Friday, March 31, 2006

Tree Hugger

I decided to send this little piece to the Quilt University on-line show. I made it very quickly and didn't really think too much of it, but it has grown on me. I like the forest creature look of it. The assignment was to make a line scribble and then translate it into fabric somehow. This scribble started out as a picasso-type profile silhouetted against a triangle, which looked like a tree. When I did it in fabric, I kept that idea in mind when choosing a color scheme, although the "tree" shape is now beige. But I still see the face, and I strengthened it by adding the bead for an eye. I've called it Tree Hugger.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

It's truly spring today, the first day! Sixty five and sunny! I survived my French class with no real problems, finished the bobbin work that I have been obsessing over for the last three days, and so I'm very happy.

Here they are, after all my agony. Those little shapes are barely visible, but that's what I wanted, and they look smooth, straight and even, and I think will set off the quilting. As I finished them, I realized that to achieve these very inconspicuous little embellishments I took a class from Libby Lehmann, bought a machine embroidery hoop (expensive), bought several different spools of Razzle Dazzle thread, and agonized for two days, trying colors, designs etc. Was it worth it? I guess, because for the moment I am satisfied.

As a technique note, using the embroidery hoop makes free motion work much easier, because having something to steer the fabric by makes the movement smoother. It's a pain to put fabric in and out however, and to maneuver the hoop under the needle. I also liked the Razzle Dazzle thread. On my machine it worked in the bobbin very easily with no tension problems. It looks better in straight stitching than free motion because you can make longer stitches that show up the texture more, but free motion is ok.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I have been studying French today. (Some quilting too.) We're spending a month in Paris in May and part of June and hoping to be a bit better at French than I was last year, I signed up for a conversational French class at a place called Forever Learning Institute. As the name suggests, it's for people over 50. I am about the youngest student, and also the weakest. And to make it worse, because of family issues I have missed the last two classes and don't even know what we're doing tomorrow. (No way to contact teacher.) So I expect to be a bit humiliated as those septugenarians run rings around me (linguistically of course). The whole thing is taking on a nightmarish quality, like those anxiety dreams where you haven't been to class all semester and don't know where the final is. Zut alors!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Year Ago...

It was just a year ago that we left for our trip to South Africa, and I have been looking through my pictures, and decided to post a few. First is one for fabric people: this is a booth in the Greenmarket Square in Capetown selling mud cloth. This isn't a South Africa cloth, but comes from other countries, including Uganda and the Congo. It's all natural dyes and the designs are appliqued on to the base. I bought only a small pillow cover from this because of the bulk. Then--since everyone posts pictures of their cats--here's a cat of another kind. We visited a cheetah breeding facility (cheetahs are endangered, which I didn't know), and for a fee you could pet a cheetah. Pretty hokey, and actually I was rather afraid to do this, but my husband talked me into it, so here I am, gingerly petting that cat! He was actually quite bored by the whole thing, a typical cat. I could even hear him purring.

This is Table Mountain, in the heart of Capetown, taken from Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on the inland side. The next picture is a view of Capetown taken from the boat returning from Robben Island, a former prison during the Apartheid period. It is now a museum, and tours are conducted by former prisoners, who describe their experiences. An incredible experience to take this tour and consider the almost miraculous changes that have happened so rapidly there. And to give a taste of the less scenic side of Capetown, here is one of the "informal settlements" put up by the people who are flooding into the city from the countryside, a growing problem for South Africa.

I tried to give some hint of the varied things we saw. We did see wild animals too, but my camera just wasn't able to do them justice.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I have been tearing my hair about the binding of the wall hanging I' m making, so I stopped and did the quilting on this charity quilt.

