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 . . .




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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.*


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


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.


Hand Quilt Along: And Sew, It Begins


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.


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.


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.


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.

When All is Done, and Said

All our words are never said and and all our work is never done . . . but we complete steps along our creative way.

I’ve made reference to and shown glimpses of this quilt I’ve been working on—and the top is finally finished!


The impetus for the quilt came from the block-of-the-month (BOM) challenge my guild had this past year. The way the BOM works is that each month at a guild meeting, participants are given the directions for a new quilt block to make during the coming month. If one stays on track, by the end of the year one has done a good bit of work toward a finished project. I like finished projects as well as the next person!

And I liked the theme our guild chose: in light of this being the 100th anniversary of New York giving full enfranchisement to women, including the right to vote, the theme of our BOM was Women’s Suffrage.

The theme appealed to me a lot but I wanted to take it further and make my quilt more broadly about women’s rights. And I didn’t want to stop at the 9 pieced blocks that we received instructions for.

I reverted to my roots—my love of words, words that inspire, words that provoke, and words that maybe even foment change.

I chose 10 quotations from 9 women and one quotation from a man, Mitch McConnell, about a woman. I tried to be inclusive and choose from women of different eras and backgrounds.

For the embroidery, I used my tried-and-true freezer paper and computer printer method for transferring the designs to fabric—I wrote about it here.*

I ended up with 9 pieced blocks from the BOM challenge but needed one more for the design I wanted, so I added a block from a pattern called “Contrary Wife”–I figured many people saw the suffragettes as just that (it’s the block at the bottom left).

I sewed the pieced blocks and the embroidered blocks together in an alternating grid, with sashing. At some future date, I’ll hand quilt the whole thing.

I started this quilt well before the US presidential election and worked on it while I watched the voting returns, never suspecting the way things were going to turn out. I lost my way for awhile after that and didn’t work on the quilt for a good long time.

But as it turns out, I felt compelled to finish.

I’ve been thinking about a phrase I read somewhere—weapons of mass creation. Although the word “weapons” makes me uneasy, I do like the juxtaposition of ideas, that we can use the tools we have to build up rather than tear down.

And the tools, or weapons, I have are words, and needle and thread and shuttle and loom.

And I intend to use them–for my own comfort, for the simple joy of making, for the chance to make statement, subtle or less so, about the world I want to live in.


*I’m thinking about doing another, even more detailed post about this, to encourage others to try the process of embroidering their own words on fabric. Would that be useful? If you have strong feeling, let me know.