Thursday, March 29, 2012


Aunties Two of Portland, ME have come up with a darling little Biscuit Basket that takes only 15   two and one-half inch strips of fabric, cut the width of the fabric.  From those you make three 32" long strips, three 22" long strips and five 18" long strips, sewn right sides together and then turned right side out.  You have to use a strong interfacing to place inside these strips, which you then weave together, pinning as you go to keep the shape.  The final strip is used for binding along the top. 

The basket ended up measuring 6 x 10 x 6 inches.  A grosgrain or other ribbon can be placed around the top and tied.  I used a delicate, sheer, sparkly pastel purple one for mine.  My strips are one-half of a Bali Pops collection.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Joyce T found this ancient quilt made from the most delicate fabrics -- cotton so thin and silky that you would think it was chiffon -- and she wanted to have it quilted for her sister.  There were some spots on it, most of which disappeared with gentle washing, and even though more than half of the squares were hand pieced, the seams did not come apart with the bath, so all in all it seemed to be worth preserving.  I gather a relative had made it originally.

Here are some of the fabrics in it.  In the middle of this grouping you can see that sometimes even the individual squares were pieced, speaking to an early era, perhaps the 30's or 40's?, when every tiny scrap had to count.  The squares are not square, and the blocks are not all the same size, but perhaps they were made up of someone's dresses or the like.  For whatever reason, Joyce brought the quilt to me to finish by quilting.

Now, ordinarily, if the quilt is hand pieced, I think it should be hand quilted.  However, I convinced myself that that guide need not be followed for this quilt since it was irregular, filled with bits and pieces and still stained in one area, so it didn't seem to warrant the extra time and expense of hand quilting.  In addition, Joyce wanted it more for a summery throw, draped across her sister's sofa, rather than hanging on the wall, entered in a contest, or displayed on a bed.

The back of the quilt is pastel blue dotted Swiss on the sides and a thin lawn or batiste sort of fabric down the middle.  Although they had been stored for decades in a trunk in Joyce's attic, these two fabrics were healthy and whole and utterly charming.  I used my whitest and lightest poly blend for the batting and chose a Baptist Fan pattern to offset the angularity of the blocks.  You can see the pattern much better on the back, above.

Joyce was delighted with the results.  Now she is contemplating her options for the binding.  Wouldn't it be lovely if she could use a pastel purple velvet ribbon or perhaps satin in a narrow binding?  It's very difficult to work with velvet.  Velvet doesn't like to stay where it's put and wants to slide out from under your sewing machine needle.  So I vote for the satin.  Or it might be that she has enough  blue dotted Swiss from the sides of the quilt backing to make binding, too.  We'll see.

Either way, this summery quilt is light and delicate and has a heavenly feel to it.  Her sister is very lucky to be receiving it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Yesterday the ladies of my development got together to descend, en masse, on unsuspecting Wake Forest, the Old Town section.  We intended to go to tea there, just for the fun of it, but first a little browsing in a curiosity shop on White Street.  And you should have seen the sales ladies' eyes get big when our group of nine bounced into a really nice consignment shop.  We scattered everywhere, trying on this or that and posing in front of mirrors.

Once noon rolled around, we settled into the Old English Tea Room for a wonderful repast, complete with teas of our choice, homemade salads and muffins and scones and Devonshire cream!

The tea room has an antique store downstairs from the restaurant.  Lots of china, some furniture, crystal, hats of all sorts, pictures and the inevitable knick knacks.  Upstairs there are many different varieties of tea, both loose and bagged, tea cups and saucers, steepers, candles, plates and the like.  There are two rooms with tables that will hold four or more, a Christmas tree always dressed in tea cup finery, and a genteel elegance that makes you wish you had worn a hat and gloves. 

As the afternoon wore on, we became merrier with our "girly" day out.  Smiles blossomed into laughter, and some even hugged in glee.

We talked our patient and very attendant waiter into taking a group picture of us as a memento of a beautiful spring day and some wonderful cameraderie.

We ended the afternoon at the Cotton Company, which is a cluster of artisan shops in an old cotton mill.  I bought some interesting door or cabinet knobs, which I am thinking of making into a towel or jacket rack for my laundry room.  If I actually achieve that goal, you can be sure it will show up on this blog!

