Sunday, October 21, 2007

Guild quilt show

I've been away from blogging and reading blogs for a few weeks. Many apologies.

Our guild had its bienniel quilt show this weekend. Our members made some truly lovely quilts. I have downloaded only the first bunch so far, but here they are.

This was my personal favorite -- a New York Beauty quilt by Lorraine Gray. It's all batiks, and absolutely stunning in person. Unfortunately, this photo is washed out. The back has a yin yang symbol.
I loved this wall hanging, pieced by Whizzie Evans and quilted by her daughter Dorothy.
Lisa Ruch made this amazing Dear Jane, each block in a different batik.
We had a Kids Korner, and here it is being set up. I loved the letters -- pieced and appliqued onto a cloud background. The second photo shows a closer view.

LinkI'll post more of the quilts after I've downloaded them.

I have done so much traveling this fall! I was in Philadelphia for a conference (and had the great fun to meet up with my cousin Barbie and her husband Frank), and to be walking through downtown when suddenly the town went crazy. For a second I thought it was a terrorist attack, then I realized that the Phillys had just won the pennant! The next day, the fountain in the park I walked through was dyed red in their honor.

Tomorrow morning I leave for Denver on a business trip, back home on Wednesday. Remember Elaine Adair's popping quilt corners that reminded her of the Denver Airport? I'll be thinking of that when I land!

Another thing that has been eating up my time is training for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day. I'm walking in San Diego with my daughter Jocelyn and niece Kim. We'll be walking 60 miles, 20 miles a day. Getting in shape to do that is no small chore! It takes many hours on the weekend to do the training, and I'm wiped out when I'm done. My DH has done a lot of it with me, which makes it tolerable. Otherwise those ridiculously long walks can be really boring! I have plantar fasciitis in one foot, which is a bit better with new orthotics, but all this walking has really aggravated it. Still, after all this complaining, it's kind of fun -- I've never done anything like this in my life!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Falling off the grid

Many apologies for the long delay between posts. Things have gotten a little crazy and I haven't gotten much of my own quilting done. I did attend the Make A Blanket Day for Project Linus event for the Central Illinois Region -- lots of fun, lots of people attending -- and pieced most of a top there. It's so energizing to be with a group of people all working away! Some of the quilts that people donate are amazingly creative. I also got to demonstrate how to make a Happy Houses quilt from kid-friendly scraps or as a group project. Lynda over at Master of Patience? made some wonderful Happy Houses!

Things have been jumping at work, but the fun part of it is that our chili took home the grand prize this weekend at the Urbana International Beer Tasting & Chili Cook-Off! Here I am with my co-worker Marilyn (also a quilter) and a student, Katie. Note our tacky chili lights and chili necklaces and earrings.

The chili uses textured soy protein and is vegetarian -- I think the judges were very surprised to discover they liked ours better than all the other meaty chilies! It was a blind judging. Our chili really is delicious, with wonderful flavor from the chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, which come from a can. It's very quick and easy to make, too. The recipe is on our website, Illinois Center for Soy Foods.

I am off to the Food & Nutrition Conference & Exhibition in Philadelphia, but will be back quilting by mid-week! I am trying to catch up on my blog reading. I've been so busy with other things this week, and I really miss keeping up with all of you!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sew many things

Those of you who thought I might be setting myself up for a guilt trip with my last post, don't worry! Alas, I never feel compelled to stick to my project list. Sometimes I should, but I don't. Lists help keep me organized, remind me of projects I want to do, but don't stand in the way of enjoying my hobby. I have other lists I can't ignore, but my quilting to-do list is just a reminder.

And just to prove my point, with all I had to do on my list, I took an hour Sunday afternoon to make a little minkee blanket for a friend who's having a baby. Not on my list, but done, and it was fun! There's nothing like the feel of minkee, and that's soft flannel on the other side.

I'm taking Tonya's class and playing around with the letter A. It took me awhile to get started, even though I've been trying some wonky letters on my own. What color scheme? How big? Which letter? I just couldn't get over the hump (life seems so much more secure with a pattern). Finally I decided it didn't matter which colors, what size, which letter. Just do it! So I am using only pieces from my scrap bin, at least to start. I have never made a capital letter, so I'm starting with those. And I'm trying all sorts of sizes, dictated in part by how big a particular scrap is. Here are my first two.
I tried scribbling some A's for inspiration, and found I couldn't loosen up and get creative with them. So I googled "letter A" and this is what I came up with.

