Thursday, December 24, 2015

Lily Love

It's Christmas Eve (December 24) and the red, white, and green bug bit late. I found some pictures of one of the first vintage quilts I bought 20 years ago when I moved to North Carolina. After about a month in residence, Rod and I attended an auction of unclaimed storage locks. Quilts were listed so I was eager to see what my new home state had to offer. 

The quilts came up last at the auction, after the furniture and before the rugs. I ended up buying four of them but he red, white, and green North Carolina Lily pictured here was the prize since it showed beautifully and had no visible holes or defects. 

I love the background white actually being a minute scribble-type print in blue.


This wall hanging is one of mine. Still a top (unquilted) it features my favorite orange, beloved plaids (a shirt I cut up) and some embellishment around the edges of the flowers in Big Stitch. Lacking only handles on either side of the flower pot, this pattern is exactly the same as the antique quilt above.

A few photos stolen from Ebay postings show other different exotic versions. I hope the people who won them love these quilts as much as I do!
The listing said 'from North Carolina-' Of course.

Wild and individualistic Lily version here. I admire the quiltmaker who chose these colors:strong lavender and yellow background, and red stems!

A Lily quilt in colors dating it between 1880-1920 and made right here in North Carolina. Even the triple-sashing and tiny Nine Patches are typical of our state. from the collection of my friend Lynn Gorges.

And the latest Lily was bought from a friend whose father found the quilt in a trunk, thrown at the side of the road in East Detroit waiting for the garbage guys. Fortunately he opened the trunk and knew his quiltmaker daughter would love it. She finished it (it needed binding) and posted it on a Facebook group about vintage quilts. We both feel this is not a Michigan quilt but rather a Southern import. Since there were lots of Southerners who moved to the Detroit area during and after WWII to work in the auto plants, our conjecture makes sense. It's wild, got some large stitches, and has fabrics that are NOT cotton. 

                                      I fell in love with it.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Pretty in Plaids in December

This past week I've been working strictly in plaids and plains. You might think the two groups are too limiting for a bred-in-the-bone scrap quilter. Not so. My Christmas exchange block for our guild holiday swap a couple of years ago to the right.

Translation for non-fabric readers: 'plaids' covers a lot: woven plaids (also called tartans), homespuns (usually small-scale and look like 19th century shirting fabrics-think Little House on the Prairie), checks and ginghams, and printed plaids. 

Likewise 'plains' means solid color fabrics but includes chambreys (colors woven with alternate white thread--think Oxfordcloth like men's dress shirts) and shot cottons (where different colors for the warp and weft produce a shade different from its components). The shade at left is Garnet from my Peppered Cottons line--a shot cotton of bright royal blue plus deep red.

I went leafing through old photos and realized I use plaids all the time. So here's a small sampling of blocks and quilts that show this personal predilection for plaids. Say that fast five times-

A big honking multi-color silk plaid, cut on the bias, made an interesting Log Cabin block and showcased Big Stitch quilting.

A shimaco or 'stripe book sample' over-stitched sashiko-style shows a variety of interesting cotton plaids from India.

And then there are touches of plaids used because they, artistically, break up prints with too similar a scale. Note the bright blue plaids surrounding the "compass points" of Cheddar. I have no more of most of these fabrics and I regret that this wheel block will have to stand alone. It also illustrates my fave use of batiks (the vague blue leaves in the background border)--best used next to another quite-different print (the rust/black print plus solid-color Cheddar). Batiks by themselves can be muddy. Gorgeous mud but muddy...I loved this blue batik so much I bought what was left on the bolt.

This lovely plaid and plains quilt was made by my friend Janice Pope. Janice keeps busy as a rep (fabric salesperson) for StudioE Fabrics and has her own pattern business called Anything But Boring . Go check it out!
The solid colors are Peppered Cottons shot cotton shades and the checks/stripes/big plaids are from Peppered Plaids, a now out-of-production line I did for StudioE Fabrics. In the fabric business, we call such lines 'vintage' to imply that they are rare and not to be re-ordered. Fabric store owners are used to hearing about lines going out of production. Lesson to all of us who work with and buy fabric: buy it when you see it because it probably won't be there tomorrow and the shop can't get it again.

