365 Days Handmade

Making life a better place, one day at a time


Day 165/365: The 28-Year-Old Block Project, Quilted and Completed!

Remember last week, when my mom was visiting from Hawaii, and I started piecing together the appliqued blocks that she began hand-sewing back in 1987?

Twenty-eight years later, it’s finished!


If you missed the earlier posts about this quilt, here’s what we started with:


My mom began this project back in 1987.  She cut those blue squares with scissors instead of a rotary blade.  (I don’t even know if rotary blades and self-healing cutting mats were available back in 1987.)  Then, sewing by hand, she appliqued those little sun-hat-wearing figures to the blue background, using embroidery thread and the blanket stitch.  Her original plan was to hand-sew each of the blocks together to make one large sheet to cover a bed.

I’m not sure exactly when she stopped working on this project, but she didn’t get around to seriously picking it up again until just last year.  About three months ago, she sent a photo of the blocks to me with a text message:  “Look at what I’m working on.”  She had completed a huge pile of them.

I texted back and offered to sew the blocks together on my sewing machine.  She was planning on coming out to California in June for my nephew’s high school graduation, so I figured I’d do it while she was in town for her visit.  Fast forward to last week, when she arrived in Morro Bay with her luggage and goods from Hawaii.


When I saw the actual blocks, I realized that they’d look a lot better against a contrasting fabric, rather than sewn side by side.  So I purchased some yellow cotton and went to work.

Here is a recap of the steps:


Cutting fabric with rulers, a rotary blade, and a self-healing mat. No using scissors here!


This cute little guy needs a yellow frame to really stand out.


Each one getting his own frame.


Filling in the squares.


Sewing strips, and then sewing the strips together.


The finished quilt top!

I didn’t take any photos of layering the backing/batting/quilt-top sandwich or any photos of the actual quilting, but here’s what it looked like toward the end:


So close to being done!

And there you have it…


Ta-da! The finished quilt in all its glory.

A labor of love for my Mama.




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Day 73/365: Filipinos in The News, or A Typical Saturday Morning with My Husband


The glamorous life of writing a blog entry about being in Los Angeles and knitting a sock.  And P.S. I finally figured out how to make my photos appear bigger on the blog.

Sean and I are here in L.A. at the Best Western Monterey Park Inn. The conference where he’ll be presenting is just a couple of miles down the road, and it seemed silly for us to get in the car and drive around looking for a place to eat when there was a free continental breakfast in the lobby. We decided to go with the free food.

As it is with all major chain hotel lobbies that I’ve ever encountered, a large TV screen was mounted on the wall in the dining area, and it was showing the local morning news. And of course the dining tables and chairs were all strategically positioned in front of the television.

Sean and I generally don’t watch TV. We don’t even have cable. Unless we’re in places like bars and Best Western Inn lobbies where we absolutely cannot avoid being in the presence of an actively playing television, we never even see commercials.

We got our food and sat down at one of the tables, directly in front of the television screen. The news anchor was talking about the upcoming Los Angeles Marathon, but I was more interested in looking at his face.

“Sean,” I said, “Look. I bet you he’s Filipino!”

See, here’s the thing: Ever since I moved to the mainland from Hawaii, I’ve lived in places that are not very ethnically diverse and where I hardly ever see any other Filipinos. So I get really excited when I see somebody who I think could possibly share my ethnic heritage. If you have any Filipino friends who originally came from the Philippines like me, you understand what I’m talking about.

“Hmm,” Sean said. He’s known me for over twenty-one years now and has been exposed to my crazy family and extended relatives for almost as long. So he’s familiar with Filipinos. “Could be. Maybe.”

“What do you mean, maybe? He is Filipino. Look at him. I’m sure of it. I bet you.”

The morning news story changed from the L.A. marathon to a feature about an unidentified man on a motorcycle who rode down the escalator at a shopping center in British Columbia, rode through the automatic sliding glass doors of some store, and eventually got away. Sean and I watched the security footage clips of the guy coasting down the escalator on his motorcycle and him being comically and futilely chased by a security guard. We laughed and cheered for the getaway, and I promptly forgot what I was willing to bet.

