Monday, December 15, 2014

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I decorate with quilts (!) all year but especially at Christmas.

A wonderful, lucky find at a Trade Day sale a few years ago.  This is an antique, professionally dated circa 1875.  Because the fabrics are all solids it's hard to get a definitive date.  Besides the lovely feathered hearts and cable quilting, there are 2 small quilted motifs:  one is a "W" and one is a dragonfly.  Oh my!  My husband's last name starts with a "W" and I LOVE dragonflies, often wearing one of many dragonfly pins on my jackets.  This was meant to be mine.  It lays out on a unused guest bed just for the month of December so I can enjoy it and wonder about who made it, what her life was like, and what she would think of my world.  The green was home dyed I imagine--there is one tiny place the green has turned blue.  One of my best treasures!
I made this years ago, the first quilt I had long-arm quilted.  It was featured on the cover of McCall's Quilting, December 1997--one of my first "cover girl" opportunities.  It hangs in the living room for the month of December and sometimes on into January or February or... The house looks ready for Christmas just as soon as this quilt appears. 

Over the years we have put up less decorations, just our most favorites.  Our sons and their women are only here a day or two and we don't entertain others very much so it pleases us to keep things simple.  I used to feel bad about this but now it feels right.  With a new grandchild on the way we are thinking of doing more next year, time will tell.  Here is the mantel with one very special new stocking in the center--for Baby Mac--what our son and daughter-in-law are calling their baby until they find out, next month, who is in there! 

In digging through my quilt stash last week, I came upon this quilt:

It is a Bonnie Hunter mystery quilt from a few years ago, Roll Roll Cotton Boll.  I named this one Limeade with a Dash of Peppermint.  It is a half-size version of hers.  I thought "this looks like a Christmas quilt" so it is now displayed on the back of our red sofa--very festive! 

Last week I wrapped up the first session of the Simple WhatNots Club at Patches & Stitches, my local quilt shop.  It was a 6 month club that met one Friday night a month for a lecture/demo of small quilts designed by Kim Diehl for Henry Glass Fabrics.  Collection 2 starts in January.  Maximum capacity of the classroom is 30 chairs so that is how many we will have.  At our wrap-up party we had great goodies to share:

And a few people actually brought a quilt to share.  Here is a great one by Anna:

It is called Widdlytinks and she used those fabulous acid green buttons instead of the extra small yo-yos called for in the pattern--great little quilt!

My demos were on all the facets of finishing quilts, trimming borders, simple quilting, how to make and apply both straight grain and bias binding, how to sew the border down by hand or machine, and how to add a sleeve and a label--musts for me on all the quilts I make.  Even if the label is nothing more than my name and the date written on the back in Sharpie.  Most of the time my labels are more involved, but not always.

 Now, waiting for one of those very involved labels is Celtic Solstice Fanfare, our guild Raffle Quilt:

The label will list the name of the quilt, the fact that is the 2015 Fanfare Quilt show and sale Raffle quilt, the name of the pattern designer, Bonnie Hunter, and the names of those who pieced the quilt as well as the long-arm quilter.  I have to get that done very soon as we will be unveiling this quilt later this week at the guild's December meeting, our annual Holiday party.  Guild members donated fat quarters 6 months ago in the requested colors and they all seem to play nicely together.

This past week I caught up with Bonnie's 2014 mystery quilt.  Grand Illusion uses colors from the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.  Her instructions are for a large quilt, so I am just making half the units currently until I see what the finished quilt looks like and decide if I want a big one or not.  Parts 1, 2 and 3:

And, now that I am caught up, here is what my cutting table looks like:

It so rarely looks like this!  I will enjoy it for today, then it's back to finishing a few Christmas gifts I need to have ready by Thursday.

Let's Quilt!



Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Rush

Well, not really. It is December, after all, everyone is busy.  I've been happily content in my studio since returning from Houston--no tax classes or staff meetings to attend--wow, it feels so good to have that part of my life behind me.

