March (Quilting) Madness


This year when we refer to March Madness in my household it has nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with my quilting schedule.

My quilting events have book ended March, beginning with my return from Gwen and Empty Spools on the 4th and ending with my leaving this weekend for the Pickles. But before I go, here is the story of my four vintage tumbling clowns.


Clown InspirationThe clowns came in a bag of vintage fabric samples I bought many years ago at the White Elephant Sale. I recently (re)found them in my continuing efforts to “use or move on” packed away in a plastic shoe box with other vintage pieces.

Added acrobatic dog!


The box also held squares and rectangles of assorted polka dots. Yet another box revealed unfinished fans from the same era with many of the same colors as the clowns. The dots, clowns and fans all wanted to play together – I just needed to figure out how they fit.



Starting to add background piecesI bought a yard of a solid grey background color that was close to the grey in the clown fabric. Wanting to avoid the issue I had with my “What If” quilt, I went back and purchased 2 more yards of it – just in case.

Found the background color

DSCN2242Once I had a lay-out, I started building my quilt. Beginning with the seven fans, I made units and then sewed the top together in sections.

As much as I tried I wasn’t able to avoid having a few partial seams during the construction.

Sewing it together



The best tip I have regarding partial seams is measuring, lots of measuring and remeasuring. The top will buckle and pucker if the seams aren’t straight.

Squaring it up for inset seams

Partial seam tip: MEASURE and use multiple rulers!!





I used multiple rulers going both vertically and horizontally across the quilt top to ensure my seams aligned perfectly as I slowly sewed all the pieces together.



"Tears of a Clown" backThe back also came from my stash. (Yes!!) A yard of fabric designed by Riley Blake called “Rainy Days and Mondays” – vertical rows of multi-colored raindrops in clown colors that matched many of the colors in my top. They looked like clown tears to me!!



DSCN2792Quilting lessons learned: next time I will print a picture of the quilt top and make copies so I can draw out different quilting ideas. Instead, I just started in, outlining the squares and echoing the fans, using my edge guide attachment for my echo stitch guide. Halfway through I realized I really liked the fan echoes and ended up redoing a number of areas to add more curved lines.


I love the edge guide accessory on my Pfaff!


Surrounding the clowns with fan quilting


Either I’ve gotten better at packing for retreats or I’ve forgotten a few things! Oh, well! It’s all good.

But it’s all finished now except for the handwork and I’m off to see the Pickles!!! I’m taking another one of my unfinished projects – my long forsaken Sonoma Stars Quilt. I’m determined to bring it home as a completed top!

Sonoma Stars - almost finished

Sonoma Stars – just need to add a few more trees and sew up some seams!



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Finish and Refocus


Returning home after being away for awhile is a bit like climbing into or out of a moving car…. So to make the transition easier I focused on finishing a piece I started at the beginning of my trip with Gwen.

Half square triangles, sized to 2"

It started with a variety of leftover triangles sewn into 2 piece units and squared to 2 inches at the Santa Barbara Quilt Retreat.


At Gwen’s suggestion I sewed the pairs of triangles together without thought of color placement or design – something I had never done before. It was a bit of a challenge, done with trepidation, but I loved the result.

Triangles sewn together randomly

During the first session at Empty Spools I pinned the triangles onto an indigo background. I made a few string blocks using the same bright solid colors that were in the triangles. Gwen moved the strings around so that they made a zig zag pattern around the triangles.

Gwen moving pieces around


With each pass around the room she and I studied the quilt and played with different arrangements, borrowing some spikes from one student and then some more triangle blocks from another.

More pieces / ideas








I liked the spikes but not the second row of random triangles. By the time I left Asilomar I had enough string blocks to go around three sides of the triangles.

Willy-Nilly Triangles and Strings

WillyNilly Triangles

Usually, when I make string blocks I reuse even the bits of fabric that gets cut off when squaring up the block. This time when I made more string blocks I focused on sewing blocks that would emphasis the zig zag pattern I wanted to create in the border. I remade and removed a few of the blocks that either distracted or didn’t enhance the visual line I wanted. This wasn’t something I knew going into the process. As Gwen often said, “When in doubt, just keep sewing.”

DSCN2793Leftover strings






The top is now finished and I found a piece of fabric in my stash for the back. At first glance the fabric gave me pause – what was I thinking when I bought this??!! And then I put it next to my WillyNilly Triangles.

Finished top

Wild and fun back choice







It just needs to be pinned and quilted – maybe a zig zag quilting design? It will be finished just in time to be used as another sample for my String Class at Stonemountain and Daughter beginning March 31st.

Now back to work on my clowns. Clown Inspiration

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Photo Outtakes from Driving Ms. Gwenny

Santa Barbara Quilt Retreat

Sharon and Gwen having a chat

Sharon and Gwen having a chat

En Route From Santa Barbara to Asilomar 




Interesting Foliage at the Best Western Inn in Santa Barbara











Gwen and Puck

Gwen and Puck in San Luis Osbispo

Outtakes from Empty Spools, Session 1&2



Gwen and Sue Spargo reconnect over coffee before the start of Session 1








Unloading the Cotton Patch Store truck.










Gwen intent on a lesson – photo by Kathi Deravan

Merrill Hall

Merrill Hall in the morning light









Early morning clouds

Last early morning walk to the beach

Path to the beach in the morning light








More clouds



The much traveled path back from the beach














Barb, Gwen and I at the end of Session 2




Thanks to all the faithful followers of Driving Ms. Gwenny. As Porky Pig says: That’s all folks!


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Unconventional & Unexpected American Quilts

IMG_6215Yesterday, beautiful Saturday in Sonoma, i decided that i could spare an hour or so of incredibly nice weather and go inside the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art.  I was not disappointed.  The show entitled Unconventionsal and Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar, 1950-2000 was indeed very unconventional and unexpected. Many of the quilts play with the traditional idea of symmetry but then something unexpected happens! Most of the quilts were made with fabrics from the 50’s,  lots  of polyester.  A very different approach then what we are used to these days when we tend to use more natural materials. But still what came through was the imagination and the dedicated work by all the anonymous  women who made the quilts.

IMG_6210IMG_6211ThIMG_6212is Yoyo quilt was truly amazing.  Seen from  very close there was not much symmetry or order  but as soon as you took a step back you could see the intended design.  Again, this quilt was  unconventional in that the yoyos were hand sewn on a piece of muslin with no batting, no border.  Was it made with the  sole purpose of hanging on the wall? Taking a closer look there are whole pieces of fabric with a poppy print.  I love that,  this fabric that the woman probably adored had to go in that quilt and it could not be made into a yoyo because the flower would have disappeared.  How clever!

IMG_6209Now, something else was very unconventional and unexpected! The way the quilts were displayed. Four of them were in the middle of the room draped over big pedestals.  One of them was showing the back of the top of the quilt –that way you could appreciate all the work. Many of them were hanging from the ceiling at all different angles.  I found those quilts hard to appreciate.  When i asked the reason why, i was told that the curator wanted to keep on with the unconventional spirit. In this he succeeded!   But i wish i could have seen some of those hanging quilts better.



IMG_6216All in all I did love seeing the show.  One more unconventional feature: there was an old, tired quilt that was on a table, with a sign asking the visitors to touch and handle that quilt.  I thought it added another dimension to the experience of seeing the quilts, especially for people who are not in the quilt world.

If you cannot make it to Sonoma –show goes till May 17– check out the book of the same name.  It has  great photos of the quilts and essays by quite a few renowned quilt experts.

It always happens when i go to a quilt show.  Whatever the subject, I get so inspired! Thank you to all these anonymous quilters and everything else that goes into putting a show together.

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The Quilting Gospel According to Gwen

Lozenge Inspiration Reading


A few days into Session 2 Gwen’s voice got scratchy, so before class she sucked on Hall’s lozenges. By the second lozenge she noticed the wrappers had inspirational messages written all over them and she incorporated those into her morning instructions. We were encouraged to “Push on.” “Don’t wait to get started.” “Power through.” “Conquer today.” “Be resilient.” and “Fire up those engines.”

Inspiration #2

Inspiration #3

Inspiration #1





Binding demo

Gwen demonstrating how to sew on the tiny single fold bindings.

37 Sketches is all about exploring composition, color and technique and working small….really small. This is actually much harder than it sounds. We learned to make tiny triangles and 3/4″ squares, insert narrow curves and, best of all, how to sew single fold bindings cut 1 and 1/8th inches to our 10″ x 12″ sketches.




For my second piece of the week I decided to try making a sketch with 3/4″ strips. My color choices were inspired by my early morning walks to the beach.  Barbara, my tablemate and friend, found a fat quarter with the perfect print for the back.










As much as I love the finished piece, I almost abandoned it. Building a 10 1/2″ x 11″ quilt one quarter inch at a time is a slow, arduous process – especially those final two inches (eight or more tiny strips!). It was an all day project.

DSCN2765I was very happy to go back to something a little less taxing for my third and final sketch of the session. I intended to reproduce a small version of a quilt from Gwen’s Minimal Quilting book, but after only three strips around my center square I had already veered from her quilt…. I gave up trying to recreate it and made my own version.




Before I knew it, the almost three weeks of driving Ms. Gwenny were over. After a few last pictures and lots of hugs, Gwen and I left Asilomar headed for the San Jose airport. DSCN2760



DSCN2713Someone else is driving Ms. Gwenny as she spreads her quilting gospel in the Seattle area for two more weeks before going home once again to Beaver Island, Michigan. Safe travels Gwen and thanks for the memories!!



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Time Flies When You’re Having Fun



The days here at Empty Spools are beginning to run together. While Gwen and I both remember the date, we are often confused as to the day of the week.  However, it’s not all about quilting – we did have a chance to get to the beach one morning.


The beach turned out to be a very busy place.

One really happy dog!

One very happy dog!









Big birds and little birds


One perfect human footprint and dog prints



Deer prints








Gwen and Lisha from Session 1

We said goodbye to the first week campers on Friday morning and welcomed the new students coming in for Session 2 Friday afternoon. The class shifted from Abstract Quilts in Solids to 37 Sketches (working small). I put away my Willy-Nilly Triangles for the moment and started making small sketches.

Willy-Nilly Triangles and Strings

Willy-Nilly Triangles








Small sketch #1











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Empty Spools, Session 1


An update on Gwen’s class – here’s what’s been happening the last two days.

A Gwen little/big sister duo

Gwen discusses the benefits of making little quilts in order to work out color, composition and technique before making its big sister.

Gwen’s class is held in Merrill Hall at Asilomar. The classroom is actually the auditorium. Our sewing tables wrap around the perimeter of the room, always set up with chairs for the evening gatherings.

Gwen discussing Nora's quilt

Gwen and Nora discuss Nora’s quilt – you can see the chairs set up in the background.


After a morning gathering for discussion and questions, Gwen spends the day circling the room, checking in with each of us.





Picture of Gwen in the midst of a small group lesson captured by Kathi Derevan




All through the day, Gwen holds mini lessons on technique or a specific tip and invites all of her students to join the group.






In Santa Barbara I had sewn a group of triangles together into squares and Gwen had suggested I place them together willy-nilly, without thought of making any particular design. After a few deep breaths, I  sewed the blocks together on Monday. Today I decided I’d like to make a border of small string blocks. I asked Gwen for tips.



Gwen deep in thought.





Gwen rearranging my string blocks







I love how she changed my grouping of four string blocks into a single line of blocks that create a zig-zag pattern. That small adjustment made all the difference! Tomorrow morning I will make more string blocks to finish the border, but that’s for another day.


Another beautiful sunset seen through the trees by my room.






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More Adventures With Ms. Gwenny





Friday morning Gwen’s daughter sent her a weather update, just in case she needed to be reminded that she wasn’t in Michigan anymore.




On Saturday Gwen taught a class from her 37 Sketches book at the Monterey Quilt Guild. Margaret, from the Guild, picked Gwen up and invited me to come along.

After the lecture everyone eagerly started making her own small sketch. The first twenty minutes I wandered around the classroom watching until Gail Abeloe, the owner of Back Porch Fabrics and coordinator of the workshop,  offered to let me play in her box of scraps and share her machine! Oh, my!! Not only was it someone else’s scrap bag, but a quilt store owner’s scrap bag!!



Small Study 32


Small Study 35









Inspired by these two studies by Gwen, and thinking about my lunchtime quilt lesson in San Luis Obispo the day before, I decided to make regular and irregular squares and practice the 1/4″ inserts I had learned at the Santa Barbara Retreat.



This is the result of my day at the workshop. I like how the little green inserts are barely visible set within the wonderful blue stripe in the bottom row. Gail was not only a very gracious hostess but a savvy businesswoman – I had to go back to her store today and buy larger pieces of some of those scraps with the intention of making a big sister for my small study.



Last night was the opening of the 35th year of Empty Spools. Watch for the next update after the end of the session, Thursday, the 26th.. Let the sewing begin.



Happy teacher and student as the sun sets over the ocean.









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Driving Ms. Gwenny Continued

What happens when two quilters walk through a courtyard in San Luis Obispo? The courtyard becomes an open classroom as Gwen points out tiles, brickwork, coffee cups and mosaics in regular and irregular quilting patterns.


Irregular patterned squares

Squares in an irregular color pattern


Irregular Triangles

Rectangles in an irregular color pattern


Unorganized Squares

More squares in an irregular color pattern







Checkerboard or Regular Patterned Squares

Squares in a checkerboard (regular) color pattern




Tiled Mosaic Wall

Tile mosaic in a diamond pattern

Being the Liberated women we are, we agreed that we preferred the irregular patterns.


Peet’s coffee cup with irregular triangle pattern from Central America








Arriving in Pacific Grove, we stopped by Back Porch Fabrics to check out Gwen’s Minimal Quilts Exhibit from her latest book, Minimal Quiltmaking. As you might imagine, I own many of Gwen’s books – and refer to them regularly – but this new book is one of my favorites, right up there with Abstract Quilts in Solids and 37 Sketches. Seeing her quilts from the book in person was thrilling. The exhibit is well lit beautifully hung. Some of my favorites were the two big sister/little sister quilt sets: a larger quilt and its small study. (My photos do not do the quilts justice – buy the book or visit Back Porch Fabrics. The exhibit continues through March 17th.)


Big sister



Little Sister









Big Sister

Big Sister

Little Sister

Little Sister







After leaving the quilt shop, Gwen stopped by to chat with an old friend.

