28 February, 2010


Totally not quilt related.

With utter joy at the success of the Games and just a little sadness that it's all over, I had to share the most recent Arkison family portrait.

And yes, that is rapini and kale in the girls' bouquets. And binding strips making up the ribbon on their medals.

24 February, 2010

Workshop in Progress - February 24

It seems that all of us elves are quiet this week. It must be Olympic fever!

We'll all be back next week with workshop posts, right? I do believe that we all benefit from even sharing our process as we create, even if we don't invite comments or have questions. I encourage you all to keep open to the Workshop experience.

22 February, 2010

Coming Along Nicely

This is what that pile of circles is turning into. I have 5 panels planned, some with 7 circles like this one, some with 5. In the end the quilt will finish close to twin sized, much larger than I anticipated. With the abundance of TV viewing and drive time I've managed to finish 3 panels in the past week. Barring any more emergencies in our lives, I should be able to show you a finished top next week.

For a split second I debated hand piecing the entire thing.  That is, sewing the panels together by hand. Then I realized I would be doing that on principle. There is nothing wrong with the principle, but it isn't one I absolutely am bound by. Besides, I'm supposed to be exercising my knees. Using a foot pedal counts, right?

Thank-you for all your well-wishes. There is a slim chance I won't need surgery. But for now it isn't even an option. I have what are known as stiff knees. In other words, despite the extent of my injuries I should have far more mobility in my knees. So, I am a strict exercise and physio regimen for the next month. After that I should hopefully be able to lose the crutches and the big brace. Already I am feeling better and actually picked up Smilosaurus this week.  Now, that's a milestone!

And it means I can prep the rest of my circles without much trouble.

19 February, 2010

Some More Circle Inspiration

The circle quilt is coming along. I have about 10 of my 29 circles appliqued on. And I love how it is turning out. I've got a drive ahead this weekend as we travel for a surgery consult, so I should have lots of progress to report on next week. In the meantime, I thought I would share some other circle inspiration.

Sandra Saunders produced Grandma's Hands Quilt. This is an amazing quilt - combining a family album concept, hand prints, and glorious circles. make sure you click through to her Flickr stream for a process pictures and a tutorial on how to do those reverse applique hands.

Red Thread Adoption Quilt is a simple, yet extraordinary quilt. This is so for the story behind the piece, but also in the construction and fabric choices. Using the 6 minute circle it includes outlines in dark fabric, as opposed to just circles. And even some low volume spots like the project I have going on.

For a simple, modern quilt that makes circles the focus check out Sun and Moon. So often circles are bright and bold. This is still bold, but there is a softness to this quilt I adore. And check out that quilting!

One of my favourite Flickr finds has been this Turquoise Circles quilt by Peppermint Pinwheels. It might be the scrappy nature of the circles, the red binding, or that gorgeous turquoise, but it all works for me.

This one isn't finished, yet, but I can't get it out of my head.  The colours, the story, the pieced circles, they are all good. Jacquie is showing another winner, in my books.

So many circles, so little time.

17 February, 2010

Workshop in Progress - February 17

A fun week in the Workshop! I don't have much to report other than my latest circles. We're Olympics crazy in this house - you should see the Monster attempting figure skating on the living room carpet and the two of them cheer for Canada - so I'm sharing this photo.  This was after they painted their own bobsleigh. So, not much sewing in our house, but it looks like a lot of you have been busy.

Oh that Bargello! Have you seen Elle's yet? She poses a very interesting question about binding today. What's your vote on her binding?

Katie finished a lovely quilt over at Katie's Korner. But she is stuck on the backing. I am a firm believer that the backs are just as important as the front.  You need to love them too. Do you have any suggestions for her?

Another Katie, at Katie's Salt Marsh Path is working on really neat batik project. She's struggling with some colours in the quilt and ways to change it up before she gets to borders. Can you help her out, she has a few questions on the table?

I have a feeling I will be sewing vicariously with What KT Made Next and her modern Baby Jane. You've helped her pick fabrics, check out what she chose and her first block!

I'm looking forward to another week of creating and challenges from all of you!

15 February, 2010

Back to Circles

It might be the inspiration from the Olympic rings in the winter snow. Or I was just looking for a bigger hand project than the previous two.

I've spent the last week prepping some circles for a new project. I've picked 29 different fabrics, cut out 29 freezer paper circles, ironed, and almost finished the basting stitch (by hand) on all of them. And so far I only had to stand for the ironing.  Today I will do the same to press down my gathers and get the circles ready for hand applique.

All 29 circles will be appliqued on a plain white background. I know, me and a white background?! But I got it in my head to make a low volume quilt inspired by Malka Dubrawsky. Somehow it seems appropriate in these low volume, but slightly sunnier days of February.

In case you were wondering, I'm still doing handwork because my knees aren't getting any better. In fact, I found out last week that surgery is inevitable. We're just waiting to find out when that will be. Cross your fingers that it is sooner rather than later.  

11 February, 2010

What Does Modern Quilting Mean to Me?

