Saturday, December 31, 2016

Farewell 2016: Another Fantastic Year of Quilting Adventures!!

Just a few hours left in 2016...plenty of time to tackle my New Year's Resolutions!!  Just kidding...especially since one of my resolutions was to beat looming deadlines (more on that later!)

I had some fun this week reflecting on my quilting adventures throughout 2016:  quilt finishes, challenges, successes and lessons learned (some more painful than others).  Join me as I take a stroll down memory land...

Let's check out my progress tackling this year's set of New Year's Resolutions...

1.  Use It or Lose It!
I was starting to feel a bit like Gollum coveting all my precious pre-cuts, hand dyed bundles and my own personal hand dyes!  Instead, I made them even more special by incorporating them into beautiful quilted treasures...some finished quilts, some finished quilt tops, baskets and lots of scrappy postage stamp blocks!
Use 'Em!
2.  Incorporate More Intentional Design Into My Quilts
Considerable time and effort went into tackling this resolution.  I read several books focused on art design (composition, color combinations, design principles) and applied them to my walk about photo shoots (10-12 in total).  But the true test was my participation in Katie Pasquini Mosopust's Color & Composition online course!!  Every two weeks we received an assignment that required us to create a quilt that incorporated various design principles.  I managed to complete all 8 assignments (two left to finish quilting/binding) which then received a personalized critique from Katie.  I won't lie--it was an intense 16 weeks (which also coincided with Project Quilting challenge!!) but I am really proud of my results...especially since two went on to be juried into the SCVQA Jazz Impressions Exhibit and Pacific International Quilt Festival (with Orange You Glad I Got the Blues? winning an Honorable Mention ribbon!!)
Color & Composition Series
3.  Put Myself Out There as a Quilt Artist
I took a huge leap of faith and started my own small business focused on being a quilt artist and teacher:  Mel Beach Quilts!  I invested a lot of time in setting up the business/marketing side of things:  creating a website, business cards, mailing out postcards to quilt guilds, facebook posts, blog posts and writing a business plan!  And of course, I also needed to develop some workshops and a lecture to offer to quilt guilds/shops...which was the fun part!!  My efforts certainly paid off as I led two Quilting 101 demos for my guild, taught 4 in person workshops and presented my "Challenge Yourself!" lecture/trunk show for 4 quilt guilds in Northern California and Nevada!  I had so much fun sharing my passion and experience with other quilters and inspiring them to try something new!!

Of course, when I wasn't tackling the business side of things, I needed to spend some time creating new quilts and entering them into quilt challenges and shows!  I made 10 challenge quilts (Hoffman, Cherrywood Lion King, MQU 10x10, Michael Miller/MQG, Modern Quilt Unlimited Everything Old is New Again and Project Quilting) as well as enter my quilts into a variety of quilting venues (# of quilts juried in):  Pacific International Quilt Festival (2), Mancuso's Modern Quilt Challenge (1), Road to California (2), New Quilts of Northern California (1), AQS Spring Paducah (TBD) and QuiltCon (1).  I also had several quilts included in traveling exhibits (CREA-TV, Focus Through the Prism Quilts, Hoffman Challenge) as well as get published in Quilters Newsletter (CREA-TV) and in two of RaNae Merrill's newest books!!
I Love Sharing My Quilts & Passion With Other Quilters!!
4.   Beat the Looming Deadlines
Yup!  I was a super busy girl this year!  My calendar and helpful reminders were my best friend in ensuring that I was able to meet all these deadlines!  In most cases I managed to enter my quilts 24 hours+ before the deadline, but I won't lie:  there were a few 11th hour entries.  In one case, I experienced a quilt challenge miracle in the form of a 2 week extension for the Hoffman Challenge...alleluiah!!!  And there were two or three quilt challenges/entry deadliens that were on my radar but I simply did not have the bandwidth to work on an entry.  But given all that I did manage to finish and enter, I can't be too hard on myself!

