Category Archives: Quilting and Sewing

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!

Last Mandolin Block Finished!

I may deserve the title “slowest sewist” where my English Paper Piecing (EPP) projects are concerned.  My Ice Cream Soda blocks still languish, untouched in over a year.  The La Passacaglia quilt I want to make is still just a kit of tiny papers.  But after two years of a stitch here and a stitch there, I finished my last mandolin block!

I forgot that I started with an extra set of papers, so I’ve got 21 blocks instead of the needed 20 to make a quilt top.  That’s fine with me, because there were one or two that I wondered about while stitching them, so I can leave the worst one out.  I shared the first 13 of them about a year ago.  The remaining 8 I stitched in the tiny cracks in life’s transitions, and sharing them also fell through the cracks.

Still, with the last mandolin block done, I can now start on the filler blocks.  I could/should have been making them along the way, but I just never prepped the pieces for them.  That’s my biggest holdup with EPP:  the prepping!  I put it off and then do it in huge batches so I can sew for a long time without doing it again.

I promised myself I can start on a La Passacaglia quilt after I’ve proven to myself that I will actually finish an entire EPP quilt.  Additionally, I started following @alewivesfabrics on Instagram a while ago.  They post amazing Lucy Boston blocks every week.  I might have purchased some papers to make a few of those blocks as well.  That makes four EPP projects in my sewing room, but I resisted a couple others that also appealed to me.  I guess it’s time to cut and glue my filler blocks so I can get started.  I’m at the point that I’m not sure I’ll love my mandolin quilt.  I hope I end up happy with it!

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