Ghosts of Quilting Past

Oh my my my. I showed the fire quilt to MLG (master landscape guy) and that gave him the idea that he could buy a baby quilt for his new grand baby from me. I have lots of unfinished quilt tops, and was pretty sure one or two might work for babies, so I said I’d look around and show him what I had available the following week. I looked in my quilting closet and found a few, and then went out to the storage shed to look through the bins that were out there.

If ever I thought my art quilting had not improved over the years, I found proof in those boxes. In the “what was I thinking of” category, there were several almost completed “art quilts.” Distressing. Too bad to even share on this blog.

But the good news was, it also made me look at all of my many unfinished projects, and I found a fair amount of really nice, traditional type quilt tops.

I found a top that MLG liked for his grand baby, featuring plants and birds :)


And I found this little piece that was essentially completed. I was enamored of buttons at one point, and had quite a collection. And just playing with colors and wool and thread. Yesterday afternoon I quilted the straight lines  on the background, and then decided that I liked the backing fabric for a binding. I went to my chair to hand sew the binding on, and there was this hank of perle cotton on the arm of the chair. Hmmm. That would be a fun way to sew the binding down.

And ta! da! A little fun piece is finished.


Close ups:



You can see I sewed the wool squares on by hand and by machine. Also, notice how the wool squares are “wonky.” Wool tends to want to stretch out of shape while you’re sewing it. That’s okay with me, but I’m not sure what you would do if you didn’t want that to happen. Maybe use fusible?

Anyway, this look has given me a lot of quilting to think about and hopefully work on. Best stop writing and get to work!

The Fire Quilt

Our community is still reeling from the aftermaths of the Butte Fire. The final report was just released last night–the fire is 100% contained. The fire started on Wednesday, September 9, and I evacuated the following day. I came home tentatively on Saturday, the 12th, and the following morning, I somewhat reluctantly made my way to church, which was still close enough to the fire that it was smoky in the building. Our church was filled, and several families were there whose houses had burned to the ground! It was such a moving service of worship and sharing. I had an idea for a quilt and drew a little sketch in my journal.

In the next couple of days, I started working on my idea. I had the thought that I would finish it in a week and share it at church the next Sunday. Hahaha. Anyway, I got out all my landscape fabrics (I didn’t have nearly as many as I have had in the past,) and my fire fabrics (surprisingly, I had quite a few fabrics that were fire-like, since red is not one of my favorite colors.)

And then I sat and stared at the pile of fabrics for a day. I don’t know how to do this. So the next morning, I just took the fabrics and placed them on the design wall in the approximate area I thought each should be. And that’s when I had the beginning of an idea. Instead of making it a realistic landscape, I would just make a representational simple patchwork of the colors and fabrics I had chosen. A start!

I think it was googling “fire images” that gave me the next idea. I knew I wanted to include pine and oak trees, but in the fire pictures, many of them were just in outline. That’s what I would do–I would make silhouettes of the trees. Again the thought, I don’t know how to do this. But I googled “oak tree drawing,” and sure enough, there was the inspiration I needed. I was able to draw a rough outline of an oak tree pretty easily. The pine tree was even easier. So there it was.

It took a whole day to zig zag the trees in place, because I don’t like using fusible. But, these were huge pieces, and I had the idea to just use little pieces of fusible to make sure they stayed in place. I found my package of Soft Fuse, recommended by Sue Nickels, and it worked fantastic. In fact, I liked it so well, I might use it a little more in the future.


I took a picture, and sent it to BF, and that made me think it looked a little empty. So the next morning, I got out a few more “fire fabrics,” and added some flames.


Now this is the part that I was very sure of. I planned to have the doxology written in large block letters across the middle of the quilt. I thought about making block letters with black fabric and fusible web. But that will take so long, I told myself. I’ll just embroider them. Hahahaha. Two weeks later, the lettering was finished :)

Two days of quilting, and an afternoon of adding a facing, and the quilt is finished. Its always so fun to finish a project and really like what you have done. Its the reward at the end of a long, sometimes boring, sometimes worrisome journey. I’m excited to share it with my church this Sunday.

