Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice

Hello from the northwoods!  And Happy Winter Solstice.  It has been snowing all day, very quiet and beautiful.  No quilting today.  This is always a day I mark and enjoy.  I'm not totally sure why;  it's the shortest day and the longest night of the year and the first day of winter.  Maybe I just like the word "solstice."  

I've been thinking about the concept of time all day.  When meeting other quilters and sharing my work, I often hear comments like:  "Where do you find the time?"  of " You must have a lot of time."  Things like that.  Another question I often get is "How long did it take you to make that?"  

Do I have a lot of "time" to do my quilting?  Well, OK, I'm retired at the moment, but the bulk of my quilting life has been shared with raising two daughters, maintaining a couple of homes and work.  So, that's not it.  The time to quilt finds me I guess.  It's not like a task or chore I have to fit into my day.  I've never felt:  "Gee, if I had more time I could do more!"  I often marvel at what other people accomplish, but don't think of it in terms of the time they have.

And how long does it take to make a quilt?  Some quilters use a stop watch and record every minute they spend on a quilt - it's an impressive figure usually.  But I don't keep track and can only say I finish one big quilt every year - not mentioning other small projects I also finish.  

I wonder if these swans think about time....

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Applique Group

A couple of months ago, I volunteered to start an Applique group at the Your Arts Program in Manitowish Waters.  It's been going very well.  7 ladies have already joined in - some with no applique experience who are already doing applique!  At the first group meeting, I proposed at some point making a quilt to donate to the Alzheimer's Study Quilt Project.  Lap size quilts are given to volunteers in the study who suffer from Alzheimer's as appreciation for participating.  The group said "let's do it right away." So, we got to work and are well on our way to finishing.  The Grosbeak block is a favorite of mine and we will have 9 bordered blocks to complete the quilt.  The group decided to use batik fabrics which are just beautiful.  Each member chose their own fabric colors and the results are just lovely!  Each one is a different color theme. 

The Applique group meets the first Wednesday of each month at Your Arts Center in Manitowish Waters from 6 to 8 pm.  No sign up or committment is needed.  Just a love of applique or desire to try it!  You don't need to be a quilter either.  Applique is used in many different fiber art projects.

The Alzheimer's Study email is:  adcs-quilts@ucsd.edu

Your Arts Program website:  http://www.yourartsprogram.org/

Monday, December 13, 2010

Crossing the border(s)

I took a break from working on my mandala quilt borders and got out Christmas stockings.  Quilter's Newsletter is looking for photos of handmade stockings and will have a drawing on Friday (randomly) for some sort of prize, so I entered and thought I'd share them with you. 

These are some of my handmade wool felt stockings.  The designs are mine and I also hand dyed most of  the wools for the appliques. They are hand stitched with wool floss using a buttonhole stitch.  Very enjoyable to do.

Oh, those borders:  I've completed one border and am well into the second.  The weekend winter storm had me grounded and put me to work.  There will be 300+ "logs" of varying widths between 1 and 2 inches, pieced together to make the borders.  It does look like wood - I saw a split tree stump in the woods snowshoeing yesterday - oooh, wish I had my camera because I won't find it again. 

If you've ever sewn strips together like this, you know the finished strip will be way way off in terms of a nice straight piece.  So.... I had an idea to piece them to graph paper using the lines and the paper to keep things straight.  It works.  I planned on 8 1/2" wide borders - and well, paper is 8 1/2 x 11" - but wait!  If you really measure a sheet of paper, it's only 8 3/8" not 8 1/2".  Doesn't matter.  This is a very putzy process and not my favorite (that would be applique)!  I plan to add some applique to surround the mandala blocks too.  And determined to have the top finished by early January. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The top is done - not!

Here is the center block to my mandala quilt.   Chickadee look-a-likes are comprised of yin yangs and so is the very center.  (Birds make their nests in circles).  The outer leaves and buds are an unknow plant I had collected and dried.  I think this block is awfully cute if I do say so myself.

This is the last block:  Wild blueberries.  I do love blueberries (my second quilt lately that features them) - but I also wanted to bring  some blues into this quilt. 

I sewed all the blocks together yesterday and pinned the top to the wall.  I had not anticipated adding borders or any other applique.... until I looked at the whole top.  It obviously needs borders and I think some vines and leaves throughout the brown fabric borders.  This means it's back to the drawing board as I'm not just going to slap some border fabric on and call it a day.  I have to come up with something to frame the quilt without taking away from the mandala designs.  No doubt it will be pieced - but probably not more applique in that outer border. 

For most of my quilts, I never plan the border until the top is done.  Then I just need to keep looking at it until something just hits me.  Even then, it's a lot of redoing until I get it right.  If anyone has any ideas or suggestions, throw them my way! 