First up is my "must do" for today--attach the sleeve and binding to our guild Raffle Quilt:

Celtic Solstice Fanfare--pattern by Bonnie Hunter, used with her permission
I have 10 days to get the quilt completely finished to show at our December Guild meeting.  I'm hoping the crowd will be pleased.  We asked for fat quarter donations of those bright fabrics, added one primary background and I am happy with how the colors came together.

Then I am eager to get back to the latest Bonnie Hunter Mystery:  Grand Illusion Mystery.  I was not going to start this until the mystery was revealed but got sucked in by all the great units people were showing on Facebook.  I have limited myself to half the units in each clue, in case I decide not to make the full 88" x 88" quilt. 

The four Double Diamond units at the top are step 2, some folks have had difficulty with this one.  It's a great way to learn to improve your piecing, making units that are less familiar to you.  The bottom shows four units from step 1.  We don't know how these units will go in the final quilt--I'm just playing with design here.

Then there are these Christmas quilts I have to get done:  12 Days of Christmas in Red and White:

This pattern is from Temecula Quilt Co.  Every other day from December 1 to December 24 their blog will have the directions for each simple 3" block.  Day one has one piece, day two has two pieces, etc.  They did this pattern in 2010 and I made two then.  Now I am in the middle of three more, using fabrics left over from my Red and White--By the Numbers quilt.  Simple yet a sweet Christmas quilt. 

At night I am hand quilting my first baby quilt for our grandbaby, due June 2015--at least I'll have the baby quilt done on time:

Another pattern from Temecula Quilt Co:  Little Letters.  This was easy and fun to make in between all the other things I've been working on the past month.  In January the kids will find out if she's a girl or a boy, and I'll do the binding then, pretty purple if it's a girl, wild green if it's a boy. 

That should keep me busy this week.  I'm linking up to Bonnie's Monday Mystery Link Up and Patchwork Times Design Wall Monday.

Have a great week--Let's Quilt!


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Small Projects Finished

In two weeks the first Simple WhatNots Club will be wrapping up at my local shop, Patches & Stitches.  I plan to devote this session to finishing techniques.  So I've gotten a few of these little quilts quilted and bound, or partially bound, so I can demo a few methods. 

"MEANDERING":  This one I bound with one of the fat quarters of striped fabric in the collection .  I usually bind with straight grain cut the width of fabric but stripes lend themselves to being sewn on the bias.  I also machine stitched this one in place after turning it to the back--I'll have some tips on how to do that.  Approximately 18" x 24".  The buttons are sewn on the teal blocks to cover some funky stitching--I free motion quilted the petals--still have a long way to go with that but the buttons cover the majority of the "issues" with the quilting.  Finished is better than perfect.

"WIDDLYTINKS":   This one called for tiny yo-yos--I opted for buttons instead.  This binding shows what NOT to do--cut and sew straight or your corners will be "pokey" like these.  Approximately 12" x 15"

"LILY":  My favorite in the first collection.   I quilted this with the walking foot and will use it to demo how to trim the outside edges and how I join binding strips--with a bias seam.  I add a hanging to sleeve to 99% of the quilts I make and will demo that on this project too.  28" square.

The second collection of The Simple WhatNots Club has been announced and the shop is doing this club one more time, from January to June, 2015.  See the projects here.  We only have room for 30 people to sit for the two-hour monthly demo.  Many in this first club are signing up again--they love Kim Diehl fabrics and have learned a few things. 

Another fun project I completed was a Quiltalong small mystery quilt from Lori D of Humble Quilts.

This she calls Cascadia.  I've done several of Lori's little quiltalong quilts--they are fast and easy and I enjoy making something fairly quickly. I had a bunch of 2" finished four-patches already completed  so that made it easy to get this one done.  18.5" x 17".
Folks in the string block swap I put together have decided what colors/design they want for their blocks.  I wrote about that here.  That tutorial showed how to split the block exactly in half with two different colors.  Three of the seven of us want a 1" finished strip down the center of the block, like this:

This takes a little care, lining up a 1.5" cut strip exactly down the center of the paper foundation.  I pin that to hold it, then add strips on either side.  These are blocks that were made for my in a previous swap--I want light colors on one side, dark colors on the other.  There are many design possibilities with these blocks, just like Log Cabin blocks. 

