Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sewing away ...

I let out the cat and couldn’t go back to sleep. There’s nothing like a little insomnia to make me sit still long enough to update my blog. Now that I take time to think about it, I sure have been a busy woman! This fall, after my daughter’s wedding, I put on a quilt show, visited Indianapolis with my daughter and granddaughter, helped my sister with another wedding, celebrated Thanksgiving, and finished my Christmas shopping early. And I’ve been sewing—a lot.

After the quilt show, I picked up my daughter and granddaughter in Tennessee, and we hit the road to visit dear friend Ellen in Indianapolis. Ellen likes red, and this is the quilt I made for her, called “Red Potpourri”:

It is a version of Kaffe Fassett’s Yellow Potpourri quilt from his book Simple Shapes, Spectacular Quilts. Very simple to construct—3-, 6-, and 9-inch squares. Since I can never leave well enough alone, I added random circles and used my machine’s decorative stitches on the edges:

 I love red, too, in combination with almost any other color. Check out these beautiful primary colors of the Dale Chihuly glass sculpture at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum:

What a place! Go there, even if you don’t have a child with you. The Barbie exhibit was a trip down Memory Lane!

My family celebrated our 4th and final wedding of the year in Marion, Illinois, last month. I made a 9-patch quilt for my niece and her new husband. Here it is, on the bed in the hotel room, finished just in time for a last-minute photograph:

I made some cute little wall hangings for the church bazaar, something called “He Was Born in a Manger,” and a one-patch quilt with appliqued flowers:

I finished almost all my Christmas shopping early—via the Internet—and I’ve even wrapped most of it. I have more time to sew! I was working on Christmas quilts last week when my sewing machine broke. I heard a pop and a clunk, and then there was no more reverse. It’s in the shop, 80 miles away, and I miss it badly!

Friday, November 11, 2011

2-year Liversary!

My family is celebrating today--the 2nd anniversary of my daughter Genevieve's liver transplant, or her "liversary," as she calls it. Read what she has to say about it on her blog:

It's been a long haul. We are forever grateful to the family of the organ donor, whoever, wherever you are.

Here's Genevieve, trying on a hat before my niece's wedding last week:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ranch Wedding

Well, we had a ranch wedding! Sept. 17—3 weeks ago already. I am very grateful for these first two pictures, taken by my sister-in-law, Anne B, and I can hardly wait for the professional photos to be ready. My daughter Libby, the beautiful bride:

Libby and Clayton with my husband and me:

The inside of the honeymoon tipi:
The wedding was held at my sister’s ranch near Florence, Colorado. My sister set up an authentic tipi and decorated it with her quilts and antiques. The happy couple spent the night outside on the lawn, in the tipi, with Kitten Carson, the cat who staked it out as his own. I didn't catch Kitten in this photo, but he made himself comfortable on the bed. 

This is a quilt blog, after all, so here is the quilt that my friend Barb made for Libby and Clayton. I love it, I love it! She calls it Tucson Sunset:

A VERY good time was had by all! I slept for a week after I got home—no kidding—and stayed in my pajamas until noon every morning.

Now on to the next thing—the BIG quilt show that I’m chairing this weekend. If you are reading this and you are near Rolla, come see it at Rolla Middle School, Saturday 9-5, Sunday noon-5. It’s been three years since the Piece and Plenty Quilt Guild had a show, so we have lots of lovely quilts for you to see. I got a new camera this week, and I’ll be trying it out.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Colorado quilts

Three of my wall quilts, now living in Colorado with my sister:

I was in Colorado for three full weeks. It seems like I slept for a week after I got home, and now I'm going back, this time for my daughter's wedding. Hurray! Libby and Clayton, the lovely couple, with their dog, Moose:

Friday, July 29, 2011

Blue person, hand quilter

Eleven hours from the door of my home in Rolla, Missouri, to our hotel in Snowmass Village, Colorado—tiring, especially for my husband, who did the driving legs from home to Lambert Airport in St. Louis, then Denver to Snowmass. The views along I-70 in Colorado are spectacular, but the traffic is definitely not! Anyway, I’m finally here for a week with my walking shoes and hand sewing projects. First, the view from our hotel room balcony:

Yes, we did pay a little extra to be on the mountainside of the hotel, but I don’t come to Colorado that often, so who wants to look out of the window at a parking lot? We ate at a delicious Italian restaurant, Il Poggio, last night. I had very tender veal with gnocchi and Jim had duck. The pizzas there looked good, too, and I may go back for lunch one day. A good night’s sleep was a lot harder to come by than a good meal, though. The altitude here is 8,000 feet, and I tossed and turned for hours. My task today is to walk around and try to acclimate. I know that really getting used to the altitude takes months, but I have to try, and I want to explore the village.

