Monday, May 23, 2016

More dots and a new obsession

I think I am nearing the end of my Quilty 365. As my stacks of fabric squares & fabric circles shrink, the number of thimbles in my little sewing kit grows.

Thimbles -- I inherited a handful of utilitarian ones from my Mother & Grandmother; I keep them in a Depression glass sherbet bowl in my sewing room. Then one day, I was looking at Etsy & for a reason I cannot explain, I did a search of thimbles. A wealth of possibilities came up. One bunch caught my eye: a group of 63 from a seller in The Netherlands -- some utilitarian, some souvenirs of travel, some fine china. But these 6 sealed the deal -- 5 brass, 1 pewter, all with little delftware tops. This was the first of quite a few shipments from Etsy sellers that have arrived at my house.

Collecting is in my genes. Back in the day, Mom & I would go to the thrift stores & antique malls, each of us with our list of collections: elephants, interesting birds, wedding cake brides & grooms, cow creamers, butter pats, etc, etc. The hunt, the thrill of a find, the fun & companionship of the search -- such wonderful memories! But I rarely add to my collections anymore, it isn't as much fun going alone. I do sometimes look on Etsy or eBay, but it is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel -- the sport is gone. I doubt my thimble mania will last long, but for now, they are giving me pleasure. When we were emptying out Mom & Dad's house, my brother, 2 nieces & I could not absorb all of the collections that lived there. Some were put up for sale & I like to think of those things now being loved & enjoyed in another collector's collection. This is how I feel about the thimbles -- someone's tokens from travels, gifts, pretty purchases -- now living & being loved in my house.

Mom would understand.

Inspiring books

I've been building away at my towers of owls &, because I am a fickle quilter, getting a little bored with them.

I looked around my sewing room & pulled out a pair of my favorite books by Cherie House: City Quilts & Urban Quilts.

They are both pattern books, but Ms. House also writes about the process that went into creating her quilts. They are simple, elegant & really speak to me -- I love their graphic nature. She encourages looking at our surroundings & using the things we see everyday as inspiration for our patchwork.  I am pretty sure it was her voice in my head when I made my Downtown Foley's quilt. On this particular trip through her books, City Sky caught my eye. It looked like the perfect thing for all those early 1990s strips that had recently bubbled to the surface.

So, shifting gears, off I went, making a brand-new, 20-year-old quilt!

Let me be the first to say it -- this quilt is a little muddy & dull. The sky in my Gathering Storm quilt is what you might see before a hurricane -- the perfect thing as we are just a week away from the beginning of this year's season.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Quite contrary

Not long after I did my first Creatures in My Stash post, I was at an HMQG gathering. A group of us were chatting, when one of the young women in the chatting group said to me, "Oh, you're the one with the owls."
Was there actually a what-stinks look on her face or was it just in the tone of her voice?
Yes, sweetie, I am the one with the owls.

After that, this same person became in charge of the Guild's swaps & challenges & handed out a list of fabrics that were unacceptable for participation in them:

no batiks
no blenders
no reproductions
no novelties
nothing from the big box stores
etc, etc

Well, this freed up a lot of my time because, with my odd & old stash, I no longer felt welcome to participate in the swaps & challenges with my guild friends. It also made me really dig through my stash -- not to get rid of my offending fabrics, but to pull them out & try to use them in ways that Modern Quilters would not find so offensive. What began in a state of peevishness has turned out to be a whole lot of fun! I wish I could impress upon younger quilters what a thrill it is when a long-time member of one's stash comes together with some newer members & the combination makes all greater than themselves. Then there is the creative fun of trying to make something lovable from not-so-lovable fabrics -- it's easy to make something beautiful from beautiful fabrics, much more of a challenge using ones that are less than beautiful.

It isn't accurate to say I don't love the owls & browns (all from big box stores, not a single designer's name on any selvage) in this project, because I really do -- the chocolate-y browns & the big-eyed owls really make me happy. But somehow it had gotten sidetracked. I pulled it out early this year & have been building away at it. Then Shug said that he really likes it, could see it as a summer quilt on the bed. Well OK then. The quilt of undetermined size that I had been dabbling at now became a quilt of determined -- & quite large -- size that I was motivated to finish.
Time to get sewing!

p.s. Did you notice my new banner? I thought it was time for a fresh look. And my new "picture"? My avatar, if only I was as cute as her! It was recommended that I add an email update feature, useful since my blog posts have become pretty erratic & a translator, if English is not your first language or if you want to see if I make more sense in Urdu than in English.