5.  Continue Tackling UFOs
I have a feeling this will be an enternal New Year's Resolution!  The good news is that I managed to completely quilt/bind and finish 3 UFOs from year's past, as well as make considerable progress on another 5 UFOs.  I also donated some orphan blocks for my quilt guild...so that is one less UFO on my docket!  The bad news is that I added 9 new UFOs to my list!!  The vast majority were started in a class/workshop/retreat environment and I have good intentions of finishing them.  Three are sets of postage stamp blocks, which helped me achieve Resolution #1 of using charms, and another is an in progress mystery quilt along which I am staying on schedule.  Luckily my guild is hosting a UFO Exchange starting in January...so perhaps I may find new home for one or more of my UFOs!
New UFO Sightings in 2016
So all in all, I am very pleased with my progress on my 2016 New Year's Resolutions!!

Here are a few other highlights from 2016:
  • # of Finished Quilts:  a Whopping 30 Quilts!!!!!
2016 Quilt Finishes
  • Smaller Finished Items:  Baskets, Infinity Scarves, Ornaments and Zipper Pouches!!
New Projects and Gifts!!
  • Sharing My Time & Talents with Others:  Led two Q101 Demos on Slice and Insert Technique, Wrapped up my 4 Year Term as Guild Historian, Worked on Blocks/Quilts for Charity and Awareness
Good Deeds for 2016
  • Art Inspired Fun via Art After Dark, PaintNite, Quilting Retreats, Small Quilt Group, attending QuiltCon, Asilomar/Empty Spools session with Louisa Smith, Jane Dunnewold's Creative Strength Training Camp, Fabric Painting and Dyeing sessions (as a bonus, I was able to share these experiences with fellow quilters & family, as well as meet some new friends).
  • Working in a Series!  I did not plan to work on a series, but once the opportunity and inspiration presented itself, I had so much fun working through different designs and techniques to create some really exciting results, including new workshops!!      
Series #1:  Slice of Improvisational Piecing
Series #2:  Mandalas (pieced, quilted, appliqued, hand dyed and even electronic!
  • Weaning myself off of using the Bernina Stitch Regulator for Free Motion Quilting!!  This turned out to be much easier than expected, but I just needed a little motivation--so thank you RaNae Merrill and your new book:  Free Motion Mastery in a Month!!
  • Embracing the color brown in my quilting.  Yes--I actually incorporated the color brown into 4 quilts this year, a dyeing session and even fabric purchases!!  Shocking, I know!!
Brown is Beautiful!!
WOW!!!  What a fantastic year of quilting adventures!  I know most folks think 2016 was an absolute disaster, but I sure found lots of reasons to celebrate in 2016.  Many thanks to all my family, friends and fellow quilters for all your friendship, encouragement, inspiration and helping to make 2016 so spectacular!!   

And now, I would like to wish you a very happy new year!  May 2017 bring you quilting joy and bliss!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Best of 2016 Blog Posts

As 2017 rapidly approaches, I'd like to take a few moments to reflect on my quilting adventures this past year:  successes, failures and lessons learned.  Once again, the fabulous Cheryl Brickey, of Meadow Mist Designs (who also hosts the Meadow Mystery Quilt Along), is hosting a "Best of 2016" Linky Party as a way for bloggers to celebrate and share their top 5 blog posts.

Believe it or not, but I posted 106 times in 2016 (and I still have a few more up my sleeve).  So how to choose my top 5?!?  Cheryl provides a few example criteria to help us choose our top 5 posts:
  • Post with the most views
  • Post with the most comments
  • Posts that provoked the best discussions
  • Posts showing your favorite 2016 finishes
  • Posts that are simply your favorite! 
Drum roll please...and let the countdown begin...


