Friday, April 4, 2014

Part One: Workshops, Retreats, a Mystery... and More!!!

Finally, I have gotten this blog written and ready to post... with a TON of quilt pictures.  What's better than that is... I have SO much more to share and SO many more pictures!  They will have to wait until my May 1 blog or you will all start complaining about the BOOKS I've been issuing each month!  Next month, two things will show up that I'm very excited about.  The first one is that one of my blocks was selected for the Quiltmaker 100 Blocks magazine issue that comes out in May (and sometimes earlier), and I'll be part of a blog hop.  Stay tuned for that one -- I have to post on April 30, so the May 1 post will actually be EARLY!  The second thing that I'll share are pictures from my guild's second biannual quilt studio tour.  We did it two years ago, in conjunction with our quilt show, and it was fun, brought lots of money into the guild's coffers, and let everyone peek into some other guild member's studios.  This year, you'll get to take the tour through the lens of my camera.  You'll also get to see a few more things... but let's get started on the April blog post, first!

And I'll give you a heads up now... this blog is in two parts.  With over 175 pictures in the post... my blog kept hanging up and crashing on me.  Thus... this is Part One of the April blog. Read it... and then go read Part Two! 

Back in January, five friends and I enlisted a gal from Corsicana - Judy - to come and teach us how to do prepared-edge applique (I've also called it freezer paper/starch applique but Tresa Jones called it prepared-edge applique and that just sounds much more descriptive).  We had a great time and learned a new technique that turned out to be pretty nifty.  It is rare that I learn something so totally new after all my years of quilting... but it's a great technique.  Here is a photo of two of us with Judy in the middle, when we gathered a couple of months ago.

When I posted information and pictures about that in-house retreat, I didn't have the time or room to post some of Judy's remarkable blocks and quilts.  Today... I'm showing LOTS of her works!  First, here are a bunch of blocks Judy made using Edyta Sitar's Applique Affair pattern.  Edyta's designs are first-class -- and Judy's work is similarly first-class.  Take a look at this first block and you'll see what I mean.  Bear in mind... Judy did all of these blocks using the prepared-edge applique method.

I love Judy's choice of fabrics and how she manages to adjust the patterns so that she can do the prepared-edge applique without any issues.  It's a technique that does not pair up well with deep V's... and Judy had an answer for us.  Take a look at how Judy handles deep V's.  On the pattern below, you can see that she's shortened the "V" on the big leaf (she's penciled in "her" new line).  The pattern/block do not suffer from these adjustments... you can see in the block below, where Judy used the "less-deep V" on the leaves.  They still look gorgeous to me - and didn't give Judy any headaches!  I think many of us forget that patterns can be treated as "guidelines" and not "laws." 
There are more....

and more...

and still more!

The blocks kept coming out of Judy's box...

as if it were an endless stream.

And each block was a delight....

of shapes (thanks, Edyta!)

and colors...

and prints.

Such pretty things!

You have probably heard someone say that they don't like civil war reproduction fabrics because they are too dull and drab. 

But I've never thought that... and you can see, Judy never did, either.

Her blocks sparkle with their depth and breadth of color!

These simple blocks look glorious!

And here's one more.  It is one of many half-blocks like it in assorted greens and pinks; they will all be used in Judy's border. 
When Judy came down from Corsicana to lead this mini-workshop for us, she brought a bunch of quilts and gave us a trunk show one afternoon.  Here's one of the quilts she made -- which was a real hit since the gals at this mini-retreat love red and green quilts!.

Below is a close-up of the center block.  I believe this block is from Jeana Kimball's Red and Green: An Applique Tradition book.  Some of the other blocks are also from that book. 

Here's a close-up of the outer edge of the quilt.  I like how the dogtooth border surrounds the swags in the outer border.

The Rose Tree Urn block is also one that can be found in the Jeana Kimball book; it's a classic red and green quilt block.

Here's an old block - odd, but I like it.  Look at Judy's meticulous hand-quilting. 

