Sunday, November 1, 2015

Seminars and All Kinds of Quilts

Wow - the International Quilters Association (IQA) quilt show in Houston, Texas will all be history by tomorrow, but what a wild and fun event it was!  This month I will be showing you some pictures from my trip to Baltimore on the Prairie, and to the Empty Spools Seminar at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California.  I'll also show you some great quilts that I've seen this past month or two... and some that I've been working on... and some that many other quilters have made and wanted to show me.  You all are amazing!  I have so many quilts to show you that I can't even begin to start showing the hundreds of quilts that I saw at the Houston quilt show.  I had the pleasure of meeting many of you there - and I hope next year, I'll get to meet a lot more of you if you choose to come to Houston in October 2016.  And before I forget... to those of you who made comments or sent me private emails, THANK YOU so much!  I may not respond to every single note, but I read every single one and appreciate your time and your insights and your thoughts.  They often help me understand what you want to see in my blog... and also that you actually LIKE my blog.  That makes it all worth while.  So let's get started!

I thought I'd start by showing you some pictures that I didn't post when I went and took a workshop out at the Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California.  In general, you don't see me post non-quilt pictures, but I'm making an exception this time because if you ever decide to go there, there is much not to be missed in the locale!  First of all, the setting for these workshops is along the coast.  You can get up each morning and walk from the workshop out to the sea.  How relaxing is this?!!
But I suggest that you arrive a day or two earlier and rent a car.  You can fly into one of three nearby airports and take a drive into San Francisco, where you can see the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge.  It's worth your time and the extra expense.
Just across the Golden Gate is one of my favorite places - the John Muir Woods, filled with the spectacular redwoods.  It is definitely a bucket list trip, and only a short hop up the highway.  On the way back to San Francisco, you can stop in trendy boutique-filled Sausalito, home of many water-loving house-boaters, for lunch.
While in San Francisco, don't fail to miss China Town.  It is wonderful and fun.
And then, there are the seals of Pier 39...
And the chocolate of Ghiradelli Square... (hint:  you can see all these things by getting a one-day ticket on the tour buses that run through town!).
And then... you head on down the highway to Pacific Grove.  Empty Spools Seminars are all in glorious classrooms set amidst the coastal woods.  Everyone gets their own table.  Does it get any better than this?  Oh yes it does - they serve locally grown/raised foods that are healthy and delicious!
I took a class from Sandra Leichner.  I have always admired her work, and I wanted to learn how she so adeptly incorporates embroidery into her work.  Here's an example of one of her blocks.
And another.  Can you see why I chose to take this class?  Her embroidery work is phenomenal (not to mention her designwork, applique, embellishment, etc. - plus she's really a cool person!).
One day during the seminars, Empty Spools has a "walk-about" where everyone gets to go and see what everyone has been working on in the myriad of workshops that are offered during each session.  I fell head-over-heels in love with Cindy Needham's machine quilting and embellishment.  I want to take a workshop from her!!!  Take a look at what she did, in the photo below.  She finds old linens, sets them on a piece of background fabric, and then begins to applique and embellish in an incredible fashion. 
Here is another example of Cindy's work.  It is just stunning!
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Okay, so now I can tell you that if you REALLY want to go check out the Empty Spools Seminars, you can take a full immersion five-day workshop from me!  Here's the link - I'm teaching in Session IV next year, April 10-15, 2016.  The workshop will have you making The Album block below, from my quilt, Friends of Baltimore.  In the workshop, you'll learn all the details of needle-turn applique, reverse applique, precision applique, off-unit applique, layering, pleated flowers, stuffed round circles, embellishment, inking, and more!  If you just want to take the class and bring a different block (of mine) to work on, I'd be happy to have you in the class.  We're going to have FUN!  My favorite workshops are ones like this, where all of the students have time to accomplish a lot of work, and get to put into practice all the tips I pass along.  Join us; just click here to go to the Empty Spools website:
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But let's just say that you don't think you can make it out to California - or perhaps those dates don't work for you.  Here's another option.  I'm teaching two two-day, back-to-back workshops at Applique Away on Galveston Bay.  I've been invited to teach two different workshops, both of which incorporate fairly simple techniques, but still give me a chance to teach some very specific skills and techniques.  One workshop is for my Red Twirly Balls quilt, below.

