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Take Out/Full Plate (Another Finish)

Things have come full circle.

Take Out/Full Plate is a reflection on a really, really busy time in my life.   Great opportunities came my way, invitations to fun, job offers, big changes that had me saying yes, please, and big changes that did not offer me the option of saying no, thank you.

It was 'good' busy, thankfully, and because of that, I said yes to more than I realized, and that's when I got into trouble.

There was no good reason to say no.  We all have limits and I thought I had a pretty good understanding as to what mine were.  What I didn't know was limits change over time.  It's good to acknowledge this.  Good, but not easy. 

Honestly, there was a good reason, but at the time, I couldn't or wouldn't share it with anyone, but I'll share it with you now.  I was exhausted.   Not an easy thing for anyone to admit.  I felt like a quitter and that really bothered me.  So the more I said yes, the more exhausted I became.  Not good.

Take Out/Full Plate (48" x 60")

The title refers to a watershed moment, an epiphany if you will, when I realized things had to change.  We were having dinner, discussing the events of the past week and what was coming up.  Both the past and the future looked a little busy.  I started making a food shopping list in my head when I realized we had eaten more take out in the previous weeks that I care to admit here.  Some nights we ate separately and some night we had different dinners.  I did not like this one bit.  I love cooking so I asked myself what had happened.  I realized that saying yes to all, our plates were full and we lived on take out.  It was time to say no.


I needed to think more.  Since I consider quilting a reflective and meditative process, it was only natural that I turned to needle and thread.  I started putting them together with absolutely no plan in mind.  It was therapeutic.  Each of the blocks is hand-pieced and the top was assembled by machine.  The block name is Drunkard's Path, and it's arrangement most closely resembles Polka Dots (#1451) by Aunt Martha,  according to Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.   

Sewing these curves helped me understand the power of no.  It reminded me of something I've known for along time, but had forgotten:  Saying no is the first step in stress reduction.

The fact that it took me so long to finish is not lost on me.  True, I stole a moment here and there when I could grab needle and go, but over time I had moved into a much better place, and honestly, I did not want to look back.  I put the quilt away.

This winter, I participated in the IGQuiltFest with Amy's Creative Side.  One of the prompts was to show an unfinished quilt so I took this out again, and here we are. I'm really happy that it is finished.  It is not going to be quilt relegated to the back of the closet.  Instead, it is will be our new fall quilt, a fitting reminder during a very busy time of year.  On those days when I need to regroup and think about what my next step will be, I'll take an important step.  I'll get a cup of tea and sit on my couch with this quilt around my shoulders, to think about the power of yes and the power of no.  

Take care,


Summer Afternoon #2

The proper use of imagination is to give beauty to the world.

- Lin Yutang


Years ago, I wrote that quotation in one of my notebooks.  It's the guiding force in doing what I do - give beauty to the world.

I'm almost done with the new baby quilt, but I'll show that to you next time.  Meanwhile, here is some beauty for you.   







Share what's in your garden, make somebody a cold drink, don't stress about cupcakes.  Slow down.

Take a breath, be kind and talk to each other.


Take care,




A Quilted Storm

    So a month ago, it was Christmas and we had a house full of people and it was 72 degrees. Odd for sure, but now we are in the throes of a deep midwinter storm, somewhere around 18 inches of snow when all is said and done.  I am prepared:

1. Reading material and art supplies

My new sketch pad, the latest issue of Uppercase and an art deco book have been sitting on my desk, unopened.  Art Deco caught my eye when I was about 10.  I watched a lot of Fred and Ginger, Nick and Nora and Busby Berkley movies when I was a kid.  That and growing up in New York City exposed me to a lot of that beautifully clean aesthetic.   

2. A new recipe.  I tried phô (Vietnamese noodle soup) for the first time this week and I am hooked.  I will have the stock on the stove all day Saturday.  Star anise is one of the primary ingredients.  Talk about inspiration.


3. Projects:  Quilty 365 - I'm a week behind in my circles, but I'll make up for that in an afternoon.  


The ALS Benefit Quilt is in the frame and I can't believe it's going so fast.  Do you think I have enough thread?  (That's just for the blue/green section).  I can't wait to show you the finished project.  It is the tenth anniversary and I think it is my absolute favorite . . .



I joined the Mighty Lucky Quilting Club and I've got more than a bit to catch up on!  If you are interested, click on the link in the side bar.


The 2016 Election Quilt is moving along very nicely.  Much like the election itself, it is way too early to tell which way this will go.



