Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Tattooed Quilter

My blog entries have been pretty mild as far as 'subversive stitchers' go. But let me raise the bar a bit with the lovely Karen McTavish of Duluth, Minnesota, who has a quilting technique named after her. Ever heard of McTavishing?

If you are into machine quilting, Karen and McTavishing are part of your experience. She invented the curling, waving form of machine filler stitch based upon the image of 'cartoon hair' -- don't think Betty Boop, think Brenda Starr with hair whipping out and curling around her fair face. Now take away the face and you have an idea of the origins of McTavishing. It doesn't just fill the space but gives the quilt a sense of movement as your gaze glides across its surface. It can be used in place of stippling or meandering designs. And looks beautiful on appliqued, pieced or wholecloth quilts, especially in conjunction with trapunto. Karen's gallery gives you superb examples of not only her skill, but of exquisite quilts.

Karen is making waves, garnering awards, and teaching others her techniques. She is causing movement within the quilt world with her innovative techniques and approach to quilting, raising it to an art form.

She has changed the image of quilters forever. Mention 'quilter' to the average guy on the street and he quickly envisioned white haired old lady with bun and Amish heritage. She wears an apron and cap, gathers around quilting frames with others of her kind and they discuss recipes and child raising while sticking little needles in and out and in and out of fabric. Even my own vision of 'quilter' turns more toward the image of Mom or Grandma. But one refreshing view of Karen and you'll never think of quilter quite the same. She is the biker chick with laughing eyes of quilting, and her 'needle' is the Harley Davidson of the quilting world.

She and her long-arm machine eat up the miles, travel down roads others have never traveled and feel the wind in her hair.... Well, you get the picture. One other thing you need to envision when thinking Karen McTavish: tattoos.

She translates her quilt designs into skin art. Now that's my idea of a subversive stitcher.

If you want to learn more about Karen's techniques with cloth, not skin, she has a new book out: Quilting for Show: A Practical Guide to Successful Competition Quilting is available. She has written several books. But it was her trivia game for quilters that caught my attention! Sew You Want to be a Quilter has a game board and uses colored spools of thread as game pieces. It comes with 500 cards filled with questions about what else, quilting! The players must travel to four quilting shops before they can win and all start out together at the gazebo. Answer questions correctly and advance the number of spaces decided by a throw of the dice. Informative and fun and something to do when not working on quilts. Or a great way to educate your family into the world of quilting. I want one! I want one!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Revving up for 2008

Have you made your list of New Year's Resolutions? Maybe finishing up what you started last year is at the top? Don't let that resolution keep you from starting something new! What techniques do you want to try in 2008? What quilt are you yearning to make? This is the year for experimentation, give yourself permission to get your hands dirty and to muck up a few projects before you get it right.

What's on your 'to make' list? Looking for ideas? Maybe block of the month sounds interesting? I loved the one Debbie Mumm put together for last year and here's one that kicks off the new year with a January flower motif from Quilt Design Wizard's website.

Maybe this is the year to start making journal quilts. A smaller version in which you can try your hand at new techniques that you've wanted to try, but was afraid to fail and ruin a big project. So these page sized projects can be just what you need to give yourself permission to try something new. And they fit together into a notebook so you can keep samples of various techniques and projects and inspirations. Or trade them, or enter them in contests.

Karey Bresenhan has put together a book, Creative Quilting: The Journal Quilt Project, to help you get started and of course it is available on Amazon.

My 'to make' list begins with: clean the 'crap', I mean 'craft' room, followed by 'buy a new sewing machine.' Yes, I'm still getting by with my 'vintage' 1970 Kenmore basic no-frills that I actually bought NEW in 1970. I've resigned myself that Santa is not bringing me the $5,000 Bernina I drooled over last summer.

But, once I get the sewing machine, I have a plan. It's called: Books on Tape quilting. I love the Diana Gabaldon series of books "Outlander" and Drums of Autumn".... and my dear husband bought me the first audio book. So, in order to listen to it, I need a sewing project to work on. It is that old 'blue collar' work ethic that says I can't just sit and listen, I must be DOING something.

Thus, I need a project and fast! I could go ahead and make the Christmas decoration that I never started. Hmmm. That might work. Maybe actually start cutting the fabric I bought almost two years ago for a quilt for my son and his wife. Now my other son is married and I need to make another quilt for them. What about one for our bed? And the guest room.... Pillows might be a good place to begin. I still have shams to make to match a window treatment. I've wanted to make something fowl -- as in chicken -- for the kitchen. We live in Oviedo, a place known for its free-range chickens that dominate the downtown shopping scene.

And I do live in Florida -- maybe a beach scene wall hanging or strip-pieced fish-shaped placemats. And I have been wanting to make a crazy quilt before I totally lose my mind.... Or maybe I've lost my mind and I'll try some Jacobean patterned applique or a Baltimore Album quilt. So many choices. I need to start just one.

What will you be doing in 2008? I'd love to see what you're working on.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Tiptoeing toward Christmas

It is the day.

I finally dragged out the decorations, turned on Christmas music and dressed the tree in a few garlands, ribbon, and ornaments. It looks quite festive.

I have great intentions of making a tree skirt. In fact there is one half made in my 'to be completed' pile. I believe it has been there for about five years. I look at it every year and somehow never get around to finishing it. I've packed it up and moved it, but can't quite seem to find the time to finish it. Maybe for next year....

While setting knick-knacks around the house, positioning our stuffed reindeer family, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, the nativity set, and Santa and reindeer, I kept wondering what I'd use at the base of the tree. Then inspiration struck.

Another antique quilt. If you'll recall my last blog discussed the crazy quilt that now covers the table near my husband's chair -- by the way so far nothing has been broken. Whew!

I keep my antique quilts packed away all year. Can't really enjoy them very much that way. They aren't heirloom quality, they are sentimental quality. I remember sleeping under the flower garden quilt that Mom had made before she was married.

She may have worked on that while trying not to worry about the Great Depression that settled on the land while she was graduating from high school. She may have stitched those hexagons together around the happy yellow centers as her parents were packing their things to move from the farm that the bank had repossessed.... But my memories of the quilt include only good times, happy dreams of a young girl.

So this year that worn, but still colorful quilt, encircles the base of my now decorated Christmas tree. A few presents lay atop it already. And I wouldn't be surprised if before the evening is over, three cats will have staked out a snoozing spot on it.

Yes it is an antique, but more than that, it is a link to family. And this year, I need all of the links I can forge.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas -- something old, something new....

It has been a bah-humbug kind of year. Where normally we're decorating as soon as the lethargy from Thanksgiving turkey lifts, I'm just today getting the tree put together and standing it in front of the window. No decorations on it, yet, but the lights work.

