Yearly Archives: 2015

What Will 2016 Look Like?

I have gone through immense loss and tremendous personal growth in 2015. It has been a difficult journey and, truthfully, one I am still traveling. The thing about grief is that it provides a rich environment for reflection. Yes, it is painful. But with a little help, I decided to dig deep, feel those emotions, and thus work on healing in a way which would leave me stronger and more complete than before my loss. I will always grieve for my sister – that goes without saying – but, I want to honor her life by living my life to the fullest.

LavenderFarm.WP012009-07-02For those of you who visit this blog, you will have noticed some changes. I barely posted in 2015 and I stopped reviewing all the books I was reading. I needed my space. I needed to think about what I wanted to share and how I wanted to share it. I knew that I did not want to feel like my reading was linked to the obligation to review. So the first big change in 2016 is that I will no longer accept any books for review. And I will not be reviewing every book I read. If the spirit moves me, I will post my thoughts on reading…but I have decided to release myself from the obligation to do so.

The creative life is something I have always loved. I started knitting when I was in Junior High School – my first project was a Lopi sweater. I spent hours doing counted cross stitch for many, many years. I dabbled in jewelry making. I tried scrapbooking. I hooked rugs. But in 2009, Paula and her daughter, Abby, came for a visit and I made my first quilt with Paula’s help. I loved it! I loved working with texture and color and watching fabric turn into a warm and comforting quilt. Thus began my quilting journey.

When Paula died, I inherited most of her fabric stash, and all of her unfinished quilts. I intend to finish all those quilts someday (it may take me awhile!) and I am using and loving much of Paula’s fabric. At first I was afraid that quilting would bring me sadness – it was one of the things Paula and I shared and loved. So much of what I learned about quilting began with her. We would talk several times a week on the phone, and 75% of those talks revolved around quilting and fabric and our next or ongoing projects. The photos below document our jump into collaborative quilting.

CollaborativeQuilt.Process30001CollaborativeQuilt.W&P.W'sQuiltTop0001Surprisingly, instead of feeling sad when I went to the sewing machine, I felt buoyed by Paula’s spirit. I felt closer to her. Creating became a “Zen” place for me, a place where I could work through emotions and heal from my pain. I experimented with Improv Quilting and my first improvisational piece reflected so much of my journey (you can read about that here).

Improv.HeartBeat.Label0001So the next big change you will see here on my blog is there will be more posts about the creative life and quilting. I want to share my experiments – the successes and failures, the ups and downs, but mostly the joy of “making.” I do not intend to have a “schedule” for blogging. I will write when I feel there is something I want to share. I hope you will stick with me even if there are days or weeks when I do not post!

When I first started my blog, it was a personal space to share stories and thoughts. It morphed into a book blog eventually, and although I still shared some personal stories, it was mostly a place to talk about literature. It seems right that things have come full circle and it will now be a personal space again, a place of reflections and creation and a glimpse into my life.

Thanks for taking the journey with me!

creativeliving quote

Hello Darling – A Frivols Quilt

Frivols1.HelloDarling.Front0001What are Frivols? They’re a series of collectible tins from Moda. Each tin measures 4.5” x 7.5” and includes 42 7” squares, a new Moda quilt pattern, a new block pattern and a Frivol surprise.

Hello-Darling-TinThis is Frivol #1 and features the Hello Darling collection by Bonnie and Camille. I love their fabrics, and this is a cute pattern. I enlarged it somewhat by using the left over fabric in the tin to make a scrappy border and then bordering the entire thing in white. It ended up being a nice lap size!

Frivols1.HelloDarling.DrapedOutside0001I pieced a very simple back with a solid turquoise and white (Bella solids) and quilted it with a meandering, tight stipple design.

Frivols1.HelloDarling.Back0001

Frivol1.HelloDarling.BackReveal0001The binding is from Bonnie and Camille’s Daysail collection – who doesn’t love a striped binding?

Frivol1.HelloDarling.Binding0001I decided to put the label on the front of this one because it was so pretty – I used some of the special “Handmade” ribbon that came with the Frivol.

Frivol1.HelloDarling.Folded0001This quilt was gifted to my sister, Donna, for Christmas…and so I added three free-hand quilted hearts right next to the label in the border. Can you see them?

Frivol1.HelloDarling.QuiltedHeartDetail0001Everyone needs a cheerful lap quilt to wrap up in for those cold winter days and nights!