I have such a love-hate relationship with my Viking 545. It does beautiful stitching, but the controls and some of the feet are so badly designed. For instance, the quarter inch foot has no "play" so although it works great for stitching two layers of fabric together, it stalls when I piece a block. Does this make sense? What is this foot for, anyway? Isn't it for quilting? So why isn't it designed to piece blocks? Another gripe is the shape of the walking foot. It is hard to see the edge of the fabric, so when I am stitching on a binding the seam allowance is a little wide, and so the binding ends up narrow and needs to be forced over the edge. I know I could cut the binding wider, but I am just beginning to understand what is going on and why I have this trouble. I also cannot do a machine stitched binding because the open toes of the walking foot don't flatten the binding. I had no trouble making bindings with the old machine. In fact, I am going to use the old generic walking foot for bindings in the future. I did that on this charity quilt, and it worked so much better. And then the controls--little tiny buttons that have to be hit just exactly right or they don't work. So when you think you are backstitching, you aren't!

Anyone else have this machine? Do you have problems with it? Is it just me?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Reds and Pinks

The other day I discovered the color spectrum project. This project is mostly for knitters, but there are quilters trying it too. The colors for March are reds and pinks, my favorites. I'm not going to be doing a new red/pink project, so here is my red snail's trail quilt from several years ago. It was fun to collect fabrics for this, and I learned some things. I first used pinks for the light red, but couldn't stand so much pink,so I added red and white prints to cut the "sweetness". I also added some purples and lavenders to make the whole thing a little less warm, but it's still a red quilt.

And, since Lolly encouraged colors from nature or art, here's one more. There's no red in nature in northern Indiana in March, but here's a Chagall painting I saw last summer at the museum in Nice. I took the picture to remember the color combination. In reality, it's glorious. I just read that Chagall said his paintings had no meaning except light and color, and that is so true of the red ones in this series. Here there's a blur and bad color reproduction because I had to use such a slow shutter speed, but I hope the picture gives some idea. Doesn't that acid yellow just bring the whole thing to life?

Not a total dummy--

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 8/10 correct!


Started quilting the parrot wall hanging I made a few weeks ago. I did a pattern of concentric circles with a walking foot, and although I was worried about how hard that might be, the stitching went very smoothly because the piece is so small. But I don't like the way it looks. I don't seem to be able to master all the quilting decisions: thread, batting, design. This isn't the first time I have had a top I like and then felt I spoiled it with quilting. What's really frustrating was that I used a batting I've used before and liked (Quilter's Dream Blend) and a pattern I used before on a quilt with the same design. But this time I don't like the result. Maybe when the marks are gone and it has been dried and fluffed I'll be happier. No picture of this thing, at least not yet!

Also spent a frustrating time preparing for my French class tomorrow. I am taking Intermediate Conversational French at a place called the Forever Learning Insitute. (If the name makes you picture a classroom full of "mature" students, you're right!) I am not the youngest in the class, but am definitely the slow one--these seventy- and even eighty-year-old ladies put me to shame. I have forgotten so much! Last week was particularly bad because I had been away the week before and didn't know what had been assigned. I'm ready for tomorrow, but may have to miss again because of my husband's doctor's appointment. (I'm designated driver.) Argh!! I hope to be able to get the assignment this time, at least, so next week I won't be totally humiliated.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Wearing' of the Green

Here's the Chicago River dyed green for Saint Patrick's Day. I took these pictures from the Michigan Avenue bridge last year actually, but just about now the men from the plumber's union are in their boat, dispensing their secret-formula green dye to color the river. I had heard of the green river, but pictured something sort of sick and brownish, not this incredible emerald. I remembered the river this morning because we are going into Chicago later today to go to the opera and spend the weekend with my son and daughter-in-law in Evanston. We'll miss the St. Pat's festivities this year, but it's a great memory.