One of man's best inventions -- the artificial tree with lights already on it. We could have bypassed all of those years of Derrol struggling with lights and then lamenting "when one goes out they all go out." Of course my favorite bubble lights are no longer part of our tradition. Too many years of trying to get those little suckers to stand upright and bubble...we gave up. Can you even buy them any more?

Now it is artificial all the way. We even invested in one of those fiber optic trees -- almost as good as bubble lights. And that is where my something old, something new comes together. This year I'm feeling adventurous. My husband, the clutz when it comes to breakables, makes it necessary to put all breakable decorations in safe places. Long before children I was 'Derrol' proofing the house. But this year on a table in the same room with my husband's favorite chair situated strategically across from the television, I am placing breakables.

The lovely white and gold gilt ceramic set of carolers and Christmas trees that my mother-in-law gave us is sitting beneath the fiber optic tree (a short three footer). The whole arrangement is resting on the antique crazy quilt my great-grandmother made. The carolers in their Victorian coats and hats, stand beneath a Victorian style street light. The quilt, a pattern from the Victorian era fits perfectly with the setting and even seems to embrace the new fiber optic technology. Wouldn't great grandma be surprised at that. When she was decorating trees, they still used candles -- real candles.

It just occurred to me that my great-grandmother would have been making this quilt, sewing the stitches, planning the squares, collecting the fabric, embroidering the designs during that pre-1900 era. That's goosebump worthy. Just think, a quilt has been around to see history made from pre-Civil War times. It is older than the automobile....what stories it could tell. I wish great-grandma was here to tell me why she chose the motifs she did and who the initials stand for and what those people mean to her. So much history in a quilt.

Maybe it was a Christmas gift? Maybe it is decorated with memories from her own Christmases. But for this year, the quilt, the carolers, even the little fiber optic tree come together to make a Christmas memory for us. The room is full of memories and family, even though we're miles from those we love.

By the same token I'll drag out the Christmas stockings -- made when our children were little and full of Christmas awe and hope.

Maybe with all of these old things, something new will develop and I can find my way past bah-humbug and embrace that Christmas spirit once again.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Log Cabin Christmas

People who swear they know nothing about quilts will often recognize the old standard: The Log Cabin quilt. And it is a pattern recognized around the world. The quilt speaks of home and hearth, farming furrows, barn raisings, simpler times that revolved around family and home. The traditional block begins with a red center block to represent the hearth of the home or heart of the family.

My sons slept for several years under log cabin quilts made using Eleanor Burns 'Quilt-in-a-Day' directions. One of those twin-sized quilts made the trip with us to Florida and each time I see it, I think of Mom spending hours and hours quilting in the ditch by hand. I believe she vowed NEVER to do that again. We used the Sunshine and Shadow layout for their quilts, but there are so many variations.

By varying the color or the width of the strips you can change the entire look of the pattern. Variations include furrows, diamonds, court house steps, pinwheels, barn raising, sunshine and shadows, well, there seem to be an infinite way of organizing the pieces in a log cabin quilt.

I particularly like this pattern using a pinwheel version of the Log Cabin pattern for a Star of Wonder Christmas wall hanging featured on McCall's website. Directions for making this quilt are included at this site.

The Barn Raising variation reminds me of a Trip Around the World design only with Log Cabin technique. It makes a great basis for an art or illusion quilt.

The Log Cabin pattern seems as American as apple pie and hot dogs. Quilt groups across the country and around the world have turned to the Log Cabin quilt pattern as a logo or name of their organizations. Although we like to think of it as American, Jane Hall, in her article on the Log Cabin pattern's history found that the pattern existed long before Columbus even visited our shores. During the Civil War and around that time frame, the Log Cabin became quite popular with American quilters. And it was slightly before that when archaeologists discovered the pattern in the most unexpected location.

Jane Hall wrote, sometime early in the 19th Century, "when the tombs in Egypt were opened, the British found thousands of small animal mummies, put there as funerary objects of respect for the departed royalty. Some of these are housed in the British Museum today and you can easily see the Log Cabin patterning in the way the strips of linen are wound around the cat or ibex."

Some items in the British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland feature the Log Cabin design and are dated in the 1700s. Early farmers in and around Edinburgh cultivated their fields in a pattern much resembling the log cabin design.

To make the piecing even simpler, Billie Lauder came up with the 'faux log cabin' pattern. A 'mock log cabin' pattern begins with a four-patch. I'm a fan of four and nine patch patterns, so this captured my interest. The piecing seems much easier and quicker using this technique, too.

If you want more variations, perhaps the definitive book is by quilter and designer Judy Martin.

Want another variation on the log cabin quilt? What about a story book for kids? Check out Ellen Howard's The Log Cabin Quilt with illustrations by Ronald Himler (Holiday House, 1996 ISBN 0823412474.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sweet afternoon

It was girls gone wild in Seminole County today. OK, maybe girls gone mild, but at least we went someplace. My dear friend and coworker, Lyn, and I headed to Sanford to check out a little quilt exhibit at the Museum of Seminole County. We stopped for lunch and then entered the museum with a full stomach and tired jaws -- not from chewing, but from talking. Lyn and I can't be together without talking our heads off. It was great.

The museum is a converted Old Folks Home and smells of old, musty things as well as a fireplace that hasn't been cleaned since its last use, which may have been recently -- but in Florida fireplaces don't see a lot of action.

Hanging on the wall were maps of the area before all of the housing developments and road construction. Flat little Central Florida makes for rather bland maps with lakes, rivers and a few incorporated areas serving as the only landmarks we recognized. We couldn't quite pinpoint where our own homes would be located in that desolate territory. Dr. French's family donated many photos and furniture, including a lamp that looked like it would fit in nicely with the Tiffany collection in Winter Park's Morse Museum. But this museum made no allusion or reference to Tiffany, so maybe not. We're still not sure of Dr. French's significance in the community other than he had a generous family willing to donate his stuff.

We saw a collection of firemen's hats, a book with neat handwriting that recorded who had been interred in the local prisons from 1924-44. Only one murderer, several drunks including driving drunk, a couple committed larceny, and a few were involved in disorderly conduct. Orlando probably wishes its docket looked so mild.

A sweet woman, Karen Jacobs, peeked her head out of her office when we entered the museum and pointed us to the building back behind where the quilts were hung. We crossed a pleasant grassy area with brick walkway and inviting wood and wrought iron benches and headed toward the quilts we saw hanging in the windows.

The quilts travel the United States in a collection titled Elements and the individual quilts were from the Front Range Contemporary Quilters. Exhibits USA provides the tours and is a national touring division of Mid-America Arts Alliance, a non-profit regional arts organization based in Kansas city, Missouri.

