Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Looking Up

I'm feeling more cheerful about my work since the last post for several reasons.  One is shown below.  My daughter-in-law took the Athena's Puzzle quilt home when they visited last week, and here you see it in use. What could be better!

I finished the scarf.  The color combination in this outfit is not the best, but you get the idea.  This was fun, incredibly fast, and satisfied any knitting urge I may have had.

And finally, I learned that my joke quilt has been accepted by Road to California.  Entering this seemed like a long shot to me; I thought the quilt's uniqueness would be in its favor, but the quilting isn't up to the super level that seems to be expected everywhere.  So the email was a happy surprise.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  I did lots of cooking yesterday, and am cleaning today, but not too strenuously.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What I've Learned Recently

1.  Sometimes less is more.  I like the way this charity quilt turned out with minimal quilting.  With the polyester batting, it should be enough.

2.  How to make an ugly quilt:  Throw in too many, too bright "accent" blocks.  Oh, well on a dark and stormy night it will be just fine.

3.  I can still knit.  I just discovered this novelty yarn, called Marina Glitz, and thought I could manage a scarf that requires only eight stitches.

You pick up the loops on the top of the web and knit them, and the result is this ruffly scarf.  Although it's a bit trickier than I expected, I have finished half of the skein in two nights of TV watching.  It might be tempting to make more for gifts, but most colors seem to be out-of-stock in all the web sites I checked.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ho Hum

Must get motivated.  Must get motivated.

This will not help much.

Here's the latest Hoffman Challenge fabric.  First off, fabric with roses is not my style, but the other problem is the disappointingly sleazy quality of this fabric.  It looks more like a Walmart knockoff than a Hoffman--the weave is coarse, and the colors don't have the usual sharp definition. At $10.50 a yard the high cost of cotton is really hitting home.  To be fair, there seems to be a white over print over the images which may have something to do with the blurred look, but the general effect isn't very successful.

I do have an idea, but I'll need to get motivated to start.  That seems to be the hard part for me lately.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

The Interpret This! door revisited.  What Photoshop can do with a basic quilt!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Seasonal Work

I hardly ever make something in seasonal colors.  It's tempting, but I know that by the time a piece is done the season will be just a memory, and I'll wonder what I was thinking.

In the last few weeks I've done so much driving through the countryside drinking in the early fall colors that I couldn't resist.  So here's what I'm working on.  It's an attempt to capture the colors of early fall, September here, when the landscape is still mostly sun-bright green with accents of yellow and gold from the fields of soybeans and the Spanish Needle along the road.  The bright red comes later.

The maple leaf block superimposed on the split nine-patch is one of Judy Martin's ideas, and it seemed to give the effect I'm after.  I deliberately kept the value contrast a bit fuzzy in places so the colors are mixed as they are in nature.The border will be random-length strips of the dark green.  The piecing is almost done now, and while I won't have it quilted before early fall is a memory, it's been surprisingly enjoyable to work inside on the the colors that I love outside.

I've also loved paying attention to the piecing.  Working on a succession of fast pieces has been fun, but it's satisfying to try making the triangles match exactly rather than just come "close enough".  Craftsmanship can be its own reward,can't it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Well, at least I don't spread conspiracy theories!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Guild Shows and Charity Quilts

I've been involved with two guild shows in the last month.  The first one is the South Bend-Mishawaka guild show in the Mishawaka main library.  I've written about it before; it's a beautiful venue, and lovely show.  It's free for everyone, and draws both casual library goers and people who come specifically to see the quilts, including men.  How many men do you see at a regular show unless they come with their wives?  But there are always men at this show, not all just by chance.  They always have stories about their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and their quilts--all handmade. of course.  "No one does that anymore."  I wish I had a good answer to that--I just bite my tongue.

Some quilts from the show:

Grandpa's Fruit and Vegetable Garden by Helen Mao, striking from a distance and the fussy cuts are charming.

Simple Gifts by Virginia Heitman.  Virginia adapted a pattern to make the quilt rectangular; it's hand appliqued and machine quilted.  I love her fabric choices: the colors are so bright and clear.  (A softer colored version showed up in the second show, hand appliqued and hand quilted.  These men are wrong.)

The second show, held by the Niles, Michigan guild, is a full scale show, with vendors, refreshments, member boutique etc., and is a major fund raiser.  Anyone who has worked on this knows how tough it is, but this year seemed very successful, judged on the number of people and the money raised.  Here are a few of my favorites from that show.  I wasn't at all systematic in the pictures I took.

