Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pimp my blog

My blog-iversary came and went in early December. I was away from my computer at the time and by the time I came back, holiday preparations were in full swing. So it went un-remarked.

But I've been wanting to change my look for the second year. A while back, my awesome e-friend elegantitus gave me a very sweet surprise gift of my blog name with my Habitat challenge quilt as the background and I've been wanting to use it. So please stay tuned and please be patient as I work out the bugs and get the blog looking the way I want it.

Everyone have a fun and safe New Year's celebration and I wish for you a Happy, Healthy and Blessed 2012!
Talk to you next year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Not a smitch of stitching.*

I know I am not alone: things have been so busy & hectic that unless we've been burning the midnight oil to finish gift projects (not me, thankfully -- this year I recognized my limits) we've hardly made it into our sewing areas at all.

I've been finding it hard to get into the spirit of the Holidays. I've been tired, sad and grumpy. But I finally sat myself down and said "Get a grip!!!" So I am counting my blessings and trying to see the glass as half full. Then I started thinking about this picture --

shirley christmas

I think this was the Christmas that I was 5. My Mom got me a Shirley Temple doll a few months before Christmas, then spent lots of time sewing her a wardrobe. Now before you start thinking that I am *much* older than I really am let me point out that Shirley Temple is a contemporary of my Mom's. The dolls were re-issued when I was little and, probably as much for herself as for me, she bought one. I don't really remember this Christmas morning, but I have always loved this photo. There is Shirley down there under the tree. And look at the tree! All the little outfits hanging on hangers!! This is what Christmas is about!

So I dug out old Shirley and her clothes. I washed and pressed them, dressed up Shirley and hung the rest on the tree. (Which we only put up yesterday.) Since Shug and I will be home this holiday, we can do a little decorating. And while we will miss being with the families, I am heaving a big sigh of relief to not be traveling. I got out a few more things and it is really beginning to look and feel much more like Christmas.

our tree

more clothes

the mantle

rhinestone trees

Season's Greetings to Everyone and a Happy, Healthy and Blessed 2012!
love, Beth aka Smazoochie

* My thanks -- and apologies -- to Zuzu Bailey.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Old dogs, new tricks

Recently, several of us HMQG-ers met at Safieh's house for an afternoon of sewing and chatting.

Fi brought her blocks to assemble this quilt. She laid out the blocks on Saf's design wall then asked for advice on how to sew them together. I said that I always assemble my quilt tops either row by row or column by column. Saf said that she sews hers together in sections -- fourths, sixths, whatever is easiest and most logical for the project. Then there is only one seam that is the length or width of the whole quilt.

Wait! What!?!

Now I have been quilting for about as long as Saf has been alive and I have ALWAYS assembled tops either row by row or column by column. And ALL those long seams ALWAYS make me cranky! It is one of my least favorite parts of quilt making -- even though the product is the finished top!

Sections?!? That is GENIUS!!! This is one of the things I love about our group: our mix of ages, of skills, of knowledge.

So with Saf's method in mind, I began putting together some of the blocks made with my Mom's shirts. I still need quite a few more blocks. I think this will be fairly big, maybe 6 or 7 by 8 or 9 blocks -- so 48 to 63 blocks. And I have 20. Ouch, I have quite a way to go. But it is satisfying to see a bit of it with "my" new construction method!

 part one of four

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Silent but not idle

It has been a while, hasn't it?

But I haven't (entirely) been goofing off.

I got the binding stitched down on the corduroy quilt, but it has been too hot to work on tying it. Somehow it just seems wrong to turn the air conditioning colder just so I can work on a quilt.

I found my wayward triangular ruler that I used to work on my hexagons. Do you remember this project, from waaay back in January?

2nd try

It had gotten to the bottom of my project pile, then when I wanted to work on it, I couldn't find the ruler. Well, now I am going to cut some strips of Kona snow for the background and start sewing strips. If you have so much crap junk stuff that you can't find what you want when you want it, maybe you have too much stuff!

I also set together my rows from the HMQG robin. Isn't it fun!?! I pulled my row -- with all the terrific rows made my Guild members, it looked a little weak. I cut it up and used it as filler -- at the sides of one row that was a bit short and down one side. I am looking forward to quilting this for our brief Gulf Coast winter -- warmed by friendship and quilts!

