Sunday, December 31, 2006

Final Post of 2006

Here's my final project of the year, the Project Linus top. It's a cute design, but this isn't my best work. I hate paper piecing and tried to strip piece the center strips, but had trouble placing them correctly because the paper was too thick. A novelty stripe worked better in a couple of blocks. As a result, there are some pretty crooked center stripes. But it's cheerful and serviceable. I hope other people will try it.

Happy New Year to everyone--I hope it's long on whatever makes you happy, and short on the other stuff!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

WIP Wednesday

Today is the day to really do some post-Christmas clean-up: put away the still scattered gifts, vacuum, pack up the wrapping paper and ribbon, and catch up on the laundry, which doesn't take a holiday. Still no need to cook--hooray! In spare minutes over the last week and a half I have continued to think about the Hoffman Challenge and have a design plan and some fabric choices. These are the fabrics I am currently considering. I will weed out some of the duplicates because I'm not going for scrappy and may substitute others with more pattern if I can find pieces in the right color and value. There are too many solid looking tone on tones here. The design I've planned is very traditional with pretty complicated piecing. It looks good on paper, but I can't get psyched so I may do other things first. There's plenty of time, for sure, but I always start this project in January, and it's worked before. (Looking at this post, I'm even more convinced that these fabrics need more pattern--pretty dull, at this point.)

The newest issue of Quiltmaker has this year's Project Linus project. Very cute--check it out. I think I'll make a couple of rows or even a whole top. I did this last year with the ice cream cone pattern and enjoyed it.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Mess is Good!

Periodically, we all feel guilty about the clutter that builds up in the studio (sewing room, sweatshop or whatever we call it). Take some time to look at this article from yesterday's The New York Times and relax! I sent this article to everyone I know, and am now sharing with you. It seems particularly timely at this season.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

WIP Wednesday

Scrooge that I am, I really do have a Christmas tree nonetheless.

And I have done holiday baking. Here is a great new recipe that I discovered this year: Pumpkin-Cranberry bread. This is actually cake like. Very easy, better than banana bread because you don't have to mash bananas, and if made in those aluminum foil pans than have a snap on plastic lid, makes easier gift than cookies. Healthy too--two Super Foods and no bad fat.

Combine dry ingredients: 2 1/4 cup flour, 1 T pumpkin pie spice, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt
Mix 2 eggs, 2 cups sugar 1/3/4 cup pumpkin (one can), 1/2 cup oil
Add pumpkin mnixture to flour mixture, stir until moistened. Fold in 1 cup fresh cranberries (It says you can use dried cranberries too, but these would be very different because they're sweet. Haven't tried that.)

Bake in 2 greased 9 x 5 inch-loaf pans at 350 degrees 45-55 minutes.

And I have pinned the beauteous Hoffman Challenge fabric to my design wall and look at it as I walk by.

Some options: Make it disappear.

Funky contemporary batiks.

This coordinate really pops.

Not a totally impossible fabric, but I still have no real ideas.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hoffman Challenge

Has anyone else bought the new Hoffman Challenge fabric? What do you think? Mine finally came--I find it pretty, but quite uninspiring, at least so far. If you're thinking about ordering the Hancock's of Paducah pack of fat quarter coordinates, be advised that they are all busy multi-colored prints, several of them the same fabric in a different colorway, only a few tone on tones, (all three green), no variety in value or in type of pattern. I wish I'd saved my money.

Photo as requested. I aim to please.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Uncommon Threads

Did anyone else happen to hear the interview with Gayle Pritchard, author of Uncommon Threads: Ohio's Art Quilt Revolution, on NPR's Diane Rehm Show this morning? If I had known it was going to be on, I would have posted earlier, but just happened to catch it as I was running errands. The book seems to be a history of the "art quilt" movement beginning in the 1970's and the first Quilt National and continuing into the present. Gayle Pritchard did a good job in presenting material, although she must have been disappointed at the level of understanding of the topic shown by both Diane and the callers. Diane herself clearly knows little about quilting (although she says it may be something she would like to do when she retires!), and I thought it was apparent that she didn't "get" some of the quilts pictured in the book. (Of course, potato chip bags sewn together are not for everyone.) Many of the callers had stories about what their grandmother used to do, but few had anything substantive to say about quilting today. Still, it was good to see this subject get some recognition. Interestingly, many of the callers were men.

