Saturday, September 26, 2015

Empty and full

Last night I sewed.  and sewed and sewed and sewed.

Yesterday my friend lost her fight with leukemia.  Her husband sent me a text around lunch.  I was in class with 9th grade.  A coworker covered for me and I ran to the bathroom to cry and let the shock set in with some privacy.
This week (this month? this summer? this year?) my mind and heart have been struggling with so many challenges.  Life choices. Changes. Possibilities and options.  None of them ideal, none perfect.  I have been consumed wondering which direction my life will take, how much effort I should put in choosing the course and how risky it is to just wait and see where circumstances lead me.

But then, she died.
And through the course of the day yesterday all of my thoughts cleared out and my heart was left with a hollow empty feeling.  Loss.  Sadness and loss.
(with a baby Jack in April, 2013)
She was a good friend.  Kind, caring, thoughtful.  She had made me many small items over the years and as I hid out with my sorrow and grief in my sewing room last night, I was struck by just how many gifts I have received.  She is all over in there.  Her friendship had permeated my life much more than I thought.  As I accidentally swiped the space bar while texting last night and switched to Japanese input, I paused and remembered how I installed it just for her.

Healing will take time.

But last night when I went to sew, the fabrics didn't look right.  I didn't know how to put them together.  My heart felt heavy.   My energy was blocked and I just sewed until it flowed through my hands and I was free, clear, and open.  Ready to accept new energy.  I let Tao fill all the places where sorrow was hiding and it felt so good to accept and let go.  To trust completely that my hands have the ability to heal my soul.  The universe will guide me.

My spiritual journey is one of the things I have hesitated to write about here, but last night it was so clear.  Making and feeling, trusting and healing are so tied together for me.  All of my quilts are healing quilts.  And that is why I will keep sewing.  Keep moving forward.  Follow Tao and trust in the path I'm on.  Action in non-action.  Things will sort themselves out as they should.

Friday, September 25, 2015

I love September

Since I was in junior high.  I clearly remember the pleasure I got from the crisp air, the sky the color of my blue jeans.  I didn't learn about apple picking until I moved to New England in college.  Actually, that's probably when I started spending more time outside, walking to class, wandering around town and campus.  That's when I started exploring (in so many ways).
So for me, September still brings that freedom, deep breaths of satisfaction and appreciation.  A desire to spend hours outside doing absolutely nothing but enjoying myself.
I hope we can go apple picking this weekend but I haven't spent much time researching U-Pick options on Long Island.  Suggestions welcome.

This week I had my last Home Ec. Club meeting with the Elementary girls (in November a new group of students can sign up).  We made these..
I found this apple coaster pattern at Purl Soho.  I liked that they were cute and felt and looked easy enough for my 4th, 5th, and 6th graders to assemble.  I didn't really want to make coasters though.. (I mean, how much use do little girls have for coasters?  Maybe I'm wrong.) So I scaled down the templates 75% and we made magnets instead.
I made some other adjustments too, knowing that some of the students have an interest but not aptitude for needle and thread, and we tried using tacky glue to assemble a few.  I also played around with stuffing them and painting on the seeds rather than stitching them on.  Trial and error, right?
The Home Ec. Club only meets for 45 minutes, but after all the students get to the room and I explain the project, it's more like 35 minutes of actual crafting time.  The paint didn't dry that quickly and most students ended up smudging it a little.  The glue worked out great though.  If I try it again, I'll definitely glue on felt seeds next time.
I like that I get to be crafty at work, share my knowledge and passion with the kids.  If there was a jr. high Home Ec. club.. you can bet we'd be doing EPP.  But zakka is so much fun, quick and satisfying.  I don't find much time for it in my personal sewing anymore, so I'm grateful for Home Ec. Club and excited about the next session.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Morning Star Count, September 21, 2015

More pentagons this week.  I need to get a picture (and write a real post) but I thought I'd toss up the linky anyway.  Where's your progress!!


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Good Neighbors

Thank you for the kind comments and words of encouragement on my MMSC post yesterday.  I completely agree, bloggers who write honestly and authentically have a certain quality that makes them very readable.  I love ones who share so much of themselves and their lives, blogs that come to mind of being of that style are here, here and here.  Love, truth, struggle, honesty.  And so beautifully written.  I fear that this style works best when the writers are "normal" or dealing with socially acceptable problems.. and I can't say that all of my challenges right now fall into those categories.  I am making tough choices, choosing to do what I feel is right over what society, my family and my loved ones may expect.  And it's hard, but it's so worth it.

You have all been good neighbors to me, and I am so thankful.  So here, let me show you a quilt I made..

When AmandaJean announced she had new fabric coming out with Connecting Threads, I jumped at the chance to help her promote it.  I chose the cooler colors from Good Neighbors, teal, patriot blue, grey, green and joined them with Patriot blue and Indigo solids.  (This still needs another border in the Indigo, but I wanted to take pics today when I had time).
I chose two blocks from Get Started Quilting, the Starry Night improv stars, and the Improv Housetops, which I modified a bit.  This quilt is very similar to one of the design wall samples (p. 116, I think) but I wanted to see how it would look in cool colors and with the circle of stars in the center.  Here's a bit of my process:

Start by making the double star wonky star blocks:

I use the chain piecing method described in the book to keep the star point units together as I assemble the block (leave thread chains between the patches as you machine piece and then they don't accidentally get out of order).
Make 4 star blocks, and rotate them so that they alternate Big-Small-Big-Small and form a ring.  (I love how this happens)

Then start in on the housetop blocks-- making rings of medium, light, and then dark around center squares (completely improv, nothing needs to be measured, slice in angles for visual interest, trim down at the end).