The art quilts were a pleasant array of quilting techniques -- applique, trapunto, pieced circles and squares, cording and machine quilting. The dozen or so quilts were embellished with organza, ink stamped, beaded and embroidered. The thread painting was remarkable as well as the hand dyed fabrics and hand painting. One, a redwork quilt, made us stop to delve into the subject matter. A basic A, B,C quilt of a period table of elements that not only featured the element but where it could be found. Radon in televisions, if I remember correctly. Some unpronounceable chemical in pesticides....

Another wall hanging was a seascape complete with seashells, and another was a remarkable portrait of a firefighter surrounded by flames of a beautifully hand dyed fabric embellished with thread painting and applique. A giant postcard featuring the Denver skyline, snowflakes and a guy all bundled up against the cold provided an interesting contrast to the sun and sea of some of the other quilted wall hangings as well as the Florida sunshine outside.

We picked our favorites and wrote them on the visitor's sign in book as requested. I went for the Watermelon summer for its use of piecing, applique and generally more quilt-related techniques, although I think my heart was truly with the stamped leaf and nine-patch wall hanging above the vintage Singer sewing machines. Lyn chose one named: Potted. It was a series of circles made to look like three-dimensional pots. Colorful and lavishly embroidered by machine, I thought she made a great choice. She kept saying that she knew nothing about quilts, but if that's true, she at least has an eye for fabric art.

Karen Jacobs hung a few of her own quilts. (We truly fell for the giraffe quilt!) And there were a couple antique quilts -- a crazy quilt that was used in Oviedo as a fundraiser back in the 1990s and an antique Ohio Star quilt. I'm still a sucker for my native state's quilt star.

It was a good day. We plan to return when the teapot exhibit hits town.

For anyone who enjoys a few minutes among antiques and small town history, the museum offers a glimpse at Florida in the 1920s. The museum is located at 300 Bush Blvd. in Sanford. Community pride is strong inside historical society museums and this was no exception.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Christmas gifts and decorations

Tis time for some holiday cheer and preparations for gifts and decorations as only quilters and needleworkers can do. It takes time to do these projects and even starting now might find us stitching at the eleventh hour on the holiday eve. That seemed to have become a tradition with my mother-in-law. Each year found her and maybe some of her elves (daughters and granddaughters) working on stuffed toys, quilts or clothing for one of her 16 grandchildren.

Nobody says old fashioned Christmas quite like Debbie Mumm and her delightful primitive holiday patterns such as this free Santa Door Banner pattern. Of course she has many more beautiful creations with patterns available in her book, Quick Country Christmas Projects.

Also featured on that same site is a free flying geese pattern to make Christmas stockings. Although I particularly like the table runner with the pieced poinsettia motif.

While thinking of the holidays, Jennifer Chiaverini has written an Elm Creek Quilts novel just for the season with the apt title: The Christmas Quilt. The entire series embraces the art of quilting as well as the women who make them.

A Beary Merry Christmas has been around for several years, but the pattern continues to warm my heart whenever I chance upon it. The free pattern is available here.

Of course memory quilts make great gifts any time of the year, but maybe during the holiday that celebrates family, they are even more beloved. I particularly like the quilt book "Memory Quilts in the Making" compiled and edited by Rhonda Richards for Oxmoor House.

A Redwork quilt is also beautiful at any time of the year, but seems perfectly suited for a Christmas quilt. You could take coloring book pages and embroidered them on squares and set them together with Christmas patterned fabric or alternate them with star squares or turn them into pillows. Here is just one of an endless number of Internet sites that feature coloring book pages.

A story quilt of the nativity seems in order, too. I have a basic pattern of the holy family that I am hoping to make this year. But I also stumbled across this lovely quilt that may also make its way into my 'to be made' pile of quilt patterns, books and ideas.

For a variety of Christmas quilts where you might come up with ideas for your own original, check out Forever in Season. Well, maybe this will whet your appetite and get you started on the seasonal gifts. Or perhaps you'd like to just start making charity quilts to donate for this season of giving? If so, don't forget the dogs and cats as well as babies, homeless, sick, war torn, or those whose loved ones are fighting in the military.

Of course there are other holidays -- Thanksgiving, Hanuka, Veteran's Day.... all good reasons for quilt making.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Spiders and quilts

Spiders are especially popular during this Halloween season. From candle holders to quilts and everything inbetween. Check out this site for spider inspired table settings and towels.

My grandmother's crazy memory quilt includes a spider web embroidered on it. Apparently spider webs are a common motif for crazy quilts. I'm not sure why. Maybe because spiders are such creative artists? Emily Dickinson recognized their merit.

"THE SPIDER as an artist
Has never been employed
Though his surpassing merit
Is freely certified

By every broom and Bridget
Throughout a Christian land.
Neglected son of genius,

I take thee by the hand."

~ Emily Dickinson

Or maybe spider webs have something to do with memories and old, or nature, or the fragile aspects of beauty? Or maybe those women were just into creepy crawly stuff? I would bet they mean good luck. After all spider webs have healing properties, can staunch blood flow and aren't bacteria laden so they don't cause infections when used with open wounds. They are ingeniously made....

Well, the spider quilt continues to be a favorite and the web has several examples from a child's doll quilt with the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" poem and embroidery, to a full-sized quilt for a son complete with embroidered spiders. A spider legs pattern looks inviting, too. HGTV offers a Halloween version of a spider pillow if you're looking for a holiday themed project.

The spider's den quilt block brings together my favorite nine patch and triangles for a fun project that isn't too challenging for a beginner like me. There's a great site online, "How to Quilt" that is a great help to beginner quilters.

If you have the chance to see spiders in their natural habitat, take time to appreciate their artistic abilities and forget creepy crawly.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Just for Fun

I like strolling around the Internet looking for quilts. Almost like hiking the Milky Way with glorious vistas and views and surprises lurking at every turn -- or so I would imagine. I Googled the words Just for Fun Quilts and up popped a delightful blog featuring photos and descriptions of the most extraordinary 'fun' quilts in Paducah, Kentucky. The blogger's name is Dawn -- good name -- and her home is Illinois, a place I've lived for several years in another life. And her choices in books pretty much match mine. She's a Diana Gabaldon fan, too. I was drawn to the 'favorite things' quilt she photographed and described. It has a kaleidoscopic design of favorite things that give them a rather mysterious artistic twist.

Continuing my search for 'fun' quilts, I turned to origami and saw the lovely flowers and embellishments we see on quilts these days. And then I discovered Niti Goyal's site of pleated, origami and smocked pillows, scarves, clothing and bedding. Or as she describes it "three dimensional wearable [and usable] art."

