Back Porch Quilting Adventures

I spent a few days in Monterey at a conference and had it on my list to go to Back Porch Fabrics. I missed them by a few minutes on Sunday after my drive down, but went on a lunch break on Tuesday and, even though I only had a few minutes, it was great. What a wonderful store! It is light and airy with bright, bright colors. So different from the dreary browns I have been subjected to recently.

Additionally, Jean, a CQFA member was there working. We were able to have a nice little chat while she cut my fabrics. I got some great fabrics.

I also bought the relatively new Sandra Meech Book, Creative Quilts. It was an impulse buy, but the displays were so good at Back Porch that I couldn’t help myself. I almost bought another as well, but restrained myself.

Before I left on my trip, I ordered some more additional pieces of the Serendipity fabrics (these are the Becky Goldsmith and Linda Jenkins fabrics from P&B not the new Robbi Joy colelction) from Joyce at Quilting Adventures. I am gearing up to make the quilt out of the whole line and want to use the turquoise as the sashing and some of the border. Most of these fabrics you have seen before. You can see them in one of my August posts. They were waiting for me when I returned.

She sent them along with a nice little note. What a pleasure to work with her. If you have not been to Joyce’s store, go there on your way into or out of Washington DC. If you can’t go to the shop, at least take a look at the shop blog. It will give you a sense of the shop. You can also take a look at the Artquiltmaker Blog Archive to get a sense of my experience there. I did take some photos of the shop, but can’t find them now. If I come across them, I will edit this post, so check back. QA will be moving in December, so any photos I post will be archival footage anyway.

Additional Progress on Thoughts on Dots

Here it is right before I sewed the bottom right hand side together:

Here is the bottom right hand side sewed together:

Here is the top of the left hand side (the side I have completed) with the joining rows laid out next to it:

Below are the rectangles that I cut for my aunt’s quilt:

After taking this photo, I sewed them together by putting two rectangles together relatively randomly and sewing them. I did try to put a warm color with a cool color most of the time to try and get some contrast going. I didn’t, however, put them up on the design and arrange them. I thought it would be a different kind of challenge to sew two together and then put them up on the design wall and try to arrange them. I also did this in the interests of speed. She is very ill and I want to get the quilt done.

Also, Thoughts on Dots is still hogging up the design wall space. The portable design wall we saw at PIQF is looking pretty good right now!

PIQF 2006: other things we did and saw


Books and Media: If you haven’t bought the book, Collaborative Quilting by Freddy Moran and Gwen Marston, RUN don’t walk to the nearest quilt shop to buy it. Collaborative Quilting couldn’t be more perfect. It was only $20, had techniques and NO patterns. The BEST part was that it has color photos on at least 85% of the 255 pages. If you love fabric and learning techniques (not patterns) and making FUN quilts and looking at FUN quilts, then this book is for you. This is the perfect book for me! I can wander through it and look at the quilts and the fabric combinations and read the bits on color that Freddy writes, peruse Gwen’s liberating quiltmaking. This is the kind of book that inspires me to be creative. I am going to look out for more Sterling Press books, because I think they are reaching beyond the pattern books on which most quilt publishers are focusing. They are not pandering to the lowest common denominator; they are encouraging us to reach.

We also ordered the Journal Quilt book. It wasn’t ready to bring to the show, so Patricia Bolton of Quilting Arts magazine and Cloth, Paper Scissors offered us (and everyone else, I suppose) free shipping if we ordered it then and there. I can’t give a complete review, because I haven’t seen it yet, but, again, no patterns. Lots of pictures of the journal quilts. I am looking forward to another source of inspiration.

There were a group of Alzheimer’s quilts at PIQF, which were some of the best quilts there. No pictures were allowed, but they had a CD, which we bought.

Fabric and Materials: The Scrappy Appleyard (alas, no website that I could find) can be reached at (702) 806-8918. They were unbelieveably nice to us when we were looking for a certain pink striped fabric. They let us take a photo of one of their quilts and didn’t act like we were taking food out of their children’s mouths for asking. I am not sure why I am so surprised, but the whole (true or not true?) idea of all quiltmakers being friends was highly overrated in the vendor area. The vendors didn’t really seem happy to be at PIQF this year. There were lots of signs saying not to take pictures of their quilt samples. I can understand wanting people to buy the patterns, but the signage seemed very offputting. I am sure there is better terminology. “Please ask before you photograph” provides a way for the vendors to get people interested in their products and makes a connection with a potential customer.


