South African Quilt Festival, Bloemfontein 2013, #1

I’ve just returned home after a wonderful month in South Africa, beginning with the 17th National South African Quilt Festival in Bloemfontein. I’ll be writing several blogs about the Festival, where I taught for all six days, made many new quilting friends and enjoyed the outstanding hospitality of the Oranje Kwiltersgilde. The South African Quilters’ Guild hold these Festivals every other year. The location rotates around the country and the event is hosted by the local guilds in the area. Bloemfontein is fairly centrally located in the country, in the Free State about four and a half hours drive southwest of Johannesburg. Festival was held at Eunice High School, while the high school kids were on their winter break and accommodation was at their hostel. I was given a VIP apartment, (rather than the dormitory), with my own little kitchen and bathroom which was very nice.

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The beautiful banner has panels from all 16 of the previous locations of the Quilt Festival. Bloemfontein is the 17th Festival so is the first one on a second banner. The theme of the Festival was Kaleidoscope. They used the motif of a windmill to represent this and decorated beautifully with windmills and Kaleidoscope quilts. This area is farmland and these windmills are all over the place, pumping water for the animals, so it was the perfect theme choice.

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At Quilt Festival there were over 20 teachers and as many as 15 workshops running simultaneously on each of the six days. Some teachers just taught one or two classes and others, like me, had a busier schedule. In addition to the classes, there were lectures during the lunch break, (I did two), a wonderful quilt show and a good variety of vendors. We also had three evening events – a welcome dinner where the teachers were introduced, an awards dinner to celebrate the winning quilts in the show and a wrap-up farewell dinner. Each was catered beautifully and the traditional Afrikaans food was outstanding. At every dinner table there was a lovely center piece continuing this windmill/Kaleidoscope theme. The large glass contained a windmill with rocks and succulent plants, and stood on a Kaleidoscope quilt table runner.

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This area is very Afrikaans and for many of the Quilt Festival Committee, Afrikaans was their first language. Iessie Steenberg, the Chairlady, joked about her difficulty with English, but she was actually very proficient. Much to my embarrassment, she announced to the assembled masses that all the proceedings were in English for my benefit! At the closing farewell, she was quite emotional when thanking her Committee and quipped, “I can cry in English!” Here I am with Iessie, who looked after us so well and we all loved her. I told her, “I can laugh in Afrikaans!”.



On Safari

I’m writing this in June. When this posts, I’ll be leaving Johannesburg for a four day safari staying for one night in Kruger National Park and two nights at Sabi Sands, a private game reserve adjacent to Kruger. Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to spend three nights at Little Bush Camp, Sabi Sands when I was traveling with my daughter and son-in-law. I’m sharing some of those pictures with you now, so you can imagine where I am at the moment. I’m so excited to return to this area and once again have the opportunity to see the magnificent wildlife.

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We stayed in wonderful thatched chalets which were luxurious and the dining area was open on three sides. Each day we did an early morning and late afternoon/early evening game drive in one of these open vehicles and were able to get incredibly close to the animals.

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These two male lions had killed a water buffalo and in two days, four lions ate it all up. As soon as they left, the vultures and hyenas cleaned up in a couple of hours.

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While were watching the lions, our tracker heard a leopard calling from over a kilometer away. His tracking expertise was extraordinary and we were so fortunate to see this beautiful male eleven year old. The remarkable looking bird is a Hammerkop (kop being Afrikaans for head).

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Of course we were treated to magnificent elephants and giraffes too. This elephant tore down a tree branch and was busy devouring it.

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We had great views of these rhinos. Notice the Ox-peckers. These little birds eat the  parasites and pesky insects from the skins of rhinos and hippos.

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Visit to Superior Threads, St. George, Utah

While on vacation in Southern Utah, I stopped at the head quarters of Superior Threads in St. George and owner, Bob Purcell, graciously gave us a tour of the 25,000 square foot facility.

20130424_10285920130423_105254The store with a large selection of fabrics and, of course, plenty of thread is upstairs. Downstairs, there are shelves and shelves of thread, manufactured in Japan and distributed from here.


20130423_112834 20130423_105704They stock around 2 million spools of thread and ship orders to customers all over the world.