When I need a break from walking at 8,000 feet (and I will), I will be quilting. I brought with me three hand-quilting projects. The first is my abstract “Roman Ruins on Lake Garda,” which is blue, blue, blue:

The next is “Water Wheels, No. 3,” which is also blue, but darker. This is the third in a series of Water Wheels quilts I’ve made. The first two are owned by my daughter Anne, and the fourth is the largest and has yet to be quilted.

Finally, here is a “Postage Stamp” in reproduction fabrics, which always make me happy:

As you can see from two of these quilts, I may be in a blue phase right now. This morning I was reading one of the blogs I follow, Forty-Two Quilts at, and Jenifer asked, “What’s your favorite color?” From childhood, my favorite has always been red, and I do use it frequently in my quilts. However, I would never buy a red car (too much of a radar target), and I wear red clothing sparingly (too tomato-like). I never thought I was “a blue person,” but now I’m sort of craving blue. Maybe it’s the influence of all the travel I’ve been doing—blue sky, blue water—or maybe I’m seeking the calming, soothing feeling that a beautiful blue always brings.

Hand quilting is calming, too. I never thought I would be one of those, either, but here I am, blue person and hand quilter, down to the borders on these three quilts. First, I need to get my mountain legs, so I’m off to explore with my camera. At 9 a.m., Snowmass Village is still silent and the intense mountain sun beats down. Covered in sun screen, mountains, here I come!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Christmas in July

While I was in Tennessee with my daughter, I went to a “Christmas in July” weekend retreat at The Stitchery Quilt Shoppe in Dyersburg. See What fun! There were only 5 quilters, plus Linda and Danny, the shop owners. Everyone brought great pot-luck dishes to share, and Danny made a beef brisket. Heaven forbid that quilters should get hungry! We stitched and ate our way through a Christmas project, listened to oldies on the radio, and talked and enjoyed all the customers who came into the shop. I came home with all my blocks sewn and trimmed, and I just finished putting them together yesterday.

I chose this pattern called “Tree’s Up! Lights On!” by Pieces from my Heart:
This is an easy “stack and slice” pattern. You copy the pattern onto freezer paper, iron it to a fat quarter of fabric, then stack under it as many layers as you think you can slice with your rotary cutter. The pattern said to slice 10 layers at a time, but I only cut 5, like this:

You need 30 fat quarters—10 in each of three colors. I chose red, off-white, and black/green, and all my fabrics were purchased at The Stitchery. After you slice the pattern, you rearrange the pieces so that the prints are mixed up, and you sew them together in the order indicated on the pattern.

My finished blocks were very uneven, but they are supposed to be, since you are creating your own seam allowances, in effect, with this type of pattern. When the blocks are done, you trim them all to the same size. I managed to get a 10” x 14” block, but some quilters trimmed to 9½” x 13”.

I can never leave well enough alone, so after I got home, I drew some wacky stars—to go with the wacky trees—and appliqued them to the leftover scraps. I inserted some stars with the blocks, and used others in the border.

The border is scrappy out of necessity. I only bought 1 extra yard of 1 black fabric, so I had to add in pieces of other black and red leftovers. The end result is a happy quilt, as a Christmas quilt should be.

I thought that surely I would be able not only to finish the top, but quilt it by today, but life and laundry happens, you know, and I feel lucky to get the top finished. It's pretty big--68" x 78". I’ll have plenty of time to think about how I want to quilt it, because I am off on another road trip, which you all know I love. Woo-hoooo!!--to Colorado this time, for 2½ weeks. First to a conference with my husband (he’s conferencing, I’m hiking) in Snowmass, where we will find a nice restaurant and celebrate his 60th birthday, which was yesterday. Happy birthday, honey! In the picture above, on the left, you see some spare bicycle tires and other equipment he is packing with his bicycle so he can ride in the mountains.

