It Took Two

A project finished.

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Where to turn next?

I needed a new project to work on in the evening, something portable and easy to pick up, and put down.

After the long months of working on the fusion quilt, I wanted a to work on something that would provide the sweet satisfaction of finishing sooner, rather than later.

But I loved working with the vintage linens so I chose to collaborate with an older friend, to finish a tablecloth she started.

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Why my friend didn’t finish this project, she didn’t say. It might’ve been that the cloth got stained and she got discouraged. I assured her that I could get the spots out.

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She used the green she loved—look at the flowers in each corner!–but she didn’t object when I wanted to add more colors.

She showed me some new stitches. Left to myself, I would’ve done the flowers with just lazy daisy stitch but her approach, to anchor the sides of the petals as well as the points, makes a prettier effect.

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I wanted to change the way we did the centers of the flowers, from French knots to a pulled thread circle, and she didn’t say no.

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She did a part that I wouldn’t have enjoyed—all that green satin stitch in the leaves and stems. And I picked up where she left off and added color in the flowers.

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I was going to do the zigzag border in the multicolors of the flowers but that looked overwrought so, in a nod to her preferences, I used a green she chose. Now, the zigzags look to me like grass the flowers flourish in.

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I also cleaned the cloth up, so we could be proud of our finished product. It took all my secret formulas to get that big stain out but now I can’t see it, even though I know where it was.

It’s such a pretty tablecloth she and I made!

I’d like to give her credit by naming her and showing you her photo.

But I can’t.

I’d love to have the pleasure of showing her the finished tablecloth and hearing her thoughts on what we’ve made together.

But I won’t.

I have no idea who she is . . . or was, since she has probably gone to that great sewing circle in the sky.

I don’t even know how her tablecloth came into my hands. I imagine I picked it up at a garage sale or it came as a part of a mixed lot I purchased from eBay.

The tablecloth has been sitting around here for what seems like forever, waiting for a new set of hands to pick it up and complete the work begun by those other hands.

We worked well together, she and I.

I’ll enjoy using our little tablecloth, made by two pairs of loving hands at home.

Have you ever finished a project begun by another? I’d love to hear about it!

Hand Quilt Along: Women’s Rights

On November 8, 2016, I watched our US election returns, fully expecting that we would be welcoming our first woman president.

As I watched, I embroidered on this block, with the words of the woman I was sure would be that president.

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I was stunned, horrified, and so, so disappointed when things worked out so differently, so cataclysmically wrong.

Disheartened, I stopped working on the quilt for a while but eventually knew that I needed, perhaps more than ever, to finish it.

And through the intervening two years, it’s given me some comfort to work on this. New women leaders have emerged while established standard bearers, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, continue to work toward keeping America America.

I admire Hillary Clinton. Nancy Pelosi. Elizabeth Warren.

I admire Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the other newly-elected women in government, every one of them, and Stacey Abrams and so many others.

I admire the women of Planned Parenthood and the ones who march for women’s rights, and women doctors and scientists and authors and artists, and every woman who has found her own way to say, “I am. I want my human rights.”

And, of course, I also admire the women who have found ways to express themselves when their expressive options were limited. And that brings us to my other quilt-in-progress.

I’ve started crocheting together the fusion squares.

I spent some time laying the squares out in patterns on my bed, trying to decide what worked. But I have almost no patience for that kind of work.

So I settled for a layout that put the all-white squares in the center, with more colorful ones bordering them. I stacked the squares up in order and had a plan, minimal though it was, and tucked all of the squares into a safe cabinet so I could take them out in order, to crochet.

The next day, I found that one of the cats (I’m looking at you, Gigi!) had finagled her way into the cabinet and wreaked havoc with my plan, minimal though it was. The squares were tossed every which way.

So, we’ll just have to wait and see how this turns out!


This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

KathyLoriMargaretKerryEmmaTracyDebConnieSusan,  Nanette,  EdithSharonKarrin, and Gretchen

Hand Quilt Along:

IMG_4901I love it . . . but I’m really sick of working on it.

I’ve loved the doing . . . but I want it done.

