Monday, December 24, 2007

delectable mountains

My parents are here for Christmas. My mother and I love to do handwork together, so I have 9 (!) quilts at the handwork stage for binding. Some are Christmas presents, so they may be given with pins in them. My kids, seeing a quilt on the davenport, always ask if there are pins before they sit down. Experience does teach them something.
I worked on the binding of this delectable mountains variation of the buzz saw this week. Another plaid shirt quilt, great use of lights and darks.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

stair sled run

There is snow in Chicago and time again for one of my favorite urban traditions--turning your front steps into a sled run. Seth and neighbor Cole set up ours; it takes them out into the street if the car isn't parked there, and if they don't hit the tree.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

machine quilting

I am a very basic machine quilter--I cannot free motion. My handwriting is awful, so I blame a neurological connection for this problem. About 2 decades ago I came up with an idea for a stitch regulator--should have patented it!
I can use the walking foot well, and have adapted its use to do some quilting styles that work for me.
This one is quilted in channels, method similar to the one a few posts ago of an advent quilt.
I use the wavy line pattern on my Bernina 1530, lengthen it to a 5, narrow it to about a 3, and quilt in channels, sometimes the width of the walking foot, sometimes another marker. Works well on primitive looking quilts.
This is one of my dragon teeth quilts, the backgrounds are all shirts.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

last minute potluck ideas

This time of year has potlucks several times a week. I enjoy cooking and baking, but the timing isn’t always right.
Here is a short list of how to survive the potluck season with class when you don’t have time to cook.

Presentation is everything—now is the time to haul out all those pretty glass serving pieces that sit in your cupboard. If you don’t have any, or worry you may have to leave the dish behind, head to a thrift store and buy something for very little money.

Blackberry Salad

Toss one large container of pre washed salad greens with some bottled poppy seed dressing. I use T Marzetti’s. Put into a beautiful glass bowl. Scatter 1-2 boxes of blackberries on top. They will look like jewels on top of the white/green salad.

Mustard and pretzels

Buy a pretty jar of German mustard. There are some really cute little ones in a variety of flavors. Buy a package of matchstick pretzels. Arrange on a tray with the jar of mustard.

Buy a jar of either the cream or wine herring or both if I am going to be there. Put in a beautiful glass bowl, top with some chopped parsley. The people who love herring will love you. The people who don’t won’t touch it, leaving more for those who do love it, who will love you even more.

Iced Tea

There are never enough good non-alcoholic beverage choices. Make a pot of good tea, whatever variety or flavor you like, and bring it as a pitcher of really good iced tea.

Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Salad

If you can find decent tomatoes, buy a few along with some fresh mozzarella and large fresh basil leaves. Slice the mozzarella and tomatoes into ¼ inch slices, alternate them along with a basil leaf, drizzle with olive oil and a bit of rice wine vinegar and top with fresh ground black pepper. This is really pretty and Christmas colors! Hold the vinegar if you have to make this ahead as it will darken the basil. It is still good with just the olive oil.

Bread and butter and jam
Buy a good loaf of bread, some artisanal butter and a good jam. Something so simple and good. Here in Chicago, I like D’Amato’s on Grand or Palermo on Harlem, Amish Roll Butter, and blackberry jam.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

my irritating family

Something that is important to me is to take a family snapshot each year to include in our Christmas cards.
I have them together in a book where I can watch us all age like Dorian Gray. I don't like it when friends send pictures of just their children, I want to see my friends themselves.
In our annual photo shoot, I always tell them they have to look good on all of them, because I am picking the one where I look best. They laugh, start pinching, and so forth. You can put the photos together into a flip book and see me getting more and more irritated, with them looking better and better.
It used to be funny.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

another advent quilt--in time for advent!

This advent quilt is for Eve's confirmation sponsor. Eve chose the buttons--some from my grandmother's button box.
Eve was confirmed in May, so this gift is a bit late, but it is finished before advent, so in my twisted sense of time, it's just in time.
I quilted this one in channels, with a variegated rayon thread.
(Seth didn't want me to get his face--he didn't say anything about his foot)

Thursday, November 15, 2007


The Christmas stamps this year were designed to warm a fiber lover's heart. The knitting details just make me smile--the stamps are on an aged white background. And the draping of the Madonna and Child's clothing on the Luini painting is lovely.

