Friday, June 30, 2006

What's In a Name

While blog hopping the other day I got lost.
I went from Pieces of Time to Pieces from My Scrapbag to Mismatched Quilter to Going to Pieces. At that point I couldn’t remember where I’d been and who I’d read!! This blog leads to that blog, which leads to this external site, which leads back to this blog. It becomes a labyrinth. The lines blur because pretty much all the blogs I read are by quilters, drawn to color, fabric, patterns, fabric, ideas, projects and… did I mention fabric? After Bonnie from Quiltville visited her friend in Holland she said, “Fabric is the universal language among quilters.” *Going * It’s so true.

I have not visited any sites - blogs or otherwise - that call themselves Fabric Whore or Yarn Harlot. Who would want to refer to themselves by such a title? I’m not a prude, but pleeze, have some decency, have some self respect. I may dream in color, long for more time to draft, plan, sew and fondle fabric, but I hope I never prostitute myself for the craft.😊

I’ve been in a quilt mini-group for about five years. The members were originally all from the local quilt guild. Some have dropped out and others have been invited to join as time has gone on, but we’re always around eight in number, give or take a few. We meet once a month and take turns meeting in each others homes to sew, talk and of course eat. I love this group of women. We’re all varied in ages, years at quilting and the type of quilts we enjoy making. But we all love color, fabric, design and sharing with others who enjoy the same. But we didn’t have a name for the first two year, just ‘mini-group.’

The first time I asked the group what we’d like to call ourselves we tossed ideas around; The Pinheads, The Sew n Sews, Stitch n Chat. But we never really hit on a name that stuck. A lot of quilt mini-groups have fun, interesting names; The Pointless Sisters, The Bag Ladies, The Quilt til You Wilt-ers. I thought it would be fun to have a catchy name, something that made you smile and made you think of quilting when you heard it. The second time I asked the group about a name, we brain-stormed, we thought of quilt block names that might work, we considered “Hens and Chicks”… but that didn’t really fly (oooo, bad pun, sorry). “Corn and Beans”? Well who was the corn and no one wanted to be the beans! So the naming effort fizzled yet again. The third time I asked the group about a name, one of the women finally said, “What’s the big deal? Why do we need a name anyway. So What?” I said, “THAT’S IT! Sew What!!” And it stuck. We’ve been the Sew What’s ever since.

Now I think we need to come up with a logo.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

More Pieces From the Past

And since I showed you the before pictures of those Nine patches, I thought I'd share another set of before and after photos.

I found this top at an antique and collectibles show in Santa Rosa in 1992. It had those wonderful cadet blues, double pinks and old tyme shirting prints that I like. The piecework was poor and it didn't lay flat to save it's life, but I saw the potential in it and offered the vendor $15.00.
I took the entire top apart and decided to make four inch Double X blocks using the blues and shirting prints. Even with mixing and matching the prints, it was a stretch to make the four inch blocks. I made a half a dozen blocks and was stopped. No more blues worth working with. I scoured flea markets and collectible shops. This was before the internet and finding additional fabric was a challenge. About nine months after I started I was able to barter for about a dozen six inch squares of double blue and cadet blue from a quilt guild member who'd bought a stack of squares from an antique dealer in Illinois. She admired the concept of my quilt and told me she'd share her fabric squares in exchange for my piecing a few blocks for her.

Because I was working from six inch squares and two by four inch bricks of fabric I sometimes had to piece the pieces. Progress was slow and I bogged down. After it sat untouched for six months or so I asked my Round Robin group if they'd be willing to piece blocks for me. I pre-cut the blocks and sent out six kits. Each member, located in six different states throughout the US, pieced a Double X block and a signature block that I pieced into the back.
Once the blocks were done I decided I' set it together with unbleached muslin. I was visiting my quilty friend Karen and showed her the completed blocks. She lite up and said, "Hold on. Let me show you something." She pulled out a cardboard box of vintage remnants and cut-aways that she'd been sitting on and we rummaged through that together. It was full of prints that were mostly from the 1930's, but as we got down to the bottom there was the perfect shirting print; and there was a large (relatively) chunk of it. It was just what was needed for the set squares. The only fabrics that are reproduction are the inner and outer borders.

