Monday, December 30, 2013

The Year in Review & an Embarrassing Admission

Quilt-y Finished Objects-wise, 2013 was not a big year for me. Only six finishes.

I was pleased with my FLiQS mini & I think Jennie liked it. I was pretty happy with both my Madrona Road & Florence challenge quilts. My Mother-in-law loved her Super Fan KU T-shirt quilt. And I loved both my Derse/Swoon quilt & the comforter made with the navy & pastel double knits.

But just the 6.

I actually did a lot of sewing: I have 10 little lap tops done (3 will make it onto this year's FO list), I made 6 other tops of varying sizes -- one is quilted & will be a pillow cover, another is poised to be the first finish of 2014 -- and there are at least 3 WIPs that are partially or mostly assembled; then there are the piles (and piles) of blocks or parts-of-blocks.

After my Mom's death, I just wasn't able to sit & do *anything* for very long at a time. I would start something & next thing I knew, I was up doing something else. Or just puttering, I did lots of puttering this year. Just part of the grieving process, I guess.

But truthfully, my lack of focus began before she died & I know exactly what caused it, it is just a little embarrassing because it makes me look petty & petulant.

My 2013 Lack of Focus began when I got my quilt, Lucky, back from display at QuiltCon; more specifically, it began when I read the QuiltCon judge's comments about my quilt.

To say I was hurt is putting it mildly. I was crushed -- obsessively so (just ask Shug). Everything I loved about that quilt was pointed out as a negative: my background was "busy", my fabric choices "lacked vision", my quilting thread colors were "distracting". It seemed there wasn't much constructive criticism, just criticism.  I felt like I shouldn't be quilting, that I didn't know what I was doing, that I should be doing something -- ANYTHING -- other than quilting.

Well, it has taken me nearly a year to stop wailing & moaning, to get over myself & move on.
"It wasn't personal." "It was just one person's opinion." "You can't please everyone." Etc, etc, etc. Anyway, I think my juices are starting to flow again & I'm beginning to get back my quilting mojo.

And I'm trying to listen to my own Voice rather than the Voice of others.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Trees & the Forest

I've never been overly fond of Special Occasion quilts. You know, Birthday Quilts, Halloween Quilts, Quilts for Hanukkah or Christmas. Now I don't mean *gifts* for these occasions, but quilts that are just brought out for display at these times -- fine for someone else, just not for me.

That being said, since mid-November I have been OBSESSED with the thought of making a tree quilt. I suppose trees can be for year-round & the kind of trees I've been about are as much about triangles as about the trees. But, The Tree Quilt I've been pining for is one with pointy green to blue-green trees on a frosty white background, maybe with a few touches of red & gold -- pretty darn Christmas-y, huh?

So, with a template I hadn't yet used & a deep dig in my stash that produced a dozen or so old, blender-y, tree-ish-colored fabrics, a hoarded paisley white-on-white & 3 red & gold fat quarters -- I'm on my way to a Christmas Tree Quilt!

Truth be told, this is my second tree quilt. I made one for my parents for Christmas back in 1993 -- it was loved & admired & proudly shown off, but was never used (the "save it for Good" mentality, don't you know). Now that my parents are both gone, the quilt is back in my home. It's a big one! And finally in use on our guest bed.

A retraction

Not too very long ago, I said something about how I have a lot of quilts &, because I live in the sub-tropics, I really don't need many quilts.

That hasn't changed, that's still true.

But the winter has begun early down here on the Gulf Coast. I know, I know, it is nothing like as bad as what places further North are experiencing -- heck, even Dallas has already had an ice storm -- but our long, hot summers make us pretty fragile, so when it gets cold(ish), we suffer.

Anyway, I have to admit that I feel richer than Bill Gates right now because of my wealth of quilts: one night is a 3 quilt night, the next night just requires 2 -- but maybe a different 2. How about these 2 small quilts on me & these other 2 small quilts on Shug. Clashing piles, coordinated piles, I change the quilt combinations like ... well, like I *can*, because I have so many!

I LOVE it & it makes me feel like a billionaire!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

This one just makes me happy

This quilt has been a *very* long time coming.

