Thursday, December 30, 2010

End of the Year News

Christmas was quiet, filled with excellent food, not too much in the way of gifts.  I made my husband a reservation at Alinea in Chicago, and that's his gift.  I guess it's mine too,  although it's honestly not my thing.  Still, a world class restaurant is not to be sneezed at, so I'm grateful for the chance to go.

This is more my thing:

Our new kitten, Larry.  Larry was rescued as a newborn from a cat hoarding situation: sick, starving, covered with fleas.  He was bottle-fed, given antibiotics, de-fleaed (twice), and is now healthy, happy, and very people loving.  He thinks he is a person, I'm sure.  Our other cat hid for two days, stalked around in fury for several more, and now just stares at him.  He is completely undisturbed by anything she does; he's seen it all.  We're hoping they will eventually be friends, but peaceful coexistence may be as far as it goes.

On the quilt front, I've finished Interpret This! (reveals January 13), pieced one more quick charity top, and quilted and bound this one:

the last finish of the year.

We're going to Chicago for New Year's with my son, daughter-in-law and the twins since we couldn't see them Christmas.   I can't wait!

Everyone:  have a safe New Year's Eve, full of whatever sort of celebration you  most enjoy, and a good 2011.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Interpret This! Progress

After I finished some Christmas gifts yesterday, I was able to start working on my December Interpret This! piece.  I've spent a lot of time playing with Photoshop and learned some more about it.  The results aren't necessarily going to show this, however, since I've discarded a pile of trials.  Not wasted time though, because I enjoyed it, and learning can be its own reward--if you remember it!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Some Finishes

I'm not really hiding from Christmas duties. One of these is a gift, one was finished a while back, and the third--yes, it was an escape. I lied.

1. Lap quilt for son and daughter-in-law. I chose the colors to go with the repainting plan they have for the large living area of their home, and I hope they like it. I like the look of the quilt, but not the feel. The quilting is beautiful, but I've learned to be more careful about choosing the batting, quilting pattern, and thread to get a softer cozier touch for a lap quilt. Wool batting, looser quilting, and a finer thread would be better.

2. Guild service quilt, made from orphan blocks. I posted this before it was finished and quilted, but it is completely done now. Was there a reason I started the alphabet border in the lower left hand corner instead of upper left? I hope so, but I've forgotten it now.

3. Another guild service quilt. I started with pinwheel blocks made from the trimmings of flying geese units. I'd saved them, but hadn't used them because I didn't really want to square them up. But then after reading Gwen Marston's Liberated Quilting, I realized they could be a bit off square, and definitely didn't all have to be the same size. Then I added liberated log cabin strips, and this is the result. I love the freshness of the colors, and the movement the off-center pinwheels give. It definitely needs a bright colored binding to keep the border from disappearing, so I'll add that when I quilt it after Christmas.

It's so relaxing to make something like this! Now to wrap some gifts, and finish the tree.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Help with Binding

I packed up lots of gifts today and took them to the post office, along with my Road to California entry. Now as it's continuing to snow, I'm finishing my last big pre-Christmas project. I was laying the binding around the edges to make sure that the seams didn't hit the corners, and Florabelle came to help, as you can see.

Elizabeth Barton has a post today about quilt cliches, and I know a picture of your cat on your quilt is a quilt blog cliche, but I couldn't resist. After all, cute is cute, right?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Hotel Fabric Art, and a Testimonial for Phone Cameras

In Chicago, we usually stay at one of the Club Quarters hotels. For some reason this chain features fabric art in their lobby. There used to be a silk wall quilt above the desk whose blocks made a subtle CQ logo. It was truly subtle; I saw it several times in Chicago and a similar one in New York before I realized it wasn't just an abstract pieced design.

This new piece, meant to suggest the ripples of the Chicago River, hangs in the remodeled lobby of the CQ on Wacker Driver, also known as the River Hotel.

It's silk, made by something like the faux chenille technique that was fashionable a few years ago. I've admired it several times, and two weeks ago remembered that I could take a decent picture with my new phone.

And also with my phone, I took this stunning photo, looking east down the river from the Wells Street Bridge. The moon was posing for me, I think.

Monday, November 29, 2010

November Interpret This!

Bricks, Boards, and Window Panes
20" x 29"

I stayed away from the detail in this photo and concentrated on the geometric shapes. It was put together using a modified version of Ruth McDowell's technique. Instead of cutting a freezer paper template for every piece, I just divided the design into large sections (door, window, three sections of wall) and pieced each section by rough measurement. Then I used a template to cut the section to size, and assembled the sections. Except for the window section, it was simple.

