Sunday, August 31, 2008


I love Cherrywood Fabrics. If you haven't seen them, oh well, they are gorgeous. Hand dyed fabric with a beautiful soft suedy feel. Mmmm. I treated myself to an early (very early) birthday present and splurged on some fabric, including two yards of turquoise to add as a border on my secret Amish solids L-O-V-E blocks quilt. I have so got to come up with a better name for that.

I told you how I ran out of basting pins while I was working on this puppy, right? I went and priced safety pins at the local fabric and sewing store. Fifty centimes apiece. That's 75 cents for every single safety pin. Are they kidding? So thread basting it is.

I need a lot of pins because I have to baste closely since I hand quilt without any kind of hoop or frame. Notice how my batting just isn't quite big enough.

I generally try to keep an extra half inch of batting and backing all the way around - I don't need any more than that. But this pieced batting came out about half an inch too short in one direction. Shoot dabnabit. But there it is. I'll leave it that way - no way I was going to take the time to add another inch of batting. I've done this before and it'll be fine. There is a spot where the batting goes up to half an inch into the quilt and I'll just stuff some batting there before I quilt it. Lazy Gal in action.

Oh, and I definitely baste on a table - have never actually used a floor and I can only imagine how much that would hurt my knees. I just drape the layers the best I can (I don't bother to stretch anything out or use tape or clamps) and then shift the sandwich around as needed to get each area.

The turquoise look great with Pokey's eyes:

So I've got a quilt to hand quilt on - finally! - but haven't started it yet. Instead I've been reading. I'll share the quilt book with you another day, but today it's geek time. I just finished Scott Lynch's book Red Seas Under Red Skies and it was excellent. It's an epic fantasy and sequel to Lies of Locke Lamora and believe me you need to read that one first. You've got magic, thievery and, in the second book, pirates. Very well written and enjoyable.

And I've also started sewing for yet another L-O-V-E quilt. What can I say, I'm on a roll.

The weather has gotten sunny and warm again. I walked up to Montmartre for an excellent Croque Monsier sandwich with salad and frites. So much for the diet, but it was worth it. The tourists don't seem to have left yet (and I can't believe how many Russians are here) but the Parisiennes are back. Yesterday our street was once again filled with cars honking. [I spell checked this, and Blogger thinks that should be: The Prisoners are back. Hmmm, I wonder if Blogger knows something I don't.]

Friday, August 29, 2008

Quilt Brownies

Yesterday I finished my Amish L-O-V-E block quilt top. I'm going to have to come up with a better name for that quilt. Anyway, I also did the boring work too of piecing the backing, piecing the batting and basting. I only finished basting half the quilt. Ran out of safety pins. Again. No sure if I'm going to go out and buy more or thread baste the rest of it even though it's so much slower. sigh.

Where are my quilt brownies? No, not the chocolate kind of brownies - believe me I could make a batch of those in a heartbeat. I mean the little fairy creatures who come do all your chores in exchange for a bowl of milk. I'd love to be able to set a project out and overnight have the boring bits magically done for me. Instead I have quilt kitties who do their best to slooow my work by sitting in the middle of it. I'm not the only one with that particular problem.

Continuing the quiltiness, I have links for you. In no particular order:

Over in the Summer Class there have been some fun flimsy finishes and great works in progress. Check that out here.

Quilt Pixie, who's already gotten herself an electronic copy of Gwen's book, is offering to host a scrap exchange. See her August 27th post.

Lynda has been playing with Fungly blocks as well as making people.

I'm enamored with Gypsy Quilter's one patch quilt that is in progress. She's mixing hand-dyes in with solid fabrics and I love the results.

New blogger Wendy at Swirls of Fabric just finished hand quilting freehand fans on a charming quilt. Holy cow, I was going to say the name of the block and it completely escapes me. What is that, Shoo Fly?

Check out new-to-me blog Septemberbird. I love her little chair quilts, plus she's got great pics from thrifting expeditions.

Okay, I think that's everyone on my list. Not that I can be sure, my brain is obviously not awake yet.

I just finished watching Mad Men Season One. I thoroughly enjoyed it. To get a quick review of what it's about, read this review of the very first episode. The show really is elegant and stylish and a great look at life at a mid-tier advertising agency in the early 60's. Look at all that cigarette smoke. I wouldn't have thought it, but my favorite bits of the show are when the guys are kicking around the advertising campaigns - I love seeing the creativity in action.

