July 1, 2018: Listening to my quilts!; my judges’ scores from Vermont

Greetings!  If you know me or have been reading my blog, you know that I strongly encourage quilt makers to create their own unique quilts without using patterns or kits because it is such a rewarding process.  When you work that you you have to take time to “listen” to your quilt tell you what it does and doesn’t “need” to bring to fruition the overall vision you want to convey.  “Creating as you go” can be a challenge and can be frustrating at times, but can also be exciting.  I also encourage using a design wall as you go.  My design wall is located in a place where I look at it several times a day.  I often stop and assess the current project and ask myself if it is looking good or not, whether it needs any additions, changes, etc. or not.

Recently my current project has been saying “bland” whenever I go by.  The Oak Leaf and Reel blocks needed something more:

I decided to add berries between the leaves:

MUCH BETTER!!!!  Those little red dots add significant punch to the design! (click on pics to enlarge and see details)

Then I started studying the pieced blocks and they needed a little extra “punch” as well.  So I cut some 2 inch red squares and stuck them in the middle of the blocks:

(Sorry for the finger in the way in this picture!)  Again, much better!  I love the additional “pop” that the red gives.  Now, though, I am going to have to appliqué those red squares to the centers of the blocks.  No way am I re-doing all the blocks from scratch or taking any seams out to be able to piece in re-made centers!!!!  To me, the quilt is now quite a bit more interesting with the added details and I really like the extra red color.

I have a tentative name for this quilt – “Time of Plenty.”  I’ve been thinking how this is a “time of plenty” for me.  Plenty of beautiful fabrics, plenty of time to sew since my retirement, plenty of inspiration from numerous sources, plenty of support from family and friends, and overall good health.   I am so grateful for this and my hope is that, given climate change and the current political situation, we are not heading into a “time of deprivation.”  We all need to do what we can to prevent that.

I had several pieces of floral fabrics with much lighter backgrounds that I had pulled for possible use in the above project, but they didn’t get chosen.  I felt an “itch” to use them and to keep doing some piecing with this group of fabrics so I am making half square triangles without having a final plan yet on how they will be used, though it will definitely be a different project:

I’m actually thinking the entire center of the quilt could be 2 1/2 inch half square triangles with a simple vine appliqué border.  Very simple.  Not every piece has to be complex!

The center of “Summer Breeze” is 99% quilted and I have been thinking, thinking, thinking over the past few weeks about how to quilt the borders.

There are 4 different borders on the quilt and they are added in a “staggered” way.  I looked at all kinds of resources – books on Sashiko, magazines, books on design, including how to depict wind, etc. and nothing seemed just right.  I had to keep in mind the center is all circles.  I didn’t want circles for the borders.  I was almost ready to go with long rows of straight lines when I came across this picture in one of my Quilts Japan magazines:

This will be perfect!  It’s kind of a modified Baptist Fan design.  I love the feathers in there, but I won’t do that for my quilt because I don’t think it will show up on the busy background fabric.  Feels good to have a plan for the border!!!

“We Are Stardust” is home safely from the Vermont Quilt Festival.  They have 3 judges and each judge individually scores each quilt on a 100 point system, then the scores are added and divided by 3 for the final score.  My final score was 97!  I’m happy with that!  However, if I had just had one more point I would have gotten a purple “Exceptional Merit” ribbon instead of a blue ribbon.  I’m not complaining though!  Always happy to get a blue at Vermont.  My 3 scores were 95, 97, and 100!  Can’t believe I got a score of 100 from one of the judges!!  The comments were all positive.  A point was taken off here and there by 2 of the judges with no specific explanation, but they were all in the “workmanship” category except for one point off on the “visual impact.”  I’m guessing it’s because some of my points didn’t come out perfectly in the piecing and some of the quilting stitches weren’t even because there were areas of thick seams to go through in places and there was some chintz in the quilt which is hard to quilt through.   Of course I got one point off for my binding – I always do!   I don’t think taking those points off was unreasonable and am happy with my scores!   No complaints!

I promise to share a bunch more pictures from the Vermont Festival in my next post!  Have a wonderful 4th of July (a good holiday to think about how we can best preserve our democracy in these troubling times) and stay cool!

Be kind, be grateful, and cherish each day,  Gladi

June 28, 2018: More Pictures from the Vermont Quilt Festival

Greetings!  Today I’m sharing some more quilts from the Vermont Quilt Festival – full shots with some close-ups.  Click on the pics to enlarge and enjoy the details!