In that workshop, you'll learn the secrets for deconstructing blocks and making complex blocks so easy to make!  This twirly ball block is entirely appliqued.
The other workshop that I'm teaching is a Love Birds block.  This block is one that is included in my Baltimore Glory quilt, as shown below.  I made this quilt earlier this year because I had always had a hankering for an on-point Baltimore quilt.   
Here is a close-up of the block I will be teaching.  Again, this is not a particularly difficult block to make, but there are still plenty of lessons and tips and techniques to be shared in the workshop.
You can find out the details and register for the Applique Away on Galveston Bay workshops here:
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Now, I'm going to show you some pictures from the Baltimore on the Prairie seminar up in Nebraska.  I taught non-stop for seven days in very full classes, but that just energizes me.  So does seeing Tresa Jones, the administrator of the conference.  She is such a delight!

This year, Tresa arranged for the conference to be at the Lied Lodge - a wonderful setting amidst the apple farms of Mr. Morton, of Morton Salt (and Arbor Day!) fame.
While at the conference, we had plenty of long lunch breaks, where I took the opportunity to go and see the Arbor Lodge, the historic home of one of the elder Mortons.  When I go to places like this, I can't help but look around and see quilt designs.  Below, you can see a nice design idea in the art deco wallpaper in the home. 
And a ventilation grate in the floor set similar design thoughts spinning in my head.
Many of the beds in the bedrooms of the home had quilts on them, but this one caught my eye; it was a "Roman Coin" design for a Victorian crazy quilt.  The Roman coin design just has strips set side by side with sashing between them.  I had never seen this layout used for a crazy quilt, though - what a wonderful way to use up my dupioni silks and other special fabrics!  See the quilt below (notice the wallpaper behind the bed, too...).
I have always wanted to make a crazy quilt but gnashed my teeth at the thought of having to do a bunch of little "drawings" to insert in the quilt.  With this layout... I only need to do stitching.  Hooray!  I think I know what I'm going to do now!  Below is a close-up of the quilt above.

The workshop rooms at Baltimore on the Prairie were wonderful - I hung quilts on the back wall... and waited for students to arrive.
And arrive, they did!
They all worked very hard on their renditions of the Album Block, shown below.
I snapped a couple of pictures of the students' work - I love when they all choose different colors and fabrics.  Wow!  Here's one...
And another...
And another...
And another.  What a great set of students I had in all my classes; if any of you are reading this, here's my shout out to you:  hooray!  I had such a great time with all of you!
Another teacher at Baltimore on the Prairie was dear, sweet Nancy Kerns.  She taught two workshops, too - and it was a joy to see her there.
She brought along her Classic Nutcrackers, made using my pattern.  I loved her rendition of the quilt!
Here are some close-ups of Nancy's blocks.  Each of the little nutcracker patterns in the set tells the story behind the nutcrackers. 
Herr Drosselmeyer, above right, is the star of The Nutcracker ballet.  I had to ask Nancy how she came up with the timepiece hanging on Herr Drosselmeyer's waist.  She said it was just a button she'd been saving for the quilt... but then I had to ask how she did the chain - was it a real chain?

And the answer was no - it was just an embroidered chain stitch, using Silk Sparkle thread.  Nancy assures me that this is the best thread in the world for achieving a metallic look.  Nancy is wonderful in that she is willing to share her knowledge so openly.  She even gave me some of this magical thread!
Here are some more of her nutcrackers.  The one below is a gardener nutcracker; Nancy cleverly chose to use some camouflage fabric for his outfit.  What a perfect choice!  I've included an enlargement of the gardener nutcracker so you can see the fabric.  Such fun!

Here's another star of The Nutcracker ballet - the mouse king - along with the Santa nutcracker.

And a nutcracker quilt would not be complete without the classic Nutcracker Soldier!  Nancy did a great job embroidering his uniform.  And notice how she made the face - it's so perfect!
Below are the other nutcrackers.  Each is delightful in its own way.

