Lone Star

A Lone Star is on my bucket list of quilts I’d like to make. This beautiful top was made by Peggy in Barbara Cline‘s  Twirling Swirling Dance class at Mid-Appalachian Quilt Conference. 

Dark blue thread shows too much on the yellow so light blue thread wins.

Peggy requested that I quilt her top with the same design as Barbara’s class sample. The lines radiating from the center aren’t half circles– more of a hook and then gradual swirl to the edge. How am I going to do that?

See that hot pink line? I loaded the photo of the instructor’s quilt into the Skitch App on my iPad and traced one of the quilting lines. 

Using the photo as a reference and a flexible curve ruler, I sketched the line on tracing paper on top of the quilt. 

I transferred the tracing paper shape to freezer paper so I could iron the template onto the quilt top so it wouldn’t shift. 

I measured off one inch increments and made tick marks along each edge. 

I lined the top of my shape at the quilt center and the bottom with the edge tick mark and used a white chalk pencil to draw a very light line, working my way around the quilt. 

This is the back view. It took several rolls of my bars to complete a long quilting line. Why didn’t I get the larger machine, I ask myself? It wouldn’t fit in my room is a dumb answer–walls can be moved!

I love this quilting design for a lone star quilt. I’m saving the freezer paper template for when I make my quilt. Not holding my breath, tho. Thanks for the stretch, Peggy!


It’s amazing how much quilting you can accomplish when you cower in the air conditioning all day. All I need to do is sew on the sleeve and label and the bike quilt is finished. 

I had a little indecision on the tire quilting.  I first quilted right on the turned edge, the same as the frame. It was ok but I kept thinking about a decorative stitch on my machine that looked like tire tread. After much testing and more indecision, I took out all the straight edge stitching and used the specialty stitch. I’m not sure it’s better– but it is done!

The days and days of 90 plus degree heat we have had, has caused all the ponds in Longwood Gardens to go completely green with an overgrowth of algae. Longwood uses different methods to combat this, such as chemicals, adding dark dye, plant eating fish, submerging hay bales. 

I’ve never seen them round it up before. It looked like an effective treatment but was a nasty job. Those workers emerged looking like Green Man. 

I love this harvest season and have been eating gorgeous fresh produce every day as well as roasting tomatoes and making pesto.

I have a studio mascot. Darling grand-dog, Bella is visiting while Kira is away. She doesn’t mind the sound of my longarm machine which is a good thing since I have been quilting for customers. 

I have my Quick Curve quilt loaded on the frame. I’m doing the “stand and stare” method of waiting for inspiration to come. This will be a good project for a hot weekend. 

Guild Day

Yesterday Calico Cutters members held the August meeting. The Kids Quilts Committee assembles fabrics for quilters to take home to sew and quilt. I always take a kit because it’s an easy job of no-brain sewing, ready to go when you need that kind of a quick project. The quilts are donated to the Domestic Abuse Center and every child receives a quilt. I am appalled by how many quilts are needed– we usually have about 30 each month. 

I’ve been looking forward to hearing the lecture by Lea McComas. I first saw her amazing quilt, Bike Boys, on winners row at Quilt Festival in Houston. It was so interesting to hear details about how the quilt was made. Lea intended to enter the quilt in the IQA contest, but the central portion, outlined in white, wasn’t big enough for the quilt category, so she enlarged it by offsetting in a frame. I think it’s a perfect solution, adding to the energy that is part of the emotion of the artwork.

Lea is interested in faces and the human figure. She has lived in some interesting countries and her photographs from Turkey and Africa often form the basis for quilts, as in this quilt called Bread Boys.

This quilt called Crossing Over, was inspired by a photograph in a museum in Denver, Colorado , where Lea now lives. I like the way the horses have edges extending slightly off the quilt, visually joining the panals. You could see this better if I didn’t have to photograph with the messy background! Look at the right panal. I love the subtle pieced quilt blocks behind the mountains and the reflections in the water. I looked at the water for a long time. Would I have made the same decision, having the reflected blocks flow along with the water or have oriented them more directly, in line with the blocks above? Interesting to see an artist’s choice in design and composition. 

