Monday, January 30, 2012

Moving Out of My Comfort Zone...for a Good Cause!

"Hibiscus Illusion"
     I spent the weekend working on a piece for the Virginia Quilt Museum "Little Quilts, Big Talent" project that will be a major fundraiser over the course of this year.  Last year I donated a small quilt, that, to be quite honest, I didn't put much time into.  Needless to say, it also didn't generate much revenue for the Museum.  I decided that this year I want to put a quilt into the event that truly demonstrates both my devotion to the "art" of quilting, and that will reflect well on the Museum's high standards for both traditional and contemporary quilts.  
    Last October I read a wonderful article on free-motion quilting possibilities in Machine Quilting Unlimited.  (Starter Scrap Quilting:  Free Motion Quilting with a Boost by Jenny Bowker.)  This technique truly intriqued my "small machine quilter" enthusiasms.  It emphasizes working with small pieces, is intricate in nature, and utilizes some free-motion techniques that I have played with, but never found the right project for.  The process involves picking a fabric, cutting off some of the pattern, and "imagining" that pattern with free-motion quilting in the "margins" so to speak.
Hibiscus detail
     I have had a lot of fun playing with this; I picked a print I bought in Hawaii several years ago that featured the Hibiscus.  I made sure I "cut off" parts of the flowers and leaves, and then just played, "imagining" what the flower would look like if it was still intact.  I did the same with a free interpretation of a tiki leaf and a bird-of-paradise blossom.  Then I did an enormous amount of free-motion fill with white, juxtaposed against all the colors I bled out into the pale lavender margins.  I'm pretty happy with the result.  This whole process really liberated me on my Bernina.....even after I had to "unsew" for about two hours when I was unhappy with some of my stitching.

The entire exercise has reminded me that getting "out of the box" can be very liberating, rewarding, and even my husband (my best...and most critical....critic) thinks it's lovely.  I do know I just had fun....isn't that what this journey is all about?  It was also very satisfying because, once I picked my focus fabric (and not counting all my "unsewing"), I had a finished project in two days. 

Fill detail with some "imaginary" leaves
One reason I wanted to share this exercise is that I would like you think about donating a quilt for the "Little Quilts, Big Talent" project.  We are hoping to double, or even triple, the number of quilts that were submitted last year.  The Virginia Quilt Museum is an incredible treasure. Located in Harrisonburg, Virginia, it is the official Quilt Museum of the Commonwealth.  Like many art museums, and especially textile museums, it relies primarily on support by the public to maintain its collection of incredible Virginia quilts, and to mount the wonderful exhibits it displays during the year.

As a member of the Board of Directors, I DO have a vested interest in the success of the Museum....but as quilters, you should have one, too.  Museums like this preserve our heritage, and provide incredible opportunities for new artists as well.  It is becoming harder and harder to maintain a small museum in the face of many economic pressures.....the demise of the quilt museum in Lancaster, PA, is an example of what I'm talking about.
For more information, go to the Virginia Quilt Museum home page, click on "Silent Auctions" and download a submission form.  You do not need to be a member of the museum to participate.  You don't have to be a Virginia quilter.  This initiative will be running all year; there are going to be three separate deadlines for quilts, so there is no excuse.....if you don't have something done now, well, you've got plenty of time to create.  The first submission deadline is March the donation form for details.  If you have any questions, contact me at  I'll be happy to give you more information.  Meanwhile, just enjoy my own enthusiasm as I share my "Little Quilt"....whether it's Big Talent or not, it's mine, and I'm proud of it.

Have a great week.



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Friday, January 27, 2012

Gulf Stream Waters and Summer Breezes!