Friday, March 23, 2012


Debbie Powell of Miss Lou's quilt shop came to our guild Wednesday to teach us Nancy Johnson Srebro's version of how to make the Tree of Life without diamonds or Y seams.  What a patient teacher!  This was definitely new territory for us, and we plunged into the exercise with both feet, confident that Debbie could handle anything that we screwed up along the way.

Although the TOL block in the middle is done a la Nancy Srebro, the rest of this quilt was completed as a round robin by Debbie's quilting group, and it is lovely!  I have to say I like the variety of the borders more than I like the quilt finish in Nancy's book.  I took this picture so I could remember how those round robin participants worked their layers.

I had done a mock up of how I wanted my colors to be distributed in my TOL, but I found matching the strips to be a little nerve wracking.  I had to really pay attention to how they went, following Debbie's pattern board carefully.

Eventually I completed the first half of the left half of the top of the tree (whew!  does that make it a quarter?  No, because then there was the lower half on both sides, half of which was background -- I think each of these initial blocks turned out to be 1/16 of the quilt as a result.)

Once you have the first two sections done, you fold them in half corner to corner to see if they followed your mock up or if you need to make changes.  Then you place one on top of the other, right sides together, and sew from the outer corner in.  Supposedly, if you have perfect 1/4" seams and your strips were cut accurately, the diamond intersections will meet perfectly.  Well, mine weren't, but the end result wasn't half bad!

By the way, you have to cut away half of the block after sewing the two sections together. Very wasteful of fabric EXCEPT if you're a a scraps lover like many of us.  Then you can just sew those discarded sections together and start a whole nuther quilt!!!

This is the TOL block, ready to have the several borders done.  This will be a joyful project to work on in the coming week(s).  It took me all day to get this thing together!  So it's definitely going to get finished!

Here are some examples of other class members' work.  Instead of folding them diagonally, we just placed the sections side by side so you could see how pretty their colors were and how nicely the diamonds magically appear!

Very springy! 

Bolder colors make this an intriguing and eye catching pattern!

I have to put this aside this week to do a customer quilt and clean my house before the ladies of my development descend upon it when we gather here prior to going to tea in Wake Forest Friday, but I'll keep you up to date on my progress.

Monday, March 19, 2012


One of the fun things about being VP of my guild is that the VP is in charge of finding out what classes the guild would like to have for the year and then getting teachers to fulfill those wishes.  Sometimes our teachers come straight from our own group.  For instance, we have had the snap purse, a lovely bargello and applique Christmas table runner, and Painless Cathedral Windows taught by our own members.  In the next few months, we will have classes on making a market bag, a beach bag, and fabric bowls by various members, too.

We are also fortunate to have access to outside instructors who stimulate our creative juices.  Marilyn Doheny and her 9 degree ruler, Sharon Stewart and her wool applique,  and Mary Nielsen introducing us to the Tri Recs tool have all graced our quilting efforts this guild year.

This Wednesday, Debbie Lou Powell will be showing us how to make the stunning Tree of Life quilt.  We have all loved these when we see them at shows, but making them has always been a challenge.  Working with bias in diamonds and sewing in Y-seams have always been challenging, to say the least.  Debbie runs an eclectic quilt shop about 30 miles from here called Miss Lou's, and most of us have already made it a favorite haunt.  Now she is coming to teach us her slant on this quilt, and I am very excited about it.

The actual Tree of Life pattern will be coming from the technique of Nancy Johnson Srebro, which makes it unnecessary to worry about piecing diamond shapes or Y seams.  I'm all for that!  To help us sort out how we want the colors to distribute in our trees, Nancy recommends making a mock up with fabric scraps, which are much easier to move around than any full size strips we might be using.  I don't know her technique, but above is my mock up, and I'm ready for Wednesday!!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


By now I'm sure that most of you will have heard about the tornados in Indiana nearly wiping out whole towns.  What you may not have heard yet is that for some reason, the state did not classify these devastated areas as disaster areas and therefore they are not eligible for funding for rebuilding.  Something about having met their quota.  How can that be possible?  What about the years when they DIDN'T meet their quota?  Where did any excess apportionment go?  Sounds to me that certain politicians need heart transplants....

