Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Life is Rich and Full!

Silence is golden…unless you have a blog!  I have been super busy since I last posted in October.  We made our annual migration from North Carolina to Florida, which is always a little discombobulating.  But we are grateful to live in two beautiful places.  Then I was off to the Houston Quilt Festival for lots of fun and an immersion in all things quilty.  Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, was up next and I cooked up a storm.  And now, we are well into the holiday season which means a much longer “to do” list but life mostly filled with many happy moments with family and friends.  At times like this, my husband and I often say, "Life is rich and full!"  To us, it means being grateful for our lives and all that they bring.

I did manage to stitch a bit in the last couple of months.  My “yellow quilt” is finally finished.  Here is the center block:

My niece's name, Emerson, is on the ship's flag.  Such an amazing little girl: kind and funny and smart.  So, as you have guessed, someday this quilt will belong to her.  The clipper ship pattern is by Elly Sienkiewicz.

In its final stages, this quilt top was a challenge!  A challenge  figuring out how to finish it, measuring the borders, making sure they would fit, designing a somewhat complex swag for the borders and stitching down a boatload of them!  It seems like I worked on it ALL summer!

I finally figured out what to place between the swags at the Houston Quilt Show.  HEXAGONS were everywhere!  Here is one of my favorite quilts from an exhibit of handmade French quilts. This quilt was entirely handmade from 3/4" hexagons.  My apologies for not including the makers' names -- I'm still looking for the paper where I noted them.

Don't you love fussy cutting??  Here's another example from a Japanese quilt:

My friend, Patsy, and I became so obsessed with hexagons that we went to two of the vendors and bought the paper pieces in a variety of sizes.  Sue Daley, an Australian quilter, has a site with patterns and paper pieces.  Paper Pieces is another source for the paper shapes in all sizes and templates as well.  Click on the names to link to their web sites.

Here's my first attempt with 1/2" hexagons completed in the hotel room.

I had never done any paper piecing before and it's quite addictive.  For someone who loves handwork, it's a dream.

Here's a version of the hexagons that ended up in my yellow quilt.  This one was actually a reject but you get the idea.

I'm hoping the quilt will be ready to show at The Elly Sienkiewicz Appliqué Academy in February 2013.  Stay tuned for more pictures of it soon.  This picture of dear Stella pretty much sums up how I'm feeling.

On a more important topic, there are many families in Newtown, Connecticut who are grief stricken with unthinkable loss.  As a former public school teacher, the reality that children are not safe in their school and the heroic actions of the principal and teachers, all women, affected me in ways that I can't express with mere words.  So, I join the increasingly loud chorus and say something must be done to stop this kind of violence. Now -- it has to happen now.  It is up to each of us to do our part.  In the meantime, let us all do what we can to help the victims and practice kindness in our daily lives.  

As she often does, Luana Rubin and equilter have begun a quilt making outreach for Newtown.  She is suggesting memory quilts be made for the families of the victims and others affected by this tragedy. She plans to offer more details in her next newsletter which you can access with the link to her web site above.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Grapes and more grapes!

I have been working on what I lovingly call “the yellow quilt” off and on for a few years now.  The background is a lovely soft yellow with a scroll design.  The clipper ship, which appears on the right side of this page is also on that background.  I recently finished a block from The Best of Baltimore Beauties, Part II by Elly Sienkiewicz.

The most daunting thing about this block is all those grapes -- grapes and more grapes!!  It's best not to count them but then, how would you know the number to make??  So, the bad news:  ONE HUNDRED AND TEN!!!  But wait -- just imagine the exhilaration of stitching down the last one! 

So, a couple of tips on the grapes. This block is enlarged to match my other blocks so the grape is 1/2".  I usually use Karen Kay Buckley's Perfect Circles which is a set of mylar circles in a variety of sizes.  But I only have four of the 1/2" size and I didn't want to make these four at a time.  I pressed together a triple layer of freezer paper or you could use cardboard and cut a bunch with a hole punch.  I then followed the usual steps explained in many books: mark the circle on fabric, take a running stitch around the circle, cut it out, paint the edge with starch and pull on the the thread tail so that the fabric gathers around the freezer paper circle.  Use a tiny quilting needle to do that running stitch -- it is much easier to manipulate around the circle.  Leave the circle templates inside the grapes until you're ready to stitch them down  -- humidity seems to get to them, even in a zip loc bag.  I placed the grapes on the block a bunch at a time with glue and stitched those babies down!

As to the rest of the block, the stem is needle turned.  The leaves were fused to the block with Shades Soft Fuse and buttonhole stitched with two strands of silk floss from The Thread Gatherer.  Elly Sienkiewicz will be teaching this block at her Appliqué Academy in February 2013. This grapevine wreath is fun to make: the repetition makes it restful and a great take along project.  The sense of accomplishment when it's finished is quite exciting.  And the results are dramatic!  You could always make the grapes first!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Student's Happy Dance!!