Back to work....

Monday, December 6, 2010

Oak leaf and Acorn

Block #7 of my mandala quilt, the oak leaf and acorn is a traditional block and another one of my favorites.  There are many variations to this block;  this one is mine.  I redrew oak leaves in a swirly pattern and you get the idea of falling and flying autumn leaves.  I made this block just a couple of months ago too, when the fall colors were at their best.  Of course, some oak leaves stay on the tree - a beautiful contrast to snow covered pines. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Forever Wreath

I used to buy 2 or 3 fresh pine Christmas wreaths every year, but then got the idea to make 2 permanent "wreaths" to hang - they grace the outside of the garage (shown is one of them). 

As you can see, it is actually a quilt block.  I searched my Electric Quilt program for a Christmasy looking pine, found a block and sized it to fit some boards I had cut to fit the space.

I glued 2 same size wood pieces together to make a thick, sturdy base.  I printed the templates for the block, traced them on the wood then used acrylic paints to paint - or "piece" the block.  Finally, I used a spray sealer to cover.

They are impervious to wind and wet - give it a try sometime!  I have done another block which hangs all year near the door to the house.  Photo another time...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Aspen here and there

Block #6:  Aspen leaves done in fall colors.  I love the shape of the aspen leaf; quite round and cute.  The bent looking bare trees represent the "quaking" aspen tree, and the oval shapes are cross sections of a cut log.  I did this block just a short time ago in autumn when the leaves were turning and here it is winter weather outdoors already.  The trees are covered with snow and the lake is frozen.  There were about 2 dozen Canadian geese hanging on for a bit yet in the open river but today on my walk I didn't see them.  Maybe they headed south.  I did spot 6 otters running and sliding across the lake this morning;  they "skated" right across a makeshift ice rink I've created on the lake. 

While posting the aspen block photo, I couldn't help remembering other winter times spent skiing in the mountains.  Well, "Aspen", Colorado started me thinking.  There is nothing like winter sports, being outside in the cold and then enjoying the winter views and ambiance from inside. I've traded my downhill skis now for cross country and snow shoes and ice skates, but that thrill has always been there.  Aspen here, and there.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dusty Miller

Here's mandala # 5 for you:  Dusty Miller.  A little hard to see the delicate, greyish blue flowers but it looks really nice in person.  Very subtle and adds another wintery looking element to the quilt.  Dusty miller has beautiful yellow buds as you see - I've never seen them on a plant, but I did found images of these and recreated them in this design. 

Dusty miller really dried nicely and it is just so neat looking! 

The Mercer Public Library (my favorite place in town) had asked me to do a display of my quilts, an the artist of the month.  Yesterday, I piled up a bunch of my quilts and headed there to put up the display.  The fun part was getting up on scaffolding to position some of them up above the desk area.  If you go, don't forget to "look up" - kind of like a tourist in New York City (on a slightly smaller scale)!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pineapple Sage

Pineapple Sage - at the very least - sounds delicious.  I love to grow and use fresh herbs and sage is one of my favorites.  But, this plant and it's blooms is just plain beautiful.  My sister who lives in southern Missouri had tons of it growing last summer.  It took over her garden and those red flowers were spectacular.  During a visit there, I took some cuttings, pressed and dried them and created this block #4 for my 'Power of the World' quilt.  The finished block looks like winter with greens and reds even though pineapple sage strictly a summer plant, but it balances the other blocks nicely. 

Dried and pressed Pineapple Sage:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lovely Lupine

One of the many (no make that one of the few) perks of being a census taker last spring was driving around the beautiful northwoods, getting to places I've never seen before.  The lupine was in full bloom and just amazing.  So, here is block #3 for my Power of the World quilt.  Yes, I pressed and dried lupine blooms and leaves and used them for the design.  I needed some pinks and purples in this quilt anyway. 

The Applique Artists group met for the first time last night at Your Arts Program gallery.  Five lively ladies who love applique attended with me, and are very enthusiastic about this group.  We plan to design and make an appliqued lap quilt to donate to "Comfort for Alzheimer's Study Volunteers."  Participants of this study who have mild to moderate cognitive impairment will be given donated quilts.  We meet the first Wednesday of the month from 6 to 8 pm;  see the web site for further details:  http://www.yourartsprogram.org/

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Viewer's choose

It was a thrill to receive my quilt "Flower Power" back today from the Treasures for Tomorrow quilt show which was held last weekend in Marshfield, WI.  The show was great and my quilt did win second place in it's category, but when I opened the UPS box, there was the coveted "Viewer's Choice Award" ribbon- those votes were not tallied until Saturday afternoon so I didn't know.  To me, this is more of an honor than the judge's award - fellow quilters (and viewer's) liked my quilt enough to vote it as their favorite.  And I just say, Thank you. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Days gone by

