Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

After winning a copy of Sew Embellished by Cheryl Lynch, I adapted one of her patterns to make this holiday wall hanging. It was also my entry for our quilt guild's "Star Challenge". Cheryl includes all of the instructions for making the quilted project, including the prairie points at the top and the "jewels" at the bottom. I'll be adding even more embellishments like bells, buttons and beads for next year, but I'm calling it done for this Christmas.

Peace on earth! This rare photo of Jesse permitting Scooter in his space for a winter nap was a surprise. Young Scooter is very respectful of 14 1/2-year old Jesse, who puts him in his place as needed. This is either a moment of good will, or else Jesse slept through Scooter climbing onto "his" sofa. Jesse is hard of hearing now and he sleeps deeply. Whatever the reason, it made us chuckle. Hoping you enjoy the holidays!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Party Dolls...

Dolled up and ready to party, these four girls sat under the Christmas tree at our recent holiday luncheon at the Citra Crafty Quilters gathering. After showing group members the doll in this post that I made for the prison crafting program, several of them wanted to make a donation doll, too. So we set aside two or three work sessions and got these dolls underway. From the left are Violet (who has her own sleeping bag to match her dress), Gloria, Scarlet, and Dotty. Some of the dolls will go to the local sheriff's department for use with children during domestic calls. There are several more dolls in the works, but these were completed in time for Christmas.

One fun aspect of these dolls was using less traditional materials to craft them, including prints and bright colors for the bodies and fancy yarn for the hair. Scarlet has painted features, felt shoes, lacey socks, and a fancy bit in her hair.

And Gloria has embroidered features which I think I prefer doing when making these dolls. They're great fun to make, and their personalities emerge as we go along. And their names do, too! It's almost as if they tell us what their names are. I'm sure there are many more dolls just waiting on my fabric shelves.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Collaborative Quilt...

This completed quilt represents the work of lots of quilters and fiber artists, which makes it very special. When I shared with fellow blogger and quilt artist Robbie of Robbie's Paw Prints that I was volunteering in a women's prison crafting program, she wanted to support the women. She and her friends in the Fiber Arts Group in Michigan sent a huge box of donated supplies, among them pieces of unique hand-painted and dyed fabrics. I knew they needed to be used together in a quilt, so I cut and packaged pieces which were delivered to the prison. The women pieced the quilt top, and I then brought it out to another quilting friend, Claudia at Quiltworks of Orange Springs. She donated the longarm quilting, I added binding, and the quilt is ready to be donated to a local foster-care agency for teens. All of the women's work is done for charitable organizations, so they contribute to the community while they develop crafting and workplace skills. I could see a teenager really loving this quilt... it's one-of-a-kind, trendy, colorful.

Here's a close-up of Claudia's chosen quilting motif and some of the hand-painted fabrics. I showed the quilt to a woman who was herself incarcerated at one time. She summed up the project by saying the lesson to her in the quilt is that so many people were involved in completing it, and not one of them was looking for anything in return... just a true spirit of collaboration and generosity. Well said. With all those good vibes in it, I'm sure this quilt will be cherished by its new owner!

And look who wanted to say hello. Scooter has become healthy and is growing quickly. He doubled his weight from when he arrived in October, very young and thin and lost. You can see the changes in him in just those few weeks here. He's attending puppy school and is just a delightful pet. It's tough to get a photo of him as he's on the move so much.. I usually just capture a paw or the tip of a tail. But he sat nicely for this one.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bahamas Breeze Quilt Completed!

Well, the Bahamas Breeze quilt is completed now, and it's one that I quilted myself on my Bernina 440 QE. This year I've been trying to become more proficient at free-motion quilting, and I've had what I would call moderate success. I can manage small projects quite well, and enjoy quilting them. But larger pieces like this one (about twin size) are another story. I'm not a fan of my workmanship standards on large pieces. I chose to free-motion quilt spirals placed around the quilt surface and filled in the remaining areas with a curvy-line, decorative feather stitch in turquoise thread. I'm only happy you can't see the quilting in the photo! It looks as if I attended the "Wobbly Fried-Egg School of Free-Motion Spirals". While intended to be symmetrical, mine are decidedly not. But I love the quilt anyway, and that's how it should be. I used almost every scrap of Bahamas Hand Print fabrics that were given to me by quilting friends on our January 2012 cruise to Nassau. So it's a meaningful quilt for me. Look... even the back of the quilt is pieced from bits of the fabric. A two-fer, lively on both sides.  

