Karen writes about life as a Quiltmaker in Austin, Texas; surviving in an empty nest, marriage, cooking, gardening and (did I say?) Quilting...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

C'est Finis... Musing about Finishing a Quilt... and Winning!

I realize that I have indeed been away from my blog for some time, and for that gentle reader, I do apologize! I have no good reason other than a busy life, and, making a living - among other incredibly time consuming pursuits!

I AM happy to report the completion of a major work in 2008. The draft of this post has been languishing in my "draft box" for some time...so I felt it had "ripened" enough for a post.

I finished (at long last!) a great quilt work that had been underway now for 5 long years. That seems like such a long time. How many times in one's life does one work on a project that will take 5 years to complete?

(Mom & Dad at their 50th Anniversary)
(Mom and Dad at their engagement - has he got a hold on her or what?!)

The "great quilt" is a quilt started in early 2003. My mother and father's 50th wedding anniversary scheduled in August of that year inspired me to begin a quilt I thought I would fininsh in 6 months! I considered that it should have to fit on my parents queen sized bed, and, that it MUST be hand quilted. How little did I know when I began the project how long it would actually take. Shortly after completing the top (in a wedding ring design of course!), I realized that my hand quilting skills were inadequate to the task. I began signing up for various workshops that year, and shortly decided to put away the quilt and put a "learning" quilt on the frame to hone my skills. The "Learning" quilt took a year itself - it was a vintage top that I sandwiched and hand quilted.
(Here's the Learning Quilt: )
Hearts & Gizzards

The great 50th wedding anniversary event took place as planned and was a great success... with the quilt top shown and a great quilt promised. My mother, who followed somewhat the progress of the work finally tired of asking about the quilt, and began to foist vain threats on me... "you'll have to wrap me in my coffin in it if you don't finish it soon...".... that sort of thing!

But, as I soon learned, a great project, and a great quilt can NOT be hurried.

Through good times and bad, a son's graduations, a downsizing and move, the emptying of the nest... through all, there was always the quilt.

(- The Quilt underway in the frame... Little "Tadpole" a brief visitor to our household, he loved to "help" me quilt. An unknown illness took him away from us too soon.)

The steady, soothing work, the quiet progress. Some trama resulted when I no longer was able to continue using the family frame (too large to set up in the smaller digs!)... but I adapted to a lap frame and continued... the quilt none the worse for wear...

Finally, the quilt was ready to bind, a month's chore, and then... the final wash! I decided not to agonize over the removal of the marking - I knew they might not entirely come out after having been on the quilt for so long, but decided to enter the quilt in the guild show in September before taking it to Mom at Thanksgiving, and a cleaning would be necessary to get it show-worthy.

(Detail of quilting and the Binding being attached! ALMOST DONE! )

It was with great trepidation that I left the quilt at the Show site... it's first time away from me for more than a day or so!

But the joy of seeing it hanging in the gallery, with admiring people walking by... the excitement of people discovering the hand work (wow!) was only matched by my amazement at winning a ribbon! Honorable Mention in the Large Piecing category!

Most gratifying, were the kind words of the judge, who praised the "lavish" hand quilting... and provided gentle critical remarks... not at all what I expected - having heard stories of the dangers of the judges critique!

(Adoring husband took this picture of the proud quiltmaker at the show:)

Here's a link to the guild site where you'll see many more lovely quilts...


Hmmm.... what's next?!

My UFO list has 14 pieces (I wasn't JUST working on that big quilt all those years after all!), I think the next one will be for ME! Here's a lovely dresden plate top I finished some years ago (before the wedding ring) that has been patiently awaiting a quilting. It will HAVe to be done by hand!

(A Dresden Plate Top at a workshop - hmmmm, what pattern to quilt?)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Night to Shine - COMPLETE!

