Sunday, December 02, 2007

How I Made "Under the Rainbow"

By popular demand (or at least requests by Frieda and Judy) I wrote up a little explanation of how I made "Under the Rainbow". It's on my website - here's the link.

Bonnie McCaffery did a great job capturing the flavor of the Houston International Quilt Festival this year. I was lucky enough to meet Bonnie, and you can see me in a brief interview towards the end of her vidcast. Thanks Bonnie!

I'll leave you with a view of our Japanese Maple from about a week ago.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Pink Cables

Last year I made several cabled hats as last minute Christmas gifts. My mother asked for one, and I finally made it this week.

It's made from Lamb's Pride Bulky, and is based on the pattern here. The mods include putting rib between the cables (in the pattern she knits only). I cabled every sixth row, and began decreases when crossing the fifth cable. It looks slightly pointy on this little noggin, but on my head it's nice and flat. I only decreased to 18 stitches (the pattern calls for 8 or 9) and that suited my head (and hopefully my mother's) better. Fast and fun!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Yesterday I received two emails from my sister chastising me for not updating my blog. Here are some quotes:

Before we know it, it will be Easter and you have yet to revise either your blog site or your quilting site with any late-breaking pictures or information."


Then blog some super exciting festival shots. As you left it, you’ve not returned from Houston, I think. "

My apologies. Houston was simply overwhelming. (Returning home to try and make a birthday party happen for 14 preschoolers was also overwhelming, as was having another child become briefly but violently ill the morning of the party, causing it to be postponed. The child is fine. But I digress.)

Sadly, I was unable take any pictures at Houston because I left the camera at home for Halloween picture taking. Luckily, the wonderful Lisa Ellis, of, came to my rescue. She generously shared this picture she took of me at the show.
Thanks, Lisa!

My family will only listen to me talk about my quilts for so long, so I really enjoyed explaining how I made the quilt to people who came to the show just to find out that sort of thing. It was just wonderful to be at Houston and enjoy the camaraderie of so many quilters. I could go on and on, but you've already read it on other blogs I'm sure. I hope that I'll be able to go to many more Houston quilt festivals.

Since I've been home I haven't sewn at all. What I have done is play with quite a few images in Photoshop, in hopes of designing a new quilt (hence the percolation). I haven't completed a design yet, but it's been fun anyway.

I've also been gobsmacked by this year's fall foliage, and can't seem to take enough photos of it.

We've had quite the drought, and it really seemed like the leaves were just going to turn brown and fall. Not so! Every day for the past two weeks there have been beautiful new vistas. Here are two "ortonized" photos of views in our yard.

A view from our driveway

Looking across the front yard

It's very difficult for a color junkie like me to concentrate when every time I look out a window there's something new and eye catching.

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Innovative Fabric Imagery

OK, three post in 24 hours - unbelievable, but true.

I'm even more excited about going to the Houston Quilt Festival because I just found out that my quilt Grotto won first place in the Innovative Fabric Imagery exhibit!! I'm absolutely delighted. I can't wait to see everything - the IQA show, the Innovative Fabric Imagery exhibit, and the accompanying book. Many thanks to C&T Publishing for sponsoring the book and exhibit, as well as the category I entered in the IQA show - Digital Imagery.

Quilting & Blocking Tips

Even though I've been quilting for a long time, I still learn new things with each project. While quilting my latest quilt (back in May/June) I tried using several products that were new to me, and they really made a difference.

The first product is the Free Motion Slider. It's a teflon sheet that lays on the bed of the machine, and reduces friction between the quilt and the top of your table and machine. There's a hole in the sheet where the needle goes through. I loved it, and felt it really made all that free motion work easier.

I also tried using gloves specially made for quilting. I used several different brands, and they all cut down on hand fatigue. I don't use them for every situation, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well they allowed me to grip with little effort.

I'd only used wool batting before for sample quilting. I wanted to use wool to showcase the quilting I planned to do. I love the look I achieved, especially on the quilted feathers, but a word of warning! Thorough basting is always important, but I found it to be even more so using the wool. Try it and see what you think.