Wearable origami clothing has its own name: Orinuno and gives a quilter and crafter and lover of fabric a head full of ideas for quilt or clothing embellishments. Fabric folding with a holiday theme already has several books available to offer ideas and how-tos. Check out Simple Fabric Folding for Halloween or her Simple Fabric Folding for Christmas, both by Liz Aneloski.

The ultimate fun quilt for someone like me involves words, stories and quilting. Mary Lou Weidman has combined all of those elements in her story quilts. What a great jumping off place to make up your own story quilt. Topics are only limited by your own imagination. From Teddy Bear picnics to fairy tales and favorite books, to an anecdote from your own life. This type quilts give you freedom to use fabrics that you may have shied away from in the past. Maybe make a holiday story quilt based upon your family's own traditions. My mother-in-law always served spaghetti and meatballs on Christmas -- I can just see a spaghetti border with trios of meatballs like holly berries....

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Art for Autism

Autism is a brain development disorder that affects social interaction, communication and behavior and occurs in children age three and younger. The rate of autism has risen dramatically, but research has not come up with a cause or a cure.

Artist Claudine Intner offers her art in an effort to raise funds for autism research.

She explained, "During the month of October, I am having an online exhibition and fundraiser for autism. The project, called Art Now for Autism, includes the work of 26 artists including fiber, photography, mixed media, painting, etc. Money raised will go to Autism Speaks. We have raised $2,185 so far!"

The online exhibit is fun, inspiring, and the cause is worthwhile. Plus it is an opportunity to pick up a fine piece of art.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Crafts make a difference

I'm so excited that Al Gore won the Nobel Prize. And equally excited to have found his Current TV website with the most informative videos in one location on all topics. Including that dear to our hearts -- handmade.

In the video below, crafts and creating have become a vital part of the economy. Makes me proud to be a crafter even if I haven't risen to artist status.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Books to consider, charities to support

Giving is such an integral part of the quilting community. Charities abound and Fiberart for a Cause contributes greatly to the American Cancer Society. Illinois art quilter Virginia Spiegel contacted me today to announce the availability of her new book that also donates proceeds to charity.

I highly recommend Virginia's art and must admit that I have fallen for her bittersweet activist quilt: 400 Songbirds. The story behind it is heart wrenching. Her songbird was included in an article I wrote last year about activist quilters. Such a talented group who displayed their quilts in Thelma Smith's exhibit: Changing the World One Thread at a Time.

Here's the news about Virginia's book:
"Art, Nature, Creativity, Life" by Virginia A. Spiegel is now available with 100% of the proceeds going directly to the American Cancer Society.

"Art, Nature, Creativity, Life" is stuffed with essays; art, art, and more art; recommended books for artists, nature lovers, gardeners and other creative types; over 80 inspirational photos; more than 35 haikus, and much, much more. The nineteen chapters are greatly expanded versions of the best issues of Spiegel's e-newsletter of the same name.

For ordering information, reviews, and more information about this web-based book, please click here.

Another book, concentrates on a delightfully complete coverage of quilt history, including the movement in the quilting communities to support charities through stitches, is The Quilt by Elise Schebler Roberts etc.

I'm always looking for books about my favorite subjects and by my favorite people -- quilts and quilters.

Ami Simms has a charity-related book out, that features the fifty-two quilts that were on exhibit since August 2006 in support of her ongoing Alzheimer Disease fundraiser. The 112 page book Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece includes more than 160 photographs, all in color.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Healing Quilts come in all styles

When I hear the term 'healing quilt' my memory brings forward a snapshot of the handmade quilts my grandmother and mother made and wrapped me in on sick days. It also reminds me of the various charity quilts that are made for people suffering from various diseases from AIDS to infants born with alcoholism and face withdrawal the first days of their lives.

But, The Society for the Arts in Health Care offer a twist on the healing quilt in the 27 quilts that have traveled in The Healing Gardens Quilt exhibit from 2002 through 2005 and can be viewed at their website. Many other aspects of this website will intrigue you concerning art and healing, take some time to browse. You'll see a variety of 'healing' quilts featured there. The photo featured here is of the quilt made by Judy A. House, "Podophyllum Peltatum," 34" x 37."

The Podophyllum Peltatum that House used for her quilt may be more familiar to you by its other name: May apple. I remember seeing patches of this plant growing for miles along an overgrown Ohio fence row beneath stand of scrubby maples. Other regions may refer to it as Devil's apple, hog apple, Indian apple, umbrella plant, wild lemon and American mandrake. It is not a true mandrake.

The twenty-seven Healing Gardens quilts feature approximately twenty-four varieties of plants that are being scrutinized as sources for potential cancer fighting drugs. These Northern Virginia quilters including Jinny Beyer, Barbara Bockman, and Eileen Cavanagh, chose plants with names like Brucea Antidysenterica or Ochrosla Vitiensis or Catharanthus Roseus and recreated them on their individual quilts using all forms of quilting -- piecing and applique, hand and machine and embroidery.

The quilt speaks of natural healing, drugs found in nature, and plants yet to be explored for their medicinal uses. As a by product of these quilts, thoughts also follow the natural progression to the need to care for and nurture our environment so these plants are not lost and their healing properties forever closed to us.

It is astounding what a small percentage of plants man has actually explored. And yet, twenty-five percent of modern drugs used in the U.S. today derived from plants. Plant medicine is not new.

Animals and man have been using it for all times. Prehistoric cave drawings depict the use of plants.
Wikipedia reports: "There is evidence from the Shanidar Cave in Iraq that suggests Neanderthals living 60,000 years ago used medicinal plants. A body that was unearthed there had been buried with eight species of plants which are still widely used in ethnomedicine around the world.[6]"
Animals have sought out plants for their health. Watch your house cat seek grass to cure fur balls and indigestion. Researchers from Ohio Weslyan University discovered that some birds chose nest materials that are rich in antimicrobials.

Only since industrialization have countries thumbed their noses at natural remedies. Thankfully hearty souls, such as these quilters, continue to demonstrate the potent cures that nature provides. Science is listening. I just hope it isn't too late and we haven't destroyed the plants that will save mankind.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A few good quilters can change the world

For the past few years I have been happily interviewing quilters for articles that appear in The Quilters World magazine. Tough job, but someone has to do it. :)

The one element that seems to thread its way across the entire quilting community and pops out in each individual is the unselfish sharing. Not just fabric and pins, but caring enough to do that extra something. Many share by expanding their stitching to design and teaching. Whether it is devoting oneself to educating and encouraging beginners like that dynamic duo of Diana McClun and Laura Nownes or giving comfort to women and children, there are quilters stepping up and accepting the challenge to provide information, services and quilts.