I give books of Christmas stamps to my children's teachers--something consumable and something they may not have time to get to the post office to purchase.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

classes and ethics

I have been pondering Bonnie's and Judy's frustrations and heartaches with use of their designs without attribution.

I have been teaching for about 10 years now, and have tried to do so ethically. Most of my students are new to quilting and are there not so much to learn a pattern as to have their hands held as they try new things. My weekly classes are with 3-8 students who work on individual projects with my assistance. Many of them are using commercial patterns, or something they have gotten from a magazine, book or the internet. I don’t believe this interferes with copyright as my class in not to teach that pattern, but to assist the student’s interpretation of it.

I try to use traditional blocks in my workshops, drafting my own patterns and instructions, and including a list of websites and books where students can look up related/similar patterns for future use. I encourage people to purchase the patterns or books themselves, to not copy another’s.

On occasion, I have an out of print magazine pattern I do copy, and I am afraid, this does infringe on copyright law. I don’t know if teaching for a non-profit educational site gives me any coverage for this or not. I’ve taken a workshop on creative use by a quilter/lawyer. It answered many questions, and brought up many more.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

halloween curmudgeon

My sister and I were listing the reasons we really dislike this holiday. Not all parts--I like jack-'o-lanterns and skeletons. But, there are parts that seem to irritate me more every year.

#1 irritant: trick-or-treaters
First, we did not grow up trick-or-treating--on the farm; there was no place to go! We would carve a pumpkin, make caramel apples, and that was about it. Also, being reformed, the whole thing was about Reformation Day and the 95 theses.

Now I get over 300 trick-or-treaters every year. I run out of candy no matter how much I buy and how much I appropriate out of my kids' take. A few of us neighbors have sent out our too old kids out to trick-or-treat just to refill our own bowls! When I put out my light, they keep ringing my doorbell. Our dear departed Rudy the Beagle hated this day as much as the 4th of July.

#2 irritant: costumes
When Paul was 3 I made a brown bat costume for him. He wore it several years before he figured out he could dress as something else. I pulled the same thing on Eve and then Seth. That costume was worn at least 9 years.
Beth hates costumes because, as a teacher, they only led to problems in the classroom.

#3 irritant: ghoulish decorations
I'm ok with skulls, bats, and spider webs. I don't get the blood and moldering flesh and especially, a body hanging from a noose. My neighbor Anne's boys had a mask that would squirt blood--after scaring her daughter one too many times; she punctured it and put it in the trash in the alley.

So, is there an equivalent of Scrooge for Halloween?
The only thing that could get me out of this rant would be someone coming along with a Twin Bing from the wonderful Palmer Candy Company in Sioux City, Iowa.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

avoiding projectiles

Seth and Andy have been busy building the only working trebuchet on the block.
This house turns 100 next year, and this lovely lamp has lasted that long on the newel post. I don't want it to be destroyed on my watch, so all trebuchet launches are directed down the hall.

Friday, October 12, 2007

pink strings

I am organizing my guild's challenge this year--they got 1 yard of a wonderful pink batik and the only rule is they have to use it up on the piece. It has to be visible on the front, back, or binding, and if anything is leftover, I requested they use it in a few blocks for the pink strings project.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Phyllis, how is the rabies quilt coming?

The Office this week combined two favorite topics--crazy cat people, and a quilt, devoted to rabies.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


This doll quilt is for my guild's silent auction at the Fine Art of Fiber show at the Chicago Botanic Gardens.
Since going to a heavier work schedule, I have not had as much time to sew, and am grateful for those UFOs in my stacks that I can pull out and finish. They are like money in the bank!
This one was a small class sample. I didn't have enough of the yellow binding so I added a piece of blue. Finn has her orphan blocks, I have my orphan bindings!
The blocks were left from a larger quilt I called 'Chiclets" because the pieces looked like the shape and colors of the gum.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

loaves and fishes

And all ate and were filled. Matthew 14:20

This quilt is for the Good News Community Kitchen benefit. I hope they make a lot with it. The Kitchen serves meals every day of the year.

