Friday, November 18, 2016


A big honking plaid quilt I showed a month ago on Facebook is now finished and has been living on my bed (I test all my quilts) since returning from Houston 11/6. Although a large quilt (80" sq) it is surprisingly light due to the Hobbs wool batting.

The blocks are large (16" sq) and thus the whole quilt measures 80", a full-queen size. The Compass-type pattern is Slashed Star of the West and the alternate an unknown pattern. Some people identified the alternate as a Victorian pattern called Vestibule and others swear it's simply part of Storm at Sea. In any case, it came from another plaid quilt, a relic of a top I bought on ebay.

Why do I make nutzo quilts like this? I don't rightly know. Sometimes it's like a fever--"Get it done, get it done!" and other times pieces of projects hang about for years. This plaid piece (title for now Plaid Jungle) was one of the fevered brain variety. You know when you wake up thinking about it, you better get 'er done. In the cause of truth, Laurie Mayo machine quilted it for me and Mary Frankle bound it.

But recently there's been little stitch work. I have been putting my studio storage room back together. What I haven't talked about is that in the middle of September, I came back from a teaching job and as I rolled my big suitcases into the studio, I heard the wheels go 'squish,squish' and saw spreading darkening lines between the carpet tiles that cover the floor. Aarrggh! Seems like an old water main under the building (c.1900) broke and-lucky me!-was bubbling up in the door sill between my hallway and storage room. To my landlord's credit, he called me back, came down, called the city, and we got the water to the building turned off. As we tore up the carpet tiles, it was obvious the leak was a major problem and we'd gotten it just before the whole studio flooded.

As it was only about 1/2" covered the affected area.

The next day, we emptied the storage room and it was like "Add air and poof! Quilts and quilt junk all over the place!" The landlord let me move all the bits and pieces into an unrented suite in the building. Then the jackhammer guy, plasterer, painter took over.

Ever since returning from Houston, I've been moving back in and re-discovering tons of stuff as I re-fold and get quilts back on the shelf.

Here are a few of the bits (small unquilted tops and blocks) spread on the floor. Unfortunately my studio re-wind is hindered by 'designer brain', as in "Ooooo! If I put these together they'd look interesting-" And then there's simply the drudgery of re-homing thread, notions, bags of batting etc. etc.

it's almost Thanksgiving and my gratitude list has gotten longer. I am grateful the studio flood wasn't worse. I am grateful my landlord has been a good guy. I am grateful I've been given the chance to review all the antique quilts in the collection and re-discover old work samples. And I am very grateful that the plaid quilt is a great sleeper.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Love Affair with Plaids

Before I was a quilter, I was a spinner and weaver. This was back in the early '70's when the "school of oozing wounds" style of fiber art was popular. Tie-dye some roving, attach braids and a macrame spider web, hang the whole mess from a branch and voila! fiber art that any commune would be proud to hang above their hearth. The picture at right was stolen from the TV cult classic Twin Peaks.

Except that I hated the whole jumbled, fuzzy mess and wanted to spin fine thread and, even more retrogressively, yearned to weave overshot as in mid-19th century coverlets. I did finally own a loom and spinning wheel but the wheel gathered dust as I began to weave the world's longest rag rug. 

In a tiny apartment, the stomping noise of the treadles and the metallic clash of the heddles mitigated against working whenever my husband was home. I tried to soften the noise by hanging the heddles with leather strips stretched in water but the craft was always at odds with the living space. I finished the rug (about 14 feet long) but in the process of being around fiber enthusiasts, I'd met a few quilters. Now there was a craft I might enjoy--small bits fashioned a little at a time, embellished with lady-like stitches and eventually resulting in a useful and lovely quilt. Then I met a quilt at a garage sale and fell head over heels in love.

The quilt was all blues, white, grey and brown and most of it composed of chambray, black-on-white prints, and soft muted plaids. It had been sewn by a woman and her young son in WWI as they awaited word of their MIA soldier husband/father. The fabrics were mainly from his shirts. The pattern was Bow Tie. Good news: the man did finally come home to his family and they used the quilt for years.

Psst-the picture here is one of my own recent Bow Tie blocks-the antique quilt is long gone.

The fact is that I've never gotten plaids out of my system. There is something so straight-forward and honest about a woven plaid. Unlike those who took clothes sewing as part of their home economics classes in high school, I never agonized about plaids (or stripes either for that matter) matching. I have no nightmares of a critical teacher telling me to rip out a seam and make the plaids match! 

I'll get to let my plaid flag fly this coming August when I go to teach at John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. Not coincidentally, it's Scottish Week at the Folk School so plaid freaks will feel right at home--some of the pipers won't get out of their kilts all week. If you want to experiment with plaids and other pretties in your quilting, this is your best week to attend Folk School! The description of the class is the online catalog is pretty brief and sadly there's no eye candy to tempt the potential student.               I've included a gallery of possible projects that you might want to work on if you are tempted to 'go tartan' and join us.

A single Carolina Lily block against a plaid background makes a small wall hanging. You'd be done with this in two days.

Maybe bring all those 'orphan blocks' you don't know what to do with and make a truly great spit-in-their-eye sampler quilt. Nothing like plaid sashing and alternate blocks to distract from disparate designs.