First up is my friend Wendy Reed’s “Pot Luck.”  I saw this quilt at the Maine show last summer and was really glad to get another look at it as there is so much to see in it!  Wendy is known for making quilts via the “pot holder” method in which each block is bound and quilted separately and then sewn together.  The backs of the quilts are often interesting too!  And she cleverly finds “food related” titles for most of her quilts!  Her workmanship is outstanding!

This next quilt won the award for best quilt entry from outside the USA.  This is a wonderfully original quilt with excellent machine quilting:

This next quilt is a very traditional 4-block quilt with lovely appliqué.  I’ve always loved this particular block and have been tempted to make it some day.  I love the clamshell type border around each block and love the border fabric which was her inspiration:

The next quilt was wild!! It had wonderful embellishments and great use of color and won one of the Judge’s Choice ribbons:

This next quilt was also a Judge’s Choice winner and I loved it!!!  Wonderful use of more pastel color range, re-use of shirts, and loved the EPP “flower garden” block design:

I loved the colors in this next one – perfect for showing off the lone star design:

Hope Johnson has been making quilts with “Bees” for many years and I always look forward to seeing her newest one at the Vermont Festival.  This one is really colorful!  I like how she got the shaded effect by appliquéing the white areas on the circles:

That’s all for today!  There are many more to come so stay tuned.  I also want to thank the several bloggers who have featured “We Are Stardust” on their  blogs and said such nice things!!!  Positive feedback from my fellow passionate quilt makers really gives me energy and keeps me creating – many, many thanks!!!!

And I also want to thank Barbara Brackman again for her “Stars in A Time Warp” quit along in 2015 that inspired me to make “We Are Stardust”  – thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Be kind, be grateful, and cherish each day,   Gladi


June 24, 2018: “We Are Stardust” wins “Best Bed Quilt” at the Vermont Quilt Festival!; pictures of 4 of the top winners at the show

Greetings!  “We Are Stardust” was chosen as the “Best Bed Quilt” at the Vermont Quilt Festival!!!

I was very happy with how the quilt was displayed – it had plenty of light that really highlighted the hand quilting.  Happy with the blue ribbon, too!!  Of course, I won’t see the judges’ scores and comments until my quilt arrives home some time later this week.  I’ll share with you in another post.

At the show I had the great pleasure of meeting up with Christine Wickert and Bobbie Korengold, two of my favorite quilters!!!!  I first met Christine at Vermont 2 years ago and Bobbie last year, when all 3 of us had lunch together.  We three got together again this year and it was the highlight of my day.  Bobbie  won Best of Show for the second year in a row!!!  Christine (who has won BOS at Vermont 3 times!!!) won Best Appliqué:

These were my two favorite quilts in the show.  Both were gorgeous, entirely hand made, and exhibited outstanding workmanship!  It was so wonderful to talk with each one about her process  while making her quilt.  Each one faced some significant challenges as she made her quilt and these quilts show that each one is a top notch PROBLEM SOLVER!  Both quilts are “one of a kind.”  Bobbie’s quilt was inspired by  oriental designs from various sources, but she drew and adapted her own patterns and created her own overall design.  Christine’s quilt was adapted from a Kaffe  pattern which she resized and to which she added her own original border edge treatment and sashing, used a totally different color palette, and made it ENTIRELY IN SILK!!!   What a joy to spend some time with these talented and wonderful women!!!!   I have a lot of close-up shots from both these quilts – please click on the pictures to see the beautiful details!!!  Both quilts have wonderful embroidery embellishment.  Both Bobbie and Christine and known in the quilting world for their fabulous hand appliqué and hand quilting.

Bobbie’s Best of Show quilt:

Christine’s “Best Applique” silk quilt .So sorry I didn’t get a closer picture of the whole quilt other than my pic with Christine above and I also realize I did not get closeups of the unique border edge treatment or one of the border baskets or a picture of her card – darn!   I was so preoccupied talking with Christine that I forgot to take enough pics!!  The quilt is called “Seeing is Beleafing.”  She always comes up with clever titles!!:

I always look forward to seeing a new Ann Feitelson quilt in Vermont.  This year as I neared the end of my viewing of the contest quilts, I hadn’t yet seen something by her and started to worry she hadn’t entered this year.  But as I rounded the corner to start on the last row of quilts, there it was!  I knew right away it was hers as she has a signature style.  This year she won a ribbon for Best Use of Color.  I love this quilt!!!!!