I began it in the early 1990s, not long after my maternal Grandmother moved out of her house & into nursing care. As the families emptied her house, all of Grandma's fabric came to me. I was just then rekindling my love of sewing & patchwork, so my Mom suggested that I make a quilt for Grandma -- which I quickly did. A cute little throw-sized quilt using some of my new-to-me feed sacks & old solids.

feed sack 9 patch

But Mom said it was too "good" & might be stolen -- so,  I began another quilt using polyester double knit scraps & yardage. Unfortunately, this was at the same time that Shug & I were planning our wedding, I was packing to move to Texas &, well, the quilt didn't get made. I put the pieces in a wash basin, stowed them in my parents' basement & there they sat for 20 years.

quilt to be

Forward to 2011, when I re-found the basin. By now, those kind of creepy double knits had acquired the Glow of Nostalgia. I began piecing together the parts in the summer of 2011, finished the top in October, then it sat for another couple of years.

This summer, I got Roderick Kiracofe's Blurb book, Quilts & saw in it a charming double knit charm quilt tied with little polka dot-like pompoms. I loved it! I finally knew how I wanted to finish my quilt!

I had begun referring to this project as Sunday School Stars because so many of the fabrics had been or were going to be simple A-line dresses for one or the other of my Grandmas or my Mom -- all good Church Ladies. But the addition of the pompoms (or scrawny pompom-oids, you pick) has kind of taken it in a different direction. I loved the top, but I REALLY love the finished quilt! It brings giggling smiles to my face when I look at it!

sunday school stars

So maybe Sunday School Stars: Joy Joy Joy?

joy joy joy

Monday, November 25, 2013


If you are thinking about making a quilt & that quilt will be made up of 2-inch finished squares & you want that quilt to be fair-sized, not huge, just big enough to be a lap or nap size, please learn from my recent experience:

It will take you FOR! EVER!!!

(The color change you see is not a trick of your eye -- I ran out of my old Kona celery part way through & the new is a slightly different color. I'm hoping I can hide it a bit with the quilting. Fingers crossed!)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Tutorial & a Tribute

I've always wanted to attempt a Tutorial. The fear of the unknown kept me from it. But recently, the amazing & adorable Jennie at Clover & Violet -- she has the mini I made in the Fab Little Quilt Swap -- told me that she gets questions & comments about that mini (you can see it in photos of her studio, hanging on the wall) & asked if I'd ever thought of doing a tutorial. That's just the encouragement I needed! So here goes!

4 inch heart block tutorial -- and MORE! -- on my blog today! The link is in my profile.

The hearts in Jennie's mini are 4 inches finished. To make one heart, you will need:

2 -- 2.5 x 4.5 inch rectangles, these will be your heart
4 -- 1.5 inch squares of your background
2 -- 2.5 inch squares of your background

First, mark a diagonal line on all of the squares -- these will be your sewing lines. Use your favorite method: score with a hera tool, use a disappearing pen or pencil or a sharp, non-disappearing pencil. Me, I iron the squares in half diagonally.

Next, place one of the small squares on the rectangle so the corners line up. You can pin them in place, use a dab of glue stick, or in the case of these tiny hearts, just hold them in place & sew along the marked diagonal. Once stitched in place, snip away the underneath corners. Now sew the other small square on the other side of the rectangle & snip off the corners.

For the bottom of the heart, take one of the larger squares, line up the corners & sew it in place. When you sew your second bottom square, make sure that the diagonal sewing line is in the opposite direction of the first, so you will have a V at the bottom of your finished heart. Snip away the underneath corners & give the rectangles a good press.

Then, sew your 2 rectangles together. I like to press the seams open, especially with a block this small, I find it helps to reduce bulk.

The fun thing about this method is you can make these hearts any size you want. What you need to remember is:
1. Your rectangles need to sew together to make a square.
2. Determining the size of the 4 top squares is just slightly tricky. Think of the top of the heart as a flying geese block. If the finished width of the block is x (in our example, x = 2), then the height of the block will be x/2 (for our 4 inch block, 2/2 = 1). Be sure to add seam allowances, so the final equation (I promise) is x/2 + 0.5 = the size of the 4 squares for the top of the heart.
3. Your larger, bottom-of-the-heart squares are the same width as the short side of the rectangle.

With these tools in your belt, not only can you make hearts blocks any size you want, you can make rectangular hearts, hearts with different sized sides, even wonky hearts.

I learned the basics of this method from one of my earliest quilt books. Mary Ellen Hopkins had the Modern Quilt esthetic before many of the Modern Quilters were born. She didn't teach patterns, she didn't give yardage requirements or cutting instructions; she taught the Tools that helped quilters to make the quilts in their heads. Quick, easy construction methods, setting ideas that could take a quilt from ordinary to WOW, the permission to not worry about 'perfection', to combine lots of colors & patterns that don't 'go' together -- to just have fun.  She wanted quilters to make quilts that would be used & loved -- evidence, the title of one of her most famous books:  The It's OK if You Sit on My Quilt Book. She was a spitfire.

