Saturday, December 2, 2017

A First for Me: A Book Review!

I'm not generally a fan of surprises; I've planned my life around avoiding the unexpected. These past few days, I've had a pleasant surprise, which has me pondering whether my tendency to a closed mindset is something to tackle in the upcoming year. I've been dreading a huge impending burden, knowing that it should not be my burden, but that it eventually will be, so I gathered my courage and started accepting the truth. My in-laws moved into assisted living over a year ago. They did so reluctantly, and have yet to embrace the permanence of this move. They are currently in their third residence since, due to a combination of restlessness and some behavioral issues that are long-standing and probably fixed. Not "fixed" in the repaired way, but "fixed" in the permanent way.

Left behind are two homes, both fully furnished, and one with a lifetime of memories, collections, and household items. The stacks of mail are still there, in their slit-opened envelopes. The magazines are still stacked, complete with the blown in subscription cards which seem to multiply in the dark. Who is going to deal with this? When? There are three grown sons, each with his own new family and full household. Each is a busy professional and none are happy with the seemingly sudden aging of their parents into a dependent state that is far more desperate than graceful.

I know without reservation that the emptying of the primary home would not be a task embraced by any of these three sons. I know also that the one son who has the temperament to handle the giant project has used all his patience and forbearance on the day-to-day management of the needs of his parents. If the burden of this house is ever going to be lifted from the family shoulders, and if its value is ever to be contributed to the care and feeding of its former occupants, the process of doing so would fall to me.

Fully aware of the irony inherent in purchasing three books on downsizing, I wasn't able to discern from the reviews and blurbs which was the one book to answer my need. I ordered all of them on amazon and did nothing other than post a photo of them to my instagram account inviting my acquaintances to enjoy the irony. I set the books aside, thinking I'd done enough for now.

I brought the least daunting of the three books with me to a medical conference, knowing that the subject matter would seem less daunting in an environment of intense learning. I read the introduction and was stricken by not only how practical this book is, but how thoughtful and kind. I expected practicality from a publication from the AARP, but never knew that the advice I'd find would be so respectfully and pleasantly presented. Liquidating a family's memories and treasures is never a happy task. I didn't think I'd get my husband and his brothers to consider reading on the subject, but I will enthusiastically offer to give them copies of this book. My hope is that we can tackle this project with love for one another and respect for the lives their parents have created. That this simple-appearing book offers solutions and advice to that end, is something that has surprised me in the best of ways!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Top Secret Quilting is Officially Launched!

Top Secret Quilting, LLC, is my company, and I've officially launched it. What did the launch look like? Well, true to the secrecy part of the mission, the launch was also rather understated. I took in a few customer quilts, and yes, I quilted them! I also made a handful of fun baby quilts for beloved grandchildren of my friends...images to come. I've established my purchasing accounts with a few wholesalers, mostly to satisfy my batting addiction, and I've started to hoard professional tools.

My business cards have my new logo, and I have an official web domain with a fancy email address to go with it. You can reach me at: for any professional quilting services.


In preparation for the launch of the business, and to get some of my quilts finished, I've been busy with the production of quilting samples. Here are some images of the process and products:

Crystalline Forest, from Connected Threads

Tamarack Shack's free pattern for Charm Squares. I love this pattern more every day, and enjoyed mixing the hand-guided quilting and computer driven quilting techniques. 

This was a quilt I made in a class called "Improvised Pineapple Blocks," with Heather Jones.

 This is my cousin Barbara's Kaffe Fassett quilt, which got a great "Circles and Swirls" all-over quilting design.

I combined computer blocks to make this Block of the Month quilt more of a custom job. It required re-sizing and shaping of triangle blocks to make equilateral triangles. Yea, geometry!

There have also been a dozen or more Quilts of Valor through my quilting room in the last few months. I love contributing to this fantastic charity. Carol Cricenti, a local organizer, has a Facebook group called Quilt of Valor Stars that allows people to contribute as much or as little to the quilts as they can, and I have never known her to run out of quilt tops to be quilted! I could probably tell her I'd quilt 50, and she'd drive over and drop them off! Of course, I never bite off that much. I also get one a month from the national bank of people looking for someone to quilt their tops.

One of those quilts was just awarded last week. It was awarded to William Billy McGee, 91 years old, a Pacific Theater World War II U.S. Navy veteran. Our nation has so much to celebrate, and so many brave veterans who must remain in our thoughts. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

On the Frame This Week

This is my Simply Eden Quilt, fabrics and pattern by Tula Pink. The construction of this quilt involved a lot of fussy cutting, so please take note of the butterflies and tigers, which are right side up. I quilted this with a sine wave, and even though that's a very simple and elegant curve, it taxed my knowledge of the software to pull it off. In the end, I was victorious.

Lisa Teichman of Garden Gate Quilting is an inspiration to me. She has been posting on her social media sites a regular feature, "On The Frame Today." As a professional quilter, there's something new on her machine almost every day, and I wouldn't be surprised if there's more than one quilt on some days. I am no professional, but I will try to post a photo of what's "On the Frame This Week."

