Diamonds in the Rough

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Although rare, it does happen from time to time that I dislike a quilt I start making. Usually it is because something is off, such as a color clashing and crying out that it doesn’t belong or measurements that are off by just enough to be a bit maddening.

I recently made a quilt that fell into this category, using the Trashcan Treasure technique and ruler which is designed to make good use of scraps. Since using up scraps and fabric that has been languishing in my stash is currently one of my major goals this pattern seemed ideal. Plus my sister-in-law had made one of these quilts and it turned out lovely. She seemed to enjoy the construction, and I was able to borrow her triangle ruler that is the key tool in the design.


I dutifully began cutting 5″ strips of random scraps, storing them in a small plastic bin and periodically taking them out to sew into long rows. When I had a sufficient number of these, each around 36″ long, I attached them to the white contrast fabric. I did purchase the white, and because I was trying to be “thrifty” I confess that I skimped on quality which contributed to the subsequent frustration.

There was just something about the construction of this quilt that left me less than satisfied. I felt like I fought a bit with lining up the blocks, and there were some hefty corners that almost baffled the long arm. But after completion, and some contemplation, this quilt began to grow on me. I was happy I’d taken the time to finish it. And I was happy to have used up all those scraps, as well as a large piece that became the backing and binding.

trashclose1When I posted a photo of this quilt on Facebook it got lots of “likes.” The first person to respond was my friend Kathleen, “Love it!” she wrote. Her birthday happened to be the same week of the posting and because she lives in a rustic cabin I began seeing this quilt as being made for her. Thinking about the design and destination of the finished quilt I decided to call it “Diamonds in the Rough.” Sometimes things sparkle with a little change in perspective and a little reframing!


Ironing it Out

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old iron

Old iron

For me ironing is soothing in its simplicity and immediate results, a kind of meditation in motion. When I started thinking about writing this piece about my love of ironing I began with a little research online. I was surprised to find there are many kindred spirits out there who have already professed their love of ironing in the blogosphere. Generally, when the subject of ironing comes up in real-life conversation (not often, but from time to time) people vehemently express their dislike of it.

older electric iron

Older electric model

There was a toy iron at my grandmother’s house that I was allowed to use only when she ironed. She set up her ironing board in the dining room, and I heated the non-electric toy iron on the furnace and used it on doll dresses. Later, while I was still very young, my older sisters took in ironing for pay. One of their clients was a neighbor with three children. As I recall, my sisters ironed everything that family wore. They were paid by the piece, perhaps $.05 or $.10, and they had to keep track of this as they completed each garment, tablecloth, pillowcase, etc. Although too young to participate directly, I liked hanging out in the laundry room and visiting while they worked. In spite of having this job, or maybe because of it, they also still enjoy ironing.

As a seamstress/quilter I find ironing to be essential to the creation process. It is important to have smooth fabric to start with, to set seams by ironing after sewing, and to then iron those seams in various directions that help the piece fit with an adjoining piece or lie flat. In addition to my current iron (below) and a back-up, I’ve acquired these two older models.

This past fall a member of my quilting group came to our retreat with a top-of-the-line iron that was amazing. It was love at first use for virtually all of us. After a weekend of oohing and aahing over this iron, we counted the pennies in our treasury and determined we had enough to buy one for the group. It was recently ordered and should arrive in time for our spring retreat. Now the big question is – who gets to keep the irons in between our monthly gatherings? Currently that falls to me, and tempting as it may be to use this iron while in my possession, I’ll refrain and let it save steam for group gatherings.

current iron

The currently used model

Tossed regrets…

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I was once the proud owner of a vintage wool plaid jacket that had been my mother’s. It was gray and red and reminiscent of something Amelia Earhart would wear. I don’t recall the exact way it came into my possession but I suspect I’d seen it hanging in my mother’s closet for years and at some point asked if I could have it. Mostly I remember wearing it as a young mother, when my two oldest boys were toddlers.