Jan Hood is a lovely woman who volunteers in her community and who tells some really funny jokes.  She kept my main conference class at The Elly Sienkiewicz Appliqué Academy in stitches while we were stitching!  Jan has finished her project from the class and it is stunning.  I could tell that it would be as lovely as Jan and I’m so happy she finished it! 

Jan's work is impeccable and has an elegant look.  Her calla lilies are my favorite -- she used silk for the throat of the flower.  Her fabric choices for the butterflies are light and airy. That sunflower looks real!

Here's a closeup so you can see all the embellishments.  Jan did a beautiful job on her vase!  What an inspiration!

Way to Go, Jan!  
Thanks for sharing your lovely work!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Back to Beautiful Baltimore!

This heart wreath will someday be part of a quilt that will include the clipper ship, heart wreath, and urn of flowers on the Gallery page.   

The pattern is by Elly Sienkiewicz from her book,  The Best of Baltimore Beauties, Part II.  I had a lovely toile that I wanted to incorporate into the center of the block.  I made a template of the heart shape from freezer paper by carefully tracing just inside the outer line of the heart's stem.  I used a transparency overlay of the pattern to place the toile and basted it to the background.  The wreath itself was prepared for cutaway appliqué by making a freezer paper template, pressing it to the aqua green batik, and marking around the edge of that template.  With the template still on the fabric, I used the transparency overlay again to place this piece on the background and pinned it in place.  I used a light box to be sure that the basted toile lined up with the heart wreath.

In the photo above of the back of the block, you can see the basting line for the toile and the batik basted in place on top of it.

The next two pictures show the front of the block in progress.  Although I am not a back baster, I use that method for basting.  I baste on the marked line using a number 8 embroidery needle and quilting thread in bright yellow.  You can see that the stitches are larger on the top so that they are more visible on the front.  The idea behind basting in this manner is that the larger needle and thread perforates the fabric and helps it to needleturn more easily.  Many quilters using this cutaway method would simply pin the piece in place with small appliqué pins and start stitching.  I admire their skills!  I prefer to baste because it holds the piece more firmly in place and the appliqué thread doesn't catch on the pins.  I tend to scrunch my block up like an accordion when I'm stitching so the basting gives the added assurance that nothing is going to move during that process. 

To needleturn using the cutaway method, trim a 3/16" seam allowance for an inch or two as seen around the top edge of the leaf in the second photo.  Remove a few stitches of the basting and needleturn that small section.  

I stitched the center of the heart wreath first and tried to make sure that the stitches went through the toile and the background to hold everything in place. I say "tried" because I can see in the picture that I missed a couple!

The "wild roses" were made with 5/8" wide French wired ombré ribbon.  I used a 10" piece of ribbon and ruched it at 2" intervals.  The French knot centers are stitched with 4mm silk ribbon.  I'm very pleased with the mood that the toile gives to the block.  That couple looks like they're falling in love!

So, Woo Hoo!  
Picture me doing the Happy Dance!  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Sweet Detour...

A funny thing happened on my way to the next Baltimore Album block!  And it’s all the fault of my dear friend, Patsy!  She tempted me with a picture of a darling quilt by Japanese designer, Yoko Saito.  You can see a picture of it on her web site,  Quilt Party

Anyway, Patsy and I both love this little quilt.  Plus, she’s in Miami and I’m in Boone and we miss each other.  So we both ordered the book that contains the patterns, “Floral Bouquet Quilt” from One World Fabrics.   Then, we started planning and swapping fabrics and totally got into trouble.  In short order, we were both stitching away and here are my first two blocks.

The first one took about 3 days to complete.  The second one was more like five days because the embroidered Queen Anne’s lace isn’t hard but it takes longer than you might expect.  We’re not trying to break speed records!  It’s just that Patsy and I are both more than a little gratified to finish something in days, not weeks or months.  I've had to reacquaint myself with operating a sewing machine!  These little blocks give me a sense of accomplishment even if they’re not as complex as Baltimore Album blocks.

I have taken a few liberties with the patterns and added lace – the beads will come later.  I love the Japanese taupe fabrics and the scrappiness of the blocks.  I have some of the Yoko Saito fabrics but am digging in to my stash of  Daiwabo fabrics, also from Japan.  They are like "buttah" to stitch!  You will find links to quilt shops that carry Japanese taupe fabrics by clicking on "Places to Visit" on the right.  

Coincidentally, the Queen Anne’s lace is blooming here in the mountains and it’s especially lovely this year.  Here are some pictures from my morning walk.

I’ll soon return to my first love, Baltimore Album appliqué.  But for now, my little trip to Japan has been a sweet detour.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Real Beauty!

Suzanne “Suzy” Louth is an amazingly accomplished quilter.  She just finished this lovely wall hanging that she started in my class at The Elly Sienkiewicz Appliqué Academy

But let me tell you more about Suzy.  I met Suzy in 2003, the first year that I was a student at TESAA and, happily, we have become friends over the years.  It was fun each year at the Academy to see what Suzy had accomplished because she gets more done in a year than most people do in a decade.  She has won numerous honors with her gorgeous quilts including Best of Show at the Vermont Quilt Festival in 2009 for her Baltimore Album quilt, “A New Look at a Grand Old Lady.”

