Blog Archive

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Preparations

Every December I get the urge to make something "Christmassy." Usually the urge comes about the second week of the month, when I'm getting out the decorations and putting my Christmas quilts around the house. By this time it's way too late to make anything big, but I open my box of Christmas fabric left-overs and settle for something small : pot holders or hot mats last year; gift bags the year before. This year I decided to make mini (5-inch)-Christmas stockings.

Theoretically, these were to be made very simply and quickly. But in my case, theory and practise didn't coincide. I'll spare you tedious details, but suffice it to say, I finished only one little stocking to my satisfaction and abandoned the attempt. Falling back on an even simpler idea, I made a set of folded coasters for a hostess gift and realized the annual "make something Christmassy" urge had disappeared.

Late as it is in December, I decided to photograph the items to add a touch of Christmas colour to this blog and that didn't work either. Whether it was the fault of the camera or the computer or me (and I have a strong suspicion it is the last), something didn't work the way it should - so no photos either.

As I thought about these frustrations and plans not working out, I remembered that the First Christmas wasn't without its frustrations either. I'm sure Mary and Joseph didn't expect to have to put their newborn in a manger or spend the night in a stable. But the Christchild came nevertheless.

And this year, too, Christmas will come, and what truly matters is not the external preparations but the preparations of the heart.

In the words of an old Christmas song written by Emily Elizabeth Elliot:

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown

When Thou camest to earth for me

But in Bethlehem's home was there found no room

For Thy holy nativity.

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus.

There is room in my heart for Thee.

May The Christchild come with all His blessings to your hearts and homes this Christmas!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The 3 R's of Quilting

"Reduce. Reuse. Recycle." is a well known mantra of modern society, but quilters have long been advocates of these "three R's." Quilts have been made from cast off clothing and fabric scraps of all kinds.

In my continued efforts to implement the three R's in my own quilting, here are some of my recent activities.

Reduce. I've been trying to reduce my stash considerably, especially the pile of flannelette that I have accumulated from the remnant bins of a local fabric store. Making baby quilts is a joy and was the logical choice for using these fabrics.
I have to admit that I did purchase some new flannelette for the backing, but I've made nine baby quilts so far which will go to local charities. ( See the photos for some of them.)

Reuse. Among the pile of flanelette were some used pillowcases. These I trimmed off the seams and opened, then stitched together to use as cosy backing for the baby quilts. I also stitched together left-over pieces of batting, using a wide zig-zag stitch, to make one larger piece for a quilt. In the best quilting tradition, narrow strips were pieced into blocks and borders.

Recycle. Long pieces of thread used for basting, when removed from the quilts, were wound onto an empty spool or bobbin to be used again in another project.
Even with all the using up, there was still waste from the the trimmings. One of our guild members uses the selvage edges trimmed from fabrics to make knitted rugs. So these go to her. I found a great idea for using the rest of the trimmings on the internet at courtesy of Sue of Here it is:

Here's a great way to throw out your scraps without feeling guilty. Using an old pillowcase line a garbage bin with it. While you are sewing throw your scraps of fabric into it. When the pillowcase is 2/3's full, sew it shut and take it down to the local anmal shelter. They make great beds for cats and dogs. they are 100% washable and nice and soft for the animals! ... the shelters love it because they fit in the cat cages perfectly and the bed can go home with the animal, so it's something comforting for them while they adjust to their new home.

Thanks to Sue and happy quilting!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

EDQG 30th Anniversary Quilt

This quilt was made to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Edmonton and District Quilter's Guild by the seven members of the 30th committee, of which I was proud to be one. Guild members were aked to submit the names of their favorite quilt blocks and the committee chose the top 30 to use in the quilt. At the end of the year of celebrations, in June, the names of all the members were included in a draw for the quilt. The lucky winner was thrilled to have the quilt as it celebrates a special milestone in the guild's history.

