When You Stop Being RAW

Be Daring, Be Different,
Be Impractical,  Be
Anything That Will
Assert Integrity Of
Purpose And Imaginative
Vision Against The
Play-It-Safers, The
Creatures Of The
Commonplace, The
Slaves Of The Ordinary.

Cecil Beaton

I’ve always believed that you should live your life being the best you that you can be. Be strong and powerful. Create your own beautiful life. Rebel a little. Remember it’s okay not to conform, and different is good.

Then the last year happened.

It was unbelievably stressful for me. While there were moments of amazing, like my book being published and Alex Anderson at my School House (I almost died! I forgot what I wanted to say…it was all fabulous in my head until I saw her in the front row…then I choked a little bit), I always had the weight of some things going on in my life weighing heavily on my mind. December through May had me in knots, I was RAW, but since school ended I’ve been able to start getting my mojo back. Or as a friend of mine calls it, my sewjo. (Best phrase EVER!)

I spent a lot of the last six months WANTING to be productive and creative, knowing it would be a healthy outlet, but I didn’t have it in me. My inspiration was crushed. I worked on a few things, but not at my normal speed. Quilt making was slow and almost painful, in a way.  While I’ve always had ideas circling in my head, the inspiration for new quilts wasn’t there. I didn’t have a list of twenty new quilt ideas – I could barely come up with one. When I did have a spark of inspiration I had a tough time getting concepts to come to life, and if I got stuck, I’d quit. When I’d go back to the quilt or whatever project, it always seemed to take longer to make anything happen, and I didn’t always like what I was making. Blogging  from the heart was impossible because when I sat down to write the words were toxic, and that’s not me. I’m not perfect, but I’m not (usually) toxic. I’d become a shell of someone I didn’t recognize and kinda didn’t like her.

Try as I might, I could not get out of the fog in my head, going over things again and again. I knew it wasn’t healthy for me to do that,  but I was so angry –  so RAW – at some of the events that transpired AND at myself for getting so caught up in my head – the one thing I NEED to get my ideas transformed from cloth. I knew that space and time would help, and they have, but waiting for those two things to happen caused me much heartache.

Finally, summer arrived. I spent some time getting my house organized. It started with one closet, and trickled to other rooms. Cleaning closets, purging drawers, reorganizing toys, crafts, and fabric. The things you always put off because they aren’t exactly fun but you are always SO glad when you finish.

But for me, I wasn’t just reclaiming my house, I was reclaiming my heart. I was reclaiming the space in my head, clearing out the clutter that I’d ignored for months because I couldn’t deal with it, and taking that space back, literally and metaphorically. Welcoming back my creativity. My happy. My peace. My me.

All of ^^^ that has been good for my mental health, not to mention my house, and I’m starting to feel like my old self again. The me that loves life, and the special people that share it with me and have my back.

I’ve regained the me that is unequivocally, somewhat unapologetically ME. I’ve returned to being who, in my heart, I know I am, and once again being true to that girl. A little sweet, a little snark, a lot of sarcasm, and a little rebellious. And I have needed it. A LOT. Turns out I missed her.

Turns out, that finding her again has sparked my creative spirit, too. I have the next twenty quilts in front of me, and projects, and it’s good. It’s really, really good.

17359458_10155937369352995_5006696626382673197_oWhile all this was going on, I felt the need to rebel a little bit, to prove that the mostly sweet, creative soul with a splash of bada–was still somewhere in there. I’m not gonna lie, getting this tattoo felt good to honor the rebel in me.  I’ve wanted one for 25 years. A needle and thread, and the word fly….it’s a nod to my book club and nod to myself to remember that I conquer anything; I can put on my big girl panties and rise to the occasion to overcome, and when I need to, I can spread my wings and fly.

 

Companion Patterns

I’m in the process of adding some companion patterns for my book, Piecing Makeover, to my site. The patterns can be used in conjunction with my book to help you tackle some quilt block issues, increase your quilt math knowledge, and hone some skills.

The first quilt (of what I hope will be many – it’s a process) is a Half-Square Triangle quilt, named Ode to Insanity, because when I finished putting together all seven hundred million HST’s I was about to lose my mind.

It’s a fun, graphic quilt, and I hope you enjoy making it!

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Upcycled Baby Blankets

A friend of mine called me a few months ago needing some help. Her dog chewed up her husband’s favorite childhood comforter and she wanted to cut it up and turn it into 4 blankets – one for each of her children. But she doesn’t sew so….

