Monthly Archives: March 2014

I’m Craft Challenged

Each day I see darling craft projects on blogs and websites. Many promise to be a snap to make.  Every once in a while I actually believe this and take on a little sewing project. Hope springs eternal, and all that.

My latest foray into a sewing craft project was an ipad/ipod/smartphone/e-reader stand shown at Factotum of Arts.  I thought it would be a nice item for my brother, whose birthday is coming up in May.  I know he’s into all the above devices and often glances at them while eating. His cat isn’t much of a meal conversationalist, unless she wants to be fed.

phone standSo, I laid out my supplies and started sewing.  When I got to the part where I was to insert a stiff piece of interfacing I realized that I needed to put two fingers inside my stand and the opening I had would barely allow one to fit.  After struggling for a while I gave up and made the opening wider with my seam ripper.  It still took me about 10 minutes to position that little interfacing strip.

Next came the stuffing. That went OK, except for the bits of fluff that clung to my clothes for the rest of the day.  My slip stitching could stand some refinement, but better sturdy than pretty has been my motto. For the top part of my stand I used ground walnut shells I had rather than the rice specified.  I think the key is to use something to give heft to the stand.

phone stand rear viewSo, two hours later my stand was finished. I’ve shown it holding my first generation Kindle (the one with the keyboard) above.

I think I could have pieced an entire lap quilt top in that amount of time. Next time I’m tempted by those oh so cute laptop cases or little zippered bags I plan to say no thanks. And really, it’s me, not the project designs.



Filed under Commentary, Completed Projects

A Must-See In San Diego

Through the randomness of Pinterest I stumbled on a wonderful quilt collection. A scrappy, very spontaneous quilt caught my eye as I looked over the boards I follow.  It’s classed as a wonky string lantern top.

string wonky lantern Nickols collection 2012-35-248_001Clicking through to the original website brought me to the Mingei International Museum and the quilt collection donated by Pat Nickols.   You can see all 350 quilts online.  My eyes were out on stalks as I wallowed in the scrappy, make-do wonderfulness of these works of art. Image loading was a bit slow, but that could have been my internet connection. If you click on a small image you can see a larger picture of the quilt and details.

Local collectors Pat and Tom Nickols donated the quilts to this museum in 2012. “Over the last thirty years, Pat Nickols amassed a wondrous collection of mostly American quilts; a quilt and fabric historian, her knowledge of this important genre of American folk art is boundless. The collection is comprised of traditional quilts made from the early 1800s to the 1950s, gathered from many parts of the United States. It includes excellent examples of many types of quilts including Log Cabin, Charm, String and Signature quilts, and quilts made with feed, flour and sugar sacks.”

Log cabin quilts collected by Pat Nickols are on view through July 3, 2014, at San Diego’s Mingei International Museum.

Here are just a few of my favorites.

log cabin quilt nickols collection 2012-35-139_0011880s string stars top Nickols collection 2012-35-235_001One patch Nickols collection 2012-35-331_001I love the ocean meets the shore effect of this one. And then there’s that one bright yellow square.

Split 9 patch Nickols collection 2012-35-256_001Those yellow triangles just take this top from pastel to bold.


Filed under Inspiration, Quilt Shows

Last 2014 Project Quilting Challenge

I’ve slacked off the recent Project Quilting challenges run by Kim at Persimon Dreams, but am getting back in the game for the last challenge of the year – triangles.

I’m a fervent believer in the versatility of the half square triangle, and have a container filled with orphan HSTs to prove it.

half square triangles

And I’m not the only one who extols the virtues of this quilting work horse.  Mel in the Attic just wrote about HSTs, with lovely pictures of different arrangements.

Orphans No More, my 20.5 by 22.5 inch challenge entry, used up about 120 of my HSTs, in sizes ranging from one inch to 2.5 inch finished.  The fun part of pawing over my collection was remembering the quilts they came from.  Some were leftovers from old projects, while others were sewn from cut off block corners and then trimmed to a standard size.  Bonnie Hunter is a big advocate of this approach, and those little squares do build up over time.

Orphans No MoreThe only rule I devised was that I couldn’t make any new HSTs; they all had to come from my container.  In fact, except for the turquoise border and narrow peach strips, everything on the front came from that container.  I have no idea how non triangular bits ended up there, but my guess is I just swept everything off the table top into the bin.