This jacket has been gone for many years; I don’t recall its departure any clearer than its acquisition. I may have put it into a Good Will bag at some point, or maybe even thrown it out altogether. It had a few moth holes, as well as general deterioration from age, and sadly, lack of proper care in general.

Had the idea for Legacy Threads come to me sooner perhaps I would have been able to see what a gem this jacket was. It could have been transformed into something else to continue those memories of my mother as a lively young woman wearing it while dating my father. Looking back, and knowing what I now know, and thinking about fabric treasures the way I now do, I can image that it would have made a great picture frame, perhaps holding a photo of my parents during their courting days. It could have been used as the border or background of a silhouette wall hanging featuring a photo of my mother; it could have been trim on a new jacket for myself, or a felted wool hat.

plaid shirt1I had one photo of myself wearing that lovely jacket, which now seems to also be only a memory. I keep hoping I’ll stumble on it while sorting through odd boxes of ephemera, but I’m afraid it too may be gone forever. And no one can seem to locate a picture of my mother herself in the jacket! I have to be content with the memory and this photo of my mother in another plaid shirt.

Creativity Retreat

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Retreat house on Ana Maria Island

Retreat house on Ana Maria Island

It has been a little over five years since I went on a creativity retreat. I’d been interested in creativity, my own as well as the scholarly study of the subject, for many years. But the idea of gathering with others to give a week-long focus to this was a new concept for me. Two of my friends were the leaders of this group, and between them they had a unique combination of counseling, teaching, coaching, and mediation skills.

The retreat was held on Ana Maria Island in Florida, where a house near the beach was rented for the week. The other participants, whom I’d not previously known, were an author with a newly released book, a potter who was transitioning into a new career as a webpage designer, a music teacher who also engaged in performance, a recently divorced writer who was figuring out how to best use her talents, and a psychologist who was interested in exploring many kinds of artistic expression.

Collaboration in the sunroom

Collaboration in the sunroom

Friendships forged quickly in this setting. We were all free to explore whatever we wanted, for the most part, with some structured time in the evenings for brief sessions on cultivating creativity and sharing reflections or work in progress. The weather turned out cooler than expected, but any disappointment in not being able to enjoy the outdoor pool was quickly overcome as we settled in and found plenty of other activities to pursue. Art materials for collage were available at all times on the verandah. We savored the time we had to walk on the beach or explore the town, including the funky coffee shop that doubled as a used furniture store. The outdoor shower was lovely even in the cooler weather. We enjoyed learning a challenging, and sometimes frustrating new card game, Fluxx, where the rules change regularly. We took turns contributing to an ongoing humorous short story that took a fictional creativity retreat, loosely based on our setting, to wildly absurd places, with each of us good-naturedly going along with outlandish situations the other writers concocted.

Bayfront Gardens

Bayfront Gardens

Mid-week we took a field trip to The Ringling Circus Museum in Sarasota. I’m not a big circus fan, but I appreciated the costumes, and it was interesting to learn about the history and the logistics of such a huge production traveling and setting up from town to town. The Ringling Museum of Art, along with the surrounding Bayfront Gardens and the Ringling’s palatial estate on Sarasota Bay were more interesting to me than the circus exhibits. At the museum I was struck by one of the paintings, Roman Courtship. It became inspiration for a post-retreat creation, Atropos and her Sisters, one of my first forays into the realm of abstract art quilts.

I credit this retreat with giving me a nudge into exploring my own creativity in ways I hadn’t considered, and to expanding my appreciation for the quest we all have to find a voice and means of expression for our interpretation of the world around us. I still treasure the friendships I made, and although these may now be nurtured primarily at a distance through social media, I’ll never forget this kind, creative group of women who first launched me out to sea in a beach chair, then managed to save me just before my sunburn became critical!

Atropos and Her Sisters

Atropos and Her Sisters