The comforter is super cute, and I see why husband loved it. White background with cute, brightly colored bicycles on it. It’s your standard sorta 70’s or 80’s era comforter with invisible thread and a poly backing that is somehow magically attached to the bike fabric. Except this one had holes.

Lucky for me, the blankets didn’t need to be the same size and I was able to cut around the holes to get four decent sized blankets. Decent enough for kids, at least. Cutting it was a bit of a challenge since the comforter has some puckers in it from the original quilting. Once I did get the pieces cut, I measured them – I arbitrarily picked sizes based on the space I could work with – then I cut flannel to size.

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The easy part was getting a square piece of flannel cut. Because of the gathers in the top, I had to ease in in a few spots from the top and that made sewing down the binding a little less straightforward. I sewed binding to the flannel on two of the blankets, folding the binding to the top, and for the other two I sewed the binding to the top, and folded the binding to the back. I’m not sure which I liked better as they both presented some challenges.

Sewing the binding to the flannel was much easier but stitching the binding to the top of the blanket was harder because I had to work with all the puckers, folds and gathers from the top piece. The inverse is also true. In the end, though, they all look great and my friend is super excited with them.

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I used a yellow and white polka flannel on the back of each blanket and each blanket has a different binding from my pile of scrap bindings. That also allows each child to have his or her own blanket that they can identify by the binding. I consider that a big win, especially for the littles that can’t read a name or a label.

Even bigger win is that she picked them up this morning and is going to surprise her husband for their anniversary tonight. Sweet!

 

Blocking Your Quilt

Do you block your quilts? If you don’t, you should.

Truth be told, I don’t block all my quilts. They don’t all need it. If a quilt is going on a bed, or will be well used and loved, I see no reason to do the work. However, if you plan to put a quilt into a show you should block it. If the quilt is obviously askew, go ahead and do the work. That wall hanging not quite right? Block it. You will thank when you don’t continually look at a quilt that won’t lay flat or has really wonky, wavy sides.

So, what is blocking? Basically, blocking is the process of squaring up your quilt after it’s been quilted so it’s flat and square.

Even though we square up blocks and borders and all our pieces as we sew, the process of quilting can stretch your top (think quilting it out) and you may need to block your quilt. Sometimes your quilt just isn’t square when it’s quilted. Who knows? But it happens to a lot of quilts for one reason or another. Don’t worry if yours isn’t quite right – it can get fixed. Even the professionals have to block quilts from time to time. And, it’s important to reiterate: if you are going to put a quilt into a show, block it. You will never get a blue ribbon if your quilt isn’t perfectly square.

Blocking is one of the most underrated steps in finishing a quilt. I don’t think a lot of quilters talk about it – certainly not high on my list of quilt-related conversations – but for some reason it’s come up twice in the last few weeks. Maybe that’s a sign? I’m taking it as a sign.

I made this Little Lone Star for my friend Sarah to display in her booth during Quilt Con 2017. It’s a quick and easy quilt but I didn’t have time to block it prior to getting it back to her before the show. I knew it wasn’t quite square – mostly square, but not completely – because of all the bias and y-seams, even with starch, thankyouverymuch.

Honestly, I wasn’t even going to mess with blocking the quilt but since it’s not quite square and it’s been a recent topic of conversation in quilt circles (see also: sign), this turns out to be the best little quilt to show you how I do it.

Like most other things quilting, there are multiple ways to achieve your desired results. Blocking is no different, and I’ll go through my process below.

Before doing anything, wet your quilt in the tub. Make sure you get the quilt good and saturated, then press out as much water as you can. I just use my hands and press down into the lob of quilt I’ve created.  Get as much water as possible out of the quilt before transporting it. I roll the quilt out of the tub onto a beach towel to take to the washing machine. This allows the towel to carry the weight of the quilt, meaning you are less likely to damage your quilt from the weight of the water. Gently dump your quilt in the washing machine and turn on the spin cycle.

Once you have a damp quilt, you are ready to start blocking. There are several different ways to block:

carpet over foundation trick
use a plastic drop cloth
use insulation foam/board

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For all methods you’ll need:

rulers
t-pins
tape measure

Here’s the skinny on each:

In my old house, I worked in semi-finished basement room with an inexpensive carpet over the concrete foundation. I may have blocked quilts on the rug from time to time. The carpet on foundation trick worked extremely well. I mean, really well. I had a really solid, stable surface, I didn’t have to worry about t-pins scratching the floor and my quilts came out unbelievably square. So if you have an unfinished basement, get an inexpensive piece of carpet (perhaps a remnant?) and use that on the floor if you have space. Works like a charm.