HMQG row robin

I put together this little quilt as a donation quilt. It is made of things I had on hand. The Hello Kitty fabric is really cute, but I can't tell you why I bought it. I love the chalky pastels with it though. My "to be quilted" pile is getting higher and higher!

hello kitty flying geese

And I have been spending quite a bit of time with my personal challenge fabrics, making these pillars and half-ish square triangles. I have a vision of how this will look, I just hope I am able to pull it off. Wish me luck!

personal challenge pillars 

And in the Information I Did NOT Need To Know category:

Recently, I cut from the newspaper (yes, we still get a *paper* newspaper delivered daily -- I told you I was old!) a recipe for "Neiman Marcus Cake". I've never been to Neiman Marcus, much less had their cake, but the recipe looked easy and I thought it might be good.
It is ridiculously easy, ridiculously good and ridiculously indulgent!
A white cake mix mixed with a stick of melted butter (!), press this mixture into an oblong pan and top with -- all mixed together -- a package of cream cheese (I used low fat, that counts for something, doesn't it?), a box of powdered sugar (!), teaspoon of vanilla, two eggs and pecans then bake.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Honoring our Veterans and loving our corduroy!


I did not make my corduroy quilt. My Mom and I bought the top at a Goodwill or Salvation Army store more than 25 years ago. I have been carrying this top around with me ever since -- and would probably be carrying it around for years to come if LeeAnn at niftyquilts not alerted us to Corduroy Appreciation Day. Thanks LeeAnn! I love this cuddly little quilt and I doubt I would have gotten around to finishing it had it not been for you.

It is still not completely finished. I have about a third of the quilt left to tie and half of the binding to stitch down, but it was presentable enough to debut today. I got the chance to study it as I tied: there are about 24 different corduroys in the quilt, mostly narrow wale, a few medium wale. The wales are mostly parallel to the long side of the rectangle, but a few are perpendicular. The naps do not all go the same direction (which sometimes made it confusing when trying to count the colors). I decided to "over-tie" it and like the extra dimension the black ties add. (Rachael said they look like birds flying over colorful fields. Tonya said they reminded her of bats.) I am happy to say that I did not have to buy anything to finish this quilt -- cowboy flannel, butterscotch binding and black pearl cotton were all on hand.

with cowboy backing

tied corduroy quilt

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Too much of a good thing?

Well, the Houston International Quilt Festival is nearly over. It was over for me at about 4:00, Friday afternoon. I had gone to the MQG Market Meet-up the Saturday evening before Festival began and was at the Festival all day Wednesday (in class until 5:00, then went to the preview until about 8 or 9 o'clock), Thursday and Friday. And I am BEAT! Talk about sensory overload!

Quilts, quilts and more quilts!
Fabric, fabric and more fabric!
People, people and more people! (These photos were made before the hall opened. Wouldn't we all love to walk aisles that empty!)

vendor aisles 1200 to 700

vendor aisles 600 to 100

I had told myself that I wasn't going to buy ANYTHING, but of course I did.

These lovely, new (to me) colors of South African "indigos" -- there were more colors besides the usual indigo blue and browns, I just went for the pinks and purples.

south african

I couldn't decide which colorway I liked best of these Kaffe prints -- so I got three of them! I think strips of these will give a quilt lots of movement.

kaffe umbrellas

These Japanese ombre prints were just too gorgeous to pass by.

japanese ombres

And I have admired the fabric lines from Marcia Derse for a long time, but had never seen them in person. She had a booth with big bundles and a LOT if them came home with me. I see, perhaps, a re-interpretation of an Amish quilt.

 marcia derse

Sunday, October 30, 2011

MQG Market Meet-up

All I can say is, "WOW!"

What a crowd! What a lot of famous faces! What a lot of prizes! What a lot of FUN!

I am ashamed to say that even though I had my camera, I did not get even one photo of the event -- I guess I was just kind of over-whelmed and star-struck. The sponsors of the event provided SO MANY prizes that nearly everyone won something! I won a charm pack of Lizzy House's new line Outfoxed by Andover Fabrics. (Now I want *acres* of those three color-ways of the pearl bracelets -- so pretty!)

andover outfoxed

I try to limit my use of the word "awesome" but in this case no other word adequately describes the evening: AWESOME!

And we have another meet-up yet to come:
Saturday, 5 November
The Hyatt Lobby Bar
8:00 pm

These are our lovely sponsors:

Travel & Retail Therapy

I am a week home from my last trip to MoKan. That 14 hour drive home is tough and it takes me a while to get back into my usual routine.

on the road again

On this drive though, I still had the warm glow from a trip to Lawrence, Kansas and to Sarah's Fabrics. My Mother-in-law learned I hadn't been to Lawrence, much less Sarah's in years, so she thought a short car trip was in order.
Shug wasn't born in Lawrence but he grew up there and got his bachelor's degree at the University of Kansas -- that's were we met! My Mother-in-law probably lived there nearly 30 years and it still feels like home to her. But the point of the trip, besides a little tripping down memory lane, was to go Sarah's. Sarah's was there when I was in school back in the early 1980s. I was already dabbling at quilting & sewing and Sarah's was a favorite place to go. I am pretty sure that I got my Folkwear prairie dress pattern there along with the calico I used to make it. It was always a fun store, though a bit outside my college girl budget.

