Joe Cunningham Lecture * QuiltFest Palm Springs • Sept 2016


Self Portrait, by Joe Cunningham

The evening of my class with Joe Cunningham, he had a lecture in the hotel, and since there were only four of us, he told the organizers he could hold up his own quilts and talk at the same time.  So we began with a song of his (guitar and all) and then he pulled out his quilts. In between we got “four lectures in one,” as he talked about how he came to quilting.  He’d started collaborating with Gwen Marston in 1975, and then she taught him to quilt.  They were both inspired by the collection of an older quilter with her handmade quilts, a woman who kept the quilting tradition alive during the middle years of the past century.  In 1990, he ended his collaboration with Gwen Marston, moved to New York, then to San Francisco to work with the Esprit Collection of quilts.  He never left.


Lake Street House, by Joe Cunningham

He developed this quilting process working in conjunction with the people at Handi Quilter, where he could enter in a complex pattern into a computer and “tile” it back onto his quilt in the quilting.  Each tile takes about 45 minutes to quilt, but creates all sorts of interesting patterns in the quilting.  I asked him about the trend to matchstick quilting, and he had only one thing to say: “lost a chance to be creative.”

And this is how he labels/signs his quilts: his name and the year stitched into the top.


I’m on a Quilt, by Joe Cunningham

Both Joe and Luke Haynes, another art-centered quilter who is male, seem to be quite adventurous in the use of large blocks of particularly unattractive (ugly?) fabric and making that fabric hew to their vision of the quilt, an approach worth learning.  So much of what I see is that we quilters are the ones commanded BY the fabric to the end result, rather than the opposite tack.

Something else I noted in his approach — that I also see in Luke Haynes —  is figuring out the space where quilting and the art world collide and how to use that tension and friction.


(Of course, I’m fascinated by the mundane: how he folds his quilts so there are no creases.)


Kiev Protesters Quilt, by Joe Cunningham


Detail, Kiev Protesters Quilt

He talked about how a quilt is allowed to say several things: I love you.  I’m thinking about you. Memorial quilts.  But he was fascinated one day by the blockades in Kiev, and how those who were protesting just fell to sleep anywhere.

For me this quilt reminded me of what he said in class: that he makes a quilt to see what it will look like.


Bicameral Lovers Knot, by Joe Cunningham

Log cabin blocks are in the background.  Look up what bicameral is, if you don’t know.


New York Beauty, by Joe Cunningham


Back of New York Beauty, showing the quilting


Mountain/Mountaineer, by Joe Cunningham

Luke gave him some of the leftover Log Cabin blocks from his recent exhibit, and Joe made them into this quilt, minus the mountaineer.  His wife walked in where it was hanging and said that he needed a figure there, so Joe gave it back to Luke, who added the climber


Crazy City–San Francisco, by Joe Cunningham


Back of Crazy City–San Francisco


Crazy City–the Creek, by Joe Cunningham




Tar Patch Quilt, by Joe Cunningham


Detail and Signature


He covered so many topics that I can’t write them all here, but they were fascinating and I thought about them all the way home, such as (I’m paraphrasing):

  • If a piece of art looks like art, then it’s somebody else’s art.  [Can’t we apply this to our quilts?]
  • The brilliance of quilts in the colonies [our early American colonies] was in the egalitarian nature of it.  It wasn’t just for the rich, which it had been earlier when quilting was done in imitation of European quilts, but it was for the masses.
  • These women changed the definition of a quilt from a commercial item to a gift.  The quilting, done around a frame, cost no money.  Because of this, it remained in the realm of women and was invisible to the men, especially the merchant class.
  • Quilts from Europe in the earliest days were of four types: whole cloth, honeycomb (think EPP), strippy or medallion.  From there, we invented blocks.  From four types, we know have over 400,000 different patterns, an independent realm created by women.
  • And finally: “We make quilts like everyone else…unless you don’t want to.”  A trap door exists for us to escape the sameness and make our own vision.

I love classes where I have as much for the brain as I do for the creative, visual, tactile side of the equation, and this lecture certainly gave me everything.  I’m so glad I was able to go, and so glad QuiltFest brought out this great speaker.

