Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Bogue Blocks

One of my students from the first class (Friday January 18) at the Studio has checked in! And, oh boy, did she ever do some nice work! Maybe it's her colors (I love orange too-) but Kathie Bogue's handmade patchwork is too pretty not to 'drag and brag' as we call it in this part of North Carolina. The block pictured here is Pineapple and is made the old-fashioned way--sewn by hand over a backing block.

In the afternoon session of that same class, we sewed English Pleated Log Cabin blocks the traditional way. Four small blocks sewn over backings and each strip gets folded ('pleated') back to produce an overall large block with wonderful dimension. Although I'd love to say Kathie learned it all from me, Ms. Bogue is an accomplished artist herself. I'm not surprised to see her work come out beautifully. Kathie's specialty is paper cutting, specifically the art of free-hand cutting (no drawing) of silhouettes or profile portraits. She comes from a whole family of talented scissor artists! Take time to look at her website at and you'll be amazed.

The picture here is Kathie's logo on her website. Just as some people think quilting is a 'lost art', cutting silhouettes also is one of the decorative arts we associate with times gone by. Obviously, both quilters and silhouette artists are alive and kicking!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Few, the Proud, the Missed.....

Friday I boogied down to Wilmington NC to teach a couple of classes. The traffic was terrible on Highway 24 all the way from Morehead City right through Jacksonville. Finally I realized that not only were there a lot of cars on the road but I was weaving in and out of a military convoy. No wonder there were camo Humvees everywhere! The Kearsage Expeditionary Strike Group and the 22nd MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) consisting of about 6,000 soldiers and sailors, was back from Iraq.

The closer I got to Jacksonville, the more homecoming signs appeared. Mostly these signs were painted bed sheets hung over any convenient fence bordering the highway. Some of the sign-makers obviously had scrap booking expertise and the sheet signs looked like pages from an album. Others, no less sincere, were hastily painted and hung. Along with human hand prints, one family also represented the family pet and Ashley, the dog, had her paw print in there!

A few of the signs were slightly racy in tone. One simply said, "Corporal Kline, you're mine!" The one here promises a very warm welcome to a lucky gunnery sergeant.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hand Quilting in County Durham, England

I treasure this photograph. It was a gift--a wonderful black and white picture, c.1950, of a lady hand quilting. On the back in wavering pencil is written "Durham quilter." Durham is both a city and a county in northeast England and famous for its beautiful quilts. For more information, check out the book, North Country Quilts-Legend and Living Tradition, by British scholar Dorothy Osler. And when you go to Durham, don't miss the Beamish Museum's extensive collection of quilts- .

There are a number of interesting details that hand quilters can learn from this vintage photo. Notice that she's working on a wholecloth quilt, a classic type of quilt using solid color fabrics. The fabric might well be a cotton sateen since its surface seems to be very smooth.
The quilter must also be sitting in a chair that's much lower than the quilt's surface since the edge of the quilt is above her bust. This is probably because the quilt frame used here, although we can't see it, is a traditional table-top English frame, a half-size type of frame, derived from an embroidery frame, that sat on top of an already existing table. Unlike the American large-size quilting frame made of lumber, the old English quilting frame was smaller and had been adapted for the limited room available.
The puffiness of the part of the quilt (foreground) that's not yet quilted also tells us the batting (the English would call it 'wadding') was probably wool.
Lastly there's the stitching process on view. The quilter has quilted the outline inside of a feather wreath and its outline outside. Now we see she's going back and filling in the little curves of the feather spines. Clever, isn't it? For anyone who has pretzled themselves around a quilting hoop stitching feathers, this practical approach makes good sense!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Saturday Girls

Alda is shy about pictures but her work was super. I photographed her green and peach block from an odd angle-be assured all her seams were straight!

Today was gray and rainy and getting colder-a perfect day to quilt. The Saturday girls got going with handwork blocks and perfected their Pineapple technique by noon. Then we all ran through the rain to Rap's across the street for lunch and talk. Next time I'm getting the Reuben and the home-made chips!

Diane is choosing another strip of orange for her Log Cabin block.

