Quilt Gallery

Friday, December 28, 2018

Holiday Visit to New Hampshire

New Hampshire in wintertime reminds me of the pictures on Christmas cards we used to get when I was a child: white clapboard buildings decorated with red-ribboned wreaths, and blankets of snow everywhere.

During a visit to family in New London, New Hampshire, the week before Christmas we were treated to all the classic scenes. We got our share of bracing fresh air by helping to collect wood for the fire,

We ventured into town to take in a small art exhibit at Colby-Sawyer College: “Echoes: Selections of Art from the College’s Permanent Collection.” I particularly liked this Picasso lithograph for its exuberant color and for how its few simple lines so perfectly portray the action.

But mostly it was a perfectly quiet few days, filled with the good company of family, warm fires, and leisurely meals. And since it was the holidays, the exchange of a few gifts. Knowing that chickens and roosters were a bit of a theme in our hosts' home, I made this cross-stitch for their Christmas present. You can find a link to the design here.

This is the first embroidery I've done in a while and it reminded me how much I enjoy this kind of needlework. Maybe I'll do some more in 2019. Wishing everyone a very happy new year!

Friday, November 9, 2018


Vibrant. That is the best word I can think of to describe Copenhagen, encompassing both the people and the place as I saw it during a visit earlier this year.

We were lucky to visit during a spell of unusually warm early summer weather, when locals and visitors alike were taking full advantage of long, sunny days to stroll in the gardens,

cycle along the ubiquitous and busy bike paths and bike lanes,

and even to swim in the one many areas roped off as pools. I was awakened in the early hours one morning by laughing and splashing just outside our waterfront hotel room. (Without air conditioning, it was necessary to keep the windows open at night). Rather than being annoyed at the disruption, I took vicarious pleasure in the evident delight of two people reveling in the simple joy of summer.

We didn't swim ourselves, but we did stroll through the Botanical Gardens,

and wandered around Kongen's Have, or King's Garden. Both are lovely places to take in at your leisure.

While in the Kongen's Have, I visited the Rosenborg Castle. Dating from the early 1600s and built in the Flemish Renaissance style,

it now houses the Royal Collections, which include centuries of Danish artifacts and decorative arts, as well as the crown jewels. Here is King Christian IV's crown.

With such beautiful weather, we spent as much time outdoors as possible, wandering around the city, which is compact enough that you can reach most places on foot. Stepping out of our hotel we walked along the waterfront past the old sailing vessels and the very modern and eye-catching opera house,

through the pentagonal 17th century Kastellet, apparently one of the best preserved fortresses in northern Europe.  Though it still has some military uses, it is now mostly used as a public park. 

We walked all the way to the piers where cruise ships dock from where we could see out to the Oresund, the straight between Denmark and Sweden.

On the way back we stopped at the Amalienborg, current home of the Danish royal family, and happened to catch the changing of the guard . Unlike at Buckingham Palace in London, only a handful of other people were there to watch along with us, and no fence separates viewers from the action.

It was fun just to walk the city streets too, scented with stunning roses that seemed to grow everywhere.

Along the way we discovered these orangy yellow row houses with green window frames and red shutters. It turns out they are the Nyborder Old Naval Barracks and were built for the Royal Danish Navy in 1641.

Obviously they have been updated, as they continue to be occupied today.

Another popular place we happened upon while out walking was the Church of Our Saviour, famous for the outdoor staircase on the upper part of its round spire.

Naturally we climbed to the top. The staircase gets progressively narrower as you ascend, until you can't go any farther.

We were rewarded with magnificent views in every direction.

One of the most popular tourist destinations is Nyhavn, or New Harbor, (though the "New" part is relative since it was originally redeveloped in the 17th century). This stretch of colorful old buildings along a canal attracts throngs of visitors to its restaurants and bars which spill out onto the pavement. It is also the starting point for boat tours of the city,

and a spot for hundreds of "love locks."