Workshop with Joe Cunningham • Sept. 2016

Early this month, I got up at very early in the morning and drove an hour to the Palm Springs Convention Center (well, really, the hotel next door) as I was scheduled to take a class with Joe Cunningham during the recent Quiltfest Oasis Palm Springs, with its emphasis on Modern Quilts.  Libs Elliot was also teaching, but I was interested in Joe because of a video I’d watched about him and his quilting long ago.  He was on Craft in America, a series on PBS, and as he was the only quilter in the series at that time, I was amazed that he was teaching within an hour from my house.  I think I registered for QuiltFest on the first day, I was so excited.  To explain the video above: it was a lovely quirky thing, but he brought his guitar and sang and played for us.  Now I wish every conference class had live music like this: classic tunes, played on the guitar.  He even took my request and played  Blackbird (by the Beatles).  It was lovely.

To get our class started, he talked about how he approached quilts: “I think of something I want to “do” and then see how it looks.  The reason I’m making it is to find out what it looks like.”  He has a strict process, including the idea that since we are making chaos in our cutting and sewing, and it would be good to limit our fabrics to control the chaos.


So what was the class?  Basically it was the stripped down version of that joke we quilters all make: we cut fabric apart and sewed it back together.  However, first we had to choose our fabrics.  He’d told us to bring four 1 yard pieces of fabric; I brought six or seven, but really it was a relief not to haul my stash to a class (the usual).  He went around the room, and by what he said as helped us choose, I noticed the following ideas:

avoid things that look like they go together (like using fabrics from one line or designer)
neutral ground is good
high contrast between the three fabrics is good
look for a variation in scale and visual texture

He then gave us a handout with a specific way of cutting and sewing the pieces back together.  I got to work.

We all sewed all morning, and before I left to get my lunch, I had the stack of blocks (above) all finished.

Lunch was at Sherman’s Deli, which was just around the corner from where we were working.  Three of us went over and got salads, then sat out on the pool deck at the hotel, enjoying the beautiful day.  Then it was back to work.cunninghamclass_3

Basically it was to put all the blocks up on the wall, and make them work together.  Well, at first I felt like the story about the classes at QuiltCon 2015 with the Gee’s Bend Quilters.  All of the quilters sat there, expecting the Gee’s Bend Quilters to tell them how to sew.  But after their opening of a hymn and a prayer, they turned to the women in the class and said, “Well, get to sewing!”  (Told to me by someone who was in the class)

I fully expected to just make blocks according to Joe’s directions and have it stop there.  But amazingly, the language of design he was schooling us in started to make sense.  That first picture was just blocks slapped up there.  But then I could see the possibilities in mine, that he’d showed in someone else’s.  And I began to arrange them to some remarkable inner vibe and weirdness. Here are some of the other arrangements happening around the room:

cunninghamclass_4 cunninghamclass_5 cunninghamclass_6

More music, more switching things around.  He was always available for help, but I wanted to try this strange magic all by myself.  After cutting, arranging, sewing, it just wasn’t happening.  Then I took a photo, flipped it 180 degrees and it was like the tumblers in a lock falling into place.


I look pretty tired

This is where I was at the end of the class, at 4 p.m.  I’m sure you are saying “what???” and I actually sort of agree.  I’m not really an improv person, because frankly I just never got that religion, but this technique of his was actually quite fun, and I didn’t waste the gallons of fabric I usually do when trying to do improv.


Our class.  cunninghamclass_9a

Everyone cleared out, but the organizers let me stay and work, since I was signed up for the lecture that night and really had no where to go.  I had a lunch with me so I wasn’t worried about dinner, and just wanted to keep going on the borders.  I had a great piece of greyed circles fabric with me, and I thought I would try to see if it could meld on what I was working on.  So I started by extending blocks of color out from the quilt, and filling in with the circles.  I got to the above right photo and it was five o’clock and I wanted a break before the lecture (plus ice my sore shoulder).


