Merry Christmas everyone

Merry Christmas everyone
with the love of my life, George

What am I doing writing a blog?

Quilting is one of the few places in my life where all the corners meet and stay put. On this blog I plan to ruminate about quilting and life, the quilted life, cat and quilts, and any old thing that falls in and out of my brain. I'd be pleased to hear from you on all of this or any topic of interest!

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Spring Saturday in Lancaster PA!

On March 26, 2010, George and I headed out of town to Quilt Country in Lancaster County PA. What a great time we had and what a reminder I got that I am an amateur, a talented amateur, George says, but just the same, definitely amateur status here! We stayed in a bed and breakfast called Old Square Inn in Mount Joy, PA and this was the cute "Sunbonnet Sue goes to Town" quilt in our room.

On Friday night, we visited the Peoples Place Quilt Museum and the Old Country Store ( Here are a few pictures from that experience. They stayed open til midnight to accommodate all the crazy quilt people!

On Saturday, we headed to the AQS Lancaster Quilt Show and I started taking pictures (or having George take pictures) of all the quilts we loved. Finally, it just got to be too much (quilt overload) so I went to the AQS booth and bought the CD of all the quilts in the show. Here are a few of the ones we took before we called it quits!

Monday, March 22, 2010

PIECING (or “and the two shall become one” – in this case, the eight shall become one block)

A note on seams. Most quilt books will talk about ¼ inch seams. Being the renegade quilter that I am, I use ½ inch seams and this is why. While I will do my utmost to sew this quilt in such a way that it stays together for a long time, eventually, thread will begin to rot and seams will give way. Hopefully this occurs long after I am dead and gone to my quilting reward; someone else who hopefully loves and cherishes this quilt will have to do the repair job. Won’t she/he be happy to discover he/she has ½ inch of fabric to work with to make this repair compared to just ¼ inch which will probably have unraveled a bit in all the washing and such? We need to remember our quilts will outlive us and I believe, make them in such a way that their life will be extended as long as possible.

So, it is time to sew the pieces together and make the blocks. I have a new (used) Singer sewing machine, which I keep on the first floor of our old two-floors-plus-an-attic-and- basement house, and I have set it up on the dining room table. Last night, I could not fall asleep so at 1:00 a.m., I came downstairs to pieces some blocks.

There are seven seams in each block. First you stitch the triangles to the trapezoids to make a bigger triangle. Trim your corners and press you seams open with a good steam iron (Steam irons forgive a multitude of piecing sins I have discovered).

Secondly, you lay out the resulting 4 larger triangles in the order you have previously determined and stitch pairs, resulting in even bigger triangles. Trim and press again.

Lastly, you sew these two large triangles together on the diagonal. Trim and press on last time and voila! You have a pieced patchwork block!

By 2:30 a.m., I had made six blocks and sewn them together as well! The next few weeks, I will be piecing like a maniac and do more of the same.

Stay tuned and watch the quilt center grow as I go!

SORTING AND PINNING (or watching movies while you get the pieces ready to be pieced)

This is one of my favorite parts of constructing a quilt because it enables me to justify sitting around and watching TV. Movies actually. I love all kinds of movies. George and I do not have cable and we barely get the regular networks since the digital change (PBS – don’t go there – I am so pissed off that I cannot get my PBS stations anymore!) so we rent a lot of movies from Blockbuster Online or check them out from the Greensburg Library. We also like to watch series from cable networks via these rentals. Currently, I am watching BIG LOVE and ARMY WIVES and will throw in some movie classics (my mom is kind enough to tell me what movies I must see on this genre) and girly films George is probably not gonna wanna watch.

So last night after a delish supper made by my sweetie (red beans and rice – one of my favorites) after the dishes were done and the fabric was all cut, I took my box of pieces up to the TV room (guest bedroom #2) and began the sorting process on a card table in front of the TV. We finished watching CLOSER, a movie we had begun over dinner, and when my sweetie went to his office to grade student papers, I popped in season two of ARMY WIVES. Here are some pictures of how I sort the pieces for pinning.

Each block has 8 pieces – four center triangles and four outside parallelograms or trapezoids, can’t remember which they are or maybe they are both. So I lay out the four center triangles, which are identical in every square. Then I choose, randomly, four more pieces. Next I place them together in a not-so-neat little pile and stick a pin through them and throw them in a box. A chaos of color!

After I have put together all 225 sets of 8 pieces, I can begin the pinning. This is not a speedy part of the project, mind you, but it is one that can be done with some distraction, hence the movies. I was also fiddling around on ebay while doing this AND keeping track of the House of Representatives vote on Healthcare Reform (Hallelujah – oh happy day! It passed. Healthcare for all Americans!) As you can see, I am a champion multi-tasker (and some would say) a leftist!