And this block is one of my favorites!  I've always wanted to make a quilt using four of these blocks - extra-large size, surrounded with several pieced and appliqued borders.  I can dream, can't I?

Judy also made the quilt below.  It's a big one - probably 70-plus inches high!  That gave Judy a bit of a challenge, as she had to make a freezer paper template for that gigantic tree.  She had to have freezer paper as big as that tree in order to do her prepared-edge applique.  Oh my!  I like this quilt because it's simple and whimsical; it makes me smile when I look at the pictures:  there's so much to see!

Take a look at the Cheshire cat sitting on the tree branch.

And the sweet bird...  part of the joy in this quilt is seeing Judy's use of plaids with other fabrics.  It's a nice mix.

There's another kitty down under the tree....

And a wise old owl up in the crook of the tree.  Look at those fabric choices - would you have been brave enough to combine all of them in one quilt? 

Judy also showed us her Friends of Baltimore quilt.  Can you believe she made the entire quilt using the prepared-edge applique technique?  Phenomenal says it all!

One of the things I enjoyed seeing in Judy's quilt was how she chose different colors in her blocks.  In this cornucopia of flowers, she chose not to use the classic red-gold-blue coloration of the cornucopia, itself, and instead opted for various shades of browns.  Those colors are pleasant in this block. 

Similarly, in this woven basket block, Judy chose to make the basket out of assorted browns instead of using reds, as I did.  The block looks just as wonderful in browns.  I've often said that we (the collective set of all of us quilters...) are too timid when it comes to fabric choices.  We tend to have notions in our head of what color or type of fabric should be used in a block, when we ought to be asking ourselves, "of all the fabrics I have at hand, which ones will work?"... without ruling out half of what we really could use.   Just as Judy used strange combinations of stripes and plaids and prints in the quilt with the tree and the kitty cats and the owl, here she used different combinations of fabrics in her Baltimore blocks.  That's a lesson for all of us (or at least for me!).

This was the only block that Judy chose to applique using good, old-fashioned needle-turn.  She thought that using the prepared-edge applique technique on all of those fern fronds was not an effective method for making this block.  That's not saying it would have been impossible.... it's recognizing that there is a time and a place for different techniques.

Here's another block in Friends of Baltimore.  I wanted to point out something in this block...

Take a look at the leaves.  Judy embroidered the veins on the leaves, using black thread.  Doesn't that look nice?

Here's another quilt Judy made using one of my patterns:  Mama Said.  It was a quilt that I made to celebrate the values we learn in families.  What you can't see without a close-up photo is all the embroidery around each block, containing all those "other" things that our mothers said to us:  "Wear clean undies!" and "Blue eye shadow makes you look cheap" and "Some day you'll thank me for this!"... and tons more.  This was such a fun quilt to make.

Here was one of Judy's forays into hexagons.  Her grandmother's flower garden is delightful -- made even more so by the applique in the borders.

Take a look at this close-up.  What fun this quilt must have been to make!

At the top, there's a bee hive in the vine - and a couple of bumble bees, as seen below.  So cute!

And below, look at the kids playing in and under the tree.  You'll also notice the wonderful hand-quilting in this quilt.  Judy has belonged to a quilting bee that meets once a month for a full week.  At that bee, one quilt is worked on in a large quilting frame.  By the end of the week, the group has finished quilting the entire quilt by hand.  What a great way to get a quilt hand-quilted!  The bee members rotate whose quilt is worked on each month, so each person gets a quilt quilted every fifth or sixth or seventh month (depending on the number of members).  They treat this week like a job:  show up in the morning, work all day with a break for lunch, then go home for dinner... and repeat it the next day until the week is up.  She's been part of this group for almost two decades!  I asked if skill level was an issue... and she said that after you work on a quilt for a week, your skill level improves so much that after your first month, you're even with everybody else.  That was a good answer and a good lesson for all of us!

In the photo below, check out the tiny detail - a teeny little bee on the left, being sniffed at by the kitty-cat, flowers in the window box, and a quilt on the clothes line on the right.  Small details like this are often what make a quilt much more interesting.