I hand quilted it in an uneven plaid and embroidered my signature and the date on the back, thinking again of Wynn Reddall's admonishment to label all my quilts so that some historian someday in the future wouldn't be confused by the look and date of my 'vintage' quilts.

It hangs on the kitchen wall a few months out of each year. It reminds me of how collective quilt making can be. When people ask me, "Where did you get those fabrics?!" I smile and say, "I had to beg, borrow and buy them." :D

Monday, June 26, 2006

Pieces of the Past

On the way home from singing during the first service at Church I saw this sign:

I practically did a U-turn in the street. The road wound down through vineyards, around a bend or two and through a ranch gate with the name Crows Roost hanging from the top. Hmmm... I would've named it Crows Nest or Ravens Roost, but that's just me.

The content of the sale was displayed in an open sided barn, spread out on tables and on planks laid across sawhorses. There was the usual collection of the flotsam and jetsam of a person's life that you usually see at garage sales; the kitchen utensil drawer and kitchen cabinet bric-a-brac, the health and beauty aids corner, the old books, LP's, eight-tracks and miscellaneous entertainment items. Nothing very interesting really. Though the prices were attractive.

As I was browsing the contents of what must've been a drawer from the kitchen I came across a very black pair of scissors with an ornate handle. It was obvious the handles were sterling silver and would probably polish up nicely. The tool had one blade and one flat, more like a pair of nippers than shears. I had no idea what they were used for, or what /I/ would use them for, but they were just so pretty.

I offered the woman a dollar and she said "Okay." I had a really nice time polishing them and wondering what they're used for. Now they hang in my sewing room ~~ Just because.

On the way home from singing at the second service I saw a tiny hand lettered sign that said, "Garage Sale" with a second line added below it: "Everything HALF off!" The day was warming up and it was already in the 90's at 11 am, so I figured they wanted to get done and get out of the heat.

This Garage sale was actually held in the garage. A collection that was obviously from an older person's home. The colored prints on the bed linens and the calico aprons, plus the titles on the hard bound books were the clues. There was a lot of Christmas stuff, which never interests me and the prices were high. But then I spotted a collection of old tyme quilt blocks! I got so excited. They were in with the white elephant stuff, under some mixing bowls... no price. That either meant they wanted more than I could spring for, or they didn't know what they had. The piecework was by hand, very poorly done, but the fabrics were wonderful! Old browns, turkey reds and indigo blues. Nine patches, strip pieced blocks and a half finished log cabin block. There were dozens of Nine patches. I bet I could rework them.

I made small talk with the three women at the table. They were in their 60's and these were their mother's things. I made comments about the costume jewelry on the table by the cash box, I asked how long they'd lived in Ukiah Valley, I enjoyed their stories. Finally I said, "Will you take two bucks for these?" "Sure." (!) I couldn't believe it.

Now granted these colors don't appeal to everybody. I mean, why would you want to work with these drab somber colors when you can go to the local fabric store or quilt shop and buy new yardage in any color or amount you want? But it's the feeling that I'm touching history that gets to me.

Bless her heart, whoever she was. The hand stitching on the piecework is so bad. There's no attention paid to direction or grain, no consistency of seam allowance, no fine cotton thread used here, but coarse, black buttonhole twist weight. But somebody, somewhere once sat down and stitched these pieces together using what she had.

My experience with old quilts told me these pieces might be circa 1880. So I went to my trusty Dating Fabrics: A Color Guide and took a look. Scrappy utility quilts usually span many years of fabric. Some of the browns and turkey reds definitely place these blocks in the last quarter of the previous century. But the double blues and some of the pinks bring it into the first quarter of the last century. The fact that there are black prints also lead me to think it's more likely to be circa 1910 than 1880. But even then, the fabrics are approximately 90 years old.

There are 40-six inch Nine patches. Most of them are threaded on a string to keep them together. I've read about doing that, but never bothered because I have boxes, bags and bins to put my patchwork in. But in 1910, this woman didn't have Ziploc or Sterilite.

