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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Cruising in Alaska – Garden Tours

Many quilters are gardeners. If they aren’t gardeners, they usually have a deep appreciation for botanical geometry and patterns in nature. The color combinations used in formal gardens are often inspiring to quilters and we become aware of the many shades of green and the way that natural colors don’t appear to clash. Many quilters have qualms about choosing colors and values for their quilts. These gardens demonstrate that we can actually get away with putting all kinds of colors together. We just need to move away from the notion of whether or not we would wear these colors together or use them to paint the walls of our houses.

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Our final cruise stop was Victoria, B.C., where I took a trip out to the world famous Butchart Gardens. As you can see, the density of color was intense and the carefully planned areas of the gardens could support this. It looked dazzling.

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The star-shaped pond was stunning outlined by the green and the mass of pink begonias. An added element with water features are the beautiful reflections. Here is spectacular sunken garden made in an old quarry, with the fountain at the far end.

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In Skagway, I had a delicious lunch, including fresh local produce, at the Jewell Gardens. This is a gem of a place about a mile and a half from downtown Skagway. The vegetation is lush and they grow giant vegetables and rhubarb. The growing season is short but the hours of daylight are long. We had a delightful tour enjoying not only the gardens, but their glorious setting with the backdrop of mountains.

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There were some glass sculptures tastfully lurking among the flowers and some nice creative touches like this blue barrow of nasturtiums.

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Next time you visit some gardens, take note of all the colors and the light and dark shading. As our experience increases, so our quilts become more sophisticated.

Cruising in Alaska – stunning scenery

I can’t resist sharing some scenery pictures with you. This was such an awesome cruise. The Golden Princess cruise ship sailed from San Francisco on the 10th August and we arrived in Juneau, after two days of quilting at sea. I opted to go on a whale watching outing and it was fantastic. Apparently Juneau had torrential rain for the three days before we arrived, but we were blessed with a glorious day of sunshine. The boat trip was absolutely beautiful and then there the whales! We had several sightings of hump-backs including a couple of times when five all surfaced with their noses together for bubble-net feeding. These creatures are magnificent.

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The next morning we docked in Skagway and had another day of sunshine. I took a train trip into the mountains, over White Pass to Douglas, BC. The building of this track to cater to gold rush miners was quite a feat. There were precipitous drops and wooden trellises supporting the track that looked precarious. The train clung to the steep valley side as we climbed and climbed and had stunning views all the way.

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We came back by bus along the scenic Klondike Highway, stopping in a couple of places to take pictures of the incredible countryside and the Alaskan boundary.

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In Skagway, we had lunch at the Jewell Gardens and went to the quilt shop, (see upcoming blogs), and still had another three hours before sailing. I took a hike up the mountain side from downtown Skagway affording a good view of the Skagway inlet and on up to Lower Dewey Lake which was breathtaking.

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Our next cruising destination was Glacier Bay National Park. I was up at 5:00 a.m. to see the sunrise as we sailed into this world-class wilderness of majestic beauty. We spent most of the day there and once again, the sun shone giving us crystal clear views of the dramatic mountains and glaciers. To give you some idea of scale, the glacier face in the picture was 250 feet tall.

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From here we sailed to Ketchikan where the weather was cloudy with mist coming and going, but it was mostly dry. I enjoyed walking downtown and up Creek Street. The creek was seething with salmon moving upstream to spawn. My photos of salmon in the water leave much to be desired, so here’s a fine salmon mosaic sculpture as a substitute.

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Scenic Texas in November

On my recent teaching trip to the Rio Grande Valley Quilt Guild and the Midland Quilt Guild, I had the opportunity to explore in both areas. As luck would have it, my time with the first guild coincided with the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival and I was able to go on two birding field trips. This part of Texas is practically in Mexico and is an amazing place for birding. Several of the native species cannot be found anywhere else in the USA. I went to the Sabal Palm Sanctuary where there was a beautiful old plantation home and the largest remaining area of sabal palm forest in Texas.

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I also visited Estero Llano State Park, Weslaco (pictured above), and Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission. My camera can’t do justice to the beautiful birds but I couldn’t resist sharing a couple of shots. The Green Jays are so vibrant in color and the Common Pauraque so extraordinary in its camouflage.

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The second part of my trip was teaching in Midland then a 250 mile drive south to Big Bend National Park. This is a very remote and magnificent place including three distinct habitats – the mountainous Chisos Basin, the Chihuahuan Desert and the Rio Grande River. On the southwest side of the park is the spectacular Santa Elena Canyon with 1,500 ft high cliffs through which the Rio Grande river flows. On the southeast side there are spectacular views of El Pico and the Sierra del Carmen mountain range which turns pink at sunset. Both have camp grounds near the river that are great places for birding.

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I spent two nights in the Chisos Basin in a little cottage with stone flags on the floor. My hike up the Lost Mine Trail now ranks in my top 10 all time hikes. The views were absolutely breathtaking and I loved it.

