Friday, August 29, 2008

Quilt from old clothes at Houston

Before I tell you about the quilt, just had to share this photo. Any knitters out there may remember I posted a photo of this baby kimono that my daughter Jocelyn made last May for a friend's baby. Zoe was born a few weeks ago and looks absolutely adorable in her stylish kimono!

Last night was my quilt guild's annual summer picnic. I happened to sit near Charlene Bremer, a lovely woman who had seen me looking around the parking lot for the building entrance when I first joined the guild 3 years ago, introduced herself, took me in and sat with me. I am still grateful for her kindness. Charlene is also a fabulous quilter. For the first time ever she had submitted a quilt to a big quilt show, and it was accepted! The quilt depicts about 20 appliqued scenes from her daughter and son-in-law's life while they were in the Peace Corps in Mali -- and she used the clothes they wore in Mali to make the quilt. Really something. She had already sent the quilt off to the show, so I only got to see photos, but now I can't wait to see the original. I'm very pleased that Charlene is getting recognition for her wonderful work, and I'm equally happy that a primitive-style, applique quilt made from worn clothing is being shown. What a treasure that quilt will be for her DD and SIL -- memories at every level. I neglected to get the name of the quilt, but I'm sure you can find it under Charlene's name if you're lucky enough to go to Houston.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thanks, Kate!

Last week Kate noticed on Facebook that it was my birthday, so she sent me birthday wishes via a postcard that I had so shamelessly admired on her blog. She has a wonderful tree series that you can see here, and now one of those trees is mine! It's sitting next to my computer so that I can glance over at it whenever I wish, and eventually I will hang it near my sewing machine for inspiration. I'd like to do a tree series one day, too. Thanks so much, Kate!

(Sorry the photo is blurry -- this was the better of two photos. I have a hard time with closeups.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


The Wednesday morning farmer's market is great for mid-week restocking, but it's nothing compared to the lush piles of produce available on Saturdays. I stopped by this morning to pick up the usual stuff (though August's bounty should hardly be deemed 'usual'). What I got instead was Mother Nature putting on a show. Only two days ago I read about beets like these, and there they were, looking like purple tree trunks with their distinctive rings.
Normally I cube beets. They are easier to eat that way, and no matter how I love the color, I don't want beet splotches on all my clothes. But tonight I sliced the beets. With their concentric circles, they were begging for it. Like Michaelangelo claiming his chisel only revealed the figure already lying in the stone, my knife and I did the same with the beets. I was a kitchen Michaelangelo for the evening.

Vegetables are gorgeous, and no one quilts them like Ruth McDowell. I bought this book before I learned to quilt, just to look at her work. You can search the book at amazon. It's out of print, but used copies are available.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


A couple weeks ago my husband's cousin phoned to tell us she was getting married! Whoohoo! It was to be a very small affair, arranged at the last minute, and she was sure we couldn't come, but ... we went! We were so happy for Judy, and we have so much fun with the Canadian branch of the family, that we couldn't possibly miss the wedding! Turns out the groom's family is as crazy as we are, so the small crowd grew. Family and friends came from all over Canada, as well as from New York, California, Massachusetts, Illinois (us!), England, and Germany. It was a blast, and by the time we left we had become good friends with a wonderful extended family.

Ottawa never fails to charm me. I've been there several times but always in August, when the weather is warm and breezy and the foliage is lush. It must be great all year. My husband has a friend who works in Ottawa and in the winter she ice skates down the canal to her office each morning and back home at night. Wow. This trip we drank in the beautiful views of water and rolling hills, and managed to find time to see the Byward Market, the National Art Gallery, and the locks at the Rideau Canal. We also strolled by Parliament. I love the effect of the old-fashioned legislative buildings reflected in a modern skyscraper.
I'll limit the rest of my photos to things that, as a quilter, I found at least intriguing and inspiring. The wedding was on the balcony at the National Center for the Arts (it was supposed to be in one of the little rooms inside, but the day was so gorgeous they set up outside). The symbol on all the doors was, well, I don't know the name for it -- an interlocking shape related to a hexagon.
An incredible set of metal doors hung in the room where the reception was held. I was awestruck. Here's a photo of most of one side of one of the doors -- each was about 15 feet tall, covered with rich textures on both sides. I kept looking at them all through dinner.
The art museum had an exhibit of Inuit (aboriginal Canadian) art side by side with Sami (indigenous Scandinavian) art. No photos were allowed, but you can see some of the art and read about the exhibit here. I didn't see an inukshuk, but I love the idea of them and bought a necklace and earrings made to resemble them.
Inukshuk, which are symbols for a safe journey, are stone figures made by the Inuit to provide directions. What a wonderful theme for free piecing! You can read more about inukshuk and see two photos of them here. Do follow the link -- that first photo with flowers growing around and on the inukshuk is just amazing. Four seasons of inukshuk would be a great quilt.