And, being a quilt gadget person, this is my dandy tool for this project. It's a marking tool called Quilt Pounce. This refillable container, about the size of a small wallet, contains a chalk-like powder. I found my kit (pouncer plus powder) at a local quilt shop.

When opened, the lambs-wool like pad is used to force the marking powder through a stencil onto the quilt top. You actually rub it rather than pounce it because pouncing produces a small cloud of dust. The powder is fairly visible on the surface, and is available in one or two other colors to ensure it can be seen on both dark and light fabrics. And it stays put. You can then stitch on the markings (ha! you can, I was only "in the ball park" so to speak) and then iron the quilt to remove the powder. Not all of the pounce products disappear with heat though, so be sure to read the package to make sure you get the iron-off kind. I believe the other type is a brush-off kind. I'm never confident it will disappear, so prefer this iron-off type. Overall, my conclusion is that important large quilt projects will continue to go to a long-arm professional, while small projects I can handle, and enjoy stitching. But I don't think I enjoy free-motion machine quilting enough to wrestle with larger quilts on my home machine, nor am I especially skilled at doing so. And I am glad to still feel good about the quilt despite the struggles, as opposed to feeling an urge to trash it and be done! It still makes me happy.

Friday, November 23, 2012

What Happens to Your Stray Blocks?

We're planning programs for the upcoming year in our guild, and decided to repeat a fun one that we did several years back. We called it the "Orphan Block Project". I'm sure many of you have those stray blocks tucked away in your sewing room. Maybe you made one or two practice blocks before starting a quilt, or possibly you have a few extra blocks left from a completed one. What to do with those blocks? They're too pretty to toss, so we hang on to them and clean around them from time to time. Well for our project, we pooled our blocks at one meeting. Everyone who brought a block "shopped" first to choose someone else's orphans. Then we opened the shopping to the entire membership. We had so many offerings that quilters were able to choose three or four blocks or sets of blocks. The next challenge was to turn the blocks into a completed quilt in time for the "Birthday Party", complete with a cake and root beer floats. Members had several months to complete their projects, and there were some beautiful results. That's the quilt I made above. I used the design book "Beyond the Block" by Linda K. Johnson and Jane K. Wells to come up with this lively quilt. Can you guess which block was the "adopted" one? It's the big red/green star in the center. It was great fun coordinating the other fabrics, blocks, and pieced units to go with it.

This red and green hand-appliqued block became the basis for a beautifully hand-quilted wall hanging. Now isn't that better than having this intricate block languish in a plastic bag or beneath a pile of UFOs?

Somebody's Star blocks combined with somebody else's Bow Ties to make this sweet lap quilt.

The bird looks at home in his lively surroundings!

Just look at this stunner! The Color Wheel block provided plenty of inspiration.

Someone else parted with a whole set of Bear Paw blocks. The quiltmaker created quite a treasure!

I can hardly wait to see what everyone comes up with this time. I'm gathering my orphan blocks. I've got several of my own, plus these two left from the last adoption. I didn't do anything with them, so I may bring them back for round two. The block above is fused applique and just needs the edge stitching added. The one below is meticulously hand appliqued. Somehow, other people's blocks just gave us all that added spark of inspiration needed to move these block to completion. Several of the projects became donation quilts, for which there is always a need.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Catching up on Quilt Blocks...

Well, it's time to get caught up on the Craftsy Block-of-the-Month patterns. I had missed a few of the months since summer. This month the instructor on the site is covering block layout and assembly. So it's definitely time to get these blocks completed. There are about 3 blocks I don't plan to make, so will have to determine if I want to replace them with another pattern or plan a quilt with fewer blocks.