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Scenic Colorado in the Fall

One of the joys of traveling to teach is seeing new places. Mid-October was a wonderful time to visit Colorado and I can’t resist sharing some scenic snapshots with you. Between lecturing, teaching workshops and visiting local quilt stores, my generous guild hosts took me to beautiful places.

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Adele from the Columbine Quilt Guild, and her two hiking buddies took me to Castlewood Canyon State Park, south of Denver not far from Castle Rock. As you can see, the fall colors where spectacular. We did a four mile hike up the canyon, past the ruins of the old dam and back along the canyon rim. It was a perfect temperature for walking.

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Adele also drove me along the Peaks to Peaks Highway. This chapel is a popular wedding venue and has a gorgeous view of the mountains. We walked around Lily Lake and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

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Most of the aspens had already dropped their leaves, but there were some in sheltered spots that were still brilliant golden. These two shots are in the Rocky Mountain National Park where had a picnic and saw a large herd of elk in the meadows. There was a huge buck with a harem of 35!

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Angie, from the Arapahoe County Quilters took me to the Red Rocks Amphitheater. The red rocks form a craggy outcrop and nestled between two huge sections is the amphitheater up at 6,500 ft. This is a popular venue for concerts and during the summer, there are rock bands scheduled about every three days. Even the Beatles appeared here in the 60s! At the entrance to the museum area, behind the information counter, hangs this amazing quilt depicting the rock formations. The quilt is entitled, Walk the Rocks, and was made by Judith Trager for the Public Art Program in 2003, City and County of Denver. We marveled at its beauty and the workmanship.


Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, CO – Part 2

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, CO and highlighted some of the antique quilts from their permanent collection that were on display. In this blog I will feature six quilts from the special exhibit, Evolutions: Third biennial quilt challenge. These quilts were juried by Dr. Sandra Sider and the challenge was sponsored in part by and a grant from the International Quilt Association. The evolution theme could be interpreted in any way, however it inspired the quilt makers.

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At the molecular level I was drawn to both of these quilts. Living Fossils, on the left was made by Charlotte Bird of San Diego, CA. “Time, process and change are persistent themes in my work. The patterns of the natural world, particularly lichens, mosses and ferns interest me.” On the right is Purkinje by Betty Busby from Albuquerque, NM. “Purkinje fibers surround the heart and help it beat properly. I’ve used non woven material and mesh to form the shapes of the fibers, combined with a hand quilted and painted hemp background.”

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Seascape by Carol Ann Waugh of Denver, CO is part of a series in which she used couching, decorative machine stitching and hand embroidery to create texture on her hand-dyed cotton fabrics. From a distance it looks like a painting. Amani, by Barbara Yates Beasley of Boulder, CO also looks like a painting until you get up close. Barbara says, “I have a love affair with animals. They have been the inspiration for my quilting over the last few years. I am always fascinated by the expressions on the faces and especially the life in their eyes.”

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I liked these two tree quilts. In both, there is a wonderful perception of depth. On the left, Velvet Shadows, by Marianne Williamson from Miami, FL. “Quilts have evolved to the point that they now can be paintings made from cloth, paint and thread. I dyed, discharged, and painted silk, velvet, and cotton for texture so that the shadows on the rocky hill would come alive.” Fall Colors, by Linda Jean Strand from Aurora, CO resonated with me because these yellows were all around when I was there. Most of the aspens had already dropped their leaves, but I saw a few like this in sheltered places in the mountains and the cottonwoods were in full golden glory. Linda says, “The seasons allow nature to evolve on an annual basis. This quilt was inspired by a trip over Rabbit Ears Pass in September, when the atmosphere seemed to glow. This piece was the first in my journey to evolve as an artist, moving from using all digital images to a combination of digital and artist-created fabrics.”

Traveling in Mongolia

I have recently returned from a three week trip to Mongolia to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Mongolian Quilting Center. We spent a week traveling in remote Eastern Mongolia before assisting with preparations and hosting the second International Mongolian Quilt Show in Ulaanbaatar. More on the show in later blogs. Now I’ll share some photo highlights from our travels in the area around the birth place of Chinggis Khaan. I traveled with Vicki Schmall and John and Nancy Watts, all from Portland, OR. Selenge Tserendash was our guide and we had a Mongolian driver.

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We spent our first night in the ger (Mongolian yurt) at a nature reserve where we saw wild sheep and very rare White-naped Cranes. For much of our journey we enjoyed beautiful carpets of wild flowers and an abundance of butterflies. This year there was an unusually high rainfall and the flowers were exceptional. The increased moisture also made our travels challenging and we got stuck in the mud twice. On several occasions we had to get out of the van and wade through boggy areas on foot.

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Here’s our van after we got out of the first spot where we had to spend over two hours digging and searching around for branches to put down to improve our traction. Fortunately, the threatening rain cloud veered away just before reaching us. The other view shows the lush countryside around the Onon river valley. We ate our picnic lunch on this knoll with this spectacular view.

