Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I had the Pacific Northwest Quilters Association show entirely to myself today. Their traveling Spice of Life quilts are at the Vermilion County Museum in Danville, Illinois, about 30 miles from my house. When I arrived the receptionist told me to go on upstairs while she phoned the staff to turn the lights on. It's not often you get to take your time with 50 beautifully displayed quilts.

I'll get back to the show in a moment, but first I want to ask you about vermilion. Do you know what color that is? Did you know it was a color? When I crossed the Vermilion County line today, it suddenly occurred to me that vermilion is a color. I haven't heard anything called vermilion in years. In my mind I could see the color well -- greenish, with a yellow undertone. Was I ever wrong! I guess the word verdant or the French word vert confused me, because according to Wikipedia, vermilion is an orange-red pigment also known as China red. I could avoid embarrassment is if this were one of those infamous Wikipedia errors, but somehow that seems unlikely. I am red faced. You can color me vermilion.

And now back to the show. For your amusement -- these are really fun -- here are three quilts that made me smile. The first is Ladies and Gentlemen! by Pat Rosenthal. It shows a variety of outhouses and other types of toilet facilities -- definitely worth a click on the photo to enlarge it and read all the comments and look at everything more closely.

The next one is Moo-desto Cows by Cathie I. Hoover. She wrote on the label that she's from Moo-desto, California, but some of you may know it under the more modest name of Modesto.
I got such a kick out of To Each His Own by Georgia French. What a family unit -- Charlie Chaplin, Mona Lisa, and Mickey Mouse!

Sunday, April 27, 2008


NOTE: I've replaced the original photo with this PhotoShopped version. After reading this post, my friend Bunny emailed me that her husband Joe also has a hobby, and it's photography. So I sent them the photo and he was able to work some magic and get a much better image. Thank you!! Here's the orignal post with the improved image:
This is a terribly overexposed photo, but I don't know enough about photography to get rid of the excess light and still capture the crucial image. We came home about 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon and for a split second I thought the tree in our front yard was on fire. Both edges of the trunk were glowing, radiating, shining, shimmering with a blazing red-orange light. It really did look like fire, it was that bright. I've never seen anything like it.

The tree is a paper bark maple, and the bark is always peeling off the tree. The sun was hitting the trunk at just the right angle and the hanging pieces of bark were glowing red orange. You can see that the hanging bark in front, where the sun doesn't hit it, is just dull brown. Amazing! I took lots of photos, but all of them have too much sunlight. Still, I think you can see the effect in this closeup. A few minutes later the fire was gone, but what a blaze of glory for a moment.

I've been working on another small word quilt while I wait for the background fabric to arrive for my Stroop quilt. My niece Laurel commented that a small wall quilt with a child's name in Tonya's wonky letters would make a great baby gift. Good idea! A former grad student where I used to work recently had a baby girl she named Sruti, and I thought this would be perfect to send her.
I was playing here. I've decided to change out the 'u' and 't' for small letters rather than capitals, hope to do that tomorrow, and then to dot the 'i' with a heart, which so far is all I've done for the 'i', but I may want the heart bigger). Now that I can make these pretty quickly, it's not a problem to see whether something works and toss it in the parts pile if it doesn't.

My husband has a hobby, too, though he doesn't indulge it as often as I do my quilting. He bakes bread. Good bread. Great bread. He uses a baker's stone in the oven and spritzes the dough with water for the first ten minutes to get a crispy crust. The smell drove us crazy while this 7-grain loaf was baking, and we had heavenly warm bread just after I snapped this photo.
Nature does wonders during the spring, but sometimes nothing can compete with good oven-spring!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Flat white squares