Wow! I'm off to have at it!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Keeping up with the Joneses

First off -- Happy Birthday, Jocelyn! My little girl is 23 years old today! And I am turning into one of those crazy adults who mutters things like, "My, how time flies."

Now on to the Joneses. There are some very energetic quilters out there in Blogland. While I don't wish to measure my productivity against the ridiculous standard of what everyone else is accomplishing, I do feel inspired by the start of a new quilting year, so to speak, as the school bells are ringing again and the mornings have a slight nip in the air (actually, the latter hasn't happened yet but, Mr. Weatherman, please take the suggestion). So I am going to lay out a few projects and plans. The list is not definitive, but thinking aloud is helpful.

1. I am back in school! At least, I'm taking an online quilting class with Lazy Gal Tonya to learn to be a little more wonky. You can check out her blog here and scroll down the sidebar to find links to all her tutorials. So far, this has really been a good class and we just got a new assignment today! I'm going to work hard at not letting other things interfere with what I want to do in this course.

2. We need a quilt for the wall behind our couch. I have some ideas (inspired by Sandi Cummings' book, Thinking Outside the Block) but need to JUST DO IT.

3. By September 30, I need to finish the Happy Houses quilt for a Project Linus Make A Blanket Day demo.

4. This past week brought me a couple UPS deliveries. The first was two big boxes from my sister. Her husband is in the military and they are packing up for a tour in Germany. Rather than taking all their t-shirts from past assignments with them, she sent them to me to put into a quilt -- more like ten quilts! She said to use the best and toss the rest. It should be fun, though finding fabrics to coordinate will be a challenge as military colors are not my usual color scheme.
4. I bought some Asian fabrics from a fellow blogger who is clearing out her collection of those to make room for fabrics that fit her current interests. We both win! I love the look of Asian fabrics and have a scrappy quilt I plan to make for someone who is very into all things Asian.
5. And of course -- I want to finish two more I Spy quilts before the holidays (one is almost done), complete my Stroop quilt, make some things for the guild bazaar at the quilt show, and put some patterns on the Hearts for Linus blog I do for the guild.

Hmmm... all this without looking at my list of projects, which is pretty long. I think I can accomplish all this IF I can keep organized and work out a system. Time to hop to it!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Farfalle con fagiolini, mandorle e pomodori

When I was in Italy a few years ago I couldn't resist picking up a copy of one of their cooking magazines, Sale e Pepe. I figured it would help me improve my culinary Italian and provide delicious reading on the airplane home. Right on both counts. With much help from a dictionary, I translated this recipe that has become one of our favorites. It's quick and easy, absolutely divine to eat, and different from the usual everyday American version of pasta. I just made it this weekend for some guests and it's been on my mind ever since, so I thought I'd share the recipe. I hope you like it as much as I do!

My photo of the finished product didn't come out, but here's what it looks like just before you put it all together. Farfalle con fagiolini, mandorle e pomodori
(Bowtie Pasta with Green Beans, Almonds & Tomatoes)

From the July 2004 issue of Sale & Pepe

1/2 cup almonds (50 g)
1 tsp. sweet paprika
4 oz. feta cheese (100 g) (sometimes I use a little more on top)
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice (recipe says juice of half a lemon – I thought this was too much)
1 bunch parsley, leaves only
1 clove of garlic
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup thin (if you have them) green beans (200 g)
1 large round tomato, diced (recipe says 8 cherry tomatoes, sliced)
12 oz. bowtie pasta (320 g) (farfalle means butterfly in Italian - how cute is that?)

1) Toast the almonds in the toaster oven until fragrant. Heat the paprika in a nonstick pan over low heat until the aroma rises up. Let the almonds and paprika cool and put them into the food processer with 80% of the crumbled feta, the lemon juice, chopped parsley leaves, garlic and olive oil. Blend the ingredients into a paste and transfer it into a bowl.