This was the 3rd finished quilt in my Project Quilting series and proof that you can start and finish a beautiful quilt in just 1 week!!  I had so much fun using Aurifil threads to free motion quilt this wholecloth beauty and was thrilled to learn that Aurifil featured it on their facebook page (helping me to get a whopping 540 views!!) 

This little quilt also kick-started my series focused on mandala quilts.  Over the next few months I created 3 more wholecloth mandalas, an appliqued mandala, two modern pieced mandalas and some hand dyed mandalas.  I just love the repetitive and meditative properties of a mandala design and I hope to continue this series in 2017. 






This was the final reveal in a 3-part blog series outlining my design process for my "Circle of Life" entry into Cherrywood's Lion King Challenge.  

While this blog post yielded nearly 300 viewings and several lovely comments, I am sorry to say that this quilt did not get juried into the traveling exhibit.

Yes, I was initially crushed by the rejection, but rather than sulk, I found solace in this Nelson Mandala quote:

"I never lose. I either win, or learn." 

I certainly learned a great deal by participating in this challenge!




This post was the final reveal of a series of posts about participating in RaNae Merrill's "Free Motion Mastery in a Month" online laboratory in preparation for her latest book focused on Free Motion Quilting.  

Up until this point, I had relied on using the Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR) to achieve consistent stitches.  I chose to challenge myself by completing all the exercises without using the BSR and was pleasantly surprised by the ease of this transition!  Moreover, I had a lot of fun discovering new motifs and combinations to create beautiful textures to my quilt.



  

2.  Viva Las Vegas!  (October 17)


This past year, I took a big gamble by joining the quilt teaching circuit.  In October, I traveled to Las Vegas to present my first "Challenge Yourself!" lecture/trunk show!  

I had so much fun visiting with the Las Vegas Quilters and sharing my love of Quilt Challenges.  I was ecstatic to learn that they were so inspired by my presentation that they have since unveiled plans introduce quilt challenges in the new year!!

I too left feeling inspired by all the wonderful art to be found throughout Sin City!!

 












1.  Peace of Mind (December 3)


The Presidential election process gave way to so much conflict and showed a very ugly side of America.  Like so many Americans, I experienced enormous grief after learning the election results.  I turned to quilting to help me work through my feelings and seek renewed hope, peace and compassion.

A week later, "Peace of Mind" emerged.  It was improv pieced using 5" charms swapped with quilters from across the United States back in 2012.  I was honored to see so many of my family & friends share messages of hope and love, many of which were lovingly stitched into the background, along with Peace translated into different languages.  I love the end result--both the finished quilt, as well as a renewed sense of hope for humanity.  
Many thanks for visiting and celebrating a fun year in quilting!  Special thanks to Cheryl for hosting this fun Best of 2016 Party!!

Later this week, I will reflect on my progress with my 2016 Quilting New Year's Resolutions, as well reveal my plans for more quilt adventures in 2017!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Hippie Holidays!!

Now that Santa has completed all his deliveries...I can share pictures of some of this year's hand dyed holiday gifts!

First on my list are all the well-behaved pooches that made it on Santa Paws' "Nice" list (although they've certainly had their fair share of naughty moments!)  Don't they look so stylish in their hand dyed pet bandanas?!?
Santa Paws' "Nice" List (clockwise starting top left):  Panda, Morgan (the girls' new boyfriend), Susie Q, Parsley & Helix
Of course, all these stylish pooches needed their families to match and so Santa was happy to include some hand dyed shirts, bandanas, socks & underwear for all their 2-legged companions!
Joy to the World!
Boring socks & underwear got a much needed makeover...
"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there"
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
I'll Have a Blue Christmas in chilly San Jose to I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas in sunny Florida!
Hippie Holidays from my family to yours!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I'm Dreaming of a Tie-Dyed Christmas...Complete with a Fun Holiday Give Away!!

This past week, I was a busy lil' elf working to brighten the holidays with some homemade, tie dyed gifts for family & friends (and a fun Give Away!!--details below).

