Sunday, June 17, 2012

Silks and Wedding quilts

The bride loves green; the groom likes blue
 The wedding is in August, and the applique is finally done on the wedding quilt.  I'm almost finished with piecing the top, and still debating with myself over whether hand applique demands hand quilting.   By sometime tomorrow I have to make a decision. 

The interplay of color and line in this block with its setting triangles intrigues me.  I prefer batiks for applique for several reasons, formost the depth and intensity of color.  At the Home Machine Quilting Show in Salt Lake City this spring, I heard a salesman explaining that his batiks are more suitable for quilts because they have a lower thread count.  It didn't seem appropriate to break into his conversation to say that the high thread count, and resulting smooth surface, is part of what draws me to the batiks section over and over. 

Notes on sewing with silks:  This is partly to the new friend we met today at Caledonia fabrics in Boise, Idaho, and for anyone else who is mostly a quilter but loves other fibers too:

     *  Hand baste seams if your silk is slippery.  It doesn't take long, and holds layers together until   you complete the seam. It also removes the risk of sewing over a pin and marking the silk. 
     *  Use silk organza for interlining facings, cuff, and collars if you can get it, instead of iron-in or plain polyester interfacing.
     *  Use cotton thread rather than polyester or silk.  You want the thread to fail before the fabric does if there is unusual stress on a seam.
     *  Use thin sharp pins, and select machine needles in the 65-70 range.
     *  Pin inside the seam allowance, and don't sew over pins.
     *  Unless you plan to wash the garment, use a dry iron for all pressing.
     *  If you aren't lining the garment, consider either French seams or bound seams.  Of course, you can serge or zig-zag to secure seam edges, but again it depends on why you are sewing with silk.  My silk wedding dress has French seams anywhere the seams are exposed, but the lined bodice seams are just enclosed in the lining.  Wedding dresses don't get much wear, after all. 
    *   Obsess about the fit of the garment.  You can reduce the possibility of excessive tension on a seam by making sure the garment fits well and has enough ease for movement.

Even very finely woven silks are not as delicate as cottons of the same weight.  Remember, nylon is an artificial silk, and has historically been used to replace silk in parachutes and other light-and-strong applications. 

Silk is fabulous to work with and to wear.  Silk fabrics will tolerate hand or even machine washing on a delicates cycle, but washing will change the surface texture, and on smooth silks even a drop of water leaves a mark. So much depends on the purpose of the garment!  My grandmother Elsie had a pair of silk denim slacks she wore for about thirty years, occasionally complaining that they refused to wear out. 

For a wonderful variety of all sorts of silks at not unreasonable prices, check out

Caledonia Fine Fabrics in Boise has a great selection of silks, linens, wools, cottons, bridal lace, ultra suede, and fine trimmings.  There isn't a better source for fine fabrics in Utah or Idaho.  I haven't ordered from the website, but the photos of fabric are true to color, and the staff at the shop is very pleasant and helpful.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Volcano Viewing

Mt Hood from the Hood River highway.  Nuff said.

Oregon Tales continued

For Flower Girls dresses for the August wedding.  8" scissors
Hope the bride likes this fabric!  The background is actually a very pale blue-green, and the flowers include the whole range from Plum to Grape to Violet, so they will coordinate with the bridesmaids' dresses. 

After acknowledging that at Fabric Depot we'd met our match, we finshed the Boise-to-Portland day with a great seafood meal.

Next morning we got up determined to find Powell's and to see the Japanese Gardens.  We bought books and had a lovely lunch at Zeus's downtown, then headed for the gardens.  Maybe our smallish town boackground is showing.  It didn't occur to either of us that in Portland a sunny weekend afternoon in June might bring out everyone who ever wanted to go to the zoo, picnic in the park, or visit the Japanese Gardens.  Having driven the loop through the park along with a zillion other vehicles all looking for invisible parking spots, we went looking for views of Mt. Hood instead. 

The mountain made an excellent excuse for crossing the Columbia to the Washington side, just cooincidentally convenient to the Pendleton Mills shop.  Lovely wools, sweaters, and prices, and the view of Mount Hood was terrific.  So, no Japanese gardens, but a Fujiyama-esque moment with the local volcano.

More mountain tales later. 


Monday, June 11, 2012

Hunter-Gatherers on the Oregon Trail

What a great idea! For our birthdays, we decided to practice Zen Navigation. It's easy: fill the tank with gas, pack a pillow and a hand-work project, and set out early. Preferably with the wind at your back. (We had the wind in our faces, but the wind was clearing fog out of Portland, so it worked in our favor.) Anyhow, all you need is a clear idea of when you have to be home. If a side road is enticing, you're free to take it. If a quilt shop suddenly appears, find a parking spot.

