Saturday, June 30, 2007

Flower Arranging

Just playing around this morning....enjoy!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Floral 9 Patch, Center Bottom Embellished...and a Special Thank You

*edit June 30* Thanks everyone for your nice comments! It sure is fun to be playing in the flowers again...Pam asked about that stitch between the computer printed roses and the green brocade. It is actually some very narrow cotton trim I got from Jean, held down with detached chain along the picot edge and a running stitch along the straight edge....Sandie asked what was the feathery pink stitch on the other side of those roses: it is just fly stitches worked very close together!

I've been able to relax and stitch since my trip to Salem, and have enjoyed working on the Floral 9 Patch. All the seams on the center bottom block are covered now...maybe not finished, as tweaking always comes later...

Here's an overall shot. Those amber beads in the upper left came from Jean's house the other day. I had to use them immediately.

Mostly my seam treatments are a way of emphasizing the patches, as opposed to contrasting with them.

Ahh, yummy roses. I liked playing the photographed rose fabric off of the commercially printed rose.

Those antique Italian bugles and seed beads are a way to soften the edge between the dark blue brocade and the lighter purple one.
And see that soft lavender flower with the green fly-stitched leaves?

That was worked with some of this gorgeous hand-dyed and hand-spun silk thread. My friend from England, Judith--whose gardening blog I have so enjoyed all month with her daily flower offerings--sent these to me. Isn't she talented?
These are amazing to stitch with. I knit a sweater out of handspun silk yarn once, and the soft and gentle touch of the thread reminds me of that experience. It is plenty strong, though.
Thank you, Judith, so much, for this very precious gift!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

7 Stories Meme...Not Quilt Related...

Vickie has tagged me for the latest MEME....7 Random Things...or 7 Stories..or 7 Landmarks...about me. I love reading these MEMEs by other is a way for us cyber friends to get to know each other better in lieu of face-to-face as I have been tagged, I shall deliver.
Debra Spincic posted seven turning points in her quilting career, which was a neat creative window into her inspired by her, I think I will choose 7 books. You know how it is when you have closed the cover on a great book after you have finished the last page...your give a big long sigh....with that feeling of wonder, gratitude, and sadness that the book is over but happiness that you can hold it in your hand, and in your heart, for the rest of your life....

1. 1964. I was in 4th grade and read The Diary of Anne Frank. This changed my consciousness in so many ways...but the lasting gift was that of introspection. Anne had perspective, and could analyze herself even while being immersed in her own subjective experience. I was 10 years old then, and couldn't grasp the historical import of her diary. For me, she was a guide for how I was to go about understanding myself. I kept diaries for years afterwards...which have thankfully since been burned!

2. 1967-1968 Angle of Repose, by the great American writer, Wallace Stegner, along with The Eighth Day, by Thornton Wilder. These were two of my mom's Book of the Month Club selections...I had no idea when I pulled them off the bookshelf in her study that I would be flayed alive by the power of literature, the magnetic pull of the American West, the intricacies of family, marriage, and the passage of time...all Big Stuff for a 7th grader. I would look up from those books and not know who or where I was.

3.High school and college for me were more about visual arts and music than books, so we'll skip 1977, then, came Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda. His life story and gift of bringing yoga spiritual practice to the West through this book is still the most important reading experience of my life.

4.My first encounter with the books of Jane Austen, in the 1980's, filled my woman's heart and mind with joy, recognition, laughter, and a sense of being at home in all history. Her characters renewed my conviction that all people of all times are made of the same stuff. And how I loved those Regency dresses...and those shrubberies!

5.In the 1990's came my delighted acquaintance with the Brother Cadfael mysteries of Ellis Peters, aka Edith Pargeter, a glorious historical novelist from England. If you don't know Cadfael, former soldier and then herbalist/monk for his 12th century monastery in Shrewsbury, well, drop everything immediately and get the first of the 20 volumes in this series. Then you may be tempted to plow through the next 19 in an intoxicated rush like I did. One of the great reading experiences of my life....runner up for this choice are the historical novels of Dorothy Dunnet.

