Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone -- let's all hope that this year brings a treasure trove of good health, good fortune, good friendship... and lots of quiltmaking for all of us. Let's see... shall I also hope that the price of cotton falls sometime soon? I may not always be optimistic, but I am never without hope!
So what am I working on now? Several things... but here's one. I agreed to create a new design for my quilt guild's annual raffle quilt. After talking to Jerrianne and Georgann -- two of my quilt buddies who are always offering a ton of both ideas and inspiration -- we decided it would be wonderful to use Rose Kretsinger's 1929 red and green "New Rose Tree Quilt" as an inspiration. It's a wonderful structured rose tree design with a swag border that has red and gold feathers appliqued along its length. I love red and green quilts, and this one is breath-taking. My version will be an 86 by 86 inch quilt, so the blocks are very large: 22 inches square, with a 10-inch wide border. After drafting the design (see my first drafts, below), I got so excited that I've already scavenged through my stash and decided I need to break my New Year's resolution to not buy more fabric for at least three months as I don't have what I want to use for this quilt. So much for a resolution! It must not have been a good one if I'm already backing down on it. You will likely be seeing updates on this quilt over the next few months.
Partial pattern for "Borrowed Roses" - a remake of an old Rose Kretsinger quilt
Another project I've been working on is a Tulip Challenge Quilt. A group of my quilt friends all agreed to choose an antique quilt, use a block from it, and update it in whatever way we see fit -- a challenge -- that we each hope to finish and enter in our guild's quilt show in 2012. We chose a mid-1800s red and green quilt that had a block with tulips in a vase. I drafted the pattern as a 12" block... and the gang is all working on their versions of the block... and how it will be set into a quilt. Two of the group are enlarging and setting the block on point - one with reproduction fabrics, another with batiks. One of the group is making the block smaller -- a set of 6" blocks using reproduction fabrics. Some of the group have revised the vase - making it more complex. I've enlarged the block and am making a 4-block quilt; my blocks are each 36" square! Check out the block, below -- and check out the colors I'm using to make my challenge quilt. If you've read my blog, you know that I love cheddar!
The Tulip Challenge Quilt

Another project I've been working on is my Baltimore quilt. I finished adding the final border of 1-inch half-square triangles, and nearly threw my back out of joint by getting on my hands and basting the quilt. So here's a close-up of the outer border...
And here's a picture of the whole quilt with the final half-square triangle border on it... And finally... here's a picture of the first block I've quilted on it. I had almost forgotten how much I enjoy hand-quilting. I do my share of machine quilting, but there is no comparison between longarm and hand-quilting: hand quilting is so relaxing to me. I just love sitting down and quilting for a few hours at a time once or twice a day. With any luck, I will have this quilt finished in 3-4 months. Whee!!! Did you know that I do all of my hand-quilting using a stab-stitch? I can quilt as fast as anyone else - and can "quilt through concrete" with the stab-stitch method! Several people have asked me when the patterns for my Baltimore quilt will be available. Quakertown Quilts should begin offering them for sale in mid-January -- check with them (, or with your local quilt shop and see if they are ordering the patterns if you wish to get them. Now for a little visual treat. A friend of mine was given permission to take photos of the Baltimore album quilts on display at the International Quilt Association display in November in Houston (aka "the Houston Festival" or "the Houston Quilt Show"). What follows is a small selection of some of those quilts. My apologies to those whose quilts are not included in the selection - it does not mean I didn't like yours! To begin with, the venue for this Baltimore extravaganza could not have been more wonderful -- lots of room, great lighting, plenty of white-glove folks to help show the backs of the quilts or answer questions - and plenty of quilts!
George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston - Nov. 2010
The first quilt is "Friendship's Offering" by Fabric Cottage class members and others, spectacularly hand-quilted by Diane Kirkhart (Vienna, Virginia). For a complete list of the needle artists who worked on this quilt, please purchase a copy of Elly Sienkiewicz's 2010 Beloved Baltimore Album Quilts. It's a lovely retrospective of new and old Baltimore quilts.
The quilt below is called "Miss Refrigeradorable's Album Quilt" and was made by Judy Laval Morton (Newburgh, Indiana). The design source includes Elly's books and patterns, Nadine Thompson, and the crowning of the 1956 Miss Refrigeradorble.
This next quilt, by Marjorie A. Nelson (Frankfort, MI), is called "Baltimore Album on the Shores of Lake Michigan." Marjorie's borders are her own design and contain an eagle, 13 stars, and piping set by the binding. The richness of color in this quilt make it exquisite!
Meg Zimmerman's (Winchester, TN) "The Time Traveler," below, is based on an 1847 quilt by Mary West -- but the borders, quilting, and two blocks are Meg's original designs. It took Meg 8 years to applique the quilt and 8 months to hand-quilt it, making it a "true time traveler" as it accompanied Meg through retreats, bees, and family trips. As with many of us, our quilts carry our history within them. If only they could talk - what stories they could tell us...
Connie Teplitsky (Scarborough, Ontario, Canada) made "Threads of Inspiration." While inspired by Elly's books, several blocks and the setting for her quilt are original. I love that each of these Baltimore quilts, while inspired by the quilts of yesteryear -- and Elly -- are examples of how all quiltmakers interpret designs to suit their own sense of beauty.
I love Karen Pessia's (Medford, MA) "My Baltimore Journey." Karen's quilt speaks of the inspiration from her teachers, history, and the discovery of untapped skills. Karen's scrappy-leafed border is lovely -- as well as her choice of outer borders and the intricate sashing. Below the quilt show is a close-up of one of the quilt blocks and the phenomenal quilting.