Someone recently posted a question about blocking quilts to the quiltart list. I responded, and then realized that maybe some of you might also be interested. I do not block all of my quilts, especially if they are heavily fused, but some quilts benefit mightily from a good blocking. Here's what I posted to the list:

Here are two ways I've successfully blocked a quilt:
1. Soak the quilt in the washing machine in cold water, then spin dry. Lay the quilt flat on a carpeted floor covered with towels.Pull, push, and prod it until it's the shape you want it to be. If it has straight lines (like borders) try to make sure they're straight.Use a large t-square if you want the edges square, and measure the quilt from corner to corner on both diagonals - if you want thequilt to be square, both these measurements should be the same. Be sure when you're transporting the wet quilt that you supportit so that it doesn't strain the stitches. Once the quilt is the shape that you want, let it dry completely in place (flat) before moving it.The whole process is much easier if you have someone to help you!
2. Recently I blocked a quilt that was finished (including binding). I didn't want to immerse it in water so I used a different method.With a Sharpie draw the outline of the size you want the quilt to be on pink foam insulating board.Let the Sharpie dry completely.Put the quilt on the foam board and start pinning from one corner out both sides. Spritz the quilt with water as necessary while stretching the quilt to fit. When it is completely pinned make sure to spritz it well, then let it dry overnight. Having a fanblow on it helps. If you end up with little scallops where the pins are just remove the pins, leave the quilt flat where it is, respritz and straighten out those scallops, then let dry again.

Tomorrow I go to Houston - woohoo! The last time I saw the show was nine years ago so I'm totally psyched.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Halloween!!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Nearly There

Long time readers (all 3 of you) might remember that this is the time of year when we have 4 family birthdays, Halloween, and soccer season all in the span of about 7 weeks. I'm still madly redecorating/refurbishing, but we've also gotten through 3 birthdays, so yeah us!

Some years I have several Halloween costumes to make, others none. This year I was tasked with making a wolf costume. It's pretty standard - faux fur jumpsuit, hood with ears. But times have changed. Schools around here no longer allow children to wear masks for the Halloween parade. This presented a conundrum, as we'd located a fine (commercial) wolf mask with ears. But if the hood had no ears, how would this work out for the school parade?

(Obviously, he's not wearing the jumpsuit here. He's a little geared up because his big brother just got back from Cub Scout camp, so I was happy with getting any picture at all. Also, he picked out the fur - the fur that matched the mask looked "too cartoony" according to the Wolf Boy.)

The solution - retractable ears! Yes, it's a craze that no doubt will sweep the nation. When sewing the hood I attached the ears to only the front portion of the hood. When sewing the front of the hood to the back I left the seam open by the ears, and also left an opening in the lining for the ears. I whipstitched the lining to the outside at the openings.

And here are the ears in the up position.

My husband is not grasping the genius of this solution, so I'm hoping that some of you will, and might be able to use it to solve your own future mask/ear issues.

I'm very, very excited because I'm headed for Houston on Tuesday for the IQA show. If you're there and you recognize me I'd love to meet you! The only quilt related wearable I've manged to finish is a Magic Card Case (as featured in Quilting Arts, the Winter 2006 edition).

It's very fun.

Well, I need to go reupholster a couch (not to worry - it's a mid-century design that can be done with a staple gun) . If I don't post again before Tuesday I hope everyone has a happy Halloween!

Monday, October 01, 2007

(St)Art at Home

I thought once school started I'd be doing some serious quilting, but some other projects have intervened.

I don't know about you guys, but I can only watch the HGTV crews transform so many rooms before feeling like I need to do a little work myself. Three weeks ago today I started my campaign.

The children's bathroom needs some serious updating, and this involved skillz that I wasn't sure I possessed. I dove in anyway, stripped wallpaper, and spackled and patched with abandon.

Here I am, ready for action. Look carefully and you'll see the spackling dust on me.

A children's room also needed some wall work and updating. Virtually every window in the house has unpainted trim (just stained) and though I've seen it work great in other folks homes it's not to my taste.

