Nick is Home for Christmas!

Nick has spent the last year at Island Quilters located on Hilton Head Island. He evidently traveled with Owner Beth to several quilt shows and talks, though he hasn’t said much about that. I must thank Beth for giving me the pattern and many of the supplies. Fusing is not my favorite thing to do, but he was fun to make.

After lots of measuring and engineering, Peter got Nick hung in the great room! It is so fun to come into the room and see his funny self. I’m not sure the reason, but this is the first time we have ever hung a quilt over the fireplace. Next year I have several quilts that can rotate in this area.

Let the celebrations begin!

Finnegan – BeginAgain*

… i.e. a setback!

When I finally sat myself down to quilt the twin bed quilt, things went pretty well. Nevermind that I had hopes of getting it done for my niece’s visit April 1. It was smooth sailing.

Then I did something stupid and ended up with a big mess. What to do – rip out all of the quilting I had done, throw it in the trash or figure out how to re-make it. I stewed for a whole day about it. {I am so annoyed with myself that I am not going to confess what I did!} I finally decided to cut the quilt apart and sew parts of it back together – luckily I made it bigger than it needed to be. Now the quilt has log cabins on the top and borders all around. After re-pinning, I was set to go! Whew!

Back to quilting!

In the next unfortunate event, I was quilting away and the needle broke. That’s always a bit scary, but it was a small break and didn’t fly anywhere. I had a nagging feeling though and found the diagnostic screen on my Sweet 16. First was the needle test: rotate the hand wheel and if it made a continuous noise it was bad. The motor test was the same deal and both times the machine failed, making a nasty hum. I ignored the those test results and pressed the needle up and down button. Then she made a loud shrieking noise, which echoed on in my head. If you have a computerized sewing machine, you know that everything is fine tuned and because the needle probably broke on the bobbin, the motor timing was off. (shrieking in my head)

I took a time out and slept badly that night as I thought of driving all the way to my Sweet 16 dealer in Gaffney, SC, a 1.5 hour drive, there and back, there and back.

The next morning, before calling the dealer, I decided to do all the tests again. I remembered that this had happened with a previous machine and after giving it some time, the computer mechanism decided to work properly. And hallelujah, it worked! Crisis averted. No more shrieking in my head or by the machine.

So on this very gloomy day, I am happily quilting. (Cross fingers!)

*Finnegan BeginAgain kept running through my head as I dealt with these problems and I couldn’t place it; and you may not be able to either. After googling it, I was reminded that it is a nursery rhyme that was made into a song! Since I taught Second Grade for many years. it makes sense. It also may be a song that we sang at camp when I was a counselor. I tried to hum that to drown out the silent shriek…















Apple Core Kitchen!

We are in the midst of a kitchen re-do! So far it’s been 10 days of figuring out what to make for dinner using an electric fry pan, a rice cooker and a barbecue. This is a dream come true for me, so I’m really not complaining.

Though most people in the neighborhood thought it was a perfectly good kitchen, here is a before shot for you to judge. You can see the {classic} cherry cabinets, the {ugly} off white Corian counter and the {silly} brown glass tiles. I wasn’t a big fan of the black cupboard either.

I prefer the “Demolition Day” photo. No tile, no beige counter and the middle panels of the black cabinet have been cut out and frosted glass will be installed.

When we started the process, we needed to choose what surfaces we wanted; granite, tile, quartz. The man at the kitchen place ushered us into the room with all the countertop samples where we looked at a bewildering number of pieces. And then he had us pick some tiles that coordinated. We went home that day with samples of a very dark granite and some lovely, sparkly, expensive glass tiles. Though it was a striking combination, it didn’t seem right for our rather traditional house with the lovely cherry cabinets. After a few frustrating days of driving to the kitchen place and home, I had an epiphany – after watching all the renovation shows on TV and planning so many quilts, I realized that the important part was the tile backsplash. That is the pow that you see coming into a kitchen. After I explained my thinking to Peter, he very cleverly commented that for me, the backsplash tile was “the quilt” and the countertops were “the borders”. The kitchen man thought we were speaking in tongues, but after that, the search was easier.