The back is Harriet Hargrave meets Kaffe Fassett. I used the envelope method to join the layers since I thought there were enough different fabrics in this without adding yet another in the binding.

Orphans No More backThe quilting is three large triangles, as well, just to keep the theme going.


Filed under Completed Projects

“Modern One-Block Quilts”

Sometimes it’s restful to follow someone else’s directions for a quilt.  Yes, I love the excitement of designing a quilted piece from scratch but it can be mentally exhausting.

I’ve been looking over recent modern quilting books for the equivalent of a box cake mix, and have found some possibilities in Modern One-Block Quilts by Natalia Bonner and Kathleen Whiting.  I’m adapting one project, called Eight O’Clock, for a gift tablerunner.

smoke rings tablerunnerI’ve taken just one row of the project and made it up in dreary subdued colors that are likely to appeal to my brother and go with his stoneware dishes. The reverse side will use up extra blocks and allow the runner to do double duty.

The outstanding pattern for me is Squared Scraps.  Here’s how Paul, another quilter, made this one up in a baby quilt size.

Squared Scraps Modern One-Block QuiltsOther appealing projects are Lanterns and Churned. The latter uses a venerable block, made fresh and spontaneous by the uneven block groupings.  I’d like to set the blocks on point, keeping the uneven groupings.

Lanterns modern-one-block-quilts

Churned Modern One-Block Quilts

All told, the book has 22 projects. Some like Alternating Stars are updates of blocks that have been in the quilting repertoire for some time.  Others like Criss-Cross are truly modern in origin.  The close up photos of each quilt are good sources of quilting ideas.  And I’d love to have the person who staged the room photos come to my house and work his/her magic.

I think the authors succeed in adding design to useful items. They give enough information about quilt construction to enable less experienced sewers to make the projects.  The project directions seem thorough. Though I deviated from the project dimensions given, I was able to figure my cutting requirements easily.

In sum, this book presents an array of projects with enough variety to appeal to many tastes and keep one quilter busy for a while.

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Filed under Books, In Process

I Think It’s Done

For over a year I’ve been adding hand stitches to a 17 by 21 inch bit of cloth I had dyed and then stamped with leaves. This piece began with sprayed on “failed” dyes that were too pale for my taste.  A play session with fabric paint resulted in the leaf impressions.

It’s taken so long because I worked on this project only when I had time to kill on a volunteer job.  Two weeks ago I chain stitched a line on a leaf and decided the piece was done.

Leaf_printI’ve added a few machine stitching lines to hold the batting and top together.  Next I plan to wrap this around a stretcher frame and staple it on.

Leaf_print_detail1  The blog And Then We Set It On Fire has been featuring hand stitching lately, and the examples that show the expressiveness of the humble running stitch have been real eye openers for me.

Leaf_print_detail2My previous post about big stitches focused on big stitch quilting.  Now I’m considering how the softer lines of hand stitching can add subtlety and depth to a design. Yes, I hear laughter in some quarters as subtlety and I are barely acquainted.


Filed under dyeing, Techniques

Going Batty

After years of fealty to whatever quilt batting I could buy on sale at JoAnn’s, I’ve become a batting snob.  The big box store batting I’ve bought lately has felt cardboardy.  It didn’t have the suppleness I expected.

batting shelvesFor fusible batting I’ve been buying Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 fusible cotton blend by the yard at a local quilt shop.  It had been recommended by the shop owner who uses it in her quilts.  Recently I ran out of this, and bought some Fusi-boo (cotton/bamboo/some other stuff fusible) from JoAnn’s as I didn’t have time to drive to the shop.  Bad choice!  The Fusi-boo was very stiff (all fusible batting is stiffer than regular due to the resin), far stiffer than I remembered the product being in the past.  I don’t know if the product specs had been changed or if I had simply become spoiled by the Hobbs product, but I’m not buying any more Fusi-boo.

My new batting love is Quilters Dream request (the lowest loft stuff) poly.  It drapes and sews like a dream in my wall hangings.  Of course, it won’t give you a crinkly finish when washed, being polyester. This really isn’t an issue for many of my wall hangings. I haven’t yet tried Quilters Dream cotton, but I’m looking forward to it.  And I saw the company now has a fusible batting called Dream Fusion.