I've been busy with 3 swaps, a new word quilt, and a worknight, but it's such a time-consuming process to download photos on my old system that I just haven't gotten around to it. But I've been thinking about this quilt recently and thought some of you might share your good ideas with me.
Jocelyn, my older daughter, made this quilt in December 2005. We had spent that Thanksgiving in New York with my husband's family and did lots of touristy things (the Lower East Side Tenement Museum was my favorite -- an amazing glimpse into immigrant life more than a hundred years ago) and of course spent time in art museums. At the MOMA we saw Colors for a Large Wall by Ellsworth Kelly. (Handy that it's an ecard, isn't it?) Jocelyn came home for Christmas and decided to translate the painting into a quilt, her first quilt. It's an amazing replica -- we had almost all those colors in the Project Linus stash, and she made the quilt to donate. It's still waiting to be quilted and that's my question: How would you quilt this? I think any design would detract from its impact -- and of course would be untrue to the original painting. Just stitch in the ditch to hold the quilt together? How would an overall meander seem? I was thinking maybe straight lines on the diagonals to form diamonds of 'invisible' thread?

I think the quilt is child friendly (we plan to donate to Project Linus), despite the white. I've been wondering why I find it so compelling a design. It never would have occurred to me to put all that white together, but I like it. Why???

And I realized I haven't been posting photos from the Chicago Quilt Show. My friend Jane, who unfortunately missed the show, came for lunch on Friday and looked at all the photos. It got me reinspired. Since I'm talking about white, take a look at this.
The quilt is Siberian Moonlight Sonata by Patricia Gould. The photo is a close-up, but only a small amount has been cut off. It was stunning, one of my favorite quilts in the whole show! The photo below again loaded sideways, sorry. You can click the photo to enlarge it and make it easier to read.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Quilts from Dixie Community

My father's parents were from a tiny place called Dixie Community. It may not exist by that name anymore, since I couldn't locate it on Google maps, but it was not too far from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I visited in 1966, when my military father was reassigned from Panama to Atlanta. Since our boat back to the States docked in nearby New Orleans, my dad took us to meet his family, most of whom he hadn't seen for 30 years and none of whom I had ever met (except for my grandma). They had us stay with cousin Inez because she had both electricity and indoor plumbing. Although I had seen poverty in Panama, that visit with my 'kinfolk' was my first experience of how hard life could be in the United States.

The women in Dixie Community made quilts, and I have two of them. Most of the quilts were utility quilts, like this one.

I grew up with this quilt. We wrapped it around furniture to protect the wood when we moved, and I remember sleeping under it occasionally, too. It's very heavy and very warm. Even though I lived with this quilt, I never really looked at it until I became a quilter myself. It's made from old clothing, I think mostly men's clothing. The back is solid black and folded over to the front to form the binding. You can see the large clamshell quilting on the front, but it's also tied and no quilting is visible on the back. I think the black fabric is just a replacement backing over one that must have worn out. This 'new' backing, which was very shoddily attached, is coming apart at the corners where I can catch a peek of a thick, cream-colored binding underneath. I have been thinking of removing enough stitches to expose some of the original back, although I'm a little nervous about messing around with it. (Don't know why -- the quilt is certainly not valuable.)

The other quilt I have was given to me by my father's family as a wedding present.
My aunts said my grandmother had made it as a girl with help from her mother, but I wonder whether they have the story right. My grandmother died around 1990 at the age of 106, which means she would have made the quilt in the 19th century. I don't know anything about dating quilts, but those fabrics look considerably more modern to me. The quilt is machine pieced and hand quilted.
I can't quite figure out how the edge was made. There is no separate binding. The darker lavender on the most outside border of the front is whip stitched down right on the very edge of the quilt. I can't tell whether the back is folded over to the front to be the next border in from the edge or whether that is a separate piece of fabric. Is this an old style of making quilts? Does anyone know? I am thinking of having this quilt appraised, not so much to learn its value, but to get a better idea as to when and how it was made.

Even though my grandmother quilted, I never saw her do it. I wish I could have.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tagged by the Diva of Quilts

I was tagged by Laura, the Diva of Quilts, to tell 7 things about myself. Last fall it took me awhile to come up with 8 things, but I finally did, so I'll just refer you back to those if you are interested. (Update -- I actually completed that walk!!) If you haven't seen Laura's blog, go take a look. Her spools of thread quilt in her heading is awesome, and she makes basket quilts that are really fun.