I blogged earlier about the border fabric problem, but the result is passable in my eye. The holidays kept me from thinking much about how to make this more interesting with elaborate quilting, more thread work, even some embellishments. I just went with the simple geometric patterns.

This is a piece that makes me keep thinking about alternative approaches. For instance, the various textures in the photo are lovely, and it would have been fun to find fabric with textures instead of standard quilting cotton. Perhaps someone else in the group has done that. Be sure and click on the sidebar link to find out.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fortunately, there's only a couple of the these types at my table. How about you?

Before I start last minute Thanksgiving organizing, here's a few bits of information that are on the top of my brain this morning.

Equilter is having a fabulous Thanksgiving sale, with many fabrics at 50% off. The collection of blenders is particularly wonderful; there's a full selection of several beautiful lines. I know it's ironic that I should post this in light of recent complaints about my stash, but I didn't say I was buying. I'm just sharing.

Kathy Loomis has been publishing a series of posts about the trend in quilt design and art quilting today. Some sacred cows have been gored. Very thought-provoking, whether you agree or not. I do, mostly.

Personal notes: I finished the binding of my IT! piece last night while watching the finale of Dancing with the Stars. Perfect timing. Reveals begin Sunday. And Peppermint Stars is going to Road to California. This was very good news, not really expected.

Finally, Happy Thanksgiving, safe travels, good eating, and pleasant company to everyone.

Friday, November 19, 2010

More Stash Problems

How do you organize your stash? Mine is sorted by color except for a few special types of fabrics, batiks, for instance. This works in theory, except that I do have a couple of boxes of fabric I've put aside for a future project. That caused the problem.

Trying to find a border fabric for Interpret This!, I realized I had no fabric of the right tone of green, a grayed blueish green; all my greens were too yellow. After fretting about this, rummaging through the stash, and auditioning fabric for a whole afternoon, I settled on piecing several bits of hand dyed fabric I'd made at a guild workshop. I was satisfied.
Then, while straightening up the mess, I looked in the box of fabrics put aside for my "winter" colored quilt (to be made when I decide on a pattern). Here they are: perfect bluish greens, even with the right kind of pattern. They would have looked just as good, or better, than what I've done, and they would have saved me lots of time. And I could have continued to "save" the hand-dyes for that special project. Arghh!

Even more embarrassing, I had actually pulled a bluish gray and an ivory from this box earlier, but wasn't looking for greens then, and forgot about them later.

Defeated by the stash--again.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

One of Those Things

I spent all day yesterday trying to make headway on my Interpret This! project, and actually accomplished quite a bit. The photo is both a teaser and a reminder of what can happen when you have been sewing all day and have "just one more thing to do". You mark the pattern wrong and cut where you shouldn't. No, there is not supposed to be a seam there, but there is now!

Friday, November 12, 2010


I recently prepared some pieces to submit to a local art gallery and decided to frame two of the small ones to set them apart from hot pads. I know there are different ways to frame fabric art, but this is what I did. I was happy with the results.

I bought an inexpensive frame with glass, removed the glass and all paper filling. I discard the glass because I don't care for the look of fabric pieces behind glass. Then I cut a piece of foam board the size of the frame. I like to use foam board instead of a mat board because I think it's easier to cut and work with, but it is a bit too thick to go back into the frame easily. I solved that problem by cutting and peeling back the layer of cardboard on one side, right where the little doo-hickies that hold the cardboard backing go. That makes the board compress so that it will fit into the frame.

Then I used temporary spray adhesive and pins on the corners to hold the piece in the correct place on the foam board. Then with a long heavy needle and strong thread, I made a tiny stitch through the board and the piece, trying to hit the ditch where the binding is attached. I repeated this stitch around the edges, tying the ends. The stitches and the cuts in the foam are hidden when the original backing of the frame is replaced.

Then the foam board goes back into the frame, the backing is replaced and the holders are twisted back in place, and here it is. Not too bad, relatively easy and inexpensive. It also has the advantage of not damaging the piece in any way, so you or a future owner can change your mind.

After posting, I realized I had an earlier, briefer post on this method, and had credited the idea to Deborah Boshert of Deborah's Journal. She should have credit for the idea, but I take credit for shaving down that foam board! Although it still takes muscle to force it into the frame, this helps a lot!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Moment of Truth

My name is Kathy and I have too much fabric.

This morning I was searching for a particular piece of blue fabric, bright blue with little white dots; it makes a perfect night sky. I couldn't find it.