SIDE NOTE: I will generally strive to keep politics off the blog but this is so monumental, I am compelled to comment. However, I do respect your right to your differing opinion and if you are not open to the mutual respect for my opinion and choose to no longer read my blog, so be it. However, before you leave, please remember one of the things that makes America great is that when this country was formed, our very wise forefathers were determined to establish a system where we can have differing opinions and still live together and act civilly towards one another. This was a radical idea in the 18th century. American tolerance was unique, unlike many other sovereign states at that time where holding a different opinion meant “off with your head “ The revolution continues. End of history and social civility side note.

Now it is time to actually do the pinning. I lay out the entire square in the color arrangement I like best. I then piece the inner triangles to the trapezoid, resulting in four pinned pieces. Once all four sets are pieced, I stack them and place them in the box and move to the next square. This is also a job that can be done in front of the TV or, in the summer time, while sitting on the porch chatting with your neighbors, your sweetie, or just watching the world go by.

CUTTING THE QUILT BLOCKS (or how I became a rotary cutter fan!)

Believe it or not, I have hand cut every single quilt I have ever made. After well over 100 of them, I am starting to feel the effect of all that work in my thumbs so I knew that I had to make the leap to rotary cutting. Now that I have tried it, I am wonder why I waited sooooo long! Thank you, Pam for the gift of the cutting board, the ruler and the cutter! Once I got the hang of it, I zipped through the 1800+ cut pieces in an afternoon (and took a trip to the fabric store with my friend Phyllis to pick up rotary cutting supplies). The center of the quilt will have 225 – 4-inch squares with 8 pieces in each square! That’s a lot of hand cutting. Becky, when you next quilt with me, you will never have to hand cut again like you did on the Halloween quilt. Hallelujah! I am a convert! Here is a picture of me, the happy rotary cutter and a picture of all the different fabrics cut and ready to sort and pin.

Please note, this is just the center of the quilt. I have not cut (or for that matter, completely planned) the rest of the quilt. It is important to tell you that I scaled back this quilt a bit from the original plan. I want the center to be 60 x 60 inches (20 x 20 – 3-inch blocks) so I had planned to do 400 –3-inch squares. Before starting to cut, however, I looked at what size those little triangles would be and decided not to go there! 15 x 15 – 4-inch blocks achieved the same 60 x 60 inch center. This decision is also based on sheer quantity and self- knowledge. 225 blocks is doable – 400 blocks? I am not sure.

Oh, did I mention I plan to finish this quilt in time for the Westmoreland County Fair in August?

Inspiration and Planning

Every quilt starts with some source of inspiration. Sometimes it is specific to the person for whom I am making the quilt, for example, a baby with the name of a famous American may get a patriotic quilt. A bride and groom with a strong religious faith may have a religious symbol such as a cross stitched in (see Jenny and Brian’s quilt) or it may commemorate a specific day (see Austin’s fish quilt). Most of the time, however, the inspiration is not about the recipient but rather about me! I see a picture of a quilt, the tile pattern in a floor, or a series of repeated objects and my little quilt planning brain goes into overdrive.

As you saw in a previous post (Laura said yes!), I generally start the planning with a drawing on graph paper, which lays out the rudimentary design. Somewhere along the way, however, I accept that the quilt will take over and the plan will go out the window so I do not get into too many details with the initial plan. There have been many times when I have been traveling down a certain road with a quilt and had to go on a “staycation” for awhile – not working on the quilt at all – until I figured out what the quilt wanted to do next. I think this part of the process has often puzzled my spouse (or anyone else watching me make a quilt or waiting on me to finish a quilt), as it looks like I have given up or quit when actually, I am awaiting inspiration or direction!

So how did this quilt start? Actually it began with several visits to many churches in Italy and a picture in a book that brought all those churches to mind. Did you know in earlier times in most Catholic churches in Europe, the floor was the burial grounds for many of the clerics and other persons of note? Certainly a humbling thing to be buried in the floor and walked on by tourists for all eternity but then again, a great honor to be interred in (what is in most cases) a gorgeous space filled with light and art. I have visited Rome three times in my life: once as a teen-ager on a school related trip in 1971, once on my honeymoon in 2001, and in 2004 as a art history student – I lived with a Roman family for six weeks on that trip! I have also visited Notre Dame in Paris and St. Paul’s in London. Yep – folks buried in the floor there as well and around those slabs that bear their names and dates, you find intricate tile patterns.

While browsing a Kaffe Fassatt quilt book a few years ago, I found a quilt patterned after the tile floor in St. Mark’s cathedral in Venice. Immediately, all kinds of bells went off in my head and I knew this would be a quilt I would make. Now, most quilters “borrow” ideas from other quilts and quilters. It’s part of the tradition. It’s how all the old, old patterns were passed down. Most quilters, however, will find some way to make the quilt uniquely theirs and this, of course is what I plan to do. I love borders so my quilts usually start with a traditional or “borrowed” pattern but then spin off to be Allmendinger-Leiner originals with the treatment of that pattern and the borders added on.