Then I’m off to Longmont to visit my youngest daughter, Libby, and to my sister’s ranch near Wetmore to cook for Libby’s wedding in September. I’m taking three hand quilting projects with me to finish. Libby has my old Bernina, so I can even sew on the binding if I finish the quilting. And do you think there are any quilt shops in Colorado? I’m flying there, but driving back, so that means … I better take an extra tote bag!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Going gets tough

One of the best things about sewing, I think, is that I have quiet time to think. Some people like to have the television on somewhere in the background, or music, both of which I do occasionally, but usually it’s just silence. Just me, my thoughts, and the hum of my machine. And man, have I had plenty to think about. Worry, actually, since there hasn’t been much I can do about anything.

It all happened at once: On July 1, my future son-in-law was “furloughed” from his job (a lay-off), along with 18 other engineers at the same firm. My daughter has a job, but who knew a job as a writer/editor would be more secure than an engineering job? In this economy, I guess no job is secure.

Then on Sunday, July 3, my brother-in-law Robert Hamilton survived a small plane crash near his ranch in Colorado. He went up in a 1941 bi-plane piloted by his friend, flying over the ranch and seeing the local sights. The plane crashed in a ravine on national forest land, for no apparent reason. The pilot died. Robert was injured, but tried to get his friend out of the plane. He had to run as the plane caught fire and exploded. Here are a couple of news reports, with pictures:

A short video, showing the burned terrain (the crash started a forest fire):

My sister had gone shopping with the wife of the pilot and several other women. There was a short time when she didn’t know exactly what had happened and believed that Robert had also died in the crash. She didn’t let him out of her sight for the next week.

The third thing: My daughter Genevieve (liver transplant girl) discovered a lump in her breast. What else could happen to her? The radiologist in Tennessee told her to get to a surgeon immediately. On July 5, the surgeon at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis said the lump couldn’t be identified for sure and would have to come out.

In the midst of this, I took my granddaughter to our local 4th of July carnival:

And when the going gets tough—and there is nothing else I can do—I turn to sewing. The thinking time helps me come to terms with what is happening, I suppose. I pulled out a small UFO, quilted it by machine, and gave it to my quilt guild for a silent auction at our quilt show in October:

I called this “Raining Color,” 18 inches by 20 inches. The pattern is Exquisite, from Gwen Marston’s 1996 book Liberated Quiltmaking. I should say non-pattern, because there is no pattern or template. You just make it with scraps, piecing corners of various sizes onto squares. I’ve made several versions of this, and it’s one of my favorite creative exercises. (I just looked up this book on Amazon, and it’s $90, for heaven’s sake!! Must be out of print. I see my book collection is becoming valuable.) Liberated Quiltmaking is perhaps my favorite quilting book EVER. Seriously. Liberated Quiltmaking II is a recent version, much more affordable.

Anyway, I finished a little quilt and gave it away. Then I made aprons for Genevieve and Danica out of the butterfly fabric that they both liked:

This is the Four Corners Apron from Vanilla House Designs:
I guessed at the measurements for a child, but I see on the Vanilla House website that there is also a child-size pattern for this same apron. These aprons made me happy as I sewed them, and Genevieve and Danica liked them.

Then I bought fabric to make a jacket for myself for my youngest daughter’s wedding, and it’s about half done already. I am making the Chinese jacket from Folkwear patterns, a jacket I love and have made several times before:

The fabric is a brown embroidered silk, with the lining in orange silk flecked with brown. The jacket is actually reversible. I also bought two skirts to go with it, so I’ll have a choice. I hope the whole outfit looks good with my new cowgirl boots! I got the jacket to the half-way point, then I had to leave it and head for Tennessee so I could stay with Danica during Genevieve’s lump surgery on Monday.

