Sunday, January 29, 2012

Come on, February!

January is coming to an end, and I have no complaints concerning what I have accomplished this month. I took five quilts to Carol ( on Friday...

and picked up three. Consequently, I will be spending much of my time binding.

Saturday, I was able to spend some time sewing with a friend. We started talking about our unfinished projects. I happened to be at my machine, and behind me are several boxes full of things I haven't completed. I opened one and started pulling out blocks: five for one quilt, five for another, a quilt applique project, on and on. I opened another: paper-pieced project all cut out, and another, and another. I can't put words to the feeling I had as I kept discovering more and more....sort of angry, sick, disgusted. I called my 83 year old mother.

"Mom? You know those zillion projects that you have tucked in every space in your house that you're working through every day? (She laughs) This is the part of you that I inherited that I really don't like!" (She laughs harder) She responds giggling, "There's probably a lot more that you got from me that you don't like!" We both cracked up. In many ways we are very alike.

One project I have been toying with is a potential quilt I would call "Retro Razzle!" The colors remind me of when kitchen appliances became available in lime green, pumpkin orange, and cinnamon red. A blast to the past! I have no idea right now what will become of these twelve 18" squares but I'm excited to find out.

So with February around the corner, I made my list. I know that I will only finish a few and make a dent in some, but I'm ready for "Month Two" in my resolution countdown. I decided that I will put a check next to each one for each day that I invest any time on it, then cross it out and doodle happily if I complete it. We'll see what the list looks like in 28 days....haha...sounds like rehab :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What is it about a kitchen?

Since 1981, we have occupied seven homes. In every single one, if the kitchen was in bad shape and we could afford it, we renovated it. The children and I were talking the other day about this. The kitchen is and has always been the center of our home life. It is where we explore cuisines, share our troubles, joys, and successes, enjoy a good bottle of wine, and talk about our past, present, and futures. It has been a place of laughter and tears, food and water fights, canning and science experiments, welcoming babies and friends...and a place of creativity. Most of all, it is a place of memories.

We probably all have memories of favorite foods growing up. My fondest is apricot bars that my grandmother made at Thanksgiving and Christmas. As a very young girl, I remember being at her home for holidays. Everyone was socializing in the living room. I was in the dining room stealing apricot bars off the cookie platter and carefully rearranging everything so no one would notice.

One of many of my children's fondest memories of favorite food is sticky buns. Of course, this came up in the conversation. So this morning, I began to help them recollect. It had been a while.

Last night was the final Ribbon Quilt class. I forgot the cord to my machine, so I spent the evening cutting out pieces for a paper-pieced star and thoroughly enjoying what the other women had accomplished. First to share was Ann. After hanging her pieces on a design wall, there was an explosion of color and design.

Most of the ladies were either still constructing ribbons or beginning to decide how they wanted to pull everything together. Here is Beth's work...

Jorja's colors were so soothing and earthy. I can't wait to see what this becomes.

And finally, Mindy's ribbons. She had completed quite a lot of ribbons in both the warm and cool color families. She was thinking that she might even have enough for two separate projects. We all agreed to get together in a month or so and share our finished projects. That will be so exciting!

Well, the sticky buns were done, the children were anxiously waiting for them to cool off, so I went upstairs to contemplate my ribbon quilt.

I tend to dream about projects I'm working on. Do you? Often, I see the finished piece before I even start. I have learned that it pays off to follow these dream leads. I'm sure my head was just swimming with stripes after sewing ribbons for two weeks. Then I dreamed about stars and stripes and thought I would incorporate a star into my quilt. So, I sewed the star together, decided I liked the feel, and got out my trusty seam ripper. I separated the two halves of the quilt and will set the star in the middle. Here's what I have so far.

So those sticky buns????? This is what I discovered three hours later! Now they're only a memory.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Artist Marc Chagall said that "all colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites." At class last Wednesday, I was struck by the amazing diversity of color, hue, and pattern chosen by the women present....and the extraordinary and seemingly endless combinations that can be made from these with magnificent results. Colors are our greatest tools.

For those of us who sew, it could be argued that the seam ripper comes in at a close second. A friend of mine was teaching a beginner sewing class. A student made a mistake. Here was the perfect opportunity to teach the class about the seam ripper. I tried to remember when I first learned about this fabulous tool. I decided that I probably had one with my first rattle.

With all of my ribbons finally done....

I was ready to begin constructing my quilt. Enter the seam ripper! Yes, I did think it would be a breeze to cut strips and sew them together. Not so. I think I used my seam ripper more the other day than I have in several months. Nevertheless, at the end of a long day, this is where I ended. Who knows where I'll go from here. I do know that I have a lot of ribbon fabric left. I woke up the other morning thinking of "stars and stripes" so maybe I'll use up the rest and incorporate some stars into another wall hanging......maybe...

When I made blocks out of the Amy Butler fabric, I had 34 solid blocks and 36 nine-patch blocks. This quilt only used 24, so I can make another bed quilt and a baby quilt.

