Short Sleeves

Gary and I have traded sand for snow. It's a beautiful day in South Florida. Kids have had fun making this sand castle on Lovers Key Beach.
It's my birthday so I've decided we need to do something we've never done before.
I've convinced Gary to rent a boat and take me for a cruise. Um…not that really huge yacht behind him. We're from the Prairie State! Better start with something smaller and waaaay less expensive.
After a serious tutorial on how it all works and boating etiquette — actually, the guy said, you can pretty much do whatever you want…
We got the hang of it! This is great!
So much wild life and bird life in the mangroves. I wish I could have gotten a video of the dolphins swimming beside us and flipping out of the water.


You can also motor beside the private homes on the water. I need to win the lottery…
Ending a perfect day with a “sundowner” of champaign on the beach.




A Different Art

My daughter Kira is a fashion model. It's not always a career of glamour and glitz. She has to be pretty adventurous. She once had to jump off a crane, into a swimming pool, wearing a voluminous ball gown. She also ran on a treadmill next to a tiny gold giraffe. Recently, she had paper dresses constructed on her body.
She took pictures of some of the process.
Here she is getting her body spray painted by the make up artist. The paper dress was taped on her body. She said it wasn't all that much fun to remove…
That is quite a dress! Not sure about the dark eye make-up… A counterpoint to the beauty of the woman in the gorgeous gown?
Photographers capturing the stylist's vision.
Would you believe this advertisement is all about the shoes?
Shoes in lots of colors. I wonder how that dress is holding up?
The shoe images were superimposed on the backdrop and Kira, wearing the white paper dresses.
Heck. I wish they would have left off the shoes. All I'm interested in seeing is Kira! And those cool paper dresses. I guess that's the “Mom” point of view.


Not Happening

I really wanted to include this new quilt in the upcoming Malvern Retreat House Art Show. The show isn't until February, but I needed to have my selections uploaded to the inventory list by today.
I don't feel confident that I can complete the quilt because I'll be in Florida for two weeks before the show opens. Deadlines sure come up too fast! I just need a few more days…but I guess that's not possible.


Trillium Glitch

I don't have all my blocks sewn together but I can start thinking about where I want to position my trillium flowers. The blooms and leaves are fairly large and I don't want to go to all the work of sewing a center square on the block if it's going to be hidden under flower appliqué. I want to audition some different greens for the leaves also.
While I'm cogitating about placement and leaf color, I can sew some of the lower block center squares. Aaarrrghh! My sewing machine has other ideas. I swear, my Bernina follows the stock market…up, down, up, down. Yesterday I flew through sewing squares. I have exactly the same set up today and for some inexplicable reason, my thread shreds and breaks every few inches. I am giving this machine a Time Out in a dark closet without a sip of oil. Actually, I suspect I have a warped bobbin case. I'll deal with you later, Missy.
My little sewing buddy Bella, has returned home. Kira came back from Rome and Venice and reclaimed her pet. It has been so cold that Bella hasn't wanted to go outside for her walk. I even caved to putting on her down jacket. She arrived with a truseau of several outfits but I refuse to go there…
Grand dog sitting has additional rewards! Treasures Kira brought us from Italy. I've got to get Gary salivating over recipes for Italian Night and see if I can interest him in cooking me something soon.
This Saturday two special people celebrate birthdays. My mother and my granddaughter, Avarie will be blowing out candles. I found this book for Avarie. OF COURSE! a 5 year old Princess can wear hiking boots and I sure hope she wants to. She's already gone for a short walk on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia and she can almost see McAfee Knob from her house.
I have to admit to a birthday soon, too. My mom sent me this book. I am so looking forward to reading and being immersed in a good story. Is there anything better than the gift of reading? Thanks Mom! And happy birthday to you!


