Good Times

I haven’t done this in a long time. Two kids to get on the school bus and two dogs to walk before breakfast.

Avarie and Mackenzie tried catching snow flakes on their tongues, hoping for a snow day off of school. It was only flurries down in Roanoke, while Kennett Square, Pennsylvania got buried in 10 inches of the nasty white stuff.

The Appalachian Trail is very near where my grandkids live so I talked Gary into driving me to a trailhead so I could hike a few miles.

It was about 30 degrees and sunny when I started out, but as soon as I got to the top of the ridge, the wind picked up, snow squalls obscured the trail and it just got darn ugly.

Sometimes I’m sweating along the Trail in summer heat, grateful for the smallest puff of cooling breeze. Other times, a massive rock upthrust blocks the wind and I’m so happy for a brief respite. I had planned a 5.9 mile hike but Gary stopped at a closer road crossing and started talking about pulled pork BBQ for lunch. Warm restaurant, BBQ — no brainer! 4.3 miles hiked is good.

I’m glad I got a few miles done, even though it was a teaser hike. I’m happy I got to spend time with my granddaughters. I’m really happy Gary figured out the math homework and that the dog didn’t eat it. It’s all good.

Another One

You’ve got to be kidding me. We have barely recovered from a fierce Nor’easter this weekend and now they are predicting another one, waiting in the wings, ready to go midweek. And it’s going to be worse, with “plowable snow.” Well, plans gone awry yet again. I was hoping to quilt this appliqué top I made several years ago on my longarm machine but I can’t have the machine plugged in, even with a surge protector, when the wind is howling and the lights are flickering on and off.

I love hand appliqué. This is Edyta Sitar’s, “Midnight Blooms” pattern, all turned edge. I’m hand-quilting on a different quilt, with no end in sight and hoped to get this top finished in my lifetime. I also wanted to try out my new Quick Change presser feet.

Gammill has made specialty feet for the longarm and all three have been recommended to stitch closely next to appliqué. The first, an open toe foot, I didn’t like because it didn’t work well with rulers. The second foot is cup-shaped and glides right over bulky seams like a dream. That will come in handy when quilting T-shirt quilts. But why didn’t Gammill fabricate the foot from clear plastic, like other longarm manufacturers have done? You can’t see the line you want to stitch through the black metal. The tiny foot is for trapunto. It didn’t catch on the appliqué as frequently as the regular foot, but the stitches were just a little too far from the edge for my taste.

I decided the best of the lot was the “spoon” foot and outlined all the shapes with it, hoping I would get better with practice. I used Superior Threads new MicroQuilter, a 100 weight polyester thread in Taupe, in top and bobbin. I have always used invisible thread to outline– and cussed a lot. MicroQuilter is so much easier to use, adds just a bit of blending color and is so fine that if you catch the appliqué, it doesn’t show much. Loved the thread, the spoon foot– not so much. I am much more accurate and controlled with the regular quarter inch foot and a ruler guide.

So when I wasn’t pacing back and forth, waiting for the power to come back on, I was reading this appropriately titled book. My friend Jane recommended it and now the whole Quilt Bee is getting nothing done. (Include Gary in that– reading the book, getting nothing done– not the Bee!)

The book revolves around Kate Burkholder who grew up in the Amish community. She returned to this small peaceful town as a chief of police. The story takes place in rural Ohio but could easily be Lancaster County, close to my home. Linda Castillo weaves the Amish belief and lifestyle into the murder mystery series and sometimes quilts make an appearance in solving the crime.

I think there are 10 books in the series. They really don’t have to be read in order but after reading Book 8, I thought I would go back to Book 1 and happily read on. However, SOMEONE has checked out or reserved the digital and library hard copies for Books 2 through 7. Seriously? I WILL FIND YOU.

