Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Last Day of 2014

I ripped out (or "unpicked" the pieces I didn't like and replaced them with lighter versions. I think it is much better, but I can tell you that I much prefer it when everything is WOW.

I also moved the bird over. Now he looks like he's part of the quilt.

I also added a few little "seminole dots" to either side of SOUPER because I didn't want the word to get lost.

The quilt needs more little goodies. Like asterisk flowers and birds, I guess. Maybe it needs a cat. I don't know, but I don't want to make stuff. I want to use orphans that I already have.

Sometimes I think it's a good thing when you CAN'T work on something. It makes you slow down a bit and THINK. Continuing to work when your brain is in a muddle can be very bad. When I get like this, I stop. I clean up my workspace and put my tools away and go to bed.  But.

Before I go to bed, I ask myself a question related to the project I am working on. For example it might be, "What does this quilt need to make it stand out? What elements do I need to add?" It is very important that it be a question and that it be specific.

The answer will come to me, usually the next day. It will come unbidden, when I least expect it, but it always comes. I have learned to trust this instinct (or whatever it is) over my entire creative life.  My unconscious will work on the problem, and offer up some solutions. My job is to get out of the way and let it do it's thing.

Happy New Year's Eve!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I sewed together "JUST MAKE" and "AMAZING" last night. I can't believe I chopped off the letter A when I took a picture.

I re-made the letter M. It was ugly.

Here's the design wall now.
And no matter how much I try to talk myself into it, that orange block above the bird has to go, along with the black and white print to his right. Too heavy, too busy, too much. In fact, the bird has to be moved over to the left a bit.

I got a bonanza in the mailbox today. One Christmas present from my son (a gorgeous book on Art Quilts), two Christmas cards, two cooking magazines and three seed/gardening catalogs. And not one bill!

Jennifer, a few days ago I mentioned washing the Fall House Top flimsy. It's not something I've ever done before, and certainly won't do it again. But we used the flimsy as a tablecloth at Thanksgiving, and we spilled stuff on it, so it had to be washed before I sent it to be quilted. Fortunately it will be a tablecloth when it's done, so no harm no foul, although I did spend an hour trimming threads on the back before I sent it to be quilted.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Just Make Soup-er

I didn't do much yesterday. I sewed these three words together.

Then I filled sixteen bobbins.  That was all the empty ones I had. I like this little case because it snaps shut, the bobbins don't fall out and the thread doesn't get tangled.

In addition to the sewing tasks, I paid the bills and did the checkbook, made soup and salads for lunches this week, and made a batch of oatmeal bars. It's been a very tiring few days and I went to bed early last night.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Filling in the Blanks

Here are the letters that make "Don't be." I'm using various fabrics with white backgrounds, some creams and other light or neutral fabrics to fill in the spaces between the letters and to fill out the panels.

The "Don't Be" panel will be sewn to the "Chicken Have No F" panel, and then the "Ear" and bird panel will be sewn to the right side.

Using different fabrics shows where I add all the extra bits. If I used WOWs you wouldn't necessarily understand how the different bits were joined together. This will be a useful teaching tool.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Another Distraction, Revisited

 The box of my dud letters from Julie arrived the other day and I had a grand time playing around with them on the floor. The soup dogs and rutabaga have gone away in favor of this phrase which I think is much better.

I've got a lot done. I washed and ironed the Fall House Top flimsy, and packed it to send to be quilted. I've also sewn the blocks together for the Rail Fence quilt, and found a piece of fabric in my stash that was (surprise!) all ready big enough to use as a backing, so that's packed up and ready to go too.

I've also worked on that special something I can't tell you about, and that's out of the way too.

So now I can wrestle with these letters and arrange them into a fun flimsy to bring to my letter making class at Quilted Threads, which will be held five weeks from today, on January 31!

Friday, December 26, 2014

From 12 to 20

A week ago I had made 12 Rail Fence blocks. As I made them, I threw them up on the design wall, without worrying about whether they worked together or not. I just wanted them up on the wall.

by Tuesday, I had made the last 8 blocks so I had 20.