I always enjoy reading everyone's bits of information, but I don't know who out there has been tagged and who hasn't. If you haven't been tagged yet, please consider yourself tagged by me and let me know so I can read what you wrote and let others know!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Feeling bright

After several dismal attempts to find a photo that 1) I liked and 2) would fit across the title, I suddenly had the bright idea that I could 'keep' my rainbow strings blocks by making a skinny row for my heading. It looks a little darker than I had expected, but I'm happy with it. (And if you caught the bright pun of feeling smart and my colorful blocks, then you are a person after my own heart.)

Most of my quilting time yesterday and today was spent doing a paper piecing project for my guild's raffle quilt. I have discovered that I am not particularly fond of paper piecing. When I am at my machine, I want to see the fabric, not the paper, go under the needle.

But I also am making some really fun mix-n-match (or mix-n-don't-match!) blocks for a swap I'm in with Donna at Quilt Pixie, Helen at Nap Art, and blogless Helen. They are so fun! It's a marvelous antidote to too much paper piecing. These are still in progress.

And today, as part of the annual Boneyard Arts Festival, I saw a demonstration of Mayan weaving, a technique that endures from pre-Columbian days. Magda Silvia Sotz Mux of Chiq'a'l, Guatemala, demonstrated her weaving techniques.
She wove the blouse (called a po't) she is wearing. It was spectacular, but I was unable to get a good angle for a photo. I took this view of the entire weaving apparatus by looking down from a staircase:
There is a waistband she wears that attaches to the loom, which is attached about 8 feet high at the other end. Here are a couple examples of her weaving. The designs are not necessarily traditional, and they don't have particular significance. The women always weave whatever strikes their fancy. I like that. This top was made in another Guatemalan village, where the women always use blue or purple as their main color. I love the color, but I wouldn't want the constraint of having to use it.
I am completely fascinated by traditional arts. I moved frequently and lived in many places growing up, and I sometimes wonder whether it isn't the sense of permanence, of having a time and place that something fits, that attracts me. Plus, of course, it's gorgeous!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Rainbows, flowers and poltergeists

The rainbow strings blocks are done! I think they're wonderful!

I would never have been able to make this from my own fabrics since I don't have much of a stash (yet!), but because this is for Project Linus, I used fabrics donated to the guild for charity quilts. I did raid my own stash a few times, especially for orange and purple. The blocks are so heavy that I had to pin them to my design wall. I think I'll leave them there a few days just to look at them!

My sample origami flower is also done. There are some raw edges from cutting out the back that are a bit troublesome at the petal tips. I hope I can deal with it when I applique the flower. Right now it's just lying on a piece of fabric, and the button is one that -- oops! -- fell off my shirt. I'll find something a little more appropriate for the final project.

And now for something completely different ...

Good photos make good blogs. Well, that's not all there is to it, but some blogs are just gorgeous to look at. Lisa Boyer at That Dorky Homemade Look recently posted a photo tutorial that sounded pretty simple, so I thought I'd give it a try. She calls for two pieces of foam core, but I could only find one stashed behind the recycling in the garage, so I thought for the time being I'd use a white afghan for the backdrop. Bad idea. I chose origami as my subject, since I think my last origami photo (a couple posts ago) may be in contention for the Worst Photo Ever prize. I put a few pieces down and looked through the lens expecting to see this:

Instead I saw this:

The poltergeists that made me cut the rainbow blocks the wrong size and finished the carrots when I wasn't looking must have pushed a button somewhere on my camera. I can't find that button (and I can't find my camera book, which I think they also hid), but I finally was able to locate a reset button and return to the default settings. Actually, I am very glad to discover this feature and once I figure out how to control it, it could be quite useful. By then I'll have bought a second piece of foam core.

And finally, more on the Chicago Quilt Show. Many of you seemed to think the batik blocks in my other post were all I bought. Oh my, thank you for crediting me with such restraint! But do you think I'm nuts? How could I leave my little town and go to the Big Quilt Show in the Big City and not come home with bags of scrumptious fabrics? Here's a fat quarter pack of African fabrics I picked up.

I love African fabrics but I don't know how to use them. One of my first quilts was an African Coins quilt for Jocelyn (my older DD), but I used batiks.

