Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Unlike many people, I don't think I posted any goals for the year. Either because of that or for other reasons, I don't feel that this has been a productive year for me. I spent a lot of time on the Hoffman Challenge, and quite a bit at the orchid quilt in the fall. Other than that I made half a dozen baby quilts, for charity or for gifts, and a couple of quilts out of blocks from a block exchange; nothing that was a stretch for me there. The highlight of the year was the class I took with Jane Sassaman at the Indiana Heritage Show in March, and I did finish that project and used her technique on a couple of others, including the orchids. Those did stretch my "artistic" skills, although the technical aspect wasn't particularly difficult.

This year I hope to finish the blue piece I posted about recently and have it be successful enough to enter somewhere. I'd also like to make a large, traditional pieced quilt, using a difficult block. I do like piecing, and I'm pretty good, but I haven't done anything terribly challenging on a large scale. I also signed up for the Take It Further challenge, so we'll see how that goes. I don't think I'll do the Hoffman challenge, which is ironic, because this time I have an idea which is perfectly clear in my mind. It doesn't seem too interesting however, so I think I'll use the time on something else.

Everyone--may you meet all your goals in 2008, and have some pleasant surprises along the way too.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Beaded Jewelry

I'm supposed to be cleaning up some post-Christmas debris, breaking down boxes, doing laundry, etc., but I thought I'd pause a minute for something more enjoyable. My sister gave me a ring for Christmas made by this artist. It's embroidered bead work, beautiful, although my nails will need some work before I can wear it. Rather than show the ring, I'm just posting this link so you beaders out there can admire. Just wait long enough for the pictures to scroll through. Pretty cool, huh?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

I just realized that my last post looked like my final word on Christmas, and a very Scrooge-like one it was! It wasn't intended to be that, just my way of saying that I had nothing interesting to post about the subject. I still don't, other than to report that my house is as decorated as it will be, my gifts are wrapped, my menus are planned, out-of-town son and family are arriving in a few hours. So a very happy holiday to everyone!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

There will be no Christmas news here

The last issue of Quilter's Newsletter gave me an idea of how to translate a design I made a year ago into a quilt. So as a first step I have pieced these blocks in what is supposed to be a nine-step value scale. It was an interesting exercise even if I do nothing else. I learned that even though I think I have a large stash, especially in blue, it isn't as large as it might need to be to do this successfully. There isn't a completely smooth blending. Not too bad though--it actually looks better in the photo than in reality. I think I'll keep going, although it will take lots of little blocks!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Today while in the grocery, I saw the new issue of McCall's Quilting (I think--these magazines are easy to confuse). Anyway, a headline caught my eye: Discover Quilting Blogs. Isn't it nice to feel ahead of the curve? Do you think all quilting blogs will see an increase in hits as a result of the article? I didn't recognize the name of the featured blogger/ author, but Quilt Maverick ring was mentioned.

The Ghost Orchid quilt is finished except for the label, and that is printed and ready to sew on. This detail shot shows a bit of the quilting, which I kept understated. Quilting isn't my strongest suit.
The quilting looks simple, but there were many stops and starts, making it slow and laborious. I do like it, however.

My piece of Hoffman Challenge 2008 fabric finally arrived. I didn't take a picture, but you can see it at the Hoffman Challenge website. I find it interesting that the fabric for the last four years has had basically the same color scheme, in different values and intensities. I know this is true, because I have used one piece of fabric as a coordinate three times, and could use it again if I had any left! Are they in a rut, or am I? Don't answer. Other people see other color schemes, but I always seem to focus on the red violet, although I've combined it differently. Hmmm.

And finally, I had a brainstorm concerning a new project. There won't be any details for a while, because I hesitate to talk about possible totally off the wall (for me, that is) ideas. But I like it so far.

Back to on-line shopping. How many more days?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Feasting and Family

Aidan tastes some apple pie juice,

while Conor works on his smile.

