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March 2014

She Was The Best Dog

On Wednesday morning, we lost the best dog in the world.

Just shy of 10 years old, Fiona was suffering terribly from a malignant tumor on her thyroid which spread to her heart.

She would collapse any time she saw someone she loved, and since she loved everyone, we had to make sure things were pretty calm when anyone came to call. 

My son said her heart was just too big.  His diagnosis was pretty close to the truth.

We called her Mom Dog because she would patiently play with all the puppies that came to live on our street.  

We learned a lot of important things from her.  We learned to Think Labrador:

Take naps.  Often.


Keep your beauty routine simple.


If you have a fireplace, build a fire.


Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty.


Take care of little ones.


Get plenty of exercise.


Lay down in flower beds so you smell nice.


Don't get in over your head.


 Be dramatic only when necessary.


Take another nap.


Choose your backdrops wisely.


Have fun with your family.


Up to the end, she was brave, dignified, loving, and of course, napping.  


Our hearts are broken.


She really was the best dog.


Fortune Cookie Roulette #29

Be unconventional, even visionary.

We are having our house painted.  It seemed like the perfectly logical thing to do now that the temperatures have been hovering at a downright balmy 37 degrees.  Sun screen and shorts are next.  Even the ducks are digging it.  For all you symmetry fans out there, this one's for you:


To celebrate the increasing daylight and rising mercury, I took a walk around the yard to see if any of new bulbs are up.  That would be a 'no'.  I stood in front of my derma-brased house and tried to imagine over-flowing window boxes and flowering trees and sunny skies.  Any day now.

In the meantime however, I realized what a perfectly wonderful back drop a sanded house makes.  Naturally I got out a quilt -  I have nothing in the hoop right now, so I had to use an old favorite - and pinned it to the naked shingles.  This is Wacky White House Steps.


 As much as I would love to have a nice 8' x 8' patch of unpainted house for just this purpose, I don't think my husband would go for it.  Let your quilts be unconventional and visionary, he's say, but leave the house to Benjamin Moore. 

Take care,


Old School

Many years ago, I took a studio art class at the School Of Visual Arts.  After a long day as a video editor,  where I sat before several screens watching the same thing over and over again,  I would run to the studio and plunge into a series of quick sketches that would help me transition from the street to the studio.  Students never knew who or what the subjects would be so we really had to let go of whatever happened during the day and just 'be'.  This is not an easy thing for me to do and it was really difficult back then as we were buying our house and let's just say that the stress level was a wee bit high.  But here I was in a studio with a blank sheet of paper and a piece of charcoal in hand and somehow I could let stuff go.  And go it did.  Our instructors usually said very little - sometimes just 'ok' at which point I would drop my charcoal, look at my watch and see that two hours had passed. 

I started out designing quilts with a quadrille pad and a pencil.  Having bought the house in the suburbs, I became a long distance railroad commuter.  Sketching patterns during the ride would make time fly, unlike reading the latest best seller or the morning paper.  As soon as I had settled into my seat, coffee at my side, I would get out my sketchbook and start drawing patterns.  A moment later - I'd swear it was just a moment later - darkness would descend over our train, indicating passage into Grand Central Station and the trip was done, a trip nearly 75 minutes long.  Truly, I had lost all concept of time.  


A few years into quilting, I bought Barbara Brackman's Block Base  which was a blast.  I would 'sketch'  for hours on my computer with infinite variations of block arrangements and combinations, colors ways and patterns, as well as print templates and calculate yardage.  But I didn't get a lot of actual quilting done, nor did I ever have the same feeling I did when I sketched my patterns.  In fact I felt a little bit grumpy.  I gave it up once we bought a Mac because they are incompatible and honestly, I've never missed it.  As long as I have Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns or  Maggie Malone's 1,001 Patchwork Designs  on my nighttable, a sketchbook and pencil in my hand, I'm a happy girl.  

Apparently, that is a pretty accurate statement.  Betty Edwards, author of  Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain, writes that when we give ourselves over to artistic pursuits, our nonverbal, intuitive and holistic right hemisphere takes over, giving the analytical, rational, logical left hemisphere a well-deserved break.   The sense of time is greatly diminished.  Works for me.

So I'm designing a quilt for my grandniece (did I actually write that?) and since she will be a July baby (my favorite month), I've been looking for some summery patterns.  Purple is going to be her color.   I've had some trouble committing to a pattern, but I think it's because I've gotten back in to sketching  and it's fun.  This is Summer Garden (#2284b).


And that's why sometimes it's good to do it the old school way.  If you've hit a bump on your creative path, go back to the way you used to do stuff.  Look at your early quilts or your sketch books if you've got them.  Revisit some simple patterns or remake your first quilt.  Turn off your screens (not right now, finish reading this first) and get back to basics.  Your brain will thank you.

