Monday, January 31, 2011

All done and ready to roll!!

Fabrics selected for my 2011 FQG Mystery Quilt
 (from left to right B, background, C,A)

I just finished my homework for the 2011 Frisco Quilt Guild Mystery Quilt. 

31 9.5 squares background
124 3.5" squares fabric B
32 3.5" squares fabric A
128 3" finished half-square triangles B/background
128 3" finished half-square triangles A/C

I have no idea what it is going to look like, but Martha says it is pretty and I love the fabrics I chose.

On Saturday, February 12 I'm off to the Crown Plaza in Addison along with 30 or so of my quilty friends.  Martha will feed us directions a little bit at a time throughout the day and by the time we go home we should have a top finished.

I can't wait!!

I'll post some more pictures as things develop.

An Adventure in Swapping

FLW Inspired Window mini
 Two years ago my best friend Kelli sent me an invitation to join a group of swappers.  It had been sent to her, but she didn't feel she had the time or the discipline to participate.  That was the beginning of one of the most marvelous adventures of my life.

I responded and was accepted into the Flickr group.  Flickr is a photo streaming community supported by Yahoo.  The group was Swap 'Til You Drop.  S.T.U.D.   Each month members of the group sign up to participate in either an "Anything Goes" or themed swap.  At the start of the game registrants are matched to partners.  They are then responsible to create a mini quilt (no bigger than 15" square) and have it mailed to their partner by the end of the month.  Players often exchange e-mails, and small gifts along with the quilts.  Many of them become good friends.

FLW Inspired Window mini - back
 The photos I'm sharing with  you today are of my latest offering. 

This Anything Goes swap is due by the end of February.  My partner is a new quilter, a man named Kurt.  Kurt and his family live in Green Bay Wisconsin.

My first step was to get a feel for his taste.  On Flickr the best way to do that is to view a person's photo stream, favorites, galleries, and profile, and see what they have been up to.   I found  his latest project - a jewel toned quasi-crazy quilt for his brother-in-law.   I'm thinking straight lines, solid fabrics, and bold contrasts.

About the time  I signed up for this swap I received a book about making Frank Lloyd Wright window quilts.  FLW's windows are beautiful and the quilts they inspired were equally so.   This seemed perfect for Kurt.

Jackie Robinson wrote "Quilts In The Tradition of Frank Lloyd Wright" in 1995.  In it she explains the construction of 18 different small quilts that she designed based on particular FLW windows.  All of them are dynamic, geometric, bold, works of color played against black and white with large unbroken spaces.  Jackie's method is pieced.   Since that time, quilters have developed bias tape methods for making stained glass effects.  This is the method I chose to create a one of a kind FLW inspired window for Kurt.

I drew my design out on paper then copied it onto white muslin; fused on the colored bits (in this case,  scraps of silk); and  fused on black 1/4 in biased tape over all of the lines.  I then went back and sewed the tape down very close to the edges.  (FYI - if you attempt to replicate this process cut your colored bits about 1/4 larger than their corresponding spaces.  Otherwise the edges may pop out from under the bias tape and leave you with a tiny gap.  Says the voice of experience.)  I quilted it using my domestic sewing machine and white thread - echoing 1/4 inch inside each of the white spaces.  The project was easy, fun, and resulted in a fantastic mini.

The package I sent to Kurt last Friday contained this mini, the remnants of my roll of fusible bias tape, a needle tin complete with magnet and new needles, and a fat quarter of  reproduction fabric.  I can't wait for it to get to it's new home....should be today or tomorrow before I hear anything.  I'll let you know how my partner likes it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Keeping it simple...

I've spent the past several hours finishing these two blocks.  It seems ridiculous that it should have taken me months to get to them.  They have been on the back burners of my mind calling to me like whispers in the wind.  (A totally irritating experience.)

 They are 6 1/2 inches square and for my round robin friends - we're on our 4th  robin together.  This time we each chose a theme and the others were to make a block to be included in our centers.