I love the different widths of that pink stripe and also the pink and white diamond. Nobody else knew what the fabric was, but the owner of the Apple Scrapyard did and we were able to find it on the web. We would have called her and bought it from her, but she said she didn’t have anymore. I believe I have a pink quilt in me that is dying to come out. It needs to get in line!

With the information that the Apple scrapyard lady gave us, we were able to find both pieces on the web from a store in Texas. I am glad to have a piece and got that bug out of my ear.

The Good, the Bad and Not the Ugly: On the way home, we stopped at a store in San Mateo called Always Quilting. We had vaguely tried to find the store before, but were in completely the wrong part of San Mateo. The Bad: The store is hard to find! It is in an anonymous office complex with NO signage outside on the street or on the building. My unsolicited suggestion was a sandwich board or something that they could set up on the street. The location seems to me to be big problem in terms of sales. I am not their financial consultant and I hope their online store is making up for the lack of foot traffic. We perservered, however, and did eventually find it. The good part was that there was PLENTY of off street parking. Those office buildings have huge parking lots and with none of the workers there we didn’t have to lug our purchases very far. πŸ™‚ They said that they were planning to move towards the end of the year to a different space. Good plan! I really wish them well. It is nice to know that there is a nice sized store with great fabrics nearby.

The store also looked like a hurricane had hit it. It was a wreck with bolts of fabric every where. Some of it was that they had so much fabric. I am sure part of it was that they had pulled many bolts from the shelves to gear up for PIQF, but I was tripping over fabric and that was not a good thing. I am sure their new space will be better and I look forward to seeing it.

The Good: They have great fabrics and a big space. I found a great group of snowflake-like dots by Moda that we had not seen before. I have already cut pieces of some of them for Thoughts on Dots and have found the colorways to be quite useful for cheering up the piece.

They also have a long arm machine and may be getting a new one. They give classes on how to use the longarm and that appeals to me. While I may not want to longarm all of my quilts, I am interested in the process and think I could work with my quilter better, if I knew more about the process. They will be giving classes after the first of the year and I will try and sign up for one.

Fabric Chores: I got my act together to wash the fabric and St. JCN, kind and generous soul that she is, pressed and folded it all for me.



The chores fabrics on the bottom in the photo above I plan to use in the Women’s Work series. You can see Women’s Work 1 at Artquiltmaker.com. Another piece, Women’s Work 2, is still in process. It uses techniques and ideas from a Gwen Marston class I took a few years ago.


As you can see this series starts with red. Glad I have enough.

St. JCN also helped me dig up my front flower bed, get out the bulbs and replant them. We had to buy a few more bulbs, because many had disappeared somewhere unknown and some were rotten. This is the beginning of the landscaping of my yard. This is not something I want to do, but I want it done and St. JCN is good at it and will lead me through it by the hand. HOpefully it won’t be too painful. πŸ˜‰


Other Thoughts
: The show was very crowded and sometimes I get overwelmed with noise and visual stimulation. I thought that, if I were alone, bringing some kind of portable music device (iPod, Discman, Walkman, Muvo, etc.) with your soothing music of choice might be a way of keeping overstimulation to a minimum. It might look a little unfriendly, though.

Cross Block


I found a photo of this quilt in a folder on my computer. Suddenley, I am enamoured of it! I think it would be great with black for the center square, bright colors for the crosses and black on white for the in between patches.

This is what I think one block looks like.

Right now I am trying to draft it. I wish I knew the name. This is where image search would come in handy, because I would like to just pull it up in EQ5 and be done with it. The first draft that I did in EQ5 on my own isn’t working.

I need to know the name and whether or not it is a Kansas City Star block or a Laura Wheeler block or one of the other designers, so I can locate it. I may just look through my Kansas City Star patterns and see if I can find it.

It would also be nice to know where I took this picture. I have no clues except that it was taken in 1999. The quilt is draped over something, so I don’t think it was at a show.

Any clues from the audience?

PIQF 2006 Report and Photos

I attended the Pacific International Quilt Festival and took a few photos. If you’d like to see them, click on one of the links below:

PIQF Pt.1
PIQF Pt.2
PIQF Pt.3

I stayed down in Santa Clara and went to the show Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning. My first impression was that the quilts were reflecting the mood of the world: grim. Lots of brown and grey and beige. I always walk through the quilts first and then go back a second time to take photos. This time some of the photos came out poorly, so I went back to some quilts a third time. I think it is important for me to go through the quilts at least twice. Only on the second viewing did I begin to appreciate some of the finer details of the works. I was able to appreciate some of the quilts the second time around that turned me off for some reason or another the first time through.

