Grand Central Terminal Contest Quilts


The winners of the Grand Central Terminal Quilt Contest have been announced by New York City’s fabulous quilt shop: The City Quilter.  This contest was held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Grand Central Station, an amazing place with a beautiful entrance hall.  After the glorious Penn Station in New York was sacrificed/torn down, a group of concerned citizens in the 1960s banded together to save Grand Central Station from an equally horrific end, and succeeded. It’s one of my favorite places in New York City, and I always stop there when I visit, as well as to pick up something good to eat from Zabar’s in one of the market places there.

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Time Flies, But We Take the Train by Amy Krasnansky

This was the Grand Prize Winner, incorporating elements of the physical building, plus some commemorative fabric from City Quilter.  They have created a Flickr page *here* where you can see more of the quilts.

Grand Central Station Quilt 2

Chasms 16: Under the Stars by Beth Carney

Here’s another favorite, with the tracks and trains snaking through the complete image.  We recently watched the PBS documentary on the tearing down of Penn Station, which also included the history of how they built the train tunnels under the water to connect the mainland with New York City and Long Island.  What a beautiful place Penn Station was, and how lucky we are to have Grand Central Station!

Grand Central Station 3

Jewel of New York by Cheryl Kosarek

Spoonflower’s Geeks

Last year Spoonflower had a contest titled Fabric 8, in which they selected 8 contestants to design a line of linked fabrics.  I loved following that group and reading about their choices.  This year’s theme is Geek Chic, and while the semifinal voting closed May 9th, I felt like an expert, since I am married to a very nice geek.  Most people think geeks are nerdy, but they are not the same thing.  And while Nerdy always includes tape-on-glasses and stacks of books with out-of-fashion clothing, Geek does not necessarily include those symbols.  And I was especially please to see some inclusion of science geeks strewn in among the computer geeks!

Here’s what I voted for:

Geek Chick 1

Geek Chic 2

But this one made me laugh out loud, but only after I looked at the title of the design: Old School.

Old School

It’s this artist’s illustration of “off” and “on,” in other words the string of 1s and 0s that run our computers today.  It’s the virtual hamsters on their wheels running like crazy in the background behind our graphics and colors and text and quilts and blog posts.

I’m really lucky to have two geeks in my life: my husband, a science guy, and my son Peter, who writes code for a living and is getting his grad degree in computer science.  If this one goes to the printing phase, I may have to get some to make him a cover for his recent tablet purchase (hint: NOT an Apple).  I hope he gets the joke!

Fat Quarter Shop Dreaming

FatQtrDreamingJune2013My fabulous sisters sent me a Fat Quarter Shop gift certificate for my recent birthday and I’ve had the most fun dreaming about what to buy.  I think I’ve clicked on every category in their online shop at one time or another, but after picking out my purchases (one was that Noteworthy charm pack in the lower right), I went onto their “What’s Coming” section to see what I can look forward to.  Here’s my list:

Ashbury Heights, by Dookikey Designs–I read her on Instagram and am happy to see that I like her upcoming line, with a modern twist, but different colors.  Like all of us, I trend towards medium brights in my purchasing, and I like that she has some lights and darks in her line.

Madhuri, by The Quilter Fish–These are many of my favorite colors.  Love the Far East references.

I need Christmas fabrics like I need a hole in the head, but that hasn’t ever stopped me before. I’m not really in the market for anything holiday, but I’m a total fan of Martha Negley, so just had to look at her Poinsettia and Holly line.

The Boo Crew–what can I say, but that’s it’s very cute.  And the fact that it has text (one of my “traps” in buying–but not just any text–I have to personally like it) and is by Sweetwater, also recommends it.  I know lots of lines have a fabric with words and writing on it, but like anything in life, there’a “bell curve” as to how useable it is.  And if I want to give up shelf space in my stash to house it.

2wenty Thr3e, byt Eric and Julie Comstock–Okay, all text fanatics, here’s a good set. Their traditional picture is below, but I can’t quite tell what the base color is: grey-ish beige (photo below)?, or a true cream (middle stack in above image)?

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Thesaurus, by Thomas Knauer–I saved part of my gift certificate to buy this when it lands this spring.  I loved Thomas Knauer’s first line of fabric, then was so-so about the next two.  This one looks like it will be another winner, if you ask me.  (And yes, the fact that it’s named Thesaurus doesn’t hurt.)

Last one is Return to Atlantis, by Jason Yenter.  I used his wintery line for a Christmas quilt I did a couple of years ago, and liked the quality of fabric.  While I said Madhuri has all my favorite colors, this does too–only it’s as if you added black to the Madhuri line, or lightened up the Atlantis line.