And it isn’t done. I believe I have 5 or 6 more blocks to do after this one is finished.

Plus I have to figure out how to quilt the sashing, those red stripes that separate the blocks. 

My progress is slow because I’m sick of the process and there are so many other things that, right now, I need to do or want to do more than this.

But I tell myself that I am close to the end and I mustn’t walk way now.

This block isn’t fully quilted yet. I will do more, probably in the white points of the star, before the next time we report in. 

My quilting isn’t very exciting. I’ve said before that I don’t have the patience for using stencils to draw curvy, involved patterns to quilt over so I tend to: 

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  2. stitch a quarter inch away from seamsVersion 2
  3. use masking tape to make grids or otherwise straight linesIMG_4562

I didn’t get a lot done in recent weeks but what I did do is a result of being a part of the HQAL group. 

The deadline to write a post about the quilt haunts me, nags me, irritates me, but, ultimately, lights a fire under me. 

And for that, I’m haunted. Nagged. Irritated. 

And grateful. 


This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

KathyLoriMargaretKerryEmmaTracyDebConnieSusan,  Nanette,  EdithSharonKarrin, and Gretchen

Hand Quilt Along: Here Comes the Sun

I could’ve spent yesterday inside, working diligently on quilting this block and finishing it.

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But the sun was shining, finally, and the temperature was warm, finally, and it was simply a glorious day, so I did what any sane person would’ve done. Yes, I did what you would’ve done, and you, and you, and you.

I spent the day outside! I did some cleaning up of the yard, I watched the cats frolic and then snooze in the sun, and I enjoyed what might be the latest-blooming crocuses in all of North America.

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I’ll have plenty of time to get caught up on my quilting on days less-perfect than yesterday.

Since my last post, I did finish another quotation block, another pithy statement from Susan B. Anthony. She is the only woman to get featured twice in this quilt and that’s as it should be.

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Anthony’s work as a social reformer, in the areas of women’s rights and the abolition of slavery is well known to Americans. She worked tirelessly, throughout her long life, for the rights of the disenfranchised and is probably best known for her work towards women’s suffrage—the right to vote.

A side note on my quilting—for the first time ever, I believe, I bled on a quilt! My first impulse was to, quick, try and remove the tiny spot. And then I thought about it and about the struggles, all the world around, for women’s rights . . . and I left the bloodstain right where it was.

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This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

Kathy, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Susan,  Nanette, Sassy , Edith, Sharon and Bella.


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Hand Quilt Along: And Sew It Goes

Oh, look! It’s been three weeks!

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Oh, look! It’s time for a progress report on the Hand Quilt Along!

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Oh, look. It’s that same old red and white quilt . . .

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Old photo–that snow is GONE!!

Oh. Look. That unfinished block from last time is finally done.

And, look, one more block is finished . . . .

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That makes 8 done . . . 12 to go.

Sigh.


This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

Kathy, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  SusanJessicaSherryNanette, Sassy, Edith, Sharon and Bella.

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Hand Quilt Along: Pride Goeth . . .

Lust. Gluttony. Greed. Sloth. Wrath. Envy. Pride.

Ah, the seven deadly sins. Which is your favorite? Or maybe I should say, Which is your downfall?

I have indulged in a few of these in my time, but the one what defines me, I’m embarrassed to say, is the one deemed the worst of all . . .

Pride.

Hubris.

Self-overestimation.

I resemble those remarks . . .

I could give you a hundred examples of my overweening pride but the relevant one is the state of affairs I face with my hand quilting project.

One week into this session, I was so far ahead of my self-imposed stint that I bragged a little to others. I talked about finishing my two bocks, PLUS getting extra blocks done so I’d have them finished as a buffer, in case I got too busy in the upcoming weeks . . .

I gloated to myself.

I took a few days off from quilting. I had plenty of time; after all, I was so far ahead of the game.

And, yes, pride goeth before a fall. And I fell.

Suddenly it was yesterday and I wasn’t done, or anywhere close.

So, I’m confessing my sin and seeking forgiveness—here is my progress for this session.

I do love the quote block I did this time and think it’s perfect for International Women’s Day.