Though I think the cherry cabinets are beautiful, trying to choose colors that complimented them and weren’t too beige was a trick. Bringing the samples home to look at them in the bright light of the morning sun and the dark afternoons was essential. It still took me some time; the tile showrooms are sensory overload even for someone who loves patterns as I do.  One tile pattern I loved and brought home looked like it was designed from one of the floors in the Vatican and cost $36 per 8″ sheet! And a granite piece I liked in the 4″ sample size, turned out to have a hideous overall pattern when I checked it out online. Yesterday the countertops were installed and – whew – am I relieved that we like them…

You must be wondering about the title of this post and here it comes – – – take a look at the very wonderful apple core shaped tiles I found! {For you non quilters, this is an antique apple core quilt that you can admire or buy on eBay.} The carpenter from the kitchen place is none too happy about installing them, but I am thrilled to bits.


All About Hand Dyes & Batiks

The other day I was looking at paint chips and the guys behind the counter were discussing what scallions, shallots and leeks were, or were they different names for the same vegetable? It was quite funny and eventually I had to go talk to them as none of them had a clue. In that vein, I have noticed that many quilters don’t know much about hand-made fabrics either. It doesn’t matter, I guess, but since I love to make many of these fabrics, I thought I’d tell you about them. (By the way, most quilt store owners don’t know either and it’s too bad that the manufacturers don’t educate them.)

Everyone points to the luscious shelves in the quilt stores and says “There are the batiks”. In most cases that’s not entirely true – many of them are hand dyes. Here is a selection of hand dyed fabrics from my stash.

Hand dyed fabrics

Hand dyeing to most people would be the stack of reds, yellows and oranges at the top left of the picture. That is a gradation that I dyed. The color is fairly even, but has quite a different look from commercially dyed fabrics. I mixed up water and dye in buckets and immersed the fabric in to take up the dye. Most of the other fabrics are drizzle dyed. Look at the orange strip at the left. Can you see that someone (probably) spread the fabric out, wet it and then dripped dye on it? The upper right fabric has many colors drizzled on and the colors mix together to make some new colors. The pattern, if you want to call it that, is random. The middle background piece is one of my favorite background fabrics. It’s just a white piece of fabric with all sorts of colors randomly dropped on it, leaving lots of white space. Some hand dyes look like they have a pattern and it may be that salt was dropped on the dyed fabric. I remember doing that in art class and fun things happen.

Here is a selection of batiks.

Batik fabrics

Right away, I hope you are seeing that there is a pattern to these pieces. Wax is applied to a chop or tjap and stamped on the fabric. The red and white dotted fabric in the top left is the simplest version. I’m not sure if the dots are stamped or dropped, but then the fabric is immersed into the dyebath. The wax resists the dye. The fabric is washed and then the wax is removed. The other three examples are much more complicated and I can’t quite decide how they are made. They are certainly made using stamps and are then hand colored or perhaps dyed in a dyebath. Multiple waxings and dyeings, I assume. The square in the middle is traditional batik that you would find inSoutheast Asian. The flower was stamped and then painted, sort of like a paint by number. You can see on this piece that there was a lot of bleeding, but it is so pretty.

If you go to Southeast Asia, this is the sort of batik you will find. This is part of a sarong, (as is the flower above), made in Bali, and it is all done by hand.

Antique Balinese sarong

When a batik is done by hand, one uses a tjanting. I have tried my hand at it and it is not an easy technique. There is a fine balance between the wax being too hot or too cold. And then, of course, one needs to be skillful enough to draw a design on the fabric. Look how fine the lines are! This beauty is an antique.

In a quilt class I recently took, the teacher and a student were talking about how the quality of the batik fabric was so good, and the teacher said that it was because of the batik process. That’s not true. When you dye a fabric, you want to use a tightly woven fabric. Imagine dyeing a piece of burlap – or a sheet. The burlap is so loosely woven that the dye wouldn’t show up much. Sheets are made of very densely woven fabric, so they take up the dye and show the details in a batik well. When you buy hand dyed or batik fabric, you can count on the manufacturer using the nicest cotton.

So perhaps now you understand why these types of fabrics are so expensive.

To thank you for reading the whole post, here is a giveaway – – – a selection of batiks and hand dyes for you to make a pillow top or tiny quilt or just admire. Leave a comment and I will draw a name on Monday the 21st – before things get too crazy! (Sorry, US only!)