Hard to believe she only had a 1-inch incision and she came home that afternoon. The results were positive—the surgeon said it looked like “dense tissue,” meaning a fibrous lump. She got the lab report yesterday, and all was benign. Hurray!

Now I am back home in Missouri with my sewing machine. Genevieve, another surgery behind her, is living life with a 5-year-old. My sister and her husband are still recovering from the shock of the plane crash, of course, which will take some time. And my future son-in-law has a job interview today. Hurray! Positive vibes running from Missouri to Colorado right now ….

Things have calmed down for the time being, but there’s my daughter’s ranch wedding coming up, and I already had a crazy dream about it. I still have tons to think about while I sew.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wedding quilt

I finished a Wedding Quilt and gave it to my niece Allie the day before her wedding last Saturday. This quilt top lacked a border and has been sitting in a box for …. uh, well, a long time. I don’t remember why I stopped working on it. Truthfully, it’s nice to have a stash of almost-finished projects I can pull out and finish in a hurry. Sometimes I look through my UFOs and they just look OLD because the fabric is from a previous era in my life, and my tastes have changed. But this classic floral fabric never goes completely out of style, so I went for it, hoping Allie would like it, too.

Fortunately, I stored the extra fabric in the box with the quilt top, and had enough to add a matching border. I quilted it in a hurry in two days in an all-over pattern of leaves and meandering “vines”. I used “Dream Angel” batting—the thin fire-retardant batting suitable for children’s quilts. It’s a small twin size, 63 X 80 inches, about the limit I can handle on my home sewing machine without quilting it in sections.

This quilt looks more complicated than it is. It’s just squares--a simple 9-patch with the setting squares split diagonally. The on-point setting gives it a vertical, sort of stripe look. It turned out very pretty and feminine. Allie, now in grad school, was a tough-as-nails softball player (a catcher and DH for Southern Illinois University) who also loves shoes, purses, and pink. And she loved the quilt.

Here I am at the wedding, wearing black and white. My sister Joan, on the right, carried her vintage “royal wedding hat” with her on the airplane from Colorado, so I had to wear one, too. (Dillard’s to the rescue.) Allie’s ants were unmistakable—the only women in church with hats!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Something new

My summer travel season has begun! I love to go places and see things, which kind of cuts into my sewing machine time (especially when I come home, have a mountain of laundry, and am exhausted from the plane-train-automobile thing).

Over Memorial Day weekend, I went to my niece’s lovely wedding in Vermont, a beautiful state which I had never seen, and then came home to prepare for something new for me—a paper piecing class using a Judy Niemeyer pattern. The class was taught by one of Judy’s certified instructors, Catherine Erickson, who came all the way from cool Bemidji, Minnesota, and got to experience Missouri’s June heat wave. (It was 85 degrees at 8 a.m. the day of the class.) I’ve paper-pieced before, years ago, and didn’t like it much. It was tedious and sometimes the pieces didn’t fit exactly, but I decided to give it another try because the quilts constructed with this method are absolutely spectacular. I chose the “Tumbleweeds” pattern, which makes a 78 x 78-inch quilt. That’s a lot of paper piecing. See more of these patterns on Judy’s website at

I collected these 14 fabrics over a period of several months. Yardage is required. I had plenty of batiks in my stash, of course, but not enough of each one.

Good thing I left DAYS to prepare for the class. This pattern was intimidating—the directions are 20 pages long! First, I spent half a day just cutting out the papers. The pattern includes paper templates to cut rectangles and wedges of fabric, plus the paper pieces for the quilt, which you sew directly onto. The second day (and I mean all day), I cut strips of my 14 fabrics, according to the directions in the pattern. As I cut, I made little check marks on the directions to make sure I didn’t miss anything; the directions are that complicated. On the third day, I used the templates to cut the fabric strips into wedges, which took another half day. That was two full days of cutting alone.