Nancy also made all of the pieced blocks that form a border around the quilt.  I love making quilts that have multiple pieced blocks bordering them.  They add so much visual interest to a quilt.

The other workshop that I taught at Baltimore on the Prairie was an eagle block.  Below is the one made by Sharon Meyer.  The fabric that she chose to use for her eagle was phenomenal.  Do you notice the tassels on the flag rope?  In a future blog post, I'll do a tutorial on how to make them.  They are really easy to make.
Sharon also brought along a couple other blocks she has been working on.  Below is a ship block (these are from my Friends of Baltimore pattern)...
And here is her woven basket block.  I can't wait to see Sharon's whole quilt when she finishes it.
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One of the very special events that Tresa Jones lined up for everyone to see was a presentation by Pat Kuhns (pronounced "coons").  She is a wonderful, energetic, sprite of a woman, who absolutely loves miniature quilts.  It's not that she just loves miniature quilts; she loves miniature quilts that fit on miniature beds!  We all had the joy of seeing her share that love with us for an hour.  Take a look!  Pat hunts down miniature beds in antique shops and adds the quilts - and the linens - for a complete look.  So how big is this quilt and bed?  Can you take a guess?
Here's the same bed with my hand in the picture so you can see the approximate size of the bed.
Here's another bed.  I believe that this pattern was made based on a pattern designed by Primitive Gatherings.  How small is it now, though?  A bit longer than my hand.  Notice the little pillow and sheet.  Pat makes these using old napkins, lace, christening gowns, etc. - a wonderful re-purposing of assorted vintage linens. 
This bed has not only a bed cover, but also a rug and pillow covers.  Oh my!
This sashed squares quilt is perfect for this tiny little bed.
Notice that the bed and quilt above had a sheet and a pillow on it.  Pat put old linens to use on them.  They add a nice touch and stay within the period of the bed and quilt design.
Would you like to make a log cabin quilt using 1/16th inch logs?  Pat has no trouble at all.  She is an inveterate paper-piecer, which makes it "easy."
Take a look at this bed and quilt.  People have often thought that I was crazy for making quilts with 1/2-inch squares in them.  But those nine-patches with 1/2-inch squares are NOTHING compared to what Pat has created.  Remember... these are LITTLE beds with LITTLER quilts on them.
Let you forget what "little" means, here's my hand again, to put things into perspective.
And Pat's show just kept going on.
Again, you can see the size of the bed and quilt when referencing my hand in the picture.
Sometimes the bed was the showcase in the combination of a bed, a quilt, and the linens.  This old miniature bed had a wonderful carved headboard and footboard.
Again, my hand is here for reference sake.
Making feathered stars is not for the sissies amongst us.  But making teeny little feathered stars?  Really?  REALLY!!!
Here is a close-up of the quilt above.  Note that Pat has machine quilted this quilt... and added a bit of miniature piping in the border! 
Here is a picture of an old magazine that is, sadly, no longer in print.  Do you see that eagle toward the bottom left-center?  It's Pat's.
She brought the eagle quilt with her - it was amazing!
And LITTLE!  See my fingertip at the bottom of this picture...
And here is another log cabin quilt.  Oh my!
See my finger for reference as to the size of the logs.  Pat has to use miniature prints in her quilts when she makes them.
She not only does miniature piecing; she does miniature applique.  I am tempted to say she is nuts but really, if I had time, I might do a couple of these, too.
Here's another little quilt - with baskets.  I'll stop complaining about making little pieces anymore, after seeing these quilts (well... maybe I won't... whining seems to make problems not seem so big, doesn't it?).
I doubt that there is any quilt layout that Pat would not conquer.
But what about a mariner's compass?  Not a problem.  Here, she'd made one and showed the size of her flying geese paper foundations.  Ouch!
Do you see the picture in the top right corner, below, with the mariner's compasses in them?  Pat finished the quilt but did not bring it along.  It was hanging in the Houston IQA quilt show this week - with a second place ribbon on it.  Congrats, Pat!!!  You can see how tiny the compasses are by looking at the straight pins in the mockups she prepared.
And yet another incredible quilt with complex piecing in it.
Pat hand-quilts some of her quilts; check out the one below.
Again, now you can see the relative size of the blocks and the quilt.  Yikes!
And a lone star?  Easy-peasy, right?
Not for most of us.  And certainly not at this size with a perfectly straight floater and piping in the binding!
Pat has made more than one lone star quilt, though.  Here's one with Lemoyne stars in the corners and side-setting triangles.  Those are challenging to make when they are "regular-sized."  By the way - Pat manages to consider color when she makes all of these miniature quilts.  Look how this one is just luminous.
Here's yet another lone star quilt.  It's sweet on this sweet little bed, too.
But what if you make a lone star and surround it with a ring of pieced diamonds (making it a broken star design), and then you insert Lemoyne Stars in the setting squares, applique moons in the side-setting triangles, and then add a border of half-diamonds and even more.  Goodness gracious; Pat seems to take on one challenge after another!
Pat says she has a couple hundred beds and mini-quilts in her house. She stores them on shelves and in boxes and just about everywhere.  Do you see the little violin-playing frog on the right side of the sheet below?  Pat found a cute, cute little linen with that motif in the corner and turned it into a bed sheet.  Awesome!
 But there is more to tell about the quilt above.  Pat gets a bit tickled when she says this quilt is a cheater-cloth quilt.  Say what??!  Yes, she used the cheater cloth, below, for the fabric in the quilt above.
Take a look at the fabric above and then look at the close-up of the quilt below.  Can you find the same fabrics in the cheater cloth fabric above, inserted into the quilt below? 
The most obvious one (to me) was the one to the right of my fingertip, below,  Go find it in the cheater cloth, above!
Below, she "miniaturized" a Lori Smith pattern.  Wow.
There were just so many beds and quilts.  Look at the lovely sheet top on this four-poster bed.
Honestly, the beds and the quilts just kept coming.  We were not bored in the least and just kept ooh-ing and aah-ing with each new quilt and bed that came out.

