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Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year, New Direction

Since 1999 I've been making quilts for competition. The majority of these quilts are quite large, for example 64"x77", 46"x62", 53"x65". The story is the same on every quilt: enjoy the design and assembly phases, dread the quilting phase. Free motion quilting is not my strength and the challenge is magnified when working on a big quilt. Currently I'm quilting a 66" square piece and it feels like wrestling a walrus. This time the frustration factor is so intense that I'm losing the joy of the quilt. This is unacceptable.

So I am slightly changing my focus now to smaller quilts. Smaller quilt, easier to handle, hopefully a less frustrating free motion experience. Not that I may never make another biggie, but this is a deliberate change of direction to rejuvinate my quilting satisfaction. I've sketched my next competition piece and it will be about 28"x24".

This decision just happens to coincide with the start of a new year. Here's some food for thought as you contemplate 2011. From The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley.
Looking ahead we are often deceived into thinking that life is a series of unrelated decisions and somehow we will end up where we want to be simply by force of will or luck. But if you can see a path in the rearview mirror that reflects where you've been and explains where you are, then there must be a path ahead of you as well. A path that, like all paths, has a specific and oftentimes predictable destination. And that bring us . . . to the principle of the path. Direction--not intention--determines our destination. Simply put, you and I will win or lose in life by the paths we choose. Direction determines destination. Every time. You don't have problems to fix; you have directions that need to change. The road I'm on always determines where I end up.
Wishing you a happy and healthy new year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Yellow Stuff

That little yellow button on my TV remote is labelled SKIP FWD

What an invention. It has spared me from many inane commercials. Taping a show and watching later saves time and aggravation. Not to mention the fact that I rarely sit and watch a program unless I am cutting, sewing or quilting my latest project.

Sometimes technology fools us into thinking we can SKIP FWD through the mundane things in life. Take quilting . . . changing thread on the machine, winding bobbins, unsewing mistakes, cleaning up the mess I make. Well, that wouldn't be reality. Here's a better way of looking at it:
Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous. --Bill Moyers
Keep quilting!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord . . . Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. --Luke 2

Wishing you a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Bob Eckstein is the author of The History of the Snowman. The earliest snowman illustration Eckstein found is in a religious manuscript, Book of Hours, written about 1380 and preserved at the Royal Library in The Hague, Netherlands.

Snow sculpting was popular entertainment during the Middle Ages and a way for artists to display their talents at winter festivals. Even Michelangelo sculpted snow figures in 1494 in Florence, Italy, and during an event that became known as “The Miracle of 1511” in Brussels, Belgium, artists and nonartists alike populated the city with 110 snow people in scenes with social and political meaning.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Shine On!

Here's a simple mini quilt (9" square) using glitzy Christmas ribbon and shiny fabrics from my scrap box. Made as a donation quilt for The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI), this piece recalls my husband's Aunt Jean.

For more info on AAQI, see

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Faith Rings

This is the third quilt in my Virtues series based on the verse: Three things last forever: faith, hope and love. Faith Rings is a Christmas quilt celebrating the birth of Christ.

A Christmas themed quilt doesn't have to scream traditional red and green. I started with these two Christmas fabrics featuring cranberry red and teal green.

The color scheme expanded to include various tans, pinks and some jewel tones to liven things up.

A marble floor laid in 1268 in front of the high altar at Westminster Abbey inspired the design. The actual floor is shown in this article I wrote for American Quilter (Summer 2006) featuring all three quilts in the series.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hope Flourishes

Hope Flourishes is one of a trio of quilts in my Virtues Series based on this verse: "Three things last forever: faith, hope and love."

This design is an adaptation of floor tiles by Minton, Hollins and Company circa 1865.

There's much more than a bit of yellow in this quilt. The use of cherry red adds some unexpected zip to the yellow/caramel/blue scheme. I like to take my color cues from some of the fabrics. Always audition your choices on the design wall.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Love Blossoms

The next three posts will focus on my Virtues Series. These quilts are based on the verse that says: "Three things last forever: faith, hope and love."

Love Blossoms was adapted from tiles produced by a 19th century French tile factory. Two fabrics were my starting point in selecting a color scheme.

From the caramel and lavendar in these fabrics, I branched out into orange and purple.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Yellow Stuff

My mom gave me this party book in 1962 when I was 8 years old. I loved to linger over the pictures and read the recipes. Not sure I actually made anything from it but the sketches and party plans captivated my interest.