An experienced paper piecer who can follow detailed directions could purchase one of these patterns and make a Judy Niemeyer quilt without taking a class, but I’m glad I had the day-long class to start me out. The beauty of using a Judy Niemeyer pattern is that you pre-cut your fabric pieces with templates, and they all fit perfectly. You don’t have to throw away pieces that you’ve cut too small. Catherine’s tips were helpful. She taught us to approach the paper piecing methodically, sewing 4 sections, pressing, trimming, adding another piece, repeat. She showed us how she sews her curved seams using a glue stick to baste the curve! I tried this method but went back to what always works for me. I clip both curved seams, match the ends and centers, then pin and sew. I get a perfect curve every time. Like a lot of other things in quilting, I tried something new, but ended up using what works best for me. In the photo below, you can see my method of sewing the curve. The paper from the pieced unit on top has been partially ripped away.

So I’ve been paper piecing, and piecing, and piecing. This is going to take a while. So far I have 3 of the 13 “wheels” pieced. I think I could go faster if I would quit stepping back and admiring my perfect points and swirling colors! Just SEW!

I’ve had to stop for a few days as I prepare for another niece’s wedding next weekend, this time in Southern Illinois. I dug out a UFO (unfinished object) and decided to quilt it for her. Last minute, naturally.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I took a break

I took a one-month break from blogging, and I’m not sure why, because I’ve done a lot of quilty things…. But I’ve also been super busy doing a lot of other things.

I spent almost a week getting pieces ready to take to a “Beyond the Block” class taught by Linda K. Johnson at Paducah:

The quilt is a little farther advanced than this right now, but not much. See Linda’s website at  Linda and her sister are the designers of last fall’s American Quilter magazine Mystery Quilt (I was one of three winners, and my quilt appeared in the magazine in May). I will post more pictures of this quilt as the design develops.

At Paducah, I also took a class on making “poster quilts”—printing a picture and text, then using them in a poster-size quilt—from Mary Ellen Kranz:  I bought her book, Blending Photos with Fabric 2, and I highly recommend it. Mary Ellen took the mystery out of the process and made it really easy. Below is my poster quilt, not yet quilted. (Babcocks Hole is my sister’s ranch in Colorado. No, there is no apostrophe in Babcocks Hole.)

Many quilters have made comments about the American Quilter’s Society show in Paducah, so here’s what I think. (If you don’t know what happened … In a nutshell, the rising Ohio River forced the city to close its floodgates, therefore closing the convention center, which was outside the gates. AQS scrambled to find alternate locations around town for the show, all the classes, and the vendors.) I was in Paducah for 3 days, commuting from my sister’s home in Illinois. I took two classes, heard two lectures, walked by ALL the vendors at ALL the locations, spent some money, and saw all parts of the show at least once. I had a great time, and so did my sister, a non-quilter who wanted to see the show for the first time. Yes, the venues were smaller and more crowded, the classes were cramped, and it was somewhat inconvenient to travel from location to location. But the show went on despite Mother Nature, and I had a great time. I’m amazed AQS could reorganize and move a huge event like that on short notice. Well-done, AQS!

While I was in Southern Illinois, my sister and I made silk floral table arrangements for my niece’s wedding in June. About 40 arrangements in two days:

After I got home, I dug into my embarrassingly large stash of Christmas fabric and made about a dozen furoshiki—fabric that can be artfully tied around gifts. I’ve been saying I was going to do this for a long time, and I was motivated by the fact that I had to present a program on bazaar ideas to my quilt guild. This is a great way to use up fabric—reusable gift wrap! Here is a link to learn more about furoshiki:  My program on bazaar ideas will be a future blog post.

AND, in the last month—when it wasn’t raining—I cleaned, weeded, and planted 4 large flower beds. (Only 4? My knees and shoulders feel like it could have been a dozen….) This year I limited myself to just 7 pots of flowers, instead of the dozen-plus I usually make up. Well—7 plus 3 hanging baskets. There's a downpour as I write--again--so now I can sew all I want and let those flowers GROW!

I haven’t forgotten my pictures of Pompeii and Herculaneum. They’re coming!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Quilter's view of Capri

We are back from our vacation to the Bay of Naples/Sorrentine peninsula/Amalfi coast area of Italy. The weather was sunny and warm, and my husband had a great time riding his bicycle with other St. Louis Cycling Club members. I got to see the sights, eat delicious food, and take pictures, of course. I explored the Island of Capri, the ruins at Pompeii and Herculaneum, the archeological museum in Naples, and saw the stunning Amalfi coast from the bus windows. Thank goodness public transportation—boat, bus, train, and taxi—was available everywhere, because the roads were truly those “European roads” you hear about: narrow, clinging to the side of a cliff, no room for error. And yes, the drivers were crazy.

