Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Reveal

I seem to have lost a lot of momentum.  Posting a photo of my show quilt, Urban Oasis, now, two weeks after our Guild Show, seems anticlimactic.

I've been busy since the show because when I saw the quilt on stage, I realized it wasn't hanging flat. I wouldn't normally care.  After all it is a bed quilt. But I've entered it into the Vermont Quilt Festival where it will be judged.  I've never done anything like this before and I'm a bit nervous about how it will stand up to the competition. What was I thinking?  The largest and oldest quilt show in the Northeast!  The theme category this year was My Fantasy Garden and so it seemed like kismet.

Naturally I want to give it my best effort.  So I asked my friend Chris who also happens to teach quilting for advice. What's wrong?  Is there anything I can do? At first glance she thought that it was bound too tightly.  I groaned inwardly.  That's not happening, I thought. But when she examined it further she changed her mind, and suggested more quilting instead.   Where I wondered?  Her synapses were firing, she hypothesized that the batik fabric was the culprit.   Maybe the batik fabric hadn't shrunk as much as the other fabrics as it has a higher thread count, maybe more quilting in the batik sections might help draw them in. This made perfect sense to me.  And there is certainly nothing to lose. I don't think there is a such a thing as too much hand quilting.  

Fortunately there are still a couple more weeks before I need to ship it off to Vermont. My fingertips need a break from the keyboard and now have a date with a quilt.

You haven't seen the last of this one.  I hope the next photo will be the professional one I'll have taken when it's on display.  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Ray of Sunshine - Award!

I've been noticing birds all day.  Robins hopping on my lawn, pigeons trying to land in the oddest places, a pair of ducks bathing in a very large puddle in the park, cardinals arguing, sparrows taking dust baths and raucous jays. 
When I opened my inbox this evening, I discovered that someone whose quilts I admire and whose blog I follow, nominated me for a Sunshine Award.  It is for  “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”.  Thank you!   I visited the Brooklyn Quilter, to see what the award was about and found more birds. Flitting from her chandelier!  Go see for yourself.

As an award nominee, I'm supposed to do  a few things.
Post the award picture and write about it 
Thank and link to the nominating blogger 
Answer ten questions ( which varied depending on where I looked ) - I mixed them up to suit me - and
Pass on the Sunshine Award  to a " variable " number of bloggers you admire, link and let them know.

  1. Favorite Color - Green. When I was a teen, I was obsessed with frogs.  I had clothing with frog prints, frog jewelry and green platform shoes.  It was a fairy tale thing.
  2. Favorite Animal - Birds. They make me smile. 
  3. Favorite Number - Lucky Seven. Go to Heaven.
  4. Favorite Movie -  Too difficult. But I would be least likely to watch slapstick. Think old Woody Allen and the Three Stooges.
  5. Favorite Author - Refuse to choose.   Annie Dillard and Barbara Kingsolver are my front runners. 
  6. Comfort Food - Spaghetti and meatballs with parmesan cheese. Every time.
  7. Favorite Drink - Gimme Coffee with half and half, no shuggah. 
  8. Dream Vacation - Whatever National Park my son is working in.
  9. Favorite Day of the Week - Thursday.  It is when the weekend seems so full of promise.
  10.  Favorite Flower - Magnolias, even though they can break my heart.  In Brooklyn, they bloom in early spring and can fall victim to the vicissitudes of the weather. 

A bit like a chain so I hope that flattery gets you everywhere!
Blogs I'm nominating:
May at Confessions of a Fabraholic because it is her Anniversary and I was her first follower and now she has more than ME!
Sheila at Kim McClean Down Under because you will absolutely be blown away by her appliqué and productivity.  ANd it is a group blog.  Do you think if I had contributors I would sew more? Guest posts anyone?
and Nicky at Mrs Sew and Sow because she is intrepid, and always has something new and beautiful happening. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Almost a Quilt Show

Back in January I  joined Rhonda at  Quilter in the Gap's  FAL.  That's Finish- A- Long.  Given that my bird quilt has been in the works for such A - Long time it surely qualified.  It was Project # 1 on my short list for  Finishing Up in 2012.
 I've been a 

My guild show deadline was last Monday, so I've been working like mad to get done in time.  More quilting, less blogging.  Mishaps along the way.
Mysterious Stains
and Obvious Ones

Appliquéd Butterflies still need antennae

A border of quilted butterflies 
 then up and down the dog toothed triangles

little details 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


My mother grew up in Brooklyn. Every spring as we walked past her elementary school on the way to mine we noted the stately magnolias.

Twenty-four years ago, the local nursery delivered a balled and burlapped magnolia to the curb in front of my house. I wrestled the heavy sapling into my son's little red wagon and we pulled it down the driveway to the far corner of the backyard. It was to be the first garden project of many.