There are some photos from the book and a link to the book at Amazon on the link to the Diane Rehm Show.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Saturday I went to the One of a Kind Show at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. This is a high end arts/craft fair. Besides prints, glass, pottery, and jewelry, it was full of fiber arts/wearable art stuff, fascinating for anyone who is interested in that. Unfortunately I couldn't take pictures, so I have to try to remember and describe. There were scarves of every description: painted silk, felted, hand-woven, textured silk, knit. One of the most interesting techniques, which was new to me, was scarves made by felting hand dyed merino wool and silk together so that one side was wool and one silk, and very interesting textures and blends of color developed. I coveted these, but $175 was a bit out of my price range even though they should be very durable and warm, really rather practical. The other new technique was scarves made, I think, by sewing together fabric scraps and bits of fiber on a water soluable stabilizer, so that when the stabilizer was removed there was an open, net-like effect of color and texture. Beautiful, but rather fragile.

There were clothes of all types, hand woven jackets, silk jackets, patchwork looking jackets. Felted sweaters were used for patchwork vests, purses, and jackets. There were hats of all types: fleece, wool, felt, knit. These were very popular because Chicago is of course one place where a hat is almost a necessity. Also I remember from my craft days that women seem unable to resist trying on hats, all the while they say "I'm not a hat person," or "I look so stupid in hats." So I don't know if the hats were really selling--but I bought one! I guess I'm a hat person--

Sunday, December 10, 2006

My quilt was accepted at Road to California! I'm very excited since this is first time I've been in a juried show. I won't see it, but that's ok; just having it there is good enough for me. Such good company to be in! Laura , the Quilting Diva has one also.
Since several people asked, I added the link to the earlier post.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Some work

I've been making Christmas cards and a post card for my niece's birthday. The first card was a pattern from Quilter's Newsletter, and the second is my design. The design came out of a Quilt University class, and a small study seemed a good idea. Then there's the usual Christmas stuff: wrapping, mailing, some shopping, some baking, no decorating yet. That may come today, or not. Don't know why, but I detest the decorating part. Once the tree is up, I love it, but the rest of the decorating I could do without. It may be because no one in this male-oriented family seems to even notice, or it may be because my few years of selling at art/craft shows at the holidays made me never want to see a Christmas decoration again. In any case, less is more rules in this household.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Christmas Wishes

I know that everyone wants health and happiness for their friends and family, as well as world peace, but just for the heck of it, let's indulge in some selfish quilty Christmas wishes. I personally would like the Koala QuiltMate II Studio Package available at Nancy's Notions for $2595. Or I would be happy to have a week at The Hudson River Valley Art Workshop. I could take a class from either Carol Taylor or Laura Wasilowski. One week is $1270. I passed these wishes on to my husband, and he gave me the blank look. Darn. Or maybe someone would like a tour to the Tokyo Quilt Festival, or an Alaska Quilting cruise with famous teachers, etc., etc. Anybody?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Work in Progress Wednesday and a tip

I've finished the machine quilting on my Australian circles and am doing a little handquilting inside the circles to highlight some of the motifs. That is almost finished too. Here's my Christmas gift quilt ready to quilt. I think it's pretty, although I worry a bit that it looks more like a quilt for a seven-year-old "princess" than an elderly lady. I'll just have to hope she likes it.

When I started to cut the backing yesterday, I discovered that I was short of fabric, and so remembered hearing at my retreat a couple of weeks ago about John Flynn's technique of using a bias seam in the backing. This allows you to use less fabric; so with nothing to lose, I tried it, and it worked.

Here's the process: You cut the backing fabric on the bias from corner to corner, making two triangles. (They're actually longer and skinnier than this, of course. A real blogger would have taken photographs of the fabric spread out on the living room floor, but I didn't think of it!)

Then you slide one triangle down enough to give you the width you need for your quilt and sew the bias seam together. And that's it.

John Flynn claims that the bias seam doesn't stretch in the quilt, and in fact the bias actually works better in a long-arm machine. I'll report again if there seem to be problems developing later, but for now, I'm pleased. I used a yard less fabric than I would have needed for a vertical seam, and there is almost no waste, just little triangle-shaped tips. I also don't know how to calculate the amount of fabric you need. I didn't see the show, and the friend who did, didn't remember. Maybe someone else knows.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Just a few Thanksgiving pictures. We had a quiet day, even though it started with a two and a half hour drive to Evanston.

Our host and hostess pose proudly,

and chef Karl displays his masterpiece.

Unfortunately, the pride was short-lived because when he started to carve red juice ran out! There was much ranting and fuming and gnashing of teeth, since at this point everyone was starving. But the cut pieces finished cooking quickly, and here the refreshed diners take a break before dessert.

