Quilt Block Exchanges & CompuServe

I have been thinking about quilt block exchanges, which used to be a very popular activity for quilters. My friend Louann reminded me of the Christmas one I ran in Evergreen Colorado and ever since I have been looking for it! It’s somewhere but I don’t know where.

Flash back to 1990’s. I was weaving and spinning and dyeing. When my DH Peter informed me that we were moving to Singapore, I realized that big floor looms were not going to be reasonable items to move around the world. So oh gee, I started to learn how to quilt. I was so lucky that  Karen Buckley lived nearby and I took a lot of classes with her. And bought a lot of books. And began a subscription to the now defunct Quilters Newsletter Magazine. And collected all the supplies I felt I needed and in 1993 we moved to a small apartment on the 21st floor.

Before we left for Asia, Peter showed me the CompuServe Forums on our computer. I was not much interested or impressed. It took quite awhile to upload and I didn’t see the need for the content. Flash back to Singapore! There I was all alone and I realized that CompuServe was just the ticket! I joined the quilting group and it was wonderful. We were from all over – the U.S., expats like me in various countries and “real” foreign quilters. Paying for dial-up was very expensive for us and in China we had to apply for a license to even have a computer. It was such a treat to take my morning coffee to the computer after Peter left for work and download the forums. During the day I would read and reply to them and upload them at night. Most parts of Asia are 12 hours ahead of the U.S. so it worked out well.

The quilting group was full of organizer types and someone came up with the idea of a block exchange. The first one I participated in was Christmas blocks. There were two groups – one which made 12.5″ blocks and the one I chose, which made 6.5″ blocks. (And it was so much fun, that I did it for two years.) Though the rules can vary, generally each person makes a certain number of blocks, sends them to the organizer who divides them all up and returns them to each participant. So for instance, I made 12 blocks (plus one for me which I kept), sent them to the organizer nad she sent back 12 new blocks. It’s sort of like a birthday gift. I must say that the blocks varied in quality and if you were buddies with the organizer, you could persuade her to send you the “good ones”! After receiving the squares and choosing the ones I wanted, it was great fun to try to put them together to make a nice design.

The next exchange I participated in was called “Near and Far”. Each person was supposed to make a block (12.5″) that represented where they lived and had to include some green and white fabric. This is one of my favorite quilts as it reminds me of all the fun ladies I “knew” for a time. And even without knowing the people involved, I am sure you can tell where they lived at that moment in time. We did it two years in a row.

For the first year I made Singapore Island maps.The fish are stamped and the island is pieced and then hand appliqued.

The next year we lived in Shanghai and I appliqued a flower that looked like some cut paper pictures that I’d bought.

In Tokyo, I organized a quilt block exchange and it did not go well. When we lived there, somehow a group of Japanese quilters tracked me down. We got together often so that I could teach them what I knew. They thought the quilt block exchange was a fun idea and were eager to participate. Somehow, despite having a good Japanese friend who very carefully translated, the ladies did not understand. This was a Japanese American exchange, with the theme being flowers and I co-opted some of my American quilting friends. Each American quilter dutifully made and sent me 6 squares.  From the Japanese ladies I collected one, or two or three squares…. What a mess! The Japanese ladies were still confused but pleased to have a few squares and the American quilters were annoyed to have a few squares. I still have done nothing with the few I kept and mine is not among them. I made a lot of my design to compensate for the lack of Japanese ones and I can’t find any. There are some real beauties in this bunch.

Peter and I were talking about CompuServe recently, and he reminded me that CompuServe was not “the Internet”! I’d forgotten that detail. It was such a wonderful spot for me and the women I “met” online were so helpful and supportive. Here is an interesting article to remind you of how great CompuServe was.

Have any of you done quilt block exchanges? Or were you pioneers on CompuServe? Any interest in a quilt block exchange?

Hand Piecing Workshops!

Although I’ve been quiet on a daily dose, I’ve been working! It’s been a year full of deadlines for classes and workshops. All things that I wanted to do, but it’s kept me very, very busy.

I finally got myself in gear and offered two Summer workshops at Greenville Center for Creative Arts, where I volunteer. Much to my delight, I got enough students to run the class! I wasn’t at all sure – at present, most of the classes are of the fine art variety and who knew if anyone would be interested in making quilts.

The first workshop I offered was Hand Pieced Quilts – Grandmother’s Flower Garden. This will be no surprise to any of you who have been followers for a while – I love to sew hexies! I had a lot of samples and ideas and it was perhaps a bit much for the five women who hadn’t had much exposure to the world of quilting.

Olivia was a very enthusiastic sewer. She told us that she sewed a lot and enjoyed making dolls to sell. I am confident that she will get a throw made with the speed that she sews.

Sarah designed a very striking flower, didn’t she? It is fun to see how people put together fabrics.