Having planned my quilt and gathered my fabric (more about how I do that in another post), I begin the challenging decision about placement. I have determined to follow the lead of the Kaffe Fassatt quilt and repeat the color arrangement of the center square in each square; in other words, the four triangles that make up the center of the block will all be the same four colors from block to block and in the same order arranged. What four colors to choose then? I wanted the four pieces to go from very dark to very light so I choose a deep royal purple floral, a teal and purple daffodil print, an aqua and teal watermark print and a purple and teal abstract design on white. I then decided the remainder of the fabric (25 different prints) would be random. A total of 29 different prints in this quilt in all. Wow!

The final part of the planning process is to draw my templates. Even though I will use the rotary cutter for the first time, I want to have a template available to keep my cuts true!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A disturbing discovery that helps me date a quilt

Spring has come so as I am wont to do, I change all the rugs and bed linens in our old, old house to reflect the season. I placed a very old wedding ring quilt on our bed this weekend and have been enjoying its presence. However, last night when my sweetie was changing his clothes, he noticed a very disturbing thing about the quilt. Here is a picture of it on our bed.

Moving in closer, here is a close up of the ring itself. I had always thought it was a 1930's flour sack quilt and now I have proof (I think)positive.

Moving in tight for a picture of the blue fabric, what do we see? A swastika! And here is the really weird part, it is next to a snowman face! Now, I know the swastika was an American Indian symbol long before the Nazi's got their paws on it. The quilt was probably made pre-1940's because I doubt a fabric manufacturer would have used that symbol after WWII and the Holocaust.

Kinda weird but kinda neat too! Here's another question - how long did I own the quilt before it was noticed (and I am not the one that noticed it, my husband did!)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's Spring!!! (almost)

My friend and co-worker, Nan, makes these beautiful felted wool flowers for my Museum Shop at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art ( and I wanted to share a little bit of spring with you. God knows we sure need it after the winter we have had.

The current best sellers are the daffodils, which in my mind are the very definition of spring. They sell for $10.00 - what a deal! I immediately bought one and put it on my coat lapel to cheer me up wherever I may be going! The product card reads: "Cheery hand-dyed yellow petals and green over-dyed plaids and tweeds from recycled clothing created during 18" of snow! Made for a tiny vase, or to pin on a lapel! Enjoy!"

Previously, I purchased one of her sunflowers for those sunny days ahead. They sell for $12.95. The product card on the sunflower reads: "Based on 18th century rug hooking techniques, the flower center is hooked from strips, the petals are "prodded" through the linen backing. Recycled felted wool, often hand-dyed is used throughout. Accent a hat, a handbag or clothing with a one-of-a-kind item designed by Nan."

Here are a few of her other gorgeous creations! Want one for yourself or to give as a gift? Call me at the Museum Shop 724.837.1500 x41 and I will ring it up and ship it out to you at a very reasonable rate! Prices range from $10 - $20 for the flowers and around $8 shipping. Hello Spring!

Nan's one-of-a-kind fancy flowers appear spontaneously as she handles her hand-dyed, recycled, felted wool. Scissors flash into simple shapes and historical flower and corsage making techniques re-appear. Methods are shared in her booklet, RUG HOOKERS GUIDE TO FANCY FLOWERS AND LEAVES. Check Nan and her flowers out at or click on the link at the top of this blog. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sheep Shearing Day

Sheep Shearing day at the Twin Springs Farm in Avonmore, PA. My friend, Joanna and her friend, Nancy went with me out to Bill and Sandy's farm for the annual sheep shearing. We picked, sheared and skirted 52 ewes and 2 neutered males.

Here's what I learned about the process:

First you identify what sheep you want to shear; place a halter on her and take her over to the shearing location.

While you and your sheep wait in line, your co-workers will help you pick the straw off the sheep so that the fleece is cleaner after it is sheared.

The beautiful collie in the picture is Murphy. Here are pictures of our hosts as well: Bill in the red plaid coat, Sandy in the hat, and the unnamed kitty.

Once your sheep is picked, you bring it in the shearing house and give it to a person who holds it by the halter or in his/her lap, in some cases. That wrangler ties a blue tie with a unique number onto a clump of fleece on the ewe's back so that the fleece can be recorded and identified when shorn. Here I am holding one of the whethers (neutered male). Please note the young wrangler texting with her sheep. Didn't know sheep could read....

When it is that sheep's turn, the wrangler gives the sheep to the shearer who does his job, often wrestling with it.

The fleece is taken from the shearing floor and brought up to the wire table where it is shaken and "skirted." This means the loose fleece pieces are picked off and the dirt and any other vegative material is plucked off.

When the fleece is skirted, it is folded and rolled and placed in a plastic bag. The ewe's name and number are placed on a piece of paper and placed in the bag as well.

After the sheep is sheared, the second shearer trims its hooves. The sheep is then haltered again and led out to the pasture.

When all the shearing is completed, the helpers purchase their fleeces and we all go in and eat a sumptious meal.

Thank you little ewes and Sandy and Bill. We had a wonderful day!

Oh, and by the way, most of the ewes are pregnant so we will be going back in May to see all the new lambs!