Thursday, March 24, 2016

A note about my April 1 post

Hello everyone...

My April 1 blog post (and sadly, this is not an April Fool's Day note) will be delayed until May 1.  I have been quite ill lately and am far behind on way, way too many tasks around the house.  I don't know when I'll catch up, and am simply trying to "make time" to get caught up, once my health returns.

Happy quilting!
Sue Garman

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

For years, you have heard me ask for someone to invent more time.  Think about it...  what would you do if you could find extra time in your life?  I'd love it and would surely fill it with more of what I already fill my days with:  being happy, having fun, loving family and friends, and quilting, of course!  And so what did I do with the ONE extra day that we get every four years, leap year day?  I spent it trying to "catch up."  Having just returned from a breathtaking four days of teaching at Applique Away on Galveston Bay, I had to unpack, put everything away, and take care of everything that piled up while I was gone.  And guess what?  I didn't even notice that I had an extra day!  So maybe if my wish to have more time were filled, I wouldn't even notice that, either.  Sigh... 

But let me not waste a minute; I bet you want to see some quilts!  This month I'm going to show you more quilts that were exhibited at last year's International Quilting Association show (known as "Festival" by the locals) in Houston.  I'll also show you some pictures from a workshop I took from Lisa Calle on machine quilting, as well as some antique quilts from Carolyn and Don Springer's Quilts of Mulberry Lane.  And, of course, you'll see what I've been working on!

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All of the quilts in this first set of pictures are from the special exhibit at the Houston quilt show that is called "In the American Tradition."  These quilts are based on traditional quilts, but may vary from classic patterns in unique ways.
This first quilt is called Prayers of My People  and was made by Ann Horton of Redwood Valley, California.  She used hand-applique, machine quilting, photo transfers, hand-beading, embroidery, and embellishment in making her quilt, with the center blocks all based on a variation of the traditional Burgoyne Surrounded block.  Using those traditional blocks, Ann celebrated the blessing of prayer for all people.  She embroidered seventeen prayers into the body of the pieced blocks.  With lush silk applique, hand-beaded shells, and hand-quilting on the Ikat border, her work complements the extensive machine quilting on the blocks.  Ann used fabric from around the world. 

In the photo below, you can see the silk hands lifted in prayer.  These are a photo transfer of Ann's hands - complete with hand-stitched life lines.  Below, you can also see the wonderful shells hanging down from the lower edge of the quilt.

Bernadette Houghton of Columbia, South Carolina, machine pieced Hip Hip Hooray with Teresa Coolidge doing the quilting.  The quilt is based on a quilt called Martha's Vineyard by an unknown maker circa 1870.  The antique quilt is part of the collection of Biz Storms and a photo of it was published in Small Blocks, Stunning Quilts by Mary Elizabeth Kinch and Biz Storms.  I love that Bernadette based her quilt on an antique quilt; I often find my best ideas for quilts by looking at antique quilts.  Bernadette says she was going to make a miniature quilt at a quilt camp but ten days before the camp, she fell and broke her hip.  Yikes!  After going to physical rehabilitation, Bernadette decided to make a full-sized quilt for her bed, instead.  She finished her entire quilt one month after her hip was pronounced fully healed.  That is definitely a "hip, hip hooray!" ending for this story.  But... oh my!  Look at the size of these half-square triangles! 

Here is a close-up of the units -- I did not measure them, but I think they are about one inch square in size.  What an amazing piecing job!

And here is the little surprise on the border of this quilt:  a little pleated eyelet. 

Carolyn Barclay from Illinois created Floral Delight:  A Celebration of Applique, which was quilted by Marlene Williams.  With hand applique and machine piecing and quilting, the quilt was inspired by a pattern by Lori Smith that Carolyn fell in love with.  Carolyn says that detailed applique and pieced half-square triangles are always a challenge for her, but give her the freedom to choose her own fabrics and redesign as needed.  In this quilt, Carolyn redesigned the borders so that she would end up with a queen-sized quilt.  The project took around two years to complete.

I love Carolyn's use of color in this quilt.  Check out the varieties she used in her applique.  This quilt has an enormous amount of applique in it -- so many of the leaves and flowers have undulating edges, which triples the length of the perimeter!

