Sunday, March 28, 2010

Route 66

"Getting my kicks on Route 66!" I know that in this photo I don't look like I'm getting any kicks (or am happy at all!), but I found it exciting to be on the historic Route 66. Of course, I remember the tv show from way back when, with the two guys in their red sports car convertible motoring along Highway 66. I don't remember what they did in the show, but I remember they drove a lot, and I remember that catchy melody of the show's theme music.

We visited this little "ghost town" named Calico, California. It was an actual boom town in the 1880's, where people mined silver and borax. It's been "re-created" into a tourist activity. Some of the buildings are original, and some are a little "Disney-ish," but it was kind of fun.

Sweet MisterStitches spied a quilt shop for me! So I went in and talked quilts with the man and woman who were running the shop. Of course, they were dressed in old-fashioned costumes. It was pleasant, visiting with them. They had quilts for sale, and a few fat quarters. There was a long-arm machine set up behind the counter.

And that's no "drug store cowboy" you see in the foreground of the photo. That's the man (Ray) from the shop, who had stepped out of the shop for a bit. Both he and his wife are quilters.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Grand Canyon

Isn't it beautiful! I've never seen the Grand Canyon before, and this photo was my first glimpse. Awe-inspiring! Absolutely incredible! I don't think the computer has enough explanation points to describe the Grand Canyon!!!!!!!

The colors are beautiful--and constantly changing.

Here's another glimpse of the awesome beauty. I don't believe any of these photos actually shows the very bottom of the canyon. It's way deep, around a mile deep. Elevation at the rim is about 7,000 feet, so I was easily winded when I walked a little too far along the rim one day.

Obviously, it's impossible to grasp the grandeur from a few photos, but it's really something else.

One of my thoughts was, wouldn't it be a bummer to be bumping along in your covered wagon, on your way to California sometime a couple of centuries ago, and come across this! "OK, now what do we do!???"

Time for Plan B.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I just came home from a great week at Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, California, on the Monterey Peninsula. It is located in a state park, and the grounds are just beautiful. Lots of acres of walks, as well as a beach to walk on and explore tidepools. Deer, squirrels, and raccoons were abundant.

This was my third year going to Empty Spools Quilt Seminars. It is such a great experience for a quilter. I arrived on Sunday, had a short class that afternoon (and actually sewed an incredible sample during that time!). For the next four days, we had class from 9:00-noon, and again from 1:00-4:00. All meals were served in the dining hall, and we had private or double rooms. Empty Spools gets some awesome, world-famous teachers to teach at their seminars. I chose to take a class from Dale Fleming this year, so my entire week was spent in her classroom. She is an awesome person, a fabulous quilter, and a great teacher. It was a most enjoyable week for me.

Dale specializes in curved seam piecing. On that first afternoon of class introduction, we all sewed a circle into a square of fabric! It was amazing! And we used no pins. Dale's method uses freezer paper patterns and glue to stabilize it until it's sewn. It's such a great technique.

One thing that Dale does is to sew leaf shapes into squares. I thought they were just beautiful, so that is what I chose to work on. Below is one of the leaves I made. It's really awesome to be able to set this leaf into the fabric, and to add the stem down the middle of it. All sewn, no applique or fusing.

Below is another leaf in this sneak preview of my project. I am so pleased with them. My project involves five squares with various-sized leaves. I was able to complete four of my five leaf blocks at Asilomar.

The first two years, I went to Asilomar alone. Which is ok, because I made tons of friends, and never felt alone or left out. This time, however, I went with my good friend, Barbara, and it was really enjoyable to have a friend there. One of the benefits was that Barbara forced me to walk for 30 minutes every morning after breakfast and before class! I really appreciated those morning walks.

Below is the boardwalk that led out to the beautiful beach. I could hear the surf all the way to my room.

Friday, March 12, 2010

m&m quilt

Here is my m&m quilt. I love how bright and colorful it is! Our quilt guild has a challenge every spring. The theme of this year's challenge is "I love chocolate!" I immediately thought of how I could depict m&m's, as that is just about my favorite chocolate (Dove darks rank right up there, too.)

So I took a while to think about how I would make this quilt. I started by photographing some

Then I enlarged the photo to see how that would look.

Here is where I started seeing all the 3-dimensionality (is that a word!?) of the candies. And I knew that I wanted this quilt to have some depth, to not just be two-dimensional.

But I had to figure out how.

I began by choosing some nice, bright, basic
colors of fabric. There were some prints-that-read-as-solids, as well as some solid fabrics.

One of the requirements of the challenge was that we had to use some of this particular chocolate-colored fabric in our design.

I traced around a plate onto freezer paper, and cut out many, many of those circles. I'd guess they were about 7" in diameter. After ironing the freezer paper to the back of my fabric, I cut them out, leaving a rough 1/4" to 1/2" border.

Next step was to use spray starch and a paintbrush to iron down the edges, so I had lots of nice, very round circles in various colors.

I needed some "m's" and a way to attach them to my candy circles. I searched all my fonts and, comparing them to a blown-up photo of an m&m, I chose a font that was the most similar to the actual "m."

