Those Who Can’t Travel, Quilt

quilting, Travel, Uncategorized

I find that my stress about being imperfect is lessened when I remind myself that the fabric I’m using is already scraps from a previous project. I finished a blue and yellow quilt almost a year ago, zoomed through a rainbow quilt made from scraps and made three other quilt tops, including a boat on a blue ocean. But my productivity hit a bit of a standstill. Partially life got in the way and partially I didn’t know how I wanted to quilt the most recent quilt tops, so I took a pause.

Recently a friend of my mother’s has been downsizing her fabric stash, sharing fabrics and scraps with us to put to use. One of the side effects of becoming a quilter is accumulating a whole lot of fabric, some wanted, some not so much. As our house is currently overstuffed with fabric, I’ve used scraps from the friend and my mother’s various projects to make my quilts in the past. (I was actually encouraged to start quilting after years of inaction by my mother’s concerns about having too many scraps.)

However, a recent delivery from the friend included a panel of quilt blocks that were travel themed. As I can’t travel right now, I decided that instead of tucking the panel away with a plan for later, I would tackle my idea and make a quilt top. And a week later, my mother kindly put the binding on and it is ready to be donated.

The fabric panel included fifteen little motifs representing cities around the world, framed in colorful borders. I chopped up each city into a block and made borders out of solid fabrics, drawing from the colors used in the illustrations. So often, I find myself sticking to a simple color palette or trying to make fabrics match perfectly, and it was a little fun this time to use such bright colors and allow them to be bold and clash a little.

Fifteen wasn’t an ideal number of blocks for the quilt size I wanted to make, so I began a (fruitless) search for a simple block pattern for an airplane or passport. When that came up unsuccessful, I found a suitcase quilt online that I thought could do the trick. Using “Dear Friends Suitcase Quilt Pattern“, my mother and I mathed out the right size for a little suitcase to give me sixteen blocks.

Once the suitcase was made (remind me later that I hate paper piecing and small pieces of fabric), the borders were in place, and the order of the blocks was decided, I got the top finished. I forgot how quick a quilt can come together when it isn’t made up of thousands of tiny scraps.

Hoping to avoid the fate of the other quilt tops waiting to be quilted, we quickly put the travel quilt on the longarm machine, used a pantograph called “Bora Bora” and let the machine do its thing. My mother kindly put the binding on the quilt and voilĂ !

This lovely little quilt (with fabric from Susan and many hours of assistance from Ginny) will be headed to Project Linus. Hopefully the recipient will live vicariously through the quilt just like I was inspired to!

I counted out that I’ve visited 9 out of the 15 cities in this quilt. How many have you been able to travel to?

The quilt features panels for London, Sydney, Amsterdam, Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona, Montreal, Reykjavik, Mexico City, New York, Moscow, Tokyo, Cairo, Rome, Nairobi, and Paris.

A Bit of a Catch Up

Uncategorized

It’s been a while. I haven’t been able to do much traveling and I have struggled with finishing the things I’ve started, but in honor of a new year coming around, I figured I’d do a bit of a catch up to remind myself what’s been going on.

So, number one: since we last talked, I moved. I decided with work from home being in my future for at least the next few months, being in a tiny cramped (expensive) apartment wasn’t something I wanted to continue to do. Fortunately, my parents live close by and were kind enough to let me move back into my old room. Rather than one big moving day, we spread it out over a few weeks. I don’t know whether this erased the stress of one big day of moving or spread it out over multiple months, but yesterday, I finally tucked everything away and can confidently call myself moved in.

Number two: I’ve been reading. A lot. I keep my Goodreads up to date if you’re interested, but since reading 28 books in 28 days in February, I’ve finished 12 more books. I’ve been very into romance books recently, which are fun and easy to read when I’m feeling kinda stressed. I also spent some of the time in my move reorganizing my bookshelf, which was surprisingly fun. I was reminded of childhood favorites and school reads that I despised – always gotta have balance.