I think I need one more grey to make it work.  If I do, it will go from a 60" square to 72".  Maybe.

And a new baby quilt.  Yes, I have another grand-nephew on the way . . .  

4. What will I watch? I'm not sure if I really want to watch anything these days.  Maybe I'll just listen to some Eagles and David Bowie, songs of my youth . . . 

But seriously friends, if you are in the path of this storm, somewhere on the eastern U.S. seaboard, I hope you that you are warm, dry and happy.  Don't go out if you don't need to.  The roads are brutal; keep them open for emergency workers.


Just chill.

Take care,


Just One S'more Day


And that was that.

It was a gorgeous summer and I am s-o-o-o sad to see it go.  Our last night on the beach together was just what I wanted: a clear sky with a beautiful sunset, no mosquitoes, my extremely funny friends, and a cool and lovely breeze that made me reach for a quilt at just that precise moment when the sun said . . . see ya.

And yet here it is again, another stunning day.  It takes a while to say good-bye to my favorite season and all the good things about it: boat rides, hot breezes (and cool ones), starry skies, a little color in my cheeks (don't tell my dermatologist) and all manner of foods cooked outside - except fruit.  I'll never understand grilled peaches when there is nothing better than a fresh peach, on its own.  So what is the ultimate dessert cooked outside on a grill?  Yes, the lovely s'more.  I suppose as long a you have a gas grill you could eat s'mores all year long, but don't.  A s'more is that one dessert that should only be eaten from Independence Day through Labor Day.  I'm kind of rigid about that, but I will allow an October s'more fest on a campout if you're into that sort of thing.

But if you are a purist like me, I offer you this: a s'mores quilt, to be enjoyed whenever.


and a little free verse as well:

smokin' s'mores, one more time

combusting fire pit of sugar

my mouth is seriously a-flame

And I mean that, literally.  Who has not bitten into a s'more when it was still on fire, that little sugary ember, hidden in the folds of ash?


And who has not laughed when eating s'mores?  They are messy sweet treats and the little dance we all do to extinguish the firestorm in our mouths is just an other exercise in summer fun.  It's just so worth it.

Happy Labor Day.


Take care,


Quilt Retreat For One

What do you do when you want to go to a quilt retreat but you can't?

You create A Quilt Retreat For One.  Here's my plan:


4 p.m. Registration Since I will be the only one attending and I know myself pretty well, and I’ll be stuck in traffic on my way home from work, I'll skip the check in portion of the evening and go straight to the

5 p.m. Wine and Cheese Reception  I’ll probably be late for this too - Friday night summer get away traffic – so  I’ll just have a beer and some chips and guacamole when I arrive at

5:30 p.m.  Design Your Workspace  The corner of my basement (the c.o.m.b.) is where I store all of my fabric and supplies.  It’s got a decent sized design wall and two small windows.   I’ve recently moved to a room upstairs to sew - it has much better lighting.  It's not fully functional yet so how can I make this better?

 7 p.m. Dinner  The beer, chips and guac were filling.  How about ice cream?

 7:30 p.m.  Hand Quilting Intensive  This quilt is a surprise gift for someone so I haven't shown a lot of it.  I'm in the homestretch, so If I can get a solid two hours of hand-quilting in, I'll be a happy girl.


10 p.m.  Night Night. Going to bed early is a luxury, especially if there is some good reading material around. 

10:05 p.m. ZZZzzzzzzzzzzz.


7:30 a.m.  Shower, dress, breakfast and a walk. Most Saturday mornings, I brew some coffee,  start the laundry and read the news.  Before I know it, it’s noon, I’m still in my jammies and I panic.  If I follow this plan, I will gain an enormous amount of time. A brisk 3 mile walk wouldn't hurt either.

9 a.m. Show and Tell or WIP/UFO Assessment  I give myself credit for having all my WIPs on hangars and UFOs in one box.  But I need to honestly ask myself, how come they're not done?


10 a.m. Get to know my brand new Juki TLQ 2010 Yes, I bought  a new machine.  All I know is this baby is mighty fast!


12 p.m. Lunch  I am actually going to sit at a table.  I usually eat at my desk or stand at my kitchen counter and wolf down whatever is local, like what’s-in-my-pantry local.  This time I’m eating local for real, having picked up my weekly CSA peck on Thursday.  A bowl of quick sauté greens would suit me just fine.

12:30 p.m. Wood Working  I really want to make a quilt rack.  I have the supplies and the plans.  Now I just need the courage.  This may take a while, and a few band-aids.