Santa's lil helper's workshop!!
I was determined not to repeat October's dud results where everyone left with pastel colored fabrics & socks.  Last summer, a friend and I
dyed two 12-step gradations using  Frieda Anderson's "Fabric to Dye For" book and we got some amazing results.  So I refreshed myself on Frieda's process and formulas, and went to work soaking all the fabrics, clothing & accessories in the soda ash fixative the night before.  The next morning, I pulled out my blender used exclusively for dyeing, my notes and set out to make a quart each of red, yellow and blue, magenta, lemon and turquoise dye, along with a little bit of black dye.  Once the dyes were mixed, I went to town adding splashes of color to all the holiday gifts on my list.  Four hours later, I had finished adding color to the last few dyed goods, and the clean up process was almost complete.  The only evidence to be found was concealed in the laundry room, where a large assortment of plastic containers were full of dyed goods undergoing the batching process.

As usual, I woke up super early the next day to began the washout/clean up process:  removing rubberbands, squeezing out excess dye, rinsing the fabrics, and cleaning all the containers.  Given the large volume of items dyed, these repetitive movements really started to take a toll on my back.  But any pain or discomfort was soon forgotten once I started pulling the gorgeous fabrics out of the dryer!!

Santa Claus is still out delivering many of the gifts to all the good boys & girls on my list, so I don't want to ruin any surprises...but I can show you some of the items I dyed for myself (as I have been a very good girl this year!!)

First up..some rainbow burst fabrics (all fat quarter sized).  I squished the pre-soaked fabrics accordion style into a plastic tray and simply poured the dye on in color bands:  red, yellow and turquoise.  Then I would squirt yellow and turquoise on at the same time to get green, red/yellow for orange and red/blue for violet.  I love the colorful bursts!!
Bright Color Bursts:  Magenta, Lemon & Turquoise
Warm Color Bursts:  Chinese Red, Bright Yellow & Cerulean Blue
For this piece, I used the iron to pleat the fabric, which I then used some rubber bands to section off and fold into half.  I squirted the three bright primaries and blended as needed.  I really love this piece and can't wait to work it into a future project!!
Pleated Rainbow

 





I wanted to experiment more with created some dyed mandalas and prepared some 22" squares and 44" squares.  I am so pleased with the results and may try to create some wholecloth quilts with some complementary free motion quilted designs!!
22" Mandalas
44" Mandalas and Rainbow Bursts
 Many of my holiday gifts were hand dyed clothing and accessories to brighten the wardrobe of family/friends.  But I figured my wardrobe could benefit from some tie dyed color and treated myself to a new draped tank top and jacket.
For Yours Truly...
If you find yourself drooling over all these gorgeous hand dyed beauties...then boy do I have a treat for you:  My first fabric give away!!!!!  
Fabric Give Away!!!
Yes my friends, here is your chance to win two rainbow burst fat quarters (one each from the bright and warm color burst series), along with a mystery surprise!!

This drawing is open to all US residents and will stay open until 12 noon (PST) on December 31st, at which time I will pick a winner using Random Generator and I will email the lucky winner by January 1st.  12/31 Update:  Giveaway is CLOSED.  Congratulations to Pauline for having her # randomly selected!!  I will be mailing out her hand dyed goodies in the next day or two!!

To be entered, simply leave a comment below and share one new quilt-related skill, technique or challenge you tried this year!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Live from Fremont!

Confession time:  For the past 5-6 months, I've been secretly enrolled in Comedy Improv classes!

For those of you that know me well...this little announcement is probably a total shock as it is so unlike me and so completely outside my comfort zone.

I will let you in on another secret...earlier in the year, I discovered Made Up Theatre, this fabulously talented comedy improv troupe in Fremont, CA.  Their weekend performances are absolutely hilarious, as each show is fueled by audience suggestions (very similar to Whose Line Is it Anyway?).  Their shows are so much fun that I go almost every weekend!!  I highly, highly, highly recommend that you check out one of their shows.