Color Choices

Color is such a personal choice and many quilters lack confidence in this skill. Color is absolutely my favorite part of quilting. I've always loved color, being smitten by that first box of new, lucious Crayola crayons. When I teach a Quilting in Layers Workshop, I ask a student struggling with color, “How do you like color? Do you like, In Your Face Bold? or do you prefer more subtle, blending colors? Usually there is a preference and we can build on that.
Clearly, I am a “subtle” lover and I strive to make compositions with monochromatic or analogous color plans.
Joen Wolfrom is a color master and I think I have learned as much from her new book as I did from the first edition, many years ago. The examples of color ways illustrated in quilts are fantastic. Joen has a Craftsy class available also.
I got to meet Joen and talk with her in Houston last October. Don't our shirt colors look great together!
I am so honored to have my quilt “After the Ice Storm” on the “Blues” page. Joen uses the phrase “quiet elegance” to describe the quilt. I am trying to achieve the same mood in my quilt under construction. Walking in the woods in early spring, the colors of green and brown are soft and blending and the sky tones are tinged with turquoise. It's very conducive to slipping into a contemplative, reflective frame of mind. It's so special to catch sight of the first trilliums blooming, quietly elegant.
I have the most beautiful piece of silky, light pink fabric for the trilliums. I probably didn't buy enough… But that could be a good thing and force me to use different fabrics in the mix.
I love this “canvas.” I am keeping the size and block configuration the same in these quilts because I am working in a series and I want to learn as much as I can about the composition by limiting some of the design decisions.
I've been reading the blog of an award winning long arm quilter. Her quilting is amazing but I never like her color choices. Often the judges don't care for them either. She shares the comments from the show competitions and is very vocal and opinionated in stating how wrong it is to be judged on color. Really? My favorite ribbon ever won is “Best Use of Color!” This quilter believes quilts should be judged on construction and technique alone. I think it's nothing but sour grapes on her part. Color is the first thing I see, respond to, linger over and savor, and yes, I struggle with color, too.
I cannot even imagine taking the color out of quilt critique!


Color and Contrast

When I'm thinking about color in a quilt, I always sort through my fabrics and start making long lines of “color families” stretched out on the floor. In my head I know exactly what I want the quilt to look like and I get all excited and grab up one of the lines of fabric and start cutting blocks and quilting them in a frenzy and arranging them on my design wall. I'm usually pretty happy at this point.


Then wham. Moving to my next “color family” to add additional blocks, I realize, I have no contrast. None. The colors are different– I had planned to move into a more turquoise color way. But when I stand back three feet, everything reads the same. Yet again, I have fallen into my favorite pit– No Contrast. We quilters know, Color gets the glory, but Contrast does the work. And my composition will not work without contrast.
So to get out of this familiar trap, I Go Extreme. I find the very lightest fabrics I have, arranged on the top, and the darkest, planned for the bottom, regardless of color.
I have bins of green fabric. You'd think there would be lots of very light and very dark. Hah! I am so happy to select fabrics that live in the lovely middle ground of value. Someday I am going to take myself on a focused buying trip. I won't allow myself to buy anything but Very Light or Very Dark. Yeah…I never do well with self-imposed buying constraints.
At this point, the quilt starts to come together on the wall. I'm considering colors and design that have no part of the vision that was in my head. A wonderful quilter, I think it was Judi Warren Blaydon, said “Make visual decisions, visually. ” Such good advice. Along with, remember to buy light and dark fabric, not just middles.




I have been working on the center portion of the new quilt– yet to be named.
Some of the many threads I am using to quilt the blocks. The sparkly, metallic threads are no problem because I am not free motion quilting with the feed dogs down. Just straight stitching with my regular pressor foot.
The blocks look rough and scruffy while I'm quilting and piecing in the strips.
The iron works magic and trimming the blocks make them crisp.
I really love this block. I found a wonderful vender at the Houston Quilt Festival that over-dyes fabric. Hand dyed coloration with the botanical print will add interest.
I couldn't resist sewing the blocks together to see how they look. I want the background to look like a textured forest setting, with sticks and branches and the many greens and browns of early spring growth, as a backdrop for pink trillium flowers. Now here is the problem I always have. I like it just as it is! It is such a delimma for me to chose areas to cover up with the appliquéd flowers and leaves. I get carried away with those little quilted blocks! It's kind of the reverse of not being able to see the forest for the trees…or, …flowers.