Actually these were taken last weekend, not at Thanksgiving, but they certainly fit the theme! We had a very quiet but excellent dinner. My son tried the new high temperature method of cooking a turkey, and it was delicious, moist and juicy. An under-16 pound turkey can be cooked at 450 degrees in about 2 hours, with 30 minutes resting time. You need an accurate thermometer for this, I think, but it worked for us. I hope everyone else's day was happy, and if you shop, don't drop.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dumb is Good

Sometimes you can have design decision overload, and it's good to have some no-brainer projects to fall back on. That's my state right now. I have almost finished this little charity quilt for one of my guilds, using flannel scraps left over from the quilts I made the twins. It's good to accomplish something simple and useful. I hope to finish the binding this afternoon.

These split nine-patch blocks came from idea in a class taught by Mary Ellen Hopkins. Her idea is to cut scraps into small squares, keep them in an orderly way, and between other projects, or in a few minutes of non-creative time, stitch up a block. After a long time, you have enough for a quilt. The blocks can be arranged in any log cabin set. I have made one already, (it took about two and a half years), and I have about 90 blocks toward another.

Individual blocks are sometimes amazingly ugly, but the overall effect can be striking, I think.

And finally, to use up the many neutral strips I seem to have collected, I started making small nine patches. I have no plan for them yet, but there is no hurry. Some day, I'll feel like a decision again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Still Smiling

This morning, on The Writer's Almanac, Garrison Keillor quoted Robert Louis Stevenson: "Our business in life is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits."

So with that in mind, here's my orchid quilt, top finished, ready to quilt. No further comment.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Chicago Quilt Fest

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this show was meeting Debi of Dubi Quilts. We had lunch, a good chat, and walked around to discuss our favorite parts of the show. Debi also gave me a package of her hand dyed fabric, which I am delighted to have! Debi has just posted her very large collection of photos at this link. Mine are only a hint.

This is the second year for this Mancuso show, the finale of the World Quilt Show, in the Chicago location, and it is still trying to find its feet, I think. The quilts are excellent, and in my opinion the number of vendors is about right (fewer than the spring Chicago show). The crowd is rather small though--tough on vendors and organizers too. I hope the show will grow and not just fade away.

At the top of the post is the Best in World, made by Patricia Delaney of Abington, Ma. Bad light and difficult to photograph colors keep this from showing up well. The background is dull rose and the compass blocks are in various grayed tones with a machine embroidered flower in center.

Now for a few of my favorites, those I thought were especially striking and unusual:

This is made by Kristin LaFlamme, who's on the Artful Quilters ring, I think. It's called Dream Forest--I love the abstract overall design of a forest, and then when you go closer, you see more forest and a castle drawn with the quilting. I loved this quilt.

Rolling into Spring by Sonia Bardella, Italy. A wonderful photograph style quilt. There's lots of machine embroidery details in this too, everything beautifully integrated into the whole.

Bawa's Door by Lin Simpson, South Africa. Each block is a different door, with embroidered flowers, shrubbery, and other detail, and the whole is a door shape, with hinges and latch. The colors are lovely, and so is the workmanship.

I owe an apology to the maker of this quilt from the Hoffman Challenge collection because I missed her name. It's a great little quilt though. I like the whole Erte looking design, the wonderful quilting patterns, and the brilliance of that fabric choice for the woman's body. I always admire things I would never have thought of in a hundred years!

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Creative Mess

Allison Aller just posted pictures of her work area in the midst of heavy creativity, and in her case creativity with wonderful results. A few weeks ago, inspired by reading about other bloggers who were rearranging and making beautiful work spaces, I took some pictures of my mess. I never posted these and actually deleted the photos. But here is the current state. This is actually rather neat. We had guests last weekend, and I spent a day organizing and purging. I have lots of space, but it has developed ad hoc without any attempt to make an attractive area, or even one that is the most efficient. But I can find anything I need, and it works for me. As I commented on Allie's blog, while cleaning I found this quotation posted on my bulleting board: A creative mess is better than tidy idleness. My philosophy!

The hanging plastic bags came from a library supply place several years ago. Libraries use them to store children's book/cd sets, and I use them for odd untrimmed scraps sorted by color. They're wonderful.

