Entries categorized " Movies To Quilt By" Feed

Something's Coming . . .

Driving to work this week, I've played the soundtrack to West Side Story.  I've got a short commute but even small bits of this masterpiece is enough to lift your spirits.  It was a sad week for sure.

We've had small bits of summer this week too - sunny skies and warmer temps, the garden is bursting, the water is so blue (but not warm).  I guess this is where this new work came from.  Still working on it, just like summer is still working to be born, bit by bit. 


Take care,



Midnight Swim - A Finish

I made this quilt top a year ago and finally got around to quilting it now.  This post is edited from what I wrote back then.

Midnight Swim 38" x 60"

    August always brings back this memory.  

    It was a brutally hot night, not a breeze to be had, and not having air-conditioning was putting a strain on everyone's sense of humor.  Someone threw out the idea of a midnight swim (I think it was me).  Actually it was closer to 8 p.m., but when you are little and it's summer and it's dark out, it might as well be midnight.  It was a quick walk to the beach and we were all good swimmers but we made sure to look out for each other.  I sat at the water's edge for a good long time, not too sure that I wanted to go in, but no breeze meant plenty of mosquitos and they were getting to me.  I started splashing around, inching closer to full-fledged dunk, when the water lit up with blue-green bubbles.  I had disturbed some microscopic creatures and they let loose with their bioluminescene.  I fell into the water with a big splash and my arms were covered with sparkles.  It was like having a bunch of shooting stars in you hair.  It blew my mind.  Everyone began to dive and jump and splash and the water just lit up.  The idea of becoming a mermaid seemed a worthwhile pursuit and I'm pretty sure I dreamed about doing so that very night.  It was an amazing experience - a truly beautiful moment.

    A few years later, I saw the movie JAWS and needless to say, never again did I swim after the sun went down, let alone midnight.

      I never became a mermaid either, and we eventually got air-conditioning.  I played with becoming a coastal biologist, but I went to film school instead.  I still go to the beach on hot nights and wonder about the little creatures swimming around my feet.  I think about them when I'm sitting in my air-conditioned living room, which is where the idea for this quilt, Midnight Swim, came about.  I was messing around with some hexagons when the image of a coastline presented itself to me.  From that, it became a tribute quilt to that night on Long Island Sound, when we had turquoise sparkles in our hair and green bubbles on our shoulders, and not having air-conditioning was not such bad thing; it led us outside to a world of wonder.


During the coldest months, this quilt will remind me of that wonderfully warm night.  It will remind me to turn off my phone, turn off the television, put on my coat and gloves, and go outside.

        Enjoy the rest of this beautiful summer.

Take care,



Boxing Ring: Round 3

It is rather liberating just to make blocks without a finished quilt in mind.  I'm a planner, so I like to sketch the entire quilt and calculate all the yardage required, way before I even think of fabrics.  Only after I've washed and pressed my material (and if red fabrics are involved, I wash them a lot), can I start cutting and then set to the work of piecing.  I really like the assembly-line mode.  I get more done that way. 


Is it any wonder that my favorite shape is a square?

This new project has freed me to start working with fabrics I've been saving - for what I don't know.  I guess the right project had to present itself.


I've got quite a few pages of ideas for just the way I want to put this together.  It's times like this that I want to learn more about machine quilting . . .

- - - - - - 

Before last night, I couldn't remember the last time I saw a great documentary.  If you're looking for something to stitch by, please see Muscle Shoals.  On second thought, don't stitch while watching this.  The cinematography is jaw-dropping and the editing makes you forget you're watching a documentary.  It's the story of the sound of Muscle Shoals, the Alabama recording studio founded by Rick Hall.  If  musicians like Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, The Rolling Stones and The Allman Brothers had any influence on you, you must see this.

Take care,


Boxing For Quilters

In case you haven't heard, it's been a l-o-n-g winter, and while we are just four days shy of spring
(astronomically speaking), winter weather in these parts may linger for another month or so.  Such is life.