The last quilt I’m sharing with you today is the winner of the “Best Hand Quilting” award.  Megan’s hand quilting is right up there with the best I’ve seen – TINY stitches!!!  And this quilt was made of batiks which can be a bit tougher to hand quilt because of the close weave of the fabric.  But it’s not just the hand quilting that is outstanding – this quilt is visually captivating because of Megan’s choices of fabric and color to carry out her interesting design.  By the way, I almost missed noticing the black border on the quilt because of the black fabric the quilts were hanging against!!:

I’ll be sharing many more pictures in the next few posts.  I’m still “digesting” my overall thoughts about the show.  I think many of the top notch machine quilters seem to have abandoned the Vermont show and I suspect it may have to do with the fact that there are no monetary awards at Vermont and plenty of other competing shows out there.    I didn’t find the fabric selections at most of the vendors inspiring, but that could just be me.  There were only a couple of Baltimore Album style quilts.  Not much hand quilting, as usual these days.  Folks I talked with expressed “Judy Niemeyer quilt design fatigue.”    I still enjoyed the show  very much and am glad I went.

I am an avid reader and haven’t made a book recommendation on the blog in quite a while.  I now have a major recommendation:

For me to read a book it has to be WELL WRITTEN and INTERESTING.  This book is both, in fact, I found it fascinating.  I loved the “Little House” books when I read them as a kid.  This book beautifully describes the time period of the late 1800’s on the prairies and Laura’s family’s struggles to survive.  It  weaves the family’s personal history with the history of the country at that time together really well.  Of course, the story extends through the first half of the 20th century as well and there is a lot about Laura’s daughter, who was also a writer, and her relationship with her mother.  I highly recommend this book!

Be kind, be grateful, and cherish each day,  Gladi




June 18, 2018: Project updates and some “quilty” thoughts

Greetings!  This top center is all put together! (click on pics to enlarge):

I don’t mind sewing all the individual blocks together, but the long seams of all the long diagonal rows is a bit tedious….happy to have that part done!

I showed pictures to my grandson, Dmitri, and he is very happy that he will eventually receive this!  I gave him a choice of colors for the border – red, blue, green, or brown – and he chose red.  Yay!  That would have been my choice too.  Lord knows I have a ton of red fabrics in my stash, but only one piece that would be both right for this quilt and big enough.  I have it saved for something else, so I guess I’ll have to go shopping!

I’ve also been working on the appliqué for the newest project whose name hasn’t yet been determined – Spring Romance??????  Colors say spring to me and the flowers say romance, but not sure….   I am SO HAPPY that I decided on relatively simple appliqué and did not choose complex appliqué blocks that would have turned this project into a multi-year one!! This is block #3 (of nine):

And this continues to be in the hoop and worked on intermittently, esp. when the weather is cooler:

I have continued to work on my English Paper Pieced project off on and since last August.  It is my “go to” project when I travel and when I know I’m going to have some “dead time” that I need to fill.  I am adding the tan connecting pieces one by one to each hexagon star and when that is done I’ll be able to connect all the stars.  There are 11 rows and I am about half way through row 8 so making good progress!

Here are some of the stars spread out a bit so you can see how they will look together once I get to that step:

This is the project I’ll be taking with me to Vermont later this week when I attend the annual Vermont Quilt Festival.  Can’t wait!!!!  You know I’ll be posting lots of quilts from the show when I get back!

“Quilty Thoughts”:

Speaking of the Vermont Festival reminds me that I have had some issues with their judging system over the years – everyone gets “graded” on a 100 point system.  My main “beef” is giving an entry full credit for excellent design when someone else’s pattern is used.  I recently viewed on line the winners from the recent Quilt Canada show (you can google this and view the winners – well worth doing!!).  They have a separate category, “Quilts From Patterns, Books, and Workshops.”  I think this is a great idea for a national level show like this.  And it did look to me like all the winners in other categories were original designs.  Not sure if this would work so well for local or smaller shows where lots of the quilts might be in this category.  But I do feel strongly that original design/original artistry should be encouraged and recognized.

I have been aware for a while that research studies seem to be showing some solid evidence  that “sitting” for prolonged periods of time, regularly, can be detrimental to one’s health.  It seems to increase insulin resistance (which can lead to diabetes) and increase risk of heart disease (by adversely affecting the cells lining our blood vessels).   This has got me worried about all the time we quilters spend sitting, especially those of us who do hand work.  Hand quilting, hand appliqué, hand piecing are usually all done sitting.  Most folks sit using a domestic machine as well.