Snowdrops and Orchids

That’s a bit of a crazy title. Snowdrops are wildflowers that sometimes come up through a drift of snow in February. The orchids I’m referring to are tropical and cultivated in a hothouse conservatory. Here in Pennsylvania we have had two days of summer warm weather– one day was almost 80 degrees! Crazy! The first day, I walked around Nixon Park in Kennett Square and discovered the woods full of snowdrops.

Yesterday I decided to walk around Longwood Gardens ( along with everyone else living in Chester County, surrounding states and varies foreign countries…) and see if snowdrops are blooming there. Of course I got lured into the Orchid Extravaganza Show, on display until March 25.

Spectacular as usual. If you need an infusion of color, orchids won’t let you down. I’ve read that orchids display the most diversity of blooms of any species (that might not be the right botanical term.)

That’s a quilt composition right there. I love those stripes.

I’ve made quilts with orchids as the subject before. I wish they had some Ghost Orchids to see at Longwood.

This huge arch of orchids is beautiful. I’m seeing lots of yellow at the gardens this year.

I walked all over the meadow and through Pierce’s Woods and finely spotted a few blooming snowdrops. Our short sleeve days come to an abrupt end with a cold front moving in. I hope these tiny flowers are hardy enough to survive for a few days so I can revisit them. I think I might be back in the studio making more snowdrops.

Karma Quilting

Last week was a busy week. There were roses and chocolates, a fun Calico Cutters Guild meting to attend. And I hosted “The Sometimes We Do” Quilt Bee. I made a carrot cake that was devoured too quickly to photograph on the cake stand.

When I woke up on Saturday, the sunrise turned everything pink and orange. We got 3 or 4 inches of snow during the night but by the time I snapped this photo, melting was progressing nicely.

I spotted tiny flowers blooming at Longwood! I know winter may not have had its last hurrah but this week promises temperatures in the 70’s. That’s crazy!

I started this quilt with the firm intention of donating it to the Calico Cutters Quilt Show “Small Quilt Auction.” The quilts must be 16 by 24 inches and that is a perfect size for my Quilting in Layers technique. But when the quilt was finished, I really liked it and didn’t want to let it go!

So I made another quilt, thinking I’d keep the first, donate the second. But then I liked the second quilt too! Clearly, I’m not cut out to be a surrogate quilt mother. So while my Bee friends were here, I had them vote on which quilt should go to the guild auction.

I’m so hoping that someone from the Guild wins the quilt with the snowdrops!

Here’s the thing about Karma. If you put it out there, it comes back to you. I’m having so much fun with this crazy scrappy Quilting in Layers technique! If it worked good on a 16 by 24 inch piece of batting, what about my little 4 inch squares? Oh heck yeah!

Don’t Touch!

My Quilt Guild, Calico Cutters, is having a Quilt Show in May. So the Challenge this year was to make small quilted signs to hang near the displayed quilts, reminding viewers that touching the quilts is not allowed. We were encouraged to be really creative and prizes would be awarded by popular vote.

I had a leftover Jack-in-the-Pulpit so I thought it would work with the Leave No Trace ethic encouraged when camping and hiking. I’m not really sure the sentiment will be understood but I certainly want no trace of sticky hands on my quilt.

I printed out several sizes of type and cut bits of fabric to plan the layout.

I traced the letters onto freezer paper and ironed the templates onto fabric pieces that I backed with Wonder Under fusible web.

The words are fused down and I zigzag stitched the panel onto the composition.

I wrote out Leave No Trace on Golden Threads paper and stitched over the letters.

I always like a striped binding.

It was so fun to see the little signs displayed at Guild!

We could only vote for one.

That little one on the bottom is a dire warning! Touch a quilt and you might be removed from the show in handcuffs!

I loved “Keep Your Paws Off!”

I was pleased with how mine looked and it was fun to make. I can’t remember the order, but the makers of the lovely flowered embroidery, the pin cactus “We Get Prickly” and the three bras, all went home with Quilt Shop Gift Certificates. Well done! We had to guess who made each sign, I wish they had read the members names. But it will be fun to find out at the quilt show– not touching, of course.