Friday, March 04, 2016


I was intrigued by Audrey's quilt-along from the beginning.
First, was her block -- a circle appliquéd to a square -- simple & perfect.
Secondly, was the idea of making a small block everyday for a year. I loved the diary-like aspect of that! A small block, like all the other blocks, but each would reflect the day you had -- good or bad, bright or dull. Again, simple & perfect.

But my appliqué skills aren't the best & I was daunted by the idea of making a block every day for a year. Still, I wanted to play along. So when I began making plans for my trip to California, I thought the time was right for some handwork & I starting thinking about an abbreviated, non-diary version of Quilty 365.

I cut squares & prepared circles from a variety of dotty fabrics, gathered sewing materials into a little travel box & I was ready to go! While I was away from home I made 30-40 squares.

Also while I was away, I got sick. After I returned home, I spent nearly a whole week in bed -- stuffy head, congested chest, fever -- hand-sewing was all I had the energy for. When I ran out of block parts, I managed to cut more background squares & circles. Now that I am better, I am still enjoying making these blocks. I now have nearly 80 with a good deal more ready to go. I'm not sure how big this quilt will get. But for now I am having a very nice time.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


Two things:

First, I live in the city where one of the biggest quilt shows in the world happens every year. Because of this, I have become very lazy about seeing quilts elsewhere. Plane tickets? Booking a room? Eating in restaurants? Nah. If it involves more than a 45 minute drive, spending the day then coming home, eating at my table, sleeping in my bed, then I can't be bothered.

Secondly, I have known since Autumn of last year that, early in 2016 I would be traveling to California for work. I had been discussing with my hosts about when would be the best time, for them, for me. We finally settled on a time agreeable to both of us & I began to make plans to go -- a PO for plane tickets, gathering materials I would need while there, etc.

About a week before I was to leave, lines started connecting dots:
I was going to Pasadena, California. I would be there during the third week of February.
The third QuiltCon was to be out west somewhere, California, wasn't it?
Sometime in the second half of February?

Yes, I was going to be in Pasadena, CA the same week as QuiltCon!

I was busy with work most of the week, but Friday was carved out for a quick visit to QuiltCon & a quick tour of Pasadena. I don't think I've been through a quilt show faster! But I had time for a once-over of the juried quilts & the special exhibits. They had a display of Gwen Marston's quilts. It was nice to see quilts from her books up close & personal.

The other display was of Molly Upton's work from back to the early 1970s.
They were moving, stirring & inspiring. I will let them speak for themselves to you.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Fabric teaches a Lesson

Recently, my friend's friend passed away. I did not know her, but I understand that she was very creative. In her life, she had experimented with many different artistic media & had excelled at quite a few of them. Her studio was filled with the materials of her creative life. After her death, my friend volunteered to her friend's newly widowed husband, to help with the big task of clearing out the studio.

My friend's dining room was *filled* with her friend's fabric. She put out a call to her fellow quilters & to several church groups who sew for those in need. In spite of my over-full stash, the words "free fabric" had me in my car & headed to her house. I was amazed by what I saw! So much fabric! Fat quarters, small cuts, huge cuts. Cat fabric, Asian fabric (I came away with an Asian cat fabric), batiks, etc, etc, etc. There were zip bags filled with blocks & block parts. There was even tub filled with bandannas?

After several, round-eyed "oh my words!" on my part, I started thinking about how many plastic tubs would it take to contain *my* stash.
As many?

But the good news is that though my friend's friend will no longer enjoy her studio filled with color & inspiration, her fabric has found new homes & will be put to good use. I brought home a couple of bags of WIPs to make up for charity quilts. One was a bag of bright batik blocks which made two quick quilts -- one to give, one to keep.

I am still absorbing the lessons.
The first lesson I was: people with too much fabric should not throw rocks at others who have too much fabric. I know a very few people who only buy fabric when they need it. Me? I. Buy. Fabric. I buy fabric because I LOVE fabric. I have too much fabric & now I have a little more fabric.

The second lesson was this -- don't worry about having too much fabric. Yes, it will present a problem to who ever has the chore of cleaning out my sewing room, but the very good news is that quilters will love the fabric I loved & will do good things with it. This dear woman's beloved stash is now scattered over Houston being loved & doing good.