Gwen's new friend




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Driving Ms. Gwenny

All packed and ready

Arriving at our first destination


NOTICE: The regular content of this blog will be temporarily suspended while I follow Gwen Marston’s travels through California. Gwen arrived in California on February 7 and spent a week with Freddy Moran in Orinda. Sunday, February 15, I picked Gwen up at Freddy’s house and drove her to the Santa Barbara Quilt Retreat.

DSCN2422DSCN2417Ventura, CA


Gwen pointing out a design detail on her quilt



Gwen was the featured teacher for four days, lecturing and demonstrating her liberated quilting techniques to a rapt and appreciative audience of a dozen quilters. The retreat was titled Abstract Quilts in Solids. Below are a few of Gwen’s quilts.




DSCN2380DSCN2379Gwen Gwen


Morning lectures were followed by work days (and some evenings), with each of us attempting to incorporate all of Gwen’s ideas and lessons into our own quilts.

Caroline contemplating her pieces

Caroline contemplates her pieces


Liz talking about her quilt top

Liz told us how her phone case inspired her quilt design.









Somewhere around the third day we started seeing quilt designs in our food.

Triangles everywhere

Wouldn’t those triangles look great in a quilt…?!


Below are quilts/pieces from show and tell today. (***Dear Fellow Quilters: please forgive me if I left anyone out.)

Jean's quilt

Jean’s quilt




Claire and Gwen

Claire and Gwen in front of Claire’s quilt


Andrea's work

Andrea’s quilt


Maggie's work

Maggie’s quilt




Gwen and Madilyn

Gwen and Madilyn

Helen's work

Helen’s small pieces – left to right, top to bottom – moving from prints to solids

Sharon's work

Sharon’s quilt and small studies

Gwen with Lucy

Gwen and Lucy

Small studies - 4 grey and a stray

My 4 small grey studies and a stray
















Irelle's work

Irelle’s quilt










And so, seeing that her work was done in Santa Barbara, Gwen packed her bags and we headed off to her next destination: Asilomar.

On the road with Gwenny

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One Thing Leads to Another

How to primer on how to reach organization nirvana

How- to primer on how to reach organization nirvana

In August last year I started reading Organizing Solutions for Every Quilter by Carolyn Woods and began a campaign to sort through my cupboards, drawers, bookshelves – every nook and cranny of my studio – and organize, finish up, or move on….

This past week I donated two boxes of books, a couple of bags of fabric and 4 quilt tops to the White Elephant Sale. One of those quilt tops went home with Catherine, but it’s at her house now, not mine! All that stirring up of my studio helped me (re)discover a few stashes of fabric and/or projects that I had tucked away and forgotten.

After I finished two vintage/reproduction 9 patch quilts (seen in Scraps of Summer), I pulled out a bag of 4-patches and squares that I had found at the Depot of Creative Reuse years ago.

4-patches and squares

I had been drawn to the homey look of the blocks, mostly made from shirtings – long before shirting quilts became popular – and various plaids and prints from the 40’s and 50’s. But the blocks and squares were very wonky. That fact, and the notion that I would need to make many, many more of those tiny blocks to have enough even for a small quilt kept me paralyzed.

When I pulled out the unfinished project this time though, I told myself I had to either use the blocks or give them away. No more petting and admiring….

Without really thinking I put a few of the 4-patches next to each other on my design board.  I realized I liked how they looked as 16-patches.

Making 16 patches out of 4 patches

So I started sewing the 4-patches into larger units – and yes, I’ll admit it –  I even took a few of the really wonky ones apart and fixed them.  I sorted through my scraps and stash for other vintage scraps and shirting that fit the look of the original squares. Even though I was still working with small squares – 2 1/4″ – the finished block was 7″ and that seemed doable.

I sashed the blocks with a grey chambry and quilted it in 2″ diagonal lines.

front of 16 patch

Completed 16 patch

Almost by magic, the dreaded project became fun and best of all – finished.

back of 16 patch

Back made from large blue pieces in my stash








This process of sorting, moving on or finishing has made me think about what I am interested in finishing or doing, what I realistically have time to do and, more importantly, if a lanquishing project is still worth my time and effort. This one was and I’m so glad that I finished it.

Next -what to do with these four vintage clowns ?

Clown Inspiration



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Not Quilts! but still in the sewing room.

Tessa's skirtI do have a few quilts on the back burner and some ideas that need to come together. But meanwhile i have been sewing for my grand-daughters.  A three tier skirt for Tessa, so she can twirl around, with the matching skirt for her dolly Mapou. Still using batik.  The chevrons running the length of the fabric were the perfect fit for this skirt.  Can’t wait to see Tessa twirl and get all dizzy!

IMG_6112Being in the upcycle mode I grabbed a pair of Bart’s corduroy pants that was on its way to the White Elephant Sale –fundraiser for the Oakland Museum of California– and made a little jumper for Ofélia.  She loves pockets, so here’s a big on on the front.  I stuffed it with clothes for her doll, Mapu, a little dress in the same material as the binding and an apron. I made the binding myself from a fat quarter, you make a couple yards of binding following the continuous binding technique.

That was fun, but i am going  back to quilting!

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Because I Say So!!

DSCN2267 I’m linking up with crazymomquilts for Finish Up Friday and calling sewing the binding on my Chicken Quilt a finish today.

I worked to the sweet sound of rain pattering on my roof. Since January came and went without a drop of rain here in California, that sound is especially welcome.


All of my wool quilts are finished by tieing, large stitching or a combination of the two. I liked the look of the front without any ties or stitching so I tied the quilt with red thread but put ties on the back rather than the front.


Chickens and Strings

My Chickens seem a bit confused by all the red ties

Handwork Basket

I suppose some might argue that I’m not done done, but once a quilt is off my table or out of my machine and into my basket it feels pretty done to me. And anyway, as my mother often said – It’s done because I say so!


Only the handwork left

Ties on the back







Have a wonderful weekend – Thank Heavens for the rain!!


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From Upholstery Sample Book to a Quilted Table Runner

At one of our monthly meeting of the SOFA 8, Kathy wanted to give us something.  Come outside she said, and then she opened the trunk 0f her car that was full to the brim with sample books from many different upholstery fabric companies.

So much fun to flip through them– I  found all those colors and textures hard to resist.  But I was surprisingly reasonable and only got 3 books.

IMG_6062 IMG_6063IMG_6064

The first task is to take the books apart.  They are heavily glued and bound with long staples.  I used tools, a good pair of pliers and a screwdriver are perfect tools to take them apart. Then each “leaf” of fabric has thick paper glued on the back to hold it stiff and also to give a space for the description of the fabric.  Most of what i got is IMG_6075half cotton, half polyester.   And the colors! The whole garden provides the names: lavender, lime, pistachio, marigold and truffle to name only a few.  I cut off the labels  with my rotary cutter.  My attempt to remove the paper was not successful, it feels terrible to cut out that inch and a half off but that’s how it goes.  I might find some usage later for those strips of beautifully colored fabric.

I took all those  squares and rectangles to my class at Harbor House and  Bunlay, Jane and I laid the quilt out, sewed it in stripes and voilà! I opened most of the seams as i was ironing it, but it is still quite thick in places.  The next venture is how to quilt it to make it sit flat.




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Learning to Teach

Wonky Stars and Shoo FlyDSCN0979


 Wonky Star Sample Blocks


Knowing how to quilt does not a teacher make. When I started teaching quilting I had to learn how to teach. Teaching has made me think about how or why I do what I do. Teaching also requires learning or developing a vocabulary that helps explain what you are teaching.

Students do and should ask questions. “Why do you do that? What is that pattern called? How is this done? Can you teach me how to do this?”


Student Work



Student Work





 Student Work from my first Wonky Star Class at New Pieces in Berkeley


When I start a quilt of my own I might make a rough sketch of an idea, but most often I have an idea or image in my head. I rarely draft my patterns (except, of course, when I do – like my Chicken quilt) and I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what colors or fabrics I use. I just do it. Intuitively. Gwen Marston calls it “liberated” quilting. (You can read about it in my post “It’s a Process.“) Quilting this way isn’t necessarily a problem – unless you’re a teacher – when you need to explain your process.  I doubt many of my students would accept, “I don’t know, I just ‘wing it’,” as an answer to their questions. Nor should they.

Kate's 1st quilt!

Kate’s 1st quilt – started at the Richmond Art Center and finished at a Quilt Lab at Stonemountain & Daughter.

Meeting and working with my students has made me a more informed and knowledgeable quilter. As Mary Mashuta once said, “The gift of being a teacher is what you learn from your students.” Thank you  to all my “student teachers!!”


RAC Winter 2014 - Sheila - front

Sheila’s dolly quilt made at the Richmond Art Center, Winter session 2014


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The Chickens Come Home to Roost


A few years ago I fell in love with this flannel chicken fabric and bought 3 yards…. Ok, maybe I bought a little bit more than three yards, but who’s measuring?? It was the perfect back for a red, black and grey wool quilt. Making red, black and grey wool quilts is my quilter’s version of comfort food – when the weather turns cold and I get the urge to make wool quilts, it usually includes at least one variation of a red, black and grey quilt every year. Last year’s quilt was a Liberated Log Cabin quilt I made for my husband out of the scraps leftover from my friend Lynne’s red, grey and black quilt.

Over the years I’ve made at least 6 red, black and grey wool quilts: one block quilts, a 9-patch quilt, a brick pattern and 2 Liberated Log Cabins. I’ve never made one one specifically for me.

J's quilt

Squares and rectangles

1 block red, black and grey quilt

1 block red, black and grey quilt









So for most of New Year’s Eve I cut out wool for a quilt of my own. Rather than use squares or rectangles, I decided to enlarge and elongate my tumbler block. I stretched the pattern to 9 inches long, 5 inches at the top and 8 inches at the bottom.

Red, Grey and Black wool

Selection of red, red plaid, grey and black wool fabrics

Beginning the lay-out

Beginning the lay-out









Ever since I found this nubby grey wool at the White Elephant Sale a few years ago I’ve included it in all my red, black and grey quilts. I like to fussy cut at least a few blocks so that the writing on the selvage is still visible.

Fussy cut to include the salvedge

Fussy cut to include the selvage

Unfortunately, a few days of the flu and a week of jury duty slowed my progress but last night I finished my quilt top, pulled out my chickens and auditioned two other flannel pieces to go with them. Finally a red, black and grey wool quilt of my own for my flock of chickens.

Finished quilt top

Finished quilt top – 59″x 68″

Chickens with two other flannel choices

Hmmm. Looks good to me!

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Christmas – Past and Present and Future

Fairy tale slippers with bells made from deerhide

Fairy tale slippers with bells made from deerhide

Traditionally, our family Christmas gifts always include a few handmade items. The days leading up to Christmas are a flurry of last minute “finishing.” One of the first handmade Christmas gifts I remember receiving was a pair of  deer hide slippers made by my grandmother – slippers straight out of fairy tales with curled toes and little bells. I loved running through the halls of the hotel my granparents owned just so I could hear the bells tinkle. I’m sure the adults were listening for my bells in order to keep track of a curious and active 4 year old!

Happily, this family tradition will not end with me. The past few weeks I’ve been sharing my studio – currently known as the elf workshop – with my son who’s sewing a flannel shirt for his sister (Shhh! It’s a secret!).

Elf L in the workshop

Elf L in the workshop

Flannel shirt in progress

Flannel shirt in progress









This year I purchased a few handmade, repurposed and/or recycled items at the annual Telegraph Avenue Christmas Fair. One of the vendors was selling recycled books made into journals – the perfect gift to go with my own bookmarks.

Bookmarks make great stocking stuffers!

Bookmarks make great stocking stuffers!

Discarded book made into a journal using recycled paper.

Discarded book made into a journal using recycled paper.








Giants' hat embellished with Kente cloth

Giants’ hat embellished with Kente cloth

I also found the perfect cap for the biggest Giants’ fan in our family made by Mercedes Martin of Tres Mercedes.

Last year’s handmade gifts included cloth wallets and aprons using my husband’s old shirts.

Cloth wallets by Lazy Girl Designs

Cloth wallets by Lazy Girl Designs

Hubby's old shirt turned into a chic apron

Hubby’s old shirt turned into a chic apron





Christmas is never complete without a few new pillowcases and reversible gifts bags.


DSCN2173Reversible bags





My handmade item this year is heatable rice bags. I used a store bought one as a pattern – enlarging it and adding channels to keep the rice distributed evenly. Not only does the warm bag soothe tired shoulders but it’s great for warming up a cold bed!


Rice bags – 12″ x 30″


But enough blogging – I need to get back to my workshop – it’s coundown time!



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All I Made is a Dolly Quilt

Still Lifes & Landscapes     by Richard Diebenkorn at Kelly's Cove

Still Lifes & Landscapes by Richard Diebenkorn
at Kelly’s Cove

I love being in my sewing room and making quilts,  but because of the rest of my life: traveling to Italy, Switzerland and France –a few photos below– and the work called for after the publishing of our 14th book at Kelly’s Cove Press, all I have found the time to make is a dolly quilt for Ofelia.  It is a mini version of the baby quilt I made her when she was born–she actually naps under that quilt every day at her school.  Next one I will make is also fun and easy: a mini version of Tessa’s baby quilt. No holiday rush on this one because I go to Eugene early January to celebrate Tessa’s birthday and the Wise Kings. Today as I was looking through my photos I found Donatella’s quilt that I will post here just because today is Nhelete’s 10th birthday.

Donatella's Quilt

Donatella’s Quilt

Tessa's Baby Quilt

Tessa’s Baby Quilt

Ofelia's dolly quilt

Ofelia’s dolly quilt






Here are some of the images of beautiful scenes while traveling. Who knows how they will go into a quilt? But I am certain that I will be inspired by all these designs and colors. These pictures are  randomly displayed, just for pleasure.

marble floor in the Academia in Venice

marble floor in the Academia in Venice








Fortuny Cloth, in Palazzio Fortuny, Venice

Fortuny Cloth, in Palazzio Fortuny, Venice

More Fortuny

More Fortuny

Peggy Guggenheim's headboard --not made out of wood as headboard suggests but out of silver by Alexander Calder

Peggy Guggenheim’s headboard –not made out of wood as headboard suggests but out of silver by Alexander Calder







MUCEM in Marseille. Dentelle de béton Lace of concrete.

MUCEM in Marseille.
Dentelle de béton
Lace of concrete.