Lea talked about how she develops her quilts. She has a system that starts with a photograph she prints in grayscale. She adds color based on proportions from the color wheel, aiming to achieve balance. She is quite deliberate in her composition, figuring out a math equation thing based on the golden mean. Of course she completely lost me there. How differently I work! Grayscale? Proportions? Throw up fabrics, if the colors look good to me– go with it! Math equations? Hah! I guess I have to call my studied process, Winging It.

Lea was funny and entertaining, she told fascinating stories and was generous in talking about quilting techniques. What a great program! 

Never Enough

My quilt bee is having a challenge, due in September. We all must make a quilt using the Quick Curve Ruler. We can choose any fabric, pattern, or size. Some over-achievers have already finished a quilt– or two. I thought I’d keep it simple, using just four fabrics that I purchased a few years ago, with no particular project in mind. 

There are lots of ways to arrange the blocks. I tried different patterns and finely decided I liked this design best. I wanted the rows on opposite sides to end with the same color arcs. It must be some crazy math thing, but no matter what I tried, I could not make the color arrangement symmetrical. I had lots more green and blue but was totally out of the flower fabric. 

I pieced together my remaining scraps.

Can I really use this one? It’s pretty ridiculous.

I managed to eek out three more flower arcs. 

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Lower left corner– I still need one more lousy flower arc and I do not have even a splinter of the fabric. I know quilters– some of my best friends even– that can take a pattern, buy the fabric required, sew the quilt and have just the right amount of fabric. I am not one of those quilters. I never have enough of some critical fabric. I even buy more than the pattern says and I don’t have enough.  

What to do?

1. Select appropriate curse words and let fly. Done.

2. Use a blue or green arc, letting future quilt historians say, yeah, she ran out of fabric. No.

3. Get on the Internet and search for the flower fabric. No. I want this done now. 

4. Root through my extensive stash for 2 hours to find fabrics to mix in. Three of anything looks intentional, right?  Can’t find a thing that works. Nothing. 

5. Race to the fabric store and buy something compatible. Too late today. 

6. Give up and go find a big bag of potato chips. Excellent accompaniment for wine. 

Working my way through the barbecue chips, I decided I’d quit procrastinating and quilt the tires on my bike quilt. To heck with those arcs. I grabbed the scraps from that project to piece a sample to test out some threads and look what I found. A few more schnibbles of the flower fabric! 

Woohoo! Back in the saddle and ridin’ hard! I had enough fabric to piece 2 more arcs– I threw out the one cobbled together with three slivers. 

I have symmetry! I just need to decide on green or blue arcs on the sides and which color binding looks best. Well….it’s gonna be blue binding. I don’t have enough of the green fabric….

All the blocks sewn together. Now to get it quilted by September. I feel confident that I have thread. All I need is the backing fabric. 

Field to Fork

My husband has a perfect ride for wrecking havoc on a good hair day. It’s fun tho and a great evening for an open air trip along the Brandywine River, just a few miles from our house. 

Every year, SIW Vegetables invites guest chefs from area restaurants to create dinners from seasonal, local ingredients, mostly grown at Hilgirt Farm. There are only three dinners during the summer and you have to be crazy quick to sign up because they sell out immediately. 

Lucky for me, SIW Produce Stand is on the way home from the golf course, so not only do I get a steady supply of incredible fruits and vegetables, Gary is ever-watchfull for the “Dinner Dates” sign to appear.

The dining tables are set up in this huge, old, three-story Chester County Barn. The cooking is underway just outside the doors. 

Bring your own libations add to the fun while waiting for everyone to arrive. 

I wish I had a better photo of the beautiful barn, transformed with chandeliers and masses of tiny lights, strung to the rafters. MacGregor Mann, owner and Chef de Cuisine at Junto Restaurant in Chadds Ford, prepared an awesome menu. Every. Single. Bite. was delicious. I’d be hard pressed to choose a favorite but the corn and crab fritters and panzanella salad I could eat every night for month. I know the corn and tomatoes were picked just steps away, only a few hours ago. 

