Library of Congress – color and elegance

In October, I spent four days in Washington DC between two teaching engagements, one in Baltimore and the other in Newark, DE. When I visited the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, first opened in 1897, I was struck by the abundance of color on the ceilings and walls, as well as the elegance of all the arches and domes. There were also patterns in mosaic on the floors.  It was spectacular. I find places like this inspiring and seeing them adds to my store of experiences from which to draw when I am designing quilts. This is a place not to be missed if you have time in Washington DC. Here are some pictures.

Infinity Mirrors art exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum

I was fortunate to attend an extraordinary art exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum in early September. This was hugely popular and my first attempt to get in failed after I queued for two and a half hours and it was sold out. On my second attempt, I went with a friend who had a membership for two at the museum and we were fast tracked to the ticket booth and given a time to attend later in the day. The exhibit, with works dating from 1965-2017, Infinity Mirrors, by Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese artist, was unlike anything I’d seen before. There were six small rooms to enter, just two people at a time, for 20-30 seconds. In these rooms were objects, for example yellow pumpkins with black spots, pink balls with black spots, colored lights, and a series of mirrors to make the objects or lights repeat themselves giving the illusion of infinitely. It was amazing and mind-boggling. The first picture shows my favorite, the Infinity Mirrored Room – Love Forever. There were two peep-holes to look into the room and the lights constantly changed colors. The center mirror shows my hands holding my cell phone to take the picture.

Dots Obsession – Love Transformed into Dots was multiple pink balls covered in black dots. The picture on the left shows the outside and the one on the right, is inside the largest ball with the mirrors and infinity effect.

Yayoi Kusama is indeed obsessed by dots. Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field, consists of  white stuffed fabric tubers covered in red dots. The other picture shows me in The Obliteration Room, an interactive environment where everyone was given three colored dots to stick anywhere in this room that was originally totally white. Since I attended the exhibit close to its closing after it had been running for three months, it was hard to find a space that was still white and not covered in colored dots.

Here are a couple of shots of sculptures by this incredible artist. Notice the use of dots again!

The next pictures are snaps I took during a video of the artist talking about her work. I love what she says: “I take each day as a test for how much I can contribute to society and increase peace and love around the world” and “I’m always thinking about how I can make something that people will enjoy and be moved by.” I found this exhibit so inspiring and creative. The bold use of dots, bright colors and lights, and the illusion of space generated by the use of the mirrors were fantastic.


New Year’s Resolutions

Do you set goals and resolutions for the coming year? Here’s an early twentieth century postcard on the subject from a calendar by Bishop John H Vincent, published by Chatauqua Press.

Many of us begin the year with good intentions for leading healthy and more active lives, but easily slip back into our old habits. Do you make plans for what you might like to accomplish in the coming year? How do you balance work and play?

I have a notebook in which I write down my annual work and personal goals, such as, making specific quilts, designing a new workshop, improving current workshop materials, writing quilting patterns, raising $10,000 for the Mongolian Quilting Center, negotiating a certain number of teaching jobs for the following year, continuing to write one blog per week and produce one e-newletter per month, and so on. I try to be realistic so that I’m not setting myself up for disappointment. The next job is to divide these goals into doable chunks and make lists of tasks to achieve in the next two months. This may be broken down further into weekly or even daily goals, e.g. spend 5 hours per week quilting, complete editorial work on pattern, update business accounting records etc. I derive great satisfaction from checking items off my lists once they are completed.

Towards the end of the two months, review what items aren’t checked off and think about why they didn’t get done. Write the goals for the next two months, (which may include uncompleted ones from the previous two months), and refer back to the annual goals to remind yourself of the bigger picture. It’s easy to get swamped by all the little tasks without making progress on the major goals. I lead a busy life, so I try to prioritize to make sure that the most important things are achieved and that necessary deadlines are met. This requires some discipline and determination to avoid distractions. Your priorities may change through the year and it’s OK to go back to the original goals and modify them. Some may not seem important any more, or new opportunities and goals may arise. Doing this helps me enormously, and I recommend it to you if you find this way of organizing and prioritizing your time useful. If you find that you have a lapse or simply that life gets in the way, don’t let that put you off for the rest of the year. You can start afresh in any month or on any day of the year.

