Saturday, June 12, 2021

A Most Special Baby Quilt


I know, I know. All babies are special.  But this baby really is.  Cristina learned to quilt with me when she was in 7th grade.  She is now 30 and having her first baby.  Significant facts:

1.  In exchange for studio space above her parents' garage when we were popping the top of our house, I gave Cris 40 of her 50 behind-the-wheel hours.

2.  Sunday afternoons when she was in high school she would come here to work on essays.  That's where she learned some terrific vocabulary while John was watching the Bears.  

3. She earned a degree in Fine Art at Iowa State and has a certificate in Graphic Design from College of DuPage. 

4.  She met and married Joe.  I wasn't sure he was good enough for her.  One night John and I along with Cristina and Joe went to a Moth story-telling competition at which we were judges.  That night changed my mind.  I love him ALMOST as much as I love Cristina.

5.  Cristina started a new job - art director at FCB Global, and Joe is in nursing school at Rush.  

6.  Their first child, a boy, is coming soon!

I don't normally hand-quilt baby quilts because I'm not sure how the stitches will hold up over time, especially for a baby quilt to be used the way it should be.  But I just had to quilt this with unorganized straight lines.  The backing is a wonderful piece of Art Gallery cotton (think silky smooth) that wasn't quite big enough.  It is batted with wool.

And how does one wrap a baby quilt?  Well, one simply makes a matching tote bag with zippered pockets to hold little baby things!

           Cristina and Joe's baby will achieve Dickensian status in no time by being a remarkable boy.  In fact, I'm sure he already is remarkable!

Cristina's mom requested a book, even one gently used.  But I couldn't just settle on one book.  The upper left hand corner book is a series of short Turkish tales/parables.  I think they are perfect reading for the little guy right now.  "The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt" is whimsical and pretty and nails the nature of quilts. "Woodland Christmas" is a charming little pop-up book with hidden images.  And of course Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, a great little rhythmical ABC book.  

I could never decide whether Cristina was an honorary daughter, granddaughter, niece, sister, cousin, or friend.  I'm just happy to know her and excited for this new Mom chapter of her life.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Procrastination Sewing: A Kimono

 After 35 years in our house and 15 years in my fabulous studio, we are getting ready to move.  The market for selling is hot.  And the market for buying is even hotter.  As soon as we can identify a place we both want to bid on, we will list our house.  And we are almost ready to go!  Between the pandemic and being in the studio for 15 years, there has been a lot to sort through.  I will freely admit to tossing a couple of UFO’s - the kind that fall into the “What was I thinking?” category.  This Swedish Death Cleaning approach has been very cathartic!

I was surprised and happy to come across three yards of a 54” knit by Sara Lawson from her Jungle Avenue line for Art Gallery Fabrics.   This was from maybe 12 years ago.  What was I thinking? An outfit? (It’s entirely appropriate to roll your eyes here…)   I just couldn’t put this fabric into a Goodwill bag.  And my skills at working with knits have never been good.  But…  I found a pretty simple pattern for a kimono of sorts.  Fold the fabric in half, cut our the sides, cut up the middle of one side along with a neck hole.  I found some black bias tape which is used to edge the center seam and neckline.  And then I turned that under and top stitched.

I did a similar thing on the sleeves and on the hem with some grey peppered shot cotton.  After washing it, the hem was kind of kershimmelled.  So I quilted it!  Now it’s fine.  And then I remembered I would need a loop for hanging this on the back of bathroom door.  And a pocket!  Of course I need a pocket.  So I added one of those.  

I got happily lost in this project because I wasn’t obsessing over how much fsbric I have and all the projects I want to do and how small my new sewing space will be wherever we move to. And should we ever have chilly mornings again, I’m all set.   

The hanging hook

The quilted hem

Monday, May 10, 2021

Piano Tuner's Daughter: The Most Satisfying Project Ever

Piano Tuner's Daughter - 58" x 71"

Part 1:  When I was little, my parents lived at 64th and Stewart.  My dad tuned factory pianos for the Kimball Piano Factory at 26th and California.  But when they bought their house in Western Springs in 1956, my dad became an independent piano tuner working with my mom, who made his appointments and kept his books.  My dad was a musician, an accordionist/entertainer who knew he would always have to supplement his income with tuning.  As he build his tuning business, his regular gig was at the Edgewater Beach Hotel, a drive he made from Western Springs 6 days a week.  Eventually, with the help from agents, he was able to cut back from tuning and focus on gigs.  But the tunings were his financial ace.  Just as I would open his accordion case and sniff how horrible it smelled of smoke, I would look at his tuning case and sometimes play with his tuning fork.  