Suzy was the Honored Quilter at TESAA in 2011 and taught a class there this past February.  I was both surprised and honored when Suzy chose to take my class for her main conference this year where we worked on my pattern, “Floral Elegance.”  Suzy has finished her project from the class and it’s a beauty, of course.

Her vase looks like "flow blue" with Suzy's fabric choice.   The borders frame the block beautifully and Suzy's artistic eye is easy to spot in her color choices.  Is it any wonder that she's such an accomplished and honored quilter?  This pretty quilt hangs in Suzy's dining room.

I hope that when Suzy looks at her quilt it reminds her of fun times at Appliqué Academy:  seeing old friends and making new ones, telling stories that make each other laugh till your sides ache, sharing appliqué tips and our latest "finds," lunch breaks and dinner breaks, and looking forward to the next year when we can do it all over again.

BEAUTIFUL!! SUZY!!  Many thanks!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Another Happy Dance!

Barbara Carper was my incredibly wonderful classroom helper this past year at The Elly Sienkiewicz Appliqué Academy.  Turns out, she’s an accomplished appliquér too!  Barbara has completed three stunningly beautiful blocks in the past few months.  The first one pictured below is from a two day add-a-day class:

Barbara had this one almost finished before Appliqué Academy concluded.  She accomplished so much AND took care of everyone in the classroom.  Gorgeous color choices!!

Next, Barbara completed a block from my pattern, "Autumn's Promise," but, she is very fond of squirrels and designed her own center for the block.  She inked a gray fabric and did turkey work on this little guy's tail to give him a furry, fuzzy, cuddly look.  Brilliant!  His little eye and ears make him very lifelike. I think she needs to do some more designing!  

But Barbara wasn't finished.  She told me she had completed the little bluebird that was an alternate to the tree frog center above (some people just don't like frogs).  So I sent her a pattern for a sunflower wreath that I haven't even stitched yet.

Lovely!  Barbara's colors are beautiful and happy and her workmanship is impeccable. These blocks are going to be part of an exquisite quilt soon.  Barbara is just an amazing person and being friends with her is on my "Best Things about Appliqué Academy" list.

Way to go, Barbara!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

No such thing as too much fun!

Finally, I’m back to blogging after a busy couple of months.  Have I been sewing you may ask?  Well, no.

My husband and I took a dream trip to Italy for most of May.  We spent three days in Venice before boarding a cruise ship for 10 days, ending in Rome for 3 days.  The ship stopped in a different port each day as we cruised the Adriatic and the Mediterranean.  It was amazing!!

We took a lovely walk in Capri.  Here I am on the path:

We were in Sicily on my birthday and took a tour to the top of Mount Etna to celebrate.
And here we are at the Spanish Steps in Rome.
Jim called it the "three week date" and that it was!  

Since our return, we have been super busy getting ready to go to Boone, North Carolina for the summer.  We finally arrived last week.  All of this activity and our long absence didn't sit well with Stella.
Poor girl, had a bit of a meltdown and didn't sleep for several nights in a row!!  Guess who else didn't sleep!  I called the vet and he asked me if I had any xanax.  "For me or for her?" I asked.  Anyway, after a dose of xanax that would have put me to sleep for days, Stella had a good night and all seems back to normal.  Thank goodness!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Student's Happy Dance!

Karen Brandt has completed her stunning version of "Floral Elegance," a main conference class at The Elly Sienkiewicz Appliqué Academy 2012.

Karen made this pattern her own with her choice of beautiful brights and expert "fussy cutting" to emphasize textures in the fabrics.  Notice how her vase looks like glass.  She chose a batik with a linear pattern for the back petal of her calla lilies to create depth.  Her butterfly is amazing -- see how she chose a fabric that suggests the "eyes" on the wings.  I could just go on and on -- it is lovely!

Karen has bordered this block and it will be a gorgeous wall hanging.  As an appliqué teacher, there is nothing better than to have a student complete her project from a class.  As a lover of appliqué, Karen's work is downright inspiring! 

BRAVO, Karen!!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Appliqué Academy -- What a marvelous time!

Appliqué Academy was especially wonderful this year because it was my first year as a full-time teacher.  I had the privilege of teaching two classes: a two day add a day and a main conference class.  Here's a picture of the two day project, "Spring Peeper Amidst the Roses."

Here are my fabulous students from that class.  Because we only had two days, we focused on one section of the wreath and many of them constructed their spring peepers off the block.  They were a very hard working group of women.  We had two sets of sisters in this class!

Here's a photo of the main conference class, "Floral Elegance," which began on Thursday afternoon and concluded mid-day on Sunday.  

We stitched, we laughed, we shared stories and we laughed some more.  Here we are laughing at someone's joke.

A more formal pose.  As you can see, we worked while we were having fun.  I was very fortunate to have such a fine group of students.  I also had THE  class helper extraordinaire, Barbara Carper, a volunteer from the local quilt guild.  Everyone was very kind and supportive of each other.  It was a truly special time.  

Thanks, Ladies, you were the best!