Friday, March 10, 2006

These are two postcards I made as work in my Quilt University class. Not bad, not great. I made the one on right first, decided the trees/lines were too stumpy, so I made the second version. On the second I used Angelina fibers to make snow. Or I should say I tried to, but when I fused the card to the innerfacing, the irridescence disappeared, and the Angelina fibers are basically invisible. Obviously a new technique is needed for that. Live and learn. I do like the shadow effect with thread painting though. I'm still working on improving binding on these little devils also. The second one is better because I cut the binding wider to cover the thickness of the innerfacing. I know some people overcast, but my machine won't do that well, so I'm stuck with binding.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


The rows are finished, and this can go to be quilted. I like it--it's a very traditional looking kind of quilt, although the pattern is unusual. I don't know what it's called; it's a log cabin variation that I saw a partial picture of in a magazine, and figured out how to do it. I don't know how it got so big (I could say that about my sons, too!). I meant to make it double or queen size, but this is a real king. I guess I added border blocks to make the design look right without realizing what was happening to the size.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Rows and Rows

Nothing interesting to post today. I am sewing rows together in the scrap quilt I have been working on for two years. It is supposed to go to the quilter by end of week, so I am trying to stick to it (yes, writing this IS procrastination). Do other people hate this step of the process? There is so much pinning, so many little points, UGH. I have nothing but admiration for people who make beautiful, accurate bed size quilts. I have to fight the urge to say "enough, already" and rush this stage. And then there's the pressing--ugh again. But of course, the quilt does finally take real shape, which is a pleasure to see, or at least I hope so.

Monday, March 06, 2006

More Quilt Show Pictures

Here are three traditional quilts that I loved. The first one was made by Marie Karickhoff--I always like Storm at Sea, and to see it in red is unusual. (Red is always good!) The second was made by Gail Stepanek, and the photo doesn't do justice to those warm rich taupes. The combination of New York Beauty (another favorite block) and that curving applique is new to me and very successful. The third one is another terrible photo. The quilt is actually white (!) with feed sack prints and a traditional embroidery. This is a beautiful quilt that drew much more attention than that third place in category ribbon. I wouldn't be surprised if it won Viewer's Choice.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


The woman in red was made by Jane Kennedy. I was interested in this because of the Erte fabric she used--I had seen that and loved it but didn't know what I would do with it, so resisted buying it. I also like the circle background quilting and the overall effect of the piece, which is simple, but makes you keep looking. The man leaning against the tree is by Marilyn Belford, and I thought the realism of the clothing was exceptional and the face is also memorable. The portrait of Pauline Salzman playing cards is by Julie Higgins. Usually portrait quilts don't convey much of the subject's personality, but this one does. I'll post some of the more traditional quilts that I liked next time, but I somehow didn't take as many pictures of those.

IHQS, continued

I don't understand how to make Blogger put photos where I want them, so I have given up and am doing a new post! From the sublime to the ridiculous, here's my quilt, which won an Honorable Mention in Amateur Wall Quilt. I was amazed, truly, but of course very pleased. My biggest reaction at first was to be upset that the sign and ribbon had been placed to hide the sun, which is important for the idea and the design. So Elaine and I searched for a white glove lady, and when we couldn't find one, we chose a time when no one was looking and moved the sign ourselves. A fun exercise in rule breaking, hard for us well brought up ladies.

Since I despair of getting photos where I want them, here is just a collection of other quilts I liked. The circus quilt was made by Denise Havian, and won excellence in machine quilting and best professional wall quilt. It is wonderful, using bright novelty fabrics as well as traditional ones, and so rich in detail that it takes careful studying to appreciate. That's one of the marks of an outstanding quilt, I'm beginning to believe. The other one is the winner in Amateur Wall Quilts. It's based on Northwest Indian designs, which I haven't seen in a quilt before. The red background is heavily quilted.


I came back from Bloomington last night after a very enjoyable time with my sister and brother-in-law and a day and a half at the show, one day in class, and another to look at quilts, and of course do a bit of shopping.

Here's the best of show quilt, made by Sandra Leichner, Albany Oregon. The picture doesn't do it justice, of course, particularly not for this quilt because it's such a beautiful, soft and rich palette. It's not the style I usually like, but I love the richness of the colors and the non-traditional touches, like the pieced background in the center medallion and the fabric paint accenting the trapunto. The workmanship is phenominal, naturally.