And then there's this antique quilt from Virginia I sleep under every night with its little baskets pieced of tiny plaids and checks. Aside: Mr. December (Joey Velcro as a kitten) was a feral when we got him but decided to stay when he discovered the wealth of soft things in the house. Almost as good as boxes for feline bait.

Plaids creep into anything scrappy I make, including this teddy bear quilt. 

Bought on ebay: a totally charming plaid scrappy quilt top that smelled so bad it hit the bath tub as soon as it was out of the box. It has holes, some of the threads are rotten, and I totally love it.

This picture, stolen from the internet, is one of the best plaid blocks-ever! I have been contemplating devoting a whole quilt to this plaid madness in 2016. Patterns like this keep me up nights. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Pantone Blew It

Usually in this blog I write about quilts, teaching, and occasionally family stuff. One topic I visit during December is the Pantone pronouncement of their Color of the Year. See last year's post (12/4/14) about the color Marsala (reddish-brown). At that time Pantone had just entered into a financial partnership with the makeup company Sephora and it was painfully obvious that Marsala was a shade of blush/lipstick/eye shadow.

This year I'm afraid Pantone's petticoats are showing with their 2016 pick and their color picks are even less applicable to the average consumer. The color company hedged its bets and picked two shades--oh no--the first time that's ever happened! The partnership here: maybe Pampers? No offence intended: babies are my favorite kind of people but smart moms have long since ditched the pink-vs-blue nursery color scheme.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The 2016 colors are called Serenity and Rose Quartz but that's Baby Blue and Pink to the rest of us. Pantone pens this about the pink-"...a persuasive but gentle tone-" and for the blue -"-weightless and airy, like the expanse of the blue sky above us." Puleeze. The company and its partners (there are many of them) are spinning the color choices like crazy. Rose Quartz is being promoted as the upcoming wedding color but occasionally the images and products just go off the rails.

The pink wedding dress reminds me painfully of the toilet paper dolly found in many 1950s bathrooms.

The blue, called Serenity, is likewise a weak choice but I can see how it was brought in to prop up the Pink. See the two-tone Pantone mug left--sure to be a big hit at the next baby shower you attend.

These colors have very little to do with my world (quilts and fabrics) and unless you're a slave to fashion, you won't rush out and paint your bedroom Rose Quartz and Serenity Blue or go shopping for new duds in these colors for fear of ending up looking vaguely like these 18th and 19th century paintings.
Pinched from a Monty Python skit.

Gainsborough's Blue Boy and Pinkie by Lawrence


As 2016 progresses we'll see how Pantone's picks play out but my prediction is that Pantone's relevance and influence to the rest of the world is waning. A lot of us will pass on this pair! #31DayBlogChallenge

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pennies for Your Thoughts

This is Day #2 of the Jaftex blog hop. After you read this blog posting, make sure to leave a comment and not under 'anonymous'! If your name is drawn, you might win fabric bundles or even a sewing machine. And your local quilt shop can even win a prize too! 

Here goes--pennies for your thoughts?

You know how sometimes you just want to make a simple quilt? No points, no matching, just put fabrics together and sew? That was the impulse that made me begin a Chinese Coins scrap quilt this Spring. I looked through some favorite picture books of Amish quilts (the source I go to when I want to think about pure color) and saw several great Chinese Coins quilts. Wondering about the origin of that strange name, I asked collectors of vintage quilts for opinions. Most thought the Chinese Coins pattern was an off-shoot of a traditional Bars quilt and cited visual images of vintage sewing baskets from China decorated with coins and tassels as possible inspiration. Another surmised that traditional Chinese currency, stacked and roped together after counting, provided a plausible explanation for the name Chinese Coins. See more samples of vintage sewing baskets here Chinese Sewing Baskets 

But I have another idea. While on the trail of the stacked coins theory, the image of an abacus came to mind. An ancient computation device, the abacus was used in China and other Asian countries and brought to the US with emigrants. Might a quiltmaker have seen a shopkeeper using the sliding beads of his abacus  to calculate purchases and associated the image with 'chinese coins?'

The antique Amish quilt pictured here is from Arthur, Illinois. Its name is Chinese Coins and it was made in the early 20th century. Picture courtesy of  The Quilt Complex .

