Tuesday, January 31, 2012


This is arguably my most favorite quilt.  I don't know where it is, if it's privately owned or in a museum somewhere. We don't know who made it, but it was made about 1900 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  It's 78" square made of wool and exquisitely hand quilted with black thread.

I'm reading a lot about Amish Abstractions, and my mind keeps coming back to this beauty. The vibrant colors just hit me. The simple geometry, the utter abstractness, in one image absolutely defines what it is I love about quiltmaking.

Could I make a wonky version? Nope.

It's from the book Sunshine and Shadow: The Amish and their Quilts, by Phyllis Haders, Main Street Press, 1976.

Monday, January 30, 2012

So Wrong It's Right

Have you ever had one of those days where everything goes wrong but it all turns out in the end?  My Saturday was like that.

I invited my Dad to the movies on Saturday. We both wanted to see Red Tails, which started at the Magiplex theater at 3:20.  I got the time wrong and left to get him a few minutes late, and although we got to the theater on time, the movie was sold out.

"Let's get something to eat," my dad suggested. "We can come back."

"Wait a minute," I said, and got back in line to buy tickets for the next show at 6:30.

We walked out towards the car.  "What do you want to eat?"

"I dunno.  You choose," my dad said, "whatever you want."

Knowing my dad (whose wife died last summer after a battle with Alzheimer's) didn't get out to eat much, I was momentarily at a loss. "What about that nifty new gourmet pizza place?  They have artisanal beers and great entrees."

"OK. I have a $100 gift card. We can go anywhere."

As we were driving down to the pizza place, we approached the local high end Italian restaurant. "Well, we could always go there," I pointed.

"Yeah. Let's do that."

So we parked and went in. We ordered an appetizer platter that included calamari and bruschetta. My dad got a glass of wine. He had had a rough morning. It was nice to relax and chat.

The waitress came by with the menus and told us about the specials. Neither of us were interested in a 12 ounce steak (way too big), but we liked the scallops and lobster in Bernaise sauce with asparagus.

We ate like kings. I couldn't finish my dinner, but my dad was happy to take care of it for me. We both had dessert, and laughed and laughed.

The bill came - it was $94.00. My dad handed me the $100 gift card, and I pulled a ten dollar bill out of my purse to pay the rest of the tip.

We left the restaurant in high spirits, got to the movie theater early and presented our tickets, "You can go right in, the theater is clean and empty."  We decided to hit the rest rooms first, then found the perfect seats.  While we waited for the movie to start we played a game on my smartphone and kept giggling about how we certainly didn't need any popcorn.

Finally the movie started.  Remember, we're both expecting to see Red Tails, a movie about the Tuskegee Airmen in WWII.  When we saw an actor look at his cell phone I sneaked a peek at my tickets using my own cell phone as a flashlight.  Our movie was in theater 3. We were in theater 6.

I leaned over to my dad, "I think we're in the wrong theater. I think this is Mission Impossible."

"Well, make yourself comfortable and enjoy the show, we aren't moving now," my dad whispered.

So we did, both of us freaking out as one hair-raising stunt after another unfolded on the screen before us.

When the movie ended, we stood up slowly and stretched. After all I'm 57 with arthritis in my spine, and my dad's almost 80.  We looked at each other and started laughing.

Everything went wrong. We were late for the movie. We ate at the wrong restaurant, and somehow we ended up in the wrong theater, watching the wrong movie. "It's wrong, but it's right," my dad said.

"Nah," I replied, "It was perfect."

Even without the popcorn.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Creepy Crawly Crud

I have that creepy crawly crud that's going around. I've been home sick every day this week and I'm miserable.  I've spent the whole week flat out on my back either in bed or on the couch.  It's been very boring and demoralizing.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Red Red

 While "watching" tv this weekend, I cut red fabric into squares for the Pick Up Sticks quilt.
You all know how much I love large prints for the backings of my quilts.  This one won't be any different. I've  selected this Philip Jacobs design.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Seventeen Red Sticks blocks.  I figure I need 80.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pick Up Sticks

I'm enjoying making the Red Sticks.  These blocks are about 8-1/2" square. 