More Jacks

I’m knee deep in Jack-in-the-Pulpits in my studio. I must have taken hundreds of photos of them over the years. Certainly none are blooming now in dreary, frozen Pennsylvania. I love them because they are some of the first wild flowers to bloom. I’ve been hiking in early spring when the woods are still brown and the trees branches bare. When I come to a shallow stream flowing down the side of a mountain, I often stop for a moment, especially if I’m alone. You can see wonderful things if you remain still and quiet. Once a saw a fisher cat, kind of like a martin, come to the water for a drink! Often I’ve stoped to admire green shoots in wet drainages, thinking it’s skunk cabbage, when suddenly I realize, they’re all jack-in-the-Pulpits!

This is my basket of Ridiculously Small scraps. I can’t throw away tiny bits of my favorite hand-dyed fabrics.

I cut a piece of batting to the size I want for my quilt and iron Wonder Under fusible to one side.

I lay down the scraps, raw edges overlapping slightly, covering the batting.

When I’m pleased with the fabric selections and the batting is all covered, I iron everything to fuse all the bits and pieces.

I stitch with many different threads, some glittery copper metallic, variegated cotton with pops of purple and bright green, and shiny brown rayon. I like the uneven edges so I clipped the threads, leaving tails, to add to the rough look. This really is a fun, freeing technique.

Just a few snips left from the scraps I used. I can actually put these in the trash!

I have created an interesting “forest floor” canvas. Time to build the flowers and leaves on the Teflon sheet. I don’t have a composition drawn out, the plan is to make some Jacks, make a bunch of leaves and then position them on the background.

I’m pretty happy with this layout but I’m going to wait until tomorrow to iron it down so I can look at it with fresh eyes. I can’t wait to start stitching on the flowers.

All a Memory

I miss my morning walk. Gary and I were in Playa Del Carmen for two weeks.

Note the long sleeves, it was a little chilly at 7 in the morning when we would walk on the beach to Sr. Frogs and back. But the water temperature was a balmy 85 so a few clouds didn’t cramp our style at all.

Paddling up the rivers to the cenotes is my favorite thing. The water is so absolutely clear.

Reading by the pool is the best. I read 6 books in that lounge chair– not admitting to the number of cold beverages consumed. The best book by far was “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingsolver. I think I have read every novel by this author but this book isn’t fiction. It’s a very thought provoking report on the Kingsolver family’s attempt to eat only locally grown food for an entire year.

I would have no problem eating this same, locally grown in Mexico, lunch, every single day.

The paella with fresh caught sea food was amazing too.

So we are back home now with memories of a relaxing vacation in the sun. I’m trying to keep warm with a fire in the fireplace and baking bread– locally sourced thyme from my window sill. I’m looking forward to quilting every day in February.

Maybe Spring will be early this year.

Debut Day

Yea! I did get pictures from the photo shoot. Reporting for the Hair and Makeup (and Fur?) session.

Work it, girl! Don’t let that scene steeler upstage you.

Exactly. Only one Super Model needed on this page. Kira thinks the photos will be used in advertising for TJ Maxx around Valentine’s Day and Bella may make her debut on the website banners and flyers. You know I’ll be checking it out frequently.

Green, Just Green

How about that cute studio assistant! Bella has been staying with me while Kira was vacationing in Spain and Morocco. My grand-dog had to return home to Manhattan because she’s a working girl now. Bella is making her modeling debut with Kira today. I hope I get photos! It was so much fun having her here. She and I watched all the figure skating on television together, Ladies, Men’s, Pairs, Ice Dance. Not once did she beg for football or try to switch to the Golf channel. Best binge buddy ever!

