Demystifying Quilt Layouts

In patchwork quilting, as in life, something might look more complicated than it really is. Taken as a whole, a problem or a quilt, might intimidate us and cause us to doubt our ability. However with a bit of deconstruction, a simple solution is often revealed.

In this video, I will show what happens when you mix two simple blocks. This particular pattern is basic and may not trick the eye as much as other combinations will. That is why I chose it. It changes the way our eyes see the blocks, but it doesn’t play tricks on our eyes (I will have one of those to share soon).

I have made this quilt pattern such that any combination of 12″ blocks could be substituted. Calculations for fabric would be slightly different depending on the designs chosen, but the calculations should be good estimates for other blocks. Over the next weeks/months, I will be adding more basic blocks to the collection. While the patchwork pieces will get ever-so-slightly more challenging, the use of the blocks in a quilt top will stay basic.

Embracing the Good

Embracing the good things of the past does not require for us to embrace the less good things as well. It is possible to cherish the good, and leave the bad as a remnant to gather dust rather than a relic to invite worship.

Learn from History rather than Ingest the Myth

It is not erasing history or rewriting history when we acknowledge that history if full of imperfect people. Nor is it protecting history when we whitewash over the sorrowful things imperfect people did or wrote before better practices and choices were available.

What we should strive not to do is to celebrate the bad as well as the good. We should carefully evaluate what history teaches rather than simply ingest the tale that we call history.

Another Pithy Patchwork Project

After taking a week off to do a bit of spinning, I am ready to share another patchwork project – or two.

These are two of my favorite blocks. One of them may look familiar to those who have been following my blog and videos. I used it for the Festive Placemats last year. The other block looks a bit more complicated, but with a little trick in the sewing, it comes together quite quickly.

The principle that when the complicated is broken down into pieces, a simple path forward is usually exposed is one of the great lessons patchwork quilting teaches us.

Once again, I am sharing the patterns. You can find the download links just below the video of each project.


Pithy Patchwork Projects: Nine Patch

In an effort to help answer the question, “How do I begin?” or more specifically, “How do I begin quilting?”, I have embarked on a project of creating simple patchwork quilt projects.

I believe that pointing in the direction of a path, and providing a map, is often better than holding a person’s hand as they journey on the path.

It is with this philosophy that I have embarked on my current adventure to create simple patterns and accompanying videos. No fuss and nothing to sell, just tip-n-tricks, and a bit of pithy ponderings.

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There are many wonderful tutorials on the internet and in libraries, both in book and video formats. These materials can help the quilter on their journey, and I highly recommend seeking them out. However when I am asked the basic question of how to get started, I often do not have a concise direction in which to point. So I have resurrected a project I began years ago, and I have tried to make it better fit into the modern world – a world where the video helps us learn when classrooms are often out of reach.

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I have created a playlist on YouTube for ease in finding these specific projects. In this first project video, I demonstrate the basic construction of the classic Nine Patch block and the construction of a small quilt featuring this block. I have also created a PDF pattern for free download.

How Do I Begin?

Regardless of what change we wish to make, or what adventure we wish to embark upon, the question of how to begin can often create the largest stumbling block for us. We look for advice, directional signs, or step-by-step instructions. Sometimes we need a clear outline to follow, and other times we want only a point in the right direction.

In this modern day of information overload, often when we ask the question, we find ourselves overwhelmed by the flood of answers we are given. Maybe we aren’t asking the right question, or maybe people aren’t listening to the question we are trying to ask?

In the enthusiasm to share answers, many will rush to supply great suggestions that have little to do with the needs of the person seeking help.

This information overload – or suggestion dump – became quite evident to me recently when a new quilt enthusiast asked the question, “How do I start?” The answers came pouring in with little regard to the personal situation of the newbie. Where do they live? What is their budget? Do they have any background in the skill set?

Without taking the time to learn a bit about the person asking the question, the answers not only can overwhelm but they can misdirect. Additionally, the flood of answers may begin to seem like attention seeking rather than assistance giving. The person who posed the question may find themselves wishing they had not.

There is an old English proverb that states, “Hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works.” Over time, it has been altered to, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Taking the time to understand the question – to understand the individual asking the question – is vital. The focus should be on that individual and not on ourselves, or worse, on our desire to promote others. When a person, for whatever reason asks, “How do I begin?”, we should do our best to remove obstacles rather than place more in their path.