When the day came, there was a new priority: find fabric for three flower girl dresses for a late summer wedding, and for coordinating but not matching dresses for the three younger nieces of the bride and groom. Earlier in the week, the wedding colors had changed from violet and silver to plum and charcoal. (These things happen) The violets fabric is now destined for the back of the wedding quilt. Fabric samples in hand, I set out.

                                       JoAnn Fabrics, Twin Falls, Idaho

First stop: JoAnn fabric and craft store in Twin Falls, Idaho. There are several potential winners, but the fluorescent lights in the shop cause poor color reproduction in digital photos. A cheerful clerk says "Take it outside," and keeps the cart from rolling away into the parking lot while I take the picture above.

I went to Boise to pick up my navigator, and we checked a couple of our favorite fabric stores.

                                                  Quilt Expressions, Boise

At Quilt Expressions this pair of fabrics include the colors in the two color samples.  There wasn't much fabric on either bolt, but together there's plenty for dresses for the three younger nieces.
The next morning, we headed west. It is remarkable how many stops for food or fuel can be in towns with quilt shops.

First, we visited Baker City, Oregon, but the first quilt shop was closed. On Saturday morning. Hmm. We picked up a quick breakfast and headed off on I-84.

At Pendleton, we stopped for gas, and a not coincidental visit to the Pendleton woolen mill. We oogled the blankets but didn't buy anything. More about wool later.

By later afternoon, we were in Portland at the Fabric Depot. We (purely by accident, or rather Zen navigation) arrived during a 35% off sale. Fabric Depot is enormous. It seems to have every quilt fabric of every line by every designer in the country. Maybe on the planet.

Fabric Depot, Portland

These fabrics include a lovely grape purple light weight linen and misc. other finds.  At some point we had to admit defeat:  we'd found perfect fabrics for all of our projects, and had not seen every fabric in the store.  It is possible to founder on fabric.



"Not all who wander are lost." JRR Tolkein

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cowboys and Bandannas in West Yellowstone

Hold  your head sideways until I figure out how to rotate this picture.  This is the Bandanna Blues Baby Quilt in its new home in  the Send-It-Home shop

This is the Bandanna Blues baby quilt designed for fabrics from the Send-It-Home shop in West Yellowstone, Montana.  The fabrics are traditional bandanna prints, including the striped fabric on the back.  The border is standard Flying Geese, wing-tip to wing-tip.  The binding matches the background fabric.  Next time I would probably use put a narrow border between the geese and the binding to increase the floating effect of the border.  
Bandanna Baby quilt

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we'll cut kits for the Bandanna quilt and the Cowboy Pinwheel.  Kits for these quilts and the Baby Bear Paw will be be in the shop along with separate patterns and the shop's array of Western and Yellowstone fabrics. 

The weather permitting part is easy to explain.  It has been snowing all day.  Sometimes big flakes, sometime small, but definitely snow.  This is not unusual for Memorial Day weekend, but this year the weather has been beautiful and warm during May, so all the lovely green vegetation looks slightly surprised by the snow.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Quilt Portraits

Cowboy Pinwheel Baby or Twin 
This is the official portrait of the Cowboy Pinwheel Quilt, made with cowboy fabrics and bandanna prints.   You can see the eQuilt version in earlier posts.  The quilt can be made baby or throw sized with 6" blocks or twin sized by increasing the blocks 10".  Same picture, but the quilt is 72" x 92", big enough for even a grown-up cowboy.

Grampa Says I'm a Keeper
Here's "Grampa Says I'm a Keeper."  The center fish is a Mimbres design, and the others are simple triangle piecing.  I included a paper-piecing option for the 19th fish.  Combining machine and hand piecing with needle-turn applique and hand quilting made this project a great combination of skills.  It would be faster, but just as much fun, I think, to use other applique techniques and machine quilt it. Our series of fish quilts is growing quickly, and the resident fisherman comments that there are an awful lot of fly fishermen with wives and girl friends who quilt.  I dutifully remind him that there are women who fish and men who quilt.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March ?

Ruth M Sorensen Dutchman's Puzzle quilt  1930's  Machine pieced, hand quilted
This quilt was the inspiration for the Wild Geese Puzzle quilt.  It is look like pinwheel blocks, but is made from flying geese blocks. There are lots of methods for making the flying geese, but the easiest-with-least-waste follows.  The method is easy, and several people have written instructions for it, but the hardest part with most of the instructions is the math.  I think I've found the method with easiest computations.  The formulas are beside the pictures.


                                                    The math for making 4 flying geese at once:

 Cutting  Fabric A (the large center triangle)
           Cut 1 square the width (longest edge) of the finished block plus 1 ¼ inch.  For a 2x4” flying geese block:  4" + 1 ¼" = 5 ¼”

Cutting Fabric B: (the small triangles on either side of the large triangle)
                Cut 4 squares the height (shortest edge) of the finished block plus ⅞ inch.  For a 2 x4” finished flying geese block:  2 + ⅞”.