It's been a fun series and the block patterns have included an assortment of different piecing methods. Quick triangle pieced squares, foundation piecing (I haven't done that block yet), curved piecing, improvisational piecing... instructor Amy Gibson demonstrated a lot of sewing techniques.

I'm a fan of wheel blocks like this one and the Dresden Plate below, so I definitely wanted to include these in my quilt. The center circle is done using machine stitched lined applique which is turned right side out and then stitched in place. No raw edges to turn under, and a perfect circle.

A new tool I purchased and found very useful for this project is the Olfa turntable. The cutting mat top turns easily so you don't have to move your ruler or the fabric pieces to trim around a shape. I'd been considering one of these for some time, and am glad I got it now. It was just right for cutting the 20 fan blades for each of these wheel blocks.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

At the Quilt Show...

The dust has begun to settle after the Country Road Quilters show this weekend. One of the nearly 150 quilts exhibited was this lovely French Baskets quilt by Jill Allen. The quilt earned the Viewers' Choice award, along with second place in the applique category, plus an award for Best Hand Quilting. You can see a detail of the meticulous stitching below. While putting on a show is a lot of work for those involved, the result is worth it. Seeing a body of work that represents the talent within a guild exhibited all at once is so impressive. So enjoy a little glimpse of the show.

Quilts ranged from small to large. This Wheel of Mystery by Freda Jones earned the first place ribbon in the Miniature category. I love this traditonal curved pattern. Just imagine making it in such a diminutive size!

Kay Smith won a first place award for her imaginative Florida's State Butterfly-Zebra Longwing. It has lots of dimensional elements and features Seminole-style patchwork in the borders. It was Kay's entry in the "Florida in Fabric" exhibition at the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts.

Here's an exquisite small applique quilt that is heavily thread painted. It was made by Beth Shutty, and is titled Goldfinch and Cornflowers.

My Mustard Quilt by Sharon Medley earned a matching "mustard-color" third place ribbon! Simple brick-style piecing as well as the color placement make this quilt so pleasing to look at. 

The rich color, beautiful fabrics, and artistic arrangement of design elements just draws me in. This is Eddie Mock's "The Gingko". The pattern is by Sew Bee It, and features fabrics by Lonni Rossi.

A number of the quilts shown were part of the Guild's Star Challenge. Beth Shutty made a photo transfer from a NASA Hubble telescope photo of an STS star cluster named NGC 3603. She then surrounded the image with foundation-pieced stars, machine quilted the piece, and embellished with Swarovski crystals. Quite heavenly.

The Judges Choice Award went to Kay Smith who made this original Seminole Meets NY Beauty quilt. Kay made this in answer to a previous Guild challenge, and she embellished it creatively. I'm sorry I don't have the Best of Show quilt to show you.. a Baltimore Album Quilt made by skilled applique artist Itsuko Andrews. It was stunning, but the photo keeps disappearing everytime I try to upload it! Oh wait, here it is. Persistence paid off. This is Itsy's Best of Show quilt, which also won first place in the applique category. And these are just a few of the beautiful entries.

There were plenty of opportunities to shop. I picked up this composition book with cover donated by Guild president Jean Whitney.  Plate and Wheel blocks may be my favorite among quilt patterns, even above the time-honored Log Cabin. But I have a lot of favorites. There was some spirited bidding at the Silent Auction. This little quilt I made and donated (pattern info here) brought a princely sum for the treasury. We had lots of outstanding vendors, too. Now to rest a bit, then gear up for the next show in two years.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

She's All About the Hair...

The women I work with in the prison crafting program are currently making more dolls. This time, they are going to be fantasy dolls that make use of colorful prints for skin tone and wild yarn hair. I think this young lady qualifies with her fluffy blue locks. She reminds me of a Dr. Seuss character. The staff will "adopt" a classroom of children for Christmas and the women are stitching dolls, quilts, and crocheted hats to donate. "Molly the Dolly" is my contribution, and I have another doll underway. I used a pattern from Elise Piper's and Mary Dilligan's book, Creating & Crafting Dolls, shown below. I like it because the center seam construction causes the face to be shaped rather than flat. It's also quite simple in that the arms and legs are all one piece with the body, so there's no need to struggle to sew them in them separtely.