The nice guys at the pool deck bar let me have some ice, and I sat outside watching the gauzy curtains on these poolside bed/canopies float in the slight breeze, while eating my dinner and icing my shoulder.  It was a great break.  This conference was also on the same weekend as Desert Trip, that music festival with all the oldsters playing, and it had decimated the attendance at QuiltFest.  There were only six people in our class (amazing) and it turned out there were only four at the lecture that night (see next post).


So this is where it all ended.  It’s not a huge quilt–maybe 33″ square–but it was a good experience in trying a new method.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

Chuck Nohara Redux


(Redux: brought back, from the Latin word meaning returning, — or — from reducere to lead back.  First Known Use: 1860. So now you know.)

Well…I posted this photo recently, musing about how many more of these little suckers I was going to make.  Since they come from 2″ line drawings in Chuck Nohara’s book, any size is possible, but Susan and I went with 6″ finished.  Which is fun.  And small.  And I still have to make all the sashing and all that, so it has come to the time to think about sizing.

I tend to like square quilts.  And with four more, this quilt would be square.  I know I have 4 per month, three more months, but RETURNING to my senses, I realized I was pretty much done.  As one of the more fun quilt projects I’ve done, by teaming up with Susan gave me great motivation to get things done (because I knew she would).  If you jump in, try hooking up with the Instagram group and letting the motivation of those women pull you along.  But still, it’s time for me to be done.

So here are my four final blocks:


I chose from the rest of what we’d identified as the last blocks of the year, pulling forward ones that I thought would blend with what I already have.  This also gives me a chance to take off my least favorite block and move it to the back (I’m not telling which one it is). Susan and I have also agreed to make each other a signature block, but keep it a surprise, so I have that one too.  Whatever is leftover after all this will go on the back.

Christina Xu, in her article “Your Project Deserves a Good Death,” notes that:

Most of the people I know are compulsive starters. We constantly create new projects, companies, organizations, and events; sometimes, we even get roped into adopting other people’s projects and entities…Almost all of them will not be the last thing we start.

She goes on to say that we don’t often know how to finish up, or end, all these projects we’ve started (we quilters call them UFOs).


She notes there are five categories of projects-that-won’t-quit, with “The Indefinite Life Support” being the first.  That’s when we keep a project going way past the time it should be allowed to lapse.  Think of all those 100 block projects you’ve been seeing all summer.  Some actually do go all the way, but I say, if you get to #47 and you’ve learned what you had to learn, and you are ready to move on. . . then don’t feel guilty for not having A Complete Set.

Another category is “The Marathon,” when you carry on a project to the very end, but it burns you out or causes harm.  I had two of those this year: the Halloween quilt-a-long, and the Oh Christmas Tree quilt-a-long.  I loved doing both of them and have two lovely quilt tops to show for my efforts, but when I got to the part in Oh Christmas Tree where the pattern was wrong, it threw a big wrench into my Enthusiasm Works and I really had to run my own marathon to get that project finished (we corrected it).  Doing one quilt-a-long is huge, but two was like running two marathons at once.

She closes her article by noting the good reasons for declaring an end to some things:

Accepting the possibility of the end means periodically taking a critical look at your work and recognizing when its time has passed. Letting go of a project or an organization returns all of the resources it’s tying up — funding, attention, time, the emotional labor contributed by you and others — to the ecosystem. Whether by you or others, those resources will be recombined into new, surprising forms….The end of something, when unrushed and deliberate, is a time for celebration as well as closure.

And so I celebrate the end of the Chuck Nohara project. I still have several blocks to make, and then there is all that sashing, but it feels like a good time to wrap up this portion and move on.

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Yvonne Porcella


Since I am an older quilter, I am familiar with many of the early pioneers in quilting, and one of them was Yvonne Porcella (photo above is from 1993).  I just learned of her death after her six year ordeal with ovarian cancer, and thought I would pass on pictures of her creativity.  Upon her death, the Modesto Bee wrote:


I lived in the Bay Area when she was well-known, and it was another quilter, Elinor Peace Bailey who told me about Yvonne and told me I should learn about her and look at some of her work.


