Bits of Free Time for Fiber Therapy

I really shouldn’t complain, but my job for most of this year has been doing house projects and I’m pretty tired of it. I haven’t sewn or quilted on the machines for weeks and at night I have been too tired to do more than stare at the T.V. Before we went away, I thought I had a few days to myself, so I pulled out the half square triangles and started sewing blocks. The feeling of fabric running through my fingers and the hum of the machine made me so happy. As you can see, I got two blocks done and then the realtor called to schedule a showing and so I cleaned up. My sewing machines are being serviced now, so I won’t be able to work on this for a while.

Half square triangle quilt

In another bit of spare time, I pulled out a crochet UFO to complete. I took some crochet lessons a few years ago and made a cute hat. I do not have a photo of that hat, because I left it in a restaurant in Dubuque Iowa! This was the second crochet project that I did. It just seemed like a really fun thing to do and so 3D. This is how it begins…..looks like nothing, right?

Potato chip beginning

It’s called a potato chip or ruffle scarf and I have seen a lot of them in yarn stores and boutiques recently. To make it look ruffly, you crochet  2 stitches in one loop and one in the next and so on. It was amusing to watch that noodle-y foundation row of plain crochet plan become spiral and ruffly in shape as I worked. I plan to wear it with my wool Winter coat and thought it would be fun to add in a sparkly yarn for the last row. I also made it much longer than the pattern suggested as I wanted to be able to wrap it many times around my neck, like a boa!

Potato chip crochet scarf

While we were in our cabin in Hendersonville, I sewed on the Halloween Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt squares. As I pulled them out of their bag, I realized that I had quite a stack. When I spread them out – – – lookee here – – – it’s starting to look like a quilt.

Lots of hexes

I sew a middle and then the “petals” row first. When that part is done, I audition the “leaves” or outer row. You can see above and below, how I try out several possibilities.


This morning I pulled out a purple tone on tone dot that I have. It’s what I have been envisioning for the background or connector fabric. I think it will be good and I so love purple that it will be fun to sew. This is going to be a very busy little quilt!

Background choice

Now I have to collect and pack projects that I can work on in a rental apartment. We will drive to Greenville in two cars….just how many boxes and suitcases and bikes and cats will fit? More importantly, how many sewing machines and fabric will ?

Happy Halloween Quilt!

I have a lot of Halloween fabric; a collection in the making for some years. They mostly do not “go” with each other and so I look at them every year and wonder what I might do. This Summer I thought “Grandmother’s Flower Garden!”. It is the perfect way to make fabrics play with each other. I use a background or connector fabric between the hexes and I can move the flowers around so that the colors don’t clash so much. {;-D}

This is how I begin these quilts, which are my take along when I travel project. First I cut a bunch of middles that I think will be fun. This is going to be a very busy quilt!!!

I use a hexagon that measures 1.25″ on a side and so I rotary cut strips of fabrics 3.25. I cut a bunch and tuck them in a baggie. I also take along a clipboard with sandpaper on it for tracing the hexes, scissors, needles, pins and thread. I also have readers with a light in them, though I must say that motels have much better lighting these days. It is very fun to sit in a hotel room and spead the middles and “flower” sections on the bed and audition what goes with what!

I sew a “leaf” row as well, but I always choose that after I have sewn the “petal” row. These Halloween fabrics are definitely telling me how they want to go together.

For those of you keeping track; I allowed myself to begin the new Halloween quilt, because the Christmas one is too ungainly to transport. Check it out!!! I am working on this one during football games.

Although I don’t know if I will have it quilted for this Christmas, the top will be done….yippee!!!

Teaching an Extreme Beginning Quilt Class: the class

Here’s the rest of teaching extreme beginners~

When participants come into the classroom, the table with quilts draped on it is the immediate draw! I like to provide samples showing several colorways and also different shapes that work well with a hexagon shape such as diamonds and stars. Seeing finished quilts is a good inspiration….

To begin the class, I have the participants introduce themselves. Though it does take some time, it’s useful information. I take note of who can sew and/or may be a quilter. These people will be able to work more independently and might help their neighbors. And it is a library class – I want “the locals” to get to know each other and perhaps make a friend.