We all need to make sure we counter all this sitting with plenty of moving around, whether it is normal standing and walking or actual exercise (ideally both!) .  I also recommend standing for all cutting and ironing; DON’T set up your sewing area so that you can sit in front of your machine and swivel to cut and iron without getting up no matter how “efficient” that might seem!   Find a good balance and pay attention to how much time you’re sitting.  Of course, don’t forget that studies also show that quilting improves health by reducing stress!

Al and I have been spending time with the grandkids  and we recently attended Svetlana’s elementary school (4th grade) graduation:

I’m off to Vermont in 3 days!

Be kind, be grateful, and cherish each day,  Gladi

June 12: The “hand” of a quilt

Greetings!  I finished hand piecing the last lemoyne star block for the recently “unearthed” quilt top and have started piecing the blocks together into rows.  In the picture below all the blocks in the diagonal rows above the empty area are pieced together, but the rows are not joined together yet.  It’s going pretty quickly!:

Block examples:

I’ve noticed that the hand pieced blocks are very soft and flexible and the centers, where eight points come together, are softer and far less “lumpy” than they would be if I had machine pieced the blocks.  The blocks also seem to fit together more easily.

This started me thinking about the “hand” of a quilt – something almost no one talks about any more.  These blocks have a lighter, softer “hand” than machine pieced blocks.  The “hand” of a fabric refers to how it “feels”, i.e. its texture and “drapability”, it’s softness or coarseness.  This can also apply to quilts as well as individual fabrics.  The “hand” of a fabric is important if it’s going to be next to our skin for any length of time.

Completely hand made quilts – hand pieced/appliqued and hand quilted – generally have a softness and suppleness that machine made quilts can’t match.  And even if a quilt is machine pieced, but hand quilted it is generally softer and more flexible than machine quilted quilts.  A major reason for this is that more thread is used in machine stitches (top and bobbin stitches interlock) and the stitches are tighter.  When you cover a quilt with machine quilting, you lose some or often a lot of that “drapability” and softness that you get with hand stitching.

So -with machine quilting we’ve GAINED some things:  e.g. many wonderful completely machine made quilts, including wall quilts, art quilts with incredible quilting designs that can only be accomplished by machine.   With wall quilts the “hand” isn’t as important.  And the ability to get more done.

And with machine quilted functional bed, lap, and baby quilts, we’ve LOST that special soft “hand” that only hand work can provide.  C’est la vie.  I understand this because for all of us TIME is an issue.  My compromise is to machine piece, but try to hand quilt as many pieces as I can.  Just thought it important to acknowledge this LOSS!  And, by the way, I am machine piecing the blocks in this quilt together even though it’s going to be a bed quilt for my grandson.

Here’s the quilt I made several years ago for Dmitri when he was 7:

Time to replace it with a more “adult” quilt as he turns 14 in 3 months!!!!

I have the second Oak Leaf and Reel block made:

I plan to add embroidered veins in the leaves.

Hope you are all enjoying the lovely late spring weather!

Be kind, be grateful, and cherish each day,  Gladi


June 7, 2018: A “substantial” project unearthed

Greetings!  I’ve mentioned before that I tend to be a “finisher” and am not one to accumulate “UFO’s.”  I give a lot of thought to projects before I start in order to be quite sure that I want to be working with that particular design/idea and fabrics.  That doesn’t mean I’m immune to realizing after I start that I’ve made a mistake or immune to getting indefinitely sidetracked with other projects or immune to losing interest.  Those things just don’t happen that often.  When I read about quilt makers who have dozens and dozens of unfinished projects, I’m always amazed because that’s just not how I work.

When I started my recent  cleaning project, I was aware that I  had ONE rather “substantial” unfinished project that was going to see the light of day for the first time in years.  By substantial I mean that I thought there might be enough blocks to make a small bed quilt and I knew the lemoyne star blocks were all HAND PIECED.  Here’s what I found (click on pics to enlarge):

In 2002 I took a class on how to make these stars.  (You might notice that the star blocks have the same background fabric as my “Sweet Journeys” quilt!).  Then I got sidetracked with other projects!  Over the next couple years in which I probably hand pieced all of these stars, I was also working on other major projects – award winning quilts like “Keeping Autumn With Me”  for example – and then I just never got back to it.  I ended up preferring to work with other style fabrics and other designs.  I’ve known it’s been lurking in the back of the closet.  I had other strips of fabric cut and partial pieces done for more stars:

And there’s one block that’s almost done which I will need to finish for the one block missing in the lower right corner:

I studied the pieces on the design wall for a few days to decide if I want to finish this, and, if so,  did I want to keep the same alternating plain pieces of fabrics between the stars, did I want to keep this setting, this size?????  This was the time to make changes if I was going to….  I decided to keep this as is, same size, and finish with darker setting triangles and add simple borders to enlarge to twin bed size.  I think it will be a present for my 13 y.o. grandson.  I made him an appliquéd “cat” quilt when he was 7 and I think he’s outgrown it.  This should be a nice replacement!

When I first started to make quilts, I bought 3 basic quilting books so I could teach myself how to quilt.  This Fons and Porter book was one of them:

There is a wonderful “chart” in this book that tells you what size to cut setting trianges and corner blocks for blocks set “on point” depending on the size of the finished blocks in the quilt.  There are ways to figure this out and I’m good at math and can do this if I have to (and have done it!), but the chart is really handy is you just want the answer for typical sized blocks:

I used to chart to tell me what size pieces of fabric I needed to cut for the setting and corner triangles for this quilt.  Quarter square triangles, of course, for the setting triangles because you don’t want bias edges on the outside.  Half square triangles for the corners.  Cutting these was easy and here is the quilt center (sans the one block I still have to finish piecing):

I will soon start sewing the pieces together and will be thinking about possibly adding something at the top and bottom to make it a larger rectangle before adding the final border or borders.  I will send it out to be long arm quilted.  Oh…I just realized I will also need to figure out a backing for it!  I may use up stash and cut and piece large squares together.

I found one other project that I’m debating about finishing.  It’s a small wall quilt made around the same time – 2002ish – with fabric that I hand painted when I took a class on painting fabric.

This just needs to be layered and quilted – definitely machine quilting.  It doesn’t really fit in my house as a wall quilt.  I may see if my daughter or son or grandkids want it or donate it to my guild’s penny sale….

Be kind, be grateful, and cherish each day,  Gladi





June 2, 2018: “Problem” solving – design and construction considerations

Greetings!  Since deciding a few weeks ago that I wanted to have appliqué blocks alternating with pieced blocks in the new project, I have been thinking, thinking, thinking….about what design(s) and what background(s) to use.  I’ve looked through many of my books and magazines for inspiration.  I’ve studied how the pieced blocks look.  I’ve put up different background fabrics.

I drew rough sketches of a couple of flower pot ideas:

Then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I don’t want this project to be a multi-year one and if I choose a complicated appliqué pattern that is what will happen.  I decided I wanted a simpler appliqué design for “construction” purposes and I also was thinking that simpler would  go better with the pieced blocks.

One of the last things I do before going to bed ( although I’m an avid reader, I don’t read  books in bed) is look through old quilting magazines or quilt books.  Looking at pictures is about all my brain can handle at that point!!!  I happened to be looking through some old Quilters Newsletters and came across this from 1999:

I love the oak leaf and reel block and realized this could be a good fit for the new project!!!  Using their paper cutting technique and designing my own leaves to the right size, I drafted a block and cut out some pieces to make a mock block to see how it would look:

The pieces were lost on that printed background.  It was time to try something that reads more solid:

Much much better, but the background is a bit too light.  I went to my stash and pulled some pieces that might work:

Decided to try the piece on the far right

Much better!!!!  I don’t know if you can tell based on the pictures as it can be hard to capture correct coloring sometimes with the camera, but this fabric works!!  I proceeded to cut out some more mock pieces in other colors to make sure I could make the 9 appliqué blocks in different colors:

Yes!  Other colors are fine.  I’m now making templates and cutting pieces for the first couple blocks.  It’ll take me a while to get the 9 blocks done, especially with all the inner curves on the oak leaves, but not as much time as it would have had I chosen to do complicated flower pots!  I’m already thinking ahead to the 12 setting triangles – will I do half oak leaf and reel blocks or something else?   Maybe just the printed background with no appliqué???  Plenty of time to think about that.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making a quilt from a kit or pattern.  But, for the most part,  I enjoy the problem solving challenges of creating my own designs and figuring out how to construct them.  There’s a really special feeling when you end of up with a one-of-a-kind pieces that expresses your own artistic vision.  I encourage everyone to at least try it!!!

Be kind, be grateful, and cherish each day,   Gladi