Number three: we’ve been watching lots. My parents and I have a bit of a schedule going with the TV: during the week, there’s pretty minimal watching until 9 p.m. when Rachel Maddow comes on. She’s been a regular on the TV for a few years and the habit remains. Sometimes it’s a great show, other times not so much… But the weekends are when it gets interesting. We’ve been working our way through the new Disney Plus shows, including The Mandalorian, WandaVision, and our current show The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. We’ve also watched a few of the 2021 Oscar nominees and some film adaptations of Fredrik Backman books. (I also convinced my mother to watch Bridgerton with me, which we watch when my dad goes to bed early). We often spend a good half hour after each show or movie explaining to each other what happened and discussing the plots or guessing the next episode.

Number four: I’ve been making quilts. Last year, I started getting into making scrap quilts and have finished two quilts completely, have three quilt tops to be quilted and am currently working on my sixth quilt which will look like a bookcase. I like making quilts as a relaxing hobby and enjoy going away for a day or two before returning with fresh eyes and more energy. Despite trading off the sewing machine with my mom, it’s been nice to make things with little to no pressure and no timeline to rush me. As with most crafting hobbies, I have more ideas than time to complete any of them, so I’ve already got ideas lined up for three or four more quilts once I complete the ones I’m working on.

Lastly, I got older! I turned 26 on the 14th and two days later found my first gray hair. A few years ago, a friend asked me what my goals were for the next year – I promptly forgot them and had to come up with new ones later, but I like to continue that tradition and set some intentions for the year. This year, my goals include going to law school (and the inevitable move that will come with that), visiting old friends and making new friends, continuing to create, stay healthy, save up some money, and, finally, prioritize joy.

So, that’s what you’ve missed. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to do some traveling or adventuring of some kind soon and then I can write about those. Or maybe I’ll just start recording the conversations I have with my mother about the different kinds of birds that visit our kitchen bird feeder – the suburbs can change you…

Start Somewhere

Uncategorized

As part of my challenge to myself to face my own fear of failure, I’ve encouraged myself to try new things. I emphasize crafts in this pursuit because if I’m bad at it, there’s not a whole lot of fallout. There’s definitely a belief amongst people my age and my generation that hobbies can and should be money making. Time spent on hobbies shouldn’t feel wasted. So many people I know start a hobby and then feel the need to make a YouTube channel about it or open a shop. While that extra cash is nice, it puts pressure on what should be a relaxing side project. Rather than coming home and reading for fun or making a sweater for their cat, there’s a pressure to make profitable projects or create content surrounding that effort. Sometimes I find myself feeling guilty that I haven’t posted twice a week or I missed a month’s worth of posts, but at the end of the day, I’d hope that my hobbies (including this blog) are more about flexing that creative (or physical) muscle rather than about getting attention and/or making money.

So I’m telling myself that not only can I try new things without the fear of failure, but I can be bad at them and not have to give up or expect more from myself.

Example #1: Quilting. Over the last year, I started making scrap quilts using my mother’s massive pile of scrap fabric. There’s a few things I like about scrap quilting. One, it’s using scraps and crumbs from other projects – if I mess up, it isn’t a big deal because the fabric is already scrap pieces. Second, I can practice skills I first learned almost two decades ago without fear. Third, because I’m borrowing my mom’s fabric and thread and machine, I only really get to quilt on the weekends; this means that I rest during the week and can spend my weekends enjoying my new hobby or I can skip a weekend without feeling guilt about wasted opportunity. Could I finish a quilt in a weekend? Probably. Do I have to? No.

For me, quilting is nice because I can use it as an opportunity to chat with my mom about our weeks or our favorite fabrics. Each scrap came from a finished quilt and we enjoy rediscovering certain bits and reflecting on what quilt they came from and whether they were donated or not. Starting a skill is a lot less daunting if you have a friend with the skills (or the same interest to learn the skills). Hobbies don’t have to always be solitary activities.