Remember, get to work. Pick up your pencil.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pick Up the Pencil

When I was drawing, I had a regular studio schedule.  Home from work by 6, feed my son and myself, get the dishes done, and be at the drawing table by 8 PM, where I'd draw for two hours, stop at 10 PM and be in bed by 10:30. At least one night a week I'd teach an adult ed drawing class from 7 to 10 PM. Friday nights I'd do my grocery shopping, and on Saturday I'd get up and head right into the studio and draw for a couple of hours while my son slept late.  Sometimes I'd get back in the studio later in the day and draw for about an hour and a half.  Sundays I would draw for about two hours. My limit over two days was six hours. In this way I got about 10 - 12 hours of drawing a week.  Remember, I was a single parent of a school age child, and I worked at least one (usually two) nights a week. The housework generally went straight to hell.

My drawings took hundreds of hours, and I rarely completed two a year. When the drawing was going well, wild horses couldn't pull me away, but if it went badly, I'd have a hard time getting into the studio to work.  If I didn't draw regularly, if I had an issue with a drawing, had a problem I was having a hard time resolving, I'd stop my routine, avoid the work, and stay out of the studio.

The longer I stayed out of the studio - and it could sometimes stretch into weeks - it became harder and harder to get back in there and "pick up the pencil."  It wasn't just the problem in the drawing, it was the idea of getting back in there that was hard.  I would imagine the pencil getting bigger and bigger -- the size of a baseball bat, the size of a bedpost, finally, the size of a telephone pole -- that eventually it was impossible to get in there and get back to work.  It would haunt me.  All I had to do was to get in there and pick up the pencil.


The solution, of course, was to simply get in there and pick up the "the f****ing pencil." I knew I was fine when I would wander into the studio, lean over the drafting chair, pick up a pencil and start noodling around in an insignificant area of the drawing. When my back would hurt from bending over, I'd straighten myself up, pull out the chair, sit down and continue working.

There was never any magic to it. The solution was always to get in there and pick up the f***ing pencil.  And yes, that's just the way I thought of it. The F-bomb pencil.  Pick up the damn pencil. Get to work.

There are a lot of folks who wait for inspiration to strike, and then they get started.  The artist Chuck Close famously dismissed those when he said,

"Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work..."  

I think he's dead on right.  (There's more to the quote, of course. Taken out of context it sounds nasty, but really isn't. Go here to read the whole quote.) You generate more ideas when you are working than when you aren't.

Which is why sometimes a clean studio is sometimes more intimidating than a messy one. After all, if it's already messy it can't usually get much worse, so you have less to "lose."

So although I do have a couple of things I really SHOULD be sewing, if none of them motivates me (and right now, none of them do), I find something to "noodle" around with, something that sparks my interest, but doesn't demand a lot of concentration. Once my conscious brain turns off by doing something that can appear mindless, my UN-conscious brain goes straight into creative mode and ideas start bubbling up and the next thing I know I'm in the happy zone of wrestling with a creative idea, of getting it out of my head and into fabric and up on the design wall.

Which brings me to what I have been playing with - I was browsing through the second collaboration book between Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran and I found "Red Sticks." 

I love Red. It's my favorite color.  So when I was at Quilted Threads last Saturday, I bought seven yards of the most glorious RED's! I'm taking a detour folks, the Quilt-along is gonna have to wait. I've picked up the pencil. I've picked up the Red Sticks.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Have you got a friend who gives you terrific ideas? The ideas are always good, and you just have to go for it?

My friend Tracey is like that. She doesn't quilt, but she is very creative, smart and funny as all get out.  When I was working out my Four Seasons Quilt, she suggested make the scenes at different times of the day.  In the end I decided not to do that, but the idea has stayed with me.  Last night I arranged these eight fabrics, ground on the bottom, sky on top, as showing not only the four seasons, but four different times of day.

I wouldn't arrange them all lined up like that, but more like this, reading clockwise.

I had always liked this little sketch I did back then,
with the houses in the middle and the trees around the edges. I thought this way the trees could blend from one season to the other in a much more interesting way.

I have a lot to think about. I cleaned the sewing studio over the weekend, so I am ready for a new project.  I also visited Quilted Threads, which had a big sale, and I confess I added to my stash. I also swapped out Nine x Nine for The White Cat's Rules.  My Four Seasons quilt is being quilted and will be on display at the shop when it is finished.