The past few days have been great for staying in and sewing, my windows revealing only damp gray clouds. Today, streams of sunlight are saturating my studio. It feels like a cleaning day...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rather typical day...

All of my days have a few things in common:
1. They are all rather hectic. I am usually rushing from one thing to the next.
2. There is never enough time to do what I think needs to be done.
3. They are all filled with struggles.
4. They are all equally filled with giggles and love!

Yesterday was a rather typical day:
Woke up and immediately brushed Mr. Darcy. He can only be approached with a brush and comb when he is semi-incoherent.

Shower and get ready for my day. Class to teach from 1-3 and a party to attend at 6. Taking focaccia and wine to the party. Get the dough started and make coffee.

Go upstairs and square all the blocks for the Amy Butler quilts while I drink my coffee. The quilts are now ready to assemble :) Make sure the children are at their desks finishing all the work they did not complete this week.

Go down and prep the focaccia for second rising. Clean kitchen. Make lunch!

Back upstairs. Prep class material. Go outside to get the snow off my car. Realize it is not is ice. Get off what I can. Back inside. Put focaccia in the oven, and ask Lydia to take it out in a 1/2 hour. I need to leave....running late. Can't get the car out. My kind neighbor helps :) Teach class. While at Cloth and Bobbin, pick up backing and batting for the next quilts, then go to Whole Foods and finally pick up wine. Go home and make dinner for the family. Go to the party....

Oh!! and almost get killed sliding on a patch of ice into Eagle Road....deep breath. Immediately call Abby and tell her to be extremely careful on her way to dance at the Wings game in Philly.
Come home and work on the ribbon quilt while the children watch an episode of Legend of the Seeker on Netflix. Hold Abby while she cries because the music skipped 15 seconds during the performance, and it messed up everyone on the dance team. A disaster for her! Have a cup of Night Night tea....collapse.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rainy Days...

Rainy days are great for sitting back, taking stock of what you've accomplished, and making some decisions about where you want to go from here. I recently discovered in my stash a bundle of eleven half yards of Amy Butler Midwest Modern fabric. At the moment, I'm thinking of making matching twin quilts. After doing all the calculations, I realized that I needed one more half yard and found a cute one at Cloth and Bobbin. So, this will be my current project.

Finishing some projects can be a bit embarrassing. In June of 2011, my mother was blessed with her first great-grandchild. My niece, Cybil, gave birth to a darling little boy. Cybil passionately loves water. She is an incredibly accomplished swimmer and surfer. She named her baby, Lake. He is now 7 months old and too big for the quilt I started last summer. Nevertheless, I finished it and plan to ship it to sunny California tomorrow.

I continue to have fun with the ribbon quilt. It's a meditative activity for me. Very simple....just one straight line after another with a startling outcome every time. Next class is tomorrow night. I'm looking forward to the challenge of discovering how all these fabrics will decide they want to go together :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012


We've all made resolutions for one New Year or another in our life...maybe most of them! We get off to a great start, and then what happens? One day, we wake up, and our best intentions are a distant memory. Then comes the guilt, the negative self-talk, and the embarrassment. Maybe we try again; maybe we give up. The truth about the success rate of resolutions haunts me a bit these days. I'm only two weeks in and wondering when I'm going to fizzle.

Yesterday, I was sitting with my brother telling him about my commitment to finish projects this year, and he said, "So really, how many projects do you have?" I paused, did a split-second inventory, and was horrified at the realization that a year is not even close to enough time to finish it all. All I could do was laugh.

Now, I think I need to tell you how I define unfinished:
1. I have several quilts blocks or part of a canvas already done.
2. I have a quilt pattern that I purchased but have never opened it. In my stash, I probably have everything I need to complete it. (I have a slew of these)
3. I had a idea, I purchased all of the fabric, and it's sitting in my closet.
4. The quilt top is done and has never been quilted.

When I broaden my definition to include projects I have but have never started, I see the really big picture. I could stay busy for years and only have to buy thread, needles, batting, and backing for quilts....maybe some Gesso and glue for my canvases.

I have 11 1/2 months to go for this resolution.....and I'm ready!

I finished the Paintstik pillow in time for the demonstration at Cloth and Bobbin yesterday. It was a lot of fun....

and I finished the second transparency quilt top!

Now, every once in a while, I need to take a class to keep my creative energy challenged. The class is called "Ribbon Quilts: Color and Fabric Fusion." My teacher is Sarah Bond, and the class is based on the work of Quilt Artist Nancy Crow. The class involves "making fabrics" by strip piecing solid and patterned fabrics using gradations of color, value, and size. After the pieced fabric constructions are finished, we will cut them and reconstruct them to make a final composition. Here is what I have so far. I am having a blast!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

"Raining Bliss!"

It's been a quiet Sunday morning. I have spent the last 3 hours in the kitchen doing one of my favorite things: cooking! There is no better way to start a day like this then with a batch of slow-roasted tomatoes. Plum tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, salt, fresh cracked pepper, and a pinch of sucanat in a 300 degree oven for at least 3 hours fills the house with the most wonderful aromas. These have become a staple in our home. Not only are they wonderful on top of a piece of multigrain baguette, but they find their way into sandwiches and wraps. Then, when the tomatoes are all gone, you are left with a delicious bowl of dipping oil. It's hard to beat!

