I made two tiny quilts and a little watercolor, and suddenly life is much better

When I wrote a few days ago, I felt quite grim. I’ve had to face the reality that the last few months have been the worst ever in terms of health. I’m constantly looking down at my rock bottom and wondering if the floor will fall farther. How does one cope with that? There isn’t a manual, I’ve checked. I’ve chosen two things to help: to work on my mind-body connection and to make art. I’ll write about the mind-body stuff later. For now, art!

On Monday, my new Bernina arrived. Oh, baby. It’s been a full year since I started sewing. I know because Amazon Prime Day just went by, and it was that day last year that I bought a Singer Heavy Duty machine to make sailboat cushions. I never made cushions, but I did end up falling in love with sewing, and the romance is still going strong. Greg, the best husband in the universe, to my total shock, said yes to a “better sewing machine”. I tried a bunch out and there was no doubt. The Bernina 530 was my girl. I named her Eowyn. We’re going to slay things together.

I thought it would take me days just to learn how to use my new machine. Ha! I was so wrong! Berninas are so beautifully elegant, it took me about fifteen minutes to figure everything out. And then I sat there wondering what to do with her! Normally I have a bunch of projects lined up, but like I said, I’ve been really sick lately, and haven’t been spending much time up here in my sewing room. I specifically avoided getting any big projects ready to go because I didn’t want to feel rushed to learn the machine (and end up frustrated).

When I realized I had this gorgeous machine and “nothing to sew”, I just sat down and started putting scraps together. No rhyme, no reason, just see how she sews!

I had bought some batting and quilting thread, so I decided to piece together a tiny little quilt.

I loved it! I have no idea what to do with it, and it isn’t some great piece of quilting art, but it was a little piece of quilting art, and it could be hanging in a gallery for what it means to me. I was so surprised at this reaction within myself! I have a very healthy inner critic. A little too healthy – if any part of me needed to get chronic fatigue syndrome, it was that part. I’ve avoided artistic pursuits for years specifically because I didn’t think I was good enough, and I’d “just end up embarrassing myself”. Not good enough. What does that even mean? Good enough for what? Because anyone with a sketchbook has to be headed toward their MA in Fine Arts and a career in the international art scene?

Well, screw that. Maybe it’s the release of age. I’m almost 43, I don’t care about making anything into a career anymore, or whether I’d be good at something in comparison to a hundred other people. I just want to make things that make me happy. I could really use some happiness right now. And holy crap, okay? This little square of fabric? This little red-patched purple-trimmed little nuttin has been in my bag all day, just so I can pull it out and smile at it. I did it. I made art, and it made me very happy.

So this morning I got up and thought, “I should make another one!”

I cut out some octopuses and arranged them with some batik circles, and stitched them all up.

Then I put some batting in there and ended up with the piece you see at the top of the post. That funky stitch around the border is one of the new stitches on Eowyn. <happy sigh>

Since I can’t quilt away from home (at least not that easily), I decided to start trying to draw again. I have all these websites bookmarked – and a few actual books bookmarked – on urban sketching and watercolor, but I never do anything with them. Well, a couple weeks ago my friend Rachael was showing me her bag, and I loved it. I’d seen Rickshaw bags before but when I’d checked them out a few years ago, they didn’t have the little loop I need for a support strap for walking (<—-blah blah bag geekery). But Rachael’s had that loop! Apparently, the company had improved the design, woot!

I went to the website and ordered a bag, but not before doing some internet research on reviews of Rickshaw bags. That’s when I found a blog by a local woman who is an artist and also loves her Rickshaw bag. Oh, and she also happens to have a husband named Greg, which made me smile. Those Greg husbands are good people! AND, she happens to love urban sketching, so once I was done reading her thoughts about the bag, I began reading about her sketching. So inspiring! She mentioned a book that I thought looked awfully familiar:

It looked familiar because I’d bought it a couple years ago, started to read it, got intimidated, and put it on the shelf. Well, like I said, I’m done feeling intimidated, it’s time to just enjoy the process, whatever comes out. So I started reading it, and like Tina’s blog, it was also incredibly inspiring! It’s really a great book, I definitely recommend it. Go draw, everyone!

I started carrying my little sketchbook and my tiny watercolor set in my new bag. This afternoon, Greg and I took Miles to a dentist appointment right by Green Lake. While they were hanging out, I walked down to the lake, plopped my feet into the water, and sat down on one of the stone steps. I pulled out my book and started drawing.

Within a few minutes, a family sat down nearby, and two sweet kids, a girl and a boy, siblings, began asking me all kinds of questions. She was six, and he was probably three or so, and they were fascinated by the entire process. I chatted with their dad for a few minutes, and then the kids took over and we had a lovely time.

“Why are you doing this?”

“Because I love to make art! Isn’t it fun?”

“Yeah! Are you drawing the water now?”

“Yep! It’s not really blue, is it? It’s kind of a grey-green color.”

“Yeah, but the sky is really blue!”

“Yeah, let’s find a bright blue for the sky.”

“How old are you?”

“I’ll be 43 in a few weeks.”

“Wow. I’m six. Do you have kids?”

“I do! My son is almost fifteen.”


“And my daughter is twelve! That’s twice your age. She draws all the time.”

“I like to draw, too. I draw at home.”

“Home is a great place to draw! Do you paint, too?”

“Sometimes. Hey, are you going to paint that dock? You should paint it black.”

“Do you think it’s black? Or does it look browner?”

“Oh! It’s dark brown.”

On and on, I loved it! Two little helpers, all three of us enjoying the process.

I spent about ten minutes just throwing stuff on the page, I wasn’t sure how much time I’d have. I came up with this:

Nothing special, and yet it’s so so special. I love that. I love how you can make a little piece of art that isn’t anything to anyone else, but means the world to you, you know? As long as I have this little watercolor, I’ll remember those two kids, and the warmth of the sun hitting my shoulders, and the gratefulness I felt at being able to steal away for a few minutes to dip my feet in a cool lake. I’ll remember them arguing with their dad about how they should really be allowed to take off all their clothes and swim, and it didn’t matter if they were wet in the car later or if they forgot to bring towels. And it didn’t matter that two days ago I was so weak I had trouble walking around the house. Today, I walked four thousand steps. And for a little while, I felt normal.

On the walk back to the dentist’s office, I spotted this guy, doing some beautiful work:

He looked so happy and peaceful, it was so calming to watch him. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for coming out, Mr. Painting Guy. Maybe when I’m as old as he is, I’ll be painting that well, if I keep practicing!


  1. Angelle says:

    This really inspires me. I have a harsh inner critic and it makes it hard for me to make anything with the amount of time and energy I have.

  2. erniek3 says:

    I love Mr Painting Guy. I’m not so crazy about Nearly Nude Walking Guy, but he’s a fair weather person on weekends. They are both on the Green Lake dish towel. Fame of a sort.

    I love your work. It makes me happy. Aiming the health ray in your direction……

    • Hahahaha! I haven’t seen Nearly Nude Walking Guy! My Green Lake visits are pretty few and far between, but being there this week made me want to visit a lot more often.

      Thank you for the compliment, I so appreciate it! And the health rays, oh yeah, send those RIGHT along! 🙂

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