Much more mundane but nonetheless charming is this grate we saw on the street. Another fabulous quilt-to-be.

And completely off topic, I have been thinking about using old clothing for a quilt. When clothes are in good condition but we no longer wear them, we donate them. But some clothes are stained or worn in spots and we add them to the rag pile. From now on I'll see if at least parts of those 'useless' items might have some good fabric left. Take a look at this shirt made of a woven-in plaid fabric.
I hope you can see in the photo how the inside is much brighter than the faded outside. My husband has had this shirt for years, and I love it, but I think a quilt is in its future.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Not too much longer, Otto

All my sewing stuff is back downstairs, so I couldn't put off doing the borders on Otto's quilt any longer.
This next photo gives an idea of what it will look like with red binding.
You may have noticed the clips holding the top onto the design wall. I purchased one of those portable design walls a couple years ago and have not been overly impressed. It doesn't stand well on its own, and the surface isn't very clingy. Lately everything has been sliding off it, even small blocks. I do have a smaller design wall of batting fixed to the wall with painter's tape, and that works great.
I put the completed top upside down on the table so I could gauge how much space I had for the back. I don't have room for another zig zag. I think I'll fill in the rest with leftovers from the front and also the red fabric.

I think Otto is going to think the back is the front, which makes more sense than the way I have been thinking of it. I had to call the free-pieced part the back or I would never have had the nerve to play around so much! I know that's silly, but I don't have a background in art or design and I have very little sewing experience, so it's difficult for me to trust my ability to create. The little mind game of putting something fun on the back of the quilt made it much easier for me to play around.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A bit of family history

What a happy morning! I was browsing through some blogs and saw a post about Marken Island on Annemiek's blog, Carpe Quiltem. (Love that blog name!) She showed a place where you can get your photo taken in traditional Dutch dress.
Annemiek leaves that sort of thing to the tourists, but many years ago my family visited Marken Island and got our photo taken there. My dad was stationed in Germany in the early fifties and my family traveled around Europe with our pup tents. We took the ferry to Marken Island in 1953 (nowadays you can drive there on a road they put in) and had this photo taken. I was 2 years old -- that's me sitting in my father's lap. In the 1970's my brother worked in the Netherlands for several years and went with my sister-in-law and nieces to Marken Island, where they also dressed up and had their photos taken at the same place.

Even though I don't remember that trip to the Netherlands, I grew up looking at this picture. It made my morning to read about Marken Island on another quilter's blog.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Waste not, want not

First off, Happy Birthday to my mother!! I hope you read this today! I can't be there to celebrate, but next year we will all be there with bells on.

More and more blogs are publishing patterns for reusable shopping bags (like the green bags in the style of Walmart bags at Feeling Simply Quilty, or the basic morsbags at With Heart and Hands). A few quilters have returned to the original 'waste not, want not' spirit of quilting and have been making quilts of cast offs. Libby at Quilty the Libster made a charming baby quilt out of a sheet, 3 blouses, and a pair of pajama pants! Michael 5000 is in the midst of a Quilt Storm to make twenty salvage quilts. You can scroll through his most recent posts at State of the Craft to see how that project is coming along. (He's on a summer break but truly quilted up a storm right before that.) The Fungly Challenge by Bonnie and Tonya also presents a wonderful opportunity to make use of fabrics we never thought would be any good, anywhere.

It's becoming clearer that we need to be better custodians of our resources, but for many of us, it isn't yet a real imperative. One day soon it probably will be. I think that realization made me far more appreciative of what it was like to be forced to do without when I took a tour of the Churchill War Rooms in London.