 This quilt is strikingly different from anything else in the show.  It's a Gee's Bend quilt.  Did you know there are kits for Gees Bend Quilts?  Talk about ironic.  But I thought the lively machine quilting is in the same improvisational spirit as the original quilts, even though it may seem wildly inappropriate at first.

This is a beautiful Star of Bethlehem pieced and quilted by Joan Duval.  I would have liked to see it do better than second in the category.

These two wildly different quilts are made by the same person, Linda FunNell.  I hate Sunbonnet Sue ordinarily, but I love this one.  Those perky pinwheels in the sash give it life and movement that's usually  lacking; and the mariner's compass quilt was stunning.

So much has been going on that I haven't been able to think about anything very creative, so I have pieced three charity quilt tops, and quilted, but not bound, two.  I've found that watching recordings of the Daily Show and Stephen Colbert while doing brainless sewing works really well.  Today's schedule:  Dancing with the Stars!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

When Easy Isn't

While I was out of touch this summer, I missed the big blogosphere discussion of "modern quilting" and the Dumbing Down of Quilting.  If you missed it too, just google that phrase and you'll find all you need to know.  The two terms aren't really synonymous,  but they became joined in the on-line discussions.

This topic is relevant to my experience with Athena's Puzzle.  Athena's Puzzle is a Blue Underground pattern designed by Janine Burke.  These patterns would seem to fit under the umbrella of Modern Quilting: large pieces, straight lines, emphasis on fabric choice and color rather than intricate piecing.  I like them, and I also like Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr's designs which have similar characteristics.

This being said, are these patterns "dumbed down" and overly simple?  If people think that, they're being deceived.  The question is who is doing the deceiving.  Is it the designers and the marketers who want to sell a "simple" pattern to beginners, or is it the beginners, who are kidding themselves.  Some patterns undoubtedly are simple, but some are not.

 For example, Athena's puzzle is a "simple" courthouse steps design with the colors arranged differently from the original; the sewing is simple, the fabric layout is tricky at first.  (The directions are good at this point.)

But after the piecing, we get to the finishing, with those chopped off blocks producing bias edges.  Chopping off is supposed to be the simple way to give that clean modern look, I guess, but it isn't.  Trimming those edges is not child's play, as I found out.  There are no guidelines in the directions at all about how to line up the ruler to make sure the edge stays straight, and judging from the tools that are sold, I bet some of those modern quilters don't "get" 45 degree and 90 degree angles.  Secondly, if the quilt is finished like the sample with those bias edges bound, isn't it going to be very wavy?  How about a warning to handle those edges carefully.  A border might be a better option, but measuring and sewing the border so it doesn't wave is tricky too.  No guidance is given.

A truly simple version of this design would have traditional setting triangles, with or without a border.  But that wouldn't look as "modern", and probably would scare off some beginners.  So I guess my point is that Modern Quilting isn't necessarily dumbed down quilting, and quilters who want something simple need to be very careful in the pattern they choose.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Oh, Woe!

I finished the top of the Athena's Puzzle quilt and started on the final stage.  The blocks in this design are set diagonally, but instead of using half blocks or setting triangles, the top is made in a series of staggered rows, and then half the outside row of blocks is cut off to make a straight edge.

There's lots I could say about this method, but that's another post, maybe.  Anyway, doing it correctly requires careful alignment, using the 45 degree line of the ruler, and a careful quilter would probably make a chalk mark first.  I made a few chalk marks, decided, "Oh, I can do this," and started to cut.  You guessed it... I aligned the ruler with the wrong seam allowance and before I knew it, three blocks were spoiled.  While I was moaning about this, my husband walked by and made the worst husbandly comment, "What are you going to do with this quilt when it's finished?"

"I'm going to throw it in the dumpster!  Maybe I'm going to throw it in the dumpster NOW!"

"Oh, dear."  And he went to wax his car, probably a good decision.

And hour later, one block has been turned, one replaced (the three extra blocks came in handy), one pieced, and the edge is cut straight.

On to the border.

