Posts Tagged ‘Mary Kerr’

Tiki Roll from Sew BatikEvery year, I go to the beach with a passel of girlfriends to celebrate friendship, talk about quilting (for fun and profit), and decompress. This year, I came directly here from the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampton, Virginia, driving my orange quilt truck filled to the top with sewing machines, fabric, supplies, and Kathy Lincoln, my partner in crime.

Today, I spent some of my time working on a baby quilt for new neighbors. My husband and I were thrilled when they bought a house on our street and we’re doubly happy that they are expecting. While I was at the MAQF last week, I searched for a kit (I have very limited time and kits are okay) for a baby quilt. There were lots of kits, but nothing that made my heart sing — until I visited my friend Bruce, owner of Sew Batiks. His Tiki Rolls made the perfect kit for a baby quilt top — (2) 2″ strips of 20 different (and lovely) batiks that only Sew Batik carries.

Strips from the Tiki RollI laid out the pre-cut strips, sticking very close to the order in which there were packaged. So pretty! I often tell my classes to let the fabric do the work. In this case, I thought that was good advice — and the fabric is soooo pretty.

At my sewing machineDid I mention that I had the best possible sewing space? I had an unobstructed view of the ocean, which proved quite distracting. Sew, admire the pelicans, sew, look for dolphins, sew, take a break. Sigh. It’s a wonder I got anything done at all! Can you see the ocean through the window?

To end, a few random thoughts about this quilt and the baby who receives it:

  • I’d like to think that as I pieced the quilt, I infused the peace of this place into each seam.
  • I’d like to think that Bruce’s generosity, his calm demeanor, and his positive nature are woven into his fabric.
  • I’d like to think that the baby who receives this quilt feels the powerful influences and love that went into this quilt top.

I love this place and I love the time I get to spend here. I am fortunate.

Leap Year

Left to right: Kathy Lincoln, Sue Reich, me, Mary Kerr, and Shannon Shirley.  Picture by Darla Pittman.


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Woo hoo! The sixth and final quilt for Mary Kerr’s Vintage Revisited quilt challenge is finally done. (Drum roll, please…)

Vintage Revisited #6

Vintage Revisited #6

Ding, dong!
The quilt is done!
Which old quilt?
The final quilt!
Ding, dong,
The final quilt is done!

I think the spokes made all the difference. After a lot of thinking about how to represent the spokes, I took a trip to G Street Fabrics and bought skinny grey ribbon. I zigzagged it into place and that was that.

Did this quilt present challenges? Oh, you bet!

Quilting density was a tiny little demon sitting on my shoulder. First it would whisper, “Leave the shirt unquilted. Quilt in wrinkles or folds and leave the rest.” Then, the shirt looked too puffy and the demon would laugh at me. “If you want the shirt to recede into the background, you have to quilt it down.” Then the hat. The Quilting Density Demon said, “Leave it unquilted; allow it to share the focal point limelight.” Then the hat looked too puffy and unfinished. You can guess the rest.

And then there were the hands. Oh, man, did they give me heartburn! First, I quilted around the hands and added lines to delineate the fingers and nails. I didn’t want to quilt them because I was afraid I’d wind up adding bizarre texture. And so I added only knuckles and creases to the right hand, the one in front. It looked like a glove. Then, I experimented by meandering on the left hand, the one behind the wheel. First, I used monofilament. Yuck. The thread was shiny and the needle left really visible holes. After ripping all of that out, I tried a bigger, less detailed meander with thread that matched the hand fabric. Still yucky. It made the hand look like it had a skin disorder. After ripping out the quilting AGAIN, I added knuckles and creases and steamed out the remaining holes. I don’t love the hands. In fact, I’m going to try to avoid looking at them.

Oh, and I had to add the vintage fabric. I kept the basic hexogonal shape of the original grandma’s flower garden, but I cut them down into irregular sizes, used only green, and fused the pieces down into a tire track. They were still pretty green, and so I stamped them with both original rubber stamps and some commercial leaf stamps using black ink. I did a freeform zigzag around each piece and then pronounced it finished.

The final challenge is the naming of the quilt. I want to incorporate Mary’s name into the title, but I’m not sure how. Puns are fine (Mary-ly we roll along), but I’d like to keep it simple. Since I need to print a label today, I guess I’m on my own to be creative.

Thanks for reading along with this process description. In the next blog entry, I’m going to tackle a new subject: What Quilters Want. Hmm.

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Deadlines are amazing things. They force productivity — sometimes with great results and sometimes not.