I've begun reverse engineering the blocks. I don't feel guilty about undoing the work. The stitching is irregular, the seams are puckered and the blocks don't lay flat, not a single one. Pretty soon I'll have enough vintage fabric to recreate this patchwork. It'll feel like I knew the woman that made these, because when you undo someone's work, you get a chance to wonder about them. What did she think about as she worked on these blocks? What did she dream about? I bet she wasn't that different from me in some ways. She had hopes and disappointments. Her life had its' ups and downs. And in this we have become sister quilters.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Seasonal Quilts

In one corner of my kitchen I hang a series of quilts. Not a series like Artists make, where they explore a theme in color and design; but a group of wall-sized quilts that I've made through the years that I rotate throughout the seasons.

This is the quilt I hang during the winter months. It has wonderful subtle colors, brick red and cadet blue, black and teddy bear brown. It's made from reproduction fabrics designed to represent the turn of the 19th century. I made it in 1992 when reproductions were relatively new on the market. Judi Rothermel and Harriet Hargraves and the Smithsonian were not yet in the business of making reproduction fabrics. I hand quilted it in straight rows because I wanted to mirror the utility quilt look of the era.

The biggest compliment I ever received on one of my quilts was on this one. It came from the Santa Rosa Quilt Guild's self-taught Quilt historian, Wyn Reddall. She was the woman that people went to when they wanted an old quilt to be dated. She could look at the prints, the colors used and the style of construction and give you a circa date as good as the best of 'em.

I was showing the quilt to my friend before the meeting had started and Wyn came over all excited, "Where did you GET that quilt?" "What do you mean, where'd I get it? I made it..." The look of confusion on her face spoke volumes. "You MADE this?" "Uh-huh..." Once she understood that it wasn't a genuine vintage quilt she pointedly said, "Well you be sure and put a label on that quilt." She was concerned that it might confuse the quilt historians at some point in the future. 😊
This is the quilt I hang during the early summer. I made it for Frank for Father's Day in 2003. Completely surprised him! I hang it in June and July so it's up for Independence Day.

I've had a love affair with Mariner's Compass for over twenty years, so a few summers ago when I found myself between jobs with time on my hands, I decided to attempt one. I was just going to test the freezer paper method that Judy Mathieson has perfected and I didn't have any plans for the thing... in case it didn't turn out. Well it did turn out and that led to all sorts of creative fabric choices and solutions because I'd started with small bits of fabric from my stash. I had it commercially quilted. A first for me because I'd been such a purist up till then. Here's a close-up of the stippling and compass design element that Sharon the quilter created for me.

I label all my quilts and have even before Wyn took me to task about labeling my Reproduction Sawtooth Star Quilt. But I don't hand embroider them anymore. I've moved on to laser-jet printed, hand applique'd.
  When August comes I'll change the quilts again. Maybe I'll remember to blog about that change too. It's interesting to see the evolution of my construction techniques between the Reproduction quilt in '92 and the Mariner's Compass in '03. I guess this is more than just a changing of the seasonal quilts, this is a chronicle of my quilting methods.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Back From the Pacific Northwest

Thank heavens for vacations! Just got back from five days in northeast Washington visiting family and seeing the sites. I won't include the family photos of the graduation, the BBQ, and the gift opening, etc. But the following is a nice representation of our trip to Seattle and the famous Pikes Place open air market. Everything from fish to flowers, produce to pottery. At first I felt just like I was in San Francisco touring the shops at Pier 39 or Fisherman's wharf; the similarities were striking. But the Space Needle on the tee-shirts and the plethora of Starbucks Coffee shops eventually had an impact on my brain. Oh yeah... I'm not in my California, I'm hours away from home, and there's no TransAmerica building in sight.

The South End
Art and LoversFacing South
Horsing Around Costumer
Tom the Costumer - Make a wish...
Chillis on a String

The produce was a big draw. The market displays were cheery and colorful, but I thought the prices were really high. Then again, California produce is shipped nation wide. I bet it's really hard to grow oranges and grapes and kiwis in the cool, often foggy climate of Washington.