Now it is twice the size. They have not only quilting cottons, but linens, woolens, rayons -- LOTS and LOTS of fabric! I was a bit over-whelmed.

kaffe & company

kumiko sudo



Let's all say "polka dots" the way Homer Simpson says "dough nuts".
polka dots....drool drool drool

yummy dots

All I managed to focus on was a big bunch of fat quarters -- I think a spider web string quilt may be in order -- and half yards of a couple of Echino prints -- a bag maybe?

 fat quarter purchase

echino purchase

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011


In the past, my least favorite part of the quilt-making process was the cutting. I don't mind it so much anymore, but am still in the habit of cutting way more than I need and getting more than one quilt from one cutting session.
Recently the secondary quilt was finished long before the primary quilt was. The primary quilt was SNAFU, as some of you know, the reason it took so long was that I hand-quilted it. It was made of a jelly roll and khaki-colored Kona and, of course, I saved all the left-over bits. Sometimes when I am spinning my wheels, not knowing what to work on, I will get out my box of cut pieces -- lots of triangles and squares and rectangles of various sizes and just start laying out and stitching. I arranged the 2.5 inch squares together with no particular end in mind. Then I learned that one of Shug's colleagues was expecting his first grandchild, so I added a border, machine quilted it and gave it to the expecting grandparents.


left-overs quilt

For one of my next projects, I am giving myself a challenge.
I want to see if I can make something modern from this definitely not-modern stack of fabrics. It will probably be a donation quilt (or maybe a grandbaby quilt). I want to see if I can come up with something edgy with calicos and plaids!

personal challenge

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Humility Block

If you have read much about antique and vintage quilts, you have probably come across reference to the "humility block". According to the story, quilters would include in their quilt an intentional mistake -- because "only God is perfect".  I, like probably you, always thought this was a bit arrogant -- I am quite able to make mistakes without making them on purpose, thank you very much.

After completing my Sunday School Stars polyester double knit top, I did an internet search of the "humility block". I found this good article and learned that there is really no such thing. Quilt historians have found the myth to be a mid-20th century invention, perhaps by quilt dealers making the mistake in the quilt into a charming quirk. The humility block was often attributed to the Amish, who, when asked about it, thought the same as I did: it isn't humble to think that the only way you will make a mistake is to do so intentionally. Well, in a waaaay, mine is a humility block. I saw the mistake in time to fix it, I just chose not to. I had already done some ripping & resewing on this goofy quilt top and it wasn't easy picking stitches out of the double knit -- so I left it!


And in our meteorological news: IT RAINED!!!! It rained quite a bit today; so far we've had 3.5 inches (about 9 cm) and it is still RAINING!!!!! There is still way to go to make up our nearly 20 inch (51 cm) deficit, but this really helps.


Wednesday, October 05, 2011

You're Invited

Oh my gosh! The Quilt Festival is less than one month away!

This year, after trying for the last three years, I finally got into Hollis Chatelain's class, "Quilt Line as a Third Design Aspect". I am very excited, and perhaps a bit apprehensive, about it. (I had a dream/nightmare that I was very late and didn't have any of the right materials for the class.)

I can't believe that this will be my 20th Festival! In 1991, I flew down to Houston for the very first time. This was when I bought my Bernina; I guess she has an anniversary too! While in town, I called up an old friend from college who I knew had recently moved here for a job. Fourteen months later, Shug and I got married and I became a permanent Houstonian! It is not quite as special going to the Festival as a "townie" -- no plane trip, just a drive into town; no hotels or restaurants, dinner and chores await when I get home -- but it is a lot cheaper. My discretionary spending can all be on fabric, books and bright shiny things!

In case you don't know, there will be a couple of meet-ups of all the branches of the Modern Quilt Guild and the Houston Modern Quilt Guild is hosting them. One is during Market and one is during Festival. (Check the link for locations and times.) I'm looking forward to putting faces to the funny blog and flickr names that I know so well and for internet friends to become IRL friends!

And to my blog friends who are not in the Modern Quilt Guild and are planning to go to the Festival, please let me know! I would dearly love to make plans to meet you and put a face to the kind comments I receive on my blog.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Pressing Matters

A good many years ago, I made a square-in-a-square quilt top; it was pretty ordinary -- calicoes and plaids in browns and blues. But there was something about the top that I really liked and for a while I couldn't put my finger on what it was. Because of all the seams that would be coming together at the middle of the blocks, I decided to press the seams open.