Frivol1.HelloDarling.DrapedInside0001And my sister loves this one! Love to you, Donna!!! xo

Reading Since August…

Hello Peeps!

Yes, I have been reading, just not reviewing!

The best books of my fall/winter reading:

OurSoulsOur Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015, 179 pages)

What do you do when your spouse dies and the years are ticking by and you are aging and lonely? For Addie Moore, the answer is to take a risk on love. Set in Colorado, Haruf’s novel is a beautiful meditation on love, loss, and aging.

5stars

SonThe Son by Phillipp Meyer (ECCO, 2013, 561 pages)

I never read Rust by this same author (although I have it on my bookshelf) and now I am feeling very motivated to pick it up. The Son is classic western historical fiction that follows three main characters in one family and spans decades. Vivid, and arguably “the Great American Novel,” Meyer’s novel is transporting and gives the reader a deeper understanding of America’s violent past and the demise of its Native American peoples.  5stars

GodInRuinsA God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson (Little Brown & Company, 2015, 468 pages)

The companion novel to Atkinson’s Life After Life focuses on Ursula’s younger brother Teddy as he moves through the dramatic days of World War II. It is not necessary to read Life After Life to appreciate Atkinson’s original prose (although reading the first book will certainly add depth to this one). Intelligent and ingenious, this is a book that will stay with me. 4hStars

MarriageofOppositesThe Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman (Simon and Schuster, 2015, 365 pages)

Camille Pissarro was one of the greatest artists of Impressionism in the late 1800s.  Born in St. Thomas to Jewish parents, he eventually moved to Paris where he made his name. Alice Hoffman’s historical novel recreates the life of Camille’s mother, Rachel. Married off to an older man when she was just a teenager, Rachel becomes mother to this widow’s children, and later has several more children of her own. When her husband dies unexpectedly, his handsome nephew Frederic arrives…and Rachel finds true love, although their marriage is frowned upon, catapulting her and her family into scandal. Camille was Rachel’s favorite son by Frederic – a boy who grew into an artist with amazing vision. Luminous and historically intriguing, The Marriage of Opposites is a book to savor. 4hStars

Some good reads:

AmongtheTenThousandAmong the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont (Random House, 2015, 322 pages)

Julia Pierpont’s debut novel opens with a package sent to Deb Shanley from the woman who is having an affair with Deb’s husband, Jack. But instead of Deb, the box is opened by her child, 11-year-old Kate. Filled with hundreds of printed emails chronicling the affair, the box sets in motion the destruction of a family. Tense, occasionally funny, and starring the fictional world’s biggest narcissist (Jack), Peirpont’s novel is mostly successful if not a bit uneven. 3hstars

TheRisingThe Rising: Murder, Heartbreak and the Power of Human Resilience in an American Town by Ryan d’Agostino (Crown, 2015, 288 pages)

Dr. William Petit suffered an unspeakable crime on July 23, 2007 – armed strangers broke into his home and bludgeoned him, then raped, tortured and murdered his wife and two daughters before setting their house on fire. Journalist d’Agostino takes readers into Bill Petit’s life to bring us face to face with loss, grief, faith and recovery. The power of the human spirit to survive horror and then elevate beyond it is a compelling story. 3hstars

Disappointing books:

InsectFarmThe Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble (Mulholland Books, 2015, 308 pages)

This novel had an interesting premise – two brothers with their own obsessions – one of whom is “slow” and meticulously organizes a universe of insects in the garden shed. Touted as a tight psychological suspense novel, I was ready to be scared. But the secrets in this novel are easy to figure out, and then ending fell flat for me. 3stars

GosetawatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (Harper Collins, 2015, 278 pages)

There was so much hype about this early novel of Harper Lee’s, that I suspected I might be disappointed with it. Regardless, I picked up a copy to read. Go Set A Watchman takes readers forward into the future of “Scout” as a young woman who is returning to Maycomb, Alabama to visit her father. Much of the novel feels unedited and lacks the depth of the characters which entranced me in To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee explores racism in the South during the 1940s, but it lacks the punch that her Pulitzer Prize winner had. This one won’t be a classic. 3stars

HeartGoesLastThe Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese, 2015, 308 pages)

Anyone who reads my blog must know how much I love Atwood’s work. I had so much hope for this novel…but I walked away from it feeling disappointed. Set in the future, The Heart Goes Last examines a married couple trying to stay afloat in an economic and social collapse. I believe that Atwood wanted to write a satire – and she does…but the plot is weak and the characters silly and unbelievable. Instead of being horrified by a future controlled by psychopaths, I found myself merely grimacing. Don’t bother with this one. 2stars

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What She knewMy last read for this year is in progress – What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan (William Morrow, 2015, 470 pages) is a fast paced psychological thriller that features a mum out walking with her eight year old son…and then he disappears. It is a “who dunnit” and has my attention!

