Starting Small, But Finding Way Back into Quilting

Several already pieced strips and a lot more blocks wait to be sewn together to make the top for a postage stamp quilt.

Several already pieced strips and a lot more blocks wait to be sewn together to make the top for a postage stamp quilt.

Though the computer-slash-sewing room still is todo un desmadre, after getting one of my machines serviced, I’m back at piecing together a quilt top.  Since I moved to my house, I’ve really only used my sewing machines for a couple of small tasks, even though one of my reasons for buying my house was to have a room that I could set up with tables for my two machines and be able to work on projects comfortably.

The first postage stamp quilt hangs above a stand full of my collected treasures and helps brighten the dining room.

The first postage stamp quilt hangs above a stand full of my collected treasures and helps brighten the dining room.

I decided that to get back into the groove, I’d go back to one of my favorites–a postage stamp quilt.  I made several of these small, wall-hanging quilts a number of years ago when I was making quilts regularly. Then a small puppy came into my life, and three-and-a-half years ago, I moved to my house, and taking care of the inside and outside of my house became became more of my free time focus.

Now I’m fully settled in my house, and most of the rooms in my house organized and decorated pretty much as I want.  Maybe too, there’s only so much TV to be watched while hopping from site to site on the internet.

Therefore, I’m once again getting the feel of manipulating the cutting wheel to make the pieces and coordinating my foot on the pedal and my fingers near the needle to join the small fabric squares.

I once again dug out Color from the Heart by Gai Perry, one of my favorite quilt books.  This book taught me a great deal about various aspects of using color in quilts by making small quilts like the Color from the Heartpostage stamp quilt.  After making one of these small quilts that uses 2-inch blocks following the pattern and instructions from the book, I improvised on the design to make several others, which I gave to some of my friends.  I would never let go of this book, which was published in 1999, but I see that it’s still available online.

There are ideas and techniques that I’ll have to review and maybe relearn, but getting the blocks pieced into strips is already moving along.  Hopefully, it won’t be long until a small quilt top will be complete.  Then I can move on to layering and even doing the actual quilting!

Another "project" quilt made from Gai Perry's book hangs over the bed in the guest room.

Another “project” quilt made from Gai Perry’s book hangs over the bed in the guest room.

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Mother’s Day: Remembering Mom . . . and Dad

This morning was going so well.  Soon after letting Annie out for her morning “go”, I decided to try out the new sprinkler on the thirsty front yard.  The spray and puddles soon attracted a variety of birds and even a squirrel that wanted to play in the rhythmic splashes on the sidewalk.

Then into the garage I went to pull a big bag of potting soil out of the hatchback in order to re-pot a monkey’s paw fern that had crashed onto the patio from its precarious perch from a nail not-so-carefully driven into a pergola post.  But the beans that had been soaking overnight for frijoles a la charra were on my mind, so I headed back inside to get them started cooking.   When I returned to the pots, I happily found that the fern could be separated, and I could share part with a friend.  In the front yard, the water continued soaking the dry ground.

With my hands covered with potting soil, I headed out front to turn off the water, only to find that ants had started another hill in the corner of the side flower bed.  Back to the garage I went for the Sevin.

With the ants taken care of, my puttering continued–filling pots, frying pieces of salted pork for the beans, sweeping the front sidewalk of the remaining puddles and twigs from the oak tree.

Enjoying my puttering on this unusually fresh southeast Texas morning.  Moving back and forth task to task until one and then the other was completed.  Even now as I write, it’s back downstairs to check on the nearly ready beans.

Enjoying my house.

Then one of those moments comes over me.  I know it’s Mother’s Day.  This is the second without Mom.  Last year wasn’t like this.

It’s the house.

Driving back from Kansas, a Christmas ago, less than two months after Mom had passed away, I had Annie in the car with me, and all of a sudden, for no obvious reason, I stopped the car, started to bawl, and said to her,  “I’m going to get us a house.”


My parents spoiled me.  When you’re the last one by a ways, you get spoiled.  I didn’t see it that way so much when it was happening, but they kept it up even after I came back from four years in the military and should have learned to take care of myself.  The house on the farm, and later, the one in town.  Mom. Dad. Home.  Always there for me.   After a weekend or holiday spent with my folks, I almost always cried  after I got into my car and was heading down the road.  (There are some of those N.A.R.T.H.-type psycho-wackos that would say that’s why I’m gay, but if so there’s a helluva lot of spoiled straight people out there too.)

Even after Dad was gone, when I’d spend time with Mom at the house in Abilene, it’d be hard to leave, and later, when she wasn’t able to care for herself, she’d say things to show she still worried and cared about me, like when one of the last times I saw her, she said, “Don’t stop quilting.  You might need that to take care of yourself some day.”  Behind me now set two tables  piled with two sewing machines, fabric, and all  sorts of quilting supplies, not quite ready to start–or finish–a project.  When the things on those tables are organized, most everything in my house will have found its place.


The full realization of why getting this house was so important never really hit me until this morning.

After my mom was gone, I no longer had a home to go back to.  Not that she’d even lived in her own house for the last years of her life.

