"quilts"

Neutral Values Quilt Top

Values Quilt Cheryl Arkison

Woah! Major back pain/sciatic flare up here. I spent last weekend either laying on the floor or rocking on my feet - in between ballet recitals and year end parties. I needed a creative boost. And, frankly, something to do that was distracting. Since I needed to stand a lot I spent some time on the design wall.

You see, this is the nice thing about so many quilts under construction. I needed a set of blocks for some design wall play and was able to pick from a few stacks. I chose a bunch of half square triangles. They started life as sample blocks in my Values class. Always make samples that coordinate and eventually you have enough for a quilt!

neutral values 2.jpg

It was just a stack of random blocks. I asked my sick, bored kid to count the blocks, then I played around with an idea until I could make it work with the blocks I had. In my time on the floor I lay below the design wall to contemplate options. While standing I could move things around and eventually sew here and there. I’m really happy with the way it worked out. It isn’t that big - only 55” square - but for now I’m adding it to the list of quilt tops. But if I teach that class again this coming year I might have more blocks to add to it!

Plus Size - Scrap Quilt Extraordinaire

Scrap Quilt Values Plus Cheryl Arkison

Plus Size

96” x 96”

When you get the kids involved in the quilt photo shoot there will always be a Dab. There were a few other moves, if I’m being perfectly honest. Good for laughs, and fun photos.

Finished the binding on this massive quilt recently. It took me a few weeks to get it done due to that whole chronic pain thing and a desire to not sit much. And this is definitely one of those instances where I didn’t quite appreciate just how big of a quilt I was making!

Values Plus Quilt Cheryl Arkison

The entire quilt started with me walking the walk, instead of just talking. An IKEA bag full of scraps that needed to be sorted combined with a few sample blocks. An obsession with making blocks and dealing with all those scraps later and I have a finished quilt. Well, a few more steps in there. But funny how as soon as you finish the quilt your forget all the steps that got you there!

Of course, it helped that I had someone else quilt it for me! When I finished the top my local friend asked if she could work on it. Um, yes! I made up a back with some multicolour prints in my stash and dropped it off. The good thing about a scrappy quilt like this is that an all over design is absolutely perfect. With so much going on in piecing and prints you won’t see the quilting. Well, unless the sun is directly shining on it! Lee picked this great modified paisley. I’m a girl who likes contrast so I really like it against the angular piecing.

All over long arm quilting Quilting By Lee
Pieced Binding Cheryl Arkison

Initially I was going to do a black binding. Too harsh in this case against all the prints. Then I was going to do a black and white stripe but I after tearing apart my stash for the one I had in mind I remembered that I used it on the back! In the end I went with a grey from my Tag fabric collection. The text is written on the bias so it makes a perfect binding. To keep it from being too boring I pieced in other colours where there was grey on the edge of the quilt.

The name - like many of my quilts - has a double meaning. Triple, actually. 1. The blocks are based on a class I teach called Values Plus. 2. I like the double pluses - using the plus blocks to make colour block pluses. 3. Today was a fat day. Hey, we all have them. And when I was lamenting my plus size body I saw the quilt and it made me smile. My body is real, and this quilt is Plus Size.

Plus Size Quilt

Firefly Quilt Top in Solids

Pattern Drop Firefly Quilt

All 15 fireflies taking flight!

After finishing up my epic scrap quilt last week I needed a break. Not from sewing, mind you. Only a break from little pieces and all those scraps. Like a sorbet course in a very fancy meal I thus turned to my palate cleanser - precision piecing.

Thanks to my handy dandy list of Quilts Under Construction it was easy to pick and locate a project to play with. And when I took out the blocks I had already made I realized I only needed 3 more to finish my top. A few Morning Make sessions and the blocks were all done. A quiet Sunday and the top was assembled!

There is a reason I only made 15 fireflies and left a block blank, I will share that later. If, and when, I get this quilted.

Pattern Drop Firefly Quilt
Pattern Drop Firefly Quilt

Each firefly is unique. I played around with my small stash of solids, going with colour combinations that felt right. There was no regard for colour theory or even a colour story, to be perfectly honest. I would pick three fabrics for the body, sometimes a gradient, sometimes not. Then I would pick a dark for the head and back and a light for the wings. The only really conscious decision was trying not to repeat combinations or colours in each part. For example, in the photo above the two top fireflies have a pale pink and a pale peach for their wings, they aren’t the same colour.

