird, frog, and several tulips.
Fabric postcards

These aren't the most artistic pieces but they amuse me. I've seen ATCs but was never inspired. Postcards have a similar function: a place to use tiny scraps, a way to practice new techniques, a time to play. I enjoyed myself, learned some things, and have a way to move these bits out of the house. {Mailing them to the grandchildren. Hahaha.}

Eight postcards used perhaps quarter yard. Warning: Fabric postcards are too thick for the postcard rate; they require letter stamps. But what fun this is.


Some of the beans have the loveliest purple flowers. What a joy to watch them grow although I'm not sure how many beans we will actually get. 


Our national election scheduled for November 3 is 105 days away. Help someone register and encourage everyone to vote. Democracy requires the participation of ALL citizens.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Rosie Lee Tompkins

"Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society."
~Oliver Wendell Holmes

We had a three month delay in paying taxes here in the US. The new deadline is July 15. Tomorrow.

Chinese Coins

With so many little projects around the house there wasn't much time for quilting this week. Someone asked how to decide on the widths of Chinese Coin columns recently and here's what I wrote:

1. I plan the overall size (LxW) of the finished quilt because it helps me determine when I have enough columns and when to stop sewing onto a column. Believe me, column length is difficult to eyeball. I put pins on my design wall but you could masking tape your carpet or use floor tiles as a guide. Just something concrete to refer to.

2. Decide on a range (say 4-8") or pair of ranges (very narrow and very wide) as a guide because it helps determine how many columns you are shooting for. {50" wide/6" = 8 columns while 50" wide/ (8+2") = 5 PAIRS of columns. Only three 14" wide columns could fit in the same 50 inches.} You might still need extra columns in the end but this gives you an idea to aim for.

3. Sew the widest column(s) you want first because you will run out of strings. Just look at your outlined quilt size and consider what width looks "right" remembering you will trim and seam about an inch off the column. 

4. When that/those columns are finished, look at the strings that remain to figure your next column width.

5. There are usually enough tiny bits left at the end for one or two very narrow columns.

There are many examples on my blog because it must be my favorite scrap quilt idea. Just search for Chinese Coins or use this link where I did it for you.


Despite all the issues of the pandemic, I did manage to see the Rosie Lee Tompkins quilt exhibit at BAMPFA. Just not in person. You can see it, too... until December 20. The exhibit opened just as California locked down for the pandemic so the museum kindly made a video tour. It's over an hour long so get your coffee ready first. The museum site includes a slideshow and links to their catalog but the video itself is also available on YouTube. Among the benefits of video {as opposed to in person visiting} are the ability to rewind and tour a site as many times as you wish.

Rosie is the pseudonym of Effie Mae Howard who lived in Richmond CA where Eli Leon met her. He purchased many of her quilts over the years and curated several shows that included her work. I have catalogs of three of the shows but believe there were at least eight including several, such as the 2016 exhibit at the Museum of California, that didn't have catalogs.

Catalogs of African-American quilt shows by Eli Leon

Upon his death, Eli donated most of his collection of 3,000 African-American quilts to the UC Berkeley museum including 500 by Ms. Tompkins alone. 

Projects Around the House

Still scanning and shredding. As previously mentioned the compost bin limits how much can be done each week. There is nowhere else to put the stuff. Currently six of twelve drawers completed. Halfway through although the tougher files are still ahead. More of these will need to be retained. Still, it's good to review what is in the files and put misfiled papers into their correct section. 


As we watch Covid ravage the US and see other countries actually dampen their outbreaks I realize part of the problem is the politicization of the pandemic. For the first time, politicians have pushed health care professionals out of the way as they rush to get their face before the electorate. They are not trained in public health and conflate their own agenda with medical facts. It has encouraged people to think the virus votes. I am appalled by the thoughtless actions of my neighbors and fellow citizens who somehow think it's a hoax/ they won't get it/ it's not too deadly. Read this short article if you find a 1% death rate acceptable.  

If nothing else consider the rate of infection among health care workers. It takes years of training to become either a nurse or a doctor. As they die off, who will be there to provide your healthcare?

Who else recalls one of America's major problems of WWII was that  malnutrition during the preceding decade of the Great Depression left many of our citizens unfit to serve? Are we really ready to write off another generation of working-age citizens? Do you want yourself or your family to be one of these people? And support them with all the extra care they will need over the years ahead? 


Our national election scheduled for November 3 is 112 days away. Help someone register and encourage everyone to vote. Vote 411 is a wonderful resource. Democracy requires the participation of ALL citizens. 

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Stringing Along

We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

The introduction of a story by Donald Hall relates an apocryphal story: 'A man was cleaning the attic of an old house in New England and he found a box which was full of tiny pieces of string. On the lid of the box there was an inscription in an old hand: "String too short to be saved".'

My mother loved quoting the punch line whenever something foolish appeared in our cabinets. We deny packrat tendencies but truth will out. What crazy stuff we save because it might be useful one day. The dreadful warning of this tale {occasionally} restrains me from expanding my quilting stash which I already find overwhelming.

It is also the reason I keep a single small bag for scraps although an amazing amount can be crammed into that bag. I won't purchase containers to subdivide the stuff. My point is to use it up, to keep it moving because this insidious fabric propagates nightly. My scrap bag still looks as full as when I started this recent set of scrap quilts; there are just fewer "pretty" fabrics.

How can I sew this mess? Why am I bothering? How small is too small? What's your limit? What's the smallest scrap you keep? What do you do with the waste? {I know Cathy spreads hers as garden compost.} Questions we face daily.

There are still a ton of strings. I'm tired of diamonds, thought about Chinese Coins, but got the brilliant idea to angle the strings. At least it sounded brilliant. In reality it's been a bit of a pain.

The newspaper foundations are 5.5". No idea why except it's less than six inches so it was easier to cut and the smaller squares don't need such long strings - only about eight inches for the main diagonal. I pulled "longer strings" out so the centers would be easier to plan but still find myself coming up short.

Scrap strings are sewn diagonally across the square blocks, narrower at one end and widening at the other.
String blocks

What should be the middle string? How can I highlight the angle? The X? I'm way overthinking this.

The string blocks have darker strings on the center diagonals that create colorful Xs in this layout.

Wow. It looks like I stuck my finger in an electric outlet. Too wild? I need to think it over.

Projects Around the House

Scanning and shredding continues apace. Two more drawers cleared. I'm finding a few things that still need to be retained physically but hope to limit it to one drawer. Once the compost bin filled I attacked our bookcases and culled three bags of books for the next library sale. QS and I laughingly refer to moving junk out of the house as foundational cleaning. I imagine how happy the house is to lose the weight and I certainly love having more room in the rooms.

We enjoyed a quiet holiday weekend at home. All our family called at some point... and we watched Hamilton. DH took me to the stage play a few years ago as a special gift but the many unique angles of the video recording make it almost as remarkable. 


Our national election scheduled for November 3 is 119 days away. The Vote411 website can help any American register, check their registration status, and find out what is on their specific ballot. I find printing a sample ballot before going to vote gives me time to double check all my options. Who can you help register? And get to a polling place? Democracy requires the participation of ALL citizens. 

Enjoy the day, Ann