Deborah France of San Antonio, Texas, was the maker of Red Devil which used the Wheel of Fortune block.  Deborah took the pattern for this block from Betsy Chutchian and Carol Staehle's book, History Repeated.  The double sawtooth border is Deborah's own creation.  She said, "My original plan was for a small wall-hanging, but the quilt kept enticing me to keep going with more blocks, a pieced border, and more quilting.  Thus the name Red Devil.  On more than a few occasions, I called it some other non-heavenly names."

So what drew Deborah to this design?  She says that the Wheel of Fortune block showcases all of her favorite features of a traditional quilt block:  the round central area nicely contrasts with the starburst points and the strong zigzag setting unites the blocks while providing the perfect setting for the quilted feathers.  Notice the feathers below - they are wonderfully done and add so much to the overall look of the quilt.  Similarly, the quilting of the blocks is also a great addition to the quilt.

Debra (Minay) Sirois of Spring, Texas, made Chintz Medallion.  With hand applique and hand quilting (I am always tickled to see hand-quilting!) and machine piecing, this quilt is based on an antique quilt found in Chintz Applique:  From Imitation to Icon by Carolyn Ducey (and you can find this book on Amazon for $80-200+ - it's a rarity now!).  The original quilt was probably made in North Carolina, circa 1825-1850.  Label your quilts, everyone - so we know a bit about the history!  Include, at a minimum, your name, location, and the date you made the quilt - but feel free to add other information about the fabrics/batting, your inspiration, and any other stories about the quilt.  Provenance adds value to your quilt, over time.  Debra spent a year trying to find a wide border print to make the quilt design work (haven't we all been on wild, extended, crazy searches for that perfect fabric?!).  Once she found her fabric, she had to design the center medallion based on that border print.  She pieced the quilt in 2011 and basted it in January of 2015.  She says she "astonished myself by hand-quilting the whole thing in a little over four months.  In truth, I liked the design so much, I made the whole thing again using Phillip Jacobs fabrics.  Maybe that will show up in another year."

I love feathered stars, so Doretta Bradshaw's (from Arroyo Seco, New Mexico) quilt, Red and White Feathered Star Sampler Quilt  drew me in.  It was hand-pieced and hand quilted.  There were an amazing number of hand-quilted quilts in this exhibit.  Doretta's quilt was based on a pattern by Marsha McCloskey who is well-known for her feathered star patterns.  Doretta is a big fan of two-color quilts and collects red and white antique quilts.  She said, "I thought it would be boring to work with just two colors.  Not so when using modern technologies to complete traditional blocks!"   It is a huge challenge to make two-color quilts with complex piecing; every error shows up!  So... congrats to Doretta for such a beautiful, well-constructed and designed red and white quilt.

Grit Kovacs (Gerdau, Niedersachsen, Germany) made Hexagon quilt "La Passion" and had it quilted by Birgit Schuller.  Grit says, "I love all kinds of hexagons and sewing by hand.  My inspiration was my dream to create my own hexagon quilt."  I think we all have a dream in our heads of what we want to make - and Grit created her dream using her own design.  The idea came to her and she used about 17,240 pieces to make her quilt.  It took 2-1/2 years to complete the quilt.  Wow - that is a huge commitment!  But look at how wonderful her quilt turned out.  It is so well balanced and her use of various blue fabrics is amazing.  Blue fabrics are the hardest of all to make "play together" well.

Pearl Pereira's design was the inspiration for Leanne Hurley (Geneva, Illinois) when she made Autumn Baltimore.  Leanne hand-appliqued, embroidered, and embellished her quilt, along with machine piecing and quilting it.  She challenged herself to complete one block a month using traditional needle turn for the applique.  I love Pearl's patterns - they are always so intricate and full of iconic images.  Below, you can see crows, scarecrows, pumpkins, Fall flowers, a cornucopia, and the fruit of the season.  Taking on one of Pearl's quilts is a commitment, too - but the results are well worth the effort, as I'm sure Leanne has learned!

Not all quilts are large quilts in the traditional American quilts exhibit.  Below is a wall quilt, but don't assume that it is a simple, ordinary quilt at all.  Lois Sprague (Oceanside, California) had a genius idea when she created Grandmother's Beer Garden.  Her quilt is hand-embroidered and embellished and machine pieced and quilted.  And when she made it, Lois said, "What could be more traditional or American than Grandmother's Flower Garden?"