And here's another photo from the show. My poltergeist seems to be working at Blogger for the moment because I cannot get this photo to load right side up, so tilt your head to the left when you look.

This quilt is Floral Fortitude by Pat Doyle Mikrut. It's such a happy quilt!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Does your quilt have soul?

There's a very interesting discussion going on at Two Lime Leaves about what we respond to in a quilt, and whether technically perfect quilts have soul. There are lots of opinions expressed and the comments make a great read if the topic interests you at all.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Quilts to die for and vendors galore -- the Chicago quilt show was incredible! Overwhelming, too. I reached a point where I just couldn't absorb anymore, but with only one day there, I kept going anyway (duh!).

Photography was permitted for all but one section of the display quilts, so I took quite a few photos. I think I'll share pics of one or two quilts for the next few posts rather than trying to do everything at once -- and maybe you won't get the same overload I did. I'm so grateful that we could take photos! Most of the quilts in the "no photos" section are already lost to me.

First, a little of what I've been up to quiltwise. I got these batiks at the show and think they'll make a wonderful baby quilt.
The little packet on the right has 8 or 10 squares, each with a different image. I love the whimsy and I love the fabrics -- so much fun to pick them out!

I've been trying different backgrounds for my Stroop quilt but of course I had less than a fat quarter of my favorite. At the quilt show I found 3 more fat quarters of it. I might be able to get a pieced background from that, but the vendor said she's pretty sure she has 6 or 7 yards in her shop. She wrote down the info and asked me to email it to her and she'd check. Keep your fingers crossed! Just in case she doesn't have it, I bought this. Sadly, I was disappointed when I tried it out at home.
I also tried this. I like it, in fact I really like it, but it has a carnival feel and I don't think that's right for the quilt. But I like it more than the dots above. Still, I am hoping I get more of my first choice fabric, or that I can make do with the little I have.
I have finished my rainbow strings blocks, but haven't downloaded the photo. I also wrote up directions for what we've decided will be our guild's basic Project Linus block. It's easy to make with scraps at home, so we're hoping people will take a minute and make a block. I posted the directions on the Hearts for Linus blog and have already heard from several guild members that they've been making them. One person helped her grandchildren make 14 of them in one hour!
And now, two amazing quilts from the Chicago show. I don't know how the judges can possibly pick a Best of Show! I was awed by so many of the quilts, and they are so different. The two I'm posting today keep popping into my mind, so I'll share them first. This one is Dust Storm by Paramjeet Bawa. Be sure to click to enlarge it. Note how she made the trees, a blend of fabric and threadwork. The quilting helps define the picture, but see how she gives smoothness to the jars by not quilting them. I love the subtlety of the shading that gives the feeling of dust. And the women's robes -- well, wow!

This next quilt, Black Sheep by Laura Brown, is the only journal quilt I have a photo of (not enough time!). So few lines and colors, so much expression. It really draws me in.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fabric folding & Googlegangers

Now that I'm retired (will I ever tire of saying that?), I'm expanding my quilting horizons. I joined the Miniature Booty Swap for the chance to design a quilt that suits someone else's style rather than my own. I want to like the quilt, but it has to be something the recipient will be happy to hang on her wall. I was pleased to learn that some of my swap partner's preferences are just like mine (she has such good taste!), but a couple things are quite different (what, is she crazy?!). I spent a few days searching for inspiration, and it finally came. As you can see, it doesn't look like much yet.
This is my first attempt at making a 5-petaled origami flower in fabric. I got the instructions from Rebecca Wat's book, A Fresh Twist on Fabric Folding. My next step is to stitch the petals down in the center and trim away the excess fabric in the back. That will leave just the petals, which hopefully will look like the ones in the book:
Beyond that, I'm not willing to reveal more about the project just yet. But I did see a recent post on my partner's blog that makes me think my idea might be on the right track!

