Christmas Quilts

 

How many Christmas quilts do you have? I have one or two small quilts and a couple of table runners. My friend Andra has an amazing number of Christmas quilts– wall quilts, bed quilts–all kinds! And she has decorations to coordinate with her quilts that fill her house with Christmas cheer. Don't you love Andra's little tree coming home in the pick up truck!

 

 
Angel decorations to match the Angel wall quilt.
 
 
Did I mention Christmas pillows on couches, chairs and beds?
 
 
I love the teddy bear's scarf and mittens.
 
This really might be my favorite. A teddy bear Christmas tree and the bears are wearing knitted Christmas sweaters!
 
 
All the beds are covered in Christmas quilts.
 
 
 
Even the crib for grandchildren visiting.
 
 
It's easy to get the Christmas spirit enjoying the artful decorations. I'm overwhelmed! And I haven't even shown the lower level where a “Beachy Christmas” theme prevails…think starfish and shell ornaments.
 
 
The Sometimes We Do quilters so appreciate Andra's warm and inviting home. We have gathered to enjoy our annual Christmas lunch and present exchange.
 
 
I am so fortunate to have wonderful friends. Thanks Andra, for hosting us in your beautiful home and thanks to all for a delishious feast. Thanks also for not stealing my gorgous table runner made by Susie in the Chinese gift exchange! I love it.
 
 
And a huge thanks to Peggy for remembering my Grinch hat. It has magical power to fill me with Christmas spirit!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiration and Reflection

A few weeks ago, my friend Sujata gave me a copy of her new book, Cultural Fusion Quilts. When I first flipped through the pages, I wanted to crash into my stash of fabrics, start cutting like a wild woman and make every single quilt in the book. Oh yeah, it's that good! I have beaten down that insane impulse because I know exactly where it would have lead me– with a huge mess.

Instead of going off with rotary cutter half cocked, I have allowed myself to read through the book, enjoying Sujata's story, her inspirations, her colors and her methods.

Many quilters know Sujata Shah from her very popular blog, The Root Connection, but I didn't meet her that way. A gasp of delight was my first reaction to seeing her quilts when she showed them at a guild meeting. I gotta know that woman! A colorful and exciting quilt introduction led to our friendship.

 

My very favorite thing about the book is how Sujata translates her inspiration into quilt form. The quilt “Toran” was inspired by little flags, strung as welcoming banners, called torans.

 

 

The photo Sujata took of a fort in Rajasthan, India, reminds me of my visit to Mehrangarh Fort, when I was in Rajasthan, and I wonder if it is the same fort. I so want to make a quilt to remember my amazing trip.

 

 

I am in awe of Sujata's connection between inspiration and fabric translation. How easily she constructed the blocks with her free-form piecing technique. Everybody could do this! All of the quilts in the book have clear instructions.

 

 

Color! Sujata and I live at different ends of the rainbow. Actually, her quilts are color explosions and I love them. But I am so inspired by the quilt, Winter.

 

Maybe because it speaks to me, so perfectly eloquent, right now when December days in Chester County are so gray. Or maybe because I want to make a quilt using my own colors of greens and blues. Don't you absolutely love it when a quilt book shows you different color ways! There is so much encouragement and suggestion for individualizing.

Sujata says “Quilts are wordless documents of personal and family history written in stitches.” She let's us see her story, told with open whole-heartedness. Her book invites quilters to join her spontaneous creativity, with easy, just plain fun techniques, to stitch our own impressions and memories.

Go ahead! Give yourself a Christmas present! Cultural Fusion Quilts: A Melting Pot of Piecing Traditions.

I'm a fan. Big fan!

 

 

Winter Trilliums

I knoooow! It has been a long time since my last post. I have been sewing like a demon but I can't show anything because everything I have been working on, is for Christmas gifts. Maybe that means lots of posts later! I can't wait to show some of my customer's quilts that I have been longarm quilting. Did you catch that word “CUSTOMER?” That's right! I have decided that using my longarm sewing machine is so darn much fun, that I can't churn out enough quilt tops to just quilt for myself.

Much more on my new venture coming soon.