Friday was actually more peaceful and pleasant. We did some very low key walking around downtown, which was quiet because everyone must have been at the malls, and in the afternoon watched Master and Commander on the large screen TV. Here the men are doing a few little chores, including putting up the ND flag for the game Saturday.

I've always found Thanksgiving stressful, not sure why, but this one was pleasant, perhaps with less emphasis on preparation on my end than usual. My busy son and daughter-in-law probably don't feel that way, but after all, it's their turn!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I have just prepared one of three dishes to take to my son's tomorrow: cider braised greens with chunks of apple, the recipe from Good Housekeeping. It's very good, and think about how healthy! (I usually don't taste, actually, but this time I did.) I'll also be making a pumpkin pie and a green bean dish, not the casserole. Cooking is much more fun when you don't do the whole meal, so I am very thankful for that! No quilt pictures today; back to kitchen, and then errands.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Stitch Regulator?

Does anyone know anything about the new fabric mover/stitch regulator attachments that are available for Vikings and Pfaffs? Bernina has had one for a while, but I think theirs is a bit different. I've looked at them, and think they MIGHT be wonderful, but I'm a bit sceptical. How well does that mover work with a large quilt? How hard is it to take off and on? (On the Viking, I bet it's a pain, since everything else is.) And don't you have to relearn how to do free motion stitching since the movement runs the stitching in a different way than ordinary free motion does? I tried one at the Chicago show, and was confused, although I do lots of free motion stitching (although not well). So is this thing a miracle or a boondoggle? I would like to hear an opinion from someone other than a salesperson. Anyone?

Friday, November 17, 2006

I Used to Know That...

When I look at the the beautiful embroidery stitches that people like Allison do, I'm awed. Then I found this crewel pillow that I made in 1975 (yes, it's signed and dated). It's a sampler of background filler and ornamental stitches, and I must say I'm proud of it. I found the idea in a book or magazine, but I changed it a great deal, including the color scheme. Funny, although these 70's shades look dated to me, the red color family combined with green is still one of my favorite color schemes. But the amazing thing to me is that I really could make all those stitches. Now I have no clue, and even if I found the book and reviewed, I don't think they'd turn out as well. Truly a past life!

On a completely unrelated topic: I have been machine quilting using Signature Threads Rainbows. It's 40 weight polyester, variegated. Very pretty, but it's so fine and slippery that I find the stitches coming undone unless I both backstitch and use small stitches at the beginning and end of the stitching rows. Just a word of warning.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Work in Progress Wednesday

Quilting underway on the Australian circle quilt--

Also I am thinking about making a Christmas gift for the dear woman I work with at the Soup Kitchen. It would be a quickie from one of the fat quarter books: pinwheels in various fabrics with background either same or various and a plain coordinating border. Here's one choice, pretty but dull:

This one I like better:

And if it were for me, I'd choose this, with print background:

But I have to remember that this lady is in her eighties, and the prints might be too much. My mother wouldn't like them. So I don't know. Also, there is the time available to be considered, so I will have to think about this, and decide quickly.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


I think I have switched to Beta--seems ok so far!

Chicago Quilt Expo

Yesterday I went to the Chicago Quilt Exposition, a Mancuso show, the Grand Finale of the World Quilt Competition. This show has been in Michigan in the past, and this is the first time it's been in Chicago, I think. They must have been disappointed with the turnout which was pretty slim for what's a good show. What I like about it is that the quilts are not the same ones that keep showing up at shows and in American magazines. The quality may not always be as good as at Paducah or Houston, but the variety is interesting. "Best of the World" was Wrought Iron Roses by Linda M. Roy, which I've seen pictured several times. Unfortunately I didn't take a picture, so you'll just have to take my word for it that the quilting is absolutely phenomenal. Here are some of my favorites, not winners.

First are South African quilts. We were there last year, so I particularly liked the one of South African trees, by Dee Oxborrow (I think), and the one called Zulu Kingdom by Jenny Williamson and Pat Parker. These images seem more "real" to me than the wild animal ones that people expect.

But who can resist a flowered warthog?

I'm so sorry I don't know who did this quilt.

There was a special exhibit by the Professional Art Quilt Alliance on the theme of water. These were fascinating. Here's my favorite, Rain on the Lanai, by Judy L. Clausen. The subtlety of this doesn't show up as well as I wish it did.

Another special exhibit was by Wendy Butler Burns, and this one is a favorite.

Other special exhibits included the Alzheimer's Forgetting Piece by Piece collection; a Hoffman Challenge group, including the dolls, which I've never seen before; a collection of Ann Fahl's quilts featuring her cat Oreo; and an exhibit by the Chicago School of Fusing (Laura Wasilowsi, Frieda Anderson, Melody Johnson and others).

