Cabin Fever in July

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log cabin back

Log Cabin back – star pantograph

Labor Day always seems like the last hurrah of summer, even though school started last week and the leaves started turning even before that! While I often bemoan the impending start of cold weather, I do look forward to my longarm business picking up once quilters return to their machines after their days of gardening, hiking, and other warm-weather pursuits.


After a very busy spring and early summer, that included a college banner, many customer longarm jobs and two baby quilts as gifts for friends, by the end of July I found myself project-less. It’s true that I had three quilts of my own in various stages of completion, but none of those seemed compelling. Feeling restless to do something else, I went to my stash and started sorting.

log cabin2

Cabin Fever in July

The first thing that popped out at me was a dark brown with green and pink swirls and stars. It seemed a good choice for the “hearth” square of a log cabin quilt. I pulled out greens and pinks in various shades from light to dark. I knew I might not have enough pinks so I added in some white.


I cut strips and laid them out, then started chain piecing. The result was this lap/twin quilt, in a pattern called “Fields and Furrows”. I’m calling it Cabin Fever in July. It was quilted on the longarm, with a new pantograph I wanted to try. I’m not sure why my stash doesn’t seem smaller, but my sewing urge was satisfied. And in August I turned my attention to sun, sand, and swimming!

beach 2017

Fun at Old Orchard Beach, ME


They Say It’s Your Birthday …

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As a quilter I’m an easy person to buy presents for. Think about it – if you give me fabric I use it up so I’m always ready for more. If you give me tools I can keep older models for back-ups; needles wear out, pins get lost. Basically anything related to quilting and sewing will put a smile on my face.

scissorsThis was especially true on my last birthday several months ago. My oldest granddaughter, who has recently taken an interest in sewing and who has been spending time with me in my studio, helped her mother pick out my gifts at the local fabric shop. She did a great job – new scissors (what a difference from the pair I’d been using, and trying to sharpen at home, for 30 years!), packets of fun buttons, and three bundles of fat quarters.

About a month after my birthday I started thinking about what to get my granddaughter for her upcoming birthday. I’d made her a quilt when she was a baby and although she still uses it she really has outgrown it in size and style. Maybe that is what led me to the idea of using one of the fat quarter bundles she’d given me for my birthday to make her a quilt for her birthday.

First I went on a search for a pattern – something simple that I could get done in time and that worked with the fat quarter bundles I wanted to use. Since a fat quarter is only 18″ x 22″ and one bundle had five in coordinating fabrics, I obviously had to supplement with my stash. I found several fabrics that worked with the color scheme and enough white to offset the bright colors.



The final result turned out to be a happy quilt that is fitting for my granddaughter’s energy and disposition. And to give it a little more of her personality I found the perfect playful cat fabric for the back. All in all, I think we celebrated each other quite appropriately, and I look forward to many more years of creating memories from memories.

Spreading the Love

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Graduation season has once again come and gone. That time of year when the end of an academic era gives way to “the real world” or perhaps to the next level of educational attainment. As they are launched into the next phase, most graduates are feted by family and friends, with all the hopes and wishes that involves.

When I graduated from college my grandmother made me a crocheted bedspread, something I’d been coveting. I loved the bedspread from the very beginning, but I didn’t realize until I was older just what a labor of love it was. I’d never really crocheted, except to make a single strand under the guidance of my grandmother, but I’d seen her effortlessly crochet since I was a child so I suppose I thought it was just another project, albeit a large one. I’ve used the bedspread off and on through the years, and just recently got it out of a prolonged storage. Although it was created to be a double, it really is more suited to a twin bed so it’s found a new place in the little guest room.

bedspread2I like to acknowledge the graduations of those near and dear to me. One of my great-nieces graduated from high school this spring. She lives far away, and I can probably count on my fingers the number of times I’ve seen her in her 18 years. I was fortunate to spend a little time with her on a recent visit to my family in Oregon. The bond through my niece, her mother, and my sister, her grandmother, is powerful, but I also felt that connection that comes from realizing you really like someone. There’s no bedspread making its way to her, and not even a quilt in the works. But sometimes love can spread in other ways – through cards and contributions, by sharing family stories, or by being that someone on the edge of your family circle who would stretch their arms to embrace you whenever you need it.

Celebrating Alice


There are so many lines I love in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be this stanza from the poem The Walrus and the Carpenter (in Through the Looking Glass).

Alice original“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

I became well-acquainted with Alice during my sophomore year in college. After seeing this annotated edition at a friend’s, I searched for and found my own copy. It is especially enchanting because of the original illustrations by John Tenniel.

Alice has inspired many ideas, been quoted extensively in movies, films, books, and book titles, and she has even made her way into the world of quilting. When my sister and I saw a finished Alice-inspired quilt in a quilt shop window we agreed to buy and share the pattern so we could each make a version.

Cheryl's Alice

First up is Cheryl’s quilt, made like the original pattern, with sharp contrast between the black border and orange sashing, with a variety of fun black and white prints in the blocks. In the photo above, the quilt is back from the longarm quilter, but does not yet have the binding sewn on.

My Alice

I was determined to use fabrics from my stash and not purchase anything new, so I opted for a lighter border, and a mix of gray and black backgrounds for the blocks. I also swapped out the block featuring the rabbit mannequin for a block I designed to feature the potion Alice drinks, with the distinctive “DRINK ME” label like in Tenniel’s illustration.

new Alice block     Alice back border

I love both of these versions. Cheryl had hers quilted by her highly skilled longarm quilter and I copied some of those ideas for finishing mine. I also used a mushroom design on the borders, which is more visible on the back than the front.

