Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year..

"Today isn't real! Do whatever you want."

This morning, a friend posted this on her Facebook. After all, today only happens once every 1460 days. So, maybe I can ignore it. Ok, no school today!

Today, we will prepare for my daughter and my only grandchild to arrive from the west coast. I will make banana bread, prepare wasabi sesame crusted salmon for dinner, and have a long overdue visit with an old friend. For a good part of the day, the deep recesses of my mind will be pondering my plans for the month of March. To be realistic, it's going to be very full. Visits from two of my out-of-state children, a class to teach, quilt group with my lady friends, and the opening of Art Quilt Elements 2012.

Looking back on February, I am pleased with what I accomplished. 
-Bound 5 quilts
-Finished 2 quilt tops 
-Took 2 tops to be quilted
-1 pillowcase for my daughter
-Finished twelve bamboo paintstik panels
-Started the "Overlapped Mountain" quilt
-Continued working on 3 other quilts

My plan for March is to simply keep doing what I'm doing. When I have time, I work (play). That's it. It is also time to prepare my taxes, and I have wedding invitations to work on for my son's wedding this summer...more on that later.

Here is the first panel of the "Overlapped Mountain" blocks. There are 3 here, I have 2 others done, and 3 to go. Then I get to mull over ideas for the center square.

Here are the bamboo Paintstik panels. There are 12 of them. At the moments, I'm thinking about a set of placemats.

I think the most exciting thing about welcoming March is that I will go into my closet and pick another pile of something from my stash for a new project.....Happy Leap Year :)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Late February...

You know that feeling you have after a wonderful meal...full and content? That's how I am feeling as February quickly comes to a close. I finished the "Metro Goes Au Naturel" quilt, prepared the backing, and am ready to take it to the quilter. When the sun comes through my windows, it tends to drown out the true colors of my photos. This quilt is full of incredibly rich beiges, cool greys, and expresso browns set in black.

Here are the final borders...

Although I really don't want to buy more fabric and start new projects other than from my stash, I realistically admit that there will be times when I wimp out and buy something I have become visually attached to. One of the new Westminster fabrics that Cloth and Bobbin got in recently was irresistible to me. I found three coordinating fabrics and came home ready to dig into one of my new books called Japanese Taupe Quilts.

This book has patterns and instructions for 125 9" quilt blocks including 65 patchwork blocks, 40 applique blocks, and 20 combined technique blocks. Crazy, but I've toyed with the idea of working through the book one block per week which would only take me a little less than 2 1/2 years....but think of what I would learn in the process!

The first block I have completed with this fabric is called the "Overlapped Mountain." I think it stands beautifully on its own, but when you have a row of them, the interlocking nature of the block is really fabulous.

As of this moment, my thoughts are to make eight of these blocks set around a single block in the center....maybe applique? We'll see...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


The weather is unseasonably warm, my crocuses are in bloom, and we have had too little snow to even speak of it. I am not a lover of winter, but it would have been nice to have at least one good snowfall so the kids could have a snowball fight or build an igloo. Maybe it's not too late to be surprised with a significant snow storm...the kind that sends people frantically rushing to the supermarket for batteries and candles, schools close, and even the plows can't keep up with the accumulation. I'm up for it :)

I really don't like waste. If you spent any amount of time at my house, you would catch me eating the crust off someone's plate before I put it in the sink, the last two forkfuls of pasta, or scraping the plates into a small bowl for tomorrow's lunch. Disgusting? Maybe..but I do stay far away from soggy cereal. I have my limits.

We keep quite a lot of fruit around at all times, clearly more than we eat because I am regularly making banana bread with the bananas that are too brown for anyone to go near. This morning, I decided it was time to deal with the bowl of apples that had been sitting around long enough to be too soft for anyone to enjoy. Applesauce time!

Many, many years ago, our family lived near an orchard. All summer long, we would go pick berries, apples, and cherries to can. The children and I would all sit around our large farm table, each with a cutting board, knife, and bowl, and we would settle in to a long day of prepping. These were good days....great memories. Today the smell of apples cooking filled the house. When they were soft enough to mash, I turned off the stove and ran to the store for fresh raspberries. When I got home, into the pot they went with a touch of honey. Out came the masher....and then the children came with cups and spoons to have a taste of warm raspberry applesauce.