JF Schnyder's rags he used while painting now made into a huge quilt

JF Schnyder’s rags he used while painting now made into a huge quilt


Monument in hommage to the silk weavers in Menaggio

Monument in homage to the silk weavers in Menaggio

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Design Opportunities

Cheryl's quiltDSCN2099With every “mistake” a quilter thinks she makes, comes a “design opportunity,” whether it is running out of fabric, or a cutting or sewing mistake. Here is a story that includes all of those “design opportunities.” It started with an image of a quilt called View in Cheryl Arkinson’s book called A Month of Sundays.


The book is about using low -volume fabrics: fabrics with lots of white background and/or very muted colors. Intrigued by the concept I decided I not only wanted to try making a low volume quilt, I wanted to make that quilt – exactly that quilt with the block of very pale squares/scraps floating in the bottom right hand corner, surrounded by the softest pale pink print.DSCN2100-001
I found a yard of the perfect pale pink check in my stash. I went through my scraps and fat quarters and pulled the palest, softest low volume fabrics I had. I purchased a few fat quarters for extra variety. I was ready to start sewing.  The block of squares was the easy part. I added the borders to the top and bottom of the block and then the first side….

Uh, oh…, I put the block in the top of the quilt rather than at the bottom but I’ve already added the first border…. Should I take it off? Listening to my internal “Catherine” voice I told myself “no ripping” and decided I kind of liked my version. Ok, now the final side. Measure twice, cut once…. WHAT!!??? How did that happen?!?! I know I measured the quilt correctly…. I don’t have enough fabric to cut a new border…. I suppose I could piece it and make it the right size….Whoops!

At that point I took a few deep breathes, had a cup of tea and stared at my too short final border and at the small pile of extra scraps on my table….hmmmm. Those design opportunities were piling up.

Adding On



I decided to sew single strip of scraps together and add them onto my final border before I added the extra piece of fabric to make it long enough.Design Opportunity


In the process I quit kicking myself for cutting the final border too short. My mistake gave me an opportunity to create my own low volume quilt – based on Cheryl’s quilt – but not her’s exactly.




Quilt Front


Quilt Back









If you think this is a cautionary tale, it’s not. Quilting isn’t about doing everything perfect because mistakes happen. Quilting is about being creative and enjoying the process. And, by the way, I highly recommend Cheryl’s book – “View” is only one of 16 different projects in the book using low-volume fabrics – but make your own version. You can also check out her blog:


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Bishop’s Ranch Quilts

Here are pictures of quilts by my fellow quilters at October’s Bishop’s Ranch Retreat. Unfortunately, I didn’t get pictures of all the quilters or their quilts. I forgot to take pictures until the final day and missed a lot of photo opportunities. My apologies to my retreat buddies. The oversight was definitely not intentional.

Front of quilt

Quilt front

Back of one of Kathy's quilts

Quilt back


However, one quilter is particularly well represented. Multiple pictures were warranted as she had to be the most prolific quilter of any retreat I’ve ever attended!


Kathy is not only a fast and focused quilter, she is also a long-arm extraordinaire at New Pieces Quilt Shop in Berkeley.

Kathy's quilt

Another Kathy quilt

Kathy's teal top

And another….









Luckily for us, she shared her productivity secret before the retreat was over. She told us she always brings multiple projects that are mid-way completed: tops to be pinned, blocks to sew into rows, backs to sew, etc. While the rest of us diligently – or not so diligently – work on new projects, Kathy sews her finished blocks into rows, finishes a back, pins a top….and hangs up a new quilt every day. Making her the envy of the rest of us. I am definitely going to try that at my next retreat!


Kathy's 2nd quilt top

The final top Kathy finished at our retreat – she seems to have a color theme going on


Shadows on Susan's blocks

Lovely play of shadows across Susan’s blocks

Freddy Moran inspired block by Lisel

Freddy Moran inspired block by Lisel

Back of Gay's cushion

Gay’s scrappy seat cushion cover

Mary and Katie's Circles

Mary and Katie’s Circles from Kathy Doughty’s book, Adding Layers. We loved them as circles but the finished block calls for cutting them into squares. Hopefully, they will make more circles for another quilt.














And for the grand finale, I found a post by Heather with the story and pictures of her time at our retreat.

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It’s a Process


Last week I attended a quilt retreat at Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg, CA. One of the projects I brought to work on was a wool quilt for a friend. I had no pattern, just a dark plaid wool skirt that I had washed and felted and a slew of wool scraps in solid colors that I thought might work well with the plaid….. I knew I wanted the quilt to be “lap” size, somewhere between 48-50″ wide and 52-54″ long and I wanted to include at least one pocket. That was the extent of my plan.

Bishop's Ranch

This is my favorite way to make quilts – just pick out a few fabrics and/or a bunch of scraps and start sewing. Gwen Marston calls this style “liberated quilting.” It is also called improvisational or freeform. Whatever the name, it is very much a “use what you have” type of quiltmaking.


Aaron's Freedom Woolly Quilt

Aaron’s Freedom Quilt – 74″x77″ – a multi-year long project, started by sewing random wool scraps together.

The "process" begins

The quilt starts to come together after the extra pockets are removed.

One thing it’s not is a “quilt in a day” kind of project. It’s a process. For me it begins with an inspiration: a fabric, a person, a colorway or with random scraps sewn together until a pattern or order appears. I have been known to work on quilts like these for weeks, months, even years. I’ve also made a few magical quilts that came together overnight, almost like they made themselves – I was just driving the sewing machine.


Gwen Marston describes this technique in detail in her Liberated Quiltmaking II book. If you have never seen this book, check it out, especially the part  she calls The Non-Rules of Design. As my quilting retreat buddies learned, Gwen is my “go-to” reference for all things quilty.

A favorite liberated quilting phrase of Gwen’s is: “Don’t commit too soon.” My friend Lynne has a similar phrase: “Too early to tell.” I keep both of those phrases in mind as I am work in this style so that I remember to concentrate on where I am at that moment and don’t worry about the next step – the borders, the back, etc.


This particular quilt took most of the 4 day retreat to emerge. On the first day, I laid out my fabrics on the floor, moving 3 pockets and the tiny bits of bright colors around. I sewed a few strips together but something just wasn’t right.

This, Dear Reader, is why I always bring more than one project on a retreat.

Floor Scrap Quilt made from Barb's BIQR scraps from 2013

Barb’s Floor Scraps Quilt – 12″x12″



On the 2nd day I worked on a floor scrap quilt made from the scraps given to me by my friend, Barb, at Gwen Marston’s final Beaver Island Quilt Retreat last September.

A little more progress

The “process” continues.




I worked on my little quilt most of that day, “visiting” my wool quilt layout off and on, moving the pocket squares, shifting a few fabrics here and there, waiting for the quilt to “talk” to me. Nothing. However, years of working this way have taught me to be patient, to wait it out.

Lo and behold, on the 3rd day I woke up with the realization that I had too many pockets in the layout! I only wanted to make a lap quilt. I only needed 1 pocket – 3 pockets were two too many. (Unfortunately, I am still new to documenting my process and I didn’t take a picture of the lay-out with the 3 pockets.)

Finished top

The finished quilt top – 51″ x 58″


Once I took the extra pockets out, the quilt started to make itself. By the end of the retreat I had one panel finished and the second pinned on my design cloth. The quilt was “talking” to me and I was “listening.” What a process!


Next up: pictures of the work of my fellow Bishop’s Ranch Retreat quilters. I must apologize in advance however, as again, I was so in the moment that I forgot to take pictures until the final day so I don’t have  pictures of all the quilts/quilters.


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It’s a Wrap – Last Week’s Finish

My Strippy "Revisited"

“BIQR Revisited” – finished

Last week I linked up with crazymomquilts for Finish it up Friday but forgot to post a picture so here it is a week later.

This finish is actually a “redo.” I started it over a year ago at Gwen Marston’s 30th and final Beaver Island Retreat.

I came to the retreat with the intention of making a quilt similar to Gwen’s in her book: Freddy and Gwen Collaborate Again (page 34). I have always liked strippys and I had a drawer full of triangles leftover from other quilts – it seemed like the perfect project.

The beginning strips of my Scrappy Thriangle Strippy

The beginning strips of my Scrappy Thriangle Strippy


However, when I got home I wasn’t happy with what I’d made. My intention wasn’t to copy Gwen’s exactly, but I wanted it to have the same “feel” and I just wasn’t “feeling” like I had achieved that.

Now here comes the part that makes Catherine cringe – I didn’t just toss it or pass it on – I started taking it apart. Almost all apart. I named my “new” quilt “Beaver Island Revisited.”

New strippy....getting closer.

New strippy….getting closer.

Detail of Triangles and Quilting

Detail of triangles and quilting




From the numerous partially finished blocks/quilts that I have found over the years at The Legacy, I would say I’m not the only one who doesn’t always like (or finish) what they’ve started….



Unwanted/unfinished blocks don’t interest everyone, but -as you can read in my post May Baskets- I have been known to purchase those “boo-boos” and remake them.

What do you do when a project you started doesn’t turn out the way you hoped or imagined? Do you take your projects apart and start over? Do you give it away? Repurpose it? Do you finish blocks others have abandoned?





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Liberty Quilts for Mom and Niece

I love Liberty Fabric.  I get that from my mom who is from London.  As a kid she would take me into the Liberty of London Store and since then, I go to the store every time I am in London without fail.

liberty inside viewHere’s a great description of the store by  Christina Waterson in her tracepattern site:  “Through the vision of Arthur Lasenby Liberty, Liberty of London was originally conceived of as an emporium; bringing the best of the world to London. The essence of the store was to bring exotic and beautiful goods of quality from the East to the West: to stock pile of liberty fabricthings that no one else had seen and to make them available to discerning Londoners. Imported textiles; dyeing techniques; Japanese fans, screens and art prints; Blue and White Pottery from China: inlaid wooden boxes and carvings, metal work and rugs from Persia and Turkey filled the Emporium. The materials and richness of color and pattern, in turn, inspired a whole generation of British talent to design and produce high quality goods. In 1920 Liberty’s Tana Lawn was launched; made from a particular cotton plant from Lake Tana in Sudan. It had the feel of silk but did not come with the price of silk. Its quality was due to the long fine staple of the particular cotton and the skill of the weavers to pack a very high thread count into the fabric.”

IMG_3962This spring I made a quilt for my mom at her request.  She wanted it to go on the wall at the head of her bed in her newly built bedroom in Pradelles.  I decided that I wanted to use Liberty fabrics from my stash, many remnants from earlier projects, which imbued the new quilt with many memories. I IMG_3955wanted a very simple design to provide contrast to the vivid fabrics.  A natural muslin accomplished the trick.  I did some reverse quilting following–somewhat–the pattern of the flowered fabric on the back.  To my delight, my mom liked the quilt so much that, rather than hanging it at the head of the bed, she placed it to the side so she could see it while lying in bed.

photo 2In September, my niece Ariane turned 30. I could not be there for her party but decided that I would make her a quilt. When she visited me in California 12 years ago she got the quilting bug and has been making quilts since then. Ariane told me how much she loved the quilt I made for my mom so I decided to go that same route for her. Because I wanted to send the quilt back to France with Ariane’s brother, who was visiting, I only had a week to make the quilt. So that got me going on a very simple design, also with photo 3beloved Liberty fabrics from my stash. I had more of that great flowered fabric and did reverse quilting again.

Ariane's quilt 1984Coincidentally, the second quilt I ever made was for Ariane. That was made for her birth, a sampler quilt that I did in a class. It used those very same Liberty fabrics. It’s time for me to get back to Liberty of London to replenish my stash.





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Books and More Books

My Quilting Library - a little short on space

My Quilting Library – a little short on space

I bought a new quilting book last month that I wasn’t planning on buying. Heavens knows (as do my family and friends) that I do not need a new book. However, I was in a bookstore and…well….  I know, I know, I have a weakness for books. I couldn’t (and didn’t) resist.

Initially I was intrigued because of the 80++ quilters and designers listed in the front pages. Next, I was convinced after flipping through the book.

Bench with overflow books and magazines

Bench with overflow books and magazines



This has been the book I reach for on my night stand ever since I bought it – Some people I know go to bed with a cookbook; I go to bed with quilt books.

I have not put so many post-its in a book since my first days of quilting.

New book with markers on almost all the pages

New book with markers on almost all the pages



The full title of this book is QUILTING WITH A MODERN SLANT: people, patterns, and techniques inspiring the MODERN QUILT COMMUNITY by Rachel May.

I think the book successfully appeals to a wide array of quilters from newbies to seasoned quilters.

Following the introduction page are four two-page sections, covering the usual: the steps of constructing a quilt, the tools, a definition of modern quilting, but also a section called: Find Your People.

Quilters, like anyone else these days,  can find answers, tutorials and how to’s to anything we want to know via the internet. In fact, in my family, we often tell each other to “just google it.” The information available on the internet is amazing, but we still need to share or connect with a real person. Everyone, especially creative people, want/need to belong to a group, attend a retreat, take classes and talk and share their work.

Sherri Lynn Wood - one of the quilters introduced in the chapter titled "Improv."

Sherri Lynn Wood – one of the quilters introduced in the chapter titled “Improv.”

The book is divided into 7 chapters, beginning with “A Sense of Play” in chapter 1. Eight – ten designers/quilters and 1 or 2 projects are included in each chapter. I found myself posting sticky notes on almost every other page with the intention of going back and checking out the quilters further or trying that pattern or just to look at the pictures again. The assortment of quilters and projects is diverse and interesting.



I hope you check this book out for yourself. I would love to hear what you think of it. In fact, if you have a quilt book that you find yourself returning to again and again for inspiration, I would love to hear about it. But in the words of LeVar Burton at the end of Reading Rainbow – “… don’t take my word for it….”

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The Textile Mavens are in a Quilt Show

Postcard for SOFA8 Quilt ShowFern and I belong to a quilt critique group SoFA8. At our monthly meetings we share ideas, fabrics, designs and give each other feedback.  SoFA8 stands for Society of Fabric Artists, the 8 is for our original number of women quilters.
This coming month we have put together a show entitled Quilts: Layers of Meaning. The show begins October 6th and goes through the 30th at the Eddie Rhodes Gallery at Contra Costa College in San Pablo. See our calendar for more details.
Unfortunately, only my quilts will be there, I will be away in Italy during the whole month of October. However, Fern will be at the reception and will be happy to show off our quilts. Refreshments will be provided by students in the Culinary School at CCC.