Monday, October 19, 2009


This month’s blog is late in coming because, once again, I’ve been traveling. My husband and I were in Washington, DC, doing research for a book he is writing. I would love to be able to report that I did some fruitful quilt related research as well, but, alas, that’s not the case.
Before we left home I checked on the internet and found out that The Smithsonian Institute in Washington has a large collection of quilts, which I hoped to be able to see. What I didn’t know, was that the collection is not open on a regular basis, and tours are given only twice a month. By the time I discovered this information, I had missed the latest tour, and so was quite disappointed. I found out that there are a few other quilt collections in DC (at The National Trust for Historic Preservation and The Daughters of the American Revolution Museum, for example), in addition to the one at The Smithsonian, but as we had left our sight-seeing time to the end of our visit (work had to be done first) I was unable to see any of them.
Oh, well, that’s life.
Apart from that disappointment, Washington was lovely. The weather was warm and sunny, ideal for being out and about. We did spend a few days taking in the beautiful sights. Memories of the magnificent architecture of the public buildings, the visit to the Lincoln Memorial, the beauty of the Mall with its lovely reflecting pool; the treasures of the Smithsonian (but no quilts!) and the friendliness of the people we met, will stay with us for a long time.
A week spent in Mesa, AZ on the way home was extremely hot ( 95 -104 deg. F) which meant we were pretty much confined to air-conditioned places. On the bright side, that meant a few fabric and quilt stores where I picked up some of my favorite travel souvenirs: fat quarters!
Now that I'm back home and the laundry is done and put away, it's back to the real world of quilting.
My next big project will be a memory quilt in honour of my nephew David, who passed away in September after a courageous battle with cancer. More on that next month.

Happy Quilting!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

September Song

"It's been a long, long time from May to December
"And the days grow short, when you reach September..."

Contrary to what the well-known song says, it doesn't seem all that long, to people who live in a climate where winter seems to occupy nearly eight months of the year. Summer just seems to race by and is never long enough. But the days are definitely growing shorter here. The sun rises a little later each morning (and so do I!) and there are no more long, light evenings. Looking on the bright side, however, quilting guilds and bee groups are meeting again and providing inspiration for those of us who are trying to decide on our next quilting project and have been missing the pleasure of getting together with other quilters.

I include myself in both those categories.

I've just finished my trio of disappearing nine-patch flannelette baby quilts which were a pleasure to make (see photo above of one) and am eager to get back to one of my "fishy"UFO's. I have some new fabrics (and lots of "old" ones, also) to try out and see what develops.
In June I purchased several packages of cards suitable for inserting fabric art pictures. I made a few of these several years ago and enjoyed the process so much that I've decide to "have another go."
Our guild will have its first meeting of the guild year this month and, as always, it will mean greeting old friends, perhaps making some new ones and catching up on the latest trends in quilting, as well as being inspired by the always amazing "show and tell" and the interesting speakers who share their quilting experiences and expertise with us all.
Soon there will be a call for charity quilts, which I always enjoy making, and that will be another project for the autumn months.
Being a quilter, means always having something to look forward to.
Happy Quilting!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dog Days?

August days are generally known as the "Dog Days" of summer. That expression conjures up lazy images of just lying around in the sun, doing as little as possible, eating and sleeping and eating some more. At least that's what the dogs in our family seem to do most of the time, not just in August.

But for us this year, those images don't apply. August was a comparatively busy and productive month, although not solely in the quilting line.

We are blessed in Edmonton and area with excellent farmer's markets, and market gardens, U-pick farms and acreages are within easy driving distances. At this time of year they are a treat to visit and we did just that several times this month. In the markets, in addition to fruit and vegetables, preserves and baking there are stalls selling unique arts and crafts, including jewellery, woodwork and, yes, quilts.

It was the vegetables and fruit which interested us most. My quilter's eye and love of colour were captivated by bright orange carrots displayed alongside fresh green broccoli, red cabbage, green and yellow zucchini, newly harvested and scrubbed white and red potatoes, pearly onions, juicy red and yellow tomatoes, dark red beets... and the list goes on.

And the fruit! My mouth waters just thinking of it: sweet, juicy BC cherries (the best crop in years), blueberries, blackberries, red and yellow raspberries, and apricots to mention just a few. Who could resist such bounty? Not us.

We had already brought home 30 lbs of apricots from our earlier trip to BC and these we either made into jam or froze for later use in pies and puddings. From the farmer's market we purchased 20 lbs. of beet to pickle. This was in addition to the 10 lbs we had already received from a friend's garden.