20130423_105107 20130423_105441Every day, they wind over 3,000 bobbins in a beautiful array of colors. The bobbin winding room is noisy with several machines winding multiple bobbins simultaneously. Once the thread is wound onto the bobbins, each bobbin has to capped with white cardboard top and bottom.



A guy spends all day placing bobbins into a machine which does this a rate of about one per second. He removes a completed bobbin with his right hand and places the next one to be done with his left hand.

Seeing the array of wonderful threads, fabric and display quilts was inspiring. Do stop by for a visit. No appointment is necessary and the staff are extremely welcoming and friendly.



Have quilts, will travel!

I love to travel and teach, exploring new places and going to areas I wouldn’t necessarily visit without the teaching job. I’ve met some wonderful people and like the workshops where I can spend a whole day with a smaller group. It’s fun to see what each student brings to class and how they interpret my instructions. My goal is always for my students, whatever their skill levels, to feel successful, as well as enjoying the class. Quilt guild members always welcome me and are generous with their time, meeting me at the airport and showing me round the local sites which usually include a quilt shop or two. Often I stay at the home of guild member, or sometimes at a hotel.

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Packing for these trips is a quite a feat. My most popular lecture is the trunk show where I display up to 40 quilts, but even if I do a PowerPoint presentation, I take as many quilts as I can for the lecture and workshops.  All airlines charge for checked bags, (prices range from $20-35/bag), and I check two that are carefully packed and usually weigh within 1-2 pounds of the 50 pound limit. One is completely filled with quilts and I record exactly which ones so that I can pack in the same way coming home and know that I won’t exceed the weight limit. The other is three-quarters filled with quilts and workshop materials, with the remaining quarter for my clothes. I have to be able to board the ferry to and from Seattle as a foot-passenger, so my hand luggage is a small backpack and a shoulder bag, leaving my hands free for the two large suitcases. I usually take my laptop computer and sometimes my digital projector. Thank goodness for wheels!

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All these quilts fit into the suitcases! After a lecture, the quilts are usually packed up in a hurry and guild members who help, can’t believe how I can fit them all in and still have room for my clothes. They have to be folded with the minimum number of folds to fit into the cases. Usually it takes me about half an hour to sort them all out and re-pack. Another logistical hassle is my books, patterns and the Mongolian products. I can’t carry these in my luggage, so I send a couple of packages ahead. It’s impossible to accurately estimate the number of books that I will sell. Sometimes I sell out completely, and other times I’m left with a big pile. I’ve often been fortunate to sell leftovers to a local quilt shop at wholesale rates. If I can’t carry what’s left in my hand luggage, I have to pack up a parcel to mail to the next place where I’m teaching, or back home.

3-block fans Silk table runners and wall hangings

As part of my fund-raising efforts for Mongolian Quilting Center, I ask guild members for a small monetary contribution. If we raise $100, the guild is given a Mongolian silk table runner or wall hanging which they can use in a raffle or for any special guild event they choose. With 100+ people at the lecture we often raise over $200 in this way, much of it in $1 bills or coins. This may sound trivial, but the coins are heavy and I already have so much to carry! I have to rely on a kind guild member to relieve me of all the change or to take me to a bank.  Guild members are generally extremely helpful and understanding.

Sightseeing highlights from teaching trips have been three Presidential Libraries, the Forth Worth Fine Art Gallery, art in the Mayo Clinic, Chicago Fine Art Museum, Royal Gorge in CO, a variety of botanical gardens and parks, and some incredible beaches. I always love coming back home too, and greatly appreciate the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Lecture at Quilters By the Bay

On Wednesday evening I presented my trunk show for the Quilters By the Bay in University Place near Tacoma. They are a small but active group. It was nice to be able to drive – I could take more quilts to share including several large ones that I can’t carry when I go out of state to teach. I was so excited that one of the ladies brought a beautiful Bargello block quilt to show me. Here is Delores Slingerland with her quilt, Buggy Barn with a Twist.


Delores took my Bargello Quilts with a Twist class when I taught at the Gig Harbor Quilt Festival three or four years ago. She used Buggy Barn fabric, their ice and mocha line and based the design on my quilt, Savannah Sunrise, shown below. What fun to see this quilt in such a different color way. Thanks to Delores for sharing her work.