In the search I realized that I have three drawers of blue fabric, two of them so full that the fabric is no longer standing neatly so I can see what's there. Some of it has slipped down and is totally lost to view. If you can't find it, or don't know it's there, what good is it? In addition, I realized that I no longer enjoy the rummaging process. I just felt frustrated, ready to give up the project. I never did find that fabric--it may be gone. I didn't find the white "snow" fabric either, and I'm sure I haven't used that up.

I could make a "stash busting" quilt, but we all know what a joke that is. The stash just grows. The quilt I'm making was supposed to bust some batiks, but the dent is not noticeable.

I'm not ready to start shipping fabric off to a good cause yet, so don't anyone suggest one, but I have to do something. One thing I won't do is go to a garage sale held this Saturday by a guild member who is cleaning out her excess!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reflections on Work Past, Present, and Yet to Come

About an hour after I posted my Interpret This! piece, while dusting I picked up the Art Institute of Chicago magazine and it fell open to this:

This seems to be a tapestry; there was no other information given. It was just a brief article about the museum's textile collection.Of course I was struck by the repeated ovals and the subtle coloring. (It's actually brighter here than it was in the magazine.) What a beautiful thing! It's always an odd experience to find a work that has some resemblance, even slight, to something I've just done: there's regret that I couldn't create something so good, along with pleasure that someone else found the same idea pleasing.

In other news, I have all the blocks made for this lap quilt, and I think this will be the final arrangement--or almost. You can tinker with this sort of thing endlessly. I wish I'd had more variety of fabrics, but this will be it. Now to start sewing together. My goal is the end of the week. That should be simple to do, but there are other things going on too.

And finally, this lovely scene is the new Interpret This! photo. In some ways, a photo like this is harder than a less appealing one, at least for me. It's early yet; I'll hope for inspiration.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

October Interpret This!

12" x 9"
Batik, organza, machine applique and quilting

I probably win the out-of-left-field prize this month, since as you can see, this looks nothing like the photo. Sometimes you just have to do what feels right to you, especially in art, however you define art. There is more about my thought process on the Interpret This! blog, and you can see the other lovely work by people who were able to stay much closer to the original image. Reveals began yesterday, so be sure and scroll down.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

1,000 Quilts To Houston

Ami Simms is taking 1,000 Alzheimer's quilts to Houston again, so if you're going to be there, pay a visit.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Happenings, continued

I finished my Interpret This! piece, thank heavens.  Reveals start next week, October 26.

My problems with Blogger and photos continue.  (I bragged too soon.)  I can upload in the old editor on Safari, and when I change to Firefox, I can use the new editor, but it doesn't work the same as it did.  Other people must be having these problems too, but they still seem unresolved.

This weekend I'm going on a guild retreat.  The main building at the place we have gone for years burned last spring, a terrible thing for the camp and everyone who loves the place.  They are still open in the smaller, older buildings, so we will be cramped this year. Still, I'm looking forward to the chance to do nothing but brainless sewing for a couple of days.
In preparation, I've cut more pieces for this:

The more fabrics I add, the better it looks, I think; in the end, it will be mostly the blue/green, with the reds second and only enough gold for accent.

I'm also planning some pillowcases for Christmas gifts, layering a charity quilt to finish, and making snacks to share.  Remember:  MUST STAY AWAY FROM THE SNACK TABLE!  I like being a size smaller than I was last year.
And finally, a quick brag:

At guild last week, I received a ribbon for Carolina Baskets, displayed in our library show last August. (It's a viewers' choice award.)  Thank you, everybody, and thank you Deb Geyer, for the quilting.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What's Happening

Some miscellaneous news, just to show I'm still alive and quilting, at least a bit.

1.  While I was away last week I cut out some squares for a scrappy lap quilt using batiks. I will need to broaden the color range in order to have enough fabric. I could also broaden the value range, but don't want to do that. The quilt is intended to be a gift, and I don't think the recipients would go for the busy look.  The pattern is called Scrappity Do Dah, and I downloaded it from McCall's after I saw someone's version at guild.  It's been a long time since I did something like this, and when I finally sat down to sew on it, it was fun.

2.  Here's the new Interpret This! challenge photo. It's tough. That's all I'll say.  I have an idea, but no work to show yet.

 3.  I entered Peppermint Stars in Road to California. Fingers crossed.

While I was feeling bold, I called the owner of a local gallery who used to sell my quilted clothing and asked if she would take some of my small art quilts for the winter jurying.  She agreed, even saying that since she knew my work she didn't think they needed jurying.  I assured her that yes, they did.  We'll see how this goes.  I'm feeling some regret--would anyone really want these things?