So I purchased this book, and fell in love.  You can buy it for a penny on Amazon right now.  And then I bought another:


Here is some of her work:



(from here)



(many images from here)



Asked to reflect on her career, how it began and what drives her as an artist, Porcella says:  “As a child, motherly love taught me to knit and sew, and rip mistakes and make it right. Curiosity led to self education, enhanced by a collection of books, visits to museums, and exploration of textiles from other countries. Imagination generated inspiration and freedom led to invention. I learned creativity comes from making your own rules, understanding the limits of your chosen materials, and having confidence in personal skills.”

I’ll miss your influence and quilts, Yvonne.  Thank you for teaching me not to be afraid of color.


Chuck Nohara Blocks, and This N’ That


It’s Chuck Nohara update time, as I just finished my last block for September.  This is how one of them started: a wonky mess.  I realized that while I had decided to paper piece this one, not each piece was identical to its brother/sister piece.  If you decide to do #CN1723 (which is how we identify them on Instagram), number the pieces from 1-8, so you get neighbors together, rather than mixing them up.  Yes, I unpicked it all and started again.


Here are September’s blocks: #cn1723, #cn1105, #cn570, and #cn1454 (links are to IG).

I cheated on the EPP on this one, as I first pieced together the four-patch, then treated it as one unit in the construction.chucknohara0916_4

Here they all are.  Now that we are getting closer to the end, I need to think about the shape I want to make.  I tend towards square quilts, so if that’s what I want to do, I only need four more.  Or eighteen.  (Maybe I won’t make it square.)kcity_1

You know already that I went to Kansas City, but I thought their restored Union Station was stunning, which includes the ornate ceiling and scrubbed-up chandeliers.
kcity_2 kcity_3

The folks in Kansas City are rabid enthusiastic about their sports teams, as I’m sure you can see the Chiefs logo in one of the giant windows.

While I was there I had a chance to sew on a new label for Starry Compass Rose, and it was good to see an old friend again.  Not only was my quilt an old friend, so were the people who work at Paintbrush Studios–it was Anne’s birthday and we all went to lunch to celebrate.  Yes, we sang to her in the restaurant–she is a lovely person and I was happy my trip coincided with her birthday.pbstudios_2 pbstudios_3

They do food big here; it was delicious (I took home the leftovers).  I think there’s a special feeling about the Midwest.  You kind of feel like the center of the universe there, with all the trains and planes and people having to go through there, or pass over there on the way to somewhere else.  I lived in the Midwest for a couple of years, and still have very fond memories (just not of the snow in the winter).shine_0916_back

Lastly, I finished Shine: The Circles Quilt, and have been photographing it in preparation to enter Road to California.  I’ll give a big reveal here in a couple of weeks after I finish some more photographs, but for now–it’s done by the deadline.

road-entry-for-2017Now comes the nerve-wracking waiting part.



(I swiped this illustration from Susan’s blog: we are doing this Chuck stuff together.)

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A Visit to Missouri Star Quilt Company


This past week I accompanied my husband on a long weekend, when he went to a scientific conference in Kansas City, Missouri.  I’ve been going to this conference with him for many years, and have a close friendship with Beth, the wife of another scientist.  When she found out the meeting was in Kansas City (the venue changes every year), she looked up on the map how far it was to Missouri Star Quilt Company (about an hour from the city center). Tuesday morning I hopped in her car and we were off to see the Wizard Missouri Star Quilt Company.missouristarquilt_1a

Missouri Star Quilt Company is in Hamilton, Missouri, a small one-blinking-stoplight town in the rolling plains of the Midwest.  I snapped this photo while walking in the crosswalk underneath the blinking red light.missouristarquilt_1b