3 p.m.  Afternoon Tea  I deserve a nice reward after my wood-shop class.  I don’t care if it 98 degrees.  I have to have tea in the afternoon and part of any good retreat should feature a good cup of hot tea.


3:45 p.m.  Choice I'm giving myself the option of messing around with some fabric or continuing on my woodworking project (guess what I'll choose?).


6 p.m. Dinner Panzanella Salad with a glass of Pinot Grigio.  How lucky I am to have friends who are both successful and generous gardeners.


7 p.m.  Choice Hand quilting for sure.

10 p.m.  Night Night I intend to read the entire premiere issue of my Simply Moderne.



7:30 a.m.  Shower, dress, breakfast.  Morning coffee and granola in the garden.  Breathe deep.  It's already Sunday?

8:15 a.m.  Sketch Session  I usually sketch before bed every night but I think it's a good idea to mix it up.  Besides, I need to be outside.


9 a.m. Get To Know More of Your Juki  If the machine quilting is anywhere near as good and easy as piecing, I'll be here all day. 

10:30 a.m. Break It's important to move around, and a second cup of coffee would taste really good about now.

10:45 a.m.  Reflections on Hand quilting vs. Machine  I'm going to be really honest with this one.


Noon  Lunch   On the beach.  There's inspiration all around.  Maybe I should bring some hand-piecing?  Should I attempt appliqué?


2 p.m.  Wood Working  Did I get anywhere with that quilt rack?  Breathe again.

3 p.m.  Farewell

It's a start.  If you were to design A Quilt Retreat For One, what would you include?  What would your schedule be? Would you even have a schedule?  I'm really interested to hear what you need.  

Maybe I just need the luxury of time to sit and stitch.

Take care,


Blissed Out

. . . that's been my state while hand-quilting this piece.  I've been working in 60 to 90 minute stitch spurts and it's been a dream.  It's a blustery, rainy day here and I've made some tea.  How about you?


      I can't imagine ever giving up hand quilting, but I am very excited to see where I can go with machine work. I'm currently looking for a book that will help me get my feet wet.  Each time I try my hand at it, I come away with a deeper appreciation of the skills necessary to achieve the beautiful work I've seen.  Breathe deep.

    Speaking of books, I've indulged myself lately.  What makes these books my new, and probably ever-lasting favorites is they are so well written in covering more than just not the how of quilting, but the why and what's next.  The books encouraged me to explore my own reasons for doing what I do.  It's kind of like finding your own maker/personality pattern.  And it's a good thing to put your ego in check every so often.


     I am within walking distance of the busiest interstate in the U.S.  The deer and woodchuck population has exploded recently, and it is quite common to see them dining al fresco on the embankments at rush hour.  Last week, a young black bear wandered into my neighbor's yard looking for snacks.  The cub was caught and hopefully reunited with his family.  I'm just glad he avoided the highway.  Don't know why he didn't go the beach.


     I joined a Community Supported Agriculture program because it makes complete sense for my family and it is a huge benefit for our local farms.  I also like being surprised with mystery vegetables every Thursday.  Puts a little zing in my day.  I know - out of control.  I also bought a cherry pitter.  My life is now complete.


     I have a job which requires me to do a lot of reading and a lot of sitting.  Add to my day 60 to 90 minutes of sitting and quilting and I think my heart may actually stop beating because of inactivity.  So much for bliss.  I got an app for my phone.  It's called Stand Up!   It reminds me to . . . stand up . . . every 30 minutes with a cheery little BING, and the message we want you to live longer.  It's a little creepy, but not altogether inaccurate, according to everything I've read.  I use it at my desk and at my frame - it really makes a difference.  Disclaimer:  I have no financial interest in this thing.  My only interest is my health and yours. Do yourself a favor.  Mine was free.


It's time for another cup.  Hand-quilting helps me process the lows and celebrate the highs, and we have had quite a bit of both around here in the last few weeks.  Quilting keeps my ego in check, it makes me think, it helps me process, it . . . BING! It's time to Stand Up!


Take care,




Ah, Summer!

Happy Summer to all of you in the northern hemisphere!

I found myself up early on Saturday (it's those robins!) so I thought I'd do a proper welcome to my favorite season . . .

Sunr1se1Sunrise at St. Mary's June 21, 2014, 5:31 AM

And then I came home to this.


I like to do a lot of handwork in the summer, but I don't really have a project in mind.