 

Improv Therapy

Improv.HeartBeat.Front00012015 is gradually coming to a close. It has, perhaps, been the most difficult year of my life. Earlier this year I lost my sister, Paula, and her death rocked my world. Everything changed. The world looked completely different to me.

Grief has many faces – anger, profound sadness, loneliness, confusion. It is complicated. It does not have a linear path. Through this difficult journey I have been turning toward my creative side, playing with color and fabric. Relaxing in the “zen” which is quilting.

I have often longed to make an improvisational quilt, but I think I was always a little scared to start. There are no rules, no patterns, no right or wrong choices. There is imperfection and indecision. It felt like stepping off a cliff.

And then I discovered Sherri Lynn Wood’s fabulous book: The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, A Guide to Creating, Quilting & Living Courageously. Exactly what I needed – a little push towards courage! You will not find patterns in Wood’s book – instead you will find “scores” – a framework for flexible patterning that supports “improvisatory exploration.” Because I can’t quite get rid of the organizational self which sits on my shoulder, I decided to start with Score #1 in the book: Floating Squares. Wood suggests setting limitations such as amount of fabrics and sizes of squares. She also encourages the sewist to put aside rulers and cut freehand. Scary indeed!

The palette was an easy one for me to choose – I love orange and I thought that might best express my story. I also was thinking of Paula and knew I would include pink (her favorite quilting color). I have quite a collection of peppered cottons and other textural solids that I thought would be perfect. I decided on a “background” of low volumes as well. Here was the initial fabric I pulled:

Improv.MyHeart.Selectingfabric0001You notice that green and purple at the top? Initially I thought I would use it, but as my piece came together, I pushed it aside. I also decided to throw in a little yellow – the light that has to be inside oneself when traveling a difficult road. The low volumes included a text which was like a story, and also one that had sewing words on it. I decided that the orange pieces would be larger than the pink because they represented ME, and I wanted this to be an exploration of myself. Things got messy very quickly…

Improv.MyHeart.scrappymess0001And then it started to take shape…

Improv.MyHeart.StartingOut0001As I worked, I decided I wanted to add some red and charcoal to the piece. I didn’t consciously know why, I just decided to follow my gut…

Improv.MyHeart.heartevolution0001I was surprised when I realized I was making an improv heart! I had no intention to do this, but I think I unconsciously knew that the center of my quilt should be my heart.

As this quilt came together, I began to see and feel some of the themes that were being created. The quilt was bright and bold, colors that represent the external me that everyone sees, and then I decided to bring in some quiet colors, and some low volumes that represented trees and nature…that felt like the internal part of myself that needs alone time to contemplate. It felt right to have those lighter fabrics wrapping around the more bold colors.

Improv.HeartBeat.Label0001The pink is everywhere in this quilt – small pops of it that connect the yellows and oranges, and even some in the center of the heart. Paula is a big part of who I am today, and she will always walk beside me.

I decided to quilt this one with one giant spiral circle which is best seen on the back as I used a wonderful silver gray Minky (we all need comfort and softness sometimes).

Improv.HeartBeat.BackReveal0001Life is circular (at least it is to me). As I began the quilting, I discovered my circle was less than perfect, it wove around a bit, it got wonky in places. All okay because isn’t that the nature of life?

Improv.HeartBeat.BackQuiltDetail0001I’ve named this one “Heart Beat…”

Improv.HeartBeat.Label.CloseUp0001Because I am listening to my heart these days, flying by the seat of my pants, letting go of the “small” things and finding new meaning in a life that is changed.

Improv.HeartBeat.HeartDetail020001

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Self-Evaluation

Sherri Lynn Wood encourages readers to evaluate their process when working on improvisational pieces. She asks some basic questions to think about…and here are my responses:

What Surprised Me?

