Making Ravens

I am so honored to have my quilt North Rim Ravens shown in the Grand Muse Exhibit at the Museum of Northern Arizona. I miss those ravens! I’ve been thinking about making some small raven wall hangings for the “Mini Art” room at the Malvern Retreat House Art Show. I made trillium mini’s and mounted them on cradled wood frames and that worked well. 

It would be nice to have a regular quilt in the show also, so I decided to reprise the original while I wait for Cheap Joe’s Art Supply to send me the frames. I have constructed the background by piecing together the sections and pre quilted so I can just fuse the ravens on top. It’s much easier than trying to quilt around the three birds by twisting and turning the whole quilt sandwich under the needle of my domestic sewing machine. Why not just use my longarm? This quilt is too small and I like the way the very straight quilt lines look. 

I never make an exact copy-that would be too boring. So this raven pushed his way into the conversation.

I need to flip my pattern over to have him looking in the right direction. Using a sharpie marker, I traced the lines and now I have two ravens- right and left facing. 

The dark black marker line is easy to see through to trace the bird parts onto freezer paper. I draw a dotted line to remind me to extend a bit of fabric for an underneath piece.

I usually fuse my fabric to Wonder Under fusible web first. But I was in crazy maker mode so I just smashed the bits of fabric with the freezer paper pieces ironed on, close together, on top of the Wonder Under. I placed the whole thing upside down on a teflon sheet and adhered the fusible web. I know… there are easier ways to do this but I did say, Crazy Maker Mode took over!  No time for technique refinements.

All my fabric looks like this. Why is the perfect bit with just the right coloration in the center of the piece?

Yea! Finely the best part, watching the raven come together as the pieces fit into the puzzle. I have slipped my paper drawing under my teflon sheet and I am just touching the tip of my iron down to hold down the fabric lightly, while I decide if the piece looks right. 

When I’m satisfied, I give the whole bird a good press with the iron so I can peel him off as a unit. 

I can fuse a chunk of fabric to the top and bottom outline of the bird and then trim it. I really like the way the light and dark blue focuses the ravens. I made a mistake the first time and I didn’t have enough contrast, bird on background. Noooo! I have trouble with lack of contrast frequently. As a solution, I added the blue “highlights” and I really liked the effect. 

So all three ravens have taken their places and are ready for their “bling.” I’m going to quilt them with all my sparkly , glittery threads. Because everyone knows, ravens love shiny things. 

Catching Up

Look at that beautiful blue sky and smooth Appalachian Trail ahead. Gary and I had an overnight stop in Shenandoah National Park in route to Daleville, Virginia.

Unfortunately the blue sky didn’t last and the rocks appeared. 

I don’t care! It’s glorious to be out hiking and pre-burning calories before Thanksgiving.

Now if this was Maine or New Hampshire, the trail would make me clamber over the tops of those dad-blame rocks. I love Virginia! Here I stroll around the level backside, no clambering needed. Which is a good thing because it started sleeting up a storm. That’s mountains for ya.

The parking area is way down below, where I started. On the way up, I peeled off three layers and seriously regretted the fleece pants decision. Back on with the warm clothes and considered pulling the hat and gloves out of the backpack. 

What?! Shouldn’t all the bears be asleep now?

To heck with pre-calorie burning. I earned this desert. It would just be wrong to pass up Skyland Restaurant’s famous blackberry cobbler. I did share with Gary. 

Thanksgiving morning, driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, I had time for a short hike. 

It was nice to think about the families and friends down in the valley, preparing turkey or whatever they consider a feast, coming together to share a meal and celebrate gratitude. I had a wonderful holiday, enjoyed cooking with my husband and son and playing with grand kids. That’s what it’s all about. 

Grand Muse

If you happen to be in Flagstaff, Arizona, now until February 20, drop into the Museum of Northern Arizona and see the Grand Muse exhibit of art inspired by the Grand Canyon. The exhibit includes works by nineteenth through twenty-first century artists depicting Grand Canyon, including works by former artists-in-residence at the Canyon. That would be me!

On display are historical works from the museum collection such as Grand Canyon by Gunnar Widforss. 

And works by well-known contemporary Grand Canyon artists such as Serena Suplee.

Alan Peterson, curator for the exhibit, was kind enough to send me the catalog images because I wasn’t able to attend the opening reception. There are photographs, paintings in oil and watercolor and 3 D works, but my quilt is the only fiber art. 