Gwyned Trefethen of Sherborn, MA, makes delectable art quilts, but she is also founder and coordinator of The Power of the Quilt Project that provides quilts for women undergoing chemotherapy treatment and children facing hardships.

Of course Trefethen is not alone in her generous use of quilts for those in need. ABC Quilts, Linus Quilts, Amy Simms project to benefit Alzheimer Disease research, even quilts for Kosovo and Heartbeat quilts....the list continues to cover every need. Even quilts for stray cats and dogs housed in shelters. The quilt photographed here comes from the Wrap Them In Love 2007 gallery of donated quilts.

Some -- many -- make quilts in private, donating in secret. Not accepting praise or acknowledgment. Two such women live in my home town. For decades, probably even longer than I've been aware of, Carolyn and Kathleen have bought fabric, gathered scraps from whomever donated, and cut squares, pieced them together into baby quilt tops, added batting and flannel backings, knotted and bound each quilt, added a label and sent them off to missions and missionaries. The women's fellowship of the LaFayette Congregational Christian Church often gathered around these little quilts to knot and pray and maybe even gossip (just a little), but the ones who kept this project alive was always Carolyn and Kathleen. How many quilts have they donated? Don't ask them, they don't know. But if you only estimate 20 per year -- a very low estimate I'm sure -- that's at least 800 quilts. What we could all accomplish if we just decided that each year we'd make 10 quilts for charity.

As we approach the holiday season when we begin casting around for a way to help others and are overcome with the spirit of giving -- perhaps making a charity quilt will fill your need to share a bit of your own heart with those less blessed.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Silhouette Quilts

I rarely meet a quilt I don't want to take home and cuddle up to. And usually I'm a nut about details. Lately I've fallen under the spell of crazy quilts and the endless possibilities of embroidered embellishments. But my cousin introduced me to silhouette quilts and I'm in awe of what power these images have. Without detail, simply outline, the effect is stunning!

Lee Ann Cimperman's website features a silhouette quilt of sports figures. The martial arts quilt actually reflects the action and strength of the art, with simple silhouettes. And Fran Morgan's book Silhouette Art Quilts demonstrates even more graphically the power of these basic shapes.

I say without detail. But if you think of the art of paper cutting -- scherenschnitte -- detail certainly abounds. In fact, it was paper cutting that led Mary (my cousin) into the silhouette quilt making. Pamela Dalton's gallery of scherenschnitte begs a visit. Amazing detail and she incorporates color into some of her creations. The photo above was copied from the website Suzanne Quilts and details the awards this 78x84-inch quilt has won. But sadly does not tell the full name of the maker.

1990: A booklet by Claudia Hopf called Scherenschnitte: Traditional Papercutting (l977) inspired me to make this quilt. The designs were originally intended for Valentines, New Year's greetings, or book plates. This was my "travel quilt," as I appliqued the squares on trips.


  • The Grand Prize in Applique from Better Homes and Gardens Books awarded at the International Quilt Festival in l990.
  • Scherenschnitte won First Prize in Professional Applique at the American Quilter's Society Show in Paducah, KY, l992.
  • Best Workmanship at Quilter's Heritage Celebration in Lancaster, PA, l99l
  • Featured in America's Heritage Quilts, edited by Pat Wilens, Better Homes and Gardens Books, l99l.

My cousin's love of genealogy, family history and old photographs also play a part. As seen in Louise Handley's book Fabric Silhouettes: Quilted Treasures from the Family Album, family photos make excellent sources for silhouette quilts.

I haven't seen my cousin's work in progress, I hope to post some photos of it here soon. Currently she's caught up in a genealogy search, so quilting has taken back seat to the hunt for hidden ancestors.

And, if you like the detail of crazy quilts or better yet, a Baltimore Album Quilt -- check out Elly Sienkiewicz's Silhouette portraits as seen on Alex Anderson's HGTV program Simply Quilts.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Pink, the new lime green?

Kay Sorensen offered the theory of pink being the new lime green and started several quilters off on a new path of color enlightenment.

A black, white and pink challenge by host Leigh Ann Haygood offers a bouquet of unique responses to her challenge. Featured here is just one, by Jodi-Marie Horne of Leduc, Alberta, Canada. She used 100 percent commercial cotton fabric and rayon thread in her raw-edge fusible applique that is machine quilted.

Jodi-Marie said, "This experiment of transferring a fractal image to cloth was pure joy! It also showed me how little pink I have in my stash!"

I'm in the mood today to just search for examples of what art quilters are producing. Inspiration, perhaps, for all of those quilts I think I want to make, dream of making, but can't seem to get started.

My dear cousin gets an idea, jumps into it and produces the most exquisite creations whether it be crocheted, doll clothes, beading, or quilts. Today she wrote to say she found a new book at the library and is busily creating a quilt based upon the techniques in the book. I tend to look at the book, think 'Wow, what a great idea. I should make one." Then it is time to return the book and I move on to yet another 'what if!' idea.

So, while my cousin is cutting cloth and creating. I'm wandering the Internet finding so much inspiration. One exciting spot is the Art Quilt Network with links to its many members sites as well as galleries of various types of art quilts. Vita Marie Lovett takes us on an excursion of doors in her mixed media fabric creations, not to mention her extensive list of links to other exciting websites.

One of those links to Nancy Billings' Nancy B Designs and her vibrant quilts. They make you smile just to look at them! And the pillows. Her woven pillows inspire me to use up some of those odds and ends of fabric that I can't let go of, but still have not found a use for. Here she has included an embroidered insert.

Of course no surfing for art quilts could ever be complete without a trip to the Bryerpatch, Caryl Bryer Fallert's home page. I don't often understand exactly what the quilt artists attempt to say in their creations. I get bits and pieces of it. But, I think if anyone sees her 2001 quilt pictured here and remembers September 11, 2001, the message touches the viewer right to the heart.

I wonder if Caryl dreams in technicolor -- she certainly knows how to use color in her quilts!

From pink to technicolor, surf away. Of course on the Internet, surfing never ends. I hope you'll take a few moments -- hours -- days -- to check out the links from just this little foray into art quilts online.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lights, Camera, Action -- Go Crazy!

As technology grows, so does our imagination. Digital photography, printers, photo transfer -- what an amazing array of quilts have sprung from this technology alone.

With an ink jet printer as well as some quilting know-how, a photo-transfer quilt is only a few clicks and stitches away. Back in my grandmother's day, I think crazy quilts took the place of memory or photo quilts. The maker used embroidery, initials, symbols of people and events they wanted to remember. Women made a life quilt that included birth information and other special memories that stopped only when the maker considered the quilt finished. Sometimes another quilter finished up what the maker had begun by embroidering the date of the maker's death.