Although I have a quilt that I really need to bind, I got myself into working on this quilt and have been unable to stop. I make excuses like...I don't want to change the thread in my machine. However, the truth is, when I get into that zone, that place where I am totally committed to a project, enjoying it, and want to see it through to completion, there's pretty much nothing that gets in my way. The "Metro Goes Au Naturel" has been like this. I have a few more borders to go, and then I'm done. Then...bind the BQ quilt (pattern by Maple Island Quilts) and finish the "Rosehip" quilt.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Teaching has its ups and downs, for sure. There are days when everyone is struggling with something. Frustration fills the air. Other days, everyone seems to be floating along, no bumps, smooth sailing. Then there are those magnificent days when "a light goes on." Something that had eluded a student all of a sudden makes sense. They got it! Wednesday night was one of those classes. I was happy. They were happy. Yay!

This was the "half-way" class. Twelve blocks in all....six done. So, we had wine and cookies...chocolate, of course, in celebration. The women in my class gave me permission to photograph the blocks they have completed. Some didn't have all their blocks with them. Here's the show and tell...






Sometimes, when I go into my closet where I store my stash, I feel like a child, closing my eyes, reaching into a bag, and pulling out a surprise. Sometimes, it's like playing "eeny, meeny, miny, moe." So much fun! After I had completed the Amy Butler quilts (two twins and a baby quilt), I decided to pull something out of my stash to work on. Here's what I chose.

The collection is from Marcus Fabrics and is called "Metro Goes Au Naturel," designed by Michele D'Amore. 

I love to have a new project going on from my stash along with working on an unfinished project. It keeps me excited about what I'm doing...keeps me engaged in life!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cloth & Bobbin

I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and have always thought that Narberth is the most charming town on the Main Line. So, it is not surprising at all that in Narberth you will find the most wonderful "small but mighty" fabric shop for crafters, quilters, and seamstresses alike. From the sunny yellow storefront to the owner's cheerful hello when you walk in the door, visiting Cloth & Bobbin ( always, without exception, makes my day better.

The owner, Johanna Hertz, often posts pictures of new fabric lines she has just received on the store's Facebook. I commented on one of the most recent pictures with....

Holly Z. Perry This is not good....they are so beautiful. Somebody stop me :)
Yesterday at 2:58pm · 

These gorgeous fabrics are part of the Benedictus Collection designed by the Victoria and Albert Museum for Westminster Fabrics. 

"Benedictus is a beautiful collection of Art Deco textile designs. These designs have been recreated from Edouard Benedictus` beautiful albums of textile and wallpaper designs held at the V&A. Benedictus was a talented man, not only an artist and textile designer but he was a writer, bookbinder and the chemist who discovered safety glass in 1903."

So, as I drool, my mind is churning with ideas for this fabric. It is only a matter of time.

The second line, also from Westminster Fabrics, is a collection of abstract geometric florals by UK designer, Dan Bennett, called Cosmos.

Without question, the most difficult part of visiting Cloth & Bobbin is leaving without spending all of your money :) It is simply eye-candy! Johanna has a remarkable knack for filling her modest space with a wonderful variety of fabrics and notions. The store also offers classes for the beginner, such as "Getting to Know Your Sewing Machine," classes for seamstresses who want to make skirts or pajama pants, and classes for quilters, including instruction in paper-piecing and applique. These are only a few!

If you are local, come and visit. If you are out-of-town and ever plan to visit Southeast Pennsylvania, find time to add a stop at Cloth & Bobbin. You will NOT regret it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bread, plain and simple...

I have recently discovered the beauty of making tuna salad with fresh tuna. On Monday, I bought two Albacore tuna steaks, marinated them in garlic olive oil, tamari, scallions, and lots of fresh grated ginger, and then poached them. When they were cool, I broke them up with a fork, added carrots, scallions, celery, and...

This is one of those fabulous finds. How can you go wrong with chilies, lime, and cumin? Seriously! Of course, as the cook, I had to taste multiple times to make sure the seasoning was right, but then off to the fridge it went. I thought that it needed to sit overnight so that all the flavors could meld. I woke up yesterday morning craving the tuna salad. I knew immediately that the very first thing on my agenda for the day was to make bread. I wanted a tuna salad sandwich on a warm roll with fresh spinach. That's all there was to had to be done!

So here's where the bread comes in. I have been making bread for over 40 years. I started in my teens when I discovered the magic of yeast, the feel of silky dough, the amazing smell that permeates your house when bread is baking, and the glory of eating bread right from the oven....with butter, of course. Now you can go to the supermarket and buy bread. You can find a fancy bakery and buy artisan breads. However, nothing in the world is a substitute for the act of making your own bread (sorry but using a bread machine is cheating).

Do you know that satisfaction and pleasure you get from doing something yourself? When you invest your time and energy into a task and then get to reap the fruit of it? For me, there is something absolutely wonderful about the bread-making process. From the very first moment...measuring out the bread flour, mixing in the salt and yeast, choosing the flavors, the kneading, shaping, forming...that first punch after the first rise, the smell and feel of the dough, its elasticity, the energy it takes to push the base of your palm into the dough, the folding and repeating...turning on the oven light to peak as the bread rises and turns golden brown....and that glorious smell...and then that moment when you cut through the crust or just rip off a piece to check for that perfect consistency inside...the first bite...warm, soft, sweet.