I decided to make my Chinese Coins quilt based on one of my favorite pale colors of Peppered Cottons. The aqua fabric between the bars of strips is called Seaglass . This shade of Peppered Cotton is woven with a bright turquoise warp  and a pale cocoa brown weft that makes for a cool and slightly greyed-green-aqua. All the prints are slices of StudioE, Blank Quilting, and Henry Glass fabrics.

The size of my Chinese Coins quilt is informal. I stretched a tape measure from my chin to my feet and got 53" as the length of my strips. The pieced strips were then trimmed to 7 and 1/2" wide and the aqua strips cut 3 and 1/2". The top and bottom borders were cut 5 1/2". When complete the quilt's overall measurements were 48" wide by 63" long. I wanted the quilt as a recliner quilt for winter TV watching and so it was measured to me.

The back of the quilt is a Peppered Plaid in the colorway I called 'Aquarium.' With its bold aquas and greens, the large plaid made a stunning back. My friend, longarm quilter Laurie Mayo, machine-quilted Chinese Coins for me--simple stitched lines on the print bars but a wild vine, with every sort of leaf imaginable, twines up the aqua strips between the prints. The binding is a bias-cut strip of the matching check

I love this quilt, simple as it is. The prints seem almost luminous against the quiet Seaglass.

Here you are-

85th Anniversary Giveaway

Get ready set-

Today the 1st of September is Day #1 of the Jaftex blog hop. This is gonna be a real bunfight! (Brit-speak for a wild party!) Here's a list of all the blogs involved--make sure to read and enter. Go a little further down this page and click on that link and stand back--you will be amazed at what you might win!

September 1 - Kim Diehl guest posting @ American Patchwork & Quilting
September 2 - Pepper @ Pepper at the Quilt Studio 
September 3 - Anjeanette @ Anjeanette Klinder 
September 4 - Leanne @ The Whole Country Caboodle   
September 5 - Mark @ Mark Lipinski's Blog
September 6 - Heather @ Heather Kojan Quilts  
September 7 - Heather @ Trends and Traditions  
September 7 - Martha @ Wagons West Designs  
September 8 - Linda @ Linda Lum DeBono 
September 9 - Heidi @ Red Letter Quilts 
September 10 - Jill @ Jillily Studios  
September 10 - Dana @ My Lazy Daisy  
September 11 - Penny @ Sew Simple Designs  
September 12 - Ida @ Cowtown Quilts 
September 13 - Liz and Beth @ Lizzie B Cre8ive  
September 14 - Melissa @ Sew Bitter Sweet Designs
September 15 - Yvonne @ Quilting Jetgirl    
September 16 - Amy @ Kati Cupcake 
September 16 - Barbara @ QuiltSoup2 
September 17 - Erica @ Kitchen Table Quilting 
September 18 - Leona @ Leona's Quilting Adventure 
September 19 - Margot @ The Pattern Basket  
September 20 - Sylvia @ Flying Parrot Quilts   
September 21 - Lorna @ Sew Fresh Quilts  
September 22 - Kim @ Aurifil Threads  
September 23 - Rebekah @ Don't Call Me Becky   
September 24 - Julie @ The Crafty Quilter 
September 25 - Mary Ellen @ Little Quilts  
September 25 - Mary Jane @ Holly Hill Designs 
September 26 - Daisy @ Ants to Sugar
September 27 - Melissa @ Happy Quilting
September 28 - Janet @ One S1ster
September 29 - Jenny @ Martingale& Co.
September 30 - Teresa @ Third Floor Quilts

Are you ready?
85th Anniversary Giveaway

Friday, May 1, 2015

Star to the Fourth Power

A couple of years ago, I decided for whatever reason to design and piece a monster quilt in black and white prints. It started with an 8" simple star in the center. That 8" star became the middle of another star 16" square. And the 16-incher became the center of a 32" block and finally the 32" star became the middle of a 64" block. It was time to stop. The next step would have vaulted the quilt into Texas-King territory at 128" (or more then 10 feet square). At 64" it was doable but time for a border. I dug through my black and whites for something suitable for a border since not any print would do. I wanted a stripe-ish white. I came up with a floating-dot-on-plaid print that I had designed for Michael Miller around the turn of the century--2000 that is. Had just enough to put 8" wide borders all around and the quilt top happily concluded at 80" square. Any quilt with similar measurements is good for either a full or queen bed. 