2) Wash and trim the green beans (the thin ones really are the best!), dry them, and cut them on an angle. Cook until crisp tender (the crispness is a nice contrast to the pasta). Wash and dry the tomatoes and cut them into thin slices (I prefer diced).

3) Cook the pasta in boiling salted water and drain it reserving a little of the water, which you should stir into the parsley mixture to thin it to sauce consistency. Mix the pasta and sauce, add the sliced tomatoes and beans, sprinkle it all with the remaining crumbled feta and serve.

Buon appetito!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

It never rains, but it pours!

Why does everything happen at once? My kids have been visiting, we've had other houseguests and dinner guests, extra stuff at work, and my training for my 60-mile, 3-day walk has really picked up -- it wears me out! (I walked 13 miles on Saturday and 9 on Sunday.) I've enjoyed it all, but I've gotten behind in my blogging.

I've had several quilting activities, but not many photos to post. I have put the inner border on my I Spy at last -- it was making me feel guilty just hanging there on my design wall. Borders and backings and the finishing up part of quilting are so much less fun than the designing and piecing!
I'll put an outer border in the same blue that is on the star points, and then back it with a map and bright yellow, just like in my previous I Spy quilts.

I've also started a class with Tonya from Lazy Gal Quilting. It's been great! Once I start having something to show, I'll post those photos. I've also been working on a project I can't yet write about, and am ready to put sashing and borders on the Happy Houses quilt for Project Linus. I've been putting that off because I can't decide on sashing fabric and because, well, I don't much like doing sashing and borders, etc. But I'm giving a short demo on these houses for Central Illinois's Make A Blanket Day later this month, and I need to have the quilt to show!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

8 things

The Quilting Pirate tagged me to tell 8 not-so-obvious things about myself. No quilting content in this post, so please skip it if you're not interested.

1. I have two birthdays. When I was born, each town in the state of Washington decided whether it would be on daylight savings time or not. Can you imagine how confusing? My dad was in the Army, so I was born on Ft. Lewis (on daylight savings time) at 12:55 a.m. on August 14. However, even though my birth certificate gives the Ft. Lewis time, it says I was born in Tacoma (where Ft. Lewis is), but Tacoma was not on daylight savings time. In Tacoma, it was 11:55 p.m. on August 13. I think I should get to celebrate both days!

2. My family moved when I was 6 weeks old and I've never been back to Tacoma. My dad was stationed in Europe and we traveled while living there, so I visited 18 countries by the time I was 3. Too bad I don't remember them!

3. I'm related to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. I'm sure you don't believe that, but it's true -- when my Irish great-grandparents immigrated to the US, they chose to honor their new country by naming their sons Thomas Jefferson Sullivan, Benjamin Franklin Sullivan, and George Washington Sullivan (my grandfather).

4. I'm training to do a 3-day, 60-mile walk. (12 miles today -- done 8 already!) I am not the least bit athletic and have never done anything like this before. Wish me luck!

5. I used to be a medieval historian.

6. When I was 12 years old, I played the piano on coast-to-coast TV. Not so spiffy as it sounds -- we were living in the Panama Canal Zone, so the distance between the Atlantic and Pacific was only 50 miles. The show was a news segment where I was playing a simple song as an accompaniment to a bunch of 6-yr-olds in a rhythm band. My 15 minutes of fame, squandered!

7. I've written a soyfoods cookbook.

8. I have an overactive imagination. When I was 9 years old, I was completely convinced that if the Russians attacked the US (remember the Cold War?), I would be the first person killed. I had the whole thing worked out and it made perfect sense to me.

I have not been part of the online quilting community for very long, so I don't know who has been tagged and who hasn't. I tag those Q4P members who have not done this to do it now!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pink & Presents

Whoo! Here's pink, all done in purple. Nothing is joined, clearly there needs to be some trimming, all that will come later. I'm finding that my letters vary quite a bit in size, but I'm not going to do anything about that until I start laying them out. I may like some of them to be uneven, and I've already decided I want the words to be different in size. I'll have to see. I may have to do some letters over.