Take care,


National Quilting Day

I had the best day.

Not only was it National Peanut Butter Day and National True Confessions Day, it was also National Quilting Day.  I didn't know this until I woke up this morning and I was thrilled.  My niece Lindsay and I have been communicating electronically about her first quilt.  Today was the first day that worked for both if us to get together and sew, in person, side-by-side.  Rather fortuitous, I'd say.


How cute is this? This darling young woman listened so patiently as I talked endlessly about quilt history, traditional vs. modern, rotary cutters vs. scissors, machine vs. hand, speed vs. slow.  Of course we also talked about Vladimir Putin, Russian Science Fiction, the Academy Awards, Jennifer Lawrence and snow.  Lately all conversations around here come back to snow.


This is the Downton Abbey fabric line from Andover - just beautiful.  Lindsay cut all of these fabrics by hand and traced her sewing lines with a pencil and card board template.  I was beyond impressed.


The pattern is Rosalie by Valori Wells.  What I love about this pattern is that it looks complicated but it is not: no y-seams.   It is a great showcase for favorite fabrics which really works for me because I have this issue with cutting fabric.  You see, if I buy a fabric just because I like it and not because it is going into any particular quilt, I never use it.  I bring the fabric home, wash it, press it and then put it away.  I had quite a few favorites building up and had to do something with them.  I mean really - what good is fabric if it just sits in a drawer?    I love this layout but I haven't decided what color my little triangles are going to be.  I'm leaning towards grey since this is pretty busy.


I was pretty bummed to see the day end.  I guess it's always some sort of quilting day around here, but it's not that often that I get to hang out with my niece.  That was the best part.

Take care,


Third Finish of 2014

    Based on Pattern #131B, Hairpin Catcher or Brickwall, from Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia Of Pieced Quilt Patterns, this top came together rather quickly.  The pattern is perfect for scraps and the arrangement is limitless.  This is from my 15 year-old stash of Liberty fabrics that I could not allow myself to cut.  They weren't doing anybody any good stored away, so I finally took the plunge last July.  I started working with these light-as-air beauties in the middle of a scorching heatwave, yet there was not a bit of sunshine to be found.  


    So here we are on the other side of the calendar.  Please excuse the hot spots in this photo, but the sunlight today was gorgeous.  I worked on this quilt while the snows swirled around us and the cold froze me in my tracks and the sun was nowhere to be seen.  12 hours of handquilting and 34 yards of thread later, I present to you Spring Ahead (35.5'"x 42.5"):


The backing is a pretty green polka dot and I added the last of the Liberty across the bottom.  I sewed in the label which is the smartest thing I ever did.  I don't know why it took me so long to approach labels this way, but I will from now on.


     I've been quilting a lot of circles lately.  


    Those prints were a dream to work with, but they cost fortune.  I think I'll start collecting my loose change in a jar - a rather large jar - and dedicate it towards my next Liberty fabric purchase.  If I waited 15 years to work with these, I can certainly wait a bit more for the next round. . .


    I don't know what to do next.  I've got a few tops that are ready for basting, but my nephew and his wife are expecting their first baby in July and while I have a thousand ideas of what I'd like to do, I can't pick one.  I need to be with my sketch book and lots of pink fabric for a while . . .

Take care,


Hopes & Dreams Quilt Challenge For ALS

Eight years ago, my nephew Collin started a fundraising campaign in support of the ALS Association and the work they do to assist families who are battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.  ALS disables motor neurons which weakens muscle function.  The disease can strike anyone and approximately 5,600 people in the US are diagnosed each year.  My brother-in-law, Ed, battled ALS with enormous strength and courage.  I make a quilt each year to honor his memory and to support my nephew in his dedication to this wonderful organization.  If I were to make only one quilt a year, it would be for this event.  This year I donated Picnic.

Em-picnicThat's my niece Em.

Hopes-and-Dreams-logoJosh Thompson, the son of Quilters Dream owner, Kathy Thompson, was stricken with this illness.  To honor her son and to raise awareness of this devastating illness, Kathy started the Hopes and Dreams Quilt Challenge for ALS.  I am a huge fan of Quilter's Dream Batting and not just because it is an excellent product, well-made, easy to work with and reasonably priced:  I love QDB because of their dedication to those who live with ALS, their support of scientists who are determined to find a cure and their commitment to increase awareness of ALS.  If you use their batting, you may have read the insert found in their packaging.  You can make quilts for people with ALS, or as part of an exhibit to raise awareness of the disease.  The minimum size is 34" x 44".  The deadline is July 31 of every year.  Check out their Facebook page to see the latest.

I know you can do this, so PLEASE, do.