This is actually a food. I think they said it's in the cauliflower family, but it looks like a sea creature to me.

But the flowers! Now THAT was something to see. The row of flower vendors went on and on and on. The colors, the size of the blossoms and the variety of bouquets ~ WONDERFUL. I can't grow a nastursium to save my life, too dry in my town.

Ferry Docking

And what would this brief photo tour be without a picture of the Needle and Mt Rainier in the distant background? I had to rob this photo from another blog (thank you fellow blogster). The day I was there it was so damp and cold you couldn't see that far. But we knew it was there.

My Weather Pixie says it's 95 degrees in my town. The five day forecast says it should reach 107 by the weekend. But I'm glad for the heat. This California girl was cold for five days in that state. It's lush and green, sure. But I'll take the dry, summer time, anytime.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Thoughts While Watching the Day Go

It's been so slow at work lately, I've been imitating the Maytag man. You know, staring blankly into space, chin in hand, elbow on knee. It's a funny thing about slow days at work; while most of the organization has MORE than enough to do and would give anything to have some down time, I putter my way through the day. Boredom creeps in, then apathy, then depression - if I'm not careful. I read this in the 7th-8th grade classroom on campus this morning. There is often really neat, inspirational posters and quotes on the classroom walls. When do we  stop needing that sort of food for thought? Never I think. Responsibility requires action. Responsibility is the active side of morality. Doing what I should do. Doing what I said I would do. What is best for everybody. Especially the one thing I should be doing right now. Work's been a bear. I wish more people I knew (my supervisor) would embrace these basic thoughts; thoughts that my husband and I tried to instill in our sons as they were growing up. And now that they're on their own, living and working out in the world, they comment and complain about the lack of decency, follow-through and responsibility they see among most of their friends/peers. Seek Truth. Embrace Honesty. Test all things. Hold on to what is good.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Last night we went to the Ukiah Summer Concert in the Park kick-off concert. Usually Todd Grove park is the best place to be on a hot summer evening, with the strong coastal wind blowing in through the divide. But this time it wasn't hot. It didn't feel like summer, it was overcast and downright cool.
But that didn't stop us from enjoying the music and the people watching and the talking-really-loud-at-each-other that you have to do to be heard while trying to visit during the music. We heard Leon Russell, still playin' out his life on stages, with ten thousand people watching. One of our friends had graduated HS with him and from that we were trying to figure out how old he is. I couldn't see the stage at that point and asked what he looked like. Well this is what he looked like, only with a big cowboy hat atop all that snowy hair. Everyone has to have a look I suppose, but he looked like a spook. And you didn't need really cheap sunglasses on last night, it was overcast like I said. Maybe eventually the hot-dry-sunny summer weather we all usually complain about will come to Ukiah. It's mid-June for Cryin' out loud! I don't want to have to huddle under a blanket at the summer concert. I want to wear a tank top and flip flops and eat ice cream on a stick. Enough of this grey nothing that's been hovering over the valley off and on for weeks. Hey there Mr. Blue. It's so nice to be with you. Look around see what you do. Everybody smiles at you. Missing you, Leslie

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Sunny Quilt Setting

At my request, Frank made another virtual environment for one of my quilts; this time a wall hanging I call Summer's Heat.
I was recently showing a coworker and website consultant my blogspot and scrolled to the blue quilt that I call Reflections hanging in the grey castle room as I told her, "This a composite my husband and I created." "Wow! Where is THAT hanging? Is that room in your HOUSE?" "No, it's a virtual environment. My husband makes the rooms and I make the quilts." "Whoa..." It's fun to wow people in the business once in awhile.

They're Back!