6. 2000.....Alan Furst, writer of "historical espionage" brings into focus Eastern Europe, with connections to Paris, in the 1930's. This is all about the dark unsettled gatherings of war, the period leading up to World War II, through the eyes of the spies. He gets it for me. He evokes a slice of reality from that time and place that feels utterly immediate....

7. Maybe not a landmark but winner of my current "Book of the Year" award: A Trip to the Stars by Nicholas Christopher. This is the best plotted and most imaginative novel I have read in years. The link I give here has a great review of it on Amazon. His The Bestiary, which just came out yesterday and is about a boy's search for the animals left off Noah's ark, looks to be just as good.

Whom to tag? I won't bug you with an email, but if you are listening and want to take the baton and run with it...
Sonji, Sandie, Judith, Stephanie, Susan N., Elizabeth, and're it! Remember, this is 7 stories, or facts, or pictures....anything you want to divulge!
Or not, of course, if it is too much trouble.... ;-)

That's a poster from the library of my son...he's a reader, too.

Speaking at the Mid-Valley Quilt Guild...and a Surprise Encounter with Treasure

My day in Salem, Oregon yesterday with the Mid-Valley Quilt Guild was really fun. They were a gracious and welcoming bunch of gals....little knowing that my two lectures to their guild were not only the first public speaking I have ever done, but it was the first guild meeting of any kind that I had ever attended!
My talk was "From Sane to Crazy"...and was about all the quilting "phases" I have gone through from the early 1970's until now: bed quilts, stained glass quilts, Broderie Perse, landscapes...and then how that prepared me for my work today in crazy quilting.
I brought scads of quilts from all these phases and often tossed them into the audience to pass around for them to see them up close. Evidently this is never done by lecturers...and I was told they really enjoyed that part.
I sold around 40 of my Jump Start Packs too...I am so glad some ladies were inspired to try crazy quilting.

The morning lecture was attended by around 140 people; the evening lecture had around 40 I think. I asked some of them to wave to you all here!

Some of them are checking out the details on a quilt after the morning lecture.

The guild assigned a wonderful lady to ferry me around during the afternoon between lectures, and asked if there was anything special I wanted to do.
Ask any CQer in a strange town that question and she will answer, "Are there any good sources for embellishments around here?"
So she took me to Jean's house.

O. M. G.

Jean is a guild member and had been at the morning lecture. Lucky for me she was amenable to my coming over and looking over a bit of her "collection". Jean has collected of all kinds of things for many decades, but one of her purposes was that she restored vintage clothing for classic car know how they ride around in costumes authentic to the period of their cars. So she needed vintage laces, buttons, etc. Now she wants to start selling off what she won't be using. You can see where this is going.....
So as I sat in her home she started bringing out these boxes, and drawers, and baskets...and she said I was only scratching the surface of what she has. I will have to go back.

Jean, surrounded by the things she loves.

Here I am, trying not to hyperventilate and faint.

What I came away with.....Some interesting buttons, beads and trim. That linen in the background behind the yellow buttons is from the 19th century.

That thread is coated with real silver. I could tell because it was a little tarnished on the surface of the old tin spool. Hand tatted crosses and some '50's polyester trim that looks like rayon....

That pink ribbon is o-l-d...the green silk velvet ribbon gets my personal Best of Show award...

Well, maybe that gossamer French leaf lace, second up from the bottom, does....

Second up from the bottom here is some lace with rickrack attached to the edge. I had never seen that before and I love the effect.

I was instantly rewarded, I think, for stepping out of my comfort zone, accepting this speaking engagement, and giving it my very best shot. Karma is instant, sometimes! Treasure was showered upon me for what was essentially pennies...

Thanks again to the Guild and to my pals here online who have wished me well with my debut as a professional speaker. It all went fine....because the ladies were so nice!
But we all know quilters are the nicest people on the planet.....