After some minor delays, and a few late, late hours, I was able to turn this little lap quilt over to Joe to take to Trinity. This quilt is part of their annual fundraiser - my contribution... I named it after the event. For more details, or to bid yourself... visit http://www.trinitykids.com/.
I had great fun making it. I used the great new pieced border technique I learned from Sally Schneider, and used up a lot of really glitzy, sparkly fabrics - I'll never know what possessed me to buy such garish stuff... but it's perfect for the theme of Star shine! This one was machine pieced on the 15-91...

Here's some pictures...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Shameless Commerce & Camera Breakdown!

More about the Shameless Commerce at the end of my post today.

I was amazed to see how long it's been since I've posted. A lot going on at the old house. I just got back from two weeks in Cleveland... at a Manager Training Program for Husqvarna Viking (the sewing machines, not the Chainsaws!).

No, I'm not abandoning my affinity for all sewing things vintage.... I'm just falling in love with some new machines. I'm going to be managing a new H-V Gallery Store in the N. Austin Joann!
Yep... shiny, new plastic wonders - some computerized - that will do almost everything except heat you coffee. I have to admit that after spending 10 days playing around with them that I was getting awfully used to the ability to do need up and down, and did not miss the lifter at all! They really do sew by themselves.

I wish I'd taking the camera - though actually, IT's not broken down, but my floppy drive took a dump, and I'll have to go to the "old computer stuff" store to get a "new-old" replacement. My Sony Mavica, once the premier (and first) digital camera still works wonderfully, but I do go through floppy drives - as the camera puts it's pictures to floppy disk - yes, those little 3.5" plastic guys! Amazing isn't it. How the floppy drive in the camera has lasted through (conservativly) 25-30,000 pictures for my eBay biz over 7 or 8 years, while a floppy drive unit for a computer is lucky to last a year or so...? So, I KNOW they CAN be made to last, they just aren't! I wonder how many things we buy today are made to fall apart or stop working on a schedule... what a waste of resources eh?

Yes, it IS my Shameless Commerce Division! And it's spring sweep time, so I must point out that EVERYTHING in my Ebay store is 30% OFF through SUnday, April 27th... so click on the link to the left, and PLEASE take some of this fabric off my hands!!

Pictures of the Star Quilt next week, final quilting is underway this weekend!


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Keep on Working...

Just a minute to post the now finished top for the "auction" quilt... I think it turned out quite nice.

All sparkly in various Hoffman Fairy Frost and other prints from the stash. The theme of the event it "A Night to Shine" and it's done in school colors (blue and grey). I added the bits of turquoise to spice it up a bit. Now... how to quilt it? I'm thinking about "McTavishing" it... but then again, some more traditional feathers round the border? We'll see.

I REALLY enjoyed the pieced border technique, the pattern is by Sally Schneider (http://www.sallyschneider.com/). Called Laurel Wreath. She has one done in jewel tones, with the "beads" around the border all done in different colors. The entire quilt is actually just made of 12 in. blocks, all pieced on the diagonal. The colors make the pieced border look like something really difficult to manage. If you look closely, you'll see the diagonal seams in the border. After it's quilted, they will be even less apparent... making the quilter look like a real genius! My favorite kind of quilt pattern. One that looks fancy, but has an "easy" secret!

Imagine how wonderful it would look done up in Christmas Colors. Sally was at our guild last month, but I was unable to make it to her workshop, but I'm glad I bought the pattern and one of her books, and was able to put it to such good use so quickly... Here's a close up.

I cut the backing last night. My piece was too short to cut in half, so I did a diagonal back...

If your backing piece is at least 1-1/2 times longer than the top, you simply cut it in half diagonally. Then slide the pieces off set until you have a piece wide enough for the quilt width! Sew them together on the diagonal seam and voila! you have a back with a piece of fabric only 1-1/2 times the length of your top! And the nice thing about a diagonal seam is it's easier to quilt over, and doesn't show through as easily as a single center seam. It's really nice for hand quilting. I picked up this idea from John Flynn's website... http://www.flynnquilt.com/ It's under the free lesson menu. There's actually a mathematical forumula for the brave at heart (or of mind?) to help in calculating the needed length of fabric to make a diagonal seamed back. It is very cost efficient, as you don't end up with a big hunk of fabric, just two small triangle scraps (and who can't use scraps!).