While I have enjoyed many unexpected snow days, and the leisurely hand-quilting therein, I am done with being inside. After I finished Ice, restlessness set in and the resulting lack of focus lead to many false starts in the sewing room.

             Box3    Box5   Box4
 I wanted a small project to keep me busy until I could begin hand-quilting the next big one.  Small projects are not really my thing, but I really want them to be my thing, so I spent many a February evening sketching a series of small quilts with a common theme.  I'm almost there, but just not quite.  I would show the proof in pictures of my workroom, but showing pictures of my messy work habits will never, ever be my thing.  I do have some pride.

My restlessness and indecision worsened.  I couldn't even compose a decent blog post.  There was only one solution and it is the only thing that has ever worked for me and it was the one thing missing.  I had to add activity to my day that went beyond sketching, sewing and sitting-at-my-desk-facing-my-computer-for-eight-hours.  I had to find some form of recreation that was quick, intense, interesting and demanded focus.

Naturally I chose boxing.

Unlike Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront, I harbor absolutely no regret about not being a 'contender'.  In fact I think the sport is beyond brutal and I can't believe there is still an audience for it.  But the training that is involved is another story completely.  Quick?  It was the fastest hour of my life.  Intense? My trainer got me over my fear very quickly.  Interesting?  I may have barely passed high school physics, but boxing has taught me more about Newton's laws of motion than any time spent in a class room. Demand focus?  If you don't pay attention, you're done. 

I got through the class and I awoke the next morning, focused and ready to start my day.  Not a muscle ached in my body.  I finished a small quilt top and 3/4 of a large one.  In homage to Rocky, I renamed my husband Adrian and he promised to buy me two turtles, Cuff and Link.  I shadow-boxed with my new gloves and practiced looping a towel around my neck.

And precisely 24 hours after my class ended, I collapsed.  Every muscle in my body cried.  I regretted buying boxing gloves.  I regretted walking through the gym doors.  I regretted barely passing high school physics.  I regretted calling my husband Adrian.  I regretted everything.


And then this happened.  While laying there, mentally listing all the regrets I had about my non-sporting life, the boxing ring popped into my head.  Although I never entered the ring (my trainer is a smart man),  it obviously made it's way to me.  My love of the square manifested itself through boxing.  Inspiration truly is everywhere!  

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Need a movie recommendation?  May I recommend The Quiet Man?  It's about boxing . . .

Take care,


The Far Side of the Frame

JAWS, Lifeboat, Titanic, A Night To Remember, The Hunt For Red October, The Old Man and the Sea, Treasure Island, The Abyss, Mutiny On The Bounty (1935 and 1962), Crimson Tide, Pirates of the Caribbean, Captains Courageous, Moby Dick, Swiss Family Robinson, Open Water, The Perfect Storm, The Deep, All Is Lost, Shipwrecked, Cast Away, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. . . 

I l-o-v-e movies with great chase scenes.  In The French Connection, the chase is between a cop in a car and a thug on a train.  In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, it's men, horses, trains, and the wide open west.   In A View to a Kill and North By Northwest, the characters chase each other on famous landmarks, and also in North by Northwest, a plane chases a man just to keep things interesting.  No talk of chase scenes would be complete without mention of Bullitt, where no matter how cool the car or the cop is, they are no match for San Francisco which presents its own twisty challenges.  But when a chase scene takes place on the sea, the tension is immense because of the added unpredictable element of water.  Not too many places to hide out there and you can't go that fast, particularly if you're under sail.    It's one big chase scene - no matter if a ship is powered by oars, steam or nuclear engines.  The chase begins once the character goes aboard, whether that chase is for a fish, a jewel, an enemy, a true love, a way back home, or a better life.  