So strolling through all of this made me wonder: do we let the materials of the artist determine the picture?  Do paint artists see a certain blue in the paint store and run home to throw it all over their canvas?  I think not.  So do you think that quilters should let a certain line determine the quilt they are going to make?  I’ve done this–my Harvesting the Wind quilt came about because of a stack of their fabric and a desire to make a quilt after a tile from Portugal I’d seen on Flickr.

Many days the trend pulls quilters one way, as I saw with January’s Scrappy Trip-A-Long quilts. We love groups, quilt-a-longs, tutorials, Moda’s bake shop, and so on.  And I remember the brou-ha-ha over Emily Cier’s quilt out of Kate Spain fabrics (have we forgiven Ms. Spain yet?)–this came about because the quilt was exclusively made from Spain’s fabrics, and yet — -if you noticed the above post — I’m falling into the rut?  trap? groove? of shopping complete lines of one designer’s fabric, rather than considering the artistic impulse, figuring out what I want to do and pulling fabrics from my collection to suit the artistic vision I have. I’ve learned that while a designer’s fabric line may prompt me to plunge into a quilt, if I don’t begin with the block and my layout first, the fabric tends to sit on my shelf because I’m buying THEIR vision, not my own.

But it’s still fun to dream.



I went to Road to California — the quilt show — last weekend.  Photos coming soon.

WIP and Scenes from Italy

I think we are all breathing a sigh of relief that we can answer our phones again without being assaulted during dinner by robo-calls from a candidate.  Or go to our mailboxes without needing a forklift for the thousands of pounds of campaign fliers.  I live in California and thought I had it bad until we talked to our son who lives in Ohio.  My sympathies to all who live in swing states; thanks for participating in the process.

So it is so nice to return to a routine, and today is Works in Progress Wednesday, hosted by Lee over at Freshly Pieced. Actually today it is being guest-hosted by Svetlana, and she echoes my sentiment of enjoying the weekly accounting that we do every week to keep us on track.

Last night as I watched the election returns come in with my husband, sister and brother-in-law (who are visiting), I was able to finish up this seventh hexagon.  I just keep the basket of pieces downstairs by the television and work on it whenever I am parked in front of the tube.  This hexie I could christen the political hexie, for it seemed like that’s what I was watching most as I worked on it.  I don’t know what I’ll do with them all–Downton Abbey starts up in January so maybe I’ll have some more completed before I have to decide.

But I have just returned from a trip my husband and I took to Italy, where he participated in the Collegium Ramazzini, a scientific conference in Carpi (a little town northeast of Bologna).  Not only did we visit Carpi, but also Bologna, Padua (and the Scrovegni Chapel), Venice, and Burano–a colorful island near Venice of brightly painted houses.

This is a wall from the 11th century in a church in Bologna.  Love those patchwork designs.  Everything old is new again, isn’t it?

I can’t believe they let us walk on this ancient stone floor from the Peter/Paul Cathedral in Venice, but here it is.

My husband found this fabric shop for us to look at (Bologna), but I only bought fabric in a shop across from the two (slightly leaning) towers.  Below you can see the man cutting my wool challis.

I’m thinking a scarf or something.  Fabric was really expensive over there.

But they do wrap it up nicely to bring home.

I’ve been collecting tea towels for use on the back of quilts, and here’s the one from Padua.  We thought it interesting that the thing we went to see most — Scrovegni Chapel with Giotto’s frescoes — was not even listed on the back.

In sunny Burano, we saw a woman sitting out by the canal making lace.  By hand.  Burano is known for its lace and lacemakers, and apparently it’s a dying art because none of the young woman want to learn it.  We watched her for a while, as she used her needle and thread to create tiny stitches and knots over a paper pattern.

Here’s a close-up of her pattern.  She’s created the main flowers, then will come back in and create the webbing to hold it all together.

I found the quilt shop in Venice!  This is right as you come off the Ca’D’Oro vaparetto stop.

But the prices are enough to make you swoon.  Twenty-one euros a meter (39″) works out to about 25 bucks per yard.  I try to remind myself of the luxury of all the fabrics we have here in the States at about half the cost.  I’ve learned not to buy quilt fabrics imported from the United States when I’m traveling, but if I have time, I’ll duck into a shop for a pattern or an interesting notion.

I’ll leave you with three photos: the first two are from the island of Burano and the last is from our final, foggy, morning in Venice, before we headed home.

Working in a Series

I think part of my discouragement this week was fatigue.  I’m working a stack of Kaffe Fassett fabrics.  There’s probably 40 to 50 different fabrics that I’ve collected over the years, and in this pattern it’s a challenge to get the fabrics to talk to each other within the block.

I can see, though, that working in a series has improved my ability to see what works, as I change out the leaves and some other smaller pieces, as well (above).  I found that I was less enamored of one of the earlier blocks, but it was already appliqued down and I would have been crazy to mess with it.

Here’s the final version of that block.