It sounds cliche, but my experience as an Artist-in-Residence at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was truly an adventure of a lifetime. This is one of my favorite photos from my time at the canyon. Gary and I would walk just a few steps from our little cabin and enjoy our morning coffees. The view was unbeatable. 

This is the statement that accompanies my quilt, North Rim Ravens.  

I was honored to be an Artist-in-Residence at the North Rim Grand Canyon. The opportunity allowed me to experience a unique, natural environment, completely different from anywhere I have ever been. The land and sky, colors and textures, so opposite from green and verdant Pennsylvania inspired creativity. I hiked many trails, including crossing the canyon, North to South Rim, immersing myself in the landscape. I spent a night under a full moon, and felt the spirit of the canyon, listening to raven’s calls. My work has been enhanced in subtle layers, with ravens often reappearing in imagery, reminding me of the incredible adventure. 

It is wonderful and humbling to have my work included in a fine art museum exhibit. I hope viewers enjoy my quilt. 

Last Days

It’s all hands on deck at Longwood Gardens, preparing for the Christmas display, starting on Thanksgiving Day. Here in Chester County, we are enjoying temperatures in the 60’s for the next three days. 

I’m really not ready for this long and beautiful Fall to end. Will this be the last time we have a 60 degree day before Spring? It is definitely last days for the Chrysanthemums in the conservatory. 

This purple swath of mums is my favorite.

If you’re a yellow fan, there are lots of different varieties and configurations of flowers.

Small dome shapes. 

Really huge dome shapes with more than 1400 flowers blooming on a single plant. Whaaat! It took the experts at Longwood 17 months to train this plant from a single stem cutting.

Trust Longwood to show us exactly how it’s done. I guess this should be called Half Dome. 

I really am enjoying the gorgeous weather. Including sitting on my deck reading this book. It gripped me from the first sentence and I practically read it cover to cover in one sitting. If you like a fast paced mystery with twists and turns and lots of suspense– and don’t have any pressing engagements planned– and can put sewing projects on hold– and have someone deliver lunch and dinner– give “I Let You Go” a read!

Fly Eagles, Fly!

Not the NFL species…bald eagles…the birds of prey and national emblem of the United States since 1782. 

Saturday was a gorgeous day to pack a picnic lunch and check out the eagles that hang out below the Conowingo dam on the Susquehanna River. When the days get cooler and shorter, the eagle population begins to rapidly grow and you can frequently see up to 100 eagles in a day. 

There are lots of people with really big camera lenses and spotting scopes, enjoying the birds and also vying for that big money shot in the Wildlife Photo Contest.

My little iPhone camera couldn’t compete and I quickly gave up trying to get a photo. I just enjoyed watching the eagles overhead, twisting and tumbling in flight, swooping down to grab a fish from the river and then landing in the tree branches.

There were lots of booths and presentations on animal behavior and conservation.

You could have your photo taken with this amazing great horned owl. He was huge! As big as a two year old child and so very beautiful.  

We took a walk along the Susquehanna River and were suddenly surprised to have a large fish drop from the sky right into the path in front of us! An eagle had dropped his dinner! The fish was still alive and a fellow walker threw it back into the water. This displeased the eagle emmensly and he let us know about it from a perch in a tree, cussing us all out in eagle-speak. How amazing! Not so long ago, bald eagles were endangered. Watching these magestic birds and learning about them has been wonderful. They usually stick around until some time in January, feeding on fish below the dam, getting ready for further migration south. I might have to come back soon. 

Veteran’s Day

It’s been a busy week. I sewed this top together at the Beach Retreat weekend and hoped that I could get it quilted in time to bring it to the Calico Cutters Guild meeting on Wednesday. When I pulled it out of the bag, I decided an outside border of the lighter blue and white corner stones was needed. I just barely managed with enough fabric. Now to quilt it and add a red binding.  

The flag block was super easy and sewed together quickly. I saw the quilt on Pinterest and just made up the measurements myself, a little too large, maybe, finishing 9 by 11 inches. The completed quilt will be donated to Quilts of Valor. It seems appropriate to load this quilt on my frame today. I will be thinking about veterans and military members and thanking them for their service and sacrifices for our country. 

Laundry and Groceries

Finished! The first new sample quilt for my Pieced Quilting in Layers class.

I planned to show some great photos from this past weekend Beach Sewing Retreat but I can’t. I didn’t take any pictures because I was having way too much fun sewing, eating, drinking wine and enjoying my friends. I managed to complete 3 quilt tops, previously started, and almost got a bag done. Before I get going with quilting the tops, I need to do laundry and go to the grocery store. Sigh. Back to the real world.