The two patterns in the class description are Carolina Lily and string-pieced Star. Stars can have any number of points and I am open to helping you draft the plaid star of your dreams since I always bring graph paper and drafting tools to the class. 

This one is four point and crazy-patched over tracing paper.

And mid-week we'll take time out to learn to do the traditional Folded Manx Roof Tile block (otherwise known as the Log Cabin quilt).


If it bothers you to mix plaids and prints, you could take a more subtle, modern approach to the project. Here's a small quilt top (excuse the camera strap at the bottom) of Bow Tie blocks.

The J.C. Campbell class is called In Praise of Plaids and begins Sunday August 28th and runs through Saturday September 3. Yes, a whole week to patch, sew, and experiment with plaids. Be still my heart! Go call the Folk School at 1-800-365-5724.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Piet would be so proud!

For the past couple of years I've been associated with StudioE Fabrics, the independent stores' niche in the Jaftex Company. Other Jaftex holdings include  Blank Quilting, Henry Glass, and A.E. Nathan among others.

The line of shot cottons we designed called Peppered Cottons has sold well for the company. Explaining just a bit here: 'shot' means that the warp (lengthwise threads on the loom) are one color while the weft (the thread carried from side-to-side by the shuttle) is another. The blending of two colors can produce fabrics that are either subtle or occasionally startling.

If the colors in a woven shot cotton are related, such as royal blue plus turquoise, when woven together they create an intense medium blue. The new shade coordinates with both true blue prints and all the aquas and turquoise-related colors.

Sometimes the blending of colors creates shades that are quite delicious and rare. Seen here: Grellow (yellow woven with grey) that shows as a light strange off-shade of green.

Or Morning Glory, a purple plus blue blend.

But sometimes a quiltmaker hungers for a pure color, an intense and strong shade, and it's difficult to achieve that effect in a true shot (bi-color) weave. Red, in particular, is a color people love. When they want a real red in a quilt, they don't mean Cherry Red or Burgundy Red. They mean RED. Sometimes only a pure color will do. Enter yarn-dyed true colors. Yarn-dyed  means that the fabric is not first woven and then dyed red (the usual steps in solid color production). Rather the very threads, before being even warped on the loom, are dyed red. The red dye deeply permeates the very fibers of
the fabrics and, when woven with the same red in the warp and weft, the process produces an intense color.

While formerly Flame was our only true color in the Peppered Cottons lineup, at this Spring Quilt Market, we're introducing twelve new colors and four of them are true shades.

Meet Deep Space, a black that's blacker-than-black and its opposite--White Sugar. Sorry that the white looks like a hole in the blog--it's just super-white! And adding to the basic color wheel here's True Royal and Buttercup, a truly happy strong yellow. Then I realized those true colors are the palette of many of Piet Mondrian's masterpieces.
Deep Space

White Sugar
True Royal

Composition in red, blue, and yellow (1930) by Piet Mondrian.
So if you've been wanting to do a Mondrian tribute quilt, we've got your colors!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Spring Cleaning...sorta

Marie Kondo has really ripped it. The author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has given me and my friends a total inferiority complex. 

Not only do I not arrange and pet my socks correctly, I am emotionally bonded with my "quilt stuff" and find it excrutiatingly difficult to divest myself of fabrics, notions, and books I might need some day. Nowhere in Ms. Kondo's best-seller is there any advice for the sewer/crafter who naturally collects tools and notions for his/her eventual work. We are, simply, outside her norm. And that's fine with me.

Answering the call for a Spring cleaning-theme blog, (See the blog hop links at the end-)I have put it on the line and hope that anyone who's actually visited my premises will be forgiving and not laugh aloud. Thank you.

The explosion of red fabrics above serves to show you what happens when my mind overloads with "I must make a red quilt." The result of this red riot was a quilt I gifted to my friend Fran. And yes, all that mess was necessary to eventually come up with the quilt.

Most of the time the fabric shelves are bulging and terribly messy. 

And from time to time, the fabrics are neatened, patted in place, sorted and stacked. I try to do this once every 2-3 years. 

I planned that the corner with Mom's rocking chair would be my little piece of hand-quilting zen territory. Instead it's turned into the staging area for quilts going in-and-out of huge bags as I pack/unpack from teaching trips. This is truly as neat as it gets.
At least in #2

                                                    At least in picture #2 you can see the chair. 

Meanwhile I ponder why my art is so messy in its making. The quilts I sew are mostly patchwork and arranged in blocks. Perhaps my lifelong obsession with quilting is my feeble attempt at controlling the world around me. The only way I know to present order, beauty, and warmth at the same time.

Meteor Shower left

Chinese Coins right   

                                         Flower Market right

To paraphrase the bumper sticker: shit happens, art happens, quilts happen. 

 Shimaco with sashiko stitching

April 20th- Toni Smith - April 21st - Sam Hunter - April 22nd - Tracey Mooney - April 23rd - Pepper Cory - April 24th - Lisa Chin - April 25th - Andrea Davis - April 26th - Misty Cole - April 27th - Amalia Morusiewicz - April 28th - Jenelle Montilone - April 29th - Cheryl Sleboda -