Category Archives: Quilting and Sewing

Sawtooth Quilt

I’m sewing a lot of bindings on quilts lately.  With six students now learning from home, I’m spending most of my time helping them.  Instead of sewing at my machine I’m working on things I can pick up and set down at a moment’s notice.  So now, after hanging in the closet for five years (yikes!) I’ve finished my Sawtooth quilt.

I don’t remember what pattern I used to make this quilt top.  There’s a great pattern for a sawtooth quilt in Denyse Schmidt’s book, Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspiration.  I quilted this back in December, before quilting my Christmas Color Stack quilt.  It was a good quilt to practice quilting feathers on.  All the feathers in yellow go one direction and the feathers in the floral fabric go the other direction.

I particularly love the quilting in the yellow strips.  It shows up so well, and it feels like a happy color right now.

When I went back to my original post about the quilt top, I was surprised to read it and learn that I also planned to quilt this with feathers back then!  I’d completely forgotten, and it’s funny that I made the same decision years later without realizing it.

I’m also grateful that years ago I began the habit of making a quilt back for every quilt top as soon as I finished the top.  I’d even made the binding for this quilt and all three were hanging together on a hanger.  All I had to do was cut batting, baste it, and quilt away.  It’s easier to quilt an old quilt top when I already have a backing made.

The back is a pink with a strip of the floral down the middle.  This quilt still lacks great contrast when you stand back and look at it (a great lesson I learned in making this, by the way). But it’s pretty and useful and making me smile on a cloudy day!

My Heart, Today: practicing mindfulness in my quilting

This quilt top took longer to finish than I anticipated.  I think it was supposed to be that way.  I’m calling it “My Heart, Today” as I was practicing mindfulness in my quilting as I made it.  The whole world has plunged into an experience we won’t soon forget.  I’ve learned in my personal life that there can be a lot to process during and after these transforming experiences.

As I mentioned recently, me and my family lived a life-changing year in 2019.  And it’s funny, because I prayed that 2020 could be a year of recovery for us.  We were battle weary and exhausted, and yet here we are, along with you, in another life-changing experience.  I’m not complaining, because I learned last year that if we let them, times like these can develop a laser-like focus on what matters, and we grow at faster rates.  I expect that is what will happen to all of us in 2020, if we embrace it.  But along that path of growth, there is still the weariness of living in crisis/survival mode for extended lengths of time.

After the holidays I found I had a lot of conflicting feelings that I needed to work through.  I felt anxious, edgy, frustrated, emotional, but also motivated and hopeful.  On a very hard day, I decided to find a way to “sew my way through it.”  I found a few fabrics that represented how I felt.  I pieced a small block, then fussy cut another print.  Slowly I added bits and pieces to the growing blob.

On anxious days I added sharp, pointy blocks and dark fabrics.  I thought about what I could and couldn’t change about those days.  I noticed that once the fabric was on the design wall, feelings recorded, I felt better.  On good days I added florals and birds to represent the hope that stayed perched inside me.  Many days I added something to represent the high and the low of that day.   I used improv piecing, foundation paper piecing, a bit of applique.  There are bits of prints I was sewing with on other projects during that time, and pieces of fabrics to represent people I met and places I went.  Some fabrics and blocks represent different children I was worried about.  Some pieces represent answers to prayer.  As I practiced mindfulness in my quilting, my state of mind improved and I felt peace about the ups and the downs.

Eventually I decided to make a heart out of all these pieces of my heart.  Piecing it together was more tedious than I anticipated.  There are A LOT of partial seams in this quilt top!

I hadn’t yet finished the background when the pandemic began changing my life.  I added a square to represent Italy, because my heart aches for all the suffering around the world, along with some teardrops, and a tree because spring is coming and we have to hope for renewal after all of this.  We have to.

I love this quilt top.  It’s a journal in textiles, a record of the good, bad, hard, and happy in my life during the winter of 2019-20.  It really does represent “my heart, today.”  Having all these pieces together in something beautiful reminds me that I am all of it:  my heartaches and fears and hopes and accomplishments.  All of it matters.  It matters that I feel sad, that I feel hopeful.  It makes me who I am, primes me for growth, and spurs me toward the future.  This has been one of the most therapeutic, healing, and calming sewing experiences I’ve ever had.

How’s your heart, today?  Maybe you should find some bits of fabric to capture it….


Irish Chain Quilt Top

First and foremost, HOW ARE YOU?  Are you holding things together in your little corner of the world?  I’m hanging on here, in spite of all the change that has come to our family of ten.  With all the craziness in our world, sometimes I need to sew without paying much attention to what I’m doing.  I have projects I’m passionate about that I want to work on, but the truth is my brain couldn’t handle one more puzzle piece.  So I picked up my Irish chain quilt blocks and started sewing.  Now I have a finished Irish Chain Quilt top!

I followed the quilt along directions from Amber at Gigi’s Thimble, which were clear and easy to follow.  Now that the sew along has ended, she’s also made free printable instructions that are available here.  My Irish Chain Quilt top is queen sized, measuring 90″ square, which is the larger of two sizes included in the instructions.  I’m so glad I participated in this sew along, even if I didn’t manage to sew along at the scheduled pace.

I made my Irish Chain quilt top with voile and lawn fabrics.  It’s super drapey and lightweight and perfect for summer.  Finishing the quilt top now is an act of faith that summer will be happy, no matter what’s going on in the world.

This traditional pattern is refreshing in it’s simplicity and symmetry.  I have always wanted to make one.  I’ve decided to use lawn for the backing and bamboo batting when I quilt it.  It will be the most lightweight, breathable quilt I’ve ever made.  That’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

Now the question is, how should I quilt it?  Again, I want it to be lightweight and drapey so I can’t over-quilt it.  But it would also be fun to do something cool in the larger white spaces.  Any suggestions for me?  Have you ever made an Irish chain quilt, and if so, how did you quilt it?  I’m already dreaming of sleeping under this one come summer….

One more question for you:  what kind of project are you sewing right now, as the world changes almost hourly before our eyes?  One that takes focus, to distract you, or one that takes minimal thinking so your mind can sort other things?  I’m sure I’ll do some of both in coming weeks!

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