Here is a close-up, below, of the "flower garden" units.  This quilt had a lot of hand quilting in it, didn't it?!!

 This quilt has a gorgeous set of flower baskets in it, surrounded by vines on a two-color border.  The
lattice sashing is an old sashing design that we don't see much anymore.  It works in quilts like this - and note that the center part of the lattice (white) stands out because the background of the basket blocks is off-white.

Below are close-ups of some of the blocks in this quilt.


And below is a close-up of the border.  It's a challenge to put together a border with two colors separated by a vine, but it's an effective way to frame the center portion of a quilt.

If I remember correctly (no promises!), this was one of Judy's earliest prepared-edge applique projects.  I think it's beautiful!  Sorry gang, but I wish I could tell you who the designer was for all of these quilts but I just don't know. 

Take a look at this close-up of one of the blocks and the border.  I really like those ruffled swags with two layers -- and the use of different green fabrics in them.  I also like the little squares-on-point that are in the inner border.  Simple things like inserting that border add to the intricacy of the quilt and make it more interesting.

Last but not least, here's another quilt that Judy made.  There's a lot of piecing in those sashings!

In March, I had the pleasure and the honor of being invited to go speak to two guilds.  The first one, the Alamo Heritage Quilt Guild in San Antonio, was so much fun for me!  The guild does a lot of creative things with their members - all of which filled me with visions of what I could bring back for my home guild to do.  One of their activities was to have their members (the ones who chose to participate) make row quilts.  Each month, a pattern for a 3, 6, 9, and 12-inch block is given to the members and they choose the size of the block they want and the number they want to make... and participants make that row of blocks and sew it to the rows from prior months.  It was a lot of fun to see their quilts growing.  I think they were on month 3 of seven months.  Everyone's quilt progress looked different because of the colors and the size of the blocks they were using, along with the separators they used between the rows.  What a great idea for a guild!

One of the group planners presents the block to be made in the coming month -- they do a mockup large enough for everyone to see, as shown below.

And the line-up of those rows during show-and-tell was tons of fun to see!  Part of what I enjoy seeing when I go speak to guilds, is how they operate and what inspires their members... because I end up being inspired!

The next guild I spoke to was the New Braunfels Area Quilt Guild, just north of San Antonio and south of Austin.  This guild was one of the most generous, gracious guilds I've visited.  They have SO many projects going on - including one that spoke to my heart.  There is an active Habitat for Humanity group in town and every time a home is finished and given to the home owner, the home is blessed by a minister and so is a bed-sized quilt that the guild provides to the family.  Wow!  There were a lot of other things that the guild did to support the community -- too numerous to mention.

At this guild, after the lecture, I did a whirlwind workshop on making a New York Beauty quilt, as shown below. 

Here's a close-up of a block and sashing that are part of a New York Beauty quilt.  These quilts have a lot of parts in them!

This workshop is normally a full one- or two-day workshop but the guild wanted it done in 4 hours.  Say what?!!  So... I sent instructions for pre-cutting everything and made lots of step-by-step visuals so that we could get started instantly.  I was quite nervous... but wheee!!!!  We had such a great time!  We were in a huge multi-purpose room with wonderful lighting and lots of space for everyone.

I brought tons of tools and samples for everyone to see....

And once people started stitching... it was hard to get them to stop!  Below you'll see a lot of the different sets of arcs that the guild members made -- it's always fun to see the different fabric choices that people make.  Below, there's one with an assortment of batiks in rich rust, brown, and other colors.

And one with tan backgrounds and an assortment of prints...

This quarter-block was striking with that rich black print in the quarter-circle.

This arc used the historic blacks with a combination of colorful prints.

Ooh... pinks and browns!

In this set, you can see that the quarter-circle is a "focus fabric" with the points made of colors from that focus fabric.  It was very striking.  Bear in mind that these blocks have not yet been trimmed to size; when they are, they will go together perfectly!

This set used an unusual color combination:  rich scarlets with grays and gray-blues and blacks.  Wow!