Here's some more.  Some of the beds were quite primitive but still very functional.

I love the linens on this bed. 

The pillowcase on the bed below came from the sleeve of a christening gown. 

I love the quilt on this bed.  Pat doesn't really do "medallion quilts" (at least I didn't see any), but she often inserts a single central block.
But there's something else that is delightful about this quilt and the linens it shares.  Look at the sheet.  Pat found a little handkerchief that had those two little motifs on it - they were perfect for the sheet!
Some of the linens were even more unique; here you can see the mattress-cover sheet. 
And before we all knew it, Pat was packing her little beds and quilts back into boxes, leaving us in awe of her inventiveness, her skills, her joyful expression of creativity.
If you are interested in going to Baltimore on the Prairie in 2016, you can find all the details here:!  Tresa Jones has lined up some brand new teachers for 2016:  Barbara Burnham, Jeanna Kimball, and Nancy Amidon.  I love Nancy Amidon's teaching skills -- she teaches prepared-edge applique and leaves no one disappointed with what they have learned when the class is over.  Even old needle-turn applique aficionados, like me, need to know how to do prepared-edge applique, so I put in a hearty recommendation for her workshop; I had her come teach workshops at my guild last year and she was nothing short of fantastic! 
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And now it's time to show you quilts from Becky Stephenson.  Becky has a big heart made out of Texas gold, as you'll see.  She has made several Relay for Life quilts as fund raisers for breast cancer research and support.  The quilt below was one of them.  the quilt was auctioned off, but Becky managed to have it given back to her.  She had raised funds by selling opportunities:  if you donated, you could have the name of someone who died of cancer inscribed on the quilt (in memory of...) - or if they were living with cancer, that person's name could be inscribed (in honor of...).  Becky was at my house earlier last month with the quilt.  It was gorgeous and so full of heart and meaning.