Monday, June 25, 2007

Fabric Line by Judith Baker Montano

Robert Kaufman has produced a new fabric line designed by Judith Baker Montano...all crazy quilters know who she is...the one who really got the crazy quilt revival rolling with her fine books, myriad classes, and unique style. I studied with her early on in my CQ career, and it was a great experience.
And what do you know, her fabric designs evoke stitches and lace, although they are printed on cotton. Check them out....what do you think of them? Some I definitely like, some I am not so sure about.....

One Last Set of Jump Start Fabric Packs

My husband suggested I make up a few more packs for my upcoming lecture tomorrow, just in case there are a lot of ladies there and there is a bigger demand than I've would be disappointing if there weren't enough for everyone who wants one.
I am thinking of these almost like party favors!
Anyway, I made a set of 8 more, all alike to save time. Whatever does not sell will eventually go on a website that is in the mulling over stage...stay tuned...

That floral is a vintage Waverly home decorator fabric that I snagged off Ebay several years ago. Fortunately I bought a big enough chunk to spare some!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Floral 9 Patch, Embellishing Those Curves

This project just feels like a yummy indulgence, it is so much fun!
I've been working on the top section, basically trying to sharpen the focus of the quilt's composition with my seam treatments along the curves, without cluttering things up too much. This is raising all my favorite design questions: about value (especially value), texture, color, weight of to get the eye to move the way I want it, and to keep the shape and balance of the overall piece to my liking as well.
It's all pretty intuitive, which is such a satisfying faculty to engage...

This gets much bigger if you click on it. I am trying to sustain a balancing act with these seam treatments, for sure.

I knew I wanted to lighten things up with that band of lace, but it was too light and clunky. So I took a cue from the handkerchief print next door.

Out came the pearls. I knew this was ineveitable. I wanted to darken the line along that wide woven trim but not embellish on those bugles came in handy. Those round green Bakelite beads are a them at a bead show and I just love using them.
I'm working my way from the outside in on this quilt...I'm having such a good time, and it's not even illegal, immoral, or fattening!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

2 Posts Not to Miss...

Two of my favorite friends have really good posts on their blogs that I heartily urge you to go see if you haven't yet.
The first one is from Debra Spincic. It is her "Little Flower Urchins" crazy quilt, just completed. It is just so adorable...she has created magic with her stitching, fabrics, and the sweet photo transferred images. She made it as part of this year's Hoffman Challenge and it is smashing! She has lots of pictures of this quilt in progress in preceeding posts, too; for good close up detail shots look there.
The second post I want you to see if from my dear friend in Austin, Judy Harper. Judy has been known nationally for many years as a needlepoint designer...but now she has been bitten by the crazy quilt bug too! Her current explorations are to capture the feel of crazy quilts in needlepoint, using combinations of stitches, materials, and patterns that definitely evoke crazy quilting, but are still true to needlepoint. The post I link to here is a slide show she did of her needlepoint lace. Check out the way she made that lace "turn the corner" so perfectly, too. Earlier posts on her blog show some needlepoint "crazy quilt" hearts she is working on, and other experiments too. Just really lovely...
I am so lucky to have such talented friends!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Garden Tour, 6.20.07

"Get out of that sewing room and come outside!" says my husband to me.

I'll admit that sometimes I don't notice when it is a perfectly lovely evening; I'm too busy stitching. But last night was just so I went outside with my camera, and invite you all to take a stroll. I have not weedwhipped or gotten my garden into tip top shape for this tour...let's just have a convivial walk-through together...

Out the front door we go. That's my car, a '99 Subaru Outback which I love.

Here's a view of the entry we just came out of. As a color lover, you can imagine how much those reddish mottled bricks and 70's yellow siding has bugged me for 15 years...but I have learned to live with it...I guess. Anyway, what is that gray thing under the edge of the roof?

Some new tenants this year! This is a paper wasp nest that I think is some of the most beautiful fiber art I've ever seen. Do click on the picture to get a closer look. These guys don't bother us in the slightest, and it's been fun watching this nest grow.

