Cranking out the awesome.

Dear friends,

In the last few weeks, I’ve taken refuge in my quilting studio. Five years ago as my mother lay dying, I found solace in long runs. I cried my eyes out through most of them (and let me tell you . . . snotting through seven miles is no easy feat), but I managed to find the release I needed to make the transition to life as a motherless daughter.

Now that my father is dying, I’m quilting my way through it. It’s not that I’m not running. I am. But I have running buddies now and instead of being overcome by emotion as I pound the pavement, we chat about the minutiae of  our lives. So the place I go to escape, to reflect, to occasionally burst into tears, is my quilting studio.

The silver lining to this dark cloud is that I’ve been cranking out the awesome. Back in January, I committed to four quilts — two for babies of friends and two for strangers in Instagram swaps. After a long spring of doing very little, I finally kicked into high gear and got two quilts out the door last week and have another more than half finished. It feels good to turn my restless worry and sadness into something beautiful. Would you like to see my work?

(That was a rhetorical question. I’m going to assume you’re nodding.)

The first and most difficult is a baby quilt for a colleague. I was charmed by the pattern months ago and thought it would make a perfect child’s quilt with some whimsical fabric I had been hoarding for a long time. I started the quilt right after the new year, but it was a tedious pattern to construct so after making a block or two, I stalled for a very long time.

Nevertheless, I unveiled it last Wednesday at the baby shower and I think it’s the finest quilt I’ve ever made. Here’s a close up view.

DSC_0398

Isn’t it just as sweet as can be? When I began the quilt, I didn’t know the gender of the baby so I tried to keep it as neutral as possible. I later found out my colleague is having a girl so I started using a lot more of the dark pink tones. Little Hattie was born yesterday and here’s a view of her entire quilt.

DSC_0387

The back is also as cute as can be, with grey fabric that coordinates with the front border and pieced stripes using pink fabrics from the entire line.

DSC_0389

Once I finished this quilt, I quickly finished another — a mini I began back in March and also stalled on. It should arrive at my secret swap partner’s house TODAY, so I’ll be excited to watch my Instagram feed and see if she likes it.

The rules of the swap specified that we use a particular fabric line and do our best to match our partner’s tastes. She said she likes blues and greens and prefers traditional patterns, so — even though I like improvisational designs — I gave it my best go. Here it is:

IMG_4798

It’s a petite 24″X24″, perfect for hanging on every quilter’s coveted “mini wall.” By the way, the fabric line is called Cotton + Steel by RJR Fabrics and it’s the hottest thing to hit quilting in a long time. I kept the back simple with just  navy fabric from the front and a snippet of the selvedge to commemorate the Cotton + Steel theme.

IMG_4799

As soon as I finished this mini, I started another baby quilt. This one is for a colleague and dear friend’s first grandbaby. Unfortunately, sweet baby Pearl was born two days ago so I’m behind the curve on this one. But see what you think about what I’ve completed so far:

FullSizeRender

The fabric line is called Pearl Bracelets. I used it a long time ago in Kate’s tennis quilt, so as soon as I learned my friend’s grandbaby would be named Pearl, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  Pearl’s nursery is decorated in bright colors so I think my quilt will strike just the right note.

Finally, after I started the first baby quilt (but before I finished it), I made three table runners as birthday gifts for friends. I won’t bore you with photos of each since they were all made with the same fabric selections and constructed with slight variations, but I’ll show you one of my favorites:

runner

Purty, huh?

And, somehow, that helps. The act of creating and sharing has sustained humans since the start of time, especially during periods of great pain and loss. The definition of art is “something created from imagination that is beautiful and expresses important ideas or feelings.” I’ll let the recipients decide if my work is beautiful but I’m certain it expresses the love I’m feeling in abundance as I contemplate the last Father’s Day with my Daddy.

With gratitude {for another day, to breathe, to love, to create, to share},

Joan, who wishes you and yours the happiest of Father’s Day near the ones you love

Advertisements

Inspiration is everywhere.

Dear friends,

I mentioned in my last post that I recently made a mini quilt for a swap. Crafters/artists swaps have been around for a long time, but I had never before thought of signing up for a quilt swap until recently when I stumbled across this blog.

I signed up on impulse, right before the deadline, and a week later I received an email with information about my secret swap partner. Since I was supposed to make a mini quilt (no smaller than 6″ X 6″ and no bigger than 24″ X 24″), I realized the petite format was perfect for an appliqued motif I’d been thinking about for weeks.

A few months ago, I tripped across this image of a neon sign on Pinterest:

firefly

Source: Roadhouse Relics

My first impulse was to buy this beauty. I was charmed by the design and instantly transported to childhood summer nights spent at my Gram’s house, where my younger cousin and I often caught fireflies in a Mason jar to create an improvised lantern that would extend our under-the-covers playtime long after our grandmother had put us to bed.

Unfortunately, the neon sign was both out of my price range and sold.

Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about the simple joy of a blue jar lit by fireflies, and I vowed to turn the image into a quilt.

I hope my swap partner has as many fond memories of “lightening bugs” as I do, because this is what I made for her:

miniquilt

I’ve been enjoying what I call “free form applique” ever since a Crate and Barrel catalog inspired me to make this table runner.  I’m too impatient for the kind of appliqued images where the edges are perfectly cut and neatly stitched in place. My free form variety is far more rustic and forgiving of mistakes, and my “doodle stitching” in various color threads is more akin to folk art than accomplished needlework.

firefliescu

I hope my style suits my secret swap pal. Thanks to the magic of the internet, the 160 folks participating in this swap have our own Flickr group and Instagram/Twitter hashtags for sharing our work. (Want to see more? Click here.) There are some very talented quilters among the group, which gives me a bit of “swap anxiety.”

I am a definite novice in this bunch, which all things considered, is probably a catbird seat for the Magpie.

With gratitude {for inspiration all around me and the opportunity to play with the big girls},

Joan, who finally “packed away” her quilting studio yesterday in a cleaning frenzy prompted by a much-improved back and a desire to serve an upcoming meal or two on the dining room table