Lois said she really loves hexagons and wanted to make this pattern for a long time.  Then... she said, "The mind, being what it is, started the creative process."  What you may not see until you are nearer to the quilt... is that Lois added a beer cap to some of the hexagons, turning it into Grandmother's Beer Garden.  Take a look, below.

As Lois said, "Once again, both traditional and contemporary - just my style."  This quilt was such a departure from any hexagon quilt I've ever seen; it was refreshingly unique!

In Half Crazy, All Lucky, quilt maker Margaret Williams (Tucker, Georgia) used a ton of half-square triangle variations made after she won a die-cutting machine at a quilt show.  She felt lucky, so she cut up the fabric in her scrap box, making a ton of 2-inch half-square triangles.  When she set them on her design wall, though, she felt they looked boring so she added one-inch and four-inch half-square triangles to the mix.  She says, "Fitting the triangles together was like child's play."  It's nice to see that simply starting with shapes... and then deciding on the design is a process that worked so well.  I believe that most of us start with the design and then work on shapes.  Aren't the colors in Margaret's quilt just wonderful?!

How many of us have seen a "Dear Jane" quilt before?  I imagine almost all of us, but this one has a special story behind it.  Marian Woods is one of the most prolific quilters I know and her work is impeccable.  She saw the original Dear Jane quilt in Vermont and said the quilt was so beautiful that she decided to make it.  She wanted it to look like the original, which was in pristine condition, and she tried to make her quilt using the same colors as she had seen in the original.  All of her fabrics were reproduction fabrics.  She made Baby Jane and entered it in her local quilt show in Baytown, Texas.  I was the judge at that show... and did not give Marian a first place award.  Why not?  Because, in a hurry to finish, she had machine quilted the outer scalloped border.  It was warped and did not lie flat.  Her guild bases awards on a point system, and that border knocked a point or two off of the judging tally, which meant she did not win a blue ribbon.  Marian was not to be outdone, though.  She took the quilt home, read my judging comments... and unstitched that warped border and went back in and hand-quilted it.  The quilt was stunning!  Good job, Marian!

Here, you can see a close-up of some of the blocks in Marian's quilt.

And here, you can see the dramatically improved scalloped border.

Mary Steward (Corpus Christi, Texas) made Grandpa's Garden with hand piecing, applique, hand quilting, and machine piecing.  In 2013, when her father was diagnosed with cancer, she realized she needed something to pass the time as she sat with him through his treatment.  She remembered she had a UFO using hexagons, which are totally portable, and brought it along to work on.  Her dad told everyone who came in his room about the quilt and had Mary show it to them.  He said it looked like a flower garden.  Finally, in 2015, Mary finished her quilt and took it to show her father, who loved it as much as Mary did and told her he was proud of her for finishing it.  Personally, and I know most people will laugh when I say this, I cannot imagine doing all the handwork involved in making these hexagons.  Wow - take a look!  Mary's choice of fabrics makes this quilt unusually bright - and I love that she chose to do something different than the classic Grandmother's Flower Garden with the paths between flowers.

Starting several years ago, quilts and bags made using the selvages of various fabrics became popular.  In Selvage Star of Bethlehem, quilter Mayleen Vinson (Haysville, Kansas) pieced a string quilt using selvages (the woven edge of various fabrics).  She has made selvage quilts for the past three biennial quilt shows of her guild.  She says that at first, using selvages was a novelty but now she challenges herself to use them in traditional designs, adding, "This is a star design made of unexpected materials which can seem like a memory quilt or an 'I Spy' quilt."  I am particularly drawn to the unusual borders on this quilt.  Even if they were made of traditional fabrics, the fact that the top/bottom and the side borders are made of different sizes of diamonds is unique.  And making a Lone Star block, large or small, is pretty challenging, but here, Mayleen has made both out of a lot of pieced units.  Using the red and green fabrics as background is also a unique touch that adds a lot of flair to this quilt.