You can see more of the loosely structured front border. It is an out of control version of the cottage garden aesthetic....

OOOOPS! Forgot to keep up with spraying the "Liquid Fence" and the deer hit last night. All those luscious begonia blooms and potentilla flowers nipped. Those @#$%^& deer!

Oh well, they can't get in here. They won't jump this wall, and the other side of this garden is all fenced in now. My roses are so happy.

Don't they look happy, protected by that little mesh?
This rose was here when we moved here, and I don't know the variety. I call it "Robert's Rose", because it is his favorite.

Now we're inside my perennial garden, looking down at the house.

This is another area inside my perennial garden, kind of an herb border. Herbs do so well here, they become bushes! I've got two varieties of santolina, a pink flowering sage, and a huge rosemary here.

This is the entry/exit to the perennial garden. You can see I have had to hack those odd conifers back. It is kind of goofy looking, but fun, too.
See the edge of that building, by peeking through the entry area?

That is this, the funky old greenhouse. We replaced the fiberglass walls a few years ago, but now my lobbying is going to pay off, and we are going to tear the whole thing down this summer and put up a nice one in it's place...on top of the foundation, with a deck, too! And with a real potting bench. What you see there is the old cabinet from the Scary Bathroom topped by an ancient piece of plywood that we used for a baseball backstop back in the TBall days.
It works, though!

Here's the view from the top of Robert's vegetable garden...he really wouldn't want me to photograph it until he has spiffed it up in there. And my production flower beds don't look like much...yet...give us another 4 weeks...

And finally, here is Babe. She lives in the pasture on the other side of our house. She's an old gal, retired, belongs to our neighbor. She looks rather comely in all those daisies, doesn't she? I see her everyday outside my sewing room window.
Thanks for coming along!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Coloring Lace with Tsukineko Inks

*edit 6.20.07* in response to some questions, you can find these inks at
*edit 6.21.07* LouAnne asked if the techniques are different in using these inks and OzCraft dyes...I don't know as I have never used those. I've heard they are great, though. Anybody know?

Susan Nixon sent me some nice lace along with her check for a Jump Start Fabric Pack. Thanks, Susan!!!
I knew right off that it was the perfect scale for my next seam treatment...but I needed to color it to blend in with my block.
Out come the Tsukineko inks for on the spot transformation from white lace to earthy lace. My method is so quick and dirty...the lace doesn't look perfectly dyed or anything...but the irregularities in the pigment will become blended by the stitching that will go over it.
Have a look....

My target is the main curved seam in this block that follows the leaf.

I wanted the lace to blend in with the orange and green that is going on in the block, and I wanted to make it darkish in value.
Lynn Majidimehr wrote an article in CQMagOnline awhile back, Coloring Lace with All Purpose Tsukineko Inks. I referred to that, and you can too, just click the link.

It looks a little muddie, with the green and orange blending like that. But flowers grow in mud, right? It's o.k. to have some dirt in my quilt! And the stitching will even this all out.

When applying lace or trim to a curve, I like to iron it into shape first. Some laces will give you a pretty good bend.

A little trick here. I open up the seam where my lace is going to "end" with my seam ripper. Then I insert the end of the lace and whip stitch it all closed and in place. I do this all the time, because I almost never add trim or lace while I am piecing. And it is easier and less bulky than tucking under the end of the lace and sewing that down on top of the block.

Here we go, all done!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Floral 9 Patch, Embellishment Continued

I haven't had a whole lot of time to work on the Floral 9 Patch crazy quilt...but I snuck in a few seams this morning.
My seam treatments are going to need to emphasize line in this piece. The curves of the piecing (and applique) are good, but because the fabrics are so busy, I need to highlight them more. So that is what I did in the three details below.

This is a blanket stitch base that has been wrapped with a 12-strand thick silk floss.

This is the same thing on the other side of the quilt. I am going for some hints at symmetry all around this quilt...but just hints. Nothing exact. (I could never pull off exact anyways.)