If I were making a bed quilt I’d give serious consideration to wool batting.  It’s very light and warmer than cotton, and sews beautifully.  Also, it helps prevent wrinkles in quilts, a plus if you fold or mail your quilts off to shows. Of course, it costs more, but if you’re putting hours of work into a quilt I don’t think you should worry about saving a few bucks on the batting.


Filed under Commentary

Love Those Details

A big part of what draws me to a quilt is the telling detail.  Some quilts look great from across the room but closer inspection adds little to the viewing experience.  In fact, the impact may get lost up close. Other quilts shine only when viewed from 12 inches away.  I especially love quilts that work at both distances. And that’s where those details come in.

Here are some details that grabbed me at the 2014 Lake Farmpark Quilt Show.

Posey_Pot_Karen_AuerPosey Pot by Karen Auer, with big stitch quilting to accent the shapes. The stitches echo the squares in the background fabric, and give oomph to the blossoms.

For_the_Love_of_Trees_detail_Shirley_TchouDetail from For The Love of Trees (Best of Show winner) by Shirley Tchou. The leaves are done in silk ribbon and the mallards add charm.

Free_Expression_Diane_WantzFree Expression by Diane Wantz has a great hanging “sleeve.”

detail Scruffy by Sharon MarkovicDetail from Scruffy by Sharon Markovic, done with Zentangle style drawing and commercial fabric.

Made_Fabric_#1_Janis_Orlando (2) detailMade Fabric #1 (Janis Orlando) detail, showing the beading that adds richness to the blocks.

Happiness_detailHappiness Clouded Up (Nelly Vilkeilis) detail, with fabric scrap bundles trapped under netting and held in place with stitching.

quilt_backAs I was leaving the show, this improv quilt back caught my eye and camera.  Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph the front, and don’t know the name of the maker. I was glad the piece was hung so you could see both sides. I wonder if there were more quilts whose backs should have been on display as well.

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Filed under Quilt Shows

“Quilting With A Modern Slant”

The very day I wrote about what exactly is modern quilting I picked up a library copy of Quilting With A Modern Slant by Rachel May. I had anticipated studying this book for further clarification/definition.  Well, I’m still wondering, but I suspect that modern quilting is best defined as a reflection of the present moment, as opposed to the past. This is certainly the spin Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr put on it.

Quilting With a Modern SlantMay credits Gee’s Bend quilters and Nancy Crow as the progenitors of the modern movement. She casts a wide net in name checking quilters she considers to be modern.  Some, like Rashida Coleman-Hale and Jacquie Gering, have been instrumental in the Modern Quilt Guild.  Others, like Lee Heinrich, have become known through their blogs.  Still others, like Valerie Maser-Flanagan, are art quilters, in my opinion. Her City Walk #1, below, seems a better fit for a gallery than a bed.

City Walk 2The book’s organization is a bit hit or miss, as profiles of quilters are interspersed with tutorials and sewing/quilting tips. Personally, I would have dropped the latter and listed good how-to sources. I was dismayed to see a tutorial that had you sewing on a freezer paper foundation.  That’s a great way to discourage paper piecing, as removing stitched down freezer paper is a bear.

My point is this book tries to do too much. It’s like a scrap quilt that doesn’t quite gel. You spend too much time identifying the various fabric lines used rather than viewing the composition as a whole.

And the profiles vary in detail and up-close-and-personalness. I realize that the author was dependent on the willingness of people to provide information, but perhaps the lengthier profiles could have been presented together, and the other sketches grouped by topics such as fabric designers and bloggers.  Right now the book is grouped by broad topics such as improv, quilting from tradition, for the love of color; but this structure seems tacked on after the fact to me.

Websites/blog addresses are given for everyone profiled that has one. That way you can find out more about folks whose work catches your eye. I appreciated the comprehensive index, an often overlooked nicety.

This book is a great resource if you’d like a compendium of well known people in the modern quilting movement. By my guesstimate, at least 70% have a design/art background. I think that helps make their quilts and fabrics distinctive and original.  As this movement filters through the quilting community I’ll be curious to see if their work is simply copied or if it becomes a springboard for other original work.