My first sewing was clothing and with clothing, one always presses the seams open. My foray into quilt-making was pretty much self-taught and my very first project was finishing up a stack of hand-stitched, 4-patch blocks that my Mom had made with her Grandmother back when she was quite young (my Mom, not my Great Grandma). The seams in those 4-patches were finger-pressed to one side. So, everafter, I  always pressed my patchwork seams to one side.

But when I really stopped to think about it, if I was machine-piecing, not hand-piecing my blocks there didn't seem like there was any real reason to press the seams to the side -- just like in clothing construction. The first time I had done this was with that square-in-a-square quilt top. And that was what I liked so much about that top -- how flat it was. I loved the look of the newly created piece of whole cloth -- cloth made up of smaller pieces of cloth. So now I don't press my patchwork, I iron it -- I really IRON it.

But ironing isn't working with these doubleknit stars. With one of these blocks, I spent quite some time trying to get the seams to lie flat, but, well, can you tell which one it is? I can't.

 lumpy stars
So I'm just going with cardboard-like nature of this fabric. This little quilt is kind of a nostalgic, whimsical oddity anyway. I doubt it will make it among the Fresh, Modern Quilts on flickr, it just is what it is. And I am rather enjoying the journey I am taking with it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Great Expectations

That is what I had for the weekend -- Great Expectations.

Most of Saturday was spent doing chores and errands. Sunday was free though and I got up to my room to begin working on the long list of things I wanted to accomplish: baste the postage stamp top, cut some fabric for donation quilts for victims of the Texas wildfires, make more double knit stars, pull and combine some fabrics for my next projects. But first on the list was to re-sash the square plates. Well. That took most of the day, what with ripping and re-sewing and ripping and re-sewing and time-outs to regain my temper (worst of times!). I had a Dickens of a time getting those sashes to line up!

It is finally together now and I really like the way it looks (best of times!) Those coral and yellow rays chase away the Bleak House Blues! I think I will add some more of that green as a border. As for quilting, last year at the Quilt Festival I took a class from Mary Mashuta on walking foot quilting and I think this quilt is the perfect candidate for experimenting with those skills.

sashed square plates

Monday, September 19, 2011

Turn turn turn

Shug has been turning wood for just a little more than 2 months now -- and look at what he has spun out!

2 month's work

There are 14 pieces there, of varying quality, though the quality is getting better and better. There are 2 bowls upstairs on my sewing table (one with spools, one with patchwork parts) and there are a few -- though just a few -- failed attempts. Pretty impressive I think!

He is getting much more done than I am. These days, I can't seem to do anything more complicated than browse blogs, flickr, pinterest & tumblr and play find-it games on my I-Pad. It isn't that I don't have PLENTY of needle-ready projects. Here are just some of them, along with my lame excuses:

The squared plates have been disassembled, squared & are ready to re-assemble, but, well, the design wall is full. The blue postage stamp top is ready to sandwich, but the table where I do this is covered with wooden bowls. The quilting threads in snafu need to be restitched & anchored, but I am still to irritated to work with this one.

 to finish
I think the shirts & slacks quilt will be about 5 or 6 blocks by 6 or 7, so I still need many more of them, but I can only work on them for a short time because they make me sad. (I think this one is a real excuse.)

to piece

I just need to make more pieces for the indigo & white stars -- just haven't made the time. The yellow zig-zag is built diagonally so I need lots of space to spread it out; it is about 3/4 done & is pretty big. I am working on the Sunday School Stars -- the one thing I am getting done!

more to finish

I want to add more borders to my Habitat challenge but need to get some more Habitat fabric. Come on! That means a trip to the fabric store! Surely I can 'motivate' myself to do that! The hexagons came to a screeching halt back in January or February, I don't even remember why, but I am sure it was a good reason. And I just dug out the purple & gray squares in squares. They were going to be a gift for someone, but I came up with something I liked better. The parts are all cut for this, it would be an excellent donation quilt, I just need, well you know, MOTIVATION!

still more to finish

I am always encouraging people to be easy on themselves, but I am the last one to take my own advice. Like the song in this post's title, there is a time for everything. I had several pretty good finishes this summer, so maybe I can take some time to rest & recharge. (Though Ecclesiastes doesn't mention anything about the internet or computer games.)

And check this out! HMQG's Habitat Challenge projects! AWESOME!!!

HMQG - Habitat Challenge

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dress your family in polyester, corduroy & flannel *

I have been having fun with some pretty odd fabrics these days.