Mickey Beebe (Santa Cruz, California) made My Folky Valentine which was then quilted by Mary Lundberg.  The quilt was based on a vintage quilt from New York state.  Mickey's use of color and fabric is wonderful; who would have ever imagined a pink background for the blocks and setting triangles?  What a delight!

Phyllis Cloyd (we all know her as Jean) of Seabrook, Texas, made Garden of Strawberries and then Cynthia Clark added her magical quilting.  The quilt was a pattern by Terry Thompson, based on an 1860 quilt.  The pattern is hard to find nowadays, but it is wonderful.  Jean could not resist making her Strawberry block quilt after seeing an antique quilt with the block in it.  She had never seen strawberry blocks before and then began researching the design.  She says, "It was great fun to make this quilt of berries."  The beauty of this quilt is in the block design - but also in the balance across the face of the quilt.

Here is a close-up of one of the blocks and the border.  You can see the wonderful cross-hatch quilting done by Cynthia - and the sharp, sharp points appliqued by Jean!

Those of us who follow Teresa Rawson's blog have watched her Baltimore Rhapsody - Symphony quilt come together over time.  She designed and drafted her blocks when she was frustrated and not finding any commercially available patterns.  The sixteen blocks represent the instrumental make-up of a symphony orchestra, including a conductor.  Teresa did needle-turn applique on all of the pieces, including the tiniest ones and hand-stitched them using silk thread.  This quilt is nothing short of amazing!

The pictures below are of each block - though I found it difficult to photograph the top row of blocks so there is a "group" picture of those.  Just study each block and notice all of the incredible detail, not to mention Teresa's wonderful sense of color and design.  Each block is accompanied by flora and fauna that complete the overall look of the quilt.  I'll start with a picture of the border and the wonderful design she developed for it.



Wasn't that a treat to see all those blocks?  I am in amazement of Teresa's design skills!

Zvia Strahilevitz-Klein of Kochav Yair, Israel, used a Fons and Porter design to create Baskets, her favorite block.  I like how she has chosen to make the background of the block and the "center background" of the blocks of two different fabrics.  It adds to the color within the quilt.  Her use of blue setting triangles brightens it all up, too.

Below, you may be able to see some of the quilting in the quilt - and you can get a glance of the border print she used in the vertical strips separating the columns of baskets.

I know I missed a couple of quilts in the IQA exhibit -- my camera is not perfect, nor is the person using it... and I often find blurry pictures when I come home, which I don't post online.  If I left off any of my readers' quilts that were in the exhibit, it is not because I didn't like your quilt!
Now, I'd like to show you some quilts from a workshop I took from Lisa Calle.  First of all, her name is pronounced "ki-yay", as in the cowboy expression, "Yippee Ki-Yay!"  Second of all... she is one of the nicest teachers I've ever met.  Her patience and engagement of students was great.  And then there was her fabulous quilting.  Take a look.  Her quilting is so good that a simple block becomes a master piece.
Here is a close-up of the above quilt.

And another...

Can you see how she takes blocks and just draws lines across them...and fills those lines in with quilting?  Neither could I... but she does it just as simply as that using lines, circles, feathers, scribbles, and squiggles.

She even uses microscopic stippling to define edges, as seen below along the feathered vine.  You might also notice the tiny little green strip inserted between units - that little extra adds a lot!

Everywhere I looked, it seemed as if there was more to see.

At what point do you stop looking?  For me... not until I felt like I'd seen everything there was to see.  Here, you can see that she uses different thread colors.

And she uses different "fills" across the quilt.  Each is unique.

Here is another quilt:  a double nine-patch.  How do you make a double nine-patch look spectacular?  Simple.  Add spectacular quilting!

Here are a couple of close-ups.





And here is a simple applique, again made spectacular with Lisa's quilting.

So how does she do it?  You really need to take a class to learn the process, but the simple answer is... she draws out lines across an overlay and then adds fill and feathers on that overlay.  Then she takes the top to a machine and starts quilting.  Below is a quilt where she has started the quilting, and below it is a quilt with the same design/lines where she has started to fill in the design.

There is plenty more fill to add to this quilt, but you can begin to see how Lisa does her quilting in the photo above and this picture, below.

Another great quilting help is her "cheat sheet" of what different threads will look like when she quilts with them, as shown below.