Finally, I started Bonnie Hunter's Grand Illusion Mystery Quilt, even though I said I would not until I got a few more things done.  There are over 23,000 people on her Facebook group, Quiltville's Open Studio, and I think most of them got started this Friday November 28, when the first clue was released.  Click the Grand Illusion link below to go to Bonnie's Blog--then  click on Grand Illusion Mystery in the heading--the introduction and Part 1 are posted--or click here.  Each Friday until the end of 2014 she'll have another part of instructions.  Here are my first little 4" finished units:

I am not in a hurry to complete this so I'll use it for my leader/ender project.  The fun part for me is picking all the fabrics and I wrote about that here.

That will do it for now.  I'm almost finished Little Letters and will have that to show next time.  Linking up to Bonnie's Monday Mystery and Patchwork Times.

Let's Quilt!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

String Block Swap Tutorial

I'm in another block swap, this one with a few members of the Education Team who come to Houston each year for Festival.  There are 7 of us doing this one, and we only have to make 6 blocks for each person so this project will go fast.  I've written about an earlier string swap here.  Those blocks just cover the paper with no need to worry about where the center line is.

One of the team says she wants Red and White blocks--can you imagine?  So here is a quick tutorial on making blocks that are exactly half one color, half another.

Our blocks are to be trimmed to 6.5" inches when sewn so start with a 7" square of lightweight paper.  I use telephone books--the paper is thin and the ink does not run.  I'm hoarding old phone books because one day there won't be any more such things.

I dug through my bag of strings I've been saving for these projects.  First, I gathered various red and white fabrics.  Then I folded the 7" page on the diagonal to find the exact middle.  I took one long red and one long white, placed them right sides together, and placed the edge along the fold on the paper.

Here is the first seam sewn and pressed open:
Next, I worked on the red side, adding red strings one at a time, until the paper was covered.  Here is the second red string in place before sewing, face down on the previous red string:

When I get to the corner, I like to use a half square triangle as that puts straight of grain fabric on two opposite corners.  All the other edges will be bias so this helps minimize stretching when you piece with the blocks:

Now that the red side is done, it's on to the white side:

Notice all the strings are longer than the paper underneath.  You will be sewing with a small stitch and do not want to have to remove a string that is too small so bigger is better.

Now that the paper is covered it's time to trim the block to 6.5", being very careful to get the midpoint exactly right.  See the 6.5" ruler?  I have placed the center diagonal line exactly on the center red/white seam.  Even though the seam wasn't sewn exactly straight down the middle, the outer corners are spot-on so that the corners will match exactly when the block is sewn to others:

Yeah, it works!

And here you have it, the finished red and white 6.5" string block.  We do not remove the paper on these--the new owner gets to remove her own paper. 


1.  Use a small stitch, less than 2.0.  If it's so small the paper is perforating and falling off while you are sewing, it's too small.  My stitch is about 1.7.  Longer stitches make it difficult to remove the paper--no one likes that job.

2.  Use a light neutral thread--darker thread will show in the white seams and you don't want to have to change threads between the white and red sides, do you?

3.  Be sure each string is long enough to fit before you sew it.  When you flip it open it has to cover the paper completely--believe me, you really don't want to have to rip one out because it is too short.

4.  Use fabric of first quality and fabrics you really like.  Some of these reds and whites are leftovers from my Red and White--By the Numbers quilt--I'm enjoying working with these fabrics again.

So, that's all there is too it.  Each person is deciding what colors she wants--some may want completely scrappy, one wants black and white, some may say brights, some say pastels.  We're just getting going and the deadline is April 1, 2015 so there is no rush to get these done.  But I will anyway--I like to check DONE on my list of things to do.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. 

Let's quilt!