Behind the Sewing Machine

I’ve been reading an interesting book, recommended by my friend, Emily. She recently saw the exhibit, Behind the Easel, The Unique Voices of 20 Contemporary Representational Painters, at the Somerville Manning Gallery in Greenville, Delaware. The author, included in the exhibition, is Robert Jackson, a local, Kennet Square artist who actually lives a few miles from my house. Jackson asked 20 artists the same 10 questions. More so than the accompanying art, I am finding the answers to the questions fascinating.  

I am most pondering, “What is your process for coming up with new painting ideas?”

 I realize I have a defined process for new quilts. The idea is a complete image in my head and I know exactly what fabrics, colors, pattern, composition–a full view of everything I need. And I always think, well this is going to be pretty straightforward.  Yea! all I have to do is get sewing. And I start to pull out the fabric and put it up on the design wall and a crazy tornado blows my vision into a storm of indecisive possibilities. 

For this little class sample quilt, I invisioned super easy, small chunks of emerald-y colored fabrics, wonky sewed to block corners. I should have known better. I got four pieces of fabrics up and thought, what if…

What if the corners weren’t all “chunks” and some were more pointy?

Or…what if they weren’t wonky at all and as long as the blocks instead of chunks?

What if they were both pointy and chunky? Of course, now I don’t like anything and I’m asking myself, What Was I Thinking?

I am caught in the tornado vortex and I start trying all kinds of stuff. I even added black center squares to this design but it was too awful to photograph. Time for a cup of coffee and anything chocolate I can get my hands on. 

The top part has to go. I’m completely over wonky and chunky and pointy. It sure would be a lot easier for students if the corners were a consistent size. Wonky is hard! A simple snow ball block technique would be fast. The colors– I really want to add some hot pink, almost never in my palette.

So much for the vision, complete in my head. This “defined process” of mine is more complicated than I think.

Rainy Day

Yesterday it rained all day. I’m not a fan of rain. I’ve spent too much time outdoors in cold drizzly rain, pounding down soaking rain, warm sweaty rain. It’s just all too wet for me. If I’m indoors, it’s dark and gloomy and I feel claustrophobic. What gets me out of this funk is permission to sew all day! I decided to take the first top from the “to be quilted” stack and put it on my longarm frame and get the job done.

 I’m sure not feelin’ this drab top. 

I’d much rather play with some bright colors and my new fabric from the “Thicket” line by Gingiber. I need to make a new sample for my Pieced Quilting In Layers class and this Moda fabric is just the ticket. (sorry…I couldn’t resist)

I was thinking about a checkerboard using the black and white. The little class sample quilts only have 25 blocks. Maybe too busy?

I think I like the mostly white fabrics by themselves better.

The prints in the Thicket line are white, whites. I have some cream whites and gray whites to mix in so it doesn’t look so “just one fabric line” matchy.

The threads are really going to pop on the quilted blocks. This is going to be fun to sew on a rainy day. 

I also made white bean and kale soup and baked bread. The house was filled with delicious, warm aroma. If you think the bread tasted crazy, insane, wicked good– you would be exactly right.

I got this book from the library and made the basic recipe. All you do is mix up the flour, water, yeast and salt. Put the whole glob in the fridge overnight– or a few weeks–whatever. When you want bread, preheat the oven, grab up a ball of dough, bake.  What? No kneading? Proofing? Raising? Punching down? Whole lotta work and fallderall? 

I know! I didn’t believe it either. I might have to buy the book, but that would be dangerous. Gary has unlimited capacity for fresh baked bread, hot from the oven. Yeah, me too. Maybe I could only bake bread on rainy days. Sew all day and bake bread, this could be an attitude change. I’m checking the forecast. 

Halloween Bee

It’s so much fun to go to Andra’s house for Quilt Bee around Halloween. She has an impressive collection of Scary Holiday quilts. Not to mention all the decorations that accompany them. 

I love that raven Nevermore plate. 

We all admired the display and enjoyed remembering road trips to antique and curio shops and craft sales.

I spotted this quilt I longarmed for Andra, used as a table topper. 

We helped Andra decide on borders for her newest quilt. Um, none of the above, but not to worry, she has an awesome stash of Halloween fabric to choose from.

There was great Show and Tell. Joan finished “Gordy” and even dressed up to celebrate. 