When I start to talk, I begin by defining the project, which is piecing a hexagon; piecing being the operative word. In the US we call the craft quilting and so students gleefully say that they are quilting. In most other parts of the world where I have traveled or lived, they call the craft patchwork quilting, which is a much more general term. Most of them probably will not get to the quilting part! ;-D

The obvious goal is to get everyone sewing seams. Because I can’t be everywhere at once, I explain how to mark the middle hexagon so that some ladies can get started with that task. Two or three at a time, they prepare centers for the flowers and there is a table set up for this. (And I hope that If they mark and cut a quarter-inch seam, they will remember how to do it when they get home.) It makes the experience more personal and means that not everyone is sitting and waiting to get started sewing. For the Glen Ellyn group, I cut green and orange hexes for the petal area and because of the time of year, included some Christmas and Halloween fabrics.

For the first hour or so, the rhythm is this: I demonstrate how to sew a seam to 2 or 3 people sitting next to each other and continue around the room. The learning objective is to sew a straight line, on the line, on both sides! I spend some time talking about this and the importance of doing so. Sometimes I pull the stitching out, much to the horror of the stitcher. But if I feel they can sew on the line (I had a lady with a broken arm once….) then I encourage them to do so. By then, the first group needs to know how to end a seam and I show them that. I get around the tables as fast as I can and then re-check them. It takes about three times around the room to get people comfortable with the sewing part.

When everyone is sewing, I start to show them more general things, such as how to make a strong knot. Threading needles is another thing that most people can’t do and the poor lighting makes it even more difficult.

The reality is that you will have a variety of people in every class that you teach! Several years ago I learned an interesting tidbit at a workshop on teaching rug hooking. The leader said “each person has paid the fee and each person should get the same amount of attention”. It was an ah-ha moment for me. You may have someone who has stitched before and is working quietly. You may have a woman saying “I can’t make a knot, I don’t know how to finish a row, I cut the fabric without a 1/4” “. At the end of class you should have spent an equal amount of time with both the “needy” student and the independent worker.

When someone finishes a flower shape, then I start to demonstrate how to press the hexagon shape. Towards the end of class, as they’re sewing away, I explain how I start my grandmother’s flower garden quilts, with strips of fabric and cut middles in a baggie. I hold up a top being pieced together, when I have one,and talk about how to fill in the odd spaces at the edges of a hexagon quilt. Another finish I discuss is how to applique or sew the grandmother’s flower garden piece on a square of fabric. This can be made into a pillow or wall hanging. Don’t get too detailed. The librarian who pushed me into doing the flower basket class kept asking that I talk about batting. Good Grief! The reality is that most of the people in the class are not going to make a quilt! I also tell them about local quilt stores (not chains with nasty fabric) and what is available in the way of classes in the area. Many librarians will pull out quilt books and have them in the room, which is a nice touch.

The Glen Ellyn class was small (it was pouring rain that night) and everyone completed their hexagon. Because I had extras, I encouraged them to take another packet of petals and mark a middle to work on at home. They were a fun group.

After my initial library teaching gig, I began getting e-mails about teaching and couldn’t understand what was happening. It turns out, at least in Chicagoland, that area librarians get together once a year and have meetings and share information. And – they compile a list of people who have taught for their library and were well received. I was “on the list”! When you are a no name quilt teacher, it sure is a nice surprise to get e-mails about teaching out of the blue!

If you like to teach, I would suggest checking out local libraries. It’s a fun job and certainly gets your name “out there”!

Grandmother’s Flower Garden Designing…

While on vacation in Florida, I took along the GFG star quilt. I got a bit done and then I continued sewing it when I got home – – – I wanted to finish the star part. And here it is! The hexagons are 1.5″ – so much larger than I usually sew. The star almost fills up the top of a queen sized mattress, which is a happy accident.

Now, the “what next?”. Obviously I want the star to be the center of the quilt. I was also thinking that other hexagon configurations would be in stripes above and below the star. But – what to fill in around the star? This picture below is hard to understand, but I got some (Christmas) flowers and placed them around the shape. They may work but it’s so hard to tell that I think I will have to get some graph paper out and do some drawing. Another issue is that I don’t have much of the background red, white and blue print and it’s a very old design. I’d like to sew another row of it around the whole design and then switch fabrics… I will have to do some quilt math and see if I have enough – I think I counted 54 hexes. I thought (;-D) I would do some fabric shopping this weekend to see if I can find anything that works well. In looking at this photo, I have another thought – the hexagon designs around the star need to be lighter (or perhaps the same repeat of colors?) so they don’t grab attention from the star.

This is a vacation, take along project, but I need to figure out what I am sewing next so that I can pick and cut fabrics to put in the baggie. Then it will go away until the next trip – I’m planning a where-to-move-next trip.


