Friday, December 31, 2010

Student Letters 2005-2010

Whee, look what quilt I'm finally working on. All the letter blocks that my students have sent me in the last five years. This is what it looked like just throwing all the letters up on the design wall:

Can you spot your letter/word/number in there? I've been thinking about (in no particular order) Lynne, Clare, Brenda, Tanya, Kathie B, Laura, Kim, Cher, Sharon, Nancy, Jude, Cheri, Kristin, Heidi, Annie amongst others who've contributed. I wish I could remember EXACTly who gave me every one, but my brain isn't that good.

I love the exuberance and wish there was a way to magically just sew them right where they are... using my mind powers! mwa ha ha. Unfortunately it's not that easy.

I'm using white and beigey neutrals as the background fabric to tie everything together without calling attention to itself. I finished off letters, where needed, to make them square or rectangle: 

I finished off "orange" and "you" with yellow background and used a bit of purple fabric to put ends on the Stroop effect "purple" and in a couple of other spots where a darker fabric was needed. I'm NOT going to surround each letter with a background fabric - sometimes they'll slam directly into another letter and that's okay.

Next step was to put the big pieces onto the board, along with some letters that I'd sewn together into words, to get a feel for how big it needed to be. After playing with several options I did sew Lynne's "slither" together into one long word (these were her practice letters for the Halloween words quilt) which gives me a width for the quilt.

I wasn't planning on sewing words together but after my friend Kathy mentioned it I totally couldn't stop doing it. I'm not sure once the top is sewn you'll be able to spot cat, sew, unruly, lazy, quilts, and the year 2010, but it was a way for me to sort through the chaos and get started sewing. The only letter that I've altered was an incomplete "I" which turned into the letter one. Otherwise, I'm leaving them au naturel. So to speak.

Bit by bit, that's the only way to tackle this. I started working around Big Pink Hope because the biggest block has to be taken care of first. The smaller the block, the easier it is to fit in. I initially planned to work this medallion style around Hope and that's why the next unit was another square. I got that far with the medallion idea and realized it was rubbish. I needed to do rows.

Sorry this next shot is so dark. I've been trying to just use natural daylight to get these pics and it didn't always work out so well. Blocks are getting moved around and I've completed another big block. Everything to the right of the Hope is sewn together.

Next shot: I've got one big section all together. The Hope, Wish and Rub big blocks were all joined together and the Blitzen row added to the top of them. The Big W block (which goes all the way down to Joy) joins to the left of it. I moved Merry Christmas from the bottom to up above this section just to see what it would look like and really ended up liking it. I start thinking of this quilt as Slither 2: the Revenge of Christmas.

You can see I've also auditioning for the rows below Hope. As I work on joining these together, I'm trying to make it so that there aren't a lot of straight lines. An example of that is where I've placed Blitzen so that it straddles the edge of the Hope block - your eye goes up and then over.... Did that make sense? In this particular version I hated the black-backgrounded Lazy Gal right underneath Clare's H. It makes for a big dark strange bit there.

There is another section sewn together below Hope. That's the Q down to the big C and all over to the left. I realize now I should move aside the unsewn bits so that you get a better idea of what's done.

I'm posting all these so that you can get a feel for how I do improvisational work like this. I'm sure there are other ways to do it. I'm just happy to finally have my quilting mojo back.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Belated Christmas

I know, Christmas is already over and I'm just now getting around to the Merry Christmas post. oops... Better late than never, I present my wall of small Christmas quilts. And Pokey:

Going clockwise from the left: I made the red and purple christmas tree quilt in 1994 from a pattern by my beloved Gwen Marston. I did Joyeux Noel during my time in Paris. I've never shown HoHoHo before on the blog - I made it for the book but the chapter got cut due to page limitations.

Skip the next two and you hit my Noel sampler which IS in the book and then the Joy banner my mom made by hand in the 1970's.

These two are crusties:

Crusty is the name I've given to a technique I learned from Susan Shie. The Better Not Pout girl was made by my incredibly talented friend Rachael. There is a lot of work in it - seed beads and french knots etc. I made the red Christmas tree crusty.

Despite the decor, it hasn't felt like Christmas here. You know the song lyrics "It won't be Christmas without You?" Well, turns out they're true. My husband is away for work so we won't be celebrating until February. I intend to leave the decorations up until then, but I might get sick of them.

So besides having my sweetie home for Faux Christmas in February, I'll also get to "unwrap" my present then. A two-day class with Gwen Marston. Woohoo! It's taking place on the other side of Florida and should be fantastic. Speaking of Gwen, part two of her hand quilting tutorial is up on her homepage.

Another reason it hasn't been Christmas? It's Florida. Palm trees just don't have the right vibe, although I enjoy the kitchy element.  My new flamingo ornament:

Not that I'm complaining about Florida or the weather. Believe me, I prefer this to snow, especially blizzards. I'm so happy to not be in an airport right now... It's finally gotten colder. I actually had to wear a denim jacket out. Here are all four cats getting the first sunlight of the morning: that's Lily on the big box (my new crockpot), Pokey, Howler and Habibi.