Susie had a cute baby quilt top. Hey, we forgot to place our bets in the new baby pool! Who thinks Susie’s daughter will deliver Baby Beau on Halloween? We just hope he decides to come soon so Susie can attend our retreat. Let’s get shakin’ Beau!

I am just gaga in love with Karen’s art. The photo doesn’t show how beautifully the silk squares and appliqué shimmer. I’m feeling inspired to work on some Quilting in Layers, myself, today. 

Especially after completing my own Halloween table runner. If I put this on my counter, with a few ceramic pumpkins, Gary will be expecting little trick-or-treat candy bars. It’s way too early for that.  We would devour them long before the kids ring the door bell. It’s not too soon for candy corn, tho–just to get in the spirit. 

Biking Serendipity 

Here in Southeastern Pennsylvania it’s July in October. Record breaking hot and muggy days. Pretty nice weather for biking, tho. 

My friend Ginger told me about the Pomeroy bike trail near Newark, Delaware. I hiked some trails in White Clay Creek Preserve when my son Tyler was a student at University of Delaware, but I didn’t know there was a Rail Trail.

It’s just beautiful. Parts of the Trail are along the banks of the creek. 

Not all the Trail is cinder ballast, there are a few rough areas but nothing our hybrid bikes couldnt handle. I loved this flat meadow. 

Driving to White Clay Creek, I texted Ginger to ask where to park at the trailhead. We hadn’t planned to meet up, but she and her husband, Dave, were biking! Trail serendipity!

Gary had a big smile because, not only was there a beer at Klondike Kate’s waiting for him, but a nice lunch with friends.

If we hadn’t met Ginger and Dave, we could have had lunch at this great Farmers Market. (Gary did point out–no beer.) I wanted a big basket on my bike to carry some vegetables and breads and cupcakes and salsa and cheeses, pumpkins and mums…I love Farmers Markets.

I can’t figure out why the ride back is always faster than the ride out. Maybe I was just mellow after a rest and lunch and conversation. And a few sips of cold beer.

Thanks Ginger! Great introduction to the Pomeroy Rail Trail and riding with you and Dave was icing on the cake. Quilting friends that like to ride bikes. That’s pretty special. 

Two State Finish

Hiking south, the sign says, Welcome to Massachusetts. That means I have just finished all the Appalachian Trail in Vermont! Gary, Laura, Tim and I backpacked a long section in Vermont years ago, during Hurricane Rita. What a memorable and terrifying experience that was. Tree branches crashing down, wind driven walls of rain, little streams were raging torrents. We spent a night in a shelter that I thought was going to blow off the mountain. 

Nothing but blue sky today, thankfully. As the sign says, the Appalachian Trail follows the Long Trail in Vermont for 105 miles. Just east of Killington, the Long Trail turns a corner, leaving the Appalachian Trail, and continues north to Canada. Laura asks, “Want to hike the rest of the 168 miles of the Long Trail?” Ahh…not soon. 

I am always taking a photo of Gary ahead of me. I’m anticipating standing where he is, either up a climb or down something.

Getting down rock jumbles is worse than clambering up and over the rocks. 

Seriously? This is not what I meant by, let’s take a break, guys. Obviously they did get the khaki and blue memo.

The contrast between sunlight and shadow is dramatic. 

The Trail crosses into North Adams over the Hoosatonic River with a great view of the mountains to the south. Already done that part!

I’ve had such a fun time hiking Massachusetts with Laura. Except for a few measly miles, she has hiked the state twice. Amazing! 

Driving back home we stop at Joe’s Diner in Lee, Massachusetts for dinner. Gary and I order the Wednesday Night Special. Buy one spaghetti dinner for $6.95, get the second one free. Entree comes with salad and garlic bread. WHAT? Have I hiked back into a time warp?

Maybe! In 1958, Norman Rockwell used Joe’s Diner as inspiration in his famous painting, The Runaway, an illustration for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Well, the price is right, dinner delicious and milkshakes for desert. 

So now the maps from Vermont and Massachusetts are relegated to the “Finished” file. It feels great to have a huge section from the James River footbridge in Virginia to Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire complete. Ok, ok– I do have 24 miles in Shenandoah National Park to do. But I’m not counting those. They’re my “safety miles.” I’m saving those in case I get crazy and just have to get out and hike. I could drive to Shenandoah in about 3 hours. The rest of my  AT miles are a long drive. 

County Road to Pattison Road   8.3 miles

593.4 miles remaining


It just doesn’t get any more beautiful than this. A perfect blue sky day with the fall colors blazing and just a touch of chill in the air. 