Happy mail days!

And a happy FedEx day!

My Pinterest Pal & I had been "chatting" about little quilts, when I realized that I never had a baby quilt. Turns out my Pinterest Pal hadn't one either. So we decided to make one for each other. For her, I put together the strips left over from my scrappy trip around. My gift recently arrived, & while not a baby quilt, it is even better! A charming pillow! And a bonus hot mitt & pincushion!

Then came a birthday remembrance from my dear Mrs. O'Quilts. They look like hot pads but what I see is love & creativity & strength.

And then the FedEx driver came! Red Bowties! Home again after more than a year! It was so beautifully wrapped -- tissue wrapped, tissue in the folds, I could not immediately un-do it. Pippa, always on the lookout for the new & comfy is enjoying it, as is.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Tree Lot

The tree is probably my favorite part of Christmas. Well, after gathering & sharing with family & friends, then the Christmas tree. I have been known to leave the tree up until springtime -- an artificial one, we quit having real ones after we realized we both were sneezing the whole time it was in the house. But because we often travel at the holidays, I don't always get to have a tree. This year was the second in row without one at chez Shug & smazoochie. I hung a wreath on the door, our stockings on the mantle, my old Christmas tree quilt on the wall & called the house decorated. Easy to clear away when the holiday was over, but not very cheery.

I began thinking about a another tree quilt in mid November. I love my first one, am looking at it now while I type, but I wanted to make another. This time I wanted more freely pieced trees. I thought & thought, looked at books, on Pinterest, watched Craftsy lessons. Finally, I went to the source: Gwen Marston's Liberated Quiltmaking. I pulled a mix of greens, old & new, then began making liberated geese. The trees grew quickly. While I sewed, I remembered tree shopping when I was very young. A guy with a semi-trailer full of trees would set up business on a vacant lot in my town -- the Tree Lot -- this is where my family would go to choose ours. While Mom, my brother & I looked for The Perfect Tree, Dad's input was a tree with a straight trunk. I don't remember a tree ever falling over in our house, but the straight trunk seemed a very big deal. Perhaps none of these trees would have passed his standard, but it was such pleasure making them & remembering those old times.

This quilt may hang until Spring.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Office Geese

first finish & a short story made long

I put the final stitches in the binding of this one in the early days of 2016. Technically, it is not my finish, I merely turned a top into a quilt, but it is now a charming & cuddly quilt in our home.

I bought the top years ago. When both my parents were living & well, I would go up to visit twice a year. During these visits, Mom & I would usually take a day & go to the thrift stores & flea markets. On one of these trips, I found this bright, simple vintage quilt top. I always had plans to quilt it, had folded it away with fabric for backing & binding. For more than 10 years, it had been on my shelves until late last year I pulled it out & decided it was time to do this thing. I simply & quickly quilted it, was sewing on the binding -- rats! -- it lacked several inches of meeting up. Well, time to formulate & implement Plan B.

Under my sewing table, are 2 vintage suitcases & a decorative box, all are filled with fabric. I knew one held my gathering of 30s looking fabrics where I might find a binding-gap filler. I wiped off thick layers of dust & began exploring.

What's in the box? Oh! It's my collection of Day of the Dead, Virgin of Guadaloupe & bright florals. Eep, I had forgotten all about them.

What is in the black case? Well, flapjacks, more things I had forgotten I had. Woven stripe, ikats, batiks -- beautiful stuff, but, whhaaaat!?! I'm sure I had some lofty plan that did not materialize. But now what!?!

 The brown case was Mom's high school graduation present. She took it with her to college & several years later, it went with her on her honeymoon. Now it holds fabric. And here is what I was looking for, my 30s fabrics that I gathered together after I cut up Aunt Evelyn's embroidered tea towels & set them into blocks. I was thinking of something cheery & kitchen-y -- it still could happen, I suppose. And, look! There on top is the perfect substitute binding!

 Early in my quiltmaking history, I read or heard that, for cohesive quilts, we should keep like fabrics with like fabrics -- no vibrant Day of the Day prints with florals in chalky pastel with indigo hand-wovens. I pretty much kept that axiom close to my heart all these years. Now I am trying to let it go. You may soon see many of these coming together!