Here’s some close-ups of the quilting:




And here’s the finished quilt:


Quilting Fast and Slow

Well, I had ANOTHER little interruption to my normal schedule. I had volunteered to donate a quilt to Noah’s trainer for her organization’s annual fundraiser. She takes in dogs that are essentially hopeless, and turns them into good citizens so that they can be adopted! Anyway, I knew about this way ahead of time, but did I do anything? Noooo…. The event was on Sunday, and Saturday afternoon I was looking for something to donate. I found a top I had actually made into a sandwich, and thought, how fast can I quilt this? It was a challenge! I decided to try my walking foot one more time. I don’t like it very much, but I was hoping it would save me a bit of shoulder hunching so that I would be able to quilt for a longer period of time. I planned to do straight line quilting, varying the distance from 1 1/2 to 4″ apart. Nothing fancy, but it would make a sturdy quilt. I quilted steadily until about 7pm. Got up the next morning, and quilted the rest of it, and then put the binding on. Threw it in the washer and dryer, and left just in time to get to the event at 3pm! ….only to find that it was cancelled due to the aftermath of the fire… well, at least now I know how fast I can quilt.

This was the quilt I did with the leftover squares from my color experiment a while ago:


For the back I used the very last of the leftover squares!


And then it was back to work on my fire inspiration quilt. And there we have an example of some very slow quilting. The lettering I chose to be large, and I needed to do a double line of stitching with #5 perle cotton on each letter. I felt like I was moving in slow motion.


Finally, the day came when the lettering was done, and I could move on to the quilting. That I could do in a day, I was pretty sure. Wrong… to start with, I chose a thread that I really liked, but it was #12 thread. I put a metallic needle on the machine (larger eye for the  larger thread,) and started in. You just have to work slow with the large thread.


After doing the one tree with this thread, I decided that was enough of that. I chose different threads and went back to work. Ahhh, that was much better.


Still, I had to work fairly slowly, as it was fussy quilting, working around the lettering.


Now, this morning, on my third day of quilting on this quilt, I can see the finish line. Hopefully, I will be able to share the finished quilt with you this weekend!


In case any of you reading this blog do not read my other blog or follow me on Facebook, my nice calm life was interrupted a week ago by the Butte Fire! It was fairly close to my home, but then the wind took it in a different direction. Me and the doggies evacuated for a few days. But now the fire is under control, and all is returning to normal, at least in my little life.

I don’t think I ever showed you the finished quilt P.I.N.K. I do love it, and will use it as my favorite lap quilt this winter.


I quilted each block a bit differently. That probably kept me going on it.


I love how a quilt crinkles after you wash it!


Last week, B.F. (before fire) I was determined to get back to my rug. I finished the hummingbird and these trumpet flowers. And that’s as far as I got. Hopefully, more rug hooking will be on slate for Monday.


To get back into the studio, I did a little fun, no-meaning playing around. These star blocks are all done with my box of little two inch squares. Very fun to first piece some four patches, and then to choose two more colors to make these stars. I actually like this method of making the star points (or flying goose blocks.) There is a seam in the middle, but it seems to be a very accurate way of making those   blocks. I just take the two inch squares, and draw a line right down the middle diagonal and then stitch on the line.




B.F. I had started hand stitching on this piece. There are 150 two inch squares, so lots of places to do a little doodling. This was the hand project that I grabbed to take with me when we evacuated.






Speaking of evacuating, I did not take much with me when I left. How do you decide what to take and what to leave? I did not take any of my finished quilts. I took my Singer Featherweight, and I took my rug hooking wool stripper tool, as it was near the back door, and I am quite fond of this tool :) I just took one handwork project, and one knitting project. Three changes of clothes (just right!) and the best thing I took was the doggie bed. It kept the girls calm in a new environment :)

In church last Sunday (in the midst of the Butte Fire) we had such a special service. There were several couples there that had lost their homes to the fire. I did have a little inspiration for a quilt about the fire, and I am working on that this week. I will share that with you next time.

In the meantime, be safe and be thankful!

Be Filled With Joy!

I finished this little green and pink piece, even though I had misgivings about my color choice after starting it. It is a lot of stitching for something that doesn’t really have that “pop.” But I enjoyed the stitching, and I think it represents the simple message “Be Filled with Joy!”


Some close-ups of the stitching. I still choose to stay with the simplest of stitches–straight stitches in different combinations (running, outline, satin, etc,) lazy daisy, and french knots. There are probably about 30 colors of “pinkish” threads in this piece, in perle cotton, sizes 3, 5, 8, and 12.





