Paducah in Springtime

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For the first time ever, I headed out to Paducah for AQS QuiltWeek.  It’s almost impossible to get a hotel there during that time. But a local expert who teaches every year had a conflicting teaching engagement and offered her room to me and a fellow quilter, with the request that we book it again for her next year….a great chance to see the show!

This opportunity came up fairly quickly, so I didn’t book any classes.  The two of us were free to roam around the town in addition to the convention center and National Quilt Museum. Paducah is an industrial town, with a lot of old world charm and history…cobblestone streets, cozy shops and restaurants, and a beautiful riverfront area with a flood wall painted in murals that tell the town’s history.

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The convention itself is enormous, with vendors spread out on two floors and a separate pavillion.  This made it a bit confusing to find everything, and certainly a lot to walk through.

Along the way, we found local art quilter Emily Parson, with her quilt on display in the gallery.

quiltweek5Is that teal color stunning or what?  The quilt pattern – Windy – is available now at Emily’s etsy shop.  Check out her website or contact her at info@emilyquilts.com for more teaching information.

No trip to Paducah is complete without a stop at Hancock’s of Paducah.

quiltweek7I tried to take a panoramic shot of the store, so you could kind of see how enormous it is, but I don’t think it captures the whole thing. It’s an overwhelming adventure in itself and women were going by with cartloads full of bolts.

Finally, I highly recommend a stop at Kirchoff’s Bakery downtown.  What a place to have a special treat–old fashioned bakery goods with artisan breads, muffins, and cookies.  (Of course, you don’t want to miss the boy scout strawberry shortcake just outside at the convention center either!)  Whatever else happens, you won’t starve in Paducah during QuiltWeek.

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Daffodils Should Rule the World

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They’re stunningly gorgeous, reliable, and resist pests.  They require very little maintenance and they promote peace.

They don’t feed the hungry, but most world leaders don’t either.

Yes, daffodils should rule the world.

Until the peonies and irises come along, and then the duties will be shared.

But for now, we live in a daffodil world.

I started a couple of years ago with a cheap bag of bulbs from Costco. It produced lovely little yellow daffodils.  So the next year, I turned to a catalog and purchased a few more varieties.

Now I am hooked, and these quiet, yet lovely little early risers of spring are enough to give me signs of hope every year.  They cautiously poke from the ground when the frost is still in the air, when flurries are still flying, having full trust that the 70 degree weather will appear. And it does.

dafodils2daffofils3daffodils4daffodils5daffodils long shotBut look out daffodils, the hostas are not far behind, and I hear they are willing to redefine world order.  They are fresh and green and itching to unfurl.  Uh oh. Peace out.

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Needle Punch Felting with Machine Embroidery

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I’ve been playing with wool lately, and was reminded by the upcoming Bernina Inspirations class, that I can do needle punch using my machine embroidery.

For anyone who is a Bernina software user, Designer Plus allows you to do needle punch.  All you need is the needle punch accessory (which you can use with or without embroidery).

needle punch toolWhen you set up your machine for needle punch, you need to do a few things:

  • Inset the needle punch needles in your needle holder in place of your regular needle.
  • Change your stitch plate (there’s a special one for needle punch) and be sure to tell your machine that you made the change.
  • Put on the correct needle punch foot.  This not only helps to glide over roving and other wool or fabrics, but it also keep your fingers away from those needles.  You’ll often want to hold the roving in place to keep your design intact.
  • Completely remove your hook system, not just the bobbin.  Take everything out, and close the bobbin door.
  • Turn off your top and bottom thread sensors.

needle punch feltingIn the software, you literally just go to the Digitize toolbox, click on the PunchWork icon and digitize a shape.  Any shape.  And the software will generate one thread color to outline the shape, and then fill it with needle punch.  It’s amazingly easy.

I digitized the shape of this tree, measured it out and laid out the roving within the parameters of the shape.

And then I watched the machine do all the needle punch work.  Pretty impressive.

However, I did follow along with my fingers positioning and re-positioning the roving to be sure it stayed where I wanted it to be while the needle was punching.

Next, I layered an embroidery design on top.  Since I had gone with a tree shape, I was reminded of the tree of life embroidery design in the Sepia Petals collection from OESD. I ended up using the tree background file.

