Saturday, January 26, 2013

Black Opal

What inspires you?

What is inspiration?  What little thing can spark your imagination and inspire you to create something awesome?

I asked someone what her favorite colors were because I wanted to make a quilt for her.  She told me the colors in a picture I had on my Facebook page were all her.  I took a good look at it and fixed it in my mind and every time I went to a quilt shop I found more colors to add to the mix.  I eventually had a wonderful collection of pinks, blues and purples to satisfy the scrappy gene that dictates how all my quilts must be made and I set about cutting squares.


This particular quilt is called Black Opal and can be found in a book called Spectacular Scraps.  The quilt in the book is made by Margaret Rolfe.  I must give credit where it is due, as this quilt in the book inspired me to follow the colors in the picture.  Margaret had a few more pinks, and hers were all deeper in hue.  All the quilts in this book are made with half square triangles and I knew when I saw the Black Opal I needed to use it as my pattern.

The picture of the flag pole, though, is what caused me to pull the colors I pulled, gathered, and begged for.

Unfortunately the person this quilt was originally for has left my sphere of acquaintances and now the quilt will be mine.  I would have been hard pressed to let it go.  It is much lovelier than I imagined even looking at the pieces in the box waiting to be assembled.

Last year I went to a quilt retreat in Amish country and about all I sewed on for 4 days straight was Black Opal.  I made my quilt bigger than the picture and I needed 1152 half square triangles.  I swear if I had not sat down for 4 straight days and sewn 1152 half square triangles, this quilt would never had made it to completion!  That’s a lot of triangles!

I do love the result, though and now it is on the stack of quilts to be quilted.  

What will inspire me next?

Friday, January 25, 2013


Pennies from heaven

I’ve heard it said that when an angel misses you they toss a penny down for you to find.  I don’t doubt the possibility.  I never put much stock in finding pennies as messages from a loved one, but I have had my share of unusual ‘found’ objects that defy explanation.

Mother died in 1997.  She was a wonderful person.  She helped anyone who needed help without reservation.

One day in 2002 I found a clock key tucked neatly in the join of the three trunks of my jade tree.  All clock keys in the house were accounted for and there is no way that key had been in the plant a few days earlier when I had watered it.  I figured it was from my mom and said so in a joking manner.

Just a few weeks after that I found a silver butter knife in the trough of the magazine rack where I store the toilet paper in the bathroom.  I walked around the house with the unfamiliar butter knife asking everyone present if they were trying to play a trick on me, but no one fessed up.  As I mentioned, it was an unfamiliar pattern and my two silver butter knives were still in the kitchen drawer.

Over the years I would see these things happen right before my eyes. Trying to stay a skeptic and seeing it happen is totally impossible.  My sister dropped a knitting needle one evening as she was flipping her knitting around in her hand. Even though we searched under, in and around her chair it was not to be found.  Several days later it was on the floor at her feet, and had not been there moments before.  Was it Mom?  She did knit and she might have needed a spare needle to finish a project.  It’s hard to say.

I have a skeleton key that has appeared from nowhere.  I used to have a black one, but it disappeared down a toilet long ago and I have no need for a skeleton key anymore.  We don’t have a door that even has a key hole!  I keep all these treasures, because to me they are treasures.  My mom lets me know she is still watching over me in ways I can’t explain but don’t question.

Today my sister found a brand new jar of Vicks Vapor rub in the cupboard.  We moved heaven and earth a while back to find the last remaining blue jar of Vicks to give to my father-in-law at his nursing home, because the new jar Tom bought him was ‘wrong’ and no way was he going to believe that jar of Vicks was really Vicks.  It came in a blue glass jar.  After he died my husband forgot to grab that jar of Vicks and bring it home.  We just mentioned that the other day, too.  Today there it was; a new jar of Vicks with one finger mark in it.  Mom again? Or did my Father-in-law figure out how to drop things from ‘heaven’ for us?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Anyone can sew fabric to paper!