The polyester doubleknit friendship stars that I found at my Mom's house is about 3/7 done. The Easter egg pastels were either un-used yardage or left-over scraps from dress making by my Mom & both of my grandmothers. (Though one was from my prom dress -- NO laughing!) They were all good church women, so I am thinking of calling the finished comforter something like Sunday School Stars or Full Immersion Stars or Church Lady Stars. (Please feel free to voice your opinion.) Sewing doubleknit is a bit like sewing corrugated cardboard; it is hard to imagine wearing a dress made of this stuff -- it must have been like a suit of armor! And it makes this weird, sludge-like lint in my machine. I've been digging deep into my old stash and found some flannel with pastel cats that will be good for the back.

poly stars

From nifty quilts I learned about National Corduroy Appreciation Day -- 11 November 2011, 11-11-11, of course! I used to save corduroy for quilt making, but jettisoned all of it several moves ago. But I do still have a top that my Mom and I found thrifting probably 25 years ago. I pulled it out and found *another* huge chunk of flannel (cowboys!) for the back. Now it is ready to prep for tying.


* My apologies to David Sedaris, though I think his sister, Amy, would approve.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Nine years ago today, on the first anniversary of 11 September, I did not want to spend the day sitting in front of the television, reliving That Day. I wanted to remember in my own way, by doing something thoughtful, constructive and creative. I got out some batiks and the last of my Cherrywood fabrics and cut and sewed and got most of a quilt top done. Then Life interfered & it slowly moved lower and lower in my to-do pile. A while back, I found another batik that I liked for the border. So, this morning, I thought it appropriate to stitch on the border. This is my salute to the lives lost and the lives changed That Day.


Monday, September 05, 2011

I love these quilts -- special edition

From the time I was very small, I was a frequenter of thrift stores. My Mom, while not a quilter, was a good seamstress; at the thrift stores, she would buy for herself and for me clothing to wear and clothing to alter into other things. My Halloween costume when I was 5 or 6 years old was made from a quilted, leopard-printed circle skirt -- she made a pair of pants, shirt, tail and little tie-on cap with cat ears -- all that was left to do was draw whiskers on my face with an eyebrow pencil. So I have always looked at used clothing as a possible source for fabric.

I am not alone in doing this. There are many quilters who use the good cloth in old clothing for their quilt projects and have many reasons for doing so -- economy, philosophy, memory, to name a few.

Men's office shirts are a great fabric source. The many shades of blues, the many varieties of stripes, plaids and checks make for lovely quilts. Here is one by meliBismakingthings.

Recycled business shirts

This awesome one, called Office Stripes, was made by Binita.

Some quilters have more of a philosophy to use thrifted clothing and textiles in their quilts. LeilaBadBlood is one. She has made many beautiful quilts from recycled cottons and linens and has been commissioned to make quilts using family textiles. One of my favorites is M's Quilt.

M's quilt

Another and special category of quilt from clothing is the remaking of a loved ones things into a memory quilt. As quilters, we can take a stack beloved dresses or shirts or pants and create for ourselves something that will always bring to mind our loved ones. sewandtellquilts did that with her Grandmother's dresses and her Grandfather's shirts.

Grandma's Dresses

Grandpa's Shirts Memorial quilt

Even without knowing these people, I can look at these quilts and peak inside the lives of the people who wore these clothes -- Grandma loved her flowered dresses, Grandpa was more traditional with his plaid shirts.

I will always be grateful to completely cauchy not only for this blog post, but for bringing to my attention the wonderful This I Believe essay by Priya Chandrasekan. "I believe that to love, and to bare the boundless depth of our love, we must have the courage to reshape what we inherit."

Sometimes we quilters can give a wonderful gift to friends mourning a loss. Look at this lovely post by nifty quilts -- Sacred Work indeed. J R Webb was also able to provide a beautiful memory for someone. He made this amazing quilt and even a necklace with the buttons from the shirts.


I would be remiss if I did not mention Sherri Lynn Wood and her Passage Quilts. Sherri teaches, consults and does commissions of the making of these beautiful and touching quilts that commemorate lives. A lovely example is her quilt made from her Grandmother's clothing, a gift to her Father.

Georgia Marie Wood (1917 - 2003)

"Old clothes carry something with them. You can feel the presence of the person who used to wear them. It has a spirit in them. Even if I don't know the person, I know someone wore these pants, and it feels lovely and warm to me."
Mary Lee Bendolph
Gee's Bend, Alabama

My thanks to everyone who allowed me to use their quilt here. You can find these and other "I LOVE these quilts!" in my flickr gallery.