It does have other shops than the Missouri Star Quilt company, such as the grocery store above (pronounce the name out loud), as well as a bank and a park, which notes it is the site of the boyhood home James Cash Penny, the man who started the J.C. Penny stores.missouristarquilt_guide1Here is the merchandise bag, when you buy a T-shirt or other such souvenirs at the main shop.  They also hand you a brochure, and you fill out a badge that you let them scan in every shop, saving you the hassle of giving them your email every time, and also helps you acrue their quilt bucks, or whatever they call it; every time I made a purchase, I’d gathered a bit more savings, which I applied to my purchase.  I didn’t get all this until the third shop we stopped in, but I put it here to give you an overview.missouristarquilt_guide2missouristarquilt_guide3We parked in front of Shop #24, and walked across the street to begin our fun.missouristarquilt_2 We start with Florals.missouristarquilt_3Nearly every shop is like the one above, long and narrow, as shops were back in the day.  The fabrics are in slightly tilted shelves along each wall, with bins/buckets/containers in the center, near the cutting tables.  All the quilts that you’ve seen in Block Magazine are lining the walls, which made me feel like I was in quilt heaven–and that I needed to add about 20 more quilts to the Get These Made Before You Die list.missouri-star-fabric-collageWe soon realized that we could be in serious financial danger if we bought as we went, so we decided to browse, then buy.  To keep track of what I was interested in the first time through all the shops, I started snapping photos.

Next up is what we called Vintage, but looks like on the map is Mercantile.  It was filled with lots of Civil War, reproductions and 1930s prints.missouristarquilt_5

I don’t think this character is part of the Missouri Star Quilt displays, but I loved his look.missouristarquilt_6

I was consistently impressed with the little touches–like these fabric butterflies in the Main Shop window.

Sometimes I kind of felt this was like a cross between a quilt shop and Pottery Barn, which is really fun.  Lots of light, well-curated extra touches (like the seating area up above by the woman in the pink) and great displays with lots of charm.  In the Main Shop, we picked up our badges, looked at all the merch (see below) and noticed that around the edge of this shop were sections of fabrics that matched the shops around on the street: florals, baby, primitives, modern, etc.missouristarquilt_6b missouristarquilt_6c missouristarquilt_6d

Quilts are everywhere…even under the cutting tables.missouristarquilt_6e missouristarquilt_7

Moving on, we enjoyed the murals on three of the buildings.  The first is above, and I laughed when I saw them painting the side of this building (below) with BRUSHES!missouristarquilt_7a missouristarquilt_8

We were headed to Penny’s.missouristarquilt_9

Store front window, because this place is filled with solids, or near-solids, of every kind (just not my favorite solids: Paintbrush Studios).missouristarquilt_9a

Again, there are lots of small vignettes of color, and lots and lots of quilts and quilt tops.  The big crime was that because my plane was leaving that night, we only had a few hours to spend here, but I could see that a quilter could save up all their money and stay for a long day or two.  You’d better drive, though, because you’ll be hauling a lot home.  Since both Beth and I had small suitcases, we limited our purchases (another crime), which was hard to do, because everything is so beautiful and well-displayed.missouristarquilt_9b missouristarquilt_9c

Above each section of shelves is a small round blackboard, with the name of the manufacturer written in chalkboard paint, and framed by a small embroidery hoop.missouristarquilt_10

We peeked into the Man Cave, or as they call it, Man’s Land.  It is equipped with big recliners, wide screen TVs, and a pool table.missouristarquilt_10a missouristarquilt_10b missouristarquilt_11

Upstairs, above the row of shops on the Penny’s side, are four side-by-side upstairs quilt shops: Kids & Baby, Backing and Trims, Sew Seasonal, and Modern.missouristarquilt_11a missouristarquilt_12 missouristarquilt_12a missouristarquilt_12b

Access is via these steps, or another set of wide ones (with a bright yellow wall–the colors here are really fun and bright) in the Licensed to Sew Shop, or via an elevator.  They’ll get you up there every way they can.  About this point, I asked about all the charms I was seeing: different ones in every shop.  If you spent more than $50 (pre-tax) in any one of their shops (you can’t carry the total forward between shops), you get a free charm.  I ended up buying a few, instead of qualifying (I told you I had a small suitcase).  They give you the little bracelet at the Main Shop, when you print out your badge.