So, here is what I had for dinner last night...

my sandwich accompanied by bean salad with blood orange olive oil, cherry infused balsamic vinaigrette, and harissa, and a Reed's raspberry ginger ale. Often, partaking of good healthy food is a spiritual act. I am so thankful that the earth bears such abundance and variety for us to enjoy.

Tonight, I teach the block-of-the-month class. I take in the square for the next class so that the women can see what they'll be doing next month.

Also, the Spinning Circles quilt is all done.

The pattern for this quilt is from If you enjoy foundation/paper piecing, this site has very affordable patterns in a wide variety of styles.

Well, it's time to prep for class tonight. Have a great day!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"I don't know."

"You talked about the first principle again, but I still don't know what it is," I said to Suzuki.

"I don't know," he said, "is the first principle."
                                                             Shunryu Suzuki

Not knowing allows you to see the everything around you with new eyes. Everything is full of new possibilities. Not knowing is the beginning of questions. Many years ago, when my son was in college, he wrote:

"Questions necessitate a certain mental position. It is a position of openness and vulnerability. To truly ask a question is to stand receptively before a raw and mysterious world. What, in the end, could be more human than that?"   Albert Z.

When I read this, I wrote it in my journal. I think about the truth of this often. At so many levels, to know is to shut down. In the place of knowing, there is no need for questions. It is a closed place, a safe place, a place where curiosity is marginalized. Questions are the principle act of any new creation, and, in most cases, an answered question simply breeds more questions. What am I doing? Why am I doing it? What do I want it to look like? What colors will I use? Where do I go from here? My initial answer to all of these is "I don't know." It is in this place that magic is real...anything can be.

If you have animals friends, you know that they must be at the center of whatever you are doing. As soon as I had put this square down to take a picture, there was Merlin, one of my three cats. This was taken in April of last year. I was working with a Bali Handpaints fat-quarter bundle called "Rosehips." Over the following two months, I had gotten to this point...

I pulled it out of the closet and decided that this is one of the next projects I want to complete. Where am I going from here? I don't know!

I tried a new focaccia the other day...

The first topping is always lots of garlic and olive oil. To this, I added broccoli, roasted tomatoes, mozzarella and impastata ricotta, and prosciutto. Yum.

Yesterday, I cut out the pieces for the eleven other Retro Razzle flowers, but I ran out of  fabric. I'll pick up some more when I go to the shop to teach tomorrow night.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rilke and Art

On January 1st, I began reading A Year with Rilke: Daily Readings. Without exception, every reading is thought provoking. Some hit a chord. Some strike very deeply. Here is the reading for February 6th:


"Things are not nearly so comprehensible and sayable as we are generally made to believe. Most experiences are unsayable; they come to fullness in a realm that words do not inhabit. And most unsayable of all are works of art, which- alongside our transient lives- mysteriously endure."

Yesterday, I finished binding my quilt, "Temple Garden," and the weather today granted me permission to photograph it. Last summer, one of my sons was kind enough to install a bar across the top frame of my garage and install quilt hangers on it. This allows me to hang most quilts and photograph in daylight.

This quilt began in a PaintStik class. This was new for me. The teacher had available for my use this rubbing plate. The students were permitted to use her Stiks. I chose metallic gold, silver, and bronze. During those few hours in class, I had completed six of these on black and six more on three shades of grey. One became a pillow, and one became this quilt. All of the rest have been added to my long list of unfinished projects.

Inspiration comes from so many different places. When I had finished the large center square and was contemplating where to go from there, I remembered a book that I had, pulled it off the shelf, and there on the cover was that spark...

This image is found throughout many Native American and Eastern spiritual traditions. There is something about it that promotes centeredness and stability. There are counter dynamic forces: One coaxes you into the center, and another entices you to expand. 

Whenever I ask an artist to create anything for me, I tend to give little or no instructions. I believe in artistic license. I have rarely been disappointed. When I take quilts to Carol (, I let her do her thing...longarm quilting is not my thing. 

Here is the back I chose...

I continue to play around with my "Retro Razzle" quilt. I took one of the twelve completed squares, cut it diagonally in quarters, and placed them on the sides of a foundation pieced flower that reminded me of the "flower power" imagery of the sixties. It seems fitting. So, I think I'm happy with this and now only have to make eleven more...

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Biting off more than you can chew...