Now, I have to spend the day pin basting (ugh), but, while I baste, I can think about how I want to quilt it....!
The quilt (a lap quilt size 54" x 70") will be auctioned off at the Trinity Episcopal School fund raiser April 5th in Westlake Hills in Austin!

FYI... the backing is an older blue sparkly Christmas fabric. Kind of a toile design, blue with grey scenes of angels... it's not obviously a Christmas theme - but definitely religious... will work wonderully for this donation quilt made for an Episcopal school don't you think!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Blue and Grey

What have I gotten myself into?

Dear Husband has been working at a local private school for several months, and recently commented that the school's big fund raising event is coming up in April. He slyly mentioned that there would be a silent auction, and, that it would be awfully nice if he had something to donate for the auction.


Of course, he could donate one of his hand made knives, but a quilt done in school colors might go over better right?

More Silence.

I finally have to reply - you know I'm trying to finish up mom's big quilt - right? And I've volunteered to take on the publicity for the guild's quilt show (an unbelievably large task)... right?

Even More Silence.

But how can I refuse... of course I'll just whip something together. So inspired by this month's guild speaker, Sally Schneider, I decide to use the pattern that I bought at the meeting to make a fast, quilt.

The event's theme is "A Night to Shine" so, stars it is. And I'm using a pattern that includes a pieced border... that is incorporated into the block piecing. When finished, it will look incredibly complex, when in fact, it is just diagonally set blocks, with a build in border...

Here's a picture of the work in progress:
Two strips are done, and are being pinned together for sewing...

It did go together fairly quickly - probably have about 12 hours total into it... I'll give you an update next week... due date: April 1!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Quilter's Work is Never Done....

Way past time to post my Charity Quilt turned in at the February guild meeting. With all the mess going on last month, I made it the easy way, with one of the little "kits" our guild "Baby Bundle" committee make available. The kits are made using Anita Grossman Solomon's fabulously simple "Super-Sized Nine Patch" pattern. yep, 9 pieces, easily cut from strips across the width of a yard of fabric, or from fat quarters... sooooo easy. A great way to put together a quilt in an afternoon. If you do a "pillow turn" rather than a binding, and tie rather than machine quilt it's even easier. Though I feel like I can free motion something like this as fast as my fumble fingers can tie it!

These little quilts, under 42" square, are a great way to practice your free motion quilting too!

I decided to quilt some "cloud-like" puffs... and a few balloons in the corners to go along with the pattern in the fabric.
This simple pattern can be found for download online in the free patterns at the Quiltmaker magazine site:
By the way, this site has a fabulous collection of various simple patterns for charity quilts - all easily downloadable. Many are soooo simple! You have no excuses not to make that pattern for your guild's charity effort this month!

Thanks to Anita for sharing this pattern with the guild!

Friday, February 01, 2008

(Quilting) Life Goes On...

After a couple of weeks of trauma, I hope to get back to writing about some of the nicer things that happened over the month of January... and what's up for February... Thanks to those you who send condolences over out loss of our old kitty friend. One of these days soon, I'm sure we'll have room again for another...

Before all the grimness of the end of the month, I actually had some pleasant quilting experiences that I feel I need to share. As a Christmas gift to myself, I signed up for two quilting workshops last fall, they happened early in the month, unfortunately, with all the other goings on, I didn't really get a chance to report.
The first was a two day workshop with that "Dear Jane" lady, Brenda Papadakis, who incidentally, has recently moved to Texas - we told her it was OK that she got here as soon as she could! The workshop was courtesy of the Chisholm Trial Guild, with a membership in the areas of Georgetown and Round Rock - just north of Austin. With an invitation to Austin guild members to attend the workshops, how could I forgo such a wonderful opportunity.
If you aren't familiar with Brenda or the Dear Jane phenomenon, its all about a fabulous sampler quilt, made up of 4-1/2 inch blocks, by a lady named Jane Stickle, "in war time 1863". While we don't know a lot about the quilter, her work is incredible, with over 250 small blocks, each almost an entirely unique design... Brenda published a book on the quilt, and it has garnished a following of quilters around the world, who make quilts as copies, or in honor of this quilt. The quilts made in the spirit of this quilt are often referred to as "Baby Janes". The quilt, all hand made of course, includes pieced and appliqued work, and every block presents a different challenge to the quilter.