Hey, Blogspot is back! Who woulda thought I would miss being able to blog? But I did. I could view my blog, I could blog hop, I could read other blogs, but I couldn't post. It was frustrating, like trying to reach a good friend by phone and constantly getting a busy signal. My 20-something sons have had on-line journals for years. Sometimes they write copious amounts, laying out their lives, thoughts, doubts and pursuits. When the server crashed at their site, there went all their posts, pictures and personal history. We talked about it, Hollin said it felt like he'd lost a part of himself, two years worth of writing *gone*. I knew what that felt like having lost months of daily journalling due to a hard drive failure on my home computer. Five years ago, the idea of writing for the www to read struck me as really odd. I journalled for me, myself alone and that made it a safe haven to delve and explore the hard stuff, the darker side of my thought and feelings. I didn't want that read! But here I am, blogging. When I told Nathan, my oldest son that I had a blog he said he was set back. Mom has a blog?? He said he didn't know how he felt about that. And we talked about what the difference between a Blog and an on-line journal is. They are not mutually exclusive. A blog can be an on-line journal, but I don't see many on-line journals being used as blogs. He decided that Blogs are mostly topical. Yeah, mostly... So when a big part of Blogspot was inaccessible for two days PST, I thought about the way I'm creating my posts in their editor, uploading my photos to their site and not keeping copies. Today I'm writing in Word, saving locally, pasting to the editor and ftp-ing my photos. What if Blogspot's image server goes belly up? Think about all the blank Blogspots in the world that would create. I largely enjoy the blogs I read because of the wonderful photo illustrations that are included. It wouldn't be nearly as interesting to sit and read Patty in Texas as she rambles or Bonnie in South Carolina as she talks about her quilts. Every cloud has a silver lining. Down time on Blogspot has encouraged me to think about the way I post.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Weekend Get Away

Friday I cut outa work early and headed to Sebastopol and a visit with my quilty friend Karen. We’ve known each other for 18 years, been members of the Santa Rosa Quilt Guild together, made Friendship blocks for each other, raised our kids together, shared through all the graduations, a wedding, growing pains and the changes that life brings our way. We only live an hour and a half away from each another, but we only seem to manage to get together two or three times a year. Not NEARLY enough! But one of the wonderful things about visiting together, is that we always pick right up where we left off as if no time has passed. We sat and talked about family news before dinner. After dinner we had a lengthy show and tell. I could see how my tastes have changed over the years as I showed Karen the projects I’m working on now and the methods I’ve chosen to use. We talked about the evolution of quilt-making that we’ve noticed during the past two decades; how you can now buy every fabric type, style or theme imaginable. “Whatever happened to making a quilt because you wanted to use what you had? Or you worked with the colors you did because they said what you wanted to? Now the books and magazines show you a quilt and promote the theme fabric to make it. Where’s the fun in that?”
Saturday we attended the Moonlight Quilters of Sonoma County annual quilt show. Always a feast for the eyes! Sometimes the quilts, colors and vendors can be a bit overwhelming, if you don’t break up the browsing. Once we paid our admission fee we put our blinders on and made a dash to the back of the hall to visit Vivica’s Things vendor booth and transact a little business. I sold Vivica 40 four inch strip pieced blocks that were hand stitched down to newspaper dated 1931. She sold me some prime quilt-able cotton for my stash – in a color I don’t usually collect – and we about broke even. The best way to shop, don’t you think? The Moonlight Quilters show is always fun for me because I get to run into so many people I knew when I lived in Santa Rosa. It’s been thirteen years since I lived and quilted in Sonoma County, but I am fondly remembered it seems. It never hurts anyone’s feelings to hear, “Leslie! Why you look great. You haven’t changed a bit!” We swap news, talk about the children – or grandchildren and what project we’re working on now. Quilters as a rule seem to be really warm, friendly people. And I don’t just say that because I’m a quilter.
The featured artist was Nancy Brown from Oakland, CA and MAN what eye popping stuff! She machine pieces her backgrounds, hand applique’s and hand quilts her quilts. When I looked at any ONE quilt I was overwhelmed by the time investment I saw. The three dimensional look she achieves with her reverse applique’ and multi-layering technique is awe-some, in the true sense of the word.
 Karen and I broke for lunch at the Great China restaurant on Farmer’s Lane, then tooled north to Teddy Bear Quilts for another ‘hearty browse’. While I was in the back of the store I heard this full-bodied, boisterous laugh and thought, “That sounds familiar.” As I worked my way to the front of the store I glanced at the woman with the notable laugh; didn’t recognize her. But as she talked and laughed again… it was unmistakable. I turned and said, “Sue Gowan??” “Yeah? Oh, I KNOW you!” Sue lives in Ft. Bragg and we’d met last year at a Quilt Retreat on the coast. I told her I recognized her because of her laugh… which caused her to laugh again… and tell me she’s been told that many time. Even though Santa Rosa is well on it’s way to being considered a city, especially compared to the small town I live in, it’s wonderful to visit there and still find friends and quilters along the way.