Back at the Studio by 1 pm, they charged on through instruction for the Folded Log Cabin and everybody felt they'd mastered this pattern by the time we took a break at 3:30 and officially knocked off at 4 pm. Some people, like Karen Hart (in the fuchsia sweater) make quilts that match their clothing.

Others, like Ellen Sewell, use a class to get a head start on
Christmas 2008 with red and green blocks.

Seeing as how it's the first day of a three-day weekend, they'll have time to rest up and maybe finish their blocks....or not. I totally understand--I'm due for a date with my "magic chair." That's the one that tips back and when you get the right angle, your body feels weightless. The chair also vibrates and heats up! I plan to cover up with a light quilt, invite a cat up, and drift off in an instant.

Friday, January 18, 2008

My First Class at the Studio!

The photo shows the first class at the Quilt Studio showing off their handwork. Left to right, back row--Jan Willis, Mary DeLuzio, and Nancy Smith. Down front left: Kathy Bogue and right: Aloa Boyd. Bless them!

There they were, five gals with bright and shining faces, at 9 am, all eager to learn how to hand-piece the antique Pineapple pattern and to unravel the mysteries of the Folded English Log Cabin! Something about teaching on home turf made me twittery about this one. Would they like the room setting? Did I cut enough blue strips? Would I have enough thimbles in the right sizes?

To top it off, last night about 10 pm, as I was ironing fabric and cutting strips, I dumped my ages-old iron on its little wedge-shaped head and totally busted it. But this morning, knowing she was headed in for the class, I called for help and Mary DeLuzio brought her beautiful sleek Black and Decker Professional Iron with her and saved the day. Many thanks!

They learned to piece the antique Pineapple block in the morning and folks really concentrated as they learned how not to cut off the points of their patches and how to guesstimate strip size. Long about 11, having gotten past the tricky bits, everyone realized the pattern was easy-peasy from then on and broke for lunch in a positive frame of mind. The afternoon flew by as they tackled the Folded Log Cabin, or as they call it on the Isle of Man, the Rooftop quilt. They said the Log Cabin was easier than the Pineapple but the truth is the Pineapple is just the Log Cabin dressed-up! (I'd chosen the Pineapple for the morning since folks seem to be able to concentrate better in the am.) The afternoon project was a doddle. Then suddenly it was 4 pm, tea-time one person said, and class was done.

Note to self: buy a coffee maker for the studio, more extension cords, and a very large magnet to pull up pins from the carpet!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Open House Over-#2

The crowd that showed up at the open house for the Quilt Studio was really diverse. Even a few brave guys came! Good thing too since my friend Stan Bird from Gloucester NC turned up and felt like the Lone Ranger. I’d sent Stan two email invitations (by accident-) and he had thought it must be really important, so God love ‘em, he came! Then just when Stan’s surrounded by a sea of chattering ladies, in comes Vaughan Branch, director of the Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament. Vaughan is here on the left. At least the two guys got to talk FISH for a while.

We have several fishing tournaments around here but Vaughan’s baby has been around for 30 years and is the main support for the town of Atlantic Beach fire department. While Atlantic Beach seems like a small community in the winter, actually in the summer, with many thousands of visitors and tourists to the Crystal Coast, AB is a hopping town. This year the Tournament is being held October 16-18 and you can go on their website to learn more . In addition to helping out the fire department, the King Mackerel Tournament also is committed to sustaining artificial reefs off our shore that offer protection for all sorts of sealife. You can understand this three-day fishing frenzy is way more than guys throwing a line in the water, popping a cold one, and waiting for a bite.

I think fishing and quilting are fine parallel pursuits for a couple. He can fish and she can stay onshore happily sewing. But this equation isn’t always gender-specific—get a load of this lady and her prize king mackerel!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Open House Over-#1

At ten minutes to 1 yesterday I was in an utter panic. Was the open house for the Quilt Studio going to be a total bomb? Not a soul in sight, deathly quiet...and then tap-tap-tap, the unmistakable sound of high-heeled boots and my friends Sandy and Sara Beth strolled in. Neither one is a quilter but they're always game for a party!