Okay, lunchtime!  J’s Burger Dive was highly recommended for great burgers, but we went with Mama Hawk’s Kitchen, where we each got a salad.missouristarquilt_13a

Another mural and a couple of locals.missouristarquilt_14

We circled back around through the shops, picking up the fabrics we wanted, where I snapped this last picture at the “Machine Shed,” where they had notions and machines.  One other place is the Sewing Center, but they had a retreat, so we couldn’t go in (but we peeked through the window–it was packed!) I also heard that Rob Apell was around somewhere, but I didn’t spot him.  Beth and I tucked our goodies and ourselves back into our car and headed back to Kansas City, happy to have stolen a few hours to browse Hamilton and visit the Missouri Star Quilt Company!

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Rosette #6 for the New Hexagon Millifiore Quilt-A-Long


Here’s my rosette #6 for The New Hexagon Millifiore Quilt-Along.


And here is the original.

Why did I change it?  I started looking at all the composite views of the rosette and just thought the star was too prominent, that it started a new conversation in the middle of the living room when the party around it was already having a nice chat, thank you very much.  While I thought the original design was very clever, I needed it to change.


Here are the changes I made:

In the black Circle #1, I created a new piece — that of two tall 30-60-90 triangles merged into one equilateral triangle.  I studied my friend Laurel’s rosette (she is all finished with her quilt top) and noticed that in hers, as well as in many others, the right triangles of 30-60-90, when placed back to back with another, create a third pattern.  It does the same thing in the original block, above.  But I wanted to use this bargello/flame fabric and I only had a little bit, so that made my decision for me.

In the dark pink Circle #2, I looked at other blocks that I’d sewn in my previous rosettes, because I wanted to nab their papers and re-use them.  I found this shape in an earlier rosette, figured out that it would work, and am happy with the “ribbon” the multi-colored light-green fabric made.

I had to sew on my equilateral triangles on the center section first, then the next inner row of partial hexies, in order to make it fit (the ones with the bold radiating circle design).  Then it was add the last round, alternating the birds and the citrus fruit hexies.


Here it is, laid out in Photoshop, which isn’t really the greatest approximation of how it looks in real life, but I’m not yet to the sewing-it-together phase. I’m still not 100% sure about the colors of Number Six, but I will try to bring in one more yellow spot somewhere — maybe in 10a — so I can balance those brights.

Stay tuned.

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Roxanne’s Quilt Shop in Carpinteria, California


Roxanne’s Quilt Shop in Carpenteria, California is filled to the brim with colorful, quirky, to-die-for fabrics, yarns, threads and painted Featherweight sewing machines. I spent quite a bit of time looking at everything they had, including this banner which greets you as you are in the shop: Live the Creative Life.  Can I just move in here for about a year or two? roxanne_3j roxanne_3g

Main fabric room, with a clever roof-line on the back wall behind the cutting table.


They are renowned for their cutting table.  Detail shots, next two.roxanne_3c roxanne_3d roxanne_3b

The Kaffe Fasset corner is currently anchored by this bright quilt, made of triangles. Info, next.



Cute displays everywhere, including their collection of repainted Featherweights.roxanne_4

Three of us brought home signs made of strips of license plates.  I won’t make you guess whose is whose.

Out front is an old-fashioned sign, so of course, I made everyone pose.  After you stagger out of there with your bags and bags of goodies, you’ll see some more of Carpinteria’s fun quirkiness:roxanne_1b

Mary says John Wayne, on the middle upstairs balcony, has been there like “forever.”  I’d like to be here, too!


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Beachside Quilting Retreat

quiltretreat2016_Shortly after meeting Mary at QuiltCon, she texted me to say we ought to get together for a weekend at the beach, and suggested a date: September.

quiltretreat2016_1 quiltretreat2016_1aThat seemed so far away, but finally the weekend arrived and Lisa (L), Leisa (R) and I drove over to Carpinteria, where her beach house is located.  We were more than happy to spend time with her as we think she is the Cat’s Meow, besides being a great quilter.


First up: exchange little gifts with each other.  I always like what Simone de Beauvoir said: something to the effect that if the universe were run by women, they would bestow little gifts upon each other all day long.  She certainly knew about quilters!  I had a package which contained socks, a candy bar brought from Denmark with funny words on them, and a few other trinkets.  We set up our machines and began sewing.