For 3 full days, we were without power as were many many others.  We have never experienced this before, but of course it happens.  All the things one takes for granted related to the need for electric energy - it's, well everything!  Fortunately we could still get to town and enjoy our wonderful library and eat out.  So, what else do you do with no power?  I thought it was neat sitting by the fireplace reading my kindle at night with nothing but a book light:  very peaceful, no TV or distractions.  I couldn't use my sewing machine or iron to do my usual sewing and quilting, but I was able to work on my hand quilting during daylight - again with no distractions.
I haven't always designed my own appliques and a few years ago, I started this quilt which is a Piece O' Cake design from the book "Stars in the Garden." I used a variety of machine embroidery and applique stitches to finish the motifs.  I had a few blocks left to do, so I finished them last winter, then used my old fashioned wooden quilt frame to stretch and pin baste it for hand quilting. 

I use #8 Perle Cotton and a modified "big stitch" when I hand quilt.  I'm adding beading and  other embellishments as I go along.

Leo and Lily supervise.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pine cones and Pollen

This is block #2 of my "Power of the World" quilt in progress.  You'll see pine cones radiating from the center of this block.  I had found a neat looking tiny pine cone on my walk one morning and just set it aside on my desk.  A few days later, a nice little pile of a very brilliant yellow dust appeared.  I discovered this to be a pollen producing pine cone - thus the pine cone design emerged for this block.  Dark green pine needles were added and well, those yellow circles on the outer border are supposed to be pollen spores - they really are beautiful in photos.  I added a tiny bee to complete this design.

I do love applique, and starting November 3, I will be leading an Applique Artists group at Your Arts Gallery in Manitowish Waters.  There is no sign up and no committment;  just bring whatever you are working on and the group will proceed in any direction we decide.  And we will have FUN!  The group will meet monthly on the first Wednesday, from 6 to 8 pm. 

The web site is:  http://www.yourartsprogram.org/

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ferns and Fiddleheads

As promised I want to share my latest applique project with you.  

I've been enamored with circles and mandala designs for some time now.  I made a large quilt which was one huge mandala a few years ago and always wanted to make another.  Lots of circles show up in my applique projects - I have 2 neat set of circle templates and even a real draftsman's compass for designing! 

This new quilt is comprised of nine circle or mandala blocks, each one a different wildflower or plant which I have collected and dried or studied.  It is entirely applique;  the only piecing is of the circle borders.

The block pictured here is "Ferns and Fiddleheads" and also pictured are the dried ferns which I used for design and inspiration. 

Speaking of plants:  Leo my kitty loves to sun himself in the now empty deck planter.  "Snooze where you are planted" is what he says.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Autumn a little longer

Most of our beautiful fall leaves in the northwoods have fallen and the trees are bare.  My quilt titled "Bittersweet" gives another look at autumn. Being my favorite time of year, I wanted to make a quilt with all those great colors.

It's based on the traditional log cabin block, arranged with the help of Electric Quilt.  I added the oak leaves and berries and the fall themed border appliques.  I machine pieced and machine appliqued the entire quilt, then hand quilted it with Perle Cotton, using a modified "big stitch."

I've sent this quilt around to many shows and it's won a bunch of ribbons, but the best I think was recently winning "Viewer's Choice" at the Ladies of the Lake Minocqua show in August.  Fellow quilters (and non-quilters) chose my quilt among aproximately 250 entries as their favorite.  This, to me is an honor, knowing my peers liked my work. 

In my next blog, I will share my current "work in progress" with you.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

This is my first post.  Just trying things out.  I've attached a photo of "Flower Power" my latest finished quilt. I'm sending it to the Treasures of Tomorrow quilt show in Marshfield, WI.  Dates of show:  October 29 and 30.  Their website is:  http://www.piecemakers.org/.  It's always a great show.  I'm also preparing to enter it into the April, 2011 AQS show in Paducah, KY.  It's early;  deadline for entries is the first week in January, but I might as well get my entry in now! 
I love this quilt.  I designed all the applique motifs and used the traditional Flower Basket block to set them.  I was inspired by  great colorful, retro fabrics and all things retro. It sure was fun to make.  I used my usual raw edge, machine applique technique. Cheri Trexler of Arbor Vitae. WI did the machine quilting.  By the way, this quilt was shown at 2 other shows so far:  the NQA show in Columbus, OH in June (winning Honorable Mention) and the Ladies of the Lake show in Minocqua, WI in August (First place award).