What an unusual choice of yellow to illustrate this page on Christmas decorations. It got me curious as to whether I had any yellow Christmas decorations.

Today my husband and I decorated the Christmas tree and, sure enough, I have a couple yellow ornaments.

Tradition generally dictates our color choices for holidays, but why not break out of the box with an unconventional color?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


A couple years ago my husband and I were on a mission in rural China. This gracious hostess prepared a meal for us in her "kitchen" (a fire box under a large metal wok, a small work surface and one pipe for cold water in the corner of a tiny, one-room house.)

She served bread, honey, hard boiled eggs and hot green tea. We will never forget the generous gift of hospitality.

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving in the USA. Thanksgiving originated as a holiday to express thankfulness, gratitude, and appreciation to God for a bountiful harvest, family and friends.

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Yellow Stuff

How I love a sunny day. Unfortunately, it was overcast today!

The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It has a diameter about 109 times that of Earth, and accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. About three quarters of the Sun's mass consists of hydrogen, while the rest is mostly helium.

Light travels from the Sun to Earth in about 8 minutes and 19 seconds. The energy of this sunlight supports almost all life on Earth by photosynthesis, and drives Earth's climate and weather.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The World

See the November 3 post for a full size image of The World. Here's another detail shot.

I lucked out on the commercial fabric for the cat as it looks like fur. The body, head and each ear are single pieces so she took four pieces of judiciously cut fabric. The quilting lines accentuate the fabric. Nose and eye are drawn with Micron Pigma pen and colored with diluted Setacolor fabric paint.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Yellow Stuff

On a recent trip to a local family farm and apple orchard, I couldn't resist taking pictures of these bins of squash. Though considered a vegetable in cooking, botanically speaking, squash is a fruit.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The World

These zebras are drawn directly on the background fabric using a black Pigma Micron pen. The white stripes are made whiter with slightly thinned Jacquard Neopaque white paint.

Other items like the cactus and rocks are appliqued.

View the complete quilt on the November 3 post.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The World

This detail image of The World (see November 3 post) shows a portion of the western hemisphere.

The starting point on this quilt was to get one full-sized accurately drawn hemisphere of latitude and longitude lines. First, I downloaded and printed a double hemisphere map on 8.5 x 11 paper and made a transparency by running it through the copy machine on transparency film. Using painter's tape I attached drawing paper (larger than the finished size of the hemisphere) on the wall. Then I put the transparency on an overhead projector (blast from the past) and adjusted the image to the desired finished size of one hemisphere. Tracing the lines with pencil gave an approximate image. Now it was time to get out the compass and ruler for accuracy. Refining of the drawing is done on a horizontal work surface.

Latitude and longitude lines are spaced every ten degrees and are further divided into ten black/white sections marking off 180 degrees around the perimeter and across the equator. The celestial equator (the sun's path across the sky) is also marked with 180 degrees.

All final line markings are done on the paper pattern with an ultra fine point Sharpie. I taped a second large sheet of paper over the accurately drawn hemisphere and traced it to get a second hemisphere pattern. I sure wasn't going to draw that thing twice.

To get the continents, each hemisphere pattern was returned to the wall and the continents were sketched in pencil using the projected transparency. To further refine the placement the patterns were tweaked after removing from the wall. This took a lot of pencil and eraser.

When I was satisfied with all the markings they were permanently drawn on the paper pattern with an ultra fine point Sharpie.

To transfer the pattern markings to the fabric, I ironed freezer paper to the back of the fabric (for stability) and taped the paper pattern under this. Using a light box I traced the lines on fabric lightly in pencil and later with Pigma Micron pens.

The color for the continents and water is achieved with Inktense water soluble ink pencils. On the freezer backed fabric I shaded the colors with a dry pencil. Then I spritzed it with water, covered with a disposable press cloth and heat set with the iron on cotton setting. The press cloth absorbs some of the wet color so I recolored in some instances and repeated the process.

Just a word on the giraffe. Note the use of heavier/darker thread on the eyelashes and finer/lighter thread on the hairs of her chinny chin chin. Using appropriate thread lends to the realism.

Stay tuned for more posts on The World.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The World

The World is making its debut at International Quilt Festival, Houston, TX this week (Nov 4-7). It is 73" wide by 56" high. The genesis of the world is portrayed in the style of a double hemisphere map.