View from the balcony towards Arco Island.  While the official name is Rincon Island, the locals call it after the oil company.  They also never call the city by its full name of Carpinteria, but rather, call it “Carp.”quiltretreat2016_4a

After sewing all afternoon, and after dinner, it was time to go and watch the sunset.  We adopted the rhythm established by Mary and her family, and were always happy to have a break out in nature before we tackled the evening’s sewing.quiltretreat2016_4b quiltretreat2016_4c quiltretreat2016_5

Leisa, Lisa and Maryquiltretreat2016_5a quiltretreat2016_5b

Many of the rocks on this area of beach have holes in them and through them.  We joked that all our suitcases were pounds heavier with our souvenirs from Carp.quiltretreat2016_5goodbye quiltretreat2016_6

Saturday morning, Mary told us all it was National Sewing Machine Day, so I documented us all at our machines.


Since Mary and I like to cook, I’ll give you an idea of the food we had all weekend, beginning with her shashito peppers from her garden, lightly heated with a bit of oil, then dipped in soy sauce.

We all contributed to this stack.quiltretreat2016_11c

Mary’s Tomato and Cheese Galette, served with fresh greens.quiltretreat2016_11d

Melon wrapped in proscuitto, tomatoes layered with fresh mozzarella.  I’d forgotten my vinegar, so Mary’s BIL lent some and it was amazing (the “good stuff” he said, and he was right).quiltretreat2016_11e

For lunch one day we were out at The Spot, where the ladies were photo-bombed:



Another day we went to Summerland Cafe, known for its breakfasts. . . so I had breakfast, while the other quilters had a lunch entree. quiltretreat2016_11g quiltretreat2016_11h

After finding two pumpkin-shaped Le Creuset pots in an antique store, Mary taught us all how to make her famous bread.  Link to the story and the recipe is *here.*  We also visited the famous Roxanne’s Quilt Shop; write-up with photos in the next post. I’m still recovering.quiltretreat2016_orchid1

We visited one of the local orchid farms, Westerlay Farms, where there were a gorgeous array of colorful orchids.quiltretreat2016_orchid1a quiltretreat2016_orchid1b quiltretreat2016_orchid1c quiltretreat2016_orchid1d

Westerly also had a planter of beautiful succulents out front.

So did we do more than eat and have field trips?  Yep, yep.  I brought my unfinished Traveling Threads Bee quilt, as it had languished too long.  After we taped up the design wall (see below), I slapped all my blocks up there and began moving them around.  And around.  And around.quiltretreat2016_project1a

I went downstairs early the first night to be the first in her jammies, and got quilt-bombed with Lisa’s batch of 50 nine-patches.  This was Lisa laughing with me in the morning, as it took me a minute to figure out why my quilt looked so great, but then she made me give them back.  Pity. They were sunny and bright in my quilt of fall colors.  She did this set of 50, and then another set of 50 three-inch nine-patches for a guilt swap she is participating in.quiltretreat2016_project1b

After noodling on this for a very long day (asking everyone what they thought of it about every time I moved something an inch — they were very patient), I finally got it sewed together.  Now to quilt it.  I took mine down and Lisa put hers up:


This is the photo at the end of the weekend, after she sewed and sewed and sewed. It’s a Lizzy House pattern.quiltretreat2016_project2 quiltretreat2016_project3

I completed two backs for quilts: Oh Christmas Tree, and Halloween 1904.  Sorry they are so wrinkled.

Mary had the actual First Finish, when she held up this appliquéd chicken, quilted and bound.  She used a special technique to appliqué the pieces down.

Leisa worked on several projects, but this is her quilt from a Road to California class using Little House on the Prarie fabrics. quiltretreat2016_project8 quiltretreat2016_project8a

Leisa also finished up her Halloween 1904 quilt (on the right).  It was part of the Quilt-A-Long here on the blog this summer.quiltretreat2016_project9

Mary finishing up her Christmas Tree skirt, using the trick of a glue stick to hold the binding in place for top-stitching. quiltretreat2016_project9b

Here it is!quiltretreat2016_project9a

She also finished up a quilt-a-long with Bonnie Hunter, with stars and strips.