And here we are with some wonderful bright tone-on-tone prints. 

Who would ever have thought of using red Thirties prints for the points and blue Thirties prints for the background?  It works well!

This choice was from a set of Christmas fabrics in reds and green - it was great-looking.

In this set, the quilter chose reds for the larger outer points and golden tans for the inner points.  Isn't it interesting to see all these different combinations in New York Beauty blocks?!

In this one, the inner quarter circle is a rich blue, with nice bright tone-on-tones in the points.  It's a keeper!

And here's another set with rich colors -- with a darker tan background.  Sweet!

One of the gals chose to use black and white prints for the points and red for the center quarter-circle with white-on-white background fabric.  It was very sharp-looking.

And here we have some soft muted prints against a white-on-white background.  It was a very sweet looking unit.

As you can see, I need not have worried about being able to teach this group how to make New York Beauty quilts in a four-hour workshop.  They were champions! 

As long as I have shown you these blocks, which are all starters for what will be larger New York Beauty quilts, I thought I'd show you some of my favorite antique New York Beauty quilts.  I like showing these to my classes, as it lets everyone know that there are a ton of different ways to design and set blocks in a New York Beauty quilt.

The first quilt, below, is actually an Amish New York Beauty quilt.  I love the solid blue sashing strip/quarter circle/cornerstones, combined with the dark red points in the blocks and the sashing strips.  There is a large area in the center where quilting can be done, too.

The New York Beauty below is called a Broken Circle.   It measures 79 by 83-1/2 inches and was made in either Pennsylvania or Maryland in the 1880-1900 timeframe.  The color choices are not my favorite, but they are unique - and the square in the middle of each block is very unusual.

This next quilt was probably made in Missouri, circa 1850-1870.  It measures 79 by 90 inches.  There are two interesting things about this design:  the points in the quarter-circles are white with a red background... and the outer sashing is a very different design than usually seen in New York Beauty quilts.

After I saw the above quilt... I saw this one (below).  I initially thought they were the same quilt.  They aren't even close!  Take a look at the sashing strips below.  They are solid red and have no spine down the center.  The sashing strips are repeated in the outer border.  The cornerstones are much more intricate.  The points of the quarter circle are white, as in the above quilt, but the background matches the quarter-circle - and they are substantially smaller.  What a fun pair of quilts to compare!  The quilt below is from Georgia and is called a "Southern Rocky Mountain Road" quilt.  New York Beauty quilts are known by a variety of names including Richmond Beauty, Trip Around the Mountain, Georgia Beauty, Rocky Mountain Road, and Crown of Thorns.  The quilt below is very large (86 by 101 inches) and was made in the 1870s.  It was priced at $5,295 when it went on the market a few years ago.

New York Beauties come in all shapes and sizes and colors, and the one below is no exception.  The blocks are set on point.  The quilt was made by U. Florine Plum in 1938 in Michigan.

The quilt below was made by Minnie West Bergman in the late 1800s in Kentucky.  The tan color was probably green when the quilt was made, and the pattern is referred to as Crown of Thorns.  Look at the sashing, though:  it's an appliqued vine.  Those points are teeny-tiny.... and the arc of points is separated by a ring divider.  It's very interesting!

The quilt below is also known as a New York Beauty and was made by a MacMillan family member in the 1850-1875 timeframe.  The quilt was purchased from Susie Tomkins and is now in the private collection of Bill Volkening.  Bill has built a sterling reputation as an expert on New York Beauty quilts, and has gathered quite a collection of them.  What I like about the quilt below is that the "points" on both the sashing strips and the quarter circles are not points - they are strips!

The quilt below was made in Stone Mountain, Georgia by Ms. Haynes (1805-1881), a Baptist homemaker born in Oglethorpe, Georgia.  It was inherited by its current owner, Melissa Gilreath of Point Vedra, Florida.  The quilt measures 75-1/4 by 99-1/4 inches; each block measures 18 by 17-1/2 inches.