The first one is for my friend Julie in Bethesda, MD.  Her theme is "Under the Sea."  Julie provided scraps for us.  I used them to create the nine patch backdrop for my applique coral and the cute little crab.  He is a happy little fellow that I found at Joanne Fabric store.   I feel a bit odd including a prepackaged iron-on in my quilt block...but he is darling and my skills could produce nothing so sweet.  I hope she likes it.
My second block is for Kimmie in Bandon, OR.  Her theme - "The Wizard of Oz Quotations."   There are so many good lines.   I had ideas spinning in my head like the chickens and cows in Dorothy's dream.  "There's no place like home," in my mind I saw a cross stitched sampler framed with sticks, and red checked curtains.  I liked the simplicity of the idea...but it wasn't working for me on paper.  Then I found the monkey fabric, "Oh my!"  Isn't it perfect.  How do you add wings to it?

Here is the end of my ruminations... the simple words are trapped in the whirl-wind with the house.  Both words and wind are embroidered with plain sewing thread.  The flying monkey panel is made of a fussy cut bit of  Monkey Stripe by David Walker for FreeSpirit.  I gave them wings by threading a piece of sheer ribbon behind the images.  And the red check...well, it just seemed like Kansas to me.

In both cases, "Under the Sea" and "Wizard of Oz Quotations," I was having difficulty with the complexity of my ideas.  I couldn't figure out how to tell my story within the confines of  a 6 1/2 inch square.  In the end I tried to keep it simple and straight forward and not over thought.  I'm pleased with my days work. 

Now I'm off to the post office to send these beauties on their way.

Have a great weekend!
Some days are just like that...

"The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get"  A Pa-ism.  My granddad used to say it.  I now know exactly what he meant.

I'm sitting at my work table, listening to Scottish folk music, with bits and scraps of three different projects scattered about.  I'm past due on three different round robin projects.  Normally, these thrill me.  I love the creative process.  I love the surprise of each successive round.  I love a challenge.  Today, and honestly for the past several months, I can't get my head around them.

I know these ladies.  They are fine with my slowness.  They are all patiently waiting and will be thrilled when they receive my little packages in the mail.  Yet, I am feeling closed in and hurried.  Not their fault. 

Some days there are just too many voices calling my name.  Unfinished projects, swap commitments, dirty laundry, house work, sick friends, sunshine, big fluffy pillows, there is a smorgasbord of opportunity waiting for me to set my course and dig in and I'm standing on the sidelines like a dear caught in the headlights.  I need to pick one project and stick with it. goes nothing....I'll let you know how it goes....alright now....I pick........

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I'm only a few days late....

Idea #1  On point with setting triangles.
Last Fall I signed up to participate in the local guild's round robin project.  I am so excited.  I've enjoyed participating in round robins on line (Quiltin' Kimmie - it's your fault!!) and am thrilled to get to share the experience with my face to face friends. 

We all got together and talked about the process during the guild's fall retreat and swaped for the first round in November.  Yes, that means I've had this since then.  (I'm hanging my head in shame.)  The plan was to complete the first round and then swap for the second border at the January meeting.  That was last Tuesday.  Ooops.  I hadn't even looked at what was in the box.  Sometimes life just happens.

So now, shamed into action, I've opened the box and am entertaining possibilities.  I like the block on point the best.  My thought is to complete the larger square with black setting triangles inserting a bright triangle in each of the setting sides.  The math for pointing in or out would be fairly easy.  What if the bright triangles pointed 90 degrees, would that make the black pinwheel in the center turn?  Hmmm.
Idea #2

Idea number 2, and one that the owner expressed an interest in, is to start with this octagon.  My course of action would envolve squareing it up and perhaps add a circling flock of prismatic flying geese.

I love the work the owner did on this block.  The center is especially fascinating.  I'm just not sure of the math need to execute my idea. 

I think I would have to off set the prism - put the red goose on the green side and go from there.  The balance would be more pleasent, and it would get the star rolling.

I have a few days to make a decision...but I need to do it quickly.  I've already gotten the box for round 2, and I'm holding up the works.  I need to get my creative juices flowing.

I'm just a few days late...

PS I'd like to thank my son John for the wonderful gift of a portable design wall.  You've always been great at choosing the perfect gift and you've out done yourself with this one.  I love you!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


2010 Frisco Quilt Guild Mystery Quilt pieced by Cindy Sharp
  It has been a very long time in coming, and I still have to quilt the thing, but it feels very good to have this top completely finished.  I'm still in love with the fabrics.  They still excite the girly girl within.

A closer look at the border...

The beautiful stripe was directional in both directions...didn't see that one coming.  That is why the join in the center of my border isn't quite symmetric.  I don't mind though, I think it adds to the organic feel of the pattern.