Maybe my association with crazy quilts and memories makes it reasonable to incorporate photos into crazy quilts, along with the symbols, dates, names, and embroidery embellishments. Every culture has a cloth of some kind that recalls a life....none of us want to live and die in obscurity, so maybe making a life quilt is the answer.

There are online galleries of what other quilters have made using their imagination and the new technology. Not all photos are of loved ones, as this quilt featuring photos of stylized crosses attest.

Although this blog began as a tribute to photo transfer quilts, I think it should end with a trip to the Crazy Quilt Society's webpage. I find the crazy quilt so inspiring and a perfect venue for stitching together a life well lived -- and crazy seems to describe me so well.

I particularly love the Society's crazy cups exhibit -- quilts don't need to lay on the bed, you know!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sewing Machines

I've been thinking of sewing machines lately.

Some I remember with nostalgia, some I lust after. My grandmother's old Singer treadle machine brings on waves of nostalgia. The $5,000 Bernina with all of the bells and whistles in the showroom at the mall makes me lust.

I can't remember a time when sewing machines weren't a main stay in our household. There was always a corner or room devoted to sewing.

Sadly, by the time I was old enough to use it, the Singer no longer worked. Someone had put a motor on it and nothing seemed to entice it to run. A girlfriend in high school sewed her 4-H projects on a treadle machine similar to Grandma's, so when I see the machine sitting in my bedroom, now serving as a bedside table and dressing/make up table, I think of Regina as well as Grandma.

Mom had several machines -- a Kenmore that was a terror when it came to adjusting the tension. And then the 'modern' Singer -- a white beauty with drop-in bobbin. But it seemed to have internal issues and Mom went back to her dependable Kenmore that worked beautifully once the tension was properly adjusted.

When I married, I bought a bottom of the line, basic Kenmore. It was cheap and familiar. And supposedly they had overcome the tension adjustment problem by 1970 when my model was made. It came with a buttonholer. An attachment that actually worked fairly well. I spent $99 for that machine and my husband thought it an extravagant investment. Of course almost 37 years later, I'm still using the same machine. Which may explain the lust I feel for that beautiful Bernina that can sew whether I'm sitting beside it or not.

I sewed many shirts for my husband and two sons, little coveralls, curtains, dresses, and quilt squares. I'm still sewing on it. But I'm wondering how special it would be to resurrect Grandma's treadle machine and make an heirloom on it. I even have some of her unfinished quilt tops, squares and fabric that I could use....

I wonder if anyone fixes vintage Singer sewing machines -- maybe a certain husband of mine? Hmmm.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Knitters are stitchers, too

Mary Beth Temple has written a book The Secret Language of Knitters that every knitter will thoroughly enjoy. Even almost knitters, wannabe knitters, now-and-then knitters will embrace this.

It is the perfect size to fit into your knitting bag or slip into a present for other knitters or should-be knitters. From addict to Yarn Porn, this book explains it all.

When I was a teen, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex" was a best seller (it probably still is since its a timeless subject). Now it is everything about knitting....

Before you think I've turned into a dried up old prune of a woman who sits and knits rather than well, you know --partakes of sex goddess stuff-- Mary Beth includes sex in her book.

For those non-knitters, SEX is short for 'Stash Enhancement Expeditions.' In other words, a road trip with yarn. Then she breaks it down into cheap sex, group sex, sex drive....

Don't get me wrong, this isn't an x-rated book by any means, just a wonderful tongue-in-cheek, insider look at knitting from a died-in-the-wool addict. She observes, "...interesting that many words knitters use to describe their hobby have somehow migrated from the language of the illegal drug trade." Then she lists: "stash, needles, dealer, habit, addiction...."

She cautions: "Next think you know there will be a twelve-step program: 'Hello my name is MaryBeth, and I am addicted to alpaca.'"

Well for me, I'm addicted to Mary Beth's laugh-out-loud, ohhh too true Secret Language of Knitters.

I suspect that every creative needler has a similar language.

On a different plane, but just as addictive. I stumbled across a site dedicated to art quilts and their amazing artists located in upstate South Carolina. The site and group are called Focus. Their mission statement explains, "Focus was formed to provide active support, stimulation and motivation for its individual members to express their creativity, in particular through the medium of fabric. A key objective of Focus is to increase public awareness of the art quilt through the unique message of each member's own work."

Take a look at the gallery and see what these Focus members are producing. You'll recognize some of these women and their work, I'm sure. If this doesn't inspire you, maybe you need more SEX -- you know "stash enhancement expeditions."

Happy needling!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Family Heirlooms as Art

Shirley Roeder a friend and member of the Town and Country Quilters made the first photo quilt I had seen. She featured photos of her son's experiences in high school. Like most of us, she copied the photos onto fabric and set them together with boarders to make a traditional square patch of photos and frames. If I remember right the photos tended to fade and those first photo quilts had a short life span.

Technology has opened up all kinds of possibilities for using photos and fading is no longer an issue.

FiberArts Magazine, 2004, offered a look at what some artists are doing on the topic of Immigration and the photo included here was drawn from that article.

The photo also reminds me of the quilts made using traditional patterns such as the Ohio Star or Churn Dash that has traditional 12-inch patterns with a large quilt-size version of the pattern that comes forward from the use of color and piecing choices.

I also like the idea of using ephemera or photos of accessories and ephemera to tell a story about someone. To make a quilt of Mom -- I would include photos of her hands, her bible, the stained glass window of the church she attended from childhood through adult. Her glasses, her pies, recipes, letters, favorite books, her crochet hook -- all would remind me of stories and memories. And these pictures would probably be set together in a flower garden design or that pattern would be incorporated. Maybe a double wedding ring or the big bold Bethlehem Star. Being a teenager in the 1930s certainly impacted her life and much of her quilting reflects the patterns of that era.

Just thinking about a loved one for only a few minutes would give you plenty of ideas what to include to remind you of them and the memories you have of them. At the site Stories Untold: Jewish Pioneer Women the artist has set pages of handwritten diary in blocks along with a photo of the diary's writer. She used various quilt block patterns to further enhance the message and memory. A few other ideas:
  • Think about combining ink stamps with photos.
  • Lay out your quilt as you would a scrapbook page
  • Embellish with doilies crocheted or tatted or knit by the photo subject, or add antique buttons or scraps from their clothing or a lace collar.
  • Use the subject's favorite color or as Shirley Roeder did, set photos together using school colors.
  • Include a glove or sock or other clothing in its entirety
  • My father always used a red bandana -- use those as quilt squares
  • My uncle worked for the railroad -- include logos, items and signs and symbols of your quilt subject's work or employer.
Once you get started, there is no stopping the possibilities of what to include. Setting those photos and ephemera together in a unique juxtaposition -- now that's the challenge.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Purrfect combination: Cats and Quilts

If you have a love for cats and for quilting, the two shall soon become one. I have yet to meet a cat who can resist a quilt, particularly one under construction.