My kids are home, Jocelyn for a week, Valerie for four. They came bearing lovely gifts! Here are some Asian fabrics, which are hard to get where I live...
...and here are two very fun fabrics -- fortune cookies and cheeses! And the cheeses are classy ones like caciocavallo. Won't these make fun table mats?
And since I live in a land suffering from Trader Joe deprivation, they brought me 2 way cool TJ bags. (Your eyes are fine, the photo is blurry.)
Last but not least, they brought a fascinating book -- The Meaning of TINGO & Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World. I could not have made up the words in this book. Believe it or not, these are real words:

tingo - to take all the objects one desires from the house of a friend, one at a time, by borrowing them (from Pascuense, spoken on Easter Island). This sounds like a good prompt line for a short story!

areodjarekput - to exchange wives for a few days only (Inuit)

awawa - the gap between each finger or toe (Hawaiian). This word came to me at the appropriate time, because try as I might, I cannot spread my toes apart. I just started yoga lessons, and there's an exercise that helps you extend that gap, and I'm working on it. Maybe I should take some before photos to check my progress against.

nakhur - a camel that won't give milk until its nostrils are tickled (Persian)

And with that, I sign out.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Jeff's amazing photos

So much going on! My kids are home visiting (hoorah!), I've pieced a baseball quilt for Project Linus, finished pink for my Stroop quilt, and planned and started a surprise quilt for someone who reads my blog. I'll post photos of those endeavors soon (though the surprise quilt will have to wait awhile). In the meantime I wanted to share a couple photos taken by my nephew-in-law Jeff. He's daddy to Julia and Andrew, who received my most recent I Spy quilt. Among his many other talents, Jeff is an amateur photographer. Well, 'amateur' in the sense that Olympic athletes were considered 'amateur,' since he earns his living at other things. He's a lawyer by day who transforms on the weekend to Phabulous Photographer-man who treks into the wilds of nature and emerges with a camera full of incredible images.

These two photos are from a recent backpacking trip he took to Kearsarge Lake in the eastern Sierras. They took my breath away! Many of his photos have these beautifully clear, crisply clean lines. I think some of them would adapt beautifully to quilts. If you want to see more of Jeff's photos, check out his photo blog, Fleeting Glimpse Photography.

Monday, August 13, 2007


I've wanted to see the Parthenon since I was in grade school. I had a sense of its space, how it would feel to walk through it, what it would be like to breathe the air and feel the sun of Athens. Sadly, today the Parthenon is roped off and the Acropolis is such a mass of tourists (of which I was one) that it's hard to appreciate it. Maybe it would be better in the winter. Athens is also a huge city that grew with no plan, and except for its ancient sites, there is little to recommend it. I was so disappointed. But not too far away are the ruins of ancient Corinth. It's not much, but they are not crowded and there is a lovely little museum with some wonderful mosaics from the old city. I was bowled over by the beauty of some of these. Look at this intricate design.

Here's a closeup of the center.
Some of the borders are intricate patterns. The colors in this one surprised me, and they are used in such a way as to give the design a sense of depth.

The twisted border below is really something -- look how they handled the corner.
There was also some pottery in the museum. I wish I had this pitcher and fish plate!

This pottery is simpler, but the designs are lovely. I especially like the lid in the foreground.
I loved the animals in their art. Look at this lion.
And these mythical creatures.
Here's a close-up of a goat from one of the border pictures above. I was amazed at how life-like it seems even though it's a mosaic. It seems almost painted.

And finally, here's what's left of the Temple of Apollo at Corinth. And take a look at that blue, blue sky. And amazingly, no tourists blocked my view!

Guilty Pleasures

Floribunda let us all in on some of her secret indulgences, and tagged me to do the same. Here are a few of my guilty pleasures.

1) I love to sing, but can't carry a tune in a bucket. So I act like a diva when I'm driving or in the shower. Remember that scene in My Best Friend's Wedding where the Cameron Diaz character, who can't sing either, goes to a karaoke bar and belts it out, and the crowd goes wild? That's my fantasy. Years ago I took one of those vocational interest tests that tell you what jobs you would enjoy, and my two highest scores were being a performing musician (alas, no talent) or a mathematician (I never went beyond high school math).