A look at the corners....
 Again, the directional stripe creates a bit of a wonky corner.  I don't think it could have been helped.  There is some consolation in the thought that all of the corners are about the same.

Next job...piece the back and make the binding.  The back will be Lovebirds.  The binding is still up for debate.  I have enough green dots, orange, pink or brown to do it.  What do you think would look best?

Palet choices for binding....can't use the blue as it was used up in the inner border.
 I'm playing with the idea of quilting it in Anne Bright's "Luna" or "Growing Things" with green thread, although pale blue or light pink might be a sweeter option.   These choices however, will have to wait for another day.

Custom Quilter in the Making

She didn't fully realize...

This is Sue.  She is a friend of mine.  We have served together on the local quilt guild's board of directors for several years now.  We are both members of the same bee.  We both have a healthy love of learning new things.

Sue has been spending a lot of time with me lately.  She had a stack of quilt tops to finish and didn't feel up to quilting them on her domestic machine.  So I offered to share my long-arm.

The first several quilts were a breeze.  She chose edge to edge patterns that perfectly complemented her piecing and fabrics.   Then she showed me this one. This quilt is made with a stack of charm squares and yardage of coordinating fabrics.  The top is set on point with sashing and large, plain, setting blocks.  We agreed the blocks needed special treatment to make the quilt shine.  I suggested she  custom quilt it.  That's right, I wasn't offering to do it for her.  I knew it was a lot of work.  She does

A busy day

It was so fun to have her in my home.  She spent the day busily learning the ins and outs of custom quilting. I sat at my work table and attempted to add borders to my quilt.  (See yesterday's blog)  We both had a few challenges to face.  The companionable silence sparkled with occasional quiet grumbling.  It was so much like visiting Pa's workshop.  All it lacked was the smell of wood shavings and Yardley's Old English Lavender to take me back.  I was that close to being a very little girl again.

Neither Sue, nor I finished our projects yesterday.  My work room is still draped in fussy cuts lengths of fabric and her quilt is still on the frame, covered with an old sheet to keep the cats off of it.  Both of us are pleased with our accomplishments.

Isn't her quilt beautiful?!

I'm not showing you mine until I get those borders on, all of them that is.  I only have three more sides to go.  It could happen.  It will happen a lot more quickly if I get off of the computer and get sewing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mystery Quilt Forgotten

Leanika by Dena for FreeSpirit  Westminster          Lovebirds

My Inspiration
I am captivated by this fabric.  From the moment I saw it on the shelf at Happiness is Quilting I had to make something from it.  The little birds and water color brights bring a huge smile to my face and heart.

I showed it to my husband...he bought the bolt!  What a sweet man.

I had signed up to do a mystery quilt with the local guild.  I decided to use the Lovebirds.  Now I had to find something to complement them.

With the help of Gilbert (the sweet sweet man I married) and the ladies at Happiness I found these.  They are so totally not part of my crayon box.  I was embarking on something new and exciting and just a little scary.  I mean, what in the world can I do with this beautiful girly fabric in a house filled with boys?!  Crackled denim, limey moss green dots, vibrant orange with what looks like a topographical map doodled on it, hot pink feathers, and crackled brown.  My inner girly girl, the one that remains hidden because she doesn't have a clue how to coexist with a bunch of fellas, was ecstatic!
The final fabric choice.... a border stripe...big and bold and one of the elements of the Leanika collection.  I loved the shapes and colors and the watercolor feel.  Truth is, I didn't realize until months later that is was a stripe.  Isn't it delicious?

Leanika by Dena for FreeSpirit   Westminster        Maison
The tragedy
As is often the case, Gilbert continued to help me with the project, even though he was assigned a job on the other side of the country and was seldom home, he spent the time he was home helping me get ready for the big day.  We even cashed in a few of his frequent flier miles to purchase a night in a hotel close to the event so that we could have a mini vacation together.  It was oh so wonderful.  The first time we had ever left the boys on their own for a night.  (My boys are mostly grown, which is actually a little bit not, but they are good fellows and did fine.)