Friday, June 02, 2006

More from the photo studio

Most of the time when I photograph my quilts, I tack them up on the side of the shed out back and call it good. I like the rustic backdrop the shed gives. Once in awhile the quilt is larger than the shed and I have to tack it to the side of our biege house, but that's only happened twice.

Other times Frank sets up the quilt with elements and props chosen to feature the quilt's colors to their best advantage. This first quilt is a Challenge wall hanging I did with the Santa Rosa Quilt Guild over a dozen years ago. Like the color of the 'wine' in the glass?

This one was taken in the summer of... 2003. We were vacationing with my Mom from New England and my brother and his family from Washington state and they chose a summer rental in Guerneville. This is the dinner table set for the six of us.

Frank photographed The Baltimore Album Quilt one day while I was at work. It was the picture on my computer desktop when I got home and I have to say I was thrilled! It had taken 14 years to get this quilt hand quilted, between the repeditive motion injury which resulted in a sprained wrist, forearm and tricep... and spending a lot of time waiting for me to get back to it, I didn't really see this quilt anymore. I'd already lived with it for over a decade. But when I saw this image on my computer screen it was like seeing it with fresh eyes; like a page out of a magazine. What a beautiful quilt! Now that was fun...

After a quilt's finished and starts getting used, it becomes part of my family; familiar, loved, comfortable. But every once in awhile I'll be laying in bed daydreaming, or waking up slowly and I'll look at the current quilt on the bed and think, "I did that??" I can remember the time and maybe the frustration the process took... but mostly I don't. I look at the colors, the prints that are like old friends and enjoy the work of my hands.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Ever notice how words change with time?

We still say the sun rises and sets, but we know we’re the ones moving around the sun and not the other way around

Or advertisements that tell you to ‘dial this number’. How many people do you know still own a rotary phone? We all know what is meant, but no one bothers to update the language. Maybe we should say “Touch this number” or “Enter these digits”. But that’s too technical sounding; just dial the phone, will ya?

If you think about it words are being created all the time. Should you come across a second hand Dictionary at a bargin price, look up the word “Glitch”, if it’s not in there, you don’t want that dictionary for anything more than a doorstop. The word came into use during the early space program and was in print-use in John Glenn's book We Seven in 1962.

Some newly created words only make sense because of our heavily computer reliant society. 20 years ago no one said things like ‘downloadable’ or ‘I ripped it from the web’ or ‘I’ll ghost it to my drive’. But then techspeak is probably in a class all by itself. Hey… when did ‘techspeak’ come into use? Well being in use is one thing, making it into Webster’s is something else entirely.

While reading Huckleberry Finn recently we enjoyed words like ‘truck’ and ‘poke’ as in, “Hey Finn, but all that truck in your poke and let’s get going.” Does anyone say truck or poke anymore? Maybe it’s a regional thing. Webster does say that poke is primarily southern or midland.

Many years ago we were hiking the trail toward Crater Lake in Oregon. My youngest son read a sign along the side of the trail and he read, “Shouting causes erosion.” Shouting causes erosion?? Are you sure? Well it turned out the sign said Short cutting Causes Erosion. Why he could read the word erosion at his young age and not short cutting, I don’t know to this day… but it stuck with us and when we hike together we still say – sometimes in hushed voices for affect, “Shouting causes erosion.”

Is this how new phrases get started, sometimes in error? Word myths. Like those that think Tee totaling is about Tea totaling, when the ‘T’ has to do with Temperance, as in abstaining from alcohol. There’s a whole book on the subject by David Wilson. I guess I’m not the only one that notices words and wonders about them.