That touched the hearts of some of our quilting guild members, who sent out an appeal for quilts for these victims. So I went to our collection of 2 1/2" strips that we had gleaned from donated material a few months ago and found some brightly colored children's fabrics and put together this Road Block quilt.  Others of us are making their own quilts for these kids.

Some of the local churches are collecting basic supplies, like soap and water and clothing and sending it on.  There's a problem we have found with sending the quilts:  so much damage was done to the towns that we don't have a contact person yet who will administer the distribution of the quilts to the children.  Sometimes it's an issue of trust and sometimes it's an issue of available (wo)manpower, but our guild is working diligently on finding someone who will do the job fairly and quickly.

Just a note on the fabrics:  the main body of the quilt was from the strips we had made from donated material to the entire guild.  The backing was whatever larger pieces of flannel I could find in the donated fabric, and the binding was a cheerful stripe I had bought years ago, thinking to make just this very sort of thing someday.  I used a floral pantograph to hold it all together. 

Now all we need is that one volunteer to receive and give out our quilts.

Monday, March 12, 2012


I live in a lakeside community of about 90 homes and several "future build" lots.  This year we decided that we would pitch in to clear the right of way shoulders of small trees and overgrowth.  Two of our neighbors spent a couple hundred hours cutting off branches, removing fallen trees, clipping off weedy shrubbery and the like and stacking it at the edge of the woods along the two plus miles of road loop and culdesacs over the last year or so.  This past weekend, several of us finished the job.  We rented a chipper and walked both sides of those two plus miles, dragging the cut branches and trees to the chipper.  On Saturday we had 13 men doing that while 8 women raked the debris and swept it from the road as well as prepared a scrumptious feast for lunch and ran a golf cart back and forth with water and juice and coffee as needed.  At the end of the first day, we were down to 9 men and 5 women, and we had put in almost 8 hours nonstop working in teams.

This is Nancy, standing in the road at the rear of the entrance to the development.  She also walks the roads every day, picking up trash in the neighborhood, and she was among the hardy lasses who chipped in during the cleanup. 

On Sunday, we started with 11 men and 5 women.  That day we also added a leaf blower to the tools to help sweep debris and sawdust off the roads.  The chipper threw the ground up branches back into the woods, but both days had a brisk breeze that sometimes blew it back at us here and there.  Again we made a yummy lunch and had cold and hot drinks for our workers.  By the end of the day, we were down to 7 men and 4 women, and we had worked another 8 hours using two shifts at lunchtime.  Each person's contribution was invaluable, whether it was cooking or hauling branches or sweeping or whatever.  We also added a bucket with ibuprofen, acetaminaphen, naproxen,enteric coated aspirin and Tums to the "refreshment" offerings as the day wore on.

And we finished the job! 

Today I hope to get back to some quilting.  Something nice and quiet and not so taxing on the muscles.  But the weekend weather was wondrously sunny and pleasantly cool, and we all slept like babies from being outside all day long.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


One of the things I really like about quilting for others is that I get to know all their secrets, i.e., those that are usually hidden from view on the back of the quilt tops.  It brings me to my knees -- not in defeat but in admiration -- when I see someone's work that is square and neat, well pressed, and flat.  I love it when I don't have to "quilt it out" and can just enjoy the process.

Well, Joyce T is such a quilter.  And she is fast as well.  Only about two weeks ago we were on a road trip to a quilt shop so she could get fabric for this quilt, and here it is, all done and just as straight and true as you please.  That's pretty fast work!  This Log Cabin is stunning.  Sometimes when I do things fast, I make mistakes or cut corners or otherwise sabotage a perfectly lovely project.  And then there are others, like Joyce, or BFF Mary, who can sew like a whirlwind and it comes out great!  So here's this 90" x 90"  quilt top that Joyce made for a raffle for a good cause.

I would have a hard time donating this one -- it's so pretty with its fall colors.  So I used feathered leaves in a pantograph across the entire quilt.  Their shapes can be seen best in the lighter areas.  The thread is variegated fall colors.  I hope her cause sells lots of tickets!