"Gulf Stream" Quilt Top
New Batik I bought yesterday.....Yummy!
There's nothing like a trip to Florida to inspire new quilting ideas.  Before I left I created my Gulf Stream quilt.  I felt like it still needed something, but wasn't sure exactly what.  Then yesterday, Guy and I finally arrived at Mary Jo's Cloth Store in Gastonia, NC.  If you've been there, you know what an overwhelming experience it is.  If you haven't, well, try to get there sometime.  We spent a 1/2 hour just wandering around, but then I spotted the extra-large batiks table (106").  Not a huge collection, but what they had was incredible.  And then I saw it:  pale blue, turquoise, lime, and cobalt.  Even Guy said "that will be perfect with your new quilt top." I'm not sure exactly how I'll use it....I may expand the original top with another narrow white strip and then finish with this as a border.  Hey, bigger quilts are even better, aren't they? I know it will make an incredible back.  And since I bought 3 yards (9 yards equivalent in 44" fabric), I've got enough to slip this into several quilts.
"Summer Breeze II" by Moda
Early in December, my friend Nancy and I went on a mini "Quilt Shop Hop."  I saw a preview of some gorgeous blues and and florals with white by Moda that really made me swoon.  I've got a thing for blue and evidenced by my baby Birds in the Air quilt I posted about a few days ago.  Well, right before we left for Florida, Margaret and I took a quick trip to Patchwork Plus in Harrisonburg.  Guess what just came in late last month?  Yes, I couldn't resist....more blues and yellows.  Nancy will be getting scraps for her "stash" again, I'm sure, by the time I'm finished.
The picture doesn't do justice to these luscious summer colors.  This is going to be a quilt for our king-size bed; I've made two quilts for it already, but need something light and airy for the summer months.  I just know that these fabrics will brighten up that room on a sunny day......the two yellows from my stash will pair up with them beautifully.

Just working with these fabrics will keep my Florida vacation going!  Summer breezes in mid-winter....... 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

First Quilts....

Brianna with Daddy's Rail Fence (2006)
I'm actually lucky that I had the foresight to get my granddaughters to come visit one weekend several years ago with some of the quilts I had made for them, so I could photograph them.  This rail fence quilt is the very first quilt I ever finished.  I started it for my son, Patrick, in 1982, when he was eight.  I'm sure you recognize the calicos; the pattern was from a soft cover pamphlet I picked up at the Singer store.  I cut out all the rectangles by hand (pre-rotary cutter), and stitched those blocks a few at a time.  I then tried to quilt it on my Singer with invisible polyester thread (why, I have no idea--I think I thought you didn't want the quilting to show).  It was a total disaster.  I had no idea about basting, stretching the back, or pinning.  You can probably imagine that it went in a box for a LONG, long time.  I graduated to a Bernina in 1997 and decided that  it was definitely time to finish this quilt.  By now, I knew a little more.  I removed all of the "plastic" stitching (not an easy task, since my Singer did not have a stitch length option, but it's amazing what you can do with a seam ripper).  Then I pin-basted it, and finished it with in-the-ditch quilting.  I gave it to Brianna (Patrick's daughter) in 1998 or so, when she was about three...and it only took me 16 years to finish it.
Maya with "Birds in the Air" (2006)
I have a little faster track record with the pretty blue, white and yellow "Birds in the Air" quilt I made for Maya when she was born in September 1998.  By then I had a pretty good idea how to piece, block, baste, and quilt.  I loved this pattern and it was such a sweet little baby quilt.  I still have some of the pale yellow fabric with bluebirds on it....I can't bear to get rid of it.  It just occurred to me that this was the very first of the 4 yellow and blue quilts I have made to date, and I've got my eye on the new Moda Summerbreeze II collection.  Dare I buy anymore blue and yellow fabric? My granddaughters will probably hate how they look in these pictures, but I don't; they are my little they are lovely teenagers 16 and 13....
Brianna and Maya, December 2011
I just thought it would be fun to show how far I have come....and how long ago I was "thinking" about quilting, even though it took me a while to really get around to it.  The quilt below is one I made this summer for my best friend, Tracey.  I made the pillowcases, too. 
Tracey's "Fall  Into Color" Quilt - 2011

Did you ever take a picture of your first quilt?  It's always interesting to see where people start from.  Have a happy quilting weekend; we're headed for the Gulf...Florida and Alabama, for some seafood and spring inspirations.....Kathy

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mixing up the My Seasons!