I love it when the Chef comes out and says a few words. I noticed on the menu, there was no mention of desert. What? That’s just wrong! So when Chef Mac announced a choice of peach or berry pie, everyone applauded. HG Haskell, owner and farmer, also received a loud show of appreciation for an outstanding evening. Everyone at our table agreed, stalking the Vegetable Stand to put our names down for dinner was so worth it and needs to be repeated every year.

Two Away 

Have you ever made two quilts exactly alike?  The first quilt was fun. The second…..aaarrrghhh! My little granddaughters came for a quick visit and it was the perfect motivation I needed to get the binding sewn on. Whoohoo! Two Bonnie Hunter quilts done and sent off to their new home. I quilted their names in the stitching, along with stars, hearts, flowers– love MomMom, anything that came to mind. It was fun to play games finding things in the fabrics. 

The table and chairs were meant for dolls. I can’t believe the girls can sit on them! 

We needed to move off the quilt when real tea, milk and cookies came into play. Also a dress code was strictly enforced. 

We had a fun weekend. I miss them so much!

Milford Valley

I had such a nice time with the Milford Valley Quilters. A few years ago I visited the Guild and did the Appliqué Quilting in Layers workshop. Rita brought her finished Tulip quilt to show. 

Aren’t these sunflowers beautiful. I love it when quilters add their own design to personalize their projects. I wish I had taken photos of the quilts in progress in the Piecing class. I always get involved and forget to pull out the camera. I think there will be some lovely and individual quilts with interesting techniques. 

Milford, Pennsylvania is located very close to the upper Delaware River. Many (many) years ago, when Gary and I first moved East after college graduation, we drove up with our canoe to explore. We wanted to canoe camp for a few days and planned to rent a car to shuttle the canoe upriver, only to find out that, you can’t rent a car when you’re 22 years old! I remember walking around Port Jervis, talking someone into giving us a ride up to Narrowsburg with the canoe. 

No canoe this trip, but Gary joined me after the Guild activities and we enjoyed the memories, driving up to the view at Hawks Nest. I left all the decisions to him and he selected dinner at Bar Louis at Hotel Fauchere. He couldn’t resist the dry aged steak made famous by the former chef at Delmonico’s restaurant in Manhattan. We shared–it was delicious. 

On the way home we drove along the river through Delaware Water Gap National Park. We had inches of rain all week so waterfalls would be raging torrents. 

The Silver Thread waterfall was gorgeous. 

Dingmans Falls didn’t disappoint us with water flow. 

Of course we walked all the stairs to the top!

I love the view from the top, the roar of the water and the power is mesmerizing. I think there are over 30 fairly major water falls in this area and I haven’t seen them all. A return trip is definitely in order. 

Totally Templates

I was able to take another longarm quilting class at Quilt Odyssey with Lisa Calle. I’ve been using templates with my Gammill machine for a while but I knew I would pick up good information in the class.

Lisa has developed some very interesting rulers with a grove that allows the hopping foot to ride along one side to quilt a line, then you shift the ruler to quilt a parallel line next to the first line, very straight and accurately. 

My friend Christine was my quilting buddy. Christine is fearless. She has the new Bernina Q20 sit-down machine. It’s a hot technique in quilting now to use rulers on domestic sewing machines and sit-down models. It is different to hold the ruler and move the fabric, as aposed to moving the machine head. There were several quilters in class that wanted to learn sit-down techniques with rulers.  

Cindy and Karen were excited to practice with the straight and circle rulers. I wish Lisa had let us try out one of her Quilter’s Groove Rulers. She has excellent videos on her website with tutorials. Lisa was a good teacher and I’ve never had this in class before– she brought a Kuerig coffee machine and served us all coffee!

Unfortunately I don’t have the quilter’s name, but I loved this small landscape quilt at the show. My friend Karen is creating a quilt for her home in Colorado featuring aspen trees and another quilter wants to make a quilt with birch trees using the Quilting in Layers technique. I love tree quilts! 

I am off to Milford, Pennsylvania today to speak to Milford Valley Quilters, with a workshop tomorrow. If you are in the area, come and join us. Gotta get packing now. 

Dense and Dainty 

I’ve admired Margaret Soloman Gunn’s quilts for a long time. This is Jester’s Folly, pieced with hand-dyed silk Radiance.