 Part 2: I love my Chicago Modern Quilt Guild and always want to be a team player for whatever activities suggested.  Although I am an independent sewist, the group activities I've been involved in have always been fun and taught me things.  With this spirit I joined a quilting bee, headed by Bill Keller @kiltedquilter67 .  There are 9 of us in this bee - Bill, Amy Struckmeyer, Debbie Pine, Natalie Holtz, Jenny Grover, Laura Hartrich, Adamandia Kapsalis, Jennifer Quick, and me.  We have taken turns asking bee mates to make blocks for one another.  Adamandia has finished hers, and its' wonderful.  Check out the hashtag #chimodbee for examples of blocks and completed projects.  

I asked bee mates for forks  5.5" or 10.5" wide, and any length, with dark forks and a low volume background.

I was very happy with what I received although a couple of mates tested me.  Amy gave me that big green fork (which I now love), and Laura gave me a couple of forks that were 2.5" wide.  I also love those.  The idea for this quilt came from Heather Pregger @heapregger who has a whole series of tuning fork quilts.  I understand why - its a great motif.  

I need a better picture, but the last thing I want to say is that I faced this quilt, rather than to bind it.  The front design just runs right off the edges without a binding to interfere with that line.  I do like this facing technique that I used - 

Such a fun and meaningful project!  Thanks, Bill and bee mates! 

Part IV:  I love this quilt because it makes me think of my dad and his work ethic.  I'm amazed that he and Mom were able to pay for half of my college.  I still borrowed a sizable amount and didn't pay it all back until I was 32.   After I had taught for a year, my dad helped me with my taxes.  I made more money my first year teaching than my dad did.  So this quilt reminds me of my parents' financial brilliance as well as their work ethic.  Such a good visual memory.  

Sunday, May 2, 2021

An odd week with very little studio sewing

 John was in the hospital for 4 days with internal bleeding,  Our trusty GI's were on the case, gave him blood, cleaned him out, and all is well.  Amazing place - LaGrange Hospital!  and of course this week was all about John rather than the studio.  I've been trying to get to some blocks for a really special baby quilt, and here are the blocks.  Tomorrow I'll play around with layout.  Each block is 14"x18"   I'm thinking I may put each block into an offset square.  But that's for tomorrow. 

During the week I was thankful that I have a to-go quilt kit packed.  I made 35 12" blocks of mostly selvege edges and have each one basted with wool batting and a backing.  So these five blocks are what I did in the hospital.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Catching up on this, that, and the other

 My tuning fork quilt is coming along nicely with some horizontal quilting and quilting in the bigger forks.  Once it's finished, I plan to face this rather than bind it.  It will be my first time for facing.

In the studio I've been working on bringing things to completion.  This "Get Happy!" quilt for my doctor which has been finished since late March now has a label and is wrapped.  I just need now to get it over to her office.

But mostly the studio has been all about purses - Sew Powerful.  I'm working on a PowerPoint for my guild about the actual construction of these purses and have been doing a lot of photographing for step-outs.

I like to group my purses by straps and flaps.  And then I can fill in the rest - body, lining, and pockets.

Here's are all the parts for five purses.  From the bottom up: lining, front body, and back body,  These purses may only be 7" x 9", but there are several pieces to the pattern, most of which are interfaced.

These purses are based on flaps made from scraps of a project for a guild mate.  Rather than try to organize the leftover strips, I just improved them together.  Along with an orange body, some fun living, and a blue strap, I think these are great.  We pursemakers hear over and over that the girls in Zambia love orange.  

But before mailing, each purse needs a note to the young girl.  In exchange for the purse which contains underwear, reusable pads, and soap, girls pledge to stay in school and do their best.  In addition to hearing that the young ladies love orange, we also hear how much they treasure these cards.  The cards are my least favorite part of the process.  But I'm learning to use graphics and washi tape to make them attractive.  

I'm also learning to keep my messages short and sweet.  All the girls read and speak English, but they do no read cursive.  So this is a task I have to take my time with. 