The result was interesting both visually and texturally.

Still exploring my love of wool.  It’s freeing and almost unpredictable as an art form or craft.  I think that’s why I enjoy it so much.

If you are interested in learning more about Bernina Embroidery Software or needle punch, think about attending your May Software Inspirations at your local Bernina dealer.

You just never know what you’ll be inspired to create!

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My Love Affair (with wool!)

wool trees 5I’m not really used to working with wool.  It really doesn’t behave like cotton.  Yet, its rich textures have just been a delight.  I love the way thread sinks into it.  I love the way thread can sit on top of wool, as well.

It inspires me.

I’m also a fool for anything hand-dyed and much wool is currently hand-dyed. (And not cheap, I might add.)

wool trees1This project really has been one of texture.  I experimented with a number of different Aurifil threads, but kept falling back on a nice 30 weight in different shades of neutrals.  It has just enough substance to show up, but is not so thick that it starts to cause problems in the machine.

wool trees 2I wanted this to feel a lot like a walk in the woods near the house. Twisty, gnarly branches — barren, waiting for spring.

Here’s a peak at the back side of this project, for those of you who appreciate a look behind the scenes.  I think it’s every bit as interesting as the front, maybe even more so.

wool trees backI have done some projects with wool and roving before. This floral below was one of my favorites. Something about wool is much more free-form for me than rigid piecing in cotton.

You can read more about the roving project here.

If you find you are interested in experimenting in wool, there are plenty of places to start.

Wooly Lady has joyful patterns and plenty of hand-dyed wool.

Sue Spargo also has a lot of hand-dyed fabric and beautiful threads for hand embroidery.

Need to get the creative fires burning again? I recommend a quiet little rendezvous with a few different shades of wool…ooh la la.

Final piece.

The Splendid Sampler — An Update

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Since this project goes on for 100 blocks, I thought I would give an update every 10 blocks or so.

For now at least, I am really looking forward to every block, searching for the time to make it before the next block rolls out.  (New blocks come out every Sunday and Thursday). Even more than that, I am enjoying seeing all the other work that others are creating, on the Splendid Sampler Facebook page.

Here is a look at my blocks so far. This grouping includes one of the bonus blocks which I did before the group even started.

IMG_0397 They include everything from hand embroidery to digitizing and machine embroidery, as well as needle-turned applique and raw edge applique.  I have not done any paper piecing, though some of the blocks have made that available.  I am holding out for a slightly more complicated block…one that would be more difficult to piece traditionally than to paper piece.  Maybe a little flower or something like that.  With 90 or so blocks to go, I’m sure something will come along!

Luckily, I’m still finding time to do some of my own work as well, which I will share in an upcoming post. I’m really into neutrals these days, with a pop of color, so I see a theme emerging. A peak at my next project.

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Vintage and Ribbons and Lace…Oh My!

I seem to be the curator of all the textiles in our family (and also the antique photos and other historical family memorabilia.  Please don’t ask me why I have Grandpa’s tax files from 1968.  I truly don’t know.  Furthermore, I don’t know why I keep them.)

This blog is not about my mother-in-law who in her own right was a spectacular quilter and craftsperson/artist. I do have some of her quilts and have already informed my 13-year-old son that if he ever decides to get married, if his bride-to-be does not lovingly cherish family quilts and heirlooms, then she’s simply not the girl for him.  No pressure.  My first-ever blog post was about my mother-in-law.

The cedar chest in our bedroom holds treasures from the beautiful, meticulous and patient artist-women who came before me — the women who taught me to use my hands to make things.

samplingI literally have hefty-size bags full of handmade doilies, table runners and dresser runners.  Grandma was the expert, but my mom made them as well

A friend of mine referred to it as tatting.  I don’t think it’s exactly the same, as my family never ever referred to tatting…they worked exclusively with a teensy crochet hook for hours, days, months, years.  I believe tatting sometimes requires something called a shuttle.  A word of caution:  when you google tatting, you can expect to learn about the tattoo process. Oops.  Try lace tatting instead.