I think design is still a challenge for people. While I am not an expert, I think it is something that people in the quilt world really need to work on. As we break out of the block format, it becomes more important to know the principles of design and consider them when making your quilt. Without the block/linear, grid-based format, we don’t have a ready made format for balance, repetition and some of the other elements of a good design.

I think part of my poor attitude on Thursday was that I was pretty uptight from the general things that make you uptight. After a day and a half of being away from the demands, the routine and the money pit I call home, I was relaxed enough to be able to appreciate the details and the overall effect. My one plea after LEARN DESIGN? USE COLOR!!!!

Before PIQF, St. JCN and I also took in the Quilt National exhibit, currently at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. After seeing it, but BEFORE seeing PIQF, I was, again, less than impressed (hard to please, aren’t I?). With the perspective of PIQF, I realized that there are some great quilts in QN. There were a few, though that made me wonder what the judges were thinking.

We also took in Gee’s Bend at the deYoung in San Francisco. This was my second look. I never blogged about the first one, because I was annoyed at all of the art snobs who were there. Then I was annoyed at my mom for saying they were doing the right thing by looking long and hard at the quilts. Oh how I hate to be wrong! Another thing to work on. I may still blog about it. Better late than never, eh?

The deYoung was supposed to switch out some of the Gee’s Bend quilts at the end of September, so I made a special effort to go before the switch and after, except that they didn’t switch them out! If they did, I couldn’t tell and that means my mother is RIGHT and I didn’t look at the quilts! The quilts will be there through the end of December, so perhaps I will make it again?

St. JCN and I decided after seeing Gee’s Bend and QN that we would try to figure out if a) quilts at PIQF were influenced by the Gee’s Bend quilts and b) whether or not grid-based linear design was making a comeback in art quilts. We found that many of the quilts said in their statements that they had seen the Gee’s Bend exhibit and were inspired or influenced by it. Some of the quilts that looked like the Gee’s Bend quilts are:




I think it is good to be inspired by other quiltmakers. We learn from imitation. IMO, one of the important parts is to identify your inspiration AND to move on from your inspiration.

One of the biggest disappointments was the dearth of fabric. Normally, we buy a lot between us. This time, I barely bought any and St. JCN did not have to ship her fabric back. There were no fabulous fabrics. The new Robbi Joy fabrics weren’t there, the new P&B Serendipity, the new colorways from Denyse Schmidt were all absent and we saw very few dots. We were told that two printing plants in South Korea had abruptly shut down leaving some of the fabric manufacturers high and dry for their new lines of fabric. I haven’t tried very hard to verify this story, but heard it in two different places. Whatever the reason, it was a disappointment, though my wallet appreciated it. Still, I did manage to find some dots that are finding their way into Thoughts on Dots.

The other problem was that many, many of the fabrics were packaged into packs or into 1 yard sizes. I passed many fabrics by, because I did not want to buy a yard. how many backs does a person need? Graphic Impressions was one booth that had great fabrics in reasonable sizes. Sadly they do not have a website that I have, thus far, been able to find. We were told in no uncertain terms that most quiltmakers don’t want to bother with picking out their own colors for their quilts. I saw packages with patterns and fabrics flying out of the booths. It is a sad day if quiltmakers no longer want to put colors together or choose their patterns. To each his own, I suppose.

One highlight was the lectures. We usually attend the lectures rather than the classes, though we have taken classes as well. We attended Robbi Joy Eklow’s lecture which followed a lecture by Rosario Casanovas.

Rosario Casanovas
is a Spanish quilt shop owner and teacher. She is also one of the founding members of the Spanish quilt guild. She lectured on the history of quiltmaking in Spain and about the contemporary work being done. It was very interesting to see their work, becuase there is a tradition of quiltmaking in Spain. The log cabin, though with a larger center than we are used to, is he patern that is the most well known. It is exciting to see their work, too, because of the interesting take on design. It is a sort of no fear approach.

Robbi Joy, as usual, was her funny funny self. She did the whole lecture sitting on the floor directing her slideshow and technology from her computer. She is quite hilarious. She went through a lot of her quilts and showed us a video, which is a quilt geek video. It is for those of us who know nothing about Brittany Spears and would much rather know everything about Robbi Joy and our other quilt celebrities. Apparently, Robbi’s son, Josh, does a video of her every year. His blog is New Roach Motel. The video can be seen there. You have to scroll down to September 25th.

Robbi showed us a number of her quilts.



I guess I like the lectures because we get a small taste of a teacher. I would love to see Mancuso podcast these lectures.