 

I do have a few postcards I just made that I can share. I am deleriously in love with trilliums– (and can't wait for May when they will be in bloom.) I taught a postcard workshop at Mt Cuba Center last July and I am amazed how many trillium lovers there are! Mt Cuba is renowned world wide for trillium research and propagation and the word spread. I received many requests from people wanting to buy cards and went into crazy production mode, creating small works of art.

 

 
One request came from Susie Egan, owner of Cottage Lake Gardens. She wanted to frame 6 cards in two sets of three, to hang in her beautiful Bed and Breakfast Inn in Woodinville, Washington. She really gave me free reign to design the cards, but said she loves pink, and blue would fit in with her decor.
A challenge! I tend toward a more woodsy setting for my flowers but what fun to audition my blue and pink fabrics. I wanted all six of the cards to work together so that Susie could choose how to group them, but have each card be individual and unique.
 
I left off the card backs to make the small artworks easier to frame. When I send them through the mail, I enclose the card in a plastic sleeve, having the post office clerk hand cancel the stamp first.
 
 
The new owner was thrilled with her cards and guess what! Susie invited me to teach workshops on making trillium postcards at Cottage Lake Gardens in the spring! When the trilliums are in bloom in the Gardens, Susie does Trillium Walks and Trillium Teas and I think Trillium Postcard Workshops would be so much fun to teach in that amazing setting. I know I would be inspired! We are working on the details but I really hope everything will come together.
 
 

 

 

 

November and Colors

 
There is something about the beginning of November that I love. I walked through the meadow at Longwood Gardens wondering what the heck it is. It isn't that first taste of winter– we had snow! Oh no, that kick started an urgent search for a few weeks in Florida in January. The blast of frost in the air makes me sorry to say good by to balmy 60's and having to break out the fleece.
 
I think November is beautiful. Maybe I just appreciate the change in the scenery.

 

 
I love the light in November, the long shadows and the stark contrasts. I love the way things seem to slow down, as if taking a breath before the serious attitude and preparations for winter. I always start new projects in late autumn and spring.
 
 
I'm going to make The season last just a little bit longer. I found these beautiful fabrics last weekend in a quilt shop in Lewis, Delaware. The Sometimes We Do Quilt Bee friends spent a long weekend sewing at the beach and we all found treasure at Mare's Bears Quilt Shop. The fabric looks like hand dyes but it is from a collection designed by Elaine Quehl for Northcott. There is also a gorgous stripe that I need to find somewhere. I've been gaga in love with Elaine's art quilts for years and I'm excited to use her fabric.
I know exactly what I am going to make. I've created a new class offering in Quilting in Layers that teaches many ways to have fun with piecing and quilting 4 inch blocks in a grid format. I always have students in class that aren't so in love with appliqué and this class will be all about the pieced blocks and techniques to make them awesome. It will be so cool to use fabrics from one commercial collection. I'm going to have some fun making this class sample!
 
 

 

 

Critique

 
Sweetwater Gap Bloodroot has returned from it's trip to the World of Beauty Quilt Show in Houston. I thought I would share the judge's comments and evaluation. The judging format uses a + for Excellent, a ^ (check mark) for Satisfactory and a – for Needs Improvement. My quilt received predominantly Check marks with a few Pluses for Visual Impact, Original Design, Construction Techniques and Appropriateness of Quilting Design. I received one negative mark for Balance of Design. The only written comments were “Really nice pieced background” and “Faced edge well executed.”
I really wish the Judge had commented on Design Balance because I think of composition as one of my strengths. It is so valuable to have comments and I appreciate the time it takes to articulate and transcribe observations. When I compared my quilt to the others in the category, I felt Bloodroot lacked a “wow” factor. In person, I really like the serene, woodland color scheme but I also feel it lacks contrast in the dark ground and leaves area. I also think my quilt lacks a dominate focal point.
 
 
I think Fugi and Sakura by Masako Sakagami is a beautiful quilt that really fits the category of Art-Naturescapes. I like the coloration in the background, and the reflection of the mountain. I do think the image and the techniques used are somewhat simplistic for a First Place winner.
 