Here's a close-up of the layout - and the beautiful quilting in it.
There's a block in it for my sister, who died of breast cancer after it metastasized six years after she had beat it.  Sometimes life is just not fair.
And then there is Jack, who has been living with cancer for several years now.
Here is a better look at the simple but perfectly chosen quilting on this quilt.
Becky also made this quilt, along with her two sisters, Jerrianne and Gayle.  Becky and Jerrianne call this "the cemetery quilt" because it was donated to the North Elm Cemetary Association in Milam County, Texas, as a fund raiser for them.  The gals had one rule:  pull the fabric out of a bag without any consideration for color, value, print, or anything else.  And stitch it in place.
Here's a close-up of the blocks.
And you can see from these two photos... the fabric choices did not suffer from thoughtful placement!

Becky also brought along another quilt - a funny Lone Star quilt.  It was probably about 5 feet square.  We had the biggest laugh over this quilt!  It was made by an elderly woman several years ago.  So what's so funny about this quilt?  It is perfectly pieced.  It actually lies flat and there is no "volcano" in the middle of it.  The choice of fabrics?  Well... there's more to the story.
Here is a close-up of the center of this quilt.  We were all laughing because all of these fabrics are double-knit polyester fabrics!!  Becky bought this quilt at her guild for $5.00.  She just couldn't let the quilt be thrown away, though nobody else seemed to want it.  We laughed because I said, "Well, I guess this is what you do with all those old polyester double-knit pant suits from the 70s, right?  As for the lime green setting pieces, my guess is that the maker didn't have any polyester pant suits large enough to cut up, so she went to the nearest Wal-mart and bought some cheap double-knit.  It turned out to be lime green.  Go figure!  In truth, quilts of this age are experiencing renewed interest and increasing value.
Some of the diamond pieces in the quilt were even pieced - note the center blue/cream/orange diamond.
But... oh my... the quilt maker may not have chosen the most wonderful fabrics by today's standards, but her piecing skills were excellent - particularly considering she hand-pieced all of this double-knit!  Take a look at the back of this quilt.  Holy cow!
Because I had a bunch of gals at the house for a bee, we put this monstrous quilt on my coffee table, awaiting everyone's arrival.  It was hysterical!
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And now I get to show you some of my favorite things that happen each month:  quilts and photos of quilts that cross my path as time flies by. 
First of all, here is a quilt that was pieced and quilted by LeeAnn Lively.  She is a great quiltmaker and a superb quilter.  This was made as a wedding quilt for someone. 

Take a look at LeeAnn's quilting.  She has a computerized longarm that makes me envious.
And another close-up...
and another....
And a beautifully quilted border.
Ann Miley shared a beautiful quilt she had made using French General fabrics.  You rock, Ann!

Debbie Williams made a quilt based on my Ruffled Roses pattern - it won first place in the Claremore quilt show.  She made it but changed the center block, using ribbon work.  It's a stunner, for sure!

Diane Lacombe sent me pictures of her Twirly Balls and Pinwheels, made using my pattern.  Wow - it's outstanding!
I love her choice of fabrics - and you can see that her piecing and applique are perfect.
Martha Fry sent me two pictures - both of them used Lady of the Lake blocks.  The one below is called "Churchville" because Martha grew up near the Churchville, Pennsylvania reservoir.
But I got a kick out of why Martha sent me the pictures.  After all, these are not my patterns.  She said she read my blog last month and got a chuckle.  Last month's blog was filled with quilts that used (Halloween/Fall) cheddar/orange fabrics.  She sent me the pictures because of my influence in past blogs -- I LOVE cheddar in my quilts!  I thought that was really cute and sweet.  So here is her second Lady of the Lake quilt, filled with lots of lovely fabrics including a bunch of cheddar fabrics.  Martha called this quilt "Autumnal Churchville" because the trees around the reservoir are beautiful this time of year.  She said, "the fabrics are all Civil War reproductions and I am surprised at how bright it looks.  It must be the cheddar:)"  It's great, Martha!
Rachel Phipps shared a photo of her Ruffled Roses quilt.  Lucky Rachel; she finished the quilt earlier this year and got it back from the quilter in time to enter it in a local quilt show where it won First Place in the judged competition and First Place in the Viewers' Choice. 
Here is what I loved about her quilt:  she wanted to make the quilt a bit larger, but still keep it symmetric, so she added the rosebud blocks inside the outer pieced swag border, saying, "I just love how it turned out!"  Me, too, Rachel!
Sue Balch invested four years into making her Friends of Baltimore quilt -- taking the final stitch on October 17.  It is entirely needle-turn appliqued and hand-quilted.  Let's hope that she enters it in some local, regional, and even national quilt shows - I think it will inspire others to make challenging quilts.
Sue had a lot of personal and family challenges to deal with during the making of this quilt; let's hope that the quilt was part of the healing therapy.  I'm going to post some of the block pictures that Sue sent me (thanks, Sue!), for you all to see.