Friday, November 21, 2014

What Have You Been Doing?

After being away for two weeks in Houston, then recuperating and doing all the house things that needed to be done, I've had a couple of good weeks getting quilt things done. 

As co-chair for our next guild quilt show, Fanfare 2015 Quilt Show and Sale, October 9-11, 2015, it was time to be sure the Raffle Quilt got finished.  So, I formed a "working party" of 7 other quilters and we sewed all day two days this week.  There was only about an hour when all 8 of us were sewing at the same time--people had appointments and obligations so they came and went but by 5 pm the second day the majority of the top was done.  Those two days turned out to be record-breaking cold weather but we were toasty and happily engaged in our sewing.  I heard words like "sweatshop" and "slave driver" but they all cheerfully kept pedal to the metal and got her done.   I spent another full day putting all the borders on and here we have Celtic Solstice Fanfare:

96" square, pattern by Bonnie Hunter, used with her permission

Today I pieced the 3 yard square back and it's off to the long arm quilter next week. 

The other thing I had to accomplish was getting class samples quilted and bound.  I bound three quilts, basted a twin-size quilt, machine quilted two twin-size quilts--in the ditch with the walking foot, and completed a comfy quilt to donate to my guild--free  motion quilted that one.  Still a long way to go in the practice department.  I taught 2 classes and attended guild last night.  It's been a full couple of weeks:

Comfy quilt donated to our guild, an old project finally complete

Antique Rose Star, still needs big stitch quilting, ditch quilting done and bound--class sample

Southern Super Star, class sample, binding almost complete

Ditch quilting done by machine, needs more hand or machine quilting and binding
I often complete my quilts with what I call the "hybrid" method:  ditch quilting by machine, more visible quilting by hand, either fine hand quilting or big stitch with perle cotton thread.  Free-motion skills have eluded me so far but I'm pretty sure that's because I don't practice very much.  The problem is, I get a quilt done I really like and don't want to mess it up with inferior machine quilting.  Like the quilt in the last photo--those blocks are hand appliqued and some of my favorite repro fabrics.  A couple of friends have been pushing me to free-motion this but I'm still reluctant.  Maybe after the first of the year, when it's a time for new beginnings...

Now I have a bunch of smaller projects I need to jump on.  We have a Thanksgiving invitation to our daughter-in-law's mother's house and we'll enjoy that.  I'm glad I don't have to do much cooking--just my requested Cranberry Chutney and a few other easy dishes.  More time to quilt!

Count your blessings and enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Let's quilt!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Design Wall Monday November 10, 2014

Back at it, working on a class sample.  This is my "go-to" quilt for all our nieces and nephews college graduations and is the 6th one of these I've made.  It's easy to select fabrics for the specific graduate, I can usually get the top together over one weekend, edge to edge longarm quilting is fast and easy, and it's a good size for a sofa throw or bed topper, not really designed as a big bed quilt.  This will be about 72" square with borders:

Southern Star by Calico Carriage Designs
I'll finish this today.  I don't need it as a gift until June 2015 but I'm teaching it in January and gave my last completed one to a nephew a few months ago--so this is the class sample first.

My other ongoing project is this adorable baby quilt, Little Letters, by Temecula Quilt Co.

Two letters are provided each week and I'm thinking of making an extra row to add the baby's initials and date of birth.  Time will tell if I stick with that idea.

Check out Patchwork Times to see what others are doing.

Happy 239th birthday to the United States Marine Corps--Semper Fi!

Let's quilt!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Red and White Wrap Up

I've been home less than 24 hours now, but the past 13 days of excitement and joy I just experienced at Quilt Market and Festival are just bubbling below the surface.  So, here are my thoughts on what the Ruby Jubilee has meant to me.  Pull up a chair, this is long...