Here is a cretan stitch with leaf beads and flowers, using velvety nylon thread, similar to what I put in the opposite corner block of the quilt, which you can see here. The lace and herringbone treatment will no doubt show up in many other places, too.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sample Block, More Added

I just can't leave well enough alone here...!
But I had the idea that I could use the little leftover scraps from piecing my Jump Start Fabric Pack block...I wanted to show a few things: that sane quilting techniques can be incorporated into crazy quilting, too; in this case, fusing and machine applique. Using the piecing fabrics this way adds additional harmony to the block. Trim can be treated like fabric, not just used in a line. And yes, you can add elements by machine, placing them between patches and over hand-work, too!
I think it is important for Newbies especially to get the message that anything and everything is fair game in crazy quilting.
I could keep going on the block but I really must stop!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tutorial Block Embellished

I couldn't just leave it naked, could I?
Plus, I wanted to work with the materials I put in my Jump Start Packs to prove to myself that indeed there are enough supplies included to create a fun block even without adding another thing (not counting the interfacing and muslin).
I only had two skeins of cotton floss to work with, but I varied them quite a bit by changing the thicknesses I used (from 1 strand all the way up to 7). I mixed the two colors, too, to get a third color out of them.
This is meant to be a teaching block for people who have never CQed before, so the stitches are basic...but these progenitors of the heavily embellished crazies of today look fine, just as they are! I do tip my hat here to Debra Spincic whose Little Flower Urchins crazy quilt you must go see if you haven't been following along on her progress (she is almost done). She has created many circle flowers and they inspired me when it came time to use the buttons I included in each Pack.

I also limited my stitches to just the ones I am included in my little hand-out that goes in the Pack.

My attempts at drawing these were so laughable that I figured I could sew them much more easily!

I have received orders for 9 of the Jump Start Packs so far, to my complete amazement. I think I might have to set up shop here, maybe on Etsy...later in the summer....thanks to you kind ladies who have shown your interest!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Block Piecing Tutorial

*edit, June 27, 2007*
Thank you to the Mid Valley Quilt Guild of Salem, Oregon for your friendly reception at my lecture yesterday! It was great to meet you all!
Some links for you as a follow-up..
--A thorough explanation of how a crazy quilt is constructed, once the blocks are pieced, is here.
It is my article in CQMagOnline entitled, "CQ Engineering".
--The stained glass technique I talked about is explained here, also in CQMagOnline. Included is a discussion of my lettering technique with the bonded gold lame.
--finally, the best portal to all crazy quilt information on the web can be found at this post from Sharon Boggon's blog, inaminuteago.

Again, thank you, ladies!...


As an addition to the printed tips for piecing that I will be including in my Jump Start Packs, I decided that an online tutorial with lots of pictures could be helpful to people who want to jump into basic crazy piecing but could use some visual aids. I will include this blogpost address in my Packs, so buyers will have access to this basic instruction if they are not experienced quilters.
Just think of this as my online version of standing over your shoulder and telling you what to do! (Remember that this is only one of many ways to foundation piece. Others might teach you different ways to go.)

Step 1. Trace the block lines onto your foundation muslin, which is 10" square for an 8" block.

Step 2. Interface your fancy fabrics. Why? Because if you are not used to working with ravely silk or wiggly velvet, it will drive you crazy and you may quit in frustration and despair before you even get started! So just lay out your pieces upside down, place the interfacing over them--remembering to double check to make sure the glue side is against the fabric, not against your hot iron--and fuse.
That is a piece of tracing paper you see between my iron and the fusible interfacing. This just prevents any meltage of the interfacing that might occur while fusing. Wonder Under release paper works great too.
After you've fused, turn over the fabrics and if there are any bubbles caused by the interfacing, just iron them out.

Step 3. Cut apart your squares. Notice I am not caring at all about trimming the interfacing exactly even with the fabric.

Step 4. I have traced the first patch, and added a seam allowance all the way around it.