St. JCN is much more eloquent than I on various topics of design, etc. Her thoughts are also much more organized than mine. I steal her ideas occasionally for this blog, because she can describe well what I am thinking and feeling about art, quilts, art quilts and design. I try to get her to write guest spots, but she won’t, so I am forced to do it. πŸ˜‰ Perhaps someday…. Anyway for more on Gee’s Bend, design and QN, see my post AKA rant from a few days ago.

New on the BlogRoll

Pam RuBert!

Pam Rubert is one of the artists featured in Quilt National. She does comic like quilts that show a great sense of humor. She had a quilt in PIQF 2004, which is where I first saw her.

Art Quilt Reviews is also new. I put it on the list, because it looks like a great source of new work. I will take it off if it doesn’t live up to the hype I have created. πŸ˜‰

You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

In years past, I have seen art quilts evolve from linear, grid based designs to organic swirly pieces with blobs (int he best sense of the word!) of design elements strategically placed. It is always a mystery to me why the linear, grid based designs went out of fashion. I suppose block quilts were just not ‘in’; too old fashioned, not new enough or fresh enough, boring. Too bad, too, because a linear, grid based designs make it easy to incorporate many of the principles of design.

-Unity? No problem. Put the same color in each block.
-Repetition? No problem. Put the same type of design element in each block.
-Balance? Put three design elements approximately equal distance from each other in the grid. Easy to measure or eyeball, because you have a grid.

Well, kids, they are back. Many of the quilts at the Quilt National exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, had some kind of underlying grid. Sue Benner’s piece Fugue XI, had a grid of stitching as part of the design. Lisa Call’s Structures #31 was also grid based. These are definitely art quilts and not the classical block based designs, but they also most definitely show that the design features of a grid works well in art quilts.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against the organic, swirly designs. However, I do have problem if the general design is poor. Good design is everything. You can have ugly fabrics, a saggy structure, poor stitching, but if the design is good, fewer people will care about the other problems of the quilt. I also don’t think it is ok to just adhere fabrics to a backing and call it a quilt. You have to think about the design and be deliberate about placement. (Playtime quilts don’t count. If you are just working through ideas, by all means, just adhere blobs to fabric and get it out of your system. When you go to make something for Quilt National, then get your design board and principles out and spend some time thinking about the overall design.

One design book I like is called Design Basics by Pentak and Lauer. They update the edition every year or so so you should be able to easily find a used copy, which is just as good as the latest and greatest edition.

Good Day with Fabric

I spent the day at home doing laundry and minor household chores. Since nobody else was here (what bliss!), I was also able to get the left side, yes the ENTIRE left side!, of Thoughts on Dots finished. I am thrilled and love the way it looks thus far.

The above photo shows the bottom right corner. Trying to strike when the iron was hot (metaphorically and in reality), the design wall had not cooled before I already had moved the right hand two rows over to the left and was putting more squares up. I tried to use many of the squares I had cut previously, but had not yet made it into the quilt. Many of them, however, I had to remove in short order as the colors were too depressing for this happy, sherbety quilt.

I had dreams of actually picking out all of the colors for this section today and sewing it together. I realized that was only a pipe dream. I ended up cutting more squares, which meant pulling fabrics out of the fabric closet, always an exercise in time and patience. Though not my favorite part, it was worth it because I found some very nice dots that have not been used yet in this piece. I also really want to have the right fabrics after all the work I have done on this piece so far.

Happy Hand

I was fairly depressed about the first hand, but Deirdre kept me going. I would have bailed, but she kept prodding sweetly, so I made a new hand. She said I should send the old and the new hands, but the old hand is too ugly. I love the new hand.

I realized the problems with the old hand: a) the batting. The batting was old and had no scrim; b) the tension on my sewing machine sucks; and c) I ran out of topstitch needles. I can’t say that the old hand was a waste of time, however. By doing the old hand I was able to construct a beter process with the second hand and, thus, make a beter finished product.


First, I sewed the fabric into a tube, pressing the seam allowances open rather than to the dark:

Next I inserted a piece of batting into the tube and pinned a paper pattern to the top:

I considered drawing around the hand with pencil or chalk, but decided that the paper pattern would be best. I had to take the pins out as I went along, so as to avoid puckering. I also considered using free motion stitching, but ended up using a regular straight stitch with the clear foot so as not to run into tension problems:

You can see the outline of the stitching on the hand:

Next I fused a spiral to one side:

And a heart to the other side. I love the symbol of a spiral and the hearts are for “Heart in Hand.” I found one problem with this part of the project that I did not run into with the first hand. That was that I couldn’t sew the designs on without it going through. This is why I chose to fuse.

By the way, I updated the “Show of Hands” post.