I've been collecting what I call "sand and sea" fabrics for about two years.  I bought some gorgeous McKenna Ryan fat quarters at VCQ Celebration almost two years ago; and last summer I picked up some "seashell" fabrics plus some complementary batik yardages.  Here's a sample of what I've been collecting:

McKenna Ryan fabrics, Stonehenge, Batiks, and Blenders
Pretty boring block; maybe I needed
to use more "sand" is anemic
  So, for two summers, I have tried to turn this collection into something like a "summer" quilt, whatever that means.  Meanwhile, the seasons turn, it's time for autumn table runners, Christmas placemats, and pretty soon May rolls around again, begging for spring florals, and still no "sea" quilt.  Last summer I found an interesting pattern using strips of fabric, sewn and cut into blocks, alternating with plain blocks appliqued with bright circles....sort of a "Sun and Sand" design.  I made one or two of the blocks, and my first reaction was, well:  Boring!   I found an interesting "fish" quilt in Quilter's Newsletter Magazine.  It seemed to fit most of my criteria, but it was done with black fabric as the "background".....however, I had just about enough of everything, and might have done this one.   There's no doubt it's an interesting tessellation quilt:
My heart wasn't "singing" black, however.  It's's cold outside (well, sometimes at least, although this has been a WEIRD winter)'s time to head for the Gulf, and try to imagine hot summer breezes.  I finally just started cutting out batiks and "sea" fabrics, strip piecing long lengths of them, and cutting sections out.  I interspersed them with white, and used long white sashing to separate the random strips.  This is what I ended up with:

It makes me think of all the beautiful Caribbean water colors.  I'm calling it "Gulf Stream."  I had a gorgeous batik for the border with a coral reef pattern, and I've got an incredibly intense, almost obnoxious turquoise blue length of fabric (with silver metallic threads, no less) that should be just perfect for the back.  Do you think our planned trip to the West Florida Gulf coast and Alabama could be my inspiration? I'm just feeling incredibly "sunny" right now!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

More Quilty Things to Share with You!

Here are a few more fun things I keep in my quilt room.  Last September I went to the Top of Virginia Quilters tea, where our door prizes were pretty little cups turned into pin cushions.  I was so taken with mine that I promptly came home and did the same with one of the pretty tea-cups I inherited from my mother-in-law years ago.  I hot-glued the cup to the base, filled the cup with batting, cut a circle to fit the top, glued it in place, then had fun glueing buttons and beads on top.  A little teal ribbon and voila!  - a new pincushion.

I've also started appliquing again, and, like many of us, find I need a little more magnification than my glasses provide.  I found this neat Dritz magnifier with an LED light at WalMart.  It hangs around your neck and rests on your chest, so you can have a better, hands-free view of the work in front of you.  It's particularly good if I'm doing needlework in the living room in front of the TV, because the lighting there is too spaced out to provide the right illumination for handwork. 

I've started incorporating lots of baskets into my sewing, room, too.  One holds large spools of thread for my piecing, which makes it easy to move them on and off the stand-alone thread stand.  Another one has my collection of small pincushions.  An apple-gathering basket is just right for small patterns, which were stashed away in a drawer and never saw the light of day. 

This one is right next to my sewing machine, and holds a collection of scissors, seam rippers, a hemostat for pulling on stubborn threads, my curved scissors for trimming applique pieces, and a few small snippers.  I am ALWAYS leaving my trimming scissors "somewhere else" when I am sewing....on the cutting board, on the ironing board, anywhere but next to me.  This way I always have something on hand and don't have to get up every time I need to clip a thread.

A large woven "laundry basket" holds quilts awaiting binding, odd pieces of batting, and a selection of plastic laundry containers (4 for $4 at the Dollar Tree) are handy respositories for scraps awaiting sorting, my collection of plaids, and fabric groupings that I've selected for projects that haven't been started (don't want to put them away, but not ready for construction yet).  One of my baskets has my UFOs and hand work......each project is in its own plastic bag, ready for pick-up when I'm headed out the door to a Quilt Group meeting or a long car trip.