The Improv Housetop pattern in the book has you make one big ringed block, cut it in quarters, trim up to 6.5" and reassemble so all the centers are going the same direction.  For a large portion of these blocks, I just cut the ringed blocks in half, trimmed to 6.5" x 12.5" and stacked them.

Assembly is a little tricky-- I added panels of housetops to the top and bottom of the star section, then built up the two side panels carefully pressing seams for optimal ease at the final joining of columns.  I could have planned it out before I started sewing, but that's just not how I work.

I added 3" borders in Patriot blue and I want to put on one more border of Indigo before quilting it.  I have.. limited ideas for how that will go so far, so I think I'll let it sit as I think on it for a few days.  Suggestions welcome.

I loved making this quilt.  The Connecting Threads solids have such a nice weight to them and Amanda Jean's Good Neighbors prints are really just that-- I can see these prints working so well with others in my stash already.  Plus the whole line is just cheery and candy coated and reminds me of all of her other quilts.  I really enjoyed playing with it.

So, this is how I quilt.  From idea to partially finished top, it took about 4 months.  I'm surprised I did it so quickly.  Most of the piecing and assembling was done in about 4-5 days.  I do not like to rush.  I want to remember the process (I forgot that that's why I started blogging in the first place, waaaaay back in 2006) and to work out my thoughts as the quilt takes shape.  There is bigger meaning here, much bigger, and I think the social media wave often knocks people off balance.  It's part of life though, one more thing to manage.  Thanks for rallying around me this week, friends.  You guys are the best neighbors <3 p="">

Monday, September 14, 2015


I know this space has been kind of quiet lately, or more EPP focused, but if you want to hear me talk about my new book, Get Started Quilting, then please tune in this afternoon to Pat Sloan's podcast!
Follow this link to listen live, 4pm EST.

Upcoming in person events-- 
My Saturday Stitches group at the Rockville Centre Public Library is starting back up again next month.  Please join us from 10-12 on the following Saturdays this fall:
October 3 & 17
November 7 & 21
December 5 & 19

I also hope to do a separate book signing event at the library, I'll update the Events tab when the date is finalized.  

If your quilt group would like to have me come speak and show off a bunch of my quilts, I would love to set something up!  I've got some flexibility for travel in 2016 and I'd like to hang out with quilters as much as possible.  Please send me an email if you're interested and I can shoot out my list of lecture and workshop topics.  jessunderquilts at gmail dot com

Monday Morning Star Count, September 14, 2015

Happy Monday, All~
Have you been stitching?  My pentagons are increasing slowly, I've got 4 rings and I'm pondering layout..
I need some greens I think,  and more orange.  Do you like the lighter or more saturated rings?  My gut tells me to make more and then see how to balance them (but life seems to give me that sort of advice about a lot of things..) Which brings me to a nice transition--- Life has tossed me some rather large stepping stones in the past few months and even when I have nothing to do, I've got a lot to think about.  I try not to let these thoughts encroach on my quilting time (in fact, my super wonderful therapist suggests that I keep quilting to stay centered..) but they do get in the way of blogging.  It's so much easier to toss progress pics up on instagram than to sort through my feelings and ideas and pull something eloquent together to say in a blog post about a couple hours of sewing.  Sometimes there just are no words, you know?  Thank you, the few of you who have reached out to check up on me in the weeks I've missed Star Count.  It really means a lot to know I've got this nice community of close friends, acquaintances, and dedicated quilters who notice when I'm not there.  I am here, and I will be ok.  Well, actually I'm better than ok, most days, all considering.  But somehow it seems it's always Sunday into Monday that finds me weepy or struggling a bit, and that's making it hard for me to want to cloud the Internet with more tough feelings.  Especially my blog, which is supposed to be the highlight reel of life, no?  I swear, so much of what I struggle with is how honest I can be, what I ought to say, to feel I'm staying true to myself yet also maintaining a "public" persona of super mom/wonder quilter.  Guys, you know that's not true, right? 
I would like to write here from a place more authentic, especially since I'm making and sharing quilts,  which are basically soft scrapbooks,  a window to my soul and a colorful account of where I've been, all I've seen and done.  Even without words, a knowing eye will see where I'm at, and for those with less access to the backstories, my quilts certainly provide lots to ponder if you're curious.  
I want to tell the stories of my quilts on this blog, but right now I'm struggling with how much to say, what to reveal, and some days I just can't fake happiness when life isn't giving me much.  There are many small wonderful moments though,  and I'm still sorting out which of those I want to keep private and which I can share.  It's getting easier to see the difference and I appreciate those of you who stick around to read whatever shows up in this space.  You give me lots of encouragement to keep sewing, to keep thinking and make me wonder if maybe this can be a safe place to unload and work through my thoughts...  I really appreciate that.

So, here's the link up.   What have you been stitching?  And if you want to share, what have those stitches helped you get through this week?  Xoxoxox


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...