Monday, July 14, 2014


I first saw Emma Jean Jansen's fabric line, Terra Australis, on Instagram -- it was love at first sight!
The dots! The stripes! The eucalyptus! The colo(u)rs! The KANGAROOS!

Then, my friend, QuiltingCyclist, had a 'log' (aka, bundle of 2.5 inch strips) at the HMQG retreat. I was eager to see the line in person. She started something fun with it at retreat & made some sly & oblique comments about how I might get some soon. That weekend, I got on Etsy, found a seller who had a Terra Australis log, put it in my cart, but did not Proceed To Checkout. The following week, a mysterious, squishy package arrived in the mail -- funny, I didn't remember ordering anything. I opened the package & found Terra Australis! *Very* funny -- had I accidentally ordered this? Then I found the note: "Enjoy! From your Friend!"

{Big Hug}, QuiltingCyclist! I *will* enjoy! Thank you so much!!!

So what to do with this fun fabric? In my Idea Book, I have lots of sketches of things to do with 2.5 inch strips. But I wanted to use this line to its fullest advantage, so maybe following a pattern -- something I don't often do, something I'm not very good at -- might be a smart way to go. This way I'll know how much fabric I will use & how big my finished quilt will be. A new book provided the path:  Strip Savvy by Kate Henderson has a simple, strippy block that can set together in a variety of ways.

I chose a pale gray as my background. My choice is, well, interesting -- it is nearly the same value of some of the prints, darker than some, lighter than others. Hmmmmm, I am eager to see how this develops.

Machine No. 10

I don't really think of myself as Sewing Machine Collector, but there must be a threshold when casual accumulation becomes obsession.

For many years, I had just the one machine, my Bernina. Then I was gifted with not one, but two Singer Featherweights by my French friend. The first one proved a lifesaver when my Bernina was in the shop, making me see the wisdom of having at least 2 machines. I inherited my Mother's & Grandmother's cabinet machines -- Mom's, a Kenmore from 1949 or 1950, is the machine I learned to sew on; Grandma's is a treadle machine, a Ben Hur, that hasn't worked in decades because the belt is broken -- both are more sentimental than functional. I got the hand-crank Singer for power-outage sewing. The Brother machine has a deep throat-space & lots of power; I got him because I was quilting more & larger quilts. My Singer 66 Lotus is an Art Object -- I haven't sewn with her, she should be on display. I was casually looking at machines on eBay & saw the pale green White. I liked her because she was pretty & after a tune-up, she's a joy to sew with.
  • 1 machine, a deliberate & considered purchase that I've never regretted
  • 4 machines, gifted or inherited, I think of them as passive acquisitions
  • 2 machines, acquired to fill a need,
  • 2 machines, acquired merely because they are pretty
  • Total: 9 machines
I had been seeing old Kenmores & Whites on Flickr that had the same rough texture & dark colors as Mom's & was just, well, curious, about what I might see on eBay. I saw one like hers only in a reddish-brown color & a portable -- though at 30 pounds it's not really all that "portable". Offered at a good price & with free shipping -- a few days later Machine Number Ten arrived at my house.

I'm officially in the "like another hole in the head" zone with my sewing machines. For no good reason, I still hanker for a blue & white Morse -- they look like a 57 Chevy, 2-toned & chrome-y -- & a pink International. I had thought I should stop at 9, a perfect square. Now I have 10, a nice base number. But maybe I should try for 11, a prime number? A friend suggested 13, a baker's dozen -- & another prime number!

Mathematicians? Numerologists? Financial counselors? Suggestions?