How do you keep your sewing room organized?  I'm always curious about how other people work.  I find I work best when I keep things pretty neat; it seems to allow me to work better when I'm not faced with clutter all the time, but I know some people who flourish in the  midst of chaos! 

Off to prep some little cornish hens for dinner tonight.....stuffing them with garlic, lemon and herbs so the house will smell awesome....plenty of football on the TV agenda.  Have a great weekend!

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Quilty, Quirky Things

My shopping trip with my girlfriends last Saturday yielded a few little treasures for my sewing room.  Do you like to have your "little things" around you when you sew?  The antique store had lots of potential, but the prices seemed ridiculous ($12 for a plastic bag of old spools with rotting thread....and blunt scissors?)  No thanks.  But I did spot one item that caught my eye:  a doll panel for a sweet little stuffed doll dressed in calico with a bonnet.  And her "name" is Virginia...well, that seemed fortuitous....$6.00.  My seamstress skills have always been a little suspect, so this little dress and hat should be just my size.

We headed to the indoor Flea Market north of New Market, and the first booth I looked at yielded this find:
A quilt rack!  It's not the most elegant of quilt racks, but since I have never HAD a free-standing quilt rack, it seemed just perfect.  And it fits perfectly in my bedroom next to my dresser.  I still need to clean it up a bit, but for $12, I am extremely happy.

I am always on the lookout for thimbles when I shop; they are a cheap and fun way to "collect."  I've brought a lot back from our travels, but I found two boxes of little Taiwanese thimbles in a booth....$3 for each box; one had 4 thimbles and one had 6.  And, to put them in, I found this little wall cabinet:

It needs some sanding and a fresh coat of varnish, but it will look great on my wall next to the thimble rack I brought home from my Mom's last January.  It cost me $4.  My last "find" was not a quilting item, but it put me in mind of one.  I collect miniature Nativities, and I have been wanting to buy one of Jim Shore's miniature sets (the one's where they all have quilted garments), but somehow have never gotten around to actually shelling out for one.  However, I'm always on the lookout for little nativities, especially around Christmas time in the thrift shops and flea markets.  I stumbled across this:

Isn't it sweet?  It's painted wood, and the detail in the garments is just lovely.  The faces are beautifully expressive, and look at all the little scrollwork around the hems of Mary and Joseph's robes.  This set me back $4.  Even the cashier said she had her eye on it from the time it was brought in.  Does anyone have an idea who might have made this?  There's not a single marking on it.  Oh well, it lives here now.

Just a fun way to share some of my little "things" with you; my quilt room is my hideaway, and it's fun to "outfit" it with things that make me happy.  What makes your quilt room special?

It's Friday the 13th, and I'm avoiding trouble....going to hang out at home, sew some, do some cooking, and watch a movie tonight with my honey.  Stay warm......Kathy

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Working on Inventory.....

I got inspired on Tuesday afternoon, and started work on some quilts to replace the ones I sold over the weekend.  One of the quilts my friend Peg bought included a lot of brights, matched with white.  It was very cheerful and "non-gender" specific, so I found a lot of bright fabrics, cut out squares, and matched them with white.  Well, when it was finally completed, I auditioned border after border, but finally ended up with pink.  As I told Guy, "this wants to be a little girl's quilt, no matter how hard I try to keep it neutral."  It turned out like this:  there are a lot of little strawberries in one of the prints, and Guy found a cute strawberry pattern for the quilting, so I'm titling it "Strawberry Shortcake."  Isn't it a pretty little quilt for a baby due in the spring?

Seeing as I was on a roll, I decided to try to work on a "boy" quilt as well.  I had some fabric left over from the baby quilt I sold in December, and did a disappearing nine-patch pattern with it.  I matched the brown and blue fabrics with a lovely chocolate 1/2 yard of material I bought from e-quilter a few months ago.  I was happy with how it turned out. Guy did an all-over meander pattern on it, and I'm going to bind it in more of the chocolate.  It has an "op-art" quality to it, and lots of cute little sayings about babies in the light blue and star squares. 

