Thursday, January 31, 2013

Quilty Roads

It can be so inspiring to travel.

Since I am home-based and often work alone, except on the days when Marcia helps out, it is easy to fall into a routine and forget that there is a whole world of inspiration out there.

My trip to California to attend the Road to California quilt show last week was just that. Inspiration. New friends and connections. Re-connecting with old friends. And of course, shopping therapy.

Road to California is a large quilt show and vender market held every year for the last 18 years in Ontario, California. Quilt entries are broken down by category and are on display throughout two exhibit halls. Knowledgeable docents are pleased to discuss the quilts on display.

As you scroll down, I'll bore you with a few photographs of my favorite entries in the show. The photos don't do the quilts proper justice. Isn't that always the case? The pictures never quite capture the full extent of the 'real thing.' This quilt, Red Feathers was the 'best in show' winner, made by Claudia Clark Myers and quilted by Marilyn Badger.

To back up a bit, Carol McLeod of Aunties Two patterns in Maine, was my travel buddy. She did some demonstrations at the Hoffman Warehouse in Mission Viejo. So this was our first stop before the show even opened. Here is Carols, next to some of her cool bag samples, made from Hoffman batiks.

With a short break between demos, we ventured out to a nearby quilt shop in Laguna Hills, Sewing Party. Fun shop with some really fun stuff!

Pretty . . .

Hey, look! Here's a pattern and sample from my friend Carolyn Freidlander, hanging in the shop!

On to Ontario, for the big show! Wanna see some of my favorite quilts? (I hope you said, "Yes!")

Before you even get into the show, there are lots of quilts to greet you in the entry way. Just look up for a quilty treat.

This one features hummingbirds!

Once inside, the center aisles of the large convention center are full of quilts.

Love the colors in this one. Very cheery! It's called McTangerine Rose, made by Lynn Droege, quilted by Lisa Sipes from a pattern by Sue Garman. Two versions of this quilt made it in the show. One with much more subdued colors.

Speaking of roses, this one is named Vintage Roses, made by Barbara Polston and Terri Doyle. Loved the use of stripes and the double layer scalloped border treatment.

This quilt was done from a photograph. The quilt was made in sections by different quilters, then the sections were assembled to complete the quilt. Exceptional!

Rare Birds by Rachel Wetzler was designed to reflect the different personalities of each member of a quilt critique group. I belong to a quilt group with members who seem just like these rare birds!

Streak of Mania was made by Stephanie Adams, and quilted by Sheryl Schleicher from an original design. Love the color! And really like the binding treatment. I could see that kind of thing in a future ScrapTherapy project, couldn't you?

Made by Denise Havlan, The Peaceful Ones is full of wonderful detail, as the docent is discussing. In particular, the hair, the flowers in the foreground and the furry cactus were beautifully done.

Nancy Busby made Stripes - Plaids - Polka Dots as part of a group challenge. There were only two rules, Rule #1, use stripes, plaids and polka dot fabrics, and Rule #2, if you break rule #1, you have to bring cookies to class! Upon close inspection, looks like she didn't have to bring cookies!

The black fabric used to make the zebra stripes for Respite by Linda Anderson, looks ordinary enough at first glance. Look closer, and you see that the black is actually made from hand-painted fabric representing predatory animal prints.

Wow. Carousel Stampede by Cathy Wiggins.

This one might be my favorite piece in the whole show. Spirit made by Georgia Pierce. What makes this one so interesting (to me, anyway) is the intricate quilting detail that carry the artistry beyond the appliqued blocks.

You can see some of the quilting detail in contrast to the backing material.

Around the perimeter of the exhibit hall, vendor booths presented a tempting selection of patterns, fabrics, notions and just about anything else you can imagine to use for your quilty craft. I will admit to being duly tempted, I will never admit to the extent. *Wink-wink!*

Many thanks to Linda and the crew at Ginger's Quilt Shoppe who allowed me to meet customers, sign books, and share a few laughs with show-goers.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Travel To-Do

Last week, I said I wouldn't be checking in with you this week, but I had a few minutes, and thought I'd write a quick note anyway.

As I write this, it's actually Monday afternoon, and I have to be honest, I'm stressing a bit. It's decision time again. As I pack my suitcase to head to California for the week, I'm not worried so much about the clothes I'm packing, although it's nice to be leaving the winter coats, hats, and scarves behind. Instead, I'm faced with what projects to bring to work on while I'm on the plane or in the hotel.