Cats and quilts have always been a part of my life. During childhood our many miscellaneous cats helped Mom at the quilt frame or kept the quilt in use between sessions. After all, what is a quilt for if not to cuddle up in? Currently our sweet yellow tiger, Bernie, wants to have a hand er I mean paw in (and a say) about construction of anything. But he has a definite curiosity about fabric projects. He even takes a turn at clean up. He carries away scraps and threads like a dog with a bone. Bernie is king of our household and our two older cats have learned to make the best of it. Above Marcel (the dark tiger) shares his favorite chair with ornery Bernie.

A quick web search brings lots of cat related projects together beginning with a favorite of mine: Jinny Beyer's tesselating tabbies kit with everything you need to make a quilt top and binding. She also offers a free pattern for her tesselating calio cats.

Lots of websites refer to cats. Judy Heim has dedicated her website Cats Who Quilt to ummm well, cats who quilt. And she has written a book aptly titled: Cats Who Quilt with illustrations by Irina Borisova. She has a heartwarming section dedicated to readers' stories about their cats. Some will tug at your soft spot, all will make you want to hug your cat.

A book or series of pattern books by Carol Armstrong have caught my eye. She incorporates light box applique into each highly stylized design and she specializes in the most delightfully personable critters. These books may find their way into my collection. I may not make many quilts, but I have a killer book collection. Rosie, Queen of the Rose Pattern and Cats in Quilts: Purrfect Projects, are just two of Armstrong's books full of her designs.

If you haven't tried your hand at coloring your own quilt blocks, but would like to give it a try, HGTV has a step-by-step project. The show's guest, Sheila Haynes Rauen, provides the pattern and instructions.

But, my all-time favorite cat-themed quilt or wall hanging is provided online
by McCalls. It is Stairway to Cat Heaven. It fulfills all of my needs in a quilt -- nine patch (I don't know why, but I have a weakness for those little squares!) and cats.

Want to make an easy Catnap Quilt for you or for your cat, this pieced pattern makes use of scraps.

For a change of pace -- something you can buy already made for those days when you must leave the quilt frame or hurry to a quilt meeting and its raining umm cats and dogs -- a cat and quilts umbrella!

A page of patterns for cat lovers will get you in the meow mood.

And on a more serious note. For all of those cats and kittens, dogs and even hamsters, living in shelters, maybe you would care to make and donate a snuggle for a shelter animal. Hugs for Homeless Animals have many ways you can help these orphans find homes.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Poetry as Visual Art

Today I discovered poems that speak to me in a way that makes my heart race and lips smile. It is an ah-ha moment for me. It is a kind of art that I can wrap my arms around. Poems that reflect my love of words as well as my obsession with visual fabric art. Sadly I'm not finding the images online to share with you. Above is one from DeviantArt

These poems should be seen rather than heard. They have various names for basically the same thing: calligrams, concrete poems, shaped poetics. They all rely on visual images made up of words.

We've probably all seen them before, maybe even made them. Teachers use them in the classroom. One of the most common arranges a phrase such as this one: "I walk upstairs and walk back down." And the words forms the stair steps that go UP and back down. Or use words as in this accompanying photo from Shelley Paul.

Another aspect of these visual poems that excite me comes in the way they can unite or at le
ast introduce some of us Westerners to Islamic calligraphy. Just writing the alphabet in Arabic looks beautiful, but place those letters into words and words into pictures and it will refresh your soul.

This form looks like something a quilter, embroiderer, fabric painter,needlepointer, paper artists, could have a lot of fun with.

And as the Aga Kahn,leader of the world's 15 million Ismaili Shia Muslims believes, art can become the medium of discourse that transcends barriers".

"The essential problem, as I see it, in relations between the Muslim world and the West is a clash of ignorance," he said in a recent speech.

What a beautiful way to connect to other worlds -- through fabric, words and beauty.

Another form that just begs to be included in pieced are Patchwork Poems. I understand them to be drawn from other poems. I line here, a word or phrase there, then pieced together into a new, original poem of your own. Ultimately the new poem should make a statement, have meaning, too. How fun to combine the two into Cali-pieced poem.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Ohio Star and variations

I'm a native Ohioan. One of my favorite traditional patterns has been and will always be the Ohio Star. No surprise there. It has been a popular pattern for a good many years, first appearing in 1815, according to DawnPages quilt history.

What surprises is what people have done with this simple little pattern of squares and triangles. Check out the photo of Kaffe Fassett beside one of his dazzling Ohio Star quilts at the Festival of Quilts, 2006. offers directions for constructing a basic Ohio Star block. The Quiltaholics offer a variation based on colors and turning a few squares into triangles. Quiltville offers a variation based upon size of the individual blocks, setting them together in a colorful, pleasing configuration. It is a good choice for a quilt made from a block exchange. Quiltville also offers great photos and step-by-step directions on piecing blocks efficiently. And if you want to make it in a day, check out Eleanor Burns, she even has some cute socks sporting Ohio Stars for sale on her site.

How about an Amish version?

An antique quilt at Stella Rubens Antiques shows how an Ohio Star pattern changes with added borders. And miniaturist Kate Adams demonstrates what Ohio Star quilts look like in antique fabrics and teeny tiny pieces. Note that Adams frames her finished quilts, a fantastic idea for displaying your own projects and turning them into art....

Then, check out what artist and quilter Rita Denenberg does with an Ohio Star. Rita writes on her site,

I took the traditional Ohio Star pattern,
blew it up and gave it dimension. I left the traditional
blocks in the corners. This quilt is hand pieced
and hand quilted.

And we can't forget the luscious, amazing and startling version of The Ohio Star that Caryl Bryer Fallert created and offers for sale at only $3,000.

For a departure from the basic fabric quilts, check out the barn project where traditional patterns have been painted on barns across Southern Ohio.

This is only a tiny sampling of what I found on the Internet this evening. As I find more variations, I'll be adding them. If you have some to add, please let me know!

Addition: A beautiful antique Ohio Star and Carolina Lily quilt circa 1920 offered by Betsy Telford in vibrant Christmas colors on a pristine white background. And below is a book devoted to Ohio Star variations by Jackie Robinson
available on Amazon.

Fellow writer and quilter, Marijke Durning sent me a photo of her version of the Ohio Star. She used a flowered fabric to showcase the center of each star. A friend from Town and Country Quilters in Lima, OH made Ohio Stars using the center as a place to showcase a miniature of another pattern -- sail boats, card tricks, even small Ohio Stars.