These past frigid days have kept me inside. I did have some downtime between ice skating competitions, tho. I got all the blocks together on my latest Bonnie Hunter scrap quilt. It’s so interesting how quilters choose color and fabrics. My friend Kelly, over at Pinkadot Quilts is making snow ball quilt blocks and her sewing room is a riot of colors. Mine is green, just green.

Ok– and some brown but definitely Spring is on my mind — as I look out the window at blowing snow. I need to make some framed pieces for an upcoming art show and I’ve wanted to do Jack-in-the-Pulpits for a while.

I just layer up a bunch of scraps on top of a piece of batting and then stitch to secure everything. I’ve left the edges raw because I want a rough, forest floor look.

I apply Wonder Under fusible web to my fabrics and make templates on freezer paper from my line drawing of the flower.

I fuse all the flower pieces on a Teflon sheet, then peel it up as a whole so I can position it on the background.

I had planned to add the stripes and details with stitching but I was afraid it wouldn’t show up well so I free cut some slivers of fabric. I thought about using paint or markers instead, but chickened out. I had already fused the flower down and didn’t want to ruin it with experimenting. I think the details and stitching bring the Jacks to life. All I need to do is glue it down to the cradled wood frame and add hanging wire.

I just don’t want to stop making Jacks. One thing led to another and some blue-purple started to infiltrate. I wonder why?

The colors just look so pretty together. Some Snow Drops would really add to a composition of Jack-in-the-Pulpits.

I’m off to the races with Jacks! I enjoyed making this small quilt, now I’m thinking of going Full On Spring. I could mix in some Trilliums– you saw that coming, right? And what about Lady Slippers!

Here’s a close up of the stitching. I think I like the quilted line better than the slivers of fabric on the framed Jacks. And it’s much faster. I could easily keep making wild flowers in fabric until the real ones bloom. A long darn time from now.

Surprise Quilt

I made this paper pieced wall hanging for my son, Tyler, years ago. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have it anymore. When we were out in Denver visiting, he mentioned that he really missed the quilt. Hey, I know how to fix that. Wait… no way am I remaking that quilt again. Paper piecing and I don’t get along all that well.

Bang! Inspiration! When I saw this book at the library I knew the quilt on the cover would be perfect for Tyler.

I drove to The Old Country Store in Lancaster and stacked up bolts. I was looking for a good color selection of not quite solid fabrics and the Moda Grunge collection was exactly what I wanted.

It’s so nice to follow a pattern. All the math in the yardage requirements has been worked out. I took my fabric home, tossed it in the washer– yep, even the white with all the colors. I decided to be brave because this is a bed quilt and I expect it to be used and washed. Gosh, Moda fabric is the best. Not a bit of color bleed, hardly any raveling and the fabric came from the dryer barely needing to be ironed. Worth every penny for quality fabric.

The design is made from squares and half square triangles. A LOT of hst’s. A LOT. I’ve never used this method of making 4 hst’s at once before so I thought I’d give it a go.

Layer up two colors of fabric squares, sew a quarter inch all around the edges then cut diagonally,

With this method, you trim the triangles down to size. I used a piece of quarter inch masking tape on the ruler to line up the seam allowance.

I nipped the “dog ears” with my rotary cutter by eye.

Pretty nice, accurate triangles. But here is where things can go wrong– pressing the seam allowance to one side. As a Longarm quilter, I have appreciation for pressing to one side to create the “ditch” to stitch a quilt line. But for me, it’s easier to keep my triangles square and to match points when sewing if I press seams open.

I lay out the triangles on my Strip Stick and the square stays nice and straight. I have the short and long Strip Sticks and I use them both all the time.

Did I mention LOTS of triangles. LOTS.

No problem matching a billion points with seams open.

I got one “block” sewn together and up on the design wall to admire. You’ve got to be kidding me– I was so careful to keep the order straight. I just could not quit for the night and have a glass of wine, leaving that mistake for morning.

