Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Horse Feathers!

My mother was pretty much a saint! :-)  She didn't smoke, cuss or chew, and she didn't run with men who do! :-D  Well, actually she did. Daddy was a chewer, and they both, under extreme duress, of course, could be heard to use the occasional "blackguard" (a word to describe a not-so-nice word just a tad shy of an actually curse! :-D), in spite of Daddy being a Baptist deacon and Mom teaching Sunday School.

One of Mom's favorite epithets was "horse feathers!!"  I have no idea where it came from. I have no idea what it means.

But I've been saying it alot in recent days, as I work on the Princess Feather block of the Circuit Rider.  This is what Block #25 is supposed to look like:

Sigh! The space between the feathers looks huge in the picture.  But it's not.  My needleturn applique skills are not up to turning one or, at most!, two threads under for seam allowance.

So I redrafted the pattern.  And my NEW feathers look like they belong on, well... a horse.

Or maybe a horse FLY.  Or maybe it looks like the fern that Sea Horses hide behind in the aquarium.  (All we need is a little water and some bubbles and they will sway back and forth like Julia Roberts in front of the fan in Runaway Bride!)

Do they look weird to you?!
Horse feathers!!
Or (as my Dad used to say) horse hockey!!

I don't know what that one means either.
What I do know is that the Circuit Rider quilt that I'm making is MY quilt and I can put horse feathers in it if I want to.  Sue me. :-D

I asked God what He wanted to teach me in this.  He just laughed at me. So I used my Strongs Exhaustive Concordance to find these:

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. Psalm 20:7

He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge... Psalm 91:4

Good words!  They remind me that I have a Block of the Month with horses on it languishing in my closet, but that is a blog for another day. :-D 

And, Lord help me, I trust God's horses and feathers will keep me from blackguarding while I finish this ....(bleeping) block!!!!

Mary Lou

Friday, August 27, 2010


I have a nasty habit of procrastinating things I think will be unpleasant.
Case in point -- the dust on my furniture! I mean, seriously, it doesn't take THAT long to dust, but I whine and postpone and bribe the kids 'til the job gets done. 

My current procrastination problem involves circles. What is it with applique designs and circles? Does every flower need a center? Are berries SO lovely they must adorn every vine in the applique kingdom?

Apparently, yes. In the Circuit Rider, there are three -- count 'em, THREE! -- blueberry blocks.  Blueberries block number one has 24 berries. Blueberries blocks two and three each have 29 berries! 

Another block from "Folk Art Blooms" -- a block of the Month with luscious Buggy Barn fabrics (yes, yes, I'm working on more than one! Sigh :-d) -- has 40 berries! 

That's a total of 122 berries.  ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-TWO berries.  Plus flower centers and star centers.  Ugh!

I know how to do them.  I have Perfect Circles from Karen Kay Buckley.  I draw the circle on the wrong side of the fabric.  Then I baste in the seam allowance and draw the basting stitches around the Perfect Circle template, press, pop out the template, and VOILA! (as advertised) a perfect circle.

 I think I'm overwhelmed by the sheer volume of circles I need to do!

My "Accomplish Something Today" spirit says I need to tackle them here and now.  Do all the circle prep at one time then I can enjoy the process of adding them to my blocks.

Luke 9:51 tells us that Jesus "resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem."  And "for the joy set before Him, he endured the cross." (Hebrews 12:2)

Rather than focusing on the tedium of so many circles, I need to focus on the beautiful blocks in their finished form.  The fact that I'll be that many blocks closer to the finished quilt. The fact that anything worth having is worth working for.

Isn't it something beyond miraculous that Jesus found US worth the suffering? 

He neither procrastinated nor let the dust (so prevalent in my house today!) settle on Him as He purposed to do what must be done.

Yeah, a few hundred circles ain't so bad.  I'd better get started!
Mary Lou

Monday, August 23, 2010

Well Laid Plans

It's amazing what you can accomplish if you set your mind to it!!

Jill, Jennifer and Norma hard at work!
Paula's Quilting Pantry, just outside of London, KY, hosted a Sew-In Retreat -- an opportunity for a bunch of us to sit-n-sew with the main purpose of getting things done!  As this is an issue for me (Do I not have an "Accomplish Something Today!" sign on my wall!?!), I figured it was the perfect time to make some get-r-done plans.

Dear Jane was my first attempt.  I was able to get the whole center of the quilt together!!! (Isn't she just wonderful!!!!).  Then I set to work on the triangle borders.

I've made the sashing on DJ bigger so I can do some handquilting between the blocks.  Bigger sashing, though, necessitates bigger triangles for the border!  I tested the design on the Dear Jane software made by Electric Quilt, printed the larger templates and had everything ready to sew at Retreat...