New Year, New Work

I am really excited to be showing my quilt art at the Malvern Retreat House Art Show. This year there is a special focus on fiber art, with 15 artists invited to exhibit and sell their work, along with numerous artists in many different mediums.
So I have pulled out bins of fabric and started a new wall hanging. February is coming up soon! When I was juried into the show, the committee selected several quilts and I want this new quilt to fit into my series of wild flowers of the Appalachian Trail. It's important to me to show a cohesive body of work.
I decided after I completed Sweetwater Gap Bloodroot, that I needed to get some different colors in my quilts. Enough brown and green woodland with white flowers.
Well! Still a forest green and brown background but I'm planning on appliquéing pink trillium flowers. Change sometimes happens a step at a time!




Packing Away Christmas

I used to start to pack away all the Christmas decorations on New Year's Day. That was a long time ago when I decorated for Christmas. This year, I took down two Christmas mugs, and when I came back from Hilton Head, I put them away. Done! Yep, I'm the Grinch, so I had a great time making and quilting this Grinch quilt.
My two grandsons and daughter Caitlin received this quilt and the book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Caitlin's not grinchy about Christmas, and they don't really need a flannel quilt in Santa Monica, California. But among her many talents, Cait can make a perfect Grinch face!
I did lots of Christmas quilting for customers. I quilted this beautiful quilt for Andra to give to her daughter for Christmas.
Andra requested swag feathers in the piano key border and a not too dense overall design in the pieced body of the quilt. Allison likes paisley so that worked well, mixed with holly. I sent Andra a photo of the quilting plan for approval since she was in Florida. Gosh, iPhones and iPads make some things easy!
I think the quilt turned out really well.
Both Andra and Allison were pleased. And that makes me happy.
So now my longarm wrack is waiting for the next quilt, but the studio isn't empty. I have a friend quilting with me! While Kira is in Italy for a few weeks, my little grand dog, Bella, is visiting She has such good taste. She selected the bin with all my silks to curl up in.



Two Quilts in a Day

Did you start your sewing experience with a little chain stitch toy sewing machine? I had a little singer sewing machine that worked about as well as this plastic Hello Kitty toy I gave to Avarie. Which is to say– not all all, and frustrating to boot. This little machine has the needle inside a plastic tube so that little fingers can't get hurt. And to make it completely impossible for any fingers to thread, I guess. Aarrghh!
Hello Kitty abandoned and on to Plan B, using my real Bernina 215 travel machine. I really got hooked on sewing, sitting on my mother's lap, with her guiding the fabric under the needle, sewing a fairy dress. For our project, I pre cut 6 inch squares and Mackenzie is arranging her Dora blocks while Avarie sits on my lap. I have the machine pedal on a stool so she can reach it with her foot. This works!
Testing to see if it's big enough yet.
The girls call this block pattern “Hop Scotch.” Half a yard of each fabric yields 18 six inch squares. Just the right amount to make a small quilt. Three quarters of a yard for the backing, with the backing fabric brought around to the front and sewed down for binding. We tied the quilts at the block intersections with pearl cotton and Done!
They love their new quilts that they made “all by their self.” I had a fun day with my grand daughters. And I am so hoping they continue to love sewing and making things. Next time Avarie wants to make a fairy dress…oh boy…


A Break in the Clouds

Look at that! I see a band of blue sky on Christmas Day in Hilton Head, South Carolina. After 5 days of pouring rain, I'm wondering if it is an illusion. What we call on the Appalachian Trail–”a sucker hole.”
Gary and Tanner, didn't let the rain, and other water hazards, stop them. They managed to get most of a round in every day, even if they did come in dripping wet. Tanner said, “At least it's a warm rain.”
I waited until the clouds really cleared and the sun came out for a walk on the beach.
Love these little shore birds. It's amazing how close they let you get to them before they scurry into the water.
The message written in the sand in front of this “sand man” is Merry Christmas!


Present Opened

I absolutely love this fabric line by Moda, with a few matching extras thrown in. I thought it might be nice in my daughter's new home in East Hampton, New York.
Yea! She liked it! We're going to have a talk about getting into the Christmas presents early, though.



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.