Over at The Modern Quilt Guild this week they've had a series of posts from some significant bloggers in the the modern quilt movement. I've rather enjoyed the conversation, so I decided instead of just commenting on all the posts, I would create my own post. So, what does modern quilting mean to me?

Central to modern quilting, I believe, is the idea of Freedom. Unlike traditional quilting which can feel very restrictive in both construction and design, modern quilting is about freedom. Freedom to throw tradition out the window or tweak it with fabrics, layouts, and improvisation. Freedom to try something new in colours or construction. Freedom to do what you want without fear of the quilt police knocking down your door.

Improvisation is also central to modern quilting.  This doesn't just mean the wonky log cabin. Improvisation is about starting a quilt and seeing where it goes, without a detailed plan. Maybe you could also talk about process here.  When I was asking you about The Whys of quilting, process was something that was central to me at the end of that discussion. I think modern quilting stresses the process as much as the final product (regardless of your technique) and improvisation is central to many a modern quilter.

Even when a modern quilter is using calm colours or simple designs, The end result is always something quite bold.  It might the fabrics themselves, or the final design, but when I think of modern quilts, subtlety does not come to mind.

I know that there are many traditional quilters out there under the age of 40. And there are modern quilters out there over the age of 50. But when I think of modern quilting I tend to think of youth. Perhaps it is because there is an energy to the work and the movement? It might be because most (but not all) of the bloggers I've encountered are closer to my age than my mom's age? But that youthful enthusiasm and energy has, I think, a powerful influence on the quilting world as a whole.

It would be remiss to not mention the role of technology in modern quilting. I don't just mean the design software. Blogs, virtual quilting bees, Flickr, and Etsy are all having a powerful influence on quilting. Have you heard of Web 2.0, where we the readers are also the content providers and help determine the present of the internet? Well, technology has allowed us to have Quilting 2.0 as well. Not only are we connecting and working together in a way that wasn't possible beyond the traditional guild, we are also working with each other projects, lending opinions through workshops and our blogs, and generating a never ending cycle of inspiration.

Finally, I want to highlight, that for me, it is important not to throw out the baby with the bath water. That is, there is a lot in traditional quilting that shouldn't be thrown away just because we like a modern aesthetic. This includes basic technique - we still want a quality piece at the end, not just one that looks good in a small on-line picture.  It also includes colour theory and design basics. We're modern and it is up to us to push the boundaries a little. Like modern architecture though, the building still has to stand on its own.

In a somewhat contradictory twist to this conversation I will be attending my first guild meeting tomorrow, a traditional guild. I'm quite excited about it, and it seems that this guild has some modern tendencies and vibrant members. With The Modern Quilt Guild springing up across North Amercia, maybe one day there will be a Calgary chapter?

10 February, 2010

Workshop in Progress - February 10

We have some new additions to the Workshop group this week. Make sure you keep an eye on Katie's Salt Marsh Path and Cindy at Around the Block Designs. They will also be participating in our weekly round-up of the creative process.

If you've been following along you've seen Elle's work on those turquoise, green, and block blocks for an interesting wall hanging. Well, she may have found her answers, check it out. And in her frenzy of creativity she has a question for you regarding a bargello. Thoughts?

There has been no creating on my end since I finished my pillow. Sigh. The machine is in the shop for a little tune-up. And sadly my knees aren't getting much better. But the ideas are churning and one of these days I'll be ready to hit the ground running!

08 February, 2010

A Pillow

My latest little hand project is complete. A week in my chair and this sweet pillow is now propping up my knees and their ice packs.

Made with a little fusible applique, outlined with a simple black running stitch. The background was actually a sarong that someone gave me a long time ago. I hand quilted the whole thing, and backed it with some Amy Butler Full Moon Dots in Tangerine.

The inspiration for the project came directly from Marisa at Creative Thursday. Really, the inspiration was two fold.  One, she is such a positive spirit, even in the face of struggles and challenges. When I took her e-course she commented that she is generally a happy person and that she refuses to apologize for that. Good for her. And eye-opening for me. I've been accused of being negative (cynical?) by some pretty important people to me. But one can easily choose to be happy and live happy. It is still a challenge for me, but it is working.

Besides, if I let all the crap that happens to us get me down I would never get out of bed in the morning!

The second point of inspiration was the composition of the piece.  Marisa makes the sweetest paintings, sculpture, and books. Make sure you take a look through her Etsy site. It is guaranteed to make you happy. While I would never want to copy her work, I'd like to think that this pillow is truly an 'inspired by' piece. It doesn't hurt that it simply makes me happy to look at it.

(And immediately after filling it and putting it on the couch the Monster curled up next to it for an impromptu nap. Now that makes me happy.)

05 February, 2010

Blog Aid: Haiti

I'm not sure how many of you know this, but I have a second blog and a second creative outlet in writing. The focus for most of my freelance writing is food writing. As a result of this passion I've developed a lovely and generous network of food writers.