Something Old & Something New

I have been working on my rug hooking design from Susan Quicksall’s class after lunch, when I have the time, and I did a bit during the Super Bowl as well. It is a kit and because I want to know how she gets the effect she does, I need to read the instructions and pay close attention! The kit includes so many colors and textures and I also cut as I go, so it is not a mindless project. For the most part, I very much like the colors, though I am supplementing now and then with some of my own wool. I just added some background and am really loving the warm rusty-red with the very cool green leaves! The two colors sing as I hook them.

I am sorry to report that I have lost my swirling stars project….very sorry. I lost it on the trip to Pennsylvania. I stayed in many places and had a rental car. I have contacted several B&B’s and motels, but my suspicion is that it got “lost” in the large, dark trunk of the rental car…..

I love the swirling stars, but I am too disheartened to start another one of them right now. I do always need a hand piecing project for travel and off times, so I decided to go back to my favorite hexagons. But – I am actually going to plan this top. There are so many wonderful patterns to be made with hexes and I certainly have enough grandmother’s flower garden versions by now. One pattern I really like is a star shape and I want this to be the center of the quilt. The tiny one below is English paper pieced using 1/4″ pieces from Paper Pieces. (The graph paper printout is also from their website.) I colored some hex graph paper to play with ideas. The template is nearly invisible, but it from Pat Yamin. It’s a good bit larger than the size I usually use, but in this quilt I want to include some other divisions of the hexagon, and I have all of the coordinating sizes of templates I need from her site.

And what fabrics did I choose? I started to pull out the large container of yellows, pinks and oranges left over from my niece’s quilt, but I use those colors so often. I looked around the studio at the stacks of fabrics and my eye was caught by the French collection. Many of them I have bought on trips to France, and others were collected from various fabric dealers at quilt shows. I particularly love the French primary colored fabrics; they are so crisp and summery. So the idea of a new quilt for the very red guest bedroom came to be!

I quickly sewed the middle together last night and I like it. I love the paisley sort of heart shape you see in so many French and Indian fabrics and I plan to repeat that fabric in some other places. The striped fabric is hard to see (and may vibrate on your monitor!) but it is a dark green and is a “quiet” area of the design. Next comes a medium blue with a very tiny dot and the sweet yellow allover print. The background fabric for the star part of the quilt will be the white with the tiny flowers. There are other shapes to design around the star, but they will be auditioned when the star is completed.

Seeing Double quilt show

My show is hung! Yippee!!! What a fun thing to do on Monday, the first official day of the new year. And what a relief! I have spent the last year thinking and quilting and worrying. I’m not sure why I did so much worrying, but I was concerned about a theme for this show. I did not make any quilts specifically for it, but I finished quilting several tops, and I was mulling over how to make these quilts “work” with each other. (Four of the quilts are new and four are old; I guess that’s not bad.) I came up with  variety of titles, like 2 by 2 and Duplicates, but Seeing Double seemed like the best one. As I thought about all my quilts, I could also have designed a show around triplicates; when I like a quilt pattern I often repeat it and since I teach, I make a lot of samples.

Since this is the second show I have had at the library, we are pretty organized. Here is the car ready to go.

This is the empty wall of the library’s auditorium. Looks like lots of room –

– but the quilts fill it up! I like this wall of samplers. I think people, particularly kids, will enjoy finding the squares that are the same in the quilts on this wall. The bright one on the left is my latest quilt, and the dark one that’s hard to see is my very first one.

Here is the opposite wall. This one looks less put together, since it has the “brown” quilts and the hand appliquéd ones. Peter’s comment on my dithering about how to make the quilts relate to each other was that all the quilts are useable and made to be enjoyed up close and personal. He’s not a big fan of art quilts!

And I must say thanks to my very DH Peter! Long story, but he is the reason that the librarian in charge of shows found me. He is so supportive and positive when I am discouraged or overwhelmed and always makes time to help me. We came up with the technique for hanging the quilts for the last show, but he gets out his tape measure and nippers and drill and makes sure all the hangers are perfectly prepared. And then he patiently waits for me to squint at the quilt and say “up” or “down” or “crooked” and he fixes it. And of course, though I consider myself to be a working Fiber Artist, in reality I make a pittance and so he is my Patron as well! {xox}

Should you be local and want to visit the show, you need to check the Morton Grove Public Library site. If there is a program in the Baxter Room, then it will be hard to see the quilts. And if you would like to look at the quilts close up, I have updated my website.