So what has this to do with quilting? This is Oscar season and I've taken to re-watching several of my favorite movies while doing some serious morning, afternoon and evening quilting, while a ridiculous amount of snow falls.  Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) is a breathtaking movie and one of my personal top ten.  It's a chase between the HMS Surprise of the British Royal Navy and the Acheron, a French warship.  From what I understand, this is a fairly accurate description of British navy life around 1805.  To think that boys as young as 13 sailed on these ships as part of their military education is beyond me.  Thankfully, we now have high school.

While the movie has several scenes deserving of in-depth analysis, there is one which has always stayed with me.  The crew has had a rough time passing through the 'roaring forties' of the Atlantic Ocean.  The 'forties' refer to the latitude where east and west air currents meet, making for a wicked, constant wind and it's usually freezing.  The seas are so rough that some of the men wish for it all to end permanently rather than continue the voyage.  When they realize they have made it through safely, indicated by a beam that switches direction in the captain's dining room, everybody celebrates wildly and rightfully so.  Of course, few of them can actually stand up, but being in the Royal Navy, they rally.

When I made it to the half-way point of my quilt, when I switched my own direction, I didn't exactly celebrate with a swig of rum and start singing shanties.  Next time I just might.  I made some tea and yahooed quietly.  I made it to the far side of the frame.



I know - it's a stretch.  It's my personal daily chase scene, just me and my trusty needle and thread, skimming across the cotton landscape. 

Take care,


A Shawl For Piper

    Ever get one of those ideas that wakes you in the middle of the night and you have to start working on it right away or you'll explode?  This happens quite often, but not this time.  This idea has been brewing for quite a while.

    Ages ago, my parents bought a beautiful little christening outfit, complete with bonnet, two pairs of crocheted shoes, two little sweaters, two bibs and the dress itself with a satin underliner, in the hopes that their granchildren would wear that little ensemble one special day.  The family lore is that the set was made by cloistered French nuns and  if you look closely at the work involved, it's hard not to believe that.


    It truly is a beautiful piece of work and I completely understand why my mother was drawn to it.  All 8 of her grandchildren wore it and now it's the next generation's turn.  I can't quite believe that my son was the last to wear it 18 years ago.  Times flies like a rocket, my friends.  I could not resist making him a white whole cloth quilt for him then, so I thought it would be a nice idea to make something special for each child in the next generation as well.

    I l-o-v-e linen.  It is my go to fabric for summer, but since I leave the garment making to the professionals and have rarely sewed even a napkin of linen, I did not know what I was in for.  I could not get this idea out of my head: I wanted to make a baby quilt out of linen.  I did my research and contacted several fabric vendors asking for advice.  Quite a few cautioned me on the difficulty of working with linen, but that seemed to make me grind my heels in even deeper.  I compromised and bought a 50-50 linen cotten blend, and that, as they say, has made all the difference.

  The quilt pattern was easy:  I've had a book for a long time by Aidan Meehan called Celtic Designs: Spiral Patterns.  I am fascinated by spiral patterns and they are a huge inspiration to me.  I wanted to use some of the patterns in the quilt, acknowledging Piper's Irish heritage, and when I came across the Waldalgesheim leaf variation, I thought I was onto something.  This Celtic engraving was found in a cave in Germany:



    Mr. Meehan took this simple leaf pattern, flipped it on itself for a mirror image and look what happened.  If bunnies don't belong in baby quilts, I am going to hang up my needle.


    So a little more research in the baby quilt department lead me to several sources who wrote that it was a common tradition for a baby in Ireland to wear a shawl on her christening day, usually made of linen.  I couldn't stop reading.  I found out that French Huguenots (my heritage), who were expert fabric workers, settled in Ireland and formed a nice working relationship with Irish weavers.  I guess fabric love is on my genetic code.


    If you ever get the urge to quilt with linen, I encourage you to do so.  It is incredibly light and soft and my needle glided through the three layers.  I used a DMC #12 thread for hand quilting.  I finished it during the first six hours of The Roosevelts - a perfect show to have on while working.