P.S. If you want to receive your very own postcard in the mail, just email us your address: or

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Slow or Quick Finish

Detail of quiltingOn August 1st I posted that my basket quilt was all finished except for the handwork. A month and a half later, I finally had a few days to sit and finish the handwork.

Having a quilt in the process of hand stitching is such a part of my quilting process that quite a few years ago I bought a beautiful basket specifically for my handwork. Handwork Basket


I would finish the quilting, sew on the binding and then put it in my “work basket.” The work basket was always at the ready to grab whenever I was going off to soccer games, baseball games, swim meets, Dr. visits, etc. I never really thought about how my process would change when I no longer had those activities….

Overflowing Basket of HandworkAs a result, my workbasket was full to overflowing. My basket quilt sat waiting to be finished until last weekend when I had time to sit and do the handwork.

Last little bit of hand stitchingHand sewing my binding is the original way I learned to finish my quilts. It is still my preferred finish. I enjoy sitting with it on my lap, meditatively hand stitching – sort of a last snuggle with the quilt before it goes off to it’s new home or purpose.

For many years I resisted learning how to bind my quilts by machine – it just didn’t seem “right” somehow and besides, my stitching would show,…. my stitches wouldn’t be straight,… or even, or whatever! My first attempts only served to prove my worst fears. I usually ripped it out and went back to hand sewing.

Using a machine zig zag stitch

Zig zag stitch machine binding

Inevitably there came a time I really needed to finish a baby quilt quickly. Baby quilts are perfect candidates for a machine finish. Often, the quilts are small, you want them finished quickly and they need to withstand a lot of washing and heavy use. I tried using one of my “fancy” stitches. The stitch covered the edge of the binding, created a design and looked good on both sides of the quilt. However, I found that the “fancy” stitches often made the edges of the quilt stiff. I settled on a loose zig zag.

Machine stitching on the binding with a straight stitch

Front of the quilt with machine stitched binding


Machine straight stitch on back of quilt

Back of the quilt with machine stitched binding

Now a few years into machine binding I have quit using fancy stitches completely and only use a straight stitch. I am here to tell you – machine binding is not as hard as it looks and you truly do get better with practice.  And the best part – your quilt is done shortly after you put in the last quilting stitches! All the better, there are now great tutorials on the web that show you exactly how to do it. There is a good tutorial on machine binding on Amanda Jean Nyberg’s  Crazy Mom Quilts blog (the blogger I recently cited in the ironing board cover tutorial).  In one of her recent posts titled, a few binding tips, Andrea added to her binding info with a few more tips that will take your machine binding efforts to a new level – including how to perfect your mitered corners.

Ultimately, it’s not about which finish you choose – quick or slow – just finish!




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Scraps of Summer


Last of the Naked Ladies

The last of the Belladonna Lilies – also known as Naked Ladies

Labor Day has come and gone but humor me as I savor the lingering memories of summer by recounting the weekend I spent with a few of the Pickles in Sebastopol in August.

If you remember, Dear Reader, I left for the weekend with grand dreams and great hopes: dreams of finishing and/or starting at least 5 of the 7 projects I brought and hopes of giving away or using up my overflowing scraps.

Scraps Galore

Scraps, scraps and more scraps….




I may have been a bit overly optimistic. However, as you can see in the photo – I was in great company!


We all arrived with overflowing scrap bins and the hope that we might go home with just a little less….. Ok, I can hear you all snickering. In my defense, I did give away a few scraps….and was given a few scraps. I donated some fabric to The Legacy…..and brought back a little…. Ok, it was a futile dream; a fool’s errand, but it was fun nonetheless.

Kathy getting an early start

Kathy getting an early start

Kathy was the last Pickle to arrive that weekend, but made up for lost time by being the first one up every morning and sewing in her pj’s! She finished the quilting on this quilt by the morning after she arrived and quickly began piecing 9-patch blocks made from vintage and reproduction fabric with a center square of muslin like the one I made as a sample for a quilt lab I’ll be teaching at Stonemountain and Daughter on September 28th.

Using up my little squares and scraps of retro prints

Using up my little squares and scraps of vintage and repro prints

My sample quilt was made with 2 1/4″ squares as I wanted to use up the little leftover pieces of vintage and reproductions scraps I’d been collecting over the years. Many of the fabrics in my sample quilt are the very last pieces of fabric from my mom’s stash. I used the tinier scraps leftover from the squares to make the border enclosing the quilt. I love how it turned out but one quilt out of 2 1/4″ squares was enough for me.

I cut 3″ squares of reproduction fabrics for Kathy’s first and my 2nd quilt. I chose 3″ as I had discovered a number of 3″ vintage sample squares of kids prints in my scrap bag that I had purchased at the Oakland Museum’s White Elephant sale a number of years ago. The larger squares certainly go faster! By the time we were packing up to leave on Sunday, Kathy had finished at least 10 blocks.

Vintage squares including  ducky print

Vintage squares including ducky print.

Vintage ducky print sample came in 6 different colorways

Ducky print sample came in 6 different colorways.

Lavender Block

Vintage, reproduction fabrics. The dutch boy/girl square is from my mom’s stash



Here are a few of my blocks.



All reproduction prints except for the upper left hand square

Block is all reproduction prints except for the upper left square.



I’ve now  made more than 15 blocks of this larger quilt but I haven’t made much progress in using up my scraps…..

However, they are organized!!







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Looking for Distraction


Ok, I usually don’t need to go “looking” for distraction as it seems to have no trouble finding  me, thank you very much, but this week I returned home from two back-to-back trips delivering/returning the last two kids to college and I found myself at loose ends.

Luckily, a few hours spent catching up on my favorite quilt blogs provided me with just the distraction I needed: a tutorial on how to make your own ironing board cover by Amanda Jean on crazymomquilts

I know it isn’t really something to brag about, but I must say – my ironing board cover was in much worse shape than hers!


I followed Amanda Jean’s very clear and detailed instructions and within a few hours I had a beautiful, new ironing board cover!

New Ironing Board Cover!!





And now, for those of you who have been waiting patiently for the results of the “winnowing” of my scrap drawers – I promise I will be posting that shortly. But first I may have to clean out a few closets…or maybe the kitchen junk drawer….


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Restoration of Leah’s Quilt

Leah's quilt before restoration

Leah’s quilt before restoration

My friend and neighbor Leah Kaizer asked me if i could restore a quilt she had since she was a little girl. Her grandfather Samuel Kaizer came from Poland to San Francisco in 1906 and ended up living in Los Angeles as a tailor.  In the 1950’s out of woolen scraps he made three quilts for his grandchildren.

Leah remembers lying in her bed in the dark, at her grandparents’ house, and touching the different woolen triangles.  She would guess the color of the triangle according to its feeling and texture.


The “K” in the middle was very cleverly done, sewn and then turned over with a big opening in the back.

IMG_4532When Leah brought Fern and me –the Textile Mavens–the quilt we absolutely fell in love with it.  In spite of its many holes and stains it was still beautiful. It was easy to imagine the labor of love that had gone into making the quilts. So many matching corners.

The quilt measured 90×72″ and consisted of 154 blocks made out of 4 triangles.  The back had a row of blocks all around –50 all together–that was attached to a blue quilted fabric –the type used for parkas. Luckily the squares in the back of the quilt were not very damaged and we decided to use them as spare parts.  In order to keep the spirit of the quilt we managed to replace the damaged triangles in the front with the same color.  There were just enough of them to keep the colors as Grandfather Samuel had planned. Or had his plan been less deliberate than random? We had no way of knowing.

Grandfather's Samuel perfect seams

Grandfather’s Samuel perfect seams

What a task! It was so great that Leah was not under any time constraint. Little by little Fern and I restored the quilt.  I did most of the front but was so thankful for Fern’s encouraging support.  Leah found a flannel that was the same color as the parka fabric. Fern quilted it with Warm and Natural batting in a 3″ square grid.  All that loose batting was hard on the machine and on the nose!

We decided to put a strip of camel colored wool around the back to replace the squares and then attach the quilted flannel to it.  That was a huge challenge! We struggled to get the quilt to sit tight and square, but we finally did it!  Leah was very happy with the end result and wrote to us: “….thank you both so much for your patience, talents and determination on behalf of my family….”



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It Only Looks Like Chaos

The signs of the end of summer can be seen throughout my house. Piles of clothes, half-filled suitcases and boxes seem to be in every room, including my studio.

Packing for Chicago

Packing for University of DePaul in Chicago

Packing for U of Puget Sound

Packing for University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington







As my two youngest pack for college I am packing for my annual August Summer Pickles. I always pack too much – including way too many projects or half-finished projects. Even a quilting Wonder Woman couldn’t finish it all in one long weekend.

All packed up

Is that everything I’ll need??? Did I forget something???


But, hey, that’s half the fun of packing for a quilting weekend – thinking about uninterrupted time with a few like minded friends and throwing it all in! We all pack too much and we don’t care!

But amid the chaos, or maybe because of it, I am rereading a book on organizing quilt rooms.

How to primer on how to reach organization nirvana

How-to primer on how to reach organization nirvana


I have a few organizing books but this one, written by Carolyn Woods, is my favorite: Organizing Solutions for Every Quilter


From pieces to strings - I love my scraps

From pieces to strings – I love my scraps

The author suggests that you spend time thinking about how you work in your space and where your space gets cluttered or how. I know I love scraps and small pieces of fabrics. I find it hard to get rid of even little pieces (what is too small? 3″? 5″? under an inch?) but then they tend to get lost or buried. So in preparation for this weekend I have corralled all of my scraps -definition: anything less than a fat quarter – into 3 overflowing drawers in one rolling cart and am taking the cart with me for the weekend. I am hoping to share my scraps – that is, give away (and maybe get a few in exchange…. but just a few). Hopefully I will come home with a more manageable scrap stash and some finished projects. What are the odds?

One bin with 3 overflowing drawers - will she come home with less or more?

One cart with 3 overflowing drawers – will she come home with less or more?

While whether I can whittle my scrap stash over the weekend or not remains to be seen, it is certain that I will be visiting Walker’s Apples for a basket or more of their first apples of the season: Gravensteins!

First apples of the season: Gravenstein apples from Walker's Apples in Sebastopol

Gravenstein apples from Walker’s Apples in Sebastopol

And one final note: in addition to our classes at the Richmond Art Center (RAC), I will be teaching classes at Stonemountain and Daughter in Berkeley – some beginning in September. Pictures of the quilt samples and names of the classes are below. The quilts are scattered throughout the store. Visit Stonemountain and Daughter and see the quilts in person!

Sunshine and Shadow Amish quilt - Quilt Lab sample: September 28, November 4 or December 16

Sunshine and Shadow Amish quilt – Quilt Lab sample: September 28, November 4 or December 16


Vintage and Reproduction Scrappy 9-patch - Quilt Lab Sample

Vintage and Reproduction Scrappy 9-patch – Quilt Lab Sample

Wool Quilt in Straight Furrows Variation Setting: Making Wool Quilts, October 7,14,21

Wool Quilt in Straight Furrows Variation Setting: Making Wool Quilts, October 7,14,21

Wool Blocks of Color Sample: Making Wool Quilts

Picture of Wool Blocks of Color unfinished Sample: Making Wool Quilts

Silk and Cotton Quilt sample for Beyond Cotton Class at Stonemountain and Daughter : November 11, December 2 and 9

Silk and Cotton Quilt sample for Beyond Cotton Class at Stonemountain and Daughter : November 11, December 2 and 9

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It’s Done!!


All finished except the handwork

All finished except the handwork


Ah, that sense of completion! Today I put the binding on my Legacy Baskets quilts. It’s been on my to do list awhile. I  spent a long time looking at it and musing, had a few false starts, but finally figured it out.

Quilting one basket at a time

Quilting one basket at a time






No quick stitch in the ditch or overall quilting for this one. I outlined each basket (all 18) with a 1/4″. A little tedious -I could only quilt two or three baskets a day – but it’s done and I love the way it looks.

Detail of quilting

Detail of basket 1/4″ outline quilting

Stitch guide

Quilting the borders with the stitch guide







Once the baskets were done, I used my stitch guide on the borders and it all went a lot faster. What a fabulous tool!

I am thrilled to be done with the quilting and am happy with how soft and vintage the quilt looks. If you want to read about the beginnings of this quilt check out my May Baskets post.

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Not So Lazy Days of Summer


There’s nothing like floating in a pool on long, hot summer days

In the early months of every year I start fantasizing about summer – thoughts of warm nights and long days….. Spring comes, the pace picks up, my to do list grows and my fantasies of long, languorous summer days grow with it…. Summer comes and never ceases to shock me at how quickly it passes…..

So here we are in the middle of July. My last post was a month ago. What in the world have I been doing???

Aunt Eva and Uncle Ron's Wedding - June 1954

Aunt Eva and Uncle Ron’s Wedding – June 1954

June 2014 - 60th Anniversary

June 2014 – 60th Anniversary


Well, soon after graduation I went to Chico to visit my favorite aunt and uncle and help them celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.

Quilting the back for restoration project

Quilting the back for restoration project

And, of course, it’s summer, with all the kids coming and going, so grocery shopping and cooking never seems to end.

Here today, gone tomorrow

Groceries: here today, gone tomorrow

I spent a number of long, fuzzy hours quilting the flannel back for the wool quilt Catherine and I are restoring…. Watch for a post by Catherine soon for the whole story.

Who knew that Dorothy and Toto were in Chicago?

Dorothy and Toto in Chicago?

We did get a lovely, long weekend over the fourth of July (see the picture above!) and then my daughter and I made a crazy, mad dash to Chicago for her two-day orientation at DePaul University. By the second day of orientation I was suffering from information overload so I took a stroll around the neighborhood surrounding the campus and stumbled onto Oz park. Who knew Dorothy wasn’t in Kansas anymore?

Unfortunately, our summer class scheduled for this weekend at the Richmond Art Center was canceled due to low enrollment – the Textile Mavens must not be the only overbooked quilters this summer! Our regular quilting class at the RAC will resume on Thursday, September 18. Registration opens on August 5th.

Despite all these distractions, I have had time to do a little quilting. I made two wool sample quilts for one of the two new classes I will be teaching in October at a new venue: Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley. The log cabin quilt is finished. The second one is ready for a little handquilting.

I hope you are enjoying summer – it will be over in a blink!