Then it started-sometimes two or three people at a time and occasionally, the whole studio space was standing room only. Total attendance was at least 65 (they signed the guest book-thanks for the suggestion Ellen Sewell!) and a few snuck by without signing. Here's what I learned from the event: don't worry about the cookies. I bought way too many and post-Christmas weight guilt was in full swing. "No, I couldn't possibly etc." However, the Milano cookies (shortbreads glued together with dark chocolate) did all mysteriously disappear. For anyone who needs the visual, try this:
The truth is, folks wanted to see the quilts! And if it's not nailed down, they will unfold it so lots of quilts, formerly sitting neatly on shelves in the storage room, got flashed. It was, simply, a lot of fun.

My last visitor, at ten minutes to 7, was Debbie Fisher, shown here signing a signature triangle. In the upper left is the new Studio logo block and I'll make blocks using the signature patches to commemorate the opening of the Studio. The pattern is Morning Star, Evening Star (from Shirley Liby's older reference book Exploring Four Patch.)

Debbie is a local biz whiz (owns four businesses and counting) but started her empire the old-fashioned way with Mary Kay . Notice the perfect nails, please. Debbie's on car #4 now.

Monday, January 14, 2008

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Wahoo-the professional sign hanger, Rick Farrell, arrived to get the Quilt Studio's outside sign up on the side of the building. As you can see, the cigar helps to balance the drill etc. as Rick climbs the ladder! After it was up, my friend Mary Frankle snapped Rick (doing the Vanna wave-) and me with a goofy grin.

Then a florist's truck stopped and a delivery guy, eying the sign, said, "The Quilt Studio?" I said, "Yes-" and found myself holding a beautiful pink cycleman! I took the plant inside and set it as the centerpiece for the guestbook for tomorrow's open house. When I opened the envelope, there was no name, but only this lovely sentiment, " Bloom and grow-good luck!" Whoever sent this to me, many thanks. The pretty plant will live a happy life here and that lucious pink and green color scheme is enough to make you wanna design a quilt......

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Welcome Window

Today we hung a curtain across the alcove where my computer and desk are so that visitors won't be treated to views of my paperwork mess. But the absolute best moment of the day was when we hung the stain glass in the teaching room window.

Years ago, I had a little quilt shop called Culpepper's Quilts above a Walgreens drug store in downtown East Lansing, Michigan. The location wasn't ideal (up a flight of steep stairs) but it was quaint with wood floors, high ceilings, and immense windows that overlooked the busy intersection of the entrance to Michigan State University. To entice folks to come up the stairs and find the shop--especially at night--I commissioned a large stain glass window. The artist, Lorna Brown, sketched me and then came back with a full-size cartoon on paper and the stain glass piece tunred out to be perfect! Backlit at night from inside the shop, it beckoned to passersby and I often turned down offers to sell the piece.

I've moved five times since 1983 and always kept the stain glass safe. Today I unwrapped it and must admit that when it finally was in place, I got kind of teary-eyed. Welcome to the Quilt Studio!

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Sign of the Times

Rod and I painted this sign for the side of the office building where the Quilt Studio is located. I dithered about this project and eventually remembered my fear of paint dates back to a childhood incident. At about the age of seven, I decided to "help" my Dad paint a canvas Bar-B-Q apron. He distinctly said, "Don't any of you kids come near this thing..." and left the apron to dry between coats. I took up the brush and then splashed red enamel across the whole thing! Knowing I was a dead duck, I scooted upstairs, packed a little bag (who runs away without luggage?) and was high-tailing down the driveway before the deed was discovered...almost. At the end of the driveway I heard Dad's agonized yowl of discovery. Mother, who had been watching me "run away," came out to gently lead me back to the house and my retribution.

When I confessed how nervous I was about painting the studio sign, Rod gently reminded me that it was just paint. Also my Dad's not here to paddle my rear end when I make a mistake--there are some advantages to growing up!

Next Monday morning, if all coats of paint, polyurethane etc. are dry, a professional sign person comes to bolt this beauty to the side of the building. The pro told me he could have done perfect vinyl lettering etc. and all I could murmur was, "Could you just hang the thing?"

Rod says that the sign looks fine considering we're only "talented amateurs."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Black and white and read all over?