Many of the attendees were "followers" and brought their existing works in progress and finished. Just looking at those was a great experience and very inspiring.

We spent one day doing hand work, and the second working by machine. I decided, in the spirit of Jane to modify the 5-star block known as "Papa's Star" into the form of a "Texas Star", in honor of Brenda. The workshop was great fun, and very informative, though Brenda expressed a great deal of weariness at all the moving mess. expressing that her sewing room was still mostly packed! I hope Brenda get's settled in, and is able to unpack her sewing room and enjoy living in the Great State, an I hope we see her in the Austin area again soon.
Above is my work from the class...THREE blocks!

And, I also was able to attend the Austin Guild workshop with Denise Lipscomb... I think I mentioned this earlier. I've finished 3 rows towards this quilt - which will need 12... not sure yet who will end up with this one... perhaps another neice?! The braid is very simple to do... but doesn't it look complex? It's so simple, that it gets a bit too repetitive. It's going to be a project that I can pull out anytime I just want to sew, without complications! Denise was a very easy-going teacher, no stress, just simple easy instructions, very helpful.
And finally....

SHHHH! Don't tell mom - but the 50th Anniversary Quilt is getting a Binding. Fairy Frost Gold in the thinnest of bindings - 1/4". Those scallops are a bear... but one side is finished!

ALMOST there!


Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Alas, the last of the family pets from the childhood home has passed on. I hope there are plenty of nice fat meecsies wherever he may be.

Meesies What I Love to Eat,

Meesies Fat and Oh, So, Sweet

Bite they little heads off,

Eat they little feet

Meeses, (little!) meesies - What I Love to Eat....

Thank you Olok!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Quilting Hospice

OLOK is sick... this week, I combine my quilting, (and work) with - nursing. The ravages of time appear to have caught up with our formerly tough old tom cat. Named "Our Little Outside Kitty" by my then young son, OLOK (rhymes with "o-lock) has always been our not too familiar - mostly outside cat. As the years have passed, he's grown fonder of staying "in", especially in bad weather, no longer living up to his unusual name.

He's more than paid his keep - a champion mouser, no vermin stayed long around the premises - often such deeds were highlighted by a special "offering", laid neatly at the back door, as though offered in payment for room & board. Such offerings being rare, however, as he had a serious taste for mice... rarely sparing one for a "giveaway"... I once watched him somewhat incredulously as he finished one off (it was barely dead) with great relish, leaving nothing but the tail - ugh! He was always my husband's cat, as Joe "rescued" him from a no doubt shorter, and harder life as a feral cat. As a very small kitten, he was noticed roaming the garden and back yard - coming and going in and out of the street drain. Our home then backed up to a very old farm - where a few cats were always to be seen around the old barn and nearby pond,(Frogs being apparently almost as good as mice - legs only please!) cruising quietly at the feet of the elderly woman who lived there in those early years. It was always an idyllic scene.

- OLOK in better times...sneaking into

the sewing room...

The appearance of the little cat was not welcome, as our other cat, TC (the Ten Dollar Cat), was very territorial, and, a fight would be sure to be in the future, if the little kitten were not caught and tamed (or - given away). My husband set about to trap the little orange striped tabby...
It only took a couple of days, and one day, the kitten was to be found in the trap - baited with sardines - at the back of the lot... I remember watching my surprised husband trying to pick up and carry the cat - inside the trap - back to the house. The cat, seemingly so happy, and friendly in the garden chasing frogs, had turned into a tiny Skil Saw... actively trying to attack my husband through the bars as he carried the trap by the small, to-close-for comfort handle! Not a happy kitten - and a surprised husband.