Recently, I used  a plastic drop cloth over carpet. I didn’t really care for the method. I should have cut down the drop cloth and taped or tacked down the edges. Not doing that resulted in  a plastic sheet that shifted as I worked.  I had to continually pull at the sheet and the quilt to get my quilt to square up. And it didn’t come out quite square on one side. I didn’t like feeling like my quilt wasn’t as taut as it could have or should have been because of the carpet and padding below, either. It could have been a rookie blocking-over-carpet and using a plastic drop cloth mistake, too, but I found greener pastures.

Method three is by far the one I like best. Insulation board. I am currently in the middle of blocking a 77’x72″ quilt and absolutely LOVED using the insulation board! You can buy it in 4’x8′ sheets. I had the home improvement store cut the board into 4′ square pieces so I could get it home. You can also buy 2′ square pieces of insulation board. The smaller pieces are more expensive but if you can’t fit large sheets of insulation board in your car then it’s the way to go.

Tape the insulation board together. I used painters tape because it’s easy to remove so I can store the 4’x4′ boards in the workroom. The example I have here uses a small quilt that fits onto a 4’x4′ board.

Open the quilt flat onto the board(s). You do not need to pull or stretch it, just open it.  I make a few initial measurements (see diagram below).  I block my quilts to the largest measurements. For example, if I measure 76″, 76 1/2″ and 77 1/4″ from top to bottom of a quilt, I make sure the quilt is 77 1/4″ long across left, center and right of the quilt.

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Use t-pins to mark the longest measurements in those 6 spots, gently stretching the quilt where necessary.

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I like to block with the binding on the quilt but not sewn down. I do this for two reasons. First, the quilt can stretch when you sew on the binding. If the binding is sewn down then I can’t stretch it as easily, though I have done that too, like with this example. I use bias binding so I have the ability to stretch the quilt. Second, you can stick t-pins through the seam allowance and not have to worry about messing up the top of your quilt since you’ll sew down the binding and cover up any holes the pins make. If this isn’t an option because the binding is already sewn down, carefully place pins along the edge of the binding where it meets the quilt. You can use your fingers to manipulate the fabric back into place once the pins are removed.

Next, I place a large, square ruler in the corner of my quilt. Gently pull the quilt so the edge of the binding is lined up with the edge of the ruler. Place a t-pin every 3-5 inches.

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I like to have a long ruler that meets my square ruler to continue working along a side to get a straight edge. Line the rulers up along the binding (second photo). You can also pick a spot along one edge and measure a straight line across your quilt using rulers and tape measures (top photo). This works well if you have a lot of acrylic rulers or a small quilt.

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I work my way across the quilt, extending from each side of the square ruler. When I am halfway down an edge of the quilt I place my square ruler in the corner to make sure I get it straight (not straight here).

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I measure and remeasure as I pin to make sure all sides are the correct length or width. You might have to adjust and remeasure here or there.

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Once you have the quilt square, leave it to dry. I like to put a fan on the quilt to help it dry faster. If it’s a nice day, I’ll leave the quilt outside to dry. I put a white sheet on top to keep of animals and debris.

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When the quilt has dried, sew down the binding if you haven’t already, and enjoy your flat, square quilt!

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Little Lone Star {free pattern}

I made this sweet little Lone Star quilt for my friend Sarah to hang at the Intown Quilters booth during Quilt Con 2017. She gave out the pattern during the show and I thought I’d share it here, as well.

The quilt is really quick and easy to put together. Enjoy!

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Lone Star ~43-1/2” x 43-1/2”
Designed, Pieced and quilted by Patty Murphy,
based on my book Piecing Makeover

Fabrics*
16 fat eighths
1 yard background fabric (we used Essex Yarn-Dyed Linen in Flax)
1/2 yd binding

*You can buy fat eighth bundles here and Essex Yarn-Dyes Linen here

Cutting Instructions: 
          Fat eighths:
Cut three 2-1/2” x 21” strips from each fat eighth.

          Background fabric: 
First cut one 20” x 20”square.
Then cut four 12-1/2” x 12-1/2” squares.