Anyway, the most impressive piece I own — to me,at least — is the tablecloth handmade by my grandmother.

tablecloth wholeIt fits the standard kitchen table.  But that’s not the most endearing part.  It comes complete with a few gravy stains I can’t seem to remove.  But that’s not my favorite part either.  My favorite part is that at one point she apparently ran out of one thread color and finished it in another.  Mom told me that Grandma finished the last bit of it in white, which you can clearly see in some of the photos.

I love this.

Upon closer examination, I think she started in white.  And then changed her mind about the color, just judging by the way it is assembled. She switched to a taupe — apparently she had a lot more of that thread. Or maybe she really did run out at the very end.  If you are a craftsperson, you know this feeling. For heaven’s sake, I’m almost done, who cares, this is fine.

tablecloth detail2I’m so glad this happened, because I’m not sure I would have believed that a human being actually created this.  It is meticulously stitched in some of the tiniest little crochet stitches I have ever seen.  And I am trained enough to recognize crochet stitches.  Of course, I saw Grandma working on things like this, but when you’re a teen, it hardly makes it onto your radar.

grandmas tablecloth detailThese days, I’m awestruck by its beauty.

My mom made beautiful works of art in yarn. She was a master knitter, at least until she had a stroke 15 years ago. While I love the yarn, I have no space for all that, so my sister will have to pick through it.

I, however, poured over her sewing notions.

In the last few years, she made little homey decorations for the kitchen.

mom's decsThe trim says charming things like “You are the apple of God’s eye,” and “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

moms decs 2ribbons and laceI’m not ready to let any of this go.  The women who came before us had real lives of creation, sharing, loving and giving. We honor them by appreciating their handiwork. All handmade. All the time.

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The Splendid Sampler — The Beauty of Sewing With Others

I am loving the Splendid Sampler.  If you’re not on board, jump in at any point, the water’s fine.  So are the people–from all over the world.  And everyone’s blocks are all so different!  I was afraid we’d all end up with the same quilt, but everyone’s personality is shining through.

Here’s your link to jump in.

Here’s the Splendid Sampler Facebook page.

Because of recent happenings in my life, I got started a little late, and many people haven’t started at all.  Some are just enjoying looking at others’ blocks.

I’ll share with you where I am so far.

splendidsampler2I am missing one of the blocks which I haven’t had time yet to go back to, but another block came in today that I think will be fun to add.  The fourth block, the vase and flowers (kudos to Jen Kingwell) probably inspired some of the most creativity so far.  The blocks have been stunning and all different.

splendidsampler5splendidsampler4I created mine in Bernina Embroidery Software, but many others stitched theirs out by hand or did machine applique.

splendidsampler6Like others, I am keeping a file of all the blocks and their instructions.

While I am in love with the color story of “Black Tie Affair” which I have been using, I am also adding some little touches from my own stash.  As Bonnie Hunter reminded folks, a quilt is always more interesting when all the fabric doesn’t come from one collection.  I agree.

In fact, I also did the little vase block in a whole other color story, just to see how I’d like it.  It’s a little more ‘folksy” as I free motioned it, and I think it has it’s own charm. So maybe I’ll run some parallel blocks with these brighter colors too!

splendidsampler1Truth is, anything can happen this year!  I intend to do as much as I can, when I can.

A few things I’ve learned:

  1.  Don’t try to keep up with everyone else.
  2.  6 inch blocks sound easy.  They’re not. They take more time than many 12 inch blocks.
  3. Slow down and enjoy the process.
  4. Enjoy everyone else’s blocks: get inspired, be challenged, but do your own thing.
  5. Try new techniques.
  6. Purchase the designer’s books. (Pat Sloan has 2 great books — one on applique and one on triangles)
  7. SHARE!  We really do want to see what you’re up to!  On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram #thesplendidsampler

Hard Working Hands at Rest

I’m not OK.

Oh, if you ask me I’ll say I am.  But I’m lying.

Sure I can go through the motions without crying at least some of the time.

But every now and then I’ll be driving along and suddenly be overcome with a panic and my mind screams, “MOM!

She’s not here any more. I can’t call her and tell her the funny or moving thing that only she could understand.  Half my grief is for me and half is for my Dad.

When you lose your mom, you feel like you lost the one person in the world who knew you best–the one person in the world who loved you no matter what. She knew your history.  She gave you much of it.