4.  The project hanging over my head this week was preparing supplies and ideas for a group of ladies at church to decorate little canvas totes for nursing home residents to carry and stash belongings.  Since most of these women don't know much about fabric work, and aren't very crafty, it was a challenge.  I brought bags, paint,  prefused fabric for applique, and some very simple patterns and stencils.  The bags might not win a prize for art, but the group had fun, and I hope the recipients find them useful and appreciate the thought.  My benefit was becoming more skilled at applying WonderUnder to large pieces of fabric, and  I now have the leftovers for my own use.

Now that that's over, I plan to dig in to that fountain!

P.S.  Have to brag about a victory over the computer:  I couldn't get Blogger to upload photos, so I tried looking at the Preferences menu, turned on Extensions, and voila!  I have no idea what Extensions means exactly,  or why it was off, but this worked.  I always feels as though I have somehow conquered something major when I can solve a problem without having to see the suppressed scorn of my live-in computer consultant.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September Interpret This

Behind the Gate  22 x 22
Machine pieced, quilted, and appliqued

Strip piecing worked well to give the basic feel of the gate in this photo.  I added the leaves to create a tropical lushness and to contrast with the stiff graphic lines of the fence.  Flat traditional applique didn't seem right for the feeling I was trying to create, so I attached my leaves loosely, with only one seam down the center so that the edges and ends would curl a bit, giving a three-dimensional effect.  I also extended them beyond the edges of the quilt.

I worked out a way to make a two-sided leaf with raw edges that won't fray, or at least I think they won't.  First I pressed a freezer paper pattern of the leaf to the right side of the fabric, cut around it leaving about a quarter inch margin, and then painted the edges of the wrong side with Liquid Thread, slightly diluted with water.  It's important to be sure some of the Liquid Thread goes inside the margin of the leaf.

After it dried a bit, I fused the cutout leaf to the wrong side of the fabric.  After it cooled, I cut out the shape of the leaf and peeled away the freezer paper.

I tried fusible web for this also, and it would work too, but the glue of the Liquid Thread seals the edges of the fabric, so there's little raveling.  It also gives a nice crisp hand, with a tendency to curl, which is exactly what I wanted.  

I must say it's a bit of a tedious process though.  There were lots of leaves!

You can see the original photo and other interpretations on the Interpret This website.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Something to Share

It's been a long time since I had a photo of work.  Mostly I've been working on my Interpret This piece for September.  Here's a bit of a peek.  The slanted image I produced here may turn out to be more interesting than the whole thing.

You can see the challenge photo (it's a fence/gate) and other people's hints on the blog page.  Reveals start Sept 26.

Here are three little pieces for Alzheimer's Quilts.  One is a "multiple original" using another copy of my scanned butterfly weed and another of Debra Spincic's machine embroidered butterflies.  The first one sold well, so I hope this one will too.  The rather disproportionally large rose is a bit from Anne Lullie's workshop sponsored by our guild a while back, and last but not least, there's the infamous lilacs.  Maybe someone will recognize them.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Need an Excuse?

I heard this morning on NPR's Marketplace that because of droughts and floods in China and India, the price of cotton will be going up.  So stash builders, shop now!

Sunday, September 12, 2010


At guild last week a certified quilt appraiser from the area presented the program.  She discussed why you should have your quilts, both old and new, appraised, and what she does when she makes an appraisal,  what determines the value. One reason to have quilts appraised, of course, is that in case of loss an uninsured quilt is valued by the insurance company as bedding.  I'd always heard cost of materials, but apparently that's not true.

Her presentation was interesting.  For a new quilt, she considers fabric, the quality and quantity of the workmanship, and design, especially the good old "Wow factor."  The more specific information you have about any of these things, like the exact fabric line, the better.

For an old quilt, condition seems to be most important, but also rarity (old Grandmother's Flower Gardens are a dime a dozen apparently), and again the more specific the known history or provenance of the quilt, the better.

Besides putting a detailed label on a new quilt, she suggests labeling any antique or vintage quilt you have, even if your information is incomplete.  That way the next owner will have a place to start.

The most intriguing bit of information was this:  If you give a quilt for a special occasion like a wedding, it's good to have an appraisal to give with it.  Why?  Because young people may not care about the sentiment at this point, but they will care about the value.  So they will take care of the quilt, and later perhaps appreciate the sentiment too.  Rather cynical and commercial, but worth thinking about.

Does anyone have their quilts appraised?  At $40 an appraisal, it's pretty pricey, I think, and so I've never done it.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Finally, a Perceptive Critic

My older son came to visit this weekend, and while using my computer, was looking around the walls of my "studio", aka basement, where some of my Interpret This pieces are hanging.  He had some comments:

"I like your sushi." (This was totally unprompted; it's hanging above the scanner.)