Risking confusion, it is only fair to tell you that until this week I've never thought of the center triangle in flying geese blocks as the sky with the two small triangles as the wings of the goose.

I'm in the midst of applique on my son's wedding quilt--only 4 months and 3 Hawaiian applique blocks to go.  My other project this week is the sample quilts for Pati's Send-It-Home shop in West Yellowstone.  Pictures later in the week.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bear on the Porch Log Cabin

Bears on the Porch Log Cabin

February!  The winter is going so quickly that I am thinking about quilt projects for the summer.  The Log Cabin block and technique are so easy and quick to use that they make a good team with the Bear Paw block.

This quilt has a story:  when I was a little girl, my parents worked in Grand Teton during the summer.  My first memory is of a bear cub looking at me through a window.  My mom supplies more of the details:  We were living at the fire-lookout tower on the ridge over-looking Spaulding Bay on Jackson Lake.  The one room cabin was at the foot of the tower.  I was standing on a cot "which had been pushed up against the wall as a sort of divan."  She looked up and saw me standing looking out at a bear cub who was looking in. The bear looked for awhile, and then ambled off.

So, Bear on the Porch Log Cabin.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Western Windmills

Windmills Wall or baby quilt

This week I've been playing with traditional pinwheel blocks.  They are reminiscent of the towers and vanes of the iconic windmills that still fill stock tanks and cisterns across the West.  

The pinwheel/windmill blocks are made from half-square triangle blocks.  My favorite method of making the half-square triangle blocks is Triangles on a Roll.  These nifty paper strips take all the marking out of making the 72 blocks this design requires, which  shortens the time between the "windmills in my mind" and windmills in the cloth.

This design is destined for the Send-It-Home shop in West Yellowstone, Montana.    My prototype quilt is made from the 2006 RJR fabric line Cowboys and Cowgirls along with some from my stash.  The top is pieced, so after I get the seams pressed we'll take a picture and post it. 

Notes on piecing from the stash:  first, there are fabrics that don't stand the test of time.  Some fabrics that were the best we could get twenty five years ago really aren't acceptable now.  They are too harsh to the touch, too loosely woven, and occasionally just plain unattractive.    Second, some of my carefully folded and stored fabrics have creases that don't "press out" easily.  Argh.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Christmas Candy Dishes

Christmas Candy Dishes
This is the quilt that started with the Layer Cake of Riley Blake Christmas Candy fabric I won at the Blogger's Meet-Up at Quilt Market in May in Salt Lake City.  I searched my local quilt shops for the coordinating fabrics.  (Local here means anything I can get to without needing to pack a lunch) This was a great group of fabrics, especially the pink and lime green for Christmas.

This was my first Dresden Plate block, and I still love the method, even after finishing this group of 16 blocks and two sets of five for Christmas Dishes quilts AND the center plate for the Scandinavian Christmas quilt.  Here you can see the candy details clearly.

The piecing and applique was finished in August, but I didn't blog about the finished quilt because it was destined to be a Christmas gift for my sister.

The quilting was done by Coleen Beutler, whose long-arm machine lives at Village Dry Goods www.villagedrygoods.comquilt shop in Brigham City, Utah.  Coleen did a great job.  There are holly wreaths around each of the plates, and a whole forest of larger trees quilted over the little trees in the borders.

My next project is finishing the design for a wedding quilt for my son, then plunging into the quilts for our spring and summer classes in West Yellowstone.  Here's the (ambitious) list:

Buffalo Gals Baby quilt/wall quilt--needs a new buffalo center so we can publish the pattern
Block of the month Christmas Critters applique quilt designs
Cowboy Pinwheel kids quilt
Prairie Paisley star (?)
Baby Bear Paw in the Send-It-Home shop batiks  (Pati just sent thumbnails of the fabrics.  Gorgeous)
Cabin in the Woods sampler (maybe a block-of-the-month)

I figure if I sew or quilt every day most of this can happen.   I think I'll have to set up a chart with goals for each week.

Pinwheels and Posies Quilt

Full view

One of my young friends started chemo therapy on Thursday.  This is the follow-up to two surgeries just before Christmas.    It is hard to imagine being a young mom and fighting breast cancer.   When we  (Renae Allen and I) learned about the cancer, well, when you don't have a magic wand,  you make a quilt.  The picture isn't great  here, but the detail photos  are okay.  The center applique is from  Blackbird Designs "How Does Your Garden Grow?"  I did the applique and piecing, and Renae quilted it. There are better pictures on Renae's blog.

Detail of the applique and quilting

Back view of the quilting

Renae's quilting does a wonderful job of enhancing the design and concealing the vagaries of my piecing. Check Renae's blog for more pictures of this quilt and her other work, and her website for her RGA Designs home machine quilting tools, techniques, and tutorials. and