Sunday, August 26, 2007

Quilting in the Rocky Mountains

Today we are in Banff. It is misty and cold, but my husband is golfing and I brought my light Janome Jem Gold. (I wish Bernina made one like this?) I will be working on a Cynthia England piece which I call my "insanity quilt" (sorry, Cynthia, but those pieces are so small I may be asylum-ready by the time it is finished)!

This photo is another "insanity quilt" -- my version of Dear Jane. It took three years to make, plus the support of a wonderful group at Earthly Goods. Without them, I may have quit. The blocks are 4.5" square, sashing is narrow with ittsy-bitsy corner squares. This is just the top. I did have it quilted (long arm, turned out nice) but haven't taken another photo yet. More about the worldwide Dear Jane phenomena here.

Funny thing about this quilt -- I learned or practiced almost every piecing technique known, enjoyed the others in that group, and sometimes think (in my weak moments?) that I'd like to make another one. Oh, my!

Actually, the triangles that go around the outside in the original are in my UFO pile. I've designed a smaller quilt that uses all of them, and hope to finish it one of these days.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

In the Rockies

Today my husband and I are in the Rocky Mountains. The scenery is wonderful, the company good, and will certainly inspire more landscape quilts! However, our B&B does not have an Internet connection. We stopped by the local library where I'm typing a short note to say I will post Thursday (after we golf 18 holes) when we arrive home, that is if my sewing machine doesn't cry out for attention much more than I can resist!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

All-time favorite quilting class

A couple of years ago my husband and I traveled to China to visit some friends who work there. They arranged that while I was there I should teach a quilting class to a group of ladies. I'd need a translator. Actually, I'd need two of them; the ladies are all deaf!

These ladies worked in a store that did custom sewing such as curtains and drapes, etc. Without a clue what to teach them, I decided to take an assortment of blocks requiring various skill levels. I also took some quilt books and prayed quite a bit!

When we got there, more challenges. First, there is no heat in this store. It was February and cold. We had to work with our coats on.

Second, electricity is iffy. They used treadle sewing machines, and each sewer plugged in the iron each time she used it, and unplugged it when she was finished.

Third, they use 1 cm. seam allowances, not 1/4 inch. All my patterns had to be redrafted, in my hotel room, with pen and ruler, and more prayers.

I had two days with them. I showed them the blocks. Each young woman picked one they wanted to make, and it turned out that their selections matched
their skill level. The most difficult block was a Carol Doak foundation paper-pieced star. The woman who spoke Chinese and did the sign language, told my American translator, "I'm glad ... selected that one. She thinks she is so smart and needs to learn that she isn't!"

I began with the simplest block and explained how to make it. The woman who picked it began selecting fabric and sewing. On to the next one, and the same thing. By the time I got to the paper-pieced block (a technique they had never seen), I began understanding their sign-language. I was also really enjoying myself. These girls have a great sense of humor and laugh easily.

They are also very skilled. When they "got it" they hit the middle of their foreheads with the side of their hand, and then went to work. One of them chain pieced the curves in a Drunkard's Path, on a treadle, without a flaw and without pins. The beginners struggled that their blocks were not 'exactly' like mine (the Chinese are great copyists and perfectionists), but some I could tease and get a smile even in their 'humiliation' at not being perfect.

They all finished their blocks about the same time. I took pictures. They hugged me and made me a paper-cut thank you card. When I got home, I sent them some rotary cutters and other tools. They sent me a photo. I sent them a small
wall quilt, another Carol Doak foundation paper-pieced block, and as I suspected, their first response was a careful examination to try and figure out how it was made so they could copy it. Last Christmas, I got another card and a photo. Their staff now includes two young men.

This was a highlight of my life. I will never forget the warmth and joy in that impoverished and chilly sewing room, nor the gratitude of these young women who would be outcasts in their world without the opportunity to learn how to sew for others.

Friday, August 10, 2007

"I've Seen Fire and I've Seen Rain"

If I don't get to my sewing room today, I'm going to.... (quilters know how to finish this sentence!)

Earthly Goods, the quilt shop in my city, has a 'degree' program. All 'grads' can meet once a month and learn new tricks, share in fabric exchanges, hear speakers, see demonstrations, and share in projects. This quilt was a Grad Club 'mystery medallion' that started with an assigned middle size, but it could be anything we wanted. Each month we were given options of various borders and assigned widths, but each quilter could choose the combinations. Twenty-seven participated and all the quilts wound up the same size, but there the resemblance ended.

This is my project, which I joked was an exercise in matching points. I did a Carpenter's Wheel in the middle because I wanted to try one, but only one! However, the colors prompted the quilt's name, and I like James Taylor's voice. This lap quilt is 43.5" x 63.5" and was displayed in Earthly Goods 2004 Fall Show. The photo isn't the best, but since I still have this quilt, I can (and should) take a better one.

Now, I must get off this computer and sew...

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Peek-a-boo Teddy Bears

This is one of those 'mystery' blocks that looks so ordinary when pieced but forms these neat patterns when sewn together. I made it from several prints, one with teddy bears on a denim-blue colored background. It is 44" x 56" and went to a nephew when he was just a little fellow. This month, he and his parents moved to Australia. His mom, my sister-in-law, is having a rough time with them being so far away. While I guess I can now say I have a quilt in another continent, I'm thinking I should make her one to cuddle up in because she misses them so much.

For now, I'm working on a mountain landscape. It is large, and exciting. I used to paint mountains but now my paint is fabric—and the results are surprising me.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

First Quilts

Today a young lady is coming to my house for help with her first bed-sized quilt. She is 13 years old.

What a privilege! My daughter has a sewing machine she uses for mending only, and my granddaughters are not interested in quilts except to have one on their bed that matches their ever-changing decor. I have taught adults to quilt, but to host this young girl will be a special delight.

I didn't start quilting until my family was grown and gone (which partly explains their lack of interest). My first quilts were for babies, and those very first ones are thankfully without digital photos. However, here is one of my 'relatively a beginner' projects.

It is 35.5" x 39.5" so rather on the small size. The pattern came from QNM Jan-Feb 1996, and is called Baby Pinwheels. Nancy Riddell designed the pattern and included a poem that began with, "It's OK if you sit on your quilt. It's OK if your bottle gets spilt..."

I called my version simply "Spinners" and included the poem in a gift card. When I gave it to the new mom, she ignored the poem, loved the quilt, and hung it on the wall! After a year or so, she finally took the advice in the poem and began letting the baby use it.