Now she likes it.  I don't.  But I guess it won't go in the dumpster.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Smackdown Quilt Completed

Here we are--my version of I Spy a Four Patch, by Bonnie Hunter.   It was good discipline for me to sit down and finish a quilt in an assigned time; often I diddle and dither and wander away to do something else.  I hope that some child likes this, and I'm sure Debra's quilting will improve it.  Here's a link to Debra's blog where you can see her Smackdown quilt.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August Quilting Smackdown

Debra Spincic is organizing another quilting smackdown to make quilts for local veterans and their families.  You can read about it on her blog and on Barbara's.  Barbara explains the pattern recommended for this month, and Debra will explain the procedure.  You don't even have to use that pattern though.  I'm going to do I Spy a Four Patch, one of Bonnie Hunter's patterns from, because I cut out the pieces and pulled the fabrics some time ago.  This will make me finish, I hope.  I'll cut strips for the four patches tomorrow and sew this weekend.

Think about joining in.  It should be fun.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Finally, a Quilt Post!

I finished the blocks for the Athena's Puzzle quilt (in fact with my usual inability to count, I made three extra), and have laid them out on the floor.  It's difficult to deal with something so big; not only is the design wall too small, but so is most of my empty floor space.  I made a few adjustments in the arrangement of blocks after the picture, but that's as good as it's gonna get.

I intended the gold blocks as an accent, and wasn't sure that was a good idea when I began the layout.  Now I like them.  The other problem is the blocks that are so much lighter.  In a perfect world I wouldn't have made those, but the goal here was to use fabric on hand, so they're there, for better or worse.  It feels good to have this progress made; I hope to start sewing blocks together this afternoon.

I tried to take a classic Cat Helper shot, but Florabelle is too ladylike to do anything so crude as walk on the quilt blocks.  She just watched from a polite distance.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Beautiful British Columbia

First, a few iconic shots:

The view from the top of the Whistler Olympic Ski run--spectacular in 360 degrees.  We took the gondola up, the peak-to-peak gondola between the two peaks, and the chair lift down.  Fun!

Sunset onVancouver Harbor, taken from the dinner cruise boat.

Part of the totem pole display in the atrium of the UBC Museum of Anthropology.  The picture doesn't really convey how powerful these are, especially as the light begins to fade outside.  I remember being stunned by them 30 years ago, and the feeling hasn't changed.  Unfortunately over the years, the landscaping around the museum has changed so that the totem poles no longer seem to be part of their original land and water setting the way I remember.

More Northwest First Nations art:  these are two works by the Haida artist, Bill Reid.  The first one depicts Raven discovering the first men and releasing them from the clam shell.

The second, called Jade Canoe, is depicted on the Canadian twenty dollar bill and stands in the Vancouver Airport.  The picture with me in front of it gives some idea of the scale.  There's a wonderful gallery devoted to this artist's work in downtown Vancouver where we spent several hours, totally fascinated.  The anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss said that Haida art is one of the five or six great art traditions of the world.  I don't know how to evaluate that statement, but it's thought provoking certainly.

And finally:
 It's not what you think.  This is a bar, in Vancouver's historic Gastown district, shown below.  Originally seedy, it's now trendy and touristy, at least mostly.

And finally:

This is part of the decor of a new-to-me trendy clothing store called All Saints Spitalfields.  Apparently they want a garment factory theme.  Considering what garment factories must really be like, I don't think that's too cute, but the number of old Singer sewing machines is incredible.  There must be several hundred, stacked on floor-to-ceiling shelves and as a backing for displays.

I'm glad to be home although it was a good trip.  Normal life is very satisfying.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Out of Office

A week in Vancouver and some time in Seattle.  See you in a while.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

More bits and pieces:

Alzheimer's Quilt Auction for August is different, and special.  They're auctioning the quilts that traveled in the exhibit Alzheimer's:  Forgetting Piece by Piece.  Many of these quilts were made by well known quilters.  Check out the link and bid if you can, starting tomorrow.

This obituary, of Ardis James, whose donations started the University of Nebraska center for quilt studies, appeared in the New York Times a few weeks ago.  I knew about the center, but nothing about its founders.  What's interesting is how much her life experiences as a quilter were like those of many of us.  She loved fabric:  who doesn't?

Recently I bought a small painting from my friend Libby Fife, who blogs about her painting and other creative endeavors here.  I'm so happy to have it framed and on my wall.  The frame came from Dick Blick, very nice, very inexpensive.

I've been working on ribbon medallion centers for my guild show:  here's the first batch, the white ribbons.  The rosette and streamers will be the polka dot fabric with ribbon accents.