I wish wish men were still wore fedoras. They all look so classy. But you wouldn't catch me wearing those high heels and pasted on dresses the women were stuck in. Eek. One of the guys asks Peggy "What, are you Amish?" because her sweater isn't tight and her skirt is mid-shin. That would be me...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Book By Gwen Marston

Yippee!!! Gwen Marston's new book is out:
Here is Gwen's write-up for Ideas and Inspirations, Abstract Quilts in Solids, by Gwen Marston, Photography by Gregory Case:

"Gwen has written a new book and this one is especially designed for grownup quilters. It's a book for the many accomplished quilters who are not looking for yet another project book with pages of detailed elementary instructions on how to make someone else's quilt. Rather, it's intended for quilters who are seeking ideas and inspiration for their own work. This 67 page book begins with a 7 page discussion about working with solids and Gwen's fresh approach to design concepts. The remaining pages are in full color showing full page photographs of 28 quilts with close-ups and captions of each on the opposite page. Gregory Case did the photography and it's first rate. He also did the photography for the Freddy Moran/Gwen Marston 2006, Collaborative Quilting book and also the upcoming Marston/Moran quilt book to be released July '09."

Tonya again. Ooh, I love the picture on the cover and the bit about how it's a book for grownups.

The book will be available on Gwen's webpage so that you can have it autographed, but as of the time I'm writing this the info isn't posted. In the near future, you will also be able to order the book from Gregory Case's website.

However the book IS available for purchase right now on in two different versions. The print version is $25.50 and can be shipped internationally as well as the U.S. An e-book (PDF download) -- only available through Lulu -- costs $17.50. It has the same content but is presented in a slightly different way. If you click either one of these Lulu links you can read more about the book and preview some pages. Just be warned, it does take awhile to load.

For those of you who are lucky enough to be going to the Beaver Island Retreat, Gwen should have plenty of books on hand for you to buy them there.

Remember how I received a letter from Gwen awhile back? Well when I responded, I told her that I was sure that all of her fans who have blogs and webpages can really do a whole lot to help her promote this book. She's self-publishing this one, so you know she'll need all of us cheerleading and spreading the news. I'll have more more info for you soon on how you can do that and maybe add a widget to your sidebar. Or should I say Bonnie will since she's the computer mastermind.

By the way, here's a sneak peek at Freddy & Gwen Collaborate Again: Freewheeling Takes on Traditional Quilt Designs.

It's 1am here and I'm a bit foggy. I've tried to get this as accurate as possible and I hope the links work. Fingers crossed we all get our books soon!

Monday, August 25, 2008


I've heard from some quilters that they don't like making the liberated wonky quilts because there is too much fabric wasted. I will grant you that, but I remember way back to working with templates and sometimes there was waste that way too. If you want interesting shapes, you just gotta deal with this:

I actually think it's beautiful. I'm saving these bits - I might be able to work them into a thready someday. Maybe one where I don't stitch everything down, because I love the freedom of this:

I'm sewing on my Amish L-O-V-E blocks, the ones I made duplicates of so that I could see how other people put them together too. It's a secret until next year unless everyone finishes their tops before then. So I can't show you what I'm doing but I'm really enjoying myself. It was torture making the dupes - I hated it. But now I'm having fun. I have most of my center pieced together.

Today I found the blog of Andrea Zuill, it's called BadBird's Musings of a Small Angry Bird. I thorougly enjoy her attitude and lively approach to quilting and embroidery. She's also a gifted painter. Check out Snake in the Grass - look at all the lovely layers of color and stitch. She's issued a challenge: Stitch by Hand's Old School Sewing Competition which might be just the thing for you if you enjoying working by hand. The winners get one of her lovely prints. The sign-up ends September 6th.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Architecture in Helsinki

I've been sewing blocks in my solid Amishy fabrics and getting some progress made. Of course I haven't put away the fabrics from the last several quilts I've pondered or actually completed. My sewing area, as usual, is a mess.

Lily refuses to look.

This isn't the kind of thing I usually do, but I love this video for "Like it or Not" from the band Architecture in Helsinki. There is nothing in here about architecture nor Helsinki. But it does have the coolest animated embroidery I've ever seen. Lions, flamingos, palm trees, it's wonderful. If you don't like the music (which all of you won't) then watch with the audio off. It's really fun:

Architecture in Helsinki - Like It Or Not from helsinkids on Vimeo.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bright Applique for a Rainy Day

We've been getting lots of rain lately. It hasn't let up today at all and I refuse to go out of the apartment.

I quite like this photo even though I had to take it really fast before the umbrella moved out of the frame. (No, the umbrella wouldn't be moving all by itself, but I didn't care about photographing the person holding it.) See what I do for you guys? Standing out on a rainy balcony in my bare feet...

The weather is blah, I'm blah. I actually took a look at the bottle of anti-inflammatories I've been gulping down and discovered that it can cause drowsiness. Oh, yes it can. Anyway, about that sorry excuse of a knee - I've decided to put off taking care of it until I get back to America, which will be next year.