Molly is sitting atop one of the many quilts the women have made. Some of the program participants are sewing for the first time, while others already have sewing skills. This quilt with a masculine look is going to be donated to a Veteran's Aid program locally. Like many of their "Mother-hen" volunteers, I'm proud of the work these women are doing. They are successful with more limited sewing tools than the well-equipped sewing room has. We're also fortunate to have many volunteers who rotary cut and donate squares for the  quilts. Otherwise, the women cut quilt pieces with scissors which is much more laborious. And the rewards of a program like this one are not easily counted!

Here's the book. It's full of inspiration, patterns, and great ideas.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


No, we didn't lose our dog and find him. Rather this little guy found us. I walked Jesse the Cairn Terrier as usual one morning, and when I came back up the driveway, this guy was sitting in our horse barn. He wagged his tail, but was a little hesitant to approach. So I secured Jesse and thought I'd go check on him. No need... by the time I turned around he was right there at my heels. And he has stayed there since. We don't know where he came from, but he's young so it can't be too far away. We're in a rural area of farms, so neighbors aren't real closeby. And we know the pets belonging to the neighbors who are fairly close. However, he was thin, peppered with fleas, and needed vet attention. He got a flea bath and treatment the day he arrived, and has since been to the vet for innoculations and check up. She estimates his age at 12 weeks, and he is of uncertain bloodlines. I would say assorted varieties.. I see Lab in the head shape, even a little Chihuahua in the face, maybe some Daschund and Pit Bull? The vet staff sees Doberman. So he's a dandy mix for sure.

He was lethargic at first, but now that he's been fed a few good meals and treated for parasites his playful side is showing and his coat is looking shiny and nice. We are really hoping that nobody is looking for him too hard as we hope to keep him. Fingers crossed. His condition certainly pointed to neglect and he still needs to return to the vet for a few issues. Jesse and Lily the cat (who ought to be accepting since she was in the same boat as a foundling herself- story here) are tolerating and adjusting to his presence. But neither are resistant to him. So that's a plus. And Jesse is Grampa to him (Jesse is 14+ now) and being around him keeps the puppy pacified. And he disciplines him as needed by warning him off. They sleep side-by-side in their crates. So far, so good.

We're calling him Scooter because when he is startled, he can really scoot for home (ours). Here he is with his puppy-sock toy. He favors my tote bag that has a package of quilt batting in it. He's a great little fellow, and we'd love him to stay. I'm thinking if anyone claims him, we can always ask for reimbursement for the vet costs before releasing him. That could surely change the picture. But, as I said, we hope nobody is looking. Because Jesse is of advanced age, I recently said to Jack that when Jesse is gone, I think no more dogs. And definitely not a puppy. Then Jesse had a dental surgery and seemed very perky afterwards. So I jokingly said, "Maybe Jesse needs a pal to keep him young. ha, ha." hmmm.... apparently The Master did not catch the ha, ha part? Because the pal arrived within days. And I'm singing a different tune... please, can he stay? Can we keep him?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

An Easy, Breezy Quilt....

This simple, pieced quilt top is made from lots and lots of fabrics scraps from Bahama Hand Prints in Nassau, Bahamas. I puzzled over the right project in which to use the scraps for quite some time. I sorted, petted, re-sorted, and just enjoyed the fabrics for most of this year. The goal was to make a quilt in which the prints could be showcased, and this pattern from Julie Herman's new book "Skip the Borders" seemed just the ticket. The color setting in the photo looks more gold than the lime green it is in person. But you get the gist. Looking at this quilt, I can practically feel the Caribbean breezes blow! It makes me happy, and I'm now considering how to quilt it. Any suggestions?