That night I started feeling funny.  I couldn't breath and was winded easily.  Looking back, I probably should have ditched the Mystery Quilt day and gone home, but I was the one organizing things.  As the day wore on I got sicker.  By the end of the day I could hardly talk.  Between the illness and the organizing I didn't get much work done on my quilt.  I finished four blocks, enough to see the larger unit in the quilt, and that was it.  For the next month I was sick in bed with pneumonia.  Over the next year the quilt lay, neatly stored in it's box, stacked on the UFO shelf, waiting for me to remember it.

Mystery Quilt 2011
Now I'm getting ready for another mystery quilt event.  I've got my fabrics selected and half cut.  I have a couple of weeks before I need to have my homework done.  It shouldn't be a problem, but the lovebirds are calling to me.  "Tweet, tweet, how can you start a new mystery quilt when we are still in our box? Tweet, tweet, squawk!"  So I've picked it back up and hope to finish it before February 14th.  It could happen.

Today the plan is to add the borders.  Say a prayer....I'm going to fussy cut that beautiful stripe.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, January 24, 2011


circa 1930's quilt made by my Great great aunts.
Retro, reproductions, and vintage are very popular.  We have Civil War reproduction fabrics, and '30's retro-inspired fabrics.  We make quilts out of old fabrics...I guess that is vintage.  This is all wonderful and gives us infinite possibilities.  Thank God no one is interested in reproducing the double knits of the '70's.

We even have Civil War and '30's quilt patterns being reproduced so that we can make a quilt just like great grandmas. It is a great way to preserve the past.  Great grandma's quilts may be in shreds and the best way to preserve the memories might be recreate them.  We are blessed to have this possibility. 

It is all wonderful, but it can get a little out of hand.....

I have to like it
There is no joy or honor in making a quilt just because it is historic.  If you don't like it, then don't do it.  There seems to be a mystique about all things antique, they are deemed more special or more authentic because they are old.  I think that might be true about people.  I value the older people in my life for that very reason.  They are precious to me and I realize that the natural order of things demands that their time here is limited.  I honor them and protect them as best I can because they are dear and special and filled with wisdom that I have not attained.  I do not think that is true of objects.  With exceptions to objects that link me directly to a person, I grant no special value to things that are old.  What ever value I bestow upon something is held in my memories not in the object itself.  Consequently I would not copy a quilt unless I truly loved it's patterns and design.

Perpetuating a lie
I don't believe that quilters 100 years ago were any more perfect that quilters now.  I really do believe that they were just as likely to assemble their pieces out of order or in the wrong direction.  I've done it.  I've quilted for people who have done it.  We don't do it on purpose, and we often don't even notice until after the project is completed.  I'm certain our mothers and grandmothers have done it too.   Once the project is completed - pieced, quilted, bound, labeled - who is going to take it all apart to fix the offensive block?  Really?  I'm far more likely to eat my humble pie and move on.  If the error is hugely offensive the quilt be relegated to picnics and tall gate parties or stored away.  Some day my sons will find a nice collection of perfectly preserved quilts - all with wonky blocks in them.

Taking this a step further, I suppose that my great grandchildren might find these perfectly preserved quilts and be warmed by a link to the past.  I hope they do, it would be like reaching out to hug someone I've never met.  They might even decide to reproduce the quilts.  They'll find the perfect reproduction fabrics and begin the process of engineering a pattern.  Will they copy the quilt exactly as they found it or notice the error and fix it?  Really?  As preservationist of the craft of quilting, and as my prodigy, I sincerely hope that they fix the block.  I didn't make it on purpose.  I was just to lazy to fix it.  I would be honored if they took the time to perfect my creation.   To do otherwise strikes me as lazy and unobservant and just a tad like perpetuating a lie.

While I enjoy traditional patterns and colors, I do not believe that these traditional patterns and colors are a definition.  Quilting is a creative process, it has always been a creative process, and  I pray it remains so.   Traditional patterns and colors are a great place to start.  They provide the necessary foundations of geometry and design.  They teach us about color.  They link us to the past.  However, they are not the end of the story.   If that were so, than quilters would be like dogs chasing their tails...and I would have to introduce a cat just to get them to chase something new.  My heart longs for synthesis, to take the bits and pieces that I have learned and to forge them into something new.  To me, that is what quilting is all about.

Friday, January 21, 2011

It's Eve's Fault

Some day I'm going to ask Eve what she was thinking.  She had it made.  She lived in a beautiful garden with the man she was made for.  All she had to do was love him.  Dinner was hanging from the trees.  There was no house keeping and no laundry.  Then again, maybe she has been kicking herself for thousands of years and doesn't need me dumping anti-bacterial detergent on the wounds.