What I expected:

1.  It would be a tremendous honor for my quilt, Red and White--by the Numbers, to represent the 40th anniversary of International Quilt Festival.  I've attended Market every year since 1996 and both Market and Festival every year since 1999, so I know how important the Commemorative quilt is.
2.  I would LOVE the tote bag and show pins!
3.  I would not have a lot of time to hang around my quilt because, first and foremost, I had my duties as part of the Education Team to perform.
4.  It would be a grand time in my life.

All of those things get a big Check Mark.

What I did NOT expect:

1.  Images of my quilt would be everywhere.
At the Hilton Americas Registration Desk.

In the ads in the Houston Chronicle every day.

 On all signs, everywhere, in taxi cabs, restaurants, stores, everywhere.

 All over downtown Houston on the street poles.

Signage at the opening to each of the five halls.  This is from Market and was changed for Festival.  My quilter asked if I could take it home for wallpaper!  No.

The cake at the Champagne celebration Saturday night.
The lovely tote bag and show pins. Yes, I know the photo is upside down on the show catalog.  NO BIG DEAL.  Things happen. 
2.  People would take 1000's of photos in front of my quilt.  It will be a permanent reminder of their trip to this very special show.  And that I would feel so humbled and honored by that.

3.  The employees of Quilts Inc. who have known me for years as one of the "3rd Floor workers", that is, the Education Team, would be so excited for me and call me "Rock Star".  If I ever needed to feel the love, all I had to do was go downstairs and they would make me feel special. 
Most of the "1st Floor Workers", those who handle the show duties, with smiles and enthusiasm.

4.  My boss, Judy Murrah, would be my biggest champion.  I adore her and thank her for including me in Market and Festival.
Here are a few of the "3rd Floor Workers", better known as the Education Team.

5.  The Faculty would be pleased to know I made the quilt.  Most of them only know me as the person who takes good care of them in the Education Office.  It was surprising and fun to see them start to see me as a quilter, not just a worker.  And to want my autograph on their tote bag!

      A good friend of mine said, "You have been this good for 20 years but no one knew it.  Now, everybody knows it." And that was surprising but feels about right.

6.  My hometown friends would get a kick out of my "celebrity".  I received quite a few emails of love and support from guild members and many students who reminded me I taught them to quilt and infected them with the quilt-passion bug. 

7.  Good friends would be super-excited for me--they really ramped up the experience.  A long-time friend from K-12, Eileen Williams, attends the show every other year and she had two quilts in the IQA juried show.  We spent as much time as we could together, along with her friends, Laurie and Nancy.  Eileen is an art quilter, check out her incredible work at Eileen Fiber Art Quilts. And here we are:
And another long-time friend, my maid of honor, Judy, came from Philadelphia to see the show.  This is a big deal when you learn she is not a quilter.  Her sister is and has a friend who lives in Houston so they both made the trip--a true friend. Here we are before Judy got overwhelmed with the size of the show:

I only wish the long-arm quilter, Pamela Joy Spencer Dransfeldt, could have come from Camarillo, CA to experience some of this excitement too.  Many people took detailed photos of her incredible quilting and the big name long-armers who saw it told me they were impressed by her artistry.  I found her 6 years ago on Facebook.  You can too:  Pam's Facebook page.  Here we are in Long Beach, with the quilt I made for her and she quilted for herself:

UPDATE:   Check out this blog with many photos of the quilting:   Thanks, Sue Garman!

8.  Strangers were excited to  meet me, wanted the postcard I handed out to anyone interested, and "can't wait to tell my friends I met you" was said frequently.  That's odd.  I talk to lots of people at the show in my role as part of the Education Team but this was different.  I was the focus of attention in the conversation.  A little surreal.  Including the group of 8 New York quilters who met me at the airport yesterday as we all headed for home.  Marti Michell, a faculty member and rock star in her own right, told them who I was, and they got very excited and a little loud, took pictures of me and wanted their postcards autographed.  The rest of the folks in the gate were wondering who the heck I was.  Funny.