And now I have one more block to share with all of you.  It was made by Sandy Kristoferson.  She and her guild decided to make my Baltimore Glory as their raffle quilt.  Oh my - now that is a true challenge, but hopefully they will sell a TON of tickets for their effort.  What a wonderful quilt to make, though!  Sandy did a beautiful job on her quilt block.  I can't wait to see the rest of the blocks and the finished quilt.  Send pictures, please!
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And now... just one quick picture of a few rows of the IQA Quilt Show in Houston.  There are 28 vendor aisles, each ten feet wide with a 10-foot deep both on each side of the aisles.  This photo gives you an idea of how large this show is; it is overwhelming and unbelievable.  In addition to the vendor booths, there is still MORE square footage devoted to the quilt exhibits.  Can you imagine how your step-counters would be going crazy at the end of each day?  My joints were about as stiff and sore as they've ever been and to be honest, I only made it through 18 aisles and about 60 percent of the quilt exhibits.  I'm rarely out of energy at these shows and make it through the whole set of vendor booths in 8 hours and then all of the quilt exhibits in another 8 hours.  I was at the show for a total of 36 hours this time.  Somehow, I missed an awful lot of things.  I would have gone back to see them all, but the Houston weather was SO bad that I didn't want to risk driving in again.  Sigh... but I still have plenty of pictures to show you in future posts.

I stay downtown for the first two days of the show so that I don't have to commute and also so I have a place to put all the "stuff" I gather.  The show opens Wednesday at 5:00 pm and continues all day for the next four days.  On Thursday night, a group of friends all gather in one of the upstairs hotel "sitting areas" and do a "show-and-tell" of the things we've purchased.  That way, if there are any really cool things, we can go back on Friday and pick them up.  We invite whomever we know to join us for our show-and-tell. 

This year, we were blessed when Cathy Woodson was passing by us on her way to take some quilts to her car.  She asked what we were doing and then we asked what she was doing... and so we asked her to share her goodies with us.  We were in for such a wonderful surprise!  Below is an incredible quilt made in the 1830s.  That's Cathy on the right - and JoAnne on the left, who I had met when I went out to southern California to teach.  Then Cathy asked who I was and when I told her, she exclaimed that she had taken a workshop from me a couple months ago and showed me photos of her New York Beauty.  This is such a small world!  Back to the quilt below.  It's a true treasure and we were lucky to have Cathy sort of "accidentally" join us.

Here's a better picture of the quilt - aren't the colors vibrant?!  And the zig-zag border and outer square-in-square border and the broderie perse... wow!
Here is a close-up of the zig-zag border.  I love those colors!
And here is a close-up of the broderie perse.  Look at those colors and the design.  Such beauty!  This is a very well-preserved quilt.

I loved the square-in-square border on this quilt - and the quilt maker's use of a stripe in those triangles.

Cathy pointed out one of the identifying marks indicating the age of this quilt - and probably where it came from.  It is bound with what is called "Trenton Tape;" on this quilt, it is the narrow applied binding woven with  longitudinal stripes in three different shades of brown.  I did a little research to find that Trenton Tape is a woven binding found on quilts that originate in the Delaware River Valley area of New Jersey and sometimes in nearby Pennsylvania.  The tape has also been seen in quilts in a wider area.  In any case, it is considered a rare edge treatment in use between the 1830s and the 1860s.  

Next, Cathy showed us an interesting broken dishes quilt. 