Wool Log Cabin quilt for Stonemountain and Daughter Class

Wool Log Cabin quilt for Stonemountain and Daughter Class

Pinned and ready to hand quilt

Wool Squares of Color Quilt – Pinned and ready to hand quilt




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Finishing Up

T-shirt  memory quilt made from t-shirts and pictures

T-shirt memory quilt made from t-shirts and pictures


Last month the Textile Mavens finished teaching the last class of a six week quilting series at the Richmond Art Center. Due to both Catherine’s and my crazy summer schedules we will only be teaching one two-day weekend workshop over the summer (July 19/20). A new series of six week Textile Mavens classes will start September 18. We will post more details later in the summer.


Most of the students in our final class were working on t-shirt memory quilts. Helping them with their quilts inspired me to finish a t-shirt sample quilt that I began a year ago.

t-shirt block detail

My daughter’s T-shirt from our first trip to Kaui when she was 2

t-shirt block detail

T-shirt back


Originally, I wanted to make a Hawaii quilt with my daughter’s t-shirts but as I was cutting and backing the t-shirts I realized I didn’t have enough and she refused to let me cut up the ones she still wears (imagine that!) so I added t-shirts from other beach visits. I also included pictures of her and named the quilt: “She Loves a Beach.”

Chicken t-shirt from our last trip to Kaui in 2010

Chicken t-shirt from our last trip to Kaui


Tomorrow my daughter will walk the stage of the Greek theater – the last of five “Royce-Jones Mohicans” to graduate from Berkeley High School. She leaves for Chicago and college in the fall, but she won’t be taking her “beach” quilt. She plans on taking her favorite wool quilt in anticipation of the Chicago weather.




Back made from leftover Hawaiian fabric

Back made from leftover Hawaiian fabric

While my daughter adjusts to college I will be teaching two new classes at Stonemountain and Daughter in September. Check it out.




And one final bit of news – the Textile Mavens have a Facebook page. We are also working on  a calendar for our home page that will make it easier for you to see what the Mavens are doing and when -we empty nesters have to keep ourselves busy!




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Fabric Memories

Mom's unfinished projects

Box of Elsie’s unfinished projects

Recently, as I was searching through some boxes for something else, I found a small bundle of fabric that belonged to my mother. Folded neatly within the bundle were a few children’s aprons that she had cut out and never finished, including the binding she made to go with it.

She loved to make aprons for children. She gave each of my kids an apron – sometimes more than one – the next size up, as they outgrew the first one. These unfinished aprons were found in her sewing room when we were going through her house in preparation of selling it. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of them, so I brought them home, put them in a box and forgot about them – until now.Ofelia wearing Elsie's apron

I decided to finish them and pass them on. One went to Catherine’s grandbaby, Ofelia. It is a very dark chocolate brown that matches her eyes. Mom may have put it away unfinished because she ran out of fabric for binding. I rummaged through my stash until I found a little brown calico that was the right shade of brown and made a two inch piece to add to hers. I liked it all the more as the apron was now a joint effort – a multi-generation gift.


Matching John Deere aprons for Eli and Noah

Matching John Deere aprons for Eli and Noah

There were two green aprons with John Deere fabric for the binding. I added some yellow binding and finished them in time for my grand nephew’s first birthday and one for his older brother.

Eli feeding Noah his first birthday cake

Eli feeding Noah his first birthday cake

Just as she had done for my kids, I put a little packet of California Poppy seeds in each pocket.

Big brother Eli, holding Noah

Big brother Eli, holding Noah


Although my mother never got to meet Ofelia, Noah or Eli, I know she would have been pleased to see the aprons finished and passed on to the next generation.

As the Aunt Jane character created by Eliza Calvert said, “Ain’t it strange that a piece o’ caliker’ll outlast you and me?”

I’m glad it does, as it connects the generations and gives such comfort and pleasure.



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Quilted Coasters at Hilltop Mall

Hilltop Mall in Richmond recently provided the perfect space for getting the community involved in an art project, and to promote the amazing services of the Richmond Art Center.

Art in the CommunityHilltop Mall - Art in the Community

With the help of five fabulous volunteers, I coordinated a project that attracted many participants. We had three sewing machines, two ironing stations and two designing stations to enable everyone to make a coaster as a present for Mothers’ Day.

Art in the CommunityArt in the CommunityArt in the CommunityArt in the community

The participants’ creativity and ambition exceeded our expectations. In addition to simple coasters, some people made pouches, bags with strings, mini-sized quilts, and over-sized coasters. More than 25 people participated in the program and took home fabulous home-made projects.

Art in the CommunityMany thanks to Kato Jaworski, On-Site Education Director, for organizing the event, and to all the volunteers who made it such a rewarding experience. The project proved, once again, that the textile arts have a universal appeal, and that everybody in the Bay Area’s diverse communities likes to participate, if given the opportunity.Art in the Community

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Quilted Bookmarks at the Berkeley Public Library

Donatella & Nheletie's animal bookmarks

Donatella & Nheletie’s animal bookmarks

Fern and I recently did our third program at the Main Branch of the Berkeley Public Library, thanks to Debbie Carton, Librarian extraordinaire. The first one was Quilting by Committee, then Quilting Condensed, and last week’s program Quilted Bookmarks.

We set up in the Story Room, a perfect space with great light, good size, and a quilt adorning the wall!  We brought four machines, two irons, cutting boards and lots of fabric collected at a variety of spots including the Legacy in Sebastopol and the Depot in Oakland.  We also had two volunteers: Joanne Groce and Selene Jones.  They were so helpful we could not have done it without them.

First completed bookmark and happy maker

First completed bookmark and happy maker

Debbie’s report on the event is so well written that i quote her: “30 patrons took part in this workshop led by the Textile Mavens, Fern Royce and Catherine Durand.  Attendees were all ages, from seniors to 5 year old, and of many different cultures.  Lisa Hesselgesser, who was working at Reference that day, directed a group of developmentally disabled adults to the program.  They were delighted to be included and really got into it.  The Story Room was a buzzing hive of creative activity for the full two hours, and happy patrons left with their completed, practical and artistic creation(s).”

Below are more photos of many of our happy participants.  Each bookmark is so different, demonstrating the individuality of everyone’s creativity.

QBM2photo (8)QBM 1photo (7)Poppy bookmark

From left to right 1st row En-Ping Ohung, Armin, Nicole Nafisa & Nora. 2nd row Khadya & Ella. 3rd row: Sharada, Samah & Catherine


By all measures this was a very successful event. I truly enjoy introducing people of all ages to the joy of sewing.



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Homage to Julie Banfield

Julie making postcards

Julie creating postcards at a SOFA8 meeting

We quilters in the San Francisco Bay Area are a lucky lot. We have the luxury and advantage of taking classes or attending workshops with fabulous and often famous teachers, some who even live in our backyard, so to speak. I have had the privilege of taking classes from Roberta Horton, Mary Mashuta, Freddy Moran, and Rebecca Rohrkaste, to name a few, without even leaving town.

However, this post is an homage to a very low key, but amazing local teacher, named Julie Banfield. I first met her when she worked at my local fabric store, Stonemountain and Daughter. Not being gifted with height, the first thing I noticed about Julie was her tall, graceful bearing and unique, fabulous clothes.

Julie's one of a kind coat with bird image

Julie’s one of a kind coat with bird image

A few years later I had the pleasure of working with her  at New Pieces Quilt Shop. That is when I noticed her kind, thoughtful and gentle manner. Every week I saw her quiet, sophisticated and instinctual design sense up close as she worked with customers. I also signed up for two different classes she taught: Liberated Log Cabins and Diamonds in Flight and learned the third, and most lingering, aspect: I was awestruck with her work.

Julie's quilt

Julie’s silk and linen quilt with botanical stamping


Detail of one block with stamping

Detail of one block with stamping






Julie's winter tree quilt

Julie’s trees were layed over a pale, log cabin style background

Julie auditioning binding for one of her quilts.

Julie auditioning binding for one of her quilts.

I have always had a penchant for odd or unusual fabrics but it was Julie who gave me permission and encouraged me to include those in my quilts.In fact, many of those types of quirky, weird fabrics were in the quilt samples for her classes. She taught me how to back those fine or wiggly or nubby or silky pieces with a woven interfacing, allowing the fabric to behave just like quilting cotton.

Liberated Log Cabin II

Log Cabin – made in my first class with Julie

I didn’t need any further encouragement. Her Liberated Log Cabin class was my first “Julie” class. It was exacting and difficult but Julie was patient and encouraging to all of us as we struggled to make the interlocking, intricate blocks. Many of the odd, quirky fabrics in this quilt were found at SCRAP in San Francisco. Most of the tie remnants from The Depot of Creative Reuse.

Redbirds by Fern. I made this quilt in Julie Banfield's Diamonds in Flight class at  New Pieces. It reminded me of  watching birds in flight at Mavens Haven.

Red Birds – made in Julie’s Diamonds in Flight class

Next, I took Julie’s Diamonds in Flight class. Again, it was exacting and difficult  and again, I used an assortment of scraps: silk, cotton, silk tie fabric, a recycled dress. In order to get two birds out of one of the fabrics, I had to piece it in multiple places just to get enough but I did it. It is one of my favorite quilts.

Julie’s influence goes way beyond me personally though. As I walked through the Voices in Cloth expedition this year in March, I was struck by the number of quilts that seemed influenced or possibly created in a class taught by Julie Banfield. Below is a photo of Julie’s show entry: Chinese Coins Japanese Ombre.

Julie Banfield's Chinese Coins Japanese Ombres

Julie Banfield’s Chinese Coins Japanese Ombres shown at the March Voices in Cloth2014

Julie is a friend, mentor and muse all wrapped into one. May everyone be so lucky as to find a Julie Banfield. Thank you Julie.

If you have pictures of quilts you’ve made in one of Julie’s classes or “Julie” stories – I’d love to see and hear them.






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Regrouping after the Upcycle

Setting up for Upcycle

Kato from the RAC helping us set up for the day

Sunday, April 12th, Catherine and I participated for the first time in the Upcycle Event at the Richmond Art Center (RAC). Although we tried to come prepared, we had no idea what to expect! One Upcycle event later, with notes, suggestions and new ideas, we’re ready for next year.

Catherine, Martha and Mary sewing bags

Catherine, Martha and Mary sewing bags


From the very start of the event,  our table was rarely empty. We had three sewing machines in constant use. Thankfully, we also had two wonderful volunteers helping us: Martha (thank you, Martha!) and Mary, Catherine’s mom, who was visiting from France. (And what did you do on your vacation Mary? “Oh, I spent a day having a go at the sewing machine!”)

Everyone wanted to make a recycled jean bag with tie handles.

Trend-setter with 1st Upcycle Jean bag

1st happy customer


Trio of Upcycle bags

Trio of bags and happy creators

Another Upcycle jean bag finished

Another happy bag owner








By the end of the day we had just pieces of ties and scraps of denim left.

Leftover ties

pieces of ties

Scraps of denim

scraps of denim

Indeed, if you have old jeans or ties sitting around, the Mavens would be happy to take them off your hands for next year’s Upcycle!

For all of you who couldn’t attend, I’m including instructions for making your own jean bag. Yes, you can try this at home! Go green and reuse that pair of jeans you can’t wear or wore out and that tie that is collecting dust in the closet!


Lining and jeans

choosing fabric lining and jeans

Select your jean leg with a pocket and fabric lining. Cut the jeans and lining the same width. Cut the lining two inches longer. Fold both pieces in half, right sides together, and sew the sides of the jeans and the lining.

jeans & lining

bag and lining cut the same width/lining cut 2″ longer than bag




Jeans sewn on 3 sides

jeans sewn and turned


Turn your jeans right side out.

Slipping lining into bag

slip the lining into the bag

Slip the lining inside the jeans as far as it will go. The lining will stick out of the top of the jeans.



Lining folder over jeans

hem the lining after folding it over the jeans





Tuck 1/4″ of the lining under for a hem and top stitch around the edge.

The last step is attaching the handles. You can use a tie, cording, an old belt… get creative!

Attach the straps

bag with straps attached

Sew the handles onto each side of the bag. You may want to try on the bag after pinning the straps in place.


Once you have the straps sewn, slip your phone into the pocket and you’re ready to go!

Jeans purse

Pickle Joanne modeling the Upcycle prototype bag




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Pickles’ Continued: When Wool Goes Bad


Legacy Goodies

A book, embroidery floss and assorted scraps from The Legacy

One of the traditions of Pickle Retreats is a trip (or two) to The Legacy in Sebastopol, a wonderful treasure trove of donated fabric, yarn, buttons, books, craft supplies, etc.

This year, along with other treasures, I found  3 or 4 small pieces of a nubby, royal blue wool. Not only was the color lovely, but the fabric’s texture was an added bonus. Happily visualizing how I would incorporate it into a wooly, I threw it in the washer to felt.


Blue wool – washed and felted


Alas, when I washed the wool it “felted” oddly. It now had puckers and bumps in the fabric. Bummer! However, I didn’t throw it away because I knew from experience that “somebody could make something” out of it. The “somebody” I was thinking about was Linda, due to arrive on Saturday. Just like “Mikey” who eats anything, Linda can “make” something out of anything.

Linda - the Pickles' resident creative genius

Linda – the Pickles’ resident creative genius


Wool Gone Bad becomes Hunny Bunny

Wool Gone Bad becomes Hunny Bunny



When Linda first saw the wool, she thought “scarf.” However, as she played with the wool she decided it really wanted to be a rabbit. Free cutting with scissors and no pattern she created a bunny, using the lumpy areas of the wool for the face and legs. She stuffed him with scraps of batting, embroidered on a mouth, nose and eyes and finished him off with a bow – from ribbon she just happened to have in her purse.

"Alt Text"

Portia sewing on Ellie Fant’s trunk

Ellie Fant taking shape

Portia putting the finishing touches on Ellie Fant


Creativity is contagious and, sure enough, soon Portia was free hand cutting what she thought would be a bear.  As she whip stitched the body, her “bear” morphed into an elephant, which we promptly named “Ellie Fant.”

Detail of the finished Ellie Fant

Detail of the finished Ellie Fant

Ellie and Hunny

Ellie Fant and Hunny Bunny



Hunny Bunny found a new home with Ofelia, Catherine’s grandbaby – just in time for Ofelia’s first birthday.  Happy Birthday Ofelia!Somebody loves Hunny Bunny!!