It’s only been a few days, but I miss her. I miss how much she loved not only me, but my husband, my son and everyone else who needed a little mothering.

I recently read that when you lose a parent, you lose your past.  When you lose a spouse, you lose your present. And when you lose a child, you lose your future.

I’m not OK with that.  But no one ever asked me if that’s OK.  No one ever promised me life would be fair.

No, I’m not OK.  I’m sure someday soon, I will be.

But I will never be the same.

 

God saw you were getting tired, and a cure was not to be.

So he put his arms around you and whispered, “Come with me.”

With tearful hearts we watched you fade away.

Although we loved you dearly, we could not make you stay.

A golden heart stopped beating, hard working hands at rest.

God broke our hearts to prove to us,

He only takes the best.

–from Mom’s holy card

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My Practical Valentine

Sssssshhhhhhh. Don’t tell my husband.  He doesn’t read the blog, so he won’t find out what I made him for Valentine’s Day.

Months ago, he casually asked me if I could make him something to sit in the treadmill tray.  He said he didn’t like the remotes sliding around, banging against one another and getting confused between the channel remote, the DVD remote and, of course, the Netflix remote.

First world problems, no kidding.  I know it.

Nevertheless, I said I would make something and then promptly forgot about it. So many quilts and art projects to make, so many lovely fabrics, so little time for something as unglamorous as a treadmill caddie.

And it’s not like anyone has a pattern already created for our treadmill.  It’s not rocket science but I did have to think it through a little.

I started with a basic pattern for the bottom of the tray.

treadmill caddie1From there, it was easy enough to measure the sides and the depth.  Then I had to think about materials…what should I use as stabilizer?  Would batting be enough?  No, I decided, Soft and Stable would be ideal. 

If you’re not familiar with the product, it’s perfect for bags and wall hangings or anything where you want more body than batting.  Ask for it at your local quilt store…most of them already carry it.

After that, I had to devise a way to add compartments.  I didn’t really know what size the compartments should be, if he wanted the remotes to lay down or stand upright, or just tilt out of the way.  At any rate, I decide to make it flexible.  The partitions can be moved around so that the caddie can hold a drink or just the remotes or different sized things.

I scanned the sewing room for an idea.  Velcro!  That’s the ticket!

treadmill caddie 3I attached one side of velcro to the lining, and the other side to the little dividers for the inside.  Then I created a lining that was the same size as the outside and attached it.

treadmill caddie 2Strangely, free-standing it looks like a little canoe.

But once inserted into the treadmill tray, it fits and makes more sense.

treadmill caddie detailHere, you can see a detail of how the little partitions can be moved around to support different sizes.

treadmill caddie finishedAll set and ready to go.  As you can see, the remotes fit quite nicely in their little compartments and are easy to grab.  I can always add more partitions or move them around.

What would I change?  Well, I used batting on the bottom and Soft and Stable on the sides.  I think I would create the whole thing using the Soft and Stable if I were ever to create another.  The batting is very forgiving in terms of fitting, though.

I think he’ll be happy.  ssshhhh…he won’t get it til Valentine’s Day.  Better than chocolate, right?     hmmm…

Here’s a link to a previous Valentine’s Day post.

 

 

 

My Obsession with Trees

I didn’t realize it until I tried to describe some of my projects to someone, and all the ones that reflected my own art and not just a pattern designed by someone else, usually included trees.

And if not trees, then at least something that grows in the ground.  I can’t tell you what it means, except that I have a deep longing to connect to the earth.

I recently pre-ordered a book that has apparently been wildly popular in Europe:  “The Hidden Life of Trees — What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries from a Secret World, ” by Peter Wohlleben.

An article from the NYTimes  profiles the German forest ranger’s book.

I’ve always known that the natural world — birds, animals, trees, gardens —  have more to teach us than we ever give them credit for.  In the woods, I learned to listen, and look…much more than I ever do in my daily busy-ness.

Art is a struggle.  We are reaching, reaching, always striving to capture the thing beyond ourselves.  I do believe that trees (as well as the rest of nature) try to teach us something. When I break through the barrrier and discover the lesson, I will let you know.

Until then, like most of us, I continue to be a student.

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Multi-hoop project is quilted, bound and finished.

Multi-hoop project is quilted, bound and finished.

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