Check out the border... and the area in the middle, which identifies the date of the quilt.  Can't quite see it?  Wait...
Look at the broken dishes blocks.  They are separated by four-patches. 

And the center of the quilt has an add-on label:  GRANDMOTHER 1905.  So we know it's old, for sure!
Here is another quilt that Cathy shared - a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt.  Cathy liked it because the "path" between the flowers was different than the usual full hexagon path.
It was a band of narrow diamonds.  Lovely!  Cathy - thank you!

Sharon Meyer showed her special buy - a quilt of pinwheels in and between stars. 

Here is a close-up of the blocks.  I love the use of crazy prints!

And the maker hand-pieced the entire quilt.  Most of today's quilt makers would not have the patience for hand-piecing a quilt like this. 

Sharon also purchased a quilt top from Jane Lury of Labors of Love.  The brightness of the reds made it sparkle!

So what did I purchase?  Two quilt tops that I have yet to photograph (you'll see them in another post)... and one finished quilt.  Cindy Rennels' booth is always one of my favorite stops - and this year did not disappoint me.  When she opened up this quilt and showed it to me, I just could not stop smiling at it.  Did you know that there are certain quilts that, when you look at them, you can't help but smile?  This was true for me when Cindy showed me this quilt.  My friend Sharon and I started calling it "the smile quilt."  It is so quirky and unusual!
The circles aren't exactly circular.  Who cares?
And there's a blue one.  Huh?  Who cares?!
The undulating borders are unique - they are part of what make me smile.  I mean... who makes a quilt with somewhere around 1700 circles in it?  That is a VERY rough estimate -- I am not about to count them!
And when that undulating line of circles came to a corner... so what if it didn't wrap nicely onto the next side of the quilt.  Why not just throw in another ring of circles as the intersection solution?!!  It cracked me up!  And that's why I bought this quilt.  It made me smile.  Really big. 
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So... if I loved a quilt with 1700 circles in it (give or take a couple hundred), why not love a quilt with 1,620 circles in it?  My friend Jerrianne had sent me a couple of different photos of two different quilts, each with lots of grape vines.  She said she really wanted to make that quilt.  So what did I do?  I sat down and drew up the block.  The 28-inch block. 

And then I drew up the borders and the corner block.  And now, 1,620 circles of grapes later...
I've made the stems for my grape vines.  I'm ready to join in the fray with 5 other gals in my sewing group, to make an 84-inch square quilt with a ton of circles on it. 
I've already done a lot of the preparation work on my blocks.  I can't wait to finish the quilt... but I also know that suddenly I've got a ton of life-interferences popping up that will put this on the back-burner for a while.  Waaaahhhhh.... I hate when that happens, but life goes on, one day at a time.  I'll get it done.  One circle at a time!  And you will all get to see it grow and appear in due time.
But in the meantime, some of my girlfriends and I started a piecing bee.  It's a smaller group, but we recognized that our regular bees do not afford us the luxury of power sewing using our machines.  Bees seem to spend half their time doing show-and-tell and eating, leaving not enough time to bother bringing a machine for stitching.  This piecing bee that meets for two solid days, all day, through dinner and into the evening.  We meet quarterly.  And we stitch like crazy without the interruption of housework, phones, computers, emails, family, etc. (not that those aren't important, of course!).  We met this past month and I started on a new quilt that I'm calling Blue Heaven (unless a better name comes along before I finish it!).  I saw this quilt in the offices of Quilts, Inc. in Houston a couple years ago.  It knocked my socks off!
I had seen the same quilt on a photo that someone sent me a while back.
And so when the piecing bee met at my house... I started cutting and stitching like a mad woman.
I had gathered 16 different navy/white fabrics. 
I pressed them and sliced them into narrow strips.
Then I started stitching them together and pressing them neatly...
AAnd slicing the strips into sub-strips.
I have sewn and cut dozens and dozens of units.
And I've done some wide sets of strips, too.

And when I put them all together, I've got the start of my new Blue Heaven quilt!