Scrappy Hexagon Class

Wednesday night I had a class of 5 ladies all anxious to learn how to construct hexagons using the English Paper Piecing technique. I introduce people to this technique during an hour demo at the Midwest Fiber & Folk Fest, but I wanted to design a class to move further than that and actually get to the finishing part. So I came up with the little quilt below, which you have seen before.

It was a bit confusing at first. One lady came with a bunch of 1″ pieces already constructed, feeling sure she didn’t know the proper technique. Two others had bought a “kit” and a book; I had no idea what they were talking about! And the last two didn’t seem to know that there was a project and hadn’t pre cut the fabric for their quilt top. Whew- I have no idea what the disconnect was as the description I wrote for the newsletter went something like : This quilt was designed to showcase the English Paper Pieced hexagons…..

But no matter – – – I had scheduled 3 hours (I never know how long to allow, with people sharing irons and cutting tables and so much going on), so there was plenty of time to deal with everyone! I got the two making my project sewing strips and demonstrated the EPP technique to those who were ready. (Turns out the “kit” went with a EPP doll quilt in the store and was sewn on a one piece background.) I had come up with a quick way to piece the lattice and background squares for the top, and the other ladies were ready to learn EPP in no time.

We ended up gathering at one table, like a sewing circle, and talked as they sewed. Below you see the pieces already sewn together by the one woman. It’s a true scrappy hexagon!

By the end of the evening, the two ladies making the project each got a hexagon appliqued to their top. The two ladies making the doll quilts each completed a hexagon and were starting another. The woman who brought her project got a lot of questions answered, though the big one about how to finish the EPP hexes as a “real” quilt was one I wasn’t sure about. The people at are really friendly and I suggested she e-mail them for advice.

I am happy to report that everyone loved sewing the squares and I am sure will continue with whatever project they started! That’s the best part for any teacher – students who are happy and excited about a new technique. It’s one of the many reasons I enjoy teaching so much.

My First Quilt – 1991!

Looks like I’m celebrating 20 years as a Quiltmaker!

When someone asks how long I’ve been quilting, I say “about twenty years” and now it’s official! I was photographing the Hunter’s Star square on this quilt and remembering…

The label on the back says that I took the class in the Summer of 1991, when I found out that Peter had been offered a job in Singapore; a tiny island city close to the Equator. A weaver at the time, I realized that hauling two large-sized looms and putting them in a small apartment on the 21st floor was not going to work. And as  have mentioned several times, I was lucky to have Karen Buckley as my teacher. One thing that I really liked about her is that she would have several patterns for each class, but was very open when I wanted to design something of my own. I had some fabrics that I had bought way before I knew I would take classes; gorgeous (vintage now!) Hoffman prints in blacks and reds and dark blue greens. I added a few Ginny Beyer textures and a plain black and red and I was all set. I loved those colors, but I found out that the quilt store where I took the classes was horrified at the dark values I was using! (The custom back then was to use white in a sampler quilt but I’ve never been much of a fan of white) They too loved it when it was done and asked if I would display it ib the store. I called it Dark Beauty for  that reason.

The heart in hand square was designed to be my signature square, something I encourage students to do in their quilts. I had Peter trace around my right hand on a paper bag and used that as the pattern for the reverse applique. I still have the pattern and have used it on another quilt as the label on the back. I was into cross stitch at the time and so I basted a piece of scrim on the square, stitched the date and then washed it off. I was wondering how on earth I got it hand quilted in such a timely fashion {;-D} and then I remembered – Karen taught us to quilt-as-you-go during the second or third class, so between classes we could sew on squares and/or hand quilt. It’s a great technique for beginners since it moves things along, but I rarely can convince my students to do it. “The back is not very pretty” they say. “It’s a beginning quilt” I reply!

In looking at the whole quilt I am struck by how many squares are hand appliqued….I should have known then what I would love to do!

Here are two more of my favorites from the quilt.

Many quilters are ashamed of their first quilts, but I was lucky to start when the fabric companies were making some great designs and I had such a good teacher. Dark Beauty still sings to me…

Hunter’s Star Finish!!!

This is a Hunter’s Star square that I made for my first quilt. It was a beginning sampler quilt class taught by -lucky me!- Karen Buckley. Yes, it does have all straight seams and, yes, it is hand pieced. The whole quilt is hand pieced. Karen believed that a beginning class should not use sewing machines. I have always liked Hunter’s Stars and it is one of the classic two color quilts. But if you know me, you know that I could not do a two color quilt…..too boring!

