Monday, December 30, 2013

Pickle Dish recipe

Excited as I was to FMQ the Franken-quilt, I had run out of any thread that would even approximate the colors I might need. Enter my dear husband, who was taking a trip into town. Meanwhile, back at the ranch (just an expression; what we have more approximates a hobby farm), I tried out the pickle dish recipe by Kaffe Fassett. Here is a quilt that somebody made following the exact recipe Kaffe lays out in his gorgeous book, Quilt Romance  (with just one substitution). They sell pre-cut kits at a shop called Tennessee Quilts:

Some pickle dish, eh? Normally, I would avoid something of such complexity. But my stepson's wedding is coming up in June, and I need to hone my skills for the double wedding ring quilt I want to make for the couple. (In fact, according to Barbara Brackman's criteria, the pattern above is a double wedding ring quilt; the traditional pickle dish pattern has spears.) Here is a another double wedding ring quilt in process, by Oregon quilter LuAnn Kessi:

So I set out to make a pickle-dish / wedding ring unit while I was waiting for my husband to return with the thread. It involved sewing on paper (note the place where I nearly sliced off part of my finger several years ago):

Ripping off paper:

And of course, cleaning up paper crumbles:

Despite how involved the process was, I did find some spontaneous pleasure.

Doesn't that look like a black-eyed Susan?

My takeaway lesson: Better get started on that wedding quilt now!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Quilt Frankenstein

The exigencies of Christmas gifting forced  me into my first experience of free motion quilting, affectionately known as FMQ in the quilt blogosphere. I have long feared FMQ, but had to FMQ the pastel crazy quilt (about 36" x 36") from "A Post with No Words" to meet the USPS deadline for Xmas packages (the recipient was my sweet 7-year-old niece). In other words, I used my home sewing machine to stitch together the three layers (front, back, batting), rather than sending it off to a long-arm quilter who has a special machine for the job.

I did not get to take a picture, but vowed to FMQ the next quilt I made. That would be my quilt for B. Today I stitched up the backing, a true scrap-terpiece, taped it to my table, laid the batting on top, the pieced top on top of that, and "basted" the three layers together with safety pins:

The quilt incorporates many of the fabrics that B. picked out for her own patchwork creation (indefinitely stalled), and others I thought she would like:

There are doggies because she loves them, foxes because she sings "What does the fox say?", chicks because she's a country girl and loves to coo over baby things, tropical stamps and a world map because you've gotta believe she's going places, and skull and crossbones because she fancies herself "Goth".

B. may or may not be Goth but her quilt is pure Frank--Frankenstein, that is. As scrap-tastic as the backing is, the cotton batting is even more so. I sewed together strips and scraps from previous projects, zig-zag stitching the edges together. In haste. Without squaring off the edges. The result was unacceptably puckery:

The only thing to do was to perform pucker reduction surgery in several places:

And stitch the batting together, Frankenstein style (to the side is the largest pucker I removed):

I can't wait to FMQ "Quilt Frankenstein." I'm excited to do it, and I must say, not the least bit afraid.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Scrappy Solstice Rhythm

Like a good elf, I finished my Christmas shipping on Saturday morning. Then I wondered "what next?"

I felt the darkness right about then. A lot isn't right around here. Our reward system of behavior management isn't working; B. is boycotting it, then attempting to wheedle the reward through tears, hypochondria, and fault-finding ("you owe me!"). Besides that, my husband is chronically overworked. My default assumption, even on the weekend, is "he's busy and he doesn't want to be bothered."

As for me, I had another obligation I didn't want to think about. I was 2/3 of the way through blowing it off.

I tiptoed up to the sewing studio (B. was still sleeping), out of habit rather than volition, out of comfort-seeking rather than inspiration. I sorted through my bins, and started cutting half-square triangles for a quilt. It was a quilt for B. Here it is so far:

I suppose it's appropriate for the solstice, a kind of day-and-night quilt. In a way, I am just making it to get me through the darkness of not-knowing.

I don't know how B.'s story will turn out. I don't know whether my husband's work will ever recede and allow him a life of his own. I don't know if I will have to give up some of my competing commitments, which of them matters more to me, which of them makes a difference.

I do know that sewing a scrappy quilt like this creates a steady rhythm, and that I like that rhythm. And that I feel good about exposing B. to that rhythm when she comes into the sewing room to hang out, as she does on a regular basis. With her inspiration and my guidance, she gets started making something, but then quits, sometimes very close to the end. I don't know why. My rhythm continues, a steady heartbeat of intention.