Walking through the actual bunkers where Churchill and his cabinet worked during the second world war really gives a sense of what it must have felt like during the Blitz -- cramped, sunless, and frightening. One of the rooms held a temporary exhibit about the fabric shortage during the war.
People were encouraged to use every scrap of fabric and to wear clothing with no fancy extras like pleats that would waste precious yardage. Clothing was rationed.
You can click on the photos above and below to enlarge them so they are legible. (These are photos of posters at the exhibit, and some were behind glass.) They tell some of the suggestions for making the most of the fabric already on hand -- turning old pillowcases into summer shorts, making worn adult clothing into children's wear, etc. Eventually fashion designers started coming up with designs that used the least fabric to the best advantage.
Thrift used to be a necessary virtue. In America, land of plenty, we've gotten away from that -- thrift itself has become expendable. Hopefully, things are starting to change. It would be wonderful if we could take the "waste not, want not" adage to heart before we absolutely have to.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Fungly blocks!

We had a blast making Tonya and Bonnie's fungly blocks at last night's Project Linus worknight. The Fungly (fun + ugly) Challenge is to use your ugly fabrics to make a really fun quilt.It's a perfect project for using donated fabrics. Our guild members very generously supply us with lots of fabric for making Project Linus quilts, but sometimes the pieces are small, the fabric is dated, or the designs are not really cheerful or appropriate for children. We try to use them as creatively as possible, but it can be challenging! If you click on the above photo, you'll get a better idea of the variety of fabrics we have to work with -- big prints, calicos, novelty fabrics, brights, pastels...
I precut some 3-1/2" strips yesterday and cut fabric for a couple blocks, too. I set them out with a bag full of fabric ends for people to choose what they wanted. You can see in the photo that I also printed up pictures of one of Tonya's blocks as well as her finished quilt top to show people what the Fungly Challenge is all about. We used the Easy Angle ruler that Bonnie recommends to cut the triangles. Being able to use only one size strip for all the pieces is easier for a group than having strips of different widths for triangles and squares. I encouraged people to be free and not to worry, but I've learned that when working with a group, there's always lots of variation anyway. Our guild has members whose superb technical skills have won them national awards, and at worknights we also get walk-ins who have never sewn a stitch! We'll make it all come together when we put on the sashing.
These are two of my favorite blocks. I wish I had thought to photograph that red fabric before I cut it up (we just had a very small piece). It's lip prints, like you'd get if you put on lipstick and then kissed a mirror. Very cute, but not really the best choice for a Linus quilt! We can use it here, though. And look at those adorable roosters in the next block! They are a lot more fun when cut up and re-assembled!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Leaders and Enders quilt

I first heard of leaders and enders from Bonnie on the Quiltville website. I thought her idea of slowly putting together pieces for a quilt from those little bits of fabric at the beginning and end of your stitching was brilliant, but it takes a little advanced thought to plan what to stitch and have it ready. I have so many small bits of novelty fabrics that I've used for my hexagon I Spy quilts that I decided to use them up making a simpler I Spy of 3-1/2" squares stitched together as my leader and ender pieces. It wasn't as simple as it sounded, because many of the novelty prints are directional and quite a few have to be fussy cut. Perhaps not the best choice for leader and ender pieces, but it worked. I had done about all the leader-ender stitching of them I could by the time I moved my machine upstairs to the dining room so I could quilt during my recovery. I brought them all up to stitch together into a quilt top.
I don't have a design wall upstairs and I wanted to lay things out to be sure the layout was ok, so I put them on batting and rolled it open as needed. It worked pretty well -- you can move it around and everything stays in place. And did this ever stitch up quickly! When you already have the pieces sewn in pairs, you're almost half way done before you begin.
There are going to be a couple narrow borders and then more squares around the outside, but the top is otherwise done. I hope to move back downstairs tomorrow or the next day (my leg is healing very well), and then I can put the borders on Otto's quilt and on this. And, of course, plan what to use for my next leaders and enders. It will definitely be simpler than this.

Focus on design

Have you seen this stamp? It has been out since last year but I saw it two days ago for the first time. I thought it was a picture of a quilt! It isn't. According to the post office website, the stamp was designed by Ethel Kessler of Bethesda, Maryland. (She also designed the beautiful breast cancer awareness stamp.) Anyhow, I was looking at the stamp and trying to figure out what makes it so appealing. Partly, I love letters, such beautiful shapes, and she uses a lot of variety in her letter styles. The subtle stripes and dots in some of the squares as well as that green stripe after the 'r' also add a lot of interest. I guess variety is the spice of life -- and stamps and quilts. I'll remember that if I find myself getting too matchy-matchy.