2) I like doing whatever I want, whenever I want (me and everybody else!). When I'm home alone for a few days, I indulge in doing just that -- quilt all day, have dinner at 3:30 or 10:30, don't put things away when I'm done, watch stupid TV, whatever. It's absolutely fabulous to do that every now and then.

3) I enjoy really fine wines. I can't figure out whether it's good fortune or bad luck that I've tasted a few amazing -- and expensive -- wines, because now I know how good a glass of full-bodied red can be. I look for occasions to splurge on something really wonderful. I pour a little into a big wine glass and swirl and sniff and look and finally taste. Wow!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sargamatha Shanti Art Quilt

This is a first for me! My husband just sent me a neat parkour video on You Tube and I decided to see if there were any quilting videos there. Yes, indeed, there are! They have an easy way to post it to your blog, too. I really enjoyed watching this quilt take shape before my eyes. Very cool. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I love piecing!

There are so many aspects of making a quilt, but the part that really grabs me is the piecing. I love it! There are so many types of piecing, and so many possibilities within each type. I'm doing two kinds of piecing now, and hope to begin a third and then a fourth soon.

First, I'm doing some traditional piecing. I just finished the top (minus borders) of my third I Spy! It went together very quickly, guess I've learned something after making my first two.
I have read several books on stars and hexagons, and none of them has adequately addressed the most basic techniques of joining the pieces together so the points match. A quilt like this needs the points to match, or you lose the flow of the design and piecing becomes a more dreadful nightmare with each succeeding row (don't ask me how I know). On my second I Spy I figured out how useful the little bunny ears can be in matching. But when you press your seams for minimum bulk, those bunny ears lie right along the seam line on every other intersection of every other row. What to do then? I had been putting a pin through the intersection and pinning on either side, and had reasonable success. But it was time consuming and difficult. Suddenly a simpler way occurred to me. Maybe everyone else has figured this out already, but just in case there's a quilter out there who hasn't, this is what I started doing and it works like a charm.

You can see how the alternate intersection on this row seems to be missing its bunny ears. That's because they are lying on the seam line.
But you can use your fingers to flip the seam to the other side to expose the bunny ears. I pin the two intersections on either side first, so that the weight of the fabric doesn't become a factor, and then flip those bunny ears up and place them right on top of each other. In an ideal world the bunny ears would match perfectly when you expose them, but in real life you often have to finesse them just a little. When you get them lying right on top of each other, stick a pin off to the side a bit to hold everything in place. (I can't believe I took a close-up photo with one hand and it actually came out!)
Then let the seams flop back down and stitch away. It works great!
As satisfying as I find this piecing, I've also been playing around with Tonya's tutorials on free pieced letters. I am enchanted by the look of them -- so fun, so whimsical! It's another kind of skill altogether, and for me, it's harder. When my points match, I know things are right. When I do free piecing, I have to rely on my own artistic sensibilities to decide whether it's ok. But it is fun, and I rather enjoy disengaging my perfect-point self and seeing what happens. Now that the I Spy is done (well, the hard part is done), I'm planning to finish up my wonky Stroop quilt.

In in the not-too-distant future, I want to try a small piece using Ruth McDowell's piecing techniques. Her quilts are amazing! I got her book on pieced vegetables even before I started quilting. Her piecing techniques are unique and I think will require a good bit of practice. She is truly an artist -- she can draw, and her fabric choices are unbelievable. If you haven't looked through her books, do. She just came out with a book on piecing, and I'm going to work my way through that.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Sorry about the delay in posting the Venice photos! It's been busy -- Sally Collins visited our guild and I took two full-day classes from her and attended an evening lecture. Wow! I'll post more on that later, but for now, here's Venice.
This is from the exterior of St. Mark's (San Marco) in Venice. I have never seen anything like it -- truly amazing. Although I can't say I enjoy standing in line to get in, it does provide an opportunity to look very carefully at the things around you. There's so much to see that it's nice to be forced to stand and look. The pinkish colors in the stones give the exterior such a warm feel. Click on the photos to enlarge them and see the detail.
This exterior is actually part of the Doge's palace, which is attached to the basilica. (This is immediately to the right of the preceding photo.) The brickwork is a patchwork pattern. I looked at the pattern carefully, and every now and then the alternating greys and pinks in the interior of the "blocks" do not follow the pattern. It makes it more interesting, and I am assuming it was intentional.
I love this wall -- it's a quilt in marble.
Here you can see the elegant pillars with the subtle yet stunning colors from the marble.