I went off to my Loose Threads quilt group today, and picked up two quilts from a friend, plus I got an email saying two Quilts of Valor tops were on their way from North Carolina.  All of a sudden, we're "back in business."  Now I've got 5 quilts to bind, Guy has several quilts to put on the long-arm, and we're planning a two-week trip to the Gulf Coast at the end of next week.  It's a good way to spend the often dull days of January.

I also spent some time today working on a new fundraising initiative for the Virginia Quilt Museum.  I'll share more info later, as we define things.  Have a great night...I'm off to watch the next episode of Top Chef and hope this rainy weather stops so I can make a trip into Northern Virginia tomorrow morning.  Happy Quilting...... 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sewing and Snowing!

Yesterday's little snowstorm was just enough to keep me motivated in my quilt room....I have a gorgeous view of our backyard and Massanutten mountain beyond.  After my meeting at the Virginia Quilt Museum, I had a free afternoon.  I don't usually start new projects mid-day, but my tub of children's fabrics was calling to me.  I just started cutting squares, and now have the center of a new baby quilt completed.  Borders to come, and I'll have replaced one of the quilt tops I sold this weekend.  In fact, I think I'll slip off to my workroom with my coffee (Guy is sound asleep), and keep moving on.  Have a great day!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Talking About it Always Helps!

Well, just talking about the problems with the antique quilt I have been working on got me out of my "paralyzed state" and into action.  Guy helped me get the quilt as "squared" as I could, held the weight of it while I sewed on the satin binding....very slippery.....and I've only got a little more of the binding to sew down and it will be "signed, sealed, delivered" and done! 

Meanwhile, I decided to play a little and worked on Jane's "Christmas" purse......she loved one I made, so we picked out some fabric and I put hers together last Thursday.  What a fun project.....I find that doing little things that can be started and finished in one or two sessions always restores me for the bigger things.  Here's a picture of her's the one on the right.  My purse on the left is the one she fell in love with and begged me for one of her own.  Hey, what are friends for?

My weekend was great.  Our good friends came for the Elvis Birthday Party at Woodstock Cafe where we had a great time, and on Saturday Susie, Peg, and I had a Quilt Party looking at all the quilts I had finished since I last saw them.  Peg fell in love with THREE of them, and promptly bought them.  What a boost for my morale....two crib quilts and an Asian-inspired wall hanging.  Now I know exactly what my next projects will be....I've got to refresh my "inventory."  She bought one of the cheeriest ones in my collection, so I think I'll try to recreate it with another set of little squares.......everything looks so crisp and clean with white sashing, doesn't it.

Well, off to the showers....I've got meetings at the Virginia Quilt Museum this morning to decide on fundraising opportunities for next year.  Have a great Monday!  Kathy

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A New Year for the Blog?

I'm determined to try to get back to blogging; spend lot's of time reading other quilt blogs and it's got me itching to put some structure into my work and progress.  There have been lot's of reasons for NOT adding to this, but time isn't one of them....I'm up almost every morning at 5:00 so if I do a little planning, I think I can get some inputs planned and done several times a week.

I have a lot of potential projects rattling around in my head....but I keep procrastinating because I have one or two unfinished jobs that compete for my own work and I just can't seem to get the motivation to finish them.  Maybe that's one reason that a journal will keep me more focused.  I've got to finish this, for example:

It's an antique string quilt that a client asked me to fix for him; he hated the pink borders, backing and batting.  I took it apart, sewed MANY ripped seams, put on new borders, and hand-tied it from the back.  Now I just have to trim it and finish the binding.  It's big, awkward to handle, slightly wavy, and I'm not as happy with it as I would like.  BUT, it's downstairs looming on my cutting board, and I just have to finish it and deliver it.  Probably about an hour sewing, and two hours hand finishing and it will be done.  Think it's time to put this baby to bed.  I'll give you a picture of the finished product and home the client will be happy.  Then I can clear my mind for other work.  Have a great day......Kathy