Example #2: Watercolor. When I was in college, one of my jobs was working the front desk of the residence hall I lived in. Because the desk was open all weekend, I often found myself awake at weird times. 4 a.m. wasn’t the best time to follow along with a convoluted tv show or to try and write that paper. Instead, I found a cheap set of watercolor paints at CVS and a thing of watercolor paper. During my shifts, I would listen to music and watercolor. I hadn’t taken a painting class since middle school and I can tell you honestly that despite my best efforts, I’m pretty bad at it. I don’t have the patience or the technique or really interest in trying to be better. I found the flow of a paintbrush on paper to be calming. Rather than stress about getting better, I accepted that I am bad at it, but I enjoy it regardless of that fact. I enjoy the fact that I’m a beginner and I may never get past that point – it doesn’t make the relaxation effect any less useful.

Because I’ve accepted my beginner status, I haven’t spent much money on this particular hobby. I’ve acknowledged that no amount of fancy watercolors or nice brushes is going to change what I enjoy about watercoloring and they definitely aren’t going to suddenly make me into Monet. Instead, I’ve avoided that dreaded mistake of over-shopping on supplies for a hobby. I’d rather save my money than overspend on something I might not participate in all that often.

Example #3: Cross stitch. During my Master’s program, I had a bit of free time and went down the Instagram rabbit hole of quirky embroidery and cross stitch patterns. It looked fun and relatively simple. So I hopped on Etsy and found a beginner’s kit for a cross stitch pattern. The kit came with just the essentials and a little video explaining how to cross stitch. It seemed simple enough and I got a cute little cross stitch out of it. When I came back home, I mentioned it to my mother, who of course went through a cross stitch phase and had all the supplies tucked away in the basement. So I made more, trying harder patterns as I grew more confident. I had to remind myself to start with the easy patterns and stitch types. I knew I was just a beginner and I knew I needed to start small and grow.

For all of these hobbies, I had to start at the beginning and remind myself that I was not an expert and may never be one. There’s something nice about focusing less on whether I can one day make a living off my hobby and focusing more on the intentionality of stretching my creative muscles and doing something that relaxes me and brings me joy.

A Smooth Sea: Quilt #3

quilting

Over the last year, I’ve started to get into quilting. I recently completed my first two quilts and while I enjoyed the experience, my Pinterest board of scrap quilt ideas is a little overflowing. So by the time the binding was on Quilt #2, I had three or five ideas ready to go for the next one. One problem with following my quilter mother on Pinterest is that many of our quilt related pins are the same. We had both been eyeing a design, unbeknownst to the other, of a boat floating through strips of blue water. She wasn’t quick enough, so I got to take on that challenge first.

The quilt we were both inspired by is called Seafarer and after some math to determine its size, we acknowledged that the quilt would work well to get rid of some of the blue scrap strips that had made it through Scrap Quilt 1 and Scrap Quilt 2 unused, but we also realized I’d need to learn to paper piece.

Paper piecing is a type of sewing that using a piece of paper (in our case a bunch of old phonebook pages and newspaper) to build the piece. Essentially, I used the phonebook page as a guide to keep each strip straight diagonally across the square. I spent many a weekend sewing blue strips to blue strips to blue strips until we eventually got 40-something squares of diagonal blue strips.

I’m saying “we” because despite being in charge of sewing this quilt, my kind mother assisted me by acknowledging every time I forgot the seam allowance and then kindly assisted in strategic cuts that meant I wouldn’t need to get out the handy-dandy seam ripper.

After all the big blocks were built, the same idea was used to build the side “half” blocks and the two corner blocks. The last task was to create the boat that would be sailing through the sea. With a little more paper piecing and some wiggling, we had a little boat. The last step in the paper piecing journey, was sewing all the blocks together and then removing the paper. If you think quilters are covered in threads, let me tell you about the little pieces of ripped newspaper and phone book that I am still finding weeks later. The satisfaction of pealing the paper off was completely overshadowed by the itty-bitty scraps of paper that just would not let go. But once it was done, it looked good.

With the front of the quilt done, it was time for quilting. I’m planning to use my mother’s massive retirement present and then bound the quilt on the little machine. (After all the quilting this little machine has been through this year with both my projects and my mother’s, it might need a vacation.) Instead of using a pattern to quilt on the long-arm machine, I’m planning to free style it. But I don’t quite have the skills or the confidence to do it yet. But soon!

