Category Archives: Quilting and Sewing

20 in 20 February Report

At last I am here, with a 20 in 20 February Report to share!  I’m a week late with this report, but the daily 20 in 20 Challenge sewing continues.   February brought a particularly fun opportunity:  I attended QuiltCon for the first time with my sister and a few good friends.  I got sick promptly upon returning home, however, and so I’m writing my report today instead of last Monday.  Life.  It’s tricky sometimes, right?

In February I began to see some results from my twenty minute sewing sessions.  I finished a quilt top, which I took to have quilted.  I also spent some time finishing up a few projects, mostly by quilting and binding.  That means more purple made it’s way into my HRT blocks, and there’s also some red to be seen, the result of joining a sew along.

I sewed my blocks for both January and February into the long rows that will comprise my 20 in 20 quilt, so now I have the first two rows of the quilt.  I love how colorful it is!

My biggest challenge seems to be photography at this point.  It was a dreary month, with bad lighting.  There never seemed to be a good time to take pictures when I had someone around who could hold quilts for me.  This means I have a stack of finished quilts waiting for photos so I can share them.  Perhaps I need to set a goal for taking photos?

Now, for my 20 in 20 February Report regarding creative routine.  It was not a month of solid routine in our home, which made it difficult to construct my days the way I hope to.  I keep reminding myself that it takes time to do this, to be patient, and enjoy the journey.  Just keep sewing, right?  It has felt like a hard winter, emotionally, for our family.  I really hope that spring comes early and that we feel a lift.

I’m enjoying one benefit from my daily sewing.  It’s called “accessibility.”  Because I am returning every day to my sewing room, even for a few minutes at a time, it stays accessible.  I don’t have to spend precious time every day getting my head back into sewing.  It’s still in my mind and is easy to simply get started.  I have noticed a decrease in the amount of time it takes for me to get going and feel productive, even if I sew for less than twenty minutes.  This has been true for both hand sewing and sewing at my machine.  I’m really excited about this part of my experience.

I recently read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.  I HIGHLY recommend reading it.  And re-reading it.  (We’re passing it around our family now.)  One great principle he teaches is called the Two-Minute Rule which states that when you start a new habit, it should take two minutes to do.”  The idea behind this is that the habit is the action that, if you do it, guarantees a certain thing will follow.  He used the idea of working out.  For him, the habit isn’t the workout, it’s changing into workout clothes.  When he does that two minute habit, it guarantees that he will work out.  If he changes clothes, it will happen; if he doesn’t, it won’t.

Interestingly, I realized that my own workout habit starts the same way.  If I get dressed to work out while my kids get ready for school, I always do it.  If I don’t, I usually don’t work out.  My habit is also a two minute one:  putting on my workout clothes.  This has made me think about my sewing habits.  The habit isn’t the sewing, it’s what gets me to sew.  As I mentioned last month, typically it’s remembering that this is my goal.  What I want to do is create a two-minute habit that always precedes sewing.

In fact, I’ll probably refer to this habit, when I fine-tune it, as a ritual.  I want it to be something that helps me slip into creativity and focus faster and with less effort.  So here I am, two months in, and finally figuring out that what I need is a two minute habit to start things off!  But there’s another reminder in the same chapter:  STANDARDIZE BEFORE YOU OPTIMIZE.  Good counsel.  I can’t improve a habit I don’t have, so the key is always to start, and then to optimize it for best results.  I think I’m on the right track!


January Quilt

As I write this, my children are curled up on couches for the first official “snow day” they’ve ever had from school.  The gusty wind has snow swirling in every direction, drifting across porches and driveways and mostly blowing horizontally.  It’s cold and white and I’m thrilled we’re warm and cozy inside.  Even my college student opted to drive home last night and ended up being with us for this unexpected free day.  While winter howls outside, I can’t help but think that my January quilt is far more cheerful than this winter storm!

I quilted my January quilt top in time to gift it to my daughter for her birthday.  Every time she walked in my studio and saw these blocks in process, she declared it to be her favorite of all the quilts I’ve made.  It made perfect sense to give it to her.

I still love straight line quilting, so I quilted this in lines just less than 1/2 inch apart.  The close quilting adds a nice texture to the quilt.

I love looking at this quilt.  It’s like taking a memory walk through fabrics I’ve loved and sewn with over the years.  Many of the pieces in this quilt were the last I had of that fabric.  It makes me happy to see them in this quilt.

I chose the backing for this quilt before I started it, an unusual thing for me.  I love the floral and the hot pink binding might be my favorite detail.  Most of all I loved the surprised delight on Anna’s face when she opened it on her birthday.  I’m glad she loves it as much as I do.

I love quilts and quilting, warmth on cold days, and color that makes me smile!

Pattern available here

Jenny Eliza Quilt

This is my Jenny Eliza Quilt, named for the fabric collection it comes from.  The Jenny Eliza fabrics were designed by Jennifer Paganelli and I loved them at first glance.  I bought a piece of every print, went home, and promptly cut them up.  I made some half square triangles and sprinkled them in with squares in a random, patchwork style.  Within hours I had a quilt top.

But it felt incomplete.  I’d added some black and white in the center of each side, just for fun, as a subtle hint at structure.  It wasn’t enough.  It needed another layer.  So I folded it up and hung it in the closet to wait for an idea.

Shortly after I attended an exhibit of quilts from Pakistan and India, and they affected me emotionally.  I couldn’t stop thinking about them.  At length I decided to add some applique to my Jenny Eliza quilt top.  But I had one rule:  it had to come from my stash.  I picked a high-contrast black polka dot (less than half yard) and got started.

Scale was a challenge.  The wreath in the center should have been larger, but I didn’t have a piece of fabric wide enough.  Drawing, cutting and appliqueing it was tricky.  I finished it, stepped back, and felt dismay.  It was too small and it looked silly!  Somehow I had to stretch this small amount of black fabric.  I needed to create a large enough design to hold its own on the quilt.  Afraid I’d ruined it, I pressed on.  Using the black and white half square triangles on each side as a guide, I added stems, a tulip type flower, and scalloped leaves to each side.  Four small circles completed it, and I was OUT of fabric.

Somehow, it worked.  I’m happy with this first attempt at a layer of applique over a quilt top.  I used the last of my yardage to make a quilt back.  I quilted diagonal lines on the outside of the applique design into the corners, and filled the center with folksy flowers and leaves.  I’m not very good at floral quilting designs yet, but the busyness of the patchwork and the backing was very forgiving and gratefully it’s not something you notice right away.

I’m still intrigued by using a quilt top as a canvas for applique.  I started doing that with a lone star quilt top a couple of months ago, and it’s very slow going with all the hand stitching.  My Till We Meet quilt top might get an applique layer too.  We’ll see how long it takes me!

I learned a lot from making my Jenny Eliza Quilt.  It took me a few years to finish, but it taught me a great deal, and for that I’m grateful.

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