I'm off to Chicago this afternoon to babysit with the twins this evening and then spend some time tomorrow at the Chicago Quilt Expo. I'll report next week.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Odds and Ends

Well, I'm not going to Houston (but it's fun to read the adventures of people who are there), and I'm not going to my guild retreat this weekend. Instead we are having house guests, old friends who are coming for a few days. It's a case of wanting to be two or three people! Saturday the guys will go to the football game, and Jean and I are driving into Chicago to see the SOFA show. SOFA stands for Sculpture Objects Functional Art, and as you can see from the link it's a super-duper art show with galleries from all over the world displaying artists' work. Last time I went, one of the galleries had some quilts by Nancy Crow, so that was interesting. Everything is great fun to look at, especially the jewelry, and totally unaffordable for most of us. The place is always packed with affluent looking, artsily dressed types, which is also great for people watching.

I've also been working slowly on the orchid quilt. I didn't like the whole fabric background, so I changed to blocks, which seemed like a good idea at the time and was much easier to work with, but when put together seem too stark. So I'm auditioning this striped, woodsy looking fabric for sash and border, and I think I like it. It blends the colors and restores some of the mysterious quality that I lost in the changes. The shapes in the left border may be appliqued on. This is still brewing because I don't have time to think about it at the moment. In this picture the color scheme sure looks like the 70's, doesn't it? Not so much in reality, I think.

And finally--I checked an interesting book out of the library: Quilting Masterclass from That Patchwork Place. It's a collection of quilts, mostly contemporary and "arty", by various quilters, with some comments about technique (although not as much as blurbs for the book promise). I loved the book. There are familiar quilts from familiar names like Judy Dales, Katie P. M., Carol Bryer Fallert, Ruth McDowell, but there are many others from the U.S. as well as the U.K., Australia, and South Africa that were unfamiliar to me. It's always good to get out of the rut created by looking at the same quilt magazines, patterns, and even some shows, to form a fresh perspective. I highly recommend this book.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Campus Tour

On a beautiful day last week, I took my camera to the Notre Dame campus to give you a glimpse of what, according to some statistics, is Indiana's largest tourist attraction. My husband has taught at Notre Dame for years, my older son and daughter-in-law went there, and when my children were young we lived a few blocks away. On fall evenings we could hear the band practicing and sometimes my husband and the boys would ride their bikes over to watch practice. (My son later played in the ND band, and met his wife there, so early influence can be important!) The place has changed a great deal since then, but here are a few pictures of the classic ND sites, and a few of some of the newer buildings.

We start with the first view of the campus, the open area leading up to the Administration Building, the famous Golden Dome. If it has another name, I don't know what it is. It's just the Dome, and Notre Dame graduates are Domers.

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart. It's beautiful inside, painted in French Baroque style, but I was in a hurry.

A closer view of the Dome, with a statue of St. Joseph in the foreground. Supposedly he's saying, "It's ok, Mary. If you jump, I'll catch you!"

Here's one of the newer landmarks. It's war memorial, dedicated to Notre Dame graduates killed in all wars. Naturally, it's called "Stonehenge." That's the library in the background.

Here's the south side of the Hesburgh library tower. The mural is constructed of Indiana limestone and represents Jesus teaching. I think the official title is something like "The Word of Life," but since the library lines up perfectly behind the north goal of the football stadium and was totally visible to all fans, the mural is always called "Touchdown Jesus."

Neighborhood children used to fly kites on this quadrangle. It's part of the new construction which has made the campus almost unrecognizable to anyone who hasn't seen it recently. The building to the left is the new business school, and to the right is the De Bartolo performing arts center. An ugly building, but a fabulous arts center. It has a movie theater with state of the art projection and sound, two concert/recital halls, a theater, and an organ recital hall (including pipe organ). Although all are under one roof they were built on separate foundations to prevent any sound transfer when two events are happening at the same time.

And one more new building--an appropriate final stop, as it is for many visitors. This is the new bookstore. If anyone was here in the past they might remember the old bookstore on the south quad. That's gone, and here's what we've got instead. A gothic temple to merchandising, packed with every Notre Dame souvenir item you can imagine, and some books too.

People either love Notre Dame, or hate it. Either way, hope you enjoyed the tour. And notice--I didn't mention the football team's season!