9. There was a great article about the Red and White Quilts in the Houston Chronicle Saturday.  Other than not liking my photo, it was a wonderful honor to have my story told.  The author told me it got more hits on their online site than any other this weekend.  Enjoy:  Red, White and BoldIf the link does not get you to the complete article, Google Kathy Huber Barbara Black Houston Chronicle and that should get you the link to the whole thing.  There are 24 photos of red and white quilts included there.

10.  The Red and White Quilts were displayed in the stunning circular display used in the March 2011 Infinite Variety exhibit in New York City.  This was a tribute to that incredible exhibit and I didn't know we were doing that--amazing!  None of the quilts in Houston were from that private collection but were similar, especially the vintage and antique quilts. 

11.  I would spend a record-breaking LOW amount of money.  Here is what I bought:
Two bundles of Cotton + Steel's new collection.  I also got a jar of skin cream from the Honey Guy and a magazine subscription to Quiltmania.    That's it.  If you know me, you must be shocked.  I got a few tote bags and pins and a T-shirt and a lifetime of memories.  Priceless.  
       What little time I had on the first floor was spent looking at all the quilts, so many wonderful exhibits this year!  I was honored to have two quilts in the 500 Traditional Quilts exhibit.  A new book by the same name was released in September and more than 250 of those quilts were there.  I am in some amazing company and so enjoyed really admiring the rest up close.

12.  Finally, while I was hoping my quilt would sell, I could not be sure.  On Wednesday I found out the quilt would be purchased as part of the Quilts Inc. Corporate collection!  Must admit, I got a little teary-eyed--this was my dream.  It will be well-cared for and many other people will get to see it over the coming years.  My joke all along has been:  "I want to sell it before I have to wash it!"  Success!

13.  And I did not expect that this experience would make me even more certain I will spend the rest of my days making the best quilts I can and teaching as many others as I can to quilt.  There is so much inspiration at Festival and I am eager to piece and quilt to my heart's content!  Baby quilts are next up!

This blog is called My Joyful Journey because it's about my passion:  quiltmaking and the great joy it brings me to create "gifts for generations yet unborn".  And you, dear reader, are a part of my journey. I thank you for that.

Let's quilt!


Saturday, November 1, 2014

What Happens in Houston...

Stays in Houston, except when it lands on Facebook.  At the wonderful Gala on the Green tonight, we had a rockin' band that played great songs from the 60's, 70's and 80's and you should have seen us middle aged and older women shaking our booties.  Oh, you might actually get to see that if those photos go on Facebook.  One glass of wine, really just one.  I love to sing along to live music and yes, I DO know all the words to all the songs.  What a FUN night!

It was capped off with a terrific fireworks display over the George R Brown Convention center.  Paid for by the city of Houston as a thank you to the international Quilt Festival and our 40th anniversary Ruby Jubilee.

I have met so many people here for their first festival and they sure picked the right year to come.  I have had the great pleasure of spending time with a super couple from Morro Bay, CA I met a few years ago on our two-day post show tour.  I look forward to having a little reunion with them each year and tonight we got to do that.  Festival is about the quilts, sure.  And the vendors, of course.  But it's about the people too and the friendships that are formed here.

At our table tonight, three quilters from Raleigh, NC sat at our table at the Gala on the Green.  It's held in the huge park, Discovery Green, right across the street from the convention center.  We did the usual chit-chat, where are you from, is this your first Festival?  Then one of them recognized me from the terrific article that was in the Houston Chronicle today.  I felt like a rock star.  They couldn't wait to go home to tell their friends they met me.  And Alice, one of them who must be somewhat quiet and shy at home, was feeling the music.  So I said, "come on, Alice, let's dance!"  And so we did, for an hour, laughing and singing and just letting loose.  Glad I met Alice and her 2 friends tonight--I think Alice will find her wild side on facebook too.

A few photos--the other day I was waiting to check in a lecture, it was early and the sun was just striking high rise buildings near by and I saw the flags flying in the breeze.  I call this "it's morning in Texas". 

We had cake and champagne for 500 or so tonight before the Gala. And it's always Halloween at festival so here is most of the Education team yesterday.

Let's quilt!