I have a lot of time to wait flights in the airport. And of course, it's a long flight from east coast to west. And back again. And I don't want to be bored!

So . . . I'm faced with another crafty decision this week.

As I pack my suitcase, headed from upstate New York to Ontario, California for Road to California, I'm faced with a serious decision. What to bring to do on the plane.

I have plenty of options. The challenge is narrowing to just a few that I can carry on the plane, and not get tripped up at the security check point.

Let's see.

I have some knitting. This is a super simple scarf from a purlbee pattern. I'm not using the yummy merino wool that was suggested. Instead I chose a wool-blend skein already in my stash. Maybe the next scarf will be made from the Merino. . .

There's always some Joan-socks in the works - Several in progress socks are stuffed in the basket needing attention. . . .

Or maybe some hand embroidery. That's really portable. This is a Crabapple Hill Pattern called Snow Days. The resulting quilt is huge, and I wonder if it'll ever get done! But it's fun to work on and it fits the season.

Applique? I love this Rabbit Factory pattern, Baltimore & Bali. It's on the 'will this ever get done' list too, but the colors are so pretty!

Maybe some hand piecing. Look, the blocks are already individually bagged with seams marked! These hexagons need to become a quilt! Some day. A long time from now.

What to do! Which to choose. How to decide?

How do you decide? When you travel do you take crafty things along? Or opt to read a book?

You know, I hadn't thought about reading materials. What books to take? . . . Uh-oh, gotta go . . .

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Got the T-Shirt!

Last weekend I headed to the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York to attend a quilt retreat, just for fun. A total of 28 women brought sewing machines, fabric, thread, seam rippers, and all kinds of stitching stuff to work on. 

As I observed from my spot at the side of the room, one project after another came forth from impossible spaces in suitcases and boxes and bags. Projects like this one. Patty has brought this with her for several consecutive retreats and finally finished the top! She told me that the pattern was originally inspired by a Snap Sack kit she made. Lovely!

To thank Robin for her work in planning the annual retreat, everyone attending, and a few that couldn't attend, gave her blocks made from Adirondack-style prints. Now she's got to assemble them into a cohesive quilt. Looks to me like she has a pretty good start!

Of course, you couldn't complain about the surroundings! Here's a view of Blue Mountain Lake. The lake is frozen, but surprisingly, the weather was quite mild. About 60˚warmer than the same time last year. By the end of the weekend, the frozen lake had lots of puddles in the center. No ice fishing this trip (aw, shucks!)

Speaking of ice. I thought this little ice formation was interesting. Yep, I'm okay, just taking pictures of ice on the pavement.

As for my projects. I spent a good deal of time making some fussy labels for some of the quilt projects from the soon-to-be-released ScrapTherapy book, ScrapTherapy, Scraps Plus One.

For a couple of the labels, I incorporated some hand stitched embroidery and some cross stitch. When you include cross stitch, because the canvas can be a very loose weave, I like to reinforce the canvas edge with an additional zigzag stitch after the 1/4" seam is sewn.

Here's the label all done! I couldn't remember some of the quilt names, so I left the label part blank to fill in later.

I got several labels done. Not all, but these are the more fussy ones. I have a few left to do, and I think I'll make those much simpler. It's nice to mix things up sometimes.

And I promised myself I would play with some of the Creative Grids specialty rulers I brought with me. I'm working on a pattern for a scrappy version of the Double Wedding Ring using the new Creative Grids ruler by Judy Niemeyer. Isn't it fun? It's a lot of piecing, but sure uses a lot of small scraps! And the curves sew together beautifully. I'll keep you posted when the pattern is ready, in case this type of thing is your cup of tea.

And, we didn't sew ALL the time. A couple of cocktails in the late evening took the 'edge' off, and Sally brought a jigsaw puzzle. A piece here, a piece there, and it almost got done during the weekend!

Last week I started with a list, and I loaded the car with a bunch of projects. Did I finish all of it? NOPE! And that's perfectly okay, because I came home with some great memories . . . again.

When is the next retreat? Sign me up!