Friday, October 19, 2007

What the Heck?

It's an angel--

It's the ears of a mutant rabbit--

It's a frog leg--

Actually, it's a ghost orchid.

And maybe it's the composition of a quilt. I'm not liking this very much.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sheer Applique

Does anyone know any tips about appliqueing sheers (net, tulle) to a quilt top? What kind of machine stitching, how do you mark the pattern on the sheer, what kind of thread, etc? I know Libby Lehman has done this, but I have the old edition of her book, and there's nothing in there about it. I'm assuming that you use zig zag or satin stitch with a stabilizer, and the color of thread would depend on the effect you want. I'd appreciate any info anyone has.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Thanks, Officer

I drove back from Missouri yesterday, a perfectly smooth drive, 10 hours, not much traffic even in the dread I80-94 stretch south of Chicago. Then I hit the Indiana tollroad, almost home, happily engrossed in a book on tape. Suddenly, a state patrolman appeared, lights flashing. I couldn't believe he meant me; I could see my cruise control standing on 72 (the speed limit is 70). He didn't go around though, so I pulled over. "Ma'am, do you know why I stopped you today?" "No, I have no idea." "I clocked you at 85 in the left hand lane." I expressed amazement, but handed over the papers, and of course, he wrote me a ticket, which is going to cost BIG BUCKS! I have never had any kind of ticket in all my many years of driving, so this is a shock. Also scary. I have no memory of doing what he said in this particular instance, but I know what must have happened. I suppose I pulled around trucks, who are exceeding the truck speed limit (65) of course. You have to speed up to pass them, and if you try to go around them gradually without exceeding the speed limit, someone runs up on your rear bumper. So faster and faster without being aware of it. I've become so familiar with this long drive that I make it on remote control, and this is clearly not a good thing. So the moral is, don't listen to a really interesting book, and stay behind the *&&^% trucks!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Test

I was able to spend a couple of hours today making a test of how the ghost orchid might look in applique. It comes out to about 14 x 18 inches, and there is more color and pattern in the fabrics than shows in the photo; colors lean more to greenish and yellowish whites too. I'm fairly satisfied with the shapes, but there would need to be more detail on petals and sepals, with more fabrics used and with machine embroidery. In addition, I have no idea of a composition for this thing, or not much idea anyway. I'll let this marinate for a while and then maybe do a test pieced block. I'm feeling less and less inclined for piecing though, since I don't think I can spend that much time. Thanks for everyone's comments and ideas.

After posting, it is clear to me that this thing needs major jazzing up--different fabrics (which will mean shopping, I think), lots of interesting stitching, something. Insipid is the word that comes to mind. Oh, well--it's only a rough draft.

Friday, September 21, 2007


I have to go to Chicago to play Grandma tomorrow, and then I have to go to Missouri to do eldercare, and then Grandma again... So I don't get much chance to be "quilt artist". But I have been thinking about an orchid quilt, and just to see what anyone thinks I'll throw out some ideas. I imagine most people doing a "pretty" orchid in classic pinks and lavenders, so wanting to do something different, I'm drawn to the ghost orchid, which is certainly different looking.

There's more information at this link. This is a fascinating flower in more ways than just its appearance.

I can't decide whether to try a Ruth McDowell style pieced block or the relatively simple machine applique style that I've done before. I've already drafted a pieced block which I think I can do, but how I will translate one or two blocks into an interesting composition, I don't know, and they're so complicated I don't want to make one and then have to discard it. The applique is much simpler, but when I visualize it, it doesn't seem very interesting. The problem with using this orchid in a design is the lack of color; it might be striking and unusual, or it might be drab. The quilt doesn't have to be realistic, but still, one of the main qualities of the ghost orchid is its mysterious quality, and I think it should stay white or almost white. I've pulled fabrics ranging from white through pale greenish yellows and, and for the background, dark greenish grays with a bit of purple, and this doesn't look bad. I obviously won't be doing something immediately, so maybe inspiration will strike me. Maybe the fact that I can't commit, means there's something better out there. If anyone has any thoughts, let me know.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

They're Here!