I showed the top several months ago. It is made of shirt parts--from the collars and cuffs and pockets. The logs are spliced to use up every bit of fabric.
I like to have a few tops ready for donation to a good cause that comes up. My quilter, Suzette Fisher, turned this around to me in just a week. She is wonderful.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Scholten Sisters

My Grandfather's sisters, Hendrieka, Johanna, and Elisabeth (Hattie, Jo, and Beth) were fashionable and talented. I knew two of them in their old age. An elderly neighbor of ours said everyone would take note when the Scholten Sisters walked into church on Sunday morning.
I grew up seeing the hats photograph, but the winter one is new to me. I love it capturing the every day winter weather wardrobe, so seldom seen in photographs. Even the gloves and mittens are included!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Oma Scholten and Tante Roelfe, quilter and knitter

This is my mother's grandmother and her sister, Jenneken Scholten and Tante (Aunt) Roelfe. Jenneken was a quilter; most of her quilts were lost in a house fire when my mother was in high school. The one quilt we know survived belongs to my cousin Helen.
My mother's cousins had a reunion last week--two cousins aged 83 and 86 took the bus from Michigan to Iowa. One cousin reported that Tante Roelfe was an excellent knitter.
Mom informs me that this Grandma did not make the quilts lost in the house fire--they were by her other grandmother, Grada "Carrie" Diekevers nee Rabbers. Mom does have a rug that Oma Scholten made.

Monday, September 17, 2007

mulberry quilt

Bonnie's music quilt reminds me of this Blackford Beauty quilt I made in 1997. I had this beautiful Hoffman mulberry (blackberry?) fabric that I used as a feature fabric.
I'll try to talk someone into holding it tomorrow to get a full view.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

an extravagant welcome

Here is the wonderful raffle quilt of Illinois Quilters, Inc for the Fine Art of Fiber exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Costs are $1.00 a ticket or 6 for $5.00. Melissa Kane organized the making of this quilt and quilting was by Sue DiVarco.
I love this quilt and want to win it and hang it in our church Sunday School room.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

first day of school

Seth's first day of 4th grade. I cropped out a pile of bags for the donation truck--I've been cleaning house and told the kids all clothes had to be culled of extraneous stuff I've been rewashing for no reason. Made for a junkie looking porch this week. Not that it doesn't look junkie the rest of the time. The phlox and black eyed susans are from the garden for the teacher.

Here is a cat quilt I don't think I've ever shown. It was used by one a Paul's friends who slept on our floor for the block party.

And, speaking of block parties, here is the finished (well, almost, the binding needs handwork yet) raffle quilt of purple strings. It raised $544.00 for the local food pantry. A guest at the party won it and gave it to her hostess, so it stays on the block! We sold tickets for $5.00, so either someone shorted us a dollar, or someone slipped in a few extra.

a fun back.

Monday, August 20, 2007

fueling enthusiasm

or, at least, the strength to finish a project.
Last year when I got bogged down with our raffle quilt,

my friend Donna said to bring in over. She looked at it with me, offered to help make the needed blocks for completion, and gave me the strength to finish it.

I had the chance to pass this help on with this year's raffle quilt, as the coordinator, in the two years since she took this project on, fell in love, got married, bought a house, got pregnant, and 4 weeks ago, gave birth! She had it all put together except for the borders, so there was not a lot for me to take on, but I was glad to take it and get it done. I am showing just a tiny piece, waiting to show the whole quilt until the guild unveiling. (She now knows why I tried to discourage using this pattern for a group quilt--the "I don't think so" pile of blocks out of size was bigger than mine with a simple framed nine patch!)
The quilt is fabulous, and I hope to win it! I look forward to what it looks like after quilting.

Monday, August 13, 2007

little quilt

This little quilt (20 1/2" by 25 1/2") was made for a friend's fundraiser--She is the director of a museum. I asked for museum passes to use as prizes for our block party and offered to make a doll quilt for her museum fundraiser.
It is a sweet quilt, and was fun to make.
I have found doll quilts a fairly easy donation to come up with. The size is manageable in a time crunch, and they bring in money.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Andy and I saw the new production of August: Osage County by Tracy Letts at the Steppenwolf Theater today. If you have a chance to get tickets, this is a first look at a play that will likely become a classic of American work.
Speaking as a woman in my 40s, Mr. Letts got the angst of the three sisters in their 40s right. And, Deanna Dunagan's dialogue done in a barbiturate and opioid state was very realistic to this hospice nurse!
As far as realistically portraying crazy families, I could tell you stories...

Friday, August 10, 2007

lemon bars

Eve and I made lemon bars this morning for some new neighbors.
She was at Starbucks yesterday with a friend and they got a bad lemon bar. They came home and asked me to show how I make them. I adapted the recipe from a Crystal Sugar bag years ago.
It is difficult to bake in such warm weather; butter does not cooperate. But, they turned out pretty well.
I use my KitchenAid Mixer for both steps.