As soon as I looked at it, I knew the yellow block had to go. (example 1)

The pink had to go too. (example 2)

I was getting a feel for how to arrange these; what I did and didn't like. And then I saw the two middle ones in the bottom row. NOPE! They were too much the same. (example 3)

About half an hour later, I'd replaced the pink and moved one of the blocks in the bottom row. I didn't like the new pink and yellow (gold) where they were. (example 5)

This is the final arrangement I will sew up. (example 6)
Can you see what I did?  Some of the blocks had very busy or energetic "dark" prints. Some had energetic backgrounds or "light" prints. I wasn't really aware of it when I chose the fabrics. I mean I knew it, but I wasn't conscious of making a specific number of each kind of block. I tried to separate the busy blocks, and put them next to busy backgrounds (or make like a checkerboard).

I also tried NOT to have all the blues, greens, reds, etc., sitting right next to each other.  One of my tricks is to get as far away as I can, and then take my glasses off (same effect as squinting). If blocks look like they blend together, they have to be moved.

I also find that taking a photograph with my digital camera or my cell phone helps. Sometimes things show up in a photo that you don't see when looking at the real thing. The problem in example 3 was revealed in a photo.) Yeah, I know. Go figure.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from my house (really!) to yours.


Woo Hoo! I got the last of the Rail Fence blocks sewed together.

Merry Christmas Eve. I'll be spending the next few days celebrating with family and taking it easy!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pins, Pins, Pins

When my friend Julie visited me last June, we spent time in the sewing studio finishing up the flimsy that later became the MHT2MEM (Manchester to Memphis) quilt. Some of the blocks needed to be a bit bigger, and Julie helped me get them done. She'd lay fabrics out, and I'd sew the pieces together.

But first, I'd pin them. "I use pins." I told her, when I noticed her watching me closely.

"You use a lot of pins," she observed.


Last night I cut all the remaining paired strips into blocks, and then pinned them together into rows.

I got four blocks worth of rows sewn.

Here's the yellow block I finished on Sunday.

If I'm lucky I can get these blocks done before Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2014


See those bottom two rows? They're sewn together the wrong way around.  I hate when that happens.

How do I know? Row number four has four pins on the rightmost edge, row number three has three pins. It's a simple strategy, but it usually works for me.

Here's the block all sewn up properly.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Final Eight Pairs

Here are the final eight pairs of colors for the Rail Fence blocks.

I have one niece and one nephew. I promised each of them a quilt for when they graduate from high school. It will be a quilt they can use and abuse, nothing "arty" or too "precious." I've told them I'll make them each a quilt, and that I will choose the design, but they can choose the colors.  My nephew, who will graduate in June 2015, has chosen purple and orange. I think I will use this Rail Fence design in the quilt for him, and I think it will be spectacular in orange and purple. I've ordered some purples since my stash is a little deficient in that color. I'll get started on it after New Year's.

My niece will graduate in 2016, and has asked for sage green and lavender. I think I know what I'll do for her, but that will probably change.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Happy Birthday Chris!

In 2009, Julie Sefton suggested I have Chris Ballard quilt my sampler quilt, Letters From Home.

Julie is on the left, Chris is on the right.
I had never had one of my quilts quilted before, and I was very wary. My son and I pored over photographs of Chris's long arm quilting for hours before we decided she was trustworthy.

I called Chris on the telephone. "I don't know how I'm going to quilt your quilt," she said in her charming southern accent. "I'm going to hang it up on the wall and look at it.  Your quilt will tell me how it wants to be quilted."

Right then and there I knew she was the right person.  Chris has quilted all my quilts ever since, and she has never let me down.

The Black Box, quilted by Chris Ballard, has been in AQS shows in Chattanooga, Des Moines and will be on display at AQS Alburquerque in 2015.

 Quilters and students in my area are aghast when I tell them I pack up my quilts and send them 1,200 miles away (1931 km) to Chris without even knowing what she'll do or how much it will cost. " Do what it wants and tell me how much; I'll send you a check," is generally all the input I give her.

"Life is 'Tweet" made by me and quilted by Chris Ballard

I got to meet Chris in person four years after we "met," when I went to Tennessee in 2013.

Me, Julie and Chris in October 2013 holding a collaboration quilt we made.
Our relationship has gone beyond business and we are very good friends.  Please join me in wishing Chris a very Happy Birthday today!