Next week, I'm headed to Road to California. I'll be walking the floor for a good part of the time. Except during mid-day Friday and Saturday I'll be in the Ginger's Quilt Shoppe Booth. Can't wait! Will I see you there?


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Social Stitching

I'm headed into the Adirondacks for the weekend. It's a quilt retreat. 20 or so women from all parts of northern New York will descend upon Minnowbrook Conference Center with fabric, thread, sewing machines and projects.  Lots and lots of projects. This is an annual event. And I'm a charter member. Lucky me!

You know the drill. Load up the car. Stacks and stacks of things to do. Then take one project back in the sewing room, because you know in your heart-of-hearts you won't have enough time to get to everything you packed.

This time, I have a plan . . . I think . . .

I've made a list.

1) When I was in Newtown last week delivering quilts for the families and first responders there, I picked up the quilt samples from the second book (due in April!). The last time I saw these quilts, it was springtime. Many of them had been finished barely in time for their beauty shots for the book. Several of the quilts don't have labels. In my mind, making labels for these quilts is my first priority for my weekend.

I suppose I can throw together some simple labels, scratch some information on a scrap piece of fabric with a pigma pen, then sew the label to the back of the quilt. But I'd rather play a bit. I like when a label has more character! I found a couple of tools in my bag of tricks that might do nicely.

The Quilt Label Collective is a CD full of illustration files. I have volume 1, I think there are more now. I can print the labels onto photo transfer fabric or just print them and trace them onto fabric for some fun embroidery.

Here's one designed by Kim Schaefer that might make a really cute embroidered label, don't you think?

Then, I found this book - Two Hour Cross Stitch Flowers. I tried one, they really do only take about two hours to make. I bet that little stitched flower would make a nice embellishment on a quilt label, don't you agree?

2) I really want to play with some new Creative Grids rulers. I've been fooling around with the Circle Savvy Ruler. It's really fun. And the Double Wedding Ring ruler. I've never made a double wedding ring quilt before. I wonder if I can use my scraps with this baby . . . Gotta, gotta play with it!!

3) I have this table runner I'm working on for a new pattern coming up. I'd love to finish the sample. Oops! Can't show you that one yet!

4) Other miscellaneous stuff I gotta, gotta, gotta do . . I have a block to make for a quilt gift. I have some samples to make for a workshop coming up. You know, a bunch of small things that can add up to a lot of time in the sewing room. Better bring my scraps!

5) Then there's one extra project. Should I, shouldn't I bring it? I'm working on a new pattern that is really, REALLY fun! But my sample isn't quilted yet. Should I throw it in? Maybe that one should stay home and wait for sewing time next week.

I want to come home feeling satisfied with my progress, not feeling overwhelmed with things undone. Do you have a social sewing strategy? Do share!


PS. Here's a quick picture of Audrey (back left), Renee (back right), and me, surrounded by quilts for Newtown families and first responders. Things seem a little chaotic in Renee's office at the moment, but while I was there plans were starting to come together for each and every quilt. 

Audrey belongs to a local women's organization, WIN that will help The Taunton Press deliver the quilts. 

Many thanks to all those who sent a quilt and good wishes. I hope to be able to provide more updates soon.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Souper Season!

It's getting late, and I still have some packing to do for my trip to Newtown, Connecticut to deliver quilts - lots of them. I leave early this morning (Thursday, January 3), with a very full car and lots of hugs for the people of Newtown.

Many thanks to all the quilters who sent quilts that will now be on their way to families and first responders. More details here.

Since I'm on the run, and since it's that season, I thought I'd share a favorite soup recipe. Comfort food. It seems a perfect time for a steamy bowl of something yummy, doncha think?

I love, love, love mushrooms! Unfortunately, my husband doesn't like them very much. So, when I have a hankerin' for a serious mushroom fix, this soup is the ticket. It's rich and creamy and loaded with as many mushrooms as you care to add. Perfect to take the chill off a wintery day.

So, do some chopping and throw some ingredients on the stove. Then find yourself a cozy quilt and wrap yourself in warmth, inside and out.



Country Mushroom Soup

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
3 teaspoons oil
4-5 cups fresh sliced mushrooms
2/3 cup half & half

Melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth. Gradually add broth until smooth, then add salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In another pan, saute onion and mushrooms in oil until tender. Add to broth mixture, then bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add half & half, heat through.