This "Rails Through the Mountains" quilt was made by Ellen Priscilla Miller Williams (1855-1928) when she was sixteen and living in Kentucky.  Family history says that she made the quilt for her hope chest but her fiancée died before the marriage occurred.  She married later and moved to Texas and raised six children.  The quilt is now owned by her grand daughter.  Look at the fabulous spines in those sashing strips -- and the extra arcs in the quarter-circles.  Wow!  Remember... these quilts were all pieced by hand!

The quilt is a really chunky, funky one.  The quilt was purchased as a gift by the owner's husband, in Charlotte, North Carolina.  It measures 78 by 94 inches and the blocks are 17 inches square.  The corners are rounded.  And look at those interesting sashing strips.

This quilt is super-interesting to me with its double sashing strips.  What an interesting quilt!  The maker is unknown.  The quilt measures 85 by 80 inches and was made circa 1870-1890.

I seem to have lost the background information on this quilt (sorry!).  I love that these blocks are set on point, the sashing spines are so wide, and the cornerstones are almost like peppermint candy!

So... that's the "show" for New York Beauty quilts.  While at the New Braunfels Area Quilt Guild, there was one more treat in store for me.  After the workshop was over, one of the guild members shared an old family quilt with me and a few others.  Ooooooh....!  Look at those incredible chintz fabrics that were used to set those red and green appliqued blocks!

Here's a close-up of the appliqued block -- note the use of two different green fabrics.

And here's a close-up of the flower -- note the detailed hand quilting in this block.  I am always in awe of what quilters did 150 years ago!


 Look at the little berries that were hand-quilted between the flowers, in the background fabric.

They were also quilted in the corners of each block.  In this picture, you can see the pencil markings for the berries.

Here's a photo of the back of that quilt.  You can see that the back is actually made of two different fabrics -- and both are different than the chintz used on the front of the quilt.  What a wonderful family heirloom!

There is quite a bit of damage on the quilt backing, unfortunately -- you can really see it in this photo.  It's so sad... but there's not much you can do about it, other than to protect the quilt from further damage.

The owner of the quilt had no idea of who made the quilt.  She had a quilt historian take a look at it and didn't learn anything new about who might have made the quilt.  I'm not an expert at all - far from it - but I knew that initials and names are often embroidered or quilted into the quilt and if you search the quilt well, you can spot the name.  I turned the quilt over and searched the edges and found some initials.  Light bulbs turned on for the owner, who recognized the initials as being those of an old family member.  Yippee!!!


 Have I worn you out yet?  Don't give up on me... or as we hear so often:  But wait, wait!  There's more!  This concludes the first part of the April blog post.  Go fill up your coffee cup or your glass of water and move on to part two of the April blog - I have a lot more to share!



  1. Wow. I eagerly wait for your posts each month. You should hear me talking to you as I read. Love Edyta Sitar and have several of her books. Love the applique blocks with the Civil War fabrics. You are so right. They don't have to be dull! Great ideas for my guild. In awe of the New York Beauty quilts. I am working on one myself - the 2013 TQS BOM.Warming up my coffee now and heading over to part two.

  2. Gosh what a fantastic show and tell. Thank you so much for taking the time to load all these photos for us to view :-) I am interested in the prepared edge applique as I have been playing with this too - is it then hand or machine stitched?

  3. Love the photo heavy post!!! I am an "appliquer" at heart. That was my first love. My ultimate dream is a traditional "Baltimore Album" quilt.

  4. I absolutely love all of your blogs. Go back and read them over and over. Your applique is just beautiful! Please continue to show pictures of so many quilts! Wish I was better at applique!

  5. Fabulous post. I was way behind on my blog reading and have been hitting the 'mark as read' button with gusto. I am so pleased I saw your post, just so much, like someone else said, I will come back and read it again (and possibly again).

  6. Hi, I just love your quilting....Where can I get the pattern for the quilt that has the big tree, owls, cats, bird, birdhouse, etc.? Just LOVE it...
    kathy sexton

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  8. absolutely beautiful work and beautiful quilts. the photography was great. thank you for sharing.