The stitching is done with 100 weight silk thread that shows the quilting line and defines the design so beautifully. 

Here is another example of Margaret’s detailed quilting. When I saw that she was teaching a class at Quilt Odyssey, I jumped at the chance to learn from this master quilter. 

This is the class sample from Dense and Dainty Fillers. I can’t remember the size of the squares– maybe 4 inches. I rarely do “fills” in my own quilting so I wanted to try my hand at something new. 

Margaret gave us an overview of the designs and then half of the class tried stitching at the machines. 

We worked on designs from printed cards, then traded to try different sets of motifs. 

This type of quilting requires intense concentration. 

And a whole lotta practice. I’m just guessing here, but I’d estimate hundreds and hundreds of hours. Clearly, my quilting is far from dense and dainty. Hah! 

More like Sparse and Chunky. 

Quilt Odyssey

I look forward to going to Quilt Odyssey in Hershey, PA every year. The quilts in the competition show are always very high caliber. I loved this quilt Firelight Poppy, by my friend, Barb Persing. 

Another favorite, The Landing by Joanne Baeth. 

Each feather is a separate piece of appliquéd fabric. Amazing. 

I find this detail of October Sky by Bethanne Nemesch enthralling. My photo of the full quilt didn’t show well. I have seen the quilt many times and appreciate the story the quilting tells more every time. 

Of course I visited the venders. Ok, did more than just “visit.” I made a haul. I can’t wait to get into the orange fabrics and test out the longarm rulers. 

Whew! MAQ!

I have just returned from teaching at Mid-Aappalachian Quilt Conference at Mount St. Mary’s University. My head is filled with inspiration from wonderful, creative students. 

Isn’t this tulip quilt beautiful! It was a luxury to have two days to work on the Appliqué Quilting in Layers pieces. I got to know some lovely quilters that were intrepid and embraced trying new techniques. 

Susie chose to sew a canvas to showcase her original design.

She plans to add detail to this gorgeous dragonfly’s wings with sparkling, gossamer netting. 

Watching the designs build and seeing students master the technique is exciting. I’m inspired to sew another tulip myself!

I also taught Piecing Quilting in Layers. This soft green background reminds me of Spring. I hope I get a photo of the finished quilt.  Many of the students had very good sewing skills and decided to try the more challenging techniques. I got so excited seeing their successful inset strip blocks that I neglected to get photos. Darn!

I would love to have taken these blocks home. 

I am so lucky to spend time with quilters. Sincerely, thank you to all for allowing me to enjoy your company and be a small part in the creative process. 

Bike Quilt Progress

I’m making progress on my bike quilt. I took off the dark border blocks that looked so heavy and confining.  Now I could stand outside Starbucks for a few hours and give away squares for mug rugs. Do you think they would give me a free latte?

I like the lighter gray fabrics much better. It’s ironic– usually my problem is not enough contrast.  

Ok. Just as an aside. How the heck do you spell gray anyway? Gray? Grey? Whichever way I type it, the dang spell check changes it to the opposite spelling! I looked it up in the dictionary and they list both spellings.  I had this problem recently with “Pittsburgh.” Do we really need that “h”? Apparently spell check doesn’t think so. 

(Mini-spell check rant now finished.)   Before I sewed the border row of blocks to the quilt, I decided to try something new. Have you ever applied a double fold binding to the quilt edge, before adding the backing? Whaaat? Me either! But I thought it might be easier to apply this pieced binding, without having to wag around a heavy quilt. 

Wow. This was difficult. Like, don’t try this at home difficult, unless you are a Trained Professional Sewist. It took concentration, motivation and slavish attention to get all those seams to line up. And most of a whole day. All the border blocks were sewed on, with applied binding, as the final rows, on each side

I layered a pieced backing and quilted in the ditch through all the grid lines, horizontal and vertical.

Being careful not to cut the binding, I trimmed the backing even with the edge of the quilt.

I turned the folded edge of the binding to the back, and glue-basted it down with Elmer’s Washable School Glue. Now the binding is ready for hand sewing. Selecting a color of thread will be challenging. I will also miter the corners. That wasn’t my original plan, but I cut the darn blasted edges too close to turn under. Not such a Trained Professional, after all, huh.