Enter Jan Krentz, who wrote Hunter Star Quilts & Beyond about an easier way to cut and piece this pattern. Louann tells me that it was in 2004 that she and I took this class with Jan at the Colorado Quilt Colorado in Estes Park. The class project was a very beautiful variation of this design, but of course, I had a different idea! Mine involved making blue/green stars and magenta/pinky stars and alternating them across the quilt…… Remember this is a Colorado made quilt, so the color scheme included browns in the background. (Brown/gold scenery out the window, brown loveseats with dark greens and dark magentas and dark blues in the background)

Jan has a wonderful technique for making this pattern quickly and easily. My plan of alternating stars involved a lot more work. Louann did a very beautiful version of the class project and  -got it done- but I took forever with mine. In my defense, I did work on it. But if you have made a scrappy quilt before, you understand that you do need lots of fabrics! If you look at the square above, you can see that in just that square, there are 8 “background colors” coming together (green, paisley, green, paisley) and then if you want to make every point of the star a different color, that’s 8 blue/greens or 8 magenta/pinks! The “background” pieces are large and some of the fabrics I used had very distinctive patterns, so I had to make sure that they weren’t too close together…. That’s a lot of fabric! I lived fairly close to Boulder, so as I recall, I placed an order to eQuilter every few days! And the next day a squishy envelope would arrive, I’d wash the fabric, cut and sew them and add them to the design wall. When I had a section I liked, I would sew it all together.

I was pleased when I finally completed the top. I should probably have had it professionally machine quilted, as I would have been using it all these years. But no, since I had put all that effort into the different-colored stars, I wanted to quilt around each one. It would have cost a lot of money to have a machine quilter do that. So I waited to get better at machine quilting… I finally decided that I should quilt it. I bought some green thread and some magenta thread and a variegated brown thread. I machine quilted each star in its appropriate color. I like to hand finish all of my sewing threads and so I would quilt a lot during the day and then at night, I would sew all the ends in…… it was a lot of work but that’s how I like to do it.

Machine quilting the quilt was pretty unpleasant and I have learned one lesson…… keep the quilt top away from the cats! You have seen several pictures of the cats lying on this quilt and in total, 4 different cats have enjoyed sleeping on it! It was covered in cat fur and at times, it made me sneeze!. When I washed it, I put it in the dryer for 20 minutes of air dry to get the fuzz off. That helped, but I still am pulling off little wads of fur that were quilted on it…ugh!

Here is the completed quilt, so many years later!

The back has two lovely batiks that I  bought in Bali sewn together

And here is the label which I printed on white fabric. I had no idea that the browns were running and here is the newly “dyed” label. I actually quite like it – the white was too stark but I was too lazy to look for a better color.

The temperatures are in the90’s today, but I know this Fall when I am cold at night that I will enjoy snuggling under this quilt!!! (And picking cat fuzzies off!)

Half Hexagon Class

On Saturday, Peter and I drove to the Johnsburg IL Public Library. He headed off on his bike in the drizzle and I unpacked my kits and supplies. Nine ladies joined me for a class on how to hand piece half hexagons, which is a new class. You know that I love hexagons, but did you know that the shape can be divided in several ways which will make lots of interesting variations? I have so many fun pictures of the class that I won’t put my class sample on here, but you can see it on my website.

I like to ask the ladies what their sewing experience is (like- have they ever held a needle before?!?!?) One lady took the cake. She said, “I thought it would be good to learn hand sewing. My husband and I camp a lot and I thought he would appreciate it if I had something to do rather than saying “Aren’t you too close to the car ahead ?” or “We’re awfully close to the side of the road!””  Isn’t that too funny?

Each student got a baggy with some of the pieces cut out and marked, a piece of felt with a threaded needle (;-D) and a few pins as well as the templates on a piece of paper. They were quite nervous about sewing the two hexagon halves together; I don’t know why!

Two ladies had taken the grandmother’s flower garden class I had taught at the library a year or so ago, so I knew they could sew and there were several (machine) quilters as well. While I demonstrated for half of the group, the other went over to the supply table and chose and cut out middles for their piece.

There are quite a few ways you can put the half hexes together after you sew them and I showed the ladies some examples that I had sewn. As I walked around the tables, I watched them move their pieces around to make different designs…

This was a variation I had not thought of – isn’t it fun? It occurred to me then that you could use a limited amount of fabrics for this quilt and then arrange the half hexes in many, many patterns.

I really like teaching at public libraries. They usually charge $5 for supplies and such a variety of people take the classes. And this was a fun group. They talked and laughed and I hope that some of them have caught the hexagon bug.

Thanks to Maria and everyone at the library for having me!