Our friends Laura and Tim have joined Gary and I to hike for a few days. 

Laura has already hiked this section of the Appalachian Trail in Vermont and remembers passing this wetland area and seeing a moose.  There used to be a huge beaver dam here but there is no sign of it now, and the wetland has drained. Darn, I would love to see a moose!

Yesterday Gary and I hiked in Massachusetts. Today we are in Vermont. It is interesting to see different ways the clubs maintain the Trail. No wooden bog bridges, instead, stones have been placed for hikers to walk across. 

That is a very big rock. I should have realized it was a sign of things to come. Not good things. Rock things. I saw on the map that the very last mile of the hike was a very steep descent and I was a little worried about what the trail would be like. Normally, I’m a big fan of rock stairways. I appreciate the hard work it takes trail teams to construct them and I think they are beautiful. The trail dropped 800 feet in just over a half mile–all rock stairs. Well, some of the steps should have been called ledges. They were treacherous–covered with dry leaves, tilted at awful angles, super steep and hard to land a boot on solidly.  My hiking poles skittered over the granit surfaces as I slowly inched my way, sometimes having to sit down. The rocks were placed in steps in a wide shoot or steep channel of rocks, so there were no trees or roots to hold onto. It probably took me an hour and a half to get to the bottom. At least it sure seemed that long. 

County Road to Vermont Rt 9   11.2 miles

Greylock Redux

There is a saying hikers on the Appalachian Trail use frequently. Hike Your Own Hike. Or HYOH, for short. You could backpack with food and cook kit, sleeping bag, tent, and all necessities. I have hiked many miles, backpacking. Or you could call a taxi to drive you up to the top of Mt. Greylock! 

On this beautiful Columbus Day, I’m taking the easy way, taxi up, saunter down the mountain to our car in the valley in North Adams, Massachusetts.  Lots of people are at the summit memorial and Bascom Lodge, enjoying a picnic and the incredible view. 

The Appalachian Trail starts down very steeply. We see lots of families carrying babies, trailing kids. I followed a lady, dressed in a skirt, struggling in slip on flat-type shoes, carrying her purse. Heck! I’m seriously watching my step in good boots, using hiking poles. I wonder if she knows the parking lot is 3 miles down? Or will she turn around at some point and struggle back up…with her purse?

It’s pretty darn cold too. I have on a down jacket and just took off my gloves and stocking hat.

Sometimes the trail is covered with red leaves, sometimes it’s all bright yellow and gold. 

This viewpoint was a great spot for our lunch break but too cold to linger long. Back into the woods for the final descent which was really steep down without switchbacks and nothing but rocks of all sizes. Where were those lovely, gentle meadows? Like the other side of the mountain? My knees are screaming and I’ve twisted my ankles numerous times and it is very slow going. So much for that “just saunter down” concept. 

Greylock Summit to Pattison Road   5.2 miles 


Pumpkins! They’re everywhere. 

Especially at Longwood Gardens. Longwood doesn’t use holiday themed decorations any more. 

You won’t find any jack-o-lanterns or witches.

But there are mounds of pumpkins in all colors and sizes for children to pile up and play with. 

This time of year, you can find anything flavored with pumpkin. Pumpkin cakes, muffins, cookies, soups–pumpkin scrambled eggs, lasagna, chili– what?   

PSL.  Pumpkin Spiced Latte. The first day in fall that the PSL returns to Starbucks, people line up waiting for the doors to open. Ok, let’s think about this. Pumpkin is squash. Squash in my coffee? Yeck! I think pumpkin by itself has very little actual flavor. It’s mostly about the cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices and sugar. Ok, I admit, who doesn’t love that?

Since I am a crazy-loyal Starbucks fan, I am challenging myself to try a PSL. I went to Starbucks. I stood in line wth the order, “Tall PSL, please,” on my lips. Hey– the Tall size has 300 calories! My fav summer drink, the Cold Brewed Vanilla Sweet Cream in the Grande size only has 110 calories– less for me because I just get a tiny splash of the cream. So the PSL didn’t happen, but I have time yet. 

I’m in the spirit! I’m working on Halloween wool appliqué. Like Longwood, I don’t do holiday themed decorations. But two years ago I was seduced at a quilt show into buying a table runner pattern because all my quilt Bee buddies were buying it.  At Calico Cutters Guild meeting last month, a guest (non-quilter?) asked, “What’s a Bee?” At the podium, our witty President, Terry Seeley, quipped, “It’s a cult!”

In a good way.