I did not start out to make this a “story,” but unconsciously, I did just that. Many of my choices throughout were impulsive or instinctual…and it wasn’t until later that I began to see how they all worked together. This is perhaps the most personal quilt I have ever made.

What Did I Discover or Learn?

Don’t be afraid. And perfection is not all it is cracked up to be. Let go of fear and perfection and allow yourself to be led by the process.

What Was Satisfying about the Process or Outcome?

There was a lot of freedom and joy in creating this piece. I loved the surprises that evolved as the piece came together. I found that I really enjoyed cutting without a ruler! I loved using a variety of solids, some quite textural, as it gave the piece a different feel. This turned out to be a really warm, drapey quilt that I can’t wait to wrap up in.

What was Dissatisfying?

I chose to make “sections” of the quilt and then connected them together – but I didn’t like how there were two long lines of low volume across the quilt – it felt too obvious and not enough improv. I wanted it to be unclear where things were joined, but I ended up being too methodical and the quilt captured that…

What Can I do Next Time to be more Satisfied?

I think if I worked with different size sections, or if I pieced sections as I went (instead of waiting until the end to join them) that the connections would be less abrupt.

Where Do I want To Go From Here?

I want to keep doing some improvisational work and see where it takes me.

A Round Up of My Summer Reading

My blog has been quiet most of the summer, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. These days my reading is driven by whim. Since the death of my sister in March, my concentration has waxed and waned. I’ve needed time to nurture my soul. I’ve tried to streamline my life a bit so I don’t feel overwhelmed. For a long time, I couldn’t read. I just had a hard time sitting down with a book and concentrating. But sometime in the middle of the summer, I got a little bit back in the groove and being spontaneous has helped.

So with no further ado, here are some of the books I read and my thoughts about them. First the ones I loved and can recommend:

NatchezBurningNatchez Burning by Greg Iles (Harper, 865 pages)

For once the stone hits the surface of the pond, the ripples never really stop. The waves diminish, and all seems to return to its previous state, but that’s an illusion. Disturbed fish change their patterns, a snake slides off the muddy bank into the water, a deer bolts into the open to be shot. And the stone remains on the slimy bottom, out of sight but inarguably there, dense and permanent, sediment settling over it, turtles and catfish prodding it, the sun heating it through all the layers of water until that far-off day when, whether lifted by the fingers of a curious boy diving fifty years after it was cast or uncovered by a bone-dumb farmer draining the pond to plant another half acre of cotton, that stone finds its way back up to the light. – from the Prologue of Natchez Burning –

Set in rural Mississippi, Iles’ dense and satisfying novel centers around Penn Cage, the son of doctor Tom Cage who stands accused of murdering his nurse who worked for him in the 1960s. Iles weaves his story by moving back and forth in time. Part historical novel and part contemporary thriller, Natchez Burning held my attention with themes like family loyalty, racism, and the corruption of power. This is the first in a trilogy and I have the second novel (published this spring), The Bone Tree, waiting on my bedside table. 5stars

payingguestsThe Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (Riverhead Books, 566 pages)

And that was all it took. They smiled at each other across the table, and some sort of shift occurred between them. There was a quickening, a livening- Frances could think of nothing to compare it to save some culinary process. It was like the white of an egg growing pearly in hot water, a milk sauce thickening in the pan. It was as subtle yet as tangible as that.  -from The Paying Guests-

I have read pretty much everything that Sarah Waters has written and so it was a no-brainer to pick up her latest novel set in 1922 London. Financially struggling Francis Wray and her widowed mother find themselves forced to accept boarders. When Lilian and Leonard Barber move in, Frances finds herself drawn to the lively Lilian in a way she could never imagine. The Paying Guests engages the reader with romance that results in tragedy. As with her previous fiction, Waters explores the themes of sexuality and the impact of war on her characters. She spins an atmospheric tale that examines societal pressures on women during the early part of the 20th century, a fascinating exploration of of time and place that resonates with current issues we are facing today. 5stars

Spool of Blue ThreadA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (Knopf, 358 pages)

“The trouble with dying,” she’d told Jeannie once, “is that you don’t get to see how everything turns out. You won’t know the ending.”- from A Spool of Blue Thread –