In addition to their weekly shows, they also offer private shows, team-building/corporate training workshops and even teach comedy improv classes!  As I was gearing up to start my presenting my quilting workshops and lecture/trunks shows to quilt guilds and shops, I was looking for ways to improve my public presentation skills and confidence in speaking with larger audiences.  So I figured this would be a fun professional development opportunity and went on to sign up for Level A:  Elements of Improv.

I was a little nervous heading into my first class, as I had no idea what to expect.  Those two hours flew by so fast as we had so much fun playing game after game, while unlocking the fundamentals of good comedy improv along the way.  We learned the importance of "Yes, and..." in acknowledging and contributing to what others present along the way; that not only is it ok to make a mistake up on stage, but that these mistakes are often wonderful gifts to our fellow performers and add another layer of humor to the experience; and how important it is to support your fellow performers and have their back.  My classmates and I really bonded over this shared experience and many of us have gone onto continue the fun in Level B and Level C.    

This past weekend, as part of our Level C graduation, we had our first public performance open to family & friends.  We were ecstatic to see so many of our family & friends in attendance (the owners had to bring in more chairs to accommodate!!).  The great thing about comedy improv is that it requires you to be 100% in the moment and attentive to what your fellow cast members are doing, so you totally forget that there is a live audience watching (until of course, they applaud, laugh and cheer!!)  Similar to all our classes, the hour-long show flew by and the next thing we knew it was over!!

Many thanks to all my fellow classmates (from Level A through C) who were 100% supportive and brought wonderful energy to each and every skit.  I learned something from each of them.  Special thanks to our fearless teachers (Sean, Dustin and Robert), who shared their passion for comedy improv and really pushed us outside of our individual comfort zones, while providing a supportive learning environment.  Many thanks to my family & friends who cheered me on and even threw out one of the first scene suggestions:  "Quilt Show!" that was certainly in my comfort zone for the first half!!  For those that were unable to attend this past weekend, mark your calendars for February 19th, as I move onto Level D which will conclude with another graduation show.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

This morning we woke to find the ground covered in frost.  We bundled up for our morning walk and tried to capture some of the beauty of the ice covered leaves before the sun melted it all away.


Brrrr!!  Hurry up taking all these pics so we can return home and snuggle on the couch!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Holiday Fun at Quilting 101

This month's Quilting 101 attendees were treated to a double dose of holiday themed demonstrations.  Both demos featured a different holiday ornament that could be made using fabric scraps.

First up was Donna, who demonstrated these adorable folded fabric ornaments.  Donna went above and beyond in providing kits for all attendees.  Not only did she cut out two circles of coordinating holiday prints per person (x 32 attendees), but she also included the thread and button needed for the finishing these little beauties.  Thanks to all her prep work, helpful handout and well-organized demonstration, these little ornaments came together super quick.
Next up was Cynthia who showed us how to weave and twist folded strips of fabric into fabric star ornaments.  I have one of these ornaments hanging on my Christmas tree, so I was very curious to learn how to make more.  In my stash, I found several prints that had gold and silver metallic accents, and prepared a lot of strips in advance.  Cynthia guided us through an online tutorial, making sure to identify the potential pitfalls, and providing some inspiration of turning them into adorable magic wands!!  The first star was a bit tricky as there is definitely a learning curve involved.  But the subsequent ones were much easier.  Good thing too, as over the next few days, I ended up making a total of 17 of these ornaments to give to family & friends!   
Oh Christmas Tree!


When we arrived to set up for the day, we were surprised to find a large, un-decorated Christmas tree in the room.  We decided to put it to good use as we displayed all the beautiful ornaments made by attendees.  What a festive and quilterly tree!!

Many thanks to Ileane & LaNelle for all their hard work to organize Quilting 101 and tap the talents of our membership for quality demonstrations.