The meeting took place in the Pierce County Environmental Services Building, a beautiful facility on the bluff overlooking the Puget Sound. Half way through the lecture, I told the ladies to turn around and look at the sunset because it was so spectacular. To get to University Place, I drove over the Tacoma Narrows toll bridge, a huge suspension bridge spanning the Puget Sound Narrows. Here’s a view of the bridge from Titlow Park, where I had a picnic before the meeting.



Returning home from Texas

I’ve had an enforced break since my return home from Texas. Who knows where cough and cold germs linger – whether in Texas, on the airplane or ferry, or right here on Bainbridge Island, but apparently I was an easy target. After three days of not functioning at all well, I’m now regaining my strength and my head feels only partially wrapped up in cotton wool. It really makes me appreciate the good health I enjoy almost all the time and tend to take for granted.

On the topic of health, in particular healthy eating, I snapped some photos in Old Town Spring, Texas which amused me and which I hope you will enjoy. Eat Hot Sauce. Live Longer! Longer than what, I ask myself!20130306_142314 20130306_142746

Also Available in Sugar Free. How can this be? These almost look like quilt blocks.

20130306_143855On offer here – fried oreos, fried Reese’s peanut butter cups, funnel cakes and foot long corn dogs! They also had stuffed jalapenos and sugar-free snow cones! Old Town Spring was quite the local tourist destination and it was fun to visit. Thanks again to Carol Ayre and the Woodland Area Quilt Guild for making me so welcome.

Teaching at The Woodlands Area Quilt Guild, Houston

This week I traveled to Houston to give a lecture and teach a workshop at The Woodlands Area Quilt Guild on the north side of Houston, not far from the airport. The quilters gave me a warm welcome and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them. Around 120 quilters attended the meeting and before my lecture they installed their new officers and all the members pledged allegiance to the group. I always like the Show and Tell at guild meetings and was particularly impressed by the applique quilts that were shown. The following day, I taught the Bears Come Out at Night workshop, one of my variations on the Bear’s Paw block. Emphasis is on precision piecing and the small Sawtooth Star mini-blocks within the Bear’s Paw blocks can be a little challenging. My students all did well and we had an enjoyable day.

20130307_143253During the day of the lecture, the Program Chair, Carol Ayre took me out for a pleasant walk at the Mercer Botanical Gardens, then we went to Old Town Spring for lunch. Here’s a photo of the local quilt shop, GRS Creations & Fabrics, which they refer to as “The Hidden Fabric Shop”. From the outside it looks very small, but inside, the store extends back and includes several rooms with a large inventory of fabrics. If you are in the area, it’s worth a visit.


Old Town Spring also boasts this supposedly haunted house which is over 100 years old. It has a colorful history as you’ll see from the sign – ranging from a hippy commune to a funeral home and for over 30 years, 200 insect eating bats lived in the attic! The tall screened-in section housed several cooing doves.



As you can see, we had glorious sunny weather and the 70 degree sunshine felt wonderful after the 48 degrees in Seattle. It was a good time of year to visit.

Trip to Forks, WA

I love teaching and a benefit of traveling to teach is that I have the opportunity to visit a variety of places. I’m always interested in seeing the local sights, especially places of outstanding natural beauty, gardens and art museums.

In my last blog I told you about the class I taught in Forks. Now I’ll share some photos of the area. The Washington coast is spectacular and one of my favorite places, La Push Beach #2, is close to Forks. It’s a real treat to go there. After a rainy Saturday when I was teaching, Sunday morning was bright and sunny, and I took a hike – 20 minutes through the woods to Beach #2.


The high tide mark is covered in massive logs, which during heavy storms are tossed about and can be quite dangerous. I was there at low tide and scrambled over the logs onto the beautiful sandy beach where I peeled off my hiking boots and socks for a cold paddle in the Pacific Ocean. Here’s the view with my feet in the water. I love the reflections.


Now the view looking down the beach in the other direction. As you can see, the light was spectacular and enhanced this truly magical place.


After my fix of the Pacific, I set off for home. Highway 101 skirts Crescent Lake for about 10 miles. At the head of the lake, I couldn’t resist stopping to take some photos. The tops of the hills had a dusting of fresh snow and it was so pretty.


The annual precipitation is high here, (around 100″ in Forks), and the branches of the trees in this temperate rain-forest are covered in mossy blankets.