Anne Tyler is another of my favorite author. In her latest novel, she once again takes on family dynamics with the Whitshank family beginning in 1959 Baltimore and moving through the decades as they share laughter, disappointment, celebrations and tragedy. The Whitlocks are hiding secrets and jealousies which are unearthed as the novel progresses. Abby, the matriarch is the central character, a loving mother and wife who has her own private secrets that she holds close to the heart. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel with its quirky, lovable characters…until the end. As with many Tyler books, this one leaves the reader with some loose ends which I felt oddly unsatisfying. 4Stars

LittleLifeA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday, 720 pages)

Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified. Friendship was witnessing another’s slow drip of miseries, and long bouts of boredom, and occasional triumphs. It was feeling honored by the privilege of getting to be present for another person’s most dismal moments, and knowing that you could be dismal around him in return. – from A Little Life –

How do I even begin to review this richly rendered, profoundly affecting novel? Hanya Yanagihara has created a modern classic which begins in Massachusetts and moves to contemporary New York City. The characters, four male friends, are deeply complex – Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a painter who can sometimes be cruel; Malcolm, an architect who struggles with his racial identity; and Jude, a damaged attorney who somehow anchors and connects all the others. A Little Life takes the reader through decades of these characters’ lives – their triumphs, tragedies, disappointments and joy. It goes to very dark places, and then lifts the reader into the light. It is a story about friendship, identity, and the very real struggles of living life day by day. Jude is a brilliant character with a bleak past who manages to survive his nightmares and connect with others against all the odds. A Little Life is a tribute to love and survival. I should alert sensitive readers that Yanagihara explores difficult themes and there are graphic descriptions of certain events which might upset some. But her writing is so pure, so extraordinary and so transcendent that this novel comes highly recommended. Loved it. 5stars

Although I read some great books this summer, there were two I did not finish and therefore can not give a strong recommendation:

PenumbraMr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (Picador,  288 pages – I read 100 before quitting the book)

Clay Jannon is a former web-designer who comes to work at Mr. Penumbra’s bookstore because he is desperate for work. The bookstore is unusual – hardly any customers come to buy anything, but those who frequent the store borrow huge books in the back stacks which are written in code. What begins as a simple job turns into a mystery for Clay and his friends who decide to unravel the secrets behind the store. The writing in this book was okay, but I quickly grew bored with Clay and was not motivated to uncover the mystery. There is a bit of a fantasy element in the book, and perhaps this was where it lost me. Readers who enjoy the digital, fast paced world of technology will probably find much to like. It just wasn’t for me. 2stars

MountainStory The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens (Simon and Schuster, 312 pages, I read to page 100 before putting it aside)

Wolf Truly is a displaced kid who decides to climb the local mountain and commit suicide on his 18th birthday. But his plans are interrupted by a trio of woman who are also on the mountain that day. When the four hikers become lost, it is clear they must depend on each other for survival. I was excited to read this book as it seemed to have all the elements I enjoy: a natural setting, transformation, getting lost and being found…but I quickly lost interest. The characters felt cardboard to me – I just could not relate to them and ultimately stopped caring what happened to them. Despite my complaints about this book, it seems that many readers have enjoyed it. So perhaps this one will work for you! 2stars

I just last week finished reading Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf – an amazing, spare little book that explores aging, love and taking risks. I loved it and will write a review on that one soon.

Bee Blocks

I thought it was about time I updated you on my progress in the Bee Groups. I am a member of two bees: Thread Divas (a group of friends from Threadbias) and the charity bee Do Good Stitches – Cheer Circle.

So let’s start with the Thread Divas…

February:
Carol requested a Susannah block (tutorial is here) using teal and olive green with Kona white. I was happy to find some fabric in my scrap bin which seemed to fit the bill!

ThreadDivas2015.February0001March:
Margaret chose a paper pieced block (tutorial is here) and wanted bright colors. The name of this one is Miss Molly’s Garden Block.

ThreadDivas2015.March0001April:
Karen wanted wonky stars using crayon box colors! This one was so fun to do (tutorial is here).

ThreadDivas2015.April0001May:
Audrey chose the Weather Vane block which  used tone on tone black/gray and Kona white…along with some bright colorways to make it pop. I had so much fun making this one that I made two.

ThreadDivas2015.May.Orange0001

ThreadDivas2015.May.Fushia0001June:
June was my month…and I selected some fun flying geese blocks – I’m showing you the ones I made (with a possible layout) – but I got some AWESOME blocks. Can’t wait to get this top pieced.

ThreadDivas2015.June30001July:
Belinda requested a wonky house – she provided us with some links for patterns and I chose this one for my house.