I'd read that you should dig a hole several times larger than the rootball in order to give the roots space to stretch and establish a firm foothold. Even though the rootball was no bigger than the bed of my son's little red wagon, I dug a hole five feet deep and four feet wide.  The bigger the better I thought. I unearthed a plastic ring from the 1960's, hand  wrought square nails, two medicine bottles and clay marbles. I also realized that the reason the soil was suddenly so rich was likely because I was digging in the spot where the outhouse had been situated. The magnolia thrived. It now towers over the yard and is almost as tall as my three story house. My son has grown and left the city for a career out west managing wild land fires.

This year the tree bloomed three weeks earlier than usual. One afternoon, I heard a chainsaw and discovered the neighbor on the other side of the garden wall pruning branches from our tree.

The following night, my son, who claims he never dreams, called to tell me that he'd dreamed someone had cut the tree down.  I sent him these photos so that he could be certain he was really dreaming.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I used to swim laps and when I reached my goal, I often swam a few more just for the joy of it.

I promised I'd put what I've been calling my bird quilt in the Guild Show this year. 
The binding, sleeve and label are sewn on the quilt.   Now that I've met the deadline,  I've been adding a bit more quilting. 
I don't want to let go just yet.
I'm going to show it at the Guild Meeting tomorrow and then I'll show you. 
I can't wait.
the label

Monday, March 12, 2012

Seeing RED

I pre-wash all my fabric.  And if a quilt is to be used, I give it its first bath. I use Orvus Quilt Soap and follow the instructions for very delicate quilts which means the quilt goes into the tub.

The water turned brown which wasn't terribly surprising given that I've been carrying the quilt  around for the last ten years. I rinsed it twice.
I used a sheet to gently lift the quilt from the bath, and as the weather was (unseasonably) warm I carried it to the deck table to dry, covering it with another sheet for protection.  Night came too soon, so back indoors it came.  It spent the night loosely folded and draped over my ironing board. I'd have to wait until it dried to see how my hand quilting stitches transformed as the batting shrunk. 

In the morning I saw red instead.   
The quilt was still damp so I ran another bath and added Synthrapol.   I use it to remove excess dye from fabric I've hand dyed so fortunately I had it in the house. This product removes excess dye molecules that haven't formed a chemical bond with the fabric.
Scarlet Tanager
  I can't recommend it highly enough as I am very happy to report that it worked.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Brooklyn Public Library Quilt Show

Libraries have a special place in my heart. 

Built in 1941, the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library was designed to look like an open book.  Since I was a teen I've loved going there and I've spent many hours inside its hallowed halls researching, reading and dreaming.  But I never dreamed that one day, I'd have a quilt on display there. I've posted before about the quilt, 72 Degrees. Now it's on display in the Grand Lobby in the show Botanical Inspirations through April 28th. 

The Main Branch of the Library bears many inscriptions, both inside and out. 
One of my favorites is "Of all men's creations, books are the nearest to us, for they contain our very thoughts, our ambitions, our indignations, our illusions, our fidelity to truth, and our persistent leaning toward error." (Joseph Conrad)
72 Degrees 

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I've been trying to figure out my new camera for half a year now.  After taking a class last fall, I was still at a loss as to how to get the photos I wanted, so I signed up for a two weekend digital photography intensive workshop at ICP .

The first assignment was to experiment with depth of field.
I have a jar full of spools that belonged to my mom.   They are among my favorite things. 
They were the perfect subject. 
Now that the spools are suspended in time, will I use the thread to sew?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Problem Solving

Some of you know that I've been working on my bird quilt for a decade.  Last weekend I finished sewing on the binding and even though I'll add more embroidery and quilting, I wanted to take a few photos.  That's when I discovered the stains on the background fabric behind the Black- throated Blue Warbler.

I tried to wash them out but they resisted my best efforts.  I auditioned some strategically placed leaves but I don't believe in cover-ups.  
Desperate, I took drastic measures.
I unpicked the appliqué, sashing
and quilting stitches.
The stains were very apparent on the reverse,
so I cut them out, nice and neatly,
re-pieced the background,
added a branch and put it all back together.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It isn't Quilt until it's Quilted - Civil War Top

version one
getting warmer
almost there

Fifty-nine blocks and room for only fifty-one.  No two the same.  The center thirteen already sewn into place.  I figured it would take the better part of a morning to arrange them to my satisfaction.  Ha. Morning became afternoon; I took a break.  I returned to the design wall after dinner and finally, about midnight I said to myself, enough is enough. You'll see more clearly in the light of day. 