Monday, June 30, 2014


OK, so I guess if a person wants to be a literal, hair-splitting sort, a project that one has not actually begun cannot be called a "Work in Progress". But I sort of think of this un-begun quilt as a WIP. Maybe because it's a kit? I don't know. Anyway, the back story is this:

In the autumn of 2008, my Mom fell in her house. (She had been falling more. At the time we did not recognize that this was probably an early sign of her dementia.) She hurt her back & had a mild concussion & it was then that I realized that I should be checking on her more often -- so began my daily phone calls. A year later, I called her from Quilt Festival 2009; we chatted, she said she was doing OK, I said I was calling from the Quilt Festival & she told me to buy myself something to be from her. She was always generous & in the years after Dad's death, she was especially so, trying to give us things, writing us big checks (probably another sign of the Alzheimer's). Mostly, I turned her down & I had no intention of getting anything "to be from her" this time either -- then I passed the Den Haan & Wagenmakers booth. This is the Dutch shop that has the beautiful, old-world polished cottons; they had fabric, patterns & quilt kits. I lovingly stroked the beautiful prints & started to pass them by. Then I stopped, went back & bought myself a kit as a gift from my Mom to me. She was so pleased I did!

A few months after that, her physical & mental health nose-dived, she moved into nursing care, then into memory care & now she's gone.

The quilt kit sits untouched. It is a challenging pattern --  a small block with small, odd-shaped triangles. And the instructions are in Dutch! I kept trying to figure out a way to simplify it -- partial paper-piecing was the best I could come up with, but I never got it started. And now I don't really want to make it as instructed -- something simple & spare is more appealing. So I'm going through my Idea Book & making sketches. There are 22 sort of fat quarter meters plus the yardage of the 3 shades of blue (& a few extra prints that I added at the time). 
Flying Geese? Friendship Star? A modern, trendy pattern?
Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hurricane season

The Hurricane Cognoscenti are saying that there will be few, maybe no, hurricanes hitting the Gulf Coast this summer. The El NiƱo circulation is starting to form in the Pacific Ocean; historically this has meant fewer storms in the Gulf of Mexico, possibly more for the Atlantic Coast. Not that the early predictions are ever 100% correct & not that we are letting our guard down! No, we're checking battery, bottled water & canned goods supplies, starting up the gas generator, planning an evacuation route & destination.

I've also gotten out my hand-crank sewing machine, my Singer 99K, Agatha. I haven't used her since the year I got her, the first year after our last hurricane, Ike. I sought out the machine because of our time without electricity. I decided then that the best thing to keep me sane & happy during & after the next storm would be the ability to do some sewing -- a portable, non-electric machine was the answer.

Lynn, The Little Red Hen, has also gotten out her Singer 99. She plans to enjoy sunny, balmy weather with some outdoor sewing & has invited others to join her for a #crankalong & some #backporchsewing. I won't be sewing outside -- too hot, muggy & buggy here! more like #undertheairconditionerventsewing for me! -- but I have been thinking about a project so I can crank along with Lynn.

The patchwork needs to be quite simple because you are sewing one-handed while the other hand powers the machine. It takes getting used to (I keep looking for the foot-peddle) but it really is very pleasant -- just a few steps away from hand sewing. I chose a spike-y star made with slivers of bright batiks. I'm making them kind of like paper piecing -- I mark the line on the back of the square & sew the batik on from the back. Once I get into the motion of assembly, it will go fast & because the blocks will be large -- 10 inches -- it won't be long before I will have cranked out a quilt top!

Monday, June 16, 2014

You do the math

If you are my brother or his 2 daughters --


I will be talking about your Christmas gifts, so if you don't want to ruin a surprise,

OK, now that they're gone (truthfully, I don't think any of them even know I blog, but just in case) --

I've moved other quilt projects to the back burner & have begun working on quilts for the 3 of them (& one for myself) using fabrics from 24 shirts, 12 of Mom's & 12 of Dad's.

I wanted the shirt element to be the same for all four quilts, but something I could change up. The fabrics in the shirts are mostly polyester or polyester blends, many are thin & loosely woven, so I wanted blocks that would surround the shirts in good, strong cotton. I finally decided on a simple + shape. The 2 quilts for my nieces will be similar to each other but not identical. The pair for my brother & me will be different from the nieces' quilts, & again, similar to each other. The nieces' quilts will have 36 + blocks each; my brother's & mine will have 64 each.