The second workshop was Hand Pieced Quilts: 60 degree diamonds (or tumbling blocks or baby blocks). I have offered this before and wasn’t very enthusiastic about it. Though I like baby blocks, I’ve never enjoyed sewing them.

As I prepared for the class, I perused Pinterest and was reminded that a setting for 60 degree diamonds is called the Seven Sisters pattern. I noodled around with that and discovered that I really liked this version! (Perhaps because it makes a giant hexagon….)

Here is a starry, blocky setting for the diamonds. I like this variation as well.

Just about everything needed is included in my workshops. When working with new sewers, I don’t want them to have to run around and buy a lot of supplies. The quilt patterns I am offering are traditionally scrap quilts and goodness knows that I have a lot of fabrics! It’s been fun sharing my stash and seeing others incorporate the fabric in their own work.

I am very fond of holiday themed quilts so I was delighted to see that Shawn brought a Halloween selection to make baby blocks.

It’s been interesting to offer quilt classes to novices. In the past, I have taught in quilt stores and generally my students have had some sort of experience or exposure to quilting. Most of my students at the Art Center were very, very new! In the Grandmother’s Flower Garden class, I presented way too much material and I am learning to scale back what I initially present and see where the students want to go.

Next up; workshops that I hope to offer this Winter. ;-D

My Design Wall is Full!

Here is what my design wall looks like today! There is a lot going on…

The right hand side has to do with my two upcoming workshops at Greenville Center for Creative Arts. The first, covering hexies and Grandmother’s Flower Garden is on Saturday. Six pointed stars is in July. Click here to get more info.

At the top right, you can see a quilt emerging, made up of (hand pieced) half hexagons. There are many ways to sew them together, but this is by far my favorite. It’s such a strong graphic design. The two plain colored areas in each block are my hand dyed fabrics and I have them strewn all over the floor as I pick them out.

The black stars in the middle are six pointed stars hand pieced in a Seven Sister sort of design. Below them is a pattern, first published in Godey’s Ladies Book in the mid 1800’s, called bricks. It is also a 60 degree diamond, but the “sides” of the brick shape are elongated.

The left hand side of the board is devoted to a deconstructed lone star. Using Moda precut fabrics, I have cut out stacks of 2.5″ x 5.5″ fabrics to sew on a Quiltsmart base. I hope to be giving a talk about how to make this amazing design at Island Quilters this Fall. Lots more coming about this project!

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Fiber & Cats

When looking through my digitized slides and photographs the other day, I came across a bunch of silly cat pictures… If you have cat/s, you know that they love fiber and must be in the center of it all, supervising or testing. For you cat lovers, here are some of our kitties over the years including a bit of history of my life creating textiles…

These are the kittens we called Big Boy, Little Boy and Caraway. We brought their mother, who was hugely pregnant, in from our apartment complex parking lot and she had these 3 before we’d even decided what to do! (Kept Caraway, and gave away the other three.) This is vintage 1970’s fiber, showing a latch hooked rug of my own design as well as a wool coiled basket. The basket was appropriated by Sassafrass (below) and never was completed.

Three kittens

And here is the very naughty Sassafrass, who was the first kitten we adopted who survived, sleeping on some wool shawls that were just off the loom. She was the Queen Bee for 19 years! She took it upon herself to nip every kitten we got after her in the ear – a sort of a I-guess-I’ll-let-you-stay marking.

Sassafrass on a shawl

We’ve had many cats who like to sit on the loom on whatever piece is in progress. This is Caraway on my first set of looper rugs. She was always a tiny girl because her mother was so malnourished.

Caraway & looper rug

Basil was one of our dearest cats. He was a stray who wandered to our back door one cold November night and was one of the most affectionate cuddlers we’ve ever had. He is napping on a Peter Collingswood double corduroy rug in progress. Yow – whatever was I thinking??? It was a gorgeous rug but how was I planning to keep it clean with four cats? I made it to replace the latch hooked rug and it only lasted a few years until it was just too catty. (That dragging the rug on new fallen snow business didn’t work for cleaning this rug.)

Basil on double corduroy rug

Widget is sitting on the diningroom table in Shanghai, China (a poor scan of a poor photo!). On the wall behind her is one of my entirely hand-made quilts. The pattern is called nosegay and is a favorite of mine. The plain colors were dyed to match the printed fabrics, which you cannot see. The shiny bits are buttons. Widget was a wonderful cat and was good company for me (along with Schminky) when we lived in Asia. She lived in three counties and three states and spent 17 years with us.

Widget

Jasmine just likes to be in the middle of whatever project I am working on.

Jasmine quilting

Gizmo is  more of an equipment and procedure guy. He likes to get in things and sleep in them. This is a rug hooking frame!

Gizmo framed!

He also likes to make sure that I get my dyeing recipes done correctly and clean up well after I’m done.