Howler had his annual visit to the vet. Woohoo, clean bill of health this year although he has managed to gain an additional three pounds. Yes, Howler now weighs 25 pounds. In the last month he's had a much harder time getting out of the cat tree - and not even the top bit but the round bed. He has to get over onto the window sill and then down...

Hmm, just what is that on the design wall???? Here's another hint, because I just think this pic is a hoot:

Baby Pokey had great news from the vet as well. Her blood work came back the best it's been since we discovered she had kidney problems. Woohoo, she continues to improve just by bitty bits, but improve all the same.

Hope that all of you who celebrate it had a great Christmas. In case I'm a bad blogger again, best wishes, health and happiness in the New Year.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Book Recommendations and a Few Good Links

I've been thinking about books lately. hmm, wonder why... Figured this was a good opportunity to recommend some of my absolute favorite books.

Of course, Pokey approves of them all too.

Some of these books will be familiar to my faithful readers. Wade through those and you'll get to some you might not have seen before. Maybe.

First and foremost, is the one that changed it all. Gwen Marston's original Liberated Quiltmakingbook. I can't help myself - I have a strong emotional connection to this book. I love Gwen's style and how she describes the techniques and lets you make the quilt yourself. Right now this out-of-print book is available for $50 and it's worth the price.

Gwen's more recent book, Liberated Quiltmaking II is also excellent (and hey, I have a quilt in there) with a bit of overlap with the first one, but still a lot of new stuff to see.

For the hand quilters out there, oh boy, Gwen Marston and Joe Cunningham's fantastic but also sadly out of print classic Quilting With Style: Principles for Great Pattern Design is available used for hardly any money at all. A serious bargain. I love the book intensely and I've only ever done the freehand fans, so that tells you there is a lot of quilting eye candy in there. This book shows you how to draft quilting designs so you don't have to buy templates.

Speaking of hand quilting, Gwen is now doing a series of hand quilting lessons on her homepage.  Check it out here. And while you are there you can buy some books directly from Gwen herself, including Ideas and Inspirations and her collaborative books with Freddy Moran.

Roberta Horton's Scrap Quilts: The Art of Making Do is another old standby favorite that you can READ since it's not a pattern book. Definitely the kinds of books I like.

Alright, you'd almost have to be living under a rock to not know about the Gee's Bend quilters, the fabulous improvisational quilters of Alabama. If you haven't gotten it already, run and grab The Quilts of Gee's Bend: Masterpieces from a Lost Place. Gorgeous coffee-table book with moving stories of quilters taking hardship and turning it into beauty.

You say you've already got that book? Well then how about Just How I Picture It in My Mind: Contemporary African American Quilts from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts or Accidentally on Purpose: The Aesthetic Management of Irregularities in African Textiles and African-American Quilts. Both are high-quality books of wonderful improvisational quilts.

I own a ton of books on Amish quilts. Far too many books only have the pretty and perfect quilts but the Amish had some rebel quilters. Try these books: Amish Abstractions: Quilts from the Collection of Faith and Stephen Brownwhich led to an awesome class we did called Liberated Amish. Eve Granick's The Amish Quilthas some great liberated quilts in it too.

I also love Illinois Amish Quilts: Sharing Threads of Tradition which you can buy directly from the author, Janice Tauer Wass. I admit I'm biased because I got to see some of these beauties in person, but the book is wonderful.

Wild by Design: Two Hundred Years of Innovation and Artistry in American Quilts features quilts from the International Quilt Study Center. It's an unusual book because it shows a quilt, explains how it's made but mostly it's a conversation by the contributors of what made each quilt "wild" for its time and what they like about each quilt. Features some great antique quilts.

Another historical book I treasure is Album Quilts of Ohio's Miami Valleyby Sue C. Cummings. This is a low-priced book for what you get - all these beautiful pics of loosy-goosy liberated, just put these puppies together quilts. I wrote a post about this book here.

Quilts by Paul D. Pilgrim: Blending the Old & the Newis another out-of-print beauty but at the moment you can get it for a decent price. I've written a glowing blog post about this book before, it's one I really love. It shows how Paul gathered together old blocks to put them together, using partial blocks and innovation. Marvelous.

Do you ever buy a book for just one fabulous quilt? Then have I got the book for you. Mississippi Quiltsby Mary Elizabeth Johnson. Honestly it has some other great quilts in here too, but this red, white and blue star quilt blows me away:

So many of the state history books ignored string quilts, but not this one, which is why I love it. I was about to say that Mississippi Quilts is my favorite state book, but oooh I also love New York Beauties: Quilts from the Empire State which has great antique quilts with WORDS. Great used prices at the moment, so go grab it.

On to something completely different. Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang. Lynne of Patchery Menagerie recommended this book and boy was she right. Okay, yes, it's a childrens book, but that doesn't matter. Very effective and it's recently been reissued and the price is great.

Another book on design that I love is Design!: A Lively Guide to Design Basics for Artists & Craftspeople by Steven Aimone. For a ridiculously low price you get a huge bunch of photos of interesting objects etc (including quilts) and well-written instruction.