When a group of quilting friends went on a cruise earlier this year, we enjoyed not only The Stepping Stone Quilters show (see three posts here), but also the fabric screening shop, Bahama Hand Prints (see earlier post), where some of the group visited. They surprised me with the gift of a scrap bag full of lovely prints made at the shop. It contains everything from knits to batiste to cotton to canvas-like prints. And so does my quilt, except for the knits.

Trouble is, the scraps now have scraps. And of course I can't bear to toss them. I am a prolific scrap saver. No wonder my sewing room storage becomes so challenging to manage! But I'm confident there will be a use for these, so they're staying with me for now. And I'll be back with this quilt top when it's completed.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Playing with Dolls...

Meet William Thomas. This soft doll is my project for Dollies Without Borders, an organization that provides handmade dolls to children in Haiti, African nations, and other locations worldwide. Representatives of the program visited our crafting class in the women's prison where I volunteer, and they taught the women how to make dolls which will be donated to the Dollies program. All of the dolls represent the ethnicity of the recipients, and all of them are hand carried to the distribution point which may be a medical clinic or an orphanage. The women in the class were truly delighted with the opportunity to make a doll, and today the Dollies founder visited to show how to paint faces. She demonstrated on William Thomas, which is why he looks so handsome! The program volunteers have as much fun with these projects as the participants. There are about 20 women in the class, so you can imagine the line up of adorable dolls under construction. They've been so excited to work on their dolls and I think parting with them will be difficult, but they are thrilled to think that their creations will bring love and comfort to a child somewhere. Watching them work on the dolls has been so enjoyable... they were meticulous in painting the expressions, and so creative with the clothing and hairstyles. We'll continue to make and donate these dolls for a long time, I'm sure.

This smaller doll is Tanya. I made this one using a pattern in the book Quilts on Safari by Jenny Williamson and Pat Parker. Their pattern for Thandi, meaning beloved, is one of several small projects in the book. I thought she might be suitable for younger children because she is a one-piece doll so her dress is stitched on. My face-painting skills have yet to be fully developed. I was afraid that Tanya looked a little angry, but was assured she's not unfriendly, just slightly cross-eyed. So she's still quite lovable. What is it about making these soft dollies that just brings so much satisfaction and pleasure? It has been a labor of love for sure.

And I caught this lovely double-rainbow over our front paddock. We've had quite a bit of rain lately, but what a treat to see this after a storm!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Blowin' in the Wind...

It's been some time since my last post. I've been busy, followed by a three-day layup with a cold. Fortunately, one of the prayer flags I recieved in a recent swap with Creative Swaps was for healing. I needed some of that, and am doing better now. After making and swapping three prayer flags, the next stage of the swap is to post photos of the flags in our yards or gardens. I haven't decided on the final location for mine, but meanwhile they look pretty good here in the honeysuckle arbor. The first three flags from left to right are from the swap, and the fourth is one I made. I really enjoyed this project, and have several more prayer flags waiting in the wings, so the display is going to grow.

This photo shows a bit more detail. The fuchsia flag at left was made by Siri Hauge Opdal from Norway, next is the healing flag made by Julie Wolkoff from Massachusetts, the red "love" flag is from Sabine Schnieder from Germany. And the fourth is my "sanctuary" flag. All of the flags include a vareity of fiber techniques such as beading, stamping, piecing, embroidery and embellishing. The small size (about 5" x 8") makes them quick and easy, and yet a great place to explore techniques and make use of snips and scraps.

As part of my busy week, I spent a day at Disney's Animal Kingdom with quilting friend Joanne. We rode the Kali River Rapids attraction in the Asia section of the park, and I was taken by all of the many Tibetan prayer flags festooning the entry building. I might have noticed them before, but this time I was really taken with them, having just participated in this swap. If you have a few minutes, check out this video by Undercover Tourist ... it shows the ride (wear a poncho if you go!), but also has many shots of the prayer flags. Quite impressive. If you don't have time for the video, try this site... it has a photojournalist's pics of the prayer flags. There was another display in the nature walk that had strips of various fabrics tied to branches. It represented answered prayers according to the accompanying info. From knowing very little about prayer flags to discovering a wealth of information about them, this has been a most enjoyable journey.