March-April have been very hectic months so far for the Textile Mavens. Check out our class schedule page for our upcoming events or stop by our table tomorrow at the 2nd annual Upcycle event at the Richmond Art Center tomorrow, April 12, from 1-4 and create something out of scraps!












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Upcycling Workshop at Hackermoms

Come and join us for a fun workshop at Hackermoms! Bring a friend & spread the word!

Pillows, Runners, Purses, Mats, Coasters, & even Quilts!  

Small purse made with re-purposed jean and old silk tie

Small purse made with re-purposed jean and old silk tie

Turn your old sweaters, shirts, jeans, ties, t-shirts and even furs into something new and fabulous for you or your home!

In this workshop, seasoned quilters, textile wizzes, and Berkeley mamas Fern & Catherine will help you upcycle your old textiles into something new and funky: a pillow, a table runner, a purse, a set of coasters, or even the start of a quilt!

The workshop will start with a brief intro to upcycling and a trunk show of samples of upcycled projects. Before diving into the nitty gritty, the Mavens will help you clean your sewing machine! The remaining time will be devoted to making (and finishing!) your project (unless it’s a quilt, of course…).  The Mavens will provide ideas, inspiration, suggestions, and technical help as you craft something new and fabulous out of your old scraps.

Front of the quilt with orange plaid shirt and yellow one

Front of the quilt with orange plaid shirt and yellow one. More shirts on the back

Participants should bring a sewing machine (if possible—contact the Mavens if you don’t have one but want to participate) and textile scraps, old clothes, and any other supplies (for example, a pillow form if that’s your desired project).

Where: Hackermoms 3288 Adeline Street, Berkeley, CA 94703

When: Saturday May 3, 2014 from 10am till 1pm 

How much: $15 for Hackermoms members $20 for non members

lap quilt made with an old mink coat

lap quilt made with an old mink coat

Childcare available 3 hours for $15

RSVP & Register at EventBrite


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All My Bags Are Packed – The Bi-Annual “Pickles” Retreat, Part 1

Packing for "Pickles" Weekend

Packed and ready for a “Pickles” Weekend

Catherine, myself and the other “Pickles” headed up to Sebastopol for our annual March “Pickle” Retreat Weekend last weekend. I had great plans to post – at least a picture of the pile of “stuff” I was taking with me before I left but alas, like all days before trips, the “to do” list grew exponentially and I had to edit and delete lots of items from the list (and from my pile) just to get out of “Dodge.”

We had a glorious time quilting, laughing and eating – in no particular order of importance.  We missed the Pickles that couldn’t come, reminisced and felt grateful for being together once again.

Quilting "What If?"

“What If?” under the needle


Liberated Wedding Ring - quilted

Liberated Wedding Ring – quilted, with binding

What If? quilted

“What If?” quilted, with binding

Quilted Ghost Geese

Detail of quilting – “ghost geese”

I came with an agenda. I wanted to quilt both my “What If?” quilt (check!)and

my Liberated Wedding quilt (check!). Yes, that Liberated Wedding quilt – started at my first retreat with Freddy and Gwen at Asilomar in 2010 – some quilts take longer to birth than others!


T-shirt blocks

T-shirts backed and bordered


I also needed to get my sample quilt ready for the next session at the Richmond Art Center on Memory Quilts, beginning on April 17.

I got all the t-shirts backed and bordered but had been foiled by my copy machine before I left and couldn’t print out the pictures I wanted to include. So I made parts.

Ready for Upcycle

FabMo fabric prepped and ready for Upcycle

Catherine brought old jeans and fabric samples from FabMo and prepped for the Upcycle event at the Richmond Art Center on April 12. We will be at this weekend’s Voices in Cloth quilt show on Saturday, March 22, from 12-4, representing the RAC – drop by our table to say hi before, during or after you see this fabulous show.

More posts about our Pickle retreat to come but that’s all I have time for now – I still have an unfinished quilt!

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What If She Hadn’t Warned Me???!!

Sugar rush of inspiration - a What If? quilt on the design board

Design board version

I finished my “What if” quilt top, but before I tell you about that I have to tell you a little story.  A few days after Lynne and I pinned the pieces onto my design wall, Catherine happened to drop by. I excitedly showed her the quilt and she promptly said “You don’t have enough background fabric.” Just like that. One look, no measuring. Now, I’m a bit of a doubting Thomas at times and besides that, I often go by the casual theory of “running out of fabric is just a design opportunity.” However, I really, really wanted all the background of this quilt to be the same and the serious tone of Catherine’s statement made me stop and take note.



Still slightly skeptical, I decided to trust her quilty sense. We took the quilt off the design wall, tucked back some of the fabric, tightened up the lay-out and Catherine said, “Ok, now you do.” And she left me to it.

Almost done - will there be enough?

Almost done – will there be enough?

All my quilting friends know – I can be a very frugal piecer if I need to be. My grandmother taught me how to scrimp and patch and that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t throw away any pieces larger than an inch, keeping them in a small pile on my cutting table. Before I cut into the larger sections of my background fabric I searched my scraps and carefully reused every little possible piece.

Section by section

Section by section


Figuring out how to put this quilt together with all the angles and bias edges was a huge challenge – but I had no choice – I was driven. I worked on it like a jig-saw puzzle, worrying at it like a dog with a bone, section by section.  As I got down to the last section – the curving flying geese – I could see that if I did indeed have anything left over it would be tiny at best and again I marveled – How did she know that???!!!




I may never understand how she knew but we don’t call her Catherine “Do the Numbers” Durand for nothing.

"That's all folks!"

“That’s all folks!”

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From Shirts to Quilt

Front of the quilt with orange plaid shirt and yellow one

Front of the quilt with orange plaid shirt and yellow one

Back of the quilt with blue shirts

Back of the quilt with blue shirts

I asked Bart to make room in our closet by getting rid of shirts he wasn’t wearing anymore. Although some of the shirts were frayed, they were among his favorites, so I decided to turn them into a quilt. I cut them up and got some decent pieces of fabric but, alas, I couldn’t see how they went together. There were two distinct palettes. That’s when I realized a two-sided quilt was the answer. On one side I used browns and yellows to which I added some beloved batik. On the other side, the blues and reds were enhanced by blue batik.

shirts pot holdersI ran out of time to present Bart the quilt for Xmas so, instead, on December 25th he got two potholders made with the tiny, leftover pieces, and the promise of a quilt.

IMG_4041The idea for the quilting came naturally: I did not want to follow the squares and rectangles but instead made diagonal lines in both directions.  That’s when the measuring tape came in handy to trace those long lines.

Quilt by Jessie T. Pettway of Gee's Bend, ca. 1950

Quilt by Jessie T. Pettway of Gee’s Bend, ca. 1950

Working with recycled materials is really fun and has the sweet feeling of bringing us back to what quilting was all about in the time of the Pioneers.  It also brought back to my mind the work of the women at Gee’s Bend in Alabama.  I will never forget the red quilt on the front page of the week-end Art section of the New York Times  in November of 2002 announcing the exhibit at the Whitney Museum in New York. The exhibit came to the de Young Museum and I was lucky to be able to go and see it. What an inspiration:  I must have gone 5 times!



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All about quilts, all month

White Elephant Stash

Thai silk, vintage cotton and wool!

February has been a month full of fabric and quilts for me. First it was “donors” day a White Elephant Sale of the Oakland Museum thanks to an invitation from my friend/donor Racine.  The WES is a yearly fundraiser for the Museum. It is great fun, a little overwhelming and a bit dangerous. The fun part is watching everyone scrambling around looking for treasure. The overwhelming part is there is so much to check out in the huge warehouse. The dangerous part is the sewing section, where I usually concentrate my efforts.  I’m always on the hunt for wool, silk and/or vintage cotton yardage and have never left disappointed.

A piece of lovely red wool,  shirting and other odd scraps and books of silk sample squares

A piece of lovely red wool, shirting, bits of odd scraps and a couple of books of silk sample squares

On Friday, February 7,  Catherine and I went on a field trip and checked out a new creative reuse place in Mountain View in the South Bay called FabMo. They upcycle designer fabric and wallpaper samples – diverting more than 40 tons from landfill every year. Of course, I found a few more goodies.




Stitch Modern Quilt ShowPostcard

Sunday, February 9, was not about acquisitions and all about inspiration. Lynne and I went to the annual Stitch Modern Exhibit put on by The East Bay Modern Quilt Guild. Although it is the third year of the show, it was only my second time. It has quickly become one of my favorite quilt shows due to its small, intimate size and unique quilts.

Lynne and I returned to the quilt show on Thursday, February 13, for an evening lecture with Ben Venom and Roderick Kiracofe. Kiracofe is the author and collaborator on a number of books including The American Quilt, A History of Cloth and Comfort 1750-1950. Besides his writing, he is a curator, and a collector.

The evening’s presentation did not disappoint us. The juxaposition of the two presenters was brilliant and intriguing.  Ben showed us pictures of his oversized art quilts made from repurposed heavy metal and biker t-shirts, black leather and women’s white denim jeans. He was witty, charming and engaging. Rod showed us actual quilts from his personal quilt collection dating from 1950-present. His passion and knowledge for these often overlooked quilts was compelling. The quilts he showed us are featured in his self-published books titled Quilts 1 and Quilts 2. His new book, due out in August, will include a mixture of photos from both of those books.

Spikes! a la Freddy

Finally pulled it all together

In and around all of my outings I have also been working on my own unfinished projects and teaching. I think I am experiencing a quilting “sugar rush!”

The top I started in Freddy’s workshop back in September is now finished. Getting all those spikes to work/fit together proved to be harder than I thought!

Think I'm going with the red thread.....

Think I’m going with the red thread…..





On the way to the quilt show and I told Lynne about my “what if?” idea for my leftover Spikes scraps. We came back from the quilt show a little overwrought and feverish from so much amazing inspiration and started pinning.  I am now in the midst of figuring out how to make it… be continued!

Sugar rush of inspiration - a What If? quilt on the design board

Sugar rush of inspiration – a “What If?” quilt on the design board

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Finally, a little rain!

I awoke this morning to a sound I couldn’t quite place….Oh, rain!!! Unfortunately, it was just a sprinkling and not a downpour and now it’s gone. Not only has California had the lowest amount of rain recorded since the 1929, it has also been warm and sunny. The non-winter we are having has affected my quilting. Usually I would be pulling out all my wool and making heavy, warm quilts but without the cold, wet weather I haven’t been inspired.


Lynne and her red, black and grey wooly

However, I did finally finish the wooly I started over a year and a half ago. It was inspired by the scraps of my friend Lynne’s red, black and grey wooly. (You can see the beginning blocks in an earlier post.) She made a four-patch set on point and set it in rows.

Unfinished wooly blocks

Unfinished wooly blocks

I had the blocks on my design board in my studio. My husband saw them and liked them. I decided the quilt should be his. However, he wanted it big enough to cover his feet and tuck under his chin – that meant 2 more rows across and another row longer. After that I figured I was done but when I showed it to Lisa and Lynne after basting Lisa’s wooly, they convinced me to add black borders.

Thanks for the great advice Lynne and Lisa! The borders really do frame the quilt nicely.

Liberated Log Cabin

Liberated Log Cabin – straight furrow setting


Voila! A 65″by 77″ heavy wool quilt that covers him with room to spare! Bring on the rain, sleet or snow, please.

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Quilt of Cats and Dogs in the Lonestar State

IMG_3782My good friend Sandy –and kind of my sister-in-law (i love and adore her brother!) asked me to make a quilt for her 11-year-old grand daughter, Helen.  I thought i’d have a better chance of being sure that Helen would like the quilt if she chose the fabric. Next IMG_3786thing i know i receive in the mail yards of fabric of dogs and cats and a pile of fat quarters to match the fabrics with  animals. Then came my favorite part of quilt making:  figuring out what to do!


Pokadots add fun

I decided to fussy-cut the dogs and cats and add some bright orange and blue batik –i have a hard time making a quilt without any batik in it because i just think that they have so much to offer: texture and nuances of color–  and voilà!

I still had a lot of dog and cat fabric so the back of the quilt got the big pieces.


This quilt was a success and so well received!

IMG_1130 IMG_1133 IMG_1132 IMG_1129

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Winter Wooly

Lisa’s “brown wooly” ready to hand quilt

Is it big enough?

Is it big enough?


My Pickles- Lynne, Lisa and I had a December wool quilt basting party the week before Christmas. While we basted Lisa’s quilt we reminisced about how long this quilt had been in progress – three or four years? It was definitely started at a March Pickle Weekend, but which one? We finally decided it had to be over 4 years ago.


That year I’d brought two tubs of brown felted wool  to the retreat per Lisa’s request.


Quilt block

Detail of pant pocket in quilt block

She picked out lots of different browns, mostly wool slacks, and started sewing them together into long strips.

She wanted a large quilt for the couch in her living room. She worked on it off and on over the next few years around and between other projects, but at some point she stopped liking it, became discouraged and put it away.

Detail of quilt block


Finally she pulled it out again and cut it into squares. She added more accent colors. Last March she finished her blocks and left the retreat ready to add sashing.

Detail of quilt square



A consultation with Lynne at Stonemountain and Daughter resulted in the perfect color: black.


Quilting Thread Colors

Choosing the thread colors for hand quilting


Lisa is planning on handquilting her wooly. Due to the thickness of the felted wool, cotton batting and flannel backing we mostly  tie or hand quilt our woolys. There is nothing quite like a heavy wool quilt to snuggle under on cold winter nights.



Happy New Year everyone! I wish you all a wonderful year wrapped up in quilts.



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Finished At Last

Scraps for making the HSTs for my Medallion Quilt

Scraps for making the HSTs for my Medallion Quilt

Ok, so my last post was mostly pictures of trees…. I immediately heard “Where are the quilts??!” Hopefully you can see the connection between that post and this one. In between taking those pictures I was also quilting (or struggling to quilt) my Medallion quilt that I started at BIQR in 2012. As you can see from my scraps, I was inspired by the fall colors in Michigan while I was there.


BIQR 2013 Show and Tell

BIQR 2013 Show and Tell

I finished the top before I left for this year’s retreat and brought it with me with the hope that I might find some wisdom or inspiration for how to quilt it. No light bulbs went off; I worked on other projects and brought it home still unfinished and uninspired.