Special thanks to our two all-star demonstrators, Donna & Cynthia, for sharing their time & talents to spread some holiday cheer this season!! 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Transforming Orphan Blocks into Oh WOW!!

Tis the season for holiday celebrating, caring & sharing.  Each year, the Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association hosts a holiday party for the membership.  It is a relaxing evening where members come together to spread some holiday cheer, partake in some seasonal snacks and support a local organization.  For this year's holiday party, we will be supporting the Learning & Loving Education Center, an organization that provides "educational opportunities and outreach to low-income immigrant women and their children who are living in south Santa Clara County."  Members are invited to donate items from the center's wish list (published in the newsletter), monetary donations and/or contribute one or more 12.5" quilted/squared blocks that will be assembled into donation quilts for the center.

I have a small collection of orphan blocks (leftover from quilts and/or random blocks made in workshops).  There I found a group of six matching blocks made in my early experimentation with foundation piecing back in 2010/2011.  My inexperience showed as the center seams are a bit wonky, the centers don't lay nice and flat and at least one of the units was pieced with the wrong side of the fabric up!!  But still, they were bright, colorful and most importantly, 12.5"!  I gave each block a good pressing so they would lie relatively flat.  I found a coordinating pink & green print in my stash to use for block backings, and raided my bin of batting scraps to make the block sandwiches.
Orphan Blocks & Backing Fabric From My Stash
Once my sandwiches were pin basted, I was ready to transform these blocks with beautiful quilted texture.  I decided to challenge myself by stitching different motifs & designs into each block.  I began by stitching the light yellowed centers with matching Aurifil 50 weight threads.  From there, I moved onto quilting the pink petals, in attempt to complement and/or enhance the yellow centers.  The process continued through the green leaves and finally the cream colored background.  This exercise really pushed me to consider new combinations and ultimately resulted in six gorgeous blocks!!
Blocks Transformed with Quilted Textures
And while each block is unique, you may recognized some similarities when you look a bit closer. Take for example the pairing below...   
Both blocks actually use very similar fills in each of the pieced areas:  figure eights and loop de loops.  However, in the left block I outlined each section with gentle arcs and c-curves, whereas in the right block, the same areas are outlined with straight lines and chevrons.  This simple variation totally transforms the design!

In two of the blocks, I began with a basic shape that I then reworked and repeated to fill each section.  See if you can identify the basic shape for each of the blocks below...
In the left block, I reworked the basic loop de loop to fit into different shapes & sizes, including a loop de loop meander for the background.  In the right block, I experimented with different spiral shapes:  question marks in the yellow centers and leaves, spiral flowers in the pink sections and my favorite, escargot in the background.  

All these blocks are constructed with two basic individual shapes:  triangles & pentagons.  In some cases, I focused on these individual shapes and how best to fill them in.  These shapes combine to create new shapes:  octagons, a ring of petals, kite shaped triangle leaves and backgrounds.  
In these two blocks, I had fun creating abstractions of the various flower anatomy:  center, petals & leaves  The left block has recognizable petal shapes, stamen and surrounding leaves stitched into the design.  The right block is more modern and abstract, but hopefully you can still recognize the floral parts.

In case you couldn't tell...I had so much fun transforming these orphan blocks!  I must confess that I did briefly consider keeping them all for myself.  But alas, they will be turned in at the holiday party, where part of the festivities will involve laying out all the donated blocks to be later assembled into donation quilts.  I am excited to see how they will all turn out!!