Gizmo dyeing

This last picture has nothing to do with fiber, but I had to include it. This is Kascha, our only dog, sleeping with Schminky, her best friend. Schminky grew up with Kascha and we were fairly sure that she thought she was a dog. Kascha would run after the frisbee and Schminky would run after her and they would end up in a flying heap as Kascha tripped over her. Most nights they slept together. It was a sad day for Schminky and Peter and I when we had to give Kascha up before we moved to Asia. Schminky was never quite the same.

Kascha

I know many of you have animal helpers and couldn’t manage without their aid. I hope you’ll add a comment or link to your post of animals and fiber in your life.

And So The Planning Begins…

Here is the latest look at the design wall. The zinnia and sunflower are in a spare bedroom waiting to be quilted and now the design wall is freed up. I keep finding squares that might work for this project, but these are the latest. It turns out that most of the blocks on the design wall are “stitch-alongs” from classes that I taught. The heart and leaf appliqué squares are from a Baltimore Album sort of class and the black and white checked border went with that project. I was designing my own blocks and I do remember getting bogged down as some of the designs weren’t turning out as I had planned. There is an appliqué vine started on the one border. I am debating whether to use the border; it seems heavy, though I do like it…

Design wall for mash-up

The paper pieced flower squares (upper left) are from classes I taught on that subject. The Dresden plate and the flower basket are from a Quilt Drafting class I was teaching. The tiny flowers and stem are about to go back to a bin. They are from a machine appliqué class that I took from Sue Nickels. I don’t think they can be washed, so I will save them for something else.

The squares are pinned on a black and white backing which I discovered in the black and white fabric pile. I don’t recall what it was for! How nice to have the backing for the quilt already pieced. I removed the borders  from the appliqué squares and I also removed the middle of one square whose design I never liked.

Since all the squares have a black and white background, I will continue on with that. I have a large shelf of black and white and white and black fabrics. (I often use the white and black ones for over-dyeing.) I tend to buy small bits of these fabrics and did not have enough for a background, so I had to look for some more. ;-D I googled around online and found  fabric.com – they have 20 pages of black and whites should you need any!!!

Here’s what else I am debating:

  • Most of the squares are red, blue, yellow and green. Can orange and purple play with the group?
  • Am I going to use the black and white border? (It’s a lot of piecing and I know I threw out the scraps…)
  • What new squares do I need to sew for a nice mix?
  • It’s clear that I need to choose a size for this quilt to be. I think this decision will depend on whether I use the black and white border. It has a pattern and the size will be determined by that.

And when I can, I am working on the house quilt, though is a favorite spot for Gizmo to snooze…

Gizmo resting

A New Project: Orphan Blocks Mash-Up

I have been trying to decide what quilt to piece next. Perhaps in the spirit of the New Year, I have been sorting through bins and a few boxes and looking over UFO’s. And orphan blocks. I had one idea, which I was all ready to work on and tell you about, but then I started digging around some more. There were fabrics that went with the blocks I wanted to work with and I couldn’t find them. They are some of my favorite primaries and though I did {horrors!} throw out a good bit of fabric when we moved, I knew I would never have thrown those away. So I kept digging.

Eureka! As I did more and more excavation, I found a bin of class UFO’s and there was the fabric. And as I contemplated the mess of fabrics and quilt squares scattered around me, the project idea solidified – “What about a mash-up?”.

If you take classes and don’t finish the project, or if you start your own project and then don’t finish it, perhaps you feel guilty, like I do. I won’t take a class unless I like the project, even if I want to learn a particular technique or work with a particular teacher. If I like the project, I do intend to complete the piece, but I often don’t. Peter and I move frequently enough that I do “thin” the UFO’s, but I still have more than I would like. But what to do? Some of these guys are really old and I seriously have no intention of following through with the original idea, so mashing them up seems like a great plan. So –

The UFO’s fall into three large groups color-wise. Crayon colors with a multi colored background. Crayon colors on black and white. Jewel toned colors, mainly batiks, on multi backgrounds. The largest group of squares are the crayon colors on black and whites, and here they are! It’s an interesting assortment and I am hoping to create something very fun and unique with them. I hope you’ll follow along, let me know what you think and perhaps be inspired to make a mash-up of your own! {If you do, let me know and we can link up.}

Orphan block mash-up

 

AQS Charlotte Show; Color!

Wow – I haven’t been to a (big) quilt show in a very long time so I was excited to attend the new AQS show in Charlotte. They have added several new shows this year and I am also hoping to go to Chattanooga in September. I hopped in the car early Friday morning and headed off to Charlotte. It was a good show and I enjoyed being inspired. Because I am not a fan of posts where the blogger just posts picture after picture (it’s boring!), I have decided to break down my collection of pictures into categories. Today’s is color, my favorite part of quilting!

