Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Mug Rugs, a little late

It's that pre-Christmas rush here, as it may be at your house.  I keep thinking of all the things I haven't done yet and some of them may get pushed off the list entirely.  Wrapping gifts still has to happen and I still need to find something, anything, for my husband.  Next year, all done shopping by November 30, that's my plan. 

Mug Rugs, waiting for bindings to be stitched down.  All the backs are the Michael Miller fabric at top

Apple Crumble Pie--what I made when I should have been sewing bindings

Patches, getting used to being the only cat, sticks close to me when I'm home

I had hoped to get the mug rugs done as soon as I came home from Houston--I was lucky enough to win the tablecloth on our table at a special event and thought it would be fun to make gifts with it for others who sat at my table.  Better late than never and they don't know this is my plan so they will be surprised with their  New Year's Gifts.

The other day I went to a shelter to get a new furry friend.  Patches hissed at him some as he explored all over.  About an hour after we came home I discovered he had diarrhea and he went right back to the shelter.  So far, my healthy Patches doesn't seem to have gotten it--I removed and sanitized the litter box he used.  Think I'm done bringing home new cats at this point.  
Super Southern Star, Calico Carriage Designs pattern, 82" x 82"

Another must do, was to get this binding in place and take this quilt to my local quilt shop--it's a class sample for a one day class in January.  I just got it back from the quilter, really wish I had planned ahead better.  It's a pattern from Calico Carriage Designs, Southern Star, and is my go-to pattern for college graduation quilts for nieces and nephews.  Most students can get the top at least half done in the one day class. 
Check out Judy L's Design Wall blog to see what others are rushing to finish.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours.   Let's Quilt!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

My Sweet Stitches--the Cat

Today we had to have Stitches, our 8 month old kitty, put to sleep--we are so very sad but know it had to be done.

Here is his story:

This is the photo on the Friends of Rescue website that made me go "Awwwwwwwwww" and knew he would be ours.  His name was Shipley then and we got him mid-July when he was about 12 weeks old.  His foster family said he was a great kitten and he was.  He rarely spoke, unless you tried to clip his nails, but you could hear him purr from across the room.  He was friendly, affectionate, and active, always on the go chasing his "sister"--Patches, the other cat we got the same day so they would have company.

Little did we know he brought Coccidios with him--a nasty parasite that required treatment a few days after we got him.  After 14 days, he was better and Patches had it.  We made it through all that mess and they turned into very fun playmates, often doing the 10 PM Tussle--chasing each other wildly all around the house, roughhousing and just being wild and FUN TO WATCH! 

Stitches had a great personality and loved to pose for photos and belly rubs.  He could chase a toy mouse around the house for an hour and was always the victor. 

The day he jumped onto the kitchen counter, then the refrigerator, then the top of the cabinets, my husband named him "Sir Edmund Hillary".  His inquisitiveness knew no bounds.  And the spray water bottle only amused him.  If we pointed it at him telling him "no!" and "get down", he just opened his mouth and I swear he was smiling--go ahead, squirt me! We could only laugh.

When he wasn't running, he was sleeping, preferably on a lap.  Here is a favorite pose, rub my belly!

Patches & Stitches bonded pretty quickly and seemed to like each other.  Their "fights" were mostly tussles and no one got hurt.  Until a week ago.

Friday night we knew Stitches didn't feel well but couldn't determine why.  That morning I found a piece of Christmas Cactus on the floor and thought he had ingested some.  Saturday morning he was clearly sick so off to the vet we went.  They kept him, gave antibiotics and sent him home.  By Monday morning he was seriously ill and we went back to the vet.  Upon close inspection, a 2" laceration under the tail was discovered and it looked pretty bad.  More meds, some ointment and he came home.  By Thursday his spirits were better and we thought the abscess had ruptured so we went back to the vet.  Later that day we got the news, things had spread very badly all over his hind end and it looked very, very bad.  Saturday the news was worse and my husband went to see him.  His one word that was so accurate:  "horrific".  My husband took me to see him and I knew, right then, this would not heal.  The vet agreed that was most likely the case but gave us time to think about it.  Only numerous surgeries and many months of rehab might save him. 