One of my mentors and friends, Julie Van Rosendaal sent out an email 3 weeks back.  She was motivated to take action in response to the earthquake in Haiti. So she asked some fellow writers and bloggers to contribute to a cookbook project.  In just three weeks she led the charge on the newest version of the community cookbook.  Blog Aid: Haiti is a collection of recipes from over 25 writers around the interwebs.  The recipes range from my own Chai-Spiced Granola with Pistachios (only available in the book) to the ultimate Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie, from Blueberry Galette to Bulgogi, and from Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream to Concord Grape Sorbet.  

All Recipes, photographs, design, and editing were freely given.  The artwork gracing the cover is by the lovely artist Beth Snyder. All proceeds will go directly to The Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders to help with relief efforts in Haiti. And the publishing houses, West Canadian and Blurb are matching the proceeds realized.  So that triples your donation when you purchase a book.  Buy before February 12 in Canada and all donations will also be matched by the federal government. So in addition to a very leveraged donation you will also get a rather stunning cookbook.

Did I mention that each recipe has a photograph? And that contributions are coming from folks like The Gluten Free Girl and Chef, Seven Spoons, Tartelette, Under the High Chair, and Christie's Corner? Seriously, stunning is an understatement.

The book is available for US $25 in softcover and US$50 in hardcover.  You can buy it here, or click on the button there in the sidebar.  It is available on a print on demand system, so you should get it about 8 days after ordering.

For more information on the book, the project, and all the contributors, visit the official Blog Aid website.

03 February, 2010

Workshop in Progress - February 3

It's time for another Workshop update. What do we have going on today? There isn't much to report from my studio, other than my machine going in for some love. It finally occurred to me to take it now, since I can't use it anyway. Let's check on the rest of the group.

Cristin is now working on Side B of her special baby quilt. Visit Sew This is My Life and take a look. What do you think?

Over at Pickle Dish Lesly is contemplating block designs for bee participation. She is using that lovely Anna Maria Horner Voile. How can she show it off the best?

How would you go about choosing fabrics for a scrappy blocks? That's the question asked at Nichole in Real Life. She has a neat project on the go, make sure to check it out.

An ongoing project over at Elle in Da Coop has her puzzled. And if you know Elle she has her hands in a million different pots at once. Maybe we can help her finish off this project.

The ongoing colour saga at What KT Made Next might be over. What do you think?

One last thing. Many of us who receive comments are often met with a noreply-comment@blogger.com response. That means we can't get back to you, even if it is just to say thanks. If you feel like you've been ignored lately after leaving comments, make sure you check your settings. If you are on Blogger, check out this post and make sure you have your settings the way you want them to be.

01 February, 2010


This is an old quilt. By no means is it antique, it's only 11 years old. And it was only the third quilt I ever made. Previously I'd made one baby quilt and a wall-hanging for my mom. That's it.

Eleven years ago I was a grad student, done with classes but working on my thesis. A few months in to the year I started to get sick. Nothing major, but a general ickiness. A couple of trips to the doctor, test upon test, and phone calls to my brother in California revealed nothing. My brother, the doctor, however, didn't like what he was hearing so he finally sent me to the hospital. A visit with a surgeon, a CAT scan, and a lot of laxatives later I was much better. Nothing like a random virus and lots of stress to inspire creativity out of illness.

While wallowing in my fever I read an inspiring book: Hidden in Plain View. This historical account of quilts in the Underground Railroad was fascinating to me. It still is. I am blown away that so many people were willing to risk their lives and livelihoods to help escaping slaves. I am in awe of the work it took and the secret codes of the quilts to help those running. So, rather than continue to wallow in my own minor illness I started sewing.

This is a simple Hourglass or Bow Tie pattern. In the Underground Railroad Quilt Code this pattern signified to the runaway slaves that they needed to travel in disguise, often upgrading their look to an apparent higher status. I can't say why I chose this pattern, but it was a good one to just start with. Like most of my sewing now, it was project that just started for the sake of starting. It filled my time and my imagination with the stories of escaping slaves.

Obviously my propensity to overquilt started with this quilt. I did a grid all over the quilt, at about 1 inch intervals. And because I thought that would be too boring, but I had no concept of free-motion quilting I decided to teach myself how to hand quilt and did a floral repeat on a few spots on the top.

On the border I outlined that accent piece and then did some curves, after the fact. To be honest, nothing about the quilting is very good. Really though, who cares? This quilt was and still is just for me.  I love that it has a personal history for me, I love that is acknowledges a part of the history of quilts, and I love what it shows me about my own quilting development.

I'm sharing this quilt now for a couple of reasons. One, it really does show a progression of my skills. Two, I have to laugh because when I made this quilt I remember thinking that I couldn't see how I would ever make a quilt that didn't have white background. And now I totally rebel against that! Three, this was actually the only time I hand quilted until these last few weeks. Yikes!

Finally, being laid up these past few weeks I actually finished a book on the nightstand. The Book of Negroes is a novel with a stunning heroine. It follows the life of Aminata Diallo, captured in Africa and brought to America. Really, it is a haunting story.  (In the US the book is known by the title Someone Knows My Name.) 

The book itself has inspired another quilt in me, I'm just waiting for the indigo and osnaburg I ordered to show up. Stay tuned.