And finally, for no reason except I like pink and yellow: Tivoli, by a New Zeeland quilter named Chris Behersing.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Last weekend I went on a guild retreat located at a church camp on a lake about an hour south of here. As usual it was a relaxing, but productive time. I only take brainless work to retreats and try to plan the projects I will work on so I don't have to pack and unload so much. Some people seem to bring their entire stash and collection of notions, but I'm too lazy for that. This works for me.

Last year we exchanged colorful nine patch blocks; here's one result of the exchange, and Nancy working on hers.

Denise had this quilt, without the applique, at our retreat two years ago, and someone asked her if it was a tablecloth. That has become a running joke, as it reappeared last year in slightly more advanced form, and this year, here it is, complete except for final step of binding.

Another tradition is the ugly fabric exchange. Here two members try, unsuccessfully, to make their ugly fabric look enticing.

I ended up with what was voted the ugliest fabric of all: a polyester knit snakeskin print; but after I used it to upholster the donor's chair late at night, she took it back. So you are spared the sight of it, except for this small piece used as swim trunks for the "mutant frog" utensil pouch that Ginny had spent several hours struggling with earlier in the day.

And finally, here I am, maybe working. Note the two chairs. Everything at this facility is great, except the chairs are too low. But this works well.

I arrived home very tired Sunday, planning on early to bed, but was reminded that we had tickets for an organ concert that night. I slept though most of it--but I would have even without the retreat!

An enjoyable weekend--not Houston, but fun!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

WIP Wednesday

I actually have some work in progress today. First, FINALLY the borders are on this Australian circle wall hanging. I had put this off, thinking it was going to be so hard to audition the various fabrics for the border, but it turned out to be easier than I thought. I stitched the diagonal seams and mitered borders together with little problem too. A relief. When I took the picture I was debating whrether to keep the border six inches wide or cut it to 4 1/2 as it is on the top and right side. I have since cut it, and I think that was the right decision. My other project is putting together these nine patch blocks which came from a retreat block swap a year ago. I'm going to use a strippy set with black and some sort of bright on block sashing between the strips. I don't know about the border, but I won't buy fabric, that's for sure.

I'm posting early because Blogger seems to be cooperating--

Monday, October 30, 2006

Bah Blogger

Is anyone else finding Blogger totally insufferable lately? I know they were down for maintainance, but beyond that, whenever I try to read blogs they take forever to load, or the blog loads but not the comment screen, etc., etc. I haven't even tried to post myself. Is Beta really better? And when you get a Google account and have to give a user name and password should you use a different one or is it ok to keep the same one? I think someone said they had trouble by using the same name? I really will change one of these days soon, just haven't had enough spare brain energy for the effort.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

We spent Saturday afternoon and evening in downtown Chicago. I didn't take a camera because the forecast was for rain all day, but the rain held off until late evening, so although this made for a wonderful day, I have no pictures. It was a glorious day: blue lake, the bright green grass along the lakeshore, the skyline as wonderful as it always is, the trees full of rust and gold, and because it's been so warm, the fall flowers in Mayor Dailey's please-the-tourists landscaping still in full bloom. And there were lots of tourists to please, many of them in town for the Chicago Marathon. Not us though--much less disciplined and more self-indulgent, we had a delicious dinner at Blackbird, and then saw Deborah Voigt in Salome. Both were memorable. For non-opera fans, (and fans too, I guess) the big news about this performance is that Deborah Voigt, who was fired by London's Covent Garden about two and a half years ago for being too fat for her role, had bariatric surgery and has lost almost 150 pounds. The experience didn't seem to hurt her voice, and she looked wonderful, although maybe a bit haggard. You have to admire the guts of this--it's supposedly tough surgery, she's not young, and the demands of her career must make the experience doubly difficult. But if anything could make it worthwhile, the reception she got Saturday night would do the job. I loved the opera; the story is sordid, if not downright sick, but the music is wonderful. This is one opera you stay awake for, even after a great dinner and a bottle of pinot noir! (It's short too; we drove home in the rain--what a letdown!)

Just an update on some past posts. Here is the stitching on last week's "venting frustration" piece. Thanks to everyone for their kind comments about this. I liked it myself, but it's good to hear other people did too. I agree with the idea of a repeated block and may do that sometime in the future. But for now I'm just going to finish this small thing and use it for a little wall piece. The stitching is bobbin work using Ricky Tims' Razzle Dazzle thread--great stuff. I find that glitter thread doesn't show up well in photos though, at least not on my camera. The thread and stitching just looks uneven and patchy. In planning exactly where to put the lines of stitching I put the photo into Adobe Illustrator and drew the lines on a new layer to be sure of the best place to get that repeated angle I wanted. This worked really well, except I don't know how to make the lines straight, so they were wobbly! Technosavvy, I'm not, but I'm sure some people could carry this ideas further. I'm not sure what to do next on this piece. I think I'll just do enough quilting to outline the slashed part and make the bobbin work stand out, bind it, and call it quits.

