Bolt From the Blue, Part II: PaperGirl Leaders and Endert Essay Contest!

This is just the beginning. The HSTs will finish about 1 1/4'', I think. Patchwork and photo: Me!
This is just the beginning. The HSTs will finish about 1 1/4”, I think. Patchwork and photo: Me.


Yesterday, as I was piecing my Bolt From the Blue quilt, I was dealing with serious regret. The regrets were small but continual: They were waste regrets.

The 2 1/2” x 4 1/2” Flying Geese units I was making (and will continue to make for this quilt) involve some not insubstantial fabric waste. I use the the flippy-corner method for my geese, which means when I trim the back of this particular unit, I cut off what could become about a 1 1/4” finished half-square triangle (HST), if I chose to sew the two trimmed parts together, press them open, and square up the now-existing unit. I apologize to my non-quilting readers for all this quilt jargon, but trust me: Turning the waste from a Flying Goose (ew!) into a mini-half-square triangle is possible. Doing this, using patchwork waste to make other patchwork is sometimes called working with “leaders and enders;” I just call it more patchwork. Either way, it’s a thing.

But I wasn’t doing the HST thing. I was just trimming that unit waste straight into the garbage. Because I just can’t deal, okay? I knew if I sewed them up and pressed them out I’d stare at those dang things for the next two years and wonder what to do with them. But the guilt was really getting to me. I mean, it felt terrible to just throw away all that ready-to-sew potential. All those wonderful little HSTs in such lovely, bright colors, destined for the incinerator, well, it just broke my lil’ patchworkin’ heart.

Then I had an idea.

As I’ve been doing my research (for both my lecture and also for my Fiber department research project) I’ve been sifting through lots of big, thick books about quilts and let me tell you what’s wonderful: It’s wonderful when historians find people writing about making their quiltsbut this doesn’t happen often. When there’s a journal entry or a newspaper article with a quiltmaker talking about the process of making her quilt or how she did this or that, where she got the idea, who helped her with it, well, it’s just gold. We’ve got pictures of quilts. We’ve got (some) records of things. But there’s really not that much in the history books from the quilters, talking about making their quilts.

Then — I’m getting to the contest, hang on — I thought about the PaperGirl Retreat, how much I want to figure out what that is and then do it because I want to get people writing and quilting more. Have you ever noticed that the root word of “textile” is text? How we speak of “weaving” a tale? Yes, just like we weave cloth. Sewing and writing is really, really close in terms of like, culture and life.

I thought, “Well, how about an essay contest? It could get people writing about quilts! The winner could win my little patches and they could do something neat with them. Or not. But they’d be writing about making.” Reader, I literally took all those little triangles out of the trash and fired them through the machine. They’re ready for the next guy.

(I hope it’s obvious that I do not think my little “leaders and enders” are so amazing that people will be just clamoring to win them; this is about creativity and fun and getting you writing.)

So here’s the official deal:

Write 500-600 words about the last quilt you made (or the one you’re making now.) Mail your essay to the PaperGirl post office box. The deadline is March 31st, the end of the month, and that means you need to put it in the mail by that date. I figure I’ll have all the HSTs by then and it gives you plenty of time to really work on your essay. You can count on me throwing in some extra goodies in the prize bag, by the way, but don’t think there’s going to be an actual quilt or anything. I’m thinking some good Aurifil thread or maybe some candy.

I’m sure you have questions. Fire away, BUT: Don’t send me anything first thing in the morning. Think about this. Mull. Because tomorrow I plan to a) answer questions that may arise until then; and b) offer some advice on essay writing and give more details as to what I’m looking for. For now, just think about what you’d have to say about your quilt-making process.

This sounds fun to me. Does it sound fun to you? Even if one person enters, that will still be fun. And it’ll be one quilter writing about her (or his) quiltmaking process. Win. Win.

21 Responses

  1. Britiney
    | Reply

    I hate writing, but you might just tempt me to put pen to paper. xo

  2. Caroline
    | Reply

    Oh how lovely it will be to read all these essays – will you post some for us all to read?