So many things that I do now remind of my mom and dad.  (I can hardly breathe right now–remembering.)  My dad.  My dad’s blue striped overalls.  When I was a very little kid, I used to hang onto the loop on the side (the one that would hold a hammer) when I went along with him almost every Saturday to the grocery store.  Those beans downstairs.  I learned to cook, and not be afraid to experiment, from watching and helping Mom in the kitchen.  I could still pluck and dress a chicken if I had to.

Not long after I moved in to my house, I “had” to get a wooden bowl for the Christmas nuts, not only the bowl, but add to it the old flat iron that I already had and a hammer to crack the nuts.  A similar set for nut-cracking was what my parents had had for as long as I can remember.  The once kerosene lamp, turned into an electric one by an uncle, which sat forever on the desk in the house on the farm, after being passed around the family for awhile, came to me and now is on my desk in the corner of the living room, not so different from its place back on the farm.

My house has already become more than a nice place to live; because of it, I am able to live in a way that I couldn’t in an apartment.  More than ever, I realize how much of my own self comes from my mom and dad.  Because of them, I pushed myself to buy a house, and I’m sure that they would be happy for me, knowing that I’m “home” again.

(And the beans are done, the cilantro added.  And my first attempt at barbequed ribs on the big-ass grill is happenin’.)

That Little Red Sewing Machine and Women on Tractors

(The following post is from a few months back, but it hasn’t gotten much mileage, and it’s one of my favorites. Now that people are writing and reading more about equality, I thought I’d re-post it.)

The Center Pinwheel for One of the Stars

The Center Pinwheel for One of the Stars

I’m piecing together another quilt.

Sometimes when I’m working on a quilt, I wonder how many other guys out there might be doing the same thing. I doubt very many. I’ve met a few others at quilt shows and guild meetings, but I’d say for every 300 women who quilt, there might be 1 guy who does it, maybe fewer. There are several out there, though, who make a living as quilters and quilt artists.

When I first started quilting eight years ago, I felt somewhat awkward going to fabric stores, but that didn’t last very long. Because I was so intent on getting what I wanted, I soon got over feeling out of place in a quilt store, where the only other guy was some husband standing near the door, ready to bolt when his wife had finished checking out at the cashier. The good thing about being a guy quilter is that everyone who works in the fabric store gets to know you very quickly. I say “the good thing” and mostly it is good because the large majority of the women quilters and those who work at quilt stores are really curious about what I’m working on, and, of course, want to make suggestions. There are a few, though, that give me the impression that I’ve invaded their space; these are certainly the minority. I suppose they are like some firefighters or macho truck drivers who don’t think a woman should be a part of their professions.

In thinking about this tonight, I remembered how lucky I am to have had the parents I had, and unusually amazing, for the humble, Republican-voting people that they were–to give me (well, “Santa gave me”) the Christmas gifts I asked for back in those Eisenhower years–whether it was a tool set or a baking set, an electric train or that little red metal sewing machine (or even the child’s set of China that I still have in its original box)–they never said, “No, you can’t ask for that, because it’s a girl’s toy.” I wonder how many boys’ parents have said that because they didn’t think some toy was “gender appropriate”.

But my parents were part of that group of neighbors and hometown people scratching out a living on quarter-section farms and small town businesses–people that didn’t judge the farmwife who got out on the tractor to plow the fields or on the combine to harvest the wheat because “that is man’s work”. To them, the work just needed to get done, and whoever did it, it didn’t matter.

I don’t know–economic hard times might not be such a bad thing; if some people had to work harder, maybe they’d have less time to be judgmental about other people’s lives.


You can see one of my quilts here.

More Quilts

On a cool day,I sometimes pull this quilt from the stair railing for a snuggly nap on the couch.

On a cool day,I sometimes pull this quilt from the stair railing for a snuggly nap on the couch.

I thought I’d put in a couple more of my quilts. The “Flying Geese” is the only quilt that I actually use, except for the wall-hangings. I have another top of exactly the same pattern in greens that I’ve made and need to layer it and pin it together so that I can quilt it. I machine-quilted this one on my Brother 1500S. It was all straight lines, stitch-in-the-ditch, but now that I’ve used it for awhile, it has all fluffed up and feels just as good as a hand-quilted one.

I still love the look of this little purple basket quilt, which measures 23" X 30".  The design for this little quilt comes from Gai Perry's book, "Color from the Heart," one of my favorite quilting books, one which I have used and reused over the years.

I still love the look of this little purple basket quilt, which measures 23″ X 30″. The design for this little quilt comes from Gai Perry’s book, “Color from the Heart,” one of my favorite quilting books, one which I have used and reused over the years.

The smaller one (sorry about the definition of the photo) I made for a colleague for her to put up in her newly remodeled bathroom. It was a fun little quilt to do, all hand-quilted.

I’ve made some kind of quilt, mostly wall-hanging type, for quite a few of the people at work–all women. Most all of them would have trouble even threading a sewing machine. I guess even back in the day, city girls didn’t have much to do with Home Ec. 🙂

(This post was updated March 10, 2013.)