Here's the before (the plastic was beneath a wall I was patching) ...

And after

(The window treatments and art work still need to be hung.)

Work continues on the bathroom, and is kind of stalled out because of trying to decide on a new medicine cabinet.

Curiously the walls match a Perfect Periwinkle Turtleneck I've been working on from Fitted Knits.

They also look a lot like some of the fall color that's starting appear.

A few weeks ago I raided my parents' basement and retrieved some paintings by my grandmother . (The second link is to my cousin's website, and tells a little about my grandmother's art.) I'll post pictures of them another day, but they're also part of my grand scheme to whip this place into shape. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Call

You've got to love it at this time of year when you pick up the phone, check the caller id, and it says "Quilts Inc". One of the (many) nice things about the IQA Houston quilt show is that when you win something, they call and tell you about a month before the show. Yesterday evening I was thrilled to get a call saying that my newest quilt, "Under the Rainbow", won a cash award! I don't think I ever posted a full view of the quilt, so here it is.

I'm trying to work out how I can make it to Houston for at least a few days, so if any of you are there I'd love to meet you!

Friday, August 31, 2007

What a Difference ...

a week makes.

The "big" guys had four days of school this week, and I really got a lot done - finished putting a label and sleeve on my quilt that's bound for Houston, blocked it, mailed it, updated my website, got some business with MVA done, yadda yadda.

Here are some pictures of the products of my impromptu (and rather slapdash) dye session before our visit to Louisiana. The fabrics and tees were dyed using the "pour" method that Robbie Eklow outlines in her book Free Expression.

As you can see the front and back of the tee shirts vary slightly, but I think that adds interest. Once I showed my husband the children's (matching) tees, my husband wanted one too. So if you were at the Baltimore or Houston airports a few weeks ago and saw a troop of folks wearing these t-shirts, that was us. (Though I don't have one.)
This piece was made using leftover dyes from those I used for the borders of my newest quilt. I think I dyed it back in May.

I love how much variegation you get in the color of the fabric, but that the gradations between the colors are smooth.
I can't take credit for this lovely yarn - it was a gift from the very generous Jody, who dyed it with Sarah . They are both knitting/sewing/crafting dynamos. Jody's husband John is facing some serious medical problems right now, so please send them good and healing thoughts.

No school for the guys today, so I better get them over to the park to burn off some energy on this pretty day!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Essence of August

August has been a busy, busy month. We went to Lake Charles, Louisiana for ten relaxing days. It was so relaxing that I could hardly bestir myself to even take pictures, but I did manage a few.

My Littlest Sailor

If you look closely my littlest sailor has a bandaged left hand. He provided us with the most exciting moments of the vacation when he smashed his pinky finger in a door hinge while playing hide and go seek. He lost a fingernail, and gained 6 stitches. Ouch!

This morning we arrived back from a two day trip to Lewes, Delaware. Saturday was a gorgeous day on the beach, but it was overcast and rainy yesterday. I took some pictures at the pink house on the canal (if you've been to Lewes you've probably noticed it - it's really pink) and ortonized them. (All are clickable for a bigger image.)

On the fiber front I've been working on a Perfect Periwinkle Turtleneck (in limey green cottonease), and I dyed a few t-shirts and a little fabric. I'll try to take some pictures soon and post those.

Congratulations to all my buddies who won ribbons at the fair for their knitting!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cute Skirt

I bought the pattern and fabric for this skirt a long time ago and never got around to making it. Judy made a few and seeing her fabrics inspired me to finally make mine.

I think my 7-year old photographer did a pretty good job.

The pattern is Cute Skirts by Favorite Things. The mods I made are: shortening it about 5", lining it, and taking it in as per Judy's instructions on her blog. (And thank you Judy for letting me know how you know how you fixed yours!) The next one I make is going to be a smaller size so that I don't have to take it in in the back - the first one had too much fabric by and under the elastic there before I took it in. The skirt is very comfortable and I'm looking forward to making a few more.