Step by Step

When piecing on paper squares, I use 1 ½” strips of fabric that is from trimmings of quilt backs and from the ends of pieces of fabric I have used in another project and it is still big enough to use but not big enough to store in my fabric cupboard.  I cut and sort these into bags and store them in a tub for when I want to do something mindless.

This particular block I have done a step by step of is for a two color quilt that does not have to be pulled together with a sashing or border.  To make this brown and green quilt, I have used any scrap of fabric that has some sort brown family or green family I can apply to it.  Some of the fabrics are other colors but will still fit my “rules” because there may be something brown or green in the fabric.  My game, my rules.


The center strip is my one constant.  Its purpose is to be a subtle design effect.
I start in the middle on the diagonal with this 6 ½” square of paper that is from a little telephone book.  

Because of the effect I want in the end, I will put brown strips on one side of the square and green ones on the other.
I press each strip as flat as possible after sewing it, with a plastic tool made for this purpose so I can lay the next fabric down and sew it. This way I can complete an entire block before having to press it flat with the iron. 

I use an iron after sewing the entire block so when I trim I don’t have bubbles.

As you can see from the back, there is not much waste because I had the paper to guide me for placement and my finished untrimmed block is relatively square.  My 6 ½” plastic square that I trim with fits inside the strips that hang over the edges.  There is a black diagonal line on the trimming square that lines up with the middle of the center strip.
After trimming I set them aside until I have finished all the blocks.  I pull the paper off after all is done because the seams easily fray.
Laid out with 4 green corners and 4 brown corners meeting results in a striking two color diamond effect.

Foundation piecing can also be done on muslin or other thin fabric.  That would also be trimmed to a square after sewing, but the resulting quilt top will be much heavier because of the extra layer of fabric.  I prefer the paper because it can be removed.  The paper is easy to remove because I shorten the stitch so it makes more holes in the paper.  That also keeps the stitching from coming apart while handling the fabric and stretching it to help in the paper removal.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

ANY color?

ANY color?

When I was newer to this quilting addiction, I would have a hard time pulling fabrics together to make a quilt be cohesive.  I usually did not follow a pattern that had specific colors already chosen, and I did not usually purchase a line of fabric where all goes together with no thought involved.  If I did have a pattern in mind from a quilt magazine I would invariably not like the colors the designer used and would still have to either buy fabric to make my version or I would have to pull fabrics from what I already owned.

Back in the day there was a wonderful fabric store a county south of me and I LOVED going there.  It was called the Craft Store and there was quite a choice.  The bolts were not arranged by designer but by color, and it was so easy to go buy a palate of colors to satisfy my scrappy needs and the fabric was priced very reasonably.  There was also a cubby or two with sale fabric for $1 a yard and that was my first stop. I would buy the whole bolt if I liked it because it was $15 for a quilt back or two and lots of leftover to seed the stash pile. 

Unfortunately, the man who owned the store wanted to retire and what I did was amass a huge assortment of everything imaginable at bargain prices.  I did not go when he called on the last day to say everything was 90% off and it was like he was giving it away.  I had NO ROOM anywhere in this studio for 1” more of fabric.  As a matter of fact, that became my mantra when on an outing with friends who ended us up in a fabric store and I restrained from buying fabric for several years.

Now that I have this huge assortment of every color imaginable it is so much easier to pull a quilt together.  After quilting the trimmings were not thrown away, but put in a tub.  My sister was aghast one day when she saw the mess of colors in the tub and felt obligated to help me use up at least the leftover bits.

I would spend my evenings on the computer playing games on Pogo and between games I would pull the papers off the backs of the paper pieced blocks I made from my scraps.  Joanne decided any idiot could sew fabric to paper and she commenced to “reducing” my tub of scraps. (Ha!)  Not only had another person been hooked on fabric; she found it never really goes away no matter how many pages of a phone book you have sewn into strippy blocks.  

Yes, phone books.  I sew scraps of fabric to old useless phone book pages.  For some reason I have an unbelievable number of old phone books.  My choice to recycle instead of putting stuff in the trash found a use for phone books. (Don’t be thinking you found a place to drop them off, my brother brings his here each year, too and I have an endless supply!)