Quilt designers Jean Wells and Marina Anderson offer a book, A Celebration of Hearts that features heart quilts. One pattern is an Ohio Star variation. I believe it is the top middle block.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Starting small

I'm one of those needlers who started learning the sewing arts as a 4-Her. Every summer I attended meetings in the elementary school home economics room, if I remember right. There we learned how to sew straight seams, circles, and hems from Carolyn and Kathleen McCague and from Clair Schick's Mom. I suffered over that first apron and pincushion more than any project I've made since. But I learned enough to make most of my clothes and those for my children and shirts for my husband. It was the 70s -- sewing and baking and gardening were in style. And they benefited our meager budget. While Mom crocheted afghans and pieced quilts using the patterns she loved from her teen years during the 1930s -- flower gardens, double wedding rings, Star of Bethleham.... I dreamed of making all sorts of things, but never got around to it.

So now I start small with little miniature quilts, a birdhouse wall hanging using directions by Debbie Mumm, and fabric bowls.

The bowl projects was the first time I had tried to make something that wasn't to wear or to cover up with (the birdhouse wall hanging came later). I stumbled across Linda Johansen's "Fast, Fun and Easy Fabric Bowls" book and just had to give it a try. I became totally fascinated by adhering fabric to rigid interfacing with that iron on bondable stuff, like stitch witchery only better. The secret to great success is to iron on the paper side, not on the fusible side -- it could destroy a hot iron in the blink of an eye.

But, it is this use of unusual materials (for me, they're unusual) and new procedures that has drawn me ever closer to making art quilts. Remember my mother is a traditional quilter, a daughter of a long line of traditional quilters whose roots harken back into Pennsylvania Dutch territory. Transitioning away from the tried and true fabric quilts made from traditional patterns for utilitarian purposes, took some doing.

I go to quilt shows and am drawn to the art quilts, trying to figure out the techniques used or the amazing array of fabrics incorporated into quilts. Tulle and organza-- I would never have thought to use it, but it works so beautifully. And the use of dissolving fabrics so that the stitches seem to float, well, they do float and create a new fabric all their own. And the appliques, the use of fabric paints and markers, embellishments, found objects, paper and print and photos....The list is endless.

Now, as soon as I can convince my husband that I can't live without that $5000 Bernina sewing machine that embroiders and quilts with or without me, then maybe I'll be a giant step closer to making my own art quilt. In the meantime, I peruse a variety of websites and drool over the work of such gifted quilters. Quilters I hope to interview and discuss in upcoming blog entries.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Quilting World

Everyone seems to begin their quilting tale with 'when I was a child....' and go on to tell about quilting or sewing with Mom. I'll skip that part -- its true, but it didn't lead me to become a great quilt teacher or designer (like Carol Soderlund) or even train me to make a quilt....I'm still working on all of that.

In the meantime, I write about quilters and quilts and the quilting community. So let me kick off this quilting blog -- I mean the world really, really, really needs another blog -- with one of my favorite quilt essays
about my favorite guy.

Real Men

by Dawn Goldsmith
(previously published in Christian Science Monitor Home Forum, photo credit: Derrol Goldsmith)

He loves me. I know he loves me, but when my husband, Derrol, agreed to accompany me to a quilt show on a Midwestern May perfect-for-fishing day, I got an inkling of the level of his devotion.

He had second thoughts while hunting for a parking space in the crowded lot. He watched the clusters of women streaming toward the entrance and muttered, “I’ll be the only guy there.”

And walking in the front door of the local community college, he issued an admonition, “Don’t you dare ask me to discuss these quilts with you.”

I agreed to his terms, knowing how little he liked to analyze anything except accounting reports and spreadsheets. I grabbed his arm and joined the queue of women, anxious to soak up the display of fine fabric art and imaginative interpretations in cloth. Maybe my enthusiasm was contagious; for it didn’t take him long to stop dragging his feet and start eyeing the various ‘blankets,’ as he called them.

“That one’s not bad,” he volunteered.

“I like the colors,” he said, admiring a vibrant black and orange creation.

We strolled up and down the corridors bordered on both sides by bed-size pieces of art that not only provided beauty but a more basic offering of warmth. What other kind of artwork can wrap around its admirers in a fabric hug?

I ohhed and ahhhed over the tiny stitches, more than 16 to an inch. I stood back and leaned forward while examining the fabric, color choices, intricate quilting designs and perfectly executed piecing and appliqué. I marveled at the teeny tiny pieces of fabric sewn in place, the perfect place, and held there by invisible hand stitches. Thousands of stitches in each quilt. I saw the same pattern used by various quilters and admired the totally unique quilts that sprang from the same triangles and squares, but took on one of a kind personalities through color and quilting, borders and appliqués. My favorite geometric quilts held Derrol and me captive as they performed their illusions. One minute we saw ocean waves, with a turn of the head or a squint of an eye, the pieces broke apart like a kaleidoscope and presented another design.

We had almost completed our tour of the auditorium when a PA system announced the guest speaker, California master quilter Patty McCormick would soon begin her presentation. She would speak about her role as a ‘quilt expert’ during the filming of Steven Spielberg’s movie “How to Make an American Quilt.”

“Do you mind?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Sure, whatever you want. Any excuse to sit down.”

We sat in the last row of chairs gathered around a makeshift riser and a backdrop of quilts that had been featured in the movie. I couldn’t wait to examine the colorful appliquéd quilt, the central figure of the movie, and I admired the simplicity of the African picture quilt, but my eyes kept returning to the black velvet embroidered baby quilt. The thought, “I could do that,” kept running through my head like a streaming tape until she began to speak.

Patty, a middle-aged pixie, reeled us in with her energy, humor and ease. We relaxed and listened, laughed and applauded.

“Let’s meet her. I’d love to get a picture of her and me. Would you mind?” I asked Derrol at the conclusion of her speech.

He jumped up, shouldered the camera case and said, “Let’s go.”

We headed toward the front where the speaker and author of “Pieces of An American Quilt” signed and sold copies. By the time we worked our way through the crowd Patty had stepped away from the table and was mingling, attempting to find the exit and escape. I tentatively asked, “Ms. McCormick, would you care if we took a picture?”

“I would love it,” she crowed and threw herself into my husband’s arms. “I saw you at the back of the room and so appreciated your smiles,” she said grinning up into my husband’s beaming face. “It takes a brave man to spend the day alone with hundreds of women.”

I hesitated, gaped, then reached for the camera and asked them to pose.

Patty wrapped her arm around behind him and leaned against his chest, snuggling into his arm that automatically embraced her just like he held me. She lingered a moment after the flash and said, “I enjoy seeing a man who appreciates quilts.”

“Oh, yeah. Quilts are great,” my husband responded, not moving.

I took another picture.”