Then I asked him what he thought about the others, without making any prompts or suggestions.

"I saw the Andy Warhol.  It's pretty cool.  The doll eyes are really creepy."

"I intended them to be that way."


Monday, August 30, 2010

July August Interpret This

Palais de l'Isle  15" x 17"
Machine pieced and quilted

I jumped at the chance to use Ruth McDowell's piecing methods in creating the medieval castle at the center of this challenge photo.

 Planning the pattern and piecing sequence is like creating a jigsaw puzzle and putting it back together, but once that was done, the piecing went smoothly.  This particular design didn't require curves and only one or two Y seams.  I did learn the importance of clear and complete marking though.  

You can read more about my piece and see the other reveals at the Interpret This! blog.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Me, Men, and Matisse

A while back, I posted a picture of this little piece and reported that my husband and son didn't know what it was, guessing "leaves".  When asked why the leaves were purple,  they were stumped.

More recently, we saw this Matisse painting in an exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Me:  David, do you know what kind of flowers those are?

David:  No.

Me:  Bob, do you know what kind of flowers those are?

Bob:  No.  (After walking across the room and peering at the label)    Lilacs!

So there you have it.  I'm not comparing myself to Matisse, but isn't it odd?  Same flower, same lack of recognition.

Do you think it would have helped if I'd put my lilacs in a vase?  Or added a label?

And on a totally unrelated note, don't forget the Interpret This reveals beginning today.  Mine will be up Monday afternoon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Design Wall

I don't usually post the design wall on Monday, but this week I have something on the wall.  It's the same thing, at about the same stage of completion, that was on the wall last Monday too.  I'm still fighting a messed up sleep schedule and a cold, so haven't been very energetic.

This is five orphan blocks which I am putting together for a service quilt.  After I make some more nine patches, there will be an outer border cut from a panel of alphabet flower blocks, also pink, green, and yellow.  That should bring it up to size for a very feminine lap quilt, or I guess, a crib quilt for a little girl.

And speaking of nine-patches, does anyone else find them hard to make when they're cut from scrappy squares?  (I'm not strip piecing because I want more variety than that allows.)  I don't seem to be able to line up the little pieces accurately, and on a small block the mismatches really show up.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Guild Show

Every year my guild displays quilts in the Mishawaka, Indiana library.  The library has a large open atrium and center hallway which shows the quilts off to great advantage, and the show is enjoyed by all the library patrons and quilters as well.

Although I finished this quilt a while ago, I haven't posted it because it's so large I couldn't get a good picture.  The show is a perfect opportunity.  It's not been a favorite of mine:  the colors are a little sweet, and it's too regular in design, but now that it's been beautifully quilted by Deb Geyer, and I see it hanging here, I do like it.

And while we're looking at blue quilts, isn't this beautiful?  It was made by Michelle Wilson, and I wish I knew the pattern.  She did a wonderful job of choosing batiks; there's enough variety of value and tone to give the pattern definition but still be soft like a batik quilt can be.

Here are two scrappy beauties, by Kathleen Peterson and Fern Hamlin.  The place they were hung didn't allow a very good picture unfortunately, but I love both these quilts--so much movement.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Highs and Lows of Our Australian Adventure


     Sunset and sunrise on Uluru (Ayers Rock).  The bus pulls in, set up a table with wine and snacks (or coffee) provides a folding stool, and you can watch the moment-by-moment color changes of the rock.

 Ride on the Ghan train from Adelaide to Alice Springs.  This is definitely a railroad adventure.  The entire ride takes two-and-a-half days from the bottom to the top of Australia.  We did 24 hours, stopping at Alice Springs.  The train is quite luxurious, with comfortable compartments and delicious meals, beautifully served.  The scenery was a thrill to me, and we met fascinating people, all Australian.  Visiting this part of their country was an adventure for them too.

     Amazing plants, animals and rock formations in the outback.

  A wonderful performance of The Marriage of Figaro at the Sydney Opera House.  This is the view from one of the lobbies.


   My husband's worsening cough, which finally required an unscheduled visit to the clinic on the cattle station where we were staying.  We walked in with no money or ID, received excellent, immediate, and free care, and two prescription medications.  He had to take it easy for the rest of the trip, resisting every inch of the way.

   After a wonderful flight from Australia on Quantas, we had a cancelled flight from LA to Chicago that meant we were rerouted through Dallas, left there two hours late, and then of course had a major luggage mix-up in Chicago.   Arrival: six hours late.  That's probably par for the course these days.

   It's good to be home!  Now if I could sleep more than an hour at a time...