Light: A Traveling Quilt

Allow me to introduce you to my traveling quilt.  I almost can’t believe it’s mine.  I only made a small part of it, and then it spent more than a year traveling among my friends.  Now it’s back and all I can think is that I’d like for you to meet my quilt!

traveling quilt with theme of light

Muriel Rukeyser said, “The world is not made of atoms.  It is made of stories.”  I want to say of this project, “The quilt is not made of fabric.  It is made of stories.”  To truly introduce you to my quilt, I would have to introduce you to my friends. They are remarkable women.  A lot happens in 14 months.  As the seven of us sewed we lived and worked and changed.  Some children started school, some left home.  The blessing of this project is that I now have a piece of these amazing women in a quilt that I will always treasure.

I have a friend – several, actually – that I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for quilting.  It happens to all of us:  an interest leads to a path and to friendships with people we wouldn’t otherwise know.  People we can’t imagine not knowing.  I love that life gives us this gift.  One such friend of mine also happens to love collaborative sewing projects.  With a push from her, a small group of us began a traveling quilt project.

What is a traveling quilt?

A traveling quilt is a quilt project that is passed through a group of quilters, with each member of the group taking a turn to contribute to the project.

We each started 2017 with a quilt block and a theme.  We made our own starting block, gathered a few fabrics and wrote down our theme, and then began 14 months of sewing and passing the growing quilts until all of us had contributed to each person’s quilt top.

Facing East blocks, pattern by Carolyn Friedlander, used as start for improv traveling quilt about light

My theme was light.  My starting block was two blocks from Carolyn Friedlander’s Facing East pattern, found in her book Savor Each Stitch.  I added a floral border to my blocks, put it in a bag with a stack of fabric I loved, and wrote this:

“I am thinking about light; all the effects of light, of contrasts between light and dark, of what grows with light, of the colors of sunrise and sunset.  Consider the light of happiness and the act of seeking light.  For this project, explore light.”

Then I sent it off to travel from one sewing table to another.

lone star added to corner of improv quilt

How did the quilt grow?

I received the finished quilt top this year and I’m in awe of the beautiful work my friends did to capture their thoughts about light.

JoyLyn chose to focus on the lyrics to a hymn, “Oh how lovely was the morning, radiant beamed the sun above… bees humming, sweet birds singing…”   She added songbirds and a beautiful lone star in the corner.

look up text added to traveling quilt about light

Anna added words:  LOOK UP.  A reminder to look up to the source of all light.  The heart represents the love God has for all of us, and a row of flying geese point the way up.

light house made from strips of fabric for traveling quilt about light

Kristin added a light house with lines, a reminder that we learn and grow a little at a time, line up on line.  And the light house to honor the special times my family has at the beach.

eclipse blocks made for quilt about light

Pam added a beautiful New York beauty block plus a strip of  low volume snowball blocks that remind me of both the phases of the moon and the awe-inspiring solar eclipse of 2017.

new york beauty block

Jennifer added half circle applique blocks, a continuation of the eclipse and moon themes.  They also remind me of the crescent-shaped shadows during the eclipse, which I loved.

half moon applique shapes on quilt about light

Jill had the quilt during winter months when she craved more light.  She found herself pondering the creation of the earth, and added this large section at the bottom that moves from darkness up into light.

darkness rising to light, bottom of "light" traveling quilt at

We all decided to trust each other at the outset.  We let go of the final outcome and believed our friends would do something beautiful.   My quilt evolved in ways I would never have thought of.

look up, traveling quilt about light at

I couldn’t be happier with it.  I look at it, and I see the light of friendship.  A reminder to look up!

improv quilt with theme of light

I see my friends, each of us in various stages of unique lives.  It is a gift to have a lovely quilt top to remind me of them.

improv quilt with theme of light

How to start your own:

If you have a group of sewing friends and you’ve never made a traveling quilt, do it!  You will push yourself, improve friendships, and end up with a quilt that reminds you of them.

Choose a group of quilters you know and invite them to participate.  Make sure everyone is committed to seeing the project through to completion, and let everyone be honest about their time constraints or real-life burdens.  Decide when you will start, and decide how much time will be allowed for each rotation.  In our group, we had two months to finish.  Decide how you will trade the quilts.  For my group, we met together for a sewing night and did it then.