I enjoy origami, so the fabric folding idea appealed to me. In 1993 we spent 6 months in Ann Arbor. My daughters were only 6 and 9 years old then, and since they didn't have any friends in town when we arrived, we tried hard to find activities they would enjoy. We joined an origami group at the Ann Arbor Public Library and the girls were really good at it, much better than I was. They made all sorts of cool things.
There were some delightful people in the origami group. Two of the regulars were Laura, who designed amazing origami paper using computer-generated designs, and her husband, a paper-folding expert who was many years her senior. They were affectionately known as Laura-gami and the Older Folder!

And as for Googlegangers ...
Today's New York Times has a fun article about the fascination we feel with people who share our names. Have you ever googled your name just to see who else turns up? If so, you're not alone -- lots of people are curious about their same-name mates, their Googlegangers. Against all rationality, I confess to sharing this sense of connection with my namesakes. It's silly but I do feel it. So this morning after reading the Times article, I googled my name. I've done it before so I expected I'd read a bit about the reporter one state over who shares my name, but this time the first person who popped up was an Italian to English translator (a native English speaker living in Italy) who is also a sommelier. Wow! I have studied Italian and visited Italy 3 times in the last few years, and I am rather into wine these days. Am I entering the Twilight Zone?

And as long as we're talking a walk on the weird side, it turns out that my husband and kids know one of the people mentioned in the NY Times article -- how's that for 6 Degrees of Separation, another concept I find fascinating!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Delightful Deadlines

As I was driving back from the post office after mailing these luscious reds to my Bull's Eye swap partners, it occurred to me that I need to keep track of my quilting commitments. Suddenly I have so many! The joys of retirement... :)
It will be a pleasure to delete my office calendar from my master Google calendar and replace it with a quilting calendar. I'll have such wonderful entries -- I can see them now: "marvelous mini-quilt due," "send off fabulous fabrics to partners," "take fun strings to worknight," "pick a project for quilting group." So much better than "boring 2-hr staff meeting," don't you think?

I'm still working on the rainbow strings I showed yesterday. Our guild's Project Linus stash has plenty of strings, and it seems that when you take out one, two replace it. It's one of those quilting miracles. I have been pulling from one of our baskets, and what a mess. But it seems to be my day for brilliant ideas (I'm counting my quilting calendar as brilliant), because I suddenly remembered the clothes rack!

I have used this for hanging strings before, and the rack resides neatly folded up in my quilting space, but I had completely forgotten about it. I got it out and pressed and hung my purple strings. It's so easy to find just the right one now! Why didn't I remember this before?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Rainbow strings

I get so inspired reading your blogs and seeing the beautiful quilts you all make! Just a few days ago I was looking at string quilts on the Heartstring Blog and also came across Samantha's beautifully color-planned baby string quilt on Diary of a Mad Fabricholic. Those were bubbling in my mind while I sorted through our Project Linus stash of solids, hoping to find enough of one piece to make center strips for a whole quilt. Then inspiration struck! I had seen a zig-zag string quilt on someone's blog and it occurred to me that a rainbow zig-zag would need less of each central color (always thrifty with the Linus stash!) and could be really fun. And what if the strings were chosen with color in mind, each zig-zag having strings of the next color of the rainbow?
So I set to work. What a blast! (And what a mess -- piles of strings everywhere!) I cut the blocks to be rectangles, but was working fast and didn't think ahead. Uh-oh. You can rotate a square block to get the center strips going any direction you want, but you can't do that with a rectangle. I had to use the frog stitch on half the blocks (because, being efficient, I had already sewn all the center strips down before realizing my mistake). I think that's what TV is for -- giving you something to do while you un-sew. I also discovered that I had cut a few of the foundations too small, but fortunately I have been able to compensate for that. I guess inspirational stars were shining that day but my technical skills stars were under deep cloud cover! In any case, I am so pleased with this quilt. Obviously I still have to finish the blue, purple, and red rows, but I couldn't wait to share this.

I also want to give many, many thanks to Amy at The Calico Cat, who has donated some of her solid brights for use in our string quilts. It's greatly appreciated!

And here's the new fabric I bought for my Stroop quilt background. I couldn't find the one I had just a little piece of, and this will probably be ok, but I don't like it as much. I'll have to let it stew a bit before deciding how to proceed.