Rainbow Star was made by Carol McDowell and Kim Burterbaugh. There were two of these Judy Niemeyer quilts in the show and this was my favorite. (Didn’t it photograph well?) It’s hard to see in this photo, but the variety of fabrics in the flying geese border is amazing. The color moves so well from family to family. Carol must have an amazing fabric stash!

Rainbow Star

At every quilt show, I think I am tired of Baltimore Album type quilts, but then I find one that is different in its use of color or design. This is Autumn Journey at White Oak by Kathryn Zimmerman. Rather than having a variety of appliquéd squares, the many borders around the beautiful center square makes it quite unique. The yellows are so inviting and the red-orange (which didn’t photograph that well) adds such a pop. Being a fan of hearts, I very much admire the designs of the heart squares.

Autumn Journey at White Oak

And yum – how delicious are these colors??? This beauty is Adagio by Diane Hire. Her quilts always are amazingly colored and beautifully designed. The cool exterior moves into such a bright and warm middle. Here is another link that tells more about her work.

Adagio

This has to be my favorite quilt! It is Grande Finale and was made by Tami Graeber. The color called to me from across the convention center.

Grand Finale

From a distance it looked to be all the same orange fabric, but there are subtleties when you look close up. I really liked the surprise of the jeweled button or brooch in the middle! So many of the flowers and butterflies are fussy cut and done in a broderie perse fashion. And it’s not overly quilted – just enough to highlight the design.

Grand Finale detail

This is an astounding use of color! From a distance this quilt looks like Chinese or Japanese embroidery. As I approached it, I wondered if the quilter had used silks for the appliqué. But no, she picked intensely colored hand dyed fabrics to give the look of silk embroidery!!! Susan Marra made this beauty.

Japanese Fighting Roosters

Next post: Modern Quilts…

 

Framed Log Cabin Quilt

Hello from the studio! It’s still here, with its lovely cool pink walls, waiting for me to work again. It has been so beastly hot here  – I think I will be spending the afternoons working here in the cool.

I am still organizing the room… Sometimes I think I am crazy, arranging and re-arranging everything, but I have noticed that other quilters do this as well. Sometimes the dotted fabrics want to be together, sometimes the novelty fabrics want to be seen on a shelf rather than hiding in a bin and now the batiks all want to be stacked together . Whenever I sift through my fabrics, I see new color combinations and think of more quilt ideas. More UFO’s are not what I need, but I love to design quilts in my head.

I am calling this quilt pattern, framed log cabin. Though I like the looks of this design I am not thrilled with it. I am hoping that as I piece more rows together, it will be more exciting… ;-D

Framed Log Cabin

But, progress is being made, with Gizmo’s help!

Gizmo & log cabins

I am also working on pressing and trimming the Christmas Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt to send to my friend Beth for machine quilting! It’s a lot of work to get all the seams flat and the quilt top smooth. This is NOT something I enjoy doing, though it is fun to see it again as I try to make it tidy for her. I am planning on using several of my large Christmas fabrics for the backing. I just have to dig the Christmas fabric bin out of the closet and see what I have.

Pressing GFG

 

Under Construction : Tiny Wagon Wheel Quilt

It seems to be Summer in South Carolina now and I get hot at night! So – nighttime hand quilting on my Indian rug inspired quilt is probably over for some time. Instead I’m making little wagon wheels. So cute!!!

Night time piecing

I have made some serious progress on the quilt. What size is it going to be? I don’t know yet! Perhaps when I run out of appropriate fabrics……

Wagon Wheel progress

 

 

Tiny Wagon Wheel Quilt Progress

As one of my grandmothers would have said – these wagon wheel bits “are fiddle-y” to sew. English Paper Pieced hexagons are very easy to deal with, but these shapes, not so much. However, I am determined to get a wagon wheel “right”! First job was to sew a group of the spokes. Next up was choosing a background. I auditioned several color ideas. I really wanted a green, but I thought this dot was too bright. And the purple dot seemed to be a bit intense.

Purple & green

Another plan was to use a light background, but this dotty black was surprisingly distracting, and I never use plain white. I like the navy/tiny print on the right the most.

White ad blue backgrounds

In my last post, I forgot to mention that the middles of this English Paper Pieced quilt are hexagons, little ones. I have been choosing a different middle for each one. I debated using the same fabric, but I think that from a distance they might look like holes, rather than middles.

The fiddling continues and mistakes abound! As it happens, the top of the wheel pieces and the background pieces have a direction! I knew that but one night I wasn’t paying attention and sewed several groups of spokes the wrong way. I have been watching the season-enders of some TV shows and my excuse is that it can be hard to stitch and watch. (Scandal… OMG … and Agents of SHIELD and The Blacklist are really ramping up!!!) Now I have the side that I pin under the fabric marked in boldly in red, so it’s hard to miss. ;-D

Wagon wheel progress

I’m happily sewing.