This project takes a lot of trust, and it also requires grace.  There were months when things didn’t go as planned and someone fell behind.  In our group, the friendship mattered more than the project, so we were patient with each other and everyone caught up.  We also decided in advance that we were open to whatever the group members did.  If we had strong feelings about a few things, we wrote them down to be passed along with the project.

In all, I loved the experience and I would happily do it again – even with the same people.  It is exciting to see the directions a project takes when you put it in someone else’s hands to add to it in their way.

"light" a traveling quilt at

And there you have it, “Light,” my traveling quilt.  Wherever you are, whatever circumstances you are in, remember to look up.  There is light and goodness and happiness ahead.  You are going to make it!

Katie Jump Rope Lone Star Quilt

I have a sweet little book titled “And then in a twinkling”.  It’s a little holiday picture book that depicts the way one day it’s Halloween, and the next it’s Christmas, and how it all happens “in a twinkling”.  I’m tempted to say of this project,  “and then, in a twinkling, one lone star block became four”.  But that wouldn’t really be the truth about this Katie Jump Rope lone star quilt.

katie jump rope lone star quilt top

You see, I shared my original block more than a year ago, and in the last couple of months have made a few more blocks.  Nothing “twinkling” about taking a year to bring a quilt top to the next step, right?  Yet the last year definitely passed “in a twinkling”.  Why does time fly like it does?  Sometimes it amazes me.  When I finished the first block, my daughter was still in high school.  Now, a year later, she’s in Paraguay.  The months between included a car accident, concussion (which nearly ruined her graduation), leaving home, a semester of college, playing a season on a college soccer team, preparing to leave the country for 18 months, the holidays, 6 weeks in Mexico and now she’s been in Paraguay for 3 months.  What a year it’s been, and that’s without mentioning all that happened for the other nine members of our family.

Sometimes I am hard on myself when life isn’t like a full-speed-ahead straight road with me methodically ticking everything off the list, completed and beautiful. (And doesn’t our media-filled world make it look like everything happens “in a twinkling” for everyone else?)  I wonder if that’s really the goal.  Could life be more of an excursion that includes circling back around, re-examining, picking up where we left off and adding something new?

lone star quilt top

I am liking these fun, large blocks.  The four large stars are each 34 inches square, making the top 68 inches square at this point.  The smaller star in the center is made from the few small pieces I have of the original Katie Jump Rope collection.  I was happy to find a way to include them in the quilt.  I appliqued that star into the center after sewing the large stars together by glue basting the block to the quilt.  If I were to do it again, I would thread baste the block and needle turn the edges, even with the seams.  I think it would have looked better and been more accurate that way.  Live and learn, right?  Circling back around….

I am pausing again on this project to decide if it’s done, or if I should explore an idea for a border.  The idea has been lurking in the back of my mind for a long time.  Perhaps “in a twinkling” (translation: after many hours of sewing) I’ll have more to share with this Katie Jump Rope lone star quilt.

Without doubt, during that “twinkling” there will be plenty of life to live.  May we all live it well!


This Lovely Morning

I’m slow again, so many things needing attention.  And yet… I sit at a desk in my bedroom with the open windows behind me.  A slight breeze flows in, bringing with it the refreshing scent and temperature of morning air.  A woodpecker is hard at work in a nearby tree, doves coo, and a hundred other birds chirp the good news of a new day.  And spring.

On my desk are my scriptures, notebooks, a picture of us at the temple with Emmeline, an old photograph of the interior of the Salt Lake Tabernacle, a few books that represent creative yearnings.  There is a new framed quote, lettered by Lindsay Letters, of the hymn that has stopped me in my tracks for years:

“take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee. . . . take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise.”

This hymn was sung at my mission farewell.  I am so pleased now to read these words and have that beautiful prayer on repeat in my mind.  This is where I sit each morning to study, reflect, journal, plan, feel.  I do it here, with these reminders.

But today there are lilacs.

A beautiful branch, covered in tiny flowers and gorgeous green leaves, and a scent that fills me with joy.  Lilacs from the bush I planted on the side of the house.

Fresh flowers – in my house – from my own yard.

Just like the ones I delivered last night to some friends (with boxes of lavender shortbread cookies).

This is proof that dreams come true.  It feels so luxurious, like something from a novel.  But it’s real life, and it’s sitting here on my desk to remind me.

I hope I never get over it.


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