Friday, January 13, 2012

What Makes a House Wonky?

 To me, two signature elements of a free pieced house are the triangular roof and an off-kilter chimney.
 Obviously not all real houses have that kind of roof, and in the real world, chimneys have to be straight. (and that's not a chimney on the right.. that's the steeple of a nearby church...)

Wonky houses are often brightly patterned,

Real houses... not so much.

Wonky houses and real houses often display asymmetry.
 Even while trying to be symmetrical at the same time.

When I make free pieced houses, I am not interested in making them "real." I want to use fun colors and prints. I want to make the roofs asymmetrical, rather like a hat sitting on a head.
I want the colors to be fun and happy, or whatever I want the house to feel like.  Use "real" houses as inspiration if you want, but don't get all worked up about making your free pieced house look "real."  

P.S. Each of these "real" houses is located within a mile of my house.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My House

 My house is kinda boring. I have lived in the bottom floor apartment of this house for over 25 years. I thought its boring-ness was a negative, but when it comes to free piecing your own house, it turns out to be an asset.
 I wanted to include a house in my alphabet sampler quilt, but I hadn't done many houses back then, and I didn't want the house to take over the quilt.  So I took a picture of my house, and then drew it out to scale. 
As you can see, it took a couple of tries. I had to eliminate the elements that would make the house look three dimensional, and I had to work out the scale. The windows would be one inch by two inches. I thought it would end up smaller, but the finished house panel is about 14" x 18".

I actually added the cat in the window after I finished the house, but I think it totally makes the quilt. You can read more about my thought process here.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

This, That and the Other

I finally got rid of the broken sewing machines. I put them out in the trash.  They were there in the morning when the sun came up at 7 AM, but gone by the time I left for work an hour later.  There had been no takers when I posted it on the local Freecycle.I had removed one of the machines from the cabinet, and set that out on the street by itself. It lasted an hour. Freecycle has been useful for getting rid of some other items - my artificial Christmas tree and an electric blanket, but it seems in my neighborhood just putting stuff out on the street is the fastest way to get rid of stuff.

I've got the backing ready for the Four Seasons quilt. The pattern of the fabric is larger than I expected, which is good. I like larger prints for quilt backings. I think a smaller print over a large area looks empty, and ultimately, a bit boring. I'll be sending the quilt to Chris later this week to be quilted. I've already told her to do whatever the quilt wants, which means custom quilting. I'm very excited about it.

I watched the first episode of Project Runway All-Stars the other night, and found it distincly underwhelming.  The runway isn't long enough to get a good look at the clothes, and there wasn't any drama. Not that I'm a fan of  so-called "reality" drama, but the show didn't really grab my interest. Am I the one who feels this way?

Julie has been sending me photos of her take on wonky houses.  She's doing barns, and they are coming along fabulously.  I hope she posts about them on her blog soon.  These are her first wonky houses, but you'd never know it, they're just great.

Friday, January 6, 2012


I sewed the borders on to the Four Seasons quilt last night. The finished outer border won't be quite so wide, but I do think the binding will be the same batik-y blue.

With a little luck the weather will be mild enough so I can take the quilt outside and get a really decent photo.  Now I have to prepare the how-to's for the quilt-along.

Oh boy, you should see the barns that Julie is making! She's going to put me to shame!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


I've chosen the backing fabric for my Four Seasons quilt. I found it over at eQuilter. I wanted something flowery and leafy, and light.  The larger flowers are over 3" across, so I think it will be just the ticket.

Otherwise, though, I've been sidetracked by the Haftas.  You know, I "hafta" do this and I "hafta" do that...

I had to take the Christmas decorations down and put them away. (I finally got accepted into the local Freecycle group, and while nobody wanted a sewing machine that didn't work, it only took two hours for somebody to freecycle my large artificial Christmas tree.)

After that I had to clean the house and vacuum, do the laundry, fold it, put it all away; do the groceries, clean the bathroom, etc., etc.

I still "hafta" balance the checkbook and then I should be able to -finally- get into the sewing studio and finish up the flimsy for my Four Seasons Quilt.

Julie has got a terrific idea planned - she's making barns instead of houses, and it looks to be a very exciting project.