Inspiration for The World came from antique maps of the 17th and 18th centuries. Check out these intricate examples of the art and science of cartography. They just don't make 'em this way anymore!

Something rich and rare was lost in the "progress" of printing and mechanized map making. I don't want to go back to a more primitive way of life, but I do pine for the art and craftsmanship of yesteryear. The satisfaction of presenting the work of your hands as a gift to the world. A finely tailored garment, a meticulously carved chest of drawers, a hand bound leather book--items of everyday use, not considered the arts--but when executed with excellence and pride, truly a work of art.

Stay tuned for further posts on some of the details of creating The World.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Yellow Stuff

This rose grows in the gardens at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.

See what Annette Hendricks can do with velvet roses in her masterpiece, The Solace of Persephone. Here's a close up of part of the quilt.

The Solace of Persephone (detail) by Annette Hendricks
The Quilt Show posted three Smileboxes giving us a step-by-step peek into Annette's working process. Click on the link below to follow the development of The Solace of Persephone. Watch them in order: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. You will be amazed.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yellow Stuff

While a bit more gold than yellow, these products were worth their weight in gold to me (well, almost).

When our barely 9-year old kitchen faucet sprung an unfixable leak (shouldn't stuff last longer than that?) my husband and I went shopping for a new faucet. Found a nice one. Got to thinking, how is this perfectly polished new stainless steel addition going to look mounted on our 9-year old scratched up stainless steel sink? Not replacing the sink.

After googling some solutions that varied in price and effort, I opted for the mostly effort idea of Bar Keeper's Friend. Wow, was I impressed with the results. The majority of the scratches and stains are gone.

Directions: Take a damp sponge and lots of Bar Keeper's Friend and rub in the direction of the way the sink is polished. When one arm is about to fall off, change arms and rub some more. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Takes a lot of effort but well worth the end result. I topped it off with a final polish of Brasso.

The faucet directions started with this disclaimer: The hardest part of installing a new faucet is removing the old one. Believe it. My determined husband spent hours on this, folded up like a pretzel under the sink cupboard battling corroded, poorly designed fittings. In the end David and a drill won the day. So thanks, David, for giving up your Saturday afternoon in yet another home improvement project.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Yellow Stuff

The courage to imagine the otherwise is our greatest resource, adding color and suspense to all our life.--Daniel J. Boorstin
Speaking of color, using Prismacolor pencils lets you alter an existing fabric.

Especially helpful for shading like in the lamp base at the right of this image. Heat set with an iron.

Another option is Inktense pencils. Can be used wet or dry. Experiment first.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

French Village

This fabric is called Renoir's Village. I still have a couple yards of it for another project. But really, I just like to look at it and imagine walking a narrow cobblestone street in France and soaking up the view.

The fabric is used in this little quilt, French Village, made using Karen Eckmeier's Accidental Landscapes technique based on layering and topstitching the landscape. I cut out houses from Renoir's Village to tuck into the landscape.

Check out all of Karen's creations on her website, The Quilted Lizard:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Yellow Stuff

We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. . . There is nothing progressive about being pig headed and refusing to admit a mistake . . . Going back is the quickest way on.
--C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Crystal Fire

The backgound uses two colorways of the same fabric--one yellow, one orange. To set off the border I added a couple funky yarns in electric blue to contrast strongly against the orange. Complementary color schemes are my default choice. I go for a lot of shock value. Do not be afraid of color. Color is your friend.

Some hot-fix crystals add sparkle (they don't show well in this close up.)All the applique is fused with Wonder Under. The purple twisty things are woven over/under the blue rings. Easy to do with fusing as you can just snip and tuck.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Yellow Stuff

It's soon time for a new yellow pencil to highlight passages in my favorite book, the Bible. I've always considered these verses in Job 38 to be some of the greatest prose in literature:
Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind . . . Where were you when I established the earth? What supports its foundations? Or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together? Have you ever in your life commanded the morning or assigned the dawn its place? Have you traveled to the sources of the sea or walked in the depths of the oceans? Where is the road to the home of light? Do you know where darkness lives? Or have you seen the storehouses of hail? Who cuts a channel for the flooding rain or clears the way for lightning? Does the rain have a father? Who gave birth to the frost of heaven? Can you fasten the chains of the Pleiades or loosen the belt of Orion? Who put wisdom in the heart or gave the mind understanding? Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? Or who can tilt the water jars of heaven?