We pinned the triangle border where it will need to be cut to make it more in proportion with the rest of Dear Jane! 
I'm sewing the top and bottom borders!! Don't I look like I'm ACCOMPLISHING something! :-D
Thing is....what looked good on EQ didn't translate well in Real Life!!!  The triangles I put together for the border looked positively GARGANTUAN beside the little delicate DJ blocks.  All of us at the retreat stepped back in the room to check it out, and with the help of wonderful quilt friends, we decided the best option was to cut off the triangles to make them more in proportion to the rest of the quilt.  The background triangles will have "blunted" tips -- but that's OK.  I can put another border of muslin on (just like the "real" DJ) and scallop it, and I think it will turn out well.

I managed to get a few more things done on Saturday -- some blocks for "Hometown Christmas," a Thimbleberries project I've wanted to complete for a while.  It won't take me long to finish that up if I stay diligent.

Dear Jane has taught me a lesson though.  Sometimes we think we know the outcome of our plans.  I love to plan, but the reality doesn't always turn out like my well-intentioned diagrams and computer programs and ideas.

Blessedly, though, God's plans always turn out exactly as He wants them!  "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."  (Jeremiah 29:11)  I John 3:2 tells us, "Dear friends, now we are the children of of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is."

I know Dear Jane will be beautiful! (She can't help it; it's in her design!)  Similarly, you and I will also turn out beautifully because that is how God designed us.  If we trust Him, he promises we will "be like him" -- the spitting image of Jesus.  He promises we have a hope and a future.  We don't know what that entails, exactly, but it will be good.

And God may have to make adjustments on us like I'm making on Dear Jane, cutting here or there or adding what's needed to make us complete, to make us in the image of His Son, but it won't be a surprise or frustration to Him, more's the praise!!

Do you trust Him with the design? the process?  the finished product?  Let Him accomplish something in you today!

Mary Lou

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Accomplish Something Today

About a year ago I put up a sign in my sewing room:
My dear friend, Jennifer, said, "Good idea! Does it work!?" LOL!

Well it worked for a while.  Surrounded as I always am by unfinished projects, I desperately penned the motivational message (so much nicer than "Get your butt in gear!!!") and proceeded to, well, accomplish something.

My motivation has waned, though, so it's time to crank up the old "get-r-done" attitude and tie in.

Today is the perfect day.  It's raining, and there's a retreat looming on the horizon -- on Friday a bunch of the gals in my club are converging on Paula's Quilting Pantry for two days of finishing (or trying to!) projects.  Today, I'm getting projects ready for retreat!

On Friday I think I'll work on Dear Jane.  She is still dear to me :-) And as I put her upper torso on the design wall, I feel the kindling of romance for her again.  The wider-than-the-pattern-indicates sashing will be the backdrop for hand quilting.  I've opted to forgo the pieced/appliqued triangles, too, prefering to hand quilt the designs on the blank canvas. :-)

Jane's "upper torso" on the design wall.  She's so heavy I had to use pins!

Corners and triangles
Jane's lower extremeties!
I'll use all day Friday to work on her, then on Saturday I may move to other projects on my "to do" list.  I plan to work very hard.

To accomplish something!

Proverbs 31 offers the picture of the perfectly efficient super woman (not a new concept, at all, is it!?) who manages to accomplish everything -- from running Wall Street to designing haute couture to ranching and ending world hunger!

For this weekend, I'll draw inspiration from verses 17, 18 and 22 --  "She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.  She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night....She makes coverings for her bed..."

And just to be safe, I think I'll bring my "Accomplish Something Today" sign with me!
Mary Lou

Monday, August 16, 2010


Do you ever have days that feel like your mind, soul and body are being cracked at one end or the other like Indiana Jones's braided leather whip!?  Today is one of those days for me. 

What a ham!!! Sad Sam...1st day of school 2010  LOL!
It is the "official" start of the school year.  For homeschoolers, school doesn't really have a beginning or an end because we seize all those "teachable moments" ("Why is the sky blue, Mom?" -- "Because God made it that way. Now go read something edifying." -- See what I did there? Science, theology, reading AND vocabulary! :-D LOL!)  No, really, the world is our classroom and we use it often, but the time comes in the fall when Algebra and foreign languages and history and great literature call and we settle down to it in a somewhat more predictable routine.

Today is the day! We'll pull out our Rosetta Stone Spanish, and Notgrass History and Saxon Math and the accompanying checking, grading, and one-on-one teaching that makes homeschool not only tremendously effective but relationship-building and full of challenge and joy.

This year will be more difficult than past years, though.  Not because Sam is a junior in High School or because Will is starting 6th grade.  No.  This year I have a serious distraction.

We had a "school room" -- a mini library with work table -- that the kids never used except as a big locker.  ("Go get your science book."  "Where is it?" "In the schoolroom.").  That's all changed this year with an addition to the family.   She's not named yet, but I'm already loving her.