"Vases, Birds and Other Things" by Kim McLean (Lindfield, New South Wales, Australia) takes advantage of some bright, colorful Kaffe Fassett fabrics -- Kim says this "is a happy quilt." And it is, indeed.
Rita Verroca's (Westlake Village, CA) "Big Parade" is built around a center block picturing two horses pulling a carriage called the "Big Parade," a vision to the quilter's world -- a land of imagination and inspiration. Rita has done a wonderful job of blending traditional blocks into her Baltimore Album blocks to create her own style of album quilt. Her sashing is incredible!
This next quilt is in the grand style of exuberant applique found in some of the old Baltimore Album quilts. Hong Sook Ro, its' maker, worked on this quilt for 5 years; her loving husband helped her by doing all of the household chores so she could work on the quilt. On a sad note, he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2009 but asked Hong Sook to finish the quilt before he died. She finished the quilt for him, and dedicated it to him after he died. This is the first quilt she ever entered in a show. The complexity of the blocks is stunning -- there is a closeup of the center block below the photo of the whole quilt.

Here is yet another quilt by Marjorie Nelson - "Marjorie's Album - The Beauty of One Common Thread." One cannot help but be inspired by the beauty found in all of these album quilts. A closeup of one block is also shown below.

In "Let us Be Friends," many of Elly's former students worked together to make this quilt, quilted by Sue Nickels. A complete list of needle artists can again be found in Elly Sienkiewicz's Beloved Baltimore Album Quilts (2010). I love how the blocks in this quilt are set on point with some wonderful sashing.
That's all for this month - I hope that seeing a few of the Baltimore Album quilts on display have provided you with some inspiration -- to tackle a new project, to design your own block, to create a unique border, to pick up where you left off on an old project. I find that seeing groups of quilts that have a common inspiration but end up being so unique when finished, reminds me of why I love quilting. We each have the opportunity to express ourselves in the beauty of our creativity -- take that gift, now, and go finish a quilt!

See you next month...


(c)2011 Susan H. Garman


  1. Your quilt is beautiful. I love your designs - thank you, and Happy New Year

  2. I'm always amazed at your work! And the 'tour' of the Baltimore exhibit...well...that's amazing as well! Happy New Year!

  3. What a beautiful post. That Baltimore you are working on is truly going to be an heirloom quilt!
    Can't wait to see your raffle quilt when it is done.
    Have a Happy New Year!

  4. What a treat! It just makes you want to make your own. Do you do your hand quilting in a hoop or just on your lap?

  5. In response to Avon's question about how I do my quilting... I use a big floor frame - one of those PVC pipe types. I love it because 1) the surface is flat and parallel to the floor (perfect for stab stitchers!), 2) I have a 2 x 3.5 foot area that I can quilt in before having to move the quilt in the frame, 3) it is lightweight and fits through doors - and in the back of my Tahoe, 4) I can easily turn the frame to quilt in another direction, 5) because it's rectangular and not oval or round, there's no distorting of the quilt across a diagonal - so every single quilt I've ever made in it has come out of it flatter than a pancake. Now that's cool!


  6. Beautiful!

    What is your favorite way to baste for hand quilting? I remember watching you quilt your Rodeo quilt a long time ago, but I cannot for the life of me remember the basting...

    Thank you again for all of the great designs and inspiration!