Lastly, Mary made two red Xs for the 70273project by Jeanne Hewell-Chambers, found *here,*  with Introductory Post *here.* Mary’s set is on top, mine’s on the bottom.  We had one more set by the time the weekend was finished.

quiltretreat2016_goodbye2Stuff ready to get packed into Lisa’s car.


Good-bye until next year!

Breaking up the Quilting Work: A Few Thoughts on Refueling While Working


In a recent article about taking restful breaks in 99U, written by Christian Jarrett, he talks about the need for “truly restful breaks” when working hard on a project–which are different that just taking a break.  He uses a modern analogy when he writes “Just as you need to refuel your car and recharge the batteries in your cell phone, it’s important to give yourself the chance to recoup your energy levels throughout the workday. In fact, the more demanding your day, and the less time you feel like you have to take any breaks, the more crucial it is that you make sure you do take regular breaks to prevent yourself from becoming exhausted.”


Finally stepping away from the quilt late one night


celebrating Lisa’s birthday with our quilting group: The Good Heart Quilters

Jarrett notes that  “[N]ot just any kind of break will do. Psychologists and business scholars have recently started studying the most effective ways to relax during a workday – they call them ‘micro breaks’ – and their latest findings point to some simple rules of thumb to sustain and optimize your energy levels” which the article breaks down into a “three-step process.”

One is to “get out of the office.”  For me, the office is my home, so I interpret that to mean to get out of the quilting room upstairs and away from those kinds of tasks.  So getting together with my long-time quilt group works for me, as well as entertaining my grandsons (above) when the come for a long Sunday afternoon.


The article relates that “Countless studies have shown how a green environment gives us a mental recharge, and what’s really encouraging is that recent work has shown that this doesn’t have to be a tropical rainforest. A modest urban park is all it takes.”

Taking short breaks early and often is one of the ideas.  He quotes a study from Baylor University, highlighting this interesting detail: “[I]f you take frequent breaks, then they don’t need to be as long to be beneficial – a couple of minutes might be enough. On the other hand, if you deprive yourself of many breaks, then when you do take one, it’s going to be need to be longer to have any beneficial effect.”shine-block_sashing-tryout

I noticed all of this when I was working on my Shine quilt.  I started with the backgrounds: close quilting in the “white” areas with white thread, but then what?  Coming back to the quilt after a long break from my shoulder injury, I started with outlining the circle blocks.  Another break helped me see that more detail work was needed on each circle, with sometimes as many as four thread changes for different colors.

The next conundrum was how to quilt the small “sashing” in between each block.  I drew out many ideas, but ended up choosing what you see here: some modified geometrics.  Since I try to take frequent breaks to rest my arms/shoulders while I’m doing this project, I feel like I’ve avoided some of the burnout that can occur when we see the looming deadline and quilt our brains out late into the night.

If this is your Modus Operandi, or the way you work,  you might want to be aware of Jarrett’s final thoughts about taking breaks: “[Y]ou might have the view that you’ll push yourself relentlessly during the day, squeezing every minute for what it’s worth, and then completely flake out after dark. This strategy of extremes might work for a robot, but not a human. Psychology research from the University of Konstanz in German and Portland State University shows that over-exhaustion at the end of the day makes it even more difficult to recuperate after work hours. In other words allowing yourself proper breaks during the day will make your out-of-hours recovery more effective, ultimately boosting your productivity and creativity in the weeks and months ahead.”

I’m not talking to young mothers, who find that nighttime is the only time they have to work without little helpers (although that does explain why when the baby is sick and the toddler is a pest and you fall exhausted into bed at night, that the night’s sleep doesn’t seem to provide the needed rest).  I’m talking to myself, I guess, pushing to finish off a task, always reluctant to let go of a day’s work, hoping to get “one more thing done.”  I found Jarrett’s advice helpful as well, in allowing me to understand why sometimes I just have to push back from the machine — or the computer — and take a break.

I just need to make sure it’s the right kind.


The quilt shown is Shine: The Circles Quilt.  Free EPP patterns can be found by clicking on the link in the header of my blog.