Since I'm so eager to get this batch posted to Washington state, I'l get them done very soon,

Now I'm getting back to a baby quilt that's in process and solidifying a plan for the youngest grandson's (he's 19 - it'll be his 3rd) quilt.  

Saturday, April 17, 2021

An Early and Deep Grief


In 1991 I was transferred from Hyde Park High School to Kennedy High School - a welcome change since Kennedy was a much shorter commute.  But it was the first time I ever had white and Latinx students - and this led me to another MA, this one in Multicultural Eduction.  But as is true with every group of students I have ever had, I connected deeply with several despite the change in demographics.  

In order to teach Jane Eyre, which was part of the Brit Lit curriculum with juniors, I piloted a unit using Warrior Woman (Kingston), Caged Bird (Angelou),  Learning Tree (Parks), House on Mango Street - (Cisneros)  and Lakota Woman (Mary Ellen Brave Bird) as small group reading before we all read Jane Eyre.  The culminating activity was for each student to examine the three strongest influences on their personality development, making references to our readings.   I recall this unit being successful, and the juniors did some great introspection based on issues that come up in these coming-of-age novels.  

Shortly after the unit was completed, one of the counselors came to our classroom to make an announcement to us all.  One of our classsmates died the night before in a horrible choking incident at North Riverside Mall.  Jennifer worked at Arby's and was taking a break.  She was eating and started to choke and ran to the bathroom.  It was there she died.  Jennifer had a delightful sense of humor, a great work ethic, perfect attendance - and I loved her.  Her funeral was the first eulogy I ever delivered.  Jen's essay for this unit was a tribute to her parents, her faith, and - I don't remember the third point.  I graded this after her death, and the only thing I could do was give it to her parents.  

About six weeks later I was at an in-service at Kenwood High School and could not stop the tears.  Delayed grief?  Yes.  When I got home, I hit my fabrics.  And this is what I created.  The spot of brightness is Jennifer.  I delivered this to her mom - many tears were shed.  

I just came across this Polaroid, which is why the quality of this picture is so poor.  What a sad memory of  good grief.  

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A Low-Volume Hand-Quilted Finish!


A bundle of low-volume Japanese imports are the basis for this quilt, with a couple of additional fabrics from my stash.  It is backed with an Art Gallery fabric (so soft and slidey), batted with wool, and hand-quilted with Nol. 8 Perle Cotton.  

 I started quilting this February 19 and just finished it March 29.  It takes 6 - 8 weeks to quilt something like this.  It is 70" x 80".  

As I started quilting with an off-center spiral and did a couple of rounds, I decided to throw quilter's caution to the wind and just quilt this willy-nilly, changing directions whenever I wanted.  I like this sort of random quilting.

Occasionally I used a strand of a dark grey - for no particular reason.  

Without measuring, my rows are about 1" apart.  I have had to mark quilt lines, like for a Baptist Fan.  But this quilting just is.  

My guild has had an on-line discussion about wool batting.  And it is my favorite, especially for hand quilting.  The picture below is after washing and drying the quilt normally - no special soaps or temperatures.  I love how the texture has deepened, and the one-inch spacing between my rows become little pockets of puffiness.  

I used to make quilts and figure out the quilting when I was finished.  This new phase of my quilting means creating quilts and knowing exactly how I want to hand-quilt them.  Quite a change for me!

Monday, March 22, 2021

Sewing but not blogging? What's up with that?

For the past year I've been part of a small little bee within my guild.  I've always heard of bees but have never been a part of one.  There are only 9 of us, led by Bill Keller.  Every 6 weeks one of us becomes the bee queen and directs others what to do.  Look at the #chimodbee for some examples of what we've done.  When it was my turn, I asked my bee mates for tuning forks that were either 5.5" wide or 10.5".  The length didn't matter.  And I asked for dark forks against a low-volume background.  As these began to arrive, I slapped them up on the design wall.  I love these forks, even the bright green one and the one with a dotted pink background.  And then I took a tip from "Macbeth" and was bloody, bold, and resolute as I began to attach them to one another.  I am thrilled with the final product and am eager to hand quilt it.  I'm almost ready for it.