After the bright colors of the last two quilts, I was looking to work with more calming colors, but still wanted a quilt that would be visually interesting. I think it turned out pretty alright. I’m sure the corners don’t match up perfectly and that there are ways I could have quilted or organized the quilt for better visual, but for a scrap quilt, I’m proud of it.

And like any good quilter, I’ve already got Quilt #4 started. Wish me luck!

Quilter Quilting Quilts

quilting

A little over a year ago, the four day weekend encompassing Thanksgiving 2019 was the beginning of a year long journey. After a few days off work, I got a little bored. My mom happened to mention (/complain about) the piles upon piles of scraps that come with making a ton of quilts each year (this year, my mother’s production levels included 750 masks, 100 scrub caps, 50 quilts, and more). My mom is a quilter and has been my whole life, so she’s accumulated quite a lot of fabric. Additionally, she and I share hoarding tendencies that mean we would rather hold on to that little bit of fabric left over at the end of a project than toss it. After listening to her complain, I decided I would aid her in the downsizing of her scrap bins.

The process started with a search for yellows and blues. Fortunately, these were colors found in the scraps box(es and bags) in abundance. My endlessly patient mother spent Thanksgiving break pressing my scraps while I created my first quilt.

I’ve been helping my mom with her quilts since I was itty bitty. I spent many years as a second pair of eyes telling her when she’d placed fabrics too close or when the green went with the rest of the quilt better than the blue. As I got older, many of the pictures of my mom’s quilts featured my toes as I stood on the couch to hold up her projects. Around this time, my mom started to make quilts for an organization called Project Linus. Project Linus donates homemade quilts and afghans to children in the hospital or otherwise in need. I won’t even pretend to count how many quilts my mom has made for Project Linus, but there’s been a lot over the years.

My skillset was expanded in middle school when Project Linus hosted Blanket Days where volunteers got together to make blankets and share skills. I attended a few with my mom, bringing the average age down by 15 years at least. I would often assist with the unloading of the car and then find a back corner to sit down and power through Chinese coins. Occasionally, I would be the runner in charge of bringing strips from a quilter to an iron and back. One year, I even learned how to knit, which I promptly forgot as soon as we got home.

Despite the hours put into helping my mom and various blanket days, I had never finished a quilt entirely on my own. In the past, I always passed the quilt off to my mom when it got complicated.

So, when I started my blue and yellow scrap quilt I was determined to do it myself and actually complete it, quilting and all. I worked most of Thanksgiving 2019 and then over my days off throughout December. Unfortunately, scrap quilts require a little of tiny pieces being sewn together over and over. As my mom informed me, the bigger the pieces, the quicker the quilt. As I don’t live with my parents, nor do I have a sewing machine at my apartment, I did all my sewing on weekend visits. This meant that I completed my first ever quilt in June 2020.

The quilting was expedited by using my mom’s retirement toy: a longarm quilting machine that currently takes up my parents’ basement. It makes quilting the quilt a much faster (and much less frustrating) process. With her guidance, my blue and yellow scrap quilt was finished and sent off to Project Linus to comfort a kid.

And just like my mother, I immediately started plotting my next quilt. I knew I wanted to continue on my scrap quilt journey and I knew I wanted to go outside the blue and yellow that I used before. So I went for a rainbow pattern, inspired by a Pinterest post. After another visit to the scrap boxes and a sorting extravaganza, I got started on Quilt #2.

Quilt number 2 again took a decent amount of time to complete. Starting with 8 1/2 inch squares and then building from there. Both quilts were expedited by my assistant (sometimes known as my mother) ironing and rethreading the machine for me. There are some skills I still haven’t mastered yet. Like the first quilt, work was done on weekends and holidays. It took a little longer due to family watches of The Crown, The Mandalorian, Luther, and a variety of films. But after slight difficulties with the binding, we got it finished!

My rainbow scrap quilt is finished and will soon be properly photographed and then donated to Project Linus. And of course, I’m already plotting Quilt #3. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of scraps to be used up.