We could not put our beloved Stitches through that trauma so we let him go.  So very sad. 
Patches is lost.  Here she is grooming him, as she often did.  All weekend she has been crying, she's the vocal one.  She looks all over and has been bringing me Stitches' collar, crying:

We are undecided about getting another kitten right now.  I am about to start full time work again and won't be home much until after April 15.  What if she hurts the next kitty?  We know it was a playful accident, surely, but I worry about the next fur baby fitting in. 

We didn't have him very long, in time, but Stitches had our hearts.  Here is the last photo I took of him, right before he got hurt:

Goodbye, sweet baby.  We'll miss you.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Show News!

Just got word that two of my quilts will make their big debut at the AQS show in Phoenix, February 2014.  I'm excited and pleased.  If you're at the Phoenix show, I'd love a photo or two.

A-Round with My Friends--worked on this for 7 years.  Hand applique'd and hand quilted
2011 Best of Show at my guild

Red and White--By the Numbers
2013 Best of Show at my guild

Details of the magnificent quilting by Pam Dransfeldt

Pam's Website--see more of her work here.  She is Joyful Quilter on Facebook--that's how I found her 5 years ago.

Let's Quilt!



Monday, December 9, 2013

Finally Finished Four-Patch

After quite some time, I am finished with this leader/ender project:

It is based on a quilt in the book Small Pieces, Spectacular Quilts by Mary Elizabeth Kinch and Biz Storms.  I made 4 patches from 1.5" squares over a couple of years, then they became groups of four four-patches, then larger groups of four sets, all with 1" sashing between the units.   There are many of my favorite fabrics in here and all are from projects I've made in the past 10 years.  It's like a reunion looking at them as the quilt top was completed.

As I'm a number person it seemed reasonable to count the squares when the top was done.  Not including the two outer borders, there are 1957 squares and rectangles in the body of the quilt.  It is a gift for my sister who was born, wait for it... in 1957!  Weird, right?  She had fussed at me some time ago that I never made a quilt for her so I've been working on this for a while.  I told her I'd make her a quilt for her 60th birthday so at this point I'm more than 3 years early.   Now it's on to the longarm quilter and eventually to my sister--sometime in this next year I guess.  No problem, she does not read my blog so she won't know.

This was the perfect leader/ender project.  By that I mean, I keep a container of light 1.5" squares and dark 1.5" squares right beside my machine.  As I start or end a row of stitching on every seam I sew, I grab 2 squares, one light one dark, and join them--then they get joined into a four patch and set aside until I need four-patches.  It's a way to create pieced units as you work on a project.  If I had decided to just make this quilt, all at once, I'd have gone crazy--there's just too much piecing and it's all squares and rectangles. 

Every quilter who has a cat knows that as soon as you spread out a quilt, anywhere, the cat will immediately appear out of nowhere and jump on it.  Patches did just that.  Sadly, her "brother" Stitches, is quite ill and will go back to the vet tomorrow.  We think he ate Christmas cactus.  It's touch and go today so I hope to have better news next report.

Check out Judy L's blog to see what others are up to.

Let's quilt!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Country Quilt--and Nashville

Here's what I'm working on--a simple block, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, that I am doing by hand applique'.  You could piece it, by hand or machine, but it makes a simple block to carry as handwork on trips.  I trace around a template on both the light and dark pieces, line them up and thread baste.  No pins, just a needle and thread and I'm all set for needle turn applique'.

I've got more blocks to make but no rush, it will get done when it gets done.  Check out Judy L's Design Wall Monday blog to see what other folks are working on.

We went to Nashville for Thanksgiving to visit our son, Joshua Black Wilkins, photographer and musician.  We stayed downtown at the brand new Omni Hotel--a beautiful place with a great location.  Our son lives about two miles from there, in an old warehouse rehabbed into lofts.  From our room on the top floor, we had a view of the top of the new Music City Center--it's built in the shape of an acoustic guitar--can you see it?  There is also a green roof--my civil engineer husband just loves all that stuff.  It's always a "bus man's holiday" when we go near new construction.