Some of you may question why I'd bother to line a simple summer skirt. When I first started working after college most of us gals wore skirts, if not suits, every day. I made many (OK, most) of my clothes back then, and it became very obvious to me that lined skirts were more comfortable and looked better than wearing a slip. I've also found that when a cotton skirt or dress is lined that it doesn't wrinkle as much when you sit on it. It's an easy modification and IMHO makes the skirt more wearable.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Playing Hooky

You know how sometimes you're supposed to be doing something, like studying for a test, or meeting a deadline, but you just can't help yourself from sneaking away from time to time and indulging yourself a little? That's how this much (about 20") of my chevron scarf got finished. I figure that's about a third of way the way done, as at about 61" tall I don't think I need a 70"+ long scarf.

The yarn on the left I dyed at a class associated with last year's MD Sheep and Wool Festival - the very day I met the lovely and talented Coleen. The yarn on the right is Sophie's Toes Bouquet, dyed by the wonderfully versatile Emily. I've kind of lost my momentum, but I'm thinking it's going to make great travel knitting when we go on a trip later this summer.

Many thanks to all of you for your nice comments on my quilting. It was the most fun I've ever had quilting a quilt.

Now I'm off to hopefully finish up a cute skirt!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Well, I did finish my quilt in time for the deadline - just. It was an exhilarating, educational, and exhausting experience. Here are some detail pictures (all clickable for bigger versions).

And here is part of the back.

I began quilting it May 11, and finished June 12. While I was making the quilt I had so much to say, but no time to say it. After I finished it I couldn't remember anymore all the things I wanted to say.

My preschooler was finished with school for the year, so he was my constant companion while I made the quilt. He was such a little trooper, and spent hours drawing sea creatures, and eventually cutting them out. Here's one of his first attempts at drawing a squid. Don't be fooled by the shape of this creature's head and tentacles - you can tell it's a squid because it only has one eye (wink).

My husband went on numerous business trips this year up until about a week after the quilt was finished. He was gone enough that he started taking red eyes home just so he wouldn't miss another day of the week home. I attribute some of my burnout to that - it was getting harder to herd the children by myself to umpteen school/cub scout/sports activities. My belief in a higher power was once again validated one Sunday when I really needed to make progress on the quilt. My husband was out of town, it was raining all day, and low and behold there was a Pokemon marathon on TV - the only show that could keep all three boys occupied for any length of time. I did quite a bit of quilting that day.

OK, I could blab all day here, but basically I've been trying to get my house in better order and live in the moment for the last few weeks. Despite feeling some creative burnout I've worked a little bit on a few things in the last few weeks, so hopefully I'll post again soon and share them.

Stay cool!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Gettting There

The quilting continues at full force. I just might make the deadline for Houston! Here's a detail shot of a very small portion of the quilt.

My lollipop lilies are blooming, so I've taken a few pics of them too.

In a totally unrelated topic, please send good vibes this evening to the crew of space shuttle flight STS-117, and especially to Clay Anderson. We worked together a looong time ago for MOD (the Mission Operations Directorate), he as a NASA employee and I as a contractor. I'm so happy for him, and can't imagine a more motivated or energetic person to do the job. Go Clay!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Optimism and Enthusiasm

Following the lead of my children, that's how I'm trying to approach things right now.

From my first grader's seed journal. Besides the illustration, I really like how he thinks his seed "will look amasing".

I'm quilting, quilting, quilting or pondering the quilting. But I'm not ready to show any in progress pictures.

I've been tagged with the 7 random things meme by both Coleen and Jody, so what the heck I'll play.

1. I've ridden on an elephant.

2. I was a rock and roll D.J. on WUMC. I think they selected me because when the program director asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I said "Pat Benatar". Bear in mind that the year was 1980.

3. My family had two Weimaraners. The second one was photographed by William Wegman and as a puppy appeared as one of the "mice" in Wegman's book Cinderella. Our puppy also appeared in a short film by Wegman that was shown on Sesame Street.

4. My original college major was Horticulture. I was going to save the world by becoming a plant geneticist and breeding more productive varieties of grain. I changed to Ag Engineering after two years, but eventually accidentally became an Aerospace Engineer.