No worries, I thought. I’ll just pin it and it maybe then I’ll get inspired. I’d love to tell you that the heavens opened up, the angels started singing and I heard a voice telling me how I should finish it, but no such luck. Still, I did figure out my first step – a grid for the center square. Slowly the rest sort of followed. I quilted in the ditch on either side of my teensy tiny sawtooths as I really wanted to highlight them….after all that was my one (plus another) “hard thing.”

Finished at last!

Finished at last!

I quilted each of the plain borders with a free motion single cable but as I progressed I started noticing every skipped or jumpy stitch. I took out the ones I really couldn’t live with but then I sternly told myself to just keep quilting. “Done is better than perfect,” I told myself. And, lo and behold, as I continued outwards, my free motion cables got a little better….and I got it done.

Finished feels so good.

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Fall Colors

I’ve been photographing the many Japanese maple trees in my neighborhood and their vibrant colors this fall.

Neighborhood Japanese Maple Trees

Neighborhood Japanese Maple Trees

My own Japanese maple tree

Tall maple full of leaves

Tall maple full of leaves


A few weeks after I started taking pictures, we had a two very windy days……

Yard full of leaves

Yard full of leaves




A carpet of leaves covered the yard.



A few stubborn leaves left

A few stubborn leaves left






Same tree after the windstorm.





And then we had our first rain of the season.

First Rainy Day

First Rainy Day




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Quilt out of the Grenier de Pradelles

Grenier de Pradelles is the attic in the village in France where i was born.

Intricate embroidery, in French: Jours

Intricate embroidery on the corner of a sheet, in French: Jours

Intials embroidered at the top of a sheet.

Intials embroidered at the top of a sheet.

I love going to my birth village,  Pradelles in  Haute-Loire, one of the most remote region of France, still very rural and often referred to as la France profonde — the equivalent here would be to our rural California, for example any small town in Siskiyou county or northern California close to the Nevada and Oregon border, Modoc county. When i get there i feel energized and full of life. I went there in July and my cousin had a whole shelf full of linen that she had pulled out of the attic,  waiting for me. There were sheets of all sizes, matrimonial, children, one extremely long one. There were also some édredons feather comforter  covers for children beds, a little bit like the couette covers i have been making for kids around me.  They were all made out of different weights of linen & cotton and white, off white and dirty white. I could already envision the dye baths that were to transform them.


the pieces come together as a whole

IMG_2163Years ago i had made a duvet cover and my daughter Magali admired it.  So i decided that all those old sheets would find their way into a duvet cover for her.  Luckily i had a Pickles retreat coming up and i knew that with all the energy and support that i get during the long week-end i could get it done.  I dyed some of the sheets  in various shades of orange.  And it all came together.

Mission accomplished!

Mission accomplished!

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Freddy Moran

Spike quilt with bias strip demo in 2nd red row

Freddy holding her Sari Quilt









Freddy's Self-Portrait

Detail of Freddy’s Self-Portrait Quilt


The Monday after returning from Week 3 of BIQR Catherine and I attended a workshop put on by our quilt guild: East Bay Heritage Quilters Freddy Moran was teaching Spikes, from her and Gwen’s book Freddy and Gwen Collaborate Again. This was Catherine’s first time to meet or attend a class by Freddy. Needless to say, Freddy has a new follower.


Fern's Spikes

Fern’s Spiky beginnings


Catherine's Spiky Beginnings

Catherine’s Spiky Beginnings









Favorite Freddy quote of the day: “Why use 10 fabrics when 100 would be more interesting?” She advised everyone to include the size of the quilt on the label when you sign and date it for easy reference.

We were all amazed to hear that she only started quilting the year she turned 60! Twenty years and counting she is still going strong and evolving as a quilter/artist.

She left us with these words of wisdom: “Do your own work and make it fun.”

For more pictures of Freddy check out Nifty Quilts blog – Freddy taught in a workshop in Seattle not long after ours.

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Celebrating 30 years of Gwen Marston’s Beaver Island Quilt Retreats

Gwen Marston wearing her signature red bow


Ok, a bit late, but here’s my post for Week 3 of BIQR 2013.



This was only my second time to attend BIQR but it was great to meet up with friends from last year and get to know others better.



Ice cream break


Gwen: Preaching to the Choir

Gwen: Preaching to the Choir








It was a week spent focused on quilting with a few breaks for things like ice cream and “choir practice.”

On the final day of the retreat we presented our liberated log cabin blocks we made for Gwen out of the fabrics we were using in our projects.

Liberated Log Cabins from Week 3 to Gwen

Liberated Log Cabins from Week 3 to Gwen


Thank you Gwen for your 30+ years of spreading the Quilting Gospel.

And thank you to all of my fellow “Gwenny Girls” for your pictures!


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Back to the classroom

Welcome to Tacoma, WA

Welcome to Tacoma, WA

Labor Day has come and gone. Everyone is back in school or back to work, including me. The Textile Mavens Beginning Quilting classes begin at the Richmond Art Center this week (Thursdays, 10am-12noon, Sept.12-Oct. 10/repeating Oct. 17-Nov. 14) and my Wonky Stars class at New Pieces is Saturday, September 28 and October 19, from 1pm-5pm.

I spent the last official weekend of summer in Tacoma, WA, settling my youngest son into his room for his second year at University of Puget Sound. After the required Target run, neither my credit card nor I were needed. I was free to roam the town. So, as I am want to do wherever I go, I checked out the local quilt shops and thrift stores. The first quilt store I explored was Parkland Parish Quilts.

Parkland Parish Quilt Shop

Parkland Parish Quilt Co.


Parkland Parish is located in, yes, an old parish or church. I had seen pictures of this quaint little shop in a magazine a number of years ago but hadn’t made the connection that the Tacoma I was in and the Tacoma of the shop were one and the same – what a wonderful coincidence!

Fabric Display in Stained Glass Window Nook

Fabric Display in Stained Glass Window Nook


Clothesline full of staff aprons

Clothesline full of staff aprons







A line of aprons float across the ceiling and the various nooks and crannies of the sanctuary are filled with light from the stained glass windows and bolts of fabric. Heaven on earth for a quilter!

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet

Second stop was Evergreen Quilts. Using an old flier from the 2011 Western Washington Quilt Shop Hop, I punched the address into my GPS and pulled up to a store front Baptist Church….a quilt store turned into a church…..  A phone call later I had the new address.

On display at the store were examples of the latest project: “tuffets” as in “Little Miss Muffett sat on a ….”

I just might need to make one of those!

Believe it or not, this town (pop. 198,397),  has not just two quilt stores, but three. Unfortunately, it was Sunday and Trains Fabrics, Etc. was closed. Still two fabric stores, the local Goodwill store, topped off by a walk through Point Defiance Park and a bar-b-que dinner at Famous Dave’s made for a full day.

Ceiling of the Chihuly Bridge of Glass

Ceiling of the Chihuly Bridge of Glass

Courtship of the Sun and Moon by Cappy Thompson 2012

Courtship of the Sun and Moon by Cappy Thompson 2012

Monday I explored the old waterfront area of Tacoma, walking over the Chihuly Bridge of Glass to the Museum of Glass.

The exhibit that held my interest the most was called Northwest Artists Collect. The display included seven artists: Dick Weiss, Ginny Ruffner, Richard Royal, Cappy Thompson, Preston Singletary, Martin Blank and Joseph Rossano.


The exhibit included not just pieces of their work but items they collected that inspired or intrigued them. If I wasn’t a quilter, I might just have to take up glass blowing!


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Summertime and the quilting ain’t easy


Unfinished baby quilt due to way too many interruptions!

It’s late August and I have that familiar pang: I can’t wait for summer to be over! It’s not that I’m anxious for relief from hot weather because in the Bay Area we get more fog than sun in August. Our hot weather comes in September and October. No, I am eager to return to that organized chaos known as “back to school.” With 5 kids, summers have always been busy, hectic and full. Now that we have only one child left at home, the school year is a much more mellow, manageable  affair.

Basket Quilt top finished on the Summer Pickle weekend, now waiting to be pinned

However, college students have a habit of returning home for the summer or after graduation. Grown kids pop in and out on a regular basis and they all have one thing in common: they’re looking for food. “You know, that good food you used to make us Mom!” Now, as an almost empty nester I’ve started cooking less and quilting more. These busy, unpredictable summer schedules can get in the way of this new life I am making for myself. I’ve been known to get a little snappy and cranky at the hints or outright pleas that I make food rather than quilts. “Really??? Can’t you just go make a(nother) PBandJ? Or maybe make dinner for me instead?”

First row of three rows sewn together of Scrappy Star Quilt



This summer, much to everyone’s consternation, I instituted a new schedule: I would cook twice a week, do the shopping and everyone else had to cook on the other five nights. I even offered to buy the ingredients they might require for their dinner nights if they got them on my grocery list before I did the weekly shopping. That worked….sort of. But I still had the issue of cooking two times a week and grocery shopping. And then there were those “demands” that I help make costumes for a movie picture the oldest is shooting, fill out forms for the returning high school senior, shop for clothes and supplies for the returning college student, make paint color decisions for the outside of the house….They just won’t let me alone.  I’m really looking forward to Labor Day Weekend!

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Kudos To My Local Library


Berkeley_Public_Library_side_view.jpg (800×537)

We, the citizens of Berkeley, are fortunate to have four branches libraries, a Tool Lending Library and our beautifully restored, downtown Central Library that all offer many free programs for the entire community. One of those programs is the Annual Quilt Show. This is a non-juried quilt show that is open to everyone. My partner, Catherine, and I have had the good fortune of working with Debbie Carton at the Central Library in developing and presenting a program about quilting in conjunction with our annual quilt show for the last two years.

Last year we gave a short talk on making community quilts, called Quilting by Committee. This year Debbie had the idea of doing something more hands on. The three of us met, brainstormed, discussed and decided on a plan. We would offer a one day program to teach young people how to quilt – from start to finish – in three hours. We called it Quilting Condensed. On Sunday, June 2nd, from 1pm – 4pm we taught 4 high school boys and 4 adults how to make a simple wall hanging from start to finish.  The best part of that was the feeling that we left them wanting more; that we opened up new ideas and creative paths for them that they never expected to explore.

Students in the Central Library Quilting Condensed Workshop

Students in the Central Library Quilting Condensed Workshop


What an amazing experience – and I’m not talking from the point of view of the students. It was so much fun as teachers, quilters, moms, two middle-aged women – however you want to describe us – see our new students ponder over fabric color choices, design, learn to use a rotary cutter, an iron and a sewing machine for the first time and, as one student said, “have more fun than playing video games.” Now that statement, coming from a young man of prime time video game age, has to warm the cockles of any parent’s heart!

Above all, I want to give credit to this amazing experience to Debbie Carton, the visionary, promoter and long time Keeper of the Quilt Show. By the way, Debbie was offered and just accepted a full-time, permanent position at our Central Library in the Art and Music Department – Congratulations, Debbie. And thanks to all of our wonderful students. Without students we couldn’t be teachers!

Here’s to many years of happy quilting to all of our new quilters!


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May Baskets

Very old, quirky "basket" block

Very old, quirky “basket” block

I’m a sucker for basket blocks. Especially odd, not quite perfect ones. I found this stray basket block years ago at a thrift store. It never ceases to make me smile. According to Barbara Brackman in her Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns this block is related to basket blocks but its name is Cake Stand. The maker of this Cake Stand block made the right side of her “cake” correctly but she must have opened her oven door too quickly because the left side “fell.”


I suppose I inherited this love of baskets from my mother. She wove baskets out of all sorts of things: grape vines, twigs, grasses. I have a number of baskets she made or collected over the years throughout my house. I also like to make baskets, but because I’m a quilter, mine are made out of fabric.

Elsie - self portrait - age 15

Elsie – self portrait – age 15

In fact, one of my favorite basket quilts is a wall hanging I made a few months before she died. Four years ago, on June 3rd, 2009, she died from Alzheimer’s. The last year or so of her life she could no longer could do any of the things she so loved: crafts, music or gardening. Visiting her was always such a bittersweet experience, especially towards the end. She was still there in body but so much of her -or the mother/person I knew – was gone.

In memory of my mother, Elsie Royce    July 30,1926-June 3, 2009

In memory of my mother, Elsie Royce
July 30,1926-June 3, 2009


In the midst of this long good-bye, I decided to make a scrappy basket quilt using tans and browns to look like her basket weaving.The background had to be blue – her favorite color. I made the handles using scraps of brown ric rac from both my mother’s and grandmother’s scrapbag. I love this quilt. It reminds me of her.



One of four "basket" blocks

Odd basket block #1


In March of this year I found four lovely blocks at The Legacy in Sebastopol that sort of looked like basket blocks, but not. Maybe that was why they were up for adoption. I found them irresistible so they came home with me. I pinned them to my design wall and there they’ve stayed for the last few months. Sometimes as I’m sewing or just sitting in my studio I find myself gazing at them and wondering about these blocks. Were they made that way on purpose or by mistake? Should I make a wall hanging out of just these four? Or should I make some more blocks and put them in a quilt?

Odd basket block #2

Odd basket block #2

Or are they happy as they are, just hanging around looking pretty? I’ve arranged them into different settings and configurations, discussed them with my quilting buddies, but nothing seemed right. Mostly I just enjoyed looking at their soft pastel colors and slightly odd look.

Reconfigured "basket" block

Reconfigured “basket” block

Finally yesterday as I looked at them again I realized that if I took each block apart and turned a few pieces around I could make a “real” basket or cake stand block.

So I promptly began ripping one apart and resewing it. I am thrilled with how my new block looks and can’t wait to redo the other three.

Original three plus one updated block

Original three plus one updated block

Now, there are at least two opinions among quilters about taking things apart. I will rip out and redo something that doesn’t work for me. Catherine, my partner (please read her post!), is in the “no ripping allowed” group. Over the years of knowing each other we have benefited and learned from each other’s views. I have learned that what may seem like a mistake to me is not one to someone else. Catherine has taught me that sometimes I need to just keep going. I like to think she has learned from me – after all, she dismantled her mother-in-law’s mink coat and made it into a quilt!

But enough blogging! I have three more blocks to rip out and resew. Now the question is: do I stop there or find more “soft”, pastel fabric in my fat quarters and make a few more? And how shall I set it? Oh, and what about the quilting…….  So many questions, so little time.

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A Quilt From Coat to Quilt –and that is mink!

Pickle Lynne trying out the coat when it had already lost a sleeve

Baruch wondering if it should become a throw!