We visited the new Johnny Cash museum--we are all fans of the late, great Johnny Cash.  It was a terrific exhibit, covering his long career in the music industry.  Joshua did not get to meet Johnny but had worked on a photo shoot after his death where he saw many of the artifacts on display.  And he got to hold the most famous guitar that belonged to Johnny--the black Gibson that is at the very end of the exhibits.  Very cool.

In the gift shop, because ALL museum tours end in the gift shop, Joshua was recognized by a fan of his who had seen him play in Memphis last May.  She and her husband were about 10 years younger than me.  She recognized Joshua's tattoos and then his face.  It was very cool for his mother to see her son recognized in public.  The woman had bought Joshua's music at the show and spreads the word about him.  Wish I had thought to get a photo of them together.  Next time.  And if you need a gift for an artistic friend who loves images, here is a link to Joshua's latest photo book:  Thirteen--look at the preview, you may see someone you recognize.

We also stopped in at Antique Archeology, the Nashville location of the store made famous by American Pickers, the TV show.  Didn't buy anything just looked at all the tourists visiting.  No Mike or Frank either, but here are my two guys, better than Mike or Frank:

Hope Thanksgiving was good for you.  Now it's December--yikes!  Good thing I do very little shopping or decorating.  H&R Block training is going strong--I'm returning for my 34th year.  Time to get all the quilting done I can before life gets really hectic,

Let's Quilt!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Class Just for Fun

Yesterday I took a class with my guild buddies--a scrap class that was fast and fun.  The instructor, Elaine Poplin who blogs as Messygoat, is a guild member who had adapted a Bonnie Hunter free pattern, String-X, to create a great quilt made from whatever scraps you have on hand.

I didn't "need" to take another class OR start another project but I wanted to support the instructor and when the supplies called for lots of scraps in various sizes, I looked around my studio and THERE was a big bag of said scraps--just waiting.  I opened one of the 6 closet doors to my stash and THERE, at eye level, were 3 fabrics that would do quite nicely for the background pieces.  So I paid the nominal fee and went to class.  Twenty five of us enjoyed the day, the friendships, and whipped those scraps into blocks.

Here are a few shots from the day:

My tablemates, Sharon, Annie, Deanna

The Featherweight table, 3 of the 4 machines

Julie comes prepared for class:  pressing table to the side, lots of thread, caddy full of supplies--everything but the kitchen sink!
Denise getting ready to square up her block

Elaine with a sample block

Half the class at the end of the day
All in all, it was a good day.  Eventually, I'll get back to this project--a few things are more pressing at the moment.  This would make a great charity quilt--very fast and you're using up what you have on hand.

Let's Quilt!


Monday, November 18, 2013

New Class Sample

Here is the sample for a new class I am teaching this winter/summer.  The applique' blocks will be offered first, then the pieced blocks.  Students can do both or either class--they are independent of one another.  The pattern is Mrs. Lincoln's Sampler Quilt, by Lori Smith, From My Heart to Your Hands--I love all her patterns.  The blocks are 5" finished and the total piece is 24" square.  It still needs it's binding. 

I thought I'd make the whole quilt but have decided this is enough.  Sometimes, that's just the lesson to be learned.  Now on to another important project I want to finish.

Check out what others are up to at Judy's L's Design Wall Monday blog.

Let's Quilt!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veterans Day

While in San Antonio last week, we took a brief, unplanned photo stop at the Alamo and got there just in time to see a small group of Army folks gathering.  We were witness to a re-enlistment ceremony.  The officer spoke of the service and sacrifice of the family--his wife, children and parents were among the crowd.  That always chokes me up.  "They also serve who wait at home".  It was a very special moment to be a small part of.  The crowd cheered and  applauded after the oath--an oath that means a lot to me too. 