Next came the saskatoons (for those who are unfamiliar with them, they are blue berries that

grow on a shrubby trees and their unique flavour is a treat in jams, jelly or pies). We went to a U-pick acreage on a beautiful sunny day and spent two hours picking to our hearts' content, coming home with three gallons of these delicious berries destined for jelly and the freezer. Another day was spent with friends at their farm, where we enjoyed a visit and a delicious meal and came home with two more gallons of saskatoons.

Lucky for us both, my husband enjoys berry-picking and is equally willing to help out with the preserving when we get home. So our freezer is getting full (Did I mention blueberries?) and our cold room shelves are laden with colourful, bottled preserves.

In the depths of the winter to come, we will enjoy the "fruits of our labour" and a taste of saskatoon pie will be a welcome reminder of warm, sunny August days.

And, yes, I did manage to do a little quilting. I have another "fish" to add to my collection and have totally fallen in love with the ease of making baby quilts using the "Disappearing Nine-Patch" pattern. Attached you will see photos of "Hotlips" (above) and a colourful little DNP baby quilt.

That's it for this month.

Happy quilting!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer At Last

After a prolonged and cool spring, we are finally enjoying some warm summer days. There's not a lot in the quilting line being accomplished by me, but I have managed to complete another fish wall hanging and have another one in the works. After completing "Grandfather Cod" I decided to make something very different; much less subdued. Hawaii is about as much a contrast to the North Atlantic as you can get and so "Wahini Cod" (below) was the result.

Our little neighbourhood quilting group has suspended operations for the summer, but at our last session, I managed to get a flannel baby quilt put together, when one of the ladies asked me how to tie a quilt. I had the top and backing ready, so we speedily layered the quilt and then with five sets of fingers making the ties, it was quickly done. I sewed the binding on soon after but haven't yet stitched it down on the back.

A ten-day trip to the Kootenay region in BC with our son, daughter-in-law, and three grandsons (3 yrs, and twins who are 19 mos.) was lots of fun. I haven't spent as much time in playgrounds and at the beach in years! The scenery in the Kootenays is spectacular and we enjoyed the whole experience.

We returned with 30 pounds of fresh apricots, most of which have been turned into our favourite apricot jam, with some frozen for future pies and puddings.

I decided on the spur of an unguarded moment to learn how to do hardanger embroidery. I've tried many different types of handwork over the years but have never done hardanger. Armed with a beginner's book and materials to make a simple doily, I figured I could learn it on my own. I thought in terms of having a nice relaxing occupation while watching TV. I have discovered that I certainly can learn it, but usually after making all the mistakes possible and much frustration, picking out of stitches and re-doing.
Relaxing, it isn't. It is impossible (for me, at least) to watch TV and embroider at the same time. For one thing, I find it easier to see with my glasses off(!) and for another, counting threads requires close concentration. Hardanger is well named!
But I am persevering. If I live long enough I may actually complete the doily.

That's all for this month. Happy quilting!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


This has been a landmark month for Edmonton quilters and it's barely half over. This year the 30th Anniversary of the Edmonton and District Quilters' Guild coincided with our bi-annual quilt show and we went all out to make it special. It was held on June 13/14 and we called it "Quilted Expressions."

In addition to the quilt show (200 quilts) there was a merchant's mall, quilters' boutique, and demonstrations of various quilting techniques, as well as a display of hand-cranked and treadle sewing machines. For those of us involved in the preparations and operation of the various areas, it has been a busy time, and although physically tiring, it has been mentally stimulating for us all to see the beautiful work that has been done. The whole event was a great success. And although I'm still recovering, it was a pleasure for me to work with so many talented, creative people, who were willing to do all that was needed to make it happen.

I entered a few items for sale in the boutique, and two of my fish wall-hangings found homes. One was a new one I had just completed called "A Close Call." (see photo).

When I came home from the show on Saturday, my body needed sleep, but my brain was on sensory overload. Sleeplessness had a positive side as it produced more ideas for future projects.
Now I'm working on a few more fish. I can't seem to get fish out of my system. Perhaps it's my maritime background! Stay tuned for the next one to make its appearance.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Where Has May Gone?