He brought the cat (still in the trap) and, decided he could "tame" him... sitting, still hissing and spitting in the trap, and looking VERY untameable - now, in the corner of the kitchen.

Throughout the day, he offered up tiny bits of tasty things - which the kitten at first refused, but later, young hunger won out, and he ate them, only when no one was looking.

Joe spent the night sleeping on a sleeping bag, next to the trapped kitten - by morning, the door was open, and, hand inside the cage, the dirty deed was done - the kitten (somewhat) tamed...

So, OLOK was never REALLY my cat, or, my son's though, he often would deign to allow me some seemingly reluctant (don't touch my feet!) lap time. Most days he could be seen spending the lazy summer days in his favorite spot in the yard or garden. He never forgot that street drain - always a quick spring away in the event of any alarm. Never tolerant of any other people, he could disappear in a heartbeat at the appearance of any visitor to the house or yard.

I was concerned about our move into the city from our "almost country" suburban location in June of 2006, but he seemed to adapt to closer quarters fairly well. Spending more and more time indoors, especially cold winter days. He discovered that the hunting, while not quite as good, was still possible here, with baby pigeons replacing the field mice of his former haunts.

He's always been protective of his territory. Despite being neutered, he still was known to spar from time to time with any other cat with the misfortune to step over whatever invisible line separated HIS world from the rest of it. Only a few of these encounters ever resulted in any damage needing any care. OLOK was always an impressive (and beautiful) creature. Strong, and big, but never really overweight. If he didn't want you to hold on to him, he was quick to let you know it was time to put him down...and you knew you didn't want to argue. He could turn instantly into an armful of sharp claws! A bit of a "macho" man, he would never back out of a fight.

Last spring, he finally got involved in a contest that resulted in an abscessed wound and a vet visit. The vet then remarked at how healthy he was for his age... I wonder what the other cat looked like...?

The neighborhood, unfortunately has many feral, and sort of tame cats - many living at one unfortunate old soul's home... none are neutered, all look in bad shape, and several seedy looking tom's are seen frequently haunting our yard. I began keeping OLOK inside nights - he was NOT happy... favoring staying out at least until our bedtime each evening.

A few weeks ago, he apparently got into another scuffle - but this time, kept his wounds secret - hiding in front of, and under his throat - two chest bites. They festered, and, finally, when I noticed him turning down food, I knew what was up and forced a search of him - by then the abscess had already swelled and drained. He's been on a downhill slide ever since. The vet can find no real reason for the refusal of food - says it's just something they do naturally - he may just start eating again - he may not.

He has been spending days in the sewing room (which he normally is not allowed in), taking over my old rocking chair, seemingly enjoying the hand feeding (sometimes forced though). Drinking water, but refusing solid foods. The vet says, he may snap out of it, or he may not - we could have him force fed regularly, but have decided not to force him to endure such an ignominious treatment.

So, the sewing studio has become a "hospice" of sorts... day by day, the hoped for recovery seems further and further away, though I hope that the next plate of special fish, or tuna or kitty milk, might suddenly be accepted by my old friend.

At least, I have a nice, but somewhat mindless quilt pattern to work on.

I enjoyed a wonderful class last weekend by Denise Lipscomb, owner of Common Threads Quilting Shop in Waxahachie . She taught an easy, (but complex looking) pattern called "Pioneer Braid".
All the pieces are cut, there is a lot of chain piecing, and repetitive work, with the only decisions being which color to pick up next. A great way to get rid of scraps, though I decided to stick with a single color scheme - light and dark purples. Doesn't it look complicated? It's so simple, it's silly... for the pattern and a virtual visit to her fine shop: www.commonthreadsquilting.com
OLOK gets to hang out with the first two rows. The rocker holds many memories - it was my favorite place to nurse my young son so many years ago...what better place for a kitty hospice?

- Karen 1/23/2008