Oh no, I picked out that rogue square THREE TIMES. And re-sewed it back in, exactly wrong, THREE TIMES. Gary was hearing some words coming from the sewing room and had the wine bottle opened by the time I finely got it right.

I was determined not to make that mistake again and laid out the blocks on the floor.

I didn’t have too much time to ponder the quilting design. The quilt in the book was outline quilted, very minimally. Didn’t care for that. I found this photo on Pinterest with a swirly quilting design. I didn’t feel that was in keeping with the pieced top.

I decided to go with sorta straight lines, horizontally quilted across, which was fast and easy.

I didn’t even have time to make a label, just wrote directly on the quilt back. I boxed it up and sent it off to Colorado– not quite in time for Christmas but that didn’t seem to bother Tyler. He loves his new quilt.

I Have a Plan

Gary and I decided to take a walk.

It was 18 degrees.

The Brandywine River was frozen.

So was I.

The End.

Ok… not the end…today we have a snowing blizzard white-out, Nor’easter. Gary got outa town, business trip to India, where it is 80 degrees. I’m home waiting for the howling winds to ramp up. I better not lose power in this storm because I have a plan.

Sew and quilt and long for Spring.

Read. I have 4 library books stacked up.

Finish knitting socks for my granddaughter.

Binge watch Big Little Lies. I have popcorn, chocolate, Oreos.

So that’s pretty much the plan. Oh, and catch up on writing Blog posts. Lots of Blog posts. I’m so behind. Maybe all these diversions will take my mind off wondering why I’m not in Florida.

A Splash of Christmas

For the last several years, Gary and I have decamped to Hilton Head over the Christmas holidays. This year we decided to stay home and we invited lots of friends for dinner parties and get togethers. Oh crap! I have to decorate.

The front door seriously needs a bower of fresh greens draped above the lintel and cascading down. Twinkling white lights would be a lovely touch as well. Not gonna happen, tho. I’m pretty sure I don’t even own any kind of Christmas lights. Last year, in a frenzy of decluttering, I attacked the Christmas stuff and got rid of– maybe everything. Gulp.

Thank goodness for lots of red roses and the Quilt Bee gift exchanges. I love being reminded of my friends when I use the gifts I’ve received over the years. Susie made this table runner.

This year I received a table topper made by Joan. I love the shape and I can use it year round. Thank you, Joan!

I created a low table scape with my nativity set brought back from Mexico. I need lots of room for appetizers.

It’s cold enough for a welcoming fire. St. Nick looks on, reminding me that we live in Wyeth country. I haven’t been to the Brandywine River Museum at Christmas for years. Time for a return visit.

I’ve been happily cooking for three days but doing the flower arrangements brings me to my knees. I always leave it to the last minute then it’s a crazy scramble to find the right vases. I never have enough greens and I grab a scissors– where is the real clipper? Who knows? I’m a mad woman chopping off whatever I can get in the backyard. Lucky for me, it was a good year for holly berries.

The red bear paw quilt can stay up through Valentines Day, woo hoo! I love this quilt. I made the blocks with red fabric donations from friends almost 30 years ago, and it’s all hand quilted.

Michele made this perfect fit table runner. I can’t remember when I started this little wall hanging quilt. I got the top finished then put it in the que to be quilted, maybe 10 years ago. Why didn’t I just finish it? I don’t know, but this is why you gotta love UFO’s. I hauled it out, machine quilted, sewed on the binding, –boom done! Got another Christmas decoration!

The house smells delicious, the table is set, the fireplace is glowing, there are splashes of Christmas in the house. Pop that champagne cork and bring on the friends!

The Child Finder

I think the adjective “really” is so over-used. I try to avoid using it. But I have to say, “The Child Finder” by Rene Denfeld is a really– no, make that– really, really good book.

So I’ve been thinking, what makes a book really good?

1. The first page of the story holds you like a vice grip.

2. Everything gets put on hold, customer quilts needing long-arm quilting, Christmas gift sewing, books you are supposed to be reading for discussion, blogging– (I know, I know…) Everything.