I played around with the enlarger to get my "m" to the proper size. Then came a lot of sitting-in-front-of-the-tv work. I made a template for the "m," and traced around it (backwards, of course!) onto Wonder Under. I chose a gray fabric for the letters, because that's how it appeared to me on the actual candies.

So, I ironed the Wonder Under shapes onto my gray fabric. Then had to cut out all of those little m's, which are actually about 2 1/2" tall. And back to the ironing board to attach them to the colored circles.

I wish I had kept track of how many circles I used! Here they are all pinned up to a piece of fabric on my design wall! Some of them still have the freezer paper on, so they are curling and flapping around a bit.

After all the m's were fused on, I chose some (most) of my nice, round m&ms, and put a piece of old scrap batting underneath, behind it, to make it stand out a bit. This was a higher-loft, fluffy batting, so it gave the m&m's some dimensionality.

The above photo shows how the m&ms were all pinned down, kind of haphazardly, one of top of each other, overlapping. I then machine appliqued them down, using monofilament and a blind hem stitch that sewed outside the circles and just caught the circle itself every few stitches.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Quilt of Valor

This is my latest (second) Quilt of Valor.

Our guild has taken on this project; we've been doing it for the past 3-4 years or so. Part of national organization, a Quilt of Valor (QOV) is given to a returning wounded service man or woman. It is a way of showing that we care about them, and their recovery, and appreciate what they have done for our country. The organization has given out tens of thousands of quilts.

Most of the time we make red, white, and blue quilts, because it seems like that is the preferred color scheme. There are a lot of patriotic fabrics available, and we scour the fabric stores looking for them.

These particular fabrics I found at the (now-closed-sad) Black Cat Quilting in San Francisco. I found the pattern in a magazine, and thought I would try it. As you can see, it's simply a rectangle, surrounded by lots of borders.

It wasn't my favorite pattern to do, because it was just border after border after border! But I'm happy with the way it turned out.

I experimented with my free motion quilting, using a different design or motif in each border. That was fun to do! I can always use the practice of quilting!
This is the very center of the quilt. You can just barely make out the word "America" which I quilted in script on that center piece.

Here is a row of some sort of unidentified species of trailing vine!

The above shows one I really liked, the wavey lines back and forth (very easy!) and some sort of wonky spirals, which still need a lot of practice...

I absolutely loved the stair step pattern I made in this red row. I should mention that I used some great red-white-and-blue variegated thread for the quilt. (Until the last round, when my thread ran out and I couldn't get any more! Then I used blue thread.)

Part of the requirement for these quilts is to provide a fabric bag to carry them in. This makes it much easier to transport many quilts, and is a tidy package in which to present the quilt. I made mine based on the measurements of a pillowcase, and used the same fabric I had used in the quilt.
Some time this spring a few people from our guild will go to a Veterans Hospital and take these quilts to the people who are there. It's such a small thing to do for people who give so much to our country.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wooden Thread Spools

It appears that I am "the keeper of
the spools." People have recently given me old boxes of wooden thread spools. Not that I know what to do with them, but they are just too good to throw away! (I know, I'm a pack-rat!)

I've recently received two batches. The photo above shows the tiniest spools. I placed an ordinary spool of thread with them to show the difference in size. They were little spools of silk thread, only ten yards in length. And they were in this box (below). I honestly do not know if this box contained those actual spools, but it's how I received them.

I needed to remove all the thread from the spools, as old thread just doesn't cut it after all these years. So I ended up with a lovely mixture of thread tangles.

These are the larger spools, mostly cottons, a few silks. It was interesting to notice the prices on the spools--stamped right onto the wood. 30 cents, 19 cents, and the lowest I saw was 15 cents (for 125 yards of size 50 thread). Imagine buying a spool of thread for that amount today!

Most of the threads proudly boasted that they were "fast to boiling" or "boilfast."

Also inside these boxes of thread spools there was also a fair amount of detritus. Some bent needles, dust bunnies, a scrap of fabric, and these two stamps. They say they are "Deutsche Bundespost" stamps. Now that was interesting!

Quilt for BabyStitches

Here is the quilt that I just finished and sent off to BabyStitches, our granddaughter. (See her own blog on my sidebar or here.) When she and her parents were here for Christmas, DaughterStitches really liked the quilt that I had made for BabyStitches to use while at our house. Something about it was just the right size for her little bed. It's kind of an in-between size, similar to a lap quilt.

She asked me to make one that they could use in their house in the same size, and in colors that would match the
nursery. I offered to make a scrappy quilt, as I did here. My reason for this was that this is a pretty fast quilt, and I might get it finished before BabyStitches goes to college!

Here is a close-up of the quilt, showing some of the fabric detail, and how the edges fray. All these little squares are just sewn (raw-edge) onto the quilt front in a random order. After the quilt is washed, all the small pieces of fabric fray around the edges, making a fuzzy edge to them.

And another photo. I like the pinks and greens that DaughterStitches and Son-in-Law-Stitches chose for this quilt.

For the binding I used some beautiful light green twill fabric from HarmonyArt. I'm proud to call this amazing fabric designer a friend. She lives near me, and I am always amazed to see her fabric collections--check them out!

This final photo shows the back of the quilt, as well, which is a pink flannel print. Nice and cozy for BabyStitches!