But I did mess with this one.  The brightly colored circles with red in them are a different line of fabric, Amy Butler, and they stand out among Kaffe’s florals. (Although I am using some Phillip Jacobs, and others from the Westminster line.)

I think the Anna Maria Horner fabric does harmonize well in terms of detail and color (the aqua circles at the top, and the second large circles down from the top, with feathers and berries).

All in all, I am glad I pushed on.  I do love looking at them on the pin wall, although now I’ve turned my eye toward the borders — with more design decisions.  When I went to the Springville, Utah quilt show last summer, a version of this Kim McClellan pattern was done up in softer greens, a lovely quilt and a contrast to the bolder hues usually seen.  In this, you can see the border design.

It was certainly deserving of its blue ribbon.

And you are all blue ribbon readers–many thanks again for your encouragement!

Nebraska’s International Quilt Study Center

Hunter’s Star quilt top, c. 2003, unquilted

Recently I commented on another Debbie’s block, titled Hopscotch, saying that it was an interesting variation on a Hunter’s Star block.  She wrote me back, included the link to the pattern she used, and said she couldn’t find a Hunter’s Star block that she thought resembled what she was making.

So I had to go and look at it again.  Yep–she was right.  It wasn’t a variation on a Hunter’s Star.  And, yep.  I was right.  It was a variation on a Hunter’s Star.  I could see that the author of the pattern had changed up the triangle to a 60-60-60 from a right-angle, and had extended the strips on the outside, leaving the center in a different fabric.  But not wanting to irritate the Copyright Gods who are already pretty cranky this month, I wrote back to say that I LIKE blocks that have more than just a hint of traditional blocks, for I believe “that creating a new twist on an old favorite, or dreaming up something new that has overtones of the standards, makes me appreciate the long and rich heritage we quilters belong to and participate in.”

While doing this research I dragged out my Barbara Brackman Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns (which if you don’t have, save up the grocery money and get one) and then headed over to my other favorite source: the International Quilt Study Center and Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (IQSCM).  If you haven’t seen this website, head over there.  Click on Collections (in the black bar at the top) and then spend time scanning triangles or Log Cabins or whatever you feel like.  My advice is to set the number of the results per page to 50, as you can scroll through them quickly, stopping to enlarge the ones that catch your eye.

Like this one, made between 1930 and 1950. Info below.

Or this one (IQSC Object Number: 2003.010.0009).  I think the maker, who put this together sometime between 1940 and 1970, may have had our modern sensibilities when she made her colorful creation. Why are we always so quick to declare ourselves free of these amazing women and their quilts?  What is it about our quilting community now that only wants to have the latest thing on the block?  It’s well-known that any new idea is really only about 10% new, and while I hope to have a few new ideas here and there, I recognize my debt to these early quilters.  I also love seeing what women in THIS day and age are creating.  To me, it’s one big happy quilting world.

I think it’s interesting to notice in this screen shot of the listing, that there is a place for the “Brackman #”  (another reason to buy that book).  I have compiled hundreds of numbers of quilt blocks I want to make from Brackman’s book.  Pinterest (of which I also like for the ability to “curate” my own collections of ideas) has feeble numbers of ideas compared to the riches of Brackman and the IQSCM.

(Note to Pinterest Users:  Please don’t “pin” the IQSCM quilts without their permission; they allow only a one-time use of an image, with complete documentation per publication (digital or print)–with the IQSC Object Number.)

Happy Quilting, to all of us quilters–both modern and vintage, new and old!

Leap Day Superior Thread Giveaway

The lovely lady leaping is not me (aw, shucks), but is Allessandra Hamlin, from a websearch.

Today is the long-awaited Leap Day Superior Threads Giveaway!

Ten of us have joined together in this endeavor.  I hope you will visit them all (listed at the end of this post) and win a bunch of thread today–enough to keep you leaping into quilting for now and for a long time.  We are giving away a total of 35 spools, all courtesy of the Superior Thread Company.

Here’s what I am giving away today:

Three Spools of The Bottom Line, a superb thread for quilting

And two other spools: one of King Tut in my favorite colorway, and another of The Bottom Line.

And because I don’t think that orange should go anywhere without a chaperone, I’m adding a little bundle of fat eighths to keep it company.

I’ve experienced quite a lot of thread in my sewing life.  I started with cotton, used silk and cotton in college while working on my degree in Clothing and Textiles, endured the first wave of polyester thread, and the shredding of combination threads in my machine.   The first decent polyester thread I used was by a German company, and I continued to buy whatever was in the fabric store that matched what I was sewing.  But one day, while at a quilt show, I noticed a newcomer onto the scene: Superior Threads.