It's looking good, I think! 
In this picture, you can kind of see how it will all look, if you compare what I've sewn with the picture of the antique quilt at the end of the table.  Whee!  So this quilt is on the priority list - but I have not had time to touch it since the bee met a few weeks ago.  Time flies, doesn't it?

Alright - it is now the evening of November 1 and if I'm going to get this post online on the first of the month before you all go to bed, I suppose it is time to close.  I have enjoyed reading all of your comments - and thank you for your time!  If you get a chance between now and December 1 when I post again, go and visit my website.  I updated the Gallery and have posted a lot more pictures of my quilts at  Enjoy a view of many more quilts there, once you are finished here.

Happy quilting to all -
Thanks for indulging my passion by reading this!

(c) 2015 Susan H. Garman


  1. Oh my, love the jaw-dropping miniature quilts. Each one was amazing. Your blue heaven quilt is going to be stunning. Thanks as always for keeping me inspired. Have a great month full of creative energy.

  2. Those minis are just amazing! So glad you put a hand in there to give some perspective on size. Thanks for another wonderfully inspiring blog post.

  3. Those Doll Quilts! OH MY GOSH! 1/16 inch log cabins that are perfectly straight - even with paper pieces, I doubt I could do such a fine job as that. :) Your Nutcrackers have been on my wish list for quite some time. Seeing another quilt done up with them makes me think I really just have to buy the pattern already. ;D "Blue Heaven" makes me remember a textiles visit in Wales that was very interesting to me. It's gorgeous! No wonder you had to make it!

  4. A fabulous monthly read, as usual. However, instead of the minis, I was blown away by your pattern for what looks to be the Locust Grove quilt, something I've wanted to make for a long time. Can't wait to see how your quilts turn out - lucky sewing group! Blue Heaven is also breath-taking, but in an obviously different way.

    1. Can you tell me more about The Locust Grove quilt? I'd love to know the background behind it....

  5. What a spectacular gathering of quilts! I adore mini quilts but oh my none of mine are that small! Thank you for all he eye candy I just started on my version of your Happy Daze quilt. I have two bundles of Kate Spain fabrics I am using. I wil send pics as I get further along. Thank You for all u do!

  6. Thank you for sharing every month with us I look forward to it. I do understand the time it takes. I enjoy it immensely i do not comment much. A long time ago I saw a quilt like your blue heaven but it had an elaborate fringe plus (that is my silly made up name for what I call it when the edges are more than a knot and fringe when the quilter went all out) I think the fringe was on 3 sides of the quilt and was privately owned. I do not have a photo (sorry). I am excited to see yours when done it will be a show stopper. I adore the new design especially the inclusion of leaves. If you are ever a judge at a quilt show please let us know in advance. I would love to have feedback from hand quilters about my hand quilting and my hand quilting designs on my quilts. I have never entered a quilt show but I am considering doing it to get feedback.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Meredith. I'm certain the Blue Heaven quilt was based on an old woven coverlet - and would love to have see the quilt you saw with the fringe.
      As for entering a quilt show... do it! I think you may be disappointed in the judge's comments (how helpful is "need binding to be fully stuffed" or "great use of color"?) - but I think people should enter quilts for two reasons: they inspire other quilters and it will make you a better quilter if you know you might enter your quilt. The judge's comments are (sometimes) just a bonus!

  7. Yes, your Blue Heaven quilt is definitely off to a great start! What a mind-bending set of strips. :D And I did not notice the border before! Next time, maybe you can show us the back of a block too -- I'm interested to know what you're doing with all the seam allowances.

    Thanks for all the miniature photos too, and congratulations to Rachel for her beautiful version of Ruffled Roses! That extra border is perfect. Inspirational as always!

  8. Wish I had known about the Show and Tell at Houston. I would have loved to be the little mouse in a corner. Congratulations to you and friends on your ribbon in the group category. It was my 1st time at Houston. We stayed downtown, took a couple classes and enjoyed the show. Oh my, the miniature quilts. I just learned to paper piece through a swap with some girls in England, Germany and Sweden. I am going to try some of my Baby Jane blocks that way. You excite me to get up and go with my own quilting. Have a great Thanksgiving!!!