I decided to add leaves in the empty spaces.



My wish for you this Sunday morning, is that you would be Filled with Joy!


Is A Puzzlement

Anyone else out there a fan of old musicals? This is one of my favorite songs from “The King and I.” IS A PUZZLEMENT, the king says emphatically! Anyway, that’s what happens when you madly piece together blocks without measuring or using a straight edge. At some point, you’ve got to “pay the piper,” and figure out how to fit them together.

Remember? Here’s the start–just three simple blocks. Three different sizes, in my mind.


And here’s the finished collection of them. I pretty much liked the way I had put them up on the wall as I went along. I do think about where I’m placing them at the time. At this point, I had pretty much run out of the fabric, and I was thinking about what I wanted to use as a spacer/background fabric.


I agreed with Jenny. I didn’t actually want a background fabric. So I found a few more pieces of the Cherrywood, and just used those as “spacers,” when the blocks just wouldn’t fit together. I also made a few smaller squares to fit into the small spaces.

Here I think you can see I am starting to put together chunks of blocks. This actually requires a LOT of thought, and my brain gets tired.


As I take pieces from the design wall to the sewing machine, here is my simple method to remember what I was doing. I put this big pearl head pin up in the corner where the block came from. And I put the smaller pin in the upper right hand corner of the block I am working on, no matter how big or small it is. That way I remember which way it goes when I get back to the design wall.


And here is the finished top, “His Kingdom Will Never End.” I am very pleased with it. One of the things I was trying to avoid was long straight seam lines. But at some point, there is no way to avoid that, unless you are willing to do a lot of “Y” seams. I was not willing to do that.


But I stubbornly wanted this red (and brown square) in the center of the quilt. This is the only place I did (machine stitched) Y seams. I am pretty proud of how well that came out!


And thus ends another quilt puzzlement. Now it will wait while I think about how I want to quilt it. By machine, no double, because I tend not to want to work by hand on a piece with so many seams. Now its time to clean up the studio, and think about my next project!

This Week’s Work

I finished the stitching on this piece, inspired by the verse “every good thing given comes down to us from God our Father who created all the lights in the heavens.” I truly enjoyed every stitch.


And in between, I continued to work on machine quilting P.I.N.K. I decided I could do each block differently. It keeps it from being boring. Only 6 more blocks to go!



Most of my time was spent making all of these blocks. I used up just about all of my Cherrywood fabrics, so that is as big as I can make it. I picked out a background color, and I am now just thinking about how I want to put all these different sized blocks together, and how much or how little background I want to have showing.


And I just finished putting a sleeve on the back of this quilt. I got a call last week from a lady who had seen my exhibit at the Oak Hills Church. She was interested in having me make a quilt for them to use when they have a worship service at the nursing home they visit each Sunday. I offered to let her borrow a quilt indefinitely, and they chose this one. I am always happy to share my quilts and have them seen by others. If your group or church is interested in displaying some of my quilts, please contact me.


Several other projects are just waiting their turn, so I am sure next week will be another busy one in the studio. Just the way I like it!

Inspiration Everywhere

Recently some men from my church came back from a visit to Papua, New Guinea. The area they visit is quite primitive, and the people are extremely poor. And yet. They can create these beautiful geometric designs on their handmade barkcloth. I am always inspired by people who can create beauty with just what little they have. That is why I love kantha stitching and the Gees Bend quilters.



Of course, I am always inspired by gardens. Recently I made this bouquet, and posted it on my other blog. Someone remarked that it was an inspiration for a new quilt. I love the quiet colors in it. But notice the unexpected colors. That coral-apricot color may be the unexpected spark that a quilt needs. Or maybe its that blue in the quilt below. I’m pretty sure its NOT the red in the quilt :)


This past weekend I took a quick trip to the Bay Area. The regional SAQA meeting was held at the house of Judith Content, and the topic was “What Inspires You?” Well, many times what inspires me is hearing about what inspires other artists. Judith has been a textile artist for many years, and her house was certainly an inspiration to me.


It seemed that every wall was a different color and texture! So fun.


Even her garden was artful. Imagine having that lovely huge lemon tree!


Oh, I especially LOVED these colorful decorated spools. Don’t you just want to make one right now?!