I bought some of their thread and the thread was perfect for creating the effect needed for a winter scene.  I learned to step up to a size 14 topstitch needle and to learn to play with my upper tension settings, loosening them, some which I learned from their website, which has TONS of information about threads, as well as tips and tricks for a happy sewing outcome.  Not only does thread have to suit the artistic challenges of what I have in mind, I also need it to perform well.  In other words, I don’t want to have to think about it–I just want to sew. But on my next quilt, I was struggling to get the balance right between the top and bobbin threads: The Bottom Line to the rescue, purchased at my local quilt shop. This slightly finer thread did the trick for me.

This is the King Tut, color #916, quilted into my giant summer flowers Lakehouse quilt.  I had to sew across many different colors and this colorway did the trick. You’ve already read about Be My Valentine, and how I used King Tut on the top and The Bottom Line in the bobbin.

So join in the fun!

To win one of the two giveaways above — either the three spools of The Bottom Line (which is also great for applique, too) or King Tut, his Lady Love in tangerine and the fat-eighth chaperone — leave me a comment and a make up a name for King Tut’s Lady Love.  You can indicate in the comments which giveaway you’d rather have. I’ll close the giveaway on Saturday, March 3rd at 8:00 p.m. PST, and announce the winner that evening, along with the new name for King Tut’s tangerine Lady Love.

Now head over to our other bloggers and enter their giveaways too!

 Lee from Freshly Pieced
 Sherri from A Quilting Life
Leanne from She Can Quilt
Jeni from In Color Order
Carla from Lollyquiltz
Jennifer from That Girl, That Quilt
Terri from Sewfantastic

(Presidents) Day in LA

My mother often says, “A change is as good as a rest,” meaning sometimes just getting out of the house and doing something different — a change — does a body good.  So we took off early to LA, and while I didn’t really expect to do anything “quilty” I did run into several design things that made me think about quilts.

These screens are from the Japanese Pavillion, the light coming through the windows in soft waves of grays and silver.  The whole pavillion is quiet and calm and filled with interesting angles and objects.

My husband and I also played hide and seek behind this giant stack of plates.  I was talking to a friend the other day and said about all they could write on my tombstone for accomplishments is washing 1.4 million dishes in my lifetime.  Some days don’t you feel invisible to the world?  I do.

Then we enetered the Pacific Standard Time exhibit, where they had this fabulous Airstream trailer.  Take It Easy, it says.  Yep.  I needed this day out.

Textiles were part of the modern design that was evolving mid-century.

Couldn’t you use this as a map for a quilt?  Half-square triangles, 30/60 triangles, curvilinear shapes balanced against grids.  Delicious.

This all-over textile is more interesting when you focus on the detail.

More half-square triangles.  And dots.

This bathing suit is called Swoon.  It was made during the war in 1942, as there was rationing on rubber.  Which means: no elastic.  So the designer used the laces to adjust the form to the wearer.

Here’s the exhibition tag.  Given that so many quilters are swooning over the recent Swoon quilt block design out on the market right now, I loved the parallel names, although they are very different.  Did you know that Catalina, another prominent swimsuit manufacturer was the original sponsor of the Miss America Pageant?  Maybe that’s why they always had swimsuit competitions.

More swimsuits.  Don’t you just love these?  (And guess what we had later for lunch?  Lobster rolls!!  They had a series of food trucks parked outside in affiliation with the exhibit, and we ate at the Lobsta Truck.)

That wooden bench in the background is so intriguing with all its cutout wood pieces all fit together like a . . . quilt.

Yep.  A hexagon barbeque pit.

Which leads me to this.  My husband drove out to LA (it’s about an hour from our house on a good day with no traffic) and I was able to stitch on my rose window block–hexagons!  Sometime I’ll have to get a good shot outside so you can see the colors.  I’ve only made one mistake in putting pieces together, which is okay with me.

So, I had a change.  Which is as good as a rest.  I’ve ignored the grading in the briefcase because it’s a holiday and I’ll have an extra day to get it done.  I’m off now to cut another rose window hexagon–I want to be sure and something to stitch on for Downton Abby tomorrow night!

Happy Presidents’ Day Weekend!

Flourish of Inspiration

I recently started reading blogs again after an interruption of our trip to Montreal, and enjoyed looking at everyone’s projects and writing.  But I often wonder if by “enclosing” myself in this online community I don’t become in a loop after a while.  I mean, we love to imitate, collaborate, make things alongside one another and if we do this all the time, doesn’t it become a little stuffy in here, and don’t we need to air out the room a bit?  I don’t have answers to these questions as many of my favorite quilts have been made in homage to another quilter’s vision I saw on a blog, so obviously I endorse that approach.

And someone once said there is nothing new under the sun.  On a related note, if anything we do is more than 10% away from what is familiar, we tend to shy away from that.  Given all this, how do quilters insert new ideas into their work?  Fabrics? Quilt Groups?  Trips to quilt shows?

Occasionally you just need a day out, seeing something really different.  Here’s a gallery of shots of my latest field trip.

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