Design includes a couple of embroideries by one of my favorite artists, Renie Breskin Adams whose work is so full of humor and joy. Ooh, her website has a collection of her work, which you can click on and explore BIG.

Hmm and now I have to direct you over to another fun embroiderer, Caroline Dahl. She's been doing some awesome Day of the Dead work, and I think my favorite is Laundry Day of the Dead.

Speaking of humor and joy AND knowing you just need a project to include UnRuly Letters, try Mary Lou Weidman's Out of the Box: Unleash Your Creativity Through Quilts (That Patchwork Place). Lots of bright inspiration and wheee color.

Feel like having some fun that has absolutely nothing to do with quilts? then try the book Bent Objects: The Secret Life of Everyday Things. These pics make me laugh. The blog of the same name is loads of fun too. Did I ever show you my favorite? Zombie potatoes.

Okay, I can't think of anymore.  What books would you recommend for your favorite liberated, UnRuly quilters?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Feeling Overwhelmed By All the Love

I have some of the sweetest dearest blog friends it is possible to have. Ya'all made me cry today, feeling all appreciated and loved.

And it IS all overwhelming! Rather than write a blog post that will take me another 10 hours to write, I'm going to include a Mr Linky box at the end of this post. Anyone who's posted about the Lazy/Liberated/UnRuly letters etc can add their post or blog to this. Hopefully I've included it correctly.

I am going to direct you to a couple of blogs though. Michele of With Hearts and Hands wrote up an amazing, thoughtful, funny post. thank you!

Em is celebrating at Em Celebrates and is giving away copies of the book. But ya gotta hurry and get over there quick, because I think it ends soon. My apologies for not getting a blog post done sooner.

I mentioned the Flickr collection that Martingale has got going on for quilts/projects done with UnRuly Letters. To get your photo added, send an email to Karen at
It will go into the Martingale photostream AND into the Word Play Quilts set. Although it is a hoot - I just looked at a photo where I am labeled as a sample made by Julie. hee hee hee.

This whole publishing thing has been a learning experience. For instance, today is the day the book is officially out, but that doesn't mean that it's in stores yet. My LQS say it won't be available until the 30th and that's what some of the online bookstores say too. eek. I had no idea it took that long. For anyone who can't bear the wait, apparently if you order it directly from Martingale it comes a lot sooner since they have it right there right now.

Don't forget to add your link if you've done a post. To everyone else, enjoy seeing all the creative quilts.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Almost Here

What's almost here you ask? My book, my book. Word Play Quilts is to be released in four days.

I have to admit I'm stressing out about it. Oh nooo what if everybody hates it? Eeek.

Lynne is eagerly awaiting the book. She is an absolute hoot. She has a countdown clock on her blog Patchery Menagerie and, even better, is showing her quilts that include letters. It's great to see the progression of her style. One of her quilts is in the book and I was lucky enough to see it at market. Fabulous!

Speaking of market, Tanya's quilt was hanging up in the Martingale booth looking all fabulous and fellow blogger BrendaLou got pics of her and me with the quilt. Small world!

And I hadn't even realized it, but Martingale has set up a Flickr set for quilts made with UnRuly Letters. Take a look at it here. (And geeze, I need to figure out what the heck my Flicker name was. oops...)

I've decided not to sell the book myself. That would just be one more level of organization and paperwork to deal with and I'm sooo not good at that. Instead, how about:

Your local (or favorite) quilt shop. We have to keep them in business. I know I'd have gone nuts without the JaM Patch and all the wonderful folks who work there. For ages they were the only quilters I knew when I moved to town and they've been so encouraging of all my work. Not sure if your quilt shop is going to carry my book? Just ask - I'm sure they'd be happy to order it for you.

Quiltville. Bonnie Hunter is a wonderful friend and fabulous quilter. Her site was the home of my letter tutorials for years and I'm not sure I'd have a book without her. This way you can order some of Bonnie's books at the same time. She has two out already and another one due in late January/early February. Man, I do not know how she gets so much done.

Quilt Books Unlimited. My book isn't listed there yet but I met the owner Cathy Neri in Houston, where we were staying at the same hotel. She is an absolute doll and I adore her. She's been reading my blog since I lived in Cairo and totally gets the whole UnRuly thing. She carries a great selection of quilt books which are hard to find elsewhere so she's a great resource.

Amazon. I will make a few cents if you buy it from the widget in my sidebar. 

I know, none of these will be autographed. I'm working on a plan to do bookplates which you can attach yourself.  I haven't worked out the details on that one yet (another thing I am stressing about). If anyone has design experience and want to come up with some fun bookplate options, just let me know.

There will be more book celebration stuff coming along, but it's kinda awkward to have it all occurring during the holidays. I think the book launch stuff will expand to include the month of January. Just like Halloween oozes over into Christmas (although that's reversed at the shopping malls). I've got Hallowistmas going on:

I've got errands to run. But a couple more quick kitty pics before I go. More from the photo session where I tried to include Lily along with the book and Cake:

and Pokey in the sunlight with the book. And wait is that shadow Howler?