I needed to finish this quilt by yesterday morning so that it could be part of the Mason Dixon Quilt Professionals’ Network (MDQPN) special exhibit “What We Do” for this year’s Road2CA. The exhibit is designed to showcase what each of the quilters in this group offers professionally. I offer a Trees workshop and pattern, and so I thought this would be a good place to show that.

It’s done. I’m not exceptionally proud of this quilt, but it’s done and off my list. Such is the power of deadlines.

I think if I had a chance to continue searching, I might have found a better, less distracting border fabric. I might also have found a better quilting thread color for the grey border. I might have added some surface design, augmented the snow, given more dimension to the trees. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. I’ll never know, though, because it’s done and out of my hands.
Vintage Revisited #6 in Process

Vintage Revisited #6 in Process

Now, I’m back to the Vintage Revisited #6. (Check the archives for more on the process for this one.) I’ve quilted leaves into the black borders and I’ve added the green vintage pieces to form a tire track. The green vintage fabric was still pretty icky, and so I stamped it with commercial and original stamps. I think it’s kind of ironic that the track interrupts the portrait the same way the vintage materials interrupt my normal process. It’s a fitting way to complete this series of six quilts.

Our MDQPN meeting yesterday was held at G Street Fabrics, where I was able to find the perfect spokes for the bike wheel. I can’t wait to add them and see how it turns out. I’m eager to finish this and turn it over to Mary to add to her collection. To see more Vintage Revisited quilts online or to see what shows will exhibit them, check out www.MaryWKerr.com.

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Finally Ready to Quilt

Finally Ready to Quilt

I’ve had quilter’s block before. I’ve had dry spells, but I’ve never had a quilt fight me.

Here’s the deal. I have a deadline.  Tomorrow. I’ve been thinking about this quilt and planning it in my head. Trees. Trees in winter. I have this amazing midnight blue batik with irregular white dots that look to me like snow at night. I pictured pale tree trunks — just a few — in the nighttime snowfall. Easy enough? Not when the quilt fights back.

I took everything I thought I’d need to my quilt guild’s fall retreat this past weekend.  There, in the company of supportive friends and quilters, I planned to create this 24″ x 24″ quilt based on a pattern I created. Easy. Or at least that was the plan. The center panel was easy. Light grey and white batik with a subtle pine pattern for all three trunks. Simple. Elegant, I hoped.

Problem Child with Original Borders

Problem Child with Original Borders

The borders were the first hint of trouble. I needed a narrow stopper border that would define the center panel, stopping both the dark background and the light trees. That sounds way easier than it actually was. Since I was working with blue rather than my old friend black, I had to find a grey with just the right amount of blue in it. None of my greys worked. Neither did the greys my table buddies packed. When Capital Quilts (Gaithersburg, MD) showed up as our visiting quilt shop, they had just the right one! Susan Fernandez snatched it up (I was down the mountain fetching tasty coffee drinks) and presented it to me upon my return. Thanks, Susan!

The second border defied me. I had several fabrics, but nothing was great and I was away from my studio where I could continue to rummage and, perhaps, create the perfect candidate. In desperation, I added more of the snow fabric. Mistake. I put it up on the design wall and tried to get to to talk to me. All I got was the silent treatment. And so, I took it down and tried to forget about it. It seemed like this quilt did not want to be made.

Once I got it home, I tried again. My friend Mary Kerr put her finger on the problem. It’s too matchy-matchy.  If this quilt was supposed to represent what I do as a quilter, I had failed miserably. Off came the outside border! I found what I thought was the perfect fabric at Judy Gula’s Artistic Artifacts Annex, but it didn’t make me happy once I got it home and on the wall. After much experimentation (When I should be finishing the quilting, not the piecing!), I came up with borders I like.

Now I’m looking for quilting inspiration. Nothing. Again, the quilt’s giving me the silent treatment. And so, I’ll start with what I know. I’ll do all the ditch work (stitching in the ditch) and hope that something comes to me before it’s time to freemotion. Wish me luck! Tomorrow’s coming faster than you think.

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Creating the Cartoon

Creating the Cartoon

After a long delay, I’m finally back to work on this quilt. This is the sixth and final quilt for the Vintage Revisited Challenge issued by Mary Kerr.

Mary sent each of the participants a fragment of an unfinished grandmother’s flower garden quilt top. This isn’t my favorite pattern and the fabrics left me flat. The final challenge for me will be finding a way to use some of the fabric in a meaningful and appropriate way. But that’s for later.

In an earlier entry, I promised to blog about the process of this quilt. And so, here’s the next step.