Here is a salute to all veterans, the unknown and the many I had the honor to serve with in the United States Marine Corps--Semper Fi!


Post-Festival Busy Time

Last week I got home from 15 days in Houston--13 days of work at International Quilt Market and Festival, and 2 days of fun and sightseeing on the Post-show tour--this year we went to San Antonio.  It is so  good to see something of Texas besides the Houston airport to the GRB convention center and back again. 

I've been going to Houston since 1996 and absolutely love my time there.  Market is exciting--let's see what's new and upcoming--and Festival is vibrant with over 60,000 visitors from all over the world.  My schedule keeps me on the 3rd floor most of the time, in the Education office, but every chance I get, I head downstairs to see the quilts and visit the vendors.  My job is to handle faculty check-in and manage all the freight they ship in--lots of fun getting to know more than 120 teachers, again from all over the world. 

In January I will be giving a Power Point lecture to my guild:  An Inside Look at International Quilt Market and Festival.  So this year I had to remember to take my camera every time I left the office.  While I could talk for hours about "Houston" as quilters know it, a Power Point lecture needs images.   Here are a few:

One of the TWO Founders Awards--by Janet Stone

A photo exhibit I call "If Quilters Ruled the World"  quilts on the SF Bay Bridge and US Capitol

Honu Harmony by my long-time friend, Eileen Williams--spectacular!

Two of my teacher buddies, Charlotte Angotti and Debbie Caffrey

There is always so much to do after being gone from home this long--laundry, mail, newspapers, etc.  Today I hope to unpack my goodies and cram them into the closet along with all their friends I brought home in the past years. 
 I also have to get a few samples finished for upcoming classes, like this:

Two applique' blocks from Mrs. Lincoln's Sampler, by From My Heart to Your Hands, Lori Smith

Enjoying my crazy kitties too--yes, they've grown while I was gone and Stitches, the male, is now able to get on top of everything--including the refrigerator and then the cabinet tops.  When we point the spray bottle at him, he just smiles.  Patches, good little girl, jumps down. 


I'd better get to it if I hope to get much done today--Let's Quilt!


Monday, October 14, 2013

Starstruck Block Lottery

My guild is starting a new project this month, using this simple block. 

To participate, we make at least one or more of these great little floating stars, in that months' designated color.  The first block made is donated to our Comfy Quilt program, and will be used to make quilts donated to children and adults in need.  Any additional blocks we make go into a lottery and someone gets to take them home for their own use.

The blocks are currently about 9" and can easily be cut down to a smaller size--very important in group swap projects!

This month the colors are your choice--Auburn or Alabama team colors--the Iron Bowl is a big football rivalry here in Alabama so we're going to see if the group that makes the most blocks predicts the winner of the BIG game.

I had a wonderful time at our guild quilt show this past weekend--winning Best of Show was a thrill!  See my post here to see what I wrote about that.  Now it's back to reality so:

Let's Quilt!

And check out Judy L's blog to see what others are doing.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Best of Show Makes My Day!

"Our guild has its' bi-annual quilt show this weekend, October 11-13, 2013.  Our members are a very talented bunch and our show is a beautiful, exciting, and eclectic display of textile art/quilts.  I am thrilled to have received the Best of Show Award for my quilt, Red and White, By The Numbers:

 Inspired by the 2011 NYC exhibit “Infinite Variety”, these blocks were free patterns from 2 websites in 2012.  There are 2770 pieces and 59 different fabrics. 

It was quilted spectacularly by Pamela Joy Dransfeldt, the Joyful Quilter, from Camarillo, CA.  Here are a few detail shots:

On the Frame
So this weekend I get to enjoy this experience, do the happy dance, then it's back to normal on Monday. 

Let's Quilt!


Monday, October 7, 2013

Design Wall Monday--My Feathered Star

Here is my Feathered Star, cut out to be a class demo:

15" Radiant Star with 1" burgundy borders

It now goes to one of my friends for our 3-person Round Robin.  We do these occasionally to commemorate quilt trips we've taken together.  This one was formed in Paducah, April 2013.  We each selected a focus fabric or theme, and each of us bought 2 fat quarters for each other, that went with the stash we were each buying for our own project.  This Round Robin has no rules--we each make a center block and pass it on.  We might pass it back around more than once, might not.  Anything goes.  This works when you trust your friends.