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Here is a deer stone, a sacred standing stone carved hundreds of years ago and thought to be important in ancient Shamanistic rituals. This is a particularly fine example. The little ferry boat was quite an adventure and a huge contrast to the enormous Washington State boats that cross the Puget Sound. We crossed the River Onon in our van on this ferry which just took one vehicle at a time. This crossing saved us 40 kilometers of driving which doesn’t sound like much but our average speed in this area was only about 20 km per hour! Here we are with the Buddhist monk who gave us a tour of this remote monastery. It took us four hours to drive the last 30 km to get there, but it was a wonderful place.

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On the Move

Once again, I have failed to keep up with weekly blogs. I do have a good reason! Last Wednesday, I moved house and two days ago the sale of our beautiful house was completed. Now I’m getting settled at my new house, I’m planning on being more diligent about blog writing!

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We moved into this house in September 2000 and had many happy times here. It was a wonderful place to entertain and the rooms were light and airy. My studio was perfect and I was sad to pack it up and leave. I stowed all my fabric and other goodies in cardboard boxes and plastic bins.

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A few days before moving day, Ralph the cabinet maker who crafted my wonderful sewing table, came over and unscrewed the top for transportation. We had a mini crisis during the move when the guys couldn’t get the body of the table through the door. It was about an inch too large. Fortunately, Ralph was at home and came to the rescue immediately. He had to remove the feet and then it went through the door and into the moving truck. He came to my new place the next day and put it all back together.

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The most precious cargo was all my quilts. These went in my car to make the four mile journey to my new house on the north end of Bainbridge Island. As you can see, it was quite a load. The good news about all of this is that I love my new place and am making it my own. What was in my old studio is spread between three small rooms, but I think it’s going to work out nicely. I’ll give you a tour when I’ve done more unpacking.

Tillamook County Quilt Trail

In October I had a wonderful time teaching at Quilt Camp at Twin Rocks on the OR coast. En route I had time to explore a little in the Tillamook area and was delighted to see many quilt blocks painted on large boards hanging on buildings.

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The Quilt Trail concept is very popular in the East where there are around 3,000 quilt blocks mounted on barns and businesses. The nearest to Tillamook is in Nebraska. The Tillamook Quilt Trail began in 2009 with 13 quilt blocks. Each year, more have been added and there are now over 45. On the left we have the one displayed in Wheeler just north of Tillamook on the Old Wheeler Hotel building which also houses Creative Quilting, a nice quilt shop. On the right, Jane’s Fabric Patch in Tillamook has a lily block and there is one on the side of Roby’s Furniture and Appliances too.

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It’s fun to watch out for these quilt blocks and see how many you can spot as you drive through or walk around Tillamook. Brochures listing the location of all the quilt blocks are available at the Visitors’ Center and at the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center.

Teaching trip to Valley Quiltmakers Guild, Southern California

I recently returned from a delightful teaching trip to the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles, CA. As I’ve mentioned before, these by air trips require careful planning to manage the luggage. I always heave a sigh of relief when the two suitcases loaded with quilts are safely checked in at the airport and another when they appear at baggage claim at my destination. It’s great when a smiling face greets me and whisks me away in an air conditioned car to the welcoming home of a guild member. So far, I’m glad to say, I’ve never been left stranded at an airport and with only a couple of exceptions, I’ve stayed in comfortable accommodations. The quilters at Valley Quiltmakers Guild gave a me warm welcome and I immediately clicked with my host who was extremely kind and thoughtful. Sharing the passion of quilting brings together a whole variety of people all with a common interest and I love it.

I gave a lecture and taught my Bargello workshop. My ten students all did very well. We had a great workshop venue with plenty of space and good lighting. I love seeing the fabric choices and how differently the blocks turn out even though they are the same pattern.

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One of my students, Edith Close-Vaziri, is a recently retired 3rd grade teacher. Knowing of my work quilting with kids, she brought a class quilt she had made with her students. It’s a charming Dr. Seuss themed quilt. Each child drew a block depicting their favorite Dr. Seuss character. I love to see projects like this.

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In addition to teaching, I had the opportunity to visit two quilt shops, Candy’s Quiltworks in Northridge (left picture) and Quilt Emporium in Woodland Hills (on the right). Each had its own character and pleasant atmosphere. Check them out if you are in the area.

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On my final day, I crossed the hills to the next valley, Simi Valley, where I spent the morning demonstrating my template free Kaleidoscope technique at another quilt shop, Quilty Pleasures. After a challenging start due to the road being dug up and a diversion through a residential area, I enjoyed sharing my Kaleidoscope Puzzle and Op-Art Kaleidoscope quilts with the small group assembled and others who stopped by during the morning. In the afternoon, my host took my on a much appreciated trip to the coast to escape the 100+ degree heat then a delicious dinner with her husband at a Mexican restaurant. All in all, a most enjoyable trip.

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