I'm just getting in under the wire with my blog post for May. Where has the time gone? What have I accomplished in the sewing line?
At the beginning of the month I made a list of all the sewing projects that were waiting to be done; some already underway, others just in the fabric stage, some only ideas. There were ten on the list.
Three major projects have taken most of my time.
To begin with, on our trip to Malaysia, I succumbed to temptation and, lured by the beautiful, colourful silks, I bought some, with the intention of sewing them into an outfit for myself. This was a real learning experience for me in many ways. First of all, I had never sewn with silk before, with the exception of a few silk ties I used in a crazy quilt. But with helpful suggestions found on the internet, I was able to avoid some of the worst problems, such as the movement of silk when cutting it -put some paper under the silk, lay out the silk, pin the pattern to silk and paper and cut through all layers including the paper underneath. I also learned the proper size needles, stitch length and the best thread to use. The biggest problem came with the adjustment of the pattern to fit me, no small task when parts of the body are three different sizes. But, it is finally done, and if not totally to my satisfaction, it doesn't look too bad to wear.
However, I also know why I stopped sewing for myself a long time ago and it will probably be much longer, if ever, before I try something like that again.
Project number two was the completion of a queen-sized quilt that I began last fall. I chose a pattern called Paperweights, because it used lots of different fabrics, and it was my intention to use up as many of the older fabrics that had been in my stash for years and years. Like most of my quilts, the finished article bore only a passing resemblance to the orginal. Once the top was finished, I was faced with the daunting task of basting and quilting it. With the help of my friend Linda and her long-arm sewing machine, that too was finished.
Third project: a bedspread from some lovely cotton fabric purchased in Singapore. This was by far the simplest project of the three, as I just seamed lengths of the fabric together, quilted in straight lines and added a binding. It now adorns our bed and its matching valance is installed over the window.
It's a great relief to have all these projects completed and I'm looking forward to working on some smaller "fun" projects. Two more fish have been swimming around in my UFO stack for far too long. They need to find a suitable habitat.
Let's see what June brings.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Flowers, Friends and Fish

It is only a little past mid-April and here I am. That's a definite improvement over March.

April has brought lots of changes. With the arrival of warmer weather (although not as warm as we would like) the piles of snow pushed up by the plows in winter has melted from all but the shadiest locations. The ice has finally left Bearspaw Lake, on which our home is located; the geese, who stood around forlornly on the melting ice for a few weeks are happily swimming in the water and have been joined by the ducks - mallards and golden eyes - which spend their summers here. And neighbours have pots of pansies on their doorstep, adding a colourful touch to an otherwise drab landscape.

On the quilting scene, I have put together the backing for a queen-sized quilt which I pieced last fall and am ready to take it to my friend Linda who has offered to let me try and quilt it on her long arm machine. That will be a new experience for me and I'm hoping it will be a positive one.

The preparations for our Guild's 30th anniversary quilt show, sale and banquet in June are well underway, and, as a member of the 30th anniversary committee, I've been attending extra meetings and work days in preparation for those landmark events.

A few of my neighbours expressed an interest in learning to quilt, so six of us meet every other week and with the help of my next door neighbour, who is also a quilter, I am taking them through the learning process a step at a time. We began with simple stitched and folded coasters and have graduated to elongated nine-patch place mats. If they persevere, we will move on to baby/lap quilts and then "the sky's the limit."

And finally, I managed to get back to my own "fun" time and made another quilt in my "Fabulous Fish" series. This one is Number 9 and was made to fulfil a request from a Newfoundland friend for a codfish. A cod is not the most colourful of fish, to put it mildly, so "Grandfather Cod" is rather subdued, as you can see, below. But I'm not finished with the species yet and have plans for my next codfish to be a very colourful mutation.