While on this trip my only needlework was hand-piecing nine patch blocks for a quilt top. I realized that the vibrant reds of this top reminded me of Copenhagen rooftops, the yellows of the old barracks,  and the blues (though you can't really see them in these photos) of the water, so I have decided to call this now completed double nine patch top "Sunny Days in Copenhagen."

Now I just need to decide how to quilt it.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Fall Fun in Central Texas

Now that I've been home in Austin for a bit I've had a chance to attend a couple of big local events with my mother, who is new to Texas. It's been a fun way to spend time together, and a great a way to show her some of what Texas has to offer. Last Friday we attended the Austin Area Quilt Guild show and today we went to the Round Top Antiques Fair.

The Austin Area Quilt Guild puts on their show every other year, displaying quilts made by their own guild members. There was something for everyone: pieced quilts and appliqué quilts, large quilts and small quilts, those made by professionals and those made by novices. Overall they fell more to the traditional end of the spectrum than to the modern end. (We'll get to see a lot of the latter in 2020 when QuiltCon returns to Austin!) And quite a few of them were made from either kits or from purchased patterns. Here are a few that caught my eye. This star quilt, called "While the Mice are Away, the Cats Will Play," was paper-pieced by Susan LaCroix from a kit by Tula Pink. I like it for its unrestrained use of color, and of course the cats in it are cute, though they are too small to see in this photo.

"Jack's Woodland" by Kitty Miller, though made in a very traditional design, has a simple, modern sensibility. I also like the unusual palette of greens and browns.

Finally, "Winding Ways" by Laura Espenschield stood out for its beautiful muted fabrics, which she purchased in Tokyo.

I love how the pattern seems to have so much motion in it. And look at how precise the piecing it! With curves, no less! A beautiful design, beautifully executed.

In addition to the quilts on display, the quilt show has a large vendor area where I chatted with a couple local quilters/fabric dyers including Malka Dubrawsky of A Stitch in Dye and purchased some of their amazing hand dyed fabrics to add to my collection. 

After seeing so many completed quilts at the show, I was eager to make some progress on my own quilts and headed straight to my sewing room when I got home. I've completed the third row of Sea Days and have only four left to complete the entire top. The "love" fabric in the bottom right is one I bought from Malka at the last quilt show.

I've also sewn up a stack of big blocks using little nine patch blocks I hand pieced during my travels this year.  

I said that the quilt show was a big event. Well, the Round Top Antiques Fair is enormous. Actually, it's more than just Round Top these days, and it is more than just antiques. There are miles of tents, barns, sheds and meadows along Route 237 from Warrenton to Round Top to Carmine brimming with antiques, vintage wares, things pretending to be antiques, and brand new merchandise. 

I wasn't shopping for anything in particular, but couldn't resist this tiny chest, in which I plan to store spools of thread and lots of the little things that never seem to have a proper home in my sewing room. 

I also picked up the little chair that my grandmother's doll is sitting on. My grandmother was born in 1900, so my best guess is that the doll dates from about 1905.

Rolling green hills and majestic live oaks along Route 237 make for a beautiful setting. It's worth stopping to enjoy the scenery, especially in those few spots untouched by the shopping frenzy, including St. Martins, which claims to be the worlds smallest Catholic church.

Tips for Travelers to Round Top:

Some venues charge admission, others don't. The ones that do tend to have high quality antiques, so they are definitely worth visiting.

Go to the largely un-airconditioned Marburger Farms first, when it is cooler. Then go to The Big Red Barn (site of The Original Round Top Antiques Fair) and enjoy their cool air no matter how hot it is outside.

Talk to people. Everyone, buyers and sellers alike, is happy to be there and loves to share what they know.

The fried pies at Farmhouse Cafe and Bakery are really good! But certainly big enough to share 
among two or three people.

Wear comfortable shoes and bring a hat. 

Read this article in Texas Monthly for more info on the scene along Route 237.

If you miss the event this weekend, you'll have another chance again in the spring. Also, more and more shops are open year round so you can enjoy the scenery and at least some of the shopping without the crowds.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Great White Sharks at Guadalupe Island

Spontaneous decisions sometimes turn into the most thrilling of adventures. Several weeks ago I was presented with a last minute chance to visit the great white sharks of Guadalupe Island, Mexico, and after hesitating for a couple of days, jumped at the opportunity. Wow! Guadalupe Island lived up to its reputation as the world's best spot for observing these amazing creatures.

We boarded the Nautilus Explorer in Ensenada, Mexico, in the evening and spent the night and most of the following day heading south. The Explorer, a purpose-built dive boat, was our home for five nights,

offering excellent dive facilities,

comfortable beds, delicious and plentiful food, and spacious common areas for sharing our daily shark tales.

Once at Guadalupe Island, we were so eager to see sharks that many of us were on deck before sunup as the crew prepared cages for us and tuna for the sharks.

My excitement rose along with the sun.

After squirming into my wetsuit, getting fitted with over 30 pounds of weights, and adjusting my mask and regulator, I slipped into one of the surface cages. It didn't take long for the first shark to appear. Though they came close to the cages,

they were far more interested in the tuna then in us.

They weren't interested in mackerel either, though you might not guess it from some of the mackerels' expressions. We all got a laugh out of these.

I also took several turns in the submersible cages. These swing out from the ship and are lowered 25 or 30 feet, 

giving divers a different perspective on the action. Rather than lunging for food, as at the surface, at this depth the sharks serenely glided by. 

A few people had underwater housings for DSLRs and took some truly stunning photos. 

Not willing to make the investment myself, I used a GoPro for video (from which I can capture still images),

and the little Fujifilm point and shoot I bought earlier in the summer for my climb up the Grand Teton. They didn't give me the control or the crispness of images I am accustomed to with my DSLR, but I'm still happy with the results. One advantage of using these simple cameras is that I didn't spend time fiddling with settings.

Watching sharks from the boat deck was every bit as exciting as seeing them from the water. (I used my DSLR for these photos). Sometimes they skimmed close enough to the surface that their dorsal and caudal fins ominously sliced through the water.

Sometimes they grabbed for tuna at the last moment.

And sometimes they would shoot up from the depths, launching themselves almost entirely out of the water.

After watching the sharks for a while I became more aware of them as individuals, taking note of distinctive  markings and scars to distinguish one from the next. By comparing photos to a printed catalog of known sharks, I was able to put names to at least a few. This male with the rope around his torso was easy. He is Ropey.

We think this male is Rhett.

There were lots of interesting characters aboard the ship too. From our captain, TJ, who is an excellent wrangler,

to Hector, my favorite "Blueberry" dive master.

They and the rest of the crew of the Nautilus were wonderful hosts, keeping us safe, well entertained and well fed.

I must say that I also enjoyed the quiet, contemplative sea days getting to and from Guadalupe Island.

Sparkling blue waters reminded me of the quilt that I began work on many months ago.

Now I know what to call it: Sea Days. And having finally worked out an efficient procedure to cut and assemble the blocks, I hope to complete the remaining five rows reasonably quickly.

Tips for travelers
  • You don't need to be a certified diver to enjoy this trip. Anyone who is comfortable in the water  and breathing through a regulator can go in the surface cages, which is where you'll see the most action anyway.
  • The water is cold. Choose a 7mm wet suit, plus booties and hood.
  • Despite being billed as waterproof, my GoPro had some hiccups underwater, especially at depths below 10 or 15 feet. Once it stopped working altogether and I couldn't unfreeze it until I took out and replaced the battery. Another time I was able to reset it while underwater by turning it off and then on again.
  • Be prepared for rough water between Ensenada and Guadalupe Island.
  • I booked this trip through Cheeseman's Ecology Safaris. They helped with some of the logistics for me and as they always do, provided a great trip. They won't be doing this again for a couple of years, but you can book directly with Nautilus