You'll notice I've been referring to her in the past tense. When I began thinking about this post & the seeds she planted in me that led to the little quilt I made for Jennie, I did an Internet search of her name & learned that she had passed away. I wasn't too surprised; I knew she must be quite elderly by now. She had just passed on the 11th of July. It made me sad. But what an amazing legacy she left, not just to her family & loved ones but also to the Quilt World.

If her name is new to you, go to the library, go to a used bookstore & search out her titles. You will be glad you did, you will be a better quilter for it.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

What would Libby do?

Libby Lehman is who I want to be when I grow up.

Joy Ride (detail) 1996
She is many things: quilter, artist, writer, teacher, mentor, judge, lecturer. And all done with style & grace. She is everything I wish I could be: strong, smart, talented, funny & generous. A "Lady" in the old sense of the word.

I'm pretty sure I first saw one of her quilts at my very first Quilt Festival back in 1991. I think it was a smallish piece with simple patchwork, vivid colors & amazing machine-embellished thread 'ribbons' winding through the piece. That's the hallmark of her work: saturated colors & domestic machine mastery. Her quilts are distinctive & beautiful. Her "Joy Ride" was among the 100 Best American Quilts of the 20th Century; she has quilts in private, corporate & museum collections.

But she has been lain low -- a brain aneurism, followed by a stroke, followed by a severe infection. Her Caring Bridge sight is a heart-breaking document of the highs & lows her family & friends have experienced since late April of this year. They remain optimistic about her recovery, though realistic that the road will be a long & difficult one for Libby.

At this year's Quilt Festival, there is a special exhibit of 37 of her quilts spanning 30 years. Even the early ones are distinctly "Libby". It was delightful to see her change & grow as an artist over the years.

Red Sky at Morning 1982

 New Mexico Suites: Native Son (detail) 1984

 Captive Color 1989

 You're Invited 1990

 Flotsam (detail) 1995

 Silent Partners 1995

 Squares Inside of Squares 1999

 Drift IV 2002

 High Hopes 2012

 Watch Your Step: Fall 2012

I hope that she will continue to add to this body of work in the future.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Creatures from Deep in My Stash -- Containers

I'm as surprised as you that there were enough of these fabrics to be a category -- containers: vases, pots, baskets, cups, teapots.


Where did they come from?

I think the richly-colored abstract vases & the odd magenta & turquoise pots were purchased in the late 1980s, in the early days of my new-found love of quilting. I probably got them from either So-Fro or Cloth World -- do any of you remember those stores? In those days it wasn't easy to find anything but dusty-pastel calico prints, so whenever I found something bright & bold, I got it. The big bands of flower vases & fruit came from France. I remember my difficulty in trying to convey how much I wanted -- lots of finger pointing. It's home dec weight, but I think I had plans to make a skirt from it. Hmmmm? The wicker baskets are a half yard cut -- kind of a rarity from the early days, I tended to buy big -- & I got them just because they're cute. And talk about cute, the teacups & Mary Engelbreit teapots are that; they are probably contemporaries of each other from the early 90s.

So now what?

The vases could save a failed project I began with a roll of deep Kona solids. I'm thinking an Orange Peel block.


The magenta & turquoise is weird & oddly appealing. The large print might be interesting cut up into narrow strips so the pots are not so recognizable. For some reason -- there is no green in the print -- I like it with a celery solid. Do you remember the antique quilt I saw at last year's Quilt Festival?

antique i am obsessing about

I've obsessed about it ever since; then recently a Blue Underground pattern showed up in American Patchwork & Quilting, very like my obsession, but with an interesting twist. I'm going there!


The baskets I had already lined up to make a re-usable shopping bag. The pattern I use is great for conversation prints & it doesn't take much fabric. I have made dozens of these bags -- great to have on hand for gifts, great to keep in the car to use. But my bit of baskets was too small for a whole bag. Not to worry though, I of course had a wicker-looking print to go with it!

basket bag

I think the obvious way to go with the giant flower vases is a medallion quilt! I've been wanting to make one for a long time, especially after I got Gwen Marston's book, Liberated Medallion Quilts. Now all it needs is lots of borders.