And finally, I got a new haircut, the shortest I've had for years.  Apparently it makes me look slimmer, which I am, but no one had noticed before.  Unfortunately, as Nora Ephron says, "I feel bad about my neck."  I also feel bad about my glasses, and my teeth, but one can't dwell on that stuff.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Not So Much...

That would be my answer to "What have you been doing?"    I spent two weeks staying at my sister's.  She had eye surgery which required a week in a facedown position afterwards and another week of very restricted activity.  My role was to take over the responsibility for my mother who lives with her, as well as help with housework and cooking.  I didn't take any handwork, and away from my usual computer access, I was limited in following what other people have been doing.

I've been home a week now, and am catching up around here.  In the heat, our basement is a good place to be, and I've spent quite a few hours updating mailing lists for my guild's upcoming show.  These little bags for the member boutique are the only creative thing I've done.

The pattern is the Cash and Carry bag from Atkinson Designs.  It seems odd to use a pattern, since I made and sold so many little bags like this, with no pattern.  But for this, I didn't see any reason to reinvent the wheel, and it's nice to have all the thinking and measuring done for you.  This pattern has very clear directions, although there's really nothing except the zipper insertion method that you couldn't figure out for yourself; that gives very nice results.  The results would be even better if Janome had a zipper foot with a clear stitching guideline.  Why don't they?  And why is the accufeed foot designed so there is no easy way to figure a quarter inch seam? 

My next project will be the medallions for the center of our prize ribbons, and then maybe I'll work on the Greek Key quilt, fast becoming a real UFO.  Stay cool if you can everyone, and if you can't, be careful.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Remember Paducah?

Long ago, I said I would post some more photos from the AQS Show in Paducah.  So here they are, better late than never.  I've put off this post for several reasons, one of which is that I don't have many pictures.  I'm impatient, and photograph only what really catches my attention, and so finish without much to show.  Accordingly, this is a very personal set of photos, not intended to be inclusive, and you're also going to get my opinions, not necessarily so humble.

There are certain popular themes or styles in the quilts at this show, one of which is the Baltimore Album style appliqued quilt.  You'll see no pictures of these because I have none.  I find the design so static and predictable I tend to pass these quilts by quickly.  This is unfair to the beautiful workmanship, I know, but they get the admiration they deserve from many other people.

Another popular type is the medallion quilt.  They're also static, by definition, but here's one I loved.

The Lily Bloomed
Fusako Takido

 She's created movement with the curving stems of the lilies and the pattern on the fabric in those tiny triangles.  The soft color scheme sets this quilt apart too, and grabbed my eye.

I love the way the Japanese quilters breathe so much life into these regular designs by their fabric choices and fussy cutting.  The colors are subtle usually, it's the pattern that does the work.
Yaeko Noguchi

In the Future
Hiroko Miyamoto

I love the op art effect of this one.
A Beam of Hope
Kayoko Hata

Then there are the landscape quilts, not a favorite of mine, but this one was stunning.  Unfortunately it was at the back of the booth, so I couldn't get close to it to see how it's done.
Winterberries on a Winter's Green
Patricia A. Bruno
The color of that sky is glorious--a perfect winter dawn.

And there's whimsy:  I love this one.

A Day in the Life of a Diner Booth
Linda Cantrell

Finally, here a few done with special techniques that appeal to me.  An effective use of altered photos in this one, along with beautiful quilting.  Could it be that I'm partial to winter scenes?  Hmm.
Feel the Chill
Nancy Sterett Martin

She really has a created a feeling of chill.

The fabric designs of the animals and plants in this one are screen printed and stamped.
Memories of Edgewood Farm-Hinton, Iowa
Hallie H. O'Kelly

And a painted fabric piece by Inge Mardal and Steen Hougs.  This one is notable for the totally unsentimental, almost disturbing quality of the image.  It reminds me of a Magritte.  As my sister said, "What are they going to do with those little boys?"
Separate Ways

And finally in no particular category and for no reason except it's such fun:

Some Assembly Required
Margie Engel

Click to see the embellishments.  As well as hundreds of buttons, there are zippers, snaps, hooks, etc.  A totally delightful quilt!

I hope you've enjoyed this totally biased selection of the best of the best.  As you see, sometimes the judges agree with my choices, and sometimes they didn't.  Quelle domage.