Hoping that I am doing good works and not the other option, I have embarked upon Pithy Patchwork Projects. I explain a bit of my intent in this video.

Blending the Past with the Present: Moving into the Future

The joys of life are not found in the uniqueness or exotic nature of the task we do, but rather, it is found with in the way we perceive the task. When we change our focus from that of “must do” to “choose to do”, joy-filled replaces mundane.

Joy can be found even in the common activities which are often viewed as mundane. While blending fiber may not seem be a mundane task for those unfamiliar to the world of spinning yarn, it is labor. Depending on the size of the project, it can be quite laborsome. It is work done in preparation for the final objective, and a task that we chose either to see as mundane or joy-filled.

It is very likely that I have now gone beyond the midpoint of my life. As I look forward to the of life ahead of me, I reflect on the past and blend those memories into the daily activities of the present. The experiences of my youth have taught me to seek joy in the tasks that I do – even the daily tasks that are not necessarily unique or exciting. Seeking joy and blending the lessons of the past with the present is how I hope to move steadily into whatever future I am blessed to have.

Imperfect: Embracing the Joy

One of the greatest challenges a crafter/maker/artisan faces is the challenge of accepting imperfection. Knowing when the results of one’s effort is enough to feel satisfaction rather than dismay is not always the easiest of tasks. Sometimes it requires more practice and skill than the crafting/making/arting (is that even a word?)

Embracing the joy of imperfection can help a person accept the imperfect nature of their creation. Learning to laugh when well-laid plans go awry is not always simple, but it does change one’s outlook. Creativity can flourish when laughter is present.

I laugh a lot in this week’s video. I share many imperfect quilts. With one particular quilt, I show my effort to “fix” an imperfection. I will leave it to the viewer to decide if it is an improvement. At the end of the day, I like the fix enough to hang the quilt on my wall. It may never be my favorite, but it is certainly cheery.

Goals Accomplished

Over the summer I began dyeing and spinning a collection of yarn. The intent was to have a ‘countdown to Christmas’ collection of squishy packages for my children. When I began the challenge, there was speculation that my daughter would be returning to her Peace Corps assignment before Christmas. I thought it would be wonderful for her and her brother to both have something they could do together as they counted down to Christmas.

About midway through this goal of mine, it became clear that my daughter would not be returning to the Peace Corps this year. My desire to get the fiber spun was even greater as it became clear 2020 was going to throw more hurdles into our lives.

As the deadline to get my son’s packages in the mail approached, I wondered at the sanity of dyeing so many different hanks of fiber. With only days to spare, I wrapped the little 50 gram yarn balls and enclosed them into the box that would take them across an ocean.

On Thanksgiving Day, the yarn was indeed in the same country as my son, but as with most things military, there was confusion. So the day after Thanksgiving my son retrieved the big box of mini packages and began the countdown with two squishy bundles to unwrap.

Each day (or every other day as schedules permit) my two kiddos unwrap and share photos with each other. They are counting down the days, not just to Christmas, but to the end of 2020.

I think many of us are counting down the days until 2020 ends and we can enter a new year with hope for less strife than 2020 has presented. For many, 2020 began with hopes, dreams, and goals that would be disrupted – even shattered. For many, as 2020 marched along the only goal was to see it come to an end.

For me, my goal for 2020 – for any year – is to find as much joy as I can, and to find ways to share that joy with others. Tears, disappointments, strife, and hardship may make me stressed and filled with sorrow, but despite the stress and sorrow, I still find joy. Long ago I learned that joy shines a light into even the darkest corners of our lives and minds. We must seek that joy, open our eyes to that light. At times this may be hard, sometimes very hard, but it is a goal for which the hard work is worth it.

The goal of finding joy in our lives each day is one worth accomplishing. It is one of the many goals I have accomplished this year, and one that I hope I can accomplish in the year to come.

Merry Christmas!

For those who have been following my Christmas Countdown Collection journey, this week’s video shows some of the finished Granny Squares. I have also put together (with the help of my daughter) a pattern for download for any who wish to join the Granny fun.

Pattern to download.