Lemon Bars

2 cups flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter
Mix to make crumbly. Press into ungreased 9 x 13 glass pan. Bake 350 degrees until light brown, about 10-12 minutes.

4 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
the zest of one or two lemons (I use a microplane grater)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
Pour over hot crust. Bake 20-30 minutes until filling is set.
Cool completely, dust with powdered sugar, cut into squares.

I love this recipe, and like to decorate them with some of our multitude of violets when I make them in the spring.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

purple string quilt, large

Here is my second string quilt made with the purple constant. I used a great Jane Sassaman print for the border.
This one will be donated to our block party fundraiser. Block Parties are a wonderful Chicago institution, where the street is free of cars and neighbors and friends spend the day together. Our block has one of the longest running in the city's history, since 1955. This year has a circus theme, so this purple quilt seemed appropriate. We have the local food pantry as our service project.
Eve and her friend Rachel agreed to hold the quilt on their way to the Wicker Park Art Fair. Eve has been helping me clean my sewing space--it is at the point where I can see what needs to be done, rather that where it was, in a state where I just closed the door in despair.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

bernina 830

While hitting the thrifts yesterday, I came upon this Bernina 830 from the mid 1970s for $25.00. It is missing the cord (about $30.00 to replace) , but does have a pedal (which retails for $179.00; I was glad that was there!) I tested it with the wheel, sewing my own shirt hem with two of the bobbins with thread and the stitch was perfect, so I figured I would gamble on the motor and buy it for Eve.
It cleaned up beautifully. The paint is chipped in a few places, but my 1530 is too after 15 years of use. There are 11 feet, which also fit my 1530; all in all a very good deal. And Eve likes it because it is retro looking!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

strings, purple constant

The Heartstring project asks for blocks made with a purple constant for children's quilts. I made up these blocks, then decided to use them for a quilt for a friend going through a difficult pregnancy. I love how it turned out, and will make more for the Heartstring project.


I love this shade of aqua, and it works well with the thirties repros. The pattern is a scaled down version of one in McCalls from several years ago. The small squares were cut 2", finish 1 1/2".

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

tile maker

This quilt may qualify as a variation of Finn's orphan block project.
Twelve years ago I hosted an exchange on Quiltnet called the Double Dutch. People exchanged either delft blue colored blocks or tulip blocks. My sister Janna has been patiently inquiring about these blocks and hoping for the resultant quilt ever since.
One member of the exchange put hers together and had it published in one of the last issues of Patchwork Quilting magazine. I miss that excellent publication.
Anyway, the blocks have aged a dozen years, and I decided they really did not belong in the same quilt. So, I pulled out the blue blocks, setting aside those just too far outside the size I wanted. There was still a bit of variation. I put them together, not worrying about cutting off points or matching things. I considered sashings, but Finn's orphan train quilts got me to realize Dutch tiles are set together without visible grout lines. Here is a photograph of my precious Makkum tiles set into a step in our house.
Janna will have her quilt at last!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

raffle quandry

Bonnie's beautiful raffle quilt has me thinking again about my problems with raffles. When I joined my guild in about 1986, we sold our tickets 1 for $1.00, 6 for $5.00. Here, over 20 years later, that is still the price and people still buy just one or 6. Costs of making the quilts have gone up, so our take is yielding less and less of a proportion to the effort and financial commitment.
These photos are of a quilt I made for a raffle at my church, and the raffle was handled by someone who was savy in the way of fundraising, and not from the quilting community. When I told her the traditional quilt raffle prices, she said, no way. This was to raise money for a good cause and the quilt was the bait. She set prices at $25.00 each and, and encouraged most buyers to buy in $100.00 lots. The take on this quilt, tickets sold only within the congregation, came to over $6000.00!
The beautiful quilt I assembled for my guild raffle in 2006 brought in less than $3000.00. Part of the problem is it is not for "a good cause" to non quilters (for the guild) but it also has a lot has to do with our pricing. People continue to buy just one ticket.
Any ideas on how we as quilters can structure it differently? Will people pay more for a ticket from a guild?

This quilt was commemorating the Rouse Simmons, one of the legendary Great Lakes Christmas tree ships, which went down on Lake Michigan in 1912.
Its title, Morgenrot, is German for red sky at morning, as in the phrase "Sailors take warning".