3. No actual meals get prepared because breakfast, lunch and dinner get devoured straight from the bag, wood-chipper style. Cookies, potato chips, whatever.

4. You don’t leave the house at all because you, Can’t. Put. The. Book. Down.

5. Husband. What husband?

6. The last few pages are super hard to read because the tears in your eyes make it hard to see the words.

7. When you finely close the book, you sit in awe for a nano second. Then grab the iPad and relief is palpable when Google reveals other books written by the author.

8. Write an entire blog post about the book. Yeah, it was that good.

Years End

I had such a fun time last week in Fayetteville, New York with the Towpath Quilters. Not enough time! I have given up on trying to take photos during a workshop because it’s too busy and intense. Ok, I mostly just get involved and forget. I want to return someday and ride my bike on the Erie Canal Towpath Trail and be able to explore the area.

Aha…my final lecture and workshop for this year. I just dumped everything in my studio. I’ll organize the stuff and put it away later. I’m so anxious to get sewing on a few quilts I’ve had planned.

Auditioning some silk center squares to add to these blocks. I feel like more flower appliqué is needed.

I’m enjoying lazing about! Cleaning up my sewing room. Starting some new quilts. Reading books. The cleaning and sewing (and cooking and everything else) were on hold while I finished Tana French’s latest novel. I’ve read all the books written by this author and if you like suspenseful detective stories, I highly recommend Tana French. There is new Irish slang vocabulary to learn because the author is Irish and the setting is always Ireland. I love that the cast of characters is familiar throughout the books, but the lead detective changes. I wish they would make a Netflix series with the stories. I’d be binge watching!

Fan Student

Calico Cutters Quilt Guild had a terrific speaker this week. Melissa Sobotka is an award winning quilt maker. She won Best of Show a few years ago in Houston for her quilt, “Chihuly’s Gondola.” The quilt was constructed with a raw edge appliqué technique and viewers had a hard time believing it wasn’t a photograph printed on fabric. 

The slide show was interesting but I was disappointed not to see a single actual quilt. Melissa has sold her quilts and several are in museums and she didn’t have any to bring to the presentation. Wow.

Lucky for me, I saw this amazing quilt, “Silk Road,” at the Lancaster AQS Show in March. I had to get my face just a few inches from the quilt to see the bitty, tiny, fused fabrics and quilting stitches. Seriously? This is not a photograph?

As incredible as those two quilts are, this one of spindles on a warehouse wall, is my favorite. Seeing the depth and coloration of the images in raw edge fabric blew me away and I needed to know, HOW DOES SHE DO THAT?

When I found out that Melissa was coming to our guild to do a workshop I was the first to sign up. I convinced my friend Karen to come too. 

We didn’t have to lug sewing machines to learn Picture Perfect Appliqué. And we didn’t even have to gather materials because Melissa provides a nicely packaged kit. 

We worked from a photograph of a colorful frog. 

We practiced cutting pre-fused fabric shapes and then using a variety of paints and inks to blur and blend the line where the fabrics meet. On the left, I used a pink Derwent Inktense block with a paintbrush on my fabric. Karen brushed Tsukineko ink in white on her shapes. Humm. This technique could take a lot of practice. Controlling the “bleeding” of the paint into the fabric requires a dry brush and experimentation. 

I’ve done quite a bit of raw edge fused appliqué but it’s interesting too see differences in another quilters’s technique. The painting on fabric was new to me and I might like to try this on my quilts. 

We didn’t have time to complete our project in class but got enough of the frog together to understand the process. I applied ink to the frogs eyes and dabbed on white dots to alter the flat green fabric. It made the frog much more dimensional. Ribbit!

I enjoyed the class and being a student for a change. Tomorrow I’m off to New York to lecture and teach my Quilting in Layers Workshop to Towpath Quilt Guild. Learn and teach, it’s all good!