While I was dithering away at the design wall I did have a couple of Sew Powerful purses going.  The stack of fabric for future purses is getting bigger and bigger.  I'm learning that this little purse need a big impact fabric on the front, and I love these dots.  Wait until you see the additional fabrics I have!  In fact, look at this pile of fabrics below:

Years ago Mary Radnor came to the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild meetings.  She was a librarian working at the University of Chicago and living in Hyde Park.  We got together a few times and forged a nice friendship, despite the difference in our ages.  Mary was from Kansas and decided to move back to her home town.  A few years later John and I were doing our "presidential library tour" (Hoover, Truman, and Eisenhower), and Mary drove from Hayes, KS to Abilene and met us for lunch.  So much fun to see her!

 Since that lunch, Mary has gotten married and is deciding she's done with quilting (she's a fabulous knitter).  That pile of fabrics above?  That's what she sent me.  Most are at least 2 yards! Sew Powerful purse makers know that the girls especially love oranges and purples ad brights.  These fabrics are perfect for purse making.  Knowing that Mary spent a small fortune shipping these fabrics and being appreciative of the quality and quantity, I asked her which fabrics were the hardest to let go of.  And she pointed out the ones with the bright pinks.  

These bags went into the mail this morning.  I think they are kind of perfect for knitted things.  

Friday, February 26, 2021

QuiltCon 2021 - Together, Virtual - and What I'm Learning


QuiltCon Together, 2021, wasn't awful and it wasn't fabulous.  While the social component was missing, the content was awfully good.  And it's an absolute luxury to listen to a lecture/workshop at your own time and own pace while doing something purposeful with your hands!

It was a lot of screen time, and most of it was so well done.  This picture oh Heidi Parkes hows how most of the presentations were done - little dot on the screen with the presenter and big screen for demos and handouts.  

For QuiltCon 2020, which I had to miss (broken wrist), I signed up for the Bojagi workshop.  Sarah Evans went in my stead.  And she showed me what she learned.  But...  So I signed up again for Daisy Aschehaug's Bojagi-style workshop.  Simply, Bojagi is a Korean method of joining 2 fabrics with the seam totally encased.  (note:  this is also referred to a flat felled seam - think seams on blue jeans). Daisy uses this method to make linen napkins and disht towels and for on-the-go sewing.  Above is my sample using some leftover shot cottons.  The lower left shows my attempt at following this method. It relies on whip stitching and some serious folding and clipping.  As I made my way though this first piece, I realized something I already knew:  I do not like whip stitching.  I like running stitches.  So I tried a few pieces using running stitches.  Daisy's stitches are almost invisible.  But I like being able to see big stitches.  And in the interest of getting a sample piece to a point where I could put it away, I tried using the machine.  Again, highly visible stitches.  Daisy also taught us how to do a curved piece.  I think  will use whatever leftover bits I have to continue making this sample piece.  So, here's my takeaway.  Bojagi isn't necessarily for me.  I may use this method if I decide to do a light-weight single layered quilt using peppered shot cottons or OakShot cottons, something with a bit of heft.  I'm glad to have this technique in my repertoire.

As I started listening to my other workshop - Improv Instructional Quilt:  Exploring Art Concepts by Heidi Parkes, I quickly realized this wasn't the quilt I wanted to start or even work on.  But I was happy to listen while working on the above.  Heidi mentioned representation in connection to fabric.  And the lightbulb went on:  I've been saving a bag of bits of fabric that I have loved and I have been wanting to use them in a pattern by Yoshiko Jinzenji, Abstract Pathways.  So while listening to Heidi talk about line and texture and unity and balance, I worked my way through the above.  Unity?  Yes, I have had this project in mind since my first QuiltCon!  There's a lot of negative space which will be perfect for hand-quilting, something I learned in my first QuiltCon workshop with Maura Ambrose, @FolkFibers.  

Here's the big thing I am learning:  modern quilting offers such a variety of techniques and aesthetics.  As I slowly find my own way, I know I don't have to do it all.  I don't have to struggle with things I don't find pleasant, like whip-stitching.  I need to keep looking for new things and then adapt them for my hands and my eyes.  This is a nice stage at which to be!

Monday, February 8, 2021

Falling In and Out and In Love again with Projects


Last spring, when I was recovering from my shattered wrist and accompanying surgeries, I started a simple project using foundation piecing and selvages.  I couldn't be very precise because of limited ability, but I was very happy doing these.  And then I put these 30 blocks away.  I unearthed them and have been deciding what to do with them.  Because they are already Foundation pieced, I wondered if I could just add a backing and not do batting.  And while that's possible, it just doesn't feel right.  