ThreadDivas2015.Belinda0001August:
Marsha requested geese flying northeast with graduated tones of gray and a main color. I decided on Orange as my scraps and stash have a lot of choices in that color.

Divas2015.August0001DoGoodStitchesblogbuttonThe Do Good Stitches group is a charity bee – our blocks are made into quilts which are then donated to children in need.  Each month I make 2 blocks and donate them to the group to make a quilt.

January:
Brandy was our quilter for January and she requested three blocks of “rugby stripes” using this tutorial. She wanted bright fabrics…and I thought Kaffe Fassett fit the bill. I used some strips from one of my hand made Jelly Rolls to create my blocks which measure 7.5 X 14.5.

DoGoodStitches.Jan20150001February:
Mary asked for Stashbuster blocks. They used very tiny squares…but they were pretty fun to make!

DoGoodStitches2015.FebruaryMarch:
In March I was in New Hampshire taking care of my sister…and my bee group offered to make my blocks for me. Thank you!!!

April:
Amber asked for some modern style log cabin blocks – one using cool colors, the other using warm colors.

DoGoodStitches2015.April0001May:
Sarah is planning to make a postage stamp quilt and asked for low volume and jewel prints (these blocks use 2.5″ squares and finish at 12.5″ square.

DoGoodStitches.May20150001June:
We had this month off 🙂

July:
Brandy requested low volume geese in a circle using a white background. She wanted us to piece the four quadrants for one block and leave the quadrants for the second block unpieced.

DoGoodStitches.July20150001DoGoodStitches.July2015.020001Both of these groups continue through to the end of the year…so I’ll update you again then!

The Sweet Life in PB&J

 

*Click on any photo in this post to enjoy a larger viewSweetLifeinPBJ.Front010001

I finished the top for this quilt nearly 2 years ago when I was sewing along from the Simply Retro book by Camille Roskelley (awesome book by the way). And then it sat waiting for me to quilt it. At 92″ x 92″ it is a good size bed quilt and perhaps this is why it took so long for me to gear up for the quilting part.

SweetLifeinPBJ.DrapedOnSwing0001I used a fat quarter bundle of PB&J by Basic Grey for Moda which I won in a giveaway at the Fat Quarter Shop. The blocks came together really fast because they are large (18″ X 18″). I especially like the little pieced cornerstones in this quilt as it gives it a little bit of an old fashioned feel even though the fabrics are modern.

SweetLifeinPBJ.FrontCloseup010001I used a continuous stipple-like pattern of quilting which I kept fairly tight. I found the perfect gray-green color of Aurifil which picked up the sashing tones really well and blended nicely on the back.

SweetLifeinPBJ.QuiltingDetail0001Speaking of the back, because the blocks in this quilt were so large, my leftover scraps from the flip and stitch portions of each block were big enough to piece a bunch of pinwheels for the top of the back (I like to do something special on the top backs of my bed quilts so when the quilt is folded down you see a design). I used a bit of Bella Bleached white and some Bella Teal for the rest of the back to keep it simple and let the pinwheels take center stage.

SweetLifeinPBJ.BackDetail0001

SweetLifeinPBJ.Back010001

SweetLifeinPBJ.OverRailBackReveal0001I used a pre-printed label from Sweetwater – again, keeping it simple.

SweetLifeinPBJ.Label0001And added a little scrappiness to the binding.

SweetLifeinPBJ.Binding0001I am so happy to have this one done. I can’t wait to get it on my bed.

SweetLifeinPBJ.BackReveal.010001SweetLifeinPBJ.DrapedOnSwing020001SweetLifeinPBJ.Folded0001

Little Quilts Round-Up: May and June

LittleQuilts.LTWe are hosting a sew along over on Threadbias in 2015! Members of the group will be sewing from the Little Quilts book by Sarah Fielke and Amy Lobsinger. Feel free to join us any time – if you are not a member of Threadbias yet, go ahead and sign up (it’s free!) and then find the Little Quilts group and click the “join” button. That’s it! Hope to see you there!

To get more detail on each project in this post, click on either the image or the link to go to the maker’s project page.

May’s little quilt was Fans Of May – an adorable mini quilt with a simple pieced center surrounded by dimensional fans.

FansOfMay.KarenKaren used plenty of red in her mini, a color that makes her happy!

FansOfMay.ValerieValerie chose bold, fun colors to make her little quilt sparkle.