The big black-and-white quilt top sat folded on the shelf and was occasionally flapped as a sample in a class. Then I decided to ask my friend Laurie Mayo to
machine-quilt it. I have never been happier with the results. For backing I chose the big black-and-white woven plaid from the Peppered Plaids I did for StudioE Fabrics and the lime green thread she used showed to wonderful effect against the neutral geometric. Laurie had fun stitching huge feathers and tendrils. There's some stippling stitching in the quilt but it's black-on-black and hardly visible. 

The quilt's batting (filling) is wool, maybe not the first choice of many folks but I think it's super. Wool batting tends to hold its loft and not crease as much as cotton does when the quilt's been folded for a long time. The final step was binding. I cut about 350" of 2-and-a-half inch wide bias strips from the black Chrysanthemum fabric from the Town & Country line.
Mary Frankle did a fine job of binding it, half by machine and half by hand.

I named the quilt Star to the Fourth Power. It's a good sleeper (I always test my quilts on my own bed) and has the Memo 'paw of approval.' Memo is my cat and she always asks permission when getting into my lap. She was surprised by the black and white quilt's slightly puffy feeling and did her "making muffins" thing for some time before settling. 

Sometimes I put away a quilt top and think, "I need to hand quilt this one-" but Star to the Fourth Power said, "Get me done-NOW!"

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Time to Twinkle

In another two weeks I hit the road again as a traveling quilt teacher. It's my first time out since November 18th 2014. I told anyone who asked that I was taking a "sabbatical" for December-January but truthfully, the no-teach time was to allow for healing. 

Since April of last year, I'd known that my right hip joint was deteriorating. The doctor got me through the year by a series of cortisone injections and pep talks. My husband and I planned how to deal with the upcoming major medical event: I was going to get a new hip joint and we needed to deal with it. Rod applied for (and got) family leave time and took six weeks off from his job. In my ignorance, I'd assumed that family leave was only for women delivering babies! As I recovered from hip joint replacement surgery (five days in the hospital and then home) Rod became my caretaker, exercise coach, cook, and tennis shoe lacer. He did a superb job. Because of his care, I didn't have to go to a rehab facility but could come straight home. That fact made all the difference in recovering and getting stronger. 

Now it's not quite 90 days out from the surgery and the surgery has made a huge positive difference in my life. While I'm not quite up to running a marathon (didn't get the jock gene anyway) I am walking with ease and getting stronger all the time. The biggest lesson learned: when they tell you to exercise every day, there's a reason. If I skip the assigned exercises for even one day, I get stiffer and feel the new joint. If I do the exercises like I should, I get stronger and move fine. 

The Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampton, Virginia is my goal this month. After helping judge the quilt show on Wednesday February 25th (the show opens that evening-) the next three days are classes. 

I am delighted that two of my three classes have completely filled. The only one open for enrollment at this time is Twinkle, Twinkle Little/Big Star. It's a new class but one I've wanted to teach for a couple of years. Now I'm totally engrossed in making new samples and learning more even as I head toward Hampton. 
The class Twinkle features a simple Star block that is a snap to sew. I think that when you want to teach design principles, using a simple pattern is a good idea. It would be excruciating to try to impart color and proportion concepts while teaching how to sew a challenging Mariner's Compass block! Instead of heads down over their sewing machine, fretting about whether their sewing skills are equal to the task, I hope students can relax as they work with familiar shapes like squares and right triangles. The point here is to consider other design principles: color and contrast, proportion, and balance of the design. These are subtle principles, often subject to personal likes and dislikes, but when examined, each student can design and tweak their Star quilt project to be the best possible.

We'll even explore the Japanese principle of Mottainai (reduce, reuse, recycle, repair and respect)
The latest sample quilt top I've made is large (queen-size) and instead of piecing patchwork for the centers of the stars, I dug into my orphan block box and selected sixteen blocks--most of which I'd made eons ago and done nothing with--for the star center squares. (For non-quilter readers: orphan blocks are one-of patchwork blocks you've accumulated but are never going to multiple into a project with--they sit around until you find them a home!). I cut my orphan blocks to size (that was really fun!) and started sewing. 

I think quilters come naturally to Mottainai--we've been reusing and recycling for ages. It's how our craft came to be. Although cutting my orphan blocks might seem to be brutal ("What?! Cut up your own work?!") it's actually a form of respect. The work of my hands never hits the trash can--it reappears, even years later, in new quilts.