Based on a design from Celtic Design: Spiral Patterns by Aidan Meehan, published by Thames & Hudson Ltd., London.  Used with permission.

        What's next?

Take care,


Quilting With The Roosevelts

I think I've gotten out of my creative rut and that feels a lot better.  I've settled into a nice little evening routine with two quilts, hot tea and the Roosevelt family, specifically, Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor.  

If you haven't been watching the Ken Burns documentary, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, I strongly suggest that you do.  It makes for a perfect backdrop for whatever project you are working on, aside from being an excellent example of what a documentary should be.  The only distracting part is the amount of film and photographs used in the program - so many times I've had to look away from my quilt to see footage I've never seen before.  It is a fascinating story of a complicated, brilliant and tragic political family.

And through it all, I began quilting two pieces.  I keep going back to circles.  Maybe by the end of the year I will have a top of circles to show for it (applique hurts my wrists, so I'm not making any promises . . .).  Here is the back of my potential Christmas quilt.  I'm never crazy about handquilting through seams, but because I pressed the seams open, it was a breeze.  I'm pretty happy with how the back looks and now I want to add more.


This small piece is my first attempt at quilting linen, or in this case a 50-50 linen cotton blend.  I wear a lot of linen but I was unsure of using it in a quilt.  After this, I have dreams of a queen-sized whole piece cloth piece for my bed.  It was really lovely to work with.

We've got three more nights of the Roosevelts (it's a seven-part, 14 hour series) so I should be finished with this piece soon.  In fact, I have just the binding to do now.  

In the meantime, here's a bit of Roosevelt wisdom:

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort. Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.  Theodore Roosevelt 

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.  Eleanor Roosevelt


Take care,


Binding Time (Again)


    Call me crazy, but I l-o-v-e hand sewing my bindings.  This is the Downton Abbey quilt and I am so excited to get to the finish line.  Last night, I watched Something's Gotta Give with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson, and as one of my all-time favorite movies, it is perfect company for hand work.  The story line is wee bit creepy, but that house - THAT HOUSE - is a sight for sore eyes.

    Speaking of creepy, my blog platform, Typepad, was hit with something pretty awful last Sunday and as a result my blog did not exist for several days.  A search kept landing me on a page with the phrase does not exist.  Oh.  I'm back now which is a nice place to be, but if you have a moment, please read my lost post on pinning. I'd like to hear your thoughts.

    As you can see above, my magnolia tree is in full bloom.  Hope everything is blooming all around you too.

    Have a great weekend!

Take care,


Pinning Pay Off

Is pinning worth it?


Not the Pinterest kind off pinning (the jury is still out on that one), but the pinning where seam line meets seam line and the two are held together by a pin.  I try to avoid pinning little pieces because I find it mind-numbing and I still trust my eyes and my machine to keep everybody on track (now that I think of it, I begin to nod off when I draw seam lines too).  Chain-piecing this stack of 2.5" unpinned squares would be a cake walk for me, accept for the fact that they were not going to be sewn to each other.  They are going to be sewn to long strips of fabric as they will eventually form a checkerboard of sorts for my grand-niece's (!) quilt.

Pinning2It took me a l-o-n-g time to come up with a pattern I liked.  I allowed myself the luxury of cutting a bunch fabrics into 2.5" squares so I could get a true sense of what the final product would look like.  I did not see the point of cutting the grey strips into squares, so I left them alone.  I am concerned about not having enough, so not cutting the grey seemed wise.  Do I sound defensive?

Before I took the squares from my design wall, I made the postively brilliant decision to collect them in order - top to bottom - and stack the squares together, pinned with a numbered flat-headed pin.  The number on the pin refers to the column.  Since I have 19 columns, I need to keep this straight.