And that's it for this month.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

March In- March Out

It's already the end of March and I haven't written a new post for the month yet. Where has the time gone? What have I been doing?
We arrived back home on March 9th. So the first week and part of the second was gone. By the time we unpacked, adjusted to the time change and sorted out our lives again, another week had gone by. All the while, the lovely fabrics I had purchased or been given, plus those I had already, were calling me to create.
First, I made a set of four placemats and napkins from a Batik fabric I purchased in Malaysia for our neighbours who had taken good care of our home while we were away.
Next, thanks to the generosity of Marianne Bos in Singapore, I was eager to get started on a postcard quilt to showcase some of my fabrics from Pacific countries. The postcard quilt (my name for it, which may or may not be the name others know the pattern by) is relatively easy to put together. The basic block is a 4 x 6 inch rectangle bordered by two 1-inch strips which makes a 6-inch square. These squares are then arranged alternately vertical and horizontal and sewn together in rows. I added extra strips to the outer edges of blocks which didn't have any.
Most of the machine quilting was done before the edge was finished. To finish off I sewed facing strips on the front, cut them to match the irregular edge, turned them over to the back and stitched them down by hand. The finishing was a little tricky, but when it was completed, I was glad I had done it that way. Here is "Postcards from the Pacific."

Finally, this past week I put together a simple top for a baby quilt in blue flannelette.
No wonder I didn't get time to add to my blog until now. At least that's my excuse!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The World-wide Quilting Web

The wonders of modern technology never cease to amaze me. I am currently in Singapore visiting my daughter Kathy and her husband Mark. Today we talked to our daughter Susan in California and via Skype were able to see our little grand-children on the other side of the world in Canada.
From a quilter's perspective, the web is agreat asset. I was delighted to meet this past week with quilters here in Singapore, having first contacted them through the web. Thanks to Janice, my contact who invited me to meet with the ANZA (Australia New Zealand Association) quilters and to Maurine who hosted us in her home. Each lady was working on a different project and in addition the group undertakes a charity project each year. I was especially interested in the project to make blocks which would be later made into quilts for victims of the bush-fires in Australia. The blocks are called "wonky stars" and they will be collected and sewn together by Australian quilters. Here is Alison with some of the blocks she had made.

When disaster strikes, quilters all over the world immediately start to do what they do best. Their quilts comfort and support the needy recipients by letting them know that others care about them and want to help.

On Wednesday, I met with quilt artist Marianne Bos (you can find her website by Googling her name) and we had a lovely two hours of quilt talk, sharing experiences and information, and looking at her beautiful quilts. Here she is with two of her wall-hangings.

I've never met unfriendly quilters and these ladies were no exception. Thanks to you all for welcoming me and letting me see and photograph some of your work.

Before leaving home, I checked out fabric sources in Singapore on the web and have visited most of them on my list, as well as some I didn't know about until I got here. My suitcase gets heavier and heavier with each shopping trip. And we still have two more weeks to go!

I think I already have enough projects in mind to keep me busy for the next few years.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Winter World

January brings the snow
Makes your feet and fingers glow.
February's cold and sleet
Freeze the toes right off your feet!

This old Flanders and Swan song, hit it just about right for the weather here
in Edmonton. Since mid-December we've been in a deep freeze. And I mean really DEEP! Down to minus 40 deg. Celcius (where the Fahrenheit scale meets it) overnight and with wind-chill factored in. Daytimes not a lot better, averaging minus 18 C. or so. When the temperature has risen to minus 10. deg.C it feels positively balmy! Snow has fallen "snow on snow" as the old carol says and we are living in an almost white world. There's no doubt it's winter in Edmonton!

Christmas was a bright spot in an otherwise dark world, with the lights and the warmth of family and friends making it possible to ignore, if not enjoy the weather. And now that the festivities are behind us, it's back to quilting. One consolation of the cold is that it's great weather for quilting. If you have all your supplies on hand you can just hunker down and be creative. And when you get tired of that, you just cuddle up in a cheery quilt and read a good book.

Having completed some Guild projects, I'm back to my queen sized "Thirty-years of Fabric" quilt, and am just about finished putting the top together. This is the easy part. The more difficult phase of basting and quilting it is to come. Each time I've finished a queen-sized quilt, I've said, "That's the last big quilt I'm going to do." But here I am working on another one!
I guess I just never learn.

Having begun this post with grumbling and ranting about the cold weather, I'll finish this on a warmer note, for next month I'll be in Singapore. So in my next post, you may very well find me grumbling about the too hot and humid weather in that tropical city! But no doubt, I'll be enjoying the fabric shops and market stalls and with any luck, I'll be able to meet some quilters as well. Keep tuned.