Enough gloom. I ordered a really fun book after seeing photos of quilts done by the maker and her students on Kristin's blog. Lily does her Vanna White impression for Hand-Appliqued Quilts by Tonye Belinda Phillips:

Isn't it bright and cheerful? Tonye is a big fan of Gwen Marston's and it shows in her light-hearted approach and love of hand work, including hand quilting. Gwen wrote a recommendation for the book, which was another reason I wanted to get it. Tonye has a fun approach to choosing fabrics, mixing repros with brights, getting ever brighter as the years go by. You can see some of the quilts here, my favorite is Jammin' With Scarlet.

By the way, another folk art quilting book I highly recommend is Roberta Horton's Scrap Quilts: The Art of Making Do. It's out of print, but you can get used copies right now at low prices. I just wish Roberta would write a new book AND design a new line of fabric.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kitties and Fabric

It's been too long since I've posted pics of my kittens. That should actually be "kittens" since the girls are now four and a half years old. You'll also see hints of a project I've been working on, though I think I'm going to set it aside for awhile. Have to say, trying to keep things secret is really bad for my blogging.


Upside down Pokey:
Big yawn:

I still don't have a hand quilting project and it's making me nuts. I've put this time to good use though and finally finished my Amish One Patch (which I quilted in Cairo, which tells you how long that has been on my to-do list) and Joyeux Noel. Next is hand stitching the binding of Mini Hotflash. I still have two enormous quilts to add binding to. Sigh. I really shouldn't let these things stack up.
Some more Fungly Quilt Challengers: Woolywoman and Roz.
Sarah posted ages ago on her I-Spy leftover bit log cabins and her love of scraps and I can't remember if I told you about it. Well, doesn't hurt to recommend it twice, because it's a very fun post. Sarah is also an ardent Flickrer and has now created a Flickr group for fans of Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran's Collaborative Quilting. Check it out here.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Jasmine's Baby Quilt

I want to share a quilt with you that I made ages ago - I'm not sure when, sometime in the late '90s. This is Jasmine's baby quilt. I wasn't smart enough to take a photo of it before I sent it (isn't that always the case?) but Jas's dad sent me a photo - this is what the quilt looks like now. Very Velveteen Rabbit.

I picked the Snowball block specifically to show off all the wild, fun, bright fabric. Because I'm me I had a hard time getting the triangles added correctly. So I did what I usually do, trim down the blocks to a consistent size, probably about an 1/8" smaller than the blocks were supposed to be. And then I put the blocks away while I worked on another project.

So got back to it and started piecing blocks together. Somewhere along the way I realized that I hadn't actually cut down ALL the blocks - about half of them were the original size. Did I panic? Nope. I pieced the blocks into two sections. I added oversized black border fabric to the top and sides of one half and then oversized border fabric to the bottom and sides of the other half. To make it interesting I added that wedge of black in the middle before joining the two sections together. And then I just straightened out the edges and voila, a fun quilt.

Wow, I just looked at the quilt closer and realized that the black fabric isn't just faded out, it's completely worn away in areas. I have heard horror stories about black fabric disintegrating and geeze it certainly looks like I got some of that. Look at how well the high quality quilting fabrics have held up. Hmm, wonder what other quilts that same black fabric went into?

Lots of links for you today. Funglies have been popping up all over the place. Here are a few: Joyce, Magpie Sue, Siobhan, Michelle, Cheri's Linus Quilts project, Dot, Brenda S, Katie, Finn, Kristin, and Carol E. Some of these don't look fungly to me at all - always interesting to see how tastes differ.

I love this string quilt of Roz's - in particular how she added the turquoise sashing.

Cheri is making this delightful baby quilt for Otto.

In my last quilty post I showed you Fran's Sleepover Quilt. Well, Fran has started a blog called Making Memories One Stitch at a Time.

Changing topics, I watched the new BBC miniseries of Sense and Sensibility. It was marvelous and I love how the longer length allows for more depth. My heart still belongs to Hugh Grant's Edward though.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Paris in August

In August the residential areas of Paris look like ghost towns. Many shops and restaurants are closed and the streets relatively deserted. Some only for a week, others for five.

This may be an apocryphal tale, but I've heard that French law mandates that a bakery be open every so many meters. This orange sign lists the nearby bakeries that aren't on vacation. Hmm, but the pharmacy is closed for weeks and there's no indication of where to go for medication. Interesting priorities. As a complete aside, the patient keeps the paper prescription and can take it into any pharmacy to be refilled.

My husband commented that if you didn't know French and that the locals take their vacations this month you'd think that half of Paris had gone bankrupt.

I had lunch yesterday in Montmartre and it's still hopping, lots of open restaurants and cafes. The tourists are definitely here. I don't know if it's more than usual or they just stand out because there are fewer French.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fran's Sleepover Quilt

I am so pleased to be able to show you a great quilt top made by Fran Lavergne (pronounced La Verne) for her two grandaughters who love to sleep over at Nana's & Papa's:

Fran played with Bonnie's maverick stars and my free-pieced letters and did an outstanding job.