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The pieced star block, the one I didn’t finish, is pretty straightforward. As I’ve said I’m doing a lot of “stitching in the ditch,” which means stitching right into the seam line so the quilting itself isn’t really visible but it gives a texture to the quilt and, of course, holds the layers together.

IMG_0960To be complete, I need to stitch many diagonal lines like the one running from top right to bottom left.

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And here’s an interesting tool that solves a huge problem of quilting—how does one quilt the straight edges and right-angle corners when using a round hoop?

I don’t have any idea where I got this tool but I would be lost without it!

So, back to my sins . . . I hereby repent my evil ways—I’m renouncing hubris; no more prideful boastings for me.

I think I’ll give gluttony a whirl . . .


This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

Kathy, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  SusanJessicaSherryNanette, Sassy, Edith, Sharon and Bella.

Hand Quilt Along: Nasty Women Quilt 

Think “quilter.”

What image comes to mind?

For me, the image is of a plump, gray-haired lady (not woman, but lady), wearing an apron over a housedress. She’s sneaking a few moments away from baking bread and cleaning up after the grandkids to ply her needle. Her quilt is made of worn pieces of old clothing and she hums as she gently places her perfect stitches.

I’m a quilter. I’m not so plump, not so gray. I have no grandkids under foot and I seldom bake anything. And I’m no lady.

Let it be known that quilters come in all kinds of packages, with all kinds of political/religious/social backgrounds. We are young and old, women and men, and we use our quilts as a way of expressing our views of the world.

Quilting is not necessarily gentle and not necessarily lady-like. Many quilters have created quilts that are subversive and, in some basic way, the act of making something useful and practical and lasting, is subversive in itself.

When much of “women’s work” is work that is prosaic and almost immediately undone—the food is eaten and must be made anew, the clean house is dirtied, the neat beds are slept in—the quilts lasted. Quilts were a durable way a woman could say, “I am.”

I think that’s why I am enjoying my quilt for the Hand Quilt Along so much.

From the moment I decided to include the women’s rights quotations, I’ve gotten the biggest kick out of finding words from women I admire that most closely reflect the way I see the world.

Both blocks I quilted in the past three weeks have meaning for me in this way, one very obvious and one much more subtle.

The quote block I worked on most recently is a set of words from Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts. She made the remark after Donald Trump famously called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” during one of the debates before the 2016 presidential election.

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From that moment on, my highest aspiration has been to be a nasty woman, too. Nasty like Hillary and nasty like Elizabeth.

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The pieced block I worked on this time is one of a number of traditional blocks that represent stylized trees and are often called by the name “Tree of Life.” Because I did most of my stitching “in the ditch,” or right in the seam lines, and because the stitches don’t show up against the pattern in the fabric, the block isn’t much to look at.

But working on it called to mind a beautiful song that is connected with this notion of quilting being a way for the maker to assert herself. Written by Eric Peltoniemi, and sung by Ann Mayo Muir, the song is called Tree of Life and the last verse says,

We’re only known as someone’s mother,
Someone’s daughter, or someone’s wife,
But with our hands and with our vision,
We make the patterns on The Tree of Life.

So, there we have the stereotype again—“someone’s mother, daughter, wife”— and the push back against it, the reminder that women, yes, even nasty women, are essential to the tree of life.

Heavy stuff for a Sunday morning. If you prefer a lighter look at the not-so-gentle craft of quilting, look at these needles I’ve ruined in the last two weeks! This is tangible evidence that quilting is not for the faint of heart or hand.

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This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

Kathy, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  SusanJessicaSherryNanette, Sassy, Edith, Sharon and Bella.

Hand Quilt Along: One Plus Two Equals Three

I’ve been quilting along on the quilt along.

In the three weeks since we last reported in, I’ve done two blocks. I think this will be a reasonable goal as I progress. It’s a pretty relaxed pace but there are other things I like to do, too, and I want to fit it all in.

One of the blocks I worked on is a patchwork block.

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I needed to decide on a quilting approach—where would I put the stitches?

And why quilt at all?