My commitment to unfinished projects has spilled over into many aspects of my life already. I have a great collection of cookbooks and multitudes of cooking magazines that I can't bear to throw away. I have tried so few of the recipes contained in these that I have decided to spend more time in each one. This morning, I made a recipe from my latest issue of Vegetarian Times: Mushroom, green bean, and noodle soup with Mascarpone cheese. I sauteed the onions and mushrooms in pepperoncini olive oil to give the broth a nice bite. So delicious!

I also had a bag of sweet potatoes that had been sitting on my counter for the last week. I pulled Mollie Katzen's Enchanted Broccoli Forest off my shelf and searched the appendix for sweet potatoes. This is what I found: Sweet Potato Pie with Poppy Seed-Cheddar Crust. Wow! That sounded wonderful. How can you go wrong with brown sugar and cinnamon? It called for oranges, and I happened to have several organic Satsuma tangerines. They went in. I had no yogurt, so I used ricotta cheese in its place.

All I can say is that is that when my son, John, tasted everything, he exclaimed, "Oh my god, it's raining bliss!"

Friday, January 06, 2012

My bungalow

I live in a little bungalow. This is my second floor. It serves as my office, bedroom, studio, and classroom for three of the remaining four children (out of eleven) that are educated at home. The atmosphere is wonderful; It is bright, sunny, and the space is very open. I am fortunate to be able to work in the presence of my children and be available to them at all times. We are surrounded by the sounds of fingers on keyboards and my sewing machine. Music is rare, as we all have such varied taste that each chooses to listen to his/her own. The problem with earbuds is that if I have a question for any one of them, I end up screaming :(

This month, I had several projects that I needed to finish before I could play around with things that have been tucked away for months or even years. The next star for the block-of-the-month is done....

...and I wanted to finish this baby quilt for a possible class at the Cloth & Bobbin. Because the squares in this quilt range from very simple to quite complex, students could learn foundation piecing and work toward more difficult constructions as they go along.

I was thinking the other day about why I have so many unfinished projects. I came up with a few ideas:
1. Often, when I am beginning a project, I think to myself, "Since I am already doing all the planning, measuring, cutting, and sewing for one....I might as well make two." Well, about 11 years ago, I taught quilting to a wonderful group of homeschooled girls. Every square I taught them, I made five! Three of the quilts were just finished last year. One is in Chicago and was a gift for my 28 year old. One is here and was given to my 16 year old. The third is for my baby 12 year old, but I haven't finished the binding yet.
2. I am very much an in-the-moment person. This is often a negative character trait. I get very excited about things and dive in without thinking about the consequences. As a result, I have been known to over-extend myself. This trait lends itself beautifully to starting things endlessly.....and you know where that leads.
3. Growing up, my mother used to call me the "jack of all trades, master of none." I absolutely love learning new things. I guess I may tire of things relatively quickly. Even now, I need to have several projects going at once. I can work on one for only so long, and then I have to go to something else. Also, there are always new things calling to me to try. I met a mosaic artist....I wanted to try mosaics. A friend knit me an adorable hat....I want to learn to knit one myself.

Each of these play a part in the accumulation of "things," undone things that I am surrounded by. I try to be gentle with myself knowing that this process called growing up is just that, a process that never ever stops until you're dead. Who knows, maybe even then you keep learning.

The next unfinished project to tackle is a second transparency quilt. Yes, I decided to make two.
I'm making step at a time...

Monday, January 02, 2012

Off to a good start!

I am a chronic list maker. I believe my mother taught me from the beginning that almost everything can be solved with a list, every dilemma can be better understood, and every task more quickly accomplished if you first write it down. She taught me well. One list a day is never sufficient. It is always several. Of course, I started my New Year with a list.

I teach quilting at a "small but mighty" fabric store in Narberth, PA, called The Cloth and Bobbin. I am presently teaching a "block-of-the-month" for a quilt that I call "What Star Are You From?" Each month I make a sample block from another fabric combination so that at the end of the classes, I will have another quilt :) Yesterday I cut out all the pieces for the next block. Next class is on the 21rst.

I was also able to finish a quilt top yesterday. This is from Weeks Ringle's new book Transparency Quilts: 10 Modern Projects. My friend, Carol,, does all my machine quilting. She's having a 15% off sale until the end of January, so I am working hard to get a few quilts finished to take to her. Now all I need is the backing and batting for this one.

My other commitment for January is a PaintStik demonstration at the shop on the 14th. I want to have a few samples available. One of my quilts currently hanging in the shop has random red and blue squares embellished with gold PaintStiks,

but I want to finish this pillow. The center square was done with gold, silver, and bronze PaintStiks.

I wish everyday could be this productive, but it was, after all, a Sunday. Now the week has begun and will be full of overseeing the kids' schooling, dishes, cooking, laundry, etc. Oh, and the cat litter, my least favorite job, that I didn't clean yesterday :( Gotta go get that one off my list.