2(36) + 2(64) = 200 blocks

Well. I'm glad I'm starting early.

I selfishly began by making 4 for my quilt (-4), but I put them aside. I've finished one nieces' worth of blocks (-36). Now I'm working on my brother's -- I've nearly got 2 sets of 24 done (-48).

200 - 48 - 36 - 4 = 112
112/200 = 56 %
I'm nearly halfway done!!!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Creatures from Deep in My Stash -- Out-of-Date Colors

Everything new, well, it just gets old.

Those on-trend colors & prints that make quilts look so hip & modern today will eventually make them look old & dated. Harvest Gold & Avocado Green, Dusty Blue & Dusty Rose, Gray & Aqua, Gray & Tangerine, Gray & Gray.

Sad, but true. 

The good news is that, if you wait long enough, those colors will become retro & vintage & will again be hip -- but you'll have to wait a while for that. In the meantime ....

In the early 1990s I worked in a quilt shop. At that time the very trendy colors were deep blue-green grading into reddish purple. I liked these analogous colors, I liked them a LOT -- evidence: the yards & yards of fabrics I own in these colors. I have to say they aren't yet old enough to be Retro Chic, they're just a little old-fashioned. So what to do with them? Can I diminish their stodgy-ness?

You've already seen me using some of these -- the painterly floral was in Constellation Wonkulae & the daisy-like print is in my winged squares. I've used the blue to green watercolor-y one in a donation lap quilt or 2.

The leaf-y, frond-y one I'm making into old-school applique block -- though I won't be doing old-school applique -- machine zigzag & fused leaves will make it fast & fun. I found the block in one of my oldest quilt books -- a Better Homes & Gardens book copyrighted in 1985. They call it Ohio Blue Leaf. An internet search yielded nothing that looked anything like this, but really old applique patterns, especially outliers like this one, tend to be hard to find.

I've been thinking that a smart thing for me to do with some of these creatures would be to experiment with something I've never done before. A quilt with words has been on my mind, so I'm starting to build some letters. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Seven & Eight

Which is which?

I worked on them together. I finished E's top first, but got R's quilted & bound first. Technically, I suppose that makes R's Seven & E's Eight. Anyway, both are done & ready for Christmas giving!

The fabrics are Jelly Bean Batiks & Bartholo-Meow's Reef, both by Moda. The solids are Kona, ash, charcoal & white. The pattern is Charm Pack Cherry by Fat Quarter Shop.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Thanks, I needed that

I think that if I had been one of the early Humans, we all just might still be living in caves.

Tea & coffee, for example. I truly don't think it would have ever occurred to me to look at a coffee bush & think, "hmm, what if I heated those beans, ground them up, then poured hot water over them?" Or tea? Dry the leaves, again with the hot water. Nope. Dots I definitely would NOT have connected. We would all still be drinking water if it had been up to me to discover two of the most basic, universal & pleasurable beverages of Humankind.

Or Retreats? Going off with a group of friends with whom you share a passion, spending a few days away from one's daily routine & partaking of that passion. Again, nope. I would not have come up with that either. But I'm so very, very glad that someone did!

I'm recently back from HMQG's 3rd retreat. While the pace of my life has slowed to a more manageable one, the Daily Grind still gets pretty grind-y sometimes & getting away from it for a bit was just The Thing I needed.

Old friends, new friends, lots of sewing & a little wine! My main goals, quilt-y wise, were to take advantage of the large design walls at the retreat center & finish 2 tops that had outgrown my design door -- one done, one nearly done (I didn't bring enough of my background fabric). Then I just puttered & played with some of the many bagged-and-ready-to-go projects: plus blocks made with my parents' shirts that will be gifts for my brother & 2 nieces, a block for an HMQG charity quilt, wonky stars with a stash creature.