This way of using up fabrics gives a sewer a sense of freedom.  It does not matter what colors you choose to sew together, there are no wrong choices.  Because pulling a palate of colors together had always been so hard for me, this new found freedom was invigorating.  All I need when using telephone book blocks is one color or one value of color to tie them all together.  This is accomplished with the border or the sashing.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

It's hard to say goodbye...

It’s hard to say goodbye,

But then, I’m corny that way.   

A long time ago I had a cat named Jett.  She was the most different personality of a cat I had ever had.  We played tricks on each other and she died too young.  I found a tumor between her shoulder blades one day and when I asked the vet what it was, he thought it was a broken bit off the cat’s shoulder blade and we cogitated on how a cat would get a bit broken off its shoulder blade.  A few days later, that little lump was bigger and I rushed her back to Dr. Mike and Dr. Mike was mad at himself for not thinking it through the first time.  He said Dr. Mary was going to give him what-for for missing a diagnosis.   

Jett had a form of cancer that was fast growing and was caused by injecting parvo-virus vaccine.  Because of cats like mine, vets changed the way they gave that vaccine and now give it in a hip because you can amputate a leg and save the pet if it has this rare form of reaction to the shot.  

 Dr. Mary operated on Jett 3 times to remove each returning lump and the last time Jett almost died from the surgery because the anesthetic bothered her stomach.  It took me a while to figure out she was starving to death because she was unable to eat.  Talk about guilt.  I learned how to make tuna soup and feed her every two hours until one day she got caught eating the hard food again and had to stop getting babied by me.  

 When the tumor returned for the fourth time in about a 24 month period, Dr. Mary let me make the choice about another surgery or letting her go.  I decided to let it grow and let Jett enjoy one more summer.  I watched her sleeping in all her favorite places in the sun all summer and late in the fall I called Dr. Mike and asked him if he would come to my house to let Jett go off to the great beyond without one more trip to the vet.  I held her in my arms and watched her slip off. She was only 4 years old.

Cats are amazing creatures and are a great source of love to sooth the soul.

My dear sister came in one day and told me to look on-line at a cat rescue place in the next county to the west and see if I could find one to fill the hole Jett left.  There was a cat there who jumped right off the internet page into my heart and I called and made an appointment to go meet the lady who had him.  He had a big gray bullseye on his side and beautiful  green eyes.   

When I got to her house, she had a cage full of black cats in the garage that she was holding on to until after Halloween because apparently people do unspeakable things to black cats in October.   We walked right past the black cats and into her kitchen.   

She took some information from me and then called “Ryon” and this little cat came tearing around the corner going merow merow merow and rubbed up against me and asked me to take him home.  I signed the papers, paid the $80 donation and out the door we went.  The lady said her husband was going to be so glad he was gone because Ryon was a talker and kept her husband awake all night. If it wasn’t from his incessant talking, it was because he dived under the covers between them and claimed his part of the bed between the two people sleeping in it.  

Ryon did the same things here.  He talked his head off and he slept under the covers.  He would get ejected from the bed and then would wait until we fell asleep and under the covers again, snuggled up at my tummy.  I loved this cat.  He was special.  He filled the big hole Jett had left and now he has left me.  I was sitting in my chair binding a quilt and heard his toe nails in the couch and looked up to watch him loll over.  He was gone.  I would guess he had a stroke, he was here one second and gone the next.

This big brave cat hid in a basket on top of the dresser in my sister’s closet.  He did not let anyone see him and rarely made an appearance if there were more than the appropriate number of people in the house.  On occasion of late, he would come out to talk to a customer of mine.  He hadn’t been sleeping under the covers this winter yet, but he still snuggled with me at night until Tom came to bed.

Today the pain is raw and hard to get past and I will miss him a lot at certain times of the day, but I do believe he is on the rainbow bridge with Fiona and Angus and all the other pets who made such a difference in my life over the years and I will get to see them all again when it’s my turn to go.