All the best, for a healthy and happy 2017!


Yarn Bombs in Franklin, PA

I spent the first week of this month in PA where I taught at two quilt guilds in the Pittsburgh area. In between, I went to stay with a friend in her cabin in the beautiful Allegheny Mountains. We stopped in the attractive town of Franklin for lunch and to meet the quilters collecting me. Right in the center of town outside the Court House was a green strip with cherry trees adorned in colorful crotchet and knitting. These yarn bombs were sponsored by the Wooly Wonders Knitting Guild and Diane’s Yarn Shoppe both based in Franklin.

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What fun! I loved these vibrant tree wraps. Clearly there were many contributors and their work was all pieced together in an inspiring way to make a bright and cheerful display. Here are some closer shots including some Granny-squares, and don’t you just love the bee!

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Kitsap Quilters’ Guild celebrates their 30th Anniversary

At our recent Kitsap Quilters’ Guild meeting, we celebrated our 30th anniversary by honoring our founding members. Five of the original ten were at the meeting. Here they are, from left to right, Norma Tipton, Donna Endresen, Margaret Mathisson, Helen Heins and Evelyn Bright. Each reminisced and shared some of their quilts. We heard about the first retreat where they slept in bunk beds and had to clear away their hand-sewing projects from the table in order to eat their meals, and the first quilt show held in a church hall. All except Helen were joint owners of the quilt shop in Poulsbo, Heirloom Quilts, which was incredibly supportive to the guild in numerous ways. These ladies were pillars of the guild for many years and still remain active. Their contributions have been amazing and they constantly inspire us.

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On the left below are a couple of Donna’s quilts. She loves to make scrappy quilts and says “Why use only four fabrics when you can use 40?”. Margaret’s are on the right, and as well as being beautifully pieced, they are hand quilted. She has been a member of a small hand-quilting group since the guild began and they still get together once a week and hand quilt around a frame, taking turns to quilt each other’s quilts.

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Evelyn loves to applique and makes magnificent quilts. The quilt with the Christmas blocks was made from our guild Christmas block exchanges where people make 15 identical blocks. They keep one and the other 14 are exchanged so that everyone gets 15 different blocks. They usually gather up two or three year’s worth of blocks to make a decent sized quilt.

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Norma began a voluntary program at the Women’s Correctional Facility in Purdy and for years went to the prison every week to teach the ladies there. Other guild members have also participated and this program continues. Our guild has donated yards and yards of fabric, batting and quilting supplies. The prison ladies make quilts for a battered women’s shelter. After they have made a certain number they are allowed to make one for a family member. The guild donated funds to purchase a long-arm quilting machine too, so quilt production is healthy at the prison and the women love it.

I encourage those of you who are in guilds to express appreciation to your founding members who did so much to help your guilds become established and to thrive. We celebrated with two cakes and made it into a lovely social event.

Inspiration for quilting

What inspires you when you quilt? I suspect that it’s not only seeing the work of others, or quilts in books and magazines. Patterns are in abundance in our everyday lives – in nature, architecture, furnishings, floors, windows, media and so the list continues. I believe that what we create in our quilting designs is strongly influenced by all of these and they provide us with inspiration.Staying open and receptive to seeing what is around us is fun and helps us build our store of ideas. It may be a particular color combination, or a geometric design that gets us started and as the work evolves, other factors come into play based on our visual and life experiences, whether it’s traveling the world or staying close to home.  20141209_134856

In this era of android phones, it is very easy to snap photos any time we see something that captivates our imagination and that can be stored for a future quilting project. This graphic work of art hangs on a wall in the baggage claim area at Seatac International Airport. The photo shows only half of it. All the colored circles are reflective discs and this is a stunning vibrant piece.It reminds me of the Trip Around the World pattern (most appropriate for an airport). Unfortunately, there was no information on the artist.


I snapped this one out of the plane window when I was returning home from Texas in mid-November. It was somewhere in northwestern TX or SE Colorado, probably not far from Amarillo, The light dusting of snow highlights the patterns created by the irrigation circles and it looks very quilt-like to me.