I am very much looking forward to all the other festivities planned for the holiday party.  I will be hosting one of the fun activities.  And while I don't want to ruin the surprise; there just may be some fabric prizes in store (hint-hint)!!  That is all you are getting out of me!!  You will just have to come to the shindig and see what holiday merriment awaits!!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Peace of Mind

When it comes to politics, I tend to be pretty quiet and opt to keep my own political beliefs and values to myself.  And while this strategy typically has worked well for me, I can no longer remain silent in light of this past Presidential Election.  Like many Americans (and much of the world), I experienced a wide range of emotions after learning that Donald Trump won enough electoral votes to become the next President of the United States:  shock, disbelief, sadness, anger and fear.  I tried to process my emotions and attempt to understand how so many of my fellow Americans could support a candidate who not only preyed upon others' fears, but went so far as to overtly attack women, individuals with disabilities, Latinos and the LGBTQ community.  And while I know the United States is not immune to hatred, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, I had no idea just how rampant or strong these beliefs were within Americans.  This past election brought out a very dark side of America, one that I have a difficult time recognizing or accepting.

After several restless nights, I was looking for a way to express my feelings about the tension within our political climate.  A voice within screamed "make a quilt."  The 2017 QuiltCon East deadline was one week away and I wondered whether it would even be possible to design and finish a quilt that would 1. express my feelings, 2.  be strong enough to be juried into QuiltCon and 3.  simply be done in time for the deadline.
A Sign

I began to write down my thoughts and sketch out a few possible quilt designs.  I must confess that both the writing and the accompanying images were equally dark and grim, and I wondered if I would have the strength to work through the darkness.

I dug deep to find the peace within and reached for a roll of blue tape to outline a large Peace sign on my design wall.  Almost immediately, I felt a sense of hope:  hope that I would be able to have a quilt ready to enter, and hope for our nation's future.

To symbolize the diversity of our country, I wanted to improvisationally piece a color wheel out of scraps.  Just as I was about to raid my scrap bin, I remembered the stash of 5" charms from participating in two charm swaps back in 2012.  More than 70 quilters from across the country participated in these charm swaps, adding a rich variety of colors, pattern and texture to my quilt.  As you can imagine, I had so much fun going through this stack and sorting them by color family.  I could feel the stress just melt away as I absorbed myself in all this glorious color!
Little Pieces of Fabric From Across the Country
For each of the 12 sections of my color wheel, I would start with 10-12 charms and cut them into different sized shapes/strips ranging from 1" to 3".  I would incorporate a few strips from my own scrap bin as needed.  For my first few fabric slabs, I just assembled them with no real plan or intention.  
Piece of Peace
After experimenting with some improvised log cabin shapes to highlight some of the larger prints, I decided to use this basic structure for all my slabs.  I went back and sliced up the initial red slab and reworked the components into a log cabin structure and then resumed my clockwise progress around the color wheel.  Once all twelve color slabs were pieced, it was time to figure out how best to assemble my peace sign.  I went back and forth on different construction designs but they all involved assembling the center first.  Luckily I had leftover units and scraps to fill in the center line and branches.  For the perimeter, I chose to start with a partial seam to attach spinning borders/slabs.  I was pleasantly surprised that the construction went as smooth as it did, and despite my initial worries, I soon I had a pieced peace sign!!!
Working Towards Peace
All along I knew I wanted to insert floating triangles into the background to represent just how fractured our nation is at the present.  When first starting this quilt, I had planned on piecing a gradated background that went from white at the top to different values of grey and finally to black along the bottom.  In fact, Doug and I spent an entire evening pressing and cutting up a stack of squares for the background.  But as I began working on the peace sign itself, I felt much more optimistic and hopeful.  I chose to keep this positive energy flowing and scrapped the grey scale background for a more bright and cheerful confetti print that I found in my stash.  It was vibrant and tied in beautifully with my fractured vision.  Unfortunately there wasn't enough yardage to fill in the background entirely, and thus became a design opportunity to enlarge some of the fractions in order to fill in the gaps!  Again, I was able to use up leftover units and scraps for each of these floating triangles.
Fractured Background
Early into my designing process, I wanted to incorporate words and messages.  In my darker stages, I had considered incorporating fear, hate and harm.  But as I found peace, I chose to focus on the positive messages which I would free motion stitch into the background.  Doug and I brainstormed 40 or so uplifting words of peace, respect and passsion, but I feared this would not be enough to fill in the background area.  So I put a call out to family & friends via facebook:
Dear facebook friends & family...I need your input!!  I am looking for words of hope, peace, love and inspiration to stitch into a top secret quilt that I am making in response to the current state of our nation/world.  I welcome all and any suggestions that are positive and hopeful for a more peaceful/compassionate world."
I was delighted to see 25+ of my friends & family (many of which are not quilters) respond and contribute more messages of peace.  I was just thrilled that so many embraced the challenge and more than tripled my list of words!!  Not only that, but reading all these messages of peace gave me the energy to endure two marathon days of intense quilting (10+ hours/day).  Last but not least, one participant even shared that "just this exercise offers healing of its own."  Many thanks to all who participated in this exercise and I hope you too experienced peace within.  