  7. Maura asked what my favorite method of basting is. I love using Glue-Baste-It. It comes in two sizes - large and small - and I only like the small little bottles. The trick to glue-basting is to use the tiniest and fewest dots of glue that you can get away with - 2-3 spots will generally hold a piece in place unless it is very large. the spots should be only slightly larger than the period at the end of this sentence. If you make it larger, you will get hard spots or bleed-through dark spots on the top of your fabric. As I applique, I "pop" the glued spot loose so that there is not a dimple in the middle of the applique, where the fabric is held tight against the background it sits on.
    Best wishes -

  8. It was a pleasure to see your quilts and home on The Quilt Show. I was particularly taken by the quilt that you have hanging behind the couch in your family room. Would you share the information on that pattern? It makes me smile...Thank you for all of the inspiration that I receive from seeing your quilts!

  9. In answer to Marge's question, the quilt she saw on The Quilt Show's "tour of Sue Garman's home" was an old block-of-the-month that I designed several years ago. It is called "All Around the Town." It is available from Quakertown Quilts ( - click on Blocks of the Month... then Susan Garman... then All Around the Town) and other local quilt shops. It's a fun quilt to make!
    For those who have not seen it yet, you can get a "tour" of my home by going to You'll have to cut and paste all of those letters and numbers to get there!
    Sue Garman

  10. Hi, I'm new to your blog! I am loving your new design you are working on.. those swags are perfection! and the rest of it is delightful as well.. Oh how nice it is that there are people as talented as you who can design such wonderful quilts!

  11. Sue the Friends of Baltimore is so beautiful. I love your style and it is by far my favorite Baltimore quilt. Since I am a younger quilter and have only admired these on the computer, what type of backing do you use? Is it a print or subtle? Or does it matter? Are there particular recommendations in selecting a fabric? I am going to start the quilt with the BOM from quakertown quilts. Will you have a yahoo group?
    Thank you for all your wonderful quilts and pictures.

  12. In response to Caroline's inquiry...
    -- what type of backing do I use? I chose to use a busy print -- only because I am quilting it by hand and using thread that matches whatever it is I am quilting. I did not want all of the color changes to be distracting, so I chose the busy print. If I were using ONLY white thread to quilt it, I would have used a white backing. Really - it's up to you, but I always take into consideration the color of the quilting thread that will be used.
    -- Other considerations for backing fabric? If you are using a 100% poly batting, the color of the backing fabric may "bleed" through (visually) so you have to consider than when choosing a backing fabric.
    -- IF you mean what type of background fabric (versus backing fabric that actually goes on the back of the quilt), it's really up to you what you like or don't like. I chose a sturdy, robust fabric that will stand up to the weight of the layers of applique. I also chose a white, versus a print, just because I wanted high contrast to the rich colors of the applique. If you want to soften the look a bit, choose a subtle print or an off-white background fabric. Choose what you really LIKE because you will be seeing a lot of it in this quilt!
    -- Will I be starting a Yahoo group? I have thought about it, but it takes a lot of oversight to run such a group... (because I don't allow random postings - had one too many creepy, inappropriate postings show up!), and there are several other Baltimore/applique Yahoo groups online which offer lots of support to Baltimore fans.
    Best wishes -

  13. Well, Just finished placing my order for your Baltimore BOM with freezer paper! Brilliant!! Save me soooooo much work, what a great idea! I did go to Hancocks of P. as you suggested to order the Kona Solid, I chose snow. Can't wait to get started, there are so few really nice applique BOM's out there to choose from, and hardly any Baltimore Album BOMs, thank you for filling a need!
    One question I like the "Borrowed Roses Quilt" you are working on for the raffle, will that be a kit or BOM later on?


  14. In response to Sue's question, Borrowed Roses will be a single pattern, not a block-of-the-month. I have already started working on it -- the basting of all of the blocks is done, and I have completed one block and one border unit. I'll post photos at the first of the month. This is such a fun quilt to make because the blocs are so big that it is easy to applique all of the pieces!
    Sue Garman

  15. Sue, your Baltimore Album is just beautiful! I thought you might enjoy seeing how a fellow blogger is doing your "All Around Town" pattern, check out Teresa at
    She is just too funny.
    Happy Stitching,

  16. I really like the scallops you've designed for the guild quilt. And as for your Baltimore...I'm speechless! It's amazing! Your work is impeccable, and...I don't know...just amazing! :D You obviously have some serious patience! :)