She's a Nolting Hobby Quilter.  She took the old School Room.  She's in sight of the family room where the bookshelves and school table have been re-located (displaced? like refugees?).  Sigh.  So as I'm laboring over lesson plans and urging my somewhat reluctant learners to get at it, I'm whipping my head back and forth between my children's future and my quilting!  Algebra or Stitches-per-second calculations?  Ruler work -- it'd be so much more fun over in the OTHER school room with HER.

I've often heard preachers laud over choosing between what is good and what is BEST.  As I ponder my choices this morning, however, another verse comes to mind:  "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." (James 1:8 KJV).  The Amplified Version is a little more ....hmmm, vocabuary-ridden:  "[for being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides]."

When Emily (my college sophomore) was little, I caught her chastising her dolls with, "You better make up my mind!"  (The inevitable result of child-rearing books that said give your child choices, and my impatience, when she couldn't decide!!!)  Her somewhat twisted version of my admonition, "You better make up your mind!" couldn't ring more true than today.

I better make up my mind.  Quilting will wait.  I have my boys here. Now. And their future -- while in God's hands, to be sure -- is a stewardship I'd be wise to invest in.  The school day will end later this afternoon, and I'll have HER and hand work and fabric to also pour myself into.  Never has a woman had it so good -- more than I can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), that I can love my boys, love my quilts, and show my love for God doing both.

I might even watch Indiana Jones while I do it!
Mary Lou

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Quilts are a many splendid thing...

Polly Taylor, a wonderful quilt teacher from Jonesborough, TN, visited our guild last week, and we enjoyed doing the splendid "Twice as Nice" Quilt-in-a-Day pattern with her.  The pattern had something for everyone -- easy enough for the beginner, fun enough for old hats like me and some of the other gals! :-D

What amazed me is how different all our tastes were!  As we finished the first of the three blocks the pattern makes out of a strip set of 3 fabrics, Polly displayed them on the board for everyone to see:

It was a day of  experimentation for me.  I used some fabric that all my quilt buddies universally agreed isn't "me."  In fact, I'd submitted several class options for consideration of the Jabez Quilt Conference (coming up in January 2011, check for updated information in the coming months), and the director of the program called me up and asked me if all my quilts were brown!!! (Well, in my defense, brown IS the new black, right!?!)  

I tend to favor a darker, muted color palette! Give me civil war repros and Thimbleberries and Kansas Troubles!  So using the Folklorique line from In the Beginning fabrics, was a REAL departure for me.

I'm thinking the blocks turned out pretty well! In addition to the two blocks pictured, there were also about 12 nine-patch blocks -- all these from 36--2 1/2" strips!  The Folklorique line also had a fabulous folk-art border print that I may use between rows....I'm still deliberating and experimenting on the design wall.
Whoa! COLOR! The brights sang to me! :-)
We had everything represented in the class.... My brights, some Thimbleberries, batiks, civil war repros, '30's repros, fun Moda lines and people using up their scraps. All different and beautiful and inspiring.

It reminded me of a verse I read in 1 Corinthians 15:41.  Paul is talking about the resurrection, and the difference between our mortal and immortal bodies.  As he's explaining the difference, he uses a celestial analogy that expresses perfectly the differences between quilts! :-) 

"The sun," he says, "has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor."

Is that cool or what!!?! My star isn't meant to shine like everybody else's! My star has its own glory, its own splendor, its own beauty.  That's why my quilts don't look like yours.  Your quilts don't look like Suzy Q. Quilter's down the street.  All the quilts we view in Paducah and Podunk and everywhere in between are not for comparison, since they all have their own kind of splendor!  They are our inspiration as we find our own way to shine in the universe.

And while quilts and their creators may have very little in common, we can be sure that the same Creator made us all, and His is the Spirit in the beauty.  He is the Master of color and design and splendor! 
All that glory and splendor are a direct reflection of Him.  I'm so glad I know Him!!

Do you know Him, too?
Mary Lou

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mastering Machine Quilting...yeah, right!

2010 is the year that I mastered Machine Quilting! Baaahaaaaahaaaaaaa!!!!
(Sorry, just a LITTLE overcome with laughter, there!)

OK.  2010 is the year I begin to barely learn how to machine quilt! In April, I purchased a "Hobby Quilter" from Nolting to use on my Bernina quilt frame.  So far, I absolutely love it!  There's no stitch regulator, so there's a bit of a learning curve as I pace my movements to make my stitches even.  It's a control issue.  Lord knows, I love to be in control.  I'm not there yet, but I'm determined! :-)

I've used up about a bolt of muslin for tops and backings to practice on, and finally took the plunge on a few "real" quilts.  Two of those were pre-printed panels, graciously provided by my local Project Linus coordinator (thanks, Pat!!).  I was surprised at how well they turned out!  I even did some feathers -- fairly even and, from a distance :-D, they look great! (Wish I had pics of 'em.)  I very proudly turned the quilted panels back over to Project Linus to grace some sweet child's arms.