South African Quilt Festival 2013, #2

As I mentioned in my last blog, the theme of the Quilt Festival in Bloemfontein was Kaleidoscope, and the wild-pump image was used as recurring motif to represent this. In the entrance way to the quilt show there was a beautiful quilt with blocks of farmland scenes. There was no label attached, but I think it was made by a member of the host guild, the Oranje Kwiltersgilde. Here’s a detailed photo of the lovely wind-pump. Also, check out the beautiful hand-made awards ribbon with the windmills.

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The quilt show was spectacular and over the next few blogs I’ll be posting more quilt pictures. Some of the quilters asked me, “How does our quilt show compare to the national level quilt shows in the USA?” I responded that while the show was on a smaller scale, the quilts were of a high standard and many would do well at the national or international level. I was very impressed. There were so many vibrant and inspiring quilts with plenty of color. Here are the award winners in the Kaleidoscope theme category.

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On the left we have the third place winner, “Kaleidoskoop” (74 cm x 67 cm), by Iessie Steenberg (Quilt Festival Chair). Iessie was inspired when she took a class from Kathryn Hamer Fox. Iessie writes, “Kathryn helped me transform the real image of a “windpomp” into a logo. Being a traditional quilter, working with raw edges can be challenging BUT also very stimulating.” The second place winner has a lovely tree of life with a variety of birds and wonderful windmills as well as Kaleidoscope blocks. It’s called “Kaleidoskoop van kwetterendevinke ‘n Bos” (78 cm x 80 cm), by Mari Claase. Unfortunately, I can’t read the Afrikaans that she wrote about this quilt, but I thought you would enjoy the photo of it.

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The first place quilt was colorful twisted Log Cabin. The photo really doesn’t do this quilt justice, Some of the colored pieces were silk and just glowed. It was a magnificent piece entitled “Kaleido through an Eagle’s Eye” (80 cm x 80 cm), by Elmine van de Walt. It was fun having Elmine as a student in my Op-Art Kaleidoscope class.

Rosebank African Craft Market

At the end my week of teaching and sight seeing in Johannesburg two years ago, Grace Nobili and her friend Lesley took me to the Rosebank African Craft Market which is open every Sunday and located on the top level of the parking garage of a mall. I am hoping to visit again just before I come home this year.

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What a feast for the eyes! It was so colorful and inspiring. The beautiful beaded dolls and jewelry are typical of the Natal area.

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These are made from hundreds of tiny seed-beads as are the gorgeous animals below. I bought a magnificent gemsbok (oryx) from this man who made all these creatures that are displayed. Some were as large as two feet tall.

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There were many other colorful crafts. I loved the hand-embroidered squares of African life and animals. Here are several made into a fabulous quilt. There were plenty of vibrant paintings too.

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Quilters Anonymous meeting – lecture by Pamela Mostek

It’s always inspiring to attend lectures by renowned quilters and I was delighted to go to the Quilters Anonymous meeting in Edmonds this week for Pamela Mostek‘s presentation. I have been a member of this large and vibrant group for almost 20 years, but since my teaching schedule has become busier, I’m no longer able to attend many of the meetings.


Pam began as an editorial and creative assistant to Debbie Mumm and then started creating her own patterns. She is the author of several quilting books published by Martingale & Co, designs fabric, makes unique art quilts and teaches all over the USA. She walked us through the evolution of her work and showed us many beautiful examples. In her first book, Just Can’t Cut It, she uses large prints, the ones we really don’t want to cut, in combination with simple piecing. The example below is made from Liberty of London’s fabric in wide sections divided by rows of triangles and strips. What a great way to use this gorgeous fabric and to maintain the integrity of design on it.


Then Pam fussy-cut 4″ and 2″ squares of large prints to feature flowers and combined these with piecing. These blend together beautifully on the example below and the light center makes the flowers pop out around the outside. As Pam continued to explore this idea she used the large prints around the border of her quilts and began fussy-cutting the actual flowers, broderie perse style and appliqueing them to make a nice transition between the floral border and the pieced center of the quilt.