With the quilt block disassembled and an image chosen, I needed to figure out how to translate this photograph of my husband working on his bike (top left) to a quilt. I started by blowing up the image to 200%. Then, I lined up the four printouts and taped them down to a background paper that’s 24″ x 24″, the dimensions of the finished quilt. Even though the image is rectangular and the finished quilt will be square, I still think it will work. I’ll try to use the borders to create a useful way to include the original challenge fabric.

With the size established, I needed to create a full-size cartoon. Using exam room paper (yes, it’s exactly what you think it is), I traced the image in pencil. Then, using a Sharpie, I retraced only the important lines, vastly simplifying the image (lower left).

My next challenge is choosing the fabrics. I think I’ll try to stay true to the photograph as much as I can, but that’s just my initial thought. Here at my work table, I’m surrounded by batiks and hand-dyeds, trying to make final decisions. Stay tuned for my next blog entry, where you’ll see fabric choices — or at least auditions.

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100 Tips from Award Winning Quilters

100 Tips from Award Winning Quilters

I’ve never been a fan of the whole “Happy Dance” thing, but here I am — doing the happy dance. Today’s mail brought me a brand new book from AQS: 100 Tips from Award Winning Quilters by Ann Hazelwood. It’s a tiny thing, no larger than a travel postcard.  But somehow, it’s huge. And there, on page 9, is my tip!

When Ann first contacted me to participate, I was excited and skeptical. In fact, I didn’t actually believe my tip would show up until I opened the book and saw it for myself!  Woo hoo!

If you buy the book, check out Mary Kerr’s tip on page 39. Lots and lots of good stuff by lots and lots of amazing quilters. 

Okay, I’ll stop dancing now. But I’m still smiling…

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I keep saying that I don’t do vintage, but I just finished my (very late) fifth entry in Mary Kerr’s Vintage Revisited challenge. Mary is a talented quilt appraiser and artist who specializes in vintage materials. For this challenge, she gathered a group of 19 quilters who were willing to work with vintage blocks on and off for two years. I didn’t do this for the vintage; I agreed to participate because I didn’t want to miss out on the fun.

Vintage Revisited Block 5

Vintage Revisited Block 5

Did I mention fun? Well, here’s the fifth block in this six block challenge. Okay, get ready to play along. Here are the rules:

  • You must use at least some of the fabric. (There’s some disagreement in the ranks on this as some of the quilters believe you must use ALL of the fabric!)
  • You can do anything you want to the fabric: paint, dye, stamp (I love to stamp!), whatever.
  • The finished piece must be 24 inches square.
  • The subject matter of your piece is up to you; it doesn’t need to relate to anything vintage.

And so what do you do with this? Okay, I know that some of you might actually like this poor, faded, malpieced block, but once you get past feeling sorry for it, what do you do?

Circling the Drain
Circling the Drain

The first thing I always do is free the fabric from the block.  That’s right, I rip the pieces apart and assess the fabric I have to work with. In this case, the fabric was weak and faded. Okay, I guess I would be too, if I were this old!

Once I have just fabric, I can begin to look for a vision. I fill my head with as many ideas as I can about fabrics that coordinate, bits and pieces I can add for embellishment, and techniques that might work well. The fabric was weak, and so I knew I needed to fuse it to give it added strength. The fabric was unevenly faded, and so I stamped it to make it appear more consistent.
And now for a vision. Well, this vision didn’t come as quickly as I had hoped.  When the time came to give Mary a title, I had nothing. I felt like my ideas were all dead ends — going nowhere — and so I named the formless quilt: Circling the Drain. Now I was locked into using that image somehow. Then Mary called for artist’s statements.  Still no quilt. And so I wrote a statement that I hoped would be general enough to work with whatever I wound up making but specific enough to be worth reading. You be the judge when you see these quilts in person.


Some of the other quilts I made for this challenge dealt with letters and writing, and so I pulled out some commercial cotton with postage stamps on it and some pen nibs that Judy Gula of ArtisticArtifacts.com found for me. The rest is just what happens when you block out enough time in your studio and put some great music on your iPod.


So where’s the fabric from the original block? I took the brown, the blue, and the pink polka dot, added fusible to the back, stamped it all with travel-related images in black ink, and fused it all down. I added the pen nibs to the center.

I have a killer idea for the final block. My concern now is whether my skills can make what my brain can imagine. Stay tuned. I’ll blog this block in progress.

Read more about Vintage Revisited, including the exhibit’s travel schedule, on Mary’s website: www.MaryWKerr.com.

See the other treasures Judy Gula stocks on: www.ArtisticArtifacts.com. If you are local to northern Virginia, check out her bricks-and-mortar store in Alexandria.


Thanks to Kathy Lincoln (www.KathyLincoln.com) for providing the picture of the block intact. I ripped mine apart too quickly for a photo.

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