The teacups & teapots? I have no plans for them right now. Do you have any suggestions?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Nearly wordless week away

The leaves were just beginning to turn.

Brother was in a car accident -- hit & run, he's pretty battered, but it could have been so much worse.

Nephew is learning card tricks.

Our family home is nearly empty. {sigh}

Visited Mom; the grass has filled in over her.

Saw the sun rise & the moon set in the Flint Hills on the way home.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Just curious

Are you an in-y or an out-y? Not your bellybutton, but how you fold your quilts.

It is my theory that there are 2 kind of people in the world: those who fold their patchwork to the inside &  those who fold their patchwork to the outside.

I fold my patchwork to the outside -- from blocks to top to finished quilt. In the unfinished stage, to my way of thinking, it reduces stress on the raw seams & protects them from fraying.
As a finished quilt, I just like seeing the finished patchwork folded along the edge.
But I can appreciate that someone else might fold their patchwork to the inside to protect it from harm & keep it clean.

Which kind of person are you?

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

A quilt for a Super Fan

That would be my Mother-in-law -- she loves her Jayhawk basketball!

I volunteered to make her a quilt with her commemorative t-shirts -- they span 27 years, 1986 to 2013. It don't think it could be KU-ier! I hope she likes it.

tshirt quilt

tshirt quilt detail

Monday, October 07, 2013

On the changing of goals for a quilter

In the past few years I have kept more quilts than I have in my more than 30 years of quilt making.

My younger quilter friends are in that place in life where I used to be: that is, maintaining a long list of friends getting married & friends having babies -- and all *have* to be gifted with quilts. Not that these friends are demanding quilts, but we quilters feel they need quilts for these special occasions. There is little time for making quilts to keep!

Thirty years down the road, I still make the occasional wedding quilt (2nd marriage, marriage of a son or daughter) or baby quilt (mostly grandchildren now or just a block contributed to a group quilt). In between, there were the first communion & graduation quilts, quilts for a new job in a new city, new home. As an older quilter, I've made quilts for mile-stone birthdays (40, 50, 60) & retirement, comfort quilts for a serious illness & after a death, memory quilts made with a loved one's clothing. 

Quilts are there for all the Big Life Events. 

But as I said, I'm keeping more quilts now. My stack has gone from 1 or 2 to a big ol' pile -- more than we really need down here on the Gulf coast! Am I making more quilts or are the Big Life Events a less compressed in time as we get older? I'm not sure. And I really don't care that much about having lots of quilts (though I'm not ready to part with any of the ones here) -- most of all, I love making them. So I'm trying to balance making-to-keep with making-to-give-away. 

The 2nd stack of give-away quilts doesn't look like much since none of them are actually finished, but there's a dozen of them there, mostly lap quilts, some baby quilts & not in the photo are the ones in-progress & the few that are finished. I'm having such fun pulling out-of-date fabrics & making things with them. (One of my all-time favorite quilts, from back in the day, was made with fabrics given to me by a friend of Shug's; I didn't like any of the fabrics -- too ditsy & sweet -- but I really liked the quilt I made with them. It's a great challenge, making something you like with something you don't love or don't love anymore -- try it!) 

And using up my fabric oldies is making room for new fabric -- everyone wins!!!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

I've been working on another quilt top using polyester double knits.

My last trip north was for Memorial Day: I decorated my Mother's grave for the first time & made my last visit to my parents' home. During that last visit, I found a big box full of polyester double knit scraps. I might have been able to toss them in the trash had it not been for the, then, latest issue of Generation Q, the one with the article about  Victoria Findlay Wolf & Bill Volkening & their fondness for double knit quilts.


So, OK, I brought the big box home with me.

These are the leftovers from dressmaking. Largely, they are scraps from the garments my Mom made for me & her, but there were also several pieces from both of my Grandmothers. They are such a testament of Thrift: the garment pieces were cut from the cloth, then *every* little leftover bit was neatly bundled together & stowed away. I am unwrapping these bundles for the first time since they were made more than 30 years ago!

I decided to make a 16-patch block with them -- simple patchwork is best with this weird, stiff stuff. I'm really enjoying going through the fabrics, remembering the dresses & pantsuits (yes, pantsuits) that they became & the love that made them. Such a journey down Memory Lane! And not really a melancholy one, just fun remembering.

An acquaintance looked at my blocks & told me they were ugly. Had I valued her opinion, my feelings might have been hurt. I'll admit that they are certainly an acquired taste, but "ugly"?
No, they are not ugly.

That 70s 16-patch