I completely love this quilt. Love the color, scrappiness, and the playful stars.
Sorry it's been so long between posts for me. I've been a bit blah - too many clouds. I finished hand quilting Joyeux Noel and now I don't have a hand quilting project to work on. eeek! I've got a couple of things that need borders but I just don't have what I need. Time for me to do some sewing and piece a new project.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Fungly Challenge

You know how I've been giving you all hints about my crazy, wild project? Well it's finally time for the reveal.

The Fungly Challenge

Play along with Tonya and Bonnie and sew a Fungly Quilt. What is a Fungly Quilt? It's FUN and UGLY and will bring the Quilt Police to tears.


You will need fabric that is:

horrendously ugly
high contrast, hard to use
really busy
boring boring boring
past its sell-by date (just how long has it been sitting unused on your shelf?)
stuff you just plain old don't like. no reason or explanation, it's perfectly nice fabric you just can't stand it.
leftover novelty fabrics (think I-Spy and Bug Jar)

We recommend that you use fabrics from several of these categories, not just one. If you only use boring fabrics you'll put yourself AND the quilt to sleep. The best way of all to do this is to work on this challenge with friends. That way if one of you has lots of busy novelties and the other calicoes from the '70s, wheee, you can have some fun. If you can't sew together, then exchange strips of fabric ahead of time.

you may also throw in a solid or near-solid or two, just so you don't get seasick...

The RULES (more like suggestions)

be casual, mismatch seams, make blocks the "wrong" way - if you're already a Liberated Quilter, this part will be easy
NO seamripping (except to resew a seam that is too narrow and will come apart when the quilt is used)
make it work - if it's too short add more fabric, if it's too long, cut some off.

If you want deliberate liberation, cut your squares and triangles in different sizes. Make some bigger, make some smaller. Throw in some rectangles and angles. Be a very lazy cutter who can't read a ruler. Use your miscuts. I cut some of my 3.5" squares into triangles rather than the bigger 4" squares. D'oh, but I used them!


Pick any pattern you'd like to play with but choose one that is BIG. For instance a 9" Jacks on Six block. That way the ugly fabric can't hide. So if you're exchanging strips with friends, 3.5" is the minimum. If you're going to use half-square triangles, than add some 4" strips too.


Have a lot of fun. Make the "worst" quilt you can. Experiment and play. What are the ugliest color and fabric combinations that you can come up?

The goal is NOT to end up with a quilt that you will love (although you just might). Instead, plan on using it for having picnics, making forts, letting sleeping dogs lie. A quilt that is so hideous you don't mind kids throwing up on it or leaving it up in the treehouse during a rain storm. Or, you can always use it as a really outrageous quilt backing.


I was listening to a Talk of the Nation interview with author Lynda Barry about her new book What it Is (which sounds really fun - looking forward to reading it) and they discussed a writing exercise in which the students write an essay. Then they are told to revise it to make it the perfect essay. And the final step is to make it the WORST essay possible. Both the caller and Ms Barry agreed that when the students are trying to be deliberately bad the essays are really lively and show more energy than either of the other essays. It struck me this would be a great quilt exercise. But we're skipping the first two steps.

I have to say, I think it works. My quilt top IS lively and fun. I know I had a great time sewing it. Most was fabric I'd consigned to "never want to use it for real" and that really let me play with it without worrying about wasting it.

Please don't be offended if you look at some of this fabric and think "I love it, how can she call it ugly?" Remember, some of this is fabric I do love, but I've had sitting around for too long. The only exception to that is the monster balloons which I think are a hoot and I just wanted to USE - it's fairly new fabric.

Some of the tropical prints in my top are from the early 1990s, when I used to buy fabric mail order from a 1" square that could so often be misleading esp with big prints. I do love them, but they've been sitting on my shelves for 15 years. Time to play.

Go to Bonnie's Fungly post to see what she came up with. She focused on strange fabric combinations. I've now sent her a bunch of my leftover fungly bits so I'm really looking forward to seeing what she comes up with mixing both our fabrics together.

Play with us! Make a fungly quilt.

Friday, August 01, 2008

This Heat is Making Me Sleepy

It's been hot here. Okay, not as hot as elsewhere, but too hot for me. Nice and warm and that means naps. Kitties are napping a lot too (shocker), just not with me. Lily on a bed of need-to-be-bound quilts:

I've been doing some sewing in the morning when it's cooler. Then in the afternoon reading. I just finished Martin Cruz Smith's latest Arkady Renko book, Stalin's Ghost. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Not as great as Havana Bay and Wolves Eat Dogs, but still excellent. Always get such an insight into the Russian character, although I have no idea how accurate it really is.