Assembly Instructions
1. Sew 12 sets of 4 strips. Press open seams.
2. Cut strip sets on a 45° angle. You will get 3 full strips from each set, giving you a possible 36 strips to use for your Lone Star. You will have extra to use.
3. Arrange the strips on a design wall to make the Lone Star. Four strips go into each diamond section.
4. Sew each of the 8 diamond sections together, making sure you off-set the seams to create perfect points. (pg. 110, Diamonds)
5. Once you have 8 diamond sections, sew the top 4 together to make the top of your star then sew the bottom 4 together to make the bottom half of your star.
6. Sew the 2 sections together, making sure you match points in the center and furl your seams to reduce bulk. (pg. 27, Furling Busy Intersections)
7. Using a y-seam, sew each of the 12-1/2” x 12-1/2” background squares into each of the corners. (pg. 105, Hexagons)
8. Cut the 20” x 20” background square twice on the diagonal to get 4 triangles.
9. Using a y-seam, sew the triangles cut in Step 8 into the quilt along the top, bottom, and sides. (pg. 105, Hexagons)
10. Quilt, bind, and enjoy! See it on IG: #pmlonestar

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On Why I Stopped Quilting My Quilts

Like all good stories, this one starts the same way…

Once upon a time, I used to quilt all my quilts. I had, or made, the time to quilt all of them on my domestic. I enjoyed it, too, and for all intents and purposes, I did just fine. Actually, I still do just fine if I take my time. More to the point, if I have the time.

Just around the time my oldest was born, I realized that I didn’t have the time to quilt any longer. Piecing was easy to squeeze in, because a few minutes here and there eventually get results, but if I wanted quilts to actually get finished, I needed to send it out. We all know that it’s hard to quilt in ten minute bursts because by the time I’m warmed up and situated with the quilt at my machine, my ten minutes ends.

Introduce Regina. Regina is ah-mazing! Seriously, y’all! Ah-mazing! I was immediately drawn to her bubbly, creative spirit and if my friends were happy to send their quilts to her, then I should be too. On that note, I think it’s important to point out that some of these friends are quite particular about who can touch a quilt he/she has made so I felt confident that I was making the right decision.

Did I ever! Ten years later and it’s still some of the best money I’ve ever spent and quilts actually get finished, unlike the Meadow Quilt I made in February and started quilting in March. I’m STILL quilting that darn thing! See? Legit reason right there, and I’m only a few years late with that wedding present. sigh….

About a year ago, I started working on a pink and grey, machine pieced hexagon and LeMoyne Star quilt. I gave it to Regina in March and just got it back. She’s busy because she’s a total rock star, but it’s worth the wait to see the magic she made. My jaw drops every time I look at my quilt.

Unfortunately for you, I can’t show the front of the quilt because I have plans for it but I can show some of the back. Here’s a sneak peak. Enjoy.

 

Remove the Clutter and Create

I strongly believe that in order to create freely, we sometimes have to get rid of the clutter in our lives. That clutter can come in different forms: doing the laundry, cleaning the house, volunteering, helping with homework, and many times for me, cleaning up my sewing room and knocking out some unfinished projects.

When I head to my sewing machine and see small projects littered in my space, I get a little anxious. I WANT to create what I want to create when I have time to sew. The quilt or project I’m working on is THE NUMBER ONE THING, right? I don’t necessarily want to work on those other things I’ve put aside for another day. That’s why those things have been case aside anyhow.

Then I finish my project, and I’m ready to move on to something else, but I have to find inspiration. That’s when the clutter actually helps. If I knock out the little things that I have pushed aside for a variety of reasons, then I help myself in few ways:

  1. I finish a project.
  2. I get said project off the floor and start cleaning(ish).
  3. If a project is finished, then I have more space in my head to create. I’m not bogged down my the pressure to finish “other” things. This is important for me because I tend to get wrapped up in the minutiae.

Recently I finished a few projects, and put another aside for not cooperating, and I started tackling some things that have been yelling “Finish me!”

First up:  a Daisy scout vest. Just needed to sew on a few patches. It took all of 20 minutes. Done and done.

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2. A seriously overdue baby quilt. A very good friend of mine asked me to make quilts for babies 1 and 2. And I had those suckers finished on time. The quilt for baby 3? Just finishing it. Awesome, except she’s 18 months old now. Hey, I was busy writing a book, y’all.

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I was also struggling with how to incorporate the elephants. I’m not sure why but whatevs. It all finally came together. img_95613. And last but not least, a journal cover for a teacher. It’s part of her Christmas gift and all I can say is I hope she likes it. If not, I do, and I’ll gladly take it back.

img_9584Interestingly, another super groovy idea came into my head late one night after I’d finished round 2 with my Bejeweler, proving that sometimes the best way to get your creative going is to clean up projects and free your mind. It makes me happy.

Now if I can just finish up these projects to get to some stuff I really want to work on I’ll be set!