THEN... I started on a quilt for my pastor's brat. :-D Just kidding. My wonderful pastor and his lovely wife are new parents, so it's WAY too early to call the kid a brat. My being a deacon's kid, I'm just assuming.... :-D

Baby Barton Quilt -- machine quilted on my Hobby Quilter
Wouldn't you know, those same feathers that were so lovely on panels did NOT turn out so lovely on the quilt that would be held up at the Baby Shower for the whole town to see! 

Baby Quilt detail (sans holes!) :-)
I became expertly acquainted with an "unquilter" (translation: seam ripper) and the accompanying results when you're in a hurry -- little holes that have to be repaired.  Very sad.

The good news is that this is a BABY quilt.  A few (cough, cough) discreet little patches won't matter after it's been dirtied, well-loved, and washed a million times. (I know, I know... Whatever helps me sleep at night! Sigh.)

If I'd had more time, I'd have taken the quilt over to some of the girls in my guild and said, "How do I make this better?"  "What am I doing wrong?" or "Is there a better way to, um, 'un-quilt?'"  It's important to get feedback so that the next time turns out better.

It's the same in our walk with God!
Galatians 6:1 (Amplified Version) says, "If any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort, you who are spiritual [who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit] should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, lest you should be tempted also." 

Sadly, we are often too busy judging to take the time to "restore" or "reinstate" -- and the "without superiority" thing....? No, not happening.   We say, "Oh, what a lovely quilt!" then privately whisper its imperfections to others.

Isn't that also what we do to people!?

Ephesians 4:29 says, "Do not let unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

I want to be more of the "restoring" and "building up" variety rather than the whispering/tearing down variety of quilter and Christian.  Most people (myself included) -- and, hopefully!, my machine quilting -- are going to get better with time and practice.  Some gentle correction and edifying talk will only speed the process along!

Mary Lou

P.S.  Click on the photos of the baby quilt to magnify them and take a look at my free motion quilting.  I'd love to hear how I can make it better!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Legacy Quilting

My daughter, Emily, swears she will never be a legacy quilter.  I smile (secretly, I scoff!) -- because I remember very well my twenty-year-old-self's own secret list of "nevers" -- children, staying at home, being larger than a size 10...and here I am, some twenty-something years later doing all those things and more that I never dreaded nor dreamed.

My own mother was not a quilter. Her idea of a four-patch was four feedsacks sewn together to make a quilt top, handily and easily tied, then thrown on a bed, the grass, the clothesline, the potato bin...Nothing artsy-fartsy about that. Utilitarian, practical, simple.

I have in my possession the one pieced quilt she did, an Iowa Star with 6 or 7 inch blocks, made of scraps and teeny, tiny wonder she didn't do another one!

She delighted in my quilting, though, even though she admitted she didn't understand it. (Cutting big pieces into little pieces and sewing them back together!?!? No way!) 

A couple of rows and a piece, so far
Before she passed away, I started to reproduce her quilt in my own Thimbleberries greens and reds and creams.  I couldn't find a pattern for it using diamonds to set it up like hers, so I had to draft my own.  I'm trying to hand piece mine, like Mom did hers, and it'll probably be years -- decades! -- before it's done and ready to pass along to Emily.

My piecing, in spite of nicely drafted templates and the flexibility of hand work, is quite imperfect.

So was Mom's, though, and it doesn't affect the beauty of the piece in any way.

The quilt is still servicable and beautiful and quaint and a piece of my Momma that I will cling to for the remainder of my days, even more so now that she is in the presence of the Lord.

In the church we often emphasize the need for "Titus 2" women -- those who teach the younger ones all the right ways of living -- and we certainly should be passing along those things to our daughters and neices and friends.
When I get "bogged down" trying to execute that admonition from Scripture, though, I turn to the love expert, John, who wrote in 1 John 1:1 -- "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched -- this we proclaim concerning the Word of life."
Much as I would like to be able to pass down ALL the wisdom of the ages to my Emily, I need only worry about what I have seen and heard and have touched....And while my quilting and my quilts are a great legacy to pass along, there's so much more.  So much more.
That loving and giving are the best things in life.  Nothing equals the comfort of a friend.  Hard work produces endorphins, a natural anti-depressant. :-)  Life is short, but what an unbelievable ride it can be!  Sometimes cake is the answer.  Just like Jeopardy, you have to ask the right questions.  "The LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." (Psalm 84:11)
And if she never quilts...? Well, there's those grandchildren she tells me she'll never have.  Like my momma before me, I just laugh.  We'll see, missy.  We'll see!!!
Mary Lou