Quilt Gallery

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.

Friday, August 5, 2016


Mine is a family of bibliophiles. We return from most of our travels with at least one addition to our library, which now numbers over 2,100 volumes. One can travel vicariously by perusing books in our library, noting from the inscriptions where and when each was purchased, and often finding tucked in the pages some little travel momento, a boarding pass, a museum entrance ticket, or a cafe napkin, that once served as a bookmark.

Shops specializing in used books are particular favorites. You never know what you will find amid the labyrinths of teetering colorfully packed shelves. When visiting our daughters at school we've stopped in at Federal Street Books in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and always come away with treasures for our own library shelves.

Inside Federal Street Books, Greenfield, Massachusetts

I imagine it was from a shop very much like this one - albeit via a Google search - that I acquired my own copy of "The Cookie Tree," a book illustrated by my Uncle Blake and which I remembered so fondly from my childhood. You may recall from previous posts that I used the cookie tree image as inspiration for the appliqued center of a quilt.

Only after I'd put all the pieces together did I realize that the scrappy borders reminded me of the narrow aisles and crammed shelves at Federal Street Books. And like used books being passed from one owner to the next, many of the pieces in this quilt have been passed along from previous owners. It seemed natural to name this quilt "The Cookie Tree and Federal Street Books."

"The Cookie Tree and Federal Street Books" (machine pieces and quilted, 57"x77")

The book theme also makes this a perfect gift for my daughter, who has loved books from the time she was an infant. One of her first words was "book," though funnily enough she used it to refer to milk. Maybe she just thought that milk and books were similar because they both provided her with sustenance. Though I don't expect the quilt to provide sustenance, I do hope it will keep her warm at night and brighten the grey winter days she will soon face in Ithaca, New York.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Escape From the Texas Heat

When Austin's daily low temperature is eighty degrees and the high temperature reaches nearly one hundred every afternoon, it is a good idea to retreat to someplace much cooler, even if for just a weekend. Although it's a rather long trip from Austin, Calgary and the Canadian Rockies offered us a welcome respite for a couple days last month.

Arriving in Calgary on Friday just as the sun was setting, we had only a glimpse of the mountains to the west of town. Eager for our first hike of the summer, we set out early on Saturday morning for the hour and half drive up the Trans Canada Highway to Lake Louise in the midst of Banff National Park. It's a dramatic drive past seemingly endless stretches of deep-green forests with massive cliffs looming beyond.

We hiked along the shore of Lake Louise - it really is that color turquoise.

Lake Louise

At the head of the lake, where silt from the glaciers forms a delta, the color is even more intense.

We continued beyond the lake on the relatively gentle trail towards the Plain of Six Glaciers.

We stopped outside the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House to have our lunch,

Plain of the Six Glaciers Tea House

then continued on to the lookout to get closer views of the glaciers.

On the way down we heard a distant rumbling: it was an avalanche on the other side of the valley.

Rather than backtrack all the way to Lake Louise, we took the Highline trail to the diminutive, but scenic, Lake Agnes. The trail zig zags down a very steep slope!

Lake Agnes

Along the way we were treated to a nice snow storm.

Fortunately, we were prepared with rain coats and fleeces. I even had wool gloves!

Still, we welcomed the chance to stop at the Lake Agnes Tea House for a pot of hot tea and a plate of fresh tea biscuits.

On the way down we had this misty view of the Beehive.

Sunday dawned brighter and warmer,  perfect for a walking tour of Calgary. I especially enjoyed strolling along the Bow River, which runs along the north side of downtown, and crossing the dedicated pedestrian bridges.

At this time of year the gardens are in full bloom.

and make the many downtown plazas very pleasant.

It was a bit of a shock coming back to triple digit temperatures in Austin. I dealt with it by staying inside in the air-conditioning as much as possible. That's how I finally finished this exploding star quilt. 

I have to confess that I found parts of this quilt difficult. I strip pieced the star, using many pins to ensure the points lined up nicely and handled the the fabric carefully to avoid the distortion to which its many bias edges made it susceptible. In spite of these precautions, the inset white pieces between the points of the star were hard to make lie flat. 

And then there were the randomly placed broken pieces. I sewed white borders around each one to make blocks, sewed the blocks into strips, then added the strips to complete the top. It seemed like a good idea, but again I had trouble making it all lie flat. I made a few tucks to flatten it out a bit and then, running out of patience, loaded it onto the long arm and hoped for the best. Amazing! It turned out flat! Perhaps that has to do with the high density quilting, especially of the background. I alternated wavy lines and squiggles, all radiating from the center to accentuate the sense of movement.

I think it also helped that I used two layers of batting, originally chosen to ensure that the geese print on a vibrant blue ground (organic cotton by Cloud 9) that my daughter chose for the backing didn't show through to the front. It's quite a heavy quilt, but will be perfect for her to use during cold New England winters.

Although I had moments when I thought I had a disaster on my hands, I'm glad I soldiered on to finish this quilt. I think it's a very fun piece. The front is lively and the silly geese on the back can't help but make me smile.

I have to thank Susan Rubino and Chris Wenz at Over the Top Quilting Studio for their help in building my confidence and skills on the long arm machine. I have taken several classes at their well-outfitted studio and also benefited from their kind encouragement and excellent advice. If you are in central Texas and interested in using a long arm machine for quilting, I highly recommend you visit them. 

Thanks also to the folks at The Cloth Pocket, Austin's best little quilt shop, for carrying such a great selection of beautiful fabric, including all the solids for the quilt top and the geese backing fabric.