As I prepared to start free motion stitching the words, I turned to my trusted blue painter's tape to establish lines to keep my words straight.  Since many of the words included j's, p's, q's, y's and z's, I chose to work my way from bottom to top in order to avoid stitching into the taped lines.  I found that I had to retrain my brain to free motion quilt all the words in cursive.  Part of it was remembering to take the time to cross my t's and dot my i's with hearts as I stitched along.  But I also had to figure out how to start new words without breaking thread.  When I first started out, I practiced writing each word using a dry erase marker onto my acrylic board.  Over time, I became more comfortable with cursive writing and no longer needed to sketch out each word.
Pieces of Blue Tape to the Rescue!
I auditioned a few different threads including Aurifil white, grey and black.  I skipped the black and dark grey as I did not want to detract from the Peace sign design.  I opted to use Superior's Fantastico Pixie Dust as it provided a bit of subtle color and sheen (it was a bit difficult to photograph, but know that it looks so beautiful in person!!)

In total, I believe there are almost 100 words of hope and love stitched into the background including: Advocate, Aloha, Community, Compromise, Convergence, Dignity, Empower, Engage, Faith, Honor, Integrity, Listen, Mercy,  Reflect, Respect, Support, Tolerance, Understanding and Unite.  Within the peace sign itself, I chose to stitch in 30 translations of Peace including  Amani (Swahili), Fred (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish), HePing (Chinese) Pace (Italian), Paix (French) and Pokoj (Polish).  I found the quilting process to be very meditative as I reflected on each word as I stitched them out.
Messages of Hope & Peace Stitched into Background
For the binding and backing, I raided my bin of rainbow fabrics.  There I found a wonderfully vibrant rainbow ombre for the binding.  I also found 2 yards of this wonderful cheater cloth which made for a lovely quilt back.  I supplemented it with a Michael Miller print featuring Peace signs.
Pieces of Rainbow From My Stash
With less than 24 hours until the entry deadline, I managed to stitch on the label and binding.  Mother nature was on my side as I woke up early to capture photographs to complete my online entry.  A few hours later, I drafted my Artist Statement which had to be under 100 words:
In the wake of the 2016 Presidential Election, we are left with a fractured nation in which respectful dialogue has been replaced with fear, hatred, and violence.  It is my hope that “Peace of Mind” will serve as an example of how we can pick up the pieces and come together to restore peace and compassion.  The Peace sign and surrounding fractures are improvisationally pieced with charms exchanged with 60+ quilters from across the country.  Over 100 messages of love and hope (from Facebook friends & family) are stitched into the background (including 30 translations of Peace).  Peace to all!
I am so incredibly proud of this quilt!  I truly hope it will be considered by the QuiltCon jury.  But regardless of the jury's decision, I found the entire process to be incredibly therapeutic, meditative and much needed for my own well being.  Despite the fact that I was literally racing the clock to finish in time, I felt so incredibly happy and at peace as I worked on this quilt.  I hope you too will celebrate its joy and peace.  
  
"Peace of Mind," 53" x 53"