That's when I wished for a visit from the quilter's elves.  These crafty creatures would sneak into my sewing room and immediately identify the offending blocks, eliminate them and rearrange the others so that each block was exactly where it belonged.  But alas, when I checked in the morning, the only blocks that had moved were those that drooped where the painter's tape failed ( my design wall isn't quite wide enough).  So it was back to work and I am not telling how much longer it took until I was really and truly satisfied.  

the blocks that didn't make the final cut
 my favorite quilting tool is the tweezer I use to remove stray thread 
Just Right - My Civil War Top     64.5" by 82"
I needed coping stripes around the center medallion in order to make the border blocks fit, but when I got ready to sew the blocks to the panel I found I was off 5/8ths of an inch.  I didn't have anymore of the beige background fabric, so I couldn't re-make the strips. Then I realized I could trim and resew the sashing in strategic spots to make it work.  Bet you can't tell where!

Spending a year making this quilt with the Barbara Brackman Civil War Quilt circle of friends from all over the world was a once in a lifetime experience.  The woman I plan to have custom quilt it has a seven month wait so it will be a while until my top is officially a quilt. I think it will be worth the wait. Participating in this group for a year taught me how quickly time can fly.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Finishing Up - 2012

As much as I want to start something new, this is not the time.  Life coach Gail Blanke was interviewed on NPR the other day. She's written a  book called "Throw Out 50 Things", which advocates ridding your life of clutter.  She says that by editing our lives and discarding physical and emotional clutter, we find our life.  I've taken her advice to heart, and begun.  I'll discard, repurpose and donate. I don't need to keep count, as it'll be pretty easy to get to 50.

What's harder for me is to stop accumulating.  And as new projects fall into that category, I'm not giving myself permission to start anything new until something is finished. A little motivation alway helps, so I was delighted that Nicky over at mrsssewandsow led me to Quilter in the Gap's 2012-finish-long and lots of like minded quilters.

The pace is just right too.  Not weekly, or monthly deadlines, but QUARTERLY, which sounds just about right to me.

My list is very familiar to many of you as my quilting progress is slow.

#1 -  Finish the Civil War Block of the Week 2011 quilt.  Thirteen blocks set, forty to go and then off for professional machine quilting.  I'm taking vacation next week and staying home to sew.

#2 - One of my New Year's resolutions was to quilt my Bird Quilt for an hour a day.  On Monday, I  did a marathon, and logged 8 hours while I listened to Amor Towle's "Rules of Civility".  I finished quilting the butterflies in the outer dark green border and am outlining the dogtooth triangles ( which you can't see here).  I'm hosting my small quilting group on Sunday, and want their opinion about whether or not I should add more quilting behind the birds and in the light green border.  ( I'm pretty sure the answer will be yes.  The deadline is the third week in April as this is to be my "show quilt" this year.

#3 - Joseph's Coat.  There are a dozen finished blocks sitting in a box.  This is my go everywhere - take along project and truthfully I'm in no rush to finish this, it is the perfect hand project. This photo does it no justice, I'll have to amend that soon. 

Happy Sewing !

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year

Barbara Brackman posted the last Block of the Week for the Civil War Sesquicentennial Quilt yesterday.  She is leaving the blog up until mid-year and a book is in the works.

As a token of appreciation for Ms. Brackman, we, the Civil War Quilt blog followers, made blocks for a quilt to be given to Barbara.  She wrote about it on Christmas Day in her post, Thank You Very Much
I was THRILLED to see my block  - Little Blue Basket - in Barbara's post.  Here's what the label says:
" This quilt was made for Barbara Brackman in appreciation of her Civil War Block of the Week featuring a weekly history lesson and quilt pattern. Quilters became a circle of friends as they enjoyed the history, stitched their blocks and shared them on Flickr. The blocks for this quilt came from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Malaysia, Netherlands, Portugal and the United States of America." 
The quilt was coordinated by Dustin Cecil, our flickr group moderator and put together by Becky Brown, who also sewed many ( all?) of the sample blocks for Barbara.  It was quilted by Deb Jacobs.  The quilt is being photographed for Barbara's new book. 

What with the holidays, I had a bit of catching up to do, so on New Year's eve before we went to dinner, I tackled the Christmas Star block.
I am pleased with this one, as I love the green, pink and red together.   I used the macro lens I got for Christmas to take the photo. 

CWQ Week 52 Christmas Star
Resolution # 1 -  Finish the Civil War quilt.  I've set 20 of the blocks, for me the hardest part will be to decide which block goes where.

Resolution #2 - to integrate photography and quilting. I'm taking a beginner intensive digital photography class in February and am pretty excited about it.  I don't know where this is going to go - but  my pix of quilts and quilt making can only improve, right?
Resolution # 3 -  Hand quilt every day until this one is finished too.

I think that is more than enough resolutions, although I have promised my son that I will walk more. So I shall.  Off to put on walking shoes.

Happy New Year!