DaliMore recently a dear friend of mine, a young woman who appreciates literature and art, gave me a special birthday gift of  the 150th Anniversary Edition illustrated by Salvador Dali. It is definitely not the whimsical woodcuts from the 1865 original, but it captures the fantastical world we enter with Alice – another spin on this well-traveled journey.




Swedish Textiles

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Many, many years ago I spent a year in Sweden as an exchange student. During that time, my host mother and sister taught me to make clothes without using a store-bought pattern (a skirt, a halter top, and a dress), something I hadn’t done before even though I’d been sewing for many years. I haven’t tackled pattern-less construction since then, but occasionally I make alterations to patterns and I’m sure this earlier experience gave me some of the confidence to do so.

Ditte Ek

Ditte in one of her creations

During the end of the long, dark Swedish winter and into the spring I spent a good deal of time in the batik studio of Ditte Ek. I met her through another exchange student who had managed to arrange an extended internship with her. I didn’t actually do the batik work of waxing and dyeing, but sometimes I would help with various minor tasks. Those were afternoons of a lot of laughter, delicious homemade soup, and probably the first insight that the rhythm of self-employed studio work was appealing.




summer cottage

Aunt Mait’s Summer Cottage

For Swedish Midsummer my host family traveled to visit friends and relatives. A few days before the solstice we arrived at Great Aunt Mait’s rustic, charming, summer cottage. She was a lively, elderly woman and we had an immediate affinity. I remember spending a lot of time eating and sunbathing. Each evening we would lower the flag, even though the sun itself never seemed to really set.


Lowering the flag with Christina, my Swedish sister, and Aunt Mait, while my Swedish mother looks on from the porch.

A few months after I returned to the States, I received a small package from Aunt Mait. I was surprised, and delighted, to find these two tapestries she had made for me. Many years later I had them framed so they could be properly displayed.

And I still have the lovely note she wrote in response to my thank-you.

Faster Mait card

At a yard sale several years ago, I found some vintage Swedish prints featuring traditional costumes from various provinces. I knew that I wanted them although I had no clear plan as to what I’d do with them. After languishing in a box for the intervening years, this past fall I pulled them out and decided the time had come and started construction on a wall-hanging. I wanted to keep the piece simple so as not to detract too much from the actual prints. I was also still in the “use what I have in my stash” mode, so I didn’t want to shop for new fabrics. The red and yellow checked fabric seemed good for sashing, and the navy blue borders provide strong contrast. I only wish I had prints for all the provinces, but at least my “home” province of Vastmanland is here.


Swedish customes

I’ll always have a little bit of Sweden in my psyche, and having textile pieces and reminders reinforces the bond and connection I feel with my second country.

Irish Chain

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Several years ago my sister became interested in genealogy and she spent many hours tracing our family tree. The result was lineage that went back several generations, although she never found the elusive “three O’Cara brothers from Ireland” that my father always claimed were the immigrants who settled in America. More recently my sister submitted one of the now popular DNA ancestry tests, and the results did, indeed, confirm that the largest part of our heritage is Irish.

Over the past year I’ve worked on three different Irish Chain quilts. This pattern first became popular in the US in the early 1800’s, and it has remained a favorite of quilters through the ensuing decades. It has the benefit of being a strong design, especially when the colors are of high contrast, yet its construction isn’t as difficult as it appears. It has a large area that lends itself to show off quilting or to feature a favorite fabric.

DM Irish Chain3

DM Irish Chain1The first quilt was my own work – pieced in between working on customer projects. I’d been wanting to make a Double Irish Chain for some time, and when perusing my stash I realized I had a pleasing combination of fabrics that would make a queen size spread. I quilted it on my longarm, using a design called Drunken Feathers.
JJ Irish Chain1

By using batiks in deep rose and blue, a member of my quilting group put a modern spin on this traditional pattern. She didn’t want any sharp points in the quilting, so I found a design called Beaded Curtain that met this criteria. She is finishing the borders on her home machine, with an entwined rope design.



The third quilt had a long history before even coming to me. A friend started it for her daughter over 25 years ago. The daughter had picked out the fabrics, and although my friend got the top all pieced (the only quilt she’s ever made) she never tackled the quilting. The finished top, backing, batting, and fabric for the binding stayed together through a few moves, and finally ended up with me for finishing. My friend wanted a strong Irish design to go with the theme of the quilt, so we decided on a clover done in Kelly green. EC Irish Chain2

It is true that in addition to myself, these two other quilters have a family history that embraces Irish roots. Whether every family story is true or not, the links we feel, or imagine, can be a source of comfort, connection, and pride. My grandfather used to ask my father and his eight siblings, “What would you be if you weren’t Irish?” In unison they would respond, “I don’t know. What would we be?” And his response, which I’m sure he said with a twinkle in his eye, was, “You’d be embarrassed!”



Branching Out


tree2Working on someone else’s creation always seems like an immense responsibility. This was never more true than working on this piece that two other individuals created. It was a special collaboration for them, and bringing me into the mix meant trusting someone else to help them realize their vision.

The crocheted tree was done by my friend’s niece, during a time when she needed some distraction. It was her first crocheted creation, which I find remarkable. It is thick and textured unlike any crocheted thing I’ve seen before. The niece then sent it to her aunt to create the background. My friend took an organic approach and used a ground to sky theme, making a vibrant, yet subtle, piece.


The next step was the quilting itself, and that’s where I came in. I wanted something that was also subtle, not anything too flowery or flowing or feathery. The design I chose, along with my friend’s input, is one that looks a bit like knots in wood.

My friend attached the tree to the quilted background, a painstaking job done carefully by hand. The final result is stunning; the pictures don’t really do it justice.