Batik & hand dye giveaway fabric

Caribbean Cruise!

Peter and I have been away the past week, on a Caribbean Cruise. It’s been a crazy busy year because of Peter’s new job which has included lots of travel and my where-to-live-next-trips. It seemed like a cruise was the way to be together and relax for a bit. We chose Holland America’s Westerdam and hoped for great weather and lots of fun things to do.

The first stop was Grand Turk, of the Turk and Caicos Islands. Here is the view from shipboard. There’s not much to see, but the temperature was wonderful and the sea such a lovely color!

Grand Turk view

Happily, we’d signed up for a little excursion, which we enjoyed very much! We were driven to one end of the island, where we received instructions on how to paddle a kayak, and we set off down a little river. The kayaks had glass bottoms so we could see what was below us but the river was so shallow and clear it really wasn’t necessary! We had a great guide who told us all sorts of interesting facts about the watery wildlife.

Grand Turk guide

One of the first things he showed us were hard to see at first. He kept talking about jelly fish and pointing in the water and I was seeing nothing that looked like the jelly fish I have seen. In this photo, look for the lovely 8 pointed green star-shaped things; there are at least two. They are jelly fish! They have hairy tops so they look like algae or plants and underneath is the part that puffs out like jelly fish do. We did see some swim and they look odd, with their waving branches on top and their bottoms puffing in and out to move.

Grand Turk jelly fish

The river has two kinds of mangroves growing along it. One of them has these roots growing in the river by the shoreline which is how they get their nutrition. I thought the spikes and algae made such a lovely pattern and it’s a safe place for tiny fish to hide from predators.

Mangrove roots

This little pond was set up to show us what little beasties live in the waters of the river. The sea washes in, so they are all salt water creatures. The guide said that sometimes you can see stingrays or sea turtles, which would have been very fun! The long dark things are sea cucumbers. The guide said that some people ate them, but he never had. We groaned because we ate them when we lived in Asia – and found them absolutely revolting!!! The only thing to do was to chew them quickly (and they are very chewy and plastic -y) into small enough bits to swallow. You can also see  two types of sea urchins as well as the funny jelly fish guys. There were beautiful conch shells everywhere but they were not allowed on the ship.


We were required to have some margaritas and lunch after our strenuous kayak trip and then it was time to get back on the ship!  ;-D

More About the Zinnia Quilt

Here is Melinda‘s lovely pink zinnia to inspire me. And here is mine at the end of class, ready to be put on the background fabric.

Out of my suitcase comes the pattern, instructions and the roll containing the partially completed zinnia and already fused fabrics. I move the zinnia to the background fabric and fuse the middle of it – petals will still need to be moved to arrange the highlight fabrics. I clear a table and sit down with the directions and the rest of the pattern pieces and fabrics…..there’s lots more cutting to be done!

Looking between the pattern and the flower, trying to decide which petal is which is making my eyes cross. I decide to number the petals with stickers and mark the pattern with red marker so I can easily see what petal I am working on. Look at all these bitty pieces…..lots and lots of them. I decide to cut each color and carefully place it on the petal.

As I move from petal to petal, I am placing the tiny pieces, moving them about and trimming them when I think they look odd. It’s not easy to do as most of the petals have so many highlights. Huh.

After some fiddling around, I realize that all the tiny pieces need to be on each petal and then I can arrange and cut them to fit. So (below) you can see it – all the little pieces are on the corresponding petal and it looks like the camera didn’t focus. What comes next is fiddling, making each piece look like it belongs on the petal. Melinda suggested in class that we be freer about cutting and placing the highlight fabrics…. I get that idea, but it’s not my pattern or my colors. For this first attempt, I am pretty much following her pattern.

I bring it upstairs to the kitchen table to watch/listen to the Sunday games. And then I realize that the light in the kitchen is better. However, I need to keep the cats from helping. Their little hairs get on everything….

And here it is, ready to quilt! It’s amazing how the highlight pieces make such a difference! Fusing makes me nervous – the top seems so fragile.When I get it quilted, then I can store it and feel like it is safe. I am pretty pleased with my zinnia!

And now, back to the livingroom quilt……