Back in my hotel room, I had time to work on a new idea project, inspired by my Sunday morning journal doodling. I had drawn these three simple “cross” shapes. I am making them without ruler or measuring. What I noticed here, though, was that I liked the pale gold floor as a background, and also as a resting place for all that patterning. I think I will keep that in mind when I start trying to put all these different sized squares together. BTW, I’m using my packets of Cherrywood fabrics for these. I love their colors (not any that I would come up with on my own,) and the texture of their fabric.


The next day I took my mom to a new-to-us nursery, Annie’s Annuals and Perennials. Oh. My. Goodness. Color and inspiration everywhere. I wrote more about it on my other blog.


Look around. There is inspiration everywhere. You just have to be looking for it.


Thanks to BF, this quilt will forever be named P.I.N.K.

After sewing this top together, I spent almost a week pondering various ways of enlarging it via more sashing/various borders. Also in the pondering were my thoughts (negative) on sewing together large expanses of fabric, and my thoughts (negative) on quilting large quilt tops vs. my need for a larger quilt if I wanted it as a bed quilt. In the end, I decided I liked this quilt just as it was, and that I did not actually need another bed quilt right now. I love this quilt, and I know it will be my favorite large lap quilt to snuggle under this winter (if I ever get that cold again.)


Can you see the square with the pale blue background, and the lady walking a dachshund and a Standard Poodle? That was one of my scrub tops. I loved it because at the time, those were the two breeds of dogs that I owned!


I wanted to make it into a sandwich right away. I had a piece of extra wide muslin that would be just right. However, after laying it out, it just looked like a huge white sheet (it was bleached muslin.) Too new for this somewhat old fashioned looking quilt. I found another piece of muslin that was “tea stained.” JUST RIGHT. I measured it, and had three yards. I spent all night trying to figure out how three yards could be reconfigured to use for the backing. It was just not enough, no matter which way I turned it. The next morning, BEFORE I went to church, I hit up Joann’s, where they just happened to be having a big sale on muslin, and bought two yards of the same tea stained muslin, and was SO PLEASED with myself. Got home to find that the original piece was five yards?! What the what?? Oh well… NOW I have three yards of the stuff for the next project…

Made my sandwich, and yesterday I wanted to start quilting it. But first I had to play around with what thread to use. It just so happened that I had a bit of batting and muslin in the circular file :), and a LOT of leftover squares and half square triangles from the quilt. I tried out different weights and colors of thread. In the end, I liked my first choice, which says its color is “natural.” But it is a glazed cotton, and I don’t think that that will be very pleasant to sew with. I don’t like the tension/unevenness of the stitches. So I went with the second best, and quilted one square. This morning, I think I am going back to Joann’s or Walmart, or the Sewing Cottage to try to find “natural” in a 40 weight cotton thread.

Trying out threads:




You all know about my zig zag love, right? Actually, I find my love of the zig zag stitch somewhat puzzling. To me it is a little like garter stitch in knitting. Both stitches seemed somewhat utilitarian and common to me, nothing that a “real” artist would use. Now both stitches are one of my favorites. I like the idea of taking what is common and easily accessible and making something beautiful out of it. Plus, you know. Zig zag just makes a lot of things easier :)

So one day last week I was looking through some quilting blogs, and someone somewhere mentioned this artist that “makes something out of nothing,” using paper and extensive zig zag stitching!

In re-reading this article, I noticed this quote by the artist, Donna Rhae Marder. I find it comforting that others feel the same way I do about some aspects of creating art.

Marder comments, however, that, “tediousness becomes the most challenging aspect of my work.  Sometimes I spread the work of a piece over years so I can stand it.  I also listen to a lot of music and many books on CD.  I periodically think about getting someone else to do the repetitive part of my work and then I stumble over something while working that I can use to make the piece more interesting…”

Donna’s work just lit up my mind. I wasn’t interested in working with paper. But fabric? This was a new way of using the zig zag than I have done previously. The next morning I headed into the studio to experiment.

It just so happens I have a “few” fabric scraps pre-cut into two inch squares. These would be just perfect, I decided. I wanted to work small.

Here’s what I came up with.



It was very fun sewing the pieces together with the zig zag stitch. Its not quick. But in my mind, there are so many possibilities for this. I am looking forward to exploring this technique more in the future.

P.S. This mornings explorations: