Quilt Gallery

Friday, January 6, 2017

Late Fall in London

Short days and high chances for rainy weather might suggest that late fall is a bad time of year to visit London. Because most people think that is the case, it turns out to be a great time to visit. Popular tourist destinations are relatively quiet and lines are short or nonexistent.

This includes Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece, St. Paul's Cathedral.

After exploring the main floor  and the crypt we headed for the dome. Emerging from the dizzying spiral staircase, we were rewarded with a dazzling view of the city,

View of the Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge from St. Paul's Cathedral dome

and a rainbow.

On another day we stopped in at the Victoria and Albert Museum, often referred to as the V & A,

to take in the exhibit "Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery." If you are in London and have an hour or so to spare, I highly recommend it. The "Opus Anglicanum" or "English Work" pieces on display date from the 12th to 15th centuries and represent largely religious scenes and symbols. Every one of them is exquisite in design and execution, displaying remarkably fine detail and extraordinary craftsmanship. I found the workmanship all the more astonishing considering the time period in which they were made. I have yet to see current work, machine or hand made, that rivals the fineness of these pieces. They are truly treasures. Unfortunately, you will have to take my word for it, since photography was not permitted in the exhibit.

Inspired by the beautiful work, I picked up a little embroidery kit at the gift shop. Like many of the pieces in the exhibit, it relies heavily on gold thread.

We also strolled through the top floor exhibit of ceramics, which was set off nicely by bright afternoon sunshine streaming in through big windows.

I found the knit pattern on this jam pot and teapot amusing.

Swedish ceramics, designed by Hertha Bengston, 1949, made by Rorstrand Earthenware

My own knitting of late has included both knit and purl stitches, as in this pair of knee-high ribbed socks I made for my husband for Christmas.

Ribbed socks, made with Cascade Heritage Sock Yarn (75% Merino superwash/25% nylon)

I worked them using the two-at-a-time toe-up method so that when I finished the last round all I had to do was bind off and work in one piece of yarn on each sock. The best feature of this method is knowing that both socks will be exactly the same size.

Wishing you all the best in 2017! And that your socks finish at the same size and survive trips through the washer in complete pairs!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Best of 2016

This morning I stumbled into a little blog party celebrating the best of 2016, hosted by Meadow Mist Designs. My contribution to the festivities are the five quilts I completed this year.

The first one is the Exploding Star quilt I made for my daughter. On Facebook it received thousands of likes and hundreds of comments and is therefore, by far, the most popular quilt I have ever made. For those of you new to my blog, note that it is about travel as much as it is about needlework, so you'll have to scroll to the bottom of most posts to see the quilt or other needlework.

Tied for first is The Cookie Tree and Federal Street Books quilt I made for my other daughter. Very different from the star, but equally fun.

Third is my big Compass Stars quilt. I'm just thrilled that it is finally finished after spending many years in my collection of "Works in Progress."

Fourth is Urban Cowboy, the quilt I made for my niece's son, combining shirt's from the baby's grandfather with western themed prints.

Finally I have my bow tie quilt which came from participating in Barb Vedder's 2015 block swap.

I'm looking forward to a productive 2017. I have two quilts in early stages of hand-quilting, a stack of broken dishes blocks from Barb Vedder's 2016 block swap, a nearly completed set of blocks from  Barbara Brackman's Westering Women block of the month project, and several collections of fabric set aside for various quilts. And then there are the knitting projects. And the embroidery projects.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

Of all the year's holidays, Christmas is, of course, the one most associated with the giving of gifts. My favorites to give are ones I have made myself. This year I made these five little fabric baskets for the wonderful people I work with.

It was a lot of fun to pick a different set of fabric for each one (and made me appreciate having a nice stash from which to choose). They measure about six inches wide by three inches deep by four inch high, not including the handles. The insides are lined with a single fabric.

I think they are a fun way to wrap small gifts, in this case homemade butter cookies. After the recipients have enjoyed the cookies, they can use the baskets as handy catch alls. You can find step by step instructions for making these on the Pink Penguin blog.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! And for those who like a white Christmas, I wish you many inches of the beautiful, fluffy stuff!


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Urban Cowboy

I just finished this little quilt for my niece's baby son, whose nursery is decorated in a cowboy theme. I used mostly old dress shirts from my brother (the baby's grandfather) and my husband to make the center.

I had enough western themed bits and pieces to make a dark border,

and found these horse fabrics for the back in my stash. I quilted it in a grid pattern on my long arm machine, using the channel lock feature to keep the lines straight. After I quilted the horizontal lines, I turned the whole piece ninety degrees and quilted the vertical lines.

I've named the quilt "Urban Cowboy," in reference to the shirtings which spent most of their first career in city office buildings and, of course, for the cowboy themed prints on the border and the back.

One doesn't see cowboys every day in Austin, but in the summertime, you don't have to go too far to find a few. Nearby small towns host rodeos, which offer action-packed evenings of calf roping, bull-riding, bronc-riding and more. This group was awaiting the start of Wimberley's July 4th rodeo a couple of years ago. I love the nonchalant poses!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Autumn Fun in Western Massachusetts

This year, once again, I spent almost a week in New England at the peak of fall foliage season. On our first afternoon we made a quick stop in Historic Deerfield, Massachusetts. It was too late to tour any of the old houses, so we strolled along the main street and enjoyed trees and old barns glowing in late afternoon light.

The following day we spent a few hours paddling along the Connecticut River,

on a perfect cool and sunny morning.

Along this stretch the trees were just beginning to change color.

Although we have been visiting the Pioneer Valley area regularly for six years now, we continue to discover new places. This time it was the Montague Mill on the Sawmill River. We had a delicious dinner at the very cosy Alvah Stone, where the offerings are described as creative, ingredient-focused American food. On sunny days, you can sit outdoors and enjoy the waterfall along with your meal.

We returned to Montague the following day to explore the mill's other establishments, including the Bookmill, whose tag line is "Books you don't need in a place you can't find."

Exposed beams, creaky wooden floors, narrow staircases and over-flowing shelves all draw you in and invite exploration.

Comfy chairs and tables encourage you to stay a while.

We managed to fill an entire large shopping bag, though it only set us back about $80. My favorite find was this book, "A Jewel in New England," by Phil Billitz, about nearby Shelburne Falls. It is a simple book, combining inspirational quotations with terrific photos of the eminently photogenic Shelburne Falls. I don't usually go for the former, but Phil has managed to choose ones I really like. For example, and apropos of this post, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers," attributed to L. M. Montgomery. Regular readers may remember that I wrote about Shelburne Falls a couple years ago here, so it shouldn't be surprising that I like this particular volume.

Having worked up a good appetite, we stepped right from the bookstore into The Lady Killigrew cafe and pub for tasty grilled cheddar and tomato sandwiches. It was the perfect day to savor our sandwiches and our newly acquired books at one of the outdoor tables.

Somehow I didn't manage to get any good pictures of the fall colors on this trip, so instead I 'll share my finally completed compass star quilt, which includes a lot of fall colors. It is actually square, but you can't see the top part because it is hanging over the wall.

I found the "blazing star" block pattern in Jinny Beyer's book, "The Quilter's Album of Blocks and Borders, though I think it looks more like the design you would see on a compass, so I call it a "compass star. "

I pieced this entirely by hand and intended to quilt it by hand too, but decided against doing so because I realized that it would be tedious going, especially in the corners where sixteen pieces of fabric are joined together. Instead I put it on my long arm machine and completed the quilting in a few hours time. I kept the quilting of the stars simple and did the white borders with a pattern that completely fills the space. Unconventional, but it seemed more interesting than the usual feathers.

I don't recall when I started this quilt, but it was at least twelve years ago. I am delighted that it has moved from the "work in progress" category to the "finished" category, and though it's not my favorite quilt, it's done and I will be sure to enjoy it over the years to come. And I will certainly remember all the lessons in hand-piecing that I learned along the way.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bow Ties and Butterflies and Broken Dishes

I am finally back with a few quilting tidbits. The first is the quilt I made with bow tie blocks from last year's swap organized by Barb Vedder over at Fun With Barb.

I'm glad I chose the modern version for the swap as the cheery colors will nicely brighten my basement sewing room. While making the swap blocks I was also sewing scraps into broken dishes blocks. At the time it didn't occur to me that I might use them together, but the bow ties ended up being perfect for the border. Since it's a busy quilt I kept the quilting to a simple zig zag pattern, not unlike what you might see on the big quilts movers use to wrap furniture, but on a bigger scale.

As I was scrolling through my photos for this post it occurred to me that my arrangement of bow ties makes then look a little like butterflies. Or maybe it was just the power of suggestion since a bunch of recent photos of butterflies popped up too. My favorite fall wildflower, Liatris, commonly known as gayfeather, has been growing profusely this year. It is clearly also favored by butterflies. Happy butterfly season!

Pipevine swallowtail on gayfeather

Southern dogface on gayfeather

Back to quilting. Now that bow tie quilt is about done, I am ready to receive this year's batch of swap blocks (in the broken dishes pattern!), which Barb promises are now in the mail. Here are my blocks just before I mailed them off to Barb. I'm eager to see what I get in return.

Finally, here is where I have gotten to on my little hand-pieced scrap quilt which I have been hand quilting in spare moments while at home.

I'm still not sure what I will put in the solid squares, but I'm leaning towards some sort of floral motif from my summer travels in China.

Friday, September 30, 2016

In Praise of Good Boots and Wool Socks

I am a hiking wimp when it comes to my feet. If I expect to hike more than a couple of miles, I wear boots. Not just any boots, but real old-fashioned leather hiking boots with Vibram soles. When I purchased my current pair a couple of years ago the salesman kept asking if I was sure I wanted this particular pair of boots and insisted on showing me a number of light weight pairs, mostly with some sort of woven fabric top. I dismissed them all, and I'm glad of it. Yes, these boots are heavier than newer types of boots, but they have many advantages that easily make up for the weight.

Vibram soles protect my feet from all the rocks on the trail and offer really good traction for boulder-hopping, even when wet. The hard toes of the boots, rather than my own toes, take the beating when I inevitably, and surprisingly frequently, hit my toes on rocks. The leather uppers keep water and dust out. I've noticed on boots with woven uppers that dust eventually sifts through. Ugh! I hate the feeling of dirt in between my toes!

Here is what my Asolo's looked like before my first hike, all nice and shiny.

Here is what they look like after a year and a half worth of hikes, including a number this past summer on dry and dusty trails in Grand Teton National Park.

I pair them with wool socks, which is absolutely critical to the health and comfort of my feet. For shorter hikes I sometimes wear socks of my own making, such as these orange ones, which I posted about here back in 2012 .

Tuscany socks, pattern by Melissa Morgan-Oakes

For longer hikes I swear by Smartwool socks, which have a finer gauge than anything I could knit myself. I have tried other brands of wool socks, but only Smartwool keeps my feet blister-free on fifteen plus mile hikes. Definitely worth the extra expense.

If you've never been to Grand Teton National Park, I highly recommend a visit. It was unusual this year due to forest fires (mostly caused by lightning strikes) which made the air smoky at times, depending on how the wind was blowing. Here is a photo of one of the early season fires east of Jackson Hole.

The Sleeping Indian, the moon, and smoke at sunset

And here is view of the Teton range on a particularly smoky evening.

Smoky sunset in Grand Teton National Park

In spite of the fires, we enjoyed some spectacular hikes. One day we made a loop from the top of the tram down to Marion Lake, to the Teton Crest Trail and over Fox Creek Pass, and eventually down Death Canyon to the Lawrence Rockefeller Preserve. I love the gentle slopes on the west side of the range and the expansive views of the high peaks to the north.

Along the Teton Crest Trail

For a shorter hike we went to Taggert Lake. With the Grand looming up in the background, it is a popular destination for swimmers and picnickers on hot summer days.

Taggert Lake

If you're looking for a greater challenge and a place to get away from other hikers, you can head up Hanging Canyon to Ramshead Lake and Lake of the Crags. Though the trail is not marked on official park maps and is not maintained by the park service, it is well-developed, albeit steep in places, and easily followed. Interested hikers can find directions here. The appropriately named Rock of Ages dominates the west end of the canyon, giving it a cathedral-like quality.

Lake of the Crags on a smoky afternoon

To get back to the knitting theme, here is a lace tank that I recently completed using a pattern by Mari Tobita from the Spring/Summer 2016 edition of VogueKnitting. I couldn't find the cashmere/linen blend called for so chose hand-dyed Euroflax Sportweight Linen Layers by Prism Yarn. It's been a great piece to wear in the still-warm September days here in Texas.

Lace tank

I'll be back soon with images from several quilting projects that I've been working on lately.