I truly feel the need to refine my big-stitch technique, so I put this happy quilt in my floor frame.


The idea of getting up early when it is still cool, making coffee and sitting down at my frame

seems like an excellent way to start the day.


Take care,


Fatherly Advice

    A while ago, I started thinking about how advice is passed around and down the family line, much like quilts.  Recipients of either are lucky indeed.  Good advice is rare, and family quilts, lovingly and carefully made, are rare too.

    I thought that preserving familial advice in a quilt would be a nice project.  I showed you a piece I made that summed up my mother's best advice.  It was an idea that lodged itself in my head for the longest time and I just had to get it out there.  Back in November, I showed the piece to a small group of fiber artists that I meet with, led by the wonderful Jane Davila.  My advice?  Hang out with people who know more than you do. One of our group members liked the piece but she gave me a very simple suggestion:  go smaller.  I was encouraged by that because I didn't want this piece to stand on its own; I wanted it to be part of a series, as in a series of blocks.  Duh.  The idea is still not complete, but I'm getting there.  I've got a bunch of images in my head and I'm working my way through them.

    So this being Father's Day I though I'd share a little advice from Pop.  He would have turned 100 this week.



    Note the cigarette in his left hand.  

    Anyway, food was (and is) a pretty big deal in our family so it was often the topic of discussion.  We were taught early on about the importance and prepartion of good food.  Processed foods were a definite no-no except when it came to potato chips and then all bets were off.  Speaking of bets, my father also taught me about horse racing, but that's a story for another day.  (By the way - anyone know where I can get horse-themed quilt fabric?)


     Eat nothing white, he told us.  Sugar, white flour, white bread and whole milk were big mistakes.  Unsweetened butter didn't count because technically it was pale yellow.  He made a wicked bolognese sauce but I have only a vague memory of the pasta which accompanied it.  His chicken curry was excellent, but the white rice served with it was a minor player.  Baked potatoes were a rarity, but not during the summer, when they were roasted on a smoky grill.  I highly recommend that method, and serve the potatoes with (pale yellow) butter, of course.

    So with all of the nutritional advice we are given every day, this one still stands the test of time.  I think if Pop were still around, he'd just shake his head in disbelief, amazed that people have to be told this stuff again and again.  

    And yet, here I sit, hot tea on my desk.  All children rebel, of course, and I am no exception.  My tea has just a bit of sugar in it, but at least the milk is 1%.

Take care,


First Finish Of 2014

Well, it's not like I started it yesterday.


Picnic, inspired by the 1955 William Holden and Kim Novak movie, was started many months ago - 18 to be precise.  But you know how that goes.  Some projects demand your attention or are ready to be played with when you are ready, just like Labrador Retrievers.


I tried a different batting from Fairfield Processing, Fusi-Boo, a cotton and rayon/bamboo blend with a light scrim that eliminates the need for basting.  You iron the three layers together and you are good to go.  It never detached or shifted even in tremendously humid weather.  The batting is a little stiff so that had me concerned.  I was pleasantly suprised when I removed it from the dryer.  It is soft, bumpy and drapeable (is that a word?), everything I want in a quilt.  The bump factor is mighty high!

Picnic3(That purple triangle is William Holden, by the way.  Watch the movie . . .)  Does this look like a yellow quilt to you?  A quilting friend once told me to be careful when working with yellow.  If a top has more than 20% yellow in fabrics, it is a yellow quilt.  I don't think that applies here.  The backing - uh, yeah.


Part of my resistance to working on this project was because the white triangles were printed with some sort of fabric paint, as was the backing.  As much as I love the look of white on white, I am pretty sure that I will not be using much of it again as I had so much resistance from my needle.  That, combined with the slightly thicker batting, made stitching a bit tough on my fingers.

  Picnic5   Picnic6

 Well, that's a lot for the first day of 2014.  I'm exhausted - how about you?  In a little while,  I'll head  out to nowhere in particular to take my annual January 1 photos.  We are expecting some major snow between Thursday and Friday.  It's time to work on  Marina, drink tea, eat chocolate pastries and watch reruns of Downton Abbey.  

Picnic7  Picnic8

Thank you so much for dropping by and sharing your creativity with me as I love to share my quilt-making process with you.  I hope you have enjoyed my quilts as much as I have enjoyed yours.  Call me naïve, but I truly believe that we make the world a better place when we put all of this positive  stuff out there - a good fiber vibe.  May great things come your way in 2014.

Take care,

Pammy Byrd