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