This is Aidan Michael, 6.25 pounds, who has reddish blond hair, and Conor Robert, 7+ pounds, with dark curly hair, both beautiful. They were born Tuesday, Sept. 18, three weeks premature (hard to believe with those weights) and everyone is doing well. I visited yesterday, and will go back to stay for a few days this weekend when they come home. There will be grandmother tag-team for a while until things are a bit settled. Right now the babies are sleeping almost constantly in their burrito wrap, with now and then a squinty eyed look at the world, but things will get livelier soon.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Works in Progress

Here are all the Ruth McDowell sample blocks. The arrangement may be changed, and I'm only auditioning that center square. It was great fun to make these, challenging, but not impossible. The circle and the square are not appliqued, but actually set into the background piece. That was much easier than I would have thought. Some of those sharp curves in the upper left hand block were a bear, however, and they're not smooth enough to pass close scrutiny. Making a pattern of my own and keeping all the pieces straight is rather mind-bloggling. I'm not sure if I'll try it.

And this is the new border fabric for the exchange block quilt. It will require piecing, since JoAnn's didn't have enough, but I'm not concerned about that, I think, and I like it better than the original choice. Thanks for the input, everyone. You made me think about it more than I would have otherwise. That's what blogs are for, right?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Orchid Quilt

A member of my Michigan guild who spends the winter in Florida is organizing a quilt show to coincide with the World Orchid Society conference in Miami next January. Quilts need to represent orchids in some way. Sorry to be vague, but she was a bit vague also. I think the show is totally open in terms of technique, etc., but there is a size limit; recommended size is about 40 by 45 inches, but the limits are slightly larger and smaller. It is not a juried show, but pictures of the finished quilt or WIP are due in December, and the quilt itself must be shipped in mid-January. If anyone would like contact information for the organizer, let me know. I spent some time yesterday looking at photographs of orchids, and I must say that although I've never been particularly struck by them, they're certainly an amazing flower. I'm thinking about doing something for this show. We'll see.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Next Step

I've put the inner border on this exchange block quilt, and am auditioning the next two borders. I'm not sure that I now like the multi-print fabric I originally planned to use as a border because the colors don't seem to work. There is a blue in the focus fabric, but it barely shows, and the blue blocks seem to come out of nowhere. The dark green might be better, but I don't have enough of it to make a wider border, and this is intended to be a stash project. Any thoughts, anyone? Maybe I'm thinking too much about something that is just a very basic, finish-the-UFO project.

Monday, September 03, 2007

I wish everyone who has a picnic or beach outing planned for Labor Day could have the kind of weather we're having. It's going to be a perfect day here, but we have no plans. Bob has classes, and I hope to accomplish some sewing. Here's the progress on my exchange block quilt.
Here is the entire layout with border fabrics being auditioned.

Here are two rows of blocks sewn together with the "corner cutter" pieces added to form that little green diagonal square.
I thought the smaller green square helped to break up the "bullseye" effect of that pattern and tied in the border fabric, but I'm not sure now. Perhaps a sash in the same color would have been good. But I don't have fabric for that, and one goal here was to use only my stash, so I think I'm going to continue sewing the blocks together and see. I don't have much emotional or financial involvement in this quilt; done is good, in this case.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

New Project!

Finally a new project is in the works! It's not my project from start to finish, but it's exciting to be pulling out fabric in colors I like, and I'm feeling a big of creative energy. I have these blocks from a block exchange at a guild retreat last fall. They're actually pretty set together like this, but they're a little white for my taste and would only make a lap size quilt.

So I'm using Sharyn Craig's ideas from Setting Solutions, and framing them with fabric strips that I'm coordinating with this multicolored green fabric which will be the border. (At first I hated to use this beautiful fabric on a potluck project like this, but I guess it's better used for something than lying in the stash.)

Here are a couple of blocks framed. By happy coincidence, most of the blocks include at least one color which will coordinate with the framing strips. Where the corners join, I'll put in a piece of the light, bright yellow-green--I think. I have twenty four blocks, so framed this way and with borders, they should make at least a twin size quilt.