So, it's laundry day again.  Not that laundry is ever completed.  It is more like winding a clock than crossing something off of a list.  I know I'm going to have to do it again, and again, and...

I don't really mind doing it.  Once every thing is sorted and stored in the laundry room, it isn't really that big a deal.  I am blessed to have a laundry that is just next to my work room.  I can piece and work on customer quilts while I am waiting for the wash to complete a cycle.  It is really very pleasant as far as chores are concerned.

The part I hate is sorting.  Teenage boys are stinkin' pigs!!  Oh the smells that come out of their hampers.  I don't want to touch those clothes.  I don't want those clothes touching either my flesh or my clothes.  YUCK!!  However, I don't have the money to hire someone else to do the job.  So, I pray that God prepares for each of my boys a beautiful and loving wife.  A woman made expressly for them.

One day they, the stinkin' pig boys, will find the woman that God has created just for them and they will love and honor her.  They will be very happy.  She will love my boy and overlook the fact that he was once a pig boy.  After a time, my son's, and their beautiful wives, will have own beautiful children.  These children will grow and be the delight and joy of their family.  And when these delightful children approach manhood their chemistry will alter in the way that raging hormones alter a boy.  And my boys will know exactly what I was talking about.  How sweet the thought.

In the mean time, I am encouraged by my work room, the abundance of light and the breadth of the view, and the lovely large table that my long-arm machine rests on.  It is perfectly constructed to hold my laundry baskets while I sort.  I no longer pass out with my head in the depths of a hamper.  The stench is dissipated by the overhead fan....and a large bottle of Febreze.

All is well in my little quilty world.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Too many irons in the fire?

DSQ10 - am making a largish mini for my partner in....can't tell you where.  Dead line March 2011

STUD Anything Goes - making a mini for Jader9920 in Wisconsin.  Deadline late February 2011

STUD "Love, love, love" - making a mini for SweatTeaMom in Georgia.  Deadline late February 2011

My Favorite Little Quilt Swap - making a mini for a blind quilt swap.  Deadline extended for DQS10 applicants not selected for this round.

Round Robin 4 - making 6.5" blocks to contribute to the centers of 4 quilts that will be sent round to be embellished.  These will be sent to Oregon, Indiana, and Maryland.  Deadline - January 1, 2011.

Frisco Quilt Guild Round Robin - must at the first border to Anne B's quilt.  Deadline January 25, 2011.

Frisco Quilt Guild Mystery Quilt - homework must be completed by February 12, 2011 and includes 289 3" finished half triangle squares.

I love making lists just for the power that crossing things off of them gives me.  They can, however, become a tad overwhelming. 

In this case the worst part is waiting for the creative muse to strike.  She is a little like cupid - I never know when she will hit, or where, but I do know that when she does the arrow will strike truly.  Each of these projects is percolating in the back of my mind and/or brewing in a box on my project shelf.  As I share my "studio" with the rest of the family as a sort of general work room, I can't leave things lying about.  It could be disastrous.  Imagine, 7 quilt projects, 3 boys, 1 husband, 2 cats, and 2 dogs add in the never ending stream of laundry and various quilting projects for customers and anything could happen.  Ikea and The Container Store are my friends.

I am confident that the projects will be completed on way or the other they will get done...and then I can cross them off the list!  Ooooh that's gonna' feel good.

2/25/2011 Yes, yes it does feel good to cross the last one off that list.  Praise God!!!

It's a Brave New World

This is all new to me.  The idea of putting my thoughts out for the world to see.  More precisely, my thoughts on fabrics and color and putting them together; about quilting and life in general.  Really, can you talk about fabric and color, about making quilts in general, without talking about the people that you make them for?  Maybe you can....but I'm the one with her fingers on the key board.  I definitely can not.

So this is me.  Wife of one husband.  I plan to stay that way until one of us dies.  I'm too impatient to train another one.  Mother of 3 boys.  They are my delight and joy.  I can't believe that God gifted them to me.  Stay at home mom and owner/operator of Tops to Treasures. A long arm quilting business that believes that no one wants to inherit a quilt top and quilts are made for snuggling, not taking up space in dresser drawers.

I hope you enjoy the adventure along with me.