If you quilt your own quilts, a class from Lisa Calle is well worth the time and money!

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 So how did I occupy my time in February?  I drove down to the Tremont Hotel in Galveston - one of the grande dame hotels on the island. 
And there, Applique Away on Galveston Bay was taking place.  I would say that all of the students (shown below) had a great time.  They were in classes with me, Margaret Willingham, and Pearl Pereira.  Can life get any better?!  We stitched, ate, laughed, played, shopped, and more for 4-1/2 days.  Winter is Galveston's best-kept secret, with cool nights and warm afternoons and no big crowds.  The organizers of Applique Away make special arrangements with several shops on the street of boutiques, where they treat us to discounts, wine, and cookies.  It is so much fun!  Although the 2017 schedule has not yet been posted online, you can sign up for next year soon:  I will be the 2017 banquet speaker and I already can't wait!

This year's banquet speaker was Carolyn (and Don) Springer of Quilts of Mulberry Lane.  You can keep up with their schedule on their website (  Below is a sampling of the many quilts they brought to Applique Away.

On the quilt above, notice the unusual "double swag" border.  It's the only quilt I've ever seen with a double swag like that!

And here are the fun and fabulous organizers of Applique Away who take care of every single need of every single person at the retreat:  Amy DePan, Judy Purgason, Bonnie Gustafson, and Sally Coble.

So what else went on during February?  Below is an eagle block that my friend Sharon Meyer made for a friend whose home is decorated with a patriotic theme.  Sharon gave the block to her friend and it was framed - a really nice touch that I think we could all do for a special friend!

And what did I work on?  Well, I finished the seventh of nine Amaranth feather blocks, based on an antique quilt I bought last year.  I have to seriously consider how I am going to set these blocks.  When I laid them all out on the floor (I have a design floor, as opposed to a design wall), I felt like I was watching nine toilets flush simultaneously!  Okay - I guess you didn't need that image in your head, but it's what I saw.


I also spent time quilting a new quilt that I designed and my friend Becky Stephenson made.  It's called "A Little Bit of Feathered Heaven." 

Here is a close-up of the quilted border. 

And here is the finished quilt.  I quilted it based on a quilting design that Cindy Gravely used on the original larger quilt I designed as my guild's raffle quilt.  I loved Cindy's quilting so much that I wanted to make my own quilt.  But wait... this is Becky's quilt, not mine!  We decided to make a smaller version ( 60 by 60 inches) so that we could offer it on my website as both a pattern and as a kitted pattern.  They have been selling quickly!

But... I still wanted my own quilt.  No problem:  just sit down and stitch together 9 feathered stars and eight sawtooth stars along with sashing and a border.  Voile!  Here's MY quilt.  Now, I just need to find time to quilt it.  And I apologize - the picture, below, is of poor quality; the quilt is done in great red and tan fabrics.  Below, they look a little purple or gray, which they aren't.  The quilt has a great caramel/graham cracker glow to it with the tans and reds.

So all of that meant that I did not make progress on this quilt....

 ... or this quilt.

Instead, I spent a good deal of time kitting not only the feathered star quilt, but also my Little Baskets quilt.  I have a new appreciation for shops that kit patterns -- it takes a lot of time and effort to kit patterns!

I also kitted Baltimore Squared - which took a lot more time because it has ten different sets of kits - one for each month's pattern since it is a block of the month quilt.  Trust me:  you will love the fabrics in this quilt; I wouldn't sell what I would not want to buy!

And I'm now in the process of kitting my smaller version of the New York Beauty quilt.  It is done in Christmas fabrics and is a wonderfully warm, happy quilt.  I'm going to rewrite the instructions and add more photos and descriptions of how to make this quilt without a hitch.  I've learned, after making quite a few New York Beauty quilts, that there are some simple ways to make these quilts without a hiccup; if you wait until I get this pattern revised - and kitted, if you prefer! - you'll be glad you did!  This is a fun, easy quilt to make.  Really!
That's it for this month's post... I'm hoping to have a lot more to show you next month and that I at least make some progress on my Blue Heaven quilt (above, five pictures up).  I can't wait to finish that quilt!
Until next month,
Happy quilting!
(c)2016 Susan H. Garman