In the family news department, my daughter-in-law is still in the hospital on bed rest, but is working by internet. If all goes as it is now, they will test for babies' lung development in about two weeks, and then schedule a c-section. So that situation is under control temporarily at least.

Monday, August 27, 2007

On Hold

I haven't been able to post for quite a while because I've been traveling due to family obligations. I also haven't done any creative work. I did receive the news that my Hoffman Challenge quilt is in the traveling exhibit again, and that is gratifying. However, it's in a group with a very short schedule and isn't going anywhere where I can see it. I'll get to see Debra's at the spring International Quilt Festival in Chicago though, and I am happy about that. In other news, the twin grandsons could arrive at any time although the due date is not till October. So I'm on call, waiting to see if and when I'm needed in Chicago. Life is not dull--just sort of on hold. All you creative people, keep it up. I'm living vicariously!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Marking Quilting Lines

Deb Geyer has posted a video about using Elmer's School Glue as basting glue. This reminded me of another easily available school supply product that I use in quilting: that's Crayola Washable Markers. They make a great mark for quilting designs, easily visible and removable by washing. A warning though: don't use them on something you don't intend to wash, because although the marks come out cleanly, a lot of water is needed and there is a lot of ink. A spritz of water won't do the job. Also, I don't know whether you should use detergent or not, but I would assume so because mothers washing kids clothes do. I usually put my quilts through the rinse and spin cycle after the quilting is done, and the Crayola markers work great for this. Here's the twin quilts, one marked and ready to quilt and the other quilted and rinsed. (It needs fluffing in the dryer to look prettier.) Take my word that the marks that have been washed out were actually much darker than the ones you see in the picture.

Of course you should test the markers on a scrap first, and be sure to get the WASHABLE ones. :)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Some Accomplishment

Although it's been a while since I blogged about quilting, I have been doing some work. I have both quilt tops for the twins finished and am getting ready to quilt the first one. The quilting will be simple and should go fast. I made both tops the same except for slight rearrangement of the fabrics. I must say it was actually fun to do something that took no brain, and I don't think I could have planned anything better, so I'm not sorry I went the kit route. The pattern is called ABC Fun from Country Quilts.

My second accomplishment was to finish the ugly fabric challenge piece. This project was the total opposite of the baby quilts. It took lots of time, lots of drawing, lots of agonizing over fabric choices, etc., and am I satisfied? No. Depressing. However, it is done.

I also met with my partner in the prize ribbon assignment, and we assembled the ribbons. I must say they look very pretty, thanks to Julie's wonderful choice of rich looking tone-on-tone fabrics for the ruffle and tails. So that is also done. Now that I have (almost) finished my "duty" work, I'm thinking about projects that have been simmering in my mind for a while, something that I will do only to please myself.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

An Amazing Building

Last weekend my husband and I went to Milwaukee to celebrate our anniversary. When people hear this they always say, "Why?" Simple answer, really. We love Milwaukee; it's a small, friendly sort of city, with a mix of beautiful Victorian buildings and new architecture, attractive development along the river, and enough to do and see for a pleasant weekend. Another benefit is that it's inexpensive compared to Chicago, a real bargain. We stay in a glorious Victorian hotel, the Pfitzer, eat at a restaurant called Sanford's, one of the best I've been to anywhere, enjoy the riverside walk and the microbreweries. And we go to the Milwaukee Art Museum. The most outstanding thing about the museum is the building itself. The building, which stands in a beautiful park overlooking Lake Michigan, features a new pavillion designed by the Spanish architect, Santiago Calitrava. The atrium roof lifts up when the building opens in the morning and lowers at night. It's also raised and lowered at noon so that visitors at that hour can enjoy the experience. The roof controls light into the center of the building, but is actually a giant kinetic sculpture, said to suggestion a bird in flight, a ship under sail, or perhaps the tale of large fish or whale.

Two views of the open position:


Here's an inside view of one corridor. If you think of the whole effect as whale-like, then this resembles the animal's ribs, I think. Can't you see it as the location for a futuristic film?

I'm perfectly happy if people laugh when we say we went to Milwaukee; maybe it will stay an undiscovered pleasure.