I've been doing a lot of quilting lately and have been using a roll of wool batting.  Suddenly I'm aware of how much leftover batting bits I have.  And how much leftover muslin bits are laying around.  And that I only have one hand-quilting project lined up once I finish my current one.  So...

I pieced together muslin scraps to make 12" squares

"Frankenbatted" my leftover wool batting bits with a simple zig zag 

and basted the three layers together with a zig zag stitch.

Now all 30 blocks are back on the shelf and will need some simple hand-quilting before the blocks are attached to one another, in a quilt-as-you-go fashion,  (see index for reversible quilting).   As I was laying out these blocks, I was struck by how much I like this project.  I mean, really like this project!  I will happily return to it in warmer weather.  

2021 Sew Powerful Purses


Here are my first seven purses for Sew Powerful's 2021 goal.  A guild mate gave me a terrific but odd piece of Marimekko fabric, perfect for straps (each one is 4" x 55" - that's a lot of fabric) and the purse back and fronts.  I have had a couple of odd fabrics that haven't played with anything else in my stash - maybe because I bought them in Kenya - but they love this Marimekko print.  I think these are gorgeous.

My purse rhythm is changing.  Last year I devoted 2 months to doing a purse a day, the last one being December.  So I started off 2021 by mailing in 31 purses in early January.  But these purses above?  Although I did seven of them in 7 days, I only worked at the beginning of the day, getting each one to a certain point.  And then I worked on my other projects.  I kind of like this - sewing for SewPowerful at the beginning of the day and then switching over to my own project.  

So I think I'll do more batch sewing but perhaps not for an entire month.  We'll see...but I must quickly say I am more devoted to Sew Powerful than ever.  What a purposeful way to use my sewing skills.  

Friday, February 5, 2021


I thought February might be a purse a day month, but it’s not - the end of the month will be QuiltCon 2021 - virtually.  But still - QUILTCON!  I have signed up for two classes and a ton of lectures.  Meanwhile I do have 7 purses in process.  Guild mate Ellen gave me a 60” square of an odd ombré-ish fabric which pairs so nicely with two other odd bits I’ve  had in my stash.  There are 7 straps (4” x 60” x 7 straps), 7 purse front, back, and pocket linings. Below you’ll see the flaps for each one of these.  Last night I found 7 lining fabrics and pockets.  So today I can start assembling the purses.

The baby quilt for my doctor is pictured below.  It’s assembled, but now needs batting and backing.  My new rhythm is to work on the set outse goal for the day before going on to my own projects.  So far this is working!

And it’s really cold out. Perfect quilting weather. 


Friday, January 29, 2021

Quilting. Literally...


While I’m working on current projects, I’m always scheming future ones. These fabrics are a Japanese linen - I’m not sure how they will quilt and wash.  Their feel is so much different from the meaty softness of peppered shot cottons.   But the colors...I love them.

During 2019 I participated in a one block a week sew-a-long with the Canadian Quilters Association - #52blocks52weeks.  The weekly instructions were all in greyscale, which suited my scrap stash perfectly.  At the beginning of 2020, with a couple of extra blocks, I put what I had into a layout with generous sashing to make a napping quilt - 60” x 80”.  The quilting is simple, it’s batted with wool, and the backing is a wonderful soft muslin.  I like how it turned out.  And I may have a buyer. 

The other quilt I just finished quilting is from a charm pack of Zen Chic’s new line Quotation.  I love the other fabric lines she has, and playing with a charm pack lets me see all the fabrics without a huge financial investment.  This pattern was a fun one to do: cut each charm in half, mix up the halves, and insert a one-inch strip.  I think I will add some more border quilting based on what I’m seeing.  

While quilting at my Brother 1500 straight-stitch machine (which I lovingly refer to as my fake Juki), I worked at my Husqvarna on a paper-piecing project for Laura, one of my Chicago Modern Quilt Guild bee mates. I’m not crazy about paper-piecing, but you just cannot get more precise than with paper-piecing.  Speaking of bee projects, here’s a tentative layout of my tuning forks quilt - still missing blocks from a couple of mates...