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Chris,
Happy Birthday to you!

I hope our collaboration continues for a long time!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Another Distraction

My friend Julie says I should have a letter quilt flimsy available for my students to study when I teach.  She thinks students can benefit from seeing how something is put together if they can examine both sides. She also thinks it's good for folks to know that free-pieced and improvisational doesn't mean sloppy workmanship.

It's a good idea but I had a hard time grappling with making a letter quilt that would never be quilted. Sitting in my studio last night my eyes drifted up to the long shelf above my design wall and to the plastic bins full of dud letters and orphans.


I didn't have to make a "real" quilt. I already have a lot of already made letters that I could sew together to show students.  So I pulled them down and played around a bit.

Right now it says "When soup dogs steal chicken use  aaaa ruta-a-a." I would have to make a "g" and a "b" to finish "rutabaga." Julie reminded me I had sent her a box of my duds last year and she could send them back for me to play with. So I shall be having some fun without having to start from scratch. I think it's even more amusing the sentence is nonsensical.

Here are the twelve rail fence blocks on the design wall.

 I have two blues, a yellow, orange, green, grey, pink and red left to go.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Next Rail in the Fence

This will be the 12th Rail Fence block. I went shopping at Quilted Threads last week, and had a grand time spending a gift card I was given. I bought about 14 yards of fabric and have just finished washing, drying, ironing and folding all of it.

I'm tempted to use that as an excuse to not having more of these blocks finished, but who am I kidding? I've decorated the house for the Holiday, and have been wrapping and mailing presents, keeping up with the housework, and oh yeah, working.

And I also want to finish this up...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Green Rail Fence Block

Here's another of the wonky Rail Fence blocks.

So, you know what's GREAT about having seen the first episode of Series 5 of Downton Abbey?

That you've seen the first episode of Season 5 of Downton Abbey.

You know what's BAD about having seen the first episode of Series 5 of Downton Abbey?

That you can't talk about it.


Monday, December 15, 2014

What I Did Yesterday Afternoon

Yesterday afternoon I attended the premiere of Downton Abbey Season 5.

Yes, it's true. I have already seen episode 1.

(OK. I know folks outside of the US may have already seen it, but for those of us in the US, episode 1 "officially" airs on January 4, 2015.)

I am a member of the local Art Museum, The Currier Museum of Art, and was invited to a private showing. I invited one of my colleagues, a young woman named Jennifer who is such a Downton Abbey fan that the Downton Abbey theme music is the ringtone on her cell phone. We had a great time. Now we can't wait for episode 2.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Continuing to Go Over the Top

My son said to me once, "Mom, I love that when you go over the top, you keep going."

This rail fence block certainly does that.

Thank goodness for FaceTime. It's so nice to SEE my dear son when we "talk" on the phone. Last night we "face-timed" for over two hours. I was able to show him my Christmas decorations, and all the rail fence blocks. Both he and my DIL loved them. It was great to just sit and chat about everything and nothing.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Rail Fence, again

I am having so much fun with these blocks of Sujata's. I know my curves aren't "gentle" but I really love the craziness of these blocks.

 Here are all nine of my blocks so far.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Rail Fence Redux

I think I like these Rail Fence blocks best when they are on point.

Oh what a hell of a week. The weather has been crappy. Every day involved either freezing rain and slick roads or trying to drive the dark with heavy rain and heavy traffic, or snow and freezing rain.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Holiday Decorations

A gazillion years ago (OK, maybe 38) I made a couple dozen of these little angels as ornaments, and this is the last one.

(And if you want the truth, I'm working on a little secret I can't tell you anything about and it's giving me fits, so I'm grasping for stuff to post until I can get back to my Rail Fence blocks and, um, normalcy!)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Random Plank

The Christmas Random Plank quilt is in its place of honor on my dining room table. I'm working on getting the rest of the Holiday decorations up. It's fun to have a new place to decorate.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Slice and Dice

One. Make strip pairs.

Two. Cut crosswise into squares.

Three. Arrange.


Make up your mind and sew them together!  

I think I know which one I will sew up. Which one do you like?