This idea came to me when i was in New Orleans caring for my son Baruch. He bought a new couch and mentioned how it would be great if i could make him a throw to have there on the couch to make the leather more cozy.  I remembered that mink fur coat of my mother in law Pauline -Baruch’s grandmother Yaya– that had been in a cedar trunk in my house since she passed away 11 years ago.  Hooray I could repurpose the beast!

Timing was perfect because in the close horizon was my Pickles Retreat –a group of quilters/friends/amazing women who get together as often as we can, but the big one is a long, long week-end at Fern’s beautiful house in Graton.  I knew i would have many hours to work on this project, but even better the support and ideas of all the Pickles.

Italian wool

I stopped by Stonemountain & Daughter with a sleeve of the coat –no way was i traveling in Berkeley with a full mink coat–that i cut out to find some fabric to go with the mink.  Susan suggested an italian wool that was so soft and luscious, brown with specks of red, yellow and green.  Absolutely gorgeous and in par with the richness of the minks.

Got to Graton on friday afternoon, luckily it was an absolutely beautiful day and i could set up on the deck to cut out the coat. Did not want to bring up allergic reactions with all that mink cut out and floating around.  But outside it was perfect and i know that by now all the birds’ nests in a 10 mile radius are cozily lined with mink!

Inside the coat, under the lining. Those long strip are reinforced by diagonal seams

Once i took the lining out i was absolutely amazed by the way the coat was constructed.  Long strips of fur, joined with some sort of twill tape. I also was blown away by the amount of work that had gone in the processing of the mink.  every quarter of an inch, at an angle, there is a zigzag seam to reinforce the leather.  I also noticed that the pieces of mink that were in places where there would not be stressed did not have that extra reinforcing: for example the inside of the lapel. It took me a couple hours to get the coat laid out, with the 2 sleeves  and the collar. It got dark and cold and i decided that a new day would be perfect to start up with the design.

Early Saturday morning all the Pickles came out –some still in their pjs– and  we came up with the idea of a spiral.  I started from the center, building the quilt in a log cabin manner intersecting it with the Italian wool. I realized that i needed to leave a big seam allowance on the wool side so that it would not ravel.  I was happy to find out that the leather needle went in very smoothly and that my Bernina did not seem to suffer.  I did promise her that she would get a full tune up when i was done with the project because there was so much fur flying everywhere.

Spent the whole day happily building the quilt.  Realized that i would have just enough mink to make a 60 inch square quilt.  The stripes on the outside are bigger and there is no border. Thanks to a pickle suggestion i did not put a border, or a binding.  The envelope style quilting seemed the most appropriate.  The last round was very uneven, the strips were not rectangular and felt like they had a life of their own.  I decided not to fight it and as a result the quilt is not a perfect square but i love how it feels that it has a life of its own.

I had planned to sew the closing seam by hand but found it so hard to go through the leather that I opted for a zigzag stitch on the machine.  It worked nicely even though i had to spend time with a thin knitting needle pulling out the hair that had been caught in the seam.  It was absolutely worth it.

I put some cotton batting inside the “envelope” and quilted in the ditch with brown thread.  It did look good on the back.  I added a label on the back including the label of the coat.





If you want to know more about mink coats check this blog: starsandgarters/how-a-mink-coat-is-made/

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Well, I missed a few months of posts – let’s just consider that my winter hibernation. The first day of spring is tomorrow but, just in case I don’t trust the calendar, the magnolia trees in the neighborhood and my own quince tree is glorious, budding proof.








Over my “winter break” I sewed up a 12″ “floor quilt” made from scraps from the Beaver Island Retreat. Hopefully you will now understand all the Wizard of Oz references from my Beaver Island post. Most of the scraps came from my table mate, Kathy, who was making a Wizard of Oz quilt for her daughter. The quilt came together so quickly, it sort of made itself. I have it hanging on my design wall, a wonderful visual reminder of my time at Gwen’s retreat.

Wonky Stars Class Sample Quilt

Shortly after returning from the Beaver Island retreat I taught my first “official” quilt class – Wonky Stars, based on Gwen’s Liberated II at New Pieces Quilt Store in Berkeley. My sample quilt is all in brights with lots of black and white to “calm it down,” as Freddy Moran would say. The best part of teaching the class was watching the students create their own version with their own color palette.

Student Work in Progress


















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Beaver Island, Michigan

Sign at entrance of White Birch Lodge

In September I traveled all night from San Francisco, California, to Traverse City, Michigan, for my first Beaver Island Quilt Retreat with Gwen Marston. I had never been to the mid west before and “Beaver Island” loomed in my imagination as a magical place that I had only heard about in quilting fairy tales – the fantasy land for “liberated” quilters and/or “serious” quilters. I only hoped I was serious and liberated enough.

Follow the road to White Birch Lodge


I came for the 29th Beaver Island Retreat, now held at the White Birch Lodge in Elk Rapids, Michigan. It could have been somewhere in Kansas as far as I was concerned. I definitely wasn’t in San Francisco anymore.




The theme this year was Medallion Quilts. I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I hoped to complete or at least work on a liberated wedding quilt I had started at Asilomar with Freddy Moran and Gwen Marston in 2010. Of course, I had to bring extra fabric in case I finished that project or just needed more choices. I needed more choices. The liberated wedding quilt piece only came out at “show and tell” on Wednesday night.

Saw tooth border in progress

I chose a green floral piece of fabric as the center for my medallion, framed it with a green plaid and rust colored corner posts. Gwen had suggested in her first morning lecture that we try “one hard thing.” I had never done a saw tooth border so decided to make a scrappy saw tooth border as my next border. For far, so good. But what possessed me to work with 3/4″ squares I’ll never know. I suppose I was working the “one hard thing” suggestion, but 3/4″ – really???

Beaver Island Medallion

I doggedly worked on my border and by the last day of the retreat had finished it and had added another solid border of green with four teeny, tiny liberated star blocks as posts and little slivers of fabric in the bottom border. I was looking at my piece and wondering where I might go next as Gwen was making her rounds of our work tables. She paused, studying mine and said, “What about another row of saw tooth borders?” At that point, I think I took a walk with my camera and shot a few photos.

View of the lake from the quilting room

Color inspiration for B.I. Medallion









My final picture of my trip to Michigan is a photo I took on the way to the airport – a wonderful rainbow over the marshes outside of Traverse City. I wish I could say that all I had to do was click my heels three times and I was back in California but I had to travel back the same way I went – by plane.

Rainbow over the marshes outside of Traverse City, Michigan


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Last Days of Summer

August’s annual showing of “Naked Ladies”

In my last post I was leaving for my annual Summer Pickle Retreat in Sebastopol. We ate well, sewed a lot, and laughed and talked into the night. One of my favorite memories of that weekend was lying on the deck under blankets watching for falling stars.  We saw lots of small stars zip across the sky and one spectacular comet that streaked right through the middle, drawing out squeals of surprise and delight from all of us.

Lunch on the deck



After our required stop at “The Legacy” thrift shop we stopped by Walker’s Apples off of Graton Rd. in Sebastopol for our annual box of Gravenstein apples – the first apples of the season and then home for a delicious lunch.

Ladybugs Soleil and Sanaiya enjoying their new quilts




While we all came with projects we wanted to finish, the most important agenda item for the weekend was finishing the quilts for Joanne’s new grandbabies : Soleil and Sanaiya, the twin Ladybugs.

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Can’t See the Forest for the Trees

Ah, life has a way of encroaching on those grand plans to write monthly! Since my last post we have had three family graduations spanning high school through graduate school, from the Bay Area to Southern California. Following the graduations, a summer full of baseball, school trips and preparing to send my youngest son off to college…. Quilting has not had top billing. Still I can’t go long without using my sewing machine.

Fabric bookmarks inspired by Darra Williamson’s post on See How We Sew

First, in May, I was inspired by Darra Williamson’s April 20th Word Press blog called “Fabric, Embellishments and Books=The Bookmark Project” on the blog called See How We Sew. I used a bookmark I had drawn for my mother’s memorial service in June 2009 as an inspiration for my fabric bookmarks .



Next, I finished my second challenge quilt for New Pieces for the month of May. The theme was “May” and the fabric was a choice of ants: black on white background or white on black background. I couldn’t get beyond the ant fabric and finally decided that I would feature it instead. Continuing my use of figures I created “Mae has ant in her pants.”



I wasn’t the only quilter that month who couldn’t get beyond the “ant” fabric and instead incorporated it into her quilt. I love how Kathy Ritter included the theme word “May” with the ant fabric that refused to be ignored.



While I was cleaning up my studio I unearthed some Liberated Wedding Quilt blocks I had started at an Asilomar retreat class with Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran in February 2010. I couldn’t resist doing a few more. It was so much fun to play with scraps and strips again – perfect for getting my creative energy recharged. The directions for making the blocks in their book, Freddy and Gwen Collaborate Again, call for newspaper backing. I decided I would prefer to make my new blocks without the paper foundation.

 The strip part was easy – I just needed to sew the blocks 4 and 1/2 ” wide and 10″ long. I made the sides a little wider and the length longer to accommodate “truing up” once the block was big enough. After trimming the sides, I turned my 6″ square ruler on point and cut the ends. I made a number of new blocks, moved them around on my design board and decided I liked what I had and didn’t want to make more. The quilt stopped there and will go with me to Beaver Island in September to be finished at Gwen Marston’s retreat focusing on medallion quilts.

Lynne’s leftovers – begging to become Liberated Log Cabin Blocks

About the time I stopped work on my wedding quilt, my quilting buddy, Lynne McDonald, cleaned up her space and brought over her leftover scraps of red, black and grey wool from a woolie she finished. The scraps were calling out to me and I couldn’t resist. I started making log cabin blocks using Gwen Marston’s suggestion from her first Liberated Quilting book to use the scraps exactly as they are rather than trimming to size. Here are the scraps on my work table before I started and three blocks later. This quilt will have to wait for the moment however, as I’m off to my annual Summer “Pickle” Weekend retreat in Sebastopol. While I’m there I plan to finish a woolie for my college bound son and quilt two baby quilts for the twin Ladybugs.  Pictures to follow next month.

Liberated Log Cabin Block I

Liberated Log Cabin Block II

Liberated Log Cabin Block III

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The House That Fern Built

Spring is definitely here and I find work in my studio impacted by too many events, the beautiful weather and end of the school year short attention span. However, despite my feelings of flitting around, I have made a bit of  progress this month.

Ms. Joanne - 12"x12" 2012 Berkeley Central Library Quilt Show Entry

First I finished a small quilt for the library quilt show. It is a 12″by 12″ piece using a block that my friend Joanne and I worked on together over two years ago. Originally it was to be part of a group of blocks representing each of the quilters in the Persian Pickle Quilt group. We made it at our retreat in 2010 but  it was “voted out of the quilt” the next year in 2011 as it didn’t seem to fit in the overall color scheme. However, I loved the block and decided it needed to be finished. The quilt show was just the motivation I needed to do that. Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of it before I dropped it off at the library so the one I am including is of it under glass and slightly out of focus.

"Raindrops Are Falling On My Head" April Challenge Quilt

After completing that block I was inspired to make a second 12″x12″ challenge quilt and enter the ongoing monthly mini quilt challenge happening at New Pieces Quilt Shop in Berkeley. Each month a  new fabric and theme is selected. April’s theme was water and included an aqua, watery looking fabric. I decided to use the song “Raindrops are Falling on my Head” as my theme and to make another figure block – this one in a raincoat. I selected the raincoat fabric and the background but wanted something that really said “rain hat and rubber boots.” Lo and behold, Catherine had an old raincoat laying on the floor of her studio closet. She cut off a sleeve and I went home to make my hat and galoshes. The next challenge was an umbrella. I found a cocktail umbrella at a party store but didn’t like how it looked with my figure. I glued the “rain” fabric onto the base of the umbrella but it needed a tip…. The top of my mechanical pencil  uncannily matched the fabric! Smiling flowers and three Rubber Duckies playing in the puddles completed my block. I was very pleased with the block but even more pleased to find I actually won the challenge for the month of April.

Completed Quilt from October class, "Color Me White" with Angie Woolman at Stonemountain and Daughter in Berkeley

Next, in a fit of spring cleaning I managed to quilt a quilt I began in October. Using such light fabric and large prints was an interesting challenge at the time. However, the completed quilt feels so bright and vibrant – spring personified. I also love how some of the blocks seem to flow into each other. Thinking of the months this quilt took from start to finish reminds me of how one plants bulbs in the fall only to forget about them until they pop up in the spring.

The House That Fern Built

Last, but not least, I have worked some on my Starry Night quilt in and around these other projects. After I put in the moon I wanted to “build” a house below it bathed in the moonlight. I loved the fabric I placed behind the moon but alas, it was only a fat quarter – I searched for a fabric that could transition well and finally found another blue I liked. My house is now finished and I’m moving on to “building” trees.


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Quilt in Progress

At work in my studio

I am in the midst of finishing a quilt. Actually, I am in the midst of finishing many quilts. Some of them seem to take on a life on their own and get finished quickly and others, like my Starry Night Quilt, seem to go on forever.

This phenomenon is something I talk about with  other quilters fairly often. It’s not as if I don’t want to finish this quilt but sometimes other quilts “jump forward in the queue” or maybe I find myself stuck in a particular spot and need to take a break. Those little breaks often prove helpful. At least they have in this particular quilt’s case.

Stars and Tree Parts Department

The general idea for this quilt has been in my head and parts of it have been on my design wall for almost a year. After finishing a similar tree/star quilt for my niece and her husband I decided I wanted one of my own. I wanted it to be full of stars, sparkling and peeking out and around the trees. I began by making lots of stars and a few trees using the “parts” department, a la Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran in their two Collaborative Quilting books. So far so good. Stars in three different sizes and a few trees stayed on my design board for six months.

Wedding Quilt for Karrie and Paul

I added a full moon. My moon joined the stars and trees and there they sat. Sometimes I had to remove this design so I could work on the other quilts. There was the quilt I needed to make for a friend having surgery. There was an unexpected baby quilt and a quilt for my cousin’s 50th birthday.

These quilts may have “jumped the queue” but it doesn’t mean I won’t finish my Starry Night quilt. I’ve added a house to the parts department and lots more trees…. Starry Night is just a quilt that has it’s own time line.


Quilt for my friend Lina

Quilt for my friend Lina

A Quilt for Aubrey

A Quilt for Aubrey


Suzie’s Quilt

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