Here is the first one to make it to all three of us, it belongs to Ellen:

Ellen did the center applique' block, I added the Sawtooth and narrow dark borders and Sharon added the Four-Patch borders.  Now it goes back to Ellen to work her magic--I'm betting she adds more applique' next.
Be sure to check out Judy L's blog to see what others are doing.
Let's quilt!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Feathered Star Class

Yesterday I taught a Feathered Star class at Patches & Stitches, my local quilt shop where I have taught for 25 years.  Here is the class sample:

It was a six hour process class, with the primary purpose of the class being to learn how to accurately sew a 15" Feathered Star block.  What the maker did with her block after class was entirely up to her.

Using Marsha McCloskey's great book, Feathered Star Quilt Blocks 1, subtitled "Really Hard Blocks That Take A Long Time To Make", we made the 15" Radiant Star on page 22.   The book has excellent directions and you should check out Marsha's website to see more of her work and patterns/books.  Marsha is the queen of Feathered Stars and a great teacher too.

As I tell all my students, in every class, there are only 3 things you can do wrong in making pieced quilt blocks:  the cutting, the sewing, and/or the pressing.  This block requires you to do your best work on all three of those.  Accuracy is important on this one.

One student, Tina, was making her first ever Feathered Star and she got into the process quickly. 
Making Feathers, the Bias-Strip Piecing Method

Assembling the units--she's getting there!

Two Thirds of the way there, at the end of class.  Great job!

Sarah took this class from me 3 years ago and has made 3 Feathered Stars since then but wasn't completely happy with her precision so she came back for a refresher on how to improve her work.  She used the fabrics and pieces she had made some time ago, and some of them needed trimming before she could get them together.  Back in business:

Christmas Star, on her way!

The third student, Joyce, had also taken the class 3 years before and completed her Feathered Star from that class.  But then life intervened and she put it away.  Now she was ready to actually make a wallhanging with her block.  She asked me if I would help her to complete the project in this class and I said "Sure".  She spent her time in class making pieced borders and learning how to figure out what size to make the floater borders that would allow her pieced borders to fit accurately. 

Cutting Half Square Triangles for the first pieced border

Ta-da!  First solid border cut and sewed on, AFTER the pieced border was made, so everything fits!
At the end of six hours, everyone was tired but happy--each person had gotten what she needed out of the class, and more importantly, was ready and eager to go home and finish this project! 

I found it fun and a little challenging to spend the day going to each student and providing what she needed at that particular moment.   Each was at a different step at any given time so that kept me on my toes.  As they sewed, I worked on my demo star--I'll show that soon--it's almost done. 

Teaching quilting is almost as much of a  passion for me as making quilts--I just LOVE to see the light bulb come on when a student figures out how to do something that had been a challenge.  And when they proudly send me a photo of their finished project:  priceless! 

If you're stuck or need to be inspired, find a great class and get back to it.  All I ask of students, mine or anyone else's, is to try the suggestion a teacher gives before you say "That doesn't work for me"--you won't know if you don't try it.   I try to provide more than one way to do something, saying "That's why there's Chocolate AND Vanilla"--no one method is perfect for everyone.  For example, in this class I showed 4 different ways to make those tiny 1" finished feathers.  After working with Marsha McCloskey last fall in Houston, I tried her bias-strip piecing method, again--I had tried it many years ago and not loved it.  This time I was taken with how well it worked for me now so I changed my preferred method.  Always be open to new, or not-so-new ideas.

Hope you are working on a quilt project that makes you happy.  Next up  for me is our bi-annual guild quilt show next weekend--sure to be a terrific event.  Quilts get turned in early this week, judging happens Wednesday and Thursday, and the show is Friday-Sunday. 

Let's quilt!