After breakfast, there wasn’t a whole lot more to do except head back to our room. Sean had to get ready to leave for his conference. I’d brought along my laptop and a new sock that I’d started knitting. I figured I would stay in our room and do some writing and a little bit of knitting while Sean gave his presentation. (Yes, I had absolutely zero interest in going to see it, and he had absolutely zero interest in making me come along.  That’s what our marriage is like after twenty-one years of being a couple.) He planned to return before the noon check-out, and then we’d go grab some lunch.

I was logging on for internet access when Sean came out of the bathroom. He saw me on the computer and said, “So, did you find out?”

“Find out what?”

“If that news anchor is Filipino.”

“Oh, I already forgot about that. But now that you remind me.” I went to Google and started typing in some key words for a search. I found him. “His name is Adrian Arambulo. It says he was born and raised in Chicago.”

“There are no Filipinos in Chicago,” Sean said.

If you didn’t know Sean, you’d think he was being a jerk. If you do know him, then you can totally see him saying this in a deadpan manner and trying not to laugh.

“There are, too, Filipinos in Chicago!” I said. “My mom’s side of the family came out from the Philippines and went to Ohio and Missouri!”

“Ohio and Missouri are not Chicago,” Sean said.

He sang in his worst best Ilokano accent, just to tease me. “A-drree-ahn Ah-rrrum-booo-lowA-drree-ahn Ah-rrrum-booo-low.

I ignored him and did a little more searching. “Ha! See, I was right! He’s half Filipino! I win!”

I realized then that I was sitting in a Best Western Inn at 8 AM on a Saturday morning, shouting that last part about some random guy being half Filipino and me winning. I lowered my voice. “I told you.  I was right.”

“What?” Sean said innocently. “I never said you were wrong.”

“Ha, ha,” I said. “I’m putting this in the blog.”


Day 11/365: Quilted Berry Print and Green Blocks Patchwork Table Runner


I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books.  Reading about Laura and her sister Mary sewing on their quilts is what first got me interested in quilt-making.  Of course I had no clue how to make a quilt, let alone how to start the process.  This was in the early eighties, and I lived in a traditional Filipino household in rural Hawaii.  All I knew was that I wanted to be sewing on a quilt, too.

(It would have to be a nine-patch one, though, like Mary’s.  Because at least I could figure out what nine-patch blocks were.  Laura’s quilt was called Dove in the Window, and what the hell was Dove in the Window?  Google wasn’t around when I was growing up, and even if it had been– our family wouldn’t have owned a computer.  And even if we did have a computer, my brothers would have been hogging it, and then my dad would have come along and he would have yanked out the plug and maybe even broken the whole damn thing, just to shut everyone up.)

Anyway, then I read Lois Lowry’s A Summer to Die.  I must have been about eleven or twelve at the time. (Another aside– when I think about it now, that is really heavy subject matter for a kids’ book.  I mean, a story about your fifteen-year-old sister’s final stages of life– a summer to die— Really?)  So while it was a very stressful time for everyone in the family in the book, the mother of the narrator started a patchwork quilt, using fabric from her daughters’ outgrown childhood clothing.  And the idea of that quilt stayed with me.


I moved on to other books and other interests.  I taught myself how to crochet from a library book when I was in the seventh grade.  I went on to high school, undergrad, and then graduate school.  I got a master’s in creative writing.  I went out into the job market and landed in teaching.  Time passed.  I didn’t even recognize it, but looking back now– I was unhappy and depressed.  I wasn’t doing the things I loved.  It finally took some prodding from Sean and a move across the country for me to admit that I needed to make drastic changes.  Or else I would be dying the slow painful life of a central Florida middle school teacher bitterly counting the years to retirement.

In 2003, I went back to graduate school in a completely different discipline.  To deal with the stress of being a broke, thirty-something-year-old grad student, I learned how to knit.  I knitted and crocheted through years of three-hour-long classes, eight-hour-day seminars, multiple unpaid traineeships, a dissertation,  pre- and post-doc internships, four separate licensing exams, and finally, finally, I got to the point where I was securely established in a full-time permanent state job with benefits and a pension.  I was a long way away from the little girl who liked to read all the time and write stories and daydream about making a patchwork quilt out of old faded gingham dresses.




Then it happened just a little over three months ago.  Back in September, when my colleague and I should have been watching a webinar but were reading the newspaper instead, I noticed a small ad for a local fabric shop, Picking Daisies.  They were offering a beginner’s quilting class, and the featured project was a patchwork quilt made out of blocks.  After all these years, it came at just the right time.  I was in the right place.