One purpose of quilting is to hold the three layers of a quilt together. Another, less obvious, reason was to keep the middle layer, the batting, from shifting. Older battings, sometimes no more than a layer of raw cotton, could clump and separate and shift. I’ve seen old quilts that have big lumpy sections and completely flat, empty sections because the quilting was insufficient and the batting all went where it could.

So, women made their quilting lines close together to limit where the batting could go. I’ve heard it said that the quilting lines should be no more than a hand’s width apart and I’ve also read that, in those “olden days,” lines should be no more that an inch apart.

Today’s battings are made very differently and quilting lines can be spaced much more freely. But the third reason for quilting is that it makes an attractive pattern on the quilt surface, so that determines where the lines go, too.

Many quilters mark their entire quilts before they start quilting, using stencils. I’ve said I don’t enjoy the process of tracing a stencil design on fabric, in order to do fancy quilting patterns. I’m a pretty lazy quilter, as it happens.

That makes masking tape my favorite quilting tool, both the quarter-inch tape made for quilters and the stuff I buy at the big box hardware stores. I can put the tape down to create nice straight lines, along which I stitch.

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I tend to make up my mind as I go along, about where to place the tape, and I change my mind, too, as I go along. Sometimes it works well, sometimes I’m a little disappointed.

I thought this block was done but, now that I’ve seen these photos, I think I will want to go back and add some more lines, not because they are necessary to keep the batting from shifting, but to improve the look.*

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The other block I worked on was the one with the quotation from Malala Yousafzai.

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Malala, as you know, is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace prize, for her work as an activist for human rights, particularly for the education of girls and women.

These words from her come from her book, I am Malala, published in 2013. I’m not sure who she had in mind, when she spoke of “one man,” but her comment seems especially relevant in 2018. I know she couldn’t’ve been talking about the the “one man” I think of who could, and may be, destroying the world, but still . . .

As I quilted her block, I thought about the fact that she Malala didn’t ask why one girl couldn’t fix the world; she simply hopes to change it.

Her comment makes me think about the ease with which one powerful person can bring about negative change and the difficult, united work it will take to put things back together again—as Malala suggests. One girl may bring change but it will take many—girls, women, boys, men—to work together to fix our world.

One of the things I love most about hand quilting is the mental space it gives me to think while I work . . .

Three blocks done, 17 to go.

* Don’t worry about the hard little wrinkles you see—they came from that section being squinched in the quilting hoop as I worked on the next block. They’ll go away.


This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

Kathy, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  SusanJessica,  SherryNanette, Sassy, Edith, Sharon and Bella.

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Hand Quilt Along: And Sew, It Begins

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It was as if I’d never touched a needle before.

In the two months since I finished my most recent hand quilting project, it seems I’d forgotten everything.

I couldn’t find my thimble.

I had no idea what quilting design to use.

The calluses on my fingers were gone so every stitch hurt.

My quilting hoop seemed like a stranger to me.

Does this happen to you? Do you find that no matter how many times you’ve been successful at a craft, you can still struggle when you begin a new project?

It happens to me, every single time. It doesn’t matter what the project is, the first few hours, or sometimes days, are discouraging.

My current weaving project is a hot mess. The quilting was a full-blown struggle. Even when I go out to exercise, I find the first 15 minutes an uphill battle.

The thing that keeps me going is that I know, for a fact, through long experience, that it will get better.

The rough edges will all smooth out, the hiccups will stop, and, soon, I’ll hit my stride, find that rhythm, and enjoy the process again.

That happens, too, every single time.

And so it has been with the hand quilting. In the course of working on this first block, I’ve been high and low, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried. And now I know I’ll be fine.

I started with this particular block because Susan B. Anthony was a key figure in women’s suffrage and women’s rights.

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If you recall, this quilt was made as part of a “block of the month” project held by my quilting guild. Each month, we got directions for a pieced block and the story of an American woman who was important  in advocating for women’s right to vote.

I wanted to take the project further, beyond suffrage to women’s rights, in general, and I decided to add the embroidered quotations from women (and one man). I chose quotations that appealed to me, with an eye toward variety and diversity.

Susan B. Anthony was at the center of the push for women’s rights in the United States and, so, she is at the center of the quilt and the obvious starting place for the hand quilting.

