Modern Maples Quilt Top


Like millions of others around the world, I often check Instagram for creative inspiration and motivation, as well as updates on the lives of friends.  Several weeks ago there was a series of days when the majority of motivational quotes I saw in various feeds all seemed focused on the value of creativity.  Some of them I was familiar with; others I’d never read before.  There was one in particular that really got me thinking:

“Being creative will help you enjoy life.  It engenders a spirit of gratitude.  It develops latent talent, sharpens your capacity to reason, to act and to find purpose in life.  It dispels loneliness and heartache.  It gives a renewal, a spark of enthusiasm and zest for life.”  – Richard G. Scott

I had known for months that the creative part of me was locked up, buried deep, and seemed utterly unreachable.  I also knew it was part of finding my way back to a pattern of cheerful daily living, but I couldn’t, no matter how I tried, seem to reach that place.  I would walk to my sewing table, admire the beauty of the fabrics and the merit of the project, and walk away, unable to sit and turn on the machine.

And then one day, with the above quote in my mind (oh, how I needed all those benefits!), the urge to make a modern maples quilt block struck.  Out of nowhere.  I’d never been tempted to make one, never put it on my list of quilts I’d like to make.  Still, it came.  With specifics:  Alison Glass’ Handcrafted I and II, with a black essex yarn dyed linen as the background.  Gratefully I had both on hand and immediately made one.  I kept cutting.  My sister let me use the rest of her linen while I waited for the additional yardage I’d ordered to come.  I kept sewing.

All of a sudden I had a finished quilt top:


It suits where I’m at right now.  It’s a bit moodier than most of my sewing, with the dark background and rich jewel toned prints.  But it was so much fun to make!  The blocks are fast and easy, and as I ironed each of the Handcrafted fat quarters prior to cutting them I marveled at their beauty, ran my hands across them, appreciated how the murkier colors made the bright, clear colors shine.  They reminded me that the murky parts of life I’ve wrestled with this year may someday make the beautiful ones all the better.



I wasn’t fussy about accuracy with this quilt.  No trimming, no pinning, just ironing and nesting seams, and sewing like crazy while the urge still lasted.  I’m happy with the outcome.


It’s basted and partly quilted, with the wildest use of colored thread I’ve tried to date.  Can’t wait to share more!



Tonight I took a quick walk with six of the children to a nearby park.  When we arrived, they scattered in several directions and it was a matter of minutes before they had various games and imaginative scenarios in place.  It was nice to let them run, listen to them talk and negotiate and imagine together.  I sat on a bench beneath huge, old trees as the gentle October breeze – not nearly as cool as you would expect – rustled the leaves overhead.


They’re still green, but I always love the way they sound at this time of year.  It’s as if they get a little louder as they begin to dry out and change colors.  Tonight it was like being enveloped in a gentle rain without the water.  Such a beautiful, soothing sound.


I feel amazed that another change of season is upon us.  It seems only a few weeks ago I was looking around at the signs of spring, a great wonder in my mind and heart at it all.  And suddenly here we are, crickets chirping, darkness falling before 8 pm, and tonight the sounds of children chattering as they lay in hammocks in the backyard.


I am so fortunate.  This year I’ve been blessed to be stretched in ways that have shaken me to the core, changed on the inside so radically that I often feel like a stranger to myself as I poke at this and that to discover which parts of me are still the same and which no longer exist.  I’ve learned so much about being vulnerable, about leaning in to heartbreak, staying open and willing to feel, finding reassurance in small and simple things, loving without expectations, hanging onto hope and grappling with despair.  It’s been a year like no other.  Only in the last week or two have I had moments of thinking that I’m still me, that being me isn’t such a bad thing to be, and that I’m going to be OK in the end.  That things will keep changing and I’ll keep growing and in the end it may all be beautiful.


Life at our house is raw and chaotic and busy and messy.  Even ugly and broken sometimes.  I remind myself daily that when you choose people, things tend to work out.  I realized this week that they are working out.  Not in a neat, tidy, tied with a ribbon on top kind of working out, but an exhausted, we gave it our all, evidence everywhere kind.  I suppose both versions testify of God’s grace and goodness, but the first makes it look easy and maybe the second is honest about how much work it is sometimes just to get through the business of living and meeting obligations and striving to love in meaningful ways.  I feel like everywhere the hidden price tags are so much higher than I expected them to be, but somehow we’re not emotionally bankrupt yet and that alone is evidence of Heavenly Father’s loving care.  So even though I don’t love the desperate, frantic way things run away with me, I can trust it will all be worth it in the end.  And that’s a good feeling.

Dream On, Dream Big Quilt Top


When I made my “first real quilt” I had no idea I’d ever make another, let alone become a quilter.  All I knew was that I was crossing something off my list of Things to do Before I Die, one of which was (of course) to make a “real quilt.”  I didn’t have a friend or family member who introduced me to the craft, or anyone who taught me how things work in the great wide world of quilting.  I was busy having my last three babies, figuring out how on  earth to take care of all my young children, and generally trying to remember which way was up, so I was a little slow to figure things out.  In fact, it wasn’t until I introduced my youngest sister to quilting that I learned about designers releasing new collections twice a year, and how quickly they sometimes sell out.  I learned it, at last, because she told me.

This explains why, in 2010, I didn’t buy a single piece of Dream On by Urban Chiks.  For that matter, I also missed their Sweet and Swell lines.  I vaguely knew about them but had no clue they’d be gone so quickly!  It was, therefore, a happy day when on Instagram I watched the beginning of #thegreatfabricdestash and was able to purchase three charm packs of Dream On.


Meet my Dream Big quilt top!  I finally found the courage to use those charm packs, and paired them with a Kona mango solid.  This quilt is simply lots of 5 inch squares in a completely random design (inspired by this quilt).  Mine measures approximately 76 by 90 inches, but in spite of it’s size it took only a few hours to complete.

I took a few photos for record keeping, because every basic patchwork quilt I make from here on will be sewn this way.

First, I laid out all my squares in a random fashion on the floor.  I opted for 20 rows of 17 squares each (so a total of 340 squares) and stacked them up, labeling the far left square of each row with the row number.


The key to this project was the number 4.  I pieced this quilt top in sets of 4 rows at a time, which was what made it so fast and simple.  I chain pieced the rows, four at a time, until they looked like this:


Leaving my label pinned to each row, I carefully cut them apart and then ironed them.  The first row was ironed with all seams pressed to the right, the second row to the left, third to the right again, and the fourth to the left once more.  This prepared all seams to nest neatly together while I sewed the rows together, which I did, four at a time.  I didn’t even bother pinning.  I simply made sure each seam was properly nesting together as I fed them through.


I did this four more times, and suddenly the quilt top was in five large sections!


Four last seams remained to join them together, and because I’d sewn in sets of four rows and ironed them all the same way, the seams perfectly nested on these final seams as well.  It made sewing so many squares together a relaxing and fun experience, one I could do in 20 minute chunks of time over a few days.


Life is fascinating – particularly the way things come together to teach and change us.  Because I’d chosen the mango solid, this quilt became a subtle reminder of my friend Wes (who LOVED the color orange) and my trip to Gig Harbor.  These thoughts merged with insights gleaned from books I’m currently reading, as well as the fabric collection’s name and vintage origin, to inspire me to ponder my dreams.  So much is going on in my mind and heart these last few months!

I scored the perfect vintage sheet for the backing and am excited to quilt this one.  It just feels good to sew.  And ponder.  Simple sewing is good for the mind and heart when there’s lots to process.



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