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The photos don’t do these justice, but they give you some idea of how the work develops. From here Pam added glittery metallic threads and crystals to embellish her pieces. The details on this bag decorated with a cabbage and the floral piece are marvelous. Pam also shared some of her recent abstract art quilts for us to enjoy.

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Quilters Anonymous is a talented group and the Show and Tell part of the meeting was a treat too. I came away feeling uplifted and inspired. I’m excited to be teaching my Gateway to Mongolia class for them this Saturday (tomorrow!).


Creating a new quilt

Urban Garden

Who knows the origin of a design idea? Maybe this quilt, Urban Garden (aka R3tro), was brewing in my brain for some time, inspired by a combination of different thoughts – a pattern in some paving stones or a window or on a church vestment, the idea of making large scale blocks, the desire to make something that looks contemporary but that utilizes printed fabrics I already own and like rather than the “modern” tendency to solid colors. I was kicked into action by wanting to enter a quilt show with a deadline for submissions of 20th April. After a winter of revising my website, I was definitely in quilting deficit and have thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in this project.Urban Garden diagram Here’s the very rough sketch I scrawled out as I ate my breakfast before heading out to sing joyfully on Easter morning – as you can see there was quite an evolution to the final version. In this case, I made it up as I went along. Often I design using computer software (more on this another time).

Urban Garden fabricsHere are the fabrics that I used in the quilt. I liked the black floral and pulled the colors from it. I had purchased a solid light buttery yellow, but decided it looked too washed out, so I went to my stash and found some yellow prints. There wasn’t enough of any of them, so I used four different ones which actually make the quilt more interesting. When it came to the borders, I wanted a stronger yellow so I bought the solid on the far left.

Urban Garden 5 blocksI made the center and the corner blocks first. The blocks are 21”. They went together pretty quickly. I’m quite particular about details and after I started piecing the four-patches, I noticed that the blue fabric with black dots has a direction aspect – the dots appear in vertical lines in one orientation and in horizontal lines when rotated. To maintain the overall symmetry I made sure the lines went the way I wanted. I also manipulated the direction of the leafy green fabric by cutting some pieces across the width of the fabric and others down the length.

Urban Garden side blockIt took me a couple of days to work out the pattern for the four side blocks. I wanted to complete the Trip Around the World-style pattern created by the large floral squares and to continue the lines of leafy fabric on the outer edges to establish links with the corner blocks. Then the leafy fabric was all gone so I introduced the green dots sandwiched by the orange. I put these sections perpendicular to the leafy green parts and the middle one is longer, helping to lead the eye out from the middle and to break up the nine-patch format of the other blocks. The smaller pieced section of orange and blue adjacent to the center block extends the central pattern in the quilt and helps to make the overall design more cohesive.

Urban Garden with sashing Urban Garden 9 blocks

Now that the nine blocks were completed I decided they needed a narrow sashing to separate them slightly. The pictures show the blocks before and after. I thought a black and white stripe would work well, but I only had a small piece in my stash. I found the black fabric with white dashes and I like the way it turned out. Once again, I manipulated the direction of the fabric, so that in some places the dashes look like parallel lines and in others they appear as zigzags.

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The borders were tricky and I ruminated for a couple of days – I aimed to extend the pattern out from the center without repeating too many of the parallel lines. By the time I had worked out what to do, I had a deadline of a day to have the quilt ready for my good friend Wanda Rains to do the long-arm quilting. I always tell my students not to rush borders. The borders can make or break the quilt and it is worthwhile putting in the time to do them accurately. However, I didn’t anticipate the piecing taking me as long as nine and a half hours, and at 10.30 p.m. I was mitering the corners on the final black border. Whew, it was done!

The next day, I was teaching a class all day at Quilted Strait in Port Gamble. I dropped the quilt off with Wanda in Kingston in the morning and returned after class in the late afternoon to collect it. Wanda had quilted a lovely overall leafy design which softens all those pieced straight lines and was just what the quilt needed. I scrambled over the weekend to attach the binding and finish the quilt for photography on Monday. I don’t usually churn out a big quilt in two weeks, but this one just gushed forth!