For these blocks, I want the focus to be on the words so I chose simple quilting. For the background I am using cross hatching and then just stitching in the ditch around the half-square triangles that form the borders.

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I don’t usually mark a quilt with a pencil—I really hate that process and would normally just use masking tape to guide my stitches. The time, though, I was worried that using masking tape would pull out some of the embroidery stitches when I removed the tape, so I did mark the square lightly with a mechanical pencil.

I settled in, warm under the weight of the quilt. I re-introduced myself to the thimble, the needle, the hoop, the process.

One block down, 19 to go.

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I intend to quilt my way through the Winter Olympics!

 


This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

Kathy, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  SusanJessica, SherryNanette, Sassy and Edith.

Hand Quilt Along: A Fail and A Save

Have you ever taken part in a quilt/knit/crochet/whatever along? A blog extravaganza where people commit to sharing progress on a set schedule?

If so, have you felt motivated by pride or peer pressure or the desire to keep a promise and have you met that set schedule with enthusiasm, and grace, and promptness?

Not me, boy.

Three short weeks into the Hand Quilt Along and I am mortified to admit that I have made no progress whatsoever on my stated project! I teased you last time with a promise of a method of basting quilts that I claimed changed my whole, entire, attitude toward basting and told you I would share that with you in this post.

Not gonna happen. (But, as a consolation, I’m including a link to the YouTube video where I learned the technique that changed my life. It’s at the end of the post!)

I could give you a million lame excuses (travel, Thanksgiving, blah, blah, blah) for my lack of forward momentum but, instead, I’ll show you progress on one of the other projects I mentioned in my previous post. It isn’t, strictly speaking, hand quilting, and it won’t become, strictly speaking, a quilt in the traditional sense, but it’s close enough (or at least I hope you think so!)

I have done quite a lot of hand sewing on what will be, ultimately, some sort of throw.

The background: As some know, I collect and sell vintage linens. Among the lovely pieces I come across, I have found many that are damaged just enough that I can’t, in good faith, sell them.

They might have a dark stain or a hole or three. They might be orphan napkins or pillowcases that have known too many heads. And yet . . .

And yet, they often have a frill or a furbelow, a hand crocheted lace edge or a bit of hand-wrought embroidery, a pretty little something that someone bent her head over, labored over, and crafted with her own hands.

I have found over and over that I cannot throw these bits away. For years, I have sought a way to use them, to save the work of the women who made these things.

And then one day, in one of those early morning forays into the bottomless time suck of Pinterest, I saw a photo of what was being called a fusion quilt. The ones I saw were simply squares of pretty, but new, fabric that had been cut and sewed up and edged with crochet.

But I saw, clearly, in my mind’s eye, my bits and pieces of loveliness.

Like these.

Each has three stages.

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First, the basic padded square needs to be made, work I’ve done on a sewing machine. I cut the “fancies,” the batting, and the backing, sew them together, turn them inside out, poke out the corners, and top stitch around the edge.

Then, I do blanket stitch around the edge by hand.

Then, I crochet the edge on each one. Somewhere, down the road, I’ll crochet the individual pieces together, creating an expanse of vintage handwork, with a myriad of pretty details.

I currently have 20 squares finished to the point of needing the crochet. I am not a very good crocheter so I wanted a stack to do all at once so as to get a rhythm going—I have a stack now!

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It used to be, when I was going through my linens, and getting them ready to sell, I’d be majorly disappointed when I found a damaged piece. Now I’m often thrilled!

This project has “me” written all over it—I’m doing handwork to preserve the handwork of women whose names I don’t know, whom I know only by their craft. Their work, sewn together in one piece, will be more than the sum of the parts and continue to draw the eyes and admiration of makers. I am honored to work in service of them.

And, yes, I still have a quilt to baste, a quilt that honors still other women who have shown me how to live! More on that in the next installment!


If you hate quilt basting and have wondered about different approaches, I highly recommend Sharon Schamber–Hand Basting Your Quilt.


This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

Kathy, Bella, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  Susan , Jessisca  and Sherry