Antique hexagon quilt at Lanhydrock House in UK

I saw this stunning hexagon quilt on display at a National Trust property, Lanhydrock House, in Cornwall, UK when I was there at the end of July. The house was built in the early 1700’s and then renovated in Victorian times after a bad fire. The quilt was on the bed in the nanny’s room. My guess is that it dates from the late 1800’s, judging by the Turkey red and the patterned fabrics. On the detailed shot you can see some embroidered crowns on some of the blue hexagons, so perhaps it is from even earlier. If any of you readers can date it more accurately, please write me a reply.

Someone spent hundreds of hours piecing this beautiful quilt and planned the pattern of the colors of hexagons carefully. I love the arrangement of the concentric rings of hexagons with the defining red rows. Even the areas between the red hexagon outlines are well planned in regular patterns with symmetrical spacing of the colors. This is a magnificent quilt.

Inspiring Architecture in Milan, Italy

In July, I spent time in Italy in the Piedmont area with friends who recently moved there from the US and we went to Tuscany together. My last night in Italy was spent at a B & B close to the airport, then I had a morning to explore Milan before flying to the UK. I caught an early bus into the city center of Milan and spent three and a half hours at the Duomo (Gothic cathedral), the Galleria and the Teatro alla Scala. What I saw was fantastic and very inspiring. The sheer scale of the Duomo was so impressing and it was majestic with its towering turrets, magnificent stone carvings and windows. The combination of angular shapes and smooth curves was fascinating, and I felt awed by the grandeur of it all. I’m sure that experiencing something like this influences me when I am designing quilts, even if it’s in a very subtle way.

I climbed up to the roof top for amazing views of the skinny turrets, flying buttresses and the surrounding city.

The Galleria was spectacular too with the arches, domed ceiling, decorated floors and fancy stores such as Gucci and Prada.

 

 

 

Pendleton Woolen Mill, OR

In May, when I took a road trip to Northeastern Oregon, I went on a tour of the Pendleton Woolen Mill. I’ve always admired the Pendleton products and was interested to go there to see how it’s all done. Check out this video to see the process.

The mill was founded in 1863, over 150 years ago. I was impressed by the scale and the rate of production from what is now a highly mechanized mill. The woolen fleeces are dyed, carded, roved, spun and wound onto bobbins. White yarn is also dyed into over 500 different colors. All of this takes place, before you even get into the weaving of the blankets in beautiful intricate patterns, many of which are inspired by Navajo and other Native American patterns. These designs really appeal to quilters like me and are inspriing!

The machines are huge, make a lot of noise and are incredibly fast.4.25 million pounds of raw wool is processed every year. The looms are computer programmed and automated to make these complex designs, but set up requires skilled labor and all the blankets and rugs are manually checked for flaws.

After touring the mill, I perused the “seconds” room where wonderful bargains may be found. I succumbed and bought a beautiful blue blanket which was half-price, like the ones in the stack in the photo. The only thing wrong with it was that it was made 4″ too short.

 

 

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!

 

Chicago Botanical Gardens

In May, I visited IL and taught at the Village Quilters Guild in Lake Bluff/Lake Forest. After my workshop, one of my students took me to the Chicago Botanical Gardens. What a fabulous place on a par with other world class gardens I have visited, such as Kew in London and Kirstenbosch in Cape Town. I never quite know where my inspiration comes from for quilting, but I love flowers and it seems that in gardens and nature, the colors never clash. I think that my observations of many color combinations in these places has made me more adventurous in my choice of fabrics. It’s not only the colors, there are so many differing textures and shapes. Look at these magnificent jewel towers.

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As you can see, it was a beautiful clear sunny day. The late afternoon light made the colors brilliant as well creating gorgeous shadows. Look at all the shades of green from the fresh chartreuse of the leaves on the tree, to the darker evergreen and the dusty green of jewel tower leaves. The brick wall provides a nice backdrop.

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The formal Japanese gardens were immaculately manicured and the trees and shrubs were scaled to ideal proportions so that all the components fit together in perfect harmony. Then there was this lovely meadow of red and yellow poppies and all shades in between with a few white ones thrown in too. If you are in Chicago and have time to venture north a little way, I can highly recommend these gardens. We only saw about half of them in an hour and a half. You could easily spend all day there.

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Amish Quilts in Shipshewana, IN

In May, I enjoyed a day in Shipshewana, IN and my two previous blog posts feature a couple of stores in that Amish town. In this blog I’m sharing more beautiful quilts that I saw during the day. These were displayed at The Lang Store adjacent to Lolly’s Fabric Store, the Little Helpers Quilt Shop and in the hallway of the building which houses Yoder Department Store and other vendors. The Amish quilters tend to make traditional pieced quilts and all of these are hand-quilted with small and even stitches. The workmanship is outstanding and if I was ever considering buying a high quality quilt with hand-quilting, Shipshewana would be a great place to go. Since I’m not in market for buying one, I simply looked and appreciated them.

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The Lone Star was particularly beautiful with gorgeous hand-quilted feathers and arcs enhancing the design. It was inspiring to see all these wonderful quilts in so many locations.

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.

Colorful Rugs in Oaxaca

Continuing the theme of vibrant colors in Mexico, here are some examples of the many beautiful woven rugs. The colors are often rich and heavily saturated. The Zapotec people use natural dyes including plants, minerals and insects. Inspiration comes from their colorful surroundings of lush vegetation, exotic flowering plants, birds, majestic mountains and local folk-law. Like pieced quilts, geometric shapes are repeated to produce wonderful patterns. The scenes with popular themes such as the tree of life filled with birds remind me of applique. In all forms of art, the color wheel works!

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Colorful Oaxaca

I’ve just returned from an amazing two weeks in Oaxaca and the surrounding countryside in southern Mexico. We began the trip with a couple of days in the city of Oaxaca, a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s easy to walk around the heart of the city and my room mate and I explored the streets near our hotel on our before breakfast walks. My immediate impression coming from the grey of a Pacific Northwest winter, was the vibrancy of color everywhere.The buildings are in good shape and many are freshly painted in gorgeous hues and bright combinations. Here’s a sampling.

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I’m sure at some subliminal level my exposure to these delights will influence and inspire my quilt making in the future. Enjoy these pictures. Don’t the rugs look fantastic against the bright blue walls!