I gathered my strips, squares, pins and a nice big book and set up my little work station.  A big coffee table book, like The Quilts Of Gee's Bend, provides a nice work surface and allows you to drape long rows over your lap.  I put on some tea water, checked the movie listings and I was in luck - The Ten Commandments was on and at nearly four hours in length, I was good to go.  Biblical epics are good for this sort of activity as is The Sound Of Music or anything with Judy Garland.

Let the pinning begin.


Another reason why I don't pin is that it drives me nuts to have to stop and start my machine and  remove pins to avoid contact with the machine needle.  When I realized that I don't have to pin on the seam line (if it exists), but can pin in the body of the fabric, I thought I had found true happiness, kind of like finding all of your missing sock partners.

I don't think I was into the movie 45 minutes when I was done.  The pinning went quickly -  the sewing even more so.  The strip flew through my machine.


Here we have Row 6, pinned, on the left and Row 5, sewn, on the right.  This is a perfect example of why I have to number my rows.  Duh.  But you get my drift, don't you?

In the meantime, I was able to get a copy of Quilting With A Modern Slant at my library.  I did a quick skim last night and my first impression is it's a beautiful book.  I had hoped to come up with something a bit more in depth, but after watching a four hour movie, that's the best I could do.  Another time.

ZZZzzzzzzzzz. . . .

Take care,


Feeling Groovy! (A Giveaway)

Welcome to my 200th post (and my longest, so bear with me)!

In the beginning (about two years ago), I was posting six days a week.  I didn't have any readers and there were a few times I thought of shutting it down.  I was having fun, but I had to make some changes.  I cut back on the writing, did more quilting and found the right balance.  Now I try to be entertaining, make it nice to look at and share my quilt process - the very same reasons I read your blog.  Throw in a little movie or food reference, and I'm good to go. I found my groove.

Since I'm feeling pretty groovy about this, I'd like to throw some good fabric karma into the quilting universe.  Quite a few folks out there are cutting back on fabric purchases (me too), but sometimes you come across a fabric that speaks to you and you just have to have it.

Before I go any further, let me tell you a story.

I remember doing some back to school shopping with my mother, a l-o-n-g time ago.  We entered the kids section of the local department store and it took no more than a few moments for me to find the Holy Grail of my wardrobe:  a little suit made of blue paisley, with bell-bottom pants and a Nehru jacket.  To top it off . . . drum roll please . . . it came with a gold medallion.  Think Mr. T and you'll get my drift.  I'm not a huge jewelry person (although I feel naked without earrings), but paisley is another story (I'm wearing a black and white paisley shirt as I write this).  The jacket was cut three-quarter length, the bell bottoms flared and creased in there unique perma-press way and the collar - that collar - stood at attention on my little neck.  The Beatles wore this jacket.  My heart raced.  I was only five years old but I was groovy.

If you've ever seen the brilliant movie Citizen Kane,  you know it begins with Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles), the main character loosely based on William Randolph Hearst, on his deathbed.  Kane whispers his last word, "Rosebud", which sets the narrative in motion.  Who was Rosebud?  A woman, a place?  I'm not going to tell you, so go rent the movie, get some handwork and settle in to find out.  But should you ever be at my deathbed and I utter the words "Nehru Jacket", you will know that was the one and only time I ever felt groovy.  I have been on the quest for grooviness ever since.

Back to the fabric.  I recently went to Christie's Quilting Boutique in Norwalk, CT.  I walked into the store and there it was, the Holy Grail of my stash (cue the angel chorus)  - blue paisley fabric.  This is the closest I've ever seen to my little suit. 



Aren't they beautiful?  So since you took the time to stop by my little bit of the quilt blog universe, I'd like to thank you by way of some paisley. But you must tell me:  What does your creative groove feel like?

Leave a comment below by 6 PM EST on Sunday, February 2nd, and my trusted companion, Fiona, will pick a winner who will receive this very nice package of assorted 4" paisley squares and I'll throw in a fat-quarter of the blue as well.


In the meantime, I'm going to watch Citizen Kane and get to work on my next quilt . . .  

Feeling groovy,