 
An Autumn Flavor by Kiyoko Matsumoto took the second place ribbon. I'm a bit perplexed by this quilt. Looks more like Spring to me than Fall! The workmanship was lovely. The colors did not engage me and the style does not fit my personal aesthetic. I think it is very much in the “quilt” style and not so much an artistic approach. I prefer the flowers and leaves tumble and overlap naturally rather than each one picked out separately, like in a very careful cartoon.
 
 
I absolutely loved this quilt, Wild Rhodies by Pat Durbin . I liked the depth created by the light sky behind the dark tree trunks. The pine needles were thread painted so realistically. The red flowers were shaded and shadowed and a tiny red piping in the binding pulled the design together.
 
Prelude to Winter by Beth Porter Johnson might have gotten my vote for First Place. My photograph doesn't begin to do justice to this amazing quilt. I could not figure out if it was pieced or appliquéd. Maybe both, it was not raw edge fused and there was no paint enhancing the quilt, it was all fabric. The machine quilting was beautiful and added contour and shading to the trees and shadows. I also like that the subject is unusual and creative. I feel the three quilts chosen by the judges for ribbons were safe, predictable and especially the first, an image repeated everywhere.
Just my opinions! I'm not a judge or expert. What I do know for sure is that there is so much to learn. It was fantastic to have my quilt hanging in such a prestigious quilt show. There were 21 quilts in the Art-Naturscapes category and I spent time studying the different styles and techniques. It is important to me to make quilts of my own designs, that please me and come from my heart. I enter competitions to push myself to become better at expressing myself through my art. I really enjoy seeing how other quilters accomplish their own vision. Also, entering quilt shows is thrilling and just darn fun. Especially when you get your quilt back and can't wait to start another one!
 

 

 

Catching Breath

 

 
Christine and I leaving from Baltimore, bound for the Houston Quilt Show. No way that was just a week ago! How can time race by so fast? Our Southwest flight was packed with quilters. Isn't that fun!
 
 
Going to a quilt show really is as much about enjoying time with friends as seeing quilts. One of my Sometimes We Do Quilt Bee friends and her mom are on our flight. Ginger arranged to have her friend Gina, who lives in Houston, pick us up at the airport and take us all to lunch.
 
 
The Grand Lux Cafe is quite like The Cheesecake Factory and the food was delicious.
 
 
Gina, Ginger and Ginger's mom know how to start the party rolling. Christine and I were a little more restrained, but really, we were just pacing ourselves.
 
 
I needed a clear head for the venders!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Break Out Those Boots!

 
If I had a pair of cowboy boots, they would be packed in my suitcase because I am Houston, Texas bound! I would love to grab a long neck and join in the Texas Two Step, but I don't think there will be much of that kind of fun at the IQA Quilts: A World of Beauty show.
I will get to see my quilt, Sweetwater Gap Bloodroot, hanging in the competition in the Art Quilt Landscape category.
 
I know that I haven't won a ribbon this time but I am anxious to see how Bloodroot measures up against the competition. The Houston Show is the largest quilt show in the world and I am absolutely thrilled to have my quilt accepted. I know Christine and I are going to have a blast and we both are committed to doing some serious shopping in the vender mall.
YeeHaw!
 
 

 

Brandywine Day

 
I've been quiet lately. Not because I've been in some exotic place without Internet. I have been working away in my studio on several quilts but I can't show anything because they are for gifts! But today I took a break. It is such a gorgous fall day, it's time to kayak down the Brandywine River.
 
 
It's so wonderfully peaceful on the river.
 
 
There is one spot where we have to pull the kayaks out to carry them over an old dam. It's actually on property belonging to the Wyeth family.
 
 
 
It's easy for me to imagine Andrew Wyeth painting the sycamore trees that line the banks of the Brandywine.
 
 
Gary scouts the rocks we need to avoid.
 
 
And I spot two bald eagles riding the thermals.
 
 
I wish I could have gotten a better picture. They are such huge, majestic birds. I watched them for a while, realizing I've seen eagles twice this year, including the family of three I saw in Maine. How amazing.
 