The most amazing thing about the basilica is the floors. Unfortunately, they don't let you take any pictures inside. I ended up buying a book, The Floors of Venice by Tudy Sammartini, which has both English and Italian text in the same book. It was expensive, but for a book with so many color photos, it was well worth it. I wanted to put a link to Amazon for anyone interested in purchasing it, but they only have scalper-priced used ones. You can, however, order it here for what I paid for it in Italy, although I don't know what the postage will be.
ItalicThis is a two-page spread from the book. I was thinking how drafting it into a quilt would be a formidable task, but when I looked for the book online, I see that someone has already made it into a quilt. Check it out here. Incredible! [Edit - oops! Just realized the quilt is not exactly this floor, but it's a similar design and is from Venice.]
Here's another photo from the book. The entire basilica is filled with the most amazing floors! It's a quilter's paradise.
Venice is more than San Marco's, of course. I could never live in a city without cars or trees (truly odd, especially at night), but I could visit again and again. The contrast between Amsterdam and Venice was so strong that it was a day before it occurred to me that both are cities built on canals. They could not be more different. I loved them both.

Monday, July 23, 2007


I had planned to post about Venice today, but it's taking awhile to get that together. Instead, here's what I'm working on.I am beginning to get the hang of making wonky letters and am getting less nervous about making free cuts in the fabric, so I made the word purple all in one fairly short sitting. Now that I have several words, I'm thinking more seriously about layout. Right now the plan is to add some interest by mixing in some tall, skinny color words and some short, squat ones.

And here's what a stack of 147 hexagons looks like (a mere 2-1/2" tall). It's what I need for my next I Spy quilt, which I'm making for my nephew Andy's two little girls. I had about 80 already cut and finished the rest this weekend. It's pretty time consuming to fussy cut the pieces, but as soon as that's done the rest is just stitching. I like having a project that is straightforward -- something good to fall back on when I'm not sure what to do on a more challenging quilt.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Quilting, Croatia, and Harry Potter

Hoorah! Finally got back to quilting today. I pieced purple in yellow for my Stroop quilt and started trimming the template-cut fabric for my next I Spy (aiieee....!). I will post photos later this weekend -- right now my camera is still full of vacation photos, which I've downloaded into iPhoto but Picasa is now available for Macs and I want to see if I can put my photos there, too.

On vacation we stopped in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Here's a photo of the medieval city seen from a nearby hilltop. It's a beautiful city and has become a resort area in the past few years.
I have received two postcards from Dubrovnik in my life -- one in the early 70's from an uncle who was visiting there, and one in 1980 from a good friend who was there doing research for her disseration on Serbian nationalism. Both cards were essentially this same view. When my friend returned from her year in Dubrovnik, which was then still part of Yugoslavia, she was very despondent about what would happen if the iron grip of communism were to loosen. She predicted a bloodbath once there was no one to keep the various ethnic groups from fighting each other, and that is indeed what happened in the 1990's. Dubrovnik was severely damaged during the fighting, but the Croatians have worked very hard to repair it and make it a tourist attraction once again. I felt sad there knowing that just a few years ago the city was bombarded and bodies were lying in the streets -- and that these groups of people still hate each other.

On a lighter note, on the main street of the old city was a bookstore with a big Harry Potter sign -- in English -- in the window.

Tonight's the night! I have pre-reserved my copy and will pick it up tomorrow morning as I'm still too jet-lagged to go to the midnight release party. Coincidentally, when we were at the airport in Rome to return to the States, we ran into some friends from home who were on our flight. They are Italian and their daughter, who was born in the US, was reading her first big book in Italian -- Harry Potter e la Pietra Filosofale. They told us that volume 7 won't be available in Italian until November, but the English version will be released in Italy (and in Croatia and I guess all over the world) in English as soon as it comes out. Happy reading to all you HP fans!