  3. Colleen
    | Reply

    I am not a writer and spelling has been a problem… less so now with spell check.
    But perhaps I could write if it is explaining how my current project came to be of course since I don’t write and don’t “study” that craft I have no clue how much are little 500-600 words is
    I just can’t know ahead of time how long my writing would be ahead of time.
    Of course English and grammar are their own set of problems.
    English is my first and only language and sometimes I am just not able to explain my thoughts fully I put that to lack of English knowledge.
    Oh the grammar something’s I hear people say really get me “I seen” instead of “I did see” but in the written language I know I am terrible perhaps as bad or worse than what drives me crazy in the spoken language
    No I don’t think I can do it without a prof reader/editor to correct my entry

  4. Ann Regal
    | Reply

    Write on! I’m in.

  5. Uli
    | Reply

    I have a wooden box where I keep these tiny leftovers. Throwing them away isn’t an option. Last year I made two fancy forest quilts for my nieces for Christmas and there have been a lot of cut off triangles.
    I have no idea when I will find the time to sew them and square them up AND put them into a quilt…
    Maybe after I have been retired in about 2037?

  6. Lynn
    | Reply

    Love this idea! I’m in! I had such a fabulous time making my last quilt that I would love to share it!

  7. Deb M
    | Reply

    I love reading and would love to read the essays. I love quilting and sewing. I enjoy so many things but writing…meh. I’m sorry.

  8. Debbie Holley
    | Reply


  9. Monica D Hayden
    | Reply

    Great idea! I’m totally on board. Even though English is not my first language, I’ve always had a knack for the written word (in both my languages), and grammar has never been an issue for me. In fact, I even received the English Award as a Senior in High School here in the U.S. when I came as an Exchange Student (many moons ago). The fact that I ended up living in this country living is totally unrelated to that experience, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact is, yay! Yay, because I think I can write better than I can sew (seriously). So I’m all over it (even if I don’t win).

    Also, I’m looking forward to receiving more information on your Paper Girl retreat. Even though I live in NC, I think I can swing a trip to wherever it would take place (Chicago?). Cheers!

  10. Pamela Keown
    | Reply

    I used to write, not so much lately. But I did create and finish three quilts as Christmas presents this year. I think I might have 500-600 words in be about the ordeal. I will watch for the instructions. I have done both with my “tips” – thrown them into the trash and sewed them into HST. I love the idea of doing something with your “leaders and enders”.

    • Pamela Keown
      | Reply

      sorry – obviously I did not proof-read before posting – (words in ME about the ordeal) – forgiveness requested.

  11. Beverly R Letsche
    | Reply

    This could inspire me to actually sit back down and write! Thanks!

  12. Allison
    | Reply

    Question: does this have to be a new essay or can it be something we have previously published on our blog?

    • Mary
      | Reply

      Sure, A., you can send in something you’ve already written. Whatever’s electric… 🙂 mary

  13. Nadine donovan
    | Reply

    I’m in!!! I have not written an essay in over 30 years- but why not! I can write about my favorite thing!!! I know the perfect quilt to write about!!! I hope I win—I love scrappy quilts and I love yo use half square triangles!

  14. - Mary Fons
    | Reply

    […] the PaperGirl “Leaders and Enders” Essay Contest announced the day before yesterday, of course! I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Click that […]

  15. Molly
    | Reply

    I can so relate to the guilt over fabric waste. I have just in the last year, started sewing the other side of my flying geese and saving scraps that can be cut to 1 -11/2 in pieces to be used at a later date… I used to think it was so silly to keep those pieces until I started looking at different quilt books and reading blogs from people that talked about saving them! So now I save them! 🙂

  16. […] forget to write — the PaperGirl Essay Contest ends in nine […]

  17. George
    | Reply

    Hello Mary. For international entries, are we able to email them as well as send via snail mail? I wouldn’t want to miss out through my postal entry arriving in September! Thank you!

    • Mary
      | Reply

      Yes! You can email your entry! Send it to missfons @ mac . com…!

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