 
I love the Brandywine River and the beautiful Wyeth country of Chester County. I made this small quilt years ago. It is about seeing the leaves of autumn through the water on the river bottom and the rings and sparkling trails my paddles leave on the surface after each stroke. It's hanging in my foyer now.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Procrastination: A Fine Art

 
Yesterday was a rainy, gloomy day. A perfect day to sew with these bright, colorful Lotta Jansdotter fabrics. I spent too much time looking over my Pinterest boards, trying to find a quilt I'd like to make. This always happens to me. Great fabric, can't find a block pattern I like. I want that sewing machine running! So I pushed the graph paper away, cut some fabric and started to sew.
 
 
Loved the first round. I want to use the solid range of turquoise fabrics, the black and white prints and all the colorful coordinates together…somehow.
 
 
I like the second round but this is just same ol' log cabin.
 
 
Four finished blocks. I like them, but not over the moon excited. I was thinking I would sash the blocks with plain white, trying for that Modern Quilt look.
 
 
Maybe set together with no sashing is better? Not really what I was after.
 
 
How about gray polka dot sashing? I think I like this a little bit. The good thing about all this procrastinating– and that is what I'm really doing, messing around with quilt blocks– is that I got an idea for art work I am supposed to be making. Maybe I should just get back to what I do. Thoroughly Modern Terry isn't working much for me.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Orange

 
Longwood Gardens is resplendent in fall colors.
 
 
Along the flower walk, the mums come in all colors.
 
 
 
 
Orange is probably my least favorite color but these rusty tones put me in such a fall mood I'm tempted to work with this palette.
 
 
This huge pumpkin is for you, Ellis! My little grandson loves pumpkins. Wait til he sees how they turn into jack-o-lanterns.
 
 
Happy Birthday to my husband! This is his favorite – chocolate peach up-side-down cake. What? A proper birthday cake needs frosting in my book. He gets all my calories on this one, and that's a good thing.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Done is Done

 
Ok, not completely done because I haven't quilted yet. But all the blocks are sewn together and that's done enough for now.
 
 
Can't say I like it any better. I've been calling it The Ugly Gypsy Quilt. I'm going to use it to practice my long arm quilting and try to stitch in the ditch around the shapes.
 
 
I got these cool rulers at the Machine Quilting Show when I took a class from Deloa Jones while I was in Illinois. I'm very intimidated to try these rulers. Holding a chunk of plastic against the hopping foot of the Big Beast Machine is scary! So if I screw up old Ugly Gypsy, who cares!
 
 
One problem to solve– there aren't any ditches. I always iron my seams open. I really like my quilt tops to be dead flat, without that bump on one side. I think for this quilt it would have been better to iron the seams toward the circular shape. I don't think that far ahead! Oh, the details matter. They do.
 
 
On to the next! I am really loving this fabric from Lotta Jansdotter. That darn Kelly from Pinkadot Quilts acquainted me with Massdrop. Very dangerous! There is a whole category for sewing and quilting. The turquoise fat quarters I bought in California. I have no idea what I want to do with this fabric. I just want to sew. But I will take more care in selecting a block design. (I probably won't think out the seam pressing tho…)
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Not Feelin’ It

 
These blocks are on my design wall right now. I hate this a lot. You know how sometimes you just want to sew your brains out and you don't want to go rooting around in your stash, tring to find fabric that goes together? Well, I was in the quilt shop and this Malka Dubrawsi fabric collection looked great. I bought everything in the line and brought the project to the Quiltini Pocono Retreat. My BQF's assured me I should keep working with the fabric…there was wine involved…
 
 
Today I put all the blocks on the wall to see how they look together. I viewed them with my reducing gizmo. Sometimes it helps to see the quilt in a more cohesive way. My friend Karen made the cool little bag. I just don't like anything about this quilt. What was I thinking in that shop? So now I need to decide if I go ahead and sew the blocks together or say, life's too short to work on ugly stuff.

 

 

Little Things

 
Looks like a mess of little scraps to sweep into the trash.
 
 
Scraps make wonderful backgrounds for postcards.
 