Do you want to hear something else? I’ve never actually seen a firefly before. They aren’t native to around here and I’ve never been somewhere else during firefly season.

That didn’t stop me from trying to have a little glow in each precious bug. The highlight around their bodies is actually Metallic Essex by Robert Kaufman. It almost blends into the regular Essex background, almost. Just enough of a sparkle to me. And I liked the idea of the metallic being woven in as I find most metallic prints fade quite a bit with regular washing.

Cheryl Arkison Firefly quilt

A few things to note:

- The combination of solids and the Essex linens mean there are A LOT of loose threads on the back of the quilt. It will require a thorough going over but I will do this right before I baste it so no more appear in the night.

- It is extraordinarily hard to get a full shot of this quilt when you are taking selfies in the back alley. But hey, at least the lilacs smelled nice.

For those of you wondering, the pattern itself is by Pen and Paper Patterns. It is one of the most detailed patterns I’ve read, I don’t think she forgot a thing! As I am not generally a pattern follower I truly appreciate it when it is so clear, no questions for my improv brain! You can buy it from Pattern Drop, Lindsey Neill designed it exclusively for them. (I was a Pattern Drop designer myself last year.) Here I thought I would make one or two blocks to help promote the pattern and now I have a whole top!

Sewing Scraps with Chronic Pain

Log Cabin Scrap Quilt

For months I could only sew standing up so I would be in the sewing room at 3 am, hoping for relief. Beats letting the insomnia and pain wreak havoc on my brain. Full confession, I generally sleep without pajamas. This means I might find myself in the nude sewing away. I know, I’m weird, I embrace it. So one night I am in there - pain high but feeling some mental relief as I make little log cabins. I did not hear anything but the snip of the scissors and whirr of the stitching. Which means I did not hear my husband come into the room. To be fair, he was checking on me after waking up and not finding me in bed. But at that moment I completely startled. He should be thankful I dropped the scissors out of my hand on the cutting table before I turned around. I may have screamed too.

And that is how quilts get made in my world.

Log Cabin Improv Quilts

Anyone who has worked on scrap quilts before knows how the scraps multiply in the night, like gremlins. You think you’ve made a dent in them but no.

It’s also how I’ve come to refer to my chronic pain: there are Gremlins living in my lower back. When they feel extra precocious they travel down my leg. And yes, some times they multiply at night.

This particular quilt is one I distinctly associate with my pain. I started it a year ago, which is also when my pain started. Not a coincidence. But it is also one that has given me tremendous relief, both physical and mental. Whether it is sewing naked in the middle of the night or my standard morning make, the relief has been palpable when working on this quilt.

I’m not sure people understand the toll on our mental health when chronic pain or illness are in the picture. While I have general anxiety and the odd panic attack, my mental health is generally okay. Nothing to really worry about on the whole. I do think that my Morning Make has a huge impact on that. A regular practice of self care does wonders, as does the benefit of being completely present in something. That is, it all worked well until I started living with the pain.

Improv Log Cabins

Those same gremlins often feel like added weight when I am just trying to hold on to a cliff’s edge, making it harder to hang on or even preventing me from pulling myself up. I’ve cried and yelled more this past year, I’m definitely angrier. I won’t lie, some days are truly awful. If it didn’t hurt to lay down I wouldn’t get out of bed those days. Maybe, in that way, the way the pain is ends up being a blessing? I’m not going to walk around the neighbourhood in the middle of the night, but I can sew. So physical and mental health topped up at 3 am. That’s the way, at this point, I choose to look at it.

Depression is very real and quite debilitating for many, many people. I’m extremely thankful that I’ve had bad days and even weeks on end where it feels like that Bill Murray movie, Goundhog Day. Over and over again the same crap. That being said, I manage to keep myself going. Walking the dog and sewing. Getting outside and creating. Deep breath, we can do this. At least this week I can.

At the end of the day, too, you have to laugh. When my husband scared me that night he walked into a strange scene for sure. He alerted me to his presence with a “what the hell are you doing?” which was a valid question as I sewed naked at 3 am. And then we laughed. Belly laughs with all their jiggles in this situation. And for that brief moment the gremlins fell off my back.

Scrap Quilts