This Scrappy Stars Quilt has been in my "to quilt" pile since 2012. I thought it was an inconsequential quilt, but as it was being stitched on my machine, the various fabrics woven into it reminded me of happy quilting adventures in the past. The fabrics are from my first five quilting years.  It just goes to show you that the memories we create while doing what we love are always waiting there in the cobwebs to infuse a little thread of unexpected joy. So, keep doing what you love!

I quilted a lovely charity quilt for a woman in the Bronx. This one is going to go to a WWII veteran. I fear there are very few WWII vets left among us, and I was glad to be reminded of the sacrifices made and (hopefully) lessons learned during that heartbreaking and tragic war. Heroes were quietly working in the background to save those in peril, and villains were found among the meek. May the man or woman who deserves this token of our gratitude be blessed with peace and joy.

I have ventured into the world of purchased quilting designs! I know, it's not that big a deal to buy stuff that other people created, but downloading and importing were new to me, and getting this design quilted out on scrap felt like an accomplishment.

The "morph" feature of the software on my Innova quilting machine enabled me to turn corner triangles into equilateral triangles. The geometrist in me is rejoicing!!! Check out the early stage quilting of this, the 2015 Quilted Threads Block of the Month, Toes in the Sand.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sneak Peek at the first 12 Days of Innova

Over the last two months, I renovated my third floor, sold my old longarm quilting machine, and bought a new Innova 26" Longarm machine with computer robotics. Here's a sneak peek at the new work space, the new quilter, and some quilts!

Little Ruby Spools for Sophia. We've had a few rough weeks. Lots to learn, and a lot of healing to do.

Where is Crystalline Frost? No pictures?!

Tamarack Shack. Computer guided swirls and hand-guided pebbles. Turned out one of my favorite quilts of all time.

Improvisational Pineapple Blocks with Heather Jones, quilted with big spirals.

Mug Rugs as an experiment in small block quilting

2 Quilts of Valor, quilted for charity. There are endless quilts for charity. These came out so great!

Lazy Girl Pattern, the Button Bowl, for Constantine to pack flat and hold nightstand detritus on his travels. A little fun on a regular sewing machine after a very cute shop hop on the back roads of New Hampshire!

California Desert Snowflake. Pieced, but not yet quilted. Oh my goodness, this was a complicated quilt to piece, but I love the secondary and tertiary patterns. One day I'll tell you how many pieces are here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

First 100 Days

Not the 100 days you're thinking of. I am referring to the first 100 days of my retirement from a fantastic, dream career in medicine. This blog has never been about my medical career, but you know that. I've written in this blog about sewing, quilting, creating, and a few random comments about my family. Since nobody that I know of actually reads this blog, I am really just journaling, so excuse me for not journaling for an entire year and then just dropping in as if nothing has changed. So much has changed!!!
I had the luxury of finding a fantastic replacement for myself at work, and then working with her for five months while she became familiar with our work and our people. I was able to do some long term projects that had been on my wishlist for years, and I left knowing that the patients, the staff, the partners and the hospital were all in the excellent hands of Dr. Kira Wendorf. In all ways, she has made my promises come true, (I'd promised that she'd be better than I was at everything.)

Then, I left. I quilted, I sewed, I played my cello, and I exercised. I went on long-postponed trips with friends, I had lunch with friends, I listened to my daughters, I took classes, I went to a conference at my alma mater about pushing boundaries, and I entertained very small job options. I undertook a remodeling project in my sewing studio that I'd put off for years. It's not done, but it's really looking close.

I can happily and enthusiastically say that I'm only getting started. My "to do" lists are sometimes shorter than they were before retirement, but they're still full of things that are important to me. The difference is, I no longer see them as stressful near-impossibilities, rather a full menu of choices that all look good, and can all be mine.

What got me back to my blog was something completely unrelated and very minor, which at this point seems silly to mention, so I'll do it anyway, while I think more about how I want to fill in the gap of a year and a quarter.
These are my three examples of a block called the Brasstown Star, which are this month's block for Quilts of Valor Stars, a FB group I just joined. Instead of the old fashioned way of doing the "square in square," I used Anita Grossman Solomon's method, with the paper pattern which guides cutting of pieces. I had to draw my own pattern since the size I needed, (4" finished) differs from the two provided on her Craftsy class.
What I learned was that she tells you to use a full quarter inch seam allowance because the square otherwise ends up a little large, and the points are therefore a little endangered when piecing the block together. I was able to cheat my way into sharp corners, but, lesson learned. I don't think it saved me time, since making the pattern, scanning it, scanning it again with the settings on "actual size," printing, and annotating, took longer than the old fashioned way would have. Mrs. Chang would be proud that there was virtually no fabric waste with AGS's method. Time waste? Well, that's not as obvious since it doesn't have to be swept into the trash bin like fabric waste for all to see.

Big picture though: I spent a lot of time and saved some fabric. What do I have more than enough of? Fabric. What's in short supply? Time. So, though it was a fun exercise, I have to limit how I allow myself to go down these rabbit holes!

Next up? My new Innova Longarm Quilting machine, and the work it's been doing to get through my backlog of unfinished quilts.