 
I received an email from a woman who lives in Georgia and is a Master Gardner. She heard about the class I taught at Mt Cuba on making fabric postcards. She asked if she could buy 10 cards for her gardening friends for gifts. Well sure!
 
 
Something else made from scraps by my friend Christine, who never throws a scrap of fabric away if it still had two threads woven together. I love my new pin cushion! It lives on my ironing board.
 
 
I made this little silk bag for my friend Cheryl for her birthday.
 
 
All the Quiltini's gifted Cheryl with an Alex and Ani bracelet with a charm that was meaningful in the friendship. Cheryl and I both love biking and have been on many rides together. Cheryl just biked across the Golden Gate Bridge. Wish I had been there with her.
 
 
But I was in Boulder, Colorado visiting with son Tyler. I can't complain about that!
 
 
 
 

 

MQX

Not only did Janet Stone win Best of Show at the Machine Quilters Exposition, she was the featured quilter with more than 15 quilts on exhibit. I'm so glad the show was in Springfield, Illinois this year so I could take some classes and visit my family.
 
I have seen this quilt published and online but I can't remember the quilt artist that created her self portrait. It was so great to see it in person.
 
 
I also didn't get the name of the quilter who made this double sided quilt. This is the front side.
 
 
And this is the backside.
 
 
My favorite quilt by far was October Sky by Bethanne Nemesh of White Arbor Long Arm Quilting in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Her quilt won an award for Best Machine Quilting on a Stand Up Machine. Hey…Allentown…that's really near where I live. I wonder if she teaches…!
 
 
I am just blown away by the story her amazing stitching tells throughout the quilt. I got some good detail shots to study.
 
 
I don't know how she does this? Marks the design directly on the dupioni silk? Or maybe draws the design on Solvy and stitches through and then removes the tracing? I'm a fan! I'm also intrigued by the lovely trim or piping that she uses so effectively to define borders and edges. I need to know how she does that, too.
 
 
Yes, I came away from the show with lots of questions but I learned a lot, too. I took a class on using rulers with my Long Arm from Deloa Jones. And bought a few in Deloa's booth! I took another class on totally hand guided quilting from Sue Patten. Her style is edgy, never matches and “Unexpected” is a good thing. My third class was with Gina Perks and she demonstrated how to quilt with no backtracking of stitches where everything is even and matched and “Perfect” is the best thing. I guess I got a pretty good overview!
 
 
Seeing the quilts and learning from the Pros was great. But the best part was visiting with my mom, my brother and sister and nephews. I'm not getting on the scale for weeks. There was an apple pie cook off between my mom and my nephew…I'm just sayin'… And a barbecue dinner by candle light in the arbor and a poem read by my sister that brought me to tears. Thanks so much for a wonderful visit!
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Spinning

 
Not spinning class, riding a stationary bike. Not spinning wool on a spinning wheel. My head is spinning! This photo was taken in the Pocono mountains and I am fondly remembering a wonderful, relaxing sewing retreat with my friends. That was just a week and a half ago!
 
 
After the Poconos, I dashed to the Pennsylvania Quilt Show at Oaks where I voted for my favorite quilt. Kelly of Pinkadot quilts made this amazing diary quilt, a year in her life, with a block made every week. The Quiltini's are even immortalized in the second row, second block.
 
 
I absolutely loved this quilt by Shani Leser. The coloration she adds in the facial features is wonderful. I'm thinking of doing a portrait of a little boy from a photo I took in India. I'm very intimidated. So I've been studying faces on quilts.
 
 
On this quilt, Denise Havlan painted her subject. There are so many techniques to use, but I think to be successful, the eyes really have to connect in an emotional way to the viewers. How will I do that? No time to even think yet. After dashing to the show, Gary and I hustled down to Roanoke, VA to help Tanner and darling granddaughters move to a new apartment.
 
 
I really wish these two lived closer.
 
 
Just one day back home to do laundry and repack the suitcase to travel to Springfield, Illinois to visit with my Mom and family members. Oh, and attend the Machine Quilters Expo Show. Darn convenient, huh!