I have to say, this binding was a whole lotta work and I won’t be doing it again any time soon, but it looks really cool! And, it’s done! I am very thankful the quilt only has 4 sides. One more would have done me in.

Center Squares

The title of this post could have been “Back to Square One- Again.” I decided I didn’t like the dark outer border. So I worked on thinking about the center squares for the lighter gray inner blocks. 

I fussy cut a whole lot of squares from the bike fabric and pinned them to almost all the blocks. 

It looked like a storm of Chinese confetti blew onto the quilt!

I’m getting a little (a little?) crazy with this fussy cutting. I took all the center squares off the dark border blocks. Still don’t like ’em.

The blocks should have been light gray on the bottom of the wheels so I’ll switch those out. Easily done. 

I took off all the “confetti” bits and just used a few center squares, cut from the bicycle wheels. Less is more– I like it better. I also edge stitched the tires with invisible thread using a blind hem stitch. The edges on the bike frame can be done with a straight quilting stitch when I add the backing.  Today I am concentrating on the border. 

Embrace the Orange

A student in my Appliqué in Layers class had a gorgeous selection of orange batiks. I told her I had very few orange fabrics in my stash. She said, “You have to embrace the orange!”

I have made quilts with orange tiger lilies. This is a small wall hanging I made to remind myself of the quilt selected for the American Embassy Program. The original quilt returned from hanging in the embassy in Kigali, Rowanda very faded. I knew it would happen because the sun is so strong there. I’m ok with that. I feel the muted colors now add to the quilt’s provenance.

I’ve wanted to make a quilt with these trumpet flowers for a long time. I’ve been collecting orange fabrics. It’s the leaves that look difficult and I am thinking about how to simplify them, but stay true to the form. 

I also made this orange tulip quilt. I’m bringing it to my class at Mid-Appalachian Quilt Conference. For a preview into the process, I blogged about making the quilt in this post. Oh, and if you’d like to join us, there are still two spots left, even though the web site says class is full.

I don’t have to search for orange inspiration at Longwood Gardens. There are whole beds of flowers and foliage in every shade of orange. 

The meadow is adorned with butterfly bush — and orange monarch butterflies, their wings fluttering too fast for a photo. I am loving embracing the orange!

Fix It or Let It Ride?

I have been steadily working on the bike quilt. I like the stitching on the spokes. I’m not sure whether they need some actual spoke lines on top of the quilting. Maybe a thick line of something couched down or a thin strip of fabric appliquéd or even drawn with a marker. I am going for more simple, less complicated, so maybe the stitching is enough.

I can’t believe I did this. I trimmed up the appliqué and now it doesn’t extend into the quarter inch seam line. Aaarrrghhh! How many blocks have I done with this technique? Thousands! And I still make this mistake. I’ve had students in my class go home to finish their project (you know who you are) and do the whole tulip like this. When they start to sew the blocks together, it’s “oh s#*t” time. I had an idea– what if you sewed the blocks together, then sewed bias tape over the seams, encasing the appliqué edges. It would look like stained glass. That could be cool!

But not for this quilt. I can handle fixing one block. 

Big sections were coming together. I spent about 2 hours pinning center squares in the dark, outside blocks. I don’t like it. The border looks so heavy…and dark…and confining. I thought about switching out the center squares. I really don’t want to carry the bright, wheel fabrics into the border because I think it will be too strong. Maybe lighter gray squares? That doesn’t feel right either but I might try it. Those center squares! They can make the quilt but they just have to be tried out visually to be decided on.  What I think in my head will work, usually doesn’t. 

Stand and stare.  And stare some more.  What is going on here? Then it hit me. I’ve drawn the pattern wrong!

My sketch had the bike wheels extending into the border on the sides but not into the bottom squares. Well crap. It’s “oh s#*t” time. Do I just leave it or fix it? Will it change how dark and heavy the border looks or actually make it worse? 

Here’s the plan. I’m going to sew new blocks for one wheel and see what I think. The proportions feel so off now that I can’t even think beyond that. Back to work.