Last week, on the advice of a friend with longtime publicity experience, I wrote and sent out a press release about opening the Quilt Studio. It was sent to 23 local newspapers and newsletters in eastern North Carolina. Aside from a few emails complaining my document format was "too new and please re-send in old Word" the effect seemed like a big fat zero with local media. Then last night's Carteret News-Times must have had a slow news day because the press release, with additional fluff, merited an enormous (almost a quarter of the page!) in the Arts and Entertainment section.

The News-Times is our largest local paper and comes out three times a week. Affectionately called 'the mullet wrapper' by locals, the News-Times is famous for its wrong info and misspellings. Sure enough, they got the studio phone number wrong! It's 252-726-4117, thank you! FYI: a mullet around here is not a redneck hairstyle but rather a local fish A 'mullet wrapper' means the paper is used to wrap up old garbage!

While I appreciate the publicity, with classic News-Times malapropism, the writer began the article with this:

Quilts are often a symbol of the past, provoking fond memories of time spent with loved ones at quilting bees or snuggling under a big quilt on a cold night.

Provoking? He must have meant evoking don't you think? Provoked means PO'd about something. I could be provoked that this craft, again, was relegated to some hazy misty old-fashioned scenario of long gone history. Used to be I was glad that I'd finally grown up and gotten some silver in my hair. Maturity lent me some semblance of authority. I'd been running around quilt shows and teaching since I was a hippie chick of nineteen and remember when I'd arrive at some gig and the ladies would look right past me, like I was a porter shlepping in bags of quilts, and inquire "When is the quilt teacher arriving?"

Don't get me wrong--I love the old quilts but also love the new wild-n-crazy stuff. I am certainly not an old-fashioned quilter who puts on her bonnet and rocks away my days piecing odd fragments of fabric together. Quilters have been fighting this QUILT=OLD equation for a long time. In the 1970s when Bicentennial quilt fever hit, I saw a cartoon that showed a PR man zooming up to a mountain cabin and leaping from his Jaguar with contract in hand. As he rushes to the porch to sign up the LOL (little old lady) quilter, she takes out her pipe long enough to say, "You better talk to my agent, Sonny!" Here's the contemporary equation for today: QUILT=ART and all of us who quilt can help bring the public up to date. Make quilts, share them, and show them!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Getting Ready for Guests

Shelves pre-Robin-what a mess!

Shelves post-Robin-
much better!

Moral: if you can't sort your own junk, ask for help from your friends.

The studio space is really getting spiffed up-new lights, teaching tables, and even the 30+ years' worth library of quilting books is getting organized. My detail-oriented friend Robin Koehler is taking on librarian duties. Robin is a quilt designer in her own right and volunteered before she knew better to help me get the studio straight. I want this space to look its best for the upcoming open house on Tuesday January 15. By open house, I mean a 'drop by and see what it's about' all day event. Casual of course!
The pictures here are revealing--what the book shelves looked like before Robin and again, after she pitched, organized, and labeled everything.

Left to my own devices, all I could have managed is like the cartoon I cut from the Detroit Free Press years ago-sorry I can't credit the artist. Maybe someone out there knows. Pitiful, isn't it?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Beginnings

It's already January 2nd and 2008's officially begun. People are back to work and sighing with relief that Christmas craziness is over for another year. At our house, we keep holiday lights up through at least old Christmas, January 5. But like the lyrics in Redneck Woman--"I keep my Christmas lights up on my front porch all year long-" so our side porch, where we enter the house, will always has some welcoming lights strung around. Besides, the intense colors of Christmas lights fade with time so the porch lights now all look pastel!

I feel hopeful for 2008-hopeful that we'll see good changes for our nation and personally, that my new venture, the Quilt Studio, will develop for me as a teacher. But if I had my way in 08, I'd unsubscribe from cable TV, what with presidential elections on the horizon. My husband was horrified when I proposed a cable dis-connect-imagine wresting the remote from his hand! True story: he was once flicking through channels at a rapid rate and I got irritated. "Don't you want to see what's on?" I challenged and he replied without missing a beat-"No, I want to see what ELSE is on."

In the meantime, as we sail off into this new year, I wish for you and yours health, love, and peace and of course, happy quilting.