This rhythm has been carrying me through the darkest days of the year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Christmas Miracle

Christmas miracles. They do happen.

And birthday wishes do come true.

My adopted Lakota daughter, for whom I made this star quilt (see earlier post), which I just got back from the quilter and bound . . . 

Complete with its cozy corduroy backing (my long-arm quilter Judy has been loving the corduroy backings, and I have been too, as it uses up fabric purchased for making kids' clothing -- not as easy to sell as I'd hoped) . . .

Yes, that Lakota daughter who worked so hard to get her kids back from foster care, then ran out of luck in late August when a school shopping trip took a wrong turn at the casino . . .

She got her kids back yesterday, the day before her 30th Birthday!

D. showed up to court on Tuesday expecting to have legal guardianship assigned to the foster parents. Her lawyer phoned in from elsewhere, expecting business as usual. The kids' social worker? She didn't show up. And just like that, the judge granted D. provisional custody of her three children.

I did not believe my ears when she told me on Tuesday. But when I called up to the reservation today, I heard, "Oh, D's into town taking Marian (her eldest) to an appointment." It was for real. It is for real.

Yes, I believe it's the best birthday present ever. I guess she won't mind that my gift to her, intended to wish her strength for the long haul, probably hasn't arrived yet.

She's probably not needing that strength today. But she will.

And I might just need the rest of that corduroy!

(For those who want to advocate for other Lakota mothers to get their children back, please visit Lakota People's Law Project)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A proliferation of BFs!

Happy happy! Not only did I finish the snowball piecing (in Earth colors, for B's best friend)...

... but I have had many marvelous and astonishing adventures with B. and her BFs.

Today, it was the boy friend, with the emphasis on "boy." At 11, he is two years younger than she--respectful, sweet, and non-hormonal!!! He came to the car wearing his 3rd place medal from last night's wrestling meet. They spent the day together, and what a gift his cuddly friendship was to B., what balm for her soul.

By contrast (ahem!), the other night, I dropped off B and her statuesque best friend for a shopping spree at the mall, $15 each. Two hours and one ho-hum meeting later, I returned to find B wearing $7, 7-inch black stilettos, apparently "picked out" for her (?) by the Payless Shoe employee (bless her heart). I threw a BF ("b*tch fit"), which was countered by B's "BF", which was then checked by my "opposite day" routine: whenever B. dishes up insults, either hurled expletives or snide and cutting remarks, I thank her for her kindness: "you know, I have always wanted to be called a '_____'." This was ultimately check-mated by the statement "I love you," and so I agreed she could wear the shoes one day to school, after which they would be in my custody. How grateful I was for the BF's presence, as a modulating witness to our madness.

The bottom line: Both of B's BFs are telling her she needs to show more respect!! As an expression of gratitude to the gods, I think another BF-quilt is in order (for the wrestler). But first, there are a few details left on the best friend quilt.

Namely, it's too square-ish. Even with borders, the height will need to be expanded more than the width.  Do I use a special band at the top? Applique? Flowers and hearts? A quote? Her name?

All this, to ponder tomorrow. For now here's an amazing song I discovered on Pandora while making the quilt--appropriately enough, by Railroad Earth.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Best Friend quilt

My foster daughter's best friend came over this Sunday.

While B is all quicksilver with her emotions and thoughts, her "BF" has always had the Earth vibe: receptive, kind, trust-worthy, slow to react. When she arrived wearing a brown tiered skirt, I felt my choice of Earth colors was confirmed!

(Plus, her mom said that her room was lavender).

I am an Earth person myself, and discovered a major source of solace when I first began "playing in the dirt"--or "soil", as we like to call it here in Iowa. My very first quilt, made after my freshmen year in college, was composed of brown, green and purple isosceles triangles. (I had learned of some ancient philosopher's notion that all matter was made up of triangles, and I loved the idea!) That quilt lasted for almost two decades, transitioning from bed quilt to car quilt to dog bed to rag.

This quilt will be a snowball pattern. I've been pinning a lot of snowball quilts on Pinterest. This blog's discussion of snowball / nine-patch variants got my mind working. But I figured, on the blocks that alternate with the snowballs, you can use any pattern; you don't have to use nine-patch. So I am trying out this triangular pattern. I think this will make the overall geometrics more interesting:

Nature is assisting me in my inspiration. I've been cleaning up my garden, with all its seasonal purples, browns and greens:

These colors are soothing and strengthening for me. So when my B. is busy throwing what she calls "BFs" (b*tch fits), I'll try to tune out and tune in to the BF quilt and meditate on the healing power of our beautiful Earth .