At the end of 2010, I decided that in 2011 I would make a quilt for each of my children. Ok, I did the math...that's eleven quilts, one a month, I can do that. Who was I kidding? Seriously, I am a pro at over committing, but I mean well. I had made quilts for the first six when they were young. They had been loved and were falling apart. I'm done having children, so it made sense to give them all new ones.

In January, 2011, I picked out the fabric for the first quilt. It would be for the first born of my twins who is now thirty. I had a plan...

By the beginning of February, I had sewn some strips together. I should have guessed then that I would never get eleven done by December.

There have been many times during this past year that I have called this "The Never Again Quilt." So many strips, so many squares, and way too many intersections to match. Consequently, this ended up in the closet periodically. I could only handle it for a certain amount of time and then....exiled! During it's banishment, I did finish quilts for five other children that I'll share in another post.

This morning, I shipped this quilt to Chicago. I don't have adequate words for the feeling I had packing it up. Relief? Absolutely! A sizable portion of embarrassment for taking so long to get it to him? Definitely! Excited for it to arrive UPS on Thursday? For sure!

I really like the pattern Carol chose for the quilt.

I have a daughter who is a magnificent poet. She also lives in Chicago. I called her this morning, sent her a picture of the quilt, and asked her to name it. Later, she texted me two names....of the two I chose "Under a Closer Cosmos."

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Saturday mornings...

Friday nights, as I crawl into bed exhausted from the week, I smile knowing that tomorrow morning I can sleep in. There are no alarms, no school to oversee, and no place to rush to. I can wake up when my body tells me I've had enough. I can roll over, grab my book, put on my glasses, and read. Saturday and Sunday mornings are like this. I love them!

Yesterday morning, I was in bed reading when my 25 year old son came up the stairs and asked if he could bring breakfast to me. Shock??? I said I'd come down and join him in the kitchen. This is what he served me...

It's hard to explain how special this was. He said it was nothing compared to all the meals I have prepared for him. Ok, moms, you can all go "awwwww..." I do have great kids. We all have our problems, our ups and downs, but I must say that I am really blessed with eleven wonderful children.

After breakfast, I spent the day working on the Marcia Derse quilt. I move back and forth between sewing and ironing. For some reason, my sweet Mr. Darcy finds it comfortable to sleep under my craft/ironing table. All, day, he keeps me company. He is one of those companions that follows me everywhere. When I move, he is at my heals. When I work, he is never far from me.

By eleven o'clock last night, the quilt was done. I was tired but satisfied, and I knew that Sunday was another wonderful morning when I didn't have to face the day until I really wanted to.

Friday, February 03, 2012 commence

The commence: to start or begin; come or cause to come into being

The poet, Rilke, wrote that " commence is ever in itself a beautiful thing."

For me, those very first steps of the creative process are so incredibly charged with energy and emotion. The initial idea, the planning, the gathering....I absolutely love it. I love the first sketch on the canvas and the first piece of paper applied. Those moments are so full of wonder and mystery. I am challenged and motivated. I love the simple task of washing and folding the fabrics I have chosen for a quilt, the measuring, cutting, and constructing. I love looking at the cut fabrics neatly stacked by my machine ready to sew. So often, somewhere between these charming moments and the completion of a piece, I seem to get thrown back to the very beginnings again by a new idea that has burst into my head. I feel drawn involuntarily into the cycle again, mulling over the new idea, dreaming about it, planning and gathering again...and again...and again.

Endings...completions...can be beautiful as well. For me, they are certainly not as charged, nor are they as fulfilling. There is a sense of emptiness, a letting go, the curtain falls. It's done. It's over. It leaves a little void that sends me rushing to another beginning.

I purchased the fabric for a pillowcase for my daughter last summer. She loves owls. I wanted to surprise her. She was ridiculously excited when I brought it home. It has been sitting on my sewing table. Three days ago, I put it together. Wow...I waited months for something that literally takes minutes, but she is very happy.

Cloth and Bobbin ( just got in some of the Marcia Derse collection called "Line 5." Of course, I had a really strong reaction the moment I saw it. The colors are a tad desaturated and the designs are simple and soft geometrics. I have those first ideas, but they may change as I go along.

Here is my "Star and Stripes" quilt. I was in the store showing the quilt to Johanna, and fiber artist, Cindy Friedman ( happened to be there. As we were talking about the quilt, my thoughts and ideas about it, I mentioned that I might add some stripes here or there, and she simply said, "You have to know when a piece is done."

Like most of my days, February will be filled with beginnings and ending. I want to find a passion for concluding. I want to unearth the artistry and value of it. I want to watch the boxes get emptied and the piles diminish. Somehow, in this endeavor, I hope to bring each project to a new beginning that is recharged with fresh potential.