Step 5. My first patch is cut out and laid directly onto the block, fancy side showing. I have stitched around its perimeter to hold it in place. I started with my darkest fabric for the center-most piece of the block; it is a traditional way to go and design-wise is always a good choice.

Step 6. Piece #2 is pinned in place, right sides together with Piece #1. I will be eyeballing my seam, rather than turning over the foundation fabric and sewing exactly on the drawn seam line. I hate sewing that way, so I don't do it. Plus, we don't have to be exact-exact in crazy piecing, unlike the paper-piecing used in sane quilting.
This is one reason we love crazy piecing, of course!

Step 7. Seam is sewn, patch is flipped and ironed flat. Do please iron after every patch is sewn and flipped. Flat, flat, flat.

Step 8. O.K., listen to me, I am talking to you here! See how much bigger my seam allowance is drawn in on this piece, along what will be the perimeter of the block? We want to give ourselves lots of extra seam allowance around the edges of the block because....if this block finished is going to be 8", not only do we want the usual 1/4" seam allowance for finishing the block edges, but these blocks will shrink with the gorgeous hand-stitching you are going to work onto them... so you really need that extra seam allowance.
I have learned this bitterly the hard way so please just do it.

Step 9. Merrily we are rolling along here. Pieces 3 and 4 have gone on in order with their extra perimeter seam allowances.
But what about that pretty trim that was included in the Jump Start Pack?

Step 10. I have machine basted it right along its edge where the next seam for Piece 5 is going to go. I will not bother sewing down the other edge, as that will be covered by decorative hand-stitching which will also hold it in place. You could machine sew it down now if you wanted to, though. You can piece in lace this way too.
Piecing the trim in now is just a bit easier than appliqueing it on later...but of course you could do it that way too. In crazy quilting there are never any strict rules.

Step 11. I have sewn and flipped Piece 5 over the edge of the trim (and over pieces 1 and 4, which are beneath the trim). Also, Piece 6 is sewn, flipped, and ironed into place.
I should say here that if these fabrics had not been interfaced, this would not be fun. It would be nightmarish. Instead, it IS fun.
Also, my perimeter edge looks quite irregular at this point. There are some of you out there whom this would really bother. But don't let it.

Step 12. Pieces 7A and 7B need to be seamed together and then the seam pressed flat before they are added to the block as one unit.

Step 13. Here is the #7 "chunk" pinned in place and ready to sew. I want you to see that it doesn't matter if the edges don't line up perfectly before you sew the seam. I will trim off that little orange tag of fabric sticking out there before I flip and iron this chunk into place.

Step 14. This is not at all critical but a helpful little tip. That yellow brocade I used for Piece 7B is pretty heavy fabric, so when I flip the block over after sewing on my chunk, I get this ridge along the seam in the lightweight foundation fabric. It is easier to get a "flat flip" and an undistorted block if you iron this heavier weight fabric seam from the back first. I always use a clean terry towel for my ironing surface so I don't totally squash any velvet that I might be using in my block. This way I can press down hard on my iron.

Step 15. Well then, here we are! I have sewn a stitching line exactly 8" square to show the finished block size...also so that I will know how far out my hand-stitching needs to extend along the seams. If I am going to add beads I will know to not bead right up to the 8" edge. Have you ever broken a sewing machine needle sewing over a bead? It is a jarring experience!
Finally, I have zigzagged around the perimeter of my patches, because even though they are interfaced, with all the handling this block will have, those edges would still at least think about fraying. I even zigzagged the end of the trim, because I KNOW that stuff unravels.

This block is ready to embellish!
CQMagOnline had the original diagram for this block as part of its ongoing BOM, or Block of the Month, series. (I forget which issue, sorry.) Click on over to look for more block patterns in the archives, if you like. Or draw your own...

One last note to those of you who have or will purchase the Jump Start Fabric all means substitute or add some of your own fabrics into the mix if you feel so moved. I think sane quilting cottons look terrific mixed with fancy fabrics like these.

And save your scraps!

Hope this was helpful... ;-)