I tried to take pictures not only of the scenery, but of patterns and colors that might inspire my quilting when I came back home. I will post pictures over several days, starting with the Island of Capri ….

This view of the Sorrentine peninsula was taken from the Island of Capri. If you drive down the right side of this point (on roads you cannot see here), you reach the city of Amalfi. The left takes you into the town of Sorrento, where we stayed, and around the Bay of Naples to Pompeii and eventually Naples.

An interior view of Villa Jovis, the palace of the Roman emperor on the Island of Capri. The walls seemed to be constructed of a jumble of stones between layers of bricks. In fact, those stones must have been carefully placed, since they’ve lasted for 2,000 years.

A view of Mt. Vesuvius from the ruins of Villa Jovis. Can you believe Vesuvius was THREE TIMES this size before it blew up in 79 AD? That’s a lot of mountain that rained down on Pompeii and Herculaneum. This wood railing separates you from the edge of a sheer cliff.

It’s very difficult to get a picture that shows just how far it is down to this gorgeous blue water. I think blue is going to show up in my quilts for a long time to come. That little white blip you see here is a boat. You can see a few tiny whitecaps on the water, too. We did not get to go into the famous Blue Grotto on Capri because the water was too choppy. You go in by rowboat, but the opening is only about 3 feet high, and you have to lay down in the boat! So choppy water closes down the rowboat business. The blue glow inside the cave is caused by sunlight filtering down through the water, then up into the cave. Next time ….

This is a street on Capri. No kidding. There is just room enough for a tiny electric vehicle and maybe one pedestrian. Several times we had to flatten ourselves against the walls so a vehicle could pass. Even the garbage trucks and ambulances are tiny. We made the trek from the town of Capri to the Villa Jovis along streets like this, looking into people’s gates and gardens.

This is the gate to a villa on Capri. The gate itself is unremarkable (we saw many that were prettier), but you can see the ceramic house number 7 set into the wall on the left, and a picture of the entrance itself done in ceramic tiles and set into the wall on the right. Every house had a ceramic tile with its number and sometimes the name of the home. The street names were also written on tiles and set into the sides of buildings.

We passed a shrine to the Virgin Mary on one street. I looked down and saw these colorful tile fragments set into the floor. Very quilterly, no?

More ceramic tile at Giardini Augusto, a public garden. Very colorful.

More unbelievably blue water and the houses of Capri perched on the hillside.

Next: Herculaneum and Pompeii.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Art quilt: Roman ruin

For inspiration for a portable hand-quilting project, I looked back at my pictures taken two years ago in northern Italy. I visited the ruin of a Roman villa on the south end of Lake Garda. This villa would have had several levels, with columns and stone arches looking out over the lake, and awnings set up as shade on the top level.

This is a portion of a brick floor that remains, and the herringbone pattern is still beautiful after 2,000 years:

This gives you a sense of the different levels that made up the villa. The building in the distance is a hotel in the modern town near the ruin.

Although the day I visited was overcast and wet, you could still see across the lake pretty well.

I used these photos for inspiration and came up with some log-cabin type blocks that remind me of the villa. The images of the doorways and walls are pretty graphic. I used my stash of hand-dyed Cherrywood fabrics. See the Cherrywood website here: The blocks are kind of a creative wreck, aren’t they? Like the ruins. Here are the blocks before I squared them up and arranged them:

Originally I intended to surround each block in the same blue, but I thought it looked more like the ruin itself with the blocks sewn right next to each other and blue for the border. I added a few filler strips, but not many. It's about 27 x 27 inches.

I call it “Roman Ruin at Lake Garda.” Now I am headed back to Italy, with my little art quilt to work on, my camera, and a sketchbook. I am not taking my computer, so this blog is also on vacation! By Tuesday I will be eating the real Neapolitan pizza and sleeping within exploding distance of Mt. Vesuvius. Arrivederci for a little while.