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Filed under Books

(Very) Occasional Wednesday Salon

While I’ve talked fleetingly about her work before, Gwen Marston is someone whose increasingly abstract work has been a comfort to me as I edge away from quilts with traditional designs. I see a continuum in her work that occasionally dips back into previous influences, rather than making a sharp break with them. Possibly because her roots are in traditional quilts she seems to rethink those traditions rather than abandon them. I think she’d say she liberates those traditions.

Gwen Marston folk art quiltHere’s Gwen with one of her contemporary folk art quilts. Note the asymmetrical central design and the insouciant way the zigzag borders just run off the edges. Yet her work doesn’t go over the edge into self-conscious folkiness.

She began quilting after seeing the Amish quilts at a 1971 Whitney Museum exhibit, and expanded her influences to what I’ll call folk art heritage quilts.  According to her talk at the opening of her Dennos Art Museum exhibit (Traverse City, Michigan), she found learning the mechanics of quilting to be like “seventh grade home ec on steroids.” Then, she began to loosen up and go wonky. In her talk she said while she liked the techniques, she didn’t like the patterns of traditional quilts.

Gwen Marston Liberated BasketThis is one of Gwen’s liberated baskets quilts.  I bet each basket is different.

Her work has been characterized by use of solid fabrics (she likes how they emphasize the delineation of shapes) and hand quilting (she feels it shows up better.)

In Freddy and Gwen Collaborate Again Gwen set out her top 10 design guidelines.  These guidelines are actually about “finding your voice.” Here are my favorites:

3. Your chances of making a remarkably good quilt are increased when you take chances.

4. There is nothing sacred about exactness. Remember, great painters didn’t worry about coloring inside the lines.

6. Knowing how to truly see what you are looking at is a great leap forward for an artist.

9. Make what you want to make, and make it the way you want to make it.

10.  Most important of all – make it.

More recently Gwen has been doing small quilt sketches, some of which are shown below.

Gwen Marston sketchesHere’s another post about Gwen, featuring her latest soon-to-be-published book called Minimal Quiltmaking. I’ll let you know what I think of it once I get my hands on a copy.


Filed under Art quilts

2014 Lake Farmpark Quilt Show

Two friends and I trekked up to snowy Lake County, Ohio, for the annual quilt show sponsored by the county park district.  We also did a cool workshop on screen free silkscreen printing, but that’s another topic.

Overall, the show’s entries showed consistent good workmanship and a certain timelessness.  There were the usual Judy Niemeyer paper pieced quilts (she must have given several classes in the area) and many quilts made from patterns.  However, I noted some crossover techniques from art quilting on traditional quilts and an opening up of color use.  I don’t know if the latter reflects the influence of the modern quilting movement.  There were no quilts on display that I would call modern.  A few used modern type fabrics, but that was about it.

My personal favorites were the quilts made about something meaningful to their creators – memory of a vacation, important events for a grandchild, and the like; plus scrappy quilts.

Oahu_at_Daybreak_Lin_McQuistonOahu at Daybreak commemorates a family vacation. I like that it doesn’t try to replicate a photo, but rather recalls a mood or feeling.

Simplify-Use_It_Up_Leslie_RozumSimplify-Use It Up by Leslie Rozum. All the very traditional fabrics come from her scraps.  She did a great job of controlling the values.


Here’s one panel from Abbey Grows Up by Kathy Hancock.  It commemorates Abbey’s devotion to Barney. I never saw Barney in purple corduroy before. Each panel was designed by Hancock.

Trail_Mix_Anne_SchmidtTrail Mix by Schmidt really reminds me of a Mary Ellen Hopkins quilt.  I like the scrappiness and the diagonal lines.

Hexagons_Cubed_Dianne_YoungThis quilt by Dianne Young had a modern feel.  Certainly the cool red/blue color scheme is popular in many modern fabric lines.

There_Goes_The_Neighborhood_Dianne_YoungThere Goes The Neighborhood by Dianne Young (again!) uses a modern fabric line.  It was one of the few humorous quilts, with the one wonky house in the middle.

Black_Background_#3_Betty_OboczkyBlack Background #3 by Betty Oboczky takes full advantage of some Paula Nadelstern fabric in a medallion on-point setting.

I’ll be writing more about this show in future posts.  As a friend said, what made the show interesting was the broad range of quilts entered – red work, paper piecing, applique, fabric painting, raw edges, improv, embellishment, and more were all on display. In fact, everything except modern style quilts.


Filed under Quilt Shows