I also finished the Christmas quilt I made for my sister. This is from Alex Anderson's book Fabric Shopping. It's a simple, but very attractive design I think, using both seasonal and other fabrics.

And finally, I sent off the baby quilt I complained about, and got a fast, very charming thank you note. So I eat my words.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A greeting to all--

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What's Going On?

This is not about quilting, so skip if you want. I just have to rant about a commercial I saw last night while watching the National League Championship Series. It was for Burger King, I believe. I'll try to reproduce it for your edification.

Office scene, slightly heavy, nerdy guy sitting at computer. Beside him, perched on a desk, I'm sure with crotch totally visible, is attractive female coworker who coos: Want a bite of my Croissantwich? Nerdy guy, with eyes averted: I don't like French things. Girl (still cooing suggestively): What about bikinis? Nerdy guy (turning to face her and leering): How about French kisses? Girl (drawing back in disgust) Oooh, gross! Enter Mr. Cool Stud male coworker. Girl: What's the French word for creepy? Stud: Le ------ (I didn't catch this). Nerd (confused): That's my name. Stud: I know.

That's it, in its entirety, unless I missed something. Now, I ask, what is happening? Why does Burger King think it's ok to present a woman as a brainless, heartless c--kteaser, and men as leering goons, or worse, cruel macho jerks? What is the demographic this is supposed to appeal to? At first I thought not too bright male twenty-somethings, but then I lowered it to high school kids, but actually, the level is about middle school. I'm also not sure why it bothers me so much, but it sure does. Any one else? Am I over-reacting?

Monday, October 16, 2006


I've been planning a lovely October piece: falling leaves, poem, hopefully very lovely. But today I decided to EXPRESS MY MOOD! So I pieced this dark block, and then slashed it in half. Very satisfying. And it was rather stress relieving. But of course, now I don't know what else to do with it. It's actually a neat looking block by itself, but I could either embellish, slash some more, or leave it as it is. Maybe it's served it's purpose.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Gee's Bend Quilts

Recently Debra Spincic wrote a wonderful review on her blog about this exhibit. For anyone in this area who is interested, the Indianapolis Museum of Art is hosting the exhibit until December 31. The Indianapolis museum is worth seeing anyway, I think. They have a small but interesting collection, especially of American and Midwest Impressionists, and the grounds and gardens are beautiful. You can also tour the restored Lilly Mansion. If anyone is looking for a good fall road trip, this would be one. You can also visit Quilt Quarters in nearby Carmel, Indiana. This is a great shop. So there--another plug for Indiana tourism.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Work in Progress

It has not been a good week for creativity, for reasons I won't go into. Here's the progress on the baby quilt. Actually this took two hours Tuesday, so obviously it has been a VERY slow week. The border is of course still not done, but if I actually can get going on it, it won't take long either. Funny thing though--I have had the fabric on my table for several weeks and finally cut into it Tuesday afternoon. That night my nephew's wife went into labor, a week overdue. Don't you think she owes me one?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Today I drove to Shipshewana, Indiana, in the heart of northern Indiana's Amish country. Shipshewana is just a small town, but like many other Amish areas, it has become a bit touristy full of shops selling made-in-China tschotskes (sp?) But its main attraction for me and other quilters are the wonderful quilt shops. The first is Yoder's Department Store. It really is a department store, selling all sorts of clothes, hardwarde, and other products geared to a rural and largely Amish and Mennonite customer base, but it has a wonderful selection of quilt fabrics. As you can see it was a busy morning there.

Some fabrics:

Then I went on to Lolly's in the Davis Mercentile Building. This building was completely destroyed by fire about a year and a half ago, but is better than ever. Lolly's has even more fabric than Yoder's and a large selection of finished quilts. They are locally made, and handquilted by the Amish women in the area. Lolly's looks a bit "matchy-matchy" for my taste, but the array of colors in wonderful, and as you can see, not everyone has fallen for the large pieces type of quilt.

This quilt is of course the kind you would expect to see. It's being raffled to aid a local organization.

This hand dyed over-dyed wool is something I haven't seen before. The colors are luscious.

And a final word from Amish country: