Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Life as it is..

I feel that there are about 6 other blog posts I should be writing, but this is what you're getting today, because this is what's on my mind.  Life feels pretty intense right now.  Graduation is quickly approaching and the pages of my second paper are not developing at an equally fast pace.  I've been distracted by quilts (what else is new?), upcoming travel plans (Boston, Northampton, and Athens-- in the next 2 months), crazy amounts of dental work (advice-- if you've been putting off a visit, just GO!), and regular life stuff.  I'm pretty sure I'm slowly becoming obsessed with Noah Puckerman (paper topic #2-- Teaching Paralinguistic Features through TV, example: GLEE) but because it's "school related" it's really ok, right?

Thankfully, George is content to sit and play playdoh while I let Travel Q #3 flow from my fingers in a desperate attempt to relieve some stress.  My favorite VeggieTales station on pandora gives us background music (mostly kids songs with a healthy dose of Jack Johnson and Regina Spektor thrown in).  He doesn't mind when I sing along, usually.  We'll sit like this til his motivation changes and then we're off again, playing til dinner. 
I know what I want to write, but the ideas don't always flow when I've got the time to sit at the computer.  As I stitch, occasionally good paragraphs write themselves and I've got to jump up to jot them down (like at the library yesterday where I found myself searching my purse for a scrap of paper to capture the phrasing to introduce a favorite article about nonverbal language in sitcoms..), but at this point, I'm grateful for whatever comes to mind. 
Slow and fast, fast and slow.  I know life will be totally different once the semester is over..
What's driving your life these days?

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Travel Quilt Story

**ETA-- Check out my completed Travel Quilt #3 here**

I don't know about you, but I check my blogger stats a couple times a day.  It's nice to see how readers find me, who has linked to me, and where they are.  In the last week though, there's been a gap, a hole.  I usually have at least a couple hits a week from readers in Japan, this week-- none.  Of course with such tragedy, I can't expect them to take time out (and use valuable electricity) to check in on my little ol' blog here, but still, the absence makes me worry about them even more.  I was thinking about how I can go back to  posting more about quilts but still satisfy my need to talk about Japan.. 

Victoria took this great photo of me at her retreat last weekend and I've wanted to write a post about it, and then it clicked, "Oh Yeah~" let's go back to the quilt that started me off on my EPP obsession..
Here we go.  Travel Quilt #1, aka "Ayane's Star"
See, I was going to Japan to visit friends (and bring back as much fabric as I could carry) in the spring of 2007, and a couple days before the trip I was struggling to decide on what quilt projects to bring with me.  I had a great huge applique leaf thing started, but thought I needed something simpler and easier to pick up and put down quickly.  I had the Quilt Patis templates, so I combed through my scraps and cut a bunch of diamonds. I started piecing stars on the flight to Tokyo and decided that I would make a baby quilt for whoever got pregnant first, me or Makiba.  She won.

I pieced and pieced through the summer, taking it with me wherever I traveled.  I was on a lot of planes that year and so I dubbed it my "Travel Quilt."  Stitched into this quilt are memories of Atlanta (where the bright fabrics came from), Japan, Athens, Chicago, and Fall River, MA.  It got me through months of infertility, the deaths of my sister and my father-in-law, and basically one of the worst summers of my entire life.  I was grateful to have something to keep me busy that year, something beautiful to look at and to hold.  In a way I was glad that it was Makiba who got pregnant first, because I was not just stitiching it for her baby, but also as a gift for a friend who helped me get through a very trying time. 
I finished the top in October 2007 but I had a lot of diamonds left over.  What to do?  Start another of course. 
And Travel Quilt #2 was born.  I wanted to make something bigger, for myself.  And though I've been working on it since October 2007, it's still not done yet.  (In the first photo you'll see it has borders basted on the top and parts of the sides, but that's it).
Travel Quilt #1 did get finished however, right in time for Makiba's baby shower.  Of course I didn't get to take a picture of the baby with the quilt, but M sent this one to me a few months ago:

Once Travel Q #2 was mostly pieced, I cut pieces for TQ #3.. started in July 2010, I've been working away at it steadily since then. 
I set up a Quilt Along on Flickr and currently have 4 friends IRL working on similar epp star projects.  It's nice to have company.
So, that's the history of my Travel Quilt collection, started because of a trip to Japan 4 years ago.. I never thought English Paper Piecing would take over my life like this, or that these quilts would end up shaping who I am as a quilter, but man, I do love them.  Scrap quilts, every diamond tells a story.  A fabric collection and display.  I was tempted to cut into the new pile of scraps from Victoria to make more diamonds, but I think I might have enough cut already.  Maybe I'll just throw in a few...
Do you have any quilts with a Japanese connection?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More Japan

Thoughts are still drifting back to Japan throughout most of the day.. I am comforting myself listening to the music of an old friend.  Lost in memories.  When you have been connected to a place, when you identify with the people and culture, even though it's hundreds of miles from your current life now..   when you love something, it doesn't leave your heart.
wall hanging by Mrs. Ito, Tomakomai, Hokkaido.
In case you didn't know, I lived in Kyoto and Hokkaido at the turn of the century.  I learned to quilt there.  If I had made one, two, three life choices differently, I might still be there now.

I'm still looking to contribute to any quilt-related Japan tragedy fundraisers (auctions), if you have heard of anything  please let me know.

***ETA*** this looks like a start..
***ETA*** here is a link to donate QUILTS directly to Japan through Patchwork Quilt Tsushin and Quilters Newsletter magazine.  Deadling: April 30th.

Monday, March 14, 2011


re·treat n.
1. a. The act or process of withdrawing, especially from something hazardous, formidable, or unpleasant.   (read: Real Life)
    b. The process of going backward or receding from a position or condition gained. (As in, forgetting all my quilting hang-ups, opening my eyes to new ways of doing things)
2. A place affording peace, quiet, privacy, or security.
3. a. A period of seclusion, retirement, or solitude.
    b. A period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, or study: a religious retreat.
(taken from
On Saturday, I spend the day at the home of a very thoughtful and generous friend.  8 of us gathered to sew with Victoria, in an amazing space decked out with tables, chairs, ironing boards, cutting mats, hot tea and homemade caramels.  At one point or another throughout the day it fit each of the definitions for "retreat" above. Peaceful, secure, withdrawal for meditation, contemplation.  I was only part of the retreat for less than 10 hours, but it really gave me a chance to think about things differently and appreciate things in a new way.
Some photos:
Mosaic Geese in Flight, 1890-1910
Folk Art Museum, maker unknown.

L>R: Me, Bonnie, Kim, Helen

V, taking the best photos.


The sweatshop setup
Radiating Squares ready to go.

and look who we found in the scrap bin!
 Some realizations:
  • Scrappy quilts don't have to be made with scraps.
  • it's better to think less and sew more.
  • women need other women.  (I knew this one, but had forgotten.)
  • the AccuQuilt Go may well be a wise investment..
  • I ♥ New York.
I'd love to expand on any of these ideas in their own posts if I find the time.  We'll see.

I'm still collecting my thoughts after the experience but I can tell you that my creative energy has been renewed and new ideas are flowing faster than I can jot them down.  The suitcase isn't unpacked yet though so I have nothing to show just yet.  Hopefully soon.  I have a lot of playing to do.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


If you have friends/relatives in Japan and have not been able to contact them since the disaster, this site might be able to help:

I just got off the phone with Mrs. K. and all my loved ones in northern Japan are accounted for.  My heart is still breaking as the news unfolds.  My thoughts are with them.

Friday, March 11, 2011

a conversation with myself

-Yay, spring is coming, I can take quilt photos outdoors!
-Um, wait.  But my grass looks absolutely horrible.
-Nobody's looking at the grass, silly!  it's a quilting blog!

I think I'm nearing the half-way point with this.  I want to make a handful of colored ones and play around with them before I piece the section on the upper right.  It's getting heavy so it's much easier to piece portions and then add them to the whole. 

Oh, oh, and tomorrow, I will be playing over here!  I've been a-flutter all day.  my suitcase is packed (damn that Janome weighs a TON!), I just hope I can sleep tonight.  yay!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

unintended consequences

There's a fun and catchy drive in some quilting circles to be spontaneous and improvisational all the time.  Usually, I love it.  really, I am not someone who likes to be told what to do, so rules & patterns never appealed to me. 
But sometimes too much improv can have unintended results.
Case in point:  my doghouse block.
Cute, no?  I knew something was off as I pieced it, totally spontaneous and unplanned. 

I had trouble with the set-in puppy and getting the grass level, and I ripped out one seam, cut down excess fabric --never any waste, just new scraps :) 
I was going for a  house block with character, so I added in a cute dog,  but my proportions were off.  at one point I was about to trim the roof, but thought it would make it look dog-housey.  Ended up looking that way regardless. Oh well, back to the drawing board (maybe a plan would have helped in the first place..) Nothing lost but a little time, and in exchange I gained some experience and another block for my future Orphan Soup quilt...

Have you made any good mistakes lately?

Friday, March 4, 2011

collaborative quilting

As much as I love this aspect of  the "modern" quilt movement, with all the virtual bees and group projects in guilds, today I want to show you a much more personal type of collaboration where two people work side by side to create one project, a little bit at a time. 
Removing pins is one way that George contributes to my process. Sure, it slows me down some, but sometimes it's nice to go slow.
And this is what we were working on (crappy pic, the sewing room gets terrible light in the afternoon).  These are my blocks for the Rosey Little Bee.  I had January '11 and so far I got back 8 blocks from the participants (there are 13 of us, so 4 more should be coming).  My favorite block so far is by Pam. Awesome, no?  This was a UFO I started last year sometime, inspired by a quilt I saw at the 2009 Empire Guild show in Manhattan (read more here).
I like how it's coming along.  I've got a handful of half-finished blocks that I've been working on slowly.  The one George and I finished today is the middle one on the right side.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Letters complete!
We went to the beach on Sunday and George had a great time searching for shells.  He wouldn't hold still for a photo, so I took one of us instead.
When I tried to get C to pose and make a good shadow, this is what he did to me.. the Greeks give horns instead of bunny ears.  how romantic. (I have a photo of C doing this to his mom, I can only guess it's an affectionate gesture..)
The bulge is my purse, btw.  My butt is big, but not that big.
I'm experimenting with the gorilla pod I got for my birthday.  I was able to get a photo of both hands by attaching the camera to the buttons of my sweater.  Neat, huh?
I made this block for Tanya, for her month in the Rosey Little Bee.  I tried string piecing onto tissue paper and it worked pretty well, tearing off with ease.  Putting the 4 blocks together though was tricky, the bias edges (especially of the toile), stretched more than I was used to.  I have always left the paper on until after I pieced the whole top when paper/string piecing and it has always been a challenge to get the paper out of the seams, so I tried something new and .. i need to keep trying.  Shannon said something about piecing onto plain newsprint, has anyone tried it?

Travel Quilt #6 and some public crafting

I have been working steadily on Travel Quilt #6 since last fall and it is growing.  I got a chance to piece a few units while I was in Manha...