5. I use my left foot on the sewing machine foot control, and I never wear shoes to sew. That makes me more "one" with the machine. Seriously, you should try it - it really helps me control the speed of the machine better.

6. I've been paid to sing at someone's wedding.

7. As a teenager I babysat my way to Paris. I went on a short term exchange program to France and earned about 80% of the cost of the trip by babysitting - lots and lots of babysitting. After the trip my French improved tremendously, and at times I've even dreamt in French.

I'm going to play by Deb R.'s tagging rules of engagement. If you haven't been tagged yet for this meme, and want to be, consider yourself tagged and let me know you're playing.

Here are two token pictures. The light was so beautiful in the front yard the other day.

Looking across the street at a black locust in full bloom

Our orange azalea

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Good Things

I think I may officially be the very last blogger to talk about Maryland Sheep & Wool 2007. This will not be a picture heavy post - I tried to photograph the sheep and they were not cooperating, and the rest of the time I pretty much forgot to take pictures. But there will be lots of links.

Some Good Things:

Coleen's Watermelon carved as a sheep. Click the link - Jen took a great picture.

Coleen's miniature knitted barnyard, in the same picture as above. The picture doesn't do it justice. I've never had a hankering to knit barnyard animals before, but Coleen has a talent for it. The chicken is too precious for words.

The knitters with whom I hung:

Jody, Jen, Jolene, & Coleen. The people behind them are looking at sheep.

There were more of us, but the others - including Sarah, Stacey and her sister, and Theresa, were in the main barn at this time. I also saw Minty, and met Wendy, who may very well have scored the very first wheel of the day. I briefly met Jess who's starting up Ravelry, and admit unashamedly that my jaw dropped when I saw Elspeth's skirt. I really want a skirt like hers.

Stacey's socks are works of art. I wished we had t-shirts saying "I'm With Stacey's Socks." People were stopping her and taking pictures of them.

Speaking of t-shirts, Jody's husband John deserves some kind of knitterly medal of honor. He heroically stood in line for an hour to get each of us one of the coveted shirts. Here's a blurry pic of mine:

Stacey's talents include much more than knitting. I was on a quest to get some Sea Silk, and she found the only booth that seemed to have it. Someone (Sarah? Coleen?) called me to sound the alarm. Jolene scooped up the skeins in the colors I'd requested and held them for me until I made it to the booth. What team work! I'm still trying to decide what to make with my two skeins of ivory.

Then I came home, and there was light where there had been none.

My husband had started to open the chase to a new skylight above the stair landing. It's great! I highly recommend a skylight above any stairwell.

What a wonderful day! I don't make it to many quilting and knitting happenings, so when I do it's extra special to me, and everyone I went with made it even more so. Thanks gang!

Minty has always said nice things about my nature pics, so here's one for her - scotch broom in the front yard.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


That's what one of my old engineering buddies used to say he was doing when we'd find him sitting at his desk totally lost in thought. And that's kind of what I've been doing.

I took this during the 1st grade field trip to the National Zoo. It's representative of me during much of the last few weeks.

Just before Spring Break I realized that my major, huge, pieced quilt would not be finished in time to quilt before June. I've segued to Plan B.

I printed out 5 large strips of fabric to combine into one big design. I'm letting them sit another day or two before piecing them together, and in the meantime custom dyeing a border. Let me just say that it's hard to be me. In the first picture below you can see the border tryouts happening on the kitchen floor. It depicts numerous hand dyes of yore. Note the alphabet magnets on the refrigerator.

None of these gals made the squad! Custom dyeing commenced.

Here you see one of my dye studios (hah!)

And here's the other one. Regrettably both rooms must be shared with others.

It's interesting to look at these pictures and see how autumnal the fabrics look, because I don't think the quilt will look that way in the end. But that's how the borders shook out.

So that's the scoop. And of course I'm very much looking forward to spending some time Saturday with the knit girls at Maryland Sheep & Wool. If you're there and see me please say hi!