FansOfMay.WendyI decided to go with a girly, vintage feel and used a bit of lace around my fans.

June’s little quilt was Candy is Dandy – a mini which celebrates the wrapped, hard candies of childhood.

CandyIsDandy.CathieCathie’s mini keeps it simple with clean lines and solids.CandyIsDandy.MargaretMargaret made her quilt modern with fabrics from the popular Cotton and Steel collection…and added great quilting to enhance the texture

CandyIsDandy.WendyI decided to use some cross weave solids to my quilt to give it a little depth.

July’s mini quilt is Pretty Little Half Hex – it is a challenging little quilt but I am looking forward to seeing how others will interpret this pattern.

An Improv Mini Quilt for a Friend

*Click on any image in this post to enjoy a larger view

ImprovMini.Conni20001Recently I attended a small quilt retreat. We were tasked with making a mini quilt for one of the people attending…and my person also happened to be a good friend -Conni!

We affectionately call Conni the “canary” because she breaks into song with the least little prompt (she makes up her own tunes and words and gets us all laughing)…so it was obvious I needed to include a bird or two in her mini. I found this amazing tutorial over at Pie Lady Quilts for improv birds…so much fun to just slice and stitch (I used my scissors and no ruler for much of the construction). The center bird had to be yellow to represent a canary…and I made a tiny label and hand embroidered the word “canary” on it – attached it to the mini with an orange button. I also created some labels with notes so it would appear that the bird was singing (I used buttons and hand embroidered to give some texture to these labels).

ImprovMini.Conni10001
I included some improv flying geese (which ended up looking like a tree to me!) and fabric that had special meaning – some text of wines (Conni and I love to share a glass from time to time!), a print that says “You and me” and some text with definitions for sewing. I used really bright colors because Conni loves brights…and crafted two more (smaller) birds for each corner.

ImprovMini.ConniLabel0001
I made a special label for the back (you can find pre-printed personalized labels at Sweetwater).

This entire quilt was pieced with improvisational techniques. I planned it as I went, adding pieces as the mood struck.

I was so happy that Conni loved this!

Mt.Shasta.ConniNameQuiltbyMe020001I think there may be more of those improv birds in my future!

Good Kings Bad Kings – Book Review

GoodKingsBadKingsI got a plan to run away. I’m gonna go right before they’re set to ship me out of here. I been figuring it out but there’s still a few details that need a little work. I know how I’m gonna sneak out, that’s easy, but I’m not sure where I’m gonna stay at. The plan has to be perfect so I don’t end up in a place even worse than this place. – Teddy Dobbs, from Good Kings Bad Kings, page 37 –

Teddy Dobbs is only one character who speaks to the reader in Susan Nussbaum’s novel about a group of teenagers living in an institution for juveniles with disabilities. There is also Yessenia Lopez who is still reeling from the loss of her tia Nene, and the tragic Mia Oviedo who is hiding a secret. Staff members also narrate this novel: Michelle Volkmann,a recruiter for the institution; the compassionate Joanne Madsen who is herself disabled, and the concerned Ricky Hernandez to name a few. Nussbaum alternates her characters’ voices chapter by chapter, revealing a community bound by necessity and challenged to survive in a world where they have little to no control.

I requested this book from the Library Thing Early Reviewers program because I thought it would resonate with me. I have worked as a physical therapist consultant for adults and kids with developmental delays. I love my clients. I appreciate their spirit and courage, their ability to live in the moment, and their open personalities. I have seen some of the sadness as well – the individuals who have been raped, or institutionalized in facilities that are no more than holding pens for people unable to care for themselves. I chose to work for a company that provides consistently excellent care in a clean, family-oriented setting (a home, not an institution) and so many of my clients who came for bad environments are now enjoying life in a much more independent and caring setting.

That said, I found myself feeling so sad as I read this novel. I do think Nussbaum is doing a service to the disabled community who are still living in institutions and finding their lives completely controlled by outside forces – some which are destructive. But I really had a hard time getting through this novel. It was painful for me despite some humorous voices. I ached for these characters.

Those readers who enjoy literary fiction will appreciate the honesty of the prose, and the careful